"Hardy-har Harlin"

By Ross7

Chapter One

LA County firefighter/paramedic, John Gage, draped the cord of his 'Day Sleeper' sign over the outside knob of his ground-floor apartment's front door. The overly-fatigued fireman then shoved the heavy wooden portal shut—and locked it.

In a further effort to avoid being disturbed for the next few hours, the sleep-deprived man turned and headed off in the direction of his telephones, which he intended to take off their hooks.

Gage was just about to grab the first phone's receiver, when the instrument started 'ring'ing.

His number was unlisted.

Which meant, it could only be headquarters or a close acquaintance that was attempting to contact him.

It took the disturbed apartment dweller another five rings before he finally decided to gamble on it being the latter, and pick up.

"Hello?….Who wants to know?" he cautiously inquired, when he failed to immediately recognize the caller's voice.

It was headquarters.

Gage grimaced and mouthed the words 'damn it'. 'Why did I pick up?' he mentally reprimanded himself. The pooped paramedic, who had just completed a rather grueling 24-hour shift, had no desire—whatsoever—to return to duty.

"Uhhh…Yeah. This is Fireman Gage," he finally fessed up. "What? What happened?…Well, how is he?…They gonna be okay?"

From what Fireman Gage could gather, Station 8's B-Shift had just come on duty, when its Captain and crew got toned out to a structure fire.

By the time the firemen arrived, the single-story wood-frame home was already fully engulfed in flames

While searching the residence for occupants, 8's paramedics had both been overcome by heat exhaustion and were promptly transported to the hospital.

The doctors at Rampart had refused to clear the overheated pair for duty.

Hence, the phone call from headquarters, informing Fireman Gage that—on account of how his name had come up on the rotation—he would be spending one of his four days off over at 8's, subbing for paramedic Ben Franklin.

Less than twenty minutes later, Fireman Gage dutifully pulled in to Station 8's crowded parking lot.

The new arrival flicked his vehicle's ignition off and then sat there, gazing glumly out its bug-guts-splattered windshield. 'Why did I have to pick up?' he silently repeated—er, pouted.

The fireman's frown turned upside down, as, just moments later, his partner backed his little yellow Porsche in right beside his off-white Land Rover, and killed its engine.

"I was wonderin' who I was gonna get stuck with," Gage lightly remarked, as the pair exited their vehicles.

His buddy's right eyebrow arched upwards. "Stuck with?"

"Poor choice of words. Truth is, I was both thrilled—and relieved—to see you drive in just now. Knowin' the two of us'll be workin' together, makes havin' to pull a double almost 'tolerable'."

L.A. County firefighter/paramedic, Roy DeSoto, didn't say a word. He just stood there, looking deeply skeptical. Pulling a double was not on his wife's loooong 'Honey Do' list for him that weekend.

The two friends grabbed their uniforms and duffels and started striding towards the red brick building's back door.

The pair reached the locked portal.

Gage gave its 'buzz'er's button a couple of quick presses. "Wish headquarters would a' said somethin'. I could a' picked you up. We could a' car-pooled."

DeSoto gave his downright cheery chum a perturbed glare. "I had just fallen asleep," he griped. "Joanne is not happy. She wanted me to mow the lawn this afternoon," the no longer off-duty fireman further lamented.

"Look at the bright side. With all the overtime pay you'll be makin' today, you can afford to hire one a' the neighbor kids to mow it for you." Gage exhaled a silent sigh of relief, as he watched his unhappy partner's expression promptly turn from 'peeved' to 'pensive'.

The fire station's back portal finally swung open.

"Welcome to 8's, gentlemen!" B-Shift's boss warmly greeted and motioned for his paramedics' replacements to join him in the apparatus bay.

They did.

The remainder of the fire officer's men had heard their back door's buzzer, too. Station 8's engine crew filed out of the dayroom and into the garage, to greet their guests.

Since he replaced Rick Seeger on Engine 8, from time to time, and since he and B-Shift's boss had gone through paramedic training together, Gage took it upon himself to handle the introductions. "Captain Greg Stoner…Benjamin James Edwards the III…Richard Seeger…and last, but certainly not least, Harlin Thompson. Guys, I'd like you to meet my paramedic partner from 51's, Roy DeSoto."

