Time Turned Fragile


matthew2_icon.gif robyn6_icon.gif

Scene Title Time Turned Fragile
Synopsis One day, I'll fail to breathe and all you'll have are memories.
Date February 5th, 2021

It's been a quiet week in the Roux house. To the outside world, it seems like Robyn Roux has simply been busy with work the last week, her son busy with school. But of all people, Matthew Parkman, Jr. knows that isn't the case. The air in the house has felt different the last few days, stiffer. Robyn has clearly been preoccupied by something, and in the wake of such has grown notably distant.

She had come home Tuesday with several bags full of comic book trade paperbacks as presents for Matthew - Crisis on Infinite Earths, a set of Infinite Crisis omnibuses, a complete Into the Spider-Verse set, Marvel's What If…?, and Convergence - and given them to him with a smile on her face. In the days since, though, she's been quiet. Perfunctory almost, asking about days and making small talk over dinner, but not nearly as invested as she may normally be.

Even tonight, she had come home, asked Matthew how his day had been, and disappeared into her exercise room until dinner, at which point she had vanished into the kitchen to make tomato and basil flatbreads for the night with nary a word.

Silence had settled over the house, leaving Matthew to read his comics, play his video games, or worry - all things Robyn knows he is wont to do in moments like this. Any mounting tension goes unacknowledged, and the night continues just like the rest of the week.

Change can come suddenly, and it does.

Abruptly a cry of pain - Robyn's voice, distinctly - filters through the home from the kitchen, followed by a loud thump in the kitchen and the clatter of metal, all bookended with the sound of something shattering.

Roux Residence
NYC Safe Zone

February 5th
6:18 pm

It’s startling, the way the next few minutes go. Startling to Robyn, startling to Matthew.

Robyn knows something broke, instinctively she understands it. But in the time it took for her to cry out, to recognize that something had gone wrong, it feels like someone cut out about fifteen minutes from the movie.

“Mom?” Matthew’s voice, right up on Robyn, and the scene—not as she remembers is. Even Matthew doesn’t look like he knows how he got to where he is. There’s fear hidden behind wide, concerned eyes. Though as he looks around the room, Robyn feels it’s because he isn’t sure where he is.

Robyn blinks, trying to let the world catch up as she processes the sudden change around her. Even as Matthew speaks up, she looks down at her hand, confusion clear in her eyes. Just a moment ago, she had slipped and slashed a gash into her hand, before collapsing in a heap.

Yet, here she is, standing over the tomatoes again with her knife in hand, unbloodied and uncertain. "M-Matthew?" She almost jumps as she turns and finds him right there, still taking a half step back out of surprise. A hand reaches up, placed gingerly on his shoulder. It still tembles a bit, phantom pain of the now missing gash still lingering.

"Are- you okay?" There's concern in her voice, but it's as much for herself as it is for him. "When did you…?"

“I heard you yell.” He replies as innocently as he can. “I—came as fast as I could.” Stepping over to Robyn, Matthew looks around the kitchen, then up to her with wide, worried eyes. “Are you okay, mom?”

It’s clear even Matthew isn’t sure what just happened.

Mirroring his worry, Robyn swallows harshly. For a moment she stares past Matthew vacantly, trying to process this sudden smash cut to her existence. Fears, worries, existential dread all rise up in her, evident in her slow breathing and slow movements as she stares ahead. It's a slow effort to push it all back down.

She can't let herself be this freaked out in front of Matthew, she tells herself.

Taking a deep breath, Robyn turns back to the tomatoes on the counter. The knife back in her left hand, no longer resting clattered to the floor, next to the broken plate she'd dropped when she collapsed and started sobbing.

If that- even happened?

"I thought I'd cut my hand," she offers in a low voice, fingers flexing in and out. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to scare you, I just- I haven't been having a good week." And this isn't helping, but she doesn't share that. The last thing anyone needs to worry about is her grip on reality slipping. Again.

“Sorry,” Matthew says, as if it’s somehow his fault. For a moment he’s crestfallen, shoulders hunched forward and head bowed, but then he looks up to Robyn with renewed confidence. “Maybe you should take a vacation? You know, take some time off of work and—I dunno, do some music stuff?”

There’s this small, hopeful expression on Matthew’s face. He leans into his optimism, trying to find a way to fix the situation. “Weren’t you going to have Chase over for dinner to meet some people? Maybe that’d be nice? Invite aunt Delilah over,” so I can see Walter, “and you can all talk about the old times n’stuff.”

"Wisdom from the mouth of babes." The words are murmured as Robyn stares at the tomatoes. Closing her eyes, she shakes her head and turns back to face Matthew. "Oh, kiddo. You don't have to apologise when you've done nothing wrong."

The knife is set down more shakily than she intends to, exhaling softly. "Unfortunately, I can't take a vacation. Not yet." But she'll get to that in a moment. "Chase's been… elusive, and Colette and Tasha have been busy. That's still in the cards. But maybe we can have Delilah and Walter over for dinner tomorrow.

