Title: Raising Nemo
Author: Zee's Muse
Fandom: Into the Storm
Genre: FCHET

Pairing: Gary Fuller/OFC

Characters: Gary Fuller, Trey Fuller, Donnie Fuller, ofc, omc
Rating: Mature – just to be safe
Disclaimer: I own nothing from the movie. No harm intended. I don't own any of the characters recognizable. All recognizable characters belong to their various creators, of whom I am not one.
Timeline: Modern Day Oklahoma
Setting: Three years after the storms
Warnings: There will be a really cute puppy making all sorts of messes and there will be two teenaged son being teenaged sons.

Spoilers: None.
Beta: The wonderful and amazing Alex-Cat! Why do you put up with me?

Summary: It is time. At least, according to your sons, it is time.

Dedication: To all the single parents who went through empty nest alone.

Raising Nemo

An Into the Storm Fanfic

Chapter 01

If there was anything Gary Fuller knew, it was stress. It was being the underdog, the underling, the low-man on the totem pole. He knew about burning candles at both ends; he knew single-parenting was a job no human being should have. He knew women who were single parents, respected them. Some had working relationships with their children's fathers, some struggled without them, fought with them, and at least one that he knew of had the good sense to wake up and not tell her sperm donor she was expecting and struggled through life raising that child on her own.

And then, there was Gary Fuller.

Gary Fuller: super dad, Gary Fuller hero of the mega-storm. Gary Fuller...

over-worked, under-paid and today, U-haul van driver and moving man.

Today, Gary Fuller was designated to drive the small moving truck to Oklahoma State University, where both of his sons – Donnie, sophomore, majoring in eco-biology and up until three days ago, also majored in Katelyn Whatwashernameagain? - and Trey, incoming freshman, majoring in meteorology.

Trey wanted to chase storms.

Gary wanted to strangle him. His youngest son had seen what destruction and havoc Mother Nature could whip out and she was unforgiving. But Trey had a nose for danger and a desire for an adrenaline rush that frightened... no... terrified Gary Fuller.

There were things in this life Gary did not like. He did not like water. He did not like storms and especially he did not like adrenaline rushes. He was the one who stayed on the ground and kept everyone's things when they went on roller coasters and other thrill rides. Those were not for Gary Fuller. Excitement for Gary Fuller was sitting quietly at home, enjoying a well-cooked meal and watching a drama or a well-fought football game on television. It did not include lots of alcohol, horror movies, or any sort of Need for Speed.

He was – in the words of his sons – a hard-up, stodgy, old fuddy-duddy.

And Gary Fuller was okay with that.

Right this minute, he wished Donnie was in the U-haul with him so they could talk, however he and Trey had commandeered the SUV – which was also loaded – and were leading the way.

Personally, he wished he had simply rented a Tag-A-Long and he was driving his vehicle. Surely, those two did not need all of this stuff in the moving van! Had Gary packed them, they could have gotten away with several suitcases and a few boxes each. That was what they needed. And then he could be driving his vehicle and spending quality last minutes this fine, sunny Saturday, with his sons.

And talking to Donnie, explaining the perfidy and sneakiness of women.

Because Gary Fuller knew all about that as well.

"I do not believe it!" It was the third time Donnie had said it. Trey was listening. His father told him to listen and he was listening.

Actually, he wasn't listening. He had his earbuds in and was listening to something he'd downloaded on his MP3 player that would have made his dad's hair curl.

In the midst of a screechy guitar riff, he was jolted by a backhand to his arm. He popped out an ear bud. "What?"

"Would you listen? I know Dad told you to listen, so if you could please..."

With a sigh, the youngest Fuller switched off his MP3 and pulled out the other ear bud. "You have my attention. I'm listening. Would you please watch the road?"

The SUV lurched back to the right side, unbeknownst to either brother that their father was behind them, cursing that they would be grounded at school if they put a single scratch on the family stagecoach!

"Thank you! Now what am I listening too?"

