Title: The Frogs that lead to the Prince (1/5)
Disclaimer: I don’t, nor have I ever, owned Criminal Minds, which really sucks for me! :)
Summary: The team is tired of watching Reid and Hotch pine for each other, so they come up with a plan: set Reid up on some awful dates that are sure to drive them into each other’s arms once and for all.
Penelope Garcia was happy to be the Goddess of All-Wisdom and the Oracle of the FBI, but she had to admit that sometimes possessing the great gift of all-seeing and all-knowing was immensely depressing. Times like now, for example: when she was standing in the middle of the bullpen with a steaming coffee cup in hand and she couldn’t laugh and visit with her BAU family because she was transfixed by the heartbreaking sight in the round table room.
Derek Morgan glanced up from his file and did a double-take when he saw the team’s tech analyst apparently frozen in place. “You okay, Baby Girl?” he asked playfully, immediately growing concerned when she didn’t answer him. “Garcia? Is something wrong, beautiful?”
Garcia blinked and gave herself a quick shake. “Sorry, gorgeous,” she apologized. She tried to send her normally vivacious smile his way, but Morgan didn’t need to be a profile to know his baby girl was distressed. She gestured to the round table room. “I guess I was just distracted.”
Morgan, Emily Prentiss, and Jennifer Jareau all squinted through the window on the mezzanine, but none of them could see anything to explain this un-Garcia-like behavior. In fact, the only thing they saw was Spencer Reid sitting at the table, pointing to something in the open file in front of him and talking a mile a minute to Aaron Hotchner, who was hovering behind him, reading whatever was so exciting over Reid’s shoulder. “Uh, are you talking about the cold cases Hotch and Reid are reviewing?” wondered JJ dubiously.
“No, I’m talking about the cold case that is Hotch and Reid,” replied Garcia in a tone that would have sounded snappish coming from anyone else; coming from her it just sounded upset.
“Come again?” asked Prentiss, her eyebrows raised.
“It makes no sense!” Garcia burst out. “They’re both single and they’re both catches; who doesn’t want someone who’s smart, kind, and handsome? And they’re clearly made for each other – and just look at that!” she insisted fiercely, watching as Hotch rested a hand on Reid’s shoulder. Her heart broke all over again as her junior g-man’s head turned ever-so-slightly toward the hand for a split second before he went back to talking. “They’re crazy about each other! Why, why, why aren’t they together? Tell me!”
“Calm down, baby,” soothed Morgan, jumping to his feet and putting an arm around her. “We all see it; we’ve seen it for years, Penelope. But nothing’s ever going to happen there – you know that.”
“Yeah, I don’t see either of them breaking the fraternization rules,” Prentiss spoke up as she too stood up and placed a comforting hand on Garcia’s arm.
Garcia threw her hands in the air in disgust. “Fraternization rules!” she scoffed. “How long have I been with Kevin? And in all that time, have we ever behaved in a grossly inappropriate way while we were on the job? I don’t think so! I can’t believe we’re doing anything that Captain America and the boy genius in there wouldn’t be capable of. I curse these fraternization rules!” Her gaze turned into a glare as David Rossi emerged from his office and walked down the stairs into the bullpen. “And I curse you for being the reason for them!”
Rossi stopped short and stared at her. “What did I do?” he asked, valiantly fighting his amused smile. He’d learned the hard way that it was best to know why a woman was angry with you before you laughed about it, especially when said woman could destroy your credit history in a matter of minutes.
JJ shot Rossi her signature smile, the one that was motherly, apologetic, and indulgent all at the same time, and nodded toward the round table room. “Fraternization rules,” she explained as she rubbed Garcia’s back consolingly.
Rossi looked through the window and rolled his eyes when he saw Hotch and Reid playing out yet another scene in their endless oxymoronic drama of mutual unrequited love. “Please,” he snorted. “Those stupid fraternization regs aren’t what’s keeping Hotch and Reid apart. The rules could go away this second and those two still wouldn’t be able to drag their heads out of their asses – they’re both too insecure, too uptight, and too scarred by their pasts; not to mention the fact that they seem to think there’s some sort of honor in not giving in to their feelings.”
