Pairing: non, gen, friendship fic
Words: Complete, betaed by ldyanne
Summary: Right now, Roy DeSoto needed to be a paramedic.
Spoilers: Set just after the fourth season episode "The Mouse".
Notes: Just saw "The Mouse". The ending bugged me, enough so I needed a filler to spackle the cracks. No AU, no episode tampering. Just a little spackle.
Disclaimer: Emergency! is owned by Universal, MCA and its affiliates. This story is parody and for entertainment purposes only.
As a paramedic, the moment your hands touches your victim, he or she becomes your patient. He or she takes precedence. Nothing else. Any sign of life needed to be grabbed with both hands.
As a fireman, you do not leave a brother behind.
Two seconds. Two lousy seconds to make a decision; to make a choice.
Right now, Roy DeSoto needed to be a paramedic.
One fist gripped the back of the sweater and Roy slung the limp body across his shoulders. He shouted behind him for Johnny but the roar and spit of fire drowned out everything as he stumbled, half dazed, his own voice ringing in his head.
Get her out. Get her out. Get her out.
It kept in pace with his feet as he staggered out of the shattered apartment, out the skeleton of the window, his eyes fixed on the ladders set up against the exterior walkways.
Someone shouted something behind him but Roy kept his eye on the fireman guiding tenants down the ladder. His shoulders ached, his back strained and with each step closer to the fireman, the louder the ringing grew in his ear.
Only it was saying something different now.
"Get her downstairs," Roy rasped as he rolled his victim into the nameless fireman's arms without warning. He knew the fireman. There was a name to the face but right now, Roy drew a blank. "She needs O2," he gasped out, already pivoting around to head back.
Get Johnny. Get Johnny. Get Johnny.
The ringing escalated to a roar, louder than fire, louder than the sirens and the shouting outside. Roy's feet just steered him back, driven more by memory, fueled by the smoke that billowed around him and by the command in his head.
"Whoa, whoa, whoa!" A hand wrapped around his arm and Roy bared his teeth at whoever was stupid enough to stop him. Roy jerked as he tried to reclaim his arm.
"Have to go back," Roy bit out. "My part—"
"I got him! He's alive! He's right here!"
The haze that veiled his sight and narrowed it to the apartment lifted and the roar silenced. Roy stared at the yellow turnout coat, at the unfamiliar face and zeroed in on the swaying dark head draped across the stranger's shoulders.
"I'll take him." Roy thrust out his arms, probably ruder than he should be to a comrade who may have very well saved his partner's life, who made the choice as a firefighter when Roy didn't.
"I got him," the man said and he hefted John higher on his shoulders. He scanned Roy up and down. There was no reproach in the man's eyes. His eyes narrowed with a sympathy that made Roy flinch.
"Give him to me," Roy said hoarsely. "He's my partner."
Something flickered in the other's eyes and he glanced sideways to Marco—Roy hadn't noticed him before—before he nodded.
"He's alive," the fireman repeated before he transferred John over to Roy's shoulders. With an audible click in his head, the mantra silenced in Roy's head and new sounds filtered in: fire, shouting…
Before Roy could fumble out his thanks, the fireman gave him a nod and ran back with Marco towards the devil's breath.
Roy turned towards the other direction, his arms firmly curled around limp limbs. He was careful with his charge as he descended the ladder because he was still a paramedic above all else.
Cap took John from him before Roy could say anything. Judging by his captain's set mouth, Roy suspected Cap knew what had happened but instead of the bark he expected, Cap merely clapped the back of his coat. Face blackened with soot, voice roughened with smoke, Cap was still able to soften his voice as he carried John on his shoulders and guided Roy towards the squad with a light hand on his back.
"Squad 36 got your patient on O2. She's breathing on her own right now."
His patient. Roy fought back a twitch on his face when he nodded. There was a pang in his gut when he realized he really should have been there getting her vitals. He wiped the grime and sweat off his face with the back of his right sleeve before he staggered to the yellow emergency blankets spread out on the street to serve as a triage area. Several firemen in different turnout coats blearily looked up, air masks over their dirty faces. They all nodded wordlessly when they saw Roy, shuffling aside to make room when they saw Cap and his ward.
