A/N: I do not own Criminal Minds or Harry Potter. (Though it would be really awesome if I did.)
"Are we there yet?"
Hermione ground her teeth as her ears were assaulted by the annoying whine that was Alan Vick's voice. The money launderer was perched in the middle of the SUV's back seat. From this position, he had started talking as soon as they'd pulled out of the Spokane Police Department parking lot.
Next to her Morgan's fingers tightened on the steering wheel, going almost white. A muscle ticked in his jaw.
She'd sensed that he hadn't been pleased to be put on protective detail when the team was moving in to take down Vick's former boss, a Russian mafia official. Her presence on this detail did nothing to make the assignment easier. Hermione had been suddenly sprung on the team by Unit Chief Cruz as part of the Magical Auror exchange program. However the team didn't know that she was a witch – Cruz was the only person who knew her true affiliations. The minute she'd been introduced to the team she'd realized there would be tension. And sitting next to a man who was a ball of tension at the moment, she knew she'd been right.
Derek Morgan didn't trust her so much she could smell it on him like cologne.
If Morgan thought that he was getting a crappy assignment on Vick's protective detail, Hermione thought, he had no idea what a crappy assignment really looked like.
After finishing their final year at Hogwarts Harry and Hermione had been called to a mysterious meeting by Kingsley Shacklebolt, the Prime Minister of the Magical United Kingdom. He'd explained that there were a vast number of free Death Eaters still in England and the Auror force, along with Magical Law Enforcement wasn't equipped to catch them. The Death Eaters had been forming groups that still terrorized the people of Europe, despite their leadership being destroyed. On the whole they weren't a threat to the government or to muggles. But the public lived in fear of these people, and their numbers were growing. At the conclusion of the meeting, Harry had been appointed Commander of Dumbledore's Army. Hermione had been declared, Lieutenant Commander, Harry's right hand. Ron had elected to join the Chuddley Cannons, which effectively ended their relationship because neither wanted to do the long distance thing. The D.A. had quickly rebuilt itself and folded members of local militias into its ranks until their numbers swelled to thousands. Their mission was to ensure the safety of the Magical United Kingdom, while the Aurors focused more on investigations and crime. Each magical community had an outpost of D.A. troops to maintain the peace, except of course in Southern England, where the Death Eaters kept a strong hold. No one had managed to breach their borders.
Two months ago, Hermione had been hunting fleeing Death Eaters in Surrey when she'd been captured. The collective of Death Eaters had formed a cartel of sorts that controlled the local Auror office and ran a variety of magical drugs in Southern England. Hermione and Harry had been called in by Gawain Robards, the head of the Auror Department when he realized the situation. The assignment was supposed to be simple, but had turned out to be anything but. That day in Surrey, Hermione had led a squad of soldiers into an ambush. The intention had been to take her alive and use her to get Harry. She'd been tortured again. Beaten, stabbed and had her fingernails removed. Harry had rescued her, yet again. All of the soldiers had been killed. Then the Death Eaters had placed a bounty of one million galleons on her head. There had been three attempts on her life just during her recovery time.
Two weeks later she'd been reassigned to the Aurors and then transferred to the FBI like she was an unwanted step child. She'd met with the Director of the FBI while they'd gone over her cover. To the members of the BAU she was a Captain in the British Army and a member of the Intelligence Division. Beyond that they would reveal no details about her unless it was necessary.
"Do you want to get out?" Hermione asked dryly.
"Are you kidding? It's raining buckets out there and we're in the middle of nowhere!" Vick exclaimed.
"Then we aren't there yet," She told him.
Alan Vick shifted his weight in the back seat, rattling his chains and glaring at her. She ignored him and also Morgan who gave her what felt like the tenth side eye of the day.
"So what'd you do to piss Agent Superman over there off," Vick questioned her.
Hermione ignored the taunt.
"Well big guy? She isn't going to tell me." Vick smiled his thick moustache curving upwards. It reminded her of a dead mouse because of its dull brown color. "Oh, wait, am I sensing something? This isn't professional is it? This is personal. Did you two break up? Let me guess- it was her. She doesn't love you anymore so she got rid of your ass, didn't she?"
Hermione's lips twitched slightly when Morgan looked revolted. She had no idea if he had a girlfriend but assumed he did. The pretty ones were never single.
"You know what you should win her back with a grand romantic gesture. I've always liked those, but I've never been a big enough idiot to need to use one. There's this huge meteor shower coming up next week. Plan a picnic and a passionate declaration of your love-"
"I don't need romantic advice from you," Morgan broke in, turning down the long driveway to the remote farmhouse they were staying in. "Also, we're not together nor have we ever been."
