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Topics - Olivia Storm

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1
Crash and Burn / A Bigger Bundle Than Expected!
« on: August 28, 2018, 10:23:59 AM »
Just a dating scan.

That's all this was supposed to be, just a dating scan. Liv hadn't really given much thought to the size of her bump, assuming that second pregnancies seemed bigger than first ones anyway. Now, she was discovering, that wasn't the case. She stared at the monitor as the ultrasound wand gently pressed into her belly.

"Twins?"

"Lucy had twins," Johnny confirmed, not quite getting the message the technician was trying to tell them. He thought Liv was only asking the technician about the possibility of twins, rather than confirming it. Then again, he was too busy paying attention to Liv's bump, instead of looking at the monitor.

"Ah ... no, love." Liv touched his hand, tilting her head toward the monitor. "I mean ... twins. As in ... we're having."

The technician bit down on a grin; it was sometimes difficult to predict how people would handle this bit of news.

"Twins," Johnny echoed as he glanced to the monitor, still not quite getting it. "Wait ... Are you saying we're having twins?!" he asked, his voice going up at least an octave in mingled shock, astonishment and disbelief.

"That's what it looks like, Mr. Storm," the technician answered, pointing to the monitor. "There's one ... and there's the other. It's quite difficult to get a false positive on twins during an ultrasound at twelve weeks."

"Twins," Johnny echoed again, feeling a little light-headed. "I think-I think I'm gonna faint," he murmured, dropping into the closest chair available and hopefully not already occupied.

"Don't you dare," Liv warned, although her voice was a little weak as well. Twins, on top of three children, two dogs, a cat, and a dragon, and Fliss had moved out ... that was a daunting thought. "We may need to rearrange the house again."

Johnny shoved his fingers through his mop of blond hair and looked over at the monitor again. "Are you sure?" he asked, leaning forward and taking a harder look at the blob on the monitor. Or was it blobs?

"Yup." The technician frowned thoughtfully. "Hang on, let me get a better angle here ... Yup, there we go. Two amniotic sacs, two babies."

Liv felt her jaw drop. Even if she hadn't recognized the baby shapes, there was no mistaking the two sacs. "Oh, my god ..."

Johnny moved closer, as close as he could without getting in the technician's way, though he'd probably be able to make more sense of what he was seeing if he moved back a little. "Looks like two little blobs to me. Blob One and Blob Two," he quipped with a chuckle. "Are you sure they aren't aliens? They kind of look like aliens."

Liv raised a brow, a little too shocked just yet to appreciate that kind of humor. "I'd rephrase that if you don't want to be sleeping in the shed with Lir tonight," she suggested to her husband, one hand stroking over the crown of her bump in slow surprise. "We're going to have six children."

"Half a dozen," Johnny murmured, slowly retaking his seat, as if he didn't trust his legs to hold him upright. He was silent a moment as he tried to wrap his head around it. At least Fliss had moved out. That was one less mouth to feed and sleeping space to sort out. "We're gonna have to build another addition."

"Not necessarily," Liv said softly, aware that the technician was making calculations beside her. "Alexei has Fliss' old room, Maria has the big room - we still have the small bedroom and the nursery. Maria might not mind sharing with Bess?"

"Maybe," Johnny replied thoughtfully. This was something they didn't need to worry about today, but it was something they were going to have to give some thought to in the coming months. "Can you tell if it's ... if they're ... Can you tell the gender?" he asked, thinking that might be a good place to start. If they were of the same gender, they could probably share a room, but if not, they'd eventually have to be split up, if only for privacy's sake.

"Hmm ... Well, I can see only one placenta," the technician mused, pointing to a dark mass on the edge of the screen. "Usually that would signify identical twins, but there is a margin of error. There is a possibility that there are two placentas next to one another, presenting as one. As for the gender, that isn't something I can give you with any confidence right now, but as a multiple pregnancy, you'll be asked to have scans every four weeks, and I'm sure one of them will throw up someone confident enough to give you an estimate of gender."

Johnny paused a moment to take that in before looking to Liv with a smile on his face and reaching for her hand. "Twins, Livvie. We're having twins. Er, you're having twins." He chuckled. "I'm just the sperm donor."

"Oh, this is definitely we," she corrected him, laughing a little as she shook her head, squeezing his hand. "You are much more than just a sperm donor, sweetheart."

"I did donate the sperm, though," Johnny pointed out with a grin. At least, in a manner of speaking he had. "It was only a matter of time, you know," he said further.

"Is it wrong that I was sort of hoping we might dodge the bullet?" Liv asked in concern. After all, they'd watched Lucy almost meltdown over her own twins when they were tiny, even with all the help on hand.

Ah, but Lucy wasn't Liv, whose superpower was not only being the Multiverse's Best P.A., but wife and mother, too. Johnny chuckled and gave her hand a soft squeeze.

"It'll be okay, Liv. We got this," he said, confident that if they could handle everything else they'd been dealt in life, they could certainly handle twins. And they'd have plenty of help.

She smiled, relieved that Johnny, at least, seemed confident they would manage. "So when can we expect them?" she asked the technician.

He considered his calculations as the stills printed out behind him. "Your full term date will be around the beginning of March, but most twin pregnancies tend to come to a conclusion around 38 weeks," he told them. "So if I were you, I would aim to be ready for anything by the beginning of February, just in case."

"Six months? That doesn't give us much time," Johnny said, with a worried frown. Thankfully Bess was almost three and out of diapers. Two babies at the same time was going to be hard enough to handle, besides a toddler, a teen, and two not-quite tweens.

"Good god, I have another pregnant Halloween coming," Liv suddenly realized. She had not yet done Christmas pregnant, but she figured if Vicki Granger could do it, so could she.

"You'd make a great pumpkin!" Johnny teased, though his wife wasn't quite that big yet. His smile softened and he leaned close to touch a kiss to her cheek. "Congratulations, Mama," he whispered.

She laughed again, smiling as he leaned in close to her. "Couldn't have done it without you, Daddy," she whispered back. It was going to take a little while to feel calm about having twins, but at least they weren't in full denial about it. "We should get moving so we don't hold up the waiting room."

2
Crash and Burn / Back To Normal
« on: June 12, 2018, 09:14:09 AM »
[size=9]((Contains references to adult material.))[/size]

With the majority of the children in the treehouse for a sleepover, and Lucy and Steve playing host to the visiting Natasha and Colin, today had been the perfect day for the adult Storms to get a few things settled. Like giving Lucas their permission to propose to Fliss, only to discover that he had already proposed to her, and that she was wearing the ring he had given her. That had been a bit of a surprise, but a good one. And Liv had one more surprise for Johnny.

Today was the last session with the healers, and she'd waved him away to go and bath Bess while she was busy being made as good as new. Three long weeks of convalescence were finally over, and with a last hour under Rebecca's skilled and magical touch, Liv was looking forward to giving Johnny a lovely surprise. As he finished up with Bess, his wife tentatively took her first steps since she'd been attacked, trying not to laugh out loud at how easy it felt, how painless it was. She brushed her long hair - restored by Rebecca's magic because that uneven shave had been doing far more harm than good - and made her way on bare feet to Bess' bedroom, where the toddler was gurgling her way through making it difficult for Johnny to get her pajamas on her.

Liv smiled at the wrestling match, looking forward to taking her turn again soon. "I could be wrong, but one of these days, she's going to win."

Thankfully, Johnny was not holding Bess off the ground or he might have dropped her, startled as he was by Liv's voice as she joined him. He knew she'd been slowly recovering, but he had not expected her to join him so soon. It had, after all, only been a few weeks. "Liv!" he exclaimed, scooping baby Bess up into his arms and turning to face her, clearly startled. "What are you doing? Are you okay?"

Liv's smile was bright, if a little disbelieving. "I'm ... I'm fine," she told him, her voice half a laugh. "Honestly. I'm absolutely fine!" She let herself laugh again, moving to wrap her arms around him and Bess tenderly. "I'm all better."

"Livvie, your hair!" Johnny exclaimed in a hushed gasp of breath, obviously surprised to find her with a full head of hair again. Though the loss of hair might not have been life-threatening, it had been a constant reminder of how Hydra had almost taken her away from them. "Oh my God, baby, you're walking ... and talking ... and your hair!" he repeated, laughing happily along with her.

"I know!" Liv squeezed him fondly, brushing a kiss against Bess' cheek as the toddler giggled with them, utterly unaware of what was so special about her mother being up and about and looking normal. Her hand gently cradled Johnny's cheek. "I'm back," she promised him. "And I'll take it easy for a little while, I promise."

"Oh my God, baby ... You look-you look amazing!" he told her, knowing he was gushing, but hardly caring. There were all alone, after all, except for Bess, and there was no reason to hide his enthusiasm. There were tears in his eyes as he pulled her close, Liv in one arm and Bess in the other. "I was so worried," he whispered, his voice breaking.

"I know," she whispered back to him, hugging close to press her cheek to his. "And I'm sorry you had to go through all that, baby. But I'm back, and it's never going to happen again."

"No, it sure as hell isn't!" Johnny agreed. Not because Liv was never going to visit New York again, but because as far as they knew, they had pushed Hydra back at least a few decades. "I love you, baby." He kissed her again, this time on the lips, with Bess lunging toward Liv to do the same. Johnny laughed. "See? Bess feels the same!"

"I love you back," Liv murmured into his kiss, giggling as Bess planted a kiss of her own onto her mother's lips. "And you!" she declared, lifting Bess out of Johnny's arms to cuddle her close. "Oh, I've missed being able to do this."

"Aw, Livvie," Johnny whispered, his voice breaking again and tears of relief actually streaming down his face. He just couldn't help himself. He scrubbed the tears from his face as she relieved him of Bess, laughing at himself. "Sorry!" he said, glad the kids were there to see him.

"They're all in the treehouse tonight," she told him. "I was thinking of surprising them with breakfast in the morning - what do you think?" It would certainly be a surprise to see her walking about; a good way to wake up, perhaps.

"I think that's a great idea!" he said, with a happy smile. "Shall we tuck the munchkin into bed? I want to make sure you're real!" he told her, though he didn't want to push her too fast or too far.

"Well, it's bedtime, isn't it?" Liv looked into Bess' sleepy eyes with a fond smile. "I think that sounds like a wonderful idea." Hoisting the toddler a little closer on her hip, she squeezed Johnny about the waist a moment longer before moving over to the cot.

Johnny followed her to the bed, so that he could help tuck Bess in and give her a good-night kiss, but he let Liv do most of it, since he had a feeling she'd been badly missing the nightly routines with their children.

