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: Okay, there's six chapters. I give up.
Summary: Takes place a few weeks after Commodum Ex Iniuria ends. Recovery is slow, and we walk with our past upon our shoulders.
Xorn went crazy and destroyed the school, which at least meant that Emma was no longer the most reviled teacher on campus. They pursued him to Manhattan and tried to fight, but his minor healing ability had turned out to be, in truth, the controlled gravitational pull of a star.
He was still a social incompetent, though. He tried to spark a revolution, to lead a cleansing of the world. Few listeners were convinced, and Emma fought a blinding headache to increase their doubt and skepticism.
Isolated and frustrated, Xorn grew more and more angry. His powers were too strong for their depleted force to battle. He tore up the world in his anguish.
Reinforcements arrived in the form of Jean and her new team swooping in to save the day. For a woman who had eaten a star out of a solar system, Xorn’s miniature glow was like an olive on a stick.
No matter how many times Emma blinked, the red glow that surrounded Jean would not go away. But no one else seemed to see it.
Wolverine ripped Xorn’s head from his body, but no one seemed to notice that he had already been dead. The phoenix had devoured him. Emma wondered why she had been left alive.
It was irritating to need to be rescued, but terrifying to be the only one able to see Jean’s phoenix smile even through the pounding in her head. Scott didn’t see it. She glanced through his eyes and the red glow did not exist for him, no more than it did on everything.
He hardly reacted to Jean’s presence, and that was even more frustrating. What happened to their much vaunted true love? What happened to their psychic bond? They seemed completely unaffected by the other’s presence. If Scott would just make up with his wife, then maybe he would finally leave her alone.
* * *
Ororo gave her one look, full of spitting disgust. “You’re still here? I thought you’d go once you finished making a misery of everyone’s lives.”
Emma turned away from her, looking out at the wreckage of the city. The best thing about the hero business was that you didn’t have to stay behind and pick up the pieces. You got to ride off into the sunset, pretending that you saved the day, forgetting that you left destroyed homes, livelihoods, families in your wake. But you forgot everything else as well.
“There’s someone buried there.” Emma glanced over to Storm. “Wind Rider, feel like being a real hero?”
Wind and diamond dug through the rubble until the barely breathing form was exposed and handed over to the medical teams. There were too many screaming minds for Emma to turn around and ignore, so they dug until they were black and sweaty with soot.
“We make a good team.”
Ororo glared at her. “Don’t think this makes you a good person. And stay away from Emily Prentiss. After what you did to Jean, I wouldn’t trust you within fifty miles of one of my friends.”
The name hit like a fist in the gut. All of this had been so familiar, and Emma had looked over her shoulder twice and been surprised to see Ororo there instead of Emily.
“You know nothing-“
“I know you. I know how selfish you are, and Emily deserves better than that.”
“I don’t see anyone else in line,” Emma snarled.
“I don’t see you there now she’s hurt.”
The inflection was off. Emma looked at her sharply. “What?”
Ororo sneered archly. “Don’t you know?”
Emma didn’t have time for this. She knocked Storm’s shields aside with a single blow and tore the information from her mind. The blinding headache that resulted was barely thought of.
Emily had been shot.
* * *
One twist and Scott volunteered to carry critically injured victims of Xorn’s rampage to less overburdened hospitals, a smattering of logistics and they were heading to Washington DC.
Scott kept on casting searching glances her direction. Finally irritated, she checked what he was thinking. He thought she looked upset, and through his eyes she noticed how blatant it was. She looked beaten, dirty and tired. The headache had etched lines in her brow. Emma hated being obvious. She straightened her posture and tried to push her feelings down. But her mind didn’t work the same way it used to. There were no diamond cases to hide them in. Wherever she put them, they hurt.
She leaned against the window, staring out at the ugly highways that cut the land like twisting veins. The low flying plane slid into a cloudbank and she wished she could be there permanently, locked in the quiet cool softness of it, alone.
Scott tried to stop her from leaving as they unloaded the wounded. She walked past him as if he hadn’t spoken.
* * *
“You were shot.”
