Title: Bad Kids (2/?)
Fandom: X-Men/Criminal Minds
Pairing: background Emma Frost/Emily Prentiss
Summary: At some point Didi had to become a teenager. No one will emerge unscathed.
JJ heard the shouting from upstairs and froze with the laundry pressed to her chest. What?
“I’m glad that Frost brat left!” She heard Will snap. “She was a bad influence on you!”
“Shut up, Dad! She’s my best friend!”
“She was your best friend. But now she’s gone. And I’m taking your phone. I don’t want you to have any excuses to stay in contact with her.”
“You can’t do that!”
“I saw those pictures! She put makeup on you. She’s the one who took you to that party where the police got called. You were drunk when I came to pick you up.”
“No. She’s awful for you.”
“She’s also the one who convinced me to go out for soccer, which you’re so happy about!”
“I’m happy because you’re doing a healthy activity, one that doesn’t involve that girl!”
“I can’t believe you’re being so irrational about this! She’s my only real friend.”
“Well, it’s time that you made some more friends. Make some guy friends, Henry. I don’t feel comfortable with you hanging around with her. She made you get your ear pierced!”
“There’s nothing wrong with that!”
“It looks faggy!”
“I hate you!” Henry screamed, his voice cracking.
JJ dropped the laundry and ran down the stairs. “You guys!”
Will was standing against the sink, face white and furious. Henry had his fists clenched, his newly sturdy frame, toned and so unexpectedly mature from the soccer and the new hormones, straining against his t-shirt like he was going to hulk out.
“Mom!” Henry’s voice was shaky and his eyes glittered with tears. “You can’t let him do this! Didi’s my best friend. Emily’s your best friend. You can’t let him take my phone. She’s in New York. I need her.”
JJ turned to Will. “Will. What is this? I know Didi is… Didi. But there’s no reason to take his phone.”
“No reason!” Will’s puppyish eyes were strained and hard. He picked up Henry’s phone from the table and showed the screen to JJ. “Look at what she’s sending him!”
It was a candid picture of two boys kissing, one with slightly green skin and pointed ears. The caption read. “Look! Some boys are getting some!”
It was just… very Didi. “What?” JJ asked.
“They’re just two guys at her new school. They’re a couple.”
JJ frowned. “Will. It’s just a picture.”
“It’s not just a picture!” Will was going red. “It’s propaganda.”
“Bullshit!” Henry roared.
“Language!” JJ snapped, but turned straight back to Will. “What are you talking about? Propaganda for what?”
“For a lifestyle that isn’t ours, that we don’t need to be constantly bombarded with constantly. And I know Emily is your friend, but it’s her and her so-called family that are the worst.”
JJ stilled. What?
“I’ve put up with it for a long time. I was willing to trust that you knew what you were doing, that you wouldn’t risk our family. But you dropped the ball on this. I’ve had enough. I don’t want the Frost-Prentisses to be part of our lives. I know you work with her, but half of them are mutants and all of them are… queer. And you just let Henry basically live there, when God knows what they’ve been doing to him.”
JJ couldn’t understand this. “What are you talking about?”
“You’re crazy, dad!”
“When it was just Emma it was bad enough, but she wasn’t there all that often, so I thought it was safe. But then Deirdre turned into one of them too. And I’m sorry JJ, but your friend is their tool. She’s been corrupted. And that little girl of theirs is not going to turn out any better. I have to stop this before we lose Henry to them.”
JJ felt herself smiling, but in confusion, not amusement. “Henry’s not going to become a mutant by exposure.”
Will scoffed. “They could make him into whatever they wanted. They can play around in your mind and turn you into their toy. Both of the mutants have that ability. And they’re not… normal. Deirdre has already had enough of an effect on Henry. I don’t want them to have a chance to influence him anymore.”
“They’re not doing anything to him.”
“Not doing anything? Nothing but tempting him to parties, sending him photos of boys kissing, making him get a piercing, putting makeup on him. What are they trying to turn him into?”
