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Summary: He hated to admit it, but there were moments, however rare, that he felt a hint of jealousy.
By Susan Proto
"This was a great idea, wasn't it, Roy?" asked John as they began unpacking the camping equipment.
"Yeah, it was. Of course, if I could get my two hoodlums to come over and give us a hand, that would make it an even better idea!" Roy glared at his children, Jennifer and Christopher, though he tempered it with a smile.
"I'm helping, Daddy!" insisted seven-year-old Jennifer.
"No you're not," retorted Chris, three years her senior. "You're just standing there."
"Like you're not, sport?" interjected Johnny. "C'mon, let's get both of you separating the camping gear into piles of yours, mine, and ours. Okay?"
The two children complied amicably and began doing what their 'Uncle' Johnny asked. Roy smiled to himself; he knew if he'd asked the same thing of his children, it would have taken him a good fifteen minutes more to get them to comply. It never ceased to amaze him how well his children behaved for his partner. He hated to admit it, but there were moments, however rare, that Roy felt a hint of jealousy.
Roy shook his head to erase any negative thoughts he had and went about setting up camp with the help of his kids and best friend.
"You sure you don't mind the kids and me leaving you to go on a short hike?" asked Johnny.
"For the fiftieth time, no, I don't mind." Both men were well aware that Roy's recent bout with the flu left him just a little on the weakened side, and so they'd decided he was going to take it real easy during this camping trip.
"Daddy, if you want company, I'll stay with you," offered Jennifer, though if Roy could see behind his daughter's back he'd see her pressing two pairs of crossed fingers hard into the small of her back.
"No punkin', but I do appreciate the offer. Actually, I'm gonna see about getting a pot of coffee up and sitting back and reading the newspaper. I actually plan on enjoying the peace and quiet as much as your mother is probably enjoying hers at this very moment." Roy smiled tenderly at his daughter; he appreciated the sacrifice she was, albeit reluctantly, prepared to make.
"Okay, Roy, we're gonna head out then. We'll see you in about an hour, 'kay?" Upon seeing Roy's nod, Johnny called out to his small companions and directed them to each pick up their mini-packs and to follow him.
"Chris, you remember to keep your sister in between us, okay? Don't want to have to explain to either of your parents how we lost her otherwise," he said with a grin.
"Okay, Uncle Johnny, if you insist," he teased.
"Christopher!" Jennifer squealed, to which Chris stuck his tongue out. All Johnny had to say was "Christopher-" in that special, serious tone he uses when he wants to let the kids know for sure that he meant business.
Of course it worked like a charm. Roy shook his head in genial awe, and waved good bye to the trio.
The kids slowed John down somewhat, particularly Jennifer, but he didn't mind. The weather was perfect for a leisurely hike and no one felt the need to move any faster than necessary. Jennifer stopped and 'oohed and ahhed' over every wild flower, and Chris asked Johnny to identify the various plants and trees.
Johnny reveled in his time with the kids. He'd never considered himself a 'family' man; he enjoyed his bachelorhood and wasn't looking to settle down and start a family of his own. But there was something about being around Roy's kids that made him take notice of the fact that he was alone more than not; it wasn't that he was lonely, because he wasn't. He valued his time by himself as much as his time with his good friends. John simply allowed his mind to wonder a bit more often about the 'what ifs' when he was hanging out with the DeSoto kids.
Johnny checked his watch and saw they'd been walking for about thirty minutes. He knew Jennifer would have a tough time making it back to camp if they went any further, so John decided to have the kids do an about face and start the trek back to Roy.
"Okay, kids, time for us to get back and check up on that dad of yours."
"Oh, do we have to?" asked Jennifer.
"Yes, peanut, we have to. Your legs are gonna fall off if we don't, and quite frankly I'll be too tired to carry you."
"I can walk," she insisted.
"Of course you can, but if we try to go any farther, you may not be. Trust me, Jen, you'll be glad that we're going back at this point. Besides," he added with a mischievous smile, "I want to see if your dad made some hot cocoa along with that coffee."
