Our Other Selves


des3_icon.gif mateo3_icon.gif

Scene Title Our Other Selves
Synopsis After the trip into his mind, Mateo goes to see his sister to see if she understood some of what she heard. They talk about their pasts— and the people they could have been.
Date April 5, 2018

Des' Apartment

Des' apartment looks picturesque, like it's the model apartment. It might have been. It came pre-furnished, because otherwise she would have been content to have furniture made of milk crates. The only thing she chose for herself is the ridiculously soft pillowtop bed, able to be peeked at through the slightly ajar door. The surface is covered almost entirely with pillows. The Nightingale likes her nest.

There's no dining table - Des does her eating at the island that separates the open kitchen from the rest of living space. Stove, oven, over-the-range microwave and cabinets on one side of the island, couch and coffee table on the other. The L around the corner from the entryway has the refrigerator and the glass-front cupboard that serves as Des' liquor cabinet.

She's dressed down when she opens (the three deadbolts and chain on) the door. And colorfully. Her over-long sweater is jeweltones and geometric patterns leading to a pair of those galaxy leggings that have been trendy recently. She likes the color, and has only just begun to indulge it again, and only at home. Her scars aren't hidden for once.

"Hey," Des greets softly. "I'm glad you came. Welcome to my… home, I guess." She has a hard time thinking of any place as home still. Even though this might be the longest she's spent in one place since her time in Company custody.

A battered copy of Ficciones lays out on the kitchen island next to a bottle of gin and two glasses - one filled and garnished with lime, and the other waiting.

For some reason, Mateo had expected a cluttered apartment. He couldn't explain why, he had just imagined things everywhere. So the lack of boxes piled high did surprise him as he entered. The locks, though, that did not surprise him at all. He would not have been surprised if she used a bar instead of a chain, either. "It's a nice apartment," he offers a hint of a smile that tugs on the corners of his mouth, but doesn't touch his eyes or forehead like the bigger ones do. He had been told not to worry about what she might have seen inside his head, that she wouldn't hate him for it, but it could be the worry remained, along with the soft gnawing in the back of his head, reminding him of that ability he has inside him.

That constantly wants out.

He spots the book almost immediately, even before the empty glass waiting for him, crossing over to it to pick it up in surprise. "This is the 1944 edition— that's amazing," he exclaims, careful in the way he touches it as if it's actually worth something. "Mine is the 1956 edition. The one actually has the El acercamiento a Almotásim." But lacks a few other stories his version has. He doesn't open it yet, though.

"Go ahead. It's technically yours, after all," she offers, gesturing toward the book. "Gin? Or I have a fully stocked cabinet if you want something else." She just likes the quinine to slap her in the head.

If he'd seen her first home at the Odessa Primatech facility, he would have spotted the boxes of files and curios. But this is a woman who travels light. The only objects of sentimental value can be carried on her person or in a fireproof lockbox. She stands an the opposite side of the island, on the kitchen side, waiting to see if she should fetch something else for him to drink.

Oh, right, drinks. "Gin's fine," Mateo responds with a small nod, though he still looks distracted as he opens up the book and— sees his hand writing. Small differences in the handwriting, as if he had written in the book tired or rushed. But he recognizes the way he moved from one letter to the next, even in placed where it seemed the ink had faded with age, he could figure it out. Spanish mostly, some English. Lines upon lines. Poetry.

"…The other me wrote poems," he responds with surprise. "I mean, I do too, sometimes, but— not very often." He dabbled in it, but as he flipped pages he saw that the margins were filled with them. Some just a few lines, some repeated over and over. She'd read through them, translated them.

They talked about gardens. About floods. About love and loss. About trust and betrayal. About mirrors and mazes. About fish and birds. About lightning and thunder.

"I never wrote any of these."

No, he hadn't. And not just because he doesn't remember doing it.

The gin is poured into the bottom of the glass, tonic splashed in on top. Wedge of lime. Leaving the bottles set out, she comes to sit at the island in front of her glass. "I… I think there was a little more desperation." It's speculation on her part, largely, and she isn't sure how much to suppose. "I think they didn't have… as many things to distract. So…" She shrugs. "Poetry."

Des takes a slow sip of her drink and purses her lips thoughtfully. "I learned Spanish just to read the book and the things he wrote. I needed to know. And he seemed to think I should know it, so… Now I do."

"I take it the answer wasn't obvious— " Mateo responds, unable to read every poem right now, just catch words here and there to get context. No, he doesn't think it had been the poems that has been the answer to her question— though now that they knew who they might have been to each other, he does realize that she's got a diffenent context for looking at them now. "But yeah— now we know more than we used to."

