Didn't Make You Her


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Scene Title Didn't Make You Her
Synopsis Elliot touches base with Gracie, who finds herself concerned about what he doesn't seem to know about her.
Date July 6, 2021

Ruins of Toledo

Gracie smells faintly of cigarettes and sweat when she makes her ginger way back (pun unintended) to the repurposed news van. Her shoulders are hunched, posture slouched, making her look much shorter than she is. If she can make herself smaller, maybe she’ll be beneath notice. It isn’t that she’s trying to sneak around, but that she hopes to avoid too many stares on her back.

She slides open Katie’s door as smoothly as she can, to climb inside to look for her things, preparing to potentially relocate. She doesn’t relish the idea of moving to another vehicle, especially given that it will likely be Frizzle, and that has so many sets of eyes that she can imagine are sending daggers her way. She freezes where she’s at, mid-lean across the cabin, head cocking to one side slowly as she thinks she hears someone approaching.

Elliot's feet scuff the broken highway by choice. He lets Gracie hear him coming rather than startle her with his usual silent appearance, she's had a rough morning. She's composed herself well considering how she looked when he saw her in the train car through Squeaks's eyes. As well as can be expected, anyway, considering the state of the local facilities.

"Hey," he says quietly, though the word is laden with an understanding of how terrible the last twelve hours have been. He'd compartmentalized her potential complicity in the raid while he dealt with more pressing traumas. She didn't betray them to the torture bandits though, and that's worth something to him. Judging by what he's extending toward her, it's worth at least one tub of recently-reconstituted wet wipes and a warped and split bar of soap.

Gracie turns a little more swiftly than she might have otherwise, eyes a little too wide for a moment before she eases. It’s Elliot, and it’s a carrot, not a stick. She reaches out slowly to take what’s offered, careful not to risk their hands brushing. She’s not forgotten what he’s said to her even in the height of her distress.

One corner of her mouth tics up faintly, unbidden. “Thank you,” she murmurs, shoulders sagging with her gratitude. She drops down to sit on the floor of the van with her legs hanging out the door, looking up at him. She draws in a breath with the intent to speak, but she finds she doesn’t have words and lets it out again in a soft sort of helpless sigh. What she does manage is to keep her eyes on him, rather than look away in her shame.

"You're welcome," Elliot says, shuffling back a half step to reduce the feeling of towering over her. His eyes remain on hers as he puzzles out why she's staring in the first place. "I wasn't aware of your accommodations until I saw you this morning. Not that I could have brought you a cot or anything to spruce the place up, but…"

"I suppose they figured it was an effective intimidation tactic," he says as though he isn't absolutely certain that was part of it. "I thought you were going to get healed after the criticals. I'm sorry it went down the way it did." That he left her on the highway next to what was left of her dying ex.

"I think they just didn't know what else to do with me at the time." Considering what she's just been through, Gracie's take on the matter seems far more charitable than he might have expected. But she isn't Rue, who'd have been fighting, biting, kicking and cursing the whole way through, probably. The tears would have come later, and they would have been angry.

Her gaze darts away. "That includes you." So she may feel betrayal, but no apparent grudge held over it. "I came to get my stuff. Figured after all that, you wouldn't want to be stuck in a car together."

"Things happened quickly," Elliot admits, "and on the first pass of the evidence, you weren't cast in a good light. Being tortured isn't my favorite road trip pit stop surprise. But I've had the night to think about it, so I supported your release behind the scenes." He certainly looks like he didn't sleep well if he did at all.

"I think your bail conditions still allow you to ride with us," he adds with a touch of humor to dispel any notion that he considers himself a parole officer. "Plus you'd have to pack, move, unpack, and there's only so much dawn left before Epstein screams us into our seats."

“I’ve had enough of Epstein’s withering stares for one day, thank you.” Gracie sets aside the hygiene products, but pops open the wipes, tugging one out. “And,” less sarcastically, “thank you.” With her gaze diverted, as if it provides some sort of barrier between she and him, she starts to wipe down the back of her neck first. “I’m glad you don’t… hate me or whatever.”

