Roy went straight to the hospital from work. He
was glad to see that Johnny was ready and waiting for him when he arrived
with the required wheelchair. “Are you ready to leave?”
“Yep, all packed. Thanks for coming to take me
home, Roy.” Johnny was glad that everything had worked out with his “family.”
He didn’t know where he would have gone or what he would have done if he
had resigned from the department.
“Well, Joanne and I would like to have you stay
with us a couple of days and let your shoulder heal a little more. The
kids would like to see you, too, and Johnny, we need to let you know how
much we really care and show you how sorry we are for ignoring you.” Roy
held his breath for Johnny’s answer.
“Thanks, Roy. I’d like that.” Johnny wanted to
let Roy know that they were on the road to healing. “I want to stop by
Nicole’s room before we leave.”
“Ok, let’s go.”
Roy was pushing Johnny towards Nicole’s room. “Johnny, it’s probably
none of my business, but can I ask you a question?”
Johnny had a pretty good idea of what Roy wanted to ask him. “Sure,
Roy, you can ask me anything.”
“I got the feeling that Nicole is more than just someone who helped
with a rescue to you.”
“Well, I can’t explain it, Roy, but I really want to ask her out.
She is so different from the type of girls I usually ask out and we just
met that morning. But there is something about her that I want to get
to know more.”
“Well, it is obvious that you care about her. I just hope she’s
alright.” Roy was happy for his friend. The conversation stopped when
they reached Nicole’s room. Roy sent up a silent prayer that things would
work out for these two.
Two days later, Dixie opened the door to Nicole’s room and saw Johnny
sitting there. She quietly backed out of the room and smiled as she realized
that Johnny was interested in this girl. ~I just hope she likes him.
Johnny saw all the tubes, wires and machines hooked up to Nicole.
He pulled the plastic hospital chair as close to the bed as he could
get and sat where he could hold her hand. He looked at her face. She
was so white and even asleep he could tell she was in pain. Standing up
he kissed her on the forehead. “Please be ok, Nicole. I really would
like to get to know you better.” Then he sat down, with her hand still
in his, and fell asleep with his head on the bed.
Nicole opened her eyes and wondered where she was. There was something
in her mouth and she started gagging. The movements set off the alarms
“Nicole, you’re ok. You are on a respirator to let your lung heal.
Angel, you need to calm down. It’s going to be ok. I’m right here.”
Nicole’s eyes misted when she saw Johnny sitting next to her bed.
He was holding her hand. His soothing voice calmed her and by the time
the nurse came in to turn off the alarm, she was lying still.
As the nurse turned off the alarm, Johnny noticed Nicole shifting
to try to get comfortable. “Angel, are you in any pain?”
Nicole started making motions with her hands and Johnny knew right
away that she was talking to him in sign language. It was another thing
they had realized they had in common on their hike. ~A little, I was just
trying to get comfortable. I didn’t mean to wake you. ~ He had called her
Angel. Nicole would not let her emotions take over. He was just being nice.
“I’ll take care of that.” Johnny was getting ready to ask the nurse
when Dixie and Dr. Bracket walked into the room.
“Take care of what, Johnny?” Dixie smiled at Nicole.
“She says she is in a little pain. But from the looks on her face
whenever she moves, it is more than just a little pain. I think she is
really in a lot of pain. Is there anything she can have for it?” Johnny
never took his eyes off Nicole as he spoke. He was getting lost in her
“Yes, it is time for her pain medication. Why don’t you step out
so I can examine her first and then Dixie can give her the medication?”
Kelly Bracket was amused by the look on Johnny’s face. Johnny was smitten.
“Ok, but I’ll be just outside the door. Then as soon as they are
done, I’ll be back. See you in a minute, Angel.” Johnny leaned over and
kissed her on the forehead and then went to wait in the hall.
“I think he likes you.” Dixie saw the tear slip down Nicole’s cheek
as she watched Johnny leave. “What’s wrong?”
Nicole picked up the pen and paper the nurse had given her earlier
to communicate with. ~I think he is just being kind. I don’t know how anyone
like him could like someone like me. ~ Nicole took a deep breath to keep
the tears from her eyes.
“Why would you say something like that?” Dixie knew that Johnny
was interested in her. She could tell by the way he couldn’t take his
eyes off her and the way he had actually behaved during his hospital stay.
He hadn’t tried to pick up one nurse. This lady had to be special. Dixie
had spent some breaks with Nicole, but didn’t know a lot about her childhood.
Now she wondered what Nicole meant. From what Dixie knew Nicole was a kind,
gentle, caring person. Johnny would be very lucky if Nicole cared for him
like Dixie was sure Johnny cared for her.
~No one has ever loved me. My parents and family told me I am not
worth loving and should never have been born. ~ Nicole closed her eyes
indicating she did not want to talk about it any more.
Carol was giving Nicole her pain medication and Dixie asked her
to stay and help Kel with his exam. She asked her to stay until Nicole
fell asleep. Then she went to talk to Johnny. Finding him leaning against
the wall, she grabbed his arm. “Come on; let’s go get a cup of coffee.”
“But, Dix, I told her I would be right back.” Johnny wondered what
“Carol is going to stay with her until she falls asleep. The pain
medication should kick in soon. I need to talk to you.”
“Is there something wrong?”
“Yes, but not physically. Physically she is doing great. I think
she has your luck when it comes to beating injuries.”
“What is it, Dix?”
“Wait until we get to the cafeteria.”
Johnny was getting antsy by the time they had reached the cafeteria,
got their coffee and found a secluded table where they could talk.
“Johnny, I know this is none of my business, but are you interested
“I have thought of asking her out. Why, Dix?”
“Well, when you left her room, a tear slipped down her cheek as
she watched you leave. I told her that I thought you liked her. When
she looked back at me, she wrote that she thought you were only being
kind and that she didn’t know how anyone like you could like someone
like her. When I asked her why she would say something like that, she
wrote that no one has ever loved her and that her parents told her she
was not worth loving and should never have been born. I think there is
more to it than just her parents telling her she wasn’t worth loving. I
don’t know what happened to her, but I believe it was something terrible.