It felt like an eternity since she'd been able to see even one of her children to bed, and Liv couldn't help taking her time over it, stroking her fingers against Bess' blonde hair as the little girl sank into sleep in front of them. When she straightened, it was to tuck her arm about Johnny's waist. "Is Bella in the treehouse with Beast and the kids?"

"Yeah," Johnny said, tucking his arms around her to hold her close and lowering his voice so they wouldn't wake Bess. "Lir's in the pool. I think he's kinda lonely," he said, with a frown, though there wasn't much they could do about it. "I think Jasper is out there with him," he said, though how a cat and a dragon were friends was beyond him.

"We need to work out how to house him," Liv mused. "I don't think he's ever going to go wild, Johnny. He loves Alex too much to leave."

"I know, but ..." Johnny trailed off, with a glance at Bess, before taking Liv's hand to lead her from the room, so they could talk without waking her. "He's so big!" he said, as he pulled Bess' door halfway closed.

"He's not even half-grown yet, Johnny," she pointed out, pausing to look out through the window on the landing. Lir was half in his little shed now, one foreleg outstretched as Jasper apparently scratched his own head on the dragon's claws. "Alex would tell us if he was unhappy."

"I guess," Johnny admitted, feeling a strange tug of affection for the water dragon, who had snuck home with them in Fliss' backpack one day a few years ago from a shop in the Marketplace. "Do you think Sol could permanently shrink him or something?"

"Johnny, how would you like it if someone shrunk you because they thought you might be a little big?" Liv asked her husband gently. "It would be cruel. We'll work something out, I'm sure. We should just talk to Alex about it."

"Yeah, I guess," Johnny agreed again, with a worried frown. One way or other, they'd work it out, but he knew how attached Alex and Lir had become over the years. It wasn't something they were going to solve tonight, at any rate.

She smiled, leaning into him affectionately. "I get to sleep in our bed tonight," she reminded him with a flicker of mischief in her eyes. "It's been a while."

"Are you planning on just sleeping?" he asked, mirroring that mischievous gleam in his own eyes. He didn't much care if all they did was snuggle, so long as they were together and she was well again. "Oh, Liv," he said, pulling her into his arms again. "I've been so worried. You can't imagine how happy I am that you're okay." Actually, she probably could. There had been plenty of nights when he'd gone out to help the Avengers or the fire brigade and she'd worried if he would come home safely.

3
Crash and Burn / Good News At Last
« on: May 12, 2018, 09:36:15 AM »
Johnny paced the hall outside the room where Liv was temporarily staying at Maple Grove Manor, until she was well enough to return home. It was the first day with the healers, and though he had no reason to think anything would go wrong, he was nervous. How could he not be nervous when Liv's life hung in the balance? Even though everyone had assured him she was stable enough to be moved, he couldn't help but worry. He'd relax when she finally opened her eyes and smiled at him for the first time.

Arranging the transfer had been surprisingly easy, though with so many people involved on both sides of the portal, it was hard to see how it could have been allowed to become complicated. The children were back in school, reassured that they would be able to talk to their mother normally when they came home that evening, and Bess was in the care of Piper and Des Granger for the time being. The animals were Matt Foster's responsibility, since Fliss was back at work. Vicki and Jon had been checking on Johnny periodically since the healers had taken Liv's care over, but there was little anyone could do but wait. Then, finally, the door opened, and Rebecca came out, Shipwright close behind her.

"The worst of the damage is healed," she told Johnny confidently. "I'll be back in a couple of days for another session, but for now, she needs to stay in that bed, no matter what she says. There's still a lot of muscle and soft tissue damage that needs to be healed when she has the strength for it." She smiled at him. "But she's awake, and she's asking for you."

"She's awake?" Johnny echoed, eyes wide at the news, as he turned on a heel to face the healer. "Oh, thank the Gods - every single one of them! And thank you, too!" he said, reaching for the healer's hand and shaking it vigorously. "Can I see her now?"

Rebecca laughed, letting him shake her hand as much as he wanted to. "Yes," she assured him. "Just be gentle with her, okay? She may look all better, but there's still a lot to do."

"I will! I promise!" Johnny told her, moving past her toward the door. He didn't bother to pause, to take a breath, to prepare himself in anyway for what he might find behind the door. He was too eager to see her and to make sure she really was awake and well on her way toward getting better. "Livvie?" he inquired as he stepped into the room.

"Johnny?"

Quiet and weak, but that was her voice, spoken aloud, heard through his ears and not just in his mind. Liv smiled weakly at him from where she was propped up against the pillows, pale again, still bandaged at the hips and legs and head, but definitely awake.

"Hey, you."

"Oh, Livvie ... I was so worried!" Johnny said, rushing to her side and gently taking her hand. There were tears of relief in his eyes at the sight of her awake and aware, but still looking too pale and too weak. "I'm so sorry, baby," he said, kissing her hands, letting the tears fall. He'd said all this already when he'd been hooked to the machine, but now that she was awake, it needed repeating.

"It wasn't your fault," she promised him softly. "It wasn't anyone's fault. And I'm fine, or I will be soon." Her fingers curled through his, her other hand rising to stroke his hair affectionately. "You weren't the only one who was worried for a while there."

"We were all worried," Johnny corrected himself, not realizing she might have meant herself. Thankfully, there was plenty of room on the bed, and he settled himself down beside her, smiling at her through the tears. "I'm so glad you're better," he said. Better was a relative term, but compared to a few days ago, she was making a miraculously quick recovery.

Her hand slipped from his hair, fingers gently wiping his cheeks as she smiled at him. "I told you I was coming back," she reminded him. "I'm too stubborn to let a little thing like this get in the way."

"I know, but ..." Johnny broke off, unsure what to say now that he was able to talk to her face to face. Did she know how close they had come to losing her? How they probably would have lost her, if it hadn't been for Tony and A.E.G.I.S. and the technology they were able to bring to bear to save her? "I promised you I'd take care of you, protect you, and I failed, but I don't intend to fail again."

"Do you remember what I told you when you promised me that?" she asked him, her voice a little gravelly but all hers again. Her hand curled to his cheek tenderly. "I told you that I knew what I was getting into. You couldn't have stopped that truck, Johnny. It's not your fault. And it's not Sue's fault, either. She saved my life, whether she admits it or not."

"I shouldn't have let you go," Johnny argued, though he knew he couldn't keep her a prisoner here in Rhy'Din, even if he only wanted to keep her safe. "I should have gone with you," he added, with a shake of his head, though maybe it had been better she'd been with Sue. Sue had helped shield her from the truck's full impact; Johnny wouldn't have been able to do that.

"Johnny, if you think for one moment that you're going to keep me locked up inside for the rest of my life and only let me out if you're with me, we are going to have a very loud argument," she warned him fondly. "Going to Earth will mean a little extra security, that's all. We are not going to raise paranoid children."

"I know," he replied, pausing to take a slow breath. "I know. I know I can't keep you locked up like a bird in a cage. But Liv ... It was Hydra," he told her, unsure how much she knew, how much she might have heard. "We're gonna get them, but until then, I want you to promise me that you'll stay here, on Rhy'Din," he pleaded. She wasn't going anywhere anytime soon anyway, not until she was well again.

"So I should cancel that tap-dancing lesson in Central Park, shall I?" she asked with warm sarcasm. "Johnny, I know it was Hydra. I could hear everything, I just couldn't respond. And I know you're going to be a part of the retaliation. Just be careful, and come back. All right? Please come back."

"It's not just gonna be me, Liv. A.E.G.I.S. is calling in the big guns for this one. We've even got a Hulk!" he said with a smirk, before sobering. "Of course, I'm coming back! I can't leave you to raise that brood of ours alone, can I?" he said, giving her hand a soft squeeze.

"You had better not," Liv answered, warm despite her quiet. "I seem to remember you talking about wanting another one at some point." She grinned back at him. "By the way ... my lips are not going to fall off if you kiss me, you know."

"Another one? Did I? I don't remember that," he said, with a smirk. They were still one behind Steve and Lucy, and they'd started first. It wasn't out of the question that they had a little catching up to do. "Would you mind very much if I joined you?" he asked, kicking his shoes off onto the floor. He wasn't going to push his luck, but before he kissed her, he wanted to get closer.

Liv laughed softly as she heard his shoes thump onto the floor. "Of course I don't mind," she assured him. "I'm a little achy, that's all." And still on high dosages of painkillers, too.

4
Crash and Burn / Welcome to the Mad House
« on: November 19, 2016, 10:13:13 AM »
Willow Manor on Maple Grove didn't look, from the outside, as though it had enjoyed a somewhat broken night. Indeed, most of the inhabitants of the house weren't even aware that the night had been broken at all. The children were asleep as morning broke; the dragon and the cat were asleep; even Johnny was asleep. The only two not asleep were Liv and Bella, and there was a very good reason for that. The beautiful Beaceron had been in labor all night, needing someone nearby to reassure her as she struggled with unfamiliar labor pains, and keep her hydrated and fed. Liv had volunteered herself for that job, and as winter sunlight began to make itself known through the kitchen windows, she was sitting on the floor with Bella, gently encouraging the beautiful dog to push. One puppy had already made himself known, cleaned up and nudged into Liv's lap by his mother as the next round of pains came on. Bella had two more to birth, and all she really wanted was for it all to be over.

Johnny was the first one up in the morning, still dressed from the night before, but for a very good reason. He'd been up late with Liv and Bella, until Liv had finally shooed him to bed so he could get up for work in the morning. He'd pouted about it, but finally relented, collapsing into bed still fully clothed, except for his shoes. He'd awoken to find Liv wasn't there beside him, and after a groggy first minute of consciousness, remembered why and tiptoed downstairs to join her.

"Hey," he greeted her, yawning and stretching as he entered the kitchen. "Just get up or you been up all ..." It was then he noticed the tiny bundle in Liv's lap and he crouched down to have a better look. "Is that what I think it is?"

"Good morning, sparky," she greeted him, yawning for a different reason. But there was a bright smile on her face as she watched him take note of the newcomer curled up on her lap. "Bella's firstborn, yes," she told him with a quiet laugh, one hand still gently stroking Bella's back as the Beauceron strained. "Number two is almost here."

He could have made a crude remark about the way she had phrased that, but decided against it. "Have you been here all night?" he asked, curiously. She looked tired but happy, and he frowned guiltily about not having stayed up with her.

"Mmhmm," she nodded. "We got some sleep, though. It only got exciting about an hour ago. She's nearly finished the vanilla ice cream; one of us will have to pick up some more today." Next to her, Bella let out a curious little growl, and with an unpleasantly wet sound, puppy number two made their appearance, placenta and all. Liv had a feeling Johnny wasn't going to like seeing his beloved dog licking the puppy clean and then eating the placenta, but there was nothing wrong with it. "Do you want to hold your first grandchild, sparky?"

