I’m impatient and want to get right to Emmett’s recovery. Rhiannon makes my spine wiggle in ways it’s not supposed to and I want his story to keep pushing towards happier times. I’m a sucker for recovery arcs, what can I say. So, please enjoy!
Tags: @pebbledriscoll, @lave-whump, (let me know if you would like to be added to the tag list!)
Warnings: bbu general warning, implied pet whump, implied intimate partner violence (Oliver assumes); trauma survivor, fear, fear response, mentioned noncon/dubcon; there is ALOT going on here. Please let me know if I’ve missed anything here! Thank you!
Oliver Tannatt knew a survivor when he saw one. It was an odd sentiment, but there it was. The discomfort, the flinching and fidgeting, the expression perpetually set to waiting, watching, knowing apprehension. The back and forth need to stay and need to pull away. Layers and layers to pull back, revealing the core. He had been taught and retaught the signs since college, seen them in a few friends over the years, was sharply lectured on it by his best friend, had come to know it personally in his fiancée. Oliver knew what would raise instinctive red flags in his brain.
He could see them all over Emmett Kerr.
From across the room, he could see every time he pulled his hand away from the starlet standing at his side. He counted the times the man’s shoulders tensed and his jaw tightened when she leaned against him the tense nods at her sharp grins and unreadable whispers. From across the room, he could see the viper lurking under the rosebush that was Rhiannon Maddox.
Oliver had dithered on the sidelines for over an hour now, wishing his fiancee had come with him. He was struggling to find an opening where Nazanin would have had a whole solution and action plan in ten seconds flat. He circled the room, chatting and taking down quotes from other cast members; patiently moving closer and closer to the man as the evening slowly progressed. He had maneuvered to within spitting distance when Emmett slipped out of the room. The accidental flash of a deep blue bruise under his shirt cuffs sealed the deal.
Rhiannon had leaned up, whispering something into his ear, and the man had vanished into the hallway.
When she didn’t follow, Oliver took the opening.
As he walked, he scribbled down his phone number on a blank page of his reporter’s notebook. He ripped it out, then tucked the pen and pad into his suit pockets. No sense in scaring him, looking like he was sniffing around for gossip or cornering him for a quote.
He found Emmett Kerr sitting on the stairs just outside the kitchen doors, eyes closed and leaning his forehead against the handrail. His tan skin had taken on a grayish undertone and he was taking exaggerated deep breaths. He shivered on the ancient floral carpet despite the overworked radiators and the wool of his suit jacket. The man looked pitiful, childlike. Oliver wanted to back away again, vanish into the dining room, and leave him be.
Nazanin’s voice in his head urged him forward.
“Hey,” Oliver started, feeling stupid. “You okay?”
Emmett’s eyes snapped open and, focusing in on Oliver, quickly made to stand.
“Hey hey hey hey, please don’t go,” Oliver stepped closer, holding out a hand hoping it would keep the man in place. Hoping it wouldn’t equate him with Rhiannon in Emmett’s mind. “I’ll leave, if you want me to. That’s no problem. I just wanted to check--.”
“You should,” Emmett said, his deep voice stilted and hoarse. One of his hands settled on the railing, waiting to yank him back to his feet on a moment’s notice. “Leave, I mean. She’ll...”
“Did she tell you to come out here?”
Emmett stared at him, considering him closely. “Yes, but you don’t know that.”
“Why don’t I know that?”
“Are you a journalist or a person?”
Oliver nodded. “A person. I swear. Notebook is in my pocket.”
Emmett nodded and exhaled slowly. “Then you just don’t. You don’t know that, go it? She’ll get the wrong idea if she sees you here, so you should go.”
“Are you scared of her?” Oliver asked, pushing without thinking. He had a feeling Nazanin would have torn him a new asshole for how he was handling this; she’d probably be disappointed when he recounted this later. He was blowing it. He could feel it in his gut.
“Scared of who?” Emmett answered weakly. “I’m not scared of anyone.”
