Disclaimer: All characters represented from Station 
51 and Rampart Hospital belongs to Universal 
Television and Mark VII Limited. 
Rating: PG-13
Category: Angst; language
Thank you, Donna & Peggy, for the beta; you help me 
turn potential into something more.
Feedback: Gladly received at STPteach@aol.com
Summary: "It was just a fender-bender, Doc..."

No Big Deal
By Susan Proto

The rain came down hard making for very difficult 
driving conditions.  The continuous torrents had made 
the shift seem interminably long, so all Gage wanted 
was to get home and change into his most worn out, 
washed out, comfortable pair of jeans.  But that 
wouldn't happen until after he picked his partner up 
from Rampart.

Thankfully it wasn't a difficult case; the victim was 
suffering from chest pains, but was stable.  Roy rode 
in with the victim, and after Johnny cleaned up the 
scene, he got into the squad to drive over to 
Rampart.  The engine was behind him at the moment, 
though John knew that Stoker would be turning off to 
head back to the station while he continued on to 

Though they were only a couple of blocks from the 
scene, it felt as if Johnny had been driving for 
hours.  It continued to come down hard, barely 
allowing Gage to see beyond the car's hood.  The only 
good thing about driving around at 7 a.m. was that it 
was before the normal morning rush hour, making other 
traffic nonexistent. 

Well, almost nonexistent.

Karen Richardson was a woman who could do it all.  
And she proved that every morning as she drove to 
Rampart Medical Center where she worked as an 
administrative assistant in the records department.  
Her Virginia Slim, lit, was in one hand, the mascara 
wand in the other, and the steering wheel was being 
controlled quite efficiently with her knees.  As she 
came to the traffic light she placed her cigarette in 
the ashtray and quickly made the left turn, 
effectively cutting off the engine and sneaking in 
between it and the squad.

Karen picked up her cigarette and took a deep drag.  
She smiled to herself when she thought of the 
advertisement that had enticed her to try the brand 
in the first place.  "I have come a long way, baby!" 
she said softly to no one but herself. 

She looked ahead and saw the oversized red vehicle in 
front of her but didn't pay it any mind.  There were 
no sirens going and it seemed to be traveling the 
speed limit, so Karen figured there was no emergency 
that needed her attention.  

The traffic light just ahead was turning from yellow 
to red and Karen pressed down on the accelerator, 
determined to make the light.  It never crossed her 
mind that the big red truck in front of her wouldn't 
do the same.

Given that she was looking down at the ashtray as she 
extinguished her cigarette, Karen never noticed the 
squad come to a complete halt; not until she found 
herself smashing directly into the rear of Squad 51.


"Ma'am, are you all right?" asked a concerned Hank 

The rain poured all around his helmet, making a 
little waterfall effect around his neck.  To say it 
was uncomfortable was putting it mildly. 
Karen managed to roll down the driver-side window.  

"What?  I don't know.  I think so."

"Okay, just sit tight," he said, "I'm going to check 
to see if the paramedic is available to look you 
over," said Hank.  

Hank took off toward the squad and found Chet looking 
in on Johnny through the window.  "How is he, Chet?"

"He says he's okay.  Just shook up a bit."

"I can speak for myself, Chet," Johnny said heatedly.  
"I'm okay, Cap.  What hit me, a truck?"

"Um, not exactly, Gage," smirked Chet.  "It was one 
of those Gremlins."  He paused and then added, "Ugly 
looking cars, if you ask me."

"Well, nobody asked you, Chet," retorted John.  
"Damn, I never saw it.  Last I checked my rear view 
mirror, you were behind me."

"Yeah, well, she kind of cut us off unexpectedly," 
explained Hank with an annoyed tone.  "You'd think 
with this weather people would be that much more 

"Yeah."  Johnny sighed.  "How's the driver of the 
other car?"

"Well, I think she's okay, but if you're all right to 
come and give her a quick check -," began Hank. 

"- I'm on my way."  Hank nodded his approval and 
headed back to the squad to call it in.

John, meanwhile, opened the door and hopped out of 
the squad.  

"Hey, Gage, now you're sure you're okay?" asked Chet, 
just to double-check.

"Yeah, Chet, I feel fine."

"Um, you didn't you hit your head or anything, did 
you?" asked Chet.

"No, Chet, I did not hit my head.  I was wearing my 
seatbelt.  I just got jerked around in there a bit, 
that's all. What is this?  Are you training to become 
a paramedic?" 

"Hey, well, maybe I figured you needed some backup!" 
he sputtered.