Liv was probably right about Johnny's reaction to Bella's motherly instincts. He didn't normally have a queasy stomach, but it wasn't every day one got to witness a dog giving birth either. "Um, don't look now, but I think another one just plopped out," he pointed out, making a face at the sight of the puppy all covered in gunk. "More like grandpuppy," he added, his expression brightening as he looked to the puppy that was already cleaned up.

Liv giggled softly, releasing Bella as the dog turned to deal with her second puppy. "Whatever," was her answer to Johnny's correction, both hands gently curling under the wriggling little form in her lap to deliver him into Johnny's hands. The little thing was a ball of black fluff, eyes closed and definitely not very ambulatory yet. Liv had wrapped a little paper collar about his neck with the number 1 written on it, just so she could keep things settled during these first few days. "Already weighed and everything, but he won't suckle until she's ready for him," she told Johnny, glancing over to make sure the second puppy was alive and well. Given the squeaky noises coming from the whelping box, that was a safe bet.

Johnny sat down on the floor beside his wife, in awe of the tiny bundle of fur that fit in the palm of his hands. "How do you know he's a he?" he asked, unsure if it was too soon to tell whether the pup was a male or female. He'd never experienced anything like this before, other than the birth of their daughter, and was clearly in awe of the process.

"Turn him upside down," she told him with a smile, reaching for the bowl that still held a quantity of melted ice cream. "You'll know it when you see it."

"Know what?" a yawning voice interjected as Fliss shuffled into the kitchen in search of coffee.

Usually the first thing Johnny did when he got up in the morning was put the coffee on, but this wasn't just any morning. "Bella had her puppies!" Johnny informed their eldest, holding up his hands to indicate the one he was holding. "I mean, is having ... She had two, so far. How many do you think she had in there?" he asked, looking over at Bella curiously.

"Oh, my gods, puppies!" To her credit, Fliss remembered to lower her voice before this exclamation, her need for coffee completely overtaken by the excitement of seeing brand new babies first thing in the morning. She thumped down onto her knees next to Johnny, ignoring the puppy for the moment to lean over and look at Bella and the second one. Bella looked up at her, bumping her head against Fliss' chin before returning to eating the placenta.

Liv chuckled at the affectionate excitement. "Well, the vet said there were three in there, and so far, we haven't had any complications," she said tiredly. "One more to go, and I can whip that blanket out and switch it for a clean one. Then she can settle down to sleep with her babies."

While Fliss was inspecting Bella and the newest puppy, Johnny was trying to sort out how Liv knew the one he was holding was a boy. He knew what he was supposed to be looking for, but he didn't want to hurt the little thing by looking for it. Thankfully, he hadn't yet noticed Bella eating the placenta and just thought she was licking the puppy out of some maternal instincts. "This one is the eldest, and he's definitely a boy!" Johnny declared with a grin as he confirmed it finally.

"Papa? What's going on?" a young voice ventured behind them, drawn to the kitchen by all the commotion or maybe from some sense of knowing.

Johnny turned to find Alex and Maria peering sleepily at them from the doorway.

Liv glanced up at the sound of the two youngest members of the family making themselves known. "Bella's having her puppies, sweetie," she told Alex, smiling as Maria beamed from behind her brother. "Come and see, but we have to be quiet so we don't upset her. She's still got some more to do."

As she said this, Bella deposited the second puppy into her lap, and turned her attention to lapping at the melted ice cream as Fliss praised her fondly.

"Why are you giving her ice cream?" Alex asked, as he and Maria crept closer, trying hard to be as quiet as he could, like his Mama asked. "We never get ice cream for breakfast," he pointed out with a small pout.

Johnny chuckled at his son's indignation, though he wasn't really sure why Liv was feeding Bella ice cream either. "He has a point," he said, patting a spot on the floor for the pair to sit down. "Fliss, would you like to hold Junior?" he asked, one thumb rubbing the spot between "Junior's" ears.

5
Crash and Burn / Over the Rainbow
« on: October 15, 2016, 06:42:14 PM »
Autumn was well and truly here in Rhy'Din, and outside the city itself, on the very edge of the estate known as Maple Grove, the trees were just beginning to turn their leaves to shades of brown and orange. The spot was deserted, a more than fair distance from any of the houses that dotted the Grove, but that was the reason it had been chosen. If the portal had to open on the Grove, then it had to be away from the homes and families that called the place theirs. The Storms were waiting patiently for the Rogers to arrive, each of them eager in their own way to see their family arrive safely. The children hadn't been told exactly what had happened, but they recognized enough to know that their parents were worried about Steve and Lucy's little family.

Liv was pacing with Bess on one hip, speaking to Tony over her cell as he relayed to her the Rogers' progress through the plan they had gone to great pains to set up between them. Fliss had hold of Alexei, hugging him to keep him calm in the face of their mother's racing thoughts, and Maria had wrapped herself around Johnny's leg for precisely the same reason. Quite how long they were going to have to wait was anyone's guess.

Johnny swept Maria up into his arms, touching a too-warm kiss to her cheek. "It's gonna be okay, sweetheart. Mama and Uncle Tony have this all figured out," he told her, even though they'd explained all that already. In truth, he was just as nervous as the rest of them. Steve and Lucy were family, after all.

Maria cuddled into her father's arms, as worried as everyone and not quite understanding why. After all, Uncle Steve and Aunt Lucy visited all the time. Why was today different?

"They're on the plane now?" Liv was saying into the phone, hiking Bess a little more comfortably up on her hip. "All right. Good. Thank you, Tony." She flashed Johnny a reassuring smile, tucking the phone under her chin just long enough to tell him, "Any time now."

"The plane?" Johnny echoed, unsure what Liv meant by that. Weren't they opening a portal somewhere in New York? He wasn't so sure he trusted Tony Stark as far as he could throw him - which wasn't very far, especially if he was wearing his Ironman suit - but Liv had assured him that her half-brother had Steve and Lucy's best interests in mind.

"I'll call you when they're here," Liv said down the phone. "Try not to fly into anything important." She snorted with laughter at her half-brother's response, and hung up, tucking the phone in her pocket. "We filed a flight plan that would make HYDRA think they're going to England, but they're going to open the portal when they're in mid-air on the plane," she explained to Johnny. "That plane will land at Heathrow with no passengers and no clue as to how they got off."

"Clever, but is opening a portal mid-flight a good idea?" Johnny asked, not wanting to worry anyone, even though he was worried himself. He wasn't a Rhy'Din native and didn't know all that much about portals, but then neither did Tony. Still, it was a clever plan.

"It was the best we could come up with on short notice," Liv shrugged, biting her lip.

"It'll be fine," Fliss spoke up from where she was sat on a handy tree stump with Alex between her knees, hugging her little brother calmly. "Uncle Tony wouldn't let anything happen to them."

"I'm being a worry wart, aren't I?" Johnny asked, with a worried frown that answered his own question. "Did he say how long?" he asked further. "I'll feel better when they get here." But then, that kind of went without saying. If they'd just gotten on the plane, and they were going to open a portal in mid-flight, it might be a while yet. Then again, it was Rhy'Din, and time didn't follow the same rules here.

"At most, ten minutes," Liv said, drawing in a low breath. "It's one of his own planes, so the elevation is very nearly illegal." She smiled at Bess, who was happily gurgling away to herself, utterly unconcerned with anything that was happening. "Alex, how are you doing over there?" she then asked, looking down at her son. "A little bit calmer?"

"They're coming," Alex said in response to his mother's question, almost as if he could somehow sense his cousins from the other side of the Nexus. How much time they'd spent at the Arctic research facility was uncertain, but the children had obviously bonded while there. Still, if Alex was able to reach through the Nexus to find them, they may have underestimated the boy's abilities.

Liv caught Fliss' slightly wild-eyed look in response to Alex's announcement, and nodded, stroking her hand against her son's hair. "Try not to strain yourself," she advised softly, glancing over at Johnny with a raised brow. That was quite a feat their son had just demonstrated.

Johnny returned her gaze, a look of concern on his face. If the wrong people found out what their young son was capable of, it could be dangerous for him. The same went for Fliss and Maria, really.

Alex's expression relaxed a little at his mother's caress, and he seemed to calm a little. "They will be okay, won't they, Mama?" he asked, worriedly.

"I'm sure they will, sweetheart," Liv assured him gently. "Uncle Tony might pretend to be an idiot a lot of the time, but he is a very clever man, and he would never let anything bad happen to any of us."

As she spoke, the familiar rippling shimmer of the portal began to make itself known in the air in front of them. Liv drew in a breath. "Okay ... Alex, Maria, come and stand with me, please."

Fliss released her little brother, moving to stand between her mother and siblings, and the portal that was forming, along with her father. It wasn't ideal, but she had the same sort of abilities as Johnny. They could hold off anyone unwelcome between them, if it was necessary.

Johnny still had a lot of questions that had gone unanswered, but as the air started to shimmer the way it did before a portal opened, he had a feeling all his questions would soon be answered. Johnny set Maria down, so she could scamper over to her mother, while he and Fliss stood by, ready to defend both families, if need be. "You ready?" he asked the firestarter as he took a spot on the other side of the children.

The fifteen-year-old glanced at her father in concern. "I can do it," she promised. "I don't want to, but I can."

6
Crash and Burn / Dreamland
« on: July 19, 2016, 10:46:21 AM »
Summer was definitely here when it came to Maple Grove. With the heat growing as the year progressed into July, all the windows in Willow Manor had been flung open to try and keep the house cool overnight - no mean feat when two people in the house generated heat through no fault of their own. Liv had grown used to sharing a bed with a hot husband during every season of the year, but it was nice to sleep with a gentle breeze cooling her skin, too. Thankfully, the children agreed with her, and with the night passing over them to bring the coolness of the morning closer, they were all sleeping through the deepest hours of darkness.

It was on one such hot summer night that the trauma two of those children had suffered before being rescued came to a head. Alexei Ilnarion Storm was, for the most part, a happy child. And why shouldn't he be? He and Maria had the best parents any child could want. He had a place to call home and a family to love him. He had everything any child could ever want or need, and yet, despite all that - just like Fliss and Maria - there were nights when nightmares haunted his dreams. Memories of the tragedy and torment he and Maria and the other children had suffered before S.H.I.E.L.D. had found and rescued them. They weren't the kind of memories that haunted the waking moments of the boy's days, but only came at night, unexpected and unwanted and terrifying.

