Chapter 1: Introduction
Serendipity: (n.) finding something good without looking for it.
Where am I?
Confusion hits as I look around the empty field. I swear all of this looks way too familiar. "My God I need to stop drinking, this is getting ridiculous" I mutter to myself.
A field, a goddamn field, it's like a sign from above. A great big sign that reads "Stop drinking!" I think I that perhaps I'll take him up on that.
My head snaps up to the scream and I briefly wonder who else was drunk enough to black out here as well before I take off running towards it. Of course this happens to me, someone needs help and I don't have my gun, my badge, or any backup. Just my kind of luck.
My entire train of thought escapes me when my foot hits something that sends me sprawling to the ground. What in the ever loving crap was that? I look back and suddenly wished I hadn't.
"Oh God, Mari…?" I suddenly felt vomit rise in the back of my throat. This can't be real. Staring right back at me were the lifeless eyes of my Maria.
No, no, c'mon Ariadne this can't be real, get a grip, you watched her die. She's not coming back. I start to scramble away from the body of my friend. I need to get out of here, where ever here actually is. Panicked I start looking all around me and realize that I'm no longer in the field.
Anywhere but here
I look around at the battlefield and the place where I lost almost everyone who ever mattered to me, and I fall to my knees among the wreckage. The only thing I can do is put my hands over me ears and chant it's not real, wake up. Wake up, wake up, wake up, wak-
My eyes fly open to reveal my brother peering down right at me.
I woke up to a phone ringing. It takes me a couple seconds to realize where I am.
Right, crashed on my sister's couch…again.
My head decides that it is completely necessary to let me know just how much it disapproves of my choices last night. "Mmmmm" I can hear Ariadne groaning from out here. I start to snicker, her head's probably delivering the same message right about now. Better go grab the Advil. As I make my way to the kitchen I grab my phone and see that we've been called in. Great, another night were I only get around four hours of sleep. Now I really need the Advil. I put my phone down and continue my trek into the kitchen. As I pass by Ari's room and I hear her thrashing around uttering the word no.
She's having another nightmare. I quickly walk into the room and start to shake her awake. I'm pretty used to seeing them by now, although when it first happened I swear I've never been more scared in my life. Watching my little sister in pain just breaks my heart.
"Ari, Ariadne…it's just a dream, it's okay, your safe. Wake up now." I say quietly while brushing the hair away from her face. Next thing I know her eyes snap open. "Hey there Princess. Everything's all right now" I whisper.
It's not, not even close, but I'll lie if I have to for her peace of mind.
The relief I felt when I laid eyes on my brother is indescribable. It's the kind of relief you feel at not getting caught by your mother when you snuck out of the house the night before. Looking up at Derek I realize that I'm in bed at home and not in that hellhole. A burst of guilt jolts through my body at the sight of him. On one hand having my big brother here gives me an anchor against the onslaught of memories. But on the other hand the fact that he's here means he saw me at my weakest, which I know is hard for him. He's a protector at his very core, and this is something he can't protect me from.
But I won't tell him that.
"I'm fine" I tell him sending him a small smile that I hope conveys my gratitude. I go to sit up and my head decides that now is the best moment to remind me that yes, I'm very much still hungover. I immediately hunch over trying to bury my face into my knees in a feeble effort to dull the pain. "God hates me I just know it" I mumble.
"Nah your body hates you cause you're a lightweight sweetheart" my brother says. I swear I can hear the grin in his voice. Is that possible? Because right now I'm like 100 percent sure that it is.
"Ha ha laugh it up. I don't care as long as you get me something for it. Please? I swear I'll love you forever." I am not above begging at this point.
"Fine, but only because that was my next stop" he says. I then look over at my alarm clock and see that it is 4:30 in the morning.
"Why are we up at this hour?" I look over at my brother like he's lost his mind.
"We got called in so time to get up, you know the drill." He pats my leg and walks out of my room. God maybe one of these days I'll actually get a full night of sleep. The hours for this job almost make it not worth it. Almost.
I'm thanking my lucky stars that this was going to be one of those times where Derek doesn't ask what I was dreaming about. I love my brother with my whole heart and I would do anything for him, but somethings aren't meant to be shared, and this is one of them.
After showering, getting dressed, and applying makeup that made it so that I didn't look as exhausted as I felt, I was finally ready to go. Unlike some of my coworkers I don't dress professionally. Working for the FBI can be a pretty busy job and sometimes we have to move around a lot. So I'm a pretty casual dresser. I swear I don't know how Hotch gets around in his getup. I would rather die than run around in one of those monkey suits. A chill runs up my spine just thinking about it.