"Well, I don't.  At least not in this case," he 
replied tersely.  Gage paused, took a deep breath, 
and added, "But thanks, Kelly.  I appreciate the 

"Well, if you're sure."

"Yeah, I'm sure," he said and then as he got his 
equipment added, "Grab the trauma box for me, okay?" 

Chet did just that and followed his shift-mate to the 

"Hi," said John. "How are you doing, Miss?" 

"Okay.  For some reason I actually used the shoulder 
belt today.  I guess someone up there likes me."

"You might be right about that," replied Gage as he 
checked her eyes with his penlight.

"Was it you that I hit?" 

"Yes, Miss."

"Oh.  Sorry, I didn't realize you'd stopped."

"Yes, well, it's important to be aware of what's 
going on in front of you, okay?"

John got her name and age.  He examined her, hooked 
up with Rampart through dispatch and called in the 
victim's vitals.  When it was determined that the 
young woman had apparently not suffered any serious 
trauma, she declined treatment.  After her car was 
taken care of she was going to wind up at Rampart to 
go to work anyway, so Johnny felt okay about having 
her sign a medical release and bid her a good day.

John Gage did everything according to procedure.  
Even though the victim was young, quite pretty, and 
did not wear a wedding or engagement ring, he 
followed the book so closely even Craig Brice 
wouldn't have had a single criticism of the 

But throughout the entire exam, Johnny never turned 
on the old 'Gage charm', and that little anomaly 
apparently had escaped everyone. 

At least the rain had finally stopped.


The engine continued on to the station house, while 
John proceeded to Rampart to pick up both supplies 
and Roy.

As he entered the ER, Roy met him at the door.  "Hey, 
I heard Marco call in some kind of accident.  What 

"Someone hit me from behind when I'd stopped for a 
red light.  I guess that old saying, 'Red means stop, 
green means go, and yellow means gun it for all it's 
worth' is really true," responded Gage.

"You okay?" asked Roy, the concern obvious.

"Yeah, I mean there wasn't even a dent in the squad.  
Her car didn't look too good, but at least Charlie 
won't be able to get on my case for damaging his 
precious squad," answered Johnny.

"Maybe you should get checked out?" suggested Roy. 

"Nah, I'm okay.  Let's just get the supplies and get 
out of here."

Roy nodded reluctantly, but he realized if the 
accident were bad enough to warrant John being 
examined, his captain would have certainly ordered 
it.  The two men walked over to the nurse's station 
to see about getting their supplies restocked.


They'd returned to the station and were finally able 
to sit down to some breakfast.  Marco had whipped up 
a frittata that seemed to have everything but the 
kitchen sink bubbling hot on top of it.

"Oh, man, Marco, this looks excellent!" declared Roy.  
He, along with the rest of his shift-mates, was 

Marco served up the Mexican omelet.  Chet set the 
orange juice on the table, while Mike poured the last 
cup of coffee and put up a second pot.  

Roy sat with anticipation, while John just sat. 
Hank noticed the listlessness first and couldn't help 
but ask, "Gage, do you feel okay?"

"Sure, Cap, why wouldn't I feel okay?"

"Well, for one, you got rear-ended just a couple of 
hours ago," replied the captain with a bit of 

"Aw, c'mon, Cap, the squad didn't even get nicked!" 
cried out Chet, who was sure there was nothing wrong 
with the paramedic.  He'd checked him out at the 
scene himself, and Gage had assured him that he was 
fine.  So Kelly felt no guilt in razzing the man a 
little bit about his rear-ender.

"Yeah, but still, she went into you pretty hard," 
reminded Hank.

"How hard?" asked Roy.

"Look, she bumped me a little bit.  I was fine.  I am 
fine.  Just leave me alone, okay?"  The small ache 
that began at the base of his skull a short time ago 
had now evolved into a full-fledged, pounding 
headache.  "I'm sorry, Marco, guess I'm not very 

Five pairs of hands all reached out at the same time 
as Johnny failed miserably at standing straight up.  
Though the dizzy spell hit quickly, it ended equally 
so.  "Let go! I'm fine," he retorted as he shirked 
everyone's offers of assistance.  He stood still for 
another moment to be sure of his balance and then 
walked into the dorm.


"I know, Cap.  I'll go check him out.  Chet, do me a 

"-And get the equipment.  Got it."

Roy nodded his thanks and went to find his partner.

"Hey."  Roy entered to find Johnny lying on the bed 
in his standard position, with his arm covering his 
eyes.  "Headache, huh?"

"Yeah.  But I'm okay. I don't have a concussion or 
anything because I never hit my head."