"So you just have stick up your ass all the time?" The money launderer asked.
"I cannot wait to see you behind bars," Morgan growled, stopping the car in front of the safe house.
"I think I'll fare nicely in prison," Vick announced as Hermione came around and opened his door. "Especially since I'm not going."
"You really think you'll be that lucky at trial," Morgan asked.
"Maybe I will," The short man responded.
In the next second a shot rang out, whizzing by Hermione's head. Morgan grabbed Vick and threw him to the ground. Hermione drew her gun as she dropped to the ground, firing back in the general direction of the shots, at the roof of the detached garage. Her third shot hit a shadowy figure, and he grunted as he tumbled from the roof to the ground with a loud crash. Rising to her feet she took raced to the person, intent on disarming him. She caught the man by the lapels of his jacket, jerking him out of the bushes he'd landed in and shoving him face first to the ground. She saw a high powered rifle laying in the bushes behind him as she forced his hands behind his back and cuffed them.
"Hey!" Morgan's yell startled her and she whipped around to see Alan Vick sprinting away.
She grabbed her semiconscious charge and pulled him over to the metal drain pipe which she fastened him to with a second set of cuffs she transfigured from her scarf. Deciding he was as secure as he'd ever be she left the sharpshooter behind to chase after her partner.
It didn't take her long to find him at the edge of the woods, looking furious. With caution she approached him.
"Which way did he go?"
"The trees are so damn thick I can't even tell. The rain made it too slick for the mud to hold tracks. He got up here before I got around the side of the house," Morgan spat.
Hermione nodded, and ventured a ways up the poorly marked dirt path, hunting for clues as to where their fugitive had gone.
"There aren't any tracks," the agent repeated with irritation.
She ignored him, and continued to observe the grassy area for any disturbed patches that the untrained eye might miss.
"You're not going to find anything," Morgan called to her. "I'm calling in for backup and seeing if we can't get a chopper in the air. Maybe some dogs, too. He won't get far."
He didn't sound very confident. The woods were dense and if a man knew what he was doing he could hide out there for weeks. Alan Vick had been an avid hunter. A fear that he'd just let a fugitive escape was growing in Morgan as he reported to Penelope and hung up. He stood back and watched Granger hunt for nothing in the grass.
"He went this way," Hermione said pointing to a grassy area just off the path.
Morgan looked, searching for something he'd missed. There was nothing in the area to indicate that someone had walked there.
"You can't tell that," he snapped, frustrated.
"Actually, city boy, I can," Hermione hissed back, her patience breaking. "These duller patches of grass are caused by his footprints. He stayed off the path to prevent tracks, but because of the rain his steps wash away the dampness. Where he hasn't stepped is shiny and where he has is dull. Trackers call it a ghost sign."
Derek looked again, to find that she was right. The grass was slightly darker where she had pointed. "I'll call in our position. Can you track him?"
They continued up the mountain in silence, Hermione leading. She kept a close eye on the ground, spotting tracks and occasionally relying on instinct and picking the path of least resistance. She successfully tracked him over the rough terrain, leading them to a flat area. There the tracks ended. Hermione stopped, confused. Morgan climbed over the ridge behind her, panting slightly. There was a twinge of pride in her chest when she realized that she wasn't even winded. All those training expeditions with the D.A. had made her used to moving over all kinds of ground, from rugged forests to beaches and mudflats.
"He stops here for some reason." She turned in a careful circle looking for anything out of the ordinary. Seeing nothing she crouched down and put her head right next to the ground, leaning to the side so that she could see the lay of the land more clearly.
"What on earth are you doing?" Morgan asked.
"There are tracks around here somewhere. A lower perspective can help me find them. Just from seeing where the dust and water settles gives it away sometimes."
"It's like having my own Sacajawea," Derek commented, looking at her strangely. "They teach you to do this in the Army?"
"Some. My father taught me more." She pushed up and moved to a pile of leaves, carefully moving them aside. A clear footprint was revealed. "Here. He's turned back on the trail now, probably thinking he's out run us."
"He couldn't have run up that mountain it was riddled with holes, vines and underbrush," Morgan said, sounding disgusted.
"Not a big fan of hiking I take it?" She asked.
"I like hiking when it's on a trail. A clearly marked trail with signs and grading so that the hills are easier to get up. You must hike all the time or live at the gym."
There was something like respect in his tone and she noted it, but didn't read too much into it. He was probably just happy they were able to track this guy before he got very far. From what little she knew about Derek Morgan she assumed that he detested failure of any sort.
"The ruck marches are nothing to sneeze at," Hermione offered as an explanation. "The officers will always chose the harder route. Bonus points for knee high mud and freezing temperatures."
