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A City Is Not A Home

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This story is No. 1 in the series "A City Is Not A Home". You may wish to read the series introduction first.

Summary: When Sunnydale turns into a giant crater, Aaron Hotchner panics.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Television > Criminal MindsJadedFR181431,20679387125,6767 Jun 1025 Jun 10Yes

Sunnydale Sinkhole Tragedy

Author: Jaded
Story: A City Is Not A Home
Disclaimer: I own the idea only. Joss owns Buffy, Criminal Minds is owned by, um...someone not me? CBS! No suing please!
Summary: When Sunnydale turns into a giant crater, Aaron Hotchner panics.
Warning: HINTS of slash. And, you know, cannon mentions of slash and femmeslash. Also? Tara totally didn't die in this universe so, you know, kinda AU.
A/N 1: This is gonna be short, only a few chapters (no more than 10, I think). Dedicated to TouchoftheWind and toots cause we keep seeming to get into various fandoms around the same time. :)

Illustration
Sunnydale Sinkhole Tragedy


Aaron was talking with Hayley when Morgan poked his head in his office. It'd been a long day and as much as he wanted to go home, he simply didn't have enough paperwork done.

“Hotch, have you seen the news?” the other man had asked. Aaron paused in his conversation, seeing something through the glass windows.

“Haley, I'm gonna have to call you back,” he said slowly. A quick goodbye later and Aaron was standing in front of the crowded TV showing an aerial view of a rather large crater. Along the bottom of the screen were the words “California Town Sinks.”

“What happened?”

“No one's sure yet,” Gideon said, eyes not leaving the screen. “It only happened this morning while we were in the air.”

“The major net theory is that the caves underneath the city collapsed,” Garcia said, coming up. Morgan wrapped an arm around her shoulders as she leaned into him. “So far, only a few fatalities. Apparently most of the town evacuated beforehand.”

“How'd they know?” JJ asked, looking pale. Our of the corner of his eye, Aaron saw Garcia shrug.

“There were some minor rumblings,” she answered. “And a special military team went in yesterday to help with the flow of people.”

Aaron frowned. “What town is it?” he asked. No one had mentioned it by name yet.

“Sunnydale,” Spencer answered. “A small town a few hours north of Los—Hotch?”

Aaron scrambled in his jacket, pulling out his cell-phone. “Reid, they should have a number for missing people up by now, get it to me.”

He ignored the concerned looks of his team as Spencer spat off the number from memory. Hands shaking, Gideon finally had to take the cell from him and dial before handing it back. Aaron gave him a look of silent thanks before turning his attention to the phone. It took numerous menus and button pressing but he finally got a human being on the line.

“Hello, I'm Sarah, how may I help you?”

“My name is Special Agent Aaron Hotchner out of the FBI office in Quantico,” he said and for the first time in his life, he was using his job for personal gain. He saw several of his teammates sharpen at that as it was one of his pet peeves. “You have a list of survivors?”

“Yes sir,” the woman, who had before sounded tired, now sounded anxious. “Are you looking for someone in particular?”

“Joyce, Buffy, or Dawn Summers,” he answered. “Joyce should be forty-three, Buffy twenty-two, and Dawn should be sixteen.”

Out of the corner of his eye he saw Garcia push Spencer out of his desk chair so she could commandeer his computer. He focused back on the phone when the woman began speaking.

“I don't have any records for Joyce Summers but I do have a note on Buffy and Dawn. They were among the last to exit the city before its collapse. They've taken up residence at the Hyperion Hotel.”

She rattled off the address and phone number and Aaron thanked her before hanging up and turning to Garcia. “What did you get?”

She looked ashen. “Not much,” she admitted. She bit her lip. “They're family?”

“Joyce is my cousin but we were more like brother and sister,” he confirmed, feeling something in the pit of his stomach tighten at her expression. “We were extremely close up until...”