Prentiss shook her head regretfully. “It’s a shame,” she acknowledged. “I think it would be so good for both of them.”
“They definitely need it, that’s for sure,” quipped Rossi sardonically. “But it’s gonna take nothing short of some serious divine intervention to make it happen.”
Garcia’s entire face lit up as inspiration hit. “Divine, as in the Goddess of All-Wisdom?” asked Garcia excitedly. “You’re right, my Italian Stallion: it is my job – my responsibility – to make sure our star-crossed lovers get together.” She spun around and jabbed her fingers at each one of them. “And it’s all of your jobs as my devotees to help me make it happen.”
“Italian Stallion?” repeated Rossi. He wasn’t sure how he felt about that, though he supposed he’d been called worse….
“Not the important part, Rossi,” Morgan reminded him before turning back to Garcia. “Mama, I know you mean well, but how are we supposed machete through all those years of stubbornness and self-denial?”
“We’re going to lock them in the janitor’s closet until they declare their love for each other!”
JJ bit her lower lip to keep from laughing. “That’s called kidnapping,” she reminded Garcia. “The FBI tends to frown upon that.”
“Stupid FBI,” grumbled Garcia. She racked her mind and brightened once more. “Maybe we could hook them up to electrodes – yeah, and zap them every time they start pulling away from each other until realize that being together equals no pain.”
“Uh, there are some logistical issues with that,” Prentiss pointed out. “You know, with getting the electrodes on and making sure they stay on – I don’t think Hotch or Reid would just sit back and let us hook them up like lab rats. Besides, I’m pretty sure that’s considered assault.”
“Does no one believe in all-for-one-and-all-for-love anymore?” demanded Garcia, exasperated. She stared up at the supposed-to-be lovebirds and furrowed her brow in intense thought. “How about we set them up with other people? You know, so they get all jealous and really pine for each other?”
“How does that get them together?” argued Morgan rationally. “Knowing them, it would just be another reason not to give in to their feelings – they’ll try to be all noble and not interfere with the other one moving on.”
The wheels in Garcia’s head were turning. “But what if we set them up with really bad people?”
JJ made a disapproving noise and Morgan got a protective glint in his eyes at the thought of his honorary little brother out with anyone who didn’t treat him right. “Not ‘bad’ as in ‘cruel’ or ‘dangerous’,” clarified Garcia. “I’m talking about making them spend some evenings with the highly dysfunctional. Oh, oh, oh – we could get some of our friends to go out on these dates and act like the craziest so-and-so’s ever. Reid and Hotch will run screaming into each other’s arms!”
“There’s absolutely no way Hotch will ever agree to any fix-up,” said Rossi. “Not even you can make him, Garcia. He’ll say no, and there’ll be nothing you can do to convince him otherwise.”
“But we could make Reid.” Everyone stared at Prentiss, whose expression turned defensive as she continued: “I’m just saying it would be relatively easy for us to cajole or trick Reid into going out on these dates. He’s too polite to stand someone up if we set up a date before we tell him about it, or to run out if we just spring someone on him while we’re hanging out outside of work.”
“Yes!” cheered Garcia as she beamed at her new partner-in-crime. “All we need is to find a few people who are willing to go out on a brief date that’s guaranteed to go nowhere and act as grating and repugnant as possible. Each of us should be able to scrounge up one!”
“Reid goes on a date and gets freaked out by the creep we’ve set him up with,” mulled Morgan thoughtfully. “He’ll go to Hotch afterwards because he always goes to Hotch when he wants to be comforted and indulged; and he won’t be able to stop himself from comparing the weirdo he went out with to the man he loves. At the same time, Hotch gets jealous when he finds out Reid’s started dating all of the sudden; but he also realizes Reid needs rescuing from the losers he seems to be attracting and how much better off Reid is with him.” He rubbed his chin. “I even have a buddy who’d do this for some free food and a laugh. This could actually work.”
