Pairing: non, gen, friendship fic
Rating: PG for mildly strong language (for the time period) and implied violence (for any time period)
Words: Complete, betaed by ldyanne
Summary: Ever noticed the captain's door was always open? The ubiquitous 'Five Things' fic. The title really says it all.
Spoilers: Second season and third.
Notes: Because Hank Stanley is such a fun POV to play with…
Disclaimer: Emergency! is owned by Universal, MCA and its affiliates. This story is parody and for entertainment purposes only.
Open Door Policy
aka Five Times Captain Stanley's Door Was Closed
It was the smell that came first.
Hank Stanley's brow knitted together and he looked up. He gave the air a cautious sniff, the kind of sniff one gives when checking for a gas main leak. The office door he always made sure he left open for his men was inviting in something that smelled like…pickles? No. Onions? No. No. Fish?
"Someone call dispatch! Possible toxic spill on 51. Time out right now."
"Shut up, Chet!" John hollered out of from the kitchen.
Oh, that's right. It was John Gage's turn to make lunch. Hank's mouth twisted as he remembered Marco's chili over spaghetti from yesterday. It was surprisingly good. He should have put some aside for today. Gage was a good paramedic, one of the best and he trusted his life to that kid, but God, the guy was an awful cook.
Even Mike Stoker, usually more diplomatic out of all of them, was walking up and down between the squad and Big Red, waving a hand over his nose.
"Get Rampart on the biophone, Roy!"
"Come on! It tastes a lot better than it looks…or smells. It's an old family recipe!"
"Well, obviously! It looks it!" Chet shouted back.
There was a clang of pots doing something Hank really didn't want to know.
"Roy had this before!"
"I-I have?" The usually unflappable paramedic sounded…flapped.
"Yeah. When Joanne took the kids to visit their grandparents? You offered me a place to stay after my place got flooded. I made dinner. Remember?"
"…I thought that was uncooked meatloaf…I fed it to the dog…"
Hank screwed up his face.
"You guys are real pals, you know? Bunch of LA's bravest, scared of a little casserole! I bet Cap would try it!"
Hank blanched. Quietly he tiptoed over to his door and pulled it shut. Then he dropped down on his seat and grabbed the phone. He called the County Clerk's office. Now would be a good time to review the new hose procedures.
Footsteps, loud and eager, fast approached his door and out of the corner of his eye, Hank could see faces peering through the door's window. Hank cleared his throat, kept his eyes on the phone and made sure he frowned a lot into the phone. Hank made all the nods, did all the pen tapping until finally, the footsteps walked away. He could hear Kelly ribbing Gage. There was another clang and a scuffle Hank knew if he investigated he would be obliged to step out to stop.
Hank kept the door closed that day, grabbed a break and ate three chilidogs at Davey's.
II: Door Two (post-"The Promotion")
"Cap? You wanted to see me?"
Hank glanced up to find Roy DeSoto hanging back by the door. Open or not, DeSoto always made it a point to knock.
"Yeah, come in." Hank gestured with a hand and DeSoto took another step in. "And closed the door."
DeSoto froze, his left foot still up in the air. He pointed wordlessly at the door and visibly gulped when Hank nodded.
Hank could see Lopez halted in his tracks when he spied DeSoto shutting the door, the first time in nearly a year since Hank became their captain. Hank saw Lopez do a 180 and trying very hard not to run into the dorm area.
"So…uh…" DeSoto rubbed his palms up and down his pants. He finger-combed back his hair and licked his lower lip.
Hank took pity on the paramedic and offered him a smile. "Sit. Go ahead, sit. Just want to talk to you about your promotion."
DeSoto squirmed as he cautiously sat down. "But Cap…I told you…I wasn't planning on taking it."
"I know." Hank studied the final test scores sheet he had received. "Any particular reason?"
The chair creaked as DeSoto tried to find a comfortable spot. "I like being a paramedic," DeSoto finally said. He stared past Hank's shoulder.
