The Villain You Paint Yourself to Be


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Scene Title The Villain You Paint Yourself to Be
Synopsis Elisabeth checks in on Odessa and delivers an important message.
Date March 8, 2020

Rikers Island

Rikers has a familiarity to it for Elisabeth — not a particularly pleasant one, but well… she's put her fair share of people in here. In this case, though, it's a family visit. Sundays are good for family visits. She's not the only person here today. Dressed in somewhat scuffed jeans and a pair of sneakers, a gray hoodie over a white T-shirt, she could be anyone. Most people aren't looking for the (in?)famous in places like Rikers visiting center.

As she waits for Odessa to get brought from the cell block, Elisabeth settles her hips against the edge of the metal table, her hands on the sides of her. Blue eyes scan the old walls, not really expecting to see anything interesting. The sound of the door brings her gaze around, and a small smile quirks the corners of her lips. "Hey stranger." It's been a bit since her last visit — between getting broken out and now, she's only made it once, and given that later that week all hell broke loose in Detroit, it's probably understandable.

Odessa murmurs a thank-you to the guards who escorted her to the room before they step aside and leave her to make her entrance herself. She smiles and makes her way to the chair across from Elisabeth, dropping down to sit with a weariness that shows in her posture and her eyes. It doesn’t entirely dampen her spirit, however. It doesn’t take away from how glad she is to see her friend.

“Long time no see,” she teases, running her fingers through her copper-dyed curls. Already, her blonde roots are peeking out. But it isn’t as though she’s got access to a salon around here. “Wasn’t sure I’d see you at all, to be honest. Or… anybody, really.” PISEC had been nicer than this place, by far. Odessa slips a hand under the collar of her hooded sweatshirt to rub at the place where her neck and shoulder meet.

"Ffffft," Elisabeth replies. "You should know by now," she scoffs gently, "nothing is going to keep me or him from checking on you." There is a roll of blue eyes. And she pulls from her pocket a couple of papers, folded in half, to hand over. "Aurora's contribution to today's visit." She pauses, though, before she hands them to Odessa, a flicker of worry creasing her features. "They're not her usual fare." The warning is all she can really offer as she sets them down, still closed.

"How are you holding up? Nothing… strange or insane — for whatever definition of that word really applies to us these days — since the borealis?"

“Gotta rebuild my collection after…” After PISEC. Odessa reaches out without reservation to place a hand on the folded drawings with the intention of sliding them toward her. “Whatever Aura’s drawn, I’m sure I’m going to love it.” Except maybe if it literally said I hate Dessa on it. That might sting a little.

The question has her smiling faintly, delaying her examination of the drawings for now. “No, I… Things are fine. As fine as they can get, given the fact that I’m in prison again and it’s a shithole.” It smells here and there’s so many people and she can’t even keep busy with science. Even if the project she was engaged in was one she had moral objections to, at least it made time move more quickly. It’s only been two weeks and it already feels like months.

"Well…. I can't argue that," Elisabeth agrees, glancing around. "Rikers had its reputation for a reason. But if things are going on here, you make sure I know about it, hmm?" She raises both of her brows at Odessa. She may not be in the chain of command for the jail here, but if people are fucking around with Odessa because of who she is or what she can do? She will have some people's guts for garters. She is fiercely protective of Odessa in this regard.

As to the drawings, Elisabeth nods toward them and admits, "She's having a rough time this week. The borealis brought out nightmares." There's a small shrug, and when Dessa opens the images, Aura has drawn pictures of rainbows in the borealis shades of pink and green with a big blue-lightning opening and a figure that is likely supposed to be Dessa with her sword. The word bubble has letters in a creamy rose-grey shade that says, I can buy you time. A second drawing has a similar figure that is labeled 'Dessa' in the same color as those in the word bubble, and several other people important to Dessa. A figure labeled 'Evie' with bright yellow-orange letters, one called 'Aunt Nette' in a grey-ish lavender, and one for 'Unca Mateo' in a silver shade. Over top of them is a bright, clear blue sky.

"She told me to let you know she can't wait to see you." Odessa was a big part of their traveling life. "She was worried about you being here all alone when the colors came alive again," clearly the child's words, "so she drew you a picture just in case it took people away." There's a lump in Elisabeth's throat as she faithfully relays the message. She promised she would and she won't break that promise.

