What Does Normal Even Mean?


brynn_icon.gif lance_icon.gif

Scene Title What Does "Normal" Even Mean?
Synopsis For two kids who grew up in the aftermath of a war, how do you even figure out what normal is supposed to look like?
Date May 10, 2018

Brighton Beach

Brighton Beach - also known in part as Coney Island - was completely demolished between the events of the 2011 New York riots, the civil war, and the derelict aftermath leading up to the formation of the Safe Zone. Battered in that time by two different powerful storms, Brighton Beach is almost entirely demolished, a wasteland of crumbling buildings and tangled metal. Reconstruction of Brighton Beach was not prioritized during the initial resettlement planning due to its low elevation and propensity for flooding. However, in 2017, Yamagato Industries began construction on a new facility for the US government on the peninsula. While the exact nature of the structure is unknown, it is clear that there are no plans to begin civilian resettlement in the region.

It's something she's never really mentioned before, something she finally brought up with something of a sheepish expression. She's lived her whole life either within New York City or in the wilds of Canada… and despite the early years in New York, she's never once actually seen the ocean. At least not that Brynn ever remembers. As they make their way carefully through the wreckage toward the actual honest-to-God beach, Brynn signs, Do you remember ever coming out here, before it was all destroyed? Because… at one time, there was some kind of amusement park out here, right? At least according to really old magazines.

"You mean Coney Island?" Lance hops up onto a wooden beam that's tilted up at an angle, the remains of part of what was a boardwalk, effortlessly pacing foot before foot along it. His hands move, signing back to her, I think we made it out once. I was pretty young.

Brynn shrugs, keeping pace with him on the ground instead of climbing the beam. The breeze off the water as they meander along what used to be a massive tourist attraction is not too terribly cold. And she's fascinated with the way the water just keeps moving, never stopping, waves never looking the same way twice. Coney Island… or just the beach in general, she replies. Glancing at him, she comments, I don't really remember a lot of outings or anything from before I was in the care of the Ferry … The foster parents I do remember … it seems like they had a lot of us to take care of. I mean… I got lucky. They seemed nice enough, mostly. None of them ever hit me, anyway. Sad that 'none of them ever hit me' is her criterion for 'nice' foster parents.

We never had any foster parents, Lance explains, hands moving when she looks back over to him, They thought there was something wrong with me at the orphanage. Then they realized I wasn't mute, I was just special. So they sent me to the Lighthouse. The end of the beam is reached, and he hops off, landing in the damp sand with a muffled thump.

Brynn nods and grins. Yeah, when I left the hospital, they tried to explain to me where I was going, she remembers. I didn't really understand. But I really loved the Lighthouse when I finally got there. She didn't make it to the actual Lighthouse until 2009, staying in one of the smaller safehouses with a lady who had wanted to keep her and help her there. You guys were always having so much fun! It was always so busy! And then randomly she points out over the breakers. You remember how the sun bounces off the water in the pond near home? It's kinda the same way out there. Is the water actually still out there, do you think? If you swam past all the breaking waves, would it be level like the pond?

Depends on the weather, Lance signs back with a grin, Seen a lot of movies where there are huge waves out there! His head bobs in a nod, then, stepping over closer and adding, I miss the Lighthouse sometimes. Even if there was so much weird stuff, all of us were together at least.

Yeah, but that's in storms and stuff, she objects. The weather today is beautiful. She suddenly grins, motioning him C'mon! She plops down where they are and pulls off her shoes and socks. When she stands up, she signs, Walk with me in the water! I want to see what it feels like. Wiggling her toes in the fine beach sand, she looks surprised. It feels like standing on … I don't know. Like powdered sugar? She hadn't expected it to be so soft.

Have you never been to the beach? Startled, Lance's brows lift, and then with a grin he's bending to unlace his own shoes, tugging them off and adding his socks. "Gah, cold," he mutters, "Gonna get the flu from this, I'm sure." Not that it's stopping him.

Brynn pauses and then rolls her eyes, chuckling that silent laugh. You can't get the flu from walking in the water, she scoffs, wrinkling her nose as she laughs. And no — I wasn't kidding when I said I'd never been here. I've literally never seen the beach, she confesses.

Once they're wandering down the sand, she is absolutely fascinated with the texture of the sand. And the way the water from the waves soaks in. She points excitedly to little bitty crabs that are chasing the waves. They run so fast!

It's cold! You totally can! Lance rolls his eyes at the insistence that the cold doesn't give you the flu, shoes and socks tucked away into his backpack as he walks along beside her, toes squishing into the sands. As she notices the crabs, he grins, They've gotta escape the fish somehow! Watch, they burrow into the wet sand!

