DISCLAIMER: X-Men and Criminal Minds belong to their creators and anyone else with a legal right to their use and abuse.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
SEQUEL: to Oedipus for Girls.
Commodum Ex Iniuria (The Reward of Injustice)
Emily didn't realize how much she had changed in those two short weeks until the first mutant case landed on the conference table.
Before she had barely registered if a mutant was involved, no more than she would have if it had been a woman, an Asian, a gay man: interesting for its novelty, but not important. Her method was still the same. Serial killers liked ritual, they had tells, had tastes and she could pick them out. One murdering, raping psychopath was much like the other. It was only the details where she could tell them apart.
In the meeting, looking at pictures of mutilated bodies, as usual, Reid spoke up.
"It's a mutant," he said, and Emily froze.
Someone else, Rossi, asked the necessary question, "Why do you think that?"
Reid explained what he had noticed about the burn patterns on the bodies. No two were exactly alike, but their positioning was telling, as was their size. None were larger than a handprint and none smaller than a fingertip.
"So, a mutant with glowing hands," muttered Hotch.
Reid sighed. "What I wouldn't give for a mutant registry right now."
"What!" The word shot out of Emily's mouth before she could stop it.
Everyone looked at her.
"If we had a registry we could just look up the locality and heat manipulation and be able to start knocking on doors," explained Reid as tentative as if he were walking through a minefield.
"But but it's stomping all over civil liberties," Emily tried to cover. The reaction had been automatic. Spending any time with Emma left no doubt that registration was one step away from concentration camps, and after seeing Genosha with her own eyes, she couldn't question it.
"Well, I don't think so," said JJ. "Mutants are dangerous. We don't let people with guns just wander around up here, but a telepath or someone like that magnet freak. They're loaded guns."
Emily slipped her gun from its holster and set it on the table. "You mean like this loaded gun, which I wander around with?"
JJ's eyes darkened. She didn't like this Emily, the one who disagreed with her and mocked her.
"Yeah!" Reid cut in, obviously not wanting them to fight. "That's why a registry would be good. So we can authorize people to use their powers."
"You mean the powers they're born with? Authorize them to exist?" Emily's voice rose.
"I don't see what's wrong with that," interjected JJ. "Will and I had Henry tested for the X-gene before we were sure we would go through with the pregnancy. Luckily, Will's good stock." She made her new-mother smile, and Emily wanted to hurl.
"You would have killed your baby rather than raise a mutant? You sound like a Nazi."
"All right! All right! Everyone! Let's have a break." Morgan smiled desperately, waving his hands. "Usually two hot girls and a cat fight is good stuff. But not when the n-word's floating around Any of the n-words."
Reid caught up with Emily in the hall. He waved his hands ineffectually when he saw her thunderous expression. "I don't, I mean, I'm sorry, I mean, I don't want you to think I'm anti-mutant." He whimpered. "I think mutants are amazing. And I didn't mean kill them, if they had dangerous powers. Just teach them how to deal with them."
Emily sighed as she relaxed. "I believe you. Registration is just such a hot-button topic with with a friend of mine. And that was what the sentinels were built for, to eradicate the mutant threat to humanity. The sentinels don't care about humans though. They killed my mother, who was as human as we get."
"It is really a hard topic. But I can't help but think about how amazing it would be to have that much data. You could really see patterns, and genetic or environmental factors on mutation. Just for science. Even if it were anonymous."
Emily nodded. "I understand. But I'd go for anonymous."
Reid chuckled. "It's kind of crazy though. I'm weird, right? When people see what I can do, they automatically assume I'm a mutant. I was mocked and bullied, both for being a nerd, and for being a mutant all throughout school. But I finally got tested, and I don't have the X-gene. But sometimes I wonder if I might have a different mutation, a different gene, somewhere else that they haven't noticed yet."
Emily stared at Reid for a long moment, and then nodded. "I wouldn't be surprised."
"Neither would I."
Morgan was waiting for Emily beside her desk.
"Can I talk to you for a sec."
"Yeah, sure. I'm sorry about throwing around abuse like that. I just was kind of shocked, I guess. I didn't believe JJ could say something like that."
"Neither did I." Morgan's face was sterner than Emily had ever seen it. "But you can never really know someone's feelings on mutants, any more than you can know their feelings on race or sexual preference until you see it in action." Emily nodded. "So you can never be too careful about what you say. Any type of person could be listening."
"I- I guess that's true." Morgan was acting very strangely, and Emily was getting nervous.
"Come with me."
Emily hesitantly followed him into Garcia's office. Garcia was in her usual chair, and Morgan went to stand behind her. On the computer monitor was the conference room where the fight had occurred. Morgan was right. You really didn't know who was listening.
"Emily," Garcia greeted her.
"Penelope." Emily matched her level of formality.
Garcia moved towards the computer and hit a few keys. Suddenly the image of Emma Frost waiting in the lobby filled the screen. "Your friend." The footage started to play. Emily came into the screen, their interaction: sarcasm and irony at its pinnacle, the glance that lasted just a moment too long.
And then, suddenly, the screen changed to news footage of a burning building, a monkey-man leaping from a window, Emma, a glittering diamond, carrying a child out of the flame. Alive she had heard. The child had been alive.
"The same woman." Garcia's voice was too flat to deny it. "A member of the notorious terrorist group, the X-Men."
"They're not terrorists!" Emily hissed before she could stop herself.
Garcia rolled up to her and prodded her in the chest. "I know that. And you know that. But do you think our beloved Mrs. LaMontagne knows that?" Emily's shoulders sank. "I can wipe all evidence that Miss Frost was ever here."
"Why would you do that?"
"Because it's illegal to allow a telepathic mutant within a government building." Garcia's eyes were a challenge. But why would she be offering to erase it if she were going to prosecute?
"I didn't know that."
Morgan smiled. "Well, now that you're one of us, there might be a few things you should pay more attention to."
And Emily had missed the boat again. "One of "
"The Mutant Human Alliance," said Morgan, with another bright grin.
Garcia rolled her eyes at Morgan's eager expression. "I'll wipe her for you," she said. She nodded to the computer, which suddenly began flashing through screens at an amazing rate, code and images streamed across. The images of Emma flicked away, disappearing into the void.
"You didn't you didn't touch it."
"I'm a Cyberpath," said Garcia, her eyes still a challenge. "I can communicate with computers without a programming language intermediary, without any intermediary."
Emily gaped. "You never said anything."
Garcia just flicked her eyebrows and her pen before turning back to the computer.
"Well," Derek glanced at the monitor, which was now displaying JJ's office. "You can never know what someone's loyalties are. But if you have a friend in the X-Men, you're a friend of ours."
And finally it all made sense.
"Friend might not be the right word," Emily muttered.
Derek's face lit up. "You shagged her, didn't you! God, Prentiss, you rock!"
Emily hadn't exactly meant it that way. It had been three months since Emma Frost had walked out of her life, after two weeks of the most intimate connection she had ever known, sexual or otherwise, and not a word since.
It had hurt for a while, but depending on someone that much made her feel dangerously weak. She had to put herself back together on her own. And she had done it. Still, even an email would have been nice. She would have felt slightly less like a post-traumatic hookup.
Emma hated X-men. She wondered why she felt surprised by this revelation, as she had always hated X-men, and enjoyed her tenure as their sworn enemy like few other times in her life. But now she was surrounded by them for sixteen hours every day, more if they had a mission, and it had started to grate on her nerves. It wasn't their naïveté or their charming hypocrisy for once. It was the endless drama.
She had expected them to hate her. And when they remembered to, they did. But the rest of the time they tried to elicit her support in whatever was going on. Summers, the so-called leader, was going through a depressive period that he wanted to make as dramatic as possible. Her students had him pegged when they called it his "Emo" stage. And really, if possession were that big of a deal, Emma would know by now.
Grey was feeling abandoned, and rushing around waving her hands, and looking pathetically at everyone with glistening green eyes, trying to elicit their sympathy. She had tried it with Emma exactly twice before she took the hint that the cold stare usually elicited on the first impact.
The Chinese whack job, Emma was thinking alien rather than mutant, kept following her around and sharing pieces of fortune-cookie wisdom. He was both ingratiating, and an idiot, also clearly bullied by his students. But if she couldn't see where he kept his emotions, she wasn't going to empathize with them.
Wolvie found everyone irritating as well, but two feet away and she was nearly knocked over by the scent of his cigars. So Emma spent what little free time she had in the med-lab, ignoring Hank as he chattered on about whatever disgusting liquid he was dribbling on the floor. But he was used to people not understanding what he said, and she never asked him to back up or explain himself which he seemed to appreciate.
Emma was tired. New lesson plans, a whole passel of out of control teen telepaths, and extracurriculars involving violence and terror were a lot to adjust to. Especially since the previous semester had been cut short so suddenly and horrifically.
Sometimes Emma wondered if the intervening time had only been a dream.
