by Amal Nahurriyeh
Summary: Leaving the bunker is harder than you would think.
Rating: R (language, sexual references)
Warnings: Not a one.
Angst Level: Moderate (heartbreak, relationship drama, life transformation) Universe: Mulder-containing.
Timeline/Spoilers: Timeline alternates between post-MoF and missing scenes from it.
Disclaimer: Intellectual property is a capitalist fiction designed to oppress the working fic-writer. That said, I don't own them either.You know what? Fuck it. Casey's totes mine, and Mónica Graciela Reyes Acosta has been abducted from canon. If you want to play with my action figures, you have to ask nice.
LJ notificationlittle bird told me that it was just idella's birthday. This is for her.
Many thanks to memories_child for superspeed beta. Y besitos a Isa for fixing my white-girl Spanish. (He laughed a lot while he was doing it. Bastard.)
All quotes are either from Heartless or The Coldest Winter, both by Kanye West, on the album 808s and Heartbreak. Download 'em here. Emo!hip-hop ftw.
This story is substantially bilingual, and plays with language. To note:
The difference between Monica and Mónica is, though not crucial, relevant to the story. In part 2, Casey uses International Phonetic Alphabet transcription to make a point. It's not essential to the plot, but you can use this and this to figure out what she's saying. Shut up, I'm a frustrated linguist-wannabe. In parts 3, 5, 6, and 7, part of the dialogue is in Spanish. If you don't speak Spanish, you can either a) run the lines in question through Google Translate, and get an approximation of what's being said or b) click through to this which has my translations.
I should post this to mulder_reyes. LOL.
Imma stop being cracky now and get to the lesbian angst.
i know you can't believe
i could just leave it wrong
and you can't make it right
i'm gon' take off tonight
Monica sat at her desk and tried to resist the desire to strangle someone who wasn't even there. It was as neat as she had left it this morning, Casey still half-asleep, tangled in a sheet with the pillow over her face. "Don't forget, we want you at the meeting this afternoon," she'd said.
Casey had muttered something into the pillow.
"Seriously. You gonna tell us something this time?" She shrugged on a sweater; the heat was malfunctioning. It was a damn good thing that they weren't having to stay down here much longer; this place wasn't habitable, really.
Casey'd pulled the pillow off her face enough to reveal a single eye. "Mónica. When have I ever not been the soul of disclosure?"
And Monica'd rolled her eyes and left. And now the bed was made, there were two envelopes sitting on her desk, and Casey was just--gone.
One of the envelopes was a big padded mailer. MULDER it was labeled, in black marker, and Monica fought off a vague murderous rage that Casey left an explanation for someone who tried to kill her, and not for--whatever they were. The smaller, letter-sized envelope was labeled Monica in an awkward scrawl, like an afterthought. She wished she'd taken handwriting analysis at Quantico; she was pretty sure there was a tell or two in there somewhere.
She took a deep breath and opened the envelope addressed to her. The letter inside was handwritten, on a page ripped from one of her own legal pads.
I mean, I could stop there, right? I know what I've done to you is--inexcusable. I've kept you in the dark and I've lied to you and I've snuck around behind your back and it's just wrong, and I knew it was wrong. And the fact that I think it was for the greater good is immaterial, because I still hurt you, and that was--just wrong. I get it, if that's any comfort, and I really, really, am sorry.
Give the other envelope to Mulder. He'll know what to do with it, or, if he doesn't, he'll figure it out fast enough. Everything else I left, it's yours if you want it. If not, just get rid of it; I'm not coming back for it. (I think Jamila covets my Urdu dictionary, though, if you don't have a desire for it.)
I don't know what they'll tell you, eventually. Maybe nothing; maybe that's better. But I need you to know, no matter what they say--as far as I remember, we met for the first time in the diner in Polson. That's what I know of you, Monica. And it's enough.
I'm sorry. I'm really sorry. But I have to go.
She stared at the letter for fifteen minutes. Then she put all of the dictionaries that Casey had piled on the corner of the desk into a box, and half the novels from the pile on the floor. She'd moved on to the clothes, but then she realized that she couldn't throw out the purple tank top, and she really liked the black pants, and Casey'd left her spare pair of boots and those heels she'd come back from her little adventure in, and oh fuck, Casey wasn't coming back. She kicked the box into the hallway, wrote FREE on a piece of paper and threw it on the top.
She sat on the bed, purposefully not-crying. Mulder, she should get him the envelope. She took a few deep breaths and picked up the phone. "MGR-1807 to FWM-8201. Mulder, are you free?"
"In a manner of speaking," he said. "What's up?"
"Casey left you something," she said, and couldn't believe it had come out so angry.
"Really? That's interesting," he said, and she hated that he sounded amused. "Look, Scully and Sadie and I are in the med lab. You want to bring it up here?"
"Sure." She picked up the envelope. After a moment's hesitation, she took the purple tank top and dropped it in the box as she left.
In the med lab, Sadie was sitting on a bench stool, coloring on what looked like a set of reports from the engineering lab. Mulder was bouncing on his heels, and Scully was sitting on a stool; they were both staring at a set of PCR results on the lightboard. Mulder turned to see her. "Whatcha got?"
She held out the envelope. "I haven't opened it."
Mulder examined it, weighed it in his hands. "Is this all she left?"
"A note for me. And most of her belongings."
"Gotta travel light," he said, and cleared off a spot on the bench next to Sadie. Scully was still staring at the PCRs, but turned towards him as he ripped open the sealant and started pulling out the contents.
The first thing was her toothbrush, then her hairbrush, both in plastic bags. Mulder smiled. "Well, she's thorough." Next was a piece of paper. Mulder unfolded it and laughed, turned to show it to them. Casey had scanned her hands and printed it out, finger tips pressed into the glass. In the white of the margin, she had scrawled, "I don't know if the resolution was high enough, sorry. Seriously, this place is crawling with cops, nobody packed in any ten-cards?"
Mulder shook it at Scully. "Remind you of anyone you know?"
"I'm not up to teasing yet, Mulder," she said, and looked back at the light board.
"It's an admirable trait," he said, and pulled out Casey's notebooks. Monica nearly had to look away when she saw the small blue bound Clairefontaine emerge; that wasn't even her work notes, that was her fucking diary, and she'd left it for Mulder? What did she have to say she couldn't say to her? Why are their secrets suddenly common property?
Mulder flipped through the notebooks, smiling at the one that Casey had kept in Sinhala. He stacked them up, and reached into the envelope for the last thing in it. Monica gasped aloud when it turned out to be Casey's gun.
Mulder glanced up. "What? What is it?"
She was unable to formulate a thought for a moment; Casey loved that gun, she treated it like an extension of her body. She finally got out, "That's her father's gun."
Mulder's face softened. He turned it over, and examined the serial number on the butt. "It is," he said quietly.
Scully looked over at him, and he held it up for her to see. She sighed. "It's a good gun."