The woman they'd rescued laid out supine on the ground; a nose cannula on her, evidence Squad 36 had done what needed to be done. She blinked half-mast at Roy when he stooped over her. She gave him a watery smile and looked like she was going to burst into tears when Roy quietly assured her she was going to be fine and to just lay back and let the O2 do its work.
It was automatic at this point: getting the latest BP, her pulse, her respiration, getting Rampart. It was the same with the second victim just brought in. He kept moving, twisting around for his drug box, working off the visual cues the injuries gave. IVs were administered, lungs were listened to, blood was wiped away; everything a paramedic needed to do, Roy did.
Every so often though, the drone of what needed to be done stuttered and he found himself trying to look across their makeshift triage area to where his captain and partner were. Roy caught a glimpse of Cap pressing his facemask over John's face but then the third victim with his second-degree burns was carried over to him and the paramedics from 36 crouched in front of his view. Roy swallowed and refocused on the victim in front of him.
"…regular saline over…"
"LA, I need a third alarm for…"
"…good sinus rhythm…"
"…going to blow!"
Radioed and live voices battered him from all sides. Each clamored for his attention, but the one sound he was hoping to hear stayed stubbornly silent.
Roy could feel the heat pushing against him from behind when another apartment blew. He did look up, because fire's never meant to be ignored, but when he saw the streams of water sailing from the cannons above, that part of him stepped back and he paid attention to the groans around him instead. His hands swept over bleeding wounds and frantically beating hearts as once more Roy found he needed to focus on being a paramedic again.
But there was still another part of him that made him look up once more, to peer around Squad 36's paramedic to the pair at the end of the yellow-blanketed spot. It was a pocket of quiet—too quiet, why was it so quiet—that made Roy's eyes just burn. It had nothing to do with the heavy smoke that drifted over everything and made everyone else cough.
"Thank you," the woman whispered as she gazed up at Roy. Her hand shook as she reached up and touched his sleeve. "You saved my life."
Roy's face ached when he twisted his mouth to an appropriate smile, but the usual "Just doing my job" got lodged in his throat and wouldn't come out.
"Keep breathing deeply and slowly," Roy croaked instead. He swiveled on the balls of his feet to check on the burn victim. Pulse was steady, bit too rapid—why was it still quiet over there—and BP was too low. Roy grabbed the phone for Rampart and as he rattled off the new vitals, he tried to check past someone's shoulder but too many people who needed help crowded the area.
Then, Roy finally heard it. A cough.
"Take it easy," Cap was saying somewhere behind 36's men and the ambulance attendants arriving with their gurneys. "Just breathe deep, okay? Calm down. He's…hey, hey, he's all right. He's over there. See?"
Roy wanted to look. He wanted a glimpse to ground himself because right now, he's not really sure who he's supposed to be this very minute.
"Geez, head back. He's fine. He's all right. Will you just—" Cap sighed.
"Roy? Want to come over here for a second?"
"Go," 36's Clark said, his eyes on a pressure cuff, but the corner of his mouth quirked. "We can handle it from here. Go see to your partner."
Roy simply straightened, shed the stethoscope around his neck and took the three steps he needed to reach the pair.
John was trying to sit up while Cap was trying to get him to lie down. It would have been funny; John flopped like a caught fish as Cap, who was a few inches taller than John, struggled to keep him still.
Would have been funny. If it weren't for the wide-eyed panic on John's face.
"Hey." Roy crouched in front of John. He had to pull the facemask off his partner because it fogged up and blinded John. "Where do you think you're going?"
John's arms stilled and flopped to his sides. He squinted up at Roy—his eyes watered from coughing and ran black tears down his face—and his right hand went up.
And gave Roy a poke with a trembling finger.
"There. You see?" Cap huffed behind John. With both hands, he nudged John to lie down on his back again. "Now will you hold still, pal?"
