Thanksgiving Vacation


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Scene Title Thanksgiving Vacation
Synopsis Harry, Jac, and Ourania take a trip out of town to mix business and pleasure over the holiday break.
Date November 25-28, 2020

"You've got to be kidding me."

It turns out she was willing to fly to Missouri, after indicating she'd rather do anything but. She'd even secured a private jet for them, courtesy of Raytech, shaving days off their travel time.

"Odessa. You've got to be kidding me."

It came with a new caveat all its own. And it didn't sound like there was much of a choice in the matter.

What? You’re the one who wanted to fly in the first place!”

And after the change in plans she’s presented, it sounds a lot better than being in a car for days at a time.

“She’s my niece. She’s really smart and she’s polite — You’ll barely even notice her!”

That is a lie. One of the most egregious that she has ever told. Jacelyn Childs is not invisible. She’s inquisitive in all the ways Odessa adores.

“You said you wanted a test drive, right? So this is perfect! It’s only for a couple of days, and we get to give her back once we get home! Just… Get us a suite. Or adjoining rooms! We get privacy, she gets privacy, everybody wins!”

There's a saying, you know. About things that are too good to be true. For all Ace's faults, he's heard that one.

"So we don't leave Monday, now. We'll leave Wednesday, and we're taking a plane, and you specifically told me you hate flying, Odessa."

He's deflecting. She knows his tendencies well enough by now. They'd committed to one thing, and now they were changing for another. At least it … shortened their trip instead of lengthening it, but it's still close to the wire; doesn't cross well with his plans.

"Are you absolutely sure about this?"

And since when the fuck did she have another family member come crawling out of the woodworks? Solitary Odessa, former ward of the Company, seems to grow a new family member every week, recently.

“About the fact that I’m not going to lose my shit on the plane? No. But I wrote myself a prescription for Xanax, so I’m sure it’ll be fine.”

That’s not what he’s asking.

“Look, you make me feel safe, so I’m giving this a shot. And Jac just… needs somebody who’s on her wavelength right now. She’s a lot like me. But we've got our own project, and she and I will go off and do our nerdy science and you can go do your… Whatever it is that you’re going to do that I probably shouldn’t know about, and we’ll meet up in the evening and have a nice night out together!”

When she puts it that way, it sounds so… Boring.

“Please? Consider it my Christmas present?”

It's not even Thanksgiving yet.

"The things I do for love."

Floyd Bennet Airfield

November 25, 2020

11:11 am

For all his grousing, there was something to be said about flying first class. And flying private doesn't get much more first-class than that.

Ace Callahan is more himself than the mask he should be wearing while he walks across the private hangar, a rolling suitcase pulled behind him. It whispers across the smoothed concrete, and he glances up at rafters of the hangar rather than the plane itself. They'll be getting intimate with that shortly, after all, so he expresses his interest in the other perks involved here — sights he'd otherwise not get the chance to see.

"Perhaps you should find out of state work more often. We could fit in a good deal of travel, and it would have the added bonus of easing you into the thought of flying." Maybe it'd be a good idea to not acknowledge her anxiety when she's face to face with the object that causes it, but he effuses confidence and calm as a salve which might save her from the worst of it.

His emotions are the most he has to offer, his free hand occupied with a to-go cup of coffee as he approaches the Raytech jet. The emerald jacket he wears is less formal than a blazer, paired with a soft black turtleneck. His leather-adorned steps make more noise on the stone than the strategically-organized case rolling behind him. He slows, turning to Odessa and arching an eyebrow over the top of his sunglasses. "Final check. Did you forget anything in the car?"

Easing me into it,” Ace’s partner scoffs quietly. “There’s no easing when it comes to planes. You’re either in the air, or you aren’t.” There’s no fun halfway point where there’s a safety net. Whether he’d mentioned it or not, it is staring her in the face, and Odessa seems to get paler and paler the closer they get to the craft. Her steps slow gradually as well.

Prolonging the inevitable. It’s not like she’s going to be allowed to back out now.

“Perhaps it will be better,” Odessa reasons with herself out loud, “now that I don’t have to be concerned about enemy fire.” Really, who could enjoy flying when their experience is mostly in military helicopters during wartime?

The blonde comes to pause at his question and makes a show of patting herself down to ensure she does have everything she needs. Wallet. Phone. Lipstick… If she pretended to have forgotten something, maybe she could go back to the car and be speeding away from the airport before Ace even realizes she’s gone? Odessa casts a look to Jac and offers the teenager a small smile.

There’s a reason she was invited to come along. She’s practically travel insurance. As in insurance she’ll actually travel.

“No,” Odessa pronounces finally, ensuring she’s done so before the flavor of his emotions has gone to vinegar. “I appear to have everything.” She checks her phone briefly just for good measure before shoving it back into the pocket of her long, hooded, navy wool swing coat. It hangs somewhat heavily on her frame unbuttoned, the hem of it lower than that of her dress — a vintage inspired thing of black silk, covered in a mod floral print of yellow and white daisies. The neck ties into a bow at her throat. A sunny outfit for her less than sunny disposition at the moment. Call it wishful thinking.

Grabbing the retractable handle of her own rolling bag again, with her laptop bag slotted neatly through it, Odessa reaches out her other arm toward her niece to gently touch the back of her shoulders, her cane carefully shifted in her grasp to hold it in such a way that it doesn’t collide-bump against her as they move. “Don’t mind me. I get nervous when I fly, but he’s going to keep me calm. You can watch out the windows or read a book. Whatever your heart’s desire.”