"Johnny, I believe you, but you were in a car 
accident today.  Cap wants me to check you out."

"I don't need-"

"-Captain's orders, John.  Neither one of us has a 
choice in the matter."

"Somehow I don't think you fought him all that much 
on it."

"Somehow I think you're right."  When Chet entered 
with the equipment, Roy uttered his thanks.

"You need some help?" asked Chet.

"No, I think I've got it from here, but if I need 
anything I'll give a holler, okay?"

Chet nodded, and then looked over at Johnny with a 
questioning look.  Roy smiled, shrugged his 
shoulders, and then motioned with his hands for Kelly 
to clear out.  

"Kelly, in case you haven't figured it out yet, Roy 
is quietly trying to get you to leave," said John, 
his eyes still covered by his arm.

"How did he do that?  How did you do that?" Chet 
blustered.  "You drive me crazy, you know that, Gage.  
Absolutely crazy!"  

Roy couldn't help but smile a bit and nodded toward 
the exit.  Chet left, but turned around one last time 
and said softly, "Yell if you need anything."

"What does he think you're going to ask for?  Clean 
towels and boiling water?" muttered Johnny.

Roy laughed. "Yeah, but at least I can tell him I 
know something about birthin' babies."

That drew a smile even out of Johnny.  

"He really does care, you know," commented Roy.

"I know."  Johnny lowered his arm, so Roy could take 
his pressure.  "God, I was fine before.   At least I 
thought I was fine."

"Pressure's a little high, nothing outrageous, but 
still a little high for you," observed Roy.

"Man, my head is pounding."

"What else?"


"What else hurts, Johnny?"

"Oh.  Well, my neck aches a bit, and my shoulder 
feels a little tender."

"Shoulder?  Did you bang it?" asked Roy as he reached 
over to examine it.

"No, I don't remember banging it.  I just remember 
being jerked around a little, but no, I'm certain 
that I didn't bang my head or my shoulder."  He 
winced as Roy tried manipulating it.  "It hurts like 
the dickens now, though."

"Johnny, I'm calling this in."

"Aw, Roy -"

"-Don't 'aw, Roy' me, John.  You're hurting and I'm 
calling it in."

Johnny knew immediately he was fighting a losing 
battle.  Like the proverbial mother who called her 
child by his first, last and middle name to show her 
anger, Roy referred to him as 'John'.  

"Yes, mother."

Roy stifled a chuckle, "Right," and picked up the 

"Rampart, this is Squad 51, how do you read?"  A 
moment passed when Dixie's voice came through loud 
and clear to acknowledge the call.  "We've got a 
silent alarm here at the station, a Code I.  Vitals 
to follow."

"Standing by, Squad 51."

"Okay, partner, here we go."  Johnny nodded  his head 
slightly and immediately squeezed his eyes shut in 
obvious discomfort.  "Rampart, we have a 27 year old 
male who was involved in a minor traffic accident 
this morning with the squad.  He was rear-ended by 
another car when he was stopped at a traffic light."

"Roy, is it Johnny?" asked Dixie.

He smiled at his partner, covered the phone's 
speaker, and said, "Dixie wants to know if you're the 
Code I.  I wonder how did she ever figure it out?"


Roy chuckled and said in his most professional tone, 
"That is affirmative, Rampart."  Roy then read the 
numbers off for Johnny's respiration and blood 
pressure.  "His pupils are equal and reactive, 
Rampart. Victim is complaining of headache which has 
become more severe in the last twenty minutes or so, 
as well as neck and shoulder tenderness."

"Squad 51, stand by."

Roy held on to the receiver and retook Johnny's blood 
pressure.  It remained somewhat elevated, but not so 
high that Roy would consider it alarming.  "You do 
realize they're going to want you to come in, don't 
"No way."
"Mark my words, Johnny."

"Roy, you can't be serious!  There's no -."

"-Hold on, Johnny. I'm sorry, would you repeat that, 

"Use spinal precautions, Squad 51.  Is there an 
ambulance available yet? 

"Negative, Rampart.  I'll call for one now."

"Bring the patient in as soon as the ambulance 
arrives, Squad 51."

"That's affirmative, Rampart. Over."

"You're kidding," said Johnny incredulously.

"Hate to say I told you so, but-"

"-Don't say it.  And I'm not going in a damn 
ambulance," declared John.

"Um, sorry, partner, but you're not only going in an 
ambulance, but I've also been instructed to take 
spinal precautions."

