by MM

disclaimer: The characters of Emergency do not belong to me. Opposites attract; well, at least they balance out in the end. 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 "Understandings".

Chapter 1

Marco Lopez was whistling as he mopped the dorm floor. It was a cool spring day and the breeze was flowing freely throughout the station. The first few hours of the shift had been calm and he was looking forward to soup and grilled cheese sandwiches a la Gage.

"Psst! Hey, Marco!" a voice called from the bathroom. He looked over and saw his friend, Chet, beckoning to him.

"I'm trying to get this set up," he pointed up at a bag of water over the door. "It takes two to set this up." With a shrug Lopez held the string as Kelly fastened it down. They left the room, Marco returned to his mop and Chet sat on a bunk to keep him company.

Johnny came zipping through towards his locker. If he followed his routine he'd go into the bathroom to clean up before making lunch. The two men in the dorm grinned at one another.

Until Cap walked by them.

"Hey, Gage?" he called out to the paramedic. "I need you in with Roy and me to look over the logs. It'll take ten minutes, then you can get going on lunch."

"No problem, Cap," the younger man smiled and walked out the door to the office.

"You're finished with your clean-up, Kelly?" Hank asked as he walked through.

"Uh, yes sir, Captain, sir," he said in a guilty voice. The older man carefully looked him over trying to decide if he needed to figure out what might be happening.

"I'll be checking," he promised. "Hi, Mike." Now Stoker walked in to the dorms and went back to the bathroom. As the door opened he was drenched.

"CHET!" the normally quiet man yelled. He did not like the Phantom's pranks for the most part and never when he was the recipient.

"Ooops!" Kelly was laughing with Lopez as he got up to help dry off the engineer. "Hey, it's all Cap's fault," the mustached man proclaimed.

"Yeah, he called Gage out to the office," Lopez agreed. Mike glared at the twosome and then looked beyond their shoulders.

"So, it's my fault?" Stanley growled behind them. "Somehow I think I need this latrine cleaned from top to bottom," he glared. "And I'm looking at the two men who've just volunteered. GET TO WORK!"

After Hank had stomped off and Mike swapped shirts Kelly and Lopez started in cleaning the latrine once more.

"You'd think he'd have a better sense of humor," Chet groused.

"I think he does, but he doesn't like you blaming others for your pranks," Lopez determined. "You should have just apologized and helped dry Mike off." Kelly rolled his eyes.

"A little water doesn't hurt anyone," he stated as he went to scrub toilet bowls.

Johnny and Roy were going over the logs. There was going to be a quarterly inspection soon and they knew their captain wanted everything in order and ship shape.

"Ya think someone should remind Chet about the upcoming inspection?" Johnny asked his partner. Roy considered the question. For about three seconds.

"Chet knows when the inspections are coming up," Desoto stated. "He hears the morning announcements and can read the bulletin board just like everyone else." Since he got nailed the previous shift with a large container of water he had little sympathy or concern for the Phantom. Johnny nodded as he annotated the log. He'd been relatively dry for the first time in months. It seemed prudent to keep his mouth shut and just agree. He kept his head down when Hank walked back into the office and threw himself into his chair with a loud squeak of wheels.

"Dang it!" he grumbled. "Can't he take a hint? I keep giving him latrine and he still screws off!" Roy offered his consolations.

Gage kept silent.

The other two men settled down and soon the entire log was reviewed and in order. Finally Johnny was released to prepare lunch.

Opening cans of soup, he deftly dumped them into the pot. He added his own spring onions and some leftover chicken from the previous shift. Then he started on grilling cheese sandwiches. He'd already opened cans of peaches, pears and mandarin oranges for a fruit salad.

"So, you dodged the Phantom once again!" Chet had crept up behind the paramedic and startled him.

"Guess so, ya freak!" Johnny retorted. "Just remember the station inspection is coming up and it'll be our shift!" Chet blew it off.

"Yeah, yeah," he said. "Big deal."

"Chet!" Johnny tried. "You know Cap's all in a twist. Can't you cut him a break?"

