Pluck Not the Wayside Flowers

By Heather B.

All HMR and Jesse Hawkes characters are property of A Shane Co and Sibling Rivalry. I don't own them. I do own any original characters that are created for this story.

Chapter 2

With Matt gone, Tim was in charge as second in command. From the moment that everyone 'landed' at the station the next morning till the mid-afternoon of the next, the five remaining Rangers had been busting ass to keep up with the calls coming in. It was spring, the weather was good and people had been suffering from a bout of cabin fever. So those two things spelled an increase in the number of people going on 'holiday' to traipse around the mountains, which resulted in them getting lost or hurt.

Izzy was manning the phones after the most recent call when Tim called him on the radio and told him to order pizza from Mac's. They were all too sore and too tired to even think about trying to fix something at the station. Izzy acknowledged and dialed the number he knew by heart. Everyone traded rounds at the radio desk except Matt and it was his turn to be the desk jockey for the afternoon. His arms and legs were sore from the climb he had to do to get to a stranded hiker, not to mention the scrape on his neck from the tree branch that his horse had backed him into after shying away from a badger that decided to pop out of the rock outcropping in front of him. He swore he still had sap stuck to his neck.

The last thing on his mind as he waited absent mindedly for someone at Mac's to pick up was Melody. But when a feminine voice on the other line answered with, "Mac's Pizza Place, can I help you?" his heart nearly leapt out of his chest.

He tried to formulate the words to place the order but couldn't seem to get them past his throat. That soft alto voice spoke again, "Hello?" she said sounding curious as to who was on the other line.

Izzy startled, "Uh, yeah...I need to order two large pepperoni, one medium hamburger and one large cheese pizza," he blurted out.

Melody totaled it up, "That'll be thirty-two dollars. Do you want pickup or delivery?" She had an idea of who it was but wouldn't be sure until she got the destination of the delivery.

Izzy swallowed, "Uh…Delivery uh…to the High Mountain Rangers station…," he said stammering. His heart rate was up and his palms sweaty.

Melody smiled, "Is this Izzy?" she asked cheerfully.

Izzy's brain froze. He suddenly couldn't speak.

"Izzy?" she asked, "Are you ok?"

He swallowed hard past the lump in his throat, "Yeah…sorry….long couple of days," he said, trying to give explanation to his hesitation.

Melody ah'd softly into the phone. "It's ok. So that's two large pepperoni, one medium hamburger and one large cheese pizza for a total of thirty two dollars for delivery. Anything else?" she asked, giving him something to refocus on.

Izzy shook his head, "Uh…no. That'll be all," he replied, knowing his face was a little flushed and thanking his lucky stars the guys weren't here to tease him about this.

Melody smiled to herself, "Ok. It'll be there in about half an hour. Bye Izzy," her tone sounding almost shy before she hung up.

Izzy couldn't even muster the courage to say good bye and was thankful she'd hung up the phone first. He put his head down on his desk and mentally berated himself for being such a freak. He took a few minutes to slowly bring his heart rate down. Finally he lifted his head and sighed. He went into Matt's office and got the cashbox out of the bottom file drawer and pulled out the thirty two dollars and then three dollars more for the tip to the driver.

He'd forgotten to ask for a receipt but Mac knew them well enough that he wouldn't send the driver over without one. He put the cash under his phone on his desk and sat down, staring at the stack of mail the station had received. Most likely they were bills or more paperwork that needed to be filled out. He didn't know how Matt kept up with it all and still go out on calls.

He picked up the envelope opener and went to work, his mind drifting, remembering her voice over the phone. He went back over every syllable she's uttered, trying to find a hint that might tell him how she felt about him. She seemed excited to hear that it was him but was that more in a friendly manner of having just met them all a few days before or was there more to it….his mind buzzed around in circles about a pair of gray-blue eyes and auburn hair.

With Mac's driver busy on another delivery, Mel took the pizzas herself. After getting directions from Mac, she pushed the pizzas into the passenger seat of her beat up little Toyota truck. It wasn't much to look at with rusted wheel wells and a dented rear bumper and tail gate from where the previous owner got rear ended and never got it fixed. The interior was clean but faded from years in the sun.

