The alarm bell rang in the firehouse, signaling a blazing fire in downtown Kansas City. Wells was the first to gear up and jump behind the wheel of Engine 463. He was the firehouse captain and was adored by the community’s citizens. No one in the company was stronger, smarter, or more compassionate than he was.
Second in command to Wells was his best friend, Keith Tucker, who was musclebound, athletic, and handsome.
The two strapping men were the town’s pride and its most eligible bachelors. Keith was tall and striking in appearance, with bulging arms covered in tattoos. His weathered, striking face donned a well-groomed, standard-issue fireman’s mustache. Wells was the bigger of the two men. His fresh face made him look like the high school’s star quarterback rather than a hunky fireman.
The two studly firefighters have been best friends for the last ten years. They instantly bonded when they met in high school, defending a nerdy first-year student from a sophomore bully. They have been inseparable ever since and have dedicated their lives to serving and protecting the members of their community.
Keith was a recent divorcee. Now single, he possessed sole custody of his daughter, Emily. At four feet tall, with long dark hair and a pixie face that was as sweet as it was innocent. Emily Tucker was the apple of her dad’s eye and Well’s beloved goddaughter. The three were inseparable, and they created their own little nuclear family.
Emily called Wells her second father since he often picked her up after school while Keith worked his shift at the firehouse. Keith felt guilty that Wells needed to pick up Emily from school for him, but Wells didn’t mind. He enjoyed it, especially since he had a secret crush on Emily’s teacher, Mr. Saunders.
One day, while on “Emily duty,” Wells patiently sat in front of Calhoun Elementary, waiting for her to finish school. He shifted in his seat like a nervous teen, hoping to get a glimpse of his secret crush, Mr. Saunders, Emily’s teacher.
Mr. Saunders was blissfully unaware that amongst the sea of sex-starved mothers, a strapping fireman sat quietly in his truck and gazed hungrily upon his tight dress slacks and the form-fitting button-down shirt. Wells couldn’t help but laugh at his foolishness as he fantasized about having this bookish stud in his bed. Mr. Saunders was unlike the usual burly firefighter bros Wells worked with at the station. Nerdy, Clark Kent, scholastic types lit his fire, and Mr. Saunders was precisely that.
As Emily emerged from her classroom, she instantly spotted Wells in his truck. Her face lit up at the sight of her second dad waiting patiently for her. She eagerly ran to him and jumped into his vehicle to be taken home. Wells warmly greeted her with a big kiss and snuggle. He began navigating the obstacle course of minivans filled with exhausted moms and sugar-infused children when he spotted Mr. Saunders walking over.
Wells’s heart pounded at the sight of Mr. Saunders approaching. Did I do something wrong? Am I allowed to pick up my goddaughter, or does it need to be a parent? Did Emily do anything wrong? Wells panicked, thinking that something was amiss.
Mr. Saunders smiled as he approached the passenger window of Well’s truck. His bright white teeth sparkled as his eyes twinkled. His wrinkle-free shirt and tie had a long day as he lovingly juggled a room full of adolescents.
Wells thought, Be calm and collected. You’re the fire brigade captain, not a teenage girl waiting for her high school crush to ask her to the prom!
Mr. Saunders addressed Wells directly with his commanding, deep voice. Wells swooned as he imagined this stern yet compassionate teacher teaching him a lesson or two.
“Hello. My name’s Jacob. The kids call me Mr. Saunders. I’ve noticed you picking up Emily when her dad was working. It’s nice that she has someone as punctual and caring as you are looking after her. Would you give her father this invitation for me? It’s for career day. I’m inviting students’ parents to come into class and talk about their careers. I know Mr. Tucker is a fireman, and it would be nice if one of our local heroes would come in and educate the students about the occupation.” Wells was so flummoxed by the butterflies in his stomach that he couldn’t speak. Rather than giving him an articulate reply to the invitation. The words, “Gotcha. Will do. I’ll give him the invite,” stumbled out of his mouth.
Mr. Saunders nodded appreciatively and turned to walk back to his classroom. Wells caught himself staring at Mr. Saunders’s impressively round, attractive glutes as he headed across the yard. He was grateful that Emily couldn’t hear his thoughts as an entire litany of naughty fantasies ran through his head.
