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Payback Is A Bastard

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She'd been eyeing him, quite openly, as it happens, ever since she'd been sat at her table by the waitress - despite the fact that she was with another man. Pacey ate alone two tables away, facing her. Her companion's back was to him. She had a dazzling smile and shiny blonde hair smoothed back into one. She talked a lot and laughed a lot, but every so often, wasn't afraid to look him in the eye with her own twinkling pair.

Just then a beeper went off and her companion checked his pager. He stood up, apologizing.

"You're gonna go? Now? Just like that?" She asked, incredulously.

"It's important."

"What's so important?"

"I'll make it up to you, I promise."

"How?" She pouted up at him.

"Look, let me drop you off-"

She dropped her chin into the palm of her hand as she rested her elbow on the table and batted her eyes up at him. "The night's not over for me just 'cos you've got to rush off."

"Oh, what, you staying here?"

"Of course! You think I'm this gorgeously slim because I starve myself? No way. Just go,” she waved him away, “I'm a big girl and I'm sure I'll find some way to amuse myself." She smiled encouragingly at him.

"Well, if you're sure-" he said doubtfully.

"Totally. Now go do whatever that important thing is that you have to go do."

He left, casting a last frowning glance at her. As soon as the door closed behind him she snapped her gaze back onto Pacey, cocked her head and smiled at him. He laughed back at her and forked another mouthful of food into his mouth.

"Do you mind if a lonely abandoned dinner guest comes over and shares your table?" She called over, ignoring the eyes of the other dinner guests that swiveled her way.

"Sure." He grinned back. She brought her plate over and sat opposite him.

"Gosh, now that I see you up close, you are too cute to be eating alone. Did your dinner date abandon you, too?"

"No,' he laughed, 'I'm eating alone on purpose! But I don't mind the company."

"Good thing I'm an empowered woman and came over then, huh?"

"Oh, yes, I do like an empowered woman."

"So why are you all alone? Did your girlfriend have to work tonight or something?"

"Hmm, subtle..."

"I try to be."

"No,' he paused, 'I don't have a girlfriend. I work here. My shift finished a while ago, so I'm having dinner before I go home. One of the perks, you know."

"Perks are good!"

"Especially perky blondes." She eyed him with narrowed twinkly eyes and grinned at him.

"Hmm, I'm a perky blonde, huh?"

"Not if the term offends you in some way, of course."

"Hey, why be offended. I am a perky kinda girl!" She declared. Then lowered her voice. "Just how perky I get is for me to know and for you to find out."

"Won't your boyfriend have something to say about that?"

"Oh, that guy? He's not my boyfriend! And is no competition for you whatsoever!"

Pacey laughed, but instead of taking the bait, he pushed his plate away and leaned back in his chair.

"You ready to go now? I haven't had dessert yet!"

Pacey called a waitress over by name and asked for the dessert menu. "Go ahead and have it on me. I insist."

"Don't tempt me." She burst out laughing as Pacey's eyes widened at her. "Have I made you blush? You'll get used to me. I make my roommate blush all the time! She's so uptight! I asked her the other day if she'd ever had an orgasm and she freaked out!" She took the menu from the waitress on her return and perused it absentmindedly.

"Heh! You sound very fond of this roommate."

"I adore her really, and I know she loves me to death, although she'd never in a million years dare admit it. I was supposed to have dinner with her tonight, but she ducked out on me to study. To study! Can you believe that? She turned me down for James Joyce." She pointed out the dessert she wanted and the waitress left them.

"Obsessed on academia. I guess you're at college then. I know the type, though!"

"You do?"

"Believe me I do. Like James Joyce is gonna take her out on the town!"

"That's pretty much what I told her, except I said he wouldn't be able to keep her warm at night."

"Heh! All study and no play. Not healthy is it?"

"This girl is really anal about papers and grades, etc. But, she is going to play soon; the love of her life is coming to visit."

"She's giving up study time for a guy!"

"Well, they have been friends since, like, forever! But he's also her ex, though they haven't dated in years, but they had some way out magical kiss before he left home for the summer and she has been obsessing about him and said kiss ever since!"

"Well, can't you allow her that? I mean it is a diversion from the books."

"No way! Here's me trying to get this girl to loosen up a little, because, god, like I said she's so uptight! So how can she have fun with me if she's mooning over her ex, who's also her best friend and probably the soul mate she's going to end up marrying?"

"Her best friend and soul mate, huh?" Pacey's eyes dropped to the table as he listened. Soul mate, now that was definitely not one of his favorite words.

"Not that I have anything against soul mates. I had a Dunston of my own back in high school."

"Um, Dunston?" Pacey queried.

"That's what I call him. To annoy her! " She laughed. “But I'm not good with names, anyway."

"By the way-"

"She even wrote an essay about their transcendental kiss and freaked when she only got a C for it!"

"Sounds like somebody I know. A C isn't that bad, is it?"

"Huh! Try telling her that so, anyway, she was allowed to rewrite it and was given an A-. Personally, I think our English professor has the hots for her."

"She's beautiful, then?"

"A gorgeous brunette." She noticed the way his eyes darkened and his face fell for a second, but he recovered quickly enough.

"I know all about gorgeous brunettes, too." He gave a short unconvincing laugh suddenly thinking the unthinkable, then shook his head. No, it couldn't be, he thought.

"But, um, maybe, I'm talking too much about the wrong brunette when I should be finding out all about the gorgeous one in front of me."

"Well, I've not long come back from sailing the Caribbean. I'm a chef, of sorts. I live on a boat and I'm young, free and single." Just then dessert arrived. Pacey asked for her bill as his friendly mystery blonde tucked into it with relish.

"A sailor and a chef. Hmmm, skilled hands, then, huh?" She murmured, as she slowly pulled a creamy covered spoon out of her mouth.

"I've had no complaints." He held her glance and she was the one who looked away, blushing, and busied herself, dabbing her mouth with her napkin.

"I didn't think empowered women were prone to blushing. It looks very pretty on you, though." She didn't reply, just looked at him. The bill came and he paid.

"Thank you, that's sweet of you, but suppose I wanted something more?"

"Just ask. I'll be more than happy to accommodate you, if I can." Their eyes meshed again. She pushed her half-eaten dessert away.

"Um, no, I think I've had enough for tonight. The food was delicious, though so I'm definitely coming back for more." Their eyes tangled again and this time Pacey looked away first.

"Hey! You don't have a home to go to? Didn't realize you loved this place so much!" Pacey's boss, Danny called over to him leaning on the counter.

"I hide it well, don't I?" Pacey grinned.

"Who's the gorgeous blonde?"

"Um, that's perky blonde to you, mister, but I can work with gorgeous!"

"I like her already!" Danny said, backing away into the kitchens.

"Don't worry, I'm going." Pacey shouted after him, standing up. "You coming?"

"Where?" She slowly rose to her feet.

"Is a guy allowed to walk an empowered woman back safely to her place?"

"Yes, but not tonight," she said.

"Why?"

"You mean apart from the fact that you live in the opposite direction to me?"

"Yeah, apart from that!" She smiled enigmatically, walking away.

"Hey! You haven't even told me your name. You don't even know mine!"

She stopped at the doors and turned. "I'm not going to, either! Not yet, anyway."

Pacey gave her his cutest puzzled expression.

"Now wait. There is method in my madness. I'm saving that tidbit for next time."

"There's gonna be a next time?" Pacey asked, hopefully.

"Uh huh. You're not going anywhere, are you? I know where you work now. So there's no escaping."

"Who wants to escape?"

She waved and went out the door, leaving Pacey to shake his head in happy bemusement before making his own way out.

 

Joey rolled her eyes again and eyed her roommate, warningly.

"Joey!"

"Audrey, this is umpteenth time you've mentioned the 'hot' guy that has no name. Stop already."

"Joey? Where are you right now?"

"Um, in our dorm room?"

"No, I mean, yes, but you are at this moment lounging upon my bed. That means I should have your undivided attention. Your ears should be pinned back and avidly listening to what I'm telling you! So just drool with me, please and stop thinking about your creek boy!"

"Shut up!" Joey threw a pillow at Audrey, which she expertly dodged.

"When I sit on your bed I'm all ears while you wax lyrical about Dunston."

The nickname earned Audrey another slam of the pillow, which she parried, giggling.

"Okay, okay, tell me again how hot this guy is. No, wait. Let me tell you. He's tall and dark with blue eyes and works in a restaurant. Right? See, I was listening. So why didn't you find out his name?"

"I'm coming to that. Okay you were listening, but not closely enough!" Audrey chided primly. "Yes, he's tall and yes, he's dark-haired, lovely, sexy, unruly dark hair. And – and,' she forestalled Joey as she tried to interrupt, 'his eyes are not just blue, they're a beautiful blue-green." Audrey finished on a triumphant note.

"Blue-green." Joey repeated, her lashes fluttering down to hide their expression. "Like the ocean." She murmured.

"Uh huh, and very expressive. It's kinda hard not to get lost in them. He's a very sexy and charmingly silver-tongued young man. How silver-tongued he is, I'm hoping to find out for real soon enough."

"Audrey!" She giggled at Joey's outraged expression.

"Joey, I really liked this guy. He's different."

"How can you tell? You've only met him once."

"I just can, plus he paid for my dinner and I wasn't even his date. How sweet is that?"

"Maybe he just wanted to get into your pants!"

"Joey Potter! I can't believe what you just said! Wash your mouth out, girl!"

"Me? Look who's talking!"

"Anyway, he did want to exchange names, but I said no."

"Why?"

"I was trying to be mysterious. You know, you pique a guy's interest that way."

"Do you now?"

Audrey smacked Joey playfully on the leg. "You keep them intrigued and wanting to know more."

"I see." Joey nodded sagely, but grinning mischievously at the blonde, who eyed her narrowly. "That's fascinating, Audrey. You should write a book and include all these man-catching anecdotes! You'd make a fortune!"

"It does work, you know."

"I find straight talking works best for me."

"Ha! Anyway, when we go to Civilization tomorrow I'll point him out to you, okay? Although, I don't know if he's a waiter or works in the kitchen –"

"He'd better be worth the build up!"

"You'll slip up in your own drool, darling. Now, shall we move over to your bed so you can gush about your beau?"

"Yes, let's. Last person there stinks!"

Joey rushed to dive off Audrey's bed, but Audrey grabbed Joey's shirt pulling her back while trying to slide off the bed herself. Joey caught Audrey's pullover in turn and they both pushed and shoved each other, laughing hysterically.

"Cheat!"

"Who me? What about you?"

"Let me win! Or I'll tell your hot guy that you chew your toenail clippings!"

"Oh,'Audrey gasped, 'you liar! You wouldn't dare!"

"Oh, wouldn't I?"

Chapter Text

Two days later, Joey wandered down to the marina where Jen had told her she could find Pacey, turning her thoughts over and over in her mind. If she hadn't gone to that restaurant and purely by accident seen Pacey working in the kitchen, how long would it have taken Jen to tell her that Pacey was here in Boston? Not that she was really blaming Jen. Pacey hadn't wanted anyone to know.
She thought back to how she had stumbled out into the night air, stunned, Jen hard on her heels leaving Audrey to pay the bill.

She had been mad as hell, but what had infuriated her the most was that she wasn't sure why, that for a second, before she'd dampened it down, her heart had jumped with joy at the sight of him…

"…Joey! Joey, wait!" Jen had dashed out after Joey who was stalking down the street. Jen finally caught up and grabbed her arm. Joey came to an abrupt halt. "Joey, what the hell is going on?" She panted. "You know, I don't have the good fortune of having legs as long as yours! Now give!"

Joey inhaled deeply and expelled her breath abruptly, shaking her head with annoyance. To be honest she was starting feel a little foolish. She'd overreacted. She sighed heavily, looking at Jen who stood arms akimbo, but she saw the concern shadowing her face.

"I'm sorry." She muttered.

"It's okay. You're obviously upset about something. Just tell-"

"Pacey's in there." Joey stated flatly, cutting her off.

"What?"

"On the way to the bathroom I saw Pacey working in the kitchen. Pacey is here in Boston, Jen."

Jen noted the agitated flying of Joey's hand gestures. "Did he-"

"He didn't see me. What is he doing here? Why hasn't he told anybody? Because he obviously doesn't want anyone to know-" To her horror she felt the tiny prick of tears.

"Three weeks." Jen shifted uncomfortably from one foot to the other, staring down at her feet before glancing back up at Joey.

"What?"

"I knew he was in Boston, Jo." She rushed on as Joey stared at her open mouthed. "But I didn't know he was working here. I haven't seen him for awhile."

"That would be down to the Charlie factor…"

"Hmm. I'm, sorry."

"You could have told me, Jen."

"He didn't want anyone to know."

"But why?" Joey sighed. "I-"

"What on earth is going on?" Audrey stalked up to them. "Why has dinner been broken up and the chance to show off my hot guy cancelled? I was waiting for the dessert stage to introduce you – once I found him, of course."

"Audrey, not now. I'm sorry I spoilt dinner-"

"Never mind the dinner! Just tell me what happened!"

Joey looked at Audrey, shook her head, and glancing at Jen, turned and walked away, slowly. Jen and Audrey followed behind.

"Jen?"

"Remember the little potted history Jack and I gave you on Joey's love life?"

"Yeahhhh?"

"Well, the third part of the triangle was spotted in the restaurant." Jen explained.

"What? Wow! Are you going to have two guys fighting over you again?"

"Audrey!"

"Where is he? You have to show me. Is he cute, Jen?"

"All kinds of, Audrey."

"And Jen should know!"

"No! Jen is there something more to the potted history you didn't tell me?"

"Audrey, this is not funny!"

"Why is it so serious?"

"What?" Joey stopped mid step and turned on her.

"Why is it a big deal? You're over the guy now, aren't you?"

"Of course! But-"

"But what?"

"Look, I don't want to talk about it. You don't understand."

"Don't you want to see him, Jo?" Jen now asked.

Joey gently shrugged, but her eyes hugged the pavement. "What for? He's obviously fine and doesn't need any of his friends. So let's just forget it."

With that she moved off at speed. Jen and Audrey exchanged raised eyebrows and followed her.

Later that night, back at their dorm, Audrey had tackled her again. "Come on, tell me about this guy. You've hardly mentioned him."

"What's to tell?" Joey shrugged. They were both dressed for bed now. "We dated. He dumped me and now he's turned back up again."

"You sound bitter Joey. And I don't like that. I've been trying to initiate you into the fun side that college can be for a young, free and single girl, but you've been pretty much ruining my efforts up to now."

There was a long silence.

"Do you still have feelings for him?"

"No!" Joey bit out before Audrey hardly finished her tentative question. "Will you drop this please?"

"Jo-"

"Why won't you listen to me?"

"If I'd listen to you and taken your snarky, cynical self to heart on first meeting, you we'd never have become the stuck together like glue, happy friends we are now." Joey eyed her balefully. "I put a lot of effort into becoming your friend Joey Potter. It's time to give something back."

"I don't want to discuss it." She folded her arms tightly across her chest and turned her head away.

"You know all this time I've heard nothing but Dawson's name fall from your lips. Never this Casey-"

"Pacey." Joey corrected automatically.

"Yeah, never this Pacey guy and it seems to me he stirs up as much emotions in you as Dawson does. If not more." Audrey held Joey's narrowed gaze now.

"Just what are you trying to imply, Audrey? Are you questioning my feelings for Dawson? Because-"

Audrey recognized that tone of voice and quickly averted Joey's wrath. "No. Joey do you think it's a crime to have a few cold leftover feelings for, er, Pacey?"

"What feelings? This supposed bitterness? He humiliated me at our prom. In front of everybody, including Dawson. He dumped me and left Capeside without even saying goodbye. He didn't even tell me that he had graduated." Joey realized her voice was rising and immediately shut up and slumped back against her pillow.

"Considering you're in love with Dawson now why do you still care so much?"

"I don't, but it was a messy ending. I-I don't want to make him feel uncomfortable. He had to do what he felt he had to do. But I don't owe him anything, either. I-"

"Do you want to see him or not?"

"Yes. No! Yes, I've known him for most of my life and he meant a lot to me at one time. I just want to touch base with him. To see that he's okay."

"To lay old ghosts to rest."

"There are no old ghosts." Joey insisted. "But he obviously doesn't want to see me so-"

"Duh! Of course he wants to see you." Audrey moved closer.

"How do you know?"

"Because you're beautiful and you don't know it. Because you're smart and you don't believe it. Joey you're the kind of girl guys never get over." She confirmed the sincerity behind her words with a hand on Joey's arm and a warm smile. "Come on, look at you and Dawson. Hadn't dated in years, but here he is in Boston with you. He gave up USC, Jo!" She was in full flow now. "And you're the kind of girl other girls get compared to. I'll bet you, Casey-"

"Pacey."

"Right. I'll bet he hasn't been able to touch another girl because he can't get you out of his head." Joey watched her friend for a moment, she seemed to like the idea of that, and then her crooked smile peeked out. She nodded her head.

"Audrey, you're right. I do owe you. You're very good for my ego."

"What are girlfriends for?" Audrey grinned. "He wants to see you, Jo. Trust me. See him. Blow away the cobwebs and start on a completely clean slate with Dawson…"

 

…So here she was looking for him. She wrapped her cardigan around her as if for protection. It wasn't that it was a cold night. In fact, it was a fairly warm night for the time of year and a sultry breeze stirred about her. No, she wasn't cold, just nervous. She turned a corner and suddenly there he was a short way ahead of her on the deck of a fair sized yacht. He was wearing a blood red tee-shirt that stood out against the night, illuminated by the lamps along the boardwalk and the cabin of the boat. His hands were busy doing some task. Slicing it looked like, and his concentration was such that he was unaware of her. Joey moistened her lips, swallowed and was about to call out when suddenly he stopped what he was doing, sighed and then disappeared down below into the cabin. Joey approached cautiously. The breeze lifted her hair, caressed her face softly, like the light touch of a lovers fingers. Why was she thinking like this? She wasn't sure whether to call out to him or not, but she gingerly stepped up on board. Slowly, moving further in until she was at the side of the cabin opening, she leant over to peer down the stairs into the cabin below. Her breath caught in her throat and her eyes closed briefly, tightly, before fluttering open again to gaze down wide-eyed. The plushness of the interior barely registered with her because her eyes were riveted on Pacey who was stood in the middle of the room and was in the process of pulling his shirt off over his head. He was now naked to the hips. She saw how working the summer months on the boat had honed his body into a series of beautiful, tightly muscled contours. Joey swallowed.

Damn, he must have worked his butt off! And wondered exactly what that improved part of his anatomy now looked like. She allowed herself to drink in the smooth tan on his body, the bulge of biceps and hard pecs, drifting over his toned stomach to follow the arrow of dark hair past his navel into the waist band of his boxers, visible due to the two undone buttons of his jeans. He half twisted to grab a can of soda off the nearest table top and she gazed, mesmerized by the flexing of his back muscles and then the flowing movement of his throat as he threw his head back to chug the drink down.

Help me, she thought. Hadn't she secretly half feared this? She couldn't stop licking her dry lips and that probably had something to do with the shallow speed of her breathing, the sudden tight ache in her breasts. She gritted her teeth, angry. She pulled back, leaning against the side of the cabin opening. She couldn't do this, she thought frantically, closing her eyes, trying to calm her heart rate and banish the haunting barrage of erotic images that suddenly threw themselves up in her mind's eye. One after the other, thick and fast…remembering…her body arched wantonly against Pacey's as he kissed her breasts and sucked her nipples hungrily, greedily…Pacey watching her passionate responses with a delighted satisfaction dancing in his eyes as he slowly thrust into her, grinning sexily…Pacey's hot tongue tormenting her clit mercilessly, bringing her to the brink, but never taking her over, driving her screaming insane…

"No." She moaned softly. "I can't do this." She muttered fiercely, and tried to scurry away, stumbling in her haste.

"Who's there?" Pacey called out sharply.

Joey froze where she was. "Oh, god." She whispered.

Chapter Text

She turned back slowly, knowing that if she didn't answer he'd be up any second. Taking a deep breath and schooling her thoughts, she stepped into view.

"Hey." She said.

Oh hell! She thought. He's still half naked.

Pacey stared up, dumbfounded, at the vision of Joey at the top of the stairs. Her face was warm with color, her eyes over bright, flickering between his face and a point beyond his shoulder.

"Joey!" he cleared his throat. "Hey yourself."

He came forward and stretched out his hand. He noted the hesitation, he narrowed in on the quick licking of her lips, and then she took his hand, and he steadied her as she descended down the narrow staircase. As she took each step, his gaze drank in their fill, the slim smooth column of her throat and her chest leading into the neckline of her top, the soft thrust of her breasts pushing against her top as her cardigan swung open and the peaking nipples didn't go unnoticed, her swaying hips and the accentuated vee between her legs in the tight hipsters she wore. Pacey felt his cock throb in protest. He groaned inwardly. She was as beautiful as ever and he knew he shouldn't but he couldn't help himself. As she took the last step, he pulled her into the circle of his arms, his other hand slid along her lower back, dangerously low and close to the top of her buttocks, then it slid straight up the middle of her back to her neck and he embraced her closely. She was trembling.

Joey's heart leapt madly in her chest. Pacey seemed to have forgotten that he was shirtless and he was pressing her into his body. She had no option but to bring her hands up between them. She'd die if they pressed chest to chest and he could feel how hard her nipples had suddenly become. She could feel for herself the velvet smoothness of his skin and she resisted the urge to curl her fingers in. God! She could smell him. That unique mixture of sea air, salt and spice and Pacey that had never failed to ignite the heat between her legs and she fought against that urging now. Dawson. Dawson. Dawson. She repeated his name in her head like a desperate litany. Pacey's lips had barely grazed her cheek before she tried to escape.

"Pace-" She cleared her throat as she pressed away from him and he let her go, she, almost stumbling in her haste to put some distance between them. Wrapping her cardigan around her she leaned back against the worktop where he'd placed the empty can of soda and shaking her hair away from her face she tried for a nonchalant smile.

"So, here you are!" She quipped, glibly, but she found Pacey's stare unnerving, if quizzical in nature. There was a high color in her cheeks and he noted her clenched fists gripping the sides of her cardigan. He positioned himself directly opposite her, leaning indolently, against a sideboard. He grinned lazily at her, folding his arms across his chest, forcing her to notice the flexing of his muscles.

"Here I am." He drawled back.

She felt like an insect under a microscope, his scrutiny of her was so intense. She shifted uncomfortably, her annoyance increasing by the second, but she banked it down. He seemed happy enough to see her.

"Jen turned grass, huh?"

"Um, no,' tucking an errant lock behind her ear, 'actually we were having dinner at Civilization a couple of nights back and I saw you."

"I work in the kitchens there-"

"I, uh, gathered that."

"Yeah." The silence stretched for long seconds. Joey looking anywhere but at him.

"So, how are you, Jo?" He said finally.

"I'm good. Really good-um,' she broke off abruptly, 'do you – do you think you could, maybe, throw a shirt on or something? It's kinda hard to exchange pleasantries when you're standing around half naked." She gave a short laugh and turned away, making a show of looking around.

"Nothing you haven't seen before, Potter." His eyes followed her every move.

"Those days are long gone, Pacey." She threw behind her, ignorant of his quick grimace. "This place is great!" She rushed on. "This is some boat."

The back of her neck prickled and she turned slowly to face Pacey who hadn't moved from where he leant. They simply looked at each other.

"Us meeting up again was always going to have some awkwardness." He said, watching her under hooded eyes.

"And you standing around with your boxers hanging out doesn't help!" Her tone strived for humor, but there was a distressed note beneath it she struggled to control.

"Yeah, you said." He buttoned up his jeans and Joey averted her eyes. She tried to relax and leaned back against the counter again resting her elbows on top either side. Her cardigan swinging open. "So you graduated. We heard your name called out."

"Almost surprised myself."

"I wasn't surprised you graduated, Pacey. Just that you weren't there at all." The air between them felt so thick you could cut it and Joey felt brave enough to hold his gaze. "You didn't tell anyone?"

"Only Andie."

"I thought you might have. Why only Andie?"

Was that a tinge of censure at the back of her eyes? He merely shrugged. She seemed to expect something from him, but he didn't know what she wanted.

"Funny how I ended up here anyway, though, isn't it?" His tone was odd, speculative and something in the air shifted, changed. He stood up straight and slowly walked over to her. She was rooted to the spot, heart in her mouth. Her eyes shot up to his, startled. She shook her head, jerkily, as if to warn him. Pacey wasn't sure if she realized she was doing it. He stopped a few inches away, looking down on her enigmatically. She forced herself to remain still.

"W-what?"

"Hmmm?"

"What are you doing?"

He reached up to finger a lock of her hair, smoothing the silky tendrils between finger and thumb. Joey moved her head irritably away. She hated that he had such a stirring effect on her.

"Why did you come?" He asked dropping his hand.

"I wish I knew now." She snapped. She had to keep a barrier up between them. "Look, I just wanted to see that you were okay and I've done that. I think I should go now."

She straightened, but he didn't reply and she glanced up at him. What she saw in his eyes made her weak at the knees and she shivered. She tried to glare at him, then to her horror watched as he deliberately dropped his gaze to her breasts. Her nipples hardened further, as if on cue, against the material of her top, standing proudly for his inspection. There was a sharp, involuntary intake of breath from Joey and her eyes shot up to his to gauge his reaction. They were dark and liquid and she saw a tigerish glitter in them, a hard satisfaction and with a cry she tried to push past him, but he caught her wrist.

"Joey."

"Let me go, damn you!" She tried to pry his grip loose. He merely dragged her up hard against his body and closed his arm about her. "Pacey! No. I don't want you!" She spat desperately.

"I beg to differ." He whispered. "Or at least your body does." She shivered as his breath stirred her hair against her ear. She pushed ineffectively against his chest and after a few seconds she looked up at him in mute anger. He smiled lazily. "Joey Potter, I've missed you." His hand slid up her arm, over her shoulder to lightly grip the back of her head.

"If you don't let me go right now I'll never speak to you again, Pacey. That will be our friendship over!"

"I told you before I couldn't be your buddy. Remember?"

"I mean it!"

"Aren't you going to tell me you missed me?"

"No!" She hissed and began to struggle again.

"I get it." He whispered against her mouth. "You're going to show me, instead."

