by MM

special thanks to CK for her inspiration...

Follows "The Other Side"

"Well men," Hank Stanley rubbed his hands together as he began morning roll call. "We have a special assignment." His crew looked a bit nervously at one another.

"Is this like that rope training course?" Johnny said hopefully.

"No," Cap negated.

"Not another 'team building' exercise," Roy groaned. "Joanne has still not forgiven me for the raft trip a couple years back!"

"You? She hasn't forgiven me!" Gage replied splaying his hand over his chest. It had been a disaster of a trip.

"No, not that, either," Hank grinned loving the terror he was provoking among his men.

"Ah, is it a cross training?" Marco hedged, "like when we ended up in Canada?"

Mike shuddered. "It was cold!" he complained.

"Ah, you're just a wi..." Chet began then trailed off when the engineer glared at him.

"A wise man!" he recovered quickly. "That was a cold trip!"

"Now you're on the right track!" Hank smiled.

"At least it's summer," grumbled Mike, "no snow."

"SShh! Don't jinx us!" Chet elbowed him. "There's still the antarctic research station!" Now Cap laughed long and loud.

"You guys!" he tried to quell the snickering. "McConnikee himself selected us because of those training exercises! Even though two of them were disasters we still performed above his expectations and built up the reputation of The LA County Fire Department."

"You haven't told them yet?" a voice boomed behind him. Turning, the entire crew watched as the Chief himself walked in with several other men in uniform.

"No, sir," Hank pulled himself up respectfully. "I was allowing them to guess."

"Stringing them along," McConnikee smirked.

"Exactly," Hank confirmed.

"Well, men, to save you from yourselves," the chief began, "Station 51, A shift, has been selected to cross train with the Honolulu Fire Department. They see a lot of ocean rescues as well as some climbing rescues much like us. They are implementing a paramedic program and they are very interested in seeing our program in action."

"So Johnny and Roy get to go," Chet grumped. The paramedics wisely kept their mouths shut.

"No, Chet," Hank stepped in. "The entire shift is going. We work with John and Roy on many of their rescues. Plus, they fight fires along with us when there are no victims to help.'

"That's correct," McConnikke said. "These men are from Station 16 in Honolulu." He introduced Frank Itora, captain of the A shift, and Matt Pelona, paramedic/firefighter from the same station and shift.

"We decided that Captain Itora and paramedic Pelona would team together and spend a week with the 51s and and then a week with the 8s. Their engineer and other paramedic are there, now. At the end of the week they'll switch assignments so they can experience both stations."

"Our firefighters, Chen Hilton and Samuel Buster, are at 36s and 24s for the two week period riding with the engine," Cap. Itora explained. "We're all settled in at a downtown hotel with our families." Roy's and Mike's faces lit up.

"Families?" DeSoto asked. McConnikee smiled.

"We felt since it would be a two week program and you wouldn't have to work the entire two weeks, to include families," the Chief explained.

"In our experience a longer training period is better and when families come along it is a more beneficial experience," Itora explained. "The departments pay for airfare and basic accommodations with a small stipend for meals and a couple rental cars."

"I think JoAnne's gonna like this training exercise," Johnny poked his partner.

"Yep!" he responded with a grin.

"Well, I'll just leave Matt and Cap. Itora with you, Hank," the chief smiled.

"Great! We'll take good care of them!" he promised. "Johnny, Roy, why don't you show Matt the lockers and set him up. You can go through your morning calibrations with him. Captain Itora," he turned to his colleague.

"Frank," he grinned.

"Frank and Hank," Chet mumbled to Marco. "As if one wasn't enough!"

"Problem, Kelly?" Cap asked tersely.

"Oh, no sir! Just telling Marco here how lucky we are to have two fine captains," he said with his most innocent grin.

"Ah, yes, jobs," Hank returned his attention fully to his men. "Mike will do the cooking so we can ease these two into So Cal firefighter food. Marco, Gage, hoses. Roy, take the dorms and bay. Matt can help you. And Chet?"

"Got it Cap," the stocky man said. "Latrines."

"Excellent. Let's get going, men!" They split up to do their work.

Matt fell into line with the two paramedics. He was a bit nervous; he'd had all the training available, but actually using the equipment in the field had yet to happen.

"How long have you two been working as paramedics?" he asked to break the ice.

"Well, Roy, here, was in the first class about five years ago," Gage explained, "and I was in the second group."

"Wow! Then the head honchos actually thought about the assignment!" Matt said. "Sometimes me and the guys wonder about the relevance of the 'special assignments'."

"Really?" Roy perked up. "We, uh, have had a couple interesting assignments. Like having cross-training with a station up in Canada." That caused Matt to snicker.

"Oh man, that happen to us, kind of," he said. "We were assigned to training in Denver, Colorado. Between the snow and the altitude we were miserable!"

