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Destiny
By Gayle Stewart

It was a cold, wet, miserable morning in LA. Strong wind gusts were whipping their way around, wreaking havoc everywhere. It seemed the constant stream of bad weather would never end. Every fire department in the state had been put on stand by. Even off-duty firefighters had to be ready to come in at a moment’s notice. The torrential rains had cause major mud slides and flooding, and the latest weather reports had told of an impending hurricane in the Pacific that was headed straight for the LA coastline.

Roy backed the squad into the station. He and Johnny were just returning from their eighth run and it was only 10:00 in the morning. An early morning run that ended badly was weighing heavily on Johnny, and Roy knew it, even though Johnny hadn't said a word. Roy knew his partner of six years as well as he knew himself, and he knew it was eating at him, causing guilt and doubt when there was no reason for either. Roy and Johnny had lost their share of victims, but this morning's run was more difficult because it had involved children.

"Man, Roy, if this damn rain doesn't let up soon, LA's gonna wash right off the map!" Johnny griped.

"You’re not kidding, Partner. And, how much longer can we keep up these multiple runs?"

"Not long. We've got to have some relief... and soon! What do they think we are? Little Energizer bunnies that can keep going and going and going?"

"Speaking of batteries, it's time to recharge. I'm starved!" Roy said, peering in to the fridge as his stomach growled in agreement.

Roy look over at Johnny who was busy making a fresh pot of coffee.

"Johnny, we both know that the weather really isn't what's got you bugged!"

"I don't want to talk about it, Roy!"

"Okay, then,I'll talk and you listen!"

"Roy, I..."

"Quiet, Junior! Look, that first run this morning was rough, but we did everything we could for those kids!"

"Did we? I'm not so sure," Johnny said solemnly.
"Johnny, you're as good as it gets out there. There's no reason to doubt yourself!"

"I don't just doubt myself, Roy, I'm beginning to doubt my whole career."

"Johnny!” Roy's eyes widened. “You can't be serious! If there were ever someone who was meant to be a paramedic, it's you. I knew that the first time we met."

"You did?" Johnny sighed. "I wish I was that sure. I just don't know anymore, Roy. I feel like I've lost my edge or something.'

"What you've lost is a good deal of sleep lately due to all this bad weather, and it makes a difference. What you need is a good hot meal and a decent night's sleep."

"Well, since it's Chet's turn to cook tonight, and the weather's not letting up, I'm not likely to get either anytime soon."

"Damn, it's really getting bad out there!" Captain Stanley announced as he and the rest of the engine crew piled into the rec room.

"Any c...coffee left?" Chet asked through chattering teeth.

"Just made a fresh pot, but don't count on having time to drink it," Johnny answered.

"Look, we've been on six runs already this morning, Gage. I gotta have some coffee!" Chet growled.

"Only 6?" Johnny replied. "We've had eight and this is the first chance we've had to even sit down!"

Chet poured a cup of coffee and sat down on the couch next to Henry.

"You know," Marco started, "if people would just use a little common sense and stay in out of this weather, we wouldn't have nearly as many problems!"

"Common sense is a very rare commodity, Marco. Not many people have it!" Chet commented.

"You should know how rare it is, Chet, since you've never had any!" Johnny chuckled.

"Oh, shut up, Gage!" Chet said as the magazine he threw whizzed passed Johnny's head.

"Okay, you two, that will do!" Cap intervened.

The men jumped and then let out a sigh as the klaxons sounded.

"Aw, damn, here we go again!" Roy muttered.

"STATION 51, TRAFFIC ACCIDENT, WITH INJURIES. 431 MOUNTAIN CANYON RD. TIME OUT 10:45."

"Oh, crap, the mud slides have really been bad in that area!" Johnny commented as he jumped into the squad.


********************

When the engine and the squad arrived at the scene of the accident, none of the men could believe their eyes. All that was visible of the vehicle was the very top of the driver’s side tires. The car had flipped over on its side and burrowed itself into the side of the mountain. The resulting mudslide had almost completely buried the rest of the car.

