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Truth Prevails

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Julia is enjoying a rare day off – in Prague, no less – when la femme rouge crosses her path again.

“Say Jules, do you have a good relationship with your parents?”

Julia doesn’t mean to, but she jumps. Carmen’s entrances are always too sneaky for her senses.

Julia turns to face ACME’s most wanted. Despite – or maybe because – of the recent events, Julia still trusts her. Carmen’s proven she’s definitely not on VILE’s side and it’s enough for Julia. Chief’s ego might have been wounded by Carmen’s tour-de-force of hacking into ACME’s files, but Julia… well Julia has always been impressed by Carmen, and it hasn’t changed.

Carmen is not wearing her usual coat and hat, but has opted for warmer and more casual clothes – the fact that she almost died of the cold because of ACME’s stupid actions still enrages Julia. Carmen looks infinitely better than the last time Julia saw her – not that it’s hard – but she looks like she lost some weight, and a part of Julia’s brain wants to ask if she’s okay. But the agent refrains from asking and instead considers the thief’s question.

“My mother and I are no longer on speaking terms,” Julia answers honestly. She doesn’t say why, doesn’t mention how her mom went to great lengths to deny Julia’s existence when her daughter came out. “But I do get along with my father.”

He had surprised her more than her mother, whose reaction she had expected.

Carmen looks pensive, and still doesn’t say anything.

“Why do you ask?” She realizes she knows nothing of Carmen’s family life – but to be fair she doesn’t know much at all about Carmen except that her work partners look incredibly young – beside the samurai.

Carmen finally looks at her, seems to hesitate then shrugs, obviously trying to downplay what she’s about to say. “All my life I’ve been told that I was found on the side of the road, abandoned. Turns out, my parents didn’t leave me. My father was killed and… my mother might still be alive.”

Wow.  That must have been a lot to take in.

“It was.” Carmen says, and Julia only then realizes that she’s talked out loud. Carmen smiles at Julia’s surprise. “I was actually wondering if you would like to help me find her.”

“Me?! But I’m…”

Carmen doesn’t let her finish. “I know you work for ACME. And that I’m currently being researched by your employer,” she adds with a smirk. She knows that ACME has no way of catching her again. “But I like you Jules, and I like to think that we make a good team.”

For a second, Julia’s brain gets stuck on “I like you”. But she quickly catches on. “And it certainly wouldn’t hurt to have someone on the inside to know whether ACME is on your trail or not, would it?”

Carmen shakes her head with a smile. “To be honest I don’t think your organisation has the means or the brains – yours excluded -  to stop me.”

“Then what - ?”

“I would like your insight on clues – if we ever find any. You’re one of the smartest person I know, and finding my mother will probably require a lot of grey matter combined.”

Julia is silent for a while. Helping Carmen, even without giving information related to ACME, could get her in serious trouble. But considering it’s about giving Carmen clues about her past – possibly even reuniting her with her mother…

“I don’t want us to be in contact more than once a month,” she finally replies, trying to sound firm.

Carmen brightens. “So you will help me?”

Julia sighs, barely believing she’s really doing this. And yet, she suspects that she would have agreed to Carmen’s demand for help even if it had required some spying on ACME. But that’s not something she’s willing to consider right now. “Yes.” She starts walking away, assuming she will see Carmen again when the thief needs her help. “Well, see you in a month then.”

“You’re kind of incredible, you know,” Carmen calls out.

Julia turns again. It seems she always has her back to Carmen – she hates the idea.

“How so?” Carmen has been showering her with compliments recently, but this doesn’t feel like one, exactly.

“You could have asked for something in return,” Carmen says.

The idea hadn’t even crossed Julia’s mind. She shrugs. “I would rather not have more evidence than necessary of our interactions.” Which is ridiculous, she knows. She could have asked for intel on VILE, or anything not material.

Carmen eyes her with amusement. “Whatever you say, Jules.”

“Right. Well, I must get going.” She’s pretty sure she had a destination in mind when she had left her hotel. She just can’t remember it at this moment. She doesn’t move, signalling to Carmen that the thief is free to leave.

But Carmen doesn’t move either, and seems reluctant to leave.

After a few awkward seconds, Julia remembers where she had planned to go, and does something that surprises the both of them. “I was going to see the Astronomical clock, would you like to accompany me?”

Carmen’s eyebrows almost reach her hairline. “You’re not concerned about ACME finding out you spend your free time with their most wanted?”

“I should. But no.” She really, really, should. Especially since she specified she didn’t want to be seen with Carmen too often. She’s not thinking straight (she never does, come to think of it), but she’s lonely, and she would have dragged Devineaux to see that piece of historical engineering if he had still been with ACME. And Carmen would probably be more receptive to the charms of the clock than agent Zari.

Plus, Chief ruined Julia’s chance to recruit Carmen to their cause just a few weeks ago. Screw propriety.

Carmen cocks her head once, then smiles. She presents her arm for Julia to loop through. “Well in that case, lead the way miss Argent.”