I don't own any of these characters. Unlike Han Solo, I'm NOT in it for the money. :>
Caught With Your Pants Down
By Jill Hargan
The wake up tones sounded long and loud, finding their way into Hank Stanley's sleep fogged consciousness. He groaned inwardly at the intrusion, but somehow managed to sit upright on the edge of his bed, one hand rubbing his bleary eyes, the other reaching for the radio to acknowledge the routine morning call.
"Station 51, KMG 365," he mumbled into the mic, then dropped it back into it's cradle.
He could hear assorted complaints and grumbling from the rest of his crew as they struggled to get up, and he knew he wasn't the only one still feeling beat. They'd only gone to bed a few hours ago. The fire in the marina district had been a bitch and had kept two entire battalions busy most of the night. John and Roy had been out even later, taking a burn victim to Rampart. Hank didn't even remember hearing them come in, that's how exhausted he'd been. And they still had half a shift to go. The members of B shift had been picked to go to a statewide conference and Hank's crew was covering for them until 8 tonight, when C shift would come in early and pick up the slack.
Hank scratched at his morning stubble, then shivered and rubbed his arms.
That damn heater must be on the fritz again. Why the county can't spring for central heating, I'll never...
"Chet, I swear..." Gage's angry voice interrupted Hank's annoyed musings from across the dorm. "I'm too tired to put up with your crap."
"What the hell are you yappin' about?" Kelly's equally irritated answer came loud and clear.
"You know very well what I'm talkin' about," John shouted. "My boots and turnouts... what did ya do with 'em?"
"I didn't touch your lousy turnouts."
Hank sighed as Chet began to defend himself - very vocally.
Lord, those twits have started early.
He moved to step into his own bunker pants and couldn't find them, his feet hitting the cold linoleum instead of the familiar boots. It was such a break in an unalterable routine that he must have stared at the empty space on the floor for a full minute before it registered that everyone else was having the same problem.
He stood up and found the dorm in chaos, as all his men were standing around in their underwear, discussing at a very loud decibel level who might have stolen their pants. Accusations were flying fast and furious, and most of them were aimed at Chet. The Irishman, of course, was outraged that his shift mates would even think he would do such a thing. Hank heaved another weary sigh. This was not how he'd planned on starting out the day.
"All right, all right, settle down," he ordered calmly as he approached his squabbling crew. When that didn't work, he tried a less subtle technique. "Knock it off!"
There was something to be said for aggressive leadership, Hank decided when he got the results he'd wanted. The dorm fell silent and five expectant faces turned in his direction. He gestured to the locker room as if their next move should have been obvious.
"I suggest we figure this out after we get dressed," he told them with exaggerated patience. "I don't know about you, but I'm freezing my ass off."
They turned as one and shuffled out of the dorm. Hank shook his head. He loved these guys, but sometimes he swore he was dealing with a bunch of kindergartners. He wondered how long it would have taken for one of them to realize they still had clothes in their lockers. Roy would have eventually, and Mike. Probably even Marco. But Hank knew Chet and John would have stood naked in a snowstorm arguing with each other until doomsday.
Hank was the last one in. He pushed through the door and found Johnny, Roy and Chet all standing in front of very empty lockers. One glance to the side told the Captain that Marco's and Mike's were in the same condition.
"We've been cleaned out, Cap," Chet announced with a disgusted shake of his curly head.
"But they only took our clothes," Johnny added as he reached in and pulled out his keys and wallet. He checked it quickly for cash, then tossed it back into the locker, his face perplexed. "What kind of a nut steals clothes and leaves money?"
Hank ran a hand through his hair and tried to think of how to handle the situation. He supposed his first call should be to the police, though he wasn't really looking forward to facing an investigation in his underwear. "Okay look, everybody make an inventory of what's gone. Mike, Marco, check the engine, see if they took anything from there. Roy, John, check out the squad. Chet, you've got the bay. Make a list so I can give it to headquarters."
Geeze, how the hell am I gonna explain this to McConnike?
"I'll go put some coffee on," he announced to no one in particular.
