Sibling Bonding Time


brynn_icon.gif joe_icon.gif

Scene Title Sibling Bonding Time
Synopsis Joe's on his first full liberty from the police academy.
Date May 23, 2021

The Lanthorn

What should be the dining room of the main floor of their house is … something rather different when he comes home after a month of training. The large, scuffed table that they use for when everyone is over is pushed against the far wall from the doorway, and the floor is covered in what looks to be something akin to butcher paper. Completely covered. One side of it has splatters of dried paint all over it, but it's the other side that for today might draw his immediate attention. She's a tiny little brunette making a huge mess.

Bent over the butcher paper on the floor, a jeans-clad butt facing him when he rounds the door frame, Brynn holds her cane in one hand to help steady her while the other hand has either dark chalk or maybe even real charcoal and she is drawing with wide, sweeping movements of her right hand. Movements that still, even months later, are still far less graceful and tightly controlled than they used to be. Maybe it's why she's making big drawings.

The image on the floor is smudged where she's probably stepped on it – charcoal is not the best medium for floor work. And there are faces of people they know all drawn in large scale. They're not as realistic or as finely crafted as she would have normally drawn. And he can see that she's angry with them in the way she draws a dark, heavy streak of hair across what might be Brian's face.

Doodlebug, curled into a corner out of the way of the annoyed sibling, looks up at Joe and wags his tail back and forth just once, as if to say Save us!

Joe hasn't been home much it's true, but he definitely wasn't expecting rooms to look entirely different. Though why wouldn't he given the people he lives with. He stops after taking a step into the dining room and looks around slowly at the huge mess that Brynn has been making. A bemused smile pulls at the corner of his mouth as he takes in the scene. He spots Doodlebug and the Brynn and all of the drawing and instead of making a big entrance he lowers his duffle to the floor and toes off his sneakers so he's in just his socks and walks over towards his sister. She might not be the original Brynn buuuuut that doesn't really change her position as family in Joe's brain. With all the alt versions of people running around? It's no different in his mind. He finds a relatively open spot of floor to sit on and then sinks down into a cross legged position.

"Hey." He murmurs to get her attention, his hands moving for her once she's looking up. You don't have to be her you know. He offers her a small smile, an honest one as he turns his head to look over the faces. Your art is different. You should embrace it. Not be angry at it. It's proof that you're not just a copy of her, but someone different. He settles his hands on his knees. Plus I think you're scaring the dog. His small smile stretches into his customary big grin. Brian has never looked better. Don't you tell him I said that either. Then, if Brynn hasn't already attacked him for a hug, Joe will open his arms up to offer one to his "newest" sibling, just a simple offer if she needs a hug. Missed yah.

The sound of his voice makes her jump – she was so caught up in what she was doing, she literally didn't hear him! The jump tips her off-balance and as her head whips upward to look at him, she sits down hard on the butt that was all up in the air moments ago. Brynn stares at him in surprise! And then the charcoal is dropped to the floor and she scrambles around to crawl over with a joyful grin to hug him. She's used to not seeing everyone all day every day, but him being out for days at a time because he's bunking at that academy? That's just uncomfortable for her. With her head resting on his shoulder, she obviously can't talk at him. And maybe he can't see the relief that he's here, either.

After she hugs the stuffing out of him, she pulls back and signs in lightning-fast movements, Why didn't you text?! Are you all done with classes? Are you home for good? Sitting on her knees like she is next to him, now he gets a good look at her face. The charcoal streaks make her look like she's wearing war make-up, her light gray eyes bright amid the dark colors.

And then she tips her head, finally parsing the first thing he signed, and a flash of sadness goes across her face, quickly buried behind the smile. It has to be different. My hand won't do what I want it to, so… She gestures at the floor. I could draw better when I was 5– And then she grimaces. WE could draw better when she was five.

Joe might not be able to see the relief, but he can feel it in the hug. Body language says more than enough, so he wraps her up in a big hug, not squeezing, well not too tight, just a little squeeze. He’ll sit there too, for as long as she needs. He can be incredibly impatient with some things, but not with feelings and emotions. Those are things that take time to process. So he sits there with her just holding her, arms wrapped around until she pulls back. When she does she’ll find him smiling again and waiting. Her hands start flying and then so do his. With the basic academy stuff yeah. I have more to do for getting into SCOUT but the basics are done. I’m sorry I haven’t been home or in much contact. I’ve been really focusing in hard on the training. I wanted to get it right. And I did. Joe looks at least a little proud of himself. Though most of the credit for me doing well goes to our crazy crazy life.

