Both Ways


aman_icon.gif odessa2_icon.gif

Scene Title Both Ways
Synopsis A door once opened may be stepped through in either direction.
Date February 5, 2020

Bay Ridge: Aman's High-Rise Apartment

The wide window in the living room space of Amanvir’s apartment is beautifully framing a sunset that reflects off the rivers and the ruins of Manhattan, but he’s standing in the kitchen, hands pressed together in front of his face with his nose caught between his palms. It’s unclear how long he’s been like this, but that indeterminable period of time has not been long enough for the phone on the counter in front of him to have its screen shut off. A single message floats on the view, keyboard unopened for a reply. His shoulders are sagged down, his feet still rather than tapping or helping him rock in place.

His whole emotional being is tense as he works on boarding it over. Calm doesn’t quite come, but neither does panic. Worry feels too far from what he is. Concern and relief at the same time just feels off.

So he works on bottling it all up. Wearily, Aman pulls his hands down only slightly, opening his eyes and looking down at the message. If he were left to his own devices, he might stay right here the entire night.

He is not, however, left to his own devices. Odessa slowly looks up from the book she’s reading and stares out at the sun-kissed horizon, trying to keep her breathing deep and even. For a full two minutes, she thinks the conflicted emotion is her own, and tries to narrow down what of the thoughts swimming through her head have caused the sensation.

It’s only when her gaze tracks to the kitchen ahead of her thought that she might see if Aman bought more beer that she realizes it’s radiating from him. Sliding the bookmark into place before shutting the book and setting it on the coffee table, she rises to her feet and pads across the floor in bare feet, tugging down the hem of the oversized tee shirt she wears over a pair of lounge shorts.

“Hey,” Odessa murmurs gently. “Penny for your thoughts?”

Odessa doesn't startle him, Aman turning slow at hearing the sound of her footsteps. His hands pull from his face and he shakes his head. "Come on, now. They're worth more than that." He nudges the phone to the side so it can more easily be seen.

"I missed a text this morning," he explains quietly.

5:07 am
Standby for handoff.

Aman side-eyes the message again with a shake of his head. "Bitch is a day late," he mutters. "All she says is stand by," and that's assuming the text was from her. "And I mean—" He looks over his shoulder at the dimming apartment. It's very clearly void of terrorists and handoffs.

He just sighs, rubbing at the side of his face. "If we manage to get you two out of here and the feds never come knocking, I'll be fucking shocked," Aman grouses without any real force to it. "Grateful, but shocked."

He finds himself looking back down at the phone again, at the message it bears. Stand by, it says. He looks at it expectantly, like it might refresh with a new message at any moment.

“I’m not exactly rolling in dough,” Odessa quips regarding the lowball figure. It’s also a small lie, but he doesn’t need to know about the wad of cash her cousin gave her. With a little uncertainty in her expression, she pulls her gaze away from his face and steps forward to peer down at the phone on the counter.

“The Oni?” she asks, but doesn’t wait for the confirmation. “Look, if… If she doesn’t come through, I’ll take Mohinder and we’ll find somewhere else to be. The longer we stay here, the more danger we put you in, and I don’t feel good about that.” Odessa bites her lip and glances away. “You seem like a nice guy. I’d like to get you out of this unscathed if at all possible. I think Mohinder feels the same way.”

For a lack of a better response, Aman shrugs. "Listen, if it doesn't go through, if I don't get my money, I've half a mind to take him down to the police like he wants. I'm not entirely sure he's not considered gnawing his hand off his arm or something at this point." That thought amuses him some, but not enough to move from his watch. "He's got it bad, and he made all those overtures about swearing for me…"

He looks away from the screen only to turn to Odessa. "You, though, you should make as clean a break as you can, you know?"

He's sincere about that.

“God, you really mean that,” Odessa breathes out, astonished. She studies his face for a moment before turning to look toward the bedroom, expression solemn. “Probably,” she says of Mohinder considering gnawing his own hand off like a wolf in a trap. “I’m not sure I could wrangle him on my own,” she admits with regret. “I want to protect him, but he doesn’t listen to me. He doesn’t trust me.” Shrugging, she adds, “And that’s my own fault.”

