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Scene Title Nightcap
Synopsis While their double date may have gone well, Ace has a few questions about Odessa's connections.
Date September 26, 2020

Williamsburg: Ace's Brownstone

After saying good night to her friends at close, Ourania had slipped off to her dressing room to change out of her dress while Harry finishes up at the front of house. The evening gown has been left to hang in the wardrobe and she emerged again in a far more simple green sheath dress — what she wore when she arrived — that gives more freedom of movement, but looks far less impressive on stage. It’s classic, but subdued. Even with the club nearly empty, she hadn’t re-engaged her ability.

While she’d carried her bag out to the car on her shoulder, Odessa had also leaned more heavily on her cane and on her partner for the walk out to the vehicle. With her head tipped back against her seat and against one shoulder, she was asleep before they even made the ferry. It’s only once they pull to a stop and Ace kills the engine that she inhales a deep breath that serves as the prelude to opening her eyes again. She unsuccessfully stifles a yawn behind her hand as she peers blearily into the dark beyond the windshield. “Home already?” she asks, feeling slightly rejuvenated after the small nap, despite the initial grogginess.

"We are." Ace notes with a quiet passivity. She's rested, but he finished the drive. They've both had long days, both worn various masks this evening.

"Let's get you in and off to bed."

But still, something doesn't feel right with his tone. It's not just weariness. Or is it? He looks to Odessa with too short a glance to tell before he opens his door and leans to haul himself to his feet.

"What a night," Ace sighs while he rises.

“Mm,” Odessa acknowledges, unlatching her safety belt and bending forward enough to grab her purse off the floor and her cane. There’s a moment taken to draw in another deep breath as though it will help her wake up more effectively, letting it out slowly as she reaches for the handle and pops open her door.

She’s careful when she climbs out of the car. Takes her time to glance out and make sure she sees where the curb is before she steps down. Letting her purse settle in the crook of her elbow and pressing her cane down onto the pavement, she pushes the door closed behind her. Looking up then, she blinks through the dark at house numbers, looking for theirs and nodding to herself once she’s got her bearings.

“I think it went well,” Odessa murmurs, thinking from his tone he might need the reassurance as she starts to make her way toward their door without waiting for his assistance — although she’s happy to accept it. “Richard seemed… relaxed, so you must have made a good impression.” She’s quick with a smile. “I had no doubt you would.”


Ace is at her back until that point, in some sort of silent ritual to see if she requires assistance before acknowledging she's fine. The habit is learned, and one that's been hard to shake once perfected. Then he maneuvers past Odessa, steps quicker than hers being all it takes. He glances at her as he passes, expression neutral.

"It took effort to convince him I am no one. He seemed all too eager to find something to shred. Something to dig at."

He takes the steps to the brownstone stoop with a hop, his hand reaching for the doorknob and then phasing right through. His body follows after. Plausible deniability for anyone who happened to round the corner and peer down the sidewalk. Surely he'd actually opened the door.

The deadbolt turns a moment later from the inside, and Ace pulls the door open. His expression is less masked now that he's crossed the threshold. It's clear he's not pleased over Richard's attempt to ferret out information from him.

Odessa sighs quietly, rolling her eyes. “Richard is jealous,” she offers up as the most rational explanation to the CEO’s needling. Her irritation is clear when the light from inside their home spills from the open door and illuminates her face as she ascends the steps.

Once inside, she means to head for her study so she can put her purse away, but she stops short when she catches the look on Ace’s face, her features clouding with confusion. “That’s really all it is,” Odessa means to assure her lover. “He just wants so desperately for there to be something he can point to so he can convince me to leave.”

She steps closer, brows lifting and a little smile spreading across her face as she looks up at him like she might be angling for a kiss. “Which isn’t going to happen, so you have nothing to concern yourself with.” It seems that Odessa is entirely unconcerned with whatever Richard’s game may turn out to be.

Others' jealousy, others' desires for her still rankle Ace. It might be easy for him to assure himself nothing could compare to their adventure together were it not for the fact Odessa had turned him down once in the past over affection for another. All it could take is someone gaining just the right amount of purchase on her heart.

But her reassurances do much to assuage him of those worries, at least for now. How silly of him, he might think. Or at least, he bites his tongue from any commentary that might jeopardize the understanding they've come to.

Ace presses a kiss to her lips out of a formality to acknowledge that he doesn't need to be concerned as much as to reassert his claim on her. It's short, passionless, accompanied with a thoughtful twist of his brow as he pulls back. "I still can't believe you put me in that position with your cop friend," he mutters, reaching to take her bag. See, he's being helpful, even if he's griping.

The bag is relinquished without complaint even as she starts to lean forward just a little more, briefly coming up on her toes in an attempt to chase his affection when he withdraws from her. The kiss wasn't the reassurance she was hoping for.

