tagRomanceThe Vault

The Vault

bybb1212©

Author's note: This is quite a long story, and as a result it takes some time to get to the 'good bits' (the sex). As with most of my submissions I have tried to make it a complete story, which involves plot, characters and a good amount of sex. It is a romance; so don't expect anything too kinky. Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoy it. All feedback is greatly appreciated -- BB1212

*

The Alarm.

It's four fifteen on a Friday afternoon, and I'm in my office, trying to get through the paperwork in my in tray before the weekend. I never really wanted to be a bank manager, but here I am, sitting in the chair and doing the job to the best of my ability.

It's strange really, the way life drags you kicking and screaming off in an entirely different direction than the one you had planned.

The alarm screams, shaking me from my thoughts. I look around in panic, trying to remember which one it is. Fire alarm I decide, and the sprinklers turn on just in time to confirm my suspicions. I rush from my office, still taking the time to carefully lock the door behind me. The vault is not yet sealed, and as the most fireproof place on the twenty-first floor I don't want to lock it until I know every person is safely out.

There's panic outside, in the main office. Men and women screaming and rushing at the doors, jamming them tight in their selfish struggle to make sure they are the one who gets out first.

"STOP!" I cry, and because my voice is the one they are used to taking commands from, they at least pause and look at me. "Slowly out the door in an orderly fashion," I say, a little quieter, trying hard to remember the script from the fire drills. "Do not use the lifts, but check the stairwell for smoke and heat before using it." The familiar instructions seem to calm them. "This might just be a surprise drill," I say, knowing full well that on a Friday afternoon it can't be, "So go down the stairs in an orderly fashion, and don't run." At least the exit to the doorway is less crowded now, as the people behind, who were pushing have slowed down to listen, and the pushing has stopped. I watch and supervise as the office staff leave, their smart business clothes saturated from the sprinklers, their hair wet and water dripping down countless pairs of glasses.

Finally the main office is cleared, but the alarm is still screaming as I check all the other offices, all the toilets and even all the cupboards that are big enough to hold a person. It is dim, the power has gone off and the emergency lighting has come on. The floor is empty now, and I think about the vault. I could seal it now, but then it won't open again until Monday morning, and I still have another floor to check. I lock the main doors behind me, and walk down the deserted stairs to the twentieth floor, second from the top, and the rest of my branch. I can hear the bustle, the strained voices and the hurried footsteps way below me as people rush for the exits. On the landing, halfway down a woman is sitting, just holding her foot with her face contorted in pain.

"What happened?" I ask. It would be silly to ask if she is OK, she obviously isn't.

"Someone pushed me and I fell, then someone stepped on my ankle." I nod.

"I have to check the next floor below," I explain, "but I will come back for you when I'm finished." She looks frightened.

"Promise?" she asks, her eyes pleading.

"Promise," I say putting my hand on her shoulder reassuringly. She is shivering. I leave quickly, there is still work to do and she is just going to make it harder for me to get out, so now I have to do it faster.

The floor below is deserted, but two of the teller's stations have not been sealed, and the cash drawers are open. It looks like someone has taken some cash. Sighing I find the camera in the supervisors drawer, and I hurriedly photograph the stations before closing them and sealing them. Everything else is in order, and once again I lock up as I go around. My head is aching from the screaming alarm, and my suit is sodden, and it clings unfashionably to my body. I look out of the window in one office, trying to see what the situation is and I gasp in surprise. The road below is packed with fire engines, police, ambulances and people. I see my building reflected in the glass sides of the building in front of me, and the fire is massive. At least four floors have flames billowing from the windows, and there is only a gap of three or four more to where I stand. I stare momentarily, and for the first time I wonder if I am going to survive. I have to remind myself not to panic and run, as I lock the doors and head back out to the stairwell. Smoke billows from the door when I open it, and I take a deep breath and go through, heading up as I promised. The woman is in a heap as I approach, and I think she is unconscious, but then she turns to me with obvious relief.