Still, the idea of letting him turn himself in doesn’t sit right with her. It never has. “But… maybe that’s the beauty of freedom. You get to decide what you want to do with it, even give it up.” Odessa turns her attention back to Aman, tilting her head as she regards him curiously. “I don’t know what kind of life there is for me out there anymore.” Pete was right. The running is exhausting.

Aman's curiosity in kind is plain. "Well, yeah, I mean it." he says, trying to keep it from sounding like an admonishment. His brow knits while she studies him, and he finally breaks from his standing watch to lean his hip into the counter, turning to better face her.

His curiosity doesn't abate.

"Maybe you could do something with that ability of yours," he suggests gamely, if tepidly. He poses his head just so, forehead lifting as he carefully waits to see what she thinks of that.

Odessa is taken aback by the directness of his comment. It’s a little too obvious of a reaction for her to play off entirely. “What makes you think I’ve got an ability I can make use of?” It’s a strategically constructed question. It doesn’t deny that his supposition is correct, just that she may not have a useful ability.

Crossing her arms under her chest, she shifts her weight to one side, in a mirror of Aman’s posture. “Just what do you propose I do?”

He shakes his head calmly, unwilling to let her talk herself down. "Every ability has its use. I'm talking every one. Maybe not always the most above the board uses, but definitely they're there. You just might need someone with outside perspective to make you see it."

Aman flashes a winning, if small smile. Guess what he just so happens to have?

"What exactly is it, anyway?" he asks, letting some of his curiosity show while he places the ball gently back in her court.

The anxiety eases some as she studies his face, trying to discern what he may really be angling for. “Do you want to find out? I suppose I could show you. Or… however it is you do what it is you do.”

Odessa lifts her chin and smiles slowly. “I like you. A lot, actually. Most people don’t want to know much about me. Safer with distance, ya know? But you… You’re different.” She repeats her question, “Do you really want to know?”

Is Aman that different? His brow knits again as he looks her over, unsure how to take the news that she 'likes' him. He rips any wild hairs about what that could possibly mean out by the root, but stands there holding them anyway.

"I mean," he intones blandly, head tilting for a moment. He's deadpan as he lays out his terms. "Unless it's some kind of embrace eternity shit or it's going to burn the place down, yeah, I'm all for knowing."

He lifts a hand… only to hold up his palm in a gesture for pause. "But if you want to show by sharing, I'm going to need an up-front explanation first. Especially if it's something I could hurt you with." His look grows stern then, unyielding but driven by concern. "I don't pick up strange abilities without reading whatever kind of user manual there is for it first. Some shit I can intuit from, you know, experience— and I can kind of figure it out on my own otherwise…" his hand tips to one side. "But only as a last resort."

"Safety first," Aman insists, his curiosity undiminished.

“Nothing like that,” Odessa assures gently. “I can’t hurt anyone with this ability, and neither can you.” If he does manage to figure out a way, he’d better share it with her. “I can’t really explain it, though. You just have to experience it for yourself.”

That’s not entirely true, but she’s having a little fun with this. Why not?

“I don’t want to hurt you, and I know you mean it when you say you don’t want to hurt me.” Odessa steps forward and brings her hands up slowly, bracing her palms against his shoulders. Her head tips to one side. “So… You want it? Take it.”

Her attempts to play coy earn her a skeptical lift of an eyebrow. Aman lets out a short huff at her. "With your figure," he teases in a similar vein. "My money's on something wild like… excess calorie conversion." He starts to grin despite an attempt to keep a serious face, but then she's stepping in.

And there it is again— that little niggling hint. Her clarity in claiming to know his intentions.

Then she's placing her hands on his shoulders and she's all he can see, framed by the last light of sunset. The closeness between them allows him to hear the presence of her power, and forget his code momentarily. After all, this isn't a transaction; he doesn't have to keep it if it doesn't sit right with him. He can afford to play this game, maybe.

Take it, she says, and steals away any nobility from him in the process. "All right," Aman murmurs. If she can feel his intentions, then maybe she can see his next move even before he makes it.

