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    The Helper's              High
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Page Four

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From: patti keiper <>
Date: Fri Dec 7, 2007 8:28 pm
Subject: Shattered

It was an hour later and Station 51 had been
released from the knocked down viaduct train fire.
No one had been injured or killed. But that was a
miracle that neither Roy or Johnny could enjoy.

Dr. Brackett immediately closed the chart he
was looking at on a case and intercepted
Roy and Johnny as they came in with an empty
supplies box, still sooty from smoke.

Kel grinned. "So that's your excuse for showing up
at Rampart without a patient, huh?" he gibbed gently.

Gage's face was full of stress. "Doc, you know why.."

Brackett held up his hand in easy defense.
"We're going to be conducting a funduscopic examination in
a few minutes. We really won't know more until after that.
I'm sorry. We might be dealing with impending brain swelling
or a non depressed linear fracture. Mike Stoker called
and said he thought that Stanley's head might have struck
the dashboard when your engine braked so hard."

"So what's the next step?" DeSoto whispered.

Kel sighed, wearily. "Hank may need an ICP Monitor."

Roy pursed his lips, paying very close attention. "What's
that?" he asked, guarded. "I- I'll need to know that, so I
can tell his wife..."

"It's a device used to measure pressure within the brain.
It consists of a small tube, placed into or on top of the brain
through a small hole in the skull, connected to a transducer that
registers the pressure and with it, we can--"

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Johnny protested. "Wait a minute, you guys want to stab
a probe into his brain?" He stood there, hands on his hips,
controlling himself out of anger, frustration.

DeSoto echoed him, but softer. "Is it worth that risk, doc?"

Kel was honest, leaving nothing out.
"Yes. We have to know how high his ICP is before we
can do anything else. If you'll excuse me, we're about
to begin." he said. "I'll let you know the moment I hear
about a change."

Gage stopped him. "Is he off the respirator yet?"

"I'm afraid not. He hasn't improved respiratory function yet.
He's still on full support."

The two paramedics fell mute, overwhelmed.

Brackett left, hurrying for the radiography room, leaving
the Squad 51 pair standing there, morosely, and alone.

Out of their visual, Dr. Morton had been listening in the
hallway to the conversation Dr. Brackett was having with
his senior most paramedics. ::That's definitely not enough.::
Mike decided, so he flagged the two of them down, offering
up fresh coffee. He got right to the subject. "You've seen
his clinical signs and symptoms of acute increased
intracranial pressure?" he asked, handing off the cups.

Roy nodded, taking the offering. "Yeah, the pupillary
dysfunction, hypertension, and the bradycardia." He
gulped his down in one long swallow.

Johnny took his cup, but didn't drink. "What about that earlier
reported posturing? Does that mean that damage might
happen or already has?"

Morton put an immediate curb on their distress. "Don't jump
the gun before it's fired, fellas, just hear me out first."

Mike puzzled over their reaction when both flinched, and
rubbed the same hand as they looked at them, as if searching
for missed blood.  He didn't think about it further. He fell into
what he was good at doing, ..analyzing. "Now boys, as you know,
increases in intracranial pressure compress the brain within
the rigid skull, reducing cerebral blood flow, prompting reflex
hypertension to maintain cerebral perfusion.  As intracranial
pressure increases further, the contents of the skull can no
longer remain in place.  Focal increases in pressure, such
as acute hemorrhages or fluid buildup, can result in gross
deviations in anatomy. This is what might be happening
to Hank, I'm afraid."

Gage almost dropped his coffee onto the floor. "Herniation?!"
He had already forgotten completely about it. Mike took it out
of Johnny's hand and set it onto Dixie's empty desk.

Morton held up a reassuring hand. "The term "herniation" is
used loosely when intracranial pressure increases. But there
are specific herniation syndromes with different mechanisms
and outcomes. Some aren't fatal or paralyzing at all. We have
to find out which one is effecting your captain before we can
proceed on anything. Once we identify the problem for certain,
we still can intervene early enough to prevent any further
permanently damaging effects and migration. Excuse me,
I'm going to attend his CT session with Kel right now. I'll let
you know as soon as I find out the answer."

"Don't tell us first, doc. Please tell his family." Roy
said. "They're more frightened than we are."

Morton met DeSoto's eyes and promised that with
a look before he hurried off into the scanning room.

Gage turned to his partner. "Don't you hate the fact
that we have to dump and run all the time? I wish we
could have stayed with Cap the whole time from
the moment we first brought him in here.." he growled.
"That way, we wouldn't be one of those people they
leave in the dark. We'd know EXACTLY what's going
on.." he sobbed, furious. Angrily, Gage swiped away hot
tears as he threw the box away and headed back for
the squad.

Roy had no answer or comforting words to say either.

Silence reigned the entire trip back to the station.
Worn out and feeling Hank's absense acutely, they
got out of the cab in the bay and headed for the kitchen.