“More likely it’ll blow up in everyone’s faces,” broke in Dave, dumbfounded by how easily Garcia had pulled two intelligent and reasonable profilers into a scheme reminiscent of some cliché-ridden chick flick. He turned hopefully to JJ. “Back me up.”
JJ was quiet for a moment. “I have this friend,” she finally said, slowly at first but picking up speed as the excitement started to take hold. “He and his partner take their daughter for walks in the same park where Will and I take Henry. He’s an actor and a hopeless romantic – he’d definitely agree to help out in exchange for a little free babysitting.”
“I feel like Desi from I Love Lucy, except I have four Lucys coming up with a cockamamie scheme,” said Rossi, staring at them in disbelief. He shook his head and raised his hands in surrender when they looked back at him with expectant faces. “I won’t rat you out to Hotch or Reid, but that’s as far as my involvement goes.” He made his escape, but couldn’t resist adding over his shoulder: “Oh, and in case of explosion, I reserve the right to say ‘I told you so’.”
Garcia wasn’t deterred. “We don’t need him for this,” she confidently told her co-conspirators. “We have a fantastically clever, can’t-fail plan, and it’s time we start putting it into action…”
Morgan and the Lothario
“You’re going out with my friend James tonight.”
Reid paused for a second, trying to interpret this comment, before he resumed pouring his coffee. “No, I’m not,” he replied, looking over at Morgan, who was looking back at him with crossed arms and a serious expression. “I don’t know who told you that, but –”
“It’s not a question, Reid,” Morgan interrupted him. “It’s a statement of fact. I told James you’d meet him at Marcel’s at 8:00, so don’t be late.”
A date? A blind date? And a blind date he’d never agreed to at that? “Call him and tell him I can’t make it,” said Reid with just a touch of hysteria. Why was Morgan doing this to him? “I don’t have any time tonight.” Or ever, he wanted to add, but he knew better than to say that.
“It’s not a two week vacation in the tropics or even dinner – it’s just dessert. You can spare one hour for dessert,” Morgan told him firmly.
“Can you at least tell me more about him?” pleaded Reid, thinking fast. “At least tell me his last name!”
“What, you think I’m giving you James’ last name so you can track him down and cancel yourself? Think again, genius.”
Reid’s eyes flicked over to the mezzanine and his heart twisted at the sight of Hotch walking to his office. He didn’t want to go out with this James person or anyone else who wasn’t the man he loved. “Morgan –”
“No! It’s time you start putting yourself out there, Reid; you have to start letting all interested parties see what you have to offer. Marcel’s, 8:00 – he’ll be waiting.”
Getting stood up was a humiliating experience, but as Reid opened the door to Marcel’s at precisely 8:00 he found himself hoping against hope that this James person decided not to show. It would get him out of tonight and give him enough leverage to keep Morgan from ever putting him on the spot like that ever again.
“Good evening,” the hostess greeted him. “How many tonight?”
He gave her a tight smile. “I don’t know if I need a table or not,” he explained as he fought down the inexplicable lump in his throat. “I’m supposed to be meeting –”
“Me,” cut in a deep voice full of admiration.
Reid turned to get a look at the person who belonged to that voice. He had to admit, the man he presumed was his date was handsome (though not as handsome as Hotch, by any stretch of the imagination). The guy appeared to be about Morgan’s age and had skin that was just a shade darker. He was wearing shirt that was unbuttoned to the middle of his smooth chest, and he was flashing Reid a lascivious smile from his seat at a nearby booth. Apparently he hadn’t stood Reid up and it didn’t look like he was going to be running out of the restaurant anytime soon.
Cursing to himself, the younger man made his way over and gave the man an awkward wave. “James?”
“Spencer,” replied James in a low, seductive tone. He deliberately and thoroughly scanned Reid’s body from the bottom up and then grinned, obviously pleased with what he saw. He rose up, and Reid saw that he was wearing also wearing pants that were too tight across the crotch and rear end. “Well, hello sexy.”
