Love & Basketball
Part 2
by Laura
June 2001

Author's Note: People, don't freak! This story is in the Other Relationships section merely because the series is going to be about Pacey and Dawson trying to re-build their friendship with very limited P/J in parts two and three. I didn't want to bill it as a P/J piece. Thank you for the e-mails, since they show me you're interested, but don't worry about it! Pacey and Joey are not breaking up in this story. :-)

"Hey, you."

Joey smiles into the telephone, her whole body tingling just at hearing Pacey's delicious, sexy voice.

"Hey yourself," she replies, trying not to let her happiness show through so obviously. No need to boost Pacey's ego by letting him know she had been eagerly awaiting his call.

"How'd it go?"

"I'm still in one piece, if that's what you mean," Joey tells him, smirking. "Bessie had a few...*words* she had been saving for me, but overall I have to say, I was expecting far worse. I was expecting her to have kicked me out or something of that nature."

"Wow, you have a powerful imagination. I hadn't even imagined Bessie's response would be that bad," Pacey laughs. "She'd never be that mad at you."

"When I was seven she set fire to one of my Barbie dolls. Then she decapitated Ken and flushed his head down the toilet."

"At least we now know where you get that stubborn feminist streak from. It runs in the family."

"Yeah, so you better watch out. You step across that line and the sisters Potter will surely be all over your ass."

"I believe I already crossed one line and a certain Potter was all over my ass," Pacey jokes. "She seemed to like my ass very much."

"Oh really? It must've been Bessie because I don't remember anything like that," Joey teases back. She can almost feel Pacey shuddering over the phone and giggles.

"Bad mental image, there, Potter. I think I'll go back to picturing you naked now if you don't mind."

"Oh, is that what you were doing before?" She asks, blushing despite herself.

"Yes, I was. I'd like to think you were thinking naughty thoughts about me as well, but even *my* ego can't fathom that."

"Well, that's interesting, because I was."

"You were what?" Pacey almost chokes.

"Thinking about you. In fact, I was about to ask you what you were wearing," Joey whispers throatily. Bessie walks into Joey's bedroom and watches her sister, giggling and talking quietly to Pacey on the phone, and coughs. Joey looks at her, alarmed. She'd sworn she'd locked her door before picking up the phone. "Hey, Bessie," she chokes out, hoping to god her sister hadn't heard what she had just said.

"You have vistors, Jo," Bessie says, gesturing down the hallway toward the living room.

"Visitors?" Joey asks, puzzled. Bessie nods.

"Three, in fact," She replies. Joey murmurs this fact to Pacey, and cradling her cordless phone against her shoulder, follows Bessie down the hall. She enters the living room and gasps, surprised.

"Who's there?" Pacey demands in alarm, hearing her cry of surprise.

"Jen, Jack and Andie. Can I call you back in a few minutes?"

"Is that Pacey?" Jen asks, pointing to the phone. She takes the phone from Joey, who is still too stunned to stop her, and begins talking. "Hey, Pace! Welcome home! We were going to stop over at your house next. Why don't you come over here?"

"Lindley, is that you?" Pacey says. Jen can hear the disbelief and immediately knows that Pacey and Joey were definitely not expecting a warm welcome home.

"Yeah, Witter, none other than Jen Lindley, the queen of Capeside. Get your butt over here, you and Joey have a million tales of adventure to tell, and we have loads to tell you." Pacey starts to say something, but Jen cuts him off. "No excuses! See you in a few minutes!" She turns off the phone and sets it on the counter, turning and smiling at Joey. She envelops her friend in a huge hug. "How are you, Joey? How was the trip?"

"It was...It was really good," Joey replies, shaking her head as if trying to wake herself from a dream. "You, I just didn't expect to see you all so soon. How was your summer?"

"Not as good as yours, I'm sure," Andie says, winking at Joey. Joey outright gapes at her friend now, and everyone laughs.

"Forgive me for being blunt, but-"

"Joey, we don't hate you. Or Pacey. Mind you, we should, since you left us with an endless summer of consoling Dawson in his depths of despair. You owe us big time for listening to his whining," Jack grins. "But as for everything else? We're thrilled you and Pacey sailed off happily into the sunset." Joey turns to Andie, looking at her questioningly.

"Even you, Andie?" Joey asks wearily. Andie nods emphatically.