They overheard Chet giving Stoker a hard time.
"What, Stoker? You're the resident skunk now.
We expect you to raise a little stink, so come on
and tell us how you really feel about wearing
a striped hat. You can always order Marco and I to
shut up."

Johnny entered the room and erupted. "Would you
just cut that out?! Do you really think that Mike had
any say in the matter at all about filling in and taking

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Chet didn't cower and he didn't back down, for he was
in just as much pain as the rest of them were.
"I never thought that, and thank you for barging into our
private little trio of conversation. That was really big of
you." He turned to Stoker. "You know what they say about
paramedics. They think they're demigods or something
just because they save a few lives with fancy drugs we
know nothing about. See how they like to control
everything? Boy, am I glad neither one of them got skunked
by the chief, or we'd never hear the end of it."

Gage didn't speak, he acted. Johnny grabbed
Chet by the collar and lifted him to his feet forcefully.

The rest of the gang immediately intercepted, getting
in between the two of them, all talking chaotically at once.

All except Mike Stoker, who didn't move out of his
chair. "Johnny! What would Hank think if I had to put
you on report for--" his voice broke and the single
sob that slipped out, hit everyone like ice water.

Without a sound, Mike left the room, not for the
office, but for the gym. They all heard the door
slam hard behind him. But its thick steel did nothing
to hide the sounds of crying.

It was coming through the bullet hole left behind by
Marco's erstwhile alley shooter.

Johnny let Chet go swiftly. "I'm sorry. I... It's just that..."

"I know." said Kelly, setting up the chair that had fallen
over behind him. "I get it." he said. "I don't think any
of us knows how to act anymore when it's not all
on business."

Marco spoke for all of them. "So, are we going to be
taking a flag down half mast tonight? Or not?"

The others looked at Lopez who had spoken the
unspeakable for each, and stared, with sharpness
that went quickly numb.

Finally DeSoto sighed, shaking his head. "It's too soon to tell."

Gage buried a very tired face into his hands. "They'll call."

Chet grew depressed even more. "Same as they always do."

Mike Stoker re-entered the room with a velvet box. Inside
of it were Hank's spare set of double bugles. His face was
dry, but vacant. "Would somebody please show me how
these go on? I can't seem to remember." His voice broke
again, into agony.

"Sure." said all the others, and they rose to their feet to
help him, instantly. Brother to brother.

Chet patted Stoker on the back. "You did great job out there
today, pal. You should know that. I didn't blister my back. Not
even once."

Marco jumped on that bandwagon. "Hey, neither did I. Does
that mean we don't have to polish the chrome?"

Mike snuffled through his tears.. "Maybe.. You did keep your
butts good and safe like I told you to." he said blankly.

Roy touched his arm. "You can do this. The chief never
would have kicked you upstairs if he figured you couldn't
handle it."

Gage handed him a kleenix. "Cap's not going to die."

Stoker blew his nose into it. "You're very certain of that."

"Of course." Gage said, scoffing grandly.

Kelly leaned in and straightened out one of Stoker's new pins.
"That's because we were all over him and did everything
right the first time. So let's hear it for Station 51!"

The gang of five let out a cheer loud enough to trick Henry
into barking from where he was exploring, inside the mop
cupboard out in the bay.

And that was the first time any of them saw a smile bloom
sincerely on Mike Stoker's face since that first terrifying moment
when they all knew that Hank had gone down.

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Stoker giggled, pointing over his shoulder. "I think somebody
needs to play."

"We all do, come on, let's go throw a few tennis balls around
for him for a little while. It'll do us some good." Johnny invited.

Kelly dragged to his feet, teasing, "At least Henry's tail's still
wagging." he said as he followed the others out into the garage.

Inwardly, the gang was reassured at last, that everything was
still fine, except for that one big change that nobody had the
power to undo.

From: Erin James <>
Date: Fri Dec 7, 2007 11:18 pm
Subject: All For Honor

Henry had worn the guys out, mercifully. They all trapsed in to
wind down for the night. Being the next senior member of the crew,
Roy decided to ask, "Mike, would you like me to do the flag?"

Mike's eyes reflected the pure agony he felt. "N-no, thanks Roy. I
want to. No, I have to do it tonight."

Roy could hear the emotion in Mike's voice. "Okay, Mike."

Johnny had walked through the bay and heard Mike. He shot Roy
a questioning look. Roy waved him off and mouthed, "Keep Chet
and Marco busy for a bit."

Johnny didn't want to argue and shook his head in the affirmative.
He quietly exited the bay in search of the other two.  Roy squeezed
Mike's shoulder and whispered, "Take your time, Mikey, uh, nobody is
in a hurry."

Mike kept his voice barely even, "Thanks, Roy."

"You're welcome." DeSoto smiled.

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Mike stepped away from Roy and walked back to the locker
room. In seconds, he returned wearing the white gloves that went
with his dress uniform. Roy walked over and hit the button to open
the big bay door. Then he stood stock still as Mike passed him.

