Written For A Tumblr Prompt: Caleb and Paige are being dragged by Em and Hanna to the mall and find themselves carrying bags and exchanging glares.
Disclaimer: They're not mine. Surprised?
Author's Notes: This fic is separate from 'Seven For A Secret' though it could conceivably happen within that universe. It's fluff, whole fluff and nothing but the fluff. No handbags or hobos were harmed in the making of this fic.
Review or you'll make Emily cry. No one likes it when Emily cries. Paige will come for you.
Paige sipped at her bottle of water, brain threatening to leak out her ears as Hannah and Emily squealed excitedly at photos on a phone. What was it this time? The perfect skirt? The perfect bra? She had tuned out somewhere around the time the girls had delved into a deep debate of peep toe versus closed. Or maybe it had been wedges versus stilettos?
"I totally saw a dress like that in one of the shops we passed."
Of course, a dress. Paige's age old nemesis. The Wil Wheaton to her Sheldon Cooper. The girls' one and only misguided attempt to wrangle her into a dress this trip had nearly ended in a Hastings level temper tantrum.
"Awesome. We should double back."
Double back? Run that gauntlet of oversized bags, crochety cashiers and over priced merchandise again? No. Strike that. Hell no.
"Totally. That's okay, right, Caleb?"
"Huh?" Caleb didn't look up from his work, busily tapping away on Paige's phone to give her free text messaging. What girl didn't need unlimited texting when she was dating Emily Fields? If she wasn't getting threatening messages from some all knowing letter of the alphabet, it was Hastings blowing up her phone with her latest theories.
"We were just saying there was a few shops we wanted to go back to before we headed home." Hannah's doe eyed look was a solid piece of competition for Aria at her Bambiest. Caleb was going to crack. It was up to Paige to hold the lines.
Paige turned to stare at him. Surrendering without a shot. Amateur.
"Awesome. Paige, what about you?"
Stay strong, McCullers. Resist the puppy dog eyes. You can do it. Emily smiled sweetly, dark gaze pleading. "It's getting late," Paige hazarded. Wait. No. She'd meant to say 'no'. Damn.
Hannah and Emily shared knowing smiles that Paige felt she should understand but didn't. There was treachery afoot. "Please, Paige. It won't take long."
Paige looked to her girlfriend, hoping her desire to do no such thing shone through in her incredulous stare. She was already sitting amidst a stack of retail bags, Emily and Hannah near obscured across the food court table by shoe boxes.
"Em..." Seeming to sense the weakening defences, Emily struck without mercy, flashing Paige a bright smile that promised rewards for good behaviour. Double damn.
Mayday! Mayday! We're going down!
"An hour," Paige finally said in compromise, turning to Caleb, looking for some measure of solidarity. If they both stood their ground, they had a chance. Right?
"Yeah, we should get on the road before rush hour. It's a long drive back to Rosewood."
The pair squealed in delight, a high pitch that Paige was surprised to hear replicated by someone who wasn't toddling about in diapers. The shoppers stood, Hannah not even pretending to reach for her purchases. Caleb, evidently well trained and well versed in shopping with his girlfriend, picked up the bags, arranging them neatly in his arms. His expectant side glance at a still seated Paige told her she was meant to follow his lead. She obligingly grabbed Emily's bags -thankfully a smaller pile than Hannah's- slinging bags and boxes under her arms.
"Paige, you don't have to..." Emily started.
"It's cool, you two'll move faster if you have your hands free." Paige was rewarded for her chivalry with a brief kiss on the lips, Emily's hands running down her arms in promise of more plentiful rewards later.
Paige and Caleb followed behind the dynamic duo who flitted from shop window to shop window only to pounce on unsuspecting retailers with abandon. A glance passed between them as the pair checked out the newest edition in a shoe line that promised a future of backaches and cramped toes. Though Paige couldn't -wouldn't- wear the shoes herself, neither could she argue with the results, high heels accentuating Emily's well shaped calves and rear to the point where all logical thought left her.
"Do you think Toby and Mr. Fitz are as whipped as we are?" Caleb asked, his attention nowhere near Paige as his eyes followed Hannah's walk.
"I don't think I've ever seen Toby set foot in a store that didn't involve tools or trucks. And I try to avoid thinking about Mr. Fitz in general."
