A/N: I've chosen not to include Kat and Hannah in this story b/c I didn't really care for either of their characters and I felt they weren't really all that important to Shleby. I didn't include Jess in this either – just because it worked better that way! LOL
Also rest of the CM team won't be making an appearance. This is just between JJ and Garcia (for now).
"Hi Ya Buttercup!" Garcia greeted cheerfully but could tell from the moment her best friend walked into her office that something wasn't quite right. It didn't take a profiler to notice that the usually calm and controlled Agent was very tense, very nervous and fidgeting with the piece of paper she held in her hands. Jennifer Jareau never fidgeted.
"I uh," the former Communications Specialist stumbled on her words, which only confirmed Garcia's suspicion that something was defiantly wrong. "I need your help with something..." She paused, choosing her words carefully, "…personal."
"Of course JJ. Whatever you need, you know that. What's up?" She asked watching her friend closely.
"I…uh, Can you," JJ started looking down at the paper in her hands, "Can you find some information for me on some people?"
"That's what I do best Sweetpea." Garcia smiled and then patted the chair beside her indicating she wanted JJ to sit down so that they could get to work. "Who are we looking for?" Getting no response from the petite blonde Garcia pushed on. "JJ?"
"I'm sorry." JJ said standing from the chair in a moment of panic. "I shouldn't have asked you to do this. I uh, I need to go." She started to make her way towards the door.
"JJ, wait!" Garcia called after her friend, who stopped but didn't turn around. "Whatever this is I can help you, but you need to tell me what's going on." It was true that Garcia was concerned before but when JJ turned to face her and had tears in her eyes Garcia's concerned quickly turned into fear. Deciding that there were no words for the current situation Garcia simply stood, walked to her friend and enveloped her in a loving hug.
As the two women held each other JJ buried her face in Garcia's shoulder. "You're so warm." JJ whispered into Garcia's shoulder before the two pulled apart.
"Are you going to tell me what this is all about now?"
"I, uh…" she faltered over her words for the second time that day so instead she decided to just shake her head no as another tear rolled down her cheek.
"Come here," Garcia said pulling her friend back towards the seat she had occupied earlier. "Who's on the list Sunshine?" Garcia pointed to the list JJ held tightly in her right hand.
"Some people I used to know." JJ answered not daring to look into Garcia's eyes.
"Ok." Garcia said turning back to her computers. "Let's have a look shall we?"
JJ stared at the paper in her hand for what seemed like an eternity debating her decision to do this. To let others into a world only she knew about. 'Yes, it was time' she thought to herself. Looking down at the list again she remained silent trying to decide which name to say out loud, which name to look into. When she finally spoke the first name, "Ezra Friedkin," her voice was soft but shaky.
As Garcia typed JJ slowly began to look up at the screens in front of her.
"What are we looking for?"
JJ thought about the question for a minute. She wanted to know so many things, were they happy, were they alright, what were they doing now. Instead she settled on; "I don't know." It wasn't a lie, because if she were honest with herself she really didn't know. She didn't know why she was even here anymore.
"Ok well, he's got a PhD in psychology specializing in early childhood behavioral problems." Garcia started breaking her train of thought. "But it looks like he's been working as a Divorce Councilor for the last few years." Garcia stopped and typed some more before; "Oh My God!" Garcia all but yelled as she pulled up another window on her computer.
"What?" JJ asked her eyes wide with fear.
"He's the writer and director of Wherefore Art Thou, that's like my favorite independent film of all times. It won like 4 awards last year!"
JJ let out a sigh of relief and smiled at her friend. "What else does it say?"
"Oh, uh…" Garcia's hands flew quickly across the keyboard. "Looks like he's married with two kids, Peter and Grace."
Sitting there in Garcia's office JJ stopped to reflect on what she'd just learnt. Ezra was a Divorce Councilor now, that didn't really surprise nor did his Educational background. Freakin' had always been smart. JJ knew he'd go far. But children. That was a surprise. Though they had all said they'd never have children at one point or another Freakin' had always been the most adamant. And the names, Peter and Gracie was that a tie to his past she wondered.
"JJ?" Garcia asked noticing that JJ was staring off into space.
"I just asked you if you were you ok?"
"Oh, uh yeah I'm fine."
"Ok." Garcia said not really believing her friend but deciding to let it go for now.
"Um, can you look up Julliette Waybourne next?" JJ asked turning her attention back to the screen in front of them.
