Title: Cloudy, With a Chance of Meteor Showers
Fandom: Criminal Minds
Universe: Moments in Time (Part 4)
Characters/Pairing: David Rossi/Emily Prentiss
Genre: Science Fiction/Humor
Summary: In which a first date, when mixed with time travel, ends in disaster.
Cloudy, With a Chance of Meteor Showers
People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but actuallyfrom a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint - it's more like a big ball of wibbly wobbly... time-y wimey... stuff.
The rules regarding tourism and time travel made Emily Prentiss' head spin.
There were entire courses devoted to it, and textbooks with titles like The Do's and Don'ts of Medieval History and One Hundred and One Ways to Avoid Execution for Heresy.
Understandably, there were levels to it – as a probationary time agent, Emily could visit any time period after the invention of time travel without sending up a red flag. If she had accompaniment with a senior agent, then the few centuries prior to that were also fair game.
'The future is inherently easier to deal with,' Reid explained, at breakfast one morning. Emily poked at her omelet, which she could have sworn was made from dinosaur eggs. 'Unlike the more conservative eras from the past, the future expects to see people wearing strange clothing and doing strange things – not even in the capacity of time travelers. The kind of behavior that would have seen you hanged as a witch in 1692 Salem would be seen as commonplace in 3223, Salem.' He paused to take a breath, and Emily took the opportunity to cut him off.
'Reid,' she said, amused, rather than exasperated. 'All I wanted to know was where I could get a good pizza.'
Reid frowned. 'I don't really eat pizza,' he said. 'But if the guidebooks are anything to go by—'
'They're not,' Rossi interjected. 'If you want a good pizza, I'll take you some place.'
He had promised to take her out on a date, but that was almost three weeks ago now, and she'd almost thought that he'd forgotten. She wasn't qualified to go into the past yet, but luckily, the future was interesting enough that it didn't bother her that much.
'Just tell me what to wear,' she said.
He'd said, something comfortable, no dresses, which was an annoyingly vague directive. Emily decided on jeans, with a dark red blouse, and heeled boots. She just hoped that he wasn't taking her to do something ridiculous, like lava-surfing.
Just in case, she grabbed a jacket.
He was waiting for her in the briefing room – casual, but sophisticated, he made a pair of jeans look like a freaking tuxedo.
'You look amazing,' he said, with a smile. He took her hand in his and pressed a kiss to her knuckles. Emily felt herself blushing.
'So where exactly are we going? You mentioned something about the best pizza in the universe?'
'I was thinking of something a little more…intimate,' he said, a coy smile on his face. Emily was torn between hitting him and kissing him, and compromised by doing neither. 'Come on – Garcia's waiting for us.'
The technician gave Emily a wink as she shut them in. The problem with working in a place like this was that there weren't really any secrets. If you wanted to go on a date, you had to log it in, and have a technician put you through…Booty calls aside, there weren't exactly many opportunities for clandestine romance.
The world swirled around Emily, and she fell to her knees, gasping for breath.
'You alright?' Rossi's hand was at her shoulder.
'Yeah. Never, ever gonna get used to that.' She adjusted the device strapped to her wrist, and accepted Rossi's hand in standing up.
'Hi, my name's Anderson, and I am your Gatekeeper for this evening,' said a bored voice. 'Welcome to the most remote, and apparently the most romantic place in the entire universe. Do not disturb the local wildlife. Do not get killed by burning chunks of rock. I trust that you don't need me to chauffer you on this little picnic, so I'll be here watching football.' He ushered them out of the Time Office quickly.
'Picnic?' Emily queried, giving Rossi a look.
'I came by earlier to set things up,' he admitted.
She gave him a small smile before taking in their surroundings. It was nighttime, and there were evidently no artificial light sources around, aside from the Time Office, because the sky was filled with more stars than Emily had seen in her life. Hundreds and thousands of tiny white dots, still only a fraction of the stars in the entire universe. Only a fraction of the stars that she could potentially visit.
It was an awe-inspiring concept, not to mention a humbling one.
'I found this place a few years back—conditions are practically Earth-normal, and it's too out of the way for any galactic civilizations to have colonized, so we won't have any tourists interrupting our night,' Rossi told her.
'Not even time tourists?'
'I checked the log book,' he said, with a shrug. 'No-one's here tonight.'
'You have a logbook?'
'Well that's the thing about time travel – you can't all go to the same place at the same time. It'll get overcrowded.' He led her towards a hill, bare of any trees or rocks. It was the highest vantage point for miles around.