"I'll climb up above the car and see if I can open the driver's side door!" Johnny called,
jumping out of the squad.

He trudged though the cold, wet mud to where he thought the driver's side door should be. Reaching into the mud to feel around for the door handle, he tried not to think about how filthy and disgusting the mud was as it crept up his sleeve into his turnout.

"Johnny, can you get to it?" Roy yelled.

"I've got a hold on it but I can't budge it!" Johnny panted as he pulled desperately on the handle.

"Okay, John, hold on!" Captain Stanley ordered. "We're gonna send up two lines. Attach one end of them to the undercarriage of the car and we'll attach the other to the engine. Then, we'll see if we can pull the car back down!"

Johnny attached the lines as Captain Stanley ordered. Mike put the engine in Reverse and slowly began backing up while keeping his eye on Johnny so he'd know when the car began to move.

"Keep going, Mike!" Johnny yelled. "It's moving!"

Slowly the cables began to tighten as they inched the car back into an upright position. Johnny climbed down closer to the car.

"Johnny, back up. You're too close!" Roy warned.

Ignoring Roy's warnings, Johnny edged down closer to the car. He was finally able to see the roof as more and more of the car emerged from the mud. He was absolutely horrified to find that all of the glass had given way under the weight of the mud and that the mud completely filled the inside of the car.

There was no way anyone could have survived. Johnny's stomach lurched when he finally had a much too vivid view of the body inside. Suddenly, a gripping roar of thunder ripped though the sky and all hell broke loose. Johnny lost his footing and began sliding down under the car. He fought desperately to keep the inevitable from happening.

"Mike, keep the tension on the cables!" Cap yelled. "Don't let that car fall!"

"JOHNNY!" Roy bolted forward frantically trying to reach his partner, all the while fighting the thick, wet mud that hastened his every move. Roy tried, but he couldn't reach Johnny in time.

"Aughhhh!" Johnny screamed as the cable lines snapped and the car fell back on its side, pinning both Johnny's legs four inches below the knees. Johnny lay encapsulated in the cold wet mud, completely stunned and in excruciating pain.

"JOHNNY! JOHNNY, CAN YOU HEAR ME?" Roy tried to control the emotion in his voice.

"Oh, God, Roy, get it off of me, get it off of me!" Johnny pleaded as he struggled to free his legs.

"Easy, Partner, easy!" Roy placed his hand on Johnny's shoulder. "Stop moving, Johnny. It's important that you stay still! Do you understand me?"

"I... I understand!" Johnny stuttered.

Chet, Marco and Captain Stanley has made their way though the mud to Johnny's side. Mike stayed at the ready on the engine.

"Take it easy, Pal. We'll have you out in no time!" Cap smiled down at Johnny.

"You picked a fine time to take a nap, John!" Chet joked hoping to take Johnny's mind off
the pain.

"Very funny, Chet. Oh, God!" Johnny screamed again as the car shifted in the mud.
Chet grabbed Johnny's hand quickly to help him fight against the pain.

"Easy, easy, Johnny," Chet soothed.

Roy set up the Bio-com and established contact with Rampart.

"Rampart, this is County 51, how do you read?"

"51, this is Rampart. We read you loud and clear," Dr. Brackett's voice bounded across the airwaves.

"Rampart, we have a paramedic down. He has both legs trapped four inches below the knees under an overturned car that's been involved in a mud slide. Vitals are: BP 140/80, pulse 100, respiration's 24, lungs clear. He has bilateral tib/fib fractures and he is also in a great deal of pain, Rampart."

Kelly Brackett and Dixie McCall exchanged very worried looks. They knew all to well who the victim was.

"51, put him on 6 liters 02 and start an IV with Lactated Ringers. Give him 50 milligrams Demerol and 25 milligrams Phenergan IV push and continue to monitor vitals."

