ace2_icon.gif castle_icon.gif pride2_icon.gif

Scene Title Masked
Synopsis Everyone has something to hide when it comes to the subject of Eve Mas.
Date September 12, 2020


It’s a full three hours before Rossignol is due to open, but that doesn’t mean the venue is empty. Employees have started to filter in to prepare for the evening. Most notably, the house pianist has taken up residence at the grand on the stage, plunking out idle melodies like a patchwork mosaic of songs. She sings along in starts and stops. A verse here, a chorus there.

“What would you do if I sang out of tune?” Ourania Pride’s lips curl into a smile as her fingers bounce on the keys, leaning heavily into the chords without the benefit of the rest of the ensemble to make the sound of it fuller. “Would you stand up and walk out on me?” Even without the aid of the microphone, her voice carries through the expanse of the club. Despite the fact that she’s just warming up, there’s no shortage of emotion radiating from her.

And radiating back to her. When the place is as deserted as it is now, the empath is able to enjoy the ripples of emotion she can evoke in others. When the house fills up, she has to rely on the volume and length of applause held to know if she’s touched hearts.

This afternoon, there’s only one heart she’s interested in.

Pride lifts her head, eyes opening so she can spy where her partner has gotten off to while she rehearses. She finds him, the key changes, the song shifts. “I hope you don’t mind,” she sings soulfully. “I hope you don’t mind that I put down in words…”

While most of the residual emotions in the area beyond the one she focused on are the usual day-to-day slog of emotions of someone just doing their job, there is one bundle of emotions that stands out. It’s— excitement really. Like someone who just walked into a new place they’ve never been and is enjoying it with the openness and heart of a someone who loves experiencing new things.

It isn’t even difficult to pinpoint who stands out as not an employee. Dark hair combed back, wavy and neat, but still somehow unruly, fancy clothes that aren’t quite worn correctly— as if someone handed this person a very nice suit and they decided to just not wear it all the way. The coat is open, the shirt untucked, the buttons of the sleeves undone. It’s as if they just got too lazy to put it on correctly.

If anyone had met them before, they might not even recognize them. Without the unruly curls for one— and Castle’s also shaved for this. But they’re too busy wandering into the building, taking in the music and the sights. How did they get in here, anyway?

A good question indeed, one that takes Ace Callahan's attention away from his discussion with the bartender, and his emotions away from the subtle notes of fond appreciation for the performance that's almost certainly being put on for his benefit alone at this point. His eyes hone in on the out-of-place presence that makes up Castle, green-greys narrowing a touch. "Hold that thought," he directs the bartender in an undertone, then leans away from the bartop to move on an intercept course.

His hands slide into the pockets of his slacks, his suit worn in good, working order even if it didn't have the sheen some of his others did. The jacket is a deep navy, the tie splitting the middle of it metalgrey. "Excuse me," Ace lifts his voice as he draws nearer, even though his head dips in a skeptical what are you doing that requires no words.

But he gives them anyway, turning his head slightly as he asks, "Can I help you?" His tone implies he might not, and would prefer to turn him to the door until the bar opened properly, but there's always the chance he was here on business, this one.

Ace follows the look of wonder Castle regards over the place, and how it landed momentarily on Ourania, and a quiet poison lines the blade of his attention. He arches an eyebrow expectantly, prepared to step into the stranger's path directly should he continue for the stage.

The unexpected nature of the emotion off the newcomer stills the pianist’s tongue, though her fingers continue to move over the keys. The music provides a quiet backdrop for the scene as it plays out. She watches with an open curiosity, and a secret satisfaction at the way Ace imposes himself between the stage and the out-of-place visitor.

Leaning closer to the piano so she can see around Ace’s form, Pride does nothing to disguise her study. Or the amusement for the way they’re dressed. Not the cruel sort, mind, but there’s a certain level of delight that comes from witnessing someone who doesn’t seem to care for the norm. Whether that be fashionable, societal, or… Well, there’s probably limits to what she’d find acceptable deviations, but she hasn’t found them yet.

At the new voice, that excitement doesn’t fade even a lick— with all of their attention now on Ace, Castle smiles, that wonder that Pride can read right there in their pale eyes that seem to shift colors depending on the way the light hits them. “This is a lovely place. It reminds me of a hotel in London I went to once— before.” There’s a hint of an accent in the voice, Irish maybe? “Never thought I’d see the like again.” As they say that, those eyes drift to take in the room once again, looking at the ceiling and the decorations, and perhaps even the singer and piano for a moment— it is a nice piano— before coming back to Ace again.

Something about this person feels— familiar to Pride, but she can’t place where. Or who they were even familiar to. That strange feeling of deja vu that she sometimes would get when she went somewhere that another her had been, or seen something another her had seen. But it slid out of her grasp as quickly as it came.

“But yes, I’m here to inquire about a report someone made recently. About a sighting of Eve Mas in this building.”

