Pairing: non, gen, friendship fic
Words: words, Complete, betaed by ldyanne
Summary: Tag for fifth season's "Above and Beyond…Nearly"
Spoilers: Sixth season's "Above and Beyond…Nearly" and third season's "Frequency"
Disclaimer: Emergency! is owned by Universal, MCA and its affiliates. This story is parody and for entertainment purposes only.
Author's Note: Okay, the guys rolled off a cliff with no consequences?! No, no, no, that won't do at all…LOL
The Line of Duty
Hank rubbed his chest and grimaced. Stoker was better off sticking to fried chicken and spaghetti. Whenever the engineer experimented…Hank muted a belch with a fist to his mouth. Not that it mattered much. He was the only one here.
The dorm was empty at this hour. The visiting chief engineer had thanked everyone for dinner and left with yet another handshake for Gage and DeSoto. It didn't matter to the chief the commendation was in error—a fact Hank fumed over even if Gage and DeSoto seemed more relieved than upset—he still appreciated what they do. The chief engineer said so as he briskly shook their hands farewell.
The rest of shift settled in to watch Abbot and Costello once again make fools of themselves on television in Invisible Man. It was turning out to be a slow night. Just as well. Hank's stomach was churning like a half-empty tank of gasoline from the casserole. He wouldn't be much good in a fire.
Sitting at the desk by his bed, Hank skimmed a book he’d been trying to start for the past four shifts. Something always interrupted him. His wife insisted it was a good book, even went as far as to dog-ear her favorite pages, but it was one of those books about one of those people whose lives were far too fantastic and convenient to be believed. Ever mindful of his wife's well-meaning intentions though, he valiantly scanned the first paragraph for the umpteenth time, while keeping his ear out for the tones.
Hank frowned at the distant yelp and lifted his eyes towards the doorway that led into the locker room.
"Will you…geez…what are you trying to—Ouch." John Gage grumbled loudly. A locker door thumped.
"Hold still," DeSoto instructed but he didn't sound annoyed. "You know, you should have had this checked out at Rampart when we were there."
Brow furrowed, Hank lowered the book on his desk. He reflected on the last run they had: a hiker stranded way high up on a cliff. No way to him except for a few hours hike or free-climbing its crumbing face. It was no surprise those two chose the harder route. It didn't end pretty and ended up flying up and rappelling with only Light 14's beam to guide them. The two paramedics didn't look like they were having any problems after their tumble down the incline though.
"Wasn't bothering me until after dinn—Oh for crying out loud, Roy, let me do that." There was rustling, more grumbling then a snort from DeSoto.
"Be my guest."
Hank leaned sideways in his chair to peer out the doorway. A tiny cap rolled to the floor. Gage swore.
"Well?" DeSoto drew out the word slowly.
"I can do it, I can do it," Gage griped.
"Go ahead." Hank could hear the lilt of bemusement in DeSoto's voice. The older paramedic was usually a somber fireman; he sometimes took his job too seriously. Only Gage seemed to know how to flip DeSoto around at times and wheedle a smile out of him.
Hank stood up from his chair. It sounded like Gage was wrestling with a wild two-inch-and-a-half. There was another yelp, a thump and Hank caught a glimpse of a shirtless Gage now on the floor.
A chuckle choked off into a voice that quavered too much to be convincingly serious.
DeSoto stood in front of Gage, his arm extended out in offering. "Would you like some help there, junior?"
Hank bit back a smile at Gage's glare up at his partner.
"Fine," Gage mumbled before he reluctantly reached up and wrapped a hand around DeSoto's forearm. Gage disappeared from view when he was hauled back up to his feet.
It didn't look too bad from the angle Hank could see. He relaxed and eased back into his chair.
"There's no way you can reach your back," DeSoto chided and his side profile came to view when he sat down on the far end of the bench. "I only see a little bit more debris so hold still."
Debris? Hank's lips pursed. Book forgotten, he rolled his chair a little closer to the doorway.
"I don't see how I got—" Gage hissed. There was a tiny plunk, something very small dropping into a container.
"Hang on," DeSoto murmured.
"I don't see how I got gravel on my back like—" Gage growled under his breath. "Geez, what are you using to get them out? A pry bar?"
"Tweezers," DeSoto answered
absently, "and I thought I told you to be quiet."
