I blinked awake, my eyes dry and tired as the sound of banging echoed through my head. I rolled out of bed recognising Jax’s voice at the door, the banging continuing in an extended blast.
“Alright, alright… I’m coming.” I called out, stretching and shuffling my way out of the room. “What?” I asked, swinging the door open and scowling at Jax.
He beamed in response, his overly enthusiastic attitude was not received well by me at this point, and the urge to slam the door in his face was strong.
“Calm down dear,” He teased, “I’ll make the coffee.”
He headed straight past me, and disappeared into the kitchen.
“When did people just randomly start walking into my house without being invited?” I shouted after him, his attitude reminding me or Marya’s visit.
“Always!” He yelled back.
I sighed and rolled my eyes, not surprised by his cocky reply. Deciding that it wasn’t worth replying, I pushed the door closed with my foot, and followed the path he took towards the kitchen.
Jax was already busying himself with the coffee when I got there. He had his back turned to me, shoulder muscles rippling under his blue t-shirt as he reached for the sugar. The cold, tiled floor was making my feet feel like they were glued to ice blocks. I knew that I wouldn’t make it back to bed now, there was no chance that Jax would be allowing that.
“I’m gonna get changed.” I said as he poured the hot water into the mugs.
“Really? I thought that might be a good look for the occasion.” He teased as I left, sarcasm dripping from his every syllable.
“Fuck you.” I called out, reaching my bedroom, and ripping the curtains back.
I heard his laugh and the clunk of mugs on the table as I moved to the bathroom.
I took a quick shower, returning back to my room a short time later and opening the chest of drawers to pick some clothes. I grabbed a random pair of dark jeans and pulled them on, swiping a simple white v-neck t-shirt to go with them. I was still tugging it over my head as I went back to the kitchen, then promptly slumped into a chair at the table and began to drink my, now tepid, coffee.
“What’s this occasion you have planned?” I asked, pushing the mug away and getting back to my feet. “Toast?”
“Sure, thanks.” He answered, finishing the last dregs of his coffee and spinning in his seat to follow my movement across the kitchen. “You forgot about the charity event? I thought you might.”
“That’s why you’re here then. You could have called me you know?” I laughed.
“Yeah, because you always answer your phone in the morning.” He replied sarcastically.
“It’s my day off, at least I return the call when I’m up.” I shrugged. He scowled at me and I rolled my eyes, “Mostly.”
He laughed and tilted his head to the side, meeting me halfway with that response.
“Brigade Relay wasn’t it?” I asked.
I thought back, faintly recalling something that our Station Officer, Tom Steele, had mentioned at Roll Call.
“That’s the one. Different Watches from different Stations. Four to a team.
There had been a bunch of people going around with charity fliers, trying to drum up people who would take part. We were always up for some fun, and SO Steele thought that it would be a great chance for more team building, even better as it was for a good cause too. So he signed us up.
“How long have we got?”
“About an hour and a half. Steele wants us there twenty minutes early, to split into teams.”
I nodded, my stomach choosing that moment to growl. Throwing some bread into the toaster, I gathered up the butter and spreads and put them on the table. Once the toast was ready, we sat and ate, passing the time until we had to leave.
Parking my car, we got out just as Cain pulled into the space next to us, Sam and Pixie were rounding the corner of the building, and the others were standing by the wall. Everyone was dressed warmly, even though it was sunny, there was still a chill in the late January air. Alex and SO Steele stood at the head of the group, Steele being the only one in his work uniform, they turned towards us as we joined them.
“Okay, now that we are all here,” Steele said sharply, looking down at his clipboard, “We can begin. White Watch is on shift, so that means that it will be Red Watch,” He gestured at us, “From here at Farwood Station, versus Green Watch from Wilsdon, and Blue Watch from Shaxbury.”
A rumble of laughter fluttered through the group at the mention of Blue Watch. We’d come into contact with them a few times during these kinds of events. We were equally competitive and it usually made things interesting. Some playful sabotage was always to be expected, mere childish pranks, but they helped to liven up the day.
“We won’t be having any of that nonsense today.” Steele said firmly, scowling at Pixie and Will.
“Why me?” Pixie asked, blinking rapidly and giving her best ‘innocent puppy’ eyes.
