There is no real morning or night in the Facility. Just waking up and deciding to eat Froot Loops. At least that's how Confidant rolls. Usually. But today is not usual. He creeps out of his room and scampers on down to Addict's door. He's dressed, for once. He has a closet full of clothes and usually spend his time here in PJ bottoms and plain white tees. But today, he's groomed. His red hair is combed back neatly. He's wearing a blue t-shirt under a black leather jacket. He's paired this with loose jeans and dark leather work shoes. He's wearing cologne. Just a touch of something warm and spicy. And then, he knocks on the door.
Some days Chance is likely to find Addict still in bed, groaning at the door to either come in or go away. Today, however, they open the door and are already dressed. Clean-shaven, their curls trimmed, they're in tapered jeans and a cropped red t-shirt with a pink pixelated heart on it. "Hey, handsome," they say, and they hug Chance closely. "You look good. What's the occasion?"
"The occasion is 2018, my darling." Chance says with a big grin. "I don't know where we are about to end up. No clues here yet. Maybe back in the 30s? Maybe in the 1700s. I haven't a clue but I know..." He deflates a bit but not out of sadness. "I want you to go somewhere and feel...comfortable. And...Chance's home city and year is a really good place for it. It's Richmond, Virginia. A southern city that by 2018 became...really different than it was in the past, as you might know it. I mean, even moreso than it may have been in the 1980s. So! I suppose...this is a date. Maybe an extended one when you consider the way time works in those rooms. Only catch is if I dip into one, my...fucked up feature reappears. Chance was deaf. Well, hearing impaired. He did alright with hearing aids and that is why our first stop will be my--his...our apartment. I gotta get them, I think. So, uh...you in?"
The Addict plants a kiss on Chance's lips. Their lipgloss tastes like strawberries. "I'm going to learn sign language while we're waiting for the next story," they say. "There's books, and if it'll make it easier when we go to 2018..." That would be a yes, then. They take a moment to just look at Chance, taking in his features, his nicely combed hair. "I'm crazy about you," they murmur. "Feels good to finally be able to say it."
The Confidant is all blushes and grins. "Thank you. I-I...I-I don't have words. I love you will work for now." He shifts a little awkwardly in the hall there, for a moment. "Sign language helps. He was a kid when he got sick so he's as used to speech as signing. He sounds different or so I've been told. He couldn't tell, really." The stammers through that and looks distracted. Then he spills it. "You're going to meet my sister. Helena." He takes a deep breath. "She was everything to Chance. And of all of my doorless, I miss her every day. Still. Come on. I'm about to chicken out." He offers his elbow like a gentleman. "You might meet Will. His best friend from school. Born deaf. Video game designer and Deaf activist. I'll translate if we run into him. He rarely spoke and doesn't bring his translator when he visits home." Beat. "He pays Helena. Anyway. Shall we?"
The Addict takes the offered elbow and says, "Don't chicken out. I can't wait to meet her." They fall into step with Chance and say, "I think I met your friend at the beach briefly. Was that Will? He seemed nice." They flash him a wicked grin. "You two were adorable, rolling around like big puppies. I remember those weird little boxes you said were phones. Will you show me how to use one?" They still haven't advanced beyond 1989, alas.
"Yeah! Will tackled me on the beach. He's such a...bro. Complete extrovert. Chance was shy and studious and serious. Will was the opposite. Party boy. Slutty. Loudest Deaf person I met." They get to the door. The Confidant pauses and takes another deep breath. "My phone. Oh, it's so cool. It connected to my hearing aids directly. I could take calls in addition to making on the fly adjustments. Prepare yourself, darlin'." He seem to count to three, silently and then he opens the door.
To an apartment. It's a small, one bedroom, one bath type efficiency apartment. Tiny kitchen with bar seating. The furniture is thrift and goodwill specials. Nothing matches. The white walls are devoid of decoration except for a trio of diplomas over the large flat screen television. There is someone on the couch, covered in a blanket. You can only see long brown hair hanging over the arm of the sofa. The TV is on and playing a church service with the volume low. It's a Sunday.
Meanwhile, The Confidant has changed a bit. Still tall and red haired, yes. He's a little brawnier but his middle isn't as tight. His t-shirt just seems a little too small suddenly. And he is quite pale, paler than any version of himself. Starkly so compared to Jody, who had a bit of a tan.
First thing he does is point to the hair hanging off the couch. "That's her. Helena. I need to get.." He gestures to his ears, looking a little flustered. "Stay here and..." He reaches over to the kitchen's bar and unplug his iPhone. He unlocks it and hands it to Briar. "Marvel at it. You can't hurt it. Back in a second." He does sound different. Besides the mushy and nasal tone, he is a little too loud and his voice is deeper. He sounds like a southerner on top of all of that, which may remind one of Jody.
The Addict steps through with Chance, and they don't change in any perceptible way. They never existed here, so there's no version of them to revert to. The hair draped over the couch gets a curious look, and Briar is about to say something, but then Chance hands them the phone. "Honey, you'd burn in moonlight," they say. Then the stare at the phone, poking and prodding tentatively. "This has maps on it," they marvel. "You could never get lost with this thing."
Chance laughs. "I know. I know. I packed a ton of sunscreen for that island trip I burn at the mention of a sunny day. And I...I have scars that are extra sensitive too. If I recall correctly."
