Disrupted Frequency


ace_icon.gif odessa5_icon.gif

Scene Title Disrupted Frequency
Synopsis True to her word, Odessa tries to help Ace understand what happened to her.
Date June 11, 2021

Williamsburg: The Callahan Residence

With a heavy heart, Odessa steps back into her home, closing and bolting the door behind her before turning to lean back against it. She holds her breath. There’s a silence that stretches on that it seems even Rex dares not to break. Ace and Odessa stare each other down, the tension drawing out the longer neither of them is willing to be the first to speak. Finally, she exhales.

“I can explain.”

Her heart is pounding like a frightened rabbit and she’s glad he can’t know it. In spite of it, that fear of what he’ll think or say or do, she keeps her blue eyes on the green-grey of his that she loves so well. Maybe he’ll remember he loves the shade of her, too.

Maybe he'd feel better if he did know the extent of the fear she held. Maybe it might help in this case.

But it also doesn't change she did what she did, and furthermore said nothing of it. Would have hidden it from him until the end, if she'd had her way.

Ace holds her look for a long moment, jaw twinging at the end of that pause of nothing else. The marble of his emotional state is blackened, sharp and rough. With that twinge that could be— could have turned into so many things, he looks away.

He walks away, leaving the front hall and clipping through the corner like a bad graphic.

"I'm interested in knowing if there's anything you can say that doesn't make this worse than it already is," he announces loudly to the house. "If there's something you can come up with that doesn't just further highlight all the angles of this…"

He doesn't bother dignifying that sentence with an end at this time.

That rabbit heart stops.

Is this it? Is this how his love for her dies? While the likelihood of it being that simple is very incredibly slim, Odessa’s propensity to catastrophize any interpersonal conflict leads her down dark paths of what ifs. She doesn’t watch after the direction he’s gone off in, but rather feels after him.

Odessa stares straight ahead, where he had stood, eyes slightly too wide for the fear of this potentially impending loss. “I don’t know if I can say anything that doesn’t make this worse. I can only tell you what is, and you can decide what that means to you.”

That heart starts again.

"Just how many others do you willingly let yourself belong to, Odessa?" Ace demands from the kitchen, feeling more comfortable in raising his voice when he's out of sight— when he can't run her through with his eyes, when perhaps there's cause to use volume aside from just anger. "It was me you pledged yourself to. Me. Not even a fortnight ago."

He lets out a laugh, incredulous and barbed.

"Aman was to be the end of the matter. Aman, who was saved because harm to him meant harm to you." His voice grows cold as he reminds, "Aman, who was an accident."

This didn't feel accidental. Or at least, the persistence of such a bond didn't. She had learned to break them, after all.

"And you hid this from me," Ace announces that roiling realization aloud, knuckles curling against the kitchen countertop. Another breath expels from him that wants to be a laugh but can't find the right energy for it. "You couldn't even find it in you to come up with an explanation until now."

Each sentence, each shift in his dark mood, each emphasized moment feels like a spear piercing through her flesh, in one side and clear out the other, like some sort of misused and grotesque pincushion. Hoist her in the square, all unseeing eyes and soundless scream, and leave her as a monument to what happens when Ace Callahan gives his heart in trust and finds a dark stain on it in return.

Odessa stays with her back against the door, closing her eyes and feeling that pounding heart sink low in her chest. If she tries to explain, will she be allowed to do so without interruption for his suppositions and the words he decides should be formed by her mouth? Or should she let him talk himself in a circle and risk that it might simply stoke anger to a blaze, rather than see it smoke itself out.

“I am yours, Ace.” She doesn’t resort to the French she so often lapses into when trying to convey the depth of her love for him. There can be no room left for him to interpret it as a deflection. “And you are mine.” Reiterating her own claim of him is a gamble, but one she hopes pays off by reminding him that their possessiveness goes both ways.

One tentative step carries her forward, then another. Odessa does not dare a third.

"I don't know that I trust that," Ace replies more quietly. Indeed, sight unseen, all that seems to make him up is a lack of belief. But rather than let it overflow, he turns around against the island, a dull echoing thud against the wood of the cabinet sounding from him as he slides down behind it and hits the ground. One leg is propped out before him against the sink cabinet, elbow to knee, fingers framing forehead and face and he muddies his way through what to make of this.

