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Series: part 2 of ?
Author's Note: Thanks to all the proofreaders, especially Jenn and Stefani. I couldn't have done it without you!
Note: This follows Part One, entitled "Only the Strong". Also, the characters' thoughts are shown in *these* Back at Capeside…
"Hey, Dawson," Jen said quietly as she came up behind Dawson, who was rummaging in his locker (in vain) for his history homework.
"Oh, um…hi, Jen," Dawson replied awkwardly. "What's new?…I really have to get going."
"Dawson, wait. Listen, we need to talk about yesterday," she pleaded. Dawson sighed.
"What's there to talk about? You were upset, you slept over, end of story. There's nothing to discuss," he said as he slammed his locker shut. He began walking towards the cafeteria and Jen ran after him. "No, Dawson, that's not all. You ran out on me when I needed you. You went chasing after Joey when we kissed. I thought-"
"I didn't want Joey to get the wrong idea about us, Jen. You and I are no longer a couple," he interrupted harshly.
"That's not the point, Dawson."
"Then what is the point, Jen?" he demanded angrily. "Are you upset that I went chasing after my best friend? Upset that I rejected you this time instead of the other way around?" *Who does Jen think she is, anyway?* he thought.
"I don't care about you and Joey! I don't care!" she cried, feeling the tears spring to her eyes. "That kiss was an accident, Dawson. I was just upset. It meant absolutely nothing. But you're still missing the point!" Jen began to cry. *Why can't Dawson understand what I'm going through?* "All I wanted from you, Dawson, was a little compassion. That's the only thing I needed from you that night."
"Jen, don't cry. I'm sorry," he pleaded. Jen rolled her eyes.
*Dawson's oblivious to everything around him. Why do I even bother?,* she thought angrily.
"You're always sorry, Dawson," she said fiercely through her tears. "You're always sorry." She began to walk away from him, but he grabbed her arm and spun her around.
"What's that supposed to mean, Jen?" he demanded.
"Dawson, don't you get it?" she laughed, wiping away her tears.
"No, I guess I don't. Why don't you explain it to me?" He stared at her, waiting for her response.
"Where do you think your precious little 'best friend' is now, Dawson?" she smirked.
"Joey?" he repeated in confusion. "Home sick, I guess."
"Wrong. She and Pacey are cutting school today."
"Joey and…Pacey?? Are you sure?" he asked in disbelief and fear. Dawson was stunned by the news. His Joey, with Pacey? He shook his head. *She's not yours, Dawson. She never was, get a grip on reality,* he reminded himself.
"Wait a minute, Jen. What does that have to do with what you were talking about before?" he asked again. Jen sighed.
"You apologize way too much, Dawson. You hurt Joey and you hurt me. You think a simple 'I'm sorry' will fix it," she said, feeling the anger swell inside of her. Her voice rose as she continued, "Think again, Dawson. I'm sick and tired of being put on hold. Sick and tired of waiting for you to decide my fate. Maybe Joey is, too. Maybe she and Pacey-"
"No!" he screamed. People turned to stare, but he didn't care. "Joey and I are just trying to figure out…" he tried to explain, lowering his voice. Jen rolled her eyes.
*Does he really believe that?*, she thought cynically.
"To figure out what?" she inquired, trying to humor him.
"To figure out how we feel about each other," he replied triumphantly.
*I guess he really does believe it,* Jen thought sadly. *I have to set him straight.*
"Ahhh, Dawson. Just as oblivious as ever. She got you with the oldest trick in the book. If she really loved you, do you think she'd say that? Do you think she'd be off with your other best friend who, may I remind you, wanted her for himself not too long ago? Do you think she'd-"
"You're wrong, Jen," he interrupted, not wanting to hear her go on. Somehow, what she was saying almost made sense to him.
*Why are you listening to her?*, he asked himself. *Stop it, Leery. She's playing mind games with you.*
"Joey and I are just a little confused on our relationship. That's it. End of story." He stalked off, leaving Jen alone in the hallway. She smirked and thought, *The truth hurts, doesn't it, Dawson?*
"You're wrong, Jen!" he called back, almost as an afterthought. Jen frowned.
"Am I wrong, Dawson? Am I?" she said softly.
* * *
"Pacey, let's stop for awhile," Joey pleaded. She had been listening to Pacey sing along with cheesy oldies songs for the past two hours and she knew she would explode soon if she didn't get out of the car. "Why?" Pacey asked during a break in the song.
"My legs hurt and I'm hungry," Joey lied. *Not to mention the fact that your voice and choice in music definitely leave something to be desired,* she thought wryly.
"Wimp," he shot back.
"Ha, Ha. Look who's talking!" She had a look of annoyance on her face. "Can we just grab a bagel or something, Pacey? Please?"
"Sure. Fine. Whatever," he said, seemingly indifferent. In reality, though, he had been waiting for the past two hours for Joey to ask him to stop. He wanted to hear all the details of her encounter with Dawson and wanted to be able to give his full concentration to her. *Who would have known she could put up with my voice and those awful songs for as long as she did?* He laughed silently and shook his head.
"What's so funny?" she asked warily.
"Nothing. Let's stop here," he said, pointing to a small coffee shop. They went inside.
"Hi, can I help you?" a short, middle aged woman asked brightly. She glanced back and forth between Pacey and Joey, then smiled. *Two little lovebirds, cutting school,* she smiled to herself.