He lifts his hand again, fingers arcing around the curve of her cheek. His eyes half-lid in a study of her— her eyes, her lips, her everything— and he leans his face closer to hers. Even if she didn't intuit it before, his intent is obvious now. His head tilts, lips meeting hers in a graze before he leans into a soft kiss.

“Hey now, I work hard for this body,” Odessa retorts with a grin. She senses that her invitation is not unwelcome, and yet she allows him to drive the encounter. When his hand comes up to her face, she leans into the touch slightly, eyes half-lidding as his do.

His head tilts, and her eyes slide shut the rest of the way when their lips touch. Slowly, she slides one hand up and loops her arm around his shoulders. It’s frightening for Aman, to give in to this and allow this exchange of power. But there’s an undercurrent of excitement too, that threatens to overtake that fear and—


Odessa leans back, scrutinizing Aman. “Do you feel it?”

A breath escapes Aman when they part, his touch a little less certain on her cheek before he pulls away entirely. His eyes search her again, more intensely than before. He thinks he understands, maybe, but he hesitates on voicing it. There's an excitable fear that both drives and grounds him at this moment.

It's a conflux of feeling not wholly his, and being aware of that has no impact on his ability to do anything about it.

"It—" Aman struggles to put words to it. Like she said, it's something to be experienced. He settles his hand on her shoulder, following the curve of it and letting his fingers trail down her sleeve, past her elbow, down her forearm. His eyes close as he turns his attention inward, listening to his senses to see if they still speak without him looking at her.

"Ah, man," he says on a guilty sigh. "Have you been having to put up with this bullshit from me all this time?"

He can feel his heart racing. Is it because her heart is racing?? How exactly does this work? Aman emits a disgruntled note, brow knitting as he fumbles blindly through the ability and what it does to him. "Can it go both ways?" he asks, his earlier curiosity much quieter in the face of… all this.

The corner of Odessa’s mouth quirks up in a smile. “The whole time,” she confirms. He feels smug in the wake of that comment. Except he shouldn’t. Her arm stays wrapped around him as he works out what he’s feeling, or what she’s feeling. “As far as I know, it doesn’t project. I’m just painfully aware of what others are feeling at any given moment, unless I focus and shut it down. I manifested in a crowded room. I had headaches for weeks.”

Suddenly, he feels vulnerable, but she’s the one who looks it with her eyes wide and searching his face for signs of judgement. “You’re the only other person who knows what it feels like now. Not even Mohinder knows I even have an ability.” Her mouth twitches in a little smile. “I feel strange without it now. Like part of me is missing.”

Aman's brow knits in sympathy for the details of her manifestation. "Ouch," he murmurs. "I'm having a bad enough time just with two people in my head. Couldn't imagine much more than that." Headaches might be the least of his issues, then. He tsks quietly as he realizes, "Not sure how you kept it together the other day."

At hearing these details are their little secret, Aman's brow lifts. "Well, we better talk quiet, then, so it stays that way, shouldn't we?" He opens his eyes to look down at her, smiling reassurance to hopefully soothe any concerns she might have. He takes a moment to consider her comment, thumb brushing on her arm. "If you're ready, I'll give it back. But if you want to take a load off, I'll hold onto it for a few minutes."

“It’s rough, isn’t it?” Odessa reciprocates the touch by brushing her own thumb over the back of his neck. “But… you get used to it.” She huffs a breath of laughter through her nose and shakes her head. “Well, you won’t. But I have.”

Her gaze slides toward the bedroom and he can feel her apprehensiveness just as surely as if it was his own. “You know that zen act of his? It’s not an act. He really is that sincere in his martyrdom.” Odessa turns her eyes back to Aman. “That’s what makes him dangerous.” The word of warning imparted, she cants her head to the side again. “Are you as good at giving as you are taking?” she asks him with a playful smile.

Aman's expression twinges, at once wanting to smile and frown. It's one thing to go through a range of emotions if it's your own instincts that are leading you there, but it's another entirely to be pulled along by someone else's. He's still laying aside apprehension when Odessa moves on to whatever is under that playful smile, which almost assuredly is being confused even further with his own feelings.

He's torn, not wanting to press his luck any further, but they're still so very close and he could swear

He lets out a breath of laughter on his own, his hand still on her. Fingers grasp around her forearm a little firmly as he pulls her a touch closer, leaning in. "I don't know," Aman murmurs, searching her eyes. "You tell me." Then he waits.