Even now, he tries hard to avoid directing his anger directly at her or through her, save in the ways he can't possibly know about.

Every question that comes to his tongue is one that will make things worse, he's sure. Ace finally lets out a stuttered exhale as he comes across the one that might provide him something other than fuel for their pyre. "Why didn't you tell me?" he demands to know, head turned slightly to help with the acoustics of the kitchen carry his voice back to her.

A screw twists slowly, bringing her ribs together like a vise at his disbelief. His doubt that he may not be the one who still owns her heart doesn’t break it just yet, but the cracks are forming. If she had any tears left in her, she’d start to cry again. That isn’t to say that she’s empty, however. Far from it. To the very brim, she’s filled with anguish.

He asks a question finally, and it gives her the permission to start to move again. Stepping further into their home – their home – and peering into the kitchen where she can’t find him by sight, but feels his location all the same.

“You won’t like the answer,” Odessa tells her husband in a quiet voice, “but I promise it’s the honest one.” He doesn’t need to agree to anything here to be told. To ask for anything else is to ask for a lie, and ask to crumble their foundation. “I knew you would hate it. So I didn’t tell you. But why I did it in the first place is more complicated than that.”

A cautious step to the side brings him nearly into view – or at least his foot against the sink-side cupboard. “May I join you, please?”

It's a question Rex, too, has. Except he asks it by nearing, sniffing at Ace's scent, and is swatted aside for his efforts. The gangly pup retreats back around the side of the island, tail tucked, and Ace doesn't provide another answer for Odessa. He likewise ignores the nearly silent keen the dog makes.

"It doesn't fucking matter why you did it," he answers sharply. "It matters you thought to do it at all. To entangle your heart with someone else's. That you knew well enough to do it behind my back and hope for the best just fucking takes the cake." Again, he can't even muster a bark of bitter laughter. His anger is deflating quickly under his refusal to weaponize it.

"I grieve for when I was still naïve enough to believe the last time you lied to me would be the last," Ace informs her in a voice hollowing itself out as he speaks. "For when I thought your little trysts were over. For when I believed everything you told me, and gave my trust on the rest. What a fucking fool I was," he ends in a whisper. The arch of his hand over his face shifts, palm covering eye.

"Love is such a burden, isn't it, my muse," he dithers, the misery in him laid bare.

The first cut results in an audible breath hissed in between the rows of Odessa’s teeth, as though he’d run a blade across her palm. She does not summon the pup to her side, though she feels his distress and his concern just as easily as she feels Ace’s anger and upset. This is, unfortunately, something the animal will just have to get used to.

“My ability is not my heart,” Odessa counters, impassioned in her plea. “I feel the emotions of anybody in a given room and I am no more romantically connected to them than I am…” She looks around for some example that would drive her point home. Exasperatedly, she gestures further into the kitchen, “The dishwasher!”

If she does not act, this boat they’re trying to bail out may capsize. Odessa comes around the corner, standing at the mouth of the strait between the counters. “You… aren’t wrong. Love is difficult. It can’t all be wonderful, or we wouldn’t appreciate when it is, would we?”

A tentative step forward.

“That link was less than forty-eight hours old,” she tells him quietly. “I didn’t say anything because I didn’t know if it would hold. The answer is clearly no, it wouldn’t. I had no idea that discovery would be such a…” Odessa lays her hands over the center of her chest, as though she can feel the place where that intangible tether snapped free from her sternum. “…physically traumatic thing. I didn’t think it would be useful for you to know until I understood how the link would function.”

Odessa comes to sit on the floor, her back to the sink side, legs stretched out toward the island. “I made a mistake. I made a mistake in not telling you what I was planning, not telling you what I’d done. But just because I’m a fool doesn’t mean I don’t love you.

Ace lets his hand gloss off the side of his head, eyes lifting to find Odessa inviting herself into the space he's carved out for himself. Any glisten they might've had is gone for that irritation.

