No Boys Allowed


brynn_icon.gif emily_icon.gif squeaks_icon.gif

Scene Title No Boys Allowed
Synopsis Uncovering some boardgames, Squeaks capitalizes on their discovery to throw together an impromptu game night. Brynn, Squeaks, and Emily spend some time catching up.
Date December 28, 2018

Gillian's Brownstone

Exploring is a thing that happens from time to time, even in places that have been explored already, and once in a while it pays off. But Squeaks likes to know about all of the places she can, especially now that she can use her ability to find even the hidden places. And that’s a thing she does when she’s home alone, when she should probably be working on math. Anywhere that isn’t someone’s bedroom is fair game.

And that’s how she found a couple of board games.

Not that they were really hidden, she just didn’t notice them before. But now they’ve been borrowed from where she took them and placed in her room instead. After staring at them for a while, and circling around to see from other angles, she had an idea…

After Brynn arrived, Squeaks quickly explained in her mash-up of ASL and Squeaker-signing — which dissolved into giggling for a good two minutes — then dragged the older teen out again. First they needed food. Snacks were found at the market, and they found the good kinds, too. Some sweets like cookies, and some of Juniper’s pastries. There’s also crackers and peanut butter, and some apples that even smell sweet still.

After the market it was off to the leave a note at Emily’s place, inviting her to the brickfront house also, later in the evening.

Back at the house, Squeaks has been all but bouncing from room to room waiting for Emily to arrive. She’s just returned from checking the front door for the third time, cold air rushing into the warm entryway as she pulls it open to look up and down the street. Now she’s kneeling on the couch, her chest pressed against the backrest and her face almost pressed against the window. “She’s late,” is a pragmatic statement. Even though there’s still plenty of time for Emily to arrive. Her spoken words are followed by a look at Brynn and her hands making the same claim. She’s late.

She's not late, Brynn signs back — for the third time. Because the younger teen is just impatient and excited — Emily's not late. She rolls her eyes expressively. Get a grip, Mouse. At the rate you're going, you're gonna vibrate the poor girl right off the porch, she teases with a grin.

For herself, she's just getting the last of the snacks put out on a low table. Bug is well trained and won't touch the plates, so she also brings out treats for him while they wait.

Emily is late, though, as she's been pacing at the corner just down the street. Pacing has become an unexpectedly great habit for expelling nervous energy, which she's had an abundance of lately. A gloved hand comes up to rub at her neck again, the chill unpleasant as she has to sneak her hand around her scarf to achieve the desired touch. Her head tilts back toward the evening sky, eyes on the aurora as it shimmers. "Fuck," she whispers to herself.

A reprieve from her own mess, an evening with Squeaks and Brynn sounded great, and she'd put her shoes back on and bundled up to head back out as soon as she'd seen the note. Hanging out at Gillian's, though? The closer Emily had gotten, the louder her internal fretting had grown.

She hadn't heard from Lene lately. Had she been visited? What would her reaction be if she hadn't? What would Emily say? Well, maybe she's not home, and I don't have to worry about that. Maybe she's at the station. Maybe she's literally anywhere that's not here. Emily pauses in her pace, willing herself to hold onto that possibility. She's relieved for a moment. … But what am I going to tell them, though? she worries, and it all starts again.

"Something." she voices exasperatedly to herself, trying to verbally smack the indecision out of herself. "You're going to have to tell them something." Emily turns on her heel to walk down the block toward the brownstone, manipulating the burst of energy until it becomes false courage. It runs out, unfortunately, as she stops in front of the house and is rooted in place again by hesitation. She closes her eyes, a noisy cloud of breath floating away from her as she tries to gather the nerve to approach the door.

She doesn't, her hands fitfully finding their way into her coat pockets as she stares up at the doorway again, completely without any mobility aids to help support her. Almost a minute passes in silence. "Fuck," she whispers to herself. A glance down the block sneaks a new thought in, that instead of entertaining the risk of questions and awkward experiences, maybe she could just head back home after all. Maybe she could just make some of the cocoa she's brought for herself and Julie instead. "Fuck." Emily murmurs again, looking back to the door. No, she wanted, needed this night out.

While she’s gotten used to teasing — at least she’s mostly stopped arguing with the impossibilities of it — Squeaks still stares blank-faced at Brynn’s reply. She’s pretty sure she can’t vibrate anyone anywhere. But after only a second or three, she turns again to stare out the window. Her head turns one way to look up the street, then slowly she turns to look down the street.

“Is that her?” She knows her sister can’t hear her, but the question is asked out loud anyway. Her hands press to the glass and wide eyes watch a figure wander toward the house and then stop. Then… almost… start? “What is she doing?”