"10-4 Rampart, IV with Lactated Ringers, 50 milligrams Demerol and 25 milligrams Phenergan IV push."

Johnny became less combative as the drugs took effect.

"How long before you can extricate him, 51?" Brackett asked.

"There is no way to know at this time, Rampart. The rain and the mud are hampering our efforts and there's a distinct possibility of another mud slide." Roy turned away from Johnny hoping to keep him from hearing the next part of the transmission. "Rampart, there may be only one way to get him out from under the car!"

Roy closed his eyes for a few seconds. Amputation was the worst possible scenario and absolutely the last straw but there was no way in hell Roy was going to leave Johnny there.

"51, continue your efforts to extricate. I'm coming out there!" Brackett's voice was firm.

"Dix, get a surgical kit ready. We're also gonna need 3 units of blood and 2 units of plasma."

"Kel, you're not going to amputate, are you?"

"I'll do whatever I have to do to save Johnny's life, Dix, even if that means amputating his legs."

"I know you're right, but..."

"No ‘buts‘, Dix. We'll do whatever's necessary!"

******************

The rain was coming down harder and the threat of another mud slide was inevitable. A lean tube of sorts at been set up around Johnny to keep some of the rain and mud off of him.

"Roy!" Johnny coughed.

"I'm right here, Pal!" Roy squeezed Johnny's hand.

"Get out of here, Roy. This whole damn mountain could come down at any minute. All of you... get out of here!!" Johnny screamed though the pain.

"Forget it, Pal. We're not going anywhere!" Chet said with a stern look.

"St.. stubborn Irishman, aughhhh!" Johnny cringed at the pain.

Chet tightened the hold he had on Johnny's hand. "I may be stubborn, but I don't hold a candle to you!"

"Come on, Roy. You've got to.."

Roy shook his head. I'm not going anywhere without you partner and that's final!”

“Roy you have a family to think about!” Johnny's breathing was becoming labored and talking was becoming increasingly difficult.

“You are family, Johnny, never forget that!”

Johnny was beginning to shiver from the cold and the rain and time was running out.

********************************

“Damn that was close!” Johnny said as he emerged limping from Treatment Room One. “What do ya say we head back to the station, Partner? I'm in desperate need of a hot shower and a change of clothes. Hey, Roy...ROY!” Johnny raised his voice. “Oh. So, I'm getting the cold shoulder treatment, huh? Look. I know I screwed up out there. I should have listened when you told me to stay put, but I've been though hell here and....” Johnny sighed heavily. “Okay Roy, have it your way. Dix, would you tell my silent partner I’ll be waiting in the squad? Dix, .. Dix? Oh, geez not you, too!”

Kelly Brackett exited OR 2, exhaustion beginning to take its toll he walked slowly down the hall the base station.

“Doc, how is he?” Roy asked.

“How’s who?” Johnny was puzzled. “Doc, Roy, who else was hurt? Was it Chet, Marco, Mike.... Oh, no, it was Cap, wasn't it? Damn it, would someone answer me?”

“He made it though surgery, Roy, and he's holding his own, but he's got a long way to go. The next 24 hours are crucial.”

“Can I see him, Doc?”

“When we move into ICU, Roy. You'll have to wait another hour or so.”

“Doc, we did make the right decision, didn't we?”

“Of course we did, Roy. We really made the only decision we could. Besides, he wouldn't have wanted it any other way.”

“Yeah, but...” Roy hesitated.

“But what, Roy?” Dixie asked, placing a comforting hand on Roy's shoulder.

“It’s just that...I'm not sure we got him here soon enough.”

“Only time will tell us that, Roy!” Brackett added.

“If no one will tell me what in the hell’s going on, I’ll find out for myself!” Johnny muttered. He walked though the doors of the intensive care unit, looking for a familiar face, but he never expected to find what he did.

“Th--this can’t be!” Johnny stuttered, stumbling backwards. “This is impossible. This can’t be happening!” Johnny felt a hand on his shoulder from behind.