She was usually the one ordering those ruck marches, but she didn't mention that, knowing it conflicted with her cover.
"How much farther do you think he got? I chased him down last week and he wasn't that fast."
"I think he'll run as far as he assumes is needed and then hole up somewhere. He'll need access to water. Do you hear that?"
They paused, listening.
"Running water. There's a river up here somewhere that runs down the mountain. I saw it on Reid's map."
"He'll probably use it to disguise his scent from the dogs and store some water. Let's go," Hermione said drawing her weapon again.
They proceeded following the trail. It was easier to track him now that he was on the path. Hermione could see spots where the leaves were crunched down and even noted a few clear prints. They were getting close, she could feel it. Around the next bend they came upon the river, swollen beyond its borders from the rain. In a little while it would go down, washing away the majority of their fugitive's scent. Though she didn't want to be, Hermione found herself impressed with the amount of thought Alan Vick had put into running even while on the fly.
Following the tracks, she veered off the path again, moving silently towards the river. Derek trialed closely after her. The duo reached the edge of the river, where the tracks were clear in the mud, weaving in and out of the water. He'd done an effective job of masking his scent, Hermione realized, deciding that she'd underestimated Vick's intelligence. Ahead of her she caught a slight movement and snapped her head around, staring in that direction. An ancient tree, with half of its trunk gone somehow still managed to stand up right against the elements.
Was it hollow?
If so, it would be a great hiding place. Hermione made her way towards it, keeping one eye on the tracks she could just barely make out as they left the muddy river bank and stepped on to grass. Morgan followed her silently, gripping his gun tighter as he caught the tension in Hermione's body language.
"Come out, Vick. I know you're in that tree, because I can see your foot sticking out. I will shoot you if you run," Hermione announced.
"You can't shoot me, it's illegal!" His shrill voice came from inside the tree.
"There are no witnesses," Hermione responded coldly. "You have three seconds to come out before I pull the trigger. One. Two."
Hands emerged first, from around side of the tree, followed by the pale face of Alan Vick. Morgan moved forward and cuffed the former accountant while Hermione held him at gun point.
"Just get me out of here, guys. It was cold in that tree and I didn't have a coat," Vick shivered violently and Hermione could see the gooseflesh on his arms in the chilly Northwestern fall air. However, he'd made them climb up a mountain and get soaked to the knees in mud, leaves and rain water; Hermione didn't feel much sympathy for him. Morgan led him back toward the trail and they began down it. Half way down Hermione offered to take a hold of Vick to give Derek a break. He gladly complied as the trail became much steeper downwards and she was much more surefooted. Deliberately she led him to the most difficult path. Only a few steps down it, Vick hit a rough patch and tumbled down the hill into a mud puddle.
"Whoops," Hermione sighed emotionlessly, sliding down to grab onto the criminal.
Morgan laughed, for the first time since she'd met him ten days ago as she dragged the squealing ex-fugitive to his feet.
She didn't bother to wipe the wet mud off of Vick, despite knowing he was probably freezing between his wet clothes and the wind. Their group made it down the mountain in a fraction of the time it had taken them to get up it. Just as they were crossing the field between the house and the mountain six SUV's raced down the drive and fanned out in the farmyard.
Tired, muddy and cold, the three came around the side of the house, almost walking into Hotch.
"You caught him," Their boss said, unable to mask his surprise. His eyes skimmed over the three of them with something Hermione thought might be concern.
"Yep," Morgan said, reaching over and catching Vick's arm. "Let's get our runner in a car, where he can't escape again."
He walked off, flanked by a group of agents wearing FBI windbreakers who all kept a close eye on the handcuffed accountant. Hotch watched them walk away, and then turned to Hermione.
"How?" Was his only word.
"I track him through the woods," Hermione said. He glowered down at her. She knew that Hotch hated being over ridden by Cruz, and even more than that, hated working with someone he hadn't personally hired and vetted. To him Hermione Granger was a wild card and this man didn't like wild cards. He reminded her a little of her father and it made her edgy. She'd felt the glare of her father's disapproval more than once in recent years since she'd restored his memory. Now she could see it in Hotch's face, but firmly reminded herself it wasn't her fault. She'd done nothing to deserve his censure. Hermione raised her chin and met his eyes, looking at him with a blank stare.
They watched each other like that for a long minute.
"Good work," Hotch said finally. "But next time don't go into unknown terrain without a group to back you up. He could have gotten the drop on you or separated you. Wait, we can always bring in dogs."