I know from the few times we have talked that she is really a kind, gentle,
“What?!?! How could anyone tell someone else they aren’t worth loving—or
that they should never have been born? Dix, I only met her four days ago,
but when we talked as we hiked we were so comfortable with each other.
It was like we had known each other all our lives. You are right. There
is such a kindness and gentleness about her. And, Dix, when we rescued those
kids, she was determined to help. There is just something special about
her. I wonder what she went through growing up.”
“I could tell by the way you were looking at her that you were interested
in her. I don’t know what, but something has happened in her life that
makes her insecure. I have a feeling it involves at least emotional abuse
if not more. If you do start to date her, make sure that if nothing comes
of it, you can at least stay friends with her. Something tells me that
if you don’t it would be the last straw.”
“Dix, just between you and me, I think I am already in love with
her after spending just one day with her. Even if it doesn’t work out,
she is one very special lady and I want her for a close friend for the rest
of my life.”
“I figured as much, Johnny. But now we have to convince her of that.”
Dixie patted Johnny’s hand as they both stood.
“Thanks for telling me, Dix.” Johnny gave her a quick kiss on the
cheek and headed back to Nicole’s room trying to devise a plan to show
her how special she really was.
Nicole had lost the fight to stay awake and was sleeping when Johnny
got back to her room. He pulled the chair over and picked up her hand.
He soon fell asleep with her hand firmly in his.
Since Johnny had not left Nicole’s room in over
24 hours, when he fell asleep with his head on the bed, he slept through
the morning nurses’ and doctors’ checks. Nicole slept through them, too.
It was just after noon when Johnny’s empty stomach started to protest and
woke him. He looked at Nicole who seemed to be sleeping peacefully. Johnny
sat deep in thought watching her face as she slept. It was beyond him
how anyone could tell their child that they weren’t worth loving and should
never have been born. His mind was trying to find reasons why someone would
do something like that when the door opened. Roy and Joanne had decided to
stop by the hospital that afternoon while they were running errands to see
if Johnny was still there. The head ER nurse had mentioned that he was there
when Roy brought in a heart attack patient in the middle of the night. When
they opened the door to room 402, they found Johnny sitting beside Nicole’s
bed with his head resting on his arms and her hand safely tucked in his.
Roy wondered once again what this lady meant to Johnny. They turned to leave,
but before they could get to the door, Roy heard Johnny’s soft voice.
“Yeah, Junior, I heard you were still here and thought we would
check on both of you. How is she?”
“Well, she’s in a lot of pain but is doing better.”
Nicole woke as she heard the two men talking softly. She remembered
not to set the vent’s alarms off, so the others in the room didn’t know
she was awake.
“I’m glad. How long did Dr. Bracket say she would be on the vent?”
Roy wondered about this lady who had captured his partner’s affection.
She didn’t look like the type of girl Johnny usually fell for.
“A couple of days—just to give her lung a chance to start healing.
She’ll have her shoulder immobilized and the cast on her leg for six to
eight weeks. Her ribs are wrapped, too. I’m concerned about when she gets
released from here. When we were talking, she told me that she didn’t have
any family and had not made any close friends. She won’t be able to get
around with a cast on her leg and no use of her arm. I don’t know what
she is going to do, but I am going to come up with a solution somehow.”
“She doesn’t have anyone?”
“No, all her family is dead and she hasn’t really found anyone she
felt she could become close friends with. All the people she knows are
just acquaintances or coworkers. I got the feeling from talking with her
that she is afraid of getting close to anyone for some reason. It’s almost
like she doesn’t feel like she’s worthy of anyone’s friendship.”
Joanne looked at Roy who knew what she was thinking. Receiving a
slight nod indicating his agreement, Joanne turned back to Johnny. “She
is welcome to stay with us if she is willing. I can tell that you already
plan to spend every spare minute with her, but you are worried about her
while you are at work.”
“Yes, I was going to spend all my free time with her, but I wasn’t
going to impose on you. Are you sure?”
“Johnny, we’re sure. Besides, on our days off you can help me with
my ‘honey-do’ lists while Nicole supervises.” Roy smiled as Johnny’s face
broke into a grin. “I’ll let you do the light work so we don’t injure
your shoulder any more.”
“If it is ok with her, I really appreciate the offer. I was worried
about what to do when I am working. Thank you both so much.” Johnny appreciated
the friendship Joanne and Roy extended to him and now Nicole. They really
were his family. He was back where he belonged—both in the DeSotos’ lives
and with the men of Station 51.
It was at that moment that Dixie came in to check on Nicole. “How’s
the best paramedic team in the county? And how are you Joanne?”
All three answered “good” at the same time.
As she walked towards the bed, she realized that Nicole was awake.
“And how is my favorite case worker?”
Johnny turned to look at Nicole. “Hi, Angel. How long have you been
Signing to Johnny, her eyes were bright. ~Hi. I’ve been listening
to all of you. Been awake for about five minutes.~
“Then you heard Roy and Joanne’s offer for you to stay with them
when you are released from here, right?”
~Yes, but who are they?~
When Johnny saw the insecurity in Nicole’s eyes, he realized he
hadn’t introduced them yet. “I’m sorry. Nicole, I’d like you to meet
my partner, best-friend and ‘brother’, Roy DeSoto and his wonderful wife,
~How are the teens from the hike?~
“Like you said when you checked them over in the cave, one girl
had a broken arm and they all had some cuts and bruises. A couple of
them needed stitches, but all in all they are doing great. They have learned
a lesson to not go into caves or climbing without knowing if it is safe
or not.” Johnny was proud of what Nicole had done. As he looked at her face
he knew that he was in love. “Angel, are you willing to stay at the DeSoto’s
home while you need help to get around?”
~What if they don’t like me? I don’t want to be a bother to anyone.
I don’t want to impose.~
“Angel, you have nothing to worry about. They’ll love you. They
are offering—you won’t be a bother or imposing. Is it ok?”