"No," he practically shouted, "you've got to be 

"No, I'm not. C'mon, partner.  Let's get you ready to 
be checked out."  He stood up and went to the exit.  

He arrived immediately, as if he might have been 
waiting nearby and ready to be called.  "Yeah, Roy, 
what do you need?"  

"I'll need a C-collar and backboard.  Rampart wants 
me to take full spinal precautions."

"Spinal precautions?"  Chet looked shocked.  "But, 
Roy, he was fine!  He was standing and walking 
around; hell, he treated the other driver for crying 
out loud."

"I know, and it's probably only precautionary, but 
he's complaining that his head, neck, and shoulder 
hurt.  Maybe Rampart doesn't want to take any chances 
that a minor injury will be aggravated."

"Oh. Sure, that makes sense."  Chet shook his head as 
went to go get the equipment, and Roy asked the 
captain to call for an ambulance.  

Moments later, Chet appeared with the requested 
equipment.  "Okay, Johnny, let's get this on you."  
Roy moved as gently as possible to get the C-Collar 
around Johnny's neck.  

"I hate these things.  I swear they make me feel 

"Yeah, well it's for your own good, Gage," said Chet, 
who remained to assist, while the others filtered in 
as well.

"Okay, let's get you on the board," said Roy.  
"Ready?  On my count, Chet, we're going to roll him, 
keeping his back and neck lined up, okay?  I'll slide 
the board under him and then we'll roll him back the 
same way - straight spine and neck."

Chet nodded and concentrated hard to do just what Roy 
asked of him.  This was, after all, Gage, his 
favorite pigeon... and his friend. 

"Oh, God," groaned John.  "Shit, that was a whole lot 
harder than it should have been."

The sirens announced the ambulance's arrival.

"Hang in there, Johnny.  Let's go and get you fixed 
up, okay?"


Dr. Early, as the neurologist on duty, got first 
crack at Johnny in the ER.  He ordered several tests 
and while they waited for the portable x-ray, he 
tried to pinpoint his patient's problems.

"So exactly where does it hurt, Johnny?  Try to be as 
specific as possible," requested Early.

"Well, I've got a really wicked headache, and my neck 

"Okay, where exactly?" 
"Just all around it, Doc.  It's kind of stiff."

"Does it hurt when you don't move it?"

"Yeah, but not as much as when I do," John replied.

"Anything else?" asked Dr. Early.

"Yeah, my left shoulder seems kind of tender."

"Okay.  Tell me about the accident, Johnny?"

"Well, that's the crazy thing, doc.  It wasn't much 
of an accident for me, I mean, Charlie's not gonna 
find one good reason to get on my case because he's 
not gonna find one darn scratch on his precious 


"The department's head mechanic."

"Oh, I see," Dr. Early said, and smiled.  "Was there 
any damage to the other car?"

"Yeah, the front end was pretty much smashed in, but 
it was one of those Gremlins; you know, those really 
ugly little cars? But, Doc, the squad was fine."

"Johnny, you'd be surprised at how much trauma the 
body can go through from one of these so-called minor 
accidents. It's a very common misperception that if 
your vehicle doesn't sustain a lot of damage then 
you're not supposed to get hurt.  The reality, my 
friend, is that even low impact crashes can yield 
some pretty traumatic results.  

"You said the squad didn't have a scratch on her 
right?" probed Early, to which Johnny nodded.  "And 
the other driver's car had some pretty nasty damage, 

"Yeah, doc, that's right," agreed Johnny.

"Well, consider this then.  That force with which the 
little car hit, and produced some serious front-end 
damage to it, had to go somewhere.  The squad didn't 
absorb it, because you said there was no damage.  
Guess what absorbed the force of the impact?"

"You're kidding?"

"No, I'm not.  You absorbed that force, and if I was 
a betting man, I'd say you had yourself a pretty good 
case of whiplash."

"Well, if it's just whiplash, then it's not serious, 

"It's treatable, Johnny, and while I would agree it's 
not a serious condition, it is something you need to 
take seriously."

"What do you mean?" asked Johnny.  All of the talk 
and explanation were hard enough to follow what with 
his pounding headache, stiff neck, and tender 
shoulder.  Now that Dr. Early was talking in riddles, 
Johnny's head was really starting to throb. 

Early quickly observed his patient's tension 
increasing as Johnny's eyes closed tight in an 
attempt to ward off the pain.  "John, why don't we 
wait until all of the tests come back and we'll be 
able to make a final diagnosis, okay?  Take a few 
minutes and just relax."

"Doc, I'm really hurting here.  Can you give me 
anything for the pain?"

