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[Author's Note: I've tried hard to maintain some continuity by starting all the installments with Dawson and Joey in Dawson's room, as the show does. Due to my last cliffhanger, I find it impossible. Please forgive me for not doing this in the next few episodes.]
[Previously in "Independence Day": Joey and Dawson feel that their friendship is back to where it once was. Pacey and Joey discuss their respective futures in college, and both feel like they could never live without the other. Pacey writes Joey a letter to tell her that he loves her, but has no intentions to mail it. Dawson and Jen decide to give their relationship a second chance, but to move much more slowly than they had before.]
Dawson, Jen, Joey and Pacey were all walking back from the movie theater. Dawson was completely disappointed in the film, and he and Jen were passionately discussing it, as they walked side by side. Pacey and Joey followed them, and Joey, at some points, was laughing uncontrollably at Pacey, who was also making fun of the movie.
In their own worlds Jen and Dawson crossed the street. As Pacey and Joey crossed, Joey stopped to pick up a twenty dollar bill that she saw in the road. Pacey turned to look at her, when he noticed she was gone from beside him. He saw a car barreling towards her, speeding.
"Joey, look out!" he screamed full of fear, as he took off running towards her.
Joey looked up to see the car coming towards her, but seemed as if she was paralyzed. She was knocked to the side, because Pacey threw his own body at her. She was out of the car's path. Pacey was not. The brakes of the car screeched, although they did not keep the car from hitting Pacey. The impact wasn't as bad as it could've been, but he was struck in the head, and bleeding badly.
"Pacey, NO!" Joey screamed. She quickly crawled over to his lifeless body, picked up his head, and held it in her lap. Jen and Dawson just stood there, not moving. The car sped off. Joey kept screaming "Pacey," but there was no response. Dawson took off chasing the car, and Jen ran inside some store to call for an ambulance. The sight of the blood scared Joey. "Pacey, you have to wake up," she said, brushing his face. "Pacey, please," she pleaded, but there was no change.
"Joey, the ambulance is coming," Jen said. She walked over, and felt for a pulse. Joey looked at her, frightened. Jen looked up at Joey and said, "it's there."
Joey continued to rock her body, holding Pacey. She was in a daze, and didn't know what to do. The ambulance came, and the paramedics had to physically remove her from him. She stood there and felt helpless. Jen put her arm around Joey, trying to comfort her, even though she knew she couldn't. Dawson came running back, but went right into the same store as Jen had earlier. He returned seconds later holding a piece of paper. He stood silently by the girls. Joey watched the paramedics, and it seemed like she didn't even blink. As they began moving him into the ambulance, she took off running, saying "I need to go with him." Dawson tried to hold her back, but she escaped his grasp. The paramedics let her go in the ambulance. She held his hand, as they rode to the hospital.
"How is he?" she asked one of the paramedics.
"He's stable," he said, "but he is unconscious. The doctors will know how to make him better," he said to her, like she was five years old.
"They have to," she whispered.
Jen looked at Dawson, like she couldn't believe what just happened. They pushed their way through the crowd that had formed, back into the same store. Dawson called his mom and dad, and they immediately left the house to retrieve Dawson and Jen. They all quickly made their way to the hospital.
They rushed through the emergency room doors, and found a blood-covered Joey pacing in a small waiting area. Dawson ran up to her, and said, "Joey, how is he?"
"I don't know," she said, embracing him.
Mitch, Gail, and Jen, just watched them for a second. Gail slowly put her hand on Joey's shoulder, and said, "honey, didn't they tell you anything?"
Joey let go of Dawson, and looked at Gail. Her eyes were full of pain. She barely managed to mutter, "the paramedic told me he was stable, but unconscious."
Gail put her hand over her mouth, and stood in shock. Jen sat Joey down, and, sitting next to her, put her arm around her. Joey buried her head in Jen's shoulder. Mitch pulled Dawson to the side. "What happened?" he asked.
"Dad, it was. . .it was horrible," Dawson began. He was speaking monotonously, and his eyes were glazed over. As he spoke, he looked at the ground. "Joey was in the road, and a car came, and Pacey pushed her out of the way, and it hit him." Dawson pulled the paper out of his pocket, and handed it to his father. "This is the license plate number of the car that hit him," he said. "I ran after it."