A couple steps to the side and one ahead, Jac Childs both is and isn’t part of the traveling party that’s otherwise made up of Ace and Odessa. She’s close enough to counted as part of the group, distant enough to give them — and herself — some autonomy. In short, she’s doing what every adolescent on the verge of adulthood would do, seeing just how much independence, read: freedom, she can claim.

Of course, that’s only been since they’ve started their approach to the small, private jet. Prior to that, she’d practically gushed her thanks for bringing her along. The emotions then, and now, are genuine for the unexpected invitation.

For the most part, now that they’re on the tarmac and approaching the aircraft, the teen holds herself somewhat aloof of the pair she’s accompanying. Once or twice, her eyes slide back to check their combined progress. But mostly she’s kept to herself by studying the plane and not quite getting lost in the folds of a denim jacket layered over a sage green hoodie and faded black t-shirt beneath that. The tops are paired with sturdy jeans that are more likely to be hand-me-downs from one of the Lighthouse or their adjacent than recently acquired. A single fold of the cuffs keep her from treading on them with her sneakers while she walks. A backpack hangs long from her shoulders, resting against her lower back and both hands, unnecessarily, tug along a small wheeled bag of her own.

The light pressure against her back draws her back to the present. Flying for Jac is just a means of travel, similar to a bus or even the teleportation she’d been able to do a lifetime ago. So as she looks up at Odessa, it’s without understanding the fear of the thing but the easy acceptance of its presence that her aunt might be familiar with.

“If he sucks at it,” the young woman begins as she directs a meaningful look past her aunt to Ace. There’s a hint of harmless threat in her voice, and a faint grin shows until she shrugs a shoulder. Jac places a hand briefly on Odessa’s arm, as much to offer the woman strength in the face of anxiety as to show she understands. “I’ll be fine on my own, I promise.”

The tone of Ace's questioning eyebrow shifts when Jac looks to him, making silent warnings about his capabilities. Did she just..?

He rankles silently, invisibly. Excuse her. Odessa would be just fine in his hands. It's not as though he planned to give a lesser effort, but he's offended enough now to ensure Odessa's lack of visible strain. She'll be just fine. Just fine.

"Wonderful," he says somewhere between Odessa's reassurance and Jac's follow-up that she'll be just fine. When they get to the lowered stairs of the jet, the pilot is there to greet them… as well as a black-suited member of Raytech's security team. Ace lifts his head in a silent greeting to them both, taking a sip from his cup. Now for the stairs.

"Leave your bag," he murmurs to Odessa. "I'll handle it." But when he shifts to take her bag, intent on two trips, the security guard makes a gesture of grudgingly taking his. And with a shrug, he heads up the stairs after Jac and Odessa, and the guard and pilot trail them.

The inside of the jet is as pleasant as he hoped it might be. It's not simply a passenger plane, it is every inch a comfortable, private jet. Ace's contentedness with what he sees once they're inside ripples off of him. "Well, well…"

"We're scheduled to take off shortly," the pilot informs the group after they're all aboard. "We've already fueled, so I'm just going to pull up the boarding ramp and queue us. Before takeoff, all of you need to be seated and belted or we're breaking the law." But the arch of his brows indicates he's not going to mother hen this group of adults. His eyes go to Jac, and he nods once. "Nice to see you again." With a small smile, he quips, "Gotten taller, huh?"

Or at least, she carries herself that way.

Ace slides his and Odessa's luggage into a cabinet of a holding compartment, pulling Jac's suitcase as well. "Well, let's make ourselves comfortable…" he supposes while he finishes that up.

“Thank you, darling,” Odessa murmurs to Ace when he takes her bag. “Go on,” she gives Jac a small nudge to move her on up the stairs first. “I take a little longer.” There’s a demonstrative little wave of her cane, as though it could at all have slipped her notice that Odessa has difficulty with mobility.

And if it weren’t for Ace’s hand at the small of her back, Odessa may have stood at the bottom of those stairs, staring up at the interior indefinitely. The halting steps have more to do with her pain than her fear, at least. Jac’s calm is helpful. Not as infectious as Odessa might hope for, but it’s something. Oh, to be capable of the zen-like calm of Mohinder Suresh.

That the interior is so different from any other craft she’s flown in that it does help to set her a little more at ease. While Ace handles their luggage, Odessa beelines for the small refrigerator. “Oh, thank god,” she mutters to herself as she pulls out a chilled three pack of individual-sized bottles of prosecco, tucking it under her arm and then making her way down the aisle to grab a seat on the white leather sofa with its plush red accent pillows.

Tearing into the cardboard rings around the necks of the bottles, she sets one out in front of herself first. “I might just survive.”

Leading the way into the cabin of the aircraft, Jac shows an appropriately polite appreciation to the accommodations. She's only been on the jet one other time, but it's still a luxury she'd never imagine for herself. She draws in a breath, allowing a thrill of excitement to tingle in her chest instead of the persistent exploration and accompanying questions she'd unloaded on the crew two years ago. Instead, they're given a tiny grin as she steps away from the bulkhead.

The familiar voice of the pilot keeps her from wandering far right off. The teen looks up at him and shrugs to his question. But her grin warms a little. “I'm glad you're the one flying today,” she returns. And it's the truth.

Hearing the others making their way up the steps, she glances back then tilts her head toward the cabin. “I'm going to find my seat before they get here,” she says as she starts toward the tail end of the plane, “but I got a riddle for you later.”