Johnny rubbed his arms briskly and hopped from one foot to the other, trying to keep his feet in as little contact with the chilly concrete floor as he could. He wished he'd worn socks to bed last night. His thin cotton t-shirt and red boxer shorts weren't doing much to keep him warm. He glanced down to where Roy was busy closing up the drug box.
"Damn, it's freezin' in here," he stated fervently. "Has it always been this cold? Man, how come I never noticed it before?"
"Maybe 'cause you don't usually hang out here in your drawers," Roy informed him as he stood up and shoved the box into one of the squad's open compartments. There was enough testiness to his voice that Johnny knew his partner's patience was running thin.
Johnny made a face the other paramedic couldn't see. Maybe he had talked the temperature to death already, and maybe Roy had done most of the inventorying. But that still didn't mean he had to be so grouchy. They were all in the same boat.
It hadn't taken long to figure out that while all the equipment was safe and accounted for, there wasn't a spare coat, boot or glove in the whole station. Even the sooty, smoky clothes they'd worn to the fire last night were gone. Johnny glanced around the bay, noting Mike and Marco putting stuff back where it belonged on the engine, while Chet was just finishing with the storage lockers.
"I don't know how anybody could've gotten in here without us knowin' it." Johnny shook his head in bewilderment. "This is just too weird... and kinda creepy, too, ya know? To think they were right next to us while we were sleeping."
"Probably that last nurse you went out with," Chet suggested with a smirk as he approached the squad and leaned against it. "What was her name? Doreen? Maybe she decided to get revenge for you taking her out."
"Oh you're a real comedian," Johnny shot back. "What about that fortune teller you've been hittin' on. Talk about a weirdo."
"A palmist, Gage. She's a palmist. Get it right, would a?"
Johnny rolled his eyes and snorted loudly. "Whatever you call her, she's still a kook. Like you could get a date with any other kind," he added with a smirk.
"Yeah, well at least the chicks I date don't run screaming into the night when I call 'em up the next day," Chet shot back, a triumphant smile lifting his moustache as he knew he'd scored a zinged.
Johnny frowned as he tried to think of something that could refute Kelly's accusation, but he was hard pressed to come up with the name of even one girl he'd dated in the last few months who'd gone out with him more than once. Chet's smile only grew bigger as he saw his Pigeon's difficulties.
"Oh... oh, yeah," Johnny sputtered, trying to stall for time. He felt a hand on his arm and turned to meet his partner's resigned face.
"Give it up," Roy advised calmly, as he tugged on Johnny's t-shirt sleeve, obviously trying to pull him in another direction. "You're on the losing end of this one."
Johnny gave the Irishman a long glare, reluctant to give up, but he finally allowed his partner to lead him toward the kitchen. It was only then that Roy's words sunk into the paramedic's mind.
"What's that supposed to mean?" he demanded indignantly.
Cap's announcement greeted Roy's ears as he pushed through the door into the day room. The wall heater in this room was working better than the one in the dorm, and the warmth that greeted them was a welcome change from the frigid apparatus bay, although Johnny's continued whining seemed louder in the closer atmosphere.
"C'mon, Roy, you're supposed to be my partner... my best friend. How can you take Chet's side like that?"
Roy moved over to the stove to pour a cup of coffee. "I wasn't taking sides," he stated calmly. He'd learned over the years the best way to handle his partner when he was in this kind of mood was to just lay low and wait for Johnny to blow himself out.
"Well, it sure sounded that way to me," the younger man insisted. The indignation in his tone didn't stop him from accepting the cup of coffee Roy offered him. He took one tentative sip, then continued his tirade. "I mean, you tell me Chet's right, that sounds an awful lot like you're on his side."
"I never said Chet was right," Roy countered as he sat down at the table. He took a long sip of his coffee.
"But I heard ya." Johnny pulled out a chair and sat down. "You practically called me a loser. Is that it? You think I'm a loser?"
Roy repressed a sigh as he considered how to answer. In his current state of mind, Johnny was bound to misconstrue anything the older paramedic might say. Plus, Kelly was basically right. Johnny rarely went out with a girl more than once or twice. Roy had no idea why that was so, but he also knew he didn't want to spend the next few hours with Johnny mad at him. Discretion won out over valor.
