This is the result of a challenge at Speedrent. We were to place a fic request, which Greens then assigned to the members. jibus asked for a "post-rent or AU fic: three or more bohemians trapped in an elevator when the power goes out in the building" or something to that effect. Well, I wrote one. J, I don't know if this is even remotely close to what you had in mind, but I enjoyed writing it. Cheers!
And a note: Seeing as how this was a challenge, it was written rather quickly, so there may be typos ect... I tried to catch what I could, but there was a deadline. And seeing as how posting the whole thing at livejournal was a bit of a challenge, I went ahead and posted it here as it, I mean the girl's gotta read her fic. May remove the story later and expand on it, may keep it as it is. Hope you enjoy it! Feedback is always welcome, appreciated, and very helpful.xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Mark Cohen shoved his way through the crowded hallway, his briefcase dangling perilously underneath his left arm, his left hand barely hanging onto a manila folder, his right wrist flicking a watch face around to view. Dammit. He slid along the polished halls in his gripless shoes. The front entrance led directly to a foyer lined with elevators, gleaming silver in a beige and black hall. He didn't notice the extravagance of the decor, he was concerned with only one thing. Late, he was going to be late, lately he was always late, lately late, ha, good one . . .and the elevator doors closed right in front of his face.
"Hey! Hold the . . .what the . . .Dammit!" he shouted at his reflection in the polished metal doors. "Did you not see me standing here?" An angry face looked back, distorted. "No. No, of course not, you're all too busy going to your own goddamn meetings to worry about mine! Well, I don't care about yours either!" He was yelling, stabbing at finger at his reflection, directing all of his anger at the metal that did nothing more but stare back at him.
"Won't do you any good," a voice said behind him. "Not like the doors can talk back, besides, looks like you're arguing with yourself."
Mark slowly turned incredulous eyes to the man who had casually walked up behind him, clutching his own briefcase. His skin was as dark as the ebony inlays on the mosaic floor they stood upon. His shaved head shone like the dome of St. Peter's underneath the yellow lights. Mark stared at the dark head, and wondered mildly if, without hair, his head grew abnormally hot underneath the artificial fixtures. "What do you know about it," he muttered, turning back. Like he needed some black yuppy to tell him what was what.
"Nothing, really. Just saying."
"Well, keep it to yourself." Mark looked at his watch again. "Shit!"
"They say ill-speech is a sign of ill-breeding."
"What are you, a saint?" Mark snapped. "They also say something along the lines of 'those who are nosey gets it chopped off in the end'."
The man frowned. "Who says that?"
"I do. So butt out."
"Done." The man calmly rolled his shoulders and waited in an annoyingly patient manner.
Mark sighed, looked at his watch again, and studied the numbers above the elevator. It seemed to be coming back down, slowly. Very slowly. "Come on, come on..." he muttered, and once it arrived he forced himself inside before the doors had a chance to fully open, and started pressing buttons.
"Hey!" A man who was already inside leaned over and shoved his hand away, "you wanna wait til this guy gets in?"
The dark man looked at Mark as he took a place in the corner. Mark snorted. "He's in," he said, and pushed the button that would take him to the twenty-seventh floor, seeing the twenty-first was already lit. There was no further floor requests, so he rolled his shoulders as the black man had done earlier, tilted his head from side to side to pop his neck and ease his tension, and forced himself to relax. His eyes closed, and he felt the familiar 'bottom falling out' sensation that accompanied their rapid ascent.
Around the nineteenth floor the elevator jolted to a stop, and his eyes flew open.
"What the hell was that?" Mark felt the tension pound its way back in to his skull. "No. Nononono..." he started stabbing at the buttons. He dropped his folder, his briefcase, and beat on the silver panel with the heel of his hand. "NO! Dammit!"
"Hey, calm down!" Mr. Debonaire pulled him to the side and studied the numbers on the panel. "Congratulations," he said after a moment. "Looks like your temper got the best of you. We're stuck between floors."
"No." Mark shook his head, taking a step back, one hand out as though to push the problem away. "No, we are NOT STUCK. We can't be stuck, I-I have a presentation to make, oh god, this isn't happening, this isn't happening. . ." one hand went to his hip, one to his forehead, and he turned his back to the doors.
"Not much we can do but call . . ."