JJ didn’t know what to say to this. It was insane. Emily was her best friend, and JJ had never liked her choice in partners, but Emma… played fair. She kept the battle at a level JJ could fight. It made it more fun that way. And whatever she thought of them or of their sex life, the one thing she never doubted was how much they cared for and protected children. She had seen enough to know that they would never, ever let a child come to harm if they could help it.
Henry’s face was white, tears streaking his cheeks, hands balled into fists. “Goddamn it dad! They didn’t make me gay.”
JJ froze. Will’s mouth fell open. Henry glanced between them, panic in his eyes. Then he turned and fled.
The door slamming jerked JJ out of her stunned stupor and she ran, but Henry was on his bike and nearly out of sight.
“Dammit!” Will hissed. “Now do you see? Now did you realize I’m right?”
JJ spun and punched him in the face.
* * *
Emily opened the door. “Hen?” Henry never called her Ms. Prentiss. His eyes were red. He looked shaky and pale. And suddenly, she was grateful for walking in on him and Didi watching porn, because she had a heads up for this, though she wished hard it hadn’t happened. “Come here.” She reached out and pulled Henry into a hug. “You okay? What happened? Are you okay?”
* * *
“What is it?”
“Do you think you and Didi can come back this weekend? Henry’s crashing here, and I think he needs his friend. And I kind of… need you.”
“Tell me everything.”
* * *
The phone rang.
“Is he there?”
Emily scowled, stood up and strode into the kitchen. Henry and Rhi were playing My Little Ponies in the living room and they didn’t need to hear this. “Why are you just calling now?”
JJ went quiet. “I was busy throwing Will out.”
“And I had to call someone to take him to the hospital. I broke his nose.”
“JJ! What happened over there? Henry shows up at my door sobbing and all he will say is that he can’t go home. I got him to tell me that he came out, but you broke Will’s nose?”
“Is he okay?”
“Okay?” Emily glanced into the living room. “No. Of course not. But he’s here and alive and he ate something – not much, but something. But he came out to his parents and they rejected him. Of course he’s not okay.”
“I didn’t— God! What was I supposed to do? It was in the middle of this big, insane fight, and Will was just acting crazy, and then Henry said… that, and I was so confused, and then he had run out the door. I didn’t have time to say anything. But I wasn’t going to reject him.”
Emily relaxed a little. “Do you want to talk to him now?”
“Yeah, of course.” Then JJ choked. “Wait— What do I say?”
“What do you say?”
“I don’t know how to do this!”
Emily tried not to smile at JJ’s panic. “There isn’t a set script.”
“I know. But what did…”
“What did my parents say?” Emily snorted. “My mother, if I remember correctly, said something like, ‘Oh God, Emily! Please remember to lock the door if you are entertaining company!’ Then after I was no longer in flagrante delicto she frowned at me and drank her scotch, then made a comment about it being a phase. Don’t model yourself on her.”
JJ made a weak sound that was almost a laugh. “I won’t. Just…”
“JJ, just tell him you love him, okay? Don’t try anything more complicated than that. He’s pretty beaten up emotionally already.”
“Okay,” JJ said softly. “Okay.”
Emily called Henry over. He extracted himself from the game, promising Rhi he’d be back soon and took the phone.
“Hey baby boy, are you all right?” Emily heard through the line before Henry, starting to smile slightly, took the phone back to the couch.
* * *
Emma rolled in, Didi in tow, at three am, and Emily met her at the door, pushing the sleepy thirteen-year-old toward her bedroom, and leaning in for Emma to draw her thumbs over her cheekbones and then kiss her forehead and mouth, lightly. They had been communicating since Emma got in range, so there was no news to share, just Emily curling into her embrace and rubbing at Emma’s neck and shoulders to try to loosen the tension there.
“Bed?” Emily murmured. “He’s asleep, you can see him in the morning.”
