DISCLAIMER: Criminal Minds and its characters are the property of CBS. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Written for fewthistle who requested bowling and green beer in honor of St. Patrick’s Day. Thanks to eclecticfan, fewthistle, and ralst for the lovely suggestions. Special thanks to atfm and eclecticfan for the beta.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
The Games People Play
Emily Prentiss sat on the hard, wooden bench and watched her colleague tie the laces of the ugliest shoes she'd ever laid eyes upon. Her gaze then fell on the equally repulsive pair which had been placed on the floor next to her shiny, black patent leather Prada ankle boots. Emily scooted to her far right, moving her designer-covered feet away from the hideous multi-colored shoes. There was no way she was putting her feet inside a pair of shoes that had been worn by, in her mind, millions of sweaty, smelly feet.
"Okay, I'm all set." Jennifer Jareau gave her laces a healthy tug before standing and shuffling her feet back and forth. Emily grimaced as she watched her lover practically jump up and down as she tried to get accustomed to the rental shoes. JJ was completely out of her mind if she thought she was going to slide her germ-covered feet underneath their Ralph Lauren sheets that night. Emily would insist that JJ soaked her feet in the tub for at least an hour and had already begun to make plans for a lavender-scented bubble bath.
Pleased that the shoes weren't pinching her toes, JJ turned expectantly toward Emily. "Hey, why haven't you put on your shoes?"
Emily spared another glance at the clown shoes and shook her head. "Uh-uh, no way am I putting those things on; I'll just wear my boots to bowl."
"They won't let you on the lanes unless you're wearing the proper footwear." JJ gestured to the shiny lanes across the way and then pointed to the various entry points that led from the carpeted area down to the bowing lanes. "In fact, you can't even step past the scorer's table with street shoes on."
"Street shoes? Oh, you mean shoes that actually look good on your feet?" Emily crossed her right leg over her left, displaying her rather stylish footwear. She refused to move even an inch closer to the bowling alley's rentals.
JJ plopped back down on the bench and turned her baby blues on her lover. "Ah, c'mon, Emily, it's only for the night." She tilted her head and stuck out her lower lip. Emily didn't budge. Turning that look on her when they were in bed and Emily was too tired to do anything but sleep was one thing, but it certainly wasn't going to work on her now.
"Hey, if you put on the shoes, we can hurry over and get our first choice of bowling balls before the others get here." JJ tried for a different approach, hoping to distract Emily with another pre-game ritual before the bowling would commence.
Emily followed JJ's line of sight to spy racks and racks of black bowling balls. She watched in horror as different individuals would pick up a ball, heft it up and down in their hands, and then stick their fingers inside of the holes. She could just imagine the bacteria party that was taking place in and around each of the large, round holes. Emily blurted out her thoughts and feelings in a one-sentence summary.
"JJ, I can't bowl!"
JJ reached over and patted Emily's hand reassuringly. "It's okay that you've never bowled before. I don't think Reid's bowled either, and I'm sure Garcia isn't the best bowler."
Emily turned and faced her lover. "No, JJ, I can't bowl I can't put my feet into those disgusting shoes, and the thought of putting my fingers inside those holes that have God knows what coated inside of them is giving me hives." She involuntarily shivered at the thought, her subconscious accentuating her words.
"I guess I'll just have to wait here until you finish your game," Emily said, perfectly content to stay where she was while the others bowled.
"Game? Emily, we promised Garcia we'd bowl three games, minimum. You can't stay here the entire time." JJ looked over toward the entrance to see Reid step through the door and head their way. "Besides, you have to play; Rossi had another commitment and won't be able to make it, so we'll have an odd number of bowlers if you don't bowl."
"Can't someone just bowl twice?" Emily donned a pitiful expression. "JJ, I didn't realize what was involved when I agreed to this. The shoes alone would've been the deal breaker."
The pseudo-argument was temporarily halted by the excited voice of Spencer Reid. "This is going to be great; I've always wanted to learn how to bowl." He glanced around the semi-crowded alley, immediately spotting the rental area. "Oh, is that where I get my shoes?" He smiled widely as he slipped a thumb under his lime green suspenders and pointed toward the shelves and shelves of used shoes with his free hand.
"Yeah, that's the place." JJ forced a smile, still quite upset with Emily. This was supposed to be a fun gathering for the team, and it was important for them all to participate. She motioned toward the far wall, filled with rows and rows of shoes. "Why don't you go ahead and get your pair; Emily and I will wait here for the others."
Reid nodded his approval and started across the carpeted area. JJ waited until their colleague was out of earshot before she turned her attention back to her lover.
