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Truce and Just Us

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Julia paced her apartment for what felt like the thousandth time that night. Nothing was making any sense. Devineaux had been kidnapped, Chief had seen Carmen in the room with his unconscious body, the damage to the room indicated someone had been thrown around quite a bit, but Devineaux had barely a scratch on him. She couldn't be sure of anything until the police records were disclosed to ACME, and that was driving Julia up the wall. With Devineaux unable to talk and Carmen not answering her calls, Julia worried that something truly terrible had happened to both of her partners. 

It didn't make any sense. In all her heists, all the times she came into contact with law enforcement, Carmen had never hurt anyone. Julia won't deny she stole Devineaux's ID card, but using it to bait him? Why would she? It was glaringly obvious that Agent Devineaux was highly incompetent, so she had nothing to fear from him. 

With a sigh, Julia fell back on her bed. None of this was adding up, none of it made sense, and, coupled with the lack of sleep, it was all giving her a headache to think about. She wasn't likely to get any answers soon and mulling it over would do her little good without further investigation. 

As she prepared to remove her glasses and leave all this for the morning, Julia heard her phone going off. Moving to the chair she'd set it on, she hurriedly answered. "Hello?"

"Hi, is this Julia Argent's phone?" A teenage voice could be heard on the other end of the line. 

"Yes, this is Julia speaking."

A soft sigh of relief. "Thank goodness. We've never spoken before, but I'm Player, Carmen's friend." The mention of her name made Julia's heart jump. 

"Carmen? Do you know where she is? Is she alright?"

There was silence on the other end for a moment and Julia's mind settled on the worst conclusion before Player spoke up. "She's... not okay. You know where her Poitiers penthouse is, right?"

"Yes, I do." Julia immediately began getting dressed, throwing on a regular shirt and jacket. There was no time to waste. "I presume she's there now?" 

"Yeah," Player responded. "Um, a word of caution. Do you know any first aid?"

Julia stared at the phone suspiciously as she stepped into her flats and grabbed her keys. "A bit. Why do you ask?"

"Carmen's... not looking too good right now, so, uh... be prepared for that." Player sounded nervous and a tad worried. Julia could understand that. Even though she and Carmen had been dating for a while, she and Player didn't know one another. He was basically sending an officer to his injured friend, not knowing if she'd be arrested.

Julia took a deep breath. "Understood. Does she have a first aid kit?"

"Yeah."

"Then I won't be taking any detours. Thank you, Player." With that, she hung up and made her way out the door. 

On the other end, Player leaned back in his chair with a relieved sigh. "Thank you, Julia."

The night had been a rollercoaster for everyone. Zack was still disoriented from his run-in with Coach Brunt, so Carmen had sent him to the ER with Ivy to get him fixed up. Unfortunately, she couldn't go with them, being an international criminal and all, and had stayed at the penthouse. But doing that left her susceptible to her injuries, which were taking their toll now that the adrenaline had worn off. 

Player didn't know if Julia was trustworthy, but Carmen spoke highly of her and always kept him updated on important or mundane info shared on their dates. She was the only one Player could reach out to right now, so he'd taken the chance. After speaking with her, he felt confident that he'd made the right choice. 

Julia didn't take a car. She didn't want to leave a trail. Thankfully, Carmen's apartment wasn't too far from her own, and she arrived in less than half an hour. She flashed her badge at the elevator operator like usual and he immediately took her up to the penthouse. 

Before entering, Julia took a few deep breaths. She wasn't sure what to expect, but she needed to be prepared. Opening the door, she glanced around. Everything seemed to be in place, which at least meant the struggle hadn't been brought here. Ragged breaths from the couch drew Julia's attention. She shut the door behind her and hurried over. 

"Oh, Carmen..." she breathed, kneeling beside her girlfriend. Bruises from her face to her hips, one hand bent at an awkward angle and the other clutching her ribs. "What happened to you?"

Carmen's eyes slowly opened and she smiled cheekily, even through the pain. "Heya, Jules," she rasped. "Devineaux get out safe?"

"Yes, he's in the hospital right now." Julia brushed Carmen's hair from her face. "How do you know about him?" She already knew how, but she needed Carmen's side of the story. 

"Tried to rescue him." Carmen shrugged. "Got into a fight. Had to leave once the feds showed up. Glad he's okay."

Julia smiled. She knew it. However, she could celebrate in her relief later. For now, she needed to help Carmen. "I'll be right back," she whispered with a kiss to the injured woman's temple. 

She stood and made her way to the bathroom. Julia found the first aid kit under the sink and checked to be sure it was fully stocked. Grabbing a nearby washcloth, she dampened it in the sink and headed back out.

Carmen offered her another smile when she returned and Julia took another deep breath. "Does it hurt when you breathe?" she asked softly.

"Yep," Carmen responded. "Coach held back, but wow did she do a number anyway." 