"No morphine yet; I have to be sure that hard head of 
yours didn't sustain a concussion.  I can get you 
some acetaminophen."

"Better than nothing," muttered Johnny.

Early smiled, patted the younger man on the shoulder 
in consolation, and left to hurry up the results. 

Roy stepped into the room as quietly as possible, not 
wanting to awaken his partner if he managed to fall 
asleep.  By the time he'd left him earlier, Johnny 
was having a great deal of difficulty managing the 
pain, so Roy knew that any sleep he could get now was 

"That you, Roy?" mumbled John, his eyes still closed.

"I'm with Chet on this one; how do you do that?" 
asked Roy with a wry smile.

"I'm just amazing," John replied in kind.

"How are you doing?  Pain any more manageable?"

"A little.  They finally got the results back and saw 
I was right all along.  No concussion, so they gave 
me some Tylenol with codeine," he answered.  "It's 

"Good. What else did the doc say?" asked Roy.

"I've got me a good ol' fashioned case of whiplash."

"I kind of figured," murmured Roy.

"Funny, it never occurred to me.  I just figured 
since I was okay earlier, that I was, well, okay.  
Apparently symptoms don't usually manifest until a 
couple of hours after an accident - sometimes even 
days. Doc Early said I was lucky."


"Yeah, the fact that I started hurting pretty quickly 
after the accident meant that I could get treated 
that much faster."

"Oh, sure.  Well, I guess you're gonna miss a shift, 

"Yeah, at least."

"Really?  How long can this go on?"

"Anywhere from a few days to a few weeks.  But that's 
not the worst of it, Roy."

"It's not?"

"Uh-uh.  I've got to wear this damn cervical collar 
for the next few days.  I hate wearing these things!" 
he groused.

"So I've heard." 

The door opened at that point and in walked the rest 
of Station 51's A-Shift staff. 

"Can you handle a few more visitors?" asked Captain 

"Sure, guys, c'mon in," invited Johnny.

"Nice fashion statement, Gage," razzed Chet.

He sidestepped the bait and retorted, "I've got one 
in every color, Kelly.  I can arrange it so you can 
share, if you'd like."

"Okay, okay," interrupted Hank.  "Let's keep the 
harassment to a minimum, alright, Kelly?"

"Hey, Gage is the one threatening to put me in one of 
those contraptions!"

"Somehow I don't think Johnny is going to be able to 
follow through on that threat anytime soon, pal," 
reminded Hank.

"Yeah, well, Gage knows I'm just kidding him." Kelly 
paused for a moment and then looked at Johnny.  "You 
do know that, right?  I mean you're my favorite -"

"-Don't say it, Chet.  In fact, go home, Chet."  
Johnny said it with half a smile.  If Chet didn't get 
off one pigeon reference, Johnny would wonder if the 
guy stopped caring.

"Listen, I think we're all going to go home," said 
Johnny.  "Dr. Early said I can go home after a 
physical therapist shows me some range of motion 
exercises to do."

"Can you drive?" asked Mike. "We drove the Rover over 
just in case."

"I guess so."

"Not today, Johnny," contradicted Dr. Early as he 
walked in on the tail-end of the conversation.  
"Aside from the fact that you're on pain medication, 
you're probably a little shakier than you might 
realize from being involved in that accident today."

"Aw, it was just a fender-bender, Doc," countered 

"It was more than that, Chet, and you know it," 
reminded Marco.  "That little Gremlin had its whole 
front end smashed in, and if I recall correctly, you 
were the first one to run over to the squad to see if 
Johnny was all right."

"Hey, you know I was just checking on my -."

"-Do not even think of saying it, Chet.  Go home," 
Johnny interjected vehemently.  

"Someone needs to give this young man a lift home."

"I can drive you home, Johnny," responded Roy.

"I guess I'll leave the truck here," said John.

"I'll follow you two to your place and drive the 
truck," offered Chet. "Then Roy can give me a lift 
back here, if that's okay with you, Roy?"  

"Sure, Chet."  Roy couldn't help but smile knowingly; 
for all of Chet's teasing, the man really did look 
out for his favorite pigeon.


It took seven shifts before Johnny returned to the 
station.  He walked into the locker room to find Roy 
and Chet already there.  

"Hey, Gage, 'bout time you got back to earning a 
living," teased Chet.

"I'm glad to see you, too, Chet."

Roy smiled.  He'd missed the good-natured bantering 
between his two friends.  "Welcome back, partner.  I, 
for one, am extremely glad to see you."

"Got stuck with Brice last shift, didn't you?" Johnny 
asked with a small smile.

