The Gambler is hanging out on one of the couches. Apparently, today, she's playing Jenga by herself. She's got a decent number of the little blocks out and the tower is looking... precarious. So she pauses to consider her next move and takes a drink from a cup of what looks like distressingly green soda. Seriously, liquid should not be kelly green and bubly and yet this is. There's a stack of other game boxes nearby and some empty plates.
Briar comes out of their room and steps into the parlor. They're in a floral summer dress reminiscent of a 1950s housewife, with white flats and their dark hair done in a Disney's Snow White do. They size up the Jenga tower and give it a wide berth. "I wouldn't be able to resist smashing it," they say. Then they head to the dispensary, returning with a mug of jasmine green tea.
The Gambler glances towards Briar and laughs. "Well, I suspect it's not long for this world, anyway, but I'm going to try to eke out a few more turns." She's also wearing a dress, today - fitted at the top, but with a full skirt made up to look like a parcheesi board, complete with little applique pawns. She turns back to the tower and very carefully removes a block, sliding it out from one side and placing it delicately on top, then kind of holds her breath for a moment, but the tower still holds. "How've you been?"
Briar sits near Felicity, tucking their legs beneath them. "I'm here and there, all over the place," Briar says, though they seem rather calm about it all. "Still trying to figure out where we're all going to land. Just in time to be thrust into another life, I suppose." They glance at the television, with its warning signal frozen on the screen. "Every time, everything changes."
The Gambler considers, frowning a little. "I can see how that could be upsetting. Have the boys made things up to you, yet, or are you still annoyed at them?" She takes in a deep breath and goes to carefully pull the block opposite the one she pulled last time. There's a moment where she pauses and then gets it the rest of the way out and carefully set it on top. After a slight pause and the tower not tumbling, she lets her breath out again. "I guess I'll see how I react to the changes."
Briar says, "I'm not annoyed at anyone. Sometimes Chance drives me nuts, but I love him. He and Dare are very different." They sip their tea and consider the Jenga tower. "After Jade, I feel so much more guarded than I did before. It was in his nature, and I'm not sure I like it."
The Gambler flashes one of her brighter smiles. "They are very different, yes, but I love them, too." She studies the tower and carefully reaches for a block, but this time it all goes wrong. She tries to freeze, but it's inevitable, now. Blocks showering down across the table and floor. Flick lets out a little huff. "Oh well." Then she turns back and considers. "I can see, from the little bits I've gathered, how that could happen. Which is really too bad, because I adored Jade. Families sometimes suck."
Briar watches the blocks come tumbling down, and there's a certain satisfaction in watching the proverbial other shoe dropping. They wince a little at the noise, though. "It wasn't just family, though it was sad how starved he was for his father's approval. Looking back, I'm not even sure that he didn't have it. But he thought he didn't have it, and that's what he reacted to. He just didn't feel like he was enough, and that if someone really got to know him, they'd discover he wasn't all that great. So he was guarded. I feel for him."
The Gambler shrugs a little and starts picking up the blocks. "I'm not sure any of us felt like we were enough. I know I didn't. Spear didn't. Cash didn't... Hector might have, but I think he more thought the rest of us were enough and was too busy trying to believe in that for all of us to worry about himself. Actually, Ashley probably did think she was enough, but I'm not totally sure that wasn't just a really good front on her part."
"That's adolescence in the 90s for you," Briar says. "Generation X, displaced and directionless. I wouldn't want to relive it for anything. High school is almost as bad as the vampires." They sip their tea, closing their eyes briefly. "I haven't had good luck with parents," they say, "though Danny had a good family. They were polyamorous Jewish hippies living on a commune in California. They were all happy. Braden's family were all right, I guess. Martin's father was a gaslighting bastard and Diamanto was born of the Earth's first rains. So I guess I'm doing better than average."
The Gambler grins and flops onto the couch before tucking her feet up under her and grabbing her soda cup. "Polyamorous Jewish hippies on a commune sounds like it would either be awesome or awful with very little in between." she shrugs again. "I've only got the one family that I remember and they were... well, I mean, I guess my cousins were okay. Felicity's parents weren't cruel, just... very busy and did not have time for a child and had no idea what to do with her, so she ended up mostly neglected, but occasionally punished for not acting like the perfect stepford child they wanted. Though... that's all postcard-y. I honestly am not sure I can remember what they looked like clearly."
Briar grins. "It was awesome. Probably the happiest childhood I've ever had. Though I don't really remember them either. I just remember impressions in Danny's mind. Maybe they were terrible and he just thought they were great. He was pretty chill, though. I try to hold onto that. Being chill, letting things just happen and not getting too excited one way or the other. Chance decked him. He went by Derek then. Punched Danny right in the face. Danny didn't even mind." They shake their head. Then they laugh. "He was high almost all the time."