"Oh, me too!" she cried out.
Uncle Johnny struck again.
John got Jennifer turned around and then looked at Chris to get him moving as well. When all the boy did was stand in place, John called out to him.
"Hey, Chris? Time to move it out, sport. Your dad's gonna call out the National Guard if we don't get ourselves back on time." Johnny waited a moment or two, but when Chris remained stock still, he called out again to the youngster, "Chris? What's up? We've got to get going."
"C'mon, Christopher!" Jennifer called out in annoyance.
Chris turned his head from side to side, looking confused.
"You okay, Chris?" asked Johnny with some concern.
"Okay?" the child echoed. "Yeah," he said after only a moment's hesitation, "I'm fine. What's going on?"
"We're going back to Daddy and see if he made hot cocoa, dummy!"
"Jennifer-" John warned.
"Sorry," she said contritely to Johnny, but she then turned back to Chris and declared, "You gotta stop daydreaming, Christopher Roy!"
"Oh, shut up, Jennifer. Ya sound just like Mom and Dad."
"Okay, both of you need to take a break right now." John looked sternly at the pair and noted their obvious discomfort with their uncle's admonishment.
"Sorry, Uncle Johnny," Chris apologized. "Let's get going and see Dad."
John double-checked to be sure that his young charge was all right. Once the paramedic in him was convinced, he allowed Chris to take up the rear to allow John to lead them back to camp, with Jennifer remaining safely in between.
Roy did indeed have hot cocoa waiting for the children as well as a good strong cup of coffee for John. The group sat huddled around the small campfire and sipped their drinks. The children proceeded to tell Roy about every detail of their hike, to the point where they were practically stepping on one another's words. Johnny gave up trying to add anything to their descriptions, and Roy ended up just sitting and nodding.
Chris and Jennifer had never lacked in verbal skills; Roy was pretty much used to the nonstop bombardment of talk. His partner practiced a similar art, which allowed Roy enough practice time in the fine art of listening - or ignoring - depending upon how Roy chose to look at it at any given moment.
Dinner was a relatively simple affair that first evening - couple of steaks for the adults and hamburgers for the children. Chips and canned peas rounded out the meal. The children were even allowed some Coca-Cola as a treat, which prompted a quick rendition of "I'd like to teach the world to sing" from the two siblings. By the time they were finished, the sun had gone down and the fire was perfect for roasting some marshmallows. Jennifer, though yawning and barely able to stay awake, begged for a couple of stories.
John suggested they do a kind of round robin story where someone would start it and each person would take a turn to continue it. Jennifer said she wanted to go after her dad, but Chris scoffed at the possibility of having to follow her. "Daddy, she's gonna talk about her stupid weebles and stuff."
"Chris, what makes you say that?" asked John, "and what the heck is a weeble?"
"Those dumb little toy people shaped like eggs that wobble around but can't fall. She's always talking about them."
Roy caught his partner's attention and nodded while looking over at Chris. The boy was right; Jennifer was always talking about those silly toys.
"Well, how about I follow Jennifer, and then you can follow me, Chris?" asked John. Chris nodded, relieved that he would more than likely have something of real substance to tell a story about.
And so they began, with Roy starting the story with the characters of Clayton and his trusty younger sister, Jillian. He began to weave a tale on how the two siblings found their way on an adventure to assist the two wise ones, Jonathan and Roy.
"Daddy, you can't use your own name in the story!" chided Jennifer.
"Yeah, Roy," teased Johnny.
"Oh, but it's okay for me to use Uncle Johnny's real name?"
"Uncle Johnny is Uncle Johnny, not Jonathan!" replied an exasperated Jennifer.
"Well, I can't think of anything instead of Roy at the moment. If you can, then you get to change it, okay, punkin'?"
Jennifer agreed readily to that proposal and quickly began her part of the story. Though she did not include her precious weebles, she did manage to weave in two magical horses named Fire and Ice. Fire was a beautiful red horse, ("That's chestnut, honey," Uncle Johnny had informed) and Ice was snow-white. She also renamed Roy's character to Raymond, which was, as she put it, "less 'daddy-like.'"
