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John and Joe Umland
No headmasters will be harmed this time.
Wed Aug 9, 2017 21:37

OOC: Hello, fuzzy time, my old friend. I'm writing stuff set before the Concert again. BIC:

Over the past year, John had developed a pattern of behavior, working through most of the night for three or four days in a row and then crashing the remainder of the nights in that week. It was not a pattern of behavior which suited him. He was usually not very alert during the days before nights when he crashed; on one particularly memorable occasion, he had slipped into a sort of waking dream while in Transfiguration, been sure he was reading words and instructions which had later proven not to be the ones in his textbook, and the next thing he’d known, he’d started at the sound of a series of bangs and quickly realized that a) there were several very confused, very unhappy crows flying around the ceiling that he was pretty sure Professor Skies had not put there and b) he was going to have to play the good Scout and admit he was the one who’d almost certainly done it if she asked, because his desk, including the offending textbook, was covered in half an inch of ice he was also pretty sure was not supposed to be there. Even on his best days, John was still not entirely sure how he had done either of those things, much less both of them presumably within seconds of each other, and really wished he could remember what in the world it was he’d thought he had read….

Today, though, wasn’t the day John thought he was going to figure it out, at least not unless he had the same dream today. Which could happen. It was time for a full night’s sleep, and the fact he didn’t have time for that was a matter of no consequence. He had already consumed half a pot of tea and still couldn’t get his eyes to focus properly. He was just pouring the first cup of the second half when he realized someone was standing across from him. Expecting Aislinn or someone wanting him to do so something, he was surprised enough to see his brother instead that he briefly wondered if he had already fallen asleep again.

“Mind if I have some of that?” asked Joe, not doing, he thought, a very good job of sounding casual. That made him think he must be awake. When he dreamed about his family, they were either dead, cursing him, or, worst of all, acting as though nothing had ever happened.

“On your own bowels be it,” muttered John. The tea wasn’t quite as stewed as John would have made for himself, but he suspected his frenemy among the laundry goblins had begun taking pity on him and making sure at least one actually fairly strong pot made its way to the Aladren table every morning.

Joe heeded the warning; in the end, John estimated that he did pour more tea than milk into his cup, but John suspected the ratio was still wrong even for those bizarre people who thought dairy products were supposed to go into tea. Joe still grimaced when he tried a sip. “Did you make it?” he asked, sounding half-choked.

“No,” said John.

“You could have fooled me,” said Joe, still pulling faces.

“I thought that was what I was good at,” said John, hoping to make Joe go away sooner rather than later. It would be too easy to fall back into normal.

Instead of leaving, or even trying to hit him again, Joe shrugged. “Everyone’s got something, I guess,” he said lightly. John didn’t respond and Joe finally knocked it off. “John – I’m sorry I tried to punch you in the face on the first day of school.”

John closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose. Don’t do this to me, he wanted to say, but that would not help and so instead he said, “I think that interview with Brockert was enough to absolve you of anything over that incident.”

“No it wasn’t,” argued Joe. “Not when you think about it.”

“Let’s don’t,” suggested John, but Joe plowed on with the determination and slightly stilted phrasing of someone reciting something he had rehearsed in the mirror either one time too many or one time too few.

“I was angry that you just – left home, but that wasn’t fair,” said Joe. “You weren’t – obviously you weren’t really in your right mind after everything that happened last summer – “

“I’m not crazy,” interrupted John sharply.

“I didn’t – I didn’t mean it like that,” protested Joe, no doubt, in this sympathetic mood which seemed to have overcome him and which made John want to be the one who threw a punch this time, remembering why John was particularly irked by the accusation that his mental health might be suspect. “Just – it was traumatic – “

“Thanks, Doctor,” interrupted John loudly. “I feel much better now.”

“Will you shut up and let me finish?”

“Joe, there’s no point to this,” protested John.

“Yes there is!” At least, John thought, Joe didn’t sound like he was reciting now. His brother took a deep breath. “Look, Mom and Dad and Julian are coming to the concert,” he said, and then blatantly pretended not to look when John’s jaw dropped in horror. “Sit with us.”

Mom. Mom was going to be in the same room as him. Mom and Dad and Julian. He felt as though he were being strangled, his heart pounding in his esophagus and his stomach threatening to violently reject everything he’d put in it in the recent past. He felt sweat beginning on his forehead. “I can’t,” he managed.

“Look at it like this,” suggested Joe. “If you do, then you get talking to us again over with in public. Nobody’s going to make a scene in public. Then it’s easier not to when we get home.” John shook his head, now unable to make eye contact with his brother or keep his hands still in front of him. “Okay, okay, chill. We don’t have to talk about it any more right now,” said Joe, no doubt noticing this. “Just – think about it?”

That was an out. A way to say no without really saying no and giving Joe something to argue again. “Yeah,” muttered John, nearly tripping himself on first his own and then another chair as he rose quickly and fumbled with his bag. “I’ve got to go patrol my class – “ he excused himself, mixing up two excuses in his flustration, and getting out of there before Joe provoked him into telling the truth and then manipulated him into no longer believing it.

In the corridor, he stopped to try to collect himself. Mom. Dad. Julian. No - data. Think about data. I counted more crows than usual in the Gardens last week. Gnomes are afraid of them. Mom and Julian are going to be in the same room as me.

"The antidote for a blended poison will be equal to more than the sum of the antidotes for each of the separate components," he recited aloud to distract himself. "It necessitates finding an additional factor which will transform the combined antidotes to a new whole which still has the chemical reactions of the original antidote components while also having an additional one - and not letting anything blow up from blending. That's the hardest part sometimes, but...problem-solving strategies. I know those. Yeah. It's good. I know those. I'll figure it out."

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