ace3_icon.gif odessa3_icon.gif

Scene Title Present
Synopsis Ace makes good on a promise made to Odessa on his own birthday.
Date April 8, 2021

Williamsburg: Ace and Odessa's Brownstone

"O, I'm back," Ace calls ahead into the house. He's opened the front door, rather than walking through it. Some bags shift on his arms audibly.

He'd had to leave to run an errand. He was unsubtle in his 'attempts' to 'hide' it, dropping her off at home following a subdued birthday lunch after he shared he had just one more trip to make.

He turns his head in the doorway without the door having closed behind him yet, listening for signs of activity within the house. His sunglasses remain perched on his nose, and he looks past them, like he might have some preternatural sense of sight to tell him where she finds herself now.

For once, Odessa has taken a page from her partner’s book and left her phone to rest on the counter, face down and charging. The edges light up periodically with messages she’s been ignoring since lunch. There is, however, no telltale chime or buzz to otherwise disturb with alerts, meaning the house is quiet as Ace listens for signs of his partner.

After a shortly protracted moment, he receives a response. “I’m in the study.” From the blue velvet loveseat where she’s reclined, Odessa tucks a marker into the book she’s reading after finishing the page. The ends of her blonde hair cling to her ears and her neck, gently curling and wet from the bath she took while he was out.

The book is set aside, eyes narrowing faintly as she tries to discern her partner’s motivations from his mood. A breath of laughter escapes her. Of course he’ll be concealing something. It’s her birthday, and he’ll want to surprise her. Odessa’s smile grows and she bites gently down on her lower lip.

It’s her birthday, she’s spending it with her fiancé, and he wants to surprise her.

The next breath out is one of astonishment, feeling overwhelmed. How her life has changed. She smiles absently, closing her eyes and reaching out with her senses to Ace, imagining that she can envelop him in the boundlessness of the affection she holds for him. Then her head tilts. He’s not alone, and that’s not remotely usual. Suddenly, she’s wondering if she needs to be Ourania, or if this errand involved work.

But none of it quite fits. “C’est nouveau,” she murmurs to herself, then lifts her voice to ask, “Artiste à moi?

Footsteps fall in the entryway of the home. Then, something else. "Go say hello," Ace tells the presence with him. It's followed by a scrabble of noise to the wooden floorboards. Those strange steps pause, filled with hesitation, nervous energy. "Go on," he re-encourages, and the door shuts behind him.

From over the back of the loveseat, Odessa can see who the stranger in their space is.

It's a lanky, large-pawed puppy of dappled grey colors with an undercoat of light brown, a large yellow bow tied about its neck. It turns its little head when it hears signs of Odessa, long tail lifting in interest, then excitement. Tail wagging, heart full to burst it's a surprise the dog doesn't let out a yip, it goes happily bounding in Odessa's direction.


Ace steps into the doorway only once the puppy is clear of it, shoulder leaning into the wood as he observes the initial interaction between his fiancée and the excitable hound he's brought home for her. "Happy birthday, my muse."

It’s the nails on the floor that catch her attention first, of course. Confusion knits her brow and brings Odessa to sit up straight. “Darling?” she tries calling again for some kind of hint. What she thinks this signifies can’t be the reality. Surely she’s jumped to an incorrect conclusion and she absolutely will not set herself up for this kind of disappointment.

By the time the white tipped paws have crossed the threshold of her sanctuary, Odessa’s on her feet and her breath is stolen. The pup experiences no such hesitation and she stands simply dumbfounded at the sight of it. Surely, this is a misunderstanding on her part. The dog managed to dash in behind Ace when he came through the door. Or maybe it belongs to a client and he’s doing some kind of favor in order to win some in return.

But it’s wearing a yellow bow. Odessa stares at that for a long moment and seems hypnotized by the consistent wagging of that happy tail. Then Ace speaks, and her eyes come up to him finally. “Are you serious?” she asks, tears already welling up in her eyes. “I thought we agreed—”

"That this wasn't a thing to enter into lightly," Ace concedes, remembering well. The happy puppy bounding across the room to her jumps up on its haunches, pawing at Odessa's leg for the chance to be picked up and sniff her properly. "That should this be less than enchanting, there is no changing our minds. That this is a commitment."