John made a tiny cough and a few eye blinks that released more inky tears. He poked Roy again on the shoulder and seemed satisfied. He dropped his head back to the ground and the folded turnout coat under his head.
"You should have said something, Cap," John wheezed.
Cap smooshed the facemask over him with a growl.
Roy could see the crooked smile John gave him through the shield. Roy returned it with faint one of his own and squeezed a knee.
"Thanks," John mouthed before he sighed and closed his eyes to concentrate on breathing.
Roy's smile faded.
Something wasn't right.
John studied Roy as he rummaged through the drug box with a set mouth. No, not good at all. Last time Roy looked that way, he lost his patient from the pottery factory over at Pico. Roy was beating himself up with a two-inch over it. But it wasn't Roy's fault. Roy had crawled under debris for hours until he found the guy. There wasn't any other way to get to the victim. John knew it—took a few days though—and Roy knew it, too…eventually.
And Roy said John gets too emotionally involved.
The fire behind him was finally dying down. The ambulances have all pulled away and they would have been behind them in the squad but John tried to get up, only to fall back down.
"Hold still. Gonna sting a little," was Roy's only warning.
John scoffed. "Please. It's just a minor lacer—Ouch!" The holler nearly unseated him from the hood of the car he was sitting on. To his chagrin, a couple of firemen started and turned to look.
There was a flash of something on Roy's face but then he turned around towards the drug box and when he faced John again with the gauze in his fists, it was gone.
It wasn't fair. Each time John tried to get a better look at Roy—Roy said he was okay, but the guy could walk around with a fractured tibia and say he was okay—his partner distracted him with another wipe across his bloodied left brow. Sting nothing, it felt like Roy was pouring gasoline over his skin. John cringed but Roy only huffed and tugged him back forward again with a firm grip of his collars.
"Ouch," John coughed again. His throat ached, dry and prickly like he swallowed sand or ate Chet's firemen stew. He took a deep breath but it rushed out in a series of deep hacking coughs that made his eyes water again. This time, it earned him an air mask pressed over his mouth. Roy grabbed his hands and made him hold onto the mask.
John was reluctant to admit, but the cool oxygen blowing gently towards him did clear his head. It was a rotten trick though; John couldn't protest again when Roy picked out what felt like a two-by-four out of his head.
"Splinter," Roy explained before he flicked it off to the side with one hand, the other on John's left shoulder to keep him seated.
John glowered towards the direction the splinter went. He lowered the mask. "You sure?" John rasped. "Felt more like a support beam." He spat. Blood was still trickling down to his mouth. He reared back when another dab ignited just about everything in his head.
"Hold still, damn it."
The snap drew John up short. He studied Roy's closed expression.
"You mad at me about something?" John coughed because he was too tired to try and figure it out on his own right now.
Roy's mouth pressed into a thin line. "No," he muttered as he pressed a thumb around the wound before he wiped around it with gauze soaked with saline. "Not mad at you," Roy mumbled.
"Geez!" John jerked when Roy found what must be another splinter. "You could have fooled me! Be a shame to kill me now after getting me out of there!"
And there it was: the tiny flinch like someone had slapped Roy.
"Ah," Johnny exhaled. The mask now dangled loose on his lap.
"You need to keep using that," Roy grumbled as he cleaned the blood off the left side of John's face. "And what do you mean 'Ah'?"
"Wasn't you, was it?"
Roy's hands stilled over his brow. He lowered his eyes. His Adam's apple bobbed.
"No," Roy rasped and he dabbed a little harder than he should on John's hairline. "It wasn't."
John flinched again, but then Roy slipped a hand around the back of his neck to keep him still and the administrations became more tolerable. Roy studied intently the swelling John could feel over his brow.
"That guy from Pasadena." Roy nodded, his head jerky like it could fall off, towards a fireman in a yellow turnout coat—Geez, yellow?—by Marco in the courtyard. "He got you out."
"I got the victim out." Roy averted his gaze to the drug box as he pulled out more gauze.
