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.
"Anybody want to get some coffee?"
It was the second time Marco had asked. It was the fourth time Hank heard the question as they clustered by a corner of chairs in the waiting area.
Nurses, people waiting their turn and orderlies gave them nervous looks and wide berths as they passed. Hank knew what they looked like: some sitting, some standing, faces streaked with sweat and soot, dark blue jackets coated in a fine layer of white ash. He knew they reeked of smoke. He also knew none of his men cared.
It had been a fire in a five-story structure, in the middle of the evening with the Santa Ana winds howling like it was the Devil himself. It was a lethal combination that blew a one alarm into a three alarm within minutes. It took less time for Hank to read the rising smoke turning black and barking into his HT for everyone inside to clear out. Now.
Not everyone did.
Out of the corner of his eye, Hank spotted Dix over by the nurses' station, picking up the phone, talking in low hushed tones. She raised her eyes to meet Hank's. She sighed, shrugged and shook her head. No one was out of surgery yet.
"He was right in front of me."
Hank turned back to his men, to the one slumped forward in his seat, the one left behind, the one who kept quiet the whole ride over, slumped in the squad. Marco was driving because Squad 8 were the ones who had ridden in the ambulance and the partner wasn't, couldn't, shouldn't.
Hands, still gloved, held out as if to grab what only he could see. "He was right in front of me. I knew the building was going. We heard the handie talkie. We were clearing out." His Adam's apple bobbed. "I made sure he and the victim were ahead of me."
Hank wanted to drop a hand on a bowed shoulder, but he hasn't wanted anyone near him since he came out with his partner across his shoulders, staggering under the weight, one hand dragging the victim by the ankle. He fought Squad 8 when they tried to take over until Hank shouted at him to let go. And even then, his hands had curled and uncurled, still feeling the death grip he had on his partner as they hung over the fiery pit the collapsed floor created.
"You sure you guys don't want to get coffee? Or water?" Now Chet was trying to coax everybody but the downward tilt of his mustache betrayed just how little his heart was into it.
Hank thought about the dinner they had left unfinished back at the station. It was some sort of casserole everybody ribbed Mike about because he had fussed about how the carrots needed to be sliced. But it had been good, warm and solid food. Hank still had the taste of beef and creamy egg noodles in the back of his throat when the tones rang out.
Now the taste has soured in his gut as he counted the heads. Hank eyed the wall clock. Should it normally take this long?
Someone upstairs must have taken pity on his men; their shift had ended fifteen minutes ago without another run. Their engine and squad were picked up by B shift from Rampart's parking lot. They had showed up in the waiting room; keys, quiet words of well wishes and logs were exchanged in the middle of the lobby with little ceremony.
Marco sank down in a nearby seat. He raised a hand as if to rest on the hunched back, but he stopped just inches from touching.
"We should go get something to drink," Marco coaxed, "You ate a lot of smoke."
A head shake silently aborted the suggestion.
Hank felt a cold lump in his gut when he spotted Joanne standing a few feet away. She held her purse in front of her like a shield. The flowery red-orange scarf she must have tried to wrap around her neck was hanging off her left shoulder. She looked scared. She looked very alone. Hank wished he had thought to call Edith as well.
With a flinch, the bowed posture straightened and John raised his now clear eyes. He looked past Hank and Chet standing in front of him. He rose to his feet. He smiled wearily.
Hank stepped aside to let John pass but he followed because he'd be damned if he was leaving John alone now. He had to shake his head at the others though when they looked like they wanted to do the same.
Joanne didn't acknowledge Hank verbally. Her eyes had flicked over him though. It was the curse of being Captain; when she spotted Hank, her eyes widened and the purse went closer, higher against her chest. She held up her purse over her heart, white knuckled, as she stared not at Hank, but at John. Her lower lip trembled.
"Roy. Is he...is he all right?"
John was nodding, the small tired-looking smile still on his face. "He's in surgery right now. The docs said Roy was looking good. His BP was..."