Johnny was quite impressed with the seven-year-old's imagination and had a grand time jumping in and picking up where she'd left off. The horses, Fire and Ice, carried their young charges high up into the mountains, never missing a step on the steep, rocky trails. Though no one had ever said where the elders, Jonathan and Raymond, were being held, the horses' magic led them directly to where they needed to be.
"And, finally, they arrived at the opening of the cave in which Jonathan and Raymond were being held captive. The horses reared up on their hind legs and whinnied loudly and mightily. The next thing that happened was -." Johnny stopped abruptly and turned to Christopher. "Okay, Chris, now it's your turn. What happens next?" he asked.
The child said nothing.
"Chris?" prodded Johnny again.
"Christopher! C'mon, you're gonna ruin the story!" whined Jennifer.
"Jennifer, enough!" interjected Roy. He then turned to his son. "Chris, stop this incessant daydreaming! Christopher Roy!"
Chris blinked his eyes and looked directly at his father, though there was some question as to whether he actually saw the man clearly. Finally, after a few moments, the boy acknowledged his father. "Dad? What's wrong?"
"You're doing it again, young man. You started going off into your own little world again and then you refused to answer me. I'm not happy, Chris."
"Oh." The youngster looked a little confused, but he said nothing to contradict his father's words. "Sorry, Dad."
"It's late. I think it's time we call it a night," said Roy.
"But what about the end of the story?" complained Jennifer.
"Doesn't Uncle Johnny have to finish his part?" asked Chris innocently.
"I did, Chris," Johnny answered gently. "Don't you remember hearing me tell you it was your turn?"
When the boy shook his head, Roy said, with a bit of annoyance, "How the heck was he supposed to hear you when he drifts off into his own little world? Of course he didn't hear you." Roy grimaced; his expression was a direct reflection of how frustrated he was dealing with this latest slice of life.
"Dad, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to...."
"Chris, I don't want to hear it. Go get ready for bed."
"Gosh, Chris, you went and ruined everything," muttered Jennifer.
"Jennifer, that's enough from you, young lady." Roy crossed his arms and was very clear that he did not want to hear any more complaints from his youngest.
The two children crept into the smaller of the two-man tents and got ready for sleep. Roy and John sat quietly for a few minutes while the children got ready. When Jennifer called out that she was ready for a goodnight kiss, both men got up. Johnny crept into the tent first and gave both children a kiss on the forehead. He took an extra moment with Chris and quietly assured him that everything was really okay, and he shouldn't let what had happened ruin the camping trip.
"Thanks, Uncle Johnny. I really didn't mean to mess up."
"I know, Chris. See ya in the morning." He gave him another hug, to which Chris responded wholeheartedly.
Next, Roy crawled into the tent. He gave his son a perfunctory kiss on the forehead and then turned to give his daughter a hug and kiss as well. "You get a good rest little girl, we're gonna put you to work tomorrow! There's some fish that's gonna need catching, and skinning, and frying!"
"Oh, Daddy!" the little girl giggled.
"Good night, sweetheart. Good night, Christopher." Echoes of 'Good night, Dad' wafted through the air, and Roy backed out of the tent.
Johnny sat quietly, sipping a fresh cup of coffee. When Roy returned, John handed his partner his own freshly poured cup.
"Thanks," Roy said.
"No problem." John paused momentarily and then asked, gently, "Kids all right?"
Roy took a sip of coffee and then nodded. "Yeah, I think the hike wiped them out. They should be asleep in no time."
John sat, sipping his coffee for a few minutes and then, tentatively, asked, "What's with Chris and the daydreaming?"
"What do you mean?" asked Roy, a little defensively.
"I mean, I don't remember him doing that very much in the past; is it a new thing?"
"I donít know...I guess so." He then looked over the rim of his mug at his partner and asked, suspiciously, "Why?"
