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Too Hot to Handle

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Kelley can’t let it go. Every time she feels pain or goes to roll over in bed and her cast gets in the way, every time she wants to do something with her left arm (which is a lot of the time), every time, she can’t help thinking of the stupidly cute firefighter.

 

And she should be able to let it go, she’s got recovery and rehab to focus on. But it’s turning out to really not be that simple.

 

And really the firefighter, the cute one that Kelley had enjoyed looking at for the duration of their time together, it’s completely inappropriate to be still thinking about her. To be still thinking about how she didn't get her number, or give out her own. To be still thinking about the way she'd been looked after so well in her time of need, and been smiled at, and been made to feel safe.

 

She was in a car accident, she knows this. Rationally she knows that an elderly man had crashed into her because he'd had a seizure at the wheel; she'd been to see him in hospital, bought him flowers and a card, forgiven him when he'd profusely apologised, been glad to see he was on his way to recovery. And she knows she was really lucky to have a pleasant encounter with a firefighter who was really good at her job, despite the perhaps unlucky circumstances. Rationally she knows that anyone else would just be grateful and let it go.

 

But Kelley can't, because Kelley is Kelley.

 

It’s been two weeks. The paramedic had been right about the surgery, so she’d spent the first four days in hospital having various pins put in her arm under general anaesthesia. But she’s been home for ten days now and she’s bored and she’s stewing. Last night she dreamed about it.

 

Not about the crash, no, about Emily. She dreamed about a masked firefighter saving her, carrying her out of a smouldering building, removing her mask and giving her the kiss of life. And of course it had been Emily, who then dream-Kelley proceeded to actually kiss, because apparently dream-Kelley has more balls than real-Kelley.

 

It’s weird. Kelley knows it’s weird.

 

She had to do something about it, so this morning, after several wordy google searches involving variations of things like: female firefighter, and Emily, and Washington DC, she’d finally been successful and found the station the blonde woman worked at. Apparently she’d been involved in putting out a huge tower-block fire six months back. She had been part of the crew, from Station 4 Kelley had been pleased to find out, who had risked it all to save a little boy and his pet cat. They had been awarded some kind of accolade by the mayor for their efforts. The soccer stars heart had swooped as she read the article, despite the fulfilment of the cheesy trope.

 

What Kelley had been distinctly disappointed to not find during her time on google was a Calendar. There was a distinct lack of any semi-nude charity calendars popping up. Which, really, the feminist part of Kelley should be pleased about. Because she is staunchly against objectifying people for monetary gain. Against objectifying people, period. But the thought of Emily posing ridiculously in one of those things, it had kind of kept Kelley sane whilst she was trapped in that car, made her giggle girlishly in her head at the images conjured up in her minds-eye. So, maybe she'd secretly added that word to the search bar as well, in the hopes of seeing something, accidentally. And it was different when she was hoping it was for charity – right? Not that she'd ever voice those hopes to Emily, even if she struck lucky and saw her again.

 

Which she might, because now she was heading down there, to station 4, with tickets to this weekends match in her pocket, and a smile on her face, with the hopes of seeing the woman. It was just a kind gesture, one to say thanks for saving her life, for keeping her calm in one of the scariest moments she’d ever experienced. And maybe, just maybe, if she was feeling courageous, she’d ask for the woman’s number. Her email address or her Instagram. Something. Some way she could contact her instead of dialling 911.

 

***

 

When Kelley walks in, the last thing she's expecting is to met by the smell of disinfectant. It's not until she skids a little and hears the squeak of her sneakers as she recovers that she notices the yellow wet-floor sign and hears the distant whistling.

 

She takes in her surroundings. It’s a room that does a good job of disguising itself as modern until you look closer. There’s a lot of red, of course, it’s a fire station. Dark grey painted walls, that match the tiled floors, with safety and informative posters hung; one details the fire triangle and the graphic on it reminds Kelley of Chemistry class. To the right of the door is the reception desk, it’s big and blocks off the corner of the room, with several computers and office chairs behind it. A guest book sits, thick and dog-eared, Kelley doesn’t think she needs to sign-in.

 

The desk is unmanned, and she has to take a steadying inhale before pressing the doorbell affixed to the surface. 

