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Author's Notes: Wow! The feedback on this has been amazing and so, so inspirational! Thank you especially to Eden and Chris, but thank you to all of you who wrote me and complimented the story. I am so thankful.
“Will!” Joey called. “Will, you won’t believe who came!” Will set down his briefcase after a long day at work and rubbed the ridge of his nose where his glasses sat. Will knew.. he didn’t know how. The sound of her voice, maybe. Or the wide grin, completely unlike one he had ever seen on her before. But whatever it was, he knew alright. Damn that Dawson Leery. And now here he was, the famous director, Wade Leery. And even more famous, the Dawson Leery of Joey’s past. The one he had been forced to hear about over and over.. and over. Every time they went to a video store his name came up. When the went to visit Capeside. When one of Joey’s old friends came. When they read the newspaper, Entertainment Weekly, or even the New York Times.
Joey said she never got to see him, Will felt he saw all too much of Dawson Leery. Or Wade Leery. Whichever, the man was, Will had an instinctal jealousy of him. And who could really blame the guy? Jack was thinking this to himself. Joey talked about Dawson all the time. The month before she wrote that fateful letter to him she had talked about it constantly. How she had to do it, how she wanted to do it, how she needed him. And that wasn’t all. Dawson Leery had never left Josephine Potter’s heart, a fact everyone in that room knew except for Joey and Dawson themselves.
Will took Dawson’s hand for a cool shake.
“Hello, Dawson. I’m Will.” He put his arm around Joey’s shoulder possessively.
“Hey Will,” Dawson sized up the man. He was older than the rest of them, maybe thirty five. He was definitly an attractive man, but in more of a distinguished Michael Douglass in The American President way.
There was an awkward silence for a few long lasting moments until Joey said, “Well, dinners almost ready. Jack, give me a hand?”
“Surely,” said Jack, following behind her into the kitchen. Pacey and Andie looked at each other and looked to Will and Dawson who seemed to be staring one another down. Jen sighed and went to find her glasses from her bag in the guest room she was sharing with Jack. Bessie gave an almost bemused look from Will to Dawson.
“How you doing, kid?” Jack rubbed Joey’s shoulders from behind her after bringing in some more dishes from the dining room, where dinner had just been finished.
“Terrible,” Gone was Joey’s mood of elation from earlier when she had realized Dawson really had come. It was replaced by dread and anger and frusteration.
“Did you see those two, Jack!? They can’t even look at each other. And Will’s crack about Dawson’s movie?”
She rested her palms against the sink, and took a deep breath in. “What am I going to do, Jack? Will obviously hates Dawson. He never wanted me to write that letter in the first place. But now that I have Dawson in my life again, I can’t let him go. I won’t.” she said fiercely. Jack rested his chin on the crook between Joey’s neck and shoulder.
“Then don’t.” He said simply.
Joey sighed. “But Will-“
“Joey, since when does someone else control your life?” Jack drew back and she turned around to face him. “All these years, throughout every accomplishment, you used to call me and say ‘why do I still feel like there’s a huge hole in my heart?’ Dawson is so much a part of you, Jo. And now that you have hime in your life again, it’s reasonable to want to keep that. Will will come to understand that.”
Joey closed her eyes and clenched them tightly together.
“I’m about to marry him, Jack. And I’m not.. I’m just not..” A look of shock came over Jack’s face.
“Your not sure, Joey? Is that what you were about to say?” Joey opened her eyes and he saw his answer in them. He took her by the arms tightly.
“You listen closely here, Joey. Will is a good guy. He has his faults, but he’s a good man. So if this is all over his not liking Dawson..”
“No,” Joey whispered. “I just.. I don’t think he’s my soulmate.”
“Joey, if you do this, call off the wedding, you can’t take it back. Ever. Will won’t be in your life anymore. And all for the idea of something that probably doesn’t exist except in Wade Leery’s movies?” there was a quiet.
“Yeah, yeah.. your right. Your right.” Joey felt her sniffles die down, and she smiled. “Of course your right. C’mere.” She pulled him into a hug, but as she looked over his shoulder, her smile faded. He was right, wasn’t he?
Andie cornered Dawson as he was coming out of the bathroom, after doing the nightly ritual of washing his face and brushing his teeth. He was wearing pajamas and she was wearing a nightgown. It made a somewhat amusing picture as she shoved the toothbrush she had in one hand right into his nose.
“Watch it with that thing, would you, Andie?”
“I know you still love her Dawson Leery. I can see these things.. I’m a pyschologist..” she drew out the last word.
“What are you talking about Andie?” Dawson shook his head. Same old Andie.
“Oh, please. The body language, the way you gently touch her hand when you make a point during conversations, the tone of your voice, the sweet things you say to her.. it doesn’t lie Dawson.” Dawson swiped away the toothbrush that she was still jabbing into him.
