Joey came through the door, slamming it shut behind her and leaning back against it with a sigh. “That’s it. My last final is officially over.” Audrey just looked up at her from where she was packing clothes into the suitcase laying on her bed. As Joey then went to let her backpack slide off her shoulder, there was a ripping sound and it fell with a heavy thud, the contents spilling out all over the floor.
“Oh no…” She picked it up, staring forlornly at the broken strap.
Audrey came over then. “Here, let me see that…” She took it from Joey and they each went to sit on the ends of their beds, facing each other. Audrey examined the strap and tried to adjust the buckle. “You know the what the problem with this book bag of yours has always been, Joey Potter?”
Joey just bit her lip and shook her head while watching Audrey try to tie two pieces of material back together.
“Too many books.” Audrey replied, muttering under her breath as she worked on it. She finally sighed, sitting up straight. “There’s nothing more I can do here. It’s time to call it.” She glanced behind her at the alarm clock next to her bed. “Time of death, 2:45 pm.” She handed it back to Joey. “Well, it was on its way out anyway - at least it made it through the semester for you.” She jumped up then to resume her packing. “Speaking of which, can you believe how quickly this one flew by? It’s already Christmas break!”
“You think?” Joey scrunched her nose as she looked up at her. “I feel like it’s been dragging on forever.” She stood up to walk over to her desk.
Audrey glanced at her, raising an eyebrow curiously, then just shook her head and turned to get her make-up bag. “So…you must be looking forward to spending your first Christmas as Mrs. Dawson Leery.” She said slowly.
Joey whipped around, frowning. “Mrs. Dawson Leery?” She gasped, and then laughed. “I think you’re rushing that a bit, don’t you.”
“Oh…you two might as well be married.” Audrey said dismissively. “Besides, I just mean it’s your first Christmas as a real couple. It should be romantic, right? Kissing under the mistletoe, stuffing his stocking…all that good stuff. Oh – especially seeing what he gets you for a present…very crucial decision on the guy’s part.” She looked up at Joey, nodding in a conspiratorial way. “Tells you whether or not he’s been paying attention.”
Joey made a face, but then considered this, biting her lip as she sat down in her chair. “Well…I guess it’s kind of hard for me to look at it like that.” She turned to Audrey and shrugged. “Since it’s not exactly my first Christmas with Dawson, you know. And, besides…we decided that we would just skip the gifts for each other this year as we are both unemployed college students.” She turned back to her desk.
“Oh.” Audrey said flatly, looking at her back. “Well, no – you’re right. That is much more romantic.” She rolled her eyes sarcastically and made a face, turning to go into the bathroom.
Joey looked after her. “You know…the offer still stands to come to Capeside with me for the break...” She called out.
Audrey emerged from the bathroom with bottles of shampoo and various hair products in her arms. “No – but, thanks. My parents have been surprisingly cool about things lately. I’m actually looking forward to going home, if you can believe it.”
Joey just smiled and nodded. “I’m glad, Audrey.”
Audrey dumped the bottles into her suitcase, hesitating a minute. “So…I suppose you’ll be seeing Pacey while you’re home?”
Joey smiled again. “Yeah.” She said softly. “I haven’t talked to him yet, but he always comes over to the B&B on Christmas night.” She shrugged, glancing at Audrey. “It’s become kind of a tradition.”
Audrey nodded, stuffing the contents of her suitcase down with one hand as she tried to close it with the other. “Well, then…I suppose you could tell the big loser I said Merry Christmas.”
Joey laughed, “Okay. I will.”
Joey sighed sadly, looking up at the clock on the kitchen wall as she put the last of the dishes away. She wandered slowly back out into the living room, dropping down on the couch next to Dawson.
“This was a long day…” She yawned, stretching her arms out a little.
“Yeah.” Dawson raised an eyebrow. “Alexander is quite, um…energetic, isn’t he?”
“He was just excited about all his presents…” Joey shrugged, looking at the television screen. “I can’t believe that they are having another baby though.” She smiled thoughtfully.
“I know.” Dawson agreed, raising both eyebrows this time and shaking his head slowly.
Joey glanced at him out of the corner of her eye. “I’ve been thinking…you know, ever since Bessie told me about it this morning, that maybe I would start coming home when I could to help out a little around here.”
“Help how?” Dawson made a face. “There’s nothing you can do for morning sickness, Joey. Believe me – we went through all this with my mother.
“Well, Bessie’s situation is a little different.” Joey bristled a bit. “It’s slightly more complicated than just morning sickness. She really should be resting as much as possible and staying off her feet if she can. And you saw for yourself today what Alex is like – he can be a handful.” She looked back to the television. “I was just thinking I could take the train home on weekends when Bodie is working and…”
“You know that weekends are the only time I can get into the editing and film production rooms at school.” Dawson cut in, annoyed.
