My Impractical Hurricane – 12
Why are you guys so nice to me, huh? Anyway…this is the last chapter of the story. Why? Uh, because all things come to an end, I guess. And this is all I wrote. Don't expect a sequel, but don't negate the possibility. If a fun idea or supreme boredom strikes me, who knows, one day I might. But you guys are all awesome. I'm so glad that you enjoyed the story thus far. I realize that Reed and Johnny are an utterly ridiculous couple, but that's really part of why I wanted to do it. Because I think it's funny.
So thanks for the reviews and the comments, and reading all twelve chapters of my madness. I really almost forgot how much fun it was to write something more on the light-hearted side. So please—send no radioactive spiders after me, as I fear the radioactive waves may give me cancer. Hugs, kisses, and one-night-stands to you all.
Needless to be said, nothing about this disaster went over well. After an hour of trying to talk to Sue through a locked door, Ben had decided to give it a rest. For the remainder of the night, no one would speak to one another.
Sue wouldn't say anything to any of them. Suddenly it seemed like she wasn't even there, even if most of the time she was just in her room. Not that any of them blamed her, and not that they weren't far too terrified to approach her. Reed and Johnny put up a good act at having a friendly sort of relationship, but they hardly knew how to deal with each other now. Treating someone like a friend when you both knew that there was something more was like a Vegas wedding: all show and no sincerity. And there was no Elvis impersonator to sing these blues. For Ben's part, he tried to fix things whenever possible. Whether it was jabbering at Reed about current events, making small talk with Sue, or trying to provoke the usual fight out of a strangely listless Johnny, he had all but restrained them in his arms like errant children to keep them together. The Fantastic Four was in practical shambles.
Reed supposed that this must have been hardest on Sue, but who was to say? Maybe it was an equal strain for all of them. Either way, he felt solely responsible. Maybe that first kiss had been an accident, but the second sure as Hell had intent. The same could be said for the third and fourth. The fifth he could at least blame on Johnny. And the sixth. And the seventh and eighth…alright, so maybe Reed had to take blame for the ninth. In any case, Johnny was right. This was all his fault, start to finish. Even so, there was nothing he could do to remedy the situation. Like Ben had said the other day over coffee and suppressed anxiety, "This ain't a car, Reed. You can't just dish out a quick tune up and a paint job and expect it to run the same." Boy did he know it.
After a few more days, Reed was stopped in the middle of the hall at the sound of Sue and Johnny's voices. Part of him had been thrilled just to discover the two of them were speaking, but the other part couldn't help but note that they were more yelling than talking. He couldn't bear being the root of that. He turned away just around the time echoes of "I'll always love you but right now I just hate you so much" made it to him. He was sure Ben had intervened only moments later, as his footsteps often signaled his presence at all times. I love you, but I hate you. Was that progress at all? Reed wasn't about to be hopeful. He'd always been a wishful thinker.
Almost a week had passed since the incident and suddenly…things almost seemed…back to normal. Even if you took into account the fact that no one was really talking much to each other. The mood had calmed, if nothing else. Sue could be seen about the house, conversing with Ben every now and then and even going as far as to offer a few words to her brother when needed. Reed actually caught himself laughing at some aimless comment Ben made. Sue wouldn't speak to Reed, but he supposed that could be expected. He wasn't sure if she would ever speak to him again. …Johnny had started going out all night again. Reed was determined to pretend that didn't hurt a little, somewhere deep down.
Currently, however, Reed was just trying not to think on any of it, despite there being little else to think on. He wandered about his home with pedantic ponders of chemical warfare and the state of the rain forest, or world hunger and why people watch David Letterman. In general, things with no real answer. Thinking about global problems was better than beating yourself up about your own. Neither helped, however. Reed once thought he chased people away because of his unnatural obsession with his work, but now he was thinking that maybe it was just him. Maybe he just wasn't as good with people as he thought. Living in a populous of four was the most crowded arrangement he felt he'd ever lived in, and he thought that rather pathetic. He shook his head and made his way back towards the living room. How had he suddenly landed back on personal problems? When he rounded the corner, he quickly learned of another occupant in his intended solace.
Johnny was seated on the couch limply, head tilted over the back of it and eyes closed. Blaring headphones hung around his neck, singing him some less than sweet lullaby by Nine Inch Nails. Upon closer study, it was clear that he was asleep, or at least very close to it, and Reed wondered how anyone could sleep amid such awful noise. Although it didn't necessarily surprise him. He knew that Johnny hadn't been sleeping at night.
