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Weights and Measures

Part 1

An Emergency Story
by Tammy B

 

LINKS TO PARTS 1. 2.

 

Part 1

Ride Along

 

The true measure of a man is not in his size neither is it in what he weighs but in the courage his heart holds. That is without measure and is impossible to weigh…

February 1974

 

The door to a shiny black limousine opened and several men stepped out. One took the time to tug his expensive suit jacket down while another straightened his silk tie and still another adjusted his uniform and settled his hat in place.  The rest of the men with them quickly surrounded the pair and they began to move toward the building.

 

They rang the bell at the small glass door and a moment later another man opened it and stepped back with a welcoming smile. “Come in gentlemen…Chief Sorenson, it’s nice to see you again sir,” Captain Alan Webster said sincerely as he saluted his superior.

 

“Thank you Webster,” Sorenson replied, returning his salute. He turned to the other men… “Captain this is Congressman Thomas Reece and the Mayor of Los Angeles, James Hahn,” he said, sweeping his hand toward the two well dressed men and ignoring the rest who were obviously there as protection and clerical duties.

 

“Welcome to station 10 gentlemen…Please let me show you around,” he said crisply.

 

“That would be nice Captain,” Hahn said affably. He loved being around the fire stations. He’d become very interested in the men and their houses when he’d been involved with the passing of the Paramedic Bill only a couple of short years ago and he always enjoyed coming by to visit with the men.

 

Reece glanced around curiously. This was the first time he’d actually stepped foot inside of one in his life. He’d aspired to politics and not to getting his hands dirty hauling hoses and putting out fires but he still respected the men who had to do this job. As far as he was concerned, it took tough and burley men to have the courage to brave the flames and the dangers of being a fireman.

 

The Paramedic bill, signed by Governor Reagan, had been in effect for over a year now…A bill Reece had been against. He was now curious as to how well it was working in its inaugural city of Los Angeles and so he’d come to see for himself if this was worth it or a waste of the tax payers money…At the very least he may find a few areas that needed work or improvement. Whatever it took to save a dollar that may be needed for some other project. He’d be quick to give his report on what he saw here to the Governor.

 

 He shook his attention back to the Captain as he swept his hand toward the door and followed Hahn out.

 

Captain Webster led Reece and Hahn out to the apparatus bay where his men were busy cleaning the rigs and checking hoses.

 

Reece and Hahn stood watching while the crew tossed their visitors surreptitious glances. The two paramedics knew who one of them was of course as Hahn had been instrumental in the passing of the paramedic bill.  The other man they didn’t know at all except that he was some State Congressman and that could mean trouble if he didn’t like what he was seeing.

 

They had no idea why the men were here, but budget cuts for the state could mean downsizing and they didn’t want the ‘downsizing’ to start here.

 

 Reece stood watching with a smile…These men were the epitome of what he envisioned in the fire department…Large, strong men that could get the job done.

 

 

“Gentlemen,” Captain Webster said with a smile.  “Let me introduce you to my crew,” he added, sweeping his hand toward the rigs and the men working on them. “My engineer… Chris Wall.” The young blonde man shook their hands. “My two linesmen… Gary Michaelson and Mickey Bailey.”

 

The two strangers shook hands with each man as they were introduced. Webster turned to the last two members of his crew “My senior paramedic…Bob Belliveau and his partner Doug Stone…Gentlemen…The Mayor of Los Angeles…James Hahn and Congressman Tom Reece.”

 

Reece concluded the greetings with an air of indifference but Hahn seemed to be relishing his surroundings as he pumped each hand.

 

“Gentlemen, it’s a pleasure,” he added,

 

Both men nodded their heads, knowing Hahn, like Selectman Mike Wolski, had a soft spot for Paramedics.

 

Webster waved his hand toward the open bay, housing the Chief’s car, Rescue Squad, Truck, Engine and ladder truck. “If you’ll follow me, I’ll show you around the station,” Webster offered.

 

The two men nodded and the group trailed off after Webster, listening to every word and looking over the rigs curiously before allowing the Captain to lead them off to the less interesting areas such as the dorm, weight room and kitchen.

 

Reece smiled in approval at the exercise equipment in the corner of the dorm…He was genuinely pleased that the department seemed to take care to be sure their men were in tip top condition.

 

A half hour later, the group reassembled in the Captains office. “Have you enjoyed the tour gentlemen?” Webster asked smiling.

 

Reece gave a cool shrug but Hahn nodded enthusiastically. “Very much so Captain,” he replied before turning to Sorenson. “I hope you don’t mind Chief Sorenson, but I’d very much like to see Station 51.”

 

“Certainly Mayor Hahn,” he agreed, seeming unsurprised. Mike Wolski had spent a great deal of time visiting there himself not too long ago.

 

The crew breathed a sigh of relief when the men finally took their leave and hoped it had been nothing more than curiosity that had prompted their visit.

 

 

Roy De Soto backed the squad into the bay of Station 51. He glanced over at his temporary partner, Greg Wicker. He seemed to be a nice enough guy but Roy missed his regular partner of the last two years, John Gage.

 

Johnny had strained a muscle in his shoulder on a late night run two days ago and Dr. Morton had stood him down for one shift.

 

Greg was a good paramedic as far as Roy could tell this early on, but he wasn’t up to Gages standard, but then no one was in Roy’s opinion and that was because he didn’t have the same rapport with anyone else as he did with John.

 

John Gage and Roy De Soto had quickly become the top two paramedics in the department and were the team to emulate since the passing of the paramedic bill and there would be no arguments from anyone about it, but their partnership transcended their working relationship…They were Partners, best friends and Roy often thought of John like his kid brother.

 

 “Boy, I hope lunch is ready,” Greg said boisterously as he patted his belly. Greg liked to eat and he was a big man…Not overweight or anything, just large, unlike Johnny who stood as tall as Roy was at six foot one but had an extremely slender build. Johnny topped out at a hundred and sixty pounds max and that was soaking wet.

 

Johnny also liked to eat, but unlike Greg…John had a hyper metabolism and burned off calories almost as fast as he consumed them, which was usually okay…It allowed him to slip into narrow, tight spaces that most other people couldn’t get into and he was adept at rappelling and climbing.

 

The only drawback was that Johnny had very little padding and some rescues, like ones that involved water, could be taxing to his slender frame. It could also have repercussions as it did the other night, not that it had been Johnny's fault.

Johnny and Chet had been moving a heavy piece of furniture during a fire in an effort to save some of the occupant’s expensive musical equipment. Chet had lost his grip on his end and John’s slight frame had been unable to hold the entire weight as it had tipped toward him.  John had pulled a muscle in his upper arm trying to keep it from going over, though in all fairness, he doubted he could have held it himself.

 

John was very strong for someone so slim, but weight and inertia had won this time and so Greg was here today, Roy mused unhappily, and Johnny was…also. Roy’s thoughts changed direction in mid stream as he spotted his partner leaning against the door frame to the kitchen, his right arm still being supported by a sling.

 

“Hey partner,” Roy greeted with a grin. “How’s the shoulder?” He questioned as Greg rounded the back of the squad.

 

Johnny gave Greg a nod as he answered Roy. “It’s fine…It’s good,” he insisted, just as he had the night it happened.

 

“Uh huh,” Roy agreed dubiously. He knew his partner too well. John would tell him it was fine if his arm was falling off.

 

“Hey Gage,” Greg greeted, slapping the young paramedic off the back. John winced.

 

“Its fine…It’s okay,” Roy sniped in a nasally imitation of John’s earlier response.

 

“Cute Pally,” John grouched, looking annoyed.

 

Roy chuckled. “C’mon junior…You’re just in time for lunch,” Roy invited, slipping past Johnny into the day room.

 

“I wouldn’t get to excited Roy, Chet’s cooking,” John warned.

 

“I heard that Gage,” The Irish fire fighter snapped.

 

“I wasn’t trying to keep it a secret Kelly,” John shot back.

 

“That will not get you invited to join us for lunch,” Chet growled.

 

“Promise,” John retaliated.

 

Mike and Marco grinned, well used to these two and their bickering. Cap ran his hand over his face in aggravation, while Greg’s eyebrow climbed up his forehead. It appeared to him that these two men hated each other, though none of the others seemed overly concerned by the bantering.

 

Roy patted John’s good shoulder with a chuckle. “I’ve missed you junior,” he teased.

 

Chet turned to make another crack but Hank held up his hand in a ‘stop there’ gesture. “I’d like to eat my lunch in peace gentlemen,” he said drily.  “Chet’s cooking is already gonna give me indigestion as it is.”

 

Johnny grinned in triumph at having got the last word while the rest laughed…all but Chet. “Gee thanks Cap,” he said indignantly while the rest settled into their chairs

 

They’d barely begun to eat when the back door opened and a group of men in suits entered. All seven members of the crew glanced up in surprise at the unannounced intrusion, especially since none of them recognized their visitors…At least not right away.

 

Hank had just started to stand when Chief Sorenson stepped into the room. There was a loud scraping of chairs as all seven men, including John, even though he wasn’t in uniform, shot to their feet, their backs ramrod straight at attention.

 

“Chief Sorenson,” Hank barked officiously. “Welcome to Station 51 Sir.”

 

“At ease men,” Sorenson soothed the now rigid crew. “And thank you Captain Stanley,” he added. The group relaxed a bit but still remained standing. "You too Hank, I’d like you to meet Congressman Timothy Reece and the Mayor of Los Angeles, James Hahn…Gentlemen this is Captain Hank Stanley…A Shift,” he added.

 

Hank stepped away from the table and walked stiffly around to shake both of their hands, while the rest of the crew shared surreptitious glances. What were these men doing here? Johnny and Roy exchanged a silent look… James Hahn was a well known figure to every paramedic that had graduated in the first few classes. They knew the bill would have been vetoed if not for Hahn’s intervention.

 

Governor Reagan had every intention of stopping the bill in its infancy, but Hahn had explained that the paramedics would be able to cross county lines to treat their victims. Governor Reagan had lost his father when an ambulance had refused to cross jurisdictions. After Hahn had explained how it would work, he’d picked up his pen and signed the bill under Hahn’s grateful eye.

 

“Welcome to Station 51 gentlemen,” Hank greeted the men.

 

“Sorry to interrupt your lunch gentlemen,” Sorenson said as he turned toward the crew. “Hank…Why don’t you introduce your men,” he suggested.

 

Cap nodded briskly. “Gentlemen…This is my Engineering Specialist Mike Stoker.”

 

Mike nodded and shook their hands before returning to an ‘at ease' position with his hands clasped behind his back.

 

“My two linesmen…Chet Kelly and Marco Lopez,” he hesitated until handshakes and greetings were exchanged before turning to the last three men. “These are my two paramedics, my Senior Paramedic, Roy De Soto and his partner, Greg Wicker.”

 

Reece shook their hands casually and without recognition but Hahn grinned. He’d heard of De Soto and he’d been part of the reason he’d asked to come to station 51. Mike Wolski had gone on and on about the man before the bill had been passed and it had only gotten worse as the man’s reputation in the field had grown, but Wicker…That wasn’t the name that had become synonymous with De Soto. He frowned at that.

 

The mystery was solved a moment later as the tall, slender Captain turned to the slim, young, dark haired man standing near De Soto with his arm in a sling. “This is my regular junior paramedic…John Gage.”

 

GAGE…That was it, Both men noted the man’s right arm was in a sling and neither offered to shake hands, though Hahn wanted to very badly.

 

Reese’s eyes swept over the tall... and in his opinion, too thin kid before him with a frown. He found it difficult to believe that this skinny beanpole was a fire fighter and not only a fireman…A paramedic as well. It was no small wonder he’d been injured, he mused with a subtle shake of his head. This young man was hardly capable of keeping up with the rigors of being a fire fighter.

 

This was one of the first recommendations he’d be forced to make. He was a bit surprised by Hahn’s reaction to him though. The older man seemed genuinely excited by the young paramedic’s presence. 

 

“De Soto…Gage…I know we’re interrupting your lunch but I’d love to have a chance to speak to you both,” he said enthusiastically.

 

“Certainly sir,” Roy agreed.

 

“It’s not a problem sir,” Johnny assured him. “We’re sorta used to it,” he added, throwing the man a quirky, crooked grin.

 

“I’ll bet you are,” Hahn agreed with a chuckle. “Can you show me the squad while we talk?” He asked hopefully.

 

“Yes sir,” Roy replied for the both of them. The pair turned and led the way to the apparatus bay.

 

 Hank turned to Sorenson and Reece. “Would you care to see the squad as well?” He asked.

 

Reece shook his head…His brown eyes following the mayor and his two companions. “I believe it would be pretty much the same as the one I saw at Station 10,” he drawled, sounding bored. “I’m not exactly sure what Mr. Hahn wanted to see another one for and an even smaller station at that,” he added disdainfully.

 

Stanley and Sorenson both frowned at the attitude. It was obvious the man had no understanding or respect for the fire department.

 

“Well sir,” Hank began, trying not to sound put out at the man’s contempt. He was very proud of his station and his crew. “Every station is a bit different…Um…Our station for example uses the newer Ward LaFrance engine while station 10 is still using the open crown coach,” Hank pointed out.

 

Reece sighed. “I see…I suppose it could be interesting to see the difference," he agreed.

 

Hank clapped his hands together and rubbed them back and forth for a moment as he threw the man a tight grin.  “That’s great…Let me show it to you. Mike…Would you join us please,” Cap invited.

 

“Yes sir,” the young engineer agreed as the rest of the group followed them out.

 

Chet, Marco and Greg resumed their seats. “Wonder what they want?” Chet whispered worriedly.

 

Marco shook his head. “I don’t know, but did you see the way that guy looked at Johnny?” He asked.

 

“No man…Like what?” The mustachioed Irish fireman questioned.

 

“Like there was something wrong with him.”

 

“There is something wrong with him,” Chet snorted, with a grin.

 

Marco whacked his arm. “I’m serious,” the Latino growled, annoyed at the man’s disdain for his young crewmate.

 

“Well  maybe it was just cuz Gage was injured or something,” Chet suggested.

 

“Well I didn’t see that but I saw the way the Mayor looked at De Soto and Gage,” Greg said snidely, looking a bit put out at the man’s overlooking his presence.

 

“Hey man…Johnny and Roy have a great reputation in the field,” Marco said proudly, hearing the man’s tone.

 

“And a great record,” Chet added grudgingly. It was one thing for him to harass his crew mates but he wouldn’t tolerate it from anyone else.

 

“Besides,” Marco continued. “They were two of the very first eighteen paramedics to hit the streets of LA AND,” Marco stressed as if instructing a difficult student. “De Soto was in the first class to graduate and then helped recruit and push the bill all the way to the floor with Mike Wolski,” he finished, sounding slightly breathless.

 

Greg looked between the two men in surprise…A few minutes ago they all seemed to be sniping away at each other, but now these two were defending Hahn’s attitude about the pair to the hilt.

 

He was well aware that Gage and De Soto were the pair that every other team, paramedic and Fire Captain would mention first when the subject of teamwork and professionalism came up, but still…It was a bit insulting even though Chet and Marco had made their point.

 

He sighed and nodded. These men knew their crew mates and he knew every other house would jump at the chance to get this pair to come and work at their station.

 

 

Hahn followed Roy and John to the squad. The blonde paramedic began pulling open the driver’s side compartments. “We keep the stokes basket and the extra backboard here,” he explained, dropping the narrow compartment door open for him to see. “And over here,” he said, pulling open the door to his left, is my air tank, turnout, canteen and such. Over in that,” he added, pointing to the right. “We keep chains and extra safety belts and…”

 

His dissertation was interrupted as Captain Stanley led Sorenson, Reece and the rest of the group past them and over to the engine. “Uh…Would you rather join them?” Roy questioned, giving the man a chance to check out the rig that the majority of people wanted to see most, but Hahn surprised him.

