You, Me, KC?


ace3_icon.gif odessa3_icon.gif

Scene Title You, Me, KC?
Synopsis A little excursion is in order.
Date November 2, 2020

Williamsburg: Ace and Odessa's Brownstone

Keys jangle just the other side of the front entrance of the brownstone, signalling the arrival of Ace’s partner home from her shift at Raytech. Odessa’s keys have a distinctive sort of sound that he’s gotten used to. Almost more like wind chimes or bells than random bits of metal clanging discordantly against one another. The deadbolt turns, and the door swings open a fraction until the key is slid from from the lock again. Then the entry is opened fully. The keys are clipped back to the appropriate link on her purse and her cane gathered up from where it rests against the doorpost.

“Darling, I’m home!” Odessa announces herself, just in case he might be upstairs and not heard her otherwise. Her hair’s still drying as it always is when she comes home from work. She’s not about to bring the smell of pigs home to someone who’s as haughty as Ace can be.

Locking the door behind her is the first part of her ritual. From there, she slips into her study to put away her purse and brush her fingers affectionately over the lid of the piano as she passes by it on her way back out to the rest of the house. The way one might fondly stroke their cat.

On one look into the kitchen Ace isn't there, but on a second look back, and there he suddenly is. His head is bowed to the newspaper spread flat across the island, and for all the intent stare he gives it, his emotions prove he's bored. If he'd been there all along rather than rematerialized from elsewhere, like his office upstairs, whatever he was up to summarily wasn't feeding his interests to a suitable level.

"Hello, my muse," he greets her distractedly, like what he's doing is very important. When he glances up to her, his eyes linger on her hair for just a moment before he turns the next page on the paper. "Another riveting day at work?"

For once it'd seem he's envious of any excitement she might have experienced without him. It really must have been a slow day.

Odessa tuts her tongue against the back of her teeth, sympathetic to this terrible boredom of his. She makes her way into the kitchen with her measured steps, propping her cane up against the island so she can wrap both arms around him from behind.

“Maybe I can cheer you up?” she asks, hooking her chin over his shoulder and glancing at the newspaper before pressing a kiss just below his ear. “I’ve been working on something fascinating, but I’ve hit a wall.” But she seems undeterred, no hint of a pout in her voice.

"Oh?" Ace looks back up from the paper, his feigned interest in it fading. Even if she weren't directly presenting a potential escape from his current tepidity, she's still more captivating than the dry words on paper. One hand lifts from the counter to rest over the clasp of hers around his waist. "What kind of a wall?"

“The kind that requires me to get access to even more fancy equipment than even Raytech has,” Odessa explains, squeezing him briefly. “But, there’s an electron microscope at the University of KC that I can use…”

There’s an upward lilt of her voice. She expects he knows where she’s headed with that.

Ace's brows lift up in time with the shift in tone, instantly picking up on the insinuation being made.

"A trip to the Capital?" he purrs, shifting to turn back to Odessa properly. Even if she didn't have access to his emotions, it's clear he's hooked by this prospect. "A rather droll excuse for a trip like that, if you ask me. We could find an excuse to liven it up. I could even see if there's a way I could make it work-related for me as well."

There's anticipation there that makes it sound as though either way, it wouldn't be an issue. Something about the prospect of Kansas City in particular has him delighted.

Or hell, it's maybe just travel at all away from the drab, constant construction of the New York Safe Zone.

"When?" is the only real question, in his mind.

The shift in Ace’s mood sees the smile on Odessa’s face brightening as she gives him space to turn toward her. The lift in it chases away the gloom that felt as though it was pressing in on the edges of her vision from the influence of his previously dreary emotion.

She bites down on her grin, excited by his interest. Glad she doesn’t have to sell him on the notion. “I thought we could leave Monday morning? Gives us a little time to make arrangements for our absence.” Her hands slowly slide their way up until they’re resting over his chest. “Richard offered his jet, but… I don’t really like flying, so I thought we might make it a road trip? Just the two of us?” She’s hopeful he likes the notion as much as she does.

"So soon," Ace chides her, but there's no bite to it. His hands around her waist, he sways with her while he considers the subject. His head tilts to the side during that brief retreat into his thoughts, eyes focused on nothing in particular. "I'll see what I can do. I may need a little more time than that to make sure all interests align… but we'll make this work."

At the mention of Richard, he experiences a sharp return to the present, gaze settling on hers directly. He gives no outward indication of the equivalent of a territorial growl he undergoes emotionally, but his head dips closer to hers. What a position to be in. Flying would be much more convenient. Especially flying private.

