It's Nice to be Normal


elisabeth_icon.gif ygraine_icon.gif

Scene Title It's Nice to be Normal
Synopsis …well, by some definitions at least. Two friends provide mutual support in trying times.
Date March 10 2011

Le Rivage — Ygraine's apartment

A comparatively large and well-maintained apartment occupying one corner of its floor. Windows dominate two sides of the living room, illuminating it brightly throughout most days. A kitchenette occupies one corner of the lounge, while several doors offer exits.

Luxurious but slightly worn brown leather furniture is arranged around the television in the main room, with a small dining table and high-backed chairs diagonally opposite the kitchenette. Wall-mounted shelves and stand-alone cases take up a lot of space along the walls, almost wholly filled with books. A collection of full-size geographic, political, and historical atlases have been given pride of place - though academic texts on history, international relations, conflict theory and linguistics are also prominent, alongside a fair collection of DVDs. The one sizable decoration is a blown-up photograph of mist-shrouded Edinburgh castle at sunset, a black silhouette rising out of white and luminous gold.

Of the exits, one (with an extra lock, deadbolt, and a sturdy chain) leads out of the apartment; another to the bathroom; and the next to a small room that has been converted into a rather cramped home gym. A computer desk, filing cabinet, and a single bed take up most of the space in the next room, while the last is the master bedroom - dominated by a double bed (upon which sits a two foot tall cuddly penguin) and more bookshelves (these holding a jumble of magazines, art books, Neil Gaiman graphic novels, and a collection of science fiction and historical novels), with a clearly well-traveled laptop resting on the bed-side cabinet. Here, high-quality art-prints of dragons decorate the walls, while a small cabinet holds a collection of cycling trophies.

Scattered throughout are a variety of ornately-framed photographs of a striking, curvaceous brunette, the shots ranging in style from the candid to the artfully glamorous.

When the door swings open, the householder peering around it looks somewhat amused - and rather more alert than she has been for some of her early-morning visitors of late. Standing aside as she pulls the door wide, she chuckles at Liz. "I'm starting to wonder if I should begin running a coffee bar here, or something."

Indeed, there's the distinct aroma of her real coffee in the air, though the woman herself is clad in loose exercise gear - her sleeveless top exposing some of the bandages around the arm that is still firmly immbolised in its sling.

Elisabeth actually laughs. And she looks far, far less strained than she has the last two times. "I could start bringing my own, if you like," she teases. "You're sort of like the only normal I get in a day. Is that bad?"

"Jesus", laughs Ygraine, "you must be desperate! Come in, come in. Make yourself comfortable."

Lingering by the door, she restores the customary security, letting Liz move in to the living area - though Ygraine herself heads for the kitchenette, flashing a smile across the counter at her guest. "So… what can I do for you? Coffee to start with?"

"Coffee's good," Elisabeth smiles. "But… I actually came to say thank you. Your advice helped. I hit him…. but I think we're past it all now. It took the most awkward night ever, but hey…" She moves to sit at the counter instead of in the living room.

Ygraine visibly winces at news of the violence - however minor it actually was - and shoots Elisabeth a somewhat worried look. But she does busy herself for a few moments with pouring out two mugs of coffee, transferring one to rest in front of Liz - and following it a few moments later with milk, sugar, and a teaspoon. Then, perching atop a stool of her own, she cradles her own mug in her free hand.

"Well….." Elisabeth blows out a breath and doctors the coffee with a thoughtful look. "Uhm… Honestly? I think it scares the hell out of him that she and I might be pretty much okay with one another." She reaches up and rubs the back of her neck, abashed. "I realized while we were all having dinner that…. if it were me, if I had come to him and said 'I fucked up. I got pregnant by one of my other friends,' I would…. expect him to be hurt. To be pissed, even. But… I would also expect that he and I would still be okay. We both know we're not monogamous. It's always a possibility, you know?"

Ygraine blinks and giggles, shaking her head at Elisabeth. "I… well. I wish that the, umm, extra party involved in my life had been… so understanding. And open-minded. But… wow. I'm impressed. And it sounds as if you have a heck of a catch, there."