"No, look," Mark turned back, gesturing with an air of desperation, "I have a presentation, I have to make a presentation, I've worked on it for weeks, they're finally letting me have my say and I'm stuck in a fucking elevator with Mr. Clean and . . .and . . ." he pointed to the other man, whose presence he'd taken little notice of.
"Roger," the man said.
"Benjamin," Mr. Clean said calmly.
Mark let his arm drop, his chin raised defiantly. Finally it dropped as well, and his shoulders sagged. "Mark. I'm Mark."
"Nice to meet you," Benjamin said as he returned to the elevator panel. "I think," he added in an undertone.
Mark sneered and leaned against the back wall. He felt a set of eyes on him, and cautiously looked to his left.
Roger had to be meeting someone for lunch, or was picking up a delivery, because there was no way someone who dressed like that worked in a business such as this. His shirt was wrinkled, his jeans had a rip. His jacket had seen better days as it lay open, revealing a tear in the inner lining that had frayed up and down the zipper. His hair was wavy and unmanageable. At least his shoes were clean. His hands were tucked into his pockets. He leaned in the corner, showing about as much concern with being stuck as he probably would with, oh, someone telling him his stocks had crashed, because there was no way the man owned anything. An old memory tugged at a hidden corner of Mark's brain, and he visibly winced. Roger kept looking at him, seeing the wince, and he knew why.
Still, it was annoying. "What?" Mark asked in irritation.
"What's your presentation about?" Roger asked casually.
Mark's pale brows drew tight together. "What?"
"What is your presentation about? I mean, you're going to be late, so may as well consider this extra time to hash it out before you have to go in there."
Mark blinked, surprised that this man had the capacity for making sense. "Oh." He blinked again, and focused, glancing quickly to make sure Benjamin was on the phone with the maintenance crew, his only hope of rescue. "Oh. Right. Um, well . . ." he rubbed the back of his neck.
"Uh-uh. Don't do that."
Mark stopped mid-rub. "What?"
Roger pointed. "Don't rub your neck like that. It betrays tension. When you make a presentation you want to own the room. Don't give away any tell-tale signs that you might feel nervous or insecure."
Mark stared, then let his hand drop. "Right. So, you want me to go through the speech, or what?"
"Just like you're going to present it when we get out of here." Roger eased himself down the wall and sat cross-legged on the floor.
His interest was baffling. "Okay." Mark closed his eyes, sensing the attention of Benjamin as well, who had just set the phone back into the notch in the elevator wall. "Okay." He cleared his throat, opened his eyes, walked to the doors, turned his back to them, and addressed his entire audience of two.
"First, I want to thank you for coming today. (That seemed strange to say under the circumstances, but he went with it.) I've worked long and hard to be able to present this material, and I'm excited to finally have the opportunity to share it with you.
"As you know, Global United Industries grosses upwards of one hundred million dollars per year worldwide through various trade endeavors. The money is invested in stocks and distributed among the 800 companies that are housed in seventeen nations. This money is then used as the individual corporations see fit, through proposals and good ole negotiating." Mark took a moment to smile. Seeing the stone expressions, he cleared his throat and continued. "I'm here to make such a proposal.
"There has been talk of tearing down what amounts to fourteen square blocks of unused buildings on the west side of town. This area has been zoned for commercial use. I think we have plenty of commercial use, and therefore I propose something new." Now he had them. He saw Roger pull his knees up and lean his elbows on them, all attention. Benjamin had taken the moment to set down his briefcase, though his eyes were unreadable.
"What I propose," Mark said, "is . . ."
The elevator lurched.
"Shit!" This time the cry was from Benjamin, because elevators weren't supposed to move like that. He braced himself against the side wall, his arms spread, his expression uncertain in the flickering lights.
Mark had pitched forward, hitting his head on the back of the elevator, and found himself slumped beside Roger, who held his shoulders. The elevator creaked, making noises a metal box dangling between floors just shouldn't make. "What the hell happened?" he shouted, panicked, wincing.
"I hope what I think happened didn't happen!" Roger said loudly.
"You think a cable snapped, don't you!"
"Thought that only happened in movie!" Benjamin exclaimed.
"Don't you?" Mark insisted. Roger turned to him, his face inches from Mark's own. It was the first time they'd actually looked at each other for any length, and Mark recognized his own dread on that face.
"They said it would only take a moment to get moving again!" Benjamin shouted as the elevator jolted again with a fearful grinding noise.
