Chapter 1: The Letter
Disclaimer: I don't own Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Criminal Minds.
A/N: Wow, thanks for all the feedback and alerts! I hope this first chapter keeps your interest."If we knew each other's secrets, what comforts we should find."
-John Churton Collins
"Went to Vegas and all I got was this lousy t-shirt," Buffy muttered, rubbing a purple knot on her right shoulder.
The empty bedroom didn't reply. Nevertheless, Buffy raised a confrontational brow, already disagreeing with herself. Nope, not just a t-shirt, but also a fine assortment of scrapes and bruises: whoever had said that Las Vegas was low on the demon scale obviously wasn't counting the family of Serparvo demons living in the abandoned hospital.
That little clean-up had take a full night out of her "vacation." Then there had been the unfortunate accident involving a complementary chocolate fondue and her open luggage. But in the end, she'd pulled off the most important part of her trip without a snag. Dana had been more than happy to see her.
Dana. Sore subject.
Buffy winced, dropped her purse onto the bed, and collapsed without remorse onto her stack of pillows. She could hear the door open downstairs, two of her girls arguing over what sort of pizza to have for supper. They were permanents on the Cleveland hellmouth, had moved here, made it home. Buffy was the guest in this household, though she had her own room-the best room-and she'd been living here off and on for years. It wasn't home.
Dawn wasn't here but in California again, Stanford, at least for a semester, as she tried to worm a very useful occult book from one of her language professors. Xander had decided on Cleveland as a permanent home, though, "Just can't get enough of Hellmouths," he'd explained. Somehow his goofy grin stayed with him. A good number of the slayers were in Scotland, rebuilding, Giles at the helm for the moment.
Thinking of Scotland made her remember the last big bad. The destruction of the castle the New Council had renovated. The kids she'd lost along the way.
Buffy knew that's where she belonged, with Giles, making decisions, but this "vacation" was well deserved, if not exactly relaxing. Too many demons, too little time. Still it was hers, and she didn't have to play general, at least not full time.
Another month, and then she'd get back too it. Yeah.
Buffy groaned into the pillow. Sure. A month. "Give or take a decade." Another breath into the feather down, and she pushed herself up onto her elbows. "Leading sucks."
A smirk; sad one.
She knew why. Why she found herself drained. Sad. Dana. Dana was one big reminder with way too many post-its attached to her forehead. Just thinking of her unstable sister-slayer brought Angel to the front of her mind. But that wasn't the only reason Dana tugged on her heartstrings.
Slayers had dreams. Of the past. Of death. Destruction. Blood spilling, bones breaking. Sometimes invigorating in their power, usually terrifying in their grand reveals: slayer dreams weren't fun.
Most slayers had one every once in a while. Usually in the form of a warning. On rare occasion, just a cryptic "hello, how's the killin'?" from the first of their kind, the tribal daughter of Sineya. But some slayers had dreams, visions, often, way more often than Buffy could remember having them. Dana had them almost every night. And sometimes she had them when she was awake.
Kill, be killed. Watch the world burn. All while she was playing Go Fish in the sanatorium's activity room.
Didn't seem fair, in Buffy's opinion. All that horror in Dana's past had unleashed a part of her mind that let the slayer spirit out in full force. It had taken them half a year to get Dana to a stable place, to a state of mind that was safe for those around her.
Buffy wasn't really sure who had chosen to put Dana in Nevada, but she remembered Willow talking about its mysteriously lax demon activity over the past few years, about the doctors that were available, about how much Dana liked the weather. So Vegas it had been. A little out of the way for Dana's favorite visitors, but that didn't stop Buffy from showing up from time to time.
A small buzz announced that Buffy had done way too much reflecting for one relaxation period. Then Buffy realized there wasn't actually a timer for that; her phone was vibrating. Again. Buffy reached for her purse, pulled free the device and quickly opened and closed it. How many times did she have to tell Andrew that she didn't care that the new Dr. Who
premiere was in an hour?
She'd mentioned the actor was cute once. One little time. And Andrew had dug his geek claws into her back and pulled her into the fandom.Ugg
somehow didn't cover Buffy's current state of not caring.
