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Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda

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Four more hours and Vic is free. She's working her last half shift before seven glorious days of freedom with Luke. It might have been raining alot, but Vic's forecast was full of sunshine.

No one at Station 19 knew about them yet. There was a close call when Gibson picked up her phone in the very beginning, but she'd been smart enough to save him under 'Kel from the coffee shop.' She knew she'd never be able to keep it totally secret so everyone knew she was dating 'Kel'. It's been 6 months of wild sex, visits to their diner, and, at long last, this vacation. After she'd narrowly missed getting hit by the exploding RV a few weeks ago, they'd decided to go ahead and quietly schedule that vacation.

He wanted to go somewhere cold; she'd wanted somewhere warm so they were going to the Washington rain forest. Turns out compromise is that weird thing committed couples did. Part of her wondered of that meant no one was happy. On the other hand, the awesomeness of a secluded cabin with her chief ...

A tightening in her belly reminded her of how grueling this past week had been. She was working back to back 24 hour shifts with this final 12 now. The station was down people for some of the alternate shifts since they were rebuilding after the RV crash. Fortunately she spent almost all of those shifts on aid car. Originally she was supposed to be on ladder, but Andy had reassigned her. Six days of sleeping in the bunk room and eating on the run had taken its toll. Her stomach was upset and hurting. She raided the station's supply of ibuprofen and zofran just to stop the pain and puking. She already asked Warren to restock supply. Having a doctor on staff could be convenient.

There were low voices in the women's locker room. They cut off as she walked in.

"Hey Vic," Maya Bishop greeted her a little too brightly. She was toweling off her hair after coming in from a fire call in the rain. 'Ready for vacation?"

"Can't wait." Vic was pretty sure they had been talking about her.

"Are you all packed?" Andy asked. "You've been working so much; have you even gone home?"

"Not yet. Kel's coming over tonight, and we'll pack before we leave tomorrow." now Vic was sure she'd been their topic. She definitely wasn't saying that she was not going to her place, but Luke's. His place was bigger and more central than hers.

"You said you're going camping? Make sure you take extra jackets. Don't forget your toothbrush, toothpaste, hairbrush . . . tampons. All that stuff. I hated forgetting stuff like that at my meets." Maya said, always able to fit in a mention of her Olympic past.

"I'll keep it in mind." Vic had no need for tampons. She was 1 month past her last depo shot. Since it basically eliminated all bleeding, she got it redone every 3 months, and it let her enjoy Luke without a condom. It was freeing to not have to remember a pill and still not worry about pregnancy. She smiled - to have her cake and eat it too. Lucas Ripley was definitely some delicious cake. If it kept raining, they would probably never leave the cabin.

"About Kel," Andy started in, "Can we meet him yet? Its been like 6 months."

"Andy, it's like I told Trav - many times - he doesn't want to interfere with my family here."

"Is it because you're a firefighter? Does he think he can't compete?" Andy, again.

"He respects my job. He believes what I do is important." Vic wanted her to drop it. Today of all days Andy and Maya took a break from their own dating dramas to pester her. Andy was pissed that Ryan sometimes dated fellow police officer Jenna even though she and Sullivan were going through some weird sexual tension thing since the aid car crash. Jack and Maya had outed themselves immediately after the quarantine, and it was clear Maya and Andy weren't quite over that yet.

"Can you tell is when we get to meet him? Are we going to find out you actually went to Vegas and got hitched instead to some guy we've never met?"

"Look, Andy, I promise when it's time, I will absolutely make a big deal about it for you."

"It's fine, Andy, not everyone needs to know everything about everyone," Maya pointed out, a subtle dig at Andy's response to 'Gibshop.' "How did Sullivan approve all of this back to back work?"

Vic smiled. "I just keep my head down. The station needs the help with the new construction. He doesn't notice me because I don't give him a reason to do so. I'm not a lieutenant. I don't challenge his authority, Andy." Andy started to open her mouth. "I'd have thought you two did some soul-searching in that aid car. Or did you do more?" Andy shut her mouth.

Maya laughed, "She's got you on that one, Andy. You never stop pushing Sullivan. Is it because you're still sometimes seeing Ryan? Do you think of the captain is jealous of that? You two argue like every day. At least Vic learned her lesson after yelling at Chief Ripley at peer reviews."

This was a great time for Vic to leave. "Sorry ladies, I've got to go to the girls room. My stomach's not feeling so great. Y'all can just deal with your dating drama without me."

She ran to the bathroom and promptly threw up the spaghetti she eaten for lunch. So frustrating. She could not be sick right before this vacation. Probably should be taking better care of herself.

One week ago.

"Probie, you need to take better care of yourself," Vic announced, walking into the bedroom with a saucy grin. She schooled her features into a more severe expression. "Stand at attention."

All of Luke's attention was on her since she was wearing a thong and his black chief jacket. And nothing else. He stood next to the bed in his boxer briefs. It was their last night together for a while before vacation, and Vic had told him she wanted to play. Parts of him were already starting to stand at attention. It was her game, and he was more than willing to play it.

She walked up behind him and, with less than gentle hands, bent him over onto the bed. She pressed her mostly bare body against his back and squeezed his ass. "Now, as your instructor, Chief Hughes, I've found your performance wanting." She slipped a hand between his body and the bed to fondle his rapidly hardening cock. "You are in need of remediation and you need to demonstrate you ability to follow all orders without question." She tugged on his balls almost to the point of pain. "If you obey, you'll be rewarded. If you disobey, you'll be punished. Do you understand?"

"Yes," he replied hoping she wasn't going to give him a heart attack during this. It would be tough to explain to the coroner why an otherwise healthy 43 year old male had a coronary.

"Yes . . . ma'am,"She whispered, nibbling on his ear. If she had to go a week without him, she'd better make this memorable.

"Yes, ma'am," he repeated obediently. They'd done some teasing role-play in the past but this seemed a bit more serious.

"Good, now, Probie, on your back. Hold still and don't move." He flipped over and laid in the middle of the bed. He could see the edge of the bright red painting she'd brought over from her room a few weeks ago. He given her free run of taking over his bedroom so it pretty much looked like her old place. "We need to talk about hose management. I feel that you have not been very meticulous about checking the hoses for leaks. You need to run them regularly to know which ones need to be patched." She rolled down his underwear to mid thigh, exposing his cock. He was standing straight up already, leaking precum. "See, a leak. What's the appropriate procedure now?" she rested her hand around the base.

"Test it with water, ma'am to check for leaks. If a leak is found after two flushes, it needs to be patched." Her grip tightened.

"Well, this one appears to be leaking, so I'll demonstrate the proper patching technique." She took off her thong and tied it securely at the base of his shaft. Just tight enough to put some pressure on as he became more and more engorged. She then rubbed her wet pussy across his straining erection. He made a harsh gasping noise and bit out a quiet "Fuck."

She slapped his balls, not hard enough to hurt him but enough to make him uncomfortable. "That was insubordinate. You used coarse language, so we need to talk about that." She crawled further up his body. "I have noticed your facial hair is not cut to regulation. It is imperative that each firefighter be able to make a full seal when masked. You are going to need to demonstrate the same ability with your current choice of grooming." Her pupils were fully dilated and her chest was heaving. The dark peaks of her nipples were tight little buds; she was that aroused.

He wondered where this was going next. He didn't have to wait long. She opened up the jacket fully and pulled him up a little forward, presenting her tits to him.

"Yes, ma'am." He leaned forward and started mouthing her nipples one at a time. First he took turns licking them, then he nipped at them. Usually he'd pull at them with his fingers but did not since he'd been instructed to use his mouth only. Vic was making encouraging noises in the back of her throat as he took one full into his mouth applying just the amount of suction that he knew she liked. If he was going to be horny as hell, he might as well give it back to her. As he felt her get even wetter on his hips, she pulled away from him and shoved him back down onto the bed.

"Good effort, but I don't think that's a true full demonstration of technique." She placed her thighs on either side of his shoulders and sank down onto his face, presenting her hot wet curls to him. "You may resume, Probie," the last word cracked on the end as he started going to his task enthusiastically. Having her above him, demanding it, was so hot. He loved going down on her, licking her till she came. But in this position it was even hotter as he was on her command. He alternated between licking her clit and sucking on it. Her thighs started to shake and she was moaning breathlessly. He recognized that sound very well so he reached up to grab her hips to steady her. After a couple more seconds, she shrieked as she came.

She slid a little bit down his body and pulled him up with her. Her eyes were slightly unfocused, and his erection throbbed harder. She ground her hips a little bit against his dick again and he felt his eyes almost cross. A satisfied male grin crossed his lips as he wiped some of her moisture off his beard.

"Oh, Probie, you think you did a good job? You didn't follow orders." Luke tried to play back what she'd said in his mind. It was very hard to concentrate between his raging hard on and his warm very wet girlfriend laying on his chest. "You used your hands. That's cheating." She smiled even bigger and he didn't realize it was possible to get even hornier. "It's time for punishment. You're going to have to demonstrate advanced technique. You will have to thoroughly please your instructor without pleasing yourself."

Now he understood. Whatever she was going to do, he had to make her come, but could not come himself. That was why she'd tied the thong on. To torture him and prolong him. Such a lucky guy.

She spun around into 69 position, re-positioning her slit over his mouth."Now, remember, no insubordination." He pushed up eagerly again as she went down on him. It was amazing; it was purgatory. He wasn't allowed to hold her hips as she writhed and wiggled against his mouth. Every time she slid her lips all the way down his cock, he almost lost consciousness. It was the burning throb that he kept trying ignore while focusing on getting her to scream. He gave up the fight and grabbed he hips,holding her still so he could flick his tongue over her swollen nub. She hadn't been expecting that and she came with a high pitched scream.

There were a few seconds of silence as she rolled off him to the side. His vision was very blurry as his poor overstimulated cock bitterly protested its imprisonment. He wasn't sure how much more he could take of it before he either embarrassed himself or lost total control and ravished her.

"Wanna beg, Probie?" she ran her fingers over his straining member and tugged on her thong.

Pleasure pain shot down him and his control broke. He pounced on her and ripped off the scrap of lace. She made no move to stop him so he leaned into her and growled, "Insubordination now." He gripped her hips and slid deep into her wet hole. She arched back and gasped as he drove faster into her. Practically incoherent he was fucking her with wild abandon. She had never seen him totally lose it before, she was desperately hot for his wild animalistic lust as he pounded into her hard. His hands, his mouth, his tongue, everywhere. There would be bruises, likely all over.

But so very hot. She whispered,"More," into his ear and he thrust even harder if that was possible. The wild look in his eyes sent her over the edge for a third time. Her pussy twitching around him finished him off, and he came with a shout.

He lay on top of her, breathless and marveling at how unbelievably amazing that felt. He gathered his thoughts and realized just how undone he had become. Had he hurt her, frightened her?

Not to worry, his girl winked at him. "So awesome."

"It wasn't too . . . rough?" the term didn't seem to encompass how he'd felt during that.

"No. I liked it." she ran a finger over a new bruise forming on her collar bone. "You know sometimes I want to play with fire and see if I can get burned. And?"

"Scorching. Chief Hughes is definitely a memorable instructor." He started snuggling his body against hers.

"I'll have to see if there's any loopholes in her contact that will let her come on a vacation," Vic sighed. "We'd better sleep or I'll be too tired for work."


A loophole in a loophole, thought Lucas Ripley. He was finishing up the tail end of any paperwork before he left for his vacation. He couldn't remember the last time he looked forward to something so much. Finally some time alone with his gorgeous giggly happy outspoken girlfriend. Correction, hot, sexy, sometimes bossy girlfriend.

Not only had he made sure that all of his work was done, he was bringing a special set of papers that he wanted to talk about it with Vic. Even though he was 15 years her senior, she was the one who really ran the relationship. Luke was ready to go public(and more), but he'd need to convince her of that.

In preparation for this discussion, he'd already figured out what he needed to ask her. He decided he'd do it on the first day and then let her spend the next seven days thinking about it. She had a tendency to overthink things and talk herself out of things. While he could listen to her talk for hours and he loved seeing how her mind works, he would need all 7 days to make sure she didn't spiral out of control.

But he had some excellent ideas to keeping her occupied. There was also a box in his pocket.

The fallout would certainly be interesting. He could only imagine how well Sully would take it. His relationship with the captain of 19 was been slowly thawing. Instead of being as frigid as in the North Pole; it was closer to ski season in Colorado. Whatever emotions Sullivan had gotten out when he was in a car crash with Herrera, it seemed to have helped.

Whether or not any of that would last after this was still to be seen. Luke missed his friend, but respected the distance that was between them. All of it might implode soon enough. Honestly he didn't care though. He had sacrificed so much for the department as it was.

Sullivan could see someone lurking outside of his door. As a professional lurker, he could tell. He was fairly certain it was Herrera. He could see her hair bouncing back and forth.

He folded up the reports he'd been working on. Fortunately it had been a relatively quiet week even with the station getting repaired. He actually wanted to compliment Herrera on moving Hughes into the aid car. He respected Hughes's desire to minimize financial hit just to go on vacation. Back to back shifts gave her overtime pay on time top of her regular pay. She was pretty easy going and non confrontational - other than that one incident with Montgomery. Unlike some of his maddening lieutenants . . .

After he watched Andy walk past his door for the third time, he walked over and yanked it open. 'Herrera, why don't you come in?"

A guilty look crossed Herrera's face as she stepped through his door. To his surprise she carefully closed it behind her.

"All right what is it? I can tell there's something on your mind or else you wouldn't be pacing out there."

"Captain,' she began hesitantly. 'Have you ever kept a have secret that is really hard to keep in?"

"Herrera, if you have something to say, say it. Don't make it about you. Focus on the problem."

"Okay, listen. I think I know something about someone on the team that if I tell you it could cause a problem. If I don't tell you, it could also cause a problem. But I don't want to tell you because I don't think the other person is ready to tell you. But I also think it could open up the department to liability." The words kept tumbling out of her.

Sullivan put his hand on his forehead for a second and part of him willed her to go away. She was talking about his team, and he needed to know what new disaster was bubbling underneath the surface. "Is it Gibson again? I thought his PTSD was under control."

"No, it's not him.. .'

"Are you and Bishop having problems since she started dating Gibson? I really can't have my three lieutenants in ridiculous love triangle."

"No, Maya and I are fine." That probably wasn't completely true, Sullivan knew. However, not the issue at hand.

"Does that make it Warren? Am I about to hear that he's changing careers again? I already gave my blessing for Medic 1 at the RV crash."

"No, I can't confirm or deny what his plans are."

"Hey, please just spit it out. I don't feel like 20 questions."

"It's Hughes. She's been on aid car a lot." He hadn't expected that. Hughes was generally competent and was a natural with treating patients. She kept to herself though there was an odd comment in her file about her peer review of Gibson and Herrera being unfinished which was out of place for someone as meticulous as Chief Ripley. That was in the past, just like Ripley for him.

"Yeah, I know. It was a good move since she's working so much. Less wear and tear on her body on so many shifts."

"Sir, that's not the only reason she's in aid car. I don't think she's feeling well." Herrera's reluctance was obvious.

"Nothing in any of her reports if indicated she's feeling unwell. Every time I've spoken to her she seems to be looking forward to her vacation with her boyfriend."

"Yeah, I know that, but there's something wrong. Things are off, and I don't know how to tell you about it." She turned red. He leaned back against his desk. This should be interesting.

"This still doesn't make sense. Are you trying to tell me that she was sick and not fit for duty? You mentioned liability."

"Captain, she's been with the same guy for six months. None of us have ever met him." Did she really need to start on someone else's personal life now?

"Still not seeing how this relates to a problem for the station."

"She's throwing up a lot. All week. It's constant."

"She didn't report that she has a stomach illness?" he questioned. Why did she look that uncomfortable? What was he missing here?

"Sir, I can't believe I'm about to say this out loud. Maya and I and Vic - our timing has always been together. We work so closely together we're on the same timing." Her skin had turned a quite interesting shade of auburn.

"You losing me, Herrera. What does that mean?"

"Oh God this is so embarrassing, but at least you're not my dad."

"If you can't say it then get out of my office. Do I need to go talk to Hughes myself?"

"NO!" He instinctively backed up. "No, I'm talking about periods. When women work closely together or live together their cycles occur at the same time. It hasn't happened with Vic for months. Before the guy she was always on time with us."

Sullivan was silent for a couple seconds as he digested the news. "You're trying to tell me that you think Hughes is pregnant."

"I can't be sure if she is or isn't. So I put on her on aid car. And I'm talking to you."

"I'm sure you can see why this is the problem. Until she tells me she's pregnant I can't take any action. I'm not allowed to ask her if she's pregnant. But department cannot afford to expose a pregnant firefighter to hazardous chemicals." There were so few females in his past jobs that he'd never really thought hard about this.

"Now you see why I didn't know what to do with this secret. What are we supposed to do now?"

"I don't know. We cannot force her to reveal medical information about herself or make her get an exam. That would be discrimination against Title IX. I can't let her fight fires either because that would also be a Title IX violation."

"What are you going to do?" Herrera asked.

He sighed, "As you know there is no protocol specifically for this- only for after the firefighter declares her pregnancy. I think we're going to have to have an off-the-record conversation with my higher-ups."

"The Chief?" He nodded. "But Hughes and Chief Ripley don't . . . get along."

"While I'd love the actual story of her peer review with her, it's neither here nor there." He gave a pointed look at Herrera, "How many people know about this?"

She grimaced, "Just you and Maya so far. I can't say the other guys haven't noticed she's not feeling well. On the other hand, Warren hasn't tried to say anything to me. He's the most medically inclined - though he's been on ladder, not aid car."

"Everybody else is on the 24-hour call. I'll make a couple quiet inquiries. We'll let Hughes go on her vacation in a few hours. And hopefully we'll have this sorted out by next week."

Chapter Text

Luke heard his front door open and a smile faded off his face. Vic just arrived, hanging up her raincoat, and she did not look good. He hadn't seen her for a week and had deliberately avoided the station. He had trouble keeping his hands off of her in the best of times and with this upcoming vacation he was worried he would give the whole game away. His last near reveal had been when he saw her cycling a month ago in the gym with Montgomery. He stayed a good distance away during the RV incident - except checking in her in the bunk room once- where they might have made-out and planned this vacation. Maybe he should have visited this week even if it called attention to the frequency of his visits.

It was still shocking to see the transformation a week had been. She had dark circles under her eyes. Her blue long sleeve Station 19 t-shirt hung more loosely than he remembered. Has she lost 10 lb in the past week? 20 lb? Was that even possible?

"I am so happy to see you. I have been waiting all week to get to be with you." She said reaching out her arms. The enveloping grip his embrace brought up the familiar and immediate fire he always felt when he got too close to her. Luke leaned forward and gave her a gentle kiss on the mouth.

She pulled back, "What was that? I work like crazy for 6 days and I get that?" She did sound like his regular energetic Vic.

"You just look so so tired." Luke tried.

"I should not be not tired. That was a ton of shifts, but now we get to be alone all by ourselves. No other people and nobody asking us where 'Kel' is."

"People only ask you where 'Kel' is."

"I know you're the chief; nobody asks you who you are seeing. Who am I in your phone again?"

"Umm, 'Eggy.'"

"'Eggy.' Original and also untraceable." She looked past him and saw table set with glasses. "'Eggy's' house husband 'Kel' cooked for her. Nice." She headed over to the stove where he'd made some burritos.

"What was it you told them the imaginary 'Kel' does as a job?"

"Well, I wanted to tell them that he was a spice making machine." She gave a lusty wink that raised his heart rate, and other things. "Instead I told them that 'Kel' worked a boring desk job they involve a lot of report reading. He doesn't get out much and is always looking for an excuse to leave the office."

Luke chuckled, "Do they know anything else about 'Kel?'"

"Not much despite constant questions. Only that he is very amazing qualities that make him worthwhile to keep around at night." She licked her lips. The food wasn't particularly appetizing right now. Luke in his blue sweater and jeans was definitely more appetizing, and she couldn't wait for a better taste.

She set the burritos on the table and stepped closer to Lucas. He appeared to be giving her some type of weird assessment. "Can we try my welcome home kiss again?" Not waiting for him to answer she grabbed his sweater and pulling him very close, pressing her chest to his. Vic heard him gasp even though he clearly he had more to say but she wasn't interested in hearing it.

As expected he immediately gave up the fight and started kissing the heck out of her. Kissing the chief always gave her the feeling of running up the hill and flying at the same time. Sometimes if it was she wasn't careful she feel like she also jumped off a cliff as well. She focused on trying to inhale him, sucking on his tongue, pulling him closer. Lucas responded in kind, slipping his tongue in her mouth hungrily. His hands went underneath her shirt sliding up across her abdomen, starting a fiddle with her bra. His body was getting progressively harder and more demanding to her softer one. Within seconds, he buckled to his need and drove her back against the door.

On Luke's side he could feel his blood just screaming for her- missed her so badly and she was there right there in his arms. He could ignore how much more prominent ribs were today. He'd have to make sure to fatten her up on vacation when he made her scream many times. Luke couldn't wait till they could ignore the rest of the world, fill her up, breathe her in, make her beg. (Logically he knew he's almost certainly be the one begging.)

What he couldn't ignore was his cell phone ringing.

Vic smiled and released him. She pulled her shirt back down and tried to pat what was left of the braids he'd just been massacring. His hair didn't look much better, and even through his short beard, his lips were even brighter red than they had been a couple seconds earlier.

"You on call, Chief?" she smiled as she stepped away. She was definitely feeling better now. Good enough in fact maybe to have a little wine.

"No, I'm not. But I better get that just in case." He walked over and grab his phone off the kitchen counter while he picked up the water for the table. "Sully" flashed on the screen as he answered. "Ripley here, what's the issue?"

"Hello, Chief." Luke computed immediately that Sullivan's voice was being formal. This was not a social call.

Vic could tell that he was being asked for Chief business. His face shifted from the friendly smiley guy to the closed-off one which she referred to as 'Chief face.' She could only hear his side of the conversation.

"I'm sorry, you think what?" Luke's eyes flickered up to her face. "Which one?" Then he almost dropped the water. She watched him very carefully set it on the counter.

"Okay, Sully I got it. Here's what we'll do. Nothing. This type of thing does not remain secret long, and I'm certain it will be sorted out at least in a week. So if you could please hang tight?" A pause. "Yes, thank you. Goodbye."

Vic was really starting to wonder what this was about as Luke hung up the phone. But then he turned to her with the strangest expression on his face.

"What's going on, Lucas? You're giving me 'Chief face.' Why you getting me 'Chief face?'"

Her boyfriend appeared to be choosing his words very carefully, "That was Captain Sullivan. He was calling to ask what he was supposed to do if he suspected one of his firefighters was pregnant."

"Oh. Jack got Maya pregnant?" She hadn't seemed pregnant. Then again Vic hadn't gone out with the girls lately to see if Maya was drinking or not.

Luke didn't say anything but his eyes tightened, and she could see something trying to break through the 'Chief face' mask. "No. Sullivan is not concerned either of his female lieutenants are pregnant." The silence hung in the air as realization hit Vic.

The unspoken question. The bizarre conversation she'd had today with Maya and Andy made sense.

"You mean me? They think I'm pregnant? I've been throwing up alot but I just have a stomach bug. And I'm spending all my time at the eating crappy takeout. One of them told Sullivan? Oh my G-d. I wondered why they assigned me to the aid car so easily." she could feel the walls closing. Her friends think she's pregnant, her team thinks she's pregnant, her boss thinks she's pregnant, and now her Chief- her boss's boss's boss- and boyfriend thinks she's pregnant.

He cracked his neck, "Is there anything else you'd like to say?"

"Is there anything you would like to say about this?" She hit back. She wasn't some type of space alien. All those people talking about her behind her back. And her boyfriend unable to ask her to her face.

His eyes were hooded and he rubbed his beard, something he tended to do he was nervous. "The Chief can't ask you any questions about this."

"But please tell me what you, Luke, are thinking then."

"I'm thinking that I can't remember the last time I used a condom. I'm thinking of the number of times we've been indulging. I'm thinking that I'm not thinking when I'm in you." He was playing his emotions on this pretty close to the vest.

"Stop looking at me like that. Are you going to ask me or not? Do you want to know if I'm pregnant? We never talked about kids. We've never talked about any of this. Do you like kids? Do you ever want kids? Did you want kids in your first two marriages? Do you ever want kids with me? Are you pro-choice? Are you okay with kids being born out of wedlock? Do you think you have rights and responsibilities on this?" So many words spilling out of her at the same time.

Luke's 'Chief face' was having a really hard time maintaining composure. "I think I don't have a right to tell you what to do with your body. I would support whatever you decided you wanted to do if you were pregnant. I absolutely would support the woman I love being pregnant with my child." he practically spit the words out.

"You love me?" Vic deliberately dialed down her defensiveness and gave him a little smile. A sense of relief filtered through her.

Her boyfriend did not feel the same amount of relief. "Yes. I had a declaration planned but now . . ."

"And now what? Would finding out I was pregnant make you love me less?" she stepped forward and put arms around his neck. He stiffened; his body language remained closed off. "I want you to put 'Chief face' away. Can you bring back Lucas? Please."

"Okay. Okay." Now he looked vulnerable and maybe a little sad and worried.

Vic ran a hand through his now messy gray blonde hair. "I'm not pregnant, and I love you too." She finished that statement with a kiss trying to communicate her love and devotion. She leaned back and said hysterically. "Lucas Ripley, please say something now."

"You're not pregnant. Are you sure? As I said we haven't been very careful."

"Speak for yourself, Lucas. I was careful because I know I'm not careful. I used to be on the pill but it's kind of hard to take everyday at the same time with my schedule. Once I started having 'conversations' with you, and knowing I wanted to have 'conversations' where and whenever I wanted, I went out and got the depo shot. They do a pregnancy test before every depo shot. So I am most certainly definitely absolutely not pregnant. Okie dokie?"

"I guess so, Eggy." She felt the tension drain out of him. He chuckled. "That was not how I had planned the 'I love you.' It was more flowers and maybe a ring or something like rainbows..."

"Fortunately for you, I'm not a flowers and rainbow girl. I'm going to run with this 'I love you' over a false pregnancy." And she replayed his words back in her mind. "I'm sorry did you say 'a ring?'"

'Chief face' was totally gone replaced by slightly terrified Lucas. "Why don't you sit down? There was something I wanted to talk to you about."

"Can I have the wine? I feel like this is going to be a wine requiring conversation. It sounds like I'm going to sit here and listen to us discuss marriage right now." First pregnancy, then 'I love you' and then marriage. What was happening here?

They both sat down at the table, and Vic a long swig of wine. "Look Eggy. I didn't want to drop all of this on you at the same time. But we want to make this work and be public, we's got to decide some things. If we go public right now we're facing disciplinary action - demotion, reprimand, suspension, even possibly termination."

"That sounds fabulous. I take it marriage has some type of other crazy third option."

"Department ignores rank on between spouses. If we were married, there would be no punishment and we would face no disciplinary action. Right now the only thing I was allowed to do is change you to my emergency contact. You're not on my pension papers. If anything happens to one of us; the other one's left completely alone and unacknowledged."

"You're saying that marriage would basically give us everything we wanted. And you could actually be my emergency contact instead of Travis?"

"Travis is still your emergency contact?"

"Yes. He's my best friend. I think Sullivan would noticed if I filed to have his ex best friend, the chief, become my emergency contact."

"Look I didn't want to pressure you. I was going to tell you this when we made it to the cabin. We had seven days to make sure we didn't kill each other and decide if we even thought this was an option." Luke seemed considerably less stressed now while Vic was feeling a touch more stressed. More than a touch.

"But instead we had a pregnancy scare, right? I guess there are worse ways for this to happen. You could have like run into a burning building and got some horrible breathing disease and died. And we never finish this conversation."

"That was darker than I thought you'd go Vic."

"Yeah me too. That sounds like the worse possible heartless nightmare." She shook herself to drop that horrible scenario. "Okay let me recap this briefly. We have agreed we are in love." He nodded. "We both want to be together, and we would also like to go public." He also nodded at this. "So our options are go public and maybe lose our jobs. Or we could get married and not lose our jobs. Or we could try to keep this secret for the rest of our lives and take it to a grave."

"Something like that, yes."

"Wow, that's a lot to take in. Can we focus on the part where we're in love and we're going on our first vacation together tomorrow? I'm not saying 'no' to this marriage thing; I just feel there's a lot to take in. I mean with my recent pretend pregnancy that I didn't know about."

Finally a smile broke through his face and Vic looked into his big blue eyes, "I love you, Victoria Hughes."

"Damn it,I love you too." She smiled back at him. "This is making me really happy and kind of horny so why don't we continue this conversation elsewhere. We can decide later when we want to knock down the foundation of the fire department."

She stood up, whipping her shirt off and headed to the door towards bedroom. Luke was more than happy to follow her.

As opposed to the kink of last week, this time they took things very slowly. Ripley made sure to kiss every inch her delicious caramel skin. He took his time worshiping her with his mouth, memorizing every sigh and gasp. He lay behind her on the bed, sliding his fingers in and out of her slick channel, flicking her clit occasionally. She ground her hips against his hand, "Please," He removed his hand and carefully slid into her. He licked her ear and tugged at her nipples as he kept his movements slow and deliberate.

She turned her head back and gave him such a deep kiss that he almost lost it right there. "Lucas," she whispered and arched against him. He could tell she was close so he quickened his pace slightly and felt her tense. She quietly orgasmed and in about three more thrusts he followed her.

