Nightmare by Mady Bay

~ Archived here with permission

'He' was working again. Substituting for Roy while he, Joanne and the kids went on vacation. Johnny despised him. "Mr. Perfect" himself. And now they were in the chemical plant together, searching for the foreman who'd gone back into the burning building. Johnny had found the man and was carrying him toward his 'partner'. Johnny handed the foreman over the rail of the catwalk, so he could climb over afterward. But as soon as he let go of the foreman, Johnny's side of the catwalk collapsed. Johnny reached out, screaming for help. But Craig Brice just stood there and laughed as Johnny plunged down toward the floor below.

"Nooooo!!!!" he screamed.

Johnny sat bolt upright, sweating and gasping for breath. He slowly realized where he was, looking around the station's bunkroom. Five faces stared back at him. Captain Stanley, Chet, Marco, Mike and Roy.

"Sorry," he guiltily muttered before getting up out of bed.

Johnny headed for the locker room. It was 4 AM. It was the third night in a row he'd had the nightmare. It was the third night in a row Craig Brice had watched and laughed as he died in his dreams. Johnny splashed some cold water on his face. He knew he wouldn't be able to go back to bed again this morning. He went to his locker, gave Smokey a weak smile and got dressed. He made his way to the common area of the station and turned on the television, keeping the volume low. Not much on, he leaned his head back onto the couch and tried to figure out why he kept having these nightmares. Roy entered the room and sat down.

"Anything good?" he asked, nodding toward the television.

"Nah. Sorry I woke you. Again," he said guiltily.

"What's going on Johnny?" Roy asked, concerned.

"Just nightmares," he responded. "No big deal."

"What about?" Roy asked.

Johnny laughed. "You don't want to know, Roy. Believe me," he said.

"Try me," Roy said, turning toward Johnny.

Johnny sat up and faced Roy.

"Craig Brice letting me die. Watching me die. And laughing as I fall from a catwalk to my death," he said.

"Brice?" Roy responded, laughing now. "Granted he is nightmare material, but still-."

"Hey, I don't write `em, I just dream `em," Johnny replied, cutting off Roy's comment.

"Okay, how long has this been going on?" Roy asked, getting serious again.

"Since Marco told us he was going on vacation and Brice volunteered to work the over time," Johnny answered.

"Johnny, I know personally what a nightmare it is to work with him," Roy began. "I also survived. Come on, its not like I'll be on vacation and you'll be stuck with him for every call."

"I know Roy. Its just that - oooh! - he just drives me up the wall!" Johnny said through clenched teeth.

"Just try to forget it," Roy said with a yawn. "I'm going back to bed. You should too."

"No, thanks. I'm up for good, I think," Johnny replied. "Thanks Roy. See you later."

"Sure," Roy replied, leaving the room.

At 7 AM the shift came in for breakfast. They found Johnny asleep on the couch, television still on. Chet was about to do something really nasty to wake him up when Roy and Captain Stanley stopped him.

"Let him sleep, Kelly. He needs it," Stanley said.

Two days later Marco was on vacation and Craig Brice was working the A shift over time. Johnny did his best to avoid Brice as much as possible. When he couldn't, he tried to be as civil as possible. Sometimes Roy had to intervene when even that was impossible, so Captain Stanley wouldn't catch wind of their problem. One of those times was about to happen when the station bells sounded. Roy sent a silent thank you upward, that he didn't have to deal with them now.

"Station 51, Station 48, Engine 115. Structure fire. Connelly's Auto Parts Warehouse. 107 Wagner Boulevard. Time out 11:15," boomed the dispatcher's voice.

Stanley picked up the mike. "Station 51 responding, KMG365."

Within ten minutes the fire trucks were at the small warehouse. They saw flames coming out of the windows, reaching high into the air. Captain Stanley was consulting with the other station captains and police on the scene. Then he came to the engine where his men were awaiting instructions.

"Witnesses think the owner may be in there," he began. "They say he works on restoring old cars after hours. Johnny, Roy, you head in and look for the owner. Craig, Chet, you take inch and a halves to the west side of the building. 48's men are taking the east and north."

"Right, Cap," they said simultaneously.

Johnny and Roy finished donning their turnout gear and air packs. They headed for the west side door to the warehouse where Chet and Brice were already tackling the flames. Roy entered first. They saw two cars that had been in various states of restoration, now charred remains. The walls of the warehouse were flaming as well as the boxes inside the warehouse. They'd gotten to the far side of the warehouse when Roy found the victim.

"Over here!" he shouted to Johnny.

