NOTHING TO WORRY ABOUT

An episode fiction for "Survival on Charter 220." What happened to Johnny when he went to the first aid station?

By dee_ayy  (dee_ayy@yahoo.com)

Finished February 18, 2001; tweaked into its final form March 17, 2001.

___________________________
 
 

"I think the first-aid station will suit your needs," Roy told his still somewhat dazed partner.

"Yeah, maybe youíre right," Johnny agreed, carefully picking his way through the rubble. When he got in front of Roy he stopped and looked up at him with a smile. "Hey, you suppose Molly will be there?"

Roy rolled his eyes at his friendís latest nursing obsession. "Well, your vitals are functioning. Come on."

John clawed his way to the opening in the wallówhat was once the window. He steadied himself for a moment, then hopped through. The bright sunlight assaulted his eyes, and everything started spinning for a second on landing.

"Johnny? You okay?" Roy was tightly gripping his partnerís shoulder.

"Yeah, yeah. Just a little foggy is all." He had his hand up covering his eyes. After a second he took it down, and for the first time looked at the destruction all around them. "Man, will you look at this?" he asked, hoping he was successfully changing the subject.

"Yeah," Roy agreed. He knew what John was up to, and would have none of it. "Come on, now that weíre out let me look you over." Roy had a one-track mind sometimes. "You were out for a few minutes you know."

Gage scowled. "Was not."

Roy smiled indulgently. "How would you know? Come on, you can sit on the back of the squad." He propelled Johnny, with a firm hand to the small of his partnerís back, around the corner. Both men stopped dead in their tracks when they saw the squad.

"Oh my God!" Roy muttered under his breath.

"Yeah," John whispered in agreement. He wandered closer to the destroyed vehicle, peering at the huge silver object sitting atop the cab. "What is that, Roy? A plane engine?"

DeSoto came up and stood next to him. "Yeah, looks like it. What are the chances of that?"

"Iím just glad we werenít sittiní in her, ya know?" Johnny shook his head in amazement, and immediately regretted it. The movement made him dizzy, and he had to reach out to steady himself. He was hoping to grab the squad, but his hand found his partner first.

"Come on, Johnny, letís get you checked out."

"Yeah, okay," he agreed meekly.

+ + + + +

"You know the routine, Gage. Any dizziness, nausea, vision problems, extremity weakness?" Morton was closely inspecting a bump on Johnnyís head, above his left temple, as he spoke.

"I was a little dizzy, OWWW!" Johnny threw his hand up and pushed Mikeís away. "Watch it! That hurts!"

Morton stepped back and crossed his arms on his chest, solemnly assessing his patient and waiting for him to finish. Johnny gingerly touched the welt on his head before continuing.

"But no nausea, no double vision, no weakness. Iím telling you, Iím fine."

Morton looked over at Roy. "How long did you say he was out?"

"Four? Maybe five minutes?"

"Uh huh," the young doctor said. He pulled out his penlight and flashed it in each of Johnnyís eyes, then had his patient follow his finger with his eyes. "You remember everything that happened?" he asked when he was through.

"Yeah," Johnny started, but then he stopped. "Well, no, I donít know what hit me. But I remember everything before it happenedóI was on the horn with Early and there was this really loud noiseóand I remember after I came to. You should see the squad, doc. Itís destroyed."

Morton didnít say anything, and used his light to look inside Johnís ears. Then he used his fingers to push along the base of Johnnyís skull and down the vertebrae in his neck. "Any pain, stiffness here?"

"No." John anticipated the doctorís next request, and turned his head all the way to the left, and then all the way to the right. "I told ya. Iím fine."

"I think itís just a mild concussion," the doctor finally diagnosed, "Probably nothing to worry about, but just to be safe you should get run in to Rampart for an x-ray."

John quickly stood up from his perch on the back of an ambulance. He hoped neither Morton nor Roy noticed him put out a steadying hand to the doorjamb. "No way, doc, Iím fine. Stick a Band-Aid on the cut and let me out of here. They can use all the help they can get out there." He motioned in the general direction of the plane crash.

Dr. Morton scowled. "I will not have you crawling around bombed out buildings and airplane wreckage with a concussion, Gage, do you hear me?"

Johnny looked hopefully to his partner for support, but Roy threw his arms up in a gesture that clearly said Ďdonít look at me!í The dark-haired man sighed dejectedly, but then he noticed the activity around him, and brightened again.

"Okay, then, doc," he said excitedly. "You need a hand here, right? Let me help you here, with triage and stuff. That way I wonít be climbing around any Ďbombed-out buildings,í but I can still lend a hand."

Mike looked at him dubiously.

"And," the paramedic added, "you can keep an eye on me."

The doctor turned around and surveyed the scene at the first aid station. Several seriously injured people were being treated on the ground, ambulances were coming and going in a steady stream, and off to the side were scores of people with minor injuries who had yet to be assessed by anyone. They needed the help, no question about that.

"Okay," he acquiesced. "But I want you to treat the minor injuries only; you need to take it easy. And I want you to find me hourly for a neuro check, okay?"

Johnís face broke into a wide grin. "Sure thing."

"And if you notice any symptoms, you find me immediately. Deal?"

"Deal," Gage promised.

"What about you, Roy?" Morton asked, hopeful that he could count on the aid of both paramedics.

"I dunno, doc. I better check in with my battalion chief. Heíll probably put me on search and rescue, though. At least for a while."

"I see," the doctor said. "Can you take care of his head for me before you go? I think a couple of butterflies ought to do it. I donít think he needs stitches."

Roy grinned. "Sure."

Morton nodded. "Report to Carol when heís done, John. Sheíll get you set up."

"Okay doc. Oh, hey, is Molly here?" he asked hopefully.

Morton turned and looked at him incredulously, then shook his head. "Well, youíre fine," he finally decided. "Sorry, Gage," he said as he headed back to work. "Sheís back at the hospital."

"Oh well," John sighed. "OWWW! Careful, Roy!"

+ + + + +

Johnny was putting a bandage on the head of a little girl, maybe seven years old. As he pressed the gauze into place it seemed to split into two and then merge back together. Gage squeezed his eyes shut then opened them again. His vision was fine, so he continued. "Sweetheart," he asked, "Did you lose consciousness at all?"

The girl looked at him with a puzzled expression, so he turned to the childís worried mother. "Did she?"

"I donít know," the woman said. "I was in another room, and I had to get over the china cabinet in the doorway to reach her. By the time I got there she was sitting on the floor and crying." Johnny nodded and winced slightly as he turned his attention back to the girl. He had a killer headache.

"Heather, did the bump on your head make you fall asleep? Did you wake up and not know what happened to you?"

