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: the first section probably should have been in the middle of the last section. But narrative linearity? I laugh at you!
Summary: Takes place a few weeks after Commodum Ex Iniuria ends. Recovery is slow, and we walk with our past upon our shoulders.
It was rare that Garcia let herself be dragged away from her post for lunch. But here she was, sitting under trees buzzing with cicadas, and feeling a bit like she was under recruitment by a Soviet agent.
She shook her head, irritated by Sage’s lack of response. She wanted to treat her like a human, because a computer that could think and come to decisions on its own, was as terrifying as something out of a Phillip K. Dick novel.
“Look!” she said. “I believe in the system. It’s not perfect, but it has the ability to change peacefully built into it. I won’t be your spy.”
“Not a spy, then.” Sage blinked once, lizard like. “A guardian, perhaps. Revolution often comes from the inside. Who better than you to make sure the government stays as pure and uncorrupted as you believe it to be?”
“I would risk my job, everything.”
“Only if you get caught.”
* * *
Jean sighed, leaning on the back of the couch in the teacher’s lounge. Emma was at the table, a change of scenery for her never ending grading.
“Christ, what a sentence,” she muttered to herself, wondering whether the student himself would understand the thought if she read it back to him. One of the irritating lazy brats had complained about having to write papers when she could just glance in their mind to see if they knew the material. This was entirely missing the point. If intelligence were defined by knowledge alone, any telepath would be a thousand times smarter than Beast. A paper was a chance to use one’s brain, to consider and connect ideas in original ways, and, god forbid, have an idea. And then they had to express it. She viciously circled a misplaced apostrophe in red pen. They whined, but it completely threw off the meaning of the sentence. Quentin’s was one of the worst. “Telepathy is no excuse for laziness,” she scrawled on the back, followed by a C. Thought was easy; communication was not.
“How are your papers?”
Emma looked up and frowned, not appreciating content-free interruptions. “Repulsive as usual.”
Jean grinned. “One of your students came to me with a paper you corrected, crying.”
“It’s always good to know you’ve made an impression.”
“We went over your comments though, and I think she understood them at the end.”
“Who was it?”
Emma glanced back through the papers she had already marked and found the Cuckoos’ set. Esme’s was obviously plagiarized. Sophie, Mindee, and Celeste’s were virtually identical, which was the trouble with sharing a mind. But Phoebe’s had been a surprise.
“She did much better this time. Your hard work has paid off,” she commented wryly.
“I think it was your hard work. I just convinced her that you actually weren’t being arbitrarily cruel.”
“I am arbitrarily cruel. To everyone.” Spotting a completely unintelligible misspelling, she circled it with half attention.
Jean chuckled. “Do you get many students coming to you with… personal questions?”
“Enough. I do have a degree in psychology, even though my intimidating character makes some less than willing to confide in me.”
“I was wondering…” Jean was staring vaguely off into the distance, and the fog of sadness she rested in was written on her face as well as filling up the mental plane. “When do you know a relationship’s over?”
Emma blinked. Content-free small talk had become an impromptu counseling session. “You’re a telepath. Most people think that we have some divine omniscience in these matters.”
“And I wouldn’t… I couldn’t do that. Then it would be over, either way.”
“If there is one thing I have learned from counseling, it is that the doubt that comes with being a sapiens is terrible. You have an advantage that many would kill for. If your human senses are giving strong hints, use your mutant ones, cut your losses, and get out.”
Emma bore her down with her gaze and Jean looked away. “Cut your losses?”
“No one has strong enough shields to block all their feelings. If you aren’t feeling anything good, there’s nothing good there.”
* * *
JJ took in a quick gasp as they broke for air. Emily moved in for more and found unexpected hands at her chest, keeping her away. She tried to go over them.
Emily kissed her again, awkwardly, half missing her mouth, before JJ finally elbowed her away. She held her firmly by the upper arms and gave her a sharp look. Emily’s eyes stung and she squinted to try not to cry.
“I can’t do this.”
Emily swallowed hard and wished she wasn’t so drunk. She could control herself better if she weren’t like this.
“I’ve made a lot of mistakes,” said JJ, shaking her head. “And one was not understanding what you were offering until it was too late. But I’m happy with what I have.”
She made a strained painful-looking smile. Emily was sure if it weren’t for the firm grip on her arms, she would drop under the table and never come out.
“It wasn’t… what I expected, exactly. But it’s right for me. I’m sorry I hurt you, but I don’t know if I could have ever chosen you. I need to be happy, make the person I’m with happy, and I don’t think you know how to live like that.”
Emily blinked back her tears. “I’ve been happy.”
JJ sat back, letting her arms go, and watching her pityingly. “Not truly at peace and happy. I don’t know if you’re set up for it.”
