What the World Has Tried to Make


odessa3_icon.gif richard3_icon.gif

Scene Title What the World Has Tried to Make
Synopsis Richard makes good on his promise to Odessa.
Date February 8, 2021

Raytech Industries Campus
Advanced Sciences, Experimental Lab Delta

3:02 pm Local Time

“So, I’m sorry there was a bit of a… wait,” says Richard as he walks into one of the experimental labs downstairs, hands spread a bit to either side. That is to say, it’s a concrete room with sound-absorbing tiles on every surface, well-surveilled with cameras and with a viewing portal to a secondary room - although at the moment, that room is empty.

They don’t really need observers, but the cameras are probably still on just in case something goes wrong and someone needs to later come in and pick up the pieces. What they’re working with is half science and half something one step to the right of science, after all.

There’s a sturdy metal-topped table that’s been set up, and a large glass-sided tank with a computerized monitoring system beside it, the thick green sludge inside slowly and constantly cycling so it doesn’t clump up. The low hum of it reverberates through the room.

“The first time I managed to make this work I, uh, went a little overboard and… wipedouttheentirealgaefarm— so it took a few months to grow more.”

“That’s so fascinating I can’t even be mad.” Odessa’s amused, one corner of her mouth hooked upward slightly. “I understand why I couldn’t observe, but I’m still sorry that it wasn’t possible.” Her cane is impossible to connect silently with these floors as she makes her way inside, although the tiles mitigate the echo that would otherwise fill the space.

Coming to stand at one end of the table, she reaches up with one hand to remove her glasses, folding the arms in before she sets them down. “I will admit that I’m a little nervous.” The grin softens into a smile. “But I also trust you and this process. So… Keep that in mind.” Odessa scratches absently at her arm through the sleeve of her blazer, glancing up at Richard pensively.

“Good. Because this is all… emotion, trust, feeling,” Richard admits as he closes the door behind them and steps to the table, reaching out to slide his fingers along the surface of the glass, his eyes unfocusing a little as if feeling the life in there.

“Rouen couldn’t really help. I needed to ask Peter,” he admits, nose wrinkling, “I think Michelle half thinks I’m crazy, too, after hearing me talking to them. It’s hard to explain the conduits in a way that doesn’t sound like science fiction, to be fair.”

At the mention of Peter, Odessa lets out an involuntary bark of laughter. “Oh, god. I really am in trouble.” That she continues to chuckle for a few seconds after that speaks to those nerves of hers. But she shakes her head. “I know you’re not imagining them. I can feel…” She frowns, struggling with how to put it into words. “That you’re not alone, I guess is the best way I can think to describe it. It’s like looking at a painting. You see what’s on the surface, but maybe it’s on a canvas that’s been painted over more than once before.”

She sighs softly, studying the algae tank in silence for a moment. How something so simple can do something so incredible is something she can’t help but appreciate. She can see Richard’s reflection in the tank’s glass and there’s no telling when her focus shifted to him instead. Leaving her cane propped up against the table carefully, she turns to look at him properly. “If th—” Her smile becomes a strained thing, though it’s only briefly so before it decays entirely. “If Kazimir decides to show up and dust me… No hard feelings.”

It’s a joke. But also kind of not.

“Can you?” A soft question, Richard’s gaze drawing away from the algae - or, like her, his own reflection - to look to her, his brow furrowing slightly, “Well. At least I know you don’t think I’m crazy. Sometimes I’m not so sure myself.”

It’s a joke. But also kind of not.

Then he’s exhaling a snort of good humor, “Hardly going to happen. The old man might be the most active echo up in there, but he really doesn’t seem to have any desire to take the reins again. I think he’s content to finally be retired, as it were…”

“They’ve all got triggers, I’m learning. Things that bring them out. I’m starting to understand how it works a little,” he murmurs, then flashes her a smile, “But! We’re not here to talk about how haunted I am.”

