Author Topic: O, Fiery, Fiery Night  (Read 324 times)

Olivia Storm

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O, Fiery, Fiery Night
« on: April 11, 2012, 04:12:13 AM »
Few things are as insidious as smoke. It coils and it twists, it slips through the slightest crack, it fills every space it can. It reaches down into your lungs and chokes you slowly from the inside out. And, as they say, there is no smoke without fire.

Liv stirred in the darkness of her bedroom, feeling a dull tickle in the back of her throat. Rolling onto her side, she rubbed her nose, pressing her face into her pillow, and sighed lazily. Or at least, she tried to sigh lazily - the heavy intake of breath caught in her throat with an acrid taste, setting her to coughing violently as she choked on that lungful of air. Her eyes blinked open slowly, peering into the darkness with short-sighted confusion, wondering what it was that she could smell. Was that ... burning?

"Oh Lucy ... cooking at this time of night?"

The younger Broderick sat up in bed, scrabbling for her glasses on the bedside table to sit upon her nose, blinking as the world came back into focus, gloomy though it was. Her hand caught up the alarm clock, pressing the backlight to read the time. [size=9]2:31 AM.[/size] Half past two in the morning? Lucy shouldn't be back yet, she wasn't due to finish work for another couple of hours. Liv ran a hand back through her sleep-tousled brunette hair, setting the clock down on the bedside table, and sniffed the gloomy air once again. No, that was definitely a burning smell. Was someone downstairs or upstairs burning a very late night snack? Or was something on fire in the apartment?

She sat there for a long moment, rubbing her eyes beneath her glasses absently. They were stinging for some reason, although she put that down to being awake when she would rather be asleep. If something was burning, she really should get up and put it out. And open a window ... it seemed ridiculously warm in here for Spring. Now she was awake, she could hear people shouting outside - nothing too clear, but evidently something big was going on that was drawing something of a crowd.

Swinging her legs out from under the covers, she rolled back the sleeves of her nightshirt - or rather, the shirt Johnny had left behind when he and Lucy had split up two weeks ago - and stood up, feeling the acrid taste in the air catch in her throat once again. Coughing, Liv waved a hand in front of her face, realising as she did so that she could see the air currents moving. That meant smoke. Smoke meant a problem of a rather more serious nature.

There was a glass of water next to her bed; Liv grabbed up the nearest piece of cloth, which embarrassingly enough was a clean pair of panties from her fresh laundry pile, and soaked it through with the water, laying the sodden cotton jersey over her mouth and nose as she crouched, lowering her head beneath the level of the smoke she could now see clearly in the darkness.

Moving to the door, she checked the wood with the back of her hand. It was cool, thank God. She pulled open the door, making her way along the hallway toward the main room, listening to the creak and crackle of the old wooden structure of the building. The smoke was thicker out here, a sure sign that the crowd outside was gathering because of the fire in here. But where? Was it upstairs, or downstairs? The wooden floorboards beneath her bare feet didn't feel warm, as she would assume they would were the fire below her. So did that mean the fire was upstairs?

That question was answered in a manner Liv could certainly have lived without. Without warning, the ceiling above her began to buckle and creak, the plaster falling in heavy drifts just moments before an entire beam gave way. Suddenly, the living room - her access to the main hall and safety - was filled with the blazing debris of the apartment above as it fell through, scattering flame and ash over everything. Liv fell back with a loud scream, her back thumping hard against the wall behind her as another deafening crash and gout of billowing flame announced that her bedroom had just been engulfed by the flames from above as well. The bedroom she'd been sleeping in only minutes before.

Everything around her was hazy with heat and smoke, too hot to breathe easily, to see clearly. Shielding her eyes, Liv peered into the crackling wall of flame on either side of her, trying to see some way of getting to the main hall and out safely. But that would involve running with bare legs and a very loose shirt through the fire, and though she didn't want to burn to death, she wasn't desperate enough yet to risk third-degree burns or worse in an escape attempt.

