The Best of Intentions
copyright 2012, Enfleurage
As always, ever grateful thanks to Kelmin (ff.net)/Kel_1970 (AO3) who has kept me from making a fool out of myself with some of the EMS and fire details in this story. Any mistakes that you find are mine and mine alone.
Chapter 2: Backhand
A lifetime ago, before either Wedsworth or Townsend had even thought about attaching their names to a bill that became an act that allowed him to do the job he loved, he used to wonder why the Squad they used for rescues didn't have a regular radio. He knew all of the logical reasons for why Fire Department apparatus didn't contain even an AM radio, but it was occasionally a bit dull and all too quiet riding in the Rescue Squad, dependent entirely on one's thoughts or your partner for entertainment.
Now, of course, he had Johnny.
"So, the Plan…it's like when she says it, it's all capitalized or something, but she kept going on about having a Plan, or in my case, clearly, not having a Plan. I mean, when you were my age, Roy, did you have a plan?"
When he was twenty-seven, he'd been married for six years and a father for five of them.
"Depends what you mean by a plan."
Gage turned in his seat to face Roy and threw his forearms out in a jerk. "Exactly!"
Uh-huh, Roy thought, eyes scanning the familiar streets in the route on the way back from Rampart: exiting out onto Meyler Street and then a left on W.223rd street and then a clear shot back to Station 51. Traffic wasn't too bad for late afternoon and by that he meant that it was moving.
"Well, I knew I wanted to be married to Joanne, so I guess that counts as a plan."
Gage snorted and scowled. "I don't think that's the type of plan she's talking about, Roy."
They crossed over Harbor Freeway and his peripheral vision said it was already backing up, like it did every day around this time.
"Who's cooking tonight?"
"Not me," Gage said immediately and shot a glance in his direction. "I dunno. Who did lunch? Heck, what was lunch?"
Roy shrugged."It was that chicken noodle casserole." Egg noodles and chicken mixed with some kind of soup and some chopped up vegetables; uninspiring but filling and it'd tasted fine when they'd pulled the casserole dish out of the oven a few hours ago, after the lady bicyclist with a broken collarbone. "Probably Cap or Mike."
"'Oh yeah. Well, it wasn't Chet 'cause it was edible and Marco makes his chow with a little more spice," Gage agreed.
He squinted into the afternoon sunlight slanting through the windshield. "You know who you should talk to about this planning thing?"
"I know, Roy, but you know, we haven't even seen the Engine since that MVA this morning. Who knows where they're at or when they'll be back."
"Nursing School fire. They're part of the second alarm called out about forty minutes ago."
It was only partially his good peripheral vision that alerted him to his partner's stare, incredulous and perplexed; most of it was just past experience.
He shrugged. "Heard the call over the radio."
Gage huffed and shook his head. "Man, I don't know where you find the time. We have just been running all day. You know this is the first…"
"Oh no, don't…"
The radio crackled to life. "Squad 51, stand by."
"You had to go ahead and say it, didn't you?" Roy growled.
Gage sagged and reached for his helmet with a big dramatic sigh.
"Squad 51, woman down. Veteran's Park Tennis Courts. Use Moneta Avenue entrance. Veteran's Park Tennis Courts, Moneta Avenue entrance. Time out 1622."
Gage acknowledged the call with a one-minute ETA, and then shot a glance in Roy's direction, along with a shrug. And since it wasn't as if Johnny opening his mouth had actually created the incident, even if it might seem that way, Roy let it go. For now.
There were two tennis courts, side-by-side. Assuming it was some kind of injury, they hauled the biophone, trauma box and oxygen and headed toward the crowd gathered in a loose circle on the nearside of the far court. Most of the group was ladies in tennis whites about five to ten years older than John Gage's usual target market, intermixed with two or three teenagers and a guy with a George Hamilton tan who was twirling a racquet impatiently.
"What took you so long?" the guy with the tennis racquet demanded. "I called from the payphone," he waved his racquet towards what was presumably a payphone somewhere on the other side of where they'd entered the park, "almost ten minutes ago."
