A Kiss Can Be Deadlier If You Mean It


calvin_icon.gif odessa4_icon.gif

Scene Title A Kiss Can Be Deadlier If You Mean It
Synopsis And as Calvin so astutely points out, Odessa always means it.
Date May 12, 2011

Ruins of Midtown

Standing in the ruins of Midtown, it's hard to believe New York is still a living city.
There's life enough around the fringes — the stubborn, who refused to rebuild somewhere else; the hopeful, who believe the radiation is gone, or that they somehow won't be affected. Businesses, apartment complexes, taxis and bicycles and subways going to and fro — life goes on. Perhaps more quietly than in other parts of the city, shadowed by the reminder that even a city can die, but it does go on.

Then there is the waste. The empty core for which the living city is only a distant memory. Though a few major thoroughfares wind through the ruins, arteries linking the surviving halves, and the forms of some truly desperate souls can occasionally be glimpsed skulking in the shadows, the loudest noise here is of the wind whistling through the mangled remnants of buildings. Twisted cords of rebar reach out from shattered concrete; piles of masonry and warped metal huddle on the ground, broken and forlorn. Short stretches of road peek out from under rubble and dust only to disappear again shortly afterwards, dotted with the mangled and contorted forms of rusting cars, their windows long since shattered into glittering dust.

There are no bodies — not even pieces, not anymore. Just the bits and pieces of destroyed lives: ragged streamers fluttering from the handlebar which juts out of a pile of debris; a flowerbox turned on its side, coated by brick dust, dry sticks still clinging to the packed dirt inside; a lawn chair, its aluminum frame twisted but still recognizable, leaning against a flight of stairs climbing to nowhere.

At the center of this broken wasteland lies nothing at all. A hollow scooped out of the earth, just over half a mile across, coated in a thick layer of dust and ash. Nothing lives here. Not a bird; not a plant. Nothing stands here. Not one concrete block atop another. There is only a scar in the earth, cauterized by atomic fire. This is Death's ground.

Grey's the color of the day in Midtown. Naturally.

Grey is the color of every day in Midtown.

But today even moreso than usual, overcast, haggard landscape made all the moreso by the spit and drizzle of irregular starts of warm rain. Runoff's gathered in leaden pools in potholes and sunken car hoods; humidity cloys acrid in the air, all noxious exhaust and filmy fog.

The intersection where Calvin okayed a meeting is deserted.

Also naturally.

Long-dead street lamps sway sullen on their lines and thunder rolls gloomily across decapitated office buildings. But there are a lot of empty windows.

The clouds have made good on their threat/promise from earlier in the day. Odessa is not entirely unprepared, in a black raincoat cinched over pale yellow dress shirt, black vest and down to the knees of wide-leg trousers. White hair pulled into a ponytail at the top of her head that cascades down and brushes her shoulders - a little limp now and giving a vaguely bedraggled look due to the rain.

Earlier she wore sneakers because she thought she might have to run from an angry teenaged boy with a gun. She should be more worried about running from the hunters and sentinels that prowl. Either she trusts her lack of ability to work as a cloak of sorts, or she knows she'd never outrun one anyway. At any rate, it's vanity that causes her to indulge in ill-advised spiked heel boots. Four more inches of height between platform and heel, a buffer from the puddles she occasionally steps into.

She carries a black stick umbrella by its curved handle, swinging it back and forth absently as she approaches the designated corner, unsurprised that she doesn't spot the man she's come to see. Odessa comes to stand beneath a lifeless lamp, glancing up toward it with her uneven fringe of bangs swept over and lightly plastered to the silver shimmer of patch that obscures her ruined eye. Like she expects the light to flicker and illuminate her position like a spotlight.

Exposed cables creak and saw and twang as the wind sees fit; a WALK/DON'T WALK sign drips blank and black across the face. There is no electricity and without electricity there can be no light. Just a scraggly grackle shivering damp out of its feathers atop a metal post while the cloud cover takes on a sallow yellow cast.

It takes Calvin a long time to feel satisfied that she's alone. He appears in a doorway once he does, hands turned down into his pockets, long coat worn a bit damp to match the lank sweep of his short shorn dreads back out've his eyes.