Genuinely warm smiles and hearty handshakes were exchanged.

John's gaze had locked onto—and remained riveted upon—the last person he'd introduced. "Man, I sure didn't expect to see you here. Don't tell me the honeymoon is over already."

"No way!" Harlin assured him. "Cindy said she'd rather put the money toward a down payment on a home. So, instead of jetting off to Jamaica, we went house hunting."

His bachelor friend's face filled with disbelief. "That is gonna come back and bite you in the ass," the paramedic ominously predicted. "If I were you, I'd purchase some more plane tickets—pronto!"

"I'm tellin' yah, Johnny, Cindy is perfectly happy—at home. She claims we don't have to go anywhere. According to her, 'our life together is going to be one, long, never-ending honeymoon'."

"Pronto!" Johnny adamantly repeated.

Harlin emitted an exasperated gasp. "Gage, you—"

"—I hate to cut this short," Captain Stoner apologized. "But the sooner our guests can get geared up, the sooner I can place the Squad back in service."

"Right!" 8's engineer, B.J. Edwards, wholeheartedly agreed. "We'll get the Squad back up and running, and then we are gonna show you guys some genuine firehouse hospitality."

"Thompson," Stoner addressed the newlywed, "show these gentlemen to their lockers. Oh, and fix them up with some helmets and turnouts."

"Sure thing, Cap'!" Thompson eagerly acknowledged. "We'll fix 'em right up,"

Roy quickly concluded that he was gonna need to keep an eye on that guy.

Judging by the hint of mischief in his voice and the glint of mischief in his eyes, Harlin Thompson was Station 8's equivalent of 51's Chester B. Kelly.

The engine crew escorted their paramedics' replacements over to the foot of a rather steep stairway.

The two 'subs' would be getting a great deal of exercise that weekend, because the fire station's sleeping quarters and lockers were located on the building's second floor.

"Hey, Johnny, who was that cute little brunette?" Thompson innocently inquired, as the group started trudging up the steps—single file.

"I'm afraid you're gonna hafta be more specific," Johnny calmly came back. "Yah see, I am currently acquainted with at least a dozen 'cute little brunettes'," he immodestly added.

His climbing companions rolled their eyes.

"Okay," Harlin begrudgingly obliged. "The one I saw you with at our reception last Saturday night."

"I'm afraid you're gonna hafta be more specific," his bachelor buddy wryly repeated. "Yah see, I was with several 'cute little brunettes' at your reception last Saturday night."

Roy suppressed a grin, as his buddy's latest boast caused 8's engine crew to emit a group groan.

"5'4"," Harlin reluctantly described. "Turquoise dress…"

"Ahhh. Yes. Her name is Amanda. Why?"

"Just curious."

They reached the top of the stairs.

Edwards and Seeger headed off, in search of some suitable turnout gear for their guests.

Thompson led the paramedics past the station's shiny, brass firepole and up to a couple of empty lockers. "Roy, you can take that one," he announced, and pointed to the locker on the left. "Johnny, you can have this one," he determined and motioned to its twin, on the right.

The duo dropped their duffels down onto the bench in front of their assigned lockers, and started stripping.

Their lingering guide sighed. "So-o…That was Amanda, huh…"

John exhaled a resigned sigh of his own. "Yeah. Why?"

"Just curious. Yah see, I heard that you—and a special someone—have been seeing an awful lot of each other, lately."

Gage managed an amused gasp and began rummaging through his red canvas duffel. "Yeah? Well, you heard wrong." He found his black, leather work boots and dropped down onto the bench, to swap them for his sneakers. "I haven't been seeing an awful lot of anybody—including Amanda. The two of us have never even dated. Heck, I don't even know her last name."

Edwards and Seeger reappeared just then, their outstretched arms bundled high with borrowed bunker gear.

"You sure 'bout that, Johnny-boy?" Harlin and his crewmates exchanged knowing glances. "Cuz, rumor also has it, that there may be 'wedding bells' in your immediate future."

