Author Topic: Home  (Read 323 times)

Olivia Storm

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« on: June 23, 2014, 09:59:14 AM »
Two weeks had passed both in a blur and interminably slowly, but in those two weeks, a vast amount had been done. Johnny and Liv had moved house and been approved as foster parents; they had attended three parenting classes, as well as several one-to-one sessions with Agnes Cunningham, the woman who had instigated this fast-track arrangement in the first place. Fliss, too, had been through a few training sessions, but where her progress had been most noted was with Johnny. Her control over accidental flames was very nearly totally complete all the time now, more than enough to make it safe for her to go home with them. And that was what was happening today.

Tucked in the front passenger seat of Liv's car - borrowed by Johnny especially for this little trip - she was practically fizzing with excitement, delighted to be getting out of the special unit and to have a bedroom all of her own for the first time in months. "You really live all the way out here?" she was asking as they pulled through the main gates of Maple Grove, looking around with interest. "Are you rich?"

Johnny chuckled at the question. There were several ways to answer that. "Yes and no," he replied, as he drove Liv's little car through the main gates and along the winding road that meandered its way through the picturesque grounds of Maple Grove, past gardens and trees and home after home, each one possessing a charm all its own. "Back home in New York, I used to be pretty well off, but here..." He shrugged. "The Grangers have kind of adopted us, but I wouldn't say we're rich."

"Oh, so you're not well off now?" Fliss looked confused. "Dude, you're all kinds of weird sometimes, you know that?" She giggled quietly, her attention caught once again by the houses they passed by - some big, some small, all charming in their way. "If you're not well off, what makes you think you can afford me? I kinda have this destructive streak, you might have noticed."

"It's complicated," he replied, unsure just how to explain. "Back home, I'm something of a celebrity. Here, I'm just Johnny Storm. It's Liv's overly generous boss who's well off. I swear, the Grangers have more money than they know what to do with, so we live here for free. It's one of the perks of working for Jonathan Granger, she says. Believe me, we were both weirded out by it, at first, but they're really nice people, and like I said, they've sort of adopted us."

"So ... I'm a kind of honorary Granger now, too? I'm a sort of Storm and a sort of Granger?" Though the arrangement was, for the time being, considered only temporary, Fliss had grown attached to Johnny and his wife over the course of their many visits to see her. She knew it wasn't going to be all roses and honey, but she was genuinely looking forward to living with them. Especially when she'd found out that Liv was going to home school her until the term began again in September. "Hey, does Bella sleep on beds? Can she sleep on mine if she wants? Do I get free access to the kitchen if I want a snack?"

He laughed, amused by all her questions. She was a lot like him at that age, he thought, though she wasn't related by blood, but why should that matter? He was growing fonder of her by the day, and so were Liv and Bella. "Questions, questions. What are you worried about, Fliss? Think we're going to kick you out for raiding the fridge in the middle of the night?"

"Aw, c'mon," she whined laughingly. "I just spent a coupla years in places where you get scolded for asking for a drink at the wrong time of day. Can you blame me for wanting to get all my facts straight?"

"You want a list of rules?" he asked, glancing over at her a moment before turning back to the winding road ahead of them. They were nearly there, and he couldn't help feeling as excited as she was to see what her reaction would be to their new home.

"Well ... isn't that what you're supposed to do?" Fliss asked, as uncertain about all this as he seemed to be. "Give me a list of stuff I'm not allowed to and hope like hell I'll do as I'm told?" Her hands clenched in the top of her bag for a moment. "I mean, I figure Liv's gonna be kinda strict. She always looks so perfect, you know? Not a hair out of place. I figure she's gonna have some rules."

Johnny laughed again at the girl's impression of his wife. "Liv, strict? Hardly. Livvie's a softie, but don't tell her I said that!" he told her with an amused smirk that softened into a warm smile. "We just want you to be happy here, Fliss. Safe and happy. Any rules we insist on will be for that purpose. To keep you safe. Understand? This isn't a prison. It's a home."

Fliss giggled at his amusement, part of her lighting up at the fact that she'd made him laugh and not angry with her for her description of his wife. She liked Liv, she just wasn't sure how living with the woman was going to go. "Yeah, I get it," she assured Johnny. "I'm kinda nervous, you know? I don't wanna screw up and make you have to send me back."

Johnny frowned a little at her continued worry that they were going to find some reason to reject her and send her away. "We're not gonna send you back, Fliss. This isn't a trial run. It's the real thing." Coming up on their left was the big house itself - Maple Grove Manor - the primary residence on the grounds and where Old Man Granger resided, along with Jon and Vicki and their children. "That's the manor," Johnny pointed out, with a nod of his head, slowing a little so she could get a good look. "Liv's boss lives there."

"Really?" His distraction technique was a winner - Fliss nearly permanently squashed her nose flat against the window, ogling the big house as they drove by. "Have you been in there? Do they have servants? Is Mr Granger really as scary as everyone says he is? And the kids, are they really cute, or is that just what the magazines say?"

Johnny chuckled again at all the questions. Had he ever been that curious - or that young? But then he was only in his mid-twenties, just a little over ten years older than her, more like a big brother than a foster father really. "Yes, yes, no, and yes," he answered her questions in order of succession.

"Will I ever go there, do you think?" she asked, a little longingly. It wasn't so much that she wanted to visit Jonathan Granger's home, as wanting to visit a house that had stood at the center of a family for more than four hundred years. A family that still lived there, and seemed to be intending to live there for a long time yet. Fliss lacked that kind of continuity in her life, and felt it deeply. "I kinda wanna meet Mr Granger sometime. If he's not so scary. I never had a grandpa."
[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: Home
« Reply #1 on: June 23, 2014, 09:59:58 AM »
"Trust me, you will. He's as anxious to meet you as you are to meet him. Old Man Granger has a reputation for being a little..." Johnny paused to search his mind for the right word. "Crusty, at times, but underneath it all, he's an old softie. He values his family above all things, and he loves having them around. He might seem a little crotchety at first, but he likes to test people. To see how much they'll put up with. He enjoys a good verbal sparring, so don't be afraid to show him you've got gumption. He appreciates that about people." He brought the car to a brief halt while he explained, before moving on. "Next stop, home," he told her with a cheery smile.

"So ... talk back, but don't set him on fire?" the teenager giggled, sounding more like a child her own age for once than the slightly downcast adult she sometimes seemed to be. "He sounds cool. I don't really know any old people. I mean, apart from you." She snickered, flashing Johnny a definitely cheeky grin.