"We got here as soon as possible," Roy said as he knelt next to a woman sitting near the baseline of the court. He scanned her for obvious injuries and sent her a reassuring smile. "What seems to be the problem?"
"Can't…" she puffed. "Can't….catch."
Her face was flushed and she looked a little older than most of the other women, most of whom were probably not that much older than he was actually, probably early to mid-thirties. It was a sunny October day, low humidity and not unusually warm. No signs of extensive perspiration, or at least nothing more than the other tennis players. Johnny was sending surreptitious glances towards the shapely legs of some of the female tennis players and for the briefest moment, Roy pictured Joanne in one of those short tennis skirts. Then he refocused his attention on the patient in front of him.
"You can't catch your breath," he repeated back at her and she nodded.
"Do you have any allergies? How about asthma?"
Two quick shakes of her head as he took her pulse.
"Any history of pulmonary disease? How about heart problems?"
Another head shake as he rested his hand on her torso and counted respirations.
"Do you have any pain in your chest or anywhere else?"
Another head shake.
"How have you been feeling recently? Any nausea? Vomiting? "
A rapid, frightened shake of the head as Gage pulled the elastic cord of the non-rebreather mask around the back of her head. Without words or even eye contact they'd split into the roles they needed to play. The woman was scared; she needed reassurance, needed to be calmed as quickly as possible so they could determine whether her dyspnea was brought on by exertion or was emotional or physical in origin. Calm, steady reassurance was Roy's forte, so Johnny had automatically assumed the mechanics while Roy handled the patient.
Her pulse was strong and a little fast, respiration rapid, blood pressure was higher than normal. Gage opened the biophone and contacted Rampart Base.
"How about coughing or tightness in your chest?"
Another abrupt head shake. He listened anyway through the stethoscope; no wheezing, no rales.
"Roy, I'm gonna get the scope." Johnny scrambled to his feet and trotted towards the squad.
"Have you been feeling dizzy or tired?"
"She said she's been feeling tired, washed out, kind of weak lately."
The new voice sounded oddly familiar but out of place and Roy glanced up and then blinked in surprised recognition.
"Karen. I didn't recognize you in the crowd." Or in that tennis… Is that really considered a dress? He purposefully kept his gaze on her face when he was talking to her.
"Hello, Roy." She glanced back towards the Squad. "I don't suppose they sent the Engine too."
He smiled up at her and shook his head."Sorry, just the Squad." He'd learned a long time ago that you never told a fireman's wife that her husband was at a fire instead of a nice safe rescue, even when her husband was usually the one outside sending the other guys in. "Can you tell me what happened?"
She nodded and then crouched down by the other woman, placing her hand on the other woman's back; a gesture of reassurance or support or just letting her know that someone familiar was there.
"Jackie seemed a little pale when she arrived. She said she was okay but she didn't play like she was okay. Her serve was off. Usually it blisters the paint," she said with a tight smile. "We didn't even play an entire set when I noticed that she was breathing harder than usual. She stopped for a water break and then she just sat down. Jerry, he's our instructor," she nodded toward the man who'd greeted them."He came over to check on us and when we realized that she wasn't getting better, I asked him to call you guys."
"Good thing you did," he said, noting that Johnny was bringing the defibrillator back with him along with the scope. "Hey, Jerry," he called and waited a second for the tennis pro to meander over. "You think you can round up all these people and move them off the court, give Jackie a little privacy?"
Johnny spread out a blanket and begin gently coaxing Jackie to lie down on it as the crowd was ushered off the tennis court.
"You want me to leave?" Karen said quietly.
That was probably a good idea since he really didn't want her watching if or when things went sour.
"That's up to Jackie," Roy said, fingers pressed against Jackie's carotid. "How about it, Jackie? My partner is talking to the doctors at Rampart and they want us to bring you in so they can make sure everything's all right. But if you want Karen or someone to stay with you while we wait for the ambulance, that's okay too."
