Fandom: Criminal Minds/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 didn't actually reread this after writing it. So if there's anything glaring, let me know, and I'll fix it tomorrow.
Emma was trying on a rather non-descript long-sleeved light blue t-shirt. It was pretty on her, but Emily wondered absently what had happened to the girl in the barely there underpants. The tag was sticking out and she automatically reached out to tuck it back inside. Emma jerked away.
“Don’t touch me.”
“I’m- I’m sorry. I was just.”
“I don’t need faggots pawing me.”
Emily stiffened. She hadn’t reacted before when Emma had accused her of being gay, but it hadn’t meant anything then. She had just been freaking out. Emily had been bewildered enough by the idea there was a world where two women could have a child. (And even more so by the idea that there was a world where she was in some semblance of a permanent relationship at all. The fact that it was with a woman just made her stomach twist uncomfortably.) But this was a direct insult. And it wasn’t as if she had even been thinking about Emma sexually. There were plenty of thoughts buzzing through her mind, but ever since she had actually put on clothing, the one that was a rather horrified “Don’t look there, those are breasts! And don’t look there at all!” had not made an appearance. It was definitely time to clear things up.
“Look, I’m not-”
Emma gave her a look that cut her off. “Oh please.”
“I’m not!” Emily sputtered. “But even if I were, it doesn’t give you the right to say something like that!”
Emma frowned and looked away. “I don’t know you.”
“Have I done anything to make you think that I’d- I'd do something to you without your permission?”
Emma wrinkled her nose disdainfully. “You came to a strip club looking for me.”
“You were there. I was looking for you, not for the strip club.”
Emma turned on her, clearly infuriated by her rational tone and shoved three shirts on hangers into Emily’s chest. “This can’t be a free ride!” Her eyes were narrowed but still so blue. Emily’s fingers curled tightly around the hangers. She couldn’t reach out. It was too obvious that her hand would be slapped away. “I can’t deal with you because I keep on waiting for the other shoe to drop. When are you going to take what you can from me and get rid of me?”
“I’m already taking so much,” Emily whispered, wishing she could tear her gaze away.
Emma closed her eyes. “When I left school I was so sure I was going to be fine. I was on top of the world. I had no shortage of friends, of job offers, of support, until I stepped outside the lines, and then they all dried up. I thought it would be enough to have people pay me because I was attractive, but it was so much more than that in the end, and they took more from me than I got out of it. What do you want out of me? And what am I supposed to do when you finally get rid of me?”
Emily stared at her. “You’re no talisman. I just want my life to not fall apart. I can’t deal with this, with her, but there’s nothing tying you here. I’m not going to throw you out, but if you hate me so much that you can’t stay, I’ll let you go. And that doesn’t mean dropping you back off where I found you. I can give you a chance to help yourself. And I’ll… I’ll figure something out.”
Emma looked lost and unhappy for a moment, but she tightened again, closing off. “I can’t leave her with you. You’ll drop her in the river in ten minutes.”
Emily chuckled softly. None of this made any sense, not the desperate relief she felt when Emma said she wasn’t going to leave, not the way she knew, on a level deeper than anything intellectual, that she wouldn’t be able to just forget about her.
Emma was frowning at her curiously. “I’m not trying to insult you or anything, this time, but you are gay, right?”
“What?” Emily squeaked, nearly dropping the clothes she was holding. “No! If you can say that my alternate being gay means anything then it’s just the same for you!”
“Are you sure? My brother was a shock, but I’d like to think my gaydar’s gotten better since I was twelve.”
Emily flushed. “It’s sort of… I-” She was not going to confess herself to this woman. She was just bad at relationships. And that one incident in college did not mean anything! “I’ve never… I mean- relationships…” She gave up.
Emma grinned. “I understand. It’s all right if you don’t know yet. And you can look if you want. I’m kind of used to it.”
If anything, Emily turned even redder.
* * *
I don’t want to try it on! I don’t want any more clothes!” Didi wriggled out of the scrunched up top half of the dress and ran off shirtless. Emily froze, completely at a loss for what to do. Emma was leaning against the dressing room entrance watching her.
“You’re failing a test,” she said blandly.
“Generally it is considered inappropriate to let children run off half clothed in public places.”
“Oh.” Emily thought about this. “I should go after her?”
“And now we have the correct response.”
Emily groaned and started muddling through the maze of clothes trees trying to figure out where she could have gone.
Emma dropped a tiny shirt on her shoulder and pushed past her, heading very determinedly in a single direction.
After five minutes of muddling through the aisles Emily found Emma and a decently dressed Deirdre in the toys section, carefully examining boxes of crayons.
“You really do suck at this,” said Emma.
Didi lifted up a box of crayons larger than her head and showed it to Emily. “I want this one!”
* * *
“Fuck!” Emily wrung her hand, wincing in pain. Emma, passing by with a pile of laundry, glanced in.
“Are you losing to the discount furniture?”
Emily glared. “You do it.”
Emma arched an eyebrow. “I didn’t sign up for manual labor.”
“I’m afraid you did.”
“You’re the dad, you get to deal with the furniture.”
“I’m the dad? Why am I the dad?”
Emma just gave her a look, and Emily felt vaguely offended.
Then Emma looked at the state of the bed. “I think that’s upside down,” she said, pointing to the headboard.
Emily threw down her hammer in irritation. “If you can’t do it, don’t give advice. I’ll find someone who can handle it.”
She wasn’t quite sure whom to ask. She wasn’t really on speaking terms with most of her colleagues, and she didn’t have any male acquaintances in Minneapolis. She spotted the crumpled napkin and considered it. Benji was not exactly the type of man whose ability with tools she had confidence in.
But she didn’t have anyone else.
