604: The Heart Of The Matter
by DeepBlueSea

Posted on 10/22/02

[Revolution - Jars of Clay]

“Listen to this.” Jen exclaimed as she took a sip of her coffee. Pacey and Jack turned their attention on her from across the small café table, watching as she bowed her head and squinted to read over the documents she held in her hand.

“There have been several studies done that have proven that gay, lesbian or bisexual teens who are victims of harassment carry long-lasting psychological damage with them into adulthood, since their sexuality is such a huge part of their self-concept.” She looked up at their faces. “As if high school doesn’t scar you for life enough as it is.”

Before they could respond, Jen quickly ruffled through the pages. “I found all these statistics regarding the numbers of high school based harassment cases reported in the past few years and I can’t believe these numbers. How can kids being raised in this day and age still be so ignorant?”

“Well…” Pacey sighed, tilting back in his chair. “Unfortunately that little thing we refer to as the Constitution, you know, that’s supposed to be protecting the rights of the potential victims, also protects the rights of all the ignorant assholes out there in the country to spew forth the most offensive and objectionable and reprehensible garbage they can come up with. So kids in school today are sitting there like sponges, ready to absorb it all, the good and the bad, without any filters.” He leaned back a little further in his chair, taking aim at the trash barrel located a few feet behind Jen with his empty Styrofoam coffee cup. The cup sailed through the air, bouncing off the rim and onto the sidewalk.

Pacey grimaced as he watched the cup hit the cement, shaking his head. “There’s also another side to the statistics you have there, you know. You should talk to my brother Dougie about how many victims of harassment and abuse won’t file complaints with the police at all. They have no way to calculate those numbers.”

“That’s like what happened with Tobey, remember?” Jack offered quietly, leaning back in his chair as well as he raised his empty cup as tossed it towards the barrel. It missed the rim by about an inch, dropping onto the ground not far from Pacey’s. “I still don’t know if I can understand how he could have not immediately wanted those idiots to be punished for what they did to him.”

Pacey raised an eyebrow as he watched Jack’s cup roll towards the gutter, glancing at him as he reached for one of the napkins lying on the table. “Dougie says a lot of victims are too ashamed or embarrassed for whatever reason. As if it’s somehow their fault they had the misfortune to cross paths with the scum of the earth.” Pacey shrugged, taking aim again at the barrel. “And there’s also the fear factor, where they think they may be opening themselves up to further abuse or even revenge by going public and pressing charges.” He made another shot, this time coming up a few inches short.

“Well, that’s why we can’t just sit idly by and let things like this happen.” Jen mumbled as she continued to read. “If they can’t stand up for themselves for whatever reason, we should consider it our duty as fellow human beings to stand up for them.”

“Preach it, sister.” Jack smiled as he reached for a napkin now, balling it up in his fist as he looked over at Pacey. He aimed carefully and let it fly, groaning as a slight gust of wind blew it off course, missing his target once again.

Pacey chuckled softly, shaking his head at Jack as he grabbed another napkin.

“I’m serious about this.” Jen looked over at Jack, not noticing as Pacey shot the napkin over her head. “I think I’m going to talk to people in my Broadcast Journalism class about what we can do about this harassment case. To somehow make people aware of what is going on and let people know that it won’t be tolerated.”

“My roommate is a journalism major. You should talk to him.” Pacey cringed as he watched the napkin bounce off to the side again and eyed Jack, who was laughing silently at him as he reached for the last napkin.

Jen whipped her head around to look at Pacey. “He is? You never told me that.”

Pacey shrugged. “You never asked.”

Jen scowled at Pacey, rolling her eyes in exasperation, but before she could open her mouth to speak, Jack lost his balance in his chair as he prepared to make his shot and the balled up napkin left his hand and hit her square between the eyes.

She turned her scowl on Jack, taking the napkin from her lap and tossing it over her shoulder in irritation. Pacey and Jack watched as it flew through the air, their mouths dropping open as it glided easily into the barrel without even dusting the rim.


Joey sat at her desk with the morning newspaper spread out in front of her, humming along to the radio, when she suddenly heard a soft knocking at the door. She turned to look over her shoulder to see Dawson pop his head into the room.

“Hey.” He gave her a small smile.

“Hey yourself.” She grinned at him. “Come on in.”

Dawson walked over and leaned down to give her a quick kiss before he glanced at the newspaper in front of her with a raised eyebrow. “Those look suspiciously like advertisements for bridal gown shops.”

”Don’t get nervous.” She laughed. “I’m looking to see if I can find any good sales for Bessie.” Joey shrugged her shoulders, turning back to look at the paper again.

Dawson took a step back to sit down on her bed behind him, sliding his backpack off his shoulder as he dropped it onto her comforter. “I thought you told me this was going to be a casual affair. I didn’t think she was going to go the traditional route.”