 

“I’ll look it over later Mr. De Soto…This is much more interesting to me.”

 

“REALLY…?” Johnny blurted out, his nose wrinkling in disbelief.

 

Roy scowled at the tone and gave him a subtle shake of his blonde head at John’s rudeness.

 

“Um…Sorry sir,” he mumbled as his face turned red. 

 

Hahn chuckled. “Don’t apologize Mr. Gage.”

 

“It’s John sir,” the young paramedic corrected, hating the officious form of address.

 

“Alright John…But you see, I’ve heard so much about the rescue squads and I even saw some of them before they were outfitted for the paramedics, so I really wanted to see how they are now.”

 

“Oh,” John mumbled.

 

“And quite honestly…I wanted a chance to talk to you and your partner.”

 

Johnny and Roy exchanged a nervous glance. “Well…about what?” Johnny questioned cautiously.

 

“The whole program,” he replied.

 

“You were for this program weren’t you sir?” Roy asked.

 

“Yes…Well…Not at first but Mike Wolski brought me on board pretty fast with his enthusiasm and Mr. De Soto…Your name came up quite a bit,” he informed them.

 

John gave his partner a huge grin. He was very proud of Roy and he was glad he’d been asked to be his partner. He knew he might well have thrown away the chance to become a paramedic and at the very least, Roy’s partner, if it hadn’t been for the older man’s persuasive sales pitch at their first meeting.  Something Johnny was immeasurably grateful for now, since Roy had become not only his partner, but his best friend and John had been welcomed into his home like a member of the family.

 

“I see,” Roy said, looking a little embarrassed. John gave the infamous Gage giggle at his friend’s discomfiture and the blonde paramedic shot him a glare. It was cut short as Hahn turned to the younger man.

 

“And you John…Mike also spoke very highly of you as well,” he added.

 

“He did?” Johnny asked dubiously, but then a broad smile curled his lips. “Really…?” He asked brightly.

 

“Really,” he replied. “He said if the paramedics became a successful venture, that it would be because of you two.”

 

Both men looked floored by that statement.

 

 

Around the corner, over by the engine, Reece’s eye brow climbed in disbelief. Was Hahn serious? De Soto yes…but that skinny kid? He must just be trying to make him feel good about himself. Reece had been raised in a family of strong, intelligent men and his family had put great store in that. He couldn’t believe that Hahn couldn’t see the detriment that someone of Gages stature posed…Especially when it was right in front of his face and being supported by a sling.

 

A moment later Hank led the group around to the other side of the rig and the rest of the conversation was lost.

 

 

“Well sir,” Roy demurred. “All of us work together...,” he began.

 

“And there are a lot of really good paramedic teams out there,” John added, despite the fact that he was very pleased that Hahn thought that way, but still…He didn’t want to take anything away from these other men that worked just as hard and put it all on the line the same as he and Roy.

 

“Understood John and I appreciate them as well but still…You and Roy led the way.”

 

“Roy did,” Johnny agreed quietly, knowing he would have probably quit himself if not for Roy’s persistence.

 

Hahn smiled at the young paramedic’s inability to accept the accolades being offered. Hahn had no idea of John’s background of abuse and negativity and thought his attitude was simple modesty, but Roy did know.

 

“Sorry junior,” Roy teased. “But if I have to accept the pat on the back, then so do you, cuz I seem to recall that you were at my side through the whole thing,” he pointed out with a grin.

 

John nodded and gave him a small, crooked grin. “I guess,” he agreed grudgingly. 

 

“Anyway,” Hahn continued. “I’d really like to see how it all works.”

 

“Well you won’t see that with a simple tour of the station,” Roy pointed out.

 

Hahn frowned, afraid the young man was probably right. Even seeing the equipment and having it all explained would tell him how it worked but not why. “What do you suggest?”

 

Roy and John exchanged a glance. To the average person it was only a look but to these two, it was a conversation…Discussed and agreed upon by mutual consent. Despite the potential for the man to laugh in their face, John nodded.

 

“You might want to talk to the Chief about a ride a long,” Roy suggested, expecting a look of incredulity, but instead, a smile lit Hahn’s face.

 

“What a great suggestion,” he said enthusiastically. “I’m glad you BOTH thought of it,” he finished drily, having seen the look and the instant communication between them.

 

Johnny and Roy grinned sheepishly. They were accustomed to the bond they shared and their inability to explain it to others or even each other. The only one who seemed to ‘get it’ was Roy’s wife Joanne, but it was part of the reason they were such a great team. The other parts were dedication, courage and professionalism and talent for the job they were doing and the reason behind it.

 

Not glory or adrenaline and Heaven knew it wasn’t for the money but for the strong desire to save lives, even if it cost them their own. It’s what drove most firemen…The good ones anyway, but they were both a bit embarrassed that the Mayor had picked up on it.

 

“I’ll talk to Chief Sorenson and make the arrangements when we get back to headquarters,” he informed them. Hahn had seen the indifferent and condescending attitude of the councilman and he knew Reece had been against the whole paramedic program to begin with, so he wanted to discuss the idea with Sorenson privately.

 

“Far out,” Johnny blurted out excitedly. Roy shot him a look which brought a scarlet stain creeping up John’s face at the outburst and a chuckle from Hahn as the young man stuttered a correction. “I uh…I mean…Um…That would be very informative for you sir.”

 

Hahn gave Roy a grin and a wink. “I think I liked far out better,” he quipped.

 

John’s mouth dropped open and he looked stunned for a moment. Roy threw his young partner a tolerant smile. “Yes sir,” he agreed.

 

Hahn grinned and moved around the squad to join the others at the engine, knowing he’d have a chance to really check the squad out later.

 

Roy waited until Hahn was out of ear shot before he smacked his partner on the shoulder.

 

“Ow,” Johnny squawked, rubbing his arm indignantly. "What didja do that for?"

 

“When are you gonna learn how to behave in polite company,” he growled.

 

John scuffed his toe on the concrete floor. “That’s what my aunt always used to say too,” he admitted ruefully.

 

Roy laughed and scruffed the dark head. “C’mon junior,” he said as he turned the younger man toward the kitchen. The two headed back to finish lunch.

 

The guests took their leave a short while later. John and Roy knew they hadn’t seen the last of Mayor Hahn…What they didn’t know was that they hadn’t heard the last of Reece either.

 

 

Tim Reece returned to his office the next morning. His visit to the two fire stations was still on his mind as well as the skinny, injured paramedic he’d met. Reece was sure that Gage wasn’t the only man in the department who was that underweight.

 

He felt it was a detriment to the department as well as a burden on the state to be paying someone that couldn’t possibly handle the job. Reece had to also consider the safety of the general public not to mention these out of condition firemen.

 

Reece opened his drawer and pulled out several sheets of paper. He had a letter to write and a proposal for a new bill to draft. He’d have his secretary type it up later. Reece picked up his pen and got to work.

 

 

John was on his second shift back from his shoulder injury when they were proved correct. Hank walked into the day room holding a note, while his crew was busy mopping the floor and cleaning the oven and refrigerator while Johnny worked on a valve off one of the extra regulators.

 

“John…Roy? Can I see you for a minute?” Captain Stanley asked, looking up from the paper.

 

The pair exchanged a glance, uncertain whether they were in trouble for something or just in for a new chore Cap had in mind.

 

“What’d we do?” Johnny whispered to his partner as he climbed to his feet.

 

Roy shrugged unconcernedly. Johnny always thought the worst when his name came up and Roy understood why, but still…He was an excellent paramedic and he needed to not worry so much. “Why don’t we go talk to Cap and find out,” he suggested calmly.

 

John rolled his eyes at his partner’s nonchalant attitude but he set the valve aside and followed his friend across the day room floor, ignoring Chet’s smirking grin that they were both in trouble for something.

 

“Yeah Cap?” Roy questioned curiously.

 

“I just got a call from Chief Sorenson.”

 

“Oh…Well uh…What for…?” John asked with a frown, worried that they’d done something that had brought the brass down on them.

 

“Seems you two,” he said glancing between both of them. “Made quite an impression on Mayor Hahn.”

 

Both men smiled. “A good one I hope,” Roy questioned.

 

Hank smiled. “He says you issued an invitation to the mayor to go on a ride along,” Hank stated with a raised brow.

 

John looked a bit worried at his superior’s expression. “Well… He uh…he said he wanted to see us…I mean paramedics, in action cap,” he stammered nervously, afraid Hank might be angry at them for not talking to him about it first. Johnny tended to have trouble pulling his thoughts together when he got nervous and the stutter was the result.

 

Hank frowned at the anxious stutter his junior crew member tended to pick up whenever he got uncomfortable with a situation. He had no idea about John’s past abuse or that he had Aspergers, so he didn’t understand but his best friend did.

 

Roy glanced at his partner and reached out to gently touch his arm. The younger man looked toward him and visibly relaxed at the reassuring head nod his friend gave him. Roy looked back to his captain.

 

“Yeah Cap…He wanted to see how the equipment works…We told him that just explaining it really didn’t give him the whole picture.”

 

Cap nodded. “Well…He took you at your word and he’ll be here on your next shift. The department cleared him.”

 

“Far out,” Johnny exclaimed.

 

“Yeah…far out…just make sure you take real good care of him,” Hank admonished.

 

“Don’t worry Cap…We will,” Roy promised.

 

 

True to Sorenson’s word, Mayor Hahn came into the station two days later. The crew had just finished roll call and were beginning their morning chores.

 

“Roy…John,” Hank called to his two paramedics. They both turned and spotted their Captain standing with their ‘guest.’ They hurried over.

 

“Good morning sir,” Roy greeted.

 

Johnny gave the man a head nod of acknowledgment. “Morning Mr. Hahn,” he said politely.

 

“Mr. Mayor…It’s a pleasure to have you with us today,” Hank said formally. “I’ll just leave you in Roy and John’s capable hands…And please be sure to follow all of the safety precautions they give you.”

 

“I will…and thank you Captain,” he replied before turning back to the two paramedics. “Alright gentlemen…I’m all yours,” he said with a gleam of excitement in his eyes.

 

“This way sir…We’ll get you a turnout and helmet,” Roy invited.

 

Hahn nodded and followed them to a small closet. Roy pulled open the doors and grabbed a spare coat and yanked a helmet off the shelf. “You can put those with mine sir,” Johnny offered, leading him to the passenger side of the squad and pulling open the narrow compartment behind the cab.

 

John took the coat and hung it with his own. Hahn offered him the helmet but John shook his head. “That has to stay up front sir. You need to wear it whenever we’re on a run,” he explained as he took the helmet and threw it through the open window onto the seat of the squad.

 

Hahn looked between the pair. “The words Mr. Hahn and Sir are going to get really tiresome very fast gentlemen,” he said with a grin. “So for today…I’m just Jim alright?”

 

“Uh…Yes sir,” Johnny replied.

 

Hahn laughed and patted the young man on the shoulder. Roy chuckled as well while Johnny’s face flushed red in embarrassment.  “Uh sorry…ah…Jim, he managed.

 

“It’s okay John…Happens all the time,” he teased.

 

“Yes sir,” Johnny replied, wincing as he realized he’d just done it again.

 

Roy shook his head and Hahn just snickered behind his hand.

 

“So…Why don’t you two just show me what you would be doing if it were a normal day?” He suggested.

 

“Well…Johnny and I were just about to start checking the air bottles…That’s usually what we do after we inventory the squad from the last shift and test the scope and Biophone, but we’ve already done that,” Roy explained.

 

“Lead on then,” he invited as the two men took him around to the back of the squad.

 

The two men led him around and Roy stepped up on the bumper. John followed. The younger man turned to Hahn, “watch your step si…uh Jim,” he corrected.

 

Hahn smiled, “look…I understand that I’m the mayor but I assure you, I’m not helpless and you don’t need to babysit me. Just yell if I get in your way,” he told them.

 

“Alright Jim,” Roy agreed with a grin. “Speaking of babysitting…I was actually a bit surprised they allowed you to come without your usual entourage,” he admitted.

 

“Well they weren’t happy about it but I didn’t think they’d all fit in the squad,” he teased.

 

They all laughed as Hahn pulled himself up into the back of the squad. Roy began to show him the tanks and how to read the gauges. Hahn paid close attention and proved to be a quick learner. They finished up and climbed down from the back just as the station control unit began to tone.

 

Hahn jumped at the first loud chime and looked around. Johnny grinned. “They’re playin our song Jim,” he teased, sweeping his hand toward the front of the Dodge truck as Cap stepped up to the podium.

 

“Station 51…Woman injured in a diving accident. 1150 S. Covina…1-1-5-0 S. Covina, cross street Eastern…Time out 9:53,” Sam Lanier’s voice intoned.

 

Hank grabbed the mic after he finished jotting down the address. “Station 51…KMG-365,” he responded, ripping off the sheet and handing it to Roy through the open window.

 

Hahn was already ensconced between Roy and John, a twinkle of excitement lit his eyes as the squad began to roll. Johnny gave him a sideways glance and grinned at the look on his face. He remembered that same feeling the first time he’d been called out on a run.

 

The two rigs raced through traffic and pulled up in front of a large apartment complex. John and Roy slid out of the cab and without a word from Hank or even waiting for Hahn to join them, John began pulling their equipment from the squad.

 

Roy came around from the driver’s side with a long, narrow, flat board and snatched the Biophone from the squad.

 

Johnny pulled the drug box and the other large container with the word ‘TRAUMA’ stenciled on its side.  “Jim, can you bring this?” Johnny asked, pulling a green tank on wheels from the back.

 

“Sure John,” he agreed, grabbing the handle and trotting along behind them and the crew as they half walked, half ran toward the building and up the walkway that led to the pool. A small group of people stood around a young woman who lay unconscious on the concrete that bordered the pool.

 

“What happened? Roy asked as he dropped to his knees beside the victim.

“She dove from off there,” one bystander said, pointing up at the diving board.

 

“She hit her head on the bottom,” another added helpfully.

 

John and Roy exchanged glance. “I’ll get the C Collar,” Johnny said, flipping open the trauma box.

 

Roy nodded as he snatched up the BP Cuff. “Cap…we’ll need that backboard,” he instructed. “Chet get the oxygen on her. Mike can you get the line open to Rampart?” He questioned as he pumped up the cuff.

 

Jim watched the process in fascination as the crew rushed to do as they were asked.

 

Johnny placed the collar gently around the back of the woman’s neck and carefully pumped it up until it firmly immobilized her head. He quickly pulled the pen light from his pocket and checked her eyes while Roy took her pulse. Her pupils were sluggish but responsive.

 

The two paramedics moved around each other as if their actions were staged while the others waited for further instructions, and Hahn was a bit awestruck at how easy this crew made everything look.

 

Chet was holding the Oxygen mask in place, while Johnny turned his penlight around and ran it up the bottom of the victim’s foot. “Roy,” he said softly, glancing toward his partner, who was getting her respirations but he shot his partner a questioning glance.  John repeated the procedure and the dark eyes lifted to meet blue. No words were spoken but the expression said it all. There had been no response.

 

Roy looked a bit down as he took the handset from Mike. “Rampart, this is squad 51,” he said briskly, re-establishing the contact that Mike had already made and put on standby.

 

“Go ahead 51,” Kelly Brackett’s voice came back.