Up until they'd gotten into an argument about Hank, Joyce' husband. Joyce had told him she suspected Hank had been having an affair. Aaron, who'd never liked Hank, had tried getting her to confirm it and then divorce the bastard. Sean told him that six months after the huge blow-up, Joyce moved her and the girls to Sunnydale after filing for divorce. Given she hadn't called herself, Aaron simply assumed she was still pissed at him. The only communication he'd received since then had been Christmas cards, yearly portraits of the three women plus snapshots here and there, and, randomly, Buffy's graduation announcement. He'd been planning on attending, hoping to mend fences, but a case had come in and he'd been unable to.

“When was the last time you talked to them?” Morgan asked, his face unreadable as he looked at what Garcia had on her screen.

“Seven, eight years ago but the last time I got a Christmas card was in 2000,” he replied. It'd always bugged him that he'd stopped getting them but he'd always get distracted and forget to check on it. “Why?”

“Joyce died in 2001,” Garcia whispered and Aaron felt his face drain of color. “Her death certificate was filed in Los Angeles so it wasn't lost but...according to this, she died of a brain aneurysm brought on by surgery to remove a tumor. I'm so sorry.”

Aaron swallowed harshly. Joyce was dead. Why hadn't anyone told him?

“What about the other two?” Gideon asked and Aaron focused on the man's words. He looked down at the paper he'd written the number on. He began dialing again.

“We are not taking interviews so quit calling!”

“I'm not with the--” he began but cut off when the call ended. He frowned and pressed re-dial.

“Look, bub, I already said--”

“I'm not a reporter,” he said before she could hang up on him again. “I'm looking for Buffy and Dawn Summers. The woman at the help line said I could find them here.”

“Oh.” the girl sounded taken aback. “I, uh, sorry. We've been getting a bunch of, um, reporters and other assorted imbeciles...”

“That's alright, I understand,” he assured her, fighting a smile even as he wondered at the British accent. “Are Buffy or Dawn available?”

“Um...hold on.”

He waited as the phone was obviously muffled. A minute or so later a breathless voice he knew came on the line. “Hello?”

“Dawnie?” he asked and there was a sharp intake of breath.

“Uncle Aaron?”

“Dawnie, oh thank God,” he said. “Are you okay? Do you need anything, how's Buffy?”

“I...Uncle Aaron?”

Aaron frowned at the bewildered tone of the girls' voice. “Dawn, I'm here. In fact, I can be on the next plane out--”

“But why?” she asked and now she sounded bitter in addition to confused. “Why do you care?”

“You're my family, Dawn,” he said and he silently wished he could have this conversation not surrounded by his teammates. “I know I haven't been around the last couple years and--”

“You didn't come to mom's funeral,” she cut him off again. Aaron swallowed.

“I didn't know,” he whispered. “I just...Dawnie, I just found out. I would have been there had I known. Nothing would have kept me away.”

The other end of the line was deadly silent and for a moment he thought she'd hung up on him. “We called you.” she finally said and now she sounded uncertain instead of bitter. He frowned. “We called you days before the service.”

“I never...Dawnie, where did you call?” he asked, wondering if it was a snafu with the office.

“Giles called your house,” she answered. “Buffy and I couldn't...Giles and Xander and Willow did all the phone calls for us. Giles said he told Haley to have you call back. You never did.”

“Dawn...” he swallowed. “When did Joyce die, sweetie?” She told him. He looked at Spencer and covered the phone. “Reid, do you remember where we were in 2001? The beginning of March?”

It wasn't Spencer who answered, however, it was Gideon. “Iowa,” the man told him. “Serial murder and rapist Karl Mervok.”

Aaron nodded and went back to the phone. “I was in Iowa at the time, Dawnie, catching a serial police killer,” he told her. “I didn't get back to DC until...”

“March twentieth,” Spencer supplied.

“March twentieth,” he repeated. “Haley...did, er, Giles tell her why I needed to call?”

There was a muffled conversation and when Dawn came back, she sounded like she was crying. “No,” she told him. “He said he just told her to have you call Buffy.”

“Dawnie, I would have been there,” he swore. “I promise you...I've never stopped thinking about you. The only reason I haven't called was because...”

“You and mom still hadn't apologized for being stupid about Hank,” she sniffled and his lips twitched. That was the smart-ass he remembered. Then he frowned. “She wanted to, you know. She just...she was too embarrassed that you were right.”