Emily was almost regretting the boots by the time they reached the top – she wasn't unfit, but the boots were not the best for walking.
'This isn't pizza,' she said pointedly, staring at the blanket that had been laid out over the dewy grass. She knelt down and examined the contents of the wicker basket that sat in the center. It was, in fact, pizza. 'Did you make this?'
'Where would I get the time to do that?' he said, deadpan. Emily stared at him, eyebrow raised.
'Really?' she asked.
'Only three things in the universe are certain,' Rossi told her. 'Death, taxes, and terrible jokes about time travel.' He cracked a smile. 'I got it all from a little place in Retro Sicily. Best restaurant in all of space and time.'
She kept staring at him.
'You get food from the best restaurant in all of space and time, and take me to a place that is practically untouched by any form of sentient life?'
'I'm looking forward to what the second date involves.'
He gave her a wink. 'That's for me to know and you to find out.'
He sat down on the blanket, cross-legged, and Emily followed suit. Now she understood why he'd said not to wear a dress. Still…she'd never seen him sitting cross-legged, and it looked kind of strange.
'You want to know why I brought you here?' he asked, starting to pull out the contents of the basket. From the smell alone, she could almost understand why this was apparently the best pizza in the universe.
'No civilization,' she said. 'So no lights. No clouds. A good view of the night sky. Almost as though you can see the entire universe.' She knew that they couldn't, but that wasn't the point. She'd never seen the sky this clearly before.
'A lot of comets come by this part of space,' he said. 'The gravitational pull of the planet brings the tail debris into the atmosphere, which means…'
'Meteor showers,' Emily breathed.
'Best place for them,' he assured her. 'It's actually uncommon for there to not be one.'
'Doesn't that mean the chances of a planetary impact are increased?'
'Normally, yes,' he agreed. 'But when you can map out the past, present and future of a planet, you kind of figure out when you're supposed to stay away.'
'Right,' Emily said, immediately feeling a little stupid for having asked.
'Don't worry.' He smiled, and there was a twinkle in his eye that had nothing to do with the stars. 'It's a headache at first, but you'll get used to it eventually. The shower is supposed to start in around half an hour, so we have time to eat first.'
He handed her a slice of pizza, and a can of Diet Coke. Cheese, pepperoni, mushrooms, anchovies. Someone had spilled something.
'Who did you talk to?' she asked, eyes narrowed.
'You assume I couldn't figure out what pizza toppings you'd like just by looking at you?'
'You're good, but nobody is that good,' she grinned. 'And I assume that you're a man who is perfectly capable of using the resources at his disposal to his advantage.'
'Then you would assume correctly.'
Emily took a bite of the pizza, and Rossi wasn't wrong. If Ganymede had the universe's best hamburgers, then she was perfectly willing to concede that Retro Sicily made the best pizza.
But he hadn't just brought pizza. At the bottom of the picnic basket was a carton of Extra-Chunky Chocolate Fudge Ripple with Marshmallows, which Emily knew for a fact could only be found from a tiny convenience store on the corner of 5th and Apple in New Haven City in the 2050s.
'You really have done your research,' she said, impressed. 'And here I was thinking that you were going to take me to a rat-infested pizza joint.'
'Are your expectations really that low?'
'Some of the dates I've been on…let's just say that low expectations have been a standard for me over the years.'
'Well that's going to change,' he said, matter-of-factly, and Emily had no trouble in believing him.
An hour later, they were lying back on the blanket, fingers interlocked. The sky was alight with meteors, and it was without a doubt the most amazing thing that she had seen in her life.
Once upon a time, a strange man had pulled her from her home and introduced her to a brave new world, and it was the best thing that had ever happened. Even if there had never been a date, or a kiss, or any romantic potential of any kind, seeing the wonders the universe had to offer.
It was something she didn't know she was missing until she got here.
More than anything else, Emily Prentiss was happy.
A crack of lightning struck nearby, making her jump. The composition of the atmosphere (she assumed) gave it a brilliant, colored afterglow.
'Wow,' she said, trying not to sound too impressed. His ego was big enough already.
Dave wasn't listening. He stood, suddenly, letting go of Emily's hand.
'Dave?' she asked, scrambling to get up. 'What's wrong?'
'There shouldn't be any lightning,' he said. There was another crack, and she saw his face illuminated by the strange phenomenon. He hid his emotions well, when he wanted to. Now, he didn't bother.
There was fear in his eyes. Emily's heart started beating just a little bit faster.