 

Personally, she doesn't hear a bell or ring but there's a radio dock behind the desk with a few walkie talkies on it, one that crackles allowing a faint voice  to call out, "Christen to Tobin," The whistling stops and there's a reply that Kelley can hear, both through the radio and vaguely from down the hall. "Yeah, go ahead,"

"The doorbell just rang - you not there?" 

"Copy that. I was just mopping the corridor since you're all too lazy."

"I highly resent that comment."

 

The woman, Tobin, doesn't reply to whomever is on the other end of the radio and instead rounds the corner, clipping the radio to her belt; wearing a variation of the same uniform Emily had been the other day and a beaming smile. "Hi there, how are you?" Kelley can't help but smile back at the woman as she walks around the long counter that, although chipped in a few places still stands sturdy, and takes a seat behind the desk.

 

"Hi, sorry I didn't mean to interrupt your mopping."

"Oh shoot, I forgot to turn that off, huh?" Kelley observes the womans relaxed demeanour as she leans back in her seat and turns the dial of the radio in the dock. "I switched mine out earlier so it could charge, sorry about that. How can I help you today?"

 

Kelley wipes the hand she can on her jeans and hopes Tobin doesn't notice her blush as she speaks. "I'm actually looking for a colleague of yours. Um, Emily? I wanted to thank her, she kind of helped me out when I got into a bit of an accident a couple'a weeks ago." Tobin quirks an eyebrow and smirks like this happens all the time, or maybe like she was expecting this. "Sonnett?" Kelley doesn't know what that means so shrugs her shoulders as best she can and begins to say, "I don't kn-"

"Sorry, that's her name. Emily Sonnett. She mostly goes by Sonnett."

"Right. Yeah I mean, I guess. Unless I've got the complete wrong fire station." Tobin is fully leant back in her seat now, arms crossed, smirking slightly at Kelleys discomfort. The worn desk chair creaks underneath the woman with the chestnut hair and Kelley can't help but feel slightly scrutinised as the amused eyes scan her face.

 

"I don’t think so. I mean, sorry if this is weird, but I know who you are and she mentioned that she had been on a job with you. Her shift actually finished a couple of hours ago, she's probably at home sleeping- sorry." This woman, Tobin, does at least look genuinely sorry, as she leans forward again and rests her forearms down, picking up a stress ball, shaped like a fire extinguisher of all things, and fiddling. "Oh man, bummer- That she's not here, not that you know who I am." Kelley grimaces at her own awkwardness and shifts from foot to foot. She hadn't planned for Emily not being here, which –really- she should have, it was kind of the most likely option.

"Our friend Lindsey- her roommate- freaked out when she told her she'd met you. We come to your home games sometimes." Kelley can't help but smile at that, she can at least engage in a conversation about football. She knows how to talk football. 

 

"Sweet, you're a fan too?"

"Sure, I mean I'm from New Jersey so I guess I should support Sky Blue, or Gotham now, but I just love watching. We have a little pick-up league, sometimes at the weekend we'll play 5-a-side against another station if we can get together a team, y'know." A small smile tweaks at Kelley's lips at the mention of her old team. "Oh man, that's awesome." What, quite, is suddenly making her say the phrase 'oh man,' so much, she isn't sure, but it's happened now so she goes with it. "Well I bought a couple of tickets with me for the match this weekend, for Emily- um, for Sonnett - and her roommate but I can always grab more if there's anyone else here interested?"

"Seriously?" Kelley nods, she's always down for getting people out to games.

"Yeah for sure, it wasn't just her who helped me out that day. I mean you might've been there for all I know?" Tobin shakes her head.

"I wasn't. But I can find out who was and extend the offer if you want?" Kelley nods again at this, she figures the more the merrier and she's not lying when she says she'd like to extend her gratitude to the rest of the crew that helped her out that day. Her mind flickers briefly to Oliver, the guy who had run into her, wondering if he'd be down for watching a game when he gets out of hospital. Kelley is planning on going to see him again so she'll have to ask; she feels bad for him.

 

"You got a pen?" Tobin spins in her chair and fishes a pen out of the pot on her right, turning back to Kelley, doing the obligatory scribble on the scrap piece of paper to check it works okay and handing it over. She pulls the envelope with the tickets out of her back pocket and writes out her number in equally spaced digits on the front.

