I Shall Believe by: Freakbunni


Time: Moments before the season 1 finale kiss . . .

Note from Author: This is my first Fan Fic story, so I'd really appreciate any form of feedback and constructive criticism. Salamat Po!

I Shall Believe

[Background music: "Say Goodnight," Beth Nielsen-Chapman]

"See ya round, Dawson," Joey uttered, turning away to hide the pain and disappointment of Dawson's silence. She made her way toward the window.

*She's leaving. She's LEAVING.*

Dawson's head was spinning with things he wanted to say but he couldn't find the words. *This is my last chance, he thought. My only chance. She's going to step out of this room and into France and I'll never know if . . . if . . . *

"Joey!" Dawson lurched in her direction. He grabbed her arm, whirling her around so that they were facing each other. Joey. He took a deep breath, and kissed her.

The shock of Dawson's lips on hers rendered Joey speechless, thoughtless. Dawson pulled back gently, wanting to see her face. His hand had somehow managed to mold itself to her cheek. Again their lips met, but this time Joey was powered by every emotion she had ever felt for Dawson. Her arms wrapped around his neck as his wrapped around her waist.

The kiss. Oh the kiss. It was like the brilliance of a sunset coupled with the sweetness of an infant's laughter. When it ended, Joey did not want to open her eyes for fear that it was only a dream. Her forehead rested on Dawson's chin and they clung to each other, motionless, as if in a state of suspended animation.

*It's happened. It's finally happened . . . with Dawson.* At last, some consolation for her agonizing waiting and hoping. Joey's mind drifted, remembering everything they had been through together. Dawson had been there for Joey during the most crucial events of her life, from her mother's death and her father's incarceration to the birth of her nephew, Alexander. This man standing before her, her best friend, the object of her affection, was the one person who knew her inside and out.

A sudden cloud of doubt appeared. *Is that a good thing?* she asked herself. He knew everything: her likes, her dislikes, her fears, her strengths, her weaknesses, her flaws . . . Joey unexpectedly shuddered at the thought. EVERYTHING. A feeling of confusion came over her.

"Joey? What's wrong?" he asked with a look of concern.

She looked back up at him, bewildered. "I'm sorry Dawson. I have to go." She broke free from his embrace, ran to the window, and flew down the ladder. She made a mad dash to the dock, got into the boat, and rowed as fast as her arms were capable of.

*Oh no, not again.* "Joey! JOEY! Wait!" Dawson yelled. *What did I do? What?!*

Dawson sped out of his room and rushed to catch up with her. By the time he reached the docks, Joey was too far away for him to stop her.

*Do something! Stop her! Jump in!* he thought, but he remained where he was, fixed at the end of the dock, watching Joey clumsily rowing away. He stayed there for what seemed like an eternity, thinking, pondering, trying to come to some understanding of what just happened.

*What have I done? Oh God, what is wrong with me?* Dawson searched for the reasons behind his actions. He had a sudden feeling of regret. *Why did you kiss her, Dawson? WHY?* he thought to himself. *Do I have feelings for her? Or do I just feel guilty because I caused her pain by telling her everything about Jen and me? Was that truly honesty back there, or was it just some selfish ploy to keep her from going to France? It all happened so fast* . . . An exasperated moan escaped him. He sat down and put his head in his hands.

["Say goodnight, not goodbye . . ."]

"Where have you been?" asked Doug as Pacey entered the room.

"Doing nothing in a place called Nowhere," Pacey retorted, making his way to the stairs.

"Where do you think you're going? Get back down here!" boomed Mr. Whitter from the dining room. Pacey stopped in his tracks. Never before had he heard that tone of voice from his father. *I think I've just pushed his delinquency tolerance level to new heights,* he thought before facing his dad.

"We'll do this in an organized manner," Mr. Whitter began, obviously trying to contain the rage within. "First, I would like the keys to the station wagon back." Pacey fished them out of his pocket and put them on the table.

"Pacey, I have tried long and hard to understand you. When I think I have you figured out, you pull this SHIT on me. You steal the car and drive off to God knows where. You don't even HAVE A FRIGGIN' LICENSE! On top of all that, you flunk all your classes AND you manage to almost ruin the career of a respectable teacher!" Pacey bit back the truth. *No use opening up that old wound,* he thought.

"Ever since you started high school, you've been nothing but a scourge to the Whitter family. No direction, no ambition . . . nothing! Your presence in this house is an embarrassment to me, your mother, and Doug! Speaking of Doug, why can't you be more like him? When he was your age he was captain of the debate team, the starting quarterback of the football team, class president, on the honor roll . . . Look at me when I'm talking to you, goddammit!" He stopped his barrage of attacks long enough see the look of defeat on Pacey's face.

