A Conversation Over Cookies


cassandra_icon.gif elaine_icon.gif

Scene Title A Conversation over Cookies
Synopsis Cassandra, in the bath, talks to Elaine, in the kitchen, over a cellular connection. It's a cute, fluffy scene.
Date March 28, 2018


Dinner was done and that left Elaine with wondering just when the call would come. It wasn’t that she was anxious about it, except that she was. Waiting always made her nervous. So instead she filled her time with baking—cookies, to be exact. She had a recipe that she’d memorized (or mostly memorized) from her childhood that used whole oats instead of chopped ones to make oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. Far superior to raisins. The dough was mixed, cookie sheet ready, each little dollop of dough being evenly distributed. And then she hears her phone, abandons her efforts, and quickly goes to answer it.

“Hello?” She answers in a questioning tone even though she knows who it is already.

Cassandra had been anticipating and dreading this call all day.

Sure, at the beginning of the morning she kind of knew that she would be calling, but as time passed and the hour drew closer, she started getting more and more nervous. What would she say? What would they talk about? Would Elaine even answer the phone? It was the same thing a teenager would go through thinking about what to say to a girl she was calling for the very first time which, to be fair, was exactly what was going on.

Still, she wanted to be comfortable. After dinner and dishes and making sure Minou was fed, Cassandra went to the bathroom of all places and started the tub filling. She wanted to be comfortable during this conversation and one of the places she felt the most comfortable was in a bubble bath. She added a few squirts of some bubble bath stuff that smells like rosemary and lavender to be sure, the soothing scent that never failed to relax her filling the small room. A bit more getting ready follows - putting up her hair in a bun so it doesn’t get entirely wet, undressing and putting her clothes where they need to be to be washed properly and then slipping into the bath. Once the water was off, the woman sat in silence, watching the minutes tick by, Elaine’s contact information right there. And finally, at 8:29 in the evening, in her bath, Cassandra presses ‘send’ and gives the leggy redhead a call.

The phone takes a moment to connect - cell service is atrocious here, but she lucks out and has picked a night where people aren’t using their phones much. She gets a line - a clear one, without the hissing or popping, the soft chirp of a ring echoing in the room. Once. Twice. And then? Elaine answers the phone.

“Ah…um…Elaine?” Cassandra shifts in the bath a little. “It’s Cassie. I’m….following the rule that isn’t a rule and called you when I wanted to.” She goes quiet for a second. “How are you?”

Eeee. She got a phone call right when expected. Elaine’s beaming and it’s practically audible. “Hi! You called! I wasn’t sure if you would or if…” If she’d chicken out, but the redhead’s not going to say that. She adjusts the phone with sticky hands and then decides it’s easier to not. “Hold on, I’m going to put you on speaker.”

One button push later and Elaine’s setting the phone down so she can finish divvying out the cookie dough into cookie-sized portions. “I’m okay, I’m just making some cookies. I’d offer you some but I’m pretty sure you’re all the way across town somewhere.” She laughs, continuing to work. “It’s really good to hear from you, I really was worried you wouldn’t call.”

There’s a little sloshing sound as Cassandra sinks down into the tub, putting Elaine on speakerphone too, her phone propped on a washcloth in the soapdish near her head.

“I kind of…had to build up to it.” She chuckles softly. “All the second guessing a girl does when she knows something fun is coming up. I….” she smiles. Elaine can almost hear it over the phone when she does. “I really am glad I can talk to you. What kind of cookies? Do they have raisins?”

No facetime just yet. Sorry. ;p

“Raisins are for cowards who fear the strength of the mighty chocolate chip,” Elaine says, plopping another ball of cookie dough onto the cookie sheet. “Sorry if you like raisins, but it’s true. Chocolate chips are far superior.” She plops yet another down before she looks at the rest of the dough.

“Oh, how terrible, I made too much dough, now I’ll just have to eat it.” She sets the bowl aside, popping the tray of cookies into the oven before returning to the bowl and starting to eat some of the dough off of a wooden spoon.

“So you got all nervous, huh? Good, means I’m special.” Her grin is practically audible.

Good thing, since the phone is a vocal medium.

“Well…yeah.” Cassandra giggles quietly, taking a washcloth and rubbing her face before reclining in the tub, legs crossed, feet in the corner of the bath, relaxing. “You’re the first girl I’ve ever planned to go out on a date with, so that’s got to mean something. And raisins do have their place, but not in cookies. Give me something hearty, like a good chocolate chip cookie or something more substantial. I ate way too many raisins in my time running. So if I can find chocolate, I go with that.”

Eating the dough? Cassandra can’t help but smile at that. “You and my Mama Marie would get along swimmingly.” She switches to French. “«She’s back home in the bayou, but I think she’d sit you down and pick your brain for recipes.»” There’s a short pause. “«How was your day today? Anything interesting happen?»”

Elaine follows suit, switching over to French. “«Raisins by themselves or in a trail mix are acceptable but not in my cookies, gosh darn it.»” She laughs, eating a chocolate chip off of the spoon. “«I know they say you’re not supposed to eat the dough but I’ve heard you have to eat a lot of dough for it to negatively affect you.»”