They lay there in that position a for a few more minutes, just enjoying their closeness. He dragged the blankets over them and kissed her tangled hair. "Victoria Hughes, I love you."

"I love you too, Lucas Ripley." And they fell asleep.

 The scream and the thump woke him. He reached out a hand to see where Victoria was, but she wasn't in bed. He could hear a soft moaning somewhere between the bed and the bathroom.

He jumped out of the bed and found Vic was on the floor. She was wearing a t-shirt and boxer sleeping combo. The second he touched her skin, he knew something was very wrong. She was burning up despite a layer of sweat.

Quickly he flipped around to her back and started his survey. Her pulse was rapid over 160. She swallowed thickly through dry lips despite being covered with sweat.

"Vic, you need to tell me what's going on?" He could hear his voice rising with emotion.

"I hurt. My stomach. I think I might throw up." Vic croaked.

He lifted her shirt to examine her abdomen. With practiced hands he started to gently palpate her right lower quadrant and pulled away when she screamed. "Did that hurt, Vic? Eggy, did it hurt you?"

"Yes, it all hurts." Her eyes rolled back and her breathing became shallow.

Now Ripley was scared. There's a whole list of possible medical problems that could be occurring. She could have an ectopic pregnancy, a septic miscarriage, appendicitis, bowel obstruction, splenic laceration, mass, toxic megacolon... he took a deliberate moment to smash his thoughts back into some semblance of order. He knew he was panicking. And that would not help Vic.

"Vic. Talk to me." She didn't move. Ripley decided to use his best Chief voice. "Hughes, I need a status update."

A brown eye slowly opened to see him hovering over her; his blue eyes flashing back at her. "Chief, she gasped. "The patient is tachycardic febrile with acute abdomen and rebound tenderness after one week of symptoms. Been taking ibuprofen and zofran. Guess they just wore off. I would recommend rapid transport to the nearest emergency room for fluid resuscitation and further evaluation."

Ripley mentally added bleeding ulcer to the list of possible differential diagnosis. "Look, Vic. I've got to get you to the closest hospital, Grey-Sloan. I can call dispatch or take you in the department SUV."

For a second all he could hear was her labored breathing. Even with a high fever, he could see her turning options over in her mind. "Let's use your SUV. It would take Station 23 10 minutes to get here and then 10 more minutes to put the IV in. Let's do a scoop and run. Besides, I want the other thing decided before going public." Of course she was worried about that NOW.

"Very well, Hughes. Scoop and run approved." He have to stay in Chief mode now because his very real fear rising through his chest could paralyzed him. He was shirtless in his underwear but that was easy enough to fix with a quick addition of a white T-shirt and his uniform pants.

"This is going to hurt but we'll make it work." He reached down and scooped up Vic as she cried in pain. He grabbed her purse and his keys and headed out the door.

He laid her across the back seat strapping her as carefully as well as he could across her pelvis rather than her waist. He hopped in and turned on the sirens. Fortunately it was so late at night there was minimal traffic from the rainstorm. He needed call it in but he also wanted to continue to preserve their anonymity as much as possible.

"Dispatch this is B19 transporting a scoop and run to Grey-Sloan Memorial Hospital. Please have them ready with gurneys and IV fluid for a 28 year old female in possible septic shock."

"Relaying a message to Grey Sloan." There was a pause. "They have your information and are scrambling their team now."

The five minutes seemed to take forever to arrive at Grey-Sloan. The team was waiting for him at the ambulance bay. They pulled because Vic out of the back onto the gurney as the rain had slackened off. There was a young doctor with a short beard and an older pregnant doctor who immediately began running the case.

"This is Victoria Hughes 28 year old African American female. One week of abdominal pain treated with ibuprofen and zofran. Febrile and tachycardic."

"Thank you," the female doctor said. "I'm Doctor Altman. Can you give me any medical history. Recent activities, social history?"

"Patient is a firefighter at station 19. I believe she's been working round-the-clock shifts. I do not know of any trauma at her place of employment. She was found her down in the bedroom."

"And who are you, sir?" the younger doctor asked. "I'm Dr. Levi Schmitt."

"I'm Luke, her boyfriend." That was technically true. He really wanted to scream 'I'm the fire chief and I'm in love with her' but that probably would have been a little bit distracting. He had a kernel of guilt that had been so intent reacquainting himself with her that he hadn't noticed that she was clearly very ill.

"Thank you, Luke. We're going to do a FAST scan right now upper abdomen for free fluid. You can wait at the end of the bed as you fill out her forms." FAST scans was a trauma ultrasound used to locate bleeding or fluid.

She already have two IVs in Vic and 2 liters of saline going wide open. Altman shouted out orders for morphine and antibiotics. Dr. Schmitt positioned the ultrasound probe Vic's abdomen.

"Are you aware of any possibility that she could be pregnant, Luke?" Altman turned and gave him a significant look. He could see her starting to put two and two together. She knew he had some type of role in the fire department if he arrived in an official vehicle.

"I do not believe pregnancy as a possibility."

"I don't see any evidence of pregnancy on this FAST scan. What I do see is free fluid in her right lower quadrant. It looks like she's had a ruptured appendix. You said she been sick for a week?"

Dr. Schmidt chimed in, "It's possible she was masking the symptoms with ibuprofen and zofran for a week."

"Ms. Hughes is getting fast track to the OR right now. Schmitt, I want you to get Dr. Grey's and DeLuca's team ready and have them meet us at the elevator for this acute ruptured appy. Consent in the situation is assumed. We will contact her emergency contact once she's up there."

It was all happening so quickly. He decided to take a second to repeat it all back to them. "You're saying that Hughes has busted appendix for a week. She must have been feeling terrible for week. Anything that she and I did was - "

"I'm saying that she had an appendicitis for probably at least a week. Sometimes these are difficult to detect especially if you don't want to see them. There's nothing that you could have done to prevent this or make it worse. She's fortunate you were with her when she went down because these can go bad very quickly." Altman reassured him, her eyes getting even wider to answer the implied question if having sex had made this worse.

"Can I have a minute with her?" His voice didn't sound like his.

Altman definitely knew there was much more to this story. "Team, let's get out of the room for a minute while Schmitt's hands-off to Grey's OR team. I can't give you much time. It is absolutely imperative that we get her into the OR right away. I will back off on the morphine for a few minutes, but she'll be groggy."

"I understand." Just then Vic opened her eyes and started looking around. It is amazing how helpful fluids could be.

Altman came forward. "I'm Doctor Altman, Ms. Hughes. You have a ruptured appendix you need to be taken to the emergency room surgery right away. If we do not operate you could die. There's still a chance that if we don't take action very quickly you would have serious consequences from this."

Luke reach down and took Vic's hand. Dr. Altman could see the facade start crack. He was looking at her with such tenderness.

"Vic, did you hear that? They've got to take you up now. Do you want me to go?"

"No. I'd just like to have this moment. With you, right now, okay? Just us." Vic whispered, and Luke tried not to sob.

"I'll be just outside if you need me," Altman beat a retreat to the door.

Luke sat down by the side of her bed and carefully avoiding her IV's kissed her hands."I love you," he whispered. He couldn't lose here "I want everything, all of you. Marry me."

"Of course I will. That's a very wise decision, obviously. I'm going to spend the rest of my life with you." Vic's sleepy voice answered him.

"I bought a ring." He started crying.

"You did? Give it to me when I wake up." She hesitated for a second. "Can-can you wait for me to tell Travis in person? He can't handle my loss if I don't. . . I'm getting sleepy. So tired. It's time to stop talking now. It's late." Her eyes fluttered.

"I'm wide awake." He pressed a gentle kiss on her forehead, tickling his nose on her curls.

"Just go to sleep." Her eyes closed. He was horrified that she just left him. They were just getting started and now this...

The door opened up behind him; Dr. Altman came in and the team wheeled Vic down the hall. "It's time to take her up to the OR. I'm surprised she stayed awake long enough for all of that. Who are we supposed to contact? Unless you're married to her?"

"I believe it's Travis Montgomery. Her phone is in her purse; I can get you his number."

"I see. I hate to say this to you but as of now, he's going to receive all of the updates on her condition. I'm sorry."

"I understand. We knew this could happen. Can you at least tell me if you think she's going to make it." Vic's gurney disappeared into the elevator with the OR team.

Altman smiled and rubbed her own stomach. "A lot of her illness is probably caused by the dehydration. She appears to be a young outstandingly healthy woman with a lot to live for. Dr. Grey is are best. Let's just say her chances are really good."

"Thank you, Dr. Altman." He flicked his hair back thinking how the last person who had touched it was Vic. "I should warn you. You should expect your waiting room to be full of very worried firefighters within the next 3 hours."

"Okay, I'll be on my way out then but I'll warn the OR floor. I guess they're going to need some extra coffee."

Chief Ripley nodded. Back to being a professional. He had an extra uniform and enough reports in his SUV to keep him busy however long he had to wait at the hospital.

Chapter Text

Travis was asleep in the bunkroom bed when he received the phone call. They'd just delivered a baby in crashed minivan during the rainstorm.

"Hello?" he mumbled into the phone.

"This is Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital. Is this Travis Montgomery?"

Travis sat straight up in bed. "This is he."

"This is Dr. Altman. I'm sorry I'm calling to contact you that Victoria Hughes is a patient at Grey Sloan. She is currently in the OR. We need you to come down, please."

"Oh my G-d, I will be right there. I'm heading to the ER right now." Travis flung his door open, probably waking almost everyone  else in the station. He ran down the stairs to the captain's office and started pounding on the door.

Sullivan, wearing a station 19 t-shirt and sweats, opened the door but lost his grumpy expression when he saw Travis. "Montgomery, what is it?"

"It's Vic, I mean, Hughes! I just got a call from Grey Sloan - she's in the OR now. I don't know what happened. May I have your permission to head over, sir?"

"Absolutely Montgomery. I'll handle the rest of the team. As soon as shift ends the rest of the team will meet you over there okay. Keep us updated on her condition if you can."

He saw the rest of the team sleepily coming down the stairs to see what the commotion was. Travis wasted no time beyond that to grab his jacket and his keys; he sprinted out the door without looking back.

Sullivan addressed the rest of the group. "Something has happened to Hughes. I don't know what it is; they just called Montgomery."

"Captain, can we-" Andy started guilt written across her face.

"No. We cannot leave right now. And Warren, you cannot call your wife."

Dean started to protest,"But sir-"

"I said we can't leave right now. Listen. If she's in the OR; there's nothing we can do. She already has Montgomery. There's only three more hours left in the shift. Let's finish this out. We're professionals."

Herrera lifted her chin, but Maya Bishop stepped in front of her to prevent an outburst. "Could you call B shift and see if they could come in a little early?"

"I'm sorry but not at this hour. But I will call the chief to see if we can get some extra relief in case we're going to be at the hospital for a long time."

He could feel their anger dissipate slightly. He always thought that Herrara was the heart of the team. Now he was learning that maybe it was Hughes after all.

He did not see his entire shift whip out their phones and start texting the upcoming shifts.

There are always good places to park when you were driving an emergency vehicle. They are not necessarily good places to have a blue screen of death emotional breakdown. It felt extremely unfair he was not allowed to be with her during this. Logically he knew she would have been in the OR anyway. But until she said the words, he would have to treat her like she was just another sick firefighter.

What if she died? Would he have to stand there the chapel during Sullivan's eulogy for her and pretend she meant nothing. He'd have to watch engines of station 19 covered in black bunting and hear the bagpipes. He'd have to act like he could just go on with his life as if none of this ever occurred. He'd never have a bunch of salted caramel children mixed with his vanilla.

The world couldn't be so cruel, could it? On the other hand he knew it could. It was so cliche - a 43 year-old man in love with the 28 year-old subordinate. He needed make it to through the next days and nights before he can even claim her as his.

The ghostly image of a firefighter funeral and that bell ringing floated again front of his eyes. He shook his head to shake it off. It was now 5.

His phone rang. It said 'Sully' again. It was about time. "Ripley here."

"Sorry to bother you, Chief. I know you're supposed to be on vacation."

"Yes, you called me twice in the past 10 hours. What is it this time?" He knew exactly what he was being called for.

"I'm sorry sir but we have a problem. It's Hughes. Firefighter Hughes, that I spoke about earlier today. Apparently she's really sick and is in the OR at Grey Sloan."

"I see." Quite true, considering he was still parked outside of the hospital.

"Yes. Well, 'A' shift is coming with me to get her bedside as soon as we have shift changeover. But I'm having trouble getting coverage for the other shifts."

"What do you mean?"

"Well I had three people just call off on 'B' shift, three people call off on 'C' shift, and three people call a on the swing 'D' shift. All via text message at 4:30 am." Sullivan explained.

"You had nine people call off at the same time? Is there an illness going around?"

"Not exactly. You see Hughes has been working a lot, and all of those people had just been in the aid car with Hughes. I think they're all going to the hospital to see her."

"How many shifts was she working? You're just telling me that three shifts other than the 'A' shift she works called off?"

"Yeah some of my people were out, and then the construction, and she filled in those shifts."

"How many shifts did she fill in?" Ripley have been under the impression that she was working 36 hours at a time and getting 12 hours off.

Sullivan's voice was almost a whisper. "All of them."

"What do you mean all of them?" Ripley's voice was deathly quiet.

"I mean all of them 'all of them,' okay sir. She volunteered for them; I didn't really think about it."

"I see." He let the words hang in the air. Sullivan didn't need him to discuss the massive protocol violation as Hughes should never have been allowed to work more than 48 hours in a row. "So what you need me to do is to get some cross coverage from other stations to cover all of your people?"

"Yes, that would be a good idea please, sir," Sullivan said. "You may not want to call 42, 23 or 12. Herrera says she's pretty popular at those stations too."

"I see. How did your other shifts even find out she was in the hospital already?"

There was a pause over the phone. "I think 'A' shift might have texted them."

"Sullivan. This sounds like you're approaching a full-blown rebellion."

"Yes, I know. 'A' shift wasn't happy that I told them to wait until the shift ended. Montgomery's already there."

"Just Montgomery?"

"Yeah, he left as soon as the emergency room called him."

"You sent Montgomery without one of your lieutenants?" More silence.

"Yes sir, immediately, he requested it." Sullivan sounded a little bit defensive on that.

"You sent Travis Montgomery whose husband died in a fire last year and almost bled to death in the skyscraper to Grey Sloan  be at the bedside of his critically ill best friend? You didn't send anyone with him?" Ripley had difficulty processing how completely blind Sullivan was to team dynamics.

There was still more silence at the end of the phone. You could practically hear Sullivan's thoughts taking in everything Ripley had just said. "That is correct sir," Sullivan finally.

Ripley closed his eyes. He'd heard from Vic in passing about the mood of Station 19. He had not realized exactly what blind spots and how deep they went in Sullivan.
"Sully, I'm heading over to Grey Sloan now to meet with Montgomery. I will see you and the rest of your 'A' shift at the hospital. We will be having a discussion. Ripley out."

He hung up the phone. Part of him felt guilty that he should have checked in on Station 19 more closely, but part of him was slightly grateful because as badly as Sullivan his screwed up, he had an excuse to go into Grey Sloan memorial now. He have to be the chief during it but it was better than nothing.

Travis had been waiting for an hour in that damn OR waiting room. Some Dr. Schmitt with a beard from the ER that told him that Vic had been dropped off by her boyfriend two hours earlier. He was directed to the third floor and placed in this waiting room. They gave him a bag of Vic's effects. He had her phone but strangely not keys.

He didn't know where that stupid no-good boyfriend of hers went. He truly had disappeared into thin air.  Travis thought he and Vic were close. They'd gotten past the skyscraper. She'd helped him get over his breakup with Grant and supported his new cycling hobby. Yet she never told him anything about Kel other than the things that Kel was very good at which made even his ears turn red. For the love of G-d, he couldn't even call the guy.

He was also angry at Sullivan. Travis had his reservations about how much Vic was working. He didn't say anything to the captain because the captain did not like criticism. He wanted a shipshape crew that never complained. Vic was always there helping smooth things over. Obviously Sullivan hadn't noticed. He clearly didn't notice that Vic was burning the candle at both ends based on how tired she'd looked at lineup.

A surprising figure walked into the waiting room and sat down next to him. Of all people it was Chief Ripley. He was in his regular uniform, bag of SFD files, looking spiffy as usual. There's not like it was 6 a.m. and they were in the hospital. "Hello Montgomery." Chief Ripley said, "I heard you were here alone."

"Thank you for coming, chief. I should have been smarter and waited for Sullivan to send a lieutenant or someone." Travis admitted. He hadn't been thinking, just needed to get to Vic.

"It's okay. He called me to come in instead. The rest of your team should be here in a little more than an hour. What do you know so far?" The chief asked kindly.

"Vic's still in surgery. Dr. DeLuca came out and told me that they had to do an open procedure to clean out all the debris. He said that she was having severe electrolyte abnormalities. I guess she was severely dehydrated."

A shadow crossed over the chief's face. "Yes, I heard she been working a lot."

"She was. I don't think she's had a shift off in the last 6 days or more. She didn't look very good. We all just thought she was tired. Well, at least I thought she was tired. I think Maya and Andy had some other ideas." He wasn't going to mention to the chief that he suspected they thought she might be pregnant. That was not the case per his update from Dr. DeLuca.

"No one said anything when she was working that much?"

"No one wants to cross Sullivan. No one wants to look weak in front of him. She helped cover for Gibson when he had PTSD. She constantly helps diffuse the ongoing battle between Andy and Sullivan. Andy's the only one he seems to notice these days." Travis knew he was spilling the station's secrets but he needed to blame something.

He looked at the chief with tears forming his eyes. "I don't know if I can do this again. If she dies, after Michael . . . if I lose her."

The chief reached out his hand. "Sounds like good hands right now. We have to hope for the best." He hesitated. "For Vic."

They sat there in silence for sometime. The chief eventually pulled out a notepad and appeared to be scratching things on it with his pen. He constantly would check the time.

"I wonder where her boyfriend is," Travis said out loud.

"Excuse me?" The Chief asked.

"Her boyfriend. They told me that guy dropped her off here. No one's seen him since. I don't even know anything about this Kel guy in six months. I guess I should call Maya and Andy and have them pick up some of this stuff from her apartment." Travis shook his head in frustration.

"That can probably wait until she's out of surgery, Montgomery."

Dr. DeLuca arrived again to give him an update. The doctor explained that he was the lead resident on Vic's case.

"How she doing?" Travis asked urgently.

"We had to do an open procedure due to the severity of the rupture. We've managed to get her stabilized, and there doesn't appear to be significant damage to the rest of her bowel. She's very lucky she was brought in when she was. Another couple hours later and she probably would have been dead." Deluca stated that more like a fact, rather than an opinion.

"So she's been walking around with this for a week? At a fire station. With a surgeon on her team and none of us noticed?" Travis was absolutely horrified.

"Look," DeLuca said, "From what we can tell she had we called a retro-cecal appendix. That means that points to the back instead of the front. It makes it harder to pick up the classic signs of appendicitis. It fools a lot have a good doctors. And then when it ruptures -it's often even relief from the pain. Then it's only matter of time as the infection grows." He stopped there. "I mean to say is that we believe we've evacuated the infection. She is stable and doing as well as can be expected. She should be waking up in a couple hours. Ideally she'll be moved to a regular room. It looks like we got to everything in time."

Before more could be said, there was a clamor down the hallway. A wave of blue firefighters erupted into the room led by Sullivan and Herrera. "Status update, what's going on?" Sullivan immediately requested.

Dr. DeLuca looked at Travis for permission. Travis nodded. "Victoria Hughes it's come out of surgery for a ruptured appendix and will be moved to recovery. She is still being treated for sepsis and electrolyte imbalances from severe dehydration. We expect her to be in recovery for another couple hours and moved to another room. If things go well should be here for about a week."

There were many relieved faces in the room. Travis thought he saw a very strange look in the chief's eyes as he was sitting extremely still. And then he turned those eyes onto Sullivan.

"That's great news to hear." Chief said heartily. "Dr. DeLuca, can I please use one of those family rooms over there. I need to discuss this incident with Captain Sullivan."

The massed group of firefighters became very quiet. Sullivan inclined his head and walked carefully into the indicated room. The chief stood up slowly taking his bag with him. "This is excellent news,a we can only continue to pray for Victoria Hughes's continue recovery. It is clear that the team at 19 values her very much. Please excuse me."

He followed Sullivan in to the family room and close the door behind him.

"Oh no," Maya said, "The chief doesn't look happy."

"Sullivan did approve her to work all of those shifts," Gibson pointed out.

"She volunteered for them," Andy defended. "There were other explanations for her acting so sick . . ."

"Which were wrong," Maya pointed out and her face told Andy to drop it.

"I can't believe I didn't notice who ruptured appendix. How can I not have seen that? I saw her every day." Ben mused.

Dean laughed. "She was on aid car the whole the time. You ran ladder with me, remember? We see what we want to see." He edged closer to the door. "Do you think we could use a glass to hear what's happening? Will the coffee cup work?"

As if on cue, they heard a voice speak loudly from behind the door and something hit a table.

Ben said, "Trust me, those doors are too thick to hear anything really clearly. Not even loud sex. Not that I would know."

"Guys." Travis address the assembled firefighters. "I'm going to stay here until Vic wakes up. Andy and Maya, can you go to her house and get like her favorite bathrobe, pillow, stuff like that that you think a girl would need? I guess she's not going on that vacation after all."

"Absolutely." Maya said. "Let's just hang out here for a couple more minutes. Order some food and stuff." She indicated the door with her head.

"I'm on top of this," said Dean. He started texting. "Seriously, 'B' shift, 23 and 42 are sending some guys over. Let's make this a full-blown party while we wait for Vic to be ready for visitors."

About 10 minutes later the door opened, and Sullivan walked out. The chief was behind him with his face in a full-on scowl. As he exited the room, he smoothed the lines away look much more like his pleasant self. "Now, Robert please keep those things in consideration."

"Yes sir." Sullivan turned to his team. "I'm going back to the station. I will be there for the next several days helping with coverage so that you guys can visit Vic as needed. I know she put a lot on the line for us this past week; we need to make sure we support her in every way. All of you are important; I want to make sure that she gets all the support she deserves from her team."

The chief watched Sullivan's retreat from the room. "Are you guys ordering food? Here, let me chip into the pot. I'm going to hang out in the family room and do paperwork. You can come get me if you need me." He pulled out a wad of cash and handed it to Dean.

"Chief," Gibson said. "I thought you were supposed to be on vacation - that's what the officers' email said."

"It seems my vacation has been canceled as this situation at 19 has come to light. Not all fires can be put out with water." He shrugged. He turned around and went back into the family room, closing door behind him.

Finally alone, Luke put head down. She was going to make it. She was alive; she was going to make it. He could finish all those things he'd pledged in that trauma room. There was even something in his bag he could use.

Chapter Text

10 minutes earlier

He sat down again at the table. "Why don't you have a seat, Sullivan?"

"I would prefer to stand."

"Very well. Robert. We've known each other for a long time. Please explain yourself to me." Ripley was deceptively calm.

"I'm sorry sir. She volunteered for their shifts. I wasn't paying attention. She works so seamlessly with everyone that I didn't think to check and realize how much she was working."

"So you're saying she did not have any period greater than 12 hours off in the past . . ." he gave Sullivan the opportunity to fill in a number.

"Six and a half days. She worked continuously and never left the station."

"Knowing she was working so much, did you ever check on her?" he was going to remain calm.

"I saw her at every line up in the morning and midday."

"Did you notice she was dehydrated? Did you notice that she had lost 10 lb in one week?" Still calm.

"No, I did not sir. She told me she was fine." Sullivan hestitated and admitted, "I never asked."

"Let me get this straight. You did not notice that one of your lieutenants had post traumatic stress syndrome for months. You allowed one of you are junior firefighters to work far beyond the 48-hour mark. In fact, it was a 156 hours of continuous duty. You then failed to check in on this firefighter and missed a ruptured appendix and severe dehydration?"

"That is correct."

The chief shot to his feet. His fist hit the table. "You almost KILLED HER!" He screamed. Not calm.  "You're so concerned with what's important to you that you don't even notice anyone else!"

Sullivan was stunned. He had really messed up. He hadn't paid close enough attention. He'd had never seen the Riptide this angry.

The chief sat down and with effort composed himself. "I'm sorry. That was probably a little over the top. There's going to be enough guilt to go around on this incident that is unfair to pin it all on you. Firefighter Hughes managed to hide a serious medical condition from her entire station. However, you have been completely blind to team dynamics, again despite numerous warnings. You cannot treat your crew like they are little interchangeable pieces of metal."

Sullivan said, "I know. I'm trying. You said it. Pruitt said it. Herrera said it. I just can't open up - I'm trying. It's one thing after another with the RV crash. I feel like I just can't connect."

"Right now you're about to lose your team. I'm going to reprimand you for this but you've got to decide - can you make this up to your team? Can you show them that you care? I know you hate me after Claire but I am not your team."

"What do you think I should do, chief?"

"I think that you need to volunteer to cover basically all the time that anybody wants to take off. I will give you permission to work extra hours - with the assumption that you'll be taking the appropriate 12 hours off. You got to show the team that you would sacrifice for them. It has to be words and action."

"I think I can do that."

"Also you and Herrera need to figure out what your problem is. Try to listen to her and let her be your friend. She really only thinks about two things - saving victims and her place at the station. I had to tear a strip off her last year over that. If you can figure out how to make that work she can be your support."

"I have never been at the station where the people are so incestuously close. Herrera dated Gibson whose now dating Bishop. Not to mention that random police officer that keeps hanging out out in there."

"Yeah, it's what happens sometimes. You have firefighters married to each other and then one died. Your three lieutenants are in - I guess I'll call it- a love triangle. Fortunately they are all the same rank so it doesn't get reported unless it starts to compromise their performance. Interpersonal stuff is easier if you actually care about the people there."

"So I guess being Chief is not just about inspecting uniforms." Sullivan commented ruefully.

"No. it's about knowing the strengths and weaknesses of your team and knowing your own strengths and weaknesses. From what I can tell, you underestimated how deeply protective your team is for each other and how much Hughes adds to the group."

"Thank you for giving me another chance, sir. I do feel bad about what happened to Hughes."

"Make sure you show it." Riley paused, "And Sully, don't make me have this conversation again."

 Travis knocked on the door to the family waiting room, startling Ripley.

"They said she's waking up. If it's not too much to ask - can you come with me?" Travis ventured slowly.

"Me? Wouldn't you want someone from your own team to go with you?" Ripley offered.

"I'm her best friend, and I already sent Maya and Andy away to go pick up her stuff from her place. I got everyone else to agree to go out for breakfast. You just been so supportive during this. I know you and Vic didn't always get along. I would like it if you came with me."

The chief nodded; his face remained carefully neutral. "I go with you Montgomery."

She was breathing easily, and her color was much better than the last time Luke had seen her. He wanted to run out and grab her arm, touch or anything, but he hung back. He didn't have any rights here, and he couldn't make a move past Montgomery. He'd told her he wouldn't do anything because she wanted to tell her best friend on her own terms.

"Vic." Montgomery whispered.

Her eyes slowly opened. "Trav?" she coughed. "I feel better, I think. What happened?"

"You had a ruptured appendix. Probably all week. I can't believe none of us noticed." Montgomery fretted.

She look past Trav's shoulder and saw the chief. She suddenly gave a him a confused look, followed by a smile and she said, "Oh it's you." It seemed like she was going to say more but looked at Travis instead. "Now I remember. I am pretty tired."

Dr. DeLuca reviewed her monitors and said, "We wanted to let you see that she was doing well. Why don't you give her a little time to rest before we move her into another room?"

"That sounds good," Travis said with relief. He wasn't the only one - Luke could actually feel the tightness his chest start to dissipate.

Vic gave little laugh. "I'll be okay. Why don't you go get some rest and I'll see you later."

"I will. I promise. Maya and Andy going to go get your stuff. I don't want to leave but I could use some coffee."

"It's okay," the chief volunteered, "I can make sure that as soon as she gets to her room that she's never left alone. I think you have enough eager teammates around that we'll have no shortage of sitters."

"Thanks, chief." Travis staggered toward the PACU's exit.

He was gone and missed seeing Lucas step forward to the bed and place his hand across Vic's forehead. "So you remember everything?" He whispered.

"Everything. Definitely everything," She gave a very sleepy smile. "I will see you soon."

"I'll be around." Lucas Ripley vowed.

Travis Montgomery was not happy. One cup off coffee and a cat nap in the cafeteria later, he got off the phone with Maya and Andy. Vic's house didn't have anything in it. Not like 'she was going on vacation' didn't have anything in it. Like she 'didn't appear to live there anymore' didn't have anything in it. They couldn't even find her toothbrush or the pictures she kept by her bedside of the team. In fact, even the red painting that was hung over her bed was gone.

Either she been robbed or she moved in with that loser Kel without telling anyone. Andy and Maya said she had a mismatched pieces of various fire uniforms, a nice smelling men's white T-shirt, and assorted bunch of firefighter stuff. That was about it.

He walked back to the new floor floor 5 where Vic was in room 525. He stopped at the visitor station and asked if she had any new visitors. They told him no. They said that the only people that had come to visit her were from the fire department. That burned. He asked if anyone had called. They told him there had been no inquiries except fire department related ones.

He opened the door, and there was Vic with one light on over her bed. Travis went right to the bedside as she was more awake now and considerably more interactive. She beamed. "Trav."

"You scared the hell out of me today. You almost died. Don't do that again."

