Disclaimer: Not mine I'm just playing. I'll put'em back when I'm done.

Rating: PG

Synopsis: The boys have moved to our time and are now firemen.

Somewhere, something started to chime as if its life depended on it. And it most certainly did not fit into the world of glamour he was submerged in at the moment. Groaning, he rolled over on his back and pulled his pillow over his face, trying to shut out the annoying sound with a vengeance until someone kicked his mattress hard enough to rattle him.

"Rise and shine, Ezra. Someone's torched another building in town," Buck told him with a grin as he pulled the pillow away from Ezra's face.

Ezra grabbed it back and pressed it firmly back over his face until it was ripped rather harshly out of his hands and tossed away.

"Get up," Chris snapped. "We don't have time for your antics. Move it. We got a fire on 5th."

With a disgruntled grunt and another woeful groan about his chosen career, Ezra managed to pry himself away from his bed and the dream he had been enjoying so much. "Why those pyromaniacs can't torch buildings at a decent hour is just beyond my comprehension," he told himself.

"It ain't easy, settin' a place on fire when it's crawlin' with people," Vin reminded him, already dressed and ready to go. "Come on, Ez. Hurry up. Chris'll throw a fit if you ain't down in a sec," he added, grabbed the pole and slid down it with cunning ease.

"He might," Ezra agreed and slipped into his rather unbecoming attire. "And I'll throw a fit if I don't get a decent night's sleep soon," he added with a grumble, grabbed the pole and followed his comrades to the ground level where the truck was ready to go.

"Seconds, Ezra. We're talking about seconds here," Chris snapped, tapping the face of his wrist watch impatiently.

"I'm here, aren't I?" the disgruntled Southerner complained and climbed into the cab of the truck.

"Yeah, late as always," Chris growled and stepped up on the running board. "Let's go, Josiah," he yelled and the truck set in motion, pulling out of the fire station with sirens blaring.


Warehouse 17
5th Avenue

The flames rose from the already collapsed roof of the warehouse when the fire truck arrived, sending cascades of acidic smoke toward the sky. The blazing inferno inside made it impossible to save the building. All the fire brigade could do was prevent the fire from spreading by keeping it from catching onto the roofs of the flanking buildings.

"A warehouse? I left my warm, comfy bed for a burning warehouse?" Ezra moaned, trying to figure out what he was supposed to do. Buck and Josiah were holding onto the big hose, their combined weight keeping it from dancing all over the place, while Vin and J.D. were taking care of the windows.

"If you don't shut up, I'm sending you in there," Chris growled from behind him.

Ezra ducked his head, having been unaware of his leader's presence right behind him. He gave the blonde man a sideways glance when Chris pulled the second hose past him, fighting the stubborn snake of fabric.

"Instead of standing there like a headless chicken, Ezra, maybe you could help me?" Chris asked, a sinister tone to his voice.

"Oh, of course," the Southerner agreed and hurried over to help Chris hold the hose once the water started sputtering out of it.

With two hoses spraying water onto the roof of the building, which fortunately was only two stories high, the fire slowly lost its grip.

Nathan stood on the truck, watching and waiting. He had yet to see one fire where none of his six friends and co-workers got hurt. Usually it was Vin or Chris, but Josiah, Buck and J.D. also had seen their share of blisters and broken bones. The only one who usually got away from this type of incident with minor to no injuries was Ezra. Nathan couldn't help grinning. The Southerner was so concerned about his looks that he would rather faint dead on the spot than enter a burning house. Nathan figured it was only a matter of time before Chris bodily threw him into one in a fit of sheer rage.

Vin stood near the entrance of the building, staring up at the dying flames. It took too long to put them out, he figured. There was only one way to see what kept the flames alive and that was either going in or going up on the ladder. Turning his head, he looked back at the truck. "NATHAN, PUT THE LADDER UP TO THE SECOND FLOOR WINDOWS. THERE'S SOMETHIN' UP THERE KEEPIN' THEM FLAMES ALIVE," he yelled.