She shifts, moving to pick up the phone and turn it off speaker. “«Your Mama Marie sounds like a delight. I only have a few recipes I know by heart, but they are some good ones. I enjoy cooking, used to do it a lot, but it’s not as fun with it being just me though. Cooking’s something that’s better shared.»”

“«As for my day, well, it wasn’t terribly exciting. I helped translate in the Fellowship Center for some visiting tourists from Japan. It’s funny we still get tourists to the Safe Zone.»”

Being in the bath, it’s a lot easier for Cassandra to talk on speaker phone, and she’s got a fairly good bathroom, acoustics-wise, so it doesn’t sound like she’s underwater or echoey or anything. “«That sounds a lot like my day, actually.»” Cassandra sits up, scrubbing herself with the washcloth for a moment before sinking back into the water. “«The whole Yamagato park thing - the little we know - was thrown on my desk, in addition to all the food thefts. So now I’m trying to get permission to interview anyone in the park that might have had the same experience that I did.»”

Cassandra was in Yamagato during one of the events? She didn’t mention that before now.

“«I’m not asking you to use any of your strings, dear one. I’m just venting a little bit about not being able to investigate things that I might need to, due to red tape.»” She sighs melodramatically. “«I think dealing with tourists would be preferable to dealing with red tape, the US Government, and sewers, in the case of the food thefts.»”

“«Tell me…what do you enjoy cooking most? And will you save me a cookie?»”

“«Well, you could always interview me, if that helps any. I was at both events, assuming they’re linked of course. My d—er, friend was at the first one as well.»” Elaine offers, helpfully. She shifts a little as she leans against the counter before deciding to go to the fridge, pulling out a half-drunk bottle of wine. She pops the stopper off and grabs a glass to fill it.

“«Going to have some wine, I promise not to get too drunk on you,»” she teases. “«I kind of like to make classic pasta, but I like to make my sauce from scratch. Oooh, but then there’s this Scottish recipe I really like, it’s kind of good for comfort food. And yes, I’ll save you a cookie. Two if you ask nicely.»”

Cassandra waits until Elaine is done talking. “You know….a glass of wine sounds like a good idea.” It's been a long day - she deserves it. “Hang on.” This is followed by the sound of Cassie getting out of the bath, wet footsteps trailing off, followed by silence for a minute or two. The next sound heard is a cat’s soft meow and Cassie yelling. “Minou! Get away from that! «Silly cat!»”. This is followed by splashing as Cassie gets back into the bath, the sound of a wineglass against the tub as she reclines

“I might just take you up on that, assuming it wont cause friction anywhere.” While she’s SESA, she doesn't want to cause problems. But the more important thing is the food.” She takes a sip of her white wine - a nice sweet fruity one - and thinks. “Classic pasta, Scottish dishes, comfort food…honey, you and me? We are going to get along perfectly. I'll have to introduce you to Chicken Fried Bacon with cream gravy one day. It's both as wonderful and as horrible as it sounds.”

Sipping from her glass of wine, Elaine leans against her cupboards lightly. “No, wouldn’t be a problem at all, I’m not making an official statement or anything, so it isn’t as if you’re stepping on any toes. Really, I’d be more than happy to.“ She chuckles. “Well at least our tastes in foods mesh, although I’m not sure how I feel about Chicken Fried Bacon with cream gravy.”

There’s a long pause after that. “Are you in the bathtub?” Elaine asks.

“Don't knock it until you try it.” Cassandra says with a grin, sipping at her wine. “The bacon is crispy with just a little chew to it, and the batter is salty and soaks up the bacon: the cream gravy is a little overkill but….”. She trails off, another one of those giggles escaping. “Wonderful and horrible at the same time. Cajun food is great for gaining weight, but not so good if you want to keep your figure. It's why I don't cook ok it that often. Like Cookie Monster says…sorta….Cajun cuisine is a sometimes food.”

The line goes quiet for a second after Elaine asks the million dollar question. “Um….”. There's a sipping sound. “Yes. Yes I am. I just….wanted to be comfortable, so I made a bubble bath and…called.”

“You’ll have to cook me cajun at some point. Just maybe not the bacon stuff. That does sound like overkill,” Elaine says, then giggles. “So the bath, huh. I could make so many dirty jokes right now but I’m a lady and you’re very wholesome and I’m going to be good.” She grins. “I’m just jealous I didn’t think of that sooner.”

She pauses to go get a scoop of cookie dough. “Well I can’t take a bath now, I have cookies baking, so I guess I’ll just have to wait until later.”

Her blush is almost audible, as well as the sound of Cassie sinking into the water and bubbling a second before she comes to the surface. “Thanks for being good. I promise that there will be plenty of chances for off-color jokes with me around.” With both ladies giving as good as they can get. As far as cooking Cajun? “I will, I promise, as long as we can have that pasta dish of yours. And the Scottish one. What's your spice tolerance? Mama Marie could make gumbo that'd wake the dead, whereas I prefer enough heat to make me a little scared, but not so hot I can't finish the dish.”

