Empathy for the Devil


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Scene Title Empathy for the Devil
Synopsis Truth and Beauty are wonderful words
but shrapnel is shrapnel
and at the end of the day
I am alone with the things I have done.
Date June 19, 2020

d'Sarthe Group Complex

Strolling around Staten Island generally isn’t much of a leisurely activity, but the Howland Hook Terminal is a bit of a different beast. Much like walking the perimeter of the Trade Commission, there’s inherently less risk. It’s not a hunting ground.

Not for anyone who wants to go on living, anyway.

Odessa Price looks like she belongs in one of the offices inside the d’Sarthe Group Complex, dressed in a charcoal and white striped blazer over a cream pink blouse and a blush pencil skirt that doesn’t quite reach her knees. If not for her two-toned blonde and copper curls, her leopard print heels might be the loudest element of her appearance.

She has time to kill and the sunshine is glorious. It’d be a shame not to enjoy the feeling of it on her face. As she rounds the corner of the building, she reaches into her blazer for a slim silver cigarette case, gently prying the lid open and fishing one out.

The distant bark of raised voices isn’t unusual in Staten Island, it isn’t unusual anywhere in New York. Mercifully for Odessa, it’s far enough away that she can’t pick up even a whiff of the emotional content of the disagreement, save for the face that it’s from somewhere inside the complex of industrial buildings. They get louder, though, as the source of the argument gradually moves from between two warehouses into the empty street.

“…and you know what? I think you’re full of shit.”

Jason Mines is a familiar cipher to Odessa. Someone always at a distance to her, sticking closer to Gideon d’Sarthe’s orbit than even Ace does. The tall, crew-cut man in a sleek suit is dragging another man by the scruff of his denim jacket out of the alleyway. The way he throws him into the street belies a superhuman form of strength, because the Cajun garbage he’s throwing out lands on the other side of the street not all that far from Odessa.

“Fuck off with that bullshit!” Mines says, pointing two fingers at the scraggly-looking blonde laying on his stomach on the asphalt. “Come back when you aren’t completely full of shit!

Mines turns on a well-cut loafer back toward the alley, while the battered Cajun slowly pushes himself up to his hands and knees, wiping his wrist across a split lip. “Love you too, Chuckles,” he says in a dirty drawl. Rather than stand up, he just sits there in the street, dabbing one hand at the blood blossoming on his mouth.

This disheveled lump of a man is one Odessa knows. This lump is Kain Zarek.

A little over a year ago, a man like Jason Mines would be little more to Odessa Price than a blip on the radar. Something to be noted, but not fussed over. Now, however? Now is a different story. When he appears from the alley, and looking every inch the thug she feels he is underneath the suit, she freezes in place, makes herself look small and like her attention might be improbably pointed elsewhere. Too occupied with putting away her smokes to be bothered to notice a commotion. That sort of response has always been a survival tactic, but it’s more out of a lack of desire for trouble these days. Before, it would have been an act of deception, the trouble welcomed.

When he disappears back the way he came, she turns and hurries over to where the blond man has settled on the pavement, heels clicking to announce her, if she had avoided his notice so far. “Hey…” The cigarette, unlit, is tucked behind one ear as she crouches down and fishes a tissue out of her pocket to offer it out to the battered Cajun.


The last time he saw her, she had brown hair. The last time he saw her, her hair was long and blonde. The last time he saw her, she was just a teenager.

“What’re you—” Odessa can’t help but smile at the familiar face, recognized in three different contexts, but it’s tempered with concern. “You’re bleeding,” may be a statement of the obvious, but it bears noting. “Did he hurt you?” A dirty look is flashed the way Mines exited.

Kain doesn’t piece two and two together right away, K-Mart sails straight over his head as he wipes at his mouth and hisses in a frustrated fashion. “M’fine,” he grumbles, pushing up onto one hand. “If he really wanted t’clean mah clock you’d be pickin’ pieces a’me out’f yer hair.” It’s only when Kain gets up onto one knee that he really sees Odessa for who she is, and the look of guilt-come-revulsion that washes over him is as palpable as the way he jerks a little away from her.