"I thought..." she starts to say, but I pick her up quickly and put her over my shoulder, still holding my breath. I have no impression of weight; the adrenalin in my system handles the load with ease. I pause, up or down I wonder, but the smoke from below is thickening as I watch. If it were safe to go down there, then there would be firemen here by now I decide, and I head up. The safest place for us is the roof. From there we can be rescued by helicopter. The woman is gripping my arm firmly, almost painfully, but she stays quiet, seemingly she trusts my judgement. I just hope I live up to that trust. The smoke is getting worse, and I cough, as I finally have to breathe in. We pass the twenty-first floor door and head up one more flight to where the ladder is that will take us to the roof. I gently place the woman onto the ground as I search for the rope in the dim light. I pull the rope firmly, to bring the ladder down, but it doesn't budge. Damn, I curse inwardly, the maintenance people are supposed to make sure this works OK. I pull again harder, and then harder again. The woman is coughing weakly, and watching nervously as she realises what the problem is. Finally the rope breaks at the top. We now have no way to get onto the roof. Thinking quickly I take off my suit coat, and then my tie and shirt. I tear an eighty-dollar shirt in half and wrap half around the woman's face so the damp cloth can filter the smoke. I do the same to myself with the other half and then pick her up again. As we head down I can see the red glow of the fire, it is in the stairwell. There is only one hope now, and I rush to the door to my floor. I unlock the main doors to the bank, but fall as we go through. At leastt the air in here is still clear. I gasp for air as the woman kicks the door shut behind us with her good foot.

"We're going to die, aren't we?" she asks weakly, sounding more resigned to her fate than worried about it.

"Not if I can help it," I gasp, and I struggle back to my feet. She shakes her head and points, and my eyes follow to look out of the window at the end of the corridor. The fire has come up at least one floor, and it seems to be growing. I nod.

"The safest place in the building now is the vault," I say, and hold my hands to her.

"Really?" I can see she doesn't want false hope, and I think she has been somehow let down in the past.

"Really," I say positively. She looks at me curiously.

"And just how do you expect to break into a bank vault before the fire gets to this floor?"

"I'm the manager," I explain, and she looks surprised. I'm used to that, I'm thirty-eight, but people still think I'm in my twenties. I keep fit and I just have a young face. "I haven't locked it yet, in case I couldn't get everyone out." We can feel the heat radiating off the door and smoke is seeping through the door. She holds her hands up, and I take them and pull her upright. She winces as she gingerly puts her weight on her sore foot.

"Then what are we doing out here?" she asks, with a glimmer of hope.

Into the Vault.

I can see her starting to panic as I pull the massive door shut behind us.

"Can we just leave it open a bit?" she asks nervously.

"The door is only fireproof when it is shut," I tell her gently.

"Is it airtight?" At least she is asking logical questions.

"Yes," I say, "and we have enough air in here to last six people for about four days." She nods, and I turn the wheel, sealing us in this room until half past eight on Monday morning. I hit the alarm button, now they will know we are in here. We unwind the tattered shirt from our faces, breathing the clean air with relief. Even the fire alarm is quiet now, with just a slight buzz and a small flashing red light in the roof of the vault to indicate that the building may be burning down around us. The woman is looking around. The room is small, maybe half the size of my office, and each wall has shelving attached with a couple of rows of locked heavy duty drawers and shelves with big bundles of cash just stacked on them. The space left in between is going to be just big enough for the two of us to lie down head to head when we have to sleep. For now we sit, one at each end of the vault and just look around, trying to avoid looking at each other. It is very dark in the vault, with just the alarm indicator and one emergency light on. It was already on when we came in.

"How much...?"

"Fourteen and a half million, give or take a hundred thousand," I reply.

"How did you know I was going to ask that?" she asks accusingly.

"Everyone does," I answer simply. "What's your name? I'm Don." I finally look at her, and see she is already looking at me. She turns away quickly, as if she has been caught doing something wrong. For the first time I actually really look at her, and that is amazing. I've carried this woman up stairs and through the building, and if I hadn't looked now I would not have been able to describe her. She has medium length wavy brown hair, and is wearing a blue business jacket with a matching knee length skirt and a white blouse buttoned up to the top. She's quite small in build, and the well tailored jacket hides her figure well. I guess she would be approaching thirty years old, but she shows no sign of the extra weight that many women carry at that age. She turns back to me and her face is nice, her features are well defined without being sharp. Her lips pout slightly, but that looks more cute than off-putting.