"I'll have a small orange juice and…a blueberry muffin," Joey said thoughtfully after a few minutes of deliberation.
"Gimme….a large coffee, two sugars, three jelly-filled donuts, umm…two poppyseed bagels with cream cheese…and a large pineapple juice," he declared. Joey and the cashier looked at him in disbelief.
"Pacey, it's ten in the morning. How on earth can you possibly eat that much?"
"When you're a fine athlete like me, you must keep up your strength," he said, puffing out his chest. Joey smiled and brought her face close to his.
"I'll hold my breath until the NFL calls, Pace," she whispered, then laughed. Pacey gave her a dirty look. They grabbed their food.
"Hey…Is there a park around here?" he asked the cashier on their way out. Joey looked at him in confusion.
"About six miles down. Make a left at the gas station up ahead and you can't miss it," she raised her eyebrows and gave them a knowing smile. "It's very romantic, Romeo…" Pacey and Joey laughed nervously and headed back out to the car.
*Why would that woman think Pacey and I were dating?* she wondered, thoroughly confused. "Why are we going to a park, Pacey?" she asked doubtfully.
"I'm hoping that the wondrous splendor of nature combined with your fabulous blueberry muffin and orange juice will convince you to spill the dirt on your encounter with Dawson Leery."
"Don't you ever give up?" she laughed.
* * *
"Dawson? I'm really sorry I blew up at you before," Jen apologized. She stood over Dawson, who was sitting outside of his house on the dock. He decided to ignore her.
"Don't do this to me, Dawson…" she begged. "I was just really upset and-"
"You're upset!" he cried, interrupting her once again. "What about me? You deliberately set out to hurt my feelings, Jen."
"I just wanted to share the truth with you, Dawson. And sometimes the truth hurts, but you have to hear it anyway," she said bluntly. She sat down next to him and they stared across the water. She watched the clouds gently roll across the sky while Dawson stared pensively at the water.
"Do you really think Joey and Pacey are off somewhere, making out?" he asked a few minutes later. "The truth, Jen."
"No. Joey wouldn't do that to you. She might not know what she wants to do about you, but she knows that hooking up with Pacey now isn't in anyone's best interests. Joey's a smart girl. She'll do what's right."
* * *
"So, Joey," Pacey began while munching on his bagel.
"Don't even start with Dawson!" she warned him. "I mean it, Pacey!"
"Are you accusing me of trying to pry information about Dawson from you?" he asked, in feigned surprise. "Joey, I'm hurt!"
"Well, what else would you ask about?" she laughed.
"Ummm…" he trailed off, attempting to think of another topic to bring up.
"I'm waiting…" Joey said in mock annoyance.
"France! That's what I was going to ask you about!" he cried. Joey stared at him in disbelief. "Are you going?" he inquired, proud of himself for covering up so well. Joey looked contemplatively at the trees above her head.
"I don't think so. I can't just run away from Dawson and everything else that's bothering me right now. I need to work this out," she declared. Pacey nodded in understanding.
"I think you made the right choice, Joey. You can't hide from your problems. You need to face them," he said. *Maybe I should be taking my own advice,* Pacey thought. He and Joey sat in silence for a few minutes, both pondering their respective problems.
Joey gazed across the lake. It was beautiful, exactly like the clerk had said. The way the sunlight reflected off the water, the way the bluebirds sang, the way the leaves rustled in the light summer breeze…it was the most romantic spot she had ever seen. *But I'm here with Pacey,* she reminded herself. *I can't get all intense on him.*
"Pacey…" Joey said awkwardly.. He looked up from his second bagel. "Hmm?" he mumbled, his mouth full.
"It just wasn't right," she sighed.
"What wasn't right?" he asked while washing down the bagel with some pineapple juice.
"Dawson and me…the kiss…it just didn't feel right. It wasn't how I imagined it," she explained.
"The kiss in detention? Or the one when you were drunk?" he inquired while wolfing down one of the donuts. He wiped off the powdered sugar that stuck to his lips.
"No, Pacey, last night," she said, then stopped when she saw the look on his face. She sighed, realizing he had no idea what she was talking about. "Last night, Dawson and I kissed. And there was just something about it…" she shook her head.
"Was it like kissing your brother?" he asked, almost hopefully. *Wait a sec! Why do I want Joey and Dawson to be just friends? I've been trying to get them together for months…*
"No," she shook her head. "It was more than that, Pace. But there weren't fireworks, like I thought there would be. I mean…" she trailed off.
"You mean like when I kissed Jen in detention?"
"How the heck would I know?" she laughed.
"Hey!" he said, feigning hurt. "Just an attempt at comparison."
"We gave ourselves two weeks," she continued. "Then we have to tell each other what we want. And it's so hard, Pacey, so hard. I thought I loved him more than anything, but…I'm just not sure anymore," she trailed off again. Pacey noticed that she was fighting back tears once again and placed a hand on her shoulder.
"It's okay, Joey," he said comfortingly. He noticed that she had lost the battle again as a single tear rolled down her face.
"No, it's not. Something's missing between us. And if I tell him that, I could lose my best friend!" she cried as the tears streamed down her cheeks. He wrapped his arms around her. She buried her head in his shoulder.
"It'll be okay, Jo. I promise. It'll be okay," he said softly as he tried to comfort her. Joey cried and Pacey held her gently in his arms while the sunlight danced on the lake.
To be continued...
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