"Travis, I didn't exactly plan it." She tried to shrug.

"What were you thinking working all those shifts?" His frustration and anger found a more convenient target, "And where is that stupid boyfriend of yours? Andy and Maya called to let me know that you don't even live in your own house anymore!"

"Trav. . . "

"Seriously, what's going on with you? You hide your illness and this dumb boyfriend. He hasn't even shown up. He just dumped you at the hospital like trash. Don't make excuses for him.  What's going on? I thought we would good after the skyscraper."

"Trav . . ." she tried again, but he was on a roll.

"Stop saying that! Tell me the truth! Is he married? Is he a felon? Are you so scared of him that you can't talk about him? Is he hurting you?"

"Its not like that. He brought me here and he never left."

"Don't lie to me, Vic! I know for a fact that no one has been here except people from the department! I want some truth!!"

"That's quite enough, Montgomery." The chief's voice startled him.

Travis looked back and saw he had not been alone during his tirade. The chief had a bunch of paperwork  spread out on the tray table and must have been sitting in the back of the room.

"I'm sorry, sir. I didn't expect to see you here."

He looked back at Vic, and this time really took in her appearance. One of the reasons she seemed much more comfortable was because her hair was down and she was wearing a comfy Seattle FD hoodie. It's pocket said '88.' There was also a piece of string with large gold ring around her neck. In fact, it appeared to be one of the old style fire academy rings he'd seen some of the officers wear.

Travis turned back around and saw the chief only had eyes for Vic. He's also noticed that the chief of taken off his tie, his insignia, and rank bars. His sleeves were rolled up and he hardly looked like the chief anymore. He was more like a visitor - or a family member.

Travis turned back around - again - to face Vic. She and the chief were having some type of unspoken communication. She almost seemed to glow and inclined her head to the chief. Ripley moved forward to her bed.

"What's going on here?" Travis asked vaguely remembered that the chief had been a member of Station 88 before he was promoted to Captain, Battalion Chief and then finally fire chief. Why was he still here rather than one of their station mates?

"This is not how I planned on you finding things out, Travis." Vic took a deep breath, "And this is my boyfriend - Chief Lucas Ripley."

"I thought you said his name was Kel, and he worked at an office." Travis was disbelieving.

"Technically his name is Luke, and he does work at an office. Just happens to be the fire department office."

"So all the stuff you've been telling me about tell all along has been. . ." He trailed off unsure how to finish.

"Yeah, that's true."

"You guys are in so much trouble."

"Not for long, Travis. There's something you need to ask you. Do you think you can listen for a couple minutes if you get over this?"

He was still trying to absorb the fact that Vic and the chief were dating. In fact the way the chief was holding her hand, Travis realized that this was stone-cold deadly serious. They acted like a couple of teenagers in love - stolen glances, longing looks. She was asking him to set aside his shock and reached out to him for help. He's going to have to support it and whatever that meant down the road. That's what best friends are for. "Count me in whatever it takes."


Chapter Text


 Three weeks later

Vic was back for her first day of desk duty and she had a cold. She was sneezing a lot.

"That didn't sound like a "where's the fluffy cat" sneeze. It sounded like an "I'm patient zero and need to go home right now" sneeze." Travis teased.

"No, it was just a regular textbook sneeze, sneeze." Her protest was drowned out by another sneeze as she tucked her necklace under her uniform top.

"You should go."

"No, I don't want to go home. I've been home."

"What are you doing here, really?" Travis dropped the pitch of his voice.

"It's my first day back at work. I got cleared for desk duty. Of course, I'm here." Vic sneezed two more times.

"You're recovering from major surgery." He glanced around  and hissed," Does he know you're here?"

She too glanced around for lurkers and whispered urgently. "My hobby knows I'm here. Isn't that enough? And today's the day that he's going to- " She sneezed again loudly.

"Hughes, go home before you infect this entire place." Sullivan padded in silently like a giant cat.

"What?" Vic asked.

"Captain's orders. Go home before you get everyone here sick. The team won't be excited if you just got fixed up and then I let you get broken again." Vic flung up her hands and hit her bunkroom to change. She didn't even get to see the rest of her team.

Sullivan  handed some hand sanitizer to Montgomery. "Sanitize Montgomery."

Ten minutes later she was in her street clothes and headed out the door. With perfect timing as usual, she passed Lucas on his way in. Their eyes met briefly; she sneezed.

He glanced at her with some concern, steeled himself, and made his way towards the captain's office.

Captain Sullivan was having a talk with Ben Warren. "Warren, dismissed." Sullivan took in his visitor. "Sir?" Was it followup from their last meeting?

The chief indicated the box he was carrying. "Quarterly stats and, uh, I need your rubber stamp on some incident reports." 

"Just set 'em over there." The chief did as requested but waited by the door. "Something else I can help you with?"

"Cheeseburgers. From the drive-in on Broadway." Ripley pulled out fast food from the box.  "I remembered you always liked that place. I, uh, got some fries and some onion rings, too. I know you don't typically eat with the crew, but I thought maybe you've got time for a quick bite with me?"

Not even Sullivan could refuse an implied order from the chief.

"So tell me how team building is going."

Sullivan took some fries. "Well, let's see. I went painting with most of the A shift at Montgomery's house. I still haven't demoted Gibson and Bishop though I suspect they might be bending the fraternization rules inside the firehouse though I guess that doesn't count." He thought for a few minutes. "I tried boxing with Warren a few times.  I started morning runs and exercise with Lieutenant Herrera."

"Not Bishop?"

"I have my pride. I asked Montgomery if I should stop by Hughes's place for a care package or something, and he told me that was a bad idea. Montgomery and I did talk about what we had in common - with Michael and Claire . . ." The ounce of friendliness dissolved at that sentence.

"I'm glad you found someone you could talk to." Ripley tried to breach the distance anyway. "You know, it's funny. Once you're Chief, you don't have many peers, even fewer real friends, but I keep I keep wishing lately that I could talk to someone who really knows me. I know I came down hard on you recently, but I never got to tell you how sorry I was. I-I never got the chance -" Was Sully gonna make this that difficult? Apparently so. Luke wasn't going to share anything about his relationship if Sully was going to be that unapproachable. He stood up. "You know what? Never mind. This-This was a bad idea. I'm sorry to have wasted your time, Sully."

"What's her name? You still got all the same tells." Ripley spun to face his ex-best friend. "So go ahead. I'm listening."

"Okay. Okay. Wow.This is harder than I thought." Admitting fault might be a good idea. "Um, basically, I'm in a mess and I know its a mess."

"How big a mess? Is it someone in the department?" The chief looked like he was about to say something but sneezed instead "Here." Sullivan handed Ripley some sanitizer. "Something's going around. I had to send Hughes home earlier on her first day back."

Sullivan sat back in his chair as Ripley finished cleaning his hands and was trying (and failing) keep a bland expression. Sullivan noticed."It's Hughes? Oh G-d!"

"Man, it just it just happened." Many times, over a period of months technically. "I mean, it took me completely by surprise, her, too, I think, and, Sully, it's it's so good and new. Except that when one of you tries to die, it can get messy so fast, especially given the obvious circumstances. And now we've got to decide what to do." Sully was staring at him with a thoroughly displeased countenance. "Shouldn't have said anything." Ripley said wryly since Sullivan looked like he'd been served a burger with a side of poison.

"If this is real for you, don't waste your time talking to me. Find her and tell her exactly how you feel and figure out your options with the department." Sullivan finally suggested.

"Thank you."

"But for the record, this conversation never happened. And if it comes down to it, I will protect her, not you." Part of Sullivan enjoyed giving back some of the discomfort he'd recently experienced back to Ripley.

"I know." Ripley wasn't sure how much more he should say about the status of himself and Hughes. "It would really be a big help of the klaxon went off right now."

"It does tend to mess up longer conversations. Are you ready to tell HR and face the music?"

'Well, hypothetically speaking, if two firefighters were married, rank isn't an issue."

"That's true, but you already knew that." Sullivan sat up straighter. "Why are you asking me? Are you two trying-"

"It's a possible option we discussed. We are still deciding how we want to handle this. We haven't even had a first big fight yet so . . . "

"Almost dying probably makes those other problems seem small. I mean if Claire . . ." Sullivan's face tightened at the memory.

"As I said, I'm sorry. You can see why I understand a bit better now." Ripley admitted.

"I can see that." Sullivan acknowledged and reexamined his friend carefully. He knew Ripley well enough to know there was alot Ripley wasn't saying. He waited. Ripley stayed silent.

"Well, I should get going. More stations to visit." Ripley nodded and made his escape. Sullivan looked pretty unhappy but he hasn't had time to process it - it would probably get worse when he started to put the context from their conversation back at the hospital.

When he was gone, Sullivan sat down at his desk and thought for a while. How long had this been going on? Had it started when she joined the department? Or was Luke 'Kel' that the station has been gossiping about for months? Or had they gotten together while she was in the hospital 3 weeks ago and she quietly broke up with Kel? Rip had never been reckless but this had doom written all over it. Safest decision for Hughes at this point was for him to do nothing and wait for the situation to develop.

"How you feeling, Typhoid Mary? I heard you got sent home." Lucas brought her some tea since she was hanging out in bed looking a little bit under the weather. "Just let me know if there's anything else you need." He gave her a loving smile.

She smiled back at him, "Actually there is.  So how did it go?"

 "You're sick, you're sick. You should rest. Don't worry about it." He wouldn't meet her eyes.

 She sat up straighter without the smile. "You're wrong. Let's get a few things straight."

"Get what things straight?" 

"You were going to tell my boss about us. I need to know what happened. I am sick of secrets and we're a team now so you can't try to protect me.  If you start hiding things from me, then there's no point in you being nice to me or bringing me tea, because we won't survive. Are you having second thoughts -  in which case you can go." Vic had gotten herself a bit worked up. Was he still sure she was what he wanted?

"Not a single one. I don't want to go. I don't want to let you go." he took off his shoes and climbed into bed with her. 

"What if you get sick? I could be contagious."

"Oh, you are." That didn't stop him from putting his arms around her and threading his fingers through her hair. He nuzzled her neck, tugging on the chain with his teeth. "I love you, Victoria."

She's smiling at him again, "I love you too. And I don't want to go to sleep right now." For a sick woman she gave a remarkably enthusiastic kiss. "It's just a cold. Bigger deal - though how did it go with Sullivan? Tell me this time."

"I would never say this publicly but he could be a police detective. I don't know how he doesn't notice that you have appendicitis, yet figures it out when I sneezed in front of him. Our whole plan of testing the waters went out the window."

"So he knows about us."

"Just enough that there is an 'us.' He was not . . . happy. He must really guilty because he didn't even follow protocol to report the relationship to the department." Another pause." Yet. "

"I guess its the guilt. As soon as I sneezed, he immediately sent me home. I'm not even that sick. He wouldn't even let me stay for desk duty." Vic mocked complained.

"Are you sure you even ready for desk duty? It's only been three weeks." He asked more seriously.

"If I hang out here anymore, you're going to find something in this place broken. Not sure what I'll pick. It might be your 12 copies of Backdraft."

"I don't have 12 copies of Backdraft."

"Or maybe you can distract me some other way while I'm stuck here?"

"Distract you? I have a couple ideas for that." He gave her a wolfish smile. "I believe the surgeons said it would take six weeks for you to be cleared to return to full duty. He started to open her bathrobe - his own old station 88.

"What are you doing, Lucas?" She asked as he placed his warm hands against her naked skin beneath the robe.

"Well, I guess I'm going have to give you a new recovery activity."

"They did say I was supposed to be relaxing. Nothing overly strenuous."

"Oh I know," His fingers played Vic's nipples which stiffened into points.

"Well, I guess that's not too strenuous." she agreed.

"Then all you need to do lie still." He took a nipple in his mouth, testing it with his tongue. She tried to obey as his hands wandered downward, carefully avoiding the scar on her right abdomen. His fingertips hesitated finally reaching her sex. She shifted her hips and grumbled impatiently.

"Quiet," he commanded releasing her nipples. "Nothing too strenuous." He moved lower on her body, still in full uniform, positioned himself between her thighs and gave her an experimental lick. "Just lay back and let me do all the work." He lifted her legs onto his shoulders and went to it.

Placing his lips right against her opening, he ran his tongue across it. He sped up swirling his tongue across her clit and back to her channel in an erotic contest to see which lovely noise he could elicit next. She lay on her back, breasts heaving, shaking and grabbing at the blankets as he continued make love to her with his mouth.

"Lucas!" she shrieked as his talented tongue played across her clit again. He decided to stop teasing her, sucking her instead as he slipped two fingers inside her dripping pussy, stimulating her g-spot. Her inner muscles instantly clamped down; she started bucking against the bed and his shoulders. His other free hand reached up to hold her down and he continued industriously.

All she could do that was mumble and alternate pleading, "Luke-Luke - please. . . I need . . . I need-" and then the dam burst and she went off like a roman candle.

An overly friendly fire chief carefully climbed back up her sated body and placed arms around her. His beard glistened with her moisture, and he gave her a shaky kiss. Vic glanced down at her leg and felt him hard as rock against her.

"Don't you need? she asked and set her hand on his thigh.

"That's definitely strenuous activity." He pushed her hand away unsteadily, hands shaking with need.

"What if I just watch?"

"I only worry about making you feel good." he tried to protest.

"I think," she looked over his trembling body,"It's a tall order for you to try to control yourself for another three weeks. Won't you go blind or something?" she challenged.

"You want me to go ahead and -" he hesitated and rechecked her face.

"Rub it out? Yes, it's hot. Especially if we can't so. . ." she let the sentence trail off. "At least let me help you out of those." She started unfastening his uniform pants.

He couldn't remember if he'd ever been asked by his past partners masturbate in front of them. He always thought they would take it is an insult. Vic was going to take a different view on this apparently because she was watching him eagerly.

"No strenuous activity." He repeated to her and firmly pushed her hand back onto her side. Vic took a moment to admire sizable length and breadth of his impressive cock. Pink, weeping, and straining.

He took himself in both hands and started to stroke himself. He couldn't summon very much embarrassment because Vic's eyes has gone all hot. He thought about what it felt like when he was inside of her inferno. His mind replayed all her little cries and squeaks and sounds she made when he hit her g-spot minutes ago. He wondered briefly if he could get horny enough to beat himself bloody.

He nearly lost total control when he felt a much smaller cooler hand run fingertip across his balls. "Keep your hands to yourself, Vic. Too strenuous." He warned her tartly.

She wagged her eyebrows and said, "I don't think I'm the one getting strained." He knew he was supposed to remove her hand again but she was doing felt so good between his own hands and hers. He felt the tightening of his balls right before firing a solid stream onto the bed.

She handed him a towel, "Now I think we're both ready to go to sleep."

He gave her a serious look. "You broke the rules. Sleep now. I am going to make you rest so you can get well. I'll keep you satisfied enough that you won't try that again."

"G-d, I hope so. Team Ripley all the way." She felt him get out of bed to finish undressing but her eyelids were getting heavy and she went to sleep.

Chapter Text

3 weeks later

"Do you think Vic is dodging us?" Maya asked Andy in the locker room before Vic arrived for her first full duty shift.

"Maybe. I probably should have asked more, but I've been so annoyed with Dad and Reggie. Every time I try to talk to her at the desk; I somehow end up complaining about him and the house." Andy admitted.

"That's because you don't have boundaries for your problems. I've tried and freaking Travis - He's always visiting her desk blabbing about the wonders of cycling. They constantly talk about hobbies so I never get to ask more." Maya agreed.

"Why isn't Travis more pissed? He was so mad when I called him from Vic's empty place. Kel drops her off at he hospital and the disappears. Do you know I never saw him?" Andy complained.

"Every single member of FD got there. Frankel, the chief, even freaking ex-boytoy Mayhorn visited the day she got discharged." Maya mentioned.

"Oh, anything happen with that? Where was I?" Andy tried to remember.

"That's the extra shift you covered with Sullivan. You helped him cover so everyone else could be there when she got discharged," Maya reminded her.


"Nothing happened. She shook his hand. Ben and our team brought in pizzas and had discharge party with Mayhorn's team from 23. The chief brought her some FD medical leave papers to sign and she left with Travis," Maya said.

"I wonder if she told Kel one of her visitors was her ex?" Andy ventured.

"I never saw her call him. Is this guy not jealous? Or maybe he doesn't care?" Maya mused.

"At least she wasn't pregnant. . . Travis took her home to her place?"

"Yeah, I guess, to the house with no stuff She didn't even have food there."

"What did Travis say? Has he said anything about Kel since then?"

"I didn't ask. He's been a little distant since Vic was sick. I think it scared him, and now all he wants to talk about is hobbies and cycling."

"I know what that's like to be scared to lose someone. Sullivan got hurt. And now Ryan's dating someone else. And last year Jack in the skyscraper. . ." Andy realized to whom she was speaking.

"Oh, I know. He's come so far in therapy-" The lights dimmed for a few seconds before Jack's new girlfriend could share more.

There was some awkward silence. "Guess we'd better go and see if Dad brought souvenirs again."

"What do you think Kel looks like?" Dean asked the other guys in the locker room. "Do you think it's weird that Vic's never even shown us a photo of him?"

"I don't know. Maybe hair and wears t-shirts," Jack laughed. "Got some photos of those blind dates to show me?"

"I'll be honest; I thought about waiting by the door and beating the crap out of him for skipping out on her hospitalization. I had DeLuca promise to keep an eye out for him," Ben put in.

"So you saw him?" Dean asked.

"No, what about you, Travis?" Ben asked.

"No, I never saw Vic's naked man friend, Kel. Clothed or otherwise." Travis kept studiously dressing.

"Really, you've never seen him? As her best friend, aren't you curious?" Dean asked, always looking for the scoop.

"No, well, yes, but I've had alot going on. With my cycling. And other . . . stuff. Besides, I'm sure Vic has her reasons." Travis adjusted his watch and was working at tying his boots.

"He's gotta be a troll or something." Jack decided. "Or a loser. You okay, Trav?" Travis started coughing.

"I'm good, something got caught in my throat. Let's get to the Beanery. I heard Captain Herrera is visiting tonight which means random Hawaiian goodies." Travis reminded them.

"Oh guys, Tuck's coming for dinner too. Can you keep it clean? Especially you and Maya," Ben requested since the dating pair had no issues making multiple innuendos over every meal.

Former Captain Pruitt had just returned from his fourth trip to Hawaii, which only served to anger Andy further. Despite her complaining, the mood of the Beanery was actually pretty good since this was Vic's first day back on full duty. She spent three weeks on the desk job, and this was her first full shift back. She didn't even mind the rolling blackouts. With minimal effort and some interference from Travis, she'd been able to avoid all questions about Kel. Captain Sullivan barely even looked at her. Avoidance remained the name of his game.

Vic wouldn't mind being given some new chocolate macadamian nut candies. She was struggling to gain back on the weight she lost since her appendicitis. Lucas had been treating her extra carefully as if he were worried she would break if handled too roughly. She wasn't sure how he was going to get over that. He was doing amazing things in bed with his mouth but he declared full contact sports off limits until she was fully cleared. Vic hope that being cleared for firefighting cleared her for all types of physical contact.

She was surprised to catch him in the hall by the stairs. Lucas was carrying a container of chocolate macadamia nuts. "Captain Herrera aloha'ed you too."

"Yeah, seems like he had an amazing time." he stepped towards her and ducking into a corner "You know what? Maybe you and I should try to get away somewhere again."

"Oh, right. Like that's a possibility given my return to work, plus secrecy, plus all the other strings involved."

"I know. You're right."

"But we could take a fake vacation, in our brains." she gave him a suggestive grin.

"To Colorado?" He reviewed his favorite past suggestions from last time. "Or Vancouver. We could get a little ski chalet with a fireplace."

"I'm sorry. In your fantasy, you want me in a snowsuit? There are things called beaches. And swimwear."

"You'd look sexy in a snowsuit." He must have been feeling frisky if he winked at her in public.

Full court press time "Okay, just so you know, in my fantasy, you're shirtless. All the time." she moved into his personal space bubble.

"Oh yeah?" He let her.

"Oh definitely yeah."

Just then the lights flickered out. He briefly searched her face, and she took this as a moment to prove that she was not fragile after all. She grabbed him and he immediately surrendered to her. Fire exploded between them as he pressed her against the wall, absorbing each other with that feeling like you can't get these clothes off fast enough. She went ahead and spun him and pressed him against the wall while he grabbed her belt, trying to remind himself that he was not supposed to be doing this at the work and she was barely healed.

The lights came back on, and she released him. She walked away with a smile; it took a couple moments to compose himself. He was probably supposed to go look at that generator thing. He reached down and picked up the candies off the floor. Tripping hazard. Can't break that protocol too.

Then Vic turned back and tilted her head toward the a nearby medical supply closet. Even though he knew that would be breaking protocol number three in two minutes, he couldn't help himself. He needed to make sure she was feeling well enough for this shift. Right?

She was waiting for him as he shut the door behind him. She pushed him back against the door, kissing him ardently. He could already feel the continued rush of blood away from his brain.

"Eggy, what are you doing?" He knew his voice sounded raspy. She was unhooking his belt and sliding his uniform pants down.

"It's my first shift back, and I need to prove my fitness to the chief," she whispered throatily. She knelt before him, taking his cock in hand. "That door doesn't lock so lean back and be quiet."

Luke was having a hard time being quiet when she took his length in her mouth. It was even harder to be quiet when she started stroking his balls with eager hands. He leaned his head back against the door and concentrated on breathing.

She was having great time. She slid her mouth down his length sucking harder. Her head bobbed back and forth as her hands tugged gently at his sac. For kicks, she started humming a little in the back of her throat. He gasped and his hands scrapped against the wood of the door trying ot find purchase. He could hardly stand while she worked him so he finally just rested his hands on her head. His hips started thrusting against her mouth as she skillfully sucked him off. She didn't release the pressure until he came and gave him a naughty grin while she swallowed.

Without waiting, she popped up off the ground and gave him a quick kiss on the mouth. "Definitely cleared for duty." She sashayed past him and out the door. He stood there for a solid three minutes trying to make his brain think about how many protocols he'd just violated before heading out to look at the generator.

Pruitt Herrera like to think that he was somewhat observant. He knew his daughter was angry with him but she usually needed to stew for a while. He could see that Maya and Jack seem to be doing well together. He understood Ben's hesitation about his possible change to Medic One and discussing it in front of his step son. He knew that Montgomery was coping better with the loss of his husband Michael as he wasn't wearing his wedding ring anymore. He even saw Miller steal everyone's candy.

But he certainly did not missing that Victoria Hughes had a new piece of jewelry. When he handed her the chocolates, she leaned forward a little bit and her shirt revealed a chain with a ring on it. He immediately recognized that ring because the department gave you one after you got promoted above captain. If he remember correctly, they were probably currently only 15 of those rings in circulation for current officers. Those rings cost about $2000 and were optional portions of the dress uniform.

And being the observant fellow that he was (he might have quietly followed the chief), while standing on the top of the stairs, he also certainly did not miss Victoria Hughes and Chief Ripley's whispered conversation followed by their significantly less subtle making out in his fire station. He thought back to Thanksgiving dinner and remembered when Bishop had asked Hughes all those questions about her previous dating life with Station 23. He did the math and came up with about seven months of probable dating between Victoria and the Chief. He might have missed her entire illness due to his multiple vacations, but he'd heard whispers about a confrontation between Sullivan and Ripley in the hospital.

The two of them obviously must have had some sort of plan. He was going to see what happened when he spoke did the Chief at the generator.

The team got called out to a structure fire with a missing kid. Andy got Sullivan's permission to take that Academy trainee Kat Noonan. It left him and Chief Ripley alone in the building. He needed the Chief's signature anyway. No better time like the present to put out some feelers.

Ripley for standing with him while he adjusted the fuses. "Oh, one of these circuits is overloaded."

"I can figure this out. You should go home. I imagine you, uh, have a Hawaiian travel companion waiting up for you? I'm happy for you. I didn't realize you were seeing anyone." The Chief was trying to play it casual, and he seemed more relaxed than he was while talking to Sullivan upstairs. Pruitt wondered why.

"Reggie's really something. She doesn't worry about what anybody thinks. She just figures out what she wants and goes for it." He patiently watched the subtle change in the chief's expression.

"Sounds simple."

"Starting to learn it can be." he pulled out his EMT application. "They asked if I could have my previous boss, uh, fill out a recommendation. And if there's anything my trip inspired me to do, it's not to sit around, waiting for things to happen to me. I'm gonna make things happen for myself." Come on, little fishy, Pruitt baited the hook.

"You know you're vastly overqualified for this."

"Big fish, little pond. Wouldn't mind a little adoration here and there." Not taking the bait yet.

"You just got back. You sure you don't want to kick back, put your feet up instead?"

"Come on. Do a big fish a solid." He flipped some switches the the generator rumbled back to life. "Ta-da."

The chief pulled out a pen and happily signed Pruitt's EMT application.

Since his attempts at subtle weren't working, Pruitt decided to try something. He deliberately fumbled the papers when Ripley handed them back. The younger man knelt to pick them up. Near the chief's shirt collar, he glimpsed a silver chain with the imprint of a ring hanging off of it.

On the drive home, he continued to think about what possible options Victoria and Chief Ripley had. His mind kept returning to one option.


Chapter Text

The call was over, and Vic was tired. It was hard to watch that sick patient expire on the grass but - at the same time - very freeing and somewhat better that his greatest fantasy had come true. Lucas had taken her words about being shirtless quite seriously because he was sitting in bed with a book sans shirt. She had a few seconds to admire the absolute fineness of his tight chest and abs. That six pack could be used as a grill. Barely an ounce of fat with all that tough muscle and sinew, topped of with a simple silver chain and silver band.

"Long day?" he asked.

"Ooh, long night." She threw her jeans on the floor."New fantasy vacation idea - Somep with a bed." She climbed in under the covers.

"Let's do it." he rolled toward her.

"I wish you could've met this guy I met on my call today. He was a master of fantasy scenarios. But, in the end, I think reality turned out a lot better for him. Life's too short. No more fantasizing." She looked up at him, "Let's take that vacation. For real this time. Sun, snow, bed, it doesn't it doesn't matter. I don't want to put things off."

"Okay." he answered simply, setting the book aside.

She somehow didn't seem to hear him. "Okay, I can see the look on your face. I know, it's not realistic, but-"

"I was actually going to say I still have my vacation days. Why not?"



"Yeah," She got really excited. "Okay. Okay, okay. So, we take the days off, and then what?" and now the Victoria overthinking special downward spiral started. "We can't tell people, so how will that work? Can we make that work? Okay, so, we can't we can't take the time without telling people why since I just got back to work, and we can't tell people why without outing our secret, and doing that messes with careers, and jobs, so forget it. Forget it." She gave him a quick kiss on the lips. "Back to fantasy vacation, I guess."

"If that's what's holding us back, maybe this marriage shouldn't be a secret anymore." He leaned down carefully to kiss her and he watched the light grow in her eyes.

 Six weeks earlier

"I can't believe you're doing this." Travis fiddled with his unfamiliar collar. "Is this really what you want?"

He was in Vic's hospital room with Chief Ripley, his sister Jennifer, and the hospital chaplain. Vic was still wearing that trusty station 88 hoodie while the chief had borrowed Travis's station 19 t-shirt for the occasion. Thus Travis got to wear the chief's (great smelling) uniform shirt. Her resident, Dr. DeLuca was guarding the door, sworn to secrecy not to tell Ben or his wife Dr. Bailey what was about to happen.

"Absolutely," Vic gazed at Lucas with adoration which he matched. "Piece of paper secret wedding."

"We can't tell anyone?" Travis asked.

"Not yet. We're going to see how this works, in case we need to piece of paper break up." Her smile didn't falter.

"That's called divorce." he pointed out.

"Trav, I'm getting this now. We can decide for a big wedding later." She shifted and gasped a little at the pain in her abdominal incision.

Lucas was right at her side "Do you need more morphine?"

She waved him away. "Not a chance." This was the agreed compromise. They were having a quickie hospital wedding which would prevent them from getting in trouble should their secret come out. They'd agreed after some debate on the selection of their two witnesses, Travis and Jennifer. Vic basically had no family and Jennifer was all Lucas had left. After Travis got over his shock from the morning's revelation, he'd fallen in line. It wasn't like he could deny her anything since she'd almost died that same morning.

The crux of the argument was that Vic felt this wedding would be enough and would never need more. Lucas, having been married twice, flat out refused. He stated that he wasn't going to deny her all the trappings of a full ceremony and pre events. He knew they'd have to answer to HR when the time came for that, but he didn't want to rob her of those experiences. If it got her Lucas Ripley, she was willing to compromise.

"Can I have a word with Vic, please?" Travis asked.

"Sure, we can review the plan with the chaplain. We'll discuss the paperwork on making this legal this week while you two talk." Lucas placed a kiss on Vic's curly hair and took everyone else with him.

"I can't say this is a good idea. You've only been together for six months. You haven't even had your first big fight yet." He continued on. "I know you almost died this morning, but really, Vic, are you being practical, like toilet paper?"

"How is that constructive?"

"Are you really considering this?"

"Well, I want - I want Ripley. And I want my job. And this gets me both. I'm sorry. Do you have a better suggestion?" He opened and shut his mouth. "Didn't think so. Besides, if you can keep quiet, you can spend the next couple months trying to convince me to try hearts and rainbows for the wedding."

"I'm just asking if something "practical" is more important to you than something real."

"You know what? You don't know what's going on in my head, Montgomery, so stay out of there. Stay out."