He looks as though he's been rained on.

He also looks as though his eyes may be glowing, but the effect, if there was one, is lost when he steps out onto the street proper, inviting ambient light to wash plain across the haughty cut of his cheek. And it is. Cut. Any lingering touch of natural softness about his features has faded: his eyes are hollow and his hair is clean. So is the suit he has on under the coat, save for the darkness worn in damp where he's tracked his hocks through standing water.

He looks more (and less) like his mother every day.

When he appears, and then once she's spotted him, Odessa lifts her free hand in a wave. A small smile touches her scarred lips as she moves forward to meet him halfway. "It's good to see you," she tells him, getting it out of the way. Because she is glad to see him. As she always is.

"You've been busy," casually remarked as the woman comes to a meandering stop a few feet away. Not uninviting, but respecting space. If he wants it, she'll leave it for him. If he wants to close the gap, he's welcome to it. "You weren't kidding when you said you were going to ensure our survival… I'm impressed." There's a faint light to Odessa's eye at that. Nothing supernatural, just the sort of flicker one has when they're amused. Or proud.

Calvin doesn't wave back, but he does (mostly) mirror her effort to meet halfway, stopping short at approximately arm's reach to look her and her heels over, evidently impressed by the impracticality. Or her unwillingness to compromise for the sake of fashion.

In any case, he's more interested in them than he is the rest of her at first, smile sidelong and slight. Indolent, even, until exhaustion can wear amusement down into a stiff, exasperated exhale and a lazy track of his pale eyes elsewhere down the street. He has been busy. It's true.

"Is that what you've come to talk about?"

"Only partly," she assures, catching the rove of his gaze. She crosses right foot in front of left, toe planted on concrete and heel off the ground as if to give a different view of fashionable boots. "I do like to see you. But it can't all be coffee with sugar and shags in dark alleys, can it?"

Another smile, kind and genuine. Rare. "I probably shouldn't, but I do worry after you. And I miss you. I'm living in that fucking E-Block slum and my bed is cold and I have no one to go drinking with after work anymore." Odessa waxes melodramatic, a roll of her eye and jut of her jaw to convey unhappiness, but only for a moment.

Finally, she asks, "Is there something that you would like to talk about?"

"Not particularly." Drolly honest in the way people are when they feel they are in a position where there is little or nothing for them to lose, Calvin manages to maintain his distance despite another little looking over. This one more nakedly speculative.

He shows his teeth, too — distracted — strain cinching in taut at the back of his jaw even once he's swallowed the bare away and straightened his spine out under the set of his shoulders. Needs oil.

Another stout push of breath comes out like a scoff at nothing. Or himself. Her. Everyone. Everything. "I'm alright."

Odessa's gaze wanders over the lines of Calvin's face and his clothes and his silhouette and just him, conflicted. It isn't easy to try and converse with someone who's shutting you down. (Obviously.) And while neither of them may be much for conversation - and she largely suspects this is the majority of her appeal - there are certain things she wants to know. "Let me get us a room for the night. Somewhere out of the rain, and with room service. I know you can take care of yourself, I just…"

When she sighs, it's out of frustration. "I get that you're out of your time and there isn't a lot you can tell me, or that you're supposed to tell me, or whatever. I've been there, done that. But you have to know me well enough…" Hair clings wetly to her neck where it isn't protected from the damp by the collar of her coat as Odessa turns her head to stare out at Midtown at large. "Yana and I are developing the vaccine, but we're delaying it. Tell me what you need from me to make this work. To save us."

She only sneaks a glance back out of the corner of her eye when she adds, "I will do anything for you." Then her attention drifts skyward, lips tugging in a line. "If you come with me tonight, I promise not to ask any questions once we get there."

I will do anything for you.

For all that he's doing her the courtesy of listening with his bristly chin dipped low and his stare slanted away down and sideways, out of everything, that's the line that catches at Calvin's attention. His chin lifts and so do his eyes, stainless polish and switchblade flick like a warning into the step he takes closer, covering that last foot of filmy concrete to finger at the collar of her coat.