The sight of the flags blowing gently in the breeze as the sun
was setting was almost to much for Roy to handle, but he
stayed put. He wanted to make sure he was close to Mike, in
case something happened.

Mike walked by Roy with a slight nod of his head to acknowledge
him. He was extremely focused.

::I know what I have to do and I know it's gonna hurt like h***
to do it.:: Stoker sighed mentally. Slowly, Mike walked
out to the flag pole. It was a walk that he had taken too many times
to count, but this time, it was different.

This time, he was doing it as a Captain, albeit temporary.

Mike stepped back and snapped to attention. Then slowly,
ceremoniously, he brought his arm up in a salute that brought tears
to his eyes. With wet eyes, Mike lowered his arm and approached
the flag pole. He slowly undid the rope at the pole and lowered
the flags down until he could reach the state flag. He then quickly
ran the stars and stripes back up.

::I'll do that one just as the sun hits where I want it to.::

Mike made quick work of folding the state flag. Without a word, he
turned on his heels and brought the state flag inside. Once it was
secured into its locker, he took a deep breath.

::This is going to hurt so much. Can I bear it?:: Mike wondered.
::It's the anniversary of our return back home. And he's not here.::

Again, Roy and Mike acknowledged each other with a simple nod of
the head. Mike's eyes stung as he walked back outside. He repeated
the formal walking steps again until he was centered once more
with the flag pole.

For a second time, he snapped to attention. This time, he brought
his arm up even slower.

As he did he turned his eyes, just a bit above the flag and whispered,
"God speed, C-Commander Billings.  And come home to us soon,

Fighting his welling emotions, Mike walked back to the pole and
once again undid the rope. He lowered the flag at a medium speed,
not to slow or too fast but at the right speed. Once the flag was within
his reach, he tied the rope off.

::This was never easy to do solo, especially not tonight.:: he thought.

With a slight shake in his hands, Mike began folding the flag, slowly,
making sure each fold was perfect. As he came to the last folds he
held the flag to his chest in one hand. With his other hand shaking
slightly, he unhooked the flag from the rope.

He made his final folds as the sun backlit the sky in a pinky-purplish
color, he whispered, "Commander Billings, it was an honor to serve
under you. And Cap, I will keep the bugles warm, but they are rightfully
yours. Get well soon, sir. Please hurry."

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As he brought the final fold of the flag to his chest, Mike's emotions
overtook him. He sank to one knee, clutching the flag to his chest
like a lifeline. His head bowed, the tears finally poured forth without
restraint. Tears for a life taken and tears for another man fighting
desperately for his. Tears of grief and tears of pain fell and
soaked the driveway of 51's.

Roy watched Mike sag after he made the final fold and silently walked
out to his hurting friend. Memories of his time spent in Viet Nam
rose fresh to the surface. He remembered rank and decorum in
a flash and the strength of it took his breath away. Roy put his hand
on Mike's shoulder as his tears finally slowed and he whispered,
"You did it, Petty Officer Stoker. The sun's down and it's well and gone.
Captain? Let's put Old Glory to bed and start that way ourselves."

Mike looked up at Roy. Navy eyes met understanding Army ones.
"Can I do this last thing, Sargeant?" he asked, reliving something
far away.

Roy smiled lightly, "You bet your boot straps you can, pal."

Mike bowed his head one last time to regain his composure. Roy
didn't move from his friend's side. After a minute, Mike slowly got to
his feet and said quietly, "Thanks, Roy."

"You're welcome."

Together the duo walked back into the station in like step, trying to
forget an unforgettable day.

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From: patti keiper <>
Date: Sat Dec 8, 2007 12:01 am
Subject: Just Put It In A Nutshell For Crying Out Loud

Deep on the second floor of the hospital, two doctors
were viewing Cap's CT scan results.

The neuro turned to Kel, pointing. "The suprasellar cistern is
obliterated. The quadrigeminal cistern is very compressed and
pushed posteriorly. Here and here.  And there is central
transtentorial and subfalcine herniation."

"That's definite?" Brackett questioned.

"Yes. See? This shows a shift of the midline structures
and compression of the lateral ventricle secondary either to
a bleed or edema."

"So we operate.."

"Immediately.." replied the specialist.

Kel, turned to Nurse McCall, who was monitoring Hank's
position on his side so none of his internal lines or catheters
snagged as the great electronic donut continued to encircle him.
"Dixie start him on additional moderate doses of IV mannitol.
Administer 0.25 - 0.5g/kg over 20 minutes IV. We have
to hurry a little faster on trying to dry out and shrink down
his cerebrum. How's his CVP?"

"170. The same. And his heartrate's still erratic." she reported.

"Lidocaine. Maintain a beat of seventy. Even it out." Kel
ordered. He turned to the neurosurgeon. "Let's go."


In the middle of the night, a phone rang in Station 51.