"No, you told me to hang o—Ow!" There was a definite sound of something smacking the lockers. Hard.
"You okay?" DeSoto was doing a pretty bad job of not laughing.
"You know," Gage grate out, "I don't know why they call it the funny bone. It sure isn't funny when you hit it."
Hank bit his lower lip and shook his head.
"Damn," DeSoto muttered all of the sudden.
"That last one was a little deeper than I thought. It's bleeding."
"Yeah? Let me see…"
"Sure thing, Houdini. Why don't you just do that human pretzel thing you do? Will you just hold still?"
Hank was about to stand again when Gage made a small sound of pain.
"Sorry. Sorry," DeSoto said quietly.
"S'okay…" Gage groaned.
Hank could hear the minute rattles of more gravel dropping into what must have been a metal bowl. DeSoto was murmuring something low, barely audible, probably even too low for Gage to understand, but the fidgeting stilled under the soothing syllables and Gage grew very quiet.
"Doesn't look like anything needs stitches," DeSoto murmured.
Gage gave a soft grunt in reply and then hissed. Almost immediately, DeSoto apologized again.
"Done," DeSoto announced a few minutes later.
Hank saw Gage's reflection on one of the mirrors over the sink. The younger paramedic jumped up and stood on the bench to peer at his back in the mirrors.
"Still bleeding," DeSoto noted. His voice went flat.
"Eh. I'll put a band aid on it later," Gage answered as he dropped back down on the long seat. "What I don't get is how I got half of that cliff on my back! I wore a uniform. It wasn't like I was rock climbing naked!"
"Now there's an image I could have done without." DeSoto rose to his feet and a hanger squeaked as he pulled out something dark blue and streaked with dust.
"Look at this. The back of this thing is completely shredded. Probably when you rode that slope to the bottom."
It had been too dark to notice then. Hank scowled. Why was it no one ever told him these things?
"Shoot," Gage mourned, "There goes my uniform allowance. I needed to replace my gloves, too."
"That's what you get falling off a cliff, Johnny."
"I didn't fall off, I rolled off," Gage pointed out.
"Yes, because rolling down fifteen feet of sheer rock and gravel is far less damaging," DeSoto deadpanned.
"It wasn't that high."
"It was probably higher," DeSoto amended. "You were on lead, definitely higher than me." DeSoto could be heard rummaging around in his locker. "We should have had Doctor Brackett look at those instead of insisting that I get those X-rays."
Hank's mouth pressed thin. X-rays? He was going to have to have a talk again with these two.
"Roy, you had one big bruise down your back! You looked like a boa constrictor gave you a hug! And I saw that wince in the copter when we landed."
"Yeah, well…they didn't find anything, did they? Doctor Brackett said I was fine. I just need to avoid too much pressure on my ba—What did you hit me for?" DeSoto exclaimed.
"That's," Gage growled, "for falling off that mountain with me."
"I thought you said you rolled off."
"Weren't you the one who said you would go with me if I was lead?" DeSoto pointed out.
"But that's different," Gage burst out. "That was you, but this time it was me!"
"Wha—Wait…Slow down, back up. I'm not fluent in my John Gage dictionary yet." DeSoto dropped down on the end of the bench again. "What are you talking about?"
"Roy, you should have just cut the line the second I told you I was losing it," Gage said carefully, slowly as if he was talking to a child.
"I don't have a wife, kids and a mortgage to leave behind." Gage suddenly sounded weary. "I go. That's it. You go…there's a lot of people who's gonna miss you."
Ah geez. Hank dropped his face into a palm. Maybe three shifts of latrine duty would hammer some sense into the guy.
"You…" DeSoto's voice thinned. "You're an idiot."
"So what you're saying is that it's okay for you to go down with me but if our roles are reversed, I'm supposed to cut that lifeline the moment I see you fall?"
"Yup…What are you doing?"
"Checking for a concussion," Roy gritted out, "because you sure as hell are not making any sense right now, partner."
"Will you lay off? Cut it out! I didn't bump my head!" Gage complained and could be heard standing up, away from DeSoto.
"All right. Check my head. Maybe I hit my head."
"Roy, I'm being serious."
"That's what I'm afraid of."
"Come on! Hear me out!"
"Do I have to?"
