Why Don't I Sell You My Soul


bf_odessa_icon4.gif ff_woods_icon.gif

Scene Title Why Don't I Sell You My Soul
Synopsis A memory of the life that was, and what may yet be.
Date December 3, 2018

There's a man in her doorway. He's dressed in a black suit. He's refused coffee. That usually means there's a mission. “There was an accident. An explosion.”

This isn't her mission. “Where is he?” She flies into action, whirling away from the agent at the door to grab her coat off the stand. The car's in the garage downstairs. “What hospital is he in?” If she starts driving now, she can be in Colorado by… “I’ll grab my purse. Take me to h—”

“He didn’t make it, Mrs. Woods.” Everything stops, but only metaphorically. The man keeps speaking, explaining what happened, but all she can hear is the roaring of blood in her ears, crashing like waves against her shores.

The Pelago

December 3

5:54 am

The waves lap gently against the building below. The white noise of it makes a perfect backdrop for the ringing in Odessa’s ears as she’s caught reliving the worst day of her entire life. A bottle of hooch hangs by its neck in her closed fist. Blue eyes stare unseeing beyond the shores of the Empire State.

She can’t remember what she said after she got the news, only the wave of denial. How could he be gone? The pre-dawn chill in the air cuts through the shawl wrapped around her shoulders and sends a shiver through her frame. She chases it away with a drink from the bottle. It burns the moment it hits her tongue and as it travels all the way down to her belly.

She can remember the sound of her own anguished screaming in her ears when she lost him the second time. All that power at her fingertips, and she couldn’t save him. Didn’t have the courage to do for him what his Odessa had done. Elisabeth might have called it sense rather than cowardice.

Drinking herself sick seems a fine way to end a sleepless night. Or begin a cold morning. She isn’t sure which way this is going to go, honestly.

Chapped lips quiver as a tear slides down her cheek. A quiet wedding ceremony. A whirlwind of a honeymoon. All the plans they’d made, the blueprints of their life together. Blinking away the onslaught, she almost thinks she can see him reflected in the glass next to her. As though he were standing there with her.

“Oi,” sends a chill down her spine when it comes from the door to the rooftop stairs. “You get too pissed up here an’ you'll tumble inta the sea.” James Woods’ voice is unmistakable, that Mancunian accent clipping as clean as the day he first walked through the door to Level-5.

But this Woods looks nothing like the ones she knows. Scraggly and rail thin, draped in the threadbare fabric of a bathrobe, a thick gray cabled wool sweater, pajama pants tucked into winter boots, knit cap hiding his unkempt hair. He has a beard.

“Your boy Mateo said we should meet.” Woods says with a hesitant step forward across the roof, looking out to the haze of the morning sun on the horizon.

Odessa’s eyes get wide. For a moment, it’s the only movement she manages. Finally, after a heavy blink, she paws at her face with her sleeve before turning around with more ease than she feels. Maybe that wouldn’t be so bad, is what she thinks about tumbling into the sea. But she’s plummeted into those depths once and it’s not as much fun as it sounds on tear-stained paper.

Numbly, she nods her head. Everyone — so it seems — thinks it’s a good idea for her to connect with this version of Woods. She manages a wan smile. Maybe they’re right. “Pleased to make your acquaintance.” Her gaze starts at his feet and follows all the way up to the hat on his head before settling on his face. “I met Des last night. She seemed to think we should meet, too.”

His admonishment about her drinking weighs heavy. It makes her wonder what her husband would think of her if he could see her now. She hopes he can’t. A little. “My name is Odessa Woods.”

Christ,” is Woods’ response, scrubbing a hand at his mouth. “Took that whole adoptive dad thing a wee bit far on your side’f the mirror, didn't we?” He misinterprets, smiles it off, and comes ambling over as if he were some long-lost surrogate father and not something else entirely.

“Sorry that you're out here,” Woods apologizes with fingers raking through his thick beard, “sorry you got… hit by that Winslow chap like Mad Eve?” He grimaces, making a circling motion to his face, indicating her age difference. “Least Des’ll know she’s gonna age gracefully.”

