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Jen looked across the table at Pacey. They had just finished dinner and Jack and Joey had both gone to the restrooms and she figured now was a perfect time to find out why Pacey and Joey weren't together yet.
"So, did you apologize like I told you to?"
"Yes, mom," Pacey mocked, mugging a face. "I even brought her flowers."
"Nice touch. So if you apologized for acting like an ass and not acknowledging your undying love for her, why is she so miserable?"
"I didn't exactly do that second part," he stared sheepishly at the table, knowing Jen was gonna yell at him. "I told her I thought we should just stay friends."
"WHAT! Pacey why? It's so obvious the two of you are in love with each other."
"Jen, it's not that easy. Did you get Dawson's weekly postcard yesterday?"
"Yes. Is this because of him?"
"Kind of. He said he'd be back next week. Jen, she's been in love with Dawson for God only knows how long. Sure they fought but Joey's told me she's forgiven him already. When he comes back, this little crush on me will be yesterday's news. You should know better than anyone, there's no getting around that soulmate thing they have going on."
"Pacey, you can't compare mine and Dawson's failed attempt at romance to you and Joey. He barely knew me and the timing was all wrong for us. You two have a whole history together and you've gotten really close this sumer. Joey may have forgiven Dawson, but that doesn't mean she automatically wants to go out with him again. Is that really what this is about? Or are you worried what Andie will think?"
"I'd be lying if I told you I didn't consider that. I'll always love Andie but I'm not in love with her anymore and she's made it perfectly clear that she wants nothing more to do with me."
"So you're just scared then?"
"I care about her so much Jen. But at the same time, what do I have to offer her? Why would she want the town screw-up when she could have the golden boy?"
Jen sighed. "You know Pacey, I spent a lot of the past year wishing I was back in the thick of things with you guys. But being a somewhat-biased outsider, I think I got to see things a lot more clearly. Want to hear some of my theories?"
"Fire away." Pacey leaned forward with interest.
"What I noticed, is that everyone's changed so much since I first came here. At the risk of sounding like a sitcom parent, we're growing up. You especially, Pacey. I've seen all the things you did for Andie and the way you stuck up for Jack. And I see an incredible, sensitive guy who is a lot more confident and comfortable with himself than the self-deprecating boy who masked everything with humor.
"Not pulling any punches, are you?" he smiled, not unkindly.
She smiled in return and continued. "Now, Joey's changed the most. She's been looking for her own identity outside of Dawson and Dawson's interests. She's become much more open-minded and more willing to take risks. Dawson on the other hand, well he's my friend, but he's far from perfect. He's been so afraid of the changes everyone's making that he tried to hold onto the past-including Joey-with all his might. Of course, the harder he tries to hold on, the further away Joey wants to go. She's still struggling to find what you already have, she wants to be her own person and be happy with herself."
She studied her friend who was looking at her thoughtfully. "So maybe you can offer her that Pacey. Because I think she's ready to take a chance with you."
She fell silent, watching Pacey mull it over in his mind, until Jack and Joey returned a moment later.
"So, ladies and gent, what's the plans for tonight?" Jack slid into the booth.
"Bowling?" Jen offered.
"Done that. The Beach?" Joey suggested.
"Been there," Pacey chimed in.
"How about the movies?" Jack asked. "We haven't gone all summer."
"With good reason, I'm trying to hold out till Dawson comes back. I'm sure we'll all be dragged out his first night back." Joey groaned.
"So does that mean you forgive him?" Jack asked and three curious faces stared at her expectantly.
"Yeah, I thought it over," Joey said a little sheepishly, shooting a look at Pacey, "And someone convinced me he really did have good intentions at heart."
Pacey cleared his throat uncomfortably. "Ah, I got a postcard from Dawson yesterday. He'll be back on Saturday."
"Wow." Joey swallowed hard. She knew the first meeting with Dawson would be awkward. "He's coming back early."
"Uh, not really Jo, school starts in two weeks," Jen pointed out.
A silence fell as the four of them contemplated what a return to school signified. Pacey considered if Andie would return in time. Jen sighed, wondering if Dawson's return meant an end to this new non-contentious relationship with Joey. Jack frowned as he realized it was back to being "that gay guy who wrote that poem last year." Joey felt depressed as she realized dealing with Dawson's inevitable poor reaction to the changes that took place around here this summer was bound to be unpleasant. It occurred to all of them that the relative simplicity of summer would soon be lost in a mess of worry and complications.
Not quite ready to let summer go yet, Joey said, "Okay, so we have a week left. We should make some plans."
"You have class on Wednesday. I have to work Monday, Tuesday and Thursday and Pacey's got Wednesday and Friday," Jack calculated. "So, it's the end of the four musketeers, huh?"
Some solemn glances were exchanged as the four of them realized that although no one was really going anywhere, things would of course change once Andie and Dawson got back to town. Noticing the glum faces, Jen realized if she didn't suggest a plan, they'd sit here all night. "Well then, on our last carefree night of summer, I propose that we do something fun and silly and totally immature." Her eyes sparkled with a glimmer of an idea.
"Like what?" Pacey mumbled, a touch irritably.
"Just follow me."
"Guys, I don't think this was such a good-Oof!" Jack flailed as a big jock bumped into him and sent him skidding on his rear in the middle of the rink.
Pacey finished tying his rollerskates and laughed from the bench as Jen and Joey glided over to pull Jack up. He skated out to meet them, years of street and ice hockey making his stride steady.
