Another First Birthday, Again


elaine_icon.gif robyn_icon.gif

Scene Title Another First Birthday, Again
Synopsis Seven years later, Elaine has her first birthday with since Robyn came back into her life.
Date April 3, 2018

Cat's Cradle

The room is large, a mid sized stage with tattered curtains hanging around it and two spotlights that face it. There were a number of mismatched theatre seats arranged in a half circle facing the stage, a long dark purple rug running through the middle of them. A chandelier that is sometimes on and only lights up halfway hangs in the center of the room. Even when music is not being performed people congregate around the stage, drinking or smoking. A 420 Friendly sign hangs near a mirror hung up behind the bar.

The bar area has a few mismatched chairs and boxes for chairs. A lone armchair is placed near the bar, the owner usually occupies it when she is in. The bar is a bunch of wood and steel welded together and repurposed as a bar, there is a black glass that is fitted around the middle of often smear from people’s knees and boot heels. A really old television set with a VHS player sits behind the bar propped up on a stand. The bar is as well stocked as you can get nowadays, there’s even an exotic alcohol or two rumored to be under the bar. A modest grill stands in the corner right next to the bar, nothing fancy just greasy food.

In the corner of the room near the stage and it’s green room door is another door that is usually locked.

This was probably a bad idea. Elaine knew it as she dialed but it was her birthday, dammit, she could do what she wanted. And she wanted to celebrate something like old times. She wanted to just be able to talk with Robyn. It was a bad idea, but she knew because it was her birthday that Robyn would actually consider it. She only hoped her message was convincing enough. It was simple, saying how it was her birthday and that Robyn should come for drinks that it was a very low-key birthday.

Seated at the very end of the bar, in an actual bar chair, Elaine already has a drink going—a Long Island Iced Tea. She also has a small basket of fried mozzarella sticks which she nibbles on slowly as she eyes the door and her phone both.

This was probably a bad idea. Robyn knew it when she answered the phone and saw who was calling but it was her birthday, and she couldn't bring herself to say no because of that. She wanted to be able to just talk with Elaine. It was a bad idea, and yet, shere she is, walking up to Cat's Cradle. She could've just left the voicemail be, after all. But at the same time, she couldn't. A contradiction, as usual.

The door to the bar opens slowly, hands tight on her purse as she scans the room. She's been to Cat's Cradle many times in the past - Eve is one of her only friends, after all. But when she walks up to the bar, pulling back a seat, and sits down next to Elaine. She offers a smile, but no words. At least this time, she's not dressed in a suit, rather a somewhat airy, black, frilly afair, a knee length skirt, and her usual band pulled over her eye. She's even made sure to sit so that Elaine isn't in her blind spot.

Elaine offers a warm smile and a tiny wave of greeting, doing her best not to look overly excited not to be drinking alone. She pushes the basket of breaded cheese over to Robyn. "Cheese stick?" She asks by way of greeting. As for Elaine's outfit, she's dressed up, but it looks like what she wore to work. Sensible heels, a grey pencil skirt and a pale yellow ruffled blouse. Somewhere between business casual and business. She takes a cheese stick of her own, taking a bite and chewing it entirely before speaking up.

"So, it's good to see you again. I feel like last time was a little awkward. At least, that's how I felt afterwards. I feel like I turned what could have been a nice moment into a bit of a mess. How do you feel about it?" She pauses. "I should let you order a drink first."

There's no answer from Robyn. Instead she raises a finger out and waves it, summoning the bartender over. A glance over to Elaine's drink, she takes in a deep breath before placing one of her own - a whiskey sour, rather than a mixed drink or a beer. It's only once that has been delivered back to her that she takes it, raising it to her lips, a long sip following.

"It was what it was," is her simple answer. "What's past is past." Robyn gives a small shrug. "And no thank you." To the cheese stick. "Couldn't get you anything. Too short notice." And, to be honest, it didn't feel appropriate. "Drinks are on me."

She offers a hesitant smile, another long sip of her drink. "Let's try and be better tonight," she offers, closing her eye. "Friends." She still is uncertain about this, but. It's Elaine's birthday. She has to try for at least tonight.

This was going to be awkward, wasn't it? Maybe the drinks would help. Elaine takes a long swallow of her Long Island and tosses the remainder of her cheese stick in her mouth. She takes the opportunity while she chews to size up Robyn, to determine how she was other than just uncomfortable to be there. Once that was taken care of, she sat comfortably, looking over at Robyn.

"Well, it's good to see you anyways, you look good. I'm glad you came. And thank you for the thought, you really don't have to pay for drinks if you don't want to." Still, it's a birthday present and Elaine genuinely looks grateful for it. It's the only birthday present she's gotten so far, but Robyn's probably the only one that remembers her birthday anyway. Adel might, but she's busy most of the time and Elaine doesn't get much chance to see her. Sable doesn't quite remember most of the time, Cassie simply doesn't know. Which leaves Robyn with the challenge of holding the birthday together.