Paralysed with shock and fright, she sank down onto her knees, hyperventilating through the wet cloth that was quickly drying out as the flames roared and leapt around her, making short work of her belongings and those of her sister, unaware that the spout of fire that now licked up through the destruction of the roof was clearly visible from all around. Surely someone would come to help them. Even the Rhy'Din Fire Brigade would do.

Night after night, Johnny Storm flew his usual nightly patrol. Night after night of mostly boring flights around the city and the surrounding area. Every now and then, he'd spy someone who needed help with this or that, and he'd assist where he could, but mostly things had been quiet, at least as far as his patrols were concerned. So quiet, he'd started to wonder if he was needed in Rhy'Din at all - a place where metahumans of all kinds were a dime a dozen. Just as he was starting to have his doubts, starting to wonder if he shouldn't just go home, Fate intervened.

The fire was hard to miss against the backdrop of the city, flames reaching into the sky, licking at the walls and roof, like a fiery monster bent on devouring the building in its entirety. Even from a distance, Johnny couldn't help but spy the flames and without hesitation headed that way, arriving on the scene even before the fire brigade.

He knew the building; he'd been there several times - it was where Liv and Lucy made their home, or at least, where they'd been living when last he'd seen them. It had been weeks now without contact. Liv had left several messages that Johnny had deleted without listening to, judging it better that way. Hearing her voice would only break down his resolve, and he had decided both she and her sister were better off without him.

Johnny set himself down on the ground, dowsing the flames that engulfed him, trying to make heads or tails of the chaos outside the three-story apartment building. Despite his avoiding the twins, he still cared for both of them, and he felt panic coiling in the pit of his stomach as he frantically searched the faces in the crowd for one or the other, pushing his way through the frightened observers. "Liv!" he called. "Luce!"

The building nearby belched flames suddenly and some of those in the crowd cried out, fearfully backing away from the flames. "Does anyone know if there's anyone left in the building?" he shouted over the chaos.
[size=9:184a99ac32][color=darkblue:184a99ac32][i:184a99ac32][b:184a99ac32]I want you to be everything that's you, deep at the center of your being.[/b:184a99ac32][/i:184a99ac32][/color:184a99ac32][/size:184a99ac32]

Olivia Storm

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Re: O, Fiery, Fiery Night
« Reply #1 on: April 11, 2012, 04:17:30 AM »
They were not to be seen among the faces of the crowd, the elder still at work and the younger caught between walls of fire in her own apartment. But it wasn't just the girl Johnny knew trapped inside the building - as the crowd heaved toward the building only to draw back again at the appearance of one of Rhy'Din's resident superheroes, a quiet yell drew his attention toward a small family, huddled near the front of the mass of people. The father was screaming at the building, held back from entering only by friends and onlookers. "Mom! DAD!"

The building's caretaker, a worn-looking man whose face was streaked with soot and clothes speckled with scorch marks, caught Johnny's eye, moving away from the crowd with a deep frown. "There's three still in there," he told the metahuman in a heavy voice. "Mr and Mrs Campbell, elderly pair, not very quick on their feet; and you seem to know Liv Broderick. Her sister's at work. I tried to get them out but ... the hall's on fire, the upper floor fell in about twenty minutes ago. No one can reach the second floor, let alone get anyone out."

Johnny tossed a glance at the man, listening carefully, knowing there wasn't a moment to lose, pushing aside the fear in the pit of his stomach for now at the news that Olivia was still in there, and letting his instincts take over. "Everyone stay back!" he shouted, sweeping an arm out to push the crowd back. "I'm going in." He turned on a heel toward the building and without another moment's hesitation, he shouted his signature call of "Flame on!" and like a meteor streaking across the sky, he was heading full-force toward the building.