"Cap's not the one the Phantom's after!" Kelly taunted. "We know who he wants!" Johnny shrugged, although his stomach knotted. He hated being singled out for pranks and even when someone else got nailed he wasn't very happy about it. He flipped the sandwiches in the pan. Soon he'd transfer them to the oven to keep warm.

Mike Stoker strode into the kitchen, frowning as he noted the proximity of Chet to Johnny. Actually, just Chet alone would have made him frown. He moved to the paramedic and literally shoved himself between the taunter and the younger man.

"John, you need some help?" he asked in complete protect mode.

"Nah, I'm nearly done here," Gage said, feeling rather crowded. Chet took the clue and backed off while Mike leaned against the counter watching the sandwiches cook.

"Smells good," the engineer commented. "I like soup and sandwiches when it's cool out." He continued to make small talk with the paramedic until Chet slunk over to the table, picking up a newspaper.

Soon all six men were in the kitchen. Johnny stacked hot sandwiches on a plate and gave them to Roy to pass out. Soup was divided in six bowls and distributed to his crew mates. They were half-way through lunch when the squad toned out.

"Squad 51, man complaining of chest pains, 493 Rose Avenue. Cross street, Atlantic Blvd. Time out, 12:32.

Squad 51, KMG 365," Hank responded. Gage did a quick check on the map to find the location and trotted around to his seat. Roy handed the call sheet over.

They zipped down the road. As they approached a red light Roy needed to swerve around cars onto the wrong side of the road. He narrowly missed colliding with an oncoming car, pulling over at the last minute.

"Geeze!" Johnny yelled as he braced himself on the door and dash. "You'd think the flashing lights and sirens would be a hint!" He took a few deep breaths while Roy struggled to calm himself down. At the corner of Atlantic Boulevard the navigator indicated a right hand turn and two streets down they turned left on Rose. Half-way down the block a few neighbors waved them over.

Grabbing their equipment the two paramedics were soon inside a small home, an older man was sitting back in a recliner, grey and sweaty.

"Hi, I'm John Gage and this is my partner, Roy Desoto," he began.

"Sam... Sam Watters," the ill man ground out.

"Well, Sam, my partner and I are going to check you out," he said as he began to unbutton the man's shirt. "What's going on?"

"Uhm, I have this pain in my left arm," he managed. "And my chest feels real heavy."

"Ok, we can help you," Gage began moving some of the equipment around. "We're going to lie you flat on the floor and then relay your vitals to a doctor over at Rampart Emergency." Sam nodded.

"Let us do all the work, Sam," he continued his soothing manner. "Just relax and concentrate on your breathing. That's it, in and out, there's no rush."

Roy was glad his partner had taken lead. He could have done the job, but this left him free just to work on vitals. He took blood pressure, pulse and respiration as Johnny placed EKG leads on the man's torso. This was patched into the monitor.

"Rampart, this is Squad 51," Gage called in.

"Squad 51, this is Rampart," Mike Morton's voice came over the speaker. "Go ahead." Johnny began rattling off vitals as well as describing the patient's complaints. He then nodded to Roy to send a strip over lead 2. After reviewing the information the doctor ordered an IV and epinephrine. Once stabilized, Sam was transported with Johnny to Rampart.

Within a half-hour Morton was able to treat the man and send him up to CCU for further observation and treatment. He thanked Gage for staying with him and Carol in the exam room. The paramedic had been a calming influence and that helped in treatment.

"I tell you Dixie, Chet is just out of control!" Roy was leaning on the nurse's counter blowing off steam. Johnny skirted around him and poured a half-cup of coffee out then leaned on the back counter. He wanted to stay out of the conversation. But Dixie turned to him.

"Why aren't you complaining," she asked. He shrugged.

"He isn't 'cause he hasn't been nailed in two shifts!" Roy continued barely stopping to breath. "He's gotten me, Marco and Mike, twice!"

"I offered to go around and open all the cupboards this morning," Gage said.

"Right. But Cap wouldn't let you!" Roy grumbled. "I hate getting wet." Once more, Johnny bit his tongue. If he said he hated it too, then he knew the retort would be fast and sharp. He didn't need the extra stress! So he contented himself sipping at his coffee.