Johnny saw Roy looking and pointing upward. Up above in a loft storage area, they saw an arm dangling over the edge. They looked around, found a set of stairs and quickly started ascending. They managed to get to the man, climbing over debris and crates of auto parts. The man was unconscious. Roy saw that he was having difficulty breathing. He hefted him up over his shoulders and started to head back toward the stairs. Johnny followed. As Johnny was making his way past one of the stacks of crates, one of them fell down from above. Johnny tried blocking it with his arm, but it still knocked him down.

Roy looked back quickly, hearing the crate fall and Johnny's cry. "You okay?!" Roy yelled, seeing Johnny climbing back to his feet.

"Yeah!" he responded. "Go ahead!" he said, waving painfully.

Johnny winced, and rubbed his upper arm, where the crate had hit. He tried to get his mask and helmet back on straight with his good hand. They'd been knocked off when he fell. Roy was making good time and was near the exit when an explosion blew him and the victim to the ground.

"Roy!" Chet yelled, dropping his water line, running to him.

Roy got up groggily. He checked the victim quickly. `No worse for wear,' he thought grimly. Then he thought of his partner."Johnny's still in there!" he shouted, ready to go back into the burning building.

Brice came over to him, put his hand on Roy's shoulder. "Take care of the victim. I'll go after Gage," he said, heading back in.

Brice entered with Chet, water hoses leading the way, knocking down flames. They found Johnny at the top of the stairs, trying unsuccessfully to get up from a prone position. The stairs however, were engulfed in flames. Brice quickly glanced around, trying to find another way to get to Johnny. Chet pointed to a catwalk that connected the loft to another on the other side of the warehouse. Brice nodded and headed toward the other loft.

"This catwalk doesn't look too stable, " he told Chet. "You better stay here."

Brice set out across the catwalk, keeping his eyes ahead of him. He heard Chet calling to Gage.

"Johnny! Just hang tight, Pal!" Chet called. "We're coming to get you!"

Johnny, in the meantime, had managed to get to a sitting position. He was coughing violently, his facemask still askew, letting the noxious smoke into his lungs. He knew what the problem was, but for some reason he couldn't think straight enough to fix it. His head was pounding. Somewhere in the back of his mind he thought he might have hit his head. Coughing wasn't helping the pain go away. He heard Chet calling him, telling him to stay put that help was coming.

He thought he saw Roy on a catwalk coming toward his side of the loft. He crawled toward it, hoping to get out of there sooner and to get away from the flames that were now at the top of the stairs. He managed to get to the catwalk and reached to the hand extended to him.

"Come on, let's get out of here!" Brice called to him.

Johnny looked up, realizing who it was on the catwalk. Suddenly he panicked, visions of his nightmare flooding his memory. Part of him knew it wasn't rational, but he let go of Brice's hand and backed up. "No!!" he yelled.

"Gage! Come on!" Brice yelled back. "Gage, we don't have time! This place is gonna go any time!" he continued, approaching Johnny, wondering what had gotten into him.

"No!!" Johnny yelled again, continuing to back up, getting dangerously close to the flames behind him.

Another coughing fit overcame Johnny, forcing him to collapse to the floor, and lose consciousness. Brice took the opportunity and grabbed him, hauling him over his shoulders. He headed back out over the catwalk, and Chet led him down the stairs and out of the warehouse. They made it outside when another explosion practically leveled the warehouse. Brice carried Johnny toward the squad. He saw Roy working on his victim. Jim Foley, one of 48's paramedics, was performing CPR on him while Roy was readying the epinephrine injection ordered by Rampart. Roy quickly glanced at Brice, eyes questioning.

"He's alive," Brice answered.

Roy meanwhile had been ordered to transport his patient as soon as possible. As a second ambulance arrived, he and Jim readied their patient for transport and loaded him into the first. They'd gotten a weak pulse on the man, but Roy wasn't too confident in his condition. He believed they'd be doing some more CPR so Jim said he'd ride with Roy to Rampart. After Jim got in, Roy quickly went to check on Johnny.

"How is he?" he asked Brice.

"Unconscious, possible head injury, broken arm, some smoke inhalation," Brice reported, looking up to Roy. "I'll take good care of him, DeSoto," he added.

"I know, Craig. I'll see you at Rampart," Roy responded before heading back to his own patient.

Brice started his patient assessment process on Johnny. The first thing he noticed was Johnny's irregular breathing. "Kelly, let's get some oxygen started," he instructed, continuing his survey. "Gage? Gage can you hear me?" he asked, hoping for some kind of response. 'Even one of your usual snide, smart-ass comments would be welcome right now, Gage,' he thought.

