Disclaimer: I own them. Really, I do. I own Josh and Katie and Michelle and Kerr and Meredith. I don’t own James cause I gave him the hell away. Oh! I also own Columbia-TriStar, The WB, and I’ve got Paul Stupin in my back pocket. Blah dee dah, I barely own myself.
Author’s Note: Totally spoilerific! This is the missing scene from Two Gentlemen of Capeside, a.k.a. The Storm. What happened between the time Pacey and Joey drove away in her truck and the time Pacey goes to Dawson at the end? Dawson has shown significant signs of humanity, and I just don’t know how to process that. For all you Dawson lovers, don’t worry, I don’t bash him in this. Thank you to my beta baby bijal, who’s been getting lots of snippets of fics that will probably never see the light of day but she doesn’t complain. :P
Rating: PG-13 (the word “penis” is used, oh my)
Feedback: For the love of God. Please! email@example.com
She’s watching me as I drive her truck through the storm-ravaged town. I realize my grip on the steering wheel is tight enough to leave me white-knuckled, and by the look on her face as I glance at her I know that she’s correctly guessed that I’ve been replaying what happened over and over in my mind. Wondering if I could have done something different. Pissed off because I had to leave our boat out there. Wishing to God he hadn’t been the one to rescue Jen and me.
Loosening my grip, I reach over and take one of her cold, clammy hands in mine and our fingers entwine. Her eyes are still wide and they’re still scared and I rest our linked hands against my leg as I return my attention to the slick road. “I’m okay,” I say, an effort to reassure her.
Joey doesn’t bother answering, opting instead to let me know she’s aware I’m lying by giving my hand a light squeeze. I sigh and brush my thumb over the back of her hand.
I notice how the town has been turned upside down by the storm. Store windows are blown in, tree limbs are broken. As we drive down the residential streets nearing the other end of town, I dodge the trash barrels lying still in the street after having been tossed by the wind.
When we pull up to the Potter’s Bed & Breakfast, the back porch light flips on and the door opens. Bessie pushes open the screen door and walks out to the steps, pulling her cardigan tight around her.
“Where the hell have you two been? I tried to call the Yacht Club but nobody answered and I knew that you said that Pacey and Jen were going to go sailing this afternoon,“ she calls out while we get out of her old Ford pickup.
Joey trudges up the stairs toward her and I follow her closely. In a tired voice, she tells the story as she reaches her sister. “They did go sailing, and they were out there when the storm came up. Dawson and I stole a boat from the club and went out after them. And we had to leave True Love out there.”
Bessie reaches out and grabs Joey close to her, hugging her tightly despite the fact that she’s soaked to the skin. “Oh my God, oh my God! Joey! You could have drowned out there! What in the world were you thinking?”
Joey pulls slightly away from her and looks back at me. Bessie looks at me too and I stand there, pinned by two pairs of Potter eyes. “I was thinking I could lose him.”
Her voice is soft and plain and I wonder if I’m the only one who hears the frightened note. It breaks my heart.
Bessie has a hundred questions in her eyes but she bites them back visibly as she notices Joey shiver delicately. Her hair, caught back in its simple ponytail, is dripping and as I break our gaze I remember that I’m likewise soaked.
“You two need to shower and get changed into some dry clothes,” Bessie says finally, and to lighten the moment I purposely choose to take the comment in the lewdest way possible and wiggle my eyebrows suggestively.
“Separately!” she adds, reaching up and smacking me lightly on the top of my head.
Joey cracks a smile at the exchange and offers to shower in the smaller bathroom, the new addition that was put in over the summer. I open my mouth to protest, knowing that the water takes longer to heat up in the newer bathroom. She stops me with a look and I nod lightly, watching her walk down the hall and start up the stairs. Her shoes squeak with each step and I want to tease her about it but I don’t.
Feeling foolish standing in the kitchen and dripping onto the linoleum, I offer Bessie a sheepish smile and move past her, heading for the main bathroom. I’m not entirely surprised when she catches my arm and I look down into her concerned brown eyes.