"No, not talk back," Johnny replied. "Debate with him, argue with him even, but never disrespect him." His brows shot up at her teasing of him, feigning insult. "Old?" he chuckled. "I'm just barely over a quarter century old," he said, with a cheeky grin of his own. Put that way, he did sound old.

"Old," she insisted in a sing-song voice. "You're a crumbly, Johnny." Snickering, she turned her eyes back to the road, and let out a squeak of excitement. "Oh! Is that it, is that your house?" She pointed to where a short driveway turned off ahead of them, leading to a house in the Tudor-style of Earth.

"A crumbly what?" he snickered back at her, thinking she and Liv were going to get on just fine and probably get their jollies tag-teaming each other in teasing him. He smiled as she pointed to the house they had only just moved into recently. "Yep," he replied as he steered the car that way. "That's it. Nice, isn't it?"

"It's so pretty," she breathed. Over the past weeks, she'd imagined the house plenty of times - what it would look like, where it was, whether she would feel comfortable there - but it was so far beyond what she had imagined. "And I get my own room in a really pretty house, all to myself?"

He smirked, teasing her with his answer, "Yes and no. I mean, it's sort of up to Bella. She might want to share." He pulled Liv's little car into the driveway that led to the house before pulling to a stop. "Well, we're home."

Fliss had grown so comfortable with Johnny by now that the car had barely stopped before she had opened her door to clamber out, dragging her big bag onto her shoulder in the process. A moment later, the front door opened, and Liv was briefly visible before Bella knocked her off her feet in her eagerness to greet Johnny and her new favorite person, barking like a puppy.

Johnny winced when he saw Bella knock Liv off her feet. They'd have to work on that, but at least the dog was happy to see them, and she was good for Fliss. Our little family of orphans and misfits, Johnny thought to himself, as he climbed out of the car. "Whoa, Bella. Easy, girl!" he told the dog as he went to rescue his wife from the ground, resisting the urge to turn his flame on.

As Fliss dropped her bag and crouched to receive the joyful dog and all her wagging and licking with a loud laugh, Liv stayed giggling on the floor just inside the door, confident that Johnny was on his way to bring her back to a slightly more dignified position. "I could be wrong, but I think Bella might be even more excited about all this than we are," she laughed as he drew her up from the ground, her eyes on the teen and the dog. "How is she?"

Johnny picked his wife up from the ground, winding an arm around her waist to keep her on her feet, though she really didn't need his help. "A little nervous," he replied, lowering his voice so that Fliss wouldn't overhear what he had to say. "I think she's more worried about you than anything else. She keeps talking about us sending her back," he whispered, frowning.

"Me?" Liv's smile vanished, concerned guilt covering her expression. She had been trying hard over the past weeks to help Fliss become more comfortable with her, but now it seemed not to have worked. "Oh."

Johnny's frown deepened when he saw Liv's reaction to that bit of news, and he wished he'd kept it to himself. "Don't worry, Livvie. It'll be fine. She just needs a little time to get to know you." He bent his head to press a kiss against her lips, warm and affectionate, if a little brief, considering they had a teenager to worry about now, though Johnny thought it was good for Fliss to see how affectionate and loving they were with each other. "Trust me. It'll be okay," he reassured his wife with a smile.

She managed a small smile in return, old issues regarding that familiar feeling of never being quite good enough making it a struggle for a long moment before she took control of herself. Then that smile relaxed and deepened, and she squeezed Johnny gently about the waist. "Of course I trust you," she promised, but made no move to call Bella or Fliss into the house as she might have done, afraid to say anything in case it was the wrong thing to say to the teen.

"You're her mother now, Liv. Not her sister, not her friend." Okay, maybe that was pushing it a bit. They were only Fliss' foster parents for now, both of them still in their twenties, fostering a teenager who wasn't all that much younger than they were, but somehow Johnny seemed to think that they needed each other. "She wants you to like her in the worst way, Livvie. I don't think anyone's ever really bothered to get to know her before."

"I'm not her mother," Liv objected softly, careful to keep her voice down below the range of the teenager's hearing. "I'll have to earn that, if it ever comes." But you're the one she really needs. She kept that to herself, knowing he would argue with her on that point, and smiled once again. "You should show her where her room is," she suggested. "I'll finish making lunch."

If he knew she felt that way, he would argue with her and point out Fliss needed a mother - a female role model, somehow she could relate to and who could teach her all the things she needed to know before she became a young woman - not someone who was more like a big brother than anything else. Maybe that's all he'd ever be, but he didn't want to think about that now. "Why me?" he asked, wondering what it was that Liv was afraid of.
[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: Home
« Reply #2 on: June 23, 2014, 10:00:59 AM »
Liv's answer was a little bit heartbreaking as she stepped away. "She's happiest with you." She smiled once again, and slipped back into the house, not wanting to show upset eyes to Fliss when the girl hadn't even taken one step into the house yet. So she didn't see the teen look up from where she was scratching Bella's ears and watch her walk inside, or see the smile fade from Fliss' face.

The teenager looked at Johnny worriedly. "Did I do something wrong?"

"No," Johnny replied with a worried frown. "I think I did." He'd opened his big mouth when he couldn't keep it shut and hurt Liv's feelings. Again. It seemed he was always doing something stupid like that. He wished he could turn back the clock about five minutes earlier and drive up to the house all over again. "It's okay. She's just worried you like me more than her," he said, wondering if he should have said that, too, but if Johnny was anything, it was honest. Maybe too honest. "Come on. I'll show you your room and then we're having lunch."

Fliss came over to him, finding it only too easy to understand what he'd told her. "Hmm ..." She frowned thoughtfully, rubbing at the end of her nose as she did so. "Nope," she declared lightly. "You're gonna do whatever she's doing, and she's gonna show me my room." She beamed, and bounced up to plant a rather rough kiss on Johnny's cheek. "Deal?"

Johnny couldn't help but chuckle at the girl's perky insistence that they switch roles, which was exactly what Johnny had in mind, in the first place. "Deal. I'm game, so long as you can convince her and you don't mind my cooking."

"Who said anything about convincing her?" Fliss grinned, edging past him and into the house. Of course, she had to stop fairly quickly - she had no idea where she was going. "Okay, so ... where is she?"