"And how many," he inquires, pause necessary for the sake of careful word choice, "megalomaniacs have you told that to over the years?"


His brows twitch up towards each other just a touch, knuckles pluck plucking and then smoothing (affectionately?) at the damp rise of her lapel, hot iron tang bit harsh on his breath.

Colour touches her cheeks and she presses her lips together as she dithers a few moments, debating whether or not she has it in her to meet his gaze.

She does, as it happens. "You tell me," Odessa murmurs, reaching up to rest her hand over Calvin's. "Your memory of my… let's call them exploits, should be longer than my current track record." One shoulder comes up into a shrug, deceptively casual for all that she feels ashamed to know that he's not being unfair with the line of questioning. "Does it matter so long as I mean it?"

"You always mean it."

Contempt rankled slight alongside the bridge of his nose at her expense




but then again neither is… backstabbing people.

"Although," there's no helping it now, poise worn through to expose a very placid, glassy kind of nastiness hardened in obsidian black underneath. The hold he has on her collar has stiffened into one more likely to be effective on a young puppy or cat: fistfull of scruff to go with his ill temper.

"In a world where I am rapidly losing everything I care to care about, I do value your consistency."

When Odessa swallows, it's a little nervously. No real attempt at a poker face made. And if there is, it isn't terribly effective. "You aren't the first one to tell me that, either." One corner of her mouth ticks up, smirk lopsided and dimpled by scarring.

Her hand falls back to her side, content to let him handle her as he feels he has to. Lack of intention to fight either a display of trust, or one of submission. Probably both. "Let's be honest here. I have very little to gain by helping you kill people, and far more to lose by it once my involvement is discovered. And in matters like these…" Odessa sighs quietly, "If not the truth, then involvement is always discovered. Being discovered will sign my death warrant." Teeth flash white in a sliver of a grin and a huff of laughter. "That's certainly nothing new to me, of course, but usually I have more to gain when I take risks like these."

Chin tips upward again, spine straightens some. "I have much more to gain by turning you in. I know you realise this, or I wouldn't have had to wait in the rain in Midtown." Her gaze drifts again, as though she's interested in the lie of ginger hair. "I know I can't convince you that I won't turn on you. But when the next best offer comes along, I will tell them to go to hell. And I'll accept whatever comes from refusal. For once in my worthless existence."

"This must all be very tawdry for you, then." Calvin can commiserate: he sounds sympathetically bored for all that he has not even begun to loosen the hold he has on her. "Another run've the mill attempt on your little timeline." If he had it in him to sigh, he definitely would. Probably even with tildes. Loads've them.

Instead, he shifts gears at a smooth roll, the hand he has bunched in her collar riding sleek down the line of a seam after the small of her back to draw her hips in against his pelvis. He tips his nose down to kiss her as well, if she'll have it. Polite without — propriety, really.

"Please listen to me very closely," he says. Closely. And quietly. Because he is close. Tastes like he smells, acrid as the weather.

"I have not asked you to kill a single soul. Nor have I begged after your assistance in any other regard. I have not told you where I live or the names of my allies or what my plans are."

That was all Yana.

Which, retrospectively, is enough to coax a sigh out of him, albeit a tiny one.

"I love you, but I am not doing this for you. And I do not trust you. And," yes, and again, "if it seems to me that your lust for involvement despite my efforts may bungle the realization of my attempt upon humanity," ~kiss~ "I will kill you myself."

Boot soles and heels scrape on pavement as Odessa moves forward a touch woodenly that betrays the small fear in the back of her mind, or the bottom of her heart. But she allows the kiss, and returns it, eye lidding as it happens, opening again when he begins to speak once more. "I-" she attempts to interject when she's informed that his actions aren't on her behalf. She already knew. Or suspected. Never flattered herself by thinking that he would do anything for her.

After the second kiss, she smiles fondly, reaching up to rest a hand on his cheek. "I wouldn't have it any other way," she promises. Her chest feels tight, but not because she's afraid he'll follow through on the threat. But from what he said before that. "Do you really mean that, though? That you love me? And is it me, or someone I've not become yet? Call me entitled, but I think I deserve to know at least that much."

