Elenna of Polished Quill – the best beta service ever!

PernDragonRider – the best, most encouraging reader ever!

Nikki2513 – Thanks for your encouragement, I hope the story measured up to your expectations. Chris is an amazing character and she really belongs with Street. Maybe the muse can be encouraged to write a C/J fic …

A/N: I read somewhere someone had said that the truck in the original series looked like a bread truck with lights. The new one certainly can't be described that way.

Chapter 5 – All the answers

The hospitals were filled with people, dirty, scared, and injured during the earthquake and its aftershock. Traffic had been a nightmare, trying to get over building materials in the streets, around stalled cars and snarled traffic. There wasn't a place to park, so Boxer pulled the truck up to the ambulance entrance, which of course sent the security guards into a frenzy.

"You can't park here!" one of them growled, laying his hand on his pistol. "Move it out; this is for emergency vehicles only!"

"What does he think this is, a converted bread truck?" Boxer grumbled.

Hondo and Deke got out, lifting Street out and carrying him inside. Chris pulled Luca out; he protested weakly as she wrapped an arm around his waist and led him inside. When they were clear of the truck, Boxer flipped on the lights and siren, peeled out, grinning and flipping the bird to the irritable guards.

The two waited with other injured people in a crowded room for several hours, checked periodically by the triage staff before they were treated. Hondo and the others refused to leave until they got a report on Street and Luca.

The trauma doctor looked and sounded exhausted when he came to tell them that the injured officers had been treated. "Officer Street has a fracture of the right tibia and fibula— no complications; it was a clean break. We set it, and he'll be back to full duty in about six weeks if he follows the doctor's orders."

"And what are the chances of that happening?" Deke asked.

"What about Luca?"

"No fractures or concussion, he does have a minor case of dehydration. He has some bruised ribs that will be painful for a while, and the final count on stitches is one hundred sixteen. If he follows orders, he'll be back in two weeks."

"Yeah, I bet that'll happen."

"They both inhaled a lot of dust and debris, so we're keeping them overnight for observation."

"Not in the same room, I hope," Hondo grinned, "There could be bloodshed."

"Sorry—we're at capacity. They'll just have to behave themselves."

"I'll be sure to tell them that," said Hondo. "Can we see them now?"

"They're upstairs in room 602." The doctor yawned and rubbed his eyes. "You can all go up but don't stay for more than ten or fifteen minutes."

"Sure thing, Doc. Thanks."

Street was not feeling any pain; the nurse had given him a shot of morphine after they had been placed in the room. Feeling bold, he asked a groggy Luca, "So you don't get along with your dad?

"Who told you that?" he asked suspiciously.

"You did," Street laughed.


" 'You're not my father; don't tell me what I can't do.' What was that all about?"

Luca was silent for several minutes then he turned to Jim, eyes glassy. "You know how tall I am? I'm five ten. My dad and my brothers are all over six feet; even my mom and my sister are taller than I am. For three years on the force in Chicago, all I ever got was being compared to my family: 'your dad wouldn't have done it that way; that's not how your brother would handle it.' My dad hated me being a cop. He's ashamed of me—nothing I have done has ever been good enough for him."

"That can't be true; Hondo said you were tops on your team."

"When I came back from Iraq, people spit on me, called me a murderer. I tried to never kill anyone again while I was on SWAT; my dad never said anything about it, ever. If he were proud of me, he would have said something, right?"

Street frowned—that was more information than he'd thought he'd be able to pry out of the recalcitrant officer. Obviously, this was a sore topic that needed to be addressed if he ever hoped to see eye-to-eye with Luca, but he hoped he wouldn't say anything stupid, since his mouth seemed to be moving without the benefit of him thinking through what he wanted to say first.

"Some people can't talk about how they feel; maybe your dad is like that. Be your own person; don't try to outshine everyone else. If you want people to appreciate who you are, you have to be yourself."

"I have to prove myself to everyone. No one takes me seriously."

"Give it time; people will see who you are. Stop pushing it—you're so pushy that it turns people off, so stop being so aggressive. You're only twenty-three; you have plenty of time to claw your way to the top." It felt odd to be saying that to Luca, since he was vaguely aware that someone had said something similar to him some time ago.

"It's just ... they are all top officers, and everyone wants me to be just like them. That's why I moved out here, to get away from being compared to them and everyone finding me not as good."

"You are as good as they are—heck, maybe even better than they are. Be yourself; stop trying to measure up to them. You can follow in their footsteps, but you don't have to try to fill their shoes."

In the doorway, Hondo smiled, murmuring quietly, "Damn. I'm didn't think he remembered me telling him that." Stepping in, he spoke up, teasing, "I hope you two have learned a lesson from all this."

"There are easier ways to meet women," Luca quipped.

"Snowbirds aren't so bad once you get them really into California," Street laughed.

"Somebody sounds like they aren't feeling any pain," said Chris, smiling down at Street.

"No pain, no gain." he smiled back at her.

"Oh yeah, he's making all kinds of sense." Deke laughed. "How about you, Luca? You in a happy place now?"

"Happier place." He blinked slowly, obviously fighting sleep.

"Do you still want to go back to Chicago?" asked Boxer.

"Nah, 'smore 'citing 'er." Luca slurred.

"I don't think either one of them are going to remember any of this conversation in the morning," Hondo chuckled.

"I think you're right."

"I guess that means you'll have to postpone the lecture you were going to give them?"

"It'll wait," Hondo agreed.