"Sure, as in a moment to plummet to our death!" Mark shouted. Suddenly his presentation didn't matter anymore. He felt Roger's grip tighten on his shoulders, and quickly grabbed the man's wrist, begging him silently not to let go. But the jolting stopped.
Benjamin took a few deep breaths, and looked at the men on the floor. "You two okay?"
"We're fine," Roger said, lessening his grip on Mark.
"You're bleeding," Benjamin said.
"What?" Roger checked himself over. "I didn't hit. . ."
"Not you. Mark. His head."
"What?" Mark touched his forehead, and cursed. "Oh, that's just great, that's . . ." he paled, and slumped back.
"Mark?" Roger had shifted around to see. "You okay?"
"Blood. . .I– I don't do blood. . ."
"You're such a typical executive type," Roger muttered, searching his jacket pockets. He pulled out a crumpled McDonald's napkin. "Here, press this on it." When Mark made no move to do so, Roger sighed and pressed the napkin to the wound himself.
"I resent that remark," Benjamin said, sliding down the wall. "I in no way consider myself a typical executive type."
"Sure you are," Roger said, "right down to your polished wingtips. All meetings and flash. Bet you've been doing this for years, you've got that cool about you."
"What of it?"
"And I bet," Roger turned to Mark, "you're just starting out."
Mark managed a smile. "I'm a senior executive at a major television network. I'm used to meetings."
"Then why does this one have you so unraveled?"
"It isn't the meeting. It's being in here. I hate small spaces."
"Hate small spaces, hate blood, is there anything you do like?"
Mark raised his blue eyes to the ceiling.
"I bet you hate meat, too. I bet you're a vegan. You're too skinny."
"What the hell?"
"Well shut up!" Mark pushed himself upright, holding the napkin for himself.
Benjamin chuckled. "It is true?"
"Yes! No. I mean, I'm a vegetarian."
But Roger shook his head. "Liar. Not enough soy in your diet. You're slacking. I'll bet this presentation's got you so riled you haven't eaten in a week."
"Please, like you know what you're talking about, Mr . . ." Mark pulled the napkin away from his head, "Mr. McDonald's man! God, I can smell the grease . . ." he coughed and replaced the napkin miserably.
Roger leaned toward him. "That's right. You'll die a grisly death of animal consumption by osmosis. Give me a break, Mark, you think I'd keep a greasy napkin in my pocket? It's clean."
"No wonder you smell like onions."
The sudden familiarity of speech made Benjamin narrow his eyes. "You two know each other?"he asked warily.
Mark and Roger looked at each other, then looked away. "We . . .might of . . .gone to school together," Roger muttered.
"And that was a lifetime ago," Mark added, "so no, we don't really know each other."
Benjamin perked up. "Oh, so this is a reunion! Why didn't you guys say something?"
There was silence.
"Hmm. And here I was hoping for some sort of revelation." He gave a put-upon sigh. "Guess I'll have to just go through my agenda." He sat back and opened his case.
Mark stared. "Uh, we're dangling here! How can you work at a time like this?"
"Elevators always dangle," Benjamin said calmly.
"I don't like him," Mark said, turning to Roger.
"So . . .this speech . . ." Roger said.
"Right. Wanna continue?"
"Are you fucking serious?"
Mark squinted at him. "Why are you here?"
Roger sighed. "Didn't have anything better to do today."
He looked at Mark pointedly, almost sadly. "Than to be the counter argument to your proposal."
Mark had listened to Roger's story for over an hour, and he couldn't get over one fact. "What do you mean, you live there?"
"A lot of people live there."
"But not you. You were supposed to, I don't know, do something with yourself."
"Ha! What, once I got out of juvie? What, I was supposed to do something like you?"
"I did do something!"
"I know." Roger sat up. "Remember though, when we were young, how we said we weren't going to play by the rules, ever? That's why I'm there."
"You're a squatter."
"I'm broke." He smiled.
Mark leaned his head back against the wall, and said nothing.
The power flickered, and went out.
"Well, that's just splendid," Benjamin huffed. Mark could hear him trying to stuff his papers back into his briefcase.
"I think our chances of rescue just plummeted," Roger added.
"Don't say plummet," Mark cautioned. The accompanying creak wasn't comforting. A pen light shone into his eyes, and he gasped and turned away.
"Sorry." Benjamin aimed the light toward the ceiling. "You know, in those movies people always climb out and open the doors to the floor above them."
