He stared again at the faded photograph in the wooden frame on his desk. It was of himself and another man, his brother and best friend. A tear fell down his face as his thoughts turned to him again.
"Captain, are you okay?" a voice interrupted his thoughts.
Captain John Gage looked up sharply to see his engineer at the doorway of his office.
"Yes Matt, I'm okay. Just thinking about a friend," Johnny said, putting the picture down.
"I guess it still hurts after all these years, doesn't it Cap?" Matthew Bracken asked.
"Yes it does and I think it will always hurt, especially when I see his wife and kids," Johnny replied.
"Cap, what happened? I've known you for ten years now and you never have told me," Matt asked sitting in a chair in front of Johnny's desk.
"Well, I guess it's time for you to know."
Johnny began the story of his friendship to the one man who understood him best and the day he lost his best friend and brother.
19 years before...
"Today is a beautiful day, isn't it Johnny?" Roy DeSoto asked cheerfully as he entered the locker room. Roy looked extremely happy. Roy and Johnny had been working together for about two years and already they were the best of friends. They were closer than some brothers.
"Yeah, I guess it is," Johnny said as he was changing into his uniform. It was a warm Southern Californian morning, but to Johnny it was just another day.
"Oh come on Johnny! Today is beautiful and nothing can make me change that thought," Roy said as he took his shirt off to change into his uniform.
"What has you so happy to day Pally?" Johnny asked, noticing Roy's eyes were dancing with excitement.
"Joanne is pregnant! Chris is going to have a little brother or sister! And you are going to be an uncle again!" Roy said happily.
"Wow! That is great Roy! Congratulations!" Johnny said, pumping Roy's hand then giving him a brotherly hug.
"Roll call!" Captain Stanley yelled loudly from the apparatus bay.
"Want to come over tomorrow morning? Joanne wanted to know what your reaction would be when you found out you were going to be an uncle and wants you over for a celebratory breakfast," Roy asked as he finished putting on his uniform.
"I'd love to. Better hurry or we are going to be late," Johnny said. putting his badge and name tag on his uniform.
"Yeah, you know it Junior."
"And Roy," Johnny started.
"Congratulations on being a daddy again," Johnny said as he and Roy left the locker room.
"Thanks Johnny. Thanks a lot."
Back to the present...
"His kids call you Uncle Johnny, don't they?" Matt asked, totally enthralled with his Captain's story.
"Yeah. I was Roy's brother. I was around his kids pretty much all their lives. If anything was to happen to Roy and Joanne, I was to raise Chris and Jenny. I welcomed that responsibility. I love those kids so very much," Johnny said, twirling a pen in his fingers.
"So I've noticed. Every time they stop by here, you really show that you love them as your niece and nephew. All the guys see it." Matt said.
"Yeah, they mean a lot to me. They always visited me when I was injured," Johnny said putting the pen down.
"Yeah, I always loved those visits. And Roy was always there for me."
14 years before...
"But daddy, we want to see Uncle Johnny!" Little Jenny DeSoto said in her best pouting voice.
Roy was getting ready to go visit Johnny, who had been injured after being hit by a car. Johnny was still unconscious and he was afraid how his little girl would react to seeing her injured Uncle Johnny. Joanne had taken their 7 year old son Chris to the market with her.
Roy kneeled in front of his blonde haired little girl.
"Jenny honey, your Uncle Johnny is very sick. I'm not sure you should see him."
"But daddy, I'm a big girl now. Please daddy? Uncle Johnny needs me. I drew him a picture," Jenny said, tears flowing down her face holding up a picture in crayon that his little 5 year old had drawn.
"Okay sweetheart. If that is what you want, I'll take you to see Uncle Johnny," Roy said taking his little girl by the hand. He wrote out a note to his wife then went out to the car, putting Jenny in her booster seat.
Roy turned on the kids' music for Jenny and rode in silent contemplation of the past days events. Roy had to treat Johnny at the scene. They had been working together for 7 years, going to hell and back many times. Most of the time Roy had to hold a silent vigil next to the man who had become very important to him. There were times Johnny had to do it for him. But no matter what, Johnny and Roy were always there for each other.
They made it to the hospital in 10 minutes. Roy got his little girl out of her booster seat and took her little hand. Father and daughter walked into the hospital hand in hand. They started walking to the elevators when a voice came from behind them, "What are you two doing here?"
They turned to see Dixie McCall behind them. Dixie smiled as she approached one half of the paramedic dynamic duo.
"Jenny here wanted to see her Uncle Johnny. She is a big girl now. She even drew him a picture," Roy said smiling lovingly at his little girl.
"That is so pretty Jenny. Well, I have been trying to call you for the past 15 minutes. Johnny woke up about an hour ago," Dixie said as the trio started again for the elevator.
"That's great! I am so relieved! I have been worried about him," Roy said as the elevator doors closed behind him.
"Well, he has been asking for you. I think he will be happy to see Jenny too," Dixie said as the elevator doors opened.
"Are you going to his room?" Roy asked as he, Dixie and Jenny got off the elevator.
"No, I'm working on this floor. I will check in later," Dixie kneeled next to Roy's little girl. "Jenny, I'm glad I got to see you again. Make sure you give your Uncle Johnny a big kiss,"
"I will Dixie," Jenny said, giving Dixie a hug.
"I'll see you guys later," Dixie said as she walked down the hall.
Roy took his little girl's hand again and walked to Johnny's room. Before they entered, Roy kneeled in front of Jenny.
"Are you sure you want to do this honey?"
"Yes daddy," little Jenny replied.
Roy knocked on the door, heard Johnny say "Come in", and entered the room.
Back to the present...
"What happened then?" Matt asked grateful that the alarm bell hadn't gone off. He realized his Captain needed to get this out in the open even though it had been ten years before.
"Roy came in with little Jenny. She pulled away from her daddy and ran to my side and handed me the picture she had drawn and managed to give me a big kiss. I was in tears at the affection this little 5 year old was showing me. Roy apologized, thinking Jenny had hurt me. I just looked at him, telling him to wait. Jenny told me how she was sad her Uncle Johnny was sick. She wanted me to get better so I could play with her. Then she fell asleep next to me. Roy and I talked for about half an hour before Roy decided he'd better head home. Roy scooped up his sleeping child in his arms, promising to come back to see me and left the room. I realized that his kids loved me just like an uncle. I was deeply touched by this, considering I never married and had kids," Johnny said, another tear escaping his eye.
"Wow. I'm glad Jenny didn't react badly to seeing you injured," Matt said taking a sip of his coffee.
"I know. After that, Roy never questioned his kids coming to see me or him when we were injured. He knew then they could handle seeing us injured," Johnny said.
"What happened to that picture she drew for you?" Matt asked.
"I have it at home; along with everything else those kids gave me. I kept everything they gave me over the years," Johnny replied smiling.
"That is so nice. Those kids really look up to you."
"Yeah they do. And they were so young when their father was taken from them," Johnny said tears flowing freely.
"How old were they?" Matt asked, realizing moisture was gathering in his eyes.
"Chris was 12 and Jenny was 10. He and Joanne had been married for 16 years and we had been working together for 11 years. It was the worst day of my life," Johnny said as began to relieve the nightmare that happened a decade before.