 

 It's brave. This Tobin woman could be a psycho fan for all Kelley knows but sometimes you have to trust your gut and at the moment her gut is saying, only slightly ironically, good vibes only. Kelley pushes the tickets forward on the counter, the door swinging open behind her; she ignores it in favour of speaking quickly so she can leave. She's not really got a reason to stay now she knows Emily isn't here. "That's my number, I'd appreciate it if it wasn't passed around, but let me know how many tickets you guys want and I'll sort it out. There's already two tickets in there - will you pass them onto her for me?" Tobin stands, putting down the mini fire-extinguisher and goes to take the tickets before retracting her hand.

 

"Why don't you give them to her yourself?" She nods behind Kelley to the entrance, where she finds Emily standing, occupied with slowly removing her earphones, clearly distracted by something on the screen in her hands. She's dressed in shorts, that reveal legs, and a blue hoodie. A hoodie that Kelley wants to steal because (a) it looks super soft, and (b) she kinda wants to be a person in Emily's life that steals her clothes, even though she's fully aware of how weird that is at this stage of knowing the woman.

 

Kelley thinks of Emily as October. Sat surrounded by pumpkins and fall leaves; autumnal colours and a beaming smile. She’s not shirtless in this mental picture, she’s wrapped up and cozy in a big ugly sweater. And really this - this crush, or whatever it is, is getting out of hand.

 

She's taller than Kelley expected now that she's actually stood next to her, and she doesn't know why because Emily isn't tall per se. Maybe Kelley just has protagonist syndrome enough to believe that every new person she meets that isn't tall-tall will be her height or shorter, which is weird cause Kelley is aware she's very average in stature. She likes it though, Emily's height; likes that she has to look up to her a little, even though it reminds her of the slight ache in her neck she still has.

 

There's a very cute panting dog stood next to the blonde firefighter, leash slack, waiting patiently as its owner stares down at her phone. For some reason, it makes complete sense that Emily is a dog person.

 

"Son! You all good?" Emily doesn't look up from her phone as she speaks.

"Hey Tobs, did I leave my cap behind there? I can't find it at home and I wanted it for later."

 

Tobin wanders over to the coat rack behind the desk. "Did you sleep when you got home?" Emily hums in response, clearly not paying attention. Kelley just watches the interaction, amused. "Son?"

"hmm?"

"Sonny? Sleep?" Tobin looks at Kelley and shakes her head in fond amusement, communicating something along the lines of this girl, right? Like Kelley should know, like Kelley knows Emily.

Having found the cap, now directly stood the opposite side of the desk with one hand casually resting on her hip Tobin still doesn't get a reply and Kelley feels awkward stood in between the two women, she glances down at the now-dry tiled floor, unsure of whether she's meant to say something at this point?

 

 "Sonnett!" Tobin throws the cap at the blonde woman, tired of being ignored, and bursts out in laughter when it hits Emily in the face and falls. The previously well-behaved dog, jumps and catches the item, pinning it to the floor with its paws and starts to chew. "Bagel, no! Tobin, why would you do that?! Bagel, drop it!" Sonnett crouches next to the dog and wrestles it from the hounds mouth, admonishing it affectionately the entire time.

 

Sonnett huffs and she stands, holding a drool stained cap between her fingers. "Why, Tobs?" As she looks up and notices Kelley, her entire body language shifts. "Kelley! I- What are you- Hi!" Kelley can't help the laugh that escapes her mouth as she watches a wide-eyed, clearly sleep-deprived, Emily scrub a hand over her face as though she's not quite sure if she's seeing things. "Hi, -cute dog!"

"Thanks. I- um, how are you? How's your arm? And your neck?"

"Oh yeah, it's all good thanks. Can I say hi to the puppy?" Kelley crouches as Emily nods, stroking the dogs ears with the hand not currently trapped in a sling. "Did you have to have surgery in the end?" Kelley feels awkward having a conversation while not looking at the woman so she stands again. There's a lot of awkward going on.

 

 "Yeah, they pinned my radius and I had a hairline fracture further up on my ulnar. My shoulder popped back in okay once I was under but they had to repair some of the tissue which sucks in terms of rehab but I should be okay to get back in time for the start of next season. Maybe a few internationals before that, if I'm lucky."

"Good, that's um- good." Emily reaches up and places the cap on her head, the peak stained slightly darker where it got wet.