The kiss had been a bold, but unnecessary flourish, she might realize. He's close enough to provide the option of one, but that decision is just another thing that winds up in Odessa's proverbial lap, along with Aman's calm anticipation. There's little else to indicate her ability's smooth transfer back to her save for a soft rush against her senses, a lightness of being timed with the tilt of his face closer to hers. He keeps his hand along her arm, letting fingers trail up to her elbow.

There’s a quiet little sigh that accompanies the return of her ability. He can’t feel the little thrill she gets when her extra senses come back to her, but he can see it in the light in her eyes. Those eyes fix on the shape of his mouth for a moment before tracking back up to his eyes. She leans in closer, letting her body press to his, but doesn’t press her lips to his again.

“You know I want you to kiss me again,” Odessa spells out plainly. “You know, because you could feel it. But I’m giving you a moment to decide if you want to kiss me, now that you’re only able to feel what you actually feel.” And because knows what someone feels emotionally and what they want to do logically are two very different things.

She’s up on her tiptoes now, shoring up some of the difference in their heights. “It’s tough, sorting out what’s yours and what’s not. But it has its uses.”

“Certainly eliminates any potential for confusion,” Aman mumbles, his attempt at humor falling short of reaching his tone. Now that he’s only got one person’s feelings in his head, he’s trying to think this through. Maybe too much.

Maybe she wants to kiss him, and he’s beguiled enough by her to let it happen. Maybe that’s enough. Maybe their strange circumstance doesn’t matter for the moment, because after tomorrow, they may never see each other again. And maybe whatever else happens


Some time later

The movie they put on a while ago has hit another quiet point. It’s not exactly what Aman had expected, but at least Odessa was enjoying it.

Or at least he hoped she was. She was the one who’d asked to put it on.

But the glance down at her as she leans against his shoulder doesn’t exactly reveal a woman riveted by what she’s seeing on the screen. He has the grace not to balk, nor to shrug his shoulder and displace her. Instead, he adjusts his arm around her, brushing her hair back from her face. “Hey,” he says in a hush. “You awake?”

Maybe letting her curl up in that plush blanket she’s draped in had been a bad call.

The answer is in the form of a deep, audible inhalation through her nose. The exhale comes as a sigh in tandem with a stretch of one arm out at her side. “Yeah,” she murmurs sleepily. “Am now, at least.” She snuggles up a little closer, managing to yawn big without actually opening her mouth.

Odessa lifts her head only long enough to stare at his shoulder out of the corner of her eye and confirm she hadn’t drooled on him. Seeing no evidence of such, she lays her head back down after pressing a kiss to his shoulder. “You’re nice and warm,” she tells him, pulling the blanket around herself a little tighter. Maybe if she at least put some socks on she wouldn’t be quite so chilly. At least she’s wedged her cold toes against the arm of the couch instead of pressed them against his leg.

Aman lets out a derisive snort from his nose, adjusting his posture as she resettles. If she’s getting cosy, he might as well, too. His back has a crick in it from having been sitting just so. “You’re losing your remote privileges,” he advises her as kindly as possible as he reaches across to pick up the remote from the couch. “This shit’s going to put me to sleep at this rate.” He at least chuckles about it, pausing the film and heading back to the main menu of the streaming app. As always, he skips immediately past the giant River Styx splash up at the top of his menu, skimming through other items he’s had in his queue.

“It give you any weird dreams?” he asks offhandedly while he scrolls. “The movie.”

“Mmn.” Odessa takes a moment to consider that question. “Not really. I honestly thought I was still watching until you said something. Wasn’t sleeping that deep, I guess.” The remote is relinquished readily enough. He raises a valid point, and it’s not worth arguing about. “I don’t think the plot was anything like I was imagining, though. Pretty sure Jane Austen’s heroines didn’t have superpowers.”

She has to remind herself to open her eyes again, lest she drift off once more. And she likes the way she’s spending her time at the moment. She’d like to be awake for this. “There’s this old video store in Jackson Heights. Well, it’s rebuilt, but it was an old video store in a different neighborhood once.” Doesn’t matter. Odessa continues. “They have Marx Brothers films. Used to get pizza and watch them at my apartment.” She smiles and lifts her head so she can look at Aman then. “What I’m saying is, this is nice.”