Roy DeSoto was the first one to race out of his bed to
intercept it.  Amid loud scramblings to kick the speaker
button on, he heard Kel share the first of his news on

##So far so good. He hasn't suffered any seizures.##

Gage couldn't contain himself, scared. "What did you find?
Oh,.. our Mike? He's still sleeping. We covered his head with
a pillow so he wouldn't hear the phone ring..."

Kel smiled on his end. ##Filtering out the bad or good?
I can't argue with that. Look, we found active changes.
But of an operable type. Captain Stanley has what we
refer to as a transtentorial herniation. The medial
portions of the temporal lobes and the brainstem
have slid downward into his infratentorial compartment.  
And that didn't happen this afternoon. That happened
yesterday, probably very early in the morning."

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Kelly sucked in his breath. "Doc, he did hit his head. His
bed fell apart while he and his wife were rolling in the hay.
Probably around five or so, knowing when his wife gets
home from work.. Uh, you know how it goes..."

The others smacked him for his indiscretion.

##So his injury was precipitated... That explains a lot.
The coup/contra-coup from the log incident only
exacerbated what should have been just a mild concussion.
The clinical signs of that initially include a headache,
decreasing levels of consciousness, moodiness,
and an isiplateral fixed dilated pupil from compression
of the third cranial nerve on the ipsilateral side.##

"We missed that entirely, doc. Cap's got dark eyes."
Roy reported.

##Easy to do. As herniation worsens, there's
decerebrate, extensor posturing, contralateral
pupillary dilation and then Cushing's triad occurs.

Now Cushing's triad includes alteration in respiration,
bradycardia, and systemic hypertension.  It is rare to
have all three present, but it does occur. Often there is just
bradycardia alone.  Children tolerate brainstem
compression produced by herniation better than adults.
I'll be honest with you, things aren't looking good so far.

But immediate, early intervention can result in a complete

"Doctor Morton said it might." Gage sighed, looking for hope.

Brackett was encouraging. ##Especially aggressive intervention
at the stage of bilateral pupillary dysfunction, decerebrate
posturing and bradycardia. Like where your captain's at. He
has a fifty fifty chance of surviving this injury, fully intact. Don't
worry, he's not anywhere near a risk of death. You guys
overcame that when you took over his breathing and airway
care after you found him apneic. Whoever was with him,
when he first collapsed, probably saved his life.##

The relieved sighs in the room got louder than Mike's natural
snoring in the background. And more than one pair of happy
eyes fell on the lump Mike was making under his blankets.

##Now his CT scan shows obliteration of the suprasellar and
quadrigeminal cisterns.  Those are just spaces gentlemen,
and not actual tissue. They're buffer zones. We'll see later on
after surgery if those areas include an actual infarct or brainstem

Chet quailed, understanding at least that last bit. "A stroke?"

Brackett was truthful. ##It's possible.. It's one explanation.##

Kelly lowered his head to hide new tears. "Oh, that's heavy."

Kel was honest. ##Yes, it is. Only time will tell at this point. If
and when he awakens for us.##

Dixie broke into the phone call from a side connection.
##So let's just keep our hopes up. And gentlemen, stop
your blubbering. You're upsetting me, and I'm Hank's best
nurse. Do you want me to get him upset, too?##

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In surgery, the neurosurgeon shared something
new to Brackett who had only just starting observing.
"There's obvious bilateral intraventricular CNS leakage
and ventricular dilatation.  Luckily, his extensor posturing
only suggested the possibility of impending herniation."  

Brackett was rapt, peering into Cap's open skull. "How so?"

The surgeon clarified. "He sustained more episodes of bradycardia
but they responded well to your doses of IV mannitol.  So we
neurosurgeons decompressed his ventricles immediately and his
MAP and ICP returned to normal in seconds. And I'm finding no
areas of active hemorrhaging."

Brackett whistled under his mask. "Lucky."

The surgeon beamed. "Just like I said."

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It was almost dawn when Dr. Brackett re-telephoned
the station. Once again, he had a conversation with
the crew in conference.  It wasn't obvious, but
Kel's first words were directed at his paramedics.
"It's looking real good. Already, the anesthesiologist says
he's showing signs of waking up."

Marco let out the breath he was holding. "Oh, that's a relief."

##He should be breathing on his own in about fifteen minutes
once his sedation wears off. His pupils are normal.##

"What was it?" asked Roy.

##Fluid on the brain only. Not an epidural not a subdural or
dural anything. Simply one small tiny leak of cerebral spinal
fluid into his nearest intracortical spaces. No bleeding at all.
As he recovers, about one out of twenty head-injury patients
will have seizures in the first days following the injury. If his blood
pressure is stable, dilantin at 18 mg/kg will be given as prophylaxis.
The longer he goes without having one, the better the chances are
that he'll never have them. ##

Gage was firm on anticipating. "Until the next head injury."