"Joey, I don't know if Pacey told you or not, but before you two went off for your romantic getaway, I was already telling him to go after you, to get what he wanted. Because although I still love Pacey and I always will, I know that he loves you, and you make him happy. And like any good person who says that they love someone, I want what's best for him. I may be many things, but hypocritical is not one of them." Andie steps forward and hugs Joey tightly. "And I'm really happy to see you. You look wonderful! You're practically glowing."

Jen smirks lightly to herself, knowing how clichéd that statement would be if Andie really knew what Joey was doing less than two hours ago. Jack notices, and vows to pry it out of his best friend later.

"You guys all look great too. Why don't you go sit down? Who wants something to drink?" Joey offers. All three of them decline, instead opting to beg her to sit down with them and tell them *everything*.

"Where did you guys go? Did you spend most of your time down in Florida?"

"What did you do for money? For food?"

"How in the world did you just manage to get up and go like that? Was it scary?"

"What did you do for clothes?"

"Is Bessie really mad?"

"I bet it was so romantic."

"Did you take a lot of pictures? If you did I definitely want to see them."

Joey answers all of their questions happily, suddenly feeling that coming home was not going to be the nightmare she expected. After half an hour of endless chatter and countless exchanges of summer memories, Joey finally asks the question everyone knew had to be asked.

"How is Dawson?" The whole room falls silent. Jen shifts in her seat nervously, knowing far more than anyone just how bad Dawson is now doing. Joey looks between her three friends, her happiness fleeting away and a her stomach twisting into knots. "That bad?"

"He's not..." Andie begins, then stops, looking to Jack for help.

"He's okay, Jo. He was pretty messed up after you left, to be honest. He was pretty angry at the world, especially at Pacey and you."

"He knew that you were going to Pacey, but I don't think he ever thought..." Andie drifts off, frowning.

"That he wouldn't be seeing me for three months and would have to hear about it from some random person?" Joey supplies. "I know. I wish I could've told him, you know...that I was sailing away with Pacey. But I didn't even know I was until I saw him on that dock. I just knew what I had to do...what I wanted to do. I guess sending him a letter telling him that when I was already halfway down the coast was not exactly the most tactful way to deal with it." She shrugs, laughing a little out of anxiety. "I can only imagine what he must have felt like."

"It wasn't very pretty," Jen states. "But it got better, with time. He moved on, started to take a few more hours at Screenplay, started playing around with photography - he's even working on a new script." Jen pauses, wondering what else could be said about the situation. "He kept himself busy, Jo. After awhile he stopped thinking about it so much and he almost seemed to return back to normal."

"Really?" Joey can't keep the hope from ringing in her voice.

"He seems to have accepted it," Jack tells her.

"I don't know how he'll act when he first sees you two, back and together, but I have a feeling things are really going to be okay," Andie smiles reassuringly. Joey breathes a visible sigh of relief, the worry smoothing away from her face. Jen, on the other hand, seems to be growing more and more tense, her inner battle of whether or not to tell Joey of the events of earlier that day. After a moment's debate, she decided that it was better to send Joey into battle with the time to prepare herself, to give her a chance to get her defenses up. If she and Pacey had to face Dawson, not knowing how much he really knew, it would be an outright ambush.

"Joey, I need to talk to you for a minute in private. Can we go to your room?" Jack, Andie and Joey all look rather surprised and confused. Joey slowly stands up, her fear returning. This sounded definitively ominous.

"Um...sure," Joey shoots an inquisitive look at Jack, but he shrugs, telling her he has no idea what's going on. As if being led to execution, Joey follows Jen down toward her bedroom. Once inside, Jen shuts the door, taking a deep breath. "What's the matter, Jen?"

"I don't know if I'm in the right telling you this since it was kind of between Dawson and I, but I want to limit the casualties of this war that's about to begin."

"War?" Joey sits down on her bed, suddenly feeling sick.

"I wouldn't say war, but...for lack of a better word, yes, war. My mind is too cluttered right now to find something less...terrible sounding."

"Jen, what is it? Did Dawson say something to you?"

Jen sits down next to Joey on the bed, sighing.

"You could say that," she starts, cautiously. Joey waits for Jen to say something more, but Jen's lost in her own thoughts, trying desperately to think of a way to put it that wouldn't sound so horrible.

"What did he say? Please, Jen, tell me."

"Jo, Dawson was down on the docks this morning when you and Pacey were...he saw you making out and then he saw you get back onto the boat."

"Oh no..." All the color drains from Joey's face. "Please don't tell me..."