“Yeah,” Odessa confirms in a quiet voice. “Ever since the Last Road. When you showed up like that, I…” Sure wasn’t honest with him, for starters. “I understood, somehow, what I was dealing with. What it meant for you to…” Her chin dips down a little, a nebulous indication toward him. “However many — Whoever is along for that ride, they’re real, in some sense. Not just weird memory overlays, or whatever you may be afraid of.” She assures him, “Memories don’t have emotions.” Not like that, at any rate.

Boy, is he ever haunted, though.

“I think you vastly underestimate how much of a thorn I was in that man’s side.” And make no mistake, that is a feather in her cap. Even if being an annoyance to Kazimir Volken is hardly an exclusive club to be part of. “Maybe it’s an odd thing to say, but I hope he’s found some peace.”

That much feels almost like some kind of benediction. Although perhaps those sorts of pronouncements are best left to those who actually had any kind of religious upbringing. “Now then. What do you need from me?”

“I think he has. In his own… way,” Richard shakes his head slightly, “In the Graveyard of Hosts with all the other… whatever they are. They’re not souls or anything, there’s even a memory of Abby in there, and she’s absolutely still alive, I just talked to her last week. But— “

He waves it off, reaching over to pull out a chair and drop down to sit into it, “Right. So, the uncomfortable part isn’t going to be the… healing, really, and I apologize for that.”

Odessa tilts her head, telegraphing her curiosity. She pulls out a chair herself, lowering herself down to sit with a touch of difficulty that comes from joints that protest and muscles that are tired from compensating for each other. The lingering aches and pains of her transformation. It’s why they’re here.

“I’m not afraid,” she assures him, silently mulling over the implications of the echoes of others that remain among the living. Like maybe they were copied and are now grafted to his soul. And someday, a copy of his own will be grafted to someone else’s. It’s a fascinating situation. It’d be more so if it wasn’t so personal. “You have nothing to apologize to me for.”

“Yet.” The word is a bit dry, and Richard leans forward a bit, offering out a hand for hers; dark eyes watching her face in the room’s stark light. It has to be hurting his eyes but he’s not covering them, the unnatural black of them to the edge of his irises.

They didn’t always look like that. Before New Mexico, before his power was returned, she knows they used to be green. They still are, in theory, but their dilation prevents her from ever seeing it unless he was negated.

And she knows from personal experience that negating him now is a terrible idea.

“I…” He draws in a breath, clears his throat, grimaces and starts over, “I love you, Odessa. You know that, I hope. Just because we’re not together anymore doesn’t change that.”

“Yet,” Odessa grants with a tip of her head, because it’s better than arguing with him that it won’t happen. And it’s how she’d be feeling if their roles were reversed. Still, she smiles for him, showing how unlikely she believes the scenario to be.

It isn’t terribly strong. She misses the green of his eyes. She misses staring up into them while they stare down back at her. But she can settle for this. This isn’t terrible. Her fingers curl around his hand readily. She isn’t going anywhere.

His words are unexpected. Of course she feels the weight of that love every time they cross paths, but she’s so used to it that she’s almost desensitized to it, in a way. To hear him acknowledge it… “I know.” Odessa nods her head and leans forward, glad that he can’t feel the way the hair on the back of her neck starts to stand on end.

If he’s saying this… “I haven’t stopped loving you either.” He deserves to hear that. Especially if he ultimately accomplishes what they’re here to do. But her brow furrows, confusion usurping the growing trepidation.

Her chin lifts, the penny in the air. Dips down again when the penny drops, completing the motion of the nod. “You’re establishing a sort of empathic bond,” she surmises. She knows it’s nothing like what she can do — that isn’t in his power — but she can still understand and appreciate the necessity of it for this monumental task he means to undertake. Her fingers firm their grasp around his hand. “Allow me to make it easier, then.”

There are so many qualifiers she could give. Explanations for why she chose to end things, or maybe why she chose not to renew them when given the chance. None of that will do what they’ve set out for. Instead, Odessa leans forward, her eyes falling shut as she presses a kiss to his lips, her free hand coming to rest on his cheek, hoping to convey the ardency of this expression of the deep feelings she harbors for him that never left her.

