1963-09-15 - Restoring Equilibrium
Summary: Sue and Johnny have a much-needed talk the morning after her return home.
Related: What Hath Science Wrought, Liquid Courage
Theme Song: None
johnny sue 

It's been an odd day at the Baxter Building fantastic four residence. The quiet has become rather deafening with the lack of activity by many of the team's members. Well, at least two. Sue, for her part is continuing to avoid work. In many respects, her motivation has drained.

She's dressed since her morning exchange with Reed, and almost looks like herself. Almost. Save for the pale pallor of her skin, dark lines under her eyes, and the ridiculously wavy texture of her hair. She stands at the stovetop, pushing food around a frying pan before plating it and setting it on a tray. Her head tilts as she inspects the tray with extreme precision, and adds a pair of utensils to the tray, followed by a glass of orange juice.

Her tongue rolls over her lips, she slides the tray off the counter, and she treads down the hall. She lingers outside Johnny's room and raps lightly on the door. "Joon?" she calls quietly.


After Sue's return the night before, Johnny had stayed up with Reed for a short time before retreating to his room — and he hasn't come out since. Not even when he'd heard conversation and laughter coming from the living room earlier that morning. Normally, that would have him coming outside to be social. Not today.

Johnny is awake and dressed, at least. Jeans and a t-shirt are low-effort enough to manage, though his feet are still bare and he hasn't bothered to do more to his hair than rake his hands through it and call it good enough. He's sitting at his desk with his chin propped up in a hand, staring through a textbook when the knock comes.

After a moment's hesitation, Johnny just closes his eyes and sighs. "It's open."


There's a gentle turn of the door knob, and Sue treads in carefully to set the tray on the corner of the desk. A sheepish expression draws her eyebrows downwards, and she takes a step back as if to retreat from the room as quickly as she'd come. The peace offering, however, grants her pause when she moves — the angle is off. She takes a step forward and adjusts the tray so it lines up with the edge of the desk. Good. Better.

She takes a step back again. An apprehensive glance is cast towards the text and her brows lift lightly, "I don't want to interrupt. Just thought you should eat something." Pause. "It's kimchee fried rice." Like mom used to make. But that is left unsaid.

With a faint nod, and a grimace likely meant to pass as a smile, her weight shifts and she turns back to the door.


Johnny has every intention of just keeping his mouth shut and his eyes closed for the duration of the… visit. He can't bring himself to consider it an intrusion. It's still Sue.

She's most of the way to the door before he breaks his silence, despite himself.

<You scared the hell out of me,> Johnny says quietly, eyes still closed. <Just. Don't do it again. Please.>


Sue's back has the wonder of being relatively, emotionless. And in many respects, it suits the siblings well that it is. But, if Johnny had his eyes open, he would see that each word bears weight on her shoulders, tugging them down with the thoughts.

Seo halts — as if contained by some invisible wall holding her in. Her hands fold lightly in front of her, and her chin drops towards her chest.

A few beats of silence finally have her turning around to watch her brother. Words don't easily come; not when circumstances are what they are. Her eyebrows knit together and she speaks quietly — in a low whisper. <I'm sorry.> Because she had not aimed to scare anyone, least of all her baby brother. Her eyes lid lightly and she emits a soft sigh. <I was — > but the past-tense is a lie. And so, eyes closed, her head shakes, <I am not okay.> She twists back towards the door. <It was selfish. I should've called.>


There is not going to be any kind of disagreement voiced by Johnny on this score. He does finally lift his head and turn to look at her, at least. That's progress, even if his expression is still tight and somewhat guarded.

<I understand why you didn't,> Joon admits, leaning forward and resting his elbows on his knees. <I don't like it, but I do understand. Sometimes you just need to…> He trails off and, even though her back is to him, lifts a hand to walk his fingers through the air in front of himself.


A self-deprecating frown tugs Sue's features, and the sudden silence has her glancing over her shoulders to see the fingers walking. A vague nod has her facing forward again — away from her brother. Her eyes train on the floor in front of her. <It was more than that.> It's a strange confession. <I live my life in a constant state of control. I lost that.>

Her jaw tightens. <Walking resolved nothing, but nothing made sense.>


<Yeah. That's kind of why I was freaking out,> Joon says quietly, studying her back as he taps his fingers together. <I mean, Reed tried to be reassuring, but I don't know if… mmh.> He just makes a bit of a face and falls quiet.

