The Long Way Round


brynn_icon.gif caspian_icon.gif joe_icon.gif lance2_icon.gif squeaks_icon.gif

Scene Title The Long Way 'Round
Synopsis After a few stops along the way, Squeaks makes it back to the eldest Lighthouse Kids.
Date August 20, 2018

Phoenix Heights, Lance's Apartment

A lot of hours have come and gone since a simple text message — at gillians - squeaks — was sent. But with the spotty cellular service, it’s possible that the text never got seen or never received. And there were no other messages and, a couple of meal times later, no Squeaks showing up. But that’s not unusual, just like it’s probably not too weird that she wasn’t around the night before.

What might be weird is the knock on the door just past supper time.

On the other side of it stands Squeaks, in the sweater from Margaux and her own overalls with its musty river-water smell underneath. Staring at the door, she realizes she probably could have just let herself in. But coming in this late, when she figures maybe everyone is home now, it seemed a better idea to knock first. And she isn’t empty handed, either. She’s got one of those reusable bags with a bunch of apples and some of those pastries that Brynn sometimes brings back to the apartment.

The door’s locks are undone in perfect silence, and the door cracks open a bit— and then swings wide as Lance all but lunges out the door to hug the girl on the other side. He’s always been a touchy sort, like most of the Lighthouse.

“Squeaks! Shit, we were worried,” he exclaims, drawing back, hands sliding away as he looks down at her, brow furrowed, “Are you alright? Did you just go exploring, or— you’re okay, right?”

Joe stands on the side of the door, ready, not sure what is going on, but people don't knock on Lance's door, especially this late at night. So while Lance unlocked everything quietly Joe stood ready to the side of the door. Then Lance goes lunging through the door and Joe spins around the door frame ready to pounce and assist with a take down. Only to find a Squeakers. Joe doesn't do the rushing hug thing, instead he stands there with his hands on his hips, staring past Lance at the youngest of the group. "What he said." Joe remarks with an amused smile, though it's a small one. Concern definitely shows on Joe's rather open face. That is one thing Joe does not possess. A poker face. He steps back out of the doorway so both Lance and Squeaks can come inside and the door can be shut after them. "Interrogation inside."

It’s rare that Caspian visits the Lighthouse Kids in their apartment.

With the place next door to his place, and this apartment, when he sees them, he sees them. He does go by every once in a while to check on things and fix things that get broken in the building next door, but even then the kids are fairly self-sufficient and don’t need his help. “Part of the package.” he would say as he fixed a light socket that quit working or take some time unclogging a toilet if they were around. “You’re paying rent after all. It’s only fair.”
With Squeaks on the missing list, it’s been pretty much all he can do to not go out and hunt her down. Sure, he’s put out a few feelers with Keira’s crew, but he’s really not the sort that can run off blindly in search of, even though it’s what he really, really wanted to do. Squeaks can take care of herself, after all. That’s one thing the war has done pretty well, in fact - teaching people to watch out for themselves.

When the text message arrived, though, and he was told that Squeaks was at Gillan’s? He asked politely if he could come visit and, hopefully to the LHK’s delight, brought food with him, starting to cook in their kitchen, filling their refrigerator and pantry with foodstuff in anticipation for Squeaks’ return.

He pokes his head out at the knock and turns off the things that he’s working on before stepping out, wiping his hands with a dishtowel, watching as the door swings open to reveal a Squeaks.

“Squeaks, holy crap…You okay? You want something to eat?” He trails off, letting the hugging greeting take place, flipping the towel over his shoulder and crossing his arms over his chest before leaning against the door jamb of the kitchen, just watching. Questions about things will be coming shortly.

Of all the reactions, Brynn's is perhaps the most subdued. Her worry is clear, the way she looks toward the boys when they open the door, and her relief at their reactions plain. But she doesn't rush the group at the door, knowing Squeaks will need a little room to breathe there before Joe launches into a 900-page series of questions. It's enough for the deaf teen at this moment to see that Squeaks is in one piece — it's not like her to not show up for a whole day and night without first saying she wouldn't be around.

With her hands clasped tight between her knees, Brynn just sends a brilliant grin at the other girl, echoing the welcome that way.

It isn’t the door opening that’s a surprise so much as it is Lance swooping in to catch her in a hug. Squeaks shuffles backward a step with the force of it, but also wraps an arm around his neck to hug back. Those things are still weird to her, but she finds herself in them a lot more. And she holds it maybe a second or so longer than she normally would, face pressed against his shoulder.

