Stages of Grief


ace_icon.gif odessa_icon.gif

Scene Title Stages of Grief
Synopsis Some pain is bone deep.
Date August 15, 2020

Williamsburg: Ace's Brownstone

The sounds of labored breathing come from beneath the large cloth ice bag resting over the face of the blonde lying sprawled on the velvet loveseat in the study. It’s an upgrade from the whimpering that carried on for over an hour, having subsided only fifteen minutes ago. Every little shift of the muscles of her face causes another hiss or soft sound of pain, though.

Her throat tightens in preparation to raise her voice, but that too is painful. Even her vocal cords hurt. This would be so much easier if she could just give him one of those empathic nudges of hers. Maybe if she just keeps her eyes closed and thinks hard about falling back to sleep, she’ll just do that.

They say beauty is only skin deep, but Odessa feels this in her very bones.

No. Ourania. Nothing about the body she inhabits resembles Odessa Price anymore.

The next sound that involuntarily escapes her is a mournful one.

It's the emotional equivalent of dying, and it's carried on for hours. For the last hour and a half of it, though, she's at least not had to deal with it alone, not entirely. But it's not Ace that sits with her.

It's Aman. Invisibly, but still very much present, pushing comfort to her through their connection, trying to cover over the ache that feeds to him by overlaying it with peace. Worry still peaks its way through the layers on occasion, for spikes that last about a minute at a time. But whatever he's been doing, he's been focused on her.

With her eyes closed, somewhere in the pain, maybe she can even imagine someone's there holding her hand. The desire is strong enough, maybe it carries.

Even without Odessa lifting her voice, the door to the study slides open anyway. The approaching footsteps bring with them a tense stillness in emotion, a forced apathy instead of the usual one. At last, Ace has come to check on her.

"Your friend has been calling again. Persistently." he announces himself. Try as he might, there's an edge of disapproval to it he can't quite hide. "I've let it run to voicemail, but I can always let them know you're indisposed." This, evenly-keeled. Wouldn't want to let on how much curiosity it would satisfy to know who's on the other end of that line, finally. "But you need to sit up a moment."

Or don't, but he's of the opinion it could help.

"You're up for your next dose." When Ace sits beside her on the edge of the loveseat, he doesn't look at her face, doesn't even look at the reddened, fully healed skin wrapped around the front of her neck. No, he has his eyes down on what he's brought with him— a tearable package with a patch inside it, rather than a pill that could be taken, or a lozenge. The moment Odessa looks, she'll know she doesn't really need to move in order for it to be administered. "This will work longer-term. Allow you to… recover more at your own pace."

There's not really another option presented. He tears the package open delicately.

The response to the information that her friend has been calling her results in a heavy sigh that borders on frustrated. But she can’t blame Aman. If she were getting these emotions from him, she wouldn’t just be calling. She’d be halfway to — to Mars if she had to go there to find him. He doesn’t have the luxury of pinpointing her the way she does him. So the phone is the only option he has.

She’ll forgive him.

Odessa lifts one hand and holds the ice bag to her face as she boosts herself up to a seated position with her free hand braced on the cushion beneath her. She doesn’t want him to see her like this any more than he wants to. “Thank you.” Her voice is weak and it doesn’t sound like her. Another necessary evil.

“Do you…” She pauses to let out a quiet groan, then tries again. “Are you free?”

That she gets up on her own means she's one step closer to bed. Diluted, La Croix-flavored relief trickles from him with that. Ace glances up for a moment at her question, then back down to the patch he's pulled free, delicate as he peels back the thin plastic sheet from it. "You were my work for the day," he replies mildly, leaning to place the patch along the bicep of her raised arm. He smooths his fingers down over it after once it's placed, the faint letters fentanyl printed directly onto it with the dosage catching the dim light above. They'd started at a lower dose, prudently, following the first appointment— but this one bears a different number.

"I'm free." Ace clarifies evenly. The packaging is balled up between his palms, clasped tightly in one. Without any particular affect to it, he holds up the palm of his free hand for her to take. "Come on. Let's get you into bed while you can still walk."