Following the directions, she finally found the station and pulled into an empty parking spot out front. She could see several Blazers sitting off to the side lot with the paint job and light bar on them that indicated they were law enforcement. She stepped out of the truck and pulled the boxes of pizza towards her, then shut the door with a side thrust of her hip and walked towards the front porch.

As she walked, her eyes took in every detail of the place that she could see. She opened the front door and stepped inside and immediately liked what she saw. It had a rustic feel but was set up for the maximum of efficiency and comfort for people who had to share the space for days at a time. There was a desk with radios and a computer setup right inside the door with a tall, sandy haired man sitting at it, going over what appeared to be mail.

She did one more sweep of the station with her eyes as if checking to see if they were alone then went to the desk, "Hi Izzy," she said, pausing as she watched his head jerk up to stare wide eyed at her. "Got your delivery." She stood there holding out the pizza boxes towards him.

Izzy's head shot up, "Mel! What are you doing here?" he blurted before he could catch himself.

Mel set the pizzas down on the desk in front of him, "Mac's driver was busy with several other deliveries. I volunteered to bring these over since it's slow at the diner." She reached into her pocket and fished out the receipt, setting it on top. "Mac remembered you needed a receipt."

Izzy nodded and lifted up his phone, pulling the cash out with the tip. His hand shook a little as he handed it to her. "There's a…..tip in there….for you," he stammered.

Mel took the money and pocketed it. She looked around as if trying to clear her thoughts or find something to talk about, allowing her to stay just a little longer. "Do you live here or do you have a place somewhere else?" she asked.

Izzy swallowed, trying to get rid of the lump that had risen in his throat as if it was trying to choke him. "I…sorta live here. No need to … rent a place when you get free lodging here. Everyone else has a room here for when they are doing the night shift or staying due to fatigue …"

She nodded, fidgeting some. "So…what do you do on your days off? Don't you ever wish you weren't…you know…here all the time? I think I'd go batty being here even on my days off."

Izzy nodded, "I usually get out and do stuff and just come back to sleep...Or I go camping."

"Does your girlfriend go with you?" she asked with a raised eyebrow.

He blinked as if the question caught him by surprise, "Girl…Girlfriend? No, I don't have a girlfriend. It's just usually me…going by myself," he said shifting again in his seat. His was uncomfortable under that gaze of hers, nervous, embarrassed. His face felt like it was on fire. He mind quickly imagined his hair catching fire and him having to leave to put it out, if only to get away from her to cool himself down.

Mel ah'd softly. "Do you….uhm…like to go to Rodeos and stuff?"

Izzy shrugged slightly with one shoulder, "I grew up around them, but I do from time to time…why?"

She shrugged in return, copying his movement, "Don't…think me too forward but there's a rodeo going on down at the arena starting Wednesday. I was…well me being new in town…I was wondering if you'd go with me. You know, show me the sites and stuff, watch people get bounced around the ring, that sort of thing…"

Izzy simply stared at her, his mouth open a little. She was asking him to go out with her for a night on the town. Had he just died and gone to heaven? Or maybe it was hell and this was a cruel joke on the part of the devil.

Mel fidgeted nervously, looking a bit embarrassed as the silence from Izzy stretched on, "I…take that as a no?" she asked quietly.

Izzy shook his head, "No…no. I'm sorry, I just … yes, I'd like to go to the rodeo with you. I've got Thursday off. Would…would that work?"

Mel nodded, looking almost relieved that he'd said yes. "I think so but let me check with Mac. I haven't worked here long enough to know if Thursday nights are busy or not." She smiled softly, "I'll call and let you know, ok?"

"Ok," he responded as he looked down to make sure he had a hold on the receipt so it didn't get lost. When he looked back up he saw she was backing towards the door. She gave him a little grin and a wave. "Bye..." she said as she got to the door, blushing a delicate pink high on her cheek bones as she left.

Izzy waved back a little and watched her until she was pulling out of the parking lot. He picked up the pizza boxes and as he moved towards the kitchen, he heard the tell tale sound of the chopper approaching and said a silent prayer that no one was here to witness what had just transpired.