“Andie, your wrong okay?” He made a move to try to get into his room, but she followed him right in. He rolled his eyes. “I’m just trying to make up for lost time.”
“Oh, please.” Dawson groaned and fell back onto his bed. “I know people. I have to deal with them all the time. But any fool could tell you still love her. Glenna could tell, I swear. Well, don’t be an idiot, Dawson. You have to tell her you love her. Before next week when she walks down that aisle. Or else you and she will regret it for the rest of your lives.” Dawsonheard a door slam, and he cautiously opened one eye to find that she really was gone.
“Thank God,” he muttered. He was only just finishing hanging up his clothes from the day when he heard a knock on the door.
“Go away Andie!” He yelled.
“Dawson, it’s me man.” Pacey stepped into the room.
“Oh, hey Pace.” Dawson smiled and stepped out of the walk in closet. “I’m about to go to bed. What’s up?”
“I just.. I just wanted to tell you it’s really good to see you again. It really is..” Pacey cleared his throat, and Dawson caught a hint of something in his voice.
“Pacey..” said Dawson.
He walked over to him, and out of nowhere they embraced. They hugged each other for a full minute. Then Pacey cleared his throat again and said, “Huphmm. Yeah, well. Night man.” He pounded his found again friend on the shoulder in a manly way and walked out.
Dawson was just about to finally climb under the covers of the bed in the old fashioned wooden room, when there came another knock at the door, more timid this time. Dawson rolled his eyes. This was beginning to be a bit of a running gag.
“Come in!” He called, from his sitting position on the bed. The door opened to reveal Jack.
“Hey, Jack.” Dawson said with some mild surprise. Jack certainly wasn’t here for the same reunion hug that Pacey had been. Joey and Jack had always been closer than Dawson and Jack.
“Dawson. Do not.. under any circumstances.. think that I haven’t noticed that you’ve been pining away for all these years for Joey.”
“Argh!” Dawson gave a strangled yell. “I haven’t pined for her!”
“Sssh.. keep your voice down. I just wanted to well, warn you. No that’s not the right word. Ask you. Ask you to please not lead her on the same way you did ten years ago.”
“Jack, I never led-“
“Whatever.” Jack paused and looked at Dawson seriously. “You weren’t there man. You didn’t see her suffer. You didn’t see the pain she was in. When I drove up to see her on weekends in college, some days I would find her lying on the couch watching reruns of Gilligan’s island, eating a pint of Ben and Jerry’s, and crying. You didn’t have to go through that Dawson. You didn’t have to watch her.. spiral. Please don’t do anything..” Jack broke off. The bad memories were painful. Dawson nodded.
“Goodnight.” Jack left the door cracked behind him. After taking a minute to digest the previous coversation, Dawson pulled back the covers on his bed. He checked his computer dial up and opened his email. He needed Maddie’s advice and support.. badly.
The door opened once more. Dawson screamed into a pillow sitting beside the computer.
“Sorry, am I interrupting the muses?” Asked Jen. “I can come back later.”
“Nah,” sighed Dawson. “That would interrupt the flow you guys have going.” His head dropped onto the keyboard.
“Huh?” Asked Jen, confusedly.
“Let me ask you, did you guys plan this ahead of time?”
“What are you talking about Dawson?”
“Nevermind.” He lifted his head up. “What’s on your mind, Jen?”
“About this wedding, Dawson,” she hesitated.
“What about it?” Dawson asked suspiciously.
“You have to do what you think is right.”
“Are you purposefully being cryptic, or is it just an offset of the indie film circuit.” Jen stuck out her tongue at him.
“What I’m saying, Hollywood sellout,” she said teasingly, then seriously, “is that if you still love her, and I mean really love her, you can’t let it happen. But if your just harboring some leftover crush from adolescence and a hurt ego, then you have to be happy for her when you giver her away. Truly happy for her. I don’t know which is the case, but I think that’s something you have to figure out. I know, in my heart, that she still loves you. Maybe “still” isn’t the right word. I don’t know. It’s like.. it’s like, when we were growing up, maybe you weren’t quite sure what love was, or who you were, or anything. Maybe that’s what doomed you two in the first place, us telling you that you were the “Will They Won’t They Couple of The World”. Maybe you guys should have figured that out in your own time, on your own terms.”
Jen sighed and placed her hand over Dawson’s. “I don’t know any of this for sure. It’s just what I feel and what I sense. So now it’s in your hands.” She paused. “Welcome back, Dawson.” She kissed the top of his head lightly and put her arms around his.
“Thank you, Jen.” Jen started to make her way out of the room, until she turned back, leaving him with just one more thing to think about. “I think if you tell her you love her, she’ll call off the wedding. I think.”