"How's work?"

Elaine winces. The fact that she and Adel could be liabilities to Robyn is a sore spot. Elaine hates being a problem for anyone much less this situation. "Well, I hope your ridealong went well and that you didn't get hurt and that everything turned out alright." It was pretty obvious that Robyn was uninjured, but it's the sentiment that matters, right?

"Me? Work is good. They keep me busy. Translating is an interesting job, I'm never doing the same thing day to day. It's a very people-heavy job so it's good I enjoy people. I deal with a lot of foreign tourists. Learning a lot though. Not as glamorous as your job, but I'm needed where I'm at."

If she is injured, at least she's hiding it very well. "I bet the days go fast," actually sounds like an honest bit of jealousy. "Doing something you love like that. Ability or not." The hand not holding her glass, placed on the counter, flexes subconsciously,, fingers tightening for a moment. "I'm glad it's fun."

A sip, a bit shorter than the previous one. "I enjoy my work. Immensely." Well, she did before Wolfhound. Before she had to go more out of her way to be more distant than she already was to some of the few people she wouldn't have wanted to be. Until she lost her ability to be able to act in engagements. Until she felt like she needed to be looking over her shoulder occasionally.

But so it goes. This wasn't the place for job anxiety. It'll get better with time.

"Do anything nice today?"

"The days do go pretty fast, but I'm never certain when I show up where the day will take me. One day I'm working on flyers for the Yamagato Fellowship building, another I'm translating phone conversations between Japanese staff and English speaking clients and vice versa, another I'm guiding a tour for some foreign tourists through the Fellowship building. Some days go by far too quickly. It's lonely."

But Elaine isn't about to dwell on that. Instead she eats a cheese stick. Mmm. But Robyn's asking her a question. "What? No, not really. Some of my coworkers signed a card. I put it up on my fridge. I had some leftover sushi for lunch… really, to be honest, this is the most birthday celebration I've had. I know it's not riveting and there's not much of a guest list, but honestly if I didn't call you I'd be sitting here alone, drinking and eating cheese sticks until they kicked me out."

"So Friday." For Robyn, at least. Minus the cheese sticks. She rarely partook of pub food. Occasionally a burger, sometimes a basket of fries. But typically she ate before she went out. It was just easier - and cheaper - that way. "Should always do something nice on your birthday." Advice that, as usual, she isn't particularly good at taking herself - she would miss her own birthday if Dirk could go a year without reminding her.

Another long sip, and her whiskey sour is gone, a motion given to the bartender that she needs another. She stares ahead, occasionally taking a longer breath the the rest. When a new drink is dropped down, she takes another quick sip.

A half look over, an apologetic smile. Robyn's told Elaine how she's not as talkative as she used to be, and this isn't any different. It doesn't help that she's hard pressed to think of anything to talk about that doesn't feel too person, and after yesterday…

Elaine laughs. The friday thing was supposed to be a little bit of a joke, right? She shoves the last cheese stick into her mouth, munching on it before she notices Robyn's moving to another drink. She waves the bartender down for another herself as she hurriedly finishes off her current drink. She needs that alcohol at this rate.

"I know I should do something nice for my birthday but I was just thinking this year where everyone was and it just seemed like people had just scattered to the four winds. I mean, the last few years I tried and they were just depressing and full of 'sorry I can't make it'. So I was going to sit by myself and I thought 'hey, maybe Robyn would like to not drink by herself either'."

Robyn's expression thins a bit at that. "I'm used to it," she says a bit more quietly, watching as Elaine orders a second drink. Or at least, what she assumes is her second. And she doesn't always drink by herself. Sometimes Nicole is there too. "Well… Bar'll stay open as long as we're here," she says, shrugging. "Perk of knowing the owner." Maybe she'll see if Eve has anything for her to pick up before she leaves. Maybe. She wasn't sure she wanted her around for this. "And I'll be up late tonight."

She looks down into her drink for a moment, before deciding to take another long sip. Teeth dig at her lip, gnawing at it as she thinks of what to say next. "Yeah," she remarks in a low voice. "Couldn't leave you alone on your birthday."

The second drink is dug into with a hearty sip and Elaine turns her attention to Robyn. "Well, I'm sure we won't be up all night. I mean we could, but I'm certain at some point I'll scare you off." She hadn't meant it in anything but a playful jest, but she realizes a half-second after she says it that it could be taken a little more seriously. She clears her throat.

"So I'm practicing my cooking. Been hunting for the best ingredients I can find in the Safe Zone and trying out recipes. I'm getting to be pretty good, if you ask me."

That comment finally gets Robyn to look at her, expression flat as her fingers tighten around the glass. A contesting comment, something of indignance comes to mind, but as Elaine moves on quickly, she stifles it. She looks down at the drink, and then slides it to the side. Maybe more at the moment isn't the best idea. She doesn't want to relive last night, and she hadn't even been drinking then. "You were always a good cook," is Robyn's assessment. It's followed by a shallow shrug. "I cook now," she adds, noting a stark change over the intervening years - Robyn Quinn never used to cook, and when she did it was practically poison.

