He worked a regular fireman's schedule of twos and fours. Two days on, two days off, two days on, four days off. His next shift was two days later and he'd nearly forgotten about the rookie.
Chance caught sight of his own reflection in the mirrored window next to the door leading to the station kitchen. The sunburn he'd gotten on his neck and chest yesterday at the beach was starting to fade already, adding to the nice early tan he'd started for summer. It had been a good day for waves and he'd surfed longer than he'd intended, stopping only when he had to battle tourists for water space. Chance noticed his hair was already lightening, another side effect of the strong California sun and ocean saltwater.
He was forty minutes early for his eight o'clock shift and the kitchen was quiet, only the captain from last night standing at the sink. "Sutter," Chance greeted, and the man half-turned from washing his cereal dish.
"Hey, Chance. I borrowed some of you guys' milk."
"Why don't you just take our fucking blood, too," Chance joked, reaching for the door of the refrigerator marked with a blue "B". Three fridges stood side by side in the alcove, each marked with the letter of the corresponding shift. Chance was on B shift, but occasionally they all would root through another shift's refrigerator for food staples if they ran low.
Two other firefighters appeared in the large kitchen, hair tousled and blinking blearily. "Bad night?" Chance asked, and they glared at him.
"Double ran two calls and Triple ran three," Sutter offered by way of explanation, and Chance winced. Some nights were like that. It came with the job.
Contrary to popular belief, most of their calls were not for fires. Chance had fought plenty of fires in his day, but most of their responses were for medical aid to the local retirement community or traffic collisions on the freeway. The occasional ocean accident came their way, if it was something the lifeguards couldn't handle. Fighting actual fire was only about thirty percent of Chance's job. He loved it, too, and sometimes considered moving further inland where there was more chance of brush or structure fire.
But one look out the window at the Pacific Ocean, blue and sparkling, and Chance would remember why he stayed at Station Eleven. High tide was a powerful motivator.
The kitchen got noisier as more of B shift arrived and C shift got ready to leave, shoving back chairs and thunking coffee mugs into the dishwasher. There was good-natured ribbing for C shift about their crappy night, complete with calls of "hero!" when it was discovered that one of the medics had revived an old man having a heart attack.
Chance was leaning against the fridge, contemplating putting more chocolate syrup in his coffee, when the back door opened. He noticed the lull in conversation more than the actual arrival of the newcomer.
Glancing up at the sudden quiet, he was greeted with the sight of one of the prettiest men he'd ever seen. Oh, fuck, was his first thought, then Chance stopped thinking at all.
The new hire strolled into the greatroom next to the kitchen and stopped beside one of the twelve recliners in front of the television. Leaning against it insolently, he sized up each and every man in the room before saying, with a slight drawl, "Tucker McBride."
Matt rose from his chair, coming forward with hand extended. Chance watched as the rookie shook it firmly, knowing he had already met Matt at his academy graduation, and the two men seemed to have an easy accord. "Welcome to the Big House," Matt said, and Tucker lifted his eyes to where the station's nickname was carved in the wood beam above his head.
The other firemen called greetings to him and Tucker made his way to the table, shaking hands with his right while holding onto his gear bag with his left. Chance kept a surreptitious eye on Tucker while he went around the table, noting details he wished he hadn't seen.
Longish legs encased in regulation blue department pants. Strong muscles in his forearms that flexed every time he shook someone else's hand, and his skin was like nothing Chance had ever seen. Almost copper, it was tanned differently than Chance's own California glow. Smooth and burnished, it seemed to shimmer. Chance wanted to touch it, to see if it was as silky as it looked.
He wanted to do a hell of a lot more than that, his body began to tell him, and Chance shifted uncomfortably. Good thing he still had track pants on and hadn't changed into his uniform yet. His track pants were a little more roomy.
Chance continued his perusal of Tucker until the man had shaken hands with everyone in the room but him. Chance was just thinking it was fine if they never touched each other when the captain called out, "And that's Shanahan, lurking by the fridge. Don't let his glare scare you."
Tucker stopped in front of Chance, dropping his bag on the floor and meeting Chance's eyes. "You're the other paramedic," Tucker stated, extending his hand.
Chance nodded, taking in the dark eyes and even darker hair, praying to any God that would listen that Tucker did not look down and see evidence of Chance's arousal. "Chancellor," he managed to get out. "How's it going?"
"Last ten minutes've been fine," Tucker said seriously, and again Chance detected the slow drawl.