Slowly, Joon pushes himself up to his feet and lets bare feet carry him closer to her. <…if I try to hug you, you're not going to push me off again, are you?> he asks in a lightly teasing voice.


Sue finally turns to face Johnny and manages a very weak smile. <Don't know if — ?> she invites him to finish. But the comment about freaking out begs more resolution, and perhaps, an explanation for someone she genuinely cares about and has devoted much of her life caring for. She chews her bottom lip and lifts a single eyebrow. <Joon, I know I've always been very controlled…> she hums quietly. <…but a stranger observed that it's not making me very happy. I… need to try…> she cuts herself off. <I'm throwing some caution to the wind. I need to.>

The question earns a slightly easier smile followed by an equally light remark <Science suggests trial and error would be apt.>


Johnny doesn't mean to laugh at her note about throwing some caution to the wind. He really doesn't. But he does, dropping his eyes to the floor as a hand comes up to run anxiously back through his hair. <I noticed. It… it'll be good for you,> he says just a little bit awkwardly, nodding once as if to reassure her. Or himself. <For both of you.>

Well, now he just feels awkward. Rather than going for the aformentioned hug, Johnny clasps his hands in front of himself and fidgets — not a look most of the world would expect to see on Johnny Storm, but one that Seo has seen on her little brother more than once over the years.


The laughter and remark have an unusual effect for Sue. The apples of her cheeks hue a pale pink as a sheepish smile tugs her lips upwards. A small nod follows the thought. <I've kept things in a strange balance to make things work for us without noticing what it was doing to me.> She swallows hard. <I'm sorry if…> her eyebrows draw together sharply <…if I've been harder on you than I ought. I've been trying to keep things reined in. For all of us. For me.>

There's another faint tug of her lips. <But you> she announces with another weak smile <you will always be my brother. You will always be important to me. I will always look out for you. And if I leave> as she did recently <I will always come back for you. I will never forget you. Family matters.>

She takes a step forward and reaches out to squeeze his hands tightly. <Whatever happens, nothing will change that. No matter the circumstances, no matter the upset, I will always be here for you. Always.>


It's easy to forget how young Johnny is sometimes, but it's moments like these that make it more apparent. The more Sue talks, the more stubbornly he keeps his eyes fixed on the floor between his feet, ducking his head slightly to ensure his hair falls over his face.

There is the slightest tremble to his too-warm hands when Sue takes them. Because that was the root of the problem, even though he will never in a million years admit it out loud:

He wasn't sure she was going to come back.

He gives her hands a tight squeeze back with a short, jerky nod of his head.


Sue's fingertips reach up to push Joon's hair out of his face. <The blonde is growing on me.> She issues him a small smile and her hand drops as she leans forward to envelope him in a hug. <You matter, Joon. You matter to me. Don't forget that. And never doubt it.>

She drops her hands and takes a single step back. <Now. You need to eat.> Her head ticks expectantly towards the tray on the desk.


Johnny does not hesitate to wrap both of his arms around Seo to fiercely return the hug, doing his best to hide a quiet sniff by pressing a firm kiss to the top of his sister's head. <It's still nice to hear,> he murmurs sheepishly. <Thank you.>

He holds on a moment longer before he drops his own arms, nodding once and taking a small step backwards towards his desk. <Okay. We can talk later?> Johnny asks hopefully, lowering himself back into his seat. <Not about where you went. About Reed.> He offers her a small smile, a little glimmer of mischief in his eye as his tone takes on a bit of a singsong quality. <You know how I like to gossip~>


That glimmer of mischief also shimmers in Sue's gaze. Her tone takes on a playful lilt, <Always~> She lets him return to his seat, but even after he does, she fondly takes a few steps in pursuit to grant his shoulder a tight squeeze, and she leans down to press a soft kiss to his forehead. <If you wanted… you could come see Heather with me if you like. After you eat. Or you and I can gossip on our own later…> Her lips twist to the side thoughtfully as she treads to the door.


Johnny has a very self-satisfied smile on his face as he tilts his head to accept the kiss on the forehead. <We're visiting Heather? Let me eat and clean up, then we can go. I'll be fast.> Well, that answers that, one supposes. He turns to his food, rubbing his hands together. <Thank you, Seo.>


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