The little girl shook her head solemnly. "It was a real loud noise, and then my bookcase was falling off the dresser, and, and, and," she started to weep, "and my musical horsey on the top shelf fell off and it hit me on the head and then it broke!"

By the time she was finished she was crying in earnest, and Johnny pulled the girl close and hugged her. He looked up at the mom and told her, "doesnít sound like she has a concussion, but itís a nasty cut. Youíll want to take her to your doctor or the hospital for some stitches, I think." The woman nodded, and John turned his attention back to his young patient.

"Hey, itís okay, itís okay," he told the girl.

"No itís NOT!" she wailed. "I love my horsey, and now itís broke!"

Both Gage and the mother laughed.

Once they left but before his next minor injury could come to where he was set up with first aid equipment, John caught Dr. Morton summoning him over. Johnny pushed himself up from his seat at a picnic table theyíd brought in from a nearby park; he did it slowly, not wanting to risk getting dizzy, and went over to the doctor.

"Yeah?"

"Itís been well over an hour, Gage. What was our agreement?"

Johnny rolled his eyes. "The dizziness is gone, no nausea, no weakness, just a helluva headache. Can I go back now?"

Morton checked his pupils with his penlight, and then released the paramedic to return to work. "Take some Tylenol for the headache," he advised.

+ + + + +

"HEY! SNAP OUT OF IT!"

The loud, annoyed yell succeeded in getting Johnís attention, and he found himself with a manís arm in his hand. A broken arm. He must have spaced out for a second.

"Yeah, sorry," he said distractedly. "What was it you said?"

The man seemed to know something was amiss. "You okay?" he asked. But it wasnít asked out of concern for Gage, more out of concern for his arm.

"Yeah, Iím fine. Looks like this is broken."

"I know," the annoyed man said. "You just told me that. What I asked was how long itís gonna be in a cast."

Johnny was still distracted. "Oh, ummm," he let his voice trail off as he reached over for a splint. It wasnít until it was safely in his hand that he answered. "Probably about six weeks. Itís mid-shaft, so it should heal nicely. Lemme get this splint on and you can wait over there and get a ride in with the next ambulance that leaves."

He concentrated on splinting the arm; it suddenly seemed much more complicated than it ever had before. Only when he finished the task did he ask, "howís the pain? I can get you something."

The man stood up, cradling his arm to his chest. "I donít want any drugs," he said as he started to walk away, but then he turned back. "And maybe you should lay off, too, buddy," he added disgustedly.

John watched him go, stunned, and then took a deep breath and bent over, resting elbows on knees and his head in his hands for a bit. The Tylenol hadnít touched the headache, and he was really really tired. But he looked up, and the line of people with bumps and bruises and fractures was as long as it had been an hour ago. They just kept coming. Heíd rest later.

"GRAMPA!!" someone on the line screamed. Johnny looked and saw a young woman trying to ease an elderly man to the ground. He got up and rushed to her side, ignoring the vertigo caused by the sudden movement. Thankfully, he didnít have far to go.

"What happened?"

"I donít know!" the scared woman said. "He cut his arm, thatís why weíre here. Then he just said ĎIt hurts!í and collapsed!" She smoothed the old manís hair. "Gramps?"

The man moaned, so John turned his attention to him. "Sir? Sir? Can you tell me where it hurts?" He felt the manís pulse.

"My chest," the man gasped out.

John looked over to the area where more seriously injured people were being treated. "I NEED HELP OVER HERE!" he shouted. A doctor he didnít know, and Carol, the nurse from Rampart, rushed over.

"What have we got?" the doctor asked as Johnny was taking the manís respiration. The paramedic didnít respond.

"What have we got?" the man asked again.

"Oh, uhh, sudden onset chest pain," Johnny said, clearly flustered. "Pulse is rapid, about 130. Respirations shallow, around 30."

The doctor scowled at the paramedic. "Letís move him," he ordered, pointing toward an empty setup complete with datascope. The four people lifted the old man and deposited him on the blanket.

The exertion took a toll on Johnny, and he was out of breath for a second. When he managed to focus his attention back on the victim, the doctor was staring at him.

"You can take a BP?" he spat out, clearly not for the first time.

"Yeah, I can," Johnny said, momentarily matching the manís ire. He glanced over at Carol, and saw her looking at him with concern. Gage ignored it, and took the manís BPóor at least he tried to. He couldnít read the small numbers on the dial. He deflated the cuff, squeezed his eyes closed tight for a second, and tried again. And again the numbers swam before him.

"Iíll do it," Carol said quietly. "Step out, Johnny, and find Dr. Morton."

He looked at her blankly. "Now," she ordered, taking the stethoscope from his ears.

Gage nodded slightly, not fully understanding the implication of what she was telling him to do, but realizing that he was in the way. He pushed himself up from his knees, and turned to leave.

"HEY!" he heard the doctor shout. "Where do you think youíre going?"

John just kept walking. He needed a moment to clear his head; that was all.

+ + + + +

Gage was leaning with his left side against an ambulance, his back to the triage area. He had his eyes closed, and he was wishing the headache would abate. He rested his head against the smooth metal, and relaxed slightly.

"What the hell kind of paramedic are you?" he heard the irate doctor shouting from afar, and he cringed. John didnít move, preparing himself for the chewing-out that he knew was coming; that he knew he deserved. Heíd blown it. Heíd frozen.

"Luckily it was just an angina attack," the voice continued, getting closer. "But if it had been an MI, and you just diddled around like that?" By now the man was right behind him, but Johnny didnít turn.

"Whatís WRONG with you?" the angry doctor continued.

John felt the manís hand on his left shoulder. He had just enough time to realize that he was being turned around before the sudden motion made his head spin and his vision start to gray, and then everything went black.

+ + + + +

Someone hit a car horn, loudly, and Johnny snapped awake with a start. He tried to sit up, but a hand firmly pressed him back down.

Disoriented, Gage looked around, and in a moment realized he was in the back of a moving ambulance, and the hand that had pushed him back was Dr. Mortonís. He reflexively tried to bring his left hand to his aching head, and registered that he had an IV line in his arm before Morton pushed it back down as well.

"What the hell happened?" he asked.

"Maybe you can tell me, Gage," the doctor said. Johnny squinted, studying Mikeís face. He looked worried.

"I donít know. I donít remember."

"Whatís the last thing you remember?"

John thought. "A little girl. Cut on her head. More upset about some broken toy, though."

Mortonís brows furrowed. "Nothing after that?"

"No, why?" Gage asked, suddenly matching the doctorís concern.

"You donít remember an old man who collapsed with an angina attack?"

