Author Topic: Over the Rainbow  (Read 437 times)

Olivia Storm

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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."
[size=9:184a99ac32][color=darkblue:184a99ac32][i:184a99ac32][b:184a99ac32]I want you to be everything that's you, deep at the center of your being.[/b:184a99ac32][/i:184a99ac32][/color:184a99ac32][/size:184a99ac32]

Olivia Storm

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Re: Over the Rainbow
« Reply #1 on: October 15, 2016, 06:42:58 PM »
Behind them, Liv drew the children a few feet further back, out of immediate danger should things not go according to plan.

"With any luck, you won't have to," he replied. They had no reason to believe anything would go wrong, but it was better to be safe than sorry. Still, Johnny would only "Flame on" if he absolutely had to.

The portal's rippling grew more pronounced, and suddenly shapes were discernible, growing larger until the family began to step into sight. First several bags of luggage were thrown through, and then Lianne appeared with her kitten in her arms. Then came Martin with Jamie and Thor; Lucy came next, and Steve was last of all. Lucy glanced around at the way her sister's family had arranged themselves, and pulled her children over to where Liv was standing, looking back over her shoulder just in case there were any uninvited guests on their way through.

Steve wasn't wearing his uniform, but was dressed in civilian clothing, so as not to attract any unwanted attention. Besides, he only wore his uniform when he was working for S.H.I.E.L.D.  The same couldn't be said for Johnny, though his uniform was worn beneath his clothes, just in case he had to go to flame.

"It's about damned time," Johnny greeted them once they were all through the portal.

"Nice to see you, too," Steve replied with a bit of a smirk, that proved he did have a sense of humor, despite his reputation for being too serious.

"Hey, Luce. You okay?" Johnny asked with mingled concern and relief, as he moved over to offer his sister-in-law a hug.

"Gently," Lucy warned him, smiling as she hugged him in return. "Nursing a couple of broken ribs here." She turned that smile onto her sister, the two of them almost identical as they shared an expression that belonged to them alone for a long moment. Then the portal closed with an audible snap, and the tension hanging over the group began to dissipate.

"We'll call Rebecca to come and take a look at you," Liv promised her twin, watching out of the corner of her eye as Fliss shuddered for a moment, releasing her own unique kind of tension in a brief flare of flame that touched nothing but the air.

Johnny frowned a little, concern etching his face, but looking a little relieved, too. The worry on Johnny's face was nothing compared to Steve, but neither seemed ready to talk about what was going on just yet. "Come on," Johnny said, waving a hand at the group. "Let's get you settled." He hadn't failed to notice Fliss' flare of flame, relieved she hadn't need to use it. If there was one thing Johnny wanted, it was to keep his children safe and out of harm's way, and that included the teenager.

"That sounds like a good plan," Liv agreed, handing Bess into Fliss' arms before bending to pick up a couple of the bags that had been thrown through. She smacked Lucy's hand when her twin attempted to do the same. "You are injured, you will behave yourself, or I will sedate you," she informed her elder sister.

Lucy stared at her, mouth open in laughing amazement. "Dear god, what happened to give you a back bone?" she asked in amusement. "I'm blaming Everlast."

"Don't blame me!" Johnny said, raising his hands in the air. "It's being a Mom that did it." He, too, stooped to grab a bag or two, with Steve doing the same, while the kids gravitated toward Fliss, chattering together like they hadn't seen each other in ages.

Quite what the teen thought of being surrounded by children was very carefully kept to herself, though Fliss was pretty good with her siblings and cousins. She crouched to let Jamie climb up onto her back, holding the toddler and her baby sister securely as they walked along with the four ambulatory children ahead of the adults.

Liv smiled proudly. "She's doing so well," she mused, falling into step with Steve. "Humphrey has offered you a permanent place on the Grove here, if you'd like it. Even if you're only staying temporarily, Oak Croft is yours."
   
Steve was still frowning, but at least, he didn't look as tense as he was before the portal closed. "I'm not sure what we're doing yet, to be honest. We just wanted to get the kids someplace safe," he explained, though it wasn't just about the kids, but Lucy and the baby, too. "We still have to sort out what we're gonna do long-term," he added. After all, they'd made a life for themselves in New York, but the most important thing was his family's safety. Nothing else was as important as that, not even S.H.I.E.L.D.

"Tony said something about gathering intelligence on HYDRA, whatever that is," Liv offered. She really didn't know what was going on, apart from the fact that her sister had been beaten up a few days before. But given the way Steve was talking ... She glanced over at Lucy and Johnny briefly. "You will make sure he comes home safely, won't you?" she asked softly. "Both of you."