The blue notebook sat on the table. Monica's fingers itched to pick it up, read it through, see what the hell had been going on this entire time. But this wasn't her game, apparently. Three years in a bunker, and she's still a bit player. She stood. "I should go."
"No, wait." Mulder set the gun down and gestured to the display on the walls. "You want to know?"
She sat back down. "Sure?"
Scully cleared her throat. "We collected DNA from everyone who was involved with the project. Not just personnel, but family members. We needed a broad DNA base to work with to develop the vaccine; plus, we wanted to track genetic differences in abductee versus non-abductee sibling pairs, and in the children of abductees, to see if we could get anything at that level."
Mulder gestured her over to the light board, grinning like an idiot. "Still remember how to read a DNA sequence?"
Monica shrugged. "Well enough."
"So what do you see?"
At first glance, they looked identical, but she couldn't be sure, so she went over to look at them closely. Yeah, that line was the same length, that bar was in the same place. "It's the same person," she said. She glanced down at the corner of the printout: CSM-2125, it said. She swallowed. "Casey. It's her DNA. Where was it?"
"Look at the other one," Mulder said.
She did; it was labeled CSM-5478. "Who's CSM-5478?"
Mulder just smiled, and waited.
She began running through the staff she knew with M last names. Trina Michaels in the lab, but that was her ex-husband's last name, and probably his family wouldn't have been included in any of this work. Ramon's last name was Mercado, and his sister and nephew were here, but their names were Jennifer and Brian, she was pretty sure. The only other person she could think of was Mulder, and he didn't have any family left alive except for--
"Daddy, look," Sadie said. "I drew you a picture."
"That's very nice," Mulder said.
Monica looked over at the little girl sitting on the stool. At the dark wave of her hair, at the wide, blue eyes. And she remembered mailing a package from DF to Virginia, containing a receiving blanket and a stuffed bear, addressed to Cassandra Scully-Mulder.
"Sit down before you faint, Monica," Scully said helpfully.
She'd never felt so nauseated before, not in a single instance, or so close to collapse. It wasn't possible, it was just not possible, except that of course it was, and it explained a lot, and it was just so fucking awful but it had to be right. She sank back down onto her stool. Scully was still staring at the results, but Mulder was watching her as he stood with one arm around Sadie, who was coloring again. She swallowed and managed to speak. "Are you sure?"
"We're re-running new DNA samples," Mulder said. "And we should probably check out the fingerprints, since she left them. But, yeah. I'm sure."
"I can't believe I pulled my gun on her," Scully said, her hand resting on her cheek.
"How do you think I feel? I punched her in the face!" Mulder said, making a flapping gesture with the arm not wrapped around Sadie.
"Yeah, well, I..." Monica stopped. Probably better not to get into what she did right now.
"Yeah, that's right. Shouldn't I have a shotgun for this conversation or something?" Mulder said, stroking Sadie's hair idly.
"Be nice, Mulder. She's the one person here who's got more of a right to be upset about this than we do," Scully said.
The sheer irony of Dana Scully giving her permission to have an emotional reaction to something was staggering. She stood up. "I'm sorry, I have to go."
"It's fine," Scully said, and nodded. "Take your time."
She needed to go, she needed to get out of there, right now. She left the med lab without saying goodbye. Back in her quarters, she took all the clothes out of the closet, even the black pants, even the shoes, and put them in the box. Then she went for a long walk in the snow.
When she got back to her quarters, none of the clothes had been touched. She yanked the boots out of the box. She deserved the fucking boots, at least.
on lonely nights i start to fade
her love's a thousand miles away
The chime above the door rang as Monica walked in. They rotated meeting sites--she hadn't been up to Polson in months--but everyone who came here to do interviews raved about this diner. John liked the muffins. She took a deep breath and glanced around.
Yes, that was probably her--the brunette with the New York Times at a corner booth, who glanced over her shoulder and appraised her as she entered. She headed over and stood next to the table. "Casey?"
The brunette folded the paper. "Yes?"
"I'm Rosalba Johnson."
The girl smirked. "Sure you are."
That was weird. "You emailed me about the personal assistant position?"
"Well, OK then." That was definitely a smirk.
Honestly, what was her problem? Monica was not in the mood for this--two hours in the car through cattle country for a wiseass? So what if they needed someone who spoke South Asian languages? They needed someone who wasn't a pain in the ass even more. She sat down. "You are Casey, right?"
"Sure, Rosalba." She folded her paper, and kept smirking.
"You want to let me in on the joke?"
Casey leaned back and stretched an arm over the back of the booth. "Your name is Mónica Graciela Reyes Acosta." Monica froze. She hasn't been called her real name outside of the bunker in six months. She hasn't heard it said right since the last time she saw her mother. Casey continued. "Born March 24, 1967, New York City, while your father was working in the Mexican Consulate. Cultural Attache, his second term. You hold joint US/Mexican citizenship, and have since birth, as do both of your siblings. Graduated from Brown in 1988, from Georgetown in 1990, from Quantico in 1991. New York Field Office from '91 to '96, New Orleans from '96 to 2001, DC after that, with the X-Files until 2002, when they were closed. How you managed to avoid getting routed to border control is a pretty interesting story, I'd be willing to wager. Counterterrorism until you quit in 2009. Someone asked about your whereabouts would probably place you back in Mexico City, where you moved after you left the Bureau; your name is on the lease of an apartment, along with your sister, Luz, and there's no record of you crossing the border back to the US." She picked up an onion ring from the basket on the table.
"How'd I do?"
Holy shit. Monica glanced around--no one had heard them, they were sitting pretty far away from the rest of the cafe, so she didn't have to shoot anyone. She turned back to Casey. "OK, then. What's your name?"
She sipped her coffee. "Casey. Like I said."
The waitress appeared at the side of the table. "Miss? Can I get you anything?"
She struggled for a moment to come up with words. "Um. A coffee, please."
The waitress wrote it down. "Anything else for you, hon?"
"What kind of pie do you have today?"
"Chocolate, lemon meringue, and sweet potato."
"Can I get a slice of lemon? And another order of fried mushrooms? Thanks, Mabel." She ate another onion ring as the waitress left. "Who still names their daughter Mabel? Seriously, it hasn't even had time to become ironic yet. You want a ring?"
Monica blinked. "No. Wait. What?"
Casey pulled the tender onion at the center of the onion ring out with her teeth, and dropped the breading onto a napkin. "You should have gotten some pie. This place does good pie. Maybe they deliver." Casey shrugged.
"Who are you?"
Casey held out her hand. "Casey Murray. I emailed you about the translation gig? Long hours, no pay, something about the end of the world?"
The waitress brought over pie, coffee, and fried mushrooms while Monica got her composure back. Once she had managed to get three sugars into her coffee, she opened her bag and pulled out the file she'd packed. They'd had trouble coming up with something, but she was pretty sure this would give her a good indication of whether or not this was a waste of time. She dropped the print-out on the table. "This is some intelligence we've intercepted. See what you can make of it."