I try to head off what I know is coming. “Bessie, I’m sorry she went after me, I’m sorry she was in danger. I feel horrible - “
She interrupts me by putting her arms around my neck, forcing me to lean over her. I put my arms around her gingerly, not knowing if this is merely a diversion while Bodie comes up behind me with a cleaver for endangering Joey.
“I know you do, kid. You think I don’t know that? I know you love her,” she says, squeezing me before pulling back to look up at me.
I guess my confusion is written plainly on my face because she sighs, exasperated. “You’re completely stupid for being out there in the storm, but . . . you’re part of this family, Pacey. I‘m glad you‘re alright; I was worried about you.”
Once again I’m overwhelmed by how these people have welcomed me and made me one of their own. By loving Joey, I’ve wormed my way into a functional family and it feels good. Damn good. I don’t care if their name is linked with the biggest scandals to hit Capeside. I come from people who have spotless reputations and picture perfect smiles that degrade one another and spread animosity like poison as soon as the camera stops flashing. However unconventional a family they are, the Potters and Bodie love each other. And they love me, too.
My expression must have betrayed me, because Bessie hugs me again before shoving me away from her, laughing. “Go take your shower, twerp.”
When I get to the bathroom, I turn on the hot water tap and strip out of my wet clothes, leaving them in a pile on the tiled floor. Steam is starting to billow from the shower and I step into it, the sharp needles of the hot spray stinging my cold flesh until I get used to the feel of it. I stand there for long moments, going over Bessie’s words in my mind and trying not to think of how scared Joey looked, how tightly she‘d held onto me on the docks. Of how I put Jen in danger. Of Dawson’s face when he shouted that he wasn’t going to leave without me. I don’t want to think of True Love.
When the door opens and shuts quickly, Joey’s embarrassed voice unnecessarily says, “It’s me.”
“Well hello, you,” I say back, lathering my hair, what little is left after being buzzed. Thank God that there is at least one man’s presence in the house to insist on shampoo that doesn’t smell like an exotic fruit salad.
“I came in to get your clothes to run through the washer. I also brought you some of Bodie’s sweats for you to wear,” she says, and through the flowered shower curtain I can faintly make her out as she closes the lid on the toilet and sits on it.
“Thanks. You were awfully quick in the shower,” I say, surprised that she’s remained so long in my naked presence. I’m not about to complain, however. Not me, no sir.
“I never take long showers. I prefer to soak in the tub,” she tells me. “With a good book and headphones to block out screaming children and strange people in my house.”
The mental image that springs to mind is one that I have to push to the recesses of my brain if I’m to continue having a coherent conversation with her. While I’m naked. I cough and continue scrubbing as I say, “I can understand that. You’re never alone here. In my house, with three sisters and a girlie brother, I was lucky to get five consecutive minutes to myself in the bathroom to bathe.”
“Well, that certainly explains the way you used to smell,” she teases.
“You’re such a sweetheart, have I ever told you that, Potter? I mean, really,” I laugh, heartened that she‘s feeling better. Good enough to make fun of me, at any rate. ”A guy could get quite the ego with such abundant praise.”
“It’s a wonder your eyes aren’t brown, Pacey,” she snaps back without a hint of heat to her tone.
She sits there for a little while longer and I don’t mention it. She wants to be near me and I want her close just as much.
Finally, she gets up and goes to the door. “Are you hungry?”
I look around the edge of the shower curtain and she blushes immediately, her cheeks pinkening, though to her credit she doesn’t look away. “Yeah,” I say, winking.
She rolls her eyes dramatically. “I’m going to make some soup and sandwiches. Take your time.”
When I get through with my shower, I towel off and dress in Bodie’s old sweats. They’re a little big on me but nice and warm. She also left me socks and I walk out to the kitchen with them in hand, intending to sit at the table and put them on but when I get to the archway of the kitchen, I stop because I’m caught up in the sight of her.