As he put the pizzas in the oven to keep warm to people were settled, it hit him. He was going on a date…him on a date with a beautiful woman. He kept expecting to wake up any moment and discover it was all a dream. He even went so far as to pinch himself in the arm to prove he was. He winced and sighed. Yup, he was awake. Now just to keep the guys from finding out or he'd never hear the end of it.

Mel got back to Mac's and put the money in the till, keeping the three dollars out for her tip. She walked back into the kitchen where Mac was busy shoving pizzas into the oven. "Mac, do you need me on Thursday night?"

Mac turned a little to look at her, "Not really. Why?"

Mel smiled a little and blushed, "Izzy and I are going to go to the rodeo down at the arena. He's gonna show me around a little."

Mac ah'd, "I see. Well, go ahead and take the night off." His face then took on a serious look and he shook a finger at her. "You be good to Izzy. He's the shy one of those Rangers and I won't see him hurt," he said in a protective manner.

Mel averted her eyes in embarrassment and nodded, "I'll try," was all she could say to that and quickly turned, headed back to the counter to get to the phone that was ringing.

The rest of the crew had arrived and pizza was passed around as tired and hungry Rangers began to sprawl out onto couches and chairs. They were quiet as they ate, aching muscles and sore bodies sapped any extra energy to speak for the time being. In time, when the food had been devoured and cat naps taken, they'd be in a more talkative or responsive mood.

When the phone rang, everyone simply ducked their heads, groaned in frustration and looked like whipped puppies. Izzy had been sitting at the desk and reached for the phone. "High Mountain Rangers, Officer Flowers speaking."

"Hi Izzy," came a feminine voice over the line. "Mac said I could have Thursday night off. Could you come and get me at say…2pm at Mac's? We can head over to my place and I'll grab a quick shower before we head out? Don't want to go out smelling like a pepperoni pizza," she said with a slight giggle.

Izzy blushed a little and though of a hundred comebacks for that but with everyone trying to listen in to see if they had to go on another call he kept it simple, "Ok," he said quietly.

Mel noticed the difference in the way he spoke, "The Rangers are back, aren't they."

Izzy said another silent prayer of thanks, "Yeah."

Mel chuckled softly, "Ok…I'll let you go. See you at two on Thursday. Bye," she said and hung up.

Izzy hung up the phone and looked back down at his pizza. He could feel the four sets of eyes on him.

Tim raised an eyebrow, "Well? Do we have another call?"

Izzy looked up then shook his head. "Wrong number."

Jim looked over at him, "Awful long phone call for a wrong number wasn't it?"

Izzy shrugged, "They kept talking to themselves, finally working out who they were supposed to be calling, then verified with me they were right." He shrugged. He hated lying to them but they didn't have any right to know what was going on in his private life just yet. This could be nothing more than a friendly get together and they'd go to the rodeo and she'd realize it was all a mistake and that's all there would be to it.

Tim looked at Jim and the latter shrugged. That seemed to be the end of any discussion. It didn't take long to devour the remainder of the pizza and as the night wore on, those that were staying on for the night shift settled in and the rest made their way home or to their own beds.

Mel got home late that night after helping Mac close up. She spent some time getting showered and cleaned up, laying out her clothes for the next day and putting things away. She went to the kitchen and grabbed a bottle of water from the fridge and moved over to her computer. She started it up and then waited until the login screen came on. She entered her password and then went to the file marked 'Journal'.

She sat quietly for a moment, collecting her thoughts and then began to type. When she was satisfied that she'd remembered everything she could, she closed down that file and then shut down her computer. A slow smile stretched across her lips as she thought back about the day's events, savoring certain moments, rolling them around in her mind as she examined them in detail.

Finally, she stretched out on the couch watching the news until she grew tired. Tahoe was definitely an active place compared to Rapid City. When the weatherman was done with his predictions, she shut the TV off and wandered into her room, not bothering to turn on a light. There wasn't much there to stumble over or get tangled in since her apartment was bare of all but the essentials. With a backward bend to un-kink her back, she crawled into bed, letting the thoughts of Izzy follow her down into sleep.