“Are you sure?” she asks, wariness in her tone. “I don’t… It’s your bed.” And does she have a place in it if she’s not…

Odessa feels the red hot flush in her cheeks that the ice can’t abate alone. “I can sleep down here. Don’t need to burden you.” Her melancholy must be understandable, even to him. The sense of calm that keeps pushing back against it is one she indulges in momentarily. It gives her the strength to take the offered hand and swing her legs over the edge of the seat so she can plant her feet on the floor.

That hurts less than it did the week before, so it’s something. Everything’s still sore, but it doesn’t compare to the way that she feels like she’s been hit repeatedly in the face with a hammer. Probably looks the part, too. Odessa hasn’t had the bravery to even look.

Ace provides no answer to her protests, merely standing to support her weight with a firm grip as she comes up. Again, he doesn't look to what of her face can be seen, depriving her of that window into his reaction to it, for all that it wouldn't tell her why he was feeling a certain way.

"Can you walk yourself? Or will you need help?" He's used the latter, following that first visit. His support is unwavering now, unlike it was the first time she'd asked for his assistance, and he'd not taken her need seriously enough. He'd assumed she mostly needed the moral support. It only took that single near-fall for him to intimately grasp how wrong he'd been, to offer more support than less, however stiffly it's performed.

No such mistake would be made twice.

Odessa gropes blindly at the end of the couch for where she thought she’d left her cane. While she’d been dozing, it had slid from its lean to the floor, however. She only figures this out after she pulls the bag away from her eyes far enough to glance down. “If you can just—” She makes an impotent grasping motion with her right hand to indicate that she has not yet manifested her father’s telekinesis and cannot reach the mobility aid without assistance.

“Unless you want to carry me.” Spoken with a huff of laughter. Because she’s not serious.

"I'm not in the mood to cause you any undue pain." Said with perfect seriousness.

A moment is taken, held with a moment where he insists she lean on him for support, but in the end he crouches to pick up the implement by its middle, letting it slide down to a point where the top of it can be grasped. "Your chariot," he indicates in an attempt at levity.

“Just what’s due to me, then.” Odessa keeps the ice bag held in such a way to obscure her face from him still, but allows her to see where he’s offering out the walking stick to her. She grasps the polished orb set into the pommel, taking it from his grasp to push the tip into the rug on the floor and tests her weight against it carefully.

Satisfied that she won’t topple, she nods shortly, then immediately lets out a grimace that he can hear in the emphatic little breath that escapes her. “I might still be a little shaky on the stairs, so a spot wouldn’t go amiss,” Odessa admits. Then again, she asks, “You’re sure you want me up in bed? I— You don’t have to.”

Ace's mood flickers in a moment of sour at her quip back to him. No, he hadn't quite meant it like that, but he'll accept his licks with dignity. His emotions smooth over with practice, all for the sake of giving her now what he hadn't been able to earlier— his strength. "But of course," he counters to her smoothly. "Pleasurable pain. And that, my dear, is in short supply tonight."

Then he's lifting his freed hand to take hold of the bag of ice she presses to her face, his determination unerring even though he attempts to be gentle about prying it from her. "Both hands free," he directs her as he begins to pull. "Just in case."

There’s a flicker of annoyance that’s overshadowed by shame and resignation when he pries the bag from her fingers with only a token resistance. She angles her face away from him as she relinquishes her mask to him. The worst of the swelling has abated — though it won’t truly be gone for a few more days — so it’s the angry bruising that draws the attention.

Splotches of deep indigo, vermillion, blue, black, yellow, and green have bloomed around her eyes and cheeks. Although unseen by her, Odessa believes it must be grotesque. “I was just making a joke at my own expense,” she murmurs apologetically, having felt the ripple in his emotional state. Again, her face is flushed, this time with embarrassment.