She's just making herself comfortable in a seat at the rear of the cabin when Odessa and Ace make it on board. Her bag is stowed beside her, opened and being rummaged in. Jac looks up when she hears their voices, briefly watching the pair with brows raising slightly. But whatever her thoughts, they're kept to herself or dismissed entirely, and she returns to the contents of her backpack. A pair of earbuds are finally located and fitted into her ears as she sits back. Ready to fly.

It's a good thing Jac may be deafening herself to the world, for on seeing the alcohol Odessa helps herself to, Ace reproachfully regards her with a tilt of his head. "Are you really going to mix alcohol with that prescription?" By all accounts, he didn't sound like he was going to allow it.

He slips back to settle next to her on the couch, hand settling in his lap with his palm turned up for her to take. "We'll be just fine. Don't you worry, O." He smiles with the sincerity of his promise, reassuring in ways he normally is not.

The security guard slips past them all to take a seat near the rear of the plane, and the pilot settles in in the cockpit. He doesn't bother closing the door, leaving a glimpse of the controls and what he's up to for any eyes of prying interest. The engines on either side of the plane begin to whine as the craft taxis forward out of the hangar and into the bright light of day.

“It’s fine,” Odessa insists as she gives an initial wrenching twist of the bottle’s cap to get it started, then unscrews it the rest of the way with much less difficulty. “I didn’t take the pill.” She gives a brief glance to Jac, visually assuring herself that the teenager is settling in and going to be just fine in her little corner of the plane. There’s a little touch of envy there for how calm she is. “I figured…”

One finger is held up in the universal gesture for hold that thought as Odessa tips back the bottle for a long drink of middling champagne. “That if I fell asleep and drooled all over your shoulder, you’d fall out of love with me in an instant, and I can’t have that.” The small bottle is set aside and she takes Ace’s hand only so she can move it and settle it on her knee under the table instead. Then another of the drinks is pulled free from the pack as if she means to offer it to him.

Instead, she holds it up whistles across the cabin to get her niece’s attention. “Hey, Jac!” Odessa grins wide and gives the bottle a little wiggle back and forth. “You want one?”

Content to keep to herself for the flight, Jac turns her head to watch the scenery as the aircraft begins moving. Since Odessa seems to trust Ace — which just seems strange, but she’ll give him a chance to change her mind — she ignores the pair and their shenanigans. Once they're actually flying, she can check in.

That's her plan, anyway, until her aunt’s whistle cuts over the music in her ears. One bud comes out, pinched between her fingers, and a curious look is turned to the adults.

“Um.” Her eyes shift from Odessa and the single-serve bottle of champagne to Ace. She shifts in her seat, like she might shrug, but uses the motion to glance toward the cockpit. The reverse of it lets her peek back at the security detail en route to returning her eyes to the pair of adults. Anywhere else, with no one else around, Jac might accept the offer. It wouldn't be her first time, but Praxia had different rules about that sort of thing.

“Maybe later.”

“Suit yourself,” Odessa chimes. She hopes she still gets Fun Aunt points for the offer.

The look Ace provides Odessa is small and baleful, a tilt of his head showing he's not sure that drinking and drinking quickly will necessarily do the trick either. But he says nothing. The bubbly substance will at least hit her bloodstream faster. Hopefully it won't just add to her nerves.

A glance is afforded for the trip's other guest, who wisely doesn't pursue a drink for herself. A touch of respect is afforded for her grace and timing, and then he looks back to Odessa. His hand squeezes her knee, then moves to plant chastely at her side, pulling up buckles for a lapbelt from between the couch's cushions. She wastes no time fastening the belt around herself, feeling safer knowing she’s held in place.

The windows and the positioning of themselves to the runway tell him it's a needed thing. But he stays where he is, fastening himself in, too. He lays his hand under hers, fingertips and short nails grazing the underside of her palm. Odessa closes her eyes and exhales heavily. Now would come the test, as the jet begins to roar in a priming of engines.

"Feel the feel of your hand in mind. Focus on nothing else." A look up proves Jac is just fine, and then Ace focuses again wholly on Odessa. On mitigating any rush of thought preemptively. "Listen to the sound of my voice," he murmurs. "Breathe in deep…"

Odessa draws in an anticipatory breath, letting Ace’s voice wash over her senses. A warm breeze to her ears, velvet over her skin. A grounding calm that she folds into her own emotional state. The drag of his nails across her palm beckon her forth as he guides her with his voice.

"And let go of your thoughts."

7th floor Parlor Suite, Hilton President

Power and Light District, Washington KC, MO

5:24 pm

"This will do nicely, yes."

Ace was the first into the suite, ready to quickly verify if he'd need to return downstairs and book a second room, but the two-bathroom suite with a sitting room that houses a queen-sized bed hidden in the sofa seems like it will satisfy the need for privacy and comfort quite well. He waves the other two in while he moves on to get a look at the bedroom proper, leaving his suitcase just inside that door so he can quickly explore the remaining space.

Even before Ace is waving for them to join him, Odessa places a gentle hand on Jac’s shoulder to indicate that she should go ahead and step through the door first. “Hold the door for me?” she asks in a soft voice. It’s easier to maneuver her way inside with her can and her suitcase alike without having to awkwardly prop open the door with her shoulder.

As she's asked, Jac is already slowing through the door to hold it. It gives her an opportunity of her own to look around from that place, noting in a way made of habit where everything in that immediate space is. When her eyes catch on the suitcase left by the door, the teen even nudges it with a foot to roll it out of the way.