"I dunno," John replied hesitantly, not sure if he should bring up the incident during the hike or not. Finally, he decided that it was important that Roy be aware that Chris's bouts of daydreaming may in fact be indicative of a more serious condition.
"It's just that while we were hiking, he got kind of out of it when we were getting ready to turn around and come back to camp. It was like he wasn't aware of his surroundings for a couple of minutes."
John hoped his partner would put two and two together without him having to spell it out for him. The whole situation hit a little too close to home for him; John wasn't sure just how much of an explanation he was prepared to go into with Roy in order to justify why he felt so concerned.
"What the hell are you getting at, Gage?" The tone of Roy's voice took John by complete surprise. It was obvious that Roy understood the implication of his question; what wasn't so obvious was why Roy seemed so hostile about it.
"Roy, I'm just concerned for Chris, that's all."
"There's nothing to be concerned about. He's ten years old and he daydreams too damned much. He's probably watching too much television - Bionic Man on the brain, you know? And if I hear one more Fonzie-like "AAYYY" come out of his mouth, I may strangle him." Roy stopped and pointedly looked at his partner. "You don't have to be concerned, John; his mother and I plan will deal with this."
John felt as though he'd just been gut-punched. The vehemence of Roy's tone was beyond what he'd ever heard come out of his friend's mouth before, and the frustrating part was Johnny had no clue as to why Roy sounded so angry.
"Roy? What did I say?"
"Nothing, Johnny. You didn't say anything." Roy looked down into his coffee cup, unable to make eye contact with his partner.
"Look, all I'm saying is you might want to take Chris to the doctor for a physical, that's all."
"And I think you should mind your own business when it comes to my kids. I told you, we're going to take care of it." Hesitating for only a moment, Roy said, "And what the hell do you think a doctor could tell me, huh? There's nothing wrong with him that a little discipline can't fix, John. My kid doesn't have any problem that he needs to see a doctor about."
"But Roy, it's almost like he didn't know where he was. C'mon, you're a paramedic for crying out loud. You know what that may be a symptom of!"
"And I'm telling you to knock it off! My kid ain't like that; he doesn't have fits and I don't want to hear any more about it." Roy's face was fully flushed with anger.
John's, too, was reddened, but with embarrassment and humiliation, as well as anger.
"Look, I think I'm going to take the kids home tomorrow morning first thing," said Roy.
John opened his mouth, ready to argue, but stopped and held his tongue. He gave himself a second to catch his breath and gather his thoughts. Finally, he said, "I wish you wouldn't. It's not fair to take our difference of opinion out on the kids. Look, I promise not to mention it again to you, okay? You'll do what needs to be done. I didn't mean to insinuate that you don't know what's best for your children. I'm sorry."
Roy didn't answer right away; it was clear that at that moment if he could have swept his kids up and left that very second, he would have. But he also gave himself a couple of seconds to gather his wits and then replied, "Okay. The subject is closed."
Reluctantly, John nodded in agreement, and both men finished their cups of coffee in silence.
The rest of the weekend camping trip went by without further mention of John's concerns, though the reason for those concerns had not disappeared. Chris appeared to experience another episode the next morning, while they were getting ready to go fishing. John called out to him and it was at least two minutes before Chris was able to answer him.
Though he wasn't nearby during that episode, Roy did become aware of his partner's increased attention toward his son. Rationally, he knew Johnny meant well, but the whole situation was causing Roy to become more and more indignant. It seemed as if his partner, his unmarried, childless partner, was questioning Roy's ability to care for his own son, and he resented it.
Besides, Roy knew there was no way that his child could be having...fits. Roy felt himself shudder at the mere thought of it. He remembered in his own childhood having been made to steer clear of one of those kinds of kids in his neighborhood; his father had made sure of that. Roy needed to protect his own kids, too, didn't he?
Roy found himself shaking his head to clear his head. He realized his thoughts were completely irrational, and the total antithesis of what he knew as a paramedic, yet old beliefs die hard. The one thing Roy did know was that he needed to give the matter more serious thought, but with his wife, not Johnny.
