“Squad four, squad four. Accident on 5200 South Ellis Avenue.”
Damnit, the perfect hand.
There was three hundred dollars and two club box tickets to the Chicago cubs game in two weeks, no way was she going to let this pot go.
“All in boys.”
Everyone looked defeated while Tobin was calm and collected. Ashlyn looked at Ali who then looked at her brother, “I fold.”
The four other firemen quickly folded their hands with no question and ran to the truck but Tobin and Krieger’s brother locked eyes.
“All in,” He said without breaking eye contact with his lieutenant, putting the rest of his money in the pot and laid out his cards on the table, “Fullhouse babe-eeeeey.”
Tobin smirked and laid down her hand slowly, “Four of a kind.”
“No wa—Damn,” Kyle put his hand on his chest when he saw Tobin lay her cards out with his eyes now focused on the pot, “My heart.“
“Anyone touches this pot...”
“We will scrub toilets we knowww!” Her squad groaned after finishing her sentence, all of them instinctively running towards the truck. She stepped out of her shoes and into her boots and pants. She has done this over a hundred times, not able to quite shake the feeling of adrenaline she gets when she hears the voice on the speaker call for her help.
Yes, it was bad. But, Tobin was addicted to the thrill of running into a burning building with only one thing on her mind, rescuing whoever needs rescuing. Since the fire squad wasn’t called, she knew it had to be a trapped person.
She grabbed her heavy coat that had her last name spread across the back with Chicago Fire Department. Aside from soccer, this was always one of her dreams. To become one of Chicago’s finest; to be known for her desire to save lives instead of her successful collegiate career at UNC.
“Let’s go boys!”
They got in the truck and Kyle tapped Tobin’s shoulder, “Can I atleast have my tickets back?”
“You should have known better than to challenge her. She’s the luckiest firefighter out there.”
Tobin looked back at her candidate through the mirror, “What’s that supposed to mean Ali?”
“I mean let’s be real,” Ali nervously chuckled before continuing, “Your record is spotless. You have been on this truck a hundred and thirty-six times and every time, you have rescued who needs rescuing.”
Tobin knew she didn’t know and she didn’t blame her; everyone knew what happened a year ago but no one dared to say anything about her “clean” record. Saying those words struck home for Tobin, flashing back to the one fire that won in which caused her to lose one of her own. She heard a small ow and it made her smile which then quickly disappeared after she saw absolutely nothing on the street.
“Fucking Prank callers.” She mutters as she stepped out the large firetruck, not bothering to put her hat on or pull up her hair. Though it was a kind of quick drive, nothing irked the lieutenant more than a prank.
She heard a few complaints coming from her squad and once she was about to radio in that it was nothing but a prank, she saw a door fling open in her peripheral vision. Tobin frowned, great.
She sighed and turned around expecting an old lady but it wasn’t. Rather, the person who appeared was a young girl with bright blue scrubs on topped with a Stanford jacket. She was frowning, her arms crossed across her chest. Tobin can see the hands that were balled into fists, knuckles turning white.
She was taken aback at how her heart sped up when there was a moment of brief eye contact. Kind of cute when she is mad, Tobin admitted to herself, trying to quickly push the thought away to remain professional soon after. Tobin began the slow, normal routine walk up the stairs while tying her hair, “How can we help you Ma--“
“Oh-so it takes you thirty minutes to come here but you couldn’t even tie your own hair in the process?”
Tobin frowned and cleared her throat, twenty minutes miss.
“We apologize ma’am, what seems to be the—“
“Oh no, no.” She laughed angrily and put her finger in Tobin’s face, so close that it was touching her nose, who is this chick.
“I don’t want your apology.”
Tobin forced a smile on her face, catching how the nurse’s eyes went down to look at her smile for a moment before clearing her throat, looking back up.
“Then how can I help?”
The next words made her squad laugh. Tobin didn’t know if it were the nonchalant words in which gallantly flowed out her lips or the way Tobin reacted with the facial expression when she heard the simple words. She felt like someone just pushed her into the cold waters of the Chicago River. No, she felt like this was worse than a prank.
A big, fat.
But duty always calls.
The nurse looked so serious and Tobin’s smile quickly disappeared, a dumbfounded expression started taking over. Her shoulders dropped, “You’re meaning that you are this, mean. For a cat?”
“Aren’t you going to ask what’s wrong with it?”
“Uh yeah, to save him from his bipolar owner? Sure thing.”
