The Green String


odessa3_icon.gif richard3_icon.gif

Scene Title The Green String
Synopsis No amount of string can map out the complexities of two human lives.
Date September 17, 2020

Raytech NYCSZ Branch Office

A paranoid mind might notice some small and curious irregularities to the in-place procedures for the layout of the offices and research section of the Raytech NYC Branch Office.

And the man now known as Richard Ray certainly possesses a paranoid mind.

There's a room not far from the CEO's office that is just labeled as 'Executive Storage Room' on the blueprints, which, even aside from the curious name, has a very high level of security to it - to whit, nobody who isn't on the Board of Directors has access, to the point that Richard personally carried a box into the room upon arrival today rather than allowing anyone else move them inside - and he spent at least an hour inside, incommunicado, before emerging.

The security system for the door provides a layer of security, but override code for the door was set years ago, though, and hasn’t been changed since, creating a small window when there's nothing but the fear of someone walking in to keep someone with access to the old code from investigating…

Richard is nothing if not a creature of insatiable curiosity. That need to know and to have control of everything possible is consuming. That room holds a mystery, and he needs to solve it. He also needs to dodge his high strung secretary and her army of… stuffed animals?

With the hallway clear, Richard walks to the door with all the purposeful aura of someone who's meant to be there. The door slides open with his credentials, and he slips inside, turning around to hold the handle and make sure he's closing the door as softly as he can behind him. After no unexpected shrieking sounds from the vicinity of the lobby, he lets out a quiet sigh and turns around to face the room, and inspect its secrets.

The scene makes him stop cold. Blood feels flash frozen in his veins. It's such a simple tableau to fill him with such horror; just strings, strung across the midst of the room connected to free-standing plastic latticework on four sides to provide anchor points that aren't the walls. A single thick strand goes from ceiling to floor, and four others surround it, with a number of interconnections strung back and forth between them all. Others leap from the main line to the lattice and then back to the main line. Photographs, newspaper clippings, post-it notes hang upon the strings to mark the interactions between whatever those five main lines are.

Some of them, however, indicating events he does not recognize.

A seafoam line carries from a lower line of blue and joins with the central line. ‘2019 - Destiny Ruiz - Commonwealth Arcology.’

A woman with platinum blonde hair stands to the far side of the room, a ball of green string in her hand that she’s drawing alongside the more pastel shade. “Hello, Richard,” she murmurs without looking over her shoulder, winding the two strings together like a helix.

‘2019 - Odessa Woods - Commonwealth Arcology.’

"…Ourania?" A surprised query in the voice of Richard Ray as he pauses just inside the door, a box tucked under one arm, brow furrowed in deep lines as he looks at the woman playing with what - to the uninitiated - just look like craft supplies.

"What are you doing in here?"

“Filling in the blanks,” she replies mildly. With a knife, she cuts the green string, winding the end of it back into the ball and tucking it under another strand before underhand tossing it into a box.

The door is closed and the box is carefully set down off to one side before Richard steps along closer to the middle of the room. He reaches out with a single finger to gently pluck that green string, watching others attached to it vibrate, tags rustling with them. He reads the attached label, and breathes out a low chuckle.

“Tracking all of yourselves across the strings, I take it?”

He draws his hand back, looking over across the room and noting quietly, “You’re terrible at keeping cover around the people you care about, you know that, right? It’s what got you caught the last time. I’m assuming this time you’re legally out on the street, though?” She did get a recommendation from SESA, after all.

A breath of laughter escapes parted lips. Ourania dips her chin in toward her chest with a rueful smile. “How long have you known?” she asks quietly. The knife is flipped shut carefully, slid into the pocket of her lab coat. Only once that’s out of her hands does she turn to face him.

“I am who I say I am,” she tells him. “The name I gave you is my name. I made parole in June, and I’ve been given a new chance.” A last chance, almost certainly.

“The first day, although I wasn’t entirely sure that you weren’t one of your alternates,” admits Richard, holding up his hand and raising an amused eyebrow. One finger, “You have the same initials, and you only changed your last name by one letter.” Another finger, “You have the same specialties, really.” Another finger, “You used the exact same words when I agreed to hire you as you did last time. And, lastly…”

A fourth finger, and he smirks, “You basically went directly from the interview to visit my sister.”

