Pacey sat on the cement steps of the building, his chin resting in his hand, watching her cross the campus courtyard. He couldn’t help but smile, seeing her here looking like she had always been a part of this life, remembering the girl she used to be and knowing what it had taken for her to get to this place. She raised her head at that moment and hesitated when she saw him, their eyes meeting through the crowds of students making their way to classes. Then she smiled too, and Pacey felt his heart skip a beat, just as it always did.
“Hey.” She said softly, approaching him slowly.
“Hey, Jo.” He smiled, standing up.
She bowed her head a little, and then looked back at him. “What are you doing here?” Her voice sounded small and hopeful.
He took a step towards her. “I just wanted to talk to you...”
Joey nodded, swallowing. “I wanted to talk to you, too, Pace…” She said quickly, stepping closer to him as well, looking up to meet his eyes.
He smiled, reaching out to just lightly take her hand in his. “Okay…well let me just tell you what I…”
“Well…isn’t this a eerily familiar scene.”
They both turned slowly to see Dawson standing a few feet away on the sidewalk, hands in his pants pockets, just glaring at them.
“My best friend and my best girl…right out of the movies. Right out of my memory. Except, I would imagine that you and I don’t exactly fall into the ‘best friends’ category any more, do we, Pacey?” He turned his stare on Joey. “And what exactly are we to each other now, do you think?”
She lowered her head a bit, and then raised her eyes to meet his, her cheeks reddening. “Dawson…if you want to talk to me, fine. But, let’s just leave Pacey out of this okay?”
“Well…” Dawson replied, his nostrils flaring slightly. “I kind of thought Pacey already was out of this a long time ago, but I’m starting to think I was wrong. I’m starting to think I was wrong about a lot of things, Joey.” He shook his head, looking at them both now. “You two make me sick, you know that? You are both pathetic…your entire relationship was based on lies and betrayal from the very beginning and it continues on even now. It defines you – it’s all you two are about.”
He turned to Pacey, who had just been standing there watching him. “And, I may be looking like the fool here, but no one is a bigger fool than you, Pacey. Do you actually believe anything that comes out of her mouth? If so, then you are more stupid than I thought you were.” Dawson snorted and Pacey just lowered his head, his eyes darkening.
“How many lies does she need to tell you before you get it through your thick skull that she is just playing you? You think what you had with her actually meant anything to her?” Dawson laughed harshly, looking back at Joey. “But, then again, I’m sure he doesn’t have any idea that you were in my bedroom kissing me before he probably even got on that boat in Miami after you two broke up, does he, Joey? It seemed awfully fast to me – that you would be there like that with me after just ending a supposedly committed relationship with him, but whatever…I guess I thought it wasn’t my place to say anything. And, while I’m sure Pacey knows that you felt the need to lie to me about sleeping with him that time, I guess he doesn’t know that the reason I even felt compelled to ask was because you couldn’t wait to assure me on the night you returned from your little summer boat trip that nothing had happened between you two. You remember that, don’t you, Joey? The night you gave me that brick from Hemingway’s house under the guise of wanting to still be friends?” He looked back at Pacey. “Oh, but I’m going to hazard a guess that she didn’t tell you that gift was for me – did she even tell you there was a gift? And…what I couldn’t figure out about that particular admission of hers that night was why it was so important for her to let me know that she was still saving herself – any thoughts on why she might want me – of all people – to know that one, Pacey?” Dawson shrugged his shoulders.
Joey’s eyes widened in shock and she glanced at Pacey. He looked over at her slowly, not meeting her eyes, and then just dropped his gaze to the ground before looking back at Dawson, his shoulders slumping slightly.
“Do you have a point to all this, Dawson?” Pacey asked quietly, sounding tired.
“Do I have a point? Actually, I do, but I guess I haven’t clearly stated it yet…do you want me to use smaller words, Pacey? I was just trying to get across the fact that as much as you two might think you have kept things from me – it will never compare to what you keep from each other. Say, for example, the fact that Pacey is planning another one of his famous disappearing acts. Did you know that, Joey?” He looked at her pointedly and Joey’s face fell as she looked over at Pacey. “Sounds like he’s possibly leaving the country. And, I think it might be soon…when are you leaving again, Pacey?” Dawson looked at him quizzically, tilting his head and bringing his heavy eyebrows together.