”Well, I know she keeps saying she doesn’t want to make big fuss, but you know how practical Bessie always is.” Joey turned to look at Dawson again, rolling her eyes a little. “She is so used to pinching pennies, she doesn’t want to seem like she is being frivolous with their wedding expenses. She mentioned to me the other day that she had no idea that the prices of wedding gowns these days could be so ridiculous, so I think she has secretly been looking at them. I was hoping if I could find her something reasonably priced it might change her mind. Deep down, I think she wants to walk down the aisle in that big white dress.” Joey smiled, her face softening as she turned away again. “And I want to be able to see her do that.”

Dawson raised an eyebrow, thinking about this, then looked at her pointedly. “Well, if she is going to go traditional and walk down the aisle, shouldn’t the father of the bride be there to accompany her?”

Joey grimaced, tensing up as she continued to keep her attention on the newspaper in front of her. “I guess in most cases, yes.” She mumbled.

Dawson waited to see if she would say anything more, watching her. He sighed finally, sounding tired. “I take it you haven’t done anything about calling your father to include him in on this? I really think you should put some more thought into this, Joey.”

Joey turned quickly to look at him over her shoulder and narrowed her eyes. “Dawson, you really have no idea what thought I’ve put into this, so please don’t keep judging my situation by your own experiences. You know we grew up with vastly different relationships with our fathers.”

Dawson looked at her a moment, slightly taken aback by her harsh tone. “I’ll admit that maybe I have been pushing you to do this because I know how regret can eat away at a person. All the things we could have said or done.” He paused, watching her for a reaction. “If that’ s what I have been doing here, Joey, it’s only because I care so much for you. I’m speaking from experience when I tell you that I don’t want you to have those kinds of ‘what ifs’ hanging over you.”

Joey sighed in defeat, closing her eyes briefly and reaching up to run her hand through her hair. “I know.” She said flatly. “I’m sorry. I guess I’ve just had a lot of things on my mind lately.”

Dawson watched her again, leaning back on the bed to prop himself up on his elbows. “Can I take a guess as to what one particular thing might be?”

Joey looked up at him, giving him a half smile when she saw the question on his face. “I think you might have a good idea.”

Dawson sat up straight again with a sigh. “Yeah. It has been getting more and more difficult to try and ignore it, hasn’t it?” He was quiet for a minute, bowing his head as he considered his words. “But I have been thinking that maybe that is just our own faults. Maybe we have been making a bigger deal out of this than it has to be, Joey.” He looked up to meet her eyes again, waiting for her to say something.

“But it is a big deal, Dawson.” She replied gently. “It has the potential to change everything between us.”

“That doesn’t necessarily mean it'll change things for the worse.” Dawson leaned forward, raising his eyebrows as he spoke earnestly. “We have been putting so much pressure on ourselves, over-analyzing this in our typical Dawson and Joey fashion, that I think we have been overlooking the very obvious and simple fact that it actually has the power to bring us even closer. It would be a culmination of everything we have meant to each other and everything we have been through to make this commitment to one another.”

Joey nodded her head slowly, casting her eyes to the ground as she absorbed what he was saying.

Dawson regarded her a moment longer before turning and reaching for his backpack. “So…” He sighed. “I figured that, if our past history has shown us anything, we could most likely discuss this subject indefinitely until one of us makes the move to actually do something about it. And, I have decided that it is time that I made that move.” He reached in his bag, producing a small box of condoms.

Joey’s mouth fell open slightly, looking from the box in his hand to Dawson’s face and then back to the box.

Dawson grinned a little, placing the box carefully on her bed. “So there it is.” They both looked at the box sitting there and then met each other’s eyes. “I’m ready, Joey. I’m confident that this can only strengthen our relationship, but I realize that you need to decide that for yourself. I’m not trying to put any kind of pressure on you. I just want you to know how I feel and that I’m willing to do whatever I have to do to make this decision easier on you.” His grin widened. “But I also think that it would be in our best interests to be prepared. So, we’ll just make that our motto.” He shrugged his shoulders.

Joey arched an eyebrow, smirking. “Neither one of us were ever boy scouts, Dawson.”

He laughed, snorting a little as he shrugged his shoulders again and stood up, throwing his backpack over his shoulder. “I’ve got to get to class.”

Joey let out a deep breath, stretching her arms out and smiling. “Okay.”

He leaned down to kiss her, his lips lingering there a moment before he pulled back to look at her. “I’ll see you later?” He asked, watching her face expectantly.

“Yeah.” Joey nodded with a small smile. She watched him turn and walk to the door, giving him a small wave before he disappeared through it.

She turned back to look at the newspaper, but her gaze drifted out through the window in front of her instead. The shrill ring of the telephone suddenly cut through the quiet of the room, startling her from her thoughts.


“Hey, Jo.”

“Hey, Pace.” She smiled, her face softening as she leaned back in her chair.

“So, how did you do on your exam?”

“We didn’t get them back yet. My professor hasn’t finished grading them. How about you?”

“Eh…” Pacey’s voice trailed off dismally. “I don’t know what happened. I guess I should know better than to try to study with beautiful girls. It’s much too distracting.”

Joey rolled her eyes, trying not to smile. “How bad was it?” She asked, cringing slightly.