The tension became too much for the pair, so by mutual agreement Roy and Johnny decided to get an early start back home on Sunday morning. When Johnny pulled the Rover into the DeSoto's driveway, it was with a palatable sense of relief.
However, John felt he couldn't forget his concerns. He got out of the car and began unloading the gear from the rear. As expected, Joanne met them at the front door.
"Hi, you guys! You're back early, but I'm glad to see you anyway. How was the trip?" she called out.
"Great." Roy didn't elaborate.
"Weather was good." John chose not to go any further either. He handed sleeping bags to the kids and watched as they ran up the steps to give their mom a hug.
"Hey, Mom, we toasted marshmallows and had Coca-Cola and -"
"Jen! You weren't supposed to say that!" chided Chris.
"Oops?" Jennifer looked immediately apologetic.
"It's okay, Jennifer; it was a special occasion." Joanne hugged her children in return and then directed them to bring their sleeping bags into the mud room for airing out.
"Roy," she said as she came down the steps toward the jeep, "bring the tent in there too, so we can shake it out later."
Roy nodded and proceeded to carry the tent to the back room.
"So, you're staying for breakfast, aren't you?" asked Joanne.
"Um, Joanne, may I talk to you, quickly?" John asked, ignoring her question.
"Sure. Something wrong?"
"Jo, I think you should take Chris to the doctor for a checkup. He's been having these episodes of daydreaming - Roy said he's been having them for a while now, right?"
"Well, yes, as a matter of fact he has. It's been driving us both a little crazy, but Roy especially...John, you think he could be ill? What does Roy think?"
"Joanne, if Roy knew I was discussing this with you, it would probably be the end of our friendship; he's let me know under no circumstances should I butt in, but Jo, please trust me. He needs to see a doctor, preferably a neurologist."
"A neurologist? But Johnny, what makes you say that?"
"Yeah, Johnny," interrupted Roy as he walked back to the jeep, "what makes you say that? Why would you even insinuate that my kid is like that? What makes you such a damn expert all of a sudden?"
Johnny looked at the two people he'd considered his best friends in the whole world up to that moment; he couldn't help but wonder if the words he spoke next would seal the end to their friendship.
"Because I was once one of those kids you seem to be so damn afraid of, Roy." He waited a moment for the words to sink in and then said, "Jo, thanks, but I think I'll take a rain check on breakfast." He turned to Roy. "Guess I'll see you tomorrow at the station."
Johnny turned and climbed into his truck. Neither Roy nor Joanne said a word as they watched him drive off.
They headed for the kitchen. Joanne told the kids to go into the living room to watch some television while she and their dad caught up on the weekend's events. Jennifer and Chris nodded quietly; anytime they were given TV watching privileges they took them - no questions asked.
Joanne poured a couple of cups of coffee and brought them over to the table. She sat down, across from him, and then asked in a soft, but no-nonsense tone, "What just happened, Roy? Your best friend left this house looking as if he'd lost his best friend."
"I don't know."
"Don't give me that," she retorted in a tone that was angrier than even she'd expected. "That's something the children would say, and believe me, you'd be down their throats in a heartbeat if they did, so don't insult my intelligence."
She paused a moment, took a breath and asked, "Why did Johnny feel as if he had to come to me instead of both of us about his concerns?"
"Joanne, he thinks something's wrong with Chris."
"Yes, I know that. We've been concerned that something's wrong with Christopher, too, so why should it surprise you that your best friend, who loves our children almost as much as we do, would notice something amiss?"
"There's nothing wrong with him."
"Johnny seems to think there is."
"Well, Johnny's not his father, I am."
"And I'm his mother, and I think what Johnny said has merit." At Roy's grimace Joanne reached out to touch her husband's arm. "Honey, just because I think Johnny may be a little more objective in this matter doesn't mean I think he's better than you."
Roy pulled his arm away. "You've got a funny way of showing it."
Joanne's voice rose a bit. "Oh, please, Roy! Listen to me - "
"No, you listen to me!" Roy's voice outmatched his wife's in volume. "I will not have another man think he can be a better father to my kids. I'm their father, and I'll do as I see fit!"
