Fandom: X-Men/Criminal Minds
Pairing: Emma Frost/Emily Prentiss
Disclaimer: I do not own X-Men or Criminal Minds. Title stolen from the song by Damien Rice.
Apologies: Well, the Angst is back! And again, no clue where I'm headed. Actually, I know exactly where i'm headed, i'm just not sure about the route which seems to be heading into rough terrain.
Summary: Takes place a few weeks after Commodum Ex Iniuria ends. Recovery is slow, and we walk with our past upon our shoulders.
Sleepless again, Emma couldn’t turn her mind off. The bed, the pinnacle of comfort, felt cold and hard. Harder than a blanket spread over bare ground. Harder than a cheap mattress in a crummy rural hotel. She rolled over again and tried not to think about the last night she had spent watching Emily sleep. She hated every moment of it: lying there, holding her, watching her breathe. She had drawn the dark strands away so she could see her face, relaxed for once, not tired or drawn with care. And she wanted to destroy her. Digging her nails into flesh and scraping away the skin, ripping her open, bones snapping away, wrenching apart her rib cage, and lowering her head to sink her teeth into her heart…
If she were the one who killed her, maybe it wouldn’t feel like a loss.
Emma had never claimed to be in love. She didn’t believe in it. Having torn through the wreckage of a thousand minds, she had found no trace of such an emotion. Attachment, sure; obsession, of course; but nothing that she would call love. And she would never call this feeling love. It was more of a horrified desperation, a longing for something that lay with its hips brushing yours, and yet rested too far apart for her to ever own or possess.
Emma had watched her breathe and considered what she would do the next time she stopped.
Her heart had been beaten over and over again, her hopes, dreams, faith chipped away until all that was left was a solid diamond core.
But she knew better than most that even diamond could shatter.
* * *
The scent of ozone, hot winds and damp grass, preceded her friend’s arrival, and Jean breathed it in with delight. Majestic as always Ororo glided to the ground and Jean ran to hug her.
She would not talk about Scott, she told herself, griping about him would ruin a perfectly good visit. She would not talk about Scott.
“How is that going?” Ororo inquired, spotting Emma stalking across the gardens towards a group of students, already cowering in terror from the telepathic advance guard. “I do not trust her, and I cannot imagine why Charles is doing so.”
Jean smiled as Emma verbally lacerated Quentin for bullying and shook her head. “I’m beginning to think that she actually has reformed. She’s… different. We had this mission recently, where we had to work with the FBI, and oddly enough, I think she made a friend.”
Ororo raised her eyebrows. “A human friend?”
“I know! Isn’t that inspiring?”
“Incredible, yes, inspiring I may have to withhold judgment upon.”
Jean laughed. “But it was so sweet. She wouldn’t speak to anyone for the whole flight home after she had to say goodbye to Agent Prentiss.”
Ororo paused, and frowned. “Prentiss?”
Jean nodded. “Agent Emily Prentiss.”
“Wait. Emma’s friend is named Emily? Emily Prentiss?”
“Do you know her too?”
Ororo’s expression hardened. “I may have to pay her a visit, just to make sure Emma isn’t breaking the rules.” She turned and called out to a member of her team, just now passing on their way to dinner. “Sage? Sage. I need an address.”
Jean stepped back and watched the exchange, rather mystified. What was it about Agent Emily Prentiss that seemed to make everyone want to break the rules?
* * *
Emily was fine. She didn’t need another pity party making sure she wouldn’t spend her Friday nights drinking alone. She hadn’t planned on spending her Friday night drinking alone. She hadn’t planned on spending it drinking at all. She had in fact gotten the new book by Roy Hazelwood, one of the pioneers of criminal profiling, out of the library, and was hoping for a little time to herself to enjoy it. But it was not to be.
Garcia, JJ and Morgan showed up at her door to drag her out of the house. They only ended up with movies and popcorn at JJ’s, but they desperately attempted to make sure she was having a good time. One of these desperate attempts involved vodka.