She goes quiet for a second. “Listen….cookies take, what, ten or fifteen minutes? “. Assuming her bath is somewhat normal sized. “Go and get your water going. By the time the bath is ready, the cookies will be out and you can be slipping into the water. It's not like I'm going anywhere for a while.” Is Cassandra really suggesting Elaine take a bath? Guess so!

“Off-color jokes are fun, but I’ll behave for a while longer until I have you trapped and then you’ll have to listen to my jokes,” Elaine bites another chocolate chip off the spoon. She glances at her oven timer and then at the bathroom. “Well… alright, I don’t see why not.”

Quietly heading into the bathroom, there’s the sound of water running as the redhead pours a generous amount of a white rose scented bubble bath into the water. The water gets further away as she heads back into the kitchen. “Alright, you convinced me to take a bath. How scandalous, two ladies talking on the phone while in the tub.”

“You make it sound like a bad thing. You are talking to a girl who was raised on Looney Tunes and Three Stooges reruns. A little bit of lowbrow humor never hurt anyone and done well?” Cassandra stretches in the tub, water sloshing a little as she does. “I think I'd like being trapped with you.”

There's a bubbling sound Elaine doesn't hear when she agrees to the bath, her skin going red from the blushing and the heat of the water. She takes a moment to top off her wine and re-heat her bath water, settling in just as Elaine makes it back from starting her bath. “Not so scandalous. If we were in the same bath, yes, probably. If we could see each other, possibly. Over the phone?” Cassandra laughs. “It's just like if we were sitting in bed. It's just a comfortable place to talk - we just happen to both be naked and soaking in bubbles.”

“Well, maybe it is a bad thing. Being trapped with me is a pretty terrifying thing. I’ve scared off plenty before. Not by choice, either. I’m apparently just a terribly unappealing person to get stuck around.” Elaine laughs a little bit, eating more cookie dough as she waits for the tub to fill and for her cookies to be done. She puts the call on speaker again so she can be ready to remove the cookie sheet.

“I don’t know, it’s pretty scandalous if you ask me. More so in those circumstances you mentioned, but we’re still both talking naked.”

As far as Elaine being unappealing goes? “I guess I'll just have to take your word for it sometime or just have it happen and find out for myself.” She listens as the call is switched to speaker, turning over to rest her head on the cloth on the side of the tub. Makeshift pillow for the win. The comment about nudity causes her to pause for a second.

“Well…”. There's sloshing as Cassie sits up, leaning closer to the phone. “I won't tell if you won't. If you're uncomfortable with it, you don't have to, either. I don't want to push you into anything, because that's not what I would want to do to someone who's promised cookies, cooking, and friendship.” She goes quiet. “I liked holding hands with you at add-a-ball. It was comfortable.”

“We’ll see if I scare you off. Might take a few months but it seems to be a trend.” Elaine comments before she giggles. “Oh, I’m not worried about it, it’s just a story I’m not going to be telling anyone.” The oven beeps and she slips her hands into mitts to pull it out. Once she’s set the cookies out to cool, she discards the mitts, snatches the phone and heads into the bathroom to turn the water off.

“I liked holding hands with you too. It was the first real simple, uncomplicated thing I’ve done with someone in a long time. It was refreshing. Exciting.”

This would be one of those stories that, if it ever gets told, would be told after years. ‘Do you remember when we….’ before trailing off into laughter. “Well, we’ll see. I don't go into friendships thinking they’ll end within a few months.” Cassandra says softly. “I wish I was there. I love the smell of baking cookies.”

“I'm not that…complicated.” Cassandra says. “I'm boring. I enjoy talking, reading, spending time with friends. I don't mind doing things, but I like staying at home too. With a friend is that much better.” She sighs softly. “I'm just nervous I'm committing some giant faux pas every time I say something. Too much analysis, wanting to do things perfect. Thank you for putting up with someone with no experience.”

“Maybe I’m just used to everything good in my life having an expiration date. I used to be a more positive person, it comes out sometimes… like with you. It’s just I’m getting used to normal again. I got so used to putting on a face, keeping a professional distance… so you’re good for me. At least I’ll open up again.”

Elaine sets the phone down, running and grabbing her glass (plus a refill) before hurrying back. “Simple and uncomplicated isn’t a bad thing, Cassie. You named off all things I enjoy doing, and things I enjoy more with friends. You can say whatever you want with me and I promise I will always tell you if it’s too much, without judgment. You don’t need to be perfect, you just need to try. You aren’t going to fuck up, Cassie. And honestly someone put up with me when I had no experience and he taught me a lot.”

Cassie is quiet for a time, just listening, putting her words into order. And finally, when she speaks, it’s quiet. Thoughtful. “Maybe there will be an expiration date. Maybe there won’t. There’s no way to tell until it happens and I can’t promise anything. I see the past all the time - what’s happened, but the future’s as unknown as the next page of a book to me. I don’t know it until I’m there..” Cassandra takes another sip of her wine, the silence stretching for a few moments more, listening to the bath fill on the other end, barely audible above the background sounds of Elaine’s apartment. “And that’s the thing about being friends. It’s not like family, where you’re bound by blood by default. Being friends is the choice to hang out with someone you’re not related to at all, warts and all, and take the good with the bad. And who knows? It may move to something more than that. I’m open to that. I’m in a place in my life where I can be.” She goes quiet again, thoughtful. “I’m getting you to open up a little now already, aren’t I?” Cassie giggles. “How many phone baths have you taken in the last few years?”