Johnny arched a curious blond brow, wondering what exactly Fliss was up to. "What?" he asked, before recovering his composure. "Oh, in the kitchen. Straight through and to the left. You can't miss it." Especially since he was following on her heels, along with Bella, whose tail hadn't stopped wagging since Fliss had climbed out of the car.

"Cool." The teenager stumped right on through at his direction, her bag hanging heavy on her shoulder. She disappeared into the kitchen a few steps ahead of him, and goodness knew what she did when she arrived. Given how loud Liv's yelp was, it could have been anything.

Johnny arrived a little too late to witness just what Fliss had done to cause that yelp, but presumed it had more than likely been an unexpected hug or some such thing. He slowed his steps, hands thrust in the pockets of his blue jeans, looking more like a sulking worried teenager than a young man intent on becoming a father. Should he look in on them or shouldn't he? He came to a stop a few feet from the kitchen door, thinking it might be better to give them a moment or two of privacy before he intruded.

"Don't do that!" Liv complained, but it seemed that whatever Fliss had done had perked her up a little. She was laughing, and it was the giggly laugh Johnny knew very well indeed.

"Put down the tomato by order of Fliss and show me my room," was proclaimed by the teen, followed by a moment of incredulous silence and another laugh from Liv.

"Uh ... Johnny?" his wife called to him. "My tomato is being threatened."

"So long as it's not your virtue!" Johnny called back, daring to peek his head past the doorway to see what the two of them were up to and hoping he wasn't intruding.

What he saw was enough to make anyone do a double-take. Liv stood by the counter, imprisoned about the arms by the bear hug Fliss had her captured in, already at a disadvantage in height now the teen was standing up properly. The threatened tomato was still in her hand, but she couldn't put it down, trapped by a grinning little pyromancer with designs on having something her own way.

Fliss turned her grin onto Johnny. "She's still got virtue?" she asked. "What do you guys do at night, play Scrabble?"

"That is none of your business, Miss Smartypants!" Johnny exclaimed, laughing and snatching the tomato from Liv's hand. "Anyway, I suck at Scrabble, but I'm pretty good at Twister!" He grinned at them both, while Bella added her own two cents with a short bark. "Go on, shoo," he waved the pair of them away. "I'll make lunch while you show Fliss her room," he told Liv, not taking no for an answer.

"Ewww, remind me never to play Twister with you," Fliss laughed back at Johnny, delighted that he was completely on board with her plan not to give Liv any choice but to man up and face her fears. "C'mon, Liv ... up the stairs, right?" She started to move without taking her arms from around Liv, which in turn left the supposed adult in the equation at her mercy.

Liv cast slightly alarmed eyes toward Johnny, pleading for help even as she laughed herself. "This is not very dignified, you know," she pointed out. "I thought I was doing lunch!"

Maybe if you'd go on your own, you wouldn't have to be coerced, Johnny thought though he didn't say that, not wanting to hurt Liv's feelings when she was laughing again. Maybe Fliss would be as good for them as they were for her. "I can handle it," he insisted, reaching for a knife to start chopping the tomato, as if to make his point. Okay, so he wasn't that great in the kitchen, but he could manage a few sandwiches without burning the place down.

The girls' progress up the stairs was punctuated by the occasional giggle, and one very loud thump, which was apparently caused by Bella. The Beauceron seemed to have views on whether or not Liv was allowed to remain standing when she was playing, taking any opportunity to knock her mistress onto her backside. This time, however, Fliss sent the hyperactive dog back down the stairs to bother Johnny - her exact words - and finally the sound of female voices faded to a barely there murmur as they reached the bedroom Liv and Johnny had agonized over for a few days.
[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: Home
« Reply #3 on: June 23, 2014, 10:01:44 AM »
Bella, in her own turn, came charging back into the kitchen, and proceeded to beg as enthusiastically as she was able for anything Johnny fancied "accidentally" dropping while he was making lunch.

"Have you been banished to the kitchen, too, Bella?" Johnny inquired of the dog as she plunked herself down on the floor and cast her puppy-dog eyes on him for handouts. He sighed. "You know if Liv catches me, I'm going to be in big doo-doo," he told her, flicking a glance in the direction of the stairs and cocking an ear to see if the girls were still occupied. Not hearing anything but distant voices and some giggling, he "accidentally" dropped a hunk of salami off the table for the eagerly-waiting dog.

Of course, Bella didn't understand a word of what he said to her, but she knew which side her bread was buttered. Johnny never failed to be bowled over by big pleading eyes and a lot of love - which, incidentally, was a description that could be used for Liv, too - and Bella had learned that very quickly. Munching loudly on her salami, she thumped down onto the floor, dropping her head onto his foot affectionately while her tail fondly beat the crap out of the cupboard door next to her.

Johnny chuckled as Bella wolfed down the slice of salami before depositing her head on his foot and happily beating her tail against the cupboard. He wondered, as he often did, if she was only fond of him because of the heat that radiated off him in waves of warmth. He was like an electric blanket without the blanket or the need for electricity, though his heat might prove annoying come the hotter months of the year. Still, Liv had never complained. "What do you think, Bella? Think Fliss will be happy here?" he asked the dog, as if he was actually expecting an answer as he put together three sandwiches, and added a handful of chips to each plate, along with a pickle. "Voila!" he declared. "Sandwiches a la Johnny."

The only answer he got was another dose of puppy-dog eyes, and the beautiful, if awkward, sight of Bella lurching over onto her back in an obvious demand to have her belly scratched. From above, the sound of female voices began to grow louder, warning that the girls were returning.

Johnny's gaze darted toward the stairs a moment, before finding Bella again and unable to resist those puppy-dog eyes of hers, he crouched down to fondly rub the dog's furry belly, now that lunch was already made and he didn't have to worry about doggy germs. "You're such a big baby," he chuckled at the dog.

The dog wuffled happily, her back legs kicking with absolute bliss as her master rubbed her belly just so, turning her head to lick his jeans.

"... sure that you like the colors?" Liv's voice faded into coherence as footsteps started down the stairs. "Because it can all be changed, you know -"

Fliss interrupted, laughing. "Seriously, it's gorgeous," she insisted, thumping down to the bottom of the stairs and into view. She took one look at Johnny and Bella, and laughed once again. "Aw, man, you spoil her way too much, you know."

Johnny lifted his head to find Liv and Fliss returning, and Liv looking far more relaxed and happy than she had been when Fliss had arrived a few minutes earlier. "She deserves to be spoiled," he said, looking back at the dog and rubbing her belly even more exuberantly. "Don't you, Bells?" he asked the dog, expecting an reply.