Nathan nodded and turned his attention to the controls for the ladder. It extended toward the building and even before it was halfway there, Vin was already climbing it, an axe in one hand. "BE CAREFUL, VIN, YA HEAR?" Nathan yelled after him, trying to drown out the roar of the water and the flames both.

Vin raised the axe in response, showing him he had heard it, but continued to climb while the ladder still rose toward the second floor window he was aiming at. Nathan always worried when Vin took matters into his own hands. Despite his cunning and knowledge of fire, the younger man seemed disaster prone.


The tone of Chris' voice told Nathan that their enigmatic leader was furious. He glanced over at him where he and Ezra were holding onto the second hose, trying to maintain an aim at the right half of the roof, and despite the fact that is was dark, he saw the anger in the other man's eyes. "It's okay. I'll keep an eye on 'im," he called back, hoping somehow to ease Chris's concerns.

"WHAT THE HELL IS HE DOING UP THERE?" Chris yelled. He felt inclined to leave the hose to Ezra and go after Vin, but he knew the shorter man wouldn't be able to hold it on his own. "Goddamn it," he snapped. "NATHAN, GET HIM DOWN FROM THERE. RIGHT NOW!"

The ladder had reached its destination and Nathan saw Vin raise the axe to break the window. "VIN. DON'T," he yelled, suddenly realizing what Chris was so worried about.

Despite the overwhelming noise of both the fire and the water, the shattering of the glass was clearly heard. Shards hit the ground below, shattering into more pieces, while Vin held onto the sides of the ladder for dear life when the fire trapped and dying inside the second floor of the building inhaled deeply, nearly sucking him in with it. Before anybody could respond in any manner or fashion, the backdraft created by the now open window basically belched an inferno of flames out toward the wayward fireman. Vin had sense enough to let go of the ladder and let the hot rush of air preceding the flames knock him back down the ladder with bone-crushing intensity.

Chris swung the hose around and aimed it at the ball of fire shooting out of the window, dragging Ezra with him as he did so. By some miracle, he managed to hit it dead center and basically knock it back into the building. "HOLD IT STEADY," he yelled at Ezra, who nodded, concerned about their fallen comrade, but also fully aware of what could happen if they didn't get this fire under control.

Nathan pushed the button that would haul the ladder back in and watched with feverish concern as it slowly descended, pulling Vin down with it. He had hit the ladder halfway down and hadn't moved since.

"NATHAN?" Chris yelled, wanting to know what was going on. He chanced a glance back at their medic, who raised a hand in a deprecating gesture, never taking his eyes off the obviously unconscious man on the ladder.

When the ladder had collapsed almost fully, he started up it, flooded with anxious feelings. The metal was hot to the touch and getting hotter the higher he got. "Vin," he called, hoping to stir the younger man back to life. "Vin, can ya hear me, boy?"

Once he reached him, he grabbed his arms, hauled him up and dragged him down the ladder, manoeuvring carefully. Vin's jacket was sizzling hot and the first thing he did when he reached the platform on the truck was to pull it off him before he allowed himself to take a closer look at the heavily sooted face. "Vin?" he tried and gently patted his cheek. "Come on, Vin. Wake up, ya hear?"

Vin stirred then and his eyes snapped open. "Nate?" he rasped, his voice barely audible.

"Easy now, Vin," Nathan tried to soothe him. "Ya took one hell of a blow up there. What were ya thinkin'?"

"Save it," Vin advised him and carefully sat up, flinching at the sensation of one or two broken ribs. "I'll hear more 'n' enough from Chris about this."

"Damn straight ya will," Nathan agreed. "Now, hold still. I gotta examine ya," he added and started prodding Vin's chest.

"OUCH," Vin yelped when he hit the broken ribs. "Damn, Nate, that hurt."

Nathan looked over at Chris and gave him a nod. The younger man would live. Chris' expression became rather grim and he returned his attention to the still burning building. "LET'S PUT THIS OUT, PEOPLE," he yelled, dedicating his concentration fully to the work at hand.


It took one hour more to put out the flames completely, but somehow, they had prevented it from spreading and the fire hadn't managed to leap across to the other buildings. Chris was satisfied that they had slain another fire-breathing dragon, but he was furious at Vin for taking chances nobody else would touch with a ten-foot pole.

