"Dammit, why another trainee?" Johnny groused. "Last trainee we had you got hit in the face with cobra venom!"
Roy grinned. "Yeah, but how often does that happen. Look, I'm sure she'll be competent and ---"
"She? We're gettin' a woman?oh that's just great, that's just perfectly ---"
A throat-clearing interrupted Johnny's rant. They turned to see Cap standing there with a woman in a paramedic's uniform.
"...great...." Johnny sighed.
She was older than he was, about Roy's age, and in fantastic shape. Her long red hair was caught up in a severe braid and she had magnetic green eyes.
Roy's jaw dropped. Except for the hair and eyes.... nah.....
She held out a hand. "Hey," her thick Southern accent drawled. "I'm Gaye. Gaye Connor."
Roy shook her hand. "Roy DeSoto. This is my partner, Johnny Gage."
Gaye nodded. "I just moved here from Georgia. Thought I'd give this a try."
"She'll go on your runs for the next few weeks, to finalize her induction." Cap then turned to her. "Miss Connor, my office please?"
She nodded at them as she followed Cap into his office. When the door closed behind them, she began to tremble. "I didnít think I could pull it off...." she said, accent going away and voice timbre lowering slightly.
"You did just fine," Cap said. "You sure you want to do this here? I'm sure 10 or 28 could ---"
"Hank, thank you for sponsoring me through this... but Roy and Johnny are the best. Long as they don't recognise me, I'm safe." She smiled.
He hugged her. "You'll be a great paramedic... I'm sure of it."
"I hope you're right Hank. This is something I've wanted to do for a couple of years. Just remember... I have to leave a few minutes earlier than them to pull this off."
"You got it."
Gaye smiled and walked back out.
It was a relatively quiet shift. Five runs, no fires beyond dumpster ones....
Roy began looking toward the phone around five. "Joanne said she'd call...maybe I'd better call home..."
Gaye suggested, "Why don' you wait a few, give 'er a chance to...erm... freshen up? You said she'd just started a new job..."
"Yeah," he said. "And the kids stay with Gramma..." He sighed. "Yea... I'll give her a few, then I'm calling home."
Gaye chuckled. "Speakin' of freshenin' up..." She stood up. "Scuse me."
Johnny shook his head as she left. "Just like a woman," he groused.
The phone rang. Roy snatched it. "Station 51..." Then he smiled. "Hey Joanne! Our new trainee came today..."
"He did?" Joanne asked. "What's he like?"
"He's a she. She's real nice... could almost be your double, except her hair's red and she's got green eyes. She's Southern and I think from the way she talks she's married."
"Is she capable?"
"Seems to be." He laughed. "How's your new job?"
"Busy," Joanne laughed. "It sure keeps me on my toes!"
Roy laughed too. "I'll be home in about three hours. Love you." He hung up.
In Cap's office, "Gaye" hung up the phone and smiled. "Love you too, hotshot," she whispered.
The next few weeks were a blur. The rescues got harder and harder, but Gaye soon clicked with the team.
Things on the home front got tenser and tenser though. When both Roy and Joanne were home, Joanne was worn out. The kids picked up on this and were cranky and unruly, leaving Roy worn out too.
Joanne and Roy no longer seemed to talk....just argue. When Roy began to press to find out what she'd do, she'd clam up. That made Roy angrier, which made Joanne angrier.
The DeSoto house was no longer a happy one.
Finally, one morning, Roy set down his cup and sighed. "I got a problem," he said to Johnny and Gaye while the others were on a run.
"What's wrong?" Johnny asked while Gaye raised her coffee to her lips.
"I think Joanne's having an affair."
Gaye choked on her coffee.
As Johnny pounded her back, he asked Roy, "An Affair? *Joanne?* Come on, Roy...."
"She won't tell me about her work, she's always tired, she never wants to touch me anymore..."
Gaye lay a hand on his arm. "Roy, if she's that tired, of course her sex drive is gonna hit the tubes."
"It's not just that, Gaye...she doesn't even touch me the way you're doing now."
