“Pace, you’re doing it again.”
He turned to look at her over his shoulder from where he sat on the edge of her bed. “Doing what?”
“You’re getting that look on your face like you don’t trust me.” Joey sat up, running her hand through her tousled hair before she wrapped her arms around her knees to watch him.
Pacey sighed heavily as he pulled his work boots on over his jeans. “I trust you, Jo.” He turned to look at her, meeting her eyes. “I do.” He leaned over to kiss her, his lips lingering a moment before he pulled away.
“But…” She raised her eyebrows, waiting for him to continue.
“But…” He began cautiously, “You have to admit that you may have, in the past, let Dawson…dictate, shall we say, the way certain situations involving the two of you play out. And, while the fact that you often put others’ feeling before your own is one of the many, many reasons why I love you, where Dawson is concerned you tend to give so much importance to his feelings that you forget your own altogether. For example, the last time you saw him, at the Leery’s party when he was leaving for California? You kept insisting that you didn’t want to get stuck there rehashing everything with him. Yet what happened?” He looked at her expectantly as he picked his sweater up off the floor but she just shrugged noncommittally in response as he pulled it on over his t-shirt. “And then there was the time you told me you were going to talk to him and break up with him. That was around the second week in March of our senior year. And, when did you actually end things with him? Some time in May. So, all I am is saying here is that…”
He looked over at her again, stopping when he saw her face. She was smiling now, her eyes widening and softening, shining at him as they took him in. “What?” He asked gruffly, raising an eyebrow.
“You remember when I told you that?”
Pacey hesitated and frowned before letting out a half chuckle, trying not to smile. “Okay, we’re talking about your issues right now, Jo, not mine, so let’s focus on…”
His words were lost in the kiss as Joey leaned over to place her hands on his cheeks and pressed her lips to his. She broke away after a moment, leaning her forehead against his and smiling. “I love the way you kiss.” She whispered happily.
“Oh, now you’re just trying to throw me off the subject with a little sweet talk, Potter. Don’t think I’m not wise to you and your womanly ways.”
Joey grinned at him, the smile fading as she looked down at the bed a moment. “Things are different now, Pacey.” She spoke quietly as she met his eyes again. “I’m different now. You, of all people, should know that.”
Pacey dropped his head, reaching out to take her hand in his. “I know. I’m sorry.” He looked down at her hand as he brushed his thumb back and forth over her wrist, a troubled look still clouding his features.
“So, then what is it?” She whispered, furrowing her brow as she watched him.
“You know what he’s going to say.” Pacey raised his dark blue eyes to scan her face. “About me.”
Joey leaned back to look at him, her mouth falling open slightly. “Is that what this has been about?” She asked softly, understanding. “You and I have already talked about all of this, Pace. It doesn’t matter to me. It’s just you and me now.”
Pacey nodded again but Joey could see the uncertainty in his eyes. She moved closer, reaching up to touch his cheek. “I know I may have let Dawson make me doubt myself in the past. But he could never make me doubt you. Not now, Pace. Not ever.”
Pacey closed his eyes with a sigh. “I just want you to know…”
“I know.” Joey cut him off with a kiss. She gently took his bottom lip between hers and then slid her tongue in along his as she tugged on the front of his sweater, gradually lowering herself back down on the bed and pulling him with her.
There was the sound of keys in the door and then it swung partially open to reveal Audrey standing there, holding her hand over her eyes. “Am I interrupting? Is everyone decent? Is everyone clothed?”
Pacey pulled away from Joey with a sigh, narrowing his eyes at her in mock-irritation before she glanced away to look at Audrey. “Yep. All set.”
Audrey grinned as she swept into the room, walking over to her bed.
Pacey leaned over to kiss Joey softly one last time, reluctantly pulling away and shaking his head, groaning softly under his breath as she smiled up at him, the desire still flickering in her eyes. He stood up to reach for his coat lying on her desk.
“You know, Audrey...” He sighed as he pulled it on and turned to face her. “When are you just going to admit to yourself that you actually come in here hoping to get a look at everything you’ve been missing out on? After all, I live with Drue. I am well aware of all his shortcomings.”
“Hmm. Yeah, you’re absolutely right, Pacey. I keep hoping some night Joey might drag home a real man for me to see, yet every morning it’s still just you.”