The bag she’s carrying is set down inside the door, after she’s done with the hugging and stepped inside. All the questions and greetings aren’t answered just yet because she goes to Joe next, he’s the closest to the door after Lance, and she hugs him too. And it’s not one of those quick half-hugs she’s famous for but a real hug.

Squeaks releases Joe and gives Caspian a small little wave. Later she might wander over to touch a finger to his arm, in her normal way of showing comfort. For now he gets a wave and she wanders to Brynn instead, with a slight limp in her step, and sinks onto the couch beside the older girl. “Hi,” she offers generally, like maybe if she pretends she hadn’t been gone for a whole day and night then it didn’t actually happen. She tips her head a little, letting it come to rest on the other girl’s shoulder.

The fact that she not only allows the embrace but returns it just affirms to Lance that there’s something wrong. He steps in after her, reaching to close the door behind him. The limp’s noticed.

“Are you alright?” A concerned look, brow furrowed as he looks to the younger girl on the couch.

Joe is needless to say rather surprised to see when Squeaks hugs Lance back, arm around the neck and everything. He blinks and his head tips slowly to the side, a bit of confusion, and more than a bit of curiosity on his features. Just what happened that has Squeaks throwing out hugs. That curiosity is only more compounded when he gets not a Squeaker hug, or a hand pat to his arm, but a full on hug. He stands there wide eyed and surprised for a moment before he hugs her back, a tight squeeze though he doesn't drag it out. He knows she's not big on hugs, so the fact that he's getting a voluntary one at all speaks volumes. He hugs her back, then lets her go so she can go hug the Brynn too.

Joe's eyes trail after Squeaks as she walks to the couch, exchanging a concerned look with Lance before he looks back to Squeaks. Joe's lips part to speak, but Lance beats him there. Joe nods his head and jerks his thumb at Lance. What he said. Joe does pick up the apples and anything else Squeaks may have brought inside and ferries it over to the kitchen counter before coming back to stand beside his brother, a concerned and curious look on his features. No twenty questions from Joe. Yet. It's coming. But not yet. He's waiting to make sure the youngest member of their little family is okay. Or at least going to be okay.

From his spot at the entrance of the kitchen, Caspian watches quietly, moving aside to let Joe past with his bag of goodies and returning the little wave with one of his own, settling into a comfortable slouch against the door, letting the LHK’s welcome their sister back to the fold. Him asking questions won’t do any good and, chances are, he’d end up asking the same things that other people do. “I’m going to check on the bread. It’s good to see you’re okay, Squeaks.” He straightens and slips into the kitchen where he can still hear.

The seeking of that comfort, leaning into Brynn like that, has the older girl sliding her arm around Squeaks very tightly. It means she can't ask any of the hundred questions that are swirling around the room… but then she's not usually the one to bombard anyone with questions. Instead, she simply pours all of her relief and gratitude that Squeaks is okay into the gentle way that she leans back, giving the support the younger girl is silently asking for with no demands on her.

“Yes.” The simple answer comes with a question mark. Everyone has said she’s okay, so Squeaks supposes she is. The last twenty-four hours are still an overwhelming jumble of things that she hasn’t made sense of yet. Or tried to make sense of. She looks at her toes, which tap together slowly. For just a minute longer, she puts off any explanations. It isn’t so much the desire to avoid it as her reluctance to want to scare the other teens.

But, after that long pause, she takes a breath and looks first at Brynn then to the boys. “I… I got… I found someone. He tried to send me to China, so I jumped off his boat…” The younger girl doesn’t try signing the explanation, leaving that for Joe or Lance to pick up, but she does look at Brynn often enough as she speaks that maybe some of it’s picked up. “A pirate fished me out of the river and… I had to stay at this place, on Staten, until this morning.”

It isn’t scared that Lance becomes at that explanation.

“Someone who— they tried to— “ A brief activation of his power prevents anyone from hearing him shout motherfuckers! into the room, although Brynn may be able to read his lips there. “— the fucking traffickers? The same ones that tried to grab Hailey, I bet…”

The teenager’s hand clenches into a fist by his side, anger simmering beneath the surface although he’s trying to seem outwardly calm so that he doesn’t scare or upset Squeaks. “Did they— hurt you, or anything?” Anything being broad and more worrying.