The Gambler beams and sips at her soda. "Then we'll go with them being the awesome kind of hippy commune. No reason to doubt his views." She scrunches her nose. "Did he at least have a good reason for punching Danny? I tend to think punching is rarely the answer and should probably be used as a last resort, but... sometimes it's warranted."
Briar shrugs and says, "I don't know. He got coked up and was pissed because Danny had written a song for Misty and was performing it. So he jumped on the stage and decked him. A brawl broke out, and Danny snuck off with Misty, so Danny wasn't upset about the outcome. I don't think Chance feels very connected to Derek. We all have lives where we behaved in ways we wish we hadn't."
The Gambler snorts. "Yeah, I get that impression. And... that sounds extra stupid as a reason to deck someone. Among other things that would probably only encourage Misty to go all 'poor baby' on Danny." She shrugs. "He apparently really didn't like being Cash, either, but he took Dare and I to meet Chance's sister. Though that was at least partially because he'd promised me roller coasters."
"Cash's life was difficult for someone like Chance," Briar says. "I feel for him, and I'm not really stung about some of the terrible things he said to Jade. It really bothered Jade, though. Not that you could tell. Jade could provoke like no one I've ever been. His social savvy has stayed with me, though, and that's interesting. I can read the currents in the parlor more easily than I could before. I suppose we all have gifts we can take from these experiences."
The Gambler stares into her cup for a moment and then takes a sip. "He... had this amazing ability to really hurt people without meaning to at all. I can only imagine if he felt like trying to hurt someone, it would be worse." Pause. "Well, that or fail spectacularly." She sighs deeply. "That's a good skill. I wish I could do that easily. I think I mostly just end up worried I'm annoying people, but don't really know how to be any way other than I am."
"Oh, he meant to hurt Jade," Briar says. "He said stuff you don't say unless you're trying to hurt someone." They wave a hand. It's water under the bridge. "You've never annoyed me, dear. Don't worry too much what people think of you. Each of us is fighting a battle. Some more than others. You're kind, and that counts for a lot in my books."
The Gambler scrunches her nose. "Ugh. I can imagine. There was this one fight he was having with Hector and I have no idea how badly it would have gone if I hadn't shown up on the doorstep panicked because I'd lost track of time at the library and it was after dark. It was like he was deliberately not hearing what Hector was actually saying and choosing the worst interpretation possible." She sighs and rubs at her eyes. "Remind me why I love him again?" Though, it's clear from her tone that she's joking about that last. There's a tiny pause. "How's... Senni doing?"
Briar smiles wryly. "He cares deeply, and he's an excellent kisser." They sip their tea, sighing with contentment. "Senni is doing about as well as can be expected. She's tough, but this is hard. I wish this place gave us more time to heal, but it barely gives us time to get our bearings before we wake up in some other life. Then months or years pass, and we come back different than we were."
The Gambler snorts. "Well... probably the cares deeply. I mostly dealt with him with braces, I think they hampered his style a bit. Also, seriously, the first time we kissed he ran out of the room and threw up. It... Yeah, we'll go with cares deeply." She sets her cup down and twists her ring back and forth. "Well, and he could be amazingly sweet. I mean, then he'd get overwhelmed and run off or try to say something funny and just end up saying something hurtful." She considers, "He at least usually doesn't do the overwhelmed zoom, here." She looks around. "I... yeah, I, at the moment, could wish for more time. It feel occasionally like other people can't wait to get out of here, though. Even if it's to an unpredictable new experience."
Briar says, "This place is hard for some of us. For me, it's like ending up back in rehab. There's a certain routine to it, and I try to use the time to improve myself in some way. I've done a lot of hiking this time around. Last time it was dance clubs. I read up on different topics. For some, it's very much like a prison. Any life is better than being stuck in here with nothing but questions and no answers."
The Gambler nods and looks around, going back to twisting her ring. "For me, at the moment, it's... people I mostly like, some of whom I love, food I don't have to cook, no laundry, no cleaning, a room of my own I can retreat to, when I want to. Games and books and more entertainment options when one of the anywhere rooms is free. It's hardly perfect, but..." She shrugs. "It could be a lot worse."
Briar glances around. "Sure, for Hell it's pretty tame. For Purgatory, it'll do. Some people don't deal with it very well, though. They want out. They want the truth of their existence. I don't begrudge them that. I just... I don't know. I don't feel the urgency of escape. But some folks have had really bad lives, and they don't want to have to keep going through it. I think I'm my best self here, though. In all my lives, I'm a junkie of some sort. There wasn't a drug Jade didn't enjoy. Braden was an alcoholic, Dia too. Danny was high literally every waking moment, and Martin was dependant on laudenum. I don't have a lot of confidence in who I would be out in the 'real' world."