Her hair is drying in waves and she’s dressed in boxers and a t-shirt and she’s just so beautiful, standing there at the stove with her sister. Joey stirs something in a pot that smells delicious while two sandwiches sizzle in the pan and I realize that Bessie’s talking just in time to hear her say, “ . . . completely natural reaction. Your man was in life-threatening danger, so what do you do? Feed him.”
“He’s hungry, Bessie,” she says, shrugging one shoulder the way she does when she desperately wants to change to change the subject.
“So what? He’s a teenaged boy, he’s always hungry,” Bessie says with a dismissive wave of her hand. “And this is the first time I’ve seen you voluntarily cook without complaint.”
“Doesn’t mean I still can’t,” Joey mutters. “Besides, your little theory there pushes back the women’s movement about, oh, thirty years.”
Bessie smiles and bumps her hip. “Tell me something. Do you care?”
Joey looks up to answer and sees me. One look and she knows what I’ve heard. “No,” she says simply, her gaze held by mine as she answers Bessie’s question.
Bessie looks from Joey to me and rolls her eyes. It’s a wonder the Potter women can see straight, the way they roll their eyes. “You should probably call your parents or Doug or Gretchen or whoever it is that you’re living with these days so that they don’t worry about you,” she tells me. “I’m gonna go upstairs and watch TV.”
She pokes me in the arm as she passes and I bump her with my shoulder. She slaps the back of my head and continues on her merry way as I walk further into the kitchen.
“Sure smells good, although knowing your legendary cooking skills, it’ll probably kill me.”
The stricken expression that crosses her face makes me regret my words instantly. I look down and see the socks in my hand, glad to have something to do in the awkward silence.
I sit at the table and put on the socks as she flips the sandwiches. She moves to the cupboard and pulls out two family soup bowls and two family plates. Their family set is mismatched and old, while the dishes used for the guests of the inn are new and expensive. It’s obvious to me that she’s busying herself as well, trying to put my unfortunate choice of words out of her head.
I watch her as she pours the soup into the bowls and cuts the sandwiches into halves. She brings a plate and a bowl over to me and then she goes to get hers. She moves gracefully and there’s a small smile on her face as she pours two glasses of milk. She begins to sit, not meeting my eyes, and then gets to her feet again.
“I forgot the napkins. Do you want any salt?” she calmly asks, bringing both back to the table with her. When she sets the salt on the table along with the napkins, I notice that her hands are shaking.
“Sit down, Joey.”
She doesn’t seem to hear me. “We have some saltines for the soup if you want. Do you want anything else? We have some green beans if you want.”
Snaking an arm around her waist, I pull her down across my lap. “Sit down, Joey.”
“Okay, then,” she says after a moment, and scooches around until she’s comfortable.
Reaching over, I pull her plate and bowl towards us and we begin to eat. As soon as I taste the thick tomato soup I’m surprised by how hungry I really am.
Her stomach growls audibly and I sneak my hand beneath her t-shirt and rest my palm against it. “Sounds like you’re just as hungry as I am.”
She laughs weakly and I kiss her shoulder before taking a bite of the sandwich.
We eat in silence, each occupied with our own thoughts. I try not to think about it, but I’m so angry over losing True Love that my mind keeps going back to it. She’s probably at the bottom of the ocean by now.
I hate that I had to leave her out there. I keep trying to figure out if there was something that I could do differently, if maybe there was a way I could have saved her.
I keep going over it in my mind, and even though I don’t think of anything else I really truly could have done differently other than stay on dry land in the first place, it doesn’t make me feel much better.
“I’m sorry you lost your boat,” she says, and I’m over how eerie it is that she can read me so easily.
“Our boat. It was yours, too,” I tell her. She doesn’t seem concerned overmuch.
She sips a spoonful of soup and says, “Maybe True Love will wash up somewhere and she’ll only need some repairs.”