Oliver’s shoulders dropped. “Sure, sure. I got you, but... do you need help?”
Emmett stared at him, dark eyes large and ripping right through him. They reminded him of someone else; another stare he had known for going on eighteen years. The fear sitting there did too. He didn’t look read to answer and Oliver got the distinct feeling of a countdown. Time slipping away.
“Seriously, do you need help?” Oliver started again. “I’ll get you out of here, if you need it. I’ll hold her up with questions for a while, give you some breathing room. If you want me too.” He dug into his pockets and pulled out the crumpled notebook page, totally forgotten until just that moment. He pressed it into Emmett’s free hand. “My phone number. If you need it.”
Emmett Kerr stared down at the paper, sort of numb. Absent almost, something missing behind his eyes. He stayed quiet, stayed still on the staircase. After a minute, he dropped it into a pocket without a closer look. Only then did the spell break. Emmett turned his eyes up to Oliver. “I’m not scared.”
Oliver nodded, adrenaline beginning to drain out of him. “You said that.”
“No, listen.” Emmett swallowed hard. The fear in his face only grew. He searched over Oliver’s shoulder. “I’m not scared of her. I’m not scared of what she asks of me. I’m scared of what she wants me to be.”
Oliver waited. He nodded, hoping the other man would know he could keep talking.
He did. “In love. She wants me to be in love with her.”
Emmett shook his head. “Never. I never was.”
“What did she tell you to come out here for?”
Emmett bit his lip, then shook his head to himself. When he spoke next, it was a breathy whisper, barely audible above the kitchen noise and the music in the dining room. “S-sex... In the car...”
Oliver took a breath. “You don’t want to?”
“Then don’t be here.”
“I can’t leave.”
“Yes, you ca--.”
“Go. Just go,” Emmett hissed, cutting Oliver off mid-sentence. “Just go back in. If she catches you, it’s shit for me later.”
“Go damnit.” The other man’s dark eyes flared. Oliver tried to read the mix of emotions suddenly roiling behind those eyes and came up empty; there were too many, too strong. “It’s been three years, Tannatt. One more night isn’t going to end me.”
“I have you number. Go.”
Just for one night, he was left totally alone.
Rhiannon had taken a reporter up on a dinner date – ostensibly for an interview, but the woman had a silvery sort of glint in her eye as she had walked out the door. She was going to lean into the young starlet persona, and possibly come home with someone.
That left Emmett hours to himself. Whole rooms to himself.
Sure, he had those places and that time to himself most days of the week, but this was different, special, perhaps sanctified. On most days he had chores and lists, things to do before Rhiannon darkened the front doorstep. That night he had nothing ahead of him, nothing to do, nothing pre-planned. He was so overwhelmed with the notion of having nothing to do, that he nearly couldn’t come up with anything to do.
That was natural. He worked on orders.
As soon as the headlights had vanished from the curb, Emmett stood. He walked into the kitchen and found himself a drink - leftover pink lemonade from a bottle with a splash of vodka and orange bitters. Not fancy, but something unnoticed he could get a decent buzz on. He turned on the little hockey puck in the corner, the one he could speak to, and put on music. He asked for “seventies music” – like Rhiannon asked after good auditions – and sunk down into an arm chair.
She had a land line, but never used it.
He caught it, just as the alcohol seeping into his blood would dull the feeling of his headache. The training overridden by mankind’s favorite vice.
Emmett darted for his room, for his closet, for the grey tweed suit jacket he had worn two weeks ago and the little slip of damp napkin in the breast pocket. It was still there. He could match the numbers to the buttons on the phone.
The dial tone stung his ears, the anticipation creeping until he was jittering in his chair, checking over his shoulder for headlights, the sound of a key. Anything. Then, a drowsy, tipsy sort of voice came over the line. “Oliver Tannatt, the PG. Who’s this?”
“It’s me,” Emmett whispered into the receiver, excitement overtaking him. “It’s Emmett, from the party. She’s gone tonight. She’s gone.”