“It’s very real, Running Bear.”

“Running Bear? Only one person ever called me .... GRANDFATHER?” Johnny's mouth fell open as he turned around and came face to face with the beloved grandfather he’d lost ten years earlier. “G-Grandfather?” Johnny's eyes widened. “This is... I don't believe...“ The words just wouldn't come no matter how hard Johnny tried to make them.

“It’s all right, Running Bear,” the old man soothed as he gently touched Johnny's cheek. “You're in a safe place.”

“I...I am?” Johnny wasn't convinced. “How can I be here and...there?” Johnny pointed to his own body.

“Your body is there,” Johnny's grandfather gestured. “But, your spirit is here with me in this in-between place.”

“Grandfather,” Johnny lowered his head, “am I going to die?” Johnny wasn't really sure he wanted to know the answer.

“That is your decision, my Grandson, and no one can make it for you. You can make that decision only when you let go of all your doubts and confusion.”

Johnny looked totally confused. “Grandfather, how could you could you possibly have known?”

“I'm a part of you, Running Bear, and because of that I'm always with you. Your spirit has been restless for sometime now. So, destiny intervened and brought us together.” Johnny looked up as Roy made his way into the ICU.

“No wonder he didn't answer me earlier,” Johnny sighed. “He couldn't hear me. I should have known Roy would never deliberately ignore me.”

“Your partner means a great deal to you, doesn't he?”

“Yes, Grandfather, but he's more that just my partner, he's the best friend I've ever had.”

“By the concern on his face, I'd say it’s quite evident he feels the same way. He's lucky to have such a friendship.”

“No, Grandfather I'm the lucky one, and I'm just beginning to realize it.”

Roy sat down next to Johnny's bed and watched his partner’s slow, steady breathing. “Oh, God, Johnny...” Roy's voice was shaky. “I feel like I let you down. Did I make the right decision? Was it even my decision to make? You were under that car for so long!” Roy lowered his head and his eyes filled with tears. “Whatever happens, Junior, I hope you can forgive me.”

“Forgive him for what? What's he talking about, Grandfather? What kind of decision did Roy have to make?”

“Do you remember the accident, Running Bear?”

“Of course, I do, that's why I'm here...I...I mean there!” Johnny pointed.

“You were trapped under that car for a very long time, John.”

Johnny remembered all too well that the rare time his Grandfather called him “John” he was either angry or deadly serious, and he could tell by his expression it was the latter of the two.

“I know I was pinned for a long time, but obviously they got me out. That's all that matters!”

“It’s how they got you out that matters, John.”

“What do you mean ‘how‘? They raised the car and got me out, right?”

“Did they?” The old man raised an eyebrow.

“Grandfather! Please quit answering my questions with a question!” Johnny felt himself getting angry.

“I'm sorry, Running Bear. I don't mean to be vague, but you must discover the answers for yourself. I am only here to guide you. I can tell you this, however: as your partner, Roy felt it was his responsibility to make the necessary decision. He now has to live with the results of that decision, as do you.”

“WHAT DECISION? Grandfather, there wasn't a decision to make, all that had to be done was to get the car off of me and--” Johnny stopped cold, a look of sheer terror filling his eyes. “M--My leg...oh, God, not my legs... Th-They didn't take my legs, Grandfather... Please, tell me they didn't take my legs!” Johnny clutched at the old buckskin jacket his Grandfather wore and buried his face in his shoulder.

“John,” the old man spoke softly as he lovingly stroked Johnny's hair. “The answer is right in front of you. All you have to do is look.”

“NO! I... I cant !”

“You must, John. It’s the only way!”

“The only way for what?” Johnny asked.

“The only way you can make your decision.”

“I don't have a decision to make!” Johnny was indignant.

“Yes, you do John. You asked me earlier if you were going to die. It’s now time for you to make that decision. Will you cross the river and stay here with me, or will you go back to the life and the people you love.”

