Neighbors and Partners

by MM

disclaimer: The characters of Emergency do not belong to me. Don't forget to kiss the chef! As always I'll help 'em up, dust them off, give 'em a smooch and send them back when I'm done.

rating: K

note: follows "Best of Care".

The pounding continued on the door. Then he heard Roger's voice, loud and needy. Johnny looked at the clock by his bed. 2:30 in the morning, no wonder he was tired! He'd only been asleep three hours.

Pushing up he pulled on his jeans and toed on his sneakers.

"I'm coming, Rog!" he called as loud as he could. The older man was hard of hearing. He opened the door and immediately braced the older man.

"It's, it's May!" he said, panicked. "She says her chest hurts and she's having trouble breathing!" Johnny put his arm over his neighbor's shoulders and guided him back to his apartment.

"Roger, I need you to call for a paramedic," he directed. "Call 911 and tell them you need help because your wife is sick." The man nodded and shuffled off to the phone as Johnny went back to the bedroom. The woman lie on the bed struggling to breathe.

"Hi May," he said soothingly as he put his hand on her shoulder and slipped the other around her wrist feeling for a pulse. "Heard you were not feeling well." The frightened woman looked up at the younger man and perceptively calmed.

"Johnny! I told Roger to get you!" she said as she held on to his forearm.

"He's calling for some more help," Gage said. "I think you might need a trip to the hospital. You're a bit excited here." She smiled.

"My heart is racing," she confirmed. "And my chest feels heavy."

"Well, let's try breathing together and calm down a bit," he said and began to lead her through some deep breaths. Soon he heard the sound of sirens drawing near. He was very relieved because although May's pulse had slowed down somewhat, she was still experiencing chest pain. He glanced up as two paramedics from the 36's came in.

"Hey, Gage," Harris said. "What'd you got?" He quickly detailed her condition and moved aside so they could get to her. Soon he could see the spikes on her heart rate and listened while Morton called for various meds.

"Roger? Do you want to ride in with May?" Johnny asked. "Or I can take you."

"Take him, Johnny," May asked. "It will be much easier for him." That was May, always thinking of others, especially her husband.

"I'll bring him and call your daughter," he promised. She smiled at him in thanks.

It was nearly four am when their daughter, Cathy, made it to the hospital and took her father in hand. Johnny waited until after five when Morton was able to come out and let them know May was doing better and was being moved upstairs to CCU.

Once back home he started in Roger and May's apartment turning off lights and making sure everything was secure. Then back to his home. He considered going back to bed, but decided to work off some nervous energy cleaning and doing laundry. He was due over at Roy's home about 9 am for breakfast and to help clean up the yard. The Desoto's were hosting a bar-b-cue for his shift mates and some of their friends from Rampart.

Nine o'clock found Gage on his friend's porch knocking on the door.

"Uncle Johnny!" a flash of child launched into his arms nearly knocking him off his feet.

"Jenny Bean!" he gasped.

"Jennifer Desoto!" Joanne's voice called out from the door. "We talked about jumping on Uncle Johnny!" She hurried out the door to bolster the paramedic.

"Especially before breakfast!" Roy came next laughing. He paused to look at the dark circles under his partner's eyes and removed his daughter. "Go get the table ready!" he told her sending the child off.

"Do I even want to know why you look like you didn't sleep last night?" he asked suspiciously, making his wife giggle.

"I wish it was because of what you're thinking!" he told Joanne, causing her to blush. Then he explained the late night call out for his neighbor. Roy slung his arm over his pally's shoulder as they walked back to the kitchen.

"You want to sleep awhile?" he asked.

"Naw, I'll help you out in the yard," he said. "I'll grab a nap when everything's ready to go." Roy raised an eyebrow.

"This from a man who was at death's door last week with almost-pneumonia!" Roy chastised. "I don't want to lose you for another shift!"

"Hey, I said I'd nap," Johnny defended himself. "First, coffee and then breakfast and then clean-up!"

"Then a nap!" Joanneā€¦ scolded affectionately. She had to listen to her husband's rant about the 'shift from hell' the previous night. For her sake she wanted Johnny back in the squad driving her husband nuts. He was a known quantity!

The next several hours were full of raking, mowing, clipping and bringing lawn furniture out of the garage. Each chair was washed off with soapy water before getting a hose rinse. Tables were set up and covered with plastic table cloths.

"It's safe to say we're ready!" Roy said as he finished laying out the charcoal in the grill. "Time for someone's na-ap!" Johnny managed a tired smile.