The Gambler hmms and grabs a deck of cards from the table, beginning to shuffle them. "I guess I can understand that, yeah. Especially if someone's had several bad lives. Or people they cared about here haven't come back." She considers a moment and then grins. "Okay... if you were to tell me one thing you think I should know about being with Dare, what would it be?"
Briar's fingertips tap the side of their mug lightly, and a wicked smile plays upon their lips. "Dare? Hmm. He's a deeply romantic soul. He also likes it rough. That man has a kinky streak I don't think he's even fully aware of. If you want to drive him wild, try a little leather and lace." Briar flashes Flick a smile, then takes another drink of their tea, prim as can be.
The Gambler blinks and then grins. "Oh really? I will... definitely keep that in mind. I knew about the romance, but the other is definitely good to know." And the she blushes. "Suddenly Felicity's love of weird usenet groups seems more useful. Okay. Umm. Hmm.. And one thing I should know about being with Chance?"
Briar winks. "My gift to you." Then they consider what to say about Chance. "He gets in his own way, and sometimes, when he's saying something hurtful, you just have to keep in mind he's trying to work it out, there on the spot. It's not about you. Just guide him back. He takes service to others seriously, and sometimes he forgets that this also means taking care of himself."
The Gambler laughs. "Yeah. I... yeah. That i'd mostly worked out for myself, but it's good to have it confirmed. And that it's true of Chance as well as Cash." She sighs and shuffles the cards again. "Anything you want to ask me? I have... probably a lot less useful to offer, but I figured I'd ask."
Briar says, "I don't have anything pressing that I need to know. I trust you. You've been a good friend, and I don't see that ending any time soon." They nurse their tea along, less enthusiastically now that it's getting tepid. "Mostly, I want to know if you're doing okay. All of this right now, it's hard. Hell, it's hard for me and I'm barely involved with the harder emotions involved. I don't want you to feel unwelcome or merely tolerated. I genuinely enjoy you as a person."
The Gambler smiles brightly. "I'm doing okay. I mean, I could use a little more company, sometimes. Chance is mostly off in the Anywhere rooms a lot, but he checks in with me. And I have a lot of ways to entertain myself." She scrunches her nose. "I met a new person the other day. Called himself Mark... He actually liked maotai until he found out that Nixon had liked it. I'd set up mystery drink, but after he left I was thinking about it and realized that it would probably be kind of triggering for a bunch of people. Though there was only one that would have looked like a problem. I should count doors at some point and see how many people I haven't met, yet."
"I don't know a Mark," Briar says. "Huh. I didn't know that about maotais and Nixon, either. I don't think I've ever had one. I'd like to think something like that wouldn't bother me, but Jade finding out Rush Limbaugh liked Snapple ruined it for him. It's all just sugar-water anyway. Some people stay in their rooms the whole time. I never see them in here."
The Gambler shakes her head. "Not Mai Tais... those are the fruity tiki drinks. Maotai. It's... distressingly alcoholic Chinese hooch that's been likened to extra distilled vodka which was filtered through sweatsocks for some reason." She shrugs. "It was mostly there to be the 'dear god, why?' drink. Also in case someone just wanted to get hammered."
Briar admits, "That does sound like something I'd drink, though you can win me over with fruity cocktails, too. I have some upscale bottles of good stuff in my room, though. I don't even have to leave to get wasted. Sometimes my breakfast is top shelf whiskey. I don't feel the need for it though, not like Dia or Braden did. I suppose having myself reset every day takes care of the biological aspects of addiction." They consider their tea. "Sometimes this is good, though. Just... this."
The Gambler beams and grabs her cup to take a sip. "I did confirm that the dispensary will give me the version of the tarragon soda that I actually like. So it wasn't entirely wasted. But yeah, sitting with a friend and chatting is nice. I should probably think of other things to ask. And... not feeling the need is probably for the best. Enjoying yourself with something is one thing, needing it is something else."
Briar says, "You can ask me anything you want. And yes, needing it isn't a great feeling. I don't like needing anything, when I can avoid it. I get so much of it in these recurring lifetimes." They're sitting beside Felicity, wearing a floral dress suited to a 1950s housewife with an hairdo Snow White would appreciate. "Sometimes being able to just enjoy a cup of tea with a friend feels like a minor victory."