“I promise that I’ll not be afraid with you. I’ll ask questions. I won’t assume to know answers that I don’t. I won’t pretend to be something I’m not. I’m exactly what’s advertised on the packet.” She pauses for a second. “I’m a good thing in your life?”

Flatterer. Elaine’s got Cassandra blushing now, in a good way. ‘

“Ahem…I…um….” she clears her throat. “This is…romantic. Just a little, isn’t it?”

“I guess there’s no way of knowing where life is going to take us. Unless you time travel, of course.” Elaine snorts, and the way she says that almost sounds like she believes that’s entirely possible. She sounds like, for a moment, that she’s going to continue that statement, but instead she moves on. “You’ve got a good attitude Cassie. And being open to what life presents you is an important thing. I try to be, life just likes to present me with little surprises. And I think this is the first phone bath I’ve taken ever.”

The faucet is turned off, the speaker turned on and there’s a moment of near silence broken by the sound of clothes before it’s followed by the sound of Elaine stepping into the bath. “It’s romantic simply by the nature of it. We’re both in vulnerable positions and are chatting with each other. It’s intimate. It’s really kind of… nice. Thanks for talking me into it.”

“I’m still young.” the brunette says softly. “It’s my job to be optimistic. My dad called me an idealist - guided by what’s right instead of other more practical considerations, and I can’t argue with that. There are countless firsts out there for me - us - to experience. Some things you’ve already done and I haven’t, while I’m sure I could tell you stories about my growing up that you couldn’t believe I experienced. We both are a collection of experiences and those shape what we are and…” She pauses. ‘I really look forward to experiencing them with you.”

She goes quiet at the sound of Elaine undressing, blushing a little bit. Oh god, she’s really doing it…..and then the splash as she sinks into the tub. Connected by the most tenuous of ways - a cellular connection - the pair soak in their respective baths. Apart, but together, separated by only a few miles.

“I wish I could say I got this idea from a book or something like that. I didn’t. I just wanted to be comfortable and vulnerable and, I guess, a little intimate.” She wonders, offhandedly, if Elaine’s bathtub is big enough for two.

“By the time I was your age I had already lost my fiancee and I’d experienced so much that people would scarcely believe was true. Not that I’m old, it’s just… it’s nice to see someone who has experienced life differently from me. You didn’t go through the same heartache and loss and loneliness that I did. At least, not in the same way, as I don’t mean to discount your hardships,” Elaine shifts, getting comfortable in the bath before sipping from her glass of wine.

“We’re different in good ways and you being young is kind of… it puts things into perspective. Makes me try my hardest. I don’t want to mess it up. So many firsts of mine were… well, either a long time coming or pretty terrible.” She laughs, the acoustics of the room making it echo a bit. “But you’re right, it’s all of those things. There’s something nice about taking a bath and hearing someone on the other end, though. Baths are lonely, solitary things ordinarily. Reserved for a good book and silence. But this? I don’t know. I feel like you could ask me anything and I’d tell you the honest truth.”

That sounds like a bit of a challenge but it’s not one Cassandra is up for taking right now. This is just too nice, this closeness, to try and ruin it with prying questions about things that Elaine may not want to answer. “You’re only a few years older than me, but so many things have fallen into place to put us talking to each other right now. We’ve both had dark times. We’ve both had struggles that I’m sure we’d both rather have not faced.” Cassandra shifts, sipping from her glass of wine, the condensation collecting on the side, dripping on her pale skin.

“I think…it’s why we’re getting along so well. Your curves, my edges. We fit together. I feel like I could tell you anything right now, too, and I probably would. The daring part of me is wishing you were here so we could have a proper face-to-face chat but….” The bath sloshes. “I think my bath may be a little snug for that to happen.” She giggles. “Besides, bathing together is obviously a second date activity at least, not a pre-first date. A little intimate but…I don’t think I’d mind.”

“Bathing together is certainly at least a second date activity,” Elaine says with a chuckle, resting her head back on the edge of the tub and breathing in the steam. “Not that I haven’t done worse on a pre-first date. I sort of fell into someone’s bed once,” she laughs shifting in the tub as she tells the story, water sloshing about. “I mean, I was barely 18 and he just saved my life and I didn’t have anywhere else to go and it was literally freezing outside so it just sort of happened. He took me on a date later, I think it was homemade pizza from scratch. Or was that when he asked me out? Something like that. But that was all before we’d even gone on a date.”

“Legitimately, anything could be a date activity with me. Considering my dating experience could be counted on one hand with five fingers left over. Laundry? Date. Taxes? Strange date, but date. Taking a train somewhere? Definitely a date.” Cassie doesn’t give any more examples, but she’s fairly sure Elaine gets the point. “I’m afraid that you’re going to be a /lot/ of firsts with me if we start seeing each other, Elaine. It’ll be like going back to kindergarten with the little kid as you show her the ropes.” She means of dating, right?

