"Dixie! Call on line three." Lucy called across the hall to where I was consulting with Dr. Early about the elderly patient whose room he'd just left. Joe told me to go ahead and I used the phone on the back counter.
"Dixie McCall, how may I help you?"
"Dixie, this is Captain Stanley from Station 51."
My heart sped up and I had to gulp hard. "What's happened to Johnny?"
He sighed. "We're at a fire in the warehouse district. Johnny and Roy were evacuating a couple of workers who tried to put out the fire when a wall collapsed on them. Roy got his man out and Johnny pushed his guy out of harm's way before he took the brunt of the wall. We're still working on getting him out but he's alive and talking to us."
"Dear God." I took a shaky breath and started praying for the man I loved like a son. "I'll tell Kelly."
"Thanks, I didn't want him to hear it over the radio. Hold on." I could hear him yelling at someone, then he was back on the line. "He's out from under. They'll be transporting just as soon as they can."
"Thank you, Captain. I'll find Kelly now." I heard his goodbye as I hung up the phone and turned to go find Dr. Bracket. Joe was watching me with a frown and I debated whether or not to tell him. I wasn't sure that he realized yet that Kelly and Johnny were lovers.
"Dixie, what's wrong?" He drew me to one side and I took a deep breath before giving him the news. He sighed heavily and shook his head. "I'll find Kelly. He should be finishing up his class on second floor."
Damn, I still didn't know if he knew about them. "I can do that, Dr. Early, while you're getting ready to accept incoming."
He chuckled through his frown. "Don't worry, Dixie, I know. We won't be able to keep Kelly from his side but I'll be the doctor on record."
I don't think I've ever been so relieved in my life. "Thank goodness. I'll go get Dr. Bracket."
Hurrying to the back stairs, I took them two at a time. I may usually saunter but I know how to hotfoot it, too. The class was breaking up and the interns were slowly leaving the classroom while Kelly chatted with Dr. David Sparta by the desk. I thought my expression was calm but I saw him tighten up when he saw me, changing from relaxed to tense in the space of a breath.
David left us with a backward look while I very quietly gave Kelly the bad news. Those beautiful blue eyes of his turned anguished and he led me back downstairs without another word said. When we got to Emergency, they had Roy on the radio giving Johnny's vitals. I couldn't tell who was driving the Squad 51 unit but it sounded like Roy had his hands full with three patients.
I quietly called another doctor to help cover for Kelly who was trying very hard not to pace. We looked at each other when Roy said calmly over the radio that his partner was unconscious and had been so since about five minutes after they'd pulled him from under the wall. That was not a good sign. He probably had a concussion or worse. I was really glad that Joe was on hand.
Hopefully, Johnny wouldn't need his neurologic expertise. I was trying not to think the worst but I was losing the battle when they drove up to the Emergency entrance. We all raced out to help them unload and it seemed like forever before we had Johnny on a cart with Roy holding the oxygen bottle for him. We wheeled him into room one and I took a last glance before I went to sort out the other two.
Johnny was a mess. His pale face smudged with soot, his uniform ripped and burned through in several places. But worst of all was his complete stillness and the anguished look on Roy's face that matched Kelly's. I must have prayed continuously while I got the other two men settled in. Their injuries weren't severe and they were soon settled in a room to await their families.
Finally, I could go back to the members of my family. The medical profession can be a lonely one with long hours of work and unless your husband or wife worked along side of you, very little chance at a healthy relationship. The people at Rampart made up a very special group of individuals and several of the squads were a part of that family. And Johnny Gage was a very loved member of those I considered kin.
Roy was standing outside the room, leaning against the wall and praying silently, if I read his expression correctly. "Roy?"
His eyes opened and he nodded at me. "They don't know. He still hasn't come to. I should have insisted we leave earlier or made him go first."
"Then it would be you in there and Johnny out here saying the exact same thing. He'll be fine. He has to be." I put my arms around him and gave him a hard hug, praying that I'd soon be able to do the same with his partner.
"He just has to, Dixie." Roy's whisper was broken. "I've never seen him as happy as he has been these last three months. After all the pain his family put him through, he and Kelly have something so special that I'd be jealous if I didn't have Joanna and the kids."
I nodded and let him go. "And he will again. Johnny has a guardian angel watching over him and I can't believe that she isn't taking care of him as we speak."
He tried to smile only to whip around when the door beside us opened. Joe came out first and I caught a glimpse of Kelly by Johnny's side. "Dixie, we're going to take him up to fifth floor for a few tests. I'd give Kelly a moment then have the interns wheel him up there. And if you'll go with him?"
"You bet I will. Has he come to yet?" My heart was in my throat.
"Not yet." His smile was forced and I could hardly bear to see it. "The MRI should tell us what's up."