"Didn't used to have superpowers, didn't used to be zombies… they'll do anything to make an old story relevant instead of putting out new creative IPs lately," Aman remarks while he scrolls. "I blame the war."

If only he knew things weren't different elsewhere.

The story about the video shop makes him pause, and he mutes the television as a trailer autoplays. "Now that's dated," is accompanied by a low whistle. "Glad we could get you somewhat closer to present date." Aman finds himself glancing down at her as she looks up at him, unsmiling but glad. "Good," he says of her assessment. "Wasn't all a bad time, then."

If the knock at the front door came right then, he thinks he could be satisfied with the way things turned out.

"Too bad Wet Blanket didn't want to enjoy it," he mutters as an afterthought.

Odessa hums thoughtfully. “Well, Mohinder didn’t grow up in captivity. He’s too good for his own good. He lets his guilt get the better of him. Doesn’t appreciate the things he has.” She waves a dismissive hand. “That’s probably unfair and unworthy of me. But I can never quite reckon why he’s just so…” She shakes her head. “Like he is. He’s a better person than I am.”

Subject of the wet blanket dismissed, Odessa reaches up to run her fingers through his hair, raking her nails gently over his scalp. “Thanks for making me feel normal. A girl could get used to spending time with you like this. But obviously, I know I have to wake up from this dream. So… Thank you.”

Aman’s mood mellows some while she speaks, thrown by the casual use of the significant phrase didn’t grow up in captivity, though the affection shown his way tempers his mood from falling entirely. Stopping merely at pensive, he smiles in an attempt to bring back a good humor. “Well, that’s my side gig, helping people feel normal for a bit. Gotta be halfway decent at it if I want any return customers.”

A small stab of uncertainty pangs through him at his choice of words, but it’s brief, and never even touches his expression.

“Speaking of which,” he segues with a realization. “I don’t think I ever got around to telling you how you could make good money off your own ability, did I?” Aman shifts, his arm settling around her shoulders as he looks to her. The movement helps shift his state toward confidence. “There’s people who go their whole lives without being able to communicate properly, for one reason or another. People with differences that keep them from speaking, and so on, who can’t tell the people that matter most to them how they feel— what things they like, or dislike. What scares them and what soothes them.” There’s a tenderness to his voice as he suggests, “Help from someone with an ability like yours could make all the difference, even if it’s just for a short time.”

“It’d be meaningful for them, and people would pay very good money for a specialist or a caretaker with talents like that to come into their homes.” He arches a brow then, admitting, “Of course, you’d have to figure out a whole fake identity thing first, but…”

“It’d be doable,” Aman believes.

There’s only the briefest twitch of her brows, an aborted expression of apology, to signify that she noticed the dip in his mood. The dip that she caused with her casual disdain for her own background. Sometimes she forgets it can come as a shock to people. And she isn’t used to recognizing pity regarding it.

He lets it slide, and so does she. Odessa listens with rapt attention as he lays out his plan for her to make money with this ability of hers that she would otherwise categorize as remarkably useless. She makes no attempt to hide her surprise when he finishes her pitch. “You know, you could be on to something there. If I thought I could ever set myself up in a position for people to trust me, I really could do something with this…”

Maybe Dr. Price would finally improve her bedside manner.

“What’s to stop you?” Aman challenges, nudging her with his shoulder. Even knowing it’s not that simple, he can’t help but pose the question.

“I’m putting all this behind me once I get paid. Who’s to say you don’t get that opportunity, too?”

The chuckle comes unbidden and only slightly at his expense. “You’re very sweet,” Odessa tells Aman, and it’s like he can feel the bittersweet emotion she’s feeling. Taste it on the back of his tongue. “But, to answer your question, probably the fact that the Times splashed my photo all over the front page the last time I was at large. I’m sure they’ll do it again.”

Odessa stares past the television and out the window behind it. “I don’t dare try to hole up with my friends or family. They’ll be looking for me there. And…” She smiles sadly and closes her eyes, shaking her head. “I’m tired.”

