"What are we cooking?" Johnny asked, both curiously and eagerly. He certainly wasn't a stranger to the kitchen, and his cooking skills had definitely improved since meeting Liv.
"But we just got here," Steve pointed out. "Are you gonna tell me they stocked the kitchen, too?"
"Nah, Mom stocked the kitchen," Fliss told her uncle, rummaging through the cupboards. "Fajitas, chips, and salad, I'm thinking. Ooh ... there's a cheesecake, too."
At the table, Liv laughed at the enthusiasm her eldest was displaying for the state of the kitchen. "She took a year of cookery classes," she explained to her sister. "She's a better cook than either of us, now."
"You make the salad, I'll handle the fajitas!" Johnny told his eldest, raising his hand to give her a high five. "Or vice versa," he added, just in case she'd prefer doing the cooking part of the meal.
"Looks like you've got everything under control," Steve said, taking a lean against the counter and trying to stay out of the way, which was hard considering the size of him. "I should probably thank Humphrey," he mused aloud, knowing a visit to the main house and a conversation with the patriarchal head of the Granger family was in order.
Sparks flew as Fliss high-fived her father, quite happy to let him play with fire if he wanted to. "There's steak or chicken, so it's your choice," she informed Johnny, opening up the fridge to start pulling out various salad bits and pieces.
Lucy smiled at the sight of Johnny and his daughter cooking - something she would never have imagined just a few short years ago. But then, they'd all grown up a lot in the last couple of years. "Mm, you're right," she agreed with Steve. "I guess we should probably call ahead before we do, though. Having a small menagerie, and all."
"When given a choice, you should always choose steak," Johnny replied, without hesitation.
"Actually," Steve started, with a thoughtful frown. "I was thinking about leaving the small menagerie home this once," he said, which indicated that he wanted to do more than just thank Old Man Granger and introduce his family.
"You're family, Steve," Johnny broke in, though he understood the man's need to reciprocate in some way. After all, it had taken Johnny a while to feel comfortable at Maple Grove, too, but they were practically honorary Grangers now. "This is the safest place in Rhy'Din," he boasted, though he had no real proof of that.
"You can leave the small menagerie with our large menagerie," Liv suggested. "I don't think you're entitled to call yours a menagerie anyway. You only have a dog and cat."
"Yeah," Fliss agreed. "We have a dragon. And Dad."
Liv choked on her tea as she snorted with laughter at her daughter's cheeky comment, allowing Lucy to slap her on the back until she recovered.
"First of all, I'm not small, and secondly, what's a menagerie?" Johnny asked all-too-seriously, as he looked to the other three for an answer.
Steve chuckled, letting Fliss and Liv field that question. "Let's just hope Martin and Lianne don't decide they want a dragon for a pet, too," he remarked, though it seemed to be working out okay for the Storms.
"It's a collection of exotic pets, love," Liv managed through her splutterings, casting a good-natured glare at Fliss for making her laugh so hard she choked on her drink. The teen grinned sweetly, glancing over at her father with an innocent look in her eyes.
"Oh, I'm putting my foot down on that one," Lucy assured her own husband. "No dragons. A new baby is enough of a headache right now."
"Oh," Johnny murmured as he considered her answer. "Does that make me your pet?" he asked her, batting his lashes coquettishly, a small smirk on his face.
"It'll be fine, Luce," Steve assured her, looking just a little too serious, but then, he had a lot on his mind right now, and their future child was only one of them.
"Whoa, wait, hold on ..." As charming as Johnny was in that moment, Liv had picked up on something she hadn't yet been made privy to. "New baby? What new baby?" Her gaze bypassed Lucy entirely and pinned on Steve, the expression demanding to know why she hadn't been told.
"We only found out recently ourselves, Liv," Steve explained. All things considered, there hadn't been much time to share the news just yet. "You're gonna be an aunt ... again," he told her with a warm smile, despite his worries.
"Honestly, I'm surprised you don't have ten of them by now," Johnny remarked with a grin.
"When are you due?" Liv demanded of her sister.
Lucy laughed, rolling her eyes. "April," she told her sister, obligingly leaning back to let Liv touch the barely there bump excitedly.
"I'm so pleased for you!" the younger twin enthused, and quite suddenly grew stern again. "And no more picking fights with the bigger boys."
"You know, we're thinking of making this a permanent move," Steve blurted, which was very out of character for the big man, but he obviously had a lot on his mind and this must have been one of those things. "Do you think that would be a problem?" he asked, uncertainly. He'd always felt like a stranger in a strange land in Rhy'Din. For him, Brooklyn would always be home, whether they lived there or not.
There was a brief pause, and suddenly Fliss picked up her bowl of salad and marched out of the kitchen, aiming herself for the dining room. She might be only just within reach of sixteen, but even she knew when the conversation did not require a fifth set of ears.
Liv shook her head, glancing at Johnny thoughtfully. "Well, like I said, Humphrey has offered you the house regardless of how long you choose to stay," she reminded Steve. "You will always have a place here, if you need it."
"It's not safe in New York right now," Steve said, though he knew Liv and Johnny must already know what had happened, since Liv had been in touch with Tony to arrange for the family's safe arrival. "It might never be again," he added, following Fliss' departure with an arched brow. If he hadn't wanted her to hear what he had to say, he wouldn't have said it with her there. "Sorry. Not the right time or place."
"She's still wavering between wanting to be grown up and wanting to stay a child," Liv excused Fliss' behavior gently. "It seems as though today is a little girl kind of day, that's all. We don't keep secrets, but she's free to choose what she knows and what she doesn't know."