"You're not a loser, Johnny. I just meant Chet always has to get the last word and there was no sense arguing with him." While his partner sat and pondered that, Roy turned to Hank, eager to steer the conversation into safer waters. "You call headquarters, Cap?" he asked.
Captain Stanley's face suddenly reminded Roy of his kids when they'd been caught at something.
"Uh, not yet. I, uh, didn't have your inventory lists." He flashed the paramedics an uneasy smile. "No sense making more than one call, right?"
"Right," Roy answered evenly. He knew the real reason was that Cap was embarrassed and didn't want to face McConnike. "What if we get a call? Won't it be worse to have to go through dispatch and explain why we can't respond?"
The door to the Day room opened at that moment, sparing their frazzled leader the need for an answer. Marco and Mike sauntered in and headed toward the coffee pot. Chet came in with them, but wandered toward the back door.
"The equipment's all there, Cap," Stoker reported as he poured himself a cup.
"Yeah, but they made sure they took our turnout coats out of the cab," Marco added with a shake of his head. He held out his cup for Mike to fill, then turned to Kelly, who was fiddling with the door knob. "You want some coffee, Chet?"
"No thanks, Marco." He shut the door and tested the lock. It held. "I don't see how they could've gotten in this way," he announced.
"Kelly, I checked all the doors last night," Hank reminded him. "They were locked up tight."
Chet's face grew suspicious. "At least they were when we turned in."
The bait was so obvious Roy wondered why Johnny couldn't see it for what it was, but true to form, the younger man swallowed it whole.
"What are you sayin'? That Roy and I let somebody in here? You think it's our fault?"
Kelly played it smoothly, Roy had to give him credit. His face was totally earnest. "Well, John, Cap locked up like he said. That means the only time the station was open was when you guys came back from Rampart."
Johnny got up and walked over to the door. "Chet, we only opened the bay door."
The paramedic's hand rested against his chest in an indignant manner, but whatever air of injured pride he might have projected was lost in his current state of undress. Roy had to stifle a smile as his partner continued defending himself, oblivious to how silly the whole situation was.
"There is absolutely no way anybody coulda gotten in without Roy or me seeing them. We were right there the whole time."
Roy knew that wasn't exactly true. They'd been so beat when they rolled in, he'd hit the switch to close the door and both paramedics had shuffled off to the dorm without sticking around to make sure it had closed all the way. The noisy rattle it made as it came down had been assurance enough, but it was possible someone could have ducked under it without being seen. Of course, he was smart enough not to point that out at the moment. The last thing Roy needed was to have Johnny think his partner was taking Chet's side again.
"It coulda happened," Chet insisted, still playing with the lock on the door. "Maybe when you weren't lookin' or something."
"Whaddya think, they just slipped in and hid under the squad 'til we all fell asleep?" Johnny snorted his disdain of such an idea. "That's about the dumbest thing I've heard you say yet."
"Yeah? Well, how much you wanna bet the cops agree with me when they get here?"
Hank suddenly cleared his throat, telling Roy that their fearless leader hadn't made that call either.
"Maybe it was just a prank," Marco pointed out in a reasonable tone, obviously trying to end the sparring match between Kelly and Gage. "All they took was our clothes. I mean, there's a lot of valuable stuff here... drugs, medical equipment, hell even the tv."
"Yeah," Mike added quietly. "Not to mention all that expensive camping gear Johnny keeps in his car."
It was quiet in the day room for a long moment, and then suddenly both Johnny and Chet were fighting to get out the door at the same time.
"Will you watch it," Johnny hollered, shoving Chet with his shoulder. "I wanna check my car."
"Well, so do I!" Chet shot back, as he used his sturdier build to wedge himself between Gage's thin frame and the door. "My stereo system is state of the art, ya know."
"Is that what you call that old 8 track you've got? A system?"
There was one more round of shoving, and then both men were out and running to their vehicles. The rest of the crew followed at a slightly more dignified pace. Roy got up as well, reluctant to leave the warmth of the day room, but he supposed it made sense to check their cars. Maybe he'd luck out and find some extra clothes.