"Felicity," she says, looking at me almost defiantly. Then she takes a deep breath. "Thank you," she says quietly, "everyone else left me for dead." She shudders as she realizes how accurate those words are, and her head drops, the fire in her eyes is gone. But I saw it burn, and I know it is in her.

"How's the foot?" I ask, and she looks at it.

"It doesn't feel like it's broken," she says, staring at the foot in question, "I'll just have to keep off it for a couple of days." I seize the opportunity.

"That won't be a problem," I say quickly. Maybe it was too quickly I think, as she looks back at me suspiciously.

"Why?"

"The door's on a timer," I explain, "no matter what happens now it won't unlock until Monday morning." Her head comes up.

"You have got to be joking," she growls, the words spaced out for emphasis.

"Sorry, no." I try to sound apologetic, but she starts shouting.

"You lured me in here, and locked me in so you could..."

"Save your life," I shout over her. "What would you prefer, to be locked in here for a couple of days with a sore foot, or to be a charred body out there that can only be identified by dental records?" In the dim light I see her head drop again and I wait. Two minutes, maybe three.

"You're right," she says quietly, "I'm sorry I got upset, it's just that I..."

"Don't worry, I understand," I say, and I do. My ex wife is the suspicious type. She was suspicious if I stayed late at work. She was suspicious if a tradesman even glanced in her direction. She was so suspicious that once she had called the police to get rid of a stalker, and the stalker had actually been a sales rep that had parked outside our house to eat his lunch, because we had the tree with the best shade. I decide to lay it on the line. "I can promise you that getting us in here was an absolute last resort, and the only reason I used it was so that we would both live."

"OK."

"I have absolutely no intention of taking advantage of you, I'm only just out of a very nasty divorce and the last thing I need now is more complication."

"OK, I'm sorry..."

Felicity's voice trails off as the lights go out. Both the emergency lighting and the alarm.

"Oh, shit," I say, without thinking.

"What?" her voice is on the edge of panic again.

"The fire is here, on this floor, and it's bad."

"Can we survive?" her voice is croaky. I think for a moment, and decide not to hide anything.

"Yes," I reply, "the vault can survive any normal building fire, but it's going to get damn hot in here."

"Oh."

"We'll have clean air and I can arrange some lighting."

"Thank God."

"But," I say, "if the building collapses and the vault falls twenty one floors then we will most likely be killed." She is silent, and I wait.

"Suddenly?" she finally asks, and I breathe a sigh of relief.

"Yes."

"We won't be cooked alive in here or die from lack of oxygen?"

"No."

"OK, then lets turn on the lights." She sounds much better, and I hope the crisis has now passed. I'm at the end of the vault where the door is, so I reach across in the dark and find the big drawer on the bottom shelf. I pull it out, knowing that it is one of the few drawers in here that is always left unlocked, and I reach in to take out one of the large plastic bags. It's a re-sealable bag, and I open it and thrust my hand inside. After feeling around I find a bundle of tubes, and I take one out. Remembering how to use it I first shake the tube and then bend it, to break the small glass vial inside. The chemicals mix and it starts glowing. The light is a green colour. At first it is very dim, but even then Felicity sighs with relief, and as time passes it gets brighter. I stand up and put the tube in the small hooks in the centre of the roof.

"Let there be light," I say cheerfully, turning back around.

"And there is," Felicity replies. I take another plastic bag from the drawer and hand it to her.

"This is a survival kit," I say. "There's six in there, so we have plenty of everything." She opens it.

"Glow sticks," she says, taking out a tube.

"Just one at a time I suggest," I say. "You..."

"Shake then bend," Felicity says. "I've used them before." She puts the glow sticks on a shelf where they will easy to reach, and takes out another package. "Dried, concentrated food," she says, smiling, and I nod. She's pretty when she smiles, and her nose wrinkles up at the end. "Only one at time, they are very filling." I'm surprised, and wonder how she knows this, but I just return her smile. We need things to be happy about right now. She takes out a vacuum packed parcel, not much bigger than a magazine. "Blanket?"

"Uh huh."

"Privacy or warmth?"

