Disclaimer: see chapter one.
A/N: So very sorry about the wait. I'm neck deep in wedding plans and wanting to pull my hair out. Who knew the "I'm engaged! I'm engaged! YAYAYAY" moment could so quickly be replaced by the urge to bang your head against a wall till your brain dribbles out trying to actually PLAN the stupid wedding.
Ok, rant over.
Thanks for everyone's patience and reviews. I've had this for a while now and been too distracted to post it. You can all scold me later.
Not good. Bad. Bad. Bad. Bad. She could almost feel herself vibrating with irritation. Dawnie was hurt and in the hospital. She didn't even want to think about the mental state of the youngest member of their family, hadn't had the heart to use magic to even check because she knew she'd go postal if she did. And then the baddie had tried to blow up Buffy. That just made things worse.
She really wanted to ignore Buffy's order to keep their people away from the normals and just send in everyone they could spare. Say now-ish.
“Willow, you need to calm down.” Kennedy's voice caught her a bit off guard as she kept running searches, trying to find something, anything that could help Buffy and Dawn.
“I am calm.” she was just going to have to find a way to lie to the FBI and protect her family, that's all. She could lie, she could.
“You're making half the castle vibrate Willow.” the words caught her off guard and she looked over at the mostly empty cup of tea beside her keyboard. It was, in fact, vibrating.
“Breathe baby.” Kennedy turned her chair around and knelt down, eye level. “You can do this. We can do this.”
Deep breath in and “But Buffy's in trouble and hurt and so is Dawnie and...”
“Buffy is going to be fine. She's Buffy. We've all know the stories. She took down a hell goddess by herself. One little cave in isn't going to stop her. And we'll catch who hurt Dawn.” Kennedy looked absolutely certain, too bad she wasn't. She was going to have to lie to the FBI, lie. She was a terrible liar, everyone knew that.
Kennedy shook her head. “No buts. Just breathe and use that great big brain of yours. I know you can do it.”
Breathe, ok she could do that. Think. Dawn needed to be protected but Buffy said she couldn't send a team to do it. So what was the next best thing? Buffy protecting Dawn. Only Buffy was hurt and stuck in a cave with an FBI agent who they couldn't let know about the supernatural. And there was a blizzard about to hit in Estes Park. Her eyes widened and she smiled.
“That's my girl.” Kennedy smiled back and she suddenly felt a better. Ken was right. She could do this and Buffy was the best of all of them at surviving, winning. Always had been and always would be.
“Thanks baby.” she swiveled around in her chair again and pulled up the latest satellite weather reports. A little over two hours till the worst of the blizzard hit, they could work with that. “Ken, get two teams ready to go to Colorado.”
“I thought we had orders to keep away from the investigation.”
She turned slightly so she could look at her wife. “We do. Buffy doesn't want us compromised.” she smiled. If there was one thing she'd learned over the years it was that the fine print was everything. Even for things like fear demons.
Kennedy gave a nod. “Covert op then. Buffy or Dawn?”
“The blizzard is set to hit in just over two hours. Have them ready to go in two.”
“Use the blizzard as cover. Dig from the outside.” Kennedy gave another nod. Clearly everyone but herself and Giles had spent way too much time training with various military world wide because they were all starting to use the lingo lately. She gave a mental shake of the head. Now was not the time to think about the fact that they were steadily going from a group of disorganized former small town Hellmouth police to something much larger and infinitely more powerful and dangerous. “Leave no trace of our presence. I'll check in with SitReps every half hour.”
“Can your girls do it?”
“We've handled worse.” Kennedy turned and headed for the doors from the Command Center, pushing the button on her ear piece to connect to the EtripS she led. Willow watched her go, mind working and then turned back around to face the computer screens. Kennedy and her teams would make sure Buffy could get out and get to Dawn. Now all she had to do was find the baddie who'd hurt her family and keep the FBI on task.
She shook her head, one she was sure she could do. The other, not so much. But she was sure going to try.
There was no way out. As far as he could tell the mine had to be almost a hundred years old and looked like it should have caved in while there had still been workers in it. Thankfully though it hadn't even with the blast at the entrance or both he and Buffy would have been dead. Not that Buffy looked much better than half dead by the time he made it back to her. She was still leaning against the rock wall with her head tipped back but she'd moved the pack closer to her while he'd been gone.
He crouched down and touched the shoulder she hadn't hurt shoving him out of the way of the blast and falling rocks. “Buffy, you have to stay awake.”
She opened her eyes and it was oddly eerie that they met his, clear and sharp, without her ever having to move them to meet his own. “You honestly think I'm gonna get any sleep considering the situation?” she shifted her weight and sat up straighter. “Besides, I've gone weeks on less than two hours a sleep a night.” he filed that information away to consider later, now he had more important things on his mind that forming an accurate profile of a woman that made less and more sense to him with every passing hour.
“There's no way out.” he looked over at the broken remains of the radio. “And we have no way of contacting my team.”
“Do you trust your team?” the question surprised him but he didn't even have to think about the answer.
