Roy sighed, hearing John try to sing 'Silent Night' over and over. "Hey!" he called, rapping his knuckles against the shower door.
"What?" John called back.
"It'd be nice if this really was a Silent Night!"
"Oh, ha ha ha, very funny," John snarled as he came out of the shower, tying a towel around his slim hips. "I bet you sound like an opera star in there, huh?"
The note of sarcasm wasn't lost on Roy. "I'm no Placido Domingo, but I do all right," he smiled.
John grunted as he pulled on his underwear and uniform pants. "Well, I'm no John Denver, either, but I think I d--"
And the tones went off. John grabbed his uniform shirt and jacket and followed Roy to the bay.
"Station 51, Station 8, Truck 14, structure fire, warehouse 8 on Vanover Street. Warehouse 8, Vanover Street. Cross street Hainey, time out seventeen-thirty hours."
Within moments, four red engines and the Squad pulled up in front of the warehouse. A middle-aged man ran over to them, pointing up toward the top floor.
"Vagrants sleep in that building!" he reported. "I've accounted for all but two -- And Wilkins claims he saw them head for the top floor!"
"What are their names?" John asked as he shrugged on his tank.
"Colby and June," the man said. "I'm Tyler -- I let them stay in my warehouse free of charge, and I keep the place up good." He looked up at the building and wrung his hands. "Wilkins said he knocked over a lantern...."
"We'll find them, sir," Roy said, adjusting his mask and helmet.
Finding June proved to be no problem -- she came barreling into John's arms almost as soon as they entered the building. "Colby's upstairs!" she screeched. "We went to get our dog -- he jumped out of the window -- but Colby's caught!"
"Tell us where, ma'am!" John said.
"Two floors up -- a board fell on him!"
Roy was moving before she finished talking. John passed June to Chet, who led point into the building, and ran after him.
"Colby!" Roy called. "Colby, can you hear me?"
"Here!" came a faint voice, punctuated by coughs. "Over here!"
Following the sound, Roy found Colby lying on his stomach, two boards over his legs. "Are you hurt anyplace?"
"Naw," Colby got out between coughs. "Just stuck!"
Roy nodded and moved the boards. Before he could say or do anything else, Colby shot to his feet. Shoving Roy down, the man bolted, his coughing dying away as he got further and further away.
Roy shook his head to clear it as he scrambled to his feet. He stood there a second, giving himself a mental once-over and finding himself to be all right. Another headshake, and he moved toward the doorway.
He made it as far as the stairs before the explosion came. Roy was lifted off his feet and propelled down the stairs by the force of it. His helmet went flying and his head impacted the wall so hard it actually bounced.
John saw the accident as he returned and raced to Roy's side. He carried his unconscious partner out of the building and began to work on him.
Roy moaned and rolled his head slightly, opening his eyes a crack. John smiled at him as the crack widened to full openness. "Well, hello there," he teased gently. "You gave us a heck of a scare, partner."
Roy stared blankly at him. His silent staring unnerved John. "Roy?" John asked, waving for Mike to talk to Rampart. "Roy, do you know where you are?"
"Not funny, Junior," Roy said a little louder than normal. "Movin' your lips and not makin' a sound -- oh, you're real funny!"
John dove for the radio. "Rampart, patient is now alert and seemingly oriented. Ah, Rampart, patient is also claiming acute hearing loss."
"How acute, 51?" came Early's suddenly tense voice.
John bit his lip before replying. "Uh, Rampart, patient seems...completely deaf."
Roy froze. He moved his lips, repeating the last word. When he figured it out, he clamped his hands over his ears and began to scream.
As he tried to calm Roy, John's own thoughts whirled. I hope this is temporary, or his career's finished...
And what about the kids? came the thought as he kept soothing his partner. How in the world are two hearing kids gonna cope with suddenly having two deaf parents?
Doctor Early came out of the exam room and made his way to where the remnants of 51's A shift made a tight little knot. "How is he, Doc?" John asked, his hands trembling from effort and worry.
"Well..." Early said slowly, looking from one to the other. "I've got bad news, good news, and more bad news."
"Well?" Captain Stanley asked when Early paused. "Give it to us!"
Early took a deep breath. "Bad news is, Roy's deafness is total. He can't even hear his own voice." He held up a hand as John opened his mouth. "But -- the good news is that the trauma to his ears is surgically correctable."
"This..." Chet's voice cracked as he cleared his throat before trying again. "...this isn't permanent? Roy will be back?"
Early smiled. "Roy will be back," he confirmed. Then the smile faded. "But in that, the last of the bad news comes in. He'll be back, but not for a few months."
John blinked. "A few -- but I thought you said it was correctable surgically!"
"It is -- but the specialist who has the highest success rates in such surgeries is booked for two months. He's willing to do the surgery and he will be here to do it; it's just going to take awhile."
"Be here? Where is he?" John burst out.
A few days passed. John went to see Roy, and smiled at the sight of Joanne patiently teaching her husband the sign language alphabet. Even though Joanne had been deaf for several months now, Roy had stubbornly refused to learn Sign.
But now, it was something of a necessity.
John took a step forward to get Roy's attention, only to see Brice waving the handy-talkie at him from the hallway. With a sigh, John retreated and ran over to him. "What've you got?"
"Child injured -- mother claims she tried to fly off of the top of the Christmas tree." At John's expression, Brice couldn't help but smile. "That was my reaction as well."
John opened his mouth to answer, then smiled and raised his hands. I'm ready, he fingerspelled.
Brice knew Sign, and he was teaching John so he could surprise the DeSotos. Brice's smile grew. You're learning, he signed and the partners ran to the Squad.
This was a Christmas none of them would ever forget.
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