When Ace emerges back into the parlor almost as quickly as he left, standing in the bedroom doorway, he nods to the other two. "Jac," he indicates, head swiveling to the shorter of the group. He speaks with the same forward, emotion-void blunt he has before, but the next comes lighter, a touch more pleasant. "Your space is your own and your privacy will be respected while we are here. As far as I am concerned, the rental is also yours to take as needed for whatever you might need, if it's not within walking distance. Simply don't wreck it or get pulled over and no one needs to be any wiser about it."

Never mind that she might not even have a license in the first place. But he grew up in a different era, and in a vastly different circumstance than the city living of New York.

Stepping free of the doorway and toward the small circular table in the room, he lays a hand on the back of one of the chairs. "In the meantime, I'm starving. Care to eat in tonight, ladies?" It's to Odessa he primarily directs this, brows lifting. "The in-house restaurant and lounge have positive reviews."

There’s a little smile that she wears when Ace pronounces everything to be to his standards, without so much as saying so. Odessa finds him positively endearing. It’s only once she’s got the door shut quietly and the bar guard flipped over to lay across the frame that she carries on into the suite proper. “That sounds lovely. You poor thing,” she says with a shake of her head, briefly resting her hand on his shoulder where her tone absolutely suggests patting his cheek instead. “I’m so sorry you had to wait for me to deliver my work.” Her window to do that while still meeting the evening’s deadline was finite. It would have been a blow to the eager scientist to have processing pushed back another day.

“Why don’t you go get comfortable,” Odessa suggests with a glance toward one of the armchairs, “and Jac and I will get ready for dinner?” She passes her cane to him to hold for her while she undoes the buttons of her coat and slips out of it. It’s left draped over the back of a chair with a quiet assurance that she’ll be back to hang it up properly.

Once inside properly, Jac drags her small suitcase further into the parlor. It and her backpack are deposited in a corner, done in passing so she can mill around and explore the space while Ace and Odessa get settled. It's an absolutely natural thing, with no qualms about opening doors or drawers, though she doesn't cross the threshold to the bedroom. She pays them little mind, except to glance and make sound of acknowledgement for Ace’s statement.

And Ace himself provides the two with a single reply tone in return for their regard. He slips past to investigate briefly the fridge in the room before opting to pass on it, opting to find himself a seat back in one of the comfortable, curved-arm chairs surrounding the small table in the parlor.

Allons-y, ma bibiche,” Odessa beckons cheerfully with the curl of her fingers toward her palm. She doesn’t wait for the teenager to follow her before she heads along into the bedroom where she can unpack her bag and they can both avail themselves of the well-lit vanity. She flashes a smile over her shoulder to her partner. “Ne t’inquiète pas, Harry. We will not be long.”

He looks up from his seat while he settles, the light in his eyes shifting before he nods.

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“Remember, Jac,” Odessa murmurs, fixing her with a stare that’s serious without edging on minatory, “you can’t call me by my real name. Not unless it’s just us alone. Not even in front of Harry. If you want to call me something shorter, you can call me O.” Then she’s all bright smiles again. “Or anything you manage to cook up on your own! I’m flexible!” Tipping her head toward the Raytech parking lot, she indicates where her partner is waiting with the car. “Now let’s go. Time and tide wait for no one!”

It’s with only the smallest grunt of effort that Ourania pulls her suitcase up onto the bed so she can open it up and retrieve her make-up bag. Thank goodness for flying private. Full size bottles of everything. “Do you want some make-up, Jac?” she asks as she begins to dominate the bathroom counter with her brushes, foundation, palettes, moisturizers… And she hasn’t even brought out anything she needs for her hair yet. Maybe it really is Maybelline.

Just kidding. Ourania wouldn’t buy Maybelline.

“What do we need to get ready for?” Jac leans on her elbows against the counter, plenty of space afforded for Ourania and her plethora of things. It's those makeups and bottles and brushes she's half squinting at. What is all of that and why is it a thing? Her own toiletry bag consists of a hairbrush, toothbrush, and toothpaste.

Fingers lightly grasp and pick up something that says moisturizer on it, and her brows raise with a dubious impression. The bottle is returned just as gently as it was picked up. Those same fingers gingerly run over the soft bristles of a large brush, and the teen’s blue eyes angle up to gauge Ourania’s response.

That Jac examines what’s not hers with care is perhaps what inspires Ourania to be unperturbed by her things being handled without seeking permission. Or maybe she feels that permission was already granted tacitly. “You can’t go to dinner in a place like this in jeans and a tee shirt,” she explains, tone light. She’d warned her that she’d need to pack at least one nice outfit. More if she had them. She’d also given Gillian advance notice to help ensure that something would be available.

“I know you don’t tend to do your make-up like I do…” Ourania favors bold colors; smoky eyes, blending shades that complement her outfits, or crafting looks that evoke imagery. Like a rainbow or a sunset. “But if you’d like some, I’d be happy to apply it for you.” She shrugs her shoulders. “At your age, I only did eyeliner sometimes. I wouldn’t have bothered to learn to use it at all, but there was this girl, Ellie, and she was so pretty, and everyone told her so.”

That’s a nostalgic sort of thing that tastes bittersweet on her tongue. “People always liked her best. I guess I just wanted someone to tell me I was pretty, too. So, I started wearing make-up like she did.” Ourania shakes her head and regards Jac with a fond smile. “But you don’t have to if you don’t want to. I’d have fun, though.” In case the teenager might have been concerned that it would seem like a chore. “As little or as much as you’d want to try.”

