Nothing More, Nothing Less by: Jade

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Joey brushed off Bessie's question before it was even asked. "Don't, Bessie," she said and ran upstairs to seek refuge in Alexander's room since she didn't have one of her own.

She kicked off her shoes and hoisted herself up to the small window seat that was slightly above waist-level. When she was comfortably settled, back resting against a cushion and feet propped up against the opposite wall, she allowed herself to enjoy the view out the window. Bessie was in the front lawn, playing with Alex. They both felt themselves being watched and looked up. Alex pointed with a little finger upward and waved excitedly to his aunt whilst his mother was holding him under the arms as he learned to take his first steps on his own. Joey chuckled.

No matter how complicated things were and how incomplete she felt, she had a family and friends she cherished. For now, it should be as simple as that.

There should be nothing more, nothing less.

"Whatever it is, the answer is no."

"What?" He feigned surprise at her accusation. "I haven't said a word."

"No," she said. Pacey couldn't see the look on his face but she could. "No."

"School's starting in less than two weeks. We've finally reached the end of a boring routine," he gestured around the video store just as they were making their way out after the end of their final shift. "Time to celebrate. It's just a party. We don't have to stay long."

"So, go."

"You ever heard of the story of the lonely boy who was laughed at for turning up at the party of the year without a date?"

She rolled her eyes. He scrunched his face into what he hoped was a pitiful expression.


He hugged her to him. "I knew you'd come around," he grinned.

"Oh shut up," she said, pushing him away, throwing him off-balance and nearly off the curb.

"Wow." He whistled appreciatively as she came to the front door. "Kind of dressy for a party you didn't want to go to in the first place, isn't it?"

She stopped in her tracks and turned back. "That's it. I knew it was a mistake."

He reached out an arm to stop her. "Whoa! All right, I'll keep my mouth shut."

"One more smart remark out of you and I'm out," she warned.

He raised his arms in surrender. "I'm a moron, okay? That was my way of saying, 'You look great'."

And she did, casual yet elegant in a classy velvet top and a calf-length skirt.

She eyed his attire. At least his shirt was ironed this time.

"I know I look great too. You don't have to say it."

"Trust me, Pacey. I wasn't about to."

"I'll go get us drinks," he said, leaving her side and disappearing completely into the crowd within seconds.

She perused the place, trying to spot familiar faces and caught sight of Jack's. Catching his gaze, she smiled. He waved and leaned forward to talk to the girl who was standing beside him and whose back was facing her. Joey didn't realize it was Jen until the mass of people dispersed, giving her a better view.

"Well, I guess there's no time like now to apologize," she told herself as they made their way toward her.

"Joey, I'm surprised to see you here." Jack gave her a tight squeeze around the shoulders. "Something tells me Pacey had something to do with this."

"Did someone call for me?" He emerged by their side, with two cups. "Hey, Jack."

As the guys began to keep each other up-to-date of the latest happenings in their lives, Joey took her cup and looked to Jen, who had been standing by silently.

Summing her courage in case Jen decided to ignore her, she said the first words that came to her.

"I'm sorry, Jen."

The latter whom had been looking everywhere but at her, dragged her eyes to Joey's face and could see that she was truly apologetic. She nodded slightly.

"I know I've been an ass about things and an apology's probably not enough-"

"Joey," she put out a hand on her arm. "I understand."

It wasn't exactly the right time or place but Joey made up her mind that she and Jen would have to sit down sometime and talk things through until they were blue in the face, if necessary, to clear the air between them once and for all.

"It's not a good time to bring this up but I should warn you-"

"-Matthew Bradley's here and he's right behind you," Jack continued from Jen.

Joey closed her eyes against the dread she felt and exchanged looks with Pacey, who managed to maintained an apathetic expression.

He's coming over, he mouthed.

Without haste, he took Joey's cup and put it and his onto the table next to them and pulled her toward him gently.

"What are you doing?" she whispered in alarm.

"Playing the part of a doting boyfriend." He took her arms and wrapped them around his waist. "Relax," he said, rubbing her shoulders reassuringly. "And make like you enjoy being with me."

Jack had been informed about the pretense of them playing a couple but still, he had to raise a brow in surprise at how comfortable and fitting they looked in each other's arms.

Jen shrugged when he turned to look at her. Don't ask me, her body language said.

"Oh God," Joey said, not exactly up for a winning performance. She leaned forward and rested her forehead on his chest. "Maybe he'll just leave us alone."

"You wish," he assured in false hope. "He's-"

"Pacey and Joey. My two favorite people in the world."

Matthew Bradley was now standing before them. Joey looked up and Pacey instinctively tightened his grip around her.

"Sure, Bradley," he said. "We're glad to see you too."

His voice was dripping with sarcasm but it wasn't enough to send the former away.

"Hostile, aren't we?" he shook his head mockingly. "I guess what I've heard about Capeside being a warm town is totally bogus then."

"Completely," Pacey said coldly.

Ignoring him, Bradley commented to Joey, "You're real quiet today, Joey. Not your usual feisty self?"

