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: Felt sort of vile and manipulative with that last chapter, so here's the next one. I hate suspense, particularly with fic.
Chapter 6: Emma's POV
It had been an awful week. Didi was coughing and unhappy and the nursery school said 36 hours after the fever was gone and no sooner could a kid come back to school. Emma kept on getting out of bed and doing things until she was pale and looked like she was going to faint. Emily had hustled her back to her room so many times, but she wouldn’t stay. She wouldn't speak to Emily either and it was obvious that she just didn’t want to be alone in her own head.
Finally Emily marched her back to bed with tea, went downstairs and came back up with her entire Kurt Vonnegut collection and dropped it on Emma’s bed.
“I expect a report, on each one. All right?”
Emma tucked up her knees and looked away, pouting.
Emily left and washed her hands until she could see her blood through the pores.
She managed to go back to work for half days mainly, with Benji nursemaiding. Her boss was disapproving and irritated with her haphazard attendance, even if she was getting her work in. He kept directing snide comments at her supervisor until she had finally had enough.
“I have a sick four-year-old and a sick…” she waved her hands frustratedly, “Emma at home! I’ve probably infected half the department because you made me come in. It’s not like I’m going to insult you if you take time off to look after your sick son!”
Her boss looked rather stunned. “I… didn’t know you had children, Prentiss.”
Emily wouldn’t meet his eyes, but shrugged unhappily. She had given up on hoping Deirdre would disappear. She had given up on wanting her to disappear, if only because she had gotten used to a different sort of normal, and as always, was afraid of losing it. “Does it matter?”
“If your child is sick your should stay at home.”
Emily sank into her seat. “She’s better now, just tearing down the house until she can go back to school. It’s just Emma…” Emma, who might never get better. Emily leaned forward on her desk, covering her face, trying to remind herself how humiliating it would be to cry at work. “She’s supposed to be taking care of me.”
Sometimes it seemed so clear, so undeniable, that god hated her for what she had done. Perhaps it was self-absorbed to believe it, but what other reason could there be for the way the few people she cared about, who she could truly call friends, would wither away and slowly die. He couldn’t even kill them quickly, like he did with those Emily tried to save.
Emily didn’t believe in a merciful god.
* * *
Emily walked home, taking the long way, through the park by the river. It was the way she had walked home that night so long ago, before any of this insanity had started. It wasn’t fair. Things had just finally begun to get better. She was almost happy.
She hated this world.
She had almost stopped being shocked and uncomfortable with the knowledge that she didn’t want to come home to anything but what she had. But now she couldn’t even look at Emma without wondering what had happened to her, what she had done. She had seen where she had lived, but she didn’t know.
She knew enough of what it felt like to lay there and just wish that he would stop touching you, that he would leave you alone. She knew about the grunge that remained and how it never really came off. The tight grip on your wrists and how you were afraid to fight, afraid of his response, but more afraid that you could struggle with all your strength and not escape, and you were weak and there was nothing you could do.
The worst of course was the knowledge that you chose this, that you deserved this, because no matter how hard you looked, you couldn’t find another way to live.
* * *
“Your books are all fucking depressing.”
Emma was lying on the couch when she got home, Cat’s Cradle hanging over her face. But she was dressed and clean and seemed to be feeling better.
“What do you want?” Emily snapped back, irritated with everything and offended at the insult to the only books that she thought really saw the world the same way she did. “Danielle Steele? They’re realistic.”
Emma peered over the top. “They’re sci-fi.”
Emily got on the defensive. “Do not mock me for being a nerd.”
Emma sat up. “It’s not the nerd part that needs mocking. You have a fucking depressing job, and you read depressing books for entertainment. God. Do you ever have fun?”
“I have a life.” This was an insult, and a horrible backhanded one at that.
“Yeah, one that blows!” Emma chucked the book across the room.
“Don’t you dare mess with my books!”