She tips her head to one side and shrugs. Yeah, all of those things are true. Except she leans in a little at the mention that she repeated an earlier turn of phrase. “I didn’t,” she insists, then cracks a grin. “Did I really?” Maybe she had. She doesn’t put up more argument than that, at any rate.

“What makes you so sure I’m not, though?” One of her own alternates. Ourania turns away and heads back to the box she was working from, pulling out another ball of string; this one is still green, but a sicker shade of it. She starts to unwind a length of it, wandering to another line, further back now. It crosses until it meets the other two, twining around the ends that converge with the Arcology.

‘2011 - Odessa Knutson - ConEd.’

“None of them would be so cavalier about invading my personal spaces like this,” Richard observes in wryly amused tones, “Just you. Also, I mean, they wouldn’t have known this was here in the first place.”

He steps around the latticework slowly in her direction, adding with good humor in his tone, “The whole ‘let’s do some good’ line? Exactly what you said back in twenty-twelve in that office. To the word.”

A brow is lifted as he confirms that she did, in fact, fall back on a familiar wording. With a thoughtful frown, she silently grants that it sounds extremely plausible.

The knife is retrieved, slices through the next string, then is refolded and put away again. The end is knotted carefully around the other green threads of fate. “You’d be surprised what we know,” Odessa responds easily.

“Maybe. I have to admit…” Nearer, now, arm’s length as Richard motions with a hand to sweep up and down her frame, “…this is new. Which I suppose explains all the damage that I felt during the interview…”

Softer, concern in his expression, “And still feel, to a degree. Are you alright?”

“It is.” New, that is. Odessa glances unconsciously to where her cane stands propped against the wall, expression demure as she turns her attention back to him again, then toward the floor.

“I’m fine,” she assures, then asks, “You can tell all that?” Her experience with the white conduit is limited, and she’s hardly an expert on the black, but it isn’t something she recalls ever having heard Kazimir — in any of his iterations — mention.

“Not in… detail,” admits Richard quietly, looking at her with a serious expression, “Not to any real degree. I can feel life, and— damage, really. The worse it is, the harder it is to ignore. Not that there’s much I can do about it usually— “

He grimaces, admitting, “I’m not good at healing still. The exchange rate is atrocious, even with the CS project.”

“I assume just— a lot of plastic surgery?”

“Something like that.” She has trouble meeting his eyes at first. Her gaze roams the floor, finds a string to follow on its journey across the map. Finally, she manages to crack a smirk and watch for his reaction.

“Do you like what you see?”

“I’m not complaining about the view,” Richard admits, eyebrows raising a little as he looks her down and up again, “It’s good to have you here no matter what you look like, though, I mean… I missed you.”

A hand comes up, brushing a finger briefly to her cheek before drawing back, “Settling in to your new life?”

Her brows lift in return, expression almost challenging. “Thank you,” she murmurs, accepting both the compliment and acknowledging that she was missed with the two simple words. It’s the touch to her cheek that sees her softening again, eyes lidding briefly in tandem with a deep exhale.

Her hand lifts in the wake of the absence of his, overlaying where he’s just brushed her face. “Yes. I mean, i…t‘s in its infancy. I’ve spent most of my time since getting paroled laid up, but…” Odessa smiles with more strength than she actually feels. “I really do work at a jazz club on Staten Island, and I do actually love it.” That brings forth a more genuine warmth. “I’m sharing a brownstone in Williamsburg. It’s… nice? I’m not hiding from anyone anymore. I just get to be me.”

Well, not her. This new person she’s creating a life for.

If there’s one person that knows about her identity issues, it’s him, but he’s not going to call her out for it. Richard does lift an eyebrow a little bit at the mention of the jazz club being on Staten Island of all places, but there too he doesn’t push.

“I’m glad that you’re— at least doing alright,” he says softly, “I was a little worried. And I’m glad you came back here, at least, even if I am playing timeshare with jazz.” Teasing, there, definitely.

He remains there close to her, at the edge of personal space but not pushing into it again.

“Girl’s gotta eat,” Odessa jokes of her return to his company. “Rossignol pays but…” But a singer isn’t going to be compensated nearly as well as what Raytech will do. If she were paid that much to sing, he should be concerned about what else she might be doing along with it.

(Assassination. The implication is assassination.)