It was just another one of those things he tried not to think about. Johnny would stay out all night, and Reed could hear him wandering around the house early in the morning when he got back. Reed despised the fact that every time Johnny did go out, he couldn't sleep himself waiting for him to return. The idea that Johnny would split as he originally planned haunted him in the back of his mind. But every night, Johnny would return. He would inevitably come home; to his sister, to his team, to his family. To Reed.
If his objective had been to hide out in the living room, Johnny had beaten him to it. His brain told him just to walk away, to continue avoiding this… He was so tired of listening to his brain. It always offered him the smartest decision, and yet he always ended up miserable. He was moving into the room before he made a real decision anyway. Johnny at least looked tranquil, which would have to be a first since this whole thing began. Reed slowly entered and sighed, gently resting a knee onto the couch next to him and leaning over carefully to pluck the headphones away from his neck. Johnny slightly mumbled and whimpered, and Reed purposefully resisted a small smile, reaching down cautiously to turn off the headset that was screaming obscure and morbid lyrics out into the air around them. The minute the music shut off, Johnny's eyes drew open, clouded and unwitting as they stared up at the ceiling.
Reed eyed him nervously and timidly set the headphones down into Johnny's lap. "…S…sorry…" he spoke quietly, trying not to alarm him.
Johnny's eyes traveled to Reed's face from where his head was reclined, unblinking.
"I uh…I just thought maybe you'd sleep better with them off…" Reed swallowed uncomfortably and looked down.
Johnny took a slow breath in, immobilized by their proximity. "…Oh." He whispered in a croak. "…Thanks."
"Yeah. Sure." Reed nodded, readying himself to draw away.
"S-so what are you doing?" Johnny lifted his head and glanced over Reed quickly.
Reed looked back at him and paused. "…Nothing, I guess. Just…you know…hanging around. Why?"
"I don't know, I guess I was just wondering if you…y-you're not going out anywhere?"
Reed smirked and shook his head. "We can't all have social lives as tireless as yours."
Johnny fiddled with his headset for a minute in his lap before responding. "Right."
"You okay?" Reed asked warily as he stood up.
"Sure. Fine." Johnny answered mechanically. No jokes, no wit, no personality. Reed hated it.
"Alright then." Reed offered another nod and walked back out of the room.
"Reed—" Johnny suddenly called just as Reed made it to the door.
Reed stopped of course, turning back. "…Yeah?"
Johnny had a hand held up in the air, but he quickly placed it to the back of his neck, clearing his throat. "…Well…maybe I'm not so good, okay? God—let's stop the damn charade." He sighed loudly and collapsed back on the couch.
Reed felt a good sixty pounds tumble off of his shoulders. "…Sure. You…want to talk about this?"
"No." Johnny quipped. "But it beats the Hell out of not talking about it."
Reed looked around and plodded back over to the couch, slowly sitting again. "…Look Johnny—"
"No, you look." Johnny snorted. "…You said if I left, it would only make things worse. Reed…my sister hardly even talks to me now. She just gives me that look, you know?"
"Yeah, I know that look." Reed grimaced and scratched his chin.
"This isn't like the usual thing where she has a tantrum and throws something at my head. Or hits me. Or takes all my underwear and throws it in the wash with something red—it's…this is bad. And I can't even look at the rock head anymore. I know what's coming."
"Ben wouldn't make fun of you for this, Johnny, he wouldn't hit that low…" Reed attempted.
"Well why shouldn't he?" Johnny rubbed an arm and ran a hand over his head. "It's that, and…whatever it is with you. Can't even talk to you without feeling like a jerk. …How is it better for anyone, huh superman? We're not 'dealing' with anything here, whatever that means. We're just covering it up, and it's stupid, okay? I don't wanna deal with this crap anymore."
Reed was sure that his heart was in his stomach at the moment. He'd been pining over his own problems, but Johnny was the one that really got hurt. What the Hell was he doing to this family, anyway? Did they have any cousins he could morally scar? "…You're not sleeping."
Johnny didn't reply for a long while, but rigidly shook his head after a moment of contemplation. "Neither are you."
It seemed to be an arbitrary observation, but it silenced the both of them. It was just one of those secrets they had all supposed it best not to talk about, or at least pretend wasn't true. "Nope…" Reed sighed. "…did…Sue really turn your underwear pink?"
Johnny rolled his eyes. "Just the one time…"
Reed momentarily put the panic out of his mind that Sue had round the clock access to his laundry. "The important thing is that she still wants you around. She always will, you know that."
"Sometimes I think that's the problem." Johnny muttered. "…No matter what I do, she always keeps me around to screw up all over again. I should just do her a favor and duck out before she—"
"Would you stop talking about leaving?" Reed glared. "We can't be the Fantastic Three. …Not when you already took the liberty of emblemizing our suits."