Wells snapped out of his dirty daydream when Emily proclaimed, “He’s so nice, isn’t he?” Wells replied immediately, “Yes, he certainly IS NICE.”
Wells knew it was wrong to use Emily to do his recon, but he didn’t know any other way to determine whether Mr. Saunders was coupled or not. As Emily gleefully sat waiting to be taken to her father, Wells opened a can of Red Bull energy drink and causally inquired, “Emily, do you know if there is a… Mrs. Saunders?” Emily instantly answered, “Mr. Saunders is a homo, just like you, Uncle Wells!”
Wells choked on his drink and spat it all over the interior of his truck. After regaining his composure, he continued somewhat sternly inquiring. “Emily, why would you call us that?”
Emily smiled innocently and explained, “Oh, Uncle, don’t tell me you don’t know that there are lots of different “sexuals.” There are heterosexuals, homosexuals, bisexuals, transsexuals… and lots more. Would you like me to tell you about them all?”
Wells fought the urge to laugh as he instructed her, “You’re right, Emily. I forgot about all the different “sexuals. But, in the future, you may not want to abbreviate those words when describing someone.”
Emily was satisfied with that response and again reminded Wells to hurry so that she could get home to her dad.
Arriving at the firehouse was Emily’s favorite part of her day. She was popular at the station, where the firefighters took turns spoiling her with hugs, treats, and gifts.
As Emily amused herself on the truck, Wells handed Keith the letter he had received earlier. “This is from Emily’s teacher. He asked if you would talk to her classmates about your job. She told them you’re a firefighter, and they want to meet you.” Keith laughed, “Isn’t this the dude you’re hot for? It sounds like the perfect opportunity for you to get better acquainted with this guy. I’m sure Emily wouldn’t mind if you took my place and spoke to the class.” Wells instantly started making excuses. “No. I mean, yes, this is the teacher I like, but you’re Emily’s dad. He wants YOU to talk to the students. Not me!” Keith put a reassuring arm around Wells. “Dude, you seriously need to find a man. We all love you here, but you got to get yourself a boyfriend. This guy is perfect for you. I’ll talk to Emily and see if she minds you standing in for me.” Keith flashed Wells the same smile that broke a dozen young woman’s hearts as he mischievously winked and teased, “You’re Kansas City’s second sexiest firefighter. What are you afraid of?”
Wells chuckled as he politely disagreed with his buddy about who should be first. “I’m THE sexiest firefighter. You’re solidly in second place. I appreciate the confidence, but honestly, it’s a bad idea. I’m not this guy’s type.” Keith decided he wasn’t accepting any answer other than a “yes” from Wells. “Dude. You can’t be afraid of rejection. You run into burning buildings. You don’t flinch in the face of death. You’re a badass. I have every confidence that you could muster the courage to ask some cute middle school teacher out on a date.”
A week had passed, and career day was upon them. All the students were excited to have their friends and family come in to talk about their occupations. Emily was especially excited since she had a special request for Wells that day; she had asked him to please do his presentation in his firefighting uniform. Wells wasn’t sure about showing up in his gear, but he was determined to make Emily happy and to give a good presentation, so he agreed to wear his uniform.
Three o’clock arrived, and his allotted time slot was almost upon him. Wells clunkily walked down the school’s hall to room 316, where he was scheduled to appear. A quick knock on the door signaled to the teacher he had arrived and was ready to address the class. Mr. Saunders unlocked the door and opened it, finding Wells standing stoically in his caption’s hat, boots, and yellow uniform.
Mr. Saunders gasped as he proclaimed, “Oh, wow. Look at you!”
Wells instantly apologized, assuming it was too much and inappropriate to be wearing his regalia in the classroom.
Mr. Saunders fumbled over his words, clearly flustered. “No. No. This is wonderful. I know the students will enjoy experiencing the authenticity of having a real firefighter in the classroom!” Wells felt better at Mr. Saunders’s reassuring words and comforting smile. “Let’s get you introduced. The kids are certainly in for a treat, as am I.”
Wells was escorted to the front of the class and invited to make his presentation. Emily beamed with pride as Wells talked about her second father and the other men who worked passionately to protect the town’s citizens and their homes. Students waved their hands, eager to ask questions of the giant, handsome hero in front of the room. Kelly McKee was the first to be picked and wondered, “Where do you live? Do you sleep at the firehouse?”