"On first glance it seems pretty simple," said Reid. "It's a mutant killing humans. There are no other patterns of ethnicity, of gender: four women and six men. The mutilation seems to be random. This man had his tongue removed. This one had his feet taken and a quarter of each leg stripped of skin. Here no mutilation except for the burns. But this woman had her ears and fingers removed."
"Remind me of the COD again?" asked Rossi.
"Asphyxiation due to smoke inhalation and/or internal burns."
Morgan shook his head. "Shit, it's like someone fired a flamethrower down their throat."
"And then they suffocated trying to breathe their own incinerated organs."
The table as one turned to look at Emily. Then they all turned back to their papers. Emily grimaced. That was the treatment she had gotten ever since she came back from Genosha: half, "wow you must have seen some shitty things," and half, "I've got the doctors in the white coats on speed dial."
"You said asphyxiation," Emily muttered.
"Is this not serious enough?" snarked JJ. "We have another mutant killer on the loose. There's no need to be gruesome."
"What we don't have is a profile," Hotch said sharply. "Can we stay on track?"
"From the timing of the reports, it looks like the murders happened on Friday and Saturday nights. Two a week, usually a woman and a man, but once two men."
"Couples?" asked Emily.
"He said two men, Emily, weren't you listening?"
Emily turned to JJ. "Has the word homosexual ever been spoken in your presence?" There was probably a little more bitterness than there needed to be in that sentence. But that business had been a merry chase that she was glad was over.
"Some people have the tendency to jump to conclusions like that, all evidence to the contrary."
Replying that 'some people just didn't know what sort of signals they were sending,' would have made the case entirely irrelevant, so Emily was grateful when Reid cut in.
"If it were couples, that would be sort of strange. I mean, usually you pick on one side or the other, gayness or straightness is your target. And if it were an anti-human sentiment motivating this, a genetic attack, why attack gay men? They probably have the least genetic threat of any couples."
Emily frowned. "Unless there's a motive we're not seeing."
"We need more data," said Reid, pushing back his hair and rubbing the center of his forehead.
Emma also decided that she hated teenage telepaths. If they were ingenuous and made honest mistakes, like the ones she had at their age (cheating on tests, exploiting professorial crushes, and the occasional act of necessary vengeance), that would be forgivable. But the Cuckoos and Quentin seemed to have an average age of forty-five. The petty selfishness that for others came with competing in the workplace for another worthless promotion or a raise that was merely keeping score came naturally to them, as if they were born with it. And the sly, manipulative maneuvering that, admittedly she was guilty of on occasion, was so irritatingly pervasive that she had taken to relaxing in her diamond form, just so she didn't have to deal with the headaches of them picking away at the barriers of her mind.
She wasn't afraid of them actually finding a way in, but the time she had spent surrounded by non-threatening humans had acclimatized her to lowering her barriers and staying sensitive to the quiet whispers of their minds. Emily's shields were actually rather impressive for an untrained human, and sometimes, even when she was physically emoting, her thoughts were hard to hear. In this house, surrounded by incredibly powerful telepaths, and others who were used to communicating on that level, the decibel levels tended to resemble a rock concert.
There was a thudding on her door, and Emma sat up, confused as to why someone was using such an archaic form of summoning.
Xorn was at the door. He bowed oddly. "A change is as good as a rest," he said. Emma scowled at him, before remembering her diamond form. "Over the earth, the lake: The image of gathering together. Thus the superior man renews his weapons, in order to meet the unforeseen."
Emma rolled her eyes as she dropped out of her diamond form and winced at the shouting that filled her head once more. "You could just say 'team meeting' you know."
Scott was at his most officious as he introduced the threat.
Emma sighed in exasperation. "You mean we're going to fly all the way to Utah to deal with a PR threat?"
"A mutant serial killer is not just a threat to our image!"
"Isn't this what we have the police for?"
Jean gave her an odd look. "Are you actually saying that you'd trust the human authorities to deal with this? Not that I disagree, but are you?"
Emma stiffened. "Did it ever cross your mind that I might have plans for this weekend?"
The room relaxed.
"Well, the human authorities have called us in to help," continued Scott. "One of my contacts in the police called me."
"Did they call anyone else first? Like the FBI?"
Scott frowned. "Not that I know of. Mutant threats are our jurisdiction."
Emma shrugged. As long as they hadn't called the FBI, she would go.
Emily was not a fan of small towns in Utah. They put her on edge. Tiny conservative towns that revolved around their church always made her tense, as if their watching eyes were following her every move. It was completely irrational, but she always felt that she was going to be caught out for being not like them.
The Kamas Inn was a perfectly respectable place. The bedspreads had a variety of patterns, and there was a common area with a microwave, as advertised. It was the only hotel actually in the town, although since the town was only four blocks across and seven blocks down this was not very surprising. And it was a three-minute walk from the police station, highly convenient.
The police were worried and mostly young. The murders had occurred throughout the county, which was mostly national park. Some crime scenes lay over a hundred miles apart. They didn't know if there had been similar murders in nearby Salt Lake City. They didn't want to know. Ten murders was horrific for a location that had had one murder in the last three years, and that was a tussle outside a bar that had gone bad when one participant fell and hit his head.
"Have you had much anti-mutant sentiment here?"
"We don't have many mutants here, and none of them violent. They're God's children, same as any with problems."
Emily frowned, and she caught worried looks from half her team. Did they expect her to go off on him? Fabulous. "What do you mean, problems?"
The Lieutenant seemed worried as well. "Well, you know, the ears, the spottiness. Things that make them different." He shook his head. "Every school has bullies, but we'd like to think we don't stop the poor kids from having a fair chance."
"Have you encountered anyone with powers relating to heat or fire?"
The Lieutenant blinked. "Powers?"
A young officer with straw-colored hair and large ears prodded him. "Powers, you know, some mutants have powers. Like the X-men."
The Lieutenant shook his head, smiling. "We don't have that kind of mutant here. Just the ones with funny ears and poor feet."
The BAU gathered in a hastily emptied conference room to discuss.
"Are we ready to give a profile?" asked Hotch.
Reid sighed. "I really don't think so."
"I don't think these guys are equipped to handle this alone," said Morgan, shaking his head. "I vote we do some footwork."
"I want to interview the families of the victims," said Emily. "It's a small place. Someone might have an idea about a suspect."
"Don't you think the police here have already done that?" snapped JJ.
Morgan chuckled. "I wouldn't expect more than a condolence call out of these chuckle-heads. Good idea, Prentiss."
It was starting to feel a little unfair to keep picking on JJ. She had gotten used to being the maternal goddess of the team, and taking her down a peg was satisfying to Emily's vindictive side, but not if it was ganging up.
The house was small and painted white. The grass in the yard was a little too long and a broom had been left outside in the rain. It looked like a house where death had recently visited.
The family, a balding pale father and a strained broken mother opened the door, and the pity that contorted Emily's stomach nearly made her bolt for the bushes to lose what little she had eaten. She swallowed twice and held out her badge.
"We're here to ask a few questions about your daughter."
The mother was rubbing a cross between her thumbs as she sat on the well-used sofa. The father paced back and forth behind it.
"We were just lucky to have her as long as we did."
Emily blinked, looking at the mother. That was a strange thing to say this close to the death.
The mother noticed her confusion and smiled wanly. "My friend, Miriam, her little boy was born with CF. She only had him until he turned twelve, and in and out of the hospital so often."
"Was there something wrong with Kristen?"
The father scowled. "Nothing was wrong with her!"
"But there's so much that can happen with a child like her." The mother shook her head. "But Kristen was a lovely girl, no trouble at all."
Emily glanced at Morgan. "Adopted?" he mouthed. Emily frowned.
"Do you have a picture of Kristen?"
The mother and father looked at each other, a little startled, almost frightened. "No," said the mother. The father hesitated.
The father reached for his wallet, and the mother looked stricken, "It's our only one."
"I won't take it."
She was a pretty girl, blue eyes, brown hair carefully tucked over her ears, which were vast holes, barely shaded by flaps of grey skin, the outline of a oddly shaped hearing aid was visible in one.
"The doctors they trimmed her ears before we took her home."
"Before they even asked us," snapped the father. "She's had hearing problems ever since." Then he heard his own words and the heartbreak hit him once more.
They had trimmed her ears, but nothing was done about the fingers, sagging grey skin, and blunt cracked fingernails. The doctors hadn't been able to do anything, but her killer had.
"Mutants!" Emily burst into the conference room. "The mutilated ones were obvious mutants." She whirled towards the officers. "Why didn't you say something?"
They looked blank and stunned and she dismissed them.
Emily grabbed a handful of thumbtacks and started sticking photos into the board. "Mutant, mutant," she stuck the ones with body parts missing in a line, then the murder closest in time across from each. She had two left, a boy and a girl. She waved them in front of the officers. "These kids are from around here. You know them, don't you? Which was the strange one, the one who didn't fit in?"
The youngest officer stepped forward. "My brother went to school with them. They were both popular. Sandy, she, she made everyone around her happy. They were going to get married after they graduated."
Emily swallowed. "Were they all couples?"