But a road trip alone with her also had its opportunity for delight. The people they could pretend to be while on the road. And yet… the challenges it could pose. There were still a frustrating number of pitfalls to cross-country travel. His eyes trace an invisible map along Odessa's cheek before he kisses her roughly, deeper thought on the topic proving to be less of a delight than the initial concept. "I'll see what I can do," he repeats. Anything said more than once is certainly a promise he intends to keep.

"Do you even have the vacation time banked for something like that?" he teases while he rights his posture only enough so it's easier to study her. "If we drive, unless we make ourselves miserable, it's easily a week's trip."

One of her shoulders comes up in a shrug at how soon she’d like to make this trip she’s proposing. “It’s thrilling stuff,” she explains, “and I’m eager to make more progress.” He’s seen her enthusiasm for her research, even if she continually insists she doesn’t want to bore him too much with the details. It explains some how she managed to survive in captivity for as long as she did without going completely mad.

The shift in his mood sees them both wearing their masks. He to conceal the spike of negativity and she to hide the sense of victory she feels for having pushed the right button to get him on board with this plan, closer to her timetable than he might have otherwise wanted. Although she herself is at the mercy of the University's whims when it comes to scheduling her visit. Her hands move to his shoulders when he dips down to kiss her. A small sound of surprise is made against his mouth, followed by a happy chuckle as she kisses back with as much eagerness.

I’ll see what I can do is a firm enough promise for now.

His question about vacation time sees her laughing quietly again. “Since I’ll be traveling for work, I’ll get paid. As for Rossignol…” Odessa sighs quietly. “My voice could really use a rest. And the other girl that sings would love her moment in the spotlight. Everybody wins.” She smiles up at him, pleased with this possible arrangement. “Besides, a little anticipation will just make my return to the stage than much more…” She glances away while she tries to think of the word she wants, mouth pressed together. “You know what I’m trying to say.”

Of the drive, she says, “I know. I went from here to Texas by myself a couple years ago. And back again. Wiiiith a stolen car.” She shrugs. A girl has to do what she has to do. “I thought we could take our time. Thought it could be fun.” She cants her head to one side, considering. “I mean, unless you want to see what happens when you put me in a winged tube hurtling through the sky.” The way she’s gone pale at the thought of it suggests he probably wouldn’t like to see her in such a state, and she figures that alone will settle the matter of whether they take advantage of the jet, or drive themselves.

Banishing the thought, Odessa’s smile renews. “I’ve been thinking about you all. day. long.” The fore and middle fingers of her right hand walk their way along the slope of his shoulder toward his neck on those last three words. “I have been hunched over equipment all day, and I’ve been dying for one of your magnificent shoulder rubs.”

Ace considers the road trip again, versus this apparently terrible thought of Odessa in a plane. Her apparent fear brings another sharp slash of negativity under his skin, but it's a thing he sets about sewing back up almost as soon as it can be felt. It still takes longer to roll back the sour note than it did for it to emerge, but he finds himself massaging her waist idly during that process.

He chooses to overcome his dislike of exposed weakness in this moment.

The distraction she poses by changing the topic certainly helps close over the wound of judgement. She was thinking of him? When it's revealed just what for a wry grin tugs at his mouth. "Ah, so you thought of me for just how I could be of use to you…" he scolds her with that grin.

There's nothing but affection behind that. Maybe even a touch of pride.

"I wouldn't want to ruin my reputation," Ace assures, looking over his shoulder now back at the living room. "Should we make ourselves comfortable?"

There’s a moment where he might be able to see on her face the fact that she noticed the shift in his emotion. That he moves past it well enough means she holds her tongue, rather than address it. Instead, she sighs happily at his touch at her waist.

“Among other things,” Odessa assures him of how she thought of him. “Coming home to you is the best part of my entire day.” Her arms slip around his shoulders, wrists crossing behind his neck as she leans in for a kiss, soft and slow. A contrast to the one he gave her. She drops a second, smaller one in its wake, like the punctuation on the end of a sentence, before she disengages so she can retrieve her cane from its lean against the cupboards under the island.

Looping an arm around Ace’s waist, she leans on him a little as they make their way to the living space. “Shall I sit on the couch or the floor?” she asks, angling an inquisitive look up at him.

A familiar sting of warmth assaults Ace as a result of her reassurance. The sharpness of it comes from the edge of surprise that never is quite able to be shaken when she says something like that. It's not that he doubts her sincerity, and yet its persistence always is somehow unexpected. There's little need to lead her to demonstrating affection— she grants it willingly.