"Katelyn!" Ah. There had been no end of the moping since Thursday when Katelyn, Donnie's eco-happy, carbon-footprint watching girlfriend, informed him she wasn't coming to OSU after all. Instead, she had been accepted at MIT and offered a full scholarship, which she had accepted. And seeing how she was moving so far away-

"Other people! She thought we should be open to seeing other people! Why not say, 'Let's break up!' That's what she meant. Any time anyone says, I want to see other people, it means, I want to see anyone but you!"

He was not aware Trey was looking out his window, mimicking him. This had been Donne's rant since he came home from that last date. He waited until his older brother took a breath.

"You know why she waited."

"She's known about this since February! She accepted in February! I'm her boyfriend!"

"You were her boyfriend."

"Why couldn't she tell me?"

Trey exhaled. Unless his brother got over this snit fit really fast, he was most definitely going to be looking into another roommate. Anyone. Even a girl! He was not living with his brother in this state!

"She didn't tell you because she didn't want to-"

Deal with your crankiness, your wankiness, and she probably wanted a date for the Prom! The girl was unbelievably unlikable when you left for college last year! Nobody wanted to hang with her except the Ecology Club and we referred to them as the Future Old Maids of America!

"-I don't know...I guess she put off the inevitable because she loved-"


"-you so much." Donnie was looking at his baby brother out of the side of his eye. "Had she told you in February, you would have spent the next six months begging and pleading and whining-"

"I wouldn't have tried to change her mind! MIT is awesome! It's just-"

Trey had his fist over his mouth, creating a fake microphone. "Earth to Donnie! Earth to Donnie! This is Trey, over!" He made crude belching noises through his fist. "You would have whined and begged and pleaded and girls aren't into that. Look at it this way!" He now smiled. "You now have your choice of hot babes on the OSU campus! I trust you know how to put on a condom."

Donnie rolled his eyes.

"And I trust you did more than just practiced putting on a condom in the shower and actually put it to good use!"

Donnie shook his head and clamped his mouth shut.

In that moment, Trey actually felt sorry for Donnie. "Look. I know this is hard, but she put it off probably because she really liked you too and she wanted to wait until the last moment, so the two of you could enjoy the summer without the fact she was moving 2000 miles in the opposite direction hanging over your heads. She didn't say 'break up', she simply suggested enjoying your life! Face it! If you had had a car last year, you would have come home every single weekend and run up Dad's credit card for the gas! So," he nodded matter-of-factly, "just chill. You burned up the email and the Skype and maybe you still will. There is still Thanksgiving and Christmas and Spring Break! So now that we have that settled, we need to talk about something that is REALLY important!"

"What is more important than my girlfriend lying to me for six months about where she was going to college?"


Five hours later, the van and the SUV were unloaded, the boys' dorm room was set up, with the exception of the things they would put up after their dad left. The van had been taken to the pre-designated U-haul drop off and all three Fullers were standing in front of the dorm.

"Remember, I'm watching the minutes on your phones," Gary was lecturing. "If I see even one 900 number, you will be using the payphone until the end of the school year."

"Yes, Dad."

"And the C's. I better not see them! If you're struggling, call me. I can come down and tutor,"

Both boys cringed.

"It's only a two and half hour drive, or the weekends, or I can arrange one."

"Yes, Dad."

"If anything happens and I'm called to bail you out of jail, you might be there for a while."

"Yes, Dad."

"Make me proud. Did I miss anything?" Both boys shook their heads. "Good. Give the old man a hug. Don't snarl, the other parents are doing it." Both boys did and did so unashamedly. The storm over two years before had initiated healing between Donnie and Gary and Trey looked up to his father in a new light.

They still gave him a hard time, and he still rode them about things, but both knew that the man did love them and would put his life on the wire for them and isn't that what family is about?

Trey stepped back up on the curb, Donnie behind their father in the parking lot, both waiting for their father to open up the SUV door, when Trey blurted, "Dad, one thing."

"Oh no," Donnie hissed.

