Pride And Prejudice


ace_icon.gif richard4_icon.gif

Scene Title Pride And Prejudice
Synopsis There's no love lost between Ace and the unwelcome shadow he finds at home one Friday evening.
Date May 21, 2021

Ace and Odessa's Brownstone, Williamsburg

The sun has begun its descent toward the earth again, but it's hours yet til dusk when Harry Stoltz arrives back home from whatever trip he went on that was short enough he didn't bother to crate the leggy Irish Wolfhound he and Ourania Pride keep in their home. A dog who, even though he hears the jangle of keys from someone entering the front door, doesn't come rushing.

Even though the deadbolt never turned, the keys chiming are usually enough to send the pup scampering. Harry pauses halfway through slipping his shoes off, heel meeting ground again. He lingers in the entryway, brown bag of groceries in one arm held without so much as a crinkle. The keys in his other hand are carefully enclosed in his fingers, ones which go opaque, existing in the ambient light without shadows playing on them. He hears a curious whine from the other room, one which sets his green-grey eyes to narrow. The bag is quietly set aside on the table by the door before his arm and the rest of him smudges to the left before blurring out of visibility entirely.

Without substance at all, Harry Ace Callahan for all intents and purposes drifts forward through the front hall and toward the open living room and kitchen of the townhome— where the dog bearing a gold-tagged collar naming him Rex is down on his front legs, elbows to ground, tail wagging faintly.

The dog is staring up at the shadowed wall above the dining nook overlooking a small stone terrace of a yard, oblivious to Ace's presence while enamored seemingly with nothing more that shaded corner. Ace spends a moment pondering that corner…

Unaware that the corner is more than passingly aware of him, even if it's just by sudden lack of vital signs where there was clearly life by the front door only moments earlier. Where he intangibly exists, there's just an echo of life, half of a heartbeat arrested and floating in a state where it can't complete its next life-giving thump.

There’s stillness and silence for a few long moments, before a whisper-soft, echoing chuckle stirs from those shadows. “Well, now that *is* a very nice trick, Ace…” …Ace…

One that confirms why, many months prior, a certain scientist had asked about how to prevent a phaser from passing through the walls of the campus. Richard had already suspected, but this is confirmation.

“I do apologize for intruding like this, but the matters we have to discuss are not for others’ ears,” the shadow observes in casual apology, “I haven’t poked around either, although I did play a bit of tag with your dog here.” …your dog…

A dog who lets out a bark of excitement, waiting for the next movement of said game. In that moment of time, Ace's figure retreats back behind the visual cover of the hallway wall, feet clicking to the ground when he retakes shape, alert as he walks into view. The act of coming into sight in a way that's better natural is a gambit in believing his presence to have been merely seen as disappeared, rather than felt. His eyes are sharp upon the shadows, still just as unaware they hide someone who can sense life itself.

"Harry Stoltz is a man with nothing to hide," Ace notes coolly with an open gesture of one palm around the living room, like he's inviting the presumed stranger to completely invade his home rather than just dip their toe in it. "In contrast, you must be. To go to these lengths, to ambush me on my own property." He keeps his own distance, sticking to remaining just a step in sight. "Please, by all means," he encourages the shadowy susurrus haunting his dining nook. "Don't keep us in suspense as to why."

The polite venom to Ace's tone is far from absent when the dog whines, looking from owner to shadow in a bid for owner to assist in his goals. "Rex," he snaps. "Rentre chez toi." The words aren't nearly as delicately spoken nor with as refined an accent as his fiancée might employ, but the command is heeded nonetheless as the wolfhound makes lanky, head-lowered strides toward his crate, play suspended in the face of that tone.

“Harry Stoltz is a man who doesn’t exist,” is the dry, whispered reply from the shadows, “So I’d say he has quite a bit to hide, as he exists to hide what’s beneath the surface. I don’t have much to hide myself, the reason I went to these lengths…? Those are to protect you, actually, since discussing these matters in the open would result in you getting arrested or murdered, probably…” …probably…

A low, echoing chuckle, “…and I didn’t want to get shot, either. It’s inconvenient, and would have gotten you killed. And that would have made Odessa very upset with me.” …with me..