Joe’s brow pinches in concern when he sees that flash of sadness on Brynn’s face. Hey, that was poorly worded on my part I’m sorry. It was meant to be encouraging. You are your own person. Just like the various alternate future versions of everyone. THey’re their own person, with their own experiences. You are different. It’s okay for you to be different. It would probably be weirder if you were exactly the same to be honest. Well all versions of you can draw better than I can so… And yes. Joe does indeed stick his tongue out at Brynn. He cracks up though, the laughter warm in tone. Honestly. You should be trying to find the ways you’re different. I think that will help you ground yourself a bit.

There's a bit of a grimace and then she smiles at him. Brynn's unrelenting, quiet optimism hasn't been as relentless of late, for sure. It's fine, Joe. I knew what you meant. She sticks her tongue back at him, though, and retorts, That's because you've never sat still long enough to actually make it all the way through drawing anything at all. Keeping the boy busy was the way to keep his hyper self in check, and drawing was far too tame. ANYWAYS.

She looks around at the images on the butcher paper and shrugs. I'm surprised you could even tell that's Brian, she admits. I look at the drawings that I remember doing, and they're… so detailed. I can see the flaws in them, sure. I remember being unhappy with some of them… even though I didn't even draw them. But I look at them and then look at this? She rolls her eyes. Starting to think I should give up on this kind of art and just figure out something else to do with my time.

She waves that off, as if it's of no consequence at all. Do you still have to live in their barracks a while longer to do the rest of your training? It's been too quiet around here without you. The sly grin Brynn offers has mischief in it. And considering most of the time I practically crave the silence, that's saying something!

Joe’s mouth opens and his hands lift, clearly to protest her statement about him sitting still, but then with a slight blush it closes and his shoulders shrug some. Yeah. You’re not wrong. Drawing requires far too much sitting still. I’m better at doing things. Not that drawing isn’t doing stuff but… err yeah. He blinks at her in confusion, looking back over to Brian. That is clearly Brian. That’s Colette. Lance. He rises to his feet from the sitting position and looks around them both. I see our family around me, rendered by someone who truly cares about them. Joe’s head bobs up and down a couple of times. He continues naming off the faces of the people they know that are sprawled around them on the floor.

Joe gives his head a firm shake when she says that she might just figure out something else to do. No. I mean maybe. It really depends on what you want. Like really want. Do you want to draw and do art? Or is that a lingering drive to maintain your image as Brynn? Whatever that image… might be for. He stands a moment, silent and thoughtful, hesitating on his next comment before finally starting to sign. How would… Joe’s features scrunch up a little bit before he sighs and just lets it out. How would you feel about thinking on a new name? Or a variation on Brynn? Something to help you feel like your own person? The question about going back or not has his face scrunching up yet again. I’m not honestly entirely sure. I’m kind of just doing what I’m told. Which is super weird for me as you well know. I think I’m done with the having to live there? I’ve missed being around everyone. It’s a lot at the barracks but I didn’t have any of my family.

She's not sure how to explain it to him when he says maintaining her image as Brynn… There's a hurt in her expression that she hides by looking away from him, only watching him sign from the corner of her eye. She's not trying to shut him up, just to keep him from seeing that cut.

I need to figure out a new name anyway, she tells him. Brynn is her name and she gets to keep it. Nibbling on the side of her bottom lip, she watches him talk about the barracks and merely nods. He can see that there is a torrent of words building behind the silence. He's known her since they were small. The little tells are all the same. Right now, she's giving every indication that she's going to pull back into her shell and simply bottle it up. It's always been that way – she would shut down rather than cause a stir. She used to hide between a bed and the wall in her tween years as a way to stay out of sight until whatever words were stewing were under control.

Gray eyes flicker across his face, then toward the door – here it comes. She's gonna bolt from the conversation. And then she doesn't. I don't hold onto an image of being her, she flash-signs. I am her, right up to the day they took her, Joe. I used to hide under Lance's bed when the nightmares were bad. I used to sit in the hayloft and cry after Brian had us on the range. I held Lance the day he killed that guy when he couldn't stop shaking. I remember our whole life. Except it's not mine. And hopefully we're going to figure out how to bring her home to all of you, … but I don't know that I'm going to see it happen. What I want is to not have to give up the only family either of us has ever known… and to not die before we can even find her. I want to … not feel like a thief. And there isn't much I can really do to stop that. I didn't ask to be given her life, and sometimes I wish I didn't know.