That won’t work. Standing outside means there’s no games or snacks and that can’t happen. “She’s here!” Squeaks makes the announcement loudly enough to be heard even up in her room, but Bug is probably the only one who’ll answer unless Brynn happens to look her way. She doesn’t wait to find out because she bounces off the couch in the same instant and runs down the steps to the front door.

The locks are undone fast and the youngest teen drags open the door to invite Emily — and more chilly air — inside. “Emily!”

Indeed, Brynn is clueless that she's even being spoken to until Squeaks comes bounding off the couch with a tail-wagging Doodlebug nudging Brynn's leg until she joins the other girl at the door. Emily's arrival is greeted with genuine pleasure, and she waves through the open doorway but stays far enough back to allow Em entrance.

And then she pauses, watchfully curious as the other teen seems … reluctant?

Everything okay? she signs from behind Squeaks.

Squeaks is shouting so loud in fact that she can be heard outdoors. Emily's eyes light up before the door even opens, shoulders sloping down with a smile as the younger girl excitedly calls out to her after the food's thrown open. "Hey," she says up to Squeaks, eyes following after to Brynn. Still smiling, she gives a slight shake of her head. 'No, she's fine,' would be a clear lie, one her contemporary will see through. 'No, but not up for talking about it,' is a perfectly passable alternate. The juxtaposition of the smile and the shake makes it clear it's more than a simple no, though.

"You're going to let all the warm out," she chastises as she approaches the steps, hopping up the small set of them with ease so she can slide inside and cease being the reason it's opened. Once in, she slides her hand free to start unwinding her infinity scarf from around her head, anxious glances spared around the front hall and living room. Is it just us? she asks, turning back to the other two.

The door is pushed closed and locked again once Emily is inside, and Squeaks is already going for the stairs leading up to the living room while jackets and shoes are being removed and hung up. “Mom is at the library I think.” She stops to explain, turning so she can sign and talk out loud at the same time. “She’s home later. And I think Lene is doing radio things and Aunt Eve is…” She doesn’t know, but could guess the seer is doing seer-things.

“Everything is up here,” the red-headed girl goes on. She does turn now, but signs over her head. Hopefully it’s understood even that way. “There’s no boys either. Brynn was already here and I found these games on a shelf.”

Brynn's fine to leave the query where it sits… for now. A faint nod tells Emily she understands the desire not to talk about it. But the grey eyes widen visibly at the fact that Emily is … without additional help walking. She fights to hide her surprise, not wanting to make Em self-conscious. The other girl is always so prickly about things. So now Brynn doesn't have a clue what to say. Good thing she has a tendency not to 'talk' much anyway, usually letting Joe fill any awkward silences. In this case, she leaves it to Squeaks, whose excitement may just save the day.

Backing up a couple of steps, she moves back to the main living room space where the games are set up for the evening's entertainment. Bug sticks close to her and then when they get back to where people start to sit, he curls up by her feet.

There's relief at first as it sounds like everyone else Emily knows to be living here is out… but then Eve is brought up, and she pauses in the middle of undoing her coat, shooting another glance to the stairs nervously before quickly going back to shrugging off the jacket. It's fine. It'll be fine. she tells herself. Though hearing that Eve lives here is definitely a surprise she didn't pick up on during Gillian's birthday party. After the coat is hung, she replaces the shoulder-slung purse across her torso, the tan leather standing out against the dark cable-knit sweater she's wearing. As she adjusts it, she glances up at Brynn out of the corner of her eye, conveying a silent thanks before she looks after Squeaks.

She has to force it at first, but the smile that comes after is easy. "Games, yeah, I saw in the note…" she says out loud, her hands moving to follow after. "What are we looking at?" Her movements are smooth, lacking any of the jitters that normally accompany her sign. No occasional tremble in her hands as they curl and uncurl between words. "Oh! I brought cocoa, too, if you want to make some." Bending over, she shuffles her boots off with a few quick motions before following after Brynn. When they sit down, she makes a point of sitting close by Bug, her hands finding his fur and sinking in.

As the older girls come up the stairs, Squeaks is already pulling the games over to be seen. Sorry, Clue, and a deck of cards are set on the floor side by side. “I don’t know these games,” she explains, looking at each one while Brynn and Emily cross the living room to find seats. “But they look fun. Except this.” This is the deck of playing cards that she pushes with a finger so they’re not right next to the other two. “These are weird.”

She looks up, first at Brynn and then Emily — who gets stared at for a solid minute, because something is different and that needs to be wondered about. Questions are usually fast to follow looks like that one, but instead she’s back to business. Maybe games are more fascinating than figuring out the why’s. She puts her hands on the boxes again and gently eases them closer to the older girls so they can pick.