Joey just looked at him blankly, blinking her eyes. “Well, I wasn’t expecting you to come with me, Dawson…”
“Oh.” Dawson seemed to relax a bit, but then he frowned, his voice taking on a whiny edge. “Well, still - we hardly see each other as it is. You haven’t been staying over during the week nearly as much as you used to and…”
Joey just smiled tightly. “Well, if I’m not going to see you over the weekend, then – of course – I will want to see you more during the week. That still leaves us 5 nights a week to be together. Everything will be fine.”
Dawson smiled, leaning over to kiss her on the cheek. “Okay.” He leaned back to grin at her. “I just feel like everyone gets to see you more than I do lately. You’ve been spending more time with Grams even when you come over than you do with me. I just miss you, Joey.”
She sighed and looked down. “I know…I’m sorry. I’ve just had a lot on my mind, I guess.”
Dawson reached over to take her hand and squeeze it. “It’s okay. I understand.”
They both turned back to the television then, sitting there in silence for a while until Joey sighed and looked over at him. “You didn’t happen to talk to Pacey today, did you?” She asked quietly.
Dawson made a face, slightly confused. “No, why? Was I supposed to?”
“Well, it is Christmas…” Joey shrugged. “I guess I’m just surprised he never stopped by. He usually always does.”
It was Dawson’s turn to shrug now. “Well, I can’t really say that I’m surprised. I think we are probably reaching that point in our lives, Joey, where it is kind of naïve to think we can maintain all our childhood friendships when our lives are moving in such diametrically opposite directions. I mean – even though he wasn’t in school, at least last year he was actually in Boston with us, but now…”
“Now what?” Joey asked, scowling. “It’s really heartwarming to see how easily you can write off life-long friendships like that, Dawson.”
Dawson just sighed, shaking his head. “That isn’t what I mean. I’m sure Pacey is trying to make a life for himself here and well…maybe he doesn’t need to be reminded that we have all moved on. Did you ever consider that it could be difficult for him to be around us? After all, he has always had a bit of a childish and stubborn streak when it came to accepting that you and I were eventually going to be together. And now, to make matters worse, he is stuck back in Capeside – right where he didn’t want to be - with a questionable future…another harsh reality that he has had to face. Maybe we’d be doing him a favor to leave him alone while he figures it all out.” Dawson looked over at her, furrowing his brow, waiting for a response.
Joey just bit her lower lip, her eyes cast to the floor. “I guess I never thought about that.” She said dully, turning her attention back to the television. After a while she just turned to back him and made a face. “You know what, Dawson – I’m exhausted after finals all last week and this whole day. I think I’m just going to go to bed.”
“I thought maybe you could come over and stay the night with me.” Dawson smiled.
“Oh…I really just want to crawl into my own bed and go to sleep right now.” She yawned and smiled. “You don’t mind, do you?”
Dawson shook his head, sighing a little, “No, I guess not.” He leaned over to kiss her before standing up. “I’ll just see you tomorrow, right?”
“Yep.” Joey nodded, looking down and then back at him. “Tomorrow.”
Pacey jogged down the front steps of Doug’s apartment building, tossing his keys in the air. He had just started down the sidewalk towards his truck when he heard someone call out his name. Turning and smiling, he saw Joey approaching him from across the street.
“Hey…Joey.” He grinned at her, slightly suprised.
“Hey.” She stood there in front of him now, smiling back uncertainly, with a small bag in her hand. “We missed you yesterday…” She frowned a bit.
“Oh, yeah…? Sorry.” He absently rubbed his hand over his hair. “I did mean to stop by to say Merry Christmas to everyone but…ah, Gretchen ended up bringing home her new boyfriend.” He explained, shrugging. “He turned out to be a pretty good guy, so I was hanging out with them and the next thing I knew it was getting late, so…” He sighed. “I would have called, but…you know.” His voice trailed off.
Joey just shrugged as well. “It’s okay.” She smiled at him, leaning towards him a little. “We did miss you, though. Alexander was disappointed you weren’t there to help him play with all his new toys. Santa brought him a Rock-Em Sock-Em Robot Game.” She raised her eyebrows playfully. “They still make those? Dougie used to have them. I love those things.” Pacey exclaimed, his eye lighting up. “Damn.” He muttered. “Now I really wish I had come over…”
Joey giggled and then tentatively held out the bag. “Santa also left this for you at our house.”
Pacey just looked at her, his mouth falling open a little. “Jo…you didn’t have to do that.” He shook his head, taking the bag. Reaching in he pulled out a knitted winter hat. He looked at it and then raised an eyebrow to look at her.
“It’s a hat.” She said.
“I can see that.” He replied.
“I made it.” She offered, watching his face.
“You made it?” He smiled, surprised.
“Yeah…” She giggled a little. “Grams has been teaching me how to knit!”
“You know…” Pacey sighed, shaking his head slowly. “You are a really sad representative of college life for me, Potter.”
She reached out to give him a little playful shove. “Hey! What’s wrong with that? It’s kind of fun. And I figured I could make everyone’s Christmas presents since I have no money. But I made that and then started a sweater for Alex that took forever…so, actually – only you and Alex are the lucky recipients of my handiwork.” She smiled. “Besides…” She lowered her voice and tried not to laugh. “You are the only person I know who would actually wear it.”