“I packed some nice things.” Because her mom had suggested it and even laid out some of the dressier clothes she has. Jac sidles backward and out of Ourania’s way, eyes lingering on the overwhelming selection of everything. “I've got a dress. And a skirt that goes with a couple of tops.” So she's prepared.

Sitting on the edge of the tub seems to be the best place to watch the application of makeup. Her interest is accompanied with a vaguely dubious energy. But with good reason.

“I've never worn any.” The young woman makes it sound almost like a question. And maybe it's a wonder that no one has managed to paint her up yet, given the faces that generally run in her circle. Jac follows up with a shrug that's more apologetic than not. “If you want to, but I'm okay just plain.”

“Skirt should be fine. If you have nice slacks, you can wear those too, if you’re more comfortable that way. If you want to wear skirts and dresses, you should. But I don’t want you to feel like you have to, just because you’re a girl.” Odessa is most comfortable in skirts herself, but that’s a choice she made based on her own preferences and not what society might have expected from her.

While she’s speaking, Odessa’s opening compacts and procuring brushes. Leaning forward, she uses a puff to powder more matte foundation onto her face. It covers the light smattering of freckles across her cheekbones and the bridge of her nose that are generally only seen by Harry, and makes her complexion paler than it naturally is. Frequently, she glances to Jac to show she’s engaged in their conversation and not just her own vanity.

Her eyes shift to stare toward the ceiling as she applies white liner to her waterline by rote rather than sight. This is a practiced move. The black liner on the lid is renewed next, then a pale neutral lipstick painted onto her mouth with the doe foot wand.

“Since Harry is hungry now, and we don’t want to keep him waiting, we’ll do just a little bit.” Odessa turns to Jac with a tube of mascara in hand. “If you can survive me putting this on you, you can handle anything,” she jokes. Approaching where she sits on the tub, she instructs the girl on how to best facilitate this process.

“Now, look up…”

"So, Jac," Harry asks, smoothing a napkin down over his lap. "What is it you do with yourself?"

At the very least, as soon as he asks it, there's the distraction of the meal that's just arrived to remove the most discerning part of the glances he gives her to prove he's paying attention. In the meantime, he carves through the steak he's ordered for himself, takes in the pleasant scent of the various dinners they've each ordered. It all looks delicious, and he's relaxed significantly in the few moments since it's arrived.

It's been a long day, after all.

Hearing her name over the din of other diners draws the red headed teenager from the people-watching she's been doing almost since sitting down. The finery of the restaurant is intriguing but a deeper habit to observe and listen takes over always. Jac turns her head from a table catty-corner to theirs to blink her curiosity at Harry.

What does she do with herself? That's never been her favorite topic, especially lately. Luckily dinner is delivered before the teen can start to answer. Her eyes drop to the plate that's set in front of her, heaped with noodles in a white cheese sauce and topped with grilled chicken. Her mouth waters, and it wasn't that long ago she'd dig in and talk around her supper. But tonight she plays a role she was taught more recently.

“I'm an intern at Raytech.” The distraction of food slows down her tendency toward knee jerk answers and hasty responses. A fork is chosen from her place setting, and Jac pushes the noodles around. “And school. Hopefully I can graduate with the next class. Then maybe I can do some actual work with O. In the lab.”

The focus on his dinner means Harry misses the way Ourania slowly slants her gaze to regard him from the corner of her eye without moving her head or quirking a brow to give away her sentiment of really? more than that. But that attention soon shifts to Jac and it’s with a small twist of her lips into a barely suppressed smile that Ourania realizes she may not be the most poorly socialized person at the table for once in her life. Sure, Harry can race circles around her, but he lacks the patience to stick with it. Or maybe that’s all she’s had the opportunity to observe.

And those observations are wisely kept to herself as she picks up her fork to start first with a small taste of fluffy mashed potatoes. Nodding thoughtfully, she swaps the fork for a knife so she can take some softened butter from the dish they were provided with their pre-meal bread. Squinting, she takes double that amount before sliding it off the knife with the untouched flat of her fork, using that to fold it in and mix it with slow motions that allow it better chance to melt, but also to give her a great excuse not to speak up too quickly. Jac is more than capable of providing her own answers and doesn’t need her aunt to deflect.

But her head lifts from her quiet action once Jac calls her attention. There’s an instant satisfaction at the use of her favored nickname that’s shown in the way Ourania’s face lights up. “Do you want to be a scientist for real, ma bibiche?” Not that she means to suggest that everything up to now has just been playing, just that she expected Raytech was more a means to pass the time and feel useful than a stepping stone to an actual career.

“If that’s what you want to be, then that’s wonderful.” There’s a joke to be made about pride that can be self-supplied here. “And if you want to be something else, that’s wonderful too. The most wonderful thing is having choice.

Her smile stays just as it was when she says that, but the light has left her eyes. Choice is a complicated thing for her. “It’ll take years of school,” she continues mildly. “Especially if you want anyone to actually call you Doctor instead of Miss.

"And you have to make sure you really want to be called that at every moment, lest you encounter a case where your partner can embarrass you by calling you your preferred title in a room full of other equible accolades." Harry glances sly to Ourania in saying so, mouth curving in a smile that's more at his own expense than hers. To make sure he's clear on that regard, he leans to the side to peck a kiss to her cheek that sees his partner rolling her eyes, but ultimately softening before the sharpness could really be honed. He's sorry for her past discomfort, but he'd do it again in a heartbeat.