 

“Rampart…We have a female, approximately twenty five…She’s hit her head on the bottom of swimming pool while diving. She is unconscious and we have her on six liters of O2. We have already immobilized her head and she has a positive Babinski…Also Rampart…Her eyes are sluggish but responsive and she has a large contusion on the top of her head. Vital signs are…B/P, 110/80, Pulse is 30 and her respirations are shallow.”

 

“Squad 51…start an IV…D5WTKO Take spinal precautions. Keep her on O2 and transport as soon as possible. Continue to monitor respirations and vital signs.”

 

 “10-4 Rampart…IV D5WTKO…O2 and transport,” Roy repeated.

 

“Cap,” John called as he turned and waved his captain over. “Let’s get this set,” he instructed, taking the board and laying it next to the woman.  The wail of a siren interrupted them for a moment as the ambulance pulled up in front. “Okay guys…On three,” Johnny said.

 

“Watch her neck,” Roy warned as they gathered around.

 

Mike moved to hold her head steady as they rolled her on her side. Roy and John slid the board beneath her before the crew let her roll gently onto her back.

 

The woman moaned softly, which meant she was hovering just below the conscious state. They carefully positioned her before strapping her to the board. They lifted her onto the stretcher that had just arrived and let the attendants cover her with a blanket before they wheeled her toward the ambulance.

 

The crew quickly gathered the remaining gear and followed. Johnny trotted along beside the gurney, holding the IV bag, while Roy towed the O2 tank. “I’ll ride in with her,” Johnny offered as they loaded the woman into the back.

 

“Alright…I’ll see you at Rampart,” Roy replied, slamming the doors closed and giving them two slaps. A moment later the ambulance pulled away. “Let’s go Jim,” Roy said as they loaded their gear back into the compartments. A moment later they were in the squad and pulling out into traffic to follow the ambulance.

 

Jim’s eyes were on Roy and his mouth hung open. Roy glanced toward him, noticing the look. “What is it” He questioned worriedly.

 

“That was without a doubt, the most intense thing I have ever witnessed,” he said, sounding totally sincere.

 

“Thank you,” Roy replied. “But you’ll feel that way the next time as well,” he reassured the man.

 

 

Johnny was waiting at the base station when they arrived. Dixie sat on a stool beside him, listening as he explained why they had company in the squad.

 

“Well who is it?” She questioned curiously. She knew there weren’t any trainees out with 51 at the time and that the last three times they’d had a ride along, it hadn’t been so enjoyable…At least not at first.

 

Christie had been an avid women’s libber and she and Johnny had been at each other’s throats for most of the day. She’d finally come to respect the guys and had even dated John a couple of times after.

 

Dr. Kent Donaldson had been another. He’d pretty well irritated both paramedics at their first meeting but then, he too had learned his lesson on just how difficult the guy’s job really was and had revised his opinion.

 

And then there had been Jason…A nice young fireman from England. He and Johnny had butted heads at first…Two attractive, single young men who’d both been interested in the same girl. They’d gotten past their differences as well after Jason saved Johnny’s life, something Dixie was immensely grateful for. She was very fond of John and Roy, even though she tried very hard not to let that favoritism show but she couldn’t help it.

 

Johnny had become like a young brother to her and Roy had won her heart with his compassion for the lonely younger man, especially after they’d found out that he had a mild case of Aspergers syndrome, which he kept pretty much under control.

 

 John had been virtually alone in the world and Dixie suspected there had been some abuse in John’s past, though it had never been confirmed to her.  If anyone knew, it would be Roy but he’d never betray John’s trust.

 

Roy had taken his young partner into his heart and into his family and had broken down the walls that John had built around himself, turning the young man’s life around.

 

Her attention was brought back from her musings by Roy’s arrival with their visitor. Her eyes widened in surprise as she recognized their guest.

 

“Hey Dix,” Roy greeted.

 

“Hello Roy,” she replied, looking toward the tall, gray haired man.

 

“This is Mayor James Hahn,” he added, nodding toward Jim.

 

“Yes…I’ve seen your picture in the papers. It’s a pleasure to meet you sir,” she said holding out her hand.

 

“Ma’am,” he replied as he shook it.

 

“Jim, this is Dixie McCall…She’s the head nurse here in the ER,” Roy explained.

 

“Nice to meet you,” he added.

 

“Johnny was just telling me that you were spending the day with them… I hope you get some good runs, not that I’m wishing for anything bad to happen, but it’s usually inevitable,” she said with a sigh.  “These are two of the best paramedics we have,” she informed him.

 

Jim could tell from look that she was serious and not just flattering the pair. “I’ve already seen that Miss McCall,” he admitted, just as sincere.

 

“It’s Dixie,” she corrected. “And stick around…You haven’t seen anything yet.

 

 

 

The trio climbed back into the squad a short time later. Johnny picked up the mic as Roy pulled away. “L.A. Squad 51 available,” he reported dutifully. He was about to replace it on the hook but there were three quick beeps.

 

“Squad 51…Stand by for response.” They heard the tones that signaled their station as well as two others. “Station 51, Station 36, station 91, squad 45…Multi vehicle accident with fire…405 Freeway north of Harbor…405 Freeway north of harbor…Time out 10:57.”

 

“Squad 51…10-4,” Johnny replied, reaching around to grab his helmet from the hook behind his head.  Roy hit the lights and sirens as soon as they were clear of the hospital parking lot.

 

Jim felt a rush of adrenaline and wondered if this was what these men experienced every time they got called out?

 

 

 

They pulled up on the scene a short time later, though they’d seen the column of gray smoke rising into the sky over a mile back. Hahn gasped at the sight of over twenty cars and trucks in various stages of crushed, twisted and smoking metal. Flames billowed from beneath the hood of one of the cars caught in a tangle with a tractor trailer and two other cars.

 

John slid from the squad and flipped open the compartment behind the cab. He grabbed his turnout and handed another to Hahn. “You stay with the squad alright?” He directed the Mayor. He didn’t want him too close in case the whole mess went up.

 

“Yes…Of course,” he agreed readily.

 

He looked back in time to see Engine 51 wending its way through the stalled traffic. He heard sirens coming from the other direction and breathed a sigh of relief that more help was on the way.

 

He saw De Soto doing a quick check on the people in one badly damaged car and looked around to find Gage, his mouth dropped open in shocked horror as he realized that the young man was trying to open the door of one of the burning cars.

 

He had a long, steel rod with a claw on one end and he was prying at the jammed door. A large truck teetered precariously on top. Flames shot from beneath the mangled hood of another car searing the paint of the truck above.

 

Johnny reared back, throwing his hand up to protect his face. Hahn thought surely that he’d give up but as soon the flash of the fire had settled, he returned to his task.

 

Jim looked over at Roy. The man’s blue eyes were watching his young partner intently but after a moment he returned his attention to his own victim. He saw more men running to join them.  He recognized Chet Kelly and Marco Lopez as they hauled their hoses toward the fiery pile of metal and rubber.

 

Other paramedics arrived to help Roy. The blonde paramedic turned his victim over to one of them and ran toward his partner. Hahn’s eyes followed and he couldn’t believe his eyes. John was half inside the vehicle despite the intense heat.

 

Roy quickly joined him and together they managed to pull the driver from behind the wheel.

 

There was a loud hiss and a cloud of steam rose as a stream of water suddenly sprayed out from the hose. John and Roy tried to protect their victim as much as possible but the two paramedics were quickly soaked. There was a creak of shifting metal as the truck’s weight crushed the smaller car below.

 

Steam rose from their jackets and Jim was shocked to realize just how intense the heat had to have been that close to the flames.

 

Another fire fighter from station 36 ran to join them, while some other firemen helped the less injured to a safe place to await transport to the hospital and still others were manning hoses and putting out spot fires.

 

Jim breathed a sigh of relief that his two ‘instructors’ were safe, but it was short lived. John turned back and ran toward the smoldering, steaming stack of crushed metal, where flames were still visible and fingers of it licked up over the smashed hood.

 

He moved forward to get a better view as John dropped to his knees next to the car at the bottom of the pile up. The car was upside down and seemed to be the source of the fire.  John looked upward at the ton of steel sitting on top, and Jim thought he’d wait for help but he didn’t.

 

The paramedics from station 45 were handling the two other cars involved in the pileup and station 36 was working the triage area. Roy was checking on the man from the first car and Squad 91 was dealing with the vehicles that had only been peripherally involved.

 

Tongues of fire shot upward from below and Chet and Marco turned the hoses on them but it seemed to Jim as if they were alive as they danced away from the water, only to pop up elsewhere.

 

“JOHNNY…You’re gonna have to back outta there for a minute,” Chet yelled.

 

Hahn’s eyes shot back to the young paramedic and sucked in his breath. John had ignored the warning and was peeling the shattered glass from the window frame and without hesitation, flipped onto his back and dragged himself into the passenger seat.

 

“ROY!” Marco shouted, trying to get the blonde man’s attention, but he hadn’t needed to worry…The older paramedic had already seen his partner and was running to help. He knelt next to the window, but the weight of the vehicle above had crushed the frame until it was too small for Roy to fit.

 

 “I’ll need a backboard and a C-Collar,” he yelled. Captain Stanley threw him a wave and ran to get the requested item. “Johnny…What have you got?” He yelled.

 

“A woman and a coupla kids,” he gasped breathlessly.

 

Roy could tell he was working on freeing the victims by the tone of voice but the hitch in his breath was from the intense heat.

 

“Johnny! Are you okay?" He yelled, leaning down close to the window.

 

He heard another grunted reply, but couldn’t make out what he said.  A moment later he saw a small boy being handed out to him through the window.

 

“BOB!” Roy shouted, gaining another paramedics attention. The other man ran to join him. “Here take him,” Roy said as he transferred the child into Belliveau’s waiting arms.

 

“You guys better hurry,” Chet yelled warningly.  He instinctively ducked as a small explosion dangerously rocked the pile of metal.

 

Hahn felt tears burn his eyes as he watched these two men risk their lives to save these two strangers.  There was motion near the window and once again a small child was handed out to Roy.

 

Hahn glanced around but the others were all occupied with other victims. He knew he shouldn’t get in the way and he knew it was dangerous, but he was available and they needed help. He ran forward. “I’ll take her Roy,” he offered.

 

Roy hesitated but he really had no option. “Support her neck,” he instructed. “Take her to them,” he added pointing to the yellow blankets where the others were working on the victims.

 

Jim nodded and carried the child toward the triage area as Hank Stanley ran past him with a back board and a C-Collar. Hahn handed the small girl over to the paramedics and turned back to watch the rescue that was still in progress.

 

The flames were creeping closer to where the two men from Station 51 were kneeling by the car where Gage and their victim were still inside.

 

“They’re crazy,” he mumbled, catching the attention of Bob Belliveau.

 

The paramedic glanced over at the pile of burning cars. Chet and Marco were working furiously to keep the flames at bay. He smiled at Hahn… “No…They’re the best…They got heart,” he said simply as he returned to his task.

 

Hahn looked a bit surprised that he’d admit that, but he had to agree.

 

 

Johnny was panting heavily as he worked within the cramped confines of the crushed vehicle. Sweat poured over his face and into his eyes and his body was soaked with it beneath the turnout.

 

His dark eyes shot toward the fingers of fire licking across the backseat toward him and the glow from under the hood was worrisome. It was buried beneath the truck on top and he knew it would be difficult for the linesmen to get to. If it went…He might not be able to get out.

 

The smoke and steam were making visibility almost nonexistent. He ran his sleeve over his face to wipe the sweat away and stop the stinging sensation. He knew he was running out of time and it would be now or never.

 

“ROY?” He yelled above the sounds of chaos all about him.

 

“YEAH!” He shouted back. “YOU READY?”

 

“YEAH…I GOT HER FREE…I’LL NEED THAT BACKBOARD AND COLLAR NOW,” he yelled.

 

“YOU GOT IT,” he replied before turning to Hank. “Cap?” Roy questioned, backing up so the two of them could slide the board into the narrow opening.

 

“You get one shot Roy…And then you both back out…That’s an order,” Hank warned him.

 

“Yes sir.” Roy knew he meant it from the tone. The question was…, how to get Johnny to cooperate?

 

Chet threw his Captain a warning look. They couldn’t beat this fire back which meant it was only a matter of time until this thing got out of hand and the whole mess would blow. If Gage was still inside…? Well…He didn’t want to think about it.

 

Roy leaned down to shout through the window as John worked to get the collar around the woman’s neck and side her onto the board. “ARE WE GONNA BE ABLE TO GET HER OUT THROUGH HERE?” He yelled. He had no idea of the size of the victim…If she was any heavier than John…They had a problem. Johnny had barely squeezed through and there was no other aperture available. Roy was pretty sure the porta power wouldn’t hold in this mess either. If that was the case they’d have to use the K-12 to cut through the door which would cause sparks and there was a lot of leaking gas around them…Not to mention the time involved.

 

The only other option would be to wait for the crane to lift the truck off…Roy knew they didn’t have time for that. They were already running out of that precious commodity…If this failed he’d have to get John out and wait and he knew his young partner would fight him every step of the way if it came to that.

 

“IT’LL BE TIGHT, BUT I THINK WE CAN SQUEEZE HER THROUGH,” John shouted back.

 

“Thank God,” Roy muttered.

 

“YOU TWO BETTER MOVE IT,” Marco yelled as the flames shot up.

 

He and Chet retreated briefly and Roy ducked and cringed away from the burst of heat and flame. He thought he heard a gasp from his partner.

 

“Get Gage outta there until we get this fire under control,” Hank bellowed, but he already knew better. He knew Johnny wouldn’t budge until he got these people out and Roy wouldn’t leave his young partner.

 

“ARE YOU OKAY?” Roy bellowed to his friend.

 

There was no reply. Roy lay down on his stomach and peered anxiously inside. He sucked in his breath at the sight that awaited him.

 

 

 

Johnny was working frantically to get the woman untangled from her seat belt without jerking her around too much, but he was running out of time and really had no option. He had the collar in place and it was now or never. He’d heard his captain and he knew he’d have no choice if he couldn’t get her out first try. He didn’t like it but he knew Roy wouldn’t leave him and John wouldn’t let Roy get killed because of his stubbornness, but he knew he’d have to live with it if he failed here.

 

The woman moaned softly and John murmured to her quietly. “Just stay calm ma’am…I’m gonna get you out,” he soothed. He pulled the backboard toward him and got her settled on it. He was about to slide it toward Roy when the flames suddenly burst to life behind him.

 

Johnny ducked and covered the woman with his body. He could feel the heat burning his back through his turnout and he gasped.

 

He heard Roy yell. “You okay?”

 

He was about to reply but the smoldering sleeve of his turnout suddenly burst into flame. It was only a moment before a stream of water once again pushed the fire back.  John slapped at it frantically with his gloved hand until he put it out. He panted breathlessly for a moment. He needed to get out of here and right now.

 

“JOHNNY?” Roy yelled again.

 

John could tell from the tone that his partner was getting worried and would soon be attempting to squeeze inside if he didn’t respond.

 

“I’m… okay,” he gasped. “We’re comin out,” he yelled reassuringly toward the window where his partner was now lying on his belly, trying to see inside. 

 

Outside the vehicle, Roy breathed a sigh of relief as his partner responded and then another as the backboard suddenly slid toward him.

 

Roy reached in to try and help but the truck above them suddenly shifted as the tires began to melt from the intense heat. Roy gave the board a mighty heave, falling backward, but at least the woman was out of the car. Hank squeezed in to help him. The pair lifted the woman and maneuvered her between the crushed hulks of burning metal.

 

Both men looked back to be sure John was on his way out.  “HURRY JOHNNY,” Roy shouted as the truck above slid yet again.

