By Its Silence


ace_icon.gif odessa4_icon.gif

Scene Title By Its Silence
Synopsis As Ace's muse panics about being visited by a specter of her past crimes, he tries to remind her what lies in her heart.
Date June 19, 2021

Rossignol: O's Dressing Room

Standing in the middle of her dressing room, Odessa Price’s gown is pooled on the floor at her feet as she frantically works to unhook the corseted shapewear around her midsection. She’s having a panic attack and struggling to breathe. Her hands are shaking, making her task more difficult than it should be, and only serves to make things worse.

Upstairs in the VIP is a ghost from her past. Odessa has met Lisbeth Melody DiMico before; they’d been friendly, and she’d been even closer to her wife, Alison. They were all working together in the same resistance camp.

Except Odessa wasn’t part of the resistance.

Ace is a play in contrasts when he lets himself into the room by walking through its door, looking as pleased as could be. He still has a mood about him of having done some great thing as he leans back against the door after rematerializing, sighing in content. His eyes go to the ceiling with a twinkle in them.

"I ordered them a round of drinks," he informs with the smugness of a cat who has mouse underpaw.

“You… what?” It isn’t disbelief that slows her speech, but the delay in his words registering. Odessa shakes her head quickly, looking up at her husband. “What?” She looks down at her hands again, finally succeeding in getting two of the… sixteen? hooks undone so far.

Help,” she begs plainly in a whimper. “I can’t breathe.” There are tears in her eyes when she looks up at him. “How are you so calm?” In the face of her own strong emotions, she means. If she weren’t connected to him right now, she could understand; he has nothing to fear from her past with this woman. How, though? How is he so placid while her waters are so turbulent?

That, she realizes, should be the trick. Odessa struggles to draw in a deep breath, trying to feed off his more positive tenor. Still, she beckons him closer with a frantic wave of her hand. “What did you do?”

Odessa's confusion reflects back at her once he feels it– sees it. Ace tilts his head, wondering why she's this way. "Darling," he chides her. "Your name and your face don't match at all the one that woman would recognise. This is your greatest opportunity to see and be unseen." He sighs as he steps forward, steadier hands coming to help her better sort herself out.

"Don't you remember?" he asks tenderly. "How that one wailed?" At her back, his mouth dips to her shoulder to place a hungry, teeth-bearing kiss there. "I'm impressed you recalled her first, and I'm glad you did. It took some remembering, but your reaction made me realize she was, in fact, worth remembering." There go half of the remaining clasps, and Ace's smile grows.

Odessa’s eyes grow wide with shock. “You,” she whispers, staring ahead at nothing as the shameful moment from her past plays out in front of her again. Her breaths are still shaky, but it gets easier as he eases the restriction around her ribcage. Her hands, useless, press to her chest as though to keep her heart in place.

"I happened to come across a cocktail once, one that spoke to me. They call it a sniper," he explains without particular affect. His voice only curls with glee as he goes on to explain, "And just like a mimosa, it has an orange juice base…"

“…And grenadine,” Odessa finishes the thought. That splash of blood. And she feels the warmth of it, that splatter of emotion from him. “It was you. That was when I was embedded with your unit.” Before they’d made proper introductions to one another. “I signaled you to kill that poor woman.”

Alice Lyde had been a bolstering presence in that knot of rebels. Odessa had mingled with them, identified their best targets, and she had marked them. It had been such a close thing. She wore the woman’s blood across her face. She’s lucky, she realizes dimly, that she was able to be noted as an ally. Slipping away in the confusion had been easy.

It had been so thrilling then, watching them all scurry. Proving herself once again. Now… all she feels is a soul-deep guilt.

That poor woman is not remotely the descriptor Ace anticipated to hear, and his hands pause in the help he provides, eyes lifting up to peer at Odessa over her shoulder and into the mirror. A beat passes before he asks blithely, "Darling, it was the war. It was fun. Why the long face?"

He doesn't seem to put much weight on her not knowing it was him. He remembered it was her down in the mess; hasn't considered the alternative that she didn't put that together before now.

"It's okay," he promises her, voice somehow both goading and teasing. "You don't have to put on an act with me. You don't have to feel whatever your therapist would want you to feel." He lets out a dark chuckle and then lowers his eyes back to the last of the clasps. "It's okay to just relish in the fact that the hurt hasn't left her."

Fun?” she stresses quietly, horror twisting her insides. Odessa closes her eyes, tipping her head back as she continues to fight for air. But as he continues the work, it gets easier. Freer. After a time, she returns her gaze to the mirror, watching his reflection at her back.

The smile is small, but it’s still a smile. “It’s more difficult now,” Odessa reminds him. “I can feel her pain. I can’t choose not to.”