She couldn't answer. His mouth was already on hers, hot and hungry. She moaned, before she could stop it, as he sucked her tongue into his mouth. It felt so good, so familiar just like she remembered. She had already lost her reason. Her hands slid up around his neck and plunged into his hair, raking its silky crispness. She kissed him back heatedly and gasped as he hefted her up and set her on the counter top.

"No, Pacey. Wait." Her words died in her throat as his mouth zeroed in on one nipple, suckling greedily the way he knew she liked it and pushing her cardigan off her shoulders at the same time. Joey arched her against him, wrapping her legs around his waist and moaned as his hands came back round to mold her breasts through the top. Impatiently he pushed the top up so he could taste her satiny skin for real. He murmured appreciatively against her and her hands pushed haphazardly through his hair down to his neck, kneading his shoulders, smoothing over his biceps. He came back up for air and immediately caught her lips again. Then trailed light kisses over her face, down into the crook of her neck, rubbing his face caressingly against her skin. Joey's hands slid down his back, but was suddenly jolted back to the real world when Pacey's questing fingers fingered the buttons on the fly of her jeans. She wanted his mouth there so much, it hurt. It had been so long, but this was insanity! She was with Dawson now! How could she be letting this happen? It had gone too far already. Shame and guilt warred with the heat of desire and hunger for Pacey. She pushed at him.

"Stop! No! Stop Pacey! Please."

He let her push him away and stood back, panting harshly, but never taking his eyes off her. She jumped off the counter, pulling her top down and shrugging her cardigan back on.

"This is not going to happen! It's finished! You finished it months ago and then went on about your business!" She shouted at him. Attacking him straight off the bat. This just couldn't be. It just couldn't.

"Then why did you come here practically wet between the legs for me?" He snapped back. His cock felt hard as rock and hurt like hell. And that was her fault, damn it!

"You arrogant-"

"Is that a denial?"

"I knew this was a mistake." She tried to move past him, but he grabbed her arm, letting go instantly when she shook him off, snarling at him. "Don't touch me!"

"Singing a different tune now, are we?"

"I'm leaving!" Joey made to push past.

"Joey! Wait! Don't you see? After everything I thought and said last year I've ended up right here in Boston with you."

She felt her heart judder at his words, but she couldn't stop to think about them. She just couldn't. "Not with me, Pacey. We may be in the same city, but we're not together."

"Why are you so angry-"

"Maybe I don't like being manhandled!" Well, she could hardly tell him that it still stung that he left Capeside without saying goodbye, dumped her and told his ex more than he'd told her. That she still had the hots for him but was now with Dawson!

"Cut the bullshit, Joey!" Pacey was getting angry himself now. "You still want me. At least have the guts to admit that. Why you're treating that fact like it's a shameful crime makes no sense to me."

"But it is!"

"Why?" She couldn't answer.

"Jo?"

"Leave me alone." She was at the bottom of the stairs now.

"You kissed me back."

She turned to face him again. She had to do this. She had to finish it dead and took a deep exaggerated sigh of exasperation.

"Don't you get it yet, Pacey?" She laughed derisively, shutting down her desire and the sight of his beautiful body as he stood there in an aggressive stance. His hands resting low on his hips. She kept her gaze at eye level.

"Why don't you fill me in." Not liking her tone at all.

"Just testing." She shrugged, trying to ignore the adorable way his hair stuck up all wildly from her frenzied fingers earlier. Trying to ignore the dull throbbing between her legs.

"What do you mean?" His eyes narrowed.

"I wanted to find out if there was still anything there. I've got my answer."

"Which is?" Dangerously quiet, but she couldn't blow this now.

"You don't do it for me anymore, Pacey." She told him levelly. "At least I know that now."

"Want me to prove otherwise?"

"I just told you-"

"Stop trying to fuck with my head!" He shouted and she flinched.

"This is a waste of time!” She cried.

"You're right. No point in my trying to prove you wrong, Jo. You'd have to be worth the effort, right?"

Her mouth trembled. "Go to hell!" She said before rushing up the stairs and leaving the boat. He followed after a second and watched her run out of view, hair flying.

"Bitch!" But he didn't really mean it. He had moved too fast. Acted like a crazed dog in heat.

"Stupid!" he berated himself. He jumped down back into the cabin grabbing the empty soda can, crushing it and flinging it in the corner.

"Fuck!"

Chapter Text

The next time Pacey heard from Joey it was her cold voice down the line of his cell phone, informing him that Mitch, the father of his oldest friend, Dawson, was dead. A senseless car accident.

"I'll see you there, then."

He hesitated, feeling horrible for doing so...

"Pacey?"

"Maybe Dawson won't want me there." He murmured, almost too softly for Joey to hear.

"How can you-"

"Why didn't he call me himself-"

"I think he might have a few more important things to worry about. Don't you?"

"Still-"

"Pacey,' she began, impatiently, 'your father dies tomorrow. You're at the funeral. You look up, and you see Dawson. Would that mean something to you? Would seeing one of your oldest friends mean som-"

""Okay, Joey. Okay! I'll be there." Pacey cut in, testily.

"Fine."

She immediately hung up. She obviously didn't need any sympathy or comforting from him then. He sighed and pushed thoughts of Joey out of his head. It didn't matter what had happened in the past. He'd be there because Mitch was more of a father to him than his own had ever been and because once upon a time, Dawson had been his closest friend – and whatever the state of play between them now he felt he needed to be there for him.

 

**************

Apart from a barely perceptible nod of greeting, Joey ignored him, but he was glad of the warm welcoming embraces of Mitch’s widow Gale, Jen, and Jack who he hadn't seen since he'd left Capeside. Dawson was aloof for the most part, but accepted Pacey's handshake and didn't resist when Pacey pulled him into a close hug.

The wake was held at the B &B and everyone congregated there after a moving service that had Pacey swallowing back the constant prick of tears.

Later that evening he found Joey sitting outside on the veranda.

"Hard to believe he's gone." Pacey said, taking the seat opposite her.

"I know." She glanced quickly at him and away.

Joey stared into the night wanting to get up and leave and refusing to examine why she couldn't.

Pacey gazed at her profile, thoughtfully. A long silence ensued before Pacey broke it. "What about you? How are you holding up?"

"Fine." She gazed ahead, stonily.

He clenched his teeth then relaxed his jaw with concentrated effort. "Are you staying much longer in Capeside? Or you going back to Boston tomorrow?"

"I'm going back to Boston tomorrow – alone."

"I wasn't angling for a lift."

Joey merely shrugged.

"Something's puzzling me, though. Dawson told me he was dropping out of USC." He paused, shaking his head a little as if unable to fathom such a notion. "Why on earth would Dawson Leery of all people want to drop out of film school?"

Her head fell, her lashes concealing her eyes, and then she turned back to him. She looked him meaningfully in the eye, a defiant tilt to her chin, but said nothing.

A long moment passed.

And he knew. Oh, yes he knew.

The tension between them was palpable, almost unbearable and her throat felt constricted, she could barely breathe, but she held his gaze. The dark intensity of his eyes on hers, caused a panicky fluttering in the pit of her stomach, but she couldn't read him. He was inscrutable. Her heart quivering, she was really at a loss as to what she could actually say. Or how to say it. But whatever his reaction to the answer of his question would be, she was determined not to feel guilty. She'd done nothing wrong, had she? She'd had a right to move on, just like he had, without a backward glance last year.

Her stare didn't flicker and for a second Pacey admired her guts, but only for a second. Still, her pupils were dilated to enormous proportions and within their depths some nameless emotion swirled there. But what exactly? He eased out the breath he'd been holding, as she slowly looked away. He wanted to clench his fists and slam them on the table in front of them. A red mist passed over his eyes and he saw nothing for a moment, felt nothing until a sudden urge to kick out and smash everything around overwhelmed him. He couldn't. He mustn't. It passed in a second and he forced the violent emotions down. When she still didn't answer, he forced a shrug.

"Mitch was just the kind of father you expected, wasn't he?" Pacey mused. "Stern but loving. Fair, but uncompromising when called for. Annoying sometimes. A bloody saint compared to mine."

Joey snatched a glance at Pacey. She wasn't sure what kind of reaction she'd expected from him, but he'd surprised her. Annoyed her, too. Why hadn't he said anything? From the look on his face she was sure he had guessed.

"At least you've still got your father, Pacey." She reproved.

"I know that. It wasn't a complaint." He held on to his temper. Just. "But still he was like the father I never had. Taught me to drive, gave me a rollicking after catching Dawson and I smoking." He laughed as he remembered. "Dawson reminded me of that today."

"I wonder how Dawson came to be smoking." Joey asked, tightly.

Pacey looked at her under hooded eyes. "Yep. It was down to bad boy Pacey. I cannot tell a lie. Isn't it always? When Dawson Leery is led astray? Oh, except for his escapades with Eve. You remember Eve, don't you, Jo?"

Joey stood up abruptly. She was rounding the table.

"Look, forget I said that. Joey, about the other night-" He tried to forestall her, standing himself and barring her way back into the house only a few inches between them and she was reminded of that night on his boat. She pushed the image of his taut half-naked body away. The tension between them was palpable, almost unbearable and her throat felt constricted, she could barely breathe. Attack was the best defense.

"No!" She said, fiercely, stepping back. "This is neither the time nor the place to discuss that and what's more I don't want to discuss it with you! Dawson is hurting right now and this is Mitch's funeral. The last thing I want to talk about with you is how your hormones went crazy the other night!"

"Don't you mean your hormones, Jo? That's what you're so mad about, really, isn't it?" Hell! He'd had it with this girl!

"Don't flatter yourself!" She moved over to the edge of the porch. Pacey came to stand directly behind her.

"You never answered my question, Jo. Why would Dawson drop out of USC?"

She didn't answer.

"You, Joey?" He whispered softly. It wasn't even really a question. He wasn't even surprised. What did surprise him was how hard and cruel the twist to his gut was. It hurt. Badly. Stepping off the porch he came to stand in front of her. Now her lashes fluttered down to cover her expression and her mouth trembled almost imperceptibly. Whatever she was feeling she was struggling valiantly to control it - as he was with himself.

"I wonder why I'm not surprised."

"I didn't ask him to stay!" The retort was wrenched from her, her eyes flying back up to his. Why was she answering him? She didn't owe him anything!

"What did you do then? Whisper sweet nothings in his ear? Stick your tongue down his throat?" He spoke to her ever so softly. "Fuck him?" She gave a shocked, angry gasp and pushed past him to step down onto the grass, moving at speed away from him into the night.

"Because you must have said or done something to make him stay! To make him give up his life dream of film school at USC. What did you say?" Pacey followed her, keeping up easily as he threw the questions at her.

"I didn't make Dawson do anything he didn't want to do! Not that it's any of your damn business!" She almost shouted, turning on him and standing her ground. "I can't believe you're acting like this - on the day of Mitch's funeral!"

They stared each other down.

She was magnificent when she was angry, eyes blazing, face flushed, shaking with fury. He wanted nothing more than to throw her to the ground and fuck Dawson out of her brain and out of her heart.

"Look, you wanted to know why Dawson left film school and now you know. Just leave us to get on with it."

"Is he really what you want?"

"I wouldn't be with him, otherwise, would I?" She replied coldly.

"If I'd never left Capeside do you think you would be with him now, Jo?"

"Oh, I hate you." She breathed.

"No, you don't." He gave a small laugh and a knowing look.

Her hand itched to smack his face and nearly did. He caught her wrist and pulled her up, squarely, to him. Her heart thumped against her ribs in a wild beat. His mouth was inches from hers and she cursed the betraying heat that flooded her body. They tussled as she tried to break free.

"Let me go, Pacey!" But he held her firm against him. He peered down at her, noting the tiny betraying pulse beating rapidly above her collarbone drawing his attention to the smooth creamy skin of her throat, and the shadowy cleavage. Whatever she thought she felt for Dawson, it hadn't obliterated the fire and passion that had always been between himself and her. She was not indifferent to him. Far from it. It was something.

He gazed down into her mutinous eyes. So defiant. So uncaring as to what it actually meant that she'd gone back to Dawson, but he'd make her fully aware of it - in his own sweet time and way.

"How does it feel to be back with someone who never challenged you and tried to stop you from growing up? Hmm? Who'll never inspire you to run away for the summer?"

She swallowed quickly, but gave no reply. Her eyes shone with the unshed tears she was struggling to keep at bay.

"How does it feel to be fifteen all over again, Jo?"

"Maybe it's better to feel fifteen rather than be the punching bag for someone who blames all his problems on you." She rasped, finally.

"If twisting the truth makes you feel better about who you've ended up with then I'll give you that. You'll need it." He leaned closer, mouth against her ear. "Especially when you're in his bed thinking of me." He let her go so suddenly that she almost stumbled, and quickly strode away.

"You conceited bastard!" She called after him. "You know what Pacey, you've changed and not for the better!"

He turned to face her, but continued to back away. "And you, Joey, haven't changed one iota and that's the saddest thing of all." He called back. He turned away again and walked even faster leaving her to stare, wild-eyed, after him.

 

**************

Pacey and Jen strolled down the high street. She had called him as she was at a loose end, what with her boyfriend Charlie working a different shift than her today at the radio station. Pacey had been happy to oblige. Right now only Jen and his shipmate Leon were his closest friends right now.

"Things seemed decidedly frosty between you and Joey at Mitch's funeral," Jen commented.

Pacey grimaced. "Let's just say that was the fallout from a calamitous meeting at my boat."

"So she did come and see you? I hoped she would. Wait. Calamitous?"

"It was a disaster. My libido got the better of me." Jen's eyebrows shot up and Pacey hurried on. "What can I say? I fucked up royally. I thought about her a lot over the summer. I couldn't believe my eyes when she appeared."

"Pacey what the hell did you do?"

"Hey, hold on let me finish. Make that both of us who let their libido get the better of them! But we ended up fighting and screaming at each other."

"You guys so still have the hots for each other." Jen rolled her eyes, smirking. She straightened her face at Pacey's warning expression.

"You do know, don't you?" Pacey stopped mid-stride, forcing Jen to do the same.

"I know that you and Joey are sooooo not over."

"That's not what I mean."

"What then?" She stared back, puzzled.

"About Dawson and Joey?"

"Uh, what about Dawson and Joey?"

"Uh, Dawson and Joey!"

They stared at each other, Pacey with dark amusement and Jen with dawning comprehension.

"How-?"

"Joey. At Mitch's funeral. Then we had another big fight."

"How did I not know this? Pacey, maybe it's –it's-' Jen hunted for a plausible explanation, 'not as serious as-"

"He left USC for her, Jen."

"Huh? That's why he left? But-but, wait. Didn't you just say you both got a little jiggy-?"

"That's right. But you know what, Jen? She's made it very clear it's Dawson she's with now. Who she wants to stay with. I guess I was just a nice sexual diversion."

"Pacey, you know that isn't true. And you did kinda lose it at the prom last year and dump her." She tentatively reminded him.

"I know, and I wanted to make that right, but if she was really in love with me would she have gone straight back to Dawson the moment my back was turned?"

"Do you know when they got back together?"

"No."

"And she must still have feelings for you if-"

"Apparently she was just checking out if I still did it for her." He anticipated what Jen was going to say. "And apparently, I came up lacking."

"She didn't mean it, Pacey. You should have seen her reaction when she saw you at the restaurant."

"It doesn't matter. Stupidly, I thought maybe…well, it doesn't matter what I thought now. I've washed my hands of it." He laid a hand in the small of her back, gently urging her forward. "Come on! Who needs to find their true love at nineteen? Life is out there for the taking. And I'm gonna take it with both hands."

 

Later that day when Pacey got back to the boat, his phone rang and it was Leon. He felt he could do with a little gee up from his friend. Re-hashing the whole Joey saga with Jen had unsettled him. Leon would stop him from moping...

“Man, you're letting her tie you up in knots!"

"She means a lot to me, Leon."

"Yeah, you gave me the potted history, but you no longer mean anything to her!"

"You know, I'm sure you could find a worse way to rub it in!"

"I'm talking hard truths here-"

"I still love her! I can't just switch my emotions off! "

"Find a way to do exactly that! Otherwise you'll be talking in a high pitched, emasculated voice for the rest of your life."

"You're so funny, but why am I not laughing?" Pacey switched his cell phone to his other ear as he lounged back on the sofa in the cabin of the boat.

"She's screwing your best friend!"

"At least I screwed her first. I'll always have that, right?" Pure bitterness laced his voice. "Besides, I don't think it's fully over."

"Why'd you say that?" Leon asked.

Pacey grimaced. Maybe he was imagining it. Maybe he'd misread the signals.

"She still got the hots for you?" Leon guessed, and Pacey could almost see the grin that was spread across Leon's face.

"I didn't say that."

"I'll bet she has! During our summer cruising you were beating the women off with a stick. I can so believe she's missing some of the Pacey loving!" Leon chuckled. "Why don't you just fuck her and have done with it!" Leon pronounced, suddenly. Pacey jack-knifed up and swung his feet to the floor, and sat forward now.

"Yes, of course, just like that. That might be good therapy for me, but it's hardly practical. She wants me nowhere near her! Besides she's got a new fucking partner now, remember?" The thought of Joey entwined with Dawson had almost driven him mad since she'd told him.

"I don't know what the hell she's doing with this Dawson guy, but I still say you need to fuck her out of your system and move on."

"Leon, you're cold, man."

"Stop letting her fuck with your head, man! She's the kind of high maintenance that only causes trouble." Leon, on the other end of the phone clicked his tongue with impatience, but held back on giving it full rein. "Do it." He said matter of factly. "Fuck her and move on for good. Then maybe you being such a babe magnet will reap me some dividends!"

Pacey laughed in spite of himself. "You do well enough, you dog! You don't need any help in that quarter."

"Oh, I reckon I can handle more."

"You're eyes are too big for your dick! That's your problem! One day you'll end up choking on one babe too many!"

"Choking on pussy heaven. What better way is there to die?" Leon gave back deadpan.

"You're a filthy bastard." Pacey laughed hard, and Leon chuckled with him.

"You could be too, if only you'd ditch the bitch from hell. Then you and I could really start having some good times. We'd make a good team."

"You're full of it. But you might be right. In fact,' Pacey said, brain whirring into gear, 'let's go somewhere tonight."

Maybe Leon wasn't far wrong. Well, he had to start somewhere, didn't he? If she didn't love him anymore or want him and he couldn't fuck Joey to get her out of his system - he shook his head at Leon's suggestion - he could do the next best thing, and then before he knew it Joey would be a distant memory.

"Hold on a sec, let me just pick my jaw up off the floor. You want to do something tonight? You? Mr Pacey 'leave me alone to cry in my beer over Miss High Maintenance' Witter?"

Pacey grinned famously into the phone. "Why not? You know Boston better than I do so where you gonna take me?"

"I don't want to upset your fine sensibilities now…"

"What fine sensibilities? As of now I have none!"

"In which case I know just the place man, just the place."

"I knew you would. On second thoughts, should I be scared?"

"Do you want me to help you avoid getting your heart ripped out or not?"

Pacey snorted.

"In no time you'll be saying Joey who? "

"Heh. I hope so" He sighed.

"Don't wilt on me, man."

"Have no fear. Maybe it is time to have some fun. Leave the healing to time."

"And to beautiful women."

"And to getting drunk and rolling home at 6am in the morning."

"And it needs saying twice - beautiful women, and hot, fucking sex."

"Fucking is sex, Leon."

"Pacey, my man, there is sex and there is hot, fucking sex!"

"Hmm, true dat! Count me in!"

"Now you're talking!"

After a few more words with Leon, Pacey hung up and stared thoughtfully at the cell phone in his hand. He realized how foolish he'd been to even give hope to the thought of maybe trying to work things out with Joey again. How many nights on the sea had he lain awake thinking about her? He'd thought about how much he still loved her and wanted her. And until he'd found out about Dawson being back in her life that hope had grown once they'd docked in Boston. He'd just needed to think things through first. What good had it done him, though? It had all been a waste of time. He knew he still loved her, but he had to be practical. Joey was back with Dawson. Again. He should be used to this by now. In fact, he was and he'd had a gutful. Whatever lingering feelings she still had for him it wasn't enough to banish Dawson from her heart.

Okay, so, fucking her out of his own system wasn't practical. What he needed was to let go of the whole 'love of his life' syndrome. How many times could you find the fucking love of your life? He was up to three now! Where had it got him? Nowhere on the corner of heartbreak.

No, no more heart on the sleeve. No more falling in love so hard it hurt. He had no intention of being bitten again. Leon was right. It was time he let loose a little and actually lived the life of a carefree teenager. The sweet bonus to that was that, despite Dawson, Joey wouldn’t like it one little bit. Still, let her tie herself up in knots over her soul mate for the rest of her life if she wanted to. He was going to brick up his heart and party hard.

Chapter Text

"Here, take a hit of that." Leon passed the reefer to Pacey who hesitated, but Leon waved it in front of his nose, prompting him to take it. Pacey shrugged and did so.

"What exactly is it?" He asked before taking a deep drag. Leon's reply was lost in Paceys violent fit of coughing.

"...laced with some..."

Pacey didn't hear the rest of that either as he took another puff, coughing again. Whatever it was, it hit him hard and he staggered back against the wall.

"You wuss!" Leon laughed.

"I don't fucking smoke, remember?" Pacey choked out and coughed some more.

"You okay, bud?"

Pacey nodded, squinting his eyes against his exhaled smoke. He held it out to Leon who motioned that he should take some more.

"That's good shit, man," Leon told him.

Pacey took a couple more puffs, getting used to it now, starting to feel its effects. For while his chest hurt from his coughing fit, he now felt a zinging energy rushing through his veins. Yet, his limbs felt really relaxed, heavy almost. It felt good. He gave the cigarette back to Leon and then took a long slug from his beer bottle. Leaning his head back even further, he drained the bottle.

Leon grinned at him. "How'd you feel?"

Pacey pushed up off the wall, slinging his arm around Leon's shoulders.

"Like I could kick King Kong's ass!"

Leon happily slapped Pacey's back. "Great. Let me finish this and then we can go inside and par-tay..."

 

...As Pacey wended his way through the throbbing crowd of dancers, he felt two small hands encircle his waist and tug at him. He looked back. A petite woman, with wild red ringlets and baby blue eyes smiled up at him.

"Wanna dance?" she asked.

His eyes travelled over her pretty freckled face and then dropped to the thrust of small firm breasts pushing against her brief belly top, then further down the smooth, flat stomach to her very brief denim skirt. He couldn't see her legs properly in the crush, but he liked what he could see. She had an engaging smile and a nice body. His beer could wait.

He turned back and snaked a hand around her waist to the small of her back, pressing her into his body. She barely reached the top of his shoulder, but her arm came up and she curved a hand around the nape of his neck, caressing lightly. Matching her gyrations, they danced to the music and before even a couple of minutes had passed she tip-toed up and sang along briefly to the lyrics of the song in his ear.

‘I am getting so hot, I wanna take my clothes off...’

She gazed precociously into his eyes. "Well, it is getting hot in here. Wanna get fresh?" she asked, and without waiting for a reply she took his hand and led him outside and around the side of the building.

The moment they stopped she leaned up to kiss him and Pacey was ready. He sucked on her bottom lip before thrusting his tongue into her mouth for a thorough exploration. She moaned, pressing against his erection, even as her hand came down between them to unzip his pants. When she'd freed him, she slid down his body and after an enthusiastic, 'oh yes,' immediately closed her mouth around him. Pacey's head went back, enjoying the hot, wet motion of her lips going back and forth with evident enjoyment.

He grinned lazily up at the night sky, bringing a hand down to gently cup the back of her head...

 

"...Come on, Joey!"

"I don't feel like it!"

"What's wrong?" Audrey stood in front of her, hands on hips, frowning down at her. "Don't tell me 'nothing.' I won't believe you. I have radar for this kind of thing. So give. Is it Pacey or Dawson?"

"What would Pacey have to do with this?" Joey snapped and Audrey held up her hands to placate her.

"Sorry, sorry. It's not like you went into detail about what happened when you went to see him."

"It didn't go as well as I'd hoped, is all."

"Okay, so it's Dawson you're worried about?"

Joey threw her pen onto the desk and dragged her hands through her hair.

"I'm probably worrying too much. I mean, it's not that long since his father died, so he's bound to be acting weird." She sighed, heavily. "I'm not sure where we stand. It's like our relationship is in complete limbo - and it had hardly got off the ground beforehand!"

"How is he acting?"

"When he came down last weekend I didn't know how to act around him-"

"That's natural, Jo-"

"No, it's not! Not for us, it shouldn't be! He was so wonderful for me when my mother died, but now that his father's gone, I can't seem to be the same kind of wonderful friend for him! I can't do anything right."

"Joey-."

"He's pushing me away, Audrey!"

Hearing the rise of panic in Joey's voice Audrey slipped comforting arms around her shoulders. "Give him time, Joey. It's knocked him for six, as it should. And you can't expect him to grieve for his father the same way you grieved for your mother, or accept support the way you did. Everybody's different."

Joey knew Audrey was right, but the thought of Dawson slipping away from her frightened her. If she didn't have Dawson, she'd have nothing! Audrey was a wonderful friend, but that wasn't the same. Bessie and Bodie were back in Capeside and not part of her life here. That wasn't the same either. And Pacey - Pacey? Why was he even in the equation? She shook him out of her head.

"Maybe a good night out is exactly what you need tonight. You sure won't come with me?"

"No, I'm sorry."

"I can stay here. I can -"

"No, honestly, I'll be fine. You go. Enjoy yourself."

"Yeah, there are bound to be a lot of hot guys on the kissing field."

"You mean, you're seriously contemplating being untrue to your mystery, silver-tongued guy?"

"I have every intention of getting my claws into him, but I haven't had the time to go back to Civilization, between being here for you in your time of need, studying, partying..."

"Why don't you bring two loves together? Invite him to this party at Boston Bay. As long as you promise to pass by here on the way and introduce him to me so I can see what you've been raving about!"

"I just might do that! What a great idea. Okay, confession time. I have been down there a couple of times and not seen him. The waitress I described him to didn't seem to have a clue who I was talking about. But I'll check him out tonight. Now, are you sure you don't need me-?"

"Go Audrey. I'll play away with you next time."

"I'm going to hold you to that!"

 

"...It's okay, I've got it."

