Disclaimer: I don't own anything related to Higher Ground. However, I did make up Janey, Keith, and Officer Kaye. Hang in there folks, life and school are taking a few bumps right now, so updating isn't always easy. I am trying for you guys! Keep reviewing; I appreciate all of your comments.

The groups trailed in slowly. Auggie and Janey arrived first, then Ezra and Juliette, then Daisy and Keith, and finally Shelby and David. Ezra and Juliette seemed to be the only pair that was in high spirits. Shelby and David were a wreck, dirty, arguing, and clearly unhappy with the whole situation. Auggie and Janey too were not completely happy with each other—they were apparently not talking to each other. Keith, for his part, was staying as far away from Daisy as he could, and when Peter untied them, he inched his way over to the other side of the group.

"How'd that go?" Peter asked, but he knew the answer.

"Great, Peter," Juliette said. "Went fine."

"Very educational," Daisy added. "I learned some very interesting things about the newbie."

"That's news," Auggie said, his frustration with Janey transferring to this situation. "Kid won't tell me nothin' worth the time. Just keeps sayin' he don't belong here."

David jumped into the conversation. "You know, Aug, he's probably got quite an interesting story." He smiled and wiggled a hand in front of Keith's face. "Hmm? What is it? Felony of some kind? Murder, perhaps? What's on your conscience, sonny?"

"Knock it off, David," Sophie said quickly, as Keith backed away from the older boy.

"I wouldn't doubt it." Auggie glared at Keith. "He's in denial, that's for sure."

"Hey, shut up!" Shelby snapped. Keith blushed, grateful but embarrassed for her defense.

"This isn't your problem!" Auggie told her tightly.

"And it isn't yours either," she retorted. "Leave him alone. He's new."

"Yeah?" Auggie demanded, taking a step forward.

Peter grabbed his shoulder. "Auggie. Take a lap around the perimeters. Now."

Auggie left, shooting a glare over his shoulder at Keith and the rest of the Cliffhangers as he did so. Sophie cleared her throat as the remaining students looked at the sky, at the ground, at anything but each other and the adults.

"Some of you need showers," Sophie announced, talking particularly to Shelby and David. "So why don't you all go back to your own cabins for about an hour, get cleaned up and cooled off. Then we'll meet again at dinnertime. Sound good?"

The best response she got was a shrug, but that was enough. The students were dismissed, and Peter hung around for a second to talk to his wife.

"That wasn't like Auggie," he said quietly. "Losing his temper like that."

"They're all on edge," Sophie replied. "With a kid on shuns, the tension level naturally rises. And it doesn't help that we have a newbie right now. Or that Janey's just told us about that tape."

"And Daisy's dad's coming up in less than a week," Peter added.

"That too," Sophie agreed. "So much is just hitting them at once."

"Did Auggie and Janey have an argument on the trail?"

"It's possible, but not one that I saw," Sophie said. "I didn't really see them communicate at all." She frowned. "Interesting that Shelby just defended Keith to Auggie. Do you think that Shelby…"

"No," Peter said, knowing what Sophie was about to ask. Scott and Shelby were too well cemented together. Keith didn't have a chance with her. "I think Shelby's just brewing for a fight. She held it together really well with David, and I think that arguing with Auggie was just her way of projecting her frustration. Keith, on the other hand…I'd say that kid has it bad for Shelb."

"Yeah, I've noticed it too. Might have been what got Scott mad enough to lose it with Keith and start that fight."

"Keith started it," Peter reminded her. "He admitted it himself." He pulled Keith's paper out of his jeans pocket, waving it slightly. "Got a nice paper on the rules and regulations at Horizon out of him for it."

"He's really convinced himself that he doesn't belong here," Sophie said.

"Definite case of denial." Peter nodded. "A lot of newbies have it. But his mood swings are worrisome. The way he acts so shy and almost sheepish most of the time, then just loses his temper completely. He's got some stuff to work through."

"How about the Janey thing?" Sophie asked. "The tape. How're we going to handle it?"

"It's a tough call," Peter replied slowly. "Officer Kaye's setting the wheels in motion, but it looks like both kids will need to testify to get Elaine behind bars."

"Scott's on such an emotional overload right now," Sophie said hesitantly. "I don't know if telling him about the tape is the best thing for him right now."

"This could very well provide the closure he needs for the Elaine crisis," Peter pointed out. "But you're right, I can't see him taking this very calmly. He does need to know though. We'll wait to talk to him until after his shuns ends, then get him isolated and tell him."

"I don't know what this'll do to his relationship with Janey," Sophie added. "It's so shaky right now."

