Part Five in the Series
Author's Note: Try reading parts 1-4 so you understand what's going on.
Author's (Other) Note: I've got to give thanks to every single person that helped. This is dedicated to Alison, for always putting up with my endless questions and spending hours working on this with me (I promise to put up that shrine to you soon); to Mel, for keeping me from sounding like an idiot and always telling the truth; to Kilby, for making me clarify every single emotion to keep this understandable; to Jenn, for allowing me to make fun of her to release all my stress; to Ro, for being the sane one when the rest of us sound like idiots; to Marissa, for always giving me feedback when I need it; and to every single person that wrote to me and demanded that I continue the series. This one's for you, guys!
Time: Wednesday night
* * *
Dawson sighed in frustration as he hung up the phone. He had called Joey twelve times during the course of the evening and she still wasn't home. He knew that it was her night off at the Icehouse. Where on earth would she be? He debated calling Pacey, since Pacey usually knew the whereabouts of everyone in Capeside, but decided against it when he glanced at the clock beside his bed. Pacey's probably asleep already. I'll just find out tomorrow, he resolved as he shut off the light and crawled into bed.
* * *
Joey silently pulled on a t-shirt in the bathroom of her trailer. She mindlessly combed through her hair. She heard the phone ring, but ignored it. It was obvious that her mind was on something other than preparing for bed.
I can't believe I just did that. I asked my mortal enemy for a hug, she laughed in incredulity. Pacey has always been my archenemy, the bane of my existence. So why did it feel so right? She smiled at the fond memory, then slowly slipped under the sheets and drifted off to sleep.
* * *
While his friends were peacefully sleeping, Pacey was engaged in an internal conflict.
I shouldn't be doing this. I shouldn't be doing this kind of stuff with the soul mate of my best friend, he told himself over and over again. And I can't believe that I enjoyed it! No matter how innocent it may have been, Dawson would never understand. He'd lose his mind. He absolutely can not find out, he vowed. He turned off his lamp but was unable to fall asleep. He kept replaying the events of the night in his head until the early hours of the morning.
* * *
Time: Thursday morning
"Pacey!" Dawson called anxiously from the middle of the hallway. He dashed towards Pacey, who had just entered the building. He stopped right in front of Pacey and bent over, attempting to regain his breath.
"What?" Pacey asked, bewildered. Dawson motioned for Pacey to wait a minute. "You look a little out of shape there, man," Pacey joked. Dawson ignored the comment.
"Do you know where Joey is? I tried calling her all last night and couldn't reach her," Dawson inquired. Pacey froze. Dawson noticed his expression. "Do you know where she was last night?" he asked curiously.
Oh God. What am I going to tell Dawson? "Yeah, Joey was in my arms all night at the ruins." That'd sound really good, he thought sarcastically. Dawson looked at him strangely.
"Pacey?" Dawson asked, snapping him back into reality. Dawson looked expectantly at his best friend. Pacey knew that Dawson should hear the truth, because he understood that it would only make things worse by hiding it. So Pacey did the only honorable thing that a best friend could do. He ran.
"Gosh, look at the time. I've got a million things to do before school starts," he said unconvincingly as he edged past Dawson.
"Pacey!" Dawson protested, confused.
"Sorry, gotta run," he called back as he sprinted down the hallway. He turned the corner and ducked into a doorway.
"That was close," he sighed. His mind raced, attempting to create a justification for Joey's absence. He realized that no matter how plausible his explanation was, Dawson wouldn't believe him unless he heard the exact same thing from Joey. "I've gotta find Joey before Dawson does." He glanced both ways down the busy hallway, making sure that Dawson was nowhere in sight. Unfortunately, he spied him. He made a split-second decision to take the roundabout way to Joey's locker. It might take him longer, but at least he would avoid Dawson. He quickly dashed down the hallway.
"Need to beat D, Need to beat D," he silently chanted as he charged past the crowds of students. Up ahead, he caught a glimpse of Joey at her locker. Alone.
"Yes! Made it! Who's the man!" he congratulated himself. He did a mental victory dance as he sidled up to Joey's locker. Her face was hidden by the locker door.
"Jo, thank God. We have got to-"
"Well, speak of the devil," she interrupted. "I was just telling Dawson where you and I were last night." Pacey glanced around Joey's locker door and saw Dawson leaning against the row of lockers in a state of shock and disbelief. Pacey paled. How on earth am I going to get out of this one?
"I have to hand this bio assignment before homeroom. See you both later," Joey said as she slammed her locker shut. She gave them a quick smile and left.
"Well, I better get-" Pacey began, trying to escape.
"She was with you?" Dawson asked angrily.
"Umm….yeah," Pacey replied meekly, avoiding Dawson's hostile stare.