"It doesn't mean he's off the hook. She's apparently having friggin' triplets," Elisabeth retorts. "That was when I hit him. Right hook right to the jaw." She clears her throat and shrugs a little. "It was pretty much the straw that broke the camel's back."

Ygraine's eyes widen at that bit of news, before she laughs and helplessly shakes her head again. "Good grief. That's… wow. I think I can see why you might have hit him. That's… I have no idea how to respond to that."

"Yeah. Pretty much," Elisabeth sighs. "But…. " She snickers softly. "You know… ultimately? Maybe it's just fucking stupid of me, but … I know what he's like about kids. The fact that she's willing to have them and not abort them and appears — at least on the surface — to have zero intentions of making this a way to trap him or … make it a thing between her and me?" She looks at Ygraine with a bit of a wrinkled nose expression. "I can live with this. I don't have to be happy about it. But Christ…. the woman asked me to be godmother to these kids. Invited me to …. suggest names, even." She sort of looks…. flummoxed. "I guess I'd like to think I'd be that generous if the guy who knocked me up was clearly crazy about someone else and we were all pretty clearly on the same page about the monogamy thing?"

Ygraine continue to look quite thoroughly startled, herself. "Wow. That's…. Wow. And how does he feel about all this? It… sounds like you'd become a family of a sort - an extended one, but… Wow. I… have to say that I admire you."

Elisabeth watches Ygraine's face and murmurs, "Admire me? Why? Because I'm stupid enough to hope that it works?" She looks down and says softly, "I'm a bad bet for marriage, Ygraine. I've been through periods of time where Richard's the only man in my life and my bed. And it's fine. But… I like the freedom to be able to say yes if I feel like it. And I like that he has the freedom to say yes if he feels like it. It means there's no… angsting. No pressure. We still…. sort of fuss and argue about shit. We take a break and come back and it's over, though." She shrugs. "Maybe I don't love him enough?" She sounds uncertain.

At that last, Ygraine laughs, setting down her coffee before reaching over to attempt to take one of Elisabeth's hands. "For me, love is trust", she says quietly. "And which is more trusting - to trust that he will love you regardless of who else might, ah, come his way? Or to try to keep him all to yourself? Jealousy is quite normal. So is fear of… comparing poorly. Or him discovering someone new being a sign that he is bored with you. But there's an old adage - "if you love something, set it free. If it returns, it is yours. If it doesn't, it never was in the first place". Many people see love as possession. It's about ostentation and ownership, and…."

The Briton shakes her head. "I do things for those I love of my own volition. Any freedoms I lose are ones I choose to surrender. Any… power they gain is granted by me. It is not claimed, taken, enforced… it is an expression of my trust and my freedom to trust. For far too many people, a long-term relationship would involve the exact reverse. Of course… it's remarkable how many people who condemn any form of polyamory will snatch at the chance to sleep with someone else's lover while espousing monogamy for themselves. The double standard is… startling, at times."

Well…. it's interesting. Ygraine might be the first person who ever really gets the way Elisabeth lives her life. The blonde grins slightly. "Well…. I will admit that I felt guilty for hitting him in the face. But ultimately, I guess it went really well." She pauses and shrugs. "It's a wierd place to be. The world's falling apart around us, but that one thing is going well." She laughs suddenly. "And when the world around us is going well, I've noticed that we don't tend to do as well. Maybe because there's time to pick it all apart out of boredom or something."

Ygraine winces a little, but follows it with a laugh. "Yeah. I have to say that I can't actually see a way to recommend punching the people you love as a good course of action. But… hrmmmm." She frowns pensively, pursing her lips and cocking her head. "You might have a point there. Though… it could just be that… well. While you're running on adrenaline, and the pressure is on to perform… for many people, that's a grand way to avoid anything else being allowed to cause problems. Afterwards, however, you're off the adrenaline high. Things are meant to be 'normal'. Things are supposed to be easy. People ought to give you some slack and appreciate what you did…."