"And I see the lounge with my name on it!" he said as he tugged a cleaned lounge under a shady tree. "Mmmm, just perfect!" Joanne, having watched out the window, came out with a pillow for her friend. He sleepily accepted this and tucked it under his head before throwing his arm over his eyes. Soon, he was asleep.

Two hours passed. Roy and Joanne kept an eye on their slumbering friend. He really had been quite ill and needed the rest. It was easy to keep the kids from bothering him. They both knew if he slept now he'd be able to play later.

The first guests arrived. Hank Stanley and Emily came first with their two children. Jake and Ruth. Their contribution, a large salad and dressings, was set out on the table. They were closely followed by Chet Kelly with his offerings of soda and beer. They stood talking around the grill.

"So, what's the haps with Gage?" Chet asked.

"He didn't have much sleep last night," Roy began. Chet snorted. Roy went on to explain the middle-of-the night call and lack of sleep. Unfortunately, Chet could care less. All he could see and think was his pigeon was laid out for him begging for a bucket of water. In fact, he spied a bucket of water near the grill. He slipped away from the group and put his plan in action.

"Hey, Johnny!" Kelly's voice called out. Johnny started, pulling his arm away from his eyes. And was rewarded with a full bucket of soapy, dirty, water. Some of which was sucked down into his lungs. He immediately started coughing trying to clear out his lungs.

"CHET KELLY!" Hank yelled at the fire man.

"CHE-ET!" Roy screamed as he ran across the grass. He could hear his friend already beginning to choke and hurried to his side. Johnny struggled to get air into his lungs. Helping him sit up, Roy held him through the coughing.

"Gonna throw up," Johnny said miserably The bucket that held the water now was utilized for vomit. Which he did. With great force. The younger paramedic lost everything in his stomach, which wasn't much, dry heaved awhile and then tried coughing out his lungs.

Roy gently rubbed his back talking him through the worst of the retching. Then the shivering set in.

"Let's get you cleaned up and into dry clothes," the senior paramedic suggested once the bucket use was done. He carefully helped his friend up and into the house. Soon he was stripped of his wet clothing, quickly rinsed off in the shower and dressed in a too-large sweatshirt and shorts. He was tucked into bed in the guest room. Roy waited until the coughing diminished and his friend slipped back asleep.

Then he went for blood. Chet would pay!

A very angry Roy strode out into the back yard. Someone had lit the grill and Hank had Chet backed into a corner.

"What the HELL do you think you were doing?!" Roy demanded as he came up to the already cowed fire man. "That bucket was full of DIRTY water and SOAP! What do you think that'll do to his lungs!"

"It was funny!" Chet tried. "The Phantom always gets his pigeon!"

"His 'pigeon' just avoided pneumonia last week!" Roy growled. "Now his lungs are compromised. He can't physically afford to get sick so soon. AND I DON'T WANT TO WORK WITH BRICE!"

Chet was saved when Marco arrived followed closely by Mike and Becky. Roy kept growling as he threw burgers on the grill. Hank kept close making sure his senior paramedic didn't kill his fire man. Joanne, Emily and Becky got busy and started setting out the salads while the burgers were flipped and adorned with cheese.

The next wave of guests appeared as Joe Early appeared bearing a large plate of brownies and cookies. He handed this off to Joanne and went to see how Roy was doing. The blonde haired paramedic was still muttering under his breath as burgers were being cooked.

"So, where's Johnny?" Early asked.

"He's resting," Roy grumbled as he slammed another patty on the grill. At first Joe thought the man was angry with his partner.

"Ok, what did he do this time?" Joe tried for humor. He received a glare. Before Roy could reply, Jenny skipped out to her father.

"Daddy?" she pulled on his sleeve to get his attention. "Uncle Johnny said he wanted some aspir'n. He's really hot, daddy." Now Joe was concerned.

"What happened, Roy," he demanded. The command jolted Roy.

"Chet threw a bucket of dirty, soapy, water on Johnny and he aspirated some," he explained. "I helped him clean up, but he was coughing pretty hard before he went to sleep. He may have compromised his lungs."

"I have my bag in the car," Early said. "I'll take a listen and see what's going on. Can Jenny be my helper?" Roy agreed and sent his daughter off with the ER doctor.

Joe retrieved his bag from his car and followed the little girl into the house. Soon he was in a bedroom with a very ill paramedic. He slipped the thermometer in Johnny's mouth and began to count his pulse rate. The wet cough immediately rang his internal alarm.

