I'm Sorry, Miss Jackson


odessa5_icon.gif sahara_icon.gif

Scene Title I'm Sorry, Miss Jackson
Synopsis A quiet moment is shared between two women in a dangerous time.
Date July 2, 2012

Night has fallen over the countryside. Most of the company that arrived earlier in the day are bunked down for the night in real beds or at least with roofs over their heads, depending on their place in the pecking order.

The woman seated at the Jackson House’s dining room table happens to rank higher than some, while also lower than most. It’s an interesting paradox - a razor’s edge she stands on, conscious of what it means to fall to either side of that divide.

July 2, 2012

The Jackson House, Alabama

The order to turn west has led them to trek south through friendly territory. The Jacksons seem about as friendly as anyone might find. There’s a bed waiting for her upstairs, kept warm by another body, but instead she sits in the wooden dining chair, staring out the window. Not for any sign of trouble, but to watch the stars. This far out, there’s a lot more of them than usual. Brows knit together over stormy blue eyes as something nudges at the edges of her perception.


She can hear them from another room. Or… No, maybe they’re coming from upstairs?

A sigh slips past the blonde woman’s lips as she feels a familiar sensation coiling around her. No, the whispers are simply in the back of her mind. Indistinguishable, speaking in a language all their own. A language of power. One arm rests against the table’s surface, giving her an anchor as she leans to one side to reach for the backpack settled on the floor at her side. Her hand grasps the strap and she’s about to heave the pack upward when she hears footsteps approaching.

The pack stays where it is and Odessa Price lifts her head.

The sashaying footsteps pause, thin pajama pants covering the tops of offending feet. "Oh," Sahara Jackson whispers from the kitchen doorway, hand running through her tousled blonde hair. "I thought I heard someone else up."

Odessa's considered for a just a moment, not in the sense of someone trying to figure out her place in a hierarchy, but as a host trying to anticipate the needs of their guest. She has the grace not to yawn as her hand falls back down, smiling instead. "Couldn't sleep?" Sahara asks in that same soft way as before, voice kept low to not wake anyone else with their conversation. There's something honeyed about the way she speaks. "I know it can be hard being away from home. It's more common than you'd think."

She isn't shy about continuing on into the kitchen — it's her own home, after all. The woman in her mid-twenties is certainly well within her comfort zone, wandering barefoot with a white tank top and patterned pajama pants without a care in the world for who sees her or what they think of her like that. Her posture is open, even inviting as she leans one hip into the countertop. "You want I fix you up something?"

While Sahara makes her way into the kitchen, Odessa straightens back up to an upright seated position. A wry smile crosses her face at the mention of being away from home. She doesn’t know what that is. Any place she’s ever called home no longer exists. That’s not what they meant when they said you can’t go home again.

“You’re very kind,” Odessa murmurs, similarly keeping her voice down. The thought crosses her mind that she wouldn’t have to. She has other ways of keeping their conversation between them. The offending notion is quashed. “Do you have any juice? I feel like I need a sugar boost.” Her smile reappears briefly. “I’d ask for ice cream, but I’m not greedy.” Or completely ridiculous.

Sahara breathes a soft laugh out, eyes smiling more than the rest of her face does. "I think we can work that out," she offers almost conspiratorially, hand lifting up to pull open a cabinet. She pulls out a clear glass at first, but also reaches for a coffee mug. "In fact, we can do one or the other or both, whatever you like." She's smiling now, more on one side of her mouth than the other. Like she's being mischievous. She certainly must feel it, because that look endures as she walks to the refrigerator, hand lingering over the freezer side of it.

"Because now I've got the idea for some, too. Night's warm enough to merit it, I figure." Sahara informs her with more warmth than before. So Odessa wouldn't feel alone in being greedy, she'll happily take one for the team.

With the way the war was carrying on in some places, might as well take the time to enjoy what you could while you could. It was ever-encroaching in on the day-by-day of things, what with rebels targeting infrastructure, destabilizing affairs all over … it was a shame, really. And as far as Sahara's willing to believe, all of the fault lies with the enemy.

The offer to join in the partaking of ice cream instead of initiating it herself strips away some of the guilt that comes from the request, no matter how jokingly she presented it. “Well, if you are…” Odessa may as well too.

“Must be tough, giving up your home to strangers,” the visitor comments. She’s not dressed like a soldier in her cutoff shorts and black tanktop, but her boots are worn and there’s a scar at one shoulder where a bullet struck and passed through the other side that she doesn’t bother to hide. A worse one cuts across her throat. Someone tried very hard to kill her at least once. The satchel she set aside in the room she’s not sleeping in looked like something an old-fashioned doctor might carry.

