I Just Want to Know Where I Come From
Ch. 13 – Reality Bites
Summary: Response to challenge # 4843.
Note: This takes place in 2009, so several years after the end of BtVS and after David Rossi re-joined the BAU for Criminal Minds. This particular chapter is set during the show “100.” It contains the scene that initially sparked the idea for this story, so I’m hoping you all enjoy it. Any guesses as to what scene it was?
Disclaimer: I definitely don’t own any of these characters. Criminal Minds is owned by Jeff Davis/The Mark Gordon Company and BtVS is owned by Joss Whedon/Mutant Enemy.
Thank you to MaraLiz for your beta assistance and thank you to Rorylondra for putting up with all of the episodes of Criminal Minds that we’ve been watching. It is much appreciated!
Days later, when David finally made it home after the case, he found Buffy and Dawn sharing a pizza in the kitchen. They waved to him and Buff pushed the pizza box in his direction. The last time he had seen them was when Buffy had dropped him off at the first crime scene. She was picking Dawn up at the same time, so he only had a moment to give his youngest daughter a quick hug before he had to get to work.
It pained him to realize that the young woman who had suffered the psychotic break and had killed the families was around Dawn's age. Plus, during the investigation, they had discovered that one of the serial killers they had put behind bars years ago had been in contact with The Reaper. The Reaper was still concentrating on Hotch's family, but that really didn't make David feel any better. The next psychopath that came along could just as easily obsess over his family instead. All of that added up to a very stressful few days.
He had been able to stay objective while he was at work, but now that he was at home and he could see his daughters sitting in front of him, all he wanted to do was hug them. And, that is exactly what he did.
When he finally let them go, Dawn asked, "Tough case this time, dad?"
"No more than usual," he replied.
"Yeah, I get it," she told him, sliding her plate down and offering David her seat in between his two daughters. "Whenever Buffy would have to stake a Vampire girl that looked like me, she would just come home and nearly break my ribs hugging me."
"Who called?" David asked, rolling his eyes.
"Who didn't call?" Buffy answered him. "Just about everyone called. I think the only one who didn't was Hotch."
"He's got a lot on his plate right now," David explained, feeling the need to defend his friend and colleague.
"Yeah, I know," Buffy sighed. "I just wish there was something that we could do to help. I know there really isn't, but you know we would help if we could, right, David?"
"You stick to the supernatural and we'll stick to the human monsters," David told her with a half-smile. He was grateful that they wanted to help, but in reality, this wasn't their specialty and he was worried that they would not only put themselves into the line of fire, but also change the dynamic of the profile that could lead to Hotch's family getting hurt, if The Reaper could find them.
"Anyway," Dawn began, "I'm planning to come to headquarters with you tomorrow. I have some translating that I can do from anywhere and then Spencer and I are planning to go out."
"You know, I could get you your own car," David suggested. It was true. He could easily purchase several cars for Dawn if she so desired.
"No, thank you," she told him. "I'm sure I'll get one eventually, but for now, I'm good...as long as you don't mind the company during the day."
"Never, kiddo," he replied, nudging her side with his elbow. "But, you do know that I won't think you're too old to be my kid if you have your own means of transportation, right?"
"Yup, we're clear on that," Dawn smiled cheerfully as she dumped her plate into the sink on her way out of the kitchen.
He turned to Buffy with a raised eyebrow.
"I think she just likes having an excuse to spend time with you and to see you when you work," Buffy told him. "It's interesting to her and we don't see you for days or weeks at a time, so I think she figures she'll keep doing it until she either wears out her welcome or they give her her own desk."
"You think she'd want to be an agent?" David asked, considering for the first time whether he would want his daughter to follow in his footsteps.
"I think she'd seriously consider it," Buffy told him as she dropped her own plate in the sink. As she left the kitchen, she turned back to him and finished, "but not if she thought you wouldn't approve."
David suddenly found himself with a whole new set of worries to conquer.
SSA Aaron Hotchner shoved every angry, hostile thought of what he wanted to do to the Reaper deep down into his soul, knowing that the anger would only lead to disaster. It wouldn't keep his family safe. He had to trust that he and his team would find the Reaper before the Reaper found Haley and Jack. To do that, he needed to be thinking clearly—acting, not reacting. Anger might keep him moving forward, but it wouldn't help him zero in on an UnSub who came at him from any other direction and all of his years of profiling told him that is exactly what the Reaper intended to do.
"I'm sorry, Dawn," Spencer told her. "I'm going to have to cancel for tonight."
"Of course, this takes priority," Dawn assured him. "I knew that the moment we found out the U.S. Marshall was dead. I already called Buffy to come get me. She should be here any minute."
Dawn walked over to the desk she had been using and started shutting down her laptop and gathering up her research materials. She caught sight of the Reaper case file open on Spencer's desk. There was a picture of the man clipped to the left-hand corner of the folder that caught Dawn's eye. A flash of recognition went through her when she took in the man's face. It wasn't that she had ever seen him
specifically before, but there was something about the picture that she just couldn't put her finger on and her finely-honed Sunnydale danger-senses were telling her that something was off.
"That's the Reaper?" Dawn asked, her voice pitched an octave higher than usual.
"Yes," Spencer answered evenly. "His real name is George Foyet. I'm sorry. You really shouldn't be looking at this."
Dawn reached out and snatched the picture before Spencer could close the file. She ignored his protest as the elevator doors opened and Buffy walked in. She met her sister halfway and held up the picture.
"What do you see?" Dawn demanded.
"That's a...a...something," Buffy told her, clearly looking for the right word to assign, just as Dawn had.
"Good enough for me," Dawn declared, taking the photo and snapping a picture with her cell phone. She quickly sent the photo to Willow.
When she was done, Buffy already had her cell out and was talking to Willow, "It's not my fault that you're hungover and can't even magic enough energy right now to light a candle. I told you not to go drinking with Lager demons. You know, their name kind of gives it away that they can probably drink you under the table. Anyway, you should have it now. I need an ID."
Buffy clicked on speakerphone and dropped her cell phone on the desk Dawn had just cleared off saying, "Go ahead, Wills."