A small chuckle follows. "Maybe we'll play around in the studio for a bit, Delilah can sing too, you know." Teeth rake at her teeth, Robyn looking down at the floor. "Tell you what. I'll order some takeaway, I don't trust that knife anymore. Go get setup on the couch, I'll join you in a moment. We can do something."

“Ok mom,” Matthew says with a hesitant smile, taking a step back and away from her. His eyes linger on the knife for a moment too long, before he looks back to Robyn and turns for the living room.

Matthew isn't the only one lingering on the knife. Robyn offers her son a wide if fake smile as he obliges her request, but the moment he's out of sight her gaze drifts back to the knife she doesn't trust. Slowly she picks it back up, turning it in her left hand so that the sharp edge faces out.

The memory of it slicing down her right palm, tracing across the centermost of it's wrinkles as liquid light spilled out onto the tomatoes she had been cutting still burns bright even as the reality in front of her utterly defies it. There's no hesitation in the way Robyn taps the tip of the blade against the counter and then presses it close to the same spot she believed she had sliced open, intent on replicating the moment.

Hesitation takes hold. Would the same thing happen again? She had experienced a lot of strange things in her life, but not since the overlays had she felt like her reality might be breaking down around her, questioning the fabric of her existence. A sudden blip in her life like spliced footage removing something cut from the reel was beyond her.

The slice never happens. Gritting her teeth, she abruptly sets the knife back down where she'd picked it up from. There would be time for questioning reality later, after Matthew had gone to sleep.

For now, dinner.

A Short Time Later

"I decided to stick with pizza," is the first thing Robyn says when she finally emerges from the kitchen and into the living room. "Carmela's will have something here in a bit." The smile she offers him as she looms at the side of the couch is a bit more genuine this time, hesitating a moment before she settles down on the couch.

"I'm sorry I've been so absent this week," she offers in a hushed tone, again looking down at the palm of her hand. “I've had a lot on my mind. How're you holding up, kidders? I've never seen you come running so fast before."

Did he? That just might be how her brain's making sense of it all.

“I’m fine,” Matthew says as he folds his legs up under himself on the couch. “Walter and I have been playing a lot of Evernow, I’m almost level 60 with my Wind Dancer.” He says with a mild sense of accomplishment, tempered by that teenage uncertainty of whether his parent really is interested in his hobbies or not.

“And I mean,” Matthew continues after a moment of consideration, “your job’s really important. You work long hours, and you don’t really ever take any time off.” Now he sounds less like a teenager and more like an adult. He’s at that vexing age. “You don’t have to keep apologizing.”

"Uh huh." None of that means anything to Robyn, at least not the talk of Evernow. "Well… i'm glad you're having fun, still." She smiles at him for a long moment, before looking down at her lap. Trying to keep her mind from drift, she lets out a harsh sigh.

"So… I won't be able to take a day off for quite some time," she admits in a low voice. Her hands turn over in her lap, her right palm catching her eye again one more time before she flips her hand palm down with an odd amount of aggression.

"Do you remember when I told you about how dangerous my life has been?" That's probably not something that instills confidence right off, but after everything that just happened Robyn's ability to mince words or delicately lead into a conversation are frayed and gone.

Matthew nods, unfolding his leg from beneath himself and fidgeting a little anxiously. “He’s not back, is he?” To this day, William Sadler still haunts Matthew’s nightmares.

It takes an embarrassingly long moment for Robyn to put together what Matthew means by "he". The moment she does, she shudders visibly, hanging her head and shaking her head. "No," she whispers as she closes her eyes. "No, he's gone. Dead." She doesn't mince words when it comes to Sadler. She made sure he was dead, after all.

"We outlived him, and nothing will change that."

That confirmation bleeds some of the stress out of Matthew’s shoulders. As he relaxes, he also fidgets and turns over a new, worrisome stone. “Then, why’re you talking about how dangerous your work is? Is—is there someone else? Someone just as bad?”

"No, mercifully." Robyn stares ahead, at the turned off TV ahead of her. Silence falls again as she collects her thoughts. Her eyes drift around before she lands on the game console she had joked about them playing earlier. "I've been asked to go on an assignment for work," isn't entirely accurate, but it's the jist of it.

"A big one. Like one of those fantasy games you like." Endless Fantasy? Something like that. Robyn doesn't really keep track of Matthew's games outside of the puzzle games. "It's not going to be safe, and it's going to take a long time."

Like a bandaid, so to speak.

“Alone?” Matthew asks with sudden urgency, scooting forward and closer to Robyn.

"I won't be alone, and neither will you." Robyn sounds surprisingly resolute in this. "I don't know who else is going yet, but I know I won't be alone." She'll see if it's people she actually trusts. Not that she has anything against Agent Hall, but… well, as much as she may know her, the opposite is for once not true.

"It could take months," she elaborates. "And it's classified, so I can't… really talk about it." There's a distinctively lamenting tone to that. She wishes she could tell Matthew all of it, about her mother, about Drucker, about her other self. Everything.

But she knows she can't.