“It’s only a matter of time before someone tries to clean my clock,” Odessa reasons. And, yes, that was a bit of temporal humor at her own expense. “But I can hold my own. I’m… angling for good behavior, so.” So she won’t be giving as good as she eventually gets, but she won’t lay down for it either.

When Odessa unfolds the drawings, the breath catches in her throat.

“I can’t undo all the wrong I’ve done, but… I can buy you time.

The tears are immediate, escalating quickly into a ragged sob. Odessa buries her face in her hands, pushing the pages away if only to keep from dropping tears onto them. It’s the day she died.

Well, a part of her.

She tries to say something, but all that comes out is a strained squeaking sound. Instead, she nods her head. She understands the gesture. What it means and how heartbreakingly thoughtful it is. She’d feel terrible if Aurora saw her react this way, because there’s no way the girl could possibly understand. “Oh, god,” she finally manages to get out. “God, I’m sorry. I just—”

It all went so wrong from there, didn’t it? Or…

No. Only for her. The sacrifice she made that day — both her own and Odessa Woods’ — saved the people she loved. Her family, her friends… They’re here because one gave up her life and the other her freedom.

As soon as the tears begin, Elisabeth is out of her seat and around the table, wrapping her arms around Dessa. She'd apologize, but she understands the tears… and the fact that it's really not a bad thing that Odessa is having them. But it brings tears to her own eyes, much as the drawings did when she first saw them. "Don't be sorry. She's made me have to climb in the shower to cry several times this week," she admits — crying in the shower, where a little girl can't see it. She's taken a few extra showers this week.

Holding the other woman tightly for as long as she needs, Elisabeth rests her cheek on Dessa's head. She had thought she would never be able to repay what Odessa Woods gave up in her home and in two other timelines as they ran. That Odessa had her back through Wasteland and Flood. This Odessa had her back in Bright, though. "Things are going to work out, somehow," she whispers to her friend. "And I'm not going anywhere."

Odessa throws her arms around Elisabeth in return, clinging tightly to her like a drowning victim to a life preserver. It keeps her anchored to the here and the now. Fingers curl in tightly against the fabric of Liz’s shirt. She makes a low sound, mournful and pained. The conflicting memories of those moments are difficult to navigate at times.

It’s several minutes before the tears finally subside. When Odessa’s finally to get her emotions under control. Breathe and think clearly. She repeats herself. “I’m sorry. I just—” This time, she’s able to continue on after a loud sniffle. “I haven’t thought about that day in a long time. I lost… so much.” They had all made it home, but her mother…

The imprisoned woman disengages herself from the embrace and slowly leans back in her seat. She wraps her arms around herself instead now, reaching under her right arm with her opposite hand to scratch at her ribs briefly. For a moment, she’s still, expression unfocused. Thinking. “This was… I guess I never realized how much she thought of me,” Odessa admits in a soft voice. Certainly she’d been there for Elisabeth and her daughter. Well, Woods had been. Her time spent was comparatively brief, and Aurora had been so small, hadn’t she?

“I’m so used to… Being the villain, I never thought anyone could ever see me as their hero.”

Elisabeth's own tears have dried by the time Odessa pulls herself together, and she doesn't bother to retreat to the other side of the table again. If the guards want to make an issue of it, they can go hang for today. "She doesn't remember how you protected us in Bright. But I do. And I always will. She remembers Wasteland and Flood much better… you and Lynette reading to her, the times you'd play with her and Evie." She huffs out a soft laugh. "I got home from Detroit to have security inform me that she lost her shit when she thought everybody was going to get left behind." Because an aurora was there every damn time they jumped. "Isabelle and Kain showed up at Raytech, and he stayed with Aura until she finally calmed down. Hours, Dessa. Your sword and Kain are her two biggest memories of those times, I think." Maybe because they were constants in the most dangerous, adrenalized parts of her life so they're hard-coded memories now.

"I know you don't think much of yourself, but… you're not the villain you paint yourself to be. Richard told me you turned yourself in. If you were really as bad as you thought, you would have taken the opportunity to get as far from all this shit as you possibly could, Dessa."

