Title: Pot Luck
Summary: Meal time is rare for a fireman. But Station 51 tries, whenever they can. Here are five of them.
Note: This idea originally was from an NCIS Big Bang I did last year. After watching season 3's Inferno and that lovely scene at the end, I really wanted more. I'm greedy that way. Heck, I ask for seconds at dinner, too! LOL.
"LA, Engine 51. Fire is out. Taking a lunch break on Olvera and Wocott. Available fifteen minutes."
Hank crunched thoughtfully on a taquito. He paused when its steaming hot beef filling spilled out of its cornmeal shell and scalded his tongue. Hunger and many previous helpings of fireman's chili, however, have made him immune. Hank gulped the heat down with some milk and grabbed another out of the red checkered paper basket.
Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Chet and Marco still by the taquito stand, arguing about how much was too much for the impromptu lunch break they're taking. Big Red was parked in front of the dented trailer that used to be a burger stand then a hot dog stand. Now it was painted green like a pepper, wore an inflatable sombrero and was the best place for the present crunchy rolled up taco treat.
Judging by the way those two twits were hand gesturing, whoever won, it would still be too much food and Hank suspected he was going to hear Mike complaining about the smell of the leftovers all the way back to the barn. Right now though, Mike seemed content in dipping his golden deep fried eats into cool sour cream, munching them while perched possessively on Big Red's bumper.
"Afternoon, ma'am," Hank greeted a mother with a stroller from his seat on a sun bleached picnic table. He took care there wasn't salsa or any unsightly stains on his face as he next nodded to a cluster of wide-eyed children gathering around him. They looked torn between mobbing him in all his turnout gear and hat and racing to "Ooh" and "Aah" over the shiny red fire engine parked by the curb.
The shinier thing won out and soon Mike found himself ignoring the rest of his lunch. He stood, his head bent low to be level with little faces, patiently listening and answering questions in a clear and careful voice.
Hank smiled indulgently to himself, munching on his seventh taquito as he watched Mike scoop up a girl in pigtails with yellow ribbons and plopped her into the engineer's seat. Chet and Marco could hear her squeal all the way from the stand.
Despite the chatter and his men yapping away as they returned with far too many taquitos, Hank picked up the lower toned rumble of their squad rolling up to the curb. It was a sound as familiar as his own heartbeat. He could recognize it even in his sleep, his ears always perking up to be sure he heard two sets of footsteps following after it.
"Cap!" John Gage hollered out his window as the squad parked in front of their engine. "Mind if we join yo—Oops." The paramedic swallowed the rest of his words when he spotted the children gathered by the pumps. Mike now had one child perched on his shoulders; another wore his hat. Hm. There seemed to be a lot more children around their engine now.
"Looked what the cat dragged in," Chet greeted. He crammed a whole taquito in his mouth. Immediately, he began fanning his gaping mouth.
"Didn't your mother teach you to don't ever talk with your mouth full?" John flopped heavily onto the bench. His head bobbed when Roy punched him lightly on the shoulder, murmuring he would get the food this time.
"Just ten minutes," John yawned. He tugged at his short sleeves and tried to smooth down his uniform. "Roy and I only wanted to grab some breakfast."
"Uh, don't you mean lunch?" Marco waggled a taquito at John. He relinquished it when John gave it a hangdog expression that could put their unofficial mascot Boot to shame.
"Uh uh. Ooh, hot, hot, hot!" John yelped as he bounced it from hand to hand before he chomped half of it in one bite. "Roy and I been on runs since last night. First meal of the day. So this is breakfast."
"Guess we can toss out your stew then," remarked Chet.
Hank frowned to himself. That's right; Roy and John didn't finish dinner either. They had been four bites in when the tones rang out about a sick kid. They hadn't been back since. He scrutinized Roy over by the stand, then John. They both looked all right: a little rumpled and apparently starved. He grunted to himself. He finished his milk because you never know when the tones would warble out again.
"Man," mourned John. "Guess that dinner's a goner. Shoot, it was good stew too."
"I still got a pot of it in the fridge," Marco offered. "We were going to have it over noodles tonight."
"Well, alright!" John cheered, right before he snaked a hand under Chet's elbow to his plate.
Chet glowered at John when their paramedic tried to swipe one off of Chet's pile. He hugged his food to his chest. "Get your own!"