Hank's mouth pressed together and it was really hard not to grin. He nodded gravely. "I see."
"I mean, that is, I just…I like the chance to…well…" DeSoto fumbled.
"Roy, I don't really need an explanation." Hank tapped two fingers on the list. "I just want to be sure that you won't regret it."
Hank hated doing this, but he wouldn't be worthy to be their captain if he didn't let them know all the truth. "Next year's exam is going to come up again. Now Roy, everyone in this station here knows you'll pass it again."
A smile flashed. DeSoto rubbed the back of his neck. "Thanks, Cap."
"What are you going to do then?" Hank pressed.
The smile faded. "Uh…"
"You can't keep passing it up. Headquarters will want you to take that promotion sooner or later, Roy."
DeSoto dropped his eyes. "Yeah," he murmured.
"Good pay. Bet it would be real useful for your family," Hank went on.
"Yeah," DeSoto muttered. He opened and closed his hands on his lap.
"But," Hank said slowly, "I suppose there's nothing that beats the feeling you get as a paramedic either."
DeSoto glanced up and met his eyes. A smile curved crookedly on his face.
"No," DeSoto agreed, "not really. Nothing else quite like it."
"And that's your only reason?"
DeSoto opened his mouth to answer when Kelly's bellow echoed throughout the entire station.
"Gage!" Hank could see through the door's window Kelly stomping out, arms swinging at his sides like a gorilla, suds dripping off his hair. His uniform was soaked.
"Where is he? I'll break that other leg!" Kelly roared and his head swung wildly left and right. Suds plopped to the floor.
"Excuse me, Cap," DeSoto murmured. He rose to his feet, his hand already pulling the door open. "I think my partner needs backup."
DeSoto paused and turned back towards Hank.
"There you are!" Kelly shouted.
There was a yelp and some buckets spilled and hollering that distracted them both for a second. But then DeSoto grinned back at Hank, sure and wide.
"None whatsoever Cap."
Hank nodded and tracked DeSoto heading Kelly off the warpath. He chuckled as he caught sight of Gage zipping past his door, throwing Kelly taunts over his shoulder. DeSoto was still trying to be the voice of reason but there was another clang and now DeSoto zipped by, dripping suds down his back as he chased his partner.
"Johnny! I'm going to lock you in that locker until Christmas!" There was, however, a note of laughter under the threat.
With a chuckle, Hank went over, kicked his door open wider and shucked the list of test scores down the trash.
Hank pressed the phone to his forehead. He held it there until the squawking of the disconnected line grew too loud to ignore.
God, he hated his job sometimes.
Hank set the receiver back on the phone and leaned back in his chair for a moment. There was a small, cowardly part of him that wished for dispatch to be calling them right now, but damn it, it had been calm on this warm, sunny June day.
The chair creaked when he rose to his feet. Hank stuffed his hands in his pockets and walked with heavy steps to the door. The door, as usual, was open and it has been mostly since he became their captain. Sometimes Hank toyed with the idea of taking the door down entirely. They slept in the same dorm, ate the same food, battled the same fires, why should this piece of glass and wood divide him from his men?
Hank paused by the threshold to watch his paramedic team refill the drug box out in the garage. Gage's voice was weary as he called out every item on the clipboard he held. He sat on the step on the side of the squad, DeSoto crouched by his crossed ankles.
Gage paused every so often, his voice catching on some word. He combed a hand through his dark hair: too long to be regarded as regulation, still too short to be seen as fashionable these days. Gage would take a deep breath, his finger going up and down on the forms until he found his place again and continued.
DeSoto grunted each affirmative but every so often, he checked Gage surreptitiously with a furrowed brow. Older in more ways than years, DeSoto's jaw tensed at every pause but never made any comment. He just waited until Gage continued and he would simply pick up where they left off.
It was a role reversal: the younger half of the team usually preferred to have his hands deep in the drug box, touching and sorting everything out all over the painted concrete floor while DeSoto reviewed the mind-numbing list. It was what they preferred. Usually.