The response, the feeling in kind, has his breath catch briefly before he breathes it out, faint smile softening further. He wasn’t sure if she did, although he isn’t sure if she’s telling the truth or just telling him what he wants to hear.

Always a problem when dealing with Odessa Price.

As she calls out what he’s trying to do, Richard pauses, gaze dropping in slight embarrassment and a bit of a chuckle rattling past his lips. “Something like that,” he confesses, “The conduits work off emotion more than logic or willpower, and— “

Then she’s leaning forward, and his eyes lift back up in bemusement— then widen as he realizes what she’s doing. His lips part to say something, but then she’s there, and all that emerges is a sigh to her lips as he leans into the kiss. His fingers tighten on hers in a warm squeeze, his other hand lifting to slide down her cheek, resting at the side of her neck as he answers her in kind.

This is the sort of action that she imagines could sign her death warrant if it were ever found out. It doesn’t stop her or even give her proper pause. They both need this moment to heal in an emotional sense. The kiss lingers, becomes a second and a third, before finally she settles back again, reluctantly. “Just because I can’t handle the arrangement that works beautifully for you and Elisabeth does not mean I love you any less.”

Odessa leaves her forehead resting against Richard’s, her lips nipping at his for one more kiss, as though she might need to capture his attention still. As though she ever lost it. “If anything, I love you too much to let my jealousy ruin something so precious.” Finally, she sits back fully. “I’m slowly coming to understand emotion,” she admits, meaning her own emotion. “I’m sorry I’ve been bad at expressing it properly.”

She lets out a short but shaky breath. “I hope that helped you understand my position, and that it helps us meet somewhere in the middle.”

“It’s okay,” Richard breathes out softly, his brow pressing back against hers before drawing back as she does, hand falling from her neck to slide down her shoulder, then dropping to the table beside them, “And I know. I know.”

He closes his eyes, giving his head a slight shake, “And I’m— sorry, Des, more than I can say. I only ever wanted you to be— safe, and secure, and able to help people instead of being made to do the opposite. And I miss us being close— I don’t mean being in a relationship, we just— I could trust you when I couldn’t trust anyone else, and I miss that.”

He gives her hand a tight squeeze, his other reaching out to the tank, and he offers her a faint, sad smile, “But I guess things can never really go back to how they were, can they?”

“Doesn’t always feel okay,” Odessa admits, falling quiet then to listen to and absorb what he’s thinking and, more importantly, feeling. This had already been a bittersweet experience, but a piece of her heart breaks off when he speaks of trusting her in the past tense.

Is that a conversation that’s productive to have right now? She glances to the tanks. She screwed up this chance once already with her inability to just let things go. Maybe this is a pain better kept to herself, at least for now.

“No, I suppose they can’t.” A small smile follows, one that Odessa hopes Richard will find encouraging in some way. “But we can find a new normal. For us. Things won’t be the same, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be all wrong, either.” Her thumb brushes over the back of his hand. “But we can worry about that another time. Or not at all. It’ll come on its own, whether we try or not.”

This process, however, needs their attention.

“I hope so. There’s…” Richard grimaces slightly as he ventures at the edge of things that would likely distract from the point, “…there’s a lot of… stuff that’s going to be coming up that’s going to be keeping me busy, but once it’s over, assuming we’re all still alive, I’d like to try to find out what that new normal is.”

He gives her hand a squeeze in response to that touch of her thumb, offering her a faint smile again, “So, you know, when we have… free time.” That one’s a joke.

As he speaks, though, he’s focusing on something else as well; the shadow of his hand against the glass stirring into ashen life and spreading through the liquid life, green hues darkening and then paling, black and then grey as the entire tank is sapped in barely seconds. Red flashes over digital displays, reporting the sudden reaper’s harvest of the algae.

A subtle interplay of shadows and light spills from his hand and over hers slowly, a warmth that creeps up her fingers, her hand. Not quite like either of the conduits themselves.