"Sure." She answered taking a quick peek at JJ before her fingers started to dance across the keys once again. "Julliette Waybourne, not much here I'm afraid. Pays her taxes on time and it looks like she tried to start her own gym a few years ago but the funding fell through. She's single, no kids. She's working as a dietician and does a lot of community work mostly with kids."
Jules as a dietician, that was a bit ironic JJ thought to herself. When she knew the girl she could barley take care of herself now she was getting paid to tell others what to eat. The fact that Jules wanted to open her own gym didn't surprise JJ, but that she couldn't get the money that was a bit perplexing. Wasn't her family pretty well off?
Nodding her head JJ turned her attention back to the list, once again deciding which name to give Garcia next. "Augusto Ciceros." Was all she had to say to get Garcia typing again, pulling up screen after screen of information.
"Uh," Garcia paused as she began to pull up the information. "Married to his second wife. No kids in either marriage. He was a high school basketball coach, oh um that was until a car accident 4 months ago."
"What happened?" JJ asked, genuinely concerned for the man she had once called friend.
"Drunk driver hit him, on the way home from a practice. He's in a wheelchair now." Garcia regurgitated the information from the computer and turned to see her JJ's saddened face. "Medical files look promising though. His Doctor's think he'll be able to walk again with extensive Rehab."
Poor Auggie, he didn't deserve that. He'd worked hard at Horizon, maybe harder than a anyone there. He'd gotten his grades up and gotten control of his temper. Hell he'd even decided to work with kids, and after all that to just get hit by a drunk driver. JJ knew life wasn't fair but this just seemed cruel.
Thinking about her next question carefully Garcia decided to once again find out what was troubling her young friend. "JJ," she paused once again thinking about whether she should ask or not. Deciding on the latter she carried on, "How do you know these people?"
"We went to the same school. I, uh" Garcia heard the hitch in her voice. "I haven't talked to any of them in a very long time."
"Why not?" Garcia asked partially because she wanted to know but mostly because she was confused. JJ seemed too genuinely care about these people yet hadn't spoken to them in years? That just didn't make sense. Not to mention the way she was acting about the whole thing. A lot of things weren't adding up.
"It's a long story." Was JJ's only reply.
Garcia may not be a profiler but she'd known JJ long enough to realize that was all the answer she was going to get for now. "Was there any one else you wanted to check out?"
"Uh, yeah." JJ once again stared at the paper in her hands for what felt like an eternity. Freakin', Jules, Auggie they had all been friends but the rest of the names on this list, those were the people that really held a special place in her heart. "Daisy Lipenowski." JJ said once she'd decided on a name.
"Looks like we have another PhD in psychology here." Garcia said as her fingers tapped out the information they were seeing on screen. "She's not practicing either. Looks like she's had several jobs in the last decade, a few restaurants, couple office admin jobs and ewwww, a mortuary," Garcia paused to scrunch up her nose before continuing, "Oh and a golf pro shop…." Garcia stopped when she heard JJ snicker beside her.
The psychology PhD was expected, Daisy was smart. The job in the mortuary didn't surprise her either. But a golf pro shop was NOT the kind of place you worked with a past like Daisy's. Well, unless you are Daisy JJ mused. The more she thought about it the more 'Daisy like' she figured it was.
"Go on." JJ said trying to contain her laughter.
"She's not married but she has a steady boyfriend from what I can tell. Oh and it looks like her and Ezra Friedkin are still friends they are working on a psychology paper together.
"I'm sure they will take the psychology world by storm." JJ smiled for the second time that day.
Taking a deep breath and closing her eyes for a minute JJ sat there knowing that the next name on the list would be the hardest for her. Sitting up straight she opened her eyes and stared straight into the computer screens as she said; "Scott Barringer."
"Scott, Scott…" Garcia mumbled to herself as she pulled up the information. "Uh here we are. He's a football player. A pretty good from what I have here. Had a short stint in the NFL but was drafted twice before getting picked up by the Red Skins. Hey, isn't that your favourite team?" Garcia asked as she turned to face her friend.
"Um hm" JJ said nodding her head yes as the same time, clearly not willing to volunteer extra information.
Out of all the people on her list she hadn't learnt anything new about Scott. She'd followed his career from day one. She already knew that he'd was drafted by the Colts and then the Packers before finally getting signed on by the Washington Red Skins. She'd even been to a few of his games.
Looking down at the last two names on the list JJ wasn't sure she could say them out loud. If Garcia looked up these names then surely she would put it all together and learn her biggest secret.
"JJ?" Garcia questioned unable to keep the concern out of her voice.