The Optimist slides on in, clearly looking around. As usual, he is only wearing his sweat suit bottoms. When he spots Briar, his eyes narrow and he takes a breath. He lifts a hand to Felicity, but beelines for the agendered Addict.
The Gambler hmms and sips from her distressingly green soda. She's wearing a dress with a fitted top and a full skirt patterned to look like a parcheesi board, complete with applique pawns. "Okay..." And then Optimist is there and she waves. "Hey! What are you up to tonight?"
Briar glances up and smiles warmly at Arcade. "Hello," they say. The tea is set aside and they hold their arms out for a hug. "Speaking of friends. How's it going?" They aside to Flick, "I just love this guy." If they notice the beelining, they do a good job pretending not to.
The Optimist spreads his arms wide, and wraps Briar up in a big hug. He kisses them - on the cheek, but it is a slightly sustained kiss. And Briar is squeezed tight for a long moment. Even if one changes, well, sexual orientation in between events? Feelings linger. Then the Optimist says to Felicity "Same thing I do every night...actually, literally the same thing I do. I go clubbing." He then shows her his nails, done in bright yellow "Briar has been doing my makeup."
The Gambler laughs. "Awesome nails! And... I don't think I've ever been clubbing, actually. Not that I remember." She grins at the pair and settles back, sipping from her soda. "I should probably learn how to do proper make-up at some point."
Briar hugs Arcade closely, closing their eyes as they get their cuddle on. "You look amazing," they tell Arcade, then give him a kiss on the cheek. "We should go clubbing together before our next lifetime. We never did go to that gay club in Vegas." To Felicity, they say, "You should go clubbing, definitely. It's a lot of fun. I can help you with makeup, if you like."
"You should go. It's amazing, giving yourself up to the music. Dancing until you're so tired, and your feet are sore," says the Optimist "I do wonder if we can increase our stamina here by exercise. Stands to reason that we couldn't." They smile, and settle down next to Briar, and he says "I like gay clubs, but they can be a bit weird for me. Still, we could do one here where you had a pin or handkerchief or something..." He adds "Briar is very good at makeup."
The Gambler flashes Briar a bright smile. "I'd love that. Makeup lessons! Or at least doing my makeup and going clubbing. And then still looking like a complete dork because... me. Though I'd probably be a bit out of place at a gay club. But as long as you don't mind hanging out with someone who can only kind of dance, I'll totally go clubbing."
"It doesn't have to be a gay club for your first time," Briar tells Flick. "We can make whatever club we want." They lean against Arcade, shoulder to shoulder. "It won't matter how well you can dance, only that you do. We'll even make some of the other dancers really bad, so you won't feel bad." They glance at Arcade. "What do you think?"
"I usually go to raves," explains the Optimist to the Gambler "I'm not gay. But then again, neither is Briar here, as far as I know." He grins "Heh, yes. Besides, the truth is that no one else looks at you unless you're really good. It's easy to learn in a club." He reaches out and hooks loose arms around Briar, and he says "I think it sounds good. We can invite anyone you want too, you know? Like, wow. Freddie Mercury? It wouldn't really be him, but..."
The Gambler beams and shrugs. "I don't think any of us are strictly gay, except possibly in the broadest sense in which anyone who has any level of same-gender attraction counts, but some of us might blend in better at what I think when I hear 'gay club'." She looks down at her dress. "Okay... if we're doing this, should I change? Something shorter? Something shinier? Or will this be fine? Or should we plan this for another night?"
"Let's plan this for another night," Briar says. "I'm getting sleepy. The tea isn't keeping me awake like I'd hoped. Though I guess you two can go ahead without me and Arcade could show you the ropes." They curl up close to Arcade, snuggling in under that arm. "I'll catch a nap and see if I'm up for doing something when I wake up."
"Another night is fine," says the Optimist "Though I'd be suggesting something shiny - flexible. Something you feel comfortable moving in. Shuffling is fun, but I like the acrobatic stuff. I can teach too! We're all healthy and we heal automatically, so you may as well try goin' extreme, right?" He then gets up a little himself, and he hugs Briar to him "To be honest, I was hoping to chat to Briar, but I think we're all a bit tired."
The Gambler nods. "I can also duck out if you guys want some chatting time. I can stare at my wardrobe and contemplate what I could dance in." She grins. "Another night gives more time for makeup, too."
Briar hugs Arcade and tells him, "Maybe we can talk tonight. We can bring dinner into my room, or yours, and it'll be fun." They get to their feet, then give Flick a hug as well. "You're both wonderful, and I adore you." With that, they wander back toward the hall of rooms.
The Optimist says "I'm honestly a bit tired, but I think we can talk after everyone has a nap." And with that, he gets up too.