Her voice doesn’t betray a whisper of heartache over the loss of something so intrinsically linked to us and I ask about that. “Why don’t you care more about the boat? We lived together on it for three months. I had the best time of my life on that boat this summer and I thought you did, too.”
She looks at me, surprised by my irritation.
“Pacey, I am upset that we lost the boat. And I had the best time of my life on that boat, too,” she says. “But it’s not the end of the world and do you want to know why?”
I’m silent for a moment until I realize that I’m being petulant. “Why?”
“Because it’s not the boat that made the summer so meaningful for me. What made this summer so special was the time I spent with you,” she says. “And when you jumped over to Mr. Brooks’ boat and left True Love behind, I have to tell you, Pacey. I didn’t give a damn about that boat, as long as you were okay.”
I feel stupid immediately and she continues, touching my face and making me look at her. “A boat, however special, can be replaced. You cannot.”
She touches her forehead to mine and I forget that she annoyed me. I kiss her and she tastes like tomatoes and cheese and I love her. I love her.
We finish eating and she gets up to take the plates to the sink and I follow, bringing the glasses and the bowls.
When we get to her bedroom, I stretch out on her bed, resting against her pillows. She turns on the stereo and then sits cross-legged beside me as an angst-ridden female croons softly from the speakers.
I look at her as she rests her chin in her hand and I feel bad that I made it seem as if I care more about the boat than I do about us. I know she knows differently but I want her to know why it hurts me so much to think of True Love sinking.
“Everything good and true and real in my life happened on that boat, Potter. I’m sorry I can’t let it go, but you have to understand,” I say after awhile spent in quiet. Her thoughtful look urges me to continue. “I worked on that boat when I was frustrated by my feelings for you. I repaired that boat when I thought I could never repair my relationship with you or Dawson or Andie. You told me you loved me on that boat, or close to it. The best memories of my life happened on that boat, and now it’s on the ocean floor.”
She continues to look at me, her head tilted. “Tell me some of those memories,” she asks softly.
I think for a moment and I smile, thinking of the little boy who’s going to grow up and be difficult and stubborn and a genuine smart-ass. Who‘s going make his counselor rue the day she put the two of us together in the mentoring program. “Buzz and I worked on that boat together and he actually did a lot of work. Bitching and moaning the whole time, of course, but he and I got close and it was really good to hang out with him. I needed a friend who didn’t know or particularly care if I was screwing up my life. He needed a friend who wouldn’t leave him when he acted like a brat.”
She smiles, and I remember how well she and Buzz got along the few times they’d been around each other. “Have you seen him lately?”
“I see him once a week during our scheduled sessions, and he’s doing a lot better with acting up in class and everything. He’s calmed down a lot,” I tell her. “I wish I had more time for him but he’s made some more friends his own age and that’s great.”
“Yeah. You should kidnap him one weekend and go do some boy thing or something,” she says.
“I probably will,” I answer.
“Tell me some more,” she asks.
“Remember that first morning in the hammock?” I ask her, and she grins, hiding her face in her hands as she groans. “You had run up to the docks the evening before and told me you thought you were in love with me. You asked if you could go with me. And that night, we laid in the hammock and talked until the sun came up. I don’t even remember specifically what we said . . . I just know that I remember thinking that I’d never been able to talk to someone the way I can talk to you. We fell asleep in each other’s arms and we didn’t wake up until that afternoon.”
“And that’s when I decided I needed my very own hammock,” she continues, lowering her hands and revealing her pinkened complexion.
“The look on your face when you realized I was hard, I’ll never forget it,” I laugh, which makes her blush even further. “I’ve never heard you stammer more or seen your face redder.”
She sticks her tongue out at me and I keep laughing, agreeing with her when she says, “You weren’t exactly the most suave guy on earth either. You nearly overturned the hammock in your desperate attempt to get the hell away when you realized which part of you had reacted to which part of me.”