Pacey pulled one of the many condom packets he had out of his inside jacket pocket, bit the edge and tore it open. The redhead helped him slip it on, smoothly and lovingly. Then Pacey picked her up as though she weighed nothing and she clasped her legs around him. Slipping his hand between her legs he pulled aside her g-string and his cock probed her. She squirmed against him, gasping lightly. Her back against the wall, his left hand braced beside her head, he allowed his thumb to toy teasingly with her clit. She jerked, squeezing her legs tighter around him and arching her neck back to give his wandering lips greater access in their quest to nibble against her skin.

"Is this fresh enough for you?" he muttered in her ear, his thumb dancing a little faster. "Or are you still too hot?"

"Y-yes," she gasped.

"Yes, it's fresh or it's still too hot?"

"Mmm hmm." She thrust against him, "I want it now. Now. Now. Please."

Pacey chuckled, and impaled her, his hand travelling back up to grip her hip. She bit into his shoulder to prevent a loud scream and sighing with pleasure settled into a happy rhythm.

From her hip, one hand smoothed up over her ribcage taking her top with it, revealing small, pert pink-tipped breasts, tips that were hard and erect and begging for his attention. And he gave it, lavishly; licking and sucking without breaking the tempo of their crashing hips.

When her body began to tremble violently and her breath started coming out in stuttered jerks, he knew she was close. Thrusting hard, slow and deep he felt his own climax coming on.

The air rang with her piercing scream as she went rigid, before cutting it off against his shoulder. Pacey released his own climax amidst a half grunt.

They paused for a minute, foreheads pressed together as they panted, trying to catch their breath and then Pacey let her slide down to her feet. She leaned against the wall as if for support, a fine beading of sweat covering her face, causing her skin to glow smoothly under the lights of the lamps set on the side of the building. Pacey slipped the condom off, tied off its opening and tossed it over to the nearby bin, then fastened his pants.

"You okay?" he asked, smiling down at her, as she pulled her top back down, covering her exposed breasts.

"Yeah," she laughed, shakily. "That was amazing." She looked up at him as she leaned over slightly to adjust her underwear. A lock of hair fell forward over one eye and when she straightened, Pacey smoothed it back from her face."

"That it was," he agreed. "You ready to go back in?"

"Sure" She patted her hair and smoothed her clothes down, and then with Pacey's hand in the small of her back, guiding her, they made their way back. As they rounded the corner a giggling couple nearly ran into them. Pacey had no doubt what they were going round there for.

Back inside, Pacey got her a drink and after a couple more dances and not much conversation, Pacey told her he was going to find his friend. She nodded.

"It was a pleasure meeting you," he said.

"Oh, it certainly was," she replied.

Pacey then gently kissed the corner of her mouth and she watched after him a little wistfully, as he melted away into the sea of bodies.

 

"There you are, man!" Leon slumped beside Pacey on one of the sofas. "You missed some half naked, drunk chick dancing on all the sofas."

"You're easily pleased."

"Shut up, I'm just saying. Where you been?"

"Around. Want another beer?"

"Got one." He showed him the bottle.

They leaned back against the sofa and surveyed the room. It was choc a bloc with young people. They littered the floor, the various sofas and chairs and staircases out in the hallways. The girls outnumbered the men at least two to one, dressed to the max, and a lot of them to win who could bare the most flesh.

"Look at these babes..."

"It's a beautiful sight, Leon."

"Makes my eyes tear up, man. Beautiful. And you don't even have to work for it! I love the 'naughties,' don't you? Empowered women, you gotta love 'em!" He swigged his beer.

"Yep, the twenty-first century doesn't suck too much, does it?"

"Oh, it's been sucking, Witter. I've had three obliging ladies already!" Leon grinned handsomely as Pacey raised an amused eyebrow. "And I think my luck is in again. See you later." Leon sped off in the direction of a pretty blonde giving him the eye.

Pacey got up and wandered out into the hallway, swigging his beer. The music was getting on his nerves. He stumbled past the bodies up one staircase, missing the sharp attention of one particular girl who eyed him as he went by. He wanted to get away from the thumping beat downstairs. Just for a bit. He wasn't sure if it was just dorm rooms up here, but it sure was a big place.

So this is the life he'd be living if he'd gone to college? It didn't look too shabby! Surrounded by the good-natured camaraderie of the boys, parties, plenty of beer and girls galore. Ace. It was just the knuckling down to studying part he didn't quite relish the thought of. And rules. To hell with rules. He wondered if Worthington was similar. Joey was in her element there, he was sure.

He saw an open door and peeked in. It was a games room and the two pool tables drew him in. As he picked up the cue from the nearest table, he heard the door snick shut. He looked up to find a statuesque, well-stacked brunette leaning against the door watching him. He felt his cock immediately leap to life for the umpteenth time that night. Whoever she was she was breathtaking, with long dark hair tumbling past her shoulders. The minute, dark red halter top with its plunging neckline could barely contain firm, delicious looking breasts. The glint of precious stone winked at him from her belly button and her legs seemed endless in their black, spiky sandals from beneath a short, black satin skirt.

"Would you like a game?" she asked, her smoky tones creating even more havoc in his pants

Chapter Text

"Yes, please," he murmured.

"Why don't we keep this one private? More fun that way, don't you think?" She walked over to a nearby chair. Pacey watched as she leant over to pick it up, and was rewarded with the profile of a deep cleavage, and more of her toned, golden thighs as her skirt hiked up. He liked the flexing of muscles in her legs as she moved.

She jammed the chair beneath the handle of the door so that anyone trying the door couldn't open it. Then slowly walked over to him. When she was only inches away, so that he could clearly admire dark fringed, amber eyes with flecks of orange set in a creamy skinned, heart-shaped face, she took the cue stick from his hands and started setting up the balls on the table. Pacey helped her, appreciating the view from every angle.

"I'm Marcia."

"Pacey."

"Pacey? Hmm, I like it. Shall I break?"

"Be my guest."

She leaned over, aimed the cue and jabbed. A couple of balls dribbled away.

"Oh, would you look at that," she pouted, looking mournfully at the table, "I'm so lousy at this game." She looked directly into his eyes. "Are you good?"

"I've had no complaints."

"Do you think you could teach me?"

"I think it'd be a sin not to."

Pacey shrugged off his jacket, tossing it over to the other pool table, and rounded the one they were playing at. Coming in close behind her, his arms came around her body, his hands covered her own, showing her how to position them and at the same time, appreciating the sweet scent of her perfume wafting up from her skin. He didn't think he was imagining the provocative thrust of her pert bottom against his crotch, nor its subtle sway. When he had helped her break the balls up almost expertly, she turned her head and murmured, "I think I've got the hang of this now. Let's have a real game." And unmistakably, she pushed her bottom against his hard on.

Pacey brought one hand up to pull back the curtain of her hair, so his lips and tongue could play with her ear. She arched her head back and now both his hands clasped her shoulders and smoothed up and down her arms as their hips gently rolled, his erection rubbing against her behind. She moaned as Pacey's hands slipped beneath her arms to cup her breasts, his thumbs brushing lazily around the pointed nipples, smiling as she moaned a protest when his hands left their playing. Pulling her hair completely to one side over her other shoulder he kissed the nape of her neck, trailing more moist kisses down her spine, unzipping the halter top as he did, pulling it off over her head and dropping it, so that there was no barrier to his lips continued journey and to the hands that returned to her beautiful, firm, bare breasts, appreciating their weight, gently squeezing and kneading. She pushed back urgently as Pacey's hands came back round to unzip her skirt, his mouth brushing the bottom of her spine, and let it fall to the floor. Kissing softly, he eased down the little nothing of a g-string and let that go, too. He heard her stuttering sigh and eagerly helped her spread her legs, his mouth watering as her musky scent hit his nose. Pacey dropped to his knees and his tongue went to work, invading the slick, scented folds between her legs and honing straight to her clit, working his tongue over and around it, his fingers moved in and out of her. Marcia pressed back against his mouth, rolling her hips.

"Harder...oh! Yes, like that! Just like that!" she cried, and then her words became unintelligible as her breath shortened and her gasps lengthened and rose in volume.

"Mmm..." Pacey lapped her up as her body shuddered in the throes of an orgasm. Before she could move he dug into his trouser pocket and pulled out a condom, tearing it open. He stood up, unfastened his pants, pushing them down, releasing his cock, hard and ready. Quickly slipping the condom on, he gripped the nape of Marcia's neck, his other on her hip and slid home between her slick walls.

Pacey let his head fall back and he lost himself in the myriad of sensations coursing through his body, all arrowing in to his heated cock. After another minute or so he pulled out, much to her chagrin.

"What's wrong? Don't stop!" She twisted her head round to look at him.

"Get up on the table," he ordered her. She arched a brow at him, but did as he said. He helped her up, his eyes slowly following the line of her body as she leaned back on her forearms; the fine sheen of sweat covering her, her full breasts with their hard, taunting nipples, the lean stomach with its glittering gem at its middle and finally settling between her legs on the beautiful, mouth watering picture of womanhood, inviting him in. She was fine. Very, very fine. Very, very naked and very, very desirable.

"Well? What are you waiting for?"

Pacey was galvanized into action and without even bothering to step out of his pants he hopped up onto the edge of the pool table for balance, bringing his knees up and leaning forward as he turned his body over. His knees between her open legs, he advanced up her body, pushing the pool balls out of the way, and swooped down for a hot, wet kiss, his hands threaded in her hair, her own pulling his shirt open to smooth them over his chest. Then grabbing his hair she pushed his head down to her breasts where, with hands, lips and tongue, he obliging teased and played with them. It turned her on even more to hear his moans of murmured appreciation as he enjoyed what he was doing. She sighed as he trailed soft, wet kisses down the valley between her breasts, over her stomach to her navel where his tongue played with the winking diamond stud pierced through her belly button. Then he moved further down and teasingly kissed around her lips and clit, until tearing at his hair, she begged him to end her torment.

He glanced down quickly to check the condom was still in place, moved back up her body. Holding his cock, he guided it back into her, sliding in slow and easy, thrusting in smooth and deep. Marcia moaned loudly and tightened her legs around him, pumping up to meet him and as their rhythm gelled, it increased in speed until they were both grunting and groaning in pleasure and exertion, on the cusp of orgasm. Marcia pitched over first, turning the air blue as she screamed out and dug her nails into his biceps, her whole body flushed and trembling. Pacey followed with a loud curse of his own.

Marcia laid back, breathing heavily, but chuckling.

"I knew you would be good," she chuckled. "I could tell just by looking at you."

"Why thank you." Pacey kissed the tips of her breasts and then her mouth. "Where does a guy find a girl like you?" he murmured. "You're fucking beautiful." They kissed again, lingeringly. "But I guess you get told that every day, don't you?"

"I could listen to you tell me that all day, every day, I think. I'm glad you enjoyed yourself."

"Oh, I did. Immensely." He smiled as he leaned back out of her way so she could get up and then swung his legs over the side of the other side of pool table, his pants still around his ankles.

As he stood, he pulled off the condom, tying off its open end, then pulled up his pants and fastened them. Spying a trash can in the corner of the room near the door he tossed it into it. He started buttoning up his shirt. Marcia had already donned her skirt and was putting her head through the halter top. She pulled the flaps of material around her body and turned her back on him.

"Please," she said and Pacey came over and zipped her up, slipping his arms around her waist and kissing her shoulder. She turned around in his arms and was about to kiss him when the door handle rattled.

They could hear muted voices outside and then the handle rattled again. Pacey walked over, removing the chair and opened the door.

Two guys stood outside, eyeing him suspiciously.

"What you doing in there?"

Marcia appeared behind Pacey, patting her hair down and then the two guys began to smirk knowingly.

"Okay, I think we can guess," one of them said.

Pacey stepped outside into the hall with Marcia on his heels, while the two guys ogled Marcia's rear view.

"Lucky bastard," one murmured.

Pacey and Marcia turned the corner out of view, then paused.

"I'd better get back to the party. Marshall will be wondering where I am."

"Uh, who's Marshall?"

"My boyfriend. You don't mind, do you?"

"Uh no." What shouldn't he mind? That she didn't want to hang out with him or that she screwed him despite having a boyfriend?

"Good. I told Marshall that I'd behave myself from now on, but I saw you and I wanted you. I always get what I want. I really, really enjoyed myself." She kissed him briefly on the lips and was gone before he could utter another word.

 

"Hey."

"Oh! Hey!"

"Um, I was thinking about you, so I thought I'd give you a ring and see how you are."

"I'm-I'm okay. Bearing up, you know."

"Good."

"What about you?"

"Oh, I'm okay. No need to worry about me. How's Lily and Gale?"

"Fine. Fine."

An awkward silence. But Joey decided to take the plunge.

"Um, Dawson...?"

"Yeah?"

"Like I said, I was thinking about you. About us really. Uh, I was kinda wondering...well...wondering exactly where we stood." She rushed on before he could answer. "I mean, I'm not even sure if we're still together or not. I know-"

"Joey, I left film school in LA for you, didn't I?"

"Well, that's not exactly-"

"My father's just died. So please forgive me if the subject of us isn't at the top of my list of priorities."

"Dawson-"

"Not that the two aren't - however bizarrely, connected."

"What do you mean?" Joey asked, fearfully, already preparing herself for a body blow.

"Meaning that if I had got on that plane to LA, my father would probably still be here."

Silence.

"I see." A wealth of pain and disappointment filled those two small words. Unshed tears burned the back of her throat.

Dawson sighed heavily. "Look, Jo...today hasn't really been a good day."

"Your dad died, Dawson. I imagine every day since his death hasn't been a good day - especially if all along you've been blaming me for his demise. But I guess that's okay. You seem to be having trouble accepting any kind of support from me anyway, so the least I can do is give you that. You can blame me, Dawson, if it makes you feel better, if it helps you with your grief. That's what friends are for."

"Joey-"

"I take it I won't be seeing you as planned this weekend, then?"

"I-I'm not sure, but Joey-"

"Let me know."

"Jo-"

"Bye Dawson." She put the phone down and waited. It didn't ring again. She curled up on her bed and cried.

 

After a few more beers and joints, Pacey and Leon played pool and drinking games and were now in the middle of a poker game. Pacey was sure he had the winning hand, and that the only other player who hadn't folded was bluffing. He hoped the fact that she was a sexy doe-eyed honey blonde hadn't distracted him and put him off his game. She was bluffing. He was sure of it.

He lost and bowed out gracefully, leaving Leon to play another round.

Twenty minutes later Leon joined him at the keg.

"Don't tell me - she whipped your ass!" Pacey chuckled.

"Yeah, but not in the way I've been imagining most of the night!"

"Dirty boy."

"Me? You're the one who's awol for most of the night!"

"Hello boys." The very same blonde appeared beside them. "Not so good at poker, huh?"

"I'm better at other types of games, if you know what I mean." Leon said with an obvious twinkle in his eye.

"Know any you can teach me?" she asked.

"If you're willing, I'm able."

She smiled and took his hand.

"I'll take that as my cue," Pacey smirked and turned to go, but she caught his arm.

"Where do you think you're going?” She asked. "I think this game is called three's company!" She held his gaze.

Pacey shot a surprised look at Leon, who shrugged and then nodded. But Pacey wasn't so sure.

"I don't think-"

"Witter..." Leon's tone held a warning. In between the girls he'd dallied with this evening, he'd eyed this particular one as well. If Pacey didn't play along he might lose this chance all together. Besides, she obviously wanted to play with both of them. He certainly had no qualms about it. It wouldn't be his first threesome.

But it was going to be Pacey's first. "Lead the way."

They followed her up the stairs and into a bathroom, locking the door behind them.

Chapter Text

Leon leaned back against the bathroom door, kissing the blonde, his hands buried in her hair. Pacey, standing behind her, pushed her hair to one side out of the way to get to the fastening of her top around her neck. Then, while trailing soft kisses down the middle of her back, he unzipped the rest of it. As he dragged her top down between her and Leon's bodies, Pacey straightened up, finding the fastening of her skirt, and she leaned back against his chest, throwing her head against his shoulder, arching her body invitingly towards Leon. His eyes greedily lapped up the full mounds and their hard pink tips before allowing hands to come up to fondle them, dipping his head at the same time to place soft kisses down her neck. Her deep moan ended in a shivery sigh as her skirt slipped down, leaving her in a brief black g-string.

Pacey lost no time in sliding his hands over the shapely globes of her bottom, smoothing and shaping them. She shifted her legs apart to accommodate Pacey's questing fingers as he slipped between the crease of her bottom, beneath the g-string, between her thighs, brushing her lips teasingly. Between Leon's appreciative suckling of her nipples and Pacey's magical fingers, this girl was in heaven. Her body was like an instrument of pure pleasure being expertly strummed.

Her breath began to hitch in her throat and her body became taut as tension built throughout her and as she pitched over into her climax she squealed and shook, banging her head back against Pacey's shoulder and gripping Leon's dark, curly head against her breasts.

Losing no time, Pacey unfastened his trousers, while his other hand slid around her waist and guided her as he backed up to the toilet. Sitting down on the closed lid, he pulled her down onto his lap. Leon came up to her and she reached out, grabbing the belt at his waist, unbuckling it. Pacey and Leon simultaneously drew out condoms from their jacket pocket, exchanging raised eyebrows; Leon added a wink for good measure, before they put their condoms on.

Pacey gripped her hips, encouraging her to raise her body so he could guide his cock into her and she slid down with a sigh before taking Leon's into her mouth, having no problem pumping up and down on Pacey while pulling back and forth on Leon.

Pacey looked away from the damp juncture where her body met his, catching the grin Leon gave him, and slowly returning it, leaned back against the cistern, closed his eyes and enjoyed the ride...

 

…Pacey had seen neither hide nor hair of Leon for the last hour at least. Surely he wasn't already fucking another girl? He snorted to himself with secret amusement. This had been one hell of a night, though. One he wouldn't mind repeating. It certainly beat moping around after a girl who didn't want him.

A girl you'd slip into bed with at the drop of a hat if you had the chance again!

Pacey consigned that rogue thought into the trash can of his mind and perked up when his eye caught and held the grey-eyed gaze of the tall brunette approaching; the same one who had looked so lovely spread-eagled beneath him on the pool table earlier tonight. He would have very much appreciated another round with her - but then noticed she was hanging onto the arm of a blond-haired giant of a guy who was throwing mean looks at every man around him covertly eyeing his girl. Marcia still managed to brush against Pacey as they past, and even threw him a knowing look back over her shoulder.

Pacey shook his head and chuckled. Just then a couple of giggling girls pushed past him. They both eyed him, whispering behind their hands, eyeing him up and down, laughed even more and then disappeared. He peered after their retreating figures with a quizzical frown then checked his watch. Maybe it was time to call it a night. He spent another minute or so surveying the boisterous crowd and was just about to leave when a familiar blonde head entered his periphery. His face cracked into a big smile. The perky blonde from the restaurant! She wasn't looking too happy, though. Maybe he could change that and end the evening as well he had started it! Threading his way quickly though the throng of bodies, he caught her wrist.

"Look asshole, I said leave me-" Audrey stopped mid sentence and her face underwent a swift transformation when she saw Pacey. Her eyes fairly sparkled and her pleasure in seeing him was very evident in the toothy smile she gave him.

"Well, my night has just begun to look up!" She drawled.

"Hello, mysterious girl. Wanna dance?"

He pulled her into his arms and whirled her around before they fitted their bodies to the rhythm of the current song playing.

"I went looking for you at the restaurant. I thought you might wanna party tonight!"

"And here was I thinking you'd forgotten all about me."

Audrey shook her head. "Not in the least." she drawled into his ear, ensuring her lips brushed against his earlobe, and pressing her ample bust against his chest. "Can't you tell?" she added.

Pacey looked down into her face, reading the signs clearly, the dilated pupils, her shiny, pink lips softly parted as if in invitation and smiled charmingly.

They danced for a couple more songs, abandoning any attempts of conversing over the music and instead communicated through their eyes, smiles and gyrations. After their second dance, Audrey led him out of the room and beneath a nearby stairwell.

This night is just getting better and better, Pacey thought, as Audrey leaned against the wall, hand on hip, the swell of her breasts prominent in the vee of her brief cross over top, the knee length black satin skirt snug across her hips and thighs.

"Are you ever going to tell me your name?" he asked as he placed a hand either side of her head against the wall. "I mean your plan worked. I'm intrigued. I want to know more." He nuzzled against her hair at her temple.

"The plan's not finished. I've just added another clause to it. You've gotta earn your tidbits of information, now." She slipped open a couple of buttons low on his shirt and inveigled her hand through so she could stroke his stomach. His muscles tensed under her touch.

"Just how hard are you gonna expect me to work?"

"Why don't we start with this?" She pulled him in for a long scorching kiss, hands travelling everywhere until they eventually came up for breath.

"And to think I was just about to leave before you showed up."

"Don't let me stop you!" Then added smokily, "Do you want company?"

"Your dorm?"

"I have a roommate, remember?"

"My place, then. Let's go..."

 

"...Make yourself at home." Pacey indicated that Audrey should sit down as he left the room.

"What are you doing? Slipping into something more comfortable?" She called after him.

"Something like that!" he shouted back. "Damn!" He swore. I'm being a lousy host, but I promise I'll make it up to you." He poked his head out of the bedroom. "There are soft drinks in the refrigerator. Help yourself!" Audrey did just that while Pacey had a quick shower.

She was casually leaning back admiring the decor of the boat when Pacey finally appeared.

"Hey."

"Hey."

He took the can of coke from her hand and set it aside, then turning back to her slid his hands into her hair. Balancing with one knee on the couch he leaned in for a kiss. Audrey hung onto the waistband of his jeans, and then let her hands slide round to squeeze his butt. Oh, but he smelt good! And from there she lost control. Within seconds, they were stripping each other's clothes off, and licking, squeezing and wandering wherever their hands and mouths took their fancy...

 

**************

Joey sat down at her table. She was really looking forward to sipping that frappe. She worked herself hard on her run this morning. She picked up the cup and took a deep sip. Beautiful. She sighed and leaned back in her chair. The table next to hers was crowded with girls, also dressed in running gear. They were chattering loudly. So she couldn't help but overhear their conversation.

"It was the best fuck of my life!" The redhead exclaimed.

"What? A quickie up against a wall? The best of your life? Girl, you need to get out more!" The black girl with the corkscrew curls and big brown eyes guffawed, sarcastically.

"But he was goooood!"

"Yeah right, Shannon. Can someone give this girl some perspective?"

Another girl raised her hand, dancing in her seat. She wore the latest fashionable tracksuit in pink and was immaculate. Long dark hair smoothed back into a ponytail, perfectly made up face, amazing eyes. She was stunning. Joey felt positively bedraggled in comparison. "Ooh! I can. I can!" The girl sing-songed. "I had the most fantastic time with this really horny guy."

"Oh yeah?" Corkscrew haired girl rolled her eyes, but eyed Miss Perfect with an eager glint across the table from her.

"Okay, Marcia. When where, who what, how?"

"Yeah, give."

"Oh, what was his name? Something different. Um..."

"Girl, who cares about the name?" One of the other girls interrupted impatiently. "Just give us the juicy bits."

"I think Marshall would be very interested in knowing this guy's name." Shannon murmured, eyeing Marcia with dislike. Marcia shot her a long cool, dirty look.

"As they say, what Marshall doesn't know, won't hurt him. And it better stay that way," she warned. She suddenly jumped in her seat. "Pacey!" Marcia crowed triumphantly. "That was it. Pacey! He was so fucking sexy! As soon as I saw him, I wanted him!"

Pacey?

Joey's eyes rounded in disbelief. It couldn't be the same Pacey she knew, could it?

"Tall, dark, sexy smile..."

Joey began to feel her stomach knot in dread. Not her Pacey and this full of herself, primped up cow?

"Oh yes...over the pool table. Let's just say this guy really knew how to use his hands and tongue and I've no complaints about his equipment either! You know what they say about girth and width? He had it all! Wild! And he had the most gorgeous blue eyes!" Marcia gushed.

"What would you know about his blue eyes? You had a face full of pool green!" Corkscrew haired girl scoffed.

"Fuck off, Toni! We didn't just do it one position, you know!"

"Oh, in that case you beat Shannon hands down then. She only got it once up against the wall!"

"Fuck you, Toni! You're just jealous because you probably didn't see any action last night yourself!"

"Ooooh, burn!" Another girl laughed.

"Oh, I'm wounded, Shannon." Toni flicked her hair, uncaringly.

"I don't know why I even bothered with this dumb morning run. I should have stayed in bed, recovering from last night. It's funny, though,' Shannon sniffed, changing the subject, while admiring her nails, 'my guy was tall and dark with blue eyes, too."

"What are you trying to say? That I got your sloppy seconds? I don't think so!"

"Beautiful eyes and smile, and so sweet. Very gentlemanly. Not when it came to his package though. That was wicked, girth and lengthwise." Shannon smirked. "And it did happen early on in the evening..."

"You fucking wish! My guess is your night was as dry as Toni's." Marcia sneered.

"I'm not making it up!" Shannon denied.

"And you don't know what I got up to last night, Miss Marcia 'ohh, I'll never cheat on you again, Marshall, I love you too much' Chadwell! So don't bring me into it!" Toni added, mimicking Marcia's voice.

Joey merely sat back in her chair, feeling stunned. Had Pacey really been at this party last night? Had he slept with those two girls? She couldn't believe what she was hearing. She wasn't sure she wanted to hear one more word, but she felt rooted to the spot.

"Okay girls, simmer down." The one girl who had been smiling quietly with interest now spoke up. "Why don't we ease the tension a little by gossiping about someone else?"

All eyes turned to her with interest.

"Sandra, you're boring. You were glued to your man all night."

"Not about me!"

"Who then?"

"Did you guys hear about Tessa? She was seen going into the bathroom with two guys!"

"You're kidding!" Toni's eyes widened and danced with glee. Marcia looked miffed.

"Oh please!"

"I kid you not! Kayla told me. She's got the hots for Connor, Kayla that is, and was following him around all evening. Unfortunately, he has the hots for Tessa and was practically stalking her. He was not a happy bunny when she disappeared into that bathroom apparently. Anyway, after an hour or so the guys left and Kayla went into the bathroom and she said that Tessa was wrecked! She was like a puddle of goo sitting on that toilet seat...hold up - in just her g-string, ladies!"

"Don't fucking lie, Melissa!"

"No lie! I swear. Kayla said she grinned up at her and said...listen...get this, 'That was the best damn fuck of my fucking life. Can you help me up Kayla? I don't think I've got the strength to walk."

"Oh my!"

"So, she was well satisfied!"

