DISCLAIMER: Criminal Minds and its characters are the property of CBS. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Written for lysachan, who requested JJ and Emily for her birthday. Thanks to atfm for the wonderful prompt. Special thanks to the lovely mrswoman for taking the time out of her busy schedule to beta.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Practice Makes Perfect
By Ann


Special Agent Jennifer Jareau sat cross-legged on the secluded mall bench, her position affording her the perfect vantage point for viewing the totally unaware suspect. Narrowing her eyes and tilting her head, she attempted to determine exactly what the man was thinking.

"Walks next to the wall, eyes shifting left and right, not able to make eye contact; I'd say a possible pickpocket." She leaned in closer to the woman sitting beside her and whispered, "How'd I do?"

Emily Prentiss bit the side of her cheek, trying to maintain her composure. "Well, other than the folded, white cane that's barely poking out from his pocket, and the way he's using his hand on the wall to guide his way, I'd say you were slightly off the mark. Although . . ." Emily paused dramatically, turning slightly to face her colleague. "He could be starting some kind of new trend for blind pickpockets."

"Damn it," said JJ, blowing out a frustrated breath. "I'm never going to get the hang of profiling. I pegged the last person as a cheating housewife. I had no idea nuns wore such normal street clothes these days. All the nuns I've ever seen have had on those long, black robes and great big habits on their heads, kinda like the old nun who met up with my so-called cheater." She gestured toward the man she'd been watching, grimacing slightly when he pulled the cane from his pocket and extended it with a flick of his wrist. "I'm blind, too, when it comes to doing this."

"Don't sell yourself short, JJ; I think you may have profiled that kid from earlier perfectly." Emily patted the other woman on the knee. The shiver that coursed through JJ didn't get past the skilled profiler's eye. She grinned inwardly, keeping her hand in place. "Let's keep practicing."

When JJ had come to Emily asking for the other woman to teach her some profiling techniques, Emily had jumped at the opportunity, suggesting that people watching would be the best place to start. They'd immediately made a date for Saturday morning, and JJ had even offered to treat Emily to lunch after they'd finished. Emily could have cared less about a free meal; she just wanted to spend some time with the other woman.

JJ moaned pitifully. "You know, I'd actually thought I'd learned something from watching you and the others, but evidently, I was sorely mistaken. Practice isn't going to help."

"Yes, it will; you'll see." Emily smiled encouragingly. "Hey, I know. Why don't I go back to the food court around the corner and get us some ice cream? Maybe a little sugar is what you need."

Emily's hand was practically burning a hole through her jeans, and JJ was fairly certain that a little sugar would indeed do the trick, or at least be a hell of a lot more fun than profiling the people walking the mall, only her idea of a little sugar varied drastically from what Emily had in mind. Putting her rather impure thoughts away for later, JJ decided to go along with Emily's idea, hoping that maybe a few minutes away from the other woman would allow her to regain her focus.

"It certainly couldn't hurt; I'm scoring zero as it is." JJ shrugged, returning Emily's smile with one of her own. Time seemed to stand still as both women lowered their guard, each wondering if perhaps JJ had scored more than she realized. Emily removed her hand, breaking the spell.

"Okay, I'll run get our treat while you find another 'suspect.'" Emily pushed to her feet and glanced down at JJ. "What flavor would you like?"

'You,' was on the tip of JJ's tongue. In fact, it was exactly what she was wishing was on the tip of her tongue, the top of her tongue, the underside of her tongue . . . JJ slammed the door on her out-of-control fantasy and stammered out the first thing that came to her mind. "Vanilla."

Emily frowned at the choice. "Vanilla? Plain ol'vanilla?"

JJ pasted a smile on her face and stood by her rather bland choice. "Yes, please." She watched as Emily shook her head and walked away. JJ kept her eyes on the shapely backside until it rounded the corner, completely out of her view. Sighing, she turned her gaze back on the mall patrons, immediately spying an elderly woman trying to maneuver her motorized cart through the walkers. She laughed when the old lady shot the bird at a group of obnoxious teens as she sped by them, nearly running two of them over. JJ moved her attention to the far end of the mall.