Joe is not good with words. He has never been good with words. Look up foot in mouth and you’ll see a picture of Joe looking confused. He immediately knows he’s said the wrong thing. Just her looking away tells him he has, she wouldn’t look away in the middle of a conversation unless it was to cover something up. She kind of has to be looking at her conversation partner after all. He takes a moment, that confusion written across his face before he ohs softly and his eyes close. He realized what he said. When he opens them though he can see that Brynn is starting to close off, so he stops and waits to see if she will speak or shut down. Giving her that option. Of course if she shuts down he’s hardly going to let her just do that and pull away.

That is not… I mean. You are Brynn. You have Brynn’s memories, you have for all purposes lived her life. You are Brynn. I didn’t… I’m not good with words, we all know this, and I don’t understand the position you’re in. I’m sorry that I don’t. I’m also not sorry that I don’t? Cuz…. That would mean he’d been body snatched too. I am sorry that I can’t put myself in your shoes. Another experience that the rest of us just don’t understand.

He pauses a few moments after that to gather his thoughts. I’m sorry. I didn’t think before I spoke. Which is nothing new, but… I forget sometimes. We’ve been through so much. We’ve always just rolled with the punches and kept on going. Through the loss, the heartache and the danger. We’ve always just trucked on. I guess I just kind of figured you were rolling with it. You’re an incredibly strong person. I’m sorry that I didn’t see you were hurting so much.

He stops though and the whole of his face goes completely confused. “Wait what?” So much so that he forgets to sign for a moment. Whoah! Wait a minute. What on all of the crazy future earths? What kind of botswarf is that? Why would you have to give up your family? His hands are flying rather wildly. It took his brain a second to catch up with everything she had said. Uhh no. Some crazy mad scientist or crazy government program or crazy future earth might have made you? But you are one of us. Before. Now. And in the future. I will be damned if I let anyone take you away from us. You are a part of this family.

She looks at him with an expression that is torn between sadness and hope. Joe… if she needs me gone, I have to go. We don't have any clue what kind of hurting she's going to be in. Brynn is always going to be Brynn, apparently – she's always going to help whoever needs it, even at the cost of her own wants. Besides… I've only really been part of your family for a year. I mean… we do tend to absorb everyone we come across, but…

She can't help the rueful grin. I don't know, Joe. I think about what I'd want in her shoes and … I'd let me stay, even though I think I'd feel like I'd been replaced. And I don't want her to feel that way any more than I think she will want me to feel like I was being chased out. I don't know how to make it so both of us are okay. She pauses and admits, I haven't wanted to tell anyone how awful it is… it feels like complaining when I'm at least alive for the moment. And it's not like I'm the only one. Jac, Aunt Abby, Aunt Gilly, Aunt Kaylee… we're all struggling. We're all dying, Joe. We gotta find the original ones. All of us agree on that. And none of us want our original ones to be hurt by us.

Joe lets out a not so soft snort of indignation, and makes sure his signing shows it too. I know you. No you could kick out another you. That… we have the weirdest conversations. That doesn't change the facts though. You know that you couldn't cast out yourself so why would you be able to? Joe's arms cross over his chest in a very matter of fact fashion. There, argue with that logic. Go ahead. Uh no. If you have the memories then you've been a part of this family your whole life. Is it going to be weird? Honestly? Probably not. Joe's shoulders pop up and hang for a second before dropping back down. What can you do?

We'll figure it out. It's what we do. LIke I said. We roll with the punches. Sometimes we need a little help though. I'm sorry I've been gone when you needed us to be here for you. When she says they're dying his features scrunch up a little bit. Someone way smarter than I am will figure out how to save you all. I wish that I could help in that department. But science is definitely not Joe's forte. Conspiracy theories and getting into trouble? Those are Joe's forte. Being there for his family. But braining? Not so much on that part. I'm sorry. For being an incosiderate jerk.

Brynn fixes him with a look that just says Stupid. I missed you. A lot. She doesn't think he's a jerk – he just says what's in his head. When he stood up, she didn't. But now she holds out her hand to get his help to rise, climbs slowly to her feet, and instead of arguing with him she simply steps into his space and wraps her arms around his waist to rest her head on his shoulder. The fact that Joe's always been a hugger makes it an easy gesture.

And it's a long few minutes before she finally pulls back again so she can talk. And if her gray eyes are wet, well… it's a lot! Now that you're home and I got my whining out of the way, Brynn signs with a sheepish expression, I put a stash for peanut butter away for you last time I went to the market. You hungry? Because how better to distract Joe from the fact that she wants to bawl like a baby than to offer him food, right?!