Coming to rest beside Odessa, Woods tucks his hands into the pockets of his pajama pants and looks out to the horizon. “So, uh, what’d’ya think of our drippy little home?”

“They say some people are just meant to be together, no matter what the circumstances.” Odessa finds her smile. He’d always been able to bring them out of her. “This world is very different from my own. But it’s shown me how lives can play out differently than expected.”

Correcting him about why she has his last name seems the wrong move. “I like it here,” she admits in a soft voice. “People seem to care about each other. I miss a lot of modern convenience, but…” It’s better than the last place in a lot of ways. Again, she smiles. “The company’s good.”

In any other world, that would have been a bad joke.

“Well, y’aint known me for long, but I’ll take the compliment when it’s given.” Woods pulls his attention away from the horizon, then looks Odessa up and down. He wants to say something, ask something, but the words don’t come. Instead he just exhales a tired sigh and walks a few meandering paces away from her with his shoulders hunched and head down.

It’s in the distance that Woods finds the confidence to turn and lob a question at her. “Did… things go any better f’your family? Fer’ us?” His brows scrunch together. “Over there, I mean.” To which he indicates with a nod of his head, as if Odessa’s home was just around the corner. “It’s a right fuckin’ mess, this world, but it’s ours. I just… it’d be nice t’know you were happy somewhere.”

For a moment, she's afraid he's going to walk away and begins weighing how unbecoming the notion of pursuit might look. Then, he asks his question and her heart breaks. But she gives it serious consideration. "I never knew my real father," she says quietly, "but I had my mother." Odessa smiles fondly, sort of absently, "And I had the world's most amazing husband. Yes… I was happy."

The smile fades and she can't keep the sadness from reflecting in her storm-blue eyes. "That's part of why I'm here. I'm traveling with Elisabeth and the others, trying to find my way back to my mother." And hoping to find him on her way as well.

Odessa's brow furrows some, her gaze narrowing slightly. "She is incredibly happy to be with you. You know that, don't you?" Which is to say that things weren't necessarily better in her old life, simply different.

Woods makes a noise in the back of his throat, then looks down at his feet and closes his eyes, shaking his head. “She's naive,” he says, raking calloused fingers through his bushy beard, “an’ she's never really known any better. Not since her mum and dad died. I'm a poor bloody substitute for family… m’just… a washed up government agent who sells broken trash t’people t’stay alive.”

Moving his hand up from his beard and through his unkempt hair, Woods turns partly away from Odessa and exhales a weary sigh. “D’you think she’ll find it?” Woods says by way of getting to another topic — any other topic. “Elisabeth, I mean. Her mum is as sharp as a fucking rusty knife, an’ if she takes after her…” he shakes his head. “Is there really a Neverland out there?”

Odessa smiles and nods her head in agreement. “She is.” The other version of her is both naive and playing at it. “But you mean the world to her.” She can tell that the girl - the woman trapped in a girl’s body - understands more about the world than she lets on. Maybe it’s because the world is willing to treat her a certain way and she’s willing to run with it as long as she can. Maybe she really doesn’t want to grow up. Odessa can’t say what she’d do in Destiny’s shoes.

The smile is allowed to slowly decay. “Yes,” she says solemnly. “I know it’s out there. I’ve seen it. We just… have to keep going. We’ll get there eventually.” She has to believe that, or she’ll fall apart. Her belief that they can succeed, that this jump might be the last jump they need to make, is what keeps her together. Keeps her going.

Mmh,” Woods articulates his doubt with little more than a grunt. “I dunno if the idea of that raises more questions than it’s worth. I’ve seen some weird things in my time, but… whole other worlds?” He looks away, shaking his head. “What’s one person’s life matter at that point, if you’re just a fuckin’ grain of sand on a bloody beach?”

Woods doesn’t seem to want answers to that question, either. He wraps one arm around his midsection and rakes the fingers on his other hand through his hair again. “Were we different?” That’s more the question he’s eager to answer. “The… me you know, an’ this me. The real me.” The real me he says.