She gave a nod. “And I trust mine.” there wasn't an iota of doubt in her, it was as easy to read as a book. “So we trust our teams and wait it out.”
He considered it but didn't like it, at all. However, they didn't have any other options. There was no way for him to clear a way through the entrance of the mine before the blizzard hit them and even if he could Buffy was wounded. He let out a breath. His hands were tied and he felt helpless. As helpless as he'd been with Foyet standing over him with that knife. He forced the memory away. He wasn't helpless. Buffy was wounded and he had to keep her alive until help arrived or he could dig them free.
Which meant there was something he could be doing.
She'd gone over everything from guest speakers to scholarships and she hadn't been able to find a single thing that connected the victims. Victims whose faces seemed to be starting at her from where they were mounted on the boards across the room. It was frustrating her more than she had words for. Even Reid looked like he was getting grumpy faced.
She picked up the the purple squishy toy to the left of her keyboard and began to twist as she went over things again, lists of possibilities in her head.
At least she did till a face popped up on her screen and she squeeked. “Penelope Garcia? With the BAU?” the woman looked like she was in her late twenties, red headed and very pixie like.
She blinked, momentarily stunned that someone had managed to hack her system and create a video link. “Yeah, who are you? And how did you...”
“I'm Willow, Buffy's friend. She said to contact you.”
Her eyes went wide. WiccanRose. The WiccanRose. “Garcia, what's going on?” Reid was looking over at her with a furrowed brow. “I'm not sure.” she looked back at the face filling her screen. “Buffy said to contact me? She told me to contact you.”
“I know. But something's happened. I need you to listen and do what I tell you without asking any questions because I can't answer them.”
“What happened and why can't we ask questions?” Reid was making his way over.
“Because you don't have clearance, Dr. Reid.” Willow didn't look like she'd expected the legendary hacker to look but she knew the expression on the other woman's face. She'd seen similar looks on her team's faces when one of its own was in trouble. It made a knot form in her stomach.
In the darkness he was having trouble keeping track of the time. As well as he could tell it had been about two and a half hours since the explosion so it was about eleven in the morning. After making sure Buffy was as comfortable as he could make her given the situation he'd positioned the lantern at the midway point between where he'd left her still propped against the mine's wall and the wall of fallen rocks. The light was far from decent but it meant that he could keep an eye on her while attempting to get them free.
After almost an hour of moving back and forth trying to clear a path he hadn't managed to make much progress but at least the constant movement had been keeping him warm. He adjusted his grip on the heavy rock in his hands, the thick gloves were keeping his hands from freezing, but making keeping a firm grip on things difficult. “Hotch.” Buffy's voice made him turn his head in her direction. “Stay still.”
His brow furrowed. “Why?”
Her head turned, looked at the rocks blocking their escape. “I need to listen.” it was a strange request but he did it, keeping his eyes on her and not quite being able to make out her expression with the lack of light. There was complete silence for a moment and then she turned to look at him. “The blizzard is starting to hit.”
Which meant that unless his team had made it back faster than they'd anticipated they were going to be forced back from the search.
“Baby girl you can't possibly be serious.” there was no way, no way, he was going to leave Hotch trapped inside a mine that could collapse any minute blizzard or no blizzard. Or what some hacker from the IWC said. They didn't even know what the agency did.
“I don't like it either but....”
“We don't have a choice Morgan. Look outside.” Rossi gestured to the blizzard going on outside. They couldn't even see the trees outside any more, just a wall of falling white snow.
“Rossi.” he wasn't just going to leave his man out there. You never ever left a man behind.
“Hotch knows what he's doing.”
“Morgan, they're right.” J.J. Was trying to play peacemaker. “It was a trap. A distraction. And if we fall for it the UnSub wins.”
He wanted to growl in frustration but they were right. “Fine. But as soon as we catch this son of a bitch we go get Hotch out.” and Buffy. Buffy was in there too but she wasn't a part of the team, she wasn't family. It didn't make her less important than Hotch but she wasn't one of their own.
He needed coffee, badly. And a moment away from the two hackers he'd been listening to for the better part of half an hour as they both went a mile a minute trying to find a connection between their victims other than intelligence. A connection that they hadn't found and he couldn't see.
It had to be there though. The victimology was too specific for there not to be a secondary connection.
The crutches he was still forced to use made him slow but finally he managed to make it through the winding path of desks to the coffee maker at the far end of the squad room. Only to have complete darkness snap over him and the rest of the building as he reached for a coffee cup.
And to hear Garcia shout something in frustration that made his eyebrows go up.
One of the few constant perks of being a slayer besides never needing someone to open a jar for her was that the slayer package came with a disturbingly accurate internal clock. Not that she'd ever admitted it to anyone because then they'd never let her get away with being late again, but it was there. And working. Which was why she knew what time it was, not that it was of much help.