She lets her hand fall to her side again. “It’s good that you can…” Her eyes dart to his hand, then back up to his face. Color touches her cheeks, the faintest shade of pink. “I was surprised you shook my hand at the interview.”

“Yeah.” Richard flashes a smile, eyebrows going up, “Surprise. It took me a little bit to rein it in, but I managed eventually. It’s like having a new, very excitable dog that wants to snap at everyone near its new owner…”

A shake of his head, “But I got it under control eventually. I mean, if someone shot me or something it’d probably do its thing automatically, but so long as I’m not hurt it’s fine.”

“So I shouldn’t pull my knife on you for old time’s sake.” Odessa grins and quirks a brow. “Got it.

The expression fades, replaced by something almost apologetic, regretful. “I didn’t realize how hard it would be to see you every day again.” She expects, unfairly, that it isn’t as difficult for him. Maybe if she looked like herself. Maybe if he wasn’t married. Which is to say, “I missed you too.”

As her expression drops, so does his, Richard’s head canting a bit… and then he nods a little, chin dipping before he turns to step away, giving her more room under the guise of stepping over to adjust some of the prophetic paintings set up in swinging frames as if they were for sale in a mall store.

“I’m sorry. If…” A glance back over his shoulder, his own expression regretful as he trails off, watching her a moment before looking back to the rack of frames, “Is there any way I can make it easier for you? I can try and limit exposure, if you prefer.”

Obviously not when she’s broken into his private sanctum, of course.

“No,” Odessa replies quickly with an emphatic shake of her head. “That would be worse.” To know he’s so close but won’t see her? That’s a rejection she isn’t sure her heart can take. “Unless it’s what you want,” she’s sure to grant the possibility.

The blonde laughs ruefully, shifting her gaze to the ceiling, face tipping slightly to follow. “You told me it can’t just be switched off.” She should have believed him. “Have you managed it?”

“Of course not,” Richard replies with a shake of his head, closing his eyes for a moment and drawing in a breath— exhaling it before turning back towards her, a smile twisted to match her rueful laugh upon his features.

“And of course not. Do you think I stopped caring about you just because of a little time and distance, Odessa? I can respect your desires, but my feelings don’t change so easily.”

“If it were about what I desire…” Her lower lip is bit down on, but not in a way that’s coy or suggestive. Odessa clasps her hands together in front of her, as though each one is holding the other back to keep from reaching out.

“I’m not good at this stuff. You know that.” Slender shoulders come up in a shrug and drop down again. “Thought maybe a little out of sight, out of mind might have done the trick. Clearly not.” There’s an unspoken request in her eyes. Of all that she’s changed, the eyes have stayed exactly as he remembers them. The expressions are hers.

If wishes were wings, as the old saying goes…” Richard’s words are soft as he watches her expression, as he watches her eyes. His posture shifts ever so slightly as if he wanted to move closer to her again, to reach out, but— he doesn’t.

“I’m not great at it myself,” he admits, one hand lifting to rub at the side of his neck, head cocking a bit, “I… you left me, so you’re setting the rules here as far as things go, Des. Feelings don’t go away, but I’m an adult. I can pretend they do.”

“I did it to protect you,” Odessa reminds. At least, that’s the way she chooses to remember things. Her memory so often tends to be selective, tends to forget. It’s difficult to say if it’s intentional, or a survival tactic.

With a deep breath drawn in, she admits, “You know, the stupid thing is? I’m… seeing somebody, and I thought that’s what it would take. That if I started seeing someone else, I could erase this.” Her face contorts into an expression of confusion and self-disgust. “But I just want you to kiss me until my lips are bruised.”

Richard’s eyebrows lift in that slight arch that says oh really - doubting her as she suggests that her decision was to protect him, and not to, perhaps, flee a situation she felt uncomfortable in.

Then he breathes out a chuckle, “I— wait, please tell me you didn’t literally get into a relationship just to try and forget about me, I— that’s so cliche, lover.” Whoops. He slipped.

Odessa blushes and chuckles, shaking her head. “No, of course not. That wasn’t my primary motivation. Just… a thought I had a long time to dwell on in prison.” Not like she had a lot of prospects there.