"There's plenty far you can get in life without the most-extensive of degrees, though, Jac, all that being said…'' He adjusts his grasp on his fork as he takes his first bite of steak, sighing thoughtfully. "It's just a matter of having a clear idea of your endgoals."

For all his questions might fail to treat her with a better appropriate air for her age, he seems to see her as nothing else than the young adult she's growing into. There's no diminutives or discounting just because of her age.

"Do you intend to stay in New York long term, or is there somewhere that calls to you?" he wonders. "I can't emphasise enough what a bit of travel can do for you to broaden your horizons, even if you don't leave the country." Harry smiles then; a pensive, reflective thing, like he's speaking from experience.

As soon as Ourania begins asking of her plans, Jac is answering with the small shaking of her head. “I don’t know yet,” she directs at both, to hopefully stunt any what do you want to be questions. She hasn’t even officially finished high school yet. “I just want to do more than I am and… I don’t know, everything hinges on finishing school like that will prove somehow I can be trusted with more responsibility.” Even though her aunt might recognize some of the baggage behind that comment, the teen keeps up an easily pleasant demeanor.

“What I really would like to do right now is study what I want,” Jac continues after a sampling of her pasta. The structure of formalized learning is tedious and unbending. “I really enjoy investigating. People, places… strange things and happenings. And I’m planning to do some traveling so I can examine some new discoveries into my family’s history.”

“What about you?” Jac’s question is easily directed at Harry more than Ourania. Doctor Pride is someone she already knows, but Harry is a stranger. “How long are you going to be in New York?” The question sounds a lot like she’s asking what his investments are, namely in regards to her aunt.

“That’s okay,” Ourania is quick to stress when Jac shakes her head to the notion of wanting for sure to be a scientist. “You don’t have to know yet. You’ve got time and people who’ll let you figure it out at your own pace.” The smile that starts out encouraging slips into something more melancholy and she flakes the trout on her plate with her fork, but it’s more like picking at her food rather than with the intent to morselate. It would have been wonderful if she’d had that, herself. If only her path through life hadn’t been decided for her. She’s envious of Jac, but in the best of ways.

Then she’s setting down her fork and lifting her sauvignon blanc. Her other hand disappears beneath the table to casually drop into her lap while she drinks. Then her hand drifts, the backs of her knuckles brushing against the side of Harry’s leg. A silent show of support for him as he reflects on his own travel.

There’s a small amount of amusement in this renewed smile that she angles down at the table when Jac more or less asks Harry’s intentions toward her aunt. It’s nice to have someone who cares. Not, of course, that there aren’t others who care. Richard and Elisabeth immediately spring to mind. Mateo as well, if she could figure out how to reveal herself to him again without feeling as though it would put him in danger.

Picking up her utensils again, she starts actually eating her meal. Fork in her left hand, knife in her right. As is her custom, she cuts everything into pieces before she’ll begin to eat it. The asparagus in bearnaise is first, then the trout.

Oddly enough, before this moment, Ourania had no doubts that Harry planned to stay in New York City indefinitely. Now, she’s suddenly not so sure, given his enjoyment of travel. Maybe he’d want to leave. Maybe he’d leave her behind because she wants to stay where her roots run deep. She doesn’t so much as glance at her partner while she waits for his response.

Harry listens with a calm, apparently sympathetic disposition. At the remark about somehow being trusted more after having completed a seemingly irrelevant milestone, he smiles, providing the impression he's been there. "So you must be finishing… high school then? I'd love to say in college it gets better, but while it certainly does, the general education requirements don't go away. Some very persuasive arguments might be able to be used to substitute one out here or there, but… it's the pound of flesh they take for your entry, in addition to your stack of coin."

There's nothing but pleasant waves running underneath while he speaks. But the echoed question back from Jac brings that to still, an eyebrow raising. He lets out a chuckle at the return fire. "I only realize how strange a question that was now— us currently being in Kansas City." He finishes off his next bite before answering, setting aside his knife. "Truthfully, I'm not sure. My work is such that I sometimes travel, but I haven't needed to move in some time."

"I'd be sad to lose my little place in Williamsburg, I think," he says without particular inflection. "And not to mention, O and I have discussed getting a more permanent place together. So— we may be in the area for some time yet." The tines of his fork let off a tiny sheen of sound as he bites broccolini and mushroom cleanly off with the tips of his teeth.

“Virginia?” Jac voices the question conversationally, but there's some obvious wondering. What could be there, that would have someone traveling all over? Not that she believes for a minute that New York is the center of the universe and that all other places jump to its call. But, her experience is limited; usually those she encounters are looking to settle, or at least stay long term.

“What do you do for work?” Her query is followed with a small shrug. She's too curious for her own good, and unapologetically so. “I don't know a lot of people who travel. That's usually reserved for the government or corporations like Yamagato.” Even Raytech, though far less frequently.

“No, no,” Ourania is quick to correct. “Williamsburg is one of the neighborhoods in the Safe Zone. Borders Elmhurst and Phoenix Heights mostly.” But her attention’s been on Harry, absorbing his account of what college is like. For all her talk, she has no idea, after all. “What’s your degree in anyway?” she asks with a little smile, trying to envision her partner as a bright-eyed college student (and fairly failing). It isn’t as though he has a diploma displayed in their house. Does anyone over the age of thirty actually do that if it’s not a PhD anyway? She honestly has no idea.

That smile of hers can’t help but grow a bit for the fact that he mentions getting a more permanent place. He’s not just making promises only to her now. He’s voicing a commitment to them in front of others. It’s impossible for Ourania to hide how pleased she is by that, even when she turns her attention squarely back to her meal.