"Dawson, this was the best thing you could've done," Mitch said, trying to console him. They both sat down.
"Dad, it was horrible." He looked at Joey. "She just sat there, talking to him, rocking him, and he didn't move. What if he's not okay?" Dawson asked.
"I think that he will be," Mitch said, "we just need to have faith. I'm going to call the police, so that they can trace this number," he said. "Please find me, if they tell you anything."
"I will," he said. Mitch told Gail where he was going. Her reaction was that of a mother's even though Pacey wasn't really her son. It looked like she had aged ten years in the past five minutes. Dawson walked over, and sat with Joey. She fell into his arms, and still said nothing.
A doctor came out, and said, "is there someone here with Pacey Witter?"
Dawson, Joey, and Jen hopped up, and walked towards the doctor, as Gail did. Mitch also just returned. "We are," Gail said to him.
"Are you his mother?" he asked.
"No," she said. "He lives with my husband, my son, and I."
"Okay, I don't want anyone to be alarmed. Pacey is still unconscious, and has a concussion. Considering that, we must classify him as being in serious condition. He does have a nasty cut on his head, and several abrasions. As for now, we haven't found any other injuries. We are still in the process of doing a thorough physical examination, and are waiting for a neurological consultation."
"Do you know when he'll wake up?" Mitch asked.
"We're not sure, because it differs from person to person. It's just a matter of waiting," the doctor said.
"Could there be any problems from this?" Gail asked.
"There are side effects from the concussion. A concussion is a result of pressure on the brain stem. Because he is unconscious, there is slowing in his respirations, a reduction in pulse rate, and it is also possible that his blood pressure will drop. He's going to be unusually pale, and sweaty. Once he awakens, he may suffer from headaches, dizziness, nausea, and restlessness for an indefinite period. He may also have damaged nerve tissue which can produce amnesia, irritability, and fatigue. His memory may also be impaired."
"Oh God," Gail said.
"Now this is just the worst case scenario. To really know what happens we will have to wait for him to awaken. These symptoms are generally temporary," the doctor said.
"Can I see him?" Joey asked.
"If there aren't any other serious problems, and his vital signs remain as normal as can be expected, I would say in about three hours. We want some time to see if he will regain consciousness, and need to do a number of tests," the doctor said. Joey's heart shattered.
"No sooner?" Mitch asked.
"I'm afraid not," the doctor said, "the next few hours are very critical." He walked away, leaving them to think about what was going on. Joey turned, and buried her head in Dawson's chest. He rubbed her back, so that she would know that it would be okay. Jen sat in a chair in the corner, and slowly began to cry. Gail and Mitch sat next to each other, and she placed her head on his shoulder. The sadness they were all feeling was evident, and the tears flowed.
Pacey's brother Doug, and another cop walked up to the receptionist, asking her where the witnesses of the accident were. She pointed to the waiting area. Doug saw them, and got a strange look on his face. "Is my brother here?" he asked.
Mitch stood up, enraged, and said, "yes. He got hit by a car."
"Is he okay?" Doug asked.
"Like you care," Joey said, looking up. "You don't give a damn about him, so I would just suggest that you let your little friend here take care of this."
"You have no right to talk to me like this," he said.
"I'll say what I damn well please to you," she retorted.
"Now you look. . ." Doug began.
Mitch grabbed him by the arm, and yanked him away from Joey. "You leave her alone," he said. "She is right. It is best that you leave."
"You don't tell me what to do," he snapped back.
Angry, Mitch clinched his fists, scowled at him, and said, "leave." Doug crossed his arms, refusing to move. Mitch drew back, and hit him square in the face. Doug fell to the floor from the impact. If the circumstances hadn't been so bad, everyone probably would've cheered.
"I could have you sent to jail for that," Doug said, getting in Mitch's face once again.