She’ll make it up to him later, she knows. If possibly not in the way he may be expecting from her. Odessa takes a tentative step forward, then another. She’s always a little stiff after she’s been laid out on the loveseat like that. Especially now that she no longer fits in it so neatly. Her legs are so long, she has to tuck them in so, or leave them to hang off the arm.

By the time she’s made it to the study door, she’s more confident. She hasn’t had to reach out for any of the furniture or the walls to help with her balance, though her gait is still awkward. She isn’t sure how to carry herself just yet. Her natural grace fights to shine through.

She'll get there. This Ace knows. If not for the sake of fitting in this new world she's entering into, then for herself. For now, he follows along behind her at an easy pace, waiting for her to clear the doorway, ice rotated in hand. It's melted more than it should be. Once they're past, he looks to her briefly, considers the amount of time it'll take her to get to the stairs.

"I'll freshen this up and meet you at the landing." And so he sets to that at a brisk pace, dumping the excess water off into the sink before pulling the freezer door open, taking ice by the handful. Ace glances to the phone on the countertop, the extra in his line of them made by Odessa's, and after sealing the ice bag again, he unplugs her phone and slides it into his pocket after all. With a turn, he smears left out of existence.

"Up we go," he tells Odessa only moments later, substantial and whole at her flank. He begins the steps up in tandem with her, his free hand at the small of her back. To support her. And to spot her, as requested, should she falter.

Odessa gives a short nod to indicate that she (at least believes) she’ll be fine getting to the bottom of the stairs on her own while he handles the ice replacement. And, it turns out, she’s correct about that. He doesn’t leave her waiting more than a beat, just long enough for her to have shifted her stick to the opposite hand and reached out to grasp the railing.

The ascent of the staircase is a much slower process than the journey to it. Her knees protest the action, making every footfall heavier than it needs to be. And she’s lifting higher than she needs to anyway, overcorrecting for the extra space she needs to clear.

But she gets there, with only Ace’s hand on her back for support — which is nice, in its own way. Even if she is breathless once she gets to the top and needs a moment to recover. Pain is exhausting, but they’re nearly to the goalpoint now. “Thank you,” she remembers to say. For the ice and the spot.

Not quite yet ready to begin again, she does so anyway, lest she test his patience and find him nudging her along anyway. Odessa can be strong just a little bit more. Eyes up, she focuses on the door, and how it gets just a little bit closer with every step. “Fentanyl patches take twelve to twenty-four hours to reach peak effect,” she explains. “But they only need to be replaced every seventy-two.”

Talking about the medicinal whys and hows helps her focus on something other than that pain, too. “I’ll need something else during that first period.” For a moment, she forgets she doesn’t want him to see her, turning to catch his eye so he understands the importance of what she says next. “Nothing with codeine.”

It's not polite to chuckle, here, but Ace can't help himself from a brief one. "No opioid overdoses," he confirms, meeting her eyes. There's no hesitation in that, even if his gaze is firm only there. Once they make their way into the room, he parts from her, some of that impatience showing if only to clear the way. He moves past to come to the bed first, drawing back the covers. The ice is set aside on the nightstand. "Ibuprofen is fine, though, right?" he asks.

He knows.

The bed is indicated with a glance before he moves on, pulling open dresser drawers. "Is a gown fine?" he asks over his shoulder.

"You can take the doctor out of the practice…" Odessa responds with her own breathy chuckle, however brief. "I'd rather not need naloxone, no." Even if she had insisted they have some on hand, just in case.

Making space for him to pass her in the bedroom, she makes her way to the bed, but doesn't sit just yet. She has to change first, after all. "Something that buttons in the front would be better," she suggests. "You can help me slip into it without much manipulation required." A gown will require arms over her head.

Doable, but not impossible. Her maxi dress ties behind her neck, allowing it to simply be pulled down when she wants to be rid of it. "I can sleep in this, too," she offers, granting the option of something that requires no further effort from him. Even if the long skirt will get tangled while she sleeps.

