To Be Loved by: Jade
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"You two going to be all right?" Bessie asked. "I could stay up."*****
He looked friendly and was dressed in an impeccable suit but it was just a disguise. When he took off his shades, his face was covered with dirt and menace. She started to cry and he started to laugh. And laughed. The laugh turned into a howl before brown smoke began pouring out of his mouth.
"We'll be fine," Joey replied. She was propped up against the pillows on the bed, looking a thousand times better than when they found her. Dried blood and dirt had been cleaned off her face and X-rays revealed that nothing had been broken and the doctor said that the swelling would go down in a week. If anything, Pacey looked a lot worse.
He held on to her hand, sitting by her side. Two hours ago, he was still sleeping the sleep of idiots when a nightmare paid him a visit. He woke up in a cold sweat and a nurse whose tag read L. Charles managed to chuck a bedpan at him before he become sick in it.
Her name was the first word he muttered when he felt okay enough to talk. "Where is she?" he had asked. Nurse Charles pushed aside the curtain separating his bed from the next one.
She was fast asleep and looked to be at peace, in complete contrast to the traumatic event that had taken place before.
"The doctor gave her a sedative. She'll be out for another hour or so."
He nodded his thanks.
"I heard what happened." Nurse Charles reached over to hold his hand briefly. Her touch was warm and motherly. "I would have died if it had happened to my daughter." She squeezed his hand lightly. "You're a good man."
"But," he swallowed. "I couldn't stop her from getting hurt."
"You tried. You two obviously love each other, that's what counts."
He was about to say more, when the doctor came back on his rounds.
"Mrs. Charles, how's our patient?"
"As good as can be expected."
The doctor, a young man who looked like he was barely out of high school, flashed a light into his pupils for reflex and checked the rest of his body for injuries that they might have missed beforehand.
"You'll be as good as new in a couple of weeks." He noted something down on his chart. "If you're feeling up to it, your father would like to ask you some questions about the incident."
"Okay," he agreed.
The doctor and nurse stepped out and his father appeared at his bedside.
"Glorious day, huh, Pop?" he joked, uncertain as to how his father was going to react to his getting into a fight.
To say he was surprised when instead of reprimanding him, his father embraced him, was an understatement.
"You're tough, just like me." His voice was hoarse with emotion.
Pacey winced when his father squeezed him too hard.
"Sorry," John Witter apologized. He let his son go and brushed his hair off his forehead. "We can do this tomorrow."
"No." Pacey was adamant. "I want Matthew Bradley caught."
Bessie kissed her Joey on the forehead and told Pacey, "If you need anything, just yell. I'll be in the next room."
The former had given up her bedroom for the night and opted to sleep in Alexander's room while her sister got all the rest she needed. Joey hadn't wanted to stay in the hospital and neither did Pacey. They were given permission to be discharged but were advised to return to the hospital immediately if they felt that their conditions were deteriorating.
John Witter had wanted to take his son home but he chose to stay with Joey. "I'm fine, really," he assured his parents. They were reluctant to let him go but knew that it was hard to change his mind when it was already made up.
"You call if you need anything," they told him.
"Go, Bessie. Alex needs you." Joey said.
After Bessie had retired for the night, morning really since it was already three, an awkward silence settled between them.
"Now you can get some sleep," he said cheerfully. "I don't want to crowd you. I'll be on the sofa."
"Wait, Pacey." She held on to his fingers.
Her left eye was puffy and her cheek was a massive bruise. Her lip had been cut at the corner. He knew he didn't look any prettier. His bottom lip was split and his nose had very nearly been broken. His knuckles still ached from the punches he threw and it hurt to take breaths.
"We have to talk."
"It can wait," he disagreed.
"No, it can't," she insisted. Her stubborn streak hadn't diminished in any sense. "It wasn't your fault," she said softly.
"I made you go to that party and then I left you alone."
"I have a mind of my own and I told you to."
"Still, I shouldn't have listened."
She would have laughed if it didn't hurt.
"We shouldn't be fighting about this. If anyone's to blame, it's Bradley."
She leaned back further to rest her head. "Pacey, I was ready to give up hope. You saved me from that. It means more to me than you'll ever know."
"I was afraid," he admitted.
"So was I."
"For you," he continued.
"So was I. For you, I mean," she clarified.
They locked gazes for a long time. And Joey finally let go of his fingers.
He stood up. "It's definitely time for that rest." He tucked her in and moved to the doorway. "Good night, Joey."
"Good night, Pacey."
She woke up.
She gasped and sat up so quickly the room began to swirl. Her breathing was heavy and her heart felt like it was about to jump out of her chest. As she recovered from the initial shock, she began to sob.
He had been so silent she hadn't realized he had been in the room until his arm went around her.
"Just a nightmare," he soothed. "You're okay."
She cried into his shoulder in an awkward position, afraid to aggravate her aching cheek and the pain in his body.
Through her wet eyes, she could barely make out the armchair that Pacey had made his bed for the night. The blanket and spare sheets Bessie had given to him earlier on were strewn on the floor in his haste to get to her.
When her crying subsided, she asked, "When did you come up?"
He hesitated to tell her. "About five minutes after I went downstairs." He took the glass of water on the bedside table and handed it to her.
She took several sips and put it aside.
"You think you could go back to sleep?" He fluffed her pillows and helped her lay back.
"You can sleep here. Beside me." She patted the bed. When he didn't answer, she added almost pleadingly, "Please."
He sighed and nodded.
It felt like he had barely slept when he heard Bessie trying to hush Alexander. He turned his head and as though she sensed he was watching her, she opened her eyes.
He considered reaching over to do something foolish, like kiss her.
But he didn't. It'd pass, he told himself.
Everything did. Sooner or later.
