Copyright November 2002 By Robin R. Neher

Title: A helping hand for a hurting heart
Author: Robin R. Neher
Status: Complete
Pairing: N/A
Archive: Yes
Fandom: Emergency!
Summary: John Gage Sr. is hospitalized at Rampart hospital and his son, Johnny waits for word with Dr. Brackett and Dixie McCall by his side.
Content Warning: HANKY ALERT!! Death
Sixteen year old John Gage, Jr. packed his bags in his room on the Gage family ranch in Montana. As he packed, he pushed the hurt in his heart down.

I will not let him see me cry! The dark haired boy thought, determinedly. I will shed a tear in front of him!

At this time, Johnny's mother entered her Son's room.

"Do you have to go?" Francine "Frankie" Gage asked.

"Mama, I don't want to, but I can't stay here with Daddy." Johnny replied.

"Where will you go? What will you do?" Brown-haired and blue eyed Frankie wondered.

"Frankie!" Both heard Johnny's father call.

"Up here, Honey!" Frankie called.

John Gage, Sr. was in the room minutes later.

"Dad." Johnny greeted.

"Boy." John, Sr. replied.

"I'm leaving." Johnny told his father.

"I know this." The Native American man replied.

"John, Johnny's just a boy! I can't believe you're letting him leave!" Frankie cried.

"Frankie, Johnny is a man, not a boy. He is old enough to make his own choices." John, Sr. replied. "He chooses to go. We must abide by that."

"If only you'd back down-" Frankie began.

"Frankie, we've been over this!" Johnny's father cut her off, sharply. "Johnny chooses to go! He's made his choice!"

"John, is your dumb Indian heritage more important than the love of your Son?!" Frankie demanded, angrily.

Johnny just watched as his father looked at her, then him.

"Dumb." John, Sr. repeated. "Now I know why my Son thinks his heritage is dumb. His own mother thinks it's dumb. My heritage and my people mean alot to me. I'd hoped that my only Son would cherish it as much, but it never happened. Frankie, why don't you take the boy to Los Angeles to live with your mother?"

"John." Frankie reached out to her husband.

"Frankie, just take the boy and go." John, Sr. insisted, turning away from her. "I cannot love a woman who turns my child against his heritage."

"Johnny, take your stuff out to the truck and wait for me." Frankie instructed her Son.

"Mama." Johnny protested, tears wetting his cheeks.

"John Roderick, please, for once, just do as I say." Frankie gently shoved the teenager toward the door of his now barren room.

"Yes, Mama." The boy replied, then headed outside with his things.

Twenty-four year old John "Johnny" Gage, Jr. was sitting in the waiting room of Rampart's intensive care unit. He'd gotten a call at station fifty-one, where he now worked as a Firefighter/Paramedic that morning, shortly after arriving for his shift.

The call had been from his Stepmother, informing him that his father had suffered a stroke while touring Los Angeles with his current wife on their vacation.

"Doc, you don't have to stay here with me. I'm sure you have more important things to do." Johnny said.

"Johnny, nothing's more important than being with one of our own when he's going through a crisis." Dr Kelly Brackett assured the distraught man. "Your father just turned his back on you like that?"

"Yeah," Johnny nodded as Dixie McCall, the emergency department's head nurse and another close friend of Johnny's joined them. "After that day, I never saw him or that ranch again."

"Until now." Kel finished.

"Doc, my father hates me cause I'm half white. I look too much like my mother for his taste." Johnny said, then broke down for the umpteenth time since getting the news of his Dad's illness.

Kel then repeated the story that Johnny had just told him to Dixie. He then turned to a weeping Johnny.

"Johnny, you have to look at what your Dad was going through that day through his eyes." Brackett told him.

"Yeah," Dix agreed. "Imagine what your Dad must've felt when your Mom called his heritage dumb. To him, that must've felt like she was putting down all Native Americans, which she was. I can't blame him for asking her to leave that day."

"That I can see, but why me?" Johnny sniffed.

"Johnny, your Dad may have felt that your Mom turned you against him." Dix guessed.

"Not against him as a person, his heritage." Kel corrected.

"No, she didn't. I just turned away from something I did not and still don't understand." Johnny explained. "I grew up on a reservation, but the people there looked upon me as if I had some disease. Then, dad kept trying to tell me of what he'd been taught as a boy on that same reservation years before, but I just have no interest in learning it."

"Johnny, nobody says you have to." Kel said. "You still are confused as to where you fit in."

"I am." Johnny agreed.

Just then, a nurse came out of John Sr's room.

"Miss McCall, Mr. Gage would like to talk to you and Dr. Brackett, in private." The nurse informed both.

