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." Wow, exactly what I needed to say this time... besides "Syntax makes me cry" because it does. And I promised I would post this, so I did, though it means tomorrow I need to finish my take home quiz. (And more syntax)
The basic truth was, Emma was sure, that this woman had to be an idiot. What other explanation could there be for someone to believe this absolute hoax, go and pick up a woman from a strip club, and invite her to live in her house and look after her kid? Either an idiot or a pervert.
She had waited it out, waited, watched, and tested her limits, until that slight flinch and widening of the eyes was as familiar to her as any tic of her own. She was passing the tests and idiot was winning out over pervert.
Emma had done her rounds, not shied away from going through boxes and helping her move because it gave her an opportunity to check her story. She had been looking for patterns, for signs that this woman fit the role. But if Emily was anything, she was someone who never quite fit a role exactly. The evidence backed it up, just evidence of someone’s difficult, not quite normal life.
The boxes had been unnerving in their own right: school uniforms, books and papers, awards tucked away and forgotten. She wondered if her own boxes were stuffed somewhere in her father’s house. It seemed that it would almost be better if he had burned them, if he had performed a ceremony of his hatred of her, better than him just forgetting.
There was also quite a collection of clothes: dresses, ball-gowns even, folded haphazardly, unmothballed, pumps and pencil skirts. Emma had sat back on her heels, rather surprised at this assemblage. It had made her tense and afraid for a moment, but if this woman were that good an actress, why would she hide her other roles in plain sight? Emily had caught her looking, scanning the dark jeans and long sleeved shirts with lace-up men’s shoes, and flushed.
“My last job. They described the dress code as ‘gender-appropriate business formal.’ I was so glad to leave there.”
“I can tell.” But Emma didn’t look away, wondering how the skirt would cling to her legs, whether the heels would increase or decrease her awkward clumsiness. Probably increase. Emily turned partly away, still watching her with that slightly amazed and incredulous expression. Emma jerked her gaze away. She couldn’t stand that look. It always felt like Emily was reading her mind.
Deirdre was the only thing that was normal here. It was absurd, that this place, this real house with hot showers and decent insulation and (eventually) food in a usable kitchen, felt so unreal, and this impossible child, with her eyes and Emily’s smile, was the one thing that could bring her back down to earth. But whatever she was, she was a child, and that was something that was predictable in its randomness and full of expected insanity.
Emily couldn’t handle her. That was the first thing that made her begin to believe her absurd story. She treated Deirdre as if she were some sort of rare exotic monster. It was right to protect her, but dangerous to get too close. And she always just reacted to Deirdre, there wasn’t any of the hesitation and penetrating gazes that suggested careful analysis that there were when she spoke to Emma.
Still, sometimes it felt like a trap. Didi’s immediate acceptance of her, the way she could make Emma feel as if she belonged, as if there truly was something that was hers in this world, was dangerous. And she wasn’t quite ready to give in.
* * *
Emily was a prober. She tried to control it, but Emma watched the questions form on her face and then watched her quickly close her mouth. Eventually she was going to ask, and Emma thought it was better to head that off before she felt like she had a right to an answer.
Emma didn’t answer the phone. It didn’t have anything to do with her, and she would let it go to the answering machine rather than pick it up. Emily glared at her for it a few times, particularly this time, when she was trying to carry four things in from the car at once and Didi was running around her feet. Emma was on the couch, the phone six inches away.
But then the answering machine picked up. “Emily, this is your mother.”
Emma couldn’t help but laugh at the expression on her face as she lunged for the phone.
“I have had a very mysterious phone call from a social worker about you. Does this have anything to do with that depressive period you’ve been experiencing for the last six months? Because I told you to see a therapist. I do recommend not throwing small children in the river as a mood lifter, although I am aware that it often seems quite efficacious at the time. The results, I am told, are rather a downer.”
Emily spent an hour on the phone running interference. She used the ignorance defense as to where on earth she would have gotten a small child to throw in the river, and in all respects lied her face off.
She wasn’t particularly good at it, and her increasingly frantic denials suggested that her mother didn’t find her particularly opaque either. Finally she managed to hang up and groaned, dropping into the chair.
Emma snorted, but she tensed as she felt Emily’s eyes wander over and scan her, carefully. She saw her start to open her mouth.
“I don’t like to talk about my parents,” Emma said sharply, cutting her off.
Emily frowned, annoyed by the brush off. She made an expression that was almost a sneer. “Hazel and Winston Frost, Snow Valley, Massachusetts?” she inquired, her tone snappish, with the irritating lilt of ‘I know something you didn’t tell me.’
Emma glared at her.
Emma stood up. “My dad was an abusive asshole and my mom was a drug addict. They could have been as rich as Croesus, but my childhood was still shit.” She left the room. She thought Emily would think twice about probing again. Don’t ask, she had said, because you won’t like the answers.