Travis tried to give her a hard stare but she glared back at him. "Fine, but I will be the first one to give you the 'I told you so . . .okay, I won't do that either."

"Thanks Trav. Can you bring in my future hubby? If you'd like you can call him my hobby."

The group came back in. Jennifer handed Vic some flowers form the gift shop, and the chaplain cleared his throat.

"Dearly beloved, both of you are gathered her today to witness the joining of Victoria Hughes and Lucas Ripley in matrimony. If there is anyone who has any objections to the joining of these two individuals, then speak now or forever hold your peace." He looked at the two witnesses. Jennifer didn't even blink.

"Already said it," Travis mumbled. Vic made a face. "I meant 'no objections.'"

"In that case, before I officially join these two, I believe the bride and the groom have something they wanted to say to each other."

"Yes," Lucas pulled a piece of notebook paper out of his pocket. It was the same paper that Travis had watched him writing on all day during the wait. Amid numerous scribbles and notes about Seattle FD, there was a circled selection. "Vic, I love and adore you. I may have been down this road before but with you, I promise I am completely serious. And mad or sick or tired or any other way you feel, I love you, Victoria Hughes. This is really right. I don't want something temporary; I will always be here for you, and I am so lucky to get to spend the rest of my life with you."

"Lucky you," Vic smiled.

"Lucky me," he agreed.

"My turn." Vic put her hand on his, "Lucas Ripley, you and I, we are risk-taking, fire-chasing, out-of-our-mind weirdos. I didn't think much of marriage until pretty much today, but I want it all, everything. I'm all in. I want something - I want something real. I want that. I want it all. I want love and respect and inspiration and I want it with you. I don't care if it's the brush with death, but I am marrying you for real. I am really ready to spend the rest of my life with you, Lucas Ripley." Tears started to stream down her cheeks. Lucas brushed them off with tears in his own eyes.

The chaplain stepped forward again. "Have we the rings?"

Luke pulled out the large gold Seattle FD chief signet ring that had resided on her neck this morning and carefully placed it on Vic's ring finger. It was far too big. "Sorry, I didn't go home to pick up the real one. This one hangs out in the bag for dress events."

Vic gazed up at him. "I don't have one for you. It was a little crazy today. Should we get one from the gift shop . . .or a gumball machine?"

"Yes, you've got one." Travis took a deep breath and pulled his silver wedding ring off his left hand. "You can borrow this." His whole body shook as he handed it to her.

Her lips formed a 'wow' and she slid the ring onto Lucas's left ring finger. The chaplain grinned, "By the power invested in me by the state of Washington and Grey Sloan's 24 hour notary department, I now pronounce you husband and wife -pending full filing of paperwork at the courthouse on day of discharge. You may kiss the bride, provided you physician has given you the go ahead."

The happy couple shared a brief sweet kiss on lips, halted the pulse ox monitor going off. Three wedding photos were captured on Jen's smart phone and immediately password protected WhatsApp'ed onto Vic's phone. Travis and Jennifer toasted the next stage of Vic's hobby with disposable containers of apple juice. The groom took a sip but not the bride as she was still NPO post surgery. The wedding reception between the two witnesses took place in the hospital cafeteria over two stale sandwiches. They bought the groom his own sandwich and two hospital gift shop chains on which to wear their rings.

Before Vic dropped off to sleep again, she said, "Trav, we'll give you the ring back, today when he goes home."

"I'm not going home." Lucas piped up from his chair next to the bed.

"Yes, you are. What good is a secret wedding if you cant keep a secret more than a day?" Vic yawned.

"Well, she does have all the best ideas."

"She's right. You'd better get going or the secret will be out when the team comes back after lunch." He faced them both. "Keep the ring for now. I can have it back when you get your hearts and rainbows wedding." He paused, "Also, for you first child, I've heard Michael is a great name."

"Thank you Trav. Don't think I don't see that stupid smile," Vic's eyes closed.

"When I think my hubby hobby can't get any hotter, you go ahead and say something like that." she had to look away due to the intensity on his face.

"What do newly married couples do now?" he asked.

"After a 24-hour shift? How would I know?" Vic reminded him.

"I know it's been awhile for me." Lucas joked.

Vic clicked her tongue. "I think we should open the spice drawer."

"Is this more of red chili pepper spice day or a rosemary day?"

"I think it's going to be essence of vanilla with almond espresso. Probably most days. But now - post shift shower." She got up out of bed and doffed the rest of her clothes. He looked at her quizzically. She'd have to be more explicit about it. "This is post shift sexy shower with my secret non spy hubby."

"I thought you were tired."

"I thought we were having a fake honeymoon. Besides, I need somebody to wash my back. Isn't that your husbandly job?" Unlike at Vic's house, more than one person could fit in the shower.

She turned on the water to medium, just the way she liked it. He followed her a couple seconds later. And immediately cranked it just below boiling.

"How about a temperature both of us can enjoy?" she added and beckoned him closer. "Let's see who gets cleanest first."

They both covered their hands with some of the Vic's coconut body wash and proceeded to engage in a contest of who could wash the most skin while making out. He was doing an excellent job fiddling with her nipples but she had a distinct advantage that his most sensitive parts were easier to reach than hers.

She dragged her hands down his hardening erection. "Oh, hot. The water." she gave him a few more swipes down his length.

"Oh really," he pressed her against the cold wall. His lean but solid body partially blocked her from the cascade of water. "It'll keep you warm." More fierce kissing passed between them as the throb between her legs increased. She rocked her hips against him.

"You'd better." He lifted her up and directed her sex over his cock. He acted like he was going to tease her, so she dug her fingers into his shoulders. He capitulated without protest and pushed in. She remained motionless and watched flames dance behind his blues.

"Victoria," he warned.

She bit his neck conspiratorially. "I've been waiting six weeks to have my way with you again. I like to think I'm the captain of Vicley. Give it to me."

He wasn't going to refuse. For the first time as a married couple, they made love with slick soapy skin in the shower. He'd underestimated how turned on she was because she came twice - once after he started moving and once after his control started to crumble and he was growling into her ear as he pinned her to the tiles.

They both were coming down, and he could see his moisture dripping down her legs. He grabbed the soap and started to gently clean her up, making sure to give her over stimulated sex a few more times swipes. She grabbed his wrist. "I think you've washed that part enough for now."

They shared a few sweet kisses as their need dissipated. He glanced around at the shower,"You haven't been on a smoky 24 for awhile. I forget. Is this a shampoo day or a conditioner day?" He indicated her wet tangled hair.

"Oh, conditioner. You?" She tugged on his wet locks.

He guffawed, "Wash, brush, same as every day."

"So uncomplicated," she laughed, and he picked up her favorite conditioner. Glancing at her for permission, he poured some out and carefully worked it into her hair. He even started at the ends like he was supposed to. "I see you carefully studied the hair care protocols." She rinsed it and found him with her hair pick in hand. "Not going to try?" she asked, taking the pick.

"That seems like and advanced technique beyond the skills of a rookie." He paused. "Can I help with the oil?"

That surprised her a little because she usually did that by herself without him in the bathroom. "Sure." She grabbed her oil bottle, Station 88 bathrobe, towel, and took it with her to the bed. She carefully toweled her hair off and divided her hair into sections. He watched her with such determination as she did the first section, working the oil into her ends and then working her way up to applying oil from the bottle directly on her scalp.

She splashed some oil on his hands and guided him through the next section. He was completely focused on his task, even a little too gentle. Despite all the many ways they knew each other's bodies, this was probably the most intimate thing they had ever done. At that point she realized what it meant to be married to him. They would have these small private moments between them every day forever.

She interrupted his work by giving him a passionate kiss. He instinctively put his arms around her which only spread the oil. "Oops." he said since now the oil was all over her shoulders and neck. She ran her moist and oiled hands down his biceps and kissed him more. "I'm getting you all . . ." he searched for a word that didn't sound too sexual. "Polished?"

"Don't worry. We can shower again after we get all dirty." She proceeded to continue his first black hair care lesson which led to them both being very oily (and very sated) in some interesting places and another bout of sex in the shower before they fell asleep in bed.

Chapter Text

Six months ago

The beauty of being with Victoria Hughes was that she owned who she was. She admitted her own kinks and embraced them. Didn't hesitate to embrace who she was and never seem to regret anything.

For example she found Luke's in uniform pieces particularly fun. Luke was initially a little bit confused on the power dynamics of it especially since she tended to destroy his uniforms. The first time he didn't say anything probably because she gagged him with his own uniform tie.

The second time she tackled him to the floor after work and tied his arms to a chair in her living room. Also with his uniform tie. She was wearing a cute little red teddy with nothing underneath but as fire chief he needed to clear the air before she made him stop thinking

"Wait." She paused. "Is this a power thing? Or a forbidden thing?" She went back to securing his wrists with tight knots.

"Vic, stop, really. I mean it." He recognized how it was ridiculous that he - a straight red blooded male - would consider turning down naughty dirty sex with someone as smoking as Vicoria Hughes. Just need to make sure that hot and batshit-crazy did not go hand in hand. "I just need to know if this 'sleeping with your boss' fantasy thing is all we are." He really liked her but he was not really interested in relationship that was based solely on being forbidden. No matter how amazing the sex was. Or at least primarily based on being forbidden.

She gave him a kiss that turned his bones to water. She went back to removing all of his insignia and pins. He tested his bonds on the chair; her rope-work instructors must be quite proud of her skills.

"Oh that's not it." She ripped off his belt which ended his internal struggle. He was putty in her hands. "We're firefighters - all protocols, rules, regulations." she untucked his shirt, "And you, more so than me, are all about rules and regulations." she unfastened his pants and and then skated her hands across his flat abs. "It does something for me to see you unbuttoned. As hard as we think were in control of things-  sometimes we're not."

Luke didn't try to move; he was transfixed watching her magnificence.

"Fire is uncontrollable." she dragged his pants down his unresisting body. She hauled her teddy up and impaled herself his waiting cock. She sampled his collarbone with her teeth and breathed into his ear. "And I can be your fire."


This also explained why 8 weeks into marriage, when his wife woke him up by sucking on his morning wood, she was wearing a thong, heels, and his uniform tie. He came to with heat enveloping his cock by a scrumptious mouth going to work on him. She let him have about 10 seconds of disorientation before moving him to a sitting position on edge of their bed. He was still naked from their previous antics of last night, but his woman was insatiable.

She was on her knees with hair cascading down her shoulders and placed the end of the tie in his hand. Her message was clear. The tie was there to guide her. She deliberately moved back, to start giving him small kisses everywhere except on his hard-on. He pulled the tie toward himself, and she obediently bent forward and opened her mouth. Vic took him in a little bit, playing with the flared head with her tongue. While that was exquisite- he needed deeper. He tugged experimentally again, and he felt her smile against the skin she went down further. He quickly realized this was a tug of war match where she was going to make him direct her and tantalize him mercilessly.

After a couple maddening cycles he finally pulled the tie hard and commanded, "Take it all." she did a twist with her lips and proceeded to deep throat him.  Taking him fully in her mouth, the head hit the back of her throat. She began sucking forcefully as her hands came up to caress his ball sac. The realization that he could have this everyday forever made this entirely too much. He grabbed the tie and pulled her off. She mock pouted, slightly put out.

Since the power of speech failed him, he looked at her dark nipples, pointed and tight. Folding his body forward, he kissed her lips hard. He worked a hand between her legs and under the thong. She actually whimpered little bit when his fingers brushed her clit, sliding her own dew across the sensitive nub.

Her eyes were still full of mischief, and he released the tie so it hung between her bare breasts. Before she could try to torment him any further, he stood and pushed her face down into the bed. Those heels made her a little bit taller than usual and the perfect position to enter her from behind. He wasted no time, ripped the thong off, and sheathed himself inside her. Both of them moaned at the wet hot deliciousness of their joining. He gritted his teeth as he bottomed out, his balls pressed against her muscular thighs. He put one arm around her chest, cupping a naked breast and giving its tip a gentle squeeze. She snaked her head back for open mouth kiss as he started moving again. He could hear her every squeak, gasp, and hiss each time he slipped deeper. He was so close, but he wasn't sure if she was quite ready. The he had an idea - he released her chest and gave the tie a brief tug. That worked because she came screaming clenching her inner muscles around him. "Lucas!"

He managed to hold out go back 30 seconds before he found his own peak, yelling "Vic!" Then he lay on top of her feeling her breathe for a couple seconds before realizing have sweaty he was.

And he started to chuckle a little bit. She half turned over to wink at him. "Good morning, hubby."

"Good morning, wifey" he responded sitting up. He handed her it was left of her thong. "Hope you can wear more than that to work today."

"If you let me, sir," she flung the tie over her shoulder, lifting those fabulous breasts. "Sometimes you like being the fire too, don't you?"

"I plead the fifth. Let's go get some breakfast."

She climbed onto his lap straddling him. His mouth began to water by the sheer proximity of her upturned breasts. It was very tempting pop the tips in his mouth and start round two. She wasn't helping matters by carefully licking her lips, lips which had been so recently on his cock. Stretching her arms out, which brought her breasts even closer, she took the tie off and hung it around his neck over his chain. "So more clothes?"

"We can't frighten Cam again." he reached on the night stand table and handed her necklace. She put it back on (having made the wise decision to not get choked with it during her morning frolic) and that made him crave her more - his naked woman with his ring. His woman that he wanted to claim to the world . . .

She slithered off him, "Okay, clothes, diner, and then work."

Nothing screws with your secret marriage like fire. Like actual fire when your secret husband is trying to run a scene.

It had started out like any other morning, breakfast at the dinner. Cam was there to take their order, unaware that their fake marriage was now a real marriage.

"How long do you think we can keep this hidden?" Ripley asked.

"These first 8 weeks haven't been so bad." she bit her lip and they were back in bed with his uniform tie again briefly.

"When do we want to tell HR? When we set a date for the ceremony?" he pressed.

"I don't know. Did the fire department get a vote in your other two weddings?" she pointed out.

"It works a little better if we've already shown that our work was never compromised by our relationship. The department will need to work some protocols for us to keep things professional. I'll probably be removed from your chain of command for promotions. "

"Since you're already like a thousand ranks above me, I don't think they're gonna ask your opinion anyway if I put in for lieutenant some day. My captain, Sullivan, is technically that guy."

"Usually I'd get the battalion chief to oversee lieutenant promotions. I stepped in for Station 19 after the mess with Herrera promoting his daughter and wanting her considered for captain over the senior lieutenant." He paused. "Actually, never mind."

"Probably better you don't talk about that stuff. I mean at my station. Whine about other stations all you want."

"Oh yeah? You can really keep a secret that well?"

"I sure can, 'Kel.'" She winked. "I need to head out to shift though."

"We will find a solution for this, okay?"

"Okay." She agreed. His beautiful blue eyes were perfect and guileless and so very much in love.

"I'll be right behind you. I'm supposed to see Sullivan today."

Vic rushed in to work and found Travis making weird type of coffee with a sieve. "My hobby thinks that we should start planning the ceremony."

"Already, now?" Travis barely avoided burning his hand. "It's only been a permanent hobby for a few months."

"No, I know. We're not- We're not there yet, but things are good." She wasn't even referring to this morning's sexiness. "They're really good, and we would really love to stop being a secret hobby. And more of a "live out loud, show your hobby off in public" kind of way."

"Do you think that's really a good idea?"

"Why not? If we're going to get in trouble might as well do it all the way, right?"

"I hate to tell you to try to keep it quiet." Travis cautioned.

"The whole point of the piece of paper wedding was so I didn't have to be quiet."

"Even if you and your hobby are permanent, the department is going to reexamine every scene you guys shared. Every order he ever gave you or Station 19. They can require so much supervision that they can drive one of you two to quit. Michael and I went through it." He'd never revealed any of that before.

"We've never had a problem at a scene before. My captain typically supervises me so no one should argue either of our decision making is compromised. Other than the Friendsgiving chainsaws, we haven't had a scene since the skyscraper. Our record is clean."

"You can't be sure about that or how long it will last." Travis glanced around since the station was notorious for lurkers. "And once people know whose hobby you are, it might be different. You're relationship hasn't really been challenged yet. "

"Me almost dying doesn't count?"

"You haven't even had a big fight. Do you guys figure out how to work it out after a fight or find out you aren't mature enough yet for this."

Downstairs Herrera shoved the chief through the door into Sullivan's office and closed them in the office together.

Lucas decided now might be another good time try to approach the wedding topic with Sullivan.  "Remember how I mentioned that marriage thing, I had more to say but I just needed to bend a friend's ear on it."

"This isn't the best place to discuss this sort of thing."

"Sure. Understood." Was Sullivan determined to keep dodging him?

"But maybe, uh, over beers instead? After, uh, shift?" Sully suggested.

"Yeah, sounds great. I like beer."

"I remember."

Three hours later coffee plant fire was not going smoothly. There was a severe flashover, Station 19 was running in as RIT trying to frantically pull out as many of the members of station 42 as possible. And Captain Conlin was trapped.

"Not sure if I can do that right now.The beam fell. I think my leg is broken." Conlin sounded resigned. "Put the structure on lockdown! The building's losing all structural integrity. No one comes back in."

"Captain, what is your location? We're coming in for you." Sullivan yelled.

"Montana, your team's done enough!"

"Tell us where you are." Sullivan demanded.

"No one comes back in. Captain's orders."

"I mean, screw that, right? There's an officer down." Vic started to head toward the building.

"42 has to follow his command, but not us." Andy argued.

"He says the structure isn't sound." Chief Ripley said grimly.

"We can't just leave him in there." Herrera protested.

"He made his decision. He's the ranking Captain of this scene. He doesn't want to risk more lives because he knows better than to waste them." Ripley started buttoning up his turnouts.

"What are you doing?" Vic responded in horror.

"I outrank Conlin. I'm superseding his command." her husband stated that calm fact.

Sullivan disagreed, "I'm coming with you."

"No. I need you on the building blueprints. You're gonna be my eyes over the radio."

"Luke," Sullivan protested.

"I trust you." He headed to the other side of his SUV. "Hughes. You were the last one to see Conlin, right? Where was he?"
"Why are you doing this?" She trailed behind him, out of sight and earshot to the rest of the team.

"I'm not risking anyone else's life." He had a brief pause. "Especially yours." he barked at her. His face was somewhere between chief and Lucas.

"That is not fair." She disagreed.

"Hey. Don't mistake this for preferential treatment."

"There has to be another option." She begged.

"Not anymore." He was allowing no argument. "Now where was he?"

"Southern corridor. . . Please don't - " Was she actually going to lose her husband after 8 weeks of marriage?

"It's okay. I'm coming back. I promise."

Vic ran in terror to join the rest of team and heard it play out over the radio.

"Found Conlin's drop-line. Sullivan, talk to me." His voice was distorted by the radio.

Sullivan spoke into the radio "About 30 feet ahead, you're gonna turn left. That will put you in the building's south wing.

"Copy that. On the move."

"He'll make it out." Travis assured her.

"You still with me, Chief?" Sullivan asked the radio.

"Entering the south wing now." More crackling and mask breathing through the radio.

Vic was mumbling possible locations,"If he's in the west wing, then he could be by the generator."

"Talk to me." Sullivan again.

"Or was that the east wing? Help me remember."

"I'm not sure where I am. Conlin!" They heard a bag of coffee explode and the sound of a body falling on the floor over the radio.

"Luke, talk to me." Sullivan ordered.

"Where is he? Why isn't he out yet?" Vic was practically in tears.
"You still with me, Chief?"

"Come on, come on, come on. Come on. Why is he still in? Come on, come on, come on." Vic repeated like a litany.

"Luke, answer me." Sullivan's voice edged with panic.

"Come on. Come on."

"Chief? Luke?"

"I got him! We're coming out!" The radio came alive again.
"Gurneys! We need O2 and IVs now!" Ben shouted as two firefighters staggered out of the doors.

Vic broke ranks the second he set Conlin on the gurney. She dragged him toward the aid car without letting him get his mask off.

"How's G-Galarza and Cook?" Conlin asked Sullivan from the gurney.

"They're being taken care of."

"Good. Don't want to lose my two best players. I got to figure out a way to make it up to you guys."

After a promise of a round on Station 42, Conlin was en route to the hospital, and Herrera approached Sullivan. "I was talking it over with the rest of the team, and we'd like permission to stay, work a double shift."

"A double?" Sullivan wondered if Ripley would like that.

She shrugged. "There's a need right now. A lot of responders are down after this call, and we wanna help them any way we can, even if they sometimes kick our ass on the softball field."

"Granted. Let's get the rigs back to 19 and prepare for an overnight." He looked around,"Except Hughes. Tell her to spend some time off the clock."

As Herrera prepared that order, an angry Vic stomped around the corner. Travis grabbed her shoulder as she continued her stomping. "It's nothing. Other than our personal hobby is compromising our jobs." she tilted her head. "But I can be a grown up, and we can talk about it tomorrow morning."

The next morning in a flower shop, Levi Schmitt was trying and failing to pick out a bouquet of flowers. He saw a blond man that he couldn't quite place rubbing his chest gingerly.

"Are you okay?" He asked. "You okay?"

"Uh, yeah. I could use an opinion. Which one of these says, 'I'm sorry and I want to spend the rest of my life with you?'"

"That seems like a lot of pressure to put on some flowers."

"Maybe I should just go with roses. But I mean, are are roses - are roses enough? Maybe I should get roses and something else." The man seemed uncertain.

"I've been standing here for five minutes, trying to decide the same thing." Levi picked up a small bouquet. "Do you think that these say, "I'm really sorry you killed someone"?" The blonde man gave him an odd look. "No, it's - it's not ... I'm a doctor. They're for another doctor who, uh it's it's a long story. I think the roses, and maybe some of these big, fancy ones would be great."

"Smart guy. Thanks. Thank you." The man went to go pay and stopped, "And I forgot my wallet. Genius."

"Here, I got it."

"No, no. You don't have to."

"Today seems special. It should be special. I hope it goes great."

"Thank you. I hope your thing goes well, too."

"How do I know you?" Schmitt asked.

The man smiled, "You were there when I brought a septic patient in."

"Oh yeah,  I remember now, couple months ago. Is that who the flowers are for?"

"Vic," The man briefly staggered.  "Sorry, I'm a little woozy. Rough night."

"Be careful then."

The man nodded and headed out the door. Levi paid for his own flowers and followed him.

When he got outside, the man had already collapsed. Levi immediately dialed 911 and called for the ambulance.

Vic was waiting at the diner. She wore her newest pink dress and straightened her hair. Never really got it straight but it was definitely different. She's been so upset that she forgot that all of her clothes were at his house - hence the new dress. Because that's where married people keep their clothes - together. Married people solve their problems by talking instead of screaming at each other outside of the aid car. Married people probably send each other text messages with their whereabouts especially after big fights instead of sleeping elsewhere.

Every time the bell rang; she looked up to check. Nothing. Bell again- nothing. Was he really not going to come? He had been furious. She'd never seen him that angry. Was he so pissed off he wasn't coming?

After about an hour, she threw five bucks on the table and headed out the door. Travis was pretty shocked to see her at the coffee plant. "Heard we got called back in to help with overhaul."

"What are you doing here? What happened with, uh- " Travis knew not to say the identity of her hubby hobby.

"Nothing happened. He didn't show. We fought and he didn't come. Now I'm getting back to work, okay? I need to work."

Travis looked like he wanted to say something but Vic cut him off first. "You were right, okay." She could hear Captain Herrera giving orders behind her. "I was stupid. Not mature enough for this. He doesn't really want to be with me if it causes problems on scenes."

"Vic, we need to talk about this."

"Not doing this. No talking. Talking feels like a really bad idea right now."

Chapter Text

Picking up immediately where we left off (and skipping Ripley's arrival in the trauma bay with Bailey and Altman)

"Warren! Warren, here." Maggie Pierce flagged the three members of Station 19 into trauma bay 1. Chief Ripley was unconscious with multiple monitors connected to him and was attended by Drs. Schmitt and Hunt.

"Dr. Maggie Pierce. This is our captain, Robert Sullivan." Ben made fast introductions.

"Just tell us how Chief Ripley is." Sullivan had no time for niceties.

"He's still confused. On exam, he has a systolic crescendo/decrescendo murmur consistent with aortic stenosis." Dr. Pierce explained.

"Passing out is pretty classic." Hunt added.

"Hey, it's Sully. I'm here, buddy."

"He may have had the condition for years. You never know when or why you're gonna go down. It just happens." Hunt said.

"Buying flowers. Is he a-a flowers type of guy? I mean, is he seeing someone?" Andy wondered loudly

"Why are you asking me?" Sullivan played it off.

"Cause you guys are BFFs." Andy reminded him.

"Uh, that's not a - That's not a term we use."

"I was there." Dr. Schmitt was full of useful intel. "At Late Bloomers. First responder. He was buying roses, and I want to say peonies for a guy named Vic."

"Vic? - What?" Andy couldn't believe her ears.

"Damn." Warren said

"Vic? Get out." Andy was still in shock.

"Oh, no. Oh, no. Did I just out someone?" Schmitt looked worried.

"No. Vic is Victoria." Sullivan reluctantly clarified.

"Oh, thank God. I'm kind of new at this, and my gaydar is, uh, not great. And the wedding ring we took of his neck says 'Travis' and I thought that maybe Vic was short for that."

"I don't believe it. She would have said something. She wouldn't keep-" Andy was still stuck on Vic. Sullivan, however, had not reacted. "Wait, why aren't you surprised?"

"I'd like to hear more from the doctors." Sullivan returned to the actual problem.

"I'd like to do a T.E.E. to get a closer look at the aorta, and I'll, I'll do a stress test at the same time." Pierce planned.

"Ripley and Vic." Andy couldn't move on even though the chief was clearly ill.

"Damn." Neither could Ben.

"Okay, now now, who's Vic? Dr.Pierce asked.

"She's a-a firefighter at our station." Andy volunteered.

Ben tried to explain. "Yeah, and he is the Seattle fire chief, so her with the chief is like, I mean, that's like-" Ben hunted for the correct words.

"It's like - It's like you and our chief." Hunt pointed out.

"Uh, okay, fair enough. Ben conceded.

"Vic. Vic." The chief chose that moment to try to sit up. He batted their restraining hands away.

"Sir? You're in the hospital." Pierce told him.

"Where- Where is Vic? I need to see Vic."

"No, no, no, no, no." Dr. Hunt pushed him back down onto the gurney, "You're still confused secondary to the concussion.

"Okay, man, we're we're gonna call Vic, okay? Tell her to come here. You just make yourself better." Sullivan led Team Aid Car out of the trauma bay.

"Uh, I mean, just give me a ballpark. Has it been weeks, months?" Andy asked.

15 minutes and 20 phone calls later, the team failed to get ahold of Vic. Sullivan had contacted the covering Battalion chief who was coming in as the department liaison. Dr. Pierce was explaining to Ripley in his hospital bed that it appeared that he had aortic stenosis. A potentially dangerous heart condition that probably led to a sudden collapse.

"So, it's open-heart surgery." Ripley sounded unimpressed.

"Right" Pierced nodded. "So, we'd open you up, put in a prosthetic valve, and you'd be home in a week."

"Okay, let's do it. I'll just go see Vic, tell her I'm sorry, and you can butterfly me by dinnertime." He tried to stand up. "Deal?"

"It's a better idea for her to come here." Schmitt suggested.

Sullivan admitted "We can't reach her."

"Well, keep trying." Maggie Pierce ordered.

"You said I've been walking around with this thing forever, right? What's What's one more day?" Ripley wanted to leave.

"You have symptoms that aren't consistent with your diagnosis. I need to get a full picture before I could even consider discharging you, even for one day."

"Damn it. Damn it! Well, will you stop staring at me and get the hell out of here?" The chief roared and then buried his face in his hands.

"Alright, just, uh, hang tough, Chief." Ben beat a hasty retreat.

Sullivan followed him, "We're gonna be right outside. You're gonna be fine."

Maggie Pierce was left alone in the room and saw the chief peeking out from under his hands. "Do I look like an idiot? Like the second we leave here, you're not gonna put on your clothes and just take off?"

"I really thought I sold it." the chief was smiling and Pierce realized just attractive and magnetic he was when conscious. His charm must be devastating and disarming when he chose to use it.

"Yeah, well, "Get the hell out of here!" was a bit much. I don't understand. I know you want to get the hell out of here. But you seem way less concerned about possibly dying then I expected. Are you feeling okay? Your head CT was clear."

He sighed,"I really need to find Vic. She thinks I abandoned her after a fight."

"Let me do my job, and let me run some more tests so you can "Get the hell out of here! Your fight can't be that bad. Let me tell you about when my boyfriend proposed and I went to go buy milk.

"Explain yourself." She swore his blue eyes could see her soul. Devastating for sure.

After securing Chief Ripley's promise not to leave, she went back to meet with Dr. Schmitt. "I don't like this. There's something wrong. I need you to run all his electrolytes and a tox screen. He had a bruise on his leg. I don't know what's going on. He should be way more concerned about this. He just doesn't seem right. Do all firefighters act like this after running into a burning building?"

Warren walked up to them, "I figured out what we going to do - we're going to call Travis. That's her best friend and he'll definitely answer his phone."

"Hello Montgomery here." Travis immediately answered the phone. "She's busy cutting open bags of coffee." They could hear Captain Pruitt giving orders the background. He would occasionally start coughing as did everyone cutting open bags in the warehouse. Only 1/2 the team from 19 was there pulling a double since Sullivan, Andy, and Ben had been on that aid car call.

