Setting: Right after “The Anti-Prom” (#322)
“I’m so afraid to love you, but more afraid to lose, clinging to a past that doesn’t let me choose. Once there was a darkness, deep and endless night, you gave me everything thing you had, oh you gave me light.”
“I remember everything.”
Pacey’s words echoed in Joey Potter’s ears as she walked along the waterfront. Everything about this night had been uncomfortable – playing dress up in heels and fancy jewelry, handling the awkwardness with Andie, trying to placate Dawson’s jealousy while attempting to ignore Pacey’s longing looks. No - nothing had been comfortable on this particular prom night. Except…except for the few moments she danced with Pacey and he had whispered those words into her ear:
“I remember everything.”
A shiver ran down her spine just recalling it and although she could try to pass it off as the cool night breeze, she knew it was much more than that. In the few moments that he had held her she had felt the world stop. It was like everything outside the protective circle of his arms fell away – the music, the fancy decorations, their friends watching cautiously from the table, and particularly their dates who also happened to be their exes.
She had asked Pacey to dance because she was following Jack’s advice to make the first move to heal the rift between her and her two best friends. But she had ulterior motives that became clear to both her and Pacey the moment they got into the positions they had learned from Miss Penny in their ill attempted dance classes those many months before. She wanted to be near him just as much as he wanted it. She wanted to remember what it felt like to be held against him, to breathe in his clean scent that was so uniquely him, to feel his heart beating against hers and see the look in his eyes that reflected the feelings that reached up from his soul. She missed being with him.
And he hadn’t disappointed her. Every second of their short time together was weighted with meaning: from the simple sigh he gave when she first asked him to the tentative way he held her hand as they walked to the dance floor. It was how he tenderly tucked the loose tendril of hair behind her ear and recalled every single detail of a random conversation from months ago. And it was his touch as he gently rubbed the sensitive skin inside her wrist and smoothed his hands over her back, caressing the exposed skin so she felt that every pore sensed the heat of his attraction.
They had only been together briefly and apart for a lot longer. But in their few moments tonight all of it already seemed like a lifetime ago. She was learning to accept the fact that no matter how hard she tried to understand how she had gone from tolerating Pacey Witter, to caring about him, to wanting him, to missing everything about him - she would never get it. And if she couldn’t understand how could she make Dawson? The past year had been long and confusing and full of drama. The one constant had been Pacey. Dawson may have sent him to care for her in the beginning, but that wasn’t what kept him by her side. It was his loyalty as a friend, and his desire to protect those he cared about to any end.
She sat down at a bench and looked out at the water recalling how deep-seated Pacey’s loyalty to all his friends was often at high cost to himself. He had nearly gotten himself expelled for both her and Jack, not to mention what he had done to take care of Andie when she had first gotten sick. And his dedication to his friendship with Dawson had tormented him for months as he had fought his growing attraction to her.
And why was he attracted to her anyway? She had never done much more than call him names and good-naturedly tease him about his poor intellect, his lack of ambition and his unusual sexual history. This year they had become closer, become good friends and she welcomed the friendship, she needed it. Now in retrospect it all seemed so obvious that she felt as clueless about Pacey as Dawson had once been about her feelings.
Pacey had unfailingly supported her in every crazy idea that she pursued like the mural and the campaign for Principal Green. He had been difficult about her relationship with AJ but if she had been any kind of sane person she would have picked up on all his signals and realized why. He had gone on the attack when her mural was destroyed and had bought her a wall to paint, challenging her to grow in every important way possible.
Without him she didn’t know how she would have had made it through this year. And in return what had she given him? A few fleeting moments of promises she couldn’t make followed by gut wrenching indecision and ending each time with her walking away from him when he needed her most. First he had needed her to tell him while they stood awkwardly in the market that the kiss by the side of the road had in fact meant something to her. But she couldn’t face that and had brushed it off, sending him away from her when she knew what had come out of her mouth was not really the truth.
Then he had been the one to face Dawson. Right there on the Leery lawn in possibly the most surreal moment of her entire life. He had been the one to tell Dawson and had squeezed her hand for support as their best friend railed against them both for their betrayal. When Dawson had turned and fled to his house all she could feel was panic that she was going to lose him. She had risked his friendship and now she was going to lose him and she couldn’t handle that. She needed them both but she knew Pacey would be there, he would be right there waiting for her when she came back from calming Dawson down, just like always. So she had run up the stairs after Dawson not realizing that at that moment Pacey truly needed her more – her comfort, her love, and her commitment to what they had just risked their treasured friendship for.
And of course tonight, right on schedule – she had done it again. At this point Pacey could probably set his watch to the inevitable moment she would leave him behind to run to Dawson’s side. She had asked him to dance and had let him see how much she still wanted to be with him. She couldn’t control her responses to him and the way she rested easily in his arms or how her pulse quickened whenever their bodies were touching betrayed whatever denials she was uttering. And he knew it. He read her so well now that sometimes she was scared that she was an open book to him – he could read everything that she felt the moment she felt it without ever exchanging a single word.
In that dance she had felt loved. More loved than she thought possible, it overwhelmed her and she had closed her eyes as she laid her cheek against his just wanting to get lost in the sensation. Everything between them was still and she truly wished that it could go on – just stay that way alone together letting what was unspoken between them fill their hearts. But for some reason she had opened her eyes almost groggily and that was when she saw him – Dawson watching them with a look of pure anger on his face. She froze and instantly Pacey reacted – sensing the tension in her body he didn’t even need to see her face to know that she was watching Dawson watching them. He had stopped holding her then and instinctively pulled away, giving her the room he knew she would need to get past him and make her way back to her place by Dawson’s side.
Joey winced at the still fresh memory and rubbed her temples. Why couldn’t she make a single damn decision where these two were concerned?? She knew exactly why she feared losing Dawson – she was so familiar with the list of terrors that would occur if he left her life that she could practically recite them like a shopping list. But she also knew that she had never felt anything like how she felt when she was with Pacey. He’d had the luxury of falling for her slowly – she on the other hand had fallen hard and it left her frightened. She couldn’t lose him now either – but could she fight for him? And would she even deserve him after everything she had put him through.
She got up and suddenly knew that
her aimless wandering had a destination. She pulled her shawl around
her tighter and headed towards the docks.
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