Fandom: X-Men/Criminal Minds
Pairing: Emma Frost/Emily Prentiss
Disclaimer: I do not own X-Men, Criminal Minds, or the Baby-Sitters' Club. I owe Argentine for the third, re: Jubilee and Fifty-Foot Janine.
The thrilling and dramatic conclusion to a complex and frustrating story! Which actually pulls together all the loose ends! (save for a few which I will feed into another tale). More than twice as long and twice as satisfying as any of the previous parts!
(Seriously, thank god for driving home from Rugby practice, when i finally worked out the climax!)
I hope this part is as fun to read as it was to write. Tell me whether or not i should give up on this forever, because the response to the last two parts was not encouraging, or tell me anything I need to fix or clarify on revision.
Summary: Emily's mother is dead, but her memory lives on, as does her desire to manipulate Emily's life away from serial killers and towards politics. But sometimes, serial killers and politicians are not that far removed.
Emily looked up to see Jubilee looking down at her, an incongruously worried expression on her face. “Hey.”
“Are you alright?”
“Yeah.” Emily climbed stiffly to her feet. “Politicians just… drive me insane.”
Jubilee chuckled weakly. “Yeah, me too. Once this body-guarding shit is over, I’m out of it. Janine’s willing to be the straight line in the chaos, but it’s worse than swimming in poison for me. It’s strange, because it should be the realest thing there is, where you can affect more people than anywhere else, and yet it still feels so fake.”
Emily glanced around. “Where is your charge?”
Jubilee’s expression grew hard. “I had her lock herself in the bathroom after I cleared it. There’s something I need to show you.”
* * *
A note had been left in their room while they had been out looking for breakfast. It was disgusting, a fake suicide note.
This world is too dirty, too worthless to save. Mutants are participating in their own subjugation! We must all rise together to overcome the sapiens plague. I have killed hundreds but if all mutants turn on their human neighbors the war will be over and we will have won. But as long as we believe the humans’ force of numbers can overpower us, we are nothing but slaves, and I will not live a slave.
Emily’s lip curled at the poor excuse for a suicide note. But what it said didn’t matter. What it meant was that the game was nearly over, and Crooke was ready to make the last move. Emily wasn’t ready. She didn’t have back up, she didn’t have a constrained area where she knew the killing would take place, and she couldn’t afford to wait for Crooke to make a mistake. She had to choke on her pride.
“I need to show this to Emma.”
Janine moved her bag and something clattered out from behind it. A syringe and a small vial filled with what looked like blood clattered to the floor.
* * *
Emma hadn’t stopped pacing since she left Emily’s company. She couldn’t believe how vulnerable she had let herself get. But it was her fault, letting someone in was letting them hurt you. She had tried to help Emily, but how do you help someone who will tell a room of powerful men that they are no better than criminals, and it is her duty to arrest them. She wouldn’t be surprised if Crooke was aware his number was up. Emily had worked it out easily enough.
Emma wondered what string he had pulled to get Syringe out of prison. Garcia had faxed her the information. Syringe was a mutant with toxic blood, who had had the tips of his fingers fitted with needles. He could kill with the flick of his finger. This was not his first human killing rampage. Emma shook her head. Crooke must have guts to work with a mutant whose favorite activity was murdering humans.
Somehow she was supposed to work the situation so that it looked like Emily got her collar without any of this extra information. But she didn’t even know where Syringe was and she couldn’t tell what Crooke was planning.
Honestly, she did not understand these FBI people. You eliminate the threat first; then worry about protocol and stepping on people’s toes. The only morality you really answer to is your own. If the criminal is gone, who cares where he went?
* * *
Janine glanced at Emily with serious eyes. They disagreed. She crouched and picked up the vial of red liquid and turned it slightly, watching the way the liquid coated and streamed away from the glass.
“This isn’t blood,” she said. “It’s not viscous enough.”
“Then what is it?”
Janine stared at Emily flatly. “My old lab is around here. I want to go look at it.”
“But you’re under a death threat.”
“That’s no reason for me to be useless.”
“I’ll be with her,” said Jubilee.
“You shouldn’t take a risk like this,” said Emily flatly. God, she sounded like Emma, telling her how human she was, how weak.
“He won’t expect me to go there. He wants to scare me, keep me in the hotel.”
“Emma will kill me if I let you go.”
“We’ll keep moving,” said Jubilee, “stay unexpected. I’ve evaded worse than this. We can do it.”
“For how long?”
“Until the ball tonight. We’ll expect you to have a plan by then.”
Janine carefully stowed the vial in a safe place. Jubilee stretched her arms behind her head and grinned.
“This is my favorite part.” She climbed on the bed and bounced a few times to get some height and then, flipping in midair tapped open a panel in the ceiling with her feet. She landed easily on the floor.