Right up until that moment, Ace regards Castle with a modicum of arms-length polite suspicion. The mention of the famous terrorist who'd invited herself onto the property changes things, though. "Ah. That." Though Ace's tone dries out straightaway, the object of his ire has most definitely shifted from the newcomer entirely, not even needing to break eye contact to do it.

Now? Now he offers his hand for a cordial shake. "I'm Harry. Pleasure to meet you, Mister…?" Ace Harry keeps his focus purely on Castle, still standing mostly between him and the stage. Ourania can make out his view only in profile, but the shift in his emotions always speak louder than that mask he wears does anyway.

Off to the side, the bartender looks away from his eavesdropping, consulting the paperwork he and Harry had been going over before resuming stocktake with renewed vigor and interest. Bottles shift, pushed aside to ascertain remaining values before he sets pen to paper.

Fingers hit the keys, the notes discordant, like an auditory manifestation of a physical stumble. The music stops and the blonde lifts a hand to her face, fingers settling against her forehead while her palm obscures her expression. A pained wince.

“Harry…” By the time she lifts her voice, she’s schooled her features back into something neutral. Ourania reaches for the cane propped against her bench, sliding to the edge of it and pushing to her feet. Her attention flickers to the bartender. They’re paid well to keep their mouths and ears shut around here, but she doesn’t like this situation and doesn’t want to take chances. Lifting a hand, index finger pointed above her, she tells the bartender, “Go take inventory upstairs.” It’s not a suggestion or a request, despite the softness of her tone, and the upward lilt of the last syllable. She may not be the boss, but everyone knows whose arm she hangs off.

Carefully, she starts to make her way down the steps from the stage to the main floor. She moves a little slower than she otherwise might, posture slouched slightly. The curiosity remains, though, a light in her blue eyes as she begins to approach Harry.

Soft hands with well groomed nails, this person definitely pays attention to their physical hygiene if not their clothing style, at least. They even smell slightly of peppermint and eucalyptus and tulsi and other herbs. Which might be a nice change from people who smell like strong perfumes or colognes.

“Castle,” they give a name after a moment, returning the handshake without any ire, and without even seeming to notice said ire. Perhaps they do notice and they just don’t really mind it.

“It doesn’t look like she did much damage, at least,” they say, gesturing toward the room, which, indeed, doesn’t look as if a mad terrorist who did so much damage in Detroit had ravaged it. “She’s been doing a good job at staying one step ahead of everyone looking for her. Did she give any indication of why she decided to pop in here?”

Harry returns Castle's handshake with a smile. When they gesture at the lounge in general, his head follows to see Ourania coming to her feet. He didn't have to see her to know something was wrong— the slip of her hand gave her away. When she bids the bartender find business to take care of on the second floor of the club, the man nods and sets his bottle back aside. A glance is given Castle's way once more for his demeanor and his line of questioning before the worksheet is grabbed and brought with him as he goes.

It's amicably that Harry returns to the moment, refocusing on Castle. "All it took was polite conversation to keep her distracted, thankfully. I can't say the visit wasn't— tense, despite that." His tongue smirches off the roof of his mouth. "She wasn't invited, nor wanted, exactly. But when she came through, she seemed to be…" How to put it? "On the prowl for something."

At that point, he lets his gaze wander to Ourania, thoughtful. It's an inclusive expansion of the two-party conversation— an invitation, silent, for her to add her recollections as well. "She seemed very interested in knowing if our staff were SLC-Expressive or not," Harry adds. The information is offered up in the same light, conversational air he's taken on.

The blonde loops an arm around Harry’s when she arrives at his side, letting her hand rest at the bend of his elbow. It seems to provide the stability she needs in her apparent condition. “Prowl seems a little strong,” she counters, but gently. Weaker than Harry might have expected her to sound. Even though she’s responding to her partner, her eyes don’t leave Castle. “Have you seen her videos? She just seems like she’s… like that.

Pride smiles a little shakily. “Are you with the MPs or… SESA?” Her eyes narrow faintly, polite scrutiny. “I’m disinclined to provide information about any patron if I don’t know who I’m talking to.” For all she knows, this is one of those Pure Earth nutjobs.

Not that she ever saw them at the meetings. Her posture shifts, bringing her to stand a little closer to the man at her side. “I’ve been singing here for a while now, and I think I’d know if she’d been here before. We politely suggested she would perhaps be better off frequenting a different establishment. We don’t want the kind of trouble that seems to follow her.”

Or maybe she had seen them at the meetings— they did look vaguely familiar and she still couldn’t quite place it. Perhaps it was just the strange emotions that they gave off. Curiosity, wonder— there’s a spike of something else for a moment as their questions are answered. Disappointment. But then Castle nods, “Of course. Sorry, I should have led with that.” Reaching into their coat, they pull out a wallet that flips open to reveal a small badge, one with an odd blue symbol that definitely wasn’t SESA or MP or FBI or CIA or any of the branches that they knew much about.

No, they probably wouldn’t have led with that, but— they didn’t want to leave just yet, either.