Nicole reluctantly nodded her head so she wouldn’t set off the vent
alarm. Her heart melted—Johnny kept calling her Angel.
“You’ll see—it’s going to be okay. I’ll be there whenever I have
free time.” Johnny noticed Nicole’s hesitation and didn’t want to push
her. “If you really don’t want to, we’ll figure something else out.”
~No, it will be okay. I will stay with your friends. Thank you and
thank them for me.~
Johnny smiled as he turned to Joanne and Roy. “She said to say thank
you for letting her stay with you.”
“Why don’t the three of you go get a cup of coffee while I check
her over? Then you can come back and visit.” Dixie needed to get Nicole’s
vital signs for the update on her chart.
Nicole grabbed the paper and pen that was always on her stand. ~Johnny
needs food and rest in a bed.~
“Johnny, she says you need to get a good meal and a decent sleep
in a bed instead of this chair.” Dixie knew exactly what Nicole meant from
her short note.
“But I don’t want her to be alone.” Johnny didn’t want to leave
Nicole as she had no one to come and visit her.
~It’s alright, Johnny. I’ll be ok. You really need to get some decent
rest and a good meal.~
“I don’t want you to be alone.”
~But you need to take care of yourself. I’ll be okay.~
“I’ll stay with her for awhile after Dixie is done so Roy can take
you to get a good meal and then over to our house to take a nap in a bed
for a few hours. Then you can come back later to see how she is doing.”
Joanne was already impressed with the woman lying in the bed. She was badly
injured but was concerned about the teens and Johnny and it looked like
she could be almost as stubborn. Joanne’s instinct told her that this
lady cared deeply about others. What had hurt her so bad that she had
no family or friends? It wasn’t because she didn’t care about others. What
had others done to her?
~That’s a great idea.~
“She’s says that it is a great idea.” Dixie was starting to put
the blood pressure cuff on Nicole as she read her note.
“Are you sure?” Johnny knew Nicole would be in good hands, but he
had seen the insecurity in her eyes.
~Yes, it will give me an opportunity to get to know your friend—if
I can stay awake.~
Johnny grinned. “Ok, but I’ll be back as soon as I get a meal and
a nap.” He realized how true his statement to Dixie was—he was falling
in love with Nicole. He didn’t know how, but he was. He walked over,
kissed Nicole on the forehead and squeezed her hand. Just before he left,
he leaned down so only she could hear him. “I’ll be back, Angel. I love
you.” Then he followed Roy and Joanne out the door so Dixie could finish
Nicole couldn’t believe what she had heard. Her eyes followed Johnny
as he left. There was a twinkle in her eyes when he turned around and smiled
his biggest smile for her just before he walked out of the door, blowing
her a kiss.
Johnny filled Roy and Joanne in on the little he and Dixie had “discovered”
about Nicole as they waited for Dixie to finish her exam. All three were
quiet when Johnny finished.
“I want to find out more about her background, but what I really
want to do is to show her how special she really is. I don’t know how,
but I know that I am in love with her.” Johnny looked at his best friends.
“Johnny, she is special and I know you can show her that. Don’t
worry—Roy and I will help you show her that we care. No one has a right
to treat his child like that. Now go get something to eat and some rest.
Roy can pick up the kids from school and I will stay right here by her
side.” Joanne knew why Johnny could love Nicole so fast. Joanne’s intuition
told her they both were very kind, very gentle, very sensitive, very caring
Johnny gave Joanne a hug and whispered thank you in her ear
and followed Roy down the hall as Dixie left Nicole’s cubicle and allowed
Nicole had once again lost the fight against the painkillers and
had fallen asleep by the time Joanne had entered the cubicle and pulled
up a chair. Like Johnny, when she was sleeping she looked like a scared
little girl. “Nicole, what have you had to go through during your life?”
Johnny was lost in thought as Roy drove towards the DeSoto home.
Roy knew that eventually Johnny would let him know what was on his mind.
He smiled as halfway home, Johnny did just that. “Roy?”
“You’re a father. Could you ever tell Chris and Jenny that they
weren’t worth loving and should never have been born?
“No, Johnny, I couldn’t. Chris and Jenny as well as Jo are my world.
I don’t know what I would do without any of them.”
“That’s what I thought. I love them both so much and they aren’t
even my kids. How could anyone tell his or her own child something like
that? Why did they even have a child if that was the way they felt?”
“I can’t answer those questions, Johnny. But there are some people
out there who were never meant to be parents.”
“I think that actually there is a lot more to it than her parents
just telling her she wasn’t worth loving and shouldn’t have been born.
I think there is a lot more to it. What happened and why didn’t someone
“I don’t know, Johnny. Maybe she’ll tell you when you get a chance
to talk to her. But whatever happened, it is up to us to show her she really
is a special person.”
“Thanks, Roy. That means a lot to me.”
“You’re welcome, Junior.” The rest of the ride was completed in
The next two days Johnny, Joanne and Roy took turns sitting with
Nicole as she continued to recover. Dr. Brackett had given them permission
to stay by her side all the time. Nicole couldn’t believe that they would
spend so much time with her. She knew that she didn’t deserve all this
attention and once they really got to know her, she knew it would come
to an end. But try as she might to keep her emotions in check so she wouldn’t
be hurt when it happened, she found herself really liking these three people.
They seemed to really care about her. She tried not to, but she began to
fall in love with Johnny Gage. No matter how many times she told herself
not to get her hopes up and that Johnny would never be interested in her,
she couldn’t stop the growing feelings of love.
Five days after the accident Nicole was taken off the respirator
and moved to a regular room. Johnny, Joanne and Roy were all there when
it happened. She was surprised to see all three of them there. She was
hoping to stay awake and talk with them for a while after the move, but
the mild pain medication and her healing body plus the move, tired her
out and she couldn’t fight the fatigue that claimed her body. Johnny smiled
as she slipped into a deep, restful, healing sleep.
“Johnny, Jo and I are going to go pick the kids up from school,
but we’ll be back. Can we bring you anything?” Roy watched his best friend
as Johnny studied Nicole’s face.