"I'm sorry. Say that again." Travis said into the phone and cleared his throat. "Okay, I understand. I've got it."

Travis hung up his phone and ran to his partner. "Vic, we've got to get to Grey Sloan right now!"

"Why? We're still working. I use work to get rid of my energy after a fight." Vic coughed a few times, that coffee smell was strong even through her mask.

"That's the thing. Ripley is in the hospital there right now. He keeps asking for you."

The color drained from Vic's face. "Oh my G-d. My phone's dead; my charger was at his place. This morning I just was so upset, I wasn't even thinking."

"Captain Herrera," Travis told the incident commander. "Listen, I've got to get Vic to Grey Sloan Memorial. Something's happened to the chief." It belatedly occurred to him that Pruitt wasn't supposed to know anything about why Vic needed to see the chief.

Captain Herrera smiled knowingly. "Absolutely. Give the happy couple my best." He coughed a couple times. "I'll keep an eye on this scene. Take 42's aid car. It's kind of confusing as it is with all these stations back and forth."

Just then dispatched crackled, "Ladder 19 - this is a call from Officer Tanner. Possible jumper on electrical pole."

Pruitt turned around, "Gibson, Miller, Bishop, head over to that. I'll monitor 42 as they continue the overhaul." He cleared his throat and coughed a couple more times.

Gibson, Miller, and Bishop, hacking themselves, grabbed their gear and headed out to the ladder truck.

Back at the hospital, Dr. Schmitt interrupted Maggie Pierce. "Dr. Pierce. Chief Ripley's pre-op labs are back. You're gonna want to see this."

"Oh, this can't be right." She ran next to Herrera and updated her what was going on.

"I-I don't understand. It's not just his heart?"

"No, his labs show high doses of ativan in his blood stream. We don't give ativan to patient's with head injuries unless there is a severe need. Are you aware of him being a drug user or having and anxiety problem?"

"Okay, you're making me nervous, like how when a flight attendant sounds nervous and you know you should be nervous."

Schmidt chimed, "That big bruise on his leg could be from an IM injection."

"Oh no." Pierce said,"That would explain between the head injury, the compromised blood flow with aortic stenosis and a big dose of ativan - No wonder he's not worried about very much. His judgment is impaired. Someone's going to have to take over his medical decision making."

"Yeah, I already called his next of kin," Levi hesitated. "I talked to his sister, Jennifer. She said she's not his next of kin anymore."

"So who is?" Pierce asked.

"From what she said, that would be his wife, Victoria Ripley."

"What?" Andy Herrera was shocked speechless for once. It was worse because Sullivan and Warren were ransacking the chief's empty room.

"He's gone."

"Maybe we can still catch him, damn fool." Sullivan headed out the door with the rest of his.

Chapter Text

Lucas was not completely sure why he had stolen the battalion chief's SUV. He had to guess it wass probably because battalion chief have been called in to take over his duties. But he magically had the keys, the car was there, and, courtesy of dispatch, he knew Vic was at the coffee plant. So he would go to the coffee plant. It seemed like an excellent idea.

Fortunately for him there's one master key to all of the battalion and chief SUVs. He did have a little trouble trying to remember which direction the coffee plant was, but if Vic was there he was going to go there. He knew he probably came down too hard on her the day before. All he could think about is how wonderful it would be to see her again. That heart thing that it always been there wasn't that concerning. He barely spared a thought to the fact that there was no logical reason for him to ignore all medical advice and risk his life. It just seemed like the thing to do. What a really painful plothole . . .

He thought about turning on the sirens because that would have made it easier for him to drive and not worry about crashing into anyone. He wasn't really having an emergency so he guessed he didn't really need to use them. Was there a protocol that dictated what you were supposed to do after a head injury and stealing your own battalion chief's SUV?

Maybe she changed her mind and went back to diner. It's possible that's what she would do instead. They had their dates there when they weren't in bed together. He really wished he could remember what it happened to the flowers. That nice doctor something or other helped him buy them. That doctor did not seem too swift because he did not remember when Luke brought Vic in 2 months ago.  The fight was unimportant to saving his marriage. Hopefully they'd still make up without the flowers. Once that was done, he could take her back to their place and maybe tie her to the bed this this time . . .

His internal monologue was interrupted by the radio squawking at him. Since he wasn't really on a call, he decided the best decision was to turn off the radio and not pay attention to it. His phone was also ringing but he couldn't answer that either, nor was he sure where his phone came from - maybe it appeared like Schrödinger's cat in the abyss that held his wallet. Looked like Sully had called him a couple times. Surprisingly Travis seemed to call him too. He was not even sure how Travis's phone number that programmed into his phone, but he guess there was probably Vic's fault. He tried calling Vic again - he'd changed her name to 'Victoria' from Eggy since they got married.

Nope, straight to voicemail. "It's Vic, do your thing."

"What the hell?" Sullivan said in Aid Car 19. "Dammit Rip. Answer. We've called him; we've radioed him. He's not responding."

"At least Vic's on her way," Ben said.

"I think we should head to the coffee plant. We'll radio them ahead and say that we're coming. If Chief Ripley beats us there, my dad can to make sure he stays where he is." Andy said.

"Copy that," Sullivan called it in and dispatch patched them over the coffee plant.

Her father answered, "No, Aid 19, we have not seen Chief Ripley yet. You think he might be coming here?" He coughed a couple times and they could hear other people coughing in the background.

"Everything okay there, Dad?"

"I'm fine. This dark roast is just bothering my nose; I rotating shifts of Stations 42 and 23 because of their coughing too. I sent the other half of Station 19 to a possible jumper. Last I heard from Montgomery and Hughes- they were headed back to Grey Sloan Memorial in Aid Car 42."

"All right, we're heading to you. Hopefully we drive a little bit faster than he does."

"I'm still stuck on the this Vic and chief thing." Andy told Sullivan. "How long is this been going on? Did you know they were married?"

"Herrera, you're not looking at the big picture at this point. The chief is confused in the battalion chief's SUV driving around the city. He could get into a crash at any moment and he's a dangerous heart condition."

"I know but how long do you think it's been going on?" Ben mused. "I wondered why Travis stopped wearing Michael's ring. Is it because the chief was wearing it all along? Do you think like he and Vic and Travis had like a threeso-"

"Stick to the problem at hand Warren. We've got to try to out-think where Chief Ripley will be." Sullivan was getting annoyed on his team dwelling on these trivialities.

"You mean a 'drunk on ativan chief.' It's kind of hard to predict since the half life of ativan is 12 hours and might be worse with his decreased ejection fraction." Ben paused and dialed down the medical speak. "He might be extra drunk because his heart is struggling."

Sullivan barked some more orders into the radio. "Just asked everyone to be on the lookout the for battalion 27 SUV - I mean everyone - PD, firefighters, truck drivers, animal control, the US mail, amateur radio operators. I don't care whom."

"Won't that make him look bad? Don't want to keep this to ourselves?" Andy asked.

"Don't be stupid, Herrera. I'd rather hurt the chief's reputation and than have him be dead. Trying to do it physically in person is ridiculous. Call Travis again and see what Hughes . . . er . . . Ripley has to say. Let's just call her 'Hughes' for now."

Travis was back on the phone with Vic driving. "The chief has a heart problem, a head injury and escaped the hospital? Are you joking . . . No, I told you we were just at the coffee plant; he's not there. Don't we have the entire Seattle police department and fire department on this? I know it might seem sometimes like Tanner's the only cop in the city . . . Yes, he's already working a jumper call." Travis coughed and cleared his throat.

His conversation was cut short when Vic suddenly pulled off to the side of the street.

"What are you doing?" Travis asked her.

"I need you to let me think for a minute, okay? I don't think Ripley even knows where the coffee plant is. He'd have a hard time finding it, and if he's confused, I've got to think about where he'd really want to go." She coughed a few times herself. That coffee smell was everywhere.

"Where do you think he could be?"

"Which part about 'let me think' did you not understand?" Vic growled.  "He probably wouldn't go home because I wasn't there last night.  My house is really close by, but we haven't been there for a while. I've got it! We're turning around and going to the diner."

"The diner?"

"Definitely, he was supposed to meet me there this morning. He didn't make, and if he's confused, he'll try to go back." Vic turned on the sirens and headed in the opposite direction.

"You think this is going to work."

"I hope it does; it's our best chance."

As luck would have it, SUV b27 was parked outside of the diner. She could even see Lucas sitting in the regular booth trying to order food.

Travis grabbed her arm before she was able to run out. "You've got to play this cool. He's confused. You got to convince him to come in with us."

"Okay I got it." Vic climbed out and let her hair down.

"You think that's going to help," Travis said.

"Let me do my thing."

He looked remarkably calm and chipper for a fugitive from the hospital. He'd even ordered coffee which he fortunately hadn't touched. His face lit up as Vic walked in. "You did something new with your hair."

Vic was instantly more concerned. Couldn't anyone at the hospital have noticed this total personality change? He was clearly not even thinking like himself. Her careful and controlled chief would never sneak out of the hospital. If he had a head injury and . . .

"Ok, Eggy, I know I might have disobeyed the doctor's orders. But I didn't want you to think I wasn't coming."

Vic forced a smile. "It's okay. I know we had our first fight, but we didn't finish it."

"We don't have to finish it right now," Lucas said. "I can sit here, and pretend nothing happened and it can be just us. Act like we didn't break a bunch of laws and protocols for you yesterday." This was exactly why she loved him. All hopped up on ativan and worried about what would happen to her.

"We could. If that's what you want to do."

"Man, Vic, I'm sorry. I don't know what came over me during that call. Our relationship affected our job and someone could have died. Maybe I should transfer to another department. I could step down. I've had a long career. Yours is just starting. . ."

"Oh no, that's some lame ass co-dependent self-sacrificial territory, and I won't live there."

"We will find a solution to this. Lets just keep it quiet for now. Not do anything crazy"." He laced his fingers and hers.

"I know we will. We'll find something crazy speaking of crazy. I think you're supposed to be at Grey Sloan Memorial."

"I know. I told you I would be here. I wanted to be here. I was bringing flowers." he sighed. "I messed it all up.

"You didn't mess anything up. But I'm taking you back to Grey Sloan with me right now. I think between the ativan, head injury, and whatever this heart thing I've heard about - it's messing with your brain."

"Fine. I'll follow you anywhere. Just protect him. Promise me," 

"I promise," She walked around the table and put her arm around him. She gave him a quick kiss on the mouth, and he followed her without resistance. She led him back to aid car 42 and Travis.

"Can I drive?" Ripley asked,

"Absolutely not. You're going to be in the back of this aid car shirtless with me with the monitors on."

Trav radioed in. "We've located the chief and we're bringing him back to Grey Sloan."

"Message received, over." Dispatched responded.

The radio squawked "This is Sullivan. We'll meet you there. We're going to have to take Aid Car 42 back to the coffee plant anyway."

Back at Grey Sloan, Lucas was checked back in to a private room, and Maggie Pierce finally got to see the much-sought-after and mysterious Victoria Hughes. "I guess it's 'Victoria Ripley' from what I've been told." She said, shaking Vic's hand and began to explain the medical situation. A bit younger than she had expected but the way the two of them looked at each other . . . She swore some Snow Patrol was going to start playing. Why couldn't things be that in sync with Jackson. Was she too controlling?

Then (he)Ripley's sister, Jennifer, arrived, saw Luke on the hospital bed, and asked, "What's going on?"

Maggie looked at (she) Ripley, who nodded her permission. "Your brother has something called aortic stenosis. He needs a valve replacement. If Vic consents, we can do the surgery within the hour. Especially because I don't want to have him try to bolt again."

"My brother left the hospital? Why would he do that?"

"We had an argument last night, and I forgot to charge my phone. Between his head injuries and disorientation, he didn't make the best choices." Vic shrugged.

"It was no big deal; Vic found me." he was staring at his wife, utterly adoring. "Everything is going to be fine." Pierce wrinkled her brow - did he just gloss over the situation to his sister? His sister didn't even challenge him on that statement. Was he using some Jedi mind trick? Even drunk on ativan, his voice was unbelievably mesmerizing. It made her want to back down, and she knew how serious the situation was.

She thought back to her time alone with him. Had he used that voice on her. . .  realization dawned on her -  Chief Ripley had used his charm whammy on her to get her to leave him alone so he could escape! "Ms. Ripley, can you leave me alone with Mrs. Ripley and Mr. Ripley for a moment?"

"Sure thing. Hey Travis, good to see you again. Let's go wait outside."

"Okay, you two please, tell me why he has ativan in his system. Do I look stupid? Is there something that I should be more concerned about  than what are you telling me?"

The chief's face changed; his charm fading into stoic silence. He closed his mouth and shook his head at Vic. 

"What was that look?" Pierce demanded. The chief was so frustrating.

Vic opened her mouth and closed it. "I can't say. I can tell you that he does not use ativan. This entire thing it's just a colossal trainwreck."

"I think I'm going to need more than that. If he's expected to go under anesthesia at least need to know how much he had."

Ripley shook his head again. Pierce wanted to scream. Could his wife resist his charm whammy better than Maggie had?

Apparently so. "Fine." Vic decided exercise her new authority as wife. "He had approximately 3mg of IM ativan at 4 p.m. yesterday.  Let's just say it was an unintentional needle stick."

"An unintentional needle-stick. IM. Into his thigh. At an active fire scene yesterday?" Maggie trouble believing that.

"He doesn't want me to say more. The 'how' isn't important okay? But trust me, we are not hiding anything about his medical condition from you."

"Are you sure you want to do the surgery today, Vic? I know they said I'd just be like new in a week. What if something happens? I want more time with you. We can wait and have more time. I love you." His hand wrapped around his wife's wrist and they were looking deep into each other's eyes. Maggie felt slightly jealous of their palpable devotion as she saw both of them start tearing up.

Vic sniffled, hiding her tears. "I love you, too. Dr. Pierce says this is a ticking time bomb and you could suddenly die at any point. I can't wait around wondering if your heart is just going to stop. How can I live wondering if anytime I touch you or more that I could kill you?"

"All right. I guess I'm  getting a new valve."

"Definitely a wise decision. Definitely." They shared a brief kiss and Pierce gave Vic the consent forms. Vic flipped through them, "Speaking of definitely, you will save him, full code." She scribbled her name 'Victoria Ripley' on every highlighted line.

Pierce agreed.

Chapter Text

Team Aide Car was approaching Grey Sloan when dispatch contacted them urgently. "All units, please report in! Please have stations 19, 42, 23 report to your nearest hospital for blood testing."

"What was that?" Sullivan pulled the radio off its harness. "Repeat, dispatch, repeat. This is Captain Sullivan."

"We need all participants in the coffee processing plant fire to report to the nearest hospital for blood testing. The captain of 42 is demonstrating symptoms of hydrofluoric acid toxicity. Symptoms include coughing, confusion, hoarse voice, and dizziness." Dispatch replied.

"Got it, Aid Car 19 out. They did say the chief was confused." Sullivan started musing.

"Hydrofluoric acid acid causes low calcium. If they try to give Chief anesthesia and he's been exposed it could kill him." Dr. Warren yelled. "Call Travis right now!"

Travis answered right away. "What's happening? I'm in the OR waiting room. They're about to take Ripley up for surgery."

"Montgomery, I need you to stop them right now. We're coming in. It's too hard to explain over the phone."

Travis ran over to the reception desk and ask them to page Dr. Pierce for him. They reported that she was almost ready to start surgery. They told him he'd have to wait.

He ran to the OR hallway doors and started pounding on them. An annoyed nurse stopped him, "What are you doing?

"I need to talk to Victoria Ripley and Dr. Pierce right NOW!"

Team Aid Car had made it up the stairs in record time. They arrived at the OR corridor as Pierce and Vic came to meet with Travis.

"What's going on?" Pierce asked, surgical mask and scrub cap already on.

Captain Sullivan said, "We believe it is possible that Chief Ripley has been exposed to hydrofluoric acid. Messes with your lungs and screws with your calcium. The other captain that he pulled out of the coffee fire is showing signs of toxicity and is in the ICU at Seattle Presbyterian."

"Hydrofluoric acid symptoms are cough and abnormal calcium. We checked the chiefs calcium before we considered take him to surgery - he hasn't been exposed. Besides, you don't use hydrofluoric acid in places you make food. That sounds ridiculous. Why would it be there?" Maggie Pierce pointed out.

"I get that it doesn't an ounce make sense, but the chief could be exposed." Warren stated with a shrug.

"Oh no, oh no, oh no." Vic repeated with growing horror. She glanced at Andy. "You've gotta call the Captain and get him to a hospital."

"Who?" Sullivan asked.

"Captain Herrera. I'm sorry, but he might be exposed."

Conlin went in after Henderson, but Henderson was already at the other hospital. Pruitt could see Henderson's discarded turnout pants and boots on the side next to the chief's SUV.  Conlin's voice crackled over the radio, "No one comes in or out." He moved silently as the group argued over how to rescue Conlin.

Chief Ripley's face transformed and he began to button his turnout. Pruitt could see the absolute horror freeze Victoria when she saw what he was doing. They moved away from the group to the other side of the SUV.

Pruitt knew what he had to do. During his quiet walk toward them, he could hear her frantically begging him not to go in. They were just out of sight from everyone else at the scene.

"There has to be another option." Victoria pleaded.

"Not anymore." The chief was allowing no argument. "Now where was he?"

"Southern corridor. . . Please don't - " her words cracked in desperation.

"It's okay. I'm coming back. I promise." the chief made a vow Pruitt doubted he could keep.

"You heard him, Hughes." Pruitt's best Captain's voice made Victoria drop back, concern evident in her face. "Chief, you haven't been in a fire for a while. Let me check this oxygen tank." He reached toward the chief and depressed a full syringe of ativan into Ripley's thigh muscle. The chief immediately went down.

"Captain, what did you do? Did you just drug the chief? On scene?" Victoria couldn't believe it.

"Saved his life with 3mg of ativan, Victoria Ripley. Give me his turnouts now. Keep him stashed for a couple minutes while I go in."

 He threw on Henderson's pants and boots - it was simple to cover him up with the rest of Ripley's turnouts. The oxygen mask on made it pretty difficult to tell anyone apart.

"Captain, are you sure?" Vic asked in a low voice.

"Yes, Victoria, I'm sure. You can name one of your children after me, okay? Now act natural."

She ran back the rest of her team. Ripley's uniform saluted and headed into the fire.

Travis ran up and stood by her shoulder "He's going to come out. He's going to be okay." She just stood and total terror, she couldn't speak; she couldn't move.

The whole drama played out over the radio. Fortunately it was scratchy and static-y enough that no one, not even his own daughter was able to notice the switch.

They heard a loud explosion and there was radio silence. Vic wanted to scream. She couldn't even look at Andy. "Come on, come on, come on. . . "

Then the doors burst open, and Conlin emerged being dragged by Ripley's uniform. Vic immediately grabbed the Captain and pulled him toward the aid car. Checking to make sure that everyone was out of sight, she helped him strip off his stolen uniform. Everyone was so busy caring for Conlin; no one had even noticed a missing EMT.

"Are you okay sir?"

Pruitt nodded taking several deep breaths. "I got knocked down by some of the coffee, but I feel fine. Just give me a shot of that oxygen, and you drag the chief over here. I gave him alot of ativan."

"Let me at least check you out." She listened to his lungs. They sounded pretty clear, but he was a mesothelioma survivor. She'd examined him before; it didn't sound very different.

"I'm getting back to work. Someone's going to need to drive your husband home." Vic flushed; he confirmed for the second time he knew they were married, somehow. "Say nothing."

She walked back and grabbed the chief and pulled him over to the aid car, leaving him with his own turnout jacket. He was still confused but was slowly waking up. She flagged down one of the other firefighters and put them in charge of Ripley.

She ran back to Travis to help with the reorganization and tried not to look too relieved. She didn't know what to do. Did she tell Andy or not? Pruitt have been very clear that he wanted no one to know what he had done. The entire thing violated so many protocols and laws that she couldn't even being to guess what type of fallout there would be if anyone knew what Captain Herrera did to Ripley. To drug the chief during a live fire was technically felony assault, particularly since it interfered with the work of a public official.

Shortly afterward Captain Sullivan called her over and told her to meet Ripley at the aid car.

Vic was greeted by an enraged Ripley in full 'chief face.' "What the hell just happened?" Ativan might be a sedative, but he had to be beyond pissed off to be unleashed like that.

"Captain Pruitt gave you a shot of ativan to keep you from going in the building."

"You allowed my direct orders to be disobeyed! You let someone else risk their life for me! You stood by and let that happen. You didn't inform incident command, your own captain, his daughter! You compromised my authority as fire chief on the scene!  You let Captain Pruitt incapacitate me during a live fire!!" He whisper screamed at her.

"Did you want him arrested for assault during the scene? I didn't tell him to do it. He was being my friend. Our friend. He knows about us."

"He's my subordinate who defied my orders because of his personal feelings toward us! You let him risk himself!!"

"He's an adult who can make his own choices. He doesn't even work for you anymore." She wasn't done. "We are both taking risks every time we are on a scene together that how we feel personally will affect this. You violated protocol first by insisting on going in a fire without backup. Two-in, two out. You violated you own fucking protocol to keep ME from going back in for that captain. Sullivan would have sent me and Herrera back on to get him, per protocol."

"This is exactly why working scenes together is a huge mistake. Neither of us can do our jobs while the other is present, which is exactly why this type of relationship is forbidden! What happens to him!? What happens to us when today's events get exposed!?"

"Exposed? We did what we both agreed to do, keeping our piece of paper marriage quiet. This 'us' isn't breaking any laws but you knew this could get messy. So now you're having second thoughts after? Is that right, sir? Is this conversation over?" Ativan lowered inhibitions; is that what he really thought about them?

Despite the amount of ativan the chief had received, he could tell he was treading on very thin ice. He took a deep breath. "Maybe we should stop now before one of us says something that we can't take back."

"Maybe we should both act like adults and take a little time apart to cool off." Vic bit out.

"Fine. I'll  meet you at the diner tomorrow."

"Fine with me. Sir. I'll get someone to drive you home. You're in no state to write any reports today anyway. Protocol says they're not to be written on mind-altering meds. If you put the ativan in the report, Captain could be arrested, even if he was saving your stupid life."  She spun on her heel and stomped away.

She stopped by Sullivan and requested someone drive the chief home. He gave her an odd look that basically wondered why she wasn't suggesting she drive the chief home herself. He did tell her that he wanted her to go home and sleep. That was the closest Sullivan had ever come to acknowledging to her that he was aware of her and Ripley's relationship.

Past his shoulder she could see that he'd appointed Captain Herrera incident site commander. He saw her check in on him, and he shook his head. It was clear he was adamant about not wanting anything said.

Travis grabbed her shoulder as she continued her stomping. "It's nothing. Other than our personal hobby is compromising our jobs." she tilted her head. "But I can be a grown up, and we can talk about it tomorrow morning."

"How?" Andy's face changed with growing panic.

"Lucas never went in the coffee plant. Captain hit him with some ativan and took his uniform."

"You're saying my dad is the one who could be poisoned. Why didn't you say anything?"

"Tell someone that your father committed assault on the fire chief by drugging him? Tell the department that no one noticed during a live fire that the fire chief was high? It doesn't matter now. You've got to get him to hospital."

Sullivan immediately started calling into his radio. He got ahold of Station 42 who was still in the coffee plant.

Over the radio they could finally hear a scuffle in the background. "We found Captain Pruitt; he's not looking good. We're taking him to Seattle Presbyterian right now."

"You didn't say anything. He could be exposed and you didn't say anything." Andy accused Vic with building rage.

"I didn't know." She turned to Dr. Pierce. "Can you go to Seattle Presbyterian now and try to save Captain Herrera?"

"I can't - who will do the surgery?"

"If we have to wait, we'll wait." Vic took a deep breath. "Do you have anyone who can cover for you?"

"I think I can get Dr. Altman to do it."

Captain Sullivan said, "We'll take you with us in Aid Car 42. Come on. Montgomery, you and Hughes, get yourself checked while you wait here. Keep us updated on the chief.

Resident Dr. Levi from the ER was brought back upstairs with the very pregnant Dr. Altman who was surprised to see Vic. "You seem familiar."

"Yeah, I don't remember you very well but appendicitis."

"Oh yeah." Dr. Altman examined the chart, "This is Lucas Ripley who got promoted to your husband. Didn't know that when they rolled him in this morning. I guess I'm pinch-hitting for Pierce on this one."

"Yes. She got called away to another hospital."

"Okay, well, let's do this. Prosthetic valve replacement for symptomatic aortic stenosis. Generally straightforward."

"Dr. Altman, can you tell me that he's going to make it?"

"I can only tell you that I am very good at this, I'll do my best. It's all any of us can do."

She allowed Travis and Vic to go back to pre-op and see Ripley one more time. He noticed the change of physicians. "What happened to Dr. Pierce?" he more groggy between the ativan and his preop meds.

"Nothing, honey. Everything's fine. Dr. Pierce had another case she had to go check on." Vic gave Travis a measured kick under the gurney. "I love you so much, Lucas Ripley, and I'll see you when you wake up."

"I love you, Victoria Ripley." his eyes closed. Dr. Altman's team lifted the side rails and the two of them watched the gurney roll away getting smaller and smaller.

"You didn't tell him." Travis's voice bordered on recrimination.

"Of course not. I'm not going to let him go under wondering whether or not he killed Captain Herrera. I think I'm going to have to take on that one myself."

Dr. Schmitt pointed to a supply closet nearby. "Not that I've ever had to do this, but I hear sometimes people go cry in here."

Travis open the door and let Vic in. It was all suddenly just too much. Marriage, the fire, the fight, chasing him through the city, Captain Herrera, and now the surgery. He could die on the table and she would never see him again. Had she killed Captain Herrera too? Would she be attending the funeral of her husband and her mentor? She'd been so focused on Lucas that she couldn't  see what was going on with the Captain. He's been coughing all day and she hadn't spared a thought to it. She only thought about herself. She started screaming and crying at the same time.

A pair of strong arms wrapped around her. It was Travis. He held her tight as she cried. "Vic, we'll get through this. We'll get through this. We'll get through this." He repeated it like a mantra.

Dr. Pierce call Andy into one of the family rooms at Seattle Presbyterian. Sullivan came with her.

"I'm sorry. You father's been exposed to hydrofluoric acid, and it's beginning to induce organ shutdown. Despite a significant amount of calcium gluconate, his kidneys are not taking the pressure. He's also having issues with his lungs which have never fully recovered from the mesothelioma."

"What's going to happen?" Andy asked. Sullivan's hand was on her shoulder.

"Why don't you go talk to your father now. . . He wants your input about his decisions. I want to let you know that I don't have a lot of hope in this case. If he  were younger, if he hadn't had cancer. . ." Dr. Pierce's voice trailed off. "He might have had better chances."

Andy was escorted into one of the ICU rooms where her father had an oxygen mask on. Even his breathing labored and tired. "Mija," he whispered.

"Dad. How are you feeling?"

"I've had better days. Sullivan, can you leave me with my daughter please" He waited a couple moments for Sullivan to leave. "Andy, we need to talk about what I want you to do."

"Dad, what are you saying?" Andy already knew.

"I don't want to be resuscitated. I don't want to be intubated. I died three times last year. Once in the fire, once during chemo, and once at the fire station. No more. If this is my time, let me go."

"But Dad I'm not ready to say goodbye. Something could happen."

"No, mija. We were lucky we had this year. I didn't think we were going to get it." He raised his hand and brushed back her ponytail.

"What can I do?"

"You can be here, brave girl. You can have the team come and see me. Can you tell Reggie that I'm sorry I won't see the sunrise at her son's house?"

"Sure I can."

"What happened to Victoria and the chief?"

"Doesn't matter." Andy spat out, bitterness in her words. "They didn't tell anyone that you did. And now. . ."

"I did what I did because they are young and in love. Or maybe he's not so young." He laughed, and it came out as a choking sound. "I couldn't let her have the heartbreak. It could be her standing where you are. I don't wish that on her. Let them have a good life. I did. I'm ready. They aren't."

"I don't know if I am." Andy started crying harder.

"Listen. When they bury me, have Sullivan give the eulogy.  I don't want any of those battalion chiefs who used to write me bad reports talk about me like we were all good friends. Sullivan and I always knew where we stood. I want to be buried next to your mother. You know those rose bushes I plant at the headstone? I get them from Jay at the Home Depot. He works usually Thursday's but sometimes Fridays. I like the red ones better than the pink. Reminds me of fire engines."

"I'll do whatever you ask Dad. I love you."

Companies of firefighters trickled through the halls of Seattle Presbyterian getting their calciums checked. Three members of 42 were admitted for calcium gluconate infusions but they were expected to survive. It was a well-known fact that two Captain's had gone down in coffee fire. There was a rumor going around that the chief was also suffering from the same problem. Three chaplains and two battalion chiefs arrived at Seattle Presbyterian trying to keep things calm.

And then they waited.

Dean, Jack, and Maya arrived, having successfully stopped the jumper. Sullivan sat outside of Pruitt room waiting. Occasionally someone would switch spots with Andy. Sometimes she went to the supply closet with Maya and you could hear the sounds of her heart breaking.

Ryan led a group of police officers into the hospital while they waited. He was the only person who was allowed to visit Pruitt that wasn't a member of the fire department. Andy called Reggie because she was out of state visiting her son.

And the minutes ticked by.

Jennifer, Travis, and Vic sat in that familiar OR waiting room. Travis couldn't believe he spent so much time there. Waiting for Ripley, waiting for Vic, waiting for Michael. He imagined how Vic must have felt waiting for him.

