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This one-shot is in response to Ginger's "trap them in the elevator" challenge. It has not been beta-ed. All mistakes are my own, and hopefully don't detract from the story.
The guys, and their families don't belong to me, I'm just borrowing them a short while to give them a breath of fresh air. That 1970's air must be getting stale by now!
"Roy," Johnny said sympathetically to his long time partner, "you know I'm here for you buddy."
"I know, Johnny, I know. But as hard as some calls are – or even seeing your best friend in the ICU sometimes, nothin' prepares you for something like this," he replied, as he motioned to the silent figure of Joann lying in the bed, hooked up to monitors.
"You know the docs said it was just a minor concussion from the accident. It's a good thing she swerved when she did and only ended up with a broken arm."
"Hrummmfff!" grumbled the other person in the room. Both men ignored the noise. Over the intercom came the last call for the end of visiting hours.
"Well, we better clear outta here or we could get in trouble for hangin' out and created a nuisance for Nurse Hannigan," Johnny said to Roy.
"Ahem!" came a voice from behind them. Everyone turned to see the stern, white clad Nurse Hannigan in the doorway. "Visiting hours are over. You two need to clear out. You," she said pointing at Roy, "you can stay. The doctor will be up soon to talk to you."
"How about I make sure everybody makes it on to the elevator alright, Pally," Johnny said as he turned to leave the room. He tossed Nurse Hannigan a sly wink and quick smile. She pretended to ignore it.
That would be great pal," Roy replied, as he turned his attention back hold his wife's soft, limp hand. The others were already forgotten.
"I don't like being pushed out the door!" the woman told Johnny.
"Come on Mrs. Winthrop, Joann needs her rest and Roy will be with her." She grumbled as she was firmly directed into elevator. "Now, ya know the doc said Jo would be…"
"JoANN," the woman replied. John just looked at her with a question in his eyes. "Her Father and I gave her a lovely woman's name of Joann, not some abbreviated male moniker!"
"But she doesn't mind," John sputtered.
"I MIND Mr. Gage…I mind!"
John held up his hands in surrender, using his best "placate the irate patient tone of voice". "Now I know this must seem scary to you, Mrs. Winthrop. But Joann will be just fine, she's got the best…"
"You, Mr. Gage have no idea what I am thinking and feeling! And as far as this being the best medical facility, HA! Why just an hour earlier," suddenly her diatribe was halted by a grinding of gears with a sharp lurch the elevator stopped.
"Yes. A real quality facility! I can see," she remarked as she practically shoved Johnny away from the elevator panel. "Now move out of my way!"
Joann's mother proceeded to punch all the buttons at random, but with great force. "Work you stupid thing!" she demanded to the elevator.
"Excuse me," Johnny said, guiding her to the side of the car. "Why don't you let me have a look at it?"
"As if you know anything!"
John bit his tongue sharply to keep his thoughts and words trapped behind his lips. He took a deep breath and went over to the elevator panel. First he tried pushing the red alarm button, but nothing happened.
"Great, just great!" Joann's mom muttered.
"Well, let's try the phone then." He opened the small door where an emergency phone should have been, but the receiver was gone and there were only wires.
"Yes, a real quality establishment here!" she sneered.
"Hey," Johnny responded irritated by her actions and attitude. "It's not the hospital's fault if some hoodlum ripped the phone out of the wall."
"Look, it's the end of visiting hours so nobody may be calling for this elevator for a while," Johnny said, as he took a deep breath and stepped back. "As long as there aren't any more jolts, all we really have to do is wait for someone to realize we are stuck and get an electrician on it."
"That's all? Well, we are still stuck here in this dirty, little, cramped elevator," Agnes emphasized as her breathing shortened and became more rapid.
"Mrs. Winthrop, are you alright? It sounds like you might be hyperventilating a little bit."
"Don't play fireman-doctor with me, Mr. Gage! It's bad enough that my poor Joann has to put up with it!"
Johnny heard her words, but also noted that she seemed to be struggling some to take in a full breath. "I know. We can be a hard lot to put up with," Johnny said, as he tried to placate her.
"Jo… I mean Joann is good to put with it all." Agnes nodded her head in response. "It might be a while before someone finds us." She snorted in agreement. "Why don't we just sit down?"
"On this filthy floor?"
Johnny took off his jacket and set it down for her. She looked at him, trying to figure out if he had any ulterior motives for being so kind all of the sudden. When she couldn't seem to find any, she spread his jacket out with her shoe and lowered herself as delicately as possible to the floor. It's hard when you are a woman of means, and size, to sit politely and neatly on a small jacket. But, it was better than the dirty elevator floor, at any rate.