Ace frowns, reminding her in a light voice, "But you can~ You did it when you fled away down here, after all, shutting your ability down." He goes on to remark in understanding tones, "A perfect use case for it, so as to not let her drag you down, honestly…"

Odessa trembles and leans back into Ace, letting him be her support in the physical sense now as well. “People sued the government to see me hang for crimes exactly like this,” she reminds him. “Should I take pride in what I did, knowing this?”

Maybe he’s right, in a sense. Odessa is feeling what people have told her she should be feeling. She’s been told that delight in others’ suffering is, well, unhealthy to say the least. Reaching out, she clasps his wrist gently in her hand, bringing it up to encourage it to rest on her chest. To feel her heart, that he might better calm it.

The physical tie will have to suffice as a reminder as he murmurs, "Close yourself off once more. Be with yourself, and ask again: how did it make you feel then? Why should it feel any different now?" He brushes his thumb over her collar, waiting to feel her grow distant again– anticipating it and relying on touch to keep them close.

Ace lowers his head, whispering behind her ear, "I wonder, mustn't it feel marvelous knowing you can stand in front of someone like that… shake their hand, have them look up to you… and they'll never know?" The ripple of his excitement carries into his tenor.

It’s that fear that they will somehow know that’s stubborn. That keeps her from finding this place where he wants her to land. But she narrows her focus, like dimming her vision until it’s merely a pinpoint. Just her, and him.

Her eyes slide shut, but he sees in the mirror the way her brows knit, feels the way her fingers tighten even just fractionally on his forearm. “She’ll never know,” she repeats for her own benefit, to show she’s listening. She’s trying to fold it into herself. “How can I not feel remorse, my love? I was on the wrong side. You know this.” He’d had the strength to walk away from it while she stayed rooted to the tree of all evil, rotting in the ground.

"At the time, was it wrong? Was it not what you…" He runs his tongue over his teeth, trying to find the word he's looking for. "needed– what gave you purpose?" Ace lifts his eyes back to hers and presses his hand to her heart. "You eventually left it behind– as did I. But in the moment, it served its purpose."

His head cants just slightly. "I suppose you can look back on it fondly, or without fondness. You can view it in the frame of who you were at the time and how it doesn't serve you now." Ace brushes the side of his forehead against Odessa's crown. "I look back on that moment fondly– it was a targeted moment meant specifically to cause woe. A psychological attack more than a physical one."

"I left the Army because the fight they were carrying out wasn't engaging, ultimately. For all I am good at what I do, things became… boring. Cleo and I aren't always interested in sport, but they were even less interested in it." He sighs at that unfond memory of his own. "But that? That mission, that day?"

A smirk hooks the corner of his mouth back. "That was a delight."

He uses that word: Purpose. A deep sigh releases from Odessa and he feels the tension in her frame lessen, perceiving some easing in her heart. “It was,” she admits, voice still small, the quality of it distant as she puts herself back in her own shoes.

“I did my job. I served my cause.” Her cause was never Humanis First’s, but the interests of her then lover. That they aligned didn’t make the source the same. “I didn’t know who you were yet,” she murmurs softly. “I didn’t know it was your artistry to be appreciated.”

Another heavy exhale. “Whisper into my skin how it should make me feel.” She tilts her head to the left slightly, like it could help her attune herself to him. “I don’t have the strength to return to the stage.”

Ace shakes his head at the thought she doesn't have it in her. He presses his hand to her heart then pulls it up to her shoulder to turn her around toward him, then cradles her cheek with the curve of his knuckle.

"Like a scintillating susurrus of suspense. The climactic reprise of so many songs and strifes. Like a secret story only you know, one made better by its silence… just as much as sinful, secretive slips of its truth out into the world."

She’s captivated, easily, eyes wider and mouth soft, hanging on the poetry of his every word. Warmth stirs in her finally, the first traces of a smile just barely twinging at her lips.

"It should feel like you still have a song yet to sing," Ace whispers. "Your show is not yet concluded."

Just as she starts to lean in, he brushes a stray hair back from her face and then blurs out of sight. Like her, he still has his own part yet to play this evening, and needs to return to it as well.

Odessa sags with a sigh bordering on discontentment for his vanishing on her. But still, her mouth tugs into a rueful smile. He accomplished what he set out to do, at least in part. Stepping out of the puddle of fabric at her feet, her corset tossed aside, she moves to the wardrobe for a costume change. Something different, less restrictive, vibrant.

Expression brightening, smile broadening, her heart lifts. What is there left to do but revel in the now? Her tongue toys with the tip of one canine, that flash of fang. Satisfaction finally wins out and Odessa laughs. This is payoff for every discomfort she endured, the psychological shock of a new visage. This is her freedom.

The dark, rich sound that resonates in her soul builds to a crescendo that reverberates off her dressing room walls.

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