“I hope I speak for everyone when I say we appreciate it. I know my—” she hesitates a second, runs her tongue over her lips and settles on the right words, “commander and I do.” Any time she’s not sleeping in a field, Odessa has decided, is a good time.

Sahara beams before tugging the freezer door open gently, fishing out a quart of vanilla ice cream. It might be store-brand, but any port in a storm, right? With it and the juice in hand, she heads back to the counter and pulls down another mug. Maybe they weren't being greedy if they ate the ice cream out of mugs. Or maybe it was just easier for facilitating carrying three items with two hands.

Spoons sticking out of healthy portions, she saunters over to the table and places the cups down gently, the mug's handle turned toward Odessa despite it not really mattering in that moment. "Oh… really, it isn't any trouble at all," she comments bashfully about opening their home up. The juice is set beside the other cup. "We all just like to do what we can around here. My brothers and uncles are off fighting right now, so it's not like we don't have the extra room anyway."

Her smile's almost sheepish as she carefully sits down in one of the wooden chairs, making sure the cushion attached to its spindles isn't too far out of position before she relaxes into it. "Though it means a lot to hear from you just how helpful it is. It is a bit — scary?, sometimes, to think who else might come up on our doorstep for having opened our rooms up like this." But that's an unpleasant thought, one she doesn't bother to linger on. Her voice lilts upward in pitch. "But, it's the right thing. What can you do, you know?" Despite the question being rhetorical, it's posed warmly, and she works on scooping a small bite of the ice cream from the cornflower blue ceramic mug in front of her.

Store-brand vanilla ice cream is still vanilla ice cream. Odessa pulls her mug closer to her and digs her spoon in. The first bite is unapologetically savored with half-lidded eyes and a soft hum of happiness. This is precisely what she wanted but didn’t dare hope for.

Sympathy settles in the wake of satisfaction. “It’s very brave. There are a lot of doors that have been shut to us.” And that’s not accounting for hostile territory. Even sympathizers aren’t always willing to give up space in their homes. Many find themselves doing it anyway. This — an enthusiastic host — is a nice change of pace.

She doesn’t ask after Sahara’s family, where they might be stationed. That leads to a two-way street in which Odessa’s hostess might be expected to ask where her company is headed, and that conversation requires a level of trust that Price doesn’t possess. “I hope we won’t be too much trouble. We should be out of your hair once we’ve had a chance to rest and stock up on provisions again.”

"Oh, don't you worry about how much time it takes. If you need a day or two, you do. That's just how it is." Sahara says, tongue sounding slightly cold-numbed because it is. She chuckles at that louder than before, like she's forgotten to mind her volume. She takes a moment to let her mouth warm back up and lets out a complacent sigh. "In the morning my daddy can show you all what we've got down in the cellar, at least." It's said as though what might be down there is something simple. Provisions like canned goods — of which there are a respectable amount — rather than a stockpile of munitions.

"Glad we can make you feel at home, at least for a little while. You're doing good work."

Odessa’s smile fades a little at the mention of good work. She wishes she could believe it. “War is… what it is,” she demures, implying that she doesn’t believe it’s good, but might accept that it is necessary. “It’s nice to just sit at a kitchen table and have some fucking ice cream, though.”

She has the grace to look sheepish after that. It’s not like she can say she’s spent too much time around soldiers — she’s not the best at watching her language anyway — but it seems like a misstep in pleasant company. “Sorry. Excusez mon français. I’m just grateful to feel a little normal for a moment.”

And Sahara does blink in surprise, humbled by the language. Odessa must have been subjected to some things in her time to merit such a casual, yet forceful interjection. "That's all right," she insists, voice whispery light again as she takes another bite of ice cream. "I'm glad to give you the chance to be yourself for a moment." She smiles before taking a follow-up bite, sighing luxuriously. The ice cream really had been an amazing choice. Sahara leans back in her seat, looking out the window to peer up first at the sky… and then across the broad spanse of land that made up the Jackson's 'back yard'. At intervals, weak glows filter up through the grass, fireflies shimmering in the night.

The silence that follows is companionable, interrupted only by scrapes of their utensils against their mugs of ice cream. For just a couple of minutes, Odessa allows herself to feel normal. Like she might just head up to bed after this and wake up in the morning back in New York.