The paramedic searched his memory, but it wasnít there. "No. Should I?"

The doctor was flipping through some forms he had. John recognized them as the MICU forms heíd been filling out for the minor injuries heíd treated. "How about a guy with a broken radius?" he asked.

Johnny picked up his other arm and ran his hand across his forehead, wincing when he hit his sore spot. "Yeah, maybe. That sounds familiar. He was rude." He took his hand down and studied the doctor. "Are you gonna tell me what happened?"

Morton put down the forms. "You passed out, Gage. You were treating a man who collapsed with chest pains with Dr. Prescott from Harbor General. Carol was there and she said you were distracted, couldnít concentrate, maybe were having trouble with your vision. She told you to step out and find me. You left, but you didnít find me, and when Dr. Prescott went to speak to you about what had happened, you just passed out on him."

Gage looked at the doctor, still somewhat dazed. "I donít remember any of that," he admitted.

"Doesnít surprise me, Johnny," Morton said, shaking his head. "I never should have let you stay. I should have insisted you go to Rampart immediately."

"Hey," John told the physician, "it was my idea."

Morton actually smiled slightly. "Yeah," he admitted. "But Iím the doctor and youíre the paramedic. I should know better."

Johnny decided heíd had enough of apologies. "How long was I out this time, doc?" He wasnít sure he wanted to know the answer.

Dr. Morton looked at his watch. "Almost 20 minutes, John."

Johnny cringed. That was surely gonna mean a night in the hospital.

+ + + + +

"Doc, will you stop hovering?" The paramedic was getting annoyed with Morton's suddenly overly-attentive bedside manner. If he repeated the neuro check one more time, Gage wasnít sure heíd be responsible for his actions. He was tired, and he just wanted to be left alone so he could get some sleep.

"Enjoy it while you can," Dixie advised with a smile as she entered the room. "He doesnít give VIP treatment that often." She turned her attention to the doctor. "X-rays," she said simply, handing him the large envelope. "How are you feeling, Johnny?" she asked.

"I have a headache. And Iím a little tired. Thatís it. Iím fine, really." He heard Morton snap the pictures on the light box in the room, and made one halfhearted attempt to turn around on the gurney to watch him, but Dix thwarted it, so he gave up and settled back onto the bed, closing his eyes drowsily.

But the respite only lasted until he heard Morton whistle slightly under his breath. "What?" Johnny asked urgently, craning his head around again and gritting his teeth against the pain and dizziness it caused. This time Dixieís attention was on the doctor, too, so she didnít notice. After a second Morton pulled down one of the x-rays and brought it with him to his patientís bedside.

"Looks like that hard head of yours finally got one knock too many," he said in a rare attempt to lighten the mood. "I see a hairline fracture."

"No way," Johnny said incredulously.

Dr. Morton refocused the overhead exam lights so he could show the x-ray to John, and held it up to the light. "Right there," he said, pointing. "See it?"

Johnny squinted, but he didnít. "No," he admitted. The light was bothering his eyes.

Dix was studying the x-ray, too. "Right there?" she asked, pointing.

"Yup," Morton agreed. He pulled down the film and turned the light away from Johnnyís face. "Joe Early is still in surgery with that girl you were treating, the epidural hematoma. But I want a neurosurgeon to take a look at you immediately, so Iím gonna put in a call. But given the onset of your symptoms, John, I wouldnít be surprised if he wants to do an angiogram."

"A WHAT?" Johnny exclaimed. That news did wonders to rouse him. "No way, doc, Iím fine! I have no symptoms now, except a headache," he lied. "If I had a bleed or something Iíd be getting worse."

Morton crossed his arms and got the stern look on his face that Gage absolutely hated. It was the posture the man took when he was about to give a lecture. And he didnít disappoint.

"You know as well as I do, Gage, that head injuries can be very tricky. You had initial loss of consciousness followed by a period of lucidity, followed by another episode of unconsciousness. Thatís indicative of a serious head injury. And even right now youíre clearly drowsy. Decreased level of consciousness is also an indication."

"But," Johnny tried to interject, but Morton stopped him cold by continuing.

"And a fracture is an immediate sign to be wary of something more serious. It takes a helluva blow to fracture the skull. You know that. And," he said in what was clearly going to be his final shot, "I donít trust you, quite frankly. You were experiencing symptoms at the sceneóaltered mental status, vision problemsóand you didnít tell me."

It wasnít a question, so Johnny had no intention of answering it. Not until the man added, "Right?"

"No. . . . Well, maybe. . . . Yes. . . . Oh I donít know!" Johnny finally admitted dispiritedly. He didnít know, to be honest. His memories were a little fuzzy.

"Dr. Morton," Dixie said evenly, though firmly. "Donít you think the patient is usually the last to know when heís suffering from altered mental status?"

If she was chiding the doctor for not keeping a closer eye on Johnny at the scene, only she could know for sure. But it worked, and a chastised Morton stopped his lecture, silently walked to the phone and made the call for a neurology consult. "Dr. Lane is on his way," he said as he hung up. "Heís good, John. Real good."

The paramedic nodded and let his eyes slide shut, his fatigue winning out over any protests he might want to lodge.

+ + + + +

Roy deposited the stokes on the ground, and helped lift their victim, who had a possible femur fracture, onto the blanket at the triage area. He stood, and looked around for his partner. When he didnít find him, he went over to Carol.

"Hey, Carol, whereís Johnny? You seen him?"

The nurse looked up from what she was doing. "Didnít you hear?" she asked.

"Hear what?"

Carol quickly finished her task and stood. "Johnny passed out again. Dr. Morton took him in to Rampart."

Roy was dumbfounded. Johnny had seemed fine when he left. "How long was he out this time?"

The woman shrugged. "I donít know, Roy," she told him. "He was still unconscious when they left. It was at least ten minutes here, though. And that was close to an hour ago."

The paramedic left without another word. He needed to talk to his battalion chief.

+ + + + +

"Look, doc, I hear what youíre saying. I do," Gage told the neurosurgeon standing by his side. "But Iím telling you Iím fine."

Dr. Lane barely hid the annoyance from his voice. "And Iím telling you, Mr. Gage, that youíre in no position to tell. Number one, you have a skull fracture. Number two, you are still exhibiting effects of a head injury. Number three, you have had two syncopal episodes of considerable duration. Do I need to go on?"

"No," Johnny allowed. "Iíve heard it all." He shifted his gaze from this doctor to Dr. Morton, standing a few paces back, then back to Lane. "And I still donít want to do it."

"What are you afraid of? Thereís nothing to worry about; we do them all the time," the doctor explained. "Itís a fairly routine test."