Ace bides his time thinking by mulling aloud, "There is plenty saying Harry is a man who still exists… least of which being paperwork which will be signed in just a few weeks' time." The green-grey of his eyes travel the edges of the darkened shadows from one side to the other, unfocused as he instead puts hits focus into listening.

Where has he heard that voice before.

The corner of his mouth begins to curl back like hooked by a knife, the grin small at first. "And you? An accusation of B&E wouldn't look good on you," he ventures with delicate lightness. "Not on you, or anyone else around you."

Then his voice drops with coldness. "And if it's Odessa you're concerned with, imagine how upset she'd be to learn about this," Ace notes with a floating gesture of a hand between him and the shadows. "I can't imagine, friend, that will end well for you."

"So get to the point, if you don't mind," he encourages patiently.

"She'll get over it." …over it…

The shadows move then, flowing over the wall and stretching out Peter Pan-like into the image of a man standing there; a rough silhouette, arms seemingly folded.

"And if you think we're at some sort of stalemate here, the authorities are highly unlikely to believe you over a CEO, so can we dispense with the threats and theatrics to have a civilized discussion?" A hint of amusement, if anything, in his ephemeral voice, "I'm here to ask you a very simple question, really. What do you want?" …want…

Ace lets his arms drop to his side as his eyes roll so far into his head it brings it to turn away from Richard's shadow of a self entirely. His tongue smirches off the roof of his mouth before he turns back, opting for answering the latter topic rather than the first. "Really?" he wonders flatly, not sharing in any amusement. "You're the one breaking unannounced into my home, and asking me what I want?"

That faint grin comes back again with a shake of his head. "I want your pretentious, showboating self to come back when you know what you're here for— and show civility in perhaps knocking on the door first next time." He turns away entirely from the shadow, beginning a walk to the kitchen like the other man isn't even there.

"I'm afraid that's not an option," replies Richard, the tone of the whispered voice rather dry, "You've been read into some matters rather far above your pay grade, you see, so your options are talk to me here… or talk to the proverbial men in black." …in black…

"And let me assure you that they'd be far less patient with your crap, Ace." …Ace…

Patiently, or with a passing semblance of it, Ace comes to the far corner of the kitchen, slipping a phone from his pocket to set it on the countertop and plug it in. Clicking the screen on to ensure it's charging, he comments over his shoulder, "And I'm afraid I have no idea what you're talking about. I can only imagine what this is about. Odessa's past?"

He turns back with a flash of irritation in his expression. "May I remind you who arranged for her rebirth as Ourania Pride?"

“Irrelevant to the conversation,” is the dismissive hiss from the living shadow, “The issue is that you know about the Entity, you know about alternate timelines, and other matters that you haven’t been cleared to know…” …to know…

“Which means that you’re now a piece on a larger gameboard than you were when you were just one of d’Sarthe’s men. If you started talking to him about this sort of thing, well, that would cause issues, and then his organization would go the way of the Ghost Shadows. Which isn’t a result I’m interested in seeing happen — I can work with Gideon, and I prefer my crime organized. You never know who’s going to step into a vacuum,” admits Richard, “And on top of that, such attention would result in unpleasant consequences for Des… so I’d rather bypass it entirely by making a better deal.” …deal…

“I’m not here to threaten or intimidate you. I’m here to try and prevent any unpleasant complications from interfering with either of our lives. Which brings me back to my question. What do you want?” …want…?

Ace cants his head as he completes the turn back in Richard's direction, a single tick of his forehead arching one eyebrow just slightly higher than the other as Richard goes on with his explanation. Whatever reaction he has to that he keeps in his own counsel, save for to let out a derisive scoff of a breath near the end.

Unpleasant consequences for Des.