“Department of the Exterior,” they explain. The badge has a name and picture, but the name is just Agent Castle, and the picture looks slightly different but recognizable as them. It doesn’t stay displayed long, though, before they flip it shut and put it away again. “Her videos do seem to show quite an obsession with new Expressives.” Pale eyes, that in the current light seem green, fall on Ourania. “So you don’t think she’ll have any reason to come back here in the future?”

Harry's posture relaxes to allow Ourania's entry into it, the hand of the arm not occupied by providing a perch for her slipping free from its pocket while he turns to her. "Well, what else would you call it?" he asks with his palm turned up in a silent but rhetorical supplication. After all, Eve had turned up essentially headhunting.

Or at least that's how he saw it.

The produced badge is given a swift look, confirmation of their guest's authenticity. The blue emblem catches his eye for its unique significance, and the name displayed is devoured in the brief moment before the wallet is shut again.

The hell does New NASA want with Eve Mas?

Castle's question might be posed to Ourania, but Harry leans into answering for her without hesitation, his presence larger than hers for how she glues herself to his shadow. "We told her in no uncertain terms she's not desired back; that the attention that follows her— no offense to yourself," and when he looks back to Castle there's a coal of curiosity in the center of his green-grey eyes, accompanied by a faint, commiserating smile. "simply isn't the kind we want to attract here."

With an amicable tilt of his head, he allows, "Eve Mas tends to do whatever the hell she wants, that being said. But even if she were compelled to return here, we would have no advance notice. No idea when. Or, for that matter, a way to invite her." Harry's attention lingers on Castle longer than it should, wisps of fascination winding its way through his being. Suddenly all the eccentric markers that had previously put him off had grown interesting. "If you don't mind me asking, I don't suppose there's a reason why a space agency is looking into Mas now, is there? Has she gone and stolen a rocket now, to boot?"

Harry lets out a warm laugh at that.

“I don’t think Eve Mas needs much reason to do anything,” Ourania posits, confirming what Harry’s already explained, “She’s not invited, no.” She squints faintly at the badge, leaning in to get a better look. Department of the Exterior. That’s not an agency she would have expected to concern themselves with the so-called Herald at all. Then again, maybe she did steal a rocket.

Pride lifts her head, leaning back slightly so she can better angle a look fully to Harry. She looks almost… offended? Without turning her head, she looks back to Castle out of the side of her eye, then back to her partner. The expression smooths out again and she turns back.

“Have…” The question stalls. The answer to this question — have they met before — has to be no, regardless of the reality of the situation. Pride finds her smile, but shakes her head quickly, nevermind. If he’s been in government for any length of time, maybe they were DoEA before the war. That would probably explain the deja vu. …Right? She laughs along with Harry, a vapid sort of giggle. Oh, you’re so funny.

“I’m afraid I can’t talk too much about an active investigation, I’m sure you both understand,” the Agent says with a grin, their accent slipping a little to the point that it’s much more American and less Irish. They’re giving off all the appearance of amusement and light-heartedness, but Castle is genuinely disappointed, even if only the empath will notice that. Perhaps they had hoped to find a better lead here. “It does sound like she just stopped in randomly, though as far as I can tell she hasn’t been doing that often. And this is a little higher class of an establishment than I would have expected. Maybe she liked the music.”

They offer a nod toward the piano-player and singer, recognizing what they had heard while they walked in, perhaps, appreciating it even. Though that disappointment is still the strongest of whatever emotions they might be feeling. “Did Ms Mas give any indication where she might go in the future? Or— anything that might lead us to find her or who might be harboring her? Did she talk to anyone else specifically I can question before you shooed her out?”

"Staten had a reputation even as late as a year ago for being the sort of place one could slip into and out of without authorities taking notice," Harry muses thoughtfully. "Perhaps she wasn't expecting something quite as nice as what she found." With a cant of his head, he reports regretfully, "I'm afraid no, not really. With the entrance she made, she was intercepted as soon as she got to the bar."

The woman’s gaze goes unfocused for a moment, as though trying to remember, search her memory for anything that might provide some clue. Finally, she looks up and shrugs one shoulder. “Sorry, no. But… neither of us really wanted to know where she might get off to, either. Just so long as it was away from us.” Pride’s fingers dig into Harry’s arm just a little bit.

“Have you been here before?” she finally asks, nudging Harry gently. “Does Agent Castle look familiar to you?”

No, this person has most definitely never been inside this building, at least as far as either of them knew. They might not look exactly like the picture on the badge, but they had a distinct enough appearance that that seemed the case. They still seemed vaguely familiar to Pride though, but— she wasn’t sure it was her they were familiar. Or them she was familiar with, for that matter. Just that feeling of— deja vu.

“This is my first time here, though it is a nice place, really, quite lovely,” Castle says with a smile, though their head tilts to the side for a moment as they look at Ourania, curious. “Do you often get plagued with feelings of deja vu when you meet people for the first time?” That disappointment has been replaced again, with curiosity. Curiosity with a new target than the one they’d been asking about earlier. After all, it sounds like there will be no more leads to finding Eve Mas here today.

