Title: Fake Empire 4 (The Mansion)
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.
Nice and long! But I've realized that I've wandered out of my depth as well as the time-space continuum. Emma hasn't really had a chance to think about this yet, so this is more of "The entire core of the X-Men find out!" (Both Blue and Gold teams are as I want them. For anyone who cares, Rogue and Remy have both lost their powers and retired for a little bit (this is canon at some point, but my head starts to spin with the timelines after a while). X-23 has just come to the mansion. And M-Day, whenever that is supposed to happen, doesn't, because it was a stupid idea. (Seriously, they didn't like the reality where everyone was happy and fulfilled, so replaced it with another alternate reality where nearly all the mutants were dead or human. This is FAIL.))
Again, sorry if this is tangly. Jet lag and back-to-back shifts are not good for the writing. Tell me if anything is really terrible and i'll give it a look.
Fake Empire 1 (Queen Emma)
Fake Empire 2 (JJ's Part)
Fake Empire 3 (Emily's Part)
From the moment she stepped through the door, Ororo knew there was something different about Emily’s apartment. The Moroccan Elephants were on the floor. Other things were suddenly crammed haphazardly on the mantelpiece. A pile of miniature clothing covered one end of the couch. The hungry caterpillar lay open on the coffee table.
Emily smiled hesitantly, and Ro gave her a sharp, penetrating look.
“So… yeah. I think I need your help.”
Deirdre was vocally expressing her dislike of museli, marmite and marmalade, and in fact, every breakfast food beginning with M, while Ororo read the letters.
Emily finally gave up and exclaimed, “If you don’t like it, you don’t have to eat!”
Deirdre gulped and her eyes widened as if she might cry, and Emily submitted to picking the raisins out of the cereal and nuts.
The worst thing that Ororo realized when she closed the letter and watched Didi consider the now raisin-free concoction, and try the tiniest scrape of marmalade with none of the bitter peel, was that this was not the only world where her friend had to suffer Emma as a lover, and even worse, that she was jealous.
There was something like destiny about it, even if they were only fated to repeatedly make each other miserable. (She didn’t have much faith in the relationship lasting, or at least not destroying them both in the process.) But it wasn’t fair. Even Emma had a chance like this, in multiple universes, although she was certain to screw it up. But Ororo was alone. In every universe, she was alone.
* * *
Emma glanced up. She looked back down. Her team organization was not going particularly well. Most of the children were divided into groups and advisors, but her group of Hellions (probably a cursed name, but the students liked it) was one short. The obvious answer was to add X-23, but she would shuffle twelve students into different groups if she could give the feral, human weapon to someone else.
She did pity the girl, was she really only twelve? Raised in captivity, abused, forced to murder by the people who supposedly loved her, and to murder them as well. But the X-Men were being absurdly naive if they thought she could just integrate into the student body. She would not endanger her team by introducing an unstable element, a berzerker who had never lost a fight. Even Logan, who theoretically knew her best, agreed that she ought to be treated with caution.
Emily was in her office. Emma glanced back down, wondering what Dani would do to protect her team if X-23 went berserk amongst them. Then she froze, and did a double take.
Emily was in her office, at the mansion, a place she had been certain was Emily-proof, as she was not even supposed to know where it was located on a map, much less show up unannounced in her office.
“What are you doing here?”
Emily looked shy and shrugged a bit. “A problem sort of landed in my lap, and I thought-“
“No,” Emma interrupted. “Why are you here? Usually when I tell someone I never want to speak to them again, I am not referring to by means of the telephone in isolation.”
Emma didn’t know what words were coming out of her mouth. She just wanted to talk and talk so she wouldn’t have to respond. Responding to Emily was losing to her. She had to smack her traitor mind to keep it from reaching out for that stability and warmth that had been the only thing she had for so long.
“It’s your kind of problem, darling.” Emily rolled her eyes, unimpressed by the barbed wire defense.
Emma was not sure what she felt about Emily picking up her verbal habits and using them to mock her. “How did you get in here?”
“I called Ro.”
Emma sighed, and took off her glasses to pinch the bridge of her nose. Her plan to use work and the mansion as a method of staying away from Emily (and certain other people’s prying comments) was not as effective as she had hoped.
“You said you were here for a reason?”
“If you could step out for a moment…”
Kitty and Rachel were playing with a small girl in the hallway. Emily was looking vaguely expectant. Emma glanced from the girl in poorly chosen boy’s clothes back to Emily.