Kel yawned, relaxing at last. ##Sorry, the surgery lasted most of
the night. Yes, second impact syndrome remains a future possibility.
That's what I thought this was when I first saw him. If it had been,
your captain would have been a dead man inside of two minutes.
Please do me a favor tell him about it when he gets back to work?##

Both Roy and Johnny promised dividends, in stereo. "Oh, you bet.
We sure will."

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From: Erin J. <>
and lin butler  <>
Date:  Tue Dec 11, 2007 9:37 pm
Subject: Welcome Home

It had been a few weeks since Cap's injury and surgery and the
crew of 51 surrounded the dayroom table. Chet, Marco, and
Mike were seated there along with Mike's wife, Roy's wife and
kids. Marco's mom was also present along with the crew
from Rampart.

Everybody had been waiting for a while and were sprawled
everywhere. Even Henry had given up his spot on the couch
for a comfy spot on the floor with the DeSoto kids.

Battalion Chief Conrad, along with Sierra Rangers Matt Harper
and Jack Moore, had arrived to join the gang. And Johnny
and Roy had just returned in from the bay. Johnny leaned over the
kitchen table, attempting to make a point. John was on one of
his famous Gage rants concerning stuff only he knew what,
to which the others only paid restless attention to. For good reason.

They were all gathered to welcome back Hank Stanley with a
surprise party.

Chet and Johnny had been given the task of making sure Hank didn't
find out about it. Marco was coordinating the food, his mom's cooking,
and everybody else's pot luck. Roy was in charge of the phone and
making sure people were staying in touch.

And it was his idea to contact Conrad and get his blessing for some
of the things that they were going to do.

Mike, still somewhat overwhelmed with running the station, was
on 'Honoring Hank' duty and double checking the station's final
touch ups. Mike made sure the place was ready, without a complaint
from anyone, and the paperwork was all in. Much to his relief!

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The phone rang and froze Johnny in mid-word attempting to make
a point that was suddenly forgotten. Being closest to the phone,
Roy, with an excited tone said, "I got it!"  He picked up the dayroom
phone said, "Station 51, This is Fireman Roy DeSoto." He listened
for a moment then said, "Right, got it." and hung up.
Roy turned to the others, "He's five to ten out."

Marco quickly translated for his mom as Roy said it to everybody
else.  As soon as Roy gave a time frame, the room broke into what
appeared to be controlled chaos.

They all knew what they were doing and it was the just hubbub of
getting in to place to surprise Hank. Everybody but A-shift, was
headed for the dorms. And the gang headed for the engine
and the squad. Marco stopped briefly to tell his mom he'd be
right back. She nodded okay and then joined the others as Marco
hopped on the engine.

As if they were on a call, both trucks pulled out of the station with
all their lights going. Everybody was excited.This was no ordinary call.

This was the call to trick Hank as they welcomed him back. Roy
led Station 51 down the block and around the corner. The
smaller squad moved away only far enough to just see the station
left behind.

Everybody knew what Hank would be driving; he only had the
one car. And as soon as they saw it, they would pounce.

On the engine, Chet bounced like a little kid and said repeatedly,
"Is he there yet? Is he there yet?"

Mike turned around and good naturedly said, "No, but if you don't
stay good, you'll be in your office while everyone else parties."

"But I don't wanna be good, I wanna party!"

Chet realized then that he had to calm down or he'd be latrine officer
for the rest of the day. That quickly settled him down.

Conrad had cleverly set up L.A. County dispatch to send a signal to the
guys. The cue for everybody hiding, would be Roy return reply.  

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Seven minutes after Roy hung up with Hank's wife, Hank's car was
spotted from where station 51 was idling along a curb.Two blocks back,
unbeknowst to Hank, was his wife, parked nearby. Johnny watched
Hank's car turn into the station parking and then looked over at Roy.
"It's party time, partner!" he crowed as the infamous Gage grin

Roy smirked and said, "For the first time in my life, I'll be dying
to say these words." Roy picked up the squad's radio and said,
"Station 51, on scene."

Sam Lanier came back. "10-4, 51."

Ear to ear grins lit up in both trucks and the dorm room at 51's.

As the trucks headed back in a short loop, an unsuspecting Hank,
wearing a dark blue Station 51 polo shirt and khakis, walked
into the station. He had just ambled into the empty bay when
Roy's "Station 51 on scene" came blaring over the speaker.

Hank thought to himself as he looked around at the deserted
station, ::D*mn it. I should be out there.:: Then he thought as
he looked up at the speaker, ::Be safe boys, come home.::
Then the Captain in him came to the forefront as he awaited
the return of his crew, quietly sitting in his black leather recliner
with Henry.

Much to Hank's surprise that return was faster than he
expected, for only minutes after Roy had called the station
on scene, the bay door opened. Concerned, Hank turned and
walked back into the bay. The station was still his main life
and he wanted to make sure all was well. As first the engine, then
the squad backed into the bay, Hank's eyebrows tried to
climb up into his hairline. ::What the h*ll is going on here?::
he thought, watching them settle in.