Babying traumatized people isn't cute. Some of you really need to hear this.
As someone who went through a shit ton of childhood trauma and sometimes still gets babied for it (I'm 21) I can confidently tell you "I'm so sorry 😭🥺😭 POOR BABY" is one of the more frustrating things about the whole thing.
Why do I have these thoughts right now? Because some people in the Marvel fandom do it to Bucky Barnes constantly. He may be a fictional character but seeing people baby him non stop frustrates me to no end as an actual real life trauma survivor.
hey there anon, thank you so much! I don’t think you meant to tap into a piece I am working on right this very minute, but you did and I’m glad for it. Enjoy :)
2. “Can I kiss you?”
(quick warning: mentioned past noncon/dubcon + Rhiannon, but its fluff!)
Faye hiccuped through tears. Even in the dark, he could see the redness blotching her nose, the smear of wetness on her cheeks, the rubbed patches around her eyes. The sleeves of her bathrobe smelled like vodka. “It’s not worth staying up for.”
Emmett crouched down in front of her, where she was curled up on the carpet. “If you’re this upset, its worth something.”
“It really isn’t.”
“Why don’t you let me decide that for myself, Faye?”
Emmett let his eyes wander over her, curled up at the foot of the couch. It wasn’t the first time he’d taken her in -- her old-fashioned clothes and dimpled smiles, the curve of her legs; her dark hair and glittering eyes reminding him of someone he’d rather not think about. Her sparkling laugh, the little sway to her hips when she walked. It made him warm on the inside, left him staring longer than he should have.
He stared even now. Even as she was wrapped in her bathrobe and nightshirt. Even though her eyes were dulled from crying and she smelled like alcohol. He found himself enthralled; being pulled in without knowing why or how or how to stop it. Rhiannon never left him feeling this way -- wobbly and warm and tight. He didn’t quite know what to do with it.
Emmett reached out, tucking a strand of dark hair behind her ears. “Why are you down here?”
“Bad dream,” Faye murmured, cotton-mouthed.
“What do you have bad dreams about?” Emmett lowered himself down onto the floor. He was wary of how close he was to her, wary of how he wanted to be even closer, to touch her. It was a foreign feeling, but not unpleasant.
“Don’t worry about it,” Faye shook her head, glancing up at him with a frail smile. “I’m like you, I don’t like talking about things that might make me a burden.”
Emmett hummed, but didn’t move. He glanced out the sliding glass doors leading out to the deck and the city spread out beyond it. He heard her sigh and shift, then a small hand come to rest on his shoulder.
“You should go to bed. I’m going to be up for a while.”
“Do this often?”
Emmett hummed and turned towards her. He felt himself run fingers softly through her hair. “I’ll stay up with you. I don’t like sleeping.”
“Why not?” she asked, breathless.
“Bad dreams.” He leaned forward, resting hands on either side of her. Their noses brushed. Her eyelashes tickled against his cheek. “Faye.”
“Can I kiss you?”
He felt the moment she leaned in, tilting her face up to his. Faye’s lips were soft, slotted against his perfectly. His stomach flipped pleasantly as they moved against his. He remembered Rhiannon’s hands pushing his face into that same position, roughly pulling him down; remembered how his stomach had clenched and threatened to spill over every time.
But this was different. This was warm and easy, gentle and sweet. Faye’s fingers roamed over his skin and hair, holding but never pulling; guiding but not forcing. He leaned closer, pressing her against the couch, a fresh curl of warmth in his gut as she wrapped her arms around his neck.
“A walk in the woods might do you some good. Clear your head.” - for Emmett
Thank you, Ash! This felt right for some recovery Emmett :)
“A walk in the woods might do you some good,” Nazanin said softly, passing him a full mug of fresh decaf to go with the chocolate bar he was eating far too quickly.
Emmett raised his head. He inhaled the coffee scent, swallowing his last bite. “Would it?”