Pacey just shook his head slowly in disgust, staring back at Dawson. He looked over at Joey, sighing as he saw the well of tears building up in her eyes. “I was here to talk to you about that…” He said softly to her, holding her gaze.
Dawson’s nostril flared in anger as he saw them interact. “And, I suppose after he told you that, you were going to turn around ask him not to go, telling him that you tried to break up with me yesterday - right, Joey? Except the part where you ended up in bed with me instead would be just a little more difficult to explain to him, wouldn’t it?”
Joey whipped around to face him. “You son of a bitch…” She muttered, the tears spilling down her cheeks. Pacey just dropped his eyes to the ground, looking like someone had knocked the wind out of him. He just stood there and blinked a few times until he raised his head to look at her. Joey met his gaze through watery eyes, feeling like someone had just stuck a knife in her chest.
Dawson seemed to become even more infuriated by this. “It’s never going to end, you two realize that, don’t you? It will just be more lies and omissions from here on out. Can you honestly ever look at her again and not wonder what she is keeping from you, Pacey, and what – if anything – she says is true? She had the gall to tell me that if we really meant what we said to each other, then everything would work out. She called me her soul mate, the most important person in her life, that what we had was pure magic…she even told me that our first kiss was her most life-altering moment, Pacey, and look what she turned around and did to me.” He was yelling now and people were beginning to gather to watch. “And, you might be interested to know that she told me that only days after you left her that summer – so, you can just forget about it if you think anything you two ever did together even registered with her.”
“Will you just stop, please?” Joey cried out, turning to face him again. “Enough! That’s enough, Dawson. I’m sorry…I know that you are just trying to hurt me right now…well, you have succeeded, so please just end this.” She wiped her face with her hands.
“Oh, you can consider it ended, Joey.” Dawson spoke quietly now, through gritted teeth. “It’s over. As of this moment, I am out of your life. I want nothing to do with you from this point forward. So, when you remember how many times I was the only one there for you, you can think about how you will never have that back. Think about that when he has gotten what he wanted off of you and left you without a word again.” Dawson shook his head slowly. “And when you sit up in there in your dorm room and look out over this prestigious Ivy League campus, you can think about how I am the only reason you even got the chance to be here. If it wasn’t for me, you’d probably be attending Capeside Community College. Actually - if it wasn’t for me – let’s face it, you’d probably be a high-school drop-out waiting tables...or maybe even following in your sister’s footsteps. We all know that was your destiny before you had me in your pitiful life.” He looked at Pacey and shrugged his shoulders. “Hey – she was the one who told me I made her life better, so who am I to argue with that, right?”
Pacey made a low growling sound in his throat, stepping forward, but Joey stopped him. “Please don’t.” She whispered, and he hesitated, glancing at her warily.
She raised her chin up now to look at Dawson, her cheeks scarlet. “You’d like me to believe that you were the only one there for me, wouldn’t you, Dawson? You would love for me to be that dependant on you. It’s a little hard to manipulate and control someone if they have other people to turn to, isn’t it?” She shook her head at him. “I finally realized that all anyone in your life really means to you is what role they play in that twisted little movie that is running through your mind. Half the time I truly believe that the reason you were so angry in high school that I chose to be with Pacey was that he wouldn’t be able to play the part of your comic side-kick if he got the girl, right? He wasn’t supposed to upstage you, was he? And then – even though you were eventually able to make amends with him, you just wrote him off once you found poor dumb Oliver to cast in his former role, didn’t you? I mean – it says a lot about a person who needs to have someone around just to look down upon and feel superior to. You never actually cared about Pacey as a friend. And then, of course, there’s my part. The girl next door.” She spat the words out with venom. “Sometimes I wonder if you ever even really saw me as a person at all – or I just fit the specifications to play the role in what you thought would be a romantic tale of two soul mates destined to be together but who met too young. Except I had to go and keep trying to actually live my own life and messed with your artistic vision, didn’t I? Every time I let myself truly follow my own heart, it led me away from you, Dawson. Yet instead of just accepting the possibility that we might not be meant to be, you just edited the story to make it a tragic romance of sorts.”