Julia ignored the mention of this 'Coach'. Carmen rarely told her of the people she knew, both of them understanding that too much information shared could put either of them in danger. Instead, she shook out her hands and prayed she didn't screw this up. She was no doctor, after all, and done wrong, this could go horribly. 

"Alright, I'm... I'm going to try to reset your ribs." Julia's eyes widened when a hand grasped hers. 

Carmen stared up at her seriously. "I trust you, Jules."

Julia nodded and slowly set to work. Thankfully, Carmen had removed her shirt before Julia's arrival, which made things easier. Carmen grabbed the rag Julia had brought back and bit into it, nodding to her girlfriend. 

The next several minutes were agonizing for both of them as Julia worked carefully to reset the bruised and dislocated ribs. Fortunately, none of them were broken. Carmen tried to mask her screams, but it was a futile effort. 

At last, that part was finished and Julia sank back with deep gasping breaths while Carmen finally took her own deep breath. It still hurt, but not as badly as before. "You did great, babe," she called to her pale girlfriend. 

"It was not easy," Julia grumbled, but spared a small grin at the thief. "Now that the hard part's over, let's take a look at that hand."

Carmen held up her hand and Julia set to work once more. As she worked with the bent fingers, Julia asked, "Can you tell me all you're able about what happened?"

Carmen mulled this over. "Alright. Two people from my past, Samurai and Coach, apparently got it in their heads that Devineaux was my partner somehow. Seems it never occurred to them that he was a reckless pursuer. Anyway, they took him as a way to bait me. Figures. They didn't rough him up any from what I saw, but they did use some kind of brain device thingy on him, created by The Doctor. He's gonna be disoriented for a few days, his memory'll be pretty fuzzy for a while, too."

Julia's shoulders relaxed a little at that. Devineaux would be okay. The man could be a boor sometimes but he still hadn't deserved this. 

"I had some friends provide backup and get Coach and Samurai to leave him alone. While they were playing, I tried to get Devineaux outta there, but Coach came back early. She tossed me around like a ragdoll. Brute strength and all, ya know. Tried to bear hug me like when I was younger, but, you know, to kill me this time."

Julia cringed at that. She couldn't imagine how much that must be hurting Carmen emotionally. "How did you escape?"

Carmen laughed. "You won't believe this, but Samurai saved me from her. Cut open our way out and got me outta there before the police could get to me. Pity they couldn't get Coach, but at least Devineaux's okay."

"Did... Did Agent Devineaux say anything when you found him? Maybe try to fight you off or something?" Julia needed to know how Chief had gotten involved. She started tending the bruises and scrapes now as she listened. 

"Yeah, he pulled a lady from a pen." Carmen laughed, as if she thought Julia would find it absurd. "Hologram or maybe it was a ghost or something. Had to smash the pen before she got too good a look at me."

Julia sighed, finishing with the makeshift splints for Carmen's fingers and moving on to patching up everything else. That at least explained how Chief had found out Carmen was in the room. Devineaux must've been trying to report to Chief. Julia was going to have to tread very carefully from now on. Chief would be out for Carmen's head and Julia had no way of clearing Carmen's involvement without drawing suspicion to herself. 

Fingers on her face drew Julia's attention to narrowed gray eyes. "You've got a look," Carmen said. "It's a 'oh no this is bad' look. Was I not supposed to smash the ghost lady pen?"

"No," Julia responded automatically before catching herself. "I mean, yes. I mean..." She took a deep breath. "There are... complications now that you've done that... The pen ghost lady thinks you... were responsible."

Carmen blinked at her before understanding dawned on her. "Pen Ghost Lady was important..."

"That is correct." Julia set about putting the supplies away. 

"Lemme talk to her." Julia nearly dropped the first aid kit as she whirled on her girlfriend. Carmen looked at her expectantly. 

Julia pushed her glasses up. "I beg your pardon?"

Carmen shrugged. "Lemme talk to the ghost pen lady. Clear things up." 

"Carmen, you don't understand. She... she won't respect your boundaries the way I do. She'll want information. She'll triangulate this location and send agents and you're in no position to fight or run."

Julia tried not to let her panic show, but she was bad at it. She couldn't just click her pen right now. Chief would want a full interrogation with Carmen, something Carmen wouldn't be willing to consent to. Just because she was a gentleman thief didn't mean she would just spill all of her secrets to a random woman in a hologram. But if she didn't talk, Chief would be less inclined to trust her than ever.

"Jules," Carmen called. Her voice was hoarse and soft. Julia glanced down to find her slipping into unconsciousness. "Please think about it? I don't need any more trouble on my tail. I gotta fix it however I can..."

She slipped into slumber and Julia bit her lip. She would be taking a terribly huge gamble if she did that. She would be under greater scrutiny by the organization and possibly taken off the case entirely. Still, Carmen really didn't need more competent people coming after her. Lifting the communication earring from the nearby table, Julia pressed the button. 

"Yo, Red," Player called cheerfully. "Julia patch you up okay?"

"Carmen is currently resting," Julia informed him. "However... I have a matter to discuss with you..."