Casey put down her fork--how had she eaten half the pie already?--and picked up a glasses case sitting on the table. She put on the glasses--little wirerims, cute and totally out of fashion--and began flipping through the document. After a minute, she reached into her bag, pulled out a pencil, and began circling things. A lot of things--like, two a page--and not whole words, even. It didn't make any sense. Monica relaxed a little. Maybe she was useless; that would make getting rid of her easier.
But she spoke suddenly, without looking up. "This is machine-transcribed, right?"
"Yes, it is." She leaned in and looked at the sheet to see if it said that. "How can you tell?"
Casey tapped the page. "The errors. It's routinely failing to distinguish aspirated and non-aspirated stops, both voiced and unvoiced. Might be having trouble with velars, too, but it's unclear. I'd need access to the original voice recordings to be a hundred percent sure. Off the shelf or proprietary?"
Monica blinked. This sudden descent into competence was confusing. "Our software? It's all proprietary."
"OK, yeah. Give me a couple of days and some native speakers to test it on, and I can fix it. God, it totally mangled this sentence." Casey ate another mushroom. "Does anyone in the project speak Hindi, Urdu, Punjabi, anything like that?"
"We've got some folks who speak some Urdu, but they're not fluent." Monica hadn't noticed how pretty Casey's fingers were until now--long, but just leaning towards delicate without getting too close. Short, trimmed nails, unpolished. A thumb ring, too. They were nice hands.
"ABCDs?" Monica blinked up at Casey in confusion. "They're American-born immigrants' kids, right? Parents spoke Urdu at home, but they never kept up with it after they got to school?" Monica nodded, and Casey shrugged and reached for her coffee. "Probably they don't differentiate sufficiently, but I can start there." She tilted her head and examined Monica for a minute. "Did you start speaking Spanish or English first?"
"Spanish." She has no idea where any of this is going.
Casey flipped over the document, wrote on the back, and pushed it across the table. "Pronounce these words."
Monica looked down at the paper. "Tea. Tia."
"Yeah, OK, you'll do. I'll fix it, not a problem."
"Wait. I thought you said you needed Urdu speakers. Or Hindi."
"No, just someone who can produce both aspirated and unaspirated stops." Monica just arched an eyebrow at her, and Casey grabbed the paper, wrote on it again. "The difference in the letter t between English and Spanish. You'd transcribe it like this." She's scrawled [thi], [tiə] on the back. "English automatically aspirates unvoiced stops. Spanish doesn't. It's why the sound [t] in Spanish sounds like a [d] to English-speakers, because an unvoiced, unaspirated stop is indistinguishable to a voiced stop to our ears. But you've got them both, so I can use you to establish parameters for the software, get the shape of the soundwaves right. And hopefully whoever else you've got around."
Monica had no idea what to say. She tried to see the girl across the table as a valued worker, as a member of the staff, but, no, she was going to be terrible to work with, she'd never get her assignments in on time, she'd never do what you asked her to--but she was going to be a genius, and she was probably going to do something no one else could do. And that's why they needed her. Finally she cleared her throat. "But the text. What does it say?"
"You're kidding, right?" Casey grinned, and ate the last mushroom. "You must be fucking desperate if you want me to translate the state-television 6 PM news."
Monica opened her wallet and pulled out a five to pay for her coffee. "I'm guessing you'll need a few weeks to make arrangements to come join us?"
"What do you mean?" If she walked now, it would be a disaster--anyone who could connect Rosalba Johnston and Monica Reyes was a security threat, at minimum.
"I mean, I checked out of my hotel this morning, I hitchhiked here from Boise, and all my relevant worldly possessions are in the duffel bag you've been kicking under the table." Casey finished her coffee and put it down. "I'm ready. Now."
Monica considered for a minute, and then pulled a twenty out of her wallet and dropped it next to the five. "Then you'll ride back with me."
Casey smiled. "I'll get us a pie for the road. You want sweet potato or chocolate?"
"Sweet potato," Monica said, not really sure why she did.
"Ugh. I'll get two, then." Casey turned to wave at Mabel, and Monica realized this was probably going to end up being a bad idea.
it's 4 am and i can't sleep
her love is all that i can see
This had, supposedly, been her bedroom since December 2009. She'd picked out the bed, the bookcase, the dresser, and the two prints on the wall; she'd left clothes in the drawers and books on the shelves. But in the intervening years, Luz had piled up things in the corners, and her cat, Guapito, had made a little furry nest in the middle of the comforter. It was unlike any room she'd ever pick out for herself, but the sounds of the birds singing in the mango tree in the courtyard were soothing as she lay in bed and stared up at the sky.
"Ay, Graci," Luz said from the doorway. "Son las once. ¿Vas a llevantarte hoy? Porque prefiero una hermana a una instalación de arte conceptual."
"Sí, sí, iré," she said, staring at the ceiling. "No estás cabrona. Estoy tan cansado como para dormir un mes."
Luz sat on the edge of the bed and put a cup of coffee down on the sidetable. "Pues, que no se te haga costumbre estar salvando el mundo. Te cansas demasiado." Monica closed her eyes and tried to motivate herself to get up. There was a whole city out there to live in, now. She wasn't in Montana anymore.
But that was the problem, wasn't it? Things were different, now, and she wasn't sure she could handle it.
"¿Vas a partir pronto?" Luz asks, quietly. "Sabes que es tu apartamiento también. este también es tu departamento. Puedes descansar aquí hasta que estés bien."
"No sé que me necessite hacer proximo," Monica said, watching light clouds flit across the sky through the edge of the window over the bed. "No tengo trabajo ahora, claro? No tengo proyecto."
Luz lay down on the pillow next to her. "¿Y pienso que hay algo mas, no? No has dicho nada de lo que pasó. No soy la prensa, Graci. Soy tu hermana. Puedes dirme."
What happened is that I met someone, and then she left me. No, she left me and then turned out to be a time-travelling three-year-old. Yeah, but that couldn't come out right, no matter how she said it. Monica shakes her head. "Nada. Nada que importa."
"Si, eso," Luz said. "Pues, mamí. No te levantes. No tienes nada que hacer."
"OK." She closed her eyes and waited for some sort of desire to do something, other than go back to before the world ended.
i decided we weren't gon speak
so why we up three am on the phone
Be a grown-up, Monica, she thought to herself, pacing back and forth in her little room. You've done things much more awkward than this before, with much worse results. Remember Brad? Remember what's-her-name, Susanna, from Quantico? Remember boarding school? This is nothing. So go handle it.
She forced herself down the hall to Casey's room, extremely glad that there was no one around to see her. This was worse than the walk of shame, she decided, because it looked like she had a purpose. And she did, just--anyway. It's a like being trapped in a submarine down here, it's a bad idea, all of it. She took a deep breath right before she got to the door frame, and knocked gently on the half opened door.
"Yeah, what's up?" Casey called from inside.