“I’ve heard excitement can make people do things they may not think they could do. I haven’t fallen into anyone’s bed just yet, either, but I haven’t had my life saved and been made homemade pizza at the same time so….” There’s a slosh as she shrugs. “It could happen.”

“You’re so inexperienced that I’m almost afraid to make any moves,” Elaine laughs. “You’re pure and unharmed and haven’t had the chance to just have your heart utterly broken and I sure as hell don’t want to do that. It does honestly make me hesitate for a moment. But then again there’s something refreshing about holding your hand and showing you the ropes. Protecting you in a way. If that makes any sense. I also like the idea of a laundry date.”

She laughs again at the mention of excitement. “It was an exciting and very rushed time. He made me pizza and I fell in love with his best friend by accident. It was an exciting time.”

“You were me a few years ago. Eighteen, you said? Give or take? So two years difference and a boatload of experiences….” Cassandra giggles faintly, taking a sip of her wine. “It’s fine. I’m….curious. I guess. Never thought I’d be in this position, yet here I am. Taking life as it comes.” She smiles. “Just take it slow. Hand holding is nice. Hugging is nice. Kissing is….new, outside of my parents and Mama Marie, and even then that was on the cheek.”

“I guess what I’m saying? If you’re willing to put in the time with me, I’d be willing to put in the time with you. Worse comes to worse, I learn a lot more about myself and we have a great time for a few months until the expiration date hits.” What’s left unsaid, what’s left implied, is that if it doesn’t….interesting things could happen between the pair.

“It’s true, I was you, barely eighteen and experiencing life for the first time. I mean, that really started at fourteen, but I was eighteen when things sort of came together as a whole. Things actually started looking up relationship-wise and life-wise. Two years and a boatload of experiences is right.” Elaine takes a moment to take a good swallow of wine. “Slow I can do. Slow is nice. Uncomplicated. My life is… weird. It’s very strange and I don’t want to overwhelm you all at once.”

Another good swallow of wine. “I’m willing to put time into you, Cassie. I like the idea of going on dates. I haven’t dated in years and the thought of it is exciting. Makes me want to surprise you with places to go, things to do, little things that mean something. Like laundry. Laundry means you trust someone to touch your dirty and clean underthings.” She laughs at the end of that, honestly sounding contented.

“My experiences started around the same time and ended about two months afterwards. Growing up I was kind of the nerdy kid, always in books at the back of the room. When I started high school, it was all supposed to be different but it was more of the same.” Cassandra chuckles. “Only took being exposed as evolved, a war, and a reconstruction plus a move to New York to move to step 2 in the whole dating game. I honestly feel like….hang on.”

There’s some splashing and, after a moment, a text message comes in to Elaine’s phone, complete with broken teen ‘cool’ speak.

OMG, I think U R hot. Do you like me? (check ONE) [ ]y [ ]n This is followed by a picture of her in the bath - basically head and shoulders, the rest surrounded by bubbles, Minou peering into the camera over her shoulder, a wineglass near her left hand on the edge of the tub.

“Now that we’ve got /that/ out of the way…” Cassandra giggles faintly. “I…” she blows out a soft breath. “I can’t believe I’m dating someone before going out on a first date.” You can almost see the air quotes as she says ‘dating.’

“I am saving that picture, I hope you know, and I am going to bring that up later when you’re least expecting it. We’ll be having a nice dinner and I’ll just slide my phone across the table and show you.” Elaine laughs, taking a moment or two to watch the picture. “That’s freaking adorable. And refreshing. It’s the kind of refreshing you get from something new.”

There’s a moment of silence as Elaine thinks. “You could say you’re ‘seeing someone’. That’s how I’d phrase it myself. Means it might be more than just dates. Means you do laundry. Means you do taxes. You ride trains. Things most people wouldn’t consider a date. It means you sit in a bathtub sending completely innocent pictures to each other.” She takes a long swallow of her wine before leaning back. “I can’t promise I don’t have a lot of baggage, Cassie. I have people in my life who know how to shake things up.”

Cassandra lets out a playful huff. “And I’d be amazed you still have that old picture of me, and I’m sure you’d have a lot more to look at besides this one of me in the bath with a cat peering over my shoulder. But that’s fine. Teasing means you care.” The picture is exactly what it says - Cassie, sans makeup, hair piled on her head, leaning back in the tub with bubbles covering her to her shoulders. It’s cute - like something a girl who likes someone would send and fits because she is and she does. It’s a brave new world.

“Seeing someone….” She bobs her head slightly. “That…sounds good, actually. Ambiguous enough for people to wonder but not so precise as to pin me down just yet. Friends see each other. Dating…like real official dating….that may take a little time, if we go that route. As will um…..fallingintobed.” The last part comes out quickly and at a whispered mumble. She’s definitely blushing.