“Of course I tried to get away from you! You were so shocked. You looked like a scared virgin on a sacrificial slab!” I defend myself, incredulous that my suaveness is even in question. I was being gallant.
“Probably cause I was a scared virgin!” she splutters, smacking me on the leg.
I raise an eyebrow and look at her, trying my best to keep a straight face. “Are you saying that now you’re not a scared virgin? When did the deflowering occur? And where the hell was I?”
“Welcome to the new millennium, Pacey. “Deflowering”? Archaic,” she tosses off, playfully avoiding the question.
“Answer me and my archaic self.”
“Oh, please. You’ll know the very moment I’m ‘deflowered‘, Pacey. As for the scared part? Well, let’s just say that I’m feeling braver by the day,” she says, the smile on her face a mile wide, her eyes scrunched up, her nose wrinkled. Embarrassed to the bone and beautiful. “Moving on now.”
I continue to gaze at her and the smile begins to fade and the eyes begin to widen. When I wink at her she looks away and I chuckle. “Scaredy cat.”
“I thought you wanted me to continue with the memories? We were having a bonding moment, Jo. Priceless, really.”
The glare I receive would freeze a lesser man but me, I only get a little frostbite. “Okay, moving on.”
“Thank you,” she replies archly.
“Oh, you’re welcome,” I grant her smoothly.
She narrows her eyes, smiling falsely. “So kind of you.”
“I’m generous,” I shrug. It’s a curse that’s plagued me all my life.
“You’re an ass is what you are.”
“You love me for it.”
“For your ass? Think again.”
“Oh, please,” I mock her earlier tone. “You have lusted after my ass for so long now. Remember that day when you came downstairs while I was changing? You stared at my bare white ass and you, Miss Josephine, enjoyed it.“
By a quirk of an eyebrow she acknowledges who took that round and I continue the stroll down memory lane. “We were down in the Keys when that happened. Do you remember how beautiful it was down there? How the water seemed to sparkle more and the sand was brighter?”
“It was beautiful,” she smiles. “I remember how hot it was and how that island girl put my hair in braids for ten bucks. It felt so good to have my hair not stuck to my neck.”
“It was lovely. It really was, the girl did a good job. Earned every dime of that money. Every braid was tiny and perfect and ended with three multicolored beads that clicked together when you moved your head.”
“You hated it.”
“Absolutely,” I nod vigorously. “I love touching your hair when I kiss you and the braids just were not cooperating. And those god damned beads! Click clack click clack.”
She laughs and I remember her throwing back her head and howling when I first told her why I didn’t like her hair like that. “You gave me a hard time about it, saying it was chauvinistic of me to expect you to stop wearing your hair a certain way just because I didn’t care for it.”
“But I did let you take it out, if you do recall,” she points out.
I remember. “We sat up on deck and talked while I unraveled every single braid, throwing the beads into the ocean as I went along. It took hours.”
“Hours longer than it took to put them in, by the way,” she teases.
“Well, they were small and I didn’t want to pull your hair and stop looking at me like that. So I liked touching your hair, all soft and crinkly from the braids. Big deal,” I say.
“It is a big deal. You know why?”
And here it comes. The moral of the story, folks.
“Why’s that, Jo?” I ask gamely.
“Because you obviously still remember it. Did those memories disappear once True Love sank? If she sank at all?”
She’s not done yet. “Do those memories mean any less to you without the boat?”
“Do you see what I’m getting at here, Pacey?” she questions, tilting her head.
“Yes?” I try again.
She makes a face and I say, “Yes, I know that even though I lost the boat, I didn’t lose the memories.”
“And why’s that?” she prods me.
I sigh dramatically and say, “Because I carry the memories with me? Oh, I hope that’s the right answer.” I cross my fingers for effect.
She smacks my leg and I drop the wise-ass act. “I know the memories are part of me, part of us, and not the boat. I know that.”
Joey smiles, relieved. “Good to know.”
She’s moving close to kiss me, leaning over me from where she’s sitting by my waist. Before our mouths meet, we’re interrupted by Bessie clearing her throat so hard it makes her cough.