"I have had enough of your crap, Pacey. I've done what I can, and that wasn't enough. Enjoy these next few weeks here because after that it may be a while before that moronic smirk of yours graces your face. You'll be finishing out your high school career at Grammercy Military Institute for Young Men in Boston. What do you think about that?"

Pacey was both hurt and angered. He lashed out at his father. "Why didn't you tell me you wanted me gone? I could have left months ago! And you wouldn't have had to pay an exorbitant amount of money for my tuition to this pointless educational boot camp!"

"I will not tolerate this disrespect in my house, do you hear me?"

"YES YOU WILL TOLERATE IT AND YOU WILL LISTEN TO EVERY LAST WORD I HAVE TO SAY!" Pacey's emotional outburst stunned his father into silence. In the back of his mind he heard Joey's voice: "Tell him how you feel."

"If you put as much faith in me," Pacey calmly began, "as you put in Doug . . . if you for once gave me some kind of decent recognition for the things I tried to accomplish while I was growing up instead pointing out my mistakes and shortcomings, then maybe I would have been motivated enough to make you proud of me, Dad.

"Remember when I struck out at the championship little league game, dad? When I was eight? It was bad enough that my coach and teammates considered me an outcast, but to come home and hear my own father talk disgustedly about my failure, then turn and look at Doug, his picture perfect son, and say, 'At least I have you'?" Pacey began to choke up. "All I needed from you was a little sympathy and understanding, but what do I get?! A caring, nurturing environment?! No! I end up with a painful rejection from someone . . . from someone who is supposed to offer me encouragement and support.

"You don't want me to change. You've given up on me. You just want to be rid of me, like I wanted to be rid of you. Wanted. I ask myself now what could possibly be better than leaving this unappreciative household." Pacey paused, taking a deep breath. "For once I want to know what it feels like to have you put your arm around me and tell me we're going fishing. Or we're going to play catch. To feel like your son and not like a stray dog you picked up off the streets and vent your frustrations on. To not be reminded everyday how much of a loser I am. To feel loved by you." Pacey looked his father in the eye. "I don't think you're capable of that anymore, Dad. It's always 'Why can't you be like this, Pacey?' or 'I can't believe how stupid you are Pacey!'or better yet 'You are one big failure, Pacey!" yada yada yada. You have your own image of me that has been deeply embedded into your mind, and I feel I have to live up to it. I was never given an alternate set of expectations to live up to. No kind of incentive to change. That would be too much, wouldn't it? So now your solution is to send me off to disciplinary hell to take care of the job you don't care to do yourself." Pacey paused, letting his father absorb what he had just said. "Now if you'll excuse me," Pacey said, still holding his father's stare, "I'm going to proceed to enjoy my last few weeks here with my moronic smirk on my face." Pacey stormed out of the house.

[Background music: "Landslide," Fleetwood Mac]

Meanwhile, Joey had finally exhausted herself. She put the oars down and let the boat drift downstream. Crickets sang their nighttime serenade as Joey struggled to come to grips with what she was feeling.

*Have you lost your mind?* she thought. *All that time spent pining over Dawson and now, when the situation presents itself, you run like an idiot!* The fact that Dawson knew everything about her scared Joey. But why now? Dawson had known everything for a long time, but why was it bothering her now? *We were just friends then. Now we're slowly becoming more and I'm afraid.* Both that and the kiss they had shared just moments ago brought back the sense of vulnerability Joey promised herself she would never feel after the death of her mother.

*I can't,* she thought. *I can't let myself be vulnerable. I can't put down my guard because I'll get hurt again. Like with Dad.* Tears appeared at the corners of her eyes. *Like with Mom.* Joey tried to brush away the image of her mother, lying serenely in her casket. It had been a while since she thought of her.

She put all her trust, all her faith, all her love into her parents, the two people who are supposed to offer stability in her life, but what happened? They left her. She knew they didn't leave intentionally, but the fact that they weren't there for her . . .

And then there was Dawson. The one person who could give her so much joy yet bring her so much pain. He was the stable thing in her life now and if somewhere along the way he decided that what happened in his room was a mistake . . . *My world will fall apart. You're the idiot who wanted change. And now you got it.* If this incident with Dawson turned against her, she would never be able to get back the security and safety she found in their friendship.