"Thereís nothing routine about sticking a needle in my neck and shoving dye into my brain, Dr. Lane."

The neurosurgeon allowed a small smile. "You know," he continued, ignoring his patientís outburst. He glanced back at Morton and Dixie before returning his attention to Gage. "Your friends tell me itís unlike you to be so. . . ." He paused a second, searching for the right word, and finally settled on ". . . uncooperative. Personality changes are another warning sign that there could be something seriously wrong."

Johnny just looked at the man, flabbergasted. The doctor was using Johnís apprehension against him now. That was totally unfair.

"Look," Lane continued, "weíre still waiting on some blood tests anyway, so you have a few minutes. Weíll let you relax for a minute and think about it. But I really believe a cerebral angiogram is in your best interest, just to be safe." He turned around, and motioned Morton and Dix out of the room. Once they were gone, Dr. Lane turned back to the gurney before he, too, left. "Youíre a paramedic, Mr. Gage," he said. "I donít need to tell you how quickly an untreated head injury can go very sour. Think about that." And he was gone.

Johnny watched the door close, and sighed nervously. He knew this guy, and Dixie and Morton, were making sense. But Dr. Lane was all business, and had made the mistake of completely explaining the procedure, and possible complications, before heíd even gotten Johnís tentative consent. A large-bore needle inserted into the carotid artery? Dye injected under high pressure? A series of x-rays? Chance of allergic reaction causing respiratory arrest, or of transecting the artery causing serious internal bleeding in his neck?

No thank you.

What was he afraid of? He was afraid of the damn test, thatís what. Not of finding out something was wrong.

But what about that? What if they did find a bleed? What would happen then? John shuddered, not even wanting to think about it. But he felt okay. He was sure he was fine. Heíd had worse concussions than this one. He was a little dizzy, had a little headache, and he was really drowsy, but that was it. And that was nothing.

Sleep it off. Thatís what he needed to do, and thatís what he was going to do. If he got worse, then maybe heíd let them do this test. But not now. Now he was gonna get some sleep. He could barely keep his eyes open.

+ + + + +

Roy escorted the patient through the ER doors, holding an IV aloft, but his mind was elsewhere. He didnít hear where Dixie directed the gurney, and instead just followed along. Heíd actually lied, sort of, to his battalion chief, telling the man that with the loss of Gage, the triage area was in dire need of a paramedic. Heíd been released from search and rescue, and gratefully reported to his new assignment. Sure, they did need the medical help, but thatís not why heíd requested the reassignment. Heíd known that it would only be a matter of time before heíd be called upon to escort a victim to Rampart, and heíd be able to check on his partnerís condition.

"Dix, howís Johnny?" he asked as he followed his victim into room three.

"Heís okay, for now," Dixie said as she supervised the transfer of the patient onto the gurney in the room. "Can you hang around for a minute? Iíd like to talk to you."

"Yeah, sure," Roy answered. "Iíll be getting a cup of coffee."

He went to the lounge, and poured a cup, but he wasnít thirsty, really. He just cradled the mug between his hands, feeling the warmth sink in. What had she meant by "for now?" The door opened, and Roy saw Dr. Morton enter the room. He stood up straight, and put the suddenly forgotten mug on the counter.

"Dix told me you were here," Morton said before Roy could ask anything. "Good, thatís good."

"Why?" Roy asked, confused. "Whatís wrong? Howís Johnny?"

"Sit down, Roy." The paramedic did, his anxiety level seeming to double with each passing second. Morton joined him at the table before speaking again. "John is probably fine."

"Probably?"

Morton nodded. "He has a skull fracture."

"A fracture?" Roy repeated, his mouth suddenly dry as the Mojave.

"Yup. And I know what youíre thinkingójust what I was. ĎWhy didnít we send him in immediately?í But your partner can be very persuasive, you know. And the chances are itís fine, and heíll be fine with a little rest."

"But?" Roy interjected, knowing Morton was heading somewhere.

"But," the doctor continued, stressing the word, "I, and Dr. Lane, the neurosurgeon who has been given Johnís case, think itís wise to be sure. John has shown enough signs of head injury for us to be concerned that something serious might be brewing. Dr. Lane wants to do an angiogram, and I concur."

"But?" Roy said again, wishing the doctor would cut to the chase.

"But John wonít give his consent. He says he doesnít want the test."

Roy was a little astonished by this news. His partner was always pretty cooperative with the hospital staff when he was sick or injured. "That doesnít sound like Johnny," he finally said.

"No," Morton agreed, "it doesnít. But weíve been trying to convince him for close to an hour now, and he still wonít budge."

"You want me to talk to him?" Roy offered, sure that this was why the doctor was talking to him at all.

"Thatís exactly what weíd like. Maybe you can talk some sense into him."

"Iíll see what I can do, doc."

+ + + + +

When Roy entered the treatment room, he found his partner slightly reclined on the treatment table, with his head turned, facing away.

"Johnny?" he asked tentatively. Gage didnít move, so Roy stepped up to his side. Johnís eyes were closed, and his arms were relaxed, one at his side and the one sporting an IV catheter lying across his abdomen. Johnnyís breathing was even and relaxed, tooóhe was asleep. Roy shook his head in amazement. He had two doctors telling him he might have a serious brain injury, and here John was, sleeping.

"Johnny, wake up." His friend didnít stir, and Roy felt a tinge of panic. What if he was unresponsive?

"Johnny?" he asked again, louder and more forcefully. He watched his partner grimace and groan, then settle once more. Roy sighed with relief.

"Seriously, Johnny. Wake up," DeSoto repeated more firmly, daring to put his hand on Johnís arm and give it a squeeze.

"LeavemealoneRoy," Gage grumbled, pushing the hand off and making an abortive effort to turn onto his side and away from the annoying voice.

"You shouldnít stay asleep anyway, Johnny. You have a head injury. Wake up. NOW."

Royís authoritative tone got through, and John allowed his eyes to squint open. "Hey," he said quietly.

"How ya feeling?"

Johnny rubbed his eyes. "Sleepy," he answered.

"I can see that," Roy allowed. "Guess you took a harder hit than we thought, huh?"

"Yeah," Gage agreed. "Iím okay, though."

"Are you?"

John forced his eyes all the way open, and had to shield them from the bright lights of the treatment room. After a moment he took his hand down and looked pointedly at his partner. "They told you."

Roy crossed his arms on his chest. "Of course they did. Whatís the matter with you, Johnny? You know they wouldnít want to do this test if you didnít need it."

"I donít need it, Roy. Thatís what I keep telling them. Iím feeling better."

"Uh huh. Thatís why you can barely stay awake, and the light is really bothering your eyes?"