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As the trucks emptied, the crew didn't hide their grins.
Hank was home.

Johnny commented with a wave to Hank as he looked
down at a slightly damp shirt, "I gotta go change before I
stick to something."

Roy chuckled, "Yeah Junior, I think the department would
rather you lose a shirt, then they have to replace something else
because you stuck to it."

Johnny headed for the dorms. The rest of the crew grinned as
they met Hank by the door way leading into the dayroom. Mike
waved too, and asked, "Hey Cap, you want some coffee?"

Hank grinned, "Shouldn't I be calling you Cap, Stoker?"

Mike blushed to his toes. At the same time Hank's wife arrived
and joined the hidden parade of people leaving the dorms for
the kitchen.

Hank turned at the sound of footsteps in the bay. Before he could
accept his steaming cup, a rousing "SURPRISE!!" echoed through
the room. Hank's jaw promptly hit the floor. Hank thought
::Engage brain, then mouth:: as the shock poured over him.

Grinning from ear to ear A-shift yelled, "Welcome Home Hank!"
And the rest of the full room erupted in applause.

Just as the din died down, the tones went off. Naturally,
everybody turned to listen. Sam's voice rang out, ##L.A. testing with
Station 51. Welcome back, Captain Hank Stanley.##

Stunned to the brink of tears, Hank walked out into the bay
and over to the radio alcove. He picked up the mic and replied,
"Station 51, 10-4 KMG 365." Again the station erupted into cheers.

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Hank turned around and softly said, "You're making me cry,
ya twits." His eyes were moist as he accepted hugs and
handshakes from all.

From the middle of the crowd Marco spoke on his mom's behalf,
"Momma is going to have our heads on silver platters if we don't
eat NOW." Lopez shouted plainatively.

Everybody chuckled and paraded back into the dayroom.

But one person hadn't yet. Chief Conrad was keeping himself well
hidden from Hank's sight, waiting for another cue of Henry being
sent in to fetch him.

Hank waited until everybody was crashed with food in either a chair, on the
couch or on the floor before he spoke. "You guys got me good,
but can I ask a few things?"

Mike said happily, "Sure."

"Where are all the cars?"

Joanne spoke up with a guilty tone in her voice, "I pulled a few
strings. They're all across the street at the plant."

Hank chuckled. "Now for the big one, how did you keep me
from not knowing about this?"

Johnny and Chet both ducked. Johnny said, "Uh, Cap, would you
believe the Phantom and his Pigeon combined for once on a prank?"

Hank shuttered lightly and said, "Uh-oh."

Everybody chuckled.

Mike motioned for Jack and Matt to join him. Together the trio
walked over to Hank. Hank asked, "What's up, Mike?"

Mike replied, "Cap, I just wanted you to meet the guys from Sierra
who jumped off the chopper when Johnny and Roy loaded you on.
These are Rangers Matt Harper and Jack Moore." Mike grinned
at Matt and Jack, "Guys, meet Captain Hank Stanley."

Handshakes were exchanged as Hank smiled at them, "Thanks, guys."

Jack said, "You're welcome, sir."

Matt added, 'Welcome back."

Mike said, "Hey. That's right. If you ever need a couple of good
linemen, Cap, call these two."

Hank was surprised, "Oh?" ::Recruited to fight a fire? Wow.::

Jack said, "Yeah, it was fun." he remembered, rubbing his hands

"Good." Hank smiled as he finally understood just how fast his
engineer had become a Captain on his feet.

After the quick introduction, the food was enjoyed and so was the
company. Hank knew he was home at last but he also knew
that more surprises were probably forthcoming.

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He wasn't disappointed. As Hank turned his back to the doorway to
look over at his wife, Henry pranced out of the room at a cue
from Chet to go fetch a certain somebody.

Seeing him, Conrad snuck towards the back door and quickly
opened and closed it like he had just arrived. He walked slowly and
professionally into the kitchen. Mike was the first one to spot him. In his
Captain's tone, Mike called out, "Station 51, ten hut."

Mike's words brought the room to a stand still and A-shift. Including
a surprised Hank, who thought ::Whoa. I've never heard him use
that tone of voice before:: to their feet. Conrad walked into the
room and smiled, "A-shift in the bay for inspection that includes
you, Hank."

Everybody else was curious to know what was going on and
followed the firemen filing into the bay. A-shift grabbed their
dress hats out of the closet and quickly lined up. Conrad
called, "Hank, please join me in an inspection of your men.
After all, we want to make sure they're in top shape when
you come back in the morning."

Hank smiled as he walked over to Conrad, "I'd be honored, sir."
A pin drop could have been heard as all eyes were glued to
Conrad and Stanley.