"Looks like we got the consolation assignment, then," Roy grinned. "To make up for a couple mistakes." He set up the biophone and called in to Rampart. Dr. Morton ran him through morning calibrations.

"We're gonna need some more saline and sterile dressings," Johnny reported. Matt moved close to the younger paramedic and looked into the drug box.

"Let me show you how we have it set up," Gage offered. He and Roy went through the meds and assorted equipment. Pelona asked a lot of relevant questions. They were happy to discuss various points of their jobs.

"Hey, Johnny?" Marco called out. "Ready for the hoses?"

"Yeah, sure!" he answered. He followed his crew mate out the back bay door as Roy stowed away the equipment.

Matt and Roy made a good time as did Marco and Johnny. They'd just met up in the kitchen, heading for the coffee, when tones sounded.

"Squad 51, man down, chest pains. 5462 Contreras Ave. Cross street, Lakeview Blvd. Time out, 9:57," dispatch reported.

"Squad 51, kmg 365," Hank replied as he tore the sheet off his pad. Roy accepted the page and handed over to Johnny, Matt looked it over as it went by.

"Left, then another left at the signal," Gage directed his partner. The squad swiftly made its way down the busy streets.

"Good to know people don't move over here, too," Matt grumbled as DeSoto blasted his air horn.

"It only takes one," Roy agreed. He concentrated on the street before him, pleased that most people veered off to the right for the truck. Soon they pulled up in front of a small house, two children waving and jumping up and down.

"It's grandpa!" the first boy said. "He was helping us with our bikes and then he said he was feeling funny." They were bouncing around the three paramedics as boxes were pulled out of compartments. Then they lead the way to the garage.

The Hawaiian paramedic watched as the two men worked in tandem on the patient. Rampart was quickly contacted and vitals recorded. He watched as leads were taped down and the cardiac monitor began showing the irregular heart rhythm. An IV was established as medications were injected. The flurry of activity continued as an ambulance showed up and the patient was stable enough to transport.

"You want to go in with Roy?" Johnny asked Matt. With an eager nod he jumped in after the senior paramedic.

Once the ambulance had left Gage cleaned up the aftermath and stored his equipment. He looked around and realized the two boys were still standing there.

"Hey, guys, your parents around?" he asked gently.

", they're at work," came the shaky reply.

"Patrick, right? Can we call them?" Johnny continued.

"Uhm, yeah, I think so," Patrick answered.

"I'll get the emergency numbers!" the younger brother, James, offered as he ran towards the house. Soon he'd returned and gave the paper to Gage. The paramedic contacted dispatch who in turn called first the father then the mother. It was agreed that Mom would meet them at the ER and gave permission for Johnny to drive them in the squad.

By the time they arrived both boys were much calmer and hung on to the younger paramedic's hands as they walked into ER. They were met by their parents, as dad was able to leave work as well.

"Grandpa's going to be alright, guys," Dad said as he knelt down for a set of hugs. "You did a great job getting him help right away!" After thanking Johnny the family went down to the waiting room.

Matt had been intrigued by how easily Roy had fit in the treatment room, helping monitor bp until a Dr. Brackett had adjusted medication and was satisfied with the readings. After enough personnel were available he helped pick up the squad's equipment and followed Roy to the nurse's desk.

Here he met Dixie, the head ER nurse. She'd resupplied Johnny and they were sipping coffee. She welcomed him with respect, something he hadn't experienced in his own assigned hospital. Next a Dr. Morton joined them and he, too, shook Matt's hand and wished him luck training with the 51s.

"They're one of the best," he said. "As long as Johnny here doesn't pull some stunt!"

"Doc! I don't pull 'stunts'," he quickly complained.

"Oh, like how about that rope rescue?" a second doctor joined in. "How much gravel did we pull out of him, Dix?" Johnny rolled his eyes.

"At least I was tied off properly," Gage tapped Roy who immediately blushed.

"Hey! This isn't about me," he retorted. "All the good stunts, they're all yours!"

"Matt, this is Dr. Joe Early," Johnny made the introductions. "Don't pay any attention to what he says about me."

"I'm a neurologist," Early said as he shook his hand. "I'm in the unique position to say a lot about Johnny's stunts!" Gage just snorted.

"We'd better beat a hasty retreat, Junior!," Roy decided. "I think you're out numbered!" Johnny picked up the box.

"Yeah, I'm about done with the comedians," he teased with his trademarked smile. They left with several 'see you later's!'.

Once they were back in the squad Matt looked at Johnny.

"Wow! They actually treat you and Roy like they value your work!" Matt sounded surprised.

"Yes, they do," Gage said. "But in the beginning it was pretty difficult."

"Yeah, you wouldn't believe how negative Dr. Brackett was!" Roy added. "Never thought he'd back us up much less authorize our working in the field."