"Dawson couldn't have just walked away, you know him. He saw you two...having sex," Jen stumbles over the last words, her usual bravado over the subject long forgotten. There was nothing easy about having this discussion, being far too important to treat in her usual offhand, casual manner. Just seeing the look of horror on Joey's face was enough to make her think that matters were going to get even worse than she had originally imagined.

"" Joey murmurs, frozen. She could barely see, her mind was going so crazy with thoughts of herself and Pacey. If Dawson had really seen couldn't be true. It simply couldn't be. There is no way he will ever forgive them now. It was one thing to have Joey tell him that she had lost her virginity, but to find out like find out by seeing the evidence with his own eyes... Suddenly Joey's anger flares. "What the hell was he doing? Was he spying on us?" She shrieks. Jen is startled by the outburst. "What kind of freak is he, playing peeping tom? This is what he gets for looking where he's not supposed to!" Joey picks up a piece of clothing that was strewn over her desk chair and throws it across the room. Turning around, she starts to panic, running her hands through her hair and pacing frantically. "What are we going to do now? He's never going to speak to us again! I mean...he had to find out eventually, I would have to tell him, or Pacey would have to. Not that we should *have* to, but if he found out about Pacey and I having sex than he should've found out from us, not like this! And before we even got a chance to talk to him!" Joey sits back down on the bed, burying her head in her hands. "What are we going to do now?"

At that moment, Joey's bedroom door opens and Pacey walks in, looking concerned.

"Hey, Jackers told me you guys were back here having some kind of serious talk. What's the matter?" He looks at Joey and immediately rushes to her side. "What's wrong, Jo?" Joey looks at her boyfriend through her teary eyes, wrapping her arms around his neck. He rubs her back comfortingly, glancing at Jen, hoping for an explanation.

"I was just giving her the heads up about something concerning Dawson," Jen explains quietly. "See...this morning, Dawson was taking a walk along the docks and he stumbled across you two. Caught sight of you mere moments before you two lovebirds had some serious below deck activity. And he knows it wasn't just some casual creek kissing, but rather an all out pleasure cruise." Pacey's jaw drops.

"Shit..." he whispers, pulling Joey a little closer and stroking her hair. "Did he come here? Did he say something?"

"No, not yet. I happened to come across him a few minutes after he...saw you two...and that's why I know. I figured you guys might want to know what exactly you're facing here. He was doing all right, almost good, before. Now...I dunno. I think that all the old wounds have been re-opened."

"I should go talk to him," Pacey says, determinedly. Joey pulls back and looks at him.

"We both should go."

"Jo, I'm the one he's most likely ready to kill. You know how he's going to see this. You're yet another helpless victim who was robbed of her virginity by Pacey Witter. He's not going to be mad at you, just hurt."

"Pacey, we should do this together. This is no time for us to-"

"Jo, I really think I should go talk to him alone first. I think if he sees us together now, it's just going to be too much. And just because I'm going there alone, Joey, don't think it means that we're not doing this together. I'm going to have to rely on you for the strength to do this. You're going to be with me every step of the way." Pacey tells her, caressing her cheek gently.

"I don't see why-"

"He's right, Jo," Jen interrupts, setting her hand on Joey's shoulder and giving her a kind smile. "If you went together to try and talk to him, he probably won’t be thinking about anything else besides the memory of this morning the whole entire time. All he’ll be seeing is an instant replay of the two of you going at it, again and again in his mind. You’ll get nowhere with him, he’ll just get more angry.”

“And if you were to be the one to go alone and see him, Jo, it would turn into a discussion of anything except his shattered illusions of him being your first. And that’s not going to get us anywhere either.”

Joey nods, understanding. She sighs deeply, folding her hands in her lap and looking to her boyfriend.

“All right. I just…it feels weird, you know? To have you go without me.”

“It feels weird for me too. I think it’s for the best though,” Pacey glances at Joey’s alarm clock, which is sitting on her night table, and appears to be contemplating something. “You think he’ll be home now?”

“You’re going to go right now?” Joey asks, surprised.

“The sooner the better, right? Just get it over with,” Pacey replies, shrugging. “And the longer we wait the more he’s going to stew about it. It’s only going to make matters worse.”

“Good point,” Jen agrees. “He should be home now. I don’t think he had any plans today.” Pacey kisses Joey lightly on the lips and then stands up.