Conrad stepped back and let Hank inspect his men. Not a word
was spoken as Hank looked over each man. He started with
Johnny and noted. ::His hair is shorter, at least for Gage and
dang, that's his hat!:: With a smile, Hank moved on to Chet.
::Man this must be important. Chester B. is actually at attention.
Am I really that respected?:: Next was Marco. Hank saw the smile
and the look in his eyes and thought ::All is well.:: Roy was next
and Hank had to smile at the relief in his senior medic's eyes
as he thought. ::I'm home.::

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Finally it was Mike's turn. This was the hardest, for Mike had been
the one to catch him when he first went down. Hank knew he
had Mike to thank for his life.

Tears shone in both pairs of eyes as relief mixed with gratitude
without a word being exchanged.  Hank grew concerned as
he noted Mike seemed nervous for some reason, which wasn't
like the quiet engineer at all. ::I wonder why.::

Hank was just about to step away from Mike when Conrad said,
"Captain Stanley, I do believe you're out of uniform."

Slightly confused, Hank turned, "Sir?"

Mike took a final breath and cut off Conrad before he could
speak. "Uh sir, I know it was your wish to do this, but with
all due respect I'd like to. No sir, I need to do this."

Conrad smilled at the soft spoken Engineer, "Sure, go ahead
Stoker. You deserve it."

Hank's confusion grew as Mike broke rank and stepped
in front of him. Hank asked, "What...?"

Mike cut Hank off and said, "Hank,.. uh,..Captain Stanley. The day
you went down I was handed a set of bugles for safe
keeping. I've kept them warm, but with your permission, sir,
I'd like to give them back to their rightful owner."

Eyes were wet around the bay as Mike, with shaking hands,
removed the bugles from his own collar. Hank fought his own
emotions as he watched his Engineer turned
Captain give up the bugles that meant so much to both of
them. Then Mike once again looked at Chief Conrad,
"Sir, with the department's permission I'd like to
re-pin Captain Stanley's bugles on."

Conrad swallowed a lump in his throat and said,
"Permission granted, Engineer Stoker. You'll get your
own set soon for good one day."

Mike smiled and snapped to attention with the bugles
in hand. He clicked his heels and turned to face Hank,
who had also come back to attention. Slowly,
purposefully, Mike re-ranked Hank, setting one silver bugle
on each side lapel. Then stepped back and saluted his

The rest of A-shift also saluted Hank solemnly formal.

Stunned at the gesture, Hank returned the salute to not
only Mike but all the rest.

After a few moments to regain emotional control, Hank
said, "Mike."

"Yeah Cap?"

"When you get your bugles, I want to decorate you."

Mike smiled warmly, deeply moved.
"Wouldn't miss it. Welcome home, Cap."

With the ceremony out of the way, the party continued.

Finally, grudgingly it was time to go.

Slowly, the families broke away. Chief Conrad and the
forest ranger rescuers left, and so did Hank's wife.

It was just A-shift back together again for the first
time in way too long. Hank looked the members of his
fire family in the eye and said, "Thank you."

Together they all smiled and chorused, "You're welcome,

Hank smiled, "Okay ya twits. The party's over. It's time to go
back to work." he chuckled, "I'll see you guys in the morning."

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From: "Patti" <>
Subject:  The "Cap" Endcap
Date: Dec 12, 2007 2:39 am

Hank found Mike heading out to the front for his usual
habit of putting out the station's color flags for the day.

Already, it was warm and breezy, even with the sun just
barely off the horizon.

"It's sure promising to be a hot one, eh?" Stanley asked,
announcing himself as he got near.

"Yeah, especially this early in the year." said Mike.
"How are you doing? Does it feel funny being back
at work?"

"Not really." Stanley said, helping him unfold the flags
one by one and hooking them up to their snaffles on
the pulley rope. "It's something I've been looking
forward to. No physical therapy, no neurological
assessments,..." he took in a deep breath, "
more unnecessary naps." he said with distaste.

Stoker chuckled. "That was your wife's doing."

"Yeah, well she's done quite enough, thank you.
I got restless. And as soon as I was physician cleared
to return. I came." he shrugged.

"I'm glad you're back, Cap. We've missed you." Mike
said, tying off the rope as the chains rang against
the aluminum pole as the flags reached the height.

"Now that, I find hard to believe." Stanley pegged with
a stare.

"It's true."

Hank smiled, and dropped his chin to his chest,
shaking his head ruefully. "I don't even have to ask
the chief how you've been doing. The place is clean,
the paperwork's in order, the trucks are spotless..."
he looked up at Mike and wondered. "Did you have to
do a lot of yelling to get them to get the chores done?"

Stoker began to squirm. "Not exactly, Cap. I.. really didn't
have to tell them anything. Things just.. sort of.. got done."
he said uncomfortably.

"Really?" Hank was genuinely astonished. Then he frowned
jealously. "Saying nothing and waiting never seems to work for
me." he admitted. "And I've never been able to figure out quite

Mike just came out with it. "It's the grumble factor, Cap."

It was Stanley's turn to stammer a bit. "The gr--  oh, you mean...
what I do..when I..... you know."