Dawson rubbed his eyes hard. Maybe he should wait to email Maddie tomorrow. What could he really tell her at this point, besides the fact that ten years seemed to have made his friends go insane?
The next knock on Dawson’s door was much lighter than the rest had been. By this time he was already lying in the bed, proofreading the first script for the upcoming tv series. When the door opened, a goddess stood in front of him. Joey walked into the room, her white nightgown skimming the floor.
“Hey,” she said, smiling.
“Hey,” He grinned and took off his reading glasses.
“Nice glasses,” she commented.
“Yeah,” He picked them up and turned them over. “A sign of my age, I guess.” He gave her another big smile. She was sitting on the edge of his bed and picking at some invisible lint on the covers.
“Do you need anything? Another blanket maybe? A waterglass?”
“Nah, I think I have everything I need.”
“Okay, well then.. I guess I’ll just see you in the morning.” She stopped. “I’m.. I’m just so happy you’re here.”
“We’ll talk more later, Joey.”
“Yeah,” she said softly. “I want to talk about a lot of things.”
“And we will,” he smiled at her softly. “I promise.” He got up to walk her to the door. She smiled and crossed the threshold of his door to the door of her and William’s room. As Dawson watched her go in and shut the door he got a look of hurt on his face. Her and William’s room.
Suddenly, from the room diagonal to his, Dawson saw Andie leaning against her door frame.
“Uh huh,” she said knowingly, studying his face. Dawson rolled his eyes for the third time that night, and slammed his door. Andie smiled and closed hers as well.
“I’m so glad were finally getting this time to talk,” Said Joey. She and Dawson were taking a walk in a nearby field. It was a day before the wedding. The past week and a half had been a mess. Between catering disasters, dress fittings, arguments with florists, Will’s family arriving (along with Gayle and Maddie), and all the other joys that accompany a wedding, Dawson and Joey hadn’t had one moment to themselves.
So they were taking advantage of this unadulterated hour, in which the bridesmaid’s were at final fittings, and the groomsmen were as well. Dawson’s tuxedo had come with Maddie, from the depths of his closet. He had worn it to the Academy Awards.
“Me too,” said Dawson. Joey smiled and pulled at the dandelion she was picking from the grass.
He took in a deep breath of air. “This place is really gorgeous.”
“Yeah, it is, isn’t it? I love coming here..” she looked around the sky and the grass. “It’s an old abandoned farm area. It probably belongs to the city, but no one except for a couple of our neighbors comes anywhere near it.”
She and Dawson stopped and leaned against a crumbling wooden farm fence. They sat wordlessly for a few minutes, taking in the beauty around them.
Suddenly, out of nowhere, Joey brought up what remained unspoken between them.
“Did.. that last night, did you mean what you said to me?” She looked into his eyes. “About there not being any love between us anymore?”
Dawson squinted off into the distance. “At the time.. Yeah, I think I did.”
“Oh,” Joey swallowed hard. Dawson looked over to her face.
“But I was stupid, Jo. And hurt. I wanted so badly to be able to just love you and you kept hurting me. Now I understand. To some extent anyway. I get that ‘finding yourself’ wasn’t just some blow off, it was something real you had to do. But it killed me inside. And that’s why I took off, severed connections. I wanted to hurt you the way you hurt me.”
“You did. Believe me, you did.” The tears started to flow down her face freely now.
“I never understood what it was to lose something until you left on that boat and I never talked to you again. There were so many times..” The emotions began to crack his voice now too.
“Were we stupid to do it Dawson? I mean, if I had just said ‘okay, I won’t go.’ Or if you had just waited until I got home..?”
“I can’t live for if’s Joey. Not anymore.” He examined his hands. He had thought about what Jen had said. Long and hard. That adolescent romance, it wasn’t that anymore. It was love. “So instead of if’s, let’s make it a can be.”
“What?” Joey whispered.
“I love you Joey.”
“I know!” He jumped to his feet as well, and grabbed her forearms. He looked into her eyes deeply. “I know. I was an idiot.”
“Joey, call off the wedding. Come to LA with me and marry me instead. You know that this is right. I know that you know that. Were soulmates.. or the closest thing to them. You can’t break that connection. Look! Even ten years couldn’t do it, so how could a piece of paper signed by a pastor?”
“There are exits at each side of the church,” said Jen. “You can still run if you want.”
“What are you talking about,” said Joey, monotonically. She looked beautiful, Jen noted. She compared Joey in her head as a royal princess off to the gallows. It’s how Joey was viewing herself she was sure. Her hair was done up with rosettes, and her form fitting simple dress was elegant.
“Is he here yet?” Joey asked.