“Let’s see, I have it right here…”

Joey could hear the sound of paper crinkling on the other end of the phone.

“Oh, on second thought, I guess this isn’t too bad.” Pacey sighed dramatically.

“Well, tell me. What is it?” Joey prodded him, an impatient edge to her voice.


“98!” Joey exclaimed happily. “You got a 98? Pace, that’s great! See, I told you that you were going to do well in this class. You never give yourself enough credit. You should think more positively.”

“Really?” Pacey’s deep voice was full of amusement. “And this is coming from the same girl who almost worried herself sick over her grades in her first semester at college? Remind me, what did your cumulative GPA end up being that semester, Jo?” He chuckled. “Talk about someone who needs to listen to her own advice. Tell you what, I’ll start giving myself more credit when you stop stressing out about things you just shouldn’t stress out about.”

“Okay, Pace.” She agreed begrudgingly with a small smirk.

“Okay. I’ll talk to you later.” She heard the smile in his voice.

“Yeah. See ya.” She replied softly as she hung up the phone, staring thoughtfully at the box of condoms on her bed.


“Um, sorry. I guess I’m a little late.” Audrey cringed and glanced around the room as all talking ceased and all eyes focused on her.

“No, no…” The woman standing on the small stage in the front of the room assured her. “I’m Martha, the director of the program here. We were just getting started, so please join us.”

Audrey quickly took a seat in the back, focusing her attention primarily on the stage while discreetly appraising the others sitting around her.

“So, basically here at Noodle Box Productions we perform folktales and literary classics, touring to school assemblies, library reading programs, and museums. A typical show has between six and eight characters. It runs about an hour, and features songs, an audience participation section.” Martha looked around and smiled sweetly at her small audience before she continued.

“Our shows require strong physical comedy ability. Candidates for role must be available for all rehearsal dates. There is a small stipend per show and possibility for students to set up as an internship to earn college credits. We also run a young actors’ workshop, which offers two sessions of acting classes for children 6-12. Classes focus on storytelling, improvisational games, movement and performance developing creativity, communication skills, imagination, team work, and self confidence through quality theatre arts experiences.”

Audrey finally decided that Martha was speaking much too cheerfully for her liking. She rolled her eyes and started to get up out of her seat, spotting the exit sign behind her.

“So, now we’ll take your auditions. We’re very informal here, so…” Martha craned her neck up to look over the seats as she noticed Audrey stand up in the back. “Would you like to be first, dear?”

Audrey froze. “Me?” She asked meekly.

“Why certainly.” Martha beamed. “Come on up.”

Audrey sighed dejectedly, walking up to the stage.

“Now, do you have any acting experience? Have you been involved in any other children’s performance groups?”

“I acted in a couple of independent films out in LA when I was younger.” Audrey informed her. “Legitimate independent films, not like porn or anything.” She amended hastily.

“Oh, I see…” Martha replied uncertainly in a weak voice.

“And I can sing, oh and dance a little, too, I guess.”

“Well, we have Mary Elizabeth sitting right up there on the piano waiting to accompany you if you’d like to give us a sample.”

“Okay. What the hell.” Audrey shrugged, starting up the steep stairs to the stage. The spiked heel of her boot suddenly caught on one of the wooden planks on the steps and Audrey felt herself falling forward, sailing through the air as if in slow motion until she ended up sprawled on the stage platform in a heap. She raised her head, spitting a strand of hair out of her mouth as the whole room erupted into laughter and cheers.

“That was wonderful.” Martha clapped her hands together. “You are such a gifted comedic talent.”

“Uh, thanks. I guess.” Audrey sat up, feeling the smile spread across her face at the sound of the applause.


Jen knocked softly on the door, shifting side to side and adjusting the strap of her bag on her shoulder. She leaned in to listen, hearing faint strains of music drifting through the door, but no signs of any activity. She sighed, raising her hand to knock one last time when the door suddenly flew open and David was standing there, clutching a towel around his waist and dripping with water. He raised his eyebrows in surprise when he saw her, losing his grip on his towel for one brief moment as it slipped down to a precarious position on his hips.

“Jen?” His voice rose and cracked as he scrambled to catch the falling towel. “What…what are you doing here?”

“Oh my…” Jen giggled, smacking her hand over her eyes as she turned away and her cheeks flushed a light shade of pink. She slowly turned back to face him, her hand still covering her eyes as she peered out at him between her fingers. “You’re Pacey’s roommate?” Her gaze swept surreptitiously over his broad shoulders down to the rippling muscles of his stomach, noticing for the first time how lean and cut his body was.

“Um, yeah.” David held the towel firmly in two hands now, letting out a soft laugh of embarrassment. “So…you know Pacey?”

“Yeah.” Jen laughed as well, lowering her hand finally and shaking her head. “I was just with him this morning for coffee and I mentioned I had a project I was hoping to get my journalism class involved in and he told me I should talk to his roommate. This is too funny.” She shook her head again. “But I obviously caught you at a bad time, so maybe I can talk to you about it…”

“I have time right now.” David cut in quickly. “I just got back from the gym and I was going to make some lunch. Why don’t you join me and you can tell me about it.” He nodded for her to come in.