"Ah," John said again because what can he say after something like that? He stared at Roy's back but oddly didn't feel like punching him out. Roy already looked and sounded mad enough to want to punch himself out, although John wouldn't mind seeing that because that would be kinda funny to see if Roy could manage that.
Something pinched when Roy prodded the wound and John made a face.
Okay, maybe not that funny.
The drug box rattled as Roy took the last of the padded bandages and tape. Discarded supplies were scattered around John. It looked more like a ruptured spleen was being treated here instead of a lousy laceration.
John was too busy thinking of what to say when Roy tore the sterile wrapping with too much force and the pressure bandage fluttered to the ground. Roy uttered something that would have raised John's eyebrows if it didn't hurt so much.
"I wasn't the one who got you out." Roy was more careful this time in tearing the wrapping and he pulled out the bandage like it was glass. "Wasn't me." His face crumpled before it snapped back into that clenched jaw expression again.
"I made a choice. I saved the victim first." Roy retrieved the mouthpiece and moved it over John's nose and mouth. "You need to keep breathing into it."
John winced as Roy lined up the bandage with his cut. He wished Roy didn't make it sound like he was twiddling his thumbs.
"Ouch," John griped as he pulled the mask away.
"All right, all right," Roy murmured and his brow furrowed as his hands gentled.
John opened his mouth to say something to Roy, but all that came out was another wheezed "Ouch" when Roy used the tape.
"Here we go," Roy said again soothingly under his breath. "Did a good job," Roy said, more to himself and reluctantly pulled away. His hands twitched, though, as if he wanted to check the bandages again.
"Ouch," John grumbled because sooner or later Roy was going to have to take the hint and hopefully stop trying to use the entire drug box on him.
John coughed and took a few more gulps of clean O2 at Roy's pursed lips. He paused as something occurred to him.
"That woman, she gonna be okay?" John frowned mildly. He couldn't remember his initial assessment of her injuries.
Roy gave him a smile that died quickly. "Yeah, she's gonna be fine." He twisted around and started gathering up the drug box.
John took a few more puffs of O2. He stared at Roy's slouched back and wondered how his neck couldn't be bothering him at this point. He wished Roy would just look at him. He bit his lower lip as he surreptitiously studied Roy over the breathing apparatus.
"Guess I almost bought it in there, huh?" John commented lightly and sure enough, Roy's shoulders stiffened.
Shadowed eyes turned back towards him. Roy glanced at the bandage on his head then at the mask John held over his face.
"Yeah." Roy swallowed and it sounded like his voice gave out.
Ah geez, Roy.
John gulped a few more breaths from the mask until the tickling in the back of his throat went away.
"You wanna know what I'd have done if I was in your place?" John offered tentatively.
There was a slight hesitation and wary gleam in Roy's eyes. Roy's right eyebrow arched at John's smirk when he turned back towards him. Roy looked like he dreaded the answer.
"Yeah." Roy stared at him, waiting.
John coughed. "I'd probably…" He paused. "…thrown both of you over my shoulder and…" John shrugged and fanned a hand between them, "blew the flames out in front of me." John finished with a cheeky grin before a tiny cough ruined it.
Roy opened his mouth for what John knew would have been a scoff. Then, his eyes widened and the hard lines around Roy's mouth smoothed out, though not completely. There was relief that flooded his expression, the same relief John felt wash over him when Roy appeared in front of him, the kind of a lightheadedness O2 couldn't cure.
John kept the grin plastered on his face because he could see his words filtering in and Roy getting the message underneath it. Roy rolled his eyes finally and smashed the mask back over John's mouth in silent command. He scowled at John when he tried to pull it off, only relaxing when John held it back over his face with both hands and took a few obedient puffs.
Well, John thought with a smirk behind the O2 mask as Roy's expression eased a fraction, doesn't fix everything but it's a start.
"That was a dirty trick, Roy."
Roy looked up at the sleepy glower next to him and smirked. John glared up from the gurney he was lying on.
"Keep that over your face," Roy murmured as he picked through the drug box he set down on one end of the gurney by John's feet while writing down what they needed from Dix.