Elaine takes a few moments to stare at the picture again, smiling. That and the accompanying text message completely make it. She sets her phone back down carefully on the edge of the tub, leaning back and shifting so the water splashes around her. She pokes at the bubbles, just thinking. “Well, I’m certain I’ll have lots of pictures in my phone. I’m a fan of taking cute pictures. I can see taking more than a few of you and keeping them.”

Another push at the bubbles with a fingertip. “That’s why I like seeing someone. Indicates interest but not like full on commitment yet. It fills that ambiguous area.” She chuckles, looking at the phone as if she could look through it. “Falling into bed, huh? Someone’s thinking about it.”

The only response to that question? Soft bubbling as Cassie ducks her face beneath the water, blushing, coming to the surface after a moment with a quiet inhale of breath. “Well. You were the one who mentioned it.” She says after a few moments, trying to finish her wine. “So…yes…I am kind of thinking about it.”

“As nice as falling into bed is, it’s a dangerous road to walk down. I sort of ended up living with the guy ever since we first met and while it was a fun relationship I ultimately dumped him for his best friend who basically let me down pretty hard.” Elaine sips her wine. “So I can’t say it’s a fun path to follow, you’ve got to know what you’re getting into. If you and I were to, hypothetically, fall into bed, I think you’d be in for a hell of a lot more than you bargained for.”

“While it is an option….it's not the first one I'd go with. Falling into bed is a pretty big step, and one I really haven't felt comfortable taking just yet.” Lack of opportunity or just simply not finding the right person. There are a thousand reasons why it hasn't happened, but it seems that with Elaine, the option could be on the table.

“Time for the comment from ignorance. Relationships seem to make things complicated.” And they do. Very much so. “Since we’re just seeing each other, I'll have a chance to feel out all of those nuances before taking the plunge. Or not. It just depends on how charming You can be - which you are certainly being now.”

Elaine seems to breathe a sigh of relief. “Someone smart enough not to plunge right off the bat. I might be charming but I should come with a warning label: ‘Emotional baggage ahead!’” She takes another sip from her glass, leaning her head back against the tub’s edge afterwards. “Not to scare you off or anything. I just have bucketloads of history with two or three people that tends to crop up more than I would like. And then there are things I just have to see that you’re emotionally and mentally ready to hear—some of them are unbelievable. I did say I’d be honest with you, though.”

“I see plenty of terrible things myself.” Cassandra says softly, turning over in the bath, her voice a little muffled. “I get to show people terrible things. It’s why I keep good memories around, to where I can replay them to help forget. To help push away the dark things I see.” Cassandra sighs, and there’s a soft thud when she *bonks* her head against the back of the tub. “Your past made you, Elaine. I may be coming from a place of ignorance, but I know, probably better than most, that the smoothest surface can often hide some pretty jagged rocks. While I’m a little concerned, it’s probably the right thing to /be/ concerned, instead of going into it thinking everything’s going to be sunshine and roses. Listen…” She splashes quietly, the cloth rubbing over her chest. “If it comes up, it comes up. We’ll deal with it then.”

“Ah, yes, I imagine you do experience a lot of terrible things, I hadn’t thought of that,” Elaine’s quiet for a moment, long enough that the call might have dropped before she continues. “I’m a smooth surface with some jagged rocks, and I don’t blame you for being a little concerned, but I’ll always be 100% honest with you, okay? I’ll promise you that right now. That’s the least I can do to ever calm your worries. So if you ever have any pressing questions, I’ll do my best to answer them, even if they’re hard ones.”

There’s a splash as Elaine shifts positions and a clink as she moves her wine glass. “But I’m not all storm clouds and rain, I’m rainbows too. I promise I’m a fun person.” She laughs. “I feel like I’m protesting after all that ‘I’m a fun person, really! Don’t walk away!’”

“Wait, come back. Really! I’m not just doom and gloom!” Cassandra playfully says on the other end of the line, a particularly loud pop echoing in the bathroom before she giggles, sinking down again. “Duly noted, Elaine. I did not get into anything uninformed. You did not lie to me and tell me you were the perfect princess. Your crown has a few dings in it. So does mine. But that makes us both unique.” She goes quiet. “Thank you for promising to be honest. The truth is all I ask - nothing more.”

After a moment or two, the sound of Cassandra sitting up can be heard, water sluicing off her skin. “You know…” Cassandra says. “For the longest time, I thought I was normal. And then I met you. Then I realized we’re both pretty wierd. And I like that about us.”

“I like being a pretty princess. A lot of women shy away from the image but I like the dresses and the luxury and some status. I mean, I guess that’s my life now. I live in a palace I get to dress up and entertain people… and I’m self-saving. So I’m a very neat, complete package.” Elaine just listens to the other end for a long minute before speaking again, sounding slightly distracted.

“Yeah, we’re pretty weird. That’s a good thing, though. The best people I’ve met are weird. All the people I care about are weird. And I plan to continue to be weird and not changing that about me. Normal is overrated. I prefer my weird princess life and nerdy habits.”

“Embrace the nerdiness.” Cassandra says this emphatically. “I’ll have to get you a crown. Gowns. All that stuff. Make you look like a princess.” She giggles softly, and there’s the thought that she’s smiling at the phone, soaking in the bath quietly. “I wish you were here.” she says softly. “I want to spend more time with you. This is nice, but I wish you were here or I was there, with you and cookies.”

