Solve For X


brynn_icon.gif joaquin_icon.gif squeaks_icon.gif

Scene Title Solve For X
Synopsis While Brynn and Squeaks work on solving problems, they encounter an even weirder mystery.
Date April 21, 2019

Eric Doyle Memorial Children's Library

A restored, 19th-century carriage house, this library rests between two much larger buildings. Opened in March of 2018, this Library serves the public. This 2,600 square foot building acts as a learning space for the youth of the New York Safe Zone. The services and books within catering primarily to children and young adults, with classes and clubs to enrich and entertain.

The building is named in honor of Eric Doyle, a Ferryman, who sacrificed his life in a daring raid on the Cambridge Institute facility, where dozens of children were being held.

Weekends don't see a lot of classes happen at the library. Those typically take place during the weekdays, with reading and writing lessons and tutoring for those trying to finish their educational requirements in order to move on to higher academics or into the workforce filling most of the hours. Evenings and weekends tend to be far less busy. Some study groups monopolize a couple of tables, a individual here and there browsing through the stacks.

Squeaks and Brynn have a couple of chairs to themselves, pulled close enough that they can talk when they need but not invading each other's space.

The redhead, her legs criss-crossed on the chair, works from a book. At least that's what she might appear to be doing to anyone who looks her way. Brynn can see easily that what's supposed to be a page of algebra has evolved into doodles.
The older girl is also working on studying, because Joe has encouraged her to go one more time for the exam she needs to pass for acceptance to Brooklyn College. She's not stupid, but she struggles with algebra in horrible ways. Light and shadow, perspective and angles, those she can do. Stick letters in her math and she's useless. Or so she feels. I hate this stuff, she confides to Squeaks with a grimace. And still she struggles through the problems. Why in the world this is even important is beyond me. I don't need this for art!

The next time the library's front doors open, an upward spray of brown hair like a tuft of grass leads, followed by the rest of Joaquin's lanky form. It's not cold out, but the young man's dressed in a voluminous jacket leading to the impression that the article of clothing wishes to swallow him for his poor weather-specific fashion choice. But no matter, coats don't have mouths.

It's a library, so no hellos and salutations are made aloud, only a glance here and there at the faces of those buried in books and studies. And as he pokes his way amongst the groups and individuals, Joaquin looks to be scouring not for a subject, but for a familiar face. He stops alongside the table where Squeaks and Brynn sit, bending slightly as a willow reed as he whispers to the young red-head, "Excuse me. Have you seen Gillian Childs?" That's when he has a look past Squeaks and sees Brynn, blinking and then squinting at the other young lady. A familiar face. "Brynn?" It's blurted out in a moment's forgetfulness that the other girl is unable to hear him.

It's not fun, Squeaks agrees easily. She's been having her own struggles with math, and only recently started feeling successful with it after a lot of help from others. Maybe you could come over and ask Lene to help? She follows her suggestion with a look to the older girl, brows raising with hope.

The new arrival at their small corner of the library is acknowledged with a glance, but nothing else until Joaquin bends down to whisper. "Probably in her office," is a matching whisper, with the start of a finger pointing in the direction of the closed door. Likely that's where Gillian's office is.

With her eyes going a little squint at the boy, she's about to go back to her work. Maybe she'll actually get a few problems done. But then he's almost yelling Brynn's name, and Squeaks gives him a look like he's losing his mind. She nudges the older girl and points to Joaquin. He knows you?

Brynn wasn't paying as much attention to the newcomer as to her companion, though she's not unaware of his arrival. Her gray eyes flicker upward and away, then immediately back in surprise. The sign for his name is given and Brynn's expression splits into a grin. Ohmygod, when did you get here?? A great many of their foster siblings are turning up in town — it's like a party!

For Squeaks, she signs quickly, He's Lighthouse. And then she signs for Joaquin, This is Squeaks. She's new Lighthouse! Cuz we adopt our own now!

Being on the receiving end of a few shushes and side-eyes for the blurted name, Joaquin lifts a hand, held straight up and head ducking to the various offended in a universal apology. He'll shut up. Only that he technically doesn't shut up, as he smiles for the familiar and unfamiliar-new-acquainted. "Hi," he whisper-greets to Squeaks. A moment taken, he finds a nearby chair to flump into.