At first Aman only lets out a tone indicating he disagrees, making light of the matter. Then he looks over the top of her head, a distance in his gaze while he thinks. The muted television screen stops moving, leaving him to contemplate something in almost perfect silence.

That taste that shouldn’t be there.

“Des—” he starts, sounding perplexed, but cuts himself off there. He stops short of derailing the conversation by airing his thoughts immediately, but finds himself unable to stop entirely. “I didn’t just pick your ability back up, did I?” sounds apologetic. Then his brow furrows. “No… I don’t think I did.”


He sighs the matter away, looking back down at her. He struggles not to throw out hopelessly optimistic suggestions like just go to the Dead Zone. “Say what happens next ends up being up to you— that the oni doesn’t come back here and ‘offer’ you a job as a full-time terrorist-slash-prisoner. What would you do, then?” There’s only a slight pause before he wades out into territory he knows he has basically no context to properly address, much less have any business addressing.

“I don’t get the feeling you’re a girl who wants to hurt anybody. Hell, if you were, you’d have punched me in the face and been out the door days ago without looking back. But if you’re secretly holding onto some Wet Blanket beliefs that… I dunno, being in jail was going to repay some debt, somehow make wrong things right?, I think it’s been proved that that’s a crock of shit.” He draws a face, pointing out, “Trying to find honest work in a place people might not know your face couldn’t be any worse than, what—” A quizzical look passes over him as he goes through the motion of recalling something he’d be better off forgetting. He balks as it comes back to him. “… making a war-crime weapon for the government.”

“You know?” Aman poses, rhetorical at best in his asking.

Odessa tilts her head curiously at Aman’s question. She takes a second to focus on her extra senses and frowns thoughtfully. “No, I still…” She lifts one hand to wave it vaguely in the air. “Still feel,” she offers as succinct explanation. He’s content to let it drop, and she’ll let it mellow, even though it finds a nook in the back of her mind in which to take up residence.

“To be fair,” on the topic of whether or not she wants to hurt anyone, “I’m a bit concerned about Mazdak tracking me down for running off on my own. But…” She shrugs. “No, I don’t want to hurt anyone. Not anymore. I’m trying to turn my life around. It’s just… not as simple as it sounds.”

What with how the government is going to be hunting her more than ever, considering what she knows, and how they probably want to keep her from telling anybody. Odessa hums quietly. “I’d hole up on Staten again if it wasn’t about to go legit.” How rich is that going to make Alister Black and Margaux Maxwell anyway?

“C’mon,” Aman chuckles, unable to keep himself from taking a potshot at the reclamation efforts. “Staten’s going to go right back to being Staten the moment the military looks the other way.” Once that’s out of the way, though, he goes back to being pensive. He’s more carefully examining his own emotions and thoughts, looking for any way they might differ from what he expects to find. Is it his ability on the fritz, even for just moments at a time? He doesn’t let go of her just yet, not anywhere near worried that’s actually the case.

Just … keeping his eye on it, is all.

He slants a look back over at her abruptly. “‘Still feel?’” he echoes back skeptically. There’s no judgment behind it, at least not yet. “What, did you not really before you manifested?”

Odessa smirks. “You’re probably right. Staten’s personality is deep in its bones. A little clean up crew isn’t going to change the way it operates.” There’s amusement there, laced with a quiet undercurrent of apprehensiveness. The uncertainty of her future is enough to keep her from properly enjoying a moment.

His question sees her brows lifting, actually considering it a moment with a gentle expression. “Well, I meant I still feel you, but… Empathy was not one of my strong suits, no.” The honesty is rare, but shared easily enough. Like Odessa can’t let Aman have too high an opinion of her. She hasn’t earned it.

“They, uhm… Well, I expect you haven’t read too many of the articles they’ve written about me. Most of them paint me as a monster.” There’s that sensation again. That rueful amusement laced with bitter regret. “They’re not totally wrong. But I was raised not to care about anyone else. I had to learn it all on my own after I got out of my cage. I’m not great at it. Or… I wasn’t. I’d like to think I’m not terrible at it now.”

