Author Topic: Family Time  (Read 596 times)

Johnny Storm

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Family Time
« on: June 21, 2019, 08:05:21 PM »
It was evening at Willow Manor, which had in recent years become the Storm household there at Maple Grove. Evening usually meant feeding and bathing and tucking in the little ones, while the older Storm children were allowed some play time, so long as they were finished with their homework.

Tonight, playtime consisted of one of their Dad's favorite past-times - watching cartoons. Not just any cartoons, but Johnny's favorite and one he had only just recently discovered - an old 1990's animated series that featured his very own Fantastic Four. How a 1990's cartoon could feature stories about Johnny and his team when he'd only been born in 1987 wasn't something he wanted to think too hard about, but whenever something like that made his head hurt, he just attributed it to the Nexus and left it at that. Of course, most of the adventures featured in the cartoon hadn't actually happened, but that didn't bother him either. He knew cartoons and comics were mostly for entertainment purposes and weren't very accurate - not even those about Captain America.

Sitting on the floor, with Alex on one side and Maria on the other, Johnny was laughing uproariously at the hilariously ridiculous depiction of himself and his teammates on the screen.

Bella lolled on the floor with them, her tail wagging happily at the sound of the laughter. Liv was leaning in the doorway - she had just come from putting Bess down to sleep, the twins already tucked up in the nursery, and found herself smiling at the sight of her husband and middle children cackling away together at the ridiculous antics of the cartoon.

"What did I miss?" she asked, slipping further into the room.

"You missed cartoon Papa playing tricks on Uncle Ben," Alex informed his mother with a grin. "Did you really do that, Papa?" he asked his father with trusting eyes.

Johnny shrugged. "I was kind of rebellious as a teenager, but I never meant any harm."

"It's the same when you play tricks on Fliss," Liv told her son fondly, folding down onto the couch.

Maria raised her hands, waiting for their eyes to turn to her before she signed her comment. "Why is Uncle Reed so grumpy?"

Johnny chuckled at Maria's question, the corners of his eyes crinkling in amusement. "Because he's too smart for his own good and has no sense of humor," he told her, hugging her close.

"What's reb-yelly-us mean?" Alex asked, struggling a little with the word, mostly because of his Russian accent.

"Rebellious can mean a few things, darling, but in this case, it means that Papa didn't like being told what to do, and would do things he wasn't supposed to do just because he could," Liv explained, sweeping Alex's blonde hair out of his eyes. "You need a haircut."

Alex frowned up at his mother, a little confused, not about the need for a haircut but about his father's rebelliousness. "But if we do something we aren't supposed to, we get grounded. Didn't anybody ground you, Papa?" he asked.

Johnny smiled faintly and shrugged again, his fondness for his children evident in his expression. "I didn't have any parents to ground me, and I was too angry at the world to listen to my sister."

"You see, Alex," Liv murmured, "sometimes, when life throws things at you that are hard or hurt, you get angry, and you don't know how to express it, so you do stupid things just so people will spend a little time on you. But you and your sisters don't need to do that - you have your Papa and me, and your aunts and uncles, and Fliss, and all you need to do is ask one of us for a little time. That's why you get grounded when you do things you're not supposed to do, because there is always a better way to get the attention you want."

"I was angry," Alex admitted frowning. It wasn't hard to imagine why the boy had been angry, considering how Hydra had tried to hurt him and Maria, Martin, and Lianne before they were rescued. "But I'm not angry anymore," he added quietly.

"You're allowed to be angry, Alex," Johnny said. "But you're not alone. You're never gonna be alone. And we're never gonna let anyone hurt any of you again. Ever," he assured both children.

"Everyone gets angry," Liv agreed. "Everyone gets sad. Everyone gets frustrated and doesn't know how to tell anyone about it. And there's nothing wrong with that. But letting those feelings stay inside you can make it much worse."

Maria waved a hand again. "That's why we talk about stuff, isn't it?" she asked in her silent way. "And why you went and yelled at the teacher when she told me off for waving my hands around."

Johnny exchanged a smile with Liv, proud of his wife for telling the teacher off in support of their daughter. "Not everyone understands when someone is different," Johnny explained. "And there's nothing wrong with being different. It would be a pretty boring world if we were all the same, wouldn't it?"

To be fair, the teacher had had it coming to her; Maria hadn't been the only child in the class she had been disadvantaging deliberately. Liv laughed as Johnny spoke. "Oh, absolutely," she agreed teasingly. "Look how boring Aunt Lucy and I are together!"

"That's not what I mean!" Johnny said, chuckling. "You and Lucy look the same, but you're as different as night and day!"

Alex got up from the floor and dropped onto the couch to curl up beside his mother. "That teacher was mean to all the kids. She was even grumpier than Uncle Reed!"

Johnny laughed again. "Uncle Reed isn't that bad. He's just too serious sometimes."