She stepped around to push it open a little more, and this just wasn't fair, because Casey was in her desk chair with her feet up, looking totally fucking edible in those slouchy pajama pants she wore around whenever she was deciding to be lazy and that purple tank top, the one with a v-neck. And she wasn't even wearing a bra. She was holding a dog-eared copy of The Ground Beneath Her Feet in one hand and balancing a cigarette over an ashtray with the other. Goddamn it. In the future, she was going to not have bad-idea hookups with hot girls who read Rushdie in their off hours. It's a new rule.
Casey smiled at her. "Oh, hi, Monica," she said. She seemed to perk up out of her little performance of indolence: took her feet off the desk and let go of the cigarette, took her glasses off her face, and put the book down, open, spine-up, on the desk.
"That'll ruin the book, you know," Monica said involuntarily.
"My mom's only been telling me that my whole life, but thanks," she said. "What's up?"
Monica didn't know what to do with her hands, so she crossed her arms, just to see how it would go. "Um. So."
"Yeah?" Casey was watching her very closely. It was unnerving.
"I wanted to apologize for the other night," Monica said in a rush, trying to get it all out. "I mean, it was inappropriate. I realize that neither of us were precisely at our best, and obviously it was a--" She tried to come up with a good way to phrase it. "A mutual decision. But, still, I really should have stopped it. So I wanted to apologize, and just. Clear the air, I guess."
Casey was still watching her, as if trying to pick up meaning from her smallest gestures. It was like she was trying to see inside her head, and she didn't want her to, because she had no idea what was going on in there at the moment. Or lately. In general. She'd been in this particular submarine too long. "I just hope that this won't have any effect on our working relationship. You're a valuable member of the team, and I don't want what happened to end up making it more difficult for things to get done. I mean, I don't want the fact that I let things get out of control be something that creates a bigger problem." She was blushing like crazy at this point, and Casey wouldn't stop staring at her.
Then she crinkled her forehead. "Monica, are you actually apologizing for fucking me?"
Her mouth went dry, and she was glad it did, because the thing she wanted to say was in what universe does an event that ended with me having to wear very long sleeves to cover the handprints on my wrists constitute me fucking you?"Um, yeah," she managed after a minute.
"Did I do anything in the past few days to suggest that I was upset about it?" Casey was fiddling with the pencil on her desk.
"No. Not precisely." Frankly, Monica had been avoiding her, so she wouldn't have noticed if she had been.
"Because I'm not. At all. Rather the opposite." Casey leaned her head on her hand, one elbow on the desk, and looked at her from this new tilt.
"Well. But, I'm your supervisor." God, when did she get to be anyone's supervisor? She was used to being the one looking up the ladder of command, not down it. Montana was weird.
"Technically, yes. And I'm as convinced of the importance of avoiding relationships that might involve involuntary coercion in the workplace as the next feminist. But, I mean, I know you're all military and FBI and whatever, but this isn't precisely a place with a tight chain of command, you know? I take assignments from you, but there's no evaluatory mechanism, no promotion structure, and it's not like you or anyone else in this place can check my work. So what real power do you hold over me? There's the vague chance that you'll drag me out back and shoot me, but I'd have to do something much worse than fuck you and/or not fuck you to earn that, I think, or John would stop you. What, you're going to refuse to serve as a reference for my next job? Somehow I don't think defending Earth against intergalactic conspiracy is going on my CV. So, I mean." She shrugged. "I don't think there's anything necessarily improper about it."
Monica blinked. Fuck, why was Casey always right about things? This was exactly how she sounded at team meetings, when she would sit back, arms folded, as they went around and around, until suddenly she said something that made them all feel like idiots. (When she showed up to team meetings, that was.) She took a breath. "Well. I see what you're saying." And then she blinked again, and put something together. "Rather the opposite?"
Casey smiled slyly. "I'm just saying, I wouldn't be averse to a repeat performance, is all. Provided all the relevant players were sufficiently interested."
Monica narrowed her eyes. "And is this going to involve more karaoke? Because there's only so much I can take."
"I'm pretty sure I'm capable of sleeping with you without the stage high. Or the vodka."
"Well, I'm glad we cleared this up," she said. She turned to go, and paused at the door. "Hey. When are you back on shift?"
"I'm doing the eight to four round at control. Lucky me. Hey, if we're having a thing, can I not work the graveyard anymore?"
"No." She drummed her fingers on the edge of the door. "Come by when you're done."
"Yes, ma'am." Casey gave a desultory salute and picked up her book.
"Fuck off," Monica said, and wandered down to the dining room. She was hungry all of a sudden, and smiling more than she really should be.
how could you be so cold
as the winter wind when it breathes, yo?
Having a Swiss bank account full of dollars had its benefits, she thought as she straightened the frame on the hook. She got reports once a month from her bank, showing a series of deposits from a financial entity call Stark Enterprises. (Mulder and John had gone three rounds about Robert Downey Jr before she'd gotten it. Boys.) Isabel was managing it, the gradual sale of the various classified technologies they'd developed in the bunker. The military tech had gone to the US government, but anything with civilian applications was being sold to private transnationals, slowly, so the market wouldn't be flooded with a sudden rush of technological advances that no one could explain, but rapidly enough that pretty much everyone who had been in the bunker could write their own tickets.
She was spending hers on paintings. DF's queer art scene had lacked patrons for years; it was easier to sell in LA or New York, but not everyone wanted to have to pack up and move. So she'd made friends with gallery owners, was quietly financing shows, and had begun to collect, judiciously, but she thought with an eye towards both developing new talent and putting together what would, eventually, make a good overview of the period. She'd tried to be low profile, but she was a name now, on the scene; she'd walk into a show, and there would be a round of nods--"Ven, está aqui Graciela Reyes."
Because she was Graciela Reyes now. John had called her on it, when he came to visit last summer. They'd driven down from DF to the Yucatán in a car she'd rented, because she had decided that driving in the city was an incredibly stupid idea, and never bought one. They sat on the beach in Cozumel, a bottle of Patrón and a thoughtfully prepared basket of limes between them. "So, Mon," he'd said. "Should I be calling you Gracie now?"
She shuddered dramatically and shook salt onto her hand. "Please don't. You could call me Graci, if you wanted to--but, no. Anyway, you don't have to." She could handle being Maw-nick-uh instead of Mónica, but Gray-see was a bridge too far.
He took the shot she was holding out. "You sure we can't switch to beer?"
"Tequila is good for you. Drink it." She reached over and clinked her shot glass against his, licked the salt off her hand, and drank it down. While he was still coughing and spluttering, she bit down on a lime wedge and lay back to watch the stars.
"Oh, damn. You're going to kill me." He lay down too, and sighed. "What's up with the name?"
She shrugged. "It's been my family name since I was a kid--I have an aunt Mónica, so they called me Graci, you know? But now..." She stretched one arm above her head. "I don't know. I think I just needed to be new. I needed to start again."
"I can understand that."
