AN: I know it's been a long time and I'm truly sorry. Other stories kind of took precedence but I am back to this one. I hope it doesn't disappoint. Enjoy!

Chapter 21

The next two weeks flew by fairly fast as the gang started focusing on studying for midterms. Most days, after school, the gang would gather at one of their houses and they would all group study. Since they all had the same classes just at different times of the day, they were able to pool their notes and their knowledge to help each other pass the exams.

Emily often stopped by after she finished rehearsals for the play, Kathy and Alex had cheerleading practice before they could study, the boys had football practice and the others often waited for their friends to show up before they began.

The play's opening performance was scheduled for the Friday before Christmas break and the whole cast was starting to feel the pressure to get their lines down and get everything just right.

Often times, Emily would spend a few hours in her bedroom going over her lines and also practicing her songs. She was a little nervous about opening night…mostly because in rehearsals, Mrs. Hotchner had yet to allow them to get as far as the kissing scenes in the play. Emily wasn't too worried because she only had three kisses with her co-star who was playing Kenickie. It was nothing compared to the amount of kissing and contact that Sandy and Danny had, but it was enough to make Emily a little nervous. She didn't know her co-star, Jim Steele, very well but he seemed like an okay guy when they rehearsed their lines.

When they rehearsed scenes she wasn't in, Emily often found herself studying Jo and her performance. It wasn't that she was attracted to the pretty blonde, there was just something about her that seemed familiar to Emily and she was determined to figure out what it was. It was a mystery that the dark haired girl couldn't let go.

JJ was waiting in her car for Emily to come out of the school after rehearsals, as she always did, when her cell phone rang. She picked it up and frowned at the call ID that simply said 'restricted'. Carefully, JJ hit the green button and put on an Irish accent as she said, "hello?"

There was a pause before a slightly familiar voice came over the line, "I'm sorry is this Jennifer Jareau's phone?"

JJ relaxed only a little bit as she recognized the voice and she let out a breath before she said, "Yes Mrs. Prentiss, it's me. What can I do for you?"

Elizabeth Prentiss leaned back in her chair in her office in Italy. "Miss Jareau, I am calling you because there's been a development that I had hoped wouldn't happen but that I feel I should tell you about."

The cryptic response made JJ frown again, "Okay…um, Mrs. Prentiss please call me JJ, what's this development?" JJ always had a knack for speaking to adults that brought her up to their level without offending anyone.

Elizabeth heard the tone of the girl's voice and she smiled, thankful that Emily had found someone like her. "Very well, JJ. Emily told me that she informed you about her past here in Italy with…Gina, is that correct?"

JJ glanced at the school building to make sure Emily wasn't coming yet before she said, "Yes she did, what about it?"

Elizabeth took a breath, "I plan to tell Emily this later but it occurred to me that, given the large network of friends you've acquired, you might be able to do what I know Emily won't allow me to do…keep her safe."

"Why would we need to keep her safe?" JJ was confused but she thought she was starting to figure out what Emily's mom was trying to say, still she wanted to hear it from the woman herself.

Elizabeth sighed, "Because, Gina escaped from prison three days ago. Yesterday, she slipped away from the men I'd hired to keep an eye on her. She's vanished and I don't know where she is or what her plan is, but I am worried that she might've found out where Emily is and she might try to find her. Gina's…connections, might allow her to leave the country under an assumed name and, while my people are looking into it and looking for her, if she slips out of the country, my reach only extends so far before I have to cross lines I'd rather not cross. That's where you and your friends come in. If Gina does manage to find Emily, there's no telling what she might do. From what Emily told me, there are a few big, strong guys in your group of friends, am I right?"

JJ absorbed everything Emily's mom was saying with a hint of surprise. "Um, yes there are."

"Good. I already know Emily won't let me send some security guys there to keep an eye on her, she likes her independence, so I am counting on you and your friends to keep her safe, can I count on you JJ?"

"Yes of course Mrs. Prentiss. We all love Emily and we protect each other."

"Good, you have no idea what a relief it is to know Emily has you in her life."

They talked for about a minute more before Ambassador Prentiss said goodbye and hung up. JJ sat there for a moment thinking about the conversation she'd just had, and the older woman's insistence that she not tell Emily about Gina until she herself had a chance to talk to her daughter. Before JJ could start to really worry about this news, she saw Emily exit the building and begin walking towards her. She smiled because she knew she had about half an hour alone with her girlfriend before Alex and Olivia made their appearance from Alex's cheerleading practice. JJ intended to make the most of their time alone.

Once the whole gang was together at Alex's house, they started on their homework. They always took a half hour break for snacks and bathroom trips before they started their midterm study sessions. They always started with a different subject and then covered each one until everyone had it down. This usually lasted for about five hours before they called it quits for the day and just hung out having fun until it was time to head home.