"Not those two." He pointed to the pair of men. "They were just friends."
Emily doubted that. She looked back down at the pictures in her hands. Morgan pointed to the girl. "Pheromones?"
Emily nodded. She tacked them on the board. Then she turned to Hotch. "It's not a mutant killing humans. It's a mutant killing mixed couples."
"Well, if it's a mutant problem, I think you might need our help."
Emily turned. There was a man standing in the doorway, with magenta sunglasses on. Then she looked past him and her jaw fell open.
White ice was in her head before she could remember how to shield it. << You don't know me. You don't recognize me. We have never met! >>
<< Emma! >>
<< Don't! Or I'll make it true; rip every memory out of your head. >>
<< Don't threaten me. >> Emily's walls slammed up, sealing together like automatic locks in tanker ships.
<< Don't even think about me. Or she'll know. >>
The redhead was indicated. Emily breathed in through her nose and turned to the man with the magenta glasses.
"This is police business. If you do not have authorization to be here, I suggest you leave."
It was barely a flicker, but she thought she saw Emma smile.
"We were called in to assist."
Emily looked sharply at the officers. The youngest one waved his hand embarrassedly. "I might have dialed their hotline. I didn't think they would actually come."
Emma glowered at Scott. "A hotline? No wonder we never get a break. We're not the fucking Avengers."
"We need to seem responsive to the community."
"What's next? Helping little old ladies cross streets? Fetching cats from trees?"
"That's what she said, Boy Scout," grunted Logan.
"And you promised me the FBI would not be here, and as they are, I think we should go home. I have lesson plans to prepare."
"The FBI?" Scott asked.
Emily, Morgan and Reid raised their hands. Hotch, Rossi and JJ just looked affronted.
"They're criminal profilers," said the youngest officer excitedly. "They were just about to tell us who they think did it!"
"Hmm," Scott frowned. "Perhaps we should stay and hear the profile, and then see if they need our help."
Without asking for an invitation he took a seat. The room was far too crowded now; even with Emma perched on a desk and Logan leaning in the doorway so he could smoke his cigar. Hotch frowned at the newcomers, but didn't tell them to leave.
JJ glared at him. "You're letting the mutant vigilantes stay?" she hissed.
Hotch ignored her and glanced toward the front of the room. "Emily? You seemed to be ready to lead on this one."
Emily glanced over at Emma who looked pointedly disinterested. "Okay," she shrugged. "The suspect is a white male between 18 and 25. He is a mutant, with power over heat. His hands and possibly his breath reach temperatures of over 212 degrees. His victims are always couples, one mutant, and one human. The amount of time between each kill suggests that he is a rational psychopath, and escalation is unlikely. But the fact that he tortures his victims before killing them, particularly the mutants, indicates that he is acting out his sadistic impulses. Although most of his murders involve obvious mutants, the murder of Sandy Tate, suggests that he is a local, or at least has been in the area long enough to be trusted with the gossip."
"But Sandy wasn't a mutant," said the youngest officer.
"You said it yourself," interjected Morgan. "Everyone was happy around her."
The blue furry man stood up. "Haven't you run genetic tests on the bodies?"
The lieutenant frowned. "We don't have a local lab. Things have to be sent to Salt Lake City. Since we knew pretty much all the victims, we didn't think DNA testing would be necessary. And full out genetic scanning is against protocol."
"If you let me have a sample, I could run a simple diagnostic in the Blackbird."
"You have a genetics lab in your plane?" asked Reid, nearly slavering.
"Just the bare minimum of equipment."
"Do you think I could ?" Reid glanced from Hotch to Beast and back.
"Chain of Evidence," Hotch grunted, "Stay with Mr. ."
"Mr. McCoy here, and ensure his procedure is correct."
Reid nearly skipped away in glee.
Sandy Tate was a mutant. Pheromones was Dr. McCoy's expert opinion. The youngest officer was stunned. Reid rhapsodized about the advanced equipment for ten minutes, and then went after Dr. McCoy to speak more in depth about theories of genetic behavior and other things only those two could understand.
The rest of the team, plus Jean who had volunteered to help out, went through census lists, narrowed down and emailed by Garcia, and interrogated the officers on their knowledge of the locals. They were looking for not only the unsub, but also for potential future victims. It felt very haphazard, and Emily felt Emma's eyes boring critically into the back of her neck, asking if this was their usual method of hunting down perpetrators, because it didn't compare with the hype.
<< Wears heavy gloves, >> popped into Emily's head as they were asking about Henrick Smith. She had to restrain herself from turning around.
<< What? >>
<< I thought you should know. When that boy pictures him, he sees him wearing heavy gloves. >>
<< He is a mechanic. >>
Emma managed to convey shrugging disdainfully by telepathy.
It had been a long day with very few potential unsubs and no potential victims identified. This really was a case for old-fashioned police work, being on guard, finding witnesses, but the extent of the national parkland in the county and the low population density meant that there weren't any witnesses and there weren't any leads. News had spread throughout the community by word of mouth, and most people were panicked. Young people died in car accidents and it was an unbelievable tragedy. Young people were murdered and it was the sign of an apocalypse.
Emily hated taking the lead on cases. The weakest part of her profiling ability was the part that made it easy to rule out certain suspects. White male? It was an educated guess, but no more. The population of Kamas was 92.5% white, and the strength required to move the bodies to the locations that they were found in suggested male. But she could be wrong. It had to be a local, she rationalized, and young. The victims were all young.
She saw the man in the magenta sunglasses going into the office of the Kamas Inn. Were the X-Men staying here too? That was uncomfortable.
Coming down after her shower, Emily spotted the redhead making tea in the common area.
Jean looked up, and smiled politely. Emily remembered that this one was the other telepath, and stiffened her shields, but didn't feel anything attempting to broach them.
"Hi, Agent Prentiss, was it?"
"Yes." Emily hesitated, but couldn't figure out any other way to ask. "Is Emma around?"
"Emma?" Jean looked slightly stunned.
"Yes." The woman didn't seem to be finding an answer. "Blonde, scantily clad irritating?"
Jean laughed. "I don't know where she is. You know her?"
Emily winced. It was the 'irritating' that had given her away. "Not really. I just had a question "
If anything Jean looked even more suspicious. "You could try me?"
Emily smiled hesitantly. "That's okay."
"Are you sure?"
"If you want to know what it is that badly, just rip it out. You are a telepath, aren't you?"
Jean's face closed at that. "You obviously know Emma. I don't do that."
Emily nodded, uncomfortable, and glanced out the windows, but she only spotted the hairy man smoking.
"How do you know her? Business? You're human. I didn't think she had any human friends."
"Agent Prentiss," came a sharp New England accent from the stairs. "If I didn't know better I would say you were trading me in for more pleasant company."
Emily turned to grin at Emma, ignoring the obvious curiosity from Jean. She had traded in the white leather fetish outfit for something more conservative, probably a good move for a rabidly Mormon town. But she still looked too bright and crisp for a place like this.
"How on earth could I miss the experience of Emma Frost eating in a town where the most prestigious restaurant serves hotdogs on its dinner menu?"
<< It seems you have utterly failed with the instructions I gave you. Are you prepared to suffer the consequences? >> Emma was a threatening presence in her consciousness.
<< Cut it out. >> Emily snapped. << She has nothing. We could have spoken on our way out of the station for all she knows. >>
<< And with your flirty little banter it's apparent that in that exchange we set up a date? >>
<< God, what is your problem? Sometimes by random chance we are unlucky enough to run into someone we know. Why is it imperative for them to think we've never met? >>
<< I don't have human friends. >>
<< Yeah, Jean mentioned as much. >>
<< You don't understand. I don't have human friends. I have pawns. If you come across as too friendly towards me, they're going to poke around to make sure I didn't do anything unethical. And then they'll know. >>
<< Know what? >>
Instead of an answer, Emily received a barrage of images: Genosha, dead children, Emma's tears, sex.
<< Will they think you're weak? >>
<< They'll know I'm weak. >>
"You wanted to consult on the case?"
It took a moment for Emily to flip conversations. Jean was still watching curiously, so she stood stiffly and tried to stay professional. "I heard it mentioned that you have a degree in psychology. I was wondering if you would share some insights on mutants and mental disease."
"I would be honored."
They passed Morgan on their way out. He grinned and flashed a not very veiled double thumbs up. Emma gave her a look. Emily rolled her eyes and thought pointedly about security footage in the BAU building.
Picnic tables and mosquitoes were the amenities of the local restaurants, but they were nearly empty as the frightened townspeople stayed home. Voices dissipated quickly in the open air. It was strange to be with Emma in a place like this. As professionals, as strangers again.
"You do know that there are only two police officers in this town. The group you were interviewing is mostly made up of hastily impressed forest rangers."
Emily chuckled. "I'm not surprised. This area isn't prepared for a serial killer. So, the police are the lieutenant and the kid that called you?"
Emma nodded, her face stern again. "I didn't want us to come. I knew your team was likely to be here, and I didn't want to see you again."
