After the Surfer from a slightly different turn of events, Johnny spends some time with his sister. (Johnny!centric)
Archive: If you tell me, please!
Feedback: I don't have a beta, so any concrit is greatly appreciated. Or any comments at all. :)
Notes: Movieverse, but inspired by the "Hereafter" arc in the comics (issues 509-513). If you like the movie, you need to read Waid's run on the FF comic; it rocks (also, angst!).
Johnny woke a full hour before his alarm would have gone off from a sleep that wasn't restful at all. He gazed at the ceiling for a few minutes and then, with a groan, sat up. The early morning sun shone off his sister's hair from where she sat at the foot of his bed.
"Uh, hey sis, what's up? I mean, I love you and all, but this watching me sleep business is kinda creepy."
He could've sworn a sad look flashed in her eyes before she blinked it away and smiled back. "Good morning Johnny. And I wasn't watching you sleep, you dork. I just came to check in on you, since normally you don't wake up until noon..." She frowned. "Are you sleeping okay?"
"Nope!" He chirped. "You?"
"Well, some of us don't routinely sleep all morning." Johnny climbed out of bed, rubbing at his eyes. She continued. "Maybe you should see a doctor, have someone prescribe you some sleeping pills."
It was a mark of how tired he felt that Johnny actually considered it before shaking his head. "Aw, sis, you know I hate to be all drugged up. Besides, who knows what that stuff could do to our powers. Didn't Reed tell us not to take anything 'til he checks it out?"
"So get him to. And besides, we don't know that sleep deprivation won't cause problems." She frowned thoughtfully. "Your powers have been working fine since Norrin left though?"
"Yeah. They... yeah, they have. Of course." He got up and started moving around his room almost on auto pilot. Out of his walk-in closet he pulled a button-up shirt and jeans. He remembered buying them on an excursion with Sue a few months back. She'd made a little joke about how much money they ran through on Johnny's wardrobe and that he should probably be a bit more careful about when he flamed on. After his first run in with the Surfer she'd brought it up again and he'd joked that it had been her husband's idea anyway.
He would've had to be blind to miss how much she glowed at hearing Reed described as her husband, even if it hadn't technically been true.
He threw the clothes on his bed and looked back at Sue. "I'm gonna hop in the shower... you have any plans today?"
"No. But I thought I might hang out with my favorite little brother." He rolled his eyes and walked into his bathroom. Since Johnny's core body temperature was so much higher than normal, it took much hotter water to feel comfortable. Of course, he usually ended up using his power to heat the water as it left the showerhead, or else their hot water bill would be even more than the patents from Reed's inventions could pay for.
Once finished with his morning routine, he pulled on his jumpsuit, glad that at least Reed's unstable molecules were comfortable, considering he more or less had to wear the suit all the time. They felt a bit like tiny ants running around on you, which sounds creepy, but was surprisingly easy to get used to. The new clothes were next. He glanced over at his mirror.
"You look great." He turned around and Sue was standing in his doorway. She had on jeans and a t-shirt, normal clothes. Her hair fell in soft waves around her shoulders. She was smiling at him.
"You too, I guess," he said, making a face at her that showed how much it hurt for him to say that his big sister looked good.
"Thanks, I think. Do you want some breakfast?"
"Uh, no thanks. Really not hungry, y'know?"
The brilliant smile disappeared and she frowned disapprovingly at him. "You really should eat something. I don't think you've been eating enough lately."
"I will later."
He cut her off with a glare. "Later."
The sad look was back. "I'm only looking out for you."
"I know. You always did." He smiled an apology and moved to grab his wallet and cell phone. He shoved the first in his pocket, but held the phone up. 72 new messages. He shrugged and put that in his pocket also. "Why don't you go bug Reed or something?"
"Because he hasn't come out of his lab in days. And don't even ask about Ben because he's been at Alicia's for all that time. No, I'm afraid you're stuck with me, little brother."
"Well, there are worse people to be stuck with. I guess. Probably somewhere... although I can't think of many. Doom, maybe?"
Johnny sat up from tying his shoes, shoulder slumped. "What should we do now? I mean... do we really keep fighting crime and stuff?"
