Frankie and Johnny
Frankie and Johnny was sweethearts
At least that's the way the story goes...
~ Frankie and Johnny - Sam Cooke
Roy watched Johnny smiling and chatting up the new nurse and shook his head. In love all over again, for the third time this month. He sighed and took another sip of water to pass the time. Joanne always laughed when he told her that most of his water intake took place in the hallways at Rampart waiting for his best friend, but it was true.
Finally, Johnny tore himself away from the petite blonde in the nurse's uniform. He grinned at Roy and proudly showed him a small piece of paper. "Take a look at that!"
"She actually gave you her phone number?"
"I know, I was pretty- hey!" Johnny frowned at him, and tucked the number away in his pocket with a put-upon air. "You don't have to sound so shocked, Roy. I have my good points, you know!"
"Of course you do." Roy rolled his eyes and gave his partner a playful pat on the arm to take away the seriousness he heard in his own voice. "C'mon, loverboy, we need to get back to the station."
"Don't you even want to know her name?"
"Francesca Easton-Blake. Goes by Frankie. Twenty-three this past March, just moved from the east coast, been nursing for six months total." Johnny gaped at him. "Dix told me all about her. She knew you were going to try, so she said I might as well be informed."
Johnny was stumped for a second, and he made that confused face that said he didn't know whether to be offended or not. It was one of Roy's favorite faces, oddly enough, which was one reason he relished saying things that brought it out. Finally, Johnny decided on not being offended, and smiled at Roy. "Well, there's a lot you don't know about her, how about that?"
"C'mon," Roy said again. "You can tell me all about it in the squad."
"Hey, Johnny, how was your time off?" Roy's bright question was met with a grunt and a shrug. Johnny's face didn't even lift into the tiniest of smiles. "That bad, huh?"
Another grunt. Johnny yanked off his coat and tossed it onto the bench. When he reached for the handle to his locker, Roy caught sight of a large, shiny gold watch on his wrist. He whistled. "Nice watch."
Johnny cut his eyes at Roy, yanked the watch off and tossed it violently into the locker. "That's what I think of that watch!" he snapped.
"Wow. Um... something you want to tell me about?"
"Not really. No offense, Roy, I just don't feel like talking."
"Okay. No problem." One. Two. Thr-
"It's just that, if you ask a girl you're going with not to spend hundreds of dollars on a gift, you'd think she'd listen!"
"Oh. Frankie strikes again, huh?"
"Yeah, with a vengeance!" He pulled off his shirt and tossed it into his locker. Then he picked it up again and shook it at Roy. "This was one thing! I didn't tell you before, but do you know this shirt cost $35?" Roy whistled. "Yeah! I had no idea until after I accepted. Saw it in a magazine a week ago. I couldn't give it back after all this time, but I can't give Frankie stuff like this, Roy."
"Well, Johnny," he answered, trying to be diplomatic. "Times are changing, I mean it's not the end of the world that she has more money than you do, is it?"
"But she doesn't have to flaunt it, Roy! Does she? I'm not sexist, or I don't think I am. But when we go out, we can't just go for burgers, it has to be steak every time. We spent over sixty bucks at a restaurant the other night." Roy whistled again. "And if I suggest going someplace else she says she'll take care of it. How would that make you feel, dating a girl who paid every time because you couldn't afford the places she wants to go?"
Roy nodded his head in acquiescence. "Yeah, I don't think that would make me feel so good."
"And now this. Roy, do you know how much she paid for that watch?" Roy shook his head. "Just guess. Here." He pulled out the watch and handed it to Roy. "Take a good look and tell me what you think."
Roy examined the watch, surprised to see that it wasn't gold-plated - it was actually made of solid 14k gold. And it was a genuine Rolex, not a well done copy. He could understand Johnny's complaint, and he whistled again. "This has to be worth over $500!"
Roy gaped, speechless. He set the watch carefully back in Johnny's locker, almost afraid that if he touched it too long, he might damage it and owe money to the invisible Rolex gods. "That's-"
"It's insane! I've known the girl for all of a month and a half. And as you know, haven't made $850 in the whole time I've known her, but she's spending two months' pay on me already! Two months of my pay, anyway."