Joe is if nothing else? Authentically himself. He catches that look from Brynn and he can't help but grin one of his big goofy grins. After everything they've all been through? It hasn't killed that grin. Dimmed it at times, but it always comes back. His shoulders pop upwards in a quick 'what can you do?' sort of shrug. I missed you too. So what el- Then there are incoming hugs! Joe is a hugger, always has been. It does impede his ability to sign at her though, so instead he just wraps her up in a hug. Instead of speaking or signing, he hums, the melody is soft and slow but with a happy note to it. Joe isn't much of a hummer, but it's a well practiced little snippet. There's not much though, he starts repeating it after only about ten seconds or so. It's something the other kids have probably heard him hum a time or two when things got really bad. When they lost their own. The other kids.

When he hums, she turns her ear slightly to hear it better. She's felt him do that before but hearing it is still very new.

After a bit Joe goes quiet and just holds his sister as long as she needs him to. When she does pull back he has an easy smile on his face, though he does look down at his shirt and the wet spots there and then at her glistening eyes and he reaches an arm around her shoulders to give them a gentle squeeze. Okay. Peanut butter. The academy's was terrible. Thank you for stocking me up, you are truly awesome. So I can eat some peanut butter, and you can catch me up on what's going on around here. Who's getting into what trouble, where everyone is at. I feel like I've been away for a year not a month. And then well, it's off to the kitchen where he assumes the peanut butter stash is. Any new housemates? Cuz Joe is NOT putting it past the others to acquire a stray or two in the last month or so.

Brynn grins at the fact that the academy had awful peanut butter. Gathering up her cane from the floor, she moves to walk with him to the kitchen, Doodlebug stretching and following behind them. Cant being one-handed mostly is an advantage to her these days.

Welllll….. She draws out the sign. Actually, last night we had a dinner guest – someone new who needs us sometimes I think. Her name is Merlyn. Brynn pauses and the grins wickedly. Lance couldn't stop looking at her butt.

Giving one brother ammunition against the other is par for the course around here. Maybe one of us will figure out this dating thing. Pretty sure it won't be me, she adds, rolling her gray eyes and looking a little embarrassed about that thought. The last 'date' she even attempted was several years ago now with Owain. Apparently she tried again while Joe wasn't looking and it went poorly.

Cant has proven an incredibly useful tool for the kids over the years. Joe moves back over to his duffel bag and hoists it up onto his shoulder. It needs to get to his room and if he leaves it where it was he'll totally forget to put it all away. Someone new? Well new people are a good thing. Lance??? She can hear his laughter, and he signs it too for her, he's too used to signing everything. He shakes his head as he walks alongside his sister. Wish I could have seen it so I could have picked on him in cant the entire time. I'll make up for it though. Joe's head bobbles up and down a couple of times. I'm kind of surprised he hasn't brought a bunch of girls home if I'm being honest. Joe pauses though, his hands stilling as he actually thinks that over for a moment. Actually no I'm not. Not at all. Because they would all give him endless grief. It's what siblings are for right?

Joe pauses and looks over with a couple of blinks. Well that sounds like a story that I need to hear when you're ready to tell it. Not that Joe has done any dating either. At all. Gonna run this up to my room quick and I'll meet you in the kitchen. And Joe does just that, runs off, dumps his duffle bag in his room, then comes back down with a curiously raised brow. Did someone rearrange my weapons? The hidden ones not the easy found. He does walk back over near Brynn and leans in to bump his shoulder against hers lightly. So, you up for telling me what happened? If not that's cool. I'll just throw popcorn at you until you are. Joe flashes her a big wide grin before he goes in search of said peanut butter stash.

While he's laughing and running off upstairs, Brynn is digging out the desired peanut butter. There's three whole jars that she hid away for him! Lance has his own. So when Joe rejoins, she's pulling out a spoon and holding it out to him even as he bumps her shoulder.

Her grin is easy, if sheepish. Well, it's not as bad as the paintball, she tells him, reminding him of her little crush a couple years ago that ended when Lance's paintball prank went a little sideways. I kinda thought maybe I'd ask Kendall out – but when I did, he kind of almost ran away. He doesn't like girls. She rolls her eyes. You'd think with all the people we know, I'd be a little more savvy about that, right? It's embarrassing, though.

Actually it's a lot embarrassing to her but hey… Joe had to live through almost all the LH girls having crushes on Paul at one time or another! At least she isn't making those dreamy faces!