"Emily, please reconsider. We really need this time together." She softened her tone, adding, "Remember how excited Garcia was when we all agreed to celebrate St. Patrick's Day with her?" JJ watched Emily's expression change, noting that her words had caught the other woman's attention. It was time to strike while the iron was hot, so JJ scooted across the bench, closing the distance between the two of them, and gently blew in her lover's ear, whispering in exact detail what Emily's reward would be if she'd agree to play along.
When Reid returned, he found a smug JJ, sitting on the bench alone. He looked around for his other colleague. "Where'd Emily go?"
JJ patted the seat beside her, indicating for Reid to sit down so that he could change into his bowling shoes more easily. "She had to run to the store next door; she'll be back soon." Reid just nodded his head and took a seat.
By the time Emily returned, the entire team had arrived and were just about to take the lane they'd been assigned. Garcia was the first to spot Emily.
"Hey! Looks like I'm not the only one who has her own gear."
All eyes turned on the approaching Emily, their attention focused on the dark blue ball bag she held in one hand and the matching shoulder bag slung across her right shoulder. No one had heard the words JJ'd whispered under her breath. "Yeah, only because there's a sporting goods store next door."
Emily laughed aloud when she spied their technical analyst standing in the middle of the team. With clover green hair, Garcia was dressed from head to toe in the matching color, while Hotch stood to her left, wearing a light green polo, and Morgan flanked her right side, sporting a 'Kiss Me I'm Irish' t-shirt. Her own heather green shirt complementing JJ's, Emily grinned and joined the group.
When the greetings were finally out of the way, Emily motioned over to an empty bench. "Give me a minute to change my shoes, and I'll meet back up with you." She waited for a couple of nods and a few 'okays' before she turned toward the small bench. She'd just leaned over to remove a boot when JJ sat down beside her.
"Thanks for going along with this, Emily; I really appreciate it."
Emily glanced up for a moment and smiled. "You're welcome, but I'm pretty sure I'm going to be the one who will fully appreciate it." Winking, she reached down to remove her other boot. JJ just chuckled and moved her gaze toward her teammates who were just setting up around the scorer's table.
"Garcia certainly gets into these special holidays." JJ smiled as she watched the analyst pull a fluorescent pink bowling ball out of her bag. Her friend's pink shoes should have given her an indication of what to expect in the way of ball color.
"She looks like she escaped from a Leprechaun colony." Emily grinned as she eased her designer boots into her bag and removed her leather bowling shoes. "I'm surprised she didn't dye those glow-in-the-dark pink shoes green for the occasion."
Speaking of, JJ looked down at Emily's new purchase. "Black? Isn't that kind of . . . well, blah?"
Emily eased a shoe onto her foot and quickly tied the laces, not offering a reply at first. More than half of her wardrobe was black, and she briefly wondered what JJ was inferring. Tying the laces of the other shoe, she leaned back up and turned to JJ.
"Are you saying that I'm blah?" Emily raised an eyebrow, tilting her head in question.
"What?" JJ was momentarily confused. "I was saying that your bowling shoes are blah."
"JJ, what color do I wear most of the time?"
Emily nodded. "Now, do you see my point?" Slipping her new bag over her shoulder, she stood and reached down to retrieve her ball bag.
JJ pushed to her feet as well. "But you look great in black."
"Precisely." Emily smiled smugly and walked away. Chuckling, JJ shook her head and followed, the pair arriving at their lane just as Garcia was stepping up to the line, preparing to bowl the first frame.
Garcia stood as still as a statue as she eyed the ten green pins lined up at the other end of the lane. The team members stayed silent while they waited for the analyst to start her approach, and finally, after what seemed like an eternity to Emily, Garcia took two steps and let her pink ball fly. The fluorescent ball curved at the last second, knocking down all ten pins. Garcia pumped her fist and headed back to the scorer's table, slapping Morgan's hand hard.
"Okay, Hot Stuff, you're up next, don't let me down." Garcia winked at her teammate and slid into Morgan's empty seat. The game was on, and the other two teams of Jareau/Prentiss and Reid/Hotchner knew they didn't stand a chance.
As expected, Morgan used brute strength to mow down eight of the ten pins, picking up only one pin on his next roll. Shaking his head, he walked back to the scorer's table dejectedly.
"Damn it; I'm sorry, Baby Girl, I should've nailed that spare." Morgan plopped down next to the green-haired woman and continued to berate himself. "Damn "
Garcia patted her partner's hand reassuringly and looked over at the others. "Okay, next up; the team of Hotchner and Reid." She looked over at the unlikely duo and asked, "Who's going first?"
Hotch rose, moved over to retrieve his ball from the ball rack, and then walked over to the edge of the lane, eyeing the ten pins at its end. With very mechanical movements, he released the ball and stayed in the follow-through position until contact was made. A slight smile played at the corners of his lips as he very quietly returned to the bench a perfect strike on his first frame. It seemed another ringer was in their midst.
