A/n: This is by no means a piece of fine writing craftsmanship, but it was sure as hell fun to write! I probably would not have even done so, were the images not so provocative. You'll see. ;)
Title: Sleuth Work
Pairings/Characters: Prentiss, Garcia, JJ, Reid/OC (questionably)
Disclaimer: I do not own Criminal Minds, CBS, or anything at all from or in regards to this story.
Her suspicion begins with a handshake. Being in the FBI means one big dinner after the next, all formal affairs in which Emily easily becomes bored once the novelty of free wine and cheese wears off. There's the semi-annual grant meeting, the every-other-monthly staff development circuit. She wears nice outfits, brushes off the sensation of just a few too many drink-glazed eyes on her neckline, and takes two ibuprofen right at the start so that she can manage to smile all evening while her feet throb in too-tall stilettos.
One meeting, every meeting the same. It's the same faces—the BAU men looking sharp in suits, the ladies rocking their paychecks via Vera Wang and whatever designer is in season. Shaking hands with vague acquaintances and the occasional stranger. Nodding at small talk, laughing at the same joke the guy from PR told last time. Listening to the lecturer while sipping on her weak wine and trying to get as buzzed as possible without crossing the border into Drunkenland.
And then, just when she thought that nothing about these events can surprise her, something does.
Emily contemplates what she saw all weekend. By the time Monday arrives, she's convinced herself that something was slightly out of place, and goes to the professionals for advice…
"Wait, wait, explain it again, I must bemissing something," JJ says, shaking her hands by her head as if confused beyond reason. "Okay, so you're chatting with the hot girl from white collar—what's her name?"
"Eileen Martineau. And she's the new head of the white collar department, not just some random hot girl," Emily responds.
"Right, Eileen. Okay, so you grab Spence to introduce him to her, and he… what? He shakes her hand, right?"
Emily nods at Garcia and JJ, both of whom are looking back at Emily as if she's got a second head sprouting from her shoulders. Garcia's slouched sideways in her chair with her chin in one hand, evidently more confused by this exchange than anything else. JJ has remained skeptical thus far, her arms folded across her chest. Upon seeing these expressions, Emily sighs and pulls the other two women up from their seats.
"Okay, look. I'll be Reid. JJ, you be me. Garcia, you can be Martineau."
"Ooh la la," Garcia says, smirking as she takes her place across from JJ.
"Now, JJ, pretend like you've been having the usual soft skill conversation. And then Reid walks by, and you pull him aside to introduce the two of us. I'll show you exactly what he did. Act like we're all holding wine glasses, all right? And Garcia, when JJ introduces us, just nod at first and then go with what I do."
"Let's do this."
Straightening her pose as she prepares to act, JJ pretends to break away from conversation with Garcia as Emily approaches. She grab's Emily's arm and Emily calmly complies with the gesture to come right up alongside the other two.
JJ begins, "Reid, have you met Eileen? She's the head of the white collar crime department. Eileen, this is Spencer Reid."
Garcia, at first, only gives him a casual nod. Emily, however, makes the effort to switch her invisible wine glass from her right hand to her left, then reaches across the gap. In turn, Garcia reciprocates. Their hands clasp briefly.
"Spencer Reid," Emily introduces herself.
"Eileen Martineau," Garcia replies, her red-painted lips curving into a smile. "It's a pleasure to meet you, Spencer."
"Same to you, Eileen. Excuse me…"
And with that, Emily coolly starts off in the opposite direction, switching her glass back to her right hand as she moves. When she turns around, she's pleased to see that the other women have replaced their skeptical faces with ones of amazement.
"I swear it happened just like that," Emily assures the other two. "He actually made the effort to switch hands and initiate the handshake, and then disappeared without making small talk or telling her that he's read all of her books. I've never seen him react like that before—and to a well-known and smoking hot department head, no less! It was amazing."
"How hot is this girl, exactly?" asks Garcia. She can barely contain her glee, rising up on the balls of her feet and almost bouncing with energy.
"Tall, blonde, and sculpted," says Emily. "I told you this was serious, didn't I?"
"Wow." Taken aback, JJ shakes her head. The realization sinks in, slow at first and then becoming a steady trickle of confidence. "Do you know what that means?"