Roy shook his head, staring up at Johnny in astonishment. "That's... you... did you to talk to her about it?"
"Yeah, absolutely! But it's like talking to a wall! She says the same thing, that she doesn't mind, it doesn't hurt her wallet, she wants to give me things, it makes her happy, blah blah blah. But what about my happiness? Isn't she supposed to care a little bit about that? I asked her for a different kind of watch if she just had to buy me one, but she wouldn't take it back. She wants to get me the other watch on top of this one! I can't-"
Johnny stopped short at the jovial sound of Marco's voice, and looked at Roy with a minute shake of his head. Roy gave him a tiny nod, and picked up Johnny's jacket just as Marco walked in. "You're creating a fire hazard, Johnny," he said, using it to push the watch to the back of the locker. "Heya Marco, how was your time off?"
"Great!" Marco scurried to his locker. "We had a big..." While Marco rattled away about his off-days, with his head in and out of his locker, Johnny gave Roy a grateful look and a small smile. Roy tapped him on the shoulder, then went back to getting dressed and listening to Marco's story.
"No! NO, absolutely NOT!" Roy frowned. Johnny sounded angrier than Roy had ever heard him sound. The other guys looked surprised and confused. "NO, Frankie, I won't, this is going to STOP!" Roy stood up from the kitchen table at the same time Cap got to his feet. They walked out to the garage, and looked toward the street where Johnny's furious voice had echoed from.
Roy stopped in his tracks. Frankie was there, of course, but she was standing beside a bright red, 1976 Porche 911 convertible. Frankie's face was red, and tears were streaming down her cheeks. Johnny's face was equally red, but he was absolutely livid. "I told you I was happy with my car, I NEVER wanted this!"
"But Johnny, I just wanted to-"
"NO!" he bellowed. "I'm NOT going to accept this, so you can just take it RIGHT BACK TO THE DEALER! And you know what else, you can take the rest of this stuff, too! We're FINISHED!"
The girl gasped in horror, and Johnny stormed away from her. He pulled up short when he saw Roy and Cap watching, and his face turned an even darker red. He kept walking, though, and Cap touched his arm as he passed. "John?"
"I'm sorry, Cap. I'll be done with this in just a minute." He trotted to the locker rooms, and came back with five shirts, a jacket, and the watch she'd given him. He stormed back to the car, and ignoring the plaintive wailing and the promises to stop buying him things, he tossed the gifts into the car through the open convertible top.
"Johnny, please please don't do this!"
"I didn't do this, Frankie, you did! I've told you over and over, and you won't... you just... I can't do this anymore, okay? it's over. Now please go away from here, we can't have people blocking the driveway."
Johnny turned away from her, looking like he felt just awful. Roy glanced past him to where Frankie was staring at his retreating back. Her expression changed from one of hurt to one of pure venom. She glared at him, hot daggers shooting into Johnny's back, and then she got into the Porche and drove away at high speed. Johnny's shoulders slumped immediately, and his face was hot with shame and probably still a bit of rage. But he looked up at Cap and took a deep breath. "Your office?"
Cap shook his head. "Grab a shower, pal. Cool off, okay? If you want to talk, see me later."
Johnny smiled, and Roy stifled a sigh of relief. They had a great captain, but that scene might have gotten Johnny in some deep trouble even with the nicest of captains - even though it wasn't his fault. Roy knew that wasn't what Johnny needed, after the stress he'd been under for the last four months. Fortunately, Cap knew it, too, even though none of them knew the details like Roy did. Johnny had told Roy and Joanne a lot more about how Frankie was over dinners at the house. Dinners he said he'd had to do "spy maneuvers" to get to undetected.
"Thanks a lot, Cap," Johnny said. With a glance at Roy, he jogged back to the locker rooms.
Roy sighed and turned back to see the rest of the station staring at Johnny as he headed for his shower. "Okay, fellas, let's break it up, all right?" Cap said. "Food's getting cold."
In silence, the guys headed back to the kitchen to their tuna sandwiches and chips. They remained silent for a few minutes, until Mike broke the ice. "How 'bout them '49ers?"
