A Tomorrow Problem


aman_icon.gif odessa2_icon.gif

Scene Title A Tomorrow Problem
Synopsis It's a long walk home, with a lot to discuss.
Date February 16, 2020

Park Slope

Please make sure she gets home, had been Kaylee’s instruction to Aman. And while Odessa is convinced of her capability to get herself home, she knows they’ll both feel better if he at least gets her started along the path. Once they’ve given the others a chance to clear the area, they left Faulkner’s with a few murmured words of gratitude on Odessa’s part and started back on their way toward Bay Ridge.

“I, ah…” Odessa let go of Aman’s hand a while ago, but she’s wishing now she hadn’t as they make their way down the street. She doesn’t need the contact to know what he’s feeling, and he doesn’t need it to understand where her head is at — her emotions are a mix of apprehensiveness and guilt — but for someone who grew up afraid of touch, she’s blossomed into a very tactile woman. Touch is reassuring.

And she wants so badly to be reassured right now.

“I guess I owe you an explanation. Of how I found you.” She could lie and say Isaac told her. But if he looked at the message history, that wouldn’t hold up. And if Aman were to ask about it, he’d be told she’s lying. For once, she decides honesty is important here.

"It sounded like I was being loud as hell," Aman asides quietly to her. His hands are tucked into the pockets of his jacket, scarf wound about his neck since fiddled and reset back into place. He's been awkward this whole time— this whole thing is awkward, and the echo chamber of their similar emotional states is doing nothing to calm matters down. "So if I had to guess… something to do with that?"

His footsteps are slow, heavy. He should get her back to whatever it is she's staying at, but there's a morbid curiosity to inquire how she's doing— how she's been.

It also doesn't hurt that he's relying on her to lead the way, since he doesn't actually know where it is she's staying. It's better that way? It's… It's better that way.

“Partly.” The loud thing. “But it’s also… more than that.” Odessa is sheepish, awkward, and apologetic. They’re a lovely mirror at the moment, and she isn’t sure if they’re just caught in some kind of feedback loop or if they’re coming by their own emotions honestly at this point.

Odessa slows to a stop and waits for Aman to do the same. This is something to be standing still for. “I can… feel where you are.” She grimaces immediately, because that sounds more insane than usual. It sounds like she’s stalking him, and she isn’t.

Well, maybe a little? But this was for a good cause. He was in danger. It’s not stalking if it’s done for protective reasons, right?



“It’s like some bizarre game of hot and cold.”

Aman lets his amble crawl to a halt, a little ahead of Odessa so he has to turn back. Because they should keep moving, right? He needs to maintain that pretense. What she says brings a thoughtful glaze to his expression though, peering off. "That link's… growing stronger, then, isn't it?" is the only thing he can think to say.

At first the accidental bond they formed had been exciting. Day after day, though, having someone else's feelings in his head— even as an echo— it tended to lose its charm when he didn't know what was causing it, when Odessa was feeling terrible and it felt like there was nothing he could do.

"It's not doing that for me, for what it's worth."

He'd been working on moments like those, though, on being better… on sending back calm during her moments of stress, to help ease the rollercoaster and make it bearable to ride.

Looking back at her again, Aman starts to frown. "Listen, I'm sorry for making you worry— for making you feel like you had to come out here to figure out what was wrong with my dumb ass. I'm just glad you didn't get caught up in it while we were still stuck at that B&B."

“That’s good,” that it isn’t having the same effect for him as it is for her. “Means you can’t be forced to use it to find me.” And as selfish a sentiment as it sounds on the surface, Odessa truly believes he’s safer this way. But her guilt deepens, because he’s right. The bond is growing in strength, not waning as she had expected it might.

There’s a twinge of something that passes between him and her. Maybe it’s his exasperation with their predicament. Whatever it is, it prompts Odessa to close her eyes and focus. With a heavy exhale, the link between them seems to sever abruptly. It leaves them both aware now, of what feelings are their own. She isn’t surprised to find that she still feels sick with doubt.

“I don’t know how to make it stop,” she admits. “Not without shutting down entirely.” Like now. She feels nothing coming off from Aman, and as much as this link between them is an inconvenience to her as it is to him, there’d been some kind of comfort in feeling his presence persistently. Being aware of his daily ups and downs has given her something to focus on outside of her own head while she whiles hours away on the Novelle Vue.