“Okay. I’m going to head over there then. I’ll call you as soon as I talk to him?” Pacey says, and Joey nods again, squeezing his hand lightly. Pacey smiles at her reassuringly, but it does nothing to ease her nervousness. “Wish me luck.”

“Luck,” Jen tells him, giving him a small wave good-bye as he heads out the door. Joey stares at the doorway long after he leaves, as if hoping he will turn back around and suddenly re-appear, having changed his mind. He doesn’t. “Joey, it’s going to be okay, you know that, right?”

“It’s not going to be okay, Jen,” Joey shakes her head.

“Maybe not right away, but eventually,” Jen amends. “You’ll just have to be patient.”

“Patience is something that I don’t have, I’ve never had it,” Joey faintly smiles.

“You’re going to have to find some. Because to tell you the truth, you’re going to be on the sidelines for this one. A pure spectator.”

“What?” Joey is very confused.

“Jo, Dawson will forgive you. He has already forgiven you. He has never been able to stay mad at you or be apart from you for any long period of time. You’re so much a part of his life, Dawson feels empty without you. But Pacey, on the other hand…”

“Pacey’s his best friend, too, Jen. They’ve been friends forever.”

“Yeah, but their friendship is very different. It’s sort of an…unspoken code in male friendships that you don’t date your best friend’s ex…especially if your friend still thinks he’s in love with her. And Pacey did just that,” Jen says, then holds up her hand to stop Joey’s protest. “We all know about Dawson’s idiocy when it comes to you and how he doesn’t want you until someone else has you, and that the circumstances surrounding your and Pacey’s relationship are very special, but that doesn’t change how Dawson sees things, Jo. And from his point of view, Pacey did the unspeakable. Friendship between guys is very different from friendship between girls, or between a guy and a girl. Getting things back to normal in our group is largely going to depend on how Pacey and Dawson deal with this.”

“I really hope that's not supposed to make me feel better, Lindley," Joey retorts, almost smirking. "Because the chances of Dawson and Pacey working this out are slim to none."

"Well, I don't know about that one, Jo. I think that Pacey knows how important this is, to everyone. Especially to your relationship. He's not going to just give up."

Joey stands up, going to her mirror. She absently begins brushing her hair, more out of nervousness than out of necessity.

"I don't know why everyone thinks that I'm going to need Dawson's blessing to make this relationship with Pacey work," she murmurs, sounding a little upset. Jen frowns, getting up and going over to her.

"I don't mean to imply that, Joey, but you have to admit that Dawson's approval has always been very important to you, no matter what it is that you're doing. Would you have even gone off with Pacey if Dawson hadn't 'set you free,' was it? I think that's what he told me."

"That was Joey Potter three months ago," Joey says, setting her jaw determinedly. "Over the summer, whenever I remember that moment on the docks, I marvel at how weak I was and how arrogant Dawson was. I may have needed his permission to take that first step, to gather that courage up, but from every second onward, I truly was free of him. He didn't 'give me permission' to run off with Pacey for three whole months, but I did it. And I will never be in his power again." She laughs almost sardonically, putting her brush down on the top of her dresser. "You know that he only let me go without a fight then because he was *positive* that I would come back to him after realizing Pacey was what I wanted. I bet this morning at the docks, Dawson Leery finally learnt the difference between his fantasies and reality."

Jen smiles proudly, crossing her arms in front of her chest and looking at Joey with newfound respect.

"You know, Jo, I never thought you had it in you."

"Had what in me?"

"The ability to shed Dawson and become your own person. I truly never thought the day would come when you chose yourself over him, but yet here it is, happening right now in front of my very own eyes."

Joey blushes faintly and gives one of her patented half shrugs and crooked smiles.

"Maybe I should procure a bottle of wine and loads of confetti to mark the occasion," Jen continues.

"No, let's save the celebration for the day that we can put all these torrid little affairs behind us and behave like normal teenagers," Joey replies. "The day that we can all do something normal like go to dinner and a movie as a group without someone bursting into tears or getting angry, that'll be the time to throw a party."

"I'm going to make a note of that, Jo. When it happens, you can foot the bill for the massive blow-out we'll have."

Jack appears at Joey's bedroom door, Andie standing slightly behind him as if she's weary of entering.

"Hey, you to fill us clueless McPhees in on what's happening?" Jack asks, looking between his best friend and Joey expectantly. "Pacey sure came and left awful quickly. I barely even got to say hello."