Her squad clearly held back the laughter with their erratic coughing, acting more unprofessional making their lieutenant even more annoyed with how the nurse’s cheeks turned redder than a Chicago sunset, she was embarrassed. Damn, I’m a jackass.
“Show a little respect to the lady, would ya?” She turned back around to catch a faint smile on the girl’s lips, her eyes magnetically drifting towards it. They moved back up to her eyes, noting how her eyes squint when she does smile, thinking it was one of the most beautiful smiles she’s ever seen.
Why am I even thinking about this?!? You. Are. On. The. Job.
It quickly disappeared following a clearing of the throat by the nurse, prompting Tobin to speak back up. No matter how small that smile was, Tobin wanted to see it again. Like, her mind started shifting gears at that moment just to see the smile again.
“I apologize for being rude.”
Because somehow, that smile made her heart flutter like none other and apologizing would be her best option. She normally never feels her chest pound or her palms suddenly starting to feel sweaty when she wasn’t in a fire. What she normally did was either save lives or take some girl home for the night.
Her guard was up but it came crashing down after seeing this nurse.
“Well if you—“
“Just… show me?”
Christen let out a grunt at the interruption, her cheeks still red, and turned on her heels to open the door for Tobin.
God why did she have to be so cute? Tobin took off her coat and threw it at her candidate, “I’ll be back. No need to come in.” Her squad started to “oooouuuu” and she could’ve sworn Ali handed Ash a crisp, green bill after rolling her eyes and getting back into the truck.
Her home was very colorful, art pieces everywhere with neutral colored furniture. Every piece accented each other, whether it be the grey roses in front of a bright blue abstract art piece to the white, suede couch with light blue lamps. It was very clean, something she expected from a nurse who had a stick so far up her ass, that Tobin wasn’t sure how she could possibly walk.
But what really caught her eye was the four jerseys that were hung up—two on either side of the TV. For someone who made sure that everything worked together, she was surprised at the red, white, and two blue jerseys that were hung up.
Press, Press, Press, Press.
Stanford and… the red stars? Damn.
“It’s right there…”
She led her to the kitchen and looked up. Tobin sighed and saw the cat indeed stuck at the top of the cabinets. She looked at the girl who was clearly concerned and decided not to fight it anymore.
She held her hand out to shake her hand, “Seeming as though you clearly can’t reach the cat…”
“Are you being sarcastic because if that’s it, you are—“ Tobin sighed and brought her hand back at the rejection, jumping onto the counter with ease and sighed, “Lady, you’re driving me crazy. I’m only joking…”
It was funny to Tobin, able to see the girl squirm in her peripheral vision at the sight of Tobin’s arms. Seeing her muscles working together to lift the heavy boots and pants that weighed the firefighter down off the ground with ease made the nurse uneasy, shifting her weight from one leg to another. She could feel her eyes linger on Tobin’s figure as she stretched upwards to reach for the cat and Tobin would be lying if she didn’t admit to herself how nervous she felt at the idea of the nurse checking her out.
The good thing is, she knew she looked good at the time.
“Really, you’re going to call me lady now?” She scoffed, muttering something about respect that Tobin rolled her eyes at, “Well you were too busy biting my head off for waiting twenty minutes to get your name.”
Tobin saw what the issue was. Somehow, a trap for a rat ended up at the top of the cabinet near the wall. The cat purred at her as she pet it, “Hey little guy…”
For some reason, she enjoyed the interaction she had with the girl. Dying to test the girl’s limits once more, Tobin gently carried the cat up simultaneously holding the trap steady with her other hand.
“Her name is Lily.”
Tobin hopped off the counter, seeing the nurse avert her eyes quickly as she ran her hand through her ponytail. She smiled again at the nurse, “And yours?” She reached for her pocket knife and worry struck the nurse’s eyes as she stared at the knife, “Relax, the leg will be saved. No need to take him to an ER, lady.”
The last word was on purpose, pushing the nurse over the edge just like Tobin wanted.
“For your information, it’s Christen. Not, lady.” It was like she gnarled the words at Tobin who was very much so taking the precious time out of her schedule to save a cat.
“Do you have to be so mean?” She freed the cat with one swift move and it immediately jumped into Christen’s arms.
“You can leave now.”
“Are you really mad for taking nineteen minutes to get there? Two tickets to the Cubs games were on stake here lady.”