Odessa shakes her head and starts walking again finally. “You don’t have to be sorry. I’m the one who should be sorry. I… I was going to let it be, but then your friend called. I had to find out if there was some way I could help you.” She’s glad for the separation between them now as she feels a pang deep in her own core. Odessa cares about Amanvir, and it’s a problem.

When the bond between them very noticeably severs, leaving Aman with his own emotions, he blinks hard. It causes him to flinch in surprise, like somehow he could catch the loss of connection as it slips away if he only tried hard enough. A moment later he finds himself shaking his head at himself, distracted. He doesn't know what to say at first, slowly shifting a look back Odessa's way. The best he can come up with is an uncertain, "That's… good, sort of, right? If you're able to shut it off now?"

A reprieve for her is good after all. Right?

He rubs the side of his neck as he slowly turns to follow after her, hesitant just who should be apologizing to who here, and what's good and bad anymore. He supposes it's good she was concerned. But it's also incredibly bad, because they were supposed to have gone their separate ways. Odessa's a convicted war criminal with actual honest-to-god crimes against humanity committed by her. He should really just fuck off.

"Thanks," he finds himself saying anyway. "I'm pretty sure the low would have been a lot worse once the spell was broken if I didn't have someone to pull me back from…" A moment is taken to describe it, even though that's difficult. "You know— depression at everything losing its golden hue, I guess. You took a huge risk, but I can't say I'm not glad to see you. It's…"

A twist of confusion and guilt tugs at his gut, even if it's truly invisible and kept to himself. "It's good to see you're doing all right."

“Sure, except it takes no effort to tune into you,” Odessa explains. “I have to think about it when I shut down like this. And it cuts me off from everything else. I thought maybe if I thought about breaking it off, that eventually it would work and you wouldn’t be stuck with this anymore, but..” She shakes her head. “That hasn’t happened.” Obviously.

Shaking her head, she looks up at Aman while they walk. “I’m sorry you had to go through that. Sorry I couldn’t buffer you from it better… Sorry I couldn’t stop it from happening in the first place.” What would have happened if they had both been under such an effect? The crash would have been horrific for them both.

But it’s concern for her that he expresses and she looks away again to stare straight ahead as they move along. “You shouldn’t say things like that. People like me don’t deserve friends like you.”

"Maybe," Aman allows.

"But if you only surround yourself with shitty people, you're going to continue doing the same shitty things." He glances aside at her as he matches her pace. "And if I'm being honest… and maybe a bit selfish, I think you deserve a shot at better." Shoulders pitch upward in an unapologetic shrug while he continues on, looking forward again. "You're not responsible for me, and I'm not responsible for you, but that doesn't mean we can't hope the best for each other."

"For example, I hope your ability doesn't make it fucking impossible for you to process emotion as time goes on. If you get… too many people in your head, can't sort out what's what. Your gift is great, like I said, but it's also goddamned draining."

It’s funny he should put it that way, because the more that he speaks to her — the more he wishes her well — the more difficult she finds it to process her own emotions. “I was never very good at that to begin with,” Odessa admits in a quiet voice. She doesn’t know what to do with the slow coiling in her gut and doesn’t know why she feels it in the center of her chest when he says he wants the best for her.

“I was raised to believe that emotional ties are dangerous. That they’ll only cause trouble and pain.” Odessa glances over at Aman again, worrying her lower lip between her teeth for a moment. “They weren’t wrong. It was easier when I didn’t care what a person felt, or if they even felt at all.

“I’m a monster, Amanvir. I don’t deserve the luxury of change.” Never even mind that the more aware of how heinous her past deeds were the worse it hurts just to be in her own skin. “I feel how badly people hate who I was, and how much it bothers them that they wouldn’t hate the person I’m trying to be if we weren’t the same. It’s much easier for everyone if I just… play my role.” One corner of Odessa’s mouth quirks up in a smirk, but it doesn’t last for more than half a second. “People need monsters. It gives them something to hate. Something to aspire to defeat. Something not to be.

He doesn’t need their link to be active to see how sad she feels.