"Does that mean he's decided?" Steve asked, reaching over to take one of the bags from her, as if they weighed next to nothing.

"Decided what?" Johnny broke in, overhearing. He might not have been paying much attention to their conversation, but there was nothing wrong with his hearing.

"HYDRA," Steve replied, lowering his voice so that the children wouldn't overhear.

"I don't think there's really any decision to make, is there?" Liv asked. She knew Johnny would never just sit back and allow Steve to do what needed to be done without him. She didn't have to be happy about it, though.

Lucy touched her sister's back gently. "It won't happen for a while," she said gently. "There's no plan yet."

Johnny's expression darkened, as he realized what it was Liv and Steve had been talking about. He and Liv had already discussed it, and she was right in thinking he'd never be able to stand back and do nothing when both their families were in danger. Besides, it was just the right thing to do. "Damn straight," Johnny said. "We're family, and that's all there is to it." And HYDRA had to go.

"And family doesn't do recklessly silly things," Lucy pointed out to her brother-in-law. "You two are going to have to keep in mind at all times that if anything happens to either of you, we are the ones who will have to somehow keep going without you. That isn't something I'm happy to contemplate."

"You don't have to go, Johnny," Steve interjected. In fact, he thought maybe it would be better if Johnny stayed in Rhy'Din - not because he wouldn't be welcome or useful, but because if anything happened to him, at least Johnny would be there to take care of their families.

"Like hell I don't!" Johnny exclaimed vehemently, coming to a halt, his expression matching his tone of voice. "This isn't just about doing what's right. If we don't do something to stop them, who knows what they'll do next? What if they find this place? What if they come here? What if they kidnap more kids and experiment on them? What if they get so big even S.H.I.E.L.D. can't fight them? What then? Do we just let them take over the world. No, we can't just turn our backs on Earth and ignore what's going on there. Even if we decide to live here the rest of our lives, we have friends and family here, and the world is depending on us to keep them safe."
[size=9:184a99ac32][color=darkblue:184a99ac32][i:184a99ac32][b:184a99ac32]I want you to be everything that's you, deep at the center of your being.[/b:184a99ac32][/i:184a99ac32][/color:184a99ac32][/size:184a99ac32]

Olivia Storm

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Re: Over the Rainbow
« Reply #2 on: October 15, 2016, 06:43:43 PM »
Ahead of them, the kids had paused, looking back toward the adults in their lives with no little concern. After all, Johnny didn't raise his voice very often. Liv cleared her throat. "I, um, I think we should probably save this conversation for another time," she suggested, drawing gentle fingertips down Johnny's back.

Lucy nodded. "You're right," she agreed. "The kids are freaked out about this enough as it is without us making it worse."

Johnny's temperature had definitely risen, but not enough to set him to flame just yet. This was something he was passionate about. He hadn't become a firefighter for nothing, and while he might not be an official member of the Avengers or S.H.I.E.L.D., he was just as capable as they were of helping to defeat HYDRA once and for all. "Sorry," he said, frowning a little guiltily, but only because he didn't want to scare the kids.

"No, I'm sorry," Steve said, mirroring the frown that was almost identical to his. "We can talk about it later."

"Papa!" Lianne yelled from ahead of them, releasing one arm from around Cherie's ragdoll slump in her grasp to point toward the house in front of her. "Fliss says this is for us!"

Lucy smiled, glad that Lianne was enjoying the adventure, anyway. "That is a big house."

Steve would have loved to have scooped his daughter up right that moment and hugged her close, if his arms were not full of luggage. Instead, he merely paused to look over the house. "That can't be ours. It's ... huge," he said, clearly stunned.

Liv laughed. "It won't feel that big when you get everyone inside," she predicted, calling to Fliss. "We left the back door unlocked, why don't you show them their bedrooms?" It was Maria who seized Martin's hand to pull him toward the house in answer, her silent laughter obvious even from here.

Despite everything the children had been through, they were still children, full of fun and innocence, until nightmares crept in during the dark of night. Martin laughed as he got tugged along by Maria.

Alex turned to find his mother. "Mama, is it okay if Jamie comes with us?" he asked, taking hold of the toddler's hand. "I will keep an eye on him. Promise!"

Fliss grinned, crouching so that Jamie could wriggle off her back and take Alex's hand, a little relieved that the children were going away and leaving her to hang around with the adults and Bess.

"So long as you don't let him fall down the stairs, of course he can go with you, sweetheart," Liv told her son. "We'll be there in a little bit."

"Spasibo, Mama," Alex replied, clutching the toddler's hand as Fliss set him on his feet. "Aren't you coming, Fliss?" he asked, looking up at his sister, while the other children started off toward the house.