That hurt. Emily walked silently for a few steps. "I don't I don't understand."
"Oh, come on. You of all people should be able to work it out. Your shields are so strong because you've spent your life cutting up emotions and memories, separating them out so they can't influence your consciousness. You've had to do this. It's a perfectly valid way of dealing with trauma. I would like to do the same, cut that time off, so I can move on again. You are part of that time."
"You aren't for me." The glint of diamond underneath the rubble, someone to hold onto when the undertow threatened to drown her in the sea of loss, being needed, being allowed to forget herself, if only for a moment. Emma had been a life raft, and when you look at a life raft you don't remember almost drowning, you remember being saved.
Emma looked at her, and for a moment she could see into her eyes, into the warm depths that lay beneath the icy shallows, before they glinted, turning back into impermeable reflective pools. "Well, there is one more area where we differ."
"I can understand you not wanting to see me, enough people have felt the same, so it's reasonable enough, but you can go back to never contacting me and pretending that I never existed after we leave. Why are you pretending not to know me?"
"I explained that. Don't be obtuse."
"But why would they be suspicious of you? You're on their team. Surely some of them must have human acquaintances."
Emma frowned. "I wonder if that's true. Besides other people in the same profession, Tony Stark and the like, and whatever relatives haven't rejected them, I haven't seen evidence of even the utopian-minded X-Men interacting with humans on a personal level." Emma smirked slightly. "What a blow to Xavier's dream if that is true."
"You aren't like them."
"And they know that." Emma shook her head. "They've decided I've reformed enough to risk my life alongside them, but it's like being on parole. If you slip up, they're waiting right there to bust you."
"I don't think I know enough about mutant politics to understand this."
Emma shrugged. "They don't trust me because of what I've done. They have every right not to. My former associates were diametrically opposed to everything the X-Men stand for."
"What was your group's ideology?"
Emma laughed. "Our ideology? Power. That was all we believed in. Do you know about the Brotherhood?"
Emily frowned. "They're the ones that are always being compared to the Black Panthers, right?"
"There are some tenuous similarities, but yes. They stood for mutant supremacy, homo superior, violence as a means towards peace. They are often spoken of as the opposite cadre to the x-men, who believe in humans and mutants living in peace, mutant abilities contributing to the advancement of society, and, of course, violence as a means towards peace.
"I was never a member of the Brotherhood, and I still find the X-Men ideology somewhat idealistic, like a single-state solution for Israel and Pakistan. My allegiance was to an un-politicized cadre. We didn't see the point of fighting for mutant supremacy or for mutant equality because we never felt weak. Both the Brotherhood and the X-Men philosophize from a position of weakness, they want to compete with humans, to catch up and move past. But we knew that we had already won. Our power put us at the pinnacle of the hierarchy, regardless of the social environment. So we took advantage of it." Emma sighed.
"To a certain extent I still think that way. I understand that the poor deformed creatures, like the mutant victims of your serial killer, need protection, need rights, but truly powerful mutants, like myself, Erik, Charles, even Ms. Darkholme and Miss Pryde have abilities that constitute a direct threat to society as a whole. All these checks and balances that we have built, not just in government, but little things, religion and science, capitalism and labor, will fall apart. It's almost better to just be selfish, because any ideology left unchecked leads to fascism."
"I've lived in places like that. Society doesn't just fall apart." Countries run by a single ruler or guided by a religious elite functioned as well as any other. Sometimes they were even better. You always knew the rules and if you didn't like them you worked around them. There was no valorization of rebellion, and less violence. If people knew their place they weren't threatening anyone else's.
Emma looked surprised and offended at being contradicted.
"I think we've survived the worst of it. What's a more perfect incidence of a truly sociopathic mind combined with immense destructive power than Genosha. And it wasn't Cassandra Nova's individual power that allowed her to do that. Human-built weapons, genocide machines, did it. We've done it before, nuclear bombs, biological weapons, gas and fire. Society has always sought methods of self-destruction."
"I don't think I could survive it again." Emma's voice cracked, and she swiftly turned away. Emily reached out and grabbed her hand, holding it tightly, though Emma struggled to free herself. Finally she looked back, her gaze glistening.
Emily loosened her grip. "I'm sorry. I do remind you of it."
"No." Emma returned the clench of her hand, and then bent her fingers back, opening Emily's palm and tracing her thumb over it. "Everything reminds me of it. Because you're right. Fascism, genocide, and insanity are all part of our history and our future. As long as we have hierarchies of power, we have people who will abuse their power. And we cannot function without institutions of power." She looked around at the quiet town, the trees still in the windless evening, lights in the windows. "Even this town needs institutions of power, just for incidents like this one."
"Every day, JJ, our police liaison, gets a stack of cases this thick," Emily spread her fingers over an inch apart. "She has to go through them and choose which series of murders most deserves our attention. Every day there are more. I understand what you mean about selfishness being less destructive than ideology. But insanity seems to be becoming more and more prevalent."
Emma looked grim and sickened. "I like you better when you aren't speaking."
"I thought you didn't like me at all." Emily wouldn't be surprised. She had managed to depress herself with the conversation and felt limp and useless. She wasn't hungry anymore.
Emma winced, and Emily looked up as pain echoed in her head.
"What was that?"
"A summons for a team meeting."
Emily rubbed her forehead. "Does it always hurt like that?"
"Only if my shields are down." Emma frowned. "Was I linked up with you?"
"I can't tell."
Emma gave her a long dubious look. "We had better go," she said, finally.
Throwing out what was left, they started to walk back to the inn. It was hard for Emily not to look at her, not to remember what it was like to knot her fingers in her hair, and press their bodies together. It was comfort, and that was what she wanted right now. She was lagging behind, and Emma kept throwing sharp glances back over her shoulder.
There was a small grove of trees on the corner, and there Emma stopped. Emily, catching up, gave her an inquisitive look, and Emma glowed with exasperation.
"You need to stop that."
"Your shields are pancake flat. Any telepath within range could see what you are thinking as if it were written on your face."
Emily didn't feel apologetic. She was annoyed. "They shouldn't look."
"Should I?" Emma stepped into her personal space, backing her up against a tree. When Emily didn't respond, she smiled viciously. "You wanted me to see it, didn't you? You wanted me to do it."
And Emma was kissing her, finally, hot and wet and open. No one kissed like Emma. No one had the finesse of just when to bite and just when to suck. No one overpowered her in the same way, or made her feel like she was being ripped apart and sewn together all at once. The tree was rough against her back, but it was nothing compared to Emma's fingernails digging into her skin, or the heat of her body.
"Is that what you wanted?"
Startled at the sudden abandonment, Emily gasped, and then flushed in humiliation at being so easily overwhelmed. "Yeah, pretty much."
Emma laughed and strode off towards the inn. Emily shook her head and hurried to catch up.
Scott could not shut up. He was weighing every eventuality, every moral and political gradation, and Emma was going to scream if it went on any longer.
"Can we just vote already?" Emma snapped. Everyone looked in her direction. That was a little direct, even for her.
"Um," said Scott, uselessly. "I suppose. If everyone's decided."
There was a series of grunts and general nods of acknowledgement.
"All in favor of staying and assisting the FBI with the case?"
The entire team raised their hands. He looked around. "You too, Emma?"
"We're here, aren't we? We might as well be useful."
"And did you see the photos of the corpses," added Jean. "He must be very powerful to cause that much internal charring. They'll probably need our help."
"Then it's settled. Good, now room keys." Scott looked guiltily at Logan and Hank. "I'm sorry, they're all full up, so you two will have to share."
Both men looked horrified. Scott handed keys to Hank, Xorn and Emma. Emma looked at hers, then smiled and tossed it to Wolvie.
"You can take mine. I've already found a place to sleep tonight."
Emily opened her door, her hair loose, and dressed in a rumpled tank top and pajama bottoms, expecting a teammate with some information or complaint, and found Emma, leaning against the doorframe with a bag over her shoulder.
"I'm staying here tonight," she said, after a long moment of running her eyes over the mussed form before her.
"Really?" Emily grinned comically. "What happened to the 'I don't have human friends'?"
"I'll just have to mind wipe you before Jean gets a chance to peek."
"Mm, good luck with that."
"I doubt she'll bother though, picking up random humans for fucking is much more in character for me than a long-term acquaintance with anyone really."
"You know, there's quite a nice couch down in the common room, if you're this serious about me kicking you out," Emily commented wryly.
Emma just smiled with lowered eyelids. That expression always resembled something between a seduction and a smug wolf. "As if you could say no to this." The door clicked shut behind her and her bag dropped to the ground.
"You're the one who came to me." Emily said, backing slowly towards the bed. Emma paced her, not letting her out of range.
"Well, then I must be the smart one, not wasting such an opportunity."
"Maybe you are." Emily let her hands rest on the backs of Emma's arms and drift upwards. "And maybe you've just fallen into my trap."
With an easy move, she locked her arms around Emma and dropped her to the bed, settling on her knees, straddling her lap. Emma laughed and propped herself up on her elbows.
