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From the Inside Out

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Summary: Buffy reminds Aaron Hotchner of a different blonde woman he failed to save.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Television > Criminal MindselviFR1811,057393,22319 Jul 1119 Jul 11Yes
Disclaimer: Criminal Minds does not belong to me. Buffy does not belong to me.
Notes: I’m not really sure where this came from or where I expect it to go but yeah. Here it is.
Warning: slightly dark. But just slightly.

Some people care too much. I think it’s called love. – Winnie the Pooh

Aaron Hotchner took in the young girl in the hospital bed. He already knew from her chart and file that she was actually a grown woman of twenty-eight years, but her frail blonde frame in the bed made her look no older than a small child.

It had been almost a week since he had carried her into this hospital, and for all intents and purposes, her wounds had healed and she was free to go. But Aaron knew better, he knew that after what she had been through, after how he had found her, she would never be the same woman.

Spencer Reid had argued extensively with the hospital to allow her one more week under observation. Her body was fine, he had agreed, but her mind was damaged to such an extent that there was no possible way she could be released. Reid had even raised his voice in insistence.

They had found her locked in the basement of a crazed religious psychopath, chained and drugged and beaten within an inch of her life. The doctors had all marveled at the simple fact that she was even alive, and had wasted no breath making sure she knew that. That was, until the tiny blonde woman broke the doctor’s nose for telling her how lucky she was.

She wasn’t lucky, Aaron knew. She wasn’t lucky to have survived the torture and the abuse. And she certainly was not lucky to have to live out the rest of her life with the scars embedded on her skin and in her brain. She was strong. She was strong and determined and Aaron and Spencer knew that she had only survived because of the sheer strength of her will. They had messed up in finding her, and Aaron blamed himself. If she hadn’t been so strong, she would be dead. None of the victims lived to see the eighth day, and they had broken her chains on the tenth.

He visited her every second of his free time, but could not bring himself to speak to her. So every day, he walked into her room and simply watched her from the doorway. He couldn’t burn out the image of her battered body on that floor, and couldn’t erase her whimperings from his brain. She had clung so hard to his neck when he lifted her off the floor, and she could not would not let go of him even as he set her down in the ambulance.

“You’re Agent Hotchner right?”

Aaron turned towards the voice on his left. Dawn Summers was the spitting image of the last twelve victims – tall, brunette, and with large blue eyes that were currently rimmed with tears. His team had been so confused when they found Buffy. She was the wrong kind of victim, and as Aaron looked into the bloodshot eyes of the young woman in front of him, he realized that Buffy hadn’t even been the target.

“No one was protecting her. No one even thought to protect her. They were all so busy protecting me and Buffy always protects me. She always protects everyone. She tried so hard to protect Christina and we all thought that I needed protecting so they were all so busy trying to keep me safe and no one protected Buffy. Who is supposed to protect Buffy?” Dawn was crying again, and Aaron put his arms around her because that’s what you’re supposed to do with the victim’s families when their big sisters are lying in hospital beds because they were kidnapped and tortured.

Aaron finally made it to Buffy’s bedside on the day of her release. Spencer had pushed for more time, but the hospital had refused, making it very clear that they believed Buffy should find more specialized treatment somewhere else.

She was sitting there staring at her hands when he walked in. They were still scarred and bruised, and Aaron suspected they would be for the remainder of her life. The appearance of her knuckles and nails upon her admittance had shown that Buffy had fought extremely hard for her life. And without thinking, he strode to her side and took her hands in his own. They were so small and frail and fit perfectly into his.

Even bruised and pale and haggard, Buffy’s strength radiated through. When her eyes met his, Aaron was taken aback by what he saw. She didn’t have strength – she was strength. She was strength and pride and beauty and confidence and Aaron didn’t doubt for a minute that she had fought with every ounce of strength for every second of the time she had been down there.

She gave him a small brief smile and squeezed his hands and Aaron felt her wince when he heard Dawn’s voice from outside the door.

Who is supposed to protect Buffy? The last words Dawn Summers had said to him flashed through his mind. He wasn’t quite sure what drove him to it, but he remembered Dawn’s eyes, and then Buffy’s eyes, and for a split second Buffy wasn’t looking at him anymore. There was a different blonde woman looking at him begging him to save her, and his heart dropped into his stomach and he pulled Buffy’s hands closer to his chest and he give her the same tight-lipped smile she had given him.

“I will protect you Buffy. And I’m sorry about not protecting you before, but I will make sure nothing like this ever happens to you again.”

And Buffy’s façade faltered for a minute as she looked at this tired man who had rescued her from that basement and was promising to protect her now.

“Yeah okay.”

If you believe the doctors, nothing is wholesome; if you believe the theologians, nothing is innocent; if you believe the military, nothing is safe. – Lord Salisbury

Note: I know technically he didn’t fail to save Haley, but I think he would see it that way, at least for a pretty long time. And yes, I called him Aaron instead of Hotch on purpose. Not sure why.

The End

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