It's true, he doesn't— which leads Anan to take her by the shoulder and stop them both again so he can face her. It's patiently that he waits for Odessa's eyes to meet his, and in that time he tries to decide for himself whether or not to just let the matter go. Is she putting herself down because people see her as a monster, and it's easier to be what they expect, like she says— or does she really believe she is one? And more: Does it matter?

It's more familiar than he should probably be, but his hand goes from her shoulder to cup her cheek, something meaningful floating in his gaze even if he can't give voice to it. Whatever it is, it's clear he thinks of her as more than that— that much is obvious even without their bond being active.

"Kaylee fought a war against monsters, and she seems to think you're all right," he verbally nudges her as gently as possible. "So don't bury yourself with your demons just yet, Des."

"O." Aman amends after, something teasing to it. He smiles before his hand drops back to his side. "You know, I'm still not sure what the hell I'm gonna tell Isaac to explain all this," he sighs. "But maybe that's a tomorrow problem."

Something tightens in Odessa’s chest when he calls her by the singular initial. That combined with the hand on her face… Her eyes are wide, mouth soft and lips parted. It is familiar. Too familiar for what the two of them are supposed to be to one another.

Too familiar for what the two of them aren’t supposed to be to one another.

For a moment, Odessa’s hand chases his, but she stops in mid-reach, flexing her fingers and then curling them in toward her palm deliberately. A slow retreat. “You would’ve liked the person I was in another life,” she asserts somewhat cryptically. Plenty of people feel like they’ve seen themselves in another life after the phenomena with the aurora over the city last year, so maybe it’s not so strange a thing to say.

“She’d done horrible things.” The only thing she’d been found not guilty of at her trial, in fact. “But she didn’t let it define her. She worked hard to change and be good.” Odessa smiles sadly. “She would have deserved you.” She resumes walking again, drops the topic like refuse into a bin. “If your friend doesn’t know who I am, then you’re best off not explaining anything at all. Anything beyond that I’m someone who was concerned for you.” Would she be satisfied with that answer? Certainly not. But she’s never been one for fairness.

Aman struggles with this whole thing, visible in the flicker of guilt and hesitation and … something else that manifests in his eyes before Odessa turns away, leaving him standing where he is. He draws in a breath to form a counterargument…

and ends up reluctantly falling in line after her, trailing without particular energy. His gaze falls to his feet before lifting again, keeping her in his periphery.

It's not sullenly that he keeps his silence, but it's something near enough to it. The strange mood of it is what inspires him to break it, ultimately. "So how much further we going, here? Is your place nearby, or…?"

Odessa closes her eyes heavily. How desperately she wishes she could just hold him suspended in time and just walk away from him. From her feelings when she’s around him. That she could just vanish from his life. It’d be kinder to him, wouldn’t it? Forget kinder to herself. That? That doesn’t even matter.

“It’s a ways,” Odessa admits finally. “You don’t have to go with me.” Slowly, she dares to slide her gaze back over to him in her periphery. “Because I’d rather go home with you, and…” Swallowing uneasily, she offers a wavering smile that indicates anything but joy. “We both know you don’t want that.” Now it’s her turn to focus on her feet as they walk. Disengaging their link earlier was definitely the right move. The words are bad enough.

Aman only shakes his head, grateful the weather is mild enough today his breath doesn't cloud in front of him as he exhales from his nose. "Quit—"

The rest of his exasperated sigh comes out without him meaning to before he gets on with, "Quit putting words in my mouth, Des. You know how I feel, not why, and not what it is I want."

Does he, though? "Just…"

He sighs long again, eyes closing. "I told Kaylee I'd make sure you got home safe," he points out, although technically he was told to and didn't argue back. "So I'm getting you there. I'm…"

Turning back to her, Aman's still stuck on that previous moment. He starts to offer up another, more insistent argument, until he considers maybe his indignation is misplaced. He presses the tongue to the roof of his mouth and looks away again, falling silent.

Look at them, the both of them. Just a tangled tumbleweed of emotions slowly walking their way southwest through this alley.