“See, now that’s just sad. You’ve obviously reached the point where you’ve forgotten what a real man looks like.”
“How could I forget when I always have the exact opposite right here in my roommate’s bed for me to use as a comparison?”
Pacey made a face at her, turning to frown at Joey as she giggled and threw the covers off to get out of bed. “Quiet over there, Potter.”
Audrey laughed. “Sorry. That was just too easy, Pacey.”
“Much like yourself.” He chuckled, ducking out of the way of her swinging fist.
The phone rang then and Joey flopped back down on her bed to grab it off her desk. “Hello?” She sat upright abruptly, her voice changing. “Dawson? Hey, how are you?”
Pacey and Audrey hesitated, glancing at each other, then both turned to look at her as she returned their gazes with wide, surprised eyes, tucking her hair behind her ear.
“Good. I’m good. So, are you home now?” Joey paused, listening. “You’re here?” Her voice rose slightly as Pacey’s shoulders slumped. “At Worthington? Where are you? Oh, okay. Yeah. Well, you’re not really near my dorm, but if you stay on that road you’ll come to a big parking lot and I’m in the building across the lawn from that, on the other side of the courtyard. Okay. Great.”
She hung up the phone. “He’s heeeere.” She tried to smile, drawing out the word in an attempt to joke with him, but Pacey was not amused.
“He’s here? Right now? In Boston?”
“Yeah, I guess his flight got in last night, a little earlier than planned. He had nothing to do today so he figured he’d drive up here and check out Worthington.”
“Oh, yeah. Of course.” Pacey nodded, not even attempting to disguise the sarcasm. “He’s here to check out the campus, do a little sight-seeing. That’s why he hopped into the car at 9:00 in the morning to drive the hour up from Capeside practically as soon as he got off the plane from California.”
“Uh-oh.” Audrey raised her eyebrows, slipping away to disappear into the bathroom.
“Pacey…” Joey had to laugh. “You are not seriously trying to suggest that Dawson has some ulterior motive for showing up here, are you? Don’t even tell me you actually think he wants to get back with me.”
Pacey shook his head slowly, relenting with a sigh. “Though he does seem to have an uncanny sense of timing when it comes to that.” He muttered softly.
Joey placed her hands on her hips, tilting her head to look at him. “Now you’re just being ridiculous, but whatever reason he is here, well…it really doesn’t matter. You are all that matters to me, and this just means I’m going to have to tell him about us a little sooner than I expected, which is fine.” She watched him carefully. “It’s going to be fine, Pacey.” She assured him.
Pacey dropped his head for a moment before he glanced up at her, raising an eyebrow as his gaze drifted over her, her cotton camisole pajama top sliding off her shoulder, barely clinging to her breasts, outlining them through the flimsy material, and a pair of his boxer shorts hanging precariously low around her slender hips. “You’re changing your clothes before he gets here, aren’t you?” He almost growled.
She looked down at herself and shrugged. “No. Why?”
Pacey threw his arms up in the air and was about to speak before she cut him off, crossing the room to drape her arms around his shoulders, pressing her body against his as she kissed him. “I was kidding, Pace.”
He relaxed slightly, leaning down to wrap his arms tightly around her, burying his face in her neck as he breathed her in. “I knew that.” He mumbled unconvincingly against her skin.
“Sure you did.” Joey smiled, patting his back as she hugged him.
He pulled back, kissing her cheek and taking her hand, interlacing his fingers with hers. “So, what are you going to do?”
“I guess I’ll show him around campus and then sit down and talk to him. I know how to deal with Dawson by now. It will be okay.”
“Will it? I thought everything with you two had to turn into some life-altering, impossibly complicated drama?”
“Do you have to remember everything I told you?” She teased him, leaning up to kiss him again.
He leaned his forehead against hers. “I only want to remember one thing.”
Joey smiled, reaching up to hold his face in her hands and look into his eyes. “I want you. I need you. I love you.” She whispered softly.
“Well, technically, that’s three things. But, hey, who’s counting.” He smiled, kissing her.