Jen shrugged her shoulders. “Well, okay. If you’re sure I’m not bothering you.”

“Not at all.” David smiled happily as he watched her pass by him to enter the apartment. He closed the door behind her and stood there grinning at her for a long moment. “Well, um…” He spoke finally, glancing down at himself. “I think I’ll go get dressed now.”

Jen giggled, nodding her head. “That would probably be a good idea.”

“I’ll be right back. Make yourself at home.” He quickly ducked away to head to his bedroom.

Jen’s gaze followed his retreating form, raising her eyebrows in appreciation as she smiled to herself.


Joey dropped her head, her gaze traveling over the cracks in the sidewalk as she walked across the courtyard towards the dorm. Audrey was chatting away with Pacey on her cell phone next to her, and Joey smiled in amusement every so often as she heard Audrey recounting her day with him, imagining Pacey’s responses to each of her stories on the other end of the line. Suddenly Audrey stopped short, reaching out to grip Joey’s arm to halt her as well.

“Really? That’s so great, pookie! You’ll get a gold star from me later.” Audrey’s voice lowered as she cooed into the phone. “Any place you want.”

Joey rolled her eyes before Audrey said good-bye, clicking the phone shut and turning to her. “Pacey aced his first exam in that computer class.”

“I know.” Joey murmured and nodded as they started walking again. “I think he’s going to do just fine in that class. I don’t know what he was worried about.”

Audrey frowned in confusion and she hesitated slightly, glancing over quickly at Joey. “How did you know that? He just got his exam back this morning.”

Joey heard a suspicious undertone in Audrey’s voice and felt a tinge of unnecessary guilt that surprised and flustered her. “Um, well, he called this morning to see how my exam went. You know, we were studying for our exams at the same time. He mentioned it to me then.”

“Oh.” Audrey replied quietly, reaching out to pull open the front door as they reached the dorm. Joey followed her inside, unaware of the perturbed look on Audrey’s face as they climbed the stairs to their rooms.


“I really appreciate this, David.” Jen stood up from the kitchen table with a smile. “You’ve given me a lot of great ideas here.”

“Well, like I said, I’d be happy to do anything to help.” David stood up as well. “Just let me know. I have access to all the media rooms at school on the weekends and I have a little bit of time on my hands before midterms start. I’ll even help you rally the troops, if you like. I have a lot of friends at school who would be interested in a good cause like this one.”

Jen hiked her bag up over shoulder, grinning at him as she prepared to leave. “I still can’t believe that Pacey is your roommate. That he is the guy you were telling me about the other day. It’s such a…” She shook her head in amazement as she talked, her gaze traveling over several photos taped haphazardly across the white surface of the refrigerator, stopping on one picture in particular. It was a shot of Joey caught in a full out laugh, her hair blowing in the wind coming off the ocean behind her and her sparkling eyes obviously focused on whoever it was behind the camera. Jen’s smile faded slowly. “Small world.”


”I thought you said you had an exam to study for tonight?” Pacey pulled away from Audrey’s kiss, leaning back against the pillows and looking up at her face as she moved to straddle him on her bed.

“Did I say that?” She feigned ignorance, moving in to kiss him again.

He chuckled softly. “Maybe I should just go and let you get some work done…”

“Don’t you dare move.” Audrey mumbled against his lips, shifting her position on his lap as she smiled. “Until I tell you to, of course.”

The sound of the phone ringing cut through the small dorm room.

“The machine will get it.” She sighed, feeling his body finally start to respond accordingly beneath her.

“Audrey? It’s your mother. This is the third time I’ve tried to get in contact with you today. I would appreciate a call back as soon as you get this message.”

Pacey pulled back. “Are you going to pick up?”

Audrey shook her head as the machine clicked off, wrapping her arms around his shoulders to kiss his neck and avoiding his gaze.

“Wait, wait, wait…” Pacey stopped her. “What was that? Are you trying to avoid her on purpose? What’s going on?”

“Nothing. The usual.” Audrey shrugged.

"Well…what’s that mean? What’s the usual?”

Audrey reached down between them for the zipper on his jeans.

“Audrey…” Pacey almost laughed. “Are you going to talk to me?”

“If I wanted to talk, I would have picked up the phone, Pacey.”

He rolled his eyes, gripping her wrists gently, forcing her to stop her movements and look at him. “Trust me when I tell you this, things like this do not just go away on their own if you ignore them.”

“But things like this might.” Audrey smiled, arching her eyebrow suggestively as she ground herself against his erection.

“I give up.” Pacey sighed under his breath, releasing her wrists and closing his eyes as she leaned in to kiss him again.


Joey rubbed her eyes, staring blankly at the page in front of her before she shut her book, not able to focus her attention on her reading any longer. She glanced over her shoulder at her bed, wondering if it was too early to just crawl into it and bury herself under the covers. The phone on the desk suddenly rang, startling her.



