Part One: A Night Without Armor
I'll tell you that I'll always want you near
I say that things change my dear.
"So," Jen said, taking Dawson's arm and draping it around her shoulders, "what's the deal for tonight? Have any plans?"
Pacey shoved his algebra book into his locker and gritted his teeth. Sure, he had math homework. So? He'd do it in homeroom on Monday morning.
"Well," Dawson said, smiling cheerily at her, "I was thinking, thrillers tonight. Psycho. Scream. Halloween."
"Halloween was a great movie, I have to admit," Jen replied.
Wow, Pacey thought, doesn't Jen ever miss going out to New York clubs and parties and all that kind of stuff? And now she's reduced to endless boring discussions on which film angle is the best? Man, I don't think I could give up what Jen used to have. The option to not do the exact same thing all the time. A little excitement to shake things up. But I guess I don't have any other invitations going on, so I better not turn Dawson and Jen down.
"Hey, Pace, you working afterschool today?" Dawson asked.
"No, but I have to stop by and pick up the ol' paycheck. Good thing too. I was starting to run out of couch cushions to search for change under."
"Do you think you could pick up a coupla thrillers on your way out?"
What a surprise, Dawson. I'll see you at eight a clock. Sharp.
"Today was the worst day of my entire life!" Doug cried, slumping down in one of the ugly plastic chairs in the Witter kitchen.
"Why, your boyfriend and you wear the same pink suit?" Pacey opened the fridge and peered inside for something edible.
"Ha, ha. Thanks for the support, you worthless...ah, I don't even feel like arguing with you."
"Uh oh, this sounds serious." Pacey grabbed a coke and flipped it open, spraying some foam onto his hand with a soft hiss. "What happened?"
"God, where to begin. First my squad car brakes down-"
"Breaks down?" Pacey repeated, perching up onto the kitchen counter. "It was in the shop just last week."
Doug examined his boots. "Well, maybe it didn't break down, exactly." He looked up in embarrassment. "Get off there." Pacey didn't budge from the counter.
"Ran out of gas, huh?"
"I had to call the station to get a tow truck to help me out. Then, after they gas it up for me, Dad gives me this huge lecture about responsibility." The word came out chopped. Bitter. "You know how Dad's lectures are."
"Yeah," Pacey said shortly. He knew. You don't have a discussion with my father. He talks. You listen. Or else.
"So finally I get out of there, and then I did a couple calls, whatever, and then Chris calls me. Leaves a message in my office."
"Chris," Pacey repeated the rather androgynous name with a snort. "What did *Chris* say?"
"She said it's over," Doug said simply, shaking his head. "No explanation. No apology. No chance for me to try to change her mind."
"Wow, that's rough, Doug." "I know. So wait, I'm not even finished yet. Then another officer mentioned that I might be transferred to another unit. In Bellingham."
"Bellingham? Isn't that where those kids disappeared last summer?"
"Yeah. It's a really creepy town, I'd hate to work it. God, Pacey. What a day. I can't believe this. Just when you start getting used to things...they change. They always change."
Pacey turned up his car radio as Beck came on the radio singing "Loser".
"Man, this should be my personal anthem," he chuckled to himself as he parked in front of Blockbuster Video to pick up his weekly check. He turned the car off and opened the door to see Joey Potter of all people, sitting on a bench next to the front of the store.
"Why if it isn't Miss Josephine. Fancy meeting you here."
"Hi Pacey," she said. "I was just on a walk and I figured I'd swing by the movie store and see if you or Dawson were around."
"Sure you were," he teased, offering his hand to help her up. She swatted it away and stood. I'm gonna have to be careful, he thought. She's almost as tall as me! "We both know you were waiting here for your secret lover," he said, leaning into the door. "You have to meet in private, away from prying eyes. Because you know you just can't be together, but you can't....help....yourself." He smirked, waiting for the inevitable 'Bite me, Pacey'.
"Well, you're here," she said slyly, ducking under his arm and into the store. Pacey followed her, mystified by this new response.
"So, what should we get?" Joey asked him, scanning the shelf of New Releases. Pacey shrugged impatiently.
"Dawson wanted a shriek-fest tonight, I think. Y'know, some really pointless, cheap, predictable slasher films."
"I think he just wants Jen to get scared and want him to protect her," scoffed Joey, making a face. "You know Pacey, sometimes I just get really...I don't know, really sick of this."
"Of what?" he asked. "Dawson and Jen? I thought you were over that."