"Thank you." Elaine seems genuinely pleased by the compliment, just as she is genuinely surprised that Robyn cooks. "I imagine there was time to learn to cook for yourself over the years. Is anything your specialty or do you just enjoy cooking a wide variety of dishes?" She's trying not to sound like she's pushing it, like there's some kind of elephant in the room, but there feels like there is.

"Don't think about it too hard," is an honest answer at least. "I just do it, when it needs to be done." Cooking isn't something she does for fun, it's something she does because she has to. She isn't trying to be dismissive, she just… cooks with whatever she and Dirk have, really. But really 'I just do it, when it needs to be done' sums up most of Robyn's life these days.

There will never not be an elephant in the room, though. She's doing her best to move around it. To not let it occupy her like last night. To try this friends thing she's not really convinced of. She follows that thought with reaching over again for her drink. She'll finish the glass at least.

Elaine takes a long sip of her Long Island. She's out of cheese sticks to hide behind, so she folds her hands neatly in her lap. "You should try cooking for fun sometime. Get a recipe, find the ingredients, cook it up, and enjoy what you've worked so hard on. There's a joy to it. It's one good thing I have in my life, I think. I enjoy cooking. It might be a good hobby for you too."

And really, Elaine does think Robyn needs a hobby. "Can I be honest with you, Robyn?" There's a pause for a second or two before she continues. Rhetorical question. "You seem like… pardon my phrasing, but it's the best I can do… you seem like the color's drained from your life. You seem distant and cold even though you don't have to be with me. You seem as if you don't enjoy a lot of things."

And with that, the second glass finished, and Robyn orders another one. A whiskey Alexander this time, changing it up from the whiskey sours at least a little bit. "Very poor choice of words," she notes in a dry tone. Surely there was a better way Elaine could have phrased that, even though Robyn can't think of anything else herself.

She is quiet until her next drink arrives in front of her, picking up the tumbler. "I don't expect you to understand," she remarks quietly, running her thumb along the rim of the glass. "Been over this. Twice now." She looks back at her again, direct, eye to eye. "I enjoy what I have, and it's all I need. Anything else?" She waves a hand dismissively. "Just rehashing what I've told you."

She turns back to the bar, a glance on her drink. "Can we not? I just…" She lets out a sigh. "I don't know about a lot of things right now. But I came out here for a reason. Never promised I'd be a good drinking partner, but I'm trying."

"I guess I'm just trying to understand what makes you tick. What makes you so different from my Robyn Quinn. I'm trying to figure out how badly the war's taken its toll on you." Elaine's drinking her Long Island like it's water. She needs the liquid courage now… or probably doesn't need it as the case may be now.

"Maybe you didn't promise to be a good drinking partner, but you did come out here. You could have bailed on me. 'Everyone deserves to have someone on their birthday', you might say. But you don't strike me as someone who would do something they didn't want to do. You came because you wanted to. And that means something, Robyn."

Another one of the greatest hits, a cover with a twist, as Robyn is reminded of conversations with yet another one of her ex-girlfriends. She purses her lips, taking a gulp of the sweet drink in her hand. "Your Robyn Quinn." A scoff follows it, and she shakes her head. "You want to look at it that way?" She closes her eyes, fingers drumming on the counter.

"She died on Pollepel Island," is what she settles on, morbid as it sounds. "Desperate to save one friend and scarred for life by someone she thought was another, scared and with nothing to light her way." She swallows. "I went by a different name during the war. I almost kept it after, if it hadn't been for the trials." It's hard to pretend to be someone else when you put yourself so directly in the spotlight. A hand to her forehead, her voice distant when she speaks up again. "Tried to go back. Music, friends, familiarity. Nothing about it felt right anymore. SESA was the only thing that did. Barely touched an instrument in the last five years." Until last night, but… she's not about to bring that up.

She suddenly picks up her glass, downing the rest of it. "I almost didn't come tonight," she admits. "Didn't feel right after yesterday." Glass set down, hands spread out in front of her. "But here we are, again." Her hands settle flat on the table, and she looks over at Elaine. "Why do you care so much, but act like you don't want anyone else to?" That's her question.

Aye, there's the rub! Elaine winces slightly as she listens to Robyn's recount of who she was and how the war changed her. "I always like to think of people as an evolution… you're still like you were, just changed, added on, a different creature with the same roots. You don't sound that way, you sound like you want to be rid of Quinn altogether." She presses her lips together in a thin line. "I think we all changed and finding a new life was new and different after the war."

"I'm glad you came, Robyn, even if you aren't enjoying yourself," Elaine says, taking a long swallow of her alcoholic beverage. "I care so much because I care, that's the long and short of it, but if I act like I don't want anyone else to that's because I'm afraid of being hurt, okay?"