Hank's eyes widened as he realized that the vehicle had shifted enough so that the underside was no longer accessible to the hose crews. He also knew that without the water, it would blow at any moment.

 

“GO…GO...RUN!” He bellowed at his crew.

 

“JOHNNY!” Roy yelled again, even as he and Hank ran with their victim.

 

Chet and Marco hesitated. They hadn’t seen John but they no longer had an option…They dropped the hose and ran.

 

 

 

Hahn had moved over to the squad to watch the action. He shifted nervously as the flames shot upward and the two linesmen ducked away while Roy threw his hands over his face and turned his back to the tongues of fire dancing skyward.

 

The two linesmen quickly turned back and attacked the flames once again. Roy yelled something into the smashed window and Hahn gasped as the man suddenly dropped to his stomach near the opening. For a moment Jim thought he was about to try and squeeze through it but a moment later the blonde paramedic backed up and Hahn saw movement. A second later the backboard with the woman on it slid part way out the window.

 

Captain Stanley moved in to help as Roy pulled the victim clear. Jim blew out a relieved breath but sucked it back in sharply as the truck above them shifted and things began to happen very fast.

 

He heard Roy call to his partner even as he and the Captain carried the victim to safety at a run. His eyes widened in shock as Hank shouted at his linemen to run. The pair hesitated briefly and Hahn realized that neither of them wanted to abandon their young crewmate but they had no choice. The truck was gonna blow any moment. They dropped the hose and ran.

 

His gray eyes shifted back but smoke and flames were now obscuring his view.

 

Roy and Hank set the woman down on the ground. Belliveau and Cameron took over and the strawberry blonde paramedic turned to go back and help his partner but it was too late…An explosion rocked the pile of cars and the truck became airborne before crashing down in a fiery morass of metal and melting rubber.

 

Everyone seemed frozen for several seconds…A look of horror settled over all their faces but then suddenly a figure emerged from beneath the red car that had been snuggled up against the victims.

 

The dark haired paramedic scrambled to his feet and raced away from the conflagration, his jacket still smoking.

 

Roy visibly wilted in relief and huffed out a breath he didn’t even know he’d been holding. He ran to meet John, yanking the still smoking coat from his partner’s body. His shirt beneath was soaked with sweat but it didn’t matter…A stream of water hit both men and for the first time Hahn noted that Mike Stoker had grabbed the hose from Station 36’s lineman and had turned it on the overheated and scorched young paramedic.

 

 Roy held his partner for a few seconds before walking him off toward the squad. Mike grinned and handed the hose back.

 

Chet and Marco threw each other a relieved smile and ran back to their own line to help battle the remains of the fire.

 

Roy led his slightly wobbly partner to the yellow blanket and sat him down. Hahn suddenly realized he was shaking and panting for breath as if he’d made that sprint himself. He finally got his breathing under control and walked toward the paramedics working on the victims and preparing them for transport.

 

If he was this shaky, he had to wonder how bad Gage was. He approached the group and was shocked to hear Gage’s rather infectious giggle, even though it was punctuated by hisses of indrawn breath as Roy checked him over.

 

“Well I did tell you…*Ouch*… that I ran the …*OW*…440 in high schooool,” he groaned out the last word. “Aaah…,” he moaned.

 

“Yeah you did junior, but probably with a lot less urgency,” Roy replied. John giggled as he sat on the yellow blanket with his sopping wet shirt in his lap while Roy knelt behind him with a bottle of saline and a pad of gauze.

 

He gently patted his partner’s back with the wet cloth which was what had been drawing the soft sounds of pain Hahn had heard. The younger man grimaced several times as he touched some of the more tender areas.

 

Jim moved around to see the damage. John’s back was reddened as if he had a bad sunburn. There were several spots that looked as if they were already beginning to blister.  The back of John’s arm also showed a scarlet patch and Jim shook his head at the rather blasé attitude they all showed at the burns…well almost all…Roy face showed his concern even though he continued to handle it as if it were routine.

 

He set aside the saline and picked up a tube of burn cream and began dabbing it on the worst spots. John jumped at the first touch of the cold ointment against his overly warm skin but he seemed to relax as the sting began to ease.

 

“Are you gonna take him to the hospital?” Hahn asked worriedly.

 

“Yes…No…,” Johnny and Roy answered simultaneously. “I don’t need a hospital,” John protested.

 

Jim’s eyebrow rose in disbelief.

 

“I want Brackett or Early to look at this,” Roy argued.

 

“Roooy,” John began in almost a whine.

 

“Don’t,” Roy replied simply, cutting off the dispute before his young partner really got started.

 

The sable haired paramedic sighed in defeat. “Fine,” John grumbled.

 

Hahn grinned in disbelief as he watched a whole debate between the two paramedic’s three small words. He felt a hand clamp down on his shoulder.

 

“Don’t worry…You’ll get used to it,” Hank Stanley said from beside him, seeing the look on the Mayor’s face.

 

The others laughed, knowing exactly what he was talking about. John blushed at their knowing chuckles.

 

“How is he Roy?” Hank asked.

 

“Fine,” Johnny replied.

 

“He was talking to me Junior,” Roy shot back, giving his partner’s dark head a gentle shove from behind.

 

“Quit,” John growled, swiping at Roy’s hand.

 

“He’s got first degree burns for the most part Cap but there are a couple of second degree’s I’d like Brackett or Early to check out,” the senior Paramedic answered.

 

“I don’t need a…a,” Johnny began to protest, looking hopefully at his Captain. The words dwindled to a stop at the cocked eyebrow being leveled at him from his superior and a pout of defeat settled over the sensitive mouth. “Alright…Fine…I’ll see the doctor,” he grumbled in resignation.

 

“Good boy,” Hank said, patting the sable hair before he turned and walked away.

 

John glared sullenly at his back as he left, drawing a chuckle from Jim and Roy both.

 

“C’mon Junior,” Roy said with a smirk of victory as he reached down to help John to his feet. He draped a sterile sheet around his shoulders. “Ride in the ambulance with Bob okay?” He directed as he led the unhappy younger man toward the vehicle.

 

“Can’t I just go in the squad?” He asked plaintively.

 

“No…I want to be sure there’s no tissue damage to your back before you have to lean up against the seat,” Roy replied.

 

John sighed in defeat. “Move over Bob,” he mumbled as he climbed inside.

 

“I’ll look after him for you Roy,” Bob assured him.

 

I doan need to be ‘looked after’, John stressed indignantly.

 

“Don’t take any back talk from him either,” Roy instructed the older paramedic, without batting an eyelash at his young partner’s protest; he slammed the door in Johnny’s face before he could argue further.  He smirked at Hahn. “Some days that’s the only way to win an argument with John,” he quipped.

 

Hahn laughed. “So I see.”

 

 

Jim rode in the squad with Roy. He threw a glance at the blonde paramedic several times before the younger man finally noticed. “Something wrong Jim?” He finally asked the worried looking man.

 

“Will Johnny be alright?” He questioned in concern.

 

Roy pursed his lips, looking thoughtful for several moments before he finally nodded. “Yeah…probably. Most of the burns weren’t too severe…He won’t be real comfortable, but he’ll be fine.”

 

“Will you have to get a replacement?” He questioned, looking a bit disappointed. He wanted to see more of this team in action and was afraid he was about to lose half of it.

 

“For that…? No sir. Johnny wouldn’t let that keep him from doing his job,” Roy scoffed.

 

Hahn grinned at the pride in the young man’s voice. “You’re rather fond of him aren’t you?” He asked point blank.

 

Roy flushed a bit at the comment but he nodded his head anyway. “Johnny’s like my kid brother,” he admitted.

 

Jim nodded, but sensed Roy’s discomfort with the topic. “That young man has a lot of guts,” he said, shaking his head in amazement and looking very impressed.

 

“Johnny…? Yeah he does…But what he really has is heart,” Roy added.

 

“That’s what the other paramedic said…About both of you.”

 

Roy shrugged. “Yeah, I guess. We love what we do but Johnny…He’s different. He HATES to lose a victim…It tears him up,” he explained.

 

“So much for not getting involved,” Hahn teased.

 

 Roy’s shoulders lifted again. “We try not too but…Well; let's just say John has more reason than most do,” he added sadly, throwing a glance at the Mayor.

 

“Why’s that?” He asked warily at the look on Roy’s face.

 

“John’s father was killed in a fire,” he answered simply.

 

“Oh dear God,” Hahn replied softly.

 

“He doesn’t like to talk about it, but it’s what drives him,” he explained.

 

Hahn nodded. “I have to say…I was incredibly impressed by all of you today,” he admitted with a smile.

 

Roy nodded as he made the sweeping turn behind the ambulance into Rampart’s parking area. “Stick around Jim. This was routine,” he teased. Hahn’s mouth dropped open in surprise and the younger man chuckled.

 

 

Johnny sat on the exam table a while later. Hahn leaned against the wall in the corner, out of the way.  Dixie and Roy looked on while Dr. Early checked the young, sable haired paramedic over.

 

“This doesn’t look too bad Johnny,” Joe said approvingly. “Your turnout coat apparently did its job.”

 

John nodded. The sleeve caught fire but the back of it was more or less just smoldering,” he explained.

Jim’s eyes widened in shock at the unconcerned countenance of the young man, as well as the others standing around him. He certainly wouldn’t be this blasé about it if he’d been on fire, smoldering or otherwise, even with a turnout coat. His respect for these men and the job they did elevated to a whole new level.

 

Joe liberally applied a burn ointment over John’s back. The young paramedic winced a bit at his touch, but he was relieved that it was nothing debilitating. More like a severe sunburn. “Okay Johnny,” he said wiping his hands on a cloth. “You’re good to go,” he added, handing the jar of ointment to the older paramedic. “Put that on periodically Roy, it’ll take the sting out.”

 

“It stinks,” Johnny complained

 

“Better than being in pain tiger,” Dixie said with a blithe look as she handed him his wet shirt.

 

John’s nose crinkled at the damp material, not looking forward to putting it back on.

 

Roy grinned at the disgruntled scowl. “Here Junior,” he said, handing him his own navy blue jacket that he’d pulled from the squad’s compartment.

 

John shot his partner an appreciative look. “Thanks Pally,” he said, using the nicknames they’d given each other very early on in their partnership.

 

Joe, Dixie and even Jim smiled at the pair.  John started to put it on and Roy caught the subtle tightening of his friend’s mouth as the skin pulled but John said nothing. The older paramedic stepped forward. “Here, let me get that for you John,” he offered drawing a grin from the others once again at Roy’s over protective streak.

 

The younger man glanced up at the name. His partner had called him John not Johnny…It was Roy’s way of telling him he was serious about something and not to waste his time arguing.

 

“Thanks,” he said simply, letting the strawberry blonde paramedic help him into the jacket before he zipped it up. Roy patted his arm and turned to Hahn without saying anymore to his partner. “Let’s go Jim, the guys will be holding lunch for us,” he said.

 

“Well that’s nice of them,” he replied.

 

Johnny snorted in disgust. “That’s only cuz you’re here,” he mumbled. “Usually they just leave it to turn to concrete in the oven.”

 

Jim laughed. “Well then I’m glad my presence is helpful for something,” he teased.

 

Johnny gave him a half smile. “You won’t be saying that after lunch,” he said wryly.

 

“Why?” Jim asked curiously.

 

“Oh oh,” Dixie said with a smirk of understanding. She’d heard the boys complain about it often enough.

 

“Chet’s cooking,” Roy warned with a nose curling grimace. Hahn chucked at the look.

 

“I’ll get you a bottle of antacids,” the pretty blonde nurse offered.

 

“Oh don’t worry Dix…We keep our own supply for those occasions,” Johnny informed her.

 

The group laughed as the trio turned and left.

 

 

They backed into the station fifteen minutes later and true to their word, Hank stepped from the kitchen doorway and smiled, rubbing his hands together. “Good, glad you made it back in time for lunch,” he said happily.

 

“Oh yeah…lunch,” John repeated, looking disgusted.

 

“Well for your information John and in honor of our guest, we decided to order from the deli. We picked it up on the way back,” Hank told them.

 

“Far out,” Johnny replied, perking up.

 

“Yeah…It wouldn’t pay to give the Mayor food poisoning,” Roy added drily.

 

“Yeah…They don’t worry about that with us,” Johnny added.

 

“Quit complaining,” Hank grouched as John slid past him and went into the common room. He stopped Roy as he made to follow. “Is John okay?” He asked quietly, looking concerned.

 

The younger man nodded. “Doc said he’s okay to work. Kind of like having a severe sunburn.”

 

Captain Stanley nodded in relief and Hahn frowned. “Why didn’t you ask Gage?” He questioned curiously.

 

Roy smirked as Hank’s eyebrow rose. “Because John would have told me he was okay if he’d burned the skin off of his back,” Hank replied matter of fact.

 

Hahn looked surprised. “Why would he do that?” He asked in confusion.

 

“John’s dedicated,” Hank said honestly, foregoing any sarcasm with his answer. “Both to Roy and the victim,” he added. “And vice versa,” he finished, nodding toward Roy.

 

Roy knew John’s other reason…He’d been raised to believe that any show of pain was a weakness but he’d never tell anyone else that. “We look out for each other,” he said simply and it was true, neither man liked leaving their partner with someone else that may not watch their back as well as they should. He gave Hahn a poignant smile.

 

“So I’ve seen,” Jim replied in understanding.

 

Hank and Roy both smiled as they swept their hand toward the door. Jim grinned and went to join the crew.

 

 

The Station Control Unit began to tone half way through their lunch. “Station 51…Man trapped on a high rise. 1915 Covina…1-9-1-5 Covina. Cross street Park.”

 

Hahn looked up in surprise as the crew dropped their forks. There was a loud scraping of chairs as the men shot from their seats to scramble for the door and their respective rigs. Jim sat for a long moment…It had never occurred to him that these men couldn’t even take a break long enough to eat. He quickly pushed his chair back and ran to join them.

 

Johnny was waiting by the passenger side door as he came around the back of the squad. Hahn slid inside. “This happen often?” He asked as the dodge truck began to roll out of the bay.

 

“All the time,” Johnny replied with a grin.

 

“Do you ever get to eat?” He questioned as his stomach rumbled unhappily.

 

“Eventually,” the younger paramedic replied drily.

Jim blew out a disappointed breath. “Wow.”

 

“Well, you did say you wanted to see how it really is,” Roy reminded him with a chuckle.

The two vehicles pulled up at the address they’d been given. The crew climbed from the cabs and glanced around for a moment looking for whatever they had been summoned here for.

 

 

They were at a large construction site and a half finished building towered over them. A growing crowd of people was gathering and if their upturned heads hadn’t been warning enough that whatever the problem was, it wasn’t on the ground, then the man racing toward them and pointing frantically upwards was.

 

Captain Stanley moved to intercept the obviously agitated worker. “What’s happening here?” He asked, catching the distraught man by the shoulders to steady him.

 

“It’s Marty,” he gasped, trying to regain his breath.

 

“Cap…?” John interrupted, his dark eyes following the direction the rest of the crowd was looking. Hank glanced toward him and John pointed upward as the workman began to explain. Hank’s brown eyes lifted as well.

 

“Oh good Lord,” he muttered.

 

“The crane jammed and we can’t move it. He and a couple of other guys went up to secure that girder cuz it was swinging into that concrete support up there. Marty went out on the beam and man…It just slammed into the crosspiece and broke it loose. The others barely made it off in time but Marty was further out and now he’s trapped.”

 

Jim’s mouth dropped open at the site of the man hanging precariously from the broken girder. His legs were wrapped about the crumbling structure while his hands clutched desperately at the exposed rebar. Pieces of damaged concrete broke away with every swing of the girder…The men below knew it wouldn’t hold much longer.