They laughed, and conversation went back to normal. Roy hung around for a few minutes more, then left to check on his friend. The others noticed, but no one - not even Chet - asked him about it. Roy got to the shower room in time to catch Johnny tossing a fresh uniform shirt on.
"Hey," Roy said softly. "You okay?"
John looked up briefly before focusing on the buttons again. "I guess so. I feel sort of bad now. Like... I shouldn't have humiliated her like that in front of everybody." He sighed. "But what else was I supposed to do? She... she... a CAR?" He shook his head, speechless.
"I couldn't believe it myself. Look, try not to feel too bad. It's not like you haven't talked to her about the gifts several times."
"Right. And about showing up at the station unannounced. And talking to me about personal stuff at Rampart. And trying to track my every move." He shook his head. "I'm not happy it went that way, but it had to happen sooner or later. That just wasn't healthy, Roy."
"I agree." Roy took a breath and made a split decision. "Hey, Jo and I were-"
Roy was interrupted by the tones. "Station 51..." Of course. Johnny hurriedly pulled on his shoes, and the two men walked quickly to the squad. When they got the address and pulled out, Johnny invited Roy to finish his sentence, but Roy claimed he couldn't remember. "It'll come back to me," he lied. He wasn't sure he'd ever have the guts to say it again.
Roy was on his fifth sip of water before Johnny finally tore himself away from Bridgette. Frankie had quit Rampart General the day she'd brought the car to the station, after telling all the nurses that she'd dumped Johnny because he was scared of commitment, and that she was going back to live with her family in New York. The tall, pretty, redheaded nurse, Bridgette, had replaced her. Bridgette had been on the job for two weeks, and Johnny had only been trying to get her number for one. Roy thought, with good humor, that he was learning to be more careful.
"She's amazing, Roy!"
"I'm sure she is."
Johnny looked at him with that little almost-annoyed face. "Okay, what did Dixie tell you?"
"Um..." Roy shrugged and smiled. "Why don't you tell me about her in the squad?"
Johnny beamed and Roy soon heard all about the magnificent Bridgette. She was the order of the day for another full week. She was sweet, she was funny, she wasn't flashy or pushy in any way and she was reasonable when it came to money. She went Dutch with him for a week (after Johnny treated on the first date) and Johnny was the first to buy her a present - a simple bouquet of flowers and a teddy bear, which she apparently loved.
After two weeks of dating, Johnny invited Roy and Joanne on a double date. Roy and Jo agreed, joking later (after he'd gone) that it was probably as close as they would get to what they really wanted, but it might be fun to get outside. The four of them went to dinner, then out dancing at a club that wasn't too teeny-bopper, but wasn't too heavy at the same time. The evening was definitely fun. Bridgette was almost as wonderful as Johnny proclaimed. She was a nice girl, pleasant to be around, friendly without pushing herself to the center of everything.
Johnny danced with her almost non stop once they got to the club. After about thirty minutes, he came back and insisted that Roy and Jo join the fun.
"I don't know," Roy said. "I'm not much of a dancer, you know that."
"Oh come on, Roy, live a little!"
"It's a lot of fun," Bridgette assured him.
"I don't know."
"Joanne, tell him you want to dance," Johnny said. "He'll come if you tell him to."
Jo smiled at Roy and shrugged. "Come on, nobody will be looking anyway."
Roy sighed, but Johnny knew him well. He got up and both John and Bridgette beamed. They all trooped back to the dance floor, and Roy really did have a great time. He wasn't the fumble-foot he pretended to be (as Jo well knew), he just didn't tend to like crowds and it made a good cover.
During a lull between songs, while Roy was gazing at his wife, smiling and feeling exhilarated from the fast dance, he heard an unexpected sound. A sharp, familiar voice, shouted "JOHNNY GAGE!"
Roy and Jo started, and turned toward the voice. It was Frankie, standing a few yards away on the dance floor, glaring at Johnny and Bridgette. The other couple was only a few feet from them, but Frankie didn't seem to notice Roy or Jo. "Frankie!" Johnny was stunned. "What... I thought you went back to New York!"
"That's what I wanted you to think!" Johnny frowned, and a few people began to move away from the angry woman. "I wanted to stick around to see what kind of trash you were going to rope in next!"