"I'll follow you," Fliss promised her brother fondly, hiking Bess comfortably on her hip. "You guys can show me around before the adults get there and make it boring again."

"Okay!" Alex said, accepting his sister's answer without question, and leading Jamie toward the house, hand in hand. About halfway there, Alex leaned down to pick Jamie up and carry him the rest of the way, as his little legs couldn't get him there fast enough.

"Boring, huh?" Johnny echoed with a smirk.

Fliss flashed a grin back at her parents, uncle, and aunt. "Well, yeah," she defended herself. "You're gonna make them unpack. That's boring." Her grin deepened when Bess gurgled in apparent agreement, making Liv laugh.

"Well, you had better go and be unboring with them, hadn't you?" she said, waving Fliss toward the house before letting her smile fade as she looked at Lucy. "Just how much pain are you in?" she asked her twin. "You're never this quiet."

Lucy blinked, and shook her head. "I'm fine," she lied. "Just a little tired."

Steve frowned over at Lucy, knowing she wasn't as fine as she claimed and concerned not only for her but for the baby, too. "Luce, you need to rest. I can handle the unpacking," he insisted.

"Is there anything we can do to help?" Johnny asked, all too ready to help in any way he could. "Why don't we take the kids tonight?" he suggested, glancing at Liv to see if it was okay, which he probably should have done before he volunteered.

Lucy looked at the three of them with a wry grimace. "I'm not going to be allowed to do anything for ages, am I?" she predicted, rolling her eyes. "Fine, I'll rest. I'll unpack, but I'll rest, too."

Liv snorted with laughter at her twin's ungracious response. "We can take the kids tonight if you'd like us to," she agreed with Johnny's offer. "Although they might not want to be away from you. Either way, I'm cooking."

"They're gonna get one look at that house and never want to leave," Steve said, turning his glance once again to the house that Humphrey Granger was so generously offering them, at least for now. "It's gotta have at least, what, four bedrooms?" he asked, just taking a guess. Even the brownstone back in New York wasn't as big as this, and for someone who'd grown up poor, the house was nothing short of a mansion.

"Four and a spare," Liv chuckled, hoisting the one bag she'd been allowed to keep hold of and wrapping her arm gently about Lucy's back. "There's a study and a dining room, too. The Grangers don't build small."

"There are a few small houses at the Grove," Johnny interjected, "but not many." He reached to take the bag from Liv, allowing the sisters to talk without having to worry about the luggage. He tossed a wink at Steve. "Come on, Cap. Let's go get rid of this luggage and see what the kids are up to." It was really just an excuse to give Liv and Lucy a little time to reconnect, but he wasn't about to tell them that. That and he wanted to make sure Jamie fall down the stairs, or something.

The children were certainly enjoying themselves, with the run of the house. Even the appearance of the adults wasn't enough to calm the giggles as they alternated between watching Cherie and Thor explore, and exploring for themselves. Liv was quick to settle Lucy in the kitchen, putting on the kettle so the girls could talk, leaving Steve and Johnny to settle things and keep an eye on the children for the time being. But it wasn't long before hungry little people started realizing they were hungry.

Fliss was the one who took charge, marching into the kitchen to see what was available. "No, you sit down," she informed her mother and aunt. "Dad and Uncle Steve can help me cook. Can't you?" She raised her voice on that point, just to make sure they were paying attention.
[size=9:184a99ac32][color=darkblue:184a99ac32][i:184a99ac32][b:184a99ac32]I want you to be everything that's you, deep at the center of your being.[/b:184a99ac32][/i:184a99ac32][/color:184a99ac32][/size:184a99ac32]

Olivia Storm

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Re: Over the Rainbow
« Reply #3 on: October 15, 2016, 06:44:22 PM »
"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."
[size=9:184a99ac32][color=darkblue:184a99ac32][i:184a99ac32][b:184a99ac32]I want you to be everything that's you, deep at the center of your being.[/b:184a99ac32][/i:184a99ac32][/color:184a99ac32][/size:184a99ac32]

Olivia Storm

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Re: Over the Rainbow
« Reply #4 on: October 15, 2016, 06:45:31 PM »
Steve understood that well enough, having been forced to grow up sooner than he might have liked, but he believed it had made him a better person because of it. "Should I go talk to her?" he asked, uncertainly, his gaze lingering in the direction Fliss had gone. She'd been through enough already, and he was inwardly kicking himself for making his own worries known in front of her.

Lucy raised her brow, surprised at how eager Steve seemed to be to avoid confronting what was upsetting him head on. "How is dinner coming along, Johnny?" she asked, her eyes on her husband at all times.