In her right hand, Vic held the silver chain and ring that had resided on Lucas's neck until today.  For the first time since the wedding, she put the gold ring on her left ring finger. She sat there, watching it catch the light of the engraved words of 'Seattle Fire Department" as she gripped the silver one tight enough to leave imprints in her palm.  There was nothing she could do. Nothing she could do to stop the thing that she could not control. She didn't want to call the team and find out how Captain Herrera was doing because that could break her. The minute hand move so fast and so slow at the same time.

The door from the ICU room at Seattle Presbyterian opened. Andy Herrera walked out her head down, tears on her cheeks. The massed firefighters stood in silence. She kept walking.

The door from the ICU at Grey Sloan memorial opened. Dr. Altman had her hand on Vic's shoulder as she presented Mrs. Ripley to her sleeping husband. "The surgery went great. He'll be back to his old self soon enough. He can be out of here in a week."

Vic got down on her knees with her head on top of the gurney, grasping his hand. Even though he was unconscious, he instinctively tightened it. "I love you and I will never leave you." She carefully replaced his chain around his neck, right where it belonged.

Travis stood behind them. He swallowed a sob as he checked his phone. There's only one text message there. Jack. "Captain's gone."

Chapter Text

One week since the last chapter

It had been a week, and the day of the second funeral arrived. Vic had basically spent every moment at the hospital at Luke's bedside. She filed for family medical leave because it turns out a piece of paper wedding gives you that.

The fire department's Assistant Chief Cordova immediately rubber-stamped it since he had much bigger fish to fry planning a second fire captain funeral in within 24 hours. No expense was to be spared. Conlin's happened yesterday, and Herrera's was today. A reckoning would come at some point over in the circumstances that had led to Captain Pruitt's death as his source of exposure was unclear, unlike Captain Conlin's. No additional inquiry into rumors of suspected protocol violations could be started because the fire chief, and the other uninterviewed available living witness were both on medical leave. Dr. Altman had refused to let him be discharged for Conlin's funeral but agreed reluctantly to make an exception for today.

Andy was not speaking to Vic at all, not much of a shock considering the circumstances. Vic kept her head down because she already felt responsible enough.  Logically she knew that there was no way anyone would have expected hydrofluoric acid to be in a place where food was created. Captain Pruitt had only spent a couple moments inside the building. It was unlikely that earlier care would have saved his life. He had a chronic lung issues and his history of lung cancer further compromised his ability to respond to the treatments.

According to Travis's text messages, Andy was insisting on continuing to work her regular schedule. She wanted nothing to do with funeral planning. She simply asked to be left alone and continue to do her work.

Lucas was brought outside and loaded carefully into Vic's Jeep. They had already said their goodbyes to Dr. Altman, Dr. Schmitt and Dr. DeLuca (again!) and thanked Altman for her efforts.

They drove mostly in silence back home since their uniforms were there. They still had a few hours till the funeral, but it was the first time they were truly alone to talk. She helped him out of the car and moved them to the couch in the living room.

"Have you spoken to Herrera?" Ripley asked.

"She doesn't want to see me."

"You should go to see her. You can leave me at home for a while. You know I'll just sleep anyway. Talk to her before its time."

"I don't know. . .It's really hard because I am so happy that you're here. And I know that the trade is that Captain is not here."

"Well, I do know about what it's like to lose a friend and take the blame for someone's death. It's really hard but you need to make sure that you and Herrera are good." Ripley sounded beyond exhausted, like even the walk into the house was too much.

"Just like that? Find out that we're good?"

"Just like that."

"I"m not ready, not yet." She took in the fact that no one had been in their home for a week. "Let me get this place ready for tonight. Online groceries are a must." The sentence wasn't out of her mouth before she saw Ripley was asleep sitting up. She gently brushed his soft ringlets and bit her cheeks to keep from crying.

Sullivan had apparently been asking for advice on how to give the eulogy. Andy refused to speak with him about it. Travis tried offer some words of comfort to Sullivan.

"Did you write a eulogy? For your husband? Look, I'm just asking because I'm trying to write one for Captain Herrera."

"Sorry. I can't help you," Travis admitted.

"Of course. No problem."

"No, I mean I can't help you 'cause I couldn't help myself. I couldn't bring myself to say a word at Michael's service. You know who did end up speaking, though? Pruitt. Yeah, he said some really wonderful things, actually." Travis tried to remember."

"Like what?"

"I don't even really remember. I just remember that it meant a lot, you know, for him to take the time to get up there and say words about my Michael like that. He was one of the reasons I transferred to 19 after that."

"He had the words. Nothing sounds right."

"Did you speak at your wife's funeral?"

"Yes, I did. Or I tried. Started off okay, but then I just lost it. Barely even remember now. Um, I think I was I was really raw, you know? See, I need to figure out words that'll do that." He sighed."Especially for Herrera."

"Oh, I thought you'd heard. Andy isn't planning on going. She's insisting on taking calls."

As a firefighter Maya vision prided herself in her attention to detail. You need to pay attention to every single spark, every single ember as a single escapee could lead to a blaze. She always had single-minded focus and always wanted to make sure everything added up correctly. She couldn't afford to be wrong.

They was so much right now that didn't make sense; she couldn't stop crying. She tried to help Andy, who deliberately avoided participating in the funeral by going out on calls. Vic hadn't come back since she left the coffee plant. That was completely bizarre because it was always a three of them caring and supporting each other. It made no sense.

Captain Sullivan wasn't saying a word. Maya had briefly seen some FMLA paper work come across the desk. But that couldn't be related to Vic. She recently been off for an appendicitis. He wasn't the only one being tight-lipped. She heard the Andy, Sullivan, and Warren had been on an extra trip to Grey Sloan Memorial when Captain Herrera went down. She'd never got the details because she went on a call with a jumper. And then everyone that back at Seattle Presbyterian except the Vic and Travis for some reason.

Travis was back; he wasn't saying anything either. Maya knew secrets were the destruction of any team. The huge mess between Jack and Andy last year was based on their desire to keep things secret. When Maya had started seeing Jack, she immediately told Andy the truth and checked the regulations to make sure there was no action that needed to be taken. None, as long as you were the same rank.

The only things that got around rank was marriage. Michael had been a bit more senior than Travis but they had still shared the same rank. Maya was doing her best to keep her and Jack's relationship station professional, even though she'd cried on shoulder this morning in front of Dean. (Dean and Jack hadn't seemed to care since they were barely holding it together. They'd made it through yesterdays funeral somehow.)

Still none of this explained where on Earth Vic was. She'd text Maya and see how things were going at the station and with funeral preparations. Maya messaged her to ask when she was coming back and Vic never answered her. She'd tried to mention Andy to Vic and those texts went unanswered too.

It was almost time for the funeral now. The rig was covered with the bunting and soon it would be time to put the flag draped coffin on it. As soon as the aid car arrived, they'd cover that up too. In about 30 minutes, rest of the procession would gather.

Maya sniffled and decided to check in the back parking lot. She was supposed to make sure that Chief Ripley made it into the procession since he was riding in a black car. She heard that he had some type of surgery and might need extra help. Of course, that occurred at the same time that everything else was falling apart.

A familiar red Jeep pulled up. Vic was driving; she parked and stepped out. She walked around it and opened the door to reach out her hand to the other occupant. Chief Ripley gingerly stepped out of the Jeep. Both of them were in their navy blue dress uniforms.

She could see Vic saying something to him. She reached past him and handed him his white uniform hat. And something unexpected occurred. Vic put her arms around the chief and gave him a big hug. He cradled her back with an unbelievably tender expression, brushing a gentle kiss on her upturned face.

Maya froze.

Jesus. They were together.

In some ways this was worse catching someone having sex. She was watching someone else's clearly personal and intimate moment. How was this possible?

They separated and Maya felt a little bit like a peeping Tom. She needed to back away now. She should go find Andy and say goodbye to her captain. She needed to focus on that; not whatever she just witnessed.

Make no mistake, though. There was going to be a powwow about this at the houseboat.

Andy was in the aid car when she got a text from Ryan.

Since u arent answering your phone, I need 2 tell u I am leaving 2morrow 4 San Diego. Jenna&I got selected 4 a tactical training program, not sure when/if we'll b back. Ur dad told me 2 put my hat in the ring 4 it. I'll b at the funeral 4 u if u need me.

She shoved her phone back in her pocket and closed her eyes. This too? Even if she claimed she was fine with everything, right now nothing was fine. She'd already almost hurled this morning when she saw Jack come out of Maya's room.  It wasn't that she didn't want Jack and Maya together, it meant she didn't have anyone. Vic and the chief hadn't even shown their faces yet. Sullivan was asking for help on the eulogy and she didn't even know how she felt about him.

Her ongoing failures were thrown in painful relief as she and Warren kept trying to save a man who was impaled by a chandelier. They had used up almost all the norepi, the epi, the dopamine, they'd pulled over to resuscitate him en route to the hospital. Eventually Warren gave up and packed the wound and got him to the hospital - the same hospital her dad had died in last week . . .

On the way back to the aid car Andy started crying. Ben awkwardly put his arm around her as she bawled.

"Today was already one thing after another, and I thought the call would take my mind off all the things, but apparently, I'm living in a world of whack-a-mole. Ryan's leaving, and I shouldn't care, but I kinda do. I look at Maya and I see her with Jack and I can't even talk to her because I'm alone. I don't have my dad, I don't have my person. I don't even have Vic because I'm so mad at her but I can't be mad because I know she's hurting. Sullivan wants me to go to the funeral. And then I get stuck with the guy who keeps dying.  All I can hear is the sound of those damn bells coming from my dad's room when my mom died... I'm 9 years old all over again, and a-all this stuff is coming up that I don't know how to - I don't know how to clamp it down, I don't know how to make it go away because I'm right there again."

"One bleeder at a time." Ben said sagely.


"One bleeder at a time. I-It's something I learned when I was a surgeon. When you open a patient up and everywhere you look, there's something bleeding or falling apart - when it's damage control, all you can do is tackle one bleeder at a time." he pronounced it like it was a revelation from Sinai.

"One bleeder at a time." Andy repeated. She let the words sink in and made a decision. "We need to get back to the funeral."

They made it just in time. Andy ran out to met Sullivan, already dressed in her uniform. "I'm ready now. I had a lot of time to think about what you should say about my dad. Just speak from the heart. You knew him. He respected you. Be raw if you need to be raw. Y-You don't have to write a word or read a word you write. Just get up there and talk. Talk to him. It doesn't matter, not when it comes from the heart."

The funeral commenced with the procession. The black bunting. Andy carried her father's red helmet as the bagpipes played. Vic exited the black car, hand in hand with the chief and joined her team in the cathedral. Andy walked in on Sullivan's arm to the front and held him tightly until it was time for the eulogy.

Sullivan got up to speak, tall and imposing as ever in his blues. He caught Andy's eye and spoke directly to her and no one else.

"I have been thinking a lot about what to say today.
Captain Pruitt was a boss to many of us in this room.
We looked up to him. We respected him.
As Captain, he gave everything to this department.
As Pruitt, he gave even more to those he loved outside it.
To me, he became a friend.
We saw each other. We understood each other. Strengths and flaws.
It's so rare to meet someone who connects with you that way.
Someone who makes you want to face your fears head-on, eyes open.
And it's so hard to say goodbye to them when they go.
We miss you, Sir.
We wish you didn't leave us so soon.
But since you did, since you had to it's all good.
We're all good.
You were so good."

Dean stood up, as the most senior member of Station 19, and rang the bells.

Andy buried her face in her hands weeping, Vic sat silently; Jack carefully removed his arm from Maya's shoulders.

Most of the team retired to a bar to drown their sorrows with Station 42. Vic waited and met Andy on the catwalk above the barn.

They stared at each other for a couple seconds.

"I thought I'd find you up here." Vic broke the impasse first.

"It's still my spot. I can't believe he's gone. I want to blame you so badly." Andy told her.

"I can go if you want." Vic offered. "If you had told me to, I'd have skipped the funeral, if it was too painful for you."

"No. I wanted you to be there. It would have made him happy. You were his last rookie."

"Funny, do you know that Ripley was one of his rookies? I guess on his second call, Captain told him to grab the left-handed halligan and the fire was out 30 minutes before Ripley realized that it didn't exist."

"That was my dad. So funny and so stubborn. Loved his rookies. I know once he decided to protect his rookies, nothing would stop him." Her eyes were filling again.

"Ripley was just as stubborn, and Captain knew him too well. It was the only way to stop him. I blame me already. I wish it had been me."

"Don't, he told me he didn't regret the choice because he wanted you two to be happy. He told me he wanted you two to have a good life. "

"I'll try. We'll try. Are we good?"

"I guess I can't be mad at you for this. Yeah we're good."

Vic looked down and saw Ripley standing on the first floor waiting for her. "Sleeping here tonight?"

"Just tonight. I'll be home tomorrow. Just want to be alone." She playfully shoved Vic toward the stairs. "Go to him already."

Chapter Text

The party at the Forge Lounge/Bar was winding down. For once Sullivan had joined the rest of the team of Station 19 and had several toasts in memory of Captain Pruitt. Scattered throughout the bar where members of all different stations, including 23 and 42 - struggling with the loss of Conlin. No one noticed that trouble was brewing.

Several of the firefighters from Station 12 were there. They had a couple of too many rounds as well. One of them said to Travis. "Sorry about your captain. You mo-fos at 19 are such cowboys. He just went in and got his."

Travis drowned another shot. He wasn't sure if he was getting hit on or getting insulted.

"Maybe it's cuz all the pussy you've got on your team. Your captain was like all over the daughter. And that blonde chick with the massive knockers and that lieutenant. Way to go." The man indicated Jack who had left Maya to get another beer.

The bar quieted, and Jack, Dean, and Sullivan realized what what was being said. That made the next comment even louder.

"Looks like even the Fire Chief is tapping some. But I heard she's used goods; 23 already got there."

That conversation was abruptly stopped by Travis's fist hitting his face. Dean, Sullivan, and Jack surged forward, and a full blown bar fight broke out between the firefighters of 12 and 19. There was the shattering of barstools as the collective teams of 42 and 23 joined in the fray.

The battle was cut off by a voice in the back, "That's quite enough."

Everyone paused because Chief Ripley was standing in the back, still in his dress uniform. "Companies. Separate. Lineup."

The fighters reluctantly parted, nursing multiple bruises. Station 12 glared daggers at Station 19.

"I don't care who started it. I don't want to hear about it. I'm going to pretend I did not witness any of this. Or hear anything that was said." He fixed his eyes on Station 12. "And this moment this bar is closed to fire fighting personnel for the next 48 hours. I expect all of you to immediately vacate, and I expect you to be at your appropriate stations tomorrow. I know that the loss of Captains Herrera and Conlin is very difficult so we're all going to walk away from this." With as much dignity as he could manage, he walked out of the bar and into the waiting Jeep of his wife.

Uber dropped off three very drunk firefighters by the pier. The fight had temporarily muted their grief because Dean and Jack were still rehashing the fight as they strolled unsteadily into the houseboat.

"Did you see Sullivan get tackled by that guy? He went down hard." Jack missed the key hook with his keys.

"I know but he got back up and just pummeled the the crap out of him. I had no idea to Captain had it in him. Respect?" Dean mimed a few punches and winced at a bruise on his shoulder.

"And Travis, he's going to have quite a shiner tomorrow. The way he wailed on that guy's ribs after punched his dumb face." Jack continued.

"Wait," Maya called.

"You weren't in the fight." Dean waved a finger at her.

"No, I only helped pull you guys off of each other. But listen it's about Vic."

"I'm not surprised Montgomery beat the crap out of that guy for saying shit about Vic. Just because she slept with one guy from 23 one time." Dean nodded his head.

"It was three times, but she didn't just sleep with the guy from 23." Maya corrected them. "She's dating the chief."

"No, she's not," Jack said. "Just because she was assigned to escort him does not mean they're screwing. I heard he had some type of like surgery or something. She's the lowest-ranked so she got that job to carry his briefcase and stuff. Dean got to ring the bell. Andy got to hold the helmet. Sullivan gave the eulogy. Vic got to ride with the chief. Ride with, not ride on."

"I'm telling you she sleeping with the chief." Maya waved her arms and almost hit Dean on the shoulder.

"Maya, that would be a terrible idea." Jack snorted.

"I saw them. Together."

"You saw her having sex with the chief? Nasty. But props." Dean tried to fist bump her.

"No, I didn't see that. I saw them hugging before the funeral, and he gave her a kiss."

"You saw them make out?" Dean, again.

"Well, no. It was like this little tender comfort like kiss." she shook her head. "It was a kiss, okay?"

"I'm sure she was feeling sad. It was a funeral." Jack shrugged and sat down on a stool by the counter.

"Do you want me to hug Dean and give him a kiss because he's feeling sad about the Captain?" Maya walked over and started put her arms around Dean.

"That's a definite no," Jack said while Dean stumbled backward.

"I'm telling you I saw them together."

"Sullivan and Andy have been hugging it out. Do you think they are together too? Do you believe everyone in our station is hooking up with everyone else?" Jack questioned. "You do know how dumb that sounds."

"I don't know about Andy and Sullivan. Ryan left the city. You moved on-" She pointed at Jack,

"So they can hug it out. I wonder what your hugging scale is Maya? Does it rate higher or lower than swagger?" Dean asked.

"It's not just that. Vic's been wearing this ring."

"On her hand?" Jack cocked his head.

"No, not on her hand. Inside her shirt. I've seen it in the locker room. It hangs right between her boobs." Maya indicated her own large breasts.

"I've never seen a ring on Vic, but I haven't really looked at her boobs." Dean observed thoughtfully.

"Trust me, it's there."

"Are you telling me that I can look at Vic's boobs more often?" Jack almost fell off the stool.

"No. I'm trying to say that she has a officer's ring on a chain around her neck."

"She can't have that. She's not an officer. They don't give out those rings until you make it at least to battalion chief." Dean protested.

"Exactly." Maya stated the obvious.

Jack thought about it for a couple seconds. "Let me get this straight, you're saying that you saw the chief and Vic hugging with a little kiss pre funeral. And my sometimes lesbian girlfriend also is telling me that you check out Vic's boobs and noticed she wears an officer's ring on a necklace."

"All correct except checking out the boobs part. But yes."

"So Sherlock, it was the chief in the firehouse with the ring who committed the newest inappropriate relationship in our station?" Jack announced.

"Finally yes!" How hard was it to get drunk guys to take this seriously?

Dean and Jack started laughing, "Way to go, chief!"

"What's so funny?"

"Well, good for them. She like almost died once this year. He like ran into that building and was one of the few people that didn't die." Dean's explaination was punctuated by numerous hand gestures miming running.

"Most of the people who were in that building didn't die. We didn't die, and we were in there for much longer." Maya reminded them.

"Yeah but the point is - I think I respect him more. He saw something awesome and went for it. Vic's pretty hot." Dean decided to amend his statement. "For someone who was my rookie and I am not sexually interested in."

"He means from an objective standpoint. Excellent work, chief." Jack agreed.

"Objectively I'd say the chief is a pretty fine looking dude. Rates up around a 9 or a 10 if white guys with amazing blue eyes appeal to you." Dean mused.

"I'd probably be willing to date him." Jack seconded.

Were they actually discussing this like a joke? "What about professionalism? Conflict of interest? Sexual harassment?  Isn't it a problem if she's with the head of FD. Isn't it a huge protocol violation?"

Dean started laughing so hard he was choking. "Really?! You're going to say that right now? You know how thin the walls are here? There's literally a door separating your room from mine. I don't think you guys are worried about professionalism too much."

"But what do we do now? Do we say something?" Maya persisted, pacing around and bumping into a table.

"Should I confront the chief of the Seattle Fire department about my suspicions that he is dating a member of our station?" Jack had an answer immediately. "'Hey chief, are you slipping Vic the sausage? Does she eat it with relish?'"

"No. We do not do that." Dean shook his head and shut it down. "It's not our business. We stop gossiping about it.  We let them do whatever they need to do. I'm sure they will tell us about it eventually. Nikki's words of wisdom."

"Ah, advice from a woman you've been on one date. You expect us to manage to keep a secret like this? When has that ever worked?" Maya was flabbergasted with how little they cared.

"Nikki's cool; I cancelled our date today on account of funeral and all. Anyway, Sullivan approved Vic to ride in the car with the chief. So I bet he knows." Dean shrugged.

"What he doesn't know is that we know that he knows." Jack added.

"Boys! This is making my head spin. I want to go to the bed. We will deal with this as it comes up." Maya headed to Jack's room.

"I'll help you forget." Jack followed her. Dean grabbed a pair of noise cancelling head phones and retired to his room.

They were back at home in their bed. Vic had been acting as Luke's driver since he'd asked to check on the gathering of firefighters at The Forge. Whatever had happened there, he didn't want to talk about it, and she hadn't gone in. It been such a long day and the tension of waiting for him to come home - -it was so strong.

She had a husband. He was home. They're going to have many days and weeks and months and years together. Working in tandem, they took their uniforms off, and she carefully hung them up one piece at a time. Luke need a little help maneuvering around his new scar on the right side of his chest.

Vic took a quick shower and put on one the multiple Seattle FD bathrobes that had accumulated in their closet. He was already in bed when she climbed in and cuddled up next to him. A couple moments she just lay there listening to him breathe, feeling his heartbeat under her hand.

As some of the fear, sadness, and tension drained away, it was replaced by overwhelming need.  Vic's blood began to surge, finally able to feel him again. She brought her head close to his and started kissing him frantically. He paused for a moment and then kissed her back and put his arms around her.

At this point overheated, Vic began shimmy against him, clawing at his clothes. She kept kissing him harder, burrowing closer like she could actually be inside him.  He continued to kiss her, but he made no move to touch her. In fact it was least active he'd ever been.

She pulled away from him with a quizzical expression. "Sorry," he was full of regret. "We can't. . . Beta blockers are making sure we can't."

Instantly she understood. She remembered Dr. Altman telling him that he'd be on beta blockers for a few weeks. It would control has blood pressure as the valve healed. They couldn't have too much blood flow cross the valve so his blood pressure needed to be kept lower than usual. But that also meant are there were places did not receive blood flow. For first time their relationship, he hadn't even stirred.

She swallowed, feeling like the worst type of wife. Her skin might be burning; she was horny but she putting her needs, and not his, first. It wasn't one of those things that she could ignore for herself. If she tried to push him, she could kill him. It was like no strenuous activity rules again but they really, really, really meant no exceptions. She closed her eyes in frustration and tried to stifle her need. It only been a week and a half. She heard people went for months and years without getting any.

"It's okay, hubby. I'll be okay." She needed to get her breathing under control.

He grabbed the tie in the bathrobe and started undoing it. "Just because I can't, you can." He got out of bed and repositioned the dressing room mirror to face her. "Go ahead, help yourself. I can be there with you but not be with you."

The bathrobe fell off her shoulders, and he turned down the lights. Before she could protest, he set himself directly behind her with her naked body sitting on his lap.

They looked at the mirror. Against the shadows, they were sitting in such a way that Vic's dark skin was highlighted by edges of his paler skin surrounding her. His face was mostly invisible except the flash of blue that reflected over her shoulder back into the mirror. Vic didn't move so he laid his hands on her stomach, light against dark. Her hair was spread out over her shoulders, burnished nipples already tight with her eyes fully dilated. Vic could have been on the cover of a men's magazine.

Still she hesitated. He did not. In the mirror she could see one of his hands reach out to cup her breast. Her curves felt so heavy and overfull, and he guided her hands upward to her chest. "It's okay. I will enjoy this because you enjoy this."

She brought her head back to take in the incandescent fire in his eyes. They shared another kiss which she broke off panting. She nodded and murmured, "Lucas. . ."

His hands lowered down to her abdomen as she reached up to touch her own breasts. Caressing her own skin reminded her how it felt when he would do the same. She twisted both of her nipples and closed her eyes. Heat spread across her each time she pulled and tugged on them.

The pressure below between her legs grew heavier and harder to ignore. Her hand scraped down her abdomen and to her core where she was dripping. She thrashed her back against Luke's chest; her heart rate accelerating.

Luke bent to mutter in her ear, "Open your eyes." The reflection of unbelievably erotic. Her legs were spread open in invitation with her fingers dipping inside of her while her other hand lifted her swollen breasts. Vic started to finger herself more aggressively which tightened her nipples further. In the mirror she could tell she was getting more aroused by the second.

His eyes were glittering above her shoulder. She was close, but she needed something. She was going to combust, bursting at the seams. Her eyes closed again, trying to find release, so close but not quite there. "I can't. I can't."

"Open your eyes." he repeated the words softly.

She did with the fever in her skin - burning, sweaty. His hands white against her coffee skin, her curly hair tumbled everywhere. And then their eyes caught. His held such a longing and intense hunger. He brought down one hand on top of hers between her legs. Electricity jolted her with that one touch on her clit - finally she went to pieces- sweet relief at last.

Coming down off her high, she turned in his arms to face him, "I was not expecting that."

He rolled her bathrobe back on, "I'm glad I could help you."

"I was not expecting that out you," she admitted and put her arms back around him. "This day has just been so much I really needed that." Suddenly she started bawling.

He looked completely confused.

"I'm sorry," she said. "Just- just it could have been you. I am so happy it wasn't, but it would have been unfair and awful and horrible if you had been taken from me. When we were just starting. I'm not supposed to be glad but I am. But I loved him like a father."

He sighed. "I know. I know. I've had to send a lot of people to their deaths. I sometimes I have leave them behind. You're right, this is different. He saved me instead."

"He knew, you know? He knew that we were married. I don't know how he knew but he did. Our poor first baby." Vic giggled weakly amid her tears.

"Our what?"

"The kid's going to be named after two dead firefighters. Michael Pruitt Ripley. Between the captain and Travis, we don't even get to pick out the a single name."

"So you're saying there will be kids." There was a certain wonder in his tone.

"Someday." Vic put her arms around his chest and held him a little bit tighter.

Chapter Text

A week later.

Captain Sullivan met with Chief Ripley in the conference room in Station 19. Unexpectedly the five battalion chiefs, William Havner, James Haskell, Matthew Nelson, Connor O'brien, and Leslie Frankel were in attendance. He had an idea what was being discussed, but he had more urgent business.

"About my request for our team to go help contain the wildfires in LA, sir?" Sullivan asked.

Ripley glanced at his unhappy battalion chiefs who appeared annoyed at the interruption, "That request is denied."

"Why?" Sullivan asked. "They could use the help. I'm experienced."

"Your request - it's completely insane." Leslie Frankel spoke before Ripley could. "Your station is hanging together by a thread. You had a lieutenant off for 4 months due to PTSD. You just lost your former captain two weeks ago which has off balanced one of your other lieutenants, his daughter. One of your firefighters just recovered from appendicitis and had a serious family illness. You broke your back 6 months ago. We heard the chief had to break up a fight between 19 and another company. One of your members has applied for transfer to Medic One. Your staff is stretched to the breaking point. We can't send you."

"But I have the most experience." he spoke this time directly to Chief Ripley.

"It's 22 hours to California in your rigs. We rebuilt your station once this year and had to replace your aid car which cost over 1 million dollars. We can't afford to lose more people or equipment. Our duty is to the city of Seattle first." Ripley replied.

"I was hoping that a change of scenery would help shift some of the dynamics and help with the grieving."

"I'm sorry Captain Sullivan. Your request for Station 19's deployment has been denied. There's no logical reason to send you. Fighting fires in California less than a week after a funeral is not a solution to grief." Frankel confirmed.

"We are deploying Station 27 instead under Haskell's battalion instead. Station 19 can help collect supplies and support equipment for their deployment." Ripley stated.

"Would you mind meeting us for line up and you can explain it to my team?" Sullivan again spoke to Ripley.

"I will do so," Frankel stated. It dawned on Sullivan that there was going to be a new order. "I know we haven't interacted much this past year, but as your battalion chief, it is my job to address that."

Sullivan nodded.

Chief Havner spoke up, "We also wanted to make you aware that there will be meeting about how the department is going to handle the existing relationship between Chief Ripley and Firefighter Hughes. We will need her to be available in a week or so to confirm all the details."

"Fine. Contact me when you need her for the meeting, and I'll do my best to make sure that she is available. Now if you excuse me, I will be waiting in the barn until you are ready to meet the team, Chief Frankel." He tried to exit without appearing to be a sullen child. Ripley noticed a small almost imperceptible limp on his right leg.

"Looks like you have your work cut out for me with that one." O'brien laughed without humor.

"I'm sure I can handle it." Frankel turned back to Ripley. "You, however, are a whole batch of trouble we had not been expecting. That was pretty damn reckless."

"Getting married?" Ripley asked. This was one of the rare places where he barely ranked everyone in the room. This was as close to his group of friends and peers he could get. Interesting that they hadn't called in his 2 deputy chiefs or his assistant chief of operations.

"No, going in the coffee plant." Frankel fixed him with a stare. "You pushed me out of Station 19 over Herrera's candidacy for captain, and I stayed away. First opportunity you get, you ignore all protocols for the chief and go in a burning building - you almost died. The chief's job is to supervise and direct. You have firefighters for that."


"If you tell us that you didn't go in the building and someone else did, that would also be a big protocol violation." Nelson, the most senior of the battalion chiefs said. "Especially if it resulted in their death."

"The reason were here today is to discuss how to deal with this whole mess. Off the record, between all of the battalion chiefs, who are your boots on the ground." Frankel said.