Eyes half-lidding as Harry retreats into his thoughts, he lets out a quiet hum of interest. Been here before… someone like Castle he'd recall for sure. His head cants as he admits, "I wish I could say I had."

The interest in Ourania is of note, though. His other hand slips from his pocket finally, slipping around her to rest at the center of her back. "Speaking of deja vu, what was the place Rossignol reminded you of?" he asks lightly.

The arm around her is leaned into slightly. The shift in Castle’s emotions are a point of concern for her. It’s too like her for her own comfort. This whole time, she’s been wearing a look of wide eyes and soft uncertainty, like she doesn’t know what to make of this whole affair.

Because she doesn’t.

Sometimes a little bit of anxiety, worn plainly and openly, is the best mask. Pride meets Castle’s eyes and, after a moment, shakes her head. “No.” This next move is a gamble on her part, given present company, but she lets a coy little smirk tug at one corner of her mouth anyway. “Just you.” Her gaze sweeps down their form and back up again. The other side curls up to complete the smile.

God, she must be able to place them. Or one of her other selves could. Mentally, she tries to sort through the catalogue of memories. To slip into her others’ shoes.

“I’m not sure— the Waldorf maybe?” Castle ponders, suddenly distracted by the question. “It was over ten years ago when I would have been there, but it was in London, I’m pretty sure about that. Me and my family travelled a lot.” Which might explain their accent shifts, at least, but no doubt they were at least an American citizen now else it might be difficult to be an Agent in a strange space organization. “Just me, huh?” They say with a grin, one that looks more amused and even flirty than they’re actually feeling.

Instead there’s still curiosity. As if they should stick around and ask more questions, but— perhaps they’re also noticing the way they’re leaning against each other, too. “I suppose I should get out of your business,” they say, though they step over to where the bartender had been working on the stock and grab one of the pieces of paper and a pencil, and write down a quick phone number, with their left hand, notably.

“If, by chance, Eve Mas shows up again, call this number and leave a message. We’d like to get her off the street as soon as possible, as you’ve been harassed yourselves, I’m sure you understand the urgency.”

With another flicker of a smile, Harry dips his head graciously. A rumble of pleasure rolls under his skin for how Castle seems to be diverted away from the thought that Ourania is a party worth interrogating, his amiable mask unshifting. He sees the need to no longer shield her under his wing, though, stepping away from her side to make a show of accepting, looking over the number. "Of course— no one rightly knows the next time she might kill a man in broad daylight," he echoes back, signaling he understands well the issue. "Better to be safe. I'll see that the staff are made aware who to reach out to should she show up again."

"I suppose that means you'll be close by in the area?" Harry poses the question lightly, doing a poor job of not letting his interest in Castle's person show. "Or should we expect another one of your colleagues?" There's the professional cover. "In either case, so long as we can expect someone… well, like you, rather than a SWAT unit entering and disrupting business…" He gestures away from his side with a small smile. Castle understands, surely.

“That’s right.” Just them. When Harry steps away, Pride leans more heavily on her cane. There’s a hint of sourness in the look she flickers his direction at the notion of Eve killing someone, but perhaps that’s to be expected. Murder is distasteful, after all. But that’s not what she responds to. “Nothing ruins a number like the police busting down the door,” she muses, though her affect is still one of uncertainty. Like her heart’s not in it. “Or, so I’d imagine. That doesn’t happen around here, and we’d like to keep it that way.”

The blonde’s eyes flit to the paper Harry holds in his hand, then back to Castle. “Your private number, then?” Their curiosity is reflected back at them. Even she isn’t sure if it’s her own, or just a mirror.

“I’ll make sure no doors get kicked in,” Castle says with a wink directed at them both— that really isn’t a wink because both their eyes close for a moment, but it’s the thought that counts? “Whoever shows up will be as discreet as possible,” though the way they speak gives no indication on if the phone number will be accessed by others within the Agency, or just them. It may not matter, in the end. The odds of Eve coming back might well be small, right? “Sorry to take up so much of your time, Harry,” they add, nodding their head and looking around the room one last time.

There’s that wistful wonder once again, that childlike joy of seeing a new place and wanting to experience it. “Might stop by at proper business hours sometime, though.” Dress up, or fail slightly at it once again, listen to the music, maybe have a drink— sounded like it could be fun. “What times do you usually play— ?” that trails off, and is specifically at the piano player and singer, because, well— they’re not entirely sure they caught a name for her.

When she realizes she’s not yet introduced herself, or been introduced by her partner, she seems to muster up a little more confidence. Introductions are easy. That she can do, no problem. Still there’s the wide-eyed fascination in her eyes when she offers her hand out, palm to the floor, along with her name. “Miss Pride.” Part of it, anyway. To match the part of it they offered.

