you only give so much (and it's getting to me)
They capture her in Russia and she's pissed, she's so, so pissed but for reasons other than missing out on Sebastian's takeover. She doesn't care about his plan in particular; does she think it would be lovely to get mutants in charge? Yes, she does. Does she think that humans are not going to be able to defend themselves against Sebastian, let alone win a war? Of course she does. But unlike him, she doesn't hate humans and she doesn't want their immediate doom. For the most part, she doesn't care about humans, she's completely indifferent to their continued - or not - existence. And the few notable exceptions… Well, they are supposed to be safe. That's exactly what she tells the CIA agents when they come and try to interrogate her. It doesn't work of course, she effortlessly slips into her diamond form in which she doesn't need any food or water, in which she's ageless and indestructible. So the humans do the only other sensible thing - they simply lock her up and leave her in the cell. And that's fine. She can rot here forever and she'll still get the pleasure of outliving them. She'll get to see the mutant utopia.
Or so she thinks.
And then that annoying MacTaggert comes with her wit and her sarcasm and her ability to observe and deduce. Emma hates her and is impressed by her in equal measure. It was MacTaggert who escorted her on the plane back to the States and it's MacTaggert who casually looked at her during the flight, then looked at that other telepath - Xavier, if Emma remembers correctly - who was sleeping soundly on Lehnsherr's shoulder, and smiled knowingly. It was MacTaggert who figured her out in ten minutes; though it still took her ten minutes longer than anyone else who had ever tried.
MacTaggert comes into her cell, takes a chair and sits in front of her. From under her too large jacket she takes out a bottle filled with coffee and that one simple gesture endears her to Emma for the moment. Emma doesn't nod her thanks, but she takes the bottle and drinks greedily. MacTaggert smirks.
"Maybe you'd like to know that your best friend Shaw has been defeated in Cuba," she says casually and Emma stops drinking. MacTaggert smiles even wider, so clearly this was the reaction she was fishing for. "It's been few weeks now; all the bones Erik broke him might have even started to mend by now, but I'm not sure how long it will take for him to mend his pride. It was hurt rather bad."
"So you say."
Emma finishes the coffee and hands MacTaggert the bottle back. The agent takes it and starts playing with it.
"Are you honestly hoping that he's going to come for you?" Emma shrugs. Maybe, maybe not. It doesn't really matter. "He was trying to destroy the world, and everyone in it."
"We would survive," Emma replies, meaning the mutants. MacTaggert huffs impatiently.
"Is that what he told you? Is that what he thinks? Maybe you have powers most of us don't, but you're still human. You'd be affected by the radiation and poisoning just the way the rest of us would. You'd die." MacTaggert shifts closer to her. "Besides, don't you have someone you care about? An elderly mother? A younger sister, perhaps, someone with no powers who'd be the first on Shaw's list of people destined to die? Or did he tell you that he can protect them?"
"He doesn't care," MacTaggert continues, after Emma failed to respond. "He doesn't care about promises he's made, he doesn't care about your family and he doesn't care about you. You've been here five months, you should have noticed it by now."
"And your government does?" Emma asks in an achingly sweet voice.
"I don't know about the government," MacTaggert replies truthfully, "but I care. I care enough to tell you that I know that your brother is in a mental institution and you've been trying to get him out. I care enough to tell you that I can get him out and that I can protect him. You don't have to count on a madman anymore."
"In exchange for what? Using me as a weapon? Studying what I can do? Experiments?"
"Don't be overdramatic," MacTaggert rolls her eyes, "I just want you to cooperate. Help me out, if the need ever arises. Shaw is still out there and I'm not as naïve as to think that he's not a threat anymore. He'll be a threat as long as he's alive."
"Now you're getting it."
"Think about it, Emma." MacTaggert gets up, takes the chair with her and steps to the door of the cell. "I really am the good Samaritan here."
She spends another month and a half in the cell. MacTaggert comes often and from her Emma learns that Janos and some girl Shaw has apparently recruited, Angel, took Lehnsherr up on his ultimatum and left with his group. That means they're out there, alone, in need of a leader, someone as strong and smart as Emma. That also means that Azazel stayed with Shaw; he's fiercely loyal, that charming Russian, and he won't leave until he feels he's paid off the debt he owes Shaw. Emma only hopes that he will, that that day will come and Azazel will be free.
One day MacTaggert brings a photo of Christian and it's the first time in years when Emma is close to tears. The photo has been taken recently - Christian has short hair and there are deep lines and bruises on his face - but it shows him on a street, in a crowd, in broad daylight.
"What is this?" Emma asks, because she can't phrase it better. It seems like an illusion, like it's too good to be real.
"I've had your brother released last week," MacTaggert answers. "He's currently living in San Fran, under an alias. Your parents don't know that he's there. Neither does your sister, as far as I'm aware."