Joe is more than delighted to find peanut butter and a spoon waiting when he gets back to the kitchen. Have I ever told you you're my favorite sister? Don't tell Hailey. A quick grin at Brynn before he's digging into the peanut butter. One thing Joe doesn't do is talk with his mouthful. It's probably the only time people can get him to shut up. Here Joe have some peanut butter my god. Of course, that doesn't really apply when one is talking with one's hands. Joe is more than happy to try to hold the peanut butter in the crook of his arm, the spoon in one hand, and wildly gesticulating and signing with the other. Kendall doesn't like girls? Huh. I guess I'm not a very good judge about romantic stuff. It's not that I'm not interested in finding someone. Just more that… well. I'm not really sure. Joe shrugs a shoulder and goes back to nomming peanut butter.

It's not really been a concern you know? I'm not… Joe puffs out his cheeks and leans back a bit, quiet as he works through his own thoughts for a few moments. Well you're being open about stuff so… Joe sits a moment or so more, silent, hands mostly still other than tapping fingers on the side of the peanut butter jar. Joe is not actually great about opening up about his inner thoughts and feelings. He doesn't keep them hidden but he's always had a bit of difficulty expressing those thoughts and feelings out loud. I'm not really sure where I fall. Emily asked me about it awhile back. Before the whole tree thing. I haven't given it much thought to be honest. But she asked. I gave her an honest answer. I don't know… what I like. Prefer? Find attractive? I guess I just haven't had that kind of connection with anyone yet.

Joe reaches a hand over and rests it on Brynn's forearm for a moment, giving it a squeeze, then leaning over to bonk his forehead lightly against her shoulder before he just kind of lays his head in that spot. I'm sorry that you haven't had much luck with the dating scene. You're a really awesome person. And objectively speaking? You're a looker Brynny. You'll find someone. We're still pretty young. I know it doesn't feel like it with everything we've been through. I feel like I'm 40 most of the time. But we're pretty young still. You have a lot of time. You will find someone. Yes Joe is completely ignoring the whole dying thing. He is quite convinced someone will find a solution before it's too late.

Joe twists the spoon through the peanut butter and comes up with another spoonful. We have led some very very strange lives. LIstening to the other recruits at the academy was so… weird. Like they have such normal everyday problems. No talk of weird alternate futures and time travelers and crazy beings from beyond our understanding. It was refreshing, but it also drove home just how messed up our lives have been.

Awwww. He's so sweet when he wants to be. If Brynn's concerned about his confession, there is no trace of that in her body language or her smile as she rests her head against his for a long moment. She's just amused, and maybe a little (or a lot!) embarrassed to be called a looker.

When he starts talking about their weird lives, though, she nods slowly. When I was working at Auncle Raquelle's, I used to watch some of the people talk. Most people just assumed that since she was deaf and they weren't signing she wouldn't 'hear' them. People tell Auncle all kinds of things, like really private things. Auncle is way more therapist than stylist, I swear it. But the more they talked–

She pauses, trying to find the right words. I knew our family wasn't what anyone would consider usual… But I never really understood what that meant, you know? Brynn looks at him and grimaces a little. All those kids our age at the college or in the art classes I took? They talked about the weirdest things like they were important. What some singer was doing or who they were dating… whining about not being able to get specific kinds of shoes… gossip about other students and what they were wearing or interested in. Just… completely stupid things. Not one of them worried about whether their garden was producing enough food to last through next winter. Or if they had enough ammunition and fuel to go out hunting and bring back enough meat to store or trade. Because those things are all things they have lived. Maybe it's why she kind of withdrew from so many things even before the stroke – couple all of that feeling out of place with also being different physically, and it's like living in a colony of Martians.

Do you think that we'll ever really fit with anyone but another one of us?

Us? Fit in with other people? Not a chance. Joe's head is shaken rather vigorously, though it ends with one of his big smiles at his sister. That's why, we have to find the other crazies and bring them in. One of us, one of us. See we don't fit in with normal people. We're not normal. We never will be. We should embrace that. We're like the Teen Titans. If the Teen Titans had you know, been based in reality, where people die and awful stuff happens even to good people. Robin didn't have powers and was still awesome. So just sayin. It doesn't disinclude those without powers. But no. We won't fit in with the normal people Brynny. I mean… really? He looks at her, both brows lifted.

I mean… come on. We are a whole season of Outer Limits all on our own. We could each have our own dedicated episode. I mean… think about your story. Really give it some thought. Doesn't it sound like some crazy sci fi stuff? I can stand there, in the middle of a gunfight, and NOT worry. At all. Our lives are crazy. Normal is beyond our grasp. But we can be happy. We should be happy. We deserve to be happy. Joe finishes that statement with another spoon of peanut butter, nomming about half of what's on the spoon in one bite.

