Chapter One

Captain Hank Stanley stood outside his office, watching his paramedics check over their equipment after roll call. He listened to their easy banter with a fond smile. Both men's lives were about to change. Whether it would be good for them or the department remained to be seen, but Hank had his doubts. "Roy, could I see you in my office?"

Roy DeSoto exchanged puzzled looks with John Gage, his partner. "Sure, Cap."

"What d'ya do, Roy?" Johnny asked sotto voce, concerned by their captain's demeanor.

Roy shrugged. "Got me. Guess I'll find out." He followed Stanley into the office.

"Why don't you shut the door behind you, pal."

Roy did so without comment. Hank could see his senior paramedic searching for a reason for the private meeting. Trying to delay the inevitable, he shuffled papers on his desk. Sighing, he finally spoke. "Roy, I assume you're aware of how the department's paramedic program has grown since you took the first class."

"Yes, sir. Average class size for Advanced Life Support has been over 20 students per class for the past two years alone. We're even training men from surrounding departments." Roy was beaming, obviously proud of the success of the emergency medical assistance program.

"The local hospitals are beginning to feel the crunch. They want the fire department to take up some of the burden. Rampart and Harbor General will still help with some of the hands-on medical instructions, but actual paramedics who do the job will be teaching alongside the doctors and nurses. It's believed they can give training which is more appropriate to the demands of the job as well as free some of the hospital personnel."

"That sounds like a good idea. Some of the doctors and nurses really don't know what we do and under what conditions," Roy said. "I helped out with Johnny's class, but that's not the same thing as teaching. So they're looking for volunteers?"

"Not exactly. In fact, headquarters has selected the paramedic instructors already." He coughed nervously. "You'll be reporting on Monday."

Roy straightened in his chair. "Sir?"

"You've been selected, Roy."


"And John will be remaining here," he continued with the bad news.

"What? But why wasn't Johnny picked? He was there from the beginning, just as I was. My designation as paramedic might be earlier than his, but we both started on the same day."

Hank grimaced. "Headquarters considers you as more, uh, mature."

"Johnny's only one year younger than I am," Roy protested, stung.

"I don't think age is what they meant, Roy. Headquarters may also believe that your status as a married man makes you more stable."

"What if I refuse?" Roy asked.

"It's a done deal, Roy." Hank handed the other man a folder. "Your transfer and reassignment papers are in here."

"How long will this detail last?"

Hank rubbed his eyes wearily. "It's permanent, pal. I'm sorry. You'll have to bid on an opening after you've been there six months. I'm sorry to see you go."

"Yeah. Yeah, I'm sorry to go, Cap." Roy climbed slowly to his feet. "I dread breaking this to Johnny."

"I'll do that. Could you send him in here, Roy?"

Roy nodded, walking back out to the apparatus bay. Stunned by the news, he didn't know what to think or do.

"Roy? What's wrong? Roy!" Johnny grabbed his friend's arm, dismayed by the strange look on the man's face. "Is something wrong with Joanne? The kids?"

"No, no, they're okay. Cap...Cap needs to see you."


"Just go see the Captain, Johnny. He'll explain it to you." Roy continued on to the dorm, leaving a worried John Gage behind him.

"Cap?" Johnny shut the office door at Stanley's direction. "Did we do something wrong?"

"No, John, you didn't. I'm afraid there are some changes coming to Station 51's A-shift." Hank expected Roy's reaction to be mild compared to that of the younger man sitting across from him.

"Changes? What changes?" Johnny's expression cleared. "You mean Chet finally passed his engineer's exam?" He grinned. "That's great! But why would that bum Roy out? Cap! Did you get a Chief's slot?"

"That isn't it." Hank proceeded to explain to Johnny exactly what the Department had in mind for Roy's immediate future.

"But...I don't...why didn't…why wasn't…" Johnny stopped and dug the heel of his left hand into his eye. Taking a deep breath, he tried again. "Why wasn't I made an instructor? What did I do wrong, Cap?" Confusion and hurt clouded the warm brown eyes.

Hank had dreaded this question. "I don't know, John, but I can make some guesses. You and Roy are two of the best paramedics in the program. It probably made sense for one of you to teach in the classroom and the other continue that training in the field. As Roy is married with a family, it may have seemed logical to them to put him on the five-day-a-week schedule."

Hank Stanley had no intention of telling Johnny that the department didn't have enough faith in him to trust him as an instructor, a big mistake in his opinion. There was much more to John Gage than the man sometimes displayed.

Johnny bit his lower lip. "I…okay, I guess you might be right. I just…I don't know." He blew his breath out noisily. "How's Roy takin' it? He looked shell-shocked when he walked out of here."

Hank wasn't surprised that Johnny turned his attention to how the changes were affecting his partner, pushing his own concerns to the side. "He's not happy at how this was handled. What about you?"

"I'm not exactly thrilled that they're splitting us up, I can tell you that." He gave an impatient shrug. "I don't know, Cap. I mean, I know we've been partners for longer than a lot of the others. I guess I never wanted to think about it. This is gonna take a while to sink in. It'll probably hit me when I get in that squad and see someone else sitting next to me."