As Roy continued Kel Brackett came down the hall. He noted the senior paramedic bending Dix's ear looking quite upset. He then looked over at the closed body language of the second paramedic. Johnny looked anxious. He swung by the desk.

"Johnny," he said, "have a moment?" Dixie looked at her boss in a slight panic. But Kel simply continued down the hall with the lanky paramedic in tow. He strode past his office to the doctor's lounge. without comment he nodded towards a chair, poured coffee into a mug and filled his companion's up to the top. Then he straddled a chair.

"So, what's happening with Roy?" he asked.

"Uhm, Chet's been pulling a lot of pranks the last two shifts," Johnny reported.

"So? I don't see you complaining," Brackett sipped at his coffee. "I do see that you're a bit... stressed." Johnny ducked his head.

"The water bombs were set up for me," Gage admitted. "But for some reason Chet's keeps missing me. He gets the other guys."

"But why are you stressed?" Kel prodded. "I'd think you'd enjoy a dry period."

"Its just that the guys, Mike and Roy especially, are upset," Gage explained. "Then our station is due for a quarterly inspection so Captain Stanley is on edge."

"And...?" he pressed.

"And every time Chet misses he comes and tells me the Phantom's going to get me," Johnny finally sighed. "He gets real close in my face. I don't like him sneaking up on me."

"I can imagine," Brackett agreed. He knew enough about the paramedic's childhood to know the mustached fireman brought back too many memories and automatic physical responses.

"Mike's been good about trying to get between us," Gage said. "And Cap keeps upping the discipline. He's even tried talking with Chet to see why he's so... frantic with his pranks." The doctor leaned over and rested his hand on Johnny's forearm.

"Just remember that you're not at fault, Ok?" he told the younger man. "You're doing the right thing distancing yourself from the problems. If Chet really bugs you I could speak with Hank."

"I think I'll be Ok, Doc," Johnny said as he took another drink. "It's just waiting for the inevitable that gets to me. I just want to get soaked or something and get it over with!" Brackett chuckled.

"So I should hope Chet nails you?" he gently teased. Gage finally smiled.

"Yeah, that'd be good," he agreed. Kel picked up the two coffee cups and stood to rinse them out.

"We'd better go save Dixie," Brackett said. "If looks could kill I'd be nailed to the wall." The two men went down the hall. Johnny pulled on Roy.

"I want to go finish lunch!" he slightly whined, drawing the blonde paramedic's attention.

"Ok, Ok, the stomach need to be fed," Roy tossed his hands up. "See ya Dixie, Doc," and he followed the dark-haired paramedic out to the squad.

By the time they returned to the station the entire kitchen was spic and span. There were no leftovers in the fridge.

"Cap," Johnny poked his head into the office, "permission to make a sandwich?" This stopped the nervous paper shuffling and gained a pained look. They looked at one another for a long moment then Hank chuckled.

"Am I that transparent?" he asked as he stood up to join the younger man.

"Yeah," Johnny smiled and allowed Hank to put his hand on his back as he was propelled back into the kitchen.

"I'll get you a plate," he said as the fridge door was opened. Chet chose that moment to walk in the door.

"Cap..." he started. Then stood waiting for his punishment as the water was flung onto his boss. All the good feelings Johnny had striven to elicit were tossed aside.

"CHET KELLY!" the man shouted, water dripping down his face.

"Cap, deep breaths," Gage counseled as he put a constraining hand on his arm. He gestured with his head to clear Chet out of the room.

"Just water," he said, willing to take the brunt of the anger. At least Hank tried to center himself. He breathed. He growled. He accepted the dish towel and dried his face. Then he allowed the paramedic to lead him back to the dorm for a dry shirt.

Once he'd calmed Cap down, Johnny went back to the kitchen to fill his complaining stomach. He'd just opened the fridge when the tones sounded.

"Station 51, MVA 110 freeway. Enter north bound, Century Boulevard. Time out, 2:35."

"Station 51 KMG 365," Stanley responded, handing a slip to Roy.