Emily had never seen the point of alcoholism. Too much broke down her treasured control, and though a little bit made her relax, being relaxed just made her too honest.
This time honesty meant, when Garcia came over to where she was lying face down on the sofa and asked her how she was doing, she replied, “God, fucking leave me alone. I’m fine.”
If it was not a particularly convincing response, it was the alcohol’s fault, not hers.
* * *
“What do you mean, ‘it’s encrypted’?”
“It means,” Sage began, the exasperation in her tone only apparent to those very familiar with her, “that someone has decided to restrict access to Emily Prentiss’ personal information. Including her Amazon shipping address.”
“Can’t you get past it?”
“Probably. But I’m more interested in who did it and why.”
Ororo frowned. She hadn’t meant this to be a mission, but if Emma had something to do with why Sage was having trouble getting this piece of information, perhaps there was something to look into. Still, Ororo couldn’t help but consider the trustworthiness of the source of her own information. Emma and Sage did have a lot in common.
“I’ve traced the lock.”
“Well, where’s it coming from?”
* * *
Garcia had set up her regular surveillance tapes, and was happily taking screenshots from the locker room footage to add to her collection of FBI Erotica, when someone, completely unregistered by her cameras, opened the door to her office and stepped inside. Disbelieving, Garcia glanced back and forth from the footage of her closed office door, to the dark haired woman in sexy sunglasses. Sunglasses, that Penelope finally noticed, she could read.
No words were spoken. No words needed to be spoken, but more information was communicated in one glance than would have been in an hour of intimate conversation. But some things must be said in words.
Sage picked up a fluffy pen off her desk, and brushed her nose with it, experimentally, as if to see what it might do.
“You’re different,” she said, keeping Garcia in her peripheral vision, “You speak to them, to us, but you also speak human. Lucky.”
Garcia blinked. “You mean you don’t?”
Sage looked away, letting her fingertips run caressingly down the side of a CPU, an odd smile on her face. “Humans have always been a bit inscrutable to me.”
* * *
Ororo knocked on the door of the apartment. There was a pause and then a crash from the inside.
“Sorry, one moment!”
Storm felt a frisson of tension and self doubt that she hadn’t been familiar with since she had fallen from the sky and been hailed as a goddess nearly twenty years before. She wasn’t wrong though. Sage, hooked up to the FBI intranet, had given her a rundown of the history of their quarry. It was clear that the daughter of recently deceased Ambassador Elizabeth Prentiss had been in Cairo at the same time as she had. And Ororo had polished those memories over and over again, turning them into little kernels of truth that gave her light while living as an alley rat in the squalor of the slums.
She was not about to forget the too pale girl with too dark eyes and too dark hair, her negative image, who knew about not looking like anyone else around you. They knew the looks of envy and disgust given to Americans that their parents thought they were too young to comprehend. They had played deadly serious games, pillow cases as veils, practicing their Arabic greetings, wishing to be allowed to wear the veils in public, wishing for something to protect them from the harsh predatory stares and the prayers that doubled as curses. They played at being the demons they were called.
The door opened, and Ororo stood immobilized by the familiar eyes, which had only fulfilled the prophecy of tragedy they held when young.
Emily’s gaze went from surprised to confused and intent, taking in the blue eyes and white hair that made Ororo distinct anywhere she went. She looked foggy and overwhelmed, and Storm wondered if she would be recognized at all, or merely for her public reputation.
But the sound that came out of her mouth was clearly “…Ro?”
Emily rubbed her eyes and looked at her again. “People… people don’t come back from the dead. Who are you?”
“I did not die. My parents were killed in the explosion. I was trapped beneath the wreckage for days. But my powers manifested when the truck came through the window. The winds saved my life.”
Emily just leaned on the doorframe, staring at her.
Ororo bowed slightly. “As-salaamu `alayki.”
Emily gaped. “… wa-“ The response formed without thought. She stopped it and shook her head, as if to clear it, then looked up and smiled. “Wa `alayki as salaam.”