"Why can't we have a better teacher?" Maria asked, her face radiating curiosity as she took advantage of Alex moving to climb into Johnny's lap.

Liv chuckled softly, wrapping her arm around Alex as he cuddled into her side.

"Uh ..." For once in his life, Johnny was speechless. Picking Maria up in his arms, he joined Liv on the couch, looking to her for an answer. "Why can't they have a better teacher?"

"Well, in September, you will have better teachers," Liv told them. "Uncle Steve is going to make a special school just for children like you, with special talents. And I think Zach and maybe Dani and maybe even Auntie Nat will be teaching there with him."

"Oh, he finally decided?" Johnny asked, grinning. "It's about time! Uncle Steve will be an awesome teacher!" he assured his children, though they probably already figured that. He exhaled a sigh. "I wish I could help, but I've got my hands full at the fire station." And firefighting was far more the Torch's forte than was being a schoolteacher.

Johnny Storm

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« Reply #1 on: June 21, 2019, 08:05:36 PM »
"Well, they might need you to come in every now and then to help teaching control," Liv pointed out to her husband fondly. "You are very good at that. Isn't he?" she asked the children.

Maria beamed, nodding enthusiastically, though she hadn't needed Johnny's lessons in controlling her powers. Alex and his telekinesis, however, was a different kettle of fish.

Johnny laughed. "You should've seen me when I first got my flame! Reed used to warn me all the time not to go Supernova. It took a lot of practice to learn how to control it, especially in the beginning," he told them.

"Did you make mistakes in the beginning?" Alex asked his father, curiously.

Johnny nodded, his smile fading. "Yeah. I hurt someone once because I wasn't being careful. I wish I could change it, but what's done is done. That's why it's so important you learn control," he explained.

"And Papa's very good at teaching control, isn't he?" Liv said encouragingly. "He taught Fliss, and now he's teaching you. And maybe one day he'll have to teach you, little miss, how to control your cuteness before it gets out of control entirely!"

Maria's mouth opened as she rocked in Johnny's arms, letting loose her huffing, silent belly laugh in answer to her mother's tease.

"She is pretty cute. I think that's her superpower. What do you think, Alex?" Johnny asked, giving Maria's tummy a light tickle, just because he could and because he loved making her laugh, even if it was silent laughter.

Alex wrinkled his  nose, not because he was jealous or displeased but because the question was so ridiculous. "That's not a superpower!" Alex replied, indignantly.

"Isn't it?" Liv asked laughingly, hugging him close to kiss his hair. "I suppose she'll just have to make do with being able to calm down a whole room of people at once then, won't she?"

"A whole room?" Alex echoed, eyes widening. If his sister could do that, why couldn't she have calmed down that mean teacher of theirs?

"Someday maybe," Johnny pointed out, reaching over to tousle Alex's hair. "By the way, don't think we didn't notice the floating cookie trick last night," he added with a smirk.

Maria grinned at her brother cheerfully, knowing perfectly well that they had missed the first cookie, which had woken her up by prodding her cheek in an invisible hand.

Liv grinned at her son. "It was a marvel of the modern age," she said effusively. "Papa was very tempted to eat it out of the air when it floated past him on the stairs."

"Oh," Alex said, flushing with embarrassment. He hadn't realized his parents were onto him. "But it was only two cookies! One for me and one for Maria." Not even one for Bess, mostly because she'd already been asleep.

"You could have just asked," Johnny pointed out, trying not to smirk and failing miserably.

"If it helps, Donnan snitched as well," Liv told Alex fondly. Their house brownie had a tattle-tale streak that was wreaking havoc with the children's ability to keep anything a secret since Fliss and the dragon egg incident.

Alex rolled his eyes. "Tattle-tale," he murmured under his breath. Nobody liked a tattle-tale, especially when one was the person who was being tattled on. How were they supposed to get away with anything when the brownie was always telling on them?

Johnny chuckled. If the worst their children did was sneak a few cookies now and then, who was he to complain? "You could have floated the whole cookie jar upstairs and you only took two. That's control, Alex!" he pointed out.

"Think about it this way, darling," Liv suggested. "If we were mad about it, we would have stopped you then and there. But so long as it doesn't happen very often, I see no problem with the occasional floating cookie after bed."

"It's not very good for your teeth though!" Johnny added.

"Sorry, Mama. Sorry, Papa," Alex said, contritely. "Maria said she was hungry," he said, not exactly blaming his sister, so much as being a little too honest.

"Oh, really?" Liv looked over at Maria, who had guilt written all over her little face. "And after you promised so faithfully that you were too full to eat your peas at dinner, too."

Maria's face fell, her hands rising to wriggle her fingers. "I don't like peas. I'm sorry."