Looking down I'm relieved that I can get away with what I'm wearing. My black skinny jeans with black ankle boots and my tight long sleeved lace white shirt aren't exactly FBI approved attire. However whoever said that heels are impractical has clearly never met me. The first time I chased an unsub in my ankle boots Derek stopped to applaud afterwards.
Derek had already left to go home so that he could get ready himself. I grab my bag and walk out the door, making sure to lock it behind me. I've gotten a few too many lectures about that one. Apparently I'm forgetful, which is why it was decided that the whole team would have a key to my place in case of emergencies. I'm the youngest of the group, a fact that makes them all very overprotective. But I can't complain because it warms my heart to know that there are still people out there that care enough about me to worry. Besides Derek I think that Spencer holds the most overprotective title. I can feel my lips curl into a smile as I think about my best friend.
Spencer and I have been friends for about a year, we pretty much instantly clicked the first time we talked. We are almost the same age, he's 23 and I'm 21. Because of that small fact we were nicknamed the "babysquad", which unfortunately is something that we are frequently called. Since we are so young people often wonder how we got in the FBI, especially the Behavioral Analysis Unit.
We have completely different reasons.
Spencer is a certified genius. I'm talking an IQ of 187, has an eidetic memory, graduated high school at the age of twelve, has 3 PhD's and 2 BA's kind of genius. Me? Well I'm totally average. Okay grades and graduated at the ripe old age of eighteen. Only thing was is that I joined the army right after graduating, and got out a year ago. That's my story.
Or at least the version that everyone else knows.
Truth is, I came from a broken household in the bad part of town. My father, Hank Morgan, had an affair with my mother, making Derek my half-brother who is 11 years older than me. My dad wouldn't really come see me all that often, I have very few memories of him. All I know is that he wasn't around when I needed him, and for that I don't think I'll ever forgive him. My mother, Valeria Costa, was a drug addict with a string of abusive boyfriends. When they weren't beating on her they would smack me around a little. I remember breaking a few bones which resulted in a couple hospital visits with bad excuses.
My mom got arrested a few times which meant that for a small period of time I had to go into the system. It wasn't that bad for me, I actually ended up making a couple of friends. One older girl in particular took the time to teach me some self-defense moves. She was fifteen and I was around seven at the time. I'll never forget what she told me after I asked her why she was teaching me. She said "People in this world are always going to knock you down, and some won't stop once you are down. Now do you want to stay down, or do you wanna stand up? Cause I promise you that if you let one person kick you down, you won't ever truly get back up again."
That struck something in me. Now it could have been the fact that I was so stubborn that I refused to back down from a challenge, or it might have been because I saw the truth of that statement within my mother and I realized that I wasn't going to let people walk on me the way they did her. Once I was placed back with my mother I never saw that girl again.
Once we were back home my mother would give me empty promises. You know, the kind were they sound nice and all but you know they're just words. She promised that she would clean up her act and make sure that nothing and no one would ever come between us again.
It was two weeks later that I found her OD'd on the bathroom floor.
And then back to the state for me. And once again the cycle began. My mother would get clean and promise me the world, only to come back about a week later with another abusive man who had done the same to her. That's what abusive people do right? Promise you everything you ever wanted and then put you through hell. Guess that's what addicts do too.
I vividly remember the night that determined my future, I however didn't know it then. My mother and her boyfriend at the time were yelling about something in the living room late one night. I remember hearing a smack and my mother's sudden cries. I recall being absolutely terrified and wanting my father to storm into the house and take the bad guy away, since he was a cop. However I knew that the likelihood of that happening was slim to none. But then I remembered one very simple phrase that would shape the rest of my life.
"Do you want to stay down, or do you want to stand up?"
My mind made up I snuck into the kitchen and grabbed one of the many empty beer bottles laying around on the floor. I remember the man kneeling over my mother and yelling at her, talking about how she was good for nothing. Then I remember locking eyes with my mother, reaching up and breaking the bottle over his head and him falling unconscious at my feet.
The thing I remember most about that night is the fact that I was eight.
I think my breaking point was looking down at my mother and watching her cower beneath someone. I didn't understand it, and quite frankly I didn't want to. All I know is that looking down at her made me realize that she wasn't going to protect me, and how could she? She couldn't even protect herself. So I made a promise to myself, one that I would still stand by to this very day.
That I would do my best to protect those who couldn't do it themselves.
So I studied martial arts. In a very backwards way I must admit. We didn't have the money to put me in classes, but we did have the internet as well as the examples of the kids who fought in my neighborhood. So I taught myself the basics and asked one of the nicer kids in my neighborhood to teach me how to street fight. Not the best combination, but I worked with what I had.