“Bessie…what is it?” Joey’s heart leapt into her throat, immediately recognizing the concern in her sister’s voice.

“I just got a call from Doug Witter. He has been trying to track Pacey down. I guess Sheriff Witter was rushed to the Emergency Room earlier this evening. They think he’s had a heart attack. Doug has been trying to get in touch with Pacey to let him know and tell him to get down here as soon as he can.”

“Oh no.” Joey sighed, bringing her hand absently to her forehead. “I think Pacey may be right down the hall with Audrey. So, how…how is his father doing now? ”

“I have no idea. That’s all Doug told me.”

“Okay. I’m going to go find him.”

Joey quickly hung up with Bessie and hurried from her room down the hall, hesitating slightly when she reached Audrey’s door. Before she could knock, the door started to open and then Pacey was standing there in front of her.

“Hey.” He gave her a surprised smile. “I was going to run out and pick us up a pizza. Do you want anything?” His smile faded as he saw her face. “Jo, what’s the matter?”

“Bessie just called. Doug’s been trying to get in touch with you.” She hesitated. “It’s your dad, Pace. They brought him to the Emergency Room. I…I think he may have had a heart attack.” She wrung her hands together, nervously watching his face.

“What?” Audrey shrieked, running up to Pacey’s side where he stood in the doorway, his face blank. “Is he okay?”

Joey shrugged her shoulders, her eyes still on Pacey. “That’s all I know. That’s all Bessie knew. She only talked to Doug for a minute. He did tell her that you should probably try to get down there as soon as possible.”

“Um, yeah…” Pacey spoke finally, furrowing his brow and running his hand over his hair. “My truck is right out back in the parking lot. I guess I should go, huh?” He glanced at Joey helplessly, meeting her eyes for a brief second as if he was looking for her to tell him what to do.

“Yeah. You should.” She nodded, almost whispering.

“You can’t drive all the way down there by yourself right now.” Audrey admonished him and then rubbed his arm. “If I didn’t have this exam in the morning I’d go with you myself. Why don’t you call Jack or…”

“I can go.” Joey offered quietly.

Audrey shot her a quick look, frowning slightly. “Um, well…” She hesitated. “Are you sure?”

“I don’t even have a class tomorrow until 12:30.” Joey shrugged.

Pacey pulled his keys from his pocket, almost oblivious to the conversation going on around him. “All right. I’m leaving.”

“Let me go grab my coat. I’ll meet you in front of my room.” Joey nodded as she hurried off.

Audrey grabbed Pacey as he started to move away, leaning up to give him a hug. “It’s going to be okay, honey. I’m sure everything will be fine.”

“Yeah, thanks.” He replied absently as she kissed his cheek.

“Okay, bye. Drive safely.” Audrey crossed her arms and leaned against the doorframe to watch Pacey make his way down the hallway. He paused momentarily in front of Joey’s door as she came out and pulled on her coat, falling in step next to him as they both disappeared around the corner without a backwards glance. Audrey sighed and frowned, slowly shutting the door behind her as she went back into her room.


[Anchor - Lifehouse]

Joey followed Pacey through the Emergency Room entrance and down the hall, trying to keep up with him. Her head was lowered and she almost bumped into his back as he suddenly slowed his pace, almost stopping. Looking up past his shoulder, she saw Doug and Mrs. Witter at the end of the hall standing with a man who looked like he must have been a doctor.

Doug saw them approaching first and gave them a solemn, silent nod. They came up quietly to stand next to him, not wanting to interrupt the conversation.

Mrs. Witter turned finally to see them standing there. Her face was blotchy and her eyes were rimmed in red. “Oh. You’re here.” She sniffed, looking back to the doctor and motioning towards them. “Dr. Goldman, this is my other son, Pacey, and his girlfriend, Joey Potter.”

Joey didn’t say anything to correct her, stealing a glance at Pacey and seeing his face fall at his mother’s appearance. “Hello.” She replied in a quiet voice. Pacey nodded but did not speak.

The doctor gave them a quick smile. “Well, we are waiting on some tests to come back and I was just about to go in to talk with your father, so hopefully we will have something more concrete to tell you in the next hour or so.”

Pacey opened his mouth as if he was going to say something, but just nodded slowly again in response as Joey heard a low buzzing sound coming from her left.

“That’s me.” Doug sighed, checking the beeper hanging off the belt of his uniform. “I’ve got to go call in to the station.”

“And I’m going to go in with the doctor while he talks to your father.” Mrs. Witter turned towards Doug and Pacey, wringing her hands together.

Pacey winced as he noticed that his mother was trembling slightly and Joey instinctively reached over to rest her hand gently on his back.

“Okay.” Doug nodded as he started to walk away. “We’ll be here waiting.”

Pacey and Joey watched Mrs. Witter disappear into the room after the doctor. Turning and looking down the hospital corridor once they were alone, Joey noticed a row of chairs next to the nurses’ station.

