It was a strange thing, death. He had contemplated it, thought about it, even talked about it. But like they always say, you never really get it until you experience it up close. He in the past though understanding that, made the same mistake that everyone did. He assumed that it wouldn't happen to him. It did.

It was a month since the "incident". That was the PC, soft term that the local community had decided to dub it. It made it easier for them to absorb it and disassociate themselves from it rather than actually face the problem. In reality it was an event, a supreme, divisive action that like it or not affected everyone. Him especially. Few admitted it of course. People had reached their "moving on" phase where they pretended where everything was great, and were, on the surface at least; back to their ways before the nasty "incident"

He was not above that. He had made it known to those around him that despite the loss of someone who was on his way to becoming a best friend, that he was all right. He laughs at the term as he is hard pressed to think of a time in the last few years in which he felt such a way. The past couple of weeks had simply proven to be the icing on the proverbial cake of denial. He was in no shape or form; okay, fine, all right, or any of the other non-committal phrases that people used to disguise their emotions.

It was of strange comfort to him then that his low-attention status was of benefit to him for once. Since not many paid particularly close attention to him, he was spared the awkward, useless support from those who could never understand what he was going through, but tried to convince him otherwise. This would be his cross to bear, and despite the longing for closeness and affection that he had often felt so many years, he preferred it that way.

Lying on the bed, Toby looked at the digital clock. The 4:17 character shined in the darkened room, the only source of light there. It was a sight he was used to seeing in this place. Since the shooting he had stayed a home most of the time when not at school. Unlike before, where his attention was focused on TV, Internet, video games and all the other mediums used to distract from life, he had spent these last weeks separated from all of that. Toby used the time to think, to wonder, and to remember.

He was used to fantasizing, going back to that summer after Emma and Sean first broke up and she chose to spend her time with someone to comfort her. A small smile appeared on his face as he recalled that incredible time. During those few months he envisioned Emma eventually realizing her feelings for him and them starting what would be a wonderful relationship.

The smile quickly faded as the cold, but real wall of reality hit. No feelings were ever realized. No joyous relationship was ever started. The summer ended and she eventually she went back to Sean as she always did. There was never a thank you on Emma's part to him for being there for her, not that getting one would really make a difference to him. The dream was long over. He didn't fantasize anymore.

What he had been doing now was pondering what might have been. Specifically what he could have done. Talking to Raditch, getting Rick some help, making a stand against Jay and the rest of them, even wrestling the gun from his insane friend's hand before fate decided for both of them. Those and hundreds of more scenarios had been going through his head ever since he saw the gun go off in Sean's hands. Regardless of what they were, they all ended with the same result; Rick living on.

Yet even that line of thinking did little to help him. Rick was dead. No amount of what-if thinking, as good hearted as it was, could bring him back. Toby was tired of thinking of the past, but thoughts about the future only depressed him. What was there? Another two and a half stuck at Degrassi, surrounded by people the likes of Spinner and Alex? Seeing JT, Emma, and Manny live there lives without him? No, he was stuck firmly in the present.

He stared up at the ceiling. How did things get like this? Was he not happy back in elementary school? Before Rick? Before the drama? Before Degrassi? Part of him was, he remembers, yet he knows that there was a side of him that had only truly felt alive until he had come to Degrassi. When his parents divorced and he came to meet JT, Manny, Emma, etc, he never thought they would mean as much as they did now.

They were the reasons he put up with all of the BS at school. Hell he had to be honest; they were why he still kept getting up every morning and going through the day. At least they were before the shooting. These days it was a constant battle just to justify leaving the house. At least there, all he was left to his pain and not the everyday crap he was dealing with before he even met Rick. The fact was there was very little motivation to go to Degrassi anymore.

But in spite of it all, there was one thing that kept him going. It was a bit silly of course. Of all the possible reasons to continue going on, it was flimsy and illogical. In fact if he had actually said it out loud he would scarcely believe that such a thing would be helping him. And yet it had been the sole reason that he hadn't stopped caring and simply quitting school entirely.

It was hope. Not a long term hope that things would turn out okay, or that after Degrassi his life would get better. Not a kind of optimism that keeps people happy and content. No all it was was a belief. A belief that tomorrow, regardless of what he had gone through before, or any other time in the past, would be a good day. He recalled what Mr. Simpson had once told him shortly after the teacher had learned he had cancer. Tomorrow would be another day.

Toby set the alarm for 6:30 and went back to sleep.