"You watch too many movies," Mark muttered as Roger asked, "Really?" and looked up. "Think we can do that?"
"Are you out of your mind?" Mark asked.
"I don't know about you guys," Benjamin said, "but I'm getting a bit hot in there."
"I don't know you well enough to make an improper sexual innuendo," Roger said standing. "Think you can get on my shoulders or something?"
"Thought you weren't going to make an improper sexual innuendo."
Benjamin shone the light toward Roger. "Tell you what. You get on mine, you look lighter than me, and you're taller than him."
"You're very observant," Roger said wryly, standing beside Benjamin and wondering how to go about climbing onto his shoulders. "Think I'll just need to, uh . . ."
"Oh, for god's sake, just do it," Mark huffed, standing and joining the men. Benjamin crouched slightly and braced himself on the wall. Mark laced his fingers together to provide a step, and helped Roger up. He swung a leg over, and sat on the stout man's shoulders.
There was a moment when Mark wasn't sure if Benjamin would be able to support the weight, but he found his balance and held steady. Mark took the small light from him and aimed it upwards. "Can you see anything?"
"Sure. Four screws." He glanced down. "You play football?"
"Got a neck like a football player."
"I've played a bit."
"Shit. How the hell are we going to take out four screws?" Mark asked.
"Look in my briefcase," Benjamin said.
Roger glanced down again. "Benny! You're a regular MacGyver, aren't you?"
"I have a swiss army knife, that's all."
"Swiss army knife, swiss army knife," Mark muttered.
"Hang on, I gotta," Roger tried to adjust his position on Benjamin's shoulders so he could stretch up. He slid off as the elevator suddenly swung into a vicious tilt, and slammed into the side of the shaft.
Benjamin and Roger crashed down, hitting the floor and landing in the corner on top of a terrified Mark. There was a horrible metallic groan before the elevator eventually stilled.
"Shit!" Roger shoved breathlessly at Benjamin, who landed on top of him, trying to give him leverage, trying to get him off. He felt the other man beneath him, and did his best to adjust his weight. "Look, line up along the wall or something . . ." he felt Benjamin manage to roll without putting a lacquered heel in his face. He braced himself against the wall, feeling Benjamin grab his arm, and sat up.
The form beneath him wheezed. "Sitting on my chest, get off!"
"Working on it!" Roger carefully braced himself, one hand and foot on the floor, the other on the wall, and raised himself enough to where Mark could scramble into the corner. He turned and adjusted himself to where he leaned against the floor with his feet on the wall, which was just...strange.
Benjamin was doubled over, catching his breath. "This isn't gonna last much longer."
"No shit," Roger muttered, wiping at his face. A light flashed in his eyes, and he jerked away.
"Sorry. Found the light." Mark angled it at his own face, then up toward the hatch in the roof. "So. . .is this harder now, or easier?"
"Easier. Hold that light steady." Roger signaled to Benjamin, who lay against the wall. Roger carefully climbed up, using him as a sort of ladder, and turned over where he was laying on his back, looking up at the hatch, Benjamin bracing his feet. He managed to sit up. "Much easier. Where's that screwdriver?" The swiss army knife was handed up to him, and he went to work.
It didn't take long, once the screws were loosened, for the hatch to flip down. Roger handed the knife back down, and gestured for the light. He gripped it between his teeth. "Hold me still, I have to stand up," he gritted to Benjamin, and slowly straightened himself. The edges of the hatch were easy to grasp. He pulled himself up. The elevator rocked slightly with the effort, scraping against the wall of the shaft.
Mark managed to brace himself against the floor. "What's out there? Roger?"
"A whole lot of dark," said a faint voice. "Hell of a lot of dark, but there's a door within reach."
"Can you tell if there's a light?" Benjamin asked.
"Don't see one."
Benjamin looked at Mark. Not that he could really see him. "Power must be out through the building."
"Comforting." Mark pushed from the wall and braced himself against the vertical floor. "How within reach is it?"
"Oh . . .a good swing and a jump. And a bit of luck." A pop sounded, and the elevator jolted again. Above them, Roger cursed.
"Roger!" Mark found himself trying to scramble up the floor. "You okay?"
"Still here," the voice said, shaken. "I don't think this thing's gonna hold, why don't you two get up here?"
"Come on." Benjamin shoved Mark through the opening. He was hauled onto a precarious angle that felt like trying to stand on the side of a triangle. He clutched the remaining cable frantically.
