Liv's sweet smile didn't change one iota. "Have I ever not been serious when it comes to this?" she asked innocently.
"But I thought ..." He trailed off, once again at a loss for words. Though he and Liv hadn't really discussed it lately, he'd assumed they were done having children, if only for her sake.
"A conversation for another time, maybe," she suggested, leaning over to kiss his lips tenderly. "I didn't think it would break you quite that hard."
"I didn't think you wanted anymore," he told her, his voice quiet for her ears only, as he kissed her back. "You're not just the best P.A. ever; you're the best wife and mom ever," he told her with a grin.
"You never asked," she whispered, nuzzling close for a long moment. "I love our chaotic house, and now Sebastian is on board with my methods, my job is nowhere near as stressful as it was. When we've had a year of no diapers, we can revisit the idea."
"Okay," Johnny replied, resting his forehead against hers, savoring the quiet of the moment. At least, until Alex came running over to tug at his sleeve. "Papa, Papa, come play ball with us," he said, his face flushed from exertion.
"I bet Uncle Tony is good at ball, too," Liv told their son with a faintly cheeky cast to her smile, knowing perfectly well that Tony was the last person most would expect to play soccer with children.
To her surprise, though, Tony chuckled, handing Morgan over to Pepper. "Sounds like a challenge," he declared. "C'mon, fireball, let's show them how it's done."
"Have at it, Tinman," Johnny said, rising to the challenge, though it didn't seem like Tony was suggesting any sort of competition between the two men. Johnny shucked his suit jacket and tie and tossed them onto the blanket.
Tony joined him in that, both men heading over to where the older of the small children were playing kick about with a ball. Liv chuckled to herself, shaking a hand through her hair. "One of them will accuse the other of cheating in less than ten minutes."
A collective cheer went up from the kids as Johnny and Tony joined in the play.
"I'm not playing referee," Steve pointed out, as he bounced his youngest on his knee. He hadn't been asked to join, and that was perfectly fine with him.
"It looks like Nat might have been roped into that," Lucy mused, leaning her chin on his shoulder. "Oh, no, wait ... she's playing for the other team. This could get a little aggressive."
"Do you think I should even things out?" he asked, though he looked perfectly content to remain where he was. Joining the game, he thought, might give whatever team he joined an unfair advantage.
"Do you want to?" his wife asked with a faint chuckle, nuzzling her cheek to his. "You can join in the inevitable grudge match later."
Steve shrugged, smiling in amusement as he looked to Lucy. "Not really. But as soon as it gets ugly, I'll probably have to step in to end it," he said, as if he was the father figure of the group.
"You could leave it to Colin," she suggested impishly. "He doesn't get to defend his wife very often." She grinned, knowing that Colin actually liked that about Nat.
"Maybe," Steve conceded with another shrug. Maybe they'd listen to Colin better than they listened to him. Thankfully, it was just a game.
"It's keeping Johnny's mind off the bride and groom making their escape, anyway," Lucy commented, glancing across the busy lawn to where Lucas and Fliss were posing for photographs with the cake.
"What's he worried about? They're only going on their honeymoon. They'll be back," Steve pointed out, unsure what Johnny was upset about. Then again, Steve didn't have to worry about one of his daughters getting married for a long time.
"It's something most dads go through," Lucy mused. "Even though nothing is really changing, your daughter getting married is still her promising to put another man first in her heart for the rest of her life. It's a kind of goodbye to what was."
"But she's always gonna be his daughter," Steve argued, unsure how he'd feel about it were Fliss his daughter. "Do moms feel the same way?" he asked, curiously, though he wasn't sure if Lucy would know either.
"I don't know," she said thoughtfully. "Maybe you should ask Liv, or Jessica. They're the important mothers here today, after all. Although I'm not sure Liv would give you a straight answer if there's any chance Johnny might overhear you."
"Well, how would you feel if it was Lianne getting married?" he asked hypothetically. Obviously, that wasn't going to happen for many years, as she was only just going on eleven years old.
"I don't know," Lucy admitted, still giving it thought even as she spoke. "Happy for her, but maybe a little sad as well. She wouldn't be just our little girl anymore."
"She's not gonna be our little girl forever," Steve said, frowning a little in thought. Of course, the same could be said for all their children - no one remained a child forever.
"Part of me is always going to think of our children as our little boys and girls," she admitted, resting her brow against his for a long moment. "I can sympathize with Johnny, but I think he's taking it hard because he's only had Fliss for, what, seven years?"
"Something like that, yeah," Steve agreed. "He'll be okay when he realizes nothing's changed. She's always gonna be his daughter. Nothing can change that."
"Maybe he's getting caught up on the symbolism of it too much," she suggested quietly. "Or remembering how he and Sue kind of pulled apart after she married Reed."
"Yeah, but Johnny moved to Rhy'Din, and Sue stayed there," Steve pointed out, though Sue had married Reed long before Johnny had left New York.
"You can't logic away an emotional response to something, love," she said gently. "That's what this is - an emotional response. He'll think it through on his own time, but for now, he's going to struggle a bit."
"I guess," Steve admitted. There was nothing he could do to help Johnny anyway. This was something he was going to have to work through on his own.
"Besides, once he works it out for himself, he can help us in a decade or so," Lucy added, her voice more robust now as she chuckled once again.
"I don't think that's something we have to worry about right now. Anyway, a wedding is a happy thing. I don't see Fliss and Lucas going anywhere, do you?" Steve said.
"Oh god, no," she laughed in agreement. "Their roots are so firmly down, they might actually need to be hacked out of the ground to get them to move away from the Grove, much less away from Rhy'Din."
"There's plenty of room at the Grove," Steve said, though there were more families than ever before living on the grounds. "And if they need a bigger place, I'm sure that can be arranged." No one was complaining about feeling crowded; in fact, everyone seemed to enjoy living in their little corner of Rhy'Din.
"Are you wishing grandchildren on Johnny Storm before he's thirty now?" she asked Steve laughingly. "Because that will be hilarious when it happens. He'll be torn between horror and delight."
"It will be fun calling him Grandpa though," Steve said, chuckling at the thought. He was always the one being called "Old Man", though physically he was no older than Johnny.
A yell from the soccer game caught Lucy's attention just in time to see Natasha take Tony down with a flying tackle, purely so Martin could sprint past him easily with the ball at his feet. She snorted with laughter. "I thought they were playing soccer, not rugby?"
"That's what I thought, too," Steve said, turning his attention to what was going on with the ball game. It wasn't so much about who won or lost though, as it was just having fun.
There was certainly enough laughter over there to prove that fun was being had. Fun enough, in fact, to distract from the disappearance of the bride and groom, who had managed to abscond without fanfare, disappearing to their own home to change before setting off for their honeymoon.
There was laughter, too, as the newlywed couple slipped away, amused at how easily they'd been able to do it, without even being missed, despite the fact that it was their day. The cottage they shared wasn't far, and they could still hear the voices and the laughter even from there.
"Looks like we managed the first part of Operation: Escape The Family," Fliss said with a giggle, carefully hanging her wedding top and skirt up in the closet.
"Yeah, but don't you want to say goodbye before we go?" Lucas asked, as he changed out of his tuxedo and into a t-shirt and shorts. Shirts were always a problem and had to be specially made to fit around his wings, which he kept neatly folded on his back, unless he was flying.