Setting: Right after “The Anti-Prom” (#322)
“There’s a perfectness inside you, sleeping underneath your skin. When you open up your wings to speak, I wish you’d let me in.”
Pacey pulled at his tie as he headed down the dock to his boat. The tie slid into his hands and he stretched his neck as he undid the top few buttons on his shirt. He stepped onto the deck and unlocked the cabin. He wanted his mind – and clothing to be loose and he wanted to start trying to forget this night had ever existed.
In the darkened hold he felt around until his palm hit the smooth, cool surface he was looking for. He pulled out the bottle of whiskey he kept hidden for such occasions and eagerly unscrewed the cap. He stepped back out on to the deck as he tilted his head back to drink. The liquor burned down his throat and his stomach lurched emptily as he continued to swallow.
He pulled the bottle away and reached up to wipe his mouth with his sleeve. He was startled when he heard Joey’s voice coming out of the darkness:
“Drowning your sorrows Pacey?”
She was sitting in the corner of the deck watching him quietly. He couldn’t tell if he was relieved to see her, or furious after the way she had left him once again.
“Nope. Just numbing them a little.” He defiantly took another swig and decided he wasn’t quite furious, but he was definitely angry. Angry and tired of the whole damn mess.
“What are you doing here Joey?” he asked tightly.
“I had to see you…talk to you…about tonight. About a lot of things…” her voice trailed off and she shifted uneasily in her seat. “Can I have some of that?” she nodded towards the bottle and he was so surprised at her request he automatically handed it to her.
“Some liquid courage Jo?”
“Something like that.” She took the bottle and brought it to her lips. Inhaling quickly she took a sip and promptly squeezed her eyes shut, twisting her face as she swallowed. She coughed and shook her head, “Ecchhh! How can you drink that?!”
He shrugged as he thought of a witty retort but quickly decided it would betray the actual pain he was feeling. She handed the bottle back to him and he re-capped it. He would probably need to save it for later after he heard whatever it was she had come to say.
He gingerly sat down across from her and tried to control his gaze from travelling over her - her hair was coming loose and more soft strands were brushing against her cheek. Her shawl was pulled over her shoulders and her hands nervously tugged at the edge of the material. Even when it nearly hurt to look at her he could not deny how incredibly beautiful she was.
“So why aren’t you at Dawson’s?”
She sighed deeply and looked out across the water: “we had a fight.”
She sighed again loudly and looked at him: “you know what about Pacey. About us.”
“About ‘us’ you and me ‘us’? Or ‘us’ you and Dawson ‘us’?”
“Pacey!” she was getting impatient.
“It’s a legitimate question Joey. There’s you and Dawson and your tangled little possessive-soulmate-codependency thing, and then there’s you and me and our little passionate-forbidden fruit-estranged situation. Both dramas were actively pursuing you tonight and I’m just curious which specific one was the topic of your argument with Dawson. Which one brought you here to my boat at one in the morning instead of curled up with Dawson in the Spielberg Sanctum reliving the sacred ‘movie night’ ritual.”
His tone was bitter and her eyes shifted to the floor as she quietly answered: “both”
“Pacey! Look I danced with you and he saw. And you saw me run after him just like I always do. So it became pretty clear to both of you how conflicted my feelings are right now. He was furious with me and accused me of betraying him by dancing with you. Then he admitted that the prom wasn’t even about Jack or making a stand against the Barbara Johns’ of Capeside High, but rather an exercise in making me choose one of you, which you should also both have realized by now – I am paralyzed by the very idea of. He wanted the night to be evidence of what I’d be missing if I didn’t pick him, and then…then he kissed me.”
Pacey wanted to jump off the boat and go throttle Dawson. He’d laid claim on her all night, guilt tripped her, then had the gall to kiss her in what was probably for Dawson – some perfectly scripted little ‘end of Scene III, Act II’ moment. He clenched and unclenched his fists leaning his head back he closed his eyes. His reaction was pure Dawson Leery – jealousy like he owned Joey, like only he could kiss her. He wasn’t like that. He didn’t want to own her, or control her, or even win her, he just wanted to be with her.
“Pacey?” she asked quietly. He took a deep breath and looked back at her, “he kissed me to remind me what I’d be missing if I didn’t choose him. The thing is, it did remind me of something – something he didn’t intend.” He was watching her now, his eyes burning with that intensity that often overwhelmed her.
He didn’t want to ask but just like the time on spring break when she first admitted she felt something for him – he had to know: “what did it remind you of?”