He tried other means of checking responsiveness. He pinched Johnny's hand and did a sternal rub. There was no response to either. Brice checked his pupils. 'Definite head injury,' he thought, confirming it when his hand came away bloody from the side of Johnny's head.

He took Johnny's vital signs as Chet carefully took Johnny's turnout gear off. Brice picked up the biophone. "Rampart, this is squad 51," he called.

"Go ahead, 51," replied Dr. Brackett.

"Rampart, we have a 30 year old male, victim was in a fire," Brice began. "He is showing signs of a head injury, smoke inhalation and a broken left humerus. Vital signs are as follows: Pulse 80, Respiration 12 and labored, BP 130 over 90 and pupils are dilated and sluggish. Victim is not responding to any stimuli at this time. We have already started oxygen."

"10-4, 51. Start IV D5W and transport as soon as possible," Brackett ordered.

Brice started the IV as ordered and started to "package" Johnny up. Steve McDaniel from squad 48 came to help out. "I'll get the backboard," Steve said after putting a cervical collar around Johnny's neck.

"Okay, I'm almost done splinting his arm," Brice said.

After they got him on the backboard, Brice stood up. "Let me just tell Captain Stanley how he is. I'll be right back," he said.

Johnny started moaning softly, trying to move his head and body.

"Hey, easy there, Johnny. Don't move," Steve soothed.

Johnny opened his eyes slowly.

"Roy?" he rasped under the oxygen mask.

"No, its Steve McDaniel. Roy's on his way to Rampart with the burn victim," he said. "How ya doin'?"

"I feel like shit," he answered, closing his eyes.

"Well, don't you worry. We're gonna take good care of you," Steve said, smiling. "Do you know what day this is?" he asked, wanting to assess Johnny's alertness and orientation.

After a brief bout of coughing, Johnny managed to answer Steve. "It's Friday, my name is John Gage, we're at a warehouse fire and I think I got blown up," Johnny said with a moan.

"Gee, you're psychic," Steve responded with a chuckle. "How'd you know what else I was going to ask you?"

"You only ask me what day it is when I can see three of you at once," Johnny replied. "So I know I've either got a head injury or we're at one of Stoker's parties," he finished, coughing some more. He squeezed his eyes shut, trying to block the pain pulsing at his temples, before passing out again.

"Hang in there, Johnny," Steve replied, giving his shoulder a pat.

Brice returned as Johnny was being loaded into the ambulance.

"Hey, Brice," Steve called. "He came to for a minute or so. He was oriented times three. Take care of him. I'll see you at Rampart," he finished, heading back to his own squad.

Johnny started coming around again. He felt movement, but couldn't move. His head was pounding. He heard voices, but he couldn't understand what they were saying. He couldn't figure out what was happening. He was getting agitated and started to pull at the straps holding him down to the backboard. Brice saw his movements.

"Gage? Gage?" he called.

'Oh God, Brice!' Johnny thought. Scenes from his nightmares flashed through his mind again. He remembered getting called to a structure fire with Roy. They went into the chemical plant to rescue the foreman. 'No, that's not right,' he thought, struggling harder at the straps. 'It's just a dream!'

"Gage, calm down! Stop it! You're going to hurt yourself!" Brice ordered, trying to get through to Johnny.

"Nooo!!! Roy!!!" Johnny shouted.

He managed to get his right hand free and started tearing at the oxygen mask.

"Gage!" Brice shouted again, becoming worried.

The ambulance attendant with them tried to help Brice by grabbing Johnny's arm so Brice could resecure it. The whole time Johnny kept screaming. He was calling for help, cursing Brice and crying out in pain as well. At one point the attendant lost his grip on Johnny's arm and Johnny lashed out, hitting Brice square on the jaw, knocking his glasses off. Finally they resecured the arm, reattached the IV he'd pulled out and put the oxygen mask back on. Brice reached for the biophone.

"Rampart, this is squad 51," he called, panting from the recent struggle.

"Go ahead, 51," Brackett answered.

"Rampart, be advised patient has become combative," he informed them, rubbing his jaw. "He appears disoriented and is fighting treatment," Brice continued.

Brackett heard Johnny's yelling in the background. He took a deep breath, his face becoming grim as thoughts about serious head trauma came to mind. "10-4, 51," he said, distress obvious in his voice. "Keep us informed."

Brice hung up the biophone and looked at Johnny. He was obviously getting tired from his efforts, but kept them up none-the-less.

"Gage, calm down. Please," Brice said quietly, trying for a less intimidating approach now.