His chin inclines just slightly in gesture at something metaphorical before he asks, "If you're so interested in me having a desire, then perhaps I have one to see you continuing to work with a devil you know, one who will safeguard Ourania. You never know who will step into a vacuum, after all." One hand slips into the pocket of his slacks while he regards the living shadow against the wall, eyes narrowing slightly in that study. "I do so have my fair share of experience picking up the broken pieces of a failing criminal empire and forging it into part of something greater."

A luxurious sigh leaves him at that and his gaze wanders. "Not that I would use something as incomprehensible as God walks among us as a weapon in dethroning so secular a man. There are far better tools to ply in that play." One that brings him to smile almost against his will, just the corner of his mouth curving up as he looks back to Richard. "Such thoughts, it bears repeating, I did not have until you forced them into my head just now." Ace's head tilts again, this time in the other direction.

"There's no need for me to go after these forced desires," he admits cavalierly, green-grey eyes void of particular emotion. "But trust me that the heart of your concern will be addressed either way. My phoenix will remain safe."

For all his blitheness, on that count seriousness surfaces in his voice again.

“I wouldn’t exactly call it God,” is Richard’s dry observation, “I’ve never seen God scream and flee when injured. This thing may be slightly less mortal than you or… well, than you, but that doesn’t mean it’s some divinity.” …divinity

“I don’t care about your ambitions, either. Just that you’re aware there are bigger fish than you or d’Sarthe out there interested in your phoenix. If you would be more than a pawn on the gameboard… maybe you should make a point of familiarizing yourself with the game. She could teach you the rules, if she wanted.” …if she wanted

“But we’re getting close to the endgame. Keep her close. Keep her safe. And for the love of all beneath the skies…”

Keep her away from Uluru.” That name doesn’t echo even once.

Ace's gaze wanders off, his thoughts and his counsel his own regarding the subjects of divinity and games. His free hand comes up to rub his jaw thoughtfully, strides taking him back across the kitchen again. When the giant puppy in his crate lifts his head, he bids him, "Stay, Rex."

Endgame, Richard says. Eventually, Ace's eyes are drawn back to him.

"Uluru," he repeats softly with a 'huh' of breath. "Is that Their name, then?"

With a sigh suddenly more tired than anything else, he notes, "Whatever it is you think I know or knew, I can tell you this conversation has been enlightening. And whatever game you think she knows the rules of, Ray, she doesn't." His nostrils flare momentarily. "She hardly knows enough of life to keep herself safe from herself. Pushing her to come into herself— to fly— has only highlighted the ways her wings fail her."

"But that isn't her fault," Ace acknowledges in a soft voice once more. "Nor will it stop me from guiding her— from keeping her safe, from any threat." The emphasis is made sharply.

"And that isn't something that needs neither your permission, nor your blessing."

“Oh, doesn’t she…?” The whispering echo sounds almost like laughter after those words. It must be the acoustics. “Well, I do suppose that you’d know, wouldn’t you?” …you…

“It’s a good thing that I’m offering neither, then, isn’t it? You don’t need to take any of my advice, Ace of Hearts… but if you keep that blindfold of arrogance on, you’ll never even see the threats coming for her. And neither of us want her hurt further.” …hurt…

The shadow sweeps upwards, breaking into a dozen birds, into a mist streaking across the wall.

“Or you could just forget everything I’ve said, I suppose. That would be your choice.”

…and we all make our choices…

"Yours had better be to stay the fuck out of our home," Ace says into the air, possibly to no one at all. But he feels better for having said it, given the way he's otherwise kept a civil calm until now. He stands perfectly still, eyes sliding shut as he meters a breath and lets light filter through him.

Seeing him barely a shade and understanding that the other person has gone, Rex comes up onto his elbows, letting out a whine for attention. Excuse him, please.

"Get your lead, then," Ace sighs through his teeth as he becomes whole again, eyes opening to turn back for where he's left his phone. "And we'll be on a walk." He reaches for one of the phones, swiping the unlock sequence with a lazy flick of his thumb.

5:21 pm
We're eating out tonight after the show. Someplace nice to soften the blow of "Richard Ray is absolutely uninvited to our ceremony." I'm sure you'll agree with me by the time I tell you why.
Liz's invitation is unrescinded.

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