Someday This Pain Will Be Useful To You



Scene Title Someday This Pain Will Be Useful To You
Synopsis Be patient and tough.
Date August 14, 2020

Ferrymen's Bay: Stark Raven Studio

The car ride had been especially tense.

Once he’d managed to get her into the car.

Now, sitting in the parking lot outside the warehouse-come-art studio, Odessa can’t tear her eyes away from her reflection in the side mirror. “I don’t think I can do this,” she says into the darkened cabin of the Porsche, unable to tear her eyes away to look at the man in the driver’s seat. “I—” Her breath hitches in her throat. “I don’t want to do this.”

The last time had been horrible, and they haven’t even begun with her face yet. They’d left the best for last, as it were. It’d been her choice. If they started with the most important aspect of this alteration, she might never be able to convince herself to complete it. Now, she’s left with no choice but to subject herself to another round of torture.

She did this to herself, on purpose.

Odessa’s hand closes around a polished crystal orb that fits in her palm, the head of a cane that sits against the seat and her left leg. Bracing herself to lose this battle, even as she prepares to move on to bargaining.

Ace doesn't move immediately himself, taking his time once he's thumbed the vehicle off. His green-greys settle on the cane Odessa carries with her, a concession made to support her through the painful process. That concession made, the requisite amount of painkillers necessary for the next round of after, he's calm and confident that she can, in fact, persevere.

"Look at me," he directs her, leaning over to curl his fingertips around the curve of her cheek, encouraging her to meet his eyes. His palm cups her face, taking a moment to simply look at her.

To admire, for one of the last times, the way she looks now.

"You have the strength." Of this, he is certain. And it's this certainty he lays bare for her, any reservations he holds buried in favor of that presentation. Ace brushes his thumb over Odessa's cheek in a calculated show of affection as he aims to anchor her with his words and touch. "You've already proved you do."

There’s only the barest of flinches when he touches her face, the hint of the indication that she might like to defiantly pull away and avoid meeting his eyes. She delays doing that very thing until she can’t maintain line of sight with her own reflection anymore.

It might be the last time she sees her real face.

And he sees it now as her tears well up and roll down her cheeks, falling against his thumb where he tries to reassure her. “Ace, please. I’ll give you anything. Anything you want.” This crisis is an existential one. Who is she if she continues to change herself so drastically? She’s already in such a state that she’s had to relearn how to walk without stumbling over her own feet, uncertain of where they are in space. It’s a bit like learning how to walk in stilettos, or those industrial goth aesthetic platforms she used to be so fond of years ago.

Except that she can’t just fix it by taking her shoes off.

“What if I don’t inspire you any longer?” Desperation makes ragged edges of her voice. What if he discards her because she no longer has this face? She’s already been uncomfortable enough in her own skin, and pain has only been made bearable with rest and a lack of activity beyond what’s required to facilitate rehabilitation.

This, now, is a physical reassurance, and made more profound by how few of them she’s been (able to be) receiving. Odessa begs just one more time, “Please.

When she resorts to begging, Ace's brow begins to crease together. Whatever happens under his skin is a mystery, his thumb brushing her cheek again for the sake of batting aside her tears. His own gaze hardens, because there is no other way at this point. "Breathe," he encourages her more sternly, the appearance of providing comfort fading with that.

"What I want from you, Odessa— what I want for you is the chance this provides."

Patience is a thinly-maintained facade.

"This chance you chose for yourself," he reminds her, "is one I expect your adherence to. I asked for your commitment to a different life. I didn't tell you you had to look any one way or the other— this choice was yours, and it is your best chance at as free a life as you deserve."

"The name, these alterations, they are two parts of a single whole. One you cannot—" read: will not "just abandon partway through." Ace's hand releases her cheek, her jaw to mind that he puts no pressure on her physically. Instead, he leaves the curl of his index finger under her chin to continue to command her visual attention.

She had wanted his heartbreak. She had wanted to hear that he would mourn the loss of her looks as much as she will. Wanted him to tell her that she would still be an inspiration to him. But she does as he tells her to do. Odessa swallows down the lump in her throat and takes a deep breath. Then another one.