"Hey, Doc," Johnny managed to mumble around the thermometer. "Didn't mean to pull you away from the party."

"Naw, you didn't," Joe tried to soothed his friend. "I came because Roy was cooking the cheeseburgers. Can't stop the chef!" He pulled the thermometer out. 103.1. High. Not a good sign. Pulling out his stethoscope he listened to the now congested lungs.

"I think you need some antibiotics," Early decided. "I'll give you a shot instead of a pill so you won't get nauseated." Johnny nodded in agreement. He even struggled to get his arm free of the blanket to get the shot.

"Jenny, would you get a big glass of cold water for your uncle?" the doctor asked his young 'nurse.'

"Ok. Do you want ice in it?" she offered.

"Maybe two or three ice cubes," he determined. She gave him a big smile and skipped out of the room. Now he turned back to his waiting patient.

"Sorry, let's roll you over for this," he said apologetically. The needle was stuck into one of the cheeks. Below the belt. Much to Joe's worry, Johnny did not complain. He helped him roll back onto his back and pull the covers up. Jenny reappeared with a glass. "How about a little cool water and tylenol?" Joe help him sit up, bracing him with his arm. The pills went down and the doctor encouraged him to drink more water. Finally Johnny was lowered back down on his pillow.

"Go eat, doc," Johnny sighed. "I'll be fine." Early left him to sleep with the promise to return.

Kel and Dixie arrived next, completing the party. They set their offerings on the table and went to join the group. It was very apparent that Chet was being ostracized by everyone, including his bestest pal, Marco. They just couldn't decide why. They joined the group by the grill and watched a grumpy Desoto begin to pull burgers off and stack them in an aluminum tray.

"Say, where's Johnny?" Dixie realized he was missing. "He's usually first in line for chow!" She earned a sour look from Roy.

"Oh, I know that look," Kel Bracket chuckled. "What did he do this time?"

"He didn't do anything!" Roy nearly shouted. Then he became apologetic. "Sorry," he muttered. "Chet dumped a bucket of dirty water on him." This didn't sound very bad until Hank weighed in.

"John had been asleep," he reported. "He'd been up most of the night with his neighbors."

"That's right, Mike Morton mentioned that when I called in," Kel said. "He told me that May was doing fine and would be going home in a couple of days."

"So he was lying down when Chester nailed him?" Dixie got the conversation back on track.

"Yes," Hank confirmed. "He sucked in some of the water."

"He had a tough time clearing his lungs," Roy reported. "And he threw up. Dr. Early went in to check on him." Joe was coming out of the house and the group turned to watch him walk across the deck.

"Did I forget to zip?" Early joked as he have Dixie a kiss on her cheek.

"No, doc," Roy began expectantly. "We just wanna know how Johnny's doing."

"Unfortunately not too well," he reported. "103 and congested. I gave him a big dose of antibiotics."

"I bet he loved that," Kel said knowing how the paramedic could complain.

"Didn't complain," Joe related. "Just rolled over. He's very tired and sick."

"I think I'll wander in and see him myself," Brackett decided.

"My bag is next to the bed. He's had two tylenol as well," the older doctor was unconcerned that his boss was going in to check.

Kel knew where the guest room was; he'd been in it to check on Johnny before. Moving swiftly he entered the room and looked over the paramedic. Instead of his normal position, on his back with an arm thrown over his eyes, Johnny was curled up on his side, blanket and sheet pulled snugly around his shoulders, head tucked down. Reaching out he put his hand on the curve of the shoulder.

Warm. The tylenol hadn't kicked in yet.

"Roy?" Johnny's voice was rough. Kel could hear the congestion in just that one word.

"It's Kel," he continued to run his hand over his shoulders and then carefully pulled him back on the bed. The fever-bright eyes peered out of half-closed lids.

"Wasn't Dr. Early just here?" he asked, confused.

"Yes, but I wanted my turn," Brackett smiled as he reached into the bag and pulled out a stethescope. He began listening carefully to Johnny's lungs, then slipped his arm behind the ill man and leveraged him up. Again the stethescope was pressed against the long planes of the too warm back.

"Why, *koff* *koff*, did I get sick so fast?" Gage asked. Kel continued to brace him and offered him a sip of water.

"Well, you were pretty sick last week," the doctor explained. "And you didn't sleep more than a couple hours last night. May is doing well, by the way. Mike said she would be going home in a few days." More coughs.