Brynn's signing takes him a little longer to parse and interpret. Clearly, he's been out of practice. "Um…yes. Here. Oh I got 'Lighthouse'," he repeats with a short nod to confirm. "I'm Joaquin," he adds, repeating his name-sign. Slower than Brynn might remember, and slower than Squeaks has picked up. And with a glance over to their doodle-work, he asks as well as signs, "What are you two doing?"

There's a look of oh when Brynn explains who the boy is. The younger girl spells out her name first then shows the sign for it that her older sister chose. Mouse made with an 's'.

"Homework." Squeaks is practiced enough to talk with her hands as much as with her mouth, and after she's explained she moves her doodles aside to show the used textbook that's been hiding underneath.

Brynn smiles sympathetically. Joaquin always had a hard time with the signing, was never as fast at it as some others. Instead, at least for now, she simply writes down the things she wants to say — there are too many words and she doesn't want him to have to fight to understand.

Joe got accepted to the college back when we first got here — like a year and a half ago. But he put it off, waiting on me and Lance to pass the admissions requirements. Squeaks is learning the same lessons I need help with to try to pass the test *again*, so… They're studying together. Sort of, cuz they're not exactly studying. You were looking for Aunt Gilly, right? She'll be glad to see you. Gillian is glad to see any and all of the kids.

Ah, homework. Joaquin nods understandingly, leaning over to check out the used textbook revealed. "Algebra, huh? I remember having a tough time with it. It'll make sense after though." Even as Brynn switches to writing, he reads, then tries to sign back as he whisper-talks, "Been a long time since I did this math. But, I got in to Brooklyn College just recently too. Health and Business." Although for the sign language it's practically caveman speak:

I done math, long past. In B-r-o-o-k-l-y-n big-school quick time. Medicine and Sale-ing.

He nods quickly to the part about Gillian, a smile returning after he had to take a moment to focus on remembering the signing. "I heard she was here. But I've been busy looking for work too. Finally got a chance to visit."

"Usually she's in her office." Squeaks interrupts her own signing to again point toward the closed door that can just be seen past a large shelf full of books. "If you don't see her, I'll tell her you're here when she gets home."

Letting her notebook cover the text again, she looks like she's going to completely put off anymore work. At least for a while since nothing is really getting done anyway. "I can't do the test yet. I'm… there's another I need first? Then after that I can do the college one and go to real school."

Brynn pauses, and then she shrugs. Aunt Gilly adopted Squeaks — she lives there. So if you need to get to her and she's not in the office, Squeaks would be the one to know how to find her, she scrawls out for him.

Eyeing his signs, Brynn quirks a brow. Joe's gonna have kittens when he sees your signing. She grins cheekily. I swear, you do that on purpose just to make me laugh. Caveman signing, she means.

Nodding, Joaquin replies with a "Thanks" and a glance in the direction of Gillian's office. A flicker of trepidation crosses his features, anxious. Almost fearful. He clears his throat, looking back to the pair of girls, down to notes. "Why do they call you Squeaks?" he wonders at the so-named. There's genuine curiosity for the nickname, but also a look over to Brynn as if the older of the pair would be willing to explain as well. The note about Joe having kittens is responded to with a faint, non-serious frown. Why Joe angry? Not my reason. But, I no remember A-S-L a lot. Sorry, Brynn. Joaquin sighs softly, shoulders drooping as he portrays the remorse.

"But if any of you need some help with tutoring, I could try," he offers after a moment's recovery. "Algebra's all about solving the mystery of X." Oh so mysterious, that X.

That is a mystery that has yet to be solved. Squeaks' head tips toward one shoulder while the other rises up to shrug. "They just do," she says simply enough. "It's what everyone calls me. Almost. My mom calls me Jac. And some of my work people do too. But I'm also called Squeaks. Both are correct." See, very easy to understand. "How come people call you Joaquin?"