Joe of all people is actually… quiet. Completely quiet. His hands don't even move. Which is rare for him. He's always translating for Brynn, even running side conversations with his sister. But not now. Right now he's sitting and he's staring into space, though it's a focused stare, not the space cadet derp stare. No he's very focused. He heard what Squeaks said. His eyes narrow as he stares at the wall, his focus growing sharper. Then finally his head tilts and he turns his eyes towards Lance. Joe in business mode is a very different sort of Joe. "I'm going to call Keira. See what intel she has on them. Then we're going hunting." His tone is flat, level, furious. But it's a cold fury. A slow burn sort of thing. Something to fuel him.

Joe reaches into his pocket for his phone and places a call. Not one that will get out to where Keira is, but he knows where and how to leave messages that she'll get. And so he does. Or tries to. He scowls at his phone when he spots the no signal. There are even a couple of choice swear words from him about the cell signal. And swearing is something Joe just doesn’t really do. So he hangs the phone up and tucks it back into his pocket. "I'll grab the gear I have stowed away in a little while." His head turns, eyes falling on Squeaks. "I know it may be hard, but can you tell us what you can remember? If not that's okay. We'll find them either way."

The kitchen is quiet as Squeaks tells her tale, Caspian emerging after a moment or two to just watch and listen in silence as plans are made. It's rather like being on the shore, watching a hurricane build on the horizon and being powerless to do anything about it. Even get away. You can only buckle down and weather the storm.

He doesn't give advice. He doesn't try to talk them out of it. He's simply an observer at this point. Supporting is what he's here for, and if they choose to ask for his advice, he'll give it.

Hunting slavers, though? Dirty business.

“The…um…less I know about this, the better, unless you need my help.”

Brynn looks between the boys — she has to take her information mostly from Lance's words, though they're harder to decipher because he's shouting. It's not until Joe starts talking about 'going hunting' that the deaf teen blanches. She rests her head on Squeaks' head and bites her lip, her thoughts obviously racing a million miles an hour behind her worried expression.

She has to disengage her arm from around Squeaks to 'talk' and she's loathe to do it, but she needs to, lapsing into Cant — which although they only have the basics of it Squeaks and Cas might be able to follow. Her eyes are on Lance because … well, he is the de facto leader of their little band of fighters. He always has been. Where Joe is more prone to jumping in feet first and running in gunz blazing, Lance takes the time to think it through. Are we honestly talking about stalk-and-shoot with slavers? She looks vaguely ill at the notion — it's one thing to stalk-and-shoot people you know are looking for you and it's survival. It's a whole other story to contemplate stalk-and-kill in a cold-blooded murder sense.

The anger is more bothersome than the worry she was anticipating. Even when it’s not directed at her. Squeaks holds a breath against the questions, and tucks her hands around her mouth to mask some of her own worry. It doesn’t quite hide the tears that have started to fill her eyes, however those she tries to blink away.

“He had a gun.” She remembers it going off, but there’s a bruise and deep ache instead of a hole. Her fingers absently find that bruise, just below her collar bone. “He tried to find out if I was slice, so he’d know who… who would pay the most. But I broke out of the cage… and I jumped into the river.” The younger girl pauses to watch Brynn, shaking her head slowly.

“The pirate guy knew him.” She looks up at the boys again. “I don’t want to go looking for him. I don’t want …I don’t…” Trailing off, Squeaks presses her knuckles to her mouth and lets out a carefully slow breath. She doesn’t want to go hunting, she doesn’t want to remember either. She just wants to be back where it’s safe.

“Squeaks… “ Lance steps forward near the couch where the girl’s seated, dropping down to one knee, the anger evaporating for concern. “It’s alright. You don’t need to talk about it right now, we’re just happy you’re safe and home…” He reaches out with a finger to touch her arm, offering her a faint smile, “Okay? We can just have dinner if you want, okay….?”

A quick dart of his fingers at Brynn, and by extension Joe, Not now. Worry about it later, she’s our priority..