Looking at the games that Squeaks has found, Brynn signs, Well, that one pointing to Sorry is simpler than Clue. You draw cards and move the number of spaces on the card. Clue is kinda fun, but you have to ask other players questions and stuff and takes a little time to learn. Not that we shouldn't play, it just takes a little more concentration.

Those two games they actually had in at least one of the places she's lived. Brynn's amusement at Squeaks' dismissal of the deck of cards is evident though. She indicates in sign that she's fine with either game the girls want to play.

Doodlebug seems to think Emily needs him more than his partner does and so he shuffles a bit closer and lets her scratch to her heart's content.

"Sorry is fine," Emily throws that opinion out words-only seeing as her hands are occupied with smooshing the goldendoodle's face in her hands, scratching under his ears. She sits upright, hands freeing so one can point at the cards, "But…" You're blowing off an opportunity for a hundred other games if you say no to cards.

She nods knowingly. "Like War, or Go Fish, or Euchre — well, we can't play that one just us three — or Blackjack…" she trails off while thinking, her attention drifting back toward the steps into the living room space. It'd been such a small thing, where before—

"We can play whatever you want, though." Emily cuts her thoughts off by turning back, another smile forced as she resumes running a hand down Bug's back.

The Clue game is pushed aside to make room for the Sorry one, and Squeaks starts opening the box so the board and pieces can be laid out. As Emily starts talking about different card games, she pauses long enough to eyeball the deck of playing cards. There’s no way that something that small can have a hundred other games. She side-eyes Em after a couple of seconds, trying to decide if she’s being teased again or if those cards can for reals play so many different games.

A glance flicks to Brynn, probably to see what her sister’s thoughts are, but she doesn’t stare because there’s still a game to put out. Pieces are matched to colors, that’s easy enough, and the cards are shuffled through but not really shuffled. And those are quickly offered to the older girls to figure out. Which leaves the younger teen’s hands free to talk as she does, if interrupted by straightening the game markers.

“How come you’re not using crutches now, Emily?” Squeaks’ tone is simply honest curiosity, even if it’s direct. Like whatever the answer doesn’t really matter for an opinion, she just wants to know.

Brynn takes the cards from Squeaks to shuffle them again while Squeaks in all her innocence asks the question that burns Brynn's mind right now but that she wouldn't ask because — that. That forced expression that is supposed to be a smile. Sighing quietly, the deaf teen shuffles and then sets the cards down.

In a communal living situation there is just no such thing as privacy, not really. So now that it's out there, Brynn takes the opportunity to simply add to Emily, Feel free to tell us it's not our business… but Emily? You might as well know we already consider you a friend. And even if you're not fully assimilated like Squeaks is already… you're still one of ours. But you always make that really pained expression when we ask you anything about yourself. Do you want us to just mind our own business and ignore when stuff happens? Because she's never met anyone quite as prickly as Emily — and there are plenty of loners in the Lighthouse. Usually the prickly is righty after someone's joined them, having lost their family.

Emily does try really hard to keep smiling. It breaks and her fingers curl into Bug's fur all the more deeply while she tries to work on a response, eyes lifting from the dog to Brynn as she starts signing at her. Though the other girl can't hear it, something like a laugh escapes out from under her breath. She's honestly tempted to just take the out she's been given.

Instead, she takes a deep breath, looking toward Brynn so it's easier for her to see, even though her answer is for Squeaks' question. There's just a lot of signs she doesn't know for this one. "Someone took me to see a healer. So now I don't need them anymore." The rest of the breath is exhaled away slowly. There. "No more MS. Probably never have to worry about cancer again, either." She doesn't smile, but that realization does bring her visible relief. It was something she'd not thought about until now, but it's a weight that lifts off her.

Her hands finally come away to sign. I still can't believe it. Emily's sitting straighter now, still relieved but nervous how the news will be taken. She looks to Squeaks and then back to Brynn, knowing that she still owes an answer for the rest of what was said.

Squeaks’ pick up the explanation not too long after Emily starts talking. She doesn’t know all the words either, so it takes her some time to finish signing. Some of those words are made up on the spot, partly spelled out and filled in so that not everything is completely lost. And when it’s all done she nods like that was probably something she expected to hear.

“There’s four colors,” the youngest girl points out. Her attention shifts to the game as if there wasn’t any interruption. “But three of us. And how do we know who goes first?” She shifts the playing pieces around again, then turns for the box in search of directions.