Emily closed her eyes and tried to breathe. It came hard. She nearly choked on the air, on the bitterness that it tasted of.
It wasn’t fair that Emma was always right. She’ll never love you. It wasn’t even ‘wrong time, wrong place’. It was ‘you are damaged, and it’s not worth it to me to put up with that’. No one would ever pick her, not if they had the chance to be with someone whole.
No one would ever pick her.
* * *
Scott was the next one to come to Emma for advice. He walked right into her office and shut the door, standing stiffly in his impenetrable magenta armor. Emma groaned inaudibly and folded her glasses, sitting back in the chair.
“What do you want, Scott?”
“I’ve been having a difficult time dealing with my possession by Apocalypse.”
Dear God, thought Emma, do I look like fucking Oprah?
“He showed me that I have darkness on my soul that I never knew was there. I thought you might have some familiarity with that.”
What did he mean soul? What soul? “Darkness?” She laughed. “You think you have darkness? You don’t know what the word means.”
“I’ve done things I’m not proud of. I’ve been angry.”
“You’ve been angry.” Emma mocked him. “Have you ever wanted to kill someone you loved, just so no one else could?”
He stared at her, his expression unreadable behind the glasses.
“And have you imagined it, and felt the pleasure of it? Sadistic pleasure is a kind I know only too well.”
“I am afraid of my own capacity for violence. My powers give me the ability to kill easily. And sometimes, I don’t care. I am afraid of that, of not regretting it.”
“Why should you? The heat of battle, a cruel enemy.”
“I’ve killed tactically before.”
Emma smiled, tilting her head. Did the white knight have stains on his hands? How interesting. “Have you? Now that is a grey area. Rationalization and logic often masquerade in the other’s guise. Can you ever be sure that you have removed all taint of anger and frustration? Did you desire to kill, and let that blind you?”
“I never desire to kill.”
“No? Then why are you here? Actions untainted by feeling should never weigh on your mind, no more than the man who opens the door to a Nazi oven considers the morality of his actions. He is just opening a door. Just as you are doing your duty.”
“I don’t think that comparison is valid.”
“Convictions are a greater enemy to truth than lies.”
He looked puzzled. Emma smiled. “Well, if you’ve never desired to kill, have you ever wanted anything not sweet and vanilla? Because if you’ve dreamed it, I’ve done it.”
Scott went stiff and angry, turning his face away.
“If it were anything else, you wouldn’t be hiding from her, Scott. If it were killing, or anger, or feeling out of control of your own actions, Jean would understand. Do you think she doesn’t know the pleasure of destruction, the woman who murdered a whole world?”
“She wasn’t in control of herself.”
“Neither were you. A possession is a possession. And we love to show you what you’re capable of, what your training and socialization repress.”
“She wants forgiveness for that, not…”
“Not punishment? Not those kinky erotic fantasies I see floating around in your head?”
Scott’s muscles tensed, but other responses were beginning to show.
“You always did have a thing for murderously insane women, didn’t you, Scott? Compared to the Goblin Queen and the Dark Phoenix, I’m rather tame. But you’ve tasted Hellfire, and it’s hard to go back.”
* * *
Emma knew the pleasures of wanton destruction. It was a child’s tantrum, the joy of power, of feeling the strength in your hands. She hadn’t missed it, but it was something integral to her character. She saw the opportunity in front of her. If she didn’t take it, she wouldn’t know who she was anymore.
* * *
Emily wondered if she had ever been happy. It was a difficult thing to consider, because one way or another she had always managed to laugh, to make other people happy when they needed it. But even in high school the son of the Japanese Ambassador had once sketched a cartoon of her as the sad clown, the broad smile and sobbing eyes.
Lying on JJ’s couch, the small mutters from Henry’s baby monitor, JJ and Will speaking in murmurs in the next room was not where she had expected to end up tonight. She already felt hung over, though she was probably still drunk. And she had kissed JJ, kissed one gorgeous unattainable woman because another had ripped her apart.
She felt like a homeless orphan standing outside a shop window, starving for the things on display inside: her mother’s love, real friends, someone who wouldn’t make her feel like she had to be strong all the time. But the wealthy people going in and out barely gave her a glance and tossed her their left over scraps.
She supposed she had real friends. What was better proof of that than having the married woman you made a drunken advance on letting you crash on her couch?
It wasn’t as if she thought Emma could give her what she needed. Commiseration was not the same as love. Sex was a tool, an anti-depressant, a moment where you didn’t need to think. It was nothing more.
Emily knew she was starving, so painfully aware of the gnawing, not in her stomach, but in her soul, and she was being tossed fake sugar candy, and dying of malnutrition. It was poison, but she would drink it gladly, because for a moment she could feel full.
Happy? No, JJ was right. She had never been happy.
She didn’t know what the word meant.
* * *