"Who were the guys?"

Joey dazedly wondered the same thing, waspishly wondering if Pacey was one of them.

"Don't know. They're not Boston Bay or Worthington guys, but from the sounds of them they can gatecrash my pad anytime! Both were tall, one was mixed race with dark curly hair. The other was dark haired with the sexiest smile. He looked at Kayla and she felt like melting into a puddle herself, she said. They were both hot."

"Lucky bitch!"

"Why does she get all the hot guys?" Shannon complained.

"She didn't leave with either of them though. Kayla saw some blonde get lucky and leave with the gorgeous blue-eyed one."

"Oh please, who cares? Tessa's rep is well known around the fraternity houses. She's not exactly choosy!" Marcia chimed in.

"I give her ten out of ten for the two she chose last night. The way Kayla was drooling, they had to be hot. It's just your green-eyed monster showing, Marcia."

"Oh please, I couldn't care less."

"Yeah, right. Even Kayla got laid last night!"

"What? Did she do those guys, too?" Toni's mouth dropped open.

"Nah, Connor was so pissed at Tessa that he got off with Kayla. She was in seventh heaven! Ha! Ha! But anyway, Tessa's shenanigans beat you into second place, Marcia. Never mind."

"That leaves you trailing in last, Shannon." Toni sniped.

"The only thing you snuggled up to all last night was a solitary vodka bottle, so I think that leaves you in last place, Toni. Besides, all I care about is my conquest from last night. There's a party at the Sigma house next Friday and I'm going to be there - just in case he turns up. I want a repeat performance!" She sighed, wistfully.

Finally, Joey decided she didn't want to hear anymore. Her legs seemed to be under her control again and leaving her virtually untouched drink she left the sniping girls to their gossip.

 

"Yeah, you're such a gentleman. I do appreciate you seeing me to my room, though." Audrey unlocked the door and peeked in. There was no sign of Joey.

"I think she's out on her morning run. She won't be back for a bit." Audrey walked in and held the door open for Pacey to follow. He closed the door and glanced briefly around the room before turning back to Audrey.

"Nice. Which one's your bed?" He grinned.

"God! You are insatiable!"

Pacey merely grinned, advancing on her. She backed up, he reached out, but she evaded his hands laughingly, coming to an abrupt halt as the back of her legs hit the nearest bed. Pacey grabbed her around the waist, pulling her close. She placed her hands against his chest, pushing him away as he tried to lean in for a kiss.

Audrey giggled. "Hey, blue eyes! Is this what you call being gentlemanly?"

"You're the one who called me a gentleman. I never said I was. Now why don't you let me have my wicked way with you?" His hand slipped over her bottom and he pushed his hips suggestively against her.

"Hmm, maybe one kiss." Audrey mused, eyeing him flirtatiously from beneath her lashes. Her arms slid around his neck and their lips met, clinging lingeringly.

"Mmm..." Pacey nibbled on her lower lip and then trailed his mouth across her cheek to bury his face in the crook of her neck, sucking gently. Audrey mimicked his moan and slid her hands down from his neck to wrap them around his waist and slipping them beneath his shirt and leather jacket, enjoying the firm smooth skin beneath her exploring fingers.

Pacey pulled at the slip knot at the side of Audrey's waist and her top loosened. Pulling it completely free, Pacey revealed ample breasts barely held in check by her bra. His eyes gleamed. Audrey arched against him and Pacey kissed the slopes of her breasts. As their caressing became more heated, Audrey fell back onto the bed, Pacey between her legs, his mouth still buried against her breasts. Audrey dragged off his jacket and began to unbutton his shirt, pushing it over his shoulders. She explored the contours of his muscles over his shoulders and chest as they continued to kiss ravenously...

Chapter Text

Joey forgot to prepare herself to enter her dorm room by covering her eyes. The number of times she'd walked in to find Audrey making out were too numerous to mention. And now she'd got caught out again! The fact that she had been fuming all the way home from the coffee shop probably had something to do with it!

"Oh, for goodness sake, Audrey!" She would have walked out there and then, but she didn't like where Audrey was entertaining her make out partner! "And on my bed, too! Get off!"

Audrey had her arms and legs entwined around whoever this latest guy was. His dark head was nuzzling into her ample cleavage over the cups of her satin black bra, her top wide open. Their heads snapped over to Joey standing in the doorway.

Joey's jaw literally dropped and she stared in disbelief as she realized who the guy was between Audrey's legs.

"Pacey?"

"Joey!" They stared at each other.

"Uh, you two know each other?" Audrey asked in confusion.

"Uh, that's my line!" Joey snapped.

"Pacey?" Audrey's eyes rounded in recognition. "Pacey!" She stared in horror at Pacey's bemused expression.

"Of all the places..." Pacey drew back from Audrey, standing and fixing his shirt back into his pants while Audrey scrambled to her knees, pulling her top closed and trying to tie it up back up, fairly disturbed by the expression on Joey's face.

"Oh, please don't stop on my account!" Joey bit out, aggressively, her voice rising as she continued. "But I'd appreciate it if you fucked your latest conquest on your own bed - not mine!" Joey slammed out of the room.

"Joey, wait!" Audrey almost fell off the bed in her haste and Pacey caught her arm, helping her off the bed.

"Leave her."

"She's upset!"

"And not likely to listen to a word you have to say right now. Besides it's me she's really mad with."

"What's going on?"

"We're not on the best of terms right now."

"And I've made things even worse and she's mad at me now, too. Oh my god! Oh my god! I don't believe this." Audrey paced up and down her hands gripped in her hair. She came to an abrupt stop in front of him and stared. "We fucked last night." She whispered.

"That we did." Pacey nodded, solemnly.

"Oh, my god, I slept with Joey's ex." She began pacing rapidly again, before halting in front of him again. A riot of emotions raced across her face. "Damn," she said, softly. She gazed up at him. "We can't do this then, can we?"

"Let her calm down first-"

"I can't fuck her ex!" Audrey screeched.

"Not if she has a problem with it, I guess, but like I said she's mad at me for reasons that have nothing to do with you."

"Get out. Go!" She grabbed his arm and started shoving him toward the door.

"Audrey!"

"Go now, Casey-"

"It's Pacey."

"Pacey, Casey, whatever. You have to leave now. I'm going to find her."

Audrey looked wistfully at the door after Pacey left, but shaking herself out of it she fixed her clothes and hair and grabbed her jacket to go in search of Joey.

 

As Pacey passed the stairway, he noticed Joey one flight up, just leaning against the wall, staring off into the distance. When she caught sight of him, she gave him a filthy look and set off at speed, dashing further up the flights of stairs. Pacey gave pursuit, taking the stairs two at a time, finally catching up with her on the fourth level. He caught her arm.

"Joey! Stop!"

She wrenched her arm away "You are so full of it!" she sneered and tried to push past him. Pacey blocked her path. "Get out of my way!"

Giving her no time to react he drove her back into the alcove, taking a step forward to part her legs with his own and as he did so pressed his body into hers, slid a hand into her hair to cup the back of her head. Joey's free hand came up to push against his shoulder.

His head came down for a punishing kiss, catching her unawares as he thrust his tongue into her parted mouth and as his warm mobile lips moved against her own, she felt her body treacherously start to respond; the rush of blood pounding in her ears, an electric yearning of desire uncoiling itself from the pit of her stomach and spreading its heat throughout her body. She was very aware of his hard knee between her legs, his thighs pressed against hers. His mouth moved against hers with all his knowledge and expertise, using all the little tricks he knew she liked. She almost kissed him back; almost allowed her hand to slither into his hair, almost arched up against him. Almost.

Yet, she couldn't budge him. He had her pinned in and she had to endure it, and wait until he chose to release her, and when he did, her hand was ready. It flew in a flat arc toward his face. She wanted it to hurt, to sting him like hell. She put all her pent up fury into the attempted slap, but he was ready, and caught her wrist in mid air. They struggled as Joey tried to pull away from his grip. They stared at each other; Joey with muted, incandescent anger glowing in her eyes and flushing her face, and Pacey with scornful amusement lurking in his. He lowered his head again.

"Don't you dare-mmfh!" She turned her head away too late and he kissed her again, hard, punishingly, then when he was ready, stepped away smiling sarcastically.

"I hate you!" Joey seethed.

"You have your weapons. I have mine," he murmured, sardonically. "Try to hit me again and you'll get more of the same."

"How can you do that? After you were just with Audrey!" she blazed up at him.

"Believe it or not, I actually like Audrey - a lot."

"Then what the hell was that? Why did you kiss me?"

"Punishment for your snitty attitude - which you have no right to, I might add."

Joey's chest rose and fell in agitation. "You-you've no business kissing me! I'm with Dawson."

"How could I forget? And why should I care? He had no problem stepping into my still warm shoes the moment my back was turned, did he?"

His nonchalant, laid back attitude only infuriated her further. "It was over between you and I. Have you conveniently forgotten that?"

"I-"

"Whatever! I don't want to talk about it! All I know is that you'd better leave Audrey the hell alone!" She warned.

"Excuse me?" Pacey leaned against the wall and chuckled.

"Does she know she was the last in line for your affections last night?"

"What do you mean?"

"Just how many women did you fuck last night, Pacey?" She folded her arms.

His eyes narrowed as he wondered how she knew about what he’d got up to the night before.

"And you'd be interested in my sex life...why?"

"What a shame you didn't get into college, Pacey. You'd fit right in with fraternity life!"

"If you've got something to say, why don't you just spit it out?"

Good! He wasn't looking so smug now. "Hmm, let's see, the freckled redhead, who thinks one lousy hump up against a back wall is something you deserve a medal for – oh - and hopefully a repeat performance if you go to the Sigma house party next Friday!" Just recalling all she'd overheard at that table was making her blood boil.

Redhead! How the hell did-

"Also, let's hope that, er, Marshall doesn't catch up with you for the interesting game of pool you played last night with a cheating brunette, hmm?"

Pacey licked his dry lips. Okaaaay, somehow she'd found out about his exploits. Not that he really cared. In fact, he found her reaction very amusing - and quite telling.

"I'm sorry your evening last night didn't quite hit the heights mine did, but who's to blame for that? If you wanted some fun last night, I'm sure I could have squeezed you in."

Joey opened her mouth to explode.

"Oh, I forget. I don't do it for you anymore." He drawled before she could speak.

"It seems you've turned into quite the ladies man. Can't keep your pants zipped up. Amazing," she snorted derisively, "I wouldn't be surprised if you were one of the two guys who disappeared with a sexy blonde into the bathroom!"

Pacey tried to find a quick quip, but found his mind had suddenly gone blank. He opened his mouth, and then closed it, settling for just looking at her, inscrutably.

Joey stared goggle-eyed at him. She hadn't thought it possible to feel any more irate, but she did!

"Oh my- it was you, wasn't it? Just how many women were there? And-and poor Audrey was last in line to be picked up! How could you do that? She really likes you!"

"Ohhhh, I get it now. This big display of outrage is based on concern for Audrey!"

"Of course, what-?"

"Not the green-eyed monster, then?"

"You wish!" she gritted. She itched to hit him as he laughed, disbelievingly.

"Are you proud of yourself, Pacey?"

"Yeah, it was a damn good night. All participants willing and able."

"And that's all that matter, right? You never used to be like this, Pacey."

"Like what? All about the bootay? That's just your opinion. We're strangers right now, Joey. You don't know anything about me."

"I think I owe you an apology." she stated, firmly.

"Yeah?" His voice suspicious - with good reason.

"Yeah, I'm so sorry that my rejection of you damaged your psyche so badly that it's driven you to find comfort in the arms of many an anonymous woman to soothe your bruised ego. How telling." She smiled with exaggerated saccharine sweetness.

Pacey felt his heart stop for a second. That blast hit a little too close to home. He straightened up.

"Yeah, because what a guy really needs is the love of a good woman to set him on the straight and narrow - and maybe Audrey is that woman."

Joey swallowed the hard lump that statement brought to her throat because Audrey was a little too close to home for her, but she wasn't going to let Pacey get to her. She refused to let him think she was jealous or still interested in him in any way.

"She'd be mad to have anything to do with you. Does she know about all your shenanigans last night?"

"I'm a free agent, Joey. She's not my girlfriend - yet."

He saw the flare of emotion in her eyes. Whatever she said, she did not like the idea of him and Audrey together.

"I wonder if she'd give you the time of day if she knew she wasn't the first, second or even the third girl you'd practiced your charms on last night."

"What? You threatening to tell her?"

Joey said nothing, merely looked at him.

He changed track. "Think you can handle your roommate dating your ex?"

"Apart from questioning her taste in men and hoping she doesn't get hurt, why should I care?" Joey shrugged.

"She's only following your exemplary record, Jo. After all, you dated me first."

"Your level of arrogance and conceitedness astounds me." Joey told him coldly.

"Thank you."

"If you hurt Audrey-"

"What?" he asked softly.

Nothing.

"I'm so glad you have no objection to Audrey and I...dating." His mouth quirked at the way Joey's mouth tightened with displeasure.

Joey glared angrily at him. "You don't deserve her."

"She's a gorgeous girl; funny, bright, sexy, witty...she'll be treated like a queen."

"Just don't take her to any proms, then!"

"I'm older and wiser, Jo. I've no intention of making the same mistakes twice."

Joey shivered. Did that mean that she and their past relationship had been a mistake? She pushed away the hurt that rose at the thought.

"You should probably get back to your dorm. Audrey's looking for you. Tell her to call me when she'd ready."

He turned abruptly and left her standing there.

 

After looking all over the place, Audrey got back to their dorm to find Joey waiting, just sitting on her bed.

Joey'd been berating herself for what she saw as her over reaction to seeing Pacey and Audrey together. It could only fuel Pacey's already massive ego and his notion that she still had the hots for him - which is what her dumb, explosive reaction had exactly done! She did not want that. He could sleep with whomever he wanted. She could deal with it. Except, she couldn't get the image of Pacey's face against Audrey's breasts, enjoying himself immensely, and Audrey's face, eyes closed in pleasure, her hands against his naked chest. She hated to admit it, but she was still slightly shaky from the shock of it, from the nasty twist in her heart it had given her to see him with someone else. It had been bad enough to overhear his exploits from the party, but to actually see him in the throes of passion - and with Audrey!

She glanced up and then away as the door opened and Audrey came in.

"Hey." Audrey looked extremely nervous, her voice, cautious and tentative.

"Hey." Joey replied, and attempted a smile of sorts.

"Am I welcome?"

"Of course you are." Audrey wasn't just a roommate. She was a close friend. Yet still, it took some effort to say the words. Audrey sat beside her.

"Joey, I'm so sorry. I had no idea he was your Pacey."

"He's not my Pacey, Audrey."

"So much for my stupid idea of keeping some mystery between us. I was finally going to ask for an official introduction this morning before he left. Last night we just got…kinda caught up. It was a complete surprise seeing him at the party last night. We just-"

"I really don't need to hear the gory details."

"Sorry, I-"

"Audrey, I completely over reacted. Pretend I never came in and interrupted you guys."

"Joey, I can't date your ex!"

So, Audrey was already thinking of Pacey as more than a one night stand? "Ex being the operative word, Audrey. Pacey and I were over months ago and I'm with Dawson now, remember?"

"Yeah, but you were so mad and-"

"That would be my usual reaction to seeing Pacey Witter. We're not talking right now, but-"

"Why?"

A pause.

"A difference of opinion, that's all. It-it's nothing now. We've been fighting since we were kids." Her hands were clasped tightly in her lap.

"Still-"

"And you like him a lot, don't you?" Joey searched Audrey's face. "I mean he is the guy you've been gushing about, isn't he?"

Audrey nodded. "But he's not worth if he comes between our friendship. That's the most important thing here, Jo. Tell me the truth, would it really bug you if he and I..."

"Audrey, go for it." Joey ignored the little voice inside her that wanted to scream out no it wasn't okay. She didn't want her imagination to run wild thinking about them together. She ignored the little voice. "I'm not always going to like your boyfriends. And Pacey's no exception!" She forced a laugh and hoped it didn't sound as fake to Audrey as it did to her own ears.

"And won't that be another problem? The fact that you guys aren't friends right now?"

"Just keep him out of my line of vision, that's all. And stay off my bed!"

"Joey, I don't know what to say. I mean, Pacey...Pacey..." she trailed off, frowning at Joey.

"What?"

"I'm not sure I feel comfortable about this. Joey-"

"Audrey, he's my ex and I’m with Dawson. In fact, as you know, we're having problems that we need to sort out. That's all I'm worried about right now. If you really like Pacey as much as I know you do, then I say go for it." She rested a gentle hand on her arm.

"Well..."

"Despite our differences, Pacey's not a total heel. He can be a fun guy, and you're a fun girl, right?"

"Hmm."

"There, you're practically made for each other, then!"

"I do like him a lot...and if you're absolutely sure..."

"Absolutely."

"Then I might give it a go."

"He-he, er, said to call him when you're ready."

"Did he?"

"Yep. He likes you a lot."

"He caught up with you?"

"Yeah, and he told me that himself. I also told him that he's in trouble if he hurts you!"

"Oh Joey!" Audrey impulsively threw her arms around Joey and hugged her.

Chapter Text

"So how goes it with Miss Liddell, the roommate of one Miss Joey Potter, your ex-girlfriend?"

Pacey eyed Jen through narrowed eyes, but answered her with a, "good." However she noticed the tiny hesitation.

"Oh please tell me you guys are working out. I need to have some faith in the male species restored to me. In other words, a reason to believe that not all men are utter bastards!"

Handing her a soda, Pacey gave her a questioning look. "Spill it, Lindley."

"Spill it? Me? No, no. That would be Charlie spilling it. Right into some other girl. You remember Charlie, don't you? My boyfriend?"

"Yeah." Some blond shaggy haired bass guitarist Jen had hooked up with weeks ago.

"He's cheating?"

"Like the lousy, scum sucking rat that he is. Yes!"

"That does suck." Pacey agreed, solemnly. "It seems to be going around."

"Why'd you say that?" She sipped her drink. "Who else is being a naughty boy?"

She drew in a deep breath and pinned a hard gaze on him. "Not you?"

"No! My boss, Danny-"

"Not Danny Brecher, the boss extraordinaire who can do no wrong in your book?"

"Well, it would seem he has feet of clay like any other mere mortal. He's having an affair with one of the waitresses."

"And you're disappointed in him. That's understandable, but what d'you expect? He's a member of the male species!" She took another deep sip of her drink. Pacey ignored the last comment.

"It's not just that. I've met his wife, Emily. She's lovely. And the other night he asked if they could use the boat. I agreed."

"And?"

"The next day he said they'd had a great time, but later on Emily came to the restaurant to see Danny. She had a stinking cold and never saw him that night. And remember you found that pendant here the other day?"

"Uh huh."

"I thought it was Emily's and gave it to Danny. Guess who turned up wearing it?"

"Not Emily the wife, I presume?"

"Your presumption is correct. It was one very mouthy, abrasive waitress called Karen! Jen, that girl hates me, I think."

"Did you say anything?"

"No, she'd probably have bitten my head off. Danny gave me her job, so I'm not her favorite person. Anyway, Danny asked if he could use the boat again tomorrow night."

"You see? What a bastard! What did you say?"

"I said no, that I was having a party."

"Er, and are you having a party?"

"I am now, especially as Karen announced it to the whole world!"

"Am I invited?"

"Funny."

"No seriously."

"Heh! Take me off your 'all men are scum sucking bastards' list and I'll consider it."

Jen stuck her tongue out at him.

"At the end of the day, Pacey, it's not really your business. So your mentor is flawed. Just like my Charlie. Except he's not just my Charlie anymore. He's a dirty two-timing-"

"Hey! Hey!"

"Oh, right. Where was I? Flawed mentor, right?"

Pacey gave a firm nod.

"Yeah, you can't fix it, Pace. Besides, maybe he's really in love with this Karen. Did you consider that?'

"Hmm...maybe."

They sat in silence for a minute or so.

"I guess there's nothing I can do. I should keep out of it, you're right. Thanks Jen. So what are you going to do about Charlie?"

"Nothing as yet. He doesn't know I saw him locking lips with this other girl. I'm gonna dump his ass for sure, but that seems too easy. He needs to suffer."

"So,” Pacey leaned forward, 'don't get mad, get even."

"How?"

"That, my chickadee, is up to you." He slipped an arm around her shoulder, hugging her to him.

"Hmm...I like the way you think." She hugged him back. "So! Back to the original subject. Everything's okay with you and Audrey?"

Pacey withdrew his arm and looked down at his feet. "Yeah."

"Yeah?" Jen bent her head, trying to get a look at his face. "And Joey's really okay with this?"

"If she isn't, that's her problem."

"Wrong, it's yours and Audrey's problem too. You're her ex and Audrey's her roommate - and Joey is the jealous type!"

"Joey says she's okay with it. I sure as hell, don't have a problem, if she doesn't."

"I know you too well, Pacey."

"Meaning?"

She tried to choose her words carefully. "You and Joey have a lot of...history."

"And I ask again...meaning?"

"Look, in one sense it's good to see you moving on. But you're not over her, Pacey. What happened to painting the town red? What happened to leaving big loves behind? Grabbing life with both hands?"

"Audrey and I are not serious. We're just having fun."

"Okay, if you say so." Jen held her hands up placating as the tightness entered his voice. "Just-"

"Just what?"

"There are feelings at stake here."

"I told you Joey isn't a factor in this." Did he sound a little too protesting?

"I wasn't thinking of Joey."

"And Audrey's fine, too."

"It's not just Audrey, it's you."

"Warning duly noted, Jen."

 

**************

"I don't know why I let you drag me here."

"When did you last get out and have some fun? You need a break from all that dreary studying! Jen's here and Jack will be by later. You do remember how to have fun, don't you?"

"When my boyfriend is going out of his way to avoid seeing me? What do you expect?"

Joey sighted Pacey talking to a co-worker near the yacht and felt her body tense. He turned, and seeing Audrey and Joey, came over. He slipped an arm around Audrey and seeing he was about to lean in and kiss her, Joey looked away.

Audrey reluctantly accepted the kiss which, due to her slight turning away, landed on the corner of her mouth. Her eyes darted worriedly to Joey, but saw she was looking away to the right. Audrey moved out of the circle of Pacey's arm and tried to ignore the sudden awkwardness.

"Hey Joey."

"Hey. I don't see Jen?"

"Not here yet."

Joey nodded.

"Would you ladies like a drink?"

"I can get them." Joey said quickly.

"There are beers over there and soft drinks in the cabin of the boat."

"Great." Joey hurriedly wandered off.

As soon as Joey was out of earshot heading for the boat, Audrey eyed Pacey with disapproval.

"What?"

"You know how I feel about displays of affection in front of Joey!"

"Maybe you shouldn't have brought her here then, if it makes you uncomfortable."

"Listen, buddy. She's my friend before you're my boyfriend. I care about her feelings even if you don't."

Pacey sighed. "She says she's fine with it."

"But I'm not. Not exactly."

"Do you think she'd give a crap about kissing Dawson in front of me?"

"What's Dawson got to do with this?"

"Nothing." Pacey muttered. "Fine, okay."

"Just indulge me, okay? Please." She pouted prettily up at him. "For awhile? No mauling in front of Joey."

"You can make it up to me later," he grinned, and catching sight of Jen loped off over to her and her companion.

"Hey! You made it!"

"Hey! Indeed I did. Pacey this is Norah. Norah, Pacey."

They said their hellos.

Jen grinned at him.

"What?" he looked from Jen to Norah, who had an equally big smile on her lovely face, and back to Jen.

"Pacey, you give great advice. Let's give you the low down on what we got up to tonight."

"Sounds intriguing."

"Oh, it is." Norah laughed.

"Pacey, Norah is Charlie's other woman."

"Er, was, Jen, was." Norah corrected her.

"What?"

"That's right, was. And you heard that correctly."

"Well...apart from doubly admiring Charlie's taste in women, I'm wondering how come you two are so pally..."

 

 

"Hey! Want a beer?" Joey asked with bright cheerfulness.

"Sure." Audrey accepted the bottle. "You okay?"

"Fine, why shouldn't I be?"

"You must be missing Dawson."

"Er, yeah, but if he needs a little space, then I'll give him all he needs. Gale and Lily need him more than I do right now."

"True. I don't know what it's like to lose someone that close."

"It can make you do strange things, say strange things." Joey said, remembering her last conversation with Dawson. "Last time I spoke to him, the conversation didn't exactly end amicably."

"Oh Joey... you never told me that!"

"I know. It's been preying on my mind, though. The more I think back on it, the more it sounded like he was-"

"Was what, Joey?"

"Trying to sound the death knell on our relationship! I don't know!'

Audrey watched Joey's face, saw the hurt and misery in it.

"Are you sure?"

"No, I'm not sure, but..."

"Uh well, why don't you ask him outright what he wants?"

"I tried that. It's what led to-"

"Joey?"

"What?"

"Didn't you say Dawson was in Capeside?"

Joey frowned and followed the direction of Audrey's gaze. Dawson was walking amidst a large group of raucous young men, probably fraternity guys because Jack was with him.

"He didn't even tell me he was coming to Boston," she mumbled.

Dawson was laughing and joking with them as they came by Pacey's boat. He went right by Joey and Audrey without noticing them. She could tell he was drunk.

"I've lost him, Audrey." she whispered. "I've lost everything. I'm on my own!"

 

 

"When Joey got the chance she grabbed a chance to speak to Dawson.

"Hey!"

"Oh! Hey! You're here."

"Yeah, you seem surprised. But what's more surprising is that you are, too."

"Yeah...and?"

"Well, you didn't tell me you were going to be in Boston. I'd have thought..."

"It...must have slipped my mind." He looked impatiently back at Jack and the other guys.

"Slipped your mind?" Joey repeated bewilderingly. "Dawson-"

"Hey! Pacey!" Dawson called out as Pacey walked by with Jen and Norah. They came over with Pacey immediately noticing the tight, anxious expression on Joey's face.

Dawson hugged Pacey, slapping him on the back and then grabbed Jen in a bear hug, too, enthusing about how much he'd missed them - for the third time that evening. Pacey and Jen exchanged amused glances and then chuckled awkwardly when he asked, 'who's the hot chick?" He eyed Norah. Joey's lips pressed together tightly. Sensing a sudden tenseness, Norah made her excuses and left.

"Dawson,' Joey interrupted, 'we need to talk."

"Uh, okay."

"I mean, privately."