 

 

“Let’s move,” Johnny said without waiting for Hank to tell them what to do.” He spun around and began to yank the compartment doors open. Roy was right behind him and they both began grabbing safety belts and rope.

 

“What do ya think?” Hank asked his two paramedics, wondering how they were planning to get on the damaged support that appeared to be hanging by a thread.

 

The pair stared upward as they strapped on their belts and looped the coils of rope over their heads. Roy glanced over at his young partner worriedly. That beam wasn’t going to take much more.

 

“We’ll tie off up there and I’ll try to slide out there…If I can get the belt around him, we can just pull him up.”

 

“I don’t know Johnny…That beam is really swinging up there and every time it hits the other one, it crumbles some more,” Roy warned. “Besides, what about that burn on your back?”

 

Hahn stared at the two younger men as if they’d lost their minds as John answered. “My back is fine,” he argued. “Besides, you got a better idea?” He questioned.

 

Roy frowned. “How about I go?” He suggested.

 

Johnny gave him a hard stare. “Because I’m lighter than you that’s why and like you said that beam isn’t gonna last much longer so why don’t we stop arguing and get up there?” He suggested in exasperation.

 

Roy didn’t like it at all but there really wasn’t any other way. A snorkel wouldn’t reach and another crane would take too long and the victim couldn’t hang on much longer.  “Cap?” He questioned.

 

Hank had been looking too and had pretty much come to the same conclusion. “There doesn’t seem to be much option does there?” He questioned, his brown eyes looking at Gage.

 

“No,” Johnny answered.

 

“Alright, we’ll check it out when we get up there and see if there’s a better way but for now, we’ll go with this.”

 

The crew grabbed ropes along with Johnny and Roy’s Biophone and drug box and the group headed for the building.

 

“You’ll have to wait here on this one Jim,” Roy called to the older man.

 

Hahn was a bit disappointed that he couldn’t go up but he understood how dangerous the situation was. He’d have to settle for watching from below. Personally he thought they were both nuts.

 

The group stepped into the elevator, which thankfully was working. They waited impatiently for the car to climb to the top. Roy and John were pushing their way through it before it finished opening.

 

Both of them knew the beam could let go at any time and that by now, the trapped man’s hold was tenuous at best and had to be weakening.

 

The crew made their way carefully across the half finished structure.

 

 

Johnny and Roy were already scanning the surrounding area for the best way to reach the victim. “We can use that support beam to tie off. Once we get him clear, I’ll try to find a way to anchor that beam.”

 

“Don’t worry about that beam…Just worry about the victim and you,” Roy corrected sternly.

 

John’s eyes rolled in exasperation at his partner’s ‘big brother’ attitude but he nodded his acquiescence.  “Okay dad,” he teased.

 

Roy shook his head. “Maybe I should go down with you to help?” The older man suggested, knowing John’s back was still burned and painful.

 

“Not a chance,” Johnny replied with a lopsided grin. “I’m lighter than you and there’ll be less chance of my weight overstressing that beam,” he finished smugly.

 

Roy frowned…as much as it bugged him, he knew Johnny was right, but he hated sending his young partner into these situations simply because the kid had the build of a beanpole. Roy finally nodded in resignation. He knew that despite his slender build, John was as strong as the rest of them and an exceptional rescue man and, he had the tenacity of a bulldog with a bone to boot.

 

 “Okay Junior,” he agreed reluctantly as he began to get the ropes ready.

 

John grinned at the tone. He appreciated his partners concern, but he also knew Roy hated heights, where he was very comfortable scaling some building or rocky hillside like a mountain goat, besides, Roy had a family at home and John didn’t. If something went wrong, he wanted to be sure his best friend made it home to his wife and kids.

 

Roy would be furious if he knew his thoughts. He hated it when John took the risks which he often volunteered for not only for Roy, but for Joanne, Chris and Jennifer.

 

John frowned as he looked over the edge of the roof while he connected the end of the rope to his safety belt. “Hey…Can you hear me down there?” He called to the man.

 

“H…elp m…me,” the terrified victim yelled back plaintively. I can’t h…hold on mmmuch longer,” he gasped breathlessly.

 

John knew the man’s hands had to be in excruciating pain by now and only the terror of falling to his death kept him from letting go despite it.  “Just hold on…I’m coming down right now,” John shouted to him as Roy tied off the rope and the rest grabbed hold to anchor the young man.

 

John hooked the extra safety belt to his own. Hank stepped to the edge and looked over. The girder on the cable twisted wildly, colliding with the buildings framework with every swing. Each time shaking the helpless victim, who had to duck out of its way…Every ringing impact weakening the already damaged beam.

 

 

John stepped up on the edge and with a nod of warning, stepped off. He dropped for a moment and used his feet to push off the upright to keep from slamming into it while he got his swing under control. “Okay, lower me down,” he called up to Hank.

 

 “Okay guys,” Cap said, giving them a hand wave to begin lowering the young man down. “Hold it,” he called when John’s feet touch the first cross beam. “Give him just a bit more slack,” he directed.

 

The crew let out a bit more rope until their Captain once again raised a hand to stop them.

 

John carefully sat on the beam and began to slowly maneuver his way down the damaged framework of steel and concrete. He finally came parallel with the broken girder. It had gotten considerably worse in just those few minutes it taken him to get down here. Larger pieces were breaking away and John knew he was out of time.

 

The man’s fingers were bleeding and swollen from where he’d managed to catch hold of the reinforcing rebar showing through the concrete…The sharp edges of the steel cutting into his skin.

 

“Ppplease h..hurry,” he moaned. “My hands are sl…slip…ping.”

 

John didn’t doubt it. The blood and sweat were soaking the sleeves of the man’s khaki work shirt and the only thing holding him up was stark terror.

 

John had originally planned to straddle the beam and work his way out but he didn’t have that kind of time. He made his decision, tossing a glance upward to where his partner and his Captain were watching. They’d both kill him for this. John stepped out on the beam.

 

 

“What’s he doing?” Roy growled through clenched teeth. He’d also expected to see his partner crawl out on the beam. His blue eyes widened worriedly. John was tied off but still…If John fell it would be a hard pull on the line and a jolting stop for his back to handle.  “Hang on guys,” he warned the other three men.

 

“I’m gonna kill him,” Hank muttered.

 

Roy nodded. John was giving his Captain a few more gray hairs while his partners just thinned on top from his running his hand through it in frustration with his young partner and his willfulness but he still defended his friend. “He may have a good reason Cap,” Roy hedged, hoping to keep John out of trouble.

 

“It better be a good one,” Hank replied through gritted teeth as John continued his balance beam routine.

 

Marco and Chet exchanged a grin…Their youngest crewmate was at it again.

 

 

Down below, Hahn’s eyes almost bugged from his head as he saw someone step out on the concrete beam. He assumed it was Gage since that had been the original plan they’d discussed, but he couldn’t be certain from this distance. “He’s crazy,” he murmured to Mike Stoker and the Captain of Engine 16 which had just arrived. His men were already on the way up to help out.

 

Mike Stoker snorted with amusement, well used to his young friend’s antics and total lack of fear when it came to rescues.

 

The group of workmen and bystanders shook their heads. One elderly woman covered her mouth in terror that the fireman would fall but she stood riveted to the scene non-the-less. The construction crew had been working this job too long and knew that beam wouldn’t hold much longer. They one upped the Mayor. “That guy’s gotta be insane,” one mumbled. The others nodded. Hahn looked away. He didn’t want to watch.

 

 

 

Johnny moved as quickly as he dared, but every step was met with more pieces of the concrete breaking away. John froze each time the steel girder banged into the support, his hands and arms being used for balance as he fought the vibrations that rippled beneath his feet.

 

Up above, Roy and Hank held their breath until he finally reached the rapidly tiring and injured victim. John squatted carefully and finally let his long legs straddle the beam.

 

“H…help me,” he whispered desperately.

 

John nodded. “I’m gonna help ya man,” he assured the man. “What’s your name?” He asked the victim as he unhooked the extra belt and attached his own to the steel support. Up above Roy and Hank both breathed a sigh of relief.

 

“R…Rob,” he stuttered.

 

John was about to lean over and try to wrap the belt around the man but the heavy metal girder spun toward them once again. It slammed into the concrete. The beam shook…It was the final straw for the already weakened perch.

 

The final piece of rebar that had been the sole support for the man’s weight snapped under the strain. Rob felt it go and knew he was a dead man. He screamed in terror but it cut off as he felt a vise like grip wrap around his wrist. “Oh God…Oh God,” he gasped fearfully as he swung fourteen stories above the ground.

 

“I got ya,” Johnny ground out between clenched teeth.

 

“Help mmme,” he wept. “Please…Please ddon’t let…me fall,” he pleaded.

 

Up above Roy and Hank sucked in their breath while down below Hahn looked away. He didn’t want to see the man fall to his death but Mike’s gasp of relief snapped his head back around. He couldn’t believe what he saw.

 

“Okay…Just…Just hold on,” John muttered, trying to figure out his next move. He finally managed to hook the other belt to his own as the steel girder swung toward them once again.  Johnny leaned over and grasped the man’s other wrist in a rescue hold, putting himself between Rob and the heavy beam.

 

John grunted painfully as the girder grazed him and barely managed to hang on to the man’s sticky, bloodied wrist. It was sheer stubbornness that kept him holding on. He was gasping for breath and his muscles were screaming in protest, not to mention the sting of sweat on his burned back.

 

He heaved with everything he had left and managed to pull the man over the beam he was straddling. Rob was draped across it and trying desperately to gain control of his terrified sobs.

 

Down below, breaths were released that no one in the crowd had even realized they were holding but up above, Roy was grabbing the line they were planning to use for the victim. “I gotta get down there and help him Cap,” he said urgently but Hank reached out and gripped his arm.

 

“I can’t let you go down with them…Not with that beam swinging like that,” Hank said softly, knowing Roy was worried about John but also knowing in the confined space, he’d just be in the way.

 

Roy opened his mouth to protest but Hank wasn’t willing to risk them both. “John’s got it under control pal…Besides, that beam won’t hold both of you and the victim.”

 

Roy new Hank was right but his best friend and partner was down there and he felt useless standing there, watching helplessly from above but he really had no choice.

 

“Alright Cap,” he sighed reluctantly.

 

 

Every muscle in John’s already injured back and shoulders felt as if it was on fire but he knew he couldn’t stop yet. “Okay Rob,” he gasped out as he unhooked the safety belt once again. “Let’s get this on you.”

 

“LOOK OUT!” Roy and Hank shouted almost simultaneously from above as they spotted the spinning beam swinging back toward them again. It slammed into the broken cement girder and John had no option but to drop the safety belt and grab hold of Rob as the concrete began to disintegrate from beneath them.

 

The victim let a scream of terror and his arms flailed wildly, clipping Johnny in the chin, but that didn’t stop the young paramedic.  He managed to get his arms around the older man and pull him toward him but that only proved Hank’s theory correct, the extra weight finished off the section of beam that John was straddling.

 

There was a loud crack as it gave up its tenuous hold and broke free to tumble down to the concrete below.

 

John gasped as he now bore the entire weight of his victim, his abused body put up a painful protest but he now had no more options except to hold on and pray they’d be able to pull them to safety up above or drop the victim. Between the two, Johnny opted for the first.

 

“JOHNNY!” He heard his friends terrified shout from up above but he couldn’t spare the breath or a hand to wave a reassurance that he had a firm hold on the man.

 

“Please…Please don’t let me fall,” the man whimpered in terror.

 

“I’m not… gonna… let you fall,” Johnny panted through clenched teeth. “But I do need…You to try and grab the rope,” he gasped.

 

Down below Mike, Hahn and the rest of the onlookers sucked in their breaths fearfully as they watched the rescue unfold. They all let out a cry of fear as they heard the crack of the concrete and rebar. They backed away fearfully when it all came crashing down. Dust plumes rose from the debris as it disintegrated on impact with the ground.

 

They were all afraid to look, fearful that they’d see Rob’s lifeless body and maybe even that of the young fire fighter who’d courageously climbed down there to try and save him.

 

They finally glanced upward and breathed a sigh of relief to see both men swinging from the end of the rope.

 

They could tell even from this distance that John was having a terrible time hanging onto the heavier man’s dead weight, but then they saw the victim reach up and wrap his bloodied hands around the rope, taking some of the weight off of John’s aching arms.

 

Johnny let out a relieved breath as Rob grabbed the rope. He wasn’t sure how much longer he could have held on.  “Okay Rob…,” he puffed. “I need you to hang on tight alright. I have to unhook…my belt from the upright so…they can pull us up,” he finished breathlessly.

 

“Yeah…Yeah okay,” he breathed out. He didn’t care at this point what the young fireman asked him to do…He just wanted off this damn building.

 

Johnny glanced upward. “Pull us up,” he yelled.

 

Roy nodded and turned to Chet and Mike and the two linemen from station 16 as he also grabbed hold of the rope to help haul his partner and their victim to safety. They lifted him enough to unhook the carabineer from the upright and then began the arduous task of pulling both of the men to the roof.

 

Rob moaned a bit as they began to swing freely but the young man’s arms were wrapped tightly about him. He couldn’t believe the strength of body and will this skinny kid had but he was grateful for it.

 

“Take us up,” he yelled, but it was too late. Roy had already signaled the others…anxious to get Johnny’s feet back on solid ground.

 

There were sighs of relief and cheers from below… along with a bit of applause as they saw the victim being hauled over the top of the roof and a moment later, the fireman disappeared from sight as well.

 

 

Roy’s blue eyes quickly scanned his partner for injuries as he reached out to grab hold of Rob. He didn’t know whether to hug Johnny for being okay or shake him til his head rattled for scaring him to death.

 

He noted John’s slightly hunched posture and knew he was hurting somewhere. “Cap…Can you give John a hand.”

 

His young partner’s head snapped up. “I’m fine,” he argued.

 

Roy knew better. He could see the pain in John’s eyes. “Just sit down for a minute okay?” He barked as he and Chet led the very shaky Rob to a safer part of the roof.

 

“But I’m…,” he began to protest again as Hank helped him unhook from the rope. The tall captain couldn’t help but notice the slight tremor in the young man’s arms, and he wasn’t sure if it was muscle fatigue, pain or the fear of dropping the man that had affected his youngest crewmember the most…Probably a bit of all three.

 

He wrapped his arm around John’s waist and gripped his elbow firmly with his other hand. John stiffened at his familiar touch, but Hank just thought it was indignation on the younger mans part. “I don’t believe he asked you how you were feeling pal,” Hank said sternly, leading the young man toward the others. John glanced toward him and saw the no nonsense look in Hank’s eyes...He had no option but to allow it or tell his captain the reason why he wouldn't.

 

“Yes sir,” he mumbled in defeat as his Captain let him slide down to a sitting position next to Rob.

 

Roy glanced up from taking Rob’s pulse. “Thanks Cap,” he said simply, not in the mood for any sass from his stubborn partner.

 

“Good job down there pal,” Hank said, patting John on the shoulder. “I was afraid for a minute that you were a goner,” he added.

 

“So was I,” Rob mumbled, finely able to breathe normally again. He looked at the slender man next to him and wondered where he’d gotten the strength to hold on. “Thanks mister,” the man said quietly, knowing how close he’d come to dying if not for this kids tenacity.

 

John gave him a tired smile. “You’re welcome,” he replied reaching for the Biophone and sliding it toward him.

 

“What do you think you’re doing?” Roy asked.

 

“I can at least handle this part,” John replied with a cocky grin.