"I uh," was all she got out before tears began to well up in her eyes again.
Garcia turned in her chair and took JJ's hands in her own, "JJ, I don't know what's going on but you know I'm here for you. We all are if you'll let us."
"NO!" the fear and panic evident in her voice. "You can't tell them about any of this. They can't…"
"Ok, ok, ok." Garcia said quickly trying to curb the young profilers panic. "I'm not going to tell anyone anything. You know anything you tell me will stay just between us."
"Yeah," she said quietly looking off into space for a second before returning her gaze to the all too familiar paper in her hand.
"JJ, can I?" Garcia asked nodding towards the paper clutched in JJ's hand. She knew there were more names on the paper, otherwise JJ wouldn't be this upset.
Nodding her head yes Garcia genially reached for the paper as JJ slowly and unconfidently started to lessen her grip until Garcia was solely in control of the paper.
"Peter Scarboro and Sophie Becker." Garcia said reading the only two names on this list that she hadn't already heard. As soon as she'd read them however JJ had closed her eyes and leaned back in her chair.
This was it. JJ thought to herself there was no turning back now. Garcia had read the names; she had the last piece of the puzzle. Even without Peter and Sophie's name JJ knew Garcia could figure it all out. All she would have to do is dig deeper into the other's pasts and she would find out about Horizon. But JJ knew she wouldn't do that, Garcia wouldn't go digging into her past not without permission.
Turning back to her keyboard Garcia started to look for information on Peter Scarboro. She had planned on looking up Sophie Becker last but as she began to learn about Peter she realized the two were married. "Says here that Peter and Sophie got married back in 2005." Garcia relayed the information to JJ.
"I knew they would." She smiled but didn't open her eyes or lean forward to look at the screens. She just sat and waited.
"They run a school called Mount Horizon, in the Northwest. Says here that the school is for…." She stopped as her brain caught up to what she was saying. She turned to look at her friend and could see she still hadn't moved the only thing that had changed was the tears escaping from beneath JJ's eyelids.
"Yeah?" She said quietly pretty sure that what was about to be said next.
"Is there something I should know?"
"Like what?" JJ asked finally sitting up. "That I had an incredibly screwed up youth?" The harsh tone in her voice hadn't gone unnoticed. "I'm sorry Pen. I just…" JJ tried again this time softening her voice. "It's not something I like to talk about."
"I just wanted to…." JJ started to explain but stopped. Why had she come in here again? Why had she decided to drag Garcia into another world? Into HER world? "I just wanted to know if they were alright." She sighed. That was the truth. She had been afraid. Afraid that Ezra would use his intellect for all the wrong reasons, afraid that Jules would die chasing after some unattainable vision of beauty, afraid that Auggie would turn back to his thug ways and end up in jail or worse.
She had been afraid that Daisy wouldn't get over her fixation with death and live a normal happy life. Afraid that Scott wouldn't be able to move on from what his step-mother had done to him and peruse his own dreams. She was afraid that Peter and Sophie wouldn't realize what they had in each other. She was afraid that they would lose the school and that so many more teens wouldn't get the opportunity to get the help they so desperately needed.
"JJ we all have our secrets and you're no different. If you ever want to talk you know I'm here for you. And so are the others if you decide to let them in."
"I know." JJ said standing and wrapping her arms around Garcia. She didn't have to wait long for her friend to return the sentiments. She had come to Garcia because she'd wanted information about her friends. Though she wasn't ready to share everything she knew she'd taken the first step. Garcia now knew that she attended Mount Horizon, a school for 'teens at risk'.
JJ wasn't ready to tell her about Shelby Merrick, or about how Jennifer Jareau had come into existence. And she knew Garcia wouldn't push or go digging on her own. Instead she would simply wait for JJ to come to her. The story of Shelby Merrick that was a story for another day she decided.
For now she was content to know that Penelope Garcia would be there for her no matter what. "Why don't we call Em, have a girls night out?" Garcia suggested.
"Sounds good to me." JJ said wiping the last of the tears from the corner of her eyes before wrapping her arm around Garcia and heading out together.
A/N 2: The name of Ezra's award winning Independent film (Wherefore Art Thou) was actually the name of a HG episode.
A/N 3: For anyone that's interested the original idea was for JJ to lie to Garcia and tell her the names were for a case she was working on, and for Garcia not to figure it out. But that just seemed very out of character so I took the story in this direction instead.
There is no plans for a sequel at this time, but that doesn't mean there will NEVER be one ;)
Thanks for reading!