The apartment closest to the street was not the one he was most familiar with. The elderly Campbells' second floor home was not aflame, the empty apartment above their not having fallen in. But the apartment was filled with smoke, coiling around the pair where they crouched together in their bathroom, their coughs audible above the loud crackle and snap of the flames in the hallway and beyond.

The tricky part was finding a way through the flames to those who needed help without the fire spreading further. Once inside, Johnny doused his own flames, moving along the first floor corridor to the stairs, letting the sound of the cries and coughs led his way. Luckily, the first apartment he came to wasn't on fire yet, but it was full of smoke and he knew the people in there didn't have much time.

Once there, he hurried toward the sound of the voices, crouching down and manipulating the fire so that the air cleared around them enough that they could breathe freely. "You need to get out! Follow me. Quickly!" he told them, pulling them to their feet. "Can you walk?"

No matter the emergency, some things never changed. "Who is it, Matthew?" the woman asked as she peered toward the young man gesticulating toward them, plucking at her husband's arm.

Matthew Campbell, too, peered at Johnny as he answered. "Some boy in long underwear, Judith," he informed his wife. "Says we need to get out."

Judith Campbell frowned. "I'm not leaving so he can steal my silverware," she declared in a crotchety voice, seemingly unable to ignore the hacking cough that took control of her in her heightened state.

Matthew Campbell glared at Johnny. "There, you see what you've done? She was fine before you arrived!"

Johnny was anxious to get further down the hall, to get Liv out safely, but he couldn't ignore the elderly couple and leave them to die there when he could help save them. "Your silver isn't important right now. The building's on fire! There's no time to argue!" If they didn't come with him this time, he'd have to choice but to physically drag them out. "There are other people who need rescuing. Hurry!"

He glanced up at the ceiling, worrying that it would come falling down on them at any minute and he opened his arms, closing his eyes a moment, to take in as much of the heat as he could.

"Rescuing from what? It's just a bit hot, that's ... that's ..." The irate Mrs Campbell's tone faded as she stared at the young man who had been shouting at them. She nudged her husband. "What's he doing?"

Johnny tossed a glance at Mr. Campbell, who seemed a little more lucid than his wife. "Get her out of here," he warned, in a no-nonsense tone, turning his back on them and focusing on the heat and the flames.

"Out of ... oh, oh, I see." It couldn't have been clearer that Mr Campbell did not see, but he'd given up arguing. Wrapping an arm around his still complaining wife, he began to shuffle toward the hallway, where the flames wavered and danced under Johnny's manipulation, moving back out of their way, making the stairs safe for the little old couple to venture downward.

Johnny followed them out into the hallway, manipulating the flames with sheer force of will, clearing a safe path for their exit.

Unfortunately, even Johnny's abilities with fire weren't enough to keep the remaining embers in the stronger timbers of the stairs from doing damage once the Campbells had made their escape, ushered hurriedly outside by the caretaker of the building. That entire section of the hallway collapsed in sudden flame, plunging out from beneath the Human Torch's feet.

Quick to react, Johnny quickly enveloped himself in flames, rising off the floor that had just collapsed beneath him. So long as he wasn't hit with any falling beams or debris, the fire wasn't really much of a danger to him, but he knew time was running out for Olivia, the last person trapped in here. "That was close," he muttered to himself, glancing down at the hole that had moments before been the east end of the second floor hallway. Still aflame, he wasted no more time, but shot down the hallway toward Liv and Lucy's apartment, hoping he wasn't too late.

The flames had already destroyed the door into the apartment he knew well, still flickering throughout that first main room. The kitchen was charred and all but destroyed, the ceilings of both kitchen and living room decorating the floor in blackened, flaming debris. The little hallway from which the doors to bedrooms and bathroom led was also engulfed in flames.

