Chapter 4: Him Revealed
Timeline: a year or so after the divorce in season 3.
Warning: AU for CM. I will warn y'all that I've only been watching CM for a few months so I may not get the characters' voices down perfect. Sorry about that ahead of time.
A/N: The vote was very close…and a little surprising considering how the nomination period went. With the weighted scores for the votes, Aaron Hotchner was the winner with 45 points; Eliot Spencer got 37; Bruce Wayne had 35, Dean Winchester had 33 and Tony Stark finished the top five with 32 points.
Thanks to my betas: AerynSpeedleCaine.
Disclaimer: BtVS/AtS characters belong to Joss Whedon/Mutant Enemy. Criminal Minds characters belong to Jeff Davis, The Mark Gordon Company and CBS. I claim no rights to any copyrighted material. Please do not copy or take this story without my permission.
Aaron Hotchner sat on the couch in his room, wondering if he shouldn't feel worse for abusing his authority by taking the video surveillance tape from the grocery store earlier. Then he remembered that he never got to the part about explaining that he was with the FBI; all he said was that he wanted to look at the tape and they handed it right over without even asking why. That was very strange…
He shook his head at the thought. He was starting to wonder if there was anything normal about this town. It would be a profiler's nightmare to try to figure out the motivations around here. But it was a good distraction, which he needed currently.
Haley getting remarried was hard enough to handle, but having to go to the wedding and watch her pledge her life to another man? If he didn't know her better, he'd say she was being sadistic. But he did know her better, and knew that if the situation was reversed, she'd be watching him get remarried because they wanted to remain friends for Jack's sake. But after Haley, her new husband and Jack left for a family honeymoon, Aaron desperately needed to find something else to occupy his mind.
Maybe that was Rossi's reason for sending him here. Why else would Rossi have told him to look into the disappearance of an inordinately high number of cats in the area?
Yes, it wasn't a case that his team could officially tackle because it was animals, for one, and the local police hadn't requested any assistance, for two. However, Rossi had a personal stake in it since one of his ex-wives lost a hypoallergenic purebred Ashera valued at close to $50,000 when she had stopped on her way from LA to Santa Barbara.
Aaron hadn't found out much – aside from most of the local LEOs were probably somewhere between incompetent and corrupt – before he found his own mystery to solve.
That incident at the grocery store was very pleasant, yet very troubling at the same time. For the first time since…well, to be honest, since he first met Haley, Hotch felt joyfully whole. He was happy throughout most of their marriage, but his job made that pinnacle of 'joyfully' unattainable for him.
On the other hand, his mind knew that it wasn't real; something about the situation made it feel manufactured somehow. His finger hovered over the send button on his cell as he tried to decide whether he should call in his team or not.
In the end, his sense of duty overrode his concerns about looking foolish in their eyes.
A few minutes later…
"So how's it going in California, Aaron?" a sympathetic Rossi inquired. He'd gone through divorce and remarriage enough to have an idea of how the man might be feeling at the moment. Except for the kid part. His own son never lived long enough for them to have to worry about time-sharing him like Aaron had to with Haley. "Any luck on the missing cat?"
"Not a lot, other than the local law enforcement isn't concerned about missing animals. They barely put any effort into missing people," Hotch complained to his colleague. "But that's not why I'm calling right now. I need your advice."
"Sure," Rossi easily agreed. "What's the problem?"
After Hotch briefed him, Rossi thought for a moment, then carefully asked, "How much did you have to drink last night?"
Fortunately, Hotch didn't take offense at the question. "None. At least until after it happened. Then I had a couple."
"Did you eat or drink anything after you got to town?" Rossi persisted.
"Only things that I bought from a gas station just outside LA," Hotch replied. "And there's no residual feeling of being drugged that I can tell. It did feel as though I wasn't in control of my own body, though."
"Maybe group hypnosis?" Rossi guessed. "Have you felt the urge to break out singing since?"
"No, thank goodness," Hotch muttered. "But I haven't dared to go back to the grocery store to see if it was something there that caused it."
"Well, we can start digging up information on Sunnydale while you check out the area some more. Just make sure that you check in with one of us every couple hours, okay?" Rossi requested with a noticeable hint of concern in his voice. "If we don't hear from you, we'll assume the worst and head that way."
Even though it felt a little like overkill, Hotch couldn't help but agree that it was unusual enough to warrant that kind of reaction. "Good enough. I'll call you every other hour."
As the day went by, the team informed him that Sunnydale had a weird history with the Bureau. Going back to the forties, every ten years or so, there'd be an investigation into the town, but as soon as the agents got back, they'd insist that there was nothing to be concerned about.
The last time was a couple years ago when the high school blew up during the graduation ceremony. The official reports claimed it was a gas leak and by this point, there was no way of knowing it that was true or not. The timing was awfully suspicious, however.
By nightfall, he had assured his team that he wasn't losing his mind and accepting the odd occurrences as normal. That gave him until the next day before he had to check in again with Rossi. He just stepped out to get a couple items for morning when he happened upon a store called the Magic Box. He looked in through the window out of idle curiosity and saw the woman from the grocery store.
In his excitement at finding her again, he neglected to call anyone to let them know of the new development. Instead, he rushed through the door and went right up to her, uncaring of how intense he might seem to anyone else. Emotion won out over logic as he reached out for her face. "I'm glad I found you again," he whispered.
Staring into her eyes, he didn't hear the angry cry of another man in the room, but he did manage to catch the woman as they both fell to the floor. Morgan was going to kill him for not checking in before he entered the store.