"Well, Iím not saying I donít have a concussion, Roy," Johnny argued feebly.

"And the elevated blood pressure? The skull fracture? The altered mental status? The two periods of unconsciousness? The slight papilledema in your left eye? What about all that?"

"Geez, did they let you read my chart?" the injured man groused.

"Yeah, sorta," DeSoto admitted. "Theyíre worried about you. So am I. We just want to make sure youíre okay. Whatís wrong with that?"

"Well, nothing. But Iím okay. Really I am."

Roy sighed. "You keep saying that, and maybe you will be. But you wonít know that for sure unless you let them do the angiogram." Johnny just stared at his partner through squinted eyes, so Roy continued.

"John," he started, and Gage flinched. Roy only used his given name when he really meant business. "How many times have we had to fight head injury victims tooth and nail to get them to come in and get checked out?"

Johnny shrugged.

"And why do we force them? Because something seemingly minor can be major, and only a doctor can tell for sure. You know that as well as anyone. Youíve seen it happen lots of times." He was on a roll now, so he kept going. "What kind of run were we on when that plane crashed? Do you even remember?"

John nodded this time. "Jennifer Hancock."

"Right," Roy said. "She got hit by that baseball hours before we were called. She seemed fine. She initially had a lot fewer symptoms than you do, and sheís in surgery right now." There was a stool by the bed, and Roy pulled it over and sat down.

"I donít understand what youíre thinking, Johnny, I really donít. Play it safe. Let them do the angiogram."

Johnny sighed loudly, and Roy was hopeful that he was making some headway. "Roy, do you know what they do for one of these angiograms?"

DeSoto suppressed a grin. Suddenly it made sense; suddenly he knew what was at the root of Johnnyís reticence. He was afraid of the test. Of course.

"They inject dye into your arteries and take x-rays," he said simply.

"Yeah," Gage nodded. "Inject it right into your carotid," he reached up and touched the left side of his neck, where he knew one of the arteries was located, "with a three-inch, large-bore needle."

"So it wonít be pleasant," Roy conceded. "But Iím sure they can give you something to calm you down, and theyíll use a local. It shouldnít hurt, Johnny. And itíll hurt a lot less than brain surgery, wonít it?"

Gage snorted. "I could end up with both for my trouble, Roy," he grumbled.

"Letís hope not. But thereís only one way to find out for sure, isnít there?"

Johnny studied his partnerís earnest face for a long moment. "Maybe they can knock me out for it," he finally said.

+ + + + +

"Weíre going to give you a little diazepam to help you relax, but we need you to be able to tell us how youíre feeling, so itís really important that you stay awake for us, okay Mr. Gage?"

"John."

"What?" Dr. Lane asked.

"Just call me John." Gage saw the corners of the doctorís eyes crinkle in a smile, though his surgical mask made it impossible to see his entire face.

"Okay, John, the nurse just injected the Valium, so you should feel more relaxed in a couple of minutes. Weíre going to position you for the test now, and itís vital that you remain completely still. I canít stress this enough."

"Iíll do my best," Johnny promised. Despite the muscle relaxant, John felt his heart start to race as hands he couldnít see took his head and tilted it back. The movement made his headache get suddenly worse, but John didnít say anything. Someone shoved some sort of pillow under his neck, keeping it stretched and extended. He felt the doctorís gloved hand palpate the side of his neck.

"Can I get a little more?" Dr. Lane asked, and John felt someone pull his chin up and tilt his head back more. This time he couldnít help it, and moaned in pain. Something else was shoved under his neck. Uncomfortable didnít even come close to describing the position he was in.

"That ought to do it, keep him right there. And letís put him on four liters O2 by cannula." It seemed to John as if the doctor had forgotten he was even in the room. Hands were in front of his face, sticking the oxygen prongs into his nose.

"Whatís that for?" Johnny asked, more to remind them that he was still there than because he needed to know.

"Just a precaution," a womanís voice answered. He couldnít see her.

With no warning, foam was put at either side of his head, and they started to literally tape it to the table. The foam covered his ears, and John realized he could barely hear.

"Wait, wait a minute," he protested, throwing his arms up to catch the hands before they further immobilized him. "I canít hear anything." There was a short muffled discussion before the one piece of tape theyíd put down was removed and the foam was pulled up somewhat, uncovering half his ears.

"Better?" the disembodied female voice asked.

"Yeah, thanks," he said, trying to marginally calm himself. He squeezed his eyes closed to shut out the flurry of bodies over his head as he was immobilized. He tried not to jump when he felt restraints go across his chest and on his wrists.

John couldnít decide if it was better to keep his eyes closed, or open. Heíd close them, trying to relax, but then a strange sound would catch his attention, and heíd find himself looking. Maybe thatís why theyíd covered his ears.

"Okay John, weíre about ready to get started." It was the first time the doctor had spoken to him in several minutes. "I want you to relax as much as you can, and donít move. Okay?"

"Yeah," the paramedic breathed out.

"If you notice anything wrong, by all means let us know, but otherwise try not to speak, okay? Many people report a hot, flushed feeling when the dye is introduced, so thatís normal. But if you are having trouble breathing, or you are in considerable pain, donít be quiet about it, okay?"

"Uh huh."

The doctor was again pressing in his neck. He found a spot he liked, John surmised, because the fingers stopped and remained there, pressing down firmly. "Iím going to insert the needle now, and itís imperative you donít move."

Johnny just grunted slightly. His entire face, especially jaw and eyes, was clenched in nervous anticipation. He knew what those large-bore needles felt like going into an arm. Now one was about to go into his neck.

The doctor didnít warn him again. The next sensation Johnny experienced was the needle piercing his skin. Dr. Lane was going excruciatingly slowly, and it hurt like hell. John remained stoic for as long as he could, but this pain added to that in his head was soon too much, and he couldn't remain silent any longer. But with his teeth clenched closed like they were, all he managed was a sort of garbled "Arrgghhh." But it got his point across.

"Almost there," the doctor promised. Suddenly the needle stopped advancing. "I think weíre in," Lane said, and Johnny dared open his eyes. In his peripheral vision he saw a flash of red. "Good return," the neurosurgeon said. "Weíre in." John suddenly realized that the red heíd seen was his own arterial blood, pumping out of the needle now in his carotid. The thought made him at once lightheaded and nauseated, and he closed his eyes and forced himself to take a couple of deep breaths. The last thing he wanted to do was vomit.

"Youíre doing fine," that female voice assured him. He started to nod in acknowledgement, but soon realized that he shouldnítóand couldnít even if he wanted to.