It’s generous to say that she turned herself in, but it’s the yarn she’s been spinning so far, so Odessa doesn’t see any reason to start being honest now. So, she nods and cracks a small smile. “Well… Please tell her I’m so happy she thought of me. And I’m going to hold on to these. I’ll have them to remind me everytime I’m afraid to be alone.”

Carefully, Odessa refolds Aurora’s drawings and slides them off to the side of the table for her to grab later, on her way back to her cell. “And you hug that little girl tightly for me.” She knows that’s not a big ask.

“How’s…” God, it always feels weird to broach this with her, but Elisabeth is her line to the world outside right now. “How’s your husband?” The emphasis is maybe to remind her of what she can never have (her own restrictions, not theirs), or maybe because it’s just easier than saying his name out loud. Speak of the devil, and all of that.

Settling back to talk, Elisabeth considers. "Well… he's slowly getting control of it." That's a plus. "He actually used it to save someone's life in Detroit." She purses her lips and sighs. "Other than that, I'm having to convince him here and there that the whole world is not resting on him and his decisions. I've noticed that he's a little bit egotistical!" Tongue firmly lodged in cheek. "I'm trying to keep him grounded without completely puncturing the inflated head," she grins at Odessa.

"Mostly he's doing okay, I think." Elisabeth shrugs slightly. "We talk about nothing and everything, but … he still has the habit of playing his cards close. I think he worries too much and I think he's keeping some things to himself in a misguided attempt to keep me from worrying, but… none of that is unusual. I'd say that this week has ramped up his paranoia in significant ways, for certain."

Odessa fixes Liz with a look of surprise. The fact that Richard managed to get his newfound abilities under control to save someone with them is unexpected, but in the best sort of way. She laughs quietly. “Yeah. The last time I talked to him, I… probably said something mean about how I think he assumes it’s all about him.” Saving the world. She shrugs. “But I’m the selfish one, so what do I know?”

Any protest to the contrary is waved off before it can begin. Yes, they’re both aware of the ways in which she is very unselfish, and why she was just crying minutes ago. “Tell him to stop being so guarded. If he doesn’t let someone in… It’s just not going to be good. It doesn’t matter if it’s you — but it should be — just so long as there’s someone he confides in.”

Even Ezekiel seemed to have that, but Odessa would never say that to Richard’s face.

The irony of what she’s suggesting isn’t entirely lost on her, however. Saying that Richard should be more open, more honest about the troubles he’s facing, the woes of the world, while Odessa herself is holding her own secrets close and refusing to let go. Some things are just too dangerous. She entertains for a moment — only a moment — blurting it all out in one go. Begging for some kind of help. Some kind of way out of this burden she’s had placed upon her shoulders. One she doesn’t even fully comprehend.

None of it will matter if she never gets out of here anyway. Odessa bites down on her lower lip and grins around it in spite of herself. “There’s so much I want to ask…” So much that’s not safe to ask about. “But I trust you. I trust you to tell me what I need to know about what’s going on out there, when I need to know it.”

"Well… between me and the therapist I made him start seeing, maybe we can at least get him over some of his guilt complex and the ego, you know?" Elisabeth sighs. This man they both love can be something of a trial at times. As if she read Odessa's mind, she tips her head and asks, "What about you? Who are you talking to while you're in here?" Because Odessa needs people to talk to. "And you should feel free to ask me absolutely anything, lady — seriously. About any topic, ever." She makes sure she has her friend's eyes. "Not kidding here. You want to ask about things no one needs to know about, we got a silence bubble."

Dragging a hand through her hair, Elisabeth turns more fully to face Odessa. "I cannot begin to tell you the panic that I felt when I saw that wash of color, Dessa. I honest to God thought 'okay, this is it. All that jumping, all that fucking insanity, and it all comes to this moment.' I figured we were all dead." She shakes her head. "We don't even know what ultimately happened. If we beat it or if it just retreated or what. So I'm not sure I have answers, but you can ask me anything at all."

Odessa’s brows jump toward her hairline. “You got him to start seeing a therapist?” She lets out a low whistle. “Color me impressed, Liz. I never thought I’d see that day.” And to the question of who she’s seeing, she shakes her head. “Nobody I like so far. Dr. Madison either closed up her practice or at least won’t see me anymore.”