For all her repeated declarations of being absolutely normal with no powers whatsoever, Liv had a peculiar sort of sixth sense when it came to her children. Perhaps it was Alex reaching out to her from his dreams, or perhaps she truly did feel when he needed her, but on this particular night, she was already at his bedside when he woke from those terrifying nightmares, there to gather him into her arms and hold him close against the horror those memories instilled in him.

"Shh, sweetheart, it's all right," she murmured, cuddling him close in the light from his empty fish tank. Empty, because Lir had been "accidentally" allowed to dive in and eat all the fish, so now it was nothing more than an expensive indoor pool for the growing water dragon in their midst.

He'd forgotten much of the terror he'd seen and experienced, or at least, he'd tried to forget. Surrounded by so much love and happiness, it was easy not to let such things dominate his waking thoughts, but nights were another matter. He'd woken with a scream caught in his throat, eyes wide with terror and sobbing with fear, clinging to his mother when he'd awoken to find her already there at his bedside. He was glad she was there, glad he didn't have to suffer through it alone, but too caught up in his anguish to speak just yet.

Rocking him gently, Liv gathered her son close to herself, tucking him onto her hip to carry him downstairs, determined that his bedroom was not going to become a place he associated with fear in the night. "It's okay, I'm here," she told him, over and over again, finally settling down with him at the kitchen table with the lights on, kissing his hair as she waited for him to calm down.

A faint scrape of claws warned her that Lir had appeared from Fliss' bedroom to find out what was happening. The water dragon was about the same size as Bella now, still not quite able to fly, but unaccountably attached to Alex. He came into the kitchen to lay his head in Alex's lap, looking up at the little boy through his whirling eyes in concern.

There were tears on the boy's face, and he was hiccuping from all the sobbing, but his mother's presence was a calming influence, and it wasn't long before he was scrubbing the tears from his face, one hand going to fondly scratch at the dragon's head. "Prosti, Mama," he told her, his voice ragged from crying. I'm sorry.

"Don't be sorry, sweetheart," Liv murmured to him affectionately, smiling despite her vague resentment at the dragon for hijacking her cuddle with her only boy. "You have nothing to be sorry for." She stroked his hair, her other hand gently wiping his face dry. "Do you want to talk about it, or not? You don't have to tell me anything."

He shook his head vehemently, as he always did when asked if he wanted to share his nightmares. It wasn't so much what he'd experienced himself, as what he seen done to others. It had made him what he was, however, pushing him past his own limitations to know what others were thinking without having to hear their words. "It's too terrible, Mama," he told her, pushing Lir gently away so he could climb into her lap.

"All right, love." Her smile didn't falter as she kissed his forehead, hugging him close as he climbed into her lap. She had never pushed him to share the terrors that sometimes woke him at night, and she never would, trusting that someday he would tell her of his own accord. "Would you like some milkshake instead?"

Despite the shadow of fear that lingered in his eyes, his face brightened at the prospect of a middle of the night treat, as well as a little time alone with his mother. He adored his sister, and he didn't mind sharing, but like most little boys, his mother was the center of his world. Nodding his blond head, he smiled warmly at her. "Da, Mama. Can I?"

"I wouldn't have offered if I was going to say no," she teased him softly, tucking his legs about her hips to rise and move over to the fridge, unwilling to let go of him just yet. Lir keened softly behind her, but she ignored him. They'd learned the hard way that feeding the dragon in the middle of the night resulted in a truly noxious bowel movement during breakfast. "I have something to give you, you know," she said conversationally, setting the little boy down on the kitchen counter to reach into the fridge and produce a carton of chocolate milkshake.

He giggled a little at Lir's reaction, knowing instinctively what the young dragon wanted. He had formed some kind of inexplicable connection with the dragon that no one could explain. "No, Lir. It will make you sick," he told the dragon, arms around his mother's neck before she set him down on the counter. "For me?" he asked, eyes wide, feet kicking slowly back and forth.

"Yes, for you," Liv told him, glancing at the little dragon as he curled up in the middle of the kitchen floor, wrapping his tail around himself comfortably. She poured out a small glass of the milkshake for Alex, sliding it along for him. "You don't have to have it, but I thought it might help. I found a very special music box a few days ago - one that plays an enchanted tune between 10 o'clock in the evening and 8 o'clock in the morning. And the tune keeps away night terrors and nightmares, and helps you sleep when you can't."

His took a sip of his shake, the coldness of it soothing the heat of summer. His eyes widened a little at the prospect of such a gift, though he thought it better to share than keep it all to himself. "It's magic?" he asked, uncertainly, sounding a little bit awed that his mother would have such a thing. Of course, it had to be magic; there was no other explanation.

"Yes, sweetheart, it's magic," she confirmed for him with a warm smile, sipping a glass of her own before putting the milkshake back into the fridge. "Do you want to come and sit with your feet in the pool? I won't tell if you don't." It wasn't often she indulged a night-time waking with quite such mischief, but between the heat and her concern for her little lad, it was excusable this once.

He sipped at his milkshake, before looking up at her with trusting eyes. "Will you come with me?" he asked, not wanting to be alone right now, the nightmares that were really memories still too fresh in his mind.

7
Crash and Burn / Decisions
« on: April 30, 2016, 12:37:51 AM »
Evenings in the Storm household had finally reached some kind of calm equilibrium. Now Bess was predictably sleeping through the night, the routine had become a quiet affair, with Alex, Maria, and Bess going to bed all at roughly the same time. Often Fliss would hang out with her parents for another hour or so before heading upstairs herself, leaving Johnny and Liv to enjoy each other's company before they, too, headed to bed. Tonight, however ...

Liv glanced up from the dishwasher at a nervous little tap on the door. Fliss was leaning there, all ready for bed, rubbing one hand nervously through her hair.

"Um ... can I talk to you guys for a sec?"

Johnny was busy packing school lunches for the kids while Liv took care of the dishes when Fliss interrupted. Just another typical night in the Storm household. Johnny looked up from the peanut butter and jelly sandwich he'd been creating for Alex, licking a bit of peanut butter from his finger. "Sounds serious. Did you and Luc get engaged?" he teased.

"Dad ..." Fliss rolled her eyes, smiling a little at the tease. "Not everything in my head revolves around Luc, you know."

"You heard her, not everything," Liv nudged Johnny with a grin. "Just most things."

"Oh gods ..." Fliss eyed them. "Are you two aiming to get funky on the couch? Because this really can wait."

"Get funky on the couch? What does that even mean? Do you know what that means, Liv? Because I don't," he teased further, gently bumping his wife's hip with his. Of course, he knew exactly what Fliss was talking about, but it was more fun to play dumb. He finished up making that sandwich and started in on another, this time for Maria, which was really more like a jelly sandwich.

Liv chuckled, wiping her hands dry as she kissed Johnny's cheek. "I'll explain later, sparky," she told him, gesturing for Fliss to come into the kitchen. "C'mon, kiddo, you made it down the stairs. You might as well come out with what's stopping you from settling down tonight."

Biting her lip, Fliss wandered into the kitchen. "It's nothing bad," the teenager told them hurriedly. "It's just ... well, I kind of made a decision, and I wanted to ask you about it."

"Want me to make you some hot cocoa?" Johnny asked, seeing the expression on Fliss' face and turning serious. He tucked the sandwiches into bags and set them aside, before taking down three mugs for hot cocoa fixings. At least, warming up milk was one thing he was good at, and it was a skill that came in pretty hand with a baby in the house.

"A little one?" Fliss suggested. She didn't want to spend a long time over this conversation, but since it had taken her nearly two months to work up the courage to broach the subject, she really ought to get it over with.

Liv moved out from behind the counter to add "milk" to the shopping list on the whiteboard, glancing curiously at her eldest. "Sweetheart, unless you're about to tell us that you've developed a taste for human flesh and are about to go on a killing spree, I very much doubt you need to look quite that nervous," she pointed out, relieved when Fliss laughed as she sat down at the kitchen table.

Johnny winced. This was Rhy'Din, and the possibility of one of them becoming a were-creature or a vampire wasn't out of the question, but he sure as hell hoped it never happened to any of them. "Even if you were, we'd rather you told us than ate your siblings," Johnny warned, only half serious.

"Cocoa," Liv reminded her husband with a grin, setting the milk onto the counter before moving to sit at the table with Fliss. "What's this about?"

Fliss glanced between them for a moment, still chewing on her lower lip. "Well ... you know this is kind of exam and graduation season, right?" she began awkwardly. "And that means lots of people are making decisions about what they want to do with their lives, you know? Going to more school, or getting into training at a job, whatever they want to do. And, uh ... well, I kind of made a decision about what I want to do."

It was a good thing Johnny was facing the other way, heating and mixing up a couple of cups of hot cocoa when Fliss got to the crux of her problem. At least, she wasn't pregnant - or turning into a man-eating monster either! "Become a firefighter like your Dad!" Johnny exclaimed with a grin, though it was only a guess and possibly an incorrect one.

Johnny had his back to Fliss when he said that: Liv, on the other hand, was looking right at their eldest. So she saw the worried flicker of guilt that crossed Felicity's face as the teenager's eyes snapped to her own. "I see," Liv said quietly. "Fliss, you're fifteen. It's a little early to be making a decision like that."

Fliss deflated with disappointment. "But, Mom, it's what I want to do," she pleaded. "And it's not like I'm not really well suited to it. I want to help people, and I promise, I won't just do the fire-fighting, I want to take the EMT training, and the paramedic training, too, and ..."

"Wait ..." Johnny's expression turned serious as he brought two cups of hot cocoa to the table and set them down in front of his girls. "I was just kidding. Are you serious?" he asked, brows arching upwards curiously.

Fliss tore her eyes away from Liv's calm, but serious, expression, looking up at Johnny hopefully. "Yeah, I am," she nodded. "And it's not a sudden thing, and it's not something I haven't thought about, I promise. It's just ... Even if it turns out that I hate it, at least I will have tried, and I'll have skills I could use somewhere else. But I really think I could be good at it, Dad, really!"

"I think you would be great at it!" Johnny replied, though he was, of course, biased in his opinion. Still, it was a big decision to make, and she needed to go into it with all the facts. "I think you'd be great at anything you set your mind to, Fliss, but why this?" he asked, turning serious at last, as he snagged a cup of cocoa for himself and a plate of cookies and took a seat at the table.