At the far end, Liv's bedroom was in the same state as the living room, and the heat of the door to Lucy's room declared that it was only a matter of time before that door, too, would collapse in charred remains. The door to the bathroom was open, and in the midst of the crackling flames and coiling smoke, bare legs were visible against the floor, sprawled in the act of crawling inside, and terrifyingly close to being burned by the encroaching flames.
[size=9:184a99ac32][color=darkblue:184a99ac32][i:184a99ac32][b:184a99ac32]I want you to be everything that's you, deep at the center of your being.[/b:184a99ac32][/i:184a99ac32][/color:184a99ac32][/size:184a99ac32]

Olivia Storm

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Re: O, Fiery, Fiery Night
« Reply #2 on: April 11, 2012, 04:23:33 AM »
He didn't have much time to think about the charred remains of the apartment, a sick feeling of dread settling over him, terrified he was too late. "Liv!" he called, hoping against hope that she was still alive. Without much regard for his own safety, he stepped through the debris, extinguishing his own flames only to absorb the flames of the fire as he made his way through the small apartment, looking for any signs of life. His heart sank when he saw the state of the place, and he called out again, this time more urgently, on the verge of panic. "Olivia! Where are you?"

As the flames were slowly absorbed and extinguished, the blinding shimmer of heat began to recede, lifting the veil of that distorting fold in the air to bring the scene into sharper relief. There was no reply to Johnny's frantic calls, the smoke and heat long since having overcome the young woman who stirred feebly against the hot tiles of her bathroom floor. Reacting to the sound of the voice shouting her name over the whip and crackle of the flames, Liv rolled over onto her back, the movement splaying her legs wider out in the hallway in a sharp motion that caught the eye even as the smoldering beams above Johnny creaked ominously.

Flames licked at the walls and the ceiling, the place crumbling around him, and he knew even if he were to absorb the fire in its entirety, the building was mostly likely so structurally damaged, it wouldn't make any difference. As the smoke and flames slowly diminished, Johnny's sharp eyes spied a pair of human legs stirring amidst the debris and he darted toward the bathroom, ignoring the creaking of the beams overhead. "Liv!" he called, as he climbed over the charred ruins of the apartment to get to her.

The warning of the creaks above him had not been heeded. As he scrambled over and under the still smoking remains of everything Liv owned - and quite a bit of what was Lucy's too - a shower of sparks descended from the bubbling plaster on the ceiling of the hallway, scattering over Liv's exposed legs in a cruel spray of burning debris. She cried out in pain, reacting at last to something outside the agony of taking each breath amid the smoke, weakly trying to crawl further into the bathroom as her rescuer drew nearer.

"Olivia!" he called, seeing her there, just ahead, and hearing her cry out in pain. He pushed his way through whatever debris was left in his way, wanting to be there to shield her with his body - the shower of sparks would have caused him no harm. "Livvie, are you okay? We gotta get out of here." He pushed fallen timbers and burned plaster away to try to get close to her, to scoop her into his arms. shouting, "Stay there, I'm coming!"

Her brow furrowed in pained confusion as the sound of his voice - the voice she'd been longing to hear for weeks - registered in her ears, her streaming eyes cracking open behind the ash-covered smear of her glasses. With a supreme force of will over her physical weakness, she pulled herself to sit up, blinking rapidly into the flickering darkness. "Jo-" A cough took her, wracking her slender body for a long moment as she rasped for breath. "Johnny?"

The beams over their heads were creaking a warning, and he knew they didn't have much time. He could control the flames, but he couldn't do anything if the building collapsed around them before they could get out. He was close, so close. He reached an arm out to grab at her, fingers reaching, clawing their way toward her, the beams creaking above them, and then the ceiling gave way just behind him, crashing down with a deafening roar, and he disappeared in a cloud of dust.

Despite her weakness, the toll the smoke and heat had taken on her body, there was no mistaking the very real terror that colored Liv's scream, ripped from her throat as her rescuer disappeared in crackling dust and flaming debris. "Johnny!"

As the dust rolled over her, too, she choked once again, falling once more onto her back, curling onto her side against the hot tile of the bathroom floor as she coughed violently, feeling each convulsion spike rasping pain through her chest.

