Surface Tension


ace_icon.gif odessa4_icon.gif

Scene Title Surface Tension
Synopsis There is a moment of surface tension when a knife blade presents its demand and the flesh honors it.
Date November 20, 2020

Williamsburg: Ace and Odessa's Brownstone

It's not the first time or the last time she'll have a nightmare. So Ace at first thinks nothing of it when her stirring rouses him instantly, eyes snapping open in the dark. He's able to see quickly there is no danger, no harm except what her mind does to her.

If she sleeps through it, there's a non-insignificant percentage chance she may not remember the dream in the morning. So, he lets her rest. He listens to the sound of her breathing, lying still as he waits for it to even again— for the dream to fade from one to the next.

When it seems she calms, he waits a moment longer still before pressing a kiss to the back of her shoulder, drawing a hand down her spine before pulling himself to her and fitting around the curve of her back. He settles down again along with her, beginning to drift back off.

But something unusual happens. Something that makes him blink his eyes open again, something that causes them to sharpen in the dark.

"Oh, god," Odessa whispers in her sleep, clearly heard. Ace feels her grow tense all over again beneath his arm, shuddering— shivering.

"Someone help us."

His brow begins to knit in the dark, his arm lifting off of her as he pushes himself up to an elbow. It seems the nightmare isn't over after all. The next murmur of hers goes not well-understood while he shifts away, making sure his presence may not be accidentally causing this. That's when strain enters her voice, and Odessa pleads aloud, "Aman! Aman, wake me up!"

Ace stills rather than wake her, pupils frozen to pinpoints. Who?

She continues to shiver, her arm twitching by her side, her head tilting back. It's only once he sees her chest still for a moment too long that he begins to shake her shoulder. "Odessa. Odessa." Ace's voice comes sharp, the edge of it gleaming in concern. "Wake up, darling." His voice is a buoy, the same as the nourishing warmth she floats up with the help of— Aman's loud, protectively calm presence. It even feels like it could be him rubbing her bicep, Ace's hand warmer than normal from being under the blankets. The sound of his voice is a distorted thing as Odessa swims for the surface.

It could be either of theirs.

When she comes up for air gasping, her eyes snap open, the nighttime surroundings a stark contrast to the sunny lake she'd just breached. She's blinded by the shock of the difference between them.

Odessa coughs hard, curling in on herself with this sensation that she needs to expel lakewater from her lungs, but nothing comes. Of course not. It had been a nightmare after all. She draws in deep lungfuls of air instead, gradually getting her shaking under control.

She sleeps through the night more often than she doesn’t these days, at least. Not like when she first moved in and every little shift of his body woke her from her light sleep. Every creaky floorboard, rush of water through pipes, and rustle beyond the window. Now, it’s just the nightmares that wake her.

Like tonight.

“Oh, Aman,” Odessa breathes out in relief, waiting for her eyes to adjust to the dark of the room, blinking in an effort to clear her vision. Familiar shapes start to come into focus. The bottle of water on the bedside table. The sliver of light from the hall under the door.

This is her bedroom.

The dawning horror has Odessa feeling as though she’s just been plunged back into that icy lake from her nightmare. “Ace?” This time, her voice is lifted in confusion, and the fear she allows him to hear is more genuine than she’d like to admit. Perhaps he’ll have dismissed the earlier sigh as something leftover from sleep.

She should be so lucky.

It's the ripple of his emotions that give him away when she sighs out a name that's not his again. Ace sets his jaw, his hand still on her arm, his thumb brushing her bicep. When she comes around properly and realizes where she is, who she's with, he—

He doesn't quite know. In him she finds another rime-crested pool, one void of concrete emotion, one difficult to peer into and make sense of. She can almost imagine feeling the calculation he goes through, the turning of the gears in his mind— to what end, though, is unclear.

Ace places a kiss to her shoulder again, his mouth firm. "It was a dream," he assures her, his voice a soft thing so in contrast to the cold at his center. "You are safe."

"It was only a dream."

