Fandom: Criminal Minds (eventually X-Men)
Pairing: Emily Prentiss (eventually Emma Frost)
Summary: When one person travels into an alternate universe a thousand others are created. What if Didi showed up without a time slip on Emily's doorstep, in a world without mutants? What would a twenty-five year old Emily do?
Apologies: I don't know why it takes me so long to post these things when most of it is already written, but my Syntax homework actually made me cry this weekend. :( Luckily I have this happy story to work on when I can't deal with the angst and impending violence of the other two.
Small children did not belong in strip bars. But small children were not supposed to be left alone in hotels. Small children also never shut up on airplanes, and Emily was ready to strangle someone.
“Look,” she told the man at the door. “I’ll pay your fucking cover. I will buy a private lap dance if I have to, but I have nowhere to leave this kid, so she is coming with me.”
“Is she seriously trying to bring a child into a strip club?”
Emily turned at the sarcastic comment and immediately recognized the woman from the headshot. Her eyes flicked down to the barely-there sparkly brassiere, then she jerked them back up. “Emma…”
The woman gave her a sharp look. “Do I know you?”
“You deal with the crazy, girl. She was looking for you,” said the man, and he turned back to his accounting.
“You were looking for me?”
Emily winced. “Fuck. This is going to be really hard to explain.”
* * *
“I am not! I did everything a sane person should. I took her to the police, I asked around the neighborhood. I’m a freaking FBI agent. I know about missing people. But check my medical records if you have to. I never had a baby. And unless there is some crazy person walking around with my exact DNA, who found me and left her daughter on my porch, this has to be real. She has to be from a… an alternate universe.”
Emily thought it was crazy enough that she was in a stripper’s dressing room. This was not her life. Her mother would be so… not impressed.
It was basically a closet, in fact, Emily was pretty certain that it had been a closet at some point, but it had been fitted with a card table and a mirror plus a rack of costumes, none of which seemed to have more than five square inches of material total.
Didi had fallen asleep on her shoulder on the ride from the airport and had been drooling down her back. The stripper made her a small nest out of a bathrobe tucked under the rack of clothes and took Didi from her with a look that said Emily’s complete incompetence with her was instantly apparent to everyone in the vicinity. This was not actually a surprise after the looks she had gotten just walking down the street in that neighborhood.
Emily didn’t care. Her shoulder was desperately grateful.
Emma sat on a folding chair in front of the card table with a mirror propped on it, looking at her with an expression of utter disbelief. Emily was pacing the two and a half steps available.
“God, this whole situation is crazy.”
Didi woke up. “M’ma!” she exclaimed gleefully, climbed out of her nest, and ran towards Emma who scooped her up easily and put her in her lap.
“You recognize me?”
“Of course.” She grinned up at her idiot parent. “We have the same eyes.” She pointed back and forth. “My eyes will always recognize yours.”
Emma gave Emily a sharp look. “Did I like, breed with you, or something? Because there’s no way this kid can have both our DNA.”
Emily covered her head. “I don’t know.”
“Well, assuming this is true, and in some… freaky random universe, you’re my wife.” Emma flashed her a penetrating stare. “I’m not gay, and it’s pretty obvious that you are, so don’t… like, think about it. At all.” She shook her head and got back to the topic. “And we have a brat, and sent her to live with you until whatever shit is going down is over. But we don’t have a clue how long that’s going to be. So what are you going to do?”
Emily grimaced. “I don’t know.”
“You’ve been saying that a lot.”
“I could… call my mom.”
Emma snorted. “Are you serious? You’re going to run to mommy and have her make everything better?”
Emily glared at her. “You don’t know my mom. She has never made me feel better about anything, but seriously, she can make plans.” Then she shook her head. “She would never, ever, understand this. I guess…” she frowned. “I guess I’ll have to take her back to Minneapolis and try to get her in daycare or something while I work.”
“She’s probably old enough for pre-K. But that’s half days, and you work ‘till five, right?”
“I’ll watch her.”
Emily stared at the woman, half dressed in skanky lingere with a tiny dark haired girl draped over her chest. “You’ll watch her?”
“Yeah.” Emma grinned. “I’ll be your live-in. No sex, but I can watch your brat.”
Emily frowned. Bringing a stripper and a four year old home had not really been her intention. But somehow, she couldn’t rack her brain for a better option. And weirdly enough, Emma seemed to be pretty good with kids.
* * *
“You live in Minneapolis? Is that, like, Canada?”
“It’s three hundred miles away,” replied Emily, rather irritated. She liked Canada.
“So, a five hour drive?”
Deirdre clearly wanted Emma to carry her, and Emily tagged along behind, feeling slightly lost. She strode past the man at the counter, not looking in his direction, but he called out to her.
“Hey, Emma, where are you going? You’re on tonight.”
Emma gave him a look. “You told me to deal with the crazy.”
“I didn’t say get cozy,” he scowled at Deirdre who stuck her tongue out at him. “You’ve got a contract.”
“Yeah, one that says I ougtta get paid regular and not give you my fucking tips.”
The man rolled his eyes. “Just be back in time, or Leland’s gonna give me hell.”
Emma flipped him off and walked out the door, Didi making faces over her shoulder.
“Is there a flight back tonight?”
They turned off on a side street that led into an even worse neighborhood than the one the strip club had been in. It reeked of spilt sewage and Emily spotted at least three people sprawled out and possibly sleeping, possibly ODing in an overgrown empty lot. She had seen a lot of bad areas, some wrecked by bombs, others slick with filth from blocked sewers and no running water, but this was a purely American slum, a stripped car, coke bottles rolling into the gutter, and an old guy in a parka sitting on a step mumbling incomprehensible things.
One of the guys stumbled out of the lot. He was young with a banker’s haircut and his hands shook slightly as he waved.
“Hey Emma, who’s the kid?”
Emily glanced uncomfortably from him to the woman she was considering taking home. God she hoped she didn’t regret this.
Emma didn’t smile at him. She waved absently, an unreadable expression on her face and fumbled with unlocking the padlock on the door. It wasn’t easy with one hand, so Emily took Didi from her. Didi complained and wanted to be put down, but Emily wasn’t about to give her her feet in this area.
Behind the door was a narrow hallway and a steep rickety staircase that led to a room not much bigger than the closet at the club.
There was a bed and a cardboard box, and a bag hanging from a hook on the wall. Emily examined it in mild horror.
“Is that food?”
Emma rolled her eyes. “It keeps the rats out.” She sorted through the clothes in the cardboard box, picking out a faded light blue Columbia sweatshirt with frayed wrists and pulling it over her near invisible top. Emily couldn’t help but swallow at the way it dropped down below the tiny skirt and made it seem like that was the only thing she was wearing. Then she sorted through the other things and found a pair of jeans, white, a bit dirty, soft and well worn, and pulled them on, over the skirt as if it wasn’t there. She threw the rest of the clothes on the bed, but ignored them, stuffing her hands in her pockets and turning to Emily.
“Are you serious about this?”
Emily no longer wondered why on earth she had made the offer. She couldn’t imagine her living there. She couldn’t imagine anyone living there, not if they weren’t half strung out the whole time. But Emma just looked intense and sort of desperate. Didi was heavy in her arms, fingers tugging at her hair, and it was so obvious she had completely lost control of the situation.
“Yeah,” she said, her voice half breath half grunt. “Of course.”
Emma smiled. And suddenly, instead of suspecting that she was being played and being made a mockery of on by fate, Emily felt a little like Indiana Jones, or someone, breaking down a prison door.
* * *