She could smell about three shots of vodka on his breath. "I'm only so when I'm around people I like." She dragged the last word for emphasis and gave him her famous stare.

He laughed, not in the least intimidated. In fact, he seemed even more determined. Pacey tensed, ready to jump to her defense anytime.

"That's strange because I have it on good authority that you two can't stand each other." He laughed again. "And who's Dawson?"

It was strange and unexpected but Pacey felt a twinge of guilt when he heard his best friend's name.

"That's quite enough, Matthew." Jen interrupted, moving forward to stand in front of Pacey and Joey. "Why don't you scurry along to your drinking buddies and leave the women alone?"

"Jen. We were briefly introduced, weren't we?"


"What's with you guys and one-liners?" He chuckled. "Come on, it's not like I'm going to jump the girls."

Joey stiffened involuntarily and Pacey felt the jolt. In spite of what she had claimed before, he knew that she had been affected by the news of Bradley Jen had delivered.

It was Jack's turn to interrupt. "We don't want to have to ask the host to throw you out," he said in a low and calm voice but underneath it, he meant business.

"Jack McPhee. I've heard about you." He put his arm around the latter's shoulder. "The first guy to walk out of the closet at Capeside High. I'm impressed."

With as much politeness as Jack could muster, he disentangled himself from Bradley's touch. "I think I see Jon Harris. You touch me one more time and I might just scream like a girl to get his attention," he deadpanned.

Jon Harris was the son of one of the town's prominent businessmen, who unlike most of the socialite kids, was actually nice, if not slightly boastful. He had decided to throw one of his well-known parties and invited the whole of Capeside High School to celebrate his getting into Harvard. Few found a reason to dislike or offend him. Of course, it helped that he was also built like a tank.

Bradley looked to where Jon was standing and decided he would be on the losing end of a fight if one were to ensue. "All right, I'll go." He reached out to graze Joey's cheek but moved it away before Pacey could smack it away. "Joey, I'll see you soon," he taunted before walking away.

They parted from Jack and Jen and found themselves a quieter spot away from the music and the dancing.

"Hey, you sure you don't want to leave?"

She shook her head stubbornly.

"You don't have to stay because of me."

"No," she protested. "I was actually having fun before he came along. I'm not going to let him ruin the rest of the night for m -us," she corrected herself.

"Okay then."

They admired the view of the main grounds from the gazebo, half-hidden behind a lovely garden of flowers.

"So this is what it's like to be rich."

"You know, one day I hope to be like that."

"What, rich?" he asked.

"No, on my way to Harvard or some Ivy League college."

He sighed. "Haven't you been listening to a word I've said? I've told you that you were going to make it eons ago."

"It's tough, Pacey. Everyone seems to take it for granted that I'll make it but I'm not sure…" She was momentarily distracted by a noise coming from the bushes.

"You'll be fine, Potter. Just fine."

She smiled slightly at his encouragement and they retreated into silence again.

Joey waited a whole minute and then she couldn't ignore it anymore. "Pacey," she said softly. "We're out of Bradley's sight, you can let go of me now."

"Wh-," he started. And then he realized that he was still holding onto her waist. He let go of her abruptly.


"I'm okay. Still in one piece," she joked. Deciding it was safer to change the subject, she told him, "You know what, you should go back to the party."

"Nah, don't think so."

"Go on. Don't be such a baby."

"Baby," he grumbled.

She gave him a look that said she had proven her point.

"All right, I know when I'm not wanted." He moved to return to the house. "Just be sure to stay where you are until I get back."

She rolled her eyes.


"Yeah, okay," she said reluctantly.

He opened his mouth to say something else but then changed his mind. "You stay there."

"Go!" she growled.

"I'm gone."

She watched him until he disappeared into the crowd. She took a seat on a bench and watched the sky.

The noise from the bushes came again.

"Who's there?" she called out. "Anyone there?"

When there wasn't an answer, she got up to investigate and was almost prepared to scream her lungs out when she was met at her feet by a small ball of fur.

She jumped a little at the ticklish sensation and then bent to pick the kitten up. It meowed softly at her.

"Hey stranger," she said.

She sat back down and cuddled the animal closer to her, rubbing it between its ears. It returned her affection by resting its furry head against her arm.

"Sleepy, huh? W-"

Her mind went numb for a second before it registered alarm. She tried to scream but against the big hand that covered her mouth, her cries for help was nothing more than muffled noises.

She dropped the kitten and it scampered away in fright.

She was hardly weak at five-foot-ten but the man's strength was beyond her. She struggled to gather enough momentum to punch him in the stomach with her elbow but he'd anticipated the incoming blow and ducked his body to one side. With the last shred of force she could muster, she dug her nails deep into his flesh and bit his hand.

He loosened the grip on her mouth and smacked her face. "Ouch! You bitch!"

She stumbled halfway to the ground and tried to scramble away, against the power of his other arm around her body. She tried to crawl but ended up only scratching at the grass as he recovered in time to grab on to her leg.