“He’s nice,” she says with a faraway sort of smile. “Met him at the club after one of my sets. He came over to chat with me and we hit it off right away. It was nice to just… not have the baggage, you know?” Which is its own kind of baggage, Richard knows her well enough to realize. “He looks after me, provides for me…”

Blue eyes drift to the ceiling again. “I was staying on Staten Island when I first got out. It’s where I… felt like I could disappear the easiest. It was familiar, even though it’s changed so much since I was at the Trade Commission.” An exhale puffs her cheeks out, eyes widening just a little bit when she admits, “I got mugged coming back to my motel one night.” Odessa flashes a grin, “I mean, I fought him off, but… Harry was so mortified when I told him. He asked me to move in straight away. And I just… said yes.”

So she’s sharing a brownstone in Williamsburg.

“I honestly pity anyone who tried to mug you,” is the quip from Richard as she mentions that she fought him off, breathing out a momentary chuckle before shaking his head.

“You didn’t need to— Staten’s still a complete shit-hole, Des, you…” Then he breathes out a sigh, shaking his head, “Yeah, I can understand why you went there. Still.”

He nods a little, watching her, “He looks out for you and provides for you, you said, but…” Is that all is the unspoken. He can hear when she doesn’t say some things. He knows her that well.

“Yeah…” Odessa laughs, softly at first, but the volume builds. “The guy called me a fuckin’ lunatic before he ran away.” She could stand to be a little less amused at how absolutely terrifying she can be, maybe.

She sighs. “I know. I could’ve come back here. I know you would’ve taken me in. I just didn’t feel right doing that to you, though. I didn’t want to just walk back in here like you owed me anything. Not after I… left you like that.” Physically and romantically.

“Besides,” she continues, “I had big plans.” Her hands lift, wrists turning out in a flourish at roughly the level of her shoulders. Look at me. “I wanted it to be a surprise. And… I wanted to earn my way back here. I asked SESA not to tell you who I was. I wanted you to either… take me for who I am, or reject me if I wasn’t what you needed anymore.”

Like she isn’t just talking about how she fits in with his corporate structure.

Odessa tilts her head to one side. “But what, Richard? Does he love me? Who the fuck knows? It’s early yet. Maybe he does, maybe he will, maybe he won’t. Maybe he’ll dump me next week. I don’t know what the future holds.” One hand clasps around the opposite wrist, thumb rubbing absently at the skin under the cuff of her sleeve.

“Heh. That’s fair,” Richard’s chin dips in a hesitant nod, then another firmer one. “Absolutely fair.”

His gaze dips down again then up as she shows herself off - so to speak - and he quirks a smile, noting, “You should know better about me owing you, though. I’m loyal to my people. And you’re still one of them, still were even when you left. That never changed, even if— we did.”

One hand lifts in a vague motion, “I just— want you to be happy, Des. That’s all.”

“I don’t understand you sometimes,” she says quietly. “I mean, I don’t understand most people most days. Social norms are not my forte.” That’s putting it mildly. Odessa closes her eyes and takes in a deep breath. She opens up her senses, reaching out toward him with her ability, wondering what she’ll find there that he’s too clever to show on his face and in his posture.

Her eyes open again after only a brief moment, fixing on him with a smile that comes easily enough. “I’m not sure I know what happiness is, Richard. I think I grasp at it sometimes, and maybe hold it in my hand for a time, until it slips through my fingers again.” Her smile widens, but it’s not with mirth. “But I keep trying. Keep reaching.” The smile fades entirely, her shoulders sagging and she looks impossibly sad as she takes him in.

“I don’t understand myself either,” Richard admits just as softly, and there’s layers to that, because of course there are. There are many people he could become, and some of them he’s had to struggle with directly.

There are rivers of regret there running beneath the surface, a sadness and a yearning to reach out to her that he’s fighting for her sake. A warmth underlying the rest, a flicker of pleasure at just being there near her again, at talking with her as herself again. He’s missed her a great deal.

“And that’s what life is, Des,” he says quietly, “Just reaching for that happiness. Sometimes I think that’s just the whole point of it all.”

Part of her had expected to find that this had all been some sort of lip service. That he really didn’t still harbor feelings for her, but that he thought it would be kinder to her to say he did. To have nearly irrefutable proof of his affection is… Well, it doesn’t bring her the clarity she hoped it would.

“Maybe.” Odessa’s expression grows contemplative at that, but no less sorrowful for it. “Do you think it’s possible for two people to find happiness within each other?”