What had been true, what had been false. What had been lies and fantasy. A story to keep him safe, to hide him away.

After a moment, he closes the book and sets it aside. He'll read through the poems as much as he can later, but for now

He doesn't know how to bring it up, so he sits down and takes a long drink before he starts, "So… We know a little more now." And perhaps more than he had wanted her to ever see, from the way he cautiously looks at her over the drink.

"It wasn't. Not to me. I… didn't have enough context. Didn't know how to answer the question correctly." A bunch of question marks where her socialization should have been. Love in a familial context, until recently, was completely in her blind spot.

But the next topic? That's something she understands. "He never gave me a Norse name," Des quips, her ice breaker. She leans an elbow on the counter, all faux indignance. It doesn't last before it melts into sympathy, devoid of pity. "The first place I found myself when I escaped the Company was with the Vanguard. I was promised purpose and a place in the world. Volken… was persuasive."

And she jumps right to the topic he'd half hoped she hadn't understood. But Mateo had been afraid she had— and she had. But he hadn't expected how she approached it. "That sounds like what happened with me. Instead of purpose, though, I was promised… it doesn't matter. It had been a different time. I didn't understand anything. I'd just lost my mother and destroyed an entire block, blacked out a whole city in the process." He shook his head. He knew it wasn't an excuse, that he'd been in a bad place when he had found him.

But he had gotten a name. He had earned it. If one could call it that. He had.

"I didn't leave til after we got word he'd fallen here— in New York. Some didn't believe it, some did. A lot of them started to leave— I saw my chance and did the same."

"I was in charge of the virus meant to wipe us all out," she responds easily, repaying his candor. "I sabotaged it after I heard it would kill everyone." She's a bit more solemn, not proud of her initial involvement.

"I understand, though. I was angry. I felt cheated, and like the world owed me something…" Des shakes her head and stares into her drink. "I know what drives someone to do that." She rests one hand over his. "I'm glad you got out."

"Oh," Mateo responds softly, looking down at his gin and suddenly wishing it were even stronger than it already was. They both left, though she had at least sabotaged it in the process. He hadn't done anything similar. He hadn't even killed anyone when he left— he just— left. There had been reasons why, voices whispering.

"I was mostly there to… be a weapon all on my own." Point him at someone they wanted gone, make it happen. Just as his mother had used him to get rid of the company agent that had known about them. Just as she'd seen the men rising up into the sky to get devoured by never-endings swirling darkness.

"Almost no one in Vanguard knew my real name. Just a few. It's probably the only reason I didn't get arrested as soon as I entered the country." Or at least questioned. "The leader of Wolfhound stopped by the other day— half of me had been terrified she had been there for me. But she was there because she's investigating the Looking Glass project— The old Institute had been working on that."

Suddenly, anxiety grips at her guts and winds them around their fist. "I hope you don't hate me," Des says quietly. "There's no excuse for what I did, not really." Explanation, but not excuse. "I never… Volken never knew what I could do. Not at first, and not to the full extent." Not until later, when he wasn't Volken as she saw him. "If he truly understood… I don't know what might have happened. What use he might have made of me." Odessa has always been a dangerous creature in the hands of others who know how to best exploit it.

But he says something that grabs her attention and puts fear in her eyes. "Wolfhound was there? And they know about Looking Glass?" No, not fear. Terror. If they catch me, I'll hang, echoes in her mind. It shows in the way her hand trembles against his. She has to take a deep breath to calm herself. She could grab a pocket of time and freak out, indulge it, but she's spent years learning to do without that. She'll do him the courtesy of allowing him to see how it affects her.

Mateo's other hand shifts, until he's holding that trembling hand between both of his. No, he doesn't hate her, he might hate himself for having done certain things that are relievent, but hating other people— that's a different story. "Hey, it'll be fine. You weren't on the Looking Glass project originally, right?" It's an easy assumption. If she had been, she might have understood what his other self had been trying to tell her more easily.

"That's what she's looking into. What they did with it. Which is why I told her the other me might have been involved— so she's not surprised if she comes up with anything listing me." So she doesn't dig deeper into it. So she doesn't stumble upon the wolf who will devour the moon living in their midst.

"Though I'm starting to think we should all stay away from it."

"I- No," Des acknowledges softly. "I wasn't involved in their research." To the best of her knowledge, she wasn't involved in any iteration of the Looking Glass project, but she isn't so sure sometimes. And… he's probably right about it. She should probably grab Richard by the shoulders and tell him to burn everything related to the Looking Glass project that he's gotten his hands on.