Hank watched for a few more seconds before he cleared his throat and the two looked up.
"John, Roy, you two wanna come in for a second?" Hank stood by the door as the two stopped what they were doing and gave each other a look. Hank could tell from the tight lines at the corners of their mouths that they knew, just knew, but there was still a brightness in Gage's eyes that held out some hope that maybe they were wrong. The dull acceptance in DeSoto's eyes, however, said something different.
The two slipped past Hank. They sat down at Hank's nod and Hank felt so old, so god damn old as he stood before them.
"Was that Rampart, Cap?" Gage rasped. He sounded like he had fought two-alarms for days. He's been sounding like that since last night; the times he did speak, that is. He sat, his knees slightly apart, his hands clamped over his knees like he was forcing himself to stay down on the seat.
"Yeah," Hank sighed. This was part of the job they all hated but could never avoid, but he still hated it.
"Bessie?" Gage asked in a small voice, his eyes on his shoes and DeSoto glanced over at Gage with a hint of a frown on his face.
DeSoto's shoulders slumped. "She didn't make it…did she?" DeSoto was far too wise for his age.
Gage's head shot up and brown eyes pleaded with Hank. "Cap?" he stammered.
Hank dropped his head and shook it. "I'm real sorry. Bessie Smith passed away just an hour ago. Dr. Early said there was simply too much damage."
"Did they catch…" DeSoto took a deep breath before continuing. "Did they catch the driver who did this?"
Hank wished it would help when he nodded. "CHP picked him up this morning. Claimed he didn't see her bicycle. Said it was too dark."
"He's lying," Gage bit out.
DeSoto glanced over to his partner again. "Johnny."
"She had reflectors on! She was riding on the pavement! She…she…"
"There was nothing any of you could have done," Hank consoled but it had the opposite effect when Gage shot up to his feet.
"We could have been there sooner!" Gage averted his eyes when he realized he was standing chest to chest with Hank. He staggered back and mumbled an apology.
"Johnny…" DeSoto got to his feet as well, a hand out, always ready to catch his partner but today, Gage would have none of it.
"Don't, Roy! Just don't! We both know we could have gotten there sooner if I got us there right the first time!"
No, Hank thought. They might have gotten there sooner if the neighbor hadn't sobbed out the address wrong and spoke clearly the first time.
Gage dropped his face into his hands and blew out sharply. "If we'd just gotten there two minutes, three—no, four minutes sooner, we could have…" His fingers curled and Hank tensed as it looked like Gage would claw his own face off.
"Dr. Brackett told us yesterday that those minutes wouldn't have made a difference," DeSoto tried. "Pancreas, spleen, lung, there was just too much damage. Even amputation wouldn't have helped. Those minutes wouldn't have mattered—"
"You don't know that!" Gage dropped his hands and stared at DeSoto. A finger whipped at DeSoto with a jerk. "You don't know that! She…she was just a little girl, Roy. She asked me if she would still be able to go to her uncle's ranch next week because he'd promised her a p-pony ride!"
Something crumbled on Gage's face, faster than he could push it back. He breathed out sharply through his nose to try and hold it in but Hank could tell whatever it was that wanted to come out was going to anyway and perhaps for Gage, that was worse than the act itself. He spun around just as DeSoto took a step towards him.
Gage, perhaps wanting to be left alone, maybe to stop his partner from following, grabbed the doorknob and yanked it. Before DeSoto could reach him, the door rattled as it slammed hard behind Gage, so hard Hank was stunned the glass didn't shatter.
DeSoto stared at the shut door, his mouth partially opened then, remembering, DeSoto swallowed. He gave Hank an uneasy glance over his shoulder.
"He…Cap, Johnny's just upset. He didn't mean to…"
"I know," Hank murmured. He could see past DeSoto's shoulders out into the garage where the others have gathered and stared at something outside. Gage was too loud after being quiet for so long to ignore.