"It makes a lot of sense. It does." Feet scuffed the floor. "I just…" A locker door creaked. "Look, I just think that if it comes to that, I'd understand you cutting that line." Gage paused. "For Joanne and the kids. What you did today…Hell, Roy, if something happened, what do I say to Joanne?"
DeSoto sighed. "If you're that worried about it, I'll lead from now on."
"Not funny, Roy."
"Then start talking sense! Johnny, you're…" DeSoto got to his feet and began to pace. "You're trying to tell me my life is more important than yours? That's it. I really think we should take you to Rampart. Come on, let's go."
"I'm not saying your life is more—quit being funny! Let go! I'm not going to Rampart! Listen, just listen."
Hank folded his arms in front of him and rolled his chair closer. He leaned towards the doorway.
"I just…I'm trying to be logical here. I mean…you and I…I told you, in this business, we could go just like that." There was a finger snap. "All I'm saying is, you have other priorities to keep in mind, Roy." A shoe shuffled on the floor. "I would understand."
"I wouldn't," DeSoto seethed.
"So I'm supposed to just stand there, cut the line and not even try to…forget it, Johnny! This has to be one of the most craziest—"
"It makes sense." Gage, for once, was the one talking calmly, if not a tad baffled. "I don't know what you're so mad about. All I'm saying—"
"I know what you're saying and I'm saying forget it. I'm not doing it."
"What? Why not?" Gage's voice rose higher in alarm.
"W-why not? Why not?" The bench scraped as DeSoto rose to his feet. "Are you listening to yourself? Because that's not what partners do! That's not what we do! We don't just…y-you just said it yourself you would go with me if you can't hold me! I—I can't believe we're having this conversation! Let's drop this."
"Drop it, Johnny," DeSoto bit out. There was a rattling sound of the drug box. It almost sounded like DeSoto was ripping it apart.
"That cut's still bleeding," DeSoto said gruffly. "I better put some ointment on it. Sit down, will you?"
The bench creaked as Gage sat down again in front of DeSoto. Hank debated going in when DeSoto haltingly spoke up again.
"Listen, just…will you stop thinking about it, Johnny?" DeSoto sighed. "You're getting all worked up over…hypothetical things. It's not gonna happen. You're not gonna fall off any mountains again soon and I'm not gonna cut you loose without even trying to do something."
Gage said nothing but there was a low hiss. DeSoto murmured an apology again.
"You're being ridiculous," DeSoto told his partner.
Gage mumbled something and DeSoto paused.
"And how is changing partners going to fix anything? That's not going to solve anything."
Hank scowled. Okay, this had gone far enough. He straightened, dropped his arms and was about to storm in when Gage cleared his throat.
"You…you remember Drew Burke?"
There was a sharp exhale.
Gage swallowed audibly. "It was tough for his wife and kid. Real bad. Pam just couldn't handle it anymore after Drew died. She had to sell the house and move back in with her folks, take her little girl out of LA."
"Yeah," DeSoto said, his tone subdued. "That is rough. But I don't see—"
Gage was barely audible. "I don't want another Drew Burke."
Silence hung thick and heavy. Even Hank held his breath.
"Fine," the older paramedic croaked after a beat, "I promise. Okay?"
"Really?" Hank didn't know if he wanted to weep or go in there and throttle their youngest member of 51. He wished Gage wouldn't sound so…happy.
DeSoto unknowingly agreed. "Wish you wouldn't look so cheerful about it," he growled.
"You swear? Minute you see me go, you cut that line?" Gage pressed.
"I just said I would, didn't I?" DeSoto groaned. "Can we stop talking about it now?"
"Second you see me fall?" Gage insisted. "Even if you think you might be able to try and hold on?"
There was a thump when DeSoto dropped his head against a locker door.
"I promise. All right? Will you quit moving? I'm trying to tape that up."
"Roy…" Gage wheedled.
"Fine. Next time I see a scrawny Indian come hurtling down a mountain towards me, I'll make sure the first thing I do is cut my line," DeSoto rasped, his voice exasperated.
"Cliffs, too," Gage added. "Oh, and don't forget ravines—Ouch! Roy!"
"Sorry," DeSoto said with a calmness Hank doubted he felt. "Antiseptic. Did that sting?"
Gage grumbled. "Just remember. You promised."