"Really? I never would have thought it," Pelona said. They spent the rest of the ride back discussing how hard they'd worked to get the paramedic program up and running and the various difficulties they'd had over the years. Perserverance had paid off.

As they backed into the apparatus bay a thought came to Roy.

"Say, tomorrow's Saturday," he began. "We're having a bar-b-cue at my house. All the crew's going to be there with their families. Why don't you and your crew mates come on over?"

"I'm not sure, I think a group was going to go to Disneyland," Matt hedged.

"You don't want to go on a Saturday!" Johnny declared. "Weekend's the worst time to go. Look, A shift is off Tuesday. That'd be a much better choice crowd wise."

"Johnny's right," Chet had to jump in hearing the conversation as the three wandered into the kitchen for lunch.

"I'm right?" Gage teased. "Got ta mark that on the calendar!" Chet blew him a raspberry.

"If you go Tuesday we can get reservations at the Character breakfast in the hotel, first, then you can take the monorail over to the park," Roy suggested. "That's how we do it with our kids."

"My kids would like that!" Matt said. "Cissy's 5 and Jeff's 8, prime age for the characters."

"Then there's another reason you should come over to the bar-b-cue, my Jenny's just turning 5 and my son, Chris is 7. Give them someone their age to play with," Roy sweetened the offer.

"I'll be there with my family, too," Mike said. "Beth and I have a four-year-old. Cap's kids are 15 and 17, if there're any teenagers in the bunch."

"My kids are around that age," Captain Itora said as he walked into the kitchen. "What are you guys planning?"

Matt quickly explained the family get-together the following day and the suggestion about Disneyland. Agreeing it was a good idea, as long as they could chip in at the gathering, Itora said he'd phone the rest of his crew and see what they thought.

"I, for one, would rather wait until Tuesday, anyway. The time change is causing problems for the kids from what I hear," Cap explained.

"Yeah," Matt agreed. "Sandy was dreading waking the kids up this morning! They can be really cranky."

"Lunch," Mike declared and began handing plates of sandwiches and sliced fruit to his crew mates. Two pitchers of iced tea sat on the table waiting for them. A few bites later and the tones sounded again.

"And the tones work just like home, too," Matt sighed as he set down his half-eaten sandwich.

"Station 51, MVA, 605 freeway north. Enter freeway at Rose Hills Blvd. Multiple injuries reported. Time out, 12:45," dispatch relayed.

"Station 51, KMG 365," Stanley replied smoothly. Soon the squad was leading the way down towards the freeway. Given the nature of the beast, the freeway was jammed with cars. Roy and Mike had to drive down the side of the freeway blaring horns.

It was a little like cattle herding, Matt thought.

The mva was primarily in the middle, although a tanker whipped out across the left lanes and HOV lane. Cars were squeaking through on the far right which caused problems for the fire vehicles. Matt watched as Johnny jumped out to stop traffic allowing them to get by.

Mike positioned the engine so it blocked the rest of the lanes. Until the CHP arrived it was safer to stop the movement. Water lines were run out to cool off engines and disperse any spills. Cap. Itora stood by Stanley and watched the men fan out, paramedics to the victims, firefighters to hose and pop battery cables. He noted it was nearly five minutes later that the police arrived.

What impressed Itora most was the lack of direction Hank had to give. Each man knew his role and quickly performed it. The paramedics checked in first requesting an additional squad, which was promptly requested. Soon people were being extracted from various wrecks and lined up for treatment next to the squad well away from traffic and various onlookers.

Matt followed Johnny's lead as they brought yet another victim over to triage.

"Stay here and help Roy," the younger paramedic directed. "I'll get Chet to help me." And off he loped to the next car. Matt approached Roy who immediately put him to work writing down vitals and calling them in to Rampart.

Before he knew it the new paramedic had started his first IV in the field and was keeping two patients calm. He was aware that another squad had arrived as two more sets of hands were working on other victims.

"Come on, Chester B!" Johnny's wheedling tone could be heard and Roy glanced up. He saw his partner supporting the mustached firefighter to a yellow tarp.

"Any more?" Bellingham asked as he wrapped a splint on his patient.

"No," Gage replied as he eased the jacket off his friend, " but Chet wanted to join the party." Matt could see some blood seeping into the man's shirt.

"GAGE!" Chet complained, loudly. "Don't rip the shirt! I don't have as many extras as you do!"

"Don't need to," drawled the paramedic. "Ya already tore it on that hood." He separated the cloth and began to clean the wound.

"Damn it!" he continued to complain. "That stings and your hands are FREEZING." Gage managed to keep a straight face but both Roy and the Animal began snickering.

"Firefighters are the worst patients," Brice grumbled as he finished wrapping kerlix around his patient's head. Nasty gash but no visible swelling. Ambulances, plural, had arrived and Roy directed the loading of victims.