They sat on the truck, waiting for Vin and Nathan to return from the emergency room, and Chris was pacing. His expression was stern, tighter than usual, and none of the others felt like saying anything to him.

Buck made a face and gingerly rubbed his sore palms. Holding onto those damned hoses wasn't as easy as it might look and it always left him with an annoying soreness.

"Get those hands looked at," Chris told him, his attention suddenly turned toward his oldest friend.

"Ah, it's nothing, Chris. I just always feel like the skin gets rubbed right off my hands when I hold onto that damned hose," he replied and grinned, holding up his reddened palms for Chris to see. "See? No harm done."

Chris sighed and folded his arms over his chest. The thing that set him apart as their leader was that his clothing was black compared to their red suits. His jacket hung open and his tightly fitting black t-shirt clung to his well-muscled chest with the residue moisture from the water. "Might just be a good idea to let someone take a look at it, though," he repeated, giving Buck a glare.

Buck's grin widened a notch. "Aw, ain't that cute. He's worried about me," he said and leaned back.

"Shut up, Buck, alright? I'm not in the mood," Chris warned him. "Vin nearly got killed tonight. This is no time for damned jokes."

Josiah, who stood leaning against the side of the truck, gave him a thoughtful look. "I think I know what Vin was up to, Chris. Remember, he's the one who's really into fire. He knows everything about it," he tried, but decided to shut up when Chris gave him a dark look.

"If he's so into it, how come he didn't know that he was creating a backdraft up there? Any half decent fireman knows that, Josiah. Even Ezra wouldn't have done that," Chris snarled, angry once again.

Ezra was about to object, but then thought better off it and kept his mouth shut. He was already in hot water with Chris because of his tardiness and he didn't feel he needed to remind his fearless leader of his previous misdeeds by opening his mouth unduly.

J.D. just sat next to Buck, looking tired and a little concerned.


The doctor, Jason Wilks, examined the x-rays closely, then glanced over at Vin sitting on the examination table, wearing nothing but his pants and boots. A purple bruise was staring to spread on his chest and he looked very uncomfortable and pretty dirty too.

"Mr. Tanner, how many times do I have to tell you to take better care of yourself? I have lost count of how many times you've been here in the past year," Wilks said.

Vin ducked his head and flinched when it hurt his chest. "There ain't nothin' I can do 'bout it," he claimed. "I got a dangerous job is all."

"Yes, you do. But that doesn't mean you need to rush into dangerous situations all the time. Besides, you have six other colleagues who have the same job, and none of them get hurt as much as you do. Maybe with the exception of Mr. Larabee," Wilks claimed, his expression tight.

Vin pursed his lips in defiance. "I ain't doin' it on purpose," he grumbled.

"Maybe that's what's wrong," Wilks suggested. "Try thinking first before you rush into these situations."

"Am I done here?" Vin wanted to know and eased off the examination table.

"Not quite. You don't expect me to let you leave with two broken ribs without patching you up first? And we need to remove all that muck from your face so I can see if you have any burns that need tending to. Looks to me like your eyebrows have been singed off again," Wilks replied and subsequently called for a nurse to assist him. He knew Vin and the young man was a troublesome patient at best.

Muttering under his breath, Vin sat down again, moving carefully, with one arm wrapped protectively around his chest. The nurse gave him the once over, shook her head in defeat and grabbed the bottle of sterile water and a wad of gauze.

Taking a firm grip of his chin, she pushed his head back a little and inspected his face. "No obvious burns, doctor," she said, poured some water onto the wad of gauze and started wiping his face clean. "But definitely singed eyebrows," she added, scrutinizing Vin.

"Alright, stop that. I can do it myself," Vin complained after a moment and tired to twist out of her grip. Her fingers merely tightened on his chin. "Ow!" he complained.

"Oh, pipe down, Mr. Tanner. You're behaving like a little kid," she admonished him and continued to clean his face unhindered.

After determining that he didn't need any definite treatment for burns on his face, the doctor and the nurse wrapped his chest up in bandages. Wilks was about to let him go when the nurse drew his attention to their patient's hands. "Looks like he may need some attention there," she suggested.