"How could you? Joey and I are in the midst of attempting to sort out our feelings and you're trying to corrupt her. You don't want me to have her. I thought you were my friend, Pacey . I guess I was wrong," he said icily. He gave Pacey a look filled with contempt as he stalked away.
* * *
Time: Thursday afternoon
"That makes absolutely no sense, Pacey," Joey said while shaking her head. He hit the mute button on the remote so that he could give Joey his full attention. Lucy and Ethel silently shoved chocolates in their mouths on the screen.
"I know, Jo. But it's the truth. He's agitated that you and I are no longer mortal enemies. Didn't you see the look on his face when you told him that you were with me last night?"
"No," Joey replied. She mulled over the past few days and Dawson's reactions in her mind. "You know, Pacey, you could be right. He hasn't been his easygoing, carefree self ever since we skipped school together," she recalled. Wow, Dawson is jealous? Of me and Pacey?
"I told you. He's resentful because you have another friend to confide in," he added.
Is that all that Pacey thinks of me as? A friend? she thought sadly. Wait a minute! Why do I care? It's Dawson I'm after, Dawson's the one that I've always wanted. She reassured herself with this falsehood in an attempt to deny her ever-growing love for her lifelong adversary. They sat in silence for a few minutes, staring at the old "I Love Lucy" reruns on the screen. Their hands brushed as they both reached for the popcorn at the same time. Pacey instantly withdrew his hand and blushed.
"Sorry," he apologized, obviously embarrassed.
Why is he embarrassed? He didn't have a problem with hugging me yesterday, Joey wondered. She smiled, recalling the feel of Pacey's strong arms encircling her. Pacey noticed her expression.
"What are you smiling about? This part isn't that funny," he questioned. She shrugged.
"I was just thinking about something, that's all."
"Just something I did with someone special," she answered. Pacey frowned. Dawson, I bet. She's probably reliving every second of their kiss.
"Oh." Joey noticed the edge in his voice and decided to change the subject to relieve the tension between them.
"So, tomorrow's my big confrontation with Dawson," she began. Pacey turned to face her, hitting the mute button as he did.
"Did you decide what you're going to tell him?" he inquired. She shook her head.
"No. I still haven't decided what I want."
"You can't keep doing this, Jo. He's finally come to his senses and realized what a wonderful person you are. Are you just going to give that up because you felt one kiss was missing something?" he said.
"I don't know, Pacey. What if I decide to be with him but it's a mistake? What if every single time that we kiss, I feel like I'm going to throw up? I couldn't do that to myself."
"But what if you say no and months later, you realize that you made the biggest mistake of your life? Dawson might not come running back to you, he may have moved on. Maybe even back to Jen. Can you take that risk?" She sighed. Pacey looked expectantly at her. She said nothing. "Jo?" he asked softly.
"You know, why am I even worrying about this? Dawson's not going to want me. I'm going to go over there tomorrow and he'll tell me 'You're a great friend, Joey, and I don't want to mess that up'. Why should I even bother?" she muttered.
"Don't say that. You don't know that," he pleaded. "Jo, have some confidence in yourself."
"Why? Let's recap my pitiful dating life, shall we? It basically consisted of a boat ride and a Frisbee game with some rich guy that I couldn't even tell my real name to, a few hours in a drunken stupor with someone I don't even remember, and a car ride with a football player that later claimed I slept with him. Wow, I'm a winner, huh?" she said sarcastically. Pacey took Joey's hand in his own.
"Joey, listen to me. You're not a loser. Any guy would be lucky to have you," he told her seriously. She laughed awkwardly.
"Yeah, right. That's why there's a huge line of them beating down my door, huh?" She couldn't believe that Pacey was actually holding her hand and telling her these things. Pacey rolled his eyes.
"Joey, I'm not the kind of person that would just spout out meaningless compliments. When I tell you something like that, I'm being sincere. Dawson may be oblivious, but he's not stupid. He won't turn you away, now that he's realized how amazing you truly are." They stared at each other for a few seconds, then Pacey nervously cleared his throat and dropped her hand. Did I really just tell her that? he winced. Good going, Witter. Try to make it a little more obvious that you love her, why don't you. He pressed the mute button again and Lucy's whining filled the room.
Pacey just said I was amazing! Joey thought happily. She closed her eyes, relishing the sound of his voice. Her eyes flew open again milliseconds later. I still need to figure out what I should do about Dawson, though she remembered.
"What should I do about Dawson, though?" she asked again. "What do you think you should do?" he returned.
"God, you sound like a psychiatrist. Answering a question with a question." He smiled slightly and motioned for her to continue. "Do you still think that we could be friends if I told him that I didn't want a relationship with him?"
"Why would you want to do that? Remember, you've been lusting after him for months," he reminded her. She sighed.