It's strange and delightful. Intoxicating, even. Never change, Odessa.

The kiss she dotes him with sees the stifling warmth spread and mellow, becoming something encompassing and pleasant. The second strikes his emotional state yet again, bringing with it peace. Contentedness. It doesn't even occur to him she might be trying to accomplish that state to him, he simply accepts it for what it is.

"If you want to grab a pillow, it'll be easier if you're lower," he tells her. The floor, then. "And perhaps you can tell me a bit more about why we're traveling to the capital. What exactly it is this fancy piece of equipment will help you determine." It's an invitation for her to talk about that which excites her, tinged with actual curiosity.

By inspiring that contentedness in him, it allows her to feel it as well. So, perhaps it’s a touch self-serving, but it feels good to her to make him feel good, even if there are still certain undercurrents present. Those will fade in time, with reinforcement. She remembers being surprised to be loved, too. There’s many things he’s taught her to love. She can return the favor.

“I can do that,” she murmurs, grabbing one of the pillows off the couch as they approach and tossing it down on the floor at the opposite end. She lets him sit first, then settles herself down carefully in front of him. Just a month ago, the effort required to make that a smooth transition would have been considerable. Now, she has much better control of the descent, even if there is still a tiny groan that escapes her and a moment required to catch her breath. If she hadn’t felt capable of it, she wouldn’t have offered.

Tucking her legs in under her, she looks ahead while she considers where to start. “Well… So, I told you I’m doing these blood tests. It’s really weird stuff. Normal blood cells decay and all of that, but the samples I’m working with just… don’t.” If he looks at the television, he can sort of make out the way her face pulls into a frown. “So, I need to use a big, fancy electron microscope to get a better look at them and see what the heck is going on.”

Then she smiles brightly and her tone reflects her excitement again. “If I figure this out… It’ll be huge.

Setting himself down behind her, Ace brushes her hair away from Odessa's neck before resting his hand on the back of her neck, then her shoulder, getting a silent idea of spots of tension. He waits until she's comfortable and already started talking before he begins kneading muscle as though he were sculpting and smoothing clay. "Ah, this topic again," he acknowledges quietly.

"You're willing to go the distance to find that answer— you deserve to find it." Of this, he's certain. "I'm assuming more powerful means it'll… let you see more. Discern the shape better. Determine what is different on its most fundamental level. There must be something, mustn't there?" And there goes her interest becoming his interest. It's not like he has the depth of knowledge she has, but he has no problem rooting for her from his metaphorical armchair. "Otherwise, it would break down like normal blood cells do."

But, pragmatically— "What does it mean, though? That these people have cells which do not die. Is it a form of… well, evolution?" The key to immortality, possibly? He doesn't sound sold on that, though. "Or simply the precursor to some terrible cancer?"

“Well, considering my subjects have white blood cell counts that correspond to patients with terminal leukemia…” Odessa trails off. That doesn’t bode well for whoever it is that she’s taking samples from. “It’s got me absolutely stumped.” Which she doesn’t like to admit. “Which is exactly why I need access to that microscope,” she confirms.

This is nice. Not just the kneading of his hands on her shoulders — which is great when he finds the knot on the right side that’s been plaguing her all day — but talking about her work without feeling like she’s boring him. And he asks smart questions. “It just doesn’t make sense. These people should be dead. Dying. Instead, they’re healing at incredible rates, which is why I thought regenerative…”

Odessa sighs. “There’s something going on with those red blood cells. I just can’t see it yet.” Her shoulders tense for a moment, sucking in a breath hissed through her teeth when he digs in where she needs it. “I… I don’t know if it’s evolution or… There’s no Suresh Linkage Complex markers at all. It’s just baffling, Ace.”

He lets out a distracted grunt of agreement. It's certainly a situation filled with contradictions. "Not every evolutionary step looks like the last. For some, it's being born without wisdom teeth. For others, it's being born Expressive."

Never mind that unprecedented numbers of people were spontaneously manifesting this year. No, actually—

"Do you remember the shockwave that went 'round the world?" Ace asks absently, working his thumb in small rotations on the knot before just digging in on it, applying and holding unmoving pressure to encourage it to relax. "Who's to say maybe this isn't a side effect of that? It didn't sound like the 'experts' knew what the hell to make of it, after all. Radiation, or…"

"My point is, if it changed people's genetics, who's to say if…?" The rest of the question is eaten away as he begins working her shoulder again.