How much of New York City is even left?

Odessa puts her spoon in her mouth upside down so the cold vanilla is trapped against her tongue. She stares out the window and thinks about where she is right now. There’s provisions — provisions — in the cellar. She could take a deep breath and go investigate, find what she needs, and set out in the night with the dark to cover her and the fireflies to guide her.

And go where?

The ice cream melts and is swallowed down along with bitter reality. Odessa pushes her empty mug aside and takes a sip from her glass of juice — the mingling flavors are interesting — before reaching down to retrieve her backpack. Pulling it into her lap, she undoes the zipper and procures a small make-up bag of jewel toned satin, depicting the Evil Queen from Snow White.

The silence is pleasant, letting Sahara's thoughts wander to look back fondly on nights like this one, where she and her siblings ran in the night with nothing to guide them but the fireflies. Nights where family would gather in chairs around their long, wrap-around porch to share stories and catch up with each other in the midst of their rapidly-busying lives.

She looks forward to more nights like those contentedly, not knowing what she's already lost that will prevent them from happening in that same way ever again.

The mugs are collected automatically once she sees Odessa is done with hers, Sahara bringing them to the sink and rinsing them out. "You know, I thought you had just the prettiest name. 'Odessa'. It's very unique, I think. I can't say I've ever met anyone else with that name." She looks up from the dishes with a smile, digging down into the mugs with a washcloth.

Odessa lifts her eyes to stare at Sahara for a moment before she remembers to smile. She sets her backpack on the floor again, leaving just the make-up bag on the table. “Thank you. I’ve never met another Sahara either.” Which is to say she also finds the woman’s name to be pretty. “I was named after the city I was born in,” she explains without the customary bitterness to her tone that comes with that. It isn’t that she’s gotten over the fact that she doesn’t really see it as having been given a proper name — she could just as easily have been called Austin or Dallas or Katy — but that it’s just too much effort to be bitter about it out of context.

Turning her attention back to the small bag in front of her, she tugs back the blue zipper and reaches in to pull out an individually wrapped alcohol swab. The package is torn open and she reaches up to rub at a spot on her neck, head tilting to one side slightly to give her better access. When she crumples the pad and sets it aside, it’s easier to notice the small marks on her skin.

“I need to give myself an injection,” Odessa warns before retrieving the needle and vial of clear medication. “In case you’d like to go back to looking out the window.”

Sahara lets out a knowing, if amused hmm at hearing where exactly her namesake comes from. Like she can sympathize with what goes unsaid there. "My mama named all of her kids after places. Places she wishes she could have gone, places she'd love to see. My sister —" she nods her head clear out the window by the sink, indicating somewhere out in town, "her name's Savanna, and she sure wasn't named after the one in Georgia."

"Sometimes," she starts, and glances over her shoulder to make sure her mother isn't suddenly standing there. Because that'd just be something, wouldn't it? "I think it'd be nice to not…" But whatever that thought is, she doesn't have the heart to finish it. She sighs, looking back at the sound of the package being torn open. "Well, at least Odessa sounds better if you shorten it. My brothers called me Hairy growing up, and it just got under my skin like you wouldn't believe."

She seems thoughtful for a moment before she twists the water off, setting the mugs aside and flicking the moisture off her hands.

She's brought back to the moment by the friendly warning, her brow arching. "An injection?" Sahara asks, coming back over to the table. "Are you sure you don't need any help with that?" She'd seen the bag Odessa had brought with her, but wasn't sure what to make of it. Even so, it looked like she was fixing to stab herself in the neck with that thing. And that it definitely hadn't been her first time doing it.

“I suppose I’m fortunate there,” she agrees. “I just got called Dessie.” A name she doesn’t mind now, but most people don’t get familiar enough with her to do more than drop the O. The needle is uncapped and she lifts it and the bottle up to eye level so she can pierce the membrane and begin filling the syringe.

“Thank you, but I’m old hat at this.” That much is obvious enough, but the offer is genuinely appreciated. When most others offer, it isn’t a kindness. The little bottle — labeled Adynomine — is set aside with the crumpled alcohol swab and the needle poised. A deep breath and only the barest flinch goes along with the injection, blue eyes staring out the window. The plunger is depressed slowly, seconds counted, then the needle is withdrawn it it’s over. The spent needle is recapped and left with the other refuse for now.

Finally a small cotton ball is pressed to the injection site to catch the bead of blood left behind. She leaves her hand there holding it in place as she darts her gaze back to Sahara, subconsciously almost challenging her to react.

