Fandom: X-Men/Criminal Minds
Pairing: Emma Frost/Emily Prentiss, other Emma Frost/Emily Prentiss
Disclaimer: I do not own X-Men or Criminal Minds. I owe wizened_cynic for the concept of quantum babies. She does it much better than me. Title stolen from the song by The National.
Yeah, this isn't actually a story, unless you take a very long view of it. I have the climax set to occur about 12 years after the time in which this story takes place. I am already laying some foundations for it, but there's a lot of stuff in between that just sort of happens, without relating to plot. I need a new notebook! This one is entirely full.
I wasn't actually planning on updating this so soon, but i figured i'd let you know i made it back from England with a short scene. I'm typing the Emma finds out scene now, and then I'll get around to working on the sequel to 9 Crimes, which introduces some characters necessary in later chapters of this one, and should actually pick up the Garcia storyline that i left dangling before.
I revised this one twice, too, but it still feels a little shaky. I'm not sure if it's doing what i want it to do. Sorry. :(
Fake Empire 1 (Queen Emma)
Fake Empire 2 (JJ's Part)
Garcia changed trains at Metro Center, giving Didi a kiss and walking off in her squashsy, mud streaked shoes, and Emily was alone with the child. She glanced down at Didi, who was kneeling on the seat and staring out the window into blackness.
“What are you looking at?”
Didi looked up at her, her eyes still nearly unbelievably blue, and tipped her head to the side. “I’m looking at the dark.”
“To see if it’s different from the dark at home.”
Emily looked at the darkness herself. “Is it different?”
Didi nodded. “It’s train darkness.”
This was vaguely mystifying. “Haven’t you been on a train before?”
Didi shot her a sharp incredulous look. “There were bombs on them!”
Emily wondered if she was only good at getting children to confess the awful things that had happened to them.
“We take the limo.”
… or not.
The train came to a stop at Eastern Market and Emily took Didi’s hand and led her out of the dark tunnels into the fading sunlight. Her hand was so small and soft. Her fingers were sticky, but the bones inside were thin and almost bendy like willow stems.
Emily had seen too many tiny broken dead bodies, lifted them, some still warm, out of the rubble. She had turned pale-faced traumatized, victimized children back to parents whose worlds had been flipped upside down and considered that a success.
She had empathized, on the surface, but she hadn’t cared. She didn’t know these people, they were symbols of victims, children were symbols of freedom, but they weren’t real. She hadn’t allowed herself to care, because having to feel that much when all she saw was violence and rape would have killed her, over and over again. She wasn’t Emma, losing class after class of students she had known personally, invested in, punished and encouraged and lived with. She knew she wasn’t that strong.
But Deirdre was tugging her hand, living and speaking, right there. And she couldn’t think of this as a job. She wanted to just be the federal agent, protecting the child until her real mother came to fetch her. But she had a deep sinking feeling that told her, a week from now, Didi wouldn’t just get to wander back home and everything would be fine, everything would go back to normal. It could be a long time, maybe never, and she couldn’t do the job if she didn’t care. JJ had said it, but she knew it every time Deirdre looked up at her and smiled. She was impersonating this child’s mother, and although alternate realities and dopplegangers were likely outside her understanding, it wouldn’t take long for her to realize that her mother was not really her mother. And Emily knew first hand how shocking and alienating that realization was. She had been old enough to know why her mother pulled away from her emotionally. But Didi was far too young. Who knew what it would do to her?
She picked up the little girl and squeezed her to her chest. The noise of pleased surprise she made didn’t quite drown out the bird-fast fluttering of her heart. Emily ached inside at the life she could feel under her hands. It made them shake, and she was afraid she would drop her. And the paranoia rushed in. She couldn’t control anything. Cars whizzed past on one side, strangers, people whose hearts she did not know were on the other, steps and bikes and machines…
“Mommy, too tight!” Didi struggled, and Emily relaxed her grip. Even herself…
She glanced around again, trying to regain a normal perception of the world. She looked up and to her left.
The public library sat pleasantly behind its columns and red doors. Emily sighed with some relief. She hooked Didi on her hip and pulled her out far enough so she could see her face.
“Do you want to go pick a book to read tonight?”
The answer was a clear affirmative.
They climbed up the stairs and went inside. Didi, set again upon the earth, headed towards the picture books with a four-year-olds unerring GPS. Emily followed behind, glancing at the paper cutouts of strange beasts and smiling books that decorated the walls. She looked once sorrowfully back towards the nonfiction section and the adult fiction, but barked her knee on a bookshelf barely three feet tall, and turned forward again.
Deirdre located a promising shelf and began removing books one by one and examining them. Emily stood above her, unsure of what her role was in this situation.
“What’s your favorite thing to read about?”
Didi looked up, slightly perturbed at being interrupted. “Dragons,” she said. “I like rabbits too, but dragons have better stories.”
Emily nodded vaguely and frowned, digging around in the half-decomposed soil of memories buried long ago. There was something about dragons. A book with woodcut illustrations perhaps?
Deirdre seemed to be fine where she was, so Emily headed towards the juvenile fiction shelves, pausing at the computers to try and get a more precise location. She eventually found the book, and as it appeared suitable, returned to the picture book section, where she had left Deirdre.