An undetermined amount of time later…
When they woke up, confusion reigned until somebody thought to check for IDs. Aaron was more than a little disappointed to find that the woman he was holding did not have any papers that indicated she was his wife. That feeling grew when he saw the loving way she comforted the baby next to her. Maybe they just hadn't finalized it yet? He hoped.
Of the people in the room, she and the baby were the only ones who didn't have names. Well, technically Randy and Anya guessed what their names were, but since they seemed satisfied they were right, that left two.
"Well, since her onesie has a picture of an iris on it, I think I'll call her 'Iris' for now," the young blonde announced.
"And what about you?" Aaron asked.
"I feel like a Joan," she answered after a minute.
He smiled warmly at her. "I think it's a beautiful name; strong and beautiful." He was rewarded when she blushed and ducked her head. That made it easy to ignore the scoffing from Randy about them getting a room. He was a very crude individual.
Aaron agreed with Joan that a hospital made great sense and suggested they look up the address in the phone book before they set out. Since there weren't any life-threatening injuries, calling for an ambulance wasn't necessary. They tried calling a taxi, but the person just laughed and hung up on them
Turned out that knowing where the hospital was didn't matter because everyone forgot the address as soon as they saw the monsters at the door. At least everyone appeared surprised to find out that vampires were real.
While Alexander and Willow were searching for other doors, Aaron took a look around and saw a lot of crosses and bottles of holy water; two things he wouldn't expect to find in a magic shop. But the legends he could remember said that demons were repelled by them, so he grabbed them and tossed a cross and bottle to each of the others.
To everyone's horror, Randy's face changed as soon as he touched the cross.
"He's one of them!" Anya pointed out the obvious. "He's going to suck our blood! I'm too young to die! And I'm getting married! I can't die before I get married!"
Aaron and Giles used the threat of holy water to get Randy to back up towards the door, disregarding his pleas of ignorance. Even if he didn't know he was a vampire, it wasn't as if the lack of knowledge would change the fact that he was a danger to all of them. His last mistake of the evening was to grab the nearest thing to keep from being pushed out of the store…which happened to be Iris' stroller.
The change that came over Joan was incredible. She jumped up and twisted Randy's arm until it snapped, causing him to lose his grip on the stroller. Then she changed her hold to his collar and used her momentum to slam him against the door frame. "Don't you dare hurt my baby!" she growled at him. With her other hand, she yanked open the door and shoved him outside, then quickly slammed it shut again.
When she turned around, she found everyone staring at her. "What?" she asked.
"You lifted Randy off the ground," Aaron pointed out. "That shouldn't be possible, given the differences in your heights and body types."
Tara shook off her surprise long enough to gesture out the window. "They're leaving us alone. It looks like they just wanted Randy."
"That may be true, but it could also be that they are lulling us into a false sense of security," Rupert countered.
"Maybe we should find some magick spells to protect us until we can get to the hospital," Anya suggested.
Rupert smiled at his bride-to-be and nodded, "That's a capital idea, dear!"
Aaron found the gate to cover the window and lowered it so the vampires couldn't just break the glass to get into the shop. Then everyone – who wasn't a baby – started searching the shelves for books about protection or memories. Anya tried to grab a different book, but quickly backed down with a pout when they outvoted her.
Bouncing excitedly in her seat, Tara announced, "I found a protection spell! Oh wait…it can only be cast on virgins," she finished sadly.
But Joan just smiled even more at the news. "That's great, though! That means we can cast it on Iris! Who feels the most magicky? I want her to be as protected as possible."
Tara read the book a little more and said, "Well, according to this, it's best cast by those related by blood or love. Since you seem to be her mother, you should cast it."
As intrigued as he was by the spell, Aaron had to ask, "What exactly will this protect her from?"
"Any supernatural forces on her spirit or mind, plus there's a blessing just below that would act like a blanket of holy water around her. Not in the literal sense where she'd drown or anything, just that it would repel evil like holy water," Tara explained.
"Seems good to me," Joan decided with a glance at Aaron. When he nodded, she took the book from Tara and practiced the words silently to get them right while the others gathered the ingredients they needed for the spell. When they finished, she said the words out loud and a white mist circled Iris for ten seconds before sparkling away. "Think it worked?" she asked rhetorically. They all agreed anyway, then went back to looking for more spells.
A short time later, Willow called out from up in the loft, where she and Alex were checking the books, "This is a book of memory spells!" She carried it down and started thumbing through it at the table. "Huh, that's weird. This one talks about a black crystal and I noticed a black crystal in my pocket earlier."
"You were the one who made us lose our memories?" Joan demanded, looking like she was about to repeat her earlier performance with Randy.
Alex cut in on his maybe-girlfriend's behalf, "Or maybe the person who did it slipped the crystal in Willow's pocket because the spell was supposed to target her."
Willow shrugged and pulled out the crystal. "Only one way to find out," she said before crushing the crystal under the heavy book. Her first words as the spell lifted were, "Oh pooh!"
Next chapter will be a bit rough for Willow and even for Giles.
A/N: This isn't meant to be a slam on Haley for getting remarried. I just needed her alive and out of the way – emotionally-speaking – for Aaron to move on with his life. Sorry to Spike fans, but this felt realistic to me. I don't think he would be killed, just roughed up a bit.
From petside . com:
The Ashera looks like a cross between a leopard and a cat. It is a hybrid mix of an African Serval and Asian Leopard cat plus the genes of a domestic cat. Asheras can weigh up to 40 pounds and they are so rare that only about four to five of them are created each year.
Price Tag: $22,000–125,000.
Fun Fact: A hypoallergenic version is available for a mere $37,000. One with a snow leopard pattern can be had for $125,000.