“Let’s go over here, Pace.” She said quietly as she took his arm and he followed her, dropping down to sit next to her.

They sat in silence for a few minutes while Pacey shifted in his seat several times, agitated and restless. Tearing his gaze from the door of his father’s room, he took in their surroundings.

“I hate hospitals.” He muttered, his voice sounding husky and tired.

Glancing over at him, Joey saw his hand start to clench into a fist as he lightly pounded his knee. Reaching out, she gave it a light, reassuring squeeze, stilling his movements. Pacey sighed heavily, dropping his head and fixing his gaze on her hand resting on top of his. He slowly turned his palm face up, interlacing his fingers with hers, and didn’t let go until the door to his father’s room opened again and they jumped up to meet Mrs. Witter as she reemerged with the doctor.

Dr. Goldman smiled at Pacey. “We have all the blood work back and we’ve taken a good look at the EKG reports. Your father has what is known as angina, recurring pain or discomfort in the chest that happens when some part of the heart does not receive enough blood. It is a common symptom of coronary heart disease, a disease in which the arteries feeding the heart have hardened and narrowed due to a build-up of fatty plaque, in some cases creating a blockage. When this kind of blockage has formed, blood cannot travel through the arteries in order to nourish the heart. Without oxygen-rich blood, the heart will be in crisis, typically causing symptoms such as chest pain, pressure or discomfort, as he was experiencing when he was brought in here tonight. All the symptoms that would make someone like your father believe that he was, in fact, having a heart attack.”

He paused before continuing, gesturing with his hands as he spoke. “There are several treatment options available for this condition, some medical and some surgical. We need to do a few more tests, but I believe our best option in your father’s case would be a procedure known as coronary artery bypass surgery, where we go in and actually create a detour around this blockage by taking a segment of a blood vessel from another part of the body. As with any invasive procedure, bypass surgery does carry some risks. Less than 5 percent chance of heart damage, and less than 2 percent chance of death in most cases, but these risks are relatively low. This is still one of the most commonly performed surgical procedures in the world today.”

Pacey exhaled slowly in relief, raising his eyebrows. “So…when is this going to happen?”

“I’m headed to my office right now to take a look at my OR schedule for next week to see where we can fit him in.” The doctor patted Pacey on the shoulder as he started to walk away. “I have every confidence your father is going to be back to his old self in no time.”

Pacey let out a soft chuckle. “Well, that’s good.”

Joey smiled as she listened, picking up on the slight tinge of sarcastic humor in his tone.

“He’s awake if you want to go and see him now.” Mrs. Witter looked at Pacey as she followed the doctor down the hall. “Dr. Goldman has some pamphlets and other information on this operation for me in his office. I’ll be right back.”

“Okay.” Pacey replied uncertainly, shifting back and forth where he stood. He glanced at Joey, chewing on the inside of his lower lip nervously.

She gave him an encouraging smile, rubbing his arm. “I’ll wait right here.”

Pacey exhaled heavily. “Okay.” He said again, turning to walk into his father’s room.

Joey watched him walk away, sighing a little to herself as she saw him pause before he pushed through the door. She realized everything that Pacey was probably feeling as he walked into that room, remembering those uncomfortable moments in her life that forced her to face the sad realities of her strained relationship with her own father.

She slowly sunk back in her chair, so lost in thought that she didn’t notice Doug approaching.

“Hey, Joey.” He smiled as he sat down next to her.

Joey sat up quickly, running her hand through her hair. “Oh, hey. The doctor was just telling us that the tests are back and your father is going to need a bypass procedure, I think?”

“Yeah.” Doug nodded. “I just talked to him on my way back here. Is Pacey in there now?”

Joey nodded. “Yeah. He just went in.” She looked towards the door to the room, furrowing her brow in concern.

Doug glanced over and noticed the worried look on her face. “It was nice of you to drive down here with him like this tonight. I’m sure Pacey appreciates it.”

Joey gave him a half smile. “Oh, it’s no big deal. I wanted to come with him. I know he’d do the same for me.”

Doug nodded his head, smiling a little. “Probably.” He leaned back in his chair with a sigh. “But I think for Pacey to know he has friends like that in his life, people he can count on and who are always going to be there for him, well, I think that’s a big deal. It must be a nice feeling.”

A thoughtful smile slowly spread across Joey’s face. “Yeah, it is.”


Pacey stepped into the room, barely lit by dull recessed lighting glowing from the ceiling above the bed. He hesitated when he saw his father lying there, unnerved by how small and fragile his body looked under the sheets and momentarily taken aback by seeing him look so helpless and vulnerable, so unfamiliar. He stepped up next to the bed, stuffing his hands in the pockets of his jeans and swallowing the lump back in his throat, his mouth going dry.

“Hey, Dad.” His voice was low and hoarse and seemed to echo off the walls of the tiny room.

His father blinked his eyes open, turning his head to regard him curiously. “You’re here too? What, did you drive all the way down from Boston?” He asked gruffly.

“Yeah.” Pacey shrugged, dropping his gaze to the floor. “So, um…how’re you doing?”