“That must’ve been a sight to see,” Odessa muses. Then she takes in another sharp breath, face scrunching up, reminding herself that she needs to breathe for this to work, not hold onto it. She focuses on that while she listens to him continue his explanation.

With a quiet whine of relief when the pressure eases up, she gives a small, shaky nod. “Yeah, ah…” It takes her a moment to gather her thoughts again. “I mean, that could be an explanation.” But knowing what she knows about the circumstances of her subjects… She isn’t allowed to divulge that, not even to him. She isn’t so sure it wouldn’t inspire a fear in him to know just how many Expressives were suddenly stripped of their powers, and that it could have stemmed from such an event. She remembers the way he recoiled from her when she admitted to having lost the ability she was born with.

“I suppose I wouldn’t be able to know unless I could compare with samples of someone who manifested after that event.” Even if she doubts the relevance of the comparison, it probably couldn’t hurt. “Ideally, I’d like to try transfusing some of my subjects’ blood into a human test subject. The trials on the pigs are yielding incredible results and all, but… Pigs aren’t SLC-Expressive. I can’t test that measure.”

Ace begins to arch an eyebrow at that, his movements slowing and becoming more deliberate. He hears an opportunity, and it's one they don't even need to leave town for.

"What blood types are you working with, again?" he asks casually. This information has never been explicitly discussed, and yet he treats it as though it were a refresher.

Odessa’s head tips to one side ever so slightly as she catches on to what her partner is suggesting. A grin curls one corner of her mouth upward. “That’s the beauty of it. The blood mutates to match the host. It’s like working with my own, except it takes a little longer.” She pauses, realizing she ought to clarify, “I’m a universal donor.” Not some kind of mutant herself. …Well, apart from the obvious.

“Got some problems I can take off your hands, darling?”

Letting out a noncommittal tone, Ace lets his head tip the opposite direction Odessa's has. A mirror, but a complement. "I'm learning so many things today…" he remarks, a simple melody within the traveling notes.

"You know, I am lacking in distinct problems, but in the world there are plenty of insignificants who would go unmissed." His voice lilts toward nonchalance as he notes, "And even more Evolved roam now than before, as we just discussed."

"A Refrain addict or two, well, no one would bat an eyelash." Ace shifts a look down to her. "Unless you have additional standards needing met?"

Her smile can be heard in an exhaled breath. With a cant of her head in the other direction now, she admits, “Undesirable preferred to insignificant.” One is better for her conscience. In spite of the lightness of her tone, there’s a twist of guilt in her gut. His mood, however, is more than enough to push it down, and she lets it. “But…”

Her brows lift in a thoughtful expression, head coming back to center. “I suppose beggars can’t be choosers.” Odessa turns her head to angle a look back at Ace over her shoulder. Liking what she sees in his eyes, she braces one hand against the arm of the sofa, careful as she gets her feet under her again and levers herself up to stand with the help of her cane as well.

Turning to him properly now, she looks down at him and asks, “May I touch you?”

Ace's hands slide from her shoulders when she begins to shift, ending the massage with one last warm pass of his palm. He leans back to allow her the space to move, ready to provide a helping hand— if needed. But she needs fewer these days, and he's relieved for it.

Their patience with her transition is paying off.

He tilts his head back when he senses Odessa's meaning to ask a question before she actually airs it. With an even calm, he informs her, "You may." He looks— feels relaxed enough. No extra walls go up over the sought permission. The progress in letting her in manifests compared to where it was even two months ago.

Now it's just a matter of if that will hold.

Odessa settles a knee on the couch alongside one of his legs, then the other. Cupping his face in her hands, she brushes her thumbs over his cheekbones and smiles fondly. “I love you, Ace Callahan.” Dipping down, she presses her lips to his and slides her fingers into his hair, kissing him until they both need to come up for air.

“Since you’re in such a learning mood,” she murmurs breathlessly, “I’d like to teach you something.” She meets his eyes and it’s easy to see the depth of her affection for him in those blue pools. “Je t’aime, mon amour.” The fingers of her right hand trail gently along his spine, settling so her fingers are curved around the back of his neck, thumb careful not to stray too close to the hollow of his throat. “I’m telling you this so you’ll know you’re the only one I’m saying it to.”

Ace lets his gaze float up to Odessa's as she eases herself over his lap. He remains still through the touches to his face, no shying away. He feels— something in response to fondness, corner of his mouth pulling into a smile. The kiss is easier, and he leans into it with abandon, discarding the lingering echoes of fight or flight that still persistently dog caresses to his neck and face.