"Uh ..." Johnny said, looking between them and wondering why the air had suddenly become so thick you could cut it with a knife. "It's coming, but I think I lost my cooking partner," he observed aloud. "It's my fault," Steve said. "I'll go talk to her."

"It's no one's fault, but be my guest," Liv told him, smiling as she rose to her feet. Her fingertip bounced off the end of Lucy's nose. "Sit, stay. I can cook and chat at the same time."

Maybe it was the fact that Steve was feeling useless here in Rhy'Din or maybe it was the fact that he was just missing home. Maybe it was the fact that HYDRA was still out there ready and waiting for prey on innocents and most likely still looking for him and his family. Maybe it was just the not knowing where he was going from here. He knew he'd have to go back to New York at some point and hunt HYDRA down. He also knew Lucy wasn't going to be happy about that, but he hoped she'd understand the necessity behind it. He couldn't hide forever in hopes that HYDRA would just go away, and he couldn't hope others would fight his battles for him. But he didn't need to upset Liv's little family just because of his own worries. Wordlessly, he went off to apologize to Fliss, leaving the other three to ponder what had just happened.

"Is he okay?" Johnny asked, as soon as Steve had left the room. "He doesn't seem like himself."

Lucy sighed softly, looking over at her brother-in-law. "It's HYDRA," she said simply. "He thought he'd never have to even think of them again, and suddenly here they are, waiting for him to be out of the way before trying to abduct his family. That, and he's not the only one who believes there's a mole in S.H.I.E.L.D. If Fury's agency has been corrupted, then who have we been working for? It's going to play on his mind until he has definitive proof one way or the other, and he's not going to feel himself again until he's done something to put them down. What worries me is ... I don't think it's possible to eradicate HYDRA. And that means taking the Captain out of America, because he'll never allow us to live on Earth so long as there is even a hint of a threat."

Johnny mouthed a silent, "Oh," unsure what to say to all that. He'd known most of what was going on and had even volunteered to help where needed, but he hadn't stopped to consider the implications of it, especially where Steve was concerned. After all, he'd sacrificed his own life once because of HYDRA and had lost everyone he'd ever loved doing it. It had been a high price to pay, but it had been the right thing to do, and Johnny knew Steve Rogers was all about doing the right thing. He was tempted to suggest changing Steve's name to Captain Rhy'Din, but that just didn't seem right.

"Anyway," Lucy sighed. "As it stands, we know perhaps four people in SHIELD who are truly trustworthy, and that doesn't include Nick Fury. That man keeps too many secrets for us to trust him; he didn't even tell us that it was HYDRA running that bloody Arctic facility. I hate to be proved right, but I've never trusted him myself. I'm just glad we managed to keep all mention of Rhy'Din, and Liv, out of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s files."

Liv blinked. "Wait ... they had a file on me?" she asked, shocked.

Lucy nodded, her expression grim. "Information only, Fury said," she told them. "Personally, I think it was blackmail material for us, including Johnny."

"Blackmail material?" Johnny echoed, his own temper starting to rise. He had never trusted Fury either and didn't need much convincing. "How do you know Fury doesn't have files of his own somewhere?" he asked further, wondering if he should make a few calls of his own. Reed had to know something, and so did Tony Stark.

"Long story short, we don't," Lucy admitted reluctantly. "Nat and Clint will do what they can, but Fury's clearance is miles above their own. He was furious - pardon the pun - that I refused to store any data on the children in the S.H.I.E.L.D. databanks, and thankfully Nat got to the house and trashed the lab before his agents could have a good rummage themselves."

"But what would Fury possibly want ..." Johnny trailed off, already knowing the answer for himself. It was the serum. It had always been about the serum, right from the beginning. HYDRA wanted it and would stop at nothing to get it, and S.H.I.E.L.D. wanted it, too. "Do you know what would happen if they got ahold of that serum?" Johnny asked, lowering his voice on purpose, though there was no one to overhear but them. The question didn't really need answering, as the answer was obvious.

"No one would ever be as careful with their choices as Dr. Erskine was," Lucy nodded in agreement. "It would be a disaster. But the only information on Steve's blood is on a flash drive in my pocket, and the only information on the children is also on that flash drive. Nat was very thorough."

"Okay, good. So, that means, so long as HYDRA and S.H.I.E.L.D. don't know where you are ..." Johnny trailed off again, frowning when he realized there were people on Earth who'd know where they were. Four of them, to be exact - Tony, Nat, Reed, and Sue. He wasn't too sure about Pepper, but it was more than likely she'd know, too. How much would it take to make any of them talk?