“Twenty,” She corrected after she let out a sigh of impatience mixed with exasperation, “For the love of god, it’s Chris—Wait, you took that long for TICKETS? My cat could’ve died!” She flared her nostrils out at Tobin who smiled again, admitting to herself at that moment she enjoyed seeing this woman like this.
No longer on the job.
“I’d like to take you to that game if you’d let me?” She licked her lips slowly and leaned against her granite countertop. She watched the nurse’s eyes fall towards her lips again, “Oh my god. You did not just, no. No… Wow, just No.”
“Christen,” Tobin corrected herself smiling and straightened her back as she edged a little closer to the girl who took two steps back with the cat, “Not even a thank you?”
They locked eyes, Tobin tilting her head to the side trying to figure out the color of her eyes. They’re so beautiful, she thought to herself, noticing the hint of grey at the ends of her sea green eyes. She could stare at them all day long, she thought, thinking of how she was utterly captivated by the crazy woman.
There was that silence in the room; that type of silence that makes the two hold their breath. Tobin took the time to note the high cheekbones, freckles across her sun-kissed cheeks and the perfect jawline revealed by her high ponytail.
Their gazes held for longer than Christen had anticipated, unable to ignore how her heart was pounding just by the way the firefighter was looking at her. Like, she was taking mental snapshots of how Christen looks like right now.
Oh, did it make Christen nervous.
“I can’t believe this.”
She dropped her cat and Tobin’s eyebrows shot up in surprise staring at the cat that ran away, “So not only bipolar but an abusive owner too?”
“UGH. I can’t with women who have egos the size of Texas, thinking they can charm their way through anything.” She marched over to the door and tightened her jaw before turning to look at the firefighter who somehow, remained calm during this whole altercation. She shrugged and made her way towards Christen.
She let out an exagerrated sigh of her own and smiled as she turned around to look at the nurse once more, “You should try loosening up a little.”
“Then prove it.” Tobin saw that Christen was about to speak back up again to protest and it was her turn to put the finger up, “Go out with me Christen Press, I’ll wait for you under the sign. Be there, two weeks from this day at 5:30.”
Finally noticing how her finger was on the nurse’s soft lips, Tobin could feel a warmth spread through her chest faster than a wildfire spreading through a forest. Seeing how the nurse was stunned as she held her breath, she smiled at her and walked out the door, turning around again to see Christen still in the same spot.
The words were so easily spoken from the heart, trusting the way she feels towards the hostile nurse, knowing that the whole act the nurse put up must be a façade. She went with her gut feeling, something she has always done the past 5 years as a firefighter. She trusted herself and her gut that kept her alive all these years.
No? Tobin shook her head, smiling at the girl as she took steps back towards her firetruck while keeping eye contact with the nurse, “See you then, Christen Press.”
“HOW can one be so ARROGANT!” Christen huffed out as she naturally did the honors of cleaning, stitching, and dressing up a little boy’s gash just under his knee, “Can you believe it Ben.”
“I mean Christen! She’s a fiiiirefighter.” The boy winced when he felt the alcohol being applied at the wound, his grip tightening against the blue leather bed, “She likes you!”
“I just met her Benny! She was so…”
“YES!” Christen frantically looked up at the twelve year-old beaming at her, “I mean, no OF-course not.” She looked up and closed her eyes, letting herself just indulge the thought that maybe, just maybe…
She has a deeecent smile.
And clearly nice a body.
Christen looked up a little as her thoughts deepened, trying to picture the firefighter one more time.
And strong… I could tell just by her shoulders and arms…
“Okay, a little.” She admitted, going back at his knee laceration and pushed the thoughts away, “When are you ever going to stop hurting yourself kid.”
“Blame it on the sport—OW easy. I’m going to tell mom about your date.”
“Comes with the package. You’ll be just like your godmother one day and I swear if you do tell her-I’m going to kick—“
“Benny, AGAIN!?” Alex rushed into the room and looked at her best friend, “Another bad cut?”
“Mommm, Christen’s going on a date!”
“FINALLY!” Alex high fived her son and Christen sighed, finishing the last stitch before looking up at Alex, “It’s not going to happen.”
She took off her gloves as she shot Benny a glare and threw them away before turning back to look at the disgruntled best friend who was checking out the stitches, “I’ll never understand why you never went to med school.”
“Because I chose soccer after College, you chose med school babe.”