He grabbed her hand tightly, interlocking their fingers. He looked into her eyes. 'Whatever you do,' he said. 'Do not let go of my hand.'
Before Emily had a chance to press him for details, they were running. 'I think it's a time vortex!' he called out, as they made their way down the hill. The walk towards the picnic site had been leisurely, now it seemed like their escape route was a hundred miles long.
She opened her mouth to ask just what the hell a time vortex was when a bolt of lightning thundered just inches in front of her face.
Her fingers slipped.
'Emily, no!' Rossi called out, and Emily wondered why it mattered. Then, she realized she was falling.
Well this sucks, she had the presence of mind to think, before everything went dark.
She disappeared, right in front of him.
One moment she was there, and the next…
What the hell was going on?
A time vortex was not something that he had actually experienced before. It wasn't something that anyone had experienced before, mostly because its presence heralded the end of the universe.
It was a theoretical concept that Reid had proposed, in which one day, the laws of time travel would start to break down.
It wasn't something that any of them had ever expected to happen.
And now Emily was gone, somewhere else – somewhen else – entirely, and there was absolutely nothing he could do about it. Except panic, maybe, but that wouldn't have done anyone any good.
Of all the possible things that could have gone wrong tonight, the disintegration of reality was at the very top of the list, followed by "rhinoceros stampede" and "ex-wife encounter."
The lights of the building in the distance seemed so damned far away. If only he'd set up on the flat ground, instead of walking up the hill…
But then, something still would have gone wrong. That was Rossi's law.
He dodged another bolt of lightning, trying not to let his focus wander. As important as it was to get to that building as quickly as possible, if he didn't pay attention, then he'd end up drifting in space and time.
Just like she will be, he thought to himself, before pushing the thought away.
No. You will not let that happen. You will find her.
The door crashed open, and even from this distance, Rossi could see the panicked look on the Gatekeeper's face.
'Hurry up!' Anderson said. He gave a double-take when he realized that Rossi was alone. 'Did she-?
'Yeah,' Rossi affirmed. 'Gotta get back to HQ to try and find her.'
'If it works,' Anderson said with a sigh. 'I've been in contact – we've got vortexes popping up all over time and space. Agents dropping out of range. It's bad, Agent Rossi.'
'Any idea why this is happening?'
'No clue.' Anderson dragged Rossi over to the terminal. 'They've called everyone in, though, so it seems like we'll find out what the game-plan is. I just need to set this thing on autopilot.'
Time seemed to move too quickly, but not quite quickly enough for Rossi's liking. There was some kind of annoying irony there, but he didn't want to dwell on it.
They made it back without accidentally stopping by in Ancient Egypt, which Rossi took as a plus. If the laws of time and space were falling apart, they were apparently going to do it slowly.
The briefing room was more crowded than Rossi had ever seen it. People in kilts, and togas, and all variety of clothing. Was this every single person that had ever been an agent, or something? He'd been doing it for twenty years, and time travel still confused the hell out of him.
'Reid!' He saw the younger man by the whiteboard at the front of the room, frowning over a laptop. Garcia was by his side, her hair a shade that Rossi could only describe as Technicolor.
Rossi pushed his way through the crowd to get to his friends.
'Where's Emily?' Garcia asked, her eyes wide.
'She got caught by a vortex,' he said, grimacing. 'I need to track her down.'
Reid gave an apologetic look. 'I'm trying to sort out the reason for the vortexes right now, I can't…'
'Reid, I don't give a shit why this is happening – it's happening. What I care about is the fact that a woman that has been on all of ten time journeys could be stuck in the fucking Jurassic period. I am not going to lose her.'
Reid stared at him, quite clearly startled.
'Dave,' Garcia said softly. She put a hand on his shoulder. 'Emily's not an idiot. She's a survivor – remember that. We have almost two dozen agents still trapped out there, and we are not going to let any of them down.'
'Morgan's still out there, isn't he?' Rossi realized.
'Hotch made it back, but Morgan got sucked into a vortex.' Garcia's eyes were shining with tears. Rossi could have kicked himself for not seeing it earlier. 'I've got programs running to try and narrow down their locations, but all of time and space isn't exactly a place that can be looked over in a few minutes.'
Rossi sat down on the closest chair, taking the mug of coffee that Garcia pressed into his hand. 'So what now?'
'Now?' Reid said, grimly. 'Now we wait.'
Emily Prentiss woke up to a headache.
That alone, she probably could have dealt with.
The angry guys with swords…
Not so much.
It was going to be a weird day.
To Be Continued in From Camelot, With Love