"Roy's getting some right now."
"Then wait for those!"
"Yeesh, you're a stingy grouch." John blew at the one he managed to get, crunching and making loud chewing noises in front of a scowling Chet.
Hank cleared his throat. "Knock it off you two," he murmured. He nodded towards the fire engine still surrounded by wide-eyed children.
"Sorry, Cap," John and Chet said meekly.
Hank suppressed a sigh; he knew the truce wasn't going to last. He watched the two in front of him warily but the corner of his mouth twitched as he noted where the rest of his men were.
Roy was still standing by the stand, but he kept glancing over to the table where everyone else was. Marco was making a face at his plate and the six remaining deep fried rolls on it. Mike was still playing tour guide to the group of children. He stood, knees slightly bent so the kids didn't have to crane their heads too far back to see him. And as for John and Chet…
"Come on, just one more."
John grinned at Hank when he wordlessly slid his container over to keep the peace. "Thanks, Cap!" He stuffed two in his mouth and with cheeks full, he looked like a cross-eyed chipmunk. "Mm, these are good, Roy," he told his partner who arrived with—Good God—two more mountains of taquitos.
"I told you I was getting food," Roy chided him as he set the plates down.
"That's lunch," John mumbled, or so that's what Hank thought he said. John pointed to Hank's plate. "This is breakfast."
Roy scoffed but he didn't look surprised either. "At least I won't be deafened by your stomach anymore." He shot Hank a small, weary smirk. "I've been hearing his stomach grumbling since last night."
"I think that was your stomach, Roy. Mine went into v-fib hours ago," John countered cheerfully as he dipped the last of Hank's lunch into the paper cup of sour cream. He blinked when Chet tipped his plate and refilled John's.
"Don't want you breaking your patient's bones with your bony elbows, Gage," Chet grumbled as he retrieved a fresh one from Roy's basket to scrape clean the bottom of his own cup of sour cream. He nodded when Roy gave him another.
"Hey, those are Roy's!" John protested. Or so Hank thought. It was hard to understand him with a mouthful of taquitos and salsa.
"Didn't your mother teach you to share?" Chet slapped John on the arm.
No one expected John to flinch; least of all, John.
Chet dropped the taquito he was about to bite into. "What happened?" he demanded.
"I thought you said you were fine," Roy said at the same time.
John swiveled his head between Chet and Roy, blinked up at Mike, who was suddenly by the table. He looked over to Marco for support. When all he found was another glare, he visibly gulped.
Hank cleared his throat. He folded his arms and arched an eyebrow. He waited.
"Aw." John lifted up his left sleeve, revealing a thin cut the length of his hand.
Roy stood up, peered over John's head at the injury. He grunted.
"Thought so." Roy shot Hank a look. "Last run, the car windshield was the only way in to treat the patient."
"Let me guess, Gage here volunteered," Chet guessed. He squinted at the cut. From where Hank sat, it didn't look too deep, but it must have hurt regardless when Chet poked it.
"That hurt?" Chet asked archly.
A crumpled paper cup bounced off Chet's chin.
Hank sighed. "Roy, does he need any stitches?"
Roy didn't look up as he pressed his thumbs on either side of the cut. He ignored John's growl. "No. I think I can patch him up at the squad."
"You should have one of the docs at Rampart take a look anyway. Log it in the book," Hank reminded him.
"I figured we'll do that whenever our next run takes us to Rampart."
Chet grunted but thankfully, he stopped poking John's arm. "He should have had it looked at before."
"He's right here, you know," John mumbled around his food. He gulped at Hank's look. "Sure thing, Cap." He grinned sheepishly and slid his basket back over. "Want some? It's good."
Before Hank could reply, everyone's HTs chimed.
"Squad 51. Possible heart attack. 255 Jones—"
The two were already running to their squad before Dispatch could finish. Hank nodded to them as their sirens blared to life and they waved to the others as they drove away.
Hank absently tapped a fist on his knee. It looked like John was going to see a doctor in Rampart sooner than he thought.
Glancing over his shoulder, Hank groaned
Chet gestured towards the twin plates of taquito rolls abandoned on the table.
"What the heck are we going to do about these?"
Hank took the top piece and crunched it down like it was a cigar. Marco peered at the mounds. He looked a little ill.
Guess they were having stew and taquitos for dinner tonight.