It was in seventh grade that I met Maria Santis. She was a foster child whose parents had moved them from Italy, which really helped us to bond seeing as how my mother was from Italy as well. I was never the kind of girl to make friends or who got close to people because of my abandonment issues, I really only let Derek and my other half siblings, Sarah and Desiree, into my life and consequently my heart. But then one day this girl who spoke broken English and fluent Italian caught my attention with her determination to become my friend. So I caved and let her in.
That decision was one of the best ones that I had ever made in my life. We quickly became inseparable, having both come from abusive circumstances, our shared heritage, and the fear of being rejected by the ones we cared about the most. She became a sister to me, my other half so to speak. The fact that she got along with my brother helped to solidify our bond, because not only did she accept me but she also accepted my most important person.
Maria and I were practically joined at the hip, so we developed this sort of dependency upon each other. It was us against the world.
Which made it so much harder to tell her I decided to join the military.
We were seniors in high school when I made the choice. At the time I didn't have any future plans, so the military was as good as any. I liked the idea of protecting my country and all those who lived in it. I just had to get Maria to see it the same way, which was harder than it sounded.
I ended up telling her the night that we graduated, knowing that I only had three months left before I would have to leave. As expected it didn't go very well at all. She cried and yelled at me for about a good ten minutes, telling me that I was just as bad as everyone else in her life who left her.
After she had finally calmed down a bit I was finally able to explain my viewpoint on the decision. I told her that I wanted to do something that actually had a purpose, I wanted to help in some way. That perhaps I would be worth something if I could make this sacrifice, and that out of everyone I thought that she would understand the most considering her past.
I then apologized for being a coward and not telling her sooner. After that she forgave me, which should have been worrying considering that she should have made me grovel more. Turns out that in the moment she too had made a major decision.
One that I figured out when I saw her at base camp.
The idiot had decided to follow me saying that I was stuck with her and that there was no way she was just going to sit around and let me leave her, "If you thought that you could escape me then you are sorely mistaken" she would jokingly say.
There was a large part of me that was relieved that she would be right by my side, and that I wouldn't have to give her up as well. We were placed on a team together along with three other women, Tara Woods, Lilly Porter, and Darcie Wilson, with me being the commanding officer and Maria my second in command. We were a great team and everything was perfect.
Until it all fell apart and one by one the members of my team were being picked off. It all came to a head when Maria died in my arms.
The choices I made in order to avenge her were not ones that my superiors approved of, however they understood why I had done what I did, so I was given an honorable discharge.
In the beginning I really didn't know what to do with myself, I was twenty years old, Maria was gone and so was my mother but Derek told me that I should come and work for the FBI or become a cop since I still wanted to save people. I chose the FBI because my father was a cop, and the thought of following in his footsteps burned me. That was a privilege reserved for his real children, not some bastard daughter that he was ashamed of. I suppose the idea of being able to work with my brother had a big factor in my choice.
Not that I'll ever give him the satisfaction of knowing that.
I ended up applying and getting approved to begin training. Because of my background it wasn't surprising when I quickly became the top of my class. Once again someone took notice, this time it was the superiors who came to see how the new batch of future agents were doing. They said that I had "exceptional combat skills" for a twenty year old female and that I could do great things in the FBI. Later that week I was pulled into an office where I was told that I was going to be fast tracked into the BAU.
I on the other hand was very confused, seeing as how I wasn't a profiler nor did I want to become one. They then went into further detail, which was that I was to be the personal security for the team and that I would be reporting on them. They knew that since my brother was on the team that I would have more personal investment in their well-being. The only problem was that I wasn't allowed to tell anybody, that I would report directly to them and that the rest of the team, including my brother, would believe I was just another profiler. A crappy one but one none the less. They said that they were going to change my file so that if it was looked into I would just be a normal girl who went through war and decided I couldn't handle it, so I ended up looking for another option.
Now that kinda pissed me off. For the simple reason being that I could handle war just fine, what I couldn't handle was losing my whole family and then being expected to build a new one and let the same thing happen again and again.
I'd like to see anyone handle that.
Anyway the next day I was introduced to the rest of the team as their junior profiler as well as Derek's little sister. That's when I met Spencer.
Derek turned around to him and said "Well I guess you're not the baby anymore kid. Ari here is only twenty." He then started to snicker "yet somehow you still seem to look younger."
I however wasn't paying attention to him. My gaze was firmly planted on the man that was standing there with his hands in his pockets giving me this adorably shy smile as his cheeks were lightly tinged red.
That was the first moment since I had lost everything that I felt something in my heart rather than numbness and despair. I knew from that very moment that this Spencer person was going to be very important to me. That thought terrified me. I'm not the kind of person who gets a happy ending, I don't deserve it. Not after everything that I've done.
So that's my story, the unedited version.
They are the team,
and I am their shield.