Wrapping her hands around her cup, Fliss took in a deep breath, wishing she'd written all her thoughts down before coming to the kitchen now. "Okay," she said, trying to seem calm as she laid out her thinking. "The way I see it, I was born with an ability that means I have the capability to help people. And it would be a waste not to help people with it. But it's not just that. I want a job that isn't sitting behind a desk, and isn't being in the spotlight. Mom, I love you, but I'm just not suited to being smart and presentable. And I love the singing, I really do, but I'm not confident enough to even try and make a career out of that. But fire ... I understand fire, and I can control it. Hell, I've even learned how to seal minor injuries with flames. This isn't about being a hero like my dad, but I'd be lying if I wasn't influenced a little bit by it. If you weren't a firefighter, Dad, you would never have found me. I would never have had this life. There are fires in the city every day. It's a job I think I can do, and do well, and make a difference with."

8
Crash and Burn / Pirates, Princesses, and Ker-Niggets
« on: April 16, 2016, 05:15:49 PM »
[size=9]((Our contribution to the Children's Day Renaissance Faire.))[/size]

The Wonderplex had always been a familiar place for the Storms. Johnny had, after all, been working there when he and Liv had first got together, and they hadn't stopped visiting, even after gathering their motley collection of children into their lives. But today was a special day - today was Children's Day, and that meant new attractions to see with the over-excited younger pair bouncing around their parents and big sister cheerfully.

Amazingly, it was Maria who was babbling today, a feat made all the more entertaining by the flicker of her fingers as she spoke at speed. "I want to dress up and see a fairy and play the bow and arrow thing and see the cooking and the man making the swords and ..."

"Slow down," Fliss laughed, capturing her little sister's hands. "We're gonna do all that and more, promise. Just work out with Alex what you wanna do first, okay?"

"I want to be a knight!" Alex declared, very matter-of-factly, which meant there was a good chance they'd be renting costumes for the day. Fortunately, Rhy'Din was a place where a little boy really could grow up to be a knight, if that's what he chose to be, but today was just about playing pretend and having fun. Alex made a face at the mention of fairies, though he didn't want to insult their own little house brownie. Fairies were for girls, in his opinion, but he didn't want to say so out loud. "I want to see the jousting!" he said, feigning a swordfight with an invisible sword in his hands.

Liv paused, leaning on the stroller comfortably as she glanced at Johnny. "Well, I think it sounds like we're going to see about renting costumes first," she commented in amusement, trying not to laugh at the look on Fliss' face as Maria clapped her hands happily. "Tell you what, though ... if you don't make Fliss dress up with you, we might have something terribly unhealthy to snack on waiting when you get back."

"Cotton candy! Cotton candy!" Alex exclaimed, jumping up and down and clapping his hands together excitedly. "Can we have some cotton candy, Papa?" he asked, turning those sparkling blue eyes up at his father.

Johnny laughed at his children - all of them, including the look on Fliss' face. "I don't know if they have cotton candy at a Renaissance Festival, Alex, but we can find out," he replied. "What's the matter, Fliss? Maybe you should see what it feels like to be the one with wings on your back, for a change," he teased.

The look Fliss gave her father was one teenage girls have been perfecting for centuries. "No," was her flat reply. As much as she loved her siblings, the thought of being dressed up like some kind of velvet and satin draped cake did not appeal on a day when she'd voluntarily worn a coat. She looked down at Alex and Maria, smirking when she felt Liv's hand in her pocket. "All right then, terrible twosome," the teenager declared, holding her hand out to Maria. Alex was getting touchy about holding hands in public. "Let's get you two costumed up!"

To Johnny's credit, he knew better than to push the teenager too far, chuckling a little as she turned him down flat. "Well, if you don't want to dress up, I do!" he declared, taking Maria's other hand. Fliss was more than welcome to come along, even if she didn't want to play dress up.

"Have I mentioned recently how much I love my dad?" Fliss commented to Liv, who laughed as she waved them off toward the costume stands.

"Have fun, little people," she told them.

"Why doesn't Fliss want to dress up?" Alex asked once they were far enough away that his big sister couldn't overhear them.

Johnny shrugged. "I don't know. She probably thinks it's silly," he replied.

Maria wriggled her hand out from Johnny's to offer up her own answer. "She's all embarrassed because she's a big girl," she suggested earnestly, inserting her hand back into Johnny's as they walked along.

"So? I'm getting a costume and I'm a lot older than Fliss!" Johnny pointed out, but then, in a lot of ways he was just an overgrown kid at heart. Still, he didn't think it would have killed Fliss to play along and have a little fun. It worried him a little that she had been so adamantly against it.

"But you're not a girl," Maria pointed out with a wide grin, hugging his hand as she bounced along next to him. "Her bits are arriving, and they make her all uncomfortable." It sounded as though Fliss' approach to sixteen was beginning to bring with it the curves she might not be entirely ready for.

Alex giggled at his sister's remark. He hadn't needed to look at her to hear what she'd said with her fingers. "Fliss is getting boobies," he interpreted for their father with another giggle.

"Oh?" Johnny furrowed his brows at the pair of them, as he sorted that out in his head. "But what's that got to do with getting a costume?" he asked, but it only took one wench with a low-cut blouse walking by and winking at him to understand. "Oh."

"Lucas likes them," Maria added, instantly distracted by the selection of pretty dresses on display for the aspiring princess. She knew she wasn't supposed to share things like that, but she also knew that Johnny worried about Fliss having a boyfriend, so she thought that might cancel out the invasion of privacy issue there.

"Lucas ..." Johnny echoed, those brows of his furrowing deeper. "He better not like them too much," he muttered, mostly to himself.

"Da!" Alex agreed. "He stares at them all the time," he said, before his eye, too, was caught by something and he darted off to check out the boys' costumes.

"Don't go too far!" Johnny called to Alex, while he hovered near Maria, still trying to sort out what was going on with Fliss. Their little girl was growing up, apparently, and he wasn't too sure how he felt about it.

As he pondered the issue, a tiny hand crept into his, accompanied by a wave of affection that could only have come from Maria. The middle of his little girls looked up at him, half-understanding, and half just wanting to make things better. She pointed at a dress she liked - something velvet in burgundy red - and raised her eyebrows hopefully.

Successfully distracted from his thoughts by Maria, he turned his attention to the little girl at his side, smiling affectionately down at her. His gaze followed to where she was pointing, and his smile widened. "You like that one?" he asked, almost relieved she had picked one so quickly. Shopping for girl things was Liv's territory, not his, after all.

She nodded happily, somehow managing to convey even without both hands that she even liked the little hat that came with it, but that she wanted to keep her shoes.

The wench on duty - this one rather more respectably covered up - caught them looking. "Hey, do we have a winner here?"

9
Crash and Burn / Welcome Guest
« on: March 07, 2016, 10:44:16 AM »
"Where is it ..."

The sounds of rummaging coming from Fliss' bedroom in Willow Manor was never an unusual sound, but when the voice muttering about finding something was Liv, it usually meant that something had gone wandering from her desk. She didn't mind the kids borrowing her highlighters or binders or anything else from the desk, so long as they put them back, but sometimes things just disappeared for no apparent reason.

It should have been easy to find the missing papers - they'd been in the spare drawer, usually handed out for coloring and drawing on because the information on the other side was no longer necessary. Fliss' room was normally a complete mess, with the most recently pilfered items right out in the open, but somehow the teenager had completely turned herself around and started keeping her room amazingly clean and tidy. Which, unfortunately, meant that Liv did not have the first idea where to look for the papers she needed.

With Bess napping downstairs with Alex and Maria doing their homework, Johnny still at work, and the teenagers hanging out at the Foster's house, she had the perfect opportunity to go rummaging, and thus far had come up empty.

"Oh, this is ridiculous," she huffed, straightening up in frustration. "How can one piece of paper go missing?" She'd checked the trashcan, Fliss' desk, Fliss' homework binder, Fliss' notebooks ... nothing. Where else could the girl have put it?

Giving up, Liv turned toward the door, exasperated and more than a little upset. She was going to have to call Sol and tell him she'd lost the contact information for the Seven Towers, and she never lost anything. The thought of admitting to the man who had done her job perfectly for the last five months that she'd made a mistake in her first week back at it was more than enough to stick in her craw.

A thump behind her made her look back. There was now a binder in the middle of Fliss' perfectly made bed, where there hadn't been one before. Liv looked around hurriedly, suspicious that she wasn't alone.

"Alex? Maria?"

A small voice called from downstairs. "Yes, Mama?"

"Are you both still down there?" Liv called, eyeing the binder with deep suspicion.

"Yes, Mama! Do you want us to come up?"

"Not just yet, sweetie," she answered her son, knowing her daughter understood every word even if she couldn't answer verbally. "Did you move anything up here while you were downstairs?"

There was a pause, and Alex eventually piped up with, "Can I do that?"

Liv swallowed a laugh, not wanting to upset him. "Yes, you will be able to eventually," she called to him. "Don't worry, though. I'm sure this is just me being paranoid."

"Okay!"

Sighing, Liv approached the binder on the bed warily. She opened it, and there, on top of everything, was the one piece of paper she had been looking for. Her eyes narrowed thoughtfully. "How very convenient," she mused out loud, scanning the room for any sign that anything was out of place as she scribbled the contact information down on the back of her hand. "Of course, I don't know where this binder came from, and if Fliss realizes I've been rummaging in her room, I will never hear the end of it."

Rising, she turned to head back to the door, unsurprised this time to hear another thump. When she glanced back, the binder was gone, and the imprint she had made on the bedcovers had been smoothed away. Interesting.

Now, if this had been Alex or Maria, they would have immediately torn the room apart looking for whatever was responsible. Even Johnny would have begun a hunt for whatever was apparently living in Fliss' bedroom. Liv, on the other hand, had paid attention to a few of the stories told by Lyneth and her parents over the last couple of years. She thought she knew what was going on here.

Heading downstairs once again, she transferred the information on her hand into her own contacts book, and headed for the kitchen to check on the children. Lifting the phone out of its cradle, she dialed Orchard House, and spent an instructive few minutes talking to Piper about household fairies.

When she was done, she was smiling. Of all the things Fliss could have accidentally brought home from the market ... a brownie wasn't so bad.

10
Crash and Burn / Meeting Bess
« on: November 29, 2015, 07:14:18 PM »
Early the next morning, Johnny had returned to the brownstone to shower and change and collect up the rest of the family for a visit to the hospital to meet their new baby sister. Even Lucas was included in the little outing, as he was considered part of the family now, and it would be rude to leave him behind. Excited was an understatement when it came to the kids, but Johnny had explained that they'd have to be on their best behavior at the hospital because it was a place where people went to rest and recover from illness. Of course, they had quickly pointed out that their mama wasn't sick, but they'd all promised to be as quiet as mice, at least until they were all safely escorted to Liv's room, and much to Johnny's surprise, they kept their promise, not making a single peep all the way through the lobby, up the elevator, and down the halls of the maternity ward to their mother's private room.