Richard watches her for a moment, and then he shakes his head ever so slightly. “No,” he says quietly, “I think two people can help show each other the way there, but… I think that you can only find your happiness inside yourself, Des.”

He takes a step over, closer, reaching a hand up after a moment to cradle her cheek and jaw - if she allows it - and offering gently, “I know you don’t think you deserve it, but you do. That’s what you’ve got to get past.”

Odessa not only allows it, but reaches up to lay one hand over his as she leans into the touch. Her eyes close and she exhales a sigh. “Maybe you’re right. I mean… it makes about as much sense as anything.”

Opening her eyes again, she reaches out to him with her free hand, curling her fingers around the back of his neck and brushing her thumb over the curve of his jaw. “You still love me,” she breathes out, astonished. She doesn’t believe she deserves that either. She never thought she did in the first place. She starts to lean forward, nails gently grazing over his skin.

Then, she pauses, eyes closing as she exhales a breath through her nose, the sound of it almost pained. Lips press together and she leans back again, even if she doesn’t otherwise break the contact between them. “What do we do now?”

“I’m pretty sure we already covered that those feelings don’t just go away,” Richard murmurs back to her, his head tilting to lean into the touch of hers. As she starts to lean forward, the hand that touches her face shifts slightly, as if to get out of the way but still cradling… but then she stops.

A breath’s exhaled in a shaky little almost-chuckle, his gaze finding hers again as he says softly, “We do what we agreed, what we’ve always done. We do some good.”

“But I guess that’s not what you were asking.”

She laughs breathlessly, all jittery nerves like this might be the first time they kiss, rather than simply the first time in a long time. (The first time had been easier. There’d been heat and excitement. This is all uncertainty and chilling fear.) Odessa shakes her head. “No, it’s not.”

“That’s…” Richard watches her for a moment, uncertain, “…I guess that’s up to you. You’re with someone, you said, and I know you didn’t want to— be with me after Liz came back…” The hip kids call it ‘polyamory’ now, not that he and Elisabeth ever really put a name on it, but not everyone is about that life and he knows it.

Longing; desire, heat, fear. Washing off him openly to her ability’s gaze.

“I hate it when you put the ball in my court,” Odessa laments, looking a little helpless. “I don’t know what to do with agency when it slaps me in the face.” But she does know what to do with the emotions Richard’s putting off. It overcomes her own nervousness in this moment. Envelops it and replaces it with something warmer.

But all the longing can’t entirely quash her feelings of jealousy. To share Richard, to understand she isn’t entitled to him, to all of him, is still a hard pill for her to swallow. “Why are you afraid?” Odessa asks him, brown knitting with her curiosity while her nails graze over his scalp lightly and she leans in again just the barest bit.

“That’s why I put the ball in your court, Odessa. Because you need to learn what to do with agency,” Richard observes ruefully, thumb brushing the corner of her lips, “You deserve to be your own woman. Not just a puppet getting jerked around by whoever’s gotten his hands on your… strings.”

Then his eyebrows lift at the question, “Afraid? What do you mean?”

Odessa’s gaze nearly lids as she lowers it to watch his thumb brush across her mouth in the lowest reaches of her periphery. That corner twitches faintly at his touch, tugging into a fleeting smirk.

“I can taste it,” she says in response to his question. But her gaze is lifting, first to him, and then past him, toward the door, senses reaching beyond. It feels like him, but what if it isn’t? What if there’s someone else lingering nearby?

Or perhaps it’s that sense of fear making her feel like she needs to be afraid of something. Her ability is incredibly confusing to her at times.

“I’m… not really sure what you mean,” Richard admits, the confusion bleeding into his emotions as well as he looks back at her with a slightly-furrowed brow. His own gaze follows hers, glancing to one side— then back to her, and he exhales a faint chuckle.

“If I’m afraid of anything,” he says finally, quietly, “It’s you running away from me again.”

“Oh, Richard,” Odessa sighs out, smiling sympathetically as she focuses on him again. “I didn’t run from you. You know this.” He must, mustn’t he? “I run from my past, from myself… The line of people who want me dead.” That one’s supposed to be a joke, but even she has to admit that it falls well flat.

“Not from you, though. If I’m ever running from you, it’s either because there’s something behind you I have to be afraid of, or something behind me I need to lead away.” That’s metaphorically speaking, of course, but should the need arise, she’d be happy to apply it literally.