“Well, I don’t know about a crown, but a have a gown. There’s a charity function at work that’s coming up and it’s sort of a gala thing. I’m really excited about it, and at the very least I have coworkers I can talk to if none of my friends are there,” Elaine shuts her eyes, thinking of the dress. “I’ll take pictures in it. That way you can enjoy too.”

She sits up a bit. “Yeah, it would be nice to be around each other. I like the phone but… staring at your picture just isn’t the same as seeing you. We’ll have to see each other soon. Tonight’s a bit of a far-fetched idea, as much as it would be nice, it’s a little impractical.”

“Well, yeah. We are already pretty much ready for bed, a bit of drying of bodies and nightgowns aside.” There’s a sound of water splashing, Cassandra standing in the bath, the drain starting to churn as the now lukewarm water starts to head down the pipes. “And me getting into Yamagato territory, this late, would be a little…difficult.” not impossible but certainly difficult. “Add in accessing the Wave, finding your exact apartment….it’d probably take me a few hours at least, if it were even possible.” There’s a sound of the towel being rubbed on bare skin as she dries herself, the rustle of a towel hung over the shower rod and bare feet padding softly on the hardwood floor as she moves into the apartment proper, her phone in her hand, still listening to the redhead as she moves through her apartment, bare. “You’ll have to send me one of you sometime. I have the one from add-a-ball, which is nice.”

“Oh, it’s not all that complicated if I gave you directions and called ahead to security to let you in. I’m very safe, at least,” Elaine laughs. “Nice walls and security systems and whatnot.” She pulls the plug on the drain herself, watching the water and the remainder of the bubbles get sucked down into it. “But it would take you a while to get here and get in, instructions aside, and by the time you were here it would be late.”

She crawls out of the tub, toweling off before picking the phone up and heading into the bedroom to put on something for bed. “It is a shame, though, cookies should have cooled just enough by now that they’re still a little gooey and warm on the inside, perfect with milk.” There’s the sound of clothes as Elaine puts something on before heading back out to the kitchen to check on the cooling cookies.

“Another time, then.” There’s the sound of drawers opening as Cassie gets out her night clothes, Minou protesting that she’s being moved off the bed as the auburn-haired woman starts to dress.

Another picture does show up after a moment, though. A text. Cassie in her nightclothes, looking comfortable. Soft cotton sleep pants and a baggy shirt that hides her form, taken in a mirror, her hair still up from the bath.

“How are the cookies looking?” She asks after she’s climbed into bed, the mattress squeaking a little as she settles down beneath the covers.

“I’m sure there’ll be another time. And next time I’ll even share the cookie dough.” Elaine laughs, then pauses to look at the text. Grinning, she holds her arm out to take a picture, a selfie with her in her pajamas and cookies on the kitchen island behind her. She’s making a goofy smile and waving with her free hand.

She hits send, then sets the phone down as she uses a spatula to loosen each cookie off the sheet, one by one. “Cookies look perfect. This oven is a dream. Did you know I have two ovens? A regular oven and a ‘steam oven’. It works like a mix of a microwave and an oven. I’ve never heard of them before moving here.

“Two ovens? Look at Miss High-and-Mighty with two ovens. I bet you even have a microwave /and/ a coffee maker.” Yes, lots of teasing from Cassandra there, the woman laughing a little as she cuddles down in the blankets of her bed, Minou curling up in the crook of her neck and shoulder like a furry little coal, purring audible over the phone until Cassandra shifts a little. She’s quiet and takes a second to look at the picture, finding herself smiling at the picture, even though it’s not Elaine, but is, only a few miles away in Yamagato Park. “that looks comfortable. Is it satin? I can’t tell from the picture but it looks super comfy and warm.”

“I’m sure we could come up with all sorts of things to put into that oven. It sounds interesting, using steam. What have you tried doing with it? I mean, does it heat stuff up or does it cook stuff like a microwave? Or both? I’m…kind of lost on the uses of a steam oven, actually.”

“… I do have a microwave. And a coffee maker. And my steam oven works with an app so I can monitor it from my phone. Crazy, right?” Elaine takes the teasing and rolls with it, placing the cookies in a ziplock bag for freshness as she cleans up the rest of the kitchen. “It’s not satin, but it kind of is? The material’s really similar, nice and soft.” She looks down at her nightdress before back at the oven as she cleans.

“Well, it cooks like an oven so I could bake or cook all kinds of things in it. I was thinking of trying some meat or something, like some baked chicken. I bet it’d be moist. But it also reheats like a microwave… you can put your leftovers in there and reheat them. Even freshen up a loaf of bread that’s been out a few days. It’s got all kinds of uses. They use them in restaurants mostly.”

“Wow.” Cassandra really sounds impressed. “They must really put out all the stops to keep you guys at Yamagato happy.” She curls beneath the blankets a little, one hand coming up to scratch her kitten beneath her throat, a rumble of purrs rising as she does so.