"We're amongst our best friends, Jo. Come on, what's wrong?"

He obviously had no intention of going anywhere with her and kept an arm around Jen's shoulders.

Joey took a deep breath. She could already feel the threat of tears. "Why didn't you let me know you were coming? I mean-"

"Joey, I don't know if you remember, but...our last phone call had a certain ring of finality about it." He jabbed a finger in her direction, still hanging on to Jen. "From your end of the line I might add."

Joey darted embarrassed glances at Pacey and Jen. "I really think we should discuss this alone. We said some things we didn't mean-"

"I don't think I said anything I didn't mean. Oh no." He shook his head emphatically.

"Do you even remember what you said?" Joey asked incredulously.

"What? That my father would still be here if it wasn't for you? Yeah, I remember."

There was tense silence.

“What?" Dawson asked, uncomprehendingly. He looked from Joey to Pacey and Jen and back to Joey's shocked face. Just then Jack called Dawson over and with a 'see ya later,' he left them standing there.

"Joey, he's drunk and doesn't know what he's saying."

"Jen, you don't need to make excuses for him. He may be drunk, but I very much doubt that awful sentiment came out of the blue. The demon drink has a way of bringing out the truth in most people, doesn't it?"

"But Joey -"

"Remember his 16th birthday party?"

"Jo-"

"Besides, it's not the first time he's expressed such a notion to me - and he was stone cold sober at the time. Excuse me."

Jen and Pacey watched her hurry away then, turned to each other.

"So it looks like all on the rocks again."

"Pacey, his father died."

"I would have thought that was a time to appreciate the support your loved ones can offer you - not accuse them of murder."

"Pacey!"

"Hey! None of my business. Joey made her choice. Can't blame me for this one."

"She's hurting right now."

"So's Dawson - except he seems to be taking it out on her."

"She could do with a friend right now."

"Wanna do the honors? Audrey doesn't seem to be around right now."

Jen watched Pacey. "Stop pretending you don't care and that you don't wanna make sure she's okay."

"Jen-"

"In other words, stop being a jerk and go after her."

He sighed heavily. "Like my ugly mug is going to cheer her up right now." he grumbled, but Jen smiled as he set off and boarded the boat.

He stepped out of the way to allow a frat boy with cans of soda go past then descended into the cabin. No sign of Joey. He peered into the galley and bathroom and then pushing open the slightly ajar bedroom door found Joey sitting on the edge of the bed, head in hands. She looked up, saw it was him and quickly looked away.

"Go away."

Her voice was thick with tears and it tugged on the heartstrings he was trying hard to harden.

"Are you okay?"

"Fine!" she snapped. "As if you care."

"I'm here, aren't I?"

She sniffed, face averted, staring at the wall. "To gloat?"

Pacey advanced into the small room and sat beside her. Her heart leapt uncontrollably.

"Please go away!"

"I'm not in much of an obnoxious mood right now, so I'll pass on the gloating if you don't mind."

She didn't reply.

"He's drunk Jo. He's trying to numb the grief and pain anyway he can." Pacey added quickly.

Joey laughed mockingly, wiping at her tears at the same time. "Even you're defending him?"

"I know Dawson. When he hurts he lashes out at those closest to him. In fact, don't we all do it?"

She turned to stare at him then slowly looked away. "Be happy, Pacey. Dawson and I have failed yet again to make a go of things. I mean, why deviate from a well worn pattern?" She jumped up and faced him now. "When will we ever learn?"

Pacey stood and rested his hands on her arms. "You don't need Dawson to make you a whole person, Jo. I thought you'd realized that a long time ago."

She raised huge eyes to him. "I'm scared of losing him. He's my one-"

"What? True love?" Pacey raised a skeptical brow, masking the brief flare of pain. "You believe in that cosmic stuff, still, Jo?"

She gazed into his eyes, wishing fervently that things hadn't gone so wrong between them last year.

"Yes, yes I do."

"What? Cynical Miss Joey Potter?"

"Yes..."

"Then...then I guess you have to fight for him."

She shook her head slowly.

Pacey frowned. "If he's what you want-"

"He isn't what I want. He - he hasn't been for a long time. Not in the way you think."

The moment seemed timeless, just the two of them standing there staring at each other, Joey trying to convey wordlessly what she meant to him and Pacey trying to gauge exactly what she meant.
Yet, even being so near, they seemed so far. A gulf between them. All he wanted to do was lean forward and kiss away her tears, capture her mouth in a long kiss. She wanted to feel his arms close around her, to kiss her and tell her everything was okay. That she was safe. That she was wanted. That she was home.

"There you are! I wondered where you two had got to."

The spell was broken. Audrey came into the room, which now felt much too small for all of them to be in.

"Are you alright bunny?" She slipped an arm around around Joey's shoulders and signaled to Pacey for him to leave.

Chapter Text

"But I told you that several times yesterday, Audrey!"

"Yeah, but you were railing it off nineteen to the dozen while I was trying to talk on the phone to Pacey! Is it any wonder there was some leakage from my brain? What is it with you, anyway? That's the billionth time this week you've bitten my head off!"

Audrey was pissed, Joey could tell and she bit her lip guiltily. It wasn't Audrey's fault that she was dating the guy Joey was still in love with. Hadn't she given Pacey and Audrey her blessing?

"Is it Dawson?"

Not so much, no, Joey thought. She had easily accepted Dawson's sober apology the next day after Pacey's party, all the more so because she knew now, more than ever, that he wasn't 'the one.' His rejection had hurt, his accusation had cut her to the quick, but these were based on what he meant to her as a friend. She'd decided that once he had got over his father's death, their friendship would fall into place like it always did. Never had any crisis in their lives succeeded in pulling them apart permanently. They could get over this hurdle, too. She'd decided to let Dawson get on with it. His apology had been sweet and sincere. She knew they would always be Dawson and Joey, best friends forever.

No, her major problem was her other best friend. The one who did things to her insides and flip flopping heart, things that Dawson nor anyone else had ever been able to. Now that she'd sorted out in her head her feelings and anxiety over her Dawson issue and could comfortably put that subject aside, she had to confront the Pacey issue. The major problem now was that with no Dawson to distract her, Pacey and Audrey seemed to be in her face large as life all the time. She couldn't stand to see them together. She couldn't stand listening to Audrey talk to him on the phone. Twice, she'd caught Audrey talking all breathy and sexy to him! She couldn't bear to imagine what they were getting up to alone on his boat. And it was beginning to show. She hadn't been able to stem the overwhelming wash of irritation toward Audrey when she had interrupted her and Pacey in the bedroom on his boat at his party last month. Or that she'd been snapping at her left, right and center since then. It wasn't right. It wasn't fair that she was taking out her frustrations on Audrey.

"I'm sorry, Audrey." Joey sighed. "Um, yes, I know I'll always have a special bond with Dawson, but well..." she trailed off unable to hold Audrey's gaze. She couldn't keep using Dawson as an excuse for her ratty moods, either. Pull yourself together, Joey! She thought to herself.

"Ooookayyy, so it's not anything to do with Pacey?"

"Pacey?" Joey's head snapped up before she could prevent it. "Why would you think that?"

"Just taking a shot in the dark."

"And missing by a mile."

"Fine."

"We may not be the best of friends, but I already told you that he didn't upset me that night at his party. He was trying to be sweet."

"Okay, so you won't be all funny with him when he comes round again?"

"Comes round again when?"

There was a knock on the door.

"Um, now."

"Oh, well I'm on my way out, anyway."

"Since when? Where?"

"Library." She answered, opening the door and finding Pacey leaning to the side.

Their eyes met briefly before Joey rushed past him.

"Hey, Pacey."

"Joey."

"Uh, Joey?" Audrey called after her.

"What?" Joey asked impatiently, poking her head back around the door.

"If you're going to the library, won't you need your books?"

"Oh yes, where's my head?" She muttered, avoiding eye contact with either of them. She came back in, grabbed her books and with a hurried 'bye,' left.

Pacey chose not to comment. He came in and shut the door. "You ready?" he asked, noting that she was lounging on her bed, flicking through a magazine.

"Yeah," she replied, turning another page.

"We don't have to go round to Leon's, you know. I can pick up my iPod and other stuff anytime." He settled beside her on the bed and let his hand creep up her thigh under the mini skirt she was wearing.

"You know the drill, Pacey. Not in the dorm room."

"Joey's not here!" He protested, letting his fingers creep higher.

Audrey chucked the magazine aside and slipped off the other side of the bed.

"Come on, lets' go." She slipped her shoes on, rounded the bed and pulled out a jacket out from the closet, slipped it on and opened the door. She stood outside waiting for him.

Pacey sighed and stood up. Audrey had been in a funny mood for the last two days and he didn't have a clue what it was about.

 

"So, do you work out Leon?"

"Yeah, now and again."

"Thought so." Audrey let her eyes lazily wander over his body in the low slung tracksuit bottoms and the tight sleeveless vest he wore, and he narrowed his eyes speculatively at her before shooting a glance at Pacey, who was rummaging through Leon's rucksack obliviously, then back at her. She stood up, thrusting her chest forward and sauntered over to him to trail a finger down over one bare bicep.

"Pacey, maybe you should think about working out a little more." Audrey told him.

"Huh?" Pacey grunted as he pulled out his iPod and tried to untangle the headphones.

"Well, look at Leon's. No girl would turn her nose up at these."

Pacey looked over to see Audrey's hand curving appreciatively around Leon's upper arm and her other hand sliding up Leon's stomach to rest on his chest. When Pacey looked at Leon's face he almost laughed. While Leon was obviously appreciating the female attention, he also looked nonplussed that it was Pacey's girlfriend coming on to him. Leon flicked him a bemused look.

"Audrey, what are you doing?" Pacey asked her, prompting Leon to take a wary step backwards from her.

"What do you care?" she threw at him without so much as a glance. Unperturbed by Leon's subtle rejection, she stepped forward, the hand on his chest continued up to curl around his neck and she quickly reached up to capture his mouth with hers for a full on kiss.

"Mmfph!" Leon said, taken by surprise, but didn't pull away. After a moment, without breaking the kiss, his eyes swiveled toward Pacey who was staring hard at them with the most perplexed expression on his face. Leon raised his brows, in a mixture of helplessness and amusement. Pacey frowned and jerked his head toward the doorway, effectively telling to Leon to get out. This was way out there and Pacey had no doubt it had nothing to do with Leon. Although, it didn't surprise him in the least that Leon was thoroughly enjoying the intimacy with Audrey.

Leon broke the kiss off now. "Um, I don't know what this is all about," he said. "You two obviously need to talk. But Pace, if you ever want to indulge in a little threesome action, I'm your man."

"Get the fuck out, Leon."

"I'm going, I'm going!" Leon hurried out, hard put to hide his puzzled amusement.

Audrey leaned back against the counter. She twirled a lock of hair around one finger, carelessly belying the nervous flicker of her eyelids.

"What's going on, Audrey?"

"What did it look like?" she retorted, defiantly.

Pacey only frowned more in total confusion. "I don't get it."

Audrey leveled a disgusted look at him and planted her hand on her hips.

"Is that it?" she asked.

"What?"

"Is that the best you can do? Frankly, I'm insulted!"

"Audrey, I'm fast losing patience here. Whatever your problem is spit it out!"

"Oh, please like you care. And it's your problem!"

"My problem?"

"Yes!" she shouted. "Your fucking problem!"

"Isn't it always? What are you talking about?" He was about ready to pull his hair out and dashed the bag he was still holding onto the floor. Audrey barely blinked.

"I’ve been flirting hardcore with Leon ever since we got here. You've hardly noticed! And I've just kissed him. Do you think you could maybe dredge up some modicum of outrage and jealousy over that? Or are you only capable of that when it concerns Joey?"

"Whoa! How the hell did Joey get into this conversation? What's she got to do with-"

"Everything!"

"Audrey-"

"This isn't going to work, Pacey. Us. We're not working. Not that it was meant to be a major love affair or anything, but-"

"How can you-"

"Look me in the eye and tell me that you and Joey weren't puckering up for a kiss when I interrupted you both on the boat at your party."

She stared hard at him. Pacey opened his mouth to speak, and then closed it. He had wanted to kiss Joey. Had it been written all over his face for Audrey to see? Obviously, it had been. He closed his eyes briefly in defeat and when he opened them there was a heavy apology within their depths.

"I thought so," she said. "No wonder you've been like a nonstop sex machine since then!" She saw Pacey's wince. "You've been feeling guilty over it! I'm not stupid, you know!"

Audrey felt the prick of tears and blinked them away. She turned away from him. He caught her arm and she allowed him to pull her back, turning her back round to face him.

"It wasn't exactly like that, but I'm sorry." He looked her earnestly in the eyes. "Yes, maybe for a second I thought about kissing her. But-but it was a vulnerable moment. A slip. I really like you, Audrey. I'm not playing with your affections. "

"Aren't you? It's so obvious you and Joey still have feelings for each other."

When he would have protested, she wouldn't let him speak. "It doesn't matter that she's with Dawson or was, and that you're playing the field-"

"I'm not playing the field with you, Audrey!"

"But it is just a fun fling for us, isn't it? And you do still have feelings for her, don't you?"

Pacey was angry. "Am I not allowed to move on? It's not like I'm pining after her!"

"Aren't you?"

"No!" He exploded.

"Me thinks you doth protest too much, Pacey." She said, quietly.

They stood there staring at each other.

"That's not fair!" He said, finally.

"How did it feel seeing me kiss Leon? Did you want to grab me by the hair and pull me away? Did you want to smash his face in?"

Pacey shook his head wordlessly, not sure how to answer without confirming her suspicions.

"I'm not blind. You still have feelings for her! And she may still have them for you!"

Pacey laughed bitterly. "Oh, I know she has!"

"What?" Audrey was taken aback by the admission.

"Oh yeah, I know she wants me! And I may run the risk of sounding arrogant and a little conceited, but I'd say she wants me badly. After all, I'm a good fuck! You know that right?" The self-mockery and derisiveness riddled through his voice made her wince. "But it's not the same as being the man who has her heart, is it? It's not the same as-" He broke off. "Look, Joey's made it very clear that she has no feelings for me anymore."

"Pacey, you know Joey. She was probably covering-"

"That's the last thing I need or want! Joey and the truth don't always go hand in hand. I'm sick of that!"

"What did you expect? She was with Dawson! She couldn't exactly jump you could she?"

"What's wrong with just telling the truth and laying your cards on the table and then working things out from there?"

"She-she's Joey!" Audrey shrugged her shoulders up helplessly.

"That's her look out, then. I don't want to talk about her. What about us, Audrey?"

"There is no us, Pacey. I thought I'd made that clear." She turned towards the door.

"You can't just...I mean..." He trailed off, dragging a hand through his hair as he looked impotently at her.

She smiled sadly. "There really isn't anything you can say, is there?" She opened the door. "It was a blast, Pace. I had a lot of fun. Now don't let her slip away from you, okay?"

"Audrey!"

She closed the door behind her.

 

Stupid! Stupid! Stupid! Audrey repeated the litany in her head all the way back to Worthington. She'd been so into Pacey that she'd blinded herself to the bigger picture, blinded herself to the little signs that surely must have been there to warn her that, of course Joey wasn't okay with her dating him. How could she have been so oblivious? So stupid! She was glad she'd caught that little scene between them on the boat. It had brought her to her senses. She'd needed time to formulate her plan and get used to the idea of what she was going to do, but she knew it was right. Now she needed to talk to Joey. Maybe, she could bring Pacey and Joey to their senses.

Okay, her heart had taken a little bruising, she admitted to herself, but that would fade. She'd had a lucky escape. Too much longer and she'd have fallen in love with him herself. Yeah, a lucky escape.

That Leon was a good kisser, she mused...

Chapter Text

Leon peeked his head around the kitchen door and theatrically cleared his throat before coming in.

"Is it safe again?" he asked.

Pacey was sat slumped in his chair at the table, giving Leon the evil eye. He looked away without answering.

Leon sat down opposite him. "So I take it a threesome is no longer in question?"

"Don't even, Leon! I'm not in the mood!" Pacey snapped.

"Okay, okay. So, Audrey's gone? It's over?"

"Yes, Miss Liddell, clever woman that she is, has me all figured out! In a nutshell, I should stop trying to bury my head in the sand, admit I'm still in love with Joey and go get her."

"Wow, she got all of that from hanging off my lips?" Leon laughed and then waved his hands placatingly upon seeing Pacey's thunderous frown. "I'm sorry, couldn't resist, man."

Pacey stared moodily at him. "How am I supposed to get over Joey when people won't let me! I'm not fucking going there again!"

Leon nodded.

"Even if she does still want me, why should I? I'm not a glutton for punishment! And why should I make the first move anyway? I already did that and she knocked me down flat! Miss 'I don't fucking do it for her anymore' Potter!" Pacey spat, violently.

"She certainly knows how to get under your skin, that's for sure! I told you to fuck her out of your system-"

"Maybe that would work, Leon - if I wasn't in love with her." Pacey replied quietly, all the anger drained out of him. "Basically, I'm back to square one!"

"And square one was us buddies going out on the town, losing our heads on wine, women and song. In others words, beer, chicks and rock and roll!"

Pacey shook his head, a reluctant smile lifting the corner of his mouth. "Yeah, I didn't quite give that long enough, did I?"

"No sir, you did not." Leon eyed him with wide grin, his eyes gleaming. "That threesome was wild, wasn't it?"

"Sweet. Sweet and hot." Pacey's smile grew wider.

"I'll corrupt you yet, Pacey Witter. I'll corrupt Miss Potter clean out of your heart and mind."

 

Joey looked up briefly from her books as Audrey entered their dorm room.

"Hey," Joey murmured, her eyes tracing the same sentence in her book for the hundredth time.

"That night, weeks ago, when you went looking for Pacey after finding out he was in Boston, you did more than just fight, didn't you?"

Joey's eyes stilled, and then she slowly turned to look at Audrey, discomfort all over her face. Audrey was leaning against the door, her arms folded, and face, serious.

"What?"

"You heard me."

"I told you what happened! I said-"

"That you argued, yes, but you didn't tell me you almost fucked him!"

"I did not! That's a lie!" Joey shot back, rising to her feet now.

"No?"

"What is this all about?"

"But you wanted to, didn't you?"

"Did he tell you that?" Joey snapped, getting angrier by the second.

"Why should he keep such a thing secret from me? After all I'm the one he's fucking now - not you!"

Joey bit back a nasty retort, ignoring the twist in her heart at Audrey's words. She didn't know where all this was coming from, especially as anything that happened between her and Pacey was in the past and well before he'd hooked up with Audrey. But she was obviously upset about something.

"Whatever happened is in the past and was before you got involved with him!"

"So something did happen?"

"What does it matter? It's in the past!"

"You were with Dawson-"

"So? I'm not now."

"So what does that tell you, Joey?"

"Just tell me what the problem is, okay?"

Audrey advanced into the room now, squaring up to Joey who looked more than a little wary and confused.

"If you still wanted him, why did you say it was okay for me to go for it with him?"

"I-I don't..."

"Hmm?" Audrey tried to hold Joey's gaze, following where Joey's eyes darted to. In the end, she whirled away, retreating to the window, her back to Audrey.

"I'm not discussing this with you. You-you've obviously had some kind of fight with Pacey, but please don't drag me into it! I can't believe he told you about that!" she spat bitterly.

"He didn't."

"What?" Joey turned.

"You just did."

"I don't get it. Audrey, just-"

"Why don't you just admit it?"

"Admit what?" Joey barked with exasperation.

"That you're still in love with him." Audrey answered softly, the belligerence gone from her voice.

"No..."

"I realize now why you've been so snappy with me, especially lately now that you've split up with Dawson. You're not upset over Dawson so much as you still want Pacey."

"Audrey-"

"Well, he's now available."

There was a short silence.

"You and Pacey have split up?"

Audrey nodded.

"Why?"

Audrey forced a light laugh. "Duh! Joey you know me! And besides Pacey and I were only ever meant to be a fling! When I found you two on the boat at his party and saw the way you were looking at each other, I began to wonder why I ever took you at your word about how okay you were with me and him being together."

"I was!" Joey denied.

Audrey aimed a dubious look her way and Joey finally responded with a regretful one of her own.

"I wasn't," she admitted, then rushed to her own defense. "But you liked him so much!"

"Joey, how many boys have I liked?"

"And I hated him so!"

"The reverse side of that coin being love."

"But it's not like I had a right to protest! I was with Dawson! I can't keep ping ponging between these two guys for the rest of my life!"

"Oh Joey, why do you have to make life so difficult for yourself?"

"Well, you know how stubborn I can be." Joey ventured a small, rueful smile. "Just mix in a whopping spoonful of pride with that and...voila!"

"Pride goeth before a fall, kiddo! You'll lose him for good if you carry on that way."

"Why should I go crawling back to him?" Joey flashed. "Everyone seems to forget he was the one who dumped me! He left me high and dry without a word last year!"

"Okay, fair enough, but he came back to find you already back with Dawson. Not much he could do about that, was there?"

Joey shrugged.

"I don't think he's over you either, Joey."

"Well, well...that's too bad. It's...it's too late."

"I've stepped out of the picture. It's down to you two now."

"But he's your ex now."

"And you now have my blessing, then." Audrey came over placing a hand on her arm, staring earnestly into her eyes.

"Joey, you're a real pain in the ass sometimes, but you're my best friend and that's more important than anything else to me. I care about your happiness. I'm also very nosy when it comes to your love life and enjoy meddling in it."

"Audrey..."

"If Pacey is what's going to make you happy then go for it. Go for him. Why wait? Why cut your nose off to spite your face?"

Joey's eyes filled with tears, touched by Audrey's concern and gentle tone.

"I do tend to do that, don't I?" she laughed tremulously. "But he's angry with me," she whispered, as a tear trickled down one cheek. "I hurt him that night I went to see him...said things...things that were untrue."

"I'm sure you were only trying to protect yourself." Audrey sympathized, slipping an arm around her now. "You had your reasons. Don't tell me you and Pacey can't overcome whatever the problems are between you."

"Dawson is a part of that-"

"He's no longer in the picture, either."

"No, Audrey that makes no difference. He's always been between us to some degree-"

"Change that!"

Joey heaved a heavy sigh. "I-I can't...I'm not going there again, Audrey. Let's not talk about this anymore, please."

"Jo-"

"Please," Joey begged.

"Okay, okay, but at least think about it, Jo."

"Let's drop it. It's not about me right now." She scrubbed her eyes and sat on her bed. "Audrey, what happened with you and Pacey?"

"It had to end sooner or later. I came to the realization that what I had with Pacey wasn't real. It was just fun and something that frivolous shouldn't be standing in the way of two people who do have something meaningful to give to each other."

"Audrey, you're a good friend."

"Don't worry, Jo. Neither of our hearts were in it. And- and I should never, never have got involved with him in the first place - no matter what you said about it. I'm really sorry about that."

"You've got nothing to apologize for!"

"I think I have."

"No! You haven't!"

She hugged Audrey tightly.

"So anyway, ' Audrey said as they drew apart, 'I'm sorry I upset you earlier when I got in. I wanted to see your reaction. I did the same thing with Pacey. I know how stubborn he can be sometimes, so I decided to make out with his friend in front of him!"

"What? You're kidding!"

"Nope!"

"What...what did he say? How did he react?"

"Let's just say it confirmed a few things for me. Now, I'm going to try not to badger you for a decision about Pacey, so what do you say we just get some ice-cream out and have a nice girly night in, huh?"

Joey nodded, smiling.

Chapter Text

Five days later, at Audrey's insistence, they were at their usual bar haunted by college students, standing by the bar waiting for their drinks.

Joey's casually looked over the place and mouth fell open with disbelief when she spied Pacey all over a busty blonde on one of the corner sofas. To his left sat another guy, skin like caramel, very good-looking, with a fawning red-head giggling on his right.

Audrey thrust Joey's drink into her hand. Noting her lack of attention she followed her line of sight. Seeing Pacey with someone else didn't hurt as much as she thought it would. Thankfully, she hadn't fallen for him too deeply before calling it quits.

Joey turned to her with rounded eyes. "It hasn't even been a week!"

"Joey-"

"Not even a week and he's drooling over someone else."

"Joey, it doesn't matter."

"Of course it matters. You were his girlfriend! God! Does he have no scruples? No respect?" Joey shook her head. "He never used to be like this."

"No? I wonder what turned him?"

Joey's head snapped round to Audrey. "What do you mean?"

Audrey shrugged. "Well, pre break up with Joey Potter, he was the perfect, faithful boyfriend, pretty much right?"

"Audrey-" She'd said something similar to Pacey, but only to goad him.

"Post break up with Joey Potter, and he's become a man whore. Girl, you know what I'm like when it comes to science, but even I can do the math on that one!"

"Oh! So it's all my fault!"

"He's a guy, Jo! You break a guy's heart and he knocks boots all over town trying to mend it back! Go figure. But then they don't have our brain capacity, do they?"

"I don't know. I was pretty stupid to get involved with him in the first place, I think."

Was Pacey really that cut up by their break up? It didn't seem like it! In fact, it didn't look anything like it!

Audrey threw her an askance look. "You don't really believe that. Stop hiding, Joey. He'll continue to sleep around until you make him come to his senses.

"It's nothing to do with me! I'm not involved!"

"No, I'm not involved. You are! It's all about you!"

"I don't want to talk about it."

"Gah, the typical Joey response! You always try to stick your head in the sand. Just tell me...how does it feel seeing him stick his tongue down another girl's throat?"

Which was exactly what he was doing now. Joey also spied his large, sensitive hands that she knew so well stroking the blonde's arm. She looked away, trying to ignore the empty pain that gnawed at her heart.

"I don't care." she mumbled, taking a big gulp of her rum and coke. Audrey just about catching the words despite the loud music. Audrey shook her head.

"Do you wanna leave?"

"No!" Joey cried indignantly. "He's not spoiling our night out."

Audrey nodded, then sniggered a little, watching both boys.

"What?"

"That's Pacey's friend Leon. He's the one I kissed the other day. Isn't he gorgeous?"

"Very." Joey agreed, watching the flash of Leon's white teeth as he smiled, and the way one hand played with the shoulder strap of his redhead's skimpy top. Involuntarily, her gaze slid over to Pacey. He was nuzzling into his blonde's neck, an arm along the top of the couch, the other now caressing her bare thigh below her mini skirt. She'd never felt such venomous jealousy before.