The humility in her response is unexpected, leading to a twinge in Aman's expression. She's right— he's not read much about her at all. Skimming the details in the headlines was enough to put him off from digging deeper. She sounds guilty about who she used to be, though?, and he almost regrets making the off-the-cuff comment. Then, he does regret it.

Far more than he should. But when he draws back from the regret, he quickly picks up on it feeling different. Distinct from his own.

As he realizes it, he nudges her with his shoulder. "I'm gonna grab a water." If possible, he doesn't want to spook her, but there's definitely simmering, conflicting emotions that come from him as he works on not being excited he's spotted something. He turns back to her after slipping away to stand.

"Listen," he says, sounding a touch relieved. Because he is— he's realized whatever is happening isn't a slip-up on his part. "I'll let you in on a secret. People in general are various levels of shit at caring about each other. Trying to be better is a good first step, even if you're still starting a few squares behind everyone else." He shrugs and remains lingering a few steps away, not moving for that water just yet.

Aman seems to be waiting in anticipation of something. He hesitates, then ventures earnestly, "What's an example you've got of being better at it now?" His arms lifts from his side, head cocking to the side. A corner of his mouth tugs back in good humor. "You've got a mostly-impartial judge right here who can tell you if you're on the right track." He holds up a finger. "Can't use the 'I punched Mohinder for his own good' example, though. I was there for that one. Already know about that." He gives a sympathetic wince on her behalf. She tried, with that one, he'll give her that much.

He nudges her shoulder and he feels his heart sink. Odessa sits up to avoid toppling over on the couch when he moves to stand, adjusting the wrap of the blanket around her shoulders as she does. She watches him with wide eyes, he feels the worry that shows on her face. “You gonna call the cops?” she asks, holding her breath for half a second. She lets it out and shakes her head. “No. I know you aren’t. You aren’t… I can just tell.”

Her smile wavers, but it’s genuine enough. She decides to focus on the question he asks. He isn’t the only person who’ll ever request her to demonstrate that she’s trying to do better. She may as well get in the habit of explaining herself. “There’s this girl I was locked up with… I could feel her despair. Normally, I wouldn’t concern myself. I have it bad, why do I give a shit about anyone else?” Odessa unfolds her legs from her side and plants her bare feet on the floor. “But I cared about her. I tried to help her realize she wasn’t alone.”

As feelings that aren't his continue to come to him, as Odessa confirms her power is still hers, for a moment all Aman can do is stand there. He feels her worry and anxiety as if it were his own for a moment, and in that space it seems as though they might continue to echo off of each other in a cycle of endless emotional exchanges. But he breathes out, short, a laugh on the edge of it. He knows the worry isn't his.

And with that knowledge in its place floods relief. Even a touch of joy.

"That's good." he tells her, trying not to play down what she's sharing. But he can't stop himself from smiling again, finding whatever is happening to be incredible. "I think," Aman says as kindly as he can, despite his own excitement, "That you're growing."

"With your empathy." Wait, Aman, there's more than one thing that could mean.

"I mean, what I'm trying to say is—" He shakes his head to get his thoughts back on track. "I can feel your emotions, Des. From all the way over here." He lifts a hand, showing both sides of his palm like it'll help him prove his point in saying, "It's not me."

"You've still got your ability, and I can't feel anybody but you." No hums of nearby persons, either neighbors downstairs or residual simmering resentment from Mohinder in the other room. "But I can feel you." There's a touch of wonder to that, as it's definitely not something that happened before. Aman lets out another huff of amazement and returns to the couch, crouching before Odessa and offering his hand to her in a gesture meant to comfort. "I couldn't before, but… I can now." A relaxation comes over him as the mystery is solved.

"Sorry if I startled you," he laughs in saying. "I was worried it was me at first. That I slipped up again."

“You what?” Odessa’s eyes go wide again as she stares at Aman in horror. The fact that she’s sharing her emotions without him having control of her ability is startling. She’s about to get up from the sofa when he comes to join her instead. Slowly, she reaches out and takes that hand, letting out a deep breath.

“I don’t know how I’m doing it, though. I’m not trying to. And no one’s ever noticed it before.” Someone would have said something, of that Odessa is certain. She closes her eyes and focuses. “I don’t understand. Maybe…” She opens her eyes again, confused. “Maybe it will fade?”