"Is this one of those seduction traps? Because honestly," Emma slid her hands behind her conqueror's head, threading her fingers in the dark strands. "I can't think of anywhere I'd rather be caught."
Emily leaned down to kiss her, gently, but just a taste was never enough.
At one point, waking up with her nose buried in Emma's hair was all that she had needed to feel grounded. It had been the only constant when everything outside had been falling apart. But this morning it was a shock, and it took Emily a moment to remember that she was in Utah and not on the east coast of Africa, and a little bit longer to remember that she had new deaths to focus on. The old ones needed to be pushed back down.
When Emma rolled over and tugged her in for a sleepy kiss that was only slightly rough, but made her very aware that last night hadn't been particularly gentle, Emily forgot everything again.
"My back is all sweaty, I forgot how you like to glue yourself to it." Emma blinked drowsily, but her sarcasm was already awake.
"Africa is nowhere near as warm at night as one would think," Emily mumbled.
"God, it's strange to be sleeping with you again."
Emma didn't respond, she just looked at her and frowned. Then she slid out of bed and stretched. "First shower's mine," she said blandly, and walked into the bathroom. Emily leaned back, wincing as her raw skin made contact with the sheets. Whenever Emma closed up like that, it was because she was thinking too hard about something. But this time she had no idea what it was.
JJ was not interested in waking up Agent Prentiss. She had not volunteered to do so; in fact, she had vehemently requested that someone else be charged with the duty. But the boys all slunk away, and since Emily had disappeared and missed the team dinner, it was JJ's responsibility to make sure she knew what they were doing today.
JJ didn't really know what had happened to her relationship with Emily, except that once she announced that she was pregnant, Emily had suddenly become awkward around her, and kept her at arms length. She had supposed that there were some issues causing that, and she wasn't going to press it. But if anything, when she came back to work after her maternity leave ended, it had gotten worse. Emily either ignored her, or when forced to interact was formal and cold. The blatant fighting was new, and worse than the freeze-out. If things didn't change, she was going to have to ask for a transfer. She never thought she would consider leaving her family in the BAU, but it was too hard watching someone who had been one of her closest adult friends suddenly reject her for no reason at all.
"Emily?" JJ tapped on the door. There were noises from behind it, but they didn't seem to be responding to her. She knocked again and leaned on the door handle to try and hear what was going on. It wasn't locked. The handle bent and the door swung open.
" what you did to my back!"
JJ stared. The blonde mutant was facing away from her, wearing a white half-corset and leather pants, but it was Emily who caught her attention, barely dressed in black jeans and trying to fasten her bra over nasty red scratches running down her back. JJ's eyes jumped from the mutant's fingernails, to Emily's back, to the rumpled bed.
Emily turned around and saw her. Her eyes widened. JJ stumbled back.
"We're, we're meeting at the cars," she managed, and then ran away, but not before noticing that the blonde mutant was smirking at her.
"Hi." Emily walked up to the group standing by the cars. Everyone looked normal and didn't make any comment, except for JJ, who sidled away from her and looked pale and uncomfortable. She sighed. She hadn't expected anything different really.
Morgan came jogging up after a second, and Hotch noted that they were all present. He handed out sheets with the names and addresses of the potential suspects. There were only three cars available and one was a donated pickup truck. Morgan hopped in that one and Hotch took Rossi in his. JJ found a spurt of energy and darted for the pickup, but Reid, not noticing, slipped in and shut the door in her face.
Emily sighed, and waited for JJ to get up the nerve to climb into the car. She slid in, not looking at her. Emily put the car into gear and started towards the driveway, as per the Google Maps directions.
Emily glanced over. "What?"
"I'm sorry, for barging in like that."
"I didn't lock the door, apparently. It wasn't your fault."
JJ was silent as they started into the national park. "The um "
"Woman?" Emily guessed. At JJ's wide eyed acknowledgment, she added, "Emma, her name is Emma."
"Do you know her?"
"Biblically?" Emily arched an eyebrow. She hadn't really expected this sort of interrogation, but she wasn't letting her guard down.
"I mean, before."
Emily rolled her eyes. "Yeah, we're old friends."
JJ froze, probably unsure of whether or not she was being sarcastic. "Are you really ?" She shook her head, getting rid of the stutters. "Are you really gay?"
Emily was surprised. "You didn't know?"
"How was I supposed to know?!"
"I thought if Morgan worked it out, it was pretty much common knowledge." And the way JJ had flirted, and looked at her And she was an idiot. Emily would have banged her head on the dashboard if she weren't driving.
"Not a profiler!" JJ pointed emphatically to herself.
"Not really relevant to profiling," Emily said, chuckling, mostly at herself.
JJ frowned, sitting back and furrowing her forehead. "Are you okay?" she asked after a long pause. "Those were really nasty marks."
"I'm fine." Emily grinned to herself. Fine was a little bit of an understatement. "Par for the course. Emma's one of those 'if you can't handle my fingernails, you can't handle me' type of girls."
"You have been with her before."
"Yeah, old friends, like I said."
"Did you go to school with her?"
"Huh?" Emily glanced at JJ, slightly bewildered. "No."
"Oh, she just seems, sort of your class. Except for the mutant thing."
"Mutants come in every economic sphere."
JJ stiffened at the wryness of her tone. "Don't get like that!"
"Like everything I say is stupid. I know you're smarter than me, better brought up, more worldly, more everything, but you can't treat me like dirt."
Emily sat back, somewhat stunned. "I'm sorry. I didn't realize I was doing it."
"You've been doing it all year. You used to like me."
Emily saw JJ pause as she reviewed the words she had just spoken over in her head. She shot Emily a hunted look. Emily felt herself turning red and wished she could stop it.
"Yeah." Emily forced herself to breathe. "I thought you knew. I thought you were sort of interested. It blew me out of the water when you were suddenly pregnant plus fiancé."
JJ sank back into her seat. "You thought I " She closed her eyes. "Was I sending really mixed signals?"
"They didn't seem mixed at the time."
JJ groaned. "I am such a slut."
Emily couldn't help but snicker.
Emma did not like the feeling she had when she realized that she had slept with Emily more nights than with anyone else in her entire life. She had gone through her history, trying to find someone, anyone, whom she had been with more than fourteen times. The trouble was, even if they had sex, she would kick them out. She had kicked everyone out before Emily. But with Emily it was the sex that was incidental. The important thing was to have someone there in the morning, to remind you that you were alive.
It had been so long since she had had someone to talk to like Emily, someone who wasn't suspicious, wasn't competitive, and wasn't secretly plotting against her. It was almost like having Christian back. But that thought was frightening in itself. Confiding in Christian was pouring her thoughts and her trust and her need into a delicate human vessel, and it had shattered. He had become someone she didn't even recognize. The last time she had visited him, he had grown fat and lank from the sedatives. His clear blue eyes had been glazed over, and he hadn't remembered her name. Her family had addictive personalities and always balanced on the razor's edge of insanity. Far too many fell off. She could not allow herself to rely on anything or anyone. It would be too easy to depend upon it.
And if it broke, if she broke, it would be too hard to pluck the shards from what little remained of her soul.
"All right, Emma? Jean? I'm sending you in separate directions and I want long range scanning. We were all at the briefing; we know what kind of mind we're looking for. Is that doable?"
Emma let Jean respond, and glanced around mentally for the BAU. Only the lanky nerd and the cheerful black man with almost campy masculinity remained in town, knocking on doors. The rest had headed out for parts unknown.
Hank was going to double check for the possibility of trace evidence, Xorn as his lackey. Logan waved at Emma. "You're coming with me."
He gave her a sidelong glance and a sniff as she climbed into the cab of the truck. "Seems like you did find a warm place to spend the night," he said with a smirk.
Privacy was an unheard of concept among the X-Men. "Did you imagine it would be a challenge?"
Logan snickered and put the car into gear, easing up on the clutch. "The brunette, eh? Good choice."
Logan's amusement and vicarious enjoyment filled the mental plane, and Emma dropped out of the conversation, beginning to scan. The subtle wrongness that she was looking for would be difficult to find, but Emily's profile rang true. This man was mad, but he wasn't angry anymore. He had taken his revenge and grown to like it. It was a feeling she was intimately familiar with, and because of that, she knew just what to look for.
"I hate the woods."
Emily nodded at JJ's remark. They really were in the deep woods too. The highway had turned into a service road and then into a dirt track, before it stopped a few feet from a beat up camper with a pile of logs outside. It was still morning, but the trees were thick enough to not let much light through.
Emily strode up to the camper and knocked. "Anyone home? FBI."
No one answered. She knocked again.
"Maybe he's not home?" offered JJ. Emily rolled her eyes.
"You don't have to sound so hopeful."
"Look! This case is terrifying me! We're in the woods, thirty miles from the nearest house, looking for a mutant with undefined but pretty incredible powers, who murdered ten people, some of whom regularly carry guns!"
"If this place is in any way like where I grew up, hunting has got to be a favorite pastime. But right now, I feel like game."
"You may have a point. But this isn't really different from any other case we've been on."