Spencer again tried to protest, but both sisters "shh'd" him without taking their attention away from the phone. At the same time, his phone rang, so he answered it and walked far enough away so that they couldn't hear his conversation."Oh!"
Willow exclaimed. Then, again, "Oh! Oh, this isn't good. He's a demon all right. You said he calls himself The Reaper? That's not very original. That's just the literal translation of their name into English from their language."
"Toakoli," Dawn interrupted, putting the pieces together.
"Tokey?" Buffy asked, her face scrunched up in confusion.
"No, Toakoli," Dawn corrected her. "Remember from the last unHalloween party when everyone came dressed as demons? Xander accidentally on purpose forgot to get dressed up and Giles said that he could pass for a Toakoli demon since they look, feel, and act pretty much human. He said most of them pass for human and their DNA is probably the closest to human as a demon could get, but it wasn't close enough for organ or blood donation."
"You think this guy is a Toakoli?" Buffy pressed.
"I know it," Dawn countered. "Look here. His ears are pointed just a little bit and his teeth are sharper than a human's teeth. Plus, he's only about forty years old, but he isn't exactly aging well."
"David said he sustained a lot of injuries in the past," Buffy argued. "That could account for his aged appearance.""Not entirely, but blood contamination could explain it,"
Willow interjected. "It's not like he could explain to the hospital that he needed Toakoli blood, not human blood, so when he was brought in, they probably gave him a transfusion that has wreaked havoc with his system. The database also says that Toakoli age faster than humans so they tend to move around a lot to avoid suspicion."
"Are they always this violent?" Buffy asked."No,"
Willow answered. "In fact, they usually aren't violent at all. They’re a very small demon population and they try to avoid any situations where they could get hurt because while their physiology will support taking human medications, as I said before, a blood transfusion is usually problematic and, oh, would actually prevent their natural ability to regenerate organs."
"So, when this guy stabbed himself, his organs would have regenerated and he would have gone on his merry little way if he hadn't accidentally lost too much blood and gotten a transfusion," Buffy noted.
"Exactly," Dawn agreed."So, the good news is that he can't regenerate, so you shouldn't have to kill him more than once,"
Willow told them.
"Yeah, the bad news is that we don't really know where he is," Buffy lamented. "All we know is that he has Hotch's wife and son."
"Hey, does Hotch have a picture of his family here?" Dawn asked Garcia, who had been walking past to get to Spencer. She had grabbed the woman by the arm and had clearly startled her, but she could apologize later, after everyone lived through this.
"Yes, in his office," she squeaked. "But, the door is locked."
Dawn spotted a bowl filled with candy on someone's desk and she stalked toward it. As she past Buffy, she spit out, "Get it."
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Buffy take off toward the stairs. There were people coming down the stairs, but Buffy avoided them by leaping over the railing. Dawn looked up just in time to see Buffy pull herself around the second floor railing and vault through the opening directly into the door to Hotch's office. By the time Dawn heard the door crash to the floor, having been knocked clear off its hinges, the candy in the dish was rolling to a stop wherever it had landed on the floor and she was already preparing her make-shift chalice for her spell."Dawn, what are you doing?"
"I don't need to know the location; I can send Buffy to them. I just need that picture," Dawn told her. "I've done it before...sort of."
Just then Buffy did a forward somersault from the second floor, landing on the desk below. Her foot landed in someone's forgotten coffee, but she didn't stop. Instead, she hopped off the desk and handed Dawn the picture.
"Here," she told her. "Now what?"
"Get my bag," Dawn ordered. "Weapons are in the zipper compartment. Take what you want and I need my knife."
Dawn looked up and saw Spencer watching her, but she didn't have time to be worried about his reaction. So far, they had been lucky that they were moving quickly and the office was deserted enough that no one had tried to stop them, but she had no doubt that Buffy would incapacitate anyone who did.
"Will this really work?" Garcia asked from her left.
Dawn met her eyes for a quick moment and said definitively, "Yes."
"In that case," Garcia started to speak as she picked up Morgan's chair. She swung it around and clocked the agent coming up behind her, knocking him to the ground and his gun across the room. "Hurry."
Dawn nodded and got back to work. Buffy handed her the miniature knife in her purse and as soon as she gripped the handle, it expanded to its original size.
"Wow, that's like dehydration in reverse," Garcia gasped.
Dawn ignored the comment as she sliced into her hand and bled into the bowl. She needed to concentrate. She dripped a couple of drops of blood onto the picture of Hotch's family, then passed the picture to Buffy, who now stood with a crossbow and bolt set in hand a few feet away. Her sister had cleared out a couple of the other desks, using strategic shoving of those desks to pin any other agents that tried to get in the way. Dawn quickly finished her spell and willed her blood to work its magic.
She heard Buffy tell someone to tell David that she was on her way and would explain everything later, but Dawn didn't look up to see who Buffy was talking to. She pushed all of her energy into the blood in the bowl and watched as it started swirling. Her breathing became heavier with every additional moment of stress she put on her body as she continued to concentrate on keeping the blood moving in the direction she wanted it to go. Finally, the blood took flight and flew around Buffy forming a red sheet that was nearly translucent, but Dawn knew it would be impenetrable. It surrounded her sister until she couldn't see her at all and then all of a sudden fell to the ground, dissipating without a trace.
As soon as it was done, Dawn lost consciousness.
Buffy landed in the Hotchners’ house, tucking into a roll and coming up to crouch behind the dining room wall. She knew the demon was here and she knew he was indeed a demon. Her Slayer senses were going haywire, but not all of her regular senses had come back yet. She was having difficulty seeing; everything was blurry, but knew she could take the shot if she absolutely had to.
A moment later, her hearing returned and she could hear voices coming from the living room. The Reaper was talking on the phone, and from the conversation, it sounded like he was talking to Hotch. Well, actually, he was kind of berating Hotch. Then, he let Hayley talk to Hotch and Buffy braced herself to strike. She moved into a position to see better and could see that Jack was still in the room. She really didn't want him to be there when this all went down; he could get hurt accidentally. As though he was reading her mind, Hotch said something to Jack about 'working the case' and the boy left the room in a hurry. Buffy used the distraction to move closer and silently crept up behind the couch. The Reaper and Hayley were standing in front of the couch and the Reaper had now moved on to the taunting stage.