“Mom, why’s she calling you babe?” Ben hopped off the bed, landing on his good leg and picked up his bookbag waiting for an answer.
“Because I’m a babe, duh. Come on kid, let’s get you home,” She walked off yelling, “You need to tell me about the date!”
“It’s not-t-t a date-e-e.” She singsonged the words as she watched her best friend stop at the desk a few steps away from where she stitched up her son, telling him how sad it is that every day he messes one part of his body up.
Son you’ll be deadpool by the time you’re eighteen if you keep this up, she says as she signed the discharge papers.
Mom, who’s deadpool? Christen laughed at the interaction that left little Ben confused and his mom who took no note of it and walked off.
Someone you won’t know about until you hit eighteen.
I have google mom.
Why are you so smart?
Has to be dad.
“TOBIN you need to get out of there right now!”
She felt the heat grow exponentially larger with every second that slipped by. Her gut told her to push forward and disobey her chief, “Negative!”
“We have a ladder, I order you to get the hell—“
“There won’t be enough time!” She screamed through the roaring fires into the radio. It was her and the fire alone, her heart pumping adrenaline through her body. She enjoyed these moments that were so critical, something she fears to admit due to the judgement that may surface.
But damn, did she love fighting the fire. She knew she heard something upstairs and she wasn’t just going to let it go. She marched slowly up the stairs, careful with each step but it didn’t help. The house itself was one of the oldest in Chicago, causing the wooden stairs to collapse from its weak foundation below.
Her heart leapt out of her chest, adrenaline causing her to react by sprinting up the stairs. It was a bold move, hearing the rest of the stairs collapsing behind her. The house was going down and she knew it. No matter how many times she’s been in this situation and inside a house engulfed in flames, she will never understand the fiery blaze’s strategy.
It was always, unpredictable.
The long hallway was surrounded by flames, the now black smoke was making it harder and harder for Tobin to see infront of her. She ducked low as she marched forward, “FIRE Department, call out!”
There was no answer, “FIRE DEPARTMENT, CALL OUT!”
She squinted her eyes and saw the closed door of the apartment at the end of the long hallway.
And her gut again, told her to keep going.
“I’m going to need a ladder chief east side!” The heat at this point became almost unbearable, feeling the heat off the walls fighting to get through her suit and knowing that along with the black smoke caused Tobin to react faster. Because she knew that a wave of fire was about to go through the entire building as one, last blow.
“I know!” She regained her breathing under control and took a deep breath in, turning around once she reached the door, closing her eyes and focusing all her energy towards her right boot. She thought of the moment she lost her best friend by a fire just like this, anger clouding her mind but not her judgement. Of all times, the memories come flooding in, picturing the look of her best friend as she told Tobin to leave her behind.
Don’t leave without checking that door. Her mind stirred at the endless possibilities of which would come after opening that door. She has no exit, trusting her firemen to put that ladder up. That was her only hope because no way in hell, Tobin thought, will I let a fire beat me again. Her grip tightened against the warm steel of her axe and she kicked the door as hard as she could, busting through the hot steel hinges holding the door upright.
Consequences of her actions will meet her in less than ten seconds.
Time froze, her frantic eyes searching around to find a baby crying in the corner with his mom clearly knocked out from the fire. She looked towards the windows to find a ladder placed at one window ready for her to climb down from.
Not enough time.
She took off her mask and firefighting helmet instantly, something she was trained to never do under any circumstance, dropping the mask coughing as she grabbed the baby and without question, stuffing him right into her jacket. There was this panic that swarmed through her entire body as she ran back to the back of the room and ran as fast as she could towards the window.
Tobin closed her eyes and leaped out head first, twisting her body to where she saw the clear skies now clouded by black smoke and the fire that roared through the room’s window she dove out of.
Bracing, for impact.
God, is this real?
She felt a piercing sound pierce through her eardrums. Tobin lifted her arm up slowly but something tugged it back down, hearing a small voice in the background.
Easy tiger, just rest up.
Her vision was blurred as she heard voices in the background, looking around despite the heavy wave of drowsiness that overwhelmed her entire body. She felt weak, tired, and dead. Her lips were so dry, throat itching, hearing a steady beep in the background. Tobin looked down her body, seeing two IVs hooked into her arm and in a bed that was not hers.
“Are you ready for your treatment?”
She felt something heavy, maybe a hand, give her a light squeeze before hearing a chair scrape against the cold floor backwards.