The morning chill hit him full force as he walked outside. It was cold and breezy and the clouds hung low and dark, promising rain at some point soon. Force of habit made him close the door behind him as he headed out toward the cars. As soon as he heard the knob catch, a stab of apprehension ran through him.
Please don't be locked. Please don't be locked.
But he knew. Even before he tested it, he knew. He'd just locked all six of them out here in the cold in their underwear. There was no way around it and nothing he could do now to fix it. There wasn't even anything he could say, except...
It only took a few moments to check his car, but Hank was relieved it hadn't been broken into. He didn't carry anything of real value in the vehicle, but it would have been a pain to go through the extra reports and have to deal with the insurance company. From what the others were saying, it appeared their cars were safe as well.
He shivered as the wind hit him. There was no longer any reason to put off calling in. Roy was right. It would be better to get it over with and talk to McConnike directly than to get toned out and have to refuse a response. Rubbing at his arms to try and generate a little warmth, Hank trotted over to where his senior paramedic stood by the back door.
"C'mon, you guys," he called to the rest of his men. "There's nothing we can do out here." He turned and gave Roy a wan smile. "Let's get back inside before we freeze to death."
Roy didn't say anything, and when Hank took a closer look, he could see the paramedic's face wore a sickly expression.
"You okay, pal?" the captain asked, always concerned about one of his men. "It's pretty damn cold out here. You need to get back inside."
He reached for the knob, but Roy grabbed his wrist and stopped him. Hank glanced up, his brows drawn together in puzzlement at this strange behavior.
"Cap... uh..." Roy fair face was decidedly flushed. "We can't get in."
Hank felt his brows reverse direction and shoot straight up. "Whaddya mean?"
"Um... well, the door's locked and..."
"Man, it's cold out here. I need some coffee."
"I get what's left in the pot."
"Why do you get it?"
"I haven't had any yet."
"That's not my fault."
John and Chet's ongoing bickering interrupted Roy's explanation. The paramedic's mouth was partially open, as if he'd frozen in mid sentence, and he watched his shift mates approach with obvious apprehension. Hank watched the scene unfold and knew there was no way he could stop what was going to happen.
"Hey, Roy, I checked your car. It's okay." Johnny flashed his partner a smile, apparently over whatever had gotten under his skin earlier.
"Uh, yeah.... um, thanks," Roy stammered.
"You okay? You don't look too good." The younger man reached toward the door. "Let's go back inside. It's colder 'n hell out here."
"Uh, Johnny, um... we, uh..."
"C'mon, Gage. Quit yackin' and hurry up," Kelly urged, his hands moving briskly up and down his arms.
"Shut up, Chet," Johnny shot back automatically and tried the knob.
"Uh, you can't get in," Roy stated meekly. "The door's..."
"Locked?" Johnny's voice raised in disbelief. He rattled the knob again with more force. "It can't be locked."
"Lemme in there," Kelly demanded and shoved his way past Roy to try the door himself. "Maybe it's just stuck... you know, with the weather." He used both hands to try to make the knob turn, but nothing happened. "Okay, who's the turkey who locked the door?"
Hank saw Roy's face grow even more chagrined than it had been before. The blonde paramedic swallowed once before saying anything.
"I, uh, I guess I did... I mean, I didn't mean to. I didn't know it was locked and I..."
"Oh, Roy... man... how could you not know it was locked?" Johnny shook his dark head, his face a mix of dismay and irritation.
Roy suddenly straightened up, his face now indignant. "Look, I didn't do it on purpose. I just shut the door to keep the cold out. How was I supposed to know somebody'd been playing with it?" He shifted his gaze to Chet and Johnny's eyes soon followed, narrowing with annoyance.
"You're right. It wasn't your fault at all, Roy."
Chet must have felt their eyes on him. He stopped shoving at the door and glanced up at the accusing glares.
"Hey, now wait a minute. You're not gonna pin this on me. Roy's the one who shut the door."
"Well how was he supposed to know you'd been messin' around with the lock?"
Before Kelly could form a retort, Hank stepped in. This useless arguing wasn't accomplishing anything.