"You said we were heading back," John accused, muffled behind the breathing mask.
"No," Roy corrected. "I said let's go. Said nothing about the station."
John pulled the semi-transparent mouthpiece off to hang around his neck. "We didn't need to go to Rampart," John insisted. He gingerly touched the stitches Dr. Early made; it came with a free lecture from Dix when she found out John was just going to hide in the squad until Roy fetched a wheelchair for him.
"That was before you dozed off in the squad." And before he caught the misstep John tried to cover up when he insisted on carrying the O2 tank and before he heard John coughing as he climbed into his seat and before he nearly tumbled into Roy's arms when Roy opened the passenger door to rouse him.
"You already treated me at the scene," John griped. He sat up, ignoring Roy's look and swung his legs over to the side. He craned to look at the glass doors of the wall cabinets to study the stitches.
Roy pointed to the tank on the floor then to his partner's face. John grumbled and pulled the mask back on.
Discussion over, Roy scribbled down the list, scratched off one quantity and upped it. Hm, they would need some more pressure bandages, too. It took three before John's wound finally stopped bleed—
Swallowing, Roy blinked hard and ducked his head. Roy scowled to himself as he stared into the drug box's contents. He would also need some new bottles of saline, too. And…and…
"I was coming back for you," Roy blurted out.
John stopped trying to catch his reflection off the glass. "Yeah?" He turned to Roy with a puzzled frown. "There was no one else?"
Roy rolled the vials of the MS solution in his right hand. "Yeah—I mean, no, there was Pasadena, Marco was there."
"Oh, okay, so they got me out." John flashed him a quick grin but it faded when Roy looked at him. "Let me guess, you sort of figured you were the one going to get me out?"
Roy ran a palm across the lid of the drug box. "At the time," Roy confessed, "It never occurred to me to check if there was anyone else. Just felt like I should be the one since I left you behind. My choice, my responsibility."
John sighed and he shook his head.
"Roy, Roy, Roy, what am I gonna do with you?" John peered at the glass doors again as he felt the stitches. "You still hung up on that?"
"Hung up? You make it sound like—would you stop touching it?" Roy growled as he slapped John's hand away and he pushed the mask up over his partner's face again. "And Dr. Early said you need to keep this on until your cough clears."
"How am I supposed to talk with this thing on?" John complained as he swatted Roy's arm away and pulled it off. He doubled over when he erupted into dry coughing. Roy gripped John's shoulder tightly with one hand, the other rubbing small circles on the bowed back until the wheezing softened to something less painful sounding. John sagged against him, gulping. When Roy picked up the mask dangling around his neck, John gave him a sheepish grin, which got covered up by the mask.
"Besides, what's there to talk about?" Roy kept his hand on the mouthpiece until the minute tremors he felt thrumming down John's back smoothed out. "There's nothing to talk about." Roy screwed up his face and that gnawing sensation in his gut returned. "I couldn't carry you both out so I made a choice." Roy sucked in his breath and abruptly turned back towards the drug box. "I left you and saved her."
John didn't say anything for which Roy was glad (he thinks) and for a few minutes, it was only the sounds of vials clinking and the hushed pumping of the air valves.
There was rustling as John tugged the mask off.
"Think I would have saved her first, too," John rasped after a beat.
The corner of Roy's mouth twitched. "Thought you said you would have thrown both of us over your shoulder."
John scoffed but it turned too quickly into a cough. "And break my back? Roy, you're not exactly petite."
Roy pretended to elbow John. "Thanks a lot, pal."
Teeth flashed in a grin that didn't have an ounce of apology in it. "I'm just saying, Roy. If it came down to it, if I have to make the same choice, it would be the victim first." John shrugged. "Think that's what every paramedic would choose." John nudged him with a foot.
Roy considered John. "We're also firemen," Roy reminded him, "and we never—"
"Yeah, yeah, I know." John's shoulders lifted then dropped. "But I think we're paramedics first. You and I wouldn't have joined the program otherwise."