The fact that he’s going through the motions is only all the more solidifying of her terror. Odessa pushes herself up slowly to sit, swinging her legs over the side of the bed so her feet can touch the solid floor and she can feel more grounded. With her back to him as it is, it might look like she’s seeking Ace out in the way she turns her head slightly to the right and seems to look over her shoulder out of the corner of her eye.

But it’s Aman she’s searching for. She doesn’t hide her fear from him either. She wants him to know she’s scared. She needs him to ask her why later and she needs to explain it.

“I was drowning,” Odessa says softly. “Fuck, I’m so cold.” Even though she’s been under the covers with him, that chill of her negative emotions finds its way into her very bones. A shiver runs down her spine. “There were others there… Faces I knew. Some I didn’t.” The explanation is being crafted, starting with truth as the foundation.

Aman's attempts to bring her back to neutral without results, the panic and fear having carried on for so long, result in a shift in the warmth of his emotions. He doesn't try to push his state to her actively anymore. He lets hers feel its way back to him without rejection, but also without letting it sink into him. He accepts her state, and presents his calm concern back to her instead.

"Mm." Ace lets out that tone as she builds her story— begins to explain where she's mentally been. The way she withdraws from him, his touch, his presence— it ices over the waters within him. Even so, he lifts his hand to reach for her back, to place a comforting hand at the base of her neck.

Her phone is set to silent and placed face down on the nightstand, but a crease of light is still visible when a notification comes through. And Ace withdraws his hand before it ever touches her.

"You should let Aman know you are fine."

The ice within him wraps itself around his voice as he sets his hand down on the bedside, his feet finding the floor too. He only flips back the covers as he comes to a stand, brusquely turning them aside and heading away barefoot across the bedroom. Even in the dark, she knows he's not looking her way. When Ace comes to the open doorway of the master bath and flicks the lights on without turning back, it's confirmed.

The dark tar staining the distant cold of him is shockingly different from the warmth wrapped around her shoulders and heart by someone who's not even here.

Not only had he heard, but he put the disparate pieces of that puzzle together to make a clearer picture. Odessa brings her head back to center and stares blankly ahead at the wall, bracing when Ace climbs out of their bed. She half expects him to round to her side and snatch her chin in his commanding grip…

But again, her imagination runs away with her. As it so often does.

There’s no relief when he moves to the bathroom. She could — should? — get up and follow him. Placate him and dress the wounds she’s created. Try to get ahead of this train before it barrels away from the station.

But that would be admitting to some kind of wrongdoing, wouldn’t it?

Odessa reaches out and grabs her phone from the nightstand. She keys in her PIN for the initial lock and a second one for the encrypted messaging app. Without looking back over to Ace, in spite of her desire to visually place him for all that her ability places him a certain distance away, she taps the notification and brings up the message.

A: bad dream?
A: i'm here if u need to talk

The moment the message shifts from unread to read, the tether between her and Aman shifts again, strains of supportive affection so absent from her physical surroundings hanging from the metaphysical line.

O: Yeah.
O: Said your name. He heard it. Going to deal with that.

It takes effort not to let the next exhale leave her in an audible shudder. She may as well be honest about what the fuck happened and why she can’t shake the fear. But, for his sake, she tries to push it down and instead project confidence. She will handle this. It will all turn out.

She just won’t promise that it’s going to turn out well.

Confusion, worry— panic comes next. There's a mute that slides over emotions he can't easily control now, one accompanied by an on-screen indicator that he's typing. It's not his message that goes through first, though.

O: If I shut down, call Richard.

It’s a stronger signal than hoping she can get to her phone to send word back to him that she needs help. She hopes she won’t.

Aman reels from that, shocked in a way he shouldn't be. Or at least that he shouldn't have to be. But for her sake, miles away, he closes his eyes hard and works on bringing his emotional state to a dull roar.

If she's going to leave the link open while she navigates whatever comes next, that's the least he can do.