“Got your gadgets?”
Janine sighed and fashioned an odd-looking contraption to her wrists. She showed them to Emily. “I tried to copy Spiderman’s design.”
“They’re awesome!” said Jubilee, hanging upside down out of the hole in the ceiling.
“I needed some way to keep up with that.”
* * *
“Do you need backup?”
“No!” Emily nearly cursed into the phone as she jogged down the hall towards the elevators. “I don’t need to tip my hand like that.”
“This is stupid, Emily,” hissed JJ. “We never work on our own. Hotch would kill me if he knew I was letting you do this.”
“I’m not alone.” JJ snorted pointedly. “I’m not. You may not trust Emma, but I have Jubilee on my side, and even Janine is working as a lab analyst right now.”
“The victim?” The disapproval in JJ's voice was clear. “You know the Sacramento PD consider her their main suspect.”
“Then why did they let her leave the state?” Emily tried not to think of the feeling she had when the syringe and vial rolled out of Janine’s suitcase. She didn’t believe the plot was Janine’s. It was too simple, too straightforward. But the way it so obviously implicated her… its very obviousness could be a ruse, a way of keeping the investigation close to her, so she could be sure to direct it to the targets she wanted removed.
She didn’t have backup here. She didn’t have someone to bounce her ideas off of. Her team provided the profile, and she trusted it. Emma’s loyalty to her students, Jubilee’s directness and honesty, Janine’s confidence even in the face of her own death, those were things she couldn’t trust. But she had to trust her team, even if they weren’t at her side.
* * *
Emily was banging on her door. Emma turned and sat in the armchair. She was not opening the door. She was not interested in speaking with Emily. In fact, never seeing her again sounded absolutely fine.
The rage simmered underneath the surface of her skin. But it was rage mixed with hurt. She had expected it from an enemy, from Jean, from Cassandra Nova, a telepath who could reach in and pick her mind apart, find the weight of her guilt. But she hadn’t expected it from Emily.
Her guilt had been in the front of her mind these days: Jubilee, in her yellow coat, as if the symbol of her childhood could erase the scars and violation that her negligence had allowed. First Tony’s warning, and then Emily, asking her point blank about her sister, about that time when again, she had made a mistake, a miscalculation, and it had cost one of her student’s his life and the rest their innocence. It had been freedom to take that gun and act. It was her final vengeance, finally freedom from a sister who had tortured her her entire life, who had taken more things from her than she could remember. The corpse of a student was the last vile gift Adrienne would give her, and a bullet was the last one she would return.
“Please, Emma! Let me in.”
“I don’t want to hear it!”
“I’m not going to apologize to you!”
Emma jerked the door open and dragged Emily in by her wrists. She slammed the door and roughly shoved Emily against it. “You’re not going to apologize?”
“Why should I?”
Emma curled her lip. She hated that expression on Emily’s face, that look of relaxed natural cruelty, almost bordering on disdain. She wondered if Emily had learned it from her mother, or from too many years spent staring down the most worthless dregs of society, and listening to them yap inefficaciously about their righteous duty to kill, their god-given right to violate children, the purity of their vengeance.
Was that all she was now? Now that Emily had opened her up to the core, without even a telepath’s skill, just the cruel cutting insight of a purely human intelligence?
“I wouldn’t forgive you if you did.”
Emma hated that look. She pressed tightly against Emily’s body, free hand catching her jaw, making Emily’s head slam back against the door, choking her just enough to make it difficult for her to breathe. “Maybe if I hurt you, you’d reconsider.”
“Get off of me,” Emily hissed. “Vengeance has no place in this.” She jerked her wrists from Emma’s grip. “You don’t get to manipulate me and then have me beg on my knees because I pissed you off.”
“Maybe I want you on your knees.” Emma stepped back, letting her go.
“No you don’t,” she said flatly, her hand gently rubbing her throat where Emma had left a mark. “I wouldn’t even want me then.” Emily’s eyes were sharp, but her face too honest, too tired to be anything but sad. Emma turned away, flexing her hands, still able to feel the skin, the narrow bones…
“Why are you here?” she asked, admitting the truth by ignoring the statement.
“Crooke left a note.”
* * *
Emma did flip out about letting her former students leave the hotel unaccompanied. But she didn’t blame Emily for it, which was a first. The start time of the ball approached, and they needed a plan.
Emma was to watch the perimeter. Jubilee was guarding Janine, and Emily was to stay within sight of Roger Crooke. She cursed as she fussed with the leg holster that she hated to wear. But the shoulder carry was not going to work with this dress.
There was a knock at the door and a tentative touch at her mind. Emily glanced around, nothing else… She opened the door and stepped out into the hall.
Emma was leaning nonchalantly against the opposite wall. Her eyes scanned Emily’s body from heels up the long split skirt of the dark green dress and eventually to her face. She grinned lazily and offered her arm.