Finally, she knew she had to break in and get his attention, so she stood up and raised the crossbow into the ready position. She put on her best annoyed face and demanded, "Oh, my God. Do you ever shut up?"
The Reaper swung around, pulling Haley with him. He hissed, "Slayer. This has nothing to do with you!"
Buffy rolled her eyes, "Like I haven't heard that a million times. You are less original in person than in naming yourself."
The Reaper used Haley's body to block most of Buffy's shot, but Buffy was ready for that and she had skills that could accommodate for a very small margin of error and pulled the trigger on the crossbow. At the range she was at and with the couch and coffee table blocking him, he didn't have time to maneuver out of the way and the bolt landed in his shoulder, not even an inch away from Haley. She hit a nerve—literally—and he was forced to drop the gun. The hit didn't do much to stop him, though, and he pulled the bolt from his shoulder, turning it around to use as a weapon as he lunged for Buffy.
The couch fell backward as he pushed on the back and Buffy had to jump backward. She slid to the side and came around swinging her foot at his bad shoulder, narrowly pulling her leg back in time for when he adjusted and tried to thrust the bolt into her calf. She crashed into him and drove him into the corner of the curio hutch, momentarily feeling bad that several of the curios had fallen and broken as a result. The glass shattered and he hit her head into the broken frame. Buffy felt some blood coming down the side of her face and glared at the Reaper. If I need stitches, I am going to kill him twice,
she decided as she punched the Reaper in the nose. When she went to follow-up, he caught her arm and twisted until she heard something pop in her shoulder. Having dislocated her shoulder in the past, Buffy was well accustomed to the feeling and it still hurt like a bitch. She rolled into the pain, though, and drove her other fist into his kidneys before rolling backward into the dining room. She used his momentary distraction to slam her shoulder into the wall to relocate it, but didn't have time to savor the relief she felt as he was coming toward her again. She managed to move his arm enough so that the bolt went into the drywall instead of her head, but it was a close call. They struggled and Buffy's arm throbbed as the Reaper exerted more and more pressure on it.Oh, crap,
Buffy thought as her head hit the wall with a loud crack. Willow didn't say anything about him being stronger than a human!
At the first gunshot fired, both Buffy and the Reaper froze. The shot came from the side of them and narrowly missed both of them. Buffy was suddenly glad for Derek's insistence that she be comfortable working with guns because her Slayer reactions gave her the slightest edge as she quickly twisted from the Reaper's grip, pulling his arm with her to present a wide target. As she dropped to the ground, Haley Hotchner emptied the clip toward them, landing three of the eight remaining bullets into the Reaper's chest. When the gun only clicked instead of firing another round, Buffy moved and saw that the Reaper was lying on the floor with blood bubbling out of his mouth. It was only a moment later that he exhaled a final time and his eyes became fixed points staring at Hayley in disbelief.
Buffy looked at Haley and stood up slowly. She could see that the woman was about to lose it and she could think of only one way to help her keep it together until Hotch arrived. She had tears streaming down her face and Buffy could tell she was about a millisecond away from going into shock.
"Haley," she said softly, taking the gun from her hand. "Where's Jack? He needs you right now. Go to him. Go to your son."
When SSA Aaron Hotchner ran up the steps to his house, he found the front door open. He had his gun drawn and was alert to the signs of danger. He was sure he had heard a woman's voice that wasn't Haley's, but he wasn't quite sure whose it was. As soon as he entered the living room, he saw evidence of a significant struggle. The couch was overturned and the curio cabinet was destroyed. He could only hope that Haley and Jack were okay. Her car had still been in the driveway, but he didn't know what car the Reaper had, so he had no way of knowing what else he would find as he searched for his family.
There was a movement to his right and he swung his gun around as he came face to face with...Buffy? How had David's daughter gotten there so quickly? It was clear to see that she was injured, but Hotch wasn't ready to let his guard down just yet.
"He's dead, Agent Hotchner," Buffy told him. "Haley's okay. She's upstairs with Jack. I told her to keep him up there so he wouldn't see..."
She kept her hands in plain sight and didn't make any sudden moves. Part of him wondered if it was just because he probably looked like he had a hair-trigger at the moment or if she had more experience with crime scenes than he was aware of.
"He's in the dining room," Buffy continued when he didn't say anything. "There's a lot of blood. Sorry about the carpet."
Hotch slowly made his way around to look at the dining room and, although he took in the incredible amount of damage done to the room itself, his eyes were first and foremost drawn to the body on the floor. It was only after he was certain that the man was dead that he finally lowered his weapon. He heard Buffy relax the breath she seemed to have been holding.
"You seem rather calm about this," Hotch said to her.
He noted that Buffy didn't pay particular attention to the body, but was instead watching him. He was leaning toward the theory that she had more than a bit of experience with crime scenes when she sighed.
"It's probably the concussion," Buffy replied. "I'm sure I'll freak out later, but right now, I think your family is more important than anything else."
Hotch agreed with her on that point, but he was having difficulty letting the body leave his line of sight. He had this irrational fear that if he did, the Reaper might get up again.
Buffy put her hand on his arm and told him, "I'll keep an eye on him. I'm not going anywhere until David gets here anyway. He's my ride home."
That statement unleashed a whole other set of questions for Hotch, but he pushed them aside and took her advice. As soon as he was upstairs, he found Haley and Jack huddled in the corner of Jack's room. Haley was holding Jack close and whispering that Daddy was coming and everything would be alright. He dropped his gun onto Jack’s dresser right before he fell to his knees in front of them and pulled both of them into his arms.
Buffy paced as she waited for the rest of the BAU team to arrive. She couldn't call Dawn because she left her cell phone at the BAU and she forgot to ask Hotch for his phone before he went upstairs. The house phone didn't really survive the carnage, so she couldn't use that either. She hoped Dawn wasn't too worried about her and she hoped that Spencer was taking his introduction to real magic well. And, her head really hurt. She looked into the hallway mirror and saw the cut on her head had stopped bleeding, but she had dried blood all down her face and into her hair. A closer look showed that it had also dripped onto her shoulder and her shirt was ruined.