O: 🌠

With that sign off, she logs out of the app and sets the phone aside on the nightstand again before getting to her feet and trailing toward the master bath. “I’m sorry I worried you,” she says quietly, feeling for the ripples of his emotional pond in the wake of that pebble she’s tossed experimentally. Will it skip or will it sink?

Like so many first attempts in life, it seems this one is a messy sink into icewater rather than the skillful skip they both might've hoped it to be.

Ace stands over the long sink, hands curled around the edge of the countertop while he leans down into it. The tension in him is visible in the tightness of his bared shoulders, his back; his jaw, which is set hard as he looks up at the mirror, meeting her gaze through that rather than directly.

In some ways, the distance is worse than if he were in her face. Perhaps he knows that and is using it to his advantage. Or perhaps he doesn't trust himself not to do something to harm her, when in the end, it turns out that's the last thing he wants.

The sunken stone returns a bubble to the surface. It blooms with the poison of betrayal, and leaves an oilslick echo behind after the initial bubble pops.

"I'd let myself forget your heart doesn't belong to you, or to me," Ace notes through the mirror. Bloodred intensity begins to seep up behind the small wound opened in his emotional state. Bitterly, he asks rhetorically, "What was I thinking?"

In some ways, it would be easier if she had her ability switched off. She wouldn’t know just how bad this situation is that she’s wading into. She might be able to bolster her courage better. But no. This… This is safer.

Warily, she continues her approach, meeting his gaze in the mirror in turn. Where his is hard, hers is a soft thing that speaks of contrition with hints of confusion. The latter being merely the embellishment to the mask she’s carefully chosen.

Crossing that threshold to the cool tile beneath her bare feet, she starts to reach a hand out with the intent of laying a reassuring touch between his shoulder blades.

What she sees — what she feels — however, brings Odessa to take a quick step back. This wounded animal he’s become is dangerous. More dangerous than in his moments of calm irritation. He only burns bright for so long, she reminds herself. She just needs to weather this storm of his.

“Oh, Ace,” she breathes out, brow knit with the apology that always comes from her when she’s trying to smooth over one of their misunderstandings. “My darling, it’s not like that.” For want of something to do with her hands, she nervously frets with the knot at the end of the drawstring on her grey and yellow plaid lounge pants.

"Don't lie to me," Ace snaps, every bit the wounded predator she imagines him to be. He pushes himself upright again, one hand curled at his side as it slips from the counter.

"You were in my bed. With me. And you cried out for him— you thought I was him. You recoiled from me when I wasn't!"

He seems to flinch with the force of saying it, like he's lashed out and banged his hand against the countertop. He's not lost control like that yet in the end, but the cold black and blue of him seeps a dark, bloody hue underneath the surface of that ice, ready to flare with the fire of anger should anything push through his cracked composure.

Should he need to show that rather than the deep wound she's given him.

"No story you spin will erase that truth," he vows coldly, eyes on the reflection of hers. "Though by all means, try."

Odessa doesn’t keep in her gasp, but she doesn’t do anything more than freeze like a frightened deer. “No, that’s not—” The tremor that passes from him to her staggers her one more step away from him. Closer to bolting.

“No,” she repeats, eyes wide and fixed on the tension wound in his frame. Her very soul attuned to his in this moment. “I didn’t recoil, I swear. I was glad to find you there. I just needed solid ground beneath my feet. It wasn’t—”

And that, somehow, isn’t a lie. “I was disoriented, that’s all.” Odessa shakes her head quickly, forcing herself to push down that fear and regain the ground she gave up. To prove that it’s him she wants. Still wants. “I can explain the rest, but… It will help if you can—”

Calm down seems the exact wrong choice of words for this moment. When have they ever worked for her?

Instead, she opens her arms and beckons him with the curl of her fingers. “My love… Come here.”

He doesn't trust her fear, for all it might be the truth. Should he trust her? Can he in this moment?

That’s the difficulty of it all, isn’t it? He’s seen her without her masks, too. Seen how she lies so beautifully as to be completely believable. How could he trust her honesty? He can’t even tell the difference between what’s her and the version of her that she wants others to see.