He turned to leave, releasing her hand finally as he reached for the doorknob. Suddenly, he turned and grabbed her again, wrapping his strong arms around her and lifting her up to pin her against the door. He kissed her, thrusting his tongue into her mouth to muffle her surprised gasp, the soft, insistent strokes fervently exploring her and tasting her, melting her as he heard her sigh, then moan. He pulled back gradually, slowly easing her to the floor, and she blinked up at him, breathless and a bit disoriented.
“There’s a little something for you to remember.” He smiled, kissing her on the tip of the nose before leaving.
Joey rushed out of the bathroom, dropping the damp towel to the floor as she dug a pair of jeans out of her closet, whipping her wet hair out of her eyes.
Audrey watched her from where she was lying on her bed on her stomach, a pillow tucked under her chin. “So, what’s he like? Is he like Pacey at all? Didn’t you say they were friends?”
“They were a long time ago.” Joey shrugged, pulling a tee shirt on. “And, no, he’s nothing like Pacey. He’s, he’s…he’s just Dawson. There’s no explaining him.”
“Well, I don’t think I’ve ever seen Pacey so worried. So not cocky.” Audrey smirked. “It was actually kind of cute.”
Joey rolled her eyes, but smiled as she tugged on a pair of boots. “Well, he’s got nothing to be wor…” She was cut off by the sound of a knock on their door.
Audrey’s eyes widened, her mouth falling open in a silent, comical gasp. Joey shook her head, taking a deep breath as she went to open the door.
“Hey, Dawson.” She smiled as she reached out to lightly hug him with one arm.
“Joey.” He stepped back from the hug, smiling as he appraised her. Joey took him in as well, noticing that he seemed so much older, so much more mature. Just what he needed, she thought with a smirk. “How are you?”
“Great. I’m great.” She nodded. “Come on in. This is my roommate, Audrey.” She held out her arm and Audrey jumped up excitedly.
“Hello there.” He replied with an uncertain smile as she shook his hand, a bit taken aback by her enthusiasm, as she looked him up and down. He returned his gaze to Joey, noticing her trying to squeeze the dampness out of her hair. “Aww.” He grinned. “I hope you didn’t feel like you had to jump in the shower just because I was here, Joey. You’re not supposed to make a fuss for old friends who show up unexpectedly. That’s part of the deal.” He turned to place his hands on his hips and gaze around her dorm room.
“Though showering usually is part of the deal if you’ve just been doing all kinds of dirty, nasty, messy things right before they show up.” Audrey smirked and whispered, brushing past Joey to head to the bathroom and stumbling a step, giggling as Joey shoved her.
“So, how is California?” Joey smiled innocently at Dawson when he turned towards the sound.
“I have to say I’m getting used to the weather. I forget how miserable it can be here.”
Joey smiled, nodding. “So, um, would you like to go get some breakfast?”
“Actually I walked around some after I parked and grabbed a coffee and a bagel. But if you’re hungry, we can.” Dawson raised his heavy eyebrows.
“No, no…I’m fine.” Joey smiled. “So, did you get to see some of the campus then?”
“Yeah, it’s beautiful here. Everything is so old compared to California. The architecture is really amazing. Oh, and I checked out that old newsstand right outside the gates and picked up this Arts & Entertainment paper and was glancing through it. Boston really has a thriving college culture here, doesn’t it?”
Audrey reappeared from the bathroom, raising her eyebrows at Joey before dropping back down on her bed to gather her things as she prepared to leave.
“Well, um…I’m just going to finish getting ready and we can go, um, take a walk downtown or something.” Joey exhaled slowly, puffing out her cheeks as she disappeared into the bathroom. “Make yourself comfortable.”
Dawson smiled, sitting down at Joey’s desk and perusing over her books before turning to glance at Audrey, who was still studying him with an amused smile. He furrowed his eyebrows, ignoring her, and called out to Joey. “So, I was glancing through this paper and I see that there is a little theatre right down the street from your school that plays a lot of old movies. Have you ever been?”
“Hmm.” Joey poked her head out of the bathroom, brushing her teeth. “Nope.” She mumbled through the toothpaste.
“Well, they are going to be showing ‘In a Lonely Place’ next month. You know, the old Humphrey Bogart classic?”
Joey stepped out of the bathroom, walking over to her closet for a sweater. “Uh, sorry, Dawson. I don’t think I’ve heard of that one.”