Although both her eyebrows rise, there isn't an explosion of questions or skepticism. Instead, Brynn tilts her head and looks thoughtful. She remembers very vaguely about a healer who was around the Ferry when she was small —what was her name? — but she only ever saw the woman once or twice in passing, and she was pretty young. The only reason she really remembers is because one of the kids broke their arm and they didn't have to have a cast, which was fascinating to Brynn back then. But she never actually met the woman.

I never wanted to bother you asking about why you had to use the crutches or chair, Brynn admits. It didn't matter, except sometimes I wasn't sure whether to offer… help or anything. She grins just a bit. You always get prickly and your face tightened up at any little notice anyone took. But I … don't want you to think none of us cared. I'm glad that they found someone who could help make things a little easier for you.

It really is pretty simple… Brynn just lets people be themselves. She waits as Squeaks checks to see who goes first. Rock, paper, scissors?

Emily gives a small smile, this one more genuine. I know you care. You all care too much if that's a problem someone can have. She's grinning now, looking back to the game board. … My business is my business. I've been through a lot. Lately, and in general. I don't… Trying to find the right words, she pauses. I like just being friends, Brynn.

She nudges her chin toward the board, vocalizing while she signs, "I call green. Maybe we do whoever's birthday is next goes first? It's not me, mine's September."

“I just wondered.” Squeaks pulls the inset cardboard from the box to look under it, then sets it back together. It was, in her mind, like pointing out new glasses or haircut. She checks under the box next, maybe the instructions somehow came out and slid underneath? But a second later, the box is put down without any luck. “I think they’re gone.”

It doesn’t seem to matter too much, because she looks at Emily and Brynn and holds up shrugging hands. “Rock, paper, scissors? I don’t know when my birthday is.”

Brynn blinks. Because that's never come up before and … do what now? Shock is evident in her features, perhaps now only because injury and illness and not wanting people to feel sorry for you are all things she understands exceedingly well. She doesn't think she ever met anyone who didn't know their own birthday and it brings home how very young Squeaks was when she was out on her own. It would be easy to feel pity … but it's not pity that's reflected. She never pitied Emily either — after all, we all have our own problems.

Wow. Squeaks, we gotta pick a day for your birthday… everybody should have a day where they get to celebrate just being alive for another year. Pragmatism runs strong in the LHK; Brynn doesn't even know how strange that might sound to Emily. It gives us a particular day to just celebrate having you!

Boy, they all were learning all kinds of things about each other today. Emily's head snaps up, wondering how not knowing something so important about yourself is even possible. She slowly nods along with Brynn's suggestion, one hand lifting to brush her hair behind her ear. That… would have to work in the interim.

"How do you not know that?" Emily blurts out, confusion evident. She could kick herself for saying it, though. She'd just gotten through saying she'd not like her business pried through, after all.

"Um… Rock, paper, scissors!" she voices suddenly, hands held out for the round. She opts for scissors.

Accepting things for what they are has always been easier than wondering about the obvious differences. Squeaks never questioned why Brynn was deaf or how come Emily needed crutches, it’s just part of them. So when there’s surprise about not knowing her own birthday, she looks at the older girls, confused. “I just don’t,” she offers as an explanation. It’s pretty simple, in her mind.

She bounces a fist against her palm to rock-paper-scissors when Emily does, with hers ending on paper. “Just like trick-or-treating and… those things. I read about them, just never did them.” Squeaks could be explaining that snow is cold, for how plainly she talks.

Squeaks is always so straightforward and never seems to feel she's missed out on things, so Brynn just lets it be. It's a fact that just is — and now that they know, it's just another part of her sister. We'll just figure out a date — like the day you first became one of us — use that to celebrate, she signs easily. It'll be Squeaks Day. She tilts her head and then offers, Unless maybe you want to celebrate adoption day instead. That's a great day to celebrate you arriving in our family too.

Rock, paper, scissors lands on paper as well, and then she signs, You should go first. You found the games.

Emily nods quickly, folding her hand into a fist at the last moment so she 'doesn't' win. She nods toward Squeaks with a small smile. "It's been a while since I've played this one anyway. You going first works best."

After a pause, and one hand going back to petting the dog, she asks one-handedly How was Christmas?

“Squeaks Day.” The idea makes her sound and look a little curious, as she tries out the idea in words. Any other comments about it are left alone as Squeaks looks from her hands to Emily’s and then Brynn’s. Two papers and a rock. “Brynn and I should try again,” she points out. That’s how it works. But she leans forward and turns over the top card.

“Seven.” The card is set face up beside the rest of the deck. As the youngest girl sits back, she looks at Emily and shrugs to answer the question. “Mom dressed Chandra in elf clothes. But I don’t know if that’s how it’s supposed to be. And there’s a tree in the house, and decorations.”