As John rattled off vitals like he was on the Biophone, he caught Joanne relaxing despite all the technical terms John was reciting. Her purse lowered and lowered until it rested against her hip as she listened to John talk about how Squad 8 told him how stable Roy's BP was on the way over. She had a hand on his forearm now, her head tipped towards John and it reminded Hank of how Roy would cant his head towards John, listening with a mixture of amusement and patience on his face.
John's voice trailed off. Hank roused himself from his thoughts and saw Doctor Brackett approaching them, his green scrubs spotted with sweat. He pulled off his mask, exhaling and inhaling sharply a few turns as he nodded at the crowd suddenly around him.
"Roy's fine," Brackett said before he was bombarded with questions. He dropped a hand on Joanne's shoulder. "We can talk more about his injuries and recovery in my office later but I can tell you right now that Roy is going to recover without any lasting damage."
"The victim?" Joanne, to Hank's surprise, was the one who asked.
Brackett's face shadowed. "Didn't make it." To John, he asked, "Do we know why he started the fire in the first place?"
John shrugged one shoulder. His mouth was a white line on his soot-covered face. "We never got a chance to ask. He fought us all the way from the moment we found him cuffed to the standpipe."
With a sigh, Brackett shook his head. Hank could sympathize; sometimes he couldn't understand people either.
"When can we see Roy?" Again, Joanne asked, not John. She clung to John's elbow.
"They'll be taking Roy up after Orthopedics sets his ankle but he'll still be groggy from the anesthesia."
Joanne glanced at John. "Oh good, then there's time."
Brackett's brows knitted. He looked over to Hank, but Hank could only shrug. "Time?"
With a nod towards John, Joanne sounded both relieved and exasperated. "For John to get his shoulder checked out."
Hank barely caught John when his knees buckled and he pitched forward, crashing into a startled Doctor Brackett.
The salty smell of Mike's fried chicken greeted Hank before the chorused "Cap" did when he entered the hospital room. He bit back a smile; apparently even in his checkered shirt and jacket, his men could still see the bugles on his collar. He noted Roy in his bed. He raised an eyebrow at John, who was about to raise a hand hello before remembering his formerly dislocated right upper arm was bound tightly to his chest.
"Is that what I think I smell?" Hank said by way of greeting back. He clapped his hands together, rubbing them as he hummed when he spotted the plates of golden chicken and a basket of biscuits on Roy's pullout table.
"B Shift ate all of Mike's casserole," Chet explained as he gnawed on a drumstick.
"That's not necessarily a bad thing though," Roy quipped tiredly. He smiled at Mike's protest and it improved the pallor and tight lines around his mouth. He sat up with his leg set in a nest of pillows.
"John seemed to like the casserole," Hank pointed out. He made his way to stand between both beds. He eyed Roy then John. They were both looking a little better. He could feel a knot inside slowly unraveling.
"Gage eats anything," Chet grunted as he reached over and grabbed another drumstick.
"Yeah, he even likes your fish stew, Chet," quipped Marco.
John made a face, disagreeing.
"You're hilarious, Marco." Chet snorted. He tossed a biscuit at Marco. He missed. It rolled to Mike's foot instead. Mike scowled at it and kicked it back to Chet.
Hank folded his arms and considered the two on the bed. He cleared his throat.
"John? Roy? You two hungry? There's plenty."
John looked up pleadingly from his focus on the chicken. Roy grunted and leaned forward to roll the table towards John. He grimaced, his arm back around his ribs.
"I'll get it. I'll get it," John scolded Roy. He sat up higher. He winced as well. "Ouch."
Roy snorted. "He's been doing that all morning. Joanne dropped her purse before and he tried to reach for it before he remembered he was left-handed for the next week." He nodded towards Johnny. "That's why Doctor Early wrapped him up like a mummy."
"I can't believe Joanne ratted me out," Johnny grumbled. He eyed the chicken longingly.