Upon hearing that, Johnny-boy laughed outright. The fireman finished changing and turned to beam a big, confident grin at the rumormonger. "Believe me, there are no 'wedding bells' in my future—immediate, or otherwise." With the rumor hopefully dispelled, the paramedic stood back up and opened his locker to stow his hangered street clothes away.

Harlin, and his fellow firefighters, laughed heartily as hundreds of tiny white wedding bells came cascading out of the opened cubicle and onto the confirmed bachelor.

John backed up into the bench and then stood there, buried knee deep in wedding bells.

"You still sure 'bout that, Johnny-boy?" Thompson taunted, when he could finally speak again.

Johnny-boy's shoulders sagged in defeat. "We don't call him 'Hardy-har Harlin' for nothing," he announced, purely for his partner's benefit.

DeSoto just stood there, grinning.

"I must confess," Thompson continued. "The idea didn't originate with me. B.J. and Rick pulled this on me last week, right before the wedding."

"That figures." John snatched two of the dainty little white 3-dimensional paper bells up and gave them several quick shakes. "It would take a couple a' real 'ding-a-lings' to come up with something like this," he teased and tossed the bells at his 'dingy' pals.

"Watch it!" B.J. warned with an unrepentant grin, as one of the tossed objects glanced harmlessly off his chest.

"Yeah. Watch it!" Rick repeated, looking and sounding every bit as un-remorseful as his fellow 'ding-a-ling'. "They're a lot easier to pick up, when they're all in one place." The still grinning fireman passed the paramedic his 'procured' gear. Then he pulled a large plastic bag from his back pocket and started stashing wedding bells into it.

Gage gazed glumly down at the enormous pair of bunker pants he'd just been handed. "What happened to the turnouts I usually wear?"

"You usually wear my turnouts," Rick reminded him. "Only, I'm gonna be in my turnouts. So, you get to wear Franklin's."

John's frown deepened. "Franklin's turnouts?" He slipped the over-sized fire coat on and then peered up one of its looong canvas sleeves, in a futile attempt to find his fingers. "That'd be okay—if Franklin's body came with 'em."

Once again, his fellow firefighters were forced to chuckle.

Recalling that their Captain was extremely anxious to get their rescue squad back in service, Harlin quickly provided the complainer with another, more suitable, set of turnouts. "Here. Try these. They belong to a guy on C-Shift. The two of you are about the same size and build."

John tried on the new gear. The coat and helmet were a perfect fit.

DeSoto stared at the strange name that was stenciled across his buddy's back. "C'mon, 'Waring'," he wearily invited. "Let's go check out the Squad." The paramedic picked up his own borrowed gear. Then he latched onto his partner's elbow and started towing him towards the top of the stairs.

John jerked his sleeve free and crossed quickly over to the circular hole in the second floor's floor. "I, uh, prefer to use the pole." That said, the big kid—er, fireman wrapped his wrists and legs around the shiny, brass object. Less than an instant later, he and his smile slid out of sight.

'That did look like fun,' DeSoto silently admitted. 'And 'sliding down the pole' would require less expenditure of energy than 'climbing down the stairs...' With that rationalization, the completely exhausted man tossed his borrowed coat and helmet on and then followed his friend's route to the fire station's first floor.

Gage had opened one of Squad 8's side compartments and was just about to cram his—er, Waring's turnout coat into it, when he heard a rustling sound. The paramedic swung his still-helmeted head around just in time to watch his partner—er, Piedmont? 'drop in'—with a grin. Which John promptly returned.

His friend wasn't completely out of his 'Woe is me, cuz I can't please both headquarters and my wife' funk, yet. But the grins were a sign that he was gradually getting there.

DeSoto got his—er, Piedmont's coat and helmet stowed away and then promptly returned to their rescue truck's passenger side. "Guess we'd better take a look, huh," he reluctantly determined, and motioned to the compartments containing their paramedical equipment.

"That's not a bad idea," Gage agreed.

Each paramedic team had its own 'unique' way of doing things.