I laughed and wrapped an arm around her shoulder.
“Because you’re the trouble causer.” I smirked at her, jostling her a little and making her laugh.
“I’m no such thing.” She protested, trying to keep up her innocent act.
I shook my head, my eyes flitting over the others and resting on Rosie. She was laughing happily, entertained by Pixie’s attitude as she stood between Dodger and Will. Her eyes found mine for a brief second, her laugh replaced by a sweet smile. She was rocking a casual and simple style today, a form fitting navy blue jumper and dark jeggings with ankle boots. She had her hair tied up in a messy bun, a few wavy strands falling by the side of her face, and soft, natural make-up. I watched as she whispered something to Dodger who immediately fell into a laugh and nudged Cain.
“Okay, I have split you into two teams, team one and team two. With each Watch, there will be two teams. And it will be a team one versus team two set up in each relay, understand?” Alex called out to us all, taking the clipboard from Steele.
“Sub.” We replied as a group.
“Can I be in team three please?” Will answered cheekily with a wink.
Alex shook his head with a chuckle, Steele grinned at the remark, his usually formal attitude slipping now into a more relaxed nature.
“Thank you Will. Alright, team one will be Cain, Dodger, Pixie and Rebel. Team two will be Sam, Rosie, Will and Jax.”
“Not getting in on the action yourself Sub?” I teased with a smirk.
“Luxury of being in charge Rebel, I can pull rank and save myself from running around all day.”
“Sub Officer Kennedy will be in charge, and overseeing your teams during the event, along with the Sub Officer for each of the other Watches you will be facing today.” Steele explained. “I wish you all luck.
With a nod to Alex, he walked off and re-entered the building.
“You all have ten minutes to get changed and regroup down here, we will split into cars and head over.” Alex said with a glance at his wrist watch.
Ten minutes later, we were regrouped in the car park, now all wearing jogging bottoms and similar short sleeved, bright red t-shirts. Pixie and Rosie were wearing ones that were fairly more fitted than the rest of ours, the rounded, scoop necklines falling lower on their chest.
“Any driving volunteers?” Alex asked over everyone’s bustling.
I gave a small wave of my hand, not minding driving. The location, a big recreation park, was only about a ten minute drive away. The sun was shining brighter now, the promise of nice weather looking much stronger as the clouds faded out in the distance. Cain nodded that he was happy to drive too, and Alex took his keys out.
“So that’s three drivers. Will, if you, Sam and Dodger go with Cain.” Alex said, inclining his head towards Cain’s four-by-four. “Jax, you can come with me, and Pixie and Rosie, you two can go with Bane.”
The girls followed me to my black BMW eight series, filing inside as soon as I unlocked it, and soon enough we were all pulling out onto the main road, heading off.
“We really should be talking strategy here.” Pixie said from the back seat, excitedly clapping her hands together.
“Pix, it’s just friendly competition.” I laughed, overtaking a car that was moving at an agonisingly glacial pace.
“Emphasis on the word ‘competition’.” She bit back.
I glanced at her in the rear view mirror, catching sight of her determined gaze staring back at me.
“I get the feeling that you’re a smidge competitive.” Rosie laughed from the passenger seat next to me.
“Whatever gave you that idea?” I asked dramatically, feeling a small thump against the back of my seat, from Pixie’s foot.
Rosie laughed happily, turning in her seat, to peek behind her at Pixie. I found myself smiling at the sound of her laugh. The drive passed quickly, and soon enough we were climbing out of the car in a packed parking lot, looking out at a crowded field that had been set up like some kind of summer fair. We all regrouped at the entrance, the relay area of the field was visible from our standing point.
“Well, well, well, if it isn’t Red Watch.” A man’s voice said cheerily from behind us.
I turned around with a smile as I recognised the voice of Chad Andrews, Leading Firefighter of Shaxbury Blue Watch, a good friend and now our game rival once again.
“Looking forward to losing today guys?” Another of Blue Watch, Danny Fallon, asked cockily.
“You know that won’t be happening Danny boy.” Pixie replied with a sugary tone.
“We’ll see.” Danny laughed.
“Let the fun begin.” Dodger muttered with glee.