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Andie McPhee was the first woman I ever truly loved. In her own special way, she will always own a piece of my heart. Things may not have worked out for us, I think maybe they were never meant to, but it still tore me up inside to see her at the hospital that day. I thought I had seen her at her lowest point, when she had had a break down last year. Hallucinating her dead brother, maybe even contemplating suicide… I honestly thought it couldn't get worse for her. I was wrong.

She and Jack had a special bond, everyone knew that. Maybe it was their big brother's death or their mother's illness that made them cherish each other so much. All I know is I could not even imagine being that close to any of my siblings. Even Gretchen and me, and we lived in our own house together the last ten months. Andie and Jack were different. They supported each other through rougher times than any teenager deserved to go through. And now he was gone.

I don't think it really sank in with Andie when she heard the doctor's consoling words. She hugged her father in shock, her mouth open but she making sound. She just covered her ears and blocked everything and everyone out. I have never felt more useless in my life. There was nothing I could say to comfort her, words were meaningless after hearing the news of Jack's death. I didn't even try.

Instead I thought about the boy… the man… who had, despite my dating his sister, been my good friend. The kind, gentle person who had been a friend to all of us. The guy who deserved to have a wonderful life where he was accepted and loved for who he was. Except it wouldn't happen now. He had been taken from us.

I didn't even feel the tears on my face. I looked away from Andie and her father and their gut wrenching despair. I turned my back on Jen, whose agonizing sobs were being muffled by her grandmother's shoulder. Dawson didn't even register in my mind. I only wanted Joey. Having her in my arms was the only thing that could console me.

She was standing a short distance away, frowning. She looked at me with a puzzled gaze, silently begging me to explain that it was all a mistake… that the doctor had given us good news instead of the worst possible. I walked towards her slowly, not breaking eye contact. She continued to stare at me when I reached her, and with a heavy arm she raised her hand and brushed away the wetness from my cheeks. Her touch was enough to break me, and I took her in my arms tightly. I told myself I was comforting her, but even I knew it was the other way round.

During my hitchhiked trip back to Capeside, all I could think about was Joey and the irrational fear that something had happened to her. As soon as I saw the news bulletin on the shooting, I thought she had been hurt. The drive back felt like an eternity, and all I did was play out different scenarios in my mind... and in each of them she was taken from me. I never even stopped to consider it could be anyone else. No, it was Joey, and it was all my fault. I never should have left. I never should have broken up with her. I never should have spoken to her the way I did at the prom or hurt her the way that I did so unthinkingly.

Because as much as I loved Andie when we together, with Joey it's completely different. I can't explain how. All I know is, as I was on my way back to Capeside, I knew I would have sacrificed any of them… all of them… as long as Joey was okay. I prayed that if someone I knew was to be taken, it had to be anyone else but Joey. Please god, not her. That's the only way I can describe how I feel about her.

I guess you're wondering why I broke up with her then, and treated her so callously. Let's not talk about that right now, okay? I have a hard enough time remembering what a jerk I was. I don't want to relive it. All I wanted at that moment was to feel her in my arms and know that she was all right. I never wanted to let her go.

Joey had to pry herself out of my arms, as it turned out. Otherwise I think I would still be holding her. She pulled away from me slowly when we realized that Andie and her father were being led away by a nurse. Going to see Jack, I figured, and then immediately blocked the thought from my mind.

"God," Dawson whispered. He was still standing a few feet away from us. "What do we do now?"

Joey shook her head, and I didn't reply either. Jen was still crying like she was never going to stop. Tobey had disappeared. Dawson, Joey and I just stood there, completely helpless. Should we wait? Should we go? What's the official policy on what to do after you've discovered your friend has been gunned down at your highschool graduation?

"I have to get out of here," Joey murmured to no one in particular. But at least she had made the decision for me.

Without a word, I walked her down the corridor towards the hospital entrance. Dawson followed us, not far behind. While Joey waited outside I called Bessie to come pick us up. Dawson called his mom too. Both of us had to break the news to them. The words sounded strange coming out of my mouth, although I said them quite calmly. Dawson was the same. An eerie calm, although I thought my heart was going to beat right out of my chest.

We waited in the driveway of the emergency bay as the waning sun cast an orange glow low in the sky. There were several police cars parked outside. I hadn't even stopped to consider other victims of the shooting. I wondered how many of them there were, and who had done it. Neither Dawson or Joey seemed to have any information about what had happened, at least they weren't forthcoming with it and I didn't want to ask.

As we continued to wait another police car drew up outside the hospital. A deputy emerged and nodded at me. It took me a moment to recognize Phil, one of Doug's colleagues and highschool buddies. I had known him all my life but it still took me a few seconds to even remember who he was after what had just happened. He motioned to me slightly, and with some hesitation I left Joey's side to join him. She didn't seem to notice my leaving, a fact which did not surprise me but I was still struck by how much it hurt.

"Pacey. I thought you'd left town," Phil said when I reached him.

"I came back," I stated inanely, annoyed that I had to explain myself. "What the hell happened, Phil?"

"Some kid opened fire when the graduation ceremony ended. He took off but we found him holed up in junior school next door. Thank Christ it's Saturday."

"Did you get him?" I asked quietly.

Phil nodded gravely. "He took a few shots at us, but there no way out for him."

"What happened?"

"He came out firing… and he was taken out," Phil explained. "It was Doug that got him."

I didn't know whether to feel relieved or horrified that my brother had shot and killed someone. But weighing things up, there was only one appropriate response.


I started to walk away, but Phil's voice stopped me.

"Hey, Pace? Go easy on him the next couple of days, will you? He's not saying much but I can tell he's pretty upset about it."

I stopped in my tracks without turning around again. I let myself think about what Doug must have been feeling at that moment. I knew my brother. I knew him better than he thought I did, and even though I'd never admit as much out loud, I loved him. I knew exactly what he must have been going through. He had done everything that he was supposed to do, everything that his training and upbringing with our father had prepared him for. But it would still affect him. He would still be upset by taking a life, even if the gunman had been a murderer.

I started walking towards Joey again, aware that I should find Doug to check on him. But first I needed to get her home.

Anyone of them. I would have sacrificed any of them for her.

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