He paced the corridors of the sheriff's department for a good fifteen minutes before his father was done showing Joey more pictures of past offenders and asking more questions, in order to catch her initial assailant.
John Witter would have gladly paid a visit to the Potters' instead of having Joey come down to the station but she had no intention of cooping herself up in the house any further.
"Time to face the music," she had said. "I'm just waiting for the finger pointing and the gossip mongers to start speculating on how the Potter girl brought it upon herself. Who knows, I might even get some sympathy in the process."
The past days, she had stayed in bed until she made sure she looked well enough not to frighten any small children. Jen and Jack had paid her a couple of visits, each time bringing with them either flowers, books or fruits.
After the fourth day, she decided she had enough of feeling like an invalid and took a trip down to the Sheriff's, with Pacey tagging along like a worrisome shadow.
"Walk with me," she nagged. "Not behind me."
He stopped pacing when the door to the office opened.
"Thanks for coming down, Joey."
She returned John Witter's handshake. "I hope I was able to help," she said.
"You've done enough." He touched her arm lightly. "Take care of yourself."
Father and son exchanged knowing glances. "Pop, can I talk to you for a sec?"
"I'll wait for you outside," Joey said, leaving them to speak in private.
Pacey jumped right into it. "What's going on?"
"The asshole's father got his fancy lawyer to post bail. It's not likely that anything will stick." Rustling through some paper on his desk, John continued reading from a file. "He's got no priors, perfect school record and they're claiming that the area was dark and only you and Joey saw the alleged assailant or assailants and in your apparent distress and prejudice, could have had your judgement blinded and identified the wrong persons.
"Bullshit! How did he explain the bruises on his face?"
"He told them he fell down the stairs when he was drunk and the maid saw it." He shook his head. "This doesn't look to be on your side. The judge is probably going to dismiss the case."
Pacey's hands doubled up into fists by his side.
"I saw him, Dad."
"I know, son. I know."
He met her outside and forced a smile for her benefit. Out into the sunshine and walking toward the direction of Joey's place, he broached the other subject that had been bothering him for awhile now.
"I think Dawson should be told."
"No," she shook her head stubbornly. "There is no need for that."
"This break between you and him can wait. He needs to know what's happened."
She stopped in her tracks. "This is not about my being petty. He's miles away, why worry him unnecessarily. What's he going to do? Leave his internship early and take the first bus back?"
"Pacey, this can wait until he gets back. I'll tell him myself." She started walking. "Hell, maybe the whole town will get to him before I do and then I won't have to."
He stood his ground and where he was. "Joey, he's your best friend."
She turned back and she looked upset. "So what are you, huh? My servant, my lackey?" Her voice went up few decibels in that instant. "Pacey, face it! You want Dawson back just so you can get out of this!" She waved her arms in the air. "Whatever this is."
The truth hit home harder than he had expected. He ran after her storming figure and took her arm.
She brushed it aside. "Get away from me, Pacey."
He stood in her way. "I'm sorry."
"I'm not." She walked around him. They had reached a junction and she took a different route toward the town center.
"Where are you going?" he shouted after her.
"I'm a little high-strung now, okay? I need to be alone. Go home, Pacey."
She couldn't explain her outburst. Or at least she didn't want to. It would be too dangerous to analyze the emotions that had triggered it off.
She held one shoe in each hand as she sidestepped the stones on the beach, careful not to hurt her feet on their jagged edges. And she sat on the sand for a long time, watching the couples stroll by her without so much as a glance at the solitary figure watching them. After three hours, she still didn't know what to do.
On her way home, she passed a telephone booth and paused. Reaching for the receiver, she dug into her pocket for all the coins she had and slipped a couple into the slot. She had his number memorized by heart.
"Hi, this is Gail. Dawson and I-"
She hung up without hearing the rest of the message.
"Are you sure?"
"Yes," Bessie stressed.
"Have you checked upstairs?"
"I've been here the whole day. Now, unless she's suddenly mastered the art of being invisible, she hasn't come home."
"What happened between the two of you?"
"There's sure a whole lot of nothing going around these days," she said knowingly.
"This is not the time."
"I'm not going to argue with you on that. If she's still not back within the next hour, I'm going out to search for her myself."
Pacey put down the telephone and ran his fingers through his hair, the way he did when he was frustrated. He walked over to the window to look out of it while he gathered his thoughts.
It had been a stupid thing to do. Insisting she told Dawson. What the hell was he thinking? Oh yeah, he knew what he was thinking and so did she.
He blinked and leaned closer to the pane. He hoped his eyes weren't playing tricks on him because he could have sworn she was walking toward his front door.
He ran to the door and stepped out onto the porch before she even approached the front steps. Surprised, she lifted startled brown eyes to his blue ones. He closed the distance between them and didn't want to make any presumptions. So he waited.
She walked into the chain of his arms and he breathed a sigh of relief. He hugged her tightly to him, slightly lifting her off her feet.
She buried her face into the crevice where his shoulder met his neck and planted a light kiss on it before lifting her face up to his. Quickly, before she lost the nerve, she drew in closer and kissed him on the lips. Without thinking, he found himself kissing her back. Her arms tightened around him and her fingers played with the hair at his nape. She couldn't seem to get close enough. His hands began roaming down her back and they moved down to hold her securely around her waist.
It felt like forever before they pulled apart but they remained in an embrace, eyes still locked, both breathing heavily.
She couldn't account for what she had just done and didn't know how to explain. "I'm sorry," she whispered and then looked away.
His next words brought her gaze back.
"I'm not," he whispered back, echoing her earlier remark.
She smiled sadly and leaned in until their foreheads touched.
"What's going to happen now?" she mumbled, not really expecting her question to be answered.
To be continued
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