Sahara smiles again, like 'old hat' is a funny term she wouldn't have expected to hear at all right there, but she finds its use very cunning. "Well, here," she starts, leaning over to a free-standing cabinet behind Odessa, opening it with two fingers. She figures she can be helpful without actually watching the injection happen. A regular kitchen apothecary is stored within the chest, all cold medicines and painkillers with a side of bandaids and gauze. It's the box of small bandaids she reaches for, pulling one loose from the rest. "Even if it's just 'til morning," she says helpfully, turning back around.

She can't help it — she wonders just what sort of medication it is, why it requires an injection site like that, and the name on the side of the bottle catches her eye. Sahara blinks once, like to shake the tired from her eyes. Surely, she's dreaming, or at least she's just misreading. Her eyes linger on the bottle then, a tendril of dread driven by confusion given life in her gut. She hadn't seen wrong.

Her eyes dart back to Odessa after a too-long period, and she finds she's already being stared at.

The bandaid is still held in one hand, offered out just as helpfully as she'd meant for it to be, even though her eyes are screaming helplessly that Odessa isn't human and she feels horrified, confused, all kinds of things by that.

But it's not something she dares to say out loud because she's raised better than that, smarter than that. Because Odessa came in with the other Humanis First fighters. Because she'd just willingly cut off her mutant self right in front of her. Or maybe it's just because Sahara isn't capable of fully processing all of this revelation at 2 o'clock in the morning.

She tears open the initial packaging, offering the thin strip. "Here," Sahara repeats very softly.

Odessa holds Sahara’s gaze as she takes the bandaid from her and uses it to secure that little cotton puff in place over her pin prick wound. Then she starts gathering up her trash, save for the vial, glancing around to locate the receptacle. Once she finds it, she lifts to her feet and drops everything into the bin unceremoniously and turns around to look back.

She half expects to find a shotgun leveled at her. Not that she knows where the other blonde would have grabbed one from so quickly, but every time someone new is let in on her secret, she expects to be turned on.

Maybe that’s why she did this in front of this nice girl who would have been happier not knowing what’s sleeping in her guest bed. Maybe she’s hoping this would be the time someone would end this for her.

The whispering in the back of her mind fades. The invisible force pulling at her core falls still. Odessa Price counts to three and finds she’s still drawing breath. “I’m sorry. I thought maybe you’d already heard the rumors…” Whether or not that’s true, it gives them both an out. “It was nice of you to share your hospitality. I really will be out of your hair just as soon as I can.” I and not we this time. For this friendly woman’s sake, she’ll make herself scarce as she can.

It turns out her lack of a reaction was probably due to still having been processing, as somewhere in between Odessa standing and turning back, Sahara's face has gone flush with color.

She's not got a shotgun, but she does have the bottle of Adynomine clutched in her hand.

She looks ashamed. Maybe with herself for not somehow knowing, or maybe just on Odessa's behalf. She just doesn't understand, but how could she? All she knows is she feels taken advantage of now in a way not even their most demanding houseguests had ever made her feel. "Explain," Sahara demands in a quivering voice, her mint-colored eyes sharp with fear. Apparently she's either not heard Odessa's apology, or she chooses to ignore it in favor of seeking a better answer for this betrayal of hospitality.

That small bottle is held in her hand like she's liable to dash it to the floor.

It’s her floor to clean up.

It would be nice if she could stop time and think about the best words to say in this situation. But for as many times as she’s actually done that, Odessa still isn’t all that good with finding the right words. Slowly, she nods her head, accepting the anger directed at her, acknowledging and validating it.

“I’m a mutant,” she offers succinctly, “and I’d really rather not be.” Her gaze flickers to the empty vial of Adynomine. “I used to be human, like you. Like your family.” There’s a brief glance to the ceiling. Like the man upstairs in that bed she should have just gone and joined. She puts her attention back on Sahara, wondering which one of them would find the biggest knife in the kitchen first. Regardless of who winds up better armed, she expects she’d survive the encounter. She’d rather it not come to that. “Now, I’m a patriot.”

Human is first remains tacit.

Violence isn't who Sahara is, no matter how agitated she is in this moment. So perhaps to Odessa's surprise, her arm lowers without throwing the bottle to the ground in a noisy shatter to wake the others and make them aware of the freak in the kitchen. She exhales in a stutter, eyes drifting toward the window.