“How’s it look like I’m doing?”

Pacey had to smirk at this, nodding his head. “Right. Stupid question.”

“Eh, the doctors tell me it could be worse.” His father reached up to rub his eyes with his hand. “They’re talking about taking a vein out of my leg and rewiring my heart with it. What do you think about that?”

Pacey raised his eyebrows. “Well, whatever it takes, right?”

“Hmmpf.” His father shrugged his shoulders wearily, closing his eyes.

Pacey chewed on the inside of his lower lip, watching him for a brief moment. “So, you’re probably tired. I’ll let you get some rest. I just wanted to check in.”

His father only murmured again in response, his eyes still closed, and Pacey slowly turned to leave.

“What is it again you’re driving these days?” His father’s voice stopped him.

Pacey hesitated, frowning slightly in confusion. “Um, I bought that truck. Remember?”

“Ah, that’s right.” He sighed, his deep voice groggy and distant as his eyes fell shut again. “Yeah, you needed something with four-wheel drive to get around the city in the winter. That was a smart move, son.”

Pacey smiled slowly, dropping his head as he reached for the door, looking over at his father before he left. “I’ll see ya, Dad.”


"Do you remember those field trips we had to go on every year in elementary school to the Museum of Science?” Pacey glanced over at Joey as he drove down the highway. “Going up to Boston like this on that bus, it felt like we were traveling to a different country or something.”

Joey smiled, remembering. “And the ride up was always more entertaining than the actual museum.” She smirked at him. “But by the ride home you were usually in trouble so you’d have to sit up front with the teachers and parent chaperones.”

Pacey nodded. “Yeah, usually. Except, of course, the time I was left behind.”

Joey’s eyes widened as she laughed. “Oh my God, I forgot all about that! We had to pull the bus over at a rest stop and wait for the Boston police to drive you down to meet us.” She giggled, looking over at him. “And I had been assuming the whole time that you were just up at the front of the bus in the penalty box seat where we couldn’t see you.”

“Yeah.” Pacey laughed, shaking his head. “You’d think, since it was my mother’s turn to be chaperone on that particular trip, she might notice if her own son is missing, but what are you going to do?” He sighed, looking over at Joey and watching her a moment before he spoke, his voice changing. “So, I’m sorry about, um…what she said when we got there tonight, you know…”

“Oh, that's okay.” Joey spoke up quickly. “I'm sure she wasn't even thinking clearly under the circumstances. I completely understand." She turned to look back out the window, glancing at him out of the corner of her eye with as sly smile. "At least she gets my name right now."

Pacey chuckled, raising his eyebrows in amusement as he nodded his head in agreement. Joey grinned at him, settling herself back in her seat.

Pacey was quiet for a minute, resting his arm on top of the steering wheel as he watched the road, before he glanced over at her again with a small smile. "I guess if my mother is going to finally remember one thing right about me or my life, well...I can't say I mind that it's you."

Joey held his gaze and smiled before she turned to look out the window again. “Even if that means she’ll never make you spaghetti and meatballs again?” She teased him gently.

Pacey laughed a little, shaking his head. “I’ll tell you something…my mother’s spaghetti and meatballs? Not that good.”


[I'll Always Be Right There - Michelle Branch]

Pacey pulled his truck into the parking lot across from Joey’s dorm, throwing it into park and cutting the engine. “C’mon. It’s late. I’ll walk you over.”

He came around to her side of the truck to open her door, offering her a hand to help her out. They walked across the deserted courtyard in silence, and Pacey slowed to a stop as they reached the front steps of her building.

Joey turned to look at him. “You’re not coming in?” She asked quietly. “Audrey is probably waiting up for you.”

“Nah.” Pacey shook his head and then dropped it to look at the ground. “She’s got that exam in the morning and I really just want to go home. I’m beat and I want to be where my family can reach me if they need to, you know?” He looked up at her and shrugged his shoulders.

“I understand.” Joey nodded her head as well. “I’ll let Audrey know.” She hesitated and then smiled at him. “I’m really happy that your father is going to be okay, Pace.”

A small smile played around the corners of his mouth. “Thanks.” He nodded. “He’s a tough old bastard, I’ll give him that.” He chuckled a little, looking off into the distance across the dark Worthington campus. He glanced back at Joey, briefly meeting her eyes. “So, do you have any plans to get together with your father again?”

Joey’s smile faded as she looked to the ground, furrowing her brow before she answered him. “I, um…” She hesitated, running her hand through her hair. “Well, the thing is…I didn’t exactly get together with him when I went to see him that day.” She shrugged her shoulders, looking off to the side and avoiding his face.

Pacey watched her curiously, slightly raising an eyebrow. “No?”

She shook her head slowly, the hint of a frown playing around the corners of her mouth. “I was going to…I went there with all intentions to talk to him.” Her voice trailed off for a moment and then she met Pacey’s gaze, her wide, liquid eyes shining in the dull glow of the streetlight above them. “He was with some woman. I had never seen her before. She looked a little younger than him. And, there were these two little girls with them.”