She heard the BAU agents approaching the door and she knew her father was with them. As Hotch had, they also came in with guns drawn. Once Morgan saw her haggard appearance, she offered him a tired smile and he lowered his weapon.
"Morgan?" Emily asked cautiously.
"Scene's clear," he informed her.
David was right behind him and Morgan stepped aside to let him pass. Buffy was grateful when he took charge of the situation and pulled the rest of the team farther into the house. Her father had already holstered his gun and immediately went to examine the cut on her head.
"I'm fine, Dad," she told him. "Really."
He seemed not to care about the blood ruining his shirt as he pulled her into his chest and held her close. She couldn't help the whimper that escaped as he put too much pressure on her newly re-located shoulder and he instantly let her go.
"You aren't fine," he argued. "You need to get checked out."
"No, what I need is a bath," Buffy replied. Then, she caught sight of her hands as she went to wave the medical personnel that had followed the BAU inside and added, "and a manicure."
"Humor me," David said. It wasn't really a question and Buffy studied him for a long moment before acquiescing.
But, as she went to follow the EMT out to the ambulance, she called back, "Really, don't worry about me. I'm fine. Worry about Dawn. She just popped Spencer's magical cherry."
Spencer didn't know what to feel. In the space of the last hour, his entire world had been completely turned inside out. Dawn wasn't who he thought she was and he never realized just how different she was. He had liked that she didn't fit into any mold that he had wanted to create for her, but he had stupidly thought it was because she was the one that was meant for him. Now, he had to call all of his profiling abilities into question because he didn't see how his subjectivity had allowed Dawn to slip past his defenses.
He looked around the bullpen and saw that most of the other agents had dazed expressions on their faces. Garcia was hovering over a still-unconscious Dawn like a mother lioness; no one tried to get near them since she had stapled the hand of someone who had gotten too close. Spencer suspected that they didn't want to risk Derek's wrath if they tried to use actual force on Garcia. She had had a brief conversation with Willow, who had still been on the phone when Dawn passed out, and he had to admit that he had been reassured to hear that it wasn't uncommon for a spell of that nature to render the caster unconscious even while he was even more unsettled at the reality that she had performed an actual magical spell in the middle of the BAU.
His mind felt like it was flying in a million different directions, but he had taken up a defensive position around her prone figure and tried to sort out his thoughts. The problem was that they just didn't add up the way he expected them to.
Magic—real magic—existed and his girlfriend had opened up a portal using her blood and transported her sister to another physical location. She had disappeared like she was on Star Trek. It just wasn't possible.
And, the talk about demons. Initially, he had dismissed it because he was busy trying to help use the profile to figure out what the Reaper's next move would be, but they had jumped on it so fast that Spencer didn't think he could have done anything even if he had two good legs at the moment. Buffy had moved faster than his eyes could even track and she seemed to have the entire room incapacitated—but otherwise unharmed—before he even knew what was going on. He didn't know if Buffy hadn't deemed him a threat because of his injury or had decided that he wouldn't act rashly because of Dawn, but either way, she had been right. He had been rooted in place as soon as he saw Buffy run up the staircase railing and take down Hotch's door.
He had been on the phone with Rossi, Prentiss and Morgan and he didn't remember actually participating in parts of the conversation, but all of a sudden Garcia was also on the line. He had no idea how she had hacked into his cell phone, but there she was telling Rossi that Buffy was on her way. And, she had hit an agent with a chair! He didn't know how he was going to explain any of this to anyone and, worst of all, he had the fleeting thought that maybe he had imagined all of it—that maybe genetics had caught up with him after all.
But then he looked down at Dawn's body lying cradled in Garcia's arms and he knew he hadn't imagined it. He re-examined his relationship with Dawn and went over the conversation they had about magic again. She must have been laughing at him when she told him that she enjoyed the silly little sleight of hand magic tricks he had shown her. He certainly couldn't do what she had done today.
His phone rang and he saw that it was Rossi. As soon as he answered it, the older agent told him, "Hotch's family is okay, Reid. Buffy saved them."
"Is she...?" he couldn't finish the sentence."She's okay,"
Rossi told him. "A little banged up, but she'll be okay. I tried calling Dawn, but couldn't get through."
"Hold on," Spencer told him. He crouched down over Dawn and fished her cell phone out of her pocket. He flipped it open and found the screen married with a rainbow of colors, but not responding to any commands. "Her phone is dead. It must have been caught in the same feedback loop that hit Dawn.""Dawn? Is she okay?"
Rossi asked, suddenly frantic.
"She's unconscious. Willow says she'll be okay once she wakes up, which could be any time between now and tomorrow morning," he replied."Okay, I'm coming in. JJ, Morgan and Prentiss can handle things here. I'm sure there is plenty of damage control to be done as well,"
"You don't sound surprised by any of this," Spencer suddenly realized."I know Dawn wanted to tell you...,"
Suddenly, Spencer saw red and he just had to get off the phone, "I've got to go. They're trying to read Dawn her rights while she's unconscious."
When Dawn began to surface, the first thing she noticed was that the lights were way too bright. She groaned and threw her arm over her eyes.
"Spencer, she's awake," Dawn heard and thought she could place the voice as Garcia's, but it was altogether too loud and right next to her ear.
"Don't yell, please," she begged.
"Sorry," Garcia whispered.
Dawn tried to open her eyes again and only succeeded in having them roll inside of her eyelids. She had more success by her third try. She rolled to the side and instantly regretted it as her stomach heaved. She vaguely remembered eating peanut butter crackers earlier that day, but thought they were much better going down than coming back up. Someone must have seen her panicked expression because suddenly there was a small trash can in front of her and her hair was being pulled back from her face.
When she finally finished, Garcia handed her a glass of water and told her, "Just rinse. Don't swallow. You know, most people think you should drink water after you throw up, but that usually just makes you throw up more."
"Thanks, I'll try to remember that," Dawn moaned as she laid her face down on the cool floor. She didn't care that it was dirty. All that mattered was that it was smooth and felt cold against her skin. She made the decision right then and there that she would never drink again. Wait a minute! I didn't drink anything!