It's an interesting thought, although part of Brynn has always wondered what normal life looks like. Even now, she can't imagine. Not really.

Joe eases back, resting his back against the counter top behind him. Raquelle is a treasure. I need to go by and say hi. I've been pretty neglectful. I… could use a haircut anyway. He lifts a hand, running it through hair that has gone a little to the shaggy side. Honestly though. Be happy for those kids at college or around the city whose concerns are so simple. Be happy for them. They haven't had to live the kind of lives we have. Not just anyone can handle the botswarf we've handled you know. It takes a special kind of someone to keep going through what we have. It's easy to forget when we've all had the same experiences. We being the lighthouse kids. The orphans and cast offs. I honestly can't even imagine what life would be like without you all. I don't really remember anything about my parents. You guys are all the family I've ever known.

He breathes in slowly, holding the breath for a few moments before he lets it out in a long slow exhale, his eyes drifting closed at the end of it. I'm going to need help thinking of ways to prank Hailey once I join SCOUT. His eyes open and he winks at Brynn, pure mischief written across the invulnerable kid's face. And then more peanut butter.

I don't want to imagine life without all of you, Brynn retorts.The truth is, she's got a lot of fear about what happens to her when Real Brynn comes home, despite the fact that every time she mentions it her siblings poopoo her fears. It's tearing her up on the inside. They're all so dismissive of how the Brynn who has lost a year of her life is going to feel about the thief, the doppelgänger. But she doesn't have that luxury – it doesn't matter how kind or nice someone is, they're going to have to be on some level pissed off about being replaced. And it potentially means that she has nowhere to go.

She wishes Devon had been more help. But he seemed to be fine with it all when it happened to him.

But she swallows all of it back down deep, not letting Joe see it. Instead, she lets him change the subject and she grins at him. I can't decide if I feel bad for your bosses at the police department or not. You and Hailey are both going to make good protectors of people. Because that's what police are supposed to do. Just be careful – you get too crazy, you could get fired for pranks on a job. I don't want you to lose something you're working so hard for.

Her siblings poopoo her fears because they're her siblings and they're going to love them both. Cuz that's what real family does. And they are a real family. Their family might not share blood ties, other than a pair of Gerkens, but their family was forged in fire. It's strong. We'll get it all figured out Brynn. I don't know how, I don't know what the figuring out will be. We'll make it all work though. It's… probably going to be weird, and rough at first. I wish I could do or say something to put you at ease. Joe spoons some more peanut butter into his mouth before he scoots down the counter a bit so he can lean to the side a bit against her. Just let her know he's there. Yes she can see him but that's not the same thing dangit.

Oh you should definitely feel bad for them. Poor Aunt Liz. But we were raised and trained by the best. We'll take care of business. We'll protect and serve. Hopefully with a lot of the former. Joe's shoulders bob upwards and then back down quickly. I'll be able to keep an eye on the police and the government to a degree.Warn people if stuff starts looking grim or weird. I can protect people. It feels like a good step. An important step. Moving forwards. Joe's head turns to look over at Brynn, nudging her with his elbow a little bit. What have you been occupying yourself with while I've been gone?

Brynn smiles at him and once more leans against him when he does it to her. It's okay – I'm dealing with it, Joey. At least as much as I can. The sign for the diminutive of his name isn't one she uses much anymore, but she's trying to reassure him that she's all right.

Well… Lance has been teaching me a bit about music. And Wright is going to take me to a concert in the park. She says it's different in person, so we'll see if anything they play makes any more sense to me in person. Don't tell Lance, but I really hate jazz. It is such a jumble. A lot of the music he's played for me has been noise like what came out of the possessed video. She grimaces. Apparently not for anyone else. But some of it I've really liked. Wright says the orchestra stuff in the park is smoother than the stuff most people find on radios. She shrugs philosophically.

Most everything else has been doing stuff around here… Brynn pauses and grins a little. With everybody else doing real jobs, I figured I got housekeeping by default. I try to get out a bit, even though I'm still having balance problems and migraine spikes. Those make it problematic for her to go out on her own too much.

Joe doesn't buy it, but he also knows when not to push his sister. He knows her well enough by now to know if she doesn't want to tell him something she's not going to tell him something. She'll open up or she won't. Privacy of thoughts was one of the few privacies they had when they were younger so he tries not to intrude too much if someone isn't ready to talk about something yet. I'm not a big fan of jazz either. I know Lance loves it but I don't get it. Sounds like a whole lot of noise to me. But Joe has also never been one to go out of his way to listen to music. In group scenes and hangouts sure, but then it's part of the group activity. Joe rarely goes out of his way to listen to music though.