She forced a smile and shrugged her shoulders again, quickly wiping at her eyes with the back of her hand. “He was carrying one of them on his shoulders and holding the other one’s hand. They looked like they were on their way somewhere and I, ah…I didn’t want to bother him.” Joey sniffed, dropping her head to look at the ground as she stuffed her hands in the back pockets of her jeans.

Pacey waited to see if she would say anything more, his blue eyes darkening with concern as he watched her struggle to get the words out.

Still looking down, Joey continued in a shaky voice. “They just looked like they were having so much fun. They looked like a…family.” Her voice grew smaller on the last word, almost a whisper, before she cleared her throat and rushed to finish her thoughts.

“But, it’s not like I can’t see why that must be nice for him. To have people around him like that after being locked up for so long. And, I’m sure it’s easier for him to be around these new people when he is trying to make fresh start with his life. Who wants to go back to the same old emotional baggage and reopen all those wounds when it is so much easier to just forget them, right? To just forget us?”

She looked at Pacey almost pleadingly for an answer, her voice cracking as the tears welled up in the corners of her eyes. “I mean, why else would he cut himself off from us, right? He wouldn’t do that if he still loved us, would he?”

Pacey sighed heavily, taking a step towards her.

“I don’t think he’s trying to forget you, Jo.” He replied hesitantly after a moment. “Maybe he thinks that, after everything that happened and all the pain he brought you, you are better off without him around. Maybe he is staying away not because he wants to, but because he thinks it’s for the best. Maybe he just wants you to be happy and doesn’t want to be a burden on you or cause you any more grief.”

He reached out across the space between them to tentatively touch her arm. “Maybe it is because he loves you too much.”

Joey looked at Pacey without saying anything, the tears about to spill out onto her cheeks.

“C’mere.” He said softly as he pulled her closer, into a hug.

Joey made a small sound in her throat, a sob she tried unsuccessfully to muffle against his shoulder as she leaned into him.

“And, just because you see that he may have new people in his life…” Pacey leaned down to whisper gently in her ear. “That doesn’t mean you could ever be replaced in his heart.”

Joey scrunched her eyes tightly shut but was unable to stop the tears from leaking out. She reached up to wrap her arms around Pacey, clinging to him while she cried. Pacey just held her and bowed his head. After a long moment, he pulled back to look at her, sighing inaudibly as he glided his hand down the back of her hair and pressed a quick kiss to her forehead.

“Are you going to be okay?” He asked quietly.

“Yeah.” She nodded, sniffing and stepping back to wipe her eyes with her hands. She almost laughed. “Look at me. You’re the one who had this family emergency to deal with and you end up having to comfort me. How typical. I’m sorry about this, Pace.”

Pacey shrugged and gave her a half smile. “It’s me, Jo. You don’t have to apologize.”

“Okay. Well, I’m going to go in.” She took a deep breath, regaining her composure. “I guess I’ll see you later.”

“Yeah. See ya. Thanks again for coming with me tonight.”

“Anytime.” Joey smiled at him over her shoulder before she disappeared through the doors.

Pacey stood there for a moment before he turned and slowly made his way back to his truck, stuffing his hands in his pockets as he walked and glancing up over his shoulder to watch the light flicker on in her window.


[Revolution - Jars of Clay]

Peace takes a taxi to the underground
I want to love the world but I don't know how
Blame it on the d.j. spinning all the fast songs-
Ain't playing anything that I can sing along
If you know the words try to sing along
When you got the beat, grab a hammer, bang a gong
Cause you don't have to fight or make yourself belong to be a revolution
If you wanna learn to play the "rock guitar"
Throw down your guns, you're gonna be a star
You gotta begin with who you know you are to be a revolution
The time is right to cross that line and let love find a way
So if you know the words then try to sing along
When you get the beat, grab a hammer, bang a gong
Cause you gotta fight or make yourself belong to be a revolution


[Anchor - Lifehouse]

I stand with a blank expression now
And I can't believe myself
Would someone tell me
How did I get here

I am walking
Changing slowly
I am chasing
Climbing slower

I know that I'll never be alone
You will never let me go
You are my anchor
Hold my hand
No one else could understand
You are my anchor

It seems that I lost track of time
And I can't believe my mind
Would you save me
If I reached out to you

I am waiting
Watching, standing, I am reaching
Climbing slower

I know that I'll never be alone
You will never let me go
You are my anchor
Hold my hand
No one else could understand
You are my anchor


[I'll Always Be Right There - Michelle Branch]

When you're all alone
And you need a light
Someone to guide you through the night
Just remember that I am here
To hold you close and dry your tears

Oh-ooh and just when you thought you were falling
But you know I'll be right there

When you're all alone
And you need a friend
Someone to help you to the end
when you need someone to catch you when you fall
I'll be there through it all

Oh-oh cause just when you thought you were losing
But you knew I'll always be right there

And I'll be there through the good times
And the bad
And we'll be there for each other
Cause you're the best friend I've ever had


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