stop looking at the floor Who: Gus and BB. What: BB is super nosy; Gus is super grumpy…is it a recipe for disaster?! Where: Pax Rec Room. When: July 30th, early afternoon.
He’d dragged himself downstairs to the apartment rec room with a copy of Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms, plopping down unceremoniously in a plush arm chair. His hair was slightly askew, and getting too long for his liking--he needed a haircut, but hadn’t yet bothered. Grunting, he resituated himself in the chair (the plopping down had been too much, even for the sixth floor’s current--and only--grumpy resident). There.
Gus opened to an earmarked page in the book, scanning it for the last paragraph he’d read. The direct nature of Hemingway’s writing, coupled with the coarse subject of the book, soothed his ongoing irritation concerning the still-sudden drop of Alice from his life...not to mention his sister as well.
Though that, he supposed, wasn’t exactly on her. He’d been going out of his way to not run into BB, despite the fact that he doubted she’d care that he and Alice no longer spent time together. Hell, she’d probably be happy; it’d mean she’d get to eat all of the amazing dinners that Alice cooked.
Frowning, Gus focused on the most familiar sounding paragraph and leant into the story with everything he could muster. Nothing but succinct brutality and musings on war; he could handle this. Even if he did have a tricky time of turning the pages with one hand, attempting to hold the book still with his right elbow.
Maybe it hadn’t been a good idea to come down to the rec room, but as far as he could tell, it was empty. For now.
Even that didn't last as long as he probably would have liked. BB sashayed into the rec room, making a beeline for the pool table (at least when she was alone no one yelled at her for scratching the red cloth with her cue). At first, she'd walked right past her baby brother, seated as he was in a corner angled away from the doorway. She walked across the room, took a cue down from the wall and leaned it against the pool table, and was reaching for the triangle when she noticed the would-be hidden young man with his nose buried in a book.
"Wow, Gusgus, just, wow, that's pretty ballsy, just hanging out here when you've been absolutely ignoring me." She all but slammed the triangle down on the table, her voice ringing out louder than the softly cushioned blow she'd attempted to strike against the table.
Jolted out of the storyline, Gus’ head shot up, surprise widening his brown eyes. Shit. He hadn’t expected BB to come down here, of all places--didn’t she have stories to chase and phone calls home to avoid? Not like he’d been doing any better lately, concerning the latter, but still.
“I’ve been busy,” he muttered, unable to keep from feeling distinctly uncomfortable. “Just, you know. It’s summer, BB.” As if in explanation, he nodded down to the book in his lap, letting Hemingway speak for himself. Booze, war, and manliness. The finer aspects of life. “Besides, haven’t you been busy, too?” He turned the question around on his sister, though it was less out of defense and more from plain curiosity.
"Um, one, summer is time for dicking off, and besides, don't you have the parental units paying for everything anyway? And two, of course I'm always busy, but that doesn't mean I don't make time for family," she scoffed in return, pointedly ignoring the fact that she'd been avoiding phone calls from their father for the better part of a few months now. She started collecting the pool balls, lining them up particularly by number within the triangular cut out.
"Seriously, though, that book is why you've been ignoring my texts?" She narrowed her eyes at the cover, which seemed to imply tiny print text and very few pictures. Why would anyone want to force themselves through such a thing? That's why Cliff Notes were born!
He waited out BB’s rant, knowing from experience that it’d be better for her to say everything she needed to say right away, like air coming out of an untied balloon. Then he’d get a chance to interject--or in this case, switch topics with her out of sheer relief. Not that BB needed to know he was relieved, of course.
“Yeah, it’s like, so good. World War I stuff.” Gus shrugged, but did his best to look completely not-guilty and definitely-not-relieved. “I mean. It’s slow. But like, there’s so much to digest. You oughta read it, BB.” He felt a line of tension in his shoulders hesitantly loosen, still bracing for an oncoming storm but no longer quite as worried about his ship having sprung a leak. “Sorry sis, you know how it is. Like. Getting consumed in things. Not paying enough attention.”
A smile, there. The younger Bernard sibling certainly hadn’t meant any harm, and he certainly wasn’t hiding a secret. As if to prove his utter sense of forced calm, Gus leaned back in the chair, attempting to look as if he’d found the most comfy spot in the entire complex.
BB's hands hovered over the balls in their three-sided prison, her eyes slightly narrowed in Gus' direction; obviously, she still didn't quite believe that a simple book had swallowed her brother whole and kept him that distracted for a whole month. But then she lifted the triangle, placing it back on the wall where it had been originally found and grabbed her pool cue, removing herself to the other end of the table.