"You think I don't miss it." Not question, but rather a statement. She's had a lot of similar conversations lately - apparently a lot of people are concerned about who she's become. People who weren't around to see her get there, for one reason or another. "You're wrong." She shakes her head. "No. I miss it. Now more than ever. But the passion is gone, Elaine. For who - and what - I used to be." Her passion, now, is mostly her work.

"Sorry if I seem more… bland. Dry. Colourless." A pointed choice of words. "But… my priorities are different now." She sucks in a deep breath. A look over to Elaine, apologetic. She's apologised several times already. This is another apology for her part in Elaine's fear of being hurt.

She pushes the empty glass forward, leaves open ended for the bartender to refill. "Life is a series of bad decision and mistakes. Mine is, at least." As the bartender eyes her, and then fills her glass back up, she pulls it back forward. "You were the best one I ever made, and I still fucked that up."

The booze is probably starting to get to her a bit, because normally she would immediately regret those words and make an excuse to leave. Instead, this time she just stares down at the Alexander in front of her. "Uncomfortable, but… enjoying myself," she finally allows. "Because you're here."

Elaine's face is hard to read. It seems like it's a mix of fear and hope at the same time but struggling to keep as passive of a face as possible. "I didn't think you missed it, no." She nods slowly at the mention of the passion being dead. "Parts of us die all the time. I suppose just I worry about you. I want you to be happy, Robyn. I want you to live and thrive. That's all I've ever wanted from you. I saw you thriving once, a long time ago, so I know what it looks like. I'm searching for it now."

She finishes her Long Island and waves for another, even though she knows the alcohol is starting to hit her and she may be a little more loose-lipped than intended. "Thank you, Robyn, for coming. I really wanted you to. You were the only person I invited, you know. I didn't ask anyone else."

"I live. I do well." That's about as much of a argument as she has there. "Current position aside, I enjoy SESA. It's fulfilling. Always wanted to help. Now I can, and do. Officially this time. Not… whatever the Ferry was." She knows she only gets that privilege because "they won". But she can't say she wouldn't have sought out similar work if they hadn't. There's many ways to help, after all, and Robyn Quinn has done several of them.

She lifts one hand off the table, face up. "One passion dies…" She closes her hand into a fist, lowering it back to the table where it flattens out. "Another rises. Like a Phoenix." And she rises that hand back up, symbolically. "Keep being told to figure out who I want to be now. Still don't know. For now I'll be who I need to be, at the moment."

"Didn't… didn't start having doubts until I saw you again." The drinks swirls a bit in her grip. "You make me miss it more. Make me miss you more." This time she realises what she's said, and her lips thin a bit. There's something she wants to say, but won't. Instead, she shakes her head again. "Doubts isn't the right word."

“I think jobs can be fulfilling. Finding the right one takes some practice, but it sounds like you got one that works for you. I feel the same about mine. I enjoy going to work, it makes the world seem less lonely when I go home at night.” Had Elaine meant to say that? Maybe, maybe not, but she did say it.

Elaine taps her chin. “Figuring out who you are isn’t easy. And I don’t think you have to right away, I think you can spend your life figuring it out. Hell, I don’t know who I am and I feel like I’ve got an okay life.” Okay could be better, but she’ll settle for okay.

But now she’s curious. “Doubts… it isn’t the right word? What word do you mean? Do you mean I made you think about your life? You make me question my life every time you show up.”

Robyn turns to look at Elaine, eye slightly bigger at her last statement. She had responses ready, but it looks like that throws her completely off. Quickly, she looks back to her drink, staring vacantly down at it. After a moment, she raises her to her lips, a long drink of the cocoa infused whiskey following.

It settles back on the bar counter with a quiet song, and Robyn lets out a long sigh. "I was happy." It's a quiet comment. "Everytime I see you Elaine, I realise that I never shook…" Another sigh, this one a bit more shuddered out. "I thought I'd let go of the past. I'd moved on." Her eye flicks back to- well, she guesses Elaine's still a redhead. "And then I see you. And everything I know comes undone."

A shift of her seat towards Elaine. "I see you again, and I want to go back to the Verb. I see you again, and I remember everything I left behind, and I feel hollow. I see you again, and I start writing again. I see you again…" None of this is said accusingly, or with any sense of malice. It's all listed very matter of factly. But it's at that point that Robyn stops, looking to her glass and pushing it away again.

"I'm sorry. This is your birthday. I shouldn't… be like this." Mustering up a smile, she glances to Elaine. "Got to be something better to talk about."

“Nonono…” Elaine protests. “I don’t want to talk about something different. I feel like I’m talking to you now, not just the cold exterior you put on to keep everyone from getting too close. It’s pretty to look at, but cold.” Another sip from her drink. “So am I making things okay for you or am I making it worse? Usually when someone comes undone it’s a bad thing.”

The redhead seems genuinely concerned as she looks over at Robyn, as if she could see her splitting at the seams. “Wait, you said you wrote again? That’s… that’s big, Robyn. That’s big. I thought you didn’t want music to be a part of your life anymore.”