"Iím going to inject the contrast dye now, John," Dr. Lane told him. "Let me know if you start feeling any symptoms of an allergic reaction. You know what they are."

"Uh huh," Gage promised, still through clenched teeth.

"Relax, Mr. Gage. Try to relax," the faceless woman advised. Easy for her to say.

John actually felt the dye entering his blood stream. He knew it was being inserted under very high pressure, and he felt it. And after a few seconds he felt something else. It burned. Dr. Lane had said it was normal if it felt hot. Had he meant burning? John wasnít sure. It was unbelievably uncomfortable, but the paramedic vowed to tough it out as best he could. As long as he didnít go into anaphylactic shock or something, he was going to get this over with.

"Okay, shoot," the neurosurgeon said, and Johnny heard the x-ray machine come to life. The burning sensation kept spreading through his head, and his face became hot and flushed, and the doctor kept telling them to take pictures.

"How are you doing, John?" he asked at one point.

"Itís burning," Gage admitted.

"Thatís normal. Your heart rate and BP are holding steady though. Any trouble breathing?"

"No."

"Good. Almost finished."

It seemed to take an eternity, but it was finally over. Dr. Lane pulled the needle from Johnís neck quickly, and pressed a large pressure bandage into place. More disembodied hands removed his head from its prison.

"You did fine, John," the neurosurgeon told his patient. "These should be developed in a little bit, and then weíll know for sure. How are you feeling?"

Gage had finally allowed his body to relax, and he was exhausted. But the worst problem was his head. "My headís splitting," he complained.

"Itís probably a vascular headache from the angio, coupled with the headache you came in with. Sorry about that. But weíll give you something and let you get some rest."

"Youíll tell me?" John asked. "Youíll tell me the results?"

"As soon as we have them. Weíll be moving you to the neuro stepdown unit. We need to watch you very closely for any complicationsófrom the head injury or from the angio."

Johnny slid his eyes shut and nodded slightly. He was just glad this was over and behind him. He was asleep before they had a chance to move him.

+ + + + +

Roy entered the ER with yet another plane crash casualty. Heíd come and gone one other time, learning then that Johnny was still having the angiogram, and there was no news.

"Just got word that theyíre done," Dixie told him the minute the paramedic alighted from the ambulance. They both followed the gurney into a treatment room. Once the patient was transferred, Dix continued. "Heís been moved to the neuro stepdown unit. You know where that is? Sixth floor."

Roy nodded, and took off for the elevators.

The floor was eerily quiet. Roy approached the desk and asked where John was. The nurse pointed him toward the proper bed, but warned that the patient was asleep. Roy didnít care.

John was lying with his head elevated at a 45-degree angle. Roy knew this was to allow gravity to help alleviate any swelling he might have in the brain. He looked to be sleeping comfortably, though, and that relieved the light-haired man. The left side of Johnís face now sported a nasty bruise along with the cut from the initial injury. And the bandage on his neck, where the needle had been placed, Roy guessed, showed a spot of blood in the middle.

Roy shuddered. Heíd convinced Johnny to go through with it, and he was sure it had been the right thing to do, but he couldnít even imagine such a thing being done to himself.

He stood there for a few minutes longer, just watching his sleeping partner. But he knew he needed to get back to work, and after another moment he reluctantly turned and left.

+ + + + +

"I need you to wake up for me, hon." The voice was kind, but authoritative, and Johnny knew he had to obey. Reluctantly, he opened his eyes.

"There you go!" the middle-aged woman said brightly. He knew her; sheíd once worked in the ER, and had left years ago. Her name was Mary Something. Mary Louise, that was it. How could he forget. Sheíd always correct people who dared to just call her ĎMary.í "Can you tell me your name?"

A neuro check. Right. "Yeah," he said, reaching up and tiredly running his hand over his eyes. "Itís John Gage. How ya been, Mary Louise?" He moved his hand away in time to see the pleasure at being remembered wash across her face.

"Iíve been fine, Johnny," she said with a smile. "You know where you are?"

As tired as he was, and as much as his head hurt, he couldnít help but grin at her refusal to deviate from the script. "Rampart. Neuro stepdown unit, right? Thatís what the doc said, anyway. I got whacked in the head when that plane went down." He started to look around the room, and gasped when the movement caused a sharp pain in his neck.

"Your neck is going to be sore for a little while," Mary Louise told him, placing a comforting hand over the bandage there. "Youíre going to want to keep your neck straight. Donít twist it."

"Okay," Johnny promised, remembering the horror of the angiogram. "What time is it? How long have I been asleep? They have to have the results by now."

Mary Louise chuckled. "Itís almost 8 at night. Youíve been asleep two hours now. Dr. Lane decided to let you sleep until the first neuro check. Heís on his way up with the results."

Johnny studied the woman, trying to decide if she knew anything based on the look in her eyes. They gave away nothing. But, he realized, if heíd needed surgery they wouldnít have left him sleeping for two hours. That was something. "You donít know?" he asked anyway.

"Nope," she said breezily, as she shined her flashlight into his eyes. Johnny strongly suspected she was lying, but didnít press. "Squeeze my hands," she said, fitting hers into his, "but donít break Ďem!" He complied.

"Howís your head? Still hurting?"

"Yeah," he admitted.

The woman winced sympathetically. "Maybe the doctor will authorize something a little stronger."

"Authorize what a little stronger?" Dr. Laneís voice was relaxed as he entered the cubicle, but his face gave away nothing.

"I still have a drum section pounding away in my head," John told the man plainly.

"Well," the doctor said, "you do have a fractured skull and a concussion."

Johnny immediately understood what he was saying. "But nothing else?"

Lane finally smiled. "Nope. Doesnít look that way. Everything looked fine."

Gage sighed with relief, letting himself relax. But then he pushed himself up again, and looked sharply at the doctor. "I told you."

"So you did. But I never listen to patients with head injuries. You donít know what youíre saying half the time." The man kept smiling as he spoke, and John knew he was teasing. He approached his patient, and palpated Johnís neck lightly.

"Ow!" Gage protested.

The doctor removed the bandage and inspected the wound closely. "The external bleeding has stopped, but it looks like youíve got a bit of a hematoma here. Itís fairly unavoidable, unfortunately. Are you having any trouble breathing or swallowing?"

Johnny took a deep breath, and then swallowed. "No," he decided.

"Good. Just try to keep your neck still for a while; you donít want to aggravate or reopen the puncture in the carotid. It shouldnít get much worse."

In response to this John reached up and felt his neck. He could feel the bulge of swelling, where he knew heíd bled internally for a while after the needle had been removed. He wondered if it was black and blue, but didnít care enough to ask.