Ororo accepted it.
“It is you.”
* * *
Emily left the door open and staggered back into her apartment, falling into her sofa and pressing her fingers to her temples. “Please come in. I’m sorry I’m a terrible host, but I’m still hung over.” She glanced up in time to catch Ororo’s disapproval, looked at her face for a long time, and finally smiled. “Your disapproving expression hasn’t changed a whit. But it’s not my fault. Allah preserve me from well-intentioned friends.”
Ororo nodded and accepted the invitation.
“What happened to you? They said you were dead.”
“I became lost in the city. I survived, thievery and scamming tourists. It was hard, but not without its small pleasures.”
Emily rubbed her eyes. “You were supposed to bring me,” she said. Her voice weak. “You weren’t supposed to be alone.”
Ororo felt the tension slip from her shoulders. It was painful to remember that time, even after the horror had faded with the immediacy of hunger. She had thieved in the marketplace, and waited for the thrill of adventure to return, as it had been when she had played this way with Emily, but while she was alone, it never did. “I looked for you, in the markets. I didn’t think you would remember that promise.”
“Mother dragged me to Kabul a month afterwards. Cairo was unsafe.”
“Afghanistan. That must have been a challenge.”
“I was probably the only peace-loving American grateful for the Soviet invasion.”
Ororo laughed, and Emily felt the last vestiges of confusion and anger slip away. “Do you want tea? Let me make tea.”
“Not if you’re feeling poorly.”
Emily, already moving toward the kitchen, smiled over her shoulder. “I feel like celebrating. How often do you get a friend brought back from the dead?”
Ororo decided not to answer that with a number as her experience was slightly anomalous. Instead she settled for perusing the photos framed upon Emily’s mantelpiece. They were few, a candid shot of a large friendly group, Emily caught in the center, looking surprised and slightly uncomfortable with the attention, but not pushed to the side like the frowning man with dark hair, who was relegated to watching. The second was odd, a fading picture, printed on copy paper, leaving only the outlines of the back of a blonde woman in a pale sterile environment. And the third was a publicity shot, Ambassador Prentiss shaking hands with Erik Magnus, in his incarnation as president of Genosha. Ororo stared at that for a long time. How strange that she would choose this out of what must be a filing cabinet full of photos of her mother greeting various heads of state.
Emily’s footsteps sounded behind her.
“I heard about your mother’s passing. I am sorry.”
Emily set down the teapot, her hands not shaking. “Thank you,” she replied, but her words were forced. “But you know what she was like.”
“I know what it is like to be suddenly an orphan as well.”
Emily nodded. But suddenly she looked up, her face twisted with anger. “She was the one- she was the one who told me you were dead. I was, was I eight yet? She didn’t even try to make it easy, she never tried to show that she cared, and she liked you. She came into my room, and said ‘your friend Ororo has died,’ just like that. I ran away to the café and I saw the wreckage, and when I cried she had me sedated.”
Ororo reached out and took her hand. “I’m sorry you had to go through that.”
Emily batted her away. “Don’t pity me. You had it worse.”
“To be honest, I would not like to be the one who had to tell a child their friend had died.”
Emily closed her eyes. “No. Not as bad as telling a parent the fate of their child, but the pain is more immediate somehow, when they understand. And the adult can’t protect himself with the lies he tells you when you move away, about letters and phone calls.”
“Kids’ friendships aren’t intellectual, they’re immediate, about presence.”
Ororo nodded. It was the truth. But when you had no friends, you remembered instead. You imagined conversations and adventures. You shaped friends from the wind.
“The lies are only comforting to adults.”
“Do you wish your mother had lied?”
Emily sat back and held her knees. “No,” she said finally. “I would rather know. Even though it did turn out to be false.”
She gave Ororo another weak smile. “It doesn’t feel false though. So much must have happened to you. You must have been extremely lucky to survive.”
Ororo acquiesced. “I was.”
* * *