"You could be a target for him."
"What do you mean?" Emily frowned.
"You and your friend. Mixed couples."
"We're not exactly a couple."
"Somehow, I don't think he would stop to think about the difference between friends with benefits and full-fledged couple status."
The narrowness of JJ's eyes and the stiffness of her stance were a little off-putting after the remnant of their old friendship they had revisited in the car. JJ was thinking something, but Emily couldn't tell what, so she stuck to facts.
"He targets locals. Tons of people come to this area to hike, I'll bet mixed couples among them, but he's only gone for locals."
Emily nodded. The warning was statistically valid. She banged on the door again. "FBI."
"Hold on, what's going on here?"
She heard JJ gulp and spin, and turned herself to see a tanned, sun-wrinkled, bearded man come up through the trees, carrying a pile of wood.
"Are you Cedric Anthony?"
The man dropped his wood on the pile. "Depends on who's asking."
"Then no. I'm Daphne Fairbanks."
"Pleased to meet you, Mr. Anthony. You live out here alone?"
He shrugged. "More or less."
"Have you heard anything about the murders that have been happening lately?"
"Hard not to. The town's not talking of much else."
"What have you heard?"
He shrugged again. "Just that some city folk's been picking off our kids."
Emily nodded. "Any idea about the methods?"
"How old are you, Mr. Anthony?"
"Older than you, I'd reckon."
"And where were you last Friday night."
"Down at the Diamond Bar in town, like every Friday night."
"The barman can vouch for you?"
"Thank you for your time, Mr. Anthony."
He shrugged, and started back into the forest. Emily glanced at JJ and shrugged, the tic was contagious. They got back into the car.
Two more addresses and nothing. Utah had its fair share of loonies, but homicidal mutants seemed to be in short supply. Emily shook her head as she glanced at the next address. They had apparently picked the deep woods pile, poor JJ. And the profiler actually was doubtful their unsub lived out in the woods, at least not habitually. Even if he killed in the woods, he was intrinsically tied to the town.
They ended up in Francis, a tiny town not really worthy of the name, and pulled up outside a small, well-appointed yellow house. A woman with the dress-sense of a fifties housewife opened the door and smiled, although not without trepidation, at the two women. Emily glanced at JJ who was always marked out to those who didn't know her as the least threatening of the team. Apparently in this backwoods even she was a little too modern and aggressive.
"Hi, we're looking for David Barry?"
The woman smiled, even more tensely if that was possible and she shook her head. "I'm afraid Davy isn't here right now."
"Is he your son?"
"Do you have any idea what time he'll be back?"
"Oh, no. He " the woman paused. "Why exactly are you looking for him?"
Emily glanced back and met JJ's eyes. This one was suspicious, interesting. "We're with the FBI."
"The FBI! You can't take him away! He's done nothing wrong!"
"No one said anything about taking him away." The woman was panicking.
JJ stepped forward. "Mrs. Barry! We just want to speak with him. That's all."
"I know about you! You take kids like him away!"
Emily frowned. "What kind of kids do you mean?"
Mrs. Barry stiffened. "I'm not talking to you anymore."
"Is David a special child?" The woman was pale and clenching the door handle as if she were about to slam the door shut any moment. "Like Kristen? Did you know Kristen?"
"Kristen Stuart? Did you take her too?"
"You don't know what happened to her?" JJ spoke softly. "She was killed. We're worried that someone might be hunting mutants in this area. Is your son in danger?"
Mrs. Barry sank at the news, and stepped slightly aside, indicating that they could come in.
"I haven't seen him for a few days. He's been out camping in his truck since he graduated."
"No college plans?"
Mrs. Barry shook her head. "He wanted to be a forest ranger, but they won't take children like him around here. He said that there might be someone coming to look for him. I thought you were the registry people."
"No, we aren't here for that."
She nodded. "I see that now. Oh, poor little Kristen. I know Davy can take care of himself, but I can't help but worry."
JJ patted her hand.
"It's just been so hard for Davy lately. The rejection by the forest rangers, and the other boys have been bullying him ever since that accident with Sandy."
"Sandy? Sandy Tate?" Emily tensed.
"Yes. They were good friends for a long time, a lovely girl. But "
"Oh, just silly things. It's not important."
JJ and Emily shared a communicative glance. "Where do you think David is camping?"
"I couldn't say. He always find little hideaways, but he comes into town for supplies."
"Thank you, I think that's all." The woman's relief was palpable.
On the way out Emily paused at the door and look speculatively up at the clouds. "Tell me, if it got cold out, would Davy have any trouble starting a fire."
"Oh no. No trouble at all." She almost laughed as she shut the door behind them.
When they reached the car Emily glanced at JJ. "Not bad, for someone as pro-registration as you."
JJ glared. "That kid did it. You know it as well as I do."
Emily nodded. "But you got us in. Good move."
This did not pacify JJ. "I don't get you. I don't get this world!" JJ shook her head. "I know you're screwing one, but you can't be blind to it. There are two types of mutants. The victims, like Kristen Stuart, and the killers, like David Barry. I know you think I'm sick, but I couldn't have taken it if Henry had been a mutant. I don't know what I would have done, but it would have been the same if he were autistic or anything else. You don't know what it's like to be a mother, to depend on someone else like that. And that poor woman who is going to have to find out that her son is a serial killer. Mutant or human, that is something you can never expect."
"What about the heroes?"
"You said it once about us. What separates us from our subjects isn't whether we kill, it's why. And that isn't a very big difference at all."
Emily shook her head. "If you see mutants in only two categories, you have to see humans that way too. We see a lot of victims, but if there are only victims and killers, then what we're doing is worthless. There have to be people who are just getting by, who aren't touched by this." Emily did her best to keep her shoulders from shuddering as words and warm images filled her head, the stories that Emma had told her, of normal children, normal people, who should have had normal, extended lives, and didn't get that chance. "And just because sixteen million of them are dead, it doesn't mean they don't exist."
JJ reached out for her elbow, but Emily jerked away and grabbed her phone. "I'm calling Garcia to track down Davy Barry's truck. All we have here is forest rangers passing for cops, but hopefully even they can manage to set up a roadblock."
Jean glanced over at Scott, stiff and impenetrable behind his crystal glasses. He took a bite of the hamburger, still staring at nothing.
"Scott do you think Emma's acting strangely?"
"What?" He finally looked at her, but it was with his brusque business face. Jean held back a sigh. "What do you mean?"
"She's just been more " Jean waved her hands, trying to express in words a feeling that had more to do with the color and shape of how someone inhabited their mental space. "More open."
Scott blinked. "I hadn't noticed."
"Like how she didn't want to come here, but then she didn't vote to leave, and giving Logan her room."
"She said she had somewhere else to go."
Jean pursed her lips. Emma having somewhere else to go was not the question. The woman she had thought had been sharing the mansion with them was one who would take the room, even if she didn't use it, merely because she enjoyed other people's discomfort. Their telepathic associate almost seemed to be in a good mood, which somehow felt more unlikely than her being possessed.
Jean thought back to the conversation she had witnessed the evening before. She had only heard the surface, but she would be a pretty poor telepath to not catch the signs of silent communication even when she wasn't even trying to listen in. Practiced telepaths could turn off their body language, and be satisfied with mental replacements, and talented ones could make their stance seem natural, and even glance around looking bored while conversing with someone in the next room. Emma was a talented telepath who also had a natural ability to look bored no matter what the situation (Jean would have hated to have her as a student), but Agent Emily Prentiss was not.
Just from the tension in the muscles of Agent Prentiss' back, Jean was certain that what had passed between them was an argument, but they walked out the door together, with a comfort that said it was not a fight. And when she had contacted Emma to inform her of their team meeting, the woman's shields had been so far down, that even just a message had thrown up a dust cloud of turmoil and an intense intimacy that Jean hadn't felt the likes of since she looked at her husband, consuming his fries with the dedication of a machine since Ororo had last stopped by the mansion.
Perhaps Emma had a friend. Rationally, this seemed unlikely, but Jean liked to think the best of people. And honestly, she hoped it was true.
That was when she heard the shout, echoing past all physical bounds. Jean forgot lunch, forgot the humans, forgot the car. Grabbing Scott she surged up into the sky, feeling the delightful dangerous burn that meant the powers she was using were not wholly her own.
<< Logan, pull over. >>
<< You find something? >>
<< Nope, but it sounds like our friends did. >>
Emily acknowledged her approach with a nod, she looked busy and tense as she spoke on the phone, but the blonde woman with her stiffened visibly, and Emma took a second glance. That morning she had barely noticed her because after walking in on them she had been flaring with shock, plain and simple, but this time there was a good dose of fear, annoyance and jealousy? Emma grinned.
"So, what do we have?"
JJ glared at her. "We don't have anything. Just because people seem to think you're heroes, it doesn't mean we have to work with you. For all we know this could be some big cover-up, protecting your own."