Something different. Something new? Or old.

It’s a joke and Odessa even manages to laugh at it. It’s a weak thing, but not because it isn’t genuine. That there’s a lot of stuff is the understatement of their generation, but that’s something they’re both well aware of, so she does him the courtesy of refraining from throwing out a smartass remark about it.

Her focus is pulled to the tank again, watching in silence as the life within withers and dies before her very eyes. “That is fascinating,” she breathes out. She’s seen up close and personal what the black conduit can do. She’s experienced it before, and absently reaches over to brush her thumb over the back of the knuckles of her right hand briefly. The memory is strong, even now, over a decade later.

The light catches her eye, causing her head to tilt as she watches it wash over her hand clasped with Richard’s — causing her to withdraw the other — marveling at the sensation. A breath is held just long enough to make her chest feel tight before she exhales again. This she has no experience with. “I’ve only ever received true healing the once,” Odessa murmurs. That was at the hands of Sasha Kozlow. “Left me all twisted inside…”

The corners of her mouth twitch in a hesitant smile. So far, so good, but she’s so very afraid to truly trust.

“I’ve been put back together from almost nothing more than once,” Richard admits quietly, closing his eyes and drawing in a breath, “From shadows rent asunder, and from death itself. I hope you never have to experience that, Odessa…”

He knows she’s suffered enough just with what she’s experienced over the years. The pain, the loss, and he can feel the faint ache of its memory every time he’s close to her now - if not the details.

“That wasn’t true healing, though,” he murmurs, squeezing her hand, “Trust me.”

It’s warmth, at first, spreading up her arm from their point of contact like an electric blanket being drawn over her. It infiltrates her sore, stretched muscles, washing away the pain in them, carrying the raw life of the algae that he’d stolen and giving it to her.

Warmth, but then heat and pain; scar tissue pulling apart to properly heal the tissue around it, muscle and organ tissue flush with new life again within her.

It takes seconds. It feels much longer.

“Yeah, well…” Odessa lets out a quiet breath of laughter. “I suppose we’re both a bit Lazarusian.” Her brow knits, gaze unfocused as her memory takes her far from the walls of Raytech. “It’s funny. I can remember being entirely unraveled, like a bobbin of thread, and how it caused me to be wound back up again like a reel of film, so I could continue to play on years before. I guess it’s a complicated thing.” None of the former is present in her. It was a different version of her who suffered that fate, unspooling so she could live.

Odessa wonders if he feels the echoes of her the way she feels the echoes of those who came before him. Her hand squeezes back. “I do,” she promises. “I trust you.” And she surprises herself to realize that she does. If anyone will protect her, especially from himself, it’s Richard.

The overtaxed muscles in her shoulders unwind, taking in deep and even breaths. All those muscles that she intellectually knows have been clenched, compensating for one another, seized up after months of being unable to relax, finally begin to loosen up and let go.

Then her breath catches in her throat. At first, she thinks it’s just a hiccup, a bump in the road. A startled whimper follows. Odessa’s hands clutch at Richard’s tightly, her feet stamp the ground — first one, then the other — and she throws her head back with a ragged cry of agony. It’s over quickly, but not enough to spare her. She’s trembling when it’s over, moisture gathered in the corners of her eyes without tears having been shed.

“I’m okay,” Odessa whispers, shoulders dropping after having been hunched up almost to her ears. “Just don’t stop.”

“I suppose we are,” Richard murmurs in response to her suggesting they’re both Lazarusian, “These days I only know of one sure way to kill me, even…”

As that pained cry rises up from her throat, his fingers tighten on hers - eyes flashing open in concern, in worry, his own shoulders tensing up.

A part of him feared he’d open his eyes to see her turning to ash.

“It’s okay,” he says softly, voice unsteady, drawing in a slow breath, “It’s over. It’s not— the tank’s empty, I think that— I think it fixed everything.”