“Bessie. Hi. Been so long since I’ve seen you, nice of you to come in to visit,” I say. “What do you want?”
“Grateful man,” I correct her.
“Your sister’s on the phone for you,” she says, tossing the phone on the bed. “Goodnight.”
Joey and I say our goodnights to her and I pick up the phone. “Hey, Gretch.”
“Pacey! Are you okay? I just heard from the Leery’s what happened.”
The Leerys. God.
“I’m fine, Gretchen. Really.”
“Do I need to call you names?” she sighs. “Do I need to berate you for your stupidity?”
“I’ve got that covered, thanks.”
“I love you, loser.”
“And it’s moments like these that touch me, deep inside,” I smile. It is a little touching, that at least one Witter cares.
“So . . . I bet I won’t be seeing you until tomorrow,” she says after a moment, prodding me for info.
“Not until after school, no,” I say, not offering more or responding to the lascivious note in her tone.
“Didn’t you hear?” she asks, surprised. “School’s canceled for clean up. You have a nice three-day weekend.”
I look at Jo, who’s been flipping through a book off her nightstand while I talk. “Jo, school’s canceled tomorrow.”
She smiles brightly. “That’s great! That gives us even more time to study.”
Gretchen hears her and I listen to her laugh. “Can’t wait, Potter.”
“I’m gonna let you go now,” she says.
“Goodnight, Pace,” Gretchen tells me and then I hear the dial tone. Pushing the End button on the phone, I put it on the nightstand.
“Speaking of goodnights . . . I’m kinda beat and you’re tired, too,” I say. “I’m gonna go hit Bessie up for a guestroom.”
She’s quiet for a moment and continues looking at her book. “You could stay here.”
Joey sets the book back down on the dresser. “What? There’s no harm.”
“Bessie wouldn’t appreciate it very much and to the patrons of this fine establishment your reputation would be sullied beyond repair.”
She looks at me and I know then that whatever protests I think of will fall on deaf ears. She wants me to stay and since I basically want the same thing, my resistance crumbles.
I nod and she gets up, walking over to her dresser. She pulls open her drawer and pulls out an oversized hockey jersey that belonged to her father in a previous life and reaches for the hem of her t-shirt.
I’ve taken the opportunity to rid myself of my sweatshirt and I toss it to the hamper, meeting her eyes when she turns back to see if I’m looking.
“Of course I’m going to watch.”
“Of course you’re not.”
I let out a big, pained sigh and turn over on my stomach, resting my head on my forearms, grumbling all the while. “I never get to see the good stuff.”
She laughs, the tinkering sound muffled by material as she changes. “Poor baby. I feel your pain.”
“Of all the things to feel, you chose that?”
She doesn’t have a quick come back for that and I smile to myself, continuing. “There are lots and lots of other things for you to feel.”
“My aching shoulders, for one. They hurt like a bitch from - “
“- when you nearly died out there,” she interrupts, her voice soft.
I would have turned over to look at her but then I felt the bed shift beneath her and then I felt her weight as she straddled my ass.
I feel her hands on my back as she begins to massage my aching muscles, her touch soothing. After several long moments, she breaks the silence. “I nearly lost you, Pacey.”
I don’t know how to reassure her. “But you didn’t.”
“I could have,” she insists.
There’s a long pause and then she says, “You make me mad enough to scream sometimes.”
I laugh and hope that doesn’t anger her. “So scream, honey.”
“I’d love to but I don’t want everyone running in here,” she says in a matter-of-fact tone.
Sighing as she rubs my lower back with slow motions, I wing it and hope I get it right. “I’ll take you out somewhere tomorrow, out in the country. You can scream and nobody will care.”
“There might be some violence involved. Strongly worded tangents screamed at you. You scared me to death and I think I want to kick your ass,” she tells me while she tenderly kneads the sore muscles in my mid-back.