There was no sign of him for a moment, seemingly buried in the wood and plaster that was falling all around them, but then a blast of fire shot through the floor of the living room, using his own flames to his advantage. He wasted no more time. Rising up from the hole in the floor, he literally flew to her side, his body only partially engulfed in flames. Wasting no more time, Johnny scooped her up off the floor, pulling her against him, an arm going snug around her waist.

"Hang on," he warned, and without further warning, he threw out a hand, a fireball clearing a hole in the ceiling and up through the third floor and roof, creating an escape route through which he flew, Liv tucked snugly against his side.

In the midst of her painful coughing, she cried out in fright as Johnny's arm went around her, the sound swallowed quickly as her limp form was scooped bonelessly up against him. She didn't register that he was partially aflame, too relieved to find him alive and unhurt by his fall amid all that debris even to feel embarrassment that he was going to know now that she'd been sleeping in his clothes. Her arms curled around his neck, holding on as tightly as she could as they rose through the residual heat and danger to the cool, clean night air above.

Sirens were screeching in the streets outside the apartment building as the fire brigade had arrived and was rushing to douse whatever flames were left burning. The scene was pure chaos below, but not so much overhead. Johnny didn't bother with the fire brigade; he was heading straight for Rhy'Din General. Though the air was chilly, she wouldn't be cold so long as she clung to him, heat radiating through him to keep her warm.

To be completely frank, though, Liv didn't care about the chill that cooled the burns on her legs as they sped through the air. She was too distracted, too pleased to have Johnny back again, despite her insistence to Lucy that they leave him be. She'd missed him dreadfully, more than she could have imagined was possible.

Slightly delirious with the haze of smoke inhalation and the adrenalin of her rescue, she tightened her grasp about Johnny as he bore her over the city, her lips turning against his neck without conscious thought. "You came back."

He clenched his jaw upon hearing her words, knowing what she was saying was partly due to smoke inhalation and shock. He hadn't come back. Not really. He'd had no intention of coming back, even though he'd spent the last two weeks in misery thinking about her and her sister. It was torture really, having her so close to him now, hearing her words, knowing he'd most likely break her heart if he hadn't already, but he couldn't deny that he cared for her. What might come of that caring, he wasn't quite sure. All he knew was that it would have killed him if he'd lost her back there.

"Hush, Liv. You're hurt. We'll be at the hospital soon."

He couldn't miss the smile that curved against his neck as her hands shifted. In her dazed, injured state, she read his words as more than just concern for her safety, and Johnny would no doubt be mortified by the way she reacted, turning one hand to caress his hot cheek fondly as her smiling lips parted to tentatively taste his skin. It was a shame, really, that he had deleted all her messages - the ones made in the grip of rum and coke could have told him so much more about how deeply the younger Broderick twin felt for him than she had previously confessed.
[size=9:184a99ac32][color=darkblue:184a99ac32][i:184a99ac32][b:184a99ac32]I want you to be everything that's you, deep at the center of your being.[/b:184a99ac32][/i:184a99ac32][/color:184a99ac32][/size:184a99ac32]

Olivia Storm

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Re: O, Fiery, Fiery Night
« Reply #3 on: April 11, 2012, 04:27:14 AM »
He swerved and dipped just slightly in flight, tightening his grip on her waist, finding her kisses distracting. Though he might have deleted her messages, her body language was coming through clearly and he hadn't missed the fact that she was wearing his shirt. Even after two weeks without him, it seemed the younger twin still had a torch burning for the Torch.

She'd promised, in their last conversation, that she would never put herself in the way of his relationship with her sister. But that relationship hadn't even lasted another hour after that promise had been made, and though Liv loved her sister, she was a little tired of standing aside for Lucy. Which was why, even at two hundred feet and still reeling from her narrow escape from fire, Johnny was discovering that the quieter Liv had just as much passion to offer as her sister. It was just buried deeper and hidden better beneath an iron will. But with slight delirium, that will had evaporated for now, and despite the obvious dip and swerve, she didn't stop her warmly affectionate kisses so long as he held her close.

