Title: Lycanthropy (Part 4)
Fandom: X-Men/Criminal Minds x-over
Pairing: Emma Frost/Peter Parker, Emma Frost/Emily Prentiss
AN/Disclaimer: Not my girls.
Word Count: 2864
Prompt: 034. Animalistic
Apologies: Crappy real day, good writing day! Not totally sure I will make the next chapter, or if it will be the last chapter. Either one or two more chapters, most likely done this weekend.
Emily did her best, but the shaking and panic attacks and night sweats were getting to be unbearable. She knew she was doing a terrible job of hiding them. Miss Hartley kept giving her suspicious narrow looks when she came in in the morning with circles under her eyes, her hands still quivering. She had gone back to Dr. McCoy but he said it was too dangerous to increase her medication any more right now. If she didn't stabilize in a month there were some other things she could try, but right now he encouraged meditation, long runs, and a healthy diet. Emily considered taking up smoking again, but she had tried that once at the beginning and it had had absolutely no effect on the burning under her skin. Instead she stayed up late watching television. She couldn't bear to face the dreams.
She ended up watching the Disney channel most of the time. Anything with bloodshed or sex would remind her of the dreams, and she would get lost in a hallucination, her teeth closing on someone's throat, the blood, hot and spurting, spraying down her chin.
She had expected the symptoms to get worse. Everything she had looked at said that that was one of the signs of a trigger. Whatever Sinclair’s did to you when you were exposed, encountering a trigger started a second stage of reaction, stronger and more difficult to control, medically or emotionally. Even carriers, who hadn’t shown any reaction in the first stage were vulnerable to triggers. She hadn’t expected the side effects of her medication to also increase. Dr McCoy had increased her dosage. Still, her symptoms were worse, and her side effects were worse. One or the other, she had thought, not both.
These days she was always tired, dizzy, and sick to her stomach from the drugs, and yet they didn’t seem to be doing anything. She stood in front of the mirror in her underwear and turned, wincing at what she saw. Nothing was going to help this. She should just jump off a fucking bridge.
* * *
“What’s going on, Emma?”
Emma frowned, putting down the water bottle next to the computer. “What do you mean?”
Peter frowned and furrowed his eyebrows. “There’s something wrong and you won’t tell me what it is.”
There was something wrong, and she was so afraid of what she thought it might be. “It’s none of your business!” she snapped.
His eyes widened. “I thought…” he glanced away, and when he looked back he had set his jaw. “If we’re going to get married you should be able to talk to me.”
She looked at him for a long time. She had seen pictures of him when he was young, gawky and awkward, glasses falling off his nose, but he had grown into himself, found confidence and pride in intellectualism, rather than continually cursing himself for never being the strong one or the athletic one. But sometimes his constant battle with his sense of his own masculinity was so obvious. It bored her.
“You’re not my husband yet. My problems are still my problems, and my secrets are mine alone.” She wanted to hurt him, but he didn’t deserve that.
“I want to help,” he replied, upset but not angry. He never engaged when she wanted a fight. She had liked that before, liked that he let her win. But she could push him for years and he’d never fight back. At least Emily knew how to be a bitch, even if that was her only good point. Still, she couldn’t ask him to fight when he wouldn’t.
“What do you think about love?” she asked, out of the blue, knowing it would confuse him and not caring. “As a scientist, I mean, not as a romantic or a fiancé or a man.”
“As a scientist?” he blinked, but she could see him switch into his academic mode where he was always calm and intent. “Well, there are different kinds of love, and there’s the chemical component, but also the psychological aspect, familiarity, shared interests…”
“Yes,” Emma cut him off. “That’s what I mean. There’s that aspect as well. It can’t just be chemical, you can’t just be… fated to love someone by your brain chemistry.”
Peter laughed. “Well, you never know, do you? Sometimes that ‘love-at-first-sight’ rush of Oxytocin doesn’t last, it’s totally absurd, and in retrospect you wonder why you were even attracted to that crazy person. But sometimes it’s just a jump start to something more permanent, more meaningful. All of those love gurus might tell you different, but people change, and there’s no way to really predict long-term compatibility.”
“What if you could?” He blinked at her, puzzled. “What if, say, every time you saw someone, smelled them, got near them, you had a rush of that chemical, Oxycontin, or whatever. And you knew that you would feel that way every time, only with them, for the rest of your life. What would you do?”
Peter looked stunned, and then laughed as if he was surprised she didn’t know. “Go for it, of course! If you could have that, guaranteed-“
“Even if you didn’t like the person? Even if you had other commitments? You would volunteer to be controlled by your body?”
“I know every situation is different, and there’s never going to be an easy choice to make, but why are you so afraid of being controlled by your body chemistry?” Peter looked curious and analytical. “It happens every day. You can’t escape that. And, even as a scientist, it's often a lot better to listen to what your body is telling you rather than try and drug yourself out of a mood or a feeling.”