"That'd be easiest, then." No argument from him there. Ace slides the dresser closed as quietly as it will go, mindful of the sound. He's emotionally insensitive, not physically. He can only imagine the kind of splitting headache she has that's made her groan the way she has the entire afternoon. "Rest." He gestures her with a hand, waiting for her to pull herself up onto the mattress. Like downstairs, he sinks onto the edge beside her, one leg propped on the floor so he keeps his balance as steadily as he likes.

"They only tend to romanticize breakfast in bed, but if you want dinner, we'll allow it." Their little secret, their deviation from decorum. Ace leans to take the ice pack in hand once she's settled, bringing it up to cover the most-bruised side of her face with care. This time, he doesn't shield his eyes at all from the disagreeable sight of her state. He's accepted it, it would seem.

It… no longer looks like her, but then again, were she this badly bruised with her true face, maybe he'd hardly recognize her then either. How good of a job the sculptor did will truly take time to tell.

"Otherwise," he murmurs as he relinquishes the ice pack finally back to her care. "I just want you to rest."

With him having accepted the route that puts him out the least, Odessa finally sinks down to sit on the mattress. At least the soft cotton is comfortable as any nightgown she currently owns. There are considerations she didn't take into account when preparing for this, but she absolves herself with the knowledge that she was working with an incomplete understanding of what this process would truly entail. They had agreed there would be discomfort. Neither of them anticipated this scale.

As she takes possession of the ice from Ace, she tells herself he couldn't possibly have known it would be to this degree.

"I don't particularly want to eat anything," Odessa admits, adjusting the lay of her legs across the mattress with a wince. "Nutrition, however, promotes healing…" Damn that logical brain of hers. More discomfort is necessary, however. "Cottage cheese would be a good source of protein." And not require near as much chewing as most other options. "I wouldn't say no to a smoothie."

The ice is moved to the other side of her face in tandem with a roll of her eyes. "I feel demanding. I don't like not being able to do for myself." Even though she's been asking for as little as possible since this all began. In fact forgoing things she'd like, that might make her more comfortable or ease her distress, in favor of asking nothing of him when she can.

It occurs to her to wonder if he even recognizes or appreciates that, but the thought is unproductive, and he's given her so much already. She doesn't know how much this new form of hers cost, but it wasn't insignificant. Odessa owes Ace a debt she's uncertain she can repay.

But she can try.

"All that can wait, though. I made you a promise when you took me in. I haven't forgotten it." Odessa looks Ace over briefly, her attention ultimately falling to the line of his mouth, as it often does. He says so much with the barest movements of his lips that he doesn't realize. "If you fetch 800 milligrams of ibuprofen," a powerful dose for a powerful ache, "I'll tell you about my friend."

While she balks about eating, she at least understands its importance. The suggestion of the two foods is met with a quirk of his mouth. One he finds to be unpalatable and doesn't keep a stock of in the house, and the other requires a mixture of fresh fruits he's not sure he has enough of. But, it's what she's asked for, and today she is his work.

"I'll need to run out quickly to grab those. So, it will be a few minutes yet before dinner." He lays a hand along the side of her shin, fingertips drawing up and down gently in a way meant to be comforting.

But that's not all that's on the table, he recognizes. The firm press of his lips when Odessa asks him to fetch persists even after it should have faded, additionally obscuring some of the reaction to her telling him she's ready to speak about her friend. It doesn't hide the flash of satisfaction in his eye for his patience being rewarded.

Ace slips the cracked-screen phone from his pocket, laying it in on the nightstand. It's there. For her. The ball's entirely in her court now— save for the request of hers he needs to fulfill. "Go on," he tells her, even as he comes to his feet to head for the medicine cabinet in the master bath's mirror.

"I'm in no rush," she says of dinner, "I'm not even the faintest bit hungry." Her eyes lid. She does find comfort in the light touch of his fingers over her leg. Even if it was nothing else, it would still be an assurance that he doesn't find her repulsive in this form.

When he leaves her to stand, she opens her eyes, the spell broken again. The phone on the nightstand is eyed while his back is to her, and she starts to reach for it, to see if Aman was foolish enough to text her after she asked him not to.