Benjamin poked his head through, but made no attempt to go further. There was nowhere to go, not until someone cleared the roof. It gave him a different vantage point as he looked at the door in the shaft. "There's power. There's a light underneath the door, I can just see it."
Roger angled his beam. "If someone can get up there and start pounding, they can open the door from the outside. But this is the problem." He shone the light on the tiniest of tiny ledges. "You're talking maybe three inches to brace against. Not exact designed for balance."
"These size elevens won't fit on that thing," Benjamin said. And they both looked at Mark.
If he paled further, he would have produced his own light source. "Are you nuts?"
"You're the smallest." Roger kicked at his shoes, inducing a frantic protest. "I don't think you've grown an inch since highschool."
"Oh, yeah, thanks. Like you remember highschool."
"What the hell does that mean?"
"It means you were so high you had no idea who you were half the time? Of course I don't expect you to remember that either!"
Roger stared. "Are you serious? Are you going to bring that up now? You know for a moment I thought I was glad to see you!"
"What do you mean, bring that up now? You have any idea what your stupid idea cost me?"
"Have you been fuming about this all this time? Shit, man, don't you have a life?"
"Thanks to you, no!"
"Guys, guys, focus!" Benjamin slammed his hand on the metal top.
Roger swung around the cable and leaned right into Mark's face. "At least I wasn't kissing up to every teacher in the school trying to get my grades right! At least I didn't let them tell me to do something other than what I wanted to do!"
"I didn't do that!"
"No? So tell me, Mark, did you ever make it to film school, or did they talk you out of it? Cause I seem to remember a project that went haywire in their eyes, something about the material being too controversial? What was it? Oh, right, how fairies are treated like crap in school!"
"They were! They still are, and don't say fairies!"
"Why not? They did! 'A Fairie Tale', if I remember correctly. They didn't want to see it, didn't want to know about it. You were so dead set on making a statement that you picked the most controversial subject on campus!"
"It needed to be said!"
"I know that! You know that, and you knew it then, and you let those idiots run roughshod over you and say that your voice wasn't worth hearing! And you were so determined to fit in, you gave it up!"
"That's not true!" Mark shouted, livid.
"That is SO true!"
"You were too doped to care! Where were you when I got the crap beat out of me for making that film, huh? Every jock on that damned football team was out for my ass, either calling me a pansy or because I was calling them out! Where were you? Getting high behind the dumpster, that's where!" Mark slipped, and renewed his hold, batting away Roger's hand. "You were the one that said to make that film! 'Go with your heart,' you said, 'go controversial, if you're gonna do it, make it count'. Well, where were you? Where the fuck were you?"
"I had my own shit, all right?" Roger yelled back.
"So did I!"
"GUYS!" Benjamin cut in angrily. "Some other time, huh? Christ, as interesting as this is, I just as soon not plummet to my death listening to the two of you bitch!"
Roger straightened, calming himself. He could just see Mark doing the same. "So, you up for it?" he asked.
Mark said nothing. He just pushed Roger to the other side of the cable, and looked up.
"That's a boy," Benjamin said softly, "you might have to sort of shimmy up the cable."
Roger's light was trained on the door. He knelt down carefully. "Get on my shoulders," he said, "you'll have to leap for it."
"No, I don't." He pressed Roger down, and carefully stood on his shoulders. His body swung slightly as he grabbed the cable higher. Then he took a deep breath and swung his leg out, just grabbing the lip of the door with his foot, his legs nearly in the splits.
Roger huffed lightly. "Hurray for yoga," he muttered.
"Damn boy, where'd you learn that?" Benjamin asked, impressed.
"I'm a health nut," Mark responded sarcastically, concentrating. He really didn't want to do this. If he couldn't find a hand hold, he was a goner. His breath quickened.
"If you're gonna do it . . ." Roger gritted.
"You know what? Fuck you," Mark responded. And he let go, flinging himself at the door.
Of course he slipped.
"Mark!" Roger reached out, knowing he wouldn't be able to grab Mark, but instinctively trying. Mark had managed to grab the lip of shaft door, and dangled, hanging on by his fingertips.
"Shit, man!" Benjamin was out of the elevator, clutching the cable, leaning toward Mark but unable to reach him. "Mark, pull up, dammit!"