Kain stands faster than he should have, wobbles a little, but remains upright. Though he uses that lack of equilibrium to step back a couple of paces and put some distance between himself and Odessa. “An’ Ah’ ain’t who y’think Ah’ am,” is the worst lie he’s ever told, but it’s the best he comes up with off the cuff of getting thrown across a road. “Stay out’f it.”

Odessa recoils herself, surprised by the sudden motion on his part and the wave of revulsion. But it’s his, she realizes after a moment, not hers. Of course. He’d looked at her that way before when they’d crossed paths after she’d left her own reality.

No. Not hers. The other her.

The blonde winces as she comes to her feet and puts a hand up to her head briefly. “You’re exactly who I think you are,” she insists, lifting her head to look at him with her worry worn plainly. “You’re from The Hub.”

When Odessa says that, the color drains out of Kain’s face like he was being confronted by the ghost of Christmas Future and shown his own grave. Jaw unsteady, Kain takes another step back and scrubs one hand over his stubbled jaw, shaking his head from side to side. The look of horror in his eyes makes, in some ways, sense. That face, mention of the Hub, and what he did to Odessa combine for an unfortunate cocktail of bitter guilt, sour fear, and moldy resentment that assails Odessa’s senses.

Go away,” Kain hisses when confronted by the ghost of his own misdeeds, trying to shoo Odessa away like a particularly persistent cat trying to get a morsel of food off of a plate.

No.” Odessa states clearly, shaking her head. Her expression clouds with sympathy, sadness. “Kain, please…” How does she begin to explain herself? Who she is, how she’s able to be having this conversation with him with such a clarity.

In the face of the fear she represents to him, she schools her features into a mask of grim determination. “What Edward made you do wasn’t your fault.” It will take more than that to even begin to absolve him of his guilt, she knows, but it’s a start. “I’m not a vengeful spirit here to haunt you.”

When Odessa mentions Edward by name, Kain wheels around as if she’d said a slur. He stares at her with wide eyes and a momentarily shocked expression that very quickly hardens into a scowl. He comes at her, emphasizing their height disparity in drawing that distance short, then further escalates the situation in the same moment she feels guilt turn to anger, and shoves Odessa in the shoulders with both hands.

“Don’t you ever say his fuckin’ name t’me again!” Kain shouts, very real tears welled up in his eyes. “You ain’t got no right t’bring him up!” The hurt and shock in Kain’s eyes is profound, and it’s clear he wasn’t prepared to confront these demons today, and yet here Hell is, door open and residents let loose.

The shift in his emotional state is warning enough for her to be braced when his hands find her shoulders and push her back. It doesn’t keep her from staggering back two steps, but she doesn’t topple beneath the force of his misplaced aggression.

Odessa could argue with him. She wants to. She has no right to bring up that man? While they were certainly both betrayed by Edward Ray, she feels she has more right to that feeling than he does. Although it isn’t so much that Edward let Kain live, it’s that Edward forced Kain to live with the actions he had to take.

For that, the shards of her broken heart are smashed into even smaller pieces for him.

Instead of shouting right back at him, she nudges his anger aside and meets it with compassion. “It wasn’t your fault,” Odessa repeats softly, but firmly. There’s a beat of hesitation where she tries to decide what to say, or if she has the right to say it. If it’s correct. “I’m alive, Kain. I’m alive, I’m here. I remember.

Her eyes close for a moment, drifting into a memory that’s not hers, but belongs to her all the same now. “I used to play House of the Rising Sun on that tinny old piano. You pretended like you were too cool to give a shit about the music, that you couldn’t have cared less about it when I was playing, but you always lingered when I did. At least that song.” Opening her eyes again, Odessa smiles faintly, wanting so very badly to convey just how much she wants to take away his pain and his guilt about what happened to her. She wants to hold him and let him cry it out as long as he needs. “Don’t waste your tears on me of all people. There’s nothing to forgive, K-Mart. Not on my part.”

The only one who needs to forgive Kain is Kain.

“It’s a little fuckin’ early for the Ghost of Christmas Past routine, an’ you’re a shitty Tiny Tim.” Kain spits out, looking between Odessa and the street and back again. He glances over his shoulder, back in the direction he’d come from, then back to her and sort of starts walking away down the street.

“Leave me alone, Ah’ ain’t your Ebenezer Scrooge!” Kain barks with a flippant wave of one hand in the air. A few pedestrians watch the exchange, but are quick to return to their day. Across the street in the alley, Jason Mines fixes Kain with an intense look, one that slowly tracks back from Kain to Odessa.

