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This story is No. 2 in the series "Quirky Next Door". You may wish to read the series introduction and the preceeding stories first.

Summary: After the Reaper, a prickly silence settles over the Hotchner household into which blunder the Summers sisters with their "I'm sorry that you were nearly murdered by a serial killer" cobbler, inappropriate t-shirts, and bright chatter.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Television > Criminal MindsCrunchysunrisesFR1311,5791253,6133 May 143 May 14Yes
Title: Unwinding

Fandom: Criminal Minds/Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Rating: G

Content Notes: mentions of the Reaper

Disclaimer: I have no rights to or within the Criminal Minds or Buffy the Vampire Slayer franchises, copyrights, characters or trademarks. This is for fun, not profit.

Summary: After the Reaper, a prickly silence settles over the Hotchner household into which blunder the Summers sisters with their "I'm sorry that you were nearly murdered by a serial killer" cobbler, inappropriate t-shirts, and bright chatter.

Additional Notes: This fic fills Blancesque's prompt for Wishlist 2013 which was "Could you please write more in your Of Slayers and Serial Killers 'verse?" Also fills the "lacerations / knife wounds" square on my Hurt/Comfort Bingo card and the "Criminal Minds, Any, Unwinding after a case" prompt on fic_promptly.

After the Reaper, (which was shorthand in Haley’s mind for ‘after the time that Aaron’s work followed him home, destroyed their lives, and nearly murdered them’,) living in their Virginia house is strange.

The house is haunted with memories from her short marriage, both the good and the bad, and Jack’s childhood and the afternoon that she was nearly murdered. The neighborhood looks thin and insubstantial to Haley’s eyes, a paper façade of safety and security that could be torn away in an instant. And Haley, who had gotten used to running and hiding, startles at unfamiliar noises. The house in Virginia makes a great many now unfamiliar noises as it settles for the night.

(Each one terrifies Haley.)

Jack, of course, sleeps like a log and Haley is grateful for it.

Aaron takes a leave of absence from his precious BAU, ostensibly to consider his future, potentially in another FBI unit. Haley, who did not divorce Aaron because she fell out of love with him, knows what he will ultimately decide. When the shock and terror wear off, he will return to the BAU.

But, when Aaron offers to stay over that first night, Haley lets him. She lets him practically move in with her and Jack during his leave of absence and it would be a lie to say that Haley does not find comfort in his familiar presence.

Aaron is a good man who takes emergency preparedness and protecting his family very seriously. He is the fruition of what she had seen all those years ago in the worst Number Four Pirate that the drama club had ever had the misfortune of acquiring. He is still very much the person that Haley fell in love with but she knows now that her love (or even Jack’s love) is not enough to hold him to them. Aaron has too many demons in his past to ever leave his work, not even for the sake of the ones he loves (and who (still) love him in return, despite their near brush with death.) His loved ones will always come second to his criminals.

Haley resents their holding pattern (and the tantalizing lie that she might be enough for Aaron this time, that this time he might choose them over his hopeless crusade against the past,) even as she clings to it.

Her sister Jessica comes, fusses over her and Jack and Aaron, and kindly refrains from asking Haley what the hell she and Aaron are doing.

Sean drops in the day after Jessica leaves, as if they had planned it that way between them, his motorcycle robbing his visit of the element of surprise. He loves Aaron as fiercely as Aaron loves him but both men possess the knack of saying the exact wrong thing to each other at any given moment. Sean knows as well as Haley that, though Aaron is playing house with her and Jack now, Aaron will never be able to stay.

Unlike Haley, however, Sean says as much when he catches Aaron agonizing over his team’s latest case, out of state and away from Aaron’s influence. Always well-meaning, Sean nevertheless manages to make an uncomfortable situation worse.

Into their prickly twilight blunder the Summers sisters, all bright smiles and quick, comforting patter. They bring with them a t-shirt and the saddest cobbler that Haley has ever seen.

“It’s an ‘I’m sorry that you were nearly murdered’ cobbler,” Buffy tells Haley earnestly, her little sister standing at her side and holding the cobbler. It makes Haley simultaneously flinch at the reminder and smile at the absurdity. The little sister hefts the baked good, holding it before them like an offering, when Buffy adds, “It tastes better than it looks.”

“I’m sure it does,” Haley says, because it would almost have to.

“And we made you a shirt,” says the sister, which seems to be the cue for Buffy to pass Haley a black, folded up t-shirt.

Haley shakes out the shirt, intent on making a show of appreciating it even though t-shirts are not her style, when the slogan printed across the shirt’s front startles a laugh out of her.