"Okay, okay," he said, his hands up in a gesture of peace. "It doesn't matter how the door got locked. We're stuck out here and that's that." He clamped his jaw against a frigid gust of wind. "The way I see it, we have two options."
"You mean besides turning into popsicles?" Chet muttered, then grinned sheepishly. "Sorry, Cap."
Hank chose to ignore the comment. Kelly just couldn't help being a twit sometimes.
"Our first choice is to wait here for somebody to miss us. The first time we get toned out, headquarters will want to know where we are and why we didn't respond."
"But that could take awhile," Roy pointed out dubiously, with a wary glance to ominous clouds above them.
Hank nodded reluctantly. He could always count on DeSoto to be the practical one. "There is that," he conceded. "The other choice is to have somebody hike down to the gas station on the corner and use the phone to call for help."
That suggestion, the most sensible, was met by stony silence. Not that Hank blamed his crew. After all, nobody in their right mind really wanted to parade around in their underwear.
"Well..." Hank prompted, after a long, awkward moment. "Do I have any volunteers?"
Five pairs of eyes suddenly found interest in the ground. Hank sighed. This wasn't something he could really order anyone to do, especially when he wasn't too keen on doing it himself.
"I think Chet should go," Johnny suddenly spoke up. "After all, it's his fault we're stuck out here."
"No way, Gage," Kelly protested hotly. "Roy's the one who shut the stupid door, let him go."
"I'm not waltzing down the street in my underwear," Roy stated emphatically. "And I'm not the one who locked the door."
Hank merely shook his head as the bickering continued almost as if uninterrupted. Nobody was going anywhere, that much was certain. He leaned up against the station wall, wondering how much worse this day could get. It was then that he noticed the first big drops of rain.
"Daddy's sure gonna like our surprise," Jenny stated from the back seat of the DeSoto station wagon, where she sat guarding a large pan of fresh baked cinnamon rolls.
"He sure will," Joanne agreed with a smile. She didn't make a habit of visiting the station, let alone showing up with the kids, but today was an exception. Since Roy was pulling over time, Joanne knew the guys would welcome a treat to buoy them up for the rest of their long shift. It had started to rain as they left home and she almost turned around, but since they were already in the car, she decided to go ahead and brave the wet roads.
"Uncle Johnny's gonna like 'em, too," Chris said with a laugh. "He loves your cinnamon rolls, Mom."
"As long as Chet doesn't hog 'em all," Jenny announced with a frown. She was always protective about her Uncle Johnny, especially when she felt Chet was being mean to him.
Joanne had to smile. She knew the sparring between her husband's friends was never mean spirited, and mostly done in fun, but she supposed it would be hard for a child to see that at times.
"I don't think Captain Stanley will let Chet hog them all," Joanne assured her daughter.
Joanne peered through the windshield wipers and made the turn onto 223rd Street. Hopefully the rain would let up before it was time to make the trip home. She hated driving in the rain.
"There's the station, Mom," Jenny called out with an excited bounce. "Are they there?"
"I can't tell yet," Joanne answered. She slowed the car down as they drove past the big bay door. It would normally be open if one of the vehicles was out on a run, but with the weather, the guys would naturally keep it closed. With the row of narrow windows near the bottom of the door the only view in, it was hard to see the vehicles inside.
"I see 'em," Chris suddenly exclaimed. "I can see both of 'em."
"That's great," Joanne answered happily. She should have called before they even started out, to avoid wasting a trip, but she'd been rushed by the kids and had forgotten. She would have left the goodies here anyway, for the guys to eat when they got back, but this was better. This way they could have them warm from the oven.
She waited for traffic to clear, then turned into the narrow driveway that led to the back of the station. She pulled automatically into the nearest open space, not expecting anything out of the ordinary. Jenny's next question caught her totally by surprise.
"Mom, why are they sitting out in the rain?"
"What?" Joanne turned to the 7 year old and gave her a curious look, but Jennifer had her face pressed up against the window and was staring at the back of the station. Joanne couldn't really see well enough to know what her daughter was talking about.
She opened her door, pulling her coat tighter against the wind and rain, then was suddenly grabbed up into a huge hug by Roy who had come out of nowhere.