"From what I was told the water was dirty," Brackett continued. You aspirated quite a bit and not all of it came out." He dropped the stethoscope back into the bag and shifted his patient. "You need to be propped up a bit, it will help you breathe."

"Mmhmm," a nearly asleep paramedic agreed, leaning more fully onto the doctor. With a twitchy smile he settled on the bed more fully and allowed himself to be used as a pillow. Dixie came in next and put the back of her hand on the hot, dry forehead.

"I'll just go find some cold packs," she said. Johnny didn't even respond. The freezer yielded several ice packs that were wrapped in dry dish towels. She snagged a couple pillows off of Roy's bed and headed back.

Working as a team they had the paramedic propped nearly upright and the ice packs were placed in appropriate places. Dixie then fetched a basin of ice water and began cooling off Gage's forehead.

"I'm going to call for a breathing treatment," Brackett said. "I'm sure I can get a therapist to come out, especially if lunch is provided." Dixie gave him a tight smile.

"I'm sure you can," she replied. She continued to shift packs and cool off different areas of skin. Johnny was shivering and finally decided to complain.

"Cold," he ineffectually tried to bat away her icy towel.

"Sssh, Johnny," Dixie soothed, "you're running a pretty high temperature and we need to get it down."

"Cold," he repeated, but no longer fought her. Soon a light sweat broke and she used the cloth to wipe it away. Brackett returned and resumed his seat. He pulled out the thermometer and shook it down.

"Ok, Johnny, just let me put this under your tongue," he said as he slipped it in. Realizing his 'pillow' was back, the paramedic leaned his sweaty body against the doctor's body trying to snuggle into the warmth.

"If you were more awake you'd be embarrassed," Dixie teased.

"Unh uh," the loquacious response came.

"Probably not, he's accepted comfort from me before," Kel said as he lifted Johnny's arm so the nurse could place a cold pack under the armpit. "It's just easier for him when he's nearly asleep. Otherwise you have to sneak up on him."

"That's true," Hank Stanley's voice came from the doorway. "It can be a thin line some days. How is he doing?"

"Fever's broke," Kel slipped the thermometer out. "Just a hundred now. I have a respiratory therapist coming over to give him a breathing treatment."

"That bad?" Cap asked.

"That dirty water did a number on his lungs," Kel said. "He was barely over the last chest infection. I also ordered some IV antibiotics to start him on."

"I'll sit with him so you can eat," Hank offered. He received a nod from the doctor and carefully switched places. Johnny easily accepted the new 'pillow'. Dixie gathered up the cold

packs and basin and took them out to the kitchen. Then she joined Kel and went out to eat. Gage became aware he had a living pillow and looked up.

"Cap? You don't have to hang around," he said with a slight cough. "Go eat."

"What? And miss the chance to enjoy you quiet and docile?" Hank smiled. Although he'd much prefer his younger paramedic to be outdoors chasing the kids. Then he heard the rumble of a stomach.

"Ah, so you're hungry," he said.

"Don't think I could eat anything heavy," Gage said. "I'll just drink more water."

"What about some soup? I'm sure Joanne has some in the cupboard," Cap offered. He felt Johnny start to move and easily held him in place. "Where are you going?"

"To heat up some soup," he said, confused. Hank rolled his eyes.

"You stay here," he ordered. "I'll get the soup."

"But you should be out enjoying yourself, not stuck in here with me," Johnny stressed.

"Maybe I'd rather be in here," Cap countered. "Roy's still glaring daggers at Chet and the kids are looking for a substitute tackling dummy since you're laid up!" He settled the ill man back on the pillows and tucked the blanket in place. "Just rest and I'll be back."

A half hour later he returned with Emily. She carried two plates full of food while he carried a tray with soup and sodas. They set their things down on the top of the dresser and moved chairs around. Johnny cracked open a sleepy eye.

"Hi Emily," he said with a smile. She went over to him and began fussing over his pillows.

"Hey, sleepy head," she teased back. "Hank tells me you'd like something to eat."

"Mmhmm," he replied lazily. "Cap said he'd get me some soup."

"Let's get you sitting up," she said as she helped him up and rearranged the pillows. Soon he was propped up and was sipping at a mug of chicken and star soup. Hank and Emily settled in chairs by him chatting and eating their own lunch.

"You missed Chris and Jake stripping Chet of the football," Emily was telling the men. "They also managed to take his jeans down as well." They snickered. "And - Jenny was taking pictures!"