"I don't…" Robyn's lips thin as she looks at Elaine. She never thought she came off as so aloof until recently. Maybe she was just naturally cold now. It wasn't an effort on her part to appear that way. She wrinkles her nose, and she scoffs. "No, I never said that." She sits up a bit straighter on her stool. "Music is something to be cherished. Nothing will ever change that. Certainly not that I don't write or play anymore." A dismissive wave of her hand, and she turns back to her drink. "It's not anything." But the song existed, on paper in her spare room, still sitting on the floor where she'd woken up this afternoon.

"Elaine…" The is said with a bit of weary tone. "It's not… that simple." Better, worse. Good, bad. She picks up her glass, finishing off the Alexander, before sliding the glass a bit in the bartender's direction. She may act French, but she's still half-Irish, and she still drinks like an Irishwoman… though it's starting to really hit her at this point, as her practiced French accent begins to slip back to her natural Irish accent, and her deliberate pattern of speech begins to loosen to something more casual.

She's silent after that, waiting for another drink to be delivered to her, a pledge made to herself that this would be the last one. She probably won't stick to it, and finally, eye half lidded, she decides to stop beating around the bush. "I see you," she starts, circling back around to earlier in the conversation, "an'… I realise that I still love you."

It's said quietly, like she's uncertain about saying it at all. "And it's hard. That feeling, that regret. It makes everything worse. But seeing you makes it okay, too." A deep breath, a forced smile. "Contradictions," she remarks, a callback to last night.

“I think it’s big that you wrote something. I think you cut off a lot of yourself in an effort to avoid pain when you shed who you were. If you’re writing again there’s some little glimmer of passion left, something that could grow into a fire. You don’t have to be that Robyn Quinn again but it’s someone, something that defines you.” Elaine seems very passionate about this.

“I know things are complicated, I never said things were simple but I—”

She stops. Full stops. Mid-sentence, mid-movement, everything just freezes as the words slowly sink in. A million questions flood her head and her alcohol-riddled senses can’t take them all in. She starts to speak but can’t. She tries again. Nothing. She fumbles for her drink and manages to take a sip from the straw before successfully finding her vocal chords again.

“You’re… serious? When you gave me back the ring I thought you cut off all feelings for me. I thought you were able to stop caring. You spent years where you could have forgotten. You stayed away. If you had cared, why didn’t you try and contact me? Why did you wait? Would you have ever contacted me if I hadn’t found you in that store?”

It's only once Elaine starts reacting that Robyn realises exactly what she's just said, her mouth moving faster than her brain the more she drinks. A hand reaches up to clasp over hers, and the pace of her breathing quickens noticeably. Her other hand grips into counter, and she becomes very still.

She had a protest - it was a song. No rising fire. No guarantee it would happen again. All of that is lost, her hand moving slowly from her mouth and to her glass. Wordlessly she picks it up, and drinks.

"Haven't listened to me," she says as the glass settles back on to the counter. "At all." An exasperated sigh escapes her lips. "You had time. I didn't. You were always my regret, up until I couldn't spare the thought for it, when I had to fight." She closes her eye, hand to forehead as she leans forward. "After, I was… lost. Couldn't find anyone. Found SESA instead." She exhales sharply. "Didn't even know where you, Sable, anyone else was. I had no idea you were in the safe zone." She can't promise she would've reached out, but it would've been more likely, at least. She reached out to Gillian and Richard, after all.

She swallows. "I don't… have an excuse. But if you think I sent the ring back because I didn't love you anymore… you should know better. I didn't know where I was going when I did that. What would happen. Who would be safe. I made a call with the time I had." She looks down into her lap. "I didn't even know if I'd still be alive now."

“No, I have listened!” Elaine protests, slamming her hand down on the bar. At least it wasn’t too loud. “You’re telling me what I was and that’s not how it was. You don’t get to tell me how much time I needed! I didn’t have time at all! You should know, you can’t just stop loving someone because it ends. I waited for you. I looked for you. I thought that if I hadn’t done anything wrong, which I was sure I hadn’t, that you’d find your way back. Because, like I said, people don’t stop loving overnight. I thought you’d come find me. Even during the war. When you didn’t, I tried looking for you. Only way I didn’t know you were dead was when I was looking at names for the trials. I was able to see that you were alive, at least, if nothing else.”

Elaine rubs her face with both hands, clearly alarmed that she’s saying as much as she is. “Seeing you gives me hope. I feel like I know my place in the world and that you’re in it. And at the same time, everything in me is fighting to run.”

The slam of Elaine's hand on the bar startles Robyn, bolting upright in her seat. She stares at Elaine for a moment, caught off guard by the outburst of emotion. She looks sheepishly at Elaine, before turning back to her drink she turns. To her credit, she doesn't run like she wants to, she doesn't just get up and leave. "I'm sorry I assumed. I was just… not understanding what you said before, I guess."