Benji rang the doorbell and Emily hustled him up the stairs into Didi’s potential bedroom. He looked at the state of the bed and looked back at Emily. “You want me to do carpentry?”
“It’s tab A into slot B! Not that hard!”
He eyed her suspiciously. “Then why’d you call me?”
“You said you’d help, and you’re…”
“Male,” Emma interjected. “Emily claims that she lacks the genetic prerequisites to do this job.”
Benji blinked. “Ah… hi?”
Emily glanced between them. “Oh, Benji. This is Emma. Er, Emma Frost, you know, from the note.”
He gaped incontinently, and Emily looked away, even more irritated.
“You’re not… exactly what I pictured.”
“Yeah,” Emma dismissed this and sorted through the spilled contents of the box to find the instructions. “You think you can pull this off?”
Benji gave the bed a rather despairing look. “I’m not very good with… spatial perception. Electronics is more my field.”
Emma handed him the instructions. “Then you read.” She gestured Emily over with a look that suggested even her ability to delegate was degenerate. “We will do the actual labor.”
It didn’t look exactly like the diagram, and still creaked alarmingly when any weight was put on it after they were finished, but it was vaguely bed-shaped and the mattress fit in the box shaped area. Benji pronounced it a masterful success.
Didi, finally lured by the noise, came out of her crayon-centered seclusion and spotted Benji. She hugged his knees and exclaimed, “Pancakes!” so they all went to IHOP for dinner.
* * *
The grocery shopping had taken forever. Emily had to try and get over her automatic compulsion that anything fresh would go bad before she could eat it, and Emma was generally occupied with trying to keep Deirdre from taking everything off the shelves as they passed them.
Emily thought she might have something to contribute and asked Didi what she liked to eat. “Besides pancakes,” she thought to add.
Didi considered this. “Kusonga!”
Emma and Emily looked at each other blankly. “Uh, what’s that?” Emily finally asked.
Didi thought hard. “Pancakes made of fish!”
“It sounds vaguely African,” commented Emma.
“Yeah…” Emily chewed on her lower lip. “Do you, er, cook at all?”
Emma blinked at her. “What? Why would you think I did?”
“I didn’t really. I was just hoping that one of us could. But… I guess not.” Emily pushed a few boxes of cereal around. “You don’t think they make frozen Kusonga?”
“For some reason, I doubt it.”
“Yeah.” At least Emily felt mildly better that Emma was incompetent at one thing. “Should we get a cookbook?”
Emma scowled. “You can ask me to do a lot of things, but I am not going to develop an entirely new unnecessary skill set on one of your whims.”
Emily tried not to laugh, but failed, and Emma thwacked her on the head.
* * *
Somehow things managed to settle down. Emily stopped tripping over the vast messes Didi left on the living room rug. She had spent an afternoon dragging furniture around the guest room, but Emma finally seemed comfortable there. They had gone through all the boxes in what was now Didi’s room, and rescued anything that might be useful before relocating them to the garage. And both Emma and Emily had mastered the use of pancake mix, although Emily’s attempt to add a can of tuna fish into it had been less than successful.
And then it was Monday and Emily had to go back to work. It was odd to walk through the hall and pad quietly down the stairs, trying not to wake anyone. It was even stranger to make breakfast alone, and just for herself. It felt wrong, which was absurd. She had only been sharing her house for five days!
She left a hundred dollars in twenties under the saltshaker, not sure what to do otherwise and found her coat. She left a mug of tea steeping on the counter for Emma, who liked it black enough to eat your tongue, and then had no other excuse to stay. She stepped out onto the porch, closing and locking the door behind her, and set off towards the bus stop, a never before felt reticence dogging her every step.
Work was as if she had never left it. The Arabic made her head spin for the first few minutes before she got used to it again, and her colleagues still gave her cross looks. At least this time the gossip was only about the week she had taken off.
“She can’t handle the strain,” they whispered.
Emily almost laughed. That job had been killing her for so long, but she hadn’t even given it one thought that whole week. No, her week off hadn’t had a thing to do with the stress of the job. It had been full of enough stress all on its own.
At the end of the day she closed up automatically and got on the bus that drove quietly through the darkening streets, thinking about nothing. She was walking down her block and noticed something strange. There were lights on in her house.
And then she laughed at herself for being surprised at something like that. But the day had been so normal that she had almost forgotten why it wasn’t normal at all.
She opened the door and it was warm and bright inside and smelled like Chinese take out. Didi ran up and hugged her leg.
“Mommy! You were gone all day!” She dragged Emily towards the kitchen. “M’ma! Mommy’s home! We can eat now!”
Emma was getting plates down from the cupboard and putting them on the table. She looked up when they clattered in and pointed a handful of chopsticks at Emily.
“You didn’t even get your coat off?” she inquired with a smirk.
“I was hijacked,” Emily said, laughing, and shrugging out of her fall wool coat. It felt impossibly strange and impossibly easy to be here. She picked Didi up and carried her over to peer at the take out containers, and it took all the self-control she had to keep from pressing her face into Emma’s hair and breathing her in.
Didi was unskillful with chopsticks, but enjoyed them, and preferred holding one in a tiny fist and stabbing various items to the heart than using her spoon. Emma was relaxed and easy as she spoke, not tense and always waiting to be told she was overstepping like before. She and Deirdre had taken a walk that day, visiting all the nearby Pre-Ks. Didi chimed in when she remembered something interesting. They all decided on one together over Szechwan Chicken and egg rolls.
After dinner Emily uncomplainingly buried her hands in the hot dishwater. Emma hoisted Didi up to the countertop and scrubbed her face and hands, and when their shoulders brushed together she didn’t move away. Emily closed her eyes and just let herself exist.
For the first time coming home felt like something real, and she wanted to feel the warmth of it as deeply as she could.
* * *