"If you have any further questions, John, or just want to talk, you know my door's open."

"Thanks, Cap." Johnny walked out of the office straight into an eavesdropping Chet Kelly. "What are you doing, Kelly?"

Moustache waggling above his devilish grin, Chet began to dig at his favorite Pigeon. "It's not what I'm doing, Gage, it's what have you done?"

"I haven't done anything," Johnny retorted, trying to push his way past the other man.

"Oh, yeah? Then why did Cap call you into his office? And close the door?"

Johnny slipped around Chet, heading to the dorm where he last saw Roy heading. Chet followed along. "For your information…" Johnny's voice trailed off. His expression grew serious when he spotted his partner sitting on his bunk, staring forlornly at the brick divider.

"For my information what?" Chet asked, puzzled by the change that came over his coworker. "Gage? What's wrong?"

"Chet, give us a few minutes, will ya?" He nodded toward Roy.

"Yeah, okay. Sure, Johnny," the other man replied, sensing a troubling undercurrent. With one final look and a pat on Johnny's back, Chet left.

Johnny dropped down on the cot beside Roy. They sat silently for a long time before Roy turned to face him.

"You okay?" Both men spoke simultaneously, then laughed softly.

"I'm really ticked off about this," Roy grumbled.

"Yeah, me, too."

"Cap says I can bid back in on a paramedic position, but not for six months. By then you'll have a new permanent partner, even if they don't give you one right away."

Johnny nodded glumly.

Roy pushed himself to a standing position. "I guess we should tell the others."

"This is our last shift together."

"Yeah." Roy held out his hand to his partner.

Johnny clasped it. Brown eyes locked with blue as Roy pulled him to his feet. "I'm gonna miss working with you."

"Same here." Johnny slowly pulled his hand back before commenting further. "It won't be the same without you."

"We'll still be friends, Johnny. We'll still see each other."


"Johnny, you're my best friend. This doesn't and won't change that."

The dark-haired man shook his head, not wanting to make it harder for his partner. "Don't mind me, Roy. I just don't like surprises. Give me time to think it through and I'll be okay. I just need some time to adjust."

"I can certainly understand that. Well, let's go break the bad news," Roy suggested, smiling sympathetically as Johnny grimaced.

"Yeah, okay. If we have to. Roy?" He stopped his partner at the door. "You'll be one helluva great instructor. They're lucky to have you." With a sad smile he passed by, heading to the dayroom.

Touched, Roy had to hurry to catch up to his long-legged partner. He almost ran into Johnny when his friend stopped short, momentarily freezing when all eyes turned to him. Finally, Johnny stepped forward to stand awkwardly by the blackboard.

Roy looked at Johnny before he spoke, seeing the dark-haired man staring at the floor. "Guys, we have some news to tell you." He hesitated, unconsciously heightening the tension in the room.

"What is it? What's wrong?" Chet's voice rose.

"I'll be teaching paramedic students at the Academy, so I won't be working here in the future."

"For how long?" asked Mike Stoker, A-shift's engineer.

"At least six months, Mike."

There was rumbling in the room as the men reacted.

"When do you and Johnny leave?" Marco Lopez resumed chopping celery for the soup he was preparing for dinner.

Johnny frowned before answering. "I, uh, I won't be going. I'm staying here."

Chet opened his mouth to make a smart remark, changing his mind when he saw the pained expressions on both paramedics' faces. Instead he asked when it would be effective as he sat on the couch.

"Monday. This is my last shift at 51." Roy's blue eyes darkened with emotion. "I'll miss working with you guys."

"Yeah, we're gonna miss you, too, Roy." Marco shook his head in disbelief. "But you'll be a great teacher," he added, unknowingly echoing Johnny.

While Roy spoke to the others, Johnny threw himself down on the couch next to Chet. Henry, the station mascot, was sprawled across Chet's lap, the firefighter absently massaging the basset hound's long soft ears.

"This bites," Chet muttered. "Why's he leaving?"

"It wasn't his idea, Chet. The brass decided Roy was the guy they wanted."

"What about you? Why weren't you picked?"

"I don't know, man. I really don't know. Cap said something about Roy doing the class work while I handle the field training."

"You buy that?"

Johnny didn't reply for a moment, considering his answer. "I don't know. I just don't know."

Sitting in rare quiet companionship, the two men considered the changes to come. The Station 51 family was being torn asunder after an unusually long run together.

"Do you know who your new partner will be?"

"I don't know. I might have temps for a while. Hey, Cap," he called to his superior.

"Yes, John?"

"Do you know who I'll be working with?"

"According to the paperwork from headquarters, your new partner will be J.C. Carlyle."

"Carlyle? I've never heard of him. Where's he out of?" Johnny thought he knew all the paramedics working for the County, by name if not in person.

"He's a new hire who was a firefighter paramedic in San Francisco before moving down here. Carlyle's already been through certification for Los Angeles County."

The tones sounded, ending the conversation. For the rest of the shift, the squad was on the run constantly, something both men appreciated.