Emma was on her feet and in her face. “Don’t you dare insult my life when you’re the one who’s clinically depressed!”
Fists clenched, clothing was grabbed, fingers dug into flesh, and suddenly Emma was kissing her. It was hard and unforgiving, pressure and slick wet warmth. She broke off and Emily gasped for air, utterly lost.
Emma straightened her shirt, looking awkward and vulnerable. She grabbed her coat off the stand.
“I’m going to go… walk,” she said. “Didi’s at the Fs, she needs picking up at five.” And she was out the door.
Emily picked up her bruised book and carefully put it back in its place. There was a sticky-note on the outside. “Life is depressing. Religion is better when people know it's a lie.” She glanced at the other ones. There was a note on all of them. “War is fucked up,” said Slaughterhouse Five. “So are people normally.”
Emma had read all her books. She sank onto the couch. Emma had kissed her.
On the coffee table was a printed sheet. Emily scanned it, her stomach tying itself in knots. Negative. It was all negative.
* * *
It was a brisk cold few blocks to the Fs, but she needed the walk, if only to try to get her head back on straight again.
“Oh… who are you?” Emily blinked at the woman who had opened the door.
“Uh, I’m here for Didi?“
“Mommy!” Didi charged up and clung to her leg. “Mommy! I made a picture! I want to show it to M’ma!”
The woman blinked and put her hand to her mouth. “Oh, I’m sorry. You’re her mother, of course. You look so much alike.”
It was the curious expression that made Emily cringe. She was going to ask a question. She really wasn't in the mood for it right now. She was supposed to have all of these orderly, pleasant lies that explained her life. She wished her life was that simple. She wished she understood anything that was going on.
“If you don’t mind me asking…”
Emma would have no problem saying, “In fact I do mind, and it’s none of your business.” But that wasn’t something Emily was good at.
Emily’s eyes slid to the side, where a winter-bare rosebush clung to the edge of the porch. “What do you want to know?”
“Well, you’re so young. What made you… decide?”
Emily gaped. She hadn’t been expecting that one. “Who's her father, are you and that other woman…, etc,” she had gotten used to.
She scratched the back of her head. She couldn’t say anything that would be impossible to wriggle out of later. “You know…” she tried. “You’re young and you think you can handle anything.” She smiled weakly. “Sometimes the decisions you make aren’t all bad.”
Sometimes they were, but you made the best of things that you could.
* * *
Didi had spotted her confusion and was clinging to her, watching her with a suspicious look on her face. Emily tried to smile, but there were too many things going on, too much relief and hope and disbelief and resignation. Her fingers traced along the edge of her lower lip.
Emma was home when they got back. Warmth and good smells were coming from the oven.
Emily looked at her, eyes wide. Emma glared and pointed a spatula in her direction. “Do not accuse me of cooking. I can reheat frozen foods, that is all.”
Emily smiled. She sidled up closer, trying to get a peek at what was in the oven. “So it’s… okay?”
Emma knew what she was talking about and shot her a stiff look. “I’m kind of shocked,” she said, the archness of her tone almost breaking at intervals. “Who would think that the sleazeballs who wouldn’t even tip have such excellent personal hygiene?”
That was more than she had gotten before. Emily reached out, touching her shoulder. Emma let it settle there before moving away. ‘You can touch me’ the action said, ‘but I just don’t want it right now.’ But the boundaries were back up, stating clearly that the kiss had been a fluke.
“Was it… often?” Emily asked, not wanting to know, but not wanting to not know if she could.
Emma bent to take the pan out of the oven, and Emily leaned against the counter and tried not to watch. Women like that should not be allowed to wear tight jeans.
Why did you kiss me? she wanted to ask, but she knew the answer. How did you deal when suddenly faced with a reality you thought impossible? How could you let that feeling out? Fighting was almost enough, but unless punches were thrown, fighting was restraint, and you couldn’t restrain it, you couldn’t keep it inside or your chest would explode.
So you didn’t.
* * *