"Yeh," says Calvin, "but not in the way that's making you fluttery and touching m'face all tender-like, to save you some embarrassment before we get to fucking." Case in point, he tips the blade of his cheekbone to her hand as if to remind her of How Not To Do Things before he winds around her and away, umbrella relieved from her grip in passing as he goes.

"In fact, if you could try to avoid saying anything else similarly pathetic that will likely contribute constructively to the length and girth of our sexual relationship."

Odessa doesn't immediately move to follow, relinquishing her grip on her umbrella and simply turning her head to watch him move away. "I never said I did," she points out in a manner that should sound frosty. "You said it first." Which is probably why she feels so conflicted about whether or not to believe it. In any sense of the meaning of the word love.

She does turn finally and move to catch up. "You're lucky," she opines, "that our sexual relationship is so fantastic, or I probably wouldn't put up with the way you snipe at me." She captures his hand in her own, determined for some proximity. She stops just short of saying something foot-in-mouth worthy like you're just like your mother in that. "You stole information from the Institute," she offers suddenly instead, without preamble. "I hear you have the recipe for amplification and negation drugs. Do you have… the formula?" The Formula. Proper noun. Ominous implications.

Head tilts at a bird-like angle, eye narrowed. "I want my ability back. I'm tired of being a them and want go back to being one of us." If you really loved me, you'd give me a highly experimental drug that might kill me in the name of science and vanity and ego.

"You would," Calvin informs her with confidence. Put up with it. He's certain. Resigned, even, at her expense, the hand she catches in his turned up so that he can examine it as he walks with his makeshift pimp cane of an um-brella. "And I don't."

"Because they don't," he clarifies a beat later, quicksilver eye contact leveled across to her to cement his own honesty before he twists firmly out've her grip, restlessly disinterested in having touchy feely time that isn't on his own terms. "Not to fret, though. I wouldn't've given it to you even if I did?" His brows tilt along with the lilt. Inquiring. Sort of.

That does make it better, right?

Meanwhile he's touching the end of her umbrella idly after the spike of her near heel, awayward progress to nowhere all but halted.

She would. Maybe. Put up with it. But only because she does feel something, as much as she may claim it's superficial. Any argument she may have felt the need to prepare is aborted because of the more pressing subject of reclaiming her former (in)glory.

Odessa stops awkwardly, more like a stumble. As though being uncertain as to whether or not she just heard Calvin correctly could have caused her to lose her balance. Or maybe it's the spikes on her heels. She angles her head up to fix him with an expression of frustration and confusion. "Why the hell not? How would you feel if you were suddenly bereft of one of the cornerstones of the foundation of your identity?"

Which is precisely what temporal manipulation is to Odessa. An influence on who she grew to become. Despite the wording and the language, there isn't accusation or anger. Yet.

"Angry, I suppose. As to why — " he dithers long enough after the words he wants to tap at her heel again with umbrella tip, which carries on to brush invasive-like to trace light against the arch of her calf — testing, "You are egocentric, amoral, meddling and traitorous." A liability, in so many (more) words.

He gives her another poke. Sharper this time. Nearer the curve of her cheek. One've the ass ones.

"Which you'd know already if you ever actually listened to anything you weren't interested in processing."

"Stop it!" Odessa slaps the umbrella away and resists the urge to stamp her foot immediately following. "I know what my reputation is! I'm not- I…" Her face falls in that metaphorical way that faces do when a realisation of the sick sort comes over a person.

Scarred face turns away, eye following a crack in pavement as brows knit. "I never change," she utters to herself. "That's it, isn't it?" She heaves a sigh. "Where you come from, I'm still just a traitorous little bitch looking for the next best ship to jump to."

The lump forming in her throat is swallowed and Odessa looks up again. "How utterly depressing." She slides her hands into the pockets of her coat and stares out in the direction they were headed in, wherever it is that it leads. "Self-preservation doesn't mean much when you realise there's nobody left to share your existence with. I don't want to be like that anymore."

