The PASS alarm sound echoed up ahead, signalling the way we needed to go. Myself and Pixie moved through the hallway, unable to see even a single step ahead through our blacked out masks. With each step, the alarm got louder, until we entered the room that we needed to be in, and shuffled forwards. We’d barely taken more than a few small steps before I heard a rustling sound up ahead.
“I’m over here. Follow the sultry sound of my voice.” Dodger whispered dramatically.
I knew what was coming before it did, and shook my head in exasperation as Alex’s voice rang out from the radio attached to our uniforms.
“Dodger, shut up. This is a drill. Say another word and I’ll rerun it from scratch.”
In a typical Dodger fashion, he did the total opposite and continued sarcastically.
“Well I’d be long dead by the time these two finally found me.. I’ve been here a good five minutes.”
I groaned internally, my tired brain was practically screaming in protest at the idea of having to repeat the exercise again. It was a popular favourite drill to run on the days after we’d all been at the pub the night before. Being made to use our knowledge and intellect first thing, whilst in a delicate condition was a way of keeping us on our toes.
“You’ve barely been in here for one minute Dodge. I replied with a sigh, unsurprised by his melodramatic tone, and stopping as my foot bumped against something firm.
I reached down and realised it was Dodger, laying on his side, as instructed, and waiting for our arrival.
“Well I guess it seems longer when you’re laying here.”
“Maybe you should get off your ass and try this part of it then.” Pixie sniped at him, kneeling next to me.
“Firefighter Olsen, run the drill.” Alex snapped.
I heard a slight thud, and a responding yelp, which I presumed was Pixie swatting Dodger on the leg.
“Sorry Sub.” He replied, falling silent.
I fought off the laugh that was working its way up my throat at the pair of them, and set about completing the job at hand. These morning drill times were often a reason for irritability. Especially when we all wanted to be inside downing at least an entire pot of coffee each.
When we’d completed the task to standard and left the room a short time later, our blacked out masks now resting under our arms, we rejoined the others outside, stopping short of the rest of the Watch. The look on Alex’s face told us that we were about to be on the receiving end of one of his scoldings. Deciding to push it a touch more, Dodger proved once again that he couldn’t keep quiet, his voice calling out from behind me:
“Sub, may I just say, in my defence,” Dodger started, a deep tone of sincerity in his voice, as he clutched at his chest, “That I genuinely feared for my life.”
The rest of the Watch chuckled among themselves as Pixie and myself looked on in disbelief and amusement. I admired his tenacity, even though it rarely paid off.
“I’m sure you did. The prospect of going through one drill sensibly must have been terrifying to you.” Alex replied, matching his tone.
His reply got an even bigger reaction from the others, and a false, shocked gasp from Dodger.
“Just be grateful that they found your location before you opened your mouth, or I’d have made you rerun it over and over until lunch.” He finished sternly.
“Sub.” The three of us nodded, happy to have escaped a lecture on appropriate drill behaviour, then passed by, allowing the next group, Sam, Cain and Rosie, to move forward to begin their drill.
Once the morning passed into afternoon, and the training drills were over, the majority of my tiredness had passed and I changed then headed into the gym. It was a large and spacious, air conditioned room, tidy with white walls and black flooring . A collection of high end work-out equipment and tools were placed at intervals across the space, leaving plenty of room around each of them for safe use. I used the gym every shift, enjoying the calm and relaxed atmosphere where I could either get lost in my thoughts for a while, and work up a sweat. Or chat with the others and enjoy a laugh or two.
Jax and Will were already inside when I walked in, both of them nearly sprinting on neighbouring treadmills, clearly trying to outrun one another. Upbeat music was playing quietly through the room from the sound station against the wall. Before I could close the door behind me, Cain followed inside. I paused to watch the treadmill race for a second, amused as they both reached across to meddle with the settings, trying to throw one another off their game. Cain moved to the rowing machine, ignoring them and taking a seat. I looked around in thought trying to decide where I wanted to start, before settling on the weight bench. I’d just about reached it when I heard a thud and a laugh from Jax and Will’s direction and turned to see Jax holding the handles, his feet now firmly planted on the outer wall of the treadmill, the machine now still. Will was wearing a triumphant smirk and leaning forward, now at a walking pace on his rapidly slowing machine.
“We were just talking about last night. What do you guys think of Rosie?” Will panted, glancing briefly over his shoulder, in our direction.
I shuffled into place on the bench, my hands just closing around the bar, mentally trying to form an appropriate response to that question. What exactly did I think of her? I liked her, I guess. I thought back to the night before. The way she was with everyone, she fitted in well and fast. But I hadn’t gotten to know her as much as some of the others. I’d found myself admiring her beauty and her sense of humour as the night progressed and I had more to drink. So I’d decided it was best to maintain some distance, spending the majority of the time with Jax and dodger, playing pool instead of gathering at the bar, swapping stories. I was sure that the moment would pass once I’d gotten used to the idea that she was going to be one of the Watch. But for now, I couldn’t stop myself from being naturally lured to the beautiful woman who’d just joined us, and that, with the alcohol, was a recipe for disaster.