Johnny looked at him wearily. "What have I ever done to you?" he asked, tears forming as he passed out.

When the ambulance arrived, Dixie and Roy met them at the doors."How is he?" Roy asked nervously.

"Unconscious again," Brice answered.

"Room two," Dixie interjected.

Once Johnny was in the treatment room and transferred from the ambulance stretcher to the exam bed, Dr. Brackett began his examination. "Pupils are dilated, a little sluggish," he noted. "Dix, I want a full skull series, including a CAT scan," he ordered.

He continued to assess Johnny's injuries when Johnny started to come to again.

"Johnny?" he called.

Johnny opened his eyes, tried to focus.

"Doc?" he responded weakly.

Brackett gave him a smile.

"Johnny? Do you know where you are?" he asked, checking Johnny's pupils again.

"Rampart, right?" he answered.

"Do you know what happened?" Brackett asked.

"No," he groaned.

Brackett looked concerned. "Johnny, do you know what day it is today?" he asked.

"Sunday?" he replied.

"Alright," Brackett replied. "Hang tight. We're going to take some x-rays of that hard head of yours, okay?"

Johnny tried to nod, couldn't. So he closed his eyes, assenting, slipping back into unconsciousness.

Roy, Brackett, Brice and Dixie watched as Johnny was wheeled out of the room toward the radiology department.

"How is he?" Roy asked tentatively.

"I don't know yet. I'd like to hope it's just a simple concussion," Brackett started.

"But?" Roy countered, sensing that Brackett was still unsure.

"His disorientation is bothering me," Bracket said.

"Well, couldn't the smoke inhalation be aggravating that?" Roy asked.

"Of course, Roy," Brackett countered. "But the combativeness in the ambulance, was a clear sign of a head injury."

"And believe me," Brice interjected. "He WAS combative. He punched me in the jaw!"

They looked at Brice and he showed them his jaw. It was already starting to bruise.

"Come on, Craig. I'll get you an ice pack for that," Dixie said, grasping Brice's elbow and leading him down the hall.

Brackett looked back at Roy, saw the worried look on his face. "Look Roy, there's nothing else to do but wait now. As soon as I get the results from the CAT scan and see the x-rays, I'll let you know," Brackett told him.

"Thanks, Doc," Roy responded.

Roy and Brice were told to call the station. Brice had been reassigned to take over Johnny's shift and a non-paramedic fireman took over his overtime position. Apparently there was a major accident on the freeway, so Roy was unable to stay for the results of Johnny's tests.

A few hours later, after dropping the last accident victim off in the ER, Roy and Brice made their way up to the ICU to see Johnny. Brackett and the others were busy in the ER and couldn't talk to Roy about Johnny's condition, so Roy was still unsure about Johnny's prognosis. Roy sat next to the bed as Brice stood uncomfortably at the doorway. Johnny's head was bandaged and his broken arm was casted and immobilized. He was still receiving oxygen and an IV. After a few minutes, Johnny started to moan softly, turning his head back and forth.

"Johnny? Johnny are you awake?" Roy called gently.

Johnny blinked his eyes a few times, trying to focus. He tried to talk but wound up coughing under the oxygen mask instead. Roy grabbed Johnny's hand as he saw him squeeze his eyes shut, trying to block the headache the coughing had aggravated.

"Sssh, take it easy, partner," Roy soothed.

"Roy," Johnny rasped between coughs.

"I'm right here, Johnny," he responded.

Brice picked that moment to approach the bed as well, hoping to wish Johnny well.

"Hey, Gage," he started. "Glad to see you back."

Johnny, still in his injured, smoke filled, painful stupor looked at Brice and panicked. He started to move around in the bed, trying to climb out of it, away from Brice.

"No. No. Roy! Get him away! Roy!" he tried to shout amid his coughs.

"Gage, what's going on? Calm down," Brice said, trying, with Roy to keep Johnny stable.

But Johnny just got more agitated hearing Brice's voice. Something clicked and Roy finally realized what was going on. He remembered Johnny's nightmares about Brice. Every time Johnny had been combative or uncooperative since the warehouse fire, he'd been with Brice. And this was no exception.

"Brice. Get out of here," Roy ordered.

"What?" he responded, incredulous.

"It's you! You're setting him off," Roy replied, then returned his attention back to Johnny, who was now coughing violently.

"DeSoto-" Brice started.

"Get out!" Roy ordered again, this time shouting.

Brice backed out of the room. The ICU nurse who had responded to the commotion found Roy holding Johnny down on the bed.

"Johnny, come on relax," Roy told him calmly and evenly. "Johnny, you're safe. No one is going to hurt you."

