Disclaimers: I don't own these characters; I am borrowing them for a few minutes. And I'm not making a dime off of them, though I wish I could.

I'm also not a firefighter, doctor, nurse, or have anything to do with rescues or the medical profession. I just like to write, so please ignore any technical errors.


Chapter 1

An inky blackness surrounded him like a living thing. It was below, above, and on all sides. He might have been drifting in outer space or floating under water; he didn't know. For one last calm moment he wondered if his eyes were even open.

But wait, maybe that was it. He slowly brought his right hand to his face and gingerly ran his fingertips up the smooth plane of his cheek to find it covered with a film of dirt. His right eye was indeed open. He could feel his eyelashes but still couldn't see his hand.

His left eye also was open, but this time he felt a wet stickiness on his eyebrow. It was then he noticed the unmistakable coppery scent of blood. Disoriented, he quietly felt down the front of what seemed to be his turnout coat. I must be on a run, he surmised.

It was then that Fireman Johnny Gage's heart began to race.

Trying to remember what had happened only made his pounding head hurt more. In his mind's eye he saw a jumble of fragmented scenes and heard a deafening roar. Fighting the urge to panic, Johnny carefully bent his right knee, then his left. So far, so good. Then he tried to move his left arm and was greeted by a sharp pain that brought tears to his eyes.

"Bad idea," he coughed hoarsely, swallowing what felt like dust. The tightness in his chest increased as if a gorilla was sitting on it, and he had a hard time catching his breath.

Exhaling slowly to calm his breathing, Johnny struggled to reason out what had happened. If I were on a run, I would have been with Roy.

This last thought echoed in his brain for a few seconds. It was the only thing that could have pierced the fog of his thinking and caused him to jerk forward viscerally, oblivious to his injuries.

"Roy!" he shouted and was instantaneously forced back down by a nausea-inducing wave of pain that hit him full force. He passed out again within seconds.

Even though he had been a fireman for years, it never failed to amaze Roy DeSoto how circumstances could turn so dire so quickly. Was it only two hours ago that he had sat down to an early dinner with his fellow paramedic John Gage?

They had just gotten back from the type of call that made all the dangers associated with their job worth it—they had delivered a baby. Mom and dad had thought they could get to the hospital in time, but their son had other plans and chose to arrive at a gas station off the 405 Freeway.

When the squad rolled up on the scene, they heard the woman screaming in the late stages of labor. Her cries startled the usually unflappable Johnny. Roy noticed his partner's expression and sent him a we've-got-this-in-the-bag look. When the husband threw open the van door, two calm firemen greeted him, which is just what the panicked man needed. After a quick delivery and transport to Rampart by ambulance, the parents were understandably grateful and had thanked Roy and John profusely.

"I really didn't do anything but play catcher," Roy had joked.

"Oh come on! You just delivered a baby!" John had slapped him on the back. Even though both men had helped bring the seven-pound boy into the world, Roy noticed Johnny deliberately shining the spotlight on him.

The engine was out on a run when they arrived back at the station. Both men smiled with a sense of satisfaction. And to their delight, a casserole was warming in the oven.

"Looks good," Roy observed as he brought the dish to the table where Johnny had set two places.

"A new baby," John said. "It really is a miracle."

"Are you getting philosophical on me?" Roy teased.

"No, I was just thinking about some things." John set the serving spoon down. "Um, Roy?"


"Thanks. You know. Back there," the younger paramedic said sheepishly.

Roy took a few bites. "You were fine. I just reminded you, that's all."

"You always seem to know what I need," John said and looked chagrined.

"It goes both ways, partner," Roy said quietly.

"But I shouldn't have let her screaming get to me in the first place!"

Roy interrupted John, who was clearly poised to launch into one of his rants. "We all have things that rattle us."

John regarded his partner dubiously. "When do you ever get rattled?"

"Every time you end up in Rampart Hospital!" Roy laughed. "You are a disaster magnet!"

"I'm not that bad..." John began defensively.

"Are you kidding?" Roy asked incredulously. "You've broken your leg, been bit by a snake, caught a monkey virus..."

"OK, OK."

Roy continued to count Johnny's mishaps on his fingers. "Been hit by a car, been sprayed by dangerous chemicals, had a roof fall on you..."

"Alright!" Johnny laughed good-naturedly, raising his hands in mock surrender. "You have to admit I've made your life more interesting."

Roy smirked. "That's one word for it. Listen, you can keep getting into your scrapes, and I'll always be there to get you out. Rattled or not."

Johnny looked a little offended. "Why don't you just partner with someone else then?"

Roy shot him a sidelong look. "I think I'll stick with you. After all, I have you housebroken and all."

It was then the chimes had rung for them and what sounded like every station in the county.

"Parking garage collapse. West California Community College. 312 Mitchell Boulevard. Three-one-two Mitchell Boulevard. Cross street Applewood. Time out 1640."

"Squad 51, KMG 365," Roy responded then slipped into the driver's seat of the squad.