“Violence and adult language? Throw in a little gratuitous nudity and count me in,” I say, unable to stop myself. I yelp at the answering pinch and then say seriously, “You can kick my ass if that’s what will make you feel better, Jo.”
Her hands leave me and before I have the time to miss her touch she’s lying flush against my back. Her smooth cheek rests on my shoulder blade and her voice is small when she says, “I don’t really want to kick your ass, Pacey. Not much, anyway.”
“I know,” I say gently, stretching out further beneath her.
She’s quiet then and after awhile I start to nod off. I’m so tired and she’s so warm against me and then, when I think she’s fallen asleep, she speaks in a voice so quiet that I have a hard time catching what she says.
Her breath is warm against my skin and one of her hands continues to idly caress my upper arm. “I love you, Pacey.”
She doesn’t say it often and neither do I. We reference it, we say it in roundabout ways, but rarely do we say those three little words to each other. So I know this is from her heart and I want to show her that I heard and that I know. It’s still hard for me to believe, but I know.
Shifting slightly, I cover her hand with my own and she snuggles a little tighter against me. I doze off beneath her and it’s one of the deepest sleeps I’ve had in a long, long time.
When I awaken the next morning, it takes me a moment to remember what the hell I’m doing in Joey’s bed. Then it comes back to me in flashes: the storm, Dawson coming to my rescue, the look on Joey’s face that made me leave True Love.
I look at her as she lies beside me, so close she’s sharing the pillow with me. Her hair is tousled and she’s snoring ever so slightly and she’s utterly adorable. I want to kiss her but I don’t want to wake her. So instead I lie here a while longer, content to watch her sleep.
My thoughts return to Dawson and how I’d known he would come for us, how I’d known that he knew that I’d head for that cove. Sure enough, he had. I remember his face when I said I was staying with True Love, how incredulous he’d been and looking back, that was pretty stupid of me.
I nearly went over to him last night, afterward when he was leaning against his parent’s SUV. I didn’t and now I have to go over there and choke back a shitload of pride and thank him for saving my life and Jen’s, too.
Not only that, but my conscious has been screaming at me to apologize to him for what happened last spring with Joey.
Thinking of Joey brings my attention back to her, and she begins to stir beneath my gaze. Lazily opening her eyes, she sees me watching her and smiles. Her voice is scratchy as she says, “You’re such a dork. Why are you staring at me?”
I laugh and brush away a few wayward strands of hair, loving the way she closes her eyes briefly and nuzzles her face into my touch. “Because you’re beautiful.”
“Yeah, sure,” she dismisses the comment, blushing. “How’d you sleep?”
“Like a baby. And you know what made it wonderful?”
I can see by the look in her eyes that she’s anticipating an explanation so romantic that she’ll have to steel herself from swooning.
“I had a Joey on my back and for once she wasn’t nagging me.”
Her mouth drops open and before she can voice her indignation, I kiss her.
When we break apart long moments later, she offers me a half-smile. “Well?”
“Aren’t you going to tell me?”
“Tell you what?” I ask, playing dumb. It ain’t too hard these days.
“What’s wrong with you?”
I sigh, and pull the covers closer around us. Oh, where do I begin?
The words ‘I knew it’ are written plainly on her face and I continue. “I’m gonna go see him this morning.”
She nods sedately and I know she’s about to burst at the seams, she’s so thrilled. “That’s a good idea,” she calmly replies.
“No!” I exclaim, all shocked and appalled. “Really?”
She makes a face, trying not to laugh. “Okay, so maybe I haven’t been the very picture of subtlety when it comes to you and Dawson rebuilding your friendship.”
“I only - what was the word? nag? - because I care, Pacey.”
“Why?” I ask her.
She looks thoughtful for a moment and I can tell she’s searching for the right words. “The three of us were always close, especially growing up. You guys were my only friends, especially after the Potter’s became the biggest scandal to hit Capeside in decades. But you know what? I was the third wheel.”