But it's clear she's uncomfortable and a little drunk. "When mum died, everythin' else fell away," she says quietly. "I didn't know what t' do. And afterwards, I thought I was fine with my few friends. Didn't know where anyone else was. So I just… focused on getting by. Fell in love with my work." She rolls her shoulder. "I…"

She has no real excuse. She abandoned everything else, including Elaine. There's no other way to cut it, and for a time she'd been fine with it. Until the past had come screaming back into the present. She finishes her drink again, and then reaches into her purse to pull out her debit card. She's done, at least. "I'll always regret it. Can't change it now." Echoing what she told Elaine when they first saw each other again.

"And I'm struggling with not running away right now," she adds after a moment, before falling silent.

“Don’t you dare run away again, Robyn Quinn. You owe me that much.” Elaine says, sternly. She’d put her foot down if it wasn’t on the rung of a bar chair and too far from the ground to stomp. She takes another drink, idly considers another before she looks back to Robyn.

“You run away and you break my trust for the last time. I’m trusting a lot being your friend, I’m putting a lot out there. You don’t know how hard this is. It’s really hard, Robyn, really hard. I’m afraid of getting my hopes up that you’ll stay when you could just leave at any second. You could walk out of this bar and never return to my life for all I know. So I’m trusting you, it’s a big risk for me. It might seem like a little thing but it’s big.”

She lets out a slow, deeply held breath. “So please don’t abandon this conversation, Robyn, I want reasons to trust you again.”

Still silent, Robyn takes a short breath as she staresahead across the bar. "I won't ghost on you again," is the least of what she can offer. "If I'm leaving - if we're parting ways - you'll know." Her breathing has slowed back down a bit. She seems noticably calmer now, if still uncomfortable.

"But I can't promise you'll get what you want. I doubt either of us will." They're very different people. Who knows how compatible they are as friends now. "Traded music for antiques and paintings. Books. Quiet." As an example. "Don't know I can be the friend you want," she says quietly. "Not… coldness, distance." A small sigh. "Just honesty."

Having a promise of no ghosting means a lot to Elaine. Especially after everything. It holds weight. “Thank you for that.” But it doesn’t mean they won’t part ways, just that there’d be a gunshot first.

“I don’t know. I think you’re thinking too negatively. We can still find things in common. Books, quiet, that’s not something I’m opposed to or unfamiliar with. My life isn’t loud now, it’s work and calm. My apartment is dull without the paintings I’ve put in it, we aren’t so different now, just changed, just in different places. We can learn to be friends again.”

They're treading back to their conversation from last night, which left Robyn a bit out of sorts. She gnaws at her lip, looking down to her empty glass. She could rehash that argument, about why she's not sure they can be friends, that there barely ever were just friends - this time with the added clarification of why. That she's admitted to still loving Elaine, and that this conversation is still happening, is baffling to her.

"Reconnecting has never worked out for me," she admits, dipping her head a bit. Not with former lovers, at least. "I guess we'll see." Which, negative or not, is the truth. "Talk to Eve for paintings," she notes. "She might have one of you." Ominous. But possibly true! Come to think of it, she hasn't seen Eve here tonight, but she'd at least answered her text earlier. It made her curious what she had gotten herself into this time.

“So you’d rather say ‘let’s see’ and shrug and let the cards fall without having a hand in them?” Elaine’s brow furrows as she looks about at imaginary cards before looking back to Robyn. “For someone still in love with me you sure don’t seem to care if I’m in your life or not.” Her tone is cold, but honest, and she finishes the last of her drink with a decisive swallow. The glass is shoved towards the bartender, daring another.

Elaine rubs her face yet again. “I’m trying, really hard, to piece together something, Robyn. I waited six or so years just to be your friend again after you broke my heart. Because you being in my life is an important thing to me, regardless of your status. I care.” She won’t elaborate on how little or how much, but she’s putting it out there. “So if you think I’m letting this just fall into obscurity, you’re wrong. Are you willing to put yourself on the line?”

"Now who's being negative?" Robyn opines, tapping her card on the counter once before she decides, no, maybe she will have a last whiskey sour, rather than another sweet Alexander. "I never said that. That I don't care if you're in my life." She turns back to face Elaine and takes a deep breath.

Rising up from her stool inherently closes the distance between them dramatically. It's a rare moment where Robyn Quinn is actually taller than Elaine Darrow, staring down at her with a sharp look in her eye. "If we are going to try being friends, with where we are now and all our misgivings…" She suddenly reaches up, moving to put her hands on Elaine's shoulders. "I have to keep some distance." Which she doesn't have right now, but she's also not moving to make it less.

"Or this time I'll be the one who gets hurt." There's a bit of a sad look in her eye. "And maybe I deserve that. Maybe it gets better with time. Maybe it doesn't. We'll see. Doesn't mean I don't care. I just- I don't know how to do this." It wouldn't be hard, actually. If it were anyone besides Elaine.