"PR and HR have some other plans brewing, but it's the safety of our stations and firefighters we need to address among ourselves and make a plan." Nelson said.

"You are entirely too close to the situation at Station 19, even if they are one of our best stations." Havner said.

"Their response times and patient recovery is excellent, despite all those shenanigans." Nelson agreed.

"As of now, I am taking back of the management of Station 19." Before he could protest, Frankel stopped him. "You were right to remove me because of my previous feelings toward the Herreras, but that's all water under the bridge. Perhaps if you hadn't been there so much, none of this would have ever happened."

"I assume you are referring to my relationship with my wife."

"So you really did marry her?" O'brien asked.

"Almost 3 months ago." Ripley affirmed.

"Our congratulations. However, as of now, you are not to set a foot into Station 19 in any official capacity unless it is something within the narrow range of duties outside of the battalion chief's purview. I will be present at your monthly meetings with Captain Sullivan. All performance evaluations and disciplinary action about your wife will be submitted by Captain Sullivan to me. Should she be recommended someday for promotion, that will also go through me." Frankel informed him.

"At any active scene that you and Hughes are present together, you are to contact the battalion or deputy chief on call and make he or she aware. Together you can determine if you need to hand-off. Or reassign your wife's role." Nelson looked shrewdly at the younger chief. "You skated on the edge of protocol during the coffee fire by not calling Frankel and handling it yourself. Technically you were on call that day as the acting battalion chief overseeing 19, but that won't be happening anymore. You shouldn't be running any scenes that don't involve less than 8 stations."

"That's what we're here for, sir." O'brien reminded him."With five battalion chiefs, your assistant chief, and you two deputy chiefs, you should be on call no less than once every 9 days and almost never run the scenes yourself."

"Should you feel the need to stop by Station 19, to chat, have lunch with your wife - you need to wear civilian clothes or at a minimum clip on the 'Visitor' badge." Frankel stated.

"You want me to wear a 'Visitor' badge when I visit one of my stations?"

"Yes, this is to protect her as much as you. We need to minimize the amount of public contact in her station that you have with her or else it leads to accusations of favoritism or sexism. As this becomes more public knowledge, there will be those who say Firefighter Ripley decided to screw her way to the top." Ripley's jaw clenched. "See, exactly. I assume it goes without saying that you will conduct yourself professionally when interacting with your wife while on Seattle FD property."

"This will all be clearly written, recorded, and then will be approved and signed by myself and my wife? We will have the opportunity to discuss and make revisions." While phrased like a question, it was actually a statement.

"It certainly will. Now, I need to go address Station 19 and, Chief, I believe you may need a visitor badge now."

"Not until the paper work is complete." Ripley could take some flak from his battalion chiefs, but only so much. "Besides, I'm not allowed to drive. Fog is coming in so it's safer for me to stay here."

Haskell, the youngest battalion chief said, "Well, at least you won't steal my SUV this time. I had to catch an Uber to Seattle Pres during that mess."

The team called in for line up as Ripley and the battalion chiefs descended the stairs. They dispersed, except for Frankel. Vic stopped fiddling with her necklace and tucked the ring back under her uniform. She stood at the very end of the line today.

"Hello, as you know, I am battalion Chief Frankel. About the wildfire in California -Station 19 is not going to be deploying. We will have you be collecting and MREs, supplies and equipment for Station 27 who will be deploying instead. Do you have any questions?"

Herrera raise her hand, "Sir, if I may?"

"Yes, Herrera?"

"Don't we have one of the only captains in the area that has actually fought wildfires?"

"That is correct, but one person is not enough to risk a station company over. Your team took some heavy losses physically and emotionally over the past year. The number of disasters that Station 19 this year has doubled its budget in sick time alone."

The klaxon cranked up overhead. "Announcement. Anticipated fog warning. Poor visibility. From the chief, begin poor visibility protocols. Anticipate multiple car accidents, lost civilians, search and rescue."

Frankel shook her head in disbelief at the chief not being able to sit out and instead requested, "Captain Sullivan and Firefighter Hughes accompany me to the office please."

Sullivan and Vic stood at attention in the office and Frankel sat on the captain's desk. "I just want to make sure the two of you and I are on the same page. I am resuming my duties overseeing station 19 as Chief Lucas Ripley has a conflict of interest. I assume as her commanding officer you are aware of the nature of the relationship between the chief and your firefighter."

Sullivan didn't flinch, "There is a relationship between the chief and this firefighter?"

Despite herself Frankel was a bit impressed by how stoic this Captain was. She looked at Vic. "Firefighter please answer only 'yes' or 'no.' You are Victoria Ripley?"


"The wife of fire chief Lucas Ripley - whom you married on your own free will without coercion?"


"Is your team aware of this relationship?"

Vic hesitated.

"Well, answer."

"I believe she's not answering because that is not a 'yes' or 'no' question." Sullivan explained.

"Ripley, you may elaborate."

"Approximately half the team is aware we are married. The other part is not aware of the relationship."

"Does that explain why you hid the officer's ring around your neck during lineup? You don't need to answer that question." Frankel continued. "The department is going to have a field day with how to best address this relationship to the public. I honestly don't care really what they do with that. But I want to make sure this station is going to be able to function without distraction."

"As I have been aware this relationship for approximately a month, I do not believe it has had a significant effect on the performance of the team thus far. We are professionals and able to do our jobs." Technically speaking, Captain Herrera had not been on the team, he mentally excused himself.

"Good. I'll be up front and state that I was removed from managing this station after I was concerned about the nepotism of the Herrera's. I will do my best to treat you fairly in this situation. I'd recommend at this point you make no effort to announce your relationship until department has met with you." She addressed Vic again. "What would you like your future call sign to be? Do you want to be Ripley?'"

"It's probably easiest if I stick with Hughes. Less confusion."

"All right dismissed."

Dispatch called overhead. "Car accident freeway 99. Mercer Street exit. Aid car 19."

"That would be me and Miller today." Vic said running out. "I'm grabbing the high visibility vests."

"If it's alright with you, Captain Sullivan, I'll be staying here to monitor the situation since I'm already here." She added, "I wanted to let you know that the NOSHA investigation into Captain Herrera's death is picking up. You should consider talking to any staff members who might share rumors of gross protocol aberrations. Those rumors would reflect very poorly on everyone involved."

He hesitated and then acquiesced. "I understand." Captain Sullivan nodded and left.

"You can come out now." Frankel called. Ripley emerged from the bunk room. "She's brave. Reserved, controlled, and brave. Definitely has guts."

Ripley sighed. "First time we ever spoke, she yelled at me."

"I suspect she's matured since then. That makes me like her even better. Probably won't yell at me. I take it that your charm didn't work on her."


"Don't tell me you're not aware of it. You are a smooth operator, and you can sell almost anything to anyone. That's why you're the chief, and I will never be. To much hand shaking and politicking for me. Makes your charm is so important. Then again she clearly didn't resist very hard."

Ripley appeared worried. Franklin figured it out. "Oh, she's on aid car in the fog. You are to sit in the bunk room and not attempt to manage this. You already interfered by increasing the city wide alter level. "


"No, I'm in charge here. You're not even supposed to be on duty. Why don't you make yourself useful and go online and buy yourselves some real chains. Your necks are turning green." Ripley frowned as he wiped under his collar and sure enough his fingers came back slightly green.

Dean was driving and Vic was operating the radio. "All right, have you been in a fog bank before?" Dean asked.

"No," Vic replied. "I've heard about them."

"Visibility is probably going to be less than 10 feet once we go in. We need to have the lights and the sirens on. We may have to turn off headlights to be able to see ahead of us. We're going to have to be prepared that it's worse than we expected."

"Here it comes." They were enveloped by ghostly white fog. Visibility was immediately cut to right in front of them. Fortunately they were close to the freeway. "What are you doing, Dean?"

"I'm driving down the exit ramp. Look, no cars are coming because this is where the accident is. Nothing can move forward. That is not a good sign."

Vic activated both of their flashers with on the vests and the flashlights. She turned on the radio and said, "I need to be patched through to Chief Frankel."

"Chief Frankel," the battalion chief answered.

"Sir, this is Hughes. I need to inform you that fog bank is has severe visibility issues - we can't see anything. Expect anyone who goes out is facing extremely hazardous conditions." Vic told her over the radio.

Then the accident began to emerge from the fog. It was stunning. The freeway 99 was three lanes across and all of them were blocked. The were at least 30 cars involved with all sorts of people milling around. Some of the cars in the front were on fire.

"Sir," Vic's voice was more intense. "We're going to need backup. This is an large multi-vehicle pile-up - I count at least 30 cars and at least four active fires. You're going to need multiple pairs of jaws of life, multiple aid cars, every ax, crowbar and rock we have to free people. Miller and I are going to start securing the scene and triaging."

"How much help do you think you need Hughes?"

"Probably six aid cars and at least four rigs. We need everything we've got just to get people out of these cars."

"I copy." Frankel confirmed. "I am calling in additional stations and the rest of Station 19 is on its way."

Dean turned on the loud speaker while he parked. "This is the Seattle Fire Department. If you can walk, head to the front of the accident and gather by the purple car. Triage for your injuries will be set up there."

People began materializing from the fog. It was difficult to see but the burning cars gave an extra creepy level of illumination to the scene. Vic handed him the fire extinguisher. "You start putting out fires. I'll take the crowbar and triage tags. When the fire is out, we'll switch. Your giant cray cray arms make you stronger than me."

He nodded and headed out, running immediately to the second car in the front which was on fire. Vic got to the first car, empty. Third car (purple) had an awake person whose door was jammed shut. She pried it open with the crowbar.

"I'm Vic, a Seattle firefighter. Can you talk? How are you feeling?"

"I'm Jim. I think I'm ok. Arm hurts." Vic felt his left arm; it was arm well perfused and non displaced. "Here, you're a yellow card. Walk to the triage area which happens to be forming right in front of your car."

Vick managed to go back and forth see about the first six cars. Dean put out about five car fires and he ran back to Vic. "All right I think I've got them all out. What have we got so far?"

"I freed five people - a couple yellows, one green, haven't found a red yet, but I suspect it'll be soon." They could hear sirens in the distance. "G-d I hope our relief gets here soon."

The next truck was a crumpled mess, and the male driver did not look good. He had clearly bounced off of the steering wheel, and he was still strapped in. He was struggling to breathe.

"Miller get the gurney. I'll start the extraction. Bring the jump bag."

"On it," he answered. it took four attempts with the crowbar to spit open the car door. When she took his pulse, it was weak and his limbs were starting to cool. That implied massive blood loss, most likely in his chest.

Dean came up behind her,"Status?"

"White male mid forties. Dancing between red card and black card right now. I think it's got massive chest trauma. Let's get him out and get an IV in."

The two of them wrestled him onto the gurney. His limbs appeared intact and he was moving his legs slightly. Had a pretty low GCS Glasgow coma scale, probably from the blood loss. They managed to get an IV in and have him fluids running in but didn't look good. They needed more help more people, more equipment, and more experience. Medic One would have been great except they weren't there.

Salvation came in the unlikely form of three people emerging from the fog. A red-haired man introduced himself as Owen Hunt Trauma at Grey Sloan.

"Oh thank g-d. Truck driver's critical with a rapid and thready pulse, decreased breath sounds on the left. We've got to move him now." Vic said, relieved.

"I'll come with you and I'll help out, but these two need a ride too." He indicated a doctor she recognized as Schmitt and a very frightened woman.

"We don't have room." Vic said.

"Well, make room. A kid's life depends on it." Hunt commanded.

"Let's move," Dean agreed. They had wanted more help and was better to not argue this point if they planned on saving this guy. They loaded the gurney in and Hunt indicated that he'd take over the resuscitation with Schmidt.

Station 19 arrived, sirens blaring and lights flashing. She had time to see both trucks unload and pull the jaws of life out. She buckled herself back in and got on the radio as they pulled away. She explained over the radio that they were headed to the hospital with the patient and where triage had been set up.

"This is Aid Car 19. We are en route to Grey Sloan. We have a patient who has severe chest trauma. We're being accompanied by Doctors Owen Hunt and Levi Schmitt and . . .passenger.

In the background she heard someone yell," Pneumothorax!"

"That's a very large needle." the woman murmured.

"He has a pneumo, I'm gonna need to decompress his chest. You definitely want to close your eyes for this."

"Okay, here we go." Schmitt said.

"Oh, that was just demented."

A phone started ringing, "Schmitt get that."

"It's clearing. We're out of the fog." Dean hit the gas.

"Hold on. Hey Dr. Webber. It's Dr. Webber." Vic wondered what was that special about their passenger.

"Tell him we're close."

"How close?"

"7 minutes. Uh, 20 minutes to extract the blood." Special blood donor?

"Uh okay, we'll be at the hospital in 7." Schmitt assured the caller.

Somehow between with Deans fast driving, Hunt and Schmitt managed to keep the patient alive. As soon as they arrived the trauma team took a patient and a long brown haired doctor that Vic had never seen before hustled off that scared woman.

Already back on on the radio, Vic got transferred back Chief Frankel. "This is Aid Car 19. We've dropped off our patient the hospital, and we are on our way back to the scene of the accident.

"Copy Aid Car 19." Frankel answered. "Ladder and engines of station 19, 21, and 23 are on the scene. We got additional aid cars moving back and forth between the site. It sounds like you're going to be moving into triage next. Be careful on the roads. Somebody just crashed into Station 42's ladder truck. Station 6 is deployed on the outer edge near the forest looking for some lost hikers."

"Copy that. Miller and I in Aid Care 19 are en route to accident. Over and out."

Sullivan led Bishop and Montgomery to one of the smashed cars. The passenger was pounding on the window trying to get out. Sullivan braced his leg on his crowbar against the door and pushed downward. His right leg tingled, and the door didn't budge.

"All right, lieutenant, bring it up." He yelled.

Montgomery gunned the generator and Bishop used the cutter on the jaws of life's hydraulic press to whip through the door. He signaled the waiting team of an aid car from another station to help pull the patient out. When he reached over to assist, he felt another stinger go up his right leg. Its sensation made him step very gingerly.

He backed off and started directing instead.

Suddenly there was frantic yelling from Warren, Gibson, and Herrera who were waving him over. The problem was quickly apparent - a small black car was essentially flattened by an armored truck behind it. Its young female driver was somehow still alive. When they cracked off the door, the extent of her injuries became clear. Warren had already put CAT tourniquets and gotten an IV into her remaining arm. Both of her legs were crushed, and she was pinned between her seat and the steering wheel.

Warren's eyes were shadowed. "Sir. I need-" He paused, "I need permission before I black card her. I want to administer comfort care without attempting to extract her.

"Not extract her?"

"Usually we would, but with the extent of her injuries the pain would be excruciating. She's got a flail chest and cardiac tamponade. The steering wheel is keeping her from bleeding out. The second we try to move her . . ." Sullivan now noticed the abnormal shuddering asymmetrical movement of her chest.

"You feel certain that she cannot be saved?" He glanced at his lieutenants - Herrera's face was like stone. "No procedure we can do to stabilize her?"

"You know I am always the first to try something, but pericardiocentisis will kill her faster. If we were standing in the OR right now, physically in the hospital, I would recommend against performing surgery."

Sullivan assented, "Get the morphine. How much?"

Warren bowed his head, "Probably everything we have on the rig. We can't overdose her with all the adrenaline she has in her system."

"All right, Warren, you're going to stay with her. We still got more people to extract. Montgomery, Bishop stay linked up. Gibson, Herrera together now without Warren. I'll help supervise as more teams arrive." Herrera shook herself and the slowly turned away. "I'll stay by you as Incident Commander for now."

He was back in the crashed aid car for a second. The woman was barely conscious. Sullivan grunted in memory and sympathy. To have your back and legs broken, growing cold and just waiting. "All right, Warren, you keep monitoring her. Let me know when it happens."

"Will do, Captain." Ten minutes later he directed the car to be covered with a black tarp.

Hughes (Ripley, whatever) and Miller made three more trips to various area hospitals. The fog was finally burning off. His two teams had no problems systematically going through the opening up as many cars like so many broken tin cans. He heard over radio chatter that Seattle PD had started taking some pregnant patients directly to the hospital.

After 6 hours of back and forth on the scene, they were released. WSDOT, USAR and Station 33 were in charge of removing the crushed cars.

When everyone arrived back at the station, Captain Sullivan called them in for lineup.

"I wanted to say to all of you good work for facing what you faced today. We lost our Captain and our friend, but we are all still here, reporting for duty and I am very proud of that. I know this was hard. But you guys performed as a team. I couldn't ask more of any of you." He surveyed the line. "Time for med checks. You weren't really exposed to fire so it's perfectly fine to get checked out here. Dean and Gibson. Montgomery and Hughes. Warren and Bishop. I have Herrera."

Chief Frankel came out and monitored the med check. She said, "The fog's lifting so I'm going to go out and check on all the other stations. Looks like your team did well today."

"Thank you, sir" Sullivan acknowledged. He went back to examining Herrera. "You okay?"

"I'm fine. Why wouldn't I be?" She was expressionless.

"The woman that we couldn't extract. She - "

"People die. Not everyone gets saved." She cut him off. "Are we done?"

"Andy-" He started and stopped himself. If she don't want to talk, she don't want to talk. He couldn't help her grieve any more than he could made himself grief over his wife.

"Everybody catch some rack time. We may or may not be called in again overnight. Stuff can happen. They've already got other units waiting on standby but let's not waste our chance."

The team headed up to the rooms. Vic open her door and was wrapped suddenly in an embrace. She had not expected the chief would be slumming it in her room. His arms ran up and down her body, checking her for injuries.

"I've already been checked out. I'm good. I can take care of myself."

"Noted. A second check never hurts." He produced a stethoscope and started re-examining her. "No weakness, no pains, no difficulty breathing? No exposure to hydrofluoric acid?"

"No. Just a regular run of the mil 30 car pile up on the 99. In a fog."

"First patient make it?"

"I don't know. There were so many trips. So many people. First one had a trauma surgeon with him so I guess you can't ask for anything more than that." Vic shrugged.

He set down the stethoscope her desk, picked it up, and set it down again.

"What's going on, Lucas?"

"Nothing," he said. She raised an eyebrow. "It's difficult to not do anything. Usually if I'm not on call, I'm not on call. I'm not waiting around. Either I am coordinating or I am not working. I don't have to sit there and listen."

"Hard to get benched, isn't it?"

"Unbelievably so. I listened to you over the radio." He sat down on her bed with his head in his hands. "I don't know if I can get past this."

She seen him in a lot of different moods, and she never seen him look quite this vulnerable. She sat down next to him and held his hand. "I think you have major heart surgery two weeks ago. I think that these beta blockers are making you feel extra weak, and it's feeding back into this."

"I do feel pretty useless." He admitted. "I don't remember the last time I was told not to do something. I mean, other, than by you." He gave her a wane smile.

"Now you know how the rest of us feel. You have a lot of power as fire chief and you've used it pretty well. That's hard to go back to being a padawan even for just a couple months." She checked his uniform shirt; he was wearing something unusual. "Are you wearing a visitor's badge?"

"Yes. Only way Frankel would let me stay overnight."

"Does the captain know you're here?"

"I left him a note."

"Coward." She re-positioned them so they would laying side by side facing each other on the bed. "I'm sure we're not allowed to do anything too strenuous. Could you at least kiss me and touch me a little?"

"How much is a little?"

"Let's keep it more around second base. If Captain knows you're here, we can't exactly start ignoring all of Franklin's warnings on the first day."

He was more than happy to oblige. Their quiet kissing communicated barely enough longing and desire to make Vic hungry but not so much that it was intolerable. He snuck his hands under her shirt. Even if he couldn't actually perform, there was no denying his hands were quite talented. He took his time working inside her bra to play with her tips. It didn't take him very long to leave her gasping. Gasping with a side of trembling.

She had to push his hands away and disengage herself from his kiss. "Maybe that wasn't my best plan."

"Why"" he carefully licked her ear and blew in it.

"If we go any further, I'm not going to be very professional anymore. I'll probably wake up by bunkmates, and I don't want to get caught. Frankel said we're not supposed to tell anybody for a little while now. Until whatever meeting happens."

"I know. I was there."

"Were you hiding in the captain's bunk room? You are quite a sneaky guy. At least talking about future HR meetings is a mood killer. I guess it's time to just go to sleep."

They curled up together and dozed off. When she woke up, he wasn't in her room anymore. He didn't make an appearance for the rest of the shift. He knew enough places to hide in the station. That would keep everyone from noticing him. Ripley probably hid back in the captain's bunk room again.

Chapter Text

The evening of the fog . . .(while the chief is camped out in Vic's room)

There was a knock on Andy's bunk room door. "Lieutenant, can you join me in my office?" Sullivan rarely ventured up into this space when he worked a 24 hour, but he seemed to have something he needed to say to her.

She followed him to his office. He closed the door and oddly checked his bunk room. "Please sit down." Equally oddly, he sat down in the chair next to her, not behind his desk.

This could not be good. That had to mean something to do with her dad . . .

"Herrera, we need to discuss the NOSHA investigation into your father's death. Have you ever been involved in the inquiry after the death of a firefighter?"

"No." She stayed emotionless.

"They investigate every firefighter death and issue an evaluation that includes citations and recommendations on how to prevent future deaths. Captain Conlin's death is straightforward. Numerous witness will attest that willingly and deliberately struck out on his own, leaving Hughes." He paused. "The most kind investigation into your father 's death would be that during regular use of personal protective equipment, he was exposed to hydrofluoric acid in the air and his pre-existing conditions after lung cancer did the rest. The department would be warned about being careful about lung issues and undergo extra PPE training."

"That's it? Personal protective equipment training?" 

"Imagine the truth. Your father attacked the fire chief and ran into a burning building? They'll go over his entire record and determine he had dementia, a psychotic break, or was suicidal. They would strip him of rank and file a police report."

"What! He-he was saving the fire chief!" Andy protested unable to believe what she was hearing.

"If you stab me with some ativan right now, when I am fully cognizant in three days, I am firing you and getting you arrested. Do it on a live scene, and the consequences will be worse."

Andy visibly tried to control herself. "They would throw my dad under the bus like that?"

"The department doesn't want to have a PR disaster on its hands. The person who usually protects individuals from this already has his hands tied on this."

"The chief?"

"He typically softens the blows and smooths over issues like this without obscuring the events too much. We do it on incident reports all the time. Your team did it on your peer reviews over the party bus crash." Except Warren, per the notes. And Hughes's was pretty much blank, but he couldn't share that with Herrera.

"So no one can know the truth, and the chief won't do anything to protect my dad." Andy might have said she and Vic were good, but maybe she was wrong.

Sullivan had enough. He snapped his fingers right in front of her face. She glared at him. "Lieutenant, stop thinking about how you feel and start thinking. Hughes and Ripley have been protecting him from the start. They were prepared to let Ripley go into surgery without telling their doctor the truth about the ativan. They haven't told anyone since because they know most of the consequences will be on your dad."

"Eight boxes, one storage unit, and this station." Andy bit out.


"Eight boxes stacked at our apartment from his new condo, one storage unit from his move, and this station. That is all my dad has left behind. His legacy is nothing but that. The department is going to ignore the sacrifice he made that saved the fire chief."

"No, the department is going to make him a hero for helping when so many first responders went down. He worked for hours under unknown hazardous conditions to prevent the coffee plant from re-igniting." He gave her a meaningful glance. "I would argue that he left something much greater behind as his legacy - you."

Andy froze and blushed. Their eyes met and Andy squeaked, "Thank you, sir."

He dropped his eyes. "The department will interview everyone involved in the coffee plant overhaul so they may not even speak to you. I've already spoken to Montgomery and Warren who are going to keep their mouths shut. I could be wrong, maybe the department will pursue this. I have my doubts because there isn't a better outcome on the table." He stood up and moved away from her.

She understood this for the dismissal it was, in more ways that one. "I appreciate you talking to me and letting me get the lay of the land." She turned left.

Sullivan took a deep breath. He walked back to his bunk room and rechecked under the bed and in the shower, just in case. He laid down on his bunk and rubbed his right leg slowly.

 Vic had a message on her voicemail the following morning telling her Lucas's three week valve replacement follow-up visit had been cancelled. She decided to use a little VIP treatment and call Dr. Schmitt.

"Both patients made it - pneumo guy and blood donor kid? Awesome. . . So our follow-up visit with Dr. Altman was cancelled. They didn't give us a new one." Vic said.

"Oh, that's because she had the baby. A girl named Allison."

"That's super cute. How about seeing Dr. Pierce instead?"

"Not her - her boyfriend Dr. Avery went missing in the fog. Haven't heard what happened yet so she's out."

"Dr. Hunt?" Vic suggested.

"On paternity leave. Altman had his baby."

"Grey, she did my surgery."

"Oh, not her either. She got fired. Just like Webber and Karev. I'd recommend the other Karev but she's in the hospital." Schmitt was, as always, a fount of useful information, or not useful in this case.

"Sure, so we can meet here there?"

"No, she's hospitalized." Schmitt clarified.

"What about DeLuca?"

"He's in jail."

At this point Vic was wondering if anyone should ever go back to Grey Sloan again. "Basically every doctor on staff is either on leave, having an emergency, fired or in jail. Got it. Thanks Schmitt."

She hung up and thought for a minute. "Hey Ben, I need a favor."

One week later - (ie, 11 weeks after the appendicitis/wedding, 3 weeks after heart valve surgery, 2 weeks after funeral, 1 week after the FOG, and 0 weeks after the wildfire that no one went to because it was stupid.)

"Thank you for meeting with us, Dr. Bailey." Ripley shook her hand. "I believe you know Victoria."

"It's a pleasure to see you again in better circumstances, Chief Ripley." Bailey shook their hands. "I am always available for Seattle's bravest. And Hughes would be your . . ."

"Sorta-secret wife," Vic volunteered. "I'm sure Warren filled you in on all that."

"Not exactly. His shifts and mine don't always cross. He was at the funeral and then things have been wild at Grey Sloan."

"Yes, I heard about some staffing issues," Vic started.

"I am sure Chief Bailey is on top of it," Luke silenced her with a look.

"If you could remove your shirt for your exam to check the incision. The surgical notes indicated it was an uncomplicated procedure and your intraoperative cath showed open arteries." Bailey pulled out her stethoscope and listened to several spots on his chest. She examined his healing incision on his right chest. Vic stood a little behind him holding his hand. "Open arteries are good since they take off the near aortiv valve replaced. Don't smoke or eat more than red meat once a week to keep them that way." Bailey advised. "Are you having any issues with dizziness, fainting, weakness, headaches?"

"Only when she whacks me on the head for working too hard." Vic rolled her eyes recognizing the charm version of her husband.

"I remember what it was like after my heart attack. Ben occasionally gave me - what I assume are - figurative love taps."

"So, am I cleared for duty?"

"You can return to light duty. You can't lift anything over 50 lbs until 8 weeks. Nothing too strenuous." She eyed him suspiciously. "You've been working already. Don't you try those perfect blue eyes on me - do I look like Pierce? I haven't forgotten you escaped from my damn hospital."

"He's been doing no lifting, and he isn't allowed to drive. He's attended one battalion chief meeting." Vic updated her.  

"Good. Don't want to hear about you being a fool again."

"About my blood pressure medication, I was wondering if it was safe to change to something else now? And what you mean by light duty?"

"But you're on beta blockers." She took in their linked hands. "Oh, you're asking-"

"Yes, I'm asking what counts as more strenuous activity." Vic was blushing. Ripley was not.

"Well it's been over 3 weeks so I would say take it easy for one more week. I can switch you to an ACE inhibitor for another 6 months. You're going to like that better. So will she." Bailey took a deep breath. "Now I hate to say this but please, nothing too extreme. Be boring and vanilla for a month before you try the upside down sex swing."

"I promise to save that for Labor day," Vic winked.

"Yes, you should be fine for that in a week and can begin full activity at 8 weeks. I would recommend waiting an extra week to use alcohol, in moderation, of course.  I am going to enroll you in our six week cardiac rehab program to be sure you have reached the best version of your pre-surgery fitness level. It's the least we can do before you go back to running into burning buildings. Then you'll come in for a 3-month follow-up. If you have any increasing chest pain or dizziness I want you to go to the hospital immediately."

"Oh, I'm the only one who will be going into burning buildings. The Chief is going to behave himself and supervise like he's supposed to." Vic had more than a touch of recrimination in her tone. "His battalion chiefs are making sure of that."

"I knew I liked her even if she did hack Ben's email."

"He shouldn't have had such an easy to guess password." Vic pointed out.

"I love a strong woman who isn't afraid to put her man in his place. Especially one who tries Jedi mind tricks on his unsuspecting surgeons."

"I'm never going to live that down, am I?" Ripley chuckled.

"Pierce added it to your allergies and your major medical problems- F68.8 'other specified disorder of adult personality and behavior." Bailey recited the ICD-10 code conspiratorially. "It's the same thing we put on the charts of pathological liars."

"What allergy did she give him? Light-sabers." Vic wondered.

"The dark side."

"Speaking of my medical record, I would like my medical record placed on restricted access. My illness and recent events associated with it may become public. As a public official, technically my information can be viewed. However, people need to go through official channels." Ripley said significantly.

"I see." They watched her silently consider the implications. She had read the chart in full before his exam, and was aware of Pruitt Herrera's death both as his previous physician and the wife of a firefighter. "The official channels can take weeks and ultimately need my approval before we release anyone's record. HIPPAA and all." She immediately turned to the open medical record and clicked on a few tabs. The record changed color and a watermark of 'restricted access' appeared.