He got one this time - a happy bark, as the Beaceron wriggled, rubbing her back against the floor while her tummy was scratched. Liv chuckled, shaking her head at her husband affectionately. "You should see them in bed," she told Fliss. "One of these days, I'm sure I'm going to wake up on the floor and find Bella on my pillow."

Fliss snorted with laughter as she stepped aside to let Liv by, moving to follow. Bella lurched upright and lunged toward Liv in a very familiar manner ... through Johnny.

"No, no, no!" Johnny exclaimed as the dog lunged toward his wife, knowing she meant no harm and was only trying to play and show her how much she loved her, but somehow Liv always seemed to end up on the floor. "Bella, heel!" he called, hoping to stop her before she knocked Liv on her rear. He wondered if Liv should just wear a pillow tied to her rear until Bella learned not to bowl her over with enthusiasm.

Well, it sort of worked. Bella's rear end touched the ground before Liv's did, at any rate. Fliss stood in the doorway to the kitchen, ever so slightly bemused by the sight of a grown woman whom she'd thought was a bit of a perfectionist with her appearance trapped between the table and one of the counters, legs splayed in an unladylike manner, laughing like an idiot. Laughing so hard, in fact, that she couldn't actually stand up. Looked like Fliss' preconceptions had been a little wrong. "Do you do that a lot, you little monster?" she asked Bella, patting her leg to draw the dog away from the prone Liv. "You and me, we're gonna have some training sessions, I think."

Johnny came to Liv's rescue, while Fliss tended to Bella. "I think she thinks it's a game," he explained as he leaned over to pick his wife up off the floor, righting her for the second time that day. "I've been trying to teach her commands, but it's slow progress." It didn't help that Johnny didn't know the first thing about training a dog and made a bad habit of spoiling her rotten. "Sorry, Livvie," he apologized, one arm wrapped around his wife's waist.

Whatever had passed between woman and teen in the bedroom seemed to have eased the worries both had about one another. Liv leaned into Johnny, touching a soft kiss to his cheek with a smile. "I'm used to it by now," she admitted cheerfully. "Cosmo does it, too. I think there must be a big sign in doggie language on my arse that tells all of them to put me on it."

"They just like you, that's all. They get excited to see you," Johnny explained, though he wasn't really sure if that was true or not. He pressed a kiss to her cheek, hoping it would help soothe her wounded pride, though it was probably her rear that was sore. "Anyway, I hope you're both hungry because lunch is ready!" he declared with a grin. There were three plates on the counter, each holding a sandwich, potato chips, and a pickle, along with three glasses of iced tea.

"Awesome!" Fliss grinned, bouncing up from the floor. And why shouldn't she be excited? It wasn't a refectory meal at refectory times, and she was going to be eating it with people, in a kitchen that was more homely than the last three homes she'd lived in. Bella jumped up with her. "No, Bells, you sit. Sit."
[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: Home
« Reply #4 on: June 23, 2014, 10:02:38 AM »
Liv stared, open-mouthed, as their delightful dog, who couldn't obey a command to save her life, sat perfectly for the teenager who had only just moved in. "You know, if I was the sort, that could really upset me," she mused, looking up at Johnny. "I think Fliss just earned her allowance for the week."

Johnny laughed, not quite as surprised as Liv to find Bella actually obeying Fliss' commands. "We just spoil her too much," he said, and he was at least partially right. So long as Johnny or Liv didn't assert themselves as pack leader, Bella would continue to run the roost, and since neither had ever owned a dog before, neither really knew how to exert that sort of command over her. "I was thinking she might like to meet Dru," Johnny muttered quietly to his wife as he gathered up the plates to carry them over to the table.

"Really?" Liv looked surprised for a moment; she hadn't considered introducing Fliss to the only other female teen on the estate. There was something odd about Dru - and the way her brother talked about her - but it was worth a go, at least. "Maybe we should introduce them. When Fliss is ready."

"When what's ready for who?" the teen in question piped up, thumping down into a chair at the table, watching the pair of them with interest. "Are you gonna buy me a boyfriend or something?"

Johnny wasn't too worried about there being anything weird about Dru. She was a teenager, like Fliss, and like Fliss, she didn't seem to have a lot of friends, other than the boyfriend, who Johnny had noticed spent more time at Willow Manor than not. "Not yet," Johnny replied with a teasing smirk at Fliss' question as he set the plate down on the table. "We were just wondering if you'd like to meet Jon's sister, Dru."

The girl looked understandably confused for a moment. "I thought his sister was called Helena?" she asked, quick to insert more than enough chips into her mouth to keep her jaw busy for a while.

Liv smothered a grin at the enthusiasm for the simple food as she sat herself down. "Actually, he has two sisters," she explained. "Drusilla is seventeen, and we were wondering if you would like to meet her at some point. No pressure, it's your choice."

Fliss chewed - loudly - for a long moment, swallowing before she answered. "Can I wait a bit? I'm not really, you know, used to people."

Johnny went back for the glasses before finally claiming a seat for himself, Bella flopping down between him and Fliss and hoping for a handout or two. "There's no rush, Fliss. We just thought you might like making a few friends closer to your own age. Dru's a nice girl, if a bit quiet." He thought it might be good for both of them. "Anyway, it's just an idea. No pressure." He chomped on a potato chip or two himself, smirking a little at the enthusiasm with which Fliss was enjoying her lunch. It warmed his heart to see her happy, and he glanced over at Liv with a knowing look in his eyes, thinking they'd done the right thing.

Liv met his gaze with a small smile of her own. Whatever her worries, she had grown good at setting them aside, and for now was just happy to see Fliss relaxed with them.

"Wuw, 'eah, bu -" There was a pause as Fliss swallowed her large mouthful of sandwich and attempted to produce a coherent sentence. "Making friends kinda relies on me not getting stressed out and setting them on fire," she pointed out with a shrug.

Johnny chuckled at Fliss' overly-enthusiastic sandwich-eating. "Slow down, Fliss. There's no rush. There's more where that came from." The chuckle was replaced by a warm, reassuring smile. "You'll get there," he told her. "You've got a lot more control now than you had when we first met. You're doing great!"

"With you guys, sure," Fliss pointed out, putting her sandwich down to make the most of the iced tea in front of her. "It's been a while since I was, you know, with other people my age, though. And you saw what happened when Annie was teasing me - I nearly totaled a whole building!" This was something of an overstatement. It had only been the bedroom she'd been in at the time.