"Why did you do it?"
"I told you." MacTaggert smiles. "I care. Also because I know that you made Charles Xavier sleep on the plane back from Russia simply because you sympathized with him."
And God, she did. She felt how shaken he was after Lehnsherr tried suffocating her; there was a sudden darkness around his thoughts, something scary and depressing and it had nothing to do with her personally or even her warning, and everything to do with Xavier's own demons that he didn't want to face. Those thoughts, they made her cold and she was Emma Frost, she wasn't easily scared. So she nudged him to sleep, and he did, on Lehnsherr's shoulder, with Lehnsherr's arm wrapped protectively around him. MacTaggert noticed, of course. MacTaggert noticed everything.
Emma presses the photo tightly to her chest.
"Alright," she says. "Tell your bosses that I'm willing to work with you. But my willingness will end if anything happens to my brother."
"It won't," MacTaggert promises and Emma can feel genuine intent to keep that promise coming off in waves from her. It's reassuring, in a way. "And who knows, maybe we'll become best friends?"
"Unlikely," Emma replies.
Emma is released from CIA custody and given a small apartment in DC. Well, small doesn't do it justice; it's tiny, so tiny that it can't even be a broom closet. But she's free - under surveillance, but outside - and her baby brother is safe, and that's what matters and it's still better than anything Shaw has ever done for her. She honestly hopes she'll never have to see him again.
She seeks out Janos and he comes to her with the girl, Angel, and they decide to stick together. Lehnsherr has his group of idiots, even he has learnt that it's safer when you're surrounded by people willing to protect you. With Janos she raids a bank and takes out as much of Hellfire's funds as she can, before Shaw realizes and before he gets the same idea. With that, they can afford to get a bigger place and MacTaggert pulls all the strings she can to allow Emma that. When they finally do get their new place, MacTaggert comes to visit with a bottle of wine and they spend the night drinking and talking, and maybe they will become best friends after all.
And then, one day, MacTaggert comes to her with a grim expression and asks her a favor.
"I need a doctor," MacTaggert says.
"Don't you have hospitals in this city?"
"A mutant doctor," she clarifies. Emma skims through her surface thoughts and learns that it's not MacTaggert who needs a doctor but that other telepath, Xavier. She learns that he needs a mutant doctor or at least one that won't be weirded out by any mutations, but the why of it is so ridiculous that she doesn't want to believe it at first. But MacTaggert is thinking about it, she's seen it - seen him - and it's not a trick, it's true and Xavier does need a mutant doctor, as soon as possible.
Emma does know one mutant doctor and she might even be able to get a hold of him. But no one is going to like it.
"I know someone," she tells MacTaggert nonetheless because Emma Frost is many things, but she's not heartless, "but you are not going to be happy about what I'm going to say next."
She's not. And, from MacTaggert's recollection a few days later, neither was Lehnsherr or anyone on his group when she'd told them. But since it's the only help they are able to get, they decide to take it.
"How are you going to contact him?" MacTaggert asks curiously. It has nothing to do with her job, though, she honestly just wants to know. "No one has heard a word about him, it's like he vanished from the face of Earth."
"He's out there alright," Emma replies. "Janos and I will contact Azazel and he'll pass the message to Shaw."
"I just hope we won't regret this."
"So do I."
They don't, as it turns out. Shaw helps out as much as he can and, for the first time since Emma's met him, he seems to actually care about someone. It's curious that he seems to care about that other telepath, but he must have his reasons. Supposedly they have history together; Emma doesn't know if there's any truth to that rumour, but if there is, Xavier should be glad that he made such an impression on Shaw. Emma has spent most of her adult life working for him and she knows for a fact that he didn't give a damn about her and he would never be found rushing off to help her when she needed it.
Shaw tries and does as much as he can for someone, which is fascinating and a first. But even his best isn't always enough and while the baby girl is fine - or so MacTaggert tells her - Xavier is not so much. Shaw vanishes right after he's done without asking for any payment and he leaves Lehnsherr alone with an infant and a giant debt that he'll undoubtly collect one day.
Emma feels bad for Lehnsherr and that is also a first.
Days then weeks then months pass and the CIA stops being interested in her. Moira - and somehow MacTaggert stopped being simply that, agent MacTaggert, and started being Moira, Moira who likes jazz and dancing and white wine and Emma - is still there, of course, offering support and easy friendship and a few laughs every so often. She helps Emma and Janos and Angel move to Snow Valley where they start up a school for mutant teenagers. Emma's doing it only partially to spite Lehnsherr and his team of misfits; she's doing mostly because she believes in the sanctity of variety of products and in free choice. In order to give that, there has to be an alternative to Lehnsherr's school and Emma is more than happy to provide it.