Elaine isn’t sure what to think when Robyn is suddenly closer, and taller, than her. She stops in her reach for her drink, instead looking back at Robyn with a blank expression. She’s trying to look stoic. Or mostly, she’s trying to hold it together with Robyn being right there. She takes in a deep breath.

“Why? Are you afraid of how you’ll feel if we let things fall back into the realm of friendship? If anything, I think you’ve got the least to risk—I can promise to tell you where I stand, if you ask. I’d tell you anything if you’d only ask it, Robyn Quinn. But you don’t deserve to be hurt. And it’s okay if you don’t know what you’re doing, I don’t know what I’m doing either. I just… you were my world, Robyn, there’s always going to be a place for you in some form.”

Now she reaches for her drink and takes a long swallow from the straw.

Every few words Elaine speaks, Robyn's expression dips a little bit, until finally she release the other woman's shoulders and moves back to her stool, settling into it with eye locked on her whiskey sour. She takes it, and tips the glass back for a long gulp. She lets out another long sigh, running a hand down her face. She's not going to repeat herself again. Instead, she just going to stay quiet.

Except after a moment, she realises that's not really an option. That both of them will just get more anxious the longer she keeps to herself. She closes her eye and rests her forehead against the palm of her hand. "Elaine, there was never really friends for me." Once upon a time, they'd both discussed how Robyn had more or less been infatuated with Elaine from first real meeting. "It's not back. It's finding that for the first time."

“What do you mean there was never really friends?” Elaine sips her drink as her already befuddled mind seeks to make sense of what was being said. “You’re saying that we never were friends? Or that you can’t be friends now?” She’s a little confused as to where she was going with that. So she settles on the first part.

“We were friends before, though, when we met, when we were together, it wasn’t just a relationship it was a friendship. Friends do all the stuff we did minus… well, the obvious relationshipy stuff. We were friends! You were my best friend! I knew that even if something were to happen to us in a relationship sense, you’d still have my back regardless. That’s why you’re my emergency contact, Robyn. Cause we were friends.”

Taking a deep breath, Robyn gives a small shake of her head, still pressed against her hand. "Different perspective," she remarks very matter-of-factly. "Different expectations, motivations. Not that I ever thought we'd end up together at first, but…" That doesn't mean she didn't want it, or that it didn't motivate a lot of her actions back then, in their early days. The held breath turns into a sound frustration as she pick up her drink and downs the entire rest of it in a series of large gulps, the glass deftly flipped upside down in her palm and almost slammed back down to the counter, eliciting a glower from the bartender.

"Talkin' in circles. Again," she opines, her accent starting to slip a bit more as she gets drunker. "We were great t'gether, an' maybe for me it's hard t' come back from." Lips thin. "I'll try, 'cause as frustrating as it is, it makes me happy t' have you around. Freaks me out too," she admits.

“Waitwaitwait,” Elaine says, taking a very long sip of her drink before she turns to look at Robyn again. “Were you hoping we’d get back together? I mean, was that a possibility in your head?” This is a burning question of Elaine’s and she leans in closer to watch Robyn’s reaction. She needs to know what she thinks.

“You’re right, we were great together and we can find that again, we don’t have to be distant, we can make it work.” Make what work, is the question. She’s still talking about the friendship, isn’t she?

For a moment, Robyn Quinn stares at Elaine in utter disbelief. On the one hand, why else would she admit that she still loves Elaine? Not that she's trying to manipulate the other woman, but if there wasn't a glimmer of hope in her heart there would be no point in sharing it. On the other, it's insane to expect that with their history, and she certainly hadn't. Robyn groans.

As usual, she keeps that to herself.

"Jesus, Elaine." She reaches her unoccupied hand back into her bag, debit card again pulled back out. This time, she really is done. "Hopin' and expectin', two different things, an' you've made it clear that's not going t' happen," is her assessment. "So no. But that still…"

Another frustrated sound rumbles in the back of her throat.

“That’s only because I don’t trust you yet,” Elaine protests. “You can’t expect me to just have you come in and sweep me off my feet and be okay with it. Until you promised earlier that I’d know when you were leaving, I didn’t know if this would be the last time I’d see you.” She pushes the straw aside, swallowing down the drink from the glass itself.

She looks frustrated herself, downing the rest of her glass before pushing herself unsteadily to her feet. She looks about to say something in a raised tone, but it comes out softer. “Just don’t leave me again. Please.”

The look Robyn gives Elaine screams "Seriously?" without her having to say it. "If I thought that," she she replies dryly, "would a' done it by now, yeah?" She rolls her eyes, but when she finishes and an uneven gaze settles back on Elaine, she looks down and away, sarcasm and deflection giving away to guilt and regret.

"Not going t' be easy f'r either a' us," she replies. "Nothin' worth doin' is easy, but this?" A huff. "I won't. No reason t'. No wars, no crisis, no impendin' collapse… not unless we decide we want it that way." To part ways.

But, at least this is a resolution not to get up and walk away from it all without at least talking about it, whatever shape that may take.