* * *
It was awful to be alone in someone else’s house, but Didi had her first day of school today and Emily was at work. Emma lay on Emily’s couch listening to Emily’s depressing music on Emily’s stereo, and just wanted to run.
There was a knock on the door. Benji was standing outside smiling.
“Hi, Emily called and said you might be bored. Want to go to lunch?”
It was beginning to be unnerving, Emily’s habit of predicting what she wanted or what she might need. The making her tea before she left for work was confusing enough, but this was slightly excessive.
“Did she give you money for it too?”
Benji laughed. “Actually she said that I should make you pay because it would make you feel like more of an adult.”
Emma cringed. “Does she always do things like this? I’m starting to feel like a lab animal running mazes.”
Benji scratched behind his ear. “I don’t know. I think she’s just worried that you’ll leave.”
Emma rolled her eyes and found the cash that Emily had left behind. It was starting to pile up even though Emma had finally gotten it through to her that even small children did not spend a hundred dollars a day. (Not that they wouldn’t, with the opportunity, but she wasn’t about to give Deirdre free rein or they would soon own a small island nation.)
“Fine.” She waved the stack of bills (it gave her an odd flashback and she grimaced). “I’m paying. What’s your favorite restaurant? No limit. Lets burn a hole in her wallet.” She considered this for a moment. “And no pancakes. If I even smell another pancake I’m going to vomit.”
Benji showed her a very cute upscale sushi restaurant near the river. It was in a lonely brownstone with classical furnishings and fish-oriented authentic feeling food, not stripped down to its essential ‘ethnicness,’ but actually treated like cuisine: miso soup with shellfish, and grilled mackerel on proper ceramic dishes. It felt like… somewhere she would have gone before.
(Except before she would have been spending her daddy’s money. Emily’s wasn't the same. There was an unfamiliar sick feeling in her stomach that suspiciously resembled guilt.)
Benji was talking a mile a minute about something that might have been ‘Battleship Galaxy’ (or might not. Emma wasn’t particularly interested.) while she was busy with her rather horrible nostalgia, and finally she cut him off.
“You’re a police officer, aren’t you? Why aren’t you at work?”
Emily had explained the circumstances of their meeting, and Emma, who had never been particularly respectful of law enforcement to begin with (growing up in a household where you father can buy off the cops, and then moving into a very borderline as to its legality occupation wherein a large proportion of your customers are members of the law enforcement services do not encourage such respect), after realizing that even people who maintained control over their lesser urges (greed, lust, etc) still didn’t particularly care about venal illegality when off duty was now even less so. But it was still rather odd that Benji seemed so unfazed by her past.
Benji flushed, clearly embarrassed. The answer seemed to not include “I’m on the night shift.” “Well, you see, in my family, all of the men and a lot of the women are cops. And I, well, I wanted to be an electrical engineer, or a computer scientist. But I needed a job to save up some money for graduate school.”
“So you became a cop.” Emma finished, bored.
“Let no one say that nepotism is dead.” Benji made a face. “But I’m not any good at it. So my uncle keeps me doing paperwork the whole time. Still, it means I can make my own hours.”
“What made them think you weren’t any good at it?”
Benji flushed darker. “I can’t… really tell people ‘no’.”
Emma snorted. “I can see that.”
“But it’s good!”
She blinked at his turnaround in attitude.
“If I weren’t a cop, I would never have been sent to make sure Emily didn’t throw Didi in the river, and I wouldn’t have fallen asleep outside her house, and I wouldn’t have met any of you! And it’s… kind of nice to have non-cop… friends.”
Friends? Emma’s eyebrows shot up. Benji turned pale.
“I mean, uh, acquaintances, not… not friends if you don’t-“
“It’s fine.” Emma cut off his panic. It was irritating her. “But Emily’s a fed. Isn’t that-“ (It was still hard to say her name like they knew each other, like she trusted her. But it would be strange to say ‘her’ like she did in her head, with all the implications of ‘that woman, my benefactor, whom I hate for being so pathetic as to help me.’)
“Oh no!” Benji grinned. “If you grow up in a family of cops you with never make the mistake that the two are anything alike.”
“And it’s such…” he smiled vaguely at nothing, “such an astonishing story. It feels like destiny. Does it…” he eyed her nervously. “Does it feel like that to you?”
“Destiny?” Emma sat back, rather blindsided by the assumption. A lot of things had felt like destiny, her father throwing her out, her brother’s death. This didn’t feel like destiny, like inevitability. It felt like a miracle, which made it so much more terrifying, and why she would not take it at face value, no matter how charmingly it proclaimed its innocence. “It feels like someone didn’t think that their doubles could have their own lives,” she remarked sarcastically.
Benji grinned. “Or that only good things could happen of bringing you together.”
Emma blinked. He thought… “Good things?” she asked wryly. Perhaps she made it more suggestive than he had intended.
His cheeks turned red. That really made her smile. A month ago she would never have even considered the possibility of being surrounded by people who blushed at the mere implication of sex.
She chuckled. “Oh yes, very good things.”
* * *