Hank rolled his eyes. He toed Roy's table closer to John and dropped an empty plate on his lap. Eyebrow raised, he waited until John grabbed a piece. John grabbed two. He mumbled, "Thanks, Cap" around a huge bite.
"Thanks, Cap." Roy grabbed a drumstick as well. He licked his fingers. "Mike, you outdid yourself. I—ah, ah, ah!" Roy glared at John. "What do you think you're doing?"
Hank patted John on his good shoulder, easing him back down on the bed. He waited until John stopped panting, his face returning to normal before he pulled his hand away.
"I forgot again." John flashed Mike a toothy grin when he came over with another plate. Mike must have fried up an entire poultry farm.
"Geez, Gage, maybe the doc should wrap you to the bed."
"I just wanted another piece." John picked up a piece of crunchy batter off his plate and popped it into his mouth. "It's better than what we got for breakfast." He screwed up his face and gestured towards his table where a covered tray lay.
"I didn't know oatmeal came in that color," Roy volunteered.
Hank backed away from the tray, hands up. He didn't want to know. He sat down on the chair Chet vacated and balanced his plate of food. He could feel the tension across his shoulders unwinding.
"Shoot," John licked his thumb clean of chicken juices. At this rate, Hank was tempted to ask the nurses for some bibs. He wiggled his fingers and tried to reach, again trying with his right arm towards the full plate on his pullout table.
"Ah, ah, ah!" the guys chorused before Roy could.
"All right! All right! I forgot! Sorry! Geez!"
"You sure you just dislocated your shoulder, and not your brain too, Gage?"
A chicken bone bounced off Chet's nose. It wasn't clear who threw it. He whipped his head around and glowered, but no one was talking. He grumbled under his breath and reached for the same dark piece John did.
"I got to it first, Gage." Chet tugged at it. "Let go."
"Fine." John sank back into his bed.
"Oh," Roy said lightly, but his eyes were unsmiling, "now you listen."
Hank narrowed his eyes. Suddenly, everyone was ravenous, heads down, chewing noisily. Someone burped. Someone else shushed him.
John, his appetite gone, lowered his piece. He picked at the chicken, tearing it off the bone and into shredded white strips onto his plate. "Roy..." He clenched his jaw. "I'm not gonna apologize for it."
Roy opened his mouth but what came out instead was a sigh. "No, you're not gonna. Just don't do it again."
"Sure thing, pally. You stop falling through floors and I'll stop trying to catch you."
Mouth open again like a caught trout, Roy looked like he wanted to object but opted for grabbing another piece of chicken when Mike wordlessly offered.
"You know," John said around his food, "it would be a lot easier to hold on if you lay off the chicken, Roy." He yipped when a chicken bone from Roy bounced off his knee.
"Not everyone can be light on their feet, Galloping Greyhound," Chet called out.
"Chet, shut up."
Marco ducked as a biscuit aimed for Chet bounced off the wall. "Guys, I don't think Dix will be happy with the mess we're..."
Mike frowned. "Do you know how long it took to bake those..."
"Johnny, will you stop reaching for it? We'll get it for you."
"You keep giving me the smaller pieces!"
"Thought you wanted to be 'light' on your feet?"
"Gage, with the amount you're scarfing down, you can forget about being 'light'..."
Hank sat back in his chair, peeling apart a flaky white biscuit to sop up the juices on his plate. He ignored the growing ruckus. They would knock it off as soon as Dix came through that door; it was his day off after all. He blotted his plate with his biscuit and tore a piece off. As he chewed the buttery morsel, he studied the room.
One, two, three, four, five.
Hank grinned. He nodded to himself and reached for another piece of chicken.
Acknowledgements: We know Roy has a boy named Chris from season one's Hang-Up, but there was no confirmation on age nor the name of Roy's little girl so I left it all vague.
As always, this wouldn't have gotten done had it not been for my red pen, Rnee.
Feedback's like cookies. I like cookies! LOL.