Title: Cold Land Blues
Fandom: Criminal Minds
Universe: Born to be Mild (Part 7)
Characters/Pairing: Team - gen
Summary: All flights are cancelled, thanks to wild weather. Luckily, Garcia had planned for this eventuality. JJ and Rossi are morbidly curious, while Hotch surprises everyone.
There was snow everywhere.
It had come down hard, in the hours after they'd apprehended the unsub, "apprehended" being absolutely the wrong word for the situation. He'd gone down in a hail of bullets, crimson blood blossoming against the pale white beneath him. They were all drained, physically, and emotionally, and wanted nothing more than to get on the jet and just go home.
Unfortunately, Mother Nature seemed to have skipped that memo.
So they were stuck at the motel, waiting for JJ to get the call from the pilots, who are still back at Quantico. At minimum, according to the weather forecast, it will be at least twelve hours before they're going anywhere.
The motel had a small conference room, with bad coffee and uncomfortable chairs, but it was heated, and it was more convenient for them all to congregate than the motel rooms themselves, where they'd be spread out on beds or the floor. In any case, they'd already checked out, because Strauss would cut a bitch if the budget paid for one more night than was necessary.
Emily stared out the window, nursing a full cup of coffee. She'd seen far too much snow in her life to be excited by it anymore. Now, it was just an annoyance.
'Penny for your thoughts,' JJ said, sliding into the chair next to Emily. She had her own cup of coffee, and her own tired, drawn expression. It was worse for JJ, Emily reasons – she had someone to go home to. She called Henry every night she was away, but it wasn't the same thing.
'I have solved the problem,' Garcia announced, plonking her purse down on the table, staring at them triumphantly. Emily blinked. She'd accompanied them on the case because of the unsub's technical expertise, and for some reason, she seemed far less put off by the snow than the rest of them. Maybe it was because she'd grown up in San Francisco, where snow like this wasn't very common at all.
Maybe it was because she had her own nefarious plans.
'Solved the problem?' Rossi asked, curious.
Garcia pulled the laptop from her purse, along with a small box, and some sheets of paper. Emily looked at the box. She knew that box.
'Oh, no, Garcia, not now,' Emily said, half exasperated. Reid and Morgan picked up on it too. Morgan was similarly reluctant, but Reid seemed as enthusiastic as Emily had ever seen him.
'What?' asked JJ with a frown. 'What's going on?'
'We,' Garcia declared, 'Are going to play Dungeons and Dragons.'
The expression JJ gave was one of bewilderment, whilst Rossi's, interestingly, was amusement. Over in the corner of the room, Hotch seemed impassive, but Emily swore that she saw a twitch of a smile out of the corner of his eye.
'Garcia…' Morgan started. 'I don't think now is really a good time.'
'It's either that, or sit around mournfully drinking coffee all day.'
'Fine,' Morgan conceded. 'But I didn't exactly bring any of my stuff.'
'Never fear,' Garcia said, twirling a piece of paper with unnecessary flourish. The next words she spoke were to Reid. 'Boy wonder, have you been using your powers for good?'
'If you're asking me whether I have their character sheets memorized, then yes.'
'Good,' Garcia nodded. 'Do you think maybe you could whip up a couple of easy characters for Rossi and JJ?'
'Wait, hold on a minute,' JJ interrupted. 'I didn't agree to anything.'
Garcia pouted. 'Come on, Jayj. I mean, I can understand you not wanting to come to Comic-Con, but this is different – none of us are creepy nerds. Plus it's good practice when Reid is teaching Henry how to speak Elvish.'
JJ's eyes widened in horror at that thought, but she didn't express any further complaints. There wasn't really a lot to do beside look through the window and stare at the snow.
'Hotch, the Mighty,' Garcia said, turning to the Unit Chief. 'Are you in?'
'No, thank-you, Garcia.' Hotch was going over paperwork, which, in no way surprised Emily. If he got it done now, then he'd be able to get home to Jack that much quicker once they made it back to Quantico.