It seemed so long ago since she'd gone looking for him at the marina after learning he was in Boston. She recalled the feel of his skin, hot and velvety, beneath her hands as he'd hefted her up onto the counter and plundered her skin with kisses. His mouth closing over her nipples, his...Joey tried to push the errant thoughts away, but she recalled the kisses he'd given her after she'd caught him with Audrey. Punishing as they'd meant to be, she'd enjoyed them, been flustered by them. She couldn't deny that Pacey very much still did it for her.

She glanced back at Leon to find him staring at her as he whispered into his girl's ear. Joey snapped her eyes away.

"Let's move over to the other side of the room. That way we don't have to see him maul his latest conquest."

 

The moment Joey looked away, Leon tapped Pacey's arm, gaining his attention.

"What?"

"Your Joey is here giving you the evil eye."

"You don't know what she looks like!"

"I recognize Audrey, who's with her - over there. And I don't think any of the girls you've dallied with lately have cause for eyeing you so viciously. So my deductive powers here don't leave much room for error."

Pacey caught a glimpse of Joey and Audrey as they moved away into the crowd. He shrugged, uncaringly.

"No big deal."

"No? You sure? Considering Audrey split with you 'cos she thought you were still in love with Joey?"

"What are you two whispering about?" Pacey's blonde interrupted them.

"Uh, we can't decide which out of the two of you is most gorgeous." Leon quipped.

"Yeah, right!" She rolled her eyes.

"No, seriously." Pacey backed him up. "We've had to call it a draw. We can't choose." Pacey grinned at them all, pushing away all thought of Joey. He was not going to allow her to ruin his night.

 

Joey had been thinking the same thing, but throughout the evening, as she got more and more drunk, Joey seemed to see Pacey everywhere she looked; standing at the bar with Leon, talking and laughing, sitting on the couch with his blonde, whispering in her ear or gyrating on the floor with her. When did he learn to dance like that?

Again, she felt the burn of jealousy and resentment, but tried to tell herself it wasn't just because she had feelings for him, but mainly because of how quickly he'd moved on from Audrey. She wasn't entirely convinced that Audrey was as uncaring as she insisted. And Joey had warned Pacey about not hurting Audrey.

For once Audrey wasn't anywhere near as tipsy as usual, although she was enjoying herself, dancing and flirting outrageously, but she wasn't blind to Joey's gaze straying time and again over to Pacey, with an angry light in them that grew stronger and stronger the more she drank. Eventually, Audrey took her to one side.

"I thought we were going to enjoy this night?"

"Yeah..."

"Then why can't you enjoy the attention from every guy that's tried to drool over you tonight?"

"I danced-"

"You made one guy squeal in pain because you were too busy looking over his shoulder at Pacey to keep in step with him!"

"Look, I do not-"

"Don't deny it! Pacey being here bothers you!"

"Doesn't it bother you?"

"Does it look like it?"

"It-it should!"

"Why? It's over! I finished it and I'm fine! In fact, I'd love to get into his mate Leon's pants! This is about you!"

"No! No, it isn't!" Joey denied desperately, her words slurring slightly. "I warned him not to hurt you and I think he has! W-why should he get away with it? Treating you like that!" As she waved her arm about, the drink in her glass sloshed about dangerously.

"Jo please."

Joey spun on her heel uncaringly and staggered, but she kept her balance and marched over to Pacey, elbowing roughly past several people on her way. Pacey was lounging on the sofa, ready to invite his date back to his place. He looked up as Joey appeared, frowning warily. Joey pointed an accusing finger at the blonde.

"Is she the reason why Audrey dumped you?" Joey tried to control her slurring speech.

"What?"

"I told you not to hurt Audrey - and you did!"

"Joey! Would you stop this!" Audrey said, as she came up behind her.

"Why? He shouldn't get away with it!"

"With what?" Pacey snapped in exasperation. He glanced at the blonde who looked back at him in bemusement.

"Jo-"

She didn't let Audrey get any further.

"Did you know he fucked four girls in one night?" Joey turned to the blonde. The blonde slid a look at Pacey. "What number is this one tonight, huh, Pacey?"

"Heh!" Pacey's smile came out more like a grimace. "She's crazy. I mean, I don't even know her! Do you?" He said to the blonde. She shook her head uncertainly as Joey looked on stonily. He turned to Leon. "Leon, do you know this girl?" Leon shook his head and looked away to hide a smirk. "Audrey, get this crazy woman the hell away from me!" Pacey hissed.

"And this guy!" Joey ignored Pacey and jerked a finger at Leon as she continued to talk almost conversationally to the blonde, shrugging off Audrey's hand from her shoulder. "I seriously suspect that he was Pacey's partner in crime during a ménage a trios that same night - with another blonde not dissimilar to yourself."

Leon bit back a laugh. He sobered up though, as the redhead who had been cuddling up to him in amusement, suddenly reared up with an accusing look.

"For fuck's sake, Joey!" Pacey cried, as his own date began to inch away from him.

"So you do know her!" The blonde exclaimed.

"I'm right, aren't I?" Joey continued. "So are you planning another ménage a trois tonight? Or is it going to become a rectangle, with her included, too? One big orgy, huh?"

Pacey stood and drew himself up to full height. "If it wasn't so obvious that you're sore at being left out of the action, I might actually feel sorry for you making a complete fool out of yourself here! Just-"

He didn't get any further; his tirade cut off as Joey threw her drink over him and watched as the liquid dripped down his face and chest.

"Okay, we are definitely leaving now." Audrey grabbed Joey's arm and yanked her away.

"I'm not done!" Joey yelled, trying to pull away.

"I say you are!" Audrey yanked harder and Joey went with her, sighing with exasperation as Joey tossed her empty glass to Pacey, who just caught it, and then grabbed a bottle of beer out of one guy's hand as Audrey pulled her through the crowd.

Heaving a deep controlling breath through his nostrils, Pacey glared after their retreating figures with narrowed eyes.

 

"...Joey, that was so wrong! Funny...but wrong."

"He deserved it." Joey said as they walked down the street.

"Did he? Did he really? I think you're too drunk to know what you're doing."

"Yes I do! And of course, it was funny,' Joey sniggered, 'I'm a funny drunk, didn't ya know?"

Audrey tucked her arm into Joey's. "Come on, let's go home."

"Uh, uh. Not yet. Pacey's com-comp-comeuppance awaits."

"Joey, no more."

Joey pulled away and stared at Audrey. "Didn't you hear what I said in there? That-that party that you went back...I mean that party, that night, when-when you went to Pacey's, he'd already-"

"I don't want to know!"

"I'm your friend, Audrey it's my duty to defend you."

"I don't need defending. Now come on before Pacey comes out looking for you."

"I'm not scared of him! Do you think he'll take that girl home now?"

"Uh, after what you said back there, I doubt it somehow."

"I don't know...he's a bit of a charmer, you know." Joey pulled away from Audrey and weaved unsteadily down the street.

"More fool her then, right?" Audrey said indulgently. She took Joey's elbow and tried to steer her in the opposite direction - towards Worthington.

"Why should he enjoy a night of hot sex after what he did to us? It's...it's not fair." Joey pouted as she evaded Audrey's outstretched hand.

"Joey this isn't the way home. Come on -Joey! Joey! Where-" Audrey stared open mouthed for a second as Joey began a full sprint down the road away from Audrey, drops of beer spilling out.

"Where are you going?" Audrey chased after her. "Joey, you run fast for a drunk girl," Audrey puffed, then screamed as Joey tripped, nearly falling head long. Somehow she regained her balance, stumbling to the side and slamming into a brick wall to break her fall. Then just as Audrey nearly caught up to her, Joey dashed off again. Audrey groaned, cursing Joey as she heard a breathless giggle escape her.

"Don't-don't you wish now you'd kept up with me on those morning runs instead of giving up after five minutes and going for a coffee?" Joey shouted out.

"This isn't funny, Joey! Where are you going?"

Audrey soon realized they were near the marina. Joey was heading for Pacey's boat! She finally caught up with Joey, finding her standing in front of it, a purposeful look in her eye. Audrey doubled over, hands on knees as she heaved, trying to get her breath back.

"Joey, you are so going to regret this in the morning. You'll be mortified at how you've behaved. I know you will," she panted.

But Joey was just staring at the boat. Audrey didn't think she'd even heard her!

"Joey, come on let's go home, hmm?"

Audrey noticed that Joey still held tightly to her bottle of beer and now she took a swig from it, still eyeing the boat.

"Did I tell you that Pacey and I went sailing one summer?"

"No, you didn't."

"It was my idea, too! I'm not always boring you know."

"I know you're not, Joey."

Audrey came over to her, but didn't touch her. She was afraid she'd do something crazy like jump off the dock.

"A year later he dumped me at the prom and then disappeared! Left Boston without a word. Yet you keep saying that I broke his heart. I didn't! He broke mine!"

"Aww, Joey, I know-! Joey? What are you doing? Stop!" Audrey hissed as Joey clambered aboard the boat. It bobbed slightly as she moved to the cabin door. They were locked.

"Joey! Pacey could be here soon."

"With that bimbo in tow? Maybe if we give him something to do he won't have time to fool about with her." With that she closed her thumb over the open mouth of the bottle and shook it viciously.

"No! Joey!" Audrey now fumbled to board the boat.

Joey started to spray the frothy beer in wide arcs over the boat, shaking and spraying, shaking and spraying, covering Audrey at the same time as she rushed over to her.

"Joey! Dammit!"

"What the hell do you think you're doing?" Pacey called out harshly behind them.

He bounded over, leaping onto the boat. His face was a mask of fury as he grabbed the bottle out of Joey's hand and shoved it at Audrey. She grabbed it, almost dropping it as it was slippery. He maneuvered Joey out of his way and thrust her at Audrey.

"Get her out of my sight before I really, really get mad!"

He dug into his jacket pocket for his keys and unlocked the cabin doors. Joey tried to follow him in, but he pushed her back.

"Audrey, take her home!" He disappeared inside and locked the door. As the lights went on inside, Joey leaned against the door looking distinctly green about the gills.

"I don't feel very well," she moaned.

"No. Joey not here. Wait till we get home, please."

"I think I'm gonna throw up."

"No, Joey-" Audrey began banging on the cabin door. "Pacey! Pacey you better open the door!"

"Go away!"

"If you don't want to clear up vomit as well as beer on this boat, then you'd better open up. Joey needs to be sick!"

She heard the mumbled curses as he came up the stairs, the jingle of keys as he unlocked the door and then opened it. Audrey thrust Joey forward and with hand over mouth Joey pushed past Pacey, rushing down the stairs to the toilet. Pacey eyed Audrey meanly, then clattered easily down the stairs. Audrey followed him.

"Don't be mad. She's drunk, Pacey."

"Don't be mad? She drenched me! She ruined my night! Lisa has gone bye bye, thanks to Miss BitterPants Potter!"

"I'm sure you've got girls coming out of your ears, Pacey. You won't even remember the blonde's name tomorrow!"

Audrey strode past him as she went to find Joey. Then turned back to offer him some advice "Stop being an idiot," she hissed at him. "Joey is still head over heels for you. If you stopped chasing pussy all over the place, you'd realize that and do something about it!"

Chapter Text

Pacey fumed as he watched Audrey go to Joey. With abrupt, movements he stripped off his shirt, crumpling it up, and moving into the bedroom, via throwing up noises by Joey, he tossed it onto a laundry basket in the corner of the room and pulled out a rumpled t-shirt, tossing it on the bed. So he was being the idiot was he? He cursed under his breath as he heard Joey moan softly from the bathroom. Head over heels for him? Was she? They still had the sexual chemistry between them, he knew that much, but more than that? The bitter taste of Joey's rejection on the boat months ago still rankled. It made no difference that she and Dawson were no longer together. But Audrey's words still pervaded his mind. Maybe she did know what she was talking about. Right now though, he was too angry to stand the sight of Joey right now.

He dashed out as he heard them leaving the toilet and followed them to the main area. Joey's face was pale, but when she caught sight of him, her eyes narrowed accusingly which only made Pacey's hackle's rise. He didn't miss her once over his body.

"Feeling well enough to get the hell off my boat now?"

Before Joey could answer Audrey said, "She's fine now. Come on Joey."

Joey pulled her arm away. "Stop treating me like I'm some invalid!"

"You know, as much as I'd like to stand here listening to you guys, I'm really tired. I stink and I want to take a shower before hitting the sack. So could you continue to argue on your way out, please."

"You're a pig, do you know that?" Joey spat at him. Audrey covered her eyes with one hand and groaned in despair.

"Oh you wound me, Potter!" Pacey replied with exaggerated sarcasm. He scoffed and crossed muscular arms across his chest.

"What's the matter, Pacey? You sore that you're spending the night alone? Where is the bosomy, bimbo blonde?"

"I resent that on behalf of all bosomy blondes!" Audrey cried, indignantly.

Joey ignored her. She was squaring up to Pacey, although she tried not to touch his bare skin. The fact that he was half naked wasn't lost on her, even though she still felt a little woozy.

"Did you scare her off deliberately, Potter? Huh? You that jealous?"

"Pacey, don't be an asshole!" Audrey warned through clenched teeth.

"Jealous? You wish! I pity the poor foolish females taken in by your suspicious charms."

"Joey! I'm right here!" Audrey sing-songed. "I'm one of those females. So if you continue to insult me tonight, I'll-I'll...well, I don't know what I'll do, but I'll think of something." Audrey tried to make light of it all and tried took her arm.

"Audrey, stop it!" Joey shook her off angrily.

"Joey, if you've got anything more to say to Pacey, I suggest you save it for the morning when you're sober."

Neither one of them was taking a blind bit of notice of Audrey and she huffed in exasperation. Hands on hips, she glanced around the boat helplessly. These two were determined to tear strips off each other and she couldn't stop them. Her eyes alighted on Pacey's keys atop the counter.

"What more could she say or do? She's already made her feelings very clear tonight. Verbally and physically!"

Joey smirked. "Yes, that's true. Maybe my work here is done for tonight." She smiled sweetly as she turned on her heel and walked almost jauntily over to the stairs.

Audrey breathed a sigh of relief and turned to follow her. Just as Joey placed her foot on the first stair...

"Say hello to Dawson for me!" Pacey called after her. "Er, you and Dawson do still talk, don't you?"

Joey froze for a second before slowly turning to face him. Pacey raised a mock innocent brow at her and shrugged. Before Audrey could stop her, Joey launched herself at Pacey, a growl of anger and frustration welling up from the back of her throat and her fists flying. Pacey was almost caught off guard, but caught her flying fists as he fumbled to catch her wrists. He couldn't help the bark of laughter that tumbled from his mouth as he struggled with her.

"Joey! Pacey!"

Joey wrenched herself away from him, chest heaving.

"If you can't stand the heat, Joey..."

"Ooh, you do become a nasty piece of work when you can't get laid, don't you?" she sneered.

"And you're just desperate to get laid. Dawson's dumped you so he can't oblige anymore, can he?" Pacey taunted.

This time Joey's aim was deadly accurate and the stinging slap to his cheek was loud, mingling with Audrey's gasp of surprise.

"Dammit Pacey! If you would just stop goading her!" Audrey shouted.

"Feel better now, Jo? Huh? Has your frustration gone now? Don't take it out on me because your love life has gone down the toilet!"

"This has nothing to do with Dawson or my love life!" she cried.

Audrey had had enough.

"So it's about me? Is this still about me and prom last year? Is that it, Jo? Isn't someone other than Joey Potter allowed to do the dumping? What do you want from me? Is it revenge? A month ago you couldn't wait to wrap your legs round me, and then you said I don't do it for you anymore. Now, I can't seem to get rid of you! What the hell do you want?"

"I-I want..."

"What? What? You won't be satisfied until you've got me on my knees begging for forgiveness, will you? Okay, I'm sorry! I'm sorry I left Boston without telling you. Okay? I'm sorry I chose prom night to go crazy in front of our peers! Okay? What else do you want? I'm sorry I hurt you, but fuck it, I was hurting, too! And you didn't fucking notice!"

"That's not fair! I tried to talk to you the night of the prom -"

"It was too late, Jo! It was too late. The damage was done!"

"You said it wasn't me! You said it wasn't my fault that you felt like nothing!"

"You know sometimes it just is about you, Joey!"

"That's not fair! Why did you lie, then?" Tears stung her eyes, but she refused to give in to them.

"Okay, I didn't lie, but your preoccupation with Dawson throughout our relationship didn't help. What the hell does it matter now anyway? It's water under the bridge. Old news. We're old news, Joey. And right now I just can't bear to look at you!"

That stung like hell and Joey wanted to hit back where it hurt.

"You know what's old news? You! You and your jealousy of Dawson. His name's never far from your lips. It's like some sort of magic talisman you can pull out to hurt me with every time you want to blame me for your insecurities! He's always going to be worth ten of you, Pacey! No matter how much you try to escape that fact! Fucking anything willing to open its legs for you can't help you escape that fact and won't make you more of a man. You can't bear to see my face? Well, you'd better get used to it! 'Cos maybe I'll make sure you never get laid again!

The glared at each other. Practically nose to nose. Panting heavily. Without moving a muscle Pacey called to Audrey.

"Do your friend a favor and get her out of here, otherwise I can't be held responsible for my actions," he gritted. He wanted to shake Joey until her teeth rattled in her head, and yet beneath it all he still wanted to kiss her stupid!

"Audrey!" He yelled, without taking his eyes off Joey.

No answer. He looked up and around. No Audrey.

"Where'd she go?" Then he heard the key turn in the cabin door. His eyes darted to the counter where he'd dashed his keys upon entering the boat. They were gone. He dashed past Joey and up the stairs banging on the door.

"Audrey! What the hell do you think you're doing?"

Joey looked up from the bottom of the stairs and heard Audrey's muffled reply.

"If you think it's all over between the two of you, then you're just fooling yourselves. I'm leaving you two to hash it all out overnight. Let's see what the morning brings shall we? Two dead bodies or two lovebirds."

"You're not funny Audrey! Open the door now otherwise by morning there'll be two people here with murder on their minds. Your murder! Come on, open the door!" Pacey banged the door again for good measure.

"See you tomorrow morning!" Audrey trilled airily.

"No! No, no, no, no!" Pacey panicked. "Audrey, don't do this!"

"Audrey! Stop messing about!" Joey yelled.

Silence.

Pacey gave the door one last bang then clattered back down the stairs. Joey stared at him.

"You're just going to give up!"

"What do you want me to do?"

"I am not spending the night here with you!" she stomped up the stairs.

"The feeling is mutual!"

"There is no way Audrey could be leaving us locked in here all night! Not if she knows what's good for her!" Joey banged on the door calling out Audrey's name until she was hoarse.

"Pipe down, Joey. She's gone."

Joey came back down the stairs. "I can't believe she'd done this! I do not want to sleep on this boat with you!" she seethed as she pushed past him and sat down, arms tightly folded.

"Sorry, to disappoint you, but I'm not offering you my bed."

"Good! Because I don't want it!"

Pacey slumped down at the other end of the bench and stared moodily at the opposite wall.

There was a tense silence for ten minutes or so.

"She's really left us here until morning, hasn't she?" Joey shook her head wonderingly. "I can't believe she's done this."

"I guess, she must have had enough of your antics for one night."

"You just can't help yourself, can you? Why can't you-" she broke off as a sudden thought occurred to her. Pacey turned to look at her, frowningly.

"What?"

Joey jumped to her feet. "For goodness sake, you must have a spare key, right?"

Silence.

"Right Pacey? I mean, everyone has a spare key."

"Uh,' he scowled, 'I haven't-"

"How can you not have a spare?" Joey screeched, then she rolled her eyes and threw her hands up in the air, as if in defeat.

"My spare is at the restaurant. You expect to get locked out, not locked in!" he sneered as if she had no brain.

"How could-"

"I don't want to hear it!" His right hand shot up, palm facing outward to halt her flow of words, then he stood up and abruptly left the room. A minute later she heard the shower going. Joey swallowed nervously. Pacey was in the shower. Naked.

She paced up and down, listening to the sounds from the shower. She halted as the noises stopped. A couple of minutes later Pacey came out. He peeked his head into the main area and Joey looked at him, unaware of how huge her eyes looked in her face, like a nervous colt ready to bolt. He saw her eyes skitter over his topless body before lowering to the floor and then back up again to meet his eyes. She frowned fiercely at him and despite how angry he was with her, he felt the urge to laugh.

"Look, we're going to have to make the best of this okay?" he said. "Audrey isn't coming back. There are pull out bunk beds in that small room. So you can sleep there."

Joey grunted.

"I imagine you must be exhausted after all your adventures tonight and it's late so get some sleep. You'll probably want a shower so-"

"I'm okay!" she said, too quickly.

She tried not to fidget nervously as Pacey took his time looking her over from head to toe, but heat flooded her body under his amused appraisal.

"You stink of beer and vomit and your clothes look a little worse for wear. You sure you want to go to sleep like that?"

Now that he'd mentioned it, she did feel gritty and grimy, hating the mockery in his voice and the sardonic light in his eyes.

"Well, I suppose a quick one won't hurt," she mumbled.

"Here take this," he said as he disappeared into his room. Reluctantly, she followed him, hovering in the doorway. He came over with a fresh bath towel. She fairly snatched it from his hand and hurried into the bathroom, locking it behind her.

She closed her eyes and felt like banging her head against the wall. How had she got herself into this position? She pulled off her clothes, wrinkling her nose up at the scent on them. She stopped for a moment and listened. Pacey was talking to someone. He'd probably rung Audrey. Joey stepped into the shower and turned it on. It was quite warm and she eased out a sigh as she began to lather her body. She began to feel a little more human now. But not enough that she regretted a thing she'd done tonight. Pacey deserved everything he'd got - except that her actions had led to her being stuck on this boat with him for the night. Her mind skittered away from the obvious parallels to being on the True Love with him two summers ago. This boat was bigger, though. Thankfully. They wouldn't be tripping over each other. She'd have her shower and go to bed. She didn't even have to speak to him again tonight.

Then she remembered she had no spare clothes.

Chapter Text

Pulling on a pair of thin, black pajama trousers, Pacey laughed to himself. He'd realized as soon as she entered the shower that Joey didn't have a change of clothes. Now she was going to have to come begging to him. He knew it would choke her, and he liked that. She would be at a disadvantage and it was a nice change considering the night's happenings. He was ready and waiting, holding a pair of his shorts and a vest when Joey finally appeared at his doorway.

"I realized I don't have anything to sleep in," she said, looking distinctly uncomfortable, yet trying to hide it.

"Yeah?" He acknowledged, casually, yet his eyes took in every detail; from her damp hair about the shoulders glistening with droplets of water, the slight swell of her breasts above the top of the towel, and the long legs on view from mid-thigh down to bare feet.

Joey tried to hold on to her temper as it seemed Pacey was going to make her work.

"So I need a change of clothes and-and wondered if you -" she stopped as she noticed the bundle of clothes in his hands. "Are those for me?" she asked, hopefully.

"Uh huh."

"Well, can-can I have them, then?"

"Sure."

She held out her hand and he held out the clothes. The problem was, one of them would have to step forward several steps and she didn't want it to be her. She didn't want to go any further into his bedroom. Not when his still naked torso seemed to fill her whole vision, but the glint in Pacey's eye made it obvious he wasn't going to move. She pressed her lips together grimly.

"Are you going to help me out here or not?" She tried not to snap. She didn't want to provoke him any further and she felt at a distinct disadvantage standing naked beneath the bath towel.

"Of course."

He stretched his arm out further, but she'd still have to advance into the room to get them. Her arm fell to her side and her fists clenched.

"Stop it, Pacey. This isn't funny."

Pacey looked at Joey standing in the doorway. His eyes slowly moved over the hectic color in her face. Then he allowed his gaze to slowly and very deliberately trail lingeringly down her body.

"Come and get them," he said, when he finally raised his eyes back to hers, barely hiding a smirk. Maybe he was being a bastard, but she had been an utter bitch tonight.

She remained where she stood.

"Don't you want them?"

Joey glared at him. This was obviously payback for his ruined night. Pacey shrugged and just as he lifted his shoulders, his attention wavering, she lunged forward to snatch at the clothes in his hand. He was too quick. His arm shot up, holding the clothes aloft out of her reach.

"Damn you! This isn't funny!" She turned and marched away. Just before she reached the door, his contrite voice stopped her.

"Joey! Joey, I'm sorry. Here. Take them."

He held them out. She turned and eyed him narrowly. He stepped forward, holding them out further to her. She stepped forward again and reached for the bundle. Before she could grab them, he snatched them away again.

"You bastard! Give me them!"

Her temper snapped and with her death grip glued to her towel to keep it in place, she reached up with her other hand, trying to grab the clothes from behind his back. Pacey twisted and turned, passing it from one hand to the other.

"What is your problem, Witter?"

He held them aloft, dancing back from her. She stumbled forward, smacking his chest with her free hand before reaching up vainly.

"Damn you!" she panted.

Pacey was enjoying her labored efforts immensely, not unaware of how the front of the towel slipped slowly each time she tried to reach up. He leaned back.

Finally, she growled with frustration. "Keep them! I'd rather sleep naked than wear your stinking clothes anyway!"

Again before she could exit the room, he put a spoke in her wheels.

"Yeah, why not. I mean, that room doesn't have a lock, but you won't mind that, will you?" he taunted.

She kept her back to him as she gauged what he'd just said. What did he mean? She turned a little uncertainly and eyed him. He wanted to kiss the scowl off her face. She was gorgeous when she was mad, especially when she was mad at him! He grinned happily at her, incensing her further and raised an enquiring eyebrow at her as if to wonder what she was going to do next.

"If you come anywhere near me tonight..." she warned, pointing a stiff finger at him.

"Uh, fair play, Joey. I mean, I was expecting to have an, er, eventful evening. I've been deprived of that...by you. Don't you think I'm owed some sort of...compensation?"

"You got what you deserved!" she spat trying to ignore the quivering in her belly at the mere suggestion of she and Pacey enjoying an eventful night together.

"You know, that's a dangerous thing to say, Joey."

"Oh please," she scoffed. Her eyes alighted upon the bed, spying his cell phone among the folds of his sheets. "And I need to speak to Audrey to let her know to bring me a change of clothes in the morning." She started forward, then mewled in frustration when Pacey snatched it up out of her reach.