“Can you not call it treatment…”
“Okay fine, we just need to see if you are a match. But, did you hear about what this firefighter did?”
“What’d she do?”
“Jumped out of a two-story window for a baby. We need more firefighters like her.”
Tobin’s state of mind was still disoriented and her vision was no longer a complete blur, able to see the back of a woman in blue scrubs and a red sweatshirt with a man who was clearly a doctor. Her eyes were ready to give in to the sleep that her body craved but she held on, wanting to know who the mysterious woman is.
She turned around, “Yeah. We do.”
And no matter how heavy her lids felt and her slightly blurred vision, nothing could stop her from recognizing that face. And when she felt that familiar warmth that spread through her chest moments before Tobin fell back into a deep sleep…
She knew it was her.
She woke up two days later from her slumber less disoriented, the piercing sound no longer there. Tobin was surrounded by flowers and cards, “What the f…” It suddenly hit her what happened to her, panic rising almost as fast as her heartrate spiked. She heard the monitor go haywire as she pulled at the IVs, feeling another pain coming from her ribs.
She let go of the IVs and grasped at her side, wishing the searing pain would stop.
“Hey, hey, hey-stop. It’s okay,” A nurse came running to her side. Not any nurse, but a nurse with a bright red jacket on with a Christmas tree (what Tobin thought when she first saw it) logo, “Calm down, it’s okay. I got you.”
Tobin rested her head back on the pillow and closed her eyes tightly at the feel of her warm hand back on her forearm, “Only a crazy girl would wear that Christmas tree around here.”
“And only a crazy girl would jump out a two-story building. And it’s a redwood tree.” Tobin looked over at Christen and smiled weakly, “Only trying to impress ya, Christen Press.”
Christen rolled her eyes, “Stop--you’re using up all your energy to come up with these lines.” Tobin let out a raspy laugh, immediately grasping at her side again holding back a stifling scream. She clenched her jaw and looked over at Christen and seeing that worried look on her face, it made Tobin feel so weak.
But Tobin could see through the worry. She was looking at a girl who didn’t glow the way she did nine days ago. She looked tired too, dark circles forming around her eyes to indicate the exhaustion.
“How’d the treatment go?”
Christen’s face fell flat, “What do-- How do you know about that?”
“I heard it.” It felt like it took her all her strength to swallow; Christen grabbing the water by instinct and bringing it up to Tobin’s mouth, “Here, drink.” Tobin felt a gentle hand push up her head towards the water. Tobin reached up slowly to take ahold of the water, her hand wrapping around Christen’s.
She heard Christen breath in deeply at the contact, “I uh, umm…I’m trying to find a match for bone marrow. I-don’t-even know why I’m telling you this…I-I gotta go, my friend erm, Doctor Carrasco, will take care of you.”
It’s one thing that has always had Tobin befuddled. Why do the good ones have such, shitty, luck? Deep in her own thoughts, she didn’t notice that the nurse left without a sound, the Doctor coming in soon after.
“Heyyy… Tobin Heath, I’m Doctor Servando Carrasco but you can call me Serv. I’m the one who patched you up. You suffer from a concussion, three broken ribs, and a lung contusion, and a dislocated shoulder...” She drowned out his voice as he talked about what he did in the surgery room to fix her up. Once she heard nothing, that was when Tobin spoke up.
“Just doing my job.” Tobin tried her best to look tough and cleared her throat, “So uh, what’s her story?”
“Who-OOOOH Christen,” He laughed shaking his head as he marked up her charts, “She’s special, probably our best Pediatrics nurse.”
Great, treats children too.
“And the treatment? What for?”
“Leukemia. But, we caught it just in time I believe. She’s struggling to find a genetic match and hopefully, we can find one soon and start chemo and we can clear up—“
“Test me?” Tobin blurted the words, surprised with herself even.
The doctor’s hand froze on the chart looking up at Tobin with a surprised smile on his face, “I’m sorry but you are in no condition to be tested.”
“Test me.” Her tone was more demanding and the doctor sighed, placing the chart at the end of her bed. She didn’t know much about the girl but she felt like this was something her heart, not her gut, was telling her to do. Tobin knows what it takes to donate bone marrow and if she is a match, it would put her off the job for a month.
Maybe, even more.
Otherwise, she would not let herself do this.
“Okay but, two days more of recovery. I just need you to sign some papers and we can move forward with the test.”
“Just under one condition…”
“And that is?”
“It has to be anonymous.”