Next up, Reid studied the arrows on the floor, their purpose having been explained by Hotch earlier. Although, still not certain which specific arrow was best for his particular approach, Reid uncharacteristically chose one at random, figuring he'd make adjustments as the game progressed. A few steps and an awkward release later, he was standing by the ball return, waiting to retrieve his ball so that he could try for the very unlikely spare. It was virtually impossible for a novice bowler to knock down both pins of the 7 10 split, and after having applied a couple of laws of physics in his head, Reid agreed with Hotch and Garcia that he should just try for either the 7 or 10 pin. He ended up missing both.
"That was pretty good for your first frame, Reid." JJ offered encouragement as she approached the ball return, scooping up her ball and stepping onto the shiny wood surface. Emily's eyes fell on her lover's fingers as they slid into the proper holes and bravely schooled her expression, the makings of a grimace just under the surface of her skin. She made a mental note to make JJ soak her right hand as well.
Looking down at the floor, JJ moved to the second arrow before she started her approach. With a little shimmy, she took two long strides and leaned over to release the ball close to the floor, watching as it skipped off the gutter and knocked over four pins. JJ shook her head and headed back to the bench.
"Way to go, JJ; you got some of them." Emily was very pleased with her partner's performance, much to JJ's dismay. Emily couldn't understand why her lover wasn't happy to have knocked down some of the pins. She was going to be happy if she managed to hit a single pin.
JJ glanced over at Emily, noting the supreme effort the other woman was making to appear excited over a game she really didn't want to participate in. Giving Emily a smile, JJ walked over to the ball return to retrieve her ball for her second roll. She was going to have a good time even if she only bowled a 50.
Picking up another three pins, JJ turned and, this time, she offered Emily a full-blown grin. "Okay, Emily; show us what you've got." Motioning Emily to join her near the line, JJ patiently waited until her lover had picked up her ball and moved beside her before pointing to the arrows on the floor. "Aim for the middle one, and then we'll adjust according to the type of throw you have."
Emily didn't have a clue what JJ was talking about, but she nodded anyway and concentrated on the tiny little arrow, wondering why she wasn't supposed to focus on the set of pins on the other end of the lane. As it turned out, it truly didn't matter which forward direction she was looking because the ball slipped out of her hand on the backswing, sending her teammates flying in every direction.
"Whoa, whoa, whoa, Emily," Morgan chuckled, retrieving the wayward ball and moving toward the totally humiliated brunette. "You're supposed to try to knock down the pins, not your opponents." His easy smile took the sting out of his words.
"Sorry." Emily gripped the ball again and turned back towards the pins. This time her full concentration went to hanging onto the ball until her arm had swung forward again; she didn't give a rat's ass about the stupid arrows or the gutter ball she threw. At least, the damned thing had traveled in the right direction.
By the beginning of the second game, Emily was ready to go home. She'd only knocked down three pins in total as she'd watched her marble blue ball sail into the gutter, time and time again. She'd even taken to studying Garcia and had tried to imitate the other woman's delivery, but Emily couldn't have knocked down more than one pin at a time if her life had depended on it. The others had been good-natured and had tried to cheer her on, but even the geeky Reid was outscoring her. The only bright spot of the game had been the green beer.
Emily had balked at first, claiming that the beer looked as if it had come from the sewer, but after her fifth consecutive gutter ball, she'd decided it was worth investigating. Besides, it certainly couldn't hurt her game.
Sighing, Emily marked down another 'x' beside Garcia's name and started on her third mug of green beer. Just for the fun of it, she placed an 'x' beside Morgan's name as well, her premonition coming true as she heard Morgan's excited 'Yes!' She briefly wondered exactly how getting knocked down a peg with every follow through of her arm was supposed to help them as a team. Another swallow of beer and Emily found a second bright spot of the game.
This marked the first time all evening that she was sitting at the scorer's table when JJ moved to the line. Emily had the perfect vantage point of watching JJ wiggle her behind right before she turned loose of her ball. Perhaps, she could make it through another game after all. Grinning, Emily watched as JJ tried for a spare.
"Hey, Emily!" Garcia slid into the chair next to the brunette. "I think that's the first real smile I've seen from you tonight." The analyst took a sip of her beer and opened her mouth to ask what had brought on the change when she noticed Emily tilt her head and offer up another grin. Garcia turned her focus toward the lane and smiled. Emily had finally spotted JJ's little wiggle.
The rest of the evening flew by as Morgan kept Emily supplied with beer and JJ's wiggle progressively got cuter and cuter. Even Emily's game improved as she was consistently hitting at least two pins with every throw. JJ was fairly certain her lover wouldn't remember whatever it was that she'd done differently to her game, but for now, Emily was happy, very happy.