"Jack, you better stay towards the side till you get the hang of it," Jen was saying. "I know it's your first time, but it's not that hard really. You know I won a couple rollerskating competitions when I was a kid."
"Maybe not for you, Miss Roller Derby Queen. But I have a feeling my butt's gonna be sore for a week," Joey said, as she rubbed the aforementioned part ruefully. "I'm pretty rusty, I don't think I've been on roller skates since Lisa Langdon's 5th grade birthday party." She stuck a tongue out at Pacey as he skated backwards in front of them, grinning the whole time. "Show off."
"That's not showing off." Jen said mischieviously. She skated out and started spinning in the middle of the floor. "This is showing off." Her blonde hair and red shirt made one big blur as she pivoted quickly, banging into a tall muscular dark-haired guy, sending them both crashing to the floor.
"Oh I'm so sorry," Jen said between giggles as she got herself untangled and stood up. "That's what I get for showing off for my friends. Are you Ok?"
The guy smiled revealing two huge dimples. "Hey it's not every day a beautiful girl falls for me," he joked. "Sure, no problem. You're really good; that spin was amazing. My name's Dave." He held out a hand and Jen shook it, introducing herself and the others.
"Guys, I think I'm going to sit down for a minute. I'm just a little too uncoordinated for this."
"Oh no you don't! I promised to teach you how to do this and I am. Come on," she motioned for him to come back towards the center of the rink. Then turned back to Dave. "I'm sorry duty calls. But it was nice meeting you."
He looked at her appreciatively. "Hey Jen, can I call you sometime?"
"Sure," she smiled and told him her number, which he promised to remember, then skated back to Jack, Pacey and Jo. Joey held up her hand for a high-five. "Look at you, getting the digits. You go. He's a hottie."
Jen smiled and smacked Joey's hand, thinking how far their relationship had come in just a few months.
"Jen, you don't have to babysit me," Jack said. "The guy was obviously into you, if you want to go skate with himů"
"Nah, I've had enough boy adventures for a while. And you are not chickening out on me Jack McPhee. You're going to learn how to skate and damn well like it!"
Jack laughed, mock-saluting her as she pulled him out onto the rink. "Yes M'am." They skated off in time to the piped in '70s disco music. Or at least Jen was in time. Jack kind of bobbed along behind her as she tried to coax him into actually lifting his feet off the floor. Jo and Pacey laughed as they watched them, then Pacey turned to Joey and took her hands. "Our turn."
Joey hesitated. "Funny, if I recall, you were the one who nearly dislocated my shoulder at Lisa's party, dragging me along by the arm at breakneck speeds."
"Ah, Yes, well, my pick-up technique's gotten much better since 5th grade," Pacey said smoothly as he pulled her onto the floor.
Joey looked at him in surprise, as they circled the rink holding hands.
"Sure. What you think I didn't notice you were the cutest girl in our class? Why do you think I got such a kick out of pulling your braids and making fun of you all the time?"
"Yeah because harrassment and insults really warms my heart. You know Pace from the sound of it your technique hasn't changed that much over the years." She grinned.
"Hmm yeah." Pacey frowned for a second. "But hey why knock what works? I'm still skating with the most beautiful girl in the place." He shot her a sidelong glance.
Joey shrugged and blushed slightly, despite her resolve to keep her feelings for Pacey on a strictly friends level. She'd miss this, she thought, then stopped herself wondering why she was thinking in the past tense. It wasn't as though either of them were leaving any time soon. Still, Joey had the distinct feeling that something was coming to an end-not just the summer, but all the changes the summer had brought also.
"What's gonna happen when Dawson comes back? Will we still be friends? I mean, not that we weren't friends before, butů" She frowned, wondering how to describe the strange relationship they had now, when she couldn't even get it sorted out in her mind.
"But things are different now," he finished, turning to skate backwards in front of her. His movement jarred her and Joey wobbled off balance. Pacey grabbed her arms quickly to keep her from falling, inadvertently pulling her against him. Startled, she looked up at Pacey and the electricity between them flared again. She murmured thank you but couldn't quite pull her eyes away. They were both unaware they had glided to a stop. Suddenly, the rink's lighting dimmed and the DJ announced the next song would be a ladies' choice and Donna Summer began crooning softly.
Joey surprised Pacey by moving closer and leaning her head on his shoulder. He folded his arms around her, sighing contentedly as he slowly skated backwards. Joey let him pull her forward, gliding along still locked in his arms.
Pacey heard her sniffle slightly and he lifted her chin. Joey's eyes were wet and a single tear trickled down her left cheek. She looked so sad, his heart melted. He knew it was his fault. Gently, he wiped her cheek with his thumb and kissed her softly once. Then he pulled her into a hug, whispering in her ear. "No one could make me give up what we have now, Jo-no matter what we call it." Joey struggled to smile, feeling silly for getting all sentimental, as the song's tempo changed to a thumping disco beat.
Watching the conflicting emotions on her face, Pacey felt guilty for spoiling what was supposed to be a worry-free night. He decided it was time to lighten the mood and struck his best John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever pose, boogying on his skates as Joey started laughing. Just then, Jen and Jack skated up next to them and Pacey grabbed Jen's hand making a four person chain and stretching out across the length of the floor. The four of them managed to do almost half a lap, snaking between cuddling couples until Jack tripped and brought them all crashing down in a heap like dominoes. All thoughts of growing up were put on hold as the four of them tried unsuccessfully to stop laughing long enough to get untangled while the music played onů
So, come on baby, dance that dance
Come on baby, dance that dance
Come on baby, let's dance tonight
Come on baby, let's dance tonight
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