"Give that to me!" she demanded furiously, reaching out. Pacey held it up above his head, his other hand holding the clothes behind his back, and danced past Joey as she tried to snatch it off him. He stood in the doorway and reached it out to her.

"Here, take it. Go on."

"Yeah right! Like I'm going to fall for that trick again!" she snarled. "Get out of my way!"

Pacey moved back into the small hallway so Joey could go into her room, but as she made to push past him, she snatched at the phone in his hand. Pacey held tight to it as they tussled. Finally, she let go and he backed away into the main area of the boat with Joey advancing on him.

"Careful, your towel's slipping," he warned with a wide grin.

"You should be so lucky!" she snarled. "Give me the phone."

"Come and get it."

"Pacey, be reasonable. I need to let Audrey know to bring-"

Pacey flipped the cell phone up in the air, catching it as it fell. "I might consider letting you ring her if an apology was forthcoming." He flipped the phone up again, casually catching it in one hand.

"Yeah, when hell freezes over, asshole!"

The sardonic smile on his face infuriated her. She wanted to smack it off him, but her gaze kept slipping down to his chest and his toned stomach and the pants that were riding very low on his hips. She forced her eyes back up to his face. Maybe arguing with Pacey wasn't such a good idea. If she had to-

"Tell you what. Which do you want more? The cell phone? Or the change of clothes for bed tonight? Whichever you choose, you get."

"Fuck you!" Joey told him coldly. She'd had enough.

"Whoa! Ho, ho oh!" Pacey chuckled. "Fuck me?" He tossed the shorts and vest on the counter behind him.

Joey hitched her towel up higher and fastened it more securely as her eyes blazed at him.

"Fuck me?" he repeated, throwing the cell phone on top of the bundle. "Be careful what you wish for, Joey."

And then he was striding up to her. Joey's fight or flight mode kicked in and flight won out. She hurriedly backed out of the door, stumbling slightly as she turned into his bedroom instead of her own. She felt his hands slide around her waist pulling her close. She sucked in a hard breath of air as his solid chest came into contact with her back.

"Get your hands off me!" she screeched, clutching her towel, yet unable to deny the excitement that began tingling inside her. His response was to tighten his hold. Panicking, she twisted within his arms to face him, and holding onto the towel with one hand she used the other to slam him in the chest. It didn't make much of an impression.

"Let me go, I said!" she demanded, not getting quite the imperious tone she aimed for as she heard her voice break huskily.

"Now why should I do that?" Pacey teased, smoothing one hand up a bare shoulder blade beneath her hair. His thumb caressed the nape of her neck, sending shivers down her spine.

"Stop that! I-I'm not in the mood for anymore games. It's late. I'm tired and I just want to go to bed!' She almost groaned as she realized she'd just given him more ammunition.

"Bed?" His warm breath fanned her face, his lips hovering above hers. "Yes, I was hoping to play a few games in bed tonight myself."

"Well, I have no intention of being a substitute for one of your bimbos!" Joey flashed.

There was a sudden silence and the atmosphere around them shifted. Joey peered into his eyes. She knew that look. Her heart suddenly kicked into overdrive. She had the feeling he was going to say something very important.

"Don't you get it, yet, Jo?" His voice low and soft. "They've all been substitutes for you." His gaze was steady and intense with no lurking humor. He was deadly serious.

Joey's breath hitched in her throat. Their silly argument was over, forgotten. Pacey had completely turned the mood and conversation around. Truth was in the open. Just like that. She felt overwhelmed.

"I'm sorry," she said, shaking her head. "I-"

"It's okay, Jo. I know you don't feel the same way anymore. I mean, we still have a spark, don't we? But I know things have changed, and I can handle that. I can-"

"No!" she protested, her fingers instinctively covering his mouth and she felt that tingle of excitement again. "That isn't what I meant." She hesitated, letting her fingers slide away and down to rest on his chest, and Pacey felt a tiny spark of hope flare up in his chest. The words came tumbling out of her mouth in a rush. "I'm sorry about-about that time I came looking for you. I said things that weren't true because I was protecting myself and because I was..."

"With Dawson." Pacey finished for her.

She nodded, biting her bottom lip. "Yes, but you very much do do it for me, Pacey. More than is healthy for a girl trying to hold on to her dignity and can't because she's jealous of every woman you put your hands on. I mean, look at my behavior today." she complained. "Have you ever known Joey Potter to lower herself to such actions?"

Pacey laughed and hugged her. "You always were a funny drunk, remember?"

"I don't remember you finding it so funny."

"True. I was very, very mad at you."

Joey lowered her lashes and a small smile crooked her mouth. "I could tell."

"Yeah, but I knew in years to come, I'd laugh at it all."

"Am I forgiven, then?" she asked, shades of huskiness coloring her voice as she looked back up into dark, intense eyes. Pacey's mouth captured hers in an instant, for a long, sweet lingering kiss, and then he pulled back.

"What do you think?"

Pacey gazed down intently into her eyes for long seconds. Then slowly, but purposefully, Pacey took hold of the towel wrapped about Joey and pulled it away and out of her nerveless fingers. He felt the rise and fall of her chest quicken against his, the delicate pink color rush to fill her face, and the flash of desire she couldn't hide in her eyes, as she caught her bottom lip between her teeth.

He tossed the towel to the floor, but when he tried to take a step back she kept hold of him. "Not so bold now, huh? Where's the feisty, girl who threw a drink in my face?"

"She's sobered up!"

Pacey smiled and rested his forehead against hers. "I've missed you,' he whispered. "Very badly."

"I missed you, too, Pacey."

He brushed his lips along one creamy shoulder and felt her body shiver in response. He trailed up and nibbled on her ear as she clung to him. This was where she wanted to be. Right here. With Pacey. She murmured against his face as his hands slipped round to cup her bottom, squeezing gently and pulling her into the cradle of his hips. There was no mistaking his arousal and she felt the sharp shock of fire shoot up and down her spine, spitting up in the pit of her stomach like exploding fireworks. Oh how she'd missed this boy!

Galvanized, she slipped her hands into his hair, smoothing and fingering the brown locks as his lips blazed down her neck, his arms around her body bending her back, freeing her breasts from against his chest, giving his eager mouth access. He moaned appreciatively as he licked around one nipple, eliciting an excited gasp from Joey, before taking it into his mouth.

"Pacey!"

"Mmm..." he replied as he moved to her next breast. She arched against him even further. She let one hand steal down to fondle him through his pants. Pacey grunted and backed her up to the bed, gently laying her down upon it, then drew back to stare down at her.

"Beautiful,' he whispered.

He came down beside her, took her face in his hands and kissed her, almost reverently, a long sweet kiss, then a multitude of sweet baby kisses all over her face, forehead, eyelids, nose, cheeks, lips, slowly and tenderly overwhelming her until she returned them the same way to him, ending the exchange when Pacey took her lips fully and deeply. Hunger streaked through him and his tongue danced against her own. She curled hers around his, teasing and stroking, until she thought she'd go crazy if he didn't touch her all over the same way.

She pushed at his pants, sliding them down and he broke off the kiss to help her, fumbling clumsily as Joey's hands slid down his chest and stomach to curl delicately around his cock. He kicked them off then came back to her, grunting gently as she continued to fondle him. He trailed kisses from her lips, down over her chin and neck into the valley between her breasts. Cupping them, he kissed and fondled them to his heart's content, murmuring his appreciation. Then as Joey urged him on, he slipped two fingers down her body. She was hot and wet, and ready. He reached over the side of the bed, searching under it. He fingers knocked the edge of the large box of condoms, and he dragged it out. Fumbling inside it, he pulled out one of them and biting the corner, tore it open.
He straightened up, watching her. Her eyes were fixed on his erection and he was transfixed for a moment watching her tongue slide over her lips.

"Hey," he said softly, amusement lacing his voice.

She looked up, glancing briefly at the condom in his hand.

"Are you-"

She didn't let him finish the sentence. "More than sure, Pace."

He released a whoosh of breath, smiling unsteadily at her as he slipped it on.

Joey gasped out his name as he slid slowly inside her, wrapping her legs around his waist and matching him thrust for thrust. He framed her face with his hands.

"Oh, Joey,' he breathed, stroking long and deep, watching the play of pleasure across her face, the widening of the pupils of her eyes, darkening of the irises, the half smile that parted her mouth.

The tempo built, accelerating their heartbeats, slicking their bodies with sweat, sweeping them up into a whirl of ecstasy that took over mind and body where nothing mattered but what they they were experiencing together; the heat, the intensity, the passion. Pacey rocked into her and felt the first tremor of her orgasm ripple alongside his hard length. Joey thrust urgently against him, arching up on a rising scream as her climax knocked her for six. She caught her breath as Pacey continued to drive into her and when she started to pulse around him again, his breath suddenly exploded from his lungs on an expletive as his own climax came hard and fast on the heels of her second one.

Taking a second to catch his breath, Pacey rolled off her to dispose of the condom, successfully tossing it in the wastepaper bin in the corner of the room. He layed down on his side, pulling Joey into the curve of his body to face him and kissed her shoulder.

"You okay?" he asked.

She gazed into his eyes and nodded. They were quiet for awhile, and their breathing returned to normal, their hearts slowed back into their regular beats. Joey's arm lay across his hips and she traced an imaginary pattern there. Considering the start of this evening she'd never have guessed she'd end up in bed with Pacey, She'd been so angry at him. She realized now it was pent up frustration, sexual frustration definitely, plus a very heavy dollop of jealousy.

But the way their fighting suddenly turned serious had surprised her. Maybe if Pacey hadn't decided to put his feelings out there she would be sleeping on her own in the other room, wishing she was snuggled up to him the way she was now. She thought he'd changed for the worse since he'd come to Boston, but now she knew he hadn't. He was the same Pacey who was always first to put his heart on the line. If only she could be so brave. She sighed.

Hearing the sigh, Pacey hoped she wasn't having second thoughts. A sudden fear gripped his heart. Was he being precipitous? Was he assuming too much in thinking they were a couple again?

Joey felt his body stiffen.

"What is it?" she lifted her head from his chest to look at him. "What's wrong?"

"No regrets?"

"Of course not!" She rose up on her elbow to look him more earnestly in the face. "Pacey, you don't have to tell me how stubborn I can be. I wanted this. I did. Much as I hate to say it, you've known that since I came to see you that first time on this boat and I tried to hide that." She sucked in a shaky breath.

"Soooo...we're an item again, huh?"

"After that performance, what do you think?" She kissed the tip of his nose and then snuggled back down into him.

"Let's not mess it up this time, Jo," he murmured softly against her temple.

"We won't, Pacey. We won't," she affirmed emphatically.

"Last year my head was in a complete mess and I let you go. I never stopped loving you, but I let you go."

"It didn't help that I ran back to familiarity as soon as you left." She leaned her head back to see his expression.

He stared intently into her eyes. "I came to Boston for you."

"Did you?"

He nodded solemnly. "I didn't tell myself that was the reason, but as soon as I docked here I knew that was exactly why. You have no idea how happy I felt when I saw you appear at the top of those stairs."

She gave a rueful smile. "Pacey, I was slipping in my own drool the moment I saw you, yet fighting hard to keep you at arm's length. I didn't want to admit that I wasn't over you, that I still wanted you. I was still angry about how you left last year, plus I was trying to build a relationship with Dawson."

"No wonder you said such means things to me."

Joey looked thoroughly contrite. "I'm sorry, but you played hardball, too. You turned into a slut!"

Pacey tried to look sheepish about his sexploits. "Am I forgiven for all of that?"

"Only if you truthfully didn't get involved with Audrey to spite me."

"The fact that my dating Audrey drove you crazy-"

"It did not drive me crazy!" Jo denied hotly, shoving at his shoulder.

"It so did."

She glared at him.

"That was just a bonus, Jo." His nose traced her brow. "But I did really like her and I was determined to move on with my life the way you were doing with Dawson."

"Hmm, well, we're older and wiser now, Pace. Let's not give up so easily this time."

She lifted her mouth for his kiss and he gave it. It quickly became passionate, quickening their blood, excitement fluttering at their pulse points. Pacey reached down for another condom.

Chapter Text

Audrey stealthily let herself into the boat, easing down the steps. When she got to the bottom she stood with her hands on her hips and looked around.

"Hmm, no dead bodies so far."

She tiptoed through the main area peering into the short hall. The door to her right was closed, but the one to her left was slightly ajar. Laying a hand against the door she gently pushed it open. Her eyes widened and she put a hand to her mouth to stifle the little giggle that threatened to escape. Pacey and Joey were fast asleep in bed together. Pacey's arms were wrapped around Joey, the sheets just covering their modesty.

"I love it when a plan comes together," Audrey smiled, almost mistily, but stood her ground when Joey stirred.

Oblivious to the presence at the door, Joey stretched, waking Pacey as she turned to face him. She slid a caressing hand down the side of his face and he sleepily opened his eyes. She pressed her lips to his in a brief kiss.

"Hey,' she said softly.

"Hey," he replied,

"Hey!" Audrey said, sunnily.

Pacey and Joey's heads snapped towards the door. Joey pulled the sheets up tight around her.

"Audrey!"

"That's me!" she grinned widely.

"You are a dead woman!" Joey snapped.

"Huh? Do my eyes deceive me? Are you are or are you not in bed, naked with the love of your life?"

"Aud-"

"Did you or did you not spend a lust filled night together?"

"That we did." Pacey piped up before Joey could answer, with no little amount of satisfaction in his voice.

"So, I reckon you owe me one, Potter girl! Well, both of you do, actually! Here!" She tossed the duffel bag onto the bed.

Joey grabbed it and checked inside. It contained a pair of jeans, a black sweater and clean underwear.

"Hmfph! Don't think I'm not still mad at you about last night. Running off like that and locking us in." Joey said sternly. Then her face softened. "But it was a masterstroke and, as you can see Pacey and I have um, sorted out our differences. Plus you thought to bring me a change of clothes, for which I am very grateful."

"Pacey left a message on my cell phone. Yes, I heard it ringing and refused to answer it! I figured it was one of you phoning to beg me to come back and let you out!"

Joey shot a glance at Pacey. "And you tried to get me to beg for the phone?"

"I liked the way your towel kept slipping as you tried to fight me for it," he grinned, a little sheepishly as Joey's mouth fell open. The beginnings of a smile were there though.

"What can I say? I'm a guy."

"Yeah, but-"

"Your guy," he interrupted, planting a sweet kiss at the end of her nose.

Suddenly feeling like an intruder, Audrey decided it was time to go. "I'm glad you guys made up. It's about time. You were so doing my head in!"

"Thanks Audrey." Joey said sincerely.

"Anytime, bunny. I had a lot of fun last night! I'm never going to call you uptight again!"

"Thanks!" Joey replied dryly. Pacey leaned back against the bed, hands clasped behind his head, looking on happily.

"You're welcome. See ya later!" She disappeared from view.

"Don't forget to leave my keys where I can find them, woman!" Pacey yelled after her.

They heard the keys being tossed to the counter and then Audrey bounding up the stairs and the doors closing.

Joey let the duffle bag drop to the floor and sank back into bed, rolling her eyes at Pacey.

"That girl!"

"I like that girl. Where would we be without her, huh? Just how stubborn, for how long, do you think we'd have been if she hadn't knocked out heads together?" Pacey slipped back down into bed and pulled Joey closer, nuzzling into her neck.

"Somehow I think it'd have gone on and on." She squirmed with pleasure.

"Mmmm...yes, I agree. So....?" He kissed her bare shoulder.

"So?"

"So let's talk."

"Talk?" she repeated, almost indignantly.

"Yes." Pacey half sat up. "Let's do this properly, okay? The first time we got together we were sneaking around."

"Right and never got the chance to tell everyone about us up front."

"Let's call a spade a spade, Jo. It's the only way to go forward from now on."

"What do you mean?"

"When you say everyone, you mean Dawson."

"Pace-"

"It always means Dawson, Jo."

"Okay, okay."

"So this time..."

"What?" Joey felt her heart skip a little at the thought of telling Dawson. She wasn't sure why and pushed the feeling away.

"Well, how should we handle it? Do we face Dawson together? Do we just assemble all the guys together and walk in as a couple and parry the flying questions as they come?"

"What do you think?"

"I think we keep it casual. Turn up at Grams for Sunday dinner together."

"So how do we let them know? Do we tongue each other's tonsils in front of them?"

Maybe Joey wasn't aware of the slight edge that had crept into her voice, but Pacey was. "How do you think we should tell our friends, Jo?" he asked quietly.

"Let me tell him myself."

"Jo-"

"I know! I know that was my job last time and I blew it, which is probably why the subsequent events turned out so horribly, but that was then. This is now. We know better. I know better."

"You just can't stand the thought of us walking in there and Dawson having to take the news like any of our other friends, can you? Because he's Dawson. Which is why you feel he warrants the special treatment of being told separately, before anyone else, by you alone."

"But Pacey, you and he aren't exactly close anymore. He-he won't take it well and-"

"Joey, must we worry for the rest of our lives how our actions together affect Dawson? When do you consider Dawson will be big enough and ugly enough to handle us being together and what we do, like a man? Are you going to handle him with kid gloves forever?"

Joey heard the truth in Pacey's words. Dawson was just her friend now. He shouldn't warrant special treatment, otherwise he'd always think his place in her life superseded Pacey's, or anyone else’s. But the thought of dropping the news on him in front of everyone just made her cringe.

"Pace..." she floundered for words, her eyes flickering all over the place. “It's complicated..."

"It needs to be uncomplicated if you and I are going to work, Joey." Pacey replied ominously, hiding his rising irritation, but Joey heard the warning, almost jerking with the jolt of alarm that ran through her body.

"Pace, if you're secure in the knowledge that I love you and only you, then does it matter if I afford Dawson this one special saving of face?"

"Jo, he pushed you away-"

"I know, but please, Pacey."

He sighed and looked away.

She waited, watching the play of emotions on his face.

"Okay." He turned and touched his forehead to hers. "You're right. You do it alone. He won't take it from me. Dawson and I are never going to be friends like we used to be."

"No, and it makes me sad, but I'm allowed to fall in love with whomever I choose," she whispered against his mouth. "And so are you."

They kissed, lips clinging.

"Tell him today, Jo."

"Tomorrow."

"Why?"

"Because I'm spending all day in bed with you."

"Good answer."

And he dipped his head for another kiss and another...

 

**************

"Ah ha! The prodigal bunny returns!" Audrey jumped up, clapping her hands as Joey entered their dorm. Joey rolled her eyes dramatically, but couldn't help the happy grin that split her flushing face.

Audrey grabbed her bag, throwing it over to Joey's side of the room, caught her arm and led her to her bed.

"Audrey, if you think I'm spilling details-"

"I'm your best girlfriend! And I'm your roomie. And I got you two stubborn mules to reconcile. I deserve details! Come on. How did it happen? I came by this morning seriously expecting spilt blood."

"You almost found some! He was a mean pig to me, Audrey!"

"Yeah, yeah, yeah. Cut to the chase. Who kissed who first?"

"Pacey," Joey sighed, "it's always Pacey."

Joey leaned back on her bed and glanced up at Audrey. "You sure you okay with me talking about this?"

"Don't be silly! Now that you and Pacey are an item, I've got a better chance of getting to know Leon a little better."

Joey laughed. "You mean you used us for your own gains?"

"Not quite, but it has its advantages now, doesn't it?"

"Leon is gorgeous." Joey agreed as she sat up again. "Even though it does make me spit to know he was Pacey's partner in crime for that lust filled party night they had." Joey frowned. "But if anyone can tame him, I'm sure you can."

"Good! Now spill!"

"There's nothing much to tell, really. We were smack bang in the middle of arguing when Pacey totally wrong foots me and..."

"And..."

"And he reveals that vulnerable side to him that he's been hiding so well since he came to Boston...that little boy, heart on his sleeve thing that's so uniquely him. That opened the floodgates and we just started spilling our guts about how we felt. And one thing led to another."

"About that one thing and another..."

"Audrey..." Joey warned.

"I'm happy for you, hon." She impulsively hugged Joey. And Joey returned it before pulling back.

"All I've got to do now is tell Dawson."

"Tell him? What, like officially? Why?"

"I don't want it dropped on him like a bomb. That's how it happened last time and he got hurt. A lot of people got hurt."

"Uhhh, so Dawson hasn't matured since then, has he?"

"Of-of course! I'm sure he has, but I want to do it right this time."

"And he'll be cool about it?"

Joey's eyes slid away, her brows meeting in the middle. "I sure he will be..."

Audrey eyed her dubiously. "I hope so. When are you seeing him?"

"I was hoping tonight, but I rang Grams on the way here and apparently he's at some film festival for the weekend with Jen. So it'll have to wait until he gets back tomorrow."

 

**************

But when Joey rang Dawson Sunday evening about coming over, he told her that although he'd had a brilliant weekend, he was exhausted and could they make it Monday night, instead. In fact, they could make a night of it and see a movie. Joey agreed.

"Maybe you should have just told him there and then." Audrey suggested as she flicked through a magazine.

"Over the phone?" Joey was horrified. "I can't tell him something like that over the phone. It has to be face to face."

"How' d'you think he'll react?"

"Audrey, you've asked me that a million times-"

"Exaggeration!"

"I don't know how-"

"You said you were sure he'd be fine," Audrey pounced.

"Well, yes, I think he will, but I don't know for sure, do I?" she shifted uncomfortably on her bed and tried to put those thoughts aside.

Joey had woken early that morning with an incredible urge to see Pacey. She'd turned up at the boat unexpectedly and spent the morning in bed with him. Now that they were back together, she found it hard to keep her hands off him and Pacey was very much appreciating an insatiable Joey. He hadn't expressed too much concern that she hadn't been able to tell Dawson about them yet, but said, again, it was important that he be told as soon as possible. He'd be waiting for Joey's call Sunday evening. They both decided not to go to Grams for dinner so that they could spend an extra couple of hours together before Joey had to go and see Dawson. Except now she knew he was at the film festival. She duly called Pacey.

"So we're going to go see a movie and I'll probable tell him over a soda afterwards."

There was silence on Pacey's end of the phone.

"It's just a movie, Pace."

"You'll call me as soon as you've told him, right?"

"Of course. It'll be okay, Pacey. You'll see."

"It's never simple between the three of us, Jo. You know that."

"I'll speak to you tomorrow, okay?"

"Okay."

"I love you."

"Love you, too, Potter."

Chapter Text

Pacey peered through the port hole window of the kitchen door and waved. Jen, sitting at the counter, smiled and waved back. Officially off duty now, he whipped off his cap and apron, hanging them up on a nearby hook before coming out to greet her.

"Hey there!" he greeted.

"Hi chef!'

"To what do I owe the honor, Lindley?" He leaned forward, folding his arms on the counter in front of her.

She bent down, rummaging in her bag on the floor and then held aloft, like a trophy, a six pack of beer. "Fancy some back at yours?"

He studied her face for a second. "Why not? Let me get my jacket and I'll be with you in a sec.” He disappeared round the back while Jen returned the cans to her bag. He came back a couple of minutes later shrugging on his jacket.

"You hungry? Have you eaten? You can have something here first if-"

She shook her head. “Nope, I'm good. I’ve already taken care of that with some of Grams good home cooking." She patted her stomach lightly.

"Let's go then." He helped her off the stool and slinging an arm around her shoulders they left the restaurant.

 

Joey waited nervously for Dawson to arrive, glancing around with her hands pushed deep into her coat pockets. They had agreed to meet outside the movie theatre. She'd made sure she got there early. It gave her time to rehearse what she would say to him later.

"Hi!" He appeared out of nowhere tapping her on the shoulder.

She whirled round. "Hey!" she greeted with a wide smile. They embraced, somewhat awkwardly and stood looking at each other. Joey broke the silence first. "So how are you?”

“Okay. You?”

“Yeah, fine.” She rushed on, tucking a stray tendril of hair behind her ear. “I can’t believe this is the movie you chose!"

"I have my reasons." Dawson replied mysteriously.

"Which are?"

Dawson tapped the side of his nose slyly and laughed as Joey narrowed her eyes suspiciously at him.

"Oh, I think I know." Joey said, feeling some of the tension drain out of her body.

"Yeah?"

"Yeah! You're mounting a torture campaign!”

"Come on, Joey, when was the last time you watched a good old scary film? And apparently Van Helsing is pretty good!"

"Scary enough to cause even your hair to stand on end?"

"Hmm, I'm not that easy, but you are. I'm going to enjoy watching you cower behind your chair.” Joey shook her head and rolled her eyes.

“Shall we?" He offered her his arm, with a sweet smile she took it and they entered the building.

 

Jen lounged back on the soft padding of the seating area of the cabin and swigged directly from the bottle of Vodka. Pacey, who had already drunk three beers, refusing to analyze why he was downing his drink as quickly as Jen, eyed her with some concern. For the last hour or so they had quipped and joked, talking non-stop. Jen chatted about the radio station and some of the weird and funny phone calls she got from the public, and Pacey mostly about his work at Civilization and his ambivalent feelings towards his boss Danny now that he knew he was cheating on his wife.

Jen caught his look. “What?”

“You okay?” he asked gently.

She stared at him. “Why’d you ask?”

“You seem to be doing a good impression of a woman trying to drink her way into oblivion.”

She sighed heavily, her eyes sliding away, drawing her knees up to her chin. She suddenly looked so sad and the vulnerability in her face had him drawing closer, laying a hand against her knee.

“Tell me.”

He’d sensed in the beginning something was bothering her, but she still hadn’t come out with what it was by the time they’d got to his boat. His suspicions had doubled two fold when she’d emptied her bag, raising an eyebrow at the bottle of vodka, one of brandy, as well as a second six pack of beer also in her large shopping bag.

"What else can your magical bag produce?" he'd quipped.

"You'd be surprised," she'd chuckled back.

She had obviously come prepared to settle in for most of the evening and he’d decided to wait until she was ready to talk. Now seemed to be the time.

She sighed again. “I’m not sure where to begin.” She paused. “Charlie came round earlier this evening.”

“What did he want?”

“To return my t-shirt. To apologize. Which he duly did. Although, the cynical part of me had a suspicion that maybe, maybe he thought he could sweet talk me into falling for that fake charm again. More fool him.” She smiled tremulously.

“It hurt to see him again.” Pacey stated, nodding with understanding. “I know you liked him, but I didn’t realize you really, really liked him.”

“It’s not even that, Pacey.” Her voice cracked a little as she said his name and she paused, lowering and resting her head on her knees. Her body shook and he knew she was crying.