"How'd you guess?"  Roy watched as Johnny got himself 
ready for the shift.  Something wasn't right, but he 
couldn't quite put his finger on it.  "How are you 
doing?" he finally asked.


"Just okay?" Roy probed.

"I'm fine, Roy."

"You still look a little, I don't know - stiff?"

"I'm fine."

Hank stuck his head in the door and announced, "Roll 
call in ten minutes gentlemen.  Welcome back, John."

"Thanks, Cap," acknowledged Johnny.

"Well, I am ready for a cup of coffee," declared 
Chet.  "If you're nice to me, I may even save you a 

"No, thanks," responded Johnny.

"Huh?  John Gage refusing caffeine?  You're kidding!" 
exclaimed Chet.

"Chet, all I said was I didn't want any coffee," John 
shot back in frustration.  "Jeeze, it's not a big 

"Okay, okay; all the more for me," he teased. 

Chet left the locker room before he could hear John 
mutter, "They suggested I cut it out, that's all." 

The red flags started flying when Roy heard that.  
"Who?  Why?"

"Huh? Why, what?"  John didn't realize he'd spoken 
aloud; he certainly hadn't meant for Roy to hear him.

"Who suggested that you cut out caffeine and why?" 
Roy persisted.

"Roy, it's not a big deal.  Don't turn this into 

"C'mon, partner, what's going on?"

John sighed.  He knew Roy would persist, so he gave 
up and said, "Look, the caffeine might aggravate any 
headaches I might still get on occasion.  It's not a 
big deal."

"You're still having headaches?" Roy asked. 

"Roy, stop it."

"If you're still having headaches, maybe you should 
get the doctor to check you out?" he suggested.

Johnny blew up. "I've been checked out!  That's why 
the doctor told me to stop drinking coffee!  So would 
you just drop it?"  

He slammed his locker door and walked out.  Roy stood 
there, surprised by the sudden display of anger.  
There was obviously something more going on with 
Johnny than just caffeine withdrawal; now if only his 
partner would 'fess up.


The day went on without any more outbursts from 
Johnny, but conversation was kept to a bare minimum 
as well. The younger member of the team stayed 
somewhat secluded from the rest of the group while 
they were in the station.  John finished his duties 
of taking care of their sleeping quarters, and chose 
to remain in there when he'd completed the task.

The others, though a bit confounded, decided to leave 
him alone.  Roy, on the other hand, was more than 
just confused; he was concerned. When Marco called 
everyone together for lunch, Roy went into the dorm 
to let Johnny know that food was on.  When Johnny met 
the news with ambivalence, Roy nodded and went 
straight to the captain.

"Close the door, Roy."

"Something's wrong, but he won't talk."

"Did something happen on one of your runs today?"

"No, Cap, nothing. The two runs we were on were 
routine.  Besides, he was off-kilter before we even 
went to roll call this morning."

"Maybe he needs to be checked out by Rampart?"

"Cap, I'd suggested that; he nearly bit my head off.  
Apparently he's been under a doctor's care."
"So, what do you think?  Is he fit for duty?"

"That's just it; I don't know.  He was perfectly 
professional on the runs, but that was it. Nothing 
beyond what he had to do medically."  Roy paused, 
giving consideration as to what he was going to say 

"I'm not sure what he would be like in a fire, Cap."

"What do you mean?"

"He was very focused on the victim, and he did 
everything right while we were administering the 
necessary medical care, but at the same time - I 
don't know how to explain it - it's as if Johnny was 
going through the motions because his mind was on 
something else.  I mean, it's like he knows his job 
so well, he was on automatic pilot, and neither 
victim had any life-threatening conditions.

"I guess I'm just worried that if something out of 
the ordinary occurred, I don't know if he'd be able 
to handle it," admitted Roy reluctantly.

"What do you think is the reason for that?" asked 
Hank with concern.

"The only thing I can think of is that he's still 
feeling pain.  I'm sure he wouldn't take anything 
stronger than aspirin for pain relief while on duty, 
so I gotta figure he's in a whole lot of hurt."

"Should I take him off-duty?"

"Cap, I don't know.  He's here, so he was cleared for 
duty.  The question for me is, was he totally honest 
with the doctor about how he was feeling?  If not, 
then he may be taking a risk with his own health as 
well as his ability to perform in a high risk 

"Okay.  Do me a favor, Roy, ask John to come here."

Roy nodded and left the office.  Marco, Chet, and 
Mike looked up from the kitchen table, trying hard 
not to look too curious, but failing miserably.  
Finally, Chet could hold back no longer.
"Is Gage in trouble?"