"I know. That's why this is so hard. Honestly, though, is it possible to remain best friends with him? Hypothetical question, I haven't made a decision."
"I think you can only if he feels the exact same way. Not if he wants a relationship and you don't," Pacey said after a few moments of deep thought.
"Why?" Pacey sighed. He didn't want to tell Joey this, it could affect her judgment. But he knew that she should have all the information before deciding.
"Because every time that he sees you, he'll wonder what he could have done differently. He might try to push you away because it hurts so much. Maybe after a long time, you can go back to being close friends again, but not right away. He'll be suffering too much to let you back into his heart immediately," he told her reluctantly. She sighed. Great. So it's either have a boyfriend that I really don't want to be with or lose my best friend in the whole world. She glanced over at Pacey, who was enthralled with Lucy and Ethel's latest escapade on the screen. She couldn't help but smile. She gazed at him for a few minutes until he realized that she was watching him.
"What? Do I have popcorn on my face or something?" he questioned, lightly brushing his cheek with the backside of his hand. She shook her head no and he gave her a strange look, but continued watching the show. I need to know if he loves me the way that I love him before I can draw a conclusion about Dawson, she realized. That's what has been stopping me from deciding. I don't know how Pacey feels about me. She glanced at him again. No time like the present!
"Pacey? Can I ask you a question?" Joey began timidly.
"Shoot," he replied, his mouth full of popcorn.
"How do you feel about me?" she asked quietly. Pacey nearly choked.
"What?" he asked in disbelief.
"You heard me."
"Umm, well…" he began. What am I going to tell her? That I'm in love with her? That wouldn't be fair to her. She's been in love with Dawson for so long and now she finally has her chance with him. I can't screw that up. "You're a great friend, Jo, you know that."
"Is that all I am to you? Just a friend?" she pressed. He closed his eyes in anguish. No matter how much it hurt, he had to do it.
"Yes. That's all you are. Just a friend," he lied. Joey felt her heart break into a thousand pieces.
"Oh," she said quietly. She looked away, but not before he saw the hurt in her eyes.
"How do you feel about me?" he inquired, letting the responsibility lie with her. She nervously bit her lower lip.
"Like you said, Pacey, we're just good friends," she said. She couldn't look directly at him. She knew that her eyes would betray her.
"That's all?" he replied, mimicking her.
"I said we're only friends, nothing more," she answered with a tone of finality in her voice. She was surprised at how convincing she sounded. She looked at Pacey and, for a brief instant, saw a wave of agony wash over him.
"Are you sure?" he answered.
"Yes," she whispered, barely audibly. She couldn't bear to gaze at him, for she knew that she wouldn't be able to keep up the façade if she did. Pacey sensed her uncertainty and made a split-second decision to act upon it.
"You don't sound sure," he teased.
"Well, I am," she replied unconvincingly.
"I think you're lying."
"Do you?" she answered, completely uninterested. The only thing that she wanted to do was get out of there and as far away from Pacey as possible. If they continued talking, she knew that she would crack.
"Yes, I do. I think that you're scared to admit your feelings, as usual. I think that you like me as much as...." he trailed off, not wanting to continue. It was too late, Joey's interest was piqued.
"As much as what, Pacey?" she inquired, leading him on. He sighed, knowing that there was no way that she would let him get out of it.
"I think you like me as much as I like you," he confessed, his eyes downcast. He had planned on saying that and nothing more, but somehow this disclosure gave him confidence. He continued, taking her hands in his. "Joey, you are all that I ever think about. Everything about you mesmerizes me. Everything. You are this amazing, incredible person beneath that tough, sarcastic exterior. Knowing you makes me want to improve myself."
Joey sat there in disbelief at this profession of love. She couldn't believe that this was actually happening. She sat silently as Pacey continued, a smile spreading across her lips. "Just being around you makes me feel like life is worth living. It's like my life finally has a purpose. That purpose is you. I know that sounds like I'm stalking you or something, but my goal in life is to be half the person you are. To be as honest, as intelligent, as truly angelic as you. Joey, you are my everything." As he finished his sentence, he leaned across the sofa and brought Joey's lips towards his, taking her breath away. She was so moved by his words and proclamation that, much to her astonishment, she found herself kissing him back. Her feelings for Dawson never entered her mind, all she wanted she wanted at that moment was Pacey.
They slowly broke apart a few minutes later, breathless.
"Wow," Joey whispered. She couldn't believe it. Everything that she had hoped for with Dawson, everything that she had been missing in their kiss, had just been found. With Pacey, surprisingly. She closed her eyes, savoring the feeling of his lips on hers.
"I love you, Joey," he said softly, cupping her face in his hands. She opened her eyes and stared into Pacey's deep hazel ones.
"I love you, too," she smiled. Suddenly, the phone rang. She tried to ignore it and move in for another kiss, but Pacey pressed his finger against her lips.