“I play three sets with the ensemble nearly every evening, but always on the weekends. We play at seven, eight-thirty, and ten.” Self-promotion apparently comes a little easier, too. Pride flashes a charming smile. “If you decide to stop by, make sure you come say hello.”

The shift of the agent's attention back to Ourania brings with it a pit of anticipation for that attention needing distracted away again. Harry would like to avoid having her answer odd questions from a mysterious agent from a mysterious agency, could it be helped. But he smiles thinly anyway.

"It's an experience, seeing the whole house up and going. A worthwhile one. We'll be happy to see you again during our open hours." Harry lifts his left hand, checking the underside of his wrist for the time, speaking of that.

“I’ll see if I can drop in sometime on my off hours, Miss Pride,” Castle says with a nod toward the singer and then a second one toward her protective companion, before they turn, leaving behind the pencil and pad of paper on the bar “Have a good evening,” they add, before they moved back through the way they had come. Though it still begged to question how they had managed to get past the doors in the first place, leaving would always be easier than entering anyway.

Once Castle has departed and the doors have clicked audibly shut in the stillness of the nearly-empty space, Odessa turns to Ace. The fear and just how unsettled she feels is worn readily on her face. “We need to get somebody on the fucking door.” This isn’t the first time a mysterious agent from a mysterious agency has come to her and asked about her cousin.

The question is whether or not Agent Castle is aware of that.

It isn’t like Odessa to be scared of someone like that. They didn’t even have a weapon pointed at her. Maybe if they had, she’d have simply been out for blood and that would be that. She fits herself against Ace’s side, wrapping her arms around him and nestling her head against his chest for comfort.

Eyes still on the retreating form of Castle as he makes sure those doors stay closed behind him, Ace doesn't see Odessa's fear at first. The way she curls into him, though, that's harder to ignore. That he's woefully unprepared for her to have acted his way leaves him standing there for a moment, arm lifted to allow her to nestle against him as she does— as much as express that he doesn't know what to make of it.

"There is, during on-hours…" he reminds her with a frown. But that hadn't helped them just now. Slowly, Ace's arm comes down to envelop her shoulders, taking her under his wing and drawing her close. "What has you so nervous about him?" he murmurs.

“Oh, Ace,” Odessa breathes out, taking a moment just to steady herself in his protective embrace. “I don’t know how to begin to explain it.” The subject of her extradimensional tethers is something she’s kept wholly to herself. Trying to explain that to anyone outside of that circle of those in the know is folly at best. And she’s certain the Powers That Be would be quite cross with her if she brought someone else into that fold.

“It’…s just something I can sense.” Leaving it vague can allow him to infer that it’s through her ability. “That agent wasn’t being genuine. I’m sure that’s not much of a surprise to you, but… The disingenuousness was in ways I didn’t expect.” Odessa sighs and leans against Ace a little heavier. “I have such a headache…” Trying to sort through the layers of herself to place from where she recognized them takes its toll quickly. “Will you please help me to my dressing room? I’m sure I’ll feel better after some rest.”

This was a lesson learned, then. And made the enigma of Agent Castle one to be further dissected.

Later, though.

Odessa was taxed, now, and Ourania had a performance to put on in a few hours, after all. Ace holds her to himself a bit more tightly to reassure her before easing the embrace around her. "Disingenuous how?" he asks, low and comforting. After all, he's prying to know better what unsettled her, and how he needs to protect her? Right? "He was lying about the hotel, or lying about being an agent?" Continuing to support her, he starts to steer them both toward the back.

“Lying about flirting back with me.” The audacity.

Odessa seems reluctant to let Ace potentially slip away, her own embrace tightening as his starts to loosen, but she relents. Leans back a little so they can look at one another properly. “Maybe the other things, too. But I think the agency is legitimate. The interest in this place was real. They do want to come back.” So maybe that means the comment about the hotel is true, too.

“It’s not just… interest, though. It’s fascination.” The blonde shakes her head, looking helpless in her attempts to explain why this is significant. “It felt like me. Nothing good ever came from my fascination.” Her gaze darts away, lips pressed together tightly. “We’re connected somehow. I can feel it. I don’t know how, I just… do. My ability is—”

A heavy sigh. “It hasn’t failed me yet.”

They. Curious use of pronoun, he notes. Maybe Odessa with her ability gleaned insight into something he could not just by looking. After all, she had sensed so much else.

Ace keeps his hand at her back while they walk, removing concern he means to leave her side. He even glances up at one of the boxes, shouting up, "You're good to come back down, Mikey," rather than peeling off to deal with him.

Speaking of which.

"We need to get rid of him," he says much more quietly, shaking his head once with an echo of the disgust he'd felt at how the man had regarded Eve so highly. "If there are federal agents dropping in to look for her here, now, I feel the previous argument to just let him be no longer holds the same weight it did."