There's a precarious moment where she teeters before dropping back to a flat footed stance. No longer having hold of her bag means Odessa has a hand free to bury her face in when she groans. “Of all the things she could have been… I had no idea she was a cop. I—”

What defense could possibly be good enough to explain that error in judgement? One blue eye peeks out between two fingers, looking up at him and betraying her sheepish guilt. “I swear, before I— went inside…” Odessa bites her lip and lifts her head again, letting her hand slowly begin to fall away.

Her posture is tense, however. She knows she's made a huge mistake here. “She was just a singer, last I knew.” And so, so much more than that, but the reality is stranger than fiction, and she has less than zero desire to attempt to explain it to him (or anyone, in the interest of fairness), let alone bear the brunt of his reaction to that particular brand of madness.

It's a sharp reminder that in spite of her silent personal insistence that he knows who she is — who she really is — there's still so very much she hopes he'll never know.

The hand drops finally with the faintest clap against the front of her thigh. “I'm sorry. I never meant to put you in that position.”

In some ways, she punishes herself more severely left to her own devices, leaving Ace to only level a look back at her to observe it happening. He slips briefly into the study to place her bag on her desk, dipped from sight for the barest of moments. Then he rejoins her in the hall, leaning against the doorframe that both separates and unites the two spaces.

"A singer," he concedes mildly. "Who had previously been a cop before the war, too." He lets that sit for the space of a blink before he's drawing in breath. "Speaking of which, just where exactly did you and she cross paths during all that? If you were still playing follow the leader…" with Humanis First goes unsaid but heavily implied. He tilts his head to indicate the other option. "Or was this after?" Before she can lay input, he adds without breaking his look from her, "I was given to believe you didn't get out much, then, and Richard implied wherever this place was, it was 'nowhere that exists anymore'."

He did a little more than imply, but Ace is confident in his word choice. If there's anything he does well, it's give someone a shovel— and not to dig themselves out of a hole they find themselves in.

When he slips away, she turns to follow, but without moving after him, just waiting with obedience for what comes next.

And when that particular shoe drops, it sounds like a clap of thunder to her.

Of all the lies she’s spent hours going over and over again in her head, explaining how she and Elisabeth Harrison know one another had not been one of them. It simply had never needed time spent on it before. But he knows too many details about where and what she had been up to over that stretch of time to be satisfied with old friends as the simple response.

The beat of hesitation lasts a little too long, and Odessa knows it. She exhales and glances away, pressing her lips together after wetting them. “There was a brief period between when…” Her jaw grows tight and she lets her eyes fall shut in a way that they do when she’s suppressing tears. “After Michal died, I drifted for a while before I landed here again.”

Odessa drags a hand over her hair anxiously, refusing to meet Ace’s gaze again. “I found a place that… hadn’t been touched by the fighting. I mean, not physically.” There was nowhere in America that hadn’t been touched by the Civil War, after all. “That’s where we met. I spent about a year there, surrounded by people who would have killed me if they knew who I really was. But she knew, and… and she—”

The tear finally slides down her cheek, and Odessa’s quick to paw it away, like maybe he won’t notice it if she’s quick enough. She takes in a deep breath before continuing. “She didn’t care about any of it. She just let me be.” She lifts her chin a bit, letting her eyes dart between Ace and some arbitrary point on the doorframe as she finds herself unable to just settle in one place. “When I got sniffed out, I took off. And I didn’t see her again for years. Not until she came back to the city a couple years back.”

There’s a brief, strained smile. “I never asked her what she was doing these days. It just wasn’t in our smalltalk rotation.”

Has her performance been convincing enough? Odessa holds now for the applause, or the derision of her unhappy audience.

Ace's scrutiny lessens none for Odessa's squirming— at first. But when it's clear the topic holds emotional weight for her, the sharpness in his stare loses some of its edge. He follows her anxious movements anyway.

The moment the tear falls down her face, he breaks eye contact entirely, looking away. She can't feel what it does to him, not at the moment, but he despises seeing her brought to tears. It doesn't matter the cause; happy ones held the same discomfort in them as any others.

"It's remarkable," he acknowledges distractedly, "The information that one offers up so freely with the simple introduction of a different face."

And then he's off, leaning away from the door frame and heading into the rest of the house, presumably for the kitchen to complete his coming-home ritual of checking the news and charging his phones. The story is accepted without further needling.

Maybe for now, maybe for forever.

"As for Richard's jealousy, perhaps he's upset he's found something his influence can't buy," Ace's voice floats back to her. "He seems like the type who's used to getting his way. You likely vex him. Let me know the moment his advances become the slightest bit aggressive."