Johnny watched her sit down as she attempted to get comfortable. Her breathing moderated some, and soon he joined her on the floor. Johnny was mindful not to sit next to her, but no so far away he couldn't keep track of her respirations or anything else, if needed.
A few minutes passed in silence, then Johnny dared to speak, "How are you feeling, Mrs. Winthrop?"
She looked at him out the corner of her eye, softened a little and replied, "Fine. I'm fine. "Thank you for lending me your jacket."
"No problem," Johnny replied. "After all, you have a dress on and I just have jeans." She nodded in agreement. They were both quiet. Johnny wasn't even sure if it was safe to talk to her.
But, eventually, she broke the silence. "So how long do you think it's going to take them to get us out of here?"
"It could be a while," he replied. "We were the last people to leave after visiting hours."
A frown creased her face and she sighed. "I know I can be … difficult sometimes, John."
His dark eyebrows shot up into his hairline in shock. 'Did she just call me by name?' he asked himself. 'I didn't think she even knew my name – just that I am Roy's fire-para what-ever partner.' John waited to hear if she had anything else to say.
She glanced over at him. "Thank you again for your jacket."
"I don't mind. I don't think it should be too long, Mrs. Winthrop. If you would like to rest your eyes or something, I'll be awake. I know it's been a trying day."
Agnes just stared at him. 'Oh shit! I just blew it,' Johnny chastised himself silently. 'She's not going to trust closing her eyes with you around! You are a fire fighter and an Indian! Two strikes right there. Dumb, dumb, dumb!'
But Agnes surprised both herself and Johnny as she took a few deep breathes and let her eyes shut, for a moment or two. "It's no use," she said in disgust, as she plopped her handbag at her side. "It's just not right that my little girl is upstairs in the bed, so still and quiet because some….fool can't follow the rules of the road!"
"You're right," Johnny agreed. "It's only due to Joann's quick thinking that she wasn't hurt worse." Her mom nodded, tearfully. "Thank God Chris and Jenny weren't in the car too!"
"Yes," she agreed, in a shaky voice. "Thank God!" After an awkward pause, came an even more awkward comment, "So, Mr. Gage? You believe in God?"
"Of course I do. Many native people have a profound respect for the Father Creator."
Yes," she answered primly. "That's all fine and good. But who do you say Jesus is?
"I say He's The Son of God. Why?" he asked with a smile in his voice. "Did you think we all danced around in loin clothes and war paint?"
Silence once again ruled the elevator car. "Oh," came John's sad reply as he realized he wasn't too far off the mark.
"We all live in the 20th century here, Mrs. Winthrop. There haven't been any war parties in a very long time."
Too embarrassed to say much of anything, Roy's mother-in-law did something she rarely did. She fell into silence.
The time in the cramped elevator car became more tense. Never one to avoid the elephant in the room, Johnny jumped back into the conversation. "So, you had your awkward question, now I have one to ask you." She gave him a sidelong glance but did nothing to stop Johnny from asking anything.
"Why do you hate Roy so much?" he said, laying all his cards on the table.
Agnes first thought to deny it, but realized she couldn't deny how her words and actions seemed. She thought about it for a moment or two more. "I have never 'hated' Roy, no matter what you and he might think. I just wanted better for baby."
"So being a firefighter/paramedic saving people's lives on a daily basis isn't good enough?" he asked with some disparity in his tone.
"No...yes...it's all so confusing."
Johnny waited in silence.
"It's a very dangerous profession."
Johnny nodded his head in agreement and added, "It can be. But crossing the street, or driving your car," he said with a slight wave to indicate Joann upstairs, "can be life threatening too."
"Don't you think I know that?" she snapped back. "I could have lost my baby today!"
"But you didn't, Mrs. Winthrop," he said in a conciliatory tone. "Joann will be fine."
"But what happens to Joann if some time Roy is not 'fine?' He could be hurt for life, crippled or killed. Then what does the family do?"
. "I imagine," he said with some empathy in his tone, "each family has to work that out when and IF the time comes. Know that we do everything we can to be as safe as possible."
"As I recall, that hasn't kept you out of these halls, Mr. Gage."
"Yes, I have gotten hurt. It happens, but I am there for Roy, Mrs. Winthrop. I have his back, the same way he has mine. What a lot of people don't understand is that within the firefighting family," he glanced over at Agnes wanting to see if she had some comments to make, but she seemed mute, for a change. "…in the fire fighting family we all take care of each other. The same way Roy and Jo have taken me in when I have just gotten out of the hospital, is the same way I help Roy around the house, and the guys are always willing to lend each other a helping hand on just about any project. You see, Mrs. W, when you depend on someone else to protect your very life, day in and day out, you develop a deep sense of caring, responsibility, trust and respect for each other. Even though we are a 'mixed bag,' Joann, Chris and Jen are all part of that family too. It doesn't make your family any less important, it's just more people who care."