Ace's hand flies out finally, knocking product left on the sinktop off the counter. Bottles go flying to the tile as well as the plush rug running down the middle of the room while Odessa shrinks in on herself and stifles a cry. Loathing— of this moment, her behavior, his own— pours from him as he begins to turn.

And then as he starts to bring his head around like he means to look at her properly, his physical form swipes away.

He should know by now she still feels him even when he's impossible to grasp. But he takes the false privacy for what it's worth, unbottling the emotions he's attempted not to unleash on her— that he doesn't know himself what to do with. His presence moves— first further into the master bath, then into the bedroom again without passing through her. He avoids her entirely.

Odessa flinches when he passes by her, invisible to her eye though he may be. She still knows the way his presence draws nearer, skirts past, and then creates more physical distance again.

Ace would scream in an attempt to find a level, but he has no lungs to do so with.

Like an invisible poltergeist, he paces the room, his rage, his hurt, his disbelief an inferno of a thing he's not even sure he should try to control. Perhaps letting it out is the safer thing for her, in the end. But Ace resolves not to, or at least… not now.

She grants him the illusion of not being able to place him, leaving her back to the bedroom and wrapping her arms around herself slowly. She looks at herself in the mirror, blue eyes shifting as she starts looking for signs of him after a moment.

His feet solidify and hit the floor out of sight of the master bath, eyes closed in the dark of the bedroom. The fire within him is kept contained, running only underneath his skin, kept contained there by an iron will. The sound of one of the clothes' drawers opening announces him as he begins sifting through it for a shirt.

"I'm angry," he declares, as if that were not already patently obvious. It can't be felt in the calm of his voice, only in the tumult of his soul.

The sound of the drawer opening actually relieves some of her tension. He’s whole, but also far enough away that he’s not an immediate threat. Slowly, she turns to face into the bedroom instead.

His voice floats to her on the air again, more quietly this time. "I don't trust me to not… act irrationally."

He focuses hard on the light of her, of the joy of her, of everything he sees in her and wants to see her grow into. Everything that would be jeopardized if she came to fear him rather than love him. His possessiveness cloys over everything, threatening to make a mess of him once more. He tries so hard not to make this worse than it already is, but he's not sure of his ability to not snap again. In the end, he just snatches what's lying on top in the drawer's folded pile rather than pick something in particular.

That he’s getting dressed means, she suspects, he might be about to leave.

There’s more than one possibility that could follow that.

Ace's throat works in silence, and he closes his eyes as he pulls a tee-shirt through his hands, then over his head. "I love you," he says into the air, voice filled finally with the pain of the conflict he feels. He works the shirt down over his torso, shutting the dresser drawer harder than he means to. He winces at that, too.

Batting worth several grand, isn't he. He's done such a poor job at maintaining his mask. But with her, Ace has tried so very hard not to need one.

He stands there, hand leaning against the dresser top with his eyes closed tightly again. His jaw works in silence.

“I know you do,” Odessa responds quietly, taking a step into the bedroom again, but this time not pursuing the closeness she attempted to establish moments ago. “You wouldn’t be angry if you didn’t.” To which she has a counter. “I love you too, or I wouldn’t be so frightened of this.”

Of this, not of him. This is what he needs to believe.

If this was to be an end, he’d be telling her to get dressed. To grab that bag he knows she keeps in the bottom of the closet — because some habits die hard — and get out.

He begins to turn his head back to her, the tension in him not leaving. Keeping his tumult from her is a futile endeavor, but he tries all the same to do it.

“If you would give me a chance to explain myself, it might help the anger. Would you be willing to give me a chance to do that?” Odessa glances down at the floor briefly before tracking her gaze up his form and settling on his face. His eyes. Her own eyes reflect her heart, and it breaks in front of him. “And if you’re still mad at me after that… I can go sleep downstairs. Give you your space.”

Her right arm drops slack at her side, though her left hand stays curled around the elbow. She’s starting to show her physical fatigue. Her mouth quirks up in a brief and rueful smile. “It is, after all, your bed.”