“Maybe,” Aman concedes, trying to dial back his own enthusiasm about the matter in light of her reservations. He rubs the back of her hand with his thumb. “Probably will,” he says, putting as much reassurance into it as possible. Though he wonders. “You’re not trying at all?”

Hm. “What’s different here than has been anywhere else?” Going back over the course of the evening, he can think of a few things they’ve done differently today than the last couple of days. He lets out a faint chuckle, taking neither embarrassment nor amusement from that. “I dunno, is it because we bonded some?” He arches an eyebrow at her in the dim light cast by the television.

“I’d have told you if it’d happened before now,” Aman supplies helpfully.

Odessa blushes and Aman can feel her own embarrassment, but it’s fleeting. “That we did,” she admits with a quiet chuckle that betrays her awkwardness. “Maybe that’s it. I haven’t had much physical contact with anyone since I manifested. The occasional hug with my visitors, but that’s about it.” She looks down to their linked hands. “Maybe something about the extended, ah… contact.”

Apology flashes on her face. “I hope this isn’t too strange for you.” She smirks, her shoulders bob up and down with a silent breath of laughter. “I think you’re enjoying this, actually.” She squeezes his hand. “It makes it easier for me. I don’t like not knowing how to control my ability. I haven’t felt like this since I was a teenager.”

“I’d be more likely to think it’s because you formed a bond with someone, but sure, I guess touch could play a part, too,” Aman muses. His brow arches, tone lifting as he voices, “Given the whole— emotional, empathic thing, though?” The tone drops partly. “Which— I mean, I’m very flattered.” His chin tucks, eyes still on hers, a conspiratorial slant coming over his demeanor. “Honored sounds contrived, so I’ll stick with flattered.”

It’s his turn for apology to surface in the form of a weaker smile. “I am kind of enjoying this. Not entirely sure it’s appropriate, but I can’t help it, either. Abilities fascinate me. I love learning about them, and— you know, mine never really changes. I’ve got a good grip on it for the most part, and yeah, I pick up this and that, but everything’s… expected; routine. I know what I’m getting into. So seeing someone else grow with theirs— have something unexpected happen, it’s…. I dunno.”

Aman laughs softly, part apology, and part at his own expense. “Sorry.” he says, and now he feels embarrassed.

“I’m not used to forming bonds with people.” Odessa tips her head to one side. “But you could be on to something there.” As he explains his own fascination, he can feel the way it sets her at ease. Her expression brightens and she gives him a wide smile. “I feel the same way,” she confides, leaning a little closer. “I dedicated my life to the study of abilities.” She glances toward the bedroom door, then back again. “Doctor Suresh was my mentor. I wanted to know everything about how they worked and what their potential was.”

Odessa reaches up to take Aman’s face in her hands and presses a kiss to his mouth. “You helped me remember my excitement about all this. Thank you.”

“I am… much less scientific about it,” Aman confides with a hmph of amusement. “But I’m glad it helped.”

Once it’s all said, he sinks back onto his haunches again, smile fading as he considers her. His thoughts shift away from the small miracle and more toward thoughts of the rest of the night— thoughts of tomorrow. His joy tempers and becomes hollow, even if it doesn’t fade entirely. “Thank you for helping me take my mind off things for a while. I needed it.”

He should probably make overtures about getting ready for bed, all things considered, but he gets hung up on the need to say something else entirely. “You know, I hope you get the chance to get back to doing that. Not in any kind of fucked up way. Just learning more about what it means to be Expressive, and maybe even doing some good with it.”

Slowly, he comes to his feet, squeezes her hand before letting go. “G’night, Des. Leaving you in the driver’s seat.”

He means she gets the remote back, but he doesn’t so much as glance at it to indicate that much.

“Glad I could help,” Odessa murmurs. And she’s glad she could have some agency in the process. “Thanks for the vote of confidence.” She feels his joy ebb, and hers follows suit. Or so it seems. It’s a little difficult for her to keep straight what is really her sometimes.

She watches him rise to his feet and offers a reassuring smile. “Sleep well, Aman. I’ll see you in the morning.”

Tomorrow’s a new day.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License