"Even athletes can find that in the off-season, or after a big competition, they're struggling to cope with things that previously came easily. It's not so much boredom as difficulty adjusting. You might have dreamt of having a quiet life and spending time with your loved ones - but in many ways, you're still hyped up for the next crisis and it simply feels wrong not to be in demand and under pressure. Arguably, it's like soldiers coming home from the front. They've had dreams about being able to enjoy it - but they just can't get their heads around it for a while."

There's a long pause, and Elisabeth toys with the coffee cup. "I'd say that pretty much describes my life for the past two years," she admits softly. "One crisis to the next… and then when we're not in crisis, I don't know what the hell to do with myself. It feels like the calm before the storm. I'm always… kind of on edge, waiting for the next horrible thing to happen that requires a cool head." She smiles a little. "The last time we had a lull was when I went all crazy woman on Richard and he went walkabout — and knocked up his lover." She smirks.

Another wince, though this one isn't followed by a laugh. Instead, Ygraine offers Liz a distinctly sympathetic look. "And when I came out of the Dome, I had an erstwhile friend tell me that I'd been living a lie and that my lover was secretly unhappy with me… and went so thoroughly to pieces that I apparently scared her into choosing the little bitch in question. In that case, I'd been trying to bottle things up a bit. Sit on them until I could cope with letting them out. I… hadn't told Robyn even half of what happened in the Dome. But… the idea's the same. I was coming out of a situation of… horrible tension. Wanted things to be easy. And… contributed to them being anything but. And while I had a minor nervous breakdown, I feel most sorry for Robyn - who must have been horrified by what was happening."

Elisabeth's soft sigh is definitely one of understanding. There's a bit of a grimace. "I'm sorry, Ygraine. I've been leaning so much on you and you're in your own emotional crises." She puts a hand on Ygraine's good arm. "Can I just tell you how very much I appreciate the ear you've loaned me? It's…. unexpected as hell. I don't really……" She pauses and shrugs. "I don't really talk to too many people, honestly. Too many secrets. And the women who are my closest friends are … pretty much just as deep in as I am. We don't talk a lot about relationships or anything because… well, hell, half the time they're boggled that I even have time for a lover. Much less several plus friends. Which… is part of the problem. I don't really get the chance to cultivate friendships outside the insanity. The things they worry about are just so foreign to me, we might as well be on different planets." Those secrets again.

"Had you come here right after it happened", Ygraine says dryly, lifting her arm just a touch to increase the contact with Elisabeth's hand, "I'd probably have hit on you, burst into tears and cried my eyes out on you, or tried to combine the two in a grand display of style and good taste. But now? I'm still royally fucked in the head. But having an opportunity to be useful? To try to help someone? That, I can take. And I do so gladly."

She snorts softly, then chuckles and shakes her head. "Frankly, having someone smart, competent, and kind put her trust in me - that's the best therapy I could have. I put… quite possibly excessive emphasis on trust. It's part of the reason I was so thoroughly screwed up by what was done to me by my former friend. But it also helps to mean that I'm truly touched by you wanting to trust me. And I'll gladly do whatever I can to deserve it. If that means offering an ear and sharing what insights I can into how people operate under stress? I'll be happy. You don't need to apologise for validating my existence."

Elisabeth laughs softly. "God… don't hit on me. I can't handle any more complications in my love life. But hey… I know a really cute girl you might like!" She has a wicked twinkle. "She's been trying to hook her roommate up with the cute guys I know… I can return the favor if you want." She hastens to add, "Just meeting a new friend."

"Well, if you ever want a bit of variety in your diet, let me know", Ygraine purrs seductively - though her expression is definitely more playfully teasing then lascivious. "But… I've already gone through the phase of having the 'cunning plan' of sleeping my way through every beautiful person in New York, to prove how happy and carefree I am. I'm now at the stage of hoping to heck that I don't grab anyone on the rebound. Or do something idiotic like try to make out with a straight friend because I'm missing Robyn more than usual at that particular minute of the day. But if she's nice? I'll certainly meet her."

Elisabeth laughs softly. "Remi's French. I'm pretty sure you tell her your situation and she'll be happy to take your mind off it …. in any number of capacities." She rolls her eyes. The French! What're you gonna do? "In any case, at the very least, she's…. got a normal life, mostly. Not… you know, all this underground stuff that sometimes those of us in the know wish we didn't know."