A faint breath leaves Ace, quiet as the sound of a knife being withdrawn from between ribs. She feels the wound rather than sees it.

Odessa lets out a heavy sigh and an utterance of fuck under her breath as her eyes squinch shut tightly. “Sorry, that was… That was all you,” she offers in a quick apology. “I have a hard time shutting out your… Everything. Remembering what’s me.” But she’d be lying if she said that it didn’t sting to hear him take the possessive of something he’d previously described as hers as well. Theirs.

In the dark of their bedroom, blue meets green-grey again. “That’s… what I’m trying to explain. If you’ll let me.”

Ace sinks to the end of the bed, resting back into a sit with his forearms against his knees. He slouches with the heaviness of the emotions he fights to keep at bay. Were it possible, he'd avoid looking at her entirely— to try and hide what his eyes can't lie about.

But he does, his hurt and hers meeting somewhere in the center of the room.

"Try," he encourages her again, this time without the fight that had been in his voice previously.

Odessa nods her head and moves to sit down herself, but in the armchair near the bed, rather than crowd him. She promised him space, after all. “I’ve told you previously,” she begins, without any of the chiding or admonishment that might come with such a preface, “that the link I share is involuntary. That… That goes for times of rest as well. Most of the time, it’s nothing. But I was so frightened…”

In this staring match, Odessa is the first to look away, resting her hands in her lap and turning her head to the right. “He reached through everything. I was confused when I woke, because I could feel him. It was like he was here with me, and I… I don’t know. That’s never happened before.”

Her eyes track back in his direction first, then the rest of her physicality follows suit. “I was relieved to find myself here, with you. It just didn’t feel real yet.” And when has she ever woke up next to Aman? Besides the first time, when they found themselves intertwined for good or for ill.

“The nightmare,” she shifts gears slightly, “I think it was some sort of… Expressive event. I don’t know what would have happened to me if he hadn’t dragged me out of that sleep.” She remembers well the nightmares that plagued New York City years ago, and how lethal they turned out to be. “It wouldn’t have been the first time someone was murdered by a dream manipulator.”

She’s trying to foster a sense of gratitude. This link that he hates protected her where he could not. Sure, it will be sour initially — Odessa knows well how much he hates that particular brand of helplessness — but perhaps he can come around to it.

“Aman is my friend. He looks out for me, and me for him, but… You are my partner. My artist. My—” Words fail her, so she settles on one he’s used before, simply: “Mine.” Odessa’s throat grows tight, her voice strains. “Would I talk about children with you if you did not have my heart?”

Ace's throat works again in silence, and he looks away rather than answer. He weighs in silence what she's told him, rather than reflect on the final question. Talking in her sleep was abnormal, where nightmares were not. Could she really have been attacked in her sleep?

He can't disguise his hate when she tries to explain just what this other person is to her. His fangs bare, so to speak, and then his jaw tightens again. While he works through kneading his emotions down, his palm grinds against his knee. His head twists, and instead of looking back, he stands.

"Is it safe for you to rest again?" he asks, vocally holding her at arms-length. There's a general disaffect to his words. "Or do you need someone to watch over you?"

Well, that certainly feels like a setup. Like most questions he poses to her, choices he gives, she considers what he wants her to say, what he wants from her, and whether to vocalise her own desires.

Odessa lifts her head and looks up at Ace, plaintive. “I’d like it if you stayed.”

Admitting she’d like someone to watch over her without specifying who feels like a recipe for disaster. Either she gets saddled with some d’Sarthe lackey under his umbrella (or worse, someone at Ace’s own station or above), or she invites a snapped comment about how she should reach out to Aman then.

“We can’t be everything to each other all the time, Ace.” The tension in her throat makes her voice thin. “That’s not healthy. You have friends, too. I’m not so foolish as to believe I can be your whole world. You made that abundantly clear when you cast me aside because you didn’t like my face.” Perhaps reminding him how he’s fucked up isn’t the best strategy in the short term, but she hopes it gives him something to chew on and mull over.