"I am," Joey said firmly. "Honestly, I really am. What I'm sick of...is...this. Coming to the video store so we can provide Dawson with more creative insight," she said mockingly. "Let's encourage our friend Spielberg Junior here, to follow his dreams. Do you realize," she said painfully, putting the video she was holding back on the shelf, "that all we ever talk about is movies?"
Pacey smiled. "Yes, I was just realizing that today. Sad, isn't it?"
"I mean, it's almost like none of us are happy with our own lives, so we have to watch this stuff and try to forget who we are. But isn't that what we're trying to figure out?"
Pacey didn't say anything. He was so shocked that Joey was feeling the same things he was that he couldn't think of the right words to speak.
Joey scowled. "Of course. How could I expect *you* to understand a word I'm saying. You live in a cave."
"No, Jo....I getcha. I do. Let's screw the movies for tonight. What do you say, we try to get Dawson and Jen to come with us and do something *different* tonight."
Now it was Joey's turn to look stunned. "Really?"
"Sure, why not? Besides, at the rate he goes, someday Dawson is going to run out of movies to watch."
"I don't understand," Dawson said again, looking slowly from Joey to Pacey and then back to Joey. "Where's Scream?" Jen looked on from her spot on the floor, amused.
"I told you man," Pacey said patiently. "They were out."
"Of Scream?" Dawson sounded panicky.
Jen and Joey laughed out loud. Dawson, however, looked confused. It took him awhile to respond to this.
"Pacey....they can't be out of movies..."
"Yeah sorry, they were. So close, too, the guy right in front of me in line got the last copy of Animal House III. Damn!" he said, snapping his fingers.
"Wow, that sucks," Dawson commented, plopping down on his bed, looking dazed. "Now what are we supposed to do? This is terrible."
"Well, we could actually *talk* to each other," Jen offered, backing up against Dawson's bed. "We could have, I dunno, maybe this is stupid...but we could have like, a slumber party every Friday, you know?"
"A what?" Dawson asked, laughing a little. "Jen..."
"It could be fun, Dawson," Joey said, rolling her eyes. "Don't be so quick to dismiss anything that doesn't involve a VCR and fake butter." Surprised, Jen gave her an appreciative glance.
Five minutes later they were still frozen in the same positions: Jen on the floor against Dawson's bed; Dawson lying on his bed with his hands behind his back, pouting; Joey curled up by the window, looking out into the spring night; and Pacey, leaning as far back as possible in Dawson's director's chair.
"So," Pacey said, attempting to start some sort of verbal exchange with another occupant of the room, "as official director of this slumber party, I order you-" he looked seductively at Joey and Jen- "to, you know, put on something a little more comfortable."
"You wish." Joey replied, shooting him a dangerous glance.
"Joey," Pacey recovered quickly, grinning at her, "I am truly hurt that you would misinterperet my slumber party orders like that." Jen laughed a little.
"Well, we will if you will," Jen offered. "Then again what could we wear? It's not like I carry pajamas with me in my purse," she said.
"Aw, Dawson's mom can lend you something. Joey'll show you where her closet is." Joey scowled at him as she stalked out of the room.
"This is *not* turning out to be the evening I had planned," Joey told Jen as they stood in the doorway to Mrs. Leery's walk-in closet.
"I think Dawson's thinking the exact same thing right about now," Jen replied, taking a short white nightgown from off one of the plastic hangars. "You sure Mrs. Leery won't mind us borrowing her stuff?"
"Oh yeah, I'm sure. Yeah, poor Dawson, his first Friday night without a movie in years." She smiled a little, picking out her own blue nightgown from Gale's collection.
"You know what, Joey? A month ago, I never would have guessed that we'd be friends. I mean, we didn't exactly hit it off."
"I know," Joey said feeling a little ashamed.
"Come on," Jen said, seeming to feel Joey's discomfort. "Let's go back out there and try to have a fun evening even without movies."
"Uhhh...." Jen's eyes nearly bugged out of her head. Joey's lopsided smile broke into a huge laugh, and both girls simultaneously cracked up.
Although Dawson was nowhere in sight, Pacey was lying on his bed wearing a frilly pink nightgown and smirking at them.
"Why hello," Pacey said in a high voice. "I hate to say it but out of all of us, I think the nightie looks best on me, wouldn't you say?"
"Well your brother's the gay one, but who's the cross dresser in the family now?" Joey quipped, elbowing him in the side.