"If that's the case," he said, drawing his fist back again, "I won't mind getting my money's worth." The other officer put himself between them. Mitch looked at him, and said, "these kids have been through a serious ordeal, and they will not talk to him. You find another officer to speak with them." The cop shook his head in agreement, and led Doug outside. As sad as it was, it didn't seem like he was concerned about Pacey's condition.
Another police officer arrived, and questioned Joey first. She didn't remember what the car looked like, and didn't see the driver. The officer also questioned Jen and Dawson. They both described the car, and because Dawson had gotten the license plate number, it was likely they could find who did this.
Joey sat in a world of her own, as the officer spoke to Jen and Dawson. Gail sat next to her, and said, "why don't I take you to your house so that you can change your clothes?"
"I don't want to leave," Joey said.
"They aren't going to let you see him for at least two hours. It will only take us a few minutes to go," she said. "Someone can call on the cell phone if there's a change."
"I don't want to leave him," Joey said again.
"Please Joey," she said.
"Will you promise that nothing will happen to him?" Joey asked her.
"I don't think that things will change in ten minutes," she told her.
Joey shook her head in agreement. Gail told Mitch that they were going to let Joey change, and gave him instructions to call is anything changed.
Things were very quiet in the car, and Gail wanted desperately to comfort Joey. As unsure as she was about it, she said "he's going to be okay."
Joey kept her eyes focused on the road, and quietly said, "this is all my fault."
"Joey, it's not your fault," Gail said. "He wouldn't have done what he did, if he didn't want to do it."
"This happened because of me," Joey said.
"Joey, you can't believe that."
"I do," she said. "Nothing you can do or say will change it."
There was silence once again, as they pulled up to Joey's house. They both got out of the car, and slowly walked inside. Bessie's face dropped when she saw Joey. "What's going on?" she asked.
Joey continued, walking right by her, looking for clothes. "Bessie, we have some bad news," Gail said.
"Is she okay?" Bessie asked.
"Yes," Gail said. "Pacey was hit by a car, because he pushed Joey out of it's path. He's in the hospital, unconscious, with a concussion." Bessie has a look of shock, and disbelief, but didn't say anything. Gail continued, "I just tried to get Joey away for a few minutes, and let her change her clothes. You have to let her go back, she is a wreck."
"She can go," Bessie said. "I think that I should go too."
"There's really nothing you can do. It will probably be two hours before anyone can see him, and they don't know when he'll wake up."
"But if he saved her. . .," she said.
"I know," Gail said, "but it's just worse waiting there. We'll let you know when we find something out." Bessie shook her head in agreement. Joey returned, and Bessie quickly got up and hugged her tightly. Joey hugged her back, but didn't want to stay. She and Gail left again.
Gail headed for her own house. She and Joey walked inside. "Is there something that you think he would want from here?" she asked Joey.
"I don't know," Joey said, as she walked up the stairs to look. She stood in his room, not really knowing what to do. She picked up a shirt from his bed. She put it on, and wrapped her arms around herself. She lifted her hands to her face. The sleeves hung over her arms as she smelled the shirt, searching for his scent. The prospect that this could change his life, or end it, frightened her very much. She walked out of the room, deciding not to take anything but the shirt she was wearing. She and Gail returned to the hospital.
When Gail and Joey walked back into the waiting room, the scene hadn't changed.
Joey sat in a corner by herself. Dawson looked at Jen, and said, "does she have Pacey's shirt on?"
"Yeah, Dawson," Jen said, quietly. "It's normal. That's her way of coping."
Dawson shook his head, not completely understanding.
They were all involved in a waiting game now. Dawson and Jen flipped through every three-year-old magazine that they saw in the room, and didn't even know what they had looked at when they were finished. In two hours, Dawson's dad had drank about eight cups of coffee. Each time he returned from the vending machine, he would ask, "have you heard anything yet?" Gail would sit in a chair for a few minutes, then get up to pace. She would sit in a different chair, and repeat the process over and over again. She held a cup of coffee Mitch had gotten her until it was cold, and finally, in her attempt to drink it, spilled it on the floor. Joey sat, still in a daze. She would raise her head very time someone who was dressed in scrubs, or a white lab coat passed by.