"Now why would you say that?  I was the one who went 
into Cap's office, for crying out loud," responded 
Roy tersely.

"Yeah," Kelly agreed, "but now you're going to go 
tell Gage that the captain wants to speak with him, 

Roy looked at him with disbelief.  "You were 

"No!" he answered quickly - too quickly.  "Well, 
maybe just a little, but Roy, it's just because we're 
concerned, too."

"Look, let Cap handle this, okay?  Johnny's having a 
tough enough time at the moment; he doesn't need all 
of us crowding him, okay?"

"Okay, okay," said Chet.  

As Roy moved to go into the dorm, Chet called out, 
"He's okay, isn't he, Roy?"

"I don't know, Chet.  I hope so, but I honestly don't 
know yet."  

Johnny knew what Roy wanted before he even said 
anything.  He simply stood up and followed Roy 
silently back to the kitchen.  No eye contact was 
made between any of the guys and Johnny.  

John was having a hard enough time keeping it 
together; he couldn't risk looking at the sympathetic 
or worse, judgmental glances his colleagues gave him.

It was a stupid accident.  The damn squad didn't have 
a scratch on it.  No matter how many times someone 
explained to him that occupants inside of vehicles 
which sustain little to no damage in a rear-ender can 
still be injured.

The problem was, John never thought of whiplash as a 
legitimate injury; no one he ever knew did either.  
It was always a condition to be questioned; hell, he 
was among many who actually made fun of the 
condition.  Johnny had always figured that people who 
claimed they had whiplash were just looking for a 
fast buck.

Well, Johnny was soon finding out that it was more 
than just a scheme to make money and it sure took a 
lot more money than he thought he'd ever have to 
spend out of pocket.  

The insurance company didn't cover the chiropractor, 
which was the only treatment that was giving him any 
kind of relief lately.  The heating pad was out of 
pocket; the prescriptions for muscle relaxants were 
out of pocket.

But it still hurt.  And it seemed to hurt all the 
time.  And he was getting damned sick of it.  

The test results indicated everything looked normal; 
he'd just have to go about his business and 
eventually things would start to feel normal again.  
Even Dr. Early told him that he should go back to 
work; it would take some time to get the kinks worked 
out, but that his body should be able to handle it.  

So, he came to work. He was doing his job.  So he 
wasn't his usual, happy-go-lucky, carefree and 
forgiving, self.  He was here, trying to get through 
the shift and not think of the constant discomfort.

The last thing he needed was for his captain or his 
shift-mates to get on his case about it.  But here he 
was, getting ready for his captain to do just that, 
with his partner standing in the corner seemingly 
chomping at the bit to find out what was going on 
with him.

"So, pal? You want to fill me in on what's going on 
with you?"

"I'm not sure what you want me to fill you in on, 
Cap," Gage said evasively.  He avoided looking 
directly at Hank and Roy.

"John, you haven't acted like yourself all shift," 
explained Hank.  "You've been moody, way too quiet, 
and look damned unhappy."  He paused for a moment, 
and said, "John?" 

He repeated the man's name until the paramedic 
finally made eye contact with his superior.  "John, I 
just want to know what I can do to help?  What can 
any of us do?" he asked with a nod toward Roy.

John stood quietly, mulling over what he wanted, no, 
needed to say.  He had to get this worked out, and he 
knew he needed the support and understanding of his 
captain and partner.  But he also knew that it wasn't 
going to be easy for him over the next couple of 
weeks (he hoped it would only be a couple of more 
weeks,) and Johnny needed everyone to give him a 
little slack.

"Cap," and then nodding at Roy and indicating to him 
that he should move closer and join them, "Roy, I 
wish there was something more that you could do, but 
to be honest, the best thing is to just give me some 
space for a little while longer."

"Johnny, are you okay to work?" asked Roy, cutting 
directly to the chase.

"Yeah, Roy, Dr. Early gave me clearance.  The x-rays 
are negative; I've just got some residual muscle 
strain that will have to work itself out.  Believe it 
or not, the best way to do that is by keeping active, 
so I don't stiffen up."

"But can you lift in a rescue or handle hose at a 
fire?" asked Hank, ever pragmatic.

"I've been cleared for duty, Captain.  Yes, I can."

"So, why the personality change, pal?" asked Hank 

"I'm still feeling a little uncomfortable, that's 
all," answered John.

"A little uncomfortable?" echoed Roy in a tone that 
quickly let John know he recognized his partner's 
words for the understatement that they were.