"And I'm their mother. Don't I get a say in any of this?"
"Of course you do! That's my damn point! WE need to make a decision, not Johnny!" he practically shouted.
"Roy, lower your voice - the children."
"I'm sorry, but Johnny really ticked me off this weekend. He was sticking his nose where it didn't belong."
"Roy, please tell me you don't think Johnny's trying to usurp your role as the kids' father...you can't be thinking along those lines, can you?"
"I don't know what to think any more!" shouted Roy.
"Mommy? Daddy -"
"Roy, shh! You're going to frighten the kids." She then called out to Jennifer, "It's okay, sweetheart. Mommy and Daddy are just having a discussion."
"DADDY! Come quick! Chris is sick!"
Roy and Joanne never hesitated and ran directly into the family room. "Oh, dear God," murmured Joanne.
"Call for an ambulance," directed Roy, more calmly than he'd ever have expected to be, given that his son was in the throes of a grand mal seizure. He looked over at Jennifer who appeared terrified. "Sweetheart, Chris is going to be fine."
"Daddy, he's acting crazy."
"No, Jen, he's not. He's having a seizure. All these messages are going to his brain at one time and it's confusing his body, so he started thrashing around like this. But he's going to be okay. I promise you."
"They're sending a squad and an ambulance."
"Should I get something for you to put between his teeth?" asked Joanne.
"No!" At her startled expression, he explained in a gentler tone, "I'm sorry, Jo. Never put anything in the mouth of someone seizing. They could bite the object in half and choke on that. It's just best to lay them on their side and move any objects nearby that could potentially hurt them. If you can loosen their collar, that's okay too."
Roy checked his watch; it had been almost two minutes since he'd asked Joanne to call for assistance. 'C'mon, guys. Get here already,' he urged silently.
Joanne moved over to comfort Jennifer, who wrapped her arms around her mother as tightly as possible. "Mommy, is Chris gonna die?" she whispered anxiously.
"No, Jennifer. Chris will be fine. The doctors will figure out what's wrong, and he'll be fine."
With relief, Roy and Joanne heard the sirens nearing. Seconds later, Joanne let the paramedics from Squad 51's C-Shift enter.
"Okay, Roy," said Paramedic Eric Layton, "time to let the professional who's not a family member take over." Eric gently raised Roy's hand off of the boy's back and gently urged, "Go on, Roy. Give me some room to work."
Roy, Joanne, and Jennifer watched silently as the paramedic team worked briskly to stabilize Christopher. They'd immediately established contact with Rampart, and after relaying the vitals, received permission to inject a dose of Phenobarbital to control the seizure. An IV was also set up, and soon they were ready to move their patient out.
"I'm going to ride in with him," announced Roy.
"Roy, why don't you drive in with your wife and daughter," suggested Steve Jenkins, the second half of the C-Shift team. "I promise we'll take good care of him, and right now I think the rest of your family could use a little support."
"Oh -" Roy was caught by surprise. He wasn't used to feeling so out of control. "Right. We'll meet you at Rampart."
"Good deal, Roy. We'll see you over there." Eric gathered all of the equipment while Steve walked out with the patient. Eric looked up again and said, "He'll be fine, Roy. You'll see." He nodded his head and the DeSotos stood momentarily frozen in place.
Finally, Joanne broke the silence. "We should get going."
"Mommy, can I go, too?" asked Jennifer.
"Of course, you can. He will be okay, Jen, you have to believe that." Joanne wasn't sure if she was saying that more for Jennifer's benefit or her own.
"Okay. Let's go." Roy said the words, but he looked lost for a moment. It was then that Joanne spoke up to give him some direction.
"Call him, Roy."
Roy nodded, gratefully. He picked up the phone and dialed the number he'd learned by rote so long ago. When he heard the voice on the other end, Roy spoke in a voice that was hoarse with emotion.
"Johnny? It's Chris."
"Where are you?"
"Home, but they've taken him to Rampart." Roy swallowed. "I need you."