She sprung up suddenly, and just as suddenly regretted it as her stomach lurched again. Garcia had the basket ready for her, but she closed her eyes and steadied herself and managed to keep from throwing up again. She waved Garcia off, "Thanks, I'm okay. What about Haley & Jack? Buffy?"
"All fine and dandy, O' magical wonder," Garcia answered her.
Dawn winced at the colorful new moniker and spared a glance at Spencer. He was studiously not looking at her and she felt her heart sink. That couldn't be good, but she really didn't have the brain capacity to devote to that crisis at the moment. She relaxed as she gave a silent prayer of thanks to whatever PTBs that were listening that everyone was safe.
Slowly, Dawn pushed herself into a more comfortable position and surveyed the damage done to the bullpen. Someone had tried to arrange the desks again, but they hadn't made much progress with all of the computers and paperwork Buffy had haphazardly tossed around.
"Well, at least the room is still standing," she commented.
Garcia replied, "Yeah, but it was still a bit of a shock. I had always wanted it to be real, but I never thought it really was. And, can I say, pumpkin pie, when you came out of the magical closet, you did it with excellent timing?"
"Our secret versus Hotch's family?" Dawn asked, holding up both hands as in weighing the options. "No contest."
She winced again and Garcia started to fuss over her. She waved her off with a wan smile, "It's okay. I'll be fine. Nothing twenty hours of sleep and some really strong coffee won't fix. And toothpaste. That would be good right now."
"Can you move?" Garcia asked. "Rossi has a couch in his office that you can lay down on if you want."
"Okay," Dawn replied, accepting Garcia's and Spencer's help in standing up slowly.
He still wouldn't look at her and that bothered Dawn a lot. She wanted to try to speak with him, but didn't want to do it in front of Garcia.
As soon as they managed to get her up to her father's office, she fell onto the couch and enjoyed the cool leather under her cheek. Her stomach was still spasming, but it seemed to be calming down a bit. Her hair seemed to be plastered to her face, which was still nice and sweaty from her earlier exertions.
Although all she wanted was to be alone with Spencer to explain...apologize...or do whatever else Spencer needed to be able to look at her again, Garcia had her back today, so when the blond woman pulled up a chair and started speaking, Dawn didn't have the heart to stop her.
"You should have seen it," Garcia told her. "They wanted to arrest you, but Reid wouldn't let them. He was adamant and I think he used words that they all had to go look up. Eventually, the director came to your rescue, but your boyfriend here was a force to be reckoned with."
Dawn looked over at Spencer. He wasn't looking at her, but he was still within her reach, so she reached out and touched his pant leg to try to get his attention. He glanced at her and then quickly looked away again, moving just far enough away that she couldn't touch him.
"Thank you, Spencer," she whispered, fearing that her voice would crack if she spoke normally.
She could feel the tears welling up as she watched him pull further away from her. He stopped in the doorway, but didn't look back at her as he said, "You're Rossi's daughter and we look out for each other. Garcia, will you stay with her until her father gets here? I have to go."
Without waiting for an answer, he was gone as fast as he could hobble out on his one crutch.
Buffy pressed the elevator button and watched as the doors closed. Derek was standing next to her and Dawn was in his arms. Even though Derek was technically the team's leader, David was the senior-most agent and he had been dealing with the Director for longer than Derek had, so he had stayed behind to handle any residual fallout from the events of the day. Even with her injuries, Buffy could have carried Dawn, but that would have looked strange, so Buffy just listened as her sister cried into Derek's shoulder.
By some miracle, David had managed to fast talk Spencer, Buffy, Dawn and Garcia out of trouble and they were all getting the hell out of there before anyone changed their minds. Although the Sunnydale syndrome didn't seem to apply in this case, Buffy had to be grateful for the fragile male egos that came to the conclusion that it just wasn't possible that she had handed them all their asses so easily. With no one willing to actually go on record with a complaint and Garcia's still unseen boyfriend erasing the security footage, it seemed that they were in the clear. Buffy was grateful for that, but knew that the rest of the BAU wouldn't be put off by the adrenaline excuse.
Derek glanced down at her and must have seen how angry she was getting as Dawn continued to sniffle. The younger woman had managed to wrangle a promise out of Buffy that she wouldn't go after Spencer, but she was sorely tempted to break her promise and make good on her threat to do Spencer bodily harm for hurting her little sister.
"Don't do it," Derek warned her.Damn profilers,
she thought, scrunching up her nose at him. "I'm not going to. Doesn't mean I can't eviscerate him in my head. I thought he was quality, but I guess I was wrong. It's been known to happen."
Derek shifted Dawn's weight and murmured into her hair. It didn't sound like actual words so much as a soothing sound.
"Believe it or not, Spencer is quality," Derek finally answered her. "He'll come around. This was just a shock. Everything he believed was just turned on its head. Give him time to deal with it and he'll be okay."
Buffy's heart broke as she heard Dawn's broken wail, "No he won't. You didn't see the look on his face. He's never going to forgive me!"
Aaron Hotchner knew he was a man of well above average intelligence, but everything that he had seen today defied logic. The emergency personnel had finished treating Buffy's wounds hours ago. She had refused to go to the emergency room and stayed at the house until Rossi had pulled her away; reminding her that Dawn would need her. Prentiss, Morgan and JJ had stayed behind to help the local and federal law enforcement officials process the house and remove the body from the dining room, but even they were gone now. Buffy had offered the flimsiest of excuses for why she had been there—something about watering the houseplants for him—but Haley backed up her story and he wasn't about to contradict them even though he knew it wasn't true.
Hell, he didn't even know how
Buffy had gotten to the house or how she even knew where the house was. She had never been there and it wasn't listed in any phone book. And, he had been sure that he heard Rossi say that she was almost to the BAU, so the sheer physical impossibility of her reaching his house in time to save his family was overwhelming.
He knew there was more to this story, but he would wait until after Jack went to sleep to confront Haley and find out what she knew. For now, he just drove, watching Haley holding Jack in the backseat of the car. They would stay at a hotel for a couple of days and then they were putting the house on the market. Haley's sister had houseguests or they would be headed there for the time being. If he could possibly manage it, he didn't want Haley or Jack even stepping foot back into the house.