Slowly, but surely, she starts to push down her panic and despondence over the fate she’s meant to meet now. While the finger under her chin keeps her facing toward him, her eyes shift so she can look through the windshield and to the door of the building.

Two Months Earlier…


“Hey! Welcome, you two!” The door’s barely swung shut behind them when they’re greeted by a young woman with dark hair, dressed in a black button-down shirt over a grey tank top and black skinny jeans that lead to a pair of white canvas high tops. The sneakers, like her overshirt, are spattered in paint in every color of the rainbow. This woman is an artist. “You’re Marie’s people, right?”

She doesn’t wait for confirmation. They’re here at an appointed time, and dressed like — well, he is dressed impeccably. The woman he’s with is dressed for comfort in a simple maxi dress of navy cotton. It’s a bit of a giveaway.

“You can call me Ms Stark. Mister Gage is in back and he’s expecting you.” Stark smiles brightly and gestures further inside the studio, which is mostly an empty space that houses supplies for various paintings and sculptures in progress, as well as a backdrop and lights set for photography. It’s the set-up of the more modern age that she guides them toward with the wave of her hand, however.

“Have a seat! Let’s go over what you want, make sure everybody’s on the same page.” The receptionist comes around a large desk of wood and glass, where there are three different monitors set up, a large computer tower on the floor hooked up to them. She drags her rolling chair to one end of the desk, where she can see around her digital set-up to the green velvet couch across from her.

Button to his blazer unfastened, Ace settles himself down to a comfortable seat on the couch. "About that, darling—" With a flash of a cordial smile, he lounges his arm along the back of the couch, fingertips curled about Odessa's shoulder. "We already know the package Ms. Marie so kindly negotiated will require a touch of alteration. There's a missing aspect to it, something that will bring the whole ensemble together."

His smile is unerring, well-aware that what was negotiated already pushed the limits of what was permitted.

"And accordingly, I will provide additional materials and compensation for this extra burden. It is a small price to pay…" Ace's gaze moves away from the artist to the woman at his side. "for what she wants."

Which seems a very romantic notion to the woman at his side, if Stark is any judge of the way she turns to him to smile and nudge in a little closer. She’s entirely unruffled by the request, though, brows lifting with a surprise that it’s only polite to feign. “You wouldn’t be the first to ask for such things,” Ms Stark admits easily. Then, she turns attention to the woman next to Ace, face one of sympathetic concern. “Sweetheart, your breasts are fine.”

The smile leaves the fair-haired woman’s face, surprised by the boldness of the comment. Odessa blushes and looks down to her lap. “That’s— That’s not the issue.” Her chin dips in a bit more toward her collarbone so she can sneak a surreptitious look to her modest cleavage, then slant a look back up to Ace out of the corner of her eye.

It’s not, right?

“That’s right. The issue,” Stark carries on, “is that you need to disappear. Your new face is going to let you do just that.” The way she hasn’t dropped any names yet, or expected any in return after providing her own, suggests that either she doesn’t want to know, she does know, but wants to maintain a plausible deniability, or she doesn’t need to know who she’s dealing with to know what the situation is.

“You aren’t going to need anything else,” she assures with glances to both of them, though her attention ultimately settles on Ace. It’s not hard to tell who’s driving this transaction. It’s ostensibly for the woman with him, but he’s running the show. “I assure you, Mister Gage is very good at this. Her own mother won’t recognize her when he’s done.”

In back ends up being literal. A door opens with a creak, just visible past a stand of tall, cloth-draped canvases. From the opening emerges an older man, a nearly spent cigarette dangling from his mouth and his hair a nest of colours just slightly more faded than his suit jacket over crumpled shirt.


He wades forward through the grey of smoke trapped in a confined space, and just as he's left it behind him and comes into full view, another cloud of the stuff leaves him through his nostrils and billows around his face. He comes to an easy stop and stands to survey his guests with an unconcerned lift of his brow.

Voice as dry as bone and a lazy wave of annoyance on his words, he scolds, "Girl, get to the point." Not that he lets her, because once he's had an eyeful of Odessa, he lifts the cigarette from his mouth and levels a barren look at Ace, scraping forth a question almost without pause. "Are you bringing business in here, or problems?"