The next few hours were fraught with tension. The MRI showed that aside from a little swelling, there was no skull fracture. Joe would not be operating today and I know how relieved I was when I heard that. Kelly looked calm and sure until you looked in his eyes and saw the fear. Johnny was in a private room and I let Kelly clean him up while I ran interference for him.
When I slipped inside the room just after eight p.m. he was sitting by Johnny's side, holding his hand and talking softly to his comatose lover. He turned his head to see who had come in and he tried to smile at me but his heart wasn't in it. "Dixie."
"Kelly, you need to eat something. Do you want to go to the cafeteria or should I just bring you something?"
"I'm not hungry, Dixie." He shook his head and went back to watching Johnny.
"That may be but I'm still going to get you something. Maybe the smell will wake up, Sleeping Beauty here." He looked so young like this, calm and silent.
"He won't let me call him beautiful." Kelly let his other hand stroke Johnny's cheek.
"He's shy, isn't he?" I went to his other side and took his hand in mine, rubbing some warmth into the cold flesh. "I always knew that he had layers on top of layers inside of him."
"That family of his tried its best to cow him but he fooled them all." Kelly's eyes teared and he closed them. "He makes me laugh every day and when he comes home after a three day shift, he brings the sunshine back with him. I can't lose him now."
"You're not going to, Kelly. He's going to wake up soon." I said with a nod. "He likes pasta salad with Italian dressing. I'll bring some up."
He chuckled tiredly. "I'll eat whatever you bring me."
I laid his limp hand back onto the white sheet and left them together. Making the rounds, I settled a few patients, answered a question from one of the new nurses, Clair Jensen, and made it to the cafeteria before they closed at nine. My favorite cook, Sybil found me a container for the pasta salad and I got Kelly an iced tea to go with it. He wouldn't be sleeping tonight unless Johnny woke up.
By the time I got back to the room it was just after nine and I knocked first before pushing the door open. Johnny hadn't moved and Kelly was on the phone talking to someone. I pulled the tray on wheels over him and opened the container. By what Kelly was saying, I decided it must be Roy on the other end. Captain Stanley had physically removed him from the hospital, driving him home.
I poked a straw in the ice tea lid and opened the package of plastic silverware that we used in the cafeteria. Taking a chance, I stabbed a curled shell dripping with dressing and brushed it over Johnny's lips. Once, twice, then I put it back in the bowl. Nothing. I wondered how far down he'd gone into the twilight world of unconsciousness.
Kelly hung up. "It looks like smell won't work."
I shrugged. "It was worth a try. I suppose that you've already applied the sovereign cure for Sleeping Beauties?"
He smiled and leaned over to drink some iced tea when I saw it.
"Kelly, he licked his lips." I saw the tip of a pink tongue.
"Johnny, can you hear me?" Kelly shoved the tray aside and pressed his fingers to the pulse in his lover's throat.
Long black eyelashes twitched once and the tongue appeared again. Then ever so slowly, his eyes opened and closed almost at once. I dimmed the light and the eyes opened again. Kelly's voice was unsteady. "Johnny? Who am I?"
"Kel." The whisper was almost inaudible but I could have cheered at the single word.
"Thank God." Kelly's voice broke half way through his prayer and I saw a tear slide down his cheek. "Stay awake for me, Johnny. Dixie, is Joe still here?"
"I'll go see. I think I saw him on third about half an hour ago." I left after I brushed my own kiss over Johnny's cheek.
Joe was in his office and I gave him the good news. He followed me back and I stood to one side while he and Kelly put Johnny through a battery of tests. Remembering Roy, I took the phone as far as the cord would reach and called the station house. Captain Stanley was still there and I passed the good news on to him. He promised to call Roy at once and tell the others, too.
With that taken care of, I went back to see if I could help with the tests. Johnny was touching his nose with a rather shaky finger and I sighed quietly. At least his motor skills were intact. Joe asked him about the fire and he blinked once before shaking his head. That happens sometimes, a partial amnesia after head trauma. It might come back or it might not.
If the memory of fire and pain arrived in a dream, Kelly would know what to do.
Joe was finally satisfied and he left to write up his report. Johnny's eyelids were drooping and I could see that he'd back to sleep in a heartbeat or two but he was struggling to stay awake for Kelly. He was worried about his lover and I could see that Kelly was hanging onto his composure with a real effort. They needed some privacy and I brushed a lock of Johnny's hair off his forehead.
"No more scaring us like this, young man. I'll be in to wake you up in two hours."
"Thanks, Dixie, for taking such good care of me." His voice was a little slurred and I knew his body would soon insist he sleep.
"I'll be staying, Dixie."
"You don't have to, Kelly. I'll be fine." Johnny protested.
"I couldn't sleep at home without you." He said simply. "I need to be here."
"Okay." The look of love in those dark eyes made me tear up.
I left them alone and headed for Joe's office. I needed a hug from my own doctor.
End part one