"Which is why, if we're going to set up here permanently, I'm going to need to talk to those R'n'D people you use for security around here," Lucy pointed out, glancing at her sister.

Liv nodded, dropping a couple of handfuls of slice pepper and onion into the pan Johnny was playing with. "That's easily done," she assured Lucy. "GrangerGuild is very accommodating when it comes to me. I think their techies find me sweet."

"I was thinking more along the lines of magic, or even techno-mancy," Lucy suggested, but she could see the concern on Johnny's face. "Johnny, relax a little. Yes, HYDRA might try to find out where we are, but everyone who knows has their own ways of protecting themselves."

Johnny nodded, but he was still frowning. There was a lot more at stake here than he'd originally considered. He'd just been excited about Steve and Lucy visiting. "Well, I hate to sound selfish, but I think it's great having you here. We miss you when you're away, and I know the kids are happy to see you. I always felt a little bad about splitting them up, to be honest. They bonded in the Arctic. They're like family. They should be together. We should all be together."

"The way things are going, Johnny, I think we're staying put," Lucy told him. "So start thinking of things Steve can do to fill his time. I can get a job at any of the clinics or the research facilities around here, and I have a reference from Rhy'Din General I can call on. He doesn't know this place."

"Good question," Johnny said, a thoughtful expression on his face, as he cut up and added strips of steak to the onion and pepper that was frying in the pan. "He could join the Rhy'Din Avengers, but I think they're kind of inactive right now. He'd be welcome at the Fire Station, but I have a feeling that's not his gig."
[size=9:184a99ac32][color=darkblue:184a99ac32][i:184a99ac32][b:184a99ac32]I want you to be everything that's you, deep at the center of your being.[/b:184a99ac32][/i:184a99ac32][/color:184a99ac32][/size:184a99ac32]

Olivia Storm

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Re: Over the Rainbow
« Reply #5 on: October 15, 2016, 06:46:11 PM »
"GrangerGuild always have security openings, sometimes very high up," Liv mused. "Or there's the Watch - maybe even setting up an ground level response unit, something like that."

Lucy smiled faintly, glad they had some ideas, because she had none at all. "I'll run those past him, when he gets to the same place I'm in," she told them, warning without words that Steve hadn't quite reached the point where Rhy'Din was inevitably home now.

"Give him some time. It took me a long time to figure out where I fit in here, Luce," Johnny told her, though she likely knew that already. "Maybe Humphrey will have a suggestion. Things have been a little ... unsettled in the city lately with the election and all," he added, tossing a knowing glance to Liv. Things weren't as peaceful as they could be in Rhy'Din right now either, but these things tended to go in spurts.

"Unsettled?" Lucy frowned, following Johnny's glance toward her sister.

Liv shook her head. "The pro-humans rhetoric came out to play during the election campaigns," she explained. "It'll die down. It always does. And if it doesn't, there are far too many people here who embrace our multiculturalism to ever allow anyone to change the balance."

Johnny didn't want to scare Lucy unnecessarily, but their family was made up of humans and meta-humans, not to mention an adopted dragon. Despite that, Rhy'Din was still safer than an Earth where HYDRA was hunting them. "Like I said before, Maple Grove is about the safest place on Rhy'Din, and you're more than welcome here." As proved by the house Old Man Granger had so generously offered the family.

Lucy smiled, reassured by their confidence. Her eyes strayed toward the window, and her smile grew. "Speaking of dragons ..." She nodded in that direction. Lir was peering in through the kitchen window, with Jasper the cat balanced comfortably on his head, and Bella bouncing her paws on the windowsill beside them.

"Oh, for goodness' sake ..." Liv rolled her eyes. "One of them has learned how to open the back door."

Johnny couldn't help but laugh. "We could start our own circus with this bunch!" he said, glad the conversation had lightened once again. He knew there was a lot they still needed to discuss and work out, but he was confident it would all work out in the end.

Of course, while the twins and Johnny were discussing the possibility of Steve's future on Rhy'Din, Steve was navigating a conversation with his niece. Fliss hadn't meant to make him feel bad by leaving the room when she did; she'd just thought that it would be easier for the adults to talk without her being right there. So naturally she was a little surprised to find her Uncle Steve in the doorway of the dining room moments after she'd put the salad bowl on the sideboard.

"Um ... did I forget something?"

"No, I just wanted to apologize if I made you uncomfortable," Steve told her, as he stepped into the room, hoping she didn't mind him following her there. "It's been a rough couple of days, and ... my bedside manners are probably not what they should be."

"I-I thought me being there was making it difficult for you guys to talk," Fliss admitted with a shrug. "You don't have to apologize, Uncle Steve. But if you're so stressed out you think a dining table is a bed, then maybe we should work on your eyesight a little." She offered up a teasing grin, not as at home with Steve as she was with her own parents.