Mines lingers there in the shadow of an industrial building, then slowly slips into the shadows.

Odessa turns away uncomfortably, which is why she’s able to lock eyes with Mines as he scrutinizes the interaction she’s having with this old friend who isn’t really her old friend. When she watches him slink back into whatever cesspool he spawned from, a shiver runs down her spine.

It prompts her to go chasing after Kain. “Hey! Look, I won’t— Just think about what I’ve said, okay? That’s all I want. But—” Odessa throws another nervous glance over her shoulder, reaching out to grab Kain’s arm with more strength than her diminutive stature suggests at first blush. She drags him to a halt and shores up the remaining distance between them to catch his eye again.

“What the hell were you and Jason arguing about?” Odessa doesn’t call Mines by his given name — that’s a privilege Ace has earned and not one she’s foolish enough to assume extends to her by proxy — but she’s hoping the suggestion of that level of familiarity will grab Kain’s attention. “Why does he think you’re full of shit? Because I know you’re not.”

If he won’t talk to her about who they both used to be, maybe he’ll talk to her about where they are now.

Kain shakes his hand out of Odessa’s, fixing her with a look she’s seen from enough people who hit her after to recognize it for what it is. She doesn’t need to feel the anger welling up in him. Not that Odessa thinks Kain would strike her, but there’s enough in his eyes to remind her of too many others who did.

Stay out of it,” Kain says through his teeth, advancing toward Odessa with a furrow of his brows. He invades her space, looks down at her. “Screw that blonde little head a’yers on straight an’ turn th’ fuck ‘round.” He looks over the top of her head — a directive — then back down. “An’ leave me alone. Ah’ ain’t yer friend, an’ Ah’ ain’t interested in whatever this is.” He waves a hand at her, though it’s hard to say precisely what he means by that.

Odessa freezes, but she doesn’t shy away. If he hits her, so be it. It wouldn’t be the first time someone’s done it and it won’t be the last. But maybe it’ll help him work some of those negative feelings out. When has she ever really cared about ensuring the outlets for that are healthy ones?

The hold on that ground is maintained even as he whirls on her and encroaches, lifting her chin so she can meet his gaze without fear. She’s holding on to enough of his anger to override anything good sense might be trying to tell her, even if she’s not letting it manifest in her reactions to him.

“Whatever what is? Concern for someone I give a shit about?” Just kidding. There it is. “You don’t get to tell me what to do.” If anything, that’s what got Knutson killed. No one ever could tell her what to do. Not even — or perhaps least of all — Edward Ray. “What bullshit that isn’t bullshit are you trying to get him to listen to?”

In truth, Odessa isn’t sure why she cares so much, except that whatever it was resulted in him getting hurt, and a very vocal part of her is very fucking opposed to letting that happen if there’s anything she can do about it.

“Stop pretendin’. You ain’t her.” Kain says while looking down his nose at Odessa. “Now get outta’ here.”

Kain seems to be taking his own advice as well, jaw clenched as much as his hands are when he turns his back on her. This isn’t about some para-dimensional overlay technicality, this is about a woman he watched die by his own hands confronting him. Odessa’s felt the tumult rising up from Kain before. She knows there is no right response here. That no amount of empathy can help those poisoned to death by their own guilt.

“I am her! I had my room wallpapered in sheet music! You ran a trading post with comic books and batteries and—” Her voice cracks as she shouts at his back and she isn’t sure if it’s her own upset or his that’s put her on the verge of angry tears. Why does him denying her hurt so badly? Odessa Knutson is dead, but she isn’t gone, is she? “Edward stuck the knife in my throat, not you.”

Suddenly, she feels cold and she closes her eyes tightly to block out the memory. Edward catching her as she fell and lowering her to the floor as if he’d cared about the fact that she was terrified in the face of death. Like he was making sure she wasn’t alone when he could have just walked away while he tended to his precious strings and she bled out.

“You wanna do right by me? Stop fucking blaming yourself for his actions.”

The anger comes boiling back and this time Kain comes wheeling back around with an elbow raised and a fist—

— stopping halfway between them.