"Liv, please... I'm trying to fly," he pleaded, desperate to explain. "Don't distract me or we'll crash." It was hard enough flying with only half his plasma burning, and he was nearly spent from his efforts at rescue back at the fiery apartment building. His abilities didn't come without a price, and he needed to rest, but they weren't far from the hospital now. He could see the building from here. It would only be a few more minutes.

Here again, he got a taste of the difference between the twins who held him so confused between them. Lucy would have continued, testing his ability, daring the danger; Liv was obedient enough to stop her distractions, simply curling closer as she blinked in the rush of air speeding over them both. "Sorry," she murmured, closing those eyes wearily as she leaned her head against his shoulder. "Couldn't help it. You taste so much better than my dreams ..."

He felt that old familiar pain in his chest, like a dagger twisting in his heart, when her head fell against his shoulder, so trusting, so familiar, so different from Lucy and yet the same. Which did he care for more? He wasn't even sure himself, but holding her close, knowing he'd come so close to losing her, hearing her tell him how she felt, feeling her lips against his neck - all of it was stirring those feelings in him again that he'd tried so hard to forget. He said nothing, letting her say what she would without reply, at least for now. The only thing that was important right now was getting her to safety. He'd sort out his feelings later.

It wasn't long before they arrived. Settling down on the pavement outside the hospital, he extinguished the flames and scooped her up into his arms to cradle her against him, starting toward the emergency room.

The entrance to Rhy'Din General's Emergency Room stood open, the artificial light a welcoming offer of help from the bustling bodies within, casting shadows over the small knot of staff taking a quick cigarette break outside. As Johnny came into view, this knot of uniformed bodies broke up, one nurse coming toward him as others moved back inside, no doubt to secure a bed for the girl he held in his arms.

"What's happened?" the nurse asked sharply, laying a hand on Johnny's back to steer him inside, past the waiting room, and into the busy treatment area beyond.

"There was a fire," Johnny answered as he carried Liv into the emergency area of the hospital. Was, is. He wasn't sure which exactly. "Is Doctor Broderick on duty? She's her sister." Johnny suddenly felt heartsore when he thought of Lucy and the harsh words they'd shared at their last meeting, but none of that mattered now. What mattered was Liv's safety.

"She's on a call to the medical wards, we'll have her paged as soon as possible," the nurse told him, gesturing toward a curtain-ringed cubicle where an empty gurney waited. "Put her down there. What's her name?" As she asked this, the nurse was already untangling an oxygen mask from its sterile packaging on the wall, connecting it up ready to set over Liv's mouth and nose. From the nurses' station came a doctor with blank notes and a phlebotomy trolley, ready to take a brief assessment and decide what would next be done.

"Liv... Olivia Broderick," he corrected himself, carefully laying Liv down on the gurney, leaning over a moment to tell her what was going on, so she understand. He reached for her hand, taking it very gently between his own. "Liv, you're at the hospital. Lucy will be here soon. It's gonna be okay." He smoothed her hair back from her face and leaned down to brush his lips very gently against her forehead, in both affection and an attempt to reassure her.

The limp body he laid on the gurney tightened her hands on him for a moment before his voice soothed the panic at being released. "Don't go," Liv rasped, the smoke she had inhaled finally coloring her voice as her fingers grasped at his. Her breathing had become labored since they had returned to ground level, the oxygen mask pushed over her mouth and nose before she could object.

"Alright, thank you," the young doctor nodded, quickly and precisely setting out a vicious-looking needle and syringe. "Olivia? I'm Doctor Branson. I'm going to take some blood from the inside of your wrist now, it's going to hurt a little."

Without any further ado, he jabbed that needle into the artery at her inner wrist, wriggling it about until he could withdraw enough blood to test her blood gases with. Liv cried out in pain, her skin turning white around Branson's hand where she pulled against his tight grasp to hold her still.