“Does that go for people prone to violence and insanity too?”
Peter made a hesitant gesture, but nodded. “In a way. You can do amazing things with medication, and real scientists have looked into things, and made calculations and theories, but in the end a lot of medicine is banging the top of the TV and hoping that fixes it. Humans are amazing organisms that can adapt to so many things, and there are ways to change what’s happening in our bodies without resorting to external fixes. Some things need a little tinkering, but other things are natural and can be changed in natural ways. You don’t need to fight everything. Free will only goes so far.”
Emma dropped back in her chair. “That wasn’t really the answer I was looking for. And you’re a terrible scientist.”
Peter laughed. “Your mind doesn’t always have to be stronger than your body. Come on, I don’t feel like cooking. Lets go out to dinner.”
* * *
“You look like hell!” said JJ, loudly, when Emily opened the door.
“It’s nice to see you too.”
“Yeah, seriously though.” JJ pushed past her and into her apartment, shoving a paper bag into her hand. “I brought you food, Chinese, and that pudding stuff you like when you’re feeling this way.”
JJ waved her hand magnanimously. “Just don’t throw broccoli at me and I’ll love you forever. God, five-year-olds.” She collapsed gracefully on the couch.
Emily laughed and peered into the bag. There were kabobs! She stuck one in her mouth. It was salty on the outside but soft and juicy inside. She made a noise of appreciation. JJ grimaced. “I told them underdone. I didn’t mean raw.”
“They’re really good.”
“You have bloody soy sauce running down your chin.”
Emily hurriedly went for a napkin.
* * *
Emma found the obvious nervousness that the counselor had around her rather amusing. She had been waiting, leaning against the handicapped parking sign by the doctor’s office for ten minutes and watching Emily lurk around the other end of the parking lot, apparently building up her certainty and then making an attempt at walking towards her, and then stopping suddenly, making a quick about face, and hiding behind a convenient van.
Finally she seemed to get ahold of herself and made it all the way to the door. She nodded briefly at Emma, her lips pressed tightly together, and then jerked her head towards the entrance.
“Now I really want to know what you were going to say to me.”
Emily gave her a look and led the way inside and up to the second floor. Emma followed her into the office and looked curiously at the bulky hairy man in a lab coat and glasses who was in the middle of putting away a book. The man, Dr McCoy, Emma assumed, as that was the name on the desk, returned the curious gaze.
“This is her,” Emily said awkwardly. “The one I argued with. It hasn’t been getting better. It’s worse. I think-”
“And she thinks it’s my fault,” Emma cut in smoothly, a fake smile on her face.
Dr McCoy glanced back and forth between them and looked rather worried. “Oh, I see.” Emily shut her mouth tightly and slumped embarrassedly into a chair. Emma ignored her lack of manners. She shook Dr McCoy’s hand, looking at it closely, and introduced herself. Then he sat down and she did as well. He turned to Emily first. “The increased medication hasn’t helped?”
Emily shook her head. “I thought it did, but I feel like I’m half out of control all of the time. I’m not even angry and it’s still the same feeling. Like I’m ready, but I don’t know what for, or what I’ll do if something happens.”
The doctor nodded. “I have some samples of a new medication I’d like you to try. It isn’t an anticonvulsant. It’s actually supposed to fight the adrenaline rush itself. It builds up, hopefully cutting down the extra adrenaline in your system that creates that feeling, and when a rush occurs it reacts with the adrenaline to create a more benign compound.”
Emma snorted quietly. They both looked at her. “Do you think it’s actually caused by an excess of adrenaline in the system?”
Dr McCoy looked nervous. “I- Sinclair’s disease modifies the brain chemistry in countless ways. There is an increase of many hormones and chemicals, and it’s really difficult to say which ones are responsible for which symptoms, but the rage fueled violence has been consistently linked to adrenaline, so that has been the general target of treatment.”
“Linked to,” Emma repeated. “Not caused by. It’s ‘rage-fueled violence’ not adrenaline-fueled rage, or rage-fueled adrenaline rush?”
“These treatments have been generally proven to be effective.”
“Generally,” Emma hissed. “One in five Sinclair’s patients is in a mental hospital by age 30. Four out of five end their lives in an institution. I’m not even saying average age of death, because it’s sickening.”
“What do you want me to tell you?” Dr McCoy asked, his voice more harsh than Emma had supposed possible. “You’ve clearly done your research.”
“What happens if she stops medicating entirely?” Emma asked, and Emily sat up from where she had been huddling pathetically, clearly surprised. She followed Emma’s gaze to the doctor, who was gaping in shock at the question.
“You don’t want to know.”
Emma frowned. “I do, actually. That’s why I asked. She has the right to be informed about this. She’s shouldn’t die. Sinclair’s doesn’t kill after the first week, right? So what does happen?”