Gleefully watching the little crabs run around, Brynn is still wiggling her toes. She drops her backpack and her shoes with the socks tucked into them onto the sand right there, moving toward to the water line. Despite the freezing temperature of the waves, she rolls up her pants and walks into the surf. She reaches down to feel the water, rubbing the gritty texture between her fingers. She's not stupid — she knows it's salt water. But, she's still a little startled to realize how much salt and sand is actually floating in the liquid. When the wave comes in a wets her feet, she sucks in breath at the shock of the cold, her eyes going wide as dinner plates. Holy CRAP, that's cold! She would have squealed if she were a more verbal person; in this case, there's nothing more than a squeak of sound that is probably lost under the roar of the waves. Touching her fingers to her tongue, she tastes the ocean and then makes a face. Oh, eew! That's really gross.

Lance is laughing at her reaction to the cold - he warned her! - doubled over for a moment with humor at the little squeak that escapes her. He pads along up close to the edge of the water, not quite far enough that a wave can reach him, hands dancing, It's salt water, you're not supposed to drink it!

When he laughs at her, Brynn gets both of her hands wet and then flicks a bunch of icy water right at his face. Teach him to laugh at her! How can so much of the planet be covered by this stuff if you can't even drink it?! Brynn's perplexed and amused all at the same time. That can't be good for plants and crops, can it? Seaweed isn't really a crop is it? Are there other plants that grow in the ocean? Now he can see her brain working. She has nearly as many questions about things as Joe does, she just doesn't rattle them off as much.

That, of course, just makes Lance laugh more as he holds up his hands defensively. That's what fresh water's for, he signs back, shaking his head and grinning, It comes from like mountains and shit, that's the good water. Although they make machines to make it less salty.

Brynn gives him a skeptical look. Machines can make this water actually able to be used for something? That seems like a lot of salt filtration to her. In spite of the fact that her toes are freezing, she remains in the water, looking down at the way the waves come in and then essentially bury her feet in quicksand. Lakes don't do that! And it's hard to pull her feet back up once she's in it up to her ankles. When she gets clear of the sand, she uses her toes to test out the firmness of the sand further in the water — it doesn't get any more or less firm — and then back up to where he's standing — where it's clearly more firm. She gives him a cheeky grin.

If it wouldn't turn us both to icicles, I'd make you swim with me, she tells him candidly. This is so cool. The waves keep coming and coming and coming. I read that it's because of the gravity of the moon and the way the earth spins that we have surf like this, but… it's a whole different thing to see it. And feel all the power in the wind and the water. There's nothing that can stop the water, is there? It goes around things and under it and through it. She's utterly fascinated. Then she waves him to sit, gesturing toward the softer, dry sand further up. Can we stay a little while so I can draw?

I mean they're big machines. Plants. Lance watches her in affectionate amusement as she pads around in the sand and then up to him, then observes her hands as she gets all philosophical about the water. His head bobs in acquiesence, and he turns to pad along towards the dryer sand, twisting 'round to flop himself down and sit, backpack drawn around into his lap.

It's why she asked him to come along…. because Lance never rushes her, doesn't fidget when she's drawing. He just settles in and allows himself to be in the moment. Joe's always in motion! But this… Brynn just wants to capture the feeling of this place. She plunks down next to her backpack, hauling out the sketchbook and a couple of pencils, and with quick lines she roughs in the beach itself, the mangled boardwalk, and the wreckage strewn up the beach as far as the eye can see. That's the thing that has her the most fascinated. Canada had so many trees, the city has its buildings. She's never really seen the horizon like this.

In the quiet minutes where she's roughing in the image, Brynn also surreptitiously checks on Lance to see what he's doing. Because she's perhaps waiting on one more thing while they're here. Something she hopes that sitting on the beach looking out at infinity might allow her.

As she sketches, Lance digs lunch out of the backpack; a square of cloth to set it on, a pair of wrapped-up tuna sandwiches that he made, a thermos of cold brew coffee. It's not much, but they're still in a food shortage. He gives her time, one knee pulled up to his chest, silently watching the waters and eating one of the sandwiches.

She keeps sketching, switching pages as she seeks out something from a new angle. But eventually, Brynn sees what she was looking for and finds another new page. Comfortable here on the beach with him, it's perhaps not for a little while that she shifts slightly and he might realize… she wasn't simply drawing the beach. She was drawing him, and the casual pose he sits in belies the thoughtful expression of contemplation on his face that she's delicately shading. The angle of the image has the haunting wreckage behind them as well as just enough of the ocean to his side, he's clearly looking out at the infinite waves.