“We can— It doesn’t mean we love each other any less.” There’s a moment now where she weighs whether or not to let him see her cry. Odessa lets the tremor in her voice suggest what he can’t see in the low light. “I can’t shut you out,” she reminds him. Begs him, “Please don’t shut me out.”

When she indicates to him she'd rather he stayed, Ace's distance breaks with a frustrated sigh, his eyes on the door. He would rather have put distance between them, would rather have slept down below and had her up here, but given what she believes she went through there's the chance it could protect her rather than just let her cling to him even at the risk of injuring herself on his thorns. His eyes blink balefully in the direction of that dark door, and then slowly rotate back to the one that's lit from earlier.

Her voice reaching out to him again brings his head to turn slightly more in her direction, a frown pulling at the corner of his mouth over the accusation thrown his way. "I did not—" he begins to snap, a sharp inhale taken to cool the temper of his words. "It was your cover, Odessa. You suggested it. You said it would be best if you were not known by your parole officer to be immediately living with me. You— I did not cast you aside. But for a time, I thought the process might have broken your will." His tongue passes between his teeth, a subconscious gesture close enough to biting it to be telling. He shakes his head then, cowed by how she goes on—

By the painful crack in her voice that he wants to smooth so he no longer has to endure it. He's the one who just lost his temper, but now she's somehow the one acting insufferably. It doesn't make sense to him, either. Sorry, Odessa.

"I'm done," he puts out there quickly as he turns back to her. "I'm done talking about this for tonight. The only thing that can come of it is feeling worse, and we can wait to be miserable until we can see each other's faces while we go about it. In the light of day. Because I'm not—" The next sigh that comes from him is thin, pressed through his nose. "I'm not shutting you out, O. That isn't my intention."

He gestures a hand back to the bed. "Have some water. Breathe. Lie back down and try to get some sleep." It's not a shift he suggests by moving to make it first himself. No, he steps closer to the chair she's seated at, either to provide assurance he doesn't mean to leave— or to announce his intent to claim it for his own. Maybe it's a little of column A, a little of column B. "Just think ahead to the new year— to when you'll have that wolfhound curled up by the bedside the next time you have a bad dream."

Talking about the future like that is just one more assurance he hopes to provide her that he's not going anywhere, and neither is she. It's the most he can offer, even if in the moment he's still working on breaking apart the cinders of the fire that flared inside him.

Well, that gamble didn’t pay off as hoped. Odessa lets her head tip forward, her elbows resting on her knees and her face now in both hands. It hides the tight set of her jaw and the narrowing slits of her eyes. Her frustration with being unable to effectively manipulate this man into accepting her as she offers herself.

After a deep breath, her features are back to this contortion of misery when she lifts her head to look up at him from beneath her furrowed brow. “I’m sorry,” she whispers, brushing the pads of her fingers under one eye. At least there’s no make-up to give her away.

“You’re right.” Odessa takes this failure on as her own, as she always does. “You were looking out for me. You… You hate to see me in pain, and so I felt you were discarding me, rather than trying to protect yourself.” At no other moment in time would she characterize Ace’s complete neglect of her feelings this way. This is a victory she’ll hand him on a silver platter if it will help to placate him, however. “I’m sorry,” she repeats.

“I wish I could do something… better. For you.” Instead, she rises to her feet shakily, letting her hands drop to her sides. “I never mean to hurt you. Please know that.” Experimentally, but not hesitantly, she steps forward and reaches out for him, telegraphing her desire to rest her hand on his shoulder.

For all the roses he’s given her, she’s more than comfortable with the threat of thorns.

Ace narrows his eyes for a moment, not entirely sure she's understood what he meant— but she's apologizing, isn't she? So does it matter in this moment enough to break back into topics he'd rather drop?

Perhaps not.

But when she begins to reach for him, he realizes he loses no matter what he does in this scenario.