Johnny exchanged glances with Liv again before replying. "I don't think you have to worry about that with Dru." There was something... different about Dru. Even he'd noticed it, but he wasn't quite sure what it was. "She's a sweet girl. You'll see." He bit into his sandwich, letting Liv add whatever she wanted to that.

"What, is she backward or something?"

Liv snorted with laughter at Fliss' charmingly blunt manner of expressing herself, though that was something they were going to have to work on with her. "No, she's not backward," she assured the teen, watching as half the sandwich disappeared into a mouth that looked about three times too small to handle it. "She's quiet, and keeps herself to herself a lot. She doesn't go to college, she works. She's in the theater company at the Shanachie."

Fliss' eyes lit up. "Does that mean I don't have to go back to school, then?"

This was something Johnny and Liv had discussed and had decided it would be better, for now, if Fliss was home-schooled - at least, until she felt ready to go back to school without chancing any incidents, accidental or otherwise. "School's just about done for the summer anyway, but Liv and I were thinking about home-schooling you for a while. Until you're feel you're ready to go back." Or maybe a private tutor if he and Liv couldn't handle it.

"You can't avoid returning to school completely, though," Liv pointed out gently, waiting until Johnny wasn't looking before putting half her sandwich onto Fliss' empty plate with a faint grin. "But, if you're very worried about losing control, we can look into getting you into one of the specialist schools, like Harker's Academy, where they're accustomed to magical incidents and know how to handle them. But that is a conversation we'll be having nearer the end of August. Okay?"

Mouth full once again with another half again of the sandwich Johnny had made, Fliss nodded, chewing furiously fast.

Or until she thought Johnny wasn't looking, arching a brow as he pretended not to notice Liv sneaking half her sandwich onto Fliss' plate. "Right," Johnny added, as this was another option he and Liv had discussed prior to bringing Fliss home. This wasn't something they'd decided on a whim. It was too important for that, both to Fliss and to them. "For now, you just worry about making yourself comfortable 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]

Olivia Storm

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Re: Home
« Reply #5 on: June 23, 2014, 10:03:21 AM »
What he got in answer to that was probably not what he'd been expecting. Still chewing on her enormous mouthful, Fliss made a show of kicking off her shoes and hooking her legs over over the corner of her table, feet planted firmly in Johnny's lap. And then she grinned, while Liv choked on her mouthful of iced tea and spluttered, trying to laugh and breathe at the same time.

"Well, that's one way of doing it!"

Johnny laughed. "Not that comfortable!" Though he made no move to toss her feet to the floor, tempted to tickle her but he didn't want her to choke on her sandwich. If he wasn't careful, Fliss was going to become as spoiled as Bella. "I was thinking maybe we'd take a walk this afternoon. Show you around the grounds." He said nothing about meeting anyone, though he couldn't help it if they ran into a Granger or not while strolling about. He was a little anxious for her to meet Bella's friend Cosmo, but it could wait a little while longer.

Snickering, Fliss dropped her feet back down, finally swallowing her mouthful. "Sounds cool," she agreed, folding her arms on the table. It was something of a miracle how fast she'd eaten everything in front of her and more, but again, she'd learn to enjoy her food rather than gobble it down at speed over time. "You guys don't need to worry so much, you know? I like you, and I like this place, and I don't wanna disappoint you, ever. You guys already put more effort into me than anyone has for years. Means a lot, you know?"

"Yeah, well, it means a lot to us that you're happy here, Fliss. We, uh..." Johnny darted a glance at Liv again, as if he was unsure whether or not to share their little secret or not. "We've been wanting to start a family for a while now." He knew he was taking a chance in saying it, but he thought it was something Fliss needed to hear. They hadn't just brought her here out of pity. They wanted her to be part of their family, and they had chosen her, above all others, to be the first addition to that family.

Liv met Johnny's gaze, gathering her courage to share the detail of their little secret. "At the moment, it's not possible for us to have a baby together," she explained to the teenager gently, and for once, she didn't make any effort to hide her honest eyes from the girl. "It might never be. But we didn't want to wait to find out. We want to build a family, and we'd be very honored if, when the time comes, you would feel comfortable enough to help us with that. We don't want to put you under any pressure, and we don't want you to feel as though you have to behave in a particular way. But this is what we're hoping for."

Fliss stared at them, amber eyes passing back and forth as she struggled with the realization of what they were telling her. "Wait, so ... out of all the kids in the city, all the babies and the little kids and everyone ... you chose me?"

Johnny winced, wondering if he'd shared too much too soon. He didn't want to put any undue pressure on the girl, but he wanted her to know that this meant as much to them as it did to her and why. He still deemed it his fault that they couldn't have children, no matter what Lucy might have told him, and more than anything, he wanted to make Liv happy. "Yeah," Johnny replied, a serious look on his face. "Why's that so hard to believe?"

"Well ... you coulda gone with something easier," Fliss pointed out. "You know, a baby that poops actual toxic waste or something."

Liv smiled, reaching over to touch the girl's hand gently. "You need us as much as we need you, Fliss," she pointed out softly. "We want you to be a part of our family."

"Besides, this way we get to skip past the diapers and the two a.m. feedings and the spitting up," Johnny added with a smirk. Sure, they'd wanted a child of their own, but there were plenty of orphans who needed and wanted a safe, loving home, starting with Fliss. "We're both orphans, so we thought we'd open our home to someone just like us."

Fliss didn't know what to say. It was an awful lot to be dropped on her at once, though she hardly objected. It was ... Well, it was rather wonderful to be told you'd been chosen from all the children in the city to be a part of a family just starting out. There was a lump forming in her throat, and for a moment, a crackling spark flickered over her hair before she pulled herself together. "I ... I don't know what to say," she admitted a little tearfully. "Thank you, I guess. Doesn't seem like enough."

"You don't have to say anything," Johnny replied, reaching for her hand. He'd noticed the crackling spark, but she'd put it out quickly enough that his help wasn't needed. They couldn't very well protect her or prevent her from ever feeling anything. She was just going to have to learn how to control her emotions and her natural reaction to them. "We love you. That's all there is to it." There. He'd said it. Maybe it was a little premature, but wasn't that what this was all about, after all?

