Title: Full of Grace
Spoilers: Let's just be safe. Everything. Definitely up to and including Uncertainty Principle, though who knows what I might decide to include from future eps?
Summary: AU from Uncertainty Principle. Joan doesn't stop Ramsey, and has to live with the aftermath.
Disclaimer: I OWN Adam Rove you hear me? He is MINE. No one else can touch him! Oh who am I kidding? I don't own anything. Barbara Hall and CBS own everything. Unless you don't recognize it. Then it's mine. You better not recognize Adam Rove *glare*
Joan Girardi was doing her very best to tune out her younger brother. She was rather experienced in this, but he seemed oddly determined to make her listen. Suddenly Grace's name came into it and she paused, trying to figure out the context. Her immediate reaction was that he'd finally grown a spine and had asked her out - but that was unfortunately quickly shut down, because Luke would never grow a spine, and would simply spend eternity hiding behind science.
"You really ought to just go grope each other in the gym." Joan pointed out. "It's much more direct than building some gammy telescope."
"Gamma ray microscope," Luke corrected quickly. "And this - this isn't about groping. Why, are you groping - uh, going?"
Joan laughed and shook her head. "No way, those things are lame!" She also felt compelled to mention that she didn't have a date, even if she had wanted to go.
"Ah, so I take it you and Adam Rove are still on the 'outs'?"
"I actually can't remember if we were ever on the ins." Further discussion of the subject was interrupted by one of the many jerks at Arcadia High shoving the topic of conversation into a locker and punching him. Twice. Joan immediately went on the defensive, pushing Ramsey off of Adam and putting herself between them - then panicking a bit when the threats turned in her direction.
For once Joan was actually relieved when Price showed up and intervened. She tried not to be hurt when Adam jerked away from her, and dutifully followed them all to the office - where Price grabbed Ramsey and pulled him into his private office.
She watched Adam for a moment, but he wouldn't even look at her. He in fact went to the other side of the room to talk to her mother. She sighed and sat down next to a very Goth guy and tried to imagine being somewhere far away where she didn't get into this much trouble. Unfortunately dreams of Hawaii were cut short by a piece of paper falling in her lap.
She frowned and opened it, then rolled her eyes at the guy next to her. "The Crystal Ball. Cool, are you going?"
The Goth kid turned and looked at her. "No. You are."
She glared at him and sighed irritably. "I hope you have a date for me in your magic bag," she muttered, getting a tad crabby by this point.
Mr. Price came out of his office, shoving Ramsey out the door. "This is your last chance Mr. Ramsey!" He informed well, everyone within hearing range.
This Gothic incarnation of an omniscient deity turned back to Joan. "I want you to go with him."
Joan's eyes followed Ramsey down the hall and she shook her head wordlessly, speechless for a moment. "N- No way! Please? You always said I have a choice!"
"You do. But if you're going to do this, you have to do it right now."
"Or - or what?" Joan started breathing heavily. "I can't do this to Adam, I've messed with his head enough I can't - I can't ask out Steve Ramsey!"
"Alright. If that's your choice." He stood up and began to walk out. "But I recommend you do it Joan."
She chewed on her bottom lip for a moment then groaned and stood, hurrying down the hall to the Ramsey's locker. She paused when she got there and saw no one…she'd missed him. She looked around he hall anxiously but he was no where to be seen. "Crap. Mega crap." She banged her head against the locker and waited a couple of minutes, hoping against hope that Ramsey had forgotten something and would come back before her next class.
That was when she heard the first shot. Her head whipped around even as she dropped to the floor like her father had trained her to do so many years ago. At the other end of the hall a dark-haired freshman was on the ground, the front of her white t-shirt already turning red. A football player tried to shove his teammate to the floor and out of harm's way but two more shots rang out, the bullets hitting them both before they'd even hit the ground. Joan started sobbing, horrified understanding forcing itself into her shocked mind. Her mind had paralyzed itself against this knowledge, understanding why God had told her so emphatically that she had to go THEN…and she hadn't, she hadn't and it was her fault. She leaned against a locker, curling up into the fetal position instinctively. There were so many shots ringing through the halls, it seemed like everyone in school must have been hit by now. She sobbed quietly, pressing her hands against her ears to block the sounds.
Ramsey had run down the hall, firing into random classrooms and for a few minutes he was in the library, then he was in the cafeteria, firing again. Her dazed brain tried to understand why; there weren't any lunch periods now. Then she remembered a few words from Ms. Lischak about meeting people that had a free period for additional information on the science fair. Joan blinked and looked toward the office, but her mother had been headed home early and left a few minutes ago. Something slowly clicked in her mind about why that was important, about who would be in the cafeteria.
"Luke!" She was on her feet and running down the hall before she could even think about how dangerous it was. If Luke was in the cafeteria and she wasn't, well, she'd just have to get to the cafeteria.