I'm going to die.

That was her last thought as she fell limp into a world of darkness when it felt like a ton of bricks had fallen and hit the side of her face.

Pacey danced a little with a girl in his History class before he excused himself to use the bathroom. He hadn't kept his eyes off Matthew Bradley since he came back to the house. Bradley was surrounded by a group of jocks and girls at the top of the stairway, no doubt charming their socks off.

There was a line outside the bathroom and he made sure he had full view of the group while he waited. For a moment, Bradley looked up and smiled, lifting his cup as though to toast him. Pacey didn't react to his gesture, except with a straight face and a string of iniquitous thoughts to hurt the guy badly.

A senior and his girlfriend distracted him momentarily as they bumped into him in their drunken state and asked if they could jump the line in front of him because one of them really needed to use the toilet.

Pacey decided he didn't want either of them puking on his shoes and waved them forward. When he looked back, Bradley was gone.

Joey moaned at the pain shooting up from her cheek right to her temple. The entire left side of her face felt swollen as she gingerly touched the tip of her fingers to it and winced in agony.

She could hardly open her left eye and her vision was blurred as she tried to figure out where she was. She was still in the garden but a different part of it.

She tried to sit up but her head hurt so much, she had to lay back.

An unfamiliar face began swimming in front of her.

"So, you're awake."

A second voice emerged from a distance away. It stopped just short of her head.

"I told you to grab her, not kill her!"

Matthew Bradley. It was the only conscious thought running through her foggy mind at the moment.

"Hey, she put up quite a fight for a girl and she bit my hand. It still hurts!"

"Oh, poor Bruce," he remarked sarcastically.

"Cut the crap. Just give me my money," Bruce said.

There was the sound of shuffling and Joey could hardly make out Bruce's towering build as he stuffed a wad of notes into his pocket.

"Nice doing business with you." He laughed. "Enjoy her."

Her last glimmer of hope disappeared with his departure. She couldn't stall for any more time.

"Don't-" She tried to tell him not to go, but all that was left was the sound of Bradley's footsteps.

He stood over her.

"Don't-" she said again. It took all of her might just to utter the single word.

"Hi, Joey."

"No," she said more strongly.

"It's too late." He smiled wickedly. "No one can hear you."

Panic was threatening to overcome him. Scanning the room quickly, his brain was telling him what his heart had already told him.

He pushed several people out of his way as he took the stairs two at a time.

"Jack," he held on to the latter's shoulder. "Find Harris and get to the gazebo as fast as you can."


"Just do as I say!" He pleaded with his eyes. "Please!"

Jack needed no more persuasion as he ran off.

Please don't let me be too late. Pacey ran like crazy. He got to where he had left Joey but she was no longer there. Only her cardigan remained on the bench.

"Joey!" he shouted. "Joey!"

It's over, she thought. Then, she heard his voice. It was faint but it was there.

"Pacey," she managed weakly. Pacey, she screamed inward.

"Shit!" Bradley was about to undress her when he heard the sound of his least favorite person approaching. "Shit!"

He quickly zipped up his pants and was about to dart for escape when he was discovered.

Pacey heard the rustling and he ran toward it. He was afraid for Joey. Afraid because he knew there was a tremendous chance he was too late. Afraid because he would never be able to look her in the eyes again because he left her when he shouldn't have.

Afraid because there was some part of him that was still the lonely nine-year-old who fell in love with her.

Her still body was the first thing he saw.

"Please try to run," he said, so angry he was shaking. "I want nothing more than to beat your brains out."

Bradley couldn't refuse a challenge. He had wanted to slip away but couldn't back away from the prospect of beating Pacey Witter to a pulp.

He ran at Pacey and knocked him to the ground.

They struggled, rolling about in the dirt. Pacey gained the upper hand when he kept Bradley pinned down and started punching him. He kept at it as blood gushed from his nose.

"Pace," she called out weakly.

He heard her. In that moment, his heart soared when he realized she was still alive and his grip lessened. Bradley felt it and pushed him roughly aside. Now at a disadvantage, Pacey received two hard, rapid blows to his face but was saved from more by Jack.

"Pacey! Where are you?"

Bradley knew it was his last chance to run. He kicked Pacey in the ribs one last time before he took off.

Holding on to his side, he half-crawled and half-stumbled toward Joey.

"Joey?" He lifted her head slowly and gingerly onto his lap. He cradled her and gasped as tears shot up to his eyes, not from the pain but from the agony of seeing her like that.

"It's n-not as b-bad as it l-looks." She was pausing between words to swallow. It took all of her effort to speak.

She was trying to comfort him.

He couldn't possibly love her more. But he did.

"Oh my God," Jack said, in shock when he came upon the two of them. Harris was right behind him and even he was caught off-guard.

Pacey pointed in the direction where Bradley escaped. "He ran that way." They both took off without hesitation.

Jen followed and she started to cry at the sight. "Jesus," she whispered.

"Jen," he managed as he felt himself slipping away. "Call my Dad." And then he fainted from the pain.

To be continued…

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