Kain’s lips press together in a thin line, his brow twists, neck muscles flex and he wrenches his fist in the air like he was being held back by some physical restraint. He isn’t. Kain’s muscles relax, and while the tension bleeds out of his face the rage emanating from him doesn’t. Swallowing down disgust and frustration, Kain’s face screws up into a quick pull of varying emotions.

“Get th’ fuck outta here,” Kain spits the words out, motioning with his chin down the street. “You don’t know me, an’ Ah’ sure as hell don’t know you.

Her hands fold together behind her back and she lifts her chin, waiting for the punch. Not with defiance, but with serenity. It’s almost as if she finally learned one thing from Mohinder Suresh after all these years.

“You wouldn’t be so angry if that was true.” Odessa’s voice is small now, letting her sorrow for him, her sympathy for him, keep her from further following him down the rabbithole of all that resentment. It isn’t her he hates, she knows.

But shrapnel is shrapnel.

“I’m sorry, Kain.” The small blonde takes a step back, finally signifying her intent to give him what he wants. “I hope someday… I hope your ghosts won’t haunt you anymore. I hope you learn to forgive yourself the way she did.”

Not I. It isn’t herself she’s talking about. Odessa — any version of her — isn’t the only spectre Kain Zarek feels looming. She’s seen enough to know that, and to know the truth, to have seen the beauty in the way he started to let go and become himself again.

“I’ll be around,” she imparts as a warning. “When you’re ready. But I won’t bother you again.” Behind her back, her fingers cross just before she says it. It’s not a broken promise if she never intended to keep it in the first place, right?

The digits untangle before her hands drop back to her sides again and she turns away. Maybe he’ll find flippancy easier to swallow. “Try not to let Mines toss you into any more gutters,” Odessa offers without looking over her shoulder. She’d hate to have their roles reversed.

Or to go back to prison after she commits murder for revenge.

Heading back toward the front doors of the facility she’s been loitering around in the first place, she feels the string between herself and Kain stretch thinner and thinner. Before it can snap, or dissolve, or whatever physical sensation she feels like applying to the ethereal sense, she stops, closing her eyes and dips her chin toward her chest as though staring at her shoes.

She tries, for once, she tries to push her emotion to someone else in return. To try and grant him some measure of solace.

Leave it to Odessa Price to carry inside the hollow of her chest empathy for the devil.


Not Far Away

Jason Mines is still fuming as he makes his way down a flight of metal stairs into a dingy basement lit by shadeless lights. The illumination is stark and uncomfortable and the working conditions at tables littered with small syringes and canisters filled with neon blue liquid are cramped and unwelcoming. The men and women packaging Refrain do not look Mines in the eye when he stalks past them.

Jason,” comes from inside the room as Mines passes it by. He stops, closes his eyes, and turns around to peer in through the door.



“What’s got your pickle in a twist?” Pete Varlane asks from behind a shitty metal desk, holding up an ampoule of glowing blue liquid to the light, one eye closed. Mines rolls his eyes and steps through the doorway into Pete’s cramped basement office.

“Just some dumb fuck upstairs,” Mines says dismissively, earning a more scrutinizing look from Pete.

“I’ve seen you wring dumb fucks out like a wet towel.” Pete says, setting down the ampoule. “You don’t usually look like they got you up the ass with a bottle of tabasco afterward.”

Sucking on his cheek in reaction to Pete’s colorful euphemisms, Mines scrubs a hand across his forehead. “Well this dumb fuck looked exactly like Kain fucking Zarek.”


“Some dumb fuck who got his ass killed like ten fucking years ago.” Mines says with growing impatience. He throws a hand up into the air. “The fuck does it matter t’you?”

Pete, ever the bother, makes a face and shrugs. “It doesn’t.” He admits, picking up another ampoule to check. “But, did he really die? Soap Opera rules, no body, no death!” Pete wonders with delight, looking up at Mines.

“Yeah. I saw his body. Had t’be sure. Shot in the head.” Mines leans against the door frame, crossing his arms over his chest. “You fuckin’ satisfied?”

Pete sets down the ampoule, swiveling his chair toward Mines before he boosts up to his feet. “No, actually. Now I’m curious.” Striding over to Mines, Pete puts a hand on his shoulder, then looks up at him with a conspiratorial smile.

“Tell me about Mr. Zarek.”

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