When she looked through the window she saw Ramsey standing in the middle of the room, tables had been splintered and students were cowering behind or beneath them. Dozens were bleeding, at least two she could spot were definitely dead…one was Mr. Price. She bit back another sob and searched the room with her eyes, trying to catch sight of bad hair and thick glasses. She felt ill when she spotted Friedman, over in a corner with that blonde girl who sat next to him in chem. The girl - Glynis? - was sobbing, rocking herself and obviously desperate to keep attention away from whatever she was holding…oh God. Joan swallowed the bile rising in her throat. Blonde hair, polo shirt…it was Luke, it had to be. She tried to think rationally, tried to think of a way in without drawing Ramsey's attention. Oh God. God! She spun around, searching the halls for any of the incarnations she was so used to seeing…but there was nothing. She'd failed, she knew she'd failed but how, how could He abandon her when Luke was in there? She looked through the glass again and realized that Ramsey was looking in the opposite direction, screaming at one of the lunch ladies. She held her breath and pushed the door open as quietly as she could and darted behind the nearest table. She peered over, but he was still focusing on something by the front of the room. She looked back at the corner where Friedman and Glynis were slightly hidden from Ramsey and back to the gunner himself. Then she caught who he'd been screaming at - not the lunch lady…it was Adam. She wanted to help; desperately to do something to distract him so Adam could get away, but as of now Adam had him distracted enough that she could easily get to Luke without being seen. Maybe she'd be damned for being selfish, but…Luke was her brother. Without a second thought she crouched low and crawled as fast as she could over to Friedman and realized with a sinking heart that the polo-shirted kid she was looking at was Mike Figliola. He was a guy she'd met when she was in the chess club, and he was Glynis' big brother.
"Where's Luke?" Joan was shocked that it was her vocal cords that made such a harsh furious whisper. "Why isn't he with you?"
Friedman just stared at her, then looked back at his blood-covered shirt. "Blood…everywhere…"
"Where's my BROTHER?" Joan demanded. Glynis looked up at her and sobbed, shaking her head. "Where IS HE?"
"Joan?" Her head whipped around and she spotted someone underneath a table nearby. "Get out of here!" Luke glared at her and crawled halfway out. "You were in the hall, why'd you come in here?"
Joan looked at her apparently solid brother then back to Ramsey. "You're okay?" She didn't even look at him as she asked, but her voice cracked.
"I'm fine, get out Joan!"
"This is my fault." She stood up slowly, despite Glynis suddenly and frantically pulling on her hand.
"Joan! Get down! It isn't your fault! Joan!" Luke tried to call to her without drawing attention to himself or the others nearby. "Don't try and play hero, that's the first thing Dad taught us - dammit Joan! Come back here!"
Joan let her hair swing down in front of her face and chewed on her lower lip. This was her fault, she could feel it. She'd hemmed and hawed until it was too late to ask Ramsey out like God had wanted, and she'd ended the lives of all these people. She bit back another sob and stood straight. She had to…she had to do something. She stared straight at Ramsey's back, trying to recall every phrase she'd heard her father say over the years. Every thing he'd said in that calming, soothing negotiator voice he only used on criminals and his children. She took a step forward and stopped again, trying to think through the haze of fear and panic in her mind. She could do this, she knew she could. Taking a step to the side to avoid a table, she spotted Adam again. He was still just sitting there, waiting for Ramsey to finish screaming at him. He was saying something about a betrayal of faith when they were kids and how everything was Adam's fault, but Adam just took it - what else could he do? He looked like he was just waiting for Ramsey to shoot him.
She took another step forward and the movement caught Adam's eye. He noticed her standing there and his previously blank face went tight. Even from her distance she could see panic on his face. She tried to smile encouragingly, but wasn't sure if it came across. Adam said something quickly, which she didn't quite catch. Obviously he was trying to keep the attention in his direction, which made Joan smile inwardly. So, he didn't hate her. That was nice to know. She cleared her throat then spoke, imitating her father's voice as best she could.
He spun around and pointed the gun at her, hysteria in his voice. "What?" He demanded. "You in that much of a hurry to die you couldn't wait your turn?"
Joan shook her head and met his eye. "No one wants to die here Ramsey. No one else needs to die today."
"Maybe not but they're gonna!"
"Ramsey, I know you're pissed off. You have every right to hate the world; the world sucks pretty much all the time. I'm a cop's kid, I realize this even better most people. But you can't take that out on innocent people that never did anything to you."
"Yeah what the hell do you know about it? You've been here six months! What do you know about what they've done to me?"
"You're right, I don't know. But I know that my brother is in here, and he's never done anything to you. Why not let him leave?"
"He'd get the cops!" Ramsey screamed back at her.
