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coming home

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Coming home is, unfortunately, Tori’s favorite part of the day.

She wishes it weren’t. Wishes she had a job she was passionate enough about that she didn’t dream of going home all day. Wishes she wasn’t constantly exhausted by the three almost-jobs she had hanging in the air (or maybe around her neck, like a cinderblock). Between teaching, the surf shop, and ‘moonlight ranger jobs’ (as Cam liked to call what she and some of the other former rangers did for ‘minor’ alien invasions), she constantly overworked herself. She just wasn’t sure which job would really stick for her, so she liked to keep all her options open. It left her tired, cranky, and constantly daydreaming about her bathtub.

Walking through the doorway to her home instantly melts away all her stress and makes her feel at peace. Home is where the heart is, after all. Well, her heart and her boys. Which are pretty much the same thing at this point.

Today, (after getting mud splashed on her at school, haggling wax prices with a distributer for an hour straight, and having to bounce three towns over to go over some meteor wreckage to ensure it wasn’t dangerous) Tori has had a bath bomb picked out in her mind for over six hours. Entering the house, she can’t help but smile at seeing five sets of keys hanging in a row. She slides hers onto the sixth slot and calls out, “I’m home!” before slamming the door (maybe harder than she should have).

Dustin pokes his head out of the kitchen and puts a finger to his lips, frowning at her, before disappearing again. She follows him into the kitchen, dropping her bag on a chair with a thunk.

“Try to be more quiet, Tori.” This comes from Shane who is frowning at her over a pot of… something.

“My name is on the lease; I can be as loud as I want,” Tori replies, peering over his shoulder into the pot. “What’s going on here?”

“We’re making soup,” Dustin stage-whispers from across the room where he’s peering into the cabinets.

She turns her gaze back on Shane, lifting her eyebrows. “Soup.”

He winces, reading her skeptical tone. “Hunter’s sick. And upset about it.”

“When is he not upset about something,” Tori replies, but she lowers her tone, now understanding the gravity of the situation. Waking up a sick Hunter is not on her agenda today. “Flu?”

Shane nods gravely. “The last man standing…finally falls.”

“I told you we needed to take a flame thrower to this house before Hunter got back from his trip,” Dustin says unhelpfully after finally finding what he was looking for in the cabinets.

Everyone in the house had gone through the flu already, but Hunter had avoided it by being out of town at the time, tending to some Thunder Academy stuff for two months. They had thought they had rid the house of it but…

“How dramatic is he being?” Tori sighs, putting her head in between Shane’s shoulder blades in a sign of premature defeat.

“Very…whiney. Demanding. Sounds like shit though, so some good blackmail videos have been acquired,” Dustin lists off for her.

“Acquired. That’s a good word,” Shane comments offhandedly.

 “Sounds like something Cam would say,” Tori mutters. “Speaking of, where is he?”

“Hunter kidnapped him,” Dustin says, almost cheerfully. “And Blake too. But we think maybe Blake was there first.”

Tori lifts her head to give him a blank stare of confusion. When he doesn’t elaborate, she moves to give it to Shane. He just shrugs at her.

“Go in the living room and see for yourself.”

“Take some soup!” Dustin says, shoving an empty bowl in her hand. She rolls her eyes, but complies because Dustin doesn’t take ‘no’ well. She shovels the (dubiously passing for) soup into the bowl and wanders out into the living room.

They had moved from an apartment to a real house sometime two years ago when Tori had gotten so fed up with coming home to find her and Blake’s fridge raided and their TV occupied and their bed slept in that she told the rest of them to just move in and start paying her rent. This, of course, necessitated a bigger house because fitting six people into their one-bedroom apartment was just not going to fly. Tori likes the bigger house because they have vaulted ceilings with skylights, which means she can always see the sky when she’s in the living room. And it becomes very apparent very quickly when she walks into almost complete darkness that something is very wrong. She peers up at the skylights to find them covered with blackout curtains. Frowning, she sets the “soup” down on a coffee table and begins picking her way carefully around the room, barely able to see anything.

It’s not hard to find the rest of her boys. Hard to see where one ends and the other begins? Yes. Hard to find? No.

They have the futon folded out and blankets tossed haphazardly everywhere. She guesses (based on the lighter hair) that Hunter is in the middle of Blake and Cam, all sound asleep. She can’t help but wonder if they would wake up if she took their picture. Probably. Damn flash and everything. It’s all very…cute, which she knows is a word that Cam and Hunter would probably die before letting her use to describe them.

Tori leans over the futon to feel Hunter’s head. Definitely still feverish. She wonders how long he’s been like this and turns to go back to the kitchen to ask when a hand shoots out to stop her.

“Tori?” croaks out a half asleep Blake, griping her hand lightly.

Adorable. Stupidly adorable. She bends down to his level to brush a kiss across his forehead. “Yes. Tori. Keep sleeping; I’m preventing you from being poisoned by not-soup.”

She’s not certain that Blake caught all that, but he tugs lightly on her hand. “Lie down. Cuddle time.”

She laughs at that. “No Blake. Dinner time.”

He shakes his head slightly, the space between his eyebrows creasing. “No. Cuddle time.”

“Agreed,” comes a sickly sounding reply, presumably from the Hunter lump in the middle. He shifts then to pull Cam and Blake closer to him. “Room now. Lie down.”

Tori swallows her laugh and caves. Of course she does. How could she say no to a sleepy sick voice like that? So she lies down next to Blake with a sigh and snuggles up close. “If you give me the flu again, I will kill you.”

“You can’t get the same strain of flu twice.” This is from Cam, who sounds markedly awake.

“How do you know it’s the same strain?” she argues.

“Shhh. Still too loud.” That’s Shane’s voice, somewhere above her. He and Dustin have apparently made their way in with the rest of the soup.

She groans. “Guys, quit it with the soup. We’ll eat later. Just lie down with us for now.” Anything to prevent their creation from seeing the light of day.

It doesn’t take much persuasion to get them to lie down with the rest of the family, both of them glued to Cam like starfish (much to Cam’s supposed discomfort). Tori loves it, a little. Loves them, a lot. She smiles into Blake’s shoulder and feels sleep tug on her lightly,

Yeah, coming home is her favorite part of the day. She can accept that, easy.

Because her boys are her favorite part of her life.