Ace's humor becomes tight with Ms. Stark's little quips. Odessa can see the glint that enters his eyes, the indication he's considering changing his mask. Polite didn't seem to serve, after all.

It's the appearance of the sculptor himself that chases that notion away in the end, light shifting again in his gaze. Ace pulls his arm back to himself as he comes to stand, his other hand smoothing down the front of his greyed blazer.

"I'm bringing you business, in order to solve a problem of mine, Mr. Gage. As I understood it, that's a particular area you excel in." The pleasant smile on his face cuts just a tad sharper as he gestures with a hand back toward the workspace the man's just stepped from. "What I'd like to propose simply makes that transformation a tad more complete, and I assure you, we'll compensate you most handsomely for the additional trouble. I'd be happy to walk you through it."

But not in front of his assistant, it'd seem. The help has been discarded in favor of working directly with the real artist.

Stark is both relieved and bristling when the man meanders his way into her space from his own, getting up from her seat at her desk to help put her at a more even level with the taller men. “I was just explaining how unnecessary that’s going to be,” she tells Gage. Before she can launch into the laundry list of reasons why, she receives a look that sees her shutting her mouth with a force that results in an audible click of her teeth.

Gesturing toward the back room, she relents. “I’ll leave you to it.” Wally is more than capable of negotiating his own terms when he’s decided that’s what he wants to do. Services as a gatekeeper rendered complete, she turns back to the timid form of Odessa on the couch, sympathy in her expression. Stark pulls a large drawing pad and a charcoal pencil over from the other side of the desk. “Now then. Let’s go over the finer details of what your new face is going to look like.”

Odessa nods wordlessly, watching Messrs Gage and Callahan disappear into the back room to carry out their negotiations.

The sculptor's stroll back from whence he came is unhurried, the hand that returns his cigarette to his mouth lifting over his shoulder as he gives a languid wave for Ace to follow.

"Come on," he orders calmly past the dying smoke, taking one last drag of the cigarette before he flicks what's left of it onto the floor in front of him so he can crush it as he walks. "Walk me through how I'm supposed to do my business, will you."

The room he re-enters is foggy, for obvious reasons, and the furniture within makes up some semblance of an office meets lounge, even if every piece of it is mismatched. What they do all have in common is that each and every piece looks to be at least thirty years old, including an old CRT television that stands perched atop a filing cabinet, muted but projecting a black and white movie out toward the blockish, mahogany desk it's facing.

Wally gestures toward the leather armchairs that stand in the far end of the room, leisurely making his way to push open a panel of frosted glass in the once-warehouse-windows. It only just opens, but it's more than not at all.

Ace didn't so much as bat an eye at the smoke, but the meagre attempts to potentially clear it are what finally have him set a spot of side-eye in the direction of the sculptor. He's calm as he makes his way through the diversely-decorated space, pausing to the side of the armchair he's been directed to.

"The changes that were agreed-upon will in fact work at a superficial level. We've discussed erasure of every scar, alteration of facial features … and while what that will do cannot be understated, I can't help but feel we are—"

His tongue smirches off the back of his teeth, one hand gesturing loosely before him. "Putting on a disguise, so to speak, rather than completing a transformation. In order to ensure her unrecognizability, as your assistant so put it, there's another alteration she requested that I feel is too important to leave out." Ace's brow arches, explaining: "Which is why you're going to make her taller."

Everything that's being discussed has been discussed, and nothing piques Wally's interest enough to even have him look at Ace until the very last sentence reaches his ears.

By then, he's standing with his arms folded over his chest, sitting on the edge of his desk as he looks his potential customer over, and then slowly tilts his head back as if to idly ponder something.

Maybe if it had been a question Ace brought in here, Wally would have had a quick answer. But a statement — now that requires a bit of good thinking. Or, at the very least, a bit of waiting while the older man feigns consideration. He turns to look at the television. Some sort of mobster movie. Men in suits and a damsel in distress. When he speaks again, he sounds distracted, his head angling as a deadened gunshot on the screen demands his attention somehow more than the conversation. "And the world just sort of revolves around your wishes, I assume. That must be nice."

Ace lets out a chuckle at that, remaining standing by the chair rather than relaxing into it. "And you presume you'll still have a leg left to stand on for your little business if you refuse." He cuts a warm smile the older man's direction. "That must be nice."