Hank could hear the eye roll in DeSoto's response.
"Yeah, yeah. I promised." There was a click as the drug box was closed. "Let me check on those again when the shift ends okay?"
"Uh huh." Gage was muffled when he stuck his head in his locker to get a clean shirt. Hank could hear hangers sliding against the rod. "So we got a deal, right? Shake on it?"
"You spit in that hand and I'm not shaking it," DeSoto warned. He sighed loudly with all the patience of being John Gage's partner for so long. Hank heard a clap as hands met.
Hank snorted under his breath and shook his head. Only John…
"All right." Gage sounded like he cheered up considerably. "Think I'll go heat up some of that casserole. Want some?"
"…the one we just had for dinner?"
"Mike's casserole? The onion and cheese one?" Roy could be heard gulping. "You're joking?"
"Figured it probably tastes better now. Most casseroles do."
"…Sure you didn't hit your head?"
"Ha ha," Gage shot back before he left the room.
Hank levered off his seat and after a moment's hesitation, wandered into the locker room.
DeSoto leaned against the wall, his eyes hooded as he stared blankly into the contents of his locker, his hands in his pockets.
Hank cleared his throat.
"Everything okay?" Hank inquired, as casually as he could.
Blue eyes flicked towards him. They widened slightly. DeSoto's mouth quirked in greeting. He stood up straighter from his slouch and pulled out his hands. He quickly reached for a clean shirt inside the locker, but not before Hank caught sight of the crossed fingers DeSoto had kept in his pocket.
"Thought I had an extra pair of gloves in here," DeSoto muttered as he pulled out a pair from the cabinet. He inspected each finger for imperfections. He looked up at Hank and lowered his eyes back down on the thick gloves he held.
"Johnny," DeSoto began. He checked the tiny window on the door before he shrugged. "Sometimes his logic defies…logic." DeSoto gave Hank a sideways glance.
Hank said nothing. He merely folded his arms across his chest and grunted out an agreement.
The shoulders lost their stiff line and DeSoto sagged back against the brick wall.
"You two all right though?" Hank scanned DeSoto up and down.
The paramedic smiled but it dropped at Hank's look. "Couple of bruises. Johnny had some embedded debris from his fall. They went through his uniform like it was a cheese grater."
Hank grimaced. He eyed the dark blue jacket Gage had left out draped over the bench.
"He…" DeSoto paused. His shoulders slumped and DeSoto scowled at the gloves now.
"He was looking out for you," Hank said quietly. "Because he's your partner."
If DeSoto was surprised Hank had heard them before, he didn't show it then or now. His head bobbed slowly in thought.
"I'll be putting that twit on latrine duty for the next three shifts though. No, make that five," Hank added.
DeSoto smirked. "I don't think he'll really get why, but thanks." DeSoto slapped his leg with his hand as he breathed out sharply. "He just…I had to promise…otherwise he'll never let up." The smile he made came out lopsided and weary.
"Yeah," Hank breathed out slowly, "I know." Hank nodded towards the door. "Invisible Man's showing right now." He shook his head at DeSoto's nod towards the door. He ruefully patted his stomach at DeSoto's look. "Mike's casserole," Hank added and chuckled at DeSoto's expression. "I think I have a two alarm going on inside."
"He should stick with chicken," DeSoto muttered. "And Johnny went to get more." He shut his locker and nodded to Hank. "I better go save my partner from himself." DeSoto paused, hearing himself.
Hank's mouth quirked. No truer words. "That's what partners do, Roy."
DeSoto's smile broadened and the shadows that lingered lifted. "Yeah." He nodded more to himself now. "It is, isn't it?" And with that parting mutter, DeSoto slipped out with the spare gloves gripped in his hand and made a determined line for the kitchen.
Hank rested against the sink, his own hands in his pockets and studied the jacket on the bench. He tsked, his eyes drifting over every tiny tear. Why the hell didn't Gage mention anything over dinner? Hank strode out of the room and found himself in his office. He sat down and tapped at the clean writing pad on his desk. He checked the doorway. There were sounds of the movie drifting out of the kitchen, a couple of chuckles that made Hank snicker to himself. After a thought, he reached for a pen, addressed his draft to the chief engineer and started writing out his recommendation of commendation for Gage and DeSoto.
Because that's what captains do.
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