"Davy Barry?" Emma asked, not that she needed verification. JJ's mind had shouted it right as the question had been asked. "Drives a truck, some sort of previous incident with Sandra Tate?" Emma loved to see terror on a pretty face, especially if she had put it there. "Oh, please. If we were trying to cover this up you wouldn't even remember why you were here."
"You're not comforting her," commented Emily, hanging up her phone.
"I wasn't really trying to."
Emily displayed a complete lack of surprise.
"All right. We've got people looking out for Barry's truck, '84 Mitsubishi, silver, according to our goddess, whose all-seeing-eye stretches out even to this wilderness. Are you going to tell your people?"
Emma nodded. "Already done."
"Okay, there should be a town center down this road. The officers are meeting us on the other side. I have some questions I want to ask them."
As the group turned away, no one noticed the blue-flowered curtain in the window of the yellow house twitch closed.
The officers were late. Emma yawned and leaned on one of the cars.
"Lord, why are humans so incompetent?"
JJ bristled. "I'm surprised that you would say that."
JJ's eyes slid to Logan, smoking on the edge of the clearing, before she hissed, "Because you're fucking one."
Logan chuckled and JJ shot him a look, not expecting him to have been able to hear her. "Sorry, princess." He tapped his nose. "You don't want to know what I can smell about last night. It's why I smoke these things. Trying to give people their privacy."
"Oh, joy," Emily muttered and turned away from the conversation.
"Come back here." Emma caught her wrist and tugged her back.
JJ glared. "Don't touch her."
"Don't touch her?" Emma pulled Emily into her chest and rested her chin on her shoulder, locking her in so she couldn't easily escape. "You don't mean 'don't touch her again'? I don't imagine there are many places on her where my hands haven't been."
"Feeling a little objectified here," interjected Emily, to the sole amusement of Logan.
"Using her for sex does not give you the right to touch her like that!"
"Like what?" Emma nearly growled. Her hands snuck under Emily's shirt, one flicked open the button of her jeans. "Like this?"
Now Emily started struggling. "Totally not okay with this!"
"Get your hands off of her!"
"Oh please. Just because you're kicking yourself for screwing up your chance to have her, doesn't give you any right to try to keep me from taking what I want."
"You can't have her! She's not anyone's to own!"
"That turns you on, doesn't it? Owning her What would your husband and baby boy think if they knew what was in your head?"
JJ's face was white, and this had gone too far. "Emma! Enough!" Emily broke out of her hold. She grabbed her arm and dragged her towards the woods. "Don't do this to her. We're barely friends anymore."
The protection of trees closed them off for the moment.
"That's not what I saw." Emily stiffened. "Oh, stop fluttering," Emma spat, "You're only friends again because you forgave her for screwing you over. She doesn't love you. She'll never love you. She's just jealous because she missed her chance to fuck you. She blew it, and I didn't."
Emily covered her eyes and shook her head. "You picked that fight. If she's jealous, what are you?"
"I'm on your side." Emma sneered while saying it, and Emily rolled her eyes.
"Bullshit. Are you worried you'll lose your ownership? You seem to like that word."
"Even if I cared, I wouldn't have anything to worry about." Emma's tone was viciously derisive. "Stop dreaming. She has everything she wanted. She wouldn't risk that for someone broken like you."
Emily stepped back, gaping and slightly stunned. "Fuck you." She shook her head, starting away.
"Where are you going?"
"I need to walk." She shook her head again and disappeared into the woods.
The officers had arrived, and Emma felt guilty for chasing Emily away when she was the one who had questions for them. The youngest officer was standing off to the side and jumped slightly when she swept up behind him.
"You're the one who knew Sandra Tate, correct?"
"My brother. My brother knew Sandy, Ma'am."
Emma cringed at the ma'am. "Do you know David Barry?"
The strain was obvious on the young man's face. "Is it true he did it? I'll never forgive myself for not even thinking of him." The boy was full of far too much guilt to be an effective police officer anywhere besides this area.
"Did you know about anything happening between him and Sandy?"
The tumble of anger and hatred flowing from his mind stung on Emma's shields. "That asshole He drugged her, and tried to to take advantage. Mike got there before it went too far. He kept on saying that he hadn't drugged her, that she had just fainted. But no one believed him." He snorted. "Though maybe she passed out from the fumes."
Emma blinked. "The fumes?"
"Yeah. Davy was known as the rotten egg man. He always stunk."
"Fumes " Emma's eyes widened. "Shit."
JJ glanced up, noticing that she was back for the first time. "Hey, where's Emily?"
Emma didn't bother to respond. She took off running into the woods.
JJ was not impressed by Emily's taste in women. Emma was exactly the type of mutant that terrified her, the one with more power than they deserved, and a lazy attitude towards morality. She made you feel that you were lucky she wasn't interested enough in you to destroy your mind. She probably thought that using her powers was too easy and she would rather deal with JJ by gaslighting her until she went insane.
And it wasn't fair to bully her about what was in her head. JJ had just been blindsided, with a one-two punch, by the sexuality of one of her friends, and she wouldn't be human if she weren't thinking about it. And anyways, whatever Emily said, JJ had seen those scratches, and those were not playful little accidental scratches.
Emma was going to hurt her. And JJ was not going to just sit back and watch it happen.
The officers were milling about and it looked like they had never set up a roadblock in their lives. Emily had said something about them being forest rangers, which had been odd at the time, but now was looking more and more credible.
It was only after she had carried the barricade nearly halfway into position that she realized the man helping her was the hairy mutant. She nearly dropped the barricade.
"Relax, princess. We're on the same team."
JJ glanced towards the part of the forest where their opposite numbers had disappeared. "You sure about that?"
Logan chuckled. "No one's ever sure what team Emma's playing for. In any sense."
JJ breathed in sharply. "Really? You don't think she's trustworthy?"
"She hasn't stepped wrong yet." Logan shrugged. "She's played long games before though."
JJ felt nauseous, and looked back towards the woods.
A blue pickup truck pulled up to the roadblock and the area was full of erratic motion and panic. Distracted, JJ ran around, trying to get the officers into position. She spotted Morgan and Reid in the truck and nearly laughed in relief, but made the officers go through the procedure anyway for practice.
When the block had been sorted, she glanced up, noticing a flash of white in the corner of her eye. Emma was speaking to the young officer. JJ looked around but couldn't see Emily. She looked back to Emma in time to see her frown.
"Where's Emily?" she asked, and then saw a look cross Emma's face that she had never expected to see there. It looked like fear, and when she started to run, JJ's hand went to her holster and she ran after her.
Emily was collapsed in the middle of the clearing. The boy, for he was a boy, scruffy and overgrown, but fresh faced and wide eyed, was kneeling next to her. He was bending down, as if to kiss her, and the photos of the charred interiors of the bodies flashed through Emma's mind.
<< Don't- >> The rest of the phrase was lost in the echoing roar of rage, and a bolt of diamond burst into him, knocking the boy away. He fell, his eyes wide to see a woman of diamond, and then his mouth opened and flame shot towards her. She caught Emily's body, pulling it in front of her, flames bursting out across her diamond back.
"David! Stop!" Emma couldn't shut him down telepathically in her diamond form, and she couldn't change in his range. JJ stumbled out of the woods, her gun out.
"FBI! Freeze!" Then she choked on the sulfuric air, her gun wobbling. The boy turned and fled. A hairy ball of flesh, propelling itself on silver knives, flashed past and after it. A humming came from the sky and sun caught red hair, making it glow gold. The nerd and the campy black man ran up to JJ, who pointed, still trying to catch her breath. She signed to them to go around the clearing, and they ran on, following Wolverine's shredded trail, guns out.
Emily wasn't breathing.
Jean caught a glimpse of the fleeing boy, and swerved in the air to follow his path. Scott tapped his visor shattering a cliff face. Jean, flowing with illicit phoenix heat, tossed the boulders into a barrier. Faced by a change in the landscape David turned and fled, rushing to the right.
Suddenly a lawnmower whirlwind appeared in front of him. "Hey bub, slow down, or you'll do yourself an injury."
Davy huffed flame, setting all of Logan's hair on fire.
The boy struck, open-handed, leaving a red welt on Logan's skin. In seconds it was whole again, and David stared. Logan knocked him down with a sideways blow.
"Give it up, bub. You're out of your league."
Reid and Morgan held him in the sights of their guns, but Davy bent and the air around him warped like on a humid day. Reid was first to grab his throat.
Davy was on his feet and huffed fire at Logan again. This time the air itself seemed to catch fire. Logan ducked low, beneath the fiery gasses, and lashed out with the backs of his claws at the boy's ankles. He fell and with a brisk clip to the back of his head, Logan knocked him unconscious.
She coughed, finally, and Emma felt the flutter of her heart under her hand. Emily's eyes opened, and Emma sat back on her heels, but she left her hand where it was.