“Are you suggesting that your ‘oh so drastic’ problem, that required my attention has something to do with this small child?”
Emily flashed her a smile, and not for the first time, Emma wondered if anything she said ever did more than mildly amuse Emily.
“She seems to be a dimension traveling mutant from an apocalyptic alternate reality.”
The girl was trying on Rachel’s irritating orange glasses.
Just then the girl looked up and spotted Emma. “M’ma!” she exclaimed, and Emma’s eyes widened in panic.
* * *
“This is actually really incredible. The mitochondrial DNA doesn’t display any heteroplasmy that can often result from haploidization, and except for a rather robust X-gene, no chromosomal anomalies.” Hank glanced back and forth from his microscope to the perfect girl swinging her legs over the edge of the table, in awe. “Lord, I would love to talk to whoever figured this out.”
“Doctor Hank. I’m not sick.” Didi frowned, tired of being shut up in the lab.
“No,” he replied, still astonished. “You’re really not.”
“I want to go play now.”
Emma sat on the bench in the office, leaning like a particularly overwhelmed ‘Le Penseur’ on her hand. Unsure of whether she would accept comfort, Emily reached out tentatively to rub her shoulder. Emma gave her a look.
<< This is your fault. >> was more emoted than phrased.
<< No. It’s not. >> was the bald response.
“How many people know about this?”
Emily shrugged. “Ororo said something about trying to send a team in to assist, although I’m not sure who they would decide to help.”
“There’s going to be a meeting, isn’t there?” Emma cupped her face and then nudged Emily in the stomach with her head, clearly asking for comfort. Emily threaded her fingers through her hair.
Kitty peeked into the room. “Hey! Is everything all right?”
Hank grinned. “Everything’s fine, surprisingly fine.”
“I’m hungry,” complained Didi.
Kitty glanced at Emma who had not moved at her entrance, and then up to Emily. “Is it okay if Rachel and I take her to the cafeteria?”
“Sure,” Emily said.
“Yay!” Hank lifted Deirdre off the table and Kitty took her hand to lead her out of the room. Emma stared at the closed door for a long time.
* * *
“It’s kind of nice not to be the only refugee daughter from an apocalyptic alternate universe,” said Rachel.
Kitty who was just glad to have her friend not being wracked with self-pity and survivor’s guilt, nor looking at her with that mix of anger and affection that she knew was for her alternate, who had both betrayed Rachel and saved her by a single act, took her hand and gave it a squeeze.
Didi followed them down the corridor, looking all around her and wondering if this was Court. It didn’t look like Court, as her M’ma had described it, but everything was different from before, so perhaps this was just a better Court, without bombs and assassins and politics, (the third had always been spoken of in the most despising tone).
The cafeteria was busy, full of all different people. Didi stopped in the center and looked up at them. There was a huge boy made of stone, a girl with blue hair crackling with electricity, a boy up by the ceiling on red wings. Most everyone was talking or eating or laughing together, but one girl was standing alone. She looked strong, but sad. Didi wondered why she was sad.
The door behind her swung open and a woman with red hair stepped in. Didi gasped. It was the scary lady. She hurried over and grabbed the leg of the alone-girl and hid behind her.
“Help! It’s the scary lady!”
* * *
Emma didn’t know how to take this. She felt sick and leaden. This wasn’t her life. It wasn’t how she thought it should go. It wasn’t what she deserved. She had recently faced her own end, and realized that there were many things she had not made up for. She had cut Emily out of her life for that exact reason.
She was laying groundwork with Sebastian Shaw, to be ready when he finally decided to regain his power. She was working to try and make this school what it ought to be. She was looking for her one surviving sister, trying to find a way to make her life into something worth leaving behind. She was a Judas, but she could be a martyr if she tried.
But anything with Emily destroyed that. It made her real, vulnerable, useless. She had never understood the people who prized normalcy. Being normal was being forgotten, it was being meaningless, a cipher, and she already had such a deficit to make up that she couldn’t afford to earn zeroes. So why did she want it so much?
Emily had saved her, brought her out of the depths of insanity, fought the demons that lived in her mind, alone. She knew everything now, had touched the powdery blackness of rot on Emma’s soul, and hadn’t turned back in disgust.
Emma couldn’t take that.
She wasn’t worth that.
She shrugged Emily’s hand off her shoulder and left the infirmary, not looking back.
* * *
The entire room froze, but no one froze quite so stiffly as X-23, who had a small girl clinging to her leg.