Joe just has too much Brian in him for that. He knows that Squeaks needs comfort right now. And he does walk over, and lean down to hug her, a tight hug that lingers for a few seconds longer than normal. Then he pulls back and looks at her, then to Brynn and Lance. No, for him this is action time. "I don't know how well you can stomach what we're going to do. But if you can get a hold of your girlfriend better than I can I would appreciate it if you let her know that I need intel if she's got any." Joe walks over to Cas and pats him on the shoulder. "You're a good person. Too good for what is about to happen. But that's two members of my fucking family now that they have tried to take. No more." His voice is cold and hard. Business mode. There's too much Brian in Joe sometimes. "Squeaks. I am so sorry for what you went through. And you don't need to go looking for him. You stay here, with Brynn. Safe okay? Or Gillians. Or Cas's place. But you stay safe." He offers her a tight smile before Joe is… at the door, but not out it. No he looks like he's… standing guard. But it's clear he wants to go and get things done. Not stand there. But stand there he does.

Caspian reaches up to squeeze Joe’s wrist as he pats him on the shoulder, pulling out his cell phone from his back pocket and dialing a number. When it answers - and it does, over a crackling static filled line - he simply says “Have Keira check her messages. A friend needs her for some information.” Before hanging up with a click. “Sneaker net works wonders when phone service isn't that good.” One or Caspian's little contributions to Keira’s crew. A system for messaging without need or phones.

Caspian lifts a band, shaking his head. “Again, if you don't think you need me, don't tell me. I've been in fights, but nothing like what you all have experienced. Lots of running across battlefields and deserts. Not…”. He frowns. “Hunting.”

Turning his attention to Squeaks, Caspian nods. “You know you have a spot at my place as long as you need it. If these….men…know you from somewhere, or picked you up from a specific spot, it would be a good idea to not go there again until Lance and Joe are done.”

Brynn breathes a little easier, though she still doesn't know for sure what Lance will do. And whether Joe's desires will win. She wraps her arm back around the smallest of them and goes back to simply being what comfort she can. Her gray eyes are haunted by the questions that don't have any answers… like exactly how badly did they hurt Squeaks. But the answer to that more personal verification will wait until the room's not full of men. She's pretty sure the younger girl didn't get mistreated that way, though — not the way she hugged the guys — and that makes her lightheaded with relief.

Taking a deep breath, Squeaks’ head rocks with a nod. It’s a general acknowledgement to all the things being said, and way easier than explaining anything more about her unplanned travels. “The people the pirate left me with were nice,” she decides to say, instead of talking about safe places and hopefully steering well away from any talk about hunting. “They helped me, took me to Gillian’s.” It’s happier things, for sure. She even tips her head into Brynn’s shoulder again while talking.

“I’m glad about that,” Lance says softly, “Glad that he got you to nice people, glad that they got you to Gillian’s. Do you know if she talked to any agents or anything like that?”

He glances back to the kitchen, then to her and admits wryly, “I’d offer you something to eat but I imagine m— Gillian stuffed you full, she’s always doing that. Never thinks we’re eating enough. This one time when I was a kid I ate like twelve bowls of soup because I kept telling her I was still hungry.”

He pauses, “I was sick for like two days.”

Sometimes there is just too much Brian in Joe. He watches his family on the couch, a faint smile pulling at his lips. Happy to see them all safe, and determined to keep it that way. He pulls in a slow breath, and then with a smooth motion he pulls the door open and steps out into the hall, the sound of his receding steps is soft if heard at all as he goes to start prepping for dealing with the people that keep trying to take his people away.

Caspian listens quietly as Squeaks gives the barest details of her adventure. In other settings, meeting a pirate would be the climax of a great story, but here, it's just sickening. He vanishes into the kitchen and returns after a few moments with a slab of corn bread on a plate, setting it down on the makeshift coffee table within grabbing distance without another word. He shifts, sitting on the corner of the couch, hesitantly joining the edge of the little knot of family.

His hands move as he speaks - ASL for Brynn’s sake. “I know that you all know I'm trying to solve the problem in my head, and it's hard to not just….”. He looks up as Joe heads out of the apartment, a man on a mission. “Just walk out the door and start doing.” He sits on the arm of the couch, his back against the wall, looking over Squeaks and the rest. “I would like to look into getting you legal, though, if you wanted. With a paper trail, you'd be less likely to…”. He waves a hand. “y’know.” He sighs. “Maybe Aunt Gillian or someone could be your legal guardian. Get you the names on paperwork so you could do all the stuff a kid is supposed to do. Go to real school and worry about grades and homework instead of other stuff.”

Brynn watches her brother leave, gray eyes very much clouded. She rests her cheek atop Squeaks' head again and sighs softly. There's not much she can offer to this conversation, so she doesn't try.

