"Listen up, people!" Captain Basra boomed. "I've got an announcement to make."
As all of the crews gathered in, an air of uncertainty and concern settled over the ambulance bay. Something was up. Something big and probably bad.
"I'm sure that you all know about my recent health concerns." Basra continued. "Well, it turns out that I'm not quite out of the woods yet. Effective Thursday, I will be on medical leave until further notice. Which means that you will have a fill-in supervisor during that time." He paused for a moment to let his words sink in before continuing. "That said, I have decided that Cameron Boone will take my place until I return. Should something happen…well, we'll cross that bridge when we come to it. Any questions?"
"What am I supposed to do for a partner?" Tyler demanded. He was not happy about this. What was he supposed to do without Boone? And how could Boone do this to him? Again!
"Your new partner will be here at shift change Thursday morning." Basra answered. "Anyone else?"
No one answered.
Tyler stood in stunned amazement. Boone shifted uneasily beside him, but he barely noticed. He was going to have a new partner. Thursday! As in three days from today!
"I'm sorry, man-" Boone started, but Tyler cut him off.
"Why didn't you tell me?" he demanded. "What the hell, Boone! You're tradin' in the rig for a desk? Again? You're tradin' in me for a desk? Again? I thought we were done with this Captain crap!"
"When were you gonna tell me? Thursday morning when I walk in to find whoever this person is in my truck?"
"What was I supposed to do?" Boone shot back. "I've managed this place before. He asked me to do it again and I said yes. I was gonna tell you."
"I…hadn't gotten that far yet."
Tyler stared daggers at his partner, "Well that's just frickin' great, Boone."
Thursday came all too soon. Boone had gathered Nancy, Glenn, Tyler, Rabbit, and Marisa in the break room as soon as they'd come in that morning. Tyler hadn't said a single word since he'd stalked into the ambulance bay, blue eyes blazing.
"Has anybody seen the new guy?" Glenn asked.
No one answered.
"There's a truck in the parking lot I've never seen before." Marisa offered. "Gray Ford Ranger, South Carolina tags."
Rabbit perked, "South Carolina?"
"Yeah." Sensing a change, Marisa looked closely at her partner, "You know anybody from South Carolina?"
Before Rabbit could answer, Boone leaned into the break room from the doorway, "Rabbit, can I see you for a minute?"
The flight medic shrugged and followed Boone out into the hallway and up toward the office, "What's up?"
"I wanted you to meet her first." Boone explained, "She says she knows you."
"She?" Rabbit grinned, "Wow. I didn't know I was that popular. Does she know me or does she know of me?" As they rounded the corner, he froze.
She stood in the hallway outside Boone's office, nervously twisting a strand of light brown hair. She smiled shakily as Boone came around the corner with Rabbit in tow. Seeing the stunned look on Rabbit's face, she opened her arms, "Surprise?"
In a blur of movement, Rabbit closed the distance between himself and the woman and scooped her up in a bear hug. "I missed you so much, Jo." he whispered, voice trembling as he kissed her cheek.
"I missed you, too, Reu."
Boone smiled to himself as he watched the reunion. He hadn't seen Rabbit's sister since the aftermath of the accident that had claimed Terry and Rotor, and he also knew that Rabbit hadn't seen her either. She'd told him that when she'd been hired and had asked to see her brother before anything or anyone else. Boone wasn't sure what exactly had happened between them, but from the looks of things, it seemed to be forgotten.
Rabbit pulled away slowly and held her at arm's length, looking her up and down. "What are you doing here?"
"I'll tell you later."
Something in her tone worried him, "What happened, Jo?"
"Oh, no." He pulled her back into a tight hug, "When?"
"About a week after I went back home from here last year." She fought to control her emotions, "I'll tell you about it later, okay?"
"Okay." He let her pull away before turning to face Boone. "Why didn't you tell me they were hirin' my sister, man?"
Boone shrugged, "She asked us not to."
"I wanted to surprise you." Jo explained.
Rabbit shook his head as he took her hand and led her back down the hallway, "I'm surprised all right." He felt like he was floating. He couldn't believe Jo was here. After what had happened between them, he couldn't believe she'd even applied with SSFD knowing that he worked there. And yet, here she was, acting like nothing had happened. Part of him felt awful for being responsible for their fallout, but the other part of him was so happy to have her back that the awful-feeling part took a backseat.
"You wanna introduce her to everyone?" Boone asked.
"Yeah." Rabbit chuckled as he turned his attention back to Jo, "You have got to meet my partner!"
Boone smiled as he followed the siblings back to the break room. Well, that went better than I planned. he thought, Now all I have to do is take her to Tyler.