Weeks then months the years pass and Emma finds herself drawn to Westchester. Moira is the natural buffer between the schools, she initiates meetings, urges cooperation and tries to create bonds of mutual interests and affection. It doesn't go so well at first, Emma's team and Lehsnherr's team are wary of each other, but their respective students have no similar problems. Soon Emma finds herself in a comfortable chair of Lehnsherr's office on more evenings than she'd like to count, going through curriculum, thinking of field trips, sports days and the best academic experience she can possibly provide. She's not Lehnsherr's friend, but she respects him and values his intelligence and input into what they're doing. She also likes his little daughter, but that's another matter altogether.
"Miss Emma, could you teach daddy how to braid hair?" Little Josephine - and who even came up with such an old fashioned name - tugs at the sleeve of her dress and flashes a brilliant smile. "He doesn't know how and Aunt Raven doesn't know how, and they always mess up my plaits."
And Emma does teach Lehnsherr that, she spends three hours showing him different techniques and correcting all the mistakes he tends to make. Josie is giggling all the time and Emma huffs impatiently, and Lehnsherr destroys a dozen of hairpins before he finally gets it right, but they are all laughing throughout the experience and Emma feels something swell in her ice cold heart, something that hasn't been there ever since she was a child herself.
"You like him" Moira tells her over the phone later that day and laughs at her when she denies in a hurt voice. "And he likes you, if he'd let you this close to Jo."
Emma doubts Lehnsherr's let her do anything because he likes her; she thinks it has more to do with the fact that he's running a school and is constantly busy, that Mystique is helping him and teaching and is busy as well and that Josephine is just a lonely child in a mansion too big, with no one to braid her hair for her.
She spends more and more time in Westchester.
"Do you know how difficult it was to find a green lipstick?" she asks Josie on Halloween '71, after she's combed her hair and put the crown-y thingie on the girl's head. Josie shakes her head 'no' and purses her lips to let Emma paint them for her. "Well, it was difficult. Thankfully Janos has friends in places I don't want to know about."
"Will you go with us, Miss Emma?"
Josie looks up at her expectantly and Emma is tempted to say no for about .5 seconds. She sighs and adjust the crown; then she makes an effort and slips partially into the diamond form, not enough to look like it, but enough to make her human skin glitter with every move. Josie's eyes trail after her with pure glee.
"I will, fine." She waves her hand, at the door behind her. "Don't stand in the doorway, Lehnsherr, if you want to look, come closer, if not, get out."
Josie leaps off the chair she was sitting on and runs up to her father, spins around and shows off her costume. Emma is quite proud of this one. No one in this household knows how to sew so it was up to her, Angel and Janos to get a costume done for the girl. In exchange, her students joined Lehnsherr's in the Halloween celebrations.
"Daddy, look, I'm the Enchantress."
From the blank look on his face Emma figures that Lehnsherr doesn't know what his daughter is talking about either; but he's a good parent, all in all, so he smiles brightly and compliments Emma's handiwork.
"And you?" he asks Emma after Josie has run out of the room with a shriek, chasing some of the students dressed up as zombies and mummies and ghosts.
"I don't have to dress up," Emma answers. "I'm absolutely fabulous as me."
Lehnsherr smiles. She smiles back. He offers her a hand which she gladly takes.
This is how it starts.
They kiss for the first time during a fundraising party that Emma organized during the Christmas break at her school, when most of the students went away to their respective homes and less than a dozen who had nowhere to go were sent to Westchester, where the grounds were larger, where it was actually snowy and where they could play all day long.
They kiss after the party has almost died out, when she had too much to drink and maybe he did too. But Lehnsherr looks dashing in a suit and Emma likes well-tailored clothes, so it seems inevitable, it seems like they were always moving towards this one perfect moment when he bends a little and she cups his cheek, and their lips fit perfectly, like they were made to do so.
"Goodnight, Emma," he breathes into her ear and she shiver, she watches him go up to the guest bedroom she prepared for him and she touches her lips. They still tingle, just like they did after she kissed Ian that first and last time and thought she had found the love of her life.
"Goodnight, Erik," she whispers to herself.
"I kissed Erik Lehnsherr," she tells Moira on New Year's Eve, when the school is still empty, when her guests are gone and Janos and Angel went partying with Alex Summers and Sean Cassidy. Moira stops sipping the wine and looks at her with raised eyebrows.
"O--okay." She puts down the glass and crosses her arms. "Are you dating? Has he taken you out anywhere? Because that's a bulletproof way of deciding where your relationship is headed."
"And how would you know that?"
"We went on a date once," Moira admits and it's Emma's time to be surprised. "When Jo was about five. We've drank way too much tequila, gone singing in a bar, played darts the whole night and decided that we make great best friends, but that's it."
"He wants to have dinner next Friday."