Haley met his eyes in the rearview mirror; she had to be the strongest woman he had ever met. Just a few hours ago, she was faced with her own death and now she was singing to their son. He knew she was grateful that she was alive to sing to Jack and that Jack was alive to hear her. Aaron couldn't agree more. Ultimately, he didn't care if Buffy had sprouted wings and flew to his house. His family was safe and that was what mattered. Divorce or not, one more look in the mirror told him that Haley was still his wife—still the love of his life—and he would do whatever he needed to if it meant keeping her safe.
He was sure, though, that Rossi and Morgan knew more than they had let on. The first responders that had been on site didn't know Morgan as well as he did and Aaron knew when Morgan was feeding someone a line of BS that told just enough truth to be accepted with the right kind of authority backing it up.
Jack's loud yawn interrupted his reverie just as he pulled into the hotel parking lot. His questions would keep until tomorrow. Tonight, he was just going to be with his wife and son and be grateful that they were safe and warm and in his arms.
Derek watched as Buffy and Dawn drove away from the FBI headquarters. Today had cost Dawn quite a bit and he hoped Spencer manned up before it was too late to repair their relationship. He turned around to head toward his own car and came face to face with Emily Prentiss.
"Prentiss," he greeted her. "Headed home?"
The brunette profiler cocked her head to one side and replied, "Actually, I was looking for you. Rossi is doing damage control inside, so I know I won't get the real story from him and I know you know what the hell happened today, so let's have it."
Derek fixed her with an intense gaze, "All you need to really know about today is that Hotch's family didn't die."
He knew, even as he spoke, that she wasn't about to back down, but he had to try.
"Are you honestly going to ignore the whole 'Buffy showed up out of nowhere and saved the day when we knew for a fact that she was back at the BAU' thing? And, how about the fact that Spencer is nowhere to be found and Dawn just left in tears?" Prentiss asked, one eyebrow climbing in disbelief.
Derek sighed, "No, but this has to stay quiet. It's much bigger than just Buffy and Dawn."
"Morgan, I can keep a secret," Prentiss told him.
By the tone of her voice, she was already losing patience with him. He gestured her over to a bench and sat down, "Okay, so you can believe me or not, but the truth is that magic exists and that’s how Buffy was able to get to Hotch's house so fast. Remember how we had difficulty profiling Foyet?"
Prentiss nodded, but before she could interrupt, Derek continued, "Well, that was because he wasn't entirely human. In fact, he wasn't human at all. He was apparently a species of demon very close to human in appearance. Buffy and Dawn recognized the species and knew that Hotch and his family would all die if they didn't intervene, so they did what they had to do."
"So, they what...did a spell to get Buffy there?" Prentiss asked.
She was skeptical, but she wasn't calling him crazy, so Derek figured that was a step in the right direction.
"They used Dawn's blood to open a portal," he confirmed for her. He rubbed his forehead for a moment before admitting, "I don't honestly know exactly how it worked myself, but that’s what Garcia told me when we got back. Apparently, Spencer saw it."
"...and completely freaked out," Prentiss finished for him. "Morgan, this is going to shatter his entire reality."
"Yeah," Morgan agreed, "If the kid doesn't think he's developing the same mental illness his mother has."
"What are you going to do?" Prentiss asked.
"I don't know," Derek admitted. "Part of me says to give him some space to wrap his head around it, but another part of me says that giving him space is the last thing he needs."
"Well, how about you help me wrap my head around it and then we can figure out how to help Spencer together?" Prentiss offered.
When David finally arrived home, it was late and only the light in the hallway entrance was on. He sighed and rubbed at his face tiredly. He needed to check on the girls. It seemed so strange that he had girls to check on, but now they were not only in his life, but a priority as well. He just hoped that they were both okay, even though he knew it wasn't likely.
He stopped to set the house alarm and shut off the hallway light before trudging up the stairs. The door to his study was open and he could see that Buffy wasn't there, so he veered to the left toward Dawn's room. The door was cracked open, so he pushed it a little farther and saw that Buffy was sitting up against the headboard of the bed with Dawn curled around her. Her face was streaked with tears, but her eyes were closed and she was breathing deeply.
Buffy met his eyes and he could see the anguish in them at him as she spoke, "She cried herself out a bit ago."
He didn't need to ask how Dawn was holding up, the image in front of him was pretty clear. Her devastation could be felt from all the way across the room, and as he moved closer to sit on the edge of the bed near Buffy, he could feel it all the more plainly. His baby girl was hurting—badly—because she and her sister had chosen to save Hotch's family. It wasn't fair, but it was honest and they would all just have to deal with the fallout. Knowing there was nothing more he could do for Dawn at the moment, he turned his attention to Buffy.
"How are you doing?" he asked her.
"Well, I'd like to say I'm okay, but you're a profiler, so I'm pretty sure you'd see right through that," Buffy replied as she ran a comforting hand down Dawn's hair.
"True enough," David admitted, reaching for her hand. He squeezed it gently and continued, "I am a profiler, but I'm also your father. Let me help."
Buffy stared at him for a long moment and then he saw her eyes well up with tears of her own, "I wanted to protect her from this, but I never could. I feel sad and frustrated that it all came out like it did. She was working up to telling Spencer in her own way and it all just got blown to hell in an hour's time."
"It may take time, but I think Spencer will come around," David told her. "His world has just been shattered and re-made all at once. It's going to take him a little time to figure out his place in it again. But, if it helps, I've seen him solve a Rubik's Cube in ten minutes and he was just getting over the flu then, so I'm pretty sure it won't take him too long."
Buffy sighed, "Except, this is a bit bigger than a Rubik's Cube and every minute that it takes him hurts Dawn so much. And, she made me promise not to hurt him, so I can't even go beat him into a coma."
David offered her a small smile, "Which you wouldn't do anyway."
Buffy made a face at him, but didn't argue the point. He knew he was right. For all her anger at Spencer for hurting her little sister, she knew it was more complicated than getting angry at Dawn for keeping in touch with an old boyfriend. Knowing Reid the way he did, the younger man probably felt humiliated by the one person he had taken the chance to give his love to. He felt betrayed and that would take time for Reid to get over. He held a grudge well, but David knew that eventually Reid would come to his senses and realize that Dawn wasn't hiding this from him because of some nefarious reason.
