"Okay, Joanne. I'm listening," Bobby sat on the bed, a drink in each hand. He held one out to her.

She smiled weakly, waving a hand, "Not now, Robby. I'm unpacking. Listen, I hung my stuff up in the closet and my robe in the bathroom but do you just want me to live out of the suitcase or is there a drawer you usually let your girlfriends use...?"

"Oh!" he put the drinks on the nightstand, going to the top drawer and taking out his own stuff. "Just one okay? I can clear another if you need it."

She shook her head, dragging her suitcase to the dresser and starting to unload her undergarments, Bobby's eyes going wide as he turned away, going back to the bed. "Oh, stop. You act like you've never seen underwear," she chuckled. "And one drawer is fine; thank you, Robby, love. I really appreciate your letting me stay here."

"Well, you didn't really ask," he teased, she turning to see him smiling.

She pursed her lips, a bra hanging from her fist as she brought her hand to her hip, "Are you saying you would've said no?"

He shook his head, looking away again. "No, of course not," he raised a hand, scratching his head and further blocking her from view.

She laughed, rolling her eyes and diligently packing the rest of her underthings into the far side of the drawer he'd cleared. "It's a bra, Robby; I'm not naked. Jesus, kiddo, how do you ever manage to have sex if women's underwear makes you so uneasy?" She sat beside him, smirking.

"The women I have sex with aren't married to my other friends," he reminded.

"Yeah, well, I won't be for long," she snapped, getting back up and going back to the dresser, his vague mention of Larry enough to break their easy, teasing mood. She paced to the nightstand, picking up the drink he'd poured for her- a vodka stinger, such a good little trained seal- and downed most of it in a single swallow.

"Joanne, I wasn't- I didn't mean-"

She waved her hand, finishing her drink before going back to her suitcase and unloading her pajamas- one drawer would be plenty considering most of her stuff was on hangers. "Should I put my shoes under the bed or in the closet?"

He shrugged, "Anywhere is fine, really. .. Is- I mean, do you need anything?"

She went to her purse, pulling out her pack of cigarettes and a lighter as she shook her head. She popped a cigarette into her mouth, holding it in her lips as she lit it, "No." She took a drag before blowing the smoke at the wall, ".. Mind if I smoke?"

"Actu- lemme get you a ash tray," he interrupted himself, going to the living room and bringing back a crystal ash tray that she suddenly realized was only out when she and Larry came over- it hadn't been out when she'd arrived.

She chewed her lip before taking another drag and offering it, "You want one?"

He smiled, "I told you before I don't smoke, Joanne. .. You g'head, though."

"I can put it out if you want," she offered, looking down at the ash tray he'd put on the dresser for her.

"Don't worry about it. … Lemme change the sheets for you, though. I don't know what time you turn in and I don't want to keep you up but I'm sure you don't want to sleep in- well..." He chuckled, smiling down at his feet.

"The sheets," she echoed dully.

He was offering her the bed. … Good, sweet, reliable Robby.

She swallowed, tears stinging her eyes until she blinked them away, taking another drag, "... Do you want help?"

"Joanne, do you know how to make a bed?" he teased, smiling good-naturedly.

She exhaled a laugh, putting her cigarette in the ash tray and moving to the bed, easily stripping the sheets and shaking the pillows from the case. "Where're the clean sheets?" she asked, smirking, one hand on her hip.

He blinked, clearly trying to hide his shock, "The-uhm- the linen closet. In the hall."

She nodded, waving over her shoulder. "Sit down and have a drink, Robby. I'll be right back," she teased.

She went into the hall, pulling a set of plain sheets- he had ornate ones but she assumed those were for when he was planning to be entertaining. Carrying them to the couch, she set up a bed on the couch for him- if he was gonna take the couch, the least she could do was set up a bed for him- before taking another set of plain sheets from the closet and carrying them to his bedroom.

"Alright; scoot," she waved a hand, setting the flat sheet and pillow case on the dresser before nudging him off the bed.

"Get lost?" he teased, getting up and moving to help her.