She tries to sound flippant, but she also is Rue, and he knows.

"You're welcome," he responds. "I certainly don't hate you; there's a fairly high bar for recipient of one of the only two known containers of wet wipes."

"But Jesus, yeah," he reminisces, "Tay was fairly intimidating. Heart of gold, though." There's no indication of how serious he's being in that regard. He tucks his hands in the pockets of his jacket, looking away as if to give her some privacy.

“Oh, right. Because that’s an Epstein trait,” Gracie rolls her eyes. “Golden hearts.” She chuckles, though, the tension in her easing some. She folds the wipe over to scrub at her face, some small sigh of relief escaping her. She didn’t realize just how gross she was feeling. “I don’t know. Maybe he does, actually.”

Frowning, she gets up to crawl inside the vehicle, sliding it half-closed behind her. The rustle of fabric precedes her dress being dropped on the floor just in view of the crack in the door. There’s nothing performative in this. She just needs to change, and feels safe enough having Elliot stand sentinel to that.

“You must have more questions,” she says from her obscured place inside the van, having picked up on how present he had to have been during the inquest, via Squeaks’ eyes. “Go ahead and ask.”

"You seemed mostly truthful in your interview," Elliot says without elaboration. His attention does meander along the road in case someone should have a better view of Gracie than he does. "If you want to talk about it you're welcome to, but I'm not going to tenderize you any more than you already have been today."

“That’s sweet,” Gracie responds wryly, although not insincerely. Unseen, her brow furrows, mouthing to herself mostly truthful. Shaking it off, she drags her bag toward her to find herself a clean dress.

And freezes.

The lack of sound — any sound — from the interior signals to Elliot the trouble even before her fingers wrap around the edge of the door and she peers out. “Did you go through my stuff?” He sees how rattled she is by it, hears it in her voice.

Elliot can only speculate. “If someone tossed your possessions for evidence, it didn’t hit my radar,” he says. “Is something missing, or are things just moved?” He doesn’t leave his position, though her fear is palpable and noted. Should someone have?

Gracie darts back into the vehicle and starts rummaging. “My flask,” she responds almost belatedly. Now she’s tossing her bag. He can see her partial bottle of something he’s heard called Amber Waves set carefully aside before the further sounds of fabric until there’s a sloshing clang.

“Oh, thank fuck.” He can hear her head thump against the door as she sags with her relief. “It’s here.” After more movement, the door slides open again, giving him the full view of her in her fresh dress, carefully refolding clothes and stacking it back in her bag. She’s still perturbed, clearly feeling violated. “It was a…” Her head is bowed, eyes on her work as she folds the edges of a skirt over on itself, then in thirds from the hem to waistband. “It’s important to me.”

"Then I'm glad you didn't lose it," Elliot says. He doesn't press for details because she clearly chose to avoid giving them. The weight of the locket around his neck comes into focus. Then the knowledge of where he keeps the photos of the woman sitting right in front of him several times removed.

"How's the leg?" he asks.

“Surprisingly fine,” Gracie replies, glancing up briefly. There’s a flicker of a smile there, maybe gratitude for not pressing for details she decided against giving. “I got my leg busted up a while back and, uh… Ren healed it up for me. It was weird then, too.” She shrugs, starting to fold another of her maxi dresses. Rue would dress practical, but Elliot’s not seen Gracie in a single pair of slacks in his (albeit short) acquaintance with her.

“This feels better,” she elaborates. “Stronger. Less achey. Ren could mend the bones, but I still had a fuck of a bruise from where I got whacked.” Gracie’s breath catches for a moment, but then she’s fine again. “I’ll be back to dancing for my supper tonight.” The quip is accompanied by a flash of a grin. It’s just a poster tacked over a hole in the wall.