"There's six packs," I remind her, and her smile grows.

"Both," she says triumphantly, and I nod. She squeals with delight. "Toilet paper, is there a toilet in here?"

"No," I reply apologetically. "The side of the shelf folds across there," I indicate the shelf next to her, "and that makes a bar we can sit on." Her forehead wrinkles in either disgust or concern, it's hard to tell in the dim green glow. "There are more bags in there, so we just clip them into the frame, do our business and then seal the bags."

"Urgh, primitive," she groans.

"Functional."

"Why am I next to the toilet?" she asks, and I think she is teasing, but I am not sure.

"Want to swap?"

"Maybe later." She reaches back into the bag. "Pillow?"

"Yep."

"No water?"

"There," I say, pointing at a small tap half way between us. "There are cups too, and a first aid kit."

"Well equipped," she says cheerfully, and she wipes her forehead. I nod, its been getting hotter for some time.

"Well enough to survive," I say. The walls of the vault are now noticeably hot and I reach into the shelf and take out a bundle of small denomination notes.

"Where's the shop, can I have an ice cream?" Felicity asks. I smile and shake my head, but I separate the notes as well as possible and throw them on the floor. She looks amused, and finally asks, "what are you doing?" as I do it again.

"The walls are going to be very hot soon, so we make an insulated place to sit in the middle of the room." She nods, and holds her hand out. I hand her a wad of cash. How to impress a lady, I think, hand her a huge wad of money just hours after you meet, or is it minutes? I check my watch. Five eighteen. Not even one hour.

The fire.

It's hot. Damn hot, I think, borrowing a line from Robin Williams. We've moved away from the walls, and are sitting a carefully modest distance apart in the middle of the vault on what is most likely many hundreds of thousands of dollars. We are both sweating profusely now, and we drink water just to have it pour back out of us and trickle into the cash. We can't touch any of the metal without scalding ourselves, and I think this is what the preacher should have used to describe hell when I was a boy.

"I can't stand it any more," Felicity says, and she unbuttons her jacket and peels the wet garment off. The wet is sweat, our clothes had mostly dried after the soaking the sprinklers gave them, but then we started perspiring. Her blouse is wet too, and quite transparent now, so I look away quickly as I clearly see her plain white bra. I'm still only wearing my pants, shoes, socks and underwear, but this is too much in this heat. I take off my shoes as she takes off hers, and my socks come off as her stockings do. As far as striptease goes it is about as erotic as watching a truck dive down the road. We look at each other, eyes carefully high, and we nod together.

I pour water onto the halves of my shirt and hand one to Felicity. I'm glad I'm a man, because I only have my boxers on now, where she has her bra and briefs. We wipe the wet cloth on our skin, feeling a sweet, but far too brief, relief from the heat. We sweat from the heat, but we both are also pretending not to be listening for structural failure, not to be tensely waiting for the first movement that signals our twenty-one floor plummet to our deaths. I have to admit that during this time I do take the opportunity to look at Felicity, and as a last look at a woman goes I could do a lot worse. She's on the short side, but her proportions are perfect. Her hips are slim but feminine, her chest is somewhere between ample and large. I can't see any fat at all, and she has the well-toned body of a gym junkie. We sweat in silence, only moving to drink or to wipe our bodies. There isn't enough energy left to talk. Inside the oven I try to picture the scene outside. Through the thick walls we don't hear the roar of the flames, we don't hear the sirens, we don't hear the water from the fire trucks boiling and turning into steam as it hits the flames. I think of my office, and the oil painting on the wall. It was an original, a picture of the Australian bush, and a reminder of where I grew up. But it can be replaced, it all can be replaced, the only things that can't are in here. Felicity and me, just two totally irreplaceable fragile humans. Once we're gone that's it. I wonder who would miss me. My mother, of course. Some of my friends and some of my staff too. If they survived. But I don't want to worry about that now, I hope they all got down before the fire got into the stairwell, but there's nothing I can do about that now. I did everything by the book; I just have to trust that the book was right. It takes a while, a long while, but finally the heat seems to drop slightly. Felicity notices too, and looks at me, her eyes asking the question. I nod, and she gives me a faint smile of relief.

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