"Dinner," Moira considers it for a moment, taps her chin, deep in thought. "That sounds romantic and way better than bar-hopping. Also," she reaches for the glass, "he has a type. Doesn't it bother you?"
"Blue-eyed and telepath. A type."
Emma huffs. Just because she and Xavier-- Two is hardly a type, she decides finally. Two is coincidence, good luck at best. Certainly not a type.
"He doesn't have a type."
"If he doesn't have a type," Moira says and waves her finger, "then he's looking for a substitute. And since you're both my friends, I can't allow you that. You deserve better and he needs to deal with his issues."
If you put it that way.
"Then he has a type," Emma agrees reluctantly. "And no, it doesn't bother me. It's not love at first sight or instant attraction. He's known me for almost ten years now. This is deliberate."
"Deliberate," Moira repeats.
"Yes. I think--" Emma licks her lips. "I think he actually wants to take me out for dinner."
"As long as you're happy."
They go out for dinner. And then they go out again and again, and again. She proposes to merge their schools, he says that he'll thin about it, they go out again. They get a room for the night. One night turns into two into a lot, and then she spends the night at the Westchester mansion.
"Can I call you 'mom'?" Josephine asks one day when Emma and Erik sneak into the kitchen early in the morning, long before anyone sane should be up.
"What?" Erik blinks and answers Josie's question with one of his own, and doesn't really get what's going on yet. Josie shrugs.
"I kind of like the word and it would be cool to use it, and you're also kind of dating, so can I?"
"Dating? Jo, it's--"
"Dad," Josie interrupts whatever Erik was going to say. "I'm ten, not stupid." She looks back to Emma. "So?"
Erik looks to Emma a bit helplessly and he does look adorable when he's still mostly asleep and doesn't really get what's going on.
"Why not," Emma answers and Josie smiles brightly.
"Cool. Mom," she says and goes back to eating her cereal. Emma starts smiling and can't seem to stop.
"I think I've fallen in love with you," Erik says one night, completely astonished, when he thinks she's asleep and not listening.
"That makes two of us," Emma replies, equally surprised by what she's saying.
Somewhere along the line she starts calling Josie 'daughter'. She gets pregnant. She gets engaged. She swaps places with Alex and becomes a permanent resident of the Westchester school. Sean laughs that they have a telepath on campus again and, for a moment, Emma wonders if it's because Erik has a type. But she quickly decides that even if he has a type, it used to be a Xavier type. Now, it's an Emma type. And since there's only one Emma Frost and there will only ever be one Emma Frost, she has nothing to worry about.
Except maybe for Mystique, who eyes her in a strange way, like she can't decide whether she likes Emma or hates her with a passion of a million suns. First, Emma wonders if Mystique has feelings for Erik that he never noticed and thus ignored completely. Then, somehow - from Sean or from Hank, but most likely from Moira - she learns that the blue-skinned Mystique is actually Raven Xavier, and everything is starting to make sense.
"I don't intend to replace your brother," Emma states coldly and she crosses her arms over her chest. Mystique doesn't look up from the papers she's grading.
"Nonetheless, you are doing exactly that." She puts another paper on the 'checked' pile. "Josie adores you and sees the second parent in you, you have Erik's love, any day now you're going to have a baby together, the students like and respect you and that-- That wasn't supposed to be yours."
"I'm not going to apologize for how my life turned out to be."
"And I don't want you to." Mystique finally puts down her pen and looks at Emma. There are bags under her eyes and she looks like she hasn't slept properly in days. "It's-- maybe not okay, but that's how it is. Terrible things happen, life goes on." She shrugs. "I told Erik to get a grip and find someone because he's a good guy and he deserves to be happy. I didn't think he'd go for you," Emma rolls her eyes, "but I'm actually glad that he did. You make him a better person. You're good for Josie."
"I just…" Mystique rubs her face tiredly. "I just miss my brother, you know?"
"I can imagine," Emma replies and thinks about Christian, and maybe he does understand what Mystique is saying after all.
Sophia Ann Lehnsherr is born in on the 16th of April; she weights 6.9 pounds, is 19 inches and perfectly healthy. She has eyes so blue that they look cerulean and a dusting of brown hair. She's absolutely perfect in the way one's newborn children always are, and Emma can't stop looking at her. Erik, in turn, can't stop looking at Emma, his expression equal parts awe and shock and fear and gratitude. He keeps thinking, I'd kill you if you died, and Emma wants to laugh and point out that the statement is logically incorrect, but then Josie gets onto the bed next to Erik and pokes Sophia a bit.
"Can I hold her?" she asks excitedly. "Mom, can I hold her?"
"Yes," Emma answers and Erik shows Josie how to hold an infant, and Emma wonders what the hell her life turned out to be.
Perfection, that's what her life turned out to be.