“You weren’t a third wheel, Jo.”
“Yes I was. You two excluded me more and more as we grew older. I tried to be one of the boys but when it comes right down to it, I don’t have a penis.”
I laugh, slightly shocked she even said the word. “Maybe I wasn’t so appreciative of that fact when I was ten but I’m thanking God for that now, Jo.”
“Anyway,” she cuts in. “There’s always been a bond between the two of you that I couldn’t touch, however close I was to you both. You’re closer than most brothers are, Pacey. At least, you were.”
“You feel guilty,” I realize.
She nods and continues. “Because of me, you’re both hurting without the friendship of the other. And I don’t know if you believe this or not, but I mostly care about how it’s affecting you. Of course it bothers me that Dawson is hurt and of course I wish things could have gone differently in the sense that we could have spared him more of it. But Pacey, I know that underneath the snide comments you make about him, however much you profess not to care, you miss him. Don’t you?”
She’s good. Damn good. Too good. “Yeah.”
“He misses you too, Pacey.”
I hear the bitter harshness of my own laughter. “Really.”
“Yes, really,” she insists. “He didn’t say that in so many words but he does. He just feels betrayed.”
“So do I.”
I’ve surprised her and it’s obvious that she’s confused by my statement so I elaborate further. “I’m not saying that he doesn’t have the right to feel betrayed. He felt that you were his, no matter if you were broken up or not, and I knew that. I just . . . I just couldn’t stop myself from falling for you. But . . .”
She touches my face and urges me to continue. “But . . . “
“But he betrayed me, too,” I tell her, voicing these feelings for the first time. “Jo, all my life, everyone has told me that I’m a failure. That I’m a worthless screw-up with nothing good to offer anyone. But Dawson? He treated me like I was human. Like I was a good person and he was glad I was his friend. He told me that it was just too damn bad that my own family didn’t know what a great son they have. And then when he found out that I loved you? Or at the very least, had strong feelings for you? He went straight for the jugular.”
“He was jealous. He’s still jealous. And I know that doesn’t excuse him for playing on your insecurities, but Pacey . . . he didn’t mean it. Those things he said the night he found out? He was hurting and he lashed out.”
She has an undeniable point there and I acknowledge it. “But what if he really does think I’m just a sex-obsessed, arrogant asshole who doesn’t care about anything other than getting laid?”
Shaking her head, she says, “He doesn’t. He just wants to know that you care that you hurt his feelings, that you at least feel badly about it.”
“Then tell him. When you go over to thank him, tell him that you do regret it.”
“He won’t listen,” I tell her. “He walks away as soon as he sees me and he acts like I’m nothing, like I’m not even there.”
“I think he’s ready to hear it.”
“Jo. . . “
“You’re going to have to be the one to make the first step, Pacey.”
I’m silent for awhile, mulling over
her words. She’s right but I don’t want to admit it. Finally
I say, “I’ll apologize for hurting him but I don’t think it’ll make much
difference. Because in the end, I can’t say I’m sorry that you love
me and that’s what it really comes down to, Jo.”
“I don’t think he expects you to apologize for being the man I love,” she says. She surprises me again when she says, “And if he does, he has even bigger problems coping with reality that we’ve always thought.”
Her words are exactly what I need to hear and I’m once again amazed by her. Leaning closer to her, I kiss her forehead and she snuggles closer to my body and we lie like that for God knows how long.
Much later, after a hearty brunch shared with both the Potters and the inn’s guests, she sees me to the door and follows me out onto the porch.
“It’s a beautiful day,” she remarks, looking toward the clear blue sky.
“Wanna spend it with me?” I ask, wrapping my arms around her waist.
“But of course. You thought I was kidding about studying, but no. Don‘t forget your bookbag when you go home to change,” she tells me, sweetening the words with a kiss.
The storm has swept through and while it certainly wreaked havoc on our lives, the world looks all the better for it. Cleaner and somehow brighter; fresh and new. Full of possibility.
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