"I've been trying to tell him that it wasn't his fault in case that little girl didn't…"
"It's all right, Roy." Hank dropped into his chair. Even his bones felt old and heavy now.
DeSoto curled a hand around the knob. "Johnny's just…he gets too emotionally involved with the victims sometimes."
He's not the only one, Hank thought, his throat working. "When it comes to children, Roy, I would be worried if we weren't."
DeSoto rubbed a palm around the knob, polishing it with his hand. "It's just…" DeSoto sighed. His voice shook. He stared hard at the doorknob.
"She was just nine years old, Cap. For crying out loud, I gave my kid that same exact bike with those reflectors because I thought they would be safer…" DeSoto's shoulders slumped. "We tried everything. <i>Everything.</i> Johnny did CPR all the way to Rampart."
Hank lowered his eyes. "Yeah."
A quiet knock at his door made them both look up. Kelly poked his head in the door. His mustache wiggled downward as he took in the office's occupants.
"Sorry, Cap." Kelly looked over his shoulder at Stoker, who nodded but kept his eyes turned outside. "Roy, sorry to interrupt. Listen, Johnny's…"
"Yeah," Roy exhaled. He shot Hank a look. Hank replied with a nod and a tired smile.
"Go see to your partner," Hank made it a quiet order.
Kelly checked behind him again. "You want us to—"
"No, Chet. I got this. I…I got this." DeSoto opened the door. He hesitated and turned around. "Cap. About the door. Johnny didn't mean—"
"Go," Hank firmed his voice and he watched Roy as he ran a hand through his hair, scrubbed his face with both hands before stepping out. He grabbed the drug box off the floor before he veered straight for outside, never stopping to check if Gage was still out there. DeSoto always knew where to find his partner somehow; always surprised whenever he turned his head and find Gage not standing by him like he should.
"Girl didn't make it, huh Cap?" Kelly's question was more statement than question. Kelly's shoulders slumped when he got a good look of Hank's face. "Damn." Kelly nodded towards Stoker and began to pull the door shut. The quiet engineer outside nodded soberly and wordlessly waved over Lopez.
"Chet," Hank quietly called out, stopping him in his tracks. "Go ahead and leave the door open."
For some reason, relief bloomed in Kelly's face and he nodded, releasing the doorknob like it burned him. He trotted back to the others. They lingered by Big Red, pretending unconvincingly that they were working on the engine. Hank tried his best to work as well, but found himself drifting to stand by the door minutes later to look at the shadows huddled inside a Land Rover with a newly cracked windshield in the lot.
When dispatch called for Station 51 an hour later, the two were back, ducking into the squad with no hesitation and with the ease of having done this a thousand times before. Gage, his eyes red-rimmed and his right hand now bandaged, sat with a set jaw and determined glint in his eyes that told Hank Gage would eventually be okay.
Hank scribbled the address down, tore it off the pad and handed one copy to DeSoto. DeSoto gave Hank a tight smile, his own eyes suspiciously bloodshot before he twisted around to give it to Gage, who took it with the slightest of pauses.
"Thanks, Cap," Gage murmured strangely, not looking up as he took the paper from DeSoto. Hank wondered about that, but fires can't be kept waiting so he just acknowledged it with a pat on the squad's hood before he jumped into the engine and they drove off with the squad in the lead, a pillar of smoke in the sky.
Hank scowled at the payroll sheets. Ladder 17 sent over Sanchez to fill in Squad 51's empty spot for the next few days but then transferred all the shift allotments to 51 as well. Wonderful. There were days when it really didn't pay to get out of bed.
The station beyond his office door was quiet, too quiet. Hank kept looking up, leaning back in his check to verify his engine and squad were still sitting out there. The great fireman in the sky was taking pity on them. There had been no alarms for two days so far. It was a woeful pittance for the misery they received the shift before that.
The knock at his open door came both as a surprise and not. Hank sighed, his shoulders drawn up then dropped. He was expecting this.
"Cap?" the speaker called in a tentative voice but he never entered.