"If you notice any constriction in your trachea or esophagus, though, be sure to let someone know immediately, okay?"

"Okay."

The doctor proceeded to give his patient a complete neurological exam, declaring Gage to be in "good shape" at the end. He did order a stronger painkiller, and then advised Johnny to get some more sleep.

"Gladly," the fatigued paramedic said. "How long you gonna keep me here?"

"Weíll keep you here in the unit until morning, then move you to a regular room, I think," the doctor explained. "As far as how long youíll be hospitalized, that depends on a few things. You are dealing with a fractured skull; donít forget that. Weíll want to keep an eye on you for a bit."

"But," Johnny protested, "didnít you do the angiogram in place of Ďkeeping an eye on meí?"

Dr. Lane smiled indulgently. "Not really, no. Thereís still diffuse swelling of the brain that could be occurring, thereís concussion syndrome to worry about. All the angiogram told us was that you didnít rupture a blood vessel. But you still need to rest and recover and the hospital is the best place to do that."

"Yeah, sure. While being woken up every hour," John grumbled.

"You know as well as I do how important that is, John. And weíll start leaving you alone for longer periods of time after tonight. Thatís a promise." The doctor started to leave, and then turned back. "Besides, itís only every two hours. But I can order hourly neuro checks if youíd prefer!"

Johnny stared incredulously at his doctor, who suddenly seemed to think he was a comedian or something. "No thank you," he stated emphatically.

The neurosurgeon laughed. "Get some rest."

It was mere moments after he was left alone that John felt the heavy pull of sleep, and willingly gave in to it.

+ + + + +

Johnny woke up and was surprised to find that it hadnít been because some nurse was bothering him. He was uncomfortable, that was the problem. His head still ached, his neck hurt every time he tried to move it, and now his back did, too, from being forced to sleep sitting up like he was. On top of that the lights of the unit ensured that restful darkness was impossible, and there was the constant hum of activity going on around him. He wanted nothing more than to be able to roll over, punch his pillow into a comfortable formation, and get some real sleep.

He sighed dejectedly, fully aware that it wasnít going to happen any time soon.

"Well, this is a rarity," the nurse said as she entered Johnís cubicle. He didnít know this one. "Come to do your neuro check and youíre already awake!"

"Not by choice," Gage confessed. "What time is it?"

"Itís a little after 2. You okay?" she asked as she took his pulse.

"Apparently not." The woman looked at him quizzically, so he finished. "Iím in the hospital, arenít I?"

She smiled. "Oh, that. Youíre going to be just fine. I was wondering why you are awake." She produced a BP cuff and wrapped it around his arm.

"I dunno," Johnny confessed. "I canít get comfortable. I donít suppose I could get up and walk around for a bit? Get the kinks out?"

The woman frowned sympathetically. "Nope, sorry. Your orders are for complete bed rest. Iím sure theyíll let you up later this morning, though."

John had figured as much. "What about this bed? Can you at least lower the head so Iím not sitting up straight? My back is killing me."

"Youíre not sitting up straight," the nurse chided him. "And the orders are for you to remain on an incline as well." She studied him for a moment. "But we can probably change the angle a little, and maybe elevate your feet a bit. Change the pressure points. Do you think that will help?"

"Yeah, maybe." The nurse did change the bedís position, lowering the head only slightly in the process. But it did succeed in eliminating the ache, even if it was actually no more comfortable.

"There," she said, satisfied. "Howís your head? I can give you more pain medication if youíd like."

It wasnít that bad, John knew, but he also knew he didnít want to ride out the rest of the night awake in this bed. And he knew that the meds would probably help him get back to sleep.

"Yeah, okay," he told her.

+ + + + +

It was early, Roy knew, only 7am. But a run had brought him and Johnnyís replacement into the hospital, and he figured if he could run up and check on John now, heíd be able to get home and get some sleep. He was dead on his feet. Fourteen hours straight heíd been at the crash site, and then heíd had to go back to the station and resume his duties there.

He turned the corner to enter Gageís cubicle, and was surprised to find his partner awake. He was using a spoon to absentmindedly swirl around some liquid in a bowl on the tray in front of him.

"Hey Johnny," he said quietly.

John looked up, moving his neck stiffly. "Hey Roy,"

"How ya feeling?"

Johnny shrugged. "Okay, I guess."

DeSoto stepped up next to the bed and took note of the breakfast tray in front of his friend. "Clear liquids?" he asked.

Gage shrugged again. "I donít know. I suppose itís easier cleanup if I get sick."

"Have you been nauseous?" It had been Royís understanding that this was one symptom his partner had been spared.

"Nah." John started to shake his head to add emphasis to his answer, but stopped immediately, closing his eyes in frustration and pain.

"Your neck hurts, huh." It was an observation, not a question.

Johnny reached up and gingerly touched the bandage there. "Yeah, you could say that."

"Well, Iím just glad the results were good. You were asleep when I was up here last night. I didnít get a chance to tell you."

"Uh huh," John muttered, "all that for nothing."

"It wasnít for nothing," Roy protested a little too defensively, "now you know youíre all right."

John locked eyes with his partner. "I knew all along," he pointed out, his voice tinged with anger.

Roy sighed. He should have known John would be cross about having gone through that procedure. And he remembered his thoughts of the night beforeóthat he wouldnít have wanted to go through it himself. But the bottom line was, he was glad for the peace of mind. And he had to think part of John was, too.

"Look, Johnny," he started, "Iím sorry you had to go through it. And if you blame me for talking you in to it, Iím sorry for that, too. But I can handle it. Because at the end of the day, knowing youíre gonna be okay is worth it." He looked at his watch. "Now our. . ." he stopped himself quickly and corrected, "my shift is just about up, and Iím beat. Iím gonna go home and get some sleep. Iíll come back to visit you this afternoon." He turned quickly and left. He didnít want to start anything now, not with him exhausted and Johnny hurt. Best to say his piece and retreat; the rest could wait until later.

Roy was almost out of earshot when he heard his partner say "Thanks, Roy." He wasnít entirely sure what he was being thanked for, but it was good enough for him, and brought a smile to his face.

He stopped, but didnít turn around. "Take it easy, Johnny. Iíll see you later."

+ + + + +

"Well, John, I think we can move you up to a regular room now," Dr. Lane said after examining Gage during his morning rounds.

"How about sending me home," Johnny suggested sullenly.

"Nope. Sorry. Not yet." The doctor watched his patient, gauging his reaction and demeanor. He didnít like what he saw. "Whatís the matter?" he finally asked.

Johnny looked up from his hands, which were busy twisting his blanket into tiny knots. He met his doctorís eyes, started to say something, then stopped. "Nuthiní," he finally answered.