“And the worse part is that I went along with all of it.” She raised her arms in exasperation now. “All of it. I started living my life as if I were just reading my lines off your script, believing that maybe we really were destined for each other. I went right back to losing myself your little fantasy world after Pacey broke up with me…using it as my defense mechanism, just like I did when I was a little girl hiding out in your closet with you. Except in order to make myself believe in your ridiculous daydreams, I had to try to convince myself that Pacey and I never really happened. But…then I found that pretending I never loved him made it a lot easier to get out of bed in the mornings…made it hurt a lot less for me to watch him move on, so I guess I should be thanking you for that…” She had to stop for a moment now as she cried, putting her hands to her face until she composed herself.
“I fell for your emotional blackmail every time.” She shook her head, raising her eyes to look at Dawson as if she were seeing him for the first time. “You would think I would have caught on to that pattern where you were only suddenly interested in me when you thought I might be straying from the path you had outlined for me. God – you even panicked so much at the thought of me going off to college and meeting new people and finally getting a real life for myself away from you that you actually flew across the country to show up on my doorstep and wouldn’t leave me alone until you had me back under your thumb, promising to put myself on hold indefinitely for you before I even realized what I was doing. Funny how you coming to Boston for me coincided with your first big rejection out in LA, isn’t it? Then, once you had me back where you wanted me – you go off to start sleeping with Jen! And I was expected to just deal with it – even though it was the same situation with Pacey and I. No, wait…Pacey and I had actually fallen in love, something we really had no control over, so it was a little different than just sex...but we were made to feel like we somehow betrayed you.” Joey’s voice started to grow louder and shaky. “I wasn’t even with you when I fell in love with Pacey, Dawson…you were not my boyfriend at the time, you were barely even my friend at the time! The last time the subject of our relationship had ever come up was when you were so kindly rejecting me in your bedroom months and months prior to that and getting blow-jobs in public from part-time strippers. But again – I’m the one who let you make me feel guilty, so that is my own fault.” She shook her head at him. “And, of course, who could forget your spontaneous romantic gesture of following me to Florida for Spring Break to supposedly declare your new found love…odd how that came only after Jen had broken up with you and I had started to spend time with Charlie, isn’t it? But…that’s my fault as well. I let you convince me that I wasn’t just your security blanket…I was that desperate that I simply closed my eyes to the truth and believed whatever you told me. We were always each other’s security blankets, Dawson – sometimes I think that’s all we were! And then, finally…we get to your so-called good-bye letter - another manipulative ploy I fell for, because if I saw it for what it was, I would have to realize as how weak and pathetic I became around you. Even once we started going out, you wouldn’t even really notice me until I would try to leave or do something without you. And yet…you somehow had me believing that I deserved to be treated like that, that I owed you something… ”
“You cannot even comprehend right now how much you owe me…” Dawson practically snarled at her. “And I am the one who does not deserve this.”
Joey looked down at the ground. “None of us deserve any of this, Dawson. You made me feel guilty every step of the way, made me take you into consideration with every move I made or every thought I had, yet you could do whatever you pleased. That was the way it always was with you, for as long as I can remember. You manipulated me to the point where I couldn’t even see what it was you were doing to me anymore. And…what’s worse…I couldn’t see what I, in turn, was doing to other people…” She swallowed back the lump in her throat, shaking her head as she took a deep breath. “So, right now…I am relieved if you are really finally out of my life. If you really mean that, Dawson, well - great. I’m better off. And the reason I know I am better off is because I was lucky enough to have had someone like Pacey in my life to compare you to.”
Dawson snorted and laughed at this, shaking his head in disbelief. “Please…give me a break, Joey. I was there for you and Pacey, remember? I had a front row seat to that debacle.”