“No,” Andie touched her arm, having just come from outside the bridal room. “We really have to start Joey. I know you wanted to wait, but..”
Jen and Andie exchanged looks. They both knew she didn’t want to go through with this, so why was she? Some sense of duty?
“Pacey is ready to go. He says he’ll be proud to walk you down the aisle.”
“Please. Can’t we wait a few more minutes?” Joey exchanged a look with Gayle, who was in the bridal chamber as well, along with a few of Joey’s girlfriends from college and work.
“Honey, their right. We’ve already waited an extra hour. People are getting antsy. I’m sorry he isn’t here.. I guess I’ll just have to represent the Leery family.” Joey gave a brief smile, that looked a bit more like a grimace.
“Okay, then. Let’s go.”
They stood before the entrance to the sanctuary. Andie went after the other two bridesmaids, grabbing Joey’s hand tightly, before releasing and walking down the aisle. Jen, as the last bridesmaid to go, whispered to Joey, “Don’t forget the exits.” Joey closed her eyes and shook her head.
“I’m sorry, kid.” Bessie gave a little smile, and Joey agknowledged it, before her sister and maid of honor took off down the aisle.
Beside her, Pacey gripped onto her arm.
“Here we go, Ice Queen.” She looked at him like she was about to cry as the wedding march started up.
“I just can’t believe he didn’t come,” she said. He tilted up her chin, and they started off down the red carpet. He muttered to himself, “Neither can I. Where are you Dawson?”
Joey reached the alter and gave Pacey a kiss on the cheek. She took her place beside Will, who kept checking his watch. It annoyed Joey, she knew he was doing it to remind her off how long she had insisted on waiting for Dawson.
As the pastor began his schpiel, Joey anxiously looked towards the exits. Maybe Jen was right. Maybe she should just bolt. This wasn’t feeling right. If she was going to do it, now was the time and maybe Jack and Will and everyone else wouldn’t kill her..
“And if there is anyone present who knows why these two should not been joined in holy matrimony, let them speak now or forever hold their piece..” the pastor said. Joey took in her breath, as did the rest of the wedding party. This was it, the moment in all the movies where the real love comes dashing in to protest. It didn’t happen. The moment slipped by. The pastor continued, and Joey felt as though she was going to lose it. She was having a panic attack. And then suddenly in the middle of the pastors droning about marital responsibilities, the church door burst open. Dawson stood there, in jeans and a sweatshirt, looking as though he’d been up all night.
“What’s the meaning of this?” grumbled the minister, as a gentle hum swept through the church, some recognizing Dawson as Wade the director. Joey looked for a moment between Will and Dawson.
“The exit’s are still there,” Jen hissed, helpfully, grinning with Andie from ear to ear. Then, making a decision, Joey ran down to Dawson and flew into his arms. The gentle hum of the church grew to a small roar. Will’s parents were yelling, Pacey screamed out “Yes!”, Glenna, the flower girl, was tugging on her mom’s skirt, whining about all the noise, Andie and Jen were holding hands tightly, both on the verge of tears themselves. Only Jack out of the six, was looking dejected. Or if not dejected, tired.
“Your late,” Joey whispered through the chaos, into Dawson’s ear. “You missed your timing, Mr. Director.”
“Sorry, Jo. But you know I hate those cliched love scenes. What’s the point without suspense?” They both cried and hugged each other tightly.
“Will?” Joey walked into the empty house. Pacey and Andie, Jen and Jack, Will’s parents, Bessie, they had all cleared out earlier. Pacey, Andie, and Glenna had all promised to come down to LA the next time they could get work and school off. Jen and Jack were going to be witnesses at a Justice of Peace in LA that weekend for Dawson and Joey, before heading back to Chicago and New York respectively. Jack had come to terms with Joey’s decision. They had a long talk right after the wedding, and she had explained it the best she could.
Now the day after the wedding, she had to try to make that same explanation to Will.. and get her things. She found him sitting in their bedroom, just kind of staring.
“Oh, Will.” She put her arms around him. “I really am so sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt you.”
“Then why did you, Joey?” He shook his head. “You never thought you could go through with it, did you?” She paused.
“No,” she admitted. He shook his head.
“No.” He cleared his throat. “Take whatever you want.”
“I—I don’t need anything much.. just my clothes and personal things.”
“Alright,” he said tiredly. “Goodbye Josie Jo.”
“Goodbye Willy Bill.” He gave a small laugh at their nicknames, before walking out with his head down. Joey allowed herself a good, hard cry and then spent an hour packing her things. Using her cellphone she called Dawson to pick her up.
Sitting out on the porch, with her boxes and suitcases, she tried to think ahead.
To La with Dawson. Dawson.. she took in a deep breath. She loved him, only him. Whatever they still had to learn about one another and living together, they could do.
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