Things weren't going brilliantly at the Baxter Building that morning. In fact, they were far from brilliant. Half of the household were walking around on eggshells, avoiding the other half, who were stomping around making as much noise as possible. However, whilst this was sometimes the normal daily functions for the newly created Fantastic family, the usual positions of the post-argument world were reversed. For once, Ben and Johnny were the ones doing the avoiding, not the ones making as much noise as possible. Rather, it was Sue and Reed that were working on turning the large apartment into two definite sides of an after-row apocalypse.
Tensions were running high even with simple questions about what they should have for dinner, or who was going to do the weekly food shop. Underneath any serious discussion that took place between the two, there was an argument just waiting to jump out and, once again, fill the entire living arrangements with snapping and shouting. This time, however, the argument was clear. There was no underlying connotations, just the simple disagreement that actually had nothing to do with their denied relationship on the surface level.
The kitchen was filled with sound, the voices of the two reverberating off the walls, completely shutting them in with each other. Reed and Sue stood at one end of the table, shouting in each other's faces, whilst Johnny and Ben chose the seated option at the kitchen dining table. However, whilst the discussion had previously been about the four of them as a group, it had, as usual turned into the reason why Sue and Reed were shouting at each other, leaving the other two too afraid to move in fear of getting caught in the arguing.
"I can't believe you!" Sue cried in disbelief.
Reed was slightly calmer than Sue for the moment, but his voice was still raised, matching hers. "I'm just saying that-"
"You're always just saying!" She pointed out. "Never doing!"
"Oh, don't start that again." Reed rolled his eyes. They didn't need to get into another argument about how he always over thought things. That usually cropped up in most arguments.
"We can't get rid of these powers. People need us!" Sue pointed out. Yes, that was the original point of the discussion.
"What for? Victor's gone and he's not coming back!" Reed reminded her.
"You don't know that." She said in an uncertain, low tone.
He looked at her incredulously. "He's being deported this morning." He said simply. "The cargo ship left for Latveria an hour ago."
"I'm just saying--"
"What, that we keep our powers just in case he comes back?" Reed asked her, his tone hinting at how ridiculous the idea sounded.
"No." She shot quickly. "I'm just saying that we should be prepared."
"I don't see what we need to be prepared for." Reed shrugged, leaning against the table with one hand.
She looked at him harshly. "Think about it, Reed." She said bitterly. "It's what you do best, after all."
He stood up fully again, resisting the temptation to roll his eyes. "Real mature, Sue. We'll bring sarcasm into this."
Johnny took a deep breath, waiting a moment to see if his sister was going to reply to that comment, but when all Reed received in return was an icy stare that could have frozen even the Torch's flames, he decided to brave the no-man's land that their kitchen had become.
"Actually, guys, I think Sue has a-"
"Shut up, Johnny!" Sue and Reed both snapped at him, their unison perhaps the only thing that had agreed on so far that morning.
With raised eyebrows and no desire to get himself shouted at in the way that Reed had done, Johnny leaned back in his chair again. "Okay." He said simply, more than willing to watch the two argue. If Ben had been more of a gambler, he might have been willing to place bets on which one would storm out of the room first, and which one would give in an apologize first. If the past was anything to go by, then there was a high chance that Sue would storm off first, and Reed would be the one who gave in and apologized.
Reed shook his head at Sue. "I don't see why you want to keep them all of a sudden." He admitted.
"I don't see what you're afraid of." She countered.
"I'm not afraid of anything." He defended.
"Then what's the problem with keeping them?" She asked him, flailing her arms at her side a little as she tried to get through to him.
"We still don't know how progressive this is." He reminded her.
"Then we'll learn." She insisted confidently. "We've got by so far."
"Anything could happen, Sue." He said slowly, trying to remain calm as he got his point across. "We might reach a stage where we can't turn it on and off anymore. What then?"
"Ben's already at that point, and he's coping, isn't he?" Sue snapped back at him, however, she immediately turned to Ben, and with all her usual calm and grace, gave him an apologetic gaze. "Sorry, Ben." She said sweetly.
"No problem." He waved off.
She turned back to Reed again, all her anger returning in a way that was almost humorous to have seen the before and after transition that had just taken place. "See!" She cried.
"Sue, this isn't something-"
"Why can't you just accept that this is who we are now?" She asked him. "Why can't you just deal with this as it is?"
"Maybe I don't want to change." He told her, rising to the challenge she was instating.
"You never do!" She pointed out, as he replied with the worst possible 'perhaps' in her books. Change. He didn't want to change. How predictable had that been?