She lowered her head, narrowing her eyes a bit at him, her voice becoming strangely calm and quiet now. “That is so hard for you to believe? Because that is all I did, you know…compare you to him. Almost the whole time I was with you. Every minute of every day. It’s kind of ironic when you think about it - how Pacey probably spent far too much time during the course of our relationship worried that I might be thinking of you, while you…you were too smug and egotistical to even give his former presence in my life a passing thought. The fact that if Pacey had never broken up with me, I wouldn’t even be there with you never even crossed your mind, you were so complacent in our relationship. Since Pacey was my first serious long-term boyfriend, though, I guess the comparisons were bound to happen…him being my only real point of reference, after all. And…I’ll admit that maybe it started with just the physical aspects of the relationship, but it quickly spread to every aspect. I would take everything you did or said and immediately compare to something he had done or said before. That is the truth you so desperately want from me, Dawson. That is the real reason I should have given you yesterday instead of the same old tired excuses – to use your terminology, the same old tired excuses that have always ‘defined’ us. This thing between you and I…it didn’t work for me simply because you were not him. And, I came to the realization too late that you could never fill the place he had in my life.” She just looked at Dawson with disdain now, her tears gone. “He’s a better man than you in every possible way. He always has been and he always will be. If I wasn’t starting to believe that before, I certainly know it now - after this. So…there’s a little something for you to think about, Dawson.”
Dawson just stared at her with no emotion, stone-faced except for a slight twitch in his eye. “Well, pity we won’t be getting back together then.” He said in an even tone. “Because I certainly benefited from his so-called ‘place’ in your life last time. I would loved to have been on the receiving end of whatever ways he taught you to debase yourself this time around. I never did think that your transformation to whore was quite complete…”
Pacey went to step forward, but before he could move he saw Joey haul back with all her might and connect her small fist to Dawson’s jaw with a sickening popping sound, and his mouth fell open as he watched Dawson slowly stumble backwards to the ground.
Pacey reached over for her wrist, gently taking it in his hand and carefully raising it up to again look at the metal and foam splint holding her index finger straight out. “Damn.” He muttered, chuckling to himself as she looked over at him with a smile from where she was laying next to him on his bed, her hair fanning out over his comforter. He was resting his head in his hand, propped up on his elbow, and he leaned over to slowly kiss her, chuckling softly again against her lips.
“What?” She smiled.
“I just keep seeing that punch…that was a direct hit, Potter. Very impressive aim.” He chuckled again. “Of course, your target might as well have been the side of a barn, but still…”
“It’s not funny.” She tried to sound serious, but was laughing as well. “I had to meet with all my professors to schedule make-up exams for my finals. I’m going to have to go back to school when everyone else is gone for the summer.” She pouted. “And it hurts.”
“I’ll get you some more drugs.” Pacey started to roll away from her to get up off the bed. “I think you might still have some of the good stuff left.”
Joey reached out with her other hand to grab his t-shirt to stop him. “No…” She sighed, pulling him back towards her. He rolled back, raising an eyebrow, and she offered her hand out to him with a shy smile. Pacey smiled as well, taking her hand and leaning down to kiss it tenderly, turning it over to kiss her palm through the bandage and splint and then make his way down her wrist.
“Better?” He whispered, raising his eyes to watch her, his lips still softly brushing over her pulse points.
Joey just nodded and murmured sleepily, her eyes drifting over his face. “I’m sorry, Pacey. I’m sorry I made such a mess of everything.” She whispered back.
He dropped his head and sighed. “Jo…we have been over this. This was as much my fault, if not more so…”
“No.” She cut in softly, still watching him. “I’m sorry about the mess I made before…the mess I made of me and you. When it was…me and you.”
Pacey just looked at her a moment before dropping his head again. “That was as much my fault, too.” He finally replied.
“You were right. I did take you for granted.” She continued, shaking her head. “I was always so worried about what Dawson might think or do…thinking that I was afraid to lose his presence in my life, and yet you were the one who was always really there for me and I just took it for granted that you always would be. I took for granted the fact that you loved me. I was so used to being made to feel…grateful…that someone would love me or want me, that when you came along and just gave everything to me so selflessly, without asking anything in return…I was so blind and stupid back then.” She started to tear up and Pacey looked over at her with a pained expression.
