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]