"But it's complicated. It involves…" She sighs. What can she say? "It involves looking into something my father once did. Not- my dad in Ireland. My birth dad. That's why they want me." That's vague enough, while still explaining why she needs to go, she feels.

Matthew searches Robyn’s eyes, teetering on the edge of withdrawal from the conversation and throwing himself at Robyn. She can see the uncertainty and indecision in his young eyes. But curiosity anchors him, a blink of sudden realization, and the obvious question of, “Birth dad?”

Matthew glances down at the floor, then back to Robyn. “Are—were you adopted too?” Suddenly, in a way most unexpected, there is a new bond forged between them. Even if not quite the way Matthew thinks, it’s still a tether neither could have anticipated.

Eyes widen in surprise at Matthew's reaction and what he's gotten fixated on. It catches her by surprise and leaves her wishing she had picked her phrasing better. It doesn't take a genius to realise what this may mean to Matthew, and the last thing she wants to do is break a new, fresh bond the two of them may be forming.

"It's complicated," she repeats with a dip of her head. "My mom is still my mom, she always has been. But I've found out recently that my biological father wasn't who I thought he was. I'm not adopted, no, but… I never knew my dad, unfortunately. He died just after I was born." Not even a month, if she remembers right. "And even that is… oversimplifying it."

That much is true, and maybe it offers another point for them to bond over, in a sense. It, as said, is not that simple, but for what she can truly tell Matthew now it's the best she can offer. And in truth, Drucker wasn't entirely gone - just mostly. But contacting S.Attva was something that would have to wait for another day, if she gets up the strength to do it before she leaves.

Reaching over, she ruffles Matthew's hair. "Let's stay focused. I can talk more about that in a moment, if you want. But, let's take one thing at a time." SHe wants to finish pulling this bandaid off, so to speak.

And it’s a very big bandaid.

“Okay,” Matthew says with a bit of a struggle, his eyes searching his lap and brows furrowed. He’s working through the revelations Robyn already provided him, but dead dads is something that Matthew also latches on to. Not as a struggle, but as a commonality. He finds a way to vocalize that which seems, beyond anything else, more mature than he ever has.

“I didn’t know my dad either,” Matthew says gently. “It’s okay, though.” He reaches out, laying a hand on Robyn’s arm. “We—we can talk about it when you’re ready.” In that, if nothing else, Matthew knows Robyn’s pain.

The smile that Robyn gives Matthew is genuine, if a bit shaky. She's still putting herself past whatever happened earlier, and this is a welcome distraction despite how much she angles to stay on task. Her head lowers slightly, bobbing into a shallow nod. Reaching over, she pulls him into a one armed hug.

"Thanks, kidders," she whispers, just enjoying the bonding moment. Even after the last few years they're still oddly new to her, which is perhaps why she's so fiercely protective of Matthew. Well, beyond the obvious.

"Maybe soon," she adds, leaning back. "For now, we have logistics to figure out." Back on task, for real this time. "If I end up going on this adventure, who do you want to stay with, Ms. Darrow, Trafford, or Damaris?" Or all three. He doesn't have to stay in one place for too long, it doesn't sound like it'll be a short trip after all.

“Um,” Matthew says with a look down to his lap. Robyn knows the face, he doesn’t like something and he doesn’t quite know how to broach the topic. “Can—” he starts to say, but then reconsiders, starting over. “I really like staying with Ms. Darrow, she has a really nice apartment. And Ms. Trafford too, because I can see Walter!”

It’s Matthew’s roundabout way of saying he’s uncomfortable around Kaydence. Robyn saw it the first time they met, when Matt Parkman Sr. was brought up. It may be too soon, or there may simply never be a time, before Matthew is ready to confront the ghost of his father.

In a way, Robyn knows how he feels. But she will, soon, have much less choice in the matter.

But that's why she offered the option, to gauge how Matthew feels about it. Kaydence isn't someone she knows particularly well as of yet either, though she'd like to keep working on that. Still, she nods, smiling as wide as she can. "I'm sure they would both love to have you. Elaine told me she missed you while we were talking you know!"

With a nod, she leans back a bit in her seat. "It's settled, then. I'll get in touch with them tomorrow." Lips purse, and that burst of energy seems to drain away quickly as she looks down at the floor again.

"Everything's going to be okay," she lies. It's a cardinal sin to her, to lie to Matthew. Still, it's a reassurance she can't rightly give - and yet, here they are. "I'll be gone a while, but… it'll be better than Antarctica, right?" That had been a shitty experience for both of them. "And when I get back… I'll be leaving SESA, so that will make things better." In the regard of safety, at least. Hopefully.

"I just.. I have no idea how long it'll be, and once I'm gone I can't get in touch." She tries her best not to sound scared, to stay consistent with what she's just said. "But we'll be fine. Just a small hiccup of time."

Like what happened earlier.

Suddenly, Robyn looks visibly uneasy.

“Secret agents don’t carry cell phones,” Matthew says in understanding; stalwart where Robyn is fragile.

Then, with a heartbreakingly earnest tone he adds: “I know you’ll come back, mom. You always take care of the people you love.”

Suddenly, it all hurts so much.

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