Odessa smiles fondly. "Not so different. Your lives have taken different turns, but I see and hear him in you. You're both good men with big hearts." She hopes that's something of a comfort to him.

"James Woods was the best man I've ever known. I know that's big shoes to fill, but you don't seem to be having any trouble."

Best man,” Woods barks out as a scoff. “Did I mention that I sell waterlogged junk?” Woods jerks a thumb over his shoulder, indicating the direction of his boat. “I sold half a Monopoly board game to a puppeteer for a box of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, an’ it didn’t even have the car piece.” Woods throws his hands up in the air, then laughs awkwardly. “What kind’f person plays bloody Monopoly without the car?”

"Someone who prefers the thimble, probably." Odessa laughs softly. This is the sort of banter she's missed. "Selling waterlogged junk is making the most out of a shit situation, you know. Most people would give up. But not James Woods."

More seriously, she tells him, "Most people would have dumped a kid that wasn't theirs at the first opportunity. Believe me, I know. I was passed around like an unwanted… burden. But not you. That's shows remarkable strength of character."

Woods makes a noise in the back of his throat, a soft and uncertain thing. He looks to the side, to the flat line of the ocean, then down and away to some much more distant point in the past. “Maybe,” Woods says quietly, closing his eyes. “Or maybe I could’ve done something… paid attention more, saved them. Maybe then she wouldn’t— ” He shakes his head, suddenly looking over to Odessa.

“It was bad fer you too?” Woods comes to the sudden realization that both Odessas might have had troubled childhoods. “I figured… I thought maybe— because there wasn’t a flood. Because things were different, maybe you’d— maybe the world’d…” He shakes his head again, wandering a few paces away from Odessa, raking his hands through his hair. “That’s fuckin’ depressin’.”

“It was different for me.” Yes, she would say it was bad, but that’s a story she isn’t prepared to tell. “My road still led me to you. It led me to my mother. Two of the best things in my life.” Odessa steps forward hesitantly. “The sea is always more blue.” There’s not a lot of grass around these parts to compare, after all.

“I can’t change what’s happened here any more than I can change my own past… But you need to understand, James, that you are the best thing in that girl’s life and she wouldn’t give you up.” Odessa is certain Destiny would give up anything to have her parents back. Anything but him.

“You could come with us,” she offers, voice a little stronger now. “Both of you. The next world is… It has its problems, but my mother is there, waiting. Her mother is there.” It would be strange, keeping Destiny in her life, but it would be worth it to have him back in any capacity.

Making a sound in the back of his throat, Woods seems at first unconvinced. But as he takes a moment to stand there in the silence of the ocean, listening to the waves lapping against what was while being offered what could be, he exhales a sharp sigh. “I suppose…” is his first concession, and it’s a familiar one. Years of marriage to James Woods makes Odessa an expert on his resigned agreement noises. This is them, he just isn’t aware of how acute they are.

“I suppose if there’s something better for her on the other end of the rainbow,” Woods says with a rise of his shoulders into a shrug, “I can play Toto to her Dorothy or something.” His lips press flat into a line, eyes drift over the shifting surface of the water. He doesn’t want to think about it right now. About where she is right now. Only one thing matters to him at the moment.

“I need dinner,” Woods says as a break. “You’re… welcome t’come eat. Church’s always got a hot soup. If not much else.”

Her heart aches. In so many ways, he’s the same man she married. In so many ways, he’s different. She can’t imagine what looking at her, speaking to her like this, must feel like to him. The history there is so disparate.

But there’s solace to be found. Odessa smiles gently and moves forward to close the distance between them. “That sounds fantastic,” she tells him, reaching out to take one of his hands in hers. She gives it a squeeze and meets his eyes when she says, “You are loved, James. And you are more than enough. Don’t let anyone, especially yourself, tell you otherwise.”

The hold on his hand is relinquished. She starts moving toward the church if only to get ahead of him so he won’t see her blinking away tears. “Now come on. Soup’s on.”

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