“Why don’t you bring the kids here to meet Nicole? That way she
can get to know them and they can get to know her before she comes to
stay at your house.” Johnny knew that Jenny would instantly fall in love
with Nicole. He also knew that both kids would be good for Nicole. They
would be a part in showing Nicole she was worth loving.
“Great idea. It will be good for all of them.” Joanne realized what
Johnny was thinking and she thought Chris and Jenny would help Nicole,
Two hours later Nicole slowly opened her eyes. She was afraid that
Johnny wouldn’t be there. For some reason she was scared. As she slowly
looked around the room she found two small blue eyes staring at her from
the chair beside her bed. “Hi.” Nicole had no idea who this pretty little
girl was but for some reason she knew the girl belonged there.
“Hi, how are you feeling?” Jenny liked Nicole’s eyes. There was
a twinkle in them.
“I am feeling much better. I still hurt, but not as much as I did
“Good, that means it won’t be long and you will come to our house
and I can be your nurse.”
Johnny had been watching as Nicole talked with Jenny. He was pleased
to see how much they were both at ease with each other from the moment
they met. “Angel?”
Nicole turned to look at Johnny. She hadn’t realized he was still
in the room. And he was still calling her Angel. “Hi.”
“Hi, this is Jennifer DeSoto. She is Roy and Joanne’s daughter.
And this guy,” Johnny had his arm around Chris’s shoulders, “is their
“Hi, Chris. You look just like your dad. I bet you are going to
be a heart breaker when you get a few years older. Your parents had better
be careful. And Jennifer will not be far behind, I bet.” Nicole smiled
as the blush slowly crept up Chris’s face.
“I’m afraid you are right. I think I’ll lock both of them in their
rooms until they are 30.” Roy had just opened the door to escort his wife
into the room.
“Oh, Dad.” Chris smiled at Nicole. “Hi, it’s nice to meet you.”
There was something about Nicole that made him instantly like her. He
thought her smile was beautiful.
Over the next hour Jenny and Chris talked with Nicole and told her
all about school and their friends. They didn’t make Nicole do much talking
as her throat was still sore from the ventilator. Johnny was pleased at
how comfortable the three of them were with each other. Roy and Joanne just
smiled as they watched. Both saw the twinkle in Nicole’s eyes and the love
in Johnny’s as he watched her.
An hour later Nicole started showing signs of fatigue once again
and Roy knew it was time to take his kids home. “Chris, Jenny, I think
it’s time to go home now.” He fully expected an argument from Jenny, but
it was Chris that was the first to complain.
“Dad, can’t we stay awhile longer? Nicole asked me about our baseball
team and I want to tell her all about it.” Chris really liked their new
friend. He hoped Uncle Johnny kept her around for a long time.
“You’ll have plenty of time to tell her all about it when she comes
to stay with us. She might even feel up to going to some of your games
when she feels better.” Joanne was surprised, too, at her son’s reluctance
to leave. Usually he would want to be somewhere else with his friends.
“Yes, Chris, I would love to come to some of your games. When I
get to your house you can tell me all about your team.” Nicole had instantly
fallen in love with both Chris and Jenny.
“Ok, I hope you get out of here soon. I have so much to tell you.”
Chris surprised all the adults in the room as he walked over and gave
Nicole a kiss on the cheek. He had reached the stage where all public displays
of affection were strictly taboo. But he had initiated this one. Then holding
his head high Chris headed out the door.
Jenny stood on her tiptoes and gave Nicole a kiss too. “I sure hope
Uncle Johnny marries you. I love you and you would make Uncle Johnny
It was Nicole’s turn to blush and when she peeked under her eyelashes
at Johnny, his face was turning red, too.
“Jenny, Nicole and Uncle Johnny just met. They have to get to know
each other to see if they even like each other.” Joanne was trying to diffuse
the situation, but couldn’t keep the smile off her face.
“But Mommy, Uncle Johnny keeps calling her Angel
and her eyes really twinkle when she looks at Uncle Johnny. And all he
does is grin that big grin of his when he looks at her.” From the mouths
of babes—Jenny knew that her Uncle Johnny and Nicole should get married—at
least that was what she wanted more than anything else. “Then that would
make her Aunt Nicole.” It was just that simple to Jenny.
“Jenny, I can’t promise that Nicole and I will get married, but
I really want to get to know her better. I already know that I care about
her very much and am pretty sure I want to spend the rest of my life
with her.” Johnny turned to judge Nicole’s reaction to his last statement.
“I just hope she feels the same way about me.”
The tears were streaming down Nicole’s face. “No one has ever cared
about me before. Yes, Johnny I do feel the same way about you. I think
I would like to spend the rest of my life with you, too. But I think there
are some things you need to know about me before you say you want to be
with me for the rest of our lives.”
Johnny thought again about what Dixie had said about Nicole feeling
she was unlovable. He knew that she felt that once he got to know her
he wouldn’t want anything to do with her. But she was wrong. Something
inside him told him they would indeed get married. He was grinning from
ear to ear. Roy smiled at the sight—he had never seen Johnny’s grin so
“We’ll have a lot of time to find out more about each other.” Johnny
noticed that Nicole was losing the battle with trying to stay awake. “Looks
like you need to get some rest. Jenny and Chris are waiting for the day
you get to their house and spend time with them while you recover. I’m
sure they will be back to visit before you are released, too.”
Joanne saw the struggle Nicole was having staying awake, too. “Yes,
Nicole, they are helping me get the house ready for you. We have a few
things to do yet and I need their help so we will be going now. We will
be back tomorrow.” Joanne took Jenny’s hand in hers and started towards
the door with Roy a couple of steps behind.
“Thanks for coming to visit me. It was nice meeting Jenny and Chris.
Jenny, make sure you and Chris take care of your Mom, Dad, and Uncle Johnny
for me, ok?”
“We will. See you tomorrow, Aunt Nicole.” Jenny didn’t see the smiles
on the four adults’ faces as she led her mother from the room with her
dad close behind.