"Hey! Look, don't talk about her that way," Johnny snapped, glancing at his stunned and angry date. "You've got no right, now we broke up fair and square. You need to-"
"Don't you tell me what I need to do! After all I did for you!"
"You know I never asked for anything from you! You-"
"It's you!" she screamed. "You used me, and you need to be stopped. And I'm going to be the one to do it!" She reached into her purse and pulled out a large silver handgun.
Several people screamed, and in an instant it seemed like there was a huge empty circle around the woman and the two couples. Roy and Jo were frozen to the spot. Johnny, face pale and breathing shallow, slowly pulled Bridgette behind him with one arm, and held the other one out toward Frankie. "Now listen to me, Frankie," he said, his voice completely calm despite his obvious fear. He spoke in a tone Roy had heard him use for patients and panicking family members at the scene of tragedies. "I know you're upset. I understand that. But you've got to think now, Frankie. Think about what you're doing, okay? You're beautiful, you're young, you're smart. Don't do something you'll regret over me, okay? Don't ruin your whole life over me."
For a split second, Roy thought Johnny had done it. Frankie kept her eyes on him, and she still had the gun down at her side, pointing to the hardwood dance floor. Then, in the next second, she lifted the gun and fired. Roy felt his own heart stop. Someone screamed. A lot of people screamed, Joanne included. Johnny staggered back, but kept his feet. Frankie shot twice more in quick succession, and Bridgette screamed and sprang out of the way.
Johnny fell back, hitting the floor with a heavy thud. Roy stared at his friend, stared at the blood seeping from the raw, angry wounds in his torso. He wanted to race in to help, but he couldn't just walk into the line of fire. It wouldn't help if he got shot, too. Somebody had to do something.
Bridgette screamed in abject terror, and Roy looked up sharply from her to Frankie. The woman had taken aim at Bridgette now. Roy took a step in her direction instinctively. "Somebody stop her!" he shouted. She turned the gun to Roy, and Joanne gripped his arm, but didn't pull him back. "Stop her, now!" Roy shouted.
Before Frankie could fire again, a boy from the frightened audience vaulted for her and knocked her to the ground. There was a struggle, but it didn't last long. Five more men joined in, wrestling the gun from Frankie and holding her down. "Thank you," Roy breathed. "You guys keep her there. You. You, miss, in the blue dress. Find a phone and call an ambulance and call the police, okay?"
"Okay," the wide-eyed girl nodded and ran off.
"Jo, honey call the station and tell them what's happening. Then get me a lot of clean towels and hot water if you can find it." Joanne was off at a run almost before Roy finished his sentence. Bridgette was staring at Johnny with huge eyes, her face pale and frightened. Roy dropped to his knees beside Johnny and put a hand on his friend's shoulder. "Johnny? Johnny!" Johnny's eyes fluttered open, and he turned his head slowly. "That's right, Johnny, look at me okay? Look at me."
It took Johnny several seconds to focus on Roy's face. "Good, Johnny, good. Just look at me, okay? You're going to be just fine." He ripped Johnny's buttoned shirt open and stared at the bullet wounds, forcing himself to keep his own fear off his face.
"It's bad... isn't..."
"No, Johnny, no, it's not bad," he said.
"You're a... te... terrible li-"
His eyes drifted shut mid-sentence, and Roy shoved down panic. He pulled his own shirt off and started to staunch the blood flow. He heard a little whimper from Bridgette and looked up. "Nurse?" She gasped and looked at him with still-wide eyes. "Nurse, can I get some help here?"
"Yeah," she said in a breathy voice. "Yeah, yes, I can help."
"Let's get a pulse and respiration, okay?"
She crouched down and got to work, seeming to settle down when Roy gave her a specific task. He didn't begrudge her the moment of panic. Nurses were supposed to have the greater medical knowledge, but they were used to working in the hospital or the doctor's office for the most part. Most of them weren't used to being in the trenches like the paramedics, with violence and pooling blood, and no doctors right next door to guide them.
Bridgette pulled herself together well and checked Johnny's vitals for Roy. Soon, Jo came back with towels and hot water, and they started anti-shock measures until the paramedics arrived. It was Dwyer and Washington from C shift, and they were shocked to see Johnny down. They were at work in an instant, contacting Rampart and prepping IVs. They didn't shoo Roy out of the way until they were ready to pack the wounds. "We'll take it from here. Thanks Roy."
