Bradin's temporary pause didn't mean much, however. Susanna was not nearly as hesitant. Throwing the door open, she pulled the teen through the entryway and startled him with a bone-crunching hug.
After a brief moment, she released the startled teen to stun him even further with a smack to the arm. "Don't you ever scare me like that again!"
The order was followed by another hard hug before the woman released the teen to his waiting younger siblings. Allowing the children a brief reunion, the woman finally met his eyes over the youngest Westerling's head. "It's good to have you back."
"You can say that again." A voice drifted in from the patio.
Looking over hesitantly, Bradin didn't quite know what to say. Ava however, was not so hesitant. Stepping through the doorway, the aunt wasted no time in weaving through her roommate, niece and youngest nephew in order to pull the teen to her.
"I love you, Bradin." She told him firmly, not at all at a loss for words like she had feared she would be. "You're home is here with me now. No matter what. Got it?"
"Got it." The teen replied, momentarily resting against his aunt before pulling back.
Ava wasn't quite ready to release her grip yet, though. Holding him at arm's length, she studied him closely. "You look awful."
"I'm fine." The teen replied, shifting his eyes off the woman's face.
She hardly believed the lie, though. "No more lying, Bradin. We've got to talk. Keep things out in the open. You're sick, Bradin. Aren't you?"
"Just too much sun." Bradin replied honestly.
As Ava stroked the teen's face gently, Johnny finally figured out something to say. "Well, there's an easy fix for that."
As the teen, as well as the rest of the household, turned to face him expectantly, the man pointed meaningfully toward the teen's bedroom. "Bed. Now."
Looking over at her former boyfriend in shock, the woman attempted to soften his harsh words for the teen. "Johnny's right. It's late and it's been a really long day. How about we all get some shut-eye. Talk more in the morning?"
"All right. You heard the woman, get a move on." Susanna reiterated, clapping her hands together as she began to guide the young Westerlings towards the bedrooms.
As his aunt gave him a gentle kiss on the forehead and quietly slipped out of his room, Bradin smiled slightly to himself as he reveled in the events of the day. It completely amazed him that what had started off as the worst day of his life had turned out so well. He was home, safe and in his own bed. His brother, sister, Ava, Susanna and Jay all genuinely wanted him there. What more could he ask for?
AN: So I finally finished it. About time, I know. Yes, there is a sequel floating around in my head. Johnny/Bradin relationship building, in case it wasn't glaringly obvious. No promises as to when, though. I'm attempting to accept that I only write and update when I'm feeling the desire. What can I say? It is only a hobby, after all.