A turn of his head - and her shift - lets him notice, Lance's lips tugging up at the corner of his mouth in a smile. He doesn't call her out on it, though, leaving her to focus on her art as he looks back out to the sea. A peaceful moment in what's been a hell of a month.

She catches him looking, and the smile she gives him is gentle. It's not the first time Brynn has drawn any of the kids — she was always sketching someone.

Although she has to admit to herself, this particular image might become one of her favorites. Its not done.. she only has the basics in place, his expression shaded in. A lot she'll do from memory. But she turns the page toward him to let him see it — the bones are there. What it will become with more detail is just even better.

"I like it," Lance says, once she's shown it to him— making sure she can read his lips— and then he sets the sandwich down, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand and signing, You're really good at this. Wish I had some talent like yours!

Brynn is glad that he likes it, but she frowns a little. After putting her sketchbook back in the backpack, she pulls legs up to sit cross-legged facing him.

Do you remember when we first got to Canada? she asks. Everyone was so stressed all the time. There was this one time that I couldn't really stand the feel of the house anymore and I took off for the pond. While I was sitting out there, I guess you'd decided you'd had enough too, and you came out and sat with me. You didn't talk to me or anything… just sat for a long time. But it was the first time I'd felt… really safe since I got there.

Pulling in a breath, she glances around them at the stark beauty of a beach on the edge of a destroyed world. You do have a talent, Lance. You look at a situation or a person and you instinctively know what they need from you. And then you give it… whether it's silent company, a battle buddy, a hug, a bowl of soup… you see so much. And you give so much of yourself. That is a very rare thing.

There's silence for a bit, after Lance watches her sign, and then he crooks a smile - his own hands lifting to reply, even as the breeze rustles through his hair. Or a squid dropped on Joe's head?

Brynn sagenods. Thats a priceless talent, she acknowledges, tongue firmly in cheek. She grins at him, though. I don't think we'd be quite the family we are without your talents. So don't sell yourself short, huh?

She's given him more words today than she's strung together all at one time since she came to the city looking for them.

And besides. You do have a talent — you are the only person I know who can make our brother actually shut up once in a while, she informs him cheekily.

At that, Lance laughs, his head shaking. I just want what's best for us all, you know? Just us. I want to prove we can be successful on our own. He glances off to the water, watching it for a few moments as he signs, I know I joke around a lot but I just want us all safe and happy. To hell with everyone else.

I don't think that's a bad thing at all. Brynn's thoughtful as she continues to look around them. You know, they all told us growing up that college was the way to go. But… I have to wonder sometimes if school means now what it did when they were kids. Before. For them, there is always going to be those vague memories of Before — when supposedly when they were older, they could pass as 'normal' and go to college and Be Someone — and After. But After is really all they'll know. The days of prosperity when college WAS the answer are over; the days of reconstruction don't necessarily require it. Or at least, she wonders if it does.

Yeah. Before. We only have After. Lance reaches over for the thermos, pouring himself a cup of the cold brew; sipping the bitterness of it, looking thoughtful for a few moments. Then he sets the cup down. Do you think, he asks, looking at her uncertainly, I should give up, then? Find some new way?

Not necessarily, Brynn signs. Totally depends on what you want to do with college. I'm thinking about it too… I mean, I have a job at the tattoo place, so… do I need the art degree? Maybe I do! But maybe there are classes on more useful things like …. building contractors. Could probably make a lot of money at it, she offers.

I don't know. Lance tilts his head back, looking at the sky, watching a seagull drifting on the breeze past overhead, his hair (which can use a turn in Raquelle's chair by now) rustling a bit in that wind. I always wanted to live a normal life, he finally signs, looking back to her with a faint smile, Maybe it's up to us to decide what normal is, though, now. In the After.

Brynn grins. I'm almost sure that whatever people think of as 'normal' … we've never lived it. So how the heck would we even know what to do with 'normal'? She shrugs. Besides… 'normal' means things like… not being together anymore, cuz you grow up and live by yourself. And honestly? I don't want to. I mean, I want us all to be someplace we haave our own space and there aren't 20 of us. But… I don't want a whole apartment to myself the way Caspian has… I think I might never sleep for worrying about someone sneaking into it!

Yeah, Lance agrees, his head bobbing a few times, I don't want to be away from all you either. I still miss the ones who aren't here with us. Paul. Juniper. Bray. He even misses Colette, and Kasha, on opposite ends of the spectrum there. I was kind of wanting to take over that apartment building, make it ours, somehow, but Cas's place is good too.