"Don't worry," Washington said. "We'll take good care of him."
Roy nodded and forced himself to pull back. His hands were covered in Johnny's blood and he felt drained and sick. He felt his wife's warm hand grip his shoulder and he turned to her. There were tears in her eyes, but she smiled and nodded to him. "He's going to be fine, Roy. He'll pull through."
Roy sighed and tried to keep tears from his eyes. "Promise?" It was the thing people did that Roy'd never understood before. Asking someone to promise something would go a certain way, when they had absolutely no control over the outcome. But he suddenly understood why they did it, on a visceral level. He needed to hear it. And Joanne didn't disappoint him.
"I promise, Roy. He'll be just fine."
Johnny survived. It took emergency surgery, a blood transfusion and ten days in ICU, but he survived. But "pulling through" was another matter.
Roy didn't notice it at first. He and the guys from A shift moved most of Johnny's clothes and several other personal items into Roy's house. They had the extra room, and Johnny needed too much help to live by himself, with only the emotional neighbor's sister-in-law and girlfriend, and the cranky landlady to help. Besides the fact that he needed help bathing and with other basic needs, he lived in a place with stairs, and those would be completely unmanageable for a while yet.
Johnny was grateful for the help, and Roy and Joanne were happy to have him. The kids were happy, too, even though Uncle Johnny couldn't play like he used to. Of course, he had the normal amount of frustrations. An active young man confined to a wheelchair for most of the day, unable to bathe himself, cook for himself, or even go outside to the front yard without help - it was awful for him. There were some moments of frustration, moments of anger, and moments of depression.
Roy was certain that the depression was made worse by the fact that, almost immediately after the attack, right when Johnny had come out of Intensive Care, Bridgette had said goodbye (with tears) to Johnny. Her parents had panicked, and begged her to come back to Northern California. They'd secured a job with her father's friend who had his own practice, and Bridgette (frightened herself by the "dangerous" environment in the southland) had accepted. Johnny insisted that he didn't really mind. They weren't that close anyway. But Roy was sure it hurt to know that in a way, Frankie had ruined things between him and Bridgette.
The trial was difficult. Joanne made sure Johnny made it to each day of the trial, even when Roy had to work. On days that Roy attended, he noticed that Johnny was withdrawn, and refused to look in Frankie's direction. When he testified, he kept his eyes off of her as well, and by the time he left the stand, he was shaking and sweaty. He asked to be left alone for the rest of the day once they got home, though the next day he seemed to be his usual self again.
The stronger he got, the better his outlook seemed to be. When he was able to walk around with a cane, they had a little celebratory party with the guys from the station. But the real party came when he finally got a clean bill of health from Dr. Brackett. They had an all-out blast, with their shift, as many of the doctors who could make it, the guys from C-shift, and even some guys Johnny had pulled overtime with at 8's and 110's. Johnny seemed to enjoy himself, although Roy caught him looking melancholy now and then. He assumed it was because of one notably absent party guest - Bridgette.
Everyone wished Johnny well, and on his way out, Cap said, "Vacation's over, pal." He winked. "It's gonna be good to have you back."
"I'll be glad, too," Dr. Brackett told him, patting Cap on the shoulder. In a conspiratorial whisper, he said, "This guy is a nightmare to be around when any one of you guys is out of commission."
Roy and Johnny both laughed, and Roy gave Brackett a friendly tap on the arm. It was strange, but kind of exciting, to hear him speak about his and Cap's living situation, even in a half-whisper. The fact that the usually rigid doctor could admit such a thing - even if it was only to close friends - was like a tiny little sliver of hope to Roy.
When Johnny finally returned to active duty, Roy thought that his bouts of depression would soon be over, and for the most part, they did. He behaved like his normal self, taking all the teasing from the guys about his extended "vacation" with a grin, and getting back into the swing of field work pretty quickly.
But on their first visit to the hospital, it became clear to Roy that something had definitely changed in Johnny. At the base station, Johnny gathered supplies while Roy checked up on a patient from a previous day. While Roy and Dixie were talking, Alice, the small, dark-haired nurse who had taken Bridgette's place, came by to pick up a few patient files.
