Growing Pains by: Jade
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Author's Note: I wish to reassure readers that I did not and do not have the intention of simply recycling dialogue from the first season, slap around a few changes and then call it my fanfic. I honestly concluded from feedback I've got from people over the past year that a majority prefer Season One remains untouched and so, in order to write about the "present" aspect of Dawson's Creek, I did it this way. Of course, I would get back to re-inventing as a fanfic writer, just as soon as I have set the stage for where I want this story to go.
I sincerely apologize to anyone who feels sorta cheated by the use of unoriginal material. I promise the real thing's coming soon.
Once again, many thanks to Kristin and her site: Dawson's Creek: The Website
The time had come for him to be an adult. He knew this day would eventually arrive and he would have to do the right thing. He would have to let her go. He would have to lie.
She was facing judgement from a panel who had no idea how deeply he felt for her. They hadn't a clue.
Taking a deep breath, he walked over and straightened himself, trying to stand as tall as he could in spite of how small he felt.
"Mr. Witter, you are to wait until you're summoned."
"Ah, look, I don't mean any disrespect here. But, if you'll just give me a second, I'll have you all home for dinner. Okay?"
She was completely entranced by his eyes. They reminded her so much of her mother's; on his angelic face they appeared wide and soft, gentle and understanding; most importantly, unhardened to the real world out there. Joey was reluctant to put the baby down. After all the excitement for the day, all she wanted to do was stay where she was, with her nephew in her arms. But there was something she needed to do.
"I have to say good night for now," she whispered. She let out a chuckle as he replied with a yawn. As she stood up from the chair, ready to hand her sister back her child, he reached out and grabbed her finger with a fist of his own.
She sat back down. "Okay, maybe I'll stay awhile more," she agreed.
"Okay, Dawson didn't know where you were. Neither did your parents," she paused, taking her place on the swing beside the one he was on. "Your dad, I gather, wasn't too pleased with the news. Doug was pretty vocal about it as well."
"Have I ever mentioned my brother has the utmost trust in me? In fact, he felt it within his duty to warn me about possibly disgracing the family by lying and then decided it was necessary to end his self-righteous pep talk on a high note by laughing in my face?"
For as long as she could remember, there were few occasions, like this one, where she was uncertain of what to say to Pacey.
He leaned forward and rested his aching forehead on his clasped hands. "Thanks for talking to me this afternoon though," he said, turning to look at her and offering a brief smile. "It did make me feel a little better."
In that second, she knew she had been wrong, like the rest of them. "I'm sorry I thought it was just a stunt to impress the girls."
"Who could blame you? I had a hard time believing it myself," he shrugged.
They sat in silence for a few minutes.
"My sister had her baby today. A boy."
His smile was less reluctant this time. "Congratulations, Aunt Joey."
They lapsed into more silence.
"When Bessie told me she was pregnant, I felt angry. My first thought was 'How could she do this to me now?' With my mom gone and my dad in jail, it was the last thing we needed. I didn't want us to hurt as a family any longer all that pain and worry was too much to take. But when I saw the baby for the first time today, it felt like things were going to get better. Then, it hit me that Bessie needed me now more than ever emotionally and I felt guilty." She absently drew a circle in the sand with the tip of her shoe as he waited for her to continue. "I think the real reason behind my initial anger was the fact that I wanted so much to start my life over somewhere else and leave all my problems behind. And the real reason behind my present guilt is because I still want that, even after all that's happened today."
"I guess it's true then."
She raised her eyebrow in question.
"That when something good happens, something bad has to happen to balance it out."
"What are you saying?"
"I told them it was a fantasy I conjured up. I told them nothing happened between me and Tamara."
He missed the look that passed over her face.
"I said good-bye to her less than an hour ago. She's leaving for Rochester in the morning."
"How do you feel?" she asked cautiously.
"Like I put my big foot in my even bigger mouth. I should have just kept it to myself. I should have checked the bathroom stalls more carefully-"
"You shouldn't have slept with her." The minute the words were out of her mouth, she realized she had been too abrupt.
"So, this is how you really feel." Pacey shook his head knowingly. "Are you going to let me in on the point of the story about feeling guilty about Bessie and the baby?"
She could tell he was slightly angered by her remark. "I'm ashamed to say I didn't think those rumors were true." He looked away. "Look Pacey, you know I'm the last person who would pass judgement on anything scandalous but that's because I was also the last person who expected my father to be serving time and my sister to be an unwed mother."
He got off his swing in a huff and started to walk away. She stopped him by standing in his path.
"I'm pretty sure I'll love this baby more than life itself. But I had no say in the matter and you have control over what's happening in your life. It's just better to stay out of trouble's way. Juicier gossip doesn't always come along to erase the past."
"What you said after school on the pier, I thought you understood. Obviously, I was wrong."
"What I said," she emphasized, "was that I understood what you were going through. What I didn't say, but most assuredly did experience, is that people don't necessarily forget and there are always high risks. Learning the hard way hurts."
He stared directly into her eyes. "You make it sound as if it was just a game to me. Joey, we both love to shock to get back at people but those are just words we say and don't mean. This time's different. I don't know what it is exactly that I feel for Tamara Jacobs but it did mean something."
"You might not believe it but we are friends." She held on to his arm to halt him. "We both know your relationship with her wouldn't have lasted yet you went ahead anyway. Why didn't you give up?"
"Because I believe sometimes you have to fight like hell for what looks impossible. Because sometimes it's right to do the wrong thing."
She released her grip on him, not missing the hidden meaning behind his words.