 

Roy sighed in defeat. It wasn’t worth the argument. Hank rolled his eyes but let Roy make the decision. “Alright,” he agreed.

 

John began to set up the Biophone. “Rampart base this is squad 51…How do you read me?” He questioned, plucking his green pen and notebook from his shirt pocket and grimacing a bit as his sore back and abused muscles put up a fuss.

 

He glanced up at his partner as he waited for him to give him the vitals and saw the blue eyes watching him knowingly. John flushed a bit that his partner was on to him and knew him that well but the Biophone drew his attention back to the matter at hand.

 

“Squad 51, this is Rampart, go ahead.”

 

Roy began to reel off the vitals. John jotted them down in his book, even while continuing his conversation with the hospital. “Rampart…We have a male, approximately thirty five. He was involved in a construction accident,” John relayed; reaching up to brush the hair off his sweating forehead as he continued. “He’s got lacerations on both hands along with some bruises and muscle pulls. No other injuries apparent Rampart. His BP is 140/90, pulse is 120 and respirations 16.”

 

 “10-4 51…Give him 75 mgs of Meperadine and bandage his hands before transporting.

 

“10-4 Rampart,” Johnny replied with a sigh of relief. He knew he’d just dodged a bullet. No IV meant they didn’t need to accompany the victim to the hospital and that meant no physical examination by Brackett, Early or Mike Morton. The last thing Johnny needed was Morton’s smart aleck cracks about his physical condition. He’d just gotten over the results of the last one.

 

Roy quickly took care of the patient and then he and Marco eased the injured and now pharmaceutically relaxed victim to his feet and led him over to the elevator where the ambulance attendants where waiting on a more secure section of the roof.

 

Johnny, Hank and Chet packed the remainder of their gear and followed with the two linemen from 16. They'd just finished strapping Rob onto the stretcher when they arrived.

 

“Roy…We won’t all fit in there with the stretcher, why don’t you and the attendants go first with the drug box and Biophone,” Hank suggested.

 

“Okay Cap,” he agreed, shooting a glance at his partner.

 

Hank grinned. “Take this twit with you,” he teased. Roy chuckled while Johnny drew himself up indignantly. “Make sure you check him out when you get back to the station,” he instructed his senior paramedic.

 

“Yes sir,” Roy said happily, knowing Johnny would now have no option but to let him check him out.

 

“But Cap…,” Johnny began to protest. Hank’s right brow rose dangerously and Johnny quickly shut up, but he rolled his dark eyes in exasperation.

 

“Don’t you roll those eyes at me Gage,” Cap barked as the elevator doors began to close between them.

 

“Yes sir,” John mumbled back.

 

Hank chuckled, tossing a glance at Marco and Chet who grinned back. John could be a handful but none of could imagine life at station 51 without him.

 

 

Once they reached the ground they wheeled Rob out to the ambulance. The crowd broke into a round of applause as they stepped out the door and Rob's friends came to gather around him. “Man…We thought you were done,” the foreman said with a shake of his head.

 

“So did I,” he admitted glancing toward Johnny. “I would have been if not for him,” he added.

 

The others nodded. “We were watching,” one told him, looking at John in disbelief.

 

“Hey!” Rob called out to the young paramedic.

 

“Yeah?” John replied.

 

“Thanks man…You saved my life…I won’t forget it,” he added as they lifted him into the ambulance.

 

Johnny smiled. “Just doin my job,” he replied modestly as he slammed the doors and slapped them twice.

 

“That was incredible,” the foreman told the slender young man.

 

“Thanks guys,” another said to both John and Roy.

 

“That was far out,” a third offered, slapping Johnny off the back.

 

John’s face tightened a bit in pain and as fleeting as it was, Roy saw it. “Thank you gentlemen but we have to get back to the station,” Roy explained as he gripped his partners elbow. “C’mon Junior,” he added, giving his partner a tug toward the squad.

 

Johnny nodded and sketched a quick wave at the group, knowing better than to argue at this point.

 

Jim was waiting by the truck, his eyes clearly reflected his admiration for John and Roy and the others and what he’d just witnessed during this rescue. He noted the grip the older paramedic had on the younger man’s arm and frowned. “Are you alright John?” He questioned worriedly.

 

He nodded. “I’m fine…Just my nervous partner here,” he said with a nod toward Roy.

 

“Humor me Junior…You know how I am,” he replied, opening the door and giving Jim a grin and a head jerk toward the cab. The older man understood and slid inside before Roy assisted his young partner in beside him. Roy ran around and climbed into the driver’s seat and the group headed back to the station.

 

Jim looked between the pair… “I thought you two were gonna have another patient when I saw you step out on that beam,” he said with a grin.

 

John frowned a bit. “There was nothing to worry about, I was tied off,” he reassured the Mayor.

 

“Not you…Me…I thought I was gonna have a heart attack,” he explained.

 

“Ye…eah…Well it wasn’t exactly how we originally planned it, was it junior?”  Roy asked, leaning around Hahn to look at his partner.

 

John gave him a sheepish glance. “Well…See…When I got down there I realized how bad his hands were cut up and I didn’t think he’d be able to hold on much longer.” Roy nodded…He was just teasing his partner a bit. He trusted Johnny’s judgment of the situation even if it had made him nervous at the time.

 

“Yeah…Well I think my hair turned a bit grayer this afternoon,” Hahn quipped.

 

The three laughed as Roy drove on.

 

 


Roy backed the squad into the bay. Johnny slid out of the cab and headed around to the back. He desperately wanted a cup of coffee, but Roy stepped in front of him before he could get to the kitchen door.

 

“Nice try Junior,” he said with an arch to his blonde eyebrow. He pointed toward the locker room.

 

“Ah c’mon Roy,” he almost whined as Hahn came up behind him.

 

“Cap said to check you out and now is as good of a time as any…Before we get another run.”

 

“Oh man…Can’t we just get…,” John began but Roy interrupted, knowing John was just hoping to get his mind off of the directive and that Roy would forget about it. He should have known better.

 

“NO! Let’s go John,” he said, dropping the more familiar form of address.

 

John knew better than to argue when his best friend used his given name and not Johnny. “Ah man,” he moaned in defeat, drawing a chuckle from Hahn as Roy gripped his young partner’s arm and steered him back toward the dorm.

 

Jim shook his head. Gage was irrepressible and De Soto sure had his hands full with his young partner, but he’d stake his reputation that neither paramedic would be the same man without the other. He headed for the kitchen for coffee.

 

“Okay junior, let’s take a look,” Roy said as he folded his arms across his chest in a stance that John recognized well. Roy wasn’t in the mood to be argued with.

 

“Fine,” he muttered unhappily as he unbuttoned his shirt and slid it off his shoulders.

 

Roy gasped and shook his head at the sight of a bruise the size of a dinner plate that blossomed on top of the already inflamed and irritated skin.  “Is that where that beam hit you?” He asked as his fingers moved over the discolored skin.

 

“Yeah,” he admitted grudgingly with a wince.

 

“Why didn’t you say something?” Roy questioned with a scowl of irritation.

 

John shrugged. “It wasn’t that big a deal.”

 

Roy sighed and shook his head. The kid was impossible. “Well…It doesn’t feel like anything is broken,” he conceded.

 

“Good…Are we done?” John asked hopefully.

 

“No…We are not done,” Roy shot back as he pulled open his locker. They both heard the gasp of surprise and turned to see Jim standing there with two cups of coffee.

 

“WOW…That looks painful,” he said as he approached the team. “I brought you both some coffee,” he added extending the two cup.

 

“Thanks Jim, but you don’t need to be waiting on us,” Roy protested as John eagerly took one of the cups.

 

“I uh…I thought Johnny might be easier to deal with if he had his coffee,” he teased.

 

John grinned, even as his face flushed in embarassment at the jest.

 

“Don’t let him fool you, that was just an excuse to get out of this,” he explained, nodding his head at John’s bared back.

 

“Doesn’t that hurt?” Jim questioned with a frown. John shrugged.

 

“Of course it does,” Roy answered snidely. “That’s why he didn’t want me to see it.”

 

Hahn frowned as Roy set his cup on the bench and began to gently feel the muscles along John’s arms and back. Some of them were warm to the touch…A warning that they were probably strained.

 

Johnny jumped a couple of times as Roy’s hands came in contact and the blonde paramedic wasn’t sure if it was pain or John’s usual discomfort with being touched so familiarly. “What’s the pain level John and I want the truth.”

 

The dark eyes lifted sheepishly to look into the blue gaze of his partner. “Maybe a four or five,” he admitted.

 

Roy sighed. “Let me put some more of that burn cream on your back Junior…I’ll let you stay if you promise me you’ll tell me if it starts to stiffen up or gets worse,” he added, opening the tube of ointment that Joe had given him.

 

“I promise Roy. I wouldn’t put a victim at risk,” he assured his friend.

 

“I know you wouldn’t junior,” he replied as he began to spread the ointment over John’s back.  The younger man tensed and Roy leaned close to his ear. “Relax Johnny...I won't hurt you,” he soothed quietly.

 

John nodded but remained rigid until Roy finished. He wiped his hands on a rag and handed John his shirt before picking up his cup. He took a sip of coffee but the SCU tones began to sound.

 

“Station 51…Engine 45…Battalion 10…Structure fire.”

 

Roy set down his cup as Johnny shot to his feet still shrugging into his shirt as they ran. Roy and Jim followed.

 

They rounded the engine and Johnny yanked the door open and stepped aside to let Jim slide inside. The doors were already rolling up as Captain Stanley handed a piece of paper to his senior paramedic before he could slip into the cab.

 

Hahn felt a rush of adrenaline as he watched Hank run for the Engine. Mike was already behind the wheel as Chet and Marco hiked themselves into the jump seats. He shook his head in amazement. These men seemed to always be in perfect sync and it gave Hahn goose bumps to watch them.

 

He imagined that it must be the same in every station but to see it firsthand gave him a thrill. He glanced at the two paramedics in the cab with him. Roy’s eyes were intent as he pulled out of the station, turning right at John’s direction.

 

The younger man’s hand rested on the dash in front of him as he leaned forward. If John was in pain, he wasn’t letting it show. The dark eyes scanned the road ahead for potential threats. Even in something as mundane as driving to the scene, these two were a synchronized team and it was fascinating to watch.

 

The three men saw the smoke rising over the trees while they were still quite a distance away. John shot his partner a glance. Jim caught it. He was becoming adept at interpreting those subtle looks…At least to the degree that that he knew whatever they were approaching probably was going to be bad.

 

A minute later they made a right turn and Hahn’s eyes widened at the sight. Three houses were burning. One was fully involved and the second was limited to the second story where the flying embers had landed and set the roof tiles afire. They’d quickly burned through to the rooms below. The third was just beginning to smolder, but already flames were staring to shoot up in small patches.

 

The owner of that house was outside with his garden hose, trying desperately to save his home.

 

Engine 45 was just arriving from the other direction and Jim heard Hank’s voice on the radio. “Engine 45, Engine 51…Hit the southernmost structure first. Let’s keep this from spreading,” he directed, wanting to save the least damaged first.

 

The center house was already a total loss and he prayed that there was no one inside.

 

They pulled up in front of a hydrant closest to the northern most home and Johnny jumped out of the squad and ran toward the engine. Jim started to follow but Roy reached out to stop him. “He’s just hooking up the line,” he explained. “He’ll be right back.”

 

Jim settled back to watch the young man as he stepped up on the back of the bumper and grabbed the end of the heavy hose folded there.  He leaped from the back and ran toward the hydrant with the line feeding off the engine behind him.

 

He wrapped it around the metal structure and gave Mike a hand wave to let him know he was clear to move. The engine rolled forward, feeding out a trail of hose behind them, before stopping in front of the first two houses. Battalion 10 should be arriving very soon and he’d leave the middle house for them.

 

Marco and Chet jumped from their seats and raced around to the grab their air tanks. Hank was already on the ground and shouting orders to his crew.

 

Jim’s eyes shot to John to see him quickly and efficiently hooking up the hose to the hydrant. He watched him give the nut a twist before running for the squad. He slid in beside Jim and Roy pulled up behind the engine.

 

Both paramedics bolted from the squad and began yanking their air tanks from the compartments behind the cab. John shoved a turnout at Jim. “Put it on,” he instructed quickly before flipping his air mask over his head to dangle around his neck. “Stay back here,” he ordered as he and Roy ran toward their captain.

 

The scene was chaotic…Hoses crisscrossed the lawns and the wail of the approaching vehicles from station 10 were screaming in the distance, growing steadily louder by the second and he shouts of the firemen yelling instructions to one another. Jim wasn’t sure how they could hear themselves think in all this confusion of sight and sound.

 

“Hit the North side,” Hank bellowed at his crew.

 

“Right Cap,” Chet shouted back.

 

“Charge the line,” he yelled at Mike, once he was sure his two linesmen were steadying one another and were ready for the pressure to blast free. Both of the fire fighters were rocked back a bit as the water shot from the nozzle and then they began to move forward. Hank raised the handy talkie to his lips. “Battalion 10….Take the middle house...Hit it from the east side and keep it from spreading.”

 

“10-4 51,” Captain Hayes voice came back.

 

Hank turned to Johnny and Roy as they ran toward him, prepared to have them sweep the house to his left for possible victims when a man staggered down the steps and ran unsteadily toward him.

 

“HELP ME!” He screamed frantically, his arms waving toward the house. John and Roy exchanged a glance and then ran toward him…Hank was close behind.

 

“Are you okay?” Roy asked, grabbing the man’s arm.

 

He nodded… “Yeah…Yeah but…my son… is in the house…, he gasped between coughs.

 

“Where?” John asked urgently.

 

“Second floor…I couldn’t…get to him. The roof caved in…Stairs are on…fire,” he panted.

 

“John…Roy…Go check it out,” Hank yelled at his two paramedics.

 

The two men quickly tipped their helmets backward before pulling the air masks over their faces and then set the helmets back in place.

 

“Is there anyone else inside?” Roy shouted to him.

 

He shook his head. “My wife went out with my girls,” he assured them with a rasp.

 

Hank nodded. “It’s getting bad in there…Lets make this quick,” he ordered.

 

They both nodded. “Okay Cap,” they replied almost in unison as they turned and ran for the home.

 

Hahn’s eyes grew wide as he watched Gage and De Soto race up the stairs and into the house…Chet and Marco followed behind them with the hose.

 

Jim heard the hiss of steam and realized that the other stations were now working on the first house and he trotted over toward Hank. The Captain gave him a glance but quickly looked back to where his men were now putting their lives on the line inside the burning structure.

 

“Will they be alright in there?” Jim asked quietly, worry written clearly on his face.

 

Cap gave him a hard look. “I hope so,” he replied with a small shrug.

 

Hank Stanley never liked sending his men into an inferno and if he’d thought for one minute that it was a suicide mission or less than better odds that they’ be okay, he’d have refused but sometimes luck wasn’t in their favor and accidents happened. He couldn’t guarantee Hahn that his men would walk away from a call no matter how mundane or difficult it appeared to be from out here.

 

His men all knew that too and they accepted the risk they took every time that tone sounded. That’s what made them so special.

 

Jim gave him an incredulous look. “You aren’t sure? Then why?” He questioned, his face clearly reflecting his shock.  He’d gotten the feeling that these men were like family to each other, so how could Hank send them in there unless he was sure they’d get out alright?

 

Hank smiled ruefully. “It's a dangerous Job Jim, but John and Roy understand the risk …I promise you,” he said quietly. “All of these men do,” he said waving his hand toward the firemen who were battling the blazing building.

 

Jim’s eyes traveled over the men manning the hoses, while others used ladders to climb up onto the roof to begin venting the building…Still others were running about to help wherever they were needed.

