The Man in The Mansion

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Danny

After breakfast, Ava decided to chill in the living room and read Illusions of Yesterday while the kids were in training and Edmund was busy with his work. She glanced over at her phone before she started reading.

0 missed calls.

0 messages.

0 new notifications.

“Don’t think about it too much, Ava. Everyone is just busy, that’s all.” Ava told herself as she tossed her phone beside her on the couch. She opened the book and started reading.

A few hours later, Jo’s door was the first to slam open.

“YES!! I did it!! I finished it!” she cheered as she ran downstairs. She saw Ava on the couch and ran to tackle her with a hug.

“I completed the course! I did what you said, and I finished it!! You’re the best!! Dad!!!” she yelled. Edmund came downstairs soon after she yelled for him. Jo ran to him.

“I did it!! I finished the course!” she exclaimed as she jumped at him. He caught her and they spun around. Ava smiled at the two.

“Well done, Jo. I’m immensely proud of you.” Edmund said with a slight smile as he put her down.

“Ava told me to start turning before I had to, and it worked! I finished the course, Dad!!!” she exclaimed as she jumped up and down.

“She did? Well, that’s very kind of her.” Edmund said looking at Ava and giving her a slight smile.

The other children’s doors opened soon after Jo finished. The children had all completed their courses and Edmund was practically beaming with pride (as much as a blank expression could beam, of course)

“How about we celebrate by having lunch at the park?” Edmund said. The kids all cheered and ran off to get ready.

“Thank you, Ava.” Edmund said as he watched the children run off.

“For what?” she asked.

“Jo’s been stuck on that last course for over a week. She’s an incredibly determined girl and she wanted to finish it since it was the last course for her current level, but it hurt me to have to see her in pain each time she failed. If she hadn’t completed it today, I would have to change the course and she would be mad at me for quite a while. Thanks to you, she can move on to the next level and I appreciate that wholeheartedly.” He said.

“No problem, Ed.” Ava said giving him a smile.

Once the kids were done getting ready, they went to the park and had a nice little picnic for lunch instead of the usual tea party. After the finished eating, everyone went off to do their own thing. Danny went to sit next to a tree with his sketchbook, Katie challenged her father to a chess match, and Jo and Ben went off to play Cops and Robbers.

“Watcha drawing?” Ava asked as she sat down next to Danny.

“I saw a family of bunnies by the bushes over there, so I decided to draw them” he said nodding towards the bushes.

“Cute. I didn’t know you liked to draw.” She said looking over at the drawing. The bunnies were sleeping in a pile. He had an adorable art style that seemed a bit familiar to Ava, but she didn’t look much into it.

“It’s always been one of my favorite pastimes. Helps keep my anxiety to a minimum.” He said not looking up from his drawing.

“You have anxiety?”

“Yeah, but it hasn’t been too bad since I moved in with Dad. Still have it, just not too bad.”

“I’m glad it’s gotten a bit better for you.”

“Thanks. I hope things get better for you too.”

“What do you mean?”

“Your depression.”

“How do you know about my depression?”

“It’s pretty obvious. Fake smiles don’t work on me considering I used them for 14 years.”

“Fair enough. Don’t worry about me, kiddo. I’m alright.” Ava said. It wasn’t technically a lie considering she wasn’t on the verge of a breakdown at the moment, and in Ava’s book, that classified her as fine.

“Alright. I don’t believe you, but I won’t push the subject.” He said going back to his drawing. He looked up for a second before hiding behind his sketchbook.

“You alright, Danny?”

“Y-Yeah. I’m totally fine. Absolutely fantastic.” He said. Ava try to pull the book from his face, but he refused to move it. She looked up to see what he had freaked out about. She noticed that a couple of football players had just showed up to the park. Jo jogged over with a smirk on her face.

“Your boyfriend’s here.” She said pushing the sketchbook away from Danny’s face.

“Fuck off, Jo. He’s not my boyfriend.” He mumbled. His face was bright red and Ava suddenly understood the situation.

“Do you like one of those kids?” she asked with a smirk.

“No!” he interjected before Jo could speak.

“Shut up, Danny. Black hair. In the jersey. That’s Lucas Matthews. Danny’s one true love.” Jo said pointing to the boy. He was laughing and talking with the other 3 boys that he came with. He was a heavy-set kid, maybe a few inches or so taller than Ava, with enough muscle mass to make Ava question if he was really a teenager. The only indication was the man and woman that walked in with the kids that Ava assumed were his parents, considering the close resemblance between the woman and Lucas.

“Does he know you like him?” Ava asked.

“No, I’m not even out to him yet.” He said lowering his head.

“I already told you, man. He’s not gonna be like your parents and if he is, I’ll kick his ass.” Jo said before she ran off to play with Ben.

“What did she mean by that?” Ava asked. Danny closed his sketchbook and glanced over at Lucas before looking down.

“I ran away from home and my parents are the reason why. They’re really homophobic, like I’m talking “regularly attended anti-gay rallies” kind of homophobic and I was so scared that if I came out to them, they would hurt me. I didn’t feel safe, so I left one night. I know it was stupid to leave but I was genuinely scared for what would happen if they found out. Dad found me on the side of the road and sat with me for a while. We talked about my situation and he told me that his doors were open to those in need for as long as they needed. I had nowhere to go, so I took the offer. Then on my birthday, he showed me the adoption papers.” He explained as he picked at the grass. He looked over at Edmund and smiled.