"Look, Donnie and I were talking,"

Donne was now shaking his head. "Not really. Trey was rambling and I was just letting him yak."

"-and we've decided it's time you started dating again."


Trey was nodding like a bobble – headed Kewpee. "Yeah. You need to start dating again." He stepped down off the curb and placed his hand on his dad's shoulder. "We know you and Alison went out once or twice,"

"Those weren't dates."

"Call them what you want, but you dressed up, put on cologne older than Donnie, and paid for dinner. That's a date."

Trey was right. He did take Alison out twice, but between her traveling and her daughter and the fact there was just no chemistry between them, they both decided at the end of the second date and an awkward kiss, they'd be better off as friends. The last he had heard from her was a Christmas card. Some friendship.

"Either way, Donnie and I were talking and you've spent the last eight years raising us and neglecting yourself. We figure you have blue-balls and that stuff will explode if you don't deal with it soon."

Gary tipped his head. "Is that what they are teaching you in sex ed?" I'm going to have to have a chat with Coach Harris if that's the case.

"Oh, we figured that out. It's obvious, you know," Trey responded with all the knowledgeable authority of a worldly 18 year old. "We just wanted you to know, we're okay with you dating again, Dad." He patted him reassuringly on the shoulder. "We're not there, so you can bring her home and swing from the ceiling fan! Just be careful for your back and don't forget the condoms." He leaned forward and whispered. "There are diseases out there now that weren't out there when you were younger, back in the day." He nodded. "Stuff'll kill you!" He hugged his father again and turned, walking into the dorm.

Gary was dumb-founded. Before he could open his mouth, Donnie patted him on the shoulder and whispered in his ear. "Who's your favorite son now, Dad?"

And Gary watch him go into the dorm.

Slowly, he climbed into the SUV and sat, staring for a minute. He didn't realize he wasn't the only parent staring at the brick building. After a few minutes, he cranked the vehicle and turned on the radio.

There goes my life...

There goes my everything...

He turned it back off.

Just outside of Tulsa, Gary stopped at a supermarket and picked up a bright bouquet of something he thought Carol would have liked. He vaguely recalled paying for them, as well as a few bottles of water and truth be told, he was shocked to find himself standing in front of her grave. He knew the boys came on her last birthday. Her parents made sure of that. The remnants of those flowers were still in the vase by the headstone, a headstone he had paid for, over her parents' objections. They blamed him for the divorce, didn't think he fought for her enough, didn't care enough for her feelings.

I couldn't make her happy. The boys didn't make her happy. She thought I was going to be someone I'm not and she couldn't live with that. I never stopped loving her, but you can't love someone enough for both people.

He bent down, ignoring the popping in his knees. He pulled the dead flower stems from the vase and put the new ones in, pouring all but one of the bottled water into the vase. He dusted leaves and clippings and dirt from the marker.

Carol Besler Fuller

Beloved Mother

"You would be proud, Carol," he began softly. "Trey graduated with honors and both boys are in college. I dropped them off today. I wish you were here to see them." He stood there, not really knowing what to say next. "You were right, you know. Donnie is too much like me and he would kill himself if he realized it. Trey though... Trey is you all over. Sets his sight on a goal and doesn't turn loose. No matter how far-fetched or dangerous." He looked down at his sneakers and shook his head. "And like you, he doesn't consider the consequences of his actions."

He waited, waited to feel, feel something, anything. And when he did, what he felt was anger. Rising fury at the remains beneath the ground, but like he always did, he squelched it. What good would it do now? He took the last bottle of water, opened it, and took several swallows.

"You know, the boys gave me permission to start dating again, Carol. Said they were afraid I was coming down with blue-balls or some craziness. They think I've been a hermit, I guess. Maybe they're right. Maybe I will."

And with that, he turned on his heel, and got into the SUV.

As he pulled onto the winding car path, something to the left caught his eye. He stopped and watched carefully as a mud-encrusted four-legged dust mop ran between the grave sites, looking... looking...