The breeze was cool over her skin, and she could hear the peacocks from the resort down the beach screaming into the night. "I think I was down there too long. I think--I don't know. Everyone else, you had something to come back to at the end of it. You had all these connections in the military, all these people you got to know as you were building the army. And Mulder and Dana are their own little universe anyway. But me, I was just--all I'd been doing was putting together the network, getting people to work with each other. I was either in a hole in the ground in Montana or in an airplane for three and a half years. I had to be something new when I got out because--because I wasn't anything any more, not in the real world."
He was quiet for a long time. "You know, Luz and Tico aren't the only family you have. You've got us, too."
"I know that." She'd gotten the invitations to the barbeques in Othma, seen the pictures on Facebook; the folks from Stark stayed in touch, cared about each other. She could be there, eating ribs with John and Walter and Dana and Mulder and laughing about the time they all saved the world. But the thought of going back to them scared her--of realizing that she was still so peripheral, that she was circling alone on the edges of everything, that she was nearly fifty years old and still directionless. Plus, she wasn't sure she could take the fact of Sadie, the fact of what had happened, her own monumental ability to get played. She still can't believe she spent the apocalypse tranqued by her girlfriend.
John reached over and rested his hand over hers. "I'm just sayin.' I miss you."
"I miss you." She squeezed his hand back companionably. "I think I just have to be here for a while, okay?"
"Whatever you need."
She smiled. "I need more tequila."
"Fuck, Mon. I'm an old man."
"Suck it up." She'd laughed, and struggled her way back to sitting in the sand, and poured for them both.
She adjusted the tilt of the painting on her wall. It wasn't her favorite thing in the show--Alejandro had done a series of prints that did something amazing with light, plus there was that new sculptor that she should make a point of talking with. (Was it time to start collecting in 3D? She'd need a bigger apartment for that.) But she wanted to make sure it got bought, and by the end of the second week it wasn't looking likely. Plus, you could never own enough nudes.
The doorbell rang. That would be the journalist--someone from Replica 21 had called last week, and asked to do a story on her for the next issue. She was flattered, and a bit confused; it was one thing to be known in the scene, another thing to have the largest art magazine in the country want to profile your collecting habits.
The interviewer was a girl in her twenties, with a PhD in art history and six piercings in her ears. She was a friend of Ana's; well, that explained why they were doing the piece. Monica watched her as she walked through the living room, examining each of the pieces, drinking the lemonade she'd just poured her. "¿Se encuentra algun hilo que une la colección?" she asked, standing in front of the newest acquisition.
Monica looked at the painting, at the eyes of the woman in it, the turn of her shoulder, the way her dark hair poured over her back as she stood at the window. There was something defiant in the way she stood, something that hurt to look at. "Compro obras que amo," she said simply. "Compro obras cuando pienso que puedan cambiar el mundo."
you run and tell your friends that you're leaving me
they say that they don't see what you see in me
you wait a couple months then you gon' see
you'll never find nobody better than me
She was always walking into Casey's room with something, she thought. No, that wasn't true; half the time she used to find Casey already in her room, picking through her books ("I'm reminding myself how to speak Spanish," she said, when Monica woke up to find Casey next to her with Casa de los Espiritus cracked open, reading it in the dim light of the desk lamp at four-thirty after getting off a graveyard shift), building elaborate little forts with the deck of cards that she kept in the corner of the desk. But, yeah, she has been here before, standing outside this door waiting to figure out what to say.
"Come in already," Casey said, without turning around. The room smelled densely of old smoke--she must just sit around chain smoking all day, that couldn't be good for her--and the music was lower than usual.
"I brought spaghetti." She put the plate down on Casey's desk. "And another hundred pages of intercepts."
"What would you do without me?" She gestured to her 'in' pile. "Add it on. Anything priority?"
"No, just the thing from earlier. We're just. You know. Backed up."
"Yeah, I gathered." Casey leaned back, still not looking at her, and reached for the pasta. It hurt to watch her eat, which made her even angrier. "This is good. Who made it?"
"Mulder, if you'll believe it."
"Seriously? He cooks?" She made a snorting noise. "Well, consistent with the profile, I guess."
Monica didn't want to talk about Mulder. She didn't want to make pleasant small talk. She wanted to smack Casey upside the head, break the plate on the desk, hold her at forkpoint until she confessed. "Why didn't you tell me?"
Casey put the plate down. The fork bounced off and landed on the document she was translating. "Because you would have stopped me."
"You're damn right I would have stopped you. That was twenty kinds of stupid, Casey."
"Well, I managed alright, but thanks for the vote of confidence."
"Seriously. What if they'd caught you?"
"They weren't going to. They weren't looking for infiltrators. I wasn't on their radar."
"Oh, and stealing their helicopters is your master plan to fly under the surface? Shit, Casey, you could have led them right to us."
Casey turned around then, and glared at her. "You think they couldn't have led their own damn selves here if they wanted do? I know you all live in some bubble where you think that we're totally off the grid here, that they don't know anything about what we're doing, but that's bullshit, and if you'd be rational for a moment you'd know it. They're tolerating us, that's all. When they want to be in Stark, they'll be here. They don't think we're worth bothering with."
"So you decided to show them that we are? What, you want to put a bullseye on our head?"
"I wanted to get some fucking information, is what I wanted." She turned back to her meal and stabbed into the pasta. "Getting in wasn't a problem, and I figured when I went AWOL they'd figure me for a rival faction, not for one of us. Maybe I'd confuse them for a few days, a few weeks, be a distraction. And if I got data out of it, well, I'd be useful." She took a bite and chewed. "And they handed me the extermination plan for William, okay? They fucking told me to go kill a little kid, because he's Mulder and Scully's son and therefore deserves to die. They didn't even try to give me a reason, just--" She put the fork back down. "I'm not sorry, and I'm not going to be sorry. I got in there, and I got us data, and I saved a kid, and I'm not sorry. And if that's a dealbreaker for you, lock me the fuck up."
She looked so tired. Twenty-one days she was gone, start to finish, and she must have been running the whole time. It was hard to be mad at the back of Casey's neck, easier when she wasn't in front of you, when she wasn't making it all make sense. "You should have told me."
Casey rested her head in her hands. "Look. Mónica. Seriously. I understand that you're upset I didn't tell you. I get why. But I'm not going to just do what you tell me and always cooperate with you. This is a--you and me--it's not--" She tilted her head back and looked up at the ceiling. "I'm just saying. Don't go pulling out the real estate section of the Boston Globe, okay? This is who I am. It's not worth it for you to get invested."
What Monica found funny about the whole thing was the idea that she wasn't invested already. She watched Casey for a moment, as she flipped through papers without actually looking at them. It was hard, hard not to want to yell at her, hard not to want to punish her for this, but then again--it was the right thing, which was maybe the hardest part of it. Stop being right: that's what you keep wanting to yell at Casey, because when she was right it was always in a way that totally fucked with what you want to do.
Casey turned to look at her, sideways. She watched her from her place at the doorway. "This place stinks," she said.