With a grin, Odessa insists, “I’m so terrible.” Her eyes close briefly, a snort of laughter before she opens them again. “I want you to kiss me. I want you to initiate it so I can absolve myself of that.” If he kisses her, is it really cheating?

“It doesn’t matter why you run. I can’t protect you, or anyone, if they walk away,” says Richard, a welling of guilt there that doesn’t apply to her. “All I want is the people I care about to be safe.”

At those last words, then, he laughs softly… his hand sliding to slip beneath her hair, cradling the back of her neck as he steps in closer, infiltrating her personal space. He brings up one hand to sweep off his sunglasses and then leans down, the tip of his nose just-grazing hers as he murmurs in low tones, “Is that really what you want me to do, though, Odessa?” His eyes searching hers, those oddly dark eyes with barely any iris between pupil and white. The faint hint of his cologne between them.

The fear receding to let want return, but he doesn’t initiate. Not yet.

Odessa’s eyes slide shut in anticipation. When he stops short, she stifles a frustrated whine behind pressed-together lips. She looks at him again, meeting his eyes properly for the first time in a long time. “Why would I say it if I didn’t want it, love?”

She trembles, lets her free hand find his hip. “I’ve spent so long believing I’m not good enough for you,” Odessa admits. “But I can’t make that decision for you. Only you can tell me what I am or am not to you.” She closes her eyes once more, and waits.

“I’ve literally murdered people, manipulated criminal syndicates, broken a thousand different laws, and destabilized the universe,” is Richard’s response to that, a soft chuckle of breath stirring over her lips, “If you think you’re not good enough for me, then you’ve got some poorly calibrated standards…”

They all have blood on their hands.

His own hand slides along her hip, gliding up to the small of her back as he speaks, and then he’s leaning in— weight tilting to press his chest against hers even as his lips meet her own, tasting them, so familiar and yet so new at the same time. Tilting her slightly back in a lean, his lips parting to deepen that kiss, gently but insistently.

Odessa resists the urge to ask have you met me? Poorly calibrated anything is basically her modus operandi.

Ultimately, he relents. The press of his body to hers gives her the encouragement she needs to wrap her arms around him tightly now. The hand at his hip moves to his mid-back, splaying across his spine. The other palm cradles the back of his head as she kisses him fiercely.

So long she’s been waiting for this reunion she told herself she could never have. As he leans her back, she follows his lead, relaxed in his arms for all that the heat between them is barely restrained. For all that she’s been tense as a bowstring.

One hand rests upon her back, his other curling into her hair slowly as the kiss drags on, lips and tongues refamiliarizing themselves with one another with ardent passion before finally— a nip to her lower lip tugging it away— he breaks it, though he doesn’t move much further away.

“Missed you,” he breathes to her mouth, “Quite a bit, love.”

“Yeah.” Breathless, Odessa smiles, sliding her hand from the back of his head to his cheek now, thumb tracing over his skin fondly. “Me too.” She dips back in for another kiss, this one gentler, even if she is curling the fingers of her other hand into the fabric of his shirt.

When she withdraws again, it’s only so she can rest her forehead against his, noses brushing. “This isn’t right, though,” she sighs out. “I’m not like you.” Maybe she could learn to be, someday, or maybe she’s more willing to compromise than she realizes, but there’s still the issue of… “Harry. I— I can’t do this to Harry.”

Odessa swallows uneasily and leans far enough so they can lock eyes again. She has regret in her blue gaze. Not for having kissed him, though. If she hadn’t done, there was just going to be no being around him until she did. The regret comes from not being able to simply give herself to him, body and soul. “He’s good to me. Patient with all my quirks and… I don’t know. I think we’re in love. As much as someone like me can love anyone properly, anyway.”

That goes for Richard as well. Just because she can say the words and manage to play the part doesn’t mean she’s got it down. “He’s just… Traditional.” She means monogamous.

There’s a wave of wistful sadness at her words, but Richard understands; a faint smile and a slight nod, his fingers sliding from her hair and along the nape of her neck. “It’s okay,” he says softly, “I understand, and… I wouldn’t want to hurt what you have.” A bump of his nose to hers, and then he leans back again, rocking to his heels.

The ghost of a smile teases to his lips, “Although at least I got one last kiss.”