Johnny looked up at his grandfather with tear-filled eyes. “How can I return to my life when my life is being a paramedic and a firefighter? I can’t be either of those without my legs!”

“You are right, Running Bear. It would be impossible to continue in your chosen profession if your legs were indeed gone.”

“If...” Johnny echoed. “You mean...”

“I mean that you never bothered to look, you just assumed the worst. I've told you many times before that assuming things and jumping to conclusions can have disastrous results.”

“I'm sorry, Grandfather. I haven't forgotten the lessons you taught me, it’s just that no matter where I am disaster is never far behind.”

“It’s true that you've had your share accidents, but it has always been in the process of helping others. You are as you have always been, John. You have always looked out for others, putting them first and yourself last.”

“Grandfather, you always said that destiny guides the soul. I realize now how true that really is. I didn't choose to be a paramedic, did I? Destiny chose it for me.”

The old man smiled. “It was always your destiny to help others, and being a paramedic is the best way for you to do that.”

“I have to go back. It isn't my time to cross the river.” Johnny lowered his head, gazing downward. “I hope you understand, Grandfather.”

The old man lifted Johnny's head and looked into his eyes. “I understand, my Grandson, and, now, so do you.”

Looking over at where his body lay, Johnny was amazed at the scene that was taking place at his bedside. All of the people that mattered were there, gathering around him, providing the unconditional love and support that Johnny needed. They were much more that just friends and coworkers, they were, without a doubt, family in every sense of the word. Johnny recognized each and face. Dixie, Dr. Brackett, Dr Early, Chet, Marco, Mike and Captain Stanley, and there was Roy, at Johnny's side where he had been from the beginning.

“Come on, Johnny,” Dixie pleaded holding his hand, “time to come back to us.”

“Open your eyes, Partner,” Roy urged as he tightened the grip he had on Johnny's other hand.

“Look at them, Running Bear, all waiting for you. Our journey together is at an end. It’s time for you to return to the life that destiny choose for you.”

Johnny looked up at his Grandfather one last time. “Thank you for being with me. I love you, Grandfather!”

The old man gently cupped Johnny's face in hands. “I have am always with you, Running Bear, and I always will be. I love you, too, my Grandson!”

“Mmmm...” Johnny moaned softly as his eyes slowly fluttered open.

Roy's face was the first thing Johnny's eyes focused on.

“Welcome back, Partner!” Roy smiled.

“You had us worried!” Dixie said, giving Johnny's hand a reassuring squeeze.

“Try to stay still, Johnny,” Brackett instructed. “You have two broken legs, and you're going to be in traction awhile.”

“Two broken legs?” Johnny mumbled. “That's great.”

“Great?” Brackett looked a bit confused. “You have two broken legs, and you think it’s great! You hose jockey, I’ll never understand what's going on in that head of yours!”

********************************

Several hours later Brackett took Johnny off the critical list and moved him to a private room, and once again his friends rallied around him.

“What is this a party?” Johnny asked sleepily.

“Why not?” Chet replied. “We definitely have a reason to celebrate!”

“Thanks, Chet,” Johnny yawned.

“Oh, I didn't mean you, Gage. I meant we have reason to celebrate cause the hurricane is over.” Chet smiled his infamous Phantom grin.

Johnny remembered all too well that Roy wasn't the only one who had refused to leave his side the whole time he was pinned under the car. He suspected--and rightly so--that Chet had also never left the hospital.

“Stubborn Irishman,” Johnny mumbled, smiling as he began drifting off to sleep. “Roy?“ Johnny called out, opening his eyes again. He motioned for Roy to come closer. “You did make the right decision,” Johnny whispered. “Thanks, Partner!”

A look of pure astonishment came over Roy's face. How could Johnny have known?

Johnny and Roy exchanged smiles and communicated more in that moment than a million words could have ever expressed. They both knew they had weathered more than just the storm outside, they had weathered the storm that raged inside the hospital as well, and they had come through it stronger and closer than ever.