Mark dangled. In desperation, he quickly toed off his shoes, feeling his fingers grow numb from supporting his body weight. He managed to toe off his socks as well as he heard his shoes land with a muffled thump that reverberated through the enclosure. Bare feet had more traction than his slick-soled shoes, and he used them to brace himself. He carefully shifted his fingers along the bottom lip of the doorway, jerking his weight from one hand to the other, then felt the sides, finding a place where he could just insert his fingers, just enough for a hold. His arms burned and trembled. He forced his way up and into the small doorframe, his toes digging in, his fingers digging in, the rest of him backed over empty space. Just the same, he could almost hear the sigh of relief from the two men still on the elevator roof.
It wasn't the only thing he heard. He could hear people on the other side of the door, the sounds of controlled panic. There was no way he was letting go to knock, so he used his head, careful not to bang too hard, of course. "Hey! Get us out of here!" He pressed his mouth against the crack, yelling as loudly as he could. "HELP! Can anyone hear me? Get us out of here!" His body was shaking from the strain, and he didn't know how much longer he could hold on. "Hey! Anybody?"
Roger and Benjamin joined in, and the three of them raised such a cacophony that Mark almost missed the voice pressed to the other side of the door. "Is someone in there?" A lady.
"Yes! God, yes, get us out! The elevator's falling, get us out!" He heard a shout, more voices pressing in on him, then felt vibrations on the door.
The door. He quickly envisioned hands thrusting in, shoving at him before realizing. . .fuck. "Wait! Wait, don't push, I'll fall!" The door opened a crack, and hands forced their way though amongst voices of reassurance. Mark tried to lean back, to get out of their way, but instinct kept him forward. The door opened two inches, letting in a stream of light that blinded him. "Listen to me! Stop!" He caught an eye, a balding man looking at him.
"What, what is it?" he asked, after signaling for the people trying to help to pipe down their noise.
"I'm in the doorway! Don't press in on me. I mean . . .I'm just in the doorway!"
The man frowned, then knelt down and poked two fingers through the opening. "Crap! You're not in the elevator?"
"No, it's busted, we climbed out of the top, it's swinging," Mark said quickly.
"Son of a . . .okay people, back off a moment. You, help with this door." Two sets of hands emerged, and the door slid open to sounds of grunting. A third pair grabbed his shirt front, a fourth snaked behind his back and yanked him forward. He tumbled on top of the person, his breath releasing in a grateful cry. He had no idea how many hands were on him, pulling him away from the elevator shaft, touching his head, patting his back, squeezing his arm, legs and shoulders in reassurance. For once, he didn't care. He let them all touch him.
The doors were fully opened. There was a clamoring of voices, all chiming in for Benjamin to hurry and jump, because apparently Roger was egging him on. Mark slowly stood, still gasping slightly, rubbing his limbs vigorously to regain feeling. The floor was cold to his bare feet, and he secretly rejoiced in the solidity. His focus was driven to the man before him, who looked like jumping was the last thing he wanted to do.
He pushed his way back to the door. "Benny! Come on!"
Benjamin was clutching the cable. "What's with you guys and the 'Benny' thing?"
"Term of endearment. Come over here and beat the crap out of me for it."
"I ain't jumping."
"You're not staying. Come on."
There was another pop, which pulled a surprised cry from the people in the hall. It sounded like a whip slashing through the air. Mark reached out. "Benny, come on, there's no time. Come on!"
Benjamin Coffin the Third, Senior partner in one of the cities' most prestigious law firms, graduate Summa Cum Laude, screamed like a girl and made a leap of faith.
Mark caught him by the arms, seeing others whip out around him. He let himself fall backward, pulling Benny down with him, and quickly rolled the man off. They lay there for a moment, panting, Benny pushing to his elbows and giving Mark a look of pure gratitude. "One to go," he said. There was another pop, and someone yelled, pushing Mark and Benny to their feet and back to the door.
The cable was slipping.
"Shit! Roger! Jump!" Mark planted himself in the doorway, Benny at his shoulder. "Now, dammit!"
Roger was a bit braver than Benny. That didn't mean he wasn't terrified. "I didn't let you down!" he yelled out.
Mark shot him an incredulous look. "What are you talking about?"
"Those guys that beat you up. I took them down. Why do you think I didn't graduate?"
"You're gonna talk about this now?" Benny yelled.
"I-I thought you went to juvie for drug possession!" Mark said.
"I went to juvie for kicking their asses!" The cable snapped down to three wires.
