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Internal Flames

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Nicole jolted awake, the sound of the alarm ringing loudly in her ears. Instinct took over and she lept out of her bed, arriving at her locker within seconds. With skilled ease, she stepped into the boots of her turnout gear and pulled the pants up, securing the suspenders on her shoulders. She zipped up her turnout jacket before grabbing the other essentials-helmet, gloves, and self-contained breathing apparatus. She checked to make sure her crew was ready and climbed into the passenger seat of the truck, carefully placing her headset over her ears. She called across the radio to gather details on the call. “Dispatch, this is Lieutenant Haught with Rescue 13. I am ready to copy.” She carefully wrote down the information and directed the driver where to go. They were officially enroute to a massive fire at an apartment complex a few miles away. Her adrenaline kicked in and she was ready to take care of business.

Nicole’s mouth dropped as they arrived on scene. The three-story apartment building was almost entirely engulfed in flames except for one apartment on the first floor at the far right of the building. “Holy shit,” she said aloud. “Boys, let’s make sure everyone is out and do our best to get this blaze put out. Our safety is important as well. Be smart, stay with your buddy, and let’s make sure we come out of this alive.” Her crew acknowledged her as they parked the truck. She climbed out, placing her bright red helmet on her head and securing the strap. There were a lot of people out front and she started clearing them back for their safety.

“Help! Someone please help!” Nicole’s head shot around, her eyes falling on a middle-aged woman running towards her. “My neighbor is still in there! She’s disabled and doesn’t move well and she can’t get out!” The woman pointed towards the apartment that wasn’t on fire. Yet. She quickly flagged down her buddy, Jeremy, as she put on her mask and they ran for the back door of the apartment.

The team checked to see if the door was unlocked. Bingo. Nicole carefully slid it open. Too much air and oxygen too quickly could cause the fire to explode in their faces if the fire was already in that apartment without them knowing. So far, so good. They slowly walked in, checking to see if there was any sign of a blaze while looking for the woman who lived there. “Ma’am? Are you in here? Please yell if you can hear me!” Nicole heard the faint sound of someone coughing. She motioned for Jeremy to follow and they quickly made their way towards the sound. She pushed open the door of a bedroom and was met with black smoke. She strained her eyes to see and called out to the woman again.

She found the old woman curled up in the corner, barely hanging on. She ran over and scooped her up in her arms, cradling her against her chest. Jeremy used his flashlight to show her the way out and he followed her out, watching her back. They moved quickly through the apartment, the fire bearing down on the small apartment like a tornado. Nicole heard a faint roar.
“Jeremy! Move out! Now!” They both ran through the back door as fast as they could. Seconds later, the entire side of the building exploded, shooting flames out of every possible window. The firefighters dropped to the ground, shielding the woman from burning embers and shards of glass. They quickly got to safety and Nicole laid the woman on the ground. She was barely breathing.

The medics were at her side immediately and she ripped off her mask as she reached for the oxygen mask, carefully placing it over the woman’s nose and mouth as she cradled her head in her lap. “Take deep breaths, ma’am. You’re going to be okay. Slow, deep breaths.” The woman looked up at her with tears in her eyes and weakly wrapped her hand around Nicole’s wrist, her body limp. Nicole fought back tears, knowing if she had been two minutes later, the woman would be dead. She watched the woman’s breaths become easier and she let out a sigh of relief.

“That was intense. I don’t know how you made it out before that explosion, but this lady is lucky you were there. I was seriously afraid you guys weren’t going to make it out of there.” Nicole looked up. Her eyes met the bright hazel ones of a beautiful brunette paramedic kneeling across from her. “Great job,” she leaned towards Nicole to see her name badge, “Lieutenant Haught.” Nicole stared at the woman. She was completely caught off guard by her beauty that she almost forgot to respond.

“Oh, uhm, thanks. It’s just part of the job and it’s what I love about it. Saving people’s lives!” She looked back down at her patient, who was finally starting to try to move. She removed the oxygen mask and helped the woman sit up. “There you go, ma’am. Take it nice and slow. We’re going to get you to the hospital to get you checked out, okay?” The old lady looked up at Nicole and she could see the tear streaks through the ash on her face.
“It’s not ma’am, it’s Catherine,” the old woman said hoarsely, the effects of the smoke showing themselves clearly. “Thank you so much for saving my life. I knew I was going to die tonight and I was saying my final prayers. Then God sent me an angel. You are my angel.” Catherine looked towards the medic on her other side. “You should keep this angel,” she said as she gestured towards Nicole before a wicked cough wracked her frail body.

Tears filled Nicole’s eyes and love filled her heart. This is why she loved her job. She couldn’t save everyone, but the ones she did save stayed with her forever. She just smiled at the woman and squeezed her hand as she fought to control her emotions. She gestured at the medic to help her stand the woman up and get her onto the stretcher. She stood at the back of the ambulance, preparing to close the doors, when the medic turned to her.

“By the way, I’m Waverly. Waverly Earp. I will see you around soon.” She smiled and Nicole smiled back.
“I’m Nicole, and that sounds like a plan to me. Take care of Catherine for me.” She closed the doors and hit them twice, signaling to the driver they were good to go. She watched the ambulance drive off, red lights flashing in her eyes, but all she could see were hazel ones staring back at her through the windows.

Nicole sat in the front seat of Rescue 13, filling out paperwork while the ladder and tanker trucks got the blaze under control. She tried to focus on what she was writing, but she couldn’t stop thinking about the medic. She wished she could have talked to her a little longer. She was mindlessly writing down the details of Catherine’s rescue when Jeremy’s voice startled her. She jumped, sending the pen flying at his face.