Her thumbs brush over his fingers, gently reassuring him that she’s okay. Or she will be once the pain has drifted to fading memory. Her head lifts and she looks up at him, blinking at first with confusion, then with astonishment. “That— That’s it?

Odessa lets out a heavy breath and smiles hesitantly at first, then wider. “I’m whole again?” It’s a question, but also a statement. Despite the upturn of her tone at the end. “Richard, I— ” Now she does shed those tears. “I didn’t deserve this. I— I never deserved you.”

“I think so, anyway, I… look, I’m not great with this,” Richard says, lifting his hand cautioningly, “So don’t take it for granted that I’ve fixed everything. This is— uncharted territory, really. Maybe Nathalie would have been able to teach me how it worked, but…”

He smiles faintly, lifting a hand to brush at her cheek, grazing away those tears and saying softly, “You deserve better than you ever got, Des. If I can help balance those scales a little…”

With one of her hands relinquished, Odessa stretches it out slowly to her side, brow knit together as she gingerly turns her arm at the elbow, her hand at the wrist. There’s no time where the joints seem to catch. No momentary jolt of discomfort. The yellow and green sapphire ring on her hand catches the light overhead, as a reminder of what she shouldn’t do.

She does it anyway.

Odessa leans forward as she rests her hand on Richard’s cheek, letting her avarice demand one more kiss. As many as he’ll grant to her.

As she turns her arm, as she marvels at the lack of pain, Richard’s smile grows in warmth at seeing her realize she’s not in pain. He flexes his own fingers, looking down at his hands, silent a moment as he digests some thought.

His eyes lift again when her hand brushes his cheek, and then she’s there— and instinct takes over for a moment, leaning in to meet her at the last moment, mouth hungrily upon hers one more time.

She could kiss him like this until they’ve both run out of breath and still crave more. The first time they’d kissed after they’d been apart, in the map room, had been an anxious thing. She’d be surprised by just how badly she’d missed him and how much she’d want to be that kind of close to him again once it was theoretically possible.

This time, she’s entered into this with intent, not sudden realization. She knew this could happen, and very likely would. Her other hand rests at his shoulder, sliding back so her fingers can curl behind his neck, her thumb beneath his jaw. Tell me you’ve missed this, she wants to whisper against the corner of his mouth, but she knows he has. She can feel it inside of him, even if he were to try to deny it to her. Even if he tried to deny it to himself.

“You— You can’t understand what you’ve given to me,” Odessa murmurs instead as she draws back, but not so far as to suggest she doesn’t want more. “I didn’t realize how… badly it hurt until you took it away.” He knows her, knows the story of addiction she suffered as a result of the government’s efforts to keep her docile and pliant. If she took anything stronger than a half dose of something meager and over-the-counter to manage her pain, that much might be a surprise to him.

Her head gives a shake, helpless. “I can’t repay you.” Her gentle hold on him seems to intensify somehow, even though she does nothing to tighten her grip in any fashion. “Don’t give me some kind of bullshit about how living well is all the payment you need. We both know that—” Again, she wants to say that she doesn’t deserve this gift she’s been given. That she’s earned every moment of pain she’s endured. But neither of them wants to have that tired argument.

“There aren’t a lot of people in this world that would take the hand you’ve been dealt and help people with it. I suppose it makes sense that you and Nathalie both would be the type.” Odessa smiles, dipping in for another quick kiss to forestall anything he might want to say. “You could have taken your anger, your bitterness, and used this ability to ruin lives. I can only imagine how much easier that must be. I watched Kazimir do it often enough, after all.”

Odessa meets his eyes unflinching, even if her heart breaks for the loss of the color of the pools she used to swim in during those quiet moments before sleep or starting their days. “We’ve both done terrible things in order to ensure our own survival. But you…” Astonishment causes her to trail off. It also encourages her to continue. “You aren’t what the world has tried to make of you.” Her smile is a fleeting thing, but not a sad one, nor insincere. “Maybe I’m not either. Not anymore.”