“Let’s be honest about this,” Odessa muses even as she starts to trail her fingertips away from him to let her hands fall back to her sides. “I’m sure I’m gonna fuck it up again.” Like she’s looking forward to when that happens, even though she already feels guilt about it.

“Thank you,” she says, because she thinks it deserves being said. “It was a good one.” Disengaging entirely, before she slips up further, she meanders her way back to where her cane is propped up along the wall, grasping at the crystal pommel and leaning onto it.

“I’d like you to meet him.” There’s caution in her eyes and in her tone when she turns back to Richard and admits that. “Maybe you and Elisabeth could come by to Rossignol some night? We can all have drinks together?” Odessa offers a smile, meant to be reassuring. “You’ll like him. Once you see what he’s like with me, I think… I think it’ll make it easier for both of us.” To switch off these feelings they both have. To maintain professional distance. “The three of you can sit together during one of my sets, get to know each other, and then I can come join the party when I’m done. It’s perfect, right? Gives you a chance to talk with him, without just cornering him in some dark alley.”

Odessa knows how you operate, Richard.

“Hey,” Richard laughs, his hands coming up defensively, “Would I do that?”

He absolutely would do that.

“Sure. That sounds good,” he allows then with a smile, hands dropping a bit as he watches her, “Of course, if we put Liz in front of you playing piano, she might want to get on stage, but…” A bit of a chuckle, “So what was his name again? Harry something-or-other?”

Odessa rolls her eyes, biting her lip as she giggles. She knows what he’s up to, but she’s not going to call him on it in a way meant to discourage him. “Harry Stoltz. He’s a travel agent.” See? A suitably boring, perfectly normal man for her to be tangled up with.

“If Liz wants on that stage, she’s gonna have to audition like everybody else,” the blonde jokes, laughing again. “But I’m certainly not going to stop her.” The bouncers, on the other hand… “Oh, you’re gonna love the place. It’s so beautiful.”

‘Boring’, ‘normal’, and ‘Odessa’ do not go in the same sentence, at least as far as Richard is concerned. His eyebrows go up a little, “A travel agent? Really? How’d you meet this guy, anyway?”

If she’s not going to let him ambush her boyfriend in an alley, he’s going to interrogate her about him at least!

“I told you,” Odessa faux-whines with a teasing lilt, “he was an admirer.” She smiles demurely, glancing away while she seems to lose herself in a memory. “He came up to me after the show one night and said he liked my voice. Said he thought I was pretty.” Her smile widens, blushing faintly as she laughs, girlish. “Those sorts of things don’t happen to me, you know?”

War criminals generally don’t get meet-cutes.

“I’m hoping one day he’ll… take me to Paris, or something.” Odessa sighs wistfully, looking back to Richard when she admits, “I’ve always wanted to see Paris.”

“Well, I can’t say he’s wrong on either point,” Richard quips, eyebrows raising a little, “I’m surprised that you’re getting along so well with someone so— normal— but I’m glad you are. I hope you’re able to find happiness there.”

One hand comes up to scratch under his chin, “I’m not a big fan of Europe these days, but maybe one day. Who knows, now that one of Edward’s old plans has been engaged…” He grimaces, “Who knows.”

Odessa shrugs with a small smile. “What can I say? I’ll try anything twice.” This would be the second time she’s attempted to settle with/for normal. Of course, Ace Callahan is not boring or normal, making each of her assertions inherently dishonest.

The sun rises in the east. Water is wet. Odessa Price lies.

One dark brow quirks and she looks Richard down, then up again. “Are you offering to take me to Paris someday, Richard?” She’s attempting to keep her tone mild, but she can’t hide the light of hope in her eyes.

“I’ll tell you what,” Richard offers then, a smile tugging at his lips, “The day that France’s compliance of the EU registration policies drops to ‘low’ on the annual report they put out, I’ll take you to Paris. With your boyfriend, even, if you’re still together then.”

Hands spread, “Hand to God.”

Odessa laughs then, a happier sound than he’s heard from her in years. Freedom suits her well. “Alright then. It’s a date.” She lingers for a moment, held just a little too still with indecision of how to best further respond to this promise of his. To seal it with a handshake or a kiss.

Neither, she decides ultimately, and turns back to the bin of craft supplies. “Come on then, help me out here. I should start a new string for myself. Ourself?” Odessa shakes her head. “I was thinking maybe a dusty lavender…”

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License