 

Young and more mature, tall, short, heavy and thin…Black and white, Hispanic…Engineers and linesmen and paramedics…All well trained and taking horrendous risks and all of them knowing this call out could be their last.

 

Hahn finally nodded his understanding. He’d admired them before but now they grew in his eyes…Hero’s…All of them. Yes it was dangerous, but someone had to do it.

 

 

John and Roy ran into the hallway of the home. The upper floor was partially engulfed and the stairwell was blocked by fallen debris from the roof collapse. The pair headed up the stairs and began flinging the pieces of burning wood and tile out of the way.

 

They heard Chet and Marco come up behind them as well as the hiss of steam as the water hit it and knew the two linesmen had their backs.

 

They finally cleared enough of the blockage to manage to slip through and continue up the stairs. They made their way down the dark, smoke filled hall…The beam of John’s flashlight cutting through the murky blackness until they came to the room the man had pointed out.

 

The fire was making its way down the carpeted hallway toward them…The rooms at that end were already cut off but thankfully it hadn’t made it this far yet.

 

John felt the door and nodded at Roy before turning the knob. The door seemed to be jammed and Johnny put his shoulder against it, giving it a hard shove. It opened a crack and the dark haired paramedic could just make out the feet of the young boy they’d been searching for.

 

His body was laying against the door as if he’d passed out trying to reach it. “I’ve got him,” John shouted to his partner as he muscled the door open, pushing the child’s body enough to slip through the opening.

 

A boy of about twelve lay unconscious on the floor. Johnny squatted and lifted the child in his arms. He whipped off his mask and placed it over the boys face. The young victim moaned softly as oxygen flooded his lungs.

 

“M…mmmom,” he slurred, sounding confused.

 

John didn’t have the time to reassure the boy right now as Roy grabbed his partners arm and steered him toward the door. The pair made their way down the stairs.

 

“That fire is spreading,” Roy shouted to Chet and Marco. The two nodded and made their way further up the stairs to the fires source.

 

John and Roy continued down and out the front door with their burden. The father was waiting anxiously by the engine along with Hahn and Captain Stanley.

 

“Is he alright? Will he be okay?” He questioned the paramedics worriedly.

 

“I think so,” Roy assured the man as John laid the boy down on the blanket they’d laid out in the grass.

 

The blonde paramedic slipped past him to grab the drug box and the Biophone, along with the tank of oxygen.  Jim moved over to watch the team work.

 

 John was already working on getting the child’s vitals and he glanced down at the soot stained face. The boy’s eyes were opening and he began to cough and struggle to sit up. “Hey, hey…hold on…You’re gonna be okay,” John reassured the youngster

 

“Mo...*Cough”…Mom,” the boy wailed as he looked around him.

 

“Settle down Jake,” the boy’s father soothed, kneeling next to his son as he attempted to lay him back down. “Your mom will be home soon.

 

Jake pushed frantically at the hands holding him. Slapping at the mask Roy tried to place over his nose and mouth. “NOOOO…Moooom,” he shrieked, before his voice dissolved into a choking cough. His eyes watered as he pointed frantically at the house. “Sa…rah? Ja…mie,” he cried.

 

John and Roy exchanged a worried glance. “Son..Are your mother and sisters inside the house?” Roy asked urgently.

 

The child nodded, still coughing but desperate to make them understand.

 

“No…No they went out…,” the man began but his son’s head shook adamantly. “Are you sure?” His father asked again as his heart climbed into his throat. The boy nodded frantically. “Oh God,” the dad whispered in horror.

 

“They just…came home before…,” his voice trailed off.

 

The father started to run for the house but John caught him. “I was in the shed out back…I didn’t see them,” he wailed.

 

“You just stay with your son…,” he barked, sitting the man down before he whirled and ran toward the house.

 

“CLARK?” Roy bellowed at station 10’s C shift paramedic as he ran toward him.

 

“What do ya got De Soto,” Clark asked.

 

“Smoke inhalation…Were going back in. There’s three more people in the house,” he informed the other fire fighter as he raced across the lawn to catch up with his partner.

 

Hahn watched the pair run toward the house that was now almost fully engulfed on the second floor. If the family was up there it wouldn’t be easy. “God have mercy,” he whispered under his breath as John and Roy stopped by their captain.

 

He saw the shake of Stanley’s dark head but both paramedics argued back. Hank sighed and nodded before he spoke briefly again. The two nodded and ran inside.

 

 

John and Roy stopped near Hank as they ran. “Cap…The kid says his mom and sisters are still inside.”

 

Cap stared at them aghast. “The dad said they weren’t home,” he replied.

 

“Apparently they came home a few minutes before this started.”

 

“Oh dear Heavens,” he muttered.

 

“Can we go?” John asked anxiously, already sliding his mask over his head.

 

Hank shook his head negatively. “I doubt they’re still alive,” he said, not willing to risk the pair on a probable lost cause.

 

“Please cap,” Roy pleaded.

 

“We gotta try,” Johnny pressed.

 

Hank sighed in resignation...He knew they were right...They had to try. “Make it quick,” he barked in defeat.

 

Johnny and Roy gave him a nod of acquiescence before they turned and ran. They slipped inside and made their way up the stairs where Chet and Marco were still battling the flames.

 

The two linesmen gave them a curious look. “What’s wrong?” Chet shouted.

 

“There may be three more people up here somewhere,” John replied.

 

Chet looked horrified… They had the fire beaten back to what appeared to be its point of origin. The roof over the last room down at the far end of the corridor had collapsed but both of them knew those rooms had been engulfed just a few minutes ago.

 

“Ah man,” Chet muttered, sounding hopeless.

 

Roy and John understood, but they still had to try. They edged past the pair and into the first room on the right. The room was still filled with smoke, making it nearly impossible to see. The beds were charred and blackened but the remaining material hung in tattered pink ruffles. This was obviously the girl’s room.

 

“HELLO?” Johnny shouted loudly. “ANYONE IN HERE?”

 

“FIRE DEPARTMENT…CALL OUT!” Roy yelled.

 

There was a muffled sound from the half open closet and both paramedics exchanged a quick glance before they ran toward it. Roy yanked it open the rest of the way and almost swore at the sight that greeted him.

 

The small area was filled with smoke and the clothing that hung there was scorched and still smoking from the flames that had filled the room just moments before. A woman’s body was huddled over the still forms of two small girls. The back of her shirt was burned and Roy knew without lookin that the delicate skin of her back probably was as well.

 

He shuddered at the thought of the pain this young woman had endured while trying to save her children and it had all been for nothing, he mused, fearing the smoke had probably killed the girls before the flames would have reached them. 

 

There was a small movement and the blonde paramedic gasped. The woman was still alive. He reached down and touched her neck carefully.


“JOHNNY! I’ve got a pulse, but it’s weak,” he called over his shoulder to his partner.

 

The younger man nodded and moved in quickly to help his partner. He leaned over and the two of them managed to gently pull the comatose woman off the kids and out of the closet.


The two little girls were both unconscious as well but looked relatively unscathed. A ragged cough slipped from the older of the two and Roy figured that that had been what they’d heard earlier.

 

“Take the girls,” Johnny shouted. “I got her,” he finished as he hoisted the woman to a sitting position and being as gentle as possible, jerked her to her feet for a brief moment before bending and letting her fall over his shoulder. He grimaced as his burned back and his bruised side put up a painful protest but he didn’t have time to think about that right now. He was just grateful that she was oblivious to the pain he was most likely causing her at the moment but he had no choice, they needed to get out of here and right now.

 

Roy nodded as he lifted both children out of the closet and into his arms. They moved quickly for the door.

 

“Are they alive?” Marco shouted hopefully.

 

“Yeah…But the mom’s in really bad shape,” John replied. “Chet, can you help Roy with the kids?” He yelled.

 

“Got it,” the Irish fire fighter called, slapping his partner on the shoulder to let Marco know he was on his own for a few minutes.

 

The handsome Hispanic man nodded his head in understanding and Chet dropped the hose and snatched one of the girls from Roy’s arms. The trio made their way down the stairs and out the door. They squinted as their eyes adjusted from the darkness inside to the warm brilliance of the California Sun.

 

Clark jumped up from where he’d been working on the boy and his dad and ran to help. The father tossed aside his air mask and followed close behind. Chet was on Roy’s heels but Johnny was carrying the heavier burden and was still inside when the pair arrived. Clark took the girl from Chet, freeing the linesman to go back and help his partner.

 

“Are they alright…? Wait…Where’s my wife…Where’s Carla?” He asked frantically.

 

“My partner is bringing her out,” Roy replied as they carried the two girls over to the blankets where their older brother sat. The father followed.

 

“Are they okay?” He questioned, practically dancing with anxiety.

 

“I don’t know yet,” the blonde paramedic responded, glancing over at Clark as he laid the other girl next to her sister.

 

He looked over his shoulder and was relieved to see Johnny coming out the front door with the woman. Chet was helping him. He turned back to his young patients and set the mask over her nose and mouth.

 

Her brother was sitting up and looking much better than he had before they’d gone inside and Roy felt safe enough to remove the mask and place it over the other girl’s face. He picked up the Biophone and began to contact Rampart as Johnny and Chet arrived with the mom.

 

“Rampart base…This is squad 51,” he said, wrapping the BP cuff around the older child’s arm even as Johnny and Chet laid the badly burned woman down on her stomach beside him.

 

Her husband moaned and began to weep at the sight of his wife’s badly burned back.

 

Jim Hahn gasped and bile rose in his throat at the sight and smell of the charred flesh. He didn’t know how these young paramedics could stand this sort of thing every day and keep their sanity, he mused as he turned away, struggling to keep from vomiting.

 

He heard a doctor’s voice on the radio. “Go ahead 51,” he replied.

 

Hahn swallowed hard as he listened to the orderly chaos behind him. The father was wailing as if he was the one burned. His son began to cry as well. None of the paramedics had time to soothe either of them right now, but he heard their calm, urgent voices just the same.

 

“Rampart…We have three victim’s of a house fire…Victim one is female, approximately eight years old. She has some minor burns on her arms and legs along with smoke inhalation.” He paused long enough to get the vitals on the other two victims to relay as soon as they were done.

 

Chet had headed back toward the house as soon as he’d laid the woman down but paused long enough to try and settle the husband and son down.  “Sir…Sir…You need to calm down,” he urged as he grabbed the man’s arm. “These guys will do everything they can,” he soothed.

 

“I didn’t know,” he wailed as tears spilled down his face. He looked woefully at Chet.

 

“Didn’t know what?” The Irishman questioned.

 

“I didn’t know they were home…They could’ve got to em sooner but I didn’t know,” he cried, trying to shrug the fireman’s hand off his arm.

 

“Then it’s not your fault right?” The man nodded miserably. “Good…So you need to calm down and let these men do their job. Go take care of your son…He’s scared too,” he urged, trying to redirect his focus.

 

The man’s tear filled eyes turned to his twelve year old son who was obviously as distraught as he was at this point. The man nodded and half stumbled over to where his frightened child was sitting and watching.

 

He sat heavily beside him and wrapped the boy in his arms, rocking him gently as he rested his tear streaked cheek on his sons head.

 

Chet blew out a relieved breath and headed back inside to help Marco. Johnny already had a sterile sheet covering the burns on the woman’s back and was pouring saline over to keep them cool and wet as Roy and Clark continued to work.

 

Roy had finished giving the vitals to Johnny and the three men set to work. Both girls were beginning to waken and cough behind the masks and Roy was pretty sure they’d both be alright. His blue eyes caught Jim’s as the Mayor finally got himself under control and turned back to watch the team work. He shook his head at the calmness reflected in their eyes as they moved around each other.

 

Roy finally had a chance to turn his head and look at Johnny. The younger man was establishing the IV of normal saline as he’d been instructed by Rampart. Roy was about to look away when he saw his partner suddenly tense.

 

His long, slim fingers touched the woman’s throat, feeling for a carotid. “Roy…get Rampart again…She’s in cardiac arrest,” he yelled as he quickly rolled the woman onto her back. He stood and ran for the squad, yanking the white case holding the defibrillator and the small blue scope from the compartment. He ran back.

 

“Rampart base…This is squad 51…Victim three is in cardiac arrest,” Roy said.

 

Clark moved over quickly and began CPR…John didn’t waste time. He grabbed the paddles and began to quickly attach the leads while Clark continued to push against the woman’s chest.

 

“51…Is your monitor hooked up?” Brackett questioned.

 

“Negative Rampart…We’re working on it.”

 

John knelt next to the woman and quickly began to stick the small pads in place. The monitor began to show an irregular rhythm. “She’s in V Fib,” John said almost immediately as he grabbed the paddles in one hand and a tube of conductive jelly in the other.

 

Clark reached over to help unscrew the cap and spread it on the paddles. Brackett’s voice was already confirming John’s reading. “V Fib 51…Difibrilate. 400 watt seconds,” he ordered.

 

Jim’s worried gaze shifted from one person to the other as they worked together to save this poor woman.

 

John placed the paddles. “CLEAR,” he yelled. Clark pulled back as John’s fingers squeezed the triggers. The paddles fired their charge and the woman’s body bucked beneath him.

 

Her family began to cry as they watched. Clark felt for a pulse and the monitor trailed a flat line across the screen. John set the paddles once again and squeezed the triggers. Carla’s body jumped. The monitor gave a single bleep and returned to a flat line.

 

Brackett’s voice barked over the radio. “Administer 2 Amps of Sodium Bicarb,” He began.

 

Hahn heard him reel off several other commands but they were lost on him as the three paramedics worked frantically to follow them. Roy tossed Johnny a syringe full of something while Clark continued with CPR.

 

Jim’s face reflected the same tension as theirs as he watched the team work to bring the woman back. Both of 51’s paramedics injected the respective drugs and looked to the monitor. There was still only a single flat line scrolling across the screen.

 

Johnny snatched up the paddles and the distinctive whine of a building charge filled the air. “CLEAR,” he yelled and squeezed the triggers.

 

Carla’s body bucked but the flat line returned once more.

 

“51…start a Lidocaine drip and administer 1 to 10000 Epinephrine,” the doctors voice ordered.

 

John rushed to comply while Roy took over for Clark, who was running out of steam.

 

The other paramedic quickly grabbed the Epinephrine and moved to help Johnny as he set up the drip.

 

They both looked at the monitor but it still showed a flat line.

 

“51…Is the ambulance there?” Brackett questioned urgently.

 

“Affirmative Rampart,” John replied, waving at the attendants. He already knew what was coming.

 

“Continue CPR and transport as soon as possible,” Brackett ordered.

 

“10-4 Rampart,” Johnny responded, sounding frustrated.

 

The ambulance attendants moved in and Roy stopped briefly to allow them to lift her onto the gurney. “C’mon Clark, he barked as he resumed CPR. Johnny could follow with Hahn and the squad.

 

They quickly got the woman loaded and the younger paramedic slammed the door. “Where are they taking her?” The husband asked tearfully as the second ambulance arrived on the scene to take the children in as a precaution as all three were now breathing on their own.

 

“Rampart Emergency,” John said listlessly, his voice a monotone and sounding defeated. He turned away and grabbed his helmet off the ground, already knowing what the end result would be. His dark eyes followed the father and the three children as they loaded them inside and closed the doors. He watched somberly as it pulled away.

 

Hahn was silent…Trying to take all of it in.

 

Johnny suddenly slammed his hand down on the hood of the squad. “DAMN IT,” he bellowed, as he threw his helmet down in a fit of frustrated rage. Tears burned behind his eyes as he thought of three children who would grow up without their mother, just as he had and his heart ached. Was there anything else he could have done he wondered, feeling as if he’d failed.