Fliss looked down at her hands, captured gently in one warm grasp and one warmer grasp, and abruptly burst into tears. Liv looked at Johnny in panic, her lips moving silently. What do we do? she mouthed, afraid they'd managed to break the teen before she'd even had a full day in her new home.

As far as Johnny was concerned, there was only one thing they could do and that was give Fliss a group hug. He let go of Fliss' hand and wrapped both arms around her, nodding to Liv to do the same. Even Bella seemed to sense something was wrong and wanted to get in on the act, woofing to remind them that she was part of the family, too.

Despite her panic, Liv nodded, rising from her own seat to wrap her arms about both of them, Johnny and Fliss both, murmuring soothing nonsense under her breath, the way she had seen Lucy do when Jamie cried for seemingly no reason.

Startling though the tears were, Fliss needed to cry them. She had been shunted back and forth for so long, and so often in recent months, that she had been given no time to fully appreciate what was happening. And now this rather sweet couple had not only opened their home to her, but their hope that she would become the first member of their extended family, and she didn't know what to say. It was all a bit overwhelming, and yet, for the first time she could remember, she was held, safe and warm, in the arms of two people who wanted to love her.

Johnny wasn't sure what to say, letting Liv offer the whispered cooing reassurances that mothers always did. He offered his warmth and his presence and, despite his own insecurities, tender and caring reassurance and support. Whatever the pair lacked in experience, they more than made up for in enthusiasm and simple caring. They cared about Fliss. That much was obvious, and they wanted her to know it.
[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: Home
« Reply #6 on: June 23, 2014, 10:04:11 AM »
It said a lot for how safe Fliss felt with them that there was no flaring of fire as she poured out months of upset and uncertainty, soaking Johnny's shirt with Liv's hand held tightly in hers. It seemed that her fire sense had little to do with her emotion so much as whether she felt confident in a moment. Indeed, the first little flicker of flame only showed itself when she started to try and apologize for crying.

Johnny's shirt didn't stay wet for long no matter how many tears Fliss shed, his unnaturally high temperature drying them almost immediately. Johnny smiled at the girl, pressing a too-warm finger against her lips. "No apologies. Don't ever apologize for sharing what you feel."

With Johnny ready to reassure the weepy girl, Liv didn't quite know what to do, settling for gentling her hold on them both as her fingers stroked through Fliss' hair over and over again.

Fliss swallowed, sniffing hard to try and clear her nose. "I didn't mean to make you feel bad," she tried to tell them. "I just ... no one's ever wanted me, and I thought after I started being a freak, it would just get worse, but ... I've never had a family. I don't know what to do."

Johnny looked to Liv, thinking she was far better with words and comforting than he was, but there were some things that needed to be said and he wasn't afraid to say them. "You don't have to do anything, Fliss. Just be yourself, and give us a chance to get to know you."

"We'll just see how it goes, sweetheart," Liv added in her soft voice. "For now, we just want to know you, and let you know us, and maybe in time we can all make that decision together. But all you need to do is be the beautiful little woman you are, and let us help you when you get stuck."

Sniffling, Fliss nodded, very reluctant to emerge from the warm little cocoon of arms that embraced her. "I'm not making a very good impression, am I?" she laughed a little, rubbing her nose. "I really don't cry much, I promise."

"Everyone cries sometimes, Fliss. Even me. It's what makes us human," Johnny reassured her, dabbing at her tears with those too-warm fingers of his. "There's dessert, you know," he teased, with a warm, affectionate smile on his face.

"Dessert?" The young girl laughed again, this time with brighter feeling than before. "You have dessert at lunch?"

Liv chuckled, bending down to kiss the blonde head without thinking. "Only on very special occasions," she assured Fliss. "Or when Johnny thinks he just can't go another minute without ice cream."

"There's always room for ice cream!" Johnny declared, pulling away from his two girls so he could fetch the ice cream, though that might not be such a good idea, considering his unique ability to melt the stuff in a matter of minutes. The saying was really supposed to be Jello, but who wanted Jello when they could have ice cream?

Of course, he did keep forgetting the special bowl and spoon that Rhi and Eregor had given them for his personal use, but it would probably be better if Liv served the stuff up. Fliss leaned into Liv as Johnny pulled away, not minding the gentle hand that stroked her hair as Liv watched her husband advance on the freezer.

"Any second now, the penny will drop," she predicted to Fliss in amusement. "Just you wait."

Just as his wife predicted - because she knew him so well - he had just reached the refrigerator when it hit him. "Livvie!" he called, turning back to face them and pouting like a child. "Can you get the ice cream?" he asked, remembering that if he so much as touched the carton, it would turn to mush in a matter of seconds.

Fliss burst out laughing as Liv grinned, leaving the teen to her giggles to rescue Johnny from his outing disappointment. She gave him a kiss as they passed. "Anything for you, love."

"Anything?" he asked, flirting a little with his pretty wife and tossing a wink toward Fliss. He wasn't sure how much flirting he was going to be able to do in front of Fliss, but they'd work it out in time as the little threesome got better accustomed to each other.

"Within reason," Liv qualified the offer as she bent to collect the carton from the freezer.

Calmer now, Fliss had dropped her hand to stroke Bella's back as she watched the pair, feeling strangely honored that they were so prepared to open up their obviously loving relationship to include her. "Hey, Johnny?" she asked curiously. "How do you guys do a quickie if you're always wearing that suit?"

He was just about to whack Liv's rear when Fliss' question distracted him. "Obviously, I take it off!" he replied with a silly grin. In truth, Reed had at least had the sense to add a fly to the suit so that Johnny didn't have to take the thing off every time he had to use the bathroom, and theoretically, the same thing went for quickies. "And you, young lady..." He started, turning to stalk his way toward Fliss. "...should not be asking questions about your parents' love life!"

"Hey, how else am I supposed to learn about it in a safe and educational environment?" the teen shot back between giggles, her hands rising to ward him off in case he was planning to do more than just advance.

By the counter, Liv laughed aloud once again. "She's got you there, sparky," she pointed out. "Wouldn't you rather answer questions than catch her down to her bra with some random boy?"

Of course he was planning on doing more than just advance; he was planning on tickling her, but he stopped cold in his tracks at Liv's question, straightening and looking between them with his hands on his hips, trying to look serious. "There will be none of that in this house! Not until you're at least twenty-five!" He teased, though he knew that was a ridiculous statement. Twenty? Eighteen? Sixteen, maybe? But surely not thirteen! Somehow he got the feeling this was the kind of thing girls should discuss with their mothers.
[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: Home
« Reply #7 on: June 23, 2014, 10:05:00 AM »
"What, so you're going to make her go to her boyfriend's house to experiment until she hits twenty-five?" Liv pointed out with a grin.