Wells smiled as he answered, “Most firefighters live at home with their families. When an alarm goes off, they rush out of bed and into the station so that they may gear up and get on the truck to respond to the fire. I am the captain, so I have an apartment on the top floor of the firehouse. That’s where I live.”
The room erupted again as students begged, “pick me, pick me!” Ralphie Thomson was next with the question, “Do you really slide down a pole to get to the truck, or is that just in the movies?”
Wells’ nerves had calmed down, and he began to enjoy answering the questions as he replied. “It’s true. We have a brass pole that goes from the top floor down to the truck. It’s the fastest way to get from the third floor to street level.”
Mr. Saunders informed the students that the day was over and there was only time for one more question. Wells could see Emily’s hand raised. It surprised him that she wanted to ask a question since she already knew so much about the profession. Wells couldn’t pass up Emily, so he chose her to ask him her question. “I know you’re all so brave and all, but is there anything you’re afraid of?” Her inquiry stumped Wells. He stopped and thought for a minute before replying.
After a quick consideration, he confidently smiled and explained, “Yes. I get afraid. Fear protects us. It would be dangerous to be unafraid of scary things. The important thing is how you handle being afraid and the decisions you make when confronted with fear.”
Mr. Saunders smiled at Well’s answer. He was pleased with the intelligent and thoughtful response he gave the class. He then joined Wells in the front of the room. “Sorry, students, the day is over. Let’s finish and thank everyone for their time. We must get ready to go home soon.”
All the other students and parents had left when Mr. Saunders approached Wells to express his gratitude for his time. “You certainly were a hit today. I am grateful for your wisdom and expertise. I especially enjoyed your answer when Emily asked, “Is there anything you were afraid of?”
Wells bashfully looked down to avoid eye contact. He knew the butterflies in his stomach would start fluttering if their eyes met again. Wells took a deep breath and replied, “Thank you for having me here today. It surprised me, too, when Emily asked if there was anything I was afraid of. I’m glad my answer seemed appropriate for the students, although it wasn’t complete.”
Mr. Saunders hesitantly inquired, “I’m sorry to ask you this, and maybe I shouldn’t. But what is the complete answer to the question, “Is there anything you’re afraid of?”
Wells took a deep breath, paused, looked Mr. Saunders directly in the face, and stated, “Frankly, I’m afraid that if I ask you on a date, you may say no.” Wells exhaled with a mighty sign, grateful to have gotten that burden off his chest.
Mr. Saunders blushed as he looked around the room for a rogue ear listening to them speak. He readied himself to answer, “Wells, I’m an educated man. Only a fool would say no to a date with you.”
Wells nervously laughed, “Wonderful! How’s Friday? I can make dinner at the station. The guys tell me I’m quite the cook!”
Mr. Saunders found Wells’ flustered response surprising and endearing. How could this massive hunk of a man be so nervous around someone like me? “I’ll be looking forward to Friday night, then. I’m guessing I’ll meet you at the firehouse?” he wondered.
Wells shot back, “Yes, that’s where I live. The guys go home at seven, so the place will be all ours for the night. That is unless there’s a fire that we need to attend to.”
Emily started pulling on Wells’ shirt, eager to leave and see her dad. Wells knew it was time to go, so he gave Mr. Saunders one last bashful glance before heading home.
Friday evening arrived. The firefighters took turns teasing Wells about his big date that night and how anxious he was about it all day.
Keith was quick to quiet the guys down. “Hey, give a guy a break. I remember when you all met your girlfriends and wives. You were just as nervous!” Keith wrapped his imposing arm around his buddy, pulling him in tightly as he squeezed and assured him, “Bro. You’re an awesome guy. Be yourself, and he’ll love you–if he doesn’t, we know where his house is–he’ll have Kansas city’s entire fire brigade to answer to!”
Wells playfully freed himself from Keith’s powerful grasp and thanked him for his sweet yet disturbing sentiment. Wells once again insisted all the men go home for the night so he could finish preparing for his date.
It was seven o’clock when a knock on the big oak doors of the firehouse signaled Mr. Saunders had arrived.
Wells thought, Perfect timing! Hopefully, this goes well, and we won’t be disturbed by an emergency tonight! Fingers crossed!
Wells was on the top floor of his apartment when he heard the knock. He anxiously leaped for the pole in the center of the floor and quickly slid three stories down to the ground level where the truck was parked.