It would help to know where 'stuff' was, before they got a run.

John clipped his borrowed helmet to the bracket behind his seat and then he and his buddy began opening and emptying compartments.

The paramedics lined the plastic cases up on the floor of the garage. Then they each took a knee and started flipping them open.

The O.B. kit and Trauma box passed inspection.

Roy jerked another case open—and his jaw dropped. "Would you look at this!" he ordered more than asked.

His partner obligingly looked down at the open case.

Their Drug box's contents were in complete disarray.

John continued to gaze, disbelievingly, down at the mess. "Franklin and Potter apparently have their own…system."

"System?" Roy repeated, sounding every bit as upset as he looked. "How do they ever find anything in there?"

Gage grinned, as something suddenly occurred to him. "Purely by accident," he lightly replied. "Get it?" he prompted, as the pun failed to coax even a 'slight' smile from his extremely unhappy-looking partner. "Accident by accident?"

Roy finally rolled his eyes, but his facial expression remained unchanged.

'One step forward and two steps backward,' John glumly realized.

Squad 8's equipment compartments were quietly repacked and closed.

Roy crossed back around to the truck's driver's side and climbed in behind its wheel. "How does she handle?" he cooly inquired, as his partner slipped into the seat beside him.

John gave his weary shoulders a shrug. "I ride the other rig, when I work over here. Remember?"

Roy flicked the truck's ignition on.

Nothing happened.

"Great!" Roy grouched. "Even if we can get this thing organized, it won't start!"

Captain Stoner stepped up to Bill Potter's apparently unhappy replacement. "Franklin and Potter told me to tell you to jiggle the key," he obligingly passed along, through Squad 8's open window. "Oh. And to not mess up their equipment," the fire officer added with a grin. He'd been 'listening in'.

Squad 8's occupants turned to one another and exchanged looks of utter disbelief.

"It's gonna be a looooong shift," the dark-haired paramedic gloomily predicted.

His fair-haired friend's frowning mouth opened, but his comment was drowned out by the sudden blaring of the fire station's alarm.

"Squad 8…"

Captain Stoner turned and went trotting off, in the direction of the call station.

It took a few moments for Roy to realize that 'they' were Squad 8. He turned the truck's ignition on.

Nothing happened.

"Jiggle the key," Gage suggested.

DeSoto did.

The engine turned over…caught…coughed…and sputtered—before finally taking off.

The running rescue truck's driver exhaled an audible sigh of relief. "Ready, Waring?"

"Whenever you are, Piedmont," its passenger lightly replied.

Waring and Piedmont turned to each other and traded grins.

Roy realized that Johnny was right. The two of them working together did make having to pull a double almost 'tolerable'. 'Almost,' he silently stressed. Stressed being the opportune word. Roy could still feel a few vestiges of extreme vexation lingering, just beneath the surface. He took the call slip from Captain Stoner, passed it along to his partner, and then started driving off. "Which way?" he anxiously inquired, as the truck exited the fire station.

"Uhhh…Hang a left," his navigator advised, after a careful consideration of the call's address.

DeSoto did as Gage directed and Squad 8 disappeared down the street, with its emergency lights flashing and its warning siren wailing.


Author's Note: Hi everybody! :) *wave, wave* I've missed you guys ((((((hugs)))))—and THE guys (Thud!). lol

Last Winter truly was 'the Winter of my discontent'.

My hubby had a lengthy stay in the hospital, but is currently doing great.

I'm the one who still hasn't recovered. lol

Between farming woes and computer woes, I haven't been able to 'play' with the Boys, or post on the Internet.

Sorry, jquist. I just checked my Inbox and I see that I owe you two emails. :) Barring another computer crash, I shall endeavor to get replies sent off to you—and more story parts posted. :)

P.S. I fully intend to post more parts to my three unfinished E! fics, too. However, this particular E! flight of fancy was one a' those that needed to be either typed up, or forgotten. So it sort a' got shoved to the head of the line.

Take care! Oh, and I do hope you guys will enjoy

this latest adventure of Johnny and Roy. :)

:) Ross7 *more waving*