“That was the best day of my life.” He said as he looked at his dad. Ava smiled. She was glad that Edmund had found him and took him in. It got her curious about the other children’s stories. How the kids ended up with Edmund intrigued Ava.

She knew Edmund was a kind man but adopting 4 kids when you’re a single author with deadlines. Danny made sense since he was a teenager that seemed to keep to himself, but Jo was an energetic, headstrong kid with more strength and speed than other kids. She looked over at Edmund and Katie.

She assumed that Katie had beaten him in the chess game since she was dancing around happily. Edmund watched her with pride in his eyes and small smile on his face. It reminded her of when she first beat her grandpa at chess.

“You know, pictures last a lot longer.” Danny said.

“What do you mean?”

“My dad. You’re staring at him.”

“I could be staring at Katie. She’s a very adorable toddler that’s dancing around. It’s not unusual to watch a toddler being cute.”

“You’re staring at my dad, it’s obvious. I can’t believe Katie was right.” He said shaking his head.

“What exactly is Katie right about?” Ava asked.

“She said you two were gonna fall in love by the time that you leave.”

“Wait, what?? What makes you think I’m falling in love with your dad? I was looking at him, that doesn’t mean that I’m falling for him.” She said.

“So, you were you staring at him.” He said with a smirk.

“I was looking at him, yes. He’s a mysterious guy and I love mysteries.”

“So, you do love him.”

“You are reading way too deep into this, Danny.”

“I hope you’re not just in it for the money.”

“Danny, even if I did like your dad, I couldn’t care less about how much money he makes. What kind of girl do you think I am?” she asked with a smirk.

“Well, you haven’t left even though Dad took you to your apartment. Instead, you decided to stay with him in what just so happens to be a mansion and “help with the kids”. Sounds like a situation a gold digger would be in.” he said trying not to smile.

“Damn, you caught me. He’s a handsome rich man that lives in a nice mansion. Not to mention, he has a great smile.” She said as she tried not to laugh. Danny and Ava snickered.

“He attracts many women with that award-winning smile. He’s such a cheerful guy.” Danny said as he looked over at his dad’s stoic expression as he snickered.

“Oh my god, Danny. Do you know who he reminds me of?”

“Who?”

“Have you watched Brooklyn 99?”

“Oh my god! Are you talking about Holt?!?” Danny asked as he laughed. She nodded and the two sat there laughing for a few minutes.

“What’re you two laughing about?” Edmund asked as he walked over. They cleared their throats and tried to act like they weren’t just making fun of his blank expression.

“Nothing, Dad. Ava and I were just talking about Brooklyn 99.”

“Well, I’m glad the two of you are bonding over common interests. It makes me happy.” He said with an even more stoic face than before. Ava and Danny both tried their best not to laugh.

“I happen to enjoy Brooklyn Nine-Nine as well. It makes me laugh until my sides hurt. Captain Holt is by far the funniest man on the planet.” He said as he sat down beside them. Danny nearly snorted and Ava pressed her lips tightly together to stop herself from laughing.

“Every time a new episode airs, I end up smiling until my cheeks hurt. Even now, I’m getting giddy just talking about it.” He said as he watched the kids play, impassively. Danny burst out laughing as Ava quietly laughed to herself.

“I’m sorry, I was trying so hard. I never thought I would ever hear the word “giddy” come out of your mouth.” Danny laughed. Ava looked up and noticed Lucas jogging over with a big smile on his face. Danny didn’t seem to notice, yet.

“I thought I recognized that laugh. I saw your sister, but I wasn’t sure if you were here with her.” He said, making Danny jump and stop laughing.

“Lucas! Uh, hey man. Yeah, Dad decided to take us to the park today.”

“Well, me and the boys are hanging out over there, you wanna come join?” he asked.

“Uh, yeah man. Sounds great.” He said as he got up and grabbed his sketchbook and went with Lucas. Ava watched as the boys walked away. She could tell Danny liked him a lot and as much as she wanted to help him out with his crush, she knew that the best thing she could do was let Danny tell him when he was ready. She scooted over towards Edmund and leaned against the tree.

“I know that the two of you were making fun of me.” Edmund said.

“It was all in good fun, Ed. We didn’t mean anything by it. Besides, we both know that emotions aren’t always shown on your face. The eyes are known as windows to the soul for a reason.” She said looking over at him. A gentle smile appeared on his face for a moment before disappearing.

“Indeed. I wasn’t mad. It is a pleasing sight to see my son so relaxed around you. It lets me know that you’re someone I can trust.”

“You trust me?”

“Of course. You’ve shown no signs of deceit, so I see no reason to distrust you. Besides, if Danny trusts you, you are well worth trusting.”

“I appreciate that. I’ll admit, I didn’t really trust you at first, but as long as you don’t double-cross me, I suppose you’ve earned my trust.” Ava said with a teasing smirk.

“You suppose, huh?” he asked as he looked over at her.

“Yeah, I suppose. Though you’ll have to do something for me in order to gain my full trust.”

“Oh really? And what would that be?” he asked, with an amused smirk on his face.

“Give me the book back. I saw you grab it when we were in the car.” She said holding her hand out. He chuckled and reached into the picnic basket and pulled the book out.

“It seems I underestimated your determination.” He said as he handed it to her.

“Yes, yes you did” she said as she leaned her back against him and began to read.

“You’re using me as your back prop now?”

“Yup, consider it a symbol of my trust.” She said smiling up at him before diving back into the story.

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