“I don’t know what you feel right now, because I’m trying to respect your privacy.” The words come out firm. It’s hard for Odessa not to have a read on him. Not just because she’s constantly got her fingers on the pulse of his emotions for better or for worse, but because she’s started to come to rely on having that advantage with anyone. It’s just especially difficult with him. “I can’t block me out without blocking everything out, and…”

Her face has flushed pink with embarrassment. Partly because she’s feeling forced to admit something about herself, and partly because her implication either went entirely over his head (it did) or he’s pretending that it did in order to help her save face, and that’s actually worse. Rejections are simpler. Cleaner.

Odessa stops again and now she lists over toward the wall of the building at her left, turning to lean her back against it and gather her thoughts. “When I’m with you… And when I’m not suppressing, I feel like I can be all the things you want me to be.” Her eyes drag from the pavement and up to his form now, her own face settled with uncertainty and sorrow. “It feels good. I like the way I feel when I’m with you.”

Her mouth tries to form around more words, but her voice dies in her throat. Instead, she leaves it at that for him to respond. Maybe this will be the time he decides to just keep walking without her. She doubts it, but it might be the kinder option for them both.

Instead, his arm wraps around her shoulder, pulling her close. They'll either walk in lockstep or he'll help her keep moving forward.

"You're sort of always with me, you goof," Aman turns his head slightly toward her as he says it, hand ruffling the sleeve of her coat. He's sincere, even though only afterward he lets out a stifled tone of uncertainty at himself. Well, she was, after all, he tries to argue with that part of himself, and all he was trying to do was make her feel better, so—

"So you don't have to wait to be right in front of me to be that person… and it's not just me who wants you to be that person. I'm sure Kaylee feels the same, too, right?"

He sounds so supportive, even for the invisible awkwardness cloying up his gut and muddying his emotions. It manifests in the slight hesitation before he asks, "Have you not gone and seen her?"

There's a dozen reasons that'd be a bad idea, but she also came and saw him, he figures…

Watch your step, Aman. You’re headed straight for—

Welp, there it is.

“No, Aman,” Odessa’s tone is even, the statement simple. “She doesn’t.” Feel the same.

It’s only the arm looped around her shoulders that keeps her moving now, because she’d like to just stop, turn around, go anywhere else right now. “I’ve put Kaylee in a terrible position. She should have arrested me. Now, I’ve made her… If anyone finds out, she could be in real trouble. I thought it would be fine, but that… friend of yours,” she means Tibby, “recognized me. And if she did, who the fuck else did?”

Odessa presses a hand to her forehead and groans loudly. “We live in two different worlds now, her and I. She turned right, and I turned left. Sometimes we intersect, but…” Unconsciously, she leans into Aman a little for both the physical and emotional support he represents. “I love her, and all I do is fuck up.

The effort it takes to hold her ability at bay flickers for a moment. Aman feels the sudden wave of despair that he’s aware enough to realize has nothing to do with him. And as quickly as it comes, it’s gone again. “She’s not even mad at me. She doesn’t hate me. She’s just so fucking disappointed.”

It takes a lot for Aman to remind himself what he just told her— to consider what it was Odessa read and what it could possibly mean aside from what she is interpreting it as.

"Des," he voices quietly. "What if it wasn't you? What if she was disappointed at me?"

That's a thought that takes that stone in his stomach and makes sink down even further, but there it is. "She wants to see you, you know. She wants you to talk to her. If she's disappointed, she's disappointed you feel like a burden so much that you haven't tried." His arm slips loose around her shoulder only so he can look at her better, emphatically telling the empath, "She knows I was involved in getting you out of there. I— fucked up and let that slip, and she literally did not care, Des."

"She cares about who she cares about, and fuck whatever messes they're into, apparently." Aman's voice strains at that, still uncertain what he thinks about that. Kaylee should have had a different reaction than she had, after all, if she really zigged where Odessa had zagged. "Call me fucking crazy, but I'm one hundred percent sure that goes for you, too." A little more plaintively, he adds, "Because if she's fucking telling me to go crash at her place if I end up on the run, and she never turned you in before, why would any of that have changed now?"

“Oh, honey…” No. Odessa smiles sadly. “I know what she felt when she looked at you, and… It wasn’t that.” She shakes her head. He’s trying, and she appreciates it, but absolution isn’t what she wants. “She thinks there’s something going on between us. Not… that she’s wrong, but it isn’t what she thinks it is.” If he didn’t know, now he knows. “You might consider disabusing her of that notion at your earliest opportunity.”