On this day, they all decided to just stay in the media room and trade funny stories. Even though they had all known each other since freshman year, Derek, Elliot, JJ and Alex had known each other the longest, and Emily was still the new member so there were always stories to share. The guys liked to make the girls laugh at their exploits while the girls liked to rile the guys up by talking about sex and first times and their fantasies. Granted, the girls kept things relatively tame, saving the raunchier, more private fantasies for when they are alone with their boyfriends or girlfriends, but there were still a few things they could divulge in a group setting. It helped that they were all great friends and had a high level of trust. Before too long, someone had the idea to play truth or dare, since it was always more fun when both guys and girls played together.

There was an element of safety in their small group. Each one knew they had a support system and someone who would always have their back. Emily, being new to the group, was slowly starting to learn that and rely on it beyond Olivia and JJ.

"So…Emily, it's your turn. Truth or dare?" Elle spoke up, the game having started a few minutes ago and by virtue of a roll of the dice, she was the first one to ask and she'd chosen Emily.

Emily took a moment to look around at her friends and then said, "Truth."

Elle grinned, kind of hoping Emily would pick truth. "Okay…we'll start off easy. What's your biggest fear?"

Emily needed a moment to think about that one, since she generally tried not to let fear into her life. But as she thought about it, there was two things that were tied for biggest fear. She picked the safer one and said, "Spiders. Too many legs."

The gang chuckled, though some of the other girls just nodded in sympathy, spiders being a pretty common fear.

"Okay, um…Spencer, truth or dare?" Emily chose the normally shy genius because she wanted him to come out of his shell a bit.

Spencer Reid looked right at Emily and said, "truth."

Emily nodded, "If you could have one night with any celebrity in the world, who would it be?"

"One night? To have sex or to spend time with?" Spencer asked, knowing that sometimes he didn't always catch the nuances of what people were saying.

Emily smiled, "Sex, or just a date. A romantic night Spencer. Who would it be?"

Spencer thought about that and then said, "Kristen Kreuk."

The guys this time were the ones to nod their approval while Elle, Spencer's girlfriend, tried to get upset but then she realized that she simply couldn't get upset with Spencer's choice because she knew it wasn't likely to ever happen…and she knew Spencer loved her and that was all that mattered to her.

Spencer smiled when Elle leaned closer and squeezed his arm affectionately before kissing his cheek. "Okay…Derek, your turn, truth or dare?"

Derek Morgan just grinned as he said, "Dare, pretty boy. Do your worst." He spread his arms out, as if giving Spencer an open target. Derek wasn't scared, and he was usually the first one to pick dare whenever they played this game.

Spencer got an evil grin on his face as he thought of the perfect dare for his cocky friend. "Okay…I dare you to…kiss Garcia on the lips. A real kiss…with tongue." Spencer has suspected for a while now that there was more between Morgan and Garcia than just friendship and he hoped this would help them come clean to the gang about their feelings.

Morgan looked at the young genius curiously. He wondered if Spencer had figured it out or if he was just guessing. "That's the dare?"

Spencer just nodded, "Yup."

Morgan turned to look at Garcia and she just shrugged as if to say, why not? Derek smiled as he leaned closer and kissed his girlfriend. For a few moments, they forgot they were with their friends and just let themselves fall into the kiss.

After a decent interval, Emily cleared her throat and got their attention. "Okay, I think you've both made your point there Derek."

Derek pulled away, looking into Garcia's eyes and smiling at the love he found there. He whispered something that the others didn't hear but they all saw their blonde friend smile and nod. Derek turned back to their friends and said, "Okay, well…in case any of you missed it just now, I'll spell it out for you. Garcia and I are together. We have been dating, in secret, for about a year now."

The room erupted into cheers and happy friends before the couple was bombarded by questions of how it started and why they kept it secret. Derek and Garcia answered their questions patiently, explaining about Garcia's grandmother and her 'rule' that Garcia focus on her grades instead of dating anyone.

The gang soon quieted down, they knew all about Garcia's grandmother and her desire to see Garcia go on to college and have a good career before she thought about dating and relationships. It was a bit old fashioned but it was also kind of sweet. She only wanted what was best for her only granddaughter and the gang could respect that. Still, they were all happy their two friends had managed to get together and stay together. The gang all agreed to help them keep their secret at least until after graduation.

The truth or dare game then continued, with each one of them taking a turn with both truth and dare. It was a fun night and all too soon, the time came for them to go home so they wouldn't miss their curfews. Tomorrow was Friday and, with a week until the play, the gang decided to spend the weekend together, 'helping' Emily with her lines.

Across town, a doorbell rang. A young pretty blond got up from her couch where she'd been watching television to answer it. Her father was tucked away in his study working while her mom was watching TV in her bedroom.

Jo Marlowe opened her front door and was surprised to see who was standing on her doorstep.

The pretty, older blonde stood on the doorstep and smiled at the younger girl. She was holding a duffel bag in one hand and a messenger bag in the other.

After a moment, Jo came out of her surprise and just said, "Gina, what are you doing here?"

Gina Santori just grinned at Jo and said, her voice sounding melodic thanks to her Italian accent, "Hello cousin, aren't you going to let me in?"


AN: cue ominous music! There's drama afoot and I don't just mean the upcoming school play! Hope you all liked it!