Emily stood in front of the long counter and eyed the many flavors of ice cream; every time she made a choice, another more enticing flavor caught her eye. She once again shook her head at the thought of JJ eating plain vanilla; she'd have pegged her for at least being a pralines and cream lover. Emily sighed and tried to make up her mind. By the time she'd figured out what she wanted, the line had lengthened considerably.

Twenty minutes later, Emily balanced two cones, struggling to keep her purse on her shoulder. JJ chuckled as she watched the other woman walking toward her with a slight shuffle. She waited until Emily extended the sugar cone, topped with a scoop of pure vanilla, before she reached out to help.

"Would you like to hear your profile?" JJ asked, swiping her tongue across the side of the cold treat, the ice cream coating her tongue. She went back for another taste.

Emily almost missed the bench as she attempted to watch the pink tongue while trying to appear as if she wasn't watching. Her rather unladylike plop on the bench pulled JJ's attention away from her cone.

"I didn't realize buying ice cream could be so tiresome." JJ grinned and swiped at the cone once again. Emily slowly licked her own ice cream and was pleased to note JJ's eyes following the sweep of her tongue across the flavor she'd finally decided on – Chocolate Therapy which consisted of chocolate ice cream with chocolate cookies and swirls of chocolate pudding ice cream. It certainly was the best therapy she'd ever had.

"It was quite difficult to choose a flavor," Emily said, before indulging in the treat once again. JJ watched, almost mesmerized, as Emily tilted her head and curled her tongue around a piece of cookie, suddenly wishing that she'd asked for something more exotic for herself. She looked off in the distance and continued to eat her bland cone, her eyes focusing on the flower shop halfway down the mall. JJ grinned as she watched a tall, handsome man looking over the different arrangements.

"Emily, see that guy down by the flower shop?" asked JJ with a nod of her head and another sweep of her tongue. She kept her eyes on the 'suspect' and waited for Emily's acknowledgment.

Emily managed to move her focus from her new appreciation of the flavor of vanilla to the man whom JJ was referring to. She immediately noted his tailor-made suit and expensive shoes and wondered what a man with such fine taste was doing at the mall.

"Yes." Emily held on to her thoughts, anxious to hear what JJ had to say about the man. She bided her time working on her cone. Chocolate Therapy certainly had been an excellent choice.

"I've been watching him ever since you left to get the ice cream." JJ slid closer to Emily until their shoulders were touching. She leaned in conspiratorially. "He couldn't take his eyes off of you." JJ took advantage of their closeness to steal a quick lick of Emily's cone. "Wow, that's good."

Emily sat frozen in her seat, her worries about JJ being plain vanilla cast to the wind. JJ was practically sitting in her lap and had stolen the large cookie piece Emily had been saving. She was just barely able to ask, "What do you mean watching me?"

JJ nodded toward the man who was chatting animatedly with the sales clerk. "I think he's been hit by a thunderbolt." JJ had worked her way down to the top of her cone and frowned. She really didn't care for the actual cone; it was just a nice holder for her ice cream. Tilting both her head and the cone, she extended her tongue and worked it down inside the cone.

Emily was just about to offer her skepticism of the thunderbolt theory when one suddenly came down and struck her well below the belt. What JJ was doing to her cone could only be described as obscene, and Emily was suddenly very jealous of the sugar coated casing. Her obsession with watching JJ's agile tongue dip into the cone's center almost caused her to miss the blonde's next words.

Swallowing the last of the vanilla ice cream, JJ licked her lips and said, "This time my profile is going to be spot on." She pointed towards the flower shop. "He's completely smitten with you and plans to ply you with flowers, hoping that you'll accept his invitation to lunch."