Ace,” Odessa responds in a low voice, as though that’s all the counterargument she needed to make. “Please don’t make me train someone else.” She doesn’t mean how to do the job, of course. But how to anticipate her needs the way the bartender does. He always seems to know when she needs a lemon drop and when she just needs a tall glass of water. With lemon, of course.

Her gaze lifts to the box and where she senses movement above, the shift in moods. “I’m not concerned about him.” Ace would be the first to know if she was, wouldn’t he? But Odessa sighs, resigned. He’s not wrong to exercise caution here. “At least… find him something else to do. The boss has properties in Sheepshead Bay. Shuffle him over there.”

But that's not what he wants to do, and Odessa can feel it.

Just the same as she can feel he's grudgingly beginning to consider the compromise.

"I'll think about it," Ace replies dismissively. A tss of a sigh leaves him next, and he shakes his head ruefully. "The things I do…" for her goes unsaid, but implicit. Such as trusting her judgment when she makes requests like those. Gradually, the game of it is shifting. While he remembers the score more often than not, sometimes there's little expectation in return.

At least immediately.

"Should I not be here and the agent shows up again, call me. Whatever his fascination with you is, it's not one I want you facing alone. Understood?"

“I understand.” Which is not nearly the same thing as I promise.

The heavy curtain that hangs in front of the door to the back of house is already pulled back, given that they’re off hours, and the door is propped open to the hall that will lead to various storage, mechanical, and green room spaces. Ourania has a dressing room to herself, and she pulls her key to it out of her pocket, fitting it into the lock and turning to push open the door. She only disengages from Ace’s side because it’s easier to step inside single file. Her fingertips trail along the wall as she turns left into the room, walking the foot or so to the couch on that wall and settling down on one end.

“Darling, I know… Your solutions are elegant. I don’t fault you for them.” Odessa turns a look up to him when he steps in behind her, brows lifted. “People close to me can’t go disappearing, though. Especially not after a moment like this. If it were to become a pattern… It would be a problem.

Shutting the door behind him, Ace leaves his hand loosely over the handle as he turns to Odessa, brow lifting slowly in return.

"What, and firing him is out of the question?" he balks, offense in his tone. She knows that his emotional keel is too still for it to be entirely genuine. "It'll be more of a problem should she come back here again and be welcomed by anyone, for any reason. Her showing up here again, that's a pattern we cannot afford to come into." He frowns finally, hand slipping away from the door in a loose gesture at the world beyond. "I've half a mind to give that number a ring; tell them about what's happened with her ability over what she did to you. What she nearly did to the entire club on her way out the door."

Odessa opens her mouth to provide a rebuttal to the notion of firing the bartender, but thinks better of it as he continues. She does him the courtesy of keeping her attention on him when he outlines the problem they’re faced with, even though her desire is to find something pretty on her vanity to look at instead.

When he finishes, she shakes her head. “You don’t have to do that,” she tells him with a sigh. Now she does look away, eyes closed and expression pained. “Because I’m going to.”

Ace's features read intrigued, but his emotional profile identifies him clearly as confused by her admission. That… was not in the range of responses he expected from her.

He skips past really? and goes straight for: "Why?"

“If I hadn’t turned myself in,” as if she’d had much choice in the matter when it came down to it, “I’d be dead.” Odessa looks back up without any accusation or blame. What happened happened, and she’s arguably in a better position now than she would have been otherwise. “If Eve keeps on like this, she’s going to get herself killed.”


“She’s my family, Ace. I can’t watch that happen to her. I have to— To do something. And if that means calling those people and warning them about what they’re dealing with…” Odessa lets out a shudder breath and buries her face in one hand. It feels like betrayal. An act she normally engages in out of spite. A habit she’s tried hard not to fall back into. Does this count? “They need to know what she’s capable of. And to watch out for whatever express yourself is.” If Eve didn’t want her blood family there, something big had to be in the cards.

Indeed, spite might have been the expected motivation, but Ace drinks in her well-thought-out reasoning all the same, quieting and settling in his study of her. His emotional state voids to a stillness when Odessa meets his eyes, makes the reference to how she'd been brought in, but they move past that quickly— mutually— and he focuses on the rest of what she says.

"Are you sure it's good that it comes from…?" is as far as he gets into asking the question, relenting away from it with a quiet sigh. Instead, he shakes his head. "All right." He's not comfortable with her taking that on herself, and makes no attempt to hide it even for his concession. "But it's not something you have to do yourself. It would be easy enough to come up with a story that isn't the truth."

“If it came from you,” on this, Odessa is very plain, “I would resent you.” She shakes her head quickly. “I won’t… I can’t have that. I don’t want that.” Her eyes shut heavily. “It has to come from me.” It wouldn’t matter if they had agreed upon what he said. If things went poorly for Eve, she’d always wonder if he went off the script, or if he’d reached out and said more.

She laughs then, just one short and rueful sound. “You know, normally I’m great at the lying thing… But I’m empty on this one. What do you suggest?”