"Honey, you're in good hands. Hank says that Roy and Johnny are the best paramedics in the County," Karen said. "Maybe even the best in the state. Do you want me to call Edmund? Have him meet you at the hospital?"
Gage looked up suddenly, looked straight at Karen with a deer-in-the-headlights look that came and went quickly as he connected the dots. And then he blushed and focused his attention entirely on attaching cardiac leads and fussing with the monitor. Roy was pretty sure Johnny had just realized exactly whose legs he'd been checking out.
The whine of the approaching ambulance's siren drowned out whatever Rampart was instructing over the bio phone but Gage grabbed for the IV setup.
"Ringer's, TKO," he said, as he swabbed Jackie's left arm below the BP cuff.
Roy didn't recognize the Sheriff's Deputy who was talking to Jerry and a few other women at the other end of the tennis courts. The Deputy tucked a bag, presumably Jackie's, under his arm and started writing on his note pad.
Karen stepped back as they loaded Jackie onto the ambulance but Roy felt her seeking eyes on him, looking for reassurance. Feeling awkward and unusually uncomfortable, he pretended he didn't notice as he climbed into the ambulance, keeping his focus on his patient's breathing instead.
She kept breathing the entire five-minute ride to the hospital, breaths a little deeper and more regular, the panic fading from her tight features, while Roy gave Morton updated vitals every two minutes, trying not to hold his own breath or to show his increasing concern.
He'd delivered her safely, alive and breathing, so she was officially Mike Morton's patient when she suffered the MI five minutes after Roy, Morton, Carol and the Mayfair attendant lifted her onto to the bed in Exam Room 3.
Johnny had offered to drive, but he'd declined, mostly out of habit.
"Wasn't anything more you could've done, Roy."
He knew that. He'd run it over and over in his head and he knew with clinical detachment that he had performed his job perfectly. Just as he had that morning, on a man who he'd known had had little to no chance of surviving the MVA injuries. Just as Johnny had that morning on that little girl who'd been rushed to surgery almost as soon as Brackett had finished examining her.
It would've been nice to turn on a radio, listen to a little music right now. He couldn't count on Johnny for distraction or entertainment when they were both in need of it.
"Oh yeah," Gage said, snapping his fingers. "Before I forget, Mrs. Stanley told me to tell you to have Joanne call her about that substitute thing." He was still staring out the open passenger window. "Whatever that means."
He nodded and made a mental note to call his wife when they got back to the station, which might actually be in time for dinner. Whether or not there was actual food prepared would depend on when or if the Engine had been released from the scene at the Nursing School fire.
"You ever wonder…" Gage trailed off and then heaved a great sigh. "Never mind."
Pretty much anything that would take him away from the scared look in Jackie's eyes would be welcome right now, no matter how inane.
"Never mind," Gage gave himself a shake, both physical and mental and turned back to his partner. "So what substitute thing? And man, why didn't you warn me that was Cap's wife?"
It was only about thirty or forty minutes ago that they'd passed over Harbor Freeway and now it was a solid block of massed cars inching forward at about twenty mph at best. It seemed like a lot more time had passed.
"If you'd been looking at her face, you might have remembered meeting her, oh, I don't know, about twenty or thirty times, maybe more."
"Yeah, ha ha, get a good laugh in," Gage said. "I was kneeling, remember."
"Uh-huh," Roy said. "Well, you can tell that to Cap when he asks why you were checking out his wife's legs. Again."
"Roy," Gage sputtered. "Man, that's uncalled for. That was….It was just that once and it was like four years ago, right after Cap came to 51s and you know I didn't know who she was then."
They passed Veteran's Park without comment though he noticed Gage craning his head as if he could see the tennis courts from W.223rd Street, which he couldn't.
"I was thinking that maybe I should take tennis lessons."
Roy started coughing, trying to hide his laughter, and wondered for a moment why he'd ever missed having a radio at all.
A/N: The choice to call Hank Stanley's wife 'Karen' is an indirect homage to my very favorite Cap story, 'Hank's Men' by Sendal, which you can read at AO3. Sendal named Hank's (canonically never named) wife Karen and I did the same.