"JJ, um . . ." Emily started, stopping when she felt something warm and sticky working its way between her fingers. She looked at her hand to find that her ice cream had melted and was slowly making its way down the sides of her cone. She'd completely ignored the last of her own ice cream to watch JJ eat hers. Tossing the cone into the nearby trash can, she tried to remove the sticky substance from her hand with an ice cream-soaked napkin.

Tossing her own cone into the trash, JJ took pity on the flustered Emily, offering her a clean napkin. "Here, try this."

Emily smiled weakly. "Thanks." She began to rub the napkin vigorously between her fingers, her earlier thoughts of thunderbolts returning. "Oh, as for the man in the flower shop, I'm pretty sure he's just buying flowers for his girlfriend or wife. There's no such thing as . . ."

A deep voice interrupted Emily's explanation. "Excuse me, Miss." Emily looked up into dark eyes almost the color of midnight. JJ's latest 'profile' stood before Emily with a bouquet of creamy white Calla Lilies. "These are for you." The handsome man extended his hand and waited patiently for Emily to accept the flowers.

"Um, I really can't . . ." Emily began, but the man was insistent.

"They're just a gift." He smiled easily and pushed the bouquet a little closer toward the seated woman. The red from Emily's cheeks extended down to her neck as she reached out slowly and took the flowers with a shaky hand, not able to keep from leaning forward and inhaling the intoxicating scent. The man grinned at the sight, and after giving JJ a quick wink, he turned and walked away.

"So?" JJ leaned back smugly, allowing Emily time to compose herself before gloating over her perfect profile.

Staring down at the gorgeous bouquet, Emily smiled. "I love Calla Lilies." She turned toward JJ and said, "And you were right about that guy. I'd have never called that one." Noticing a card peeking out from the side of the cellophane, Emily frowned and pulled it free. She began to read the broad, confident stokes.

He saw her from afar
His hand raised to beckon only to
Realize she was not there

His heart clenched with such sorrow
In the mist, her fleeting shadow faded
Once again she escaped him

He awakes, his body on fire
A faint smell of calla lilies hung on the air,
He hesitates, saying to Himself,
"I can't believe she was so
Close to me, that she was here,"

Only in dreams

You are the epitome of the calla lily, a truly magnificent beauty,
A secret admirer

The words settled comfortably around Emily's heart, bringing a smile to her lips. There was only one thing in the world that would make this moment truly special and just the thought had Emily re-reading the words, noticing this time how familiar the handwriting was. She swallowed hard and turned towards her companion.

"JJ?" Emily's voice held much more than just a questioning tone. She wished with everything that she had that her suspicions were correct.

JJ's earlier bravado had drifted away when she watched Emily read the words for the second time, knowing the exact moment Emily had recognized her handwriting. She nervously tried to laugh it off for fear that she'd made a huge mistake.

"Well, I knew the practice makes perfect idea wasn't helping, so I stacked the cards in my favor." JJ shrugged and offered an unsure smile. The moment she'd spotted the flower shop, she'd decided to go ahead with the plan she'd been putting off, time and time again. Of course, her original plan hadn't involved a third party, but it'd made JJ feel much safer about going through with it.

Emily could barely breathe, so overwhelmed by JJ's romantic gesture. The poem may have been written from a male's perspective, but the words couldn't have described their relationship any more accurately. She reached out and took JJ's hand in hers.

"You're so much braver than me." Emily squeezed JJ's hand reassuringly. "Where do we go from here?"

JJ's face lit up with pure joy as a smile stretched its way across her face. "Why don't we start with lunch and see where that takes us?"

Emily nodded her agreement. "I really like that plan."

Pushing to her feet, JJ kept her hold on Emily's hand, pulling the other woman up in a single motion. Emily carefully held the bouquet against her body, the scent rising up and filling her with a heady intoxication, the feeling of hope affirming that there was still beauty in the world despite its harshness.

JJ slid her fingers around Emily's, tightening their bond, as she led the other woman toward the mall exit. She'd been wrong; practice did indeed make perfect.


The quoted poem used in the text: The Scent of Calla Lilies by Cass A. Blake

The End

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