His eyes drift to the puppy, then back up to her. "That is, if he is to your liking." He keeps his lean against the doorway, aloof in appearance and reserved in his emotions.

He's always such a bad judge of what type of tears are coming on in situations like these. It's hard for him to tell just yet if he's overwhelmed her in the wrong sense.

Odessa stares at Ace for a long moment, half-ignoring the way the puppy paws at the linen of her skirt. The puppy doesn’t lie with its body language. He loves her. It’s Ace she wants to discern.

There’s a sudden shift in her as she drops to a crouch to scoop the pup up off the floor, her hands behind the joints of his front legs and braced against his chest before holding him against her own. “I adore him,” she assures her partner, swaying gently back and forth with this new love in her life. “You’re wonderful.” Though her lips immediately meet the crown of the dog’s head, it isn’t him she’s talking to.

The moment she embraces the dog, something like relief trickles from a slowly opened floodgate in Ace. He's met with the urge to both reassert his roost in a comforted slouch and come upright entirely. "I'm glad," he answers to her adoration.

The latter comment, he's unsure it's directed entirely at him. He steps forward anyway to slowly begin closing the space between them while the puppy alternates between trying to dote on her cheek and sniff it. Excited as he is, his kisses accidentally become a nibble that he quickly lets go of.

Ace's caution is an opaque shell covering over a thin layer of hope and anticipation, brushed away by that slip up in behavior by a moment of impatience. "Easy now," he warns the dog. "You be careful with her."

He retreats from the emotion immediately after, recoiling from the strength of his words with concern instead. His brows pinch together, then smooth to flatness in short order. "He'll, of course, require proper obedience training. We'll have to make arrangements for him during the day. And…"

Ace glances back to Odessa conspiratorially. "He'll need a name."

“Uh-uh!” Odessa chides melodically when she receives a nip born of unbridled excitement. “Must be careful.” She ruffles his fur and snuggles him as if she needs to convey that all is forgiven. He, of course, did not sense a hint of the warning from his new owner. Not the way Odessa did. “Easy yourself,” she also chides Ace, though without the cute sing-song. “He’s just enthusiastic. I’m fine.”

Reclaiming her seat on the loveseat, Odessa settles her new puppy in her lap, wiggly little ball of happiness as he is. She pats the spot next to her and suggests, “Quickly now. Before he decides to take it.” Her smile is warm, his concern for her accepted for what it is and the sternness forgiven.

One arm seeks to contain the pup while she provides scritches with the unoccupied hand. “I hadn’t really thought about what I’d name a dog,” she admits. “Well, maybe not a boy dog. I don’t know why I felt like I had names for a girl all ready to go. It sounds stupid now and I’m upset with myself for admitting it.” Color touches her cheeks, further illustrating this point.

“Maybe he’ll show us what his name is if I just wait a day or two?” Odessa lifts her brows, silently asking Ace if he agrees. “Or was there something you had in mind?”

Coming around the couch to settle himself down into a seat, Ace stows aside his feelings at being chided. He instead leans back, one arm along the back of the couch behind her. The wriggly puppy pants happily, trying to twist better into Odessa's scratches before realizing some other itch he has and hiking one leg to swipe at it himself, the ornamental bow round his neck quickly proving to be in the way.

Ace lets out a huff of idle humor at it. "No," he admits. "I didn't have anything special in mind for the name; there was no sense in that thought until I knew you would accept." He turns to look at her rather than the puppy, arm slipping around her shoulder instead of lying behind it. "But I'm certain I can contribute to the shortlist."

“Aw,” Odessa coos to the bundle in her arms. “Is that in the way?” Rather than remove the ribbon — are you joking? It’s adorable — she slides her fingers under its edge and scratches under the band of it until the little thing seems satisfied that she’s gotten the spot. “That’s better, isn’t it?”