"Does it mean that we get to break the no inter-team profiling rule?" Emily asks, hopeful.
Garcia actually laughs. "Emily my love, if it means that we get to find out if Dr. Reid is twiddling Ms. Martineau's padiddle, then you won't be able to stop me from digging this one up."
Whether by coincidence or a stroke of good luck, the team experiences an uncharacteristic ebb in cases, which leaves them to research and deskwork. This break in travel also means that Emily spends more time on the Reid Romance case than she probably should. Once Garcia practiced her magic on Eileen Martineau's file, the three discovered that Martineau is not only a specialist in white collar crime, but a highly-ranked chess player to boot. At this news, they practically considered the mystery solved—at least until Garcia also noted that Reid and Eileen had only been in the same room a handful of times since her appointment six months prior. The gaping holes in their logic don't really matter, though. The very idea of Reid hitting it off with the stunning department head is enough to spur their enthusiasm past the gaps. Trying to inconspicuously weasel information out of an apparently oblivious Reid quickly becomes something of a sport.
Emily, whose desk sits closest to Reid's, attempts a less direct approach.
"Hey Reid, can I ask you for some advice?"
Reid looks up from his almanac of obsessive crimes to find Emily staring at him from across the desks, her hands folded atop a stack of file folders.
"Sure, I guess," he answers.
"Well," she begins, offering him a shy smile. "I'm going out tonight… I guess you could call it a date."
Reid's eyebrows contract. "A date? With who?"
"That's not important," she says hastily, brushing off his question with the wave of her hand. "But here's the thing—he's dated a lot of blondes in the past, and I'm clearly not a blonde. What I can't decide is whether or not to mention it to him."
"I'm not sure I'm the right person to ask about this," comes the response, one headshake later. "I don't have nearly sufficient experience in that field to answer your question with any kind of certainty. I do know that I wouldn't want to give you the advice that ruins dinner."
"I'm sure you've had some sort of… I don't know. Similar issue. Do you think that it would be rude of me to ask?"
"Do you know who you're talking to?" says Reid, clearly nonplussed.
Emily chuckles slightly, as if she hasn't realized until now that she's been trying to get dating tips out of Spencer Reid. Conceding with a small smirk, she picks up her pen, examines it for a few seconds, and then sets it back down a pile of paperwork.
Reid 1, Emily 0.
The others play their part as well, but to a similar effect. On a Friday night following a week of arduous paperwork, Garcia spontaneously decides that a trip to the bar is in order.
"Usually we can get him to come with us," she explains to Emily and JJ in hushed tones as they prepare a pot of coffee. "But if he is in a relationship, he's not going to want anything but to get home and cuddle with his saucy mama. So if he can't be persuaded, it's because he actually has someplace else to be. And where else would he insist on being, if not in the custom-tailored pants of our Eileen Martineau?"
The other two smirk and hide their excitement behind the rims of their coffee mugs. Sleuthing, as silly and schoolgirlish as it is, is nevertheless amusing—even therapeutic. Though none say it aloud, the idea of Reid getting his groove on is… comforting, somehow. Perhaps even endearing. Naïve little Reid with his endless arsenal of statistics, naïve little Reid crawling up over some ridiculously hot chick with some serious mojo. They don't say it aloud—and if they did, they would blush to their toes and drop the investigation without a backward glance—but the unspoken hope that Reid is actually with this woman keeps their enthusiasm alive. And if he's not? It is a distinct possibility that Reid was merely distracted at the dinner party. As atypical as it is for him to be so aloof and confident, Emily has to accept the possibility that he simply hadn't noticed Eileen's remarkable figure.
Hence, this game. There's something about spying on Reid from behind a computer monitor that appeals to them all, even if he's not doing anything out of the ordinary. She can barely call it profiling; it feels a lot more like spying.
Garcia waits until the last possible moment to spring the bar trip on Reid (which happens to be as he's heading out the door). As usual, he at first claims to have other plans. Garcia gives him her best puppy eyes and asks again, poised for a protest party, and then—
"All right, I guess I can go."
They watch him the whole night, like soldiers inspecting the enemy, except for the part where any answers will merely serve their own curiosities. Taking small sips from her beer, Emily keeps a sharp eye on him at all times.