Well all the… wait what? His signing comes to a halting stop, fingers halfway through the sign for music when she says it sounds like the noise from the tape for her. His head turns slowly to look over at her, a curious tilt to his head. How much like the noise from that tape? Joe's eyes have gone intensely curious, possible chalk mode on the verge of activating. That for Joe's brain was a very specific description of the noise, and their lives have been incredibly weird and full of crazy coincidences. So he's not putting anything out of the realm of possibility. I miss the guitar and song sessions we used to have. Those that could play and sing getting together. The adults when we were in the Lighthouse. I miss that.

Joe's eyes follow her hands, though with how practiced they are he can catch the conversation in the side of his vision and keep his eyes between Brynn's face and well the peanut butter still in his hands. Hey, real jobs are overrated. Having to be somewhere when other people say? Joe makes a dramatic face and rolls his eyes before nomming more peanut butter. Once we figure out how to make you better then you can worry about a real job if you actually want to do that.

Oh God, she activated his conspiracy brain! Brynn can see it in the way he looks at her, so sharp and intense. Not that way. That was all inside my brain. It's just jangly and jarring and makes no sense. Sometimes it makes me dizzy or triggers migraine. She pauses and then admits, It's one of the few times I see colors, though. Most of the time, the world just looks… She struggles with how to word it. Sepia-toned, I guess. Sort of like some of those old black-and-white shows we could watch on tapes? I get flashes of intense color once in a while, but jazz triggers all kinds of flashes and spots.

Shrugging, because somehow that's perfectly normal?? to her right now, she adds, Honestly, Joe? Right now I don't want to think about anything at all. Going outside, it's always noise. So much noise everywhere, all the time. I still work for Auncle Raquelle, but all my other income was from art. And since that's not going to happen, I've just been staying home. Instead of sitting in the Market sketching or other things she used to do.

Indeed she did. Joe's brain is working now. She's awoken the slumbering chalk monster. She's assuring him that it's nothing, not entirely believing but trusting Brynn not to outright lie to him, he starts to kind of let it go, nodding his head a couple of times. Of course then… then she goes on to tell him that music is the only time she sees color. Well isn't that… strange. His eyes narrow a little bit more, brain definitely trying to puzzle out some kind of connection there. I know synesthesia exists, but synesthesia for music only? Does spoken word make you see colors? LIke if you're out amongst the people on the street? Or just the music?

Joe's head bobs up and down a couple of times as he listens to her describe what's going on with her. Unfortunately? It does not convince him that he's not onto something there. Occasional flashes of color, which could be snippets of music you're overhearing, have you know noticed a difference between the general chatter of the city and music? I know it all just sounds like noise. But if you're only getting pops of color with music that's… I don't think that's nothing Brynn. Coincidences? Given our lives? I find that unlikely. Joe's brain is fully engaged, mulling that over now.

Okay. I mean, thinking about nothing at all is pretty hard. Takes real active effort and all. Then you're not actually thinking about nothing– His hands pause so he can eat some more peanut butter, one great advantage to signing so much? You can talk with your mouth full. you're trying so hard to think of nothing that you're thinking about thinking about nothing. You know? He's chuckling, both out loud and signing for it. I don't know. Heavy dark art styles are absolutely a thing, though if I know that I know you know that. He pauses for a couple of seconds before he looks over, a tired smile on the young man's face. I know what you mean though. For so long we all felt like our lives were beyond our control. Then we came here and took control of them. Right now you don't feel like you have that control. That's… His features settle into a slight frown, not a common expression for Joe, and bumps his shoulder against hers. Solidarity.

Brynn grins as his brain spins up. It's not that it makes me see colors exactly. It's that … When my ability was taken– No. When I awoke without Brynn's ability, I would bet that they really didn't know how it worked anyway. So… I think when the stroke happened, it shorted out something in those nanites and maybe damaged something in there. Music, loud noises, even sometimes a smell will trigger migraines, and then I see colored spots or flashes of intense colors in the world. Sometimes I see the flashes without a loud noise, but it still comes with pain in my head. So I suspect it's just that whatever is damaged in there is just … I don't know. Zinging with electricity? It makes as much sense as anything else about all this.

And then her expression softens at his musing about control. Maybe that's the problem, she replies to her brother. Even now, strange things keep happening around us and to us. We don't really have control of much of anything, do we? Except how we use what we have. So… I'm just trying to figure out how to use what I still have to get ready for whatever is coming next. Given that Pure Earth already tried to grab Hailey once and whoever the heck it was tried to grab Jac and the fact that something like what's happened to her even actually happens? She figures it's not a matter of if the next thing comes… just when.