"A mistake, that in your previous estimation, could have had you killed," he reminds her vacantly. "Or perhaps you would have just died of simple heartbreak rather than a sympathetic reaction of your ability." He lets out a bitter scoff of a breath with that same sense of self-deprecating humor, his head tilting back and hitting the cabinet behind him with a quiet clattering thud as the door bounces. He looks ahead instead of at her, eyes eventually shutting. "Because we're not talking about you dealing with someone's emotions nearby you…"

He doesn't bother stopping Odessa from nearing him, and doesn't bother waving Rex away when the dog comes to nose the side of her leg and lie down by her hip.

"We're talking about you establishing a bond. Making their heart your own and vice versa. Wasn't that how you put it?" Ace wonders in a murmur. "Something to that effect?" His upper lip curls back in a sneer, that feeling of betrayal stoking anger yet again.

Something Odessa recognizes as fear slices through it, though, quickly enough. Apprehension keeps him from acting on it, and he swallows away the vitriol that had clawed its way up his esophagus. "I won't see eye to eye with you on this," he acknowledges quietly. "I'm so angry, I could have broken you. Us." His eyes drift open slightly, physically seeming anything but angry. "I still could."

The forearm over his tented knee shifts, thumb passing over the inside of his palm. "Nothing I do will be enough, will it. How I could bend, and it won't…" matter, perhaps. His brow slants. "Anything, I could give you, and…"

Ace's hand tightens into a fist.

He’s lucky, Odessa reasons with herself in a numb sort of fashion, that Richard’s gone. The words he’s just spoken alone would likely have been enough to convince him to act against Ace. The thought brings on the most fleeting and rueful smile. No more than a twitch of her lips.

She’s afraid. Not as much of Ace, she marvels silently, but of the loss of everything around her and what they have, chiefly. Rex is nosing at her and Odessa finds herself afraid to acknowledge him, for fear that Ace will take it as a sign that she’ll seek comfort anywhere except from him. Why should she seek comfort where she’ll receive none? It doesn’t matter. He won’t see it that way. She offers her hand out, palm resting on the floor, pinky stretched out toward the dog so he can sniff and lick at his convenience.

A thought – words – cross her mind. A point to bring up. One that would disrupt this tenuous position of theirs further. “This mistake still could have killed me,” Odessa acknowledges quietly. “But given that we’re facing… the end times, I rather thought the risk could be worth it.” Her hand lifts off her thigh and drops back down with a dull slap. “He… Richard isn’t here anymore. My hope was that I’d be able monitor whether he remained alive or not, but…”

That obviously didn’t work out.

“I’m lucky the experiment didn’t kill me.” Luckier still, she knows, that Ace didn’t turn around and kill her. Although Odessa knows there’s still time for that, too.

Time, yes. But nothing that manifests in him like the desire to do it. Every time he nears flaring up in anger, that bone-drenched dread of the future that comes after stalls him, encourages him to shut down any true consideration.

Of all things, it leaves him with an angry sadness, strange and foreign.

"You are," Ace agrees. "Lucky." His eyes finally seek hers, the green-grey of them without spark or sharpness. "And so am I," he adds, hand still tightened to fist. He holds that look on her for a long moment before slowly exhaling.

He finds, finally, he's glad to still have a her to even be angry with, as much good as it does him. His eyes close in a gesture needed to lay aside his emotions for now, and when they open again a breath later there's different thoughts brought to forefront.

"Are you sure it didn't kill him, whatever it was?" he asks offhandedly. "There's no need to hold back now. No crying wife who we're trying to reassure." His eyes narrow slightly. "The reaction the snap produced in you… I certainly could have thought you were dying for whatever you were feeling then."

As she has so many times before, Odessa finds acceptance in those quiet moments where she awaits judgement. The seconds tick by as she calmly bides the time until she’ll be told if she lives or dies. Holding her husband’s gaze brings her no comfort.

At least for now, however, there appears to be a stay of execution. It should feel like a relief and it will — later.

From the floor, she lifts her hand and rests it gently on Rex’s back, stroking his fur slowly until she feels his distress begin to wane. Maman is fine, still, and she doesn’t need another layer of unease added to this situation.