But she won't.

"They other forks in the path are using it." Which turns this into a know thy enemy situation for her. "In my visions, I see myself and I know." Des leans forward to rest her forehead against Mateo's, holding his hand tightly. "We did the best we could," she tells him gently, reminds herself at the same time. "We didn't know. We couldn't know. Knowing the things we do now? We never stood a chance of making good decisions when we escaped the Company." Even if his escape was tragic, the death of his mother.

When their foreheads touch, Mateo closes his eyes for a moment, until he pulls back so he could look at her again. No, he knew better— he knows he did. Part of him hadn't cared. Because he'd lost his mother, because he felt like some kind of monster. Because that thing in his head had woken up and tried to consume him— and he had been willing to let it. "We're different people now." That was the best he could come up with in response.

Both of them.

"I just hope that Kaylee doesn't think worse of me, if she even understood what it meant to be called Hati." He's not sure even Des understood what it meant, what he had to do to get the name. What he had been and who he had hurt. And how he'd not cared about it, how he'd hated the entire world for a time. Including those he worked with and himself.

Des understands earning those names. She doesn't always understand the correlations between the names and the actions, but she can make best guesses in Mateo's case. "Kaylee is pretty forgiving. We… Well, she's a different person now, too. She knows what I am and where I came from, and she still insists I stay. She still looks after me." She smiles for him, because it's what she thinks he needs from her at the moment. "It takes a lot to rattle Kaylee. I don't think she thinks worse of you."

The smile decays slowly, replaced with concern. "You're right, you know. We aren't those people anymore. We're so much more than what Volken tried to mold us to be." She always held on to that notion, which is why she never earned her place. She smirks faintly, "I'd ask if you suppose bad decisions run in the family, but you married Lynette, so clearly you broke the cycle."

That the telepath might have something she too had left behind leads Mateo to nod. Maybe everyone does. But he doesn't think everyone has made quite as bad decisions as the two of them had in the past. "Maybe not in the family, no. But hey— maybe the other us followed different paths." Maybe they had different lives. They could be seen as proof that they could be better, while also being proof that the world and their own decisions had made them what they were now.

"I wouldn't call Lynette a choice though. I mean I did choose her— I did. But… I didn't all at the same time."

He fell in love with her, that he didn't think was a choice— but staying had been. "If one of us can, the other can too, right." He responds with a an upward hike of his eyebrow and a small grin, one that actually does crinkle the corner of his eyes.

"I choose all the wrong people to give my heart to," Des admits freely, a sad sort of smile on her lips. Some of that sadness is banished by his grin and his assurance. Her own brows lift in return, mirroring unconsciously. "Maybe. I feel like I might have gotten it right finally, but the person I like now knows too much about who I used to be to like me back." And that doesn't seem to make her sad, even if it sounds like it should.

Finally, she lets go of his hand so she can return to her drink, bringing it to her lips to drain a good portion of it. She'll blame the melted ice making her play catch-up.

"Also, considering, it's probably not easy for you to meet people." Good ones, at least. Ones that would, he has little doubt, would eventually see her for as she was. Not what she had been. Mateo can understand that— it had been one of the many reasons he had not wanted to tell Lynette. For a long time. "She didn't know, though. Not until after. I told her when it seemed inevitable that we'd be going into my head." When he knew that might be the only way to get answers.

And when he knew he would not do it without her, either.

He had no idea how things would have gone if she'd known earlier. "And maybe it's not the time for that, anyway. Maybe you need family and friends right now." Cause she had that, if nothing else.

The glass clinks against her teeth as she starts to giggle at the tail end of a sip. "You're not wrong there. Being in hiding makes it hard to meet people. But it's the only kind of life I've ever really known." It just used to be a little less emphasis on the death portion of life or death. "Before you told her, she told me my past didn't matter. I think she would have told you the same if you'd told her before. She loves who you are now." She can see it in the way Lynette looks at Mateo.

And how badly Odessa wants someone to look at her the way that Mateo looks at his wife.

Des sighs with an absent little smile. "You're probably right. I'm still… learning love without those other feelings attached." It had been why she misinterpreted her relationship to the other Ruiz. "Speaking of that, though… Do you think you'd be willing to do it again? With my consciousness linked to my other selves, it's too dangerous to delve into my mind for more answers." Meaning he's the better option for uncovering some of their shared history. "I understand if you'd rather not. I really do."