"Oh, hello Alice. Johnny, have you met Alice yet?" Roy rolled his eyes at Dix, who winked back.
Johnny turned and set down his box of supplies. "No, we haven't met," he said. Roy couldn't help noticing that he didn't have the bright, shiny-eyed smile usually gave to pretty new nurses (or pretty veteran nurses, for that matter).
"Alice James, meet Johnny Gage."
"Nice to meet you," Alice said with a brilliant smile.
Johnny shook her hand. "Nice meeting you," he said. "Look forward to working with you."
Alice opened her mouth to say something else, but Johnny turned away before she could make a sound. Alice blushed, but smiled graciously at them. "See you Roy. Ms. McCall. Bye, nice meeting you, Johnny."
"Bye bye," he called, with a wave of a hand, but without looking back.
Dix looked at him as if he'd grown a few extra heads. "You feeling okay, Johnny?"
Johnny turned to her, and the bright smile was back on his face. "Sure, Dix, never better." He grabbed the handy-talkie and jerked a thumb in the direction of the emergency bay. "C'mon, Roy, I don't want to miss lunch if I can help it. I've kinda missed Marco's spaghetti and chilli."
Roy smiled. "It's kinda nice to have your weird appetite back at the station again."
Johnny laughed. "You've dealt with my weird appetite for months now."
"Isn't that the truth! See you, Dix," he said, waving at the head nurse, and filing away Johnny's behavior for another time.
"I wouldn't even know how to approach it."
"Just say it, that's all."
Roy looked at his wife like she was absolutely crazy, which she was. "Jo, I can't do that!"
He stared at her again, speechless for a second. "I... Because it could ruin our friendship, that's why. Because I have to work with the man, and if I screw up our friendship, we'll still have to see each other day in and day out. Don't you think I've been through all this in my head a million times?"
Joanne pursed her lips, then suddenly took a deep breath and smiled at him. "Honey. You're worrying too much, and you're building this up way too much. Johnny is an easy-going guy, and he's your best friend. Even if the answer is no, and it's something he's not comfortable with, he's not going to shun you forever or something. So it might be a little awkward at first, but-"
"Jo, don't you see, that's exactly what I don't want!"
"You'd rather go on wishing and pining for something you'll never have?"
"If the alternative means risking losing what I do have, then yes! I- oh."
Johnny stepped into the room, but paused when Roy looked at him. "Sorry, I was just coming to ask if you want me to wash any lettuce or chop anything up for dinner. Didn't mean to interrupt if..."
"No, it's okay, Johnny," Roy said.
"It's perfectly alright," Joanne said.
Johnny smiled. "Okay. So... did you want me to do anything?"
Roy looked at Joanne, and the look on her face told him his life was about to be over. She smiled and moved closer to Johnny. "Can we talk to you for a minute, John?"
Johnny raised his eyebrows. She never called him 'John' unless there was something serious to discuss. "Sure."
She guided him to the chair for her vanity table, and he turned it to face the bed. Roy sat down heavily on the foot of the bed. Joanne came to stand beside him, put a hand on Roy's shoulder and squeezed. "Roy and I were discussing something that has to do with you, actually."
She nodded, and Roy sighed. Joanne pressed on, despite Roy's discomfort. "We were thinking about... our current living situation."
"Oh." Johnny glanced at Roy, then lowered his eyes. "Listen, I... I know I've kind of just... hung on here, even though I got cleared for work. But... my disability pay wasn't even close to normal, and I-"
"Oh no, Johnny, no," Roy said, suddenly realizing that Johnny had the wrong idea. "We aren't asking you to leave, we want you to stay."
Johnny looked up, eyes wide, and Roy felt his stomach churning. "Really?"
He looked hopeful, and Roy started to relax again. Maybe he could silently convince Joanne to leave it at that. Just a roommate situation. "Yeah," Roy said eagerly. "We know the situation with the disability, and you're still having to pay your rent even though you're not living there and everything. It'd make more sense for you to just stay here, don't you think?"
Johnny smiled. "I'd like to," he said. "If... if you're really sure?" He looked up at Joanne.