Suddenly, the day caught up with him and David yawned into the back of his free hand. Buffy smiled a sad smile at him and said, "Go get some sleep. I'm sure you're going to have fun answering Hotch's questions tomorrow."
"I was thinking I'd let Morgan do that," David replied, already plotting how he could make that happen.
"Yeah, Derek already texted me that 'it's all you' so good luck with that," Buffy told him. She squeezed his hand, "Seriously, get some sleep. We'll still be here in the morning, I promise."
David stood and leaned over, pressing a kiss to Buffy's forehead. "You'd better be," he told her. "It would be awfully quiet around here without my two girls arguing over the best way to decapitate a slug demon."
"It's 'slough' demon actually," Buffy replied as she settled in more fully with Dawn in her arms.
Just as he reached the door, he heard Buffy call his name quietly.
He paused, looking back at her.
"Thanks," she said. "For everything. It's been really nice having an actual parent again and I just wanted you to know that."
David winked at her, "I have a lot of time to make up for."
"Don't worry," she grinned. "I don't want a pony."
David laughed quietly and rolled his eyes, telling her, "Go to sleep."
Buffy was just cleaning up breakfast when there was a knock at the door. She snagged the unfinished toast from Dawn's breakfast tray as she went to answer it. Mmm, buttery.
She was in mid-chew when she saw who was on the other side of the door and nearly choked on the toast. It took a moment for her to compose herself and swallow the suddenly dry mouthful of toast, but once she did, she swung the door open and greeted the guest. So not fair! David was supposed to deal with this part!
"Agent Hotchner, how nice to see you."
She gestured for him to come in without actually saying the words. Too many years of slaying had conditioned her not to issue a verbal invite even in broad daylight. Hotch stepped into the kitchen and looked around.
"Sorry, am I interrupting your breakfast?" he asked.
Buffy moved to the breakfast tray and started cleaning up again. "No, I'm done. Dawn is upstairs," she told him. "She didn't feel like coming down today, so I'm looking after her."
She picked up the coffee carafe and waved it in the air. "How do you take it?"
"Black," Hotch replied as he sat down at the island.
Buffy poured two cups, fixing one just the way she liked it and joined him. He thanked her and took a sip, but then put the cup down and stared at the dark liquid. The silence finally became unbearable for Buffy.
"You've got questions," Buffy stated. "It's okay. I'd have questions too if I was in your shoes."
Hotch finally looked at her. "You're right. I do have questions, but mostly I just want to say thank you. You have no idea..."
"Are they okay?" Buffy asked gently.
"Jack doesn't really understand what happened and Haley is pretty shaken up, but she's holding it together," Hotch told her.
They were quiet for another long moment before Buffy broke the silence again.
She smiled grimly at him. "I know better than you think. They're your whole world. I had the power to keep them alive, so I did."
"What you risked..." Hotch began but Buffy cut him off.
"...doesn't compare to what would have happened if we didn't intervene," she assured him.
Hotch looked at the staircase and then up to the second level. "I'm not sure Dawn would agree with you there."
"She would," Buffy told him and she knew it to be true. Over and over, the Scoobies had sacrificed their own happiness for others. That choice had been made years ago and this was simply follow through. "She did and she does. Doesn't mean it doesn't suck great big gopher guts sometimes but we do what we have to and people don't die because of that."
"What exactly is it that you do?" Hotch finally asked.
"Well, the technical title is Vampire Slayer, but I don't like to discriminate so I'll go after any non-human creature that is killing people. Like I told David, I leave the humans to the human justice system, but usually there's no such thing as demon rehabilitation and keeping violent demons in some type of jail is just begging for trouble. We could open up a dimensional portal and shove them through, but that's really just giving another dimension our problems, so it is what it is," Buffy explained calmly.
"Slayer justice is swift and final," Hotch noted.
"Yes," Buffy confirmed.
"How do you know you have the right demon?"
"Same way you know you have the right UnSub, just with different factors. Instead of economics, religion, education, family dynamics and so on, we use demon race, geographic restrictions, type of damage done, tendencies of species to want to destroy the world, and physical characteristics of both the demons and the victims to narrow down our pool until we get the right one," Buffy told him.
"That's why you understood profiling so quickly," Hotch said thoughtfully. "You profile demons and it really isn't all that different from what we do. Did you just say 'destroy the world'?"
Buffy shrugged and took a sip of her coffee. "Well, it hasn't happened yet, so try not to worry about it."
She watched as he processed the information she had given him and finally, he took a sip of his coffee and looked at her.
"Tell me what happened yesterday," he told her.
Buffy had no more secrets to hide from Hotch, so she decided to go with the truth. He seemed like he had handled everything so far and she didn't think the rest of it would send him screaming.
"I honestly have no idea what the story David and Derek are giving out to everyone is, but what really happened is that Dawn and I recognized the guy calling himself ‘The Reaper’ as a Toakoli demon. Toakoli, by the way, translates in English to Reaper, so no points for creativity on that one. Usually, Toakoli are pretty close to human. They do feed on the dying, though, but usually they take jobs as hospice workers and ease patients’ suffering in their final moments, but from what we've figured out, this one was given a blood transfusion of human blood which apparently kicked his homicidal tendencies into hyperdrive. Humans aren't the only ones with psychopathic tendencies, so it is possible that they were lying just under the surface enough that he slipped under the radar until then. Or, he was young and they didn't kick into full gear until after puberty. No idea really. Willow did some research and they said that a local Toakoli clan was astounded to hear that one of theirs had been on such a violent killing spree."
"Wait, there are more of these things out there?" Hotch interrupted her.
"Twenty-seven in the metro D.C. area," Buffy replied. "But, like I said, most of them lead peaceful lives. They have human friends and lead mostly human lives. Hell, most of them barely have traffic tickets, Willow couldn't find any with even a misdemeanor. This one was way
off the ranch."
"You're sure?" Hotch asked.
"Yes, Aaron," Buffy promised, consciously using his first name so he would know that I was being completely on the level with him about his family’s safety. "I'm sure. No one is going to be out for revenge. Your family is safe."