"So you are," she acknowledges breathlessly. Afterward, her eyes fall to the bottle and she sets it aside gently on the table again. Each movement is slow, carried out in parts instead of a smooth whole. She's struggling with this, but having seen Odessa push aside her gift just now to embrace being pure… It's clear what the woman feels.

Human is first.

"I am so sorry for you," is said with a surprising amount of sympathy. Sahara can't bring herself to look back at Odessa just yet, but she's actively engaged in the process of treating others as she'd want to be treated. Or at least, she's trying with all her might. "I would not know what to do if I were in your shoes, and…" she looks down, shoving her disgust for her guest so deep you'd think it was gone. She still can't look up, but her voice is delicate. "It's very brave of you to embrace your humanity instead of those…"

Even though the word 'mutant' has already been said out loud, she can't bring herself to echo it. Negative sentiment is disguised under distant, vague terms. "… tendencies."

Pity isn’t precisely the reprieve she expected, but it’s one Odessa will readily accept. Any time she can avoid a fight is a good one. Unrealized tension begins to melt out of muscles and the white knuckled grip she maintained on the counter at her back eases. Her stance remained casual throughout, but now it’s beginning to feel the part.

“Again, I didn’t mean to deceive you. I’m sorry.” Slowly, she crosses back to the table, and reaches for her bag, tucking the vial inside. Maybe it’s proof that she’s taking her medicine. Then the make-up bag is dropped back into the yawning mouth of the backpack and everything is zipped up again. “If there’s anything I can do to make it up to you while I’m here, just let me know.”

Normally, she’d have put on a smirk and a careless affect by now. Yes, I’m the thing we all hate, but I’ve proven myself useful, so you have to deal with it. There’s no arrogance for Sahara and her quiet disgust. Just a swell in the strong undercurrent of Odessa’s self-loathing. “Otherwise, I’ll stick to my room except when my company has need of me.” Out of sight, out of mind.

Thanks for the apology goes unsaid, though Sahara almost certainly means to give some. Because an apology had definitely been owed after that shock. Apologizing was the human thing to do, there. It's a relief that she gives one.

Turning her head to watch Odessa repack her bag, she lifts her eyes at some point during the process and looks her over more directly. "No, it's our job to look after you, now," she says a little wearily. "But if we need anything, I'm sure we'll…"

"—You know, everyone is right where they're meant to be. You made it right to where you were meant to be." The sudden interjection is made with the stammer from before, but a deeply convicted one. "So everything will be fine. Everything is just fine." Perhaps her words aren't comforting to anyone but herself, but Sahara is able to smile again for having said them. Even if she's much more tired than she was when she came from her bedroom. She's still uneasy with what she knows, but she's been able to make peace with it in her own way.

"Breakfast is around 8. If you don't want to come down, I'll make sure to get you some." Her shoulders lift into a shrug. It wouldn't do to be rude to a patriot… any more than she already had been. Odessa knew what she was, and appeared to be actively repenting for it. No sense in Sahara digging that knife deeper when her role here was to provide peace, stability, and succor for those fighting the good fight. Sahara's smile is small, the edges of her mouth soft. "You need anything else for tonight or are you about set?"

Odessa slowly lifts her bag up off the floor and hooks an arm through one strap, letting it hang off her lopsided. “No, I think I’m set,” she confirms with a grateful tip of her head. Then turns to take her leave from the kitchen and head up the stairs to bed for the night. “Goodnight, Miss Jackson.”

"Good night, Odessa." Sahara stays where she is as Odessa leaves, watching her go, waiting for the sounds of footfalls to end with the door clicking shut upstairs. Getting sleep after that felt impossible, her heart still pounding despite her civil presentation. Her mind runs in circles, cycling between the paranoia that the mutant will kill them all in their sleep and the counterthought that Odessa seemed human enough, that she was fighting on the behalf of humanity, after all… It takes a long time to wrest control back of her thoughts.

When she does, it's for fleetingly remembering her brothers' former best friend. A boy who had been strung up without anybody bothering to ask him if he'd embrace his humanity over the scourge in his DNA.

When she snaps out of that circle of thought, she can keenly hear the sounds of crickets and other bugs singing outside. The sound of a peaceful night, despite the fighting that would soon come. Her prejudice and fear aside, Sahara finds herself hoping that Odessa rests well and that she found some measure of peace from her time here, all the better to help her face the war when she went back to it.

Finally, Sahara swallows hard and pushes away from the table, flicking off the kitchen lights behind her as she heads back to bed.

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