“Yeah, I guess it’s not really one of the films Bogart is famous for. But it’s actually very famous in terms of the script. It’s funny because we actually studied it in an Introduction to Screenwriting seminar I took this summer. In the film, Bogart’s character, who is actually a screenwriter, has this monologue where he is describing how one should never overuse the words ‘I love you’ in a script, but rather demonstrate it through simple actions between the characters. In the scene, he is cutting up a grapefruit for the woman he is involved with, and he is saying how, by that one gesture, doing that one selfless thing for her, anyone could tell that they were in love. And it is advice that screenwriters continue to follow, right up to present day with people like Cameron Crowe, by not having their characters spouting off meaningless and redundant words, but rather have them do these telling things…”
“Like holding doors or pulling out chairs?” Audrey offered.
“Yeah, I guess.” Dawson laughed, shaking his head. “But a little less generic.”
Audrey considered this. “Like a guy who always calls when he says he’s going to?”
Joey leaned her head against her closet door and smiled thoughtfully as she added to the conversation. “Or a guy who might carry an extra sweatshirt with him just because he knows his girlfriend always gets cold.”
“Yeah.” Dawson grinned. “Things of that nature.”
“You know.” Audrey stood up, pulling on her coat. “Being such a film geek, you may appreciate this, Dawson. My friends from home and I used to always judge a potential date by their favorite romantic movie. You’d be surprised at how much you can tell about a person from that.”
Dawson laughed now, scratching his head. “Well, I’m starting to think I might be afraid to know the answer to this one, but what exactly is your favorite romantic film, Audrey?”
“Uh huh...” She shook her head slowly, leaning towards him. “You tell me yours first, movie-boy.”
“Jerry Maguire.” He said without hesitation, shrugging his shoulders.
“Oh, figures.” She replied, narrowing her eyes at him. “I guess that makes sense.”
Joey glanced over her shoulder at them curiously.
“Well, what’s wrong with that?” Dawson brought his eyebrows together with a frown. “He achieves his life dream and gets the girl. What’s better than that?”
“The ‘and gets the girl’ part is what is the matter with that!” Audrey laughed. “You say it like it is an afterthought. Besides, he only goes back to the girl in the end because he doesn’t have anyone else…and she takes him back for the same reason. They’re together in the end because they were both afraid to be alone.” Audrey shook her head, rolling her eyes. “Real romantic. I’ll bet you were the type rooting for the woman in Casablanca to get on that plane with her husband.”
“Well, I think that the Ingrid Bergman character obviously had a spiritual bond with her husband that…”
“Stop right there!” Audrey held her hand up, cutting Dawson off. “I don’t even want to hear it.”
“Well, you can’t tell me that you didn’t find the lines ‘you complete me’ to be romantic.” Dawson snorted, staring at her.
Audrey laughed, shaking her head. “That’s not romance. That’s called codependence. You want a good movie quote on love?” She started towards the door. “It’s from ‘Moonstruck’.” She paused, turning to face him dramatically as she reached for the doorknob. “Love doesn’t make things nice. It breaks your heart. We are here to ruin ourselves and to break our hearts and love the wrong people and die. The storybooks are bullshit.”
Dawson raised his eyebrows with a sigh. “Well, there’s a comforting thought.”
“Falling in love isn’t comforting.” Audrey shook her head at him, almost sympathetically. “It’s the scariest thing you’ll ever do.”
Dawson raised his eyebrows dubiously, laughing. “Ah, okay…” He replied slowly, turning to Joey. “Help me out here, Joey. What is your favorite? Is it still ‘When Harry Met Sally’?”
Joey made a face, considering this for a moment. “I guess so.”
“Friends who fall in love.” Dawson looked over at Audrey with a self-congratulatory smile.
“Nah…it was more like enemies who become friends who fall in love.” Audrey corrected him as Dawson frowned. “Okay, well, I’ve got to meet Drue and help him pick out my Christmas presents, so it was really nice meeting you, Dunston…”
“Oh, right. Sorry. I always do that.” Audrey shook her head and laughed. “Well, see ya.” She disappeared through the door.
Dawson looked over at Joey, shaking his head. “Wow.” He frowned again. “Did she just say she was going to meet Drue? Don’t even tell me…”
“’Fraid so.” Joey smirked, shrugging her shoulders.