She takes a breath turning on her side in the bed, listening to Elaine putter around the kitchen, putting things away. “When…when can we meet again, Elaine? It’s Wednesday right now, Thursday tomorrow. My evenings are pretty much open…I mean, I’m /sure/ I can shuffle appointments to make time for you…doing something. Planning outfits for the ball, maybe?” She giggles.

“They do, it’s a little scary but I guess they really know how to buy your loyalty. They’ve sure done a good job of buying mine.” Elaine sets the cookies aside and works to clean off the cookie sheet. “Well, I’m certain we can think up something to do. Have a proper dinner, maybe? Some cookies after. We could go out or stay in. I’m free. I’m thinking maybe tomorrow or Friday, do you have a preference?” The cookie sheet is set aside to dry and Elaine moves to eat the last of the cookie dough out of the bowl before beginning to wash that.

Cassandra, in the bed, listens to the sounds of dishwashing, and smiles a little to herself. “Listening to you reminds me of listening to my mom and dad, downstairs, doing dishes while I was going to bed.” She sighs softly. “Little memory from out of nowhere.”

To the important stuff. “Well…if we went out on Friday, that would mean we don’t have to end the evening too early, since I don’t think I have anything on Saturday that SESA would require me to come in for. Working on the investigation does require some down time, and Saturday is usually when I turn my brain off because I stayed up late Friday night. I don’t think it’d be so bad staying up late with you.”

“Is it bad to say that I want you to surprise me? I mean…even laundry as a date, when we’re seeing each other, is enough.”

“I like that little memory. Kind of makes me wonder if I have any of my parents that I just won’t realize until they come up.” Elaine smiles at the phone slightly, setting the bowl and spoon out where they can dry before wiping her hands off. “So Friday then, and I guess I’ll plan something to surprise you. I can’t promise it’ll be exciting, but it’ll be something.” She laughs. “Won’t be laundry though.”

“Not taxes either.” Cassandra warns playfully, a hearty laugh echoing from the phone, Minou stirring at the interruption. “All I ask is that it's something you enjoy doing, either by yourself or with others. In or out. Just warn me if I need to bring anything, like a book, a swimsuit, or a cookbook or two.”

Oh god, what if Cassandra needs a swimsuit? Where will she get one in the beginning of spring with no stores? She might have an older one….no, just…think positive. Swimming may not happen.

“Taxes will be if we get serious,” Elaine insists with a grin. “I mean, who does taxes for fun anyway? Maybe someone out there, but certainly not I.” She taps her chin lightly as she scoops up the phone, heading into the bedroom where Inger is sleeping on her bed. She scoots the cat just a little so she can settle herself and Inger meows slightly in protest, but she doesn’t move.

“Something I enjoy doing… you’re making this a challenge now. There’s lots of things I enjoy doing, most of them are boring or really not something that would make a great date. I mean, I doubt you’d want to sit in a park in the cold reading or people watching. I also like taking showers.” She leaves that one alone. “I’ll come up with something for us to do. May take some thinking.”

The brunette listens as Elaine moves through the apartment, silent through the clicking of switches as lights go off, the rustle of blankets as they're pulled back, and the protest of Inger as she's moved. “In the cold….perhaps not unless cocoa or a blanket is involved. But when it's nicer? A cup of coffee, a book, and a park to watch people as they go about their lives, experiencing Sonder.”

Cassandra also leaves the shower comment alone other than remarking “I like showers, too.”

“Seriously, don't overthink it. The first option is probably the best one, and I'm really not picky. Simple, remember?” Elaine can almost hear her smile at that. “If you need a suggestion, though….brushing hair. You do me, I do you.”

“Brushing hair,” Elaine murmurs, sounding mystified. “That’s such a brilliant idea. It’s so relaxing and so… I don’t know how to describe it. You know what I mean. It’s just good. That’s an idea I’ll have to lock away and use later. Have to use it at just the right time.” She laughs. “I’m probably thinking too hard, but this is your first date. It should be something special and something you’ll remember in a positive light for the rest of your life.”

“I like comfort.” Cassandra explains, shifting a little beneath the blankets. “Another memory of Mama Marie combing my hair. I'd sit in front of her on the floor on a pillow in front of the good chair, and she’d just brush and brush….” she trails off, a small yawn escaping. Then, in French. “«Nemo is calling me to dreamland, I think, my friend. We have been talking for nearly two hours and the sun will not wait for us to get our beauty sleep. Not that you need that much to begin with.»” Another yawn. “«I trust you, Elaine. Whatever you decide, I will enjoy. Even if it's volunteering in the market, cleaning your windows, or just sitting in your apartment and watching a movie. Sweet Dreams, my friend. I hope to hear from you tomorrow.»”

“«More from Mama Marie. She sounds like the kind of woman you’re blessed to grow up with.»” Elaine smiles softly, listening to the voice on the other end of the line. “«You’re such a flatterer.»” She says with a laugh. “«But I will do my best to try and make it interesting… or if not that, at least fun. And I’ll try not to overthink it. Goodnight, Cassie. You’ll hear from me tomorrow, I promise.»”

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