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A/N: This vignette is inspired by the photo for June 2013 on Audrey's site. The photo shows Roy sitting in the dark, in the passenger side of the Squad.
A pensive Roy DeSoto eased the Squad into a parking space, near to the emergency entrance of the hospital. Automatically his hand went to the key and he switched the engine off, but made no move to get out of the cab. Leaning back in the sudden silence, eyes locked into a thousand-yard stare, the paramedic was looking at everything but seeing nothing. His slow, steady breathing was purely automatic, without thought, belying the quicker thump of a pulse rate he had not been able to slow down, despite his best efforts at control.
He shifted awkwardly, the feel of the padded bench not quite right against his back, right elbow nudging the arm rest on the door, instead of the more familiar left. A part of him noted absently that he was no longer where he had been, although he had no recollection of moving. Idly he wondered how Johnny managed to sit in this uncomfortable seat, without the solid reassurance of the steering column under his hand or the pedals at his feet. Johnny, who could be a bit of a control freak about any number of things, did not extend that tendency to the cab of the Squad. And Roy, generally more patient and level-headed when dealing with the minutiae of daily life, got his own control fix by being at the wheel of the rescue vehicle. This trade-off, this balance, was one of the underlying strengths of their working relationship; it was their own natural ebb and flow, and it worked.
Today, that balance had very nearly been destroyed.
The rescue, which began with the illusion of routine – in, retrieve, out – had abruptly soured. Roy shifted again, as the slow-motion race to near disaster began to play itself out in his sensory memory.
His mind's eye saw the neat two-storey frame house, flames already climbing out of the windows on one side, the header clearly visible through the twilight even before they had pulled up on the street...
He heard Cap's tense instructions... relived the physical sensation of breathing in the bottled air as he and Johnny entered the structure... found himself squinting, just has he had done, against the flare of new flames in the house's second floor... felt the weight of the toddler Johnny had thrust at him as the little boy sagged in his arms, coughing and crying in his terror... Seconds later, outside on the lawn, his nostrils had flared at something, a subtle change in the smoke swirling in the air, and he could only stand in helplessness as the shouts had sounded to clear the building...
In a simultaneous burst of motion, the roof had crumbled inward, the flames had punched out of every window in a shower of shattering glass... and Johnny and a bedraggled young woman had tumbled out the front door and rolled into the yard, the paramedic already scrambling to his feet and pulling the victim towards the curb, the roar of the fire behind them, the welcome glare of the flashing red lights a panorama before them.
In the gloom of the cab Roy started, abruptly back in the here-and-now as a flash of white fluorescent light caught his eye. He watched as Johnny bounded out the automatic doors of Rampart's ambulance entrance, simultaneously juggling a box of supplies and the handi-talky, appreciatively watching over his shoulder as a nurse walked past him and headed inside, and scanning the parking area for the Squad. It was a feat that only Johnny could manage, and he had made it halfway to the vehicle before Roy belatedly realized he should offer some help. But his partner cheerfully waved him off, opening the driver's side door and sliding in before he could even lift a hand to the latch.
A quirk of an eyebrow, however, was met with a slight shake of the head from the senior partner, and Roy was out the passenger door, around the Squad's nose, and nudging the younger man over. And then both men were in their customary spots – John right, Roy left, with his fingers firmly wrapped around the steering wheel and a pulse rate that quietly settled back to its normal rate.
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