Buffy blinked at her purse and raised a brow at the make-up bag her little phone tirade had dislodged. Sure, her it was a little on the full side, but from this angle, it looked downright bulging, and only half-way zipped. A piece of paper was sticking out of one side. She hadn't noticed it earlier. Granted, she hadn't exactly decided to put on make-up when preparing for her plane ride home. (Something about her oversized Blue Men tourist tee didn't inspire the fashionista in her.)
The zipper was hung on the paper, but Buffy managed to loosen it with minimal damage. Two folded envelopes sprang out, unfolding in their release. They had been crammed into the tight space, but they were full sized, somewhat heavy, as if they held more than one sheet.
Buffy flipped them over. Open. Both of them. And the front announced that they were from Spencer Reid of D.C. and to Diana Reid of Las Vegas. Specifically of Bennington Sanitarium. Buffy arched a brow. There was no way that was a coincidence.
The explanation was simple: Dana or one of the other patients who'd gotten close to Buffy had shoved the envelopes inside. But the why wasn't so clear.
"Probably has something to do with the not-so-stable mental state," Buffy concluded.
Buffy told herself that she'd pack the envelopes away, send them back to Bennington in the morning with an explanation, and do the right thing. Her fingers had another plan, however. Tired, exhausted from the time she'd spent sitting coach behind a very rude eight-year-old, and in need of a shower, Buffy decided to forgo rationality. She removed the first letter, then the second, lining them up together, and began to read.Mom.
That's who he was addressing. The patient at Bennington was his mother. Buffy frowned, embarrassed. This was wrong, totally wrong. What kind of jerk would read some guy's intimate letters to his mom?
"A Buffy-shaped jerk," she supplied, and continued, unable to control her curiosity.
She was almost two paragraphs in when she suddenly remembered bright brown eyes, brighter still in the tired, purple shadows beneath their long lashes. The image was so vivid, so sudden, that it shocked her. Buffy wasn't sure where it came from until she recalled the man who she'd played eye-tag with in the foyer at Bennington. He'd been carrying a stack. There'd been envelopes there, she was certain.
Buffy didn't have the best memory. Just ask her high school history teachers. But he'd stood out, not because he was sort of adorable in his nerdy sweater vest and red blush, but because of the phone conversation he'd had. So official, so serious. About a serial killer in Nevada.
Buffy had walked away from the information, knowing that human crimes were for human cops, but it had bothered her. Tugged at something deep inside.
So the man had probably been involved in the investigation, judging from the conversation. And Buffy just happened to be holding a letter from a man discussing his work at Quantico. As an FBI agent.
Coincidence? Buffy didn't believe in such a thing, not anymore. But the letters didn't exactly spell out P.T.B. or Big Bad Plot. So, she read on, enraptured by the voice in the words.*-*-*
Some days, Dr. Spencer Reid felt as if he didn't require an actual home. People kept memories in a home. Spencer kept his in his head. People felt safe, content, relaxed in a home. Spencer felt that way at the office, amongst his co-workers. In truth, putting his wardrobe in a suitcase and changing hotels every time he returned from a case would have been more entertaining than returning to his lonely apartment, though his nature would not allow for such change.
He sighed, frustrated. A solid habitat, with somewhat pricey rent, was yet another illogical social requirement that he was forced to meet. Spencer knew that exhaustion was the reason for his silent aggression towards the world in general.
He knew his concentration, his lack of faith in his home life for what they were: simply the mental ramblings of the fabled golden hour between midnight and dawn, when men spewed philosophy and decided to join circuses. Spencer rubbed the sleep out of his eyes, still able to taste the last four cups of coffee in his mouth. He had a degree in philosophy, so the golden hour didn't not effect him in that way. No, he opted to think on life as a criminal catching nomad dressed as a lion tamer.
Spencer chuckled. Perhaps he shouldn't have had that last drink with Morgan.
He had convinced himself that he was sleeping in his sweater vest when he actually remembered the mail in his hands. Bill. Coupon for new flooring. A thick letter-this made him pause. He scanned the sender's address. Cleveland, Ohio. Not significant. The name, though, was one he remembered, ever so faintly.
