Author's Note: Not mine, not making any money. This is a Good Enough Story set approximately two weeks after the events of GE.
We'd been back from Philly for almost two weeks. My side was healing nicely. My ankle was still in the brace, but I was off of the crutches, and Ranger had finally cleared me to go back on duty in the control room full time. My first day back wasn't turning out quite as productive as I'd thought it would be. Not that I was complaining.
After all, what girl in her right mind would bitch about a fleet of hot ex-Army men constantly dropping by her cube checking on her and offering to wait on her hand and foot.
"Good to have you back, Bombshell."
"Oh! Thanks, Tank. It's good to be back. If I had to watch one more episode of "As The World Turns" I was going to have to have Ranger shoot me."
He nodded gravely. "I'm more a Days man, myself."
Ok. Was Tank…joking? That would have to mean there were new and as yet untapped depths to his personality I didn't understand. That would have to mean there was a personality, period. He saved me from commenting on this by lifting his arm over the top of my cubby.
"Thought you might want some coffee. Save you the steps on the ankle. Cream and sugar both, right?"
"Wow, thanks, and yeah, cream and sugar." I took a sip, feeling guilty for my earlier mental maligning (I love you, Hal) of his persona.
"No problem. Call my office if you need anything."
"Steph! I'm running late, but look what I brought."
I recognized the bag and coffee cup in Hal's hands instantly. Dunkin' Donuts! There's a reason he's my favorite Merry Man.
"Hal, you're my hero!"
"Consider it a welcome back present. Just promise me you'll get it all imbibed before Ranger sees. I don't want to visit Mongolia this week."
Assuming imbibe meant eaten, I was right on top of that.
"Glad you're feeling better, Ms. Plum. I heard you did a great job in Philly." Vince handed me a big bottle of raspberry flavored Dasani water. "You're still taking anti-inflammatories for the ankle, right?"
"Cool. Need to make sure and keep hydrated. Hal told me you weren't much of a water drinker, so I thought I'd bring you this. It's great. You can't even tell its sugar free."
"Well, thank you, but I'm not really thirsty right now…"
He gave me a look of understanding and motioned me to drink. "I know, it sounds weird, but I promise it's great. Just take a drink."
"Well, ok." Huh. That was actually pretty good.
"Decide to drag your sexy butt back downstairs with the rest of us, Bombshell?"
"I just couldn't stay away from you any longer, Lester."
A slow smile spread across his handsome face. "I am pretty irresistible." He tossed a green bottle into my lap.
"Boss is going to be shoving water down your throat all day, thought you might need this."
Mmm…Mountain Dew. I love Mountain Dew. I wasn't really thirsty, but Ranger would totally confiscate this if he saw it. Mt. Dew was at the top of his list of dietary cardinal sins.
"How's the morning going, Steph?"
"Really well, actually. Everyone's been great."
"Woody and I just got off shift at the monitors but wanted to check on you before we left. Thought you were probably about ready for a break. Since you're all gimpy, we figured we'd bring the break to you."
"Thanks, Ram, that's sweet."
Just then Woody rounded the corner of my cube carrying a bottle of water and a Snapple. He handed both of them to me. I didn't know what to do, so I started to twist open the Snapple top.
"Huh, uh, Bombshell." Woody said, opening the Aquafina. "You need to drink lots of plain water until your back operating at 100 percent. Let me see you finish this, then you can have the sugar stuff."
"Oh, well, uh. Why don't I just save it for later?"
"No dice." Ram countered. "I know if we don't watch you drink it you'll just dump it out and hit the Snapple."
The floor had quieted down. I stretched and started to move. BAM! Mother Nature sucker punched me right in the bladder. I dropped back into my chair with a whimper, but now that things were woken up down there, no way was it quieting back down.
I looked at the elevator, mentally calculating the number of steps it would take me to get there multiplied by the extra time each one took me since I was still limping on my ankle. Then I'd have to walk all the way through Ranger's foyer, into his apartment, and back to his bathroom.
I figured I'd wet myself about the couch. If I was lucky enough to make it that far. Crap, crap, and double crap. Little Debbie save me from protective Merry Men bearing liquids. I swiveled my head around and saw the on-floor bathroom taunting me a mere 15 steps away. It might as well have been 100 miles. Just then another pain lanced through my lower tummy. Yeesh.
Ok, lets look at this objectively:
1. 1. It's a men's room, so it might very well be disgusting. Right. Like Ella would ever let anything disgusting stay in her building.
2. 2. I'm not supposed to go in the men's room. Well, technically I'm not supposed to go in the men's LOCKER ROOM. Ranger never actually said anything about the men's bathroom.
But the one that really decided me was:
3. 3. If I don't make it to a toilet in 30 seconds it's not going to matter because I'll never be able to show my face in the control room again.
Plus, I hadn't seen anyone go in or out of that bathroom all morning. I figured it was pretty safe. I stood up carefully, clutching my stomach, and hobbled to the rest room. With a quick look back and forth, I ducked inside.
It was kind of a let down. Ranger loved technology, so I was sort of expecting space age fixtures and fancy talking paper towel dispensers. No such luck. It was a plain bathroom. Three black stall on one wall—one of them wheelchair accessible, never let it be said that Ranger was in violation of ADA rules—two urinals, a couple of sinks, a big mirror and a hand dryer. The floor was beige tile, the walls a creamy ecru.
I took everything in as I hustled into the big stall—hey, a girl needs her space. What the hell had I been thinking to wear button-front jeans? Sure, they were cool again, but my God what a pain. I finally got my pants off and sat down, letting lose a relieved sigh as I took care of business.