Steve chuckled at his niece's remark. "Just an expression, Fliss," he told her, knowing he was a little out of date. "Look, I know we don't know each other very well. We haven't had much of a chance to get acquainted, and I know I'm ... I'm not your Dad, but I'd like to get to know you better, Fliss, if you'll let me."

"I'm usually babysitting when you come visiting," she agreed. "And when we visit you. Actually, I spend a lot of time looking after the kids when you and Dad start talking. Maybe I should start charging."

"Sorry about that," Steve apologized again, almost but not quite blushing at her remark. As intimidating as he might seem sometimes, in all actuality, he was a little shy at times and didn't have much experience with teenagers.

"I'm not gonna bite you, Uncle Steve," she smiled, realizing that he was the more nervous of the pair of them. "You could help me lay the table, if you want. Unless you want to silently observe me, just to see what you're getting into. After all, you're gonna have two teenaged girls in a few years."

"They're not gonna become teenagers overnight, Fliss," Steve pointed out with a smile that showed he was feeling at least a little less awkward than a few minutes ago. "What do you need me to do?" he asked, more than willing to help - even needing to help in some way. Too much idle time often made Steve feel useless, and he needed to feel useful. But then something Fliss said hit him. "Wait ... two teenaged girls? Do you know something I don't?"

"Table cloth, place mats," she instructed him, pointing toward the pertinent drawer. Fliss obviously spent too much time ordering the small person contingent around not to fall into monosyllables when handing out instructions. She grinned at her uncle. "Well, not me personally, no," she admitted cheerfully, sorting cutlery on the sideboard. "But Alex does. Apparently you think it's a boy, but it's actually a girl, and he doesn't know how to tell you."

Steve followed her instructions and found the drawer containing the table cloth and place mats and went about getting the table ready for dinner, without argument. After all, his rank might be Captain, but he knew how to take orders, as well as give them out. "How does Alex know that?" he asked further, a puzzled look on his face. He knew all four of the children they'd rescued from the research facility had demonstrated abilities of one sort or another, but he wasn't sure how Alex's abilities allowed him to know the gender of his and Lucy's unborn child.

Fliss blinked, glancing over at him. "He's a telepath, didn't Mom tell you that?" she asked curiously. "He's the telepath, Maria's an empath. Not sure what Bess is going to be, but hopefully it won't show up for a few years yet."

"Yes, but ... What are his abilities exactly?" Steve asked. He knew what a telepath was and what they were capable of doing, but did that mean that Alex could sense what gender their child was or had he actually communicated with her?

"Well, obviously your baby doesn't really have a mind to think with yet," Fliss considered. "I think Alex and Mo worked it out between them. She's pretty intuitive, even without the empathy, and they communicate in split seconds. Alex probably read what little there is to read off the baby, showed it to Mo, and Mo worked out that it's a girl from there. I'd trust them over an ultrasound any day."
[size=9:184a99ac32][color=darkblue:184a99ac32][i:184a99ac32][b:184a99ac32]I want you to be everything that's you, deep at the center of your being.[/b:184a99ac32][/i:184a99ac32][/color:184a99ac32][/size:184a99ac32]

Olivia Storm

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Re: Over the Rainbow
« Reply #6 on: October 15, 2016, 06:46:44 PM »
"Really?" he asked, more interested in the how of it than anything else. That and the fact that he was having a daughter, which made his smile brighten further. No matter how out of place he felt in Rhy'Din, what was most important to him was the safety of his family. "So, I guess the question is should I tell Lucy or let her find out on her own?"

"Either you tell her, or Alex announces it over dinner," Fliss snorted with laughter, moving to set the table now she'd laid everything they'd need out to get it done. "I love my peanut, but he's got a mouth like the Brooklyn Bridge."

"Takes after his father, does he?" Steve teased in return, chuckling a little at her analogy. Even though Johnny and Alex weren't related by blood, they both seemed to have rubbed off on each other. "You should have seen him when we first found him," Steve said with a small frown. "He attached himself to Johnny and wouldn't let go. Maria followed suit."

Fliss' smile dampened a little at his frown. "I can imagine that," she nodded. "Hell, Mo wouldn't even look anyone in the eye until she worked out that we didn't want to hurt her." She paused, looking down at the knives in her hand. "They still have nightmares," she said quietly. "Most nights, they do. But Mo doesn't like upsetting Mom and Dad, and Alex is trying to be a big boy about it. I don't know if I should tell on them, or see how it goes. It's got better since Lir moved in with Alex and Mo got Jasper, but every now and then, they get in with me."