Emma strode in and nearly ran over Jean. She stopped short and looked.
Didi peeked out from behind X-23. “M’ma! It’s the scary lady.”
Emma looked at Jean who smiled awkwardly and shrugged. “Do you think she means me?” She stepped towards Didi. “Is it me?”
Didi ducked back behind X-23’s leg again with a yelp. X-23 brought her arm up in surprise and her claws popped out, as if she was going to fend off Jean from getting any closer.
Logan slipped up next to Jean. “It’s probably best if you left,” he whispered. “See her eyes? She’s going feral.”
Jean slid backwards quietly, using her telekinesis, so she wouldn’t accidentally make a threatening move. She slipped out the door, and it shut.
But just as everyone was about to take a tentative breath, Jay, not used to hovering for so long, forgot to flap his wings, and hurtled down straight at X-23 and Deirdre. Emma and Logan lunged, but X-23 snatched up Didi and moved out of the way so fast she was barely visible. Jay crashed into the floor with a yelp. X-23 pushed Didi towards Rachel and Kitty as if her hands were burning.
Then she hopped onto the window ledge and disappeared outside.
* * *
“Snkt! Snkt!” Didi was jumping on the sofa in Emma’s office, waving her arms in a vaguely martial way. “M’ma! She had clawses!”
“I’m really, really sorry!” Kitty pleaded. “We thought she was with us.”
Emma covered her eyes, and peered down through her fingers at the team rosters. The empty spot weighed on her, and she sighed. Finding her pen, she scrawled “Laura Kinney (X-23)” on the blank line in the Hellions section. Perhaps she was a loose cannon, but it would be better to have her under her personal surveillance than with the usual incompetents at this school.
“I want clawses too!”
Emily leaned over the back the couch and caught Deirdre’s hand, running her thumb over the back of it. “I don’t think so, honey.” She had seen the end of it, and that had been enough.
Didi wrapped her arms around her neck and begged to be picked up. Emily swung her up to sit on her back.
Emma dismissed Kitty and Rachel, who left, chastened. She stood, supporting herself on the desk with a hand, and looked at the other occupants of her office.
“Fucking hell,” she muttered and went over. Didi peeked at her over Emily’s shoulder. “You need to stay out of trouble.”
Deirdre pouted. “But the scary lady was there.”
Emma leaned closer until their noses nearly brushed. “Yes, Jean is a very scary lady. But she isn’t going to hurt you.”
Didi ducked her head, and made an un-assured sound of acquiescence.
Emma looked at Emily. “Are you staying out of trouble?”
Emily grinned, obviously finding her actions comical. “Well enough.”
Emma shook her head, unconvinced.
* * *
The moment they stepped into the room, the attention of all the occupants focused on them. It would have been one thing if they were all looking at Didi, but it was clear, precisely when Deirdre was put down and proceeded to locate Logan and climb into his lap (she really was just like a cat, able to spot the ones who were most afraid or most allergic, and invariably sit on them) that both Emma and Emily were the object of just as much attention.
Didi, clung to Logan’s arm, and glared across the table at Jean. “You’ll protect me from her?”
Logan chuckled and relaxed. “Certainly.”
Jean looked hurt.
It wasn’t as if this was the first time most of them had met Emily. What with various cross jurisdictions, and the last incident, Emily was a known entity to most of the X-Men. But it was clear that there was nothing familiar about the way they were looking at them. The whispering and occasional snicker didn’t help.
<< Oh, this is going to be fun. >> Emma felt the warm brush of Emily’s thoughts. She naturally wanted to pull her in, let her mind curl up around the feeling like a hot water bottle. It was a result of the previous trauma, she knew, so she didn’t.
Ororo was one of the few who wasn’t looking at them like they had grown second heads, and she stood to start the meeting.
“From our research, we conclude that it is likely Deirdre has come from Earth 716. All we know about it is that its history veered away from ours approximately forty years ago. A group of very powerful mutants led an uprising that created a feudal society, powered on the backs of human slaves.”
Emma stiffened. “What?”
She looked at Emily, who was clearly unsurprised, and then to Deirdre and back again.
“Looks like someone was a bit of a randy young master,” said Logan with a chuckle.
This was sick; she wasn’t going to stay for this. She tried to slide out, but Emily’s hand gripped her leg.
“Actually, it seems we got married at some point, so it might have been a bit more complicated than that.”
Logan nodded and ruffled Didi’s hair. “Right on.”