"Creeped about him dating Aria?"
"More like I don't understand the obsession with sweater vests," Paige said. "When I think of him shopping, all I can picture is a baby fawn lying in fields of argyle."
"We're going to go into this one." Hannah pointed to a high end shop that promised high end prices. It contained far more peach than Paige could reasonably be expected to tolerate and she held her ground at the bench across from the store. Caleb put his bags down, tapping his watch so Hannah would remember they were running on a clock. It was nice to dream.
"Could you hold this for me? Pretty please?" Emily asked, holding out her handbag. Paige wasn't sure whether to hold it or shoot it, the feathers too numerous to get a handle on whether it was dead or alive. Had it moved? She thought it had moved.
"Did you... ah, borrow this from Aria, by any chance?" she asked, gamely taking the bag from her girlfriend.
"Oh, no reason." When was her last rabies shot? Did the Philly hospitals carry anti-venom? A second kiss silenced her mental run through of routes to the nearest ER.
Once Caleb was secured with a slightly less ominous red, gator skin purse, Hannah and Emily disappeared without so much as a backward glance.
"Ten minutes, Hannah," Caleb called out, getting a distracted wave in response.
Caleb reclined, leaning into the cushions of the overstuffed bench as they waited. Paige left off inspecting the bag for fangs, tucking the purse between her feet. At least if it came alive, it'd take out her shin rather than dealing a critical hit.
"How are you holding up?"
"I got shot, right in the gut. And it was still less painful than this." Caleb motioned to the obscenely large mall around them, hundreds of people milling about, the chatter almost deafening.
"Tell me about it."
"You're a girl, aren't you supposed to like all this stuff?"
"If it's not hockey or swimming gear, I avoid this like I avoid non-contact sports. My mom dresses me."
"You're kidding." Caleb looked her over, from distressed boots to page cap, eyebrow raised.
"Nope. For some reason she has a blast playing dress up. I think it's an excuse to try out all that GQ crap that she would never get my dad to wear."
"Your dad's not into fashion?"
"Nah, probably afraid if he dresses too well he might catch The Gay."
"Is it hard for you, with your parents?"
"They weren't thrilled with it but they've gotten used to the idea. And a near death experience kind of puts things in perspective."
"How's things that way? Anymore texts from 'A'?"
"Nothing so far. Hastings have any leads?"
"Last I heard, she was going after someone named Heather."
"Who the hell is Heather?"
"I don't know, some blogger chick that Spencer thinks knows too much. Apparently she saw something on Twitter."
Rolling her eyes, Paige slumped lower in her seat only to knock a stack of shoes over. "I bet Bruce Wayne never had to do this for Selina Kyle," Paige said, giving the bags in front of her a light kick.
"Well, when you become a billionaire playboy vigilante, you can hire someone to carry Emily's bags for you."
"Hey, man, I could be Batman. I kick ass. All ass. All the time."
Caleb quirked an eyebrow, uncommonly pretty cheekbones standing in stark relief as he smiled.
"Okay, that wasn't my best offering. My point is, this is embarrassing. I'm an ass kicking athletic superstar. You're a bad ass hacker and yet we've been reduced to personal schleps. How does that happen?"
Emily poked her head out the door, an unfamiliar strapless top hugging her trim form. The tops' deep shade of purple was reminiscent of the dress Emily had tried on for Cece, rich colour accentuating tanned skin. The sheen of the satin made Emily's hair somehow silkier, dark locks flowing in thick waves to frame a particularly perky amount of cleavage.
"That's how," Caleb helpfully supplied.
What? 'That's how', what? Had they been having a conversation?
"Five more minutes, okay? There's tons of stuff in here Hannah wants to try."
"Take your time," Paige said, at once proud she had managed to string the small sentence together and somewhat stunned by how easily she was reduced to little more than a puddle on the floor.
"Take your time?" Caleb asked as Emily ducked back in the store. "Really, Batman?"
"Did you see that top? You can't expect me to make reasonable choices with that around. That's like expecting Spencer to function without coffee, the world would implode right before the universe itself winked out of existence."
They sat in silence, Paige content to replay the vision of Emily in the new top as she waited the girls out.
"We've hit time, right?"