She starts to lean to rest her head against Ace’s shoulder, but catches herself. “Whoops,” she murmurs softly for his benefit, so he’ll understand her change in course. “My hair’s still wet.” And she doesn’t want to dampen his jacket. “Last chance,” she warns him in a low voice, serious even if she does edge it with her humor. “If this isn’t what you want, you’d better speak up now. He’s very cute, and very sweet, but I could say goodbye, be grateful for this time and the thought you put into this, and that will be that.”

It would hurt. It would hurt. So terribly. But she’d ultimately be fine. It would be better than having the strain of resentment creating a rift between them slowly but surely. Odessa loves Ace far more than she loves the idea of them owning a dog. “You said we have goals,” she says in a gentle voice, indicating that she hasn’t forgotten what he’s said to her. “We have goals.” It isn’t just what he’s said, it’s what is. “I… don’t want anything to get in the way of that.”

It’s all she can do to keep from looking down at the puppy in her lap while she strokes his soft layer of fluffy fur. If she does, she might look too enamored. She might look too heartbroken at the notion of ending this before it’s begun. The notion may be implied that the resentment she fears in Ace might grow in her instead. She might make him think she’s lying to him with her words about the state of her heart on this matter.

And isn’t she?

Odessa's offer comes as a surprise, one Ace isn't sure quite how to take. Is this demonstration enough, that he'd be willing to introduce this unexpected element into their plans together at her wanting? Is there truly need to follow through on this?

His eyes go to some distant place for a long moment, one that ends with him shifting his arm so he can stroke her hair. Without particular emphasis, he notes, "He's going to get large for a dog. When he's grown, should there be nights I'm gone, you won't be alone. My hope is he'll become attached— keep you safe in my stead in the moments I'm absent."

Scritches received, kisses applied, the gangly pup lays his head down on Odessa's arm. "We have goals," Ace agrees. He remarks knowingly, "And this creature isn't going to get in the way of that, O."

"I've been working on other things you've said would make you happy. I can't give you all of them now, and not all at once… but…" He reaches for the dog with his other hand, ruffling the top of its head. "You deserved something special for your birthday. Something that will last more than this day, this moment."

Ace wrinkles his nose at himself, finding what he's said to be too sentimental even for his own tastes. He moves on briskly. "There's a crate and food for him in the car. He sleeps in the crate at night, he gets trained, he goes to some sort of daycare while we're at work. These are my conditions for this to be viable long-term." He turns his head just slightly back in Odessa's direction, regarding her out of the corner of his eye.

It’s that sentimentality that endears him to her, though she won’t say so at the moment. It can keep for a time when she can explain why it means so much to her and he’s not so close to it that it threatens to feel like a stain on his ego. For now, she keeps herself from slanting an uncertain glance his way by doting on the new member of their household.

Other things you’ve said would make you happy. Does he mean the garden? The house? Odessa doesn’t even dare to hope. Surely there were other things she’s mentioned that he’s working toward. It’s the only thing that makes sense. Those other things… They lead to other things she cannot have, and surely he’s considered the fact that they won’t need the house if there won’t be—

That thinking will get her nowhere, and she knows it. Odessa lifts her head and smiles at Ace. “I wish I could share with you how I feel right now,” she tells him, reaching up to gently direct his face more toward hers so they can meet eyes at more than just their corners. “My artist, my love, my beacon. Your light burns so brightly it blocks out the stars in the night sky.” It used to be something she regarded as a negative, but she’s reframed it. It’s his love, his passion for her.

“Someday I could, you know… Share what I feel with you.” That’s an offer she doesn’t expect a favorable response to, so it’s left in the center of the metaphorical table between them, untouched and meant only to represent an opportunity left open.

But the topic is shifted, attention drawn away from it as she similarly withdraws her hand from his chin and admits demurely, sheepish. “I— can sense how he feels, too.” Odessa’s chin dips toward the puppy she keeps drawing away from laying in Ace’s lap. “It’s… different.” It elicits a smile, however. “He’s very happy right now. I’m glad for it. I was kind of worried any animal I might try to adopt would just sense something about me it didn’t like and I’d… never be accepted or loved by it.” Embarrassed, Odessa demures, her face turning away. “I’m relieved.”