Sue sat next to him so carefully that he could barely feel the bed move. "Of course, Johnny. The world needs you."
He glanced up at her. "Don't you mean 'the world needs us?'"
She paused. "Yes."
Johnny sat like that for a few minutes before taking a deep breath and sitting up. "Well, you know, I could never let my adoring fans down." He flashed a cocky grin at his sister, who brightened in response.
"That's the Johnny I know. Now come on, I don't know what you were planning on doing today, but I'm sure it wasn't sitting around like this."
He nodded and moved past her, out of his room and into the rest of the loft, which felt somewhat deserted. The lights were off and even though the big windows allowed enough light to see, it seemed oddly morose. He went over to the glass doors of Reed's lab, which was also strangely dark.
In it he could see Reed, hunched over his workbench. He raised his hand to knock, tell him where he was going, but at the last second thought better and, with a sigh, turned away.
"C'mon, sis, I don't think you've seen my new car yet."
They shopped all around town, Johnny's short attention span even more apparent than usual. Sometimes they'd stop in a store for only a few minutes before he declared that it was "boring" and beg Sue to go someplace else. Johnny noticed that it made Sue smile, but he thought it looked sort of sad.
Johnny grabbed some food from a McDonald's, although Sue insisted with an odd look that she wasn't hungry. He figured it had more to do with some girly thing like watching her weight, and responded to the thought by flicking a French fry at her. The look on her face was priceless.
"Why'd you do that?"
"I dunno." He shrugged. "You were getting kinda quiet. I was wondering what was up."
He had his eyes on the road, but he could still feel her looking at him for the full minute before she said, "I'm fine. I just worry about you."
"You worry too much, sis."
"You give me too much reason to, /bro./"
He couldn't help but laugh at his sister's mocking tone, but he quickly cut it off. "Hold on, I gotta make a quick stop here, okay?"
He parked the new sports car and hopped out, Sue following him. He threw away the remains of his food and if she noticed that most of the meal was left untouched, she wisely did not comment. A bell chimed as he walked through the glass door and the smell hit him instantly. An elderly woman looked up from the counter, where she was trimming the stems of the flowers that littered her countertop.
"Flowers, Johnny? Got a new girlfriend to impress?"
He grinned back at his sister as he wandered through the racks. "Nah, nothing like that. You know how it goes, you give a girl some flowers and you can never get rid of her. I try to avoid that."
He rolled his eyes. "I wouldn't expect you to understand, Ms. One True Love."
He studiously ignored both her smile and the sad look behind her eyes that he kept spotting. He didn't want to think about that look.
He already knew what he'd come here for and seeing as this was one of the largest florists in New York, it didn't take long to find. When he brought the long-stemmed deep crimson and pink roses to the counter the cashier looked at him strangely. He gave her a wide grin, but it only seemed to make her more puzzled.
He shook his head as he walked out. "Man, what was that lady's problem? It looked like she thought I was crazy."
"Do you really want me to answer that?"
In the most sane, mature way he could manage, Johnny stuck his tongue out at his giggling sister.
The drive was quiet again, and long, as they wound their way out to the outskirts of the city. The sun was starting to set, and the glare shone in Johnny's eyes and made them water. He wiped at it with the back of his hand and could feel Sue's worry. "Are you sure..."
"I'm okay! Jeez, sis, I'm.... could we not talk about it? I know. We're here."
It always amazed Johnny how clean the air smelled once you left the city proper. It was quiet as he climbed the low hill, aside from the rustling of a nearby tree. When he got there he stood statue still. He could feel his sister beside him.
"So... you do know, then?" Sue asked as she looked down on her tombstone.
"Of course I know, sis. I was at the funeral. Even if I wasn't, with Reed and Ben..." he swallowed hard and bent down, setting the bouquet next to the marble slab. "It's impossible to escape, but this is the only way I can make it through the day. So sue-" his voiced cracked before he could get to the 'me'. "You're..." he stopped. "You were all I had left."
And next to unfeeling marble and dead flowers and the illusion of a sister he'd never really see again, Johnny Storm cried for the family he'd never been strong enough to save.