"I should get my camera now for blackmail purposes," Jen added.
"Hey, I'm not afraid to show my feminine side," Pacey said, standing up. "But man, I gotta get out of this thing-now. This lace is chafing my-"
"Ok, we get the point," Joey said, beginning to laugh again.
"So where'd Dawson go?" Jen asked, looking around.
Pacey had crossed the room and was now lifting Gale's nightgown over his head. "I sent him downstairs to get some sodas and food and stuff. Give him something to do, maybe he'll get out of this bad mood and actually have some fun."
"Do you think he's really mad that we didn't get the movies?" Joey asked, looking a little concerned.
"Well, let's go downstairs and find out," Pacey replied, going out the door.
Dawson was sitting at the kitchen table staring blankly off into space. When Pacey, Jen, and Joey entered the room, he looked up at them with a vacant stare.
"Hey guys," he said. "Sorry it was taking so long."
"Dawson," Joey began, "are you...."
"So, what do you want to eat?" he inquired, opening the fridge and taking out various food items, almost frantically. Pacey was starting to worry about him. Just what is going on? He is acting so strangely. Pacey thought. I don't think this is about the movies any more.
Meanwhile, a jar of pickles, a can of V8, and a head of lettuce had found its way onto the counter where Dawson was nearly hurling them. Joey and Jen stood staring at him in shock.
"Dawson man," Pacey began, reaching for his friend's arm. "Dawson, what is up-"
Suddenly Dawson slammed the door shut so hard that the entire appliance wobbled and Pacey had a sudden, jarring fear that it was going to fall on them. Dawson jerked his head around and looked at Pacey furiously as tears ran down his face. Pacey had time to blink before Dawson shoved him backwards where he almost tripped over Joey, flailing his arms crazily for balance. Hey almost groped Joey over there but what the hell is going on with Dawson he's going nuts crazy psycho yeah we were gonna get that movie ha ha-
"Dawson?" Jen. Rushing over to him. Arms outstretched.
"Leave me alone!" Dawson snarled, and Jen's eyes stung at his tone, forcing her back.
"Hey." Pacey cried, grabbing Dawson's shirt and yanking him forward. "Hey! Hey! Listen!" He backed Dawson easily against the wall and stared straight at him. "What is going on, Dawson??" He seemed to calm down a little and dissolved into weak, weary tears.
"My mother," Dawson said. "It's my mother. She's....God, this is so embarrassing."
"It's ok Dawson we're here for you," Joey said soothingly. He looked at her for a long minute.
"Yeah," Pacey said. "We're your friends, man. You can tell us anything." Jen just stood silently in the doorway, staring at her boyfriend confusedly.
"My mother...had another affair. And she's pregnant. With the guy's kid."
They were silent for a moment. No one knew the appropriate thing to say.
"Dawson, I'm sorry man. I'm....really sorry. How-how long have you known about this?" Pacey asked.
"She...she left a *note*, that I found...when I came downstairs just now." Dawson said, pointing to a . "She...Pacey, she left."
"What do you mean, she left?" Jen asked, taking a tentative step towards him.
"I mean, she left, Jen," Dawson said. "Left. My father doesn't know. I guess-well, the note was for him to read...I wasn't supposed to see it, that's what the letter said, that she didn't want me to know. It said she was too ashamed to continue her life here...and she doesn't believe in abortion so..."
"Oh Dawson," Joey sighed, putting a hand on his shoulder. "I'm so sorry."
"And the worst thing is, out of all of this..." Dawson began to cry again, "how am I going to tell my father?"
Well, Pacey thought, shivering under the old gray blanket that he had retrieved from Dawson's closet, I've really gone and done it this time. Pacey's put his foot in his mouth again. He glanced over to where Dawson had finally fallen asleep. Once he had gotten under control, his friends had helped him up to his room and into his bed. Jen had gotten into the bed with him and had sung him to sleep, her own eyes filling with tears. It should have been peaceful, but it wasn't. It was horrible.
Pacey looked over his shoulder at where Joey was lying on her back next to him on the floor. She was fast asleep from the looks of things. She is one beautiful girl...when she's asleep and not whipping you with her tongue. God, why am I even thinking that? he wondered. That's not some hot girl, it's just Joey.
He sighed and rolled over onto his other side so he was facing her. Why is it that everyone else is blissfully dreaming and I'm the only one awake?
Know what? he thought, staring into the darkness, I was wrong. Things do change. They have changed. And now I wish they hadn't.
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