"No need to dance for your supper," Elliot says. He sighs, since this related to the part of her interrogation where she was less than honest. "Everybody gets to eat." There's a seriousness to his words deliberately at odds with the flippant nature of her remark.

It earns him a look from the corner of her eye, a furrow of her brow, confused by the seriousness of him. “Yeah,” she responds quietly, almost cautiously, “I know that.” And she feels like she’s somehow being led into not a trap precisely, but something adjacent to it with that comment.

"Good," Elliot says kindly. "You're not here because the caravan wanted a sex worker; you're here because we invited you to come with us."

He lets it settle only for a moment; looking away in thought, not out of embarrassment for getting too personal. "I can only imagine how hard it was to get along in the Pelago. The choices you had to make can't have been easy. But you aren't those acts, and you're not the only person here who knows that that isn't what defines you. You're a survivor traveling with a community of other survivors. If anybody disagrees with you and I on this topic, I'll make it my problem."

Gracie’s face flushes pink and she swallows visibly, suddenly very awkward and renewing her interest in packing her bag so she has a reason not to look in Elliot’s direction. “Nobody’s… Nobody’s disagreeing with you.” This tacitly should include her. “If you think that’s why I’ve been sharing my tent, it’s not.”

Her tongue runs over the front of her teeth as she shoves smaller clothes into the bag without taking the time to actually shake them out and re-fold them. “If I make jokes about it first, talk about it like it’s no big deal, that takes the fun out of it for anybody who wants to be an asshole.” Her voice is tight when she explains herself. “Whether it’s happening here or not, it’s just what I’ve trained myself to do.”

Elliot is grateful that Gracie doesn't watch him squint at his own less than perfect execution. "Who you share your tent with, and whatever you do while sharing it, isn't my business," he says. "I'm not here to shame you for seeking human connection. But you weren't joking it off during the questioning, it seemed viscerally unpleasant for you to call yourself that."

Her jaw sets to one side as she folds up a thin sweater and sets it on top of the bag. She next picks up her chunky box of an iPod and turns it over in her hands, eyes distant, staring hard at and also past the row of seats in the front of the van.

“I’m not fucking proud of myself or the things I’ve done to survive, okay Elliot?” Her fingers tighten around her prized possession, knuckles turning white. It’s eventually sort of clutched to her chest like a talisman, for lack of anything else to do with her hands now that the folding’s done. “This isn’t the life I thought I’d have. I did everything right, you know?”

Taking in a deep breath and letting it out hard, she stuffs the MP3 player into her bag, burying it between layers of clothing. “And it didn’t fucking matter. I’m here, in the middle of this godforsaken wasteland. The first person I dared to make a meaningful fucking connection with tried to fucking kill me, and then everyone else thinks I’m the asshole!”

Gracie’s hazel eyes are glassy when she looks at Elliot again. She’s mad at herself; angry with the situation and the whims of the uncaring god that led her here. There’s no shouting to direct at him. He’s not to blame. “I tried so hard to do everything right. I just wanted to build a life… A good life.” She sighs. “I’m sorry. Thank you. It’s… kind. You’re kind.”

"I feel less kind than I had intended, honestly," Elliot grimaces, unable to think of a better way to say I don't think of you as a whore and neither should you. "I just wanted you to know that I realize you aren't the bad times you've had. All we ever do is change, so we all have the opportunity to become our best selves. Even accounting for setbacks."

"I am sorry, truly, that you've had to endure these hardships," he says. "But I'm glad you've made it this far."

“Don’t,” Gracie insists quietly. “You didn’t… I’m just stuck on my own issues. You didn’t actually say anything wrong or cruel.” She folds her hands in her lap, staring down at them and wearing her pain plainly. “I just don’t like who I’ve become. I don’t know if I can become someone I like again. I’ve been someone I tolerate for… a long time now. Ever since my whole world changed.” She laughs bitterly. “I mean, I guess the whole world. It’s not like I’m the only one who was impacted by it.”