“Jo…we don’t have to do this any more. I don’t want to do this any more. We can dredge up the past as much as we want here, but we can’t do anything to change it so why...”
“But, I want to talk about it, Pace…we need to talk about it.” Joey sighed.
Pacey smirked a little, “Well, I know you have been all strung out on painkillers for most of it but…” He glanced over her shoulder at the time on the alarm clock next to his bed. “We’ve been talking about it for…oh, almost 8 hours now.” He smiled at her. “I’ll fill you in on all the highlights tomorrow.”
She smirked back at him, shaking her head. “I just want to…”
He leaned over, gently kissing her, his lips lingering against hers. “Don’t you ever get tired of talking, Potter?” He sighed.
She kissed him back, raising her injured hand to rest it on his shoulder. He wrapped his arms around her, sliding them down to the small of her back and gently pulling her into him. Raising his hand up under the hem of her tank top, he lightly ran his fingers back and forth across warm skin just above the waistband of the pair of his boxer shorts that she was wearing. His hand then glided over her hip and down and along the bare skin of her thigh where she had thrown it over him, and he grasped her leg in his large hand just above the knee to pull her in flush against his body, slowly thrusting his tongue even deeper as he sought out the familiar warmth of her mouth and gently stroking the soft skin behind her knee with the tips of his fingers. She moaned softly, the sound lost in the kiss, her tongue easily gliding along his in an unhurried and leisurely pace and her body melting into his body.
She pulled back a little, breaking the kiss. “I love you, Pacey...you know that, don’t you?” She whispered.
“I am starting to get that impression, yes.” He whispered back, briefly kissing her again and wrapping his arms around her a little tighter to give her a gentle squeeze.
They lay back down on the bed, just facing each other now. She blinked a few times, as her eyes traveled over his familiar features and then came to rest in the deep ocean of his eyes. She smiled a little, her own eyes shining with tears, her voice breaking on her words along with her heart. “But…you’re still going to go, aren’t you?”
He just looked at her, his warm blue eyes taking her in for a long while. “Yeah.” He finally replied, his voice catching as well. “I have to, Jo.”
“I know...” She raised her hand to quickly swipe at a tear in her eye. “And I want you to, Pace…I am so happy for you and so proud of you. But, what if…what if I told you I’d wait for you?”
Pacey’s eyes were shining a bit now as well as he shook his head. “I don’t want you to tell me that. I want you to go out there and really get a chance to live your life without having your past get in the way, Jo. You need to do that for yourself. You owe it to yourself. That’s what last year should have been all about for you…you still need to find out who you really are, Jo – without anyone else telling you. You need to find out what it is you really want.” He sighed heavily, looking down and then back into her eyes. “And you need to do this one alone.”
“What if I can’t?” She sniffed, the tears clouding her vision now. “I feel like I’ve become such a weak person…”
Pacey smiled slowly, shaking his head. “You don’t even realize how strong you are. You just have to have a little faith in yourself.” He lifted her splinted hand to kiss it again. “I know that you are going to do just fine…”
“What’s going to happen to us?” She whispered, wiping at her eyes again.
Pacey looked at her a long while again. “I don’t know.” He replied truthfully, holding her gaze.
“I wish I could go back and change things…” She sighed.
“I don’t.” Pacey shook his head. “Because for the rest of my life I’m going to be telling every person I meet about that right hook of yours, Potter.”