Ace brings his arms into a fold before him, leaning back against the vanity. "Like any good lie, start with the truth. She showed up uninvited, unwanted, attracting plenty of attention. You offered her a private performance in an attempt to get her off the floor, since she was interested in you and you'd just ended your set. After one song, we made clear she'd need to leave, and she didn't like that. 'One family' this, 'I'll do what I want' that." He turns his head to the side while he continues to regard Odessa.

"Unless, given your status— that they know you are who you are…" His mouth firms into a thin line before he suggests, "Maybe you stray a little closer to the truth than that."

Without shifting at all from his position, he segues immediately into asking without particular emphasis, "You didn't invite her here, did you?"

Long fingers drag through her hair while she mulls over the proposed story. It is close enough to the truth. It just leaves out her ulterior motivations. Getting Eve upstairs allowed her to kill two birds with one stone. If she’s honest, all that one family talk has her anxious, and it’s not hidden well when he makes mention of it.

“You’d think if that Castle knew who I am, there’d been more of a push for information.” Her brow furrows and she bites the inside of her lip while she considers. “Either they really don’t know, or… Once again I’m being given enough rope to see if I’ll hang myself.” Which is unnerving, to say the least. “If they want to call me on it, I suppose I’ll come clean. Blame my lack of candor on the fact that I’m supposed to be living this new life, not the old one.”

That matter seems settled enough, in her opinion. It’s his question that sees her head lifting sharply, eyes widening. Odessa is very still as she tries to read into the emotion behind it. Is he accusing her or is it genuine curiosity? It doesn’t change the truth, which is how she’ll be answering, given she’s nothing to hide on this matter. But if he mistrusts her… That’s a problem.

No. I didn’t have the first idea of how to get in touch with her. We exchanged letters while I was in prison, but I didn’t save her PO Box information, and… didn’t feel safe writing to her there anyway.” Odessa pleads with her eyes, though her tone and posture otherwise remain casual. “I didn’t call her here. I certainly would have warned you if I had.”

There's nothing malicious in Ace while he reviews her answer, weighing it for its truth. But there's a void in emotion entirely for how casual he'd posed the question into the conversation. It sings eerily of how he'd set her up to hang herself regarding the tale of the PISEC escape, speaking of leaving out rope. He leaves a beat of silence between her words and his, one without visual indications of thought.

She sinks silently back into the couch cushions, unconsciously. Waiting.

The silence is broken with the same casual ease as it was entered into, ultimately. "He might not have known just now, but a general 'they know who you are' isn't an untruth. SESA knows. Whatever other involved departments of government know. It would be easy enough for him to ascertain that." One hand lifts from the fold of his arms in a tip of concession. "Of course, your story suits all too well. Perfectly, to be honest. You're Ourania now, after all, attempting to leave your past life behind. Including ties to problematic family members. It should…"

Ace's eyes half-lid. He doesn't like what he sees about the situation, but he says it anyway. "Theoretically, it may win you recognition for your devotion to your new life."

“You don’t like that any better than I do.” Rarely does she call him out on these things, and it hasn’t really allowed her to relax. Those sorts of arguments rarely end well for her. “Maybe we should just… leave it alone. Maybe you’re right. If I… say anything, it opens me up to more scrutiny.” And if she doesn’t say anything, her silence might be what gets her into trouble.

Odessa tips her head back until it’s resting along the back of the couch. “Why is she like this? If she would just talk to them, this could all be cleared up and she’d be free to go be as fucking Looney Tunes as she wants to be.” She lifts her head again and shoots a warning look to Ace. “She’s my family. Only I get to say that about her.”

These are the rules.

She breathes out a little sigh. It seems Eve is causing her to do a lot of that. “My mother and her father were siblings, by the way. If you were wondering how the fuck that happened.” She would be.

At being sharply heeded away from insulting Eve, at amusement from Odessa's exasperation in the first place, a hint of mirth enters Ace's expression. It only grows when he's chastised. The hand lifted turns vaguely out in a gesture that most likely means he understands.

"Yes, the two of you did state you were cousins, so I would hope the family tree looked something like that." Despite his condescending tone, he doesn't seem vexed by the relationship. He got that out of his system quickly that night and had moved on. "That being said, while you don't get to choose your family, you do get to choose to leave them behind."

Just some food for thought.

"While I don't like approaching them any better than you do, perhaps there's a middle ground between outing yourself and being later grilled over not doing it…" Ace shifts his weight further back against the vanity as he mildly points out, "Your parole officer, for example, already knows who you are. Any information you pass on to him regarding things that happened to you recently…" His brow lifts, waiting to see if the seed of the idea is run with.

"It will save you an awkward encounter with that agent again, at the very least."

Odessa chuckles quietly, tipping her chin down in a nod. She left herself open to that, certainly. Yes, that is generally how two people are connected, as cousins. “Look, I grew up alone,” she says in her own defense. “Family’s a foreign concept to me. I hold tightly to what I have.” It’s a response to the notion of letting go as well. “But I know better than to let a lead weight drag me down,” she assures him. Odessa hasn’t come this far just to have her freedom jeopardized by Eve.