Harry's spared the need to correct the misunderstanding, and so he can mind his meal. The question from Ourania is a touch surprising, but this has never quite been a topic for them before. "What do you think?" he asks back rhetorically, a touch of amusement in it.

But, ultimately, he doesn't leave the question hanging. "I had the best of both worlds going for me— business and the arts. I would have graduated with a dual degree had…" Harry's smile twitches faintly as he reaches for his wine. "Well, had matters of war not interfered."

But they've ventured wildly beyond his usual realm of comfortable socializing topics, something Ourania can see in the subtle narrowing of his eyes before he drinks— smoothed away by the time he circles back to Jac's question. "I run a bit of a double life," he confides to her in a conspiratorial tone, leaning a little closer to the table. "By day I work as a travel agent, but in the evenings I've begun assisting with operations for Rossignol."

He leans back, waving one hand to downplay it. "It's nothing compared to the work Ourania does, of course. And what a schedule she has." Harry turns a knowing look back to the woman at his other side.

Oh, that Williamsburg. As soon as Ourania begins explaining where the neighborhood is, Jac recalls it with clarity. And it shows with a self-deprecating roll of her eyes. She knows where that is, and probably even knows a few ins and outs about that neighborhood that most residents don't. “I guess with all the talking about travel I just…” Her shoulders lift in a shrug to dismiss her confusion.

She settles in to listen to Harry’s response when he returns to it. Her food is picked over, eaten with a choosiness that would exceed a cat’s high standards. But her attention is obviously on the two adults she's accompanying.

The conspiratorial tone is overlooked, not even a grin is allowed as a play into something possibly secret. Better to keep a poker face than give it all away with a smile. However, Jac’s brows raise in interest when Rossignol is mentioned.

“What is Rossignol?” she asks. Her eyes direct the question to Ourania more than Harry. “How’s it different from science things? Or being a travel agent?” Unapologetically curious.

Again Ourania’s hand slips away from the table, this time under the guise of using her napkin. While her attention stays across the table on Jac, only briefly shifting to her wine as she lifts it, the backs of her fingers brush against the side of Harry’s leg. It’s okay. They can talk about anything else.

“No,” Ourania’s quick to assure her niece. “I’m sorry. Of course you know Williamsburg. I should know better. And we were talking about travel, so it makes sense that you thought he might have a place out there.” Her smile is warm, encouraging Jac to let go of any embarrassment the momentary miscommunication might have caused.

Lifting her glass for a drink, she chokes quietly at Harry’s mention of a double life. Pointedly, she does not turn her attention to him, but her hand stills where it was providing a reassuring presence. The glass is set down and the napkin brought up smoothly, a shake of her head to ward off any concern. Just swallowed wrong, nothing to see here.

It’s only once Harry turns to her that Ourania acknowledges him by meeting his gaze, the faintest smile on her lips and an oh, you expression. “Well,” she begins, shifting back to Jacelyn, “I’m sure it’s going to sound silly, but… I decided I wanted to embrace my love of music. Rossignol is a jazz venue on Staten Island and I’m…” Her shoulders come up in a shrug, suddenly embarrassed to sing her own praises — pardon the pun. “I’m the main attraction on the nights I’m there.”

She relaxes again, her mouth pulling into a thoughtful frown, staring into some middle distance between Jac and Harry’s seat. “I suppose I really never have a day off.” Ourania lifts her head again to look to her partner. “That must bother you,” she reasons in a quiet voice, but not one that’s not meant to be overheard. Like she’s only just figured out how to read his hints and cues.

“So.” While the moment isn’t dismissed — on the contrary, she’s meaning to acknowledge something they should probably discuss later — Ourania moves on from it to address the rest of the topic. “Harry helps with the day to day operations of the club. I’ll let him explain his duties, because I’m sure I don’t realize the half of it.” She smiles and shrugs one shoulder. “I help a little, myself. But I mostly help manage the house band and maintain the owner’s VIP box.”

Now it’s her turn to lean toward Jac with that conspiratorial air. “I got to order my own custom piano for the VIP lounge. It has a bar top built in so people can sit around it with their drinks while I play. It’s one of my favorite things.”

Harry is more than happy to let Ourania's enthusiasms shine, no matter how bashful she should grow about then. They are hers, and he's happy she has them at all. "It's different," he elaborates, "because it involves the stage. It involves getting to do, at least a little, of what calls to us rather than the mundane travails we suffer throughout every day. Being close to the stage fills a need in me I didn't realize I had until the first time I saw O sing."

With a small smile, he gestures with his fork. "Operations means I get to help make sure everyone has all that they need to succeed. Almost like a stage manager, but nothing quite so esteemed." A bite of steak later and Harry demures, "It lets me be close. It's enough."

He looks for a moment to Ourania following her realization she's spent too much time between her works, holding her eyes for a moment before he returns to his meal. If they discuss it later, they discuss it later.

“Oh. Primal.” Jac half breathes her reaction to Ourania’s explanation. She didn't know her aunt could play the piano or sing, and she's properly curious about those talents. She would be outright asking to see a performance one night, but Staten Island has some stories about it and a reputation she's not keenly interested in connecting herself with.

She turns her attention to her meal as more looks are shared between the pair. A less public setting might have her prying into what they're thinking and why. For now Jac contents with spinning noodles onto fork tines and observing in far less obvious ways.