"Let's just say I caught wind of the fact that upon finding out of Joey and Pacey's return, the good will that Dawson had finally managed to muster over the past three months had apparently been thrown out the window. I was giving them both notice. Pacey went to go talk to him."

"What?" Andie exclaims, frustrated. "I thought Dawson was really going to be able to handle this! After all that talk of being mature about this! All the times he and I discussed how we'd have to be strong and just deal with whatever came along, because we wanted everything to go back to normal..."

"Sis, calm down," Jack nudges her. "I'm sure Dawson will come around. It was probably just the initial shock, something he thought he could handle but it turns out he couldn't. It's just a momentary lapse in judgement. No need for such a huge amount of alarm." He glances at Jen, who gives him a look which tells him he couldn't be more wrong. From the look on Joey's face, Jack immediately knows that Jen's not kidding. Luckily, Andie doesn't see either of the two girls' expressions; she's too wrapped up in her own worries.

"Urrrgghh!" She shrieks. "I should go over there and give that brat a piece of my mind. There's no way I'm going to be the only being an adult in this situation. I can't handle this all if I don't have back-up!" Joey bites her lip anxiously as Andie rants, wondering if Andie's about to lose her cool and tell Joey off. Joey knew her calm facade was just too good to be true. Andie loves Pacey; the absence of animosity toward Joey should have been a sure sign that something was bound to be off kilter. Andie looks at Joey and frowns. "God, and I just said before that I wasn't a hypocrite. Really, Joey, I am happy for you two. I just..." She tries to reassure Joey, but gives up with a frustrated sigh.

"Andie, why don't we go for a walk?" Jen suggests, wanting to get Andie out before she blew away all the effort she had previously made to be nice to Joey. Jen ushers Andie out the door before she can protest, mouthing to Joey that she should tell Jack the whole deal while they're gone. As soon as the door closes, Jack turns to Joey.

"So, what's really going on that you didn't want Andie to hear about?"

Joey fidgets nervously and turns pink, gesturing for Jack to sit down. Never in her life did she ever expect to have to fill so many people in on her sex life. I guess I should just thank god that Bessie's not home right now, she notes inwardly. That would've truly been a mess.


Pacey walks up to Dawson's house, anticipation and nervousness building in his stomach. The Leery house had always been a source of comfort in his childhood. Now as he approached it, it is quite possible that Pacey never felt a larger sense of dread.

The ladder leading up to Dawson's window seemingly having taken a permanent residence in the garage, Pacey had to opt for the old-fashioned way of entering the house. After pausing to take a deep breath in preparation, Pacey bounds up the front porch steps and knocks on the front door before he can give himself a chance to reconsider. After a few moments, Mrs. Leery opens the door. She can't conceal her surprise.

"Pacey!" She exclaims, a large smile spreading across her face. A little bit of relief seeps into Pacey's body, happy that he was not met with disdain by his best friend's mother. She practically meant more to him than his own mother did. "You're back! When did you get in?"

"This morning. You look really nice, Mrs. Leery. Married life agreeing with you?" Pacey inquires, noting that Gale seemed to be emanating happiness.

"Oh, things are really great, Pacey. Mitch and I had a wonderful - though short - vacation before hunkering down and working like crazy on the restaurant. Business has really picked up." She steps aside and opens the door widely, letting Pacey into the house. "And how about you? How was your little getaway?"

"It was really, really great," Pacey can't help but grin widely and blushing a little. "We had a good time." He hesitates slightly. "I'm just sorry that it had to happen the way it did."

"Oh, well...that's life, I guess. I have to admit I was very thrown by it when I first heard, but frankly I think you and Joey make a wonderful couple. It's just a bad situation, I suppose. Joey's like a daughter to Mitch and me, we just want to see her happy," Gale remarks before adding quietly, "And she wasn't very happy with Dawson. And whether he wants to admit it or not, he wasn't either. I think he just loves the idea of Joey." This time it's Pacey who can't hide his surprise. "But that doesn't mean that you didn't upset him to no end," Gale continues hastily. "It's going to take quite some time to convince him to forgive you two, that's for sure."

"Yeah, I know...speaking of he home? I'd really like to talk to him."

"He's upstairs in his room, watching a movie," Gale pats Pacey on the shoulder as he heads for the stairs. "Guess not that much has changed after all, huh?"

"Guess not," Pacey says and then goes upstairs. When he gets to Dawson's door, he stops for a minute before knocking. What in the world am I going to say? Pacey panics. I suppose I should've thought of that before I came over. He knocks. Too late to back out now.