Weight shifting to one leg over the other, he waits perfectly patiently for Wally Gage to see the order of things a bit clearer. "The raw materials required for the additional alteration will be provided to you. I've run with a bit of an assumption, on my part, that you'd require them up front— and they're therefore in a controlled case back in my vehicle. You have that going for you, along with payment at your usual rate."

Not the negotiated one.

"I can't help but see this as a more than reasonable arrangement, on your part." Ace posits with catlike delicacy.

"Do you threaten the man selling the nice vegetables, at the market?" Wally questions as if he might actually suspect the answer to be 'yes', his words slow and movement even slower. He grimaces as the television shows a car that goes flying off of a boardwalk, and scratches idly at his jaw as if not fully engaged in this conversation - but continues it all the same. "This tomato's not ripe enough," he says, lifting his voice to an ever so slightly higher register of sandpaper. "You better watch out, you might not be here next week."

He doesn't really need an answer. What he does need, however, is for Ace to know something. "Taller is extra work. Extra work means extra pay. Twenty oughta do it."


"I'm glad we could come to an agreement," Ace remarks with a sunny smile, head turned in Wally's direction, his eyes never making it that far, though. He observes the other things of note in this mismatched den instead. He may even be on the verge of speaking again, but his ears prick at the sound of footsteps from the front, and he turns that way instead.

The door swings open a crack, just enough for Ms Stark to glance inside and make sure everything’s alright before she sticks her head in. “If you two are done measuring dicks in here,” she asks with a look that Wally bears most of the brunt of before it softens and settles on Ace instead, “your girl is starting to get a little antsy.”

It’s easy for Ace to glimpse the image of Odessa seated on the couch still, staring at the opaque window and slowly balling up her dress at her lap in one hand. She’s in danger of losing her nerve.

“I gave her a pep talk, but you might wanna go hold her hand and say something nice to her.” Stark would like to get paid. It’s in her best interests if Odessa goes through with this process.

For what it’s worth, though, the artist holds up her sketch for Callahan to see. “She’s making good choices.” And she’s quite good at what she does, apparently. Sculpting flesh and bone may not be her medium, but she can craft an impressive template. The woman’s face on the heavy paper is everything Ace and Odessa had schemed up brought to life.

Well, nearly.

“We’ll just get prepped for the procedure,” Stark assures, gesturing for Ace to go and make his own preparations with the subject in the main room.

When he’s stepped out, she closes the door behind him, leaning against it heavily and flashing a surprised look to Wally with a little grin. “Jesus, Gramps,” breathed out in a hush. “Are you sure about this one? What’d you get him to agree to?”

There's nothing but a throaty noise as an answer at first, as Wally pushes a palm down onto the desk and gets to moving again. At his own pace, and by design. He waits until he's flipped the television off by a dial on the front of it before he turns to Stark fully.

"Joey." The name leaves him as sluggish reprimand, for her questioning him alone. "I'm sure about this one." His head dips, just a little, as he watches her like one might watch a toddler they're not sure is listening. "I know there's smoke in here, but we both know you smelled the money the moment he walked in. Which means that he'll be back."

For himself, for another sweetheart, it's all the same.

He pushes up a sleeve, glancing back up at his granddaughter from under a furrowed brow. "We're making her taller." Between fingers stretching skin taut, he peers down at spots of minor scar tissue on his forearm. "Tell them we start now."

No time for second thoughts.


It's just before the door to the studio that Ace stops, one hand poised on it to open it. It's a pause in which he turns back to Odessa, studying her again. His other hand snakes around her side, resting at the small of her back.

"My muse," he murmurs to her, head tilting — rather than him having to severely angle down— to issue a firm kiss to her forehead. Affection was key, and something he'd forgotten to show her. He has no other comfort to offer her than a reminder of her value to him.

He could, of course, tell her this won't be as painful as the first sitting.

But he'd like to not get into the habit of lying to her in ways she'll see through.

The hand at her back might be some comfort, gentle but present. Ace holds no illusions Odessa doesn't also know it's a guide to keep her with him and moving forward as he pulls the door open to usher them both in.

