Disclaimer: Don't own anything, don't sue

Time Frame: Begins 9 months before the series finale

Even though it was early September, Doug could still sense a change in the air. Already the weather was slightly chilly, and soon the trees would begin to burst into the flame colors of fall. Labor Day had passed, taking with it the sunbathers on the beaches and the wealthy crowd who inhabited the summer houses along the shore. Many people enjoyed the noise and activity that accompanied the summer crowd, with the parties and people hanging out along the boardwalk, but Doug had always enjoyed when the crowds left, leaving the beaches nearly deserted and life returned to a more leisurely pace. As a kid, fall had also meant the start of a new school year, filled with new possibilities. At 34 years of age, it had been many years since he had attended school, but the feeling of anticipation still remained. Something was about to change, and it wasn't just the weather.

Doug laughed at the fanciful turn his thoughts had taken. Given the previous few years of his life, drastic change seemed unlikely. He had been a member of the Capeside Sheriff's department for the last twelve years, and even being elected Sheriff when his father had retired hadn't really changed much, other than he seemed to work longer hours and do more paperwork than ever before. Besides, there was no reason to change anything. He enjoyed the routine of his life: jog along the beach after work, evening spent on the couch watching a movie (preferably from the "classic" section of ScreenPlay Video) or dinner at the Icehouse if he didn't feel like cooking for himself. The routine of his life was comforting in the same way that the antique books lined up with military precision on his fireplace mantle were comforting. So what if his brother claimed that his life was "mind-numbingly boring" and his apartment "looked more like a museum than a home". Of course, Pacey's comments had become less frequent upon the opening of the Icehouse, when Pacey had become a bit of a workaholic himself. It always amazed Doug to realize that his juvenile delinquent little brother had turned into a responsible business owner, in addition to becoming Doug's friend.

It was the first day of school for Capeside High, and in what had become an annual tradition, Doug was parked behind a tree, waiting to hand out tickets to tardy students who exceeded the speed limit in an effort to make it to homeroom on time. He typically issued three to four citations on the first day of class, with last year being the all time high of six in a single hour.

He had only been in place for a few minutes when he was passed by a red convertible zipping by with the top down and music blaring. He checked the radar gun: 46 MPH. As he turned on his lights and pulled out behind the car he noticed that it had New York plates, which was unusual since the only thing of any importance down this stretch of road was the high school. Almost immediately, the driver slowed and pulled over onto the shoulder. As he sauntered up to the driver's side door with his right hand at his belt, inches away from his sidearm, the driver reached over to turn off the music.

"Are you aware that you doing over 45 in an 25 mile per hour zone?" he asked in a voice guaranteed to scare the hell out of any traffic offender unlucky to be pulled over by the Sheriff.

The occupant of the convertible was no exception. "I'm sorry, officer. I was just on my way to class." He squinted up at the man standing above him.

Doug watched as the man in the car reached up to remove his sunglasses, revealing a pair of green eyes. It was in that moment that the world seemed to tilt slightly, yet the stranger in the car continued to talk as if nothing had happened. Doug reached out a hand to steady himself against the doorframe, his heart pounding as if he had just run a mile. When the driver's lips stopped moving, Doug realized he hadn't heard a word the man had just said.

"Aren't you a little old for high school?" he asked, latching onto the first thought that popped into his suddenly empty brain.

"I'm the new English teacher," the man patiently explained, shooting Doug a strange look. "Deputy Doug, are you OK?"

"Sheriff Doug" he automatically corrected, mentally cringing at how abrupt his words sounded. "Good going," he thought, "not only does this guy think I'm a moron, but now he thinks I am an asshole." Suddenly his thoughts seemed to be racing through his mind at lightning speeds. "Wait…did he say Deputy Doug?" He took a closer look at the man in the car, and all of a sudden, he thought of his brother's eighteenth birthday.

"Jack McPhee?" he asked, making the connection between the stunningly handsome man in the car with the kid he had last seen seven years ago.

"Yeah… who would have imagined I would be back teaching at Capeside High?"

Doug shook his head in amazement. All at once, Doug wanted this whole embarrassing encounter to be finished. He summoned up the professional manner that usually came so naturally to him. "Mr. McPhee, I'm not going to issue you a citation today, but I will not be so lenient in the future. Slow down, OK?"

Jack looked up with a relieved smile. "You've got it. Can I go now?" After Doug nodded, Jack put the convertible in gear and pulled away from the side of the road. When he glanced back in his rear view mirror, he could still see Doug still standing there, watching him drive off.

Doug ran a distracted hand through his hair. What the hell was wrong with him? He hadn't felt this rattled since his first traffic stop as a rookie officer. It must have been the shock of seeing Jack McPhee after all these years. He was the same age as Pacey, which would make him 24 or 25, yet because Doug hadn't seen him since he was eighteen, it was a bit of a shock to realize that Jack was now an adult.

It was a perfectly logical explanation, except for one small, but very important detail. In his effort to rationalize the events of the last few minutes, Doug had somehow managed to forget that his discomfiture had occurred long before he realized the identity of the man in the convertible.

Satisfied with his mental rationalization, Doug returned to the patrol vehicle, ready to hand out speeding tickets to the students of Capeside High.

Authors Note: I want to apologize for how long that this has taken me to post this story, after I promised it quite a while back to the readers of my story Election Day. I have since moved across the country and was distracted by another writing project. I also fell into the trap of rewriting this chapter several times.

OK, now I need your opinion. Did I accomplish my goal of letting us, the readers, know that Doug has fallen for Jack, while Doug has absolutely no clue?