Casey snorted. "Well, let me out of my cage every now and then, and it won't be so bad." Cautiously, not sure if she was welcome, she went to sit on the bed. She'd half-wanted to while Casey had been gone, when one week became two and it was obvious something was wrong. She'd wanted to be here, to reassure herself that Casey had been real, and that she hadn't been having a psuedo-clandestine affair with a figment of her imagination. "I think we could maybe let you into the dining room. This is a health hazard."
"That would be nice."
She slid off her shoes, and lay down on the pillows. "What are you listening to?"
Casey leaned back over the desk. "It's the MIA mix again. I needed momentum. There's kind of a lot of shit work to be done, if you haven't noticed."
She closed her eyes. "Well, that's your own damn fault." She held out her hand. "Gimme."
"Yes, ma'am." She pulled the iPod off the dock and passed it over.
Monica thumbed through, put on Dónde está los ladrones? and handed it back. "Just once."
Casey plugged it in. "I still think the horns bit is corny."
"Mmm, that's because you're white." She closed her eyes. The pillows smelled right. The ones in her room had faded back to normal over the past three weeks. She has it bad, she knew it, but as long as she didn't tell anyone she figured she'd be fine. "No sé como olvidarte," she sang quietly along with the song.
"¿No digas?" Casey said quietly.
She kept her eyes and pretended she hadn't heard. "And, honestly, Boston? Too cold. I'm getting a place in San Diego when I get out of here. Maybe Miami. Snow is overrated."
"Whatever you say, Mónica," Casey said, and her pencil kept scratching in time to the music.
you got a new friend, well i got homies
but in the end it's still so lonely
It was the same dream, the one she'd been having for twelve years. The only way it had changed is that now it was in Spanish. Casey was sitting at the small round table in the small blank room, wearing the suit she'd come back in, her hair long around her shoulders. On the table was a pack of cigarettes, an ashtray, and the gun. "Sabes que prefiero no herir a nadie," she said, picking up the cigarette and taking a long drag.
"Casey, no lo hagas," she said, but she couldn't move, she was stuck in her seat, her hands leaden where they lay on the table.
"Sabes," Casey said, and her accent was as bad as it ever was, the sounds right but the rhythm all wrong. "Tenía que hacerlo. No elegí ser heroe."
"Lo sé. Casey, pero no tienes que hacerlo. Por favor."
"Es mi patrimonio. Es mi trabajo." She put the cigarette down. "No lo elegí. No te elegí."
"Casey. Casey, por favor." She was on the verge of crying, and she still couldn't move.
"No lo hice para tí, baby," she said, and picked up the gun. "Nada para tí." And she pressed it to her temple and fired.
"Graci, Graci," she heard through the red mist of her dream. "¿Graci, amor? ¿Estas bien?"
She dragged her way up to consciousness again. "¿Graci?" Raúl was leaning over her, stroking her face. "¿Qué pasa?"
She took a long shuddering breath. "Nada." She managed to smile up at him. "Nada, amor. Solo un sueño."
He studied her for a moment. "¿Seguro?"
"Sí, sí. No te preocupes." She rolled over on her side. "Duerme."
He lay down again, this time with his side pressed up against her back. She closed her eyes and tried to tamp down the shaking feeling. Think about now, she told herself. Think about Raúl. Raúl was good for her—he was funny, he was smart, he admired her in addition to loving her, he had reasonably good taste but would never think of trying to influence her work, he was political enough to not mind that he was married to probably one of the fifty most influential people in DF's queer scene but not so political that he couldn't just let her do her thing. And, amazingly, marriage was good for her. She liked having a partner, liked having a default someone to talk with at the end of the day, liked knowing she had ties. She needed to get grounded. She needed to get normal. Raúl was good for that.
She just wished she could stop having the dream.
i know there some things that you ain't told me
and i did some things but that's the old me
Monica dropped the box on the floor of Casey's bedroom. Casey looked up; she was sitting on the bed, holding the bottle of vodka against her nose. "So, what, I get to bring my shit to lockup this time?"
"We're stripping your access," Monica said, fighting the urge to pace. "You can't use the elevator. And we're locking the stairways, too, so you need to swipe to get in. You don't leave 2 unescorted, not until the twenty-second. Is that clear?" She leaned back against the door frame.
"Crystal." Casey set the bottle down on the desk. "What's the box for, then?"
"Your shit." Monica swallowed. "You heard John. We're doubling up."
Casey regarded her for a long minute. "Yeah, okay. This is the world's longest set-up to a UHaul joke, just so you understand." She stood, and began loading books into the box. "We're taking my fridge."
"Oh, believe me, I understand the centrality of the fridge to your productivity," Monica snarked. She went to the closet and began to pull out the clothes on the hangars and stuff them into the beat up duffel bag. "I wouldn't dare ask you to translate or code without ice cream."
"Just as long as we have minimal parameters set, then."
Monica turned to hand Casey the bag--she wasn't packing her underwear, that was too weird, she could finish the books--but Casey was staring at her. "Mónica," she said quitely. "Look. I don't--I don't care what anyone else thinks. Whatever. But you--you know--" She swallowed, and stepped closer, until she was standing right up next to her. "You know, Mónica. You have to. I'd never hurt anyone. You know. Right?"
She wanted to know, wanted to be absolutely sure. Because this was Casey, Casey who orchestrated the daily Lady Gaga dance parties in the communications office because she can't sit still for that long. Casey who, right this minute, had a line from the Gita written on her left wrist in Sanskrit because she got bored and had a pen in her hands. Casey who fell asleep really early half the time because she couldn't sleep the other half and lay in Monica's bed and mumbled conspiracy theories about children's television. This was Casey. But. Casey who lied. Casey who shot some guy through the neck because she could, who let a raid devolve into a bloothbath despite the fact that she could have just called it off, could have gotten Mulder and Scully and Will killed. Casey who was, seriously, going to kill Mulder fifteen minutes ago with her bare hands, and probably could have managed it. Casey, who was probably lying right now.
Monica didn't like her indecision, but has lived with it for years. "I'll take the fridge. You finish with your clothes."
Casey leaned in to her neck, pressed her lips there for just a second. Monica reached around and curled one hand into Casey's upper back, held her close, felt breath echo between them. Then she pulled herself away on purpose. Casey leaned back, and her eyes closed off again. "Yeah. Don't tip it forward. If I run out of ice cream, we're all going to die, just FYI."
"Wouldn't want to risk it," she said, and turned away.
if spring can take the snow away
can it melt away all our mistakes?
She's been Graciela Montoya so many years that the postman was confused when he rangs her doorbell with an envelope addressed, confusingly, to Monica Graciela Montoya Acosta Reyes. It was amazing that, this many years later, she could still recognize Mulder's handwriting. She read too many X-Files, that's why. And of course he fucked up her names.