Gary looked around. Surely there was an owner somewhere and he realized he was the only one in the graveyard. At least that section of the graveyard. As he got out of his car, he whistled, continuing to look. Surely this little fella wasn't abandoned. Who would leave a... what on earth was it?

It ran up to him, jumped and began to whine.

Oh this is lovely! How many years had the boys begged him for a dog and he refused? They were busy, never home, who would take care of it? A dog was a serious responsibility, needed to be taken care of, fed, walked. They pooped and made messes and...

And they sounded just like having a child.

Gary did not have time for this. Picking up the little mud-monster and already wishing he hadn't, he put it in the car and drove all over the cemetery, looking for anyone who might have lost a puppy. It sat quietly in the passenger seat and whined and whined...

After spending thirty minutes roaming the graveyard, he went to the front, asked the guard at the gate if anyone had mentioned losing a puppy.

Of course not.

So he left the cemetery, with a very filthy whateveritwas, he headed home, wondering what on earth he was going to do with this needy little...

He was jolted from his thoughts as the thing began to howl.

"Stop that."

He was met by puppy eyes as it laid down with his tail to Gary and proceeded to chew on the seat belt.

At least, it wasn't howling.

As he neared Silverton, he remembered there was an old veterinarian on the outskirts of town, who specialized in farm animals. He'd heard one of the teachers who had a small farm talk about how he had Saturday hours and could be called on Sundays as well. His cell phone was plugged into the radio of his SUV and turning it on, he requested information for Doctor... oh what was his name...


Howell! That was it. Doctor Howell. And yes, thank you for connecting the call.

The man picked up on the second ring. Unbelievable! Hearing the puppy crying in the background and explaining that he found him and that it was... well, now it's scratching and shaking and there is mud flying everywhere, Gary knew what HE would be doing tomorrow – cleaning puppy mud out of the seats and carpet and praying the seat belt hasn't been frayed – Doctor Howell told him he'd wait for him and bring him in.

Twenty minutes later, Gary stood in the vet's clinic, watching as the man gently bathed and dipped The Whiner, as Gary was now referring to him.

"Ah, you've got a little beauty here." Doctor Howell had to be 70, if he was a day, and he picked up The Whiner, peering into its eyes and between its legs. "Congratulations! It's a boy, Mr. Fuller."

"I'm sure his owner will need to know that."

The Whiner wasn't mud-colored; he was black and as the vet dried him off and used a flea comb on him, The Whiner turned into a pom-pom. "You're not his owner?"

"No. I found him in the graveyard. I couldn't just leave him there, could I?"

"Are you planning on leaving him here?"

Gary shook his head. "I just dropped my boys off at college. I'm an Assistant Principal at the High School and right now, we're down a teacher, so it looks as if I'll be filling in until we hire someone, if the School Board will allow us to." With this, he started embellishing. "I help coach the football team, sponsor two clubs after school-"

"In other words, you're too busy to deal with a puppy that looks to be four weeks old and will need a lot of love and attention."

Gary felt totally dressed down. "Yeah."

Doctor Howell sighed. "Okay. I'll see if I can find him a home. If you change your mind, let me know." He was still holding him. "He's a cute little feller!"

Gary scratched him under the chin, only to have his finger chewed on. "Yeah, he is. Wish things were different at my house."

And he left him there, refusing to think on it, and snarling at the filth in his SUV.

He got home.

He unlocked the door and stepped into the house.

That was so, so quiet.

It was out of his mouth before he knew. "Donnie? Trey? I'm home."

No answer.

He wandered through the house. Trey's cereal bowl, still in the sink. Donnie tied up the trash, but forgot to take it out. Typical. But as he hit the back of the home, saw the emptiness of both of the boys' bedrooms, the stripped bathroom...

Donnie? Trey?

Not even an answer in his head.

And there would be no answer for three months.

Three. Long. Months.

He wandered back through the empty living room, into the empty kitchen. Taking his phone from his belt, he turned back and shut the door behind him, dialing the number.

"Doctor Howell? It's Gary Fuller. I changed my mind about the puppy."