Emily looked up at her. She was paler than usual, and looked tired and weak. “Couple days ago.”
“Yes. News doesn’t travel particularly fast among X-Men. And of course, Manhattan was destroyed.”
Emily nodded and gestured up to the TV, which was playing the news on mute. For a moment Emma saw herself, helping a limping man out of a half-collapsed building. The news-caster spoke, and smiled with her tacky red lips. Emma felt sick.
“Why are you here?”
Emily’s eyes pulled at her, and Emma wished she had words to explain how much she needed to be here right now. Unfortunately most of the sentences required words like “fear” and “sorry” and those didn’t come out easily. “Someone told me to stay away and leave you alone, and I felt like being contrary.”
Emily smiled weakly. “Sounds like you.”
Emma sank into the chair and leaned her head on the raised hospital bed.
“I hate hospitals.”
“Me too.” Emily let her hand rest on top of Emma’s. Their fingers twined together without conscious thought.
“Emma?” Scott peeked in. He stopped short when he saw Emily. He frowned, recognizing her face, but not placing it. “Um, hello.”
Emily nodded at him, too exhausted to move.
“I told you to leave me alone, Scott.”
“But you looked upset. I thought-“
“This has nothing to do with you.”
Scott looked hurt and Emily glanced up, her eyes sharp with suspicion. Her eyes flicked to Emma and then back to Scott again. “You and…” she hissed at Emma, pulling her fingers out of the clasp. Emma stiffened, the rejection stinging like a slap.
“No! I can’t deal with this!” Her skin suddenly went icy pale, and glistened with sweat. She choked, pressing her hand to her shoulder. Monitors started going off.
Emma blasted Scott out of the room with half a thought and pressed her fingers against Emily’s temples.
“Calm down! Calm down! Please!”
The pain in her mind was too much, physical and emotional. Emma had forgotten how fast her shields dropped around Emily, and took the hit, stunned to inaction by the blow of raw anguish.
A nurse hurried in, pushing Emma out of the way as if she were a twig, and opened up Emily’s shirt. The bandage was a wet red. Emma covered her mouth to clamp down on her need to vomit.
“We need to change these bandages, and give you a little more morphine, okay?” The nurse turned to Emma, clinging to the sink and breathing through her nose. “You should go now.”
Locking eyes with Emily’s stricken, bloodshot ones, Emma moved towards the door. “I’m sorry. I… I love you.”
She left the room, cursing herself for her actions and her words. But there was nothing else that could describe something so imperfect, so worthless, so damaged.
* * *
Emily had thought she was hallucinating at first. The morphine was oh so good, still a fog, but a painless one. She had been able to watch Manhattan crumble into avalanches of broken concrete and skeletal twists of metal with interest, and without feeling, as if it were a movie. Emma was in the movie. She glittered. Emily was mesmerized by the sparkles.
It had been so long since she was able to think about Emma without remembering dying as well. The sharp shock as she tried to breathe, the clenching in her chest, her throat, coughing. The panic had risen. She inhaled through her nose and nearly vomited. She choked on the scent of brimstone, blood pounding in her head. Then he had come out and grabbed her arm as pain spread across her chest. He held her down, but she could hardly see him, her vision fading in and out. She felt disconnected, pulled out of her body into the sulfur-scented darkness.
She wondered for one long moment if she were going to hell, and was almost interested to find out how it could possibly be worse than life.
In the movie, Emma was digging now, and she could remember how she had been before, rooting through the broken buildings, her broken home. Her back unbending as she rose, brushing away her tears, which were nothing like diamond. She stood like one unbroken pillar or beacon amongst the wreckage.
The morphine high was fading. Emily felt the sadness that the drugs had kept hovering above her head begin to settle back onto her shoulders. And then Emma was there, in her room, looking like that same pillar of salt.
It was disgusting how everything felt better with her holding her hand. I don’t need you! She had cried, and she had tried to mean it. But here she was, in her own wreckage, wounded and sick, and facing a psych evaluation before she could go back to work.
Emma’s mouth on hers had brought her back to life. She hadn’t been able to face what that meant.
It managed to be even worse than she had feared.
* * *