"Matt, you can ride in with victim number 2," Roy determined. "Chet will go in with you."

"I don't need to go to the ER," Chet whined. "Just slap on a couple butterflies!"

"Now Chet, you're gonna need some stitches," Johnny coaxed him just as if he were 4 years old. "Plus a tetnus booster if you're not current. It's a deep gash, nearly to the rib."

"A BOOSTER!" again the petulant wail. "I don't want a shot!" At this point Itora and Stanley walked over.

"What's seems to be the trouble, John," Cap asked as he looked a his linesman with a critical eye.

"Pretty bad gash, Cap," the paramedic explained still managing to keep a serious face. At this point even Brice was grinning a little at the 'patient's' antics. "Needs stitching and probably a tetnus booster."

"Chester Kelly, if John says you need to go in, you go in!" Hank said sternly, then raised an eyebrow. "Anyway, Roy told me Dr. Morton was taking remedial cross stitching. He needs the practice."

"Wha-at?" he stammered.

"Hey, if your lucky he'll cross-stitch "mom" over it!" Gage said calmly. Now Brice had to work hard to suppress a laugh, although no one else even tried. As they loaded gurneys the chatter was still light. The various patients were also enjoying the teasing as it helped them deal with the aftermath of the chain-collision.

Matt settled next to Chet in the back of a boxy ambulance. The woman he was working with was alert and oriented, suffering a broken leg and possible cracked ribs. She'd been wearing her seatbelt which went a long way in protecting her. The dose of morphine had taken the edge off her pain and she dozed on the gurney.

"You get hurt often?" Matt asked the grumpy man next to him.

"Eh, once in a while," Chet said. "Johnny's are all-star victim."

"Then why you were complaining so much?" he gave him a side glance. The grin on his seat mate's face confirmed it.

"His hands were cold!" he said simply. With a snicker Matt went back to his primary patient.

The ER was a flurry of activity. Suddenly Matt found himself in a treatment room answering questions that Dr. Early peppered him with. It was all business and he felt a swell of pride as he was able to assist just as he'd seen Roy do. Soon the patient was being readied for x-rays.

"So, Matt, pretty exciting day, eh?" Joe Early asked as he patted him on the shoulder in the hallway. The young man flushed slightly and grinned.

"Yeah," he agreed. "I did a lot of training but this was the first time I worked in the field. It's gonna be great going back home and be able to help people on the scene. We've lost people that could have been saved with just some hydration."

"Coffee?" Joe asked as he guided Matt down the hall. They ended up in the doctor's lounge talking about the benefits of the paramedic program. They were joined by Dr. Brackett.

"Well, you must be Matt Pelona," Kel said reaching out a hand. "Heard some good things about you from Roy." Again, the blush.

"Just doing my job," he said a bit self-conscious.

"This your first experience in the field?" he asked as he poured out some coffee.

"We did some runs in Honolulu, but with a nurse so we didn't do much," Matt commented.

"That's how it started here," Joe said. "Kel, here, was a pretty strong opponent of the program."

"Yeah, but he came around," Johnny said as he entered the room. "Roy will be out soon, I left him with Chet," he skipped the coffee and straddled a chair next to Brackett.

"Why did you change your mind, I mean, if you were so against paramedics?" the Hawaiian asked curiously.

"One of Johnny's stunts, actually," Kel admitted. "He refused to wait for a nurse when the one traveling with him was hurt. Turned off the biophone and started an IV. Save her life." Now the other paramedic flushed.

"It was a stupid, dangerous thing to do," he admitted. "But after all that training I couldn't let her die."

"The bill creating the program was passed later that week," Brackett added.

"When Mr. Stubborn flew up and spoke in favor of it," Joe smirked.

"Man, I hope you don't have those problems over in Honolulu!" Gage said quietly.

"That's why you're going over," Kel said. "As well as me! I get to join 51s as part of the training."

"I still think it's a ploy to get two weeks in Hawaii!" Early grumbled in a good natured tone.

"I'm for it!" Johnny smiled. "Maybe we'll be roomies! I don't want to get stuck with Chet!"

"Doesn't bother me," Brackett grinned. "And, no, Joe, I don't want to know the line on the betting pool this week!" Matt did not understand the comment but was kept from asking when the door opened.

"I know you had something to do with this!" an exasperated Chet Kelly snarled as he walked into the room. Roy followed with laughter.

"Gage! You put Morton up to it!" he lifted the surgical scrub to reveal a neatly taped pad over his stitches. The pad had the word "MOM" in bold letters on the top. Johnny and Matt lost it as the laughter peeled out.

Marco peeked in. "Hey, Chet, Cap's waiting out in the engine. Better hurry!" Grumbling, the firefighter stomped out following his friend.

"We'd better be off, too," Roy said. He called them in as available and soon the three paramedics headed back to the station.