Her touch to his jaw brings his head, directs his attention to the gift offered to him before her hand drops away. She can feel the shift in him, the way he distracts himself from an immediate overt negative reaction by thinking about something else briefly. The look in the eyes she'd brought directly to her flicker with doubt, but it's hers that break away first from their lock.

Ace leaves the metaphorical offer on the metaphorical table like it's a centerpiece to be appreciated but not touched. She just offered him, after all, the very thing he'd gnashed his teeth over her sharing with someone other than him. The least he can do is acknowledge it.

He presses his mouth to her crown, damp hair be damned. "Simple creatures like these don't know your past, only your present. It's all that will matter to them." Letting his eyes lower to the pup and its greyed eyes not unlike, but darker than his own, he regards it without extension of the affection he has for Odessa. His voice goes even, flat, compared to the softness he'd murmured into her hair. "We'll foil each other well in that regard, I'm certain. You'll spoil him in some way for every scolding he gets."

The bit of seering is followed by a single fingertip lightly batting the puppy's nose, who in turn begins to chase after Ace's finger with every intention of gnawing on it in play. "It is a very good thing we already follow the habit of shoes in closets… or there might be even more trouble for him to get into."

While the kiss conveys what he means it to, doubt follows in its wake as she has to ask herself if the only way to truly care for her is to be oblivious to her past. Or to be someone like Ace who exalts it. Well, she supposes she got lucky with this one, didn’t she? She decides to focus on that, how lucky she is to have this magnificent man who’s compromised, budged on and reconsidered a complication he didn’t want to introduce to their domestic life together, and has done so in order to bring her happiness. Not just on her birthday, but beyond it.

“You’ll do well to remember, I think,” Odessa begins, tone light, “how well positive reinforcement works compared to the alternative.” To demonstrate, she intones a quiet ah-ah to the pup and encourages him to be calm in her arms, rather than to nip at her partner. Ace receives a look with lifted eyebrows. Yes, she’s aware of how her carrot to stick ratio has shifted, but she’s still aware that he’s the one dangling that carrot in front of her.

But she’s not angling for a debate, so she moves on. “I thought,” over only the last few moments, “that maybe we might call him Rex.” Her smile is a guileless thing, curious and importuning. “What do you think?”

Ace's reaction to the chiding in his direction again is to let it roll off his shoulders, almost literally. He keeps his eyes on the pup now, even as she tuts at it. Both man and dog are incorrigible, fingers on his hand moving in a circle around pup's head before snapping closed around maw.

Just for today, at least, he'll have a little fun with this demon he's brought into their home.

"Rex…" The name is repeated with eyes narrowed in thought, no strong leaning felt either for or against it. "We could do far worse than that. Would it be short for something, or…?"

With a quiet sigh, she warns him, “I won’t stop him forever. If you want to play like that, you’ll get some teeth.” But she’s hopelessly endeared by this display. This time, she doesn’t stop the little bundle of fluff from making his small efforts to launch from her lap to mount a counter-offensive.

“Far worse, hm? I’m glad you think so highly of my suggestions.” It’s a joke, and she makes it obvious with the grin she wears the entire time she plays at this slight. “It means king,” she explains. “And it’s a rather classic name. I thought it might suit a couple like Harry and Ourania. It could be short for something, I suppose.”

Odessa scrutinizes the pup as he tries to catch hold of Ace’s tie. This, she rescues out of the good of her heart. And for the sake of her love. She flips the accessory over those apparently oiled shoulders of Ace’s, then reclaims the puppy, allowing him the chance to straighten it out again, or remove it entirely to stow it safely in a pocket or elsewhere. “Come here, mon petit cheval.

While he’s settled against her shoulder, a front leg draped over each one as though he were giving her a hug, the blonde hums thoughtfully. “Maybe Ferdinand? Are you a Ferdie, little guy?”

Ace lets his eyes half-lid in response to her joke, nabbing the pup by his snout and wrestling his little face back and forth in play. The excitability of the smaller party does not bleed to the larger, nor does the passivity in Ace's expression affect the puppy. He releases his hold, playful maw snapping once more at fingers.

"The name of a king, for a dog?" he wonders absently. He looks askance at Odessa, long enough his tie becomes endangered and then rescued. He remains still as the gangly pup is reclaimed from him, fingers of his playing hand slowly closing before he rests it on his leg.