Because as much as Odessa might want Aman for her own, she wants Kaylee to have something good even more. Aman is firmly in the good category. And Aman deserves someone like Kaylee, if that’s what he wants. He clearly (in Odessa’s mind) doesn’t want her.

“There’s no doubt she cares about me. That’s not something you have to convince me of.” Odessa scrubs a hand over her jaw and sighs. “But she… didn’t even talk to me. I know you were a bit too high in the clouds to notice, but she didn’t even,” this time she brings both hands up to her temples to pantomime telepathy, “talk to me. There were just… those feelings. And they didn’t feel good.

Her hands slap down at her sides again. “She always wanted me to stay safe inside, while I was laying low after the war. My lab, and my apartment. And I couldn’t stick to that life. She has every right to feel what she feels about me.” And that seems to be all that she wants to say on the subject. Their friendship is strong, and it’s intact, but it’s complicated.

Instead, she circles back to his earlier point, trying to put the topic of Kaylee behind them. “Your emotions when I’m not with you are different when they lack context. Surely you understand that by now.” He’s subject to her emotional whims without knowledge of their prompts as much as she is his. “It’s different when you’re looking right at me and saying something nice about me.” She may as well have said undeserved instead. “Yes, you’re always with me, but it’s not the same. Like an encouraging note in a lunch box. The sentiment’s there, but you don’t know what I’m up against.”

Maybe it's the crash from the golden glaze to life he'd been on an hour earlier, but Aman mourns he can't somehow make this better, and it shows. Trying to speak for Kaylee when she's not here is clearly not going to work, and the rest of it…

His despair's different, but it echoes the flicker he'd felt from her all the same.

He can't fix this. Making this better isn't a thing he can do. They're supposed to be apart, for his safety— for hers— for—

Aman can't stop himself from saying: "The worst thing about this is that if you weren't wanted for jailbreak—" as opposed to everything else she was convicted of, "you make a fucking great roommate."

He wishes he could be that constant, if nagging, support she thinks that he could be. His inherent need to help others makes it hard to move past that, and he squeezes that hug around her for a lack of being able to do anything else. Eyes closing with a sigh for a moment, his steps continue, slow and heavy. "I'm sorry things aren't different."

Breath leaves Odessa’s lungs in a sharp exhale. The tears follow a moment after. “You make me want a cute little apartment in Bay Ridge,” she confesses. “Lazy afternoons on the couch watching movies. Chinese take-out for dinner. Swapping gripes about work and life and…” She laughs, part bitter and part incredulous. “You make me want normal things. I hate normal.”

The hug is returned fiercely, fingers curling into his jacket and heedless of the tears that dampen the fabric over his chest. But it’s brief, over all too soon, and they’re walking again. Finally, she lets the barrier between them drop, because she’s laid it out. If he hasn’t figured out she wants to love him by now, he’s just burying his head in the sand and he deserves to understand what she wants from him. He deserves to want to run the opposite direction from it.

“I’m sorry, too. I’m sorry I’m probably going to let you down.”

"We'll cross that bridge when we come to it," Aman deflects, but neither is it really a deflection. "Though I reserve the right to be mad about it if it's over something really stupid," he asides with the beginnings of a grin pulling back the corner of his mouth. "I know you'd do the same for me. Fair's fair, right?"

Spoiler alarm: It’s always over something really stupid.

Feeling what she feels again hits Aman like a wave he barely withstands the force of, one that leaves him stinging regardless. He holds onto it, mindful of it.

He doesn't reject it, he just… doesn't feel the way Odessa does. Maybe if they'd met differently, he would. Maybe with time, maybe if he was able to face everything about her and still look at her the way he does now…

Arm wrapped around her shoulder again, he leans his head to the side to lay it on top of hers while they walk. "But let's not worry about that 'til we have to." Aman tells her, voice softer. The bittersweet regret that had only just started to rear its head recedes, giving way to catharsis instead.

Something almost like peace. It’s not what she wants, but he’s just as good as pretending as she is, it turns out. If nothing else, at least they'd gotten this extra moment together.

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