She returned to the dresser, taking another drag from her cigarette and holding it between her lips as she returned to the bed, nudging him again so she could tuck the fitted sheet around properly. Standing up, she held her cigarette between her index and middle fingers, exhaling a puff of smoke. "The ash tray, Robby?" she indicated the dresser with her other hand, not wanting to flick ash on the floors of his apartment.

He quickly brought it over, she rubbing the end out before carrying it back to the dresser and putting it down in favor of the flat sheet. "Robby, love, I can do this," she chuckled. "I don't need supervision."

"Are you sure you don't need help?" he hovered behind her.

She shook her head, smiling despite herself, "You don't think I can function in the real world for a minute; do ya, kiddo?" Shaking the sheet out so it laid flat across the mattress, she folded down the top before circling the bed to make sure the sheet was centered. Certain it was, she went back around, tucking the sheet under the mattress. "You want the comforter with you? … Larry's at work if you want me to go home and get the quilt from home."

"Nah," he waved a hand. "You can have the comforter. Just lemme throw it in the wash first."

"Where's your machine? Is it here or... does your building have one in the basement? Or do you go to a laundromat?" she asked, picking up the comforter from the floor and rolling it up but not handing it over. "I can do it. … I don't wanna put you through any trouble. I already ruined your date."

He reached out, taking it anyway, "No trouble, Joanne. Honest. I'll just take it to the laundry room downstairs on the way-" He stopped, letting out a breath, "Joanne, I'm so sorry. I have a meeting for work. But it's just a really quick one and I'll have them move some meetings around so I don't have to go in tomorrow."

"Where's the laundry room? Basement? Gimme a key and I'll go down and change it to the dryer in an hour," she told him, leaning and picking up the pillows. She threw them onto the bed before picking one up and returning to the dresser for one of the pillowcases.

He smiled, dropping the comforter to the bed and picking up a pillow to help, "It's under the center of the mat."

"Four pillows, Robby?" she smirked, "Always ready for company, hmm? Bet your girlfriends love that."

He lightly elbowed her, "And my friends."

"Yeah, yeah. I know. But I always pay my debts," she reminded. "So you'll get a nice, fat payoff after the divorce."

"You know that's not what I'm worried about," he told her softly, dropping a pillow in place on the bed. "Joanne-"

She shook her head, "You have to get to work, remember? Just go drop off the comforter, I'll switch it to the dryer in an hour and then bring it up when it's done."

He reached out, covering his hand with hers, "Joanne, I-"

"Go on, Robby, scoot. You're gonna throw off my timing here. I'll get down there and it won't be done." She finished putting another pillow in a case, fluffing it before setting it on the bed. She picked up the last pillow, hitting him with it lightly, "Scoot, kiddo. Go to work. I'll be fine on my own." She blinked up at him, too much sadness in her eyes, "Just like you, Robby, eh?"

He smiled, leaning over and squeezing her arm as he pressed a kiss to her cheek. "I'll hurry back."

She waved absently before returning her focus to the pillow, stuffing it in the case before fluffing it and dropping it to the bed. She scooped up two, carrying them to the bed she'd made for Robby on the couch.


One long (highly uneventful) hour later, she was making her way down to the laundry room, Robby's apartment key and a few dryer sheets in her purse. She pursed her lips in disgust when she entered.

What an unseemly little room. Disgusting, musty, small. Even the machines looked unsightly.

She sighed through her nose, gripping her purse tightly as she began opening the washers with timers reading done or nearly done before finding the one with Robby's comforter. Crowing softly, she tucked her purse under her arm, reaching into the washer and balling the comforter up before pulling it out. She carried it across the small room to the line of dryers, making a face when she realized she'd have to hold the wet blanket to her chest.

Well damn.

Grumbling, she clutched it against her, her shirt already feeling damp, and opened the dryer. She peeked in, making sure there were no outstanding marks of dirt or the like, before pushing the comforter into the dryer and going into her purse to dig out the dryer sheets she'd found in Robby's closet.