With a mighty heave, the large, heavy door creaked open, revealing Mr. Saunders dressed casually in a button-down shirt and blue chino slacks. He was holding a bottle of vintage wine and smiled innocently. He chuckled as he handed the bottle to Wells, saying, “I hope red pairs with the dinner you’re preparing. It’s supposed to be a terrific year.” Wells’ heart skipped at the sight of this shy, sweet, nerdy man. “Red’s perfect. Thank you for bringing the bottle. I can’t wait to open it. Dinner’s almost ready, so if you’d like to follow me upstairs, we can eat, and then later, I can give you a tour of the station.” Wells was amused at seeing his date, looking around wide-eyed with amazement at the station’s large red trucks and equipment. He was clearly impressed with what he saw. Who wouldn’t be? Firehouses are every man’s fascination. Why should his date be any different?
Three flights up were an easy trek. Each of the men was in their late twenties and in excellent physical shape. When they reached Wells’ apartment, Mr. Saunders noted how much he appreciated the tasteful décor and the aromatic smells coming from the kitchen.
“Wow. You weren’t kidding when you said you were a good cook. It all smells fantastic.”
Wells humbly responded, “The men always enjoy the meals I prepare for them. They work and train hard; the least I could do is to treat them to something delicious at the end of the day.”
Now it was Mr. Saunders who had butterflies in his stomach. How did I get so lucky? He wondered. A hulking, handsome firefighter who’s thoughtful, kind, and can cook?
Wells expertly opened the wine and set the table in preparation to eat. “Best to let the bottle breathe. We want to get as much of the full-bodied flavor out of it as possible.”
Mr. Saunders was grateful he was with a fireman at that moment since he was clearly overheating at the sight of Wells. He knew that if the fire he was experiencing himself wasn’t extinguished soon, he’d burst into flames.
Wells was feeling his temperature rise, too–he was hot for teacher and had to do something about it quickly.
The two men stood silent, facing the other for what seemed to be a desperately long time without saying a word. Neither of them was sure who would make the first move. One thing was obvious; they were both smoldering and about to burst. Mr. Saunders made the first move as he slowly leaned forward, lips pursed, eyes closed, hungry to feel Wells’ mouth pressed against his. The sudden blaring of the fire alarm caused Mr. Saunders to jump nearly out of his skin. The siren was short and ended quickly, but it was enough to scare the bejesus out of him. Short of breath, as his heart raced, he couldn’t help but think.
What terrible luck! Just as my fire started raging, another breaks out in town!
“I guess you will need to respond to that,” Mr. Saunders stated with obvious disappointment. Wells laughed. “No. That’s just one alarm. Nothing urgent; my buddy Keith and the guys can handle it. I’m still yours for the night.”
“You’re mine for the night? I like the way that sounds!” Mr. Saunders replied with a glint in his eye. Wells was suddenly cool and collected. He knew that this date was going to go well, and he was right about Mr. Saunders; they were a perfect pairing, and he was about to ace this date with him. Wells playfully continued, “Yup. The only blaze I intend to respond to this evening is the one in my bed with you.”
Mr. Saunders wasn’t shy about what was being promised to him as he added, “Well, that’s nice to hear. I’m guessing we’ll have an eight-alarm fire tonight.” Wells laughed as he explained, “Alarms only go up to five. Not eight.” Mr. Saunders took Well’s hand and placed it firmly on the front of his pants.
Wells knew how to follow instructions, so he happily complied. Who was he to argue with a teacher? He was well aware of what he was being instructed to do. With a hearty squeeze, he realized the magnitude of Mr. Saunders’s pun. Indeed, he was correct. Eight it was!
Wells quickly took him by the hand and escorted him into his bedroom as he explained, “Being a firefighter, I’m an expert in getting out of my clothes quickly, but somehow, tonight, I just can’t seem to do it fast enough.” Mr. Saunders wholeheartedly agreed as the two men rapidly disrobed, eager to quench the fire burning within them as they tumbled into Wells’ nearby bed. Their bodies were locked together in a fiery embrace. They knew the blaze they felt in their hearts wouldn’t be extinguished quickly.
Wells ended up burning their dinner that night, which was fine with them since what they were hungry for wasn’t originally on the menu.