"You do!" Helena says loudly from the couch, still unseen. Then her head pokes up. Briar knows this girl. It's Holden's female form. Helena has longer hair and that is it. Molly is staring back at Briar. "Chance. Who the he--" She throws a pillow at his back.
Chance turns and the two begin a signed exchange that ends with: "Briar. Neutral pronouns. I will get my hearing aids, miss. You get ready for brunch." And he dips into the bedroom, leaving Helena to stare at Briar. It's the hard, critical stare of a protective sibling, even though Helena is younger. For that matter, Chance is older than Jody. Even the harder living of the turn of the century doesn't quite disguise that.
Briar stares at Helena in turn. It's awkward when one has seen someone naked, and they don't really realize it. Color touches Briar's cheeks, and they wave a little. "H-hey. It's nice to meet you. Chance talks about you a lot." Hastily, they add, "Good things. Only good things." They glance after Chance, willing him to get back soon. "Anyway, um. I'm Briar."
Helena has a hard expression. Suspicious then curious as her clenched jaw relaxes. "I'm Helena. Chance called you..." She rolls her green eyes. "Someone special. I'm guessing because he's, um, well, partner is too clinical and lover is too...frilly for Chance's tastes and since you are, uh...non-binary, I assume? He didn't know what else to call you." She stops outright staring to get off the couch. Her clothes seemed to be piled up on black garbage bags in a corner. Seen her naked once? Here she is again, changing in front of Briar because Helena don't give a fuck. Hell, she keeps talking. "How did you meet? Hurry before he comes back. He's preening in there, I know it." Beat. "Chance is really, really fucking straight so..." She laughs. "I don't know how the hell he's end up with you. No offense to you. It's a compliment really. If he strayed from boring old pussy than you must be super awesome."
Briar can't conceal their stupid smile when Helena says they've been called someone special. Clearing their throat, they nod quickly and say, "Yeah, non-binary. They/Them, but I'm not going to get upset if people call me He/Him. It just takes me a moment to realize they're talking about me." They quickly look away, even though they've already seen it all already. "We just kept hanging out in the same places, running into each other. I had a crush on him the moment I met him, but I didn't really say anything. Then, one night, we just clicked. This is going to sound so corny, but it was magical. When he finally noticed me, I couldn't believe how lucky I am."
Helena barks out a laugh. Shock. But it's the good kind from the smile that finally breaks across her face. She peeks into the bedroom and then rushes to Briar. She speaks quietly. "He's preening. He doesn't preen. He like...works. That's it. When Will visits they go out and bro it up but like..." She sighs, puts up a finger and carefully closes the bedroom door. "There. He's not even plugged in yet. Okay, like...I don't think he's ever approached anyone since, like, high school prom. He's usually so fucking shy and insecure. He has a million reasons why someone won't like him and none of them actually matter. Chance has a heart of gold and he's cute with the red hair and blue eyes and brawny paramedic body. But he whines about someone liking a deaf guy and he has skin graft scars under his clothes from when he got sick. Superficial shit! I...could go on for hours about how annoying he is and how sad--well, yeah, I'm sad. He's over thirty now and I want him to be loved. He has a lot to give, you know? He deserves it in return. So. Do that. Love my brother, Briar. Love him because he doesn't love himself."
Briar grins at the idea of Chance preening, but then their features grow serious as they listen to Helena. "I love him so much," they say. "He's sweet and kind, and he takes good care of me. I'm learning ASL, but I'm not very good yet. But I'm in it for the long haul. I don't mind scars. I think he's amazing." They glance toward Chance's bedroom again and smile sappily. "Sometimes, I wonder if I'm worth it, but he makes me believe that I am. If someone like him can love me, then maybe I'm doing okay."
"Oh, the way to those deaf boys hearts is ASL. I mean, he handles speech pretty well. He hears enough and reads lips and can put it together but...hey, I'll help you anytime you want. Lesson One." She signs and says at the same time, "I love you. Pull that one, he'll be a puddle." Helena looks Briar over one more time. "You're unique. I mean, your bone structure. Unique and pretty. I'm mad at that lipgloss. I can't pull off that shade with my coloring. Oh, Chance and I are technically half siblings, in case you are wondering why he's so ghostly. But Ma didn't keep either of our dads around. Chance raised me really. I mean, I learned to cook because I was really sick of chicken nuggets and kraft mac but he still loves that shit. Men." She waves a hand. "And don't think I didn't hear that negative shit coming from you about yourself. You are worth it. There is no better judge of character I know than Chance Reed and he has never brought anyone home since I started living here. I mean, he might be fucking his supervisor bu--"
Chance reappears then. He's changed his shirt. Virginia is for Lovers, it reads, with a rainbow heart. "Are we ready? Helena, did you frighten Briar with your bullshit?" He signs as he speaks. Five encounters later, the language never left him. He looks to Briar then. "Helena can abrasive. Do I need to make her apologize?"
Briar repeats the gesture and murmurs, "I love you. I'll pull that one on him when he's not expecting it." Then they laugh at the mention of chicken nuggets and kraft mac. "I don't know how he eats that stuff. It can't be good for you." They consider for a moment, then say, "We should work up a color palette for you. You're way more of a ruby red than a coral. That's good, though. Ruby red is always sexy." Then their brows shoot up. Wait, Chance is doing what to who?
But then Chance reappears, and they smile at him broadly. "Your sister is awesome," Briar says. "No bullshit here. Come on, let's go. I can't wait to find out where we're going." They give Chance a kiss on the cheek and murmurs to him, "She's fantastic."