 

"Oh, um-" Kelley spins and grabs the envelope from the counter appreciating the encouraging smile Tobin shoots her way. "These are for you, to say thanks, for everything. Hopefully you're not working this weekend?" Emily shakes her head as she takes the envelope, unsure what to say. "I just thought- you said your roommate liked-" Kelley chuffs out a laugh at herself and her awkwardness. "Well anyway, I'll be there – so find me or whatever; I'll be the one screaming at the team from the side-lines wearing the sling."

 

Emily laughs at the joke and Kelley thinks Tobin does too but she has to get out of here before she can make a fool of herself somehow, as if she hasn't already. So she turns, says a quick bye to Tobin says how nice it was to meet her (which isn’t a lie), walks up to Emily and kisses her on the cheek whilst she still has the courage and leaves without even realising she'd just given the hot firefighter she's been dreaming about her number.

 

***

 

There had been a gas leak at an apartment block last night. They'd been called out in the evening and by the time they'd evacuated everyone, secured and ventilated the building and told everyone they could get back inside and into bed, it had been the early hours of the morning. And then, when they got back to the station Emily had been on kitchen duty, so she'd had to cook everyone something vaguely nutritious and filling enough to get them through the night in case they got called out again. She's crawled into bed around three and the fire bell rang at around four signalling a warehouse fire on an abandoned industrial estate. It was fine, easy to put out; some kids had been messing around, camping out in an old factory to try and creep themselves out, lit a fire to stay warm, fallen asleep and it had got out of control. They'd woke to ten foot high flames and bolted, called 911 and hadn't stuck around to see what would happen, so no casualties. But it was an old, un-sturdy structure, so they'd been there hours securing the site. Making sure that if anyone else was to get in there, they weren't going to get crushed by a falling bit of rebar.

 

Emily is too tired right now to even be able to process what just happened. She's aware she's slack-jaw and Tobin is laughing- no guffawing – at her, but it feels like her eyes are on stalks.

 

Emily hates night shifts. She hates them because even though they're rarely busy like last night, she never sleeps well at the station and she can't sleep in the day. She just can't. She's not programmed that way.

 

So she feels like crap and she can't really register what just happened.

 

Except she thinks Kelley O'hara, the soccer player who she met a few weeks ago on a job, just kissed her on the cheek. She thinks Kelley, the soccer player who Lindsey always mocks her for having a bit of a crush on, just gave her tickets to a game at the weekend. And when she looks down at the envelope, she thinks Kelley, the hot woman who she helped when she wrecked her car a few weeks ago, might have just given Emily her number.

 

"I-I, um. What just happened?" Her question sets Tobin off all over again, loud cackles that on any other day would be so infectious that Emily would have to join in. She goes to scratch at her furrowed brow, with her right hand, bringing it up to her face, forgetting she's holding on to Bagels leash and being stopped when the fabric goes taught. "Oh, sorry girl." She switches, looping the handle over her other wrist and looks down at the confused dog as she tackles the itch.

 

The pooch tilts her head, glancing between Tobin and her owner and looking a bit how Emily feels. She follows obediently as Emily slopes behind the desk, slumping into one of the chairs; the one not previously occupied by Tobin. Bagel seems to accept her walk is going to be somewhat postponed when her leash is dropped to the ground and her owner grabs a bottle of water from the fridge under the counter, taking up her usual position and curling up under the desk.

 

Emily closes her eyes and just rests her head on her arms against the wooden surface, hat raising slightly as it knocks against the desk top. She groans. "I'm so tired right now I can't even process what just happened." She hears Tobin wheel over to her from her own desk chair and place a comforting hand on her back.

 

"You need sleep, dude. Have you been to bed at all today?" Emily turns her face to look at Tobin, as the older woman shifts away and starts to log-on to the computer in front of her, not lifting her head off her arms. "I fell asleep on the couch for a bit when I got in, but then I woke up when Lindsey left for work. I'll maybe try to go to bed after I've walked Bagel."

"Yeah, you need too. Last night sounded intense." Emily just grunts in agreement, lifting her head and taking a swig of water.

 

She glances down at the envelope she'd placed on the desk when she sat, reaching for it and looking inside. When she pulls out the tickets Tobin starts laughing again and Emily looks at her, a bit baffled. "So that really happened then, Kelley O'hara was just in here?" Tobin just smiles at her computer screen, scrolling through emails, which is no help really. None at all.