The back of both his hands were blistered, the skin angry red. Wilks took his right hand and turned it over. The inside of all fingers were also red and hot to the touch. Giving Vin an admonishing look, Wilks held his hand up. "Were you going to let us know that you have second degree burns on both hands or where you planning on just going home with this?"

Vin rolled his eyes. "It don't hurt," he claimed and yelped in pain when Wilks traced a finger over his palm.

"No, I can tell it doesn't," he said in a sarcastic tone of voice, then shook his head in defeat. "I want you to go home and put your hands in a bucket of cold water. Not ice cold, but cold enough for it to be pleasant. It'll take the pain away and it will also help you heal faster," he said and took the two icepacks the nurse was handing him. With skill from countless sessions prior to this, he placed the packs around Vin's hands and wrapped bandages around them to keep them in place. "No work for you until your hands are healed and your chest doesn't hurt any more."

"Fine," Vin grumbled.

Wilks stared at him for a second, then turned to the nurse. "Would you please go outside and see if you can find Mr. Larabee? I want a word with him."

The nurse nodded and left only to return with Chris in tow moments later.

"You wanted to talk to me?" he asked and glanced at Vin, who was looking at anything but him.

"Yes, Mr. Larabee. Just so we are completely clear on this, he has two broken ribs and second degree burns on both hands. I want him to stay in bed for at least two days and no work until those ribs are healed. Don't let him get back to work before that, alright?"

Chris nodded. "I wouldn't dream of it," he promised and gave Vin a warning glance when the younger man looked like he was about to complain. "Anything else?"

"Yes, he needs to get those hands in cold water when you get back home. And he needs to keep them there until it stops hurting," Wilks explained. "In other words, same old same old," he added with a weak smile.

"We've been there before. I think we know how to take care of burns, don't we Vin?" Chris replied and gave Vin a sharp look.

Vin pursed his lips and said nothing. He was trying to ignore the stinging pain from his hands and the constant throbbing from his chest.

"Good. Just make sure he rests a lot. And no work until those ribs are healed," Wilks repeated.

Chris nodded again. "What about Nathan? Did he get hurt?"

"Just a few minor blisters. Nothing that won't heal in a few days," Wilks said. "At least he knows how to handle it. Sometimes I doubt Mr. Tanner does."

Vin slipped off the examination table again and winced at the sharp pain stabbing through his chest. "Damn," he hissed.

"You just take it easy, Vin," Chris admonished him, then turned back to Wilks. "Thanks, Doc. I'm sure we'll be seeing each other soon again," he said and shook hands with Wilks.

"Not too soon, I hope," Wilks replied. "Just be sure to get him down here immediately if there are any complications," he added.

"Same old same old," Chris said, then turned his attention fully to Vin, who was struggling with his t-shirt and not having much luck with getting it on. "What are you doing?" Chris asked, giving him a frown for his troubles.

"What's it look like?" Vin replied in a grumpy tone of voice.

"I thought you would know by now that you can't get a t-shirt on when you have broken ribs. Just leave it be," Chris told him, took Vin's jacket and held it up. "Put this on instead. That'll keep you warm for the ride home."

Vin gave him a sour glance, then abandoned the t-shirt and let Chris help him into the jacket. "I don't wanna hear no bitchin' about this tonight, alright? I ain't in the mood," he warned.

Chris' eyes narrowed a little. "I'll give you a break tonight. But you are gonna hear about this. From now on and until hell freezes over. That was a bloody stupid thing to do and you know it," he retorted a little more sharply than intended.

"Yeah, yeah, whatever," Vin growled. "Let's go home."


Vin felt lousy. Actually, he felt more than lousy. He felt downright miserable. His hands hurt every time he dared to take them out of the bowl of water sitting on the table in front of him. His chest hurt, too, and he mostly felt like lying down. Shifting on the chair, he groaned under his breath, then glanced over at Nathan, who was watching him like a hawk.

"Stop starin' at me," he grumbled.