"Nurse, how is my father doing?" Johnny asked.

"I'm not at liberty to tell you." She answered.

"This is Mr. Gage's Son!" Kel protested.

"I'm sorry, but Mr. Gage never mentioned a Son." The nurse replied, then left to tend to other patients.

"He disowned me shortly before Mom and I came here." Johnny explained.

"Are you gonna be okay while we talk to him?" Dix asked.

Johnny nodded. Kel and Dix then entered the room where John, Sr. was. As they entered, the fiftyish man with salt and pepper hair looked over at them.

"Mr. Gage, this is Dr. Brackett and nurse McCall." The nurse who was in the room informed him, then left.

"Mr. Gage." Kel greeted. "We can we do for you?"

"I understand you know my Son." John, Sr. began, weakly.

"Yes, Sir. Johnny is a fine young man." Dix replied, softly.

"I would not know, Miss McCall." John, Sr. rasped.

"He's out in the hall right now." Kel told the man. "He'd like to see you."

"No!" Johnny's father gasped.

"Easy John." A woman with red hair and of the same age came over to the bed and whispered, soothingly. "Easy."

"My wife, Katrina." John, Sr. rasped.

"Sleep now, Husband." Katrina whispered. "Sleep."

John, Sr. drifted off to sleep. Katrina then went into the hall where Johnny was sitting.

"Katrina, how is my father?" Johnny asked her.

"Johnny, it disturbs me that you are here. Why have you come?" Katrina asked of him.

"He is my father." Johnny replied. "Can I see him?"

"He has requested that you not see him." Katrina informed him. "I see by your uniform that you are a fireman."

"I'm a Firefighter/Paramedic with the LA County fire department." Johnny replied.

"Johnny, long ago, you chose a life in your Mother's world. Your father has also made a new life for himself. He has children now who have a deep respect for him and for their heritage, something you never will have." Katrina told him.

"Mrs. Gage, Johnny made mistakes eight years ago as did his father, but Johnny should not be denied the right to see him." Kel stepped in as he and Dix joined him. "He is his Son."

"Doctor, John has made his wishes clear. I will not allow them to be ignored." Katrina replied. "Johnny, leave here and go back to the station where you are assigned. Forget your father. Allow him to spend whatever time he has left in peace and dignity. Allow him to be buried in the sacred tribal ways and on the land where his ancestors lay with those who respect him at his side."

"Doc, Dix, let's go." Johnny directed, leading the way from the ICU.

John Sr. died a week later, Katrina and their kids by his side. The body was then flown to the reservation where he was buried with his ancestors in a tribal ceremony. Johnny did not attend. Instead, he honored his father by placing a photo of him and his Dad in happier times on the door inside his locker at 51's, taking down his smokey the bear poster.

"How old were you there? About five?" Kel Brackett asked as he and Dix arrived at 51's to check on Johnny two days after the burial.

"About right." Johnny nodded.

"Your sure were cute." Dix remarked. "You are the spitting image of your Dad."

"I cried last night." Johnny told both. "I really wept for the first time in a long time. I cried for all the things I never got to do with Dad. All the times we never got to have. The fishing and camping trips we never took. It all hit me as I was going to bed last night, my Dad's gone and I never got to know him."

"Johnny, your Dad made his choices just as you made yours." Neal Brackett spoke up. "As for your heritage, maybe you know all you need to about that."

"You remember my Dad, don't you, John?" Kel asked.

"I do." Johnny nodded. "It's nice to see you feeling better, Sir."

"Thank you, John." Neal nodded. "You're not working today, are ya?"

"No, I just came to put this photo in here." Johnny replied. "Can I ask you a question?"

"Shoot." Neal replied.

"Are all fathers and Sons like me and my Dad?" Johnny wondered.

"Son, all I can tell ya is what I went through with Kel here. He and I had our differences." Neal replied. "All fathers and Sons have them."

"I never got a chance to patch them up with my dad." Johnny said, sadly. "I turned away from his traditions cause I did not understand them."

"Johnny, you can't fix the past." Kel told him. "All you can do is look toward the future."

"You said that maybe I know all that I need to know about my heritage. What did you mean?" Johnny asked of Neal.

"I just mean that you know what your heritage is. What you do with it now is up to you. What role it plays in your life is your decision, no one else's." Neal replied.

"You're right." Johnny agreed. "What do I do now though?"

"Well, I have my truck outside with my fishing boat. Why don't we all spend the day fishing?" Neal suggested.

"I'd like that." Johnny grinned.

As the friends left the station, Johnny silently said a prayer that he and his dad would meet again someday.