Dawson had left Joey by herself, because he knew that there was nothing he could say that she wanted to hear. He didn't know what to do with himself, though. He thought that she might need someone to talk to, so slowly sat down next to her. "Are you okay?" he asked.
"No," she said.
"What can I do Joey?" Dawson asked.
"Nothing," she said. He grabbed her hand, and began to stroke it. He desperately wanted to make her pain go away. "What did the police say?" she asked.
"They think that they can find the person who did this," Dawson said.
"Good," she said, not voicing her thoughts of wanting to kill the culprit. She closed her eyes for a moment. "Did Doug come back?" she asked, not opening her eyes.
"No," Dawson said.
"Good," she said again, still not voicing her thoughts of wanting to kill.
Dawson looked at her. "Do you want to talk about this?" he asked her.
"I don't want to say anything else," she said. Dawson remained next to her, and Jen came to hold her other hand. They sat together in silence, trying to be each other's rocks.
It had been four and half hours since they had first seen the doctor, and he had not reappeared. It was about two-thirty in the morning, and the pacing, and the questions, and the worrying continued. Mitch asked the receptionist for the third time in the last half hour to tell him what was going on. She had no answers to give, but assured him that a doctor would be out soon.
Ten minutes later, a different doctor appeared, asking "is there someone here for Pacey Witter?"
The group, once again, gathered around the doctor. "We are," Mitch said.
"I'm Dr. McMillan, and I have been the primary doctor taking care of Pacey. I know that you expected to hear something sooner, but there was a problem." Everyone was filled with fear, by the doctor's comment. "As sometimes happens as an effect of the concussion, Pacey's blood pressure plummeted. It took us some time to get it up at a safe level. After medicating him, it appears to be doing fairly well, although we still want to get it up some more. Our tests have shown no severe damage to the brain or spinal cord, however he does have some nerve tissue damage, which may impair his memory. He is still unresponsive, but we are hoping that he regains consciousness soon. He does have a severe cut on his head, several abrasions, several bruises, and he has broken his clavicle in two places."
They hung on every word the doctor uttered, and thought that the list of injuries would never end. "Can I see him?" Joey and Gail asked simultaneously.
"I think that visitors are okay. You have to be prepared to see him hooked up to monitors, and with IVs, and you should be prepared to be able to leave quickly, in case there is additional trouble with his blood pressure. He is not going to look good. There can be only one visitor at a time, and you can only stay for a few minutes."
They all shook their heads in agreement. "I will take one person back now," the doctor said.
"Joey, you go," Gail said, knowing it was very important for Joey to see that he was okay. Without argument, Joey followed the doctor through the cold, steel doors.
Gail, Mitch, Dawson, and Jen sat back down, and began to discuss who would go back next. "I want to go next," Gail said.
"Fine," Mitch said. "I'll go after you."
"I want to go too," Dawson said.
"Fine," Mitch said to him, as well.
"I think that's enough visitors," Jen said. "I want you guys to have plenty of time with him. But someone please tell him that I'm here, and tell me how he is when you get back."
Gail placed her hand on Jen's, and let out a slight smile. "Thank you," she said. They sat there, waiting for Joey to come back.
"It's important that you try to talk to him," Dr. McMillan told her. She shook her head, as he lead her down a long corridor. He stopped in front of a small room. "Please, try to keep it brief," he told her. She shook her head in agreement once again.
She choked back tears, as she looked through the door at him. He was surrounded by tubes, and machines. As she slowly walked in, she noticed a monitor on the wall, displaying numbers and lines in different colors. He had a large mask covering his nose and mouth that was giving him oxygen. There was a large bag on a pole, dripping liquid through an IV. He had another line in his wrist, which appeared to be stuck directly in an artery. There were wires coming from his chest to monitor his heart. The complex web of wires and tubing seemed never ending to Joey. His shoulders were in a strange looking brace, and his face had several, very dark bruises. She sat in a chair next to his bed, pushed her hand out of the shirt sleeve, and gently took his hand. His finger had a device to measure the level at which he was oxygenating his blood, and she was careful not to mess it up.
She rested her elbow on the bed, and lifted his hand with hers. She rubbed her face against his hand, and wasn't quite ready to speak to him yet.
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