"Come in!" Dawson calls, thinking it's probably his mom, coming to check on him yet again. When the door opens, his mouth goes dry and he's sure his face must have gone white. It was the last person he was expecting to see. He'd figured maybe Joey would stop over. He was prepared for that. But Pacey? "What are you doing here?"

"Hey, D," Pacey greets him, stepping inside slowly. He eyes Dawson, not sure what to say or what to do. "How are you doing?"

"How am I doing." Dawson repeats, still trying to wrap his mind around the fact that Pacey is in his room. He isn't quite sure what emotion is registering within himself. Was it anger? Hurt? Surprise? Shock? "How am I doing..." This time he searches for an answer, clicking off on his remote control. "I am fine." Pacey pretends not to notice that Dawson didn't ask him the same question in return.

"Good to hear. was your summer?"

"Come off it. You didn't come here to ask me about my summer, Pacey. Why are you here?"

Pacey sticks his hands in his pockets, feeling very unsure of himself. He didn't know how to handle this situation, really. He thought that maybe when faced with Dawson, somehow he'd miraculously come to grips with the right things to say and the right way to act. But he was still at a loss for words.

"I just...I wanted to talk to you. About everything. Joey and I got back today and-"

"Yeah, I know." Dawson retorts shortly, tossing his remote control onto his bed and standing up.

"Yeah...I know you know," Pacey sighs, rubbing the back of his neck and then running his hand through his hair.

"What?" Dawson's voice is full of annoyance and confusion.

"Jack, Andie, and Jen stopped by Joey's this afternoon. Just a little while ago, in fact. Jen...well, she had some pretty interesting things to say."

"Oh, I bet she did," Dawson smirks. "I bet she even told you about what happened this morning, right?"

"Yes, she did." Pacey looks around Dawson's room, praying that this wasn't going to turn ugly.

"So you thought you'd come over here and try to smooth things over, right? Dream on, Pacey. I know you have some type of hero syndrome, but let me save you the trouble. This is one problem that you can't solve with your smile and your endless amount of manipulation, because I'm not a damsel in distress."

"Really. Thank you for clearing that up, Dawson, because I was a little confused," Pacey replies sarcastically.

"Your little routine may have worked with Andie and with Joey, but let me tell you right now, Joey's not going to live in delusion for long. She's a smart girl, she'll wake up and realize how much of herself she's wasted on you."

"Let me ask you something, Dawson. Is it the fact that Joey chose to go away with me or the fact that she's sleeping with me piss you off more?"

"It's both. Because you don't deserve her, Pacey. Not in the slightest bit. And took her virginity, Pacey, you know that? One day she's going to look back on this and she's going to regret it. Does that make you happy?"

Pacey glares at Dawson, unclenching and clenching his fists in an attempt to hold back some of his anger. He can't explode at Dawson, not now. He can't let Dawson have the upper hand. He's angry and he's being a colossal prick, but that's because his judgement is clouded by the fact that he just discovered I'm having sex with Joey. All his feelings of betrayal are back. Just take a deep breath and deal with this.

"Dawson, I realize that right now you don't think that what Joey and I have is special. Right now you seem to have it in your head that I stole her away from you and that I'm keeping her by my side through some strange manipulation. Because why else would she be with me? You apparently think I'm the worst person ever to grace this planet. I don't know why you were my best friend for 16 years if that was the case, but I guess that question will have to remain unanswered." Pacey raises an eyebrow. "But there is one question I think you should answer."

"I don't have to answer anything."

"Oh, I think you'll answer this. You won't even have to speak." Pacey looks Dawson directly in the eyes, watching him carefully for his reaction. "If you truly loved Joey, and if you were ever even half the friend to me that you continually make yourself out to be, why in the world are you so determined to hate us?" Dawson doesn't say anything, but his eyes leave Pacey's. "You feel that you were the one wronged here. Your supposed soul mate ditches you in favor of your best friend. The best friend you were always so wonderful toward, right? Now you're left to mourn and to wallow in anguish, playing the part of the poor martyr who set his true love free so she could pursue a greater happiness. But that's a load of shit, Dawson.