"Thanks again for making me feel better so, let's just end these few-and-far-between moments we have like we always do as friends," he said sarcastically. "One of us always walks away first."
With that, he left her behind on her own.
It was another one and a half weeks before either of them would be in the same room at the same time for more than a class period. And considering the next eight hours would be spent stuck in detention together, they felt that maybe they could be civil to each other.
The only glitch: Joey was still fuming and Pacey wasn't about to apologize.
Abby Morgan had suggested a game of truth and dare and now it was Pacey's turn.
"Dare...truth...I don't care," he said nonchalantly.
"Okay, truth. Pacey, why are you in detention?"
He hesitated. "Well, uh, it's just, uh, I want a dare."
Joey grabbed the chance to annoy him further as she egged him on to answer Abby's question. "Oh, come on Pacey, just tell us."
"Hey, I want a dare."
Abby reluctantly let him off the hook as she called him a wuss. "Fine, dare. I dare you to kiss on the lips for 10 seconds...Jen!"
Dawson's protest was instantaneous. All but Abby and Joey followed.
"This is stupid."
"Yeah, nobody wants to play this game anyway."
Joey watched Pacey and Jen, the two people she happened to dislike at the moment, squirm; maybe this Saturday wouldn't be so bad after all. "I do. And Pacey said 'dare', better do what she says."
Pacey glanced at her and refused to admit defeat. "Fine. What do I care?" And he leaned toward Jen and kissed her.
When that was over, he gave her a triumphant look. "Okay, Joey, Miss 'You better do what she says'. What will it be, truth or dare?"
He was backing her into a corner. She protested of course, but Pacey wasn't listening. "Ah-ha-ha-ha. Truth or dare?"
She wasn't about to give in either. "Truth," she replied defiantly.
Pacey paused. For a second, he looked like he was about to change his mind but his next words implied otherwise. "Okay. Who do you like?"
"Who do I like?"
"Very simple. Who are you in love with? The truth."
Four pairs of eyes were on her as she racked her brain for her voice. She swallowed visibly.
"Did I say truth? I meant dare."
Abby rolled her eyes and started muttering insults.
"I'll do anything. I'll climb through the ventilation chaps or I'll go flash Mrs. Tringle."
Pacey gave her a look that said 'No way I'm going to let you off this easy'. "Okay, perfect. Then in keeping with our kissing theme, Joey, I dare you to kiss on the lips for 15 seconds, Dawson Leery."
"No. No way."
What she said fell on deaf ears and she gave up, trying to back away. Sure, I can do this. It's just Dawson. So what if I'm in love with the guy? It means nothing, it's just a kiss, she told herself.
She was filled with dread and surprisingly, a glimmer of hope and anticipation as they drew closer and their lips touched. Just close your eyes, girl and imagine he's in love with you, said the voice in her head.
She opened her eyes and they moved away from each other. She met Pacey's knowing gaze and her anger at him tripled in that single second. I will get you for this, she warned without so much as saying a word but just with a glare.
Joey couldn't help grinning when she found out the reason behind Pacey's detention. She tried to be sympathetic but laughter was threatening to overflow and thought it better to observe the rest of the conversation silently. Pacey and Dawson were having a "moment" as they apologized to each other and called a truce. But when they moved on to the subject of sex and virgins, she couldn't help interjecting.
"You know, when did everyone because so obsessed with sex? Now, you too, Dawson. If you're worried that everyone's more experienced than you, you can rest easy because you still have one friend who will probably go to her grave a virgin."
And then as if by magic, she couldn't stop talking. She started being honest, first and foremost, with herself. She told them she had already found the right guy. She told them she felt alone more than ever. She told them she was scared that things would change.
If Mrs. Tringle hadn't chosen to walk in then, she might have told them she was in love with her best friend.
He came up silently behind her and held on gently to her arm as they filed out of the school building.
"Can we talk?" he said, before she had time to wrangle herself away from him.
"What do you want, Pacey? I've just utterly humiliated myself in front of everyone. Happy now?"
"Do you really think so lowly of me, Joey?" he said quietly. When she didn't reply immediately, he took it as a signal that she wasn't going to run. "I'm sorry about what happened back there."
"Why? Haven't you always known?"
"I'm not here to talk about Dawson. I just want to apologize for my behavior that night."
Dawson and Jen didn't want to interrupt what looked like a personal conversation between Pacey and Joey and so they set off on their own first. Several times, he looked back over his shoulder, puzzlement on his face. "You have any idea what Joey meant in the library?" he asked Jen.
"I think she'll tell you when she's ready, Dawson," she replied.
Pacey saw Dawson looking their way and indicated that they would be right behind.
"I admit I haven't been in the best of moods, especially with Tamara gone and all. Probably why Dawson lost his patience with me too," he shrugged. "I didn't agree with your view that we shouldn't take chances," he continued pointedly, "but that doesn't mean I had to be an ass about it. I'm sorry."
"And I'm sorry too," Joey admitted, "for saying what I did. For being a nag when what you needed was someone to listen. I don't know what came over me."
"Can we just go back to our normal routine as sparring partners and leave the mushy, personal stuff aside?"
"That I can do."
"Great, it's a deal. We get back to quarreling with each other, no holds barred."
"So," he said, putting an arm around her, "Now that we're back to normal
how was that fifteen seconds for you?"
She glanced at his arm on her shoulder and then glared at him. "Get your filthy paws off me," she warned in an even tone, with a hint of malice that would be undetectable to an untrained ear.
All seemed well as this underlying and unspoken love-hate behavior between them continued to form the basis of their friendship until one day, life threw an unexpected curve in their direction and upset the balance.
To be continued
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