The temptation is resisted for the moment. It would tell Ace too much about her concerns to see her express even idle interest in the mobile. And she wants him to understand it's he who has her attention, not whatever the screen might tell her.

Someday, perhaps, this is a game they won't feel the need to play with each other and longer. And if Odessa thought about it too much, she'd realize that the fact they're playing games at all instead of indulging in honesty is a problem. (All such indulgences are merely moves taken toward whatever their respective endgames are. Like this very moment.) For now, it suits her — feels natural to her to play.

"I've been in possession of my ability a relatively short time," is how she chooses to begin this story. "Only a little more than a year. As I'm sure you understand, artforms take a great deal of time and practice to perfect."

Meaning, hers is not yet to that point.

It's a curious lead-in, one that immediately brings Ace to wonder where this is going. She's not wrong, of course. His own flourishes took years to perfect. But what does her friend have to do with that?

In the other room, the even keel to his emotions shift, and he allows himself to begin submerging himself into the black lake of feeling rather than stand on its surface with only the slightest ripples.

He returns with four orange-brown pills in the palm of one hand, a dixie cup of water in the other— his offerings in exchange for continued information. A story he otherwise lets her continue at her own pace.

It’s with a murmured gratitude that Odessa takes the pills, tossing all four back at once and washing them down with her cup of water. There’s a small wince, and she settles her ice pack against the base of her throat and her collar for a moment. Cold feels good against her skin no matter where she applies it.

“I…” Odessa frowns, annoyed with herself for not knowing where to start this portion of the explanation. “My ability allows me to discern intent, as I’ve demonstrated.” The corner of her mouth ticks up just the barest bit. “He’s not a threat to you. Don’t mire yourself in this.” But she’s partially gratified by the fact that he does.

“Normally,” she carries forward, not expecting him to justify or refute her comment — knowing that it’s bad enough she’s drawn attention to the fact that she knows what she knows about him — “I have to be near someone.” She won’t give him an exact figure for that. She isn’t certain what it is anyway, in spite of her best guesses.

“With one exception.” Her head tilts toward the nightstand and the phone sitting there as a stand-in for the ever-present Amanvir Binepal. “No matter how far apart we are, my friend and I… sense each other. Unless I put a stop to it.”

Ah. So it's a he.

That she immediately senses the curl in his intent tempers his reaction with frustration instead, one he closes himself off to with haste. But, unfortunately, that leaves him with the rest of his emotions, ones still gathering with tension.

Ace would ask if this is because of her, or because of him, but with her hand on the wheel…


"Is that particularly difficult?" he asks, making only a passing attempt at not sounding dismissive. If it can be gotten rid of, why not get rid of it?

If she’s noticed the slip — if it was a slip — she isn’t letting on. Maybe it’s time he knew anyway.

There’s a flicker in her expression that coincides with his own quick clamping down of his emotions. He doesn’t go unnoticed by her, but she doesn’t call it out again. He knows by now that she knows, and that’s enough for now.

“Yes and no,” is a frustratingly vague answer, but one she does seek to clarify in short order. “Yes, I can shut him out. But it forces me to shut off my ability entirely. Rather useless, don’t you agree? So, no, it isn’t so simple. I’ve yet to find the magic to break our link entirely.”

That’s an admission she hates to make. “This is frustrating for me, too,” she feels the need to point out. “I used to have time itself wrapped around my little finger, and now I’m inundated with emotion.” Surely he understands how that must be hellish for someone like her.

Odessa sets her teeth together in perfectly straight rows, gaze having drifted off to one side in her irritation. Pursing her lips finally, she shakes it off. “I digress.

Bringing her gaze back to him while she shifts the ice to the back of her neck, easing some of the tension growing there, she continues. “That first day together, in the kitchen, when I grew embarrassed.” She suspects he remembers it well. She remembers the feel of his annoyance with her. “Everything I feel is broadcast, and vice versa. It makes for some awkwardness, I’m afraid.