Jo nodded, smiling brightly back. "We're absolutely sure, Johnny. And... there's some more, it's just..."
Roy looked up in alarm, and Jo smiled and patted his arm. "Jo..."
"I'm going to say it, Roy, so you might as well get used to the idea. And if it goes south, it'll be all my fault, and he can't hold it against you."
Roy could feel the heat rising to his face, but he didn't try to stop her anymore. What was the point? She would just ask him where Roy couldn't see, and the result would be the same anyway. "Uh... is... is everything okay?" Johnny asked.
"I hope so," Joanne said. "We..." She paused, having a hard time coming up with the words, it seemed. "Well... We..." She paused for another moment, then sighed. "This is kind of hard." She came around and sat at the foot of the bed beside Roy. "Johnny. We noticed that you've been a little hesitant to talk to girls lately."
Johnny blushed deeply. "I just... I don't want... I'm fine, Jo," he said softly.
"I know. And I'm sorry I'm embarrassing you, but I don't mean to say it as a judgment. It's just that we noticed it, and we were actually... kind of glad because..." She blushed herself, her light-caramel skin turning as deep a red as Johnny's. "Well... Because it meant you're still available," she finally blurted out.
Johnny looked up quickly, his eyes wide again, embarrassment traded for shock. "Huh?"
"Roy and I are... we thought... we're interested in... expanding our family, if you will. And we're hoping that you'd agree to be part of... us."
Johnny blinked and gave them that wide-eyed, adorably confused gaze that Roy loved so much. "S-so you want me to be like... a cousin or something? Like adopt me?"
Roy and Jo shook their heads. "No, not like a cousin, Johnny," Roy said. What the hell, it was already out there. He might as well drive in the last nail. "Like a husband," he said at last. "Like, you'd stay 'Uncle Johnny' to the kids, but you'd be... m-more than friends to us."
Johnny's eyebrows had climbed higher and higher on his head as they were talking. "Like... to both of you?"
Roy felt like he was on fire, like if he got any hotter, he might melt into the floor and disappear, and that would be fine with him. "That's what I h-hoped for, but... if you're not comfortable with that, then you don't have... I mean... Joanne is... But... but none of it is... if you're uncomfortable with all if it, we can just be roommates and we don't even... I'm not willing to jeopardize our friendship over... I mean, maybe I already have, but... if you're not comfortable, we can pretend this part of the conversation never happened, we-"
Johnny got to his feet suddenly, and Roy stopped, sure that he was going to storm out of the room, or maybe punch Roy in the face, then storm off. He came toward them, an inscrutable expression on his face, and Roy sat stiffly on the edge of the bed, trying to brace himself for whatever might happen.
Johnny put both hands on Roy's shoulders and looked down at him. "Roy. I can tell you truthfully. I've never been with a guy before. But I can also tell you truthfully that I've thought about it before, and I guess I've wondered but been too scared to wonder out loud to anyone else, not even Dr. Brackett in a private moment." Johnny took a deep breath and closed his eyes for a moment. When he opened them again, he looked down at Roy with affection written clearly on his face. "But... if there was one man I'd trust with something like that in the whole world... it would be you, Roy."
Roy grinned, relief washing over him, along with that same little beacon of hope he got when he saw Brackett and Cap together, on a much larger scale. He looked toward his wife, who was smiling brightly at the young man in front of them. "So... we can take that as a yes?"
Johnny nodded. "If you really mean to trust me with your wife, I suppose I can trust you with me." He smiled. "But I'm pretty sure I'm going to feel like you're going to beat me up any second if I look at her too hard."
Roy laughed and shook his head. "Don't worry."
"Easier said than done."
Jo giggled and pinched Johnny's rear end. He jumped and backed up with a worried glance at Roy. Roy could only chuckle, and Johnny relaxed a little and smiled. "This is going to take some getting used to," he said. "But you know what?"
"What?" Roy asked.
"I can say it to you now. She's incredible. I never talked about all the different things I thought because I didn't want to go too far, but I have to say-"
"Okay, loverboy," Roy said, standing up. "Tell me all about it while we're chopping vegetables, okay?"
Johnny smiled. "Okay, Roy. Okay."