Reid, for his part, is Reid. He orders just one drink, talks too much about a plethora of topics in which he is well-versed (basically any subject he has cared to even think about), and does not take out his phone to send his lover a text message regarding his sudden change in whereabouts. Not a single time.
It is JJ who finally comes out and asks him if he's seeing anybody. Of course, when she does, she does it in that slick JJ fashion that the others could not have achieved without causing suspicion. Reid has always confided in her the most anyway, Emily concedes. It's really better that she be the one to delve into his more personal matters.
For starters, JJ doesn't plan her assault. One day about two weeks since the dinner where Emily tried to introduce Reid and Eileen, JJ offers to grab sandwiches for the team. There's a little deli just down the street that they all visit on a regular basis. JJ takes down the orders, and passes Reid's desk on her way toward the elevator.
"Hey Spence, wanna join me? I could use some help carrying lunch."
Reid consents. The pair grabs their coats and heads out the door, JJ shooting Emily a covert wink over her shoulder as they pass by. Inwardly, Emily smiles and gives herself a reassuring pat on the back. Nothing like a leisurely stroll to spark some intimate conversation…!
Unfortunately, JJ shakes her head when she finally returns.
"I asked him if he was seeing anybody, and he said he wasn't," she sighs, pressing a wrapped BLT into Emily's hands. "He didn't seem suspicious that we've been watching him for the last few days, but he said he wasn't really in the position to be dating anybody. And I can't say I blame him! With all the traveling we do, I barely have time to see Henry, never mind work on my relationship."
Emily frowns as she accepts the sandwich. "Well, if he said it, then I guess…"
"I think it's time we let it go. In hindsight, I do feel a little bad for snooping around."
"I think you're right, Jayge," says Emily. The two women shoot a glance over to where Reid is refueling on his sixth cup of coffee while simultaneously reading the New York Times from cover to cover. "Maybe this time, a handshake is just a handshake."
From that point on, they drop the subject entirely, immersing themselves into the case that follows a few days later. Other than the one fluke, none of the three sense any real change in Dr. Reid. For the most part, he remains the same as ever, and they cover up their initial disappointment with the idea that Reid, at least, will always have his books as company.
Spencer stands before the sink in his bathroom, clad in a fresh pair of boxer shorts and breathing in the moisture-air one easy breath at a time. He clears the shower-borne fog away from the mirror with one hand, shakes up his contact lens case, and pushes his damp hair out of his eyes. After popping in one contact, and then the other, he blinks at his reflection a few times to clear away the excess solution.
"People at work have been behaving very strange," he says. "I think Emily Prentiss may have thought a little too far into my reaction at the dinner party, though I have to admit that it wasn't my best effort at neutrality."
Now he pads, barefoot, across the tiled floor and into the doorway to the bedroom.
"What do you think?"
Eileen Martineau looks up from her copy of the US Chess Federation Magazine and smirks. Her hair, too, is wet and loose from a recent shower. She has yet to change out of her bathrobe, and has retired to the recliner with a magazine since last Spencer saw her.
"Are you asking me how I feel about your friends," she begins, "or about you standing there in your underpants?"
Blushing despite his best efforts, Spencer makes a quiet beeline for the freshly-ironed slacks waiting for him on the bed.
"I was actually talking about our situation in general," he says, smiling down at the carpet, his hands yanking the khakis up over his legs. "This has been going on for a while now, and I'm just concerned that we may be crossing the professional boundaries."
Eileen rolls her eyes and turns a page in the magazine, the simper never leaving her face even as she scans her reading material. "Well, technically I could be considered your superior, though we're not exactly dating. Unless you consider 'fuck buddies' a subdivision of a committed relationship."
Spencer, having donned a collared shirt, begins to wrestle himself into a sweater vest.
"Not exactly, no. You're certainly free to see anyone you want."
"And so are you. So unless you want to openly admit to your coworkers that you're having casual familiar relations with the head of the white collar crime division…?"
Spencer pauses in adjusting his wristwatch and tries to picture himself in such a situation. He tried to imagine how he could willingly sit down before the desk of S.S.A. Aaron Hotchner and explain that he had met Eileen three months ago at a convention and had been screwing her ever since… the idea alone makes him shudder.
He looks up, watch still in hand, and meets Eileen's eyes from across the room.
And they both laugh.