Johnny's own face turned pale when he got a look at that needle and it was plunged into Liv's wrist, but he did as she asked, remaining at her side, clinging tightly to her hand, leaning close and trying to comfort and reassure her with his presence. "It's okay, Liv. I'm right here. I'm not going anywhere. Lucy will be here soon." He glanced over at the doctor, cringing outwardly when Liv cried out, feeling sick inside that she had to endure such pain. "Can't you give her something for the pain first?" he asked, knowing very little about emergency medical procedures.

"Not without knowing about her allergies and personal details," Branson informed Johnny in a terse voice. "We'll get that off her sister when she gets here, no offence." Labelling the now sealed syringe, the doctor left the little cubicle to go and test the contents himself, leaving the nurse to insert an intravenous catheter into the back of Liv's hand and set up a saline drip for the time being.

The nurse, however, was all smiles and reassurance, explaining to both of them what she was doing as she did it. "Alright, Mr ... mister," she said finally. "I need to get Olivia changed, so if you just step outside the curtain for a few minutes. We won't be long."
[size=9:184a99ac32][color=darkblue:184a99ac32][i:184a99ac32][b:184a99ac32]I want you to be everything that's you, deep at the center of your being.[/b:184a99ac32][/i:184a99ac32][/color:184a99ac32][/size:184a99ac32]

Olivia Storm

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Re: O, Fiery, Fiery Night
« Reply #4 on: April 11, 2012, 04:31:26 AM »
Having endured the last few minutes in jaw-clenching silence, Liv gripped Johnny's hand tighter, panicking just a little at the thought of him leaving her. "Don't ..."

Johnny watched the doctor exit, nodding his head numbly at the nurse as she administered the drip, feeling Liv's hand grip his tighter. He turned to her, tenderly smoothing her hair back from her face again, trying to appear brave and reassuring when it felt like he was dying inside. Now that she was safe, he realized just how close he'd come to losing her forever. "Olivia, it's okay. They just want to change you into a gown. I'll be just outside the curtain. I promise."

He looked a wreck himself. Though not scorched or burned, he was covered in soot and smoke, pieces of broken plaster stuck in his hair, his face pale and strained with worry and weariness.

Her soft brown eyes, indistinct behind the smeared surface of her glasses, gazed into his trustingly, accepting his explanation over that of the nurse. Reassured, and unable to speak for the time being, thanks to the mask covering her mouth, she nodded, releasing his hand with deep reluctance. A moment later, he was outside the curtain as it was pulled around the cubicle, and a familiar voice behind him was demanding, "Well? Where is she?"

Johnny suddenly wished there was a chair nearby that he could sink down in for just a few minutes. Then he heard Lucy's voice behind him and he turned to face her, looking worse than he felt.

The elder twin, Doctor Broderick, looked exhausted herself. She had a right to be; in two hours' time, she was off duty after a 36 hour shift, and had suddenly been informed that her twin sister had been admitted to the ER. Turning abruptly away from the nurses' station, her eyes fell on Johnny. There was a moment of shock and guilt at the memory of their last meeting, before her natural concern for her sister took over.

"Johnny, you look like hell," Lucy informed him sternly, pointing to a chair behind the desk with the full expectation that he would sit down and let her take a look at him. "What happened, how is she?"

He was in no mood to argue, especially not with the older Broderick twin, and he dropped down into the chair, feeling suddenly exhausted. "I don't know. I was on patrol, and there was a fire. I didn't realize it was your building until I got close." He paused to dart a look up at her. "She was..." He trailed off, licking dry lips, unsure how to explain without sounding like a braggart. "Is she gonna be okay?" he asked, unable to hide the concern in his blue eyes.