She takes a deep breath to try and steady herself, wiping a tear away from her face with her thumb. “I’m glad I’m still alive too,” she admits, her exhale a shudder. She looks up, eyes settling on his face like she’s searching for something in his expression or maybe in his soul, although her gaze is not quite that intense. “I’m glad you believed me. I never wanted any of that to happen. I didn’t want anyone to die. I was just trying to help protect as many people as I could…”

Then her eyes squeeze tight and she turns her face to the ground again. “I’m tired of people dying because of the things that I’ve done.”

Elliot nods in understanding, though he doesn't immediately offer evidence of his own failings. He takes a slow step forward and turns, leaning back against the open van door. Staring off into the last of the morning mist, he feels too tired to dig deep into the people he failed to protect. He's certainly not going to ask for a list of the people she feels responsible for. Not so soon after being pulled out of a cell. Instead he stays close, content to let her continue or share the silence.

Gracie sits in that silence, perhaps less comfortably than he, for some time. The space he gives her allows her the time to indulge in a few more tears before drying her face properly, after which point she fishes a small drawstring bag out of her larger one and recovers a compact mirror and an eyeliner pencil. Rimming her eyes with gold feels like putting on armor after all of this.

“You’re right,” she finally breaks the silence while she’s trying to decide on one of the five shades of lipstick she brought with her. “I don’t like to think of myself like that. I like to hope it’s not who I am. What I am. Whatever.” The cap is popped off a bright red tube. She scrutinizes it for a moment before she re-caps it and tosses it back into her bag. “But… People expect less from you when you’re just a model or just a dancer or…” Just a whore. “People talk over your head like you aren’t even there. People don’t think you’re enterprising enough to do stupid shit like sell out a whole caravan of Evos to your psychopath ex-girlfriend.”

A look is flickered in Elliot’s direction, wry grin tugging at her mouth before he can say anything. “That’s supposed to be a joke.”

Elliot hums to indicate the joke was caught. "I'm sure you're girlboss enough to be capable of incredible evil," he jokes in kind. "I'm glad your path didn't make you that person. That would have sucked for me."

He shrugs with his hands in his pockets, looking at her side eyed. "Like, I realize that you're not the woman I love," he continues, "but it probably still would have wrecked me."

“Girlboss,” Gracie repeats with derision, even if she’s taking the joke in stride. “I hate that fucking word.”

But she softens quickly and easily at the mention of her otherworld counterpart. “Yeah… Yeah, I get that.” There’s a deep sympathy in her eyes when she turns her gaze up to him. “I’m sorry that I’m… not her.” She smiles weakly. “I could try,” is another joke, but possibly also not really a joke. “I’m used to pretending to be someone I’m not to help ease someone’s heart… at least for a night.”

Elliot's inscrutable expression turns to Gracie fully as he tries to gauge just how much of what she said was a joke. He's silent for a touch longer than comedic timing allows for, and longer still.

She holds his stare for a moment before being the one to flinch first, looking away. “Sorry. They didn’t really teach me how to handle this kind of stress in my Interpersonal Communications courses.” Gracie sighs. “Is she as bad at this as I am?”

Elliot's sigh is short and not judgemental as he looks away as well. "She's different at it," he says. "She would have been kicking and screaming the whole way probably, broken leg and all. Still fuming about it a little now. But she's got a long history of shit-kicking and you're a non-combatant, so all in all looking for harmless physical connection isn't a bad coping mechanism."

“Well, at least that’s something,” Gracie supposes not quite flatly, falling silent after. Scooting to the edge, she swings out her legs to hang out the door again, bare toes scuffing at the dirt. It’s tactile and grounding in some way.

She can’t look at Elliot for what she asks him yet. “How well do you think you know her? I mean really know her, what with the whole… shared data package you two had going there.” A lifted hand wiggles slender fingers near her head, which may as well be sign language for telepathy.