Very blasé, and with a roll of her eyes, she admits, “In her defense, I did threaten to kill her that one time.” But who doesn’t threaten to kill their therapist once in a while when they hit a nerve, right? It was only the once!

“I see whoever’s running sessions that week. Tell them what they want to hear, move on. It’s… there’s way too much going on in here,” Odessa taps the side of her head with two fingers, “to trust to someone who isn’t really one of us, you know?” That and she isn’t sure the therapy sessions aren’t a trap to see if she’ll talk about her work at PISEC. “I’m just doing what I have to do to avoid getting thrown in a real deep hole.”

Her foot taps on the floor restlessly. Odessa draws a surreptitious little circle in the air in front of her as if to question whether they’ve got the cone of silence right now.

Odessa's surprised face is met with a grin. "Seriously, I actually did." Although in truth, maybe he was just ready for it at the time. Even as her friend continues, Elisabeth has that face — the one that says 'Ohboy, that's not good.' Mildly as she can, she observes, "Telling them what they want to hear isn't exactly a recipe for working through your shit. Believe me, I know — it might be the only good thing I really learned in Arthur's world. That it can help out." Her blue eyes follow the foot, and she smiles.

"Almost as soon as you started saying 'no one regularly.'" That response may have been expected or not, but Elisabeth didn't get home alive by being obtuse. "What's on your mind, Dessa?"

“You think I trust these people to help me work through my shit?” Odessa casts a dubious look around her. “I don’t think Richard trusts them to change a light bulb.” So why should she trust them with the darker secrets of her mind? That sounds like giving the government ammunition.

With the confirmation that no one else will hear them, Odessa still lifts a hand up to her chin, letting her fingers obscure her mouth as she speaks. “If you can, have Richard look into that research they had me doing at PISEC. Someone… has to know about it. What it was all for and… know if someone’s going to try something with it now.

Pulling one leg up on the bench they're sharing, Elisabeth props her elbow on the table and her chin in her hand — enough to obscure a lip-reader if indeed one were to look. Not that she really thinks they will, but you know what? As Felix always says, there is no such thing as being too paranoid. "What exactly were you working on, anyway?" she asks curiously. "And out of curiosity, why did Mazdak want all of you?" Because that's who was behind the breakout, right? "I can't figure out what the hell their game is. And what's worse, I don't think our resident genius conspiracy buff can either," she adds ruefully. Richard is the only person Elisabeth has ever known who can dig into that kind of shit the way he does.

“Something that could kill Monroe,” Odessa responds in a low murmur, even if she doesn’t have to keep her voice down. It feels safer to do so anyway. She shakes her head. “I don’t know that they wanted any of us at all. They killed Rich — Ah, Schwenkman.” And Liz can see that rattles her. “And I think they took Maddox. He worked with the backups. I think they were destroyed in the blast.”

Even knowing as many pieces of the puzzle as she does, Odessa still can’t put it all together to see the bigger picture. It’s endlessly frustrating. “But not like Advent. It was supposed to be something that would target him. But— We had no idea the validity of the samples we were working with. We couldn’t guarantee that there wouldn’t be collateral damage.” Other lives at stake.

“I told them that I’m the only way to decipher the data.” Which is a lie, but one she tells to protect others for a change, not one meant to protect her. Quite the opposite, in fact. That lie nearly got her killed the last time she told it. “Whoever Mazdak hired for the job… Apparently they didn’t want to see them get their hands on my knowledge either.”

Because Odessa Price is still alive, and not in the hands of the polite terrorists.

As she listens, Elisabeth is thoughtful. The tangle of Mazdak and the peripheral organizations involved is still a muddy mess. "You've got me thinking you need protective custody here, Dessa," she admits. "Do you think they'll come at you again?" She is worried for her friend's safety now, significantly more than usual.

Odessa shakes her head quickly. “No. They had… every opportunity to grab me while I was out. If they had wanted me, they could have had me.” She smiles reassuringly. “I’m okay. Really. I’ll be okay. The more… normal I’m allowed to be in here, the better off I am, I think.”

The blonde redhead shrugs. “Might be the safest place for me right now, actually.”