"I ain't starin'," Nathan replied and kept staring. "Just wanna make sure yer not gonna collapse or somethin'."

"I ain't gonna collapse," Vin snorted, annoyed by the attention.

"That does not mean you should not take it easy, my friend," Ezra said as he stepped up behind Vin and placed his hands on the young man's shoulders. "That was a pretty foolhardy thing you did today."

Vin rolled his eyes and would have shrugged out of Ezra's grip if it hadn't been for the fact that it would hurt him badly if he did. "I ain't in the mood, alright? My hands hurt, my chest hurts and now my head hurts too," he complained.

Nathan was instantly attentive. "Ya hit yer head?" he demanded.

Vin sighed and flinched when that hurt. "No," he argued. "Yer makin' it hurt with all yer damned babblin'."

"Give the man some space," Josiah interfered and smiled lightly at Vin, who gave him a grateful look. "Let's get you to bed, young man. You need your rest," the former preacher said. Dressed in black jeans and a snug, grey sweater, he looked the most comfortable of them all. With gentle care, he grabbed the bowl with one hand and Vin's left arm with the other and helped him get up from the chair without him ever having to take his hands out of the water.

Vin grumbled some halfhearted curse when he straightened his back and felt a stab of pain rush through his chest. "Aw hell, why'd I have ta go and do that."

"Because you're rash," Josiah said as he led him along toward his room, holding firmly onto both bowl and arm. "You act before you think, Vin, and that can really get a man in trouble. I know your intentions were good and I realize that you subsequently prevented the whole block from burning to the ground, but you could have told Nathan to just run the ladder through the window or something like that. You had no business climbing all the way up there."

Vin glanced at him with a hurt expression. "Why's everyone pickin' on me? I'm the one that got hurt here," he whined softly.

"And you have brought that on yourself. Don't expect pity from the others when you know this could have been prevented," Josiah admonished him and pushed the door to Vin's room open with the tip of his shoe.

He helped Vin settle down on the bed, got him out of the coat he'd been wearing so far, and got him arranged so he could easily keep his burned hands in the bowl of water over night and still be reasonably comfortable.

"Thanks, Josiah. I ain't sure any of the others would a' helped me," Vin said, his tone of voice meek.

"Sure they would. But with them, you'd have to ask," Josiah replied with a good-natured smile. "Get some sleep. You'll have to face Chris about this later. Unless we get called out today, of course." With that, Josiah switched off the light in the blind-darkened room and left Vin to get some well-deserved sleep.


"Of all the foolhardy, stupid, stuck-up, insane things that kid has done, this is just about the worst," Chris sputtered, angrier than he had thought he could be.

Buck watched his friend pace for a moment while absentmindedly fiddling with the edge of his t-shirt. Dressed in blue jeans and a black t-shirt and nothing else, he felt the most comfortable when he could feel the floor beneath his feet. Although comfort was an overstatement at the moment. Chris' anger had everybody worried. Sure, Vin had once again overdone it, but Chris seemed to be getting a little too worked up about this to make sense. "It's not like I agree he did a good thing there, Chris, but aren't you taking this a little too hard?" he wanted to know.

Chris came to a stop, his black jeans and tightfitting black turtleneck sweater matching his mood perfectly. "He has done this too many times, Buck. You hear me? Next time, he's gonna get himself killed like the fool he is. Why won't he see reason? Why doesn't he understand that he's not only jeopardizing himself, but us too?" Waving a hand erratically toward the common room adjoining the kitchen they were in at the moment, he tried to make sense of his own emotions. "He must have a death wish," he concluded.

"He doesn't and you know it. He's just a little too convinced of his own abilities when it comes to fire. Overconfident is what I would call it," Buck tried to explain, hoping to find some way through the anger. "You did things like this when you were younger too. I remember a good many times on the other team..."

"That's not the point," Chris interrupted him. "I'm in charge of this damned outfit and it's my responsibility to make sure you're all as safe as you can be. He's making it damned hard on me, Buck. Damned hard."