This conversation isn’t going well and Elaine is somewhat aware of it, aware enough that it starts to bog her down. “I’m sorry, Robyn, I probably said some stupid things, I’m not trying to frustrate you or make you mad or sad or angry… wait, I already said angry… you know what I mean. Anyway, I only mean good things. I only want really good things for you, okay?”

“This is really important to me so I’m going to try really hard as long as you try really hard too and maybe I’ll trust you more and then maybe…” She doesn’t finish that part. Maybe she’s just sober enough to shut her mouth.

Whereas Robyn is drunk enough that some of her hangups - and her persona - are slipping away, aided by the presence of something - or someone - so familiar. Also enough that she doesn't really parse the trail off as anything more than that, at least not at the moment. Also still sober enough that she'll remember this in the morning, at least.

"If it's important t' you…" Robyn looks back up at Elaine, squaring her gaze with the other woman's as best as she can, while the bartender swoops by to pick up her card. "Then it's important t' me." Apparently, this is a lot easier when she's been drinking. "An' I know y're not, it's just…" Lips quirks side to side as she looks at Elaine. "Don't know how t' be around you, t' be honest. I guess if I'm as frustratin' as you make it seem, I kinda feel the same way."

She does a motion with her hand as she tries to think of her next sentence. "Hard t' read," she remarks with a dull, mostly failed snap. The bartender comes back and drops her card back t her. "Is what it is."

“I’ll tell you anything you want to know, you don’t gotta read it,” Elaine says, as if it were a no brainer. It’s a dangerous path to tread down, but she does so, and boldly. “I don’t wanna be frustrating, I want you to know exactly what you’re in for. Straightforward.” She scratches her head. “I know you’re a little frustrating but I don’t think you mean to be. I think you’re lost just like I am. We’re both two lost souls… ‘both’ ‘two’… I just repeated myself.” At least she’s catching some of her own mistakes.

“Right.” Elaine says, getting back to business. “We’re agreed that it’s important to both of us and that we should be straightforward and honest.” Was that second part actually agreed upon?

Robyn clicks her tongue, shaking a finger at Elaine. "Straightfoward an' honest," she repeats, still stifling a laugh from the both/two comment. If it wasn't actually agreed upon, it seems like it's been entered into canon now. For her part, Robyn thinks this is a terrible idea, and no ulterior motive could compel her to do something so potentially disastrous - not at this point in her life.

That just mean that the sentiment is genuine. Maybe even more terrifying in that thought. "Well, if I have any questions, Ms. Darrow, I'll be sure t' ask." The choice of name is more an attempt at a joke, as though she were a teacher or something. She doesn't even think about the possibility that it could fall flat. Instead, she rolls her shoulders and takes a deep breath. "How're you gettin' home after this?" There's her first question.

The joke doesn’t fall flat, and Elaine laughs, loudly, at the title being used. “Ms. Quinn doesn’t sound right so I’m just gonna call you Madame Robyn.” She bestows the title with a flourish. “We’re in agreement. So we each gotta hold up our end of the bargain.” She stretches a bit, shaking her leg out as it had gone a bit numb up on the bar chair. “Uhm, I was thinking of calling for a car. I’ll be safe, you don’t have to worry ‘bout me none.”

"Don't have t' worry 'bout me none," Robyn repeats, grinning. "That's Sable-speak," she remarks, shaking that finger at Elaine again. "An' it's Agent Quinn, thank you very much." She leans back a bit in her seat, looking over towards one of the side doors. "Madame is nice, though. I like Madame." Fingers tap on the counter and she nods.

"Not sayin' y' gotta leave, just makin' sure," she offers back, in case Elaine was wondering. "I'm gonna close th' bar, an' crash with the owner for the night." There's perks to being Eve's friend, and Robyn had been sure to text her the possibility when she found out where Elaine wanted to meet tonight for drinks. "So I'm here t' rest a' th' night." You know, like she'd said earlier

“We can all feel safe, Agent Quinn is on the case,” Elaine snickers, but it sounds genuine. Maybe she does feel safer with Robyn around. “And Sable rubs off on you sometimes, good habits, bad habits, talking habits. You can be sure something’ll stick with you. But clever you, staying at the bar. I guess I chose the right bar, huh?” She takes a few steps towards the door. “You have a good rest of your night then, and call me.” She’s leaving that ball in Robyn’s court.

Robyn's eyes glaze over a bit as she regards Elaine. "Not smart," she admits. "Prepared." It's not… uncommon when Robyn has rough nights for her to end up at Cat's Cradle, only to drink too much and crash with Eve until the following afternoon. Worries Dirk sick. "Ah, it is what it is." She raises the glass up towards Elaine as she steps towards the door. "Be safe! Agent Quinn's off duty f'r the rest a' th' night, lass!"

A cough, and she looks down at her glass, and then back up the bartender. "She's on mine too, yeah? An' another whiskey sour." The ball is in her court. Time will tell when she decides to racquet it back to her former fiance.

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