Roy grunted and rubbed a thumb along the top edges of the drug box's compartments.
"Besides I know you." John waved a hand towards him. "If I made the other choice and got you out and the victim died, you sure as heck would be sore at me." John took a deep breath into the mask before pulling it away from him again. "Just like how I would be sore at you if you got me out and that woman died." A shadow crossed over his face. "Don't think I would have liked that very much."
Roy hopped onto the gurney next to John. His arms dangled between his knees. He studied John; all he could see was…well, it was nothing that reflected what Roy felt churning inside him, what twisted and knotted the moment he carried the victim out.
"It was the right choice, Roy." John bumped him with his left shoulder.
Roy nodded slowly but he sighed anyway. "I know it was…but it didn't feel like it was the good choice."
"Think you were the one who told me that we were going to do a lot of things we're not going to like in this business." John felt his head. "Think that was one of them."
"Will you lay off the stitches?" Roy grumbled and pulled John's hand down. His gut loosened though and he smiled ruefully at John.
"I am sorry I didn't get you out, Johnny."
John grunted and bumped Roy with his shoulder again. "What say you get me dinner and we call it even?"
Roy brightened. He tapped a finger at John's upper arm closest to him. "Sounds good to me. Look, our shift's almost over. What say we head back to my house after this? I'll make you the best beef stew you ever had, partner."
"Aw, that's a fine thing to do to a buddy! I just barely escaped with my life! You're gonna finish me off with your cooking?"
Roy glowered. "Hey, you said it was good last time."
"That was because we had fifteen runs that shift and we couldn't even stop for a taco!" John coughed behind a fist.
"Will you keep that thing on?" Roy griped as he grabbed the breathing piece and held it over John's mouth.
"But then I can't tal—" John growled when the apparatus drowned out the rest of his sentence.
"That’s the idea," Roy said lightly.
John glared at Roy over the mask. He settled down but Roy could feel the grumbling vibrating through the mouthpiece. Roy kept his hand firmly in place though and John eventually calmed down, letting the O2 do its work. John took a deep breath then another before he glanced over to Roy.
"What?" Roy narrowed his eyes. "I'm not taking my hand down." He snickered when he felt another growl thrumming through the mask.
John slightly slapped Roy's chest with the back of his hand then patted his own chest.
"No, no, Johnny, I'm Tarzan, you Jane." Roy chuckled at the glower shot his way but he kept one hand over the mask, the other curled to the back of John's neck.
"I should have thought of this years ago," Roy teased. "Think of all that quiet I could have got."
John scrunched up his face and he batted at Roy's hand but after a few unsuccessful tries, John's shoulders slumped. He repeated the same gesture and looked at Roy.
The corners of his mouth upturned. "Yeah," Roy murmured, "We're okay. I get it. Just promise me I don't have to make that choice ever again."
John nodded then poked a finger square on his chest, his eyes dark and somber.
Roy's hand tightened around John's nape every so slightly and nodded. "I promise too, Johnny."
They sat there, shoulder to shoulder. Roy listened to John breathe and stared at the dark, translucent reflections in front of him. A chill coursed down his back as Roy thought about how close it could have been that he would have been the only reflection staring back. Roy lowered his arms to his sides. No, he was never going to have to make that choice again. Somehow, he’d make sure of it.
John exhaled long and slow as he pulled off the breathing mask. His chest expanded as he took a lungful of air and grinned when he didn't cough.
"You know," John said casually as he slid off the gurney and gingerly set down the mask behind him. "I probably would have been able to carry you two over my shoulder. Just one problem."
"Oh yeah?" Roy jumped off the gurney and retracted the trays in the drug box. "And what's that?"
"Well," John drawled, "it definitely would be a lot easier…if someone lost a few pounds."
Roy furrowed his brow. "Actually, she was pretty light—wait a second!"
"See you in the squad, partner!"
Roy grabbed the drug box and chased after John. He didn't have to think about it this time.
Author's Acknowledgment: To ldyanne, who's has to endure grammar tenses, rewrites and "what if" questions from me. Hugs, babe!
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