"I know her better than some," Elliot says. "Not as well as others. She's a complex woman and I generally don't pry. Thought doesn't share through the network, just memories and I can't go digging through them without active participation of the rememberer."

He drums on the side of the vehicle with his fingers before turning toward Gracie conspiratorially. "Why, do you want to tell me some embarrassing shit you did as a kid that I can torment her with just in case she did it too?"

Gracie laughs, but sort of uneasily. "No. Just… There's something missing in our interactions that I expected from someone who knows her as well as you do… or should."

She scowls, frustrated with her inability to articulate the thought. "And it's not just you. Richard and Quinnie don't seem to either…" A faint and rueful smirk touches her lips. "Unless you're hiding something about her from me, then she's hiding something from you."

Elliot pauses to consider what's been said, the calm humor he'd been showing fading away. "I'm assuming this is something you think can't be explained by divergent life circumstances?" he asks, but doesn't directly ask what. He isn't sure why he suddenly feels nervous to find out.

“Yeah.” She looks down at where she makes patterns in the dust on the concrete beneath her feet. “And now I’m sitting here with an ethical dilemma I’m sure you can appreciate.” Gracie wraps her arms around herself loosely. “I’m operating on the optimistic notion that you’re going to be reunited, you know? And that outing her would be a dick move.”

Elliot sighs in curious frustration. "I sure do love a time-travel-adjacent ethical dilemma," he says. "And I literally just said I'm not one to pry, and Rue is entitled to her secrets, but seriously? That's really got the curiosity wheels spinning in overdrive."

“Yeah,” Gracie echoes herself, groaning. “I know. I shouldn’t have—”

But she did.

The horizon of derelict businesses is studied and looked past while she draws in a deep breath, deciding how to navigate the minefield she’s just laid out between the two of them. “It’s just that you’ve never asked me to— Or, uhm, if I— Fuck.” Gracie buries her face in her hands, repeated curses muffled against her palms.

Frustration seems to breed determination, however. She lifts her head again and squares her gaze on Elliot finally. “You said she’s a soldier or whatever, right? What does she do?

There's a lot to be read from what isn't being said there, and Elliot takes a minute to parse it while cooking up with a straightforward answer to the surface question. "She's a spy," he says. "Like me, only with better legs. Also she's a sniper, so she's got a fairly dynamic operational range. 'Dead before you hear the gunshot' on one end and 'nuzzling into your neck while raising a knife behind your back' on the other. Not that all of her jobs involve killing people, mind you."

Jesus,” Gracie breathes out, “seriously?” Somehow it seemed easier to imagine her other self shoulder to shoulder with others in camo or whatever it is that not-soldiers wear, part of a line of defense. “So she’s good at that, huh?” Her hands lift in a pantomime of aiming a rifle. “I mean… My— Our? — dad took me hunting when I was a kid. Shooting deer is one thing. Shooting people is… awful.” She shakes her head. “S’why I left Ren’s shit behind.”

One hand clamps over the other to keep her fingers from shaking. “God, so she…?” She laughs self-deprecatingly. “Like me, but with less little death and more big and actual death, huh?” Gracie has to sit with that for a moment, letting it sink in. Then, she asks Elliot, “What made her like that?” There’s pity in her expression, mingled ever so faintly with disgust.

"We were both part of an underground railroad for Expressives called the Ferrymen," he explains, looking into the skyline. "Expressive abilities were outed on a global scale and shit went south fast. When the government used drones to mow down a culvert full of escaped prisoners of a secret underground research facility for Expressives on live TV, including children, it started the Second American Civil War. I was in that trench, but I survived. My friends didn't. Some of us got dovetailed into the resistance group Wolfhound, and after the war we continued hunting down fugitive war criminals. After that, it probably just made sense for her to keep doing what she was good at."