Johnny chuckled again, hugging Maria close. "It's okay. I don't like peas either. How do you feel about carrots?" he asked, offering a healthier alternative to peas than cookies.

She wrinkled her nose, shaking her head. "Sweetheart, if you don't like something, you just have to tell us," Liv said gently. "Don't tell lies about it, even little ones to make us feel better, okay?" She glanced down at Alex. "Same goes for you too, muscle man."

"She likes the little green trees," Alex was quick to point out, forgetting that particular vegetable was known as broccoli.

"Okay, good! That's a start," Johnny said. "Sweetie, why didn't you just tell us you didn't like peas?" he asked Maria gently. Even after a couple of years, it seemed they were still learning things about each other.

Maria's eyes went to Alex, wide with sudden worry. If Mama would go to the school and shout at a teacher over something as small as Maria being told off for using her hands, then what would Papa do about the dinner ladies at the same school forcing everyone to eat everything on their plates at lunch time?

Alex frowned at his sister, knowing his parents needed an answer and also knowing she was too frightened to give them one.

Johnny Storm

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« Reply #2 on: June 21, 2019, 08:05:51 PM »
"Because she's afraid you'll get mad," he volunteered, though he had tried to convince her otherwise. If anything, their parents might be a little disappointed, but he didn't think they'd ever force them to do anything unpleasant. "Papa, is not eating your peas being reb-yelly-us? The ladies at school make us eat all our peas, or else we have to wash the tables."

Liv was already frowning before Alex offered the reason for Maria's fear. Anger flared inside her, but she was very good these days at suppressing that feeling within an instant. Living with a telepath and an empath taught you astonishing control over your own emotions. She drew in a deep breath, letting it out slowly.

"Then it really is just as well that you won't be going to that school next year," she said carefully. "I'll talk to the school, though. I don't ever want either of you to be afraid to tell us anything."

"They what?!" Johnny wasn't quite as good as controlling his emotions as Liv, as evidenced by the expression on his face and the tone in his voice, but he wasn't angry at his children - only at what his children had had to endure because of a few ignorant people. "That's it. You're not going back there. Ever. It's almost summer break anyway. We'll home school you, if we have to. I'm not subjecting my children to that kind of treatment from anyone!"

For a moment, Liv thought about arguing with Johnny on that one, but then had a change of heart. "You know what? You're right," she agreed. "It's only two months, and we homeschooled Fliss for longer. What about your friends? Would any of them like to learn from home for a little while with you?" This, she addressed to the children, but Johnny knew his wife well enough to guess what she had in mind.

"Damn straight we did," Johnny said, only just realizing he shouldn't be cussing in front of the kids. "Oh, sorry." He drew a deep breath in an attempt to calm down before he went to flame right there on the couch.

"We don't have to go to school anymore?" Alex asked, eyes widening in shock.

"Darling, school is supposed to be a safe place where you learn what you need to know as you get older," Liv explained to him as gently as she could manage. "You should never be afraid at school, and the people who look after you there should never make you afraid to talk to your parents about anything." She drew in a deep breath. "We'll keep you home for a week, and I'll talk to the principal, and to the other parents, and if the school doesn't react the way that they should, you won't have to go back. Okay?"

Maria was staring at both her parents, wide-eyed. "Just because of peas?"

"No, not because of peas. Because school should be a safe place, not a place where you have to worry what will happen if you don't do as you're told. It's not the same thing as not cleaning your room or not doing your homework. And no one has the right to punish you or make you afraid, especially not for something as stupid as not eating your peas," Johnny said, obviously agitated.

"What about LiLi and Martin?" Maria asked, little fingers flashing. She was starting to wriggle, Johnny's agitation making the little girl restless as she frowned, knowing this wasn't her upset but unable to stop herself from feeling it.

"LiLi and Martin, too," Johnny said, not yet realizing how his agitation was affecting their young daughter.

"Papa," Alex said, leaning over to lay a hand against his father's arm. "Try not to be too angry. Nothing bad happened. We are okay," the boy urged, noticing the way his father's agitation was affecting Maria.

As Alex drew her attention to Maria's agitation, Liv glanced across the room.

"Bella," she called to their dog, who was never anything but happy and loving.

Bella heaved herself up onto her feet, tail wagging, and contentedly dumped the weight of her entire head into Maria's lap, looking up at the little girl with big eyes. Maria giggled, laying her hands on Bella's head, slowly calming down herself as Bella's more primal emotional state overwhelmed Johnny's in her mind.

Johnny frowned, sometimes forgetting how his own moods affected their empathic daughter. "I'm sorry, Mo. It just makes me angry to think anyone might hurt you," he told her, leaning close to kiss the top of her head and give Bella a rub behind her ears. "We want you both to know that you can tell us anything, okay?" he asked, looking from one child to the other.