"Reid!" Emily shouted out right before Reid's last turn of the evening. The resident geek turned toward Emily and smiled. "Move a little to your left this time!"
Figuring it certainly couldn't hurt, Reid followed Emily's suggestion, and blowing out a deep breath, he let the ball fly. It headed directly for the head pin and curved at the last possible second, landing between the 1 and 2 pins. The resulting impact of the ball on the pins was complete, and all ten of them were knocked over. Reid had thrown a strike.
The entire team jumped to their feet and ran to congratulate their colleague, and in the midst of the group hug, JJ smiled. This was just exactly what the team needed.
Outside the bowling alley, everyone said their final good-byes with Emily and JJ heading in the opposite direction from the others. They'd managed to actually find a parking space on the street and hadn't had to walk the block to the parking lot. JJ shouldered Emily's bag, gripped the ball bag, and juggled the car keys, barely able to push the unlock button, the resulting beep sounding loudly in the mostly vacant street.
"I could carry something, you know." Emily focused on putting one foot in front of the other, the sight of her bowling shoes still on her feet causing her to pause. "Where're my boots?"
"You said you didn't want to put them back on, even after I explained that your bowling shoes shouldn't be worn outside." JJ was grateful to finally arrive at the car as she struggled to open the back door of her 4Runner. She slung Emily's bags into the backseat and climbed behind the steering wheel, pleased that Emily had managed to, not only crawl into the passenger seat, but buckle herself in as well.
JJ smiled as she watched her lover lean back against the headrest and close her eyes. "So, did you have a good time?"
"Yes, but I don't want any more green beer." Emily kept her eyes shut tightly. She wasn't looking forward to the next morning.
"No, I just bet you don't." JJ started the SUV and pulled from the curb. Three blocks later, Emily was sound asleep.
Thirty minutes later, JJ wheeled into her garage and shut off the engine. She'd made the decision a mile into their trip to bring Emily to her house, knowing it would be easier to get her lover inside. They spent most of their time at Emily's apartment, but occasionally, they'd stay at JJ's, and even more rarely, they'd spend time apart. JJ hated those nights. Reaching over, she unbuckled Emily's seatbelt, and dark eyes opened almost immediately.
"We home?" Emily mumbled, blinking her eyes almost owlishly as she tried to get her bearings.
"Yes, we're at my place. I thought you'd appreciate the short walk to the bed. Think you can make it on your own?"
"Depends; is there a bed in your kitchen?"
JJ chuckled. "No, just the bar, and I don't think that'd be very comfortable. Let me come around and help. Just wait." JJ climbed from the car and hit the switch for the garage door before making her way around to the other side. Emily had managed to open the door but hadn't made any effort to crawl out of the SUV.
Several minutes and four bumps against the wall later, Emily lay on her back, staring up at the ceiling in JJ's bedroom while JJ struggled to remove her lover's shoes. A rich laugh brought JJ's attention back to Emily.
"What's so funny?" She smiled at the goofy grin on Emily's face.
"I couldn't believe the look on that guy's face when Hotch threatened to charge him with impersonating a federal agent." Emily let out a rare giggle.
JJ placed the bowling shoes to the side and sat on the bed, reaching for the button of Emily's pants. "I still can't believe that we ran into the idiot again. When Garcia came running from the concession area with that wild green hair and those big eyes full of mischief, I couldn't imagine what she'd found. He was the last thing I expected."
"Me, too." Emily chuckled. "And Hotch was great; I thought the guy was going to pee his pants when Hotch pulled out his credentials and gestured for the guy to step outside." Emily shimmied her hips in an attempt to help her lover remove her pants.
"Too bad we didn't get it on tape; Morgan was so mad that he'd missed all the fun." JJ finally freed Emily's legs from the black pants and tossed them toward the chair next to the bed. "That's what he gets for going to the restroom at the wrong time; although, I don't think the guy would've been quite as scared had Morgan been there. He wouldn't have been very intimidating in his Irish t-shirt."
Emily's eyes fluttered closed. "I really had a great time tonight. Thanks, JJ."
JJ smiled down at her lover and reached across to push a dark strand from Emily's forehead before starting on the shirt buttons. After a bit of acrobatics, she managed to remove her lover's shirt and bra and even managed to coax Emily under the covers. She placed a light kiss on the other woman's lips and moved to stand. A hand shot out and grasped her wrist, startling JJ. She looked back down at Emily who'd managed to grab hold of her without opening her eyes.
"Sleep well tonight, Lover; I expect my reward tomorrow."
A soft snort and a light chuckle rounded out the evening.
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