"Ferdi rolls off the tongue," he allows, his stilled being slowly rippling again as he sees her interact with the affectionate scamp in her lap. "A lovely blend of roots to that name…"

Just as absently, he turns his head to press a kiss behind her ear. For his trouble, the unnamed pup leans over that particular shoulder to sniff and snuff in his face, bringing him to start back. "Excuse you," Ace chides him without particular offense.

“Hmm,” Odessa mulls over the way Ace repeats the name. “I have to admit, Rex sounds more impressive to my ear than Ferdi. While the latter is adorable — just like you — it won’t sound terribly impressive if I’m calling on him to protect me.” When she asides to the puppy, she wiggles her fingers in front of his nose, pulling them away, off toward her side and not her face. “Rex, however, sounds suitably imposing.”

That when Ace kisses her, he receives a kiss back from their new pet for his effort brings forth a giggle from Odessa. “See? He likes you! Don’t you, boy?” As if to indicate that Ace isn’t the only one who has the puppy’s favor, he flops his head against her shoulder, which is met with a soft aww!

Now it’s her turn to tilt her head to press a kiss to her partner’s ear. “I like you, too,” she promises just before gently dragging the lobe of his ear between her teeth. She whispers something to him and he can feel the curve of her grin before she draws away. Just before she gets nosed underneath her chin. “Oof! Careful there!” Odessa cuddles the puppy closer in spite of the way his little paws start to scrabble at the air to be allowed down to the floor. It’s time for exploration!

Someone call an ambulance. The unthinkable has happened.

Ace narrows his eyes at the thought of anything he does being adorable. He regards Odessa from the corner of his eye as he drags his tie back into its proper place, suddenly wondering if she's been replaced without his knowing. She does know who she's dealing with, yes?

With her returned affection, he seems satisfied enough for now, and motions to let the bag of legs scuffle its way to the ground. "There'll be plenty of him to go around later. Let's get this exploration over before it gets much later." With a sigh, he pushes himself to his feet as well. "I'll get the rest from the car."

“I love you, I love you, I love you,” Odessa insists. To Ace, not the dog. (Well, not just the dog.) “You promised—” Her attention turns to the puppy, giving him just one more squeeze before she finally sets him on the floor. “You promised that you’d make sure my birthday was—” She hides a hiccup that threatens to become an emotional sob behind the back of her hand. “Well, you delivered. So much more than I could have hoped for.”

Getting to her feet, she rests her hands against his shoulders, hopelessly smitten when she meets his eyes. Then she shares her elation with him the only way she truly knows how, cupping his face and kissing him hard, with as much giddy affection as she did the first time he showed her this room. Her eyes are still closed, nose brushing his when their lips are no longer locked.

“I’m so glad you learned to love me, Ace Callahan.”

Ace had already resigned himself back in the direction of the front door when Odessa rises after him and brings him back in her direction. The tension of her emotional you promised doesn't leave him even after she moves on past that point and clarifies there's not something he's missed, but rather something he's overdelivered on.

With his face between her hands, he lifts one of his own to brush the side of her cheek with a graze of curled knuckle following the broken kiss. "You're welcome, O," he whispers to her. It wasn't so much a thank you she spoke, but it's how he reads it all. "I did bring back cake, as well."

He lets relief well inside him, but it's not a wave. The guardedness remains. Possibly because…

Out of the corner of his eye, he sees the dog has left the study, and has moved onto the adjacent living room. And its furniture.

His guardedness takes sharpness in the moment before his hand falls from Odessa's face; manifests in the form of a cross tone of warning she's never heard him make before. The puppy jolts, only his front paws so far up on the leather of the couch. He slides back to the ground, nails going down the cushion before hitting the wooden floor with a click.

Ace feels the scrape of them like it's so many knives dragged down the fabric of his soul. "No," he calls out sternly, turning not to the front door, but to follow the puppy. "Not allowed. Not on your life."

He makes a similar noise of his initial distress when the dog immediately proceeds to pee on the floor.

This was going to be a long transition period. Mostly for him, he's finding out.

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