"I'm on my way."
Roy sat quietly next to his son's bed, while Joanne was in the cafeteria getting Jennifer something to eat. Johnny sat quietly nearby.
The doctors had ordered several tests, and they were waiting for results. Roy and Joanne had filled out a family medical history form that was longer than the Encyclopedia Britannica. For now, however, Christopher was stable and slept comfortably.
"He should sleep pretty soundly for a while, Roy."
He nodded, but then stopped and looked curiously at his partner. "This is all familiar territory for you, isn't it?"
John didn't answer right away, though he knew the question was coming. He wasn't sure exactly how to respond. Then it occurred to him that he could answer his partner in only one way: honestly.
"Yeah, I've had some experience to fall back on."
"Friend? Someone you knew?"
"Family? Brother, sister?"
Johnny silently shook his head. He was a little nervous as to why Roy seemed to be stalling. Of course, John realized the same could be said for him.
"Yeah, Roy. I had seizures up until I was almost thirteen years old."
"Yes. Me." Johnny looked up to try and ascertain the man's reaction to his admission, but his expression was masked. John sighed yet decided to continue. "I'd started having petit mal seizures when I was around eight years old. Then, around ten years, I had some grand mals, but they were all controlled by medication."
"You were on medication?"
"Yes. It controlled the seizures."
"But if you have Epilepsy, how could they let you in the department. Unless you didn't -"
"Of course I informed the department, Roy. Don't be ridiculous." Johnny understood that Roy was justifiably thrown for a loop by all that had happened, but he couldn't help feeling a little irritated by his partner's sudden doubt in his character.
"I hadn't had a seizure with the medication since I was thirteen years old. By the time I'd finished with puberty, I was totally off all medications and seizure free." He looked hard at his partner; he had to make sure there was no doubt left on his mind.
"Roy, I haven't had a seizure in over fourteen years."
"But couldn't you still get one?"
"I suppose it's possible, but my doctors don't feel it's a problem."
"Dr. Early is one of them, if that sets your mind at ease," Johnny informed.
For a second, John wondered if he were in an echo chamber. He chased away the sarcastic thoughts and answered his partners concerns. "When I first joined the force he gave me a thorough neurological check-up. Do you think the department was going to sign me up if there were any doubt of my ability to fulfill my duties?"
Roy shook his head, and then turned to look at his son. Johnny knew exactly what was going on in his partner's thoughts.
"Roy, he's going to be fine. Medications are even more effective now than when I was a kid. You'll see. He's going to be okay."
"I know...it's just that -" Roy knew what needed to be said; he simply wished he hadn't had to say it. "I owe you an apology."
Johnny sat silently. He knew this wasn't going to be easy for his partner, but he needed to hear what Roy had to say.
"I shouldn't have shut you out like that. You knew something was wrong, and I refused to listen to you. I'm sorry for that."
It wasn't exactly the response Roy expected. He was counting on Johnny to let him know that everything was fine, and that no apology was necessary, and that he understood completely why Roy behaved the way he had.
The problem was, Johnny didn't understand.
"You're mad at me," Roy stated.
"No. I'm not mad." John was definitely 'something' though. "I guess, I'm disappointed."
"Disappointed," Roy echoed tonelessly.
John nodded. "You let me down, Roy," he said softly. "You not only shut me out, but you doubted my motives and, well to be honest, that hurt."
Roy looked down. He'd failed his partner, and in the process he'd almost failed his son. "John, I'm sorry. I was wrong. I was -." He looked up and realized he had to be completely truthful with his friend. " - Jealous. In plain English, I was jealous of you and your relationship with my kids."
"Oh, man, you gotta know that I've never seen myself as a substitute for you! I'm a nice supplement; I'm the adopted uncle that sees only the good, but doesn't have to deal with the bad. I could never do what Joanne and you do." Johnny stood up at this point; nervous energy got the better of him. He walked over to the window and stared out for a moment or two.