Pacey raised his eyebrows and nodded, smiling as he looked back at the hat in his hands. “Well, you are probably right about that…”
She lightly hit him on the arm, “Watch what you say…I put a lot of hard work into that.” She pretended to be offended.
“No…I love it.” He grinned. “And, the thing is…I am working at marina at the Yacht Club now, so I’m outside a lot and I needed a hat.” He looked at her. “So, thank you.” He leaned towards her a little as he said it.
Joey smiled happily. “You’re welcome.” She nodded. “So…you are working in the marina, now? Doing what?”
Pacey shrugged. “A little of everything…I’ve actually been working on the boats a bit. People getting them serviced while they’re in storage for the winter. And then they’ll be more stuff for me to do once the season rolls around, run the launches, you know, so…I’m just happy to be outside doing something instead of stuck in that security job. Wearing that uniform was starting to depress me a bit – made me keep seeing what my potential future could be like if I was ever to follow in the family business.”
Joey just smirked at this, then her eyes suddenly lit up. “Oh, speaking of family - guess what?” She said. “Bessie is pregnant! She and Bodie are having another baby - they just told me yesterday.”
“Really?” Pacey grinned, “That’s great!”
Joey smiled, “Yeah, it is.” She dropped her head a bit and lowered her voice. “They hadn’t told anyone about it, but I guess they had been trying for a while…they had some problems apparently.” She hesitated. “She actually had a miscarriage a couple of months back.”
“Oh.” Pacey’s face fell. “That sucks. How is she doing now?”
“Good so far.” Joey nodded. “But she’s going to have to take it really easy – which, of course, you know she will never be able to do with Alex and the B&B and Bodie working at the restaurant, too. So…I think I’m going to start to come home when I can to help out.”
Pacey raised an eyebrow. “Well - what about school? Won’t that be hard for you?”
“Not really.” Joey shrugged. “After all - the train from South Station takes me right into downtown Capeside. I was thinking I could come down on weekends – since that’s when Bodie works the most – and I’d just bring my books with me. Bessie is so tired now that she and Alex both go to bed at night at the same time, so I’ll actually have plenty of uninterrupted time to get my work done. I’ll probably get more studying done there than at my dorm.”
Pacey nodded, considering this as he bit his lower lip. “Well, that makes sense, but - the weekends, huh? I guess that wouldn’t really leave you much time for the wacky hi-jinks and wild partying that should really be a part of your full college experience, Jo. Although…” He raised his finger as if struck by a thought. “ Maybe we could see if Mrs. Ryan’s old spot in the bingo game they run over at the Capeside Retirement Home on Saturday nights is still available for you…”
“Ha hah. Very funny.” She smirked.
He dropped his head and chuckled. “Well…just let me know if there’s anything I can do to help out, okay?” He lifted his head to meet her eyes. They held each other’s gaze for just a moment.
“Okay. Well…I better get going.” Joey watched him for a moment but Pacey just smiled and nodded.
“Can I ask you something, Pacey?” She then asked hesitantly.
“Sure.” He replied with a shrug.
She avoided his eyes, dropping her head a little and speaking quickly. “The reason you didn’t come over yesterday…I mean, it’s not because - it’s not because of me and Dawson, is it? Because I would hate to think that after everything we…”
Pacey cut her off by placing his hand gently on her shoulder. “No, it’s not, Jo.” He sighed. “I’m just glad you’re happy. Really. I wasn’t avoiding you guys.”
She bit her bottom lip, nodding and looking to the ground. “Okay.” She said softly, lifting her head to meet his eyes again. “I guess I’ll just be seeing you then?”
“Well, you won’t be able to miss me in this hat, that’s for sure.”
“Shut up!” Joey laughed, and then rolled her eyes. “Bye, Pacey…Merry Christmas.” She said as she started to walk away, shaking her head and sticking her tongue out at him.
“Hey, Potter…” He called out after her.
She turned back to him, raising an eyebrow.
“C’mere.” He nodded his head in the direction of his truck. Joey followed him slowly down the sidewalk, watching as he went to open the back hatch door. She came up next to him and he reached in the back to pull out a large carefully wrapped box. He handed it to her with a grin.
“What did you do…?” She gasped, looking at the present in her hands and then back up at him. “Can I open it?”
“That is the general idea behind gift-giving, yes.”
She giggled, going over to the front of the truck to lay the box on the hood and tear off the paper. Opening it, she looked inside and hesitated. Reaching in to lightly run her fingers over the heavy canvas and expensive leather, she looked up at him. “It’s a backpack.”
“Well, yeah – technically, I guess.” He shrugged. “But it is supposed to be a new book bag for school.”
“You bought me a new book bag for school.”
“Yeah, that’s what I just said.” He looked at her, narrowing his eyes a bit. “I noticed last time I was there that your other one was pretty beat up, so…” He tried to explain.
Joey just smiled at him, her eyes shining. “Thank you, Pacey.”
He smiled back. “Merry Christmas, Jo.”
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