Emma nodded and pressed her forehead against Emily’s, her heels and Emily’s bare feet making their height difference dramatic. Emily could feel her fighting the images, the sickening fear, the guilt for being so far away. Emily leaned in, helped close the gates, brushed calm over her mind. Finally, Emma breathed.
“Thank you, darling.”
* * *
“M’ma!” Rhi, thrilled, hopped off her stool and threw herself at Emma, who, still drowsy from too little sleep, caught her absently, squeezed her shoulders and pushed her back toward the counter, where Didi and Henry were sitting with their cereal. Henry looked shyly, tensely, over his shoulder, and Emma didn’t bother with useless vocalization.
<<You’re okay?>> But he was, she could feel that, his sorrow and confusion weren’t overwhelming, the phone call from his mother piecing together some of his shattered shards. But he shouldn’t have had to shatter in the first place. And when Henry hesitantly offered up his memories of the fight, her stomach twisted. Their efforts to give him a space to be himself had been interpreted as manipulation. It was only Henry’s mental flinch of horror at her reaction that stopped her from hunting Will down that second for vengeance.
* * *
“Hey, here’s the phone. You want to call your brother?”
Didi watched Henry’s face as he watched her parents. Emily pushing the phone into Emma’s hand, then climbing into her lap and curling into her shoulder, burying her nose in her hair. Henry ducked his head and pushed his hair out of his face. He glanced over at Didi, lips quirking up in something that wasn’t quite his usual smile, but not as far off as Didi had feared.
“You’re reading me again,” he said.
“The human way,” Didi protested. But on that comment she dropped her control and let it wash over her. Still sad and tired, but calm, almost relieved, with a deep twitch of longing underneath. “But I don’t get it. What’s that… pull thing?”
Henry raised an eyebrow. “’That pull thing’ is not the human way.”
Didi stuck her tongue out at him.
Henry shrugged and leaned back. “I just… want that.” He inclined his head.
Didi followed her gaze. “Oh gross.” Her parents were making out again.
Rhi clambered over the back of the sofa and pulled on Didi’s sleeve. “Can we play ponies?”
Didi rolled her eyes hard. Henry punched her shoulder. He grinned at Rhi. “I would love to play ponies.”
“Okay,” Didi trailed them into Emily’s office where Rhi had her entire collection of ponies spread out on the floor. Henry and Rhi immediately went for their favorites and Didi collected her three, then fought with Rhi over a fourth until Henry kicked her and she gave in with bad grace. “Here’s the story,” Didi announced. “There’s been a horrible earthquake, and all of the ponies have been crushed. We are the only survivors!”
Rhi’s lip quivered. “Oh, no.”
“Come on.” Henry’s pony nosed Rhi’s. “We have to help everyone!”
Rhi lit up. “Yes! We need a medical center! And a rescue team!”
Didi groaned under her breath, but knocked one of her ponies over. “Oh no!” she exclaimed. “I’m trapped under this rock! Please help me!”
* * *
JJ tried to gather herself, standing outside Emily’s door. God, she shouldn’t be scared of her kid. But she couldn’t mistake the elevated heart rate and nervous sweat for anything else. She had been grateful for Emily’s guidance on the phone. It had kept her focused. It wasn’t about her, it wasn’t about Will, it was about Henry. That was all.
Will was still furious and insisting on telling her that she was the one being fooled. It still felt crazy. And yes, fine, he had never seemed comfortable around Emma, but it was Emma. That was normal. She couldn’t differentiate his reaction to Emma from his reaction to Emma and Emily together. He never really hit it off with Emily either, but there were… other reasons for that.
It hadn’t been like they had had an easy relationship, but fighting had never been worth it. Either JJ would just let it go, or Will would submit quickly. But this time no one was backing down. JJ sighed, and turned to knock, but before she could, the door opened and Emma stepped out into the hall, then shut the door behind her.