John allowed himself a small smile.  It never ceased 
to amaze him that Roy was able to read him so well.  
"Well, maybe more than a little."


"I'm hurting all the time, Roy."  It was something he 
didn't want to admit to out loud, but now that he 
did, it was almost a relief.

"Why didn't you say something?" asked Roy.

"The doc said I should be back to my old self again 
in the next couple of weeks. It wasn't supposed to be 
a big deal; I mean, who the hell ever really suffered 
from whiplash, you know?"  He paused to take a breath 
before he admitted out loud, "I'd always thought it 
was a ruse for people to get insurance money."

"And you figured we'd think the same of you."

"Yeah, well, I've been accused of trying to hatch a 
few schemes in the past, Roy."

"Yeah, but they were always honest ventures; they may 
have been really stupid ones, but they were always 
honest," he reminded with a smile.

"Gee, thanks a lot."  Johnny returned the smile.  It 
felt good to know he'd have his partner's support and 
understanding, at least.
It was the other guys, well, one guy in particular, 
that he didn't want to have to deal with.

"To be honest, this whole thing has knocked the hell 
out of me, and I don't want to deal with Chet.  I 
suppose it was easier for me to shut down then to 
have to put up with his comments, or worse, the 
phantom and his tricks."

"I can assure you," interjected Cap, "that you will 
not have to worry about the phantom making any 
unannounced visits or Chet making any unnecessary 
comments."  John nodded in gratitude for that 
promise.  "Besides," continued Hank, "I don't think 
you have to worry."

Johnny's expression was one big question mark, so 
Hank explained.  "I think Chet was almost as worried 
about you as Roy was."

"Yeah, right," he huffed.

"No, partner," Roy quickly said, "Cap's right.  Chet 
didn't stop asking about you for the entire three 

"Well, damn," Johnny said, smiling, "that's nice to 

"Of course, John," remarked Hank, "you realize that 
if you asked Kelly about this, he'd deny it from now 
to his dying day."

All three chuckled at that.  Roy nodded and Johnny 
quickly agreed.  "I guess that's why I'll never 
mention it to him."

"I think that's probably for the best," agreed Hank.

"It's still nice to know, though.  It's nice to know 
I can count on all of you till this passes."

"And it will pass, partner.  Just remember, you don't 
have to go through this on your own."

John's colleagues proved Roy was a man of his word.  
His shift-mates offered him just the right amount of 
companionship when he wasn't hurting as much and 
lifts to the therapist when he was.  One day Johnny 
had mentioned that he wished he'd remembered to bring 
the heating pad with him to the station, and by the 
end of the shift he had four. 

Hank and Roy had called their wives to pick one up, 
while Marco asked his mom to bring an extra one from 
their house to the station.  After the engine crew 
had finished cleaning up a trash fire, Chet insisted 
upon stopping the engine at the nearest Vons 
supermarket to buy one.  John knew the members of A-
shift were great guys, but it was this experience 
that taught him how kind and compassionate they were, 

Even Chet.

It took some time, but one week Johnny awoke and 
realized he was finally pain-free.  He packed away 
all of the heating pads, and took the aspirin bottle 
off of his nightstand and put it back in the medicine 

The c-collar, which he'd taken to wearing during his 
off hours for the extra support, was boxed up and 
placed in the back of his closet. 

Then there was the day that he found himself upstairs 
in the records department at Rampart, getting a copy 
of his medical report for the central office.  It was 
there that he ran into Karen Richardson, and it was 
then that John Gage took the time to look at the 
administrative assistant not as a victim, but as a 
woman - a damn fine looking woman.

They made a date for that very weekend.

And finally, it was time to let his friends know that 
the real Johnny Gage was back.  He stopped at the 
local K-Mart, went into the party section, and picked 
up a package of the needed supplies.

He arrived early to the station and quickly went 
about setting things up.  By the time the rest of the 
crew arrived, John had accomplished just what he'd 
wanted to do.  He went into the dayroom, sat down 
with the newspaper, and waited. 

And what he heard was music to his ears...

"Aw, damn!  I don't have a dry shirt!  Damn, who the 
hell - GAGE!"  

Suddenly Chet Kelly came running out of the locker 
room, dripping wet.  He stood directly in front of 
Johnny with his face twisted in what looked like 
anger.  The others gathered around the periphery, and 
waited for the explosion to take place, when 
suddenly, to everyone's relief, Chet broke into a 
huge grin.

"Hey, my pigeon has come home to roost!  'Bout damn 
time, Gage!"

"Thanks, Chet, it's good to be back." 

The End

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