You would think, Hank thought with a little weary amusement, <i>that there was an open invitation to come in with an opened door.</i>
"Go ahead," Hank invited with a wave of a hand, "come in."
The door clicked shut.
All right, it was going to be one of those conversations, huh?
Hank schooled a neutral expression on his face and swiveled around to Gage standing by his desk like a boy facing his principal. Sure enough, Gage held a white envelope with both hands, his forearms still bandaged. He held his hands, one on each side of the stationary, as if to make sure the envelope didn't wrinkle.
Ah hell, Johnny.
Hank opened a hand towards Gage. The younger man blinked then swallowed. The white envelope shook a little when Gage set it down on his waiting palm.
And Hank promptly tore it up.
Gage blinked again. "Cap…"
"Sit down, John."
Hank leaned forward in his seat and waved the two halves at him. "Now listen to me very carefully. This isn't the first time someone walked through that door with a letter of resignation and it won't be the last. I'll tear up every one of these and the day I don't, is the day you know you screwed up."
"Cap…" Gage's hands went up then dropped. His eyes lowered. "But I did screw up."
God, if he had a dollar for every time one of his men said that…Hank cleared his throat and scowled at the top of Gage's head. One of these days, he was going to line Gage and DeSoto up and hose them down. Maybe that would wash some sense into them.
"What you did, John, was carry that man out of that fire and save his life."
Gage was determined not to be convinced. Two days of waiting in Rampart had drummed up a good case of self-recrimination that wasn't easy to let go. He shook his head. "What I did was leave my partner behind."
"Did Roy tell you he was hurt?" Hank demanded because it was either that or shake some sense into the kid.
"N-no, he said he was fine, but I should have checked he was still behind me! If I saw that wall fall on him, I could have—"
Hank folded his arms and sat back. "Could have what? Carry Roy and the victim out? You're good, John but not that good."
Gage bit his lower lip. "I left him behind, Captain. You've always said no one gets left behind."
"I don't appreciate my words being thrown back at me, Gage," Hank growled and Gage's shoulders hunched.
Hank sighed. Kelly, Lopez, Stoker, they've all been here before, sat on that chair with the same damn envelope, with the same damn shadows on their faces and with that same damn story. John and Roy were no different than those three although they were in here in much more frequency. He scratched his chin and studied the bruised face before him.
"Does Roy blame you?"
Gage's face contorted. He shook his head wordlessly.
He should, that part was left unspoken.
Hank gestured with the torn envelope at Gage. "Then this letter is pointless, don't you think?"
"Damn it, John, does Roy blame you or not?"
The two looked up at the shaky answer. Roy DeSoto, still looking whiter than the gauze around his right shoulder, smiled at them from the partially opened door. He leaned on the threshold, his arms folded loosely in front of him. Hank suspected though that it was more for support than to look casual.
"What are you doing out of Rampart?" Gage jumped to his feet and hustled DeSoto to the seat he just vacated.
"Trying to stop you from doing something stupid," DeSoto shot back as he fidgeted into the seat. Wooden chairs were unforgiving to cracked ribs and bruised backs. DeSoto glanced over to the envelope pieces on the desk. He glowered at Gage.
"Seems like apparently I was too late."
Gage shifted from foot to foot.
"Damn it, Johnny, I told you already this wasn't your fault." DeSoto gave a small wince he tried to hide by retrieving the letter. He grumbled as he rummaged the halves out. "Neither one of us knew that wall would collapse on me. If you look at it this way, I'm at fault too for not predicting it. Maybe I should write up a letter saying…" DeSoto frowned and he held up the two halves together.
"'I ouit?'" DeSoto read. His left eyebrow disappeared high into his hairline. He showed it to Hank.
Hank's brow rose as well as he read the crooked little sentence in the middle of the blank page.
"Um…" Gage squirmed where he stood. "That's supposed to be a 'q'."
"'I quit?'" Hank repeated. "Is this pencil?" He swallowed a snicker when the tips of Gage's ears pinked.