"Come on Steve. There were dozens of kids in that hallway that have run out by now. Someone's already called the cops. But that doesn't mean it's over. I mean you could go out there and tell everyone how you were inspired to do it by the never-ending bubblegum pop of Britney Spears and NSYNC, maybe get a TV movie made about you. If you put down the gun, you might make it out of here alive."
"For what? My life is over! They'd send me to jail for the rest of my life! And I'm not gonna do that!"
"I'm not going to lie to you Ramsey; you're not stupid so there's no point. You probably will go to jail. But what if you stay in here? If you don't give up, there's no hope at all. You won't make it out of this building. If you come with me though, you might be able to explain to people."
"What do I care about other people? They don't care about me! High school is war!"
Joan smiled and laughed a little bit. "In a nutshell, you're right. High school is war, hell, and everything else bad you can think of. But did you ever stop to think that you're not the only one that thinks so? I know it must be pretty lonely not having any friends, no one to commiserate with…I've been feeling it lately. But you know what? Everyone in this room feels that way. You can have dozens of friends, but unless you feel that connection you can feel so alone you want to scream. The reason why no one has figured out how to help is because people like you, the ones that feel this the most, are the ones that don't make it out. No one would listen if I tried to talk about being lonely, because I have everything I supposedly need to be happy, but you could talk, and people would listen. Maybe stop another kid from reaching the point you're at."
"Why should I care about them? They've never helped me!"
"True enough. People are self-absorbed. But everyone has their own problems to handle you know? We were so busy with our own lives that no one even noticed back when Brianna was pregnant, and she was head cheerleader. And I do get it, you started fights, attacked people, did…well, this," she gestured around, "because you want someone to notice you right? Want someone to GET you, right? I totally understand."
"How could YOU understand?" He waved his pistol at her. "Your life is PERFECT!"
"Right. Come on Ramsey, please. You should know that no one is perfect and no teenager is happy. Some hormonal thing. I mean, my family is coming apart at the seams, and has been ever since we found out my big brother will never walk again. My parents are the type everyone wants right? Loving, happily married, don't drink…but the only way to get them to pay attention is to do something INCREDIBLY stupid."
"Poor you! I hate you stupid brainless idiots with your 'poor me I'm rich and my parents love me' attitude! Your parents ignore you because your brother's a cripple, who gives a shit! Price was just waiting for a reason to expel me and then there'd be nothing! My stepdad would kick me out and my dad would tell me how little he was surprised and give me some BS reason for not letting me live with him! I'd have had NOTHING!"
"Not to point out the obvious, but what do you have now?" Joan gestured widely. "Look around Ramsey, where did this get you?"
"Got me even! If I've got nothing, THEY'VE got nothing!"
Joan debated this silently for a second. "Okay, good point. Never thought of it that way." She shrugged. "You're right. You've gotten even with all the jerks that made your life miserable. It's pretty final revenge to kill someone. But what about that freshman girl you killed? Did she give you a hard time? What about Mike Figliola? Now, I can understand shooting at Friedman over there, but what did Glynis do to you?"
"I don't know! But you don't even care! You're just trying to make me stop!"
"True enough. I have this thing where I like being alive. I'm kooky that way. But I really hate it when people die, and I really really hate it when my dad is responsible. So I'm trying to get YOU out of here too. Because I want my brother to be okay, and I want my dad to know he isn't responsible for you dying. Come on Ramsey, just…let me help."
"The only help I need is right here!" He waved his gun and laughed at her. "But you know Girardi, you're brave. So I won't kill you." A second later Joan was knocked off her feet by a bullet lodging itself in her shoulder. "But I never promised I wouldn't shoot you."
"Jane!" Adam darted around Ramsey and squatted next to her. "You okay?"
Joan blinked at him. "Bullet!" She ground out, looking down at her ruined shirt. "Pain!"
"Oh I get it Girardi. Yeah, you wanted to help your family right? Hah. Fuck your brother, you wanted to help your boyfriend here!"
Joan turned her head to look at Ramsey, having been shot she no longer cared much for being polite. "God! Will people stop saying that? We were never dating! Ever! Besides which, Adam hasn't been speaking to me for weeks! To be dating, you have to be on speaking terms!"
"Oh? Well then since Rove is so pissed at you why don't I just shoot him huh? Not like you'd care!"
"Of course I care! Maybe I DID come over here and try to talk to you because you were pointing a gun at my friend, but it's not the only reason so just stop it will you!" Joan used Adam to push herself to her feet. "You have to stop sometime and I really don't want my dad to stop you permanently!"
"Don't want Daddy to be responsible huh? Okay," Ramsey laughed at her and pointed the gun to his temple. "He's not." He fired.
The body crumpled to the ground and Joan started sobbing. She sank to the ground and leaned forward, resting her forehead on the cool linoleum. It was then that the sirens finally pierced her consciousness, though they must have been coming and going for a long time; it seemed like just moments later she was on a stretcher being taken out to a waiting ambulance, and it wasn't long after that that she blacked out entirely.