“I think she’s going to,” Squeaks says to Lance. She even musters a teeny grin at his story. Stories are better. She’d rather hear those than talk about the finer details of her misadventures again. Joe’s departure brings a small sigh. She probably would have talked him into staying if she knew how.

Her mouth opens to say something more, but settles instead to let Caspian talk. As he does, she frowns first, then starts shaking her head and climbing her way off the couch. “You can’t. You can’t, you can’t.” She moves so that Lance is half shielding her, but staying far enough away to not be wrangled. “You can’t. You can’t… because Gillian’s already… She’s doing it already.”

The force in her words might be taken for anger, if not for the panicky look and slightly pitched voice. If someone else is trying also, will it mess things up and she’ll end up going to somewhere else? Squeaks puts a little more distance between herself and the rest. “You can’t.” Repeating it makes it all that more important. “I don’t… Because Gillian’s… she’s going to… she wants…”

“It is hard, but we’re not doing it,” says Lance firmly, “Not right now. We’re not doing anything until we have a plan…” He rubs a hand to the nape of his neck, starting to say something else - maybe launch into another story. He’s always been the one to disarm stress and fear with a laugh, a joke, a prank.

It helped them survive when everything was dark.

Then at the suggestion, Squeaks is starting to clamber off the couch and starts to stammer out her protests, and his brow knits in concern, pushing himself slowly up to his full height again as he tries to put together the pieces of the girl’s sentences. “Okay, let’s…”

A clearing of his throat, “I don’t— seriously I don’t mean any offense, Cas, but we’re gonna need some family time here to talk and figure things out, a’ight? Not that I mean offense or anything, just— “

A vague wave of his hand, that doesn’t really explain anything, but maybe he thinks it does.

“Yeah, I didn't mean that I would…I mean…yeah. I'll go. Sorry.” His apologies trail off. The man looking sad as he takes a circuitous route out of the apartment, not even looking toward the group as he leaves, a small wave goodbye as he slips out.

At this point, Brynn looks between the people remaining in the apartment, absolutely flummoxed. She has no idea what the hell just happened. Squeaks freaking out and jumping up startles her and the Caspian's leaving. Lance, what's happening? She needs some kind of explanation because from her perspective the room erupted into chaos for no apparent reason!

Hugging herself now, Squeaks looks from Lance to Brynn, and then Caspian’s departure. She’s a conflict of confusion and worry, looking like she might either start crying or run away. She finds a third option in sitting instead, and backs herself up until she’s found the wall then eases down to sit on the floor. “I’m sorry,” she offers. She’s not sure why, but she feels like it should be said. After a couple of seconds she even signs it, but it’s said out loud a couple of times more.

“No, man, it’s not you, it’s just…” A sigh spills past Lance’s lips, and his hand falls down to his side. It lifts after a moment to sign back over to Brynn, Cas said something about getting Squeaks legal, it upset her for some reason. I think she’s kind of fragile right now, figured we should just— keep things calm, just family.

He drops down as well, leaning back against the couch and shaking his head, “No, no. You don’t have anything to be sorry for, Squeakers…” hands signing to match his words, “You’re family. We’re just— scared and worried for you, cuz we love you, is all.”

Dropping her head for a moment, Brynn sighs heavily. Squeaks having panic attacks is not exactly surprising, though her brows furrow together as she looks up. Mouse, you're okay. You don't have to be sorry. Knowing what happened to you upsets all of us… you're our family, and we feel guilty that somehow we couldn't protect you. She looks sad. And boys…. always want to fix things. It's what boys do. Slanting a look at Lance, she shrugs. It's true! If you just need ya to be here so you can feel safe again, that's what we'll do. Despite Joe's murderous desires.

Raising her hands, Squeaks scrubs at her face. She’s sure she’s okay, just like everyone keeps saying. There’s nothing really wrong that she can point to. She just needs a few minutes to think and breathe and figure things out before they try to shift again. She takes a deep breath, then slowly lets it out against hands pressed against her mouth.

“It’s just lots happening.” The response is muffled with her hands covering her mouth. It takes a solid second before she follows up the statement by signing it. “Lots and lots. And…” The younger girl stops to take another breath. And figure out what to say to her family.

They deserve an explanation after all.