Reluctantly, Elisabeth nods her agreement. "Okay. If you think that changes at any point, let me know." She considers the situation and finally sighs. "Man, I really don't want to get into a pissing contest with Homeland or the witches. But I'll let Richard know what you're thinking so maybe we can put some feelers out." Her brows are pulled together and she admits, "Supposedly Monroe died in the crash, but I'm not entirely convinced of anything with that fucker. Even when there is a body, we have no idea how many clones of himself he could have made." They've all seen too many copies of people and shit.

Shaking her head, she asks ruefully, "Is it selfish that I miss the days when all we were dealing with was Petrelli?"

“Now that’s a man I wish would come back,” Odessa says of Petrelli in a mutter. “I’d love the chance to fucking bury him myself for everything he did to me.” The unseen architect of so much of her pain. In more than one world, Arthur Petrelli had been someone she had trusted. Looked up to. It hurts to this day.

But she homes in on something Elisabeth said, eyes narrowing faintly. “Clones, huh?”

"Yeah," Elisabeth replies with a faint grimace. "We knew he was working on it." The clone of Devon pretty much confirmed all that. "But we have no real idea if he used it on himself how many times he might have. It's… not a comforting thought," she grimaces. "It's a problem for another day, though. What else you got in mind to ask questions about, lady?" Since they have the silence field, might as well give Odessa all the information she wants about whatever she asks.

Odessa’s expression fades into something vaguely sorrowful when Elisabeth asks what else she wants to know. “Is he okay?” she asks quietly, curling one hand into a loose fist in her lap to keep from fidgeting restlessly. “I mean, really okay?”

It’s not hard to guess who he must be in this case.

With a soft expression, Elisabeth slips her hand into Odessa's. "He's not. Not really, not yet. But he will get there." She has a lot of faith in him. "He still has a hell of a lot of survivor's guilt to wade through. But I think…" The blonde pulls in a slow breath and considers. "I think that if he actually lets people in — and he is trying — that he will find his way." Her eyes come back to Dessa and her lips quirk into a smile. "Just like you." She squeezes the hand she's holding.

“He does too much. Takes on too much.” Odessa smiles weakly. She knows she’s preaching to the choir on that one. If anyone knows Richard Ray’s propensity to take on more than his fair share, it’s his wife. “But I’m glad he has you.” She sighs. “And that I’m no longer just one more problem on his plate.”

Wrapping her arm back around Dessa's shoulders, Elisabeth shakes her head. "He never considered you a problem on his plate," she assures softly. She simply rests her head against her friend's. "And you're certainly not a problem from my perspective. So quit beating yourself up, Dessa. Sure, you made mistakes and bad choices. What-the-fuck-ever. We all do." Her tone is not dismissive of Odessa's feelings, it's a bracing tone of support. She of all people understands regret. "You're paying your dues on it — you keep on building. You started a great life. This is a bump in the road, but you can have the life you want."

Odessa accepts the comfort, rather than rejecting it. She needs it, even if she doesn’t necessarily feel like she deserves it. She closes her eyes and just soaks in the warmth and proximity of another human being who doesn’t want to see her hurt for the things she’s done.

“I swear I’m trying,” Odessa insists, even though she knows she doesn’t have to. Elisabeth knows she’s trying to make amends. She’s seen the transformation Odessa is capable of. Watched her other timeline self evolve from someone cruel and selfish to someone willing to give up her life to save others. “Hopefully I get out of here and get to go back to my work.”

With a sad smile, she leans back enough so she can see Elisabeth better. “Will you say hi to Kaylee and Valerie for me?”

"Of course!" Elisabeth, of all people, is one of Dessa's more staunch cheerleaders these days. She grins and says, "I don't see why you can't come back to work when you do get out. Hell, it's not like you're the only person with a record at Raytech." She leans in and mock-whispers, "Do you know, I heard a rumor that the CEO's wife has a record???" Expunged, yeah — twice over! — but technically it is the absolute truth.

Odessa laughs in spite of herself. “I know.” She shakes her head and repeats, “I know.” She squeezes Elisabeth’s hand tightly. “I don’t know if I deserve your friendship, but I’m grateful for it all the same.”

Not wishing to dwell on that much, because the argument about what she does or doesn’t deserve is ultimately not productive for either of them, Dess flashes Liz a broad grin, a light flashing in her eyes.

“Okay. Now catch me up on what’s been happening on River Styx.”

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