Janine and Jubilee joined them, Jubilee in something that looked like a tuxedo, but moved far better.
“You can’t trap a gymnast in cloth!”
Janine flashed a tightly folded sheet of impenetrable data at Emily. “It wasn’t blood. It was liquid Fentanyl. It would have killed me just as quickly.”
Emily frowned. That didn’t add up. It didn’t follow the same pattern. If she knew anything about serial killers it was that they were sticklers for patterns.
At the ball they split up. Emily needed to be near Crooke, but didn’t want to speak with him. Unfortunately, he spotted her and approached of his own accord.
He put his arm around her shoulder and smiled his politician smile. “That was an interesting meeting today, wasn’t it?”
“Yes, it was,” Emily agreed without inflection. “Congratulations on being appointed to run.”
“Thank you.” He smiled at her again. “You know, they would have given you anything you wanted if you were willing to work with them. They were very excited about you.” He gave a fake little sigh. “But I suppose if you already have everything you wanted, they couldn’t really find much of a carrot. Just like your mother really.”
Emily looked at him sharply. In what way was that like her mother? She still had no idea what her mother’s relationship was with these people. “How do you-?”
But he was patting her shoulder again and ignored the interruption. “You get it, don’t you? In the end we have to ally ourselves with the mutants or we’ll be forgotten when they finally take the power that they deserve. Right now we can be useful to them and we have to take advantage of that.”
Emily had heard this line before. It was like a children’s story about the mice that fed the lion that was languishing in a net so that when he was healthy again, he wouldn’t eat them. But the moment that the lion was strong enough to break free of the net, he would gobble down the mice who had fooled themselves into trusting him. She wondered if her mother had told her that one.
Crooke smiled again, but a different smile this time, and his arm felt hot and oppressive. “I’m sure you know about being useful.”
Emily looked him straight in the face. “Yes, I know. But just because they're begging to fuck you, doesn’t mean they won’t fuck you over when they’re done.”
She slipped away from him then. She would keep an eye on him, but she wasn’t going to deal with that look, which, after too many bourbons would only too easily turn into straying hands and ill-considered comments.
Someone coughed pointedly into a microphone, and Emily glanced up to the podium where Richard Kimble stood, waiting for silence.
“As the chairman of this committee, I would like to welcome you all to our annual gala ball at the close of our yearly meeting. This year’s ball is in honor of a dear departed friend of the Home and Family Committee, Ambassador Elizabeth Prentiss. I would like to invite a long-standing member of the committee, who knew her well, both as a politician and as a person. Mr. Edward Jackson.”
Edward came up to the microphone, snuffling into a handkerchief. Emily thought this was a bit much for someone who hadn’t even been able to find time to make it to the funeral.
“Thank you all for coming,” he said, his teary countenance unapparent in his voice. “It is always such a tragedy to lose someone before their time, and I never imagined I would outlive my dear niece, Elizabeth. She was an exceedingly strong an capable woman, with a fierce loyalty, to her family, her country, and most particularly, her duty as an ambassador.”
Emily winced at that, she wondered what he meant by loyalty to her family: Loyalty to him, or loyalty to her family’s honor? She had never divorced Emily’s father, even though they were completely separated for three years before his death, separate houses, custody sharing agreements, everything except the piece of paper. And she had worn her widow-hood like a badge of honor. Becoming a widow or a widower, she had once told Emily, is the only proof of a marriage’s success. Any other ending is the sign of a failure.
At least he had correctly emphasized her duty to her work over all the rest.
“Elizabeth was an ambassador to the core, always gracious, always welcoming, but as hard as nails when challenged.” There was a weak titter among those who were bothering to listen. “Although she was the bearer of a sharp intellect, and could have had success in any field of government, she found her calling in the foreign service. We asked her many times to run for office, to serve in the cabinet, and even offered an appointment as a federal judge, but she always declined, saying that even if these positions were more public or more powerful, her work as an ambassador was more important.”
Emily had never heard any of that before. It came as a shock to her, and it took another few moments to notice that her uncle was smiling at her.
“Her daughter, who is here tonight, has followed her example in many ways. Although she is not in the Foreign Service, she has chosen her work because it is important, not for the power or the status of it. And I am certain, that if the ambassador were here with us, she would be very proud of her daughter’s strength of character, that is so much like her own.
“Elizabeth’s untimely death was indeed a tragedy. But she died as I can only assume she would have wished, still working for her country, and for the cause of peaceful co-existence. It is up to us, to continue this fight, and every day make steps towards this ultimate goal.”
Edward bowed and smiled. “Thank you.”