"Look, I don't care, just jump, damn you!"
"It was a waste of ten years!" Roger said. His eyes begged for a friendship that could have been, dammit, should have been. And he jumped, and missed.
But Mark caught him, the force of Roger's weight dropping him to the floor like lead and nearly pulling him into the shaft. He heard Benny curse, felt weight on his legs keeping him from sliding forward, and another weight on his back as dark arms appeared around his head seemingly from nowhere, reaching for the fallen man. Mark's already exhausted arms were rebelling, tearing from their sockets, and his grip was sweaty.
Roger knew this, felt it, felt himself slide. He managed to release his right grip and grab Mark's wrist. "Don't let go of me!" he yelled.
"Dammit, Mark, I swear to god if you let go . . ."
"I'm not letting go!" Mark gritted. He tried to pull, but had nowhere to go. "Benny," he forced out through crushed lungs, "just pull me back!"
"Mark!" he was slipping. . .
"Roger, dammit, hang on!"
It was slow, it was painful, and then it was done. Benny grabbed the back of Roger's pants to haul him up the final few feet, and the three of them collapsed on the floor amidst cheers of success. A loud groan and whip silenced them, and the elevator's final cable rippled, unwound, and sent the metal box crashing to the basement floor below.
The noise was horrific, and it stilled the people.
Mark didn't stick around. His presentation was gone, he didn't care, he just wanted the hell out of the building while he had the chance. He didn't even say anything to Roger, or Benny, he just slowly backed away as the crowd dispersed, took the stairs down, running, and found himself outside in the rain trying to hail a cab. People shuffled by, taking in his bloodied head and bare feet with a curiosity best not pursued. Mark cursed as cab after cab passed him by, already en route to an unknown destination and refusing passage to a desperate, bloodied, soaking half-dressed man. He felt a chill climb up his spine. He knew they would come out there, looking for him, he just knew it, and he really wanted to be left alone. His anxiety grew, and he stepped out into the street, waving down a yellow cab who bellowed at him angrily before stopping. Mark jumped in, not caring who was already there, forcing them to move over by the sheer intensity of Mark's gaze. The cab drove on, and Mark caught sight of Roger's face in the review mirror.
Some things just weren't meant to be.
The cab took him to his apartment. He unlocked the door, opted for the stairs rather than the elevator, even though this one was more like a cage and had a person operating it. By the time he was at his door, he was trembling uncontrollably. The door opened, and the familiar sights and smells of his own place tossed him into an unexpected fit of tears, which he blamed purely on stress.
He'd hardly cleared his eyes and grabbed a bath towel where there was a knock on his door. Mark hesitated. No one ever came here. No one. He slowly walked over, and opened it.
Roger was standing there, not quite as soaked. He held up a piece of paper. "Benny's number. He's taking us to dinner at seven. That gives you two hours to get ready."
Mark blinked as he stepped back. "How . . .how did you . . ."
"Got the cab behind you and followed you. Can I have a towel?"
Mark looked at him in uncertainty, then padded to the bathroom, emerging with a yellow, fluffy towel. He tossed it to Roger. "Guess you might as well come in."
"Thanks." Roger entered, shutting the door behind him. "And before you ask, I'm clean. Have been for three years."
Mark stopped scrubbing at his face long enough to look up. "Good." He sounded surprised. "Good for you."
Roger smiled slightly. "Wait, is that sincerity I hear in your voice?"
Mark wasn't rising to the bait. "Roger, why are you here? There is no presentation, not today, god, I lost all my notes!" He flopped dejectedly onto an overstuffed sofa. "I guess you live to thwart me another day, huh?"
"Is that what you think of me?" Roger crossed the room and sat beside him.
"I don't know."
"We were best friends, Mark."
"I thought life was something we were supposed to tackle together."
Mark lifted his head. He found that, for once, he didn't know what to say. He opted for the easy and safest way out. He sniffed, and frowned. "Shouldn't you shower? And don't you have anything else to wear?"
"Where's this guy Benny taking us, anyway? Better have salad there."
Roger's smile grew.
"Guess you can't fit into a pair of my pants, can you? Cause there's no way we'll have time to get you back to your place . . ."
And as Mark talked, he started pulling out various pants suits, claiming that some were a little too long for him, therefore should fit Roger's taller frame. His voice eased, and he looked at his friend, and almost managed a smile.
And Roger felt grateful enough to grin back.