Snap and slap are immediately rewarded with a grin, pearly whites polished bright into yellow neutrality and the cloying damp all around. The umbrella trips once in an arc around paired fingers, spun round so that he can offer the hook end her way before he simply tosses it to her. Or at her.

"Sounds like a conversation for you to have with my mum," is likely meant to be as dismissive as it sounds, given that his next move entails taking a long step back. Out've umbrella range. "Naturally there's a chance that she mmmight ask you to kill or otherwise undermine me somehow, so you should keep that in mind. I certainly will."

Hands come out of pockets swiftly and the umbrella is caught, albeit fumbled a bit. Problems with depth perception and all that. "A choice between loyalty to you, or loyalty to your mother? I won't lie, that would be a hard decision. However, I don't see a scenario in which the benefits she perceives would come from me undermining or, goodness forbid - killing you, outweighs the sorrow I would feel. What could she possibly have to gain?"

Odessa settles the tip of the umbrella on the ground in front of her. "Bella's left me for the Ferry anyway. If I find a way to see her again any time soon, I will be surprised." Dismissive in her own flippant sort of way. "She has plenty of people to look out for her now. She doesn't need me to protect her interests." Not anymore. Not ever before, if she's honest.

"What am I to you?" Odessa asks suddenly. "Then. What am I to you then?" She wishes desperately that her I mean business sort of looks had a sliver of a chance of working. She certainly looks severe enough, to the right people. The eye patch helps in its own way. But people who know just how vulnerable Odessa really is, well…

"Who am I to you? And don't say you can't tell me. If Bella can know she's your mother, then you can answer me." Which perhaps implies that Odessa would make the argument that the knowledge Bella possesses is infinitely more dangerous than anything she could learn from the answer to her own question.

"You're dead," says Calvin, who has turned his back by the end of that first step and has started to light up a cigarette on his way into another. If he seems surprised by Bella's decision to flee into obscurity it fails to show in the dip of his shoulders after a light or the first furl of smoke he churns out thick through his sinuses. I mean business looks have very little effect upon spines.

"Or were. Things've changed now. There will 'be' no me for you to 'be' anything to, ergo the self-indulgence this conversation entertains is a waste of both've our times. I mean," and he's talking to himself now by necessity, seeing as he's walking away, "the past is significant, but it's not even the past, really. The experience of an unlikely few aside, it represents potential of ever decreasing relevance."

Though he isn't looking at her, he can certainly hear the umbrella clattering on the pavement after it's slipped from her grip. It isn't the first time someone with knowledge of the future has told her she's died. Or even the second. "Is it the virus? Last year, Hiro Nakamura told me I die from the H5-N10." She stoops to retrieve the umbrella so she can hurry to catch up. "I don't care if it's irrelevant to you. I want to know."

She sighs heavily, already sounding defeated despite not having been shot down just yet. (And she suspects she will be.) "Could I have a cigarette?" The vee of fore and third fingers are held out somewhat expectantly.

Is she really bustling after him with the dropped umbrella? Calvin doesn't look back and doesn't have to. She's at his side again in no time at all.

Kohl against the sheer blue of his eyes makes their blank focus straight ahead all the more clearly defined; wires pull like piano strings behind the hollow of his jaw and he walks on without acknowledging her, lighter tucked away under his coat.

"I'm going to take a piss," he informs her without looking at her after it's gone on long enough to be awkward. "Are you looking to hold it for me?"

There is a moment, a very, very brief moment, where Odessa considers hauling back like a baseball player and hitting Calvin with the umbrella.

Unlike his mother, Odessa has some restraint. Mercifully. "I'll hold it for you later," she snides, turning around and fuming to the empty space in front of her. "Hurry up, so we can go fuck," is spat out petulantly.

Fuming accounted for with a sideways look and a rankle of his nose that's about the same amount've snide, Calvin takes privacy where he can get it and continues on after a rigid pause to Do His Tinkly Thing.

The look he gives a rusted out truck through his own smoke in passing may or may not have to do with him contemplating its use as a backstop here shortly.

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