He opens his eyes when she leans back from him, the murmur bringing a sharpness to them. Ace tenses, not assuming the worst, but presuming there will be some other disconcerting exercise he's about to be subjected to. The French is— at once pleasant and exasperating. He had expected something different, and surely, of all the things he needed to know, that phrase would be least useful to him in the workplace.

Then his brows tic upward, and he eases back. Oh. Even with his throat bared, his adam's apple doesn't shift. The previous sensations of possessiveness return with an urgency, accompanied by a long-overdue exhale that indicates he's finally relaxed some. "Je t'aime," he echoes in a murmur, willing the phrase to ingrain in memory. His hand lifts to the one on his neck, fingers brushing underneath hers so he can curl his thumb around her knuckles.

Did he get it right?

He’s fretting less, and she’ll take that as a win. Everytime she pushes his boundaries — with permission — she gains a little more ground. Odessa smiles, some of the tension in her chest easing when he seems to understand her intention, but it isn’t quite as bright as her previous cheer. She’d like to believe he’s saying the words back to her, but there’s no swell of sentiment in him. He’s just repeating the vocabulary lesson.

It’s a start.

“Very good,” she commends, a little mirth in her eyes now. Her fingers shift away from his neck to settle against his instead. One last brush through his hair and she lets the other hand settle on his shoulder instead, where it causes less unintended anxiety. “I appreciate everything you've done for me. I feel like we were meant to find each other again.”

"Without a doubt."

He lets his free arm hook around her back, providing the stability should she need it. And even if she doesn't, it's there for her comfort. More relaxed than before, Ace tilts his head as he looks up at her. "The light you've brought into my life far exceeds the stresses we've faced during this adjustment period. The inspiration you've given me is invaluable. And your company…" He lets out a faint breath, eyes glinting. "Well, it's exquisite."

Odessa blushes, her gaze shifting away demurely. “Well, I try,” she jokes with a quiet huff of laughter. She’s almost bashful when she returns to giving him her full attention again. “I really inspire you?” Her fingers tighten around his briefly. His arm around her is exactly what she wanted in this moment.

Ace returns the firming of his hand around hers, simply nodding to her. "You do," he promises, contented and light with his statement and her presence. "You are my muse. My partner. My…"

He lets out a chuckle, leaning up to capture her lips in another kiss. Eloquence fails him this once, perhaps. "Mine."

It's then he begins to shift, arm still cinched around her back in a brace as he comes partly to his feet, all for the purpose of turning her to her side and laying her on her back along the couch. When that's done, he releases her hand to cradle her face with the curve of his hand, thumb brushing over the corner of her mouth. "I'm looking forward to this trip, now. We'll have to go well-armed. There might even be precedent to take Cleo with us."

None of that is exactly what she wants to hear, but it’s so close that it’s more than acceptable. The endearments make her heart soar anyway. The possessive punctuating their kiss gives her a spike of warmth that spreads through her.

A quiet gasp escapes her when she’s lifted from her seat. Her arm loops around his shoulder quickly to ensure she’ll keep her balance. The momentary sense of anxiety from the loss of control subsides quickly with his hand on her face and the firmness of the sofa at her back.

Brows lift and her mouth pulls into a pout. “I can’t compete with Cleo,” she laments. It’s not like it was when they first met. She’s no longer a complement to his first partner. “But… I suppose if she makes you happy…” There’s too much spark in her eyes for this disappointment to be anything but feigned.

"No, you can't compete," Ace confirms matter-of-factly, some mirth to it. "You are a living, breathing human being, and she is a gun." That should settle it, right? "One of which I've used far more than the other in these last several months, I might remind you." The light in his eyes shifts, a shake of his head accompanying that smirk. But still, it doesn't kill the excitement at the prospect of finding purpose for his original other half again.

"What will make me happy," he assures her, "is that we make the trip, to and from, safely. I have far too much I still want to do here to be waylaid by lawless hicks." He's being more than a touch dramatic, here. "And after all, you will have to make it back safely so you can deliver whatever good news we find out there, yes?"

Her cheeks flush again with embarrassment, though she still bites her lip at the word used. “I should hope so.” Otherwise he has a very busy schedule she’s somehow not privy to. “I would be pleased to know you’re doing everything you can to keep us both safe,” she admits. She has much more to worry about now than when she made her own cross-country trip.

“We have far too much trouble to get into,” Odessa agrees with a grin. “This’ll be fun.

It's with a returned smile that Ace vows, "And fruitful."

"One way or another."

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