Don't be sorry — Joe is actually teaching ASL these days. Here at the library, she tells Joaquin with a bit of a grin. They're definitely going to want to see you. Aunt Gilly is cosigning on a house for us, so we'll actually own a place! Lighthouse doesn't always mean the same thing to everyone who was ever there, but the small group that was comprised of Lance and Joe and Paul, Hailey and Brynn, now Squeaks … it meant 'Family' to them. And they're clearly carrying it over into their return to this city. Maybe you can explain the algebra better for me, she offers. I swear, Joaquin, this math book makes me feel so *stupid* — I can't get it! Joe's tutoring me too, and the letters still make no sense.

The brunette grins a bit at Squeaks, her affection for the younger girl clear. She seems to have expected the question.

"Yeah? Uh, well which one would you rather I call you?" Joaquin asks, using the question to cover the odd thought that he's never questioned why people call him Joaquin. Mysteries.

Eventually his gaze drifts back to the notes from Brynn, and he reads through. Surprise ratchets up his brow as he reads a particular part over. "Oh. Well… I got a place around the block, here. My number came up in the lottery. But it's still kind of tough to keep the lights on." Bills, bills, bills. "It's not big but it'll do."

"As for the math, maybe just a matter of how you look at it. Or otherwise, you'll figure out a way around it. Like uh, doing better in some other subject to compensate…" Okay so that's bad advice, Joaquin, but he's giving it anyway. Much to the hushes noises of some eavesdropping sort in the next table over.

It's that question again. She's been asked before what she wants to be called and it's a really strange question. Squeaks stares at Joaquin as she wonders how to answer, because obviously she'd want to be called by her name. Which is both. A couple seconds pass and she looks over at Brynn, like maybe the answers are hidden in the older girl's algebra, then she returns to watching the boy.

"Well Brynn, Joe, and Lance call me Squeaks." Most people do. "So you should probably too?"
You'll still have to come hang out at the grown-up Lighthouse, she tells Joaquin with a grin. But to the math, she just rolls her eyes. The letters jump off the page and run around like ink blots or something, Brynn informs him. Not really, but it sure seems like it. They make zero sense.

Slanting a glance at Squeaks, Brynn just grins and signs, Most people assume a nickname like yours is for a particular reason. I call you Squeaks cuz that's what you called yourself when we met. Although… it does match your ability too. So that's primal. But for most people, they just use the names on their papers — like Aunt Gilly calling you Jac. If you said you wanted to be called Jac, me and Lance and Joe and Hailey would call you that. She pauses. Well, maybe not Joe. Cuz… he's Joe.

"Okay. Squeaks it is," Joaquin confirms, leaning an elbow on the table. It's pretty obvious by the way he's staring at Brynn that he's trying 'read' what she's signing too. It doesn't get that far along, though. His stare grows longer, more distant, until he's a thousand-yards out and rewinding further back in years, remembering the first weeks after arriving in Canada. The first moments realizing he was without his family. Joaquin goes very still, even with the pulsing heartrate spiking in between his ears.

"I don't know why I'm Squeaks, it's just what I'm called." She even shakes her head at the idea that there has to be a reason for it. Shifting in her seat to get more comfortable, she looks from Brynn to Joaquin. "My ability is really primal though," she starts, probably to explain what she can do. But then the new boy is starting… at Brynn… with a really, very strange look on his face. Is he about to kiss you? she asks, a curious but also kind of grossed out look on her face.

Brynn blinks, startled. What??? Gray eyes pivot from Squeaks to Joaquin, wide with surprise. Is he about to kiss her?? Why would he be about to kiss her??? But the expression on his face isn't that — she remembers that look. It's the look she used to see when they were all small, when he was lost somewhere in his own thoughts. She's never pressed him, never tried to make him talk about whatever his thoughts are when that happens - she suspects that the Pollepel evacuation is a huge part of it. And instead of signing to him, she simply reaches out and clasps his hand on top of the table until he comes back, her gaze on him gentle.

What words had been spoken or signed otherwise are lost on Joaquin when he's in the middle of a memory. The touch contact makes him jump in his chair, like a brief zap with a taser prong. His breath sharply intakes, and he blinks several times, revealing the faint sheen of wet that springs unbidden to his eyes.

Joaquin looks down to the hand atop his, up to Brynn, then over to Squeaks as if to reorient himself and his surroundings. A flush of color rises along with his embarrassment. "I'm sorry, I, uh." He starts to retract his hand. "You were saying something. I just. I was just remembering something. Something else." He swallows dryly, pushing an uneasy smile up.