*I'm such a hypocrite. One minute I'm criticizing Dawson because he was scared of what might happen between us and the next minute here I am, sitting in a boat, afraid of potentially getting hurt by another person I love.* She paused. *Love. I love Dawson.* This was the first time she had ever admitted it.

Her mind drifted to the other man in her life, her father. She gave him a chance, didn't she? For one split second she shed her defenses and something beautiful and totally unexpected came out of it. She reconnected with her father. *If I can do that with him, she thought, then why can't I do it with Dawson?* Her mind searched for the answer. *Because there's so much more at stake.* She let out a miserable laugh in spite of herself. *I'm supposed to be this strong person, but in reality I'm just one big chicken shit sitting in a rowboat.* Physically and emotionally drained, Joey used what strength she had left to row home.

["The Landslide will bring it down . . ."]

After the emotional skirmish with his father, Pacey found himself aimlessly roaming the streets of Capeside. *Private Whitter reporting for duty, Sir!* he thought to himself. He lingered toward the docks and noticed a solitary figure seated at the end of one of the piers. As he approached it, he saw that it was Jen.

"Hey Jen. Funny seeing you out here at this hour," Pacey commented as he placed a hand on her shoulder.

"Pacey?" she said tearfully. She looked up at him and Pacey immediately knew something was wrong. Jen's eyes were rimmed red and her face was wet with tears.

"What's wrong? Are you alright? What happened?" Pacey sat next to her, his face showing genuine concern.

"Gramps died this morning."

"Oh geez, I'm sorry." Pacey sat there, watching Jen cry, not knowing what else to say. "Jen? I know that we never really got past our everyday chit chat phase," Pacey continued, "but I'm willing to listen if you want to talk about it."

Jen took a moment to collect her thoughts. "When my grandfather woke up yesterday, I felt a surge of happiness that I haven't had in a long time. Did you know that when he found about me in New York, he came up and took me here for a weekend? He assured me that everything would be alright; that no matter what happened, he'd always be here for me. Unlike my parents, he wasn't angry at me. Just very disappointed. He was the only one who tried to understand why I did the things I did. He didn't scorn me, didn't criticize me, didn't cast me away. I felt such an enormous relief, being with him. Then the following weekend he had his first stroke." She paused and blew her nose.

"The only other person who made me feel that way was Dawson. And now I've lost him too. Why is it that we never realize what we have until it's gone?"

"Because we think in our minds that what we have will always be there, when in reality there's no guarantee that it'll still be here the next day. You're not alone, Jen. Trust me. Everyone feels the same way."

"I feel like I'm losing everything, Pacey. I'm so glad that you're here with me. Thank you."

Pacey felt a pang of guilt. "Don't take this the wrong way Jen, given your present situation and everything . . ."


"My dad's sending me to some military school in Boston. I'll be transferring there in a couple of weeks."

"Oh my God, what happened?"

"We had our routine fall out for the day a few hours ago. You know, the same old same old. 'Pacey you're a loser, an embarrassment,' blah, blah, blah. He can't put up with me any more so off I go into the wild blue yonder. The things he said about me never really bothered me until now. I guess it's because of what happened between Joey and her father yesterday."

"Joey finally talked to him?"

"Yeah. She told him how she felt, and they just totally discarded three years worth of emotional baggage." Pacey stopped for a moment and looked up at the night sky. "I thought that maybe I could do the same with my father. Tell him how he had hurt me. I realize now that what I said to him would never change how he looked at me, his loser son. He doesn't believe in me anymore, Jen. That's why he's getting rid of me."

"Then why don't you prove him wrong? Show him that you're capable of doing the right thing. I know that you can."

Pacey thought for a moment. "Because I know he won't let me," he replied, dejected.

They sat awhile, wrapped up in their own thoughts.

"Pacey? Can . . . can you hold me? Just for a little while?" Jen asked quietly.

Pacey was more than willing. "Sure Jen."

[Background music: "I Shall Believe," Sheryl Crow]

They sat at the end of the pier, finding comfort in each others arms.

["Come to me now, and lay your hands over me . . . even if it's a lie, say it will be alright, and I shall believe . . ."]

Exhausted beyond belief, Joey slowly got out of the boat and found her way to the front door of her house. She entered her room and proceeded to collapse on the bed. Hearing the crinkle of paper underneath her, Joey reluctantly got back up to see what she was lying on.

"Josephine Potter, you have been selected to represent your student body in the first foreign exchange program in the history of Capeside High," it said in large bold print at the top of the paper.