No turning back.

Odessa diverts her gaze back to Ace's, holding it obediently for a moment. Then, she closes her eyes, surrenders to him and this will of his, exerted upon her by a simple press of lips to forehead. This is, after all, what she chose. And this is what she asked of him. Because she knew this moment of weakness would come. She opens her eyes again. She'll have to face her fear and this loss. She'll do so with her chin high.

Kicking her foot out to wedge against the door before he can open it, Odessa reaches up with her left hand, hovering near his face, but not making the connection just yet. “Please,” she begins with. “I just need this one thing from you.”

The jangle on the inside of the door that comes from its arrested movement brings Ace to turn his head partly toward Odessa with idle surprise, his eyes not moving to her until she makes that request of him. Hand still on the door, he swivels his gaze under the cover of a blink, sharper than she's likely looking to find in him. The affectionate placement of his hand on her back disperses with a lowering of his arm, though he acquiesces to her ask with only the barest movement of lips. "You may."

He assumes, after all, that's all she could want from him in this moment. Because if there's something else, she's not asked it yet.

It’s that, but it’s more than that. With the permission granted, Odessa first eases her foot back so she doesn’t need to lean quite so heavily on her walking stick for stability. Then, she rests her palm against Ace’s cheek.

“I need your strength.”

Her eyes close and she breathes in sharply as she engages her extra senses again.

It is not what she expected.

There's no opportunity to warn her, but at least her eyes are closed so she can't physically see the slip in his mask that occurs once he realizes what she's after from him.

No, he thinks to himself bitterly, she can just feel her way through it like it's not there at all.

But at least Odessa doesn't have to wonder what Ace is feeling. No— she knows it now, quite plainly. That the tenacity he effuses physically is a lie, his conviction not quite as strong as he's let on. His impatience for her to head in, to go back and complete the terrible work, is one of someone who wants this to be over with as quickly as possible. And not just because he fears she will truly lose her nerve.

But that he, in fact, may lose his.

His emotions bleed into worry, concern, the likes of which are more urgent than should belong to him. Like the swell of negative emotion is a surprise rather than an expectation.

It's not immediately clear on first blush where Ace Callahan's emotions end and Amanvir Binepal begins. There's likely some overlap. Surely… surely there is. The crease in Ace's brow should speak to at least one of the emotions caught in that tangle.

"Remember this is necessary," he advises her quietly, his hand still on the door. Perhaps he's telling her.

Perhaps he's reminding himself.

Her eyes open again, wide with shock as she stares up into that handsome face. The mask so perfect it fooled even her, until she pried it free. But some of it… Some of it isn’t him at all, is it?

Shock gives way to confusion and frustration, both written clearly on her own face as she darts a glance away from him. It’s so hard to tell where she ends and Aman begins sometimes. Harder still to distinguish what’s the amalgamation of them and what is Ace.

So, she does what she has to do, and she interprets as best she can. With bias.

Needing to keep that grip firm on the pommel of her cane, Odessa lets her hand on Ace’s face slide back until she can curl her fingers around the back of his neck and the base of his skull. All the better to drag him down the four inches between his mouth and hers.

It’s much easier than the ten inches of difference that used to exist between his height and hers.

There’s no heat in the crush of lips. Just sadness and desperation. Like she can siphon what she needs from him with this contact and enough will. The nudging and concern that is wholly Amanvir is ignored, nudged back with notes of apology under the strong current of this impending loss.

When she finally allows them to part again, it’s only after she’s breathless and flushed. “You are my artist,” Odessa reminds him. Not just of the role itself, but that he belongs to her. “And no matter what face I wear…”

This is what she needed. Not his strength, after all, but his waning conviction and the tight grasp on his own bravery in the face of it.

“I am yours, Ace Callahan.”

No pride rises from him, but a sense of peace works its way forward at knowing just where he lies with her. That she doesn't resent him for what she's gone through and what's yet to come. The hand that had fallen away from her rises again to cup her cheek momentarily, to smudge what looks like moisture away from the corner of her eye. Ace rewards her with a flicker of a smile, hints of adoration underneath.

"I will remember that," he promises.

And before they can lose the momentum of this acceptance, he pulls the door open.

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