"You know, if something else happened, Gusgus, you can tell me. Like. You know, all the weird shit that keeps happening here. Dreams or whatever." Or something worse, like Alice coughing up seeds, or the strange animals that had been infesting every corner of the apartment complex. At least she'd had her own distractions…
“Yeah, like. I'd totally tell you.” Gus’ smile wavered, threatening to flip downwards into a more familiar scowl. “Well, something keeps eating crap outta my fridge. Think it's mice, ‘cause my couch legs look like they've been chewed on. I bought traps.” Another shrug, and then he carefully folded down the page he was reading, shutting the book.
“And, you know. My hand’s been acting up again. Like, back when the whole place flipped out.” He laid his head on the back of the chair, staring up at the ceiling. “You uh, been hanging out with Alice?”
BB's frown deepened, but she focused first on breaking the set and sending stripes and solids rotating around the green cloth of the tabletop.
Each dull knock of the pool balls hitting against each other and the edges of the table seemed louder than necessary, filling the purposely empty spaces in their conversation. Gus was sure that if BB hadn’t been playing pool, they might’ve been able to hear a pin drop between their pauses.
"No," she said, the shortest and most to the point thing to possibly ever come out of her mouth. Her gaze swept over the game she'd created, looking for the best point of entry from where the cue ball had landed. She moved a little to the left, circling the table, and her gaze came to rest on her brother across the room.
"You've both been avoiding me, unless Alice went back to working herself sick at the bakery. Which, I mean, is totally possible, knowing her." Her eyes narrowed as though she suspected something, but her mouth quickly revealed that her mind was simply spinning backward. "Did you ever see what was stealing your food?"
There was nothing quite like an interrogation directed by BB, and Gus barely held back from squirming uncomfortably. It didn’t matter that she was across the room from him. She’d latch onto an issue like a pitbull, and shake it until there was nothing left, all the truth twisted and torn from the remains.
“Uh, maybe. Hairy things, like…” Gus’ brows furrowed as he remembered a brief sighting of the creatures. He’d wandered through his livingroom, looking in vain for the TV remote, and had spied three oddly round and hairy beings rushing along the floor. They’d disappeared somewhere behind the couch, and he hadn’t been sober enough to fully comprehend what he’d seen.
“...like coconuts, kinda. I mean, I thought I imagined them, because I was kinda drunk. You know. Sometimes you see pink elephants if you drink too much.” Or go on to make mistakes that technically aren’t mistakes, but would somehow still look like mistakes to the casual viewer. A viewer like BB.
He dared to lift his head, looking curiously at his sister. “I don’t even like coconuts. Unless they’re like, baked into something. And then only since I can’t really taste them.” Gus made a face, emphasizing his disgust with the hard to crack fruit. He placed his book on the arm of the chair and sat forward in it, shoulders hunched, his right hand resting uselessly on his lap. “I, uh, I’ve been seeing a lot of pink elephants lately. Getting it out of my system before school starts again.”
BB paused in her current lineup, arching a brow in her brother's direction.
"OK, one, coconut is delicious, so you should've told me earlier and we could've taken care of the issue," she somewhat sternly lectured him, holding up a hand as she counted out her admonishments. "And, two, um, hold up? Since when are you a lush, baby brother? You've already got the whole, you know, hand thing going on, so why are you trying to stupify your brain while you're at it?" She rose up, her pool cue still set against the table as her eyes narrowed once more. "Something else happened, didn't it? Did they do something worse, the coconuts?!"
He blinked hard, BB’s main focus staying firmly put on the coconut creatures, despite any wayward attempts to confess his secret. Not that this was a bad thing. “I’m not “stupifying” my brain,” Gus retorted dismissively, and had he been able to, he would have given his claim a sarcastic touch of air quotes. As it were, he simply frowned at BB. “Yeah, something else happened. Lots of things happen when you get drunk. But it’s okay. And the coconuts didn’t do anything because,” Gus paused, fumbling in his half-confession, “--because they hid under my couch. Somewhere. I guess. I mean, I can’t find them when I want to see them, which is like, never. It’s kinda like with Alice. Maybe they’re avoiding me, too.” He forced himself to shrug, attempting to be casual about the matter, but now that he’d said it outloud it was difficult to keep the emotion from his voice.
"So she's avoiding you, too, huh? Though, like, when have you guys ever hung out," BB sounded off, somewhat derogatorily. She looked back down to the balls laid out like a mismatched planetary system on the table before her, finally deciding on a striped ball, corner pocket. "But, like, I gotta say, Gusgus, if I didn't know better, I would've said you were stoned with those coconuts around. And I'd love to be able to say that pot made me see a freaking bird lady in my apartment, and, fuck, not even a sexy one." Surely her hallucinations would've taken on a much more appealing look? BB would never know. She leaned back against the table, aiming her cue, and knocking the ball straight forward toward the one she'd been aiming for.