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"You know damn well that it means, Reed." She said, her voice low and dangerous. If looks could have killed, she would have been wanted for murder at that point. However, rather than cowering under her gaze like he usually would have, Reed met her, stare for stare, blink for blink. Just as much determination flowed from his eyes as it did from hers, right until the moment he looked away.
His gaze fell down to the glass-topped dining table beside him, and he shook his head, letting out a sigh. Surrendering, he returned his gaze to hers. "Fine." He said quietly. "You really want to know the truth?"
"It'd make a nice change." She snapped, despite his calmer tone.
He looked her in the eye for a moment, and then, surprising her completely, he stepped forward, and in his swift advance, he captured her lips with his, crushing her into a furious kiss. It took her a moment to realise what had just happened, but her instinct took over almost immediately, and she responded to the passionate kiss he bestowed upon her. Weaving her arms around his neck, she felt the foreign touch of his arms repeating around her, weaving about her waist more than the usual once that he used to hold her with.
Sitting at the table still, Ben turned to Johnny, who was frowning at the two with a mild disgust on his face. "Not that I'm not glad that they're getting it out of their system...do you think now would be a good time to get out of here?" Ben suggested, knowing that whether they left or not, their presence wasn't going to be noticed.
"No." Johnny said simply.
"What?" Ben asked him incredulously. "If we stay, we'll never get to leave."
"I'm going to be hungry soon." Johnny said. "And I'm scared of what I might walk in on later if we leave now. If we don't leave, they can't do anything."
Ben nodded. As strange as his reasoning had been, Johnny had been right. There was always the convenient 'we're still here' cough if they needed it and things got out of hand.
After what seemed like forever, the pair pulled away from each other. Sue opened her eyes, looking up at his already parted lids with complete shock written on her face, and her lips still swollen from his kiss as they both breathed heavily.
"That's why." Reed told her simply, as if the one kiss had been worth more than a million words between them. "If we keep the powers, then we keep up this 'superhero' act, and this business with Victor was dangerous enough...and I don't want to lose you." He told her, his voice quiet and soft.
"Reed..." She whispered breathlessly, unsure of what to say, but needing to say something.
"I love you, Sue." He told her, aware of two other gasps accompanying her own from across the room. "I love you, and I can't stand knowing that if anything ever happened to you, it would be because I didn't fix this when I had the chance."
"You...you love me." She stuttered out, stumbling over the words as they left her mouth.
"Yeah, that's what he said." Johnny jumped in.
"Shut up, Johnny!" Reed snapped.
Sue simply looked at him. He loved her. All of what they had been through hadn't changed that. Their two years apart clearly hadn't changed that either. She realised that it was probably the built up tension between them, the same that had never been resolved, that had been causing all of their petty arguments at the moment, but it was because he loved her...he loved her...he actually loved her.
But did she love him?
"I...I have to go." She whispered, almost to herself as she backed away. Dejected, Reed released his arms from their multiple hold around her waist, and she dropped her arms from his neck. As they parted fully, she took a step back, still watching him before turning on her heel and leaving the room.
Reed watched her leave, his expression clearly filled with devastation as she walked away from him for a second time. Then, wordlessly, he turned and left the room at the other exit, going towards his lab, rather than the bedroom area, where Sue had disappeared to.
There was a moment of silence between the two remaining men. "Well, that wasn't good."
Johnny shook his head. "It's going to be a long and awkward day."
Ben sighed. "Right, I'll calm Reed down, you go and talk to Susie."
He turned his head with raised eyebrows. "Are you serious?"
"Someone needs to tell her that they're perfect for each other." Ben reminded him.
"So, why has that person gotta be me?" Johnny asked defensively. "She's gonna be in a wreck, and she'll be crying and..." The thought of his elder sister, despite her being the one who always did the caring between them, crying her eyes out over a guy, was something that brought out the protective side of him. He groaned and pushed himself up from his seat. "Okay, I'll go." He complained, hating the thought that he was soon going to be up to his ears in female hormones but too much of a brother to let his sister cry alone.
He walked into the bedroom and stood behind her. She was sat at the dressing table, the mirror showing her face covered by her hands. Silence lay between them for a moment, and all that could be heard was the proud, yet shaking breaths that came from his sister. He knew those sounds; too upset to scream, yet to stubborn to cry. It was part of her nature. When their mother died, back when they were both too young to know any better than mom and dad ruling the world between them, Sue had taken over for him, she had all but become the mother they had lost. She'd raised him into the man he was from the seven-year-old frightened boy who missed his mother. So, when it came to problems involving tears, Sue still felt like she couldn't cry around Johnny.