Fliss was cackling at Johnny's slight over-reaction to the thought of her having sex at all. "What if it turns out I like girls?" she asked the Torch through her grin. "Do I get the age lowered if there's no chance of getting pregnant?"

"Girls!" Johnny exclaimed, looking from one to the other, unable to reply to both at the same time and wondering if he was being tag-teamed by the two women in his life. Bella added her two cents with a woof his way, her tail waggling happily, and he knew he was outnumbered. He broke into laughter, tossing up his hands as he dropped into a chair. "I give up! I'm outnumbered!"

The kitchen rang with laughter from all of them, punctuated with Bella's excited barking, as Liv brought three bowls over to the table. "I think you and I are going to get on just fine, Fliss," she grinned to the teen, who grinned back, lunging to grab Bella's collar as the Beauceron bunched her muscles to bounce at Liv once again.

"Are you always so easy?" Fliss asked Johnny with a giggle, releasing Bella only once Liv was safely sat down once more.

"If you only knew," Johnny replied with a grin. Now he just had to eat his ice cream before it melted. He wasn't sure he wanted to touch the topic of boys - or girls - with Fliss. At least, not just yet, though there was one thing he did want to make clear. "Just remember this... Boys want one thing and one thing only - and it's not friendship." What was he saying? He felt like he was betraying his entire gender, but this was his foster daughter he was concerned about.

"They want their very own spandex suit and the right to wear it in shades of pink," Liv volunteered as she tucked into her ice cream, wondering when Johnny was going to realize he had his special bowl and spoon that kept the ice cream deep frozen until it hit his mouth.

Fliss snorted softly, swallowing her first mouthful of ice cream as she grinned. "Seriously, guys, I'm thirteen and I don't even have any friends," she pointed out cheerfully. "Boys are just way over my head now."

"Yeah, well, it's only a matter of time," Johnny said, only realizing he had his melt-proof bowl and spoon when he picked the spoon up and scooped into his ice cream. "Cute girl like you. The boys are gonna be eating out of your hand." Someday, anyway. Not today, thankfully. He wasn't sure he was ready for that. "But for now, I think we should take things one step at a time."

"Okay, so ... what happens after ice cream?" Fliss asked, bopping Bella on the nose. It looked as though the Beauceron had come up against someone who wasn't going to drop her treats and pretend they hadn't. What an awful shock for her.

"I was thinking about a walk around the grounds, but maybe a nap would be better," Johnny said, groaning a moment and pressing a hand against his temple. "Brain freeze!" This is what happened when he tried to eat his ice cream too fast, worried it would melt, despite being in a melt-proof bowl. Even the Human Torch seemed susceptible to ice cream headaches if he gobbled it up too quickly.

Suggesting a nap confused both of his girls sat at the table - Liv, because the word "nap" usually meant something else, and Fliss, because she wasn't three years old. "Is that code for ... go to my room for a couple of hours because you want to be an adult with your wife?" she asked bluntly, smirking as he groaned in the grip of his frozen headache.

"No," he replied, rubbing at his temple and turning to Liv to help him get rid of it. "I was thinking about a nap in the garden," he explained, though he wasn't really talking about sleeping, per se, more like just lazying around and lounging, until the lunch lethargy wore off.

"Oh, I see." Liv smiled, flicking her gaze to Fliss. "Sunning ourselves for a while. Could put some shorts on and make the most of the weather."

Fliss considered this for a moment, and nodded slowly. "Yeah, that sounds cool," she agreed. "Just so long as, you know, this isn't a plot to get me outside so you can throw me in a pool or something. I don't swim unless I'm dressed for it."

"I don't swim at all!" Johnny countered, unsure if it was a good idea to tell her that or not, but she was going to find out sooner or later. He frowned a little, as he just admitted to what he deemed his greatest weakness - water. Though he didn't say it outright, his point was that his own fear of water would prevent him from ever tossing anyone in a pool, especially someone who didn't know how to swim or didn't swim well.

"What, not at all?" Fliss looked surprised. "Dude, you really should know how to swim. Even if you never go out of the shallows, it's an awesome way to spend a little time on a hot day."

Liv smiled; this was a conversation she had shared with Johnny several times, and always lost. "I keep offering to teach him, but he refuses to come into the water with me," she pointed out.

Fliss rolled her eyes, pinning Johnny with a pointed look. "So you're never gonna be able to play with Bella in a pool," she told him. "That's not a happy thought."

Johnny shrugged his shoulders. "Fire and water don't..." He trailed off, realizing he was preaching to the choir on that one. If Fliss could swim, why couldn't he? Well, for one thing, Fliss wasn't like him. Water didn't hiss and spit off her like it was insulted to touch him. It was a wonder he was able to shave and shower on a daily basis. He had no choice but to tolerate it. "Besides, swimming with me is like taking a bath. Water doesn't stay cold very long with me around."

"So?" Fliss failed to see any problem with that. "Just means you can take Liv swimming on cold days and you don't have to get out because she goes all blue and limp."

Beside her, Liv closed her eyes, trying not to laugh at the logic being trotted out here. She'd never thought of trying this tactic with Johnny, but then, it probably wouldn't work from her. Fliss seemed to have a direct line to that part of both of them that always liked to say no.
[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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« Reply #8 on: June 23, 2014, 10:07:10 AM »
Johnny grudgingly admitted she had a point with a grunt in response, though he still was in no hurry to go swimming. She was going to have to do better than that. "You remember that guy Gory mentioned yesterday?" he asked, looking to Liv. "Namor?"

"Vaguely," Liv nodded. "I wasn't really following that part of the conversation, though." She glanced at Fliss, who looked just as lost as she was. "Why do you ask?"

"He's an Atlantean. He had a thing for my sister for a while. He lives in the ocean. He went kinda crazy for a while once and..." Johnny shrugged, not really wanting to talk about it or admit that the Atlantean had almost defeated him once when he'd been crazy out of his mind. He had, in fact, tried to drown him.

"Oh, I see." And to be fair, Liv did see. She had fairly accurate intuition where Johnny was concerned.

Fliss, on the other hand, did not. "See what?" she asked, blinking at the lack of information. "What happened?"