Then quietly, and with some hint of emotion, John asked, "Why do you think I'm so grateful for the chance to have this relationship with your kids? I can't see me ever taking on the total responsibility of raising kids of my own."
"Well, then that would be a damn shame."
John looked over at his partner; he wasn't sure if the words were laced with sarcasm or Roy was serious.
"You're serious," John acknowledged with surprise.
"Of course, I'm serious. You're going to make one helluva father some day. Don't ever count yourself short, Junior."
Johnny couldn't help but smile at Roy's paternal manner; he knew things were going to be okay between them. But there was one issue he had to make sure was settled between them.
"You okay knowing about my medical history?"
Roy didn't have to think about it. "Yeah, I'm okay." He thought about it and decided he really did owe his partner an explanation.
"John, you have to understand something about me. I'm not particularly proud of this, and it doesn't excuse my behavior, but maybe it'll explain it a little?"
John encouraged his partner to continue.
"My old man was a real 'holier than thou' Episcopalian... I mean, he was as bible thumping as you could ever hope to meet. He explained all the ills of the world as God's way of punishing us for our sins. That's the kind of talk I grew up with till the time he passed away. I was twelve years old, young enough to have time to change my way of thinking, but old enough that some of what he preached must have sunk in way deeper than even I realized.
"My father felt that anyone who was different; any anomaly to society was a sinner and the recipient of God's wrath. No one escaped it. The physically handicapped, the mentally retarded, divorced women - not divorced men for some reason, just the women - and of course I don't even have to mention what he thought of homosexuals, do I?"
John nodded his head; he remembered having dealt with an evangelistic preacher or two who visited the reservation when he was a kid. That was an oxymoron he could never quite figure out - why a bible-belt preacher would go to a place where 'savages' lived and preach that the only true way to heaven was the 'white' man's way?
"Well," continued Roy, "there was a kid in our neighborhood who apparently had Epilepsy. It was a pretty severe case. He was always having seizures in school and on the playground. They never could seem to get his medication right, I guess. Sometimes he would seem so doped out that he hardly reacted to anything and other times he was really hyped up, ya know?"
Johnny did know; he remembered it sometimes took a few weeks to get the medications readjusted as he grew, and he'd had similar reactions. Roy saw the look of recognition in his partner's expression and continued.
"Well, Dad went on a crusade against this poor kid. He made it be known that I was not to go near him; that he was the devil's work and I would catch whatever it was that caused him to have fits." Roy flushed; he was embarrassed to admit these things about his own father out loud - or that he'd apparently bought into it on some unconscious level.
"Johnny, I know it's all a crock. At least I do in my head, and it never posed a problem for me when I was dealing with a victim, a stranger. But when it was my own son, I guess Dad's 'fire and brimstone' bedtime stories affected me more than I ever realized. And I took it out on you."
He looked right into his partner's eyes. "I'm sorry, John. I am truly sorry. I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me."
"Yeah, Uncle Johnny, forgive him," mumbled a sleepy-voiced Christopher.
Roy quickly took his son's hand. "Hi, sleepyhead." He leaned over to give his son a kiss.
"Hey, sport, how long have you been up?" asked Johnny.
"A little while," he said, with a little more energy. "Daddy, why was Grandpa so weird?"
"I guess it was the way he was taught by his father, Chris."
"But you're not like that, are you?" It was a rhetorical question, but Roy chose to answer it.
"Not anymore, kiddo, not anymore."
"So, you're gonna forgive him, right, Uncle Johnny?"
"Already done, Chris." He bent down to give his adopted nephew a kiss on the forehead and then said, "I think I'm gonna go to the cafeteria and get a bite to eat. I'll tell your mom and sister that you woke up for a bit. See you later, sport."
Roy looked up and mouthed, 'thank you'. He knew Johnny was purposely giving him some badly needed time alone with his son.
John smiled. He knew everything was going to be fine with Chris and his family.
And as to his own future, well, Johnny knew he had some things to mull over. "A family? Kids of my own?" he mumbled aloud. "Who'd a thunk it?" A huge smile emerged on his face; he definitely had a lot to think about.
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