The pity doesn’t pass, but there seems to be some understanding that makes its way past the more negative feeling there. There’s a moment of solemnity that passes between them after that. A moment of silence for the loss from the horrors of war. One of those losses being, apparently, the last bastions of Rue’s innocence.

She doesn’t have more questions about the conflict itself, only its impact and the motivation it provided. “So you fought for people like you, right?”

People with abilities, anyway, Elliot thinks. It's strange for thoughts like that to exist above the BLACK BLACK BLACK, where they're normally forgotten to avoid stray thought-readers finding out he's been lying. "Expressives were the impetus for the war," he says by way of sidestepping the admission. "There was a lot of good old fascism at play there too, which was important to do as much damage to as possible."

Gracie nods her head slowly. If she isn’t taking him at face value, then she is a hell of a liar. There’s no indication that she doubts his status as Expressive. Who would even have any frame of reference for anyone presenting as Expressive without being themselves Expressive?

She frowns, thoughtful and mulling over how to put those thoughts into words. “I mean, if I understand the places where our timelines overlap, it’s not like she was much of a fighter or anything. I don’t know if I would have had the… The fortitude for something like that. Injustice is one thing — activism I can handle — but actually fighting in a war?” Her voice and expression both are cautious, judging Elliot’s own expression without the shrewdness her counterpart would.

“She had no skin in that game. Do you ever wonder why she decided to do it?”

No skin in that game. "Stopping people from being rounded up and stuck in camps isn't enough?" Elliot asks jovially. "As far as I understand, that didn't happen here, which is a fairly divergent circumstance. Nobody is born a killer. Nature, nurture, all that."

Gracie shrugs her shoulders a little. “I guess I just lack enough imagination to put myself in her shoes,” she says quietly, apparently feeling sufficiently shamed for questioning her other self’s motives.

He sighs, his actual frustration replacing the appearance of calm. "But you said you don't believe there's a circumstance that accounts for your secret," he says. "So is there something you think I need to know before other people find out, Gracie?"

She grows stiff at that. Somehow, she didn’t expect him to finally lose some of that near-perpetual placidity of his. “So she never…” When her gaze moves away, this time it’s with her entire self following the motion to stare hard out at the horizon.

Afraid of something.

“Yeah,” she finally admits. “Probably.” Then slumps forward, elbows on her knees and face in her hands. There’s a frustrated whine muffled against her palms. Gracie lets out one hard breath and looks up again. People are mobilizing, heading to their vehicles to start today’s leg of their journey.

“Let’s catch up after dinner.” She glances upward, back to Elliot. “Or tomorrow. Whatever. Sometime where we can be…” Alone again.

"Sketchy?" Elliot asks in jest, his pleasant demeanor returned and seemingly honest. "Clandestine? Conspiratorial?" He pushes himself off of the van, stretching and exhausted.

"Later then," he adds with a smile. "It's been a day."

“Yeah,” Gracie agrees with a weak smile that somehow manages to be sheepish and grateful at once. “All of that.” She reaches out in a silent request for a hand up that only lasts only a second or two before she remembers their agreement and redirects herself. Hands planted on her knees then, she pushes herself to her feet with a quiet grunt reminiscent of a proper midwest oldtimer.

A glance is sent in the direction of their approaching vehicle-mates. “I’m gonna go rock-paper-scissors Hartbreak for first shift. We’ll talk soon, okay?” Gracie starts forward a few steps, then turns back, expression serious. Earnest. “Really talk.”

"Sounds good," Elliot says, eyes on her hand. He nods in parting, leaving the van for the last of the morning mist.

"Pneumatic?" Wright asks, itching a spot behind her ear because Elliot hasn't noticed he has an itch there.

Anything's possible, Elliot thinks as he obliges the itch that's annoying Wright. How could it be accomplished without alerting the department? Communicating in indexed memories might frustrate a thought reader, but they haven't been able to determine that. It's just a hunch, with no reason to believe there's any mission relevance. "Contention," he suggests.



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