“When you first kissed me at the side of the road when you picked me up in Boston. When you kissed me and made me realize that all those feelings I had been trying so hard to ignore were real. Like suddenly I was awake from a long sleep and had to face up to what I wanted. And tonight…it happened again. Dawson kissed me and I didn’t feel for him the way I used to, but I did feel the same way I felt that morning, like I was being forced to see what I really wanted” she rose and stood in front of him, “and that’s you.”
Pacey looked agonized as she reached out to touch him to assure him of her honesty. But his hand shot out and grabbed her arm, holding her in place away from him.
“Please Jo - don’t do this to me again. Don’t play with me” his voice cracked in a whisper as he choked back tears. He couldn’t handle if she were lying to him – or worse yet that she was telling the truth and would still walk off his boat and away from him and back into Dawson’s arms.
“Pacey…” she whispered.
“I mean it Joey – I can’t do this with you anymore” his voice was hoarse, almost a whisper. “Especially after tonight because now I know – I know that you feel something for me and I can’t hold you like I did tonight and feel the way you respond to me – I can’t live with that and watch you go back to him every single time. And you do Joey, every time he snaps his fingers you jump."
“I know Pacey, I’m sorry” he still held her arm but his grip was loosening. She dropped her arm to her side and he released her. Running both hands through his hair he held his head as he bent down, resting his elbows on his knees. From his lowered head she heard a hissing breath escape, the start of a cry. He had made her feel so perfect and so loved in their dance together that night, this was not how she wanted to repay him.
“Let me start to make this right” she whispered, and echoing her invitation from earlier in the night she held out her hand to him “dance with me Pacey”
He wouldn’t look up at her “Joey – No” his voice was sad and low.
“Please? I want us to finish our dance the way we should have – the way we deserved to.”
He looked up at her and swallowed hard. He understood that one day maybe he would be able to resist her, but at this point in his life he wanted nothing more than to make her happy – apparently even to the detriment of his own sanity.
He slowly stood up and let her carefully slide her arms up around his shoulders. He held her at her waist and inhaled the sweet scent that drifted up from her as she rested her cheek against his.
As they began to sway slowly to a song they couldn’t hear he felt her shiver under his hands: “are you cold?”
“A little” she admitted.
He pulled away and slipped his jacket off, drawing it around her shoulders and rubbing his hands over the arms, trying to warm her. She looked up at him and smiled, the same charming grin she’d given him earlier in the evening as he recalled her mother’s bracelet. He returned the smile and pulled her back against him. She gracefully returned to his arms like she’d never left.
It was then that he noticed she didn’t have the earrings on anymore – the ones Dawson had given her that he had said weren’t her. Now they had been removed, so no evidence of Dawson’s claim on her was visible as she stood in his arms, her hands tentatively touching the small of his back.
As they danced in the cool night air Joey relished the overwhelming warmth she felt. It came from his body - strong and protective against hers, the sweet odor of alcohol lingering on his breath. It was being encircled in his thick jacket that enveloped her and filled her senses with his scent and heat. And it was the knowledge that came from her heart that there was no way she could return to living her life without him. In that moment she now had a list of the ways she would suffer if she were to lose Pacey and she wasn’t willing to experience any of them.
For the second time that night Pacey held Joey in an intimate embrace and knew that all their fleeting moments together were worth the trauma that inevitably led up to them. And he knew that he could no longer expect Joey to understand how powerfully he felt for her unless he followed Andie’s advice and told her exactly how he felt.
“I love you Jo” he whispered into her hair. He expected her to maybe stop, or to pull away in surprise – but she didn’t, in fact her response was natural and assured as her body remained relaxed and comfortably against his.
“I’m falling in love with you” she looked up at him and the smile that was spreading across his face made her stomach flutter, “and I’m staying – so can you please remember that?” she smiled brightly as he leaned in for a kiss.
“I will” he replied.
For a night that had started with broken hearts and crushed expectations it was ending in the most perfect way – with the girl of his dreams in his arms and the boy she dared to love entering into her heart. In the end it was simply and elegantly beautiful.
Title: “Enjoy the Silence”
by Depeche Mode (Violator)
"All I ever wanted - all I ever needed - is here in my arms"
Part I: “I Will Remember You”
by Sarah McLachlan (Mirrorball)
Part II: “Everything You Want” by Vertical Horizon (Everything You Want)
Part III: “A Murder of One” by Counting Crows (August and Everything After)
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