Liv chuckled, squeezing his hand. "To be honest, I think she might have been more angry with you if that idiot child hadn't been the second caller," she told him. "She got so wound up over him, she completely forgot you'd called while they were on air at all. And you did get her ice cream, just like you promised."
"What idiot caller?" Johnny said, obviously not having heard that part of the segment. "We got a call after I hung up, and I wasn't able to listen to the rest." He was sure, whatever had happened, his Fliss had been awesome. "Well, of course I got her ice cream. She's my best girl, besides you and Maria and Bella." That kind of took the best of out the equation, but Johnny didn't care.
Liv rolled her eyes. "Oh, one of those boys who keep giving them trouble called in to ask why they'd put her on air," she shrugged. "Lucky for you, I recorded it. She did you proud." She smiled once again, not too concerned about Fliss and her bullies; their eldest seemed to be able to handle herself just fine.
Johnny knew the "they" was in reference to both Fliss and Lucas, as the bullies had been harassing the boy as much as his daughter. "What did she say?" he asked, curiously, one arm going around her shoulders. "Didn't threaten to burn their house down, did she?"
"No," Liv laughed, settling comfortably into the tuck of his arm around her shoulders. "She made a case for people just being people, no matter what makes them different. After arguing a bit with the boy who called in, who I think just fancies her and doesn't know how to express it. I didn't know she'd punched him."
"Yeah, well, it's Rhy'Din ... You'd think people were used to that sort of thing by now," he said, that frown still in place on his face. He didn't bother to mention that he'd been the one to teach her how to throw a punch, though he hadn't encouraged it. "Fancies her?" Johnny echoed. "I thought she liked Lucas."
"What, you don't think your daughter's attractive enough to have more than one boy like her at a time?" she asked teasingly, though she would understand the concern. "It doesn't matter how many boys like her, she likes Lucas. That's the important part."
"I guess it's a little too soon to get attached, huh?" Johnny said, still frowning a little. He had grown fond of the kid and thought he and Fliss were good for each other, but it was very premature to assume they'd stay together long term. After all, they were barely teenagers.
"Little bit," his wife smiled, shaking her head. "First love, sweetheart. It might last, it might not. But so long as they're enjoying it, that's all that really matters. She's not even fifteen yet."
"I know, I know. Can't we just adopt him, too?" Johnny asked with a sheepish grin. Never mind that the kid already had a father of his own. Johnny wondered what kind of father would send his son all alone to a strange world, but he supposed that was none of his business.
"Haven't we already?" Liv laughed back at him, patting his thigh. "He has dinner with us almost every night as it is!" Not that she minded; she liked Lucas, and she thought that being around their slightly chaotic family was good for him. He was slowly coming out of his shell, and that could only be a good thing, right?
"Yeah, but if they ever break up ..." Johnny trailed off with that worried frown in place, though it was a little silly to worry about something that might or might not ever happen.
And speaking about Fliss and Lucas, another voice suddenly popped up in mention of the couple. "Fliss and Lucas are on their way," Alex remarked, matter of factly, though the young couple was still nowhere in sight.
"Definitely a little telepath there," Liv murmured under her breath, making a mental note to address privacy with Alexei a little more in-depth at some point soon. "Thank you for telling us, sweetheart," she said to the little boy aloud, though. "Did you find the fishes in the end?"
Alexei beamed a smile back at the only mother he remembered ever having, obviously happy and thriving at Maple Grove, surrounded by people who loved and cared for both him and Maria. The night terrors were becoming less frequent, and he was turning into a happy, healthy, normal six-year-old. He nodded his head enthusiastically in reply to her question. "I named mine Swizzle and Maria named hers Droplet. Uncle Humphrey says they're really ours, but that they should stay here with all their fishy friends."
"Isn't that a nice thing for Uncle Humphrey to say about his birthday present?" Liv smiled, deeply grateful to the Old Man for being so welcoming and friendly to their children. "Which one was yours? The one with black spots?"
He shock his head and laughed, shuffling his feet a little in that way children do when they're too excited to keep still very long. "No, Mama! Droplet is the one with the spots and Swizzle has the swirls." It was fairly obvious that Humphrey had had a hand in helping name the fish, or they would have likely ended up with names like Spot and Stripes, but the boy seemed pleased and even proud of the names they'd been given. "Uncle Humphrey says we can come and help feed them and watch them anytime we want."
"Of course you can," Liv assured him, reaching over to ruffle his hair. "But not during school, obviously." She grinned, glancing up as the sound of voices announced the imminent arrival of the teens. "And no splashing your little sister, by the way. I don't want her pouring a jug of water on you while you sleep again."
"And he says we can stay for dinner tonight if we want. They're having ice cream for dessert. Can we, Mama, pleeeeease?" Alex asked, young eyes pleading with her. "I won't splash her. I promise!"
Johnny only tried to hide a smirk, and shrugged at Liv, allowing her to decide. It seemed Humphrey wasn't ready to say good-bye to the pair just yet.
Ordinarily, Liv might have looked over at Humphrey to make sure that the invitation had been extended, but he was known for enjoying big gatherings in the evening. Inviting the Storms was like having a party ready-made arrive on your doorstep. "All right, sweetheart," Liv conceded, glancing at Johnny with a chuckle. "But only if you promise to be on your best behavior. Both of you," she added, including Maria in this. The little girl was perched on Humphrey's knee, offering up a blushing grin and a nod in answer to her mother's warning.
In answer to his mother's reply, Alex hopped up and down, clapping his hands happily and shouting, "Yay!" at the top of his young lungs. "Fliss, we're staying for dinner! You, too, Lucas!" Alex told his sister and her boyfriend as they arrived, inviting them along, even if Humphrey hadn't. He surged forward to give his mother a hug before hurrying off to catch Maria by the hand and go chase after Cosmo and Bella.
"Oof!" Laughing, Liv squeezed her little boy and let him surge away with Maria in tow, leaning back with an almost relaxed smile for Humphrey, who was chuckling away quite contentedly himself.
"We're staying up here for dinner?" Fliss asked, just to be completely certain of what was going on. She didn't entirely trust Alex to relay accurate information, with good reason.
"Looks like it," Johnny replied. "Is that okay with the two of you, or would you like to sneak off for burgers and fries?" he added, unable to resist teasing them a little. Lucas had become almost a regular with both families, sometimes sharing meals with Jon and Vicki and the clan and sometimes with Johnny and Liv and their brood. So far, all of the Grangers had been kind and welcoming to him. He wished he could say the same for his classmates.