It was just as well animals weren't allowed into the hospital, because Bella would no doubt have been leading the charge toward the room where Liv had been settled. As it was, Maria gave Fliss the slip as soon as the door was opened, rushing inside to squash her face against the clear plastic side of the crib to get her first look at their new little sister.

"Sorry!" Fliss apologized, wincing at her little sister's enthusiasm, but her laugh was touched with relief at the sight of Liv sitting upright on the bed, clean and awake, and not looking too much the worse for wear. Lucas had promised her Liv would be fine, but she hadn't entirely believed him.

Johnny was taking up the rear, like a shepherd with his sheep, herding his little flock through the hospital to their mother's room. Lucas was hand in hand with Fliss and as shy and quiet as always, though he had a special affection for Liv, seeing as she was the only mother figure he'd known since leaving home.

While Alex was curious about the baby, he was more interested in saying hello to his mother and scampered right up on the bed to be the first to give her a big hug and kiss. "Hullo, Mama. We missed you!"

Laughing, Liv opened her arms to Alex as he scrambled up to hug her, enveloping him in her embrace to kiss his curls affectionately. "I missed you," she countered warmly, glad her little boy didn't seem to have suffered too much with his parents' absence overnight. "Did you have a good time with Aunt Lucy?" Her smile extended to the teens where they were lurking, one hand reaching out to gesture for them to make themselves comfortable.

In the crib, Bess was utterly unaware of Maria staring in at her, one arm crooked awkwardly over the edge of the plastic and a little too short to touch her new baby sister.

Alex nodded his head enthusiastically, but while Aunt Lucy looked like his mama, no one in the world could ever take her place. "We watched movies and had popcorn and Bella ate all the popcorn off the floor so we didn't have to pick it up and the popcorn made Lucas fart and he blamed Bella and Fliss made us all apologize and then Aunt Lucy said we had to go to bed so we could get up early today to see you and Bess." He drew a deep breath once all that was said - it was a mouthful.

Lucas blushed profusely. "It was Bella," he pointed out quietly.

"Wow." Liv chuckled, helping Alex settle down comfortably on the bed as Fliss cajoled Lucas into pulling a couple of stools closer so they could sit down nearby. She offered Lucas an understanding smile - she did know her children, after all. "It sounds like you had a much better night than I did. Your baby sister woke us up four times, and one of those was just because she wanted a cuddle!"

By the crib, Maria huffed her silent giggle, waving a hand toward Johnny. She really wanted to see Bess properly, but she just couldn't reach.

Alex was going to take advantage of all the cuddles he could get out of his mother while he had the chance. He had to share her with three other siblings now, after all. "Four times?" Alexei echoed with wide eyes, not quite realizing how often babies needed to eat. "She's gonna get fat!"

Johnny snorted at Alex's comment, but it was Maria who drew his attention with her silent wave toward him. "What is it, sweetheart?" he asked as he moved closer. "Would you like to hold her?"

"She doesn't eat that much," Liv assured Alex with a quiet laugh. "Look, see that little bottle there? She has about half of that every time she eats, because she only has a little tummy." She was quite content to hug Alex close and let Johnny deal with the baby for now, happy to chat to Fliss and Lucas as Maria raised her hands to talk to Johnny.

"Can I hold her? I'm only little." Not quite as little as Bess, of course, but Maria was going to need help to cuddle their new baby sister for a while.

"Of course, you can!" Johnny assured her with a smile. "But she's even littler than you and we have to be really careful not to drop her or hurt her, okay?" he asked, trusting Maria would do her best not to hurt her baby sister in any way. "Hmm ..." Johnny mused, looking over at the bed. "Why don't you hop up there with your brother, and I'll bring her over." That way, if the baby did get dropped, she'd only land on the soft bed.

Nodding excitedly, Maria jumped up onto the bed, and of course, the moment she got there, she completely forgot about the baby, nestling into Alex's hug with Mummy. Not even a brand new baby could compare with a Mummy hug after they'd been missed at bedtime and breakfast, after all.

Arms full, Liv grinned over at Johnny as she chatted with the teens. "How did they cope without us?" she asked Lucas curiously. After all, she had asked him to look after them in her absence. Beside her boyfriend, Fliss fidgeted, hoping he wasn't going to drop her in it with her up half the night worrying routine.

"Except for the popcorn ..." Lucas tossed an accusatory glance at Alexei, who was doing his best to look like a perfect angel, while the truth was he took after his father a little too much, adopted or not. "Everything went pretty well." He and Fliss were almost old enough to watch Alexei and Maria on their own, so long as the pair behaved for them, but it was good having a competent adult there, so he could focus on reassuring Fliss, who'd remained a little too quiet through all this so far.

Johnny had Baby Bess in his arms by now, but instead of bringing her over to meet the youngest sibling, he took her straight to Fliss. There was a pecking order even in the Storm family, after all. "Would you like to say hello to your new baby sister?" he asked her, with an affectionate smile on his face he saved just for her.

"I'm sure Bella loved her naughty treat," Liv assured the teen fondly. She could tell he was a little concerned about Fliss, and to be honest, so was she, but there would be time to talk through with her eldest daughter later on. Right now, the ones who needed the immediate reassurance were monopolizing her lap.

Surprised to find Johnny bringing the baby over to her, Fliss blinked up at her father, glancing down at Bess in his arms warily. "Um ... hi?" she offered, cracking a half-smile. "I thought Mar got first dibs?"

11
Crash and Burn / Baby Announcement
« on: November 29, 2015, 12:47:28 PM »
Johnny & Olivia Storm are delighted to announce the arrival of a new baby into their ever-increasing family!

Mother and baby are doing fine. The family will be remaining in New York for a few more days before returning to Rhy'Din for the holiday season.


12
Crash and Burn / A Little Miracle
« on: November 29, 2015, 12:40:17 PM »
The time had come. The moment everyone had been waiting for had finally arrived. And it really wasn't what most of them had been expecting at all. Liv had gone into labor early that morning - practically on time, virtually unheard of for a first time pregnancy - and despite the tendency to panic that prevailed among the entire Storm family, had been turned away from the hospital for getting there too soon. So Johnny, Fliss, Alexei, Maria, and Bella had all had front row seats while Liv endured hours of contractions while somehow attempting to give them a slightly normal day.

The time had come, however, to go back to the hospital, and this time, Lucy had arrived to take charge of their little household while Johnny and Liv were absent. She was currently leaning in the hallway of the brownstone the Storms had only settled in a week before, grinning as the adults took their leave of the children.

Of all the Storm children, it was Alexei who clung to Liv the most in the last moments before Johnny was to whisk her away to the hospital to give birth. "Mama," he said, his arms wrapped as far around her pregnant waist as was physically possible to give her a hug. "I will miss you," he admitted, trying to be brave, but he was just a little boy, after all, who clearly adored his mother.

"Oh, sweetheart ..." Liv hugged her little boy close, ignoring the ache in her back as she bent to kiss his hair. "I'll miss you, too. But everything is going to be fine, and you'll have lots of fun with Auntie Lucy here. And just think," she added, looking around at her little family, smiling at the sight of Maria hugging Johnny's leg as he tried to get to the door, "when you wake up in the morning, you'll have a little brother or sister."

They had already been over this before, and she had assured him that no matter whether his new sibling was a brother or sister, she'd still love him just the same. "Yes, Mama," he admitted, wiping the tears from his face. He was as excited as any of them, but the idea of her leaving him for even a few days was heartwrenching. "I will be good for Aunt Lucy, I promise."

Johnny set the overnight bag he'd had slung over one shoulder on the floor so that he could bend down to hug the little girl. "I'll be back once the baby is born, and you all can come visit Mama and the baby in the hospital. Promise," he told her hugging her close. "Be good for Aunt Lucy," he said. "And help take care of your brother," he whispered in her ear, for good measure, knowing Alexei was having the hardest time with separating from them.

Maria nodded, clinging to her father a moment longer. She knew Alexei was struggling with letting Liv go, even for the time it would take to bring their new sibling into the world, and to be honest, she wasn't that happy about it herself. But she trusted that the adults knew what they were doing. She kissed Johnny's cheek, hugging him tight once more before retreating to cuddle into Lucy's side.

"Go on, you two, you need to get moving," Lucy reminded her sister and brother-in-law with a warm smile. "You don't want to have the baby in the back of the car, do you?"

"Don't say things like that," Fliss complained, rolling her eyes. The teenager was lingering in the door to the kitchen, not wanting to get in the way, but just as anxious as the others in her own way. It was a wonder Lucas had any feeling left in his fingers at all, given her grip on him.

Lucas watched the scene silently, his fingers gripped tightly in Fliss'. Though he was not one of their children, he had bonded with Liv and Johnny in his own way and was full of nervous excitement as any of them. He was still struggling to sort out his own place in this little family, but for now, it was enough that he was there.

"We'd better go, Liv," Johnny urged gently as he picked up the overnight bag and slung it back over his shoulder. He took Lucy's warning seriously and wasn't really looking forward to birthing his own child in the backseat of the car. "I promise I'll call as soon as I know anything," he told the gathered group.

Breathing carefully through another contraction, Liv gently unwound Alexei from her bump and gave him into Lucy's capable hands, touching her hand gently to Fliss' cheek. "No keggers," she said with a faint smile, and to her relief, Fliss snorted with laughter, rolling her eyes.

"No dropping the baby," the teen countered.

"Good girl," Liv smiled, looking to Lucas. "Take care of them for me?"

"I will do my best," Lucas replied, straightening a little, feeling a swell of pride at being singled out as the "man of the house", at least, while Johnny was away. To his credit, Alexei felt no jealousy that it was Lucas and not himself who was given that role, though that might change in the years to come.

"Stop moping! We're having a baby, not going to a funeral!" Johnny teased with a grin as he edged toward the door. Thankfully, Maria had finally let go or he wouldn't have made it that far.

Laughing, Liv turned toward the door. "All right, I'm coming." Her hand brushed over Alexei's hair as she passed him and Lucy, the twins sharing a smile as the Storm parents finally made it out through the door. "Well, that took longer than I thought it would," she chuckled, a little out of breath but otherwise fine, for the moment.

"Maybe we should have waited 'til they were sleeping," Johnny remarked, though babies had a way of coming at the most unexpected and inconvenient times, it seemed. He offered her an arm to steer her toward the car, moving as slowly and patiently as was necessary. They had come a long way since that first date, when Lucy had coerced Liv to pretend to be her, just to spite him. They had both done a lot of growing up since then and when Johnny thought back, it almost seemed like another lifetime.