"Thank you, Dr. Bailey."

She started entering his new prescription into the computer and nonchalantly asked, "While you're here, do you mind if I ask a question?"


"About firefighting. More about Medic One. I don't want to push, but my husband has applied and I wanted to know if he has good chances of getting in."

"Warren is the best medical wise at Station 19. Contrary to common opinion, we attend alot more medical calls than fire calls." Vic said.

"I should hope he's the best," Bailey said. "He is board-certified in anesthesia and surgery. Master of the airway."

"Really?" Vic giggled a little bit.

"What?" Bailey asked.

"I was thinking of a couple calls were Maya shoved him out of the way to intubate."

Bailey snortef. "I'm sure he loved that."

"To answer your question about Medic One, as far as I was aware, there are no significant disciplinary issues or concerns noted in his career with firefighting." He glanced at Vic for confirmation, and she nodded.

"Yes, no issues with this career," Dr. Bailey was slightly bitter. "Oh, it's nothing. I'm looking forward to him having a job a little bit less dangerous." She flushed slightly. "Sorry."

"No offense taken," the chief assured her. "I have a dangerous job."

"'Had' a dangerous job. I 'have' a dangerous job." Vic corrected him. He ruefully assented.

"So you're pleased with his work as a firefighter?"

"That's really more of Captain Sullivan's bailiwick. Medic One is an advanced intense field surgical paramedic program over which I have no authority. They have their own board, oversight, and standards outside of the Seattle FD. As all applicant's must be firefighters and trained EMTs, most of my interaction is certifying the authenticity of their credentials. Typically Medic One examines your firefighting career and your past medical or surgical record to make decision about their fitness for the job. If there's no red flags in his past surgical career, he shouldn't have difficulty being accepted as a candidate." Ripley concluded.

Her face fell. "I see."

Vic stood up for her rookie. "That's the past. New guy's matured here." Whatever Warren had done as a surgeon, it was probably better not to share that with the chief right now. It certainly wouldn't improve Ripley's opinion of him if he didn't make Medic One. Warren was aggressive medically with a tendency to push the limits of what firefighters should be doing. On the other hand, Vic had no idea how she would act if she been a doctor in two different specialties and then a firefighter. It seemed a little crazy that he was even willing to do this. Especially at his age.

"As I said, I don't make any decisions or recommendations on Medic One. They have their own separate interview process," Ripley explained.

"I guess that makes sense now. I feel a little silly. I'm sure he'll do fine."

One week after that

The chief walked slowly down the emergency stairs and into the barn. He was supposed to meet Vic who was finishing her shift for the long awaited department meeting. However, as he came around the ladder truck, he stopped short. Sully was there with Herrera. The captain's arm was wrapped around his lieutenant. Robert had a look that Ripley had not seen for a very long time on his face. This did not bode well.

He carefully retreated quietly back under cover and then resumed his course with much louder footsteps. The two of them had already parted by the time he came back past the ladder truck for the second time.

"Captain Sullivan," Ripley greeted him. "Might we have a word together? In your office before my meeting?" He addressed Herrera to whom he had not spoken since the funeral as he had been incognito during his last visit to the station during the fog. "Once again allow me to extend my condolences." He didn't wait for Sully to respond; he turned and headed back to the office. Knowing he wasn't supposed to physically exert himself and this would be a stressful conversation, he went ahead and sat in the Captain's chair.

He waited for Sully to close the door before starting, "What do you think you're doing?"

"I don't know what you mean, sir?" Sullivan responded.

"I saw you two." Ripley might as well have shot him. Sullivan's face changed so quickly.

"Nothing's going on. She just needs-"

"'She just needs 'support? That's what you think she needs? What kind of support are you planning on giving her?"

"I-I-" Sullivan stuttered. "I don't know. Do you have any room to talk?" Sullivan said defensively.

Ripley decided to ignore that comment. "Sully, she's in mourning. She's searching for anything to grab onto right now. Do you think it's a good idea if that thing is you?"

Anger flashed in Sullivan. "Your pot calling the kettle black, chief?"

"Are you ready to give up your career? Are you ready to sacrifice her career?"

Captain Sullivan after standing in silence for a couple moments responded, "I can't answer any of those questions."

"You are her direct supervisor. If you move forward, there's no way you two can be at the same station together. It would compromise the team. At a minimum one of you would have to leave. Is that what you want?" Ripley said with more vehemence.

The dam broke. "How's that glass house feel, chief?" Sullivan yelled. "You're worried about what happen if I compromise my job? That's rich. You're already compromised. You've been compromised for months, and you didn't tell anyone. We're lucky Captain Herrera was the only person that died because of you."

"Stand down on this Sullivan." Ripley's tone was full of warning; he held the arms of the chair to keep from jumping to his feet.

Sullivan was roaring now. "Why should I? You can break the rules as you please?! You think that marrying her makes this better!? It barely makes it tolerable. Every single call forever, I have to weigh the risks and benefits of putting her into danger because of how it will affect the CHIEF. My team is going to always wonder what to do with the CHIEF's wife. You've lost your perspective with her. I rechecked the dispatch logs - you were the one who brought her in the night of her appendicitis and reamed me out - I paid the price for your guilt."

"Yeah, I brought her in. But your team was who told me all about how much time she'd been working and the massive protocol violation. I actually let you off lightly instead of firing you. I was unbiased." Ripley stood up slowly and went toe to toe with his best friend.

"Really? Why is the report of her peer review unfinished?" Sullivan spat.

"Because she was too loyal to her team and her review was useless. She refused say anything negative about either Captain's candidate and placed the blame entirely on me for a station's poor response time. I threw her out of the room instead."

Sullivan started to deflate. Ripley sat back down. "You don't think I've agonized over this. I left her to die once in the skyscraper. Abandoned her with the entire team of Station 19 because the building was threatening to collapse. I am going to worry every call. She's an unranked firefighter - they have the most dangerous jobs of any of us. I get to sit back and make decisions." He held Sullivan's eyes. "Someday, I may have to make a decision that leaves my best friend and my wife to die. That's part and parcel of being the captain . . .and the chief."

"I don't know what to do. How do you do it?" Sullivan finally sat down in a chair.

"We both were fully aware of the risks we were taking going into this. The risks are still the risks. We know the day may come when this conflict forces one of us to quit, transfer or retire. Our marriage only protects us from some of that, but she is the most important thing to me now. I'm compromised because this job isn't my life anymore, Victoria Ripley is. I'm compromised but not in the way you worry and it's my burden to bear."

"You would quit being fire chief, just like that, for her?" Sullivan couldn't imagine leaving the top position, the holy grail.

"She almost died from that appendicitis, and I realized what I needed to do. I wasn't going to wait. I would sacrifice anything." Now back to the original argument. "Are you ready to do that for Herrera? Are you going to ask her to leave her team, the only family she has left?"

"I don't know."

"Whatever you decide, you need to make a choice soon." He stood up when he saw Vic walk by the office. He fired one parting shot. "I saw you limping. Get yourself checked out at Grey Sloan today. It's an order."

Chapter Text

He met Vic waiting for him by the conference room stairs, and they ascended together. It was a full house in the conference room with added chairs. He could see the five battalion chiefs, his four assistant chiefs, two deputy chiefs, the fire commissioner, the department spokesperson, the mayor's spokesperson, and three lawyers waiting inside for them. Both he and Vic were wearing their uniforms to present a united front that they were not ashamed of their relationship. Today was just another day at the office justifying their marriage. They joined hands and entered.

"Chief Ripley. Mrs Ripley," they were greeted by a suited woman with whom Ripley was familiar. "I am Hanna Fitzpatrick, spokesperson for the Seattle Fired Department."

"You may refer to me as Firefighter Hughes." Vic said primly and polished like they discussed. Everyone in the room looked uncomfortable. Hands still linked, they sat down in the only empty seats.

One of his two deputy chiefs, Walsh, was the one to open the discussion, "I understand congratulations are in order."

"That is correct." Ripley answered simply. "Hughes and I are married."

"May we inquire how long? I understand you were recently in the hospital." One of the lawyers requested, recorder on.

"I believe I can answer this one, honey." Vic smiled smoothly. "12 weeks."

The assembled group appeared to be surprised their lack of attempt to deny anything. Ripley and Vic knew that hiding the length of their marriage would be counterproductive. The department, of course, could read legal documents as well as anyone. Marriage licenses are matters of public record.

"Usually we would interview your separately to determine that no sexual harassment or power imbalance had occurred. But since you are married, we are unable to take a stance in your relationship at this point. Unless you have anything to add?" Ms. Fitzpatrick said. "I expected not."

"According to the paperwork this wedding occurred inside Grace Sloan Memorial while Firefighter Hughes was hospitalized. The license was filed afterward and solemnized by the chaplain and two witnesses. Is there anything you would like to add about the pre-existing relationship prior to your marriage?" Asked the same lawyer.

"Not particularly. I would say that my near-death experience led to a spontaneous hospital marriage." Vic's smile didn't shift.

Frankel swallowed a laugh. She'd been a battalion chief for three years under Chief Ripley and was fully aware very little was done spontaneously.

"Chief Ripley, do you have anything to add?" Fitzpatrick asked and exchanged a glance with the lawyers.

"I do not."

"Let's move forward. The real reason we're here is because we need to begin the formal inquiry of the events leading to the death of Captain Pruitt Herrera." Assistant Chief of Rescue Management, Tim Vickery, explained.

"As you know anytime a firefighter dies, we always want to know the exact causes and circumstances and if there was anything at all that could have been done to prevent this." his AC of Operations Alan Hastings stated. "We typically submit our findings to NOSHA."

"Our records indicate that Captain Herrera was on the scene as an EMT and then was appointed incident Commander by Captain Sullivan." the fire commissioner stated.

"If that is what the record states." Ripley answered quickly.

"You never wrote a report about this. We're relying on Captain Sullivan's notes." the fire commissioner stated.

"I was hospitalized with a dangerous heart condition. And a concussion. My memory of the time leading up to that is somewhat unclear." Ripley said easily, using his most calm chief face.

"Firefighter Hughes. Would you like to add anything to that?" AC Hastings of Operations faced her.

"Absolutely." She beamed and deliberately misunderstood. "As indicated in Captain Sullivan's and my reports, the fire chief was extremely confused the following day which culminated in his use of an official vehicle to leave the hospital against medical advice. He was confused enough that the hospital required me to sign his medical forms and consent for his cardiac surgery."

"I mean, do you have anything to add about your interactions with Captain Herrera on the scene of the coffee fire?" the fire commissioner clarified.

"I don't see why my interactions with Captain Herrera would be different than anyone else's on 19. He was on site as an EMT until Captain Sullivan made him incident commander due to the numerous injuries from Station 42." Ripley was so proud of her unflappable poise.

"We have heard rumors." One of the lawyers spoke up.

"There are always rumors," the chief forced a laugh. "It was rumored that I died of hydrofluoric acid toxicity at Seattle Presbyterian."

"We're more concerned about the rumor that Captain Herrera violated numerous protocols and entered the scene without orders." that lawyer stated.

"There are also rumors that he assaulted you during a live fire scene. Whether or not he drugged you or hit you over the head or in some other way distracted you or harmed you is immaterial." the fire commissioner said. "Can either of you elaborate on those rumors?"

They both said nothing.

"You see if that were the case those are considered demotable and fireable offenses. We would be forced to posthumously strip Captain Herrera of his rank. His daughter would lose his death benefits. His legacy would be publicly and permanently tarnished. We have to do a police report which would also publicly humiliate his family. As you are undoubtedly aware, civilians are not allowed to interfere with the fire chief's management of a live scene. Worse if you are on leave from the department." The commissioner wasn't pulling any punches.

They both said nothing. Ripley's eyes lost their calm and were bordering on a dark side outburst. Technically he was the boss of all of these people.

"Investigating this further would be a total of PR catastrophe. Not only would we have to take action against him - if it came out that he was for some reason acting aberrantly due to the existence of your marriage - it would reflect extremely poorly on the Seattle Fire department." Fitzpatrick confronted them.

"We would prefer not to have to pursue this line of inquiry." Ripley's voice was clipped now. "I feel like we are about to be offered a horse trade."

"We can't punish a married couple for being married. We can make your lives uncomfortable. The fire chief is a job appointed by the mayor so you can be demoted." the commissioner told them.

Before he could go on, a woman cut him off. "I am Mara Hightower from the Mayor's office. Mayor Duncan is concerned about the optics of this situation. If wrongdoing is suspected, it would tarnish the image of the city, the department and one of our few female minority firefighters."

"Her relationship with her white male superior not withstanding." Fitzpatick put in.

"He's my husband." Vic stated clearly, becoming more calm as he became agitated. He was not used to being pushed around.

"What is it you want?" Ripley asked, dangerously placid.

Hanna Fitzpatrick spoke, "Between Seattle FD, PR, HR, and the Mayor's office, we want to control the presentation of this story. You two are gong to be selling the loveliest romance ever seen in Seattle. You two fell in love and had a courthouse ceremony to not interfere with the funerals. You will spend the next several months doing constant PR for the department as the city grows to adore your love story."

"The city will, in part, sponsor your wedding events and so forth as part of the PR. If the British royals taught us anything, people love a fairy tale." Hightower explained.

"What if we refuse?" Ripley crossed his arms over his chest, full 'chief face' impassive.

"Then we investigate Captain Herrera and publish all our findings." Fitzpatrick threatened. "I'd love a happy ending but if I have to find a villain in this, I will." She put her hands on the table. "Whatever we submit to NOSHA is going to be what they examine. Captain Herrera had a known lung problem and he worked as incident command in emeritus capacity which must have exposed him to the hydrofluoric acid. It would take them a couple months to officially confirm those findings, but since there's no paper trail, no images, and no witnesses, even years from now there will be no discussion of any cover-up."

"The Mayor's office doesn't want to have this reflected on her poorly because Seattle FD had multiple firefighters hospitalized and then two captains died. People don't like stories with disappointing endings. People don't want to donate money or expand the budget for leaders who are under-performing. You don't get rewarded for looking like you're doing a bad job. All it takes is some nice PR for people to forget a few failures." HIghtower agreed.

"I'm in the public eye alot but she didn't sign up for this." The betrayal on his face was clear - to be asked to lie and deliberately cover up Herrera's brave (arguably misguided) actions.

"I can do it. Andy needs this." Vic stopped him before he was tempted to un tether his emotions.

"Are you to able to agree to perform as requested by the Seattle Fire department and the mayor's office? Do you understand the consequences if you say no?" Fitzpatrick asked. "This is a one time offer."

Now Vic got the sense that Ripley had often clashed with the spokesperson in ways unrelated to today's incident. "How involved are you planning on being? You cannot ask us to compromise FD operations for some PR stunts."

"Mostly it's going to be normal events you would do with an engagement. You'll just have PR present with more firefighters than would typically be involved with this. Honestly speaking, she is going to be the first lady of the fire department so this would be within her job description. Past precedent had previous wives of chiefs' participate regularly in some of PR activities." Fitzpatrick was trying to soften it now; recognizing that Ripley was ready to dig in his heels.

"Did those wives has full-time jobs as Seattle firefighters?" Ripley's voice was carefully neutral and his battalion chiefs were looking extremely nervous.

"Stop." Vic stood up. "I would like a moment to consult with my husband. Please excuse us." She grabbed his arm and dragged him out the door-anything to stop the impending explosion. She'd been on the receiving end of calculated Ripley anger once in that same room and saw him unleashed once under the influence of ativan  . . . if his battalion chiefs faces were anything to go by, she'd gotten off lightly.

They made it to the catwalk before he started hissing, "They can't ask this of you, Vic."

"Yes, they can, and they did. I already have you. It's all I ever need. We can't let them do anything to Andy or demote the Captain; it's not fair."

"I can't have my subordinates order me around."

"Your battalion chiefs look pretty uncomfortable to be here. I think PR, the commissioner, and the Mayor are the only ones with a real agenda here." Vic tried regrounding him.

"You've never been engaged before, Vic. Wait until you see what they going to come up with. I'm not joking. They going to have us in the public eye the entire time. Bridezilla is a noun, an adjective, and a verb."

"If that's what it takes to make this good and to protect Andy and save the Captain's reputation, I'm going to do it. Station 19 is my family." Vic said firmly. She walked toward the conference room door but stopped. "They can't make us live apart or some other bullshit. Can they?"

"They definitely cannot tell a married couple to stop living together for PR purposes." He confirmed with a small smile forming.

"Good. In that case." she reached out and pulled him to her by the lapels. She planted her most passionate and theatrical kiss on Ripley right in front of that clear glass door with all the rest of the top brass gawking.

He chuckled when she let him breathe again. "Sealed with a kiss."

They open the door and came back in. Ripley started, "My wife and I are going to go to participate in this. But we need some ground rules. No one comes to our home. PR is not to interfere with either of our duties. We can allow the PR reps to have access to me at HQ and her at Station 19 within reason. We with review, approve, and negotiate any additional request to have as they come. You cannot put either of us in any morally compromising positions or any that violate Seattle Fire Department safety protocols."

"It all needs to be in writing with clear delineations of responsibilities, dates, and duties for all engagement and wedding events. Station 19 and the fire department is going to be acting as our family in this because I don't have family around here and Ripley doesn't have much." Vic added.

Fitzpatrick agreed. "That's exactly what we wanted. These feel good stories and camaraderie what do alot to kickstart goodwill to the department and help people recover from our recent losses."

"Fine, then we're all agreed then." Ripley agreed reluctantly.

"Next order of business, I have a report prepared by the battalion chiefs outlining the limits of your interactions with Station 19, including in live scenes, and your involvement in your wife's career. All discipline and promotion will be under Battalion Chief Frankel and the captain of 19. I assume he is aware of your relationship?" one of the lawyers indicated a pile of paperwork.

"Yes, we have informed Captain Sullivan."

"I want to review this draft of how we're going to communicate about Hughes's jobs in the future so she is completely protected regardless of how this marriage turns out." Ripley was making his protectiveness clear from the get go.

And the negotiation continued.

Andy stood in shook looking at the space Vic and Ripley had vacated on the catwalk. The brass was threatening to demote her dad. She tried to run toward the locker room and crashed into Sullivan's solid tall body.

"What is it?"

"The brass want to go after my dad. Vic and Ripley won't let them." She got up off the floor. "Sorry, I wanted to explain." Andy instinctively reached out to him.

"I-I wanted to say something." Sullivan's face was unreadable.

"Okay, great. It's fine. I can't stop what's going on up there." Andy rapidly cycled through different emotions before her eyes dilated and she settled on lust. The air hung heavy with unspoken forbidden and dark desire.

As Andy walked towards him, Sullivan shot his hand out to stop her, keeping her at an arms length. "This can't be. I can't do any of the things that I think about doing. I know. . . I know what we could do - we can't. We can't be anything."

"But Hughes and the chief - They did!" Andy disagreed vehemently. She came closer, and he deliberately put more space between them.

"They got married, Herrera. They decided they were more important than the job or the station. More important than the family here." His tone was full of regret.

Andy drew back and bowed her head. "I keep falling apart. Warren told me one bleeder at a time. Stop the bleeding. One bleeder at a time. I can't. Everything it's coming apart. This was the last thing I needed to learn." She indicated the conference room.

Sullivan carefully set his hand on her shoulder, still not getting too close. "Herrera, you can do this. Station 19 is a family. We are your family, all of us."

"What do I do now?"

"We just be a family."

A slightly crazed giggle escaped her. "Such a dysfunctional family. My sister Maya is sleeping with my brother Jack. My other sister Vic is married to her godfather, Ripley. Brother Travis mourns the death of his brother-husband, Michael. My brother Ben is going away to college to smoke some medical peyote. All we need now is find out that my other brother's Dean's girlfriend used to be dating my sister Maya and it will be complete."

Sullivan stepped away from her and gave her a look. "Have you been watching Game of Thrones?"

"Maybe." She gave him a watery smile. "I can do this. This is what my dad would have wanted. Our family."

 "Ben Warren, Station 19" Ben greeted the 3 person interview panel for Medic One. His name and test scores were listed on the white board behind them.

"Chief Langford," the middle man introduced himself. "Dr. Warren, thank you for coming to this interview for Medic One. We've noticed that your surgical career had a couple blemishes and extenuating circumstances. We're happy to see that this has been improving since you became a firefighter. We do have concerns that you ever put in resource-poor sessions you would make similar decisions in the future."

"Those were all extenuating circumstances."

"Medic One is all about extenuating circumstances. If we take you, do you believe that you can learn our protocols for the extenuating circumstances? We don't want to hear you amputating anybody's hand without getting permission from Medical Control."

"With all due respect, sirs, that would be crazy or insane."

"Or really sloppy writing," one of Medic One interviewers joked. "But seriously, did you do a kitchen C-section and open an abdominal aortic aneurysm on someone with a clipboard?"

"In my defense I did have permission of the chief of surgery on one of those. It wasn't my favorite experience either." Warren knew what he had to say. "All of that is in the past. I have learned alot as a firefighter, and I believe that my next logical step is to join Medic One."

"We follow very specific patient care guidelines here at Medic One. We are strict about those guidelines because members of Medic One are given hefty responsibility, making judgment calls with life-or-death stakes all the time. They face extenuating circumstances almost every call, so we need to make sure that our members aren't predisposed to being rash with this responsibility. We don't want and we don't need any cowboys." the other interviewer said.

Ben stated. "Three years ago after I panicked during a hospital lockdown, which contributed to two deaths.  I was punished appropriately, and I took my lumps. I learned my lesson, sir." He ducked his head. "In the fog, I had to black card a victim. I could have tried something, and I might have in the past. Instead I contacted my captain, and we mutually agreed on comfort care."

"That's the maturity I was hoping to hear. I think we can do business." Langford smiled. Ben smiled.

One week later the team was sitting at the Beanery with everyone together for pre lineup breakfast. Warren have been accepted into the Medic One program. Maya and Jack were still dating. Dean's new girlfriend Nikki have been overjoyed to meet Maya for the first time ever.  Ryan had relocated to San Diego making a clean break of everything. He sent a postcard addressed to the family at Station 19 rather than Andy. Sullivan and his lieutenant kept it professional by sitting three seats apart. A picture of Captain Herrerra was framed near the door to the Captain's office. The grief still hurt, but it was being tempered with time.

Vic stood at the head of the table and addressed the group "Hey guys. I have an announcement that I feel like is a long time coming."

"Is it that you're dating the chief?" Maya asked, finally getting to say it after holding it for weeks

"If you are, we are already know." Dean added. "How long has that been going on?"

Jack cut in, "It's not really our business. Whatever or whoever she's hypothetically doing. Until Dean gets involved when he makes you go to therapy for 4 months."

"Yeah I can see where we at a lot worse about hiding it towards the end." Vic acknowledged, "It did start to spin out of control. It's been about 8 months. Who found out when?"

Travis: "I found out during the appendicitis."
Sullivan: "I found out when he got your cold."
Andy: "I found out during his heart thing."
Warren:"Me too."
Maya: "I saw you guys outside before the funeral."
Dean: "Maya told us us immediately when we got home to the houseboat."
Jack: "It seemed pretty funny when we were drunk."

"Okay, something you all may not know is that we're married. We got married in the hospital during my appendicitis with the chaplain, his sister Jennifer, and Travis."

"Damn, Travis you knew first?" Jack said as Dean wolf-whistled. Only Maya looked shocked.

"After last shift, we with met with HR and they've agreed to not examine any of the events leading up to a wedding too closely if we make a couple sacrifices." It was a little white lie but the less people that knew why, the better.

"Sacrifices?" Sullivan was concerned. "Are you getting transferred?"

"No, it's worse. We have to have a giant firefighter crazy wedding. Like crazy big. Bachelor party, bachelorette party, engagement dinner, the giant wedding in uniforms - everything. They think it'll make for great press - our cute little love story and happily ever after. Couple of the year and all."

"The department is blackmailing into you having a fancy crazy wedding?" Andy summarized, disbelief written on her face.

"Yes. The PR department believes an excellent way to control the narrative of my completely inappropriate relationship."

"What about promotions and performance reviews?" Maya asked - finally getting the answer she's been wondering about.

"He's never allowed to be involved in any of my performance reviews or my promotions. We'll see what happens if I apply for lieutenant in a few years." She grinned. "In exchange, he also gets to wear a visitor badge while at the station if not on official business."

"Who cares about promotions, that sounds like punishment enough," Dean cracked.

Trav's hand shot up. "Does that mean you're pregnant too? I feel like that usually happens in this type of story."

"Not that I know of but since it will be months to this wedding - who knows? It's all an open book. I'm happy that you're my family, and you'll be here to share it with us."

"Congratulations." Sullivan held up a cup of coffee and toasted the Vic half of Vicley.

Ben raised his hand, "I've got to ask - what month is the wedding?"

"Probably February."

"Andy wins." Jack proclaimed, and everyone handed Andy her winnings from their bet on the wedding month pool.

Travis had a gleam in his eye. "You know what this calls for? Group hug!" Before she could protest, her team had clambered toward her and engulfed her in a firefighter pile on with Travis as the center as her best friend.

They had a whole shift without any calls. Vic had a good night sleep and there was only one more thing to do before she went home.

 Vic went to the diner and sat in their booth alone. Cam came by to take her order.

"Haven't seen you here lately. What's your hubby up to?"

"He's at work." Her phone beeped and there was a text photo on it - Lucas lifting weights at physical therapy."Hey, uh, Cam?"

"Need something else?"

"You know, the guy I'm always here with. That wasn't quite true when you asked where he was."


"He wasn't at work. He wasn't at work because he almost died, and he's at cardiac rehab this morning."

"That sucks."

"Yeah, it super does. But he's getting better. And I need to tell you that he's my husband. Now. Not four months ago. But now. Except that its kind of a secret now."

He sat down next to her. "That sounds confusing, but you two are still relationship goals."

At 5:30 pm, the front door of the Ripley house opened, and Fire Chief Ripley opened the door, hanging up his uniform blazer on the hook. Fire Wife Ripley embraced him wearing his (nice smelling) T-shirt and white and red boxers. She hesitated a moment, but he didn't. He pulled her close for a very long overdue scorching kiss.

"How was your day, Eggy?"

"Came clean to my team today about the marriage. And also Cam."

"He was on my list of people to tell too." He gave her another kiss.

"After the battalion chiefs, the ACOs, the Deputy chiefs, the mayor's office, the law firm, and the angry fire commissioner?" This was the Lucas she's been missing. "So the secret is out, I guess, except to the entire city of Seattle.

He gave her that throaty chuckle she hadn't heard since his surgery. Clearly he was feeling better. "I can hold your hand in public now."

"Ready to hold more than my hand now?" Vic pressed her body against his and was more than thrilled to feel him meet her inch for inch.

"One thing first. Something arrived yesterday."

"Was it the sex swing?"

He held new chains for their rings. "These are real."

"No more green. I knew there was a reason I picked you, out of all the ineligible fire chiefs in the city. Get your shirt off."

"Okay," he grabbed the bottom of her t-shirt and tossed it over her head. She bit her lip while he openly admired her lack of bra.

"It's not all that's yours." She helped him take off his too. Her hand gently traced over the scar. Lucas took her fingertips and sucked them into his mouth suggestively.

"Bedroom or floor?" he asked.

"Bedroom obviously," Vic led the way past the living room and kitchen, whipping off the boxers. He followed willingly, shedding the rest of his clothes in the hallway.

They rolled onto the bed, tongues and naked skin entwined. Lucas climbed on top of her and pinned her hips down with his knees on other side. "Ring?" she passed him the ring and ran her hands over his hardening cock. He growled and managed to transfer her ring from one chain to the other. He dangled the ring over her abdomen and slid it over each of her nipples before looping it over her untamed curls.

"My turn," she nudged him over and he laid down. "Ring?" As he handed her his chain, she straddled him and mounted him without warning. His eyes bulged when she slowly sank down. She quickly restrung the ring and ground herself downward to put the chain over his head. "It's been a month." She raised up and rode him slowly with a wide grin.

"Vic," he strained.

"Shh, just enjoy it. You've only been feeling it for a few days. I've been starving for weeks. You don't even have to move." Her words were teasing but the breathlessness between them was not. Lucas didn't believe he'd ever seen anything more beautiful and perfect than Vic using him like this. Every swipe of her hot channel on his cock almost stole his breath too. He let her set the rhythm, enjoying the way she was pleasuring herself.

As her panting got faster, he slipped one hand between her thighs and began to feather her clit. Her rhythm and breathing became irregular and she tensed, "Lucas!" Sweet spasms engulfed his shaft and he came for the first time in a month with a shout.

Vic carefully lowered herself onto his chest and opened her mouth for another kiss. He sat up at little to meet her lips and tried to inhale her taste, her vitality. He twirled those unruly curls around his fingers and they held each other, synchronizing their breathing.

After a few minutes, she lifted her head and shifted her hips around him still inside her. "I needed that. Good first effort." He lifted an eyebrow. "I'm going to have to do that again soon. Rebuild your stamina and all." she tightened her inner muscles and he began to stir inside her.


"Now is good. Are you sure she only switched you to ACE inhibitors?"

"Did you make a Viagra joke right now?" He sat up and pushed her backward so he was back on top, ready to go again.

"Maybe. Got something to prove, chief?" she lifted her hips to meet his downward thrust.

Further conversation was impossible because his mouth was on hers and soon they were both incapable of speech again between groans and satisfied laughter.

A few hours later, Vic put his T-shirt back on and fell asleep in Lucas's arms knowing that the future could only hold good things.