"What about you?" Steve asked with sympathetic concern. "How are you doing?" he asked further, knowing she'd been through some nightmares of her own. "Tell you something, Fliss ... Those nightmares? They might never go away completely. There's nothing you can do to take away what happened to them, but being there for them? That means everything. They're safe and happy here, and that's all that's important. And that's why we're here, too. No matter what it takes, I'm never gonna let anyone hurt my family again."

"So what are you going to do if what it takes means that your children never see you again?" she asked, with the sharpness that only she could get away with. "You don't think that would do more harm? You can't solve this problem, Uncle Steve. You can make it smaller, but it won't ever go away completely. So what are you going to do? They've been hurt enough. One family abandoned them, no matter whether they were forced to; they were experimented on by the people who promised to look after them. Are you really going to abandon your family to "make them safer"?" The air quotes probably didn't need to be performed, but she did it anyway.

The look on Steve's face couldn't have been more serious as he contemplated her words. He didn't get angry or even defensive. He knew she was only being honest and maybe he needed to hear it. There was only one problem. "It isn't that easy, Fliss. You ever hear the saying that with great power comes great responsibility? I've spent my whole life trying to do the right thing. I agreed to taking the serum so I could make a difference in the world, so I could help make it safe. It wasn't just about HYDRA. It was about helping people and keeping them safe. Sometimes I feel like I'm fighting a losing battle, but I have a responsibility, and if I don't do it, who will?"

The teenager considered him for a long moment. "Uh-huh," she agreed finally. "But doing the right thing starts at home. You're not just Captain America. You're a husband, and you're a dad, and those are just as important. What's the point of saving complete strangers if you become a stranger at home?" She sighed, running a hand through her hair. "Look, I get that this HYDRA stuff needs to be handled. I do. But don't get so caught up in it that you forget to be there for the people who need you most. Okay?"

"Captain America is just a name. It doesn't mean anything. It was created for propaganda purposes during the war," he explained, telling her a lot more than he'd planned. "Cut off one head, another takes its place," Steve murmured, repeating something someone had told him once. He felt conflicted. What was the point of fighting a losing battle, and yet, he couldn't turn his back completely on the place he called home. "My family is what's most important to me, Fliss. That's why we're here."

"Then don't forget it," she told him quietly. "I don't doubt that Lucy can handle being a single parents and she'd never tell you otherwise, but you don't want her resenting you. You don't want Mom losing her temper, and you definitely don't want your children to start seeing you as a stranger. They rely on you more than you think. Martin's always talking about you, about the things you do together, and Lianne's in love with you. Jamie wouldn't know what to do if he only saw his dad every couple of months." She drew in a deep breath, showing him amber eyes that were wet with unshed tears, sharing something she hadn't yet shown her own parents. "I know what it feels like to be abandoned, over and over again. I grew up never knowing if the person who put me to bed would be the person at the breakfast table. I know what it's like to feel as though I'm a burden on the people I trust to look after me. You don't deserve that, none of you do. Everyone who fostered me, who took me in ... they were doing the right thing. But it did more harm than good."

Steve frowned in sympathy and guilt as Fliss admitted to him what she'd gone through before Johnny and Liv had taken her in. He, too, knew what it felt like to lose his parents and to become an orphan, and he didn't want that for his children. "You're asking me to choose," he told her. But choose between what? Duty and family? There was really no choice to be made there. Family would always come first.

"No, I'm not," she shook her head. "I'm telling you not to get so caught up in eliminating the threat that you lose sight of why you're doing it. You wouldn't be you if you don't do something about it, but you'll stop being you if you let being angry about it get in the way."

"From the mouths of babes," Steve murmured, with a faint smile at the irony. "What made you so wise for one so young, Miss Storm?" he asked as he helped her set out the plates and glasses and cutlery. He hadn't really told her what he was going to do, but she could be sure he would take her words into serious consideration.

She raised her eyes, her amber-hued gaze finding his with quiet confidence. "My family did, Captain Rogers," she told him quietly. "All of you."

He winced as she addressed him by his military title, rather than his name. "I'd prefer it if you called me Uncle Steve," he told her, but she'd made her point. "Maybe you can help show me around Rhy'Din. Figure out where I fit in," he suggested. "Since you're so old and wise," he added with a wink.

She reverted almost instantly, sticking her tongue out at him for the tease. "You're old," was her comeback. "I'm not sixteen until next month. I'm a youthful blossom." She grinned, nudging him playfully. "Who, you know, spontaneously combusts from time to time."