"Joey, you might want to get that," Pacey reminded her. "It might be Bessie." Joey sighed and got up to answer it.
"What do you want, Bessie?" she said brusquely.
"This isn't Bessie," the voice on the other end of the line said. "Sorry, Dawson," Joey replied sheepishly. Pacey quickly turned to face her at the mention of 'Dawson'. She gave him a reassuring smile and returned to Dawson. "Any particular reason that you called?" He didn't answer. She sighed impatiently. "Look, Dawson, I'm kind of busy right now Could you-"
"Jo, I need to talk to you. Now," he told her.
"Can it wait? Like I said, I'm in the middle of something," she told him. Pacey gave her a devilish grin from the sofa.
"No. It can't," he answered. Joey knew from the tone of his voice that he was serious. She sighed.
"Fine," she finally said. "I'll be right there."
"Thanks, Jo," Dawson said, relieved.
"Don't mention it." She hung up the phone and returned to Pacey.
"What did Dawson want?" he inquired.
"He said he needed to talk to me. It sounds important," she told him. He groaned and slumped down on the sofa.
"I guess you're ditching me, huh?"
"Pacey, I have to," she explained. "Please don't be mad." He sighed.
"I'm not. I understand. I just wish that we could continue our little make-out session under the watchful eyes of Lucy, Ethel, and the chocolate factory," he joked.
She laughed. "Me too." She bent down to give him one last kiss. "You can stay if you want, you know. I'll be back eventually." He glanced at his watch.
"No, I should probably go home. I've got a paper to write tonight." She nodded her head in understanding.
"Will you walk me to the rowboat?" Pacey smiled.
"It'd be my honor." He offered her his arm and they trekked to the dock. He helped her into the boat. Pacey untied the boat while Joey picked up the oars. He waved as she began rowing towards Dawson's house.
"I love you, Joey!" he called to her. She smiled.
* * *
Dawson, man, you have to tell her how you feel. You can't put this off any longer, Dawson told himself as he leaned back against the wall in his closet. Let's practice. 'Joey, I love you.' Good, Leery. Repeat. 'Joey, I love you.' Not a difficult phrase. Four words, that's all. You can get through it. Just tell her that. He continued flipping through the old photographs of the two of them.
* * *
Joey slowly made her way up the ladder to Dawson's room. She had no idea what could be so important and, frankly, she was a bit nervous. What if he told her that he was getting back together with Jen? Wait a minute there. I have Pacey. Why do I care if he gets back together with Jen? She shook her head. I guess old habits die hard, she told herself as she climbed through Dawson's window. She glanced around the empty room.
"Dawson?" she called. There was no answer. "Dawson? You in here?" She grew a bit frightened. Why would he call me, beg me to come over, and then not be in his room? "Dawson!" she screamed.
"What?" She heard a muffled voice coming from the closet.
"Dawson? Is that you?" she asked as she approached the closet. She swung open the doors and found Dawson sitting on the floor with photos spread out around him and a flashlight in his hand.
"Hey, Jo. You made it here pretty fast," he said, distracted. He continued flipping through the photos.
"Not really," she replied.
"Ha!" he laughed. "Look at you in this one!" He held up a picture and Joey grabbed it out of his hands. She couldn't help but grin at the image of a nine-year-old Joey covered in mud and standing in the middle of the Leery living room.
"That's a good one, Dawson, but-"
"Look at this one! Can you believe we actually wore stuff like that for Halloween?" he managed to say in between the peals of laughter. Joey rolled her eyes and took a quick glance at the picture.
"Man! This one's even better!" he grinned as he handed it to Joey. She refused to take it. Dawson gave her a strange look. "What's wrong?"
"What's wrong? Dawson, you call me up and make it sound like it's a life and death matter . Then I arrive to find you sitting in your closet, looking through old photos of us. Somehow, this doesn't seem very important." Dawson sighed.
"You're right. It doesn't seem that way, but it is. Joey, looking at these pictures made me realize something."
"What?" she asked, interested. Dawson stood up and took her hands in his.
"Looking at all of these photos made me realize that you and I have always been together. So it seems natural that we should continue that way."
"I don't follow, Dawson," she said, confused.
"We shouldn't deviate from the course that we've already set. I think that we should follow the same path that we've been traveling down throughout our childhood."
"Huh? In English, Dawson!" she demanded, exasperated. Dawson winced.
Why can't you just tell her that you love her, Leery? Why is that so hard? Instead, you're spitting out meaningless phrases and making a fool of yourself Joey threw up her hands in annoyance.
"I have absolutely no idea what in God's name you're trying to tell me and I don't see how this is-"
"Shh..," he said, placing his index finger on her lips. "Maybe this will help," he said softly as he gently brought her lips to his.
To be continued…
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