There’s a rush of triumph when he looks away. The tears had worked. Making the hesitation about a topic they both choose not to acknowledge had covered for the moment required to perform the mental gymnastics of building her story.

Or… so it appears on the surface. Odessa is concerned enough about what lies beneath that she refuses to re-engage her ability. Never mind the added complication that is bound to arise in the form of Aman’s response to the spike of anxiety he’d receive once the link re-opened. She’ll just have to trust she’s gotten used to Ace’s rotation of masks.

It turns out that the result wasn’t everything she hoped it would be, however, and it sees her lingering in the foyer, debating whether or not to venture deeper into the rest of the house, or to beat a hasty retreat to her own haven and plan on nesting there for the night. But he isn’t done with her yet, and so she moves to follow him.

The pace is slow, and she makes sure the sound of her cane on the hard floor provides an explanation to why. Approaching the counter while he imposes his directive, Odessa makes a quiet show of slipping her phone out of the pocket of her dress and setting it up to charge alongside the others. Her eyes flash up to him on the emphasis of that last word.

That ship sailed more than a week ago.

“Of course, love,” Odessa murmurs, letting the ghost of a smile form on her lips. “My hope for this evening is that Richard and Elisabeth would see how happy you make me, and cease their concern about my having found someone suitable to spend my time with.”

"Then in that regard, I believe the both of them should be satisfied. Aside from pretending to be mundane, there was little acting to be done there." Ace returns a look down to her out of the corner of his eye, wearing a small smile of his own that fades as he scrolls headlines for the day. He lets out a sigh at the number of political ones that dominate the news stream, clicking the screen off before long. He shifts his weight then, hip against the counter so he can better face her.

"Did you enjoy yourself tonight, at least?" he wonders, his outside hand lifting to gently brush back the tousle of her styled hair. His eyes go to hers. "For how much you prepared, I'm sure you wish the night could have lasted longer, but…"

His posture is relaxed, no tension in him. No hints that his mood might shift, or that he's hiding anything with this question. "I had an all right time," Ace volunteers, his head tilting. "It was cute, Richard's interest in the d'Sarthe Group. I get the impression he wishes he knew more than he does." With an easygoing chuckle that more than implies trust in Odessa's discretion, he confides, "Not as though any ins he might perceive to have will be forthcoming with information."

Tension continues to wind its way through her frame in spite of the faint smile she wears while he scrolls through his phone. She’s not yet certain this has panned out for her until he poses his question. Odessa’s eyes light up a bit and she nods. “I did,” she assures a little bittersweetly. “I’m only sorry I wasn’t able to last longer.” Because he’s right, she did put a lot of effort into making sure she would look as close to perfect as possible tonight.

Odessa shifts her weight to lean against the counter in an unconscious mirror of his own posture. “He always wishes that he could know more than he does,” she says of Richard. “The fact that he’s seen us together now,” she further reasons, “should mean that he’d prefer not to have reason to find anything… actionable.” Whatever that means to someone like Richard Ray.

Her smile falters at the mention of Richard’s ins. The implication may have been that she would be his best source of information within the Group, but Odessa’s just realized that there is someone else who would likely feed him information — about her at the very least, if not her partner. That is, if Richard’s aware of his affiliations.

It’s a connection she resolves to keep an eye on herself. Odessa’s not about to throw Mr. Leblanc into Ace’s path.

But she’s been ruminating on that topic to herself for too long, she realizes, and she’ll need to account for that time. Sliding her focus to Ace’s mouth for a moment, she bites her own lip before meeting his gaze again. “Sometimes, I have to admit, I regret Harry’s sense of propriety.” She pushes off from the counter again, reaching out with her free hand to run it along his chest. “I’d have loved to wind him up.” Odessa grins and cants her head to one side.

Ace takes a moment to consider just what's meant Odessa's comment regarding Richard's motivations. He turns it over in his mind's eye, examining it for deeper significance. Actionable? What was that supposed to mean? His chin lifts by a fraction. "Richard Ray," he inputs slowly, matter of factly, "doesn't have control of you. His influence over your life was a stifling one, a boring one you have to suffer no longer. He means nothing. I understand he provides certain opportunity, but he's an employer. Not someone with any further input into your life."

It's only then that he lifts his hand, fingers curling around the elbow of the arm reaching up for him. "We were in the mood to make a good impression, though," Ace reminds her with a tease, a fond grin touching him but not quite reaching his eyes given his hang-up on the warning he'd just imparted. "To be mundane, not scandalous. Though— perhaps next time, Harry can be a little more adventurous. A little more flamboyant." His hand leaves her elbow, falling to settle on her waist instead. "Harry can be both a gentleman and possessive, I'm sure," he confides conspiratorially.