Sighing, he put his hands on her shoulders, and she sighed as two silent tears fell down her cheeks. "You okay?" He asked her quietly, just to fill the room with some sound.
"He loves me, Johnny." She whispered in reply. "After everything that happened he still...he still loves me."
Johnny wondered what to say next. He wasn't a girl, so he didn't know to handle emotional situations like this. He had to rely on instinct, and his best guess. Of course, usually instinct was what caused him to snowboard down a dangerous mountain, and his best guess kicked in ten minutes later to tell him that he'd fractured or broken his wrist. Now, though, his instinct was telling him that his sister needed reassurance, and his best guess was telling him to state the obvious. Like Ben had said, someone needed to tell her that they were perfect for each other. "Yeah, he does." He replied simply.
"He didn't come after me." She realised. "The first time, I left, and he didn't come after me...and now, he didn't come after me again."
"I'm not surprised he didn't come after you this time." Johnny said before he could stop himself, shocked to find that for once, he actually knew what was going on in Reed's head. "He bears his heart out to you, and you walked away from him. He looked like someone killed his puppy."
Sue looked away for a moment, closing her eyes and wiping underneath them with the back of her hand. "I...I just don't know what to do, Johnny." She admitted. "He let me down so much last time, I don't know if I can go through that again, so I...I don't know what to do."
And then it came to him. She didn't need the 'don't worry's and the 'he loves you's. She needed the opposite. She wasn't going to realise the true feelings she had for him by him telling her that. He needed to provoke her enough to make her realise it for herself.
"I'll tell you what you're going to do." He told her simply, "You're going to forget about him."
She looked up at his reflection in the mirror as if he were crazy. "What?"
"Forget about him. Forget about everything." He said, as if it were the simplest thing in the world.
She frowned. "How on Earth am I going to forget about him?" She asked him incredulously, her tone suggesting that deep down, she didn't even want to try and contemplate that idea.
"It's easy." Johnny told her, squeezing her shoulders lightly. "We'll get our stuff, and we'll go back to our homes, and you get on with your life without him." She shook her head slowly. "Forget about Reed." Johnny told her. "Forget about the first time you met, forget about how you feel into his eyes when he looked at you, forget about all of his charms and everything that you fell for...forget about the way that he held you in his arms."
On the contrary, as Johnny said the words, it was all she could think about, and he knew it. He could see the distant look in her reflected eyes, whilst she saw memories of her life with Reed flashing before her eyes. He knew that he was getting to her in the right way, and he walked around behind her, pacing simply as he pointed out the perfect way to forget the man she loved, knowing that she would never be able to do it.
"The walking on air crap is just obnoxious." He told her. "The thrill's just going to make you feel sick if you keep it up for too long. Like being on a roller coaster. Even if you've got the stomach for it, it'll make you feel sick sooner or later."
Sue never had been one for roller coasters, especially the ones with the twists and turns that jerked your stomach all over the place. It had led to some rather messy stomach accidents as a child.
"Forget about the romance." Johnny continued, a rather pleased smile on his lips. "Forget about all the dancing...all the skipped beats of your heart...all the dates, and the dresses and the dinners...forget it all. Forget about the blushing when he'd go on about all the soppy crap that you liked...it's just revolting, Sue." He playfully scolded her. "Love is revoltingly sickly and gross and mushy."
She gave herself a sad smile in the mirror before turning her gaze to his. "You know, it's funny." She said softly. "I'd been starting to forget about those things anyway." She realised, but the sound of her voice wasn't filled with the pride of half-accomplishing her brother's directions already, it was filled with guilt, a hated feeling of wondering how on Earth she could have forgotten something like that.
"Brilliant." Johnny grinned, clapping his hands together. "You're on your way there. You've forgotten the moments, and now you've just got to forget the big one." He leaned over her again, with his hands on her shoulder so that their heads were side by side in the reflection. "You've just got to forget about love."
"All of it?" She asked hesitantly.
He nodded. "Every last second."
"Even the first time we kissed?" She asked, even more uncertainty showing on her face.
"You won't miss it." He assured her. "Forget about all of it...his kiss, his eyes, his touch..."
"I can't forget about that." She said quietly.
"Nothing really matters that much, after all." He continued as if he hadn't heard her.
"Yes, it does." She nodded, her voice still quiet but filled with more determination and certainty than it had done a while ago.
Johnny shook his head. "You're better on your own." He tried to show her. "Look at how much you accomplished when you were apart."
"Look at how much we've accomplished when we're not apart." She reminded him, as if Johnny needed to be reminded about their new hero fame. "Love's filled with compromises." She said to herself, turning back to the mirror with a sigh.