Brynn gestures for Emily to take the next card — Sorry isn't a cutthroat game, after all. She claps a hand over her mouth in that silent laugh of hers, her eyes crinkling at the corners while she snickers. Chandra in elf clothes? That's too cute!! I should put one of those headbands on Bug! He'd probably let me. He is Hailey-trained, after all. But it clearly amuses the heck out of her.

And she glances briefly toward the corner where the tree sat, a wistful expression taking the place of her full laugh. It was nice to see Aunt Gilly for the holiday. The last one we got to spend with her was… a long time ago. She looks at Emily and smiles. She was with us in Canada for a while during the war but she needed something different than rural Canada. It's less personal than saying 'mom and dad fought about how we were being raised and mom had to leave' … but Emily wants less personal, so she keeps it to herself.

Squeaks's simplistic explanation of how Christmas went, focusing mostly on the surface-level things, causes Emily to smile again. "Yeah?" she asks, letting Brynn laugh for them both while she draws a card. Two. She sets the tiny marker out, at first moving it twice and then back to just one space out as she rereads and notices Squeaks didn't move. Yeah, it really had been a while.

Seeing Brynn, Emily slowly nods. "Living like that's not for everyone," she says carefully. Even without the additional context, she knows something's being left unsaid there. Gillian really cared for them all. Flipping over the additional card she's drawn and seeing a four, she starts to slide forward, but reads again. Wait… Sliding it back instead puts it at the end of the circuit instead, and she starts to frown. "Well." Emily voices down at it, laying the card aside.

Rules about what's too personal and what's not being an ever-shifting minefield, combined with the stress of the last few weeks, push her to share things she normally wouldn't. I saw my Dad before Christmas. she says silently, her eyes down on the game. She tries to make it seem nonchalant as possible, but neither has she ever really spoken about any family besides her cousin. That was the first time in a long time, too. Her nose wrinkles as she adds in tandem out loud, "All Richard goddamned Ray's fault." Well, mostly tandem. She doesn't sign the swear.

There's a pause just long enough for her to glance up at Squeaks. "You work for Raytech sometimes, don't you? Is there anything in particular he hates? He's going to pay for what he did, but I think he knows far more about me than I do about him at this point."

“How come— ” Squeaks leans forward after Emily lays the second card down to read it also, then lifts it so she can read the one underneath. She makes an O with her mouth and sits back again so Brynn can draw her card. “Bug with clothes would be weird, Chandra looked weird, but he’d definitely let you.” She’s pretty sure of that also, both parts.

To answer Emily, she bobbles her head a little bit. “Sometimes I’m there. I don’t know about hating things or…” She squints a little, clearly missing something in what happened. “Why’s he paying for you seeing your dad?” The rules for prying don’t apply to the red-head, she’s going to ask her questions anyway. “Did he say he’s going to pay and then didn’t?”

Brynn looks back and forth between them, her brows raised. She's never met Richard Ray, though Squeaks does and she's heard the name from her brothers. And she can't help but be amused at the query, simply watching the explanation instead of interjecting anything. She draws a card and gets a 10, useless for getting her man out of Start. And so goes the game.

"He's going to pay," Emily explains patiently, without exasperation for missing the point of the turn of phrase, "Because he's an asshole. He, and someone else I trusted, tricked us both and they deserve something just as bad as what they did to us." She says it just as simply as Squeaks described her Christmas. That's just the way it needs to be. "There needs to be consequences bigger than a black eye for what he did." For what they did, is what she means to say, but it hurts to think about Devon's part in it. Much easier to put all the blame on Richard.

“You can’t pay for being something,” Squeaks counters as she draws her next card. She stares at it for a long second and then sets it down in the pile. Sorry. Her eyes go next to the color closest to her — yellow it would seem — and moves one of her pieces out to take over the space of Emily’s. “How come he needs consequences? What did he do?” Because she can’t think of thing of things bad enough that Richard should be in trouble for.

Brynn frowns as she watches Emily explain… or rather not explain. You didn't want to see your father? she asks, feeling as if she's probably on dangerous ground with the other girl. But she did offer up the fact that it was someone's fault that she saw her father. Flicking a glance at Squeaks, Brynn offers in a sort of abashed way, Is he … abusive? I'm sorry if that's too nosy. You don't have to answer. I just… never really understand when people don't want to be around their parents.

She draws a card and is finally able to get one man out of Start.

It might occur to Emily then that she may kind of be talking to the wrong person in Brynn — the deaf teen's only parental figure was Brian… and he obviously cared for all the children he took in, but she wasn't his child either. Even with whatever Emily's going through, at least she has one. Although an abusive one is not worth having.