*France,* she thought. *How can I possibly consider leaving now? I should have went back. I shouldn't have run out on Dawson like that.* She was about to bury her head into a pillow when a tap on her window startled her. She jumped back when it opened and an equally exhausted Dawson Leery popped in.

"I'm sorry Joey, bursting in here like this," Dawson began, "but I just couldn't put this off until tomorrow. We need to talk. Please." His face was a portrait of desperation.

Joey was about to say something when she heard Alex begin to whimper in the room next door. "Not here. We'll wake Alex up and then neither of us will be able to say anything."

"Where then?"

"Anywhere but here."

Her previous fatigue already forgotten, Joey climbed out the window. Dawson followed her lead.

"I took my parent's car," Dawson said, making his way to the parked sedan. "But you don't know how to drive!" "Joey, just get in. It's no different from those race cars we used to ride in at Grand Prix Park."

"That's what I'm afraid of."

Neither of them spoke as Dawson drove into the night. After what seemed like an eternity of silence, they reached their destination. The ruins.

Dawson stopped the car and got out. Joey followed.

Just like in the car, neither of them said a word.

"Why did you run away like that, Jo?" Dawson asked, breaking the silence.

"Why did you kiss me back there Dawson?"

"Come on, I asked first."

"And I asked second."

"Look, I didn't come out here to argue with you alright? You left me back there, confused as hell, and I have a right to know why."

They stared at each other in frustration, not wanting to give in, but not wanting to give up.

"I was afraid," Joey said silently, looking down. "I know it sounds so hypocritical but the full gravity of the situation didn't hit me until now." She sat down.

"Afraid of what?" Dawson asked softly.

"How do you feel about me Dawson? Because . . ." she hesitated, beginning to cry. Dawson knelt down in front of her.

"Because?" he asked, feeling her teardrops fall onto the back of his hand.

"Because I love you," Joey managed to say. " And I'm afraid that you might not feel the same way. I'm afraid that somewhere in the near future you might decide that kiss was all just a big misunderstanding. You're the only thing that has been constant in my life, Dawson. And I'm afraid of losing that. I'm afraid of losing you like I lost my parents."

The pain in her eyes shattered Dawson's heart. "You make me feel so vulnerable Dawson," she continued. "You're my weakness. When my mother died and my father was thrown into prison, I made this unconscious promise that I would never let anyone hurt me, and I'm sitting here looking at you now and I know that you would never do anything that would cause me pain, but I just can't shake this feeling of future disappointment."

Dawson looked up her, watching the tears stream down her face. He took her hand in his and wiped away her tears with the other.

"Joey, when you ran away (for the second time I might add), I didn't know what to think. I sat on the docks trying to . . . unconfuse myself. I thought of why I kissed you back there. Thought long and hard. It was a mix of a lot of things, really. I was guilty and selfish. Selfish because I didn't want you to leave me. Guilty because I caused you so much pain. Because you sacrificed your happiness for the sake of mine."

Joey stared at him, defeated. "What are you trying to tell me, Dawson? That it was just a sympathy kiss? I am not your obligation, Dawson, and I don't need you of all people to feel sorry for me cause I get enough of that from everyone else." She got up to leave but Dawson pulled her back down, keeping her where she was.

"Wait! You didn't let me finish!" Joey stopped squirming, seeing the intense look on Dawson's face. "There was something else, Jo. Something so much more profound. Something that came out of the kiss itself. You ask me how I feel about you Joey. I don't exactly know, and I apologize. But what I do know is that my feelings for you go beyond friendship, beyond anything I ever felt with Jen, or any other girl.

"I know what you want most from me is honesty, so I'm not going to sit here and make promises that I can't keep. I know that you've been deeply hurt by the ones you loved in the past, whether intentional or not, but that doesn't mean that the ones you love now will do the same. I can't guarantee the future, Joey. I wish I could. But what matters most is the present. I can guarantee this moment, here with you, holding your hand. If all you do is worry about the future, then you'll miss out on all the good things that are happening right now.

"I want you to be happy Joey. I want things to work out for the both of us." He stopped long enough to cup her chin, lifting her face so that their eyes met. "I want you."

"Do you?"

"I've never been so sure about anything in my life, Joey." Dawson pulled her in and gently kissed her lips.

[Open the door, and show me your face tonight . . . I know it's true no one heals me like you, cause you hold the key . . . never again will I turn away from you . . . I'm so heavy tonight, cause your love is alright, and I do believe . . . That not everything is gonna be the way it ought to be . . . Seems like everytime I try to make things right it all comes down on me . . . Please say honestly you won't give up on me . . . And I shall believe . . . I shall believe]


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