“She seems like a great girl to me,” Cain answered, pausing in his exercise, and snapping me from my thoughts.
“Same here.” I added, hoping that the answer would suffice, and beginning my reps. “Her and Pixie certainly seemed to hit it off last night.”
I recalled the moment that everyone was leaving, and myself and Sam had to usher them both into a cab, laughing hysterically.
“Well she’s wanted another woman on the Watch since Annabelle transferred.” Will stated.
I blew out a breath, finishing the reps and sitting up, moving to add more weight to the bar, when Cain spoke up again.
“I have a mate who works over at Shaxbury, he’s Blue Watch, but he said she was a damn good addition to Green Watch over there.”
“Didn’t Green Watch lose a couple of firefighters a few years back?” Jax asked, stepping off his treadmill and picking up his towel, wiping his face.
I remembered it back then, the fire that they had attended got out of control and led to a collapse, trapping and killing two of their crew. It was hard enough to lose one member of your Watch, to lose two was something that we all felt across the entire Brigade. It hadn’t registered last night that she must have been there at the time that they died.
“Yeah, their leading firefighter, and a rookie firefighter.” Cain answered solemnly.
A thoughtful pause passed between us. I could tell that the others were remembering the same thing as me. The pain we all felt when Derek died. He’d been a firefighter here, at Farwood station, for over fifteen years, and just like that, he was gone. His wife lost her husband and their kids lost their father. We lost a brother, and a friend, and even though we’ve moved forward, the memory and the loss stayed with every one of us. The sight of his wife’s face will forever be burned into my mind, the heartbreak she was going through was the reason that I’d sworn not to get involved with anyone. I couldn’t risk it. The idea of leaving the woman I loved behind, crushed and brokenhearted, was something that I couldn’t bear. It would be bad enough with my family, but that was where I drew the line. Of course, with most of Red Watch being involved, in love, or settled down, they’d all taken time to try to persuade me to change my mind. It wasn’t so bad though, the bachelor lifestyle had its perks.
“Well some fresh blood will be good, especially in someone as fine as her.” Jax sparked up, trying to brighten the mood.
I let out a small chuckle, somewhat relieved that it wasn’t just me who’d noticed.
“Well it looks like we know who Jax will be after next.” Will teased, “Don’t bank on her wanting to know though buddy. She could eat you for breakfast.”
I moved over to the treadmill that Jax had vacated, and jumped on, setting it, and beginning to walk as it started to move.
After a while, the others drifted off, leaving me alone. I kicked up the speed, running steadily and enjoying the quiet time. I heard the door open and footsteps enter, but didn’t look up.
“Marathon practice?” Rosie asked, coming to a stop at my side.
I glanced over, seeing her bright smile. She was dressed in a black sports bra and matching leggings, her dark hair tied up into a tiny ponytail. Even now, I found my gaze tracing her curves before lining up with her silvery eyes and smirking at her.
“Nah, not quite.”
I turned down the speed, slowing to a more conversational pace, Rosie climbing onto the next treadmill and setting off at a similar speed.
“You don’t like me much do you?” She said flatly, turning to gauge my reaction.
I nearly stopped in surprise at the random question, but then again, I could hardly blame her for misreading my lack of interaction. Figuring that it would be easier to clarify this at a stand still, I stopped the treadmill, allowing it to carry me towards the end, where I jumped off the end, landing on the floor.
“I’m sorry if I gave you that impression.” I said genuinely. “I actually think you seem pretty great.”
She stopped her treadmill too, hopping off and standing in front of me, a smug smirk now on her face.
“Only pretty great?” She teased.
I laughed, feeling the tension that I’d had since she’d joined, leaving my body.
“Well, to get higher praise than that, you gotta work for it.” I smirked, picking up my towel and rubbing it over my face, wiping the beads of sweat from my skin.
“Oh yeah? So I can’t just click my fingers and make you fall to your knees in adoration?”
I stepped closer, invading her space and noticing the slight slip of her cocky grin.
“Not a chance.”
As our eyes locked together, I had the near overwhelming desire to kiss her. I could feel the heat in my body rising, the air seeming to crackle around us.
“We’ll see.” She whispered, her breath brushing my cheek.
Neither of us moved. All thoughts of being at work disappeared from my mind. I was totally captured by the woman in front of me.
“Is that a challenge?” I replied curiously.
She sucked her bottom lip between her teeth, biting it softly and causing my stomach to do a somersault. The deafening sound of the alarm bell ringing through the building snapped us both back to attention. I threw my towel over to the basket in the corner, and ran for the door, holding it open for Rosie, who paused on the way out.
“Game on, Rebel.” She winked.