“I work around it.” By which she means she cuts herself off from her ability.

Or we could just kill him.

But that's a terrible thing to do to your friends, isn't it.

Completely irrational, Ace.

Doesn't stop him from thinking it.

He settles himself on the edge of the bed again, adopting a thoughtful expression. Because he is thinking, after all. In that space, at the variation of emotion from Odessa again, Aman steps back from the closeness of their link. There's a lingering note of concern and comfort, and then he slips into the background again, leaving just her discomfort and the conversation before her eyes to occupy her. He'll give her her space.

Ace finally works his way back to something more palatable to say. "I don't like that handicap for you."

Odessa turns her face away, staring down at the opposite side of the mattress from where she sits so she can focus on the emotion attempting to flee her. The emotional equivalent of a hand reaching out in the dark for a retreating silhouette. “Yes,” she agrees, albeit absently. “That makes two of us.”

There’s no lift of her gaze. “It’s why I received all those messages when I was arrested. I— I was trying to read you, which made him aware of my fear.” She’d promised herself she would never mention it again. That unpleasantness was behind them now, and she wouldn’t dwell on it. But it still sometimes constricts like a vice grip around her heart. The ease with which her lover would have killed her…

No. Not with ease. If it had been so, she would be dead. Not sitting here months later in his home. His bed.

“Now… it’s my grief he feels.” There’s no sense in pretending she doesn’t mourn the loss of her self. “He’s concerned. It’s… touching, I suppose.” Odessa makes light of it, but it does touch her. Aman’s concern for her is everything she feels she’s missed throughout her life. And certainly others have felt concerned, but she’s never before had the luxury of being aware of it so keenly and so consistently.

At the mention of fear, Odessa receives wildly conflicting signals. Surprise, peace, dismay, contentment, anger, resentment. Aman turns back at the hand that chases him, pressing comfort back to her loneliness. Ace roils in the memory of that night.

It makes him think about something that's best left forgotten in this little arrangement: the reason why she had cause to fear him that night… and the fact that she still remembers.

Not to mention, hearing she grieves draws a sharpness out of him. Ace snaps back to her, green-greys taking in her bruise-marbled face. Grief??? She was cutting away all the parts of her past that weighed her down most— even for all of his earlier tension, his questioning at causing her that much pain— he's incapable of understanding just what she has to grieve for.

She was still herself, he wants to insist to her.

But he doesn't recognize the face he looks into any longer. He doesn't connect with it, the way he did with Odessa's, he realizes.

And silently, he grows angrier. Multiple separate fires join into one.

At a perfectly even, perhaps too-still keel, Ace asks, "It's just emotions? No … additional link past that? Nothing telepathic? Nothing that shares specifics?" Of course he'd be concerned about protecting his secrets. Her secrets. "Or is his concern something we need to worry about, O?"

"Others don't understand people like you and I. Not our motivations. And certainly not our emotions."

I barely even understand our emotions,” Odessa admits. But she does understand what she’s getting from Ace right now. It’s a manifestation of her own fears. She no longer has the face of his muse, so what should he care for her?

That apprehensiveness is hidden behind the ice pack, moved again from her neck back to her face, her head down. The fingers of her free hand wad up the skirt of her dress in her fist, like she might be grasping for Aman’s hand for the strength to weather the storm of Ace’s disdain.

“It’s just emotions,” she remembers to assure. “He doesn’t… doesn’t know why I feel the things that I feel. I don’t know his reasons either. There’s no… further link than that.” Except she realizes the danger in that. There has to be more than that, because if there isn’t…

If there isn’t…

“We can’t kill him, Ace.” Like maybe she can read intent with some telepathic clarity to it. “I think it would kill me, too.”

But his anger is starting to seep into her. It feels so intimately her in ways she can’t articulate. (See earlier comments about her understanding of the emotions of people like them.) Now the hand around the bag of ice starts to curl in tighter.