Has anybody asked you the million dollar question yet? she asks her brother. When he looks at her questioningly, she signs deliberately, Don't you think it's a little strange that three of you are now working for the very government that tried to eliminate us? I mean… yeah, supposedly things are not like that now and lots of our aunts and uncles work for them. But it seems a little weird to realize you and both pickles are doing law enforcement of all things.

Joe's features go thoughtful as she explains in greater detail the problems she faces. Well, I still think that's not nothing. That music especially does that. Howeeeeeever, I have no idea what that not nothing is. A science fairy I am not. Joe's cheeks puff out as he lets out a long slow breath and lets his head tip to the side. Zinging with electricity. Huh. Almost like the nanites are trying to come back… have we… had a technopath try to mess with the nanites? He asks turning his head to look over at Brynn. Do we…. even know any technopaths? That would be a pretty primal power to have about now.

It's not a million dollar question for me. I dont' think for Hailey either. Lance… I'm starting to think Lance has been sipping the koolaid. I'm worried he's been won over to their side. I'm not sure how to broach that to him though. When he left us out of the loop on him getting shot it… bothered me. A lot. We shouldn't be keeping things from each other. That's how it all began. People keeping secrets. But for me? A big part of my joining is so that I'll know what's coming. After all it was our aunts and uncles that were part of these orginizations that figured out stuff was about to go sideways and started preparing. We need to be ready. We need to be in those positions too.

Joe's hands finally still for a moment and he looks down at them, his gaze lingering on them for a few seconds. The spoon is set to the side with the peanut butter, the spoon is quite clean. Things don't feel like they're getting better. They feel like they're getitng worse again. Like it's all winding up for another go around. It's starting to feel like it did before. When everything started going more and more nuts. When we left the lighthouse for safehouse after safehouse… I'm worried. Joe looks up and over to his sister and she can see something that there hasn't been there in awhile. Fear. I'm scared.

I don't think we know any technopaths… Brynn offers slowly. But I would think if SESA or anyone in the group knew one, they'd have already asked them to try – instead of doing brain surgery on themselves and electrocuting themselves. Cuz yeah… they've done that. She grins at his use of Aunt Eve's name for a scientist.

But she gets very solemn indeed at his next signs. Me too. The confession that she scared of what they're seeing happening is difficult. She too sees it. But I don't think Lance would turn into one of them. If he thought we really needed to know something, he'd tell us. He's doing the SESA thing for the same reasons you're doing the cop thing – to help people and to keep an eye on them. I trust him to be watchful of the organizations. We don't need to know everything the others are doing, Joe.

Although Brynn would be lying if she said she wasn't worried about the same questions. Would Lance realize he was sliding down that slope? She thinks he would but… the aunts and uncles hadn't seen it before until it was sometimes too late either.

Joe sits there actually quiet for a bit, hands not moving and miracle of miracles mouth not moving. He sits in silence but for his lean over to bump his shoulder against Brynn's lightly. He does nod his head with her but his will isn't in it, the movements are shallow and brief with no real conviction behind them, and she can tell. He wants to believe that but he's not entirely sure. Her unspoken comment seems to hit his fears on the head though because he looks over and offers her a tight little frowning smile. Will he notice though? Will he see himself slipping? How many of the people that did the government's bidding before… thought they were doing what was right? Or that the government knew better than them so they followed their orders? How many good people also stood by and did NOTHING even though they knew what was happening was wrong? Never underestimate our power to delude ourselves. I hope you're right Brynn. I really truly do.

She leans sideways on his shoulder and signs, Thats what he's got us for – to hit him over the head with a piece of firewood and tie him up in the basement if he forgets what he's supposed to be doing and who he is.

Joe's hands start to move to say something else, but they go still and he just lets out a long sigh and closes his eyes. He holds them closed for a few seconds before he opens them up and looks over at Brynn. Okay. Enough sadness and worry. We have enough of that. We need to do something fun. Or at least relaxing. Pizza and a movie? Any food really. I'm just hungry. Despite the fact that he's been sitting there nomming on spoonfuls of peanut butter. Joe has always been like a black hole for food and never seems to gain an ounce.

Rolling her eyes, Brynn just grins. Some things never change. Pizza and a movie, she agrees readily, seeming excited at the prospect. Everyone's been so busy lately they're not at home much. Extra cheese this time!

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