Dr McCoy shook his head, unsettled. “I thought we were going to talk about mating?”
“Sorry to disappoint you,” Emma said with a heavy hint of cockblock in her tone. Emily laughed, a lilt of surprised amusement making it bright. Emma glanced over at her and quickly restrained the involuntary grin.
He looked at both of them, an odd expression on his face. “It depends on the patient, but in general, leaving Sinclair’s unmedicated starts a dangerous spiral. The rage and paranoia increase, any claustrophobia or enochlophobia is exacerbated, cities and crowds become unbearable. Also physical strength often increases, making rage attacks even less manageable. Other physical symptoms also increase.”
Emma reached out and caught Emily’s hand jerking it forward. “Symptoms like these?” she showed the soft hairs, fur really, growing up in a point from the wrist, slowly encroaching on the back of the hand.
Dr McCoy’s hands tightened, but he nodded. “Yes.” Emma gave a sharp glance to his wrists and let Emily jerk her hand away in humiliation.
“And triggers are a natural part of this disease, a devolution into madness, completely unstoppable by medication?”
Dr McCoy sighed. “There are ways to survive triggers. Completely avoiding the company or presence of the target seems to be the most effective. Someone I know who met a sworn enemy moved across the country and is doing quite well. Intensive therapy can work for some traumatic events, and, well, pair bonding is effective for mating situations.”
“The target is infected with Sinclair’s and forms an intimate and sexual relationship with the patient. Of course it is illegal to purposely infect someone, but occasionally one can claim it was inadvertent, particularly if a sexual relationship has already occurred.”
Emma froze, a horrified expression on her face.
“I assume that is not the solution here.”
“I’m engaged,” Emma said stiffly. “I’m afraid forming a pairbond with someone else would not exactly make my fiancé happy.”
Her eyes slid over to Emily, who was looking down, the muscles of her jaw twitching, as she tried not to open her mouth too far. Emma looked away, afraid of what she would find inside. “Other options?”
“Leave.” Dr McCoy said flatly. “Don’t touch each other, and leave as soon as you can. You can’t put it off or fool around with this. Once a sexual relationship has been consummated permanent separation can be very dangerous. A thousand miles away, preferably. That can work. Medication and willpower only stave off the inevitable, and the side effects can be deadly, for other people.”
* * *
The visit hadn’t been anything she had expected. Emma had been waiting for her, there for her, and in the office their chairs had been sitting close, not touching, but near enough to feel enveloped by her scent and her presence. Emily always felt ten times worse when she saw the doctor, oppressed by the small room and intently analytical eyes on her, trying to help her, but also just waiting for her to show herself as too crazy, too dangerous to live. He could help her, but he could send her away just as easily, more easily. But with Emma there it felt like the playing field was more even. She questioned him, criticized him, challenged him in ways that Emily hadn’t been able to do for herself.
And Emma was there to be with her, no other reason, so the frantic, “my Emma, mine!” that she had around other people faded into a confident satisfaction. The doctor might have been worried, but Emily had unexpectedly felt whatever it was inside her sitting up, alert and proud, as if saying ‘admire me for finding a mate like this, one who will fight to protect me, aren’t I an excellent judge of character?’
Then, of course, it had slid downhill at a precipitous pace. Emma might care a little bit, but even if it wasn’t apparent in person, Emily knew from reading her file that she cared about her students just the same. She took someone’s side and defended it passionately; she wouldn’t let anyone fail without a fight. But she wasn’t going to screw up her own life to give Emily what she wanted. She’d save her, but she wouldn’t give her anything she didn’t need.
“I’m sorry,” Emily said, sagging slightly as they walked down the stairs to the exit. “I made you go to that and there’s nothing, nothing that can fix this.”
“No, there were some interesting things that he said.”
“You’re not planning on giving up your fiancé and becoming my pairbond, are you?” Emily laughed at her own pathetic joke, but Emma stiffened. She gave Emily a harsh look. “I’m kidding!”
“Look,” Emma said with a scowl. “Peter is… he’s nice. I don’t get nice boyfriends. I can’t just give him up. Not even because you need me.”
“I understand.” Emily smiled weakly. “A nice boyfriend, I know how hard that is to find.”
Emma glanced over at her, then gave a small sigh. She leaned over and cupped Emily’s chin, then she brushed their lips together, gently. “Goodbye,” she said softly.
“What?” Emily whimpered, half stunned by the kiss.
“I can’t save you. All I can do is stay away.”
And that was more than she had expected. “I’ll be gone soon,” she desperately swore. “Give me a week or two to get a replacement, I’ll try to find another job, or I’ll move back in with my mom. I just…”
“You don't deserve this!” Emma glared at her. “I can’t help you, but you don’t deserve this.”
Emily looked away, and then looked back, a weak smile completely failing to mask the hopelessness on her face. “You don't always get what you deserve.”