She smiled, leaning on him gratefully as they headed for the sidewalk. "I don't think the baby is going to wait much longer," she admitted with a smile. "It's bad enough we've been waiting most of the day, I just hope we're not going to be doing this all night, too." She touched a kiss to his shoulder. "I'm glad you're here."

"Of course, I'm here. Where else would I be?" he asked, taking this all rather calmly and like an adult, which was a little unusual of itself, but someone had to stay calm, if only for Liv's sake. He got the car door opened for her and waited for her to get in before helping her with the safety belt.

She laughed softly as he put her into the car. "I didn't mean I was expecting you to run away the second it got serious," she told him, squeezing his hand. "Just that I'm glad you're here, always." Labor, it seemed, was turning his soft-hearted wife sentimental.

"I will always be here for you," he assured her, touching a kiss to her cheek with a soft smile before carefully fastening the seatbelt around her and tossing the overnight bag in the back seat.

"I am very glad to know that, too," she grinned, leaning back in the seat as he closed her door. Her hand rubbed over her bump reassuringly, though quite who she was comforting - herself or the baby - was anyone's guess. She'd expected to be in a terrible panic when the moment came, but somehow she and Johnny were incredibly calm. Much better than when Lucy had gone into labor, anyway.

13
Crash and Burn / Home From Home
« on: November 19, 2015, 03:08:37 PM »
"Okay, I think that's the last box," Lucy declared, heaving her armful down onto the kitchen counter. She looked around the pristine space, rolling her eyes at the sound of bangs and crashes from upstairs. "Sounds like the boys are having fun."

Sue Storm shared her grin from where she was sorting cutlery. "So long as nothing gets scorched in his excitement, I think this place should be livable in another couple of hours," she agreed cheerfully. "I still can't believe Liv and Johnny managed to get a brownstone like this as a second home here in New York. The prices on this street are extortionate."

Lucy snickered, glancing around to make sure no one else was near enough to hear her. The teens had plumped for staying at Steve and Lucy's place with the animals for the day, but everyone else was at the Storms' new Brooklyn second residence, working together to make the place habitable for the rapidly expanding family. Well, the adults were. Martin, Alexei, Maria, and Lianne had been let loose in the room that had been set aside as a playroom for them with paint, brushes, and overalls, allowed to decorate it as they liked. Liv was wandering between the bedrooms, making sure there was a decent supply of clothing for everyone kept here, and Steve and Johnny were being manly with screwdrivers and hammers, putting up beds and various other D.I.Y. furniture. She still lowered her voice before speaking, though.

"Don't tell either of them, but Tony paid for it," she intimated to her sort-of sister-in-law.

Sue's jaw dropped. "You're kidding?!"

"Nope." Lucy grinned, opening up the last box to start unwrapping the crockery. "Liv mentioned to him that they were looking for somewhere in Brooklyn big enough for their family to stay in more regularly, and a couple of hours later, I got an email with a list of places from Pepper. The second they decided they wanted to see if they could put a bid in on this place, I emailed Pepper back, and we got the deeds through the next day, all bought and paid for. He's a moron, but he likes Liv enough to be nice."

Sue snorted with laughter at Lucy's evaluation of Tony Stark. "Yeah, well, don't tell Reed, but he's paid for most of the furnishings," she confessed, sending Lucy off into gales of laughter. "Every time Johnny mentions paying us back, I change the subject."

"The things we do for family, huh?" Lucy chuckled, looking instantly guilty as her twin wandered into the kitchen.

"What did you do?" Liv asked curiously, sinking down onto one of the chairs at the table with a relieved sigh. As wonderful as being pregnant was, she was looking forward to not being pregnant by the end of the month. It was getting uncomfortable, carrying a whole other human being around all the time.

"I bought you a complete kitchen," Lucy offered innocently, ignoring Sue's less than helpful snickering as she hefted the pile of plates as evidence.

"You really didn't have to," Liv pointed out with a faint smile. "We could have fitted out the place ourselves, eventually."

"But this way, you don't need to worry about it, especially with the baby coming so soon," Sue countered. "Besides, why shouldn't we help out? We don't see you guys often enough, and with a second house here, you'll be far more comfortable to come and visit on your own terms without squeezing in with either of us."

"We will pay you back, both of you," Liv started, but was quickly interrupted by Lucy.

"Not a chance, kiddo," she informed her twin cheerfully. "Suck it up and take it like a man. It's a big ol' present from us to you, so shush and jus enjoy it."

"What she said," Sue nodded in agreement, collapsing her own box. "All we're waiting for now is those couches to arrive, and you guys will be completely moved in."

"And the groceries," Lucy added.

Liv's mouth fell open. "When did you do grocery shopping for this place?" she demanded, genuinely shocked by how much her sister and sister-in-law were doing to get the brownstone family-ready.

"Oh, me and Fliss went online yesterday and did it," her sister informed her, waving a hand to dismiss the surprise. "It'll be a big order, but it's mostly stuff that won't perish, so when you pop in and out, you'll mostly only have to get stuff like milk and bread."

"Well, that settles it," Liv declared. "You're all going to have to let us have you 'round to dinner, or take you out. If you're not going to let us repay you, it's the least we can do."

"You're not cooking for thirteen or more when you're this close to popping," Sue told her firmly. "Save it for next year, when everything is a little more under control. Trust me, you're gonna struggle enough to cook for yourselves when the baby comes."

"That's why Fliss is taking cookery classes, after all," Lucy added. "So she can look after you guys for once. Enjoy it while it lasts, that's what I say."

A thump from upstairs made all three women look toward the ceiling, each trying to work out whether it had come from the playroom, or one of the bedrooms on the level above that. The loud laughter that followed pinpointed it for all of them.

"Sounds like Steve has his hands full," Sue commented, putting the kettle on to make a pot of tea.

"Are you kidding?" Liv laughed softly. "Johnny isn't that bad. He's probably just a little over excited about working on a project with Steve, that's all."

"To be fair, it doesn't take much to make Everlast excited," Lucy snickered, and yelped as her sister reached out to spank her backside. "What? It's true! The man has a hard-on for all things Steve Rogers-related!"

"Not as hard as yours," Liv smirked, laughing out loud when Sue gaped at her. Johnny's sister hadn't really been in close proximity with the twins before.

Lucy laughed. "Hey, I'm his wife, I'm allowed to get hard for him," she protested. "Wait, that doesn't sound right ..."

"I really don't want this level of insight into either of your sex lives," Sue chuckled, rolling her eyes at the sisters. "Even if one of you wasn't sleeping with my little brother."

"Oh, come on, like you don't want to brag about sleeping with Mr. Stretchy," Lucy teased her, delighting in the blush that spread over the other woman's face.

"No comment," Sue muttered, trying not to giggle at the good-natured ribbing going on.

"Mama?"

Both Lucy and Liv looked around at the voice, but it was Alexei who wandered into view, his face, hair, and overalls liberally splattered with paint. Liv smiled, opening her arm to her son as he came over to her, leaning into her side. "What's up, buttercup?"

"Nothing," he admitted with a shy smile. "I just wanted to see you, and Maria is busy painting flowers in her corner."

Touched, Liv hugged him affectionately, heedless of the paint that smeared onto her cheek and clothes. "Well, it's lovely to see you," she told her son, grateful that the other two mothers in the room were busying themselves with other tasks. "We're about to take a break. Maybe you and the others should wash your hands and faces, and take off your overalls, before you get Dad and Uncle Steve down here to be social, what do you think?"

Alexei grinned, nodding cheerfully. "I think so! I'll go and do that!"

As the little boy scurried off back up the stairs to round up the rest of the family from their various pursuits, Lucy smiled to herself.

Just a couple of years ago, she would never have imagined her sister as the proud mother of three young people, with another on the way. She had always thought Liv would be slow and cautious, to the point of inaction, and yet now look at her. Married with children, a dog, and now two homes - thanks to the brother who was still pretending he didn't really want anything to do with them - Liv was the real success story of their little family. She had gone from a shy, lonely young woman, to an active, loving wife and mother, in less than five years. Lucy had a feeling that, no matter where the Storms eventually chose to settle down for good, so long as Liv was ruling the roost, it would always be home.

14
Crash and Burn / Together
« on: November 14, 2015, 12:14:04 AM »
Though Johnny was supposed to be on leave of absence, the rash of fires in Rhy'Din was keeping the Fire Brigades busy, and he had been called in more than once to help. Tonight was no exception as more fires broke out in Rhy'Din, presumably the act of arson. Johnny wasn't usually one to complain, but between Liv being pregnant, four kids to take care of, and the constant string of arsons, Johnny was nearing exhaustion. He didn't even have the energy to fly in and announce he was home with his usual vigor. He just pushed in through the front door, covered in soot and dirt and sweat, looking weary and perhaps just a little bit angry.

As soon as the door opened, the usually raucous atmosphere of the house reached out to envelop him, apparently gleefully focused on Mummy until the moment Daddy got home. He got a fleeting glimpse of Fliss lunging out through the living room door in a failed attempt to catch Maria before his youngest daughter was overtaken by a child that wasn't his, who threw her arms around his waist and declared loudly, "The Burny Man's having a baby!"

Huffing her silent giggles, Maria wrapped herself around Johnny's waist from the other side to Lyneth as Fliss pushed herself up from where she had landed on the floor.

The teenager rolled her eyes. "You are way too perky, Lynnie."

Obviously surprised by the greeting, especially from a child that wasn't his own, he glanced down at Lyneth, careful not to touch her for fear of smearing soot on her face. "Uh ... Hello to you, too." He looked over to find Maria hugging his other side. He would have plucked them both up from the floor, if he wasn't covered in soot and dirt. It wasn't the greeting so much that surprised him as it was observation that he was having a baby. "Actually, Liv is having a baby. I'm just along for the ride." He looked over at Fliss. "Is there something going on I should know about?"

Fliss waved a hand at him with a smile. "Mom had a panic, don't worry," she assured him. "Lucky Piper was here, or you'd have got a phone call." Climbing onto her feet, she grabbed her little sister, reaching out to tickle Lyneth into letting go of Johnny. "Alex is kind of glued to Mom's bump right now."

"Where's Lucas?" he asked, wanting to account for the final member of their household, who had become one of the family, whether he liked it or not. "Livvie!" he called, wondering where she was exactly. "I'm home!" he called as he stepped further inside. It wasn't really unusual to find any of the other Granger children at their house, as they often got together for playdates and such, and though Fliss had told him not to worry, he couldn't help it. It had been a long day already, and all he wanted was a shower and dinner and to relax with his family.

"Doing laundry," Fliss snickered. She'd been laughing on and off about Lucas taking the first opportunity to escape the stressful tension in the living room, even if it had been to do an unexpected load of laundry.