James grabbed Reid’s hand, pulling it forward like he was going to shake it before slowly raising it to his lips and gave it a lingering kiss. Never once did those hungry eyes leave the younger man’s face. “Where has Derek been hiding your fine ass?”
Panic skittered though Reid, but he forced it down. ‘This is Morgan’s friend,’ he reminded himself. Surely Morgan wouldn’t set him up with anyone dangerous. There was probably a perfectly good reason why he was coming on so strong. Perhaps this was just how people acted on dates nowadays and he just didn’t know it because he hadn’t done a lot of dating in his life and absolutely none lately.
He forced a smile as he pulled his hand out of the other man’s grasp. “Ah, the FBI?” he squeaked, quickly tossing his messenger bag onto his bench and sliding in, desperate to put some distance between them. James sat down opposite him, looking intrigued and not at all offended. “I mean, he hasn’t been hiding me there –we’re both FBI agents and we work together there – and sometimes we go out to eat and stuff – but not like dates or anything – we’re just friends, you know?”
“You’re shy,” observed James, as if it was the most delightful thing ever. He placed a hand over Reid’s, caressing it as he gave the younger man a suggestive look. “I like people who are shy – I know how to make them come out of their shells.”
Dear God, using such a blatant double entendre couldn’t be what passed for normal behavior on dates! Reid struggled to keep his anxiety from showing as he fumbled for the right reply. Thankfully, the waitress came over to them before had to come up with anything. “What can I get for you gentleman this evening?” she asked.
“Do you have brownie sundaes?” Reid asked, and managed a tiny smile when she nodded. He might as well get something he enjoyed out of what was turning out to be a truly awful experience. “I’ll have one of those.”
“I’ll have what he’s having,” purred James, giving Reid a wink and the finger-gun point.
The waitress shot Reid an ‘is this guy for real?’ look before scurrying off to get their sundaes. “So,” said James, blessedly releasing Reid’s hand to reach for the dessert menu. “What exactly did you order for us?”
“You’ve never had a brownie sundae?” asked Reid, surprised. The older man shook his head. “They usually consist of a brownie, vanilla ice cream, hot fudge, chocolate syrup, whipped cream, peanuts, and a maraschino cherry. They’re really good.”
“They sound good,” James told him. He smile naughtily and looked at him through hooded eyes. “I bet they’d taste even better with my favorite kind of nuts and cherries.”
“Oh, would you prefer pecans and a fresh cherry?” asked Reid. He raised his hand to signal the waitress. “I’m sure they’ll make the substitutions –”
James laced his fingers through the raised hand and guided it back to the table. “They can’t make these substitutions,” he said in a startlingly husky voice. “You see, I can’t devour my favorite kind of nuts and cherry when we’re out in public like this.” His gaze dropped to the part of the table shielding Reid’s lap and then looked up in Reid’s face. “But you’re right about one thing,” he whispered, leaning in closer. “I do like a fresh cherry.”
Reid could hear his heart thumping in his ears. “What?” he managed to croak.
“Don’t go pretending you don’t know what I’m talking about,” drawled James. “Or else Daddy may just have to spank that fine ass later.”
The waitress (an angel, really – Reid made a mental note to give her a gigantic tip) chose that moment to deliver two brownie sundaes to their table. “Here you go,” she said. She glanced quickly between James’ creepy leer and Reid’s panicky disgust and gave the younger man a meaningful look. “Let me know if you need anything else.”
James grinned at his dessert. “I love chocolate syrup and whipped cream too,” he declared, tossing the long-handled spoon aside and sticking a finger into it. “But I think something that sweet tastes better when it’s paired with something saltier …or something that tastes bitter.”
Reid watched in horror as the other man obscenely licked the whipped cream off his finger and gave him a supremely filthy smile. “Uh huh,” he sputtered as he discreetly groped through his messenger bag. His fingers closed around a cool metal cylinder and Reid breathed the sigh of relief of someone who had pepper spray and wouldn’t hesitate to use it if necessary.