Johnny wasn't sure if he saw tears welling up in her eyes or not. She took in a hitched breath, trying not to lose control, as she quietly said, "we never had that."
"Excuse me?" he asked gently.
"We never had that. When my father was hurt in the coal mines, he was just let go. The company never cared. Other families were hurt by tragedies in the mines too," her voice began to take on a distant sort of tone, recalling a painful past. "No one was there to help or care. The things that there are today like Social Security or disability insurance, none of that came until FDR and after, but by then it was too late for my family. My mom worked herself into an early grave doing piece work sewing at home," lost in her memories, Agnes forgot she had an audience, as the tears started to slide down her face.
"My dad tried, but there wasn't much he could do physically, so he drank to numb the pain and try to forget it all. I was young, but I was still old enough to remember the hunger and doubt that was rampant during the depression. It was then, just like Scarlett O'Hara, that I vowed I would never go hunger again, nor any of my kin!"
She wiped the tears from her face almost defiantly. "And I kept that promise. My husband George is a good man and a good father to the girls. He has a responsible non-life threatening job. He's still at the same company he started with right out of school. He was always home for dinner on time and there weren't any surprises. He still likes to go bowling with his friends and goes out to men's group at church. He mows the lawn and all the normal stuff a husband and father is supposed to do."
"But you have to see, Mrs. Winthrop, how much Roy loves Joann and the kids. He provides for them, coaches baseball, helps out with scouting and still manages to defeat his 'Honey Do' list with regularity. He loves Joann and the kids and would never put himself in a position of unnecessary risk," John told her gently.
"But, he can't control what the other lunatics out there who start fires and shoot at police or firemen..."
"No more than Joann could control the driver of the other car, to keep him from speeding up and running the red light," Johnny reminded her.
"HELLO?" came a tinny voice, followed by banging. "Is anybody in there?"
Both passengers looked at bit shocked at the interruption, but stood up and Johnny quickly answered, "Yes, we are here, stuck between floors."
"Well, why didn't you press the alarm?"
Johnny and Joann's mom glanced at each other as he hollered back, "It's broken."
"Oh," answered the muffled voice, "I thought they fixed that."
"Obviously not!" Mrs. Winthrop called up to the disembodied voice in the ceiling above. "What are you going to do about it?" she demanded.
It was silent for a few moments and both of the passengers wondered if the "helpful" voice had left them alone again.
"Hey, are you still up there?" Johnny called out.
"Yeah, yeah. Just tryin' to figure out what to do."
"Could you call the maintenance man?" Johnny suggested.
"No, no. That won't do no good."
"Why not?" both passengers wanted to know.
"Oh, because that's me."
Even John joined in the disgusted look Joann's mom fired up at the ceiling. "Why don't you call your boss?" John told the man.
"No, no. That won't do no good either."
"Why?" John ground out between clinched teeth. He was hot, tired, hungry and growing increasingly annoyed.
"He don't like to be disturbed at home."
"Young man," Mrs. Winthrop tried, "I think this would be an exception to the rule, don't you? He wouldn't like to come in tomorrow morning and find out that people have been trapped in here all night, would he?"
"No. You sure are right about that. He wouldn't like that one bit."
So," she continued, "do you think you could please call him? It's not that late, YET. The longer you wait the greater the chances are that he will already be in bed. That would probably make him very angry."
"Yeah," the voice said, "I think you are right. I better go do that."
About an hour later Agnes Winthrop and John Gage were released from the elevator by a very apologetic Director of Maintenance and uniformed security guard. "We are so sorry for the inconvenience," the Director started to say, but Agnes cut him off.
"Young man, as I am sure you must realize," she said, as she looked him up and down, "that in a hospital, mistakes like this simply cannot be tolerated. The alarm system does not work, so we were stuck in that nasty little elevator box until your other 'man' discovered we were stuck."
"The phone is broken too," Johnny chimed in feeling irritable.
"We are sorry. We will have crews start on this first thing in the morning."
"I should hope so!" Mrs. Winthrop said as she headed for the door.
Johnny opened it for her. "It's gotten dark out. Can I walk you to your car?"
"Yes, John. I would appreciate that."
With a broad movement of his hand that said, "Lead the way" Johnny saw her safely to her car and headed for his own. She sketched a good bye wave in his direction and sped off in her BMW. Johnny got into his Rover and pondered how much he had unexpectedly learned about Roy's mother-in-law today. One never really knows…
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