"Think about all those big surprises, though." Johnny told her, trying to aggravate her further. "All those 'Oh, I won't be back for dinner after all's, and 'sorry, Sue, I need to finish up this research, I don't have time to go to the movies'."
She gave a tiny smile. "To be honest, those nights in were better than the nights out." She remembered fondly.
Now that was too much information. "Oh, please!" He muttered, rolling his eyes.
"Last minute candlelight for two..." She continued, a glazed expression over her eyes.
"Don't be so ridiculous." Johnny scolded her. "Just forget about it."
She shook her head. "I can't." She said, pushing herself away from the dressing table and standing up. "I can't forget that I love him."
And with that, she turned and left the room, no doubt going to find Reed, leaving a very accomplished Johnny standing in her bedroom. He punched the air in triumph, before going to find Ben for bragging rights.
He followed Sue, and moments after her, he arrived in the lab. There, she stood, watching as Reed sat at his desk, holding his head in his hands in the same way that she had done a moment ago, whilst Ben stood beside him, trying to bring him out of the devastated shell he had locked himself in. Both of them looked up when they heard Sue's feet padding against the ground of the lab. When Johnny appeared behind her, Ben was immediately up on his feet, and grabbed the younger man by the arm, taking him out of the lab.
"Come on, kid, let's give them a minute." He told him as they left the couple alone.
Johnny snorted, laughing at the idea. "Like they'd be able to sort out all their problems in a minute!" He pointed out.
Sue and Reed continued looking at each other, now alone in the room, before Sue started to take steps towards him. He stayed in his chair, watching as she stopped two paces from his side, looking down at him with watery eyes.
"You love me." She said, repeating his words from earlier.
He nodded, looking down for a moment before returning his eyes to hers. "So much." He whispered honestly.
"Why...why didn't you say anything before?" She asked him.
"I didn't want you to think I was just acting jealous over Victor." He reasoned.
She gave him a watery smile. "I already knew that."
His eyes widened. "What?"
She laughed lightly, and nodded. He also managed a laugh. "Oh, God." He murmured under his breath. She'd known the entire time.
"I liked that you were jealous." She admitted quietly, taking another step closer to him.
"You did?" He asked her strangely.
She nodded, trailing her fingers across the top of the hand that he kept rested atop the desk. "It kind of gave me hope that somewhere in there, there was still my Reed...the Reed I left behind."
He turned his hand over, holding her wandering fingers entwined with his own. "He was always there." He assured her.
She smiled, returning the comforting grip that his hands gave her. "Remember when I told you that I wanted you to be that man?"
"Yes." He nodded.
"I still mean that." She told him.
He nodded slowly this time, exhaling openly. "And that means...keeping the powers." He realised, going back to the original discussion which had brought all of this in the open to start with.
"That doesn't have to affect us, Reed." She pointed out. "Having these powers shouldn't have to interfere with anything between you and me."
His eyes glazed over with an almost painful expression. "What if you get hurt?" He asked her, bringing back the fear he had explained to her before she had fled the room.
"Then I'll get better." She told him confidently. "People get hurt all the time."
"I know, but I don't want to be responsible for hurting you again." He told her.
She squeezed his hand back, and sat down on the desk before him, so that she was more at his level. "You won't be." She assured him quietly.
He cast an unsure look towards the machine that was designed to cure them. "If we don't use the machine within the next few days, the power that Victor magnified will wear out." He explained to her, which justified his sudden mention of the 'problem' that morning at breakfast. "We won't get another chance at this." He added in a whisper.
She nodded firmly. "That's that, then." She murmured.
"I'm willing to live with this."
He looked at her, and then brought his face closer to hers by stretching out his neck. It was only a short distance, but it meant that they could be closer to one another. He brushed his face against hers as he murmured into her hair; "You deserve more than being invisible, Sue." He told her. "Even if you're never invisible to me."
She smiled at the sweetness of his words. He once thought that he never had a way with words, but she knew that in his moments, he could blow her away with just a few words, just like he had done then. "Johnny always said that I was easy to see through." She reminded him.
"That doesn't mean he has to be literally right." Reed told her.
"Reed..." She said softly, placing her hands either side of his face and keeping it in place before her. "I'm happy." She assured him. "I'm happy, and I have a family, and my friends, and...and you, and I'm happy with that. I don't need that machine to make my life any better than it already is, because I'm happy with things just the way they are." She explained, placing a gentle kiss on his lips.
"What about the others?" He asked hesitantly, his eyes flickering back to the machine for a moment.
"They can make their own choices." She told him. "But I don't want to go back to being just Sue Storm again. I want to make a difference to the world in the way that only we can."