Odessa feels so weary then, when he asks his question. She wants simply to sling her free arm around the peak of his knee and rest her head there while she lets everything drain from her, no longer compelled to keep up any sort of appearance. “I don’t know,” she’s forced to admit with a heavy sigh. “I want to believe he’s alive, because I’m alive.” Lifting from her thigh again, her free hand curls into a loose fist that rests about the center of her chest. “I’ve never felt a pain like that in my life.” Her head cocks to one side with a self-deprecating smirk. “And I’ve felt some pain.”

The expression fades again, her head bowed. “I’m sorry I kept it from you. I really am. But he’s trying to save our world, and knowing whether or not he made that jump was important. The risk seemed worth it to me. I couldn’t let you talk me out of it and let me lose my nerve.”

"Imagine," he beseeches her oh-so-softly, his heart momentarily imagining with her. "That I had lost you and I didn't even know why."

"Or worse," he ventures with a tick of his brow. "That I learned after."

Ace looks away from her, staring off to the left now with his tongue denned against his lower teeth and cheek. "I can't support you if you keep doing this to me. How am I supposed to help you, if…" He sighs hard at his moot point. Doesn't know when things changed like this— where instead of pushing her to do things on her own, now he wants to be the one laying the path for her.

"For so long, I wanted you to fly. To be strong, to stand on your own. But never at the expense of us." Ace swings his hand up to his brow, trying to rub the crease out of it. "How can I admire you if I don't even know what you're doing half the time, O?" This talk of saving the world only adds to that sting, and he's not sure the tenor behind it, either. He only shakes his head.

“You think I can’t tell–” Odessa cuts herself off. If what she nearly said earlier would have left them on shaky ground, this would ruin them entirely. “I know when you’re hurting,” she revises in a soft voice. “And I may not be able to pinpoint the why with most people, but it’s different with you.” She shakes her head and sighs. “I know I’m always the cause. You don’t get upset like this with anyone else, or about anything else.”

One hand stays with Rex while the other wraps around herself to rest her hand on the opposite shoulder. “You realize, don’t you, I feel the same when you’re off doing things for d’Sarthe and I don’t know the first thing about it.” Odessa makes a strained face that may have once attempted to be a smile, her brows pinched together low at the bridge of her nose. “It would be one thing if I were blissfully ignorant. If I were married to Harry and knew nothing of Ace. But I married you. And I know that you do dangerous things to and for dangerous people. And I know that it’s going to catch up to you someday, and I won’t be there…”

Imagine, he’d said, that he had lost her and he didn’t even know why. That’s a reality she lives with every day. “Do I not continue to support you, knowing someday you might simply be gone and I may never know the how or the why?”

Ace looks up to her with a tempered sigh. "There is a stark difference there, and you well know it," he answers with flint. "You aren't made aware of what I'm doing specifically to safeguard you. All of this has been to protect you, keep you safe. You are cutting me out because you fear my feelings will be hurt."

"Congratulations," he proposes merrily. "Let this be the lesson to us that this is the far worse of the two when it comes to causing hurt."

Away, he wants to be. He nearly rises but instead drops his head and sighs again, leg flattening to ground. He smooths his hand down his pantleg as he stares at his knee. "Well," he says regardless, the tone of someone preparing to move on. "I don't know what the fuck left there is to say."

There’s a spark that tries to come to life. Like that cheap lighter beneath the dilapidated bus shelter in the pouring rain, however, there’s no joy. Odessa can’t summon any anger for the way he trivializes her own fears and emotional pain and prioritizes his own as more legitimate. She can’t even legitimize her own upset. Her tried and true internalized defense of when your feelings are hurt, you say you wish I had died doesn’t do more than half-stir once in the lowest pit of her chest.

“I’ll pack a bag,” Odessa offers quietly, with an upward lilt that shapes the offer just as easily into a question. “Rentre chez toi,” she instructs Rex in the softest hush, who gets to his feet and trots off to the bed and crate he sleeps in at night. Ace can keep his seat, she begins to rise from hers.