"He tried to kill me," Johnny admitted, filling in the blanks without offering too many details. He didn't often think about it and didn't really want to think about it much now. "Can we talk about something else now?" he asked, getting up to collect the empty ice cream bowls and take them to the sink.

Aware that she'd either said something wrong, or pushed when she shouldn't have, Fliss looked to Liv for reassurance.

Liv's smile was gentle as she squeezed the girl's hand. "Some things are just too traumatic to talk about, even years after they happen," she tried to explain softly to the teen, who frowned in vague confusion, but nodded. "Why don't you take Bella outside?" Liv suggested. "We'll join you in a minute."

"Okay." Pushing up from the table, Fliss paused by Johnny, hesitating for a moment before touching her hand to his back. "Sorry, Johnny." Then she was gone, calling Bella to her as she headed out through the back door and into the sunshine.

Johnny was frowning as he washed the dishes up, feeling like a jerk, especially since he knew he'd made Fliss feel bad on her first day in her new home. He waited until he heard the back door slam shut, knowing Liv had asked her to take Bella outside. "Sorry, Livvie," he apologized without turning around.

"Stop apologizing," his wife told him quietly, rising to her feet to wrap her arms about him from behind. "She's a kid, kids push. Just because I understand without details doesn't mean she will. She just needs to learn us, Johnny; to learn all the little signs that say she needs to stop asking. That will take time." She pressed a kiss behind his ear tenderly. "And holding onto the bad moments won't help. You learn from it, and you move on. And yes, I know I'm awful at doing that, but for you, and for Fliss, I'm going to get better at it."

"I know," Johnny said, letting the water run in the sink but not really doing much with it. He was okay with that much water, but a pool or, God forbid, an open body of water was another matter all together. "I should have told you, but it was a long time ago, and I didn't want you to worry." He was only twenty-seven years old. How long ago could it have been?

"So we'll do it slowly," she told him softly. "We'll start with paddling, move up to sitting in the shallow end. I won't ever push you further than you can go, Johnny, but Fliss is right. You're going to miss out on things if you refuse to even try this. We won't always have a teenager; we might one day have a baby to look after. Don't you want to teach a child how to swim, and know that they can look after themselves in the water because of you?"

Johnny shut the water off and turned to face her, shrugging his shoulders uncertainly. He didn't understand why this was so important to everyone. Even if he did learn to swim someday, water would always be his nemesis. It was one of the few things that could extinguish his flames, and if his flames were extinguished, he was just as vulnerable as any other human being. Maybe that was the real issue. Put that way, he wasn't sure what to say. "I guess."

Arms about his waist, Liv leaned into him, holding his gaze. She understood better than he did what was worrying him, wondering if she was really going to have to point out that she was exactly that vulnerable all the time. "Do you trust me, Johnny?"

He drew comfort from her embrace, feeling horrible for letting both her and Fliss see his side of him, knowing he was being a baby about it. He still had nightmares about that little adventure, and not even Sue had known how close Namor had come to finishing her brother off. "You know I do, Liv," Johnny replied to her question. If there was anyone he trusted, it was his Olivia.

"Then do this for me?" she asked softly. "Water is the one thing that makes you just like me, but right now, it conquers you, because you don't know how to use it. Let me teach you. Even if you never swim for pleasure, I would feel better knowing that you can. And now we're almost parents, you have a responsibility to be able to look after yourself, no matter what the circumstance. I know it's frightening, but I will never take you into deep water without having a plan to get you out again. Okay?"

He nodded his head in reluctant agreement. He never could tell Liv no, not even about this, and he knew she was right. Unless he conquered his fears, he'd always be a slave to them. "Okay, but let's take it slow, okay?" he asked, even though she'd already assured him of that. "And... I don't want anyone else to know." Not Sue, not Reed, not Jon or Vicki or Humphrey, not even Steve or Lucy. This was something that was too private and he wanted to keep it that way. Fliss was another matter.

She nodded in agreement. "No one needs to know but us," she promised him, brushing a gentle kiss to his lips. "Now ... should we go and rescue Fliss from Bella, or wait until they tire each other out?"

He drew comfort from her kiss, nodding again in agreement. "Yeah, I don't want her to think I'm mad at her or something. It's not her fault."

"Well, come on, then," his wife smiled, gently pulling him away from the sink and toward the back door.

Out in the garden, Fliss and Bella were playing fetch with a frisbee. The teenager was laughing each time Bella leapt up to catch the frisbee, whether the dog caught it or not, but as Johnny and Liv emerged, Bella refused to hand the toy back. "Hey, give it back!" Fliss giggled, dropping to her knees to wrestle with the playful dog.

"Do you really think she'll be happy here with us, Liv?" Johnny asked, sliding one arm around her waist as they watched Fliss and Bella play tug of war with the frisbee. Bella had made progress there, learning finally to jump and catch the frisbee more times than not.

For all Liv's doubts, there was no denying that the girl playing on the grass was happy in the moment. She smiled, leaning back into Johnny's arms as she watched Fliss and Bella playing together. "There's no reason she shouldn't be," she said quietly. "And she's got no reason to lie to us about how she's feeling. I think we're all going to get on very well. Don't you?"

Johnny wrapped both his arms around his wife's waist as she leaned against him, a hopeful smile on his face, despite the lingering worries about his promise to try and conquer his fear of water. "I hope so, Liv. It's nice to be part of a family again."

"Yes, it is," Liv agreed softly. "Our family, no matter how we put it together. What do you say to a round dozen children, or would that be too much?" She flashed him a small grin over her shoulder.

That made him chuckle. If there was anyone who could dispel his bad moods, it was Liv. With her around, his bad moods never lingered very long. "We're gonna need a bigger house."

"One step at a time," she giggled softly. "First things first ... I dare you to get in the middle of that game and see what happens. It's your turn to get knocked on your arse for once."

"Are you daring me, Mrs. Storm?" he asked with a smirk. Far be it from Johnny to refuse a dare, but instead of heading that way himself, he tugged her along with him to spend the rest of the afternoon playing in the sun with Liv and Fliss and Bella. Theirs might be an unconventional family, but there was no doubting the depth of love between them, enough to share with a daughter, chosen rather than born, and a dog whom no one else had wanted. Orphans and misfits, indeed, but more importantly, they were a family.

[size=9]((And there you have it - Johnny and Liv are now parents, sort of. Here's hoping no one makes any huge mistakes! Massive thanks to the awesomeness of my writing partner who is awesomely awesome!))[/size]
[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]