“The world never gave me the chance to be anything else, either,” Richard finally says - quietly, with a hint of bitterness - but he smiles faintly, one hand brushing up her cheek and grazing her hair back away from her brow in gentle touch. “And I almost- I almost did. If Huruma didn’t come after me… ha. I was this far from re-enacting the ninth and tenth plagues across Mazdak’s territory just to find him…”

A tilt of his head lets him catch her lips for a brief, soft kiss before he draws back again, murmuring, “Don’t be what the world’s tried to make you, Des. You could be so much more. We both know it.”

He meets her eyes, “Don’t repay me by living well. Repay me by living better.”

“The world’s taken a lot from you,” Odessa agrees in a soft voice, letting herself be leaned in toward and meeting him there with a quiet, unbidden hum. When he withdraws, she leans forward to chase his lips, her eyes closed. She draws back quickly enough to save herself embarrassment.

Odessa meets Richard’s eyes again, a wry half-smile pulling at one side of her mouth. “Don’t ask me to make promises I’m not sure I can keep. I’m not sure I’d know how to keep it.” She lets her hand slowly fall away from him. “But… I’ll do the very best I can.”

“That’s all I can ask,” Richard replies gently, his hand coming up to catch hers as it comes down - drawing it to him, he brushes his lips against her knuckles, closing his eyes for a moment.

Then they open again, and he offers her a wry smile, “Not too much better, I mean, one day I may actually need someone stabbed.” That’s mostly a joke.

There’s a breathy exhale, closed eyes and a slow grin. “Oh, you can’t tease me like that,” Odessa warns him. “You know how much murder turns me on.”

A deep breath, then he’s leaning in slightly, asking quietly but very intently, “— but for other reasons, how difficult would it be to produce a single dose of Advent, Des?”

It is dangerous. And exciting. Which is exactly why it should be left alone… “Oh, believe me,” Odessa purrs with a smirk, “I’m well acquainted.”

It’s funny how leaning in seems to cause the other thoughts in her head just to vanish. “I’m very good at what I do,” Odessa responds softly. One of her hands settles on Richard’s shoulder, then follows the curve of his neck slowly, fingers brushing over the hair at his nape. “It wouldn’t be difficult for me at all.”

“You remember what you told me about a… recurring motif in those visions you’ve been having?” Richard’s gaze meets hers steadily, stepping ever so slightly closer as her fingertips brush along his skin, “There’s only one sure way I know of to deal with a regenerator of that power level, Des.” He pauses, a moment given to the notion, followed up with a lift of brows and a look of false consideration to lead her where he’s headed.

“It worked the last time, anyway.”

She can surely fill in the blanks, just… perhaps not in the way he’s expecting her to.

“You want me to recreate Advent so I can kill…” Odessa comes up on her toes suddenly, her hands braced against him for balance so she can crush her lips to his.

“All these years and you’re still sending me mixed signals, Richard Ray.”

A soft laugh tumbles past Richard’s lips, his thumb drawing over the back of her hand as he lowers it down to the table beside them. “Do I contradict myself? Then I contradict myself,” he quotes, “I am large; I contain multitudes.”

He leans forward slightly— then catches himself, leaning back again as a slightly rueful expression crosses his features. “I should— let you go, though, you’ve probably got work, and you’ll want to do all the things you couldn’t before, and see A— that guy of yours.” You’re not single, Odessa, the unspoken reminder.

As much as he’d rather she wasn’t monogamous, of course.

Odessa refrains from making a comment about how true that line about containing multitudes is now more than ever. Simply, she smiles, a fond thing, a sad thing. And when he leans forward, she moves to meet him halfway, only to find him changing course before her arrival. Changing his mind.

Pressing her lips together as if to test the tackiness of the lipgloss she isn’t wearing, she glances away. “We could go to my apartment and pretend for an hour or two, couldn’t we, that things are like this used to be?”

That suggestion earns her a raised eyebrow and a lopsided grin, Richard’s head shaking a bit from side to side. “While we could,” he observes, tilting his hand in her direction as it draws back, “I have a feeling that you’d regret it in the morning, and…”

“I don’t want you to regret anything about us, Des.”