Gaye sighed and removed her hand. "Yeah...my husband's complaining about it too." She looked at Roy. "But if she loves you as much as you say she does -- and I think she does -- the last thing she'd do is hurt you like that."
"I don't know, Gaye..." he sighed. "I hope you're right."
"I know I am," she said with a smile, excusing herself.
Once she was alone in the bathroom, she locked herself in a stall and wept.
The triple-toned blast of the alarm brought the seven racing from their lunch. "Station 51," the dispatcher said, "structure fire, 354 Trundle Avenue. Time out 13:35."
Squad and engine raced through the afternoon streets, squalling out their warnings to any cars that came by.
"Dear G-d!" Gaye gasped as the building came in sight. It was nearly totally engulfed by flames.
As they got out of the Squad, the acrid smoke stung Gaye's eyes. She reached up and popped out her coloured lenses, returning her green eyes to their natural brown, before donning her turnout gear and racing to help.
Gaye was kneeling beside a patient five minutes later, calling in vitals to Rampart, when an explosion rocked the building. She flung herself over the patient till the vibrations stopped. Then she heard Captain Stanley cry, "Fireman Down!"
Gaye looked over her shoulder to see Roy uncurling himself from over Mike Stoker, who'd been knocked down by the blast. For a split-second, she thought he'd been hurt as well.
"Roy!" she screamed, accent dropping in her fear. Before she could regain control of herself, she'd gained her feet and was pounding toward Roy.
A second explosion rocked the area, and Gaye was caught in it. She was lifted from her feet and flung into the Engine. She bounced off of it and hit the pavement, her helmet and red wig rolling off together.
Roy grabbed her and drug her from the explosion site to safety. He knelt beside her to assess her vitals --- and as he was shining the light into her eyes, their colour struck him. "Brown?" he gasped. He looked closer at her, realizing for the first time he was seeing her without the wig.
Roy's eyes grew huge and his penlight slid from suddenly nerveless fingers as he sat on his heels beside her, staring in horror.
"Dear G-d!" he half-screamed. "Joanne!"
Three days later, Rampart General Hospital.
Joanne smiled and sat up as the door opened to reveal Roy bearing flowers. "Hey, stranger," she quipped.
He smiled shakily. "Hey yourself, beautiful." He set the flowers in her water jar and sat on the bed. "How are you feeling today?"
"Much stronger, thanks," she said, leaning back against the propped up pillows. "Doctor Brackett says I should be released day after tomorrow."
"And then you have physical therapy," he reminded her, looking at her injured leg.
She sighed. "Yeah....but I'll be back to 100% in no time." She smiled at him, then her smile faded. "Roy? What's the matter?"
"Well, because you look so sad and ---"
"Joanne, that's not what I mean and you know it."
Joanne smiled. "Well.... I guess I wanted to find out what your life was like."
"It looked so romantic, so glamourous...." She lay a hand on his arm. "I had to experience it for myself to understand the training, the grueling days, the boredom that stretches between rescues....the danger...."
Roy shook his head. "But Joanne, I told you about all of ---"
"Yes, Roy. You told me. But I never understood until I experienced it firsthand."
He sighed. "But why the disguise? Why not just tell me what you were doing?"
"You would have tried to talk me out of it. And then you would have pulled strings to either make it cushy for me or crushingly impossible for me."
Roy opened his mouth to protest, but then realised she was absolutely right. He closed his mouth with a sigh. "So," he finally said, "now that you know what my job is like.... what are you going to do?"
Joanne smiled. "I'm thinking about retraining.... becoming a dispatcher. I want to do something to help you out in your work, and this could be the way. Besides, I donít want Chris and Tracy worrying about both of us."
"But no more Gaye Connor?"
"No more Gaye Connor," she agreed. "This time it'll be as Joanne DeSoto."
He smiled and kissed her forehead. "I'd better go... Chris and Tracy are probably driving Dixie nuts by now." He got up to leave.
Roy turned back at the door. "Yeah, honey?"
"I wasnít the only one who learned something from this."
Roy frowned. "Oh?"
"Yeah." Joanne grinned and tapped her injured leg. "Now you know firsthand what I go through when you're hurt on the job!"
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