Squad led followed closely by the engine. It was all blaring sirens and flashing lights as they sped towards Century. They were within two blocks to the 110 when the unthinkable happened.

A driver ploughed into the driver side of the Squad sending it sideways then into a spin. Neither man had time to brace as they spun. As they came to a stop the engine came into the intersection.

"This is Engine 51," Hank called out. "Squad 51 has been hit at the corner of Century and South Broadway. We need paramedics at this location."

Johnny watched the surreal reality play itself out. They'd sped into the intersection and a heavy-body camaro hit Roy's side of the car. The senior paramedic was launched over to the passenger side where Gage sat able, if not prepared, to catch.

The first thing Johnny noticed was his partner was pressed against him and something wet hit his cheek. He looked down and realized there was a small spurt of blood coming up from Roy's neck. He immediately brought his right hand over and felt along the jugular until he felt the blood flowing out. He gently clamped down hoping it wasn't severed.

Then he could hear the sounds. Their siren was still wailing and there was a hissing noise coming from the front of the truck. Glass was scattered all over the two of them and he could see the windshield was shattered. The steering wheel was bent funny and the driver side door seemed awfully close.

"Johnny? Roy?" Cap's frantic voice finally came through.

"Cap? Roy's been hurt," he said quickly. "Don't separate us! He has a cut jugular. I'm applying pressure."

"What about you?" came the quick response.

"Not sure, nothing seems to hurt," Johnny answered truthfully. "But you're gonna need the jaws to get Roy free." Hank could see differently, there was blood slowly welling down the junior paramedic's face from his forehead near the temple.

Now more people were moving around the squad. Marco popped the cables off the battery while Chet and Mike tugged on the passenger door. It opened fairly easily, but they had to get the jaws to pull the steering column off of Roy. The siren cut off.

As they were working more sirens approached. First two officers came up and began to control traffic and people trying to get a closer look. Then a second squad arrived. Harris and his new partner Bellingham were soon assessing the situation.

"Can you hold on a little longer?" the senior paramedic, Harris, asked. Johnny answered affirmatively. A backboard was wedged in and very carefully Roy was strapped down once the steering wheel was pulled off. Slowly Mike backed Johnny out of the squad while the rest of the firemen grabbed hold of the backboard. The two paramedics were brought to the curb where they were set down.

Harris took a quick look under Johnny's fingers. "It'd be best if you can just hold it. The doc will probably have to do some careful clamping when we get you to the hospital."

"I'll hold on," Johnny stated. Vitals of both men were taken. There was no breathing sounds on Roy's left side and he was still unconscious. He had a good-sized lump on his skull. From what they could tell Johnny had spasms in his lower back and a cut on his forehead where he'd smashed the window glass. A few small chunks of safety glass were stuck in the cut. This was wrapped and a small dose of ms was given for the pain.

After an iv was started Roy was shifted onto a gurney and then he was put into the ambulance with Johnny and Harris at his side. They sped away to Rampart.

Dr. Early was ready when they arrived. The two paramedics were whisked into exam room 3. Carefully Joe looked at the damage to Roy's jugular.

"Looks like a little nick," he murmured as he carefully blotted then clamped the side of the artery. Johnny managed to stand for a few moments until Dixie tugged him back into a wheel chair.

"Kel's ready for you next door," she said as she pushed him out. As they went out the door Mike Morton entered. Johnny tiredly sighed. At least his friend had the best of care.

Soon Gage's head was cleaned, given a couple of stitches and his back carefully checked then x-rayed. He was given a muscle relaxant and a two day pass to rest at home. Of course, he wasn't given a way home and he waited in the lounge.

Joanne showed soon, sitting with him until Roy was cared for. He needed some fine needle work, a lung sealed and expanded, a broken rib shifted back into place, a new cast around his left forearm and a few days at the least in CCU for his moderate concussion. Not to mention watching his lungs just in case he pulled a "Johnny" and developed pneumonia.

"Looks like you're with me," Joanne smiled through her relief. A fireman's life was not easy, and worse for the spouse.

"You can just leave me at home," he tried. But she nixed that immediately and got him ready to go home with her. She had him home, fed and in bed within the hour.