"Come on Gage, spill," the neurosurgeon urged. "Donít you feel all right?"

"Well," Johnny started, "ummm, no, not really. I meanÖ ummm . . . I donít know," he admitted at last.

This wasnít the answer the doctor was expecting. Many a patient was a little blue after suffering an injury like this, and thatís what heíd been expecting from the paramedic. Hopefully, thatís all it would still prove to be.

"Tell me," he said simply.

Johnny ran his hand through his hair in frustration. "I donít know, doc. I just feel weird. Out of sorts. I canít describe it."

"Do you feel tense; jumpy?"

John looked at his doctor again. "Yeah, sorta."

"While at the same time tired and achy? Maybe even a little queasy?" His patient nodded, then winced as he felt it in his neck.

Lane smiled. "I wouldnít worry about it, John. Your exam looked good. I think youíre just tired. Weíve put you through a lot in the last 16 hours. I think getting you out of bed, and out of this unit, will do a lot to make you feel better." He was confident that this was just a mood. "Youíll be amazed what four hours of uninterrupted sleep, real food, and a room with a view will do for you."

Johnny gave one slow, careful nod in response. "How about getting rid of this thing?" he asked, lifting his arm to show the doctor the IV still attached to his arm. "You forget. I know a TKO when I see one."

"You got it," the physician promised with a grin.

+ + + + +

They actually let him ride in a wheelchair for his transfer to a regular room, and John was grateful just to be out of bed. Heíd rather have walked, of course, but heíd known that wasnít going to happen, so heíd taken what he could get. Besides, just standing up for the first time in almost 20 hours had been a bit of an adventure. The head rush on top of his headache had made him dizzy, and heíd had to work hard to hide just how much from the nurses.

When the nurse pushed him into the common area of the neuro unit, the first thing he saw was Christine, Jenniferís mother, rushing by. She jumped on the first elevator, weeping, and was gone before John could say anything.

"Johnny, I heard you were with us. How are you feeling?" The paramedic turned his attention from the elevator doors to Dr. Early, who was now standing by his chair.

"Iím okay, doc," he said distractedly. "Was that Christine Hancock?"

"Yes, it was."

"What was wrong with her? Howís Jennifer? Sheís not. . . ." He couldnít even finish the thought.

"No, No," Early promised. "Surgery went well. I expect her to make a full recovery in time."

"So how come she was so upset?"

The doctor smiled. "Sheís her mother, Johnny. Itís hard to see your child so sick. Thatís all."

"Do you think," Johnny started, not even sure why he was asking. "Can I see her?"

"Jennifer?"

"Yeah."

"Weíve got her heavily sedated, John. Sheís not awake."

"I know, thatís okay. I was hurt on her rescue. I just want to see for myself, ya know?" He was lying. Thatís not why he wanted to see her at all.

"Okay, I donít see why not." The doctor took control of the wheelchair and pushed him over to the little girlís cubicle.

Like Johnny had been, Jennifer was lying on an incline. But she sported a large bandage on her head, and her long chestnut-colored hair was gone. She was deathly pale and on a respirator. Gage just looked at her, dumbstruck.

Dr. Early was paged. "Just push the call button when youíre ready to go, okay John?" he instructed as he was leaving.

"Yeah," the paramedic agreed, remembering not to nod.

That coulda been him. Itís the only thought he had in his head. It coulda been him. He felt almost ashamed that it was his only consideration while looking at this very sick little girl. But it was, and he couldnít help it. And Roy was right, as usual. That godawful test had been worth it just to know it wasnít going to be him, either.

"Johnny?"

The female voice startled the paramedic, and this time he did reflexively turn his head toward it, paining his neck one more time. His hand automatically went up protectively.

"Hi Christine."

"I didnít know you were hurt. Is it from when. . . ." she looked at her daughter to complete her thought.

"Yeah. Took a harder hit than anyone thought. Iím okay, though. And Doc Early tells me Jenniferís gonna be fine, too."

"Thatís what he told me too," the woman said sadly. "But still itís hard, you know?"

"I know," he agreed, taking his hand off his neck as he spoke.

"What happened to your neck?" Christine asked.

"This?" Johnny again touched the bandage. "Nothing. Nothing to worry about." And he smiled.

+ + + + +

Dr. Lane had been right. John was much happier in his new room. He could adjust the bed any way he wanted to, he could get up and walkóeven managing a bit of a solo excursion before a nurse caught up with him and scolded him for not taking a "buddy" along in case he got dizzy. And best of all, theyíd left him alone. Heíd slept for 4 hoursóstraight through lunch, no lessówithout a soul waking him up. Even the stiffness in his neck was easing somewhat.

He was lying on his right sideóthe left being too painful on his headóand staring out the window when he heard the door open. The nurse had just been in, so he was figuring it was Roy. Heíd said heíd be by this afternoon, and it was after 4.

"Hey Roy," he said as he turned onto his back. But it wasnít Roy.

It was Molly, the raven-haired, blue-eyed object of his attentions of late. She hadnít responded to any of his advancesóyetóso he was surprised to see her. She was breathtaking.

"Hi Johnny," she said somewhat shyly.

"Hi Molly!" he exclaimed, immediately chastising himself for sounding a little too eager. "What are you doing here?" he asked as he raised the head of his bed so heíd be sitting up.

"Nurse McCall told me you were hurt at that big plane crash yesterday."

"Uhhh, yeah," he said, smoothing the blanket across his hips and wondering where this was going, but reminding himself to thank Dix when he saw her.

"Not badly, I hope," she said as she sat on the empty bed across from Johnís. "We were watching it on TV when we could, and it looked just awful."

"It was," Johnny said solemnly. "I fractured my skull. They had to do an angiogram because they were afraid I had an intracranial bleed."

"Oh, you poor thing!"

"Man, Iím telling you, it was no fun," Johnny agreed with a tone of exaggerated gravity in his voice. "But at the end of the day it was worth it, you know? Just to know youíre gonna be okay; to have some peace of mind."

Standing outside the door, Roy DeSoto listened to the conversation, and turned to leave with a smile and a shake of his head. Heíd come back later. Johnny was busy right now.

THE END

Thanks: Tig actually goaded me into writing this, so I thank her for that. And Peggy, Laurel, and Kenda read as I went. Special thanks to Kelly, for providing excruciating detail (half of which I didnít even use!) about cerebral angiograms circa 1977. I certainly realize this is a PWP (plot? what plot?) piece of fluff, but I hope you enjoyed it anyway.

I know that Emergency! and its characters belong to Mark VII Limited and Universal Television. I hope they donít mind that I borrow them on a regular basis.

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