All eyes were on Rabbit as he entered the break room with Jo.
"Guys, this is my sister, JoAnn Wheeler." Rabbit pointed to each person as he named them, "That's my partner, Marisa, that's Glenn, you remember his partner, Nancy, you've already seen Boone again, and-" He stopped at Tyler's empty seat, "Well, that was your new partner, Tyler. You met him last year, too. He's not real thrilled with being reassigned."
Jo shrugged, "Understandable."
"How've you been?" Nancy stood and gave her a hug.
Jo returned the hug, "I've been. What about you?"
"Makin' it." Nancy pulled away and motioned to Glenn, "I've been trying to teach this one a thing or two since we last saw each other."
Glenn stood and shook Jo's hand, "Guess I'm not the Probie anymore."
" 'Fraid you're wrong there, kiddo." Jo pointed to the word 'PARAMEDIC' on her badge, "I've done my time."
"Since when do you have a sister?" Marisa asked, also shaking Jo's hand.
"Since I was four." Rabbit answered.
"No offense, but you two don't look anything alike. Or sound anything alike."
"We're half-" Jo started to explain, but Rabbit cut her off.
"We grew up on different coasts, okay?" Rabbit hastily interjected, "Long and complicated story."
"So you're the one from South Carolina?" Glenn asked.
Jo nodded, "Yep."
"Nice truck you got outside."
Rabbit tugged at Jo's hand, "C'mon, I'll show you around."
Jo laughed as he pulled her out of the break room.
Boone followed them quietly, wondering how Tyler would react to Jo. He knew his friend well enough to expect resistance.
"Locker room, bedrooms, restrooms, storage, supply room, more storage, somebody's office…" Rabbit pointed to each room as he led her to the ambulance bay.
Tyler was already busy checking out the ambulance when he heard footsteps behind him. He pretended not to notice. Two sets. Maybe three? Yes, three…one of them was Boone. One set was Rabbit. Why was Rabbit there? The other was…
"You must be Tyler."
He cringed. The voice was female! You have got to be kidding me! he thought. "Who wants to know?" he asked, not bothering to turn around.
"Tyler, this is your new partner." Boone said.
"Nice to meet you." Without stopping to acknowledge anyone, he opened up a compartment and quickly counted its contents.
"Tyler." Boone's voice was stern.
He sighed and slowly turned around.
She was pretty at least. Long, light brown hair pulled up into a ponytail, camo Mossy Oak sunglasses perched atop her head, blue eyes, tan skin, tall…
He'd seen her before. The recognition startled him. He'd seen her this morning! He'd seen her at least once every day since Monday! She was his new neighbor from across the hall! She was the one whose nephew he'd helped haul her furniture from a U-Haul up to her apartment! He'd seen her somewhere else, too. But where? And then, it hit him. She was Rabbit's sister. Why hadn't he recognized her sooner? What was her name? He had to think hard before it came to him: JoAnn. JoAnn Wheeler, but she went by Jo. Crap. Of all the people to be stuck with!
"Tyler Briggs." Jo smiled, "It's been a while."
"Yeah. It has." He shook her outstretched hand, frowning when he saw her badge. "You're a medic?"
"I am. Boone told me you passed Boards not too long ago."
"Yeah." He looked to Boone, "Why is there a paramedic standing in front of me instead of an EMT?"
Boone shifted his weight from one foot to the other, "Apparently the Powers That Be like the idea of a dual-medic truck. Captain Basra hired her before he went on leave; I didn't have anything to do with it."
"Wonderful." He whirled around and went back to checking out the ambulance, slamming compartments shut as he inspected them.
"I got this." Jo assured Rabbit before climbing into the back of the truck, "Here, let me help you."
"I'm almost done, you don't have to help." He tried to stay on the opposite side of the box with his back to her. From the corner of his eye, he saw Boone and Rabbit leaving the bay.
"I always help. It's not fair for one person to have to do all the work."
He didn't have a reply for that.
"Look, Tyler, I know you're not happy about this. Boone told me all about it, and about you. This whole situation is temporary, okay? Six to eight weeks max, and I'll be out of your hair and on another rig. I'm going to try to make this as painless as possible. All I ask is that you do the same."
He was silent for a moment, "So Boone told you about me, huh?"
"Some, yeah." She began checking compartments, familiarizing herself with their ambulance.
"Did he tell you that I was…out?"
"No." Though that would've been very helpful. she thought. " What you do outside of here is none of my business, anyway."
"I hope it won't be a problem."
She could tell by the tone of his voice that he did hope it would be a problem. "Like I said; six to eight weeks."