Didi was now sitting in a pile of books in front of an empty shelf. A teenage shelver was looking on in horror. Emily sighed and lowered herself down beside her.
“Okay, pick out the ones you want, and then we’re going to play an alphabet game.”
Didi busied herself with sorting through the books and Emily began organizing the rejects. She had been a public servant for years, and her alphabetizing skills were not that rusty. After half of the books had been put to one side, Emily handed Didi a book, and pointed to the call number tag. “Read me the letters here.”
“P,” she said firmly, then frowned. “R, I, C.”
By the end of the game Emily knew that Didi had a good handle on her capital letters, with an occasional wobble between Js and Ls. As they left, Didi clutching her huge stack of books, the shelver gave her a beatific look of thanks.
Didi was dragging the rest of the way back to the apartment. She yawned a few times, and dropped a book. She resisted on the stairs, and Emily somehow managed to balance a small child, a huge pile of books, and the bag of clothes JJ had given her, all the way up to the fifth floor.
“I’m hungry,” Didi whined, tugging at Emily’s jeans. She looked down at the small girl, and wondered what this sort of creature ate. She proffered various options. Saffron rice pilaf was rejected, as was pesto and spinach, and the butternut squash ravioli. Finally Emily found a can of corn deep in her cupboard and made a passable creamed corn on toast that was acceptable.
Unfortunately creamed corn wasn’t a particularly easy thing to eat, and Emily considered whether a bowl and spoon would have been a better idea than on toast. She looked at Didi’s sticky face and hands. She had managed to get some creamed corn in her hair as well.
“Oh,” she sighed, “You’d better have a bath.”
Didi shook her head. “Don’t want one.”
Emily was not precisely certain about how this bath event was supposed to go. She took the out and got a washcloth instead. Didi squirmed away from it, and Emily struggled for a tighter grip, until she cried out.
“Stop it! It hurts. I want JJ!”
Emily stopped. “You want JJ?”
Deirdre started to sniffle. “Why isn’t she here? Why didn’t she come home with me?”
“She is home. She’s at her home, with Henry.”
“But she’s mine! M’ma said she was mine.” Didi looked up at her with those shockingly blue eyes, shiny with tears. “Is it because I lost the papers? I know where they are, I just forgot them. Is M’ma mad? Did she give her to Henry because I forgot them?”
“What?” Emily was beginning to have a deep sinking feeling, but couldn’t quite put words on why. “What do you mean, JJ’s yours?”
Deirdre grew grim with exasperation. “You know! She’s mine! Everyone else belongs to M’ma, even you, but JJ’s mine. My slave.”
Perhaps JJ hadn’t overreacted when she mentioned the mutant supremacist language. Even the Grand Duchess bit was making more sense. Unfortunately, trying to explain this was going to get into some rocky ground.
“Honey…” Emily brushed some corn out of her hair with the end of the washcloth and rubbed her hands clean. “I bet you’ve noticed that… some things are a little different here.”
Didi gave her a look. “Everything is different. My room is gone.”
“Well,” Emily tried to smile. “One of the things that is different is there are no slaves here.”
Didi looked blank. “But JJ’s here.”
“But she’s not a slave.”
“Then what is she?”
That was a rather challenging question. “She’s… she’s my friend, and a federal agent,” again blankness with a faint hint of irritation, “She’s Henry’s mom.”
“She’s Henry’s mom!” Didi struggled to suitably express her feelings. “That’s, that’s not fair! She said she wouldn’t leave me, not for anyone. She promised!”
There were going to be tears any second. Panicked, Emily tried to find a disarm button. “She didn’t, she really didn’t. It’s just one of the things that’s different here. Just like the trains not having bombs, and me being… incompetent.”
“She promised.” Didi sniffled, and started to cry, big racking sobs and hiccups like was choking. Emily pulled Didi into her chest, holding her and rubbing her back.
“I’m sorry,” she said. “I’m sorry, honey. I know it… it sucks.” She couldn’t think of a better word, with all her massive vocabulary and foreign language ability. What really could describe the way it felt to have your entire life turned upside down, and everything familiar suddenly gone? It did suck, for her also.
After the tears, Didi was quiet and docile. Emily tried to get her to decide between the two pairs of pajamas in the bag JJ had given her, but she seemed equally unmoved by trains or clocks. She was clingy and exhausted, and Emily wasn’t feeling particularly fresh either. She changed and brushed her teeth. Didi disapproved of the adult sized toothbrush and gave Emily a withering look that said it all.
“I bet Henry has a real toothbrush.”
Emily started a shopping list.
They crawled into bed together, and Emily read aloud the beginning of the first story from the Book of Dragons, Didi tucked under her arm and against her chest. She fell asleep after only a few pages, and Emily set the book down, but didn’t move to extricate herself and get back up. She lay next to her and stroked her hair, tangling her fingers through the fine strands, the same color as hers, but far softer and more delicate.
It wasn’t fair, Emily thought, that you could fall in love so quickly. And it was doubly unfair that she always felt so helpless when she did.
* * *