He gave her a gentle smile. "You'll always be Sue Storm to me." He told her.
She gave him a smile. "I know, but I don't mind that, because no one else knows me like you do." She told him, still feeling that, despite a two year absence, he knew her better than anyone did.
"Okay." He said, filled with determination after a moment.
"Okay, we won't use the machine." He decided.
She frowned. "We? Reed...I didn't mean..."
"If you can live with this, so can I." He told her, clasping her hands tightly again.
Smiling, she kissed him again. "I knew that my Reed was in there somewhere." She grinned afterwards.
"But you have to promise me something." He told her, his seriousness counteracting her smile.
"Don't ever put yourself in danger when it's not necessary." He said.
"I mean it, Sue." He told her seriously. "The reason I didn't want to keep our powers is because I didn't want you to get hurt because of them. So, if we're going to keep them, you have to promise me that there's no chance of me losing you."
With his face still level, Sue leant forward and kissed him. "You're never going to lose me, Reed."
Before their kiss could deepen, Johnny crossed through the lab, no doubt on his way to the kitchen. The lab was always the surest short-cut to any room of the apartment. However, Johnny had his eyes covered with one hand, and was guiding himself through the lab with one hand outstretched.
"Johnny?" Sue asked, completely confused.
"Don't mind me." He said innocently.
"Johnny, what are you doing?" Sue asked, her confusion portrayed in a tired tone.
"I haven't heard yelling from in here since we left." He explained. "And now, I'm hungry, and I don't want to see anything that I shouldn't."
Completely appalled, the pair dropped their jaws. "Johnny! We're in the middle of the lab!" Reed stuttered out, shocked that he could even suggest ... that, right now.
"Don't worry, I've got my eyes closed." He said simply.
"You're disgusting." Sue complained.
Johnny snorted. "You're the ones in the middle of the lab."
There was a brief shuffling in the kitchen, and then Johnny came back into view, a bag of chips in his hands, and he banged his shoulder into the doorframe as he passed them. Reed and Sue simply stared in his absence.
"Did that just happen?" Reed asked after a moments silence.
"...yeah." Sue said, still confused by her brothers entry.
"And he knows that we're not...?"
"I think he's just winding us up." Sue assured him.
Reed raised an eyebrow. "You think?"
Sue shrugged. "It's hard to tell with Johnny sometimes, but I think so."
Reed shook his head, looking away before looking back to Sue. "You do realise how awful it is now that your brother thinks we're sleeping together?" He pointed out to her.
She nodded. "Absolutely." She agreed, remembering certain incidents with Johnny and Reed back when they'd first been dating, and Reed had been caught by her younger brother leaving the house in the early hours of the morning. A certain black eye was remembered well. "What do we do about it?"
"We go to my room." Reed decided.
Sue raised her eyebrows. "Oh, do we now?" She asked him, half-laughing at his forwardness.
"Yes, we do." He nodded.
She laughed fully, turning her face away from Reed's lips so that he caught her cheek instead of her lips. "Hold your horses, Dr. Richards." She giggled. "It's been a long few days, and we had no time to sleep last night what with all the publicity." She pointed out. "I want to go to sleep, and have a very long lie-in."
"I know." Reed acknowledged. "I'm not just trying to get you into my bed again."
"Then why your room?" She challenged him.
He smiled, capturing her eyes with his the same way he had done a thousand times before, their faces nuzzling together as he spoke. "It took a lot of courage for me to tell you that I love you. If you think that I'm spending today without you in my arms, you're wrong." He told her.
Sue smiled, kissing him briefly. "God, I missed you." She breathed.
"I missed you, too." He replied.
"And, just for the record..." She said, smiling broadly as she kissed him fully, not caring who walked in this time. "...I love you too...and I'm never going to forget that." She assured him.
He smiled back at her, and with both of them grinning like idiots, they left the lab, crossing through the lounge on their way to the bedroom. They passed Johnny and Ben in the lounge, and said goodnight despite it being the morning still. However, true to what Sue had said, they'd not slept the night before, and were well overdue for some rest and relaxation. As the couple passed into the bedroom, Johnny grabbed the television remote and turned the volume up to almost full.
Ben looked at him strangely. "What did you do that for?" He asked loudly, as music blared into the room. "You trying to deafen us?"
Johnny shook his head, not taking his eyes away from the television. "Trust me. We'll want the TV as loud as possible if they're in the same room together, alone." He pointed out.
It took a second, but Ben's head suddenly jerked in disgust as he looked at the younger man. "...you're disgusting." He complained.
I hope you all like it! Press the little purple button...you know you want to!