JJ stood back in the trees, breathing slowly and carefully, and watched. There was nothing on Emma's face, no way to tell what she was thinking. Her eyes were shadowed and the line of her jaw was cold and still. It was almost hard to believe the change. When she had been diamond she seemed more alive. She had acted, attacking David, protecting Emily, and for that moment JJ had really believed that she was a hero. But that energy faded the moment she returned to being flesh, checking airways, administering CPR. She had closed up, become rigid, almost jerky. As she sat back she regained her self-possession, but no fluidity.
Emily's eyes caught the light oddly, glistening, and then closed, an expression of resignation crossing her face.
The conversation was over.
Emma looked up, and JJ found her self suddenly transfixed by impenetrable blue eyes.
<< Come here, and help her back to the roadblock. >>
Not quite understanding, but unable to question or disobey, JJ moved. Emily sat up on her own and took her arm to get to her feet.
Emma turned and walked in the opposite direction.
The Kamas Police did not have the facilities to hold a mutant as powerful as David Barry, so the X-Men put him in a holding cell on their plane. His mother, charged as an accomplice for alerting him to the FBI presence, was in the single Kamas cell.
"Why in hell did you go off on your own?" Hotch demanded of Emily, looking even grimmer than usual, as he always did when they came that close to losing an agent.
"I'm sorry sir. I wasn't thinking clearly."
Hotch shook his head. "I can't let this go." He turned to JJ. "How could you let her just wander off like that?"
JJ closed her eyes. He was right. The X-Men weren't agents. They didn't have the same procedures. She shouldn't have taken Emma's bait. She shouldn't have turned her back.
"I know you haven't been getting along lately, but this is unacceptable."
"We were outclassed on this one. We were damn lucky the X-Men were here to help us. Three agents with mild asphyxia, and one needing resuscitation I am not eager to explain this to Strauss."
"Maybe it would be useful to have mutants on the team."
Everyone turned to stare at JJ, Emily and Morgan's eyes widest of all. JJ shrugged, embarrassed.
Hotch looked wryly grim instead of grimly grim. "I'll be sure to suggest that to Strauss. And when she assigns me a psych evaluation, I'll mention who said it."
A few chuckles lightened the atmosphere slightly.
"The mutant containment team is coming tomorrow morning. So everyone should use tonight to rest their lungs." Hotch stopped Emily on her way out. "Shouldn't you be checked into a hospital?"
Emily looked away. "Dr. McCoy checked me out. He told me what to watch out for, but that I should probably be fine. I didn't inhale any smoke. He was releasing sulfur dioxide and nitrous oxide, so I choked, and the hypoxia sent me into cardiac arrest, but there wasn't much internal damage. He had me on oxygen for an hour."
"You were dead."
Hotch shook his head in disapproval.
Logan found Emma standing outside in the dark underneath a tree.
Emma nodded vaguely in response.
"I was planning on crashing in the 'bird tonight, keep an eye on the prisoner, eh?"
Another non response.
"You want your room key back?"
Emma finally looked at him, well, the key in his hand. He nearly stepped back, stunned by the vulnerability on her face.
"It probably smells like me, but " he shrugged. Emma took the key and inclined her head.
"No problem. Hey, we caught the bad guy." Logan frowned and scratched his head. "Young little snot though he is."
Emma wasn't listening to him anymore, so he slunk off towards the Blackbird. What a mess this whole thing had become.
Emily, in pajamas and a hotel robe, found her there an hour later. The moon had risen and Emma was staring up at it, through the trees.
"It's smaller here," said Emily, quietly.
Emma glanced over at her, saying nothing.
"I need you tonight." Emily whispered the words, too ashamed and too desperate for anything else. "I close my eyes and I think I can't breathe again. I can't "
Emma nodded and followed her up the stairs. Emily curled up in her arms and Emma laced her fingers through her hair.
"I'm broken," Emily murmured into her chest. "You said it. I hate you for being right."
Emma's hand moved gently against her head. Emily felt her swallow, and then her grip tighten almost painfully. Maybe now she could sleep.
Emma was gone when she woke up.
Emily dressed slowly, packing her bag. She winced as cloth rubbed against her arm where David had touched her and left shiny red burns behind.
She couldn't get the expression Emma had worn when she regained consciousness out of her head. For a moment she couldn't tell which one of them had been dead. She wished Emma had been angry, raging, furious, given her anything but that blank hollow stare. There was nothing, no words, no thoughts, just the snap of their cold brittle connection breaking.
"Hi." JJ leaned in through the door and picked up her bag. Emily wished she could smile, but it was a little beyond her today.
The mutant containment team was just bringing David Barry out when they reached the field that served as a local landing strip. He was wearing a small electronic collar and looked young and desperate. His eyes fell on Emily as he stepped onto the grass and his expression changed to sneering disdain. The Agent at his left shook his shoulder.
"No looking, keep moving."
He ignored the instruction and kept his gaze on Emily. "What a shame," he said, to her, disregarding the distance. His voice was rough as if his own smoke had hurt his throat. "I really wanted to kiss you."
Emily cringed. She wouldn't have survived that.
"Why? Couldn't get a date your own age?" Emma's sneering tone was almost a relief.
David spat at her. "You're a disgrace. Collaborator."
"Collaborator?" Emma laughed. "Been reading up on World War Two?"
"Been fucking any dogs lately?"
"Shut your gob, kid." The Agent elbowed him forward.
"Woof! Woof!" He laughed. "They really need to re-define bestiality." He aimed a kick at one of his escorts, who smacked him in the head to keep him moving. "We're better than you."
Emma rolled her eyes. "Scum like you doesn't have an edge on anyone."
"Yeah? Like you, who can't even get a date in your own species?"
"Unsuccessful rapists shouldn't brag." Emma arched an eyebrow. "It sounds bitter."
"Emma." Scott used his paternal instruction voice, and Emma grimaced, but let David be manhandled into the transport. She glanced over to Emily, then jerked her eyes away.
"All right. Let's get moving," Hotch called out, leading the way towards the FBI jet.
"Us too," added Scott, turning to climb up the hatch into the Blackbird.
Emily nodded for JJ to follow the rest of the team into the jet, but stayed behind. Emma ignored her, but didn't move to enter the plane.
"Are you going to call this time?"
Emily sighed and shook her head. She hadn't really expected a different answer, but a lie would have been nice.
Emma turned slightly, glancing over her form. Then suddenly she was in front of her, barely six inches of air between them.
"I can't do this."
Up close Emma's shimmering white make-up looked like armor, a defense.
"Can't do what? If you would remember, I can't read your mind!"
"I would be ashamed to be with you."
"What?" Emily was disgusted. "Did that asshole's barking get to you? You're saying you agree with him now?"
"He's not the only one who thinks like that."
"I'm not going to waste my life protecting you!"
Emily stepped back, bewildered. "Waste your life?"
"You don't know who I am." Emma stalked towards her, closing the distance again. "You don't have any conception of the things I've done, for power, and you have no idea of my plans. These X-Men, they're children, they're happy to find out that I'm weak, that I'm more like them. But they're worthless. The people I need, they would lose all respect for me if they knew any of what happened here."
Emily shook her head. "I don't believe you. If I'm that much of a liability, just make good on your threat. Rip yourself out of my head. I don't care. I don't need you."
Emma growled, her hands gripping her shoulders, nails digging so deep that Emily was sure they would bleed. "And when you were dead?"
"I was dead!" She jerked away. "I didn't need anything! It would have been horrible for everyone else, but it was my own fucking fault. You were the one who needed to save me."
A hiss of breath as the dagger hit home. "I don't need you!"
And the air between them became a vacuum. Emma was kissing her, artlessly, angrily. Emily held on tightly, clinging to the moment with every ounce of strength she had. There had been too many lies spoken, every word had been a lie. But the one truth unsaid was that this was over.
It was over.
Emma entered the Blackbird, hitting the button to close the hatch behind her. She looked straight ahead, ignoring the interest of her teammates, and walked to the back of the plane, locking herself in to a seat by the window.
The plane lifted off and she closed her eyes, trying to find the synapse that would make her head stop throbbing. The whine of the engines only added to the pressure as they turned, taking a northward curving route back to New York.
She curled her hand to inspect her fingernails, and hated it. She hated her hands, hated her arms, hated herself. Why was she the one always left carrying the dead bodies of the people she loved? Why was it always her?
Morgan glanced up as Emily climbed into the plane. He grinned. "Hey beautiful, you've got a little " he touched his lip. "Not sure if the white is really your color."
He wasn't prepared for the stricken look that crossed her face. She disappeared into the plane bathroom. JJ, startled by the slamming scrape of the door, looked up at Morgan, who physically expressed his bewildered consternation.
JJ frowned exasperatedly at him and stood, dropping her book on the seat. The door to the bathroom hadn't been locked. Emily was bent over the sink. Her mouth had been scrubbed clean, but tears were running down her face.
"Fuck her," she managed to get out. "Fuck her."
She looked up enough to meet JJ's eyes in the mirror.
"It's not fair," she said, her voice cracking. "She always leaves her mark on me."
JJ could see the cement blocks of Emily's foundation crumbling and scattering into sand. She hesitated, her hand poised to reach out. A touch might destroy her entirely, but she had nothing else to give.
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