Johnny watched as the DeSotos left. Then he lowered himself into
the chair that Jenny had left and took Nicole’s hand in his. “Get some
rest now. I’ll be right here when you wake up.”
Nicole was too tired to say anything, so she just nodded her head
as she drifted off to a deep sleep.
Johnny had fallen asleep in the chair thinking about the insecurity
he had seen in Nicole’s eyes and wondering about her statement that there
were some things he needed to know about her. What had happened to her?
Nicole woke to find her hand still firmly in Johnny’s grasp. She
smiled as she saw Johnny sleeping in the chair. She made a motion to keep
quiet to Dixie as she entered the room to check on her two favorite people.
With a smile that lit up her face, Dixie quietly made her way to
the other side of the bed. “He’s still here, huh?”
“Yeah, but I bet he has a stiff neck when he wakes up.” Nicole hoped
that what Johnny had said was true and that he wanted to get to know her
and just didn’t feel sorry for her.
“I bet you’re right. How are you feeling?” Dixie noticed that Nicole’s
color was looking good and she seemed to be in less pain.
“I actually feel pretty good. Do you have any idea how long Dr.
Brackett is going to keep me here?” Nicole was surprised at how good
“How about the day after tomorrow?” Kelly Bracket had entered the
room so quietly not even the women knew he was there.
“That’s great. Then Johnny can sleep in a real bed instead of that
chair. I’ve tried getting him to go home, but he won’t listen to me.”
Nicole smiled at her new friends. She realized that they were indeed her
friends—something she had never had before. But would they stay her friends
if they ever found out about her past?
“That’s because I want to be right here with you.” Johnny had woken
up just in time to hear Dr. Brackett say that Nicole would be released
in two days. “I’m glad you’re going to be going home soon.”
“Well, Johnny, how about going to get a cup of coffee or something
while I give my patient a checkup. Then you can come back.” Dr. Brackett
thought again of the smile that hadn’t left Johnny’s face since he had
brought Nicole in.
“Ok, I think I’ll call Roy and Joanne and let them know when you
will be arriving at their house.” Johnny leaned over and kissed Nicole’s
cheek. Then he whispered in her ear. “I’ll be right back. I love you,
Johnny returned just as Dr. Brackett and Dixie finished the exam.
After Johnny agreed to meet them for dinner—at Nicole’s insistence—Dixie
and Dr. Brackett left to return to the ER. As the door closed and Johnny
sat down, Nicole knew it was time. “Johnny, I need to talk to you.” Nicole
really didn’t want to tell Johnny about her childhood, but she was sure
that once he found out about her past, he wouldn’t want anything to do with
her. So she wanted to stop anything before it got started—she didn’t want
to get hurt again.
Johnny took Nicole’s hand in his. “Nicole, I really want to get
to know you better. I would like to date you when you get out of here.
I want to be here with you to help you in whatever way I can.”
The tears that had been threatening finally slid down Nicole’s cheeks
as she listened to Johnny. “Please hear me out and see if you still want
to date me when I’m done.” And with that Nicole spent the next 45 minutes
telling Johnny about her childhood and how her parents had always told
her they never wanted her. They had blamed all their troubles on her.
They told her she was a mistake—she should never have been born and the
world would be better off if she died. Like Johnny, she was half Indian
and had to endure the taunts of both worlds because she didn’t fit into
either one. But what made Johnny angry was the way Nicole’s parents and
relatives had treated her and abused her. Johnny didn’t know how she had
survived and turned out to be such a kind, gentle, loving person. He was
determined more than ever to get to know her better. “So you see I’m not
a lovable person. I won’t blame you if you walk out that door right now and
never look back.”
“Nicole, no one should ever have to live like you did growing up.
Please believe me when I tell you that your parents, family and so called
friends were wrong—you are lovable and I want to show you how special
you really are.”
“Johnny, no one has ever cared for me enough to want to get to know
me better once they found out about my childhood. Thank you for that.
And I will go out with you on two conditions.”
“What are they?”
“First, Roy and Joanne as well as your friends must really like
me. You told me when we were hiking that you consider them your family
and I don’t want to come between you and them. And second, that if things
don’t work out on a dating basis that we will try to stay friends.”
“Roy and Joanne already love you as much as I do. When you meet
the guys, they will love you, too. Don’t worry about that. Thank you
for caring about my relationship with them. And I have already told Dixie
that if things didn’t work out I still wanted you in my life as a very
dear friend.” With that Johnny stood up and leaned over to kiss Nicole.
But instead of kissing her on the forehead as he had been doing, he kissed
her on the lips. She returned the kiss with the same passion he had.
Just as they broke the kiss Roy walked into the room. He wasn’t
sure what had just transpired, but both Johnny and Nicole looked very
happy. “Hey, you two. Am I interrupting something?”
“Hey, Roy. No, come on in.” Johnny smiled at his best friend.
“I hear you are going to be coming ‘home’ in a couple of days.”
Roy smiled at Nicole. He silently prayed that what he saw was just the
beginning of a wonderful relationship for the two people he and Joanne
loved deeply. He thought a minute about that—he and Joanne did love Nicole
as much as they did Johnny and they hardly even knew her. She was just
that kind of person.
“Yes, Nicole, home. We want you to think of it as your second home
just like Johnny does. By the way, the reason I am here is to find out
if it is ok with you both if we have the A-shift over for a barbeque on Sunday
as a welcome for Nicole.” Roy looked from Johnny to Nicole.
“I think it would be great. What do you say Nicole?”
“Well, I think it would be alright. Are you sure you want to go
to all that trouble just for me?”
“We have the guys over for a barbeque all the time, so there is
no trouble. And you are the best reason we have ever had for a barbeque.”
Roy was glad that Nicole had agreed to it. He was afraid that she would
have said no. He did notice that she grasped Johnny’s hand just a little
Roy, Johnny and Nicole had a nice visit over the next hour and a
half. The longer they talked the more Roy felt Johnny and Nicole were
meant for each other.