Emma’s eyes were like ice-chips, her face hard and cold. JJ hadn’t been on the receiving end of that kind of Emma-glare for years. And the chill in her head let her know that her mind was not her private space.
<<Why are you here?>>
<<What?>> JJ jerked slightly. Emma had never spoken to her telepathically before, and it was incredibly unpleasant. “I— I’m here for Henry.”
“No,” Emma said flatly, but, thankfully, aloud. “You’re not taking him back.”
“What?” Utterly stymied, JJ just stood there. “You can’t… keep him.”
“He ran away. Children who run away usually have a very good reason for doing so. Putting them back in the hands of the people they are fleeing is not a favor.”
“He wasn’t running away from me.”
“He ran away from your house. Do you really think you’ve fixed what made him run?”
“What is going on with you? I just want to talk to him!”
“Just talk?” Emma’s voice cut.
JJ flinched. “If you want. I’m not trying to make him do anything he doesn’t want to do. If he wants to stay – I can bring him some clothes. I just want to see him.”
Emma’s mouth curled downward in a considering sneer. Then she turned and put her hand on the door handle. “Fine,” she said. “But if you try to pressure him into anything—”
“Why are you doing this!” JJ yelped. She didn’t understand.
Emma looked at her, her face still. “I’m protecting you.”
“Protecting me?” JJ couldn’t figure this out at all. “From what?”
“From losing your son.”
The words were flat, and far too certain. “What do you mean?”
“You don’t understand what it is like to live in a family where your parents hate you, not what you’ve done, or what you want, but for who you are. It can be too much to take.”
And then she shivery cold connection opened up for just a moment, but it was enough, shocking – searing, the image of a blond boy, a few years older than Henry, slumped on the floor, bandanna tied around his upper arm. His eyes opening, blank, confused. ‘Who are you?’
JJ stumbled back, gasping. “What the—”
Emma flinched, shoulders coming up, hands raising slightly, looking young and broken. “I didn’t intend…”
“What was that?” But JJ knew, the knowledge was already there, in her head. She had met the boy, older, of course, but still a child in his head. “Your brother,” she said. “Christian. His dementia, short term memory loss.”
Emma nodded slowly. “He overdosed. They revived him, but not soon enough.” She took a breath. “He always wanted to run away, but he didn’t make it. I did. It was worth the sprint.”
* * *
Henry looked up from the ponies the moment she entered the room, his face lighting up, and he was untangling his long limbs and bounding toward her. JJ pulled him in tight, using him to stabilize her. She doubted she would be entirely stable for a while. Having someone else’s memories in your head was only part of it.
“You okay, mom?”
“That’s my line.” But his worry comforted her.
“Are we going home?” His voice sounded slightly strained.
JJ tensed, glancing over her shoulder, but Emma was in the kitchen, Emily serving as a replacement for the bottle of scotch. “No, not if you don’t want to. If you’re more comfortable here, you should stay here.”
Henry looked at her. He was already looking down. His wide clear blue eyes perused her with an intensity he had obviously picked up from Didi. “Will dad be there?”
“No. He’s in a hotel.”
“I kind of would rather stay here, while Didi’s here at least. But I don’t want you to be alone.”
JJ smiled and felt like she was going to cry as well.
“You know,” Didi added, confidently. “You could stay here too. It’s not like M’ma’s using her pain-cave right now.”
“It’s true,” Emily said, coming up behind her. “Though I should probably flip the mattress, since I don’t think it’s been slept on for like a year.”
“Not true!” said Rhi. “I had a camping trip on it!”
“I—” JJ hesitated.
Emma strolled in. “You’re giving her my room?” She gave JJ a narrow glance. “Ethiopian or Vietnamese?”
“Pho!” yelped Rhi.
“Wat!” Didi protested.
But Emma didn’t move, still looking at JJ, until JJ finally realized that she was being asked to stay. “Um,” JJ smiled. “Either?”
“Both!” said Henry.
They had both.