"How exactly did you get to them in time?"
"Well, that's the tricky part," Buffy hemmed. "I might
have broken your office door off its hinges and then assaulted some FBI agents and did some property damage while Dawn performed a spell using her blood to open a portal into your house. You know, all hypothetically, of course."
"I think I may need a minute on that one," he told her.
"Take your time," Buffy replied, taking a good sized gulp of her coffee. "Dawn and I are apparently banned from the building for the rest of our unnatural
lives, according to David's text this morning. He said that was the best he could do, but hey, it beats felony charges, so go Dad!"
Hotch laughed at that and Buffy thought it was probably the first time he had laughed in weeks.
"Seriously, I know it's a lot to take in, but talk to David. He'll be able to fill you in differently than I can. I've been living this for almost half of my life now. Things that are normal for me aren't normal for anyone else," Buffy told him.
"Sounds familiar," Hotch admitted before draining the last of his coffee and standing up. "Thank you for answering my questions. I appreciate your honesty. Given what the truth is, I know it couldn’t be easy for you to tell someone in my position, but I'm glad you did."
"When you're ready, ask David to show you the 'friends and family' tutorial," Buffy said as she walked him to the door. "It will answer a lot of your other questions."Hmmm...maybe I should hold Spencer down and make him watch it,
Buffy considered before dismissing the idea. Probably wouldn't go very far in convincing him that we're friendlies.
David sighed for the hundredth time that day. His day began with a confrontation with Director Strauss. She had a perfect view of everything that happened the day before and the two of them had gone toe-to-toe regarding unsanctioned magic use in the bullpen. Apparently, David was supposed to have known that Strauss was aware of the supernatural world and should have cleared Dawn and Buffy to perform magic in the building through non-existent protocols. It didn't help that Dawn had managed to smuggle in weapons disguised as toys, but they used their abilities for a good cause and didn't cause any permanent damage to anyone or anything. In the end, they had managed to come to an understanding. The girls would never come back to FBI headquarters and she would make the charges magically disappear. It was really the best he could hope for under the circumstances. He would hate to see what would happen to Strauss if Willow had to intervene.
It seemed that the entire team was now in on the secret he and Morgan had been keeping. Each was taking it a little differently. Prentiss had acted like it just confirmed her suspicions. J.J. was only convinced because Garcia wouldn't shut up about how cool it had been to help with an actual magical spell, but once J.J. was on board, she had pulled David into her office to go over some of the files and figure out a way to tell if any of them were demonic in nature. Finally, David gave her Willow's phone number and slipped away as quickly as he could.
Hotch hadn't come into the office, but David had received a text from Buffy earlier that he had shown up at the house and she had given him 'the talk' as she called it. A part of him was glad that he didn't have to be the one to do it.
Morgan and Prentiss had systematically worked their way through each and every agent who had been present to witness Dawn's magic and make sure that they were all clear on keeping what they saw to themselves or pushing them toward a perfectly good and rational explanation for what had happened.
However, Reid just wouldn't look at him, at all. David knew he would need time to sort through everything and he had no intention of putting pressure on the young agent, but when he entered the elevator with Reid earlier, Reid had dashed out and headed toward the stairs just before the doors closed. Fortunately, they weren't on a case where they really had to interact with each other, but that would happen soon enough. Reid never functioned at his best when he had any emotional distance from the team, so he really hoped that they would be able to be past all of this by the time they were back out on assignment.
For right now, all they could do was figure out how they were going to handle the debrief scheduled for later in the week without sounding insane. Strauss might be able to handle the truth, but that definitely could not
go into the permanent record without risking all of their jobs and his daughters' safety.
David looked up when someone knocked on his door. Garcia was standing in the doorway and David counted twelve different mystical symbols adorning her clothing. Knowing Garcia, there were others he couldn't see and he needed to not think about that right now.
"Sir?" she asked.
"What is it, Garcia?"
"Derek called a team meeting in the conference room," she told him. "I think he wants to talk strategy."
"Okay, let's go," David replied, dropping the file he had in his hands on the desk and following her out. "You know, you don't have to wear every single mystical symbol you can find, right?"
"Oh, these are just until I decide where to have them tattooed on," she informed him without skipping a beat.I really didn't need to know that,
David thought as they entered the conference room.
He nodded to Morgan who was standing in the front of the room. As soon as he and Garcia were seated, Morgan began.
"We need to decide what the story is going to be and we need to make it as plausible as possible," he stated as he looked around the room at each of the BAU members. "Any ideas?"
"Shouldn't we wait for Hotch before we decide anything?" J.J. asked. "It is his family after all."
Morgan nodded to David and J.J. turned her attention toward him as well as Morgan said, "It's not just Hotch's family, J.J."
The blond agent nodded thoughtfully, "You're right. I'm sorry. They risked a lot more than anyone else did."
David wanted to speak on behalf of his daughters, but once again, Morgan beat him to the punch.
"What they do is so much bigger than any of this," he told everyone. "They have literally stopped the world from ending several times now. They risked exposure to save one of ours. The least we can do now is protect them so they can keep doing what they do."
"Aren't they one of ours, too?" Prentiss asked.
David offered her a small smile of gratitude for accepting his daughters into the BAU family.
Garcia was quick to also leap to Buffy and Dawn's side. "Of course they are! Rossi's progeny are already embroidered on my BAU family tree and I'm not ripping out any branches."
"I'm glad you feel that way," David told her, resting a hand on her shoulder when she seemed like she was going to continue into a full on Garcia rant. "Now we just need to figure out what the official story is going to be."
The room was silent until Reid spoke up, "We tell the truth."
The entire room turned to look at him. He was staring at the floor, but he must have felt everyone's eyes on him because he looked up and met David's eyes for the first time all day as he finished, "That there was a psychopathic killer on the loose and we all did what needed to be done to prevent further loss of life."
David felt a thread of hope form for a speedy reconciliation between Dawn and Reid, but that was tempered when Spencer dropped his gaze and fled the room, muttering, "I can't right now. I'm sorry."
TBCP.S. Thank you to Blackett, eset, ginvirus, kangel, katgurl, Pane, serendipitytoo, serenityselena, SilverMidnight, & vladt for the new recs!