"Odessa, please," he sighs, his head turning slightly from hers. There's strain in his own voice and posture. The last thing he craves right now is closeness, not when he's still combating such foul thoughts. Both of his hands lift as though he means to place them on her shoulders, either to draw her in or establish distance, but they lower partially and simply come out from his side in a gesture that sags. "The best thing you can do for me right now is give me the space I am asking for right now."

Something twists under his skin when he asks, something all too similar to the ping of concern that quietly floats to her at that moment.

Odessa holds for a moment like she means to finish the motion and establish that contact anyway. It’d be enough for her just to rest her hand on his shoulder, squeeze once, then walk past him.

But this whole thing depends on trust and respect. And he’s asked for both right now, so she finally lets her hand drop. “Yes, artist mine.” Her gaze lowers halfway to the floor and she steps to the side so she can walk past him without disrupting his space.

Then she stops short, just past him. Her head turns again to the right, attuning herself to the shifts in the emotional spectrum. The concern is nudged back against with assurance. Nothing resembling happiness or even contentment, but it has a warmer feel to it than anything received from her since their text exchange. She doesn’t dare go for her phone now, lest Ace feel reminded that there’s someone else with a claim to her.

Right now, Odessa’s only goal is to keep Ace close to her. If he’s here, with her, then he isn’t out searching for the source of his frustration and jealousy.

“Would it help,” she asks as she turns her head back to center, giving in to a sensation that feels much like the icy waters of her nightmare, “if you hit me, just this once?”

It takes him longer to respond than it should, and that in itself is perhaps telling.

But it's with a softly spoken "No," that he rejects the offer she makes, sinking down into the seat she's abandoned. Candidly, tiredly, he tells her, "No, I'm not sure what that would help, O." A moment later he leans his elbow against the armrest of the armchair, fingertips digging into the corner of his eye. His shoulders sink from the weight of the question she's posed, and his fingers begin to arc in their hold on the side of his face.

He can't put his finger on what's wrong with it, that she's asked him at all. Not if he trusts her. Maybe not even if he doesn't.

Not immediately, anyway. Not roused from sleep how he was and jumping at every shadow. No, he'll realize the ones he should have paid better attention to only when they're once again under the light of day.

"I'll keep watch as long as I can," he murmurs into his palm, the flame within him down to persistent embers. Even they, too, will fade before long. "And I'm sure you will wake me, if something happens again."

The sigh of relief is forced to be released as a slow, silent exhale instead. Shoulders relax and her stomach unclenches. Odessa nods her head twice, drawing in one more deep breath before she starts on the path to her side of the bed again.

Sitting down, she reaches for her bottle of water and works the seal open to take a long drink from it. She needed that more than she’d let on. Setting it aside again, she turns on the mattress to slide her legs back under the covers, then laying back on her small stack of pillows. She stares up at the ceiling in the dark.

Je t’aime, mon phare.

Odessa rolls over on her side so she can look at him properly now. Her lips twitch in the faintest of smiles she isn't sure he can even see. “If you should change your mind…” About wanting space. “I'd welcome your warmth in our bed.”

Eventually, he'll get there. If he's to stay nearby in case something happens to her in her dreams again, sleeping down in the living room or the slightly warmer environs of Odessa's study would be counterintuitive. "I'll be along," Ace placates her. His head turns back to the light coming from the vanity in the bathroom, and he pushes himself to his feet heavily to tend to it.

Aman's relief echoes Odessa's on a delay, sinking in only after he's sure it's not a false start. Maybe that really is the end of it. Maybe it's fine to go back to sleep now. Pleasant warmth seeps from him, close yet far.

The light in the master bath flicks off. "Sleep well, O."

Comfort, too, comes from Ace's presence in the sound of him sitting down again in the armchair, from the sound of him shifting his weight to settle into the seat at a more comfortable angle. Enough so that she can begin to drift off again, breathing evening, shoulder sinking toward her cheek while she lays on her side facing him.

So exhausted and lost to sleep again she is that she doesn't stir at first when he slips beneath the covers again, only shifting to rest her head against his chest when he draws her into himself.

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