As expected and soft as the blow is, it’s still a blow. Odessa flinches away, the rejection stinging. Rejection she set herself up for. “I haven’t regretted you once, Richard.” Her head lifts, a sad smile on her face. “I don’t see that changing.”

Leaning back in her chair, however, she gives the pair of them a little more space. “But… you do have Elisabeth. And I have Harry.” Odessa cants her head to one side, granting, “You’ve always known better than I do.”

The flinch hurts, even though Richard half-expected it, that playful almost-teasing mostly-serious manner losing the teasing entirely. Their aborted relationship will likely always be lingering there between them, just another might-have-been in both of their lives, made worse by how often they see one another and still care.

“I do,” he says with a faint, sad smile, “And so do you… but known better? Des, don’t you know I make all this up as I go along?”

“Well…” Her chin dips, demuring, “You’re very good at it.” Which isn’t to discredit her own improvisational skills. They can both be good, in their own ways with their own strengths. Odessa’s finally matured enough to realize that much.

Slowly and with more care than is necessary, Odessa pushes to her feet. She pauses there, holding and in mid-lean to retrieve her walking stick. “It doesn’t hurt,” she says softly, struck with awe. “Nothing hurts.” Nothing except her heart in her chest.

“Don’t tell the algae that, they’ll be jealous,” Richard quips as he pushes himself up to his feet as well, one hand thumping against the side of the tank now full of ashen sludge, “I can’t heal like the White used to be able to - I don’t know why - but I guess you’re giving my short-cut a five star rating then?”

A smile awakens again more clearly, forcing back that hint of sadness; he’s happy she’s not in pain now.

The hand reaching for the cane comes up to cover her mouth as she becomes overwhelmed again. There’s a soft noise made against her palm that betrays how she’d sob openly if she’d stop trying to strangle that urge out of her.

So she expresses that elation the only way she knows how, stepping forward to close distance and reaching to draw him in toward her so she can kiss him fiercely again.

Richard’s whole expression softens as she covers her mouth, as she stifles that sob, and he steps closer himself— one hand lifting as he says quietly, “Des, it’s okay to— “


Although he’d just said a handful of moments previously that this sort of thing was absolutely a terrible idea, the moment her lips are on his he finds his fingers sliding into her hair to pull her even closer, one foot sliding between hers in a press of his body’s full length against hers, and hers back against the table’s edge with that push..

Pinned between the table and Richard, Odessa holds tighter to him. A hand at his shoulder, another around his tie. Her body remembers what memory has allowed to fade, but now brings back into vivid relief. She starts to lean back, trusting Richard to keep her from simply toppling, and the table to break her fall if she does.

This is wrong. A terrible idea. Every single warning bell in her mind tells her this, and she ignores them all in favor of this moment with him.

It really is a terrible idea, which is why Richard was making every effort to pull away, to step away and leave her to her life, to free them both more from the emotional entanglement that’s been complicating their lives for years.

That didn’t mean that he didn’t want this, past all of that.

One hand slips to the small of her back to keep her from falling back, his other coiling deeper into blonde hair. His lips break from hers finally, and he breathes against them in a husky tremor, “You should either get out of here or get out of those clothes, Des.”

As she slips further and further back, her leg coils around the back of his for leverage on instinct, in spite of the fact that he’s got both hands on her to keep her from falling. She’s left trembling when he pulls back enough just to break the lock of their lips. It’s decided to catch her breath, rather than try to pursue. She needs to take a break, to listen to him.

And what he has to say… Odessa leans back just far enough for their eyes to meet without crossing, balancing precariously on the points of the picket fence that divides apprehensive and excited. Both uncertain and wearing the stone face of determination, she teeters. Ahead lies the point of no return. Blue eyes cast down for a moment, visually tracing the shape of his mouth before bringing them back up to drown in those darker pools again.

“…Make me.”

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