With a shake of his head and an amused gesture, Mateo responds with a hint of a laugh in his voice, "You already learned the darkest secret that I know about— anything else inside my head really can't be my fault." Not him, him, because he doesn't consider anything he did when his mom had control of him, or anything he'd done as a child could have really been his fault. He was most ashamed that the first decision he'd made knowingly had been to join a group bent on destroying the world.

That he'll never really ask forgiveness for.

"And there's still a lot of questions. I mean I found out that literally everything I remember before my mother died was all a lie— so what's the worst thing we could find out." In short— yes, he's willing to do it again. With the three of them, And hopefully not find out what exactly could be worse.

"I'm sorry." Des frowns faintly. "I've… I've thought about that. What she did to you. The way I figure it is she saw the darkness in your head, like the Company saw mine. And she did her best to give you as normal a life as possible, even if couldn't be real. Giving you those memories was a sort of gift, I think." She shakes her head. "Maybe you don't see it that way, and I can't blame you. I just have memories of concrete walls and wary looks and… so many gaps."

"I don't know how much my memories will help yours," Mateo admits, knowing that they had been seperated early, when she was a child and he was probably not much older than would be considered one as well. Children who had seen something and been dangerous enough that they seperated. But maybe that childhood would give them some answers. "But I hope we get some."

Some answers to the little questions they had about who they had been to each other…

Before the world crashed down and they were taken away from each other. She seemed to know something about that part, but neither of them knew enough. That was for sure.

"Once Kaylee's feeling up to it, we'll get some answers."

Maybe they'll find out why they were taken from one another. Or maybe they'll just find out what their favorite meal was as children. "Anything is better than nothing," she insists.

It seems the world has been doing its best to crash down again lately. A sobering though occurs to Des that prompts her to get up from her seat and go to the coffee table, looking through a stack of folders until she finds a folded newspaper underneath. "I… You were in South America." It's a little obvious, but it's clearly leading to something. She returns to the kitchen and drops the newspaper over the top of Ficciones.

"I thought this might mean something to you."

Any hint of a smile disappears completely from his face as Mateo realizes exactly what's in front of him. He thinks part of what saved him had been the fact that he'd only been known as Hati to most in South America, that a lot of those who had been in that part of Vanguard were either long dead or missing. But— no. He had heard of the attack out west, but it hadn't been here, so he hadn't bothered to look into it—

Nor had he seen the picture. A familiar form, that. "That's Thor," he whispered quietly, the tension visible in the way he moved his hands, in the set of his jaw. "I thought he was dead." He's pretty sure he read about him having died, but— Apparently not.

She's never seen him quite like this. Des resists the urge to reach out to him, to encourage him to take a deep breath. There's no advice she can give him to calm that he doesn't already know himself. "I was afraid of something like that…" A wry smile curls the corners of Des' mouth upward. "I've been dead twice." And that cruel power of resurrection is now hers. "Doesn't mean much these days."

She watches his face, not warily, but with some uncertainty. "Are you okay, Tete? I never met Thor. Not that I recall, anyway."

"No, it's— its fine. I'm fine," Mateo responds, even as he shakes his head and stares down at the blurry picture. It's amazing he still recognizes him after all this time with that blurry of an image, but really— it's not even that amazing. "He was just— If Vithar had still been in charge, I might not have left, so it's probably a good thing Thor had been." That Kazimir had needed Vithar up north, that he left the ex-mercenary leader in charge.

Who knows where he would have been if he had been in Vanguard during Apollo.

"Let's just say he wasn't a nice guy and leave it at that." Then again, had any of them been? "Even by Vanguard standards, he was extreme."

"Vithar…" Des shakes her head in another unconscious mimicry of her brother. "I should have guessed that." But that makes her more concerned for him. Considering Jensen Raith is essentially Wolfhound adjacent. Rumor has it he's gone into retirement, though. With any luck, he'll stay there. Odessa would rather never run into him again. He freaks her out a little.

"I won't pry. But if you ever need to talk to someone about it, there's… not a damn thing I can think of that you could say that will shock me or make me think less of you. And I mean that."

If Mateo knew where to find Jensen Raith, he might do something even stupider than just wait for Wolfhound to find him. But he doesn't know where the man is, just rumors that he had been alive, had helped the Ferry, had participated in Apollo— Just what the books had covered. Hati didn't get much spotlight in the histories, though he had found a few mentions here and there. Vague.

"I know you'll be there to talk to, but— it's not something I really want to relive. You already saw enough, too." An idea what he might have done for them, when it had been asked of him. Though not what Thor had been doing just before he'd left.

Branding Evolved had been one of the last straws for him.

Instead of more on this topic, though, he reaches over and picks up the book again. "Let's see if I can find any poems that look like something I actually would write— might give us some insight on the differences between us."