“Dawn,” he asked. “Where is Hank, anyway?”

“Last we heard he was in Spain with his secretary,” she answered matter-of-factly. “We haven't heard from the bastard in years. He didn't come for the funeral either.” He winced and he went to say something but Dawn beat him to it. “At least you had a good reason though. Are you still Mr. FBI?”

“Yeah,” he said. “Dawnie, how long are you going to be at the hotel?”

“I honestly don't know,” she confided. “Robin's in the hospital and we didn't have much on us when we left—I don't even have pictures of mom—and Angel owns the hotel. And there are so many of us...Buffy was running a home for emancipated girls in Sunnydale and they don't want to leave her so we have to figure out what to do about them all and Buffy doesn't want to put anymore strain on Angel even though he's not using the hotel anymore and--”

“You still babble worse than Reid,” he chuckled and she abruptly shut up as the man in question looked at him, surprised. “I'll be at the hotel by tomorrow.”

“I already booked you and Reid on the next flight out,” Garcia interjected. “You'll get into LAX at about six tonight their time.”

“Make that tonight at six,” he corrected, nodding at Garcia. Reid was already picking up his duffel and going through the contents with a frown. “I'll be bringing along a friend.”

“You—you're really coming?” Dawn sounded so incredibly young it was hard to remember that she was nearly legal.

“I screwed up once,” he told her seriously. “I'm coming.”

She was silent a moment. “Email me your flight info,” she finally said. “Someone will be there to pick you up even if I have to black-mail Angel into letting me use his car.”

“Blackmail's against the law, Dawnie,” he reminded her and he knew she heard the amusement in his voice when she snorted.

“Angel may be a lawyer now but he still can't resist a good Dawnie gaze,” she confided. She paused. “That, and he thinks he should have stayed in Sunnydale to help Buffy so if I have to, I can use his insanely misguided guilt and get the car that way. He'll say Spike was a bad influence on me but he'll give me the car anyway.”

Aaron shook his head. Dawnie had always switched moods more often than Buffy changed clothes and it didn't look like that had gone away.

“Dawn?”

“Yeah?”

“You're gonna have to give me your email address so I can send the flight information,” he reminded her.

“niblet@gmail.com,” she replied and he repeated it for Garcia, who'd already opened up his email for him. If he didn't trust the blonde inexplicably, he'd be a little concerned at how easily she'd done it.

“I'm not sure I want to know where that came from,” he mentioned off-hand and Dawn went silent again.

“It was Spike's nickname for me,” she whispered. “He...don't mention him around Buffy when you're here, okay? It...he's still missing. Buffy doesn't think he made it out.”

Aaron closed his eyes at the raw grief in Dawn's voice. Whoever this Spike was, she cared about him deeply. Unless... “Dawnie...did you lose anyone else?”

“We...were at the high school grabbing a few things when the tremors caused the roof to collapse,” she whispered. “A bunch of the girls and Anya...we had to leave them. The town was already...”

He swallowed as she trailed off. “You were among the last to get out.” Sarah had mentioned that but until then he hadn't...

“We were the last to get out,” she corrected. “I...I watched the town collapse behind us.”

Aaron cursed fervently under his breath and ignored the looks he got for it. “I'll be there tonight,” he told her in clipped tones. “Don't...I'll see you soon, okay? I have to go grab some clean clothes.”

“Okay,” she whispered. “I'll...I got the email.”

“Alright, I'll see you in a few hours,” he repeated. They hung up and Aaron lowered his head, trying to reign in his anger and fear. “She watched the town collapse behind them,” he finally said and heard Elle, Garcia, and JJ gasp. “They had to leave a bunch of girls stuck under the roof of the school or they would have...”

“Go get some clothes,” Gideon ordered after a moment of horrified silence. “Morgan'll drive you to the airport. I've got Reid.”

Aaron nodded, pulling himself together. He had to go talk to Haley, get some clothes, get on a plane, somehow convince his “nieces” that he wasn't an asshole like Hank, and then...he honestly didn't know what he was going to do after that. It would depend on Buffy and Dawn and what they wanted.
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