Summary: Andie's gone and Pacey can't cope; his downward spiral into depression seems unstoppable. Will Joey succeed in helping him, or will he merely drag her down with him?
Disclaimer: Blah, blah, blah, not mine, blah, blah, blah, don't own them, blah, blah, blah, please don't sue, blah, blah, blah.
Note: Obviously, this story takes place in a Capeside where Eve and Rob do not exist. Also, Dawson and Joey never broke up over the whole Parental Discretion Advised fiasco.
Recap: Andie's dead and Pacey's not coping too well.
"I love you, Joey," Dawson murmured in her ear. He brushed her lips with a feather-light kiss before pulling away. Joey smiled softly back at him, praying he didn't notice that the smile didn't quite reach her eyes. She waited for the familiar feeling of warmth which usually accompanied those three little words to ensue. It never came -- as she'd known in her heart of hearts it wouldn’t.
Maintaining her forced smile, Joey moved away, melting gratefully into the crowd of students which filled the school corridor. She quickened her step to a pace not strictly necessary, her only wish being to get as far way from him as fast as possible.
The warning bell sounded above her head, loud and obtrusive, but Joey ignored it. Feeling strangely disorientated, she stumbled the last few steps to the girls’ bathroom. A gaggle of freshman girls occupied the space, their attentions absorbed into a clearly scintillating discussion about Ricky Martin’s ass.
Spinning dizzily out the door, she found herself faced with a empty hallway. Only the last few stragglers remained, reluctant to face their doom of another day nose to the grindstone. Joey's own mind couldn't have been further from education. She couldn't focus on anything these days; not when emotionally she was such a wreck. Spying refuge, she staggered the few feet to the boys' bathroom. Pushing open the door, she was flooded with relief at the realisation that it was empty.
Sagging against the washbasin, she gazed into the grimy, cracked mirror which hung on the wall. Her eyes searched every inch of her own troubled face, desperate to find the answers she knew must lurk somewhere within her. When had being with Dawson become such a strain? she wondered. Where had these feelings of resentment, and even repulsion, come from? She'd thought they’d moved past the incident with her dad before the summer. She’d thought she'd dealt with it. Obviously not, a snide voice from the depths of her mind supplied. It felt as though she and Dawson had moved so far apart, and yet he seemed so unaware of this distance.
"What's wrong with me?" she whispered, choking back tears.
Joey was startled out of her reverie by the loud bang of a stall door hitting the wall with unnecessary force. Turning, she was surprised to see Pacey seated on the floor beneath one of the toilets. His face was tilted back to look at her, and his eyes were narrowed to slits. An eerie kind of hostility showed on his face, which was only intensified by his rapidly purpling black-eye.
"Pacey." His name escaped from her lips as almost a rasp. Something alarmed Joey about the expression on his face. It was distinctly reminiscent of the last time she'd seen him. Once, several weeks earlier, she'd gone with Dawson to visit him at his house. He'd been bitter and unresponsive, just as Dawson said he always was. It had shocked her to the core, seeing him like that. Despite everything, Pacey had always been in-control, and seeing him lose it was more than Joey could handle. Whatever had transpired between them in the past, Pacey was still her friend and she hated seeing him hurting this way.
"Joey!" Pacey’s voice was oddly jovial. "Come, join the party!" He waved his arms expressively in the air, producing a sardonic smile.
"Pacey, what’s happened to you . . . what happened to your face?"
"This baby?" he asked, pointing to the bruise surrounding his unblinking left eye. "Well," -- he drew the word out -- "y'see, y'see, daddy dearest was tryin' to give me some motivation to get out of the house. Stop moping around, start going to school again. And this," -- he stabbed demonstratively at his eye with his finger -- "this was his solution. A good beating'll shock the sense back into him," he said, mimicking his father's gravely, authoritative voice.
"Your father did that to you?" Joey asked in dismay.
"Jus' a little show of affection from the old man. Y'see, it turns out his opinion of me never did really change. I guess I'm still the same old screw-up I always was. A screw-up with a dead girlfriend," he finished bitterly.
There was a moment of silence as Joey looked on, appalled. In this moment, Pacey raised something to his lips, inhaling deeply. And Joey was finally able to place the sickly sweet scent which hung thick in the air.
"I can still see her, you know." Pacey spoke again, his voice low and clouded. "When I close my eyes, she'd there. I was the one who found her -- you know that, don't you?" He seemed to want a response, so Joey nodded mutely, and seemingly satisfied, he continued with the horrific story.
"She wanted me to find her. She called me, said she needed to see me. I thought she sounded weird on the phone, but I figured it was just the medication. She'd just come back from Providence, and they still had her drugged up to the eyeballs. 'Course, that wasn't what killed her. She drank a bottle of disinfectant neat. Burned out her insides -- and then she choked on her own vomit." The words began to crack, until Pacey was forced into silence. His eyes slid closed, and Joey knew he was seeing. Seeing her lifeless body, drowned in what her body had produced to try and help. A lost soul who'd given up on life long before her heart had ceased to beat.
Slipping to the floor, Joey pulled him close, cradling his head in her arms, letting her tears mingle with his. And Joey understood. Something Dawson could never do.
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