Scott frowned. “There’s no possibility of equality in a relationship like that.”
“I didn’t think that you had any right to discuss the ethics of relationships,” shot Emma.
“Please.” Ororo was too poised to ever display exasperation, but it was clear enough in her tone. “We contacted Forge about his Ghost Boxes, which make it possible to travel between alternate universes. Unfortunately their use is much restricted by certain issues relating to inter-dimensional travel. It would be difficult to assemble a team to enter this world because it is so similar to our own. There can be no duplicates. Anyone who exists already in that universe would instantly die on entry. Forge has considered creating a team out of entirely genetically modified or out-of-time mutants, but it would still be a great risk to assume that their existence is entirely unique. Ghost Boxes must also travel through a dimensional rift, and the next rift that links our world and Earth 716 will not occur for twelve more years.”
Logan frowned. “If it’s that difficult to get back, how did the munchkin get here in the first place? She didn’t just wander through some random portal, right?”
Hank coughed to get attention. “I may have some clues to that. I examined the clothing that Deirdre wore on arrival and they contained some forensic traces that suggested the Phoenix Force might have been involved.”
“Oh,” said Jean quietly. “That’s why she doesn’t like me.”
“What were these forensic traces?” inquired Scott.
“Um,” stalled Beast. “Well, mainly the way they smelt reminded me of it.”
“Right,” Emma leaned on the table. “Well, it seems to have been a good guess.”
“Twelve years?” Emily stared at the helpless heroes. “You’re saying you can’t do anything for twelve years?”
“I’m sorry,” said Ororo, honestly.
Emily looked like she was about to be sick.
“So the only question left is what to do with the child,” said Scott.
Hank shrugged. “She seems perfectly healthy and well-developed for her age. Her X-Gene is dominant, but not yet active. She may have a few adjustment issues, coming from such a different world, but with normal socialization experiences, they should sort themselves out. She is still young enough that even if she had to learn an entirely new language, she would be at a functional level in four to six months.”
Bishop scowled. “I think we’re missing the point here. Have we ruled out that she’s not the spear-tip of an invasion force?”
The entire team looked at him and then at the small girl who was trying everything she could to get Logan’s claws to pop out.
“Or… something.” He turned away, feeling vaguely embarrassed.
“It might be something not completely unworthy of looking into,” said Sage. She looked at Emma. “I assume you’ll do the scan?”
Emma nodded. Scanning children so young wasn’t particularly reliable or safe, but she could check for key markers, even if it was very unlikely to get a full comprehension of what was going on. Memories were often broken up into useful components, like words and feelings, and rarely reconstitutable into scenes or narratives.
“And then what happens?” asked Elizabeth. “She is just a child.”
“Well,” said Scott. “She’s a mutant, isn’t she? She should stay here?”
Emma gaped. That was absurd, and after the incident in the cafeteria, highly unlikely. “What gives you the right to tell me what to do with my daughter?”
Scott blinked like the idiot he was. “Technically, she’s not your daughter.”
Emma had never burned so hot. “Technically, I don’t give a shit.” She snapped. “Technically, Rachel isn’t yours either, and I didn’t tell you how to raise her, although I’m sure I could have offered some prime pieces of advice.”
Scott turned color, but Jean cut him off before he could find words.
“Deirdre is much younger than Rachel was. She needs a more stable environment than the chaos of a school. And her parents did entrust her to Agent Prentiss, not to us.”
The rationality was like a slap. Emma hadn’t thought about that, about how they hadn’t picked her. She looked at Emily who still seemed pale and shaky.
Scott followed her eyes. “Do you really think she can handle a mutant child?”
Logan guffawed. “Cyke, my man. If she can handle Emma, I’m sure this little munchkin will be no trouble.”
Emma stiffened at the implication that Emily could ‘handle’ her, and saw Emily take a deep breath and lean forward over the table. She was going to take her back to DC, and that would be it, wouldn’t it?
“Thank you for your advice. But since it seems you can’t do anything about sending her home faster, I really only need to speak with Emma.”
“You shouldn’t let her near a child.” Scott scowled.
Emma breathed in harshly and opened her mouth to rip him to shreds. Everyone leaned away from him, waiting for the blast. But Emily spoke first.
“If you’re jealous of me, don’t take it out on her.”
The room was dead silent until Jean finally let out a snicker.
Scott shoved his chair out and left the room.
Logan grinned and showed Didi just the tips of his claws. “Yup, no problem handling mutants.”
* * *