She smiled slowly, a single tear sliding down her cheek as he leaned over to kiss her again. The kiss was gentle at first, as he just brushed over her bottom lip then ran the tip of his tongue along hers. They easily fell into their familiar rhythm, but then the kiss seemed to escalate in heat and passion, fueled by a sudden desire. His hand had been resting on her waist and he glided it down over her hip and around the back of her thigh, sliding off her boxer shorts as she pushed his down as well. He moved his kisses to her neck and she tugged at his t-shirt with her good hand, desperate now to feel his skin. He backed away from her for just a second to pull it over his head and then to quickly help her off with her tank top, carefully and delicately maneuvering it over her splint before he kissed the hand again and adjusted the pillow that was propping her arm up. He wrapped his arms around her body, moving back to her neck, her breasts crushed against his bare chest. He traveled over her warm skin, across her chest and back up to her lips. She gasped into his mouth as she felt him thrust inside her in one swift and powerful movement, breaking the kiss to bury his head in her neck and groan softly against her skin. He pulled almost all the way out before sliding back into her, moving even deeper and achingly slowly now as he rocked his hips against hers.
“I love you…” She sighed, breathless, against his lips, closing her eyes with a quiet moan as she felt him fill her again, moving deeper still.
“I love you, Jo…” Pacey whispered as he leaned down to tenderly brush a kiss across her lips. “And I can promise you that is something I will be doing for the rest of my life, too.”
Jen stepped onto the front porch of the B&B. Looking out into the dark yard, she saw Joey just sitting in one of the lawn chairs, gazing up at the stars. She smiled, walking over to sit down next to her.
“We might have to take you guys up on that offer for a room tonight.” She laughed, shaking her head. “Because I don’t think Grams is ever going to put that baby down.” She looked over at Joey and giggled. “I can’t get over how tiny she is.”
“She may look small, but she has an awfully big set of lungs on her, believe me.” Joey laughed, rolling her eyes. “And she doesn’t stop when she gets going for anyone except but poor Bessie. I don’t think she has slept more than an hour or two at a time in over a week. I don’t know how she does it.” She laid her head back against the chair, looking up at the sky again.
Jen looked over at her. “So, you should be getting ready to move back up back to Boston, soon, right? When do classes start for you again?”
“Next week.” Joey sighed. “I’ve been working so many shifts at the Yacht Club, though, that I haven’t even had time to start packing. Audrey has called me every day to ask whether I’m bringing this or that with me…I think she is very happy for the summer to be over.”
“How about you?” Jen asked quietly.
Joey shrugged and smiled. “It will be nice to be busy with school again, be around people my own age…although Alexander is becoming quite the conversationalist.”
Jen smiled. “You didn’t see Dawson at all this summer?”
Joey shook her head slowly. “It’s strange…sometimes I forget he was even in town this summer, too – let alone to think that he was right down the creek from me this whole time. I never saw him, didn’t even bump into him – oh no, wait…I did see him getting coffee one morning but he was double-parked and I was on my way to work, so I think we just waved or something.” She shrugged. “I think when Dawson and I finally discussed everything that happened, we pretty much came to the agreement that we had both hurt each other enough to…just kind of call it even, in a way. Of course, once we came to that understanding, that didn’t really leave us a whole lot more to talk about.” She shrugged. “I think it’s better this way.”
Jen absorbed this, nodding to herself thoughtfully. She looked back at Joey. “How about Pacey? Have you heard from him?”
Joey smiled, almost to herself. “Yeah. I get my postcards.”
They sat there for a while in silence before Joey spoke again. “You know…I have been thinking a lot lately about how…easy it could have been for us, for Pacey and I.” Jen turned to look at her. “When we were hiding our…relationship this year, we felt awful and we knew it was wrong. But then we fell into this routine of me coming home on the train, reading all my class assignments on the ride down, him waiting there to pick me up, spending the weekends together…it felt so natural, so right, so simple. Now I think back as to how it could have been for us if we had only given it the chance when we were still a couple.” Her voice drifted off before she continued. “And…it also started to get to the point where I felt like Pacey was the one I was cheating on, every time I got on that train to come back to Dawson…” She looked over at Jen with a sad and guilty smirk.
Joey hesitated again. “When Pacey and I broke up at the end of our senior year, we kept looking for signs that would tell us we could still be together even after I went off to Boston for college. We were looking for something or someone to tell us that this could work, and in desperately searching for all these signs from outside sources to tell us we could be together, we both seemed to just over-look the most obvious and important one of all.”
“What was that?” Jen asked.
“Just that we wanted to be together. We already had the sign that we were looking for all along.”
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