Any frustration that might have started to build with Squeaks' insistence dies right away, another pained look flickering over Emily's expression as she sees Brynn's reaction to what she'd said. For a moment, all she can do is focus on the dog, regretting having spoken at all. When she hears the piece move, only then does she look up to draw a card of her own. She glances to the board, seeing her piece now back in Start, and shakes her head, tossing the 12 in the discard pile.

Sorry. is what she signs instead of giving Brynn a proper response. Emily has a feeling anything else she would say would just dig herself a deeper hole anyway.

"Squeaks, you ever heard of 'paying someone back' for what they did to you?" she asks in a much milder tone than she would have a moment before. "It can be positive, or it can be negative. It's just a phrase. The context I'm using it in means I want to get …" Okay, maybe revenge is a bit strong of a word, here. "—get back at someone for something bad they did." She pauses, eyes flitting up to Squeaks with a silent but strong implication that's as much as she wants to talk about it. "You're up," Emily provides in what she hopes will be a distraction away from the topic.

“Mine from before wasn't good,” Squeaks adds on to Brynn's question. Since they're on the topic of parents. “Or Carolyn either.” And maybe Emily just needs to know she's not alone. It doesn't sound like it's something she tries to keep hidden, just a thing and one she doesn't talk about much. But she saves the two older girls from details and leans back on her hands for a minute to wonder.

“I pay for things at the market.” The youngest teen sits up again so she can sign as she speaks. “Or if I borrow I pay it back.” She looks up at Emily and Brynn, eyes a little squinty. “But you mean like… like Lance and Joe…” And the kidnapper. But that's something she doesn't talk about and instead looks at the game board.

“I don't know that Richard is a bad guy.” Squeaks is pretty sure he isn't. “But I think he's maybe afraid of shadows? Or black ink. Getting back though… I don't know why you would or what he did.”

Brynn simply nods and signs, I always wondered if having parents was all that, she admits, giving Emily a wry shrug. Seems just like everything else, for every halfway decent one you see there are a lot more crappy ones out there. The foster system sure gave her a few crappy ones, though she barely remembers most of them. Only the one lady who cared enough to help her get into the Ferry's care really sticks out, and that was a good memory, if scary because it was still more strangers in her young life.

She drops the topic just as easily and goes to draw another card — a 7 that carries her piece a few spaces ahead. If what he did was so bad, maybe you should just stay really far away? Brynn offers. Punishing other people for being jerks isn't really in her wheelhouse — though, to be fair, it Emily wants to get back and asks for help, she's likely to give it. She's got her siblings' and her friends' backs. If you need ideas for revenge, though, Joe's pretty good at it. The boys are constantly doing crap like that.

A glance is shifted to Squeaks as she adds in the comment about her previous guardian. Emily silently bites back agreement they must have not been great — Squeaks didn't even know what her own birthday was, after all. "I mean like Lance and Joe." she echoes back in agreement, pulling out another card. Still nothing she can move a man free with, unfortunately. Oh well, means Bug gets an extra few seconds of ear rubs. He gets to enjoy it, and she gets to be relaxed by it. She figures it's an equal trade, one that keeps her from snapping.

"He had someone trick me into going to Raytech, to a room with one door, and locked me in." she provides her reasoning brusquely. Feeling more of that 'prickly' nature threaten to come forward despite the dog's reassuring presence, she just shakes her head and adds in a softer voice, "I don't want to talk about it anymore, Squeaks. I'm still upset about it." She bites her lip for a second before clarifying, "Someone I gave my trust to, who I opened up to, was involved and it's… going to take me some time to get over."

Though, looking back to Brynn, she gives a half-smile. "I don't know… bright pink hair sounds like an amazing revenge tactic. You sure you're not a mastermind?" Emily's smile curls up for just a moment as she teases her.

Belatedly, she blinks and looks back to Squeaks, the information about Richard's supposed fears being given thought finally. "Wait, ink? Did something happen?"

“There’s a new code,” Squeaks answers, like it’s really not a big deal. It definitely wasn’t something to get freaked out about. She’s still curious about this problem, but trying to keep herself from asking anymore questions. “He had one of the books and it leaked.” She holds her arm out to show the newest marks.

“The code said that when her name is done, then we found her.” Her own eyes are on the markings, distracted by that puzzle for the time being. “He asked Alia to do the code because she’s a …computer person. Like Hailey talks to animals but Alia talks to computers. I think these marks are her name.”