Emily felt stunned by this speech, by the comparison he had made between herself and her mother. It was clear his intent was to soothe any hurt feeling that she had caused at the earlier meeting, and she felt guilty at making him do that. But she had never heard her mother spoken of in such a way before. She was politics, through and through, with no patience for Emily’s practical idealism. But Edward’s speech made her seem as driven and bull-headed as Emily herself. But if she wasn’t political, why had she been allied to this group at all?
Emily came up next to Tony who was sipping tonic water with a tragic expression on his face as he watched the brandy being poured. Why was he here? The meeting had been particularly interesting because of how all the people were interacting, competing and allying to gain their desires. But Tony and Emma had sat back, unaffected. They seemed too powerful, to competent in their own right to need what this coalition could give them.
“What do you want?” she asked. “What does being part of this give you?”
Tony glanced down at her. “What do I want?” he asked with a chuckle. “Besides a triple bourbon? Increased military spending. That’s all.”
She laughed quietly. What else could the man with the largest arms contract with the US Government desire? But he gave her a sly glance.
“That’s not what you wanted to know. You want to know the reason I’m here.” He looked out over the room of busily networking contenders. “These are the new power-brokers,” he said. “And if you don’t keep an eye on where the real decisions are being made, you’re losing touch.”
Emily closed her eyes. Crooke was by the fireplace speaking with Sebastian Shaw. “I never wanted to be in touch. I never wanted to be back in this world.”
Tony smiled and shook his head. “Stop fooling yourself. You never left. If you had really wanted to let go of this life you could have been a small town cop somewhere. But you were raised for this. You can’t imagine a life that is irrelevant to the big picture. The people here are idiots to you because they can’t see it. They’re tied up in votes and parties and money, but you’re one of us. You’re a hero, like Emma and I. Whatever our sense of personal morality, we know somehow that even if everything is taken away, as long as you can save a life, change a life for the better, you are alive, and your life is meaningful.”
Emily smiled. “Is that what it is? I thought the reason you weren’t interested in their conversation was because you were too powerful to need to care.”
Tony grinned. “That too. But none of these people understand what it really means to care for something greater than their own worthless little life. Even your uncle doesn’t.”
He frowned for a moment and looked speculative. “Your mother did,” he said, finally. “She didn’t work for them because of the perks they could give her; she worked for them because they gave her leverage. The more leverage you have the more lives you can save.” He caught Emily’s tortured expression, and read it correctly. “She may have forgotten you, but she fell into the trap that most heroes do: The more you feel responsible to the big picture, the more you forget about the little responsibilities. I don’t doubt that you fight that battle with yourself on occasion. But,” he said, smiling and lifting his glass. “The little ones are the ones that will come back to bite you in the end.”
“I guess.” Emily sighed. “Not that I have too many little responsibilities. I don’t have anyone who depends on me.”
Tony eyed her speculatively. “I’m not sure if you’re entirely right about that.”
Emily frowned. “What do you mean?”
Tony looked at her for a long moment.
Emily winced. “No,” she said. “Dependent on me? Are you joking?” She forced a laugh.
Tony just shook his head and looked at his empty glass. “I really can’t stand tonic after a while. Perhaps they’ll fix me a Shirley Temple if I act ingenuous enough.”
He disappeared in the direction of the bar.
Emily’s eyes searched the room, and found Emma’s, surprisingly, looking down at her from one of the balconies. They were sad, almost, and magnetic, pulling her towards the staircase, until Emma registered the returned gaze. Then they snapped back to sharp and hard, and she looked away.
Emily pressed her fists to her face. There was something, it was clear, but she didn’t know how long she could take this push and pull.
Suddenly there was a crash, and a sharp thought piercing into her mind.
<< He’s here! He’s coming in! >>
The door to the ballroom burst off its hinges, and in charged some kind of monster. His skin was a sickly blue, and needles were arrayed on his fingertips like the spines of a porcupine. Emily couldn’t see his face because it was shielded by a dome-shaped metal helmet.
<< I can’t control him! >>
Jubilee dropped from the balcony onto his back, and he yelled, trying to throw her off, slapping back over his shoulders with his spiny fingers.
Where was Crooke? Emily had lost track of him. The monster threw Jubilee; she flipped easily through the air and landed on her feet, then charged after him. But he had spotted Janine and was rushing towards her.
There was Crooke! Rushing towards Janine, “Get down!” he yelled and lunged for her.
There was a glint of something in his hand, and it all came together. Of course the syringe was full of Fentanyl, because the monster’s blood only killed humans! She locked eyes with Janine, who had come to the same conclusion she had. Her gun was in her hand. Crooke reached Janine, his hand shooting out towards her neck.
“Down!” she mouthed. Janine dropped.
A gunshot rang out.
A body fell.
Blood spread across the parquet.
And with a tinkle, a glass syringe rolled away from Crooke’s hand.
* * *