Buck drew in a deep breath and held it for a moment before letting the air out of his lungs slowly. Raking both hands through his hair, he tried to come up with a plausible explanation, anything that would make Chris calm down. "There is such a thing as free will, Chris. Sure, we all have to work together and Vin isn't much of a team player, but look at the big picture. He knew what would happen if he didn't give the fire vent. It would have blown the top of that building and spread to the rest of the block. We've seen it happen before. It was the right idea, but the wrong approach. He's learned his lesson. He won't do that again."

Chris stared at him for a long, breathless moment, then finally nodded. "Damn straight he won't. Because if he does, I'm gonna tan his hide so bad, he won't be able to sit down for a week," he growled.

That made Buck grin crookedly. "Yeah, and where I come from, pigs can actually fly," he replied and held up his hands in mock surrender at the dark look Chris gave him. "Have a cup of coffee, pard. Life is more than constant anger," he added, then snapped his fingers, the light of realization suddenly brightening his eyes. "I know what your problem is, pard. You need to get laid."

"Oh, for heaven's sake, Buck. Don't start that again," Chris sighed with exasperation. "I do not need to get laid. And most certainly not by any of your so-called lady friends."

Pushing away from the counter he had been leaning against, Buck took one step closer to his friend. "Hey, don't offend my lady friends. And what do you mean by so-called? I'm only seeing Jamie at the moment."

"Only," Chris snorted and folded his arms over his chest. "Like that means a whole lot. Does she know how many others you've got waiting on the sidelines?"

"Don't push me, Chris. Jamie is the only one for me. Always has been, always will be," Buck replied, his tone suddenly dangerously dark.

For a moment, Chris considered an angry reply, then shook his head and dropped it. There was no sense in pursuing this issue right now. Instead, he strode out of the kitchen and into the common room, completely managing to ignore J.D., Ezra and Nathan, who watched him go with a certain amount of apprehension.

"What's going on?" J.D. wanted to know when Buck joined them, as jovial as ever.

"Aw, nothing, kid. He's just upset with Vin right now. He'll be fine in a few hours," Buck replied and dropped down on the couch next to Ezra. Winking at the notorious gambler, he grinned. "Look's like the heat's off you for now, huh, Ez?" he asked.

Ezra folded his arms over his chest in a defensive manner. Unlike his colleagues, he preferred to be dressed to kill, which meant a suit and preferably silk shirts. Right now, he was wearing a light-blue silk shirt under a black pinstriped Armani suit jacket with pants to match. "The heat was never on me in the first place, Mr. Wilmington," he reminded. "My tardiness this morning has not been a raised issue since this morning and I do not see that it could be anywhere near as important as what Vin has just put himself through. Once again, I may add."

"Vin was just trying to do things the right way," J.D. tried to defend his friend. He received mostly overbearing looks from the three other men. "Well, he did. Might not have been the best way to do it, but at least we got the fire under control," he insisted.

Buck smirked lightly at J.D.'s defensive tone. The kid sure had a weak spot for Vin. "Nobody's saying anything different, J.D. He should just have thought about what he was doing instead of rushing headlong into trouble like he always does," he replied.

"Yeah, but..." J.D. tried, but Ezra interrupted him.

"Buck is right. He should think about what he does now and again," he admonished, then glanced at the wall clock above the door to the corridor. "Well, gentlemen, forgive me my abrupt departure. I do believe I hear my bed calling," he said, got up and smoothed down his pants. "I do firmly believe that I will lose what little is currently left of my mind if I do not get a decent night's sleep soon," he added, gave the others a nod and strode out of the room.

"And I believe ya already have," Nathan said and smiled weakly. "Although I admit he's got a point. I'm just about ready to drop." Rising, he arched his back and pulled his pale green shirt into place again before heading out the door too.

With a sigh of thrilled expectation, Buck rose, too. "I do believe a young lady awaits my company. See you later, kid," he said and hurried out the door to rendevous with Jamie for a few hours.

J.D. sat forlornly on his chair and stared ahead of himself with a somewhat lost expression. "I figure I'll just go play some game then," he mumbled to himself, having nobody else to talk to. Glancing around the now empty common room, he sighed dejectedly and rose to join his computer for a thrilling game of Tiberian Sun.