"Give orders?" Mike suggested.

"Yeah..." Hank said, relieved that Mike guessed it. "Is it really that
bad to get 'em from me?"

Now Mike smiled. "Not on a call. Never then. But sometimes,
in between them, on the sleepless days." he confessed.
"But we all know it's just your personality type.." Mike nodded
vigorously. "You're a shy guy and like to hide behind a little bluster."

"I do?"


"Oh. Well. Uh, if you say so." Hank muttered, frowning as he mulled
it over. "Kind of like how you don't say anything much for the same

Mike chortled.. "Yeah. These last past few weeks have sure stretched
my comfort zone. I didn't think I could handle it."

Hank stretched and retrieved his morning cup of coffee from off
the nearby fuel pump. "You were the only one, according to the
rest of the guys. And I'm not talking about Conrad here."


"Yeah. They told me what you did. How fast you took over the day
I blacked out. 'Never hesitated' I believe was the phrase used in
the chief's report after he talked to Marco and Chet about it."

"Now why would he do that?"

"Why do you think? Hank grinned.

Mike immediately turned red. "Oh, not another one. I hate getting those."

"No, you don't. You love em. This'll be your eleventh commendation
since you signed onto my station. Congratulations early.." he said,
taking Mike's hand into a handshake.

Mike shuffled a shoe's toe in the sand next to the flagpole, not
saying anything after releasing his grip.

Stanley regarded Stoker for a long time, grateful to have such
a good man by his side. "Feels good, doesn't it?"

"What does?" Mike said, checking to make sure the tied off
ropes stayed tied on the pole.

"The helper's high. What every firefighter feels when he saves a life."

Mike finally regained his smile. "Or a home."

"Or a few gallons of water during drought restrictions.." Hank grimaced,

Mike groaned in remembrance. "What a crazy set of ordinances.
Limiting how much hydrant flow we use to follow up on a knocked
down fire."

Hank fell into easy agreement, folding his arms together as he
leaned companionably against the flagpole. "Isn't it though? What
other ordinances did you see in the book that you didn't like so much?"

"The evaluation procedures. They're so.. regimental. I mean,
as a station, we're supposed to be friends, right? And can talk
about anything because we work together, eat together, we bunk in
the same room.." he ticked off on his fingers.

Hank pursed his lips, taking a swallow from his ceramic mug thoughtfully.
"That's the ideal picture, yes."

"Well, then why did I feel so alone and left out having cap's rank?"

"It's lonely at the top?" Stanley shrugged.

"It doesn't have to be."

Hank frowned. "It does for me. If I didn't gruff, no one would respect me."

"Now that isn't true at all.." Mike said in all honesty. "Have you tried it?"

"Once." Stanley admitted, biting a nail subconsciously.

"What happened?"

"I got beer cases mysteriously appearing in my locker with requests
for days off, with ribbons tied around em."

Stoker laughed. "Nice! What ever was wrong with that? They were gifts,
you know. Probably bonding offerings."

"I don't drink." Hank gruffed. "And next time the chief puts you in
my shoes, let me leave you with a little advice about handling the men
so you don't have to do any chores yourself.." and he leaned in and
whispered something in Mike's ear.

Stoker's mouth dropped open. "That's it?"

"That's it."

"I can't wait to give it try. So when's the next time you think you're gonna
get laid up?"

"Never." Stanley snorted. "It's kind of embarrassing having to be rescued
by your own men for no good reason."

"Cap, you were hurt.." Mike said.

"From what? A little arm lock on a dashboard and a bed failure during--"

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"Ah! You don't have to say how again." Mike said, holding up a hand.

"Anyway, I appreciate what you did for me. I would have been
showered, powdered, primped in my dress uniform, and being pulled
by a flag covered horse drawn carriage if you hadn't've been right there
to end that particular sad possibility. Well, ..." Cap scratched his head.
"What I'm really trying to say is--" he said, embarrassed.

"You're welcome." Stoker said, "It's what firefighters do for living, so
just count your lucky stars." Mike said, eyeing up the line of sight the flags
that they had raised together, now rippling in the morning's light.

"I am.. All fifty one of them." he said, pointing his finger at Mike for
the last one.

Mike was good enough to blush at the compliment.

Hank took him by the shoulders, gratefully. "Come on, let's go inside
and grab some breakfast."

"Is it any good?"

"I'm cooking today."

"Then let's go. I'm starved. I always am after raising a flag or two." Mike
said, walking with him.

"Ah,..." said Cap in discovery."So that's why you do this everyday."

"Yep." Mike beamed, all trace of his shyness gone.

"Neat trick. All this fresh air."

"Figuratively speaking." Miked scoffed, referring to California's smog.

Cap was undiscouraged. "All right if I join you from now on?"

"I wouldn't have it any other way, Cap." Stoker said, his eyes sparkling
in tears of happiness.


Episode 49, Season 6
The Helper's High
Emergency Theater Live


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