 

John felt a hand on his shoulder and spun around to find Captain Stanley standing behind him. “Stop it John…”

 

“But Cap…”

 

“No…I know what you’re thinking but this wasn’t your fault…You did everything you could for her,” he reassured his young paramedic.

 

“It wasn’t enough,” John mumbled disconsolately. “If we’d just known she was in there, we could’ve got to them sooner and…,” he trailed off as Hank shook his head.

 

“What if’s aren’t gonna help you…You don't have a crystal ball...you didn't know and you did everything you could. You’re not God son…Just a paramedic and a human…,” Hank said gently.

 

John’s dark eyes rose to meet his captains. Hank and Jim both saw the pools of unshed tears before he blinked them away and clamped down on his emotions. He brushed the moisture from his eyes.  “It’s not fair Cap,” he whispered, barely audible.

 

“I know John…It never is,” Hank replied, patting the young man’s shoulder comfortingly. John nodded.

 

Jim had to swipe the dampness from his own eyes as he watched the tall, older man soothe his youngest crew member.

 

John was really taking this one hard and his own heart ached at the look on the man’s face. “Go ahead on to Rampart Son…Roy will be waiting,” he urged.

 

Johnny nodded and picked up his helmet. “Let’s go Jim,” he said quietly.

 

“Sure Johnny,” he agreed as the younger man started walking toward the squad. Jim stopped next to Hank. “Will he be okay?” He asked somberly.

 

Hank nodded. “He will be…He just needs some time and a few minutes alone with Roy to talk,” he added.

 

Hahn half smiled at that. The bond between the two men was obvious. He headed over to join Johnny. He slid into the vehicle and cast a surreptitious glance as he started the vehicle and drove away.

 

The grief on the young face was plain and the excitement of the morning was dampened. He’d seen their grace under pressure…The team work…Their heart and their courage but now he’d just witnessed the downside…The loss. That moment when death defeated them and he wondered how they endured the heartbreak.

 

 

Brackett and Roy were just coming from the treatment room when John and Jim came down the hall from the Emergency bay doors. The pair was talking quietly as the young paramedic and the mayor walked up the corridor toward them. They stopped when they spotted them.

 

John’s dark eyes searched his partner’s face and then slid away as he saw the sadness in his partner’s blue eyes.

 

“How is she?” Jim questioned the older paramedic hopefully just as the door opened and Dixie stepped out. Hahn barely caught sight of the sheet draped body on the table before the door closed behind her. He shut his eyes in disappointment as Roy replied with what he’d already guessed.

 

“She didn’t make it,” he said softly to Jim but his eyes were on Johnny.

 

“I gave it my best shot fellas,” Brackett murmured, looking just as depressed as his paramedics did.

 

“We know doc…You always do,” John replied softly, making a lame attempt at his quirky half smile.

 

Kel gave the young, sable haired fireman a pat on his shoulder. “So do you…You did your best…, both of you,” he amended, giving Roy a hard stare as well. He knew both of these men took this kind of loss hard. The pair nodded disconsolately. Kel glanced toward Hahn. “So who is this? He asked curiously, redirecting the conversation.

 

Dixie threw Jim at smile as Roy introduced the man.

 

“Oh…Sorry Doc. This is the Mayor of Los Angeles... James Hahn...He’s doing a ride along with us,” Roy explained.

 

“Pleasure to meet you Mr. Mayor,” Kel said holding out his hand.

 

“Likewise…I’ve heard a lot about you,” Jim told him. Kelly Brackett was a well known Surgeon in LA.

 

“Well…I hope it was all good,” he teased.

 

“Mostly,” Jim admitted with a smile. “I just wish I wasn’t meeting you under these circumstances,” he said sadly.

 

Kel nodded. “This was a loss but,” he hesitated, giving Johnny and Roy a glance. “You really couldn’t have picked two finer paramedics to ride with if you want to see the best in action,” he said giving a head jerk toward the two young men.

 

“I already figured that out,” he admitted with a grin. “I thought my job was difficult and a great responsibility but…After spending the day with these two young men…I’ve learned that that I don’t know the meaning of the words,” he finished.

 

John and Roy both flushed in pleased embarrassment. Dixie smiled at the group and slipped her arm around Johnny’s waist. “So…Who wants some coffee?” She questioned, wanting to get the pair away from the door and their lost victim.

 

Kel grimaced and shook his head. “Sorry…I have to go talk to Mr. Barnard,” he said nodding to the waiting room where the woman’s husband waited word on his wife. He gave a head bob of farewell to Hahn and the two paramedics, giving them both a gentle pat of encouragement on their backs as he walked away.

 

John started to pull away from Dixie’s grip but the pretty blonde nurse had already felt the tension in his slender body and she tightened her hold determinedly. “C’mon tiger…I could use a cup,” she urged, giving Roy a warning glance. She hadn’t needed to. The blonde Fireman had already seen it.

 

“C’mon junior…A cup of coffee will do us all good,” he prodded gently.

 

John didn’t want coffee…He wanted to go somewhere alone and brood over the loss but he knew Roy wouldn’t let him…the older man knew him too well.

 

“Sure,” he finally agreed quietly.

 

“Good boy,” Roy replied with a wink as he watched Dixie gently herd the young man up the corridor to the doctor’s lounge. He and Jim followed.

 

 

The trio slid into the cab a bit later. Johnny was quiet as he stared out the passenger side window.

 

Roy leaned forward several times to glance around Hahn and study his partner for a few brief moments.

 

Jim frowned, worried about his new, young friend as well. Johnny had been a vivacious ball of energy this morning, even injured and in pain, but now… The silence was deafening and telling. The young man’s dismay at the loss of the woman was obvious and Jim didn’t know what to say. Hank had assured him that John would be okay once he came to grips with it, that he just needed some time and that Roy would help him through it, but right now he wasn’t sure about that.

 

Roy glanced over and saw the worried frown on Hahn’s face and gave him a small half smile.

 

“Johnny?” He finally said quietly

 

The sable haired paramedic turned his head to look at his friend. He saw the concern in the blue eyes. “I know,” he mumbled unhappily. “It wasn’t my fault,” he finished not looking convinced of that.

 

“That’s right…It wasn’t anyone’s fault.  No one knew they were in there until it was too late.”

 

“I know but…,” he trailed off, looking miserable, but not wanting to express his feelings about losing his own parents in front of Jim. Johnny seldom discussed his past and usually only with Roy.

 

The blonde nodded his head. He understood John better than anyone. He was the only one that knew that John had experienced the loss of his parents at a very young age and that he empathized with others who were about to go through what he had, though most likely not the abuse he’d been subjected too.

 

He was the only one that knew Johnny’s father had been killed in a fire aboard an oil rig when John was only eight. It’s what drove the young man to rescue. So no one else had to know the pain he’d felt when he’d been told his dad was never coming home or his young friend’s feeling of failure when death beat them.

 

“No buts Junior…I know it’s frustrating and hard, but you didn’t do anything wrong and we didn’t fail here. You gotta let her go and move on,” he pressed.

 

Johnny nodded. He knew Roy didn’t want him feeling guilty and depressed or beating himself up with the ‘what if’s’ but it was hard not to.

 

John half smiled at his best friend, who always seemed to know what he was feeling and what he needed to hear. “You’re right,” he admitted.

 

“I usually am,” Roy teased.

 

John gave him an eye roll of annoyance that brought a snort of laughter from the senior paramedic before he turned his attention back to the road.

 

Hahn breathed a sigh of relief. Hank had been right. He’d just needed time and those few words with Roy. Hahn was almost envious of the friendship these two young men shared.

 

 

They backed the squad into the bay a short time later. Johnny slid from his seat and Jim followed.

 

Roy came around to the back and was unsurprised to see his crewmates standing there in tee shirts and bouncing a basketball.

 

They’d all heard about the woman John had rescued and they were all aware of the likely outcome from such horrific burns.  They knew their young friend would be hurting and frustrated.

 

They knew Roy would talk him around and not let him brood, but they also knew a hard game of shooting baskets was a quick way for Johnny to blow off steam.

 

Chet launched the ball at John’s midsection and only the younger man’s quick reflexes kept it from knocking the wind from him. “Watch it Kelly,” John barked angrily.

 

“What do you say Gage…De Soto? Mike, Marco and Me against you two,” he challenged the pair.

 

Roy grinned knowingly. He saw the refusal in his partner’s dark eyes and answered for them. “You’re on,” he agreed, unbuttoning his shirt.

 

Johnny shot him a surprised look that he hadn’t even asked him, especially since John had a couple of minor injuries already. He really wasn’t in the mood for Chet Kelly right now but he didn’t want to leave Roy on his own either now that his friend had accepted the challenge, which is exactly what Roy expected.

 

“I guess,” he agreed reluctantly as he shot the ball back at Kelly, who grunted in annoyance as it bounced off his chest. John began to remove his shirt as the group headed outside. Jim followed…A bit surprised that Johnny had agreed to play.

 

Roy gave the older man a wink as they walked. “It’ll do him good,” he whispered aside to Hahn.

 

The older man suddenly understood and was visibly touched by the crew’s determination to help their youngest crewmate through a rough time.

 

“Can I get in on this?” He asked.

 

“You wanna play?” Roy asked, looking surprised.

 

The older man nodded. “I played in college,” he replied.

 

“Okay…Guy’s, Jim’s in…He’s with me and Johnny, just to even things up.”

 

“Easy pickins,” Chet taunted. “Loser’s cook dinner and clean up,” he challenged.

 

“Bring it on,” John growled.

 

The six men began to play. Hahn quickly figured out what Roy meant. While the others played hard and took a few solid bumps, Chet and Johnny exchanged some rather nasty hits as they jostled for the ball, but then that was exactly what they’d wanted…A chance for John to let out his frustrations.

 

Hahn only took a few minutes to get back into the groove despite his age and the fact that he hadn’t played basketball in years, but he was soon sinking the ball into the net fairly regularly. Johnny and Roy were both 6’1, which gave them a good three to four inches over Chet and Marco, not to mention that the slighter paramedic was lithe and quick on his feet.

 

Roy was heavier and simply muscled his way past the slender Mike Stoker.

 

There was a lot of grunting and a few colorful invectives for the next forty minutes and all six men were perspiring…Their shirts were stuck to their skin with it and they were all panting, but the initial roughness had finally given way to good natured bumps and laughter. It seemed to be what they were waiting for.

 

Chet finally held up his hand. “Okay guys,” he gasped as he leaned over to rest his hands on his knees. “I give,” he conceded breathlessly.

 

John held his hands up in triumph. “We WIN!” He crowed happily as he slapped his partner off the back.

 

“Better go clean up Junior,” Roy suggested, giving his ‘kid brother’ a gentle push toward the locker room.

 

John gave the guys a glance and a half smile. “Thanks,” he said quietly.

 

The others looked a bit surprised that their young friend had figured out what they’d been up too all along. John could be so clueless about things like that sometimes, but despite the fact that they teased about being young and naïve, Johnny wasn’t stupid by any stretch of the imagination. Sometimes they were all surprised by the kids seeming innate wisdom in some areas…All except for Roy who understood exactly where it came from.

 

Unlike the others, Roy knew some of those hard life lessons had been beaten into his young friend. He’d been taught at an early age about the unfairness of the world and despite his youth and seeming innocence, he’d lived through more pain, grief and loss by the time he was eighteen than most people experienced in a lifetime.

 

Sometimes Roy couldn’t figure how the kid had survived with his sanity or retained the gentle heart and soul that he kept carefully hidden from most people. Roy loved the wide eyed, joyful attitude he exuded to those lucky enough to sneak past the walls he’d placed around his heart.

 

Jim threw a glance at the others as they all headed for the building to clean up before dinner. He smiled at the group of tired and sweat coated men. They all looked rather pleased with themselves that they’d accomplished their mission to jolly their youngest crew member back to his usual lighthearted demeanor.

 

 

Jim hung around until after dinner enjoying the camaraderie for as long as he could. This group was like a small family and he wondered if it was the same at every station or specific to this team that he'd witnessed today. He’d also had the privilege of seeing the heart and soul of these men who wore the uniform of a fire fighter.

 

The clean up was done quickly and the crew began to gather in front of the television and sadly, Jim knew it was time to go. “Well gentlemen…I think I should head for home,” he said, sounding disappointed.

 

Hank extended his hand to the older man. “It was a pleasure to have you here at Station 51,” he said formally.

 

“The pleasure was all mine,” he replied before turning to shake hands with the engine crew. “Gentlemen…It was an education,” he said with a grin. “Thank you.”

 

They nodded and moved away as the mayor turned toward Johnny and Roy. “This has been one of the most memorable days of my life. Thank you both.”

 

The pair smiled and shook his hand. “We’re glad you came along with us Jim,” Roy replied.

 

“It was good to have you with us,” Johnny added.

 

“Well I’ll tell you one thing.”

 

“What’s that?” Roy asked curiously.

 

“I will never again wonder if I made the right decision to fight to get the paramedics in Los Angeles,” he said definitely. "Wolski is gonna be sooo jealous," he teased.

 

Both men smiled. They walked him to the door and waited while he slid into his car and drove away before returning to the day room to watch TV with the rest of the crew.

 

 

Jim was a bit sad that the day was over and more so that he’d most likely never see the pair again. He’d become quite fond of the two young men. He'd envied their friendship, and had been impressed by their partnership. He had no idea that he’d be involved in another battle for the paramedic service and a lot sooner than he’d have guessed.

 

 

 

Johnny and Roy reported for duty on their next shift. John was feeling better, though the skin on his back was still a bit sore.

 

The pair left the locker room, hoping to get a cup of coffee before roll call. Hank stopped them as they rounded the back of the squad. “John…Roy…Could you call the other guys out here,” he requested looking decidedly unhappy.

 

His eyes shifted from the paper in his hand to Johnny. Both men noticed the look and a frown creased both of their foreheads. “Is uh…Is something wrong Cap?” The young man asked worriedly.  “Did I uh…Do something wrong?”

 

Hank shook his head. “No you didn’t do anything wrong. Just call the guys and if any of C shift is still there, call them out here as well. They might as well hear this now.”

 

The pair exchanged another look. “Yes sir,” Roy said, looking uncomfortable. He stepped into the kitchen. “Guys…,” he called getting their attention. The A shift crew looked up as well as the remaining members of C Shift. “Roll call,” he said.

 

“Oh…I guess we better get going,” Blake said.

 

Roy shook his head. “No…Cap said you need to come too.”

 

The men all exchanged a concerned glance. Something had to be up. They all climbed to their feet and made their way to the apparatus bay where an unhappy looking Hank and a nervous John waited.

 

They lined up and stood loosely at attention. Hank looked at the paper in his hand and gave a disgusted shake of his dark head.

 

“Gentlemen…We have a serious problem.”

 

 

 

To be continued in part 2

 

Posted to Site 12/10/14

 

Author's Note: This story began as a suggestion from one of my reader’s. My thanks to Valerie Whincup and I hope I did her story justice. It’s dedicated to Mayor James Hahn without whom the then Governor Ronald Reagan would have vetoed the paramedic bill instead of passing it through. A special dedication to the men and women of fire departments around the world, who put their life on the line for others every shift. Thank you.

LINKS TO PARTS 1. 2.

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The Characters of Emergency do not belong to me. They are the property of Universal Studios and Mark VII Limited. No copyright infringement is intended or monetary gain made. I merely like to toy with them and return them to their proper owner in good working order. The characters of Emergency belong to Universal and Mark VII but this story itself however, is the property of the author.

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