Hermione resisted the urge to say that she was an expert in unknown terrain and that she and Derek had been perfectly fine. Here, she followed orders, she didn't give them. In the last few days she'd reminded herself of that more times than she could count.
They booked Vick into jail, changed into fresh clothes and finalized paperwork on the arrest of Vick's boss. In the early morning hours the team boarded the jet bound for Quantico and settled in for a long flight. Hermione dozed, unable to fall asleep around people she didn't trust regardless of exhaustion. A weight settled beside her and she opened her eyes to see Derek Morgan filling the seat next to her. He carried a blanket which he passed to her.
"It looked like you could use this," He said awkwardly.
"Thank you," Hermione replied, a bit confused by his gesture. She unfolded the blanket and drew it up to her chin, snuggling into it. Morgan watched her carefully before he spoke.
"I'm glad you were out there with me. Alan Vick may have gotten away without your help."
"I'm sure you'd have eventually found him," Hermione reassured.
"I doubt it. He'd covered his scent well and with all that rain…." He trailed off.
Hermione stayed silent because he was right. She'd only been being nice by not pointing it out.
"I know I haven't been receptive to having you here and neither has the team." Morgan's words sounded rehearsed, but still genuine, as if he'd put a lot of thought into them. "But I've gotten the sense that you aren't here willingly either."
It was a question not a statement, and Hermione shrugged noncommittally. The last thing she wanted to do was insult him by telling him she'd rather be somewhere else. The BAU was an elite unit in the muggle world, but she had no desire to be anywhere but back in England, hunting Death Eaters. A sliver of guilt worked its way into her chest as she considered that there were hundreds of people who wished they could have her current job.
"Regardless, I can see you're an asset to the team. I'm sorry for being so brusque the past few weeks."
Looking into his whiskey colored eyes, Hermione realized that he was actually troubled over his treatment of her. She'd pegged him as a thoughtful person after a couple days of working with him, but she was surprised that he'd take the time to apologize to a woman he barely knew.
"Thank you. I didn't blame you, I can appreciate that it was a difficult situation for everyone," She told him honestly.
"That doesn't excuse me borderline ignoring you and snarling at your every comment," Morgan insisted. She nodded, not knowing what to say to reassure him.
The pair settled into a comfortable silence as the rest of the plane was asleep. Rossi snored quietly and JJ had slumped onto Reid's shoulder a few minutes ago. Hermione shut her eyes again and accepted that it would be several hours before she got to sleep.
"Are you an insomniac," Morgan asked quietly.
Hermione's eyes opened. "No. Why?"
"We've been awake at least thirty six hours, hiked up a mountain and yet you're still awake. Is it the plane?"
Uncomfortable, Hermione shrugged. Admitting that she didn't trust him and the team, and therefore couldn't sleep, wasn't an admission she wanted to make to a man who'd just apologized to her.
"I have trouble sleeping around other people," She said finally when he kept waiting for a response.
"Around people, or around people you don't know?" His knowing gaze bore into her.
"The second one," Hermione admitted.
Morgan grinned, striking her with how handsome he was when he smiled.
"I have nightmares about my… ah, deployments," Hermione admitted looking away.
"You've been in combat," Derek, said as though stating a fact.
Her brow crinkled when she regarded at him again, knowing that wasn't a logical observation. In the Muggle armed forces, women had been kept out of combat with a fervor until recently.
"You have a certain quality about you that's battle hardened. Rossi's the one who picked up on it."
She breathed out a deep breath and then nodded, watching him for a reaction. Seeing none she relaxed. Hermione didn't understand why but she always watched the reactions of the people she told about her service. Inexplicably, the reaction she hated the most was admiration.
"You trust me, at least a little, don't you?" Morgan asked her suddenly.
"Yes," Hermione responded.
"If I stay with you, will you at least try to fall asleep?"
"Of course," She said immediately. Her whole body was crying for some rest and the drive home would be much easier with a nap behind her. Enviously her eyes drifted to the rest of the plane, where the rest of the BAU was relaxed into unconsciousness.
Morgan rose and snagged a pillow off of the adjacent seat and handed it to her. "Curl up however is comfortable for you but keep your hand on my arm. The touch should calm your subconscious enough for you to sleep."
Hermione didn't buy it, but she was tired enough that she did so, not wanting to refuse and offend her new found ally. With the pillow she was much more comfortable. Under her palm the heat from Derek's arm warmed her, reminding her that he was watching out for her. Within a few minutes she was dozing. Seconds later she dropped off into a deep sleep, unaware that Derek remained awake, keeping his promise and watching over her as she slept.
Please leave me a review. I'm trying to expand my short story writing capabilities, so if you have a Hermione/Derek idea, send it my way. I promise to at least consider it.