 

"How long was she here for? You spoke to her?"

"Yeah she's super nice like you said." Emily is aware she's tired but Tobin is making this very difficult.

 

"Yeah, I know. What did she want?" Tobin snorts, still not looking at the blonde woman.

"You! She wanted to give you those."

"Tobin, c'mon!"

"What?! She came in looking for you, said she wanted to give you tickets for the game this weekend to say thanks for being her hero or something."

"She said that?" Tobin barks out a laugh and spins to face Emily.

 

"Not in so many words, Sonnett, but I feel like it's pretty obvious. Look, she's written her number down, she gave you a cute little smooch on the cheek – give her a text!" Emily doesn't know how to react so she just blinks at her friend and colleague. Tobin sighs, both at Sonnett's expression and at the radio crackling on her hip.

 

"Christen to Tobin-"

"Yeah, go ahead Chris,"

"Are you done mopping or is this bucket just gonna remain out as a trip hazard for the rest of the day?"

 

Tobin shoots Emily a look that makes the blonde laugh.

 

"I will come finish that in a minute Chris, Sonnett's just visiting at the moment."

"Why isn't she in bed? I'm coming to see her- tell her to stay there."

"Yeah roger that. She can hear you, you know."

"Vlatko to Tobin – tell Sonnett to go home and get to bed. Now."

Emily wrestles the radio from Tobin's grip, a small tug of war going on between the two. "On it Chief, I was just leaving. Over and Out." She puts the radio down, glaring at her friend, unsure why the brunette had to announce her presence to the whole station.

 

"Sonny! Why are you here?" Christen always makes Emily smile, even when she's feeling like crap, even when she's so tired she feels like she could cry, but right now all she wants is to find out what Kelley said and walk her dog. Christen joins them behind the desk and immediately starts making a fuss of Bagel, who of course immediately rolls on her back and demands belly strokes. "Seriously Em, why aren't you asleep right now."

"I just came in to get my hat and-"

"And Kelley O'Hara was here with the flirty-flirty eyes." Emily doesn't think twice before thumping Tobin on the arm. "If you would just tell me what happened, I could go walk Bagel and go home." Christen stands up and folds her arms looking down at Tobin. "What are you doing? What do you mean flirting? Who's Kelley?"

"Sonnett's soon-to-be girlfriend."

"I hate you, I hope you know that." Emily stands, grabbing Bagels leash as the dog stands and does a full body shake.

 

"Tobin, be nice. Tell her what happened." Tobin is incredulous as she answers.

"Wha- Babe, I've told her!” One look from Christen has Tobin sighing and talking. “Look Em, she came here looking for you like I said. She wanted to give you the tickets for the match this weekend to say thanks. She was all disappointed when you weren't here is all I'm saying. She wrote down her number so I could text her and let her know how many other people might be interested in going this weekend ‘cause I mentioned station-soccer-Sunday’s, so she thought more of us might wanna check it out.  But you should text her. She didn't come here looking for me. And she was checking you out, dude – she came looking for you. You've got her number – use it!"

 

Christen has taken residence in Emily’s abandoned seat, she brings a leg up and rests her chin on her knee as she talks. “Sounds like Tobin might have a point, Em.”

 

Emily just swallows and looks between her two friends.

 

“What would I even say to her? She didn't intentionally give me her number, isn't it creepy if I text her?”

“What do you mean, dude? She’s given you the perfect opening. Thank her for the tickets, apologise for being a little out of it today, 'cause you are – severely, and make sure you say how much you’re looking forward to seeing her again.”

“Yeah, yeah I guess.” Tobin spins back towards the computer and starts scanning emails again.

 

“What are you so nervous about, Son?” Emily takes another swig of water before answering. “I dunno. It’s just been a while since I’ve spoken to anyone I guess- and she’s Kelley freakin’ O’hara - how even did that happen?”

“She’s a soccer player, right? That’s what I’m gathering from this conversation.” Emily nods at Christen. “Look, I think you need to just think of her as someone you liked when you met her in real-life rather than this mystical celebrity figure. You didn’t know her before, you only knew of her. Get to know her, maybe you could really like her.” Emily smiles a bit, nodding.

“Yeah I guess...She was really checking me out Tobs?”

 

***