'Okay then, crime fighters and dragon slayers. Newbies, pick a partner to help you play the game. I'll try to keep things simple. We'll probably just have to pretend that Gryorden left the bathroom fire burning at his Chateau, so he trudged home to go put it out. Reid?'
'Almost done,' Reid said, scribbling a few last notes to the page. 'It's pretty basic, and you're both fighters, because that's the easiest class to play. Probably not the best time to teach you about the intricacies of spellcasting.' JJ nodded, clearly not understanding a single word that Reid had said.
Emily took a quick look at Rossi's hastily made character sheet. David Rosserio, 52 year old fighter. She bit back a laugh. Apparently being a genius didn't help when you had to quickly pick a name for someone.
'Okay,' she told him, 'Most of these numbers don't really mean much until you get into a battle, or you want to attempt something out of the ordinary, like climbing a wall, or…' She grinned at the next memory, 'Leaping across a fiery chasm. It's probably easier to pick it up as you go.'
'I can do that,' Rossi said. Emily shook her head. 'What?' Rossi asked.
'I don't get it,' Emily said. 'First Grand Theft Auto, now this? It's like you're trying to bring yourself into contemporary society.'
'The more I know, the better profiler I am,' he reasoned. 'And if that's nerd stuff, then so be it.'
'Okay.' Garcia clapped her hands together. 'Do we all remember where we were last time?'
'In the snow,' Morgan replied bitterly. 'You made me roll a fortitude save because I stood in the cold for too long.'
'Well you should have worn socks!' She shook her head. 'Anyway…you were in The Cold Lands, to be precise – on your way to the Great Glacier.'
It was cold – so cold – and Amari pulled her cloak around her a little bit tighter. The snow had diminished to just a few scattered flakes, but the weather had impeded their progress greatly.
She frowned. In the distance, there were two shadowy shapes. 'Do you see that?' she called out to Roger, who was inexplicably polishing his sword.
'Probably just someone else, walking through an icy blizzard looking for a glacier,' he said, with just the slightest hint of bitterness.
'Huh,' Amari said, under her breath, adding, 'What a crazy, random happenstance.'
'Hi,' said the first of the strangers, a grizzled older man. 'Dave, JJ.' He gestured towards his companion, who looked like she might have been blonde, but it was hard to tell, under all the layers. 'We're questing, can we join you?'
'Sure thing,' Siegfried agreed jovially. 'We're going in search of the lost city of Gharreil, so if either of you are thieves or heretics, you'd better say so now.'
('Okay, who's ready for some Frost Giants?'
'Ugh. Seriously, Garcia? Frost Giants? Again?'
'Hey, it's not my fault that last time you were too busy arguing about campfires to notice the half dozen big, blue, bearded men with giant swords sneaking up on you.'
'Um…so what are we doing?'
'First of all, we need to roll initiative, to see who attacks first. You take the D20 – that's this one – and add the initiative modifier, which is calculated by-'
'Reid, she doesn't need a complete history of the game.')
The battle was a tough one – in spite of their extra companions, they were still weakened from the journey. Siegfried was lying unconscious in the snow, blood spilling from a wound in his chest, and Amari could heal him, if only he was just a little bit…
Her wounds were too grave. She had fought her hardest, but she feared this would be their last battle.
She looked up at the sky, blinking away blood and tears.
She saw a man.
He was tall, and well built, with dark hair. He moved through the snow as if it were nothing. The gauntlet of Torm was emblazoned upon his shield.
'Stand down.' He spoke, not to Roger or Dave or JJ, but to the Frost Giants. 'Stand down, or be destroyed.'
The Frost Giants chose destruction.
There was a short, if awkward, silence.
'Um…Hotch?' Emily said, looking towards the Unit Chief. 'What the hell was that?'
'Well, you obviously needed the help, Prentiss' Hotch replied, as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. He wasn't smiling, but Emily could see the twinkle in his eye. 'Next time, one of you should defend Reid while he casts Wall of Fire.'
'Seriously?' Morgan asked, staring at Hotch, dumfounded. 'Seriously?'
'What?' Hotch asked, and this time he was smiling. 'You think I was an uptight FBI agent my entire life?'
Emily shook her head.
Now that, she never would have profiled.