Brynn frowns a little. Wasn't there something about … how many books we had to locate to find the whole thing? she asks Squeaks thoughtfully. You've got… what, five of them? Although Brynn's not much of a conspiracy type, it seems… odd to her that there are a bunch of different books where this inkmorph person has been scattered but that they're all apparently in possession of people that Squeaks has actual physical contact with. Still… she doesn't want to toss such a strange idea out there without proof, so instead she simply asks, I wonder how many more there are.

Tilting her head to get a better look at the updated mark, Emily can't help but be relieved to throw herself at someone else's problems instead of facing her own. "If the marks are her name… Maybe she is Japanese after all, like Berlin said." She lets out a click at seeing that a second mark has been started next to the completed first. "I could try looking it up again, seeing what names use symbols like that.. It might help, if we're still looking into if she's a missing person or not." At which point, she glances up to Squeaks inquisitively. She wasn't sure what progress had been made on that front, after all.

“She said there's eight.” But not eight of what, and Squeaks has been assuming eight pieces. “This new one is seven.” She's thinking out loud, and the words come slowly. “But what if it's eight pieces. Like this is one and this is two.” A finger touches the first mark then the second that's starting.

She looks up at the two older girls. “Eight means total pieces to make her name, not how many books or marks to find.”

So… somewhere we gotta find one more book among people you know that has ink bits, Brynn surmises. Maybe there's a pattern to how to find the last book in who had the first seven. Maybe they have a commonality among them? The deaf teen looks between them and isn't sure enough of her own thought to really seem confident in the idea. But at least she had a half of an idea. Usually when they're talking about the ink and the codes and stuff, she feels pretty stupid.

"Man, I hope it's just eight books," Emily voices wearily. They'd be looking for books for the rest of their lives if her name was eight of those characters long. She makes a gesture at the board for Squeaks to take her turn before looking back to Brynn. "They were all printed in the same place at the same time is my guess. She got mixed in while trying to hide and got scattered in a number. I think that's why they're all here in New York — it was just the same batch. They might've all been sold at Prufrock's, even. That's where I got mine from."

“I don’t know. I don’t know about how many books or marks or patterns or anything.” Squeaks doesn’t sound frustrated, just that she doesn’t know any of the answers to the questions. The how many left hasn’t been a serious focus, only finding the next one and the next after that because that’s how to find the ink-lady. She cups her hands over her ears, fingers curling while the heels of her hands press against them. After a couple of seconds, she drops them again.

“If you want to stop looking, you can. But even if it’s a million-billion books I’m going to keep searching.” She picks up the next card, a five this time. After setting the card down, and moving her piece five spots, she looks up at Brynn and Emily. “I want your help but only if you want to help.”

Brynn draws a card and finally, on the 1, gets one of her men out of the Start base. We never give up, she signs back with a smile. It's just a big job, so we gotta figure out how to trace the things. Squeaks has her mind set on this mystery and Brynn's not about to just abandon her — so that's that, in her mind. She's in. Just like she was in when the boys wanted to try and trace William in the sewers.

Which makes her wonder about the electrical rats again. But she hasn't been Down Below in a while, so she leaves that off to the side.

I doubt a million billion of the books have been sold. If they were all sold locally, though, that might narrow things down. Can we maybe… put a personal advertisement in the newspaper? It's going old-school, but hey… in this day and age, sometimes old-school works! Maybe ask people if their edition of the book has had anything messed up in the printing of it, have them bring it to Raquelle's, or something?

A two card saves the day, or at least allows Emily to re-enter the board. The second draw gets her moving again, too. She gestures with an open palm back to Squeaks, nodding at her. "I'm with you til the end of this, so long as you don't decide to replace me with computer-woman," she tells her all-too-seriously, though she's leaned a little forward and there's a crinkle of a grin as she finishes with the tease. It's true, though — she would stick with the tiny captain of mysterious events out of a desire to sate her own curiosity just as much as keep an eye on the younger teen and keep her safe should things turn grave.

Before, it would have meant taking the issue and escalating it to others — Gillian, even SESA, if things got that serious. She's feeling more brave (read: reckless) than she used to, though. More hands-on with issue resolution.

God only knows she wants to feel like she can make a positive impact with something, though, after the side ways things have been lately. "I agree with Brynn. I don't know what your plans were, but maybe we can step up the search. I can put any posters up at the college."

“I’m not replacing anyone,” Squeaks points out, just as serious. She never thought of replacing anyone, but if they didn’t want to keep going then they could stop and she’d still look on her own. “And Mom said we could have an Easter egg hunt, only for codes not eggs.” She looks at Brynn as she says that, eyes going wide as she remembers. “I thought maybe you could make posters, like we did for the Underneath, but for the code hunt, and…” Emily already suggested putting posters up at the college, so she swivels her eyes to the blonde girl next. “Yes, that.”