"The typewriter wasn't working," Gage mumbled. He scuffed a heel. "And Mike's dumb pen spilled all over the letter I was writing." Gage glared at DeSoto's smirk. "Hey, I was dead serious! I screwed up, I should resign! I-I…"
"What you should do," Hank interrupted, "is get your partner home before I need to call for a squad here." He nodded towards DeSoto. "Roy here looks pretty much done."
Gage blinked at DeSoto. He swore under his breath.
"Come on, partner. Let's get you home before Joanne has my hide."
DeSoto grinned towards Hank, nodding when Hank tore up the letter into smaller pieces and tossed it. DeSoto groaned, more for show this time, and grumbled as Gage hauled him to his feet.
Gage draped one arm loosely over DeSoto's shoulder, the other held onto DeSoto's elbow closest to him.
"You make it sound like she didn't want to tan your hide already," DeSoto remarked as he walked cautiously through the door. "See ya, Cap," DeSoto said over his shoulder.
"It wasn't my fault! How was I supposed to know that girl was so sensitive? What was your wife thinking trying to set me up with a vegan anyway?"
"Hey, Roy, you idiot!" Kelly hollered. "What are you doing out of the hospital?"
"Making sure you guys are still in one piece!" DeSoto shouted back and there was a clamor of sounds, of laughter, of Gage arguing with Kelly again. The kind of sounds Hank left his door open to hear. It filled the station and the room felt brighter, warmer now. Hank smiled to himself. It finally felt like his firehouse again.
So when he found the chipped typewriter keys I, Q, U and T and the ink ribbon in a box shoved behind the cereal boxes, Hank merely trashed the whole thing and filed a requisition with headquarters for a new typewriter.
Fire, Hank decided, was more trouble than it was worth. It eats through everything and creates a mess of paperwork in its wake.
Hank scowled at the IJ78s and the PQ5 forms and thought would HQ find it funny if Hank just torched the whole pile with a well-tossed match.
The station was enjoying a reprieve tonight. Too cold for barbecues meant no lit grills, no charcoal being tossed out onto dry grass and everyone staying home watching television. It meant fewer fires, fewer drivers out there and all in all, peaceful.
It was boring as hell.
Hank checked out his door at Big Red and the squad. The Crown engine shone, its chrome gleaming from newly applied car wax. He could hear Gage whistling as he finished drying off the squad's headlights. He waved towards the office to Hank and trotted around to the driver's side to retrieve his bucket.
"What the…Hey, Roy? Roy? You wanna come out here for a second?"
Hank leaned back and watched DeSoto coming out, a drumstick in his hand, napkin tucked into his collar.
"It's your turn to do the squad," DeSoto reminded Gage.
"I know. I know. I wasn't talking about that. Come here. Take a look at this."
"What the…" DeSoto stopped chewing. "Is that…are those…"
"Paw prints," Gage finished. "Look at that! They go all the way from the floor, up along the top…How you think Boot did that?"
"What makes you think it was Boot?"
"Come on. We're not a kennel. You see any other dog here?" Gage whistled. A dog whined. "Hey, Boot. Come here. Come her—Shoot, Roy, you do it."
Hank smirked to himself when a whistle from DeSoto quickly brought Boot over. Gage grumbled.
"Let's take a look at you, fella." DeSoto grunted when he picked up the dog.
"Okay, Boot, now how did you do that?"
"I think Boot's taking the Fifth, Johnny."
"Ha ha. I just—wait…you see that? On his paws…is that…Is that…chocolate sauce?"
Hank frowned to himself. Suddenly a bucket tipped over outside.
"Chet! I know it was you! I just waxed the squad! You rotten…"
Boot barked. Chairs scattered. DeSoto was shouting something to Gage about putting the fire extinguisher down. Lopez yelped something about…fish?
Hank got up and pulled his door closed. The odd snatches of threats and random barking muffled. He looked out the door, the garage appeared quiet and reassured, Hank sat back down and didn't look back up.
Sometimes, it was better not knowing.
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