Saturday morning came and Dixie helped Nicole get ready for Johnny
to pick her up and take her to the DeSoto home. Just as she promised, Joanne
had brought the kids in the day before to visit once again and they talked
of nothing but what they were going to do once Nicole arrived at their
Now it was time for Nicole to be released. She was very nervous.
Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea after all. But she smiled as Johnny
entered the room whistling. She was shocked when he handed her a dozen
red roses. Dixie smiled as she turned the wheelchair Nicole was seated
in over to Johnny. Nicole was good for Johnny and she prayed that Nicole
would realize that Johnny was good for her.
As Johnny pushed her down the hall and towards the exit, Nicole
was surprised at the number of nurses, orderlies and volunteers who wish
her luck and waved as she went by. A small seed of hope started in her
heart that maybe she was not so unlovable after all.
Late Sunday morning, early afternoon, the DeSotos and Johnny were
busy getting things ready for the barbeque. Nicole sat on the deck “supervising”
the whole group.
“Hey, Roy.” Johnny saw the smile on Nicole’s face.
“Yeah.” Roy answered Johnny in the same hushed tone Johnny had addressed
him in. He wasn’t sure why Johnny was talking soft.
“We need to do something to Nicole. She looks like she’s enjoying
herself. But we are doing all the work and she’s giving out all the orders.”
Johnny wanted to do something to make Nicole feel apart of the “family.”
He wanted to tease her a little.
“You’re right.” Roy followed Johnny’s lead and headed for the deck.
Roy wanted to put some fun in Nicole’s life, too.
Nicole wasn’t paying attention to the two men who were quietly coming
up behind her. She was busy with Jenny and Chris on the table decorations.
Johnny leaned down and scooped her out of her seat and started towards
the pool. “Hey, Roy, will you give me a hand here. Our supervisor needs
cooling off.” Neither man would have thrown her in the pool since she was
still recuperating and had a cast on her leg and her left arm immobilized.
Roy was ahead of Johnny and was reaching back for Nicole’s legs
when both men saw the terror and tears in Nicole’s eyes.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to take over as supervisor.” Nicole was
having a hard time catching her breath the tears were flowing so fast.
“Just take me to my room and I’ll be out of everyone’s way.”
“Oh, Angel, you didn’t do anything wrong. You didn’t take over as
supervisor. We were just teasing you.” Then it hit Johnny. Nicole had
never been teased in a fun way and had always been blamed for everything.
He whispered in her ear. “I’m the one who is sorry. I didn’t think about
how you would react. Please forgive me, Angel. I never meant to hurt you.”
The tears started down Johnny’s face, too.
Roy wasn’t sure what was going on, but he realized that Nicole had
misinterpreted their actions. “Nicole, I’m sorry. Johnny, why don’t you
take her inside for a little while? We’re almost finished anyway and the
guys won’t be here for another two hours or so.”
Johnny held Nicole tight as he nodded at Roy and turned towards
the house. He hoped he hadn’t done anything to hurt her. That was the
last thing in the world he wanted to do.
Joanne, Jenny and Chris watched quietly as Johnny entered the house,
passed them without a word and went into the living room with Nicole.
Joanne looked up to see the scared look on Roy’s face. “Honey, what happened?”
“Let’s all go outside and give them some privacy. I’ll tell you
outside.” Roy held the door and ushered his family out. He looked one
last time at the back of his partner’s head as Johnny sat rocking Nicole.
What had happened in her life that would make her react that way?
“Roy, what happened?” Joanne’s heart was breaking at the sight of
Nicole being so upset.
“Daddy, did you and Uncle Johnny do something to her?” Jenny was
standing with her fists on her hips and glaring at her father.
“No, honey. We were playing with her. Uncle Johnny was playing like
he was going to throw her in the pool. I don’t know why she got so upset.
Something happened to Nicole when she was younger and she didn’t know
we were playing. I don’t think anyone has ever teased her before in a fun
way. I think all the teasing she has had in the past has been in a hurtful
way.” Roy wanted his kids to know that Nicole was going to need their support,
“I’m going go tell her that you and Uncle Johnny would never hurt
her. I know that you both love her.” Jenny turned and started towards
“Jenny, that’s a great idea. But I think it might be better if you
waited a little while. Uncle Johnny is in there with her right now and
I am hoping he can help her.” Roy was proud of his little girl.
“Ok, but I’m going to make sure she knows we all love her.” Jenny
didn’t realize that what she wanted to do was exactly what Nicole would
Nicole’s tears had quieted to stifled sobs. She had her head buried
in Johnny’s shoulder. But Johnny could feel her shaking. He could tell
she was afraid.
“Nicole, look at me please.” Johnny was desperate to make her know
he would never hurt her. “Please, Angel.” His voice cracked as he tried
to reassure her.
Nicole took a deep breath and raised her head so she could look
into Johnny’s eyes. What she saw there was only love and compassion—not
the hate and anger that she usually saw.
“Nicole, I am so sorry. I didn’t even stop to think how you might
react to something like that. There is no way on the earth that I would
ever hurt you. Please believe me. I know we have only known each other
a very short time, but I really do love you and want to spend my life with
you.” Johnny hoped Nicole would forgive him.
“Johnny, I love you, too. And I think I want to spend my life with
you, but I think we both need to get to know each other better before we
make it final. I don’t expect it to happen, but I don’t want either one
of us to get into a situation that we are uncomfortable with.” Nicole kissed
Johnny on the cheek and then laid her head on his shoulder. “I want both
of us to be sure we are in love for the right reasons.”
“Nicole, that is one of the things I love about you already. Thank
you for caring like that. We will take our time getting to know each other,
but I don’t think it will change my mind any.”
“I don’t think I’ll change my mind either. Now, I would like to
go out and apologize to Roy for reacting the way I did.” Nicole had calmed
down and was ready to face the DeSoto family. “I hope he can forgive me.
“Oh, Nicole, there is nothing for you to be sorry for.”
“Yes, there is. Can you forgive me?”