She rubs a hand against her forehead. “I forgot about that part, when I told her about the marks and the codes and the ink-lady. There’s lots that’s been going on.”

Brynn's smile at Squeaks is sympathetic. The younger teen is dealing with a lot of weird stuff! When it's her turn, she draws another card — an 11 — and trades places with one of the other men on the board. It gets her much closer to Home with the one guy. Although none of her others are even out of Start.

It's not a big deal — you know you've got our help no matter how long it takes. It's a pretty primal kind of mystery and I'd hate for the poor ink lady to fade away before we find all of her. The way she fears poor William faded away.

"I'm glad you told her, at least." Emily murmurs, drawing another card and slipping another man out of Start before tossing the one aside. She thinks for a moment before glancing between them, signing as she asks curiously, "You guys want cocoa?"

“Yes.” Squeaks gets up on her knees and goes to the table where the snacks are, because they can have those with the cocoa. She pulls the plate with the pastries and cookies over and sets it onto the floor near the game board so the other girls can reach. Then she sits back, legs folding criss-cross, so she can take her turn. It’s a one this time, and she starts to move the piece that’s already out, then switches to take one from start instead.

“She wasn’t mad either.” Which is still a little surprising. The youngest girl tucks her elbows against her knees and cradles her chin in her hands. “She’s glad I told, but she wasn’t mad that I didn’t tell right away.”

Yes, please, Brynn signs to the cocoa. And then she asks, her expression puzzled, Why would she have been mad? Worried, I'd expect. But … she kinda expects crazy out of all of us. Because it's true. Not like Gillian hasn't had her share of crazy.

Emily smirks as she pushes herself back to her feet. "Well, so long as it wasn't a case of 'not mad, just disappointed.'" Her humor fades briefly, sighing as she signs, Because that's worse. before hitting the stairs to head down to the kitchen. She hasn't exactly planned for how she's bringing three mugs back up with two hands just yet, but she'll figure it out one way or the other.

Squeaks’ shoulders push up slowly, shrugging. She can’t really explain why she thought Gillian would be mad. “She wasn’t disappointed either,” she adds while straightening the remaining two pieces in her start. “Usually grown-ups get mad because of things like this. But she wasn’t, just worried first.”

That brings a nod from Brynn, as if 'worried' were the expected response. She's pretty used to us bringing home the weird stuff, I guess… I mean, even during the war. She rarely speaks of those years when they were in Canada, or the years before it really. She was a kid. But when the topic does come up, there are shadows in her expression that make her suddenly seem a lot older than her 19 years for just a moment — as if perhaps the kids in Canada saw a lot more than they should have. She always worries. It's hard for her sometimes… we're not exactly normal kids by the old definitions of normal. Perhaps the understatement of the century.

Shrugging slightly, all Brynn says to the worry, though, is She'll help wherever she can, even with the weirdest stuff. And she'll keep quiet if it needs keeping quiet, too. There is full faith from Brynn that if things need silence, Gillian will do it.

In the kitchen, Emily smooths her hair back from her face, sighing as she tugs cabinets open one after the other to check for mugs. She spares an eye for the stove, then glances to the microwave with a knowing nod once she's collected a few.

I always saw them get mad. Squeaks isn't arguing, just pointing out the different experiences. Having ink on me and secret codes. Carolyn would… She frowns a little, as worry makes her eyebrows push together. Her hands tense like she might explain some, but after a second, she just shakes her head. But Mom wasn't mad and said secrets are okay sometimes.

She looks at the pastries, then to the stairs leading down to the kitchen. We should maybe help Emily, the younger girl suggests as she looks up again. She stands and holds a hand out to pull Brynn up also.

Brynn looks like she'd like to find Carolyn and maybe stab her a good one. But she clears her expression quickly and pushes a smile. Aunt Gilly is a really good mom, she signs. On occasion, Brynn slips and calls her 'mom,' just as Lance does. Right now she is being careful not to, but the depth of affection the deaf teen has for the woman is obvious.

She takes Squeaks' hands and lets herself be tugged to her feet. Hot chocolate for the win!

For the sake of getting back upstairs quickly, the mugs were clustered in the center of the microwave to heat together. For all the discomfort questions brought, Emily's still glad for the company, glad to be included. There was nothing that said the crevasse between them in life experiences could keep them from being friends, though the brief tread near it reinforced just why she never brought up anything too personal.

Maybe in the future things could be different. But probably not.

Hearing the footsteps on the stairs, Emily can't help but smile a little. Despite any differences between them all, she certainly never felt alone. Not for long, at least.

"Hey, Squeaks, let's make this a fancy board game night. You guys have any whipped cream?"

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