"It won't be easy," Peter answered slowly. "For either of them. But we can't turn back. Janey gave us the tape, and when we have information like that, it has to be reported."

"I know." Sophie caught his hand in hers and squeezed it tightly. "But like you said, it isn't easy."

"Welcome to the real world." Peter kissed her gently. Sometimes, reality was so hard to face.

Shelby split off from the Cliffhanger girls as they headed for their cabin and slipped into one of the bigger buildings and, taking a shot at which classroom she wanted, sneaked inside. Bingo! In the otherwise empty room, Scott was sitting at a table, a notebook open in front of him. He looked up to see Shelby.

"Shelb!" He glanced around worriedly. "What're you doin' here?"

"What kind of a greeting is that?" she demanded, sitting in the chair next to him and leaning over to kiss him.

He wrinkled his nose as she pulled away. "Where've you been? Got all dirty?"

"I spent the day tied to David," she said with disdain. "And you're supposed to be the one Peter's punishing."

Scott laughed. "Buddy hike-back?"

"You bet."

His face suddenly shifted to a serious expression. "That new boy leaving you alone?"

"Who? Keith?" she asked. "Scott, he's not gonna get anywhere. Come on? Don't you have more faith in me than that?"

"I have plenty of faith in you," he said stressing the word 'you.' "But I don't trust him."

"He's just a kid," Shelby assured him. "Janey's age."

"He better stay away from her too."

"Come on." Shelby sighed. "If it makes you feel any better, Auggie had a go at him this afternoon too. He's really not all that bad. All kids have crushes. It's natural." She emphasized her last sentence with several light kisses on Scott's lips.

"Like how you had a crush on me last year?" he asked, tilting his head back teasingly.

"Oh you!" She gave him a playful shove, then turned serious. "There's something up with Janey, though. She spent all day yesterday in Peter's office, and then she was very quiet and kinda snappish at group."

"What's wrong?"

"I don't know. Juliette was bugging her about telling last night, but she didn't want to talk."

"I wish I could talk to her," he said. "This is all my fault, you know. Her being here."

"I don't think that's true, Scott," Shelby told him. "Elaine was her mother. You told me about how she was neglected and that stuff. It isn't just the drugs. She would've ended up more messed up if she'd continued to live with Elaine."

"Yeah?" Scott's eyes sought Shelby's, begging desperately for reassurance. Begging for comfort and the knowledge that he was not guilty of ruining the life of another. She inched off her chair and into his lap.

"It's okay, Scott," she said quietly, soothingly. "It's over. Janey's here; she's away from Elaine. The past's behind you both. You don't have to deal with it any more. Never again. It's over."

"Is it?" he asked miserably. "Is it ever over?"

"Daisy told me something once." Shelby took Scott's hand gently, entwining their fingers. "She said that scars endure, but you learn to live with them and to be proud of them. She's says there's a story behind every scar and every smile, and while those stories tell your past, they don't tell your future."

"What if those scars are reopened?"

"Have to heal again," Shelby answered quietly. "You and Janey have some of the same scars, and you can work through them together. Together you can keep them from reopening."


"Mmm hmm." She leaned back and kissed him gently. After a moment, he pulled back and regarded her affectionately.

"Thanks, Shelb."

"Any time, cowboy," she replied teasingly, touching the tip of his nose lightly with her nose. "Always happy to impart the teachings of Daisy Lipenowski."

"Any time except when Scott's on shuns, that is." Both teens spun around to see Roger standing in the doorway, hands on hips. He frowned sternly at the two, but they looked so stricken that he couldn't help but soften slightly. "Shelby, out. Scott, back to writing. I'll let this one slide, but if it happens again, I'll sic Peter on you." The last was said with a hint of a smile, and he held the door for Shelby.

As she passed Roger, she turned back and said, "It's going to get better, Scott. Really."

"Sometimes, it feels like it couldn't get much worse," he replied.

"Write that down, then," Roger said, giving Shelby a light push. "But no more talking. I don't want to remind you again, Scott."

Scott nodded, and Shelby shot a final encouraging smile to him as Roger hustled her out the door. Once the door was shut, he faced her. "Shelby, you know the rules—"

"Yeah, yeah," she said flippantly. "I know the rules, I know I broke them, I'm sorry, I won't do it again, and I'll get back to what I'm supposed to be doing. I know the lecture, Roger." With that, she turned to leave

"Remember it in the future," he said to her retreating back. When she made no sign of hearing, he added lightheartedly, "And for heaven's sake, Shelby. Take a shower."