Ourania holds her glass level with her sternum, listening to Harry talk about what he enjoys about working at Rossignol. It lets me be close, he says, and she clearly adores him for it. Briefly, she reaches over to rest her hand over his forearm, brushing her thumb back and forth once before bringing herself back to center.

“Maybe,” the blonde says in a quiet voice, “we can get you into the VIP box for a show.” Ourania grins. “Don’t tell your mom.”

"Or do," Harry counters daringly, brows arching. After all…

What do they have to hide?

Kauffman Center For The Performing Arts

Kansas City

November 28

8:59 pm

Standing on a third-story balcony looking out over darkened greenspace, Harry has in hand a glass of champagne and looks like the cat who caught the canary. He floated away from their seats to stretch his legs at intermission, and it's with his eyes out on the rest of the world that he idles, fingers drumming the side of his flute.

When he hears footsteps approaching him, he turns, the nearly-metallic sheen of the fabric of his coat catching the light. "So, ladies? How are we enjoying the show?"

“This show,” Jac says as she steps away from O to stand at the balcony railing, “is primal. It’s the first …anything I’ve seen before. Thank you for inviting me.” The whole trip has been an adventure quite literally unlike anything she’s done. Her arms fold one over the other and rest against her middle while she grins up at Harry. After a second, she includes Ourania in that, while her hands pluck at the gathers of her skirt. “And you were right about this.”

The dress is built of a sleeveless top patterned with wide vertical panels that transition from blue to yellow to red in muted tones stopping just above her waist; the pattern continues into the skirt, albeit in narrower strips. The fullness of the skirt along with the verticality of the pattern compliments the teen’s slightness and makes her seem taller, an illusion granted by the sweep of the hem just touching the floor. “I never would have picked anything like this.” She’s never had even the opportunity to pick something so nice.

Ourania seems to be at a loss for words, but fortunately Jac seems to have them in good supply in the immediate. It gives her a springboard when the floor is hers. “It’s wonderful, Harry.” Okay, so maybe she doesn’t have many words at all, but the look in her eyes says more than words could. “C’mere,” she requests, waiting for him to turn his head in her direction before leaning in and pressing her lips to his for a lingering moment. It’s chaste, but with the fullness of her heart behind it.

And part of the reason for that fullness is standing near to her. Now that Harry has been appropriately doted on, Ourania wraps her arm around her niece’s shoulders and beams with pride. (No pun intended.) “You look so beautiful, Jac.” That one armed embrace turns into a full hug that includes a rock back and forth and ends with a kiss to the top of that curly red head. “I’m so glad you’re having a good time.” One more tight (but not strangling) squeeze for good measure.

There’s a sense inside of her that something that was missing has been found. Maybe her partner can see it when he watches her interact with the teenager.

Primal, Harry mouths, brow lifting in amusement. He withholds comment by sipping from his champagne, biting back a chuckle. It's barely that he's had the bubbly that he turns to Ourania, the taste of it still on him when she kisses him.

He's halfway to lifted a hand to her back when she moves on to doting on Jac. His hand lingers in the air, taking a moment to adjust to not being the only object of her affections. There's ever a selfish glean, a desire to keep her exclusively to himself, but there's something about her that's different when she holds tight to Jac. A different kind of happiness present.

With a blink, he smiles demurely. "The line at the curio stand seems to be dying down. Shall we grab a momento before intermission is through?" He offers his arm to Ourania, and surely she'll offer hers to Jac.

Though definitely not one to seek physical affections, Jac accepts the hugs and doting from her aunt with practiced ease. Of course, she's oblivious to the jealousy it incites, she doesn't even look at Harry once she's released. Her eyes are wandering over the crowd, taking in all the glam and higher society with a wonder opened only for the pair she's accompanying.

“Really?” The teen’s blue eyes flick back to Ourania and Harry. She may have looked like her attention was captivated by the people beginning to drift toward the doors back into the theatre, but obviously she's listening for familiar voices. She doesn't even wait for confirmation before she slips away, small frame weaving past fancy suits and dresses to claim a place in line for a souvenir.

Ourania takes Harry’s arm and has to resist the urge to reach for Jac and draw her back in toward her. Jacelyn Childs isn’t a four-year-old who needs to hold someone’s hand as she makes her way through a crowd, she’s nearly an adult. Ourania’s posture eases after a moment and she looks up to Harry adoringly.

“This has been wonderful,” the blonde confides as the pair of them stroll on. “Thank you for giving me this. With her. With you.” There’s more she’d like to say, and it shows, but she simply doesn’t have words for it. So she just smiles and shakes her head. Hopefully the point has made its way across.

Jac's darting ahead leaves the two adults to play catch-up, but Harry only chuckles at her enthusiasm. He doesn't rush after her. She'll hold the spot for them, surely. He looks down to Ourania as they follow after the young woman slipping through the crowd in flowing fabrics. "I'm glad," he confirms, "That we all got what we wanted from this trip. Everything worked out in the end."

The corner of his mouth pulls back in a smile. "Je t'aime, O," he reminds her.

He looks forward again to see Jac's bobbing head as she cranes to get a look at what's available to them from her spot in line, preparing a gracious nod and a glance to the person who's fallen into line behind her. They're her chaperone, see— just rejoining her.

Harry looks up to check the list of merchandise as well, brow lifting. "Ah," he suggests pleasantly, "How about we get one of those?"

The three of them match so nicely together in their complimentary shades and demeanors. He reflects for a moment that it's a shame the trip ends tomorrow.

Ah, well. All good moments are ephemeral.

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