The next morning, Reid stormed into the BAU break area. “Where’s Morgan?”
Hotch, the only person in the area, was quite proud of himself for not jumping out of his skin at the unexpected noise. “He’s not in here,” he said, putting the coffee pot back and closing his fingers around his cup. He took a moment to search his memory. “I don’t think I’ve seen him yet. His jacket’s here, though; so he might be hiding –”
“Yeah, I bet he’s hiding!” Reid cut him off, fuming as he gestured furiously. “First he sets up a date for me for last night without telling me first –”
“You went out on a date last night?” asked Hotch, his voice tightening ever so slightly. This was a good thing for Reid, he told himself; and hearing about it certainly did not painfully strangle the life out of his heart.
“’It’s time you start putting yourself out there,’ he said; ‘it’s just dessert,’ he said,” ranted Reid. He was pacing like a caged tiger. “I spent the better part of an hour watching his perverted friend molest a brownie sundae!”
“It was awful, Hotch,” moaned Reid angrily. “He kept looking at me and touching my hand and saying all this stuff about my ‘fine ass’, shy people, his favorite nuts and cherries, and whipped cream.”
Hotch didn’t quite understand what Reid was going on about, but he got enough to know it wasn’t good. He quickly put his cup down on the counter and hurried to his agent’s side. “Are you okay?” he asked gently. The younger man wasn’t acting like something truly terrible had happened, but he still needed to hear it. “He didn’t…do anything?”
All the anger in Reid’s body seemed to melt away at the sound of Hotch’s concerned words. “Nothing like that,” he promised in a much more subdued voice as he sank down in a chair. Hotch knelt down next to him and placed a supportive hand on his back. “I’m fine; he just did a lot of talking and…well – never mind. It’s silly.”
“No, it’s not,” insisted Hotch, both relieved and pleased. Relieved and pleased that Reid was all right, of course; not because the mystery jerk had made such a terrible impression on his young (sweet, kind, beautiful) agent. “Not if it makes you this upset.”
“It’s just,” Reid turned to look over at him; Hotch took one look at that forlorn expression and wanted to give him the world just to make him happy again, “I love brownie sundaes, and now thanks to him they mean something dirty.”
“Don’t do that, Reid – don’t let some creep keep you away from something you love,” Hotch urged him, giving him an encouraging pat on the back. “I’ll tell you what: how about at lunchtime you and I walk over to the diner and take back the brownie sundae for the good guys.”
Reid let out a little laugh and smiled his first real smile since Morgan told him about the misbegotten date. “That sounds good,” he said softly, turning his body toward Hotch. The older agent waited for a couple beats to drop his hand, and for a brief moment his arm was wrapped half-around Reid’s slight body. “Thanks, Hotch.”
Hotch’s hand trembled as it ached to brush against Reid’s cheek. “My pleasure.”
“Did you see that?” demanded Garcia, her eyes still glued to the monitor. “Tell me you guys saw that!”
“We saw it,” Prentiss assured her as all four of them leaned in closer, watching intently at the screen showing Hotch and Reid gazing at each other in the break area. “Morgan, I’ve got to say your buddy got some impressive results – and all for some free dessert and a laugh.”
“Well, now I’ve got to help him paint his garage,” said Morgan with a shrug. “He upped his price; said I wasn’t straight with him about how he’d have to ‘pull my sleaziest moves on someone who kept looking at me with those Bambi eyes’, as he put it. Well, that and he decided he deserved additional compensation after spending half the time convinced Reid was about to gas him and half the time worrying the waitress was going to call 911.”
“All for a good cause,” Garcia declared, still not looking up from the screen. “Our boys are good and primed for phase two. You got your friend ready, JJ?”“Definitely,” replied JJ with a calculating glint in her eyes. “We’ve worked out just the right act and I think it’s safe to say it’s going to be…effective.”
Part Two: JJ and the Mama's Boy