“I will accept your apology, but there is really nothing for you
to be sorry for. Will you forgive Roy and me?” Johnny slowly stood with
Nicole in his arms as she nodded. She then rested her head on his
shoulder as he walked through the kitchen and out the back door. Roy, Joanne
and the kids were putting the finishing touches on the table as Johnny
settled Nicole in one of the lounges on the deck.
Cautiously Roy, Joanne, and the kids joined them on the deck.
“Roy, I’m so sorry for how I reacted. Someday maybe I can explain
why I acted that way, but until then can you forgive me?” Nicole hoped
she hadn’t ruined the friendship that was growing between them.
“Nicole, you have nothing to be sorry for. I’m sorry if we upset
you.” Roy couldn’t believe she was apologizing to him.
“That’s what I told her, but she wouldn’t believe me.” Johnny grinned
at Roy letting him know that everything was ok now.
“Well, they are right, Aunt Nicole. Daddy and Uncle Johnny both
love you very much and they wouldn’t hurt you. I know they would hurt
themselves before they would hurt you.” Jenny didn’t understand everything,
but she had a friend at school that she hadn’t even told her parents about
who said that love only hurt. Aunt Nicole was reacting the same way her
friend did. Jenny knew what was going on in her friend’s life and was sure
Aunt Nicole had something similar happen to her. She leaned close and whispered
in Nicole’s ear. “Real love doesn’t hurt, Aunt Nicole. If someone says they
love you, but hurt you, that’s not love. You are special, Aunt Nicole. We
really love you.”
Nicole looked at Jenny and the tears started again. “Jenny, please
keep reminding me of that ok.” She pulled Jenny into her arms.
Roy, Johnny and Joanne all wondered what Jenny had said to Nicole,
but they were sure whatever she had said was the thing that Nicole needed
to hear at that moment.
“Well, everything is ready out here. Why don’t we go inside and
relax until everyone gets here?” Joanne was proud of her daughter, but
wondered what Jenny had said.
“Joanne, would it be alright if Jenny and I stayed out here and
talked by ourselves for a little while?” Nicole wanted to know how Jenny
got to be so smart.
“Sure, we’ll be in the living room. Just have Jenny come and get
us if you need us.” Joanne took Chris’s hand and followed Roy and Johnny
into the house. Johnny stood just out of sight for a few minutes to make
sure Nicole was ok.
“Thank you, Jenny, for what you told me. I needed to hear that.
How did you get to be so smart?” Nicole had wrapped her arm around Jenny’s
“My friend, Candy, at school reacted the same way one day to something
someone said to her in fun. I just sat with her and let her cry and when
she was done she told me that whenever her parents or her brothers teased
at home, it was in a mean way and that they did it all the time. She said
that it usually ended up with her getting beaten and kicked. She told me
that she didn’t want anyone to love her because love hurt. I was trying
to show her it doesn’t hurt and that if someone hurts her they don’t really
love her. The teacher overhead us talking and took her to the nurse. Candy
wouldn’t go unless I went with her. When they looked at her back, it was
all bloody and torn up. Then a nice lady came and took Candy away. She said
that Candy wouldn’t be back to school this year as she is going to live with
some other people—some really nice people who would show her what real love
was. I will miss her. But when you cried, I thought of Candy. Aunt Nicole,
did something like that happen to you?” Jenny had unconsciously been rubbing
“Yes, Jenny, someday maybe I’ll tell you all about it. But thank
you for helping Candy and me. Maybe someday we can find out where Candy
is and go to visit her.” Nicole was surprised at how grown up Jenny was
about the situation. “Will you go get Johnny for me? I’m ready to go inside
Johnny had moved away from the door and was pretending to get a
drink of milk. He hurriedly wiped the tears out of his eyes.
“Uncle Johnny, Aunt Nicole is ready to come in now.” Jenny was happy
that she could help Nicole. She really wanted Johnny and Nicole to get
“Ok, pumpkin. Let’s go get her.” Johnny smiled at Jenny. She really
was special and he prayed that when he and Nicole had a daughter she
would be just like Jenny. Then it hit him, he had thought when not if.
He grinned to himself as he pushed Nicole’s wheelchair towards the living
room where the rest of the DeSotos were sitting.
The men of A-shift were due to arrive in any minute. Nicole and
Joanne were in Nicole’s room. Nicole had asked Joanne to help her look
her best to meet Johnny’s “family.” She wanted them to like her.
Chet and Marco were the first to arrive. They both brought dates
with them. Chet was surprised when Johnny didn’t try to “hit” on his date.
Chet was sure that Johnny would and would have said something about being
a better catch. It really surprised him when Johnny responded to a pass
Chet’s date made at him by saying that Chet was a really good guy. Chet
knew there was something up. Hank and Emily Stanley and Mike and Beth
Stoker with their children arrived at the same time. It wasn’t long before
Dixie, Dr. Brackett, Dr. Early, and Dr. Morton showed up. Only Dixie and
Dr. Brackett were aware of the real reason for this get together—it was
for the rest of the A-shift to meet Nicole. Everyone else thought it was
just the annual end of the summer barbeque.
A volleyball game with the men of A-shift against the women (minus
Dixie and Joanne) and doctors was going strong. The children were off
in one corner of the yard, playing hide and seek. Just after the women and
doctors won the first game, Beth noticed that neither Dixie nor Joanne were
around. “Hey, Roy, where’s your wife and Dixie?”
“Yeah, Roy, where’s Joanne? Is she hiding from
us?” Chet had noticed at the same time that Joanne was missing. He really
wanted to know when they were going to eat. Like he did every year when
it was time for the annual barbeque, he hadn’t eaten all day so he could
At that moment, Roy noticed Joanne standing in the doorway and saw
her nod. “Well, Dixie went in to help Joanne with our guest. They’re coming
out right now.”
“Guest, what guest?” Chet wondered what was going on.
“My date, Nicole.” Johnny headed towards the house so he could help
bring Nicole out. Roy was right behind him in case he needed help. Since
Nicole had her right leg in a cast and her left arm immobilized, she
had a wheelchair to get around in. Joanne, Roy and the kids had moved
things around in the house so she could easily go from one room to the
“Date? You finally found someone who took pity on you? Must be she’s
hard up for a date.” Chet could never resist the opportunity to tease
his favorite pigeon.
