Author's Note: I want to thank our loyal readers that are sticking with us. I know my postings are sporadic these days and I apologize for it. I've received a couple of negative anonymous reviews over that very issue. Real life, especially mine, is complicated. Going from a loving two parent household to a single parent with a husband fighting in a dangerous war is difficult. I'm not asking for sympathy, just please be patient. I promise, I'm writing as fast as I can, but I want to bring you guys something of quality instead of garbage I wrote on the fly.
Also, we have two new open discussion threads. One is called, "Cyclones, Snowmageddon, and Egyptian Uprisings, OH MY!" Feel free to leave your best wishes for our friends in Australia and throughout the US suffering from the ravaging affects of Mother Nature.
And finally, as some of you may or may not know, there are some changes coming for our favorite show and we have opened a "Show Spoilers" thread for readers and authors to discuss their take on episodes and upcoming plotlines.
As ever, I don't own Criminal Minds.
Quid Pro Quo
She was never certain how she had earned the unfortunate nickname of "the dragon lady". Oh, she had a few ideas…and most of them originated with David Ross.
But it was nothing she could prove, try as she might.
But none took her unfortunate moniker more seriously than the unique woman whose help she required at this moment. Help that the other woman was not, in spite of her advanced position, required to offer her. This wasn't Bureau related. Far from it.
Erin Strauss, for once, found herself in need of a personal favor.
From a woman that she was fairly certain despised and feared her in equal measure.
But, her need for assistance outweighed her hesitance in approaching the very talented Penelope Garcia. If the rumors were to be believed, and she was certain they were, there wasn't an illicit fact the technical genius couldn't unearth when the mood struck her. Often, Erin idly wondered how many times the popular technical analyst had scrutinized her life. Lucky for her, her personal record was pristine.
Well, that was…except for that one unfortunate incident regarding Rossi over twenty years ago, and she suspected that information hadn't been used due to in an effort to preserve David's reputation rather than her own.
Pausing outside the threshold to Garcia's office, Erin straightened her spine and stiffening her shoulders. Inhaling deeply, she reminded herself that the worst Ms. Garcia could do was simply refuse her request. And although she wasn't accustomed to hearing the word no on a regular basis, she would learn to live with the rebuff. Lifting her hand, she tapped on the door before she could change her mind.
"Enter, mortal, the goddess feels ambivalent this day," a bright voice chirped from behind the door.
Raising an eyebrow at the greeting, Erin blinked as she tilted her head, attempting to decipher the cryptic statement. Was that code for "come in"? Quickly deciding that what she'd heard had to be an invitation, she twisted the knob and stepped inside the brightly painted office. The EXTREMELY bright office.
While it was true that individuals with assigned office locations had the right to alter the surroundings or paint to suit their individual tastes, Erin had never seen a room quite so...enthusiastic. Walls were covered in bright yellow, with various prints splashed with equally vibrant colors, and for a few moments, Erin felt as though she'd entered into an alternate universe. And she was being watched.
By troll dolls. All over the room!
"Ahem," Erin cleared her throat, trying to ignore the way the flower pens in the vase on Garcia's desk seemed to actually be growing with each passing second. Didn't the Bureau provide Bics in the supply room? "Ms. Garcia, I was hoping you could spare me a moment."
Back stiffening as she heard the feminine voice of the devil incarnate invade her sanctuary, Penelope turned cautiously, her full indigo skirt sliding around her legs with a swish. "Section Chief Strauss," she said stiffly, the easy chipperness eclipsed now from her oh so neutral voice. "How may I help you? Is there a new case? Because I assure you I've been through all the current files and..."
"No, no," Erin stopped the flow of words as she waved her hand. "You're doing a fine job assigning cases to the BAU. Excellent, in fact."
"Not as good as my predecessor," Pen mumbled, her eyes narrowing as she mentally cast a curse on the woman responsible for the missing member of their team.
Controlling the wince that threatened to escape, Erin briefly considered bolting. She'd forgotten the rather pertinent fact that the woman she'd transferred to the Department of Defense, Jennifer Jareau, had been Garcia's best friend. And she had a distinct feeling that Garcia was not going to be in an understanding mood and ready to grant favors any time soon.
"Yes," Erin acknowledged as she nodded, once again straightening her shoulders. "JJ was extremely talented. I hear she's doing excellent in her new position at DOD," she offered weakly, forcing a smile to her almost numb lips.
"Makes seeing my godson harder...not sharing the same hours and all," Penelope replied tightly, her face not quite a sneer, but close. Crossing her arms over her ample bosom, she glared at the Section Chief as she attempted to determine what had brought the wicked witch of the west to her section of Oz.
"Penelope, may I speak freely?" Erin asked evenly, hoping to ease open the door of congeniality.
"Only if I may as well, without repercussions," Pen replied evenly, smiling sweetly.
"Of course," Erin agreed immediately as she nodded.
"Good. If this isn't business, Dragon Lady, why are you darkening my door?" Penelope asked bluntly. "I burn incense to keep the evil spirits away, you know. And I have a voodoo priestess cleanse my office twice a year. YOU shouldn't have been able to enter the door," Garcia informed the Section Chief bluntly, reminding herself to request a refund from the spirits forthwith.
"I see," Erin replied tightly, rapidly believing she'd made a rather large mistake in coming here. But options were limited, she reminded herself sternly, and private investigators were notoriously slow. She was going to have to bite the bullet and attempt to sway this woman to her side, the consequences be damned.
"I sincerely doubt that," Pen snorted, popping up out of her chair and propping one hand on her hip.
"You really do not like me at all, do you?" Erin asked rhetorically, deciding that her chances of answers to her questions were becoming more and more distant. And if she had nothing to lose, then she was going to throw caution to the wind and at least learn a few things along the way.
Raising one eyebrow as she blew a flyaway red curl from her face, Penelope narrowed her eyes. "Do you really need an answer to that question?"
"No, I suppose not," Erin muttered, sighing as she felt her left eye start to twitch. "Which makes what I'm about to ask from you that much more difficult."
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