“Whoa there, Lieutenant! I didn’t mean to scare you! Are you alright?”
“What? Yeah, I-I’m fine. S-sorry, Jeremy! I didn’t mean to hit you with a pen. I get you out of a dangerous situation just to kill you with a pen!”
Jeremy held his hands up. “It’s okay! It’s okay! I just wanted to check on you and make sure you were good. Thanks for getting us out of there when you did. I haven’t been that scared in a long time.”
“Yes, yes. I’m good. No problem. We’re a team and it’s my job to make sure we are safe. You know that!” Nicole placed a hand on her crew member’s shoulder, squeezing it reassuringly. “Plus, Henry would kill me if I let anything happen to you!”

Jeremy gave her a huge grin as she climbed out of the truck and helped him start packing up the gear.They secured the truck and Nicole made her way over to the fire chief to make sure they were clear to leave the scene. He congratulated her on her rescue and granted the permission to return to the station. She checked her watch as they pulled out of the complex. It was 2:45am. They’d been on scene for 3 hours and she had no idea. Her mind had been on her rescue and on that medic. She desperately hoped she’d be able to sleep when they got back. She needed it!

After a quick shower, she climbed into bed and exhaustion overtook her. She was asleep within minutes, images of the beautiful medic flashing through her dreams as her voice echoed, almost on repeat. “I’m Waverly. Waverly Earp. Great job, Lieutenant Haught.” She could hear it as if she were next to her. Nicole woke up slowly, a smile on her face. It was going to be a good day. She could feel it.


Jeremy made breakfast for everyone and they sat discussing the previous night’s call and the entire crew debriefing. Her boys trusted her with their lives, that was evident. They had a confidence in her that filled her with pride and duty outside of protecting the general public. She thanked Jeremy for the meal and headed for the weight room for her regular workout.

Nicole sat on the weight bench in soccer shorts and a sports bra, adjusting her headphones and browsing through her music. She decided on Mudvayne-hardcore music for a hardcore workout to clear her mind. She slipped her phone into her pocket and started pressing weights, sweat beginning to run down her back as she worked her muscles. She was so into her workout and music that she didn’t hear the door behind her open.

Waverly stood in the doorway next to Jeremy, staring at Nicole’s back. It took all of her effort not to leave her jaw hanging. Her body glistened with sweat, shimmering like water in sunlight. She could see her muscles working hard under her skin, every single one visible along her back and shoulders. Her mouth went dry and she bit her lip slightly as she took in the mental image for later use. Jeremy’s voice cut through her mind as he called out to get Nicole’s attention. She watched him walk in and point towards her. The ripped goddess before her turned to face her, bringing with it toned arms, chest, and abs. Waverly’s knees went weak and then Nicole smiled at her. She had no clue how she was still standing.

Nicole was shocked to see the medic standing before her. At first, she felt exposed and almost naked wearing only her sports bra and shorts. She wiped her face and tossed the towel over her shoulder as she walked up to her. “Uhm, h-ey Waverly.” The words came out shakier than she intended. She watched as Waverly looked her up and down before meeting her eyes. She saw her swallow hard.
“Hi, Nicole. Uhm, wow. I-I’m sorry I messed up your workout. I-” she paused as she started to turn away. “I’ll just go and stop by later or something so you can get back to looking se-. Erm, I mean, getting s-stronger.”
Nicole couldn’t help but smile. She placed her hand on Waverly’s arm. “No, no. It’s fine. I was almost done for the day anyway except for a run, which I can do later in the day. What brought you to the station?”
    “I, uhm, I just...I just wanted to give you an update on Catherine. I checked on her before my shift ended when I dropped off another patient. She’s recovering and should be discharged this afternoon. Her lungs are irritated from the smoke inhalation, but that was the worst of it.”
    “I am so happy to hear that. I was really worried about her, even though I knew she would be okay.” Nicole smiled again, her dimples showing prominently. “I was thinking of calling my nurse friend to check in on her after my workout. Thank you for stopping by to tell me, even though you really didn’t have to do that.”
    “You’re welcome. I thought you might want to know and I live over this way, so I thought I’d just swing by. I also, uhm…” She glanced nervously at Jeremy, who picked up the hint and walked into the tv room. “I also wanted to see if maybe, uhm, you wanted to go grab lunch sometime. When you’re not on duty and I’m not working, obviously. I know you work 48 hour shifts and all and I don’t know when you’re off so we would have to talk about it and, well, yeah…”
    “Waverly…” She waited until the medic met her eyes again. “I’d love to go have lunch with you sometime. Let me see your phone.” Nicole took the phone from her hands, glad she could blame the shaking on her hard workout. She saved her number to her contacts. “There. Now you can call or text me when you’ve got time. I get off tomorrow morning sometime around 9am.” She smiled again, her heart pounding in her chest. “Now how about you get home and get some rest since you worked all night.”
    She took a step towards Waverly, nudging her towards the door with her hand on the small over back. She was adorably short next to her, perfect for wrapping her arms around her shoulders in a hug from behind. She shook her head. Easy on the thoughts, Nicole! They walked out together, shoulders nearly touching. Nicole watched as Waverly climbed into a red Jeep Wrangler and smiled at her before driving off. She headed back into the station to go get cleaned up. She stood in the shower thinking of the recent events, and smiled when she heard her phone go off.