“You’re right,” Odessa agrees wholesale. Everything about her time spent at Raytech — well, nearly everything — had felt like slow suffocation. The way she had to style herself, to behave, to play herself off as entirely unimportant… Necessary, but no less crushing. But you don’t know him like I do, remains the unspoken caveat to that acknowledgement. It isn’t going to matter what she or Ace or anybody else believes Richard’s entitled to. He’ll act in what he believes to be her best interests, in spite of her own protests.

Because he’s a good friend.

“I’m confident in my ability to further sell to him — now that he’s a picture of you in his mind — just how important you are to me.” It’s easy to sell something one actually believes in. “He wants to see me happy, so he’ll be disinclined to rock that boat by digging further into either of our affiliations.” How wrong she’ll turn out to be on that front remains to be seen.

When his hand finds her elbow, she turns her head briefly to note the contact, then grins wider when he finds her waist instead. The faintest bubble of laughter signals her approval. “Oh, I know,” she promises. This charade had been as necessary as the one she put on at Raytech all those years. “But a little scandal would have been fun.” Odessa leans in slightly. “A little bit of possessiveness.”

As a treat.

One side of Ace's grin curves higher than the other as he dips his head closer to hers. "I adore you, Odessa Price," he tells her sweetly, sincerely, over many things about this moment— about her agreement in taking control of her own course, about her willingness to deceive others for their own benefit, for her desire to live a little alongside him.

It's not the L word. But it comes out just like it.

"Let's just make sure you're more careful with your associations in the future. About how they could jeopardize what we're trying to build together." His voice remains fond, his hand slipping around her waist. "The only scandal we want is the one of our own manufacturing."

His lips meet her brow first, appreciating her with a small kiss. Then he rests his forehead against hers, promising, "We'll manufacture some next time." Then his grin cuts a little wider, lips hovering near hers. "The scandal— not the possessiveness. That comes naturally."

Adore sounds enough like love to meet Odessa’s threshold of feeling wanted. It’s tarnished slightly by the admonishment that follows, but the tone in which it’s delivered makes it go down easily enough. The metaphorical spoonful of sugar. “Yes, my darling.” Her eyes close and she starts to lean up, surprised when he keeps his affection chaste, matching to that alter ego of his she was just complaining about.

All the same, she lets out a happy little hum. Because moments like this are nice, too. When it’s just them in their own space and it isn’t born of some need to be restrained, or merely performative. “Good,” she says of his avarice where it comes to her, leaving that space between them for the time being. “That makes two of us.”

The cane clatters to the floor in favor of wrapping her fingers around Ace’s tie instead, dragging him in the rest of the way not only to kiss her, but to also press the rest of him closer to her as well.

Inviting her hunger to show brings a flare of light into Ace's light eyes, a small breath of delight escaping him before she reels him in by his tie. He lets out a chuckle as he kisses her deeply, passionately, letting his hands find the counter behind her as he leans her back into it. One parts from the countertop to settle against her spine, following the curve of it up vertebrae by vertebrae until he's cupping her neck in his palm.

"I want to take you out with me soon," he murmurs into her ear after coming up for air. His lips find her neck a moment later, teeth following after. "To give you a proper debut."

And she is hungry for him. While he nudges her back against the counter, she wraps one arm around him while continuing to hold to his tie like a leash. As they kiss and his hand roams along the length of her spine, she smiles against his mouth. She’s breathless by the time they part, opening her eyes and finding herself too reticent to break this contact in the name of leaning away far enough to actually look at him. His voice in her ear is enough.

Odessa tips her head back and closes her eyes again, feeling like she might melt under the heat of his attention. “Anything you want,” she sighs, ever agreeable when she’s in his arms. “I’ve been waiting. Just tell me when.”

"Soon," Ace promises, because that's the most he can at the moment. An opportunity just has to present itself now. His kisses move past her neck and onto her shoulder, hand shifting to pull aside the strap of her dress. He sighs just as luxuriously against her skin, glad to have the mold of it up against him, to have her in his arms.

"Ready for a nightcap?" he asks, standing upright only so he can arc an eyebrow at her.

Soon is always a delightful promise when it comes from him. Odessa chuckles huskily when he makes it and starts to pull aside her dress. Color has crept into her cheeks in a way she can feel in the tips of her ears.

When he draws away to ask his question, she fixes a half-lidded stare on him, then smirks. Nudging them both back from the counter, she starts to make her slow way toward the stairwell with careful, backward footsteps, leading him along by his tie.

One shoe is kicked off and aside. Then another. Ace follows where he's lead, his jacket being worked out of next, and tossed onto the couch as they pass it.

Talk about scandal, the mess they're leaving behind.

He grabs the bottle of bourbon off the living room endtable just before it becomes out of reach. It leaves only one hand to begin unbuttoning his shirt as they reach the landing.

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