"Yeah, well ... I might be old, but I'm not always so wise," he countered, nudging her gently back so he didn't knock her on her rear. "Like father, like daughter," he teased further, a rare grin on his face.

A gale of laughter dragged her attention from setting the table to the kitchen, and curiosity just couldn't be denied. Giving her uncle a tug to follow her, Fliss moved to the door to peer out, and nearly swallowed her tongue laughing at what she saw. Liv had let the three Storm pets into the house, and while Bella was lying on the floor, her distended belly moving of its own accord as it always did these days, Lir and Jasper were firmly attached to Lucy's midriff, making cooing noises at the little baby bump.
[size=9:184a99ac32][color=darkblue:184a99ac32][i:184a99ac32][b:184a99ac32]I want you to be everything that's you, deep at the center of your being.[/b:184a99ac32][/i:184a99ac32][/color:184a99ac32][/size:184a99ac32]

Olivia Storm

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Re: Over the Rainbow
« Reply #7 on: October 15, 2016, 06:47:18 PM »
Steve got tugged along, furrowing his brows at the sight he saw in the kitchen. "How long has Bella been pregnant?" he blurted, feeling stupid for having only noticed it just now, but he'd had a lot on his mind.

Fliss grinned, watching the dog heave herself around to find a more comfortable position. "About a month and a half," she told Steve. "No one's owning up to being the father, but around here, there's only one it could really be. Her puppies are gonna be so cute."

Steve didn't really know much about the people who lived at Maple Grove yet, but he was learning. "I assume it was another dog," he said, hopeful he was right. He knew Rhy'Din was a strange place, but biology was still biology.

"Yeah, it was Loki," Fliss told him, utterly oblivious to the fact that this name was going to confuse her uncle a fair amount. "Huge Malamute at Orchard House. Dad insisted on not getting her spayed, and now we're gonna have weirdos in the house."

"Loki?" Steve echoed, eyes widening. For a moment, he almost thought she meant Thor's brother - not the Thor that was a dog, either. "A dog named Loki?" he asked, as if needing someone to confirm that. "Doesn't anyone give their dogs normal names anymore?" he asked, thoroughly confused.

"Normal names?" She tilted her head to look up at him in confusion. "What's a normal name for a dog?"

As Fliss waited for Steve's answer, Liv moved to call up the stairs. "Kids! Wash your hands and come down, it's dinner time!"

"Names like Fido and uh, I don't know ... Snoopy," Steve replied, once again showing his age. It was going to get really confusing if the real Thor or Loki showed up on Rhy'Din someday.

"You should talk," Johnny broke in, lips curled upwards in amusement. "Your dog is named Thor. What's the real Thor gonna think of that?"

"As I recall, the real Thor declared our Thor to be a warrior worthy of the name, and then had to fight him for access to the hammer," Lucy offered. "Would someone get the dragon off my stomach, please?"

Johnny laughed, thinking how ridiculous everything Lucy just said would have sounded to anyone who didn't know better. "He means well," he said as he moved the dragon off her stomach. "He's just curious."

"Well, I will say one thing for Rhy'Din. It sure isn't boring," Steve said with a chuckle as he moved over to touch a kiss to Lucy's cheek.

"He can watch the bump grow over the next few months, then," Lucy assured Johnny, still not quite there with being able to speak to Lir himself. "I still maintain it is the weirdest thing to be snuggled by a dragon." She smiled up at Steve, surprised to find that he seemed a little more himself after speaking to Fliss, and kissed him in return, using him to stand herself up.

"Don't listen to her, Lir, she's just jealous of your snuggles with everyone else," Liv told the little dragon, reaching down to scratch his chin as he keened happily and proceeded to curl up next to Bella. The Beauceron, at least, didn't mind him nuzzling her pregnant belly.

Whatever the crisis had been, it seemed to have passed, at least for now, with both families gathering together in the Rogers' dining room to share dinner, conversation, and laughter. Despite his worries and his uncertainties about the future, it made Steve smile to have them all together and to be part of a real family when he'd been alone for so long.

It was a crowded table, certainly, but it was the kind of crowd no one minded being a part of. Four adults, a teenager, four children, one toddler, and one baby could certainly put a dent in the biggest meal set in front of them, but they did it with warmth and enthusiasm, and no small amount of chatter between them, from the smallest to the tallest. Whether the Rogers' move to Rhy'Din was temporary or permanent, one thing was absolutely certain ... there would always be a place for them here.
[size=9:184a99ac32][color=darkblue:184a99ac32][i:184a99ac32][b:184a99ac32]I want you to be everything that's you, deep at the center of your being.[/b:184a99ac32][/i:184a99ac32][/color:184a99ac32][/size:184a99ac32]