Dawson shook his head in disbelief before standing up with a sigh. “Well, what now? Would you like to give me your personal tour of Boston?”
Joey smiled at him a moment, dropping her head before raising her eyes to meet his again. “Actually, Dawson, I was hoping we could talk. I have something to tell you.”
Pacey lay on the upside-down on the couch, bouncing a rubber ball off the wall with one hand and catching it in the other. Jack passed by him, glancing over at him.
“Okay, I’m headed out, Pacey.” He lifted his duffel bag off the floor by the door and threw it over his shoulder. “What’s your plan? When are you headed back to Capeside?”
“I don’t really know.” Pacey replied, still tossing the ball against the wall.
“Well, do you think you’ll stop by the Leery’s Christmas party this year?”
Pacey glanced over at Jack with a smirk. “I wouldn’t hold your breath on that one.”
Jack nodded and smiled, understanding. “Well, what do you think about New Years Eve here? Jen and Andie have been bugging me to have a party.”
“Whatever.” Pacey shrugged. “Sounds good to me.”
“All right, then. If I don’t see you before, have a good Christmas.” Jack gave him a wave as he threw open the front door, hesitating when he saw Dawson standing there, raising his hand to knock.
“Hey, Dawson.” Jack grinned, giving him a quick hug as he patted him on the back. “How are you? How’s California been treating you?”
Pacey rolled over to an upright position, standing slowly as he regarded Dawson warily.
“It’s going pretty well for me out there, thanks.” Dawson glanced around. “So, you guys have a nice set up here, huh? I guess living with Drue is a small price to pay.” His gaze fell on Pacey, meeting his eyes just briefly. “Hey Pacey.” He greeted him quietly.
“Well, I’ve gotta run, but I’ll see you at your parents’ house Friday night, right?” Jack smiled.
“Yeah.” Dawson nodded and Jack gave Pacey another wave before he disappeared out the door.
Pacey dropped his head, chewing on the inside of his lower lip a moment before looking over at Dawson. “So, how’s it going?”
Shoving his hands in the pockets of his pants, Dawson appraised him for a moment. “How do you think it’s going?” He replied evenly, fixing a steely gaze on him.
Pacey held his gaze, his own eyes darkening when he heard the angry edge to Dawson’s voice.
“How long did you wait after I left before you made your move on her, Pacey? Or did you even have the decency to wait for me to leave?”
Pacey shook his head, looking away before he looked back at Dawson. “It’s not like that.”
“Oh, what is it then, Pacey? Please fill me in.” Dawson snorted. “We may have never come out and admitted it, but I think you and both know you had some obsession with getting her. The one girl in Capeside you couldn’t have. You always did envy me and want to be in my place, didn’t you? Well, you may have been able to finally weasel your way into her bed somehow, but you’ll never be able to fill the place I had in her life.”
Pacey dropped his head but didn’t reply.
“Though I am surprised to hear that it has been going on for a little while.” Dawson admitted, continuing. “I figured for sure once you had her, once you got what you wanted, you’d move on. Just like you did with every other girl. And she seems to be under the delusion that things are different with her. But, what happens now, Pacey?” Dawson laughed harshly. “She’s attending one of the most prestigious colleges on the East Coast and you’re doing what? Taking a couple of business courses? Working in a bar? You don’t seriously think that you have a future with her?”
Pacey shrugged, meeting Dawson’s eyes again. “I guess time will tell, huh?”
“You’ll do nothing but hold her back.”
Pacey let out a soft, bitter laugh. “But I thought you just said I’d never fill the place you had in her life?”
Dawson’s eyes flashed as he clenched his jaw. He turned abruptly to leave, but slowly faced Pacey again. “She claims to be in love with you. And if you think that is easy for me to say right now, you’re wrong. But at least I know that she is going to wake up someday, Pacey, and realize what you are.”
“The guy she’s waking up next to?” Pacey offered, staring him down.
“Believe what you want, Pacey, but it’s not going to change anything. This is never going to last.”
Well, I guess I should offer you the same advice then. Believe what you want, Dawson.”
“You’ll never have what I had with her.” Dawson shook his head before walking out the door.
“Yeah, that’s what I was hoping for.” Pacey sighed.
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