"You let Joey go because you thought she would come running back to you. It was purely selfish. You thought you'd get her back and manage to hurt me in the process. A little payback. Joey would come to me, realize that I wasn't what she wanted and dump me. Break my heart, right?" Dawson doesn't have to answer, Pacey know's he's right. "But you didn't count on her going with me instead of convincing me to stay. You didn't plan on her being happy with me and I'm sure you didn't count on her making the decision to sleep with me. I bet all summer long you've managed to 'get over things' just because you had this fantasy of Joey climbing off the boat and coming straight to your house to tell you about the mistake she'd made."

"Well I can tell you one thing, Pacey, I sure didn't count on witnessing you screwing her," Dawson says bitingly. "Do you have any idea what that was *like*?"

"No, I don't, Dawson, and I'm sorry you had to see it. But we didn't force you to walk down the dock and look. We didn't even know you were there. You could have simply walked away, but you *had* to know. And now you know. That's of your own doing."

"What is it that you want? Why are you even here?" Dawson demands, changing the topic. "Is there a point to this discussion or are you just here to rub your and Joey's relationship in my face?"

Pacey falls silent for a moment, trying to get himself back on track. This was not going well at all. He didn't know what he had expected, but it wasn't this.

"I know what I want, Dawson, but I don't know if it's possible," Pacey informs him truthfully. "I want you to say that you want Joey and I to be happy. I want you to say that you're willing to try to be my best friend again. I want you to prove to me that the Dawson Leery I thought I once knew still exists. The Dawson Leery that had nothing but love for everyone, endless optimism, and the ability to forgive." Dawson crosses his arms and looks away from Pacey. "Dawson, I'm sorry for how this all played out. Joey and I never meant to hurt you, we really didn't. If you knew how long I tried to deny my feelings for Joey just because of you..." Pacey shakes his head sadly. Dawson glances at him. "I didn't want to fall for Joey. I knew it would result in endless amounts of pain for everyone. But I couldn't stop it. And she couldn't stop herself from having feelings in return. It wasn't until we went to your Aunt Gwen's house that we realized we couldn't deny the truth, Dawson. We talked about how we were going to tell you, unceremoniously discovered our relationship before we had a chance to."

"Is this little tale supposed to be making me feel better?"

Pacey lets out a groan of frustration, feeling that there was no way he could possibly get through Dawson's stubborn skull. He didn't want to miraculously make up, he wasn't asking for a miracle. All he wanted was a sign. Some kind of gesture to let him know there was hope. That there was a chance things could get better. Dawson was most unobliging.

"Dawson, are you seriously going to throw away two of your longest and important friendships with Joey and I just because she and I fell in love? Is this going to be how it ends? Am I going to be pointing to your picture in my album someday and have to say that you were Dawson, an old childhood buddy who went his own way? Because you know that I'd rather be able to tell my kids that that was how their Uncle Dawson looked at age 15."

"It's a nice sentiment, Pacey, but a tiny bit clichéd, if I do say so myself," Dawson retorts, sitting down at his desk and turning on his computer. "When I write my autobiography, I'll make sure to include it just to illustrate my point of how idiotic you truly are."

"Okay, Dawson, if this is how you want to be then maybe I should just go before this gets out of hand," Pacey says, throwing up his hands in defeat. He hurriedly steps toward the door, eager to get out of there, but Dawson's voice stops him cold.

"Tell me one thing before you leave. Was she good?"

Pacey can't believe his ears.

"Excuse me?"

"Joey. Was she good in bed?" Dawson is deliberately provoking him now, and Pacey knows it. He would've given anything to wipe that little smirk off of Dawson's face, but the thought of providing Dawson with the satisfaction of knowing he'd gotten to him kept him from doing it.

"You're really sad, Dawson," Pacey murmurs with disdain, and then turns and leaves Dawson's bedroom without another word. Dawson watches him go, his cold and bitter facade crumbling the second that Pacey is gone. He manages to hold back his tears as he stares blankly at his computer screen, wondering how in the world things had become so incredibly screwed up. All summer long, he'd felt Pacey and Joey's absence profoundly. Life without them wasn't the same, and it wasn't a life he wanted. But whenever he thought about them being together and now with what he saw this morning...either way he lost. He can't live with them, can't live without them.


"So, how did Joey take the news?" Jack asks as the basketball bounces off the rim. He moves in for the rebound, catching the ball quickly and turning to pass it to Pacey.

"She didn't take it very well," Pacey mutters, jumping up and trying for a three pointer. It hits the backboard and ricochets halfway across the gym. "Though actually, better than I thought she would. I expected her to be far more upset."

"I can't believe Dawson is not even willing to talk about it. Especially now - it's been three months already."