"So. You're both in school, too?" He's deploying distraction topics like chaff now, avoiding the uncomfortable topic of what-just-happened.

If it's not kissing, then it must be even worse. Squeaks looks at Joaquin again, eyebrows scrunching with the start of worry. Should I get Mom? Not that Brynn seems overly concerned, but maybe a grown-up should be found. Just in case. She even starts to get up, the books in her lap are set on the table and her feet find the floor.

Then Joaquin coming out of his daze stops her. The redhead stares with a practiced suspicion creeping into her gaze. A glance flicks to Brynn, then back to the boy, then back to Brynn. "What… how come you just stared like that? Do you have a fever?"

Sympathetic to his uncomfortable expression, Brynn shakes her head slightly in the negative to Squeaks. And then the younger girl starts peppering him with questions. The up side to being around Squeaks is that Brynn doesn't have to ask questions — the younger teen totally does it for her, and therefore Brynn can simply observe and file information away. The down side…. well, Squeaks isn't exactl tactful or anything. Which actually is sometimes fine but in this case… poor Joaquin.

Squeezing his hand lightly, Brynn doesn't attempt to stop him from pulling away or changing the subject. She waves a hand at Squeaks in a 'settle down' motion. Everything's fine. She writes on the paper for him, She's in school. I'm just studying to see if I can get into the college. Right now, I'm just working. A shy smile flashes a dimple at him. Art on some motorcycles, art on some murals, tattoos… Her sketchpad might actually pay the bills now.

"I- I'm alright," Joaquin answers Squeaks with a shake of his head to clear it of lingering cobwebs. The freed hand casually swiped over his eyes in a quick motion, he clears his throat as well and focuses on leaning over to see the written notes. Slowly, he nods and comes back to that more pleasant topic, a neutral topic. Like art. Totally neutral. "I remember you drew a lot," he says and signs (haltingly). "But, why do you need to go to college for that?"

"But." It's spoken and signed, maybe a little persistently on the signed side of things. Squeaks even waits less than a second for an answer before sinking back into her seat. He was just staring. And now he's being weird. It's justification for her blunt questions. "I still have half a sandwich. You can eat it." Maybe Joaquin just needs a snack? "It's jelly and peanut butter."

Brynn covers a chuckle. Hey, Squeaks is doing great! She's trying to make him feel better just cuz he's Lighthouse. He's not being weird. He was remembering something bad, Squeaks… sometimes it's hard, she signs for the younger girl. Then she takes up the pencil and scrawls for him, I don't need college. Not really. College is just… what everyone says is 'normal', right? But it's never a bad idea, or so Aunt Gilly tells me. Besides, there are art classes at the college. So… I'll see about taking the ones I want, and if it turns out I need to graduate with something, I'll figure it out then!

"I'm not being weird," Joaquin protests back at Squeaks, having understood that much for the signing she does. He'd been doing just fine thanks. But he's also not about to randomly take food from others' mouths, so he shakes his head and politely notes, "I'm not hungry." Even if he might be, a little.

"And, yeah there's art stuff," he agrees, "But I guess if Gillian recommended it, she had good reason to besides it being… normal." There it is again, the bit of frowning at a past reminder.

Slowly, he begins to push up to his feet and gather himself in a motion to leave. "Anyway, um. It was good to see you," he says-slash-signs to the elder of the pair, "and good to meet you, Squeaks. I'll go see if Gillian's in, and, yeah." He turns, pausing briefly as he looks back to them. "Say hi to the others for me?"

Sitting back all the way, Squeaks huffs quietly. Joaquin is so being weird. Who turns down food? She side eyes the older boy, trying to decide what to think about him now. Probably nothing bad — since he's a sibling just like Brynn, Lance, and Joe — just confusing right now. "Bye," she answers. A hand even raises so she can wave a little bit.
Uncertain if Joaquin is okay, Brynn looks a little worried. I will. Don't be a stranger, will you? She's gonna go tell the boys Joaquin is nearby. They'll find him and rope him in. It's a given.

The little wave of goodbye is all Joaquin 'says' to them afterward, and off he slips down the aisles of tables towards Gillian's office in search of the woman he'd originally come to find.

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