Lucy's expression was taut, unwilling to show any deep concern just yet. "I don't know," she told him honestly, unzipping his uniform to set her stethoscope against his chest as Doctor Branson slipped back into the cubicle where her sister was being looked after. "Breathe deeply for me ... I'm assuming she's not really badly burned, or she'd be in the resus rooms. Was she coughing a lot?"

He watched as Lucy laid her stethoscope against his chest. Yes, she was a doctor, but she was also a lover... former lover... he wasn't sure about that either. He reached for her hand to pull the stethoscope away from his chest. "I'm fine, Lucy. Go check on Liv."

Lucy stiffened, and for a moment it looked as though she might actually smack him. "I'm not allowed to," she managed finally, speaking through a clenched jaw. "I'm family, Johnny, I'm not allowed to diagnose or treat my sister. I have to wait, and I'm not good at that, so sit still and let me fuss, alright? Either that, or go home. You're a mess."

Go home, he echoed in his head, pain tightening in his chest at the thought of what he took to be her dismissal. He'd done his part. He was no longer needed, even if Olivia had asked him to stay. He said nothing, but turned his head away so she couldn't see the obvious look of distress on his face. He'd noticed her own exhaustion and knew it was going to be a long night ahead for all of them, whether he stayed or not.

At least Liv was alive. Thank God for that. Thank God he'd been able to get to her in time. He closed his weary eyes and silently thanked whatever Gods were watching over her.

The rush of the curtain being pulled back distracted Lucy from her eye rolling at the look on Johnny's face. She knew she was a little brusque when she was on duty, especially at the end of a long shift, but he should know her well enough to realise that she was talking about him and his health, not whether or not he was welcome. She straightened as Doctor Branson came over to them, stepping aside to talk to her colleague as the nurse smiled invitingly to Johnny.

"You can come back now," the middle-aged woman told him gently. "Just make sure she keeps breathing deeply until all the liquid in the mask attachment is gone, and then she can talk."

Johnny looked from the nurse to Lucy, as if for permission. If the older Broderick didn't want him there, he'd go, no questions, no arguments. "Her sister is here now," he told the nurse, wondering if he should leave, despite his promise to Olivia to stay.

The nurse looked shocked by his apparent dismissal of her patient's request, following his gaze to where Lucy stood. The young doctor glanced at them, realising what the problem was quickly. "If you want to stay, then stay, Johnny," she told him firmly. "But if you go, you need to come and visit her. You can't walk away again, not now." Lucy's expression was without compromise; with one selfless act, Johnny had trapped himself in the lives of the twins who confused him so much.

Propped up on her gurney, Liv's eyes were on Johnny - her glasses having been cleaned, thankfully - as she breathed obediently deeply, the hand not holding the mask tight to her face lifted just a little from the bed to reach toward him.

He looked from the doctor to each sister in turn, torn between them; he was miserable with them, even more miserable without them. Lucy seemed to be telling him that this was the crucial moment. If he walked out the door now, there would be no coming back. Somehow Fate had conspired to bring him back into their lives for whatever reason. They'd been given a second chance. He wasn't sure what the reason was, but he knew he couldn't walk away again, not like this. He looked from Lucy to Liv and something inside him cracked wide open, all the loneliness of the last two weeks suddenly coming to a head. He knew he couldn't leave her, not now, and he found himself shuffling to his feet and moving back to Olivia's side, reaching for that outstretched hand to take it in his own.

Liv's smile, indistinct behind the mask, was all the reward he needed in that moment. No matter the pain and confusion of being back in the Broderick twins' lives, Johnny was here to stay now, and perhaps, finally, all that pain and confusion would be worth it, one way or another.

[size=9]((Nothing like a good old fashioned superhero rescues damsel moment, huh? Many thanks to Johnny Storm for saving the day!))[/size]
[size=9:184a99ac32][color=darkblue:184a99ac32][i:184a99ac32][b:184a99ac32]I want you to be everything that's you, deep at the center of your being.[/b:184a99ac32][/i:184a99ac32][/color:184a99ac32][/size:184a99ac32]