"I'm so glad to see you," he said in an odd voice.
The first thing Joanne noticed was that her husband was wet and that he was shivering slightly as he held her. The next thing she became aware of at the same time as her kids.
"Daddy, why are you out here in your underwear?" Jennifer asked loudly, her young voice full of disapproval.
"They're all in their shorts," Chris observed with the silly giggle that 10 year olds reserved for such private things like being seen in your underwear and passing gas.
"What? Roy?" Joanne held him at arms length, her eyes moving from her husband's embarrassed face to the sheepish countenances of the rest of his shift mates. Chris was right. All the men were not only clad in boxers and t-shirts, but they were extremely wet and bedraggled looking as well. Captain Stanley had come part way to the car, but the rest of the men were huddled under the meager protection of the station eaves. "What happened?" she finally managed to ask.
"It's a long story," Roy told her. "Could you please go find a phone and call headquarters. Tell them we were robbed last night and we need... well, right now what we need the most is some clothes."
Joanne felt a smile threatening, and struggled to suppress it. Judging from their faces, none of the guys would appreciate the humor in their situation.
"I'd say you do," she answered, her hand over her mouth as the laughter fought to come out. She turned to the kids. "Okay, back in the car, guys."
Chris giggled again, but did as she asked. Jennifer stood with hands on hips, her face a study in reproach.
"You guys are gonna get in trouble," she announced. "Everybody knows you're not supposed to come outside in your underwear."
"We didn't mean to," Roy told her, with a rueful chuckle. "Don't tell on us, okay?"
Jenny relented at last and smiled. "Okay, Daddy. I won't tell."
"Get in the car, Jen." Joanne gave Roy a quick kiss, then slid back behind the wheel. Once she had backed out of her parking space, and driven past the forlorn looking group of men, she let the laughter come.
An hour later, the men from Station 51 were seated around the day room table, wrapped in blankets, eating Joanne's cinnamon rolls and sipping at hot coffee, trying to warm up from their ordeal. Chief McConnike had showed up with coveralls he'd scrounged from one of the brush fire stations, so everyone was at least decent when Vince showed up to take a report on the robbery. They'd had to put up with a few jokes from the officer, but at least they were dressed.
Joanne was bringing Roy a spare uniform and was stopping off at Johnny's to pick up his. Once the chief rounded up enough extra turnouts, the station could officially be back in business.
"Man, I still wonder who got in here and why they took our stuff," Johnny mumbled, his mouth full of the gooey roll.
"I think I can answer that now."
They all turned to see Chief McConnike standing at the door, his arms full of turnout coats. He came over and laid the load on the table. The names were visible on a few of them.
"Hey, that's mine," Chet exclaimed, reaching over to grab up his coat.
"And that one's mine," Marco echoed.
"They're all here," McConnike informed them. "Your uniforms too."
"You found the crooks?" Hank asked.
"You could say that. Seems you guys weren't the only ones hit last night. Stations 49 and 110 were also cleaned out."
"Why?" Roy asked, his face perplexed.
"Bunch of college students," McConnike told them with a shake of his head. "Some kind of prank. They thought it would be funny to see firemen in their underwear."
"Fraternities," Mike murmured disgustedly.
The chief shook his head. "Sororities," he told them with a grin. Then he started laughing as he turned and walked out of the day room. The sound of it echoed through the apparatus bay.
"Sororities?" Johnny repeated, a bewildered look on his face. Then his expression changed to disbelief. "Girls? You mean a bunch of girls were in here while we were sleeping? A bunch of girls wanted to see us in our underwear?" His voice was squeaking in indignation.
"What are you complaining about?" Chet asked with a laugh. "That's the closest you've gotten to having a chick see you without your clothes on."
"Oh, ha, ha, very funny, Chet. I'll have you know..."
The tones sounded at that moment and the crew of Station 51 gratefully put on their turnouts.
Thanks to Kenda for helping me get over the hump on this one. :> And to Kenda and Audrey for the Beta. Oh yeah, thanks to Vanessa and all the others who volunteered to hide under squad... strictly for story research purposes. LOL