"But he-" Johnny started.

"NO, Johnny," Roy implored. "Listen to me. NO ONE hurt you. It was an accident."

While Roy was talking, trying to calm Johnny down, the nurse had administered a sedative. In a few minutes Johnny's coughing subsided and he was asleep. Roy got up a few minutes later and left. He found Brice down the hall talking with Brackett. They both looked up, acknowledging his arrival.

"How is he?" Brice asked.

"Better. The nurse sedated him," Roy answered quietly, looking down.

"Craig was telling me something about you thinking he was the cause for Johnny's combativeness?" Brackett questioned, eyebrows raised.

Roy looked up and sighed.

"Well, everybody knows that Johnny and Craig are far from being the best of "friends," Roy started. He saw Brackett and Brice both nod in agreement before continuing. "Well, when he heard that Craig was going to be working our shift for Marco for the next two weeks, he was NOT a happy camper. He even had nightmares about it."

"Nightmares?" Brackett and Brice questioned simultaneously.

"Yeah, pretty scary ones too. He woke up screaming a few times on the overnights," Roy replied.

"What were they about?" Brice asked, curious and dumbfounded at how he could be the subject of someone's nightmare.

"I never heard the details. I just know that you were in them and watched Johnny die in them," Roy answered. "I think this warehouse fire may have been similar to the nightmare. That combined with smoke inhalation and a head injury-" he started to surmise.

"Is a good way to confuse nightmares with reality," finished Brackett. "That does explain a few things for me," he continued.

"Like what?" Roy asked.

"I got the results of his x-rays and CAT scan," he began. "The damage they show amounts to a moderate concussion. I couldn't find anything that would lead me to believe he had the damage his outward signs indicated," he finished.

"So you're saying he'll be all right?" Brice asked.

"I do believe so, gentlemen," Brackett responded.

"So what do we do about his reaction to Craig?" Roy asked.

"I'd say Craig should avoid Johnny for a few days," Brackett responded. "At least until his head clears and he's off the pain medications and sedatives."

"All right. Thanks, Doc," Roy replied.

A few days later Roy was visiting Johnny in his room. He'd been transferred out of ICU once it was determined that his head injury was not life threatening and his lungs cleared up. Roy had given Johnny the abbreviated story about what had happened.

"So what do YOU remember?" Roy asked.

"Not much. I remember getting hit by the crate, breaking my arm," Johnny replied, motioning to his casted limb. "And I think I remember talking with Steve from 48. Hey, did I have a CAT scan?" He asked suddenly.

"Yeah, why?" Roy asked.

"Then that explains the spinning white tunnel image," he said.

"Do you remember punching Craig Brice in the ambulance?" Roy asked, with a hint of a smile showing.

"What?!" Johnny exclaimed.

"Yeah, you got combative and punched him square in the jaw," Roy told him matter-of-factly.

"Damn!" Johnny cursed, shaking his head. "I finally take a swing and hit Brice and I can't even remember it!"

Roy laughed. He had had similar thoughts. Lots of people wanted to take a swing at Brice now and then. And he knew Johnny would be pissed for doing it but not remembering it. His thoughts were interrupted then when Brice walked into the room.

"Is it safe for me to come in?" he questioned.

Roy wasn't sure if Brice was truly being cautious or if he was joking.

"Sure," Johnny replied.

"I'm glad you're doing better, Gage," Brice said.

"Thanks, Brice," Johnny replied. "And I want to thank you for saving my life back there. The guys all told me what you did."

"It was all part of the job," Brice replied, suddenly uncomfortable.

"And I'm sorry about punching you, really," Johnny continued, truly feeling guilty now, as he saw the bruise on Brice's jaw.

Brice had heard the last part of Johnny and Roy's conversation before he'd entered the room. He took a minute to study Johnny's face before he replied.

"It's all right, Gage. No harm done," he finally replied. "Besides, I kind of got a kick out of finding out I was the cause of your worst nightmare," he finished with an uncharacteristically evil gleam in his eye. "Pleasant dreams," he said as he exited the room.

"Roy," Johnny started. "Can you believe that guy?! 'Pleasant dreams'? I am no longer sorry I punched him. You got that?" he rambled.

"Johnny, go to sleep," Roy said, shaking his head. "I'll see you tomorrow."

Author's Notes: Okay, so maybe I have been watching/reading too many weird stories and X-Files. That first paragraph just came to me and it seemed so good, I HAD to write around it. I still hope you liked it. We all know we love to hate Brice and this is what came out. Let me know what you think!