"I get that," Des relents, one hand up in surrender. "I just… think it's important. Sometimes, I wish I had someone to talk to when I have nightmares." Sometimes she does. But some nightmares are the kind others don't want to know about. She leaves it at that, though. She has no desire to poke at an open wound, understanding all too well herself what that pain feels like.

"Well, he was clearly as head over heels about Lynette as you are," she teases, "if the margins are anything to go by." There's a fond smile for that. Once she came to understand the language, she'd loved the poetry. "Would you share some of the poems you've written with me someday? I'd like to read them."

"I mean, I knew that part— Lynette told me he got shot trying to protect her," Mateo responds quietly, even if he still could not help but be amazed that another him somehow had met her that far back. If the timelines were parallel, at least, he wasn't sure how it worked. Skimming through them, he finds the the one about 'After the Lightning' and reads it quietly, then flips another few pages and sees one in English. One with dried blood smeared along the page. He'd been dying as he wrote that one.

"She'd died. And he had been counting the days…" It doesn't sound like it surprised him, really. "Over a year and a half… He died in November of two thousand eleven, right? So he would have had to have met Lynette by early 2010— That wasn't much after I left Vanguard." Not much at all.

"It was one of the last things he said. That he had to save her." She finds herself watching him again, reading his reactions silently, without judgement. "It must be very surreal. It's like that for me too, when I have my visions." Hearing about it second-hand must be different by far, though.

"I don't know where the timelines diverge. It seems like the two of us found each other much earlier. Well, the other two of us." Des grimaces.

Continuing to thumb through the pages and read the poems, Mateo tilts his head at one, one that's mostly in Spanish except for multiple muses of the English word destiny, but he doesn't understand what that might possibly mean. The capitalization doesn't even hint to it having been a name.

"Yeah, same with Lynette. Were there any poems about wolves, or eating the moon, or even… someone named Jose?" That comes in softer as if, he's not really sure how else to explain it.

But she's read his poems, the ones he had written.

"There was a poem about a bird that swallowed the moon…" Which would be a great time for Des to admit that she did have a codename herself, it just wasn't Norse, as she implied earlier. But if he doesn't already realize that she's the Nightingale…

"No Jose that I remember." Given how many times she's read and re-read them, she would remember.

"Maybe he'd forgiven himself for the time in Vanguard more than I did," Mateo theorizes, but he doesn't know how much deeper to read into it right now. "Do you mind if I borrow this for a time? To read the poems, maybe even copy them." For later reading and reviewing— because he can't help but want to know about this other him. That otter. He isn't connected to his other selves like she is, but he still feels a connection.

And he wants to know how they became what they did— and what they had managed to become, as well.

Des nods her head, smiling. "Of course! You can borrow it as long as you like." She knows how much the book means to him, so she trusts him to take care of it, and trusts he realizes how much it means to her, too. "I hope he did. And I hope you do too." Whether or not she's forgiven herself depends on the day.

"If this helps you figure some things out…" Des shrugs. "I'll be glad for you." Ecstatic on her own part, actually, but this isn't about her. "I know what it's like to want to understand your other self."

With that permission given, Mateo closes the book, planning to read it more indepth later, with a notebook and a photo copier on hand, likely. Cause he might want to recopy the poems in his handwriting, but he wanted to perserve the others at the same time. "I'm sure it will help, at least." And maybe it would give Lynette some closure on the version of him who had been willing to die.

"I should probably get going," he adds, finishing off the last of his gin and lime, all watered down due to melting of ice, before he moves closer and plants a quick kiss on her cheek. "We'll see each other again soon, okay?" Half question, half reassurance.

Des smiles at the display of affection, pleasantly surprised by it. She returns it and slips off her chair to give him a hug once he's standing as well. "Definitely. I'll come by again soon. I can use my ability to slip in unnoticed if I have to." While she doesn't like to use her ability as often as she used to, she'll do it to see him. Without hesitation.

"Take care, yeah?"

"I always do," Mateo responds with a grin, straightening and taking the book with him. "You too, mi pájarita. I want to keep being able to come over here now that I've seen the place. We could have a movie night, or something." They, him and Lynette, have them with Silvia, to give her a better idea what the pop culture is in this country. But he could have another one, too. "There's tons of old classics we could pull out."

Including one that she used to watch all the time when they'd been kids, even if she didn't remember it.

"Ooh, movie night." Des claps her hands together twice. "Yes. I'd love that." She grins broadly, looking slightly childlike in her happiness. "Come back soon, Tete."

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