"So get a dog."
"That's not funny."
Johnny looked up with an unhappy little hum. "You could be the Terrific Three."
"The Terrible Trio?"
"That isn't even—"
"Reed Richards and his Dynamite Duo."
"Would you knock it off?" Reed swiped him over the back of the head and Johnny grinned. Suddenly, in that small, aimless moment, it was the closest thing they had felt to normal in…well, since that very first night. In fact, it was the same room and the same couch…Reed straightened up and tried to look serious, but just as he opened his mouth to speak—lips cut him off.
When Johnny pulled off, Reed sat staring like an oil painting, wondering what he'd done to earn that.
Johnny gave a shuddering sigh and stared ahead at the wall out in front of him. "…Yeah. Okay. I lost count or whatever, but yeah, okay, that one was mine, I know."
"Johnny…" Reed began quietly.
"I know." The blonde huffed in exasperation. "But I can't help it…That's what makes it so damn hard."
"No, look, I—"
"I got it, okay? I'm out of here." Johnny angrily stood up.
"Johnny, damnit, you wait!" Reed barked, snatching Johnny around the middle and jerking him back down. He ended up more or less on Reed's lap, his headset just now loudly clattering to the floor. Johnny struggled a little, but slumped and simmered after a moment silently. Reed leaned his forehead against Johnny's shoulder blade in frustration. "…I pinned you once, I can do it again."
Johnny growled and settled.
Reed pushed him over back onto the couch, one of Johnny's legs still resting over his knees. "…Let me get a word in once in a while, would you?"
"I already know what you're gonna say, and I don't wanna sit through it." Johnny justified. No sooner had he said this than Reed was pressing another kiss to his cheek. It had become obvious that words had no effect on Johnny, who presently responded with a light gasp.
"So what am I going to say?" Reed raised an eyebrow as he broke off and rested a hand on the knee that was lying over his own.
Johnny blinked at stammered. "…I…"
I got him to be quiet after all. If circumstances were different, Sue might be proud of me. Reed thought absently. "First off, I think the count is at eleven. …Wait, what am I saying, that doesn't…anyway, there you go, trying to walk away again. Please, just calm down."
"You make it sound so easy." Johnny sneered. "Don't play these stupid games with me, alright? I'm not in a joking mood."
"You?" Reed repeated, unimpressed. "You make jokes in the middle of a dead sleep. Anyway…we've known each other for a long time. We've been friends for just as long, I know that. But…you're probably right if you're thinking that we can't be friends anymore…"
"There. That's what I knew you were going to say." Johnny nearly pouted.
It took a lot of effort for Reed to keep his voice level as he spoke next, nervous eyes searching the room around him. "But we're still on a team together, so we have to be able to get along. That's why I was sort of hoping…you might…you know…have those…other feelings for me. Still."
Johnny hesitated for a long moment and Reed noted with discomfort that his temperature rose a good deal. "…Are you insane?" Johnny asked simply.
"I guess I'd have to be." Reed nodded. "Johnny, it's the only way I can…that I can look at you now…God knows I'm sorry, but I can't ignore it. I've tried. And you know I'm not someone who gives up easily. I can't just think of you and write you off as Sue's annoying brother, I can't just see The Human Torch, or whatever it is all those fans of yours see. Is it that easy for you? What do you…what do you see me as?"
Johnny groaned loudly in complaint and sank face down into the couch, clawing at his head. "I hate you."
"I'd hate me too." Reed tossed up his hands a little.
"…How is this gonna work?" Johnny inquired hopelessly from muffling sofa cushions, eyes half closing.
"I don't know." Reed answered honestly. "…Some things…just do, if you give them a chance."
"…I'm still not gay…" Johnny grumbled and eyed down at his possibly broken CD player.
"I know. Me neither…" Reed said in a distant tone. It was quite the paradox about that. Neither of them was lying, but neither of them was exactly telling the truth, either.
"So then where does that leave us?"
"…Somewhere between madness and stupidity."
Johnny closed his eyes and exhaled. "…It's gonna be a long time before Sue forgives us, you know…"
"…Or before Ben stops giving us that look…"
"Or before I can drink orange juice again…"
"I'll buy some apple juice." Reed took Johnny by the collar of his shirt and hauled him back upright into a sitting position. Johnny turned and embraced him roughly before he could go on to say anything else.
Reed slowly hugged back in surprise and let a somewhat flustered smile overtake him. He knew that things had to blow over eventually, as bad as they were and as bad as they could get from here. A man's only hope is to endure, after all.
In any case, the team would need Reed and Johnny more than ever two days later—when Sue and Ben both came down with a rather nasty case of the flu.