Aside from letting her know that Kennedy and Liza's EtripS teams had taken a little over two and a half hours to clear away as much as they could from the outside of the cave in without potentially leaving Hotchner or anyone else suspicious. And while part of her wanted to have a word with Willow about sending any slayers of any kind within fifty miles of Estes Park she also knew that technically Willow had followed her orders.
There were days when semantics were her best friend or worst enemy depending on the situation.
In any case it was a moot point and now that there wasn't even a remote chance of Hotch hearing them working outside she could pull him away from all the noise he'd been making on his own trying to dig them out.
“Hotch.” her voice carried in the mine, an odd echo that no normal human could have picked up on. He turned around, the rock in his gloved hands not seeming to fit with the personality of someone so closed off and controlled as she'd figured out he was in less than a day. “Food.” she motioned to food she had ready. The stuff barely qualified as decent but she'd eaten far worse. Not that she was inclined to share as much or the fact that she'd already eaten almost an entire serving already to compensate for what her body needed to heal.
It only took a couple of minutes for the FBI agent to end up sitting next to her, back against the rock wall with food in his hands and the lantern sitting along side the pack between them. “How are you feeling?”
She didn't bother to glance over at the question, instead keeping her eyes on the creamy chicken pasta or what was supposed to pass as creamy chicken pasta. “Better.”
“I should take at your leg after we eat. The wound needs to be kept clean.”
Now that earned more than a glance as she turned her gaze to him, an eyebrow going up. “Which you know.” well at least he wasn't making her resort to overwhelming sarcasm. She turned her gaze back to her food. Keeping him from looking at her leg was on her list of things to do though it was far from what she wanted to be a priority at the moment. But what she wanted and reality had always been like letting Willow have coffee so she was just going to have to cope.
After nearly five minutes of silence that felt more like an hour as they ate she couldn't take it any more. It was like she could feel the weight pushing down on her from Hotchner's thoughts. She put what was left of her food down on her lap. “Alright, spit it out.”
“Whatever it is that's on your mind. Spit it out, say now-ish, before I start singing pop music.” she sadly wasn't kidding either. While she might have outgrown the teenybopper stuff when she became a slayer sadly the mini slayers hadn't. And she'd been exposed to way way too much of it in the last few years so she did actually know the lyrics to some of the songs.
That earned her a twitch of the lips that might have almost passed as a hint of a smile out of Hotchner. “Doesn't that violate the Geneva Convention?”
She shook her head. “Nope, some of the girls checked.”
“The girls?” oh crap. She'd just stepped in it. She took a breath, damage control time. Which was actually pretty easy since 90% of the IWC's standard public lines were about one third true.
“The Sineya Academies. Have you heard of them?”
Hotchner gave a nod. “They're highly exclusive private schools all over the world.” his brow furrowed. “What does the IWC have to do with private schools?”
And here was the public affairs department at its best. “We run them.”
“You recruit from them.” accusation in the tone.
A shake of the head. “Yes and no.” she put up a hand to forestall any further arguments from him. “Just listen. Look at the world today. Its divided. By religion, by politics, by greed and ignorance. When most people look at the world they see a thousand little camps. Different countries and groups trying to keep their grip on what's theirs or destroy what's not. We're not like that. The IWC isn't bound to any country, any religion, any politics. We don't see the world as a bunch of divided pieces but as a whole. We see humanity, people. All we care about is saving lives, any lives and creating a future where people are safe.” it was true, very true. They had personnel from every country and religion in the world and never once had there been a fight among their own numbers about it.
Why? Because when you became a slayer, when you joined the 'protectors of the world' club it really was about the world and not just the little corner you came from. It wasn't just a PR spiel, it was the truth. A truth she'd gotten up close and personal with in all her years of traveling to gather slayers, set up schools and fight the good fight. It was more than just a lesson she'd realized the value of but something that held infinite potential. “So we started schools. You can't change the world with one generation, with one small group of people trying to change the way six billion people think. Yes, the majority of our students end up joining the IWC but the ones that don't go home. They go into the world and they try to make a difference. Someday they might save thousands of lives, or maybe just one. But its a start.”
It was the truth. Yes, every student that went to one of the Academies ended up working for the IWC in some capacity but it wasn't the way people might think. Active slayers were all required to go on to college at least part time, one in five of them doing it through long distance or online courses, but it was because they wanted the girls to have lives outside being a slayer. To have other options in life besides devoting everything they had and were to fighting evil. True, most of them chose education paths that allowed them to take on other work with the IWC but that was their choice. And the other students, those with other skills like magic or a hundred other things, they offered them the same options the slayers got. And that wasn't even counting the adults they'd recruited over the years or the members of slayer families that had joined the cause. It was why they'd gone from the core Scoobies to almost eighteen thousand slayers and personnel in just seven years. And they were still growing.
He met her gaze, studied her. Like he was trying to read every aspect of her. She could almost see his mind working behind his eyes. “You're trying to save the world.”
A shrug, a half smile. “Try?” oh if he only knew.
Please review. I need the distraction from wedding plans before I go postal on someone and end up in jail. (sadly I'm not kidding either)