Brynn considers. Well… taking over the apartment building means having to come up with the money to buy it from the government. And they're not just lodging you there, she points out. Caspian's building has the advantage of the security he's already put in place *and* of being empty. Plus… he'd probably be willing to talk to us about purchasing it for a more reasonable kind of price than the government — cuz they're going to want to see proof that we are going to have the money to pay the mortgage every month. But if you want to go for that building, we can try. She's just not convinced that the Powers That Be in this place would allow three teens to buy a building and trust them to make something of it. They might be thinking just a bit too ambitious for their first attempt to make a go of things alone. The first thing Brian ever taught us was to not set ourselves up for failure. So… let's look at what the government would require for us to buy your apartment building and if we think we can figure a way to do it, we'll do it. She wants her brother happy!

I mean, I can get money, Lance admits, though he looks away when he says it, one hand scrubbing at the nape of his neck self-consciously. His hands flicker again then, I've got a job. Kind of. I could make more, if I was willing to do more stuff.

Looking curious, Brynn tilts her head. Why do you look like that about the job? she asks, after touching his arm to get him to look back at her. What is it you're doing? She seems a little worried.

Lance shrugs a little, glancing back at her ruefully before signing his response, I mean, it's nothing technically illegal. I run guns for this one woman. They're legal in the Safe Zone. There's clearly nothing shady about this whatsoever.

Well, in all honesty, the gun-running isn't technically something out of the norm for them (Yeah… remember that discussion about 'normal'?) … so that part doesn't really seem to bother her much. But Brynn looks skeptical because just from his demeanor, there's something off. Okay…. so… what aren't you telling me? Cuz… running and delivering a few guns and things doesn't really sound like something you should be defensive about doing. But you're definitely getting the face that you always get when you feel like you're doing something questionable.

Well… Lance rocks a bit, nose wrinkling, before he flickers his hands, I mean I know she does more than sell guns. I turned down selling drugs. But, I mean, if we need the money? He's looking torn, there, between morals and supporting his family.

There is an immediate definite NO sign. Run guns or whatever. No drugs, Lance. I mean, you want a 'normal' life? As soon as you go down that road, any possibility of being anything but on the wrong side of things is gone. Brynn shakes her head adamantly. Please. Please, promise me? There are a ton of things that can go wrong — guns are bad enough. You have no idea if you're delivering to the same people who shot Hailey, she points out. I don't mind not being what other people might call normal… as long as we're all SAFE.

Lance's nose wrinkles. See, he knew she'd react like this! I know I'm not. She's against kidnapping people. But. Yeah. You're right, he signs, sighing thereafter, his head shaking, Okay, okay. I promise. A faint smile's offered, I'd just do anything for you guys. You know?

That's cuz you're the best brother in the whole world, Brynn points out staunchly. So sue her — she's reacting like that cuz it's dangerous enough in this world without adding that complication. You know…. I dunno if it's something you ever thought about… but with so much reconstruction around the country, you could probably get trained up pretty fast to do electrical work or even like building work pretty fast. You never really said what you wanted to go to college for, she points out. I mean… I wanted to go for art, although…. I have to admit that I begin to wonder if architecture might be a better kind of job. With all the building and stuff. But… do you have something you really want to do?

I don't know, Lance admits, his nose wrinkling as he admits, I thought maybe acoustic science or something? I bet my ability would be helpful for all sorts of music technology and all that. I guess I never really thought that far ahead. College was just the goal everyone used to talk about. His shoulders slump a bit, and he looks back out to the water, watching the waves rippling in over the sands.

Brynn looks intrigued. Hey, don't look like that — I bet that there's tons of stuff that you could with that. And there's a radio station here, right? Because they don't really have one back home. WILDS OF CANADA!! I wonder if you could work there and get some hands-on experience at it! Now she's kind of excited for him. Not that she has any clue what happens at a radio station, but hey!

Lance tips his head to look back over, a faint smile there. He's just had one of his illusions shattered, after all! "Huh," he muses, rubbing at his chin before signing back, A radio station? Maybe…

That he's even considering it is a good thing, cuz Brynn hadn't meant to take something from him — no one should have their dreams taken. I didn't mean to make it sound like you shouldn't go to college unless you knew what you wanted to do already. Aunt Gilly used to say that college was where you figured out what you wanted to do. I was just curious if you had some ideas. She leans sideways to put her head on his shoulder, watching the water.

Lance's cheek rests on her hair in return, his own gaze on the beach. The waves breaking and rolling in over the sand, over the debris, and then washing out again. No answer, though, just a little nod that she can feel, one hand lifting to briefly cover hers in a squeeze.

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