About a month ago, he'd been on personal time in Las Vegas, visiting his mother. Buffy had been the girl he'd seen but never really met. The one with green eyes. Most would have forgotten the encounter. Even with his spectacular memory, Spencer didn't recall every verbal introduction he'd ever made. But, Buffy was a unique name. And she'd made an impression.
The slight buzz he felt (thank you, Morgan
) didn't allow for normal caution. He opened the envelope without hesitation and let the thick fold of paper fall forward. The paper he recognized as his own ledger, aged and crisp. The scent of a library in its folds-his mother insisted he use this brand for that sensation alone. However, above this familiar stationary was a thin purple paper, lined, a girl's curved and wide handwriting across it.
Spencer wiped the sleep from his eyes, taking a seat. Curiosity would allow no further delay. He read on, in his quick, robotic fashion:Dear Spencer Reid,
I hope these letters reached you well. I realize that you're probably confused, especially since we've never met before. That's to say, we've never been formally introduced. I'm pretty sure, like 90% sure, that we've seen one another. That's not really important, though. . .I've probably confused you even more, haven't I?
Spencer smirked at the hesitation in the bleeding line marks. She'd obviously not known how to begin. At some point, the smirk turned into a full-out laugh. He wasn't quite sure why this tickled his funny bone.
Oh, yes he did: Morgan and liquor. That was why. Of course, he couldn't fully blame Derek for their little visit to the bar after they'd wrapped up the paperwork from their latest case. The team, the unmarried and under forty portion of it, needed the time to unwind. However, most of them had not consumed a pot of coffee beforehand, so they were more aware of when to stop drinking.
Spencer on the other hand. . .
"Studies show that bar patrons who mix alcohol with caffeine are four times more likely to attempt to drive home drunk and exhibit irrational behavior. In fact, these individuals usually leave the bar drunker than other patrons because the caffeine makes them feel more awake, tricking their bodies into believing that they are, in turn, less intoxicated," he rambled. And came to a dead stop, looking up at the empty room. Nope, no team stood listening.
Spencer pursed his lips, only slightly embarrassed by the spew. He quickly muttered something about not driving drunk. Because he hadn't (thank you , Morgan
). Clearing his throat, Spencer turned his attention back to the letter, quickly deciding to hold off handwriting analysis for later in the morning, after a few hours of sleep.My point is, I found these letters in my purse after visiting Bennington Sanitarium. I'm not sure how they got there. I was already back in Cleveland when I noticed them or I would have returned them at once. Life sort of got in the way, though, and I forgot about them until a few days ago.
Apologetic, but with defensive undertones, Spencer noticed, unable to help himself. He raised a brow.I kind of, sort of, read them. I'm so sorry, but they were already open, and I was really exhausted at the time. You should never make decisions when you're tired. I've learned my lesson, promise. I know there's privacy issues and that you work with the FBI, but I really hope you aren't too angry with me.
Though Spencer had only glimpsed the smallest of grins on the woman's face upon their meeting, he could see it in his mind. Apologetic, innocent. Perhaps falsely so. But the image alone forced a similar smile to curve his lips.
He should be angry. These were letters to his mother. Private letters. About work, his life. But either the thought of Buffy's green eyes or the liquor was keeping him strangely nonchalant. Without a doubt, if Morgan or Hotch had received a similar note, they would have jumped to suspicion, but Spencer couldn't help but hear the nervous voice in the words.Anyhow, I hope your mom wasn't too disappointed about not receiving these. It sounds like you really care about what she thinks, and, if she's anything like my mom was, I'm sure she cherishes every chance to hear about your life. I wish I had been as honest as you are with my own mother. It would have saved, well, it would have changed things.
So, sorry about the mix-up. Keep catching bad guys and being a good son. Oh, and please don't sue me for reading your letters. Pretty please.
Spencer blinked, confused by the change of tone throughout the letter. There was something there, something between the lines that it didn't take an analyst to see.
It was foolish, he knew, to reply. The letters had been returned. There was really no need to assure her that she's done the right thing. After all, she really hadn't. Still, Spencer couldn't help himself. He picked up a pen.