“And why are you so mad at me about it?!” Odessa snaps. “You hate this as much as I do! You liked my face!” Which the ice pack is now pulled away from, only to be drawn back and hurled in Ace’s direction with the force of her frustration.

Odessa’s eyes immediately go wide. With a gasp, “Oh, no! I’m so sorry,” she contemplates shutting her ability down there and then, but that won’t save her from the gravity of her mistake. Immediately, she starts scrabbling away from him until her back is flush with the headboard, her knees tucked up to her chest.

The pack hits him square in the chest, cubes clattering inside and ice spreading through his insides. It sticks into place on his shirt, then falls into a hand that catches it before it ends up in his lap. Ace's eyes half-lid, coolness staining the fire in him an icy shade of blue.

He doesn't need to lift a hand.

She feels what she's done.

Ace holds the pack away from himself, dropping it on the nightstand without looking at it. It lands with a sharp clack, partly hitting Odessa's phone. He saves the device from damage due to prolonged exposure by taking it from the table entirely.

"Maybe your senses aren't as sharp as you think they are, Odessa," he advises with a curl of his lip, coming to his feet to punctuate the statement.

And then he looks away from her.

"I'm not having this conversation." He makes his way across the room, palming wallet from the vanity dresser to pocket it, too. He glances momentarily to the master bath in consideration of something— then turns to head for the hall.

In spite of every screaming instinct, muscle, and bone inside of her, Odessa scrambles from the bed, grabbing her cane only because she must, starting after him. “Ace, wait! Please!” She has to help him understand what just happened there.

She has to get that phone back.

He'd planned on leaving without so much as looking her way, but her coming to her feet alters the course of that act, just slightly. Ace snaps his head her direction, voice raised. "Don't be ridiculous. Lie back down. You're clearly still not feeling well."

Her phone is still in the hand furthest from her, even though she's succeeded in getting up to pause just inside the doorway.

He’s not wrong. If she weren’t in so much agony, both physically and mentally, she’d have had better control of the temper she’s siphoning from him. Odessa sags heavily against the stick clutched in her left hand. For a moment, it looks like she might be in danger of crumpling toward the floor.

Maybe by now he’s started to note the tell of the separation of Odessa from her ability.

Her eyes open again, lift to where he waits in the doorway, the two of them held fast in this stand-off of theirs. With a calm that rivals his own — because now it’s only her own emotion she needs to rein in — Odessa holds out her free hand. “Agent Ayers might call. I have to be available to answer.”

For a moment, it doesn't look like Ace finds that to be a valid argument. But it's enough of one that he ends up relenting. He doesn't cross the room again to hand it to her, simply spits out, "Fine." and tosses it underhand at the bed, not even bothering to look at it bounce on the covers.

He looks back at her for just a moment, expression hardened, then heads for the door again. As he turns over his left shoulder to walk away, he begins to fade from that focal point— swiping out of tangible existence.

Odessa takes a moment to catch her breath, cognizant of her heart pounding on her chest and the blood roaring in her ears. The way everything hurts. “I wouldn’t get so upset,” she says out loud to the empty room, “if I wasn’t so afraid of losing you.”

Emotions are hell.

Pivoting, Odessa makes her way the few steps back toward the bed, easing herself back down onto the mattress slowly before grabbing her phone and dragging it toward her. She brings the screen to life and pulls up her messages, to see what concern Aman’s sent her way that her benefactor has seen.

To his credit, there aren't any messages this time. Just calls.

Ten of them.

Ace wasn't kidding about the persistence. Were he in a better mood— were he actually here, he might pass a comment about that.

But he's not.

Odessa laughs quietly to herself. Well. He did follow her directions. She’ll just have to explain that maybe he shouldn’t call that many times in a row. Still… she can’t help but appreciate it.

The image of a phone’s receiver in the top right corner of the message window is pressed and she puts the phone to her ear, laying back on the pillows while she waits for the call to connect.

“Hey,” she breathes out with a faint smile when it does. “Did you call y— It’s good to hear your voice.”

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