.. This boy needed a cleaning lady. Or his own machines. In his apartment. This was...

Ugh.

She kicked the machine closed before pressing the buttons, turning it on medium heat for seventy five minutes.

Perfect. Now she'd just... Go upstairs, change, and start unpacking her toiletries.

And... What else could she do?


She ended up spending the day by packing up the remainder of his laundry after his comforter was done drying and bringing it back to her place to wash it. In an untimely coincidence, Larry chose this time to call, asking the maid to put her on when she'd loudly refused.

"Ma'am? Miss Joanne, ma'am, Mister Larry is on the phone. He's asking for you," the girl repeated, holding the phone out.

She arched a brow, taking the phone, and throwing their new, expensive cordless phone it in the washer with Robby's clothes, glaring at the maid. "I said I'm not here."

"-Jo! I need to talk to y-"

She closed the washer, turning it on before walking away, going to the living room and picking up the quilt she liked from its place on the back of the couch- she wanted poor Robby to have something to sleep under if he was graciously giving up the bed and comforter.

"Amanda!" she barked, folding the quilt up. "Go take the phone out of the washer before it ruins the clothes."

"Miss Joanne, Mister Larry said, before you broke the phone, that he would not be home tonight and for you to eat a good dinner and that he was very sorry, Ma'am," the girl replied before nodding and leaving to return to the laundry room.

So he'd expected her to stay and wait until tomorrow to be begged.

Hell. No.

She would not be doing that. He could track her down the next day and beg her then.

Or not.

He obviously didn't want her. And between what she would get with the divorce and her savings account from her previous marriages, she could be by herself for awhile. … Or maybe find a new place to hang out to pick up husband number four. She was fine on her own or in a marriage, not that any of them seemed to last.

Maybe she, like Robby, wasn't meant to be married.

That was a lie. She didn't think that. Robby was meant to be married. She'd backed him into that corner on purpose. He'd just needed a little wheedling and he'd be ready. … He was practically ready now. Now it really was just a matter of finding himself the right girl- that flight attendant was much too dippy. And that other girlfriend she'd heard about? Megan or Margerie or whatever the thing's name was was much too wild; not someone to settle down with. Christie or Kelsey or Kathy or whatever that other girl's name had been? She'd been a good match, nice and domestic, but he hadn't been ready then. But he was ready now. Or almost.

She, on the other hand, had been through two- now three- marriages and they'd all failed. Rodney left, having to return to Chicago. That hadn't hurt too much. She'd been young. Two hadn't terribly hurt either. She'd known the whole time they weren't going to last. But the sex was explosive and it'd been worth the minor heartache when she found out he was cheating (he'd needed someone who coddled him and apparently she didn't- though why a grown man in his mid thirties needed coddling was beyond her). Plus cheating was worth more during a divorce. So it'd been worth it. …. Larry had seemed so.. different though. And loyal and adoring. And he'd promised to make her happy and never hurt her. … He'd hurt the most. It hurt so-

No. She wasn't doing this.

The point was that maybe.. she wasn't destined for love and intimacy and a happily ever after. Or maybe it was supposed to have been with Rodney and she'd squashed that chance by not following to Chicago.

… Fuck that.

Chicago? No.

She'd rather be unhappy in New York than blissful in the place that was happy and honored to be 'Hog Butchers of the World.'

Besides, she'd really thought Larry was supposed to be that for her. … That's what she got for dreaming.

It was a shame about husband two though. … She should look him up. The sex had been earth-shattering. And maybe he could be a cheater again. For her. Sure, she still wasn't coddling-type (he was a grown man for Christ's sake) but between the sheets, they'd been dynamite.

And maybe.. Fireworks and explosions were just what she needed to get over this.. thing with Larry.

Not now, though. She wouldn't call now. She'd wait till she and Larry were officially separated at the very least. Otherwise she was no better than husband two- she really needed to remember his name if she was gonna call him.


"Joanne?"