"Yeah, but three months when Joey and I were not even in Capeside. It's like when someone dies but you never see the burial. There's no closure there. Now we're back and he has to deal with it. I partially understand it, though I definitely wish things were different." Pacey wipes his sweaty brow and sighs. "Man, I wish Doug had never talked me into playing in this stupid basketball game for the police squad. I truly suck at this." Jack chuckles. "You're better than you used to be, though. I heard about your and Dawson's display of machissmo in 10th grade during detention from Jen awhile back. Broke your nose, did he?"

Pacey whips the ball at Jack with an unamused look on his face.

"Yeah, that he did," He mumbles. "I know I have gotten a little better at this game since then, though."

"Well, he and I played a couple of games this summer and let me tell you...he hasn't."

"You and Dawson played sports? How did you convince him to do that?"

"Dawson did a lot of things this summer. He wanted to keep busy, keep his mind off of things. He actually played touch football once." Jack laughs at Pacey's look of surprise. "Just once. He's good at a lot of things, but I think we can fairly rule out a professional sports player as a possibility for a future career."

"Yeah, that much is obvious." Pacey finally sinks a shot, hitting nothing but net.

"That was nice," Jack states, going to get the ball. "Now if only you could do it more often."

"Ha ha, very funny."

"Anyway, enough about Dawson. I want details from your trip. What did you do, where'd you go?"

"Well, on the way down we docked in Providence - to get Joey some clothes and stuff - in Baltimore and in Charleston, then again when we hit Miami. We didn't really spend a lot of time in port on the way down, we were anxious to get down to the Keys. We found this great town there and stayed for about two months. We picked up a couple of odd jobs to work for the time we stayed there. I worked mostly on the docks, and Joey waitressed at this cute little restaurant right on the beach and then at a convenience store when she got sick of waitressing." Pacey watches as Jack goes in for a lay-up. "We had a great time, met a lot of really cool people. It was amazing, you know? It was like we were playing house or something...there's nothing like climbing onto that boat and seeing her sitting there by the wheel, just waiting for me to come back. Nothing like being at work and knowing that she's going to be there waiting for me when I get there."

"Sounds romantic," Jack says as he passes the ball to Pacey, who was so lost in his own thoughts that the ball whizzes past him unnoticed. Jack laughs.

"It was really romantic," Pacey tells him. "On the way home we stopped tons of places, just trying to delay our arrival back home. We really didn't want to go back."

"I can't blame ya," Jack remarks. "Who would want to leave the Florida Keys and come back to Capeside? Especially when the two of you were...shall I say, getting along so well?"

"I plead the fifth on that one, buddy," Pacey chuckles.

"Not even a little bit of information?" Jack pretends to be outraged.

"I don't kiss and tell, my dear friend. Besides, I think it's about time you got a lovelife of your own. How come you didn't meet someone this summer?"

"No one to be met," Jack says simply, clearly not wanting to elaborate. They look at each other as they pause in conversation, realizing that they had completely stopped playing and the basketball still remained off in the corner somewhere. Pacey turns to go get it when he hears its familiar bounce. Looking toward the doorway to the gym, he becomes frozen in place. Dawson walks toward him, dribbling the ball slowly. "You didn't say *he* was going to be here, Jack," Dawson looks at Jack angrily. Jack just shrugs, trying to ignore the glares he's receiving from both of his friends.

"It was Jen's idea," Jack explains with a lopsided grin. "Joey must've called her after you called her," he gestures to Pacey, "And then she called me and told me to put my planned basketball meeting with Dawson to good use."

"Well, her plan didn't work, because I'm leaving," Dawson dumps the basketball to the ground, turning on his heel and making it for the exit. Jack steps in front of him, forcibly stopping him.

"No, you can't leave."

"It's a free country."

"Why don't I leave?" Pacey suggests. "You two had a planned game anyway."

"Neither of you are leaving!" Jack exclaims. "Not you or Dawson." He picks up the basketball from the floor. "The only way you're getting out of here is to get to fifteen points."

"Jackers, come on," Pacey says, thinking his friend must be joking. He goes to step past him but Jack once again intervenes.

"I'm not kidding. Every basket is worth one single point. That's it. First person to fifteen can leave. Until then, I'm keeping you here. And let me mind you that I can run faster than both of you put together, and am in short, far more athletic. There's no way you're getting past me." He hands Dawson the basketball with an expectant look. "Play half court. And check it."

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