I wiped and stood, setting a new personal record for bathroom speed. I pulled up my panties—a red lace thong. What can I say? I'm a girl, and I used to be a lingerie buyer. I like cute underwear. Plus since I have to wear black every day on the outside, I require at least some color in my wardrobe.
I was getting ready to start on my button fly when I heard voices outside the door. I did the only thing I could think of; I plunked myself back down on the potty, pants still around my knees, and lifted my feet up, hiding instinctively. Please don't let anyone come inside, I thought.
The stall doors all opened inward, so even unoccupied they always looked like they were closed. If there was a drop of justice in the world, I wouldn't be found out. I'll go to mass, I'll give up birthday cake, just don't let me get caught in the boys' room.
"I'll be right there, Rangeman. I'm just gonna hit the head."
God hates me.
I recognized Bobby's voice and heard the door open. Maybe he just wants to wash his hands, I told myself crazily. Then a horrible thought hit me. Jesus, if nothing else let it be only number one. I hadn't done anything horrible enough in my life to deserve it to be more than that.
Apparently, God agreed that I was going to be traumatized enough for one day, because I listened to Bobby's footsteps as he went to stand in front of the urinals. If I weren't so afraid to move, I would have stuck my fingers in my ears.
I heard the sound of a zipper, and then…humming? What the Hell? Was that "I'm a Little Tea Pot?" I couldn't tell, but I was almost sure…I pressed my lips tightly together. The humming ended with a final, forceful "Mmm," and I heard a splash. My eyes were huge, my throat choked with suppressed laughter.
Cry-ma-nilly. Had Merry Men been bringing Bobby drinks all morning, too? Finally, it ended. I was almost in the clear. Then it happened. Bobby yawned, did something that sounded like a big neck crack, and…farted with a satisfied sigh.
The giggles that exploded out of my mouth were completely beyond my control.
"WHAT THE FUCK!"
I leapt off the toilet, going for the door. The only thing on my mind was escape. I yanked the stall open just as Bobby whirled around. He hadn't taken the time to, how to say this delicately, put anything back where it was supposed to go. When he caught sight of me his feet tangled up, and he landed in a heap on the floor, his head smacking the tile.
"Jesus! Bobby, are you all right? Oh, my God. I'm so sorry." I rushed toward him, completely forgetting about my pants and my need to be anywhere else but there. My legs tangled in the denim. I tried to catch myself, but I was too far gone, and when I accidentally put all my weight on my bad ankle, I screamed like a little girl and went down hard. My elbow landed perfectly centered on ground zero.
I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't heard it myself, but Bobby's scream was even higher pitched than mine.
The door flew open and men in black poured into the room, guns drawn. Ranger was in the lead. He looked around a little wildly until his eyes landed on Bobby and I in the floor.
Bobby was clutching his crotch, whimpering. I couldn't get my feet underneath me, and I knew my be-thonged butt was stuck in the air for the world and all the Merry Men to see.
Ranger assed the situation in a hurry, and although he was obviously still baffled, he got me to my feet and managed to pull my jeans up. Bobby was on his own, still gasping and rolling but getting some control of himself. The bathroom was getting very crowded, and I could hear snickers and whistles coming from behind Ranger.
"Everyone out," he ordered in his don't-even-think-about-questioning-me tone. The laughs cut off, and his backup filed out the door. When the three of us were alone, he started talking again. He didn't sound any happier.
"Does someone want to explain this to me?" Ranger demanded.
"I—." He cut me off.
"I don't mean you. Brown, what is going on in here?"
His voice was strangled. "I was taking a piss, and all the sudden there was Steph. She took me by surprise, and I slipped." He paused, trying to sit up. "Her fucking elbow landed right in my—."
"I think I get the picture." Ranger actually winced.
Ok, so this was probably my fault, but I was still feeling the need to defend myself. "I didn't know he was going to come in here! I had to go; it was an absolute emergency."
"Babe, I have a whole garage full of cars just waiting for you to blow them up. Do you have to resort to attacking my men when their pants are down?"
Ohhhh…the nerve of him. "I didn't want to come in here, Ranger!" I ground out. "Believe me, if I could have made it upstairs I would have. Do you have any idea how rough the toilet paper down here is?"
He was doing the almost smile now. Jerk. I finished buttoning my pants, and stalked to the sink, washing my hands with all the dignity I could muster. Bobby managed to make it to his feet and had apparently gotten himself situated as well.
Thank God. Not that his package hadn't been impressive, even completely—Uhn! So not going there, Stephanie.
Ranger was watching me dry my hands with a full-on grin. "Guess this'll teach the boys not to smuggle you contraband drinks anymore. They won't want to take a chance on being the next one caught in the bathroom with you. I was just going to make them run extra miles."
"I'm sure as fuck not giving her any contraband if it means she's coming to the bathroom with me," Bobby muttered.
I whirled around and looked at Bobby. "Oh really? I'd be very nice to me if I were you, Brown," I declared. Then I hummed a few notes under my breath for good measure.
He paled and rushed to say, "No hard feelings, though, Bombshell. You know we're tight, right?."
I narrowed my eyes but nodded once, firmly. Ranger was looking a little curious. I ignored him and finished drying my hands. I limped toward the door, shooting the death glare at both of them because I really felt like they deserved it.
"I'm making a freaking sign for the door," I muttered under my breath as I walked back to my cubby.
I had to get my own drinks the rest of the day.