She was rewarded with the satisfying sound of a plop into a leather baggie, a smile on her face.
"Hey you... well I guess not," she said, rescinding her offer from him to come join her after she recalled that he said his hand had been bothering him all the worse. "You go see a doctor about it? Your hand, I mean? Shouldn't just sit around and suffer, Gusgus."
Gus felt the hair on the back of his neck prickle when BB muttered about the obvious lack of time he’d ever spent with Alice. If she only knew--but she didn’t need to know, he reminded himself, and he didn’t need to tell her. It wasn’t like he had ever interrogated BB about her love life, anyway, and therefore it seemed fair to him for her to be left clueless.
Still, he couldn’t help but push down the niggling sense of guilt that arose. It was completely unnecessary.
“Bird ladies?” Gus asked in disbelief, standing from his chair. After a moment of brief hesitation, he crossed the distance to the pool table, choosing to lean against the adjacent wall while his sister practiced the fine art of pool table geometry. Dead hand or not, he managed to cross his arms--hoping to look both reasonably comfortable, and reasonably aloof.
“You’re telling me you saw bird ladies?” The usual additional comment of ‘this place is freaking weird’ was, for once, missing. He scoffed, shaking his head at the futility of it all. “Whenever I think this place can’t, like, get even worse, walking coconuts and bird ladies crawl out of the walls.” Jaw tight, Gus shook his head no a second time. “I kind of talked to a doctor this month. But like...he didn’t know what was wrong. It’s...not normal. It’s like when there was a kegger downstairs, and like, those secrets on my floor. The same thing happened then. Dreaming about snow again, too. Some freaking barren wasteland with ice giants and whatever.” He stared down at his currently useless hand for a moment, before deciding it was a much better idea to watch BB play pool.
The butt of her pool cue hit the floor, the action coinciding with the frown on her face. It didn't bode well that her brother's lifelong injury was being affected by their shared apartment complex, and the next words didn't come especially easy to her.
"Have you thought of, yah know, moving out?" She leaned the cue forward, letting it rest against the side of the table with a shrug that tried to make the motion more casual than it was. "Talking to mom and dad, seeing if they'd... if they'd move you somewhere else?" She had to admit, she liked having one of her brothers close by. It might not have been [Resheph], but she and Gus had a relationship all their own, but just because they didn't live in the same building didn't mean pot and pizza nights had to end, necessarily. Besides, his welfare should've been more important than the compulsive feeling in her gut.
"I know Alice wanted to try and move..."
“That’d be like running away, and I’m not gonna do it,” he found himself saying, almost defensively, as if he was determined to beat whatever strange forces were behind all of the changes at Pax. Or if he could not beat them, then he would proudly suffer them. It made sense on some strange, internal level, and Gus pulled himself back from whatever had grasped hold of his thoughts.
“Breaking a lease looks bad. Kills your credit or whatever,” Gus lamely added, trying to cover up the stubborn refusal he’d spoken with a touch of practicality. “Besides, think of all the trouble you’d get into if I wasn’t keeping things real on the sixth floor.” The incendiary jest was accompanied by a dark smirk. “You’d miss me, BB, admit it. Even if I can’t play pool with you right now.” Soon, maybe. If he could ever work feeling back into his muscles, stretch the tendons and keep himself from being permanently, royally, fucked.
BB rolled her eyes at him, though her mouth conjured up a smirk to match his all the same. It was relieving, somehow, to have someone nearby who understood and could even predict, as much as it was possible, her mercurial behavior.
"Yeah, well, it would get pretty boring in your life without me, you have to admit," she chided in return, gently tossing the pool cue from one hand to the other. The fact that he felt less scared and intimidated than he did frustrated by the building and its odd events also served to soothe her; so many people were scared enough to ignore things, but at least her brother wasn't one of them.
"How about I play for both of us? You tell me what you wanna hit, and I swear -- scout's honor," she replied, holding up two fingers in her best mimicry of a Boy Scout salute, "I won't fuck with your shots."
His smirk widened into an amused smile, and Gus uncrossed his arms to walk closer to the pool table, inspecting the layout of BB’s--and now his--current game. He looked over at his sister, relieved that he’d managed to not only dodge a bullet, but reconnect with her after a month of uncomfortable silence.
Because when it came down to it, if Gus had to pick someone to be on his side, he’d choose his older sister. Even if she could be completely, over the top ridiculous more often than not.
“I’ll be watching you like a hawk,” he said with an inflected measure of finality, “and you better keep your word.” Then, he pointed to a group of disjointedly arranged balls, most of them covered in stripes. He grinned outright, deciding he’d enjoy this game after all. “You can have the solids; I’ll take stripes. Get ready to lose.”