He pushed the door open, she smiling and carrying him over a brandy before pressing a kiss to his cheek, "Robby, love. Go wash up. I had … loads of time today so I made some dinner for us so we wouldn't have to order."

He stared, blinking, "You can cook?"

She chuckled, pulling him further into his apartment before closing the door, "It's just a little hobby of mine. I don't normally get a chance to, with our help. Besides, Larry always thought it was silly for me to spend time in the kitchen when we had help for that."

"You cleaned?" His eyes were wide as he surveyed his apartment, the small mess tided away and the quilt from her home with Larry now draped over the back of his couch, waiting for him to make his bed that night.

"I told you," she sang, "I had loads of time. I needed something and cleaning up the mess I'd caused when I invited myself in seemed as good a way to kill time as any." She nudged him towards the bathroom, "Scoot. Dinner should be ready in a minute."

"R-right," he agreed, going through his apartment to the bathroom. He returned shortly, "Did you figure out the dryer downstairs or do you want me to run and put the comforter in before we eat."

She shook her head, starting to fix him a plate, "N-mm. It's all done. And your laundry, which I put back in the drawers."

"J-Joanne," he stuttered. "Joanne, you didn't have to do all that."

"What else was I gonna do all day?" she smirked, holding out the plate he still hadn't moved to take. "Besides, it'll do me some good to do something domestic. Maybe it'll help me find my next husband. Now come eat before it gets cold."

"You- Joanne, you don't really think you and Larry are gonna get a divorce, do you?" He sounded uncomfortable.

Of course he would. Robby didn't like to take sides.

She smiled, placating, "Don't worry about it, kiddo. I'm sure it'll be a nice enough divorce. He's obviously done and I don't really have any desire to make it messy."

He looked uncomfortable for a moment. Then he finally noticed the plate in her hand, obediently taking it before moving closer. "Do you need help with anything?"

She shook her head "It's all done. Just sit and eat. … You can do the dishes though." She smirked.

"Wh- oh. Yes. Of course," he nodded.

She rolled her eyes, "I was teasing. I'll get them after dinner. You're so edgy." She carried her own plate to the table, sitting where she'd set down a glass of wine for herself. "Sit down. Tell me about work."

He sat opposite her, picking up a fork as she took a bite of the chicken she'd made. "Oh, you don't wanna hear about that. It's terribly boring."

"You don't have to tell me if you don't want to," she shrugged. "But I'm sure I've heard less entertaining work stories."

"From Larry?" he guessed, cutting the chicken. "I thought his job was all glitz and glamor."

She shook her head, reaching for her glass of wine and taking a sip as she rolled her eyes. "Hardly," she scoffed, setting her glass down. "... Robby, eat. It's not poison."

He looked down, "Oh, yeah. Sorry." He raised a bite to his mouth tentatively, shooting her a nervous smile before actually putting it in his mouth. His features changed, revealing his shock. "It's good!"

She smiled, letting out a breathy laugh, "Expecting burnt, flavorless food, were you?"

"Well," he looked embarrassed, looking down at his plate, "I- I mean, you're not... the typical house wife. I didn't realize you knew how to cook."

"I don't like to hire help when I'm between husbands. Too many people having my key when I'm alone in my apartment makes me," she shook her hand before shrugging as she took another sip of her wine, "a little uneasy. I learned. .. I don't actually mind cooking. I kinda enjoy it. I just hate dish duty."

"Oh!" he looked between their plates and then at the counter where the pots and pans were. "I can-"

She laughed, shaking her head, "That's not what I meant, kiddo. I'll get 'em. Just eat. The way you'd act, you'd think I was one of you little girlfriends you're trying to impress and not an old friend. Relax, Robby."

He exhaled, "I guess I'm just not used to people cooking for me in my own house. I don't know what the protocol is."

"The protocol, Robby, love, is that you're letting me stay here. Like a good friend. And I'm thanking you by helping out around the apartment," she told him, raising her glass and smiling as he clinked his bourbon against her wine glass. "Just two old friends."

He nodded, echoing, "Two old friends."