Her blue gaze drifts toward the ceiling as she considers the option of routing her concerns through SESA, rather than through Castle directly. “I could reach out to Corbin.” She’s lost in thought enough that she doesn’t realize she didn’t call him Agent Ayers. Odessa tips her head to one side in a little half shrug. “I can call him tomorrow. I don’t think he’d fault me for having slept on it.”

Then, letting her exasperation bleed through again, she asks of him: “Tell me this is all going to work out. I thought taking this new life meant everything was going to be quiet for me.” Odessa bites her lip briefly, then admits, “I just want to build a new life with you. Tell me this is just a bump in the road.”

He has confidence that's the case.

Ace leans away from the vanity to approach the couch, to hold up his hands to cradle either side of her face without actually touching her, fingers just barely away from her skin. "This too shall pass," he assures her deeply, head tucking so he can meet her eyes more meaningfully. His palms finally, lightly graze her skin, thumb passing over her cheek. "So long as you remain committed to the quiet, this is just a bump in the road we recover from— not one that makes us veer from the path. Eve and her ilk—" Freedom-fighting terrorists; activists; those open with their abilities; seers; "will always be loud, but there's no need to let their loudness affect us."

"What we do," he posits in a thoughtful murmur, "is more quiet, and considerably more fun."

As he begins to make his approach, she leans back, almost shying away. But when he reaches toward her, she holds still, letting him frame her face and meeting his eyes without leaning into the near-touch. Obedient. Her breath hitches in her chest.

Her eyes close when he finally makes contact and she lets out the breath she’d been holding. In his touch, she finds assurance and relief. Odessa gives a short nod of her head, a smile spreading across her face as she opens her eyes to look at him again. She lets out a little chuckle. “You make everything fun again,” she teases in a low voice, tipping her face upward slightly with an unspoken invitation.

Ace quirks his head to the side, corner of his mouth curving up in a smile. "Well, darling, I certainly hope so." He leans the rest of the way down to her, lips pressing to hers in a brief, chaste kiss. "What else is there to live for but our own enjoyment, in this future of our own making?"

His hands part from her cheek, one lifting to brush a stray strand of hair back from her face. "I need to finish out up front, so I'll leave you to rest. I'll see you after, tonight, all right?"

The kiss leaves a dreamy sort of smile on Odessa’s lips when they part again. He seems to know just how to ease her troubled mind. Or maybe it’s the fact that he’s untroubled, and it smooths out the ripples in her own tumultuous emotions.

“Will you be in attendance tonight?” she asks with no particular weight to it. “Merely curious,” she assures. There isn’t a wrong answer to that question.

Only an answer that might disappoint her. "I have business," he informs her with a lilt of regret in his voice. "But I plan on being back to catch the end."

Odessa nods, seemingly unbothered by the fact that he won’t be able to make it. “I understand. Just planning my setlist accordingly.” Drawing in a deep breath, she scoots over toward the middle of the sofa before she tucks her legs up and leans over to lay down along its length. “I’ll see you tonight, love. Don’t work too hard, okay?”

The relief he feels at her acceptance, the lack of apparent balking at his duties, brings an authenticity he didn't have moments before. "I'll only work as hard as I need to to bring me back soon," Ace promises. It's a short walk back to the door. "Call if you need me," he stresses.

“I will,” she assures.

And then he lets himself out.

Once the door clicks shut and she can hear Ace’s footsteps retreating down the hall, no longer senses him nearby, she lets out a sigh. He troubles begin to wash over her once more. “Who are you?” she asks the quiet room, as though the ether might provide answers.

As always, the ether keeps its secrets. Odessa fishes her phone out of her pocket and flicks through screens until she pulls up a meditation app. The sounds of the beach fill the room when she sets the phone facedown on the floor next to the sofa.

She closes her eyes, and imagines — remembers — the smell of salt in the air, swaying gently with the waves aboard a small ship in a fathomless sea.


Private Houseboat: Ferrymen's Bay

Stepping into the blue houseboat that drifted faintly in the bay water, Castle removes the black jacket and tosses it up onto a hook hanging on the wall with a couple other jackets of various colors and designs, some professional, some flashy with sequins and glitter and shine. Passing by the stereo system, fingers dance over the dials and music begins to play, David Bowie, in the days of the famous Ziggy Stardust.

Closing their eyes, they dance to the music as they walk deftly against the soft movements of the water, maneuvering around furniture without even needing to look, until spinning around and dancing to the music until they reach one of the bigger rooms with a hammock hanging in the center of the room for naps. When eyes open finally, they have spinned to look at a specific wall, eyes greenish gold in the pale light of the setting sun creeping through one of the wind windows to look at a painting against the wall.

For the moment, eyes focus not on the subject of the painting, but the signature in the corner.

Mas ‘07

“Ready or not~” they whisper to the music.

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