"No," he answers swiftly on the end of that offer, following it up with a sharp look in her direction. He doesn't reach for her as she shifts, but tells her again, more firmly on the second bout, "No. This is our home. Just because I no longer trust you doesn't mean you leave. Doesn't mean we stop being married. You nor I get to just walk away from this like that."

"I'm simply done talking about this. There's no point in…" Ace only half-shakes his head. "You acknowledged your mistake. You feel remorse of some kind." Based on how she's acting, anyway. Or perhaps this is just a lie he tells them both in the moment. "I don't know what I expect from driving home my disappointment with you. What I could expect to gain that you've not already given. So I'm done."

But still, he rises to his own feet. "All that said, I'm stepping out for a drink."

Before he can go further than he has, he knows. Before he crosses a line from righteous to cruel in ways that could jeopardize all this so much worse. He's eager to fly from that possibility. Ace looks away, slipping to the counter to retrieve his phone. Just the one.

It feels like a slap in the face and a kick to the stomach when Ace says he no longer trusts Odessa. Their whole relationship was built on the concept of his being able to trust her. How can they be sustained without that? Fear grips her tightly enough to bring the pricking of tears to the corners of her eyes.

When he says he’s going to go for a drink, she feels everything decay beneath the ice cold grip of that hand around her. Odessa pulls herself to her feet and fights the urge to chase after her husband. “I’ll plan on sleeping down here,” she tells him instead. “If you decide you want me upstairs, you know how to find me.”

Ace almost leaves it at that, allowing that concession from her, but his shoulders flatten and his head turns back slightly. "That's not necessary," he tells her without expectation of being necessarily heeded. She's always been exceptional at punishing herself far greater than he ever means to. "It's me who's liable to stumble back in unable to climb the stairs, after all. Not you."

"Take the dog to bed with you, if you must," he concedes drolly. "We both have to get through this in our own ways." Scrape goes the phone off the counter, key fob pinched to it under two fingers.

He half turns back to look at her again, but no words come. Ace merely sighs— a motion laced with feelings of disappointment, dismay, and despair— and his being smudges to the left, losing its edges before all of him vanishes from sight. His emotional presence and all the burden it echoes of fades momentarily after.

It’s a good thing he isn’t necessarily expecting to be heeded, because he certainly isn’t about to be, in this case. For all of Odessa’s faults, for all the places she finds only fireflies where her caution should be, she can still recognize the meaning of aposematic coloration in even the most handsome of blooms.

Once his heart no longer resonates in the place next to hers, Odessa leans forward heavily, her arms spreading out to either side of her, anchoring herself to the counter by wrapping her fingers around its edges. The mournful wail she lets out competes with the one of agony she unleashed earlier. She sobs until it feels as though her heart is wrung entirely dry, left only with shuddering and gasping breaths.

Exhausted, she finally makes her halting way to the dinner table, where her notepad sits. Settling down into her chair, she pulls her papers toward her and pens a note to her husband.

I have not left you.

I’ve gone elsewhere to sleep and I’ve taken Rex, so you’ll not have to worry about his care.

I will return when you inform me you’re sober and not a moment before.

Standing up abruptly, Odessa hurries across the house, grabbing a couple bottles of pills from the medicine cabinet and shaking them into her palm. From there, she collects a glass of water from the filter in the fridge and sets it and the pills down on the table. A circle and an arrow are drawn on the paper, pointed in the direction her orders are sat.

The doctor recommends this cocktail and plenty of hydration.

My heart breaks to be apart from you already. Please call me home soon.

Je t’aime, mon phare.

Toujours ton phénix,

The letter is left on the counter where his phones and his keys will reside either when he decides to return, or when he decides to put those affects where they belong.

Outside, Odessa stands on the curb with her purse and an overnight bag hanging from one shoulder and her wolfhound puppy sitting at her side opposite. His leash is looped around her wrist as she holds her phone to her ear.

“Hey… Look, I know I– No.” Her brows knit together. “No, I’m sorry. No. Yeah, no.” Odessa turns her face away from the phone before she exhales heavily. “I– It’s just– I need a place to hole up for a night.” The blonde looks up as her taxi rolls up.

“I’m not okay right now.”

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