"I'll make sure I get us copies," Johnny chuckled. "Might be sufficient blackmail to keep the Phantom quiet for awhile."

"Oh, I think the Phantom will be on vacation," Cap said. "Let's say Roy and I provided some... inducements... to convince him to disappear for now."

"How is Roy doing, Emily?" Johnny asked. He hated to think his pally wasn't having a good time.

"Better," she began.

"A lot less angry," Roy said from the doorway. Johnny smiled up at him.

"Good! Would have hated cleaning up the yard just to have you sulk in it," Gage teased back.

"I don't sulk!" Desoto pouted. Then he realized what he said and joined in the laughter.

"Ok, maybe I was," he allowed. "But damnit, Johnny, we just got you well and back to work! I hate being stuck with subs."

"How long was he stuck with Brice, Cap?" Gage asked with a glint in his eye.

"I think about two days too many," Hank replied. "And we were on a 48 shift." Again, they all laughed.

"I think the docs caught it in time," Johnny said. "I'm getting a breathing treatment soon plus I bet Brackett's gonna hang some antibiotics."

"He mentioned that," Hank agreed. "In fact, it looks like the therapist's here." They looked to the door and saw a young man coming in with assorted respitory paraphernalia.

"Hi, Johhny!" he greeted the paramedic.

"Hey, Dave! How did Bracket swing you?" Gage asked with a bright smile.

"It was the allure of burgers and salads," he replied. Emily and Hank began gathering their things.

"I'll go make sure there's a couple burgers ready for you," Hank said. He and his wife left.

"Do you mind if I stay?" Roy asked.

"No problem," Dave said. "I'll get the breathing treatment started, then the IV. You can keep the 'dragon' company while I get my chow!" Soon Johnny was leaning back, his head wreathed in vapors and a bag dripping into his arm.

"It's beginning to look a lot like Rampart," Roy warbled off key. Which caused his friend to laugh and begin to cough.

"Hey, deep breaths!" Kel Brackett chastised as he entered the room.

"Not... my... fault!" Johnny managed to get out. "He's... singing... Christmas carols!" Brackett raised an eyebrow and the blonde paramedic who was still laughing. It was a rare sight, and usually only Gage could manage it. He decided to bypass comment and went to check vitals.

"Good news, your temperature still down," Kel said. "And so's your pulse. Your respiration rate would be better if you weren't being tormented by a deranged partner." His comment made Roy started snickering again. The doctor took off the breathing mask and turned off the O2.

"I think we caught it in time," he commented. "Another breathing treatment tonight and then tomorrow morning should dry you out. Plus a good round of antibiotics for a couple days will keep you well. You can switch to oral day after tomorrow."

"Will he miss his next shift?" Roy asked. This was rather important to his mental health.

"He needs a couple days, when does the next shift start?" Kel countered.

"Tomorrow," Roy grouched. "It's just a 24, then two days off."

"Then he can go back in three days if he's tolerating the antibiotics and his lungs are clear," Brackett determined.

"I am sitting here," Johnny pointed out.

"Don't remind me!" Roy grumbled. Visions of another sub filled his head.

"So, do you have visions of substitutes dancing in your head?" Gage paraphrased. Roy tried to glare, finally chuckled.

"Yeah," he admitted. "Sorry Doc, but I'm so used to working with Johnny it's hard to work with someone who's rigid. I mean, you can be annoying, and you zip around faster than Jenny and Chris combined, but I also know I can count on you no matter what. With some of the stuff we face I need that assurance!" Johnny was surprised, he knew that Roy valued him and his friendship, but they never talked about it. Here he was ranting to Dr. Brackett about missing him.

"And he will be back annoying you soon!" Kel assured the senior paramedic. "But you saw how fast he became sick. We want him healthy and back on the job with you helping the public."

"Why don't you take tomorrow off?" Johnny suggested. "You can enjoy the kids and Joanne. I'll head on home tonight and..."

"John Gage, the only place you'll head is this bed or Rampart," Kel Brackett stated firmly.

"Then I'll go to Rampart," he shrugged. "Roy needs time to relax and not take care of some annoying partner."

"Maybe I want an annoying partner around," Desoto growled. "Remind me why I don't want another kid!" Now Brackett started to snicker. Then laugh aloud. He drew two glares.

"Hey!" Johnny protested.

"It's... it's just... that I never thought... of you... as an effective birth control," Kel laughing harder. This set Roy off and an indignate Gage sat there, arms crossed, glaring at both men.