The list of reasons why Mulder could be writing to her was limited. She'd never made it to the barbecues; John had been her link to the world of the Stark community, but she'd kept herself outside it, letting herself follow things secondhand, in calls and emails and status updates. Dana had sent her Christmas cards for a few years, but, well, she'd been unfailingly tactful about not talking about her daughter, and that made maintaining a conversation awkward. And she'd sent a lovely note when Raúl had died, which Monica still had filed somewhere to reply to, maybe. But she and Mulder had never been more than just friendly. God, she hoped desperately that this wasn't a note letting her know Dana had died, or something horrible like that. It couldn't be--John would have called her.
Inside the envelope was a single sheet of paper, awkardly folded, because it had a photo clipped to it. She sucked in her breath when she unfolded it. In it, Casey was looking over her shoulder at the camera, her hair hanging long and wet over her shoulders. She was wearing a hospital gown, had an IV in her arm, and looked exhausted, completely wiped. She looked like she'd just travelled through time, actually. Her eyes were just slightly narrowed, and she was flipping off the camera.
God, she was beautiful. She'd forgotten that, all these years.
Above the picture, Mulder had written "She's back." And below it, "You know, you've had my permission since she turned eighteen."
She put the picture down on her desk, and contemplated the past.
i mean after all the things that we been through
i mean after all the things we got into
She opened her eyes to see Casey standing in the doorway to their room. For a moment, she half-thought she was a dream, but then she saw her waver slightly and brace herself against the door. Casey swallowed, and didn't say anything. "What are you doing out of the infirmary?" Monica asked.
"Scully kicked me out. She said I wasn't sick enough to need monitoring anymore." Casey stayed wavering on the edge of the room. She made the smallest move to come in, and then backed off, just slightly. "I should go."
"There's nowhere to go." She moved over slightly. "Come in." Casey edged over to the desk chair and sat down heavily. She hung her head. Monica watched the tilt of her neck, the way her hair fell over her shoulders. "How do you feel?"
"Like shit. Everything hurts." She leaned down and began unlacing her boots.
"Scully wouldn't have let you go if you weren't okay," she said, watching her hands fumble with the knots.
"Oh, yeah. Dana Scully never makes a mistake, I forgot."
She made a confused face at Casey from the pillow. "What?"
"Never mind. I'm in a mood. Oh, my head hurts." She slid her boots off and stood up, took off her pants, and crawled into the bed.
Monica watched her closely from the other side of the bed, but it really wasn't wide enough to let her keep any physical space. She pulled the blankets over Casey with one hand, and then reached out and ran a hand over her forehead. "Does that help?"
"Mmm. Yeah." Casey closed her eyes and curled into the pillows just slightly. Monica stroked her forehead, her hair, trying to keep her hands light and soothing. Scully had tried to explain what had happened at control yesterday--something about Casey and Will running the system, that Bill had been a hybrid, that they'd had to use some sort of telepathy to fight it--but it didn't make much sense yet. She'd woken up in the infirmary herself with a vague headache, an IV in her arm, and John sitting next to her, his arms crossed as if he were playing her bodyguard in a movie. Will was sleeping in one bed with his adoptive mom holding him; Mulder was in another, hooked up to an EEG, with Scully in the chair next to him holding a sleeping Sadie and looking closer to a nervous breakdown than Monica had seen her since the last time Mulder had died. And in the other bed was Casey, curled up alone, eyes closed. She'd half-wanted to walk over and hold her hand, check that she was okay. The other half of her had wanted to smother her with a pillow.
Casey pressed her head into Monica's shoulder. "I think I should sleep more."
"Yeah, you should." She closed her eyes. "But we're going to talk tomorrow, okay?"
She felt Casey tense slightly, and then relax again. "Okay," she said. "After the meeting. We'll talk then."
It was easier to sleep, knowing where Casey was, she thought, as she let her eyes drift shut.
talk and talk and talk and talk
baby let's just knock it off
they don't know what we've been through
they don't know about me and you
She stood on the muddy commons with her hands in her pockets. Goddamn, she'd forgotten how cold the northeast US could be in the winter. January, and the sidewalks were slushy, the students were wearing dirty sweatpants and ugly boots, the sky was that disgusting pewter that lasted for months and months but made the buildings look more dignified. Seriously, this was why she didn't leave México anymore.
She was watching, she was expecting it, but she still felt punched when Casey pushed open the heavy wood doors and walked down the shallow steps. She was wearing the brown leather jacket, jeans, the boots she'd taken with her--god, those were really her boots--but here, it was less dangerous-violent-killer, more grad-student-with-an-attitude, the type that she'd have been all over when she was nineteen. Casey fumbled through her pockets for a pack of cigarettes, pulled one out, lit it. It was her, it was really her, and time had held still, or moved very quickly, she had no idea what the best way to say this, but time was wrong, everything was wrong.
Casey put her lighter away and looked up, and caught Monica's eye. For a moment she thought she didn't recognize her, and wouldn't that just be a kick in the ass. But, no, she locked on to her, and the look was mostly shock, and at least a little shame, and at least a little heat. She swallowed, took another draw off the cigarette. They stared at each other for a while, until Casey got up her courage or something, and walked slowly down the steps, until they were both standing in the mud.
"Mónica," she said, so quietly. "Hi. I, um. I didn't expect to see you here."
"Yeah, well, I'm not the only one full of surprises." It wasn't that she wanted to beat Casey up, but she was angry, in a way that still surprised her.
Casey looked away, licked her lips, forced herself to look back. "Everyone needs a hook, right? Mine's the air of mystery and damage. Or something like that." She took another drag on the cigarette. "So. Do you want to go get lunch, or something? Sorry, I've been in the archives all morning, and even my hair smells like colonial manuscripts. There's, like, restaurants? Or, um, coffee?" She was searching Monica's eyes for answers, and Monica decided not to give them. "Or, I mean, my apartment's just like ten minutes, and I'm pretty sure I have food. Or. I don't know."
"Your apartment sounds fine," Monica said.
Casey visibly relaxed, and gestured away from the library. "OK. So, yeah, it's in the Taft. Don't mock."
"I wouldn't know that was mockable."
"Well, good. I didn't either, and I got the lease before I moved here from Pennsylvania. And, you know, I'm totally too lazy to move."
They started walking, past undergrads buzzing to each other on their cell phones, homeless women selling roses wrapped in paper, the tall gray spires of the university. Casey kept her cigarette-less hand in her coat pocket, her head slightly bowed. Monica tried to remember how to read her. "How are you doing?"
Casey laughed. "Well enough. I mean, sure, I spent my winter break traveling through time to fight aliens with my secret telepathic powers, and also save the free world for democracy or some shit, but I've got a chapter due in a month, so fuck that noise, right?"
"Did you, um. Did you come through the process okay?"
Casey considered while taking another drag on her cigarette. "Yeah, I guess. There was more physical stress than they were expecting, but I stayed the longest of anyone to date, so that's probably it. I mean, there was a week where all I did was sleep and yell at people, but I have those every now and again." She ran her hand through her hair. "Or, well, I think I do."