Roy, Johnny, Dixie and Joanne all saw the look
that crossed Nicole’s face as Joanne brought her out on the deck. They
also saw how tense she got as everyone else said, “Shut up, Chet,” in unison.
Roy was just about to tell Chet there would be no visits from the Phantom
that afternoon when Jenny marched over and stood right in front of Chet
with a determined look on her face, her legs spread and her fists firmly
planted on her hips.
Jenny looked Chet right in the eyes. “Uncle Chet, there will be
NO teasing of Uncle Johnny or Aunt Nicole today. And there will be no
pranks or jokes, either. Aunt Nicole needs to know that real love doesn’t
hurt. And if you are going to bother either Uncle Johnny or Aunt Nicole,
you can leave right now and never come back.”
If the look on Jenny’s face hadn’t been so serious, everyone would
have laughed. But her determination, the pleading in her eyes and her words
made everyone realize there was something going on. There were looks of
shock on everyone’s face at Chet’s response.
Chet kneeled so he could be on Jenny’s level as he looked her straight
in the eyes. “I’m really sorry, Jenny. I promise I won’t do anything to
anyone today—no jokes, pranks or teasing. The phantom went home.”
“Thank you. Aunt Nicole needs to know she is special. She thinks
she’s unlovable and we have to show her she’s wrong.” Then Jenny surprised
them all by giving Chet a big hug. Then while everyone was trying to figure
out what had just happened she motioned for Chris and the two kids walked
towards Nicole on the deck.
“Aunt Nicole, just ignore Uncle Chet.” Jenny leaned
in so only Nicole heard the rest of what she had to say. “Uncle Chet teases
Uncle Johnny because he really cares about him and he doesn’t want him
to know it. Uncle Johnny told me it was ok and that he lets Uncle Chet tease
him because he knows Uncle Chet cares and he really cares about him. They
would give their lives protecting each other just like all the men of A-shift
would do. They all tease each other. So you see, teasing doesn’t always
Chet was the one that was surprised when Nicole reached out with
her good arm and awkwardly hugged him.
Once again Nicole wondered how a child so young could be so wise.
She hugged Jenny and spoke so that only Jenny could hear her. “Thank
you. You are my special guardian angel.” Then she turned to look straight
at Chet. “You must be the Phantom. Well, I just want to let you know
that I am not hard up for a date. I am honored Johnny considers me his
date. And Chet, I know that you really believe Johnny is a great guy and
that he deserves only the best just like you do. I won’t take offense
at your teasing, but I think you’d better be on your guard. Johnny has
at least two very determined protectors today.”
There was a collective sigh of relief as Johnny turned to see Chet’s
reaction. There were several jaws that dropped as Chet walked over to
Nicole. “I know you are not hard up for a date. Any lady that Johnny thinks
is special enough to date must be really pretty special. Johnny’s really
an ok guy and like I said, you are special.”
“What’s everyone standing around for? Aren’t we supposed to be having
a party?” Nicole wanted the attention off of her as soon as possible.
The tension was gone as there was a hearty round
of laughter and the games started again. Nicole cheered for Johnny’s
team as they fought their way from behind to win the volleyball game. Chet
kept his promise to Jenny knowing there was more behind Jenny’s words
than any of them really knew. At different times, each of the A-shift members
and their mates would spend a little while with Nicole. Roy and Joanne
were just as pleased as Johnny that the ‘family’ was getting to
know her better. Dr. Brackett, Dixie, Dr. Early and Dr. Morton all spent time
her, too. They were determined to help show her that she really was a special
person—Dixie because of what Nicole had told her about her parents telling
her she was not worthy of love and the doctors because of what they had
found during the time Nicole was in the hospital. They had discovered some
things they had not even shared with Dixie at Nicole’s request.
The afternoon and evening passed quickly. As each member of
station 51’s A-shift left, they made sure that they told Nicole how special
she was and Johnny how lucky he was to have found her.
Monday morning found Johnny back at work along
with the rest of the A-shift crew. As Johnny expected, a water bomb hit
him when he opened his locker. He smiled to himself and began to whistle
as he changed his clothes into his uniform.
Chet slowly opened the door and watched as Johnny
smiled after being hit directly in the face by the water bomb. He just
shook his head. Nicole really was good for Johnny.
As the weeks passed and Nicole recovered from her
injuries, the DeSotos and Johnny grew closer to her. And as Johnny grew closer
to Nicole, his good mood made things around Station 51 pretty interesting.
Johnny knew he had found the lady he wanted to spend the rest of his life
with and he was going to prove it to her no matter how long it took.
A-shift was on its way back to the station after
spending four hours at an apartment complex fire. Luckily no one was injured.
Johnny and Roy were discussing the upcoming Fourth of July picnic at Johnny’s
Joanne and Nicole were on their way back to the DeSoto home after
Nicole’s checkup. They, too, were discussing the upcoming picnic.
Roy was slowly stopping at a railroad crossing
when the barriers were coming down. He didn’t notice the prisoner van that
was between the squad and the engine. Nor did he notice the car sitting
along side the road. Johnny was listening to Roy and watching the cars coming
in the other direction. He took a second look at the first car in the line
“Hey, Roy, isn’t that Joanne’s car over there?” Johnny knew Joanne
had taken Nicole to the doctors that morning.
Roy looked at the line of cars across the tracks
from them and was getting ready to respond when a loud series of pops
like a car backfiring sounded just outside the squad. Before either Johnny
or Roy could figure out where the pops were coming from, the squad was
hit from behind and pushed through the barrier onto the tracks and into
the path of the approaching train. It took the four members of Engine 51
several seconds to comprehend what was happening.
Joanne was in shock as she watched the squad pushed
onto the tracks at the same moment she heard the train whistle. Nicole
was out of the car and hurrying towards the tracks as fast as she could.
But Joanne caught her before she got too close. Both women could only stand
and watch as the train was bearing down on the squad that was now stalled
on the tracks.