Maria nodded solemnly, leaning into Johnny, though her hands stayed firm on Bella's fur. Liv smiled regretfully, wishing she'd known before this the worst of the experiences they were having at school.

"Most of the people at school are nice," Alex was quick to point out, though there were apparently those who were not as nice. "Is Uncle Steve really going to start a school at Maple Grove?" he asked, hopefully. Maple Grove was home; Maple Grove was their safe place, and though both children seemed to be have settled in well in Rhy'Din, there was no denying they had endured more than any child should have to endure.

"Tell you what ... Why don't we drop by in the morning and ask him?" Johnny suggested.

"You know, I think that is very good idea," Liv agreed. She was going to need to talk to Lucy and Steve about what some of the staff at that school were up to, and she knew if she and Lucy went to talk to the principal, they could make a very intimidating pair.

Not as intimidating as a man whose temper made him catch fire, but maybe it was better if Johnny left that to Liv and Lucy. "In the meantime, you're taking at least the day off," Johnny told his children. "But that doesn't mean you should shirk on your lessons," he was quick to add.

Maria raised her hand. "Can Zach come and do the magic stuff with us?" she asked hopefully.

Liv's smile deepened as she met Johnny's eyes. "We can ask him."

Johnny nodded, smiling as he met Liv's gaze before turning back to Maria. "I don't see why not, but we'll ask him first. Don't ever be afraid to tell us about anything that's bothering you, okay?" he asked her, gently.

Blinking, Maria nodded again, cuddling close into Johnny's chest. It said a lot for how much she trusted her parents, and how well she understood their emotions, that she didn't feel the need to apologize again.

Johnny Storm

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« Reply #3 on: June 21, 2019, 08:14:31 PM »
"Same goes for you," Liv told Alex, gently tipping his chin up so he met her eyes. "We would much rather know that something is bothering you than have you upset and worried by it all alone."

There was no need to apologize. He just wanted to make sure the children trusted them and would never be afraid to come to them about anything that was bothering them. Johnny wrapped his arms around his daughter and kissed the top of her head once again.  

"Da, Mama," Alex replied obediently and soberly as he met her gaze. "Promise."

"We love you both, very much, and we always will," Johnny added, thinking maybe they needed to hear it again.

Hugging Alex close for a moment, Liv then made an effort to bring the evening back to some modicum of the silliness it had welcomed before this conversation began. "And since there's no school tomorrow, I think we can watch more cartoons," she said. "Or even a movie. What do you think?"

Alex exchanged glances with Maria before nodding his head, something unspoken seemingly passing between the siblings. "Can we make popcorn, too?" he asked his parents hopefully.

Liv chuckled. "All right," she conceded. "But if Bessie wakes up, you have to share it with her, okay?" She rose from the couch, heading for the kitchen with Bella and Beast bouncing hopefully around her legs.

Popcorn was kind of Johnny's specialty. No need for a stove when he was around, but Liv was already on her way to the kitchen and he and the kids were comfy on the couch. "So, what do we want to watch?" he asked them both. "Frozen or Spiderman? Or something else?"

"Princess Bride," was Maria's instant request. She had recently surfaced from the wonderful world of Disney, and they had been having fun introducing her to films that everyone could enjoy together.

"Oh! That's a good one!" Johnny said. "Is that okay with you, Alex?"

Alex nodded enthusiastically. It was a treat to stay up late with his parents, and it didn't matter much to him what movie they watched. Besides, he was thinking Maria needed this more than he did.

Liv wasn't gone long, just long enough to grab the popcorn packet and a bowl to drop the snack into once Johnny had done his party trick for the children's amusement. She thumped down onto the couch with a grin. "Did we manage to agree on a movie already?"

"The princess requested Princess Bride," Johnny informed her, taking charge of the popcorn-popping. He didn't even need a flame; all he had to do was get his temperature high enough to make the popcorn pop in the bag, like magic, but he didn't want to do it from the couch or he might accidentally burn someone.

"Okay, ready? It's popping time!" he declared with a grin, holding the bag in the palm of one hand and pushing his temperature up until the kernels inside the bag started to make that familiar popping sound.

Maria beamed, bouncing in her seat as the popcorn did its thing in Johnny's hand, clapping her hands excitedly. Chuckling, Liv fished around for the remote to locate the appropriate movie on the television, pausing it before it started to make sure everyone was ready for it.

Alex laughed at his father's antics, as well as at his sister's excitement. It was good to be part of a family, especially this family, where they knew they were loved, whether they were adopted or not. For at least the next few hours, there would be no more talk of peas or school or bad people; there would only be popcorn and cuddles and laughter.

And the smiles were all the reassurance Johnny and Liv needed to be sure that, no matter how out of their depth they felt at times, they were pretty good at this parenting thing.

((Please note that the school mentioned in the scene above is not a school run by any PC'd characters. It's just a random school in Rhy'Din, nothing specific.))