"What do you mean?" This was fascinating; sure, she wasn't Agent Reyes any more, but she was still curious.
"I mean, I think I'm two people. No, that's not right." She chucked the cigarette into the gutter. "I mean, I've got two memories. I'm the point where two universes fuse. And I remember both of them, though not totally. It's just--you know, sometimes I'm not certain which thing really happened. I mean, they both really happened, but happened in this universe. Most things are the same--but, I don't know. It's hard to figure it out."
"What about other people? Do they remember both things?"
She shook her head. "No one else remembers anything differently. Well, I mean, Mom. She does. But it's not like we're sitting down to compare, page by page, our personal histories to double check we know what's reality. Mom doesn't talk." She glanced over. "She doesn't talk in any universe, right? That's not something I'm remembering wrong?"
Monica laughed. "Dana Scully's lack of emotional communication is a universal invariant."
"Oh, good." She narrowed her eyes. "Wait. Did I detect a bit of resentment there?" She stopped. "No way. You weren't into Mom back in the day, were you? Because that's just wrong, in all the right ways." Monica shot her a look. "Oh, okay, fine, I'll drop it. Sorry. But you gotta admit, she had it going on, am I right?"
"We're not having any conversations about how hot your mother is."
"Ohhhh, you said is. Alright, I'm dropping it." Casey grinned and pointed with one elbow. "We're turning right here."
They walked past the town green, along a stern-looking moat surrounding dorms. "Yo, Case," someone yelled out. Casey turned around and waved at the blond girl wearing a trenchcoat, who was turning out of the dorm's entrance gate. "You coming to the department meeting tonight? We're voting on the conference budget."
"Yeah, probably. If I'm not too busy. I've got writing to get done."
The blond girl came over and kissed Casey on the cheek. Monica caught the hint of surprise in Casey's eye. "Sounds good." She glanced over at Monica. "Hi, sorry for interrupting."
"No, don't worry about it," Monica said.
"Um, yeah. Just--" Casey glanced over. "Just a visit from a family friend. Anyway, I'll try to make it."
"Ciao." Casey watched her walk away. "Damn," she said, once she was out of hearing distance. "I'd really hoped that one was in the other universe."
"I mean, depends on your values for good. Crazy, mostly."
They kept walking. "I thought you had finished your dissertation," Monica said.
"Yeah, well, you also believed I was thirty, so." She sighed. "I only lied at the edges, you know. It was all real, just, you know, exaggerated."
"Oh, sure. That you were a telepathic time traveller was absolutely extraneous information."
"I thought pulling the whole come-with-me-if-you-want-to-live schtick wouldn't have gone over well. Anyway, Mom and I put the cover together, so blame alternate-universe her if you're really pissed." Casey turned and walked up to the entrance of a posh looking apartment building. She glanced back over her shoulder to catch Monica's raised eyebrow. "Yo, no snark, like I said."
She was just the same, but different, Monica thought, as Casey grabbed her mail out of the mailbox, fumbled her way through the doors, called the elevator. She hadn't changed at all, and she was totally strange, probably because the weight of the world wasn't on her shoulders, because she wasn't concealing anything more than a person normally concealed on a daily basis. This was Casey under normal conditions. This was just Casey.
She was half expecting a room as spartan as the little room in the compound, which she was shocked to realize she could still visualize perfectly after all these years. But Casey's apartment was--decorated. It had prints on the wall, a reasonably obscure Kahlo, a Pollack, an O'Keefe--really, Casey? you couldn't have been a little subtle?--a Rothenberg series, and a series of framed photographs, nothing fancy, but landscape shots that she's guessing Casey took herself in India and Sri Lanka. Six full-size bookshelves, and then some cabinets. She pulled up short when she saw the first family snapshot--it was Mulder, Scully, Casey, and--that had to be Will. Casey's college graduation, she guessed; she was in her robes, and she looked younger. "Your hair was short," she said aloud, without thinking about it.
Casey turned from where she was standing at the small table between the living room and the kitchen. "Yeah, well. I had a dykey period back in the day."
"Period?" Her on a horse jumping a fence as a teenager. Another family portrait at what must have been Will's wedding; Casey was wearing a lavender bridesmaid dress and had a shawl over her shoulders, probably to cover the tattoo. With Scully in front of the Eiffel tower at maybe ten, with Will at eight or so at wearing Mickey Mouse ears in front of Epcot. And one of the Sadie she remembered, maybe five or six: Mulder had her on one hip, and she looked like she was lecturing him about something, and he was patiently tolerating it. She suddenly wanted to see little Sadie with Mulder again, to remember what they were like together, to be able to hold on to why this was so important. And because--because if you could go back in time, if you could see what someone you--cared about--was like when they were younger, wouldn't you? To know where it all comes from? She could have spent her years like that.
"Thank you," Casey said suddenly. Monica looked up in surprise. "For not--for not being around." She swallowed. "I didn't--I didn't know you, in the other universe. Mom cut everyone off after Dad died, and I didn't know any of you. But if I had, in this universe--" She laughed. "I'm just saying, it would have been a little freaky when worlds collided."
"I didn't do it for you." She closed her eyes against the wave of anger that came over her. Twenty-three years, and she should be over it. She'd gotten her heart broken a dozen times; she'd never been able to figure out why this one stuck. "I know that." Casey dropped her coat at the table. She ran her hand over her hair, and, oh God, she looked exactly like Mulder when she did that, how the hell did she never see this before. "Mónica," she said, and she had to suppress the shudder, because she knew: the reason she's been Graciela since then is because she couldn't stand to hear it. "Why are you here?"
She didn't have an answer, hadn't since she bought the ticket. The customs officer at JFK asked her the purpose of her visit, and she'd been struck dumb. It wasn't business, it wasn't pleasure, and there was no line on the form to say revenge, and, anyway, that wasn't quite right either. She stood there, and didn't say anything.
"I mean, I understand that you're angry," Casey said. "I get that. And I'm not going to try to pretend I don't deserve it. I'm just--can we get to it? The part where you yell at me, or hit me, or storm out of my life in a big giant huff? Because waiting for it isn't fun, let me tell you. Less so if I have to make lunch while I'm doing it."
And she was clear, suddenly, for the first time since she opened Mulder's letter. "That's not why I'm here," she said, staring at the picture of Mulder and Sadie.
"Then why are you here, Mon?"
"I'm here because..." She put the picture down and looked over at her. "I missed you. That's all."
Casey's face softened. She crossed the room slowly, to stand next to her in front of the wall of photos. She looked down. "You're wearing my boots."
"They're nice boots."
"I don't disagree." Casey reached out and tucked a lock of Monica's hair behind her ear. "I like this color."
"It's dyed." She couldn't believe how old she's gotten, how much life she'd lived, and that it somehow mattered and didn't at the same time. Time travel was a thing, you've got to admit.
"So's mine, half the time." And Casey leaned in and kissed her softly. Monica closed her eyes, and let it all come back.