“I’m no psychologist, but it might.” She sat down across from him, adjusting her headscarf and pulling her cardigan snug across her chest. She shrugged and tapped her temple with her ring finger. “Fresh air. It just rained. Might clear your head.”
“It might...” Emmett settled lower in his seat. He shoved more chocolate into his mouth, trying his best not to look at Oliver’s partner and failing. Nazanin had a pull to her, as if she had her own gravity. No matter how often he tried to avoid her dark eyes, they would simply pull him back. He remembered Oliver saying once that was one of the things he loved first about her, loved the most about her. Emmett didn’t quite comprehend the sentiment, but he understood the pull.
“You think I’m full of shit, don’t you?”
“Not totally... I’m just,” Emmett paused, pursing his lips. The shivering, cold and quaking feeling had not freed itself from his limbs. His mind told him he had never felt so overcome before in his life; a pit forming in his stomach told him that couldn’t be true. Something about it was nastily familiar. “I’m just tired. I didn’t... I don’t like. Being like that. How you just saw me.”
Nazanin stirred sugar into her coffee, snorting a laugh. “A little too much too soon?”
“Something like that.”
“I’d go with you, if you wanted,” Nazanin shrugged. “We can go around the block once or twice. I swear I won’t talk if you don’t want me to.”
Emmett nodded. “I’ll think about it. I kind of want to go back upstairs.”
“Whatever you like, Em. I’m home all day today.”
“D-Don’t--,” Emmett started, then shut himself up. He filled his mouth with dark, sweet coffee to cover it.
Nazanin would not let it slide so easily. “Don’t what?”
It took him a minute, but he managed to loosen his tongue just a bit. Just enough to get the words out. “Call me that. She, um, she used to. I... I hate it.”
“Noted. Just Emmett then,” Nazanin nodded.
“Just like that?” He blinked, confused.
“Just like that.”
“It can’t be that easy.”
Nazanin leaned back and crossed her legs. She suddenly looked tired -- an old, lived-in sort of tired. It stung, his heart clenching at the familiar look. “Trust me. I understand what it’s like to not hear your name come out of someone’s mouth.”
I think maybe the reason that you “try to destroy anything good in life” is not necessarily because you want to suffer. maybe it’s because in the past good things turned out to be very traumatic, bad things. so maybe you’re now obsessed with checking for red flags, any sign that things might go south so you can get the hell out. but, maybe sometimes it is the first. maybe you’ve been in pain for so long it’s the only way you know. so when there’s no pain something feels wrong. missing. dull. either way, you’re valid. these things dont define you and there is hope to heal in the future. the first step is self awareness.
at market, going to pay at register for my random bullshit that i don’t need.
minding my own business, lost in lalaland, on semi-autopilot,
cashier: “hello! how are you?”
literally felt like something crashed into my soul. what do i say? the truth?? does this person actually want to know or are they just passing nicities? should i say something remotaly accurate to the question, should i just say something minute and expected, by then why even ask, but they are in customer service, but this is a perfect moment to be authentic and in the moment and show your personality, but fucks sake don’t scar the dude, but i have to say something, uh uh uh...
me: “that’s a loaded question”
rest of interaction was awkward and silent
time for one of the hardest fucking days im going to have. parents are playing general conference (mind you this is a giant, important “church” meeting for the cult) and they wont fucking let me stay in my room, keep pestering me until i go out there and watch with them (i fucking won’t).
but the tv is playing loud enough that i can still hear that shit from my room and i just want to explode. this sucks. i hate it.
As a trauma survivor, you don't see the power in you. You think standing up to your bullies or aggressors is beyond your capacity and you are too small. But, you don't think that you aren't small anymore. You aren't that little girl, scared of talking back and who risks being locked in her room for simply loving and existing. Now you are a powerful human being, one who has a home and has the freedom to leave it and come back to it whenever she wants. You aren't a little girl anymore, you are the big elephant who can't realize she is in chains now because she doesn't think she can run and that's just ridiculous, if only the huge elephant knew in fact, he was the light he has been waiting for.