Ygraine blinkblinks, then laughs, cocking her head. "Remi Davignon, by any chance? Flirtatious, sickeningly rich ballerina from Paris? Yeah, we… ahhh. Met in Paris. Back in oh-six. I'd just finished a race, she'd finished a run of performances, the two parties merged. I woke up with a hangover in her apartment. We… lost touch after the Bomb, largely, but she popped up out of the blue. Took me out for a dinner to celebrate my birthday, the day before the Dome came up."

"OH!" Elisabeth laughs. "Small world, huh? Six degrees of separation my lily-white ass," she snorts.

A giggle, then Ygraine coughs, before managing another throaty purr. "I couldn't possibly comment on your lily-white derriere, my dear, but should you care to give me the chance to do so…." For some reason, she looks as if she suspects she might be in danger of being (gently) thumped.

"You like Star Wars?" Ygraine sounds happily incredulous, instantly stopping her playful post-blow cringing. "If I weren't already hitched, I think I might ask you to marry me! But… hee. Wow. I will happily take you out somewhere. Even if it's painfully platonic." A slight pause. "Though, admittedly, since I'm currently teetotal, one-armed, and presently dread being around most crowds, I'm not sure I can offer you the most entertaining of evenings. Unless you happen to fancy a night of hot chocolate and obscure films, or the like?"

Elisabeth laughs. "Rent Red on DVD and a pitcher of margaritas, and I'm all yours, lady." She waggles her brows. "I kill people, dear." Helen Mirren for the win!

"All mine?", Ygraine asks, trying to leer even as she laughs. "Well, I suppose that's actually quite credible, since you'd be drinking the whole pitcher yourself. But sure. You name it - I'll rent it. And I bought this sofa and that chair with curling up and watching films in mind. It's what they're for. So you'd be most welcome."

Elisabeth smirks, teasing, "I've heard girls know what girls like." There's a heartbeat's pause, and she actually blushes to the roots of her blonde hair. "Christ, I can't believe I just said that. On that note… I think I'm going to work now," she laughs.

Laughing as she also blushes, Ygraine shakes her head and offers Elisabeth a very fond smile. "Thank you", she says warmly, before rather vaguely waving her hand. "For… trusting me. And I will definitely hold you to a film-watching date. Don't feel you have to leave now on my account - but if you do need to head off to work, at least give me a day or two that might suit you, if you can, so I know when to rent Red for you."

There's a grin and Elisabeth says, "You know what I'd love more? A freakin' Harry Potter marathon. I can convince Richard to watch Red with me cuz it's Bruce Willis. But Harry Potter's kind of my secret vice."

That startles Ygraine, then she giggles and shakes her head. "Not Star Wars? But sure. If we're to tackle anywhere near the whole lot, we'd have to make a weekend of it. Or a literal all-nighter. But you'd be welcome to stay over. I do have a spare bed."
The blonde shrugs and grins. "Well, one at a time is fine, you know," she says drily. "Eventually we'll make a drinking game out of it." Moving to stand, Elisabeth offers a gentle hug and whispers into Ygraine's hair, "Thank you. Seriously." Then she shifts away and is quickly out of reach. "I'll drop a text with a couple of dates and you can see if they work for you." Seems like maybe she's a little embarassed so is going to vacate on the Brit.

Elisabeth's embarassment might not be reduced by the ease with which Ygraine leant into the contact, her gratitude for the affection still evident. She smiles fondly, rising to her feet to pad after Liz for the customary task of restoring the security once alone in the apartment. "I look forward to it", she says, voice gently warm. "And I should be free. It's not as if the teetotal chick with one arm is going out partying every night, so I'm likely to be available whenever you want me."

There's a smirk. "I ought to be teetotaling. It's Lent. Customary. But … been a long time since I observed those rituals. If I'm not drinking it's more for lack of time than anything else," Elisabeth observes mildly. "See you, Ygraine. Soon."

Inclining her head, Ygraine offers Elisabeth another smile - this one faintly impish. "Hermione and Harry shall be waiting for you", she assures her new friend. "Take care of yourself."

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