It’s a long couple of seconds before Squeaks tries again. “Gillian’s going to. That’s why he can’t, because… because…” Even her hands strain to figure out a way to express her fears and confusion. And she’s not sure this is how she wanted to tell the older teens. “Because Gillian…’s… going to be… my… grown-up.” Even as she says that last part, it still sounds strange to her, even feels strange saying it. But it also adds to the worry, so she covers her mouth with her hands when she’s finished speaking, and watches Brynn and Lance.

“It’s overwhelming,” Lance observes softly, his head dipping in a nod, “Just take your time, Squeakers, there’s no rush, just take your time and…”

Then there’s the news about Gillian, and he blinks— and then blinks again, an assortment of conflicting emotions crossing his features. He and Hailey were never formally adopted, of course; Gillian leaving due to her disagreement with Brian assured that they were older by then, and what bureaucracy was even working during the war anyway? It’s no secret that the siblings were most attached to her, though, and that they consider her their mother - or close enough.

Hailey was the most upset, and still carried a chip on her shoulder about it.

After a moment passes, he crooks a smile, one brow going up at the same side. “That’s great,” he declares cheerfully, signing to echo his words for Brynn, “You’ll be all legal, no worries about the government or anything— and hey, you’d be even more family then. Just like the rest of us who had Gillian as a— grown-up.”

Brynn's smile is bright at that information. Now she understands the alarm — Squeaks was worried that if Caspian, who was talking about legal something or other (she only caught part of it), got into it then it would be too many people at once and maybe Gillian couldn't be her grown-up. Woohoo! Understanding rocks. And it's great news. New Lighthouse Kid for realz! she signs, with a happy expression.

It's tempered perhaps by the worry that she has for the fact that Squeaks is so very anxious and worried. But Lance is handling her with kid gloves and Brynn doesn't want to horn in on that relationship-building moment, so she just indicates her happiness with her new little sister with that grin.

“Yes.” It’s overwhelming. Every last piece is just a tangle of things to be worked through. Squeaks’ hands drop from her face and she hugs herself as the older teens absorb the news. She isn’t sure what to expect, sitting tense and not quite holding her breath while she watches Lance and Brynn wonder over what she’s told them.

When Brynn shows excitement and Lance seems happy for it, she finds a little bit of relief. “For reals,” the youngest teen echoes quietly. She even remembers to sign along with her talking this time. “That’s part of why I wasn’t here sooner.”

“Makes sense. I imagine Gillian wanted to make sure you were alright, to talk to you about all this…” Lance’s chin bobs a few times as he nods his understanding, fingers still moving in habitual echo of those words, “Would take a bit.”

He shakes his head, “I’m just— glad to have you here, is all. Glad you’re alright. And hey, you’re going to be official family.”

Her gray eyes observing, Brynn chooses not to bring up anything she might have noted in Lance's expression. Instead, she simply grins when Squeaks relaxes enough to start signing. I'm just so glad you're okay, Mouse. Everything else… if you want to talk, we're here. If you'd rather not, we're still here.

The younger teen watches them for a bit longer, looking for something. Or waiting, maybe. For what she probably couldn’t explain if she’d wanted to. But after that bit of time, Squeaks picks herself up from the floor to join Lance and Brynn again, just plunking herself down in their midst without words. There’s no need for words right now, because things are okay. As she settles again, she touches a finger first to Lance’s arm and then to Brynn’s, in her way of offering comfort.

At the touch to his arm, Lance can’t help but smile. He gestures with a hand over to the old television and the almost-as-old Playstation (the original!) sitting beneath it with tangled controllers beside it. “So, you’ve eaten,” he observes, “Wanna play a game or something?”

Joe isn’t there to be hyper-competitive, at least!

The puppy pile is not completely intact, but there are many of them here. It's a comfort. Brynn curls up, not interested in the video game but plenty content just to be ensconced in the couch with a couple of her siblings. It doesn't take a lot to make her happy.

“Yes.” Squeaks’ quiet answer comes as she tips her head to rest it on Brynn’s shoulder. Usually she’s content to watch the boys play. The competition usually eludes her to some degree, but that’s okay. And since she was invited to play…

It doesn’t take long for the games to get going and the room to be filled with the flashy glow of 32-bit characters and scenery. Chipper, computerized music makes up for most of the noise, broken sometimes by a few words of congratulations brief discussion about a particular thing. In all, it’s the return to a normal evening.

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