Paige checked her watch, nodding at him. Hannah and Emily's prearranged ten minutes to raid the small boutique had long expired. She had given them an extra five minutes as a buffer but they were straying over the mark now. If they had any hope of getting through the oversized mall and back to Rosewood before Halloween, they needed to keep the girls on track.
"One of us has to go in there," Caleb said, eyes clearly stating who he thought was going to end up with the task.
"Now? You're tired now? After sherpa-ing all their crap across half the damn planet, you're tired after we've been sitting for twenty minutes?"
"Hey, man. I got shot," he reminded, pulling up his shirt to show the still angry scar.
"All right, all right." Paige held up her hands to stop the strip show. "I'll go. But if I'm not back in five, you've got to come in after me."
"Never leave a man behind, I gotcha."
"I'm serious, bro code cites serious penalties for abandoning your post," Paige warned as she stood. She wandered warily toward the store, reflexes at the ready, body prepared for any eventuality. There was no telling when Hannah or some opportunistic chiffon peddling clerk might jump out to lace her up. She had been shanghaied some four stores back, half wrangled into a black dress by Hannah before she knew what was happening.
Stepping into the high end shop, Paige felt instantly out of place amidst the satin dresses and silk pants. Her plaid capris, low hanging suspenders and 'Ride to Live' shirt were no match for hundred dollar halter tops and -Paige reached out to check the tag on a set of shoes- four hundred dollar shoes. Wait, what?! "Four hundred dollars?! Holy balls, are they made of gold?"
Paige clapped a hand over her mouth at the uncouth outburst, the painfully thin clerk giving an undignified sniff before walking into the change rooms.
Danger, Will Robinson! Danger! Paige backed out of the store -eyes on alert for the Skeletor in satin- retreating to where Caleb lounged, Hannah and Emily's booty beside him. "I'm not going in there alone. You're coming with me."
"Last I checked, I had too much equipment for the girls change room."
"Please. Of the two of us, I'm the one who gets the boy points today. You and those lustrous locks of yours better butch up and help me."
Caleb grudgingly collected Hanna's gear as Paige grabbed Emily's, stiffening her upper lip as they went once more into the breach.
If Paige felt out of place, Caleb couldn't be in much better shape. Though his clothes had taken a decidedly less 'hopeful hobo' look over the last few months, simple jeans and a crewman shirt didn't fall into the haute coutour vibe of the shop.
"Do we have a battle plan?"
"Gentle but firm, we tell them time's up and we need to get moving."
"Sounds good, right up until they engage the Feminine Wiles defence system. What's your backup?"
"Resist," Paige said with a confident nod.
"You have met our girlfriends, right? How do you think we ended up spending eight hours at the mall in the first place."
"I say we retreat and regroup, we need a new plan of engagement."
"Caleb, Paige is that you?" Hannah's voice called out from somewhere in the back.
"Damn, too late."
"If it comes down to it, I won't blame you if you try to save yourself," Paige said as Skeletor emerged from the change room to beckon them over with the crook of a bony finger.
Paige went first, Caleb had taken a bullet once, it was her turn. She followed the clerk into the peach painted room, a set of curtained change stalls hiding Emily from her.
Paige sat on an artsy chair that must have doubled as a torture device, there was no proper way to sit comfortably. Caleb was similarly troubled, long legs alternately tucked under the seat, crossed in front of him then splayed lazily as they waited.
"My ass is cramping. I'm tapped, this has to stop, we've got to go, " Paige whispered, shifting in her chair to bring feeling back to her butt cheek. "We spent two hours in traffic, half an hour finding a parking space, walked all over this damn mall, twice. Ate crappy food, carried more crap than a pack mule, I just think..."
The curtain opened, Hanna and Emily stepping out. While Paige knew Hannah was a good looking girl, she barely gave her a second glance, attention focused solely on Emily. The latest dress fit like a second skin, the intense royal blue fabric tightly casing the athletic form. Heels, fancier that Paige had ever seen Emily wear, forced toned calves to stand out in stark relief. There was no doubt Paige loved Emily in simple Converse shoes, jeans and t-shirt, her casual style entirely charming. But, every once in awhile, her girlfriend chose an outfit that made every part of Paige's body sit up and scream 'hello!'.
Caleb turned to her, satisfied grin matching Paige's.
"Worth. Every. Minute."