Roy DeSoto looked up from the log book and did a double take at his partner. The younger man was sitting on the edge of the desk in the captains’ office, a sour expression on his face.
“What’s wrong with you?”
John Gage rubbed his right index finger across his own lips and grimaced. “Man, my lips are so chapped. . .”
“I believe that’s what someone invented some stuff called ‘chapstick’ for. Works wonders, you know.”
“Ha ha. It’d be great if I had any.”
“Why didn’t you say something sooner? I’ve got some in my locker.”
Johnny gave it a few seconds thought. “Have ya used it yet?”
Back to writing in the book, Roy kept his gaze down as he responded, “A couple of times.” When he was met with silence, he again looked up to see a sour expression. “Oh c’mon. Don’t tell me you’ve got a problem with that. We live together twenty-fours each shift two or three times a week.”
“Yeah, but not our lips. Our lips aren’t together twenty-four hours.”
Right away both wore an expression of distaste at the thought of their lips being joined for any amount of time.
“Do I wanna know what that comment was about?” Captain Stanley asked as he came into the office.
Caught in the awkward moment, the paramedics glanced at one another with wide eyes.
“His lips are chapped,” Roy quickly offered.
Johnny immediately nodded in agreement as he licked, then rubbed at them again. “Man, they really hurt, too.”
“Oh. . . well. . .I believe that’s what they make this thing called ‘chapstick’ for,” the captain commented with sarcasm.
Recovering from the near deja’vu with the statement, Johnny opened his mouth to explain when Roy spoke for him.
“He doesn’t have any.”
“I’ve got a tube in my desk drawer,” Hank offered.
Roy smiled and waited expectantly for Gage to get out of the situation without offending the captain, while visions of the possibility of three sets of captain lips having used the same tube ran through Johnny’s mind.
“Uh. . .Roy’s. . .Roy’s got one.” He shot a look to his partner that pleaded for him to be quiet as he hopped off the desk. “He offered. . .uh. . .first. Wouldn’t wanna hurt his feeling’s, ya know,” Johnny shrugged with a brief snort of laughter. Again he shot a look that begged for mercy from the older paramedic while he took a step backward toward the door. “In fact, I think I’ll . . .uh. . .use it right now.”
DeSoto watched in amusement as Gage gave a quick wave and hurried from the room. The smile faded when it dawned on him that they were in the middle of more than just a conversation when Hank had walked in.
“Hey wait! You’re supposed to be helping me with the log book!”
As he walked across the apparatus bay behind the squad and engine, Johnny licked to moisten his lips though he knew each time he did it only made them worse. And he sure hadn’t solved his problem since he wasn’t actually going to use Roy’s chapstick. Though he could give mouth-to-mouth to a perfect stranger to save a life, sharing chapstick with anyone, friend or not, was something he’d never been able to do.
“It’s just not right. . . ”
If he could just get his own soon, he wouldn’t have to worry about it. He pulled his wallet out of his back pant pocket and checked inside for money.
A dollar. . .
He could buy ten tubes of chapstick for that amount.
“Unused ones,” Johnny reminded himself. He’d have to get Roy to agree to drive. . .
Roy! Man, I left ‘im with the log book!
He quickly turned and reversed his direction. Being that he’d already offended his friend, he didn’t need desertion on top of it. But before he could make it back to the office, the klaxons went off. Johnny stood beside the driver’s side of the squad as a voice from dispatch announced the call.
“Squad 51, woman down, 2139 West Palm Avenue, two one three nine West palm Avenue, time out 14:26.”
The dark-haired paramedic saw Hank and Roy both dart into the bay from the other room. Knowing the captain would acknowledge the call and jot down the information, he hurried around the back of the squad where he grabbed a hold of the rail up on the backside as he purposely slid around from the end. He then trotted to the passenger door, opened it and joined his partner who was already inside.
The younger man absently licked his still sore lips as he took the small piece of paper with all the information on it from Roy.
Roy brought the squad to a stop in front of a ladies’ clothing store that was within a row of other shops and a restaurant on the same block. Two men decorating the front of the buildings for the upcoming Christmas season were apparently unaware of what was going on inside. They eyed the paramedics curiously as the uniformed men scrambled out of the vehicle and grabbed the basic equipment needed for most calls.
People on the sidewalk and coming out of other businesses also watched with interest as Johnny and Roy hurried inside in search of the victim.
“I didn’t think you’d get here this soon or I would’ve been out waiting for you,” a lady explained as she led them on a path between the assorted round clothing racks and to the back of the store. Dressed in a gray skirt and blazer with a while blouse underneath, she appeared to be a manger of sorts.
“What happened?” Johnny wondered.
“One of my employees fainted. Brenda Matson is her name.”
“Is she still out?” Roy asked.
“No.” She shook her head. “No, she’s awake now. But we told her she should stay where she was until you made sure it was okay to get up.”
“That was a good idea.”
Johnny silently agreed with his partner.
When they reached the back of the business, they saw a young brunette twenty-something lady lying on the carpeted floor, a jacket folded up and placed underneath her head as a pillow. She appeared to be in good spirits as she chatted with a few other ladies who were squatted down beside her. Half a dozen customers were standing nearby in concern.
The ladies stood up and stepped back from their co-worker when they saw the paramedics emerge from between the last row of clothing racks. Roy and Johnny took their place beside the downed woman.
“How’re you feeling, Brenda?”
She glanced up at Roy. “Okay. I just got a little light headed is all.”
Johnny opened and set up the biophone, unaware some of the women had their attention locked on him now rather than the victim.
“Rampart, this is Squad 51, how do you read me?”
“Loud and clear," one young lady whispered to a friend beside her, which earned her a nudge in return. "But he's so good looking," she added, still in a hushed tone. The two giggled slightly when they saw the store manager just as enthralled with the dark-haired paramedic, then returned their gazes to Johnny as he continued once his call was acknowledged.