It says, “I was nearly murdered by a serial killer and all I got was this lousy t-shirt.”

“Thank you,” says Haley, genuinely meaning it. She flops the shirt across one shoulder, takes the cobbler, and steps back, allowing them access to the house, and says, “Won’t you come in?”

The sisters both flinch then smile. They wipe their feet, step into Haley’s house, and Haley closes the door behind them. The sisters hang their coats on the indicated hooks and follow Haley back into the kitchen, where Jack and Aaron are coloring together at the kitchen table. Sean is there too, puttering around with dinner.

“Our neighbors brought us an ‘I’m sorry that you were nearly murdered’ cobbler,” Haley says as she sets the cobbler on the table. “Aaron, would you make sure that everyone gets a piece? I think there’s ice cream in the freezer. I’ll be right back.”

As Haley leaves the kitchen, she hears Buffy introduce her sister as ‘Dawn Summers’ and commits the name to memory this time.

In the downstairs bathroom, Haley pulls her new t-shirt on over her sweater. When she returns, Aaron and Dawn are putting together plates, Dawn cutting the cobbler into rough squares and Aaron adding a round scoop of ice cream. Sean is stirring something and flirting with Buffy, who seems to be supervising. Jack was ignoring them all, too busy with his masterpiece to care what the adults got up to.

“Haley,” Aaron gasps, catching a glimpse of Haley in her new (and highly irreverent) t-shirt. He nearly drops a plate. Fortunately, Buffy catches it – cobbler, ice cream, and all – and then hisses through her teeth. The plate of cobbler, however, remains steady in her hand.

“Haley…” Aaron begins to say only to be cut off by Dawn.

“Your stitches, Buffy,” Dawn scolds. She snatches the plate away from her sister and sets it on the counter with a careless clatter. “Let me see.”

“I’m fine,” Buffy insists but holds out her arm toward Dawn, who takes her wrist in one hand and clumsily tries to work her sleeve up with the other. When Buffy tries to help, Dawn slaps her fingers away. Shooting a wry look at Haley and Aaron over Dawn’s stiff shoulder, Buffy says, presumably for their benefit, “She’s been a total Nurse Ratchet since I got hurt.”

Although she is complaining, Buffy does not sound entirely displeased.

“That’s because you’re always fine,” admonishes Dawn “even when you’re not.”

Surprisingly, Sean abandons his gently bubbling pot to help. He works Buffy’s sleeve up over her elbow and whistles at the pristine expanse of Buffy’s bandages, which run from wrist to elbow. Even from where she is standing, Haley can see how light his fingertips are against the inside of Buffy’s arm.

“Does this hurt?” asks Dawn. And so saying, she runs a finger along the underside of Buffy’s forearm.

“Of course it hurts,” Buffy yelps, pulling away from her sister’s outstretched finger. “I’ve got open wounds and stitches under there!”

“More than usual?”

“No, I don’t think so,” Buffy says, which makes Dawn huff impatiently but the line of Dawn’s shoulders noticeably relaxes.

“Be more careful,” Dawn scolds as Sean carefully pulled Buffy’s sleeve over her bandages. “And let more things hit the ground. I’d rather clean them up than have you pop your stitches again.”

“Again?” asks Haley, alarmed.

“The last time Buffy had stitches, she popped them,” Dawn reports matter of factly. “She’s not good at being sick or injured.”

“There were extenuating circumstances!”

“The ice cream’s melting,” Aaron notes, effectively breaking up the sisterly squabble. The girls immediately claim seats and plates of ice cream and cobbler. Haley joins them at the table and, after putting away the tub of ice cream, so does Aaron. Sean fiddles with his food a bit longer then claims a plate and returns to eat at the counter, keeping a weary eye on his pots and pans.

Haley is not up for small talk and Aaron was never particularly good at it so it falls to Sean and the sisters Summers to carry the conversation, which they do beautifully. By the time that the sisters take their leave, Haley is more relaxed than she has been since this whole mess started. And, although he would never admit it, so is Aaron. Sean is whistling to himself as he works.

“I think we should invite them to a ‘Thank you for jumping through a plate glass window’ dinner,” Sean casually announces. “Don’t worry. It won’t be any extra work for you, Haley. I’ll cook it.”

Even though a mere dinner will never, ever be enough to express her full gratitude, Haley smothers a smile and says, “If you feel up to it. I’d hate to put you to work on your vacation days.”

“It’s no trouble,” Sean says too quickly.

Aaron rolls his eyes.

And Haley laughs.

The End

You have reached the end of "Unwinding". This story is complete.

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