Liv's voice called from the living room. "In here, sweetheart!" She'd obviously been forcibly inserted onto one of the couches, wearing different clothes than she had been when he'd left, and Piper was busily soaking and scrubbing the cushion from one of the armchairs.

Lyneth's mother looked up at Johnny with a reassuring smile. "Good grief, you look tired."

Tired or not, he was confused as to what was going on in his living room. He looked from Liv to Piper with a confused look on his face, though everyone seemed in good spirits, which was reassuring. Everyone but him anyway. "Would someone care to tell me what's going on?" Though Lyneth had already spilled the beans, Johnny didn't seem to have gotten the hint.

Liv caught Piper's eye and blushed, obviously deeply embarrassed by something. She gently patted Alexei's hand. "Why don't you go and find the girls and play for bit, love?" she suggested to the little boy. "Daddy's here now, he can look after me."

Alexei frowned, serious about his role as man of the house when his father wasn't there, though he was just a small boy and Lucas was older. "Will you be all right?" he asked her, with obvious concern. It was no secret that he adored his mother and wanted to help.

Liv smiled, stroking her hand through her little boy's hair. "I'll be fine," she promised him fondly. "Things like this happen when pregnant women are very nearly all the way there. I know I panicked, and I'm sorry I worried you, but we should thank Piper for making sure we didn't all turn into screaming fools, shouldn't we?"

"Thank you, Mrs. Piper," Alex told Piper dutifully, at his mother's reminder. There were too many Mrs. Grangers at Maple Grove, and so they had settled on first names. "Love you, Mom!" he said, touching a kiss to her cheek before darting away, pausing a moment to give his father a hug. "Wow, Dad, you stink!"

"You're very welcome, Alex," Piper smiled at the young boy, snorting to keep her laughter in check at Alex's greeting to his father.

Liv chuckled herself, pushing up onto her feet to embrace her husband. "Come into the kitchen, sweetheart," she told Johnny. "I promise, you have nothing to worry about. I overreacted somewhat, that's all."

"I love you, too, Alex!" Johnny replied with a chuckle. Despite his long day, it was always a treat to come home to his family. He waited until the boy was out of sight before looking back to the pair of women, that worried expression on his face again. "Is everything all right? Is the baby okay?"

"The baby's fine," Liv promised him, curling her arm about his waist. "I, um ... I may have had a slight temper tantrum about all these sudden fires taking you away from home so much recently, and panicked a bit when I thought I was going into labor." She shrugged innocently as she looked up at him, trying not to look at the wet cushion Piper was dealing with.

That didn't really explain the wet cushion, and he was still looking a little puzzled as he looked from one to the other, his gaze settling on Liv as she curled an arm around his waist and he steered her toward the kitchen. "You thought you were going into labor? But you're not really, right?" he asked, a touch of panic in his eyes. For a man who could stand up to dragons and villains and fires, he looked terrified that his wife might be going into labor - an event that was going to happen sooner or later, whether he was ready for it or not.

"No, no, I'm not," she assured him, acutely aware of Piper watching them as they moved away. If the other woman hadn't arrived when she did, Liv might well have been on her way to the hospital. "I ... I thought my waters had broken, but ..." She sighed, rolling her eyes as she finished. "It turned out I just wet myself." And oh, how mortifying it was to have to say that out loud. Worse, that all the kids had seen it happen.

Johnny furrowed his brows as he took all this in. "You ... Wait, did you say you wet yourself?" he repeated, unsure if he'd heard her right. They had taken birthing classes, but nothing had quite prepared him for this.

Grimacing, Liv turned an even darker shade of red. "Yes, that's what I said," she muttered. "That's why Lucas is doing laundry and Piper's cleaning a chair, Johnny. And I am horrifically embarrassed by the whole thing."

He had to bite back a chuckle, so as not to embarrass her further. He did have a heart, after all, and he loved his Liv more than anything. "Oh, baby," he said, pulling her close, despite the grime he was wearing. "It's okay. We're gonna have to deal with more than that when the baby comes." Like spit up and vomit and poopy diapers, just to name a few.

15
Crash and Burn / A Little Adult Time
« on: September 30, 2015, 06:38:10 AM »
The house seemed strangely quiet without the children and the dog to fill it with noise. But it was a quiet Liv was happy to indulge in, for a little while, at least. Vicki Granger had appeared on the doorstep at exactly five o'clock, a large grocery bag hanging heavy on her arm, to collect Fliss, Alexei, Maria, and Bella with promises of do-it-yourself dinner and a game of Twister planned already, exactly as she had promised Johnny she would. And it hadn't been such a wrench to send them all off for the night as Liv had expected it would be. She trusted Jon and Vicki with their children, as much as they trusted Johnny and Liv with their own, and it gave her a chance to put Mummy to bed for once and just be Liv, for the first time in a long time.

"So ..." she asked as she rolled out the dough, flickering a grin over to her husband. "What exactly are we putting on this pizza, anyway?"

"Anything but anchovies, you name it!" he replied with a grin. Now that it was just him and Liv, Johnny felt more relaxed than he'd felt in a very long time. As much as they adored their children, tending to three kids and a dog didn't leave a lot of time for themselves and they'd agreed they needed an adult night every now and then to reconnect as a couple. Thankfully, Vicki had agreed; after all, it had been her idea to begin with. And now that they were alone, they could choose to do whatever they wanted and eat their pizza however they liked it, too, without having to watch the kids make a face or pick the ingredients off the top.

"Anything?" she asked with a low laugh. "Even pickled gherkins?" The counter-top was covered with vegetables, meats, even some fish - they hadn't been able to decide straight off what they wanted to top their pizza with. Spooning the tomato sauce on and playing with the mozzarella was easy enough; it was the rest of the toppings that were hard to decide on. "I'm going to make you decide, you know. I made the dough, you get to top it."

"Anything within reason," he replied with a grin. "I'm not seven months pregnant, like some people. How about gherkins on the side?" he suggested, as he greased the pan in readiness for the transfer of dough.

"How about a smiley face made out of pepperoni?" she countered with a giggle. It had been a while since she'd been this silly over making dinner; as much fun as constructing dinner with the children could be, there was always an element of alertness necessary to keep accidents from happening. With only Johnny, the only thing that might happen was that she might get distracted for a little while. "With ... pineapple chunks for teeth, and red onion for freckles - diced, obviously - and ... I don't know ... does spinach work on pizza?" She flashed him her bright grin, one elbow nudging at him teasingly.

He chuckled at her suggestion, glad to see her relaxing and having fun for once. "I can live with that, so long as there are no anchovies or gherkins!" Once the pan was prepared, he let her spread out the dough, and he spooned the sauce on top. "We should do this more often," he said, not referring to the pizza making - that was a fairly regular occurrence in the Storm household - but the time alone and away from the craziness of their little family they so adored.

Liv nodded, sighing softly. "We should," she agreed, leaning against his arm, her head on his shoulder comfortably. "It's not that I don't love our mad house, but this is long overdue. I can't believe we didn't work it out for ourselves. Pregnancy brain is only supposed to affect me, not you." She giggled, kissing his shoulder affectionately.

"I've had a lot on my mind," he admitted, smiling softly over at her as she leaned her head against his shoulder. Once the sauce was spread pretty evenly across the dough, he started adding the cheese. "It's not that I don't love the kids, but it's nice to have a little time alone together sometimes."

"I know what you mean," she admitted, reluctantly easing away to start slicing various bits and pieces to go on top of their pizza. It had to be said, though, that taking her maternity leave sooner than she had expected to had done wonders for her mood, especially first thing in the morning. She was nowhere near as tense just three days after that chat with Jon than she had been a day before it, and it showed. "We should make this a regular thing. Maybe not overnight every time, but a few hours that belong to just us."

"Well, we do have a few hours while the kids are in school," he reminded her. He would have nudged her arm, if she hadn't moved away to start slicing and dicing up veggies. Instead, he worked on sprinkling the mozzarella evenly over the sauce. "You know, we still need to discuss names. Vicki suggested getting the kids involved, but I don't know. She said we can have some of Ben and Emily's old clothes if we want, too, once we know what we're having." Though that wasn't likely to happen until after the baby was born.

"She's very generous," Liv smiled, glancing at her husband. "As for names, well ... why don't we come up with a list, and then ask the kids which ones they prefer of the ones we chose? That way we're not going to end up with a son or daughter called Ruprecht or something disastrous like that."

"Rup-what?" he echoed, chuckling. He'd been doing a lot of laughing lately, his whole mood changed since his talk with Vicki and since he and Liv had decided to take some time off. Money wasn't really an issue, so long as they were honorary Grangers, though neither wanted to take advantage of that. "What would you think of a Johnny, Jr.?" he asked, just throwing that out there. He would have suggested Steven, but he wasn't sure if Steve and Lucy were planning on having a Junior of their own someday.

"Ruprecht," she repeated innocently. "It's a silly name that comes up in Radio 4 comedy programs in England." Giggling, she slid the mixed selection of meat and veg toward him, moving to tidy up easily. "Would you want to have a Johnny, Jr?" she asked curiously. "I'm not wholly against it, but as far as I'm concerned, there's only one Johnny Storm. And he's wonderful."

"I'd like to have a Steve Storm," he replied, though as soon as he said it, he knew it didn't really sound right. Steve Rogers had a ring to it; Steve Storm didn't. "Hmm, maybe not. Maybe we should just pick a boy's name we both like and not worry about trying to honor anyone with it." He picked up a couple of slices of pepperoni for eyes, debating what to use for a nose, but that wasn't nearly enough pepperoni for a whole pizza.

"If we have a boy, we could give him Steven as a second name," she suggested, letting him play with the toppings as she tucked her arms about his waist from behind, her chin on his shoulder. "Or Stephanie, for a girl. But I'd like to give a girl Margaret as a second name. I know Steve and Lucy would probably like to have a Peggy of their own at some point."

"Stephanie Storm," he echoed with a smile. "I kind of like that, but I thought you might want to name a daughter Elizabeth after your mother," he suggested quietly, feeling strangely content with her head on his shoulder and her arms around his waist, both of them savoring the quiet simplicity of the moment.

"I hadn't thought of that," Liv admitted quietly, quite happy to loll where she was and let him make a masterpiece of their dinner as she hugged him contentedly. "I like Elizabeth. But I like Stephanie, too. And what about your mother's name? Mary?"

He frowned a little at the mention of his mother. "Yeah, but we already have a Maria," he pointed out. And that had been purely accidental. "We don't have to decide today, but we should probably make a list." He continued distributing various meats and veggies across the top of the pizza until there was little room left for more. "You sure this won't give you heartburn?" he asked, giving the pizza toppings a second look.

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