“Rampart, we have a female approximately twenty-three years of age--”
Brenda raised her hand to get his attention. “Twenty-four.”
With a nod and a brief crooked smile that had the other ladies sighing to themselves, he announced into the transmitter, “Correction, Rampart. Victim is twenty-four years old. She appears to be alert now, but did have one syncopal episode. Stand by for vital signs.”
“10-4, 51. Standing by,” came Doctor Brackett’s reply.
“Have you been on a diet at all? Maybe skipped a meal today?” Roy asked their patient.
“Any possibility you could be pregnant?”
Brenda nodded. “Yes. Yes, I’m three and a half months along.”
Roy and Johnny exchanged glances, the latter moistening his chapped lips again.
“Is that why I fainted?”
“Could be,” Roy supplied while Johnny relayed the information, along with the vitals his partner had just jotted down on a slip of paper.
The men were advised to transport the expectant mother as a precaution.
“Where will she be so I can call and tell her husband?” the manager asked Roy while Brenda was helped onto a stretcher the ambulance attendants had just brought in.
“Well be taking her to Rampart General Hospital.” He watched as Johnny placed a blanket on the victim, then leaned over for the safety straps, securing them in place. He picked up the closed biophone and drug box, and followed behind as the attendants wheeled the stretcher toward the front of the store.
Close behind Roy, Johnny caught something out of the corner of his left eye. It was a small clear acrylic jar beside a register located near the center of the store. The jar was full of. . .
“Are those chapsticks?” he asked the manager who’d stayed beside him as much as possible. Before the line of five young women trailing behind them could chime in, she answered.
“Why yes. That’s our holiday collection.”
“Yeah? Well, how many can I get for a buck?”
“Oh, honey, take what ever you need. They’re on me.”
One of the other girls hurried over and snatched four tubes to give him, but the manager quickly took them from her instead. She reached for his left hand and placed the tubes in it.
Roy glanced over his shoulder and shook his head at his partner’s small entourage, and the sight of the free chapsticks in his hand. Oh brother. . .
“You sure?” Johnny questioned.
“Yes, certainly. You need to take care of those sugar lips-- I mean lips, Sugar,” she quickly corrected, a bit flustered at her Freudian slip.
Roy heard the comment as they neared the exit and rolled his eyes.
It’s a good thing Chet’s not here or he’d never let him live *that* one down.
Their practical joke playing crew member would be teasing Gage to no end if he were there. He continued out the door and toward the ambulance while Johnny lagged slightly farther behind as he stuffed the chapsticks in his pockets.
Once Roy was in the ambulance with Brenda, Johnny closed the doors and gave them the customary two slaps to signal they were secure. The ambulance pulled away and he turned to head for the squad. Only then did he realize he had six women watching his every move. The men decorating the front of the shops were observing theirs.
Johnny gave a quick wave and smile. His back already toward the small crowd, he licked his lips again, then swiped the side of his hand across.
Man, my lips feel like they’re on fire!
The painful sting had intensified greatly in the past half hour. He couldn’t wait to use one of the free sticks to alleviate his discomfort.
On the way to Rampart, Johnny reached into his pant pocket and pulled out two of the chapstick tubes. With one hand still on the steering wheel, he held both up with the other hand.
“Gingerbread. . .peppermint. . .”
He set those down on the seat and grabbed the steering wheel with that hand, then reached in his other pocket with his left hand. He read the labels after taking out the other two tubes.
“Sugar cookie. . . cinnamon stick. . .Oh man. . .”
None were what he had in mind, but at least they were new. . .
With a sigh, he opened the sugar cookie, the one he figured to be the least obvious and spread it across his lips. It did feel soothing. More so than any brand he’d tried before. He ran it across again, then tossed it on the seat with the others. Without another thought about it, he continued on, already enjoying the results.
After meeting up with Roy at the hospital once Brenda was in the care of a doctor, Johnny climbed in the passenger side of the squad, while his partner got into the driver’s seat.
The younger man gathered up the loose chapsticks, but not before Roy had a chance to take note of the labels. The senior paramedic turned the key in the ignition, then drove forward as they headed out of the lot.
“Well, you happy now or do you wanna stop and pick up something else?”
“Nah, I’m good. These things really do the job,” he stated as he held one up. But with a furrowed brow, he added, “Except, the only problem is, I’m either gonna be smellin’ cookies or candy canes for awhile every time I use ‘em.”
Roy didn’t want to break the news that the fragrance was strong enough, others would too.
When the paramedics arrived back at the station, three of the engine crew members were playing basketball in the back lot. The two men climbed out of the squad and headed for the dayroom. There they met into the fourth member of the engine crew, Hank Stanley. The captain was pouring himself a cup of coffee.
“How’d it go?” he asked as he turned away from the stove.
“Good. Luckily it was just a pregnant lady who got a little dizzy,” Roy explained.
When Johnny stepped over to the refrigerator to look for the milk, Hank sniffed and scrunched up his face. “Do I smell cookies?”
“That’s Johnny’s new chapstick,” Roy offered. “One of ‘um anyway.”
The younger man nodded as he reached inside. “Uh huh.” With the milk in hand and the door closed, he explained, “It’s sugar cookie scented.”
When the captain raised his eyebrows in question, Roy responded, “He gottum for free on our way out of the place.”
Gage stepped in front of the captain to get a glass from the cupboard. As he poured his milk, he heard Hank snicker and comment, “I guess you’ve gone from chapped lips to sugar lips.”
Johnny rolled his eyes at the familiar phrase while Roy thought back to the ladies following behind his partner, all longingly gazing at the oblivious paramedic.
If you only knew, Cap. If you only knew.
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