Pacey set his beer down. He tried to take the bottle of alcohol from her hand but she held tight. “Jen? Jen, come here.” He slid an arm around her, but she shook her head, holding her body rigid. After a moment she sniffed loudly, raised her head and took a deep breath.

“Actually, I don’t think I really want to talk about it. Let’s talk about something else.” She lifted the bottle to take a swig, and jerked it out of the way when Pacey tried to take it from her.

“Don’t,” she warned, watching him as she drank. “Come on Pacey. I don’t even want to think about that cretin. If you can’t think of something to take my mind off him then drinking myself into oblivion will become my next best option.”

Pacey shrugged and went for it. “Okay. Joey and I have been having hot unbridled sex for the past three days.”

Jen giggled. “That’s very good.” She waggled a finger at him. “Wild fantasies is a good subject. I can go with that.”

He gazed steadily at her. “No seriously. We really have been having hot, unbridled sex.”

Jen stared at him for a moment. Then her mouth fell open. “You and Joey have been having sex.” She stated incredulously.

“That’s what I said!” Pacey cried, indignantly.

Jen fell back laughing and Pacey felt the smirk spreading over his face as he nodded vigorously.

 

They came laughing out of the theater. Joey's eyes sparkled with humor as she gazed up at Dawson.

"I'm almost disappointed."

"Pull that pout in, Dawson. It serves you right." Joey replied with glee. They continued walking up to kerb.

"Joey Potter's grown up out of her scaredy cat phase behind my back."

"Oh, I don't know. I didn't quite hide behind the seat but I gave you a few moments back there."

"It wasn't the same." She hadn't had to grab his arm or hide her face against his shoulder like she sometimes used to do in the past. "Horror movies don't scare you anymore."

"Horror movies will always spook me."

"It was a good movie though, wasn't it?"

"Hugh Jackman is hot."

They were stood close together. Any initial awkwardness present at the beginning of the evening had long dissipated away. Joey laughed at his look of mock disgust as he then dropped his head into his hand, shaking it sadly.

"What has Worthington done to you? What happened to my cynical, analytical Joey Potter?"

"She's still here, Dawson. Besides, analytically ripping a film to shreds
never prevented me from recognizing when the leading man is hot." She smiled fondly at him, their eyes holding for a long moment.

"Come on, let's get something to drink," Dawson suggested and they began strolling down the pavement, companionably close.

“So how are you really, Dawson?”

“Honestly, I’m good. Better than I was. I’ve had a few scary moments recently.”

Joey looked at him with anxious concern. “Why? What?”

“I’d been having these panic attacks that would just come out of the blue. I didn’t know when they’d hit me. That’s partly what was so worrying about them. It got to the point where I didn’t want to go out.”

“Dawson, why didn’t you talk to me?”

“I’ve felt utterly and totally confused by them. This past month I’ve felt like I’ve been stumbling around clumsily, trying to hack my way through some kind of dark, dense forbidding forest, seeking some kind of haven, some light at the end of a nightmare, trying to make sense of it all. To be honest, a fair few times over the past few weeks I wished I had my best friend to turn to, but I know I screwed that up. ”

They stopped and turned to face each other. Joey touched his arm. “You can always talk to me, Dawson. I want to be there for you.”

“I pushed you away.”

“I understand-“

“I know you do, Jo. You always do, but I still wasn’t in the frame of mind where I felt I could turn to you. My father’s death changed things. My head wasn’t in the same place anymore. You weren’t in the same place I’d pictured you before he died.”

She felt her heart begin to thud. He was talking in the past tense and she was afraid he’d say something that would warrant her having to tell him news that would precipitously end the evening on a sour note. She didn’t want that. She’d already decided, with no little amount of guilt that she wasn’t going to tell him about her and Pacey tonight. She would tell him. Just not tonight.

She nodded, heart in her throat. “And now?”

“Now, things are better. I’ve been seeing a shrink in Boston.”

“You have?” Joey said with surprise.

“Yeah, she helped me a lot actually. It was all down to grief over my father’s death. I was angry with him, but I didn’t feel I could be because he was dead and a whole lot of other stuff. I’ve been able to put it all into perspective now. Actually, it was Dr Weir who suggested I should go to this film festival. I wasn’t sure I wanted to even though I’d actually won it.”

“Yeah, Grams told me when I rang for you the other night. I’m so pleased for you, Dawson.”

“Thank you.” He smiled and offered her the crook of his arm. She took it and they resumed walking. “I didn’t know my father had entered me for that award. He had faith and pride in my talent. That was the most important thing about the whole of this past weekend, not the winning. He may not have always been happy with the decisions I’d made in my life, but he never stopped being proud of me, of wanting the best for me. This weekend had me feeling as though I’d finally awoken from a long nightmare. I’m not saying everything is perfect and magically restored, but I feel a hell of a lot better than I did.”

“That’s wonderful Dawson. I can’t wait to hear every detail about this weekend.”

 

“So how did this come about? Last time we talked, you had the rallying cry of the guy who was-“

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,’ Pacey picked up his beer again, ‘I did have a go at painting the town red and it was good, but it turns out Joey had secretly still wanted me all along-“

“Told you!”

“Yeah, yeah, Miss Smartypants.” He sipped the beer. “With a little help from Audrey, Joey and I eventually got it together.” He took another sip, but he looked pensive. Jen peered closely at him.

“Hmm, still all’s not exactly well in paradise. Am I right?”

“Guess where she is tonight.”

Jen stared blankly at him.

“Telling Dawson the good news.”

“Oh.”

"Well, I was all for the group thing, you know, maybe waltz in on Grams Sunday dinner thing with Joey glued to my lips, but apparently Dawson's a special case. He needs to be told first, by her, alone." He put the can to his lips.

"He is kind of a special case.” Jen shrugged. “He's Dawson. He's her oldest friend-"

Pacey jerked the can of beer from his mouth, wiping the dribble that spilled free. "She's known me just as long as she's known him!" Pacey protested.

"But it wasn't your bed she slept in every movie night, was it? And you guys were like - like bantering enemies. Your friendship with Joey had a completely different dynamic to it."

"Yeah, we may not have had the same kind of history but underneath all the adversarial wordplay we cared about each other."

"It was Dawson she ran to when something at home wasn't right, Dawson she needed to talk to when she was upset-"

"We talked!" Pacey snapped.

"You know what I mean!" Jen replied with exasperation.

"Yeah, your boyfriend turns gay, you run to Dawson, your boyfriend dumps you and leaves without a word you run to Dawson-"

"She felt abandoned, Pacey -"

"Oh, so that's why when I got to Boston only a few months later they were an item again!

"Maybe you shouldn't have left then!"

"Why do you keep defending her?"

"I'm sitting on the fence! It's a high fence so I can see both sides clearly."

"And right now, you’re in danger of being pushed off it!"

“I’m trying to be as neutral as possible!"

"Why? Joey hates you!" He swigged again, pouting petulantly.

Jen narrowed her eyes, but a wry smile dimpling her cheek. "Ancient history"

"Women!" he muttered. "Always stick together."

"It's not all Joey's fault."

"I'm not saying it is! Whose side are you on anyway?"

"I told you. I'm neutral." Pacey scowled at her and turned his face away towards the wall.

"Who did she lose her virginity to? You. Who did she have the long term relationship with? You. A whole year! And who is she with now? You. You sound pretty lucky to me."

"Yeah, she lost her virginity to me while she was sad about it not being him. Yeah, we were in a long term relationship littered with her lies and constant fawning over Dawson and okay, yeah, she's with me now and things are supposed to be different this time. So why is she still babying the guy? Let him deal, for fuck's sake! I had to! Gah! It makes me want to tear my fucking hair out!" He dropped his head and sighed heavily. "I must be mad to let myself in for all of this again.”

"Pacey, she was really hurt when you left without a word last year. She was angry, bitter, acted like she didn’t care then just –just pretended you didn’t exist.”

His eyes darkened and clouded. "She may not have done the dumping last year, but my heart was just as bruised, Jen and I don't think she ever realized how much."

“Oh Pace, I wish I could make it all better for you. Just remember despite the events of last year she’s back with you. That must mean something.”

“You think?” He chuckled, but there was no humor in the sound. "Wanna bet she doesn't ring me tonight?"

Jen threw him a rueful look and shook her head.

"In fact, wanna bet she doesn't tell him at all?”

"Pacey, you don't know that she-"

"I know her, Jen. I know her."

Jen patted his knee sympathetically and they lapsed into silence, each becoming lost in their own thoughts.

Chapter Text

“So tell me about this Oliver guy! What’s he like?” Joey sipped her soda.

“Heh!” Dawson chuckled. “Odd.”

“Odd?”

“Yeah, but funny odd.”

“Funny ha ha?”

“Yeah. A total geek.”

“Oh, in that case, you’ll get along famously.” Joey grinned, and Dawson laughed.

“He seems like quite a nice guy and totally fell in love with Jen.”

“Duh, any sane man would.”

Joey didn’t notice how Dawson’s gaze fell to the tabletop momentarily with hidden discomfort.

“Except he couldn’t seem to get past the two phrases ‘hello’ and ‘you’re pretty’ when talking to her.”

“You sure he’s harmless?” Joey joked.

“Yep-“

“I hope so, especially if you’re going into partnership with him.”

“Eccentric, that’s the word I’m looking for. He’s eccentric and very talented. His film was excellent.”

“So you’ll be at school with him here in Boston. I’m glad.”

“I couldn’t stay in Capeside forever. My mom appreciated me being there, you know, doing all the things dad used to do, but she eventually insisted I get on with my own life.”

He lifted his own drink now and sipped at it thoughtfully. “This feels good, Jo,” he finally said. “Being here with you. Feels right.”

“I know what you mean.” Then she suddenly leaned back in her seat with a small smile and shake of her head.

“What?”

“I’m getting a distinct sense of déjà vu.”

Dawson nodded vigorously. “Yeah, me too – all evening, except this time round I’ve no inappropriate questions to ask.”

Joey’s smile dropped a little as she thought of what he would deem inappropriate about herself and Pacey being back together. She looked at him. He was still smiling and she could hardly prevent herself from squirming in her seat. If just by looking at her he couldn’t tell something was wrong, then they were surely no longer the Dawson and Joey they once knew. But she didn’t believe that diminished their friendship in any way. They were growing up, that’s all. A distance was growing, had come between them, but he would always be important to her.

“Thank goodness for that.” She responded.

“Heh! I’ve had a really good time tonight.”

“Me too.”

“We must do it again soon. I’ve got to go back to Capeside tomorrow to tie up a few loose ends, but let’s arrange something when I get back.”

“Sure.”

“I’ve missed you, Jo.”

“I’ve missed you, too, Dawson.”

 

The silence had lasted for fifteen minutes, Jen drinking steadily, while Pacey slept – until his own snoring woke him up with a start.

“Was I sleeping?”

“Uh huh.” Jen nodded, cradling the bottle that was a little less than half full now. “And you were snoring.” How was it that guys looked so sweet and boyish in their sleep, she wondered? Pacey was no exception. He’d looked sad, too, though.

“I do not snore.” He ruffled his hair absently then picked up the precariously leaning can of beer from between his legs and brought it to his lips, then practically upended it over his open mouth. A solitary pearl of beer dropped onto his tongue.

“I’ll get you another one.” But as she slipped off the seat she somehow lost her balance and stumbled, flopping to the floor and knocking her head against the counter.

"Ow!" She groaned. Turning over, she clamped a hand to the point of pain on the side of her forehead. Pacey, a little less inebriated than Jen threw the can aside and hurried over to help her up. He brushed her hand aside to peruse the redness of her slight bruise before slipping an arm around her back and under her arm, hauling her up.

"You okay, Jen?"

"W-what's wrong with me, Pacey?" she groaned.

"You bumped your head."

"No, what's wrong with me?" she repeated as he attempted to baby step her back to her seat. She wasn't helping him much.

"And you're more than a little drunk."

"I-I've got such bad luck with men!"

"Oh. I see." She pulled away from him, stumbling a little as she ranted.

“Jus-just look at my track record! Especially the latest boyfriend disaster. That-that fffff-fucking Charlie Todd! Damn him!”

“Don’t waste another thought on him, Jen.”

“Did-did I tell you that-that only a couple of days ago I found out from Norah that he’d-he’d been bombarding her with letters beg - begging her to give him another chance?”

“No, no you didn’t tell me that.” He tried to put a comforting arm around her, but she evaded him, flailing her arms wildly as she yelled.

“Well he did! He did! I kinda cried on Dawson’s shoulder about that. It-it was very embarrassing, but I couldn’t understand why he didn’t send me letters? W-why Pacey? What’s wrong with me?” She took a long draught from the bottle of vodka, proceeded to cough harshly, before losing her balance and nearly falling against the counter again. Pacey caught her in time and with a cluck of impatience scooped her up into his arms.

“I didn’t think you wanted him back.” He said as he maneuvered his way through the door to the bedroom. Jen’s arms clung around his neck awkwardly, especially as she still held tightly to the bottle of alcohol. He set her on the bed.

“I didn’t! I don’t! But-but why Norah and not me?” she raged breathlessly, sniffing constantly.

“He isn’t worth the breath you’re expending on him. Jen-.”

“But I liked him, you know.” She flopped down onto her back, flinging an arm across her face. The bottle rolled out of her other hand and away across the bed. Pacey discreetly picked it up and set it down on the floor out of sight. “I-I wanted that relationship to be different. I didn’t want it to-to be all about sex. But of course, that’s all it ever was about. For him anyway! I can never escape my past! I’ll always be good time girl, Jen. Yeah, good time girl. Just good for fucking!” She let the hot tears roll down into her hair.

Pacey pulled her up, catching her face between his palms and forcing her to look him in the eye. “That’s not true. There is nothing wrong with you! If he couldn’t see how lucky he was to have you in his life then that is his loss. His fucking loss, okay?”

“No! It’s my loss!” She pulled away, on her knees she sat back on her haunches. “Take a look at my track record! I keep making the same stupid mistakes!”

“Jen-“

“I slept with Dawson!”

Pacey rocked back. "You what?"

“You see? I’m a fuck up, Pacey!”

“No, that honor would be mine. You slept with Dawson?”

“Over the weekend at the film festival."

Pacey’s face was such a picture of horror that it actually made her laugh. Then she sniffed loudly.

“Why?”

“You say that in such a Chandlesque way. See you're not the only one who can drop bombshells."

“But…” He frowned quizzically at her. “How ironic that it should have been you."

"Why?"

"You were his first crush-"

"I thought that was your sister Gretchen."

"She doesn't count. The minute you stepped out of that cab, Dawson couldn't stop slipping in his own drool. He was desperately smitten with you. I fully expected you to be his first and it looks like I wasn't wrong."

"Yeah, well…

"How on earth did that happen?"

"Well...didn’t your father tell you all about the birds and the bees-"

"You know what I mean.”

Jen shrugged. Calmer now, her words although slower, didn’t slur as much. "I'm-I’m not sure. We’d had such a great time at the festival. Ev-everyone thought I was his girlfriend and he played along with that and it was the first time he was able to relax a little since Mitch died. Plus he won the award, you know? He won the award his dad entered him for. It was special. We talked a little at bedtime, reminiscing about the past. He’d somehow got it into his head that I'd never been sexually attracted to him back then." She snorted. "He must have been completely blind to the number of times I threw myself at him. I just-I just proved to him that wasn’t true. It seemed a good idea at the time.”

“Are you okay?”

“It had been such a wonderful evening. Magical almost. He was very attentive and complimentary. There was a spark, Pacey. Some kind of spark and all these feelings for him I thought I’d buried long ago seemed to come flooding back. It was weird. Then it seemed like it was meant to be ‘cos due to a mix up we had to share a double room – the honeymoon suite, would you believe and, I mean, how could we not use it for sex? You should have seen it Pacey. It was decked out like a porn scene! Very appropriate!”

“Stop putting yourself down, Jen.”

“You do it all the time to yourself!”

“It’s my forte. So you popped Dawson’s long awaited cherry?”

“I must confess that I did. Do think Joey will hate me forever now? Ah, what the hell! She does anyway.”

“Ancient history, remember? What’s the deal now? I take it you and Dawson are not an item.”

“No. I think he thought it was a mistake. Although, that didn’t stop him from wanting to do it again and-“

“Please!” Pacey placed a hand briefly over her mouth. “Spare me the details.”

Jen sighed. “He didn’t actually say it was a mistake, but he didn’t think it was something we should take any further. It’s no big deal.” She picked at the coverlet on the bed.

Pacey watched her down bent golden head, knowing her better than she thought. “You wanted to see where it went, didn’t you?”

She looked up at him, her eyes brimming, but she couldn’t trust herself to speak and dropped her head again. Pacey put his arm around her, then began rubbing comforting circles over her back. "I'm sorry, Jen."

She sniffled some more, trying to keep control. “So strike two so far this year.” She sighed heavily. “Why do men have to be such bastards?” She shifted position until she lay on her stomach, facing him.

“We’re all fools, Jen. That’s as good an answer as I can give you.” He mimicked her position so that they were face to face. “I’ll tell you what I do know.” He tweaked a tendril of hair at the side of her face. “Don’t ever doubt your beauty. And I’m talking about that generous spirit you have. Our lives became better when you entered it.”

“I think Joey would disagree with that.”

“It’s true, nevertheless. Someday a guy is going to come along and marvel at the wonder that is Jen Lindley. Her beauty, her sexiness.” He tugged a lock of her hair gently. “He’ll admire her lovely soft skin, her lush lips...” He traced an eyebrow and the curve of one cheek before brushing a thumb against her lower lip.

“Careful, Witter.” Jen couldn’t help the flutter her heart gave, but continued to smile serenely.

Pacey chuckled. “More than that you care about people, Jen. And man, how wise are you? You make me look like an irresponsible clown!

“Aww, you’re just saying that 'cos I’m your only friend!”

“Hmm, you don’t know how close to the truth that is, but I’m glad you are my friend,” he whispered. “I really am.” His mouth reached forward the few inches it needed and he kissed her square on the mouth. It was soft and warm, but it was brief, almost impersonal. She stared into his eyes, saw the crinkling of the laughter lines at the corner of his eyes as he smiled, saw the depth of fondness there in the darkened blue of his irises, saw the young boy she'd grown up with over the last five years and her heart swelled. She placed a kiss at the corner of his mouth, and then dropped her head slightly, suddenly shy. Pacey placed his forehead against hers.

"This -this is just friendly stuff right?" she asked.

Pacey nodded, and with his head pressed against hers she was forced to nod with him. "Just friendly stuff."

"Yeah, figures. ‘Cos once a guy falls for Joey Potter there's no going back."

Pacey drew back to look fully into her face "Feeling horny, Lindley?" He attempted to inject some humor into the sudden serious undertones in Jen's voice.

She hesitated then plunged ahead. "Do you ever think back to our sex pact, Pace?"

"Now and again. I had a lot of fun feeling nothing with you."

Jen smiled, a little sadly. "Me too. Just my luck that the two guys I fell for really wanted her instead." She saw the puzzlement in his face. She sighed and rolled onto her back. "Not that I was hoping that Dawson would feel jealousy of any kind, but seeing the amusement in his face when he and Joey caught us in the cloakroom kissing made it quite clear that he had absolutely no romantic feelings for me whatsoever anymore."

Pacey rolled onto his side, his hand supporting his head, facing her. "But Jen you knew a long time ago that-"

"I know! That Dawson was head over heels for Joey. Yeah, I knew that and I pretty much resigned myself to the fact that I'd lost him forever back in tenth grade. He was never going to come crawling through my window for me."

Pacey thought he could tell Jen that Dawson was crazy for not wanting her, except that would make him crazy, too, wouldn't it?

“I accepted that,” she continued, “and I got over it. Then the following year you and I had that silly sex pact.” She paused, as if trying to choose her words carefully. “Seeing the smirk on his face in that cloakroom chased away the last of any residual feelings I may have had, well, thought I had until this weekend.”

"And me? Did you- did you really like me back then?" His voice dipped with emotion.

A short silence.

"You were a pretty good kisser. Would it surprise you to know that the thought of an older woman having taught you all the best ways to please a woman only turned me on more?"

"You've always been a bit kinky, Jen."

She giggled.

“Jen?” he pressed gently for the answer she hadn’t given.

She gave him a steady look then her eyes slid away. "Maybe I was just mad that yet again it was Joey who seemed to be between me and a guy. Why don’t we leave it at that?"

He nodded, deciding not to press further and accept her at her word.

“Besides my emotions are all over the place right now – and I’m drunk. Although I think the buzz is wearing off now. So I can’t be held responsible for everything I say.”

“I’m glad you confided in me, Jen. I know it’s usually Jack’s shoulder that gets cried on, what with you two being like an old married couple.”

“Ha!” she attempted to laugh and shook her head sadly. “Another of my failed conquests.”

Pacey silently cursed himself. He saw that he’d brought fresh sadness to her face.

“Jen-“

“See? I’m a disaster area, Pacey. Last year something happened with Jack on that ski trip, well, nearly happened. I came to my senses in time. Take note of that, Pacey, I’m the one who came to my senses so I guess I have a few redeeming qualities.” She plunged on when Pacey would have protested. “My little crush on Jack notwithstanding, it really only happened because we were both lonely and miserable.”

“You were there for each other at least. I wish I had as strong a friendship with someone as you two do.”

“What? You want to be joined to the hip of a lesbian? I know a girl I could recommend; unless there’s another bombshell about yourself you want to drop!”

“Ha! Funny. Back to the subject of friendship. I get on really well with Leon, but it’s not the same. I guess the closest I got was with Dawson, but look where he and I are now. Just tolerating each other. You and Jack, his gayness notwithstanding of course, belong together.

“Not anymore. Will has left the building. It seems there’s no longer any room for me in his life, for any of us. Haven’t you noticed? He wants new friends, new experiences, a new family. He thinks he’ll find all that with his beer guzzling gorilla frat buddies.” A tear slipped down her face.

Pacey drew her slowly into his arms for a long embrace. “He’ll come to his senses.” He rubbed her back soothingly. “Remember when Andie took that ecstasy pill of yours and landed in hospital? Jack was steaming. As far as he was concerned you were to blame for putting his sister in hospital.”

“You weren’t exactly pleased with me either,” she reminded him. “But it’s okay," she said quickly, her chin propped up on his shoulder as she held him close, "I understood why.”

“Hmm,’ Pacey squeezed her tighter, ’don’t remind me. I’ve always felt a little ashamed about that. I think I took my bitterness about my loss of friendship with Dawson out on you. What I’m trying to say is that you’d never have thought you and Jack would have reconciled. But you did. He loves you, Jen. Give him time.” He pulled back from her, smoothing her hair down at the side of her face.

“Hmm, I’m thinking you’re not quite the irresponsible clown you accuse yourself of being, Pace. In fact, it sounds suspiciously like you’re making a play for my ‘wise old sage’ crown.”

They chuckled together.

“Here’s my attempt to keep hold of it. You’re a very dear friend, Pacey and I really want you to be happy. Don’t forget, I’ve been there from the beginning, too. You know, the beginning of the soul mate dance. But it’s you she belongs with. Not Dawson. I know it. Don’t lose her again, Pace.”

“I may not have a choice, Jen.”

“There's always a choice, Pacey. Make it.”

 

The insistent buzzing drilled into Jen’s subconscious and she awoke. Lifting her head from Pacey’s chest she spied his cell phone on the bedside cabinet. She glanced at him. He was deeply asleep. She reached over dislodging his arm that had been around her and flipped the phone open.

"Lo?" Jen answered sleepily.

There was an initial pause, then, "Jen, is that you?"

"Uh Joey, yeah."

Another brief pause. 'Oh. You okay?"

"Mmm, just peachy."

"You sound like you've just woken up."

"Um, yeah, that too."

"That too? What do you- never mind. Is Pacey there?"

"Mmm hmm. I'll wake him up for you."

"Wait! He's sleeping?"

"Uh huh."

Silence.

"Joey? Joey?"

Through her grogginess, realization dawned.

"It's nothing like how you're probably imagining, Jo. We had a little too much to drink and fell asleep."

"But you're crashing there tonight?"

"Most likely." Jen couldn't hold back a yawn.

"Um, okay. Um, can you tell Pacey I rang and er, I'll give him a call tomorrow."

"Did you tell him?" Jen asked absently.

"Tell him what?"

Jen shook her head clear, suddenly remembering that she wasn't supposed to know anything.

"Uh, nothing. Sorry, it's just the sleep deprived, booze fogged brain taking over."

"Bye."

"See ya Joey."

Chapter Text

“You told Jen!” Joey stated accusingly. Mentally noting, for the umpteenth time since seeing him that first time at Civilization, how cute he looked in his cap and apron, she went on the offensive. She hadn’t informed Dawson that she and Pacey were together and she was worried about Pacey’s reaction. Worry mixed with guilt was not a good combination. Add fuel to that in the form of Jen spending the night with him and she found her voice taking on a sharper tone than planned.

He knew immediately what she meant. He came around the counter but still maintained distance between them. “I don’t quite recall us agreeing that Dawson had to be the first to know,” he replied.

“No we didn’t agree anything, yet you told Jen.”

“Just like you told Dawson last night, right?”

It wasn’t hopefulness she saw in his face, but cynicism. Joey felt the flush enter her face. Yet her chin rose in defiance. “That’s what I specifically came round to tell you. I –I didn’t tell him. We-“

“Let me guess,’ Pacey held up a hand to stop her, ‘you were having too good a time to spoil it with bad news?” Pacey arched a questioning brow trying to ignore the sinking feeling in his stomach.

Joey felt her patience snap. “As good a time as you and Jen were having?”

“Oh please no, ‘Pacey laughed bitterly, shaking his head, ‘don’t you try to turn this on me. Jen needed a friend last night and that’s what she got. That’s all she got.” When Joey opened her mouth to reply, Pacey didn’t give her a chance to speak. “The point here is that you were supposed to tell Dawson about us and yet again you didn’t!” His voice rose slightly and a few of the customers enjoying their breakfast turned curious heads. Danny poked his head around the kitchen door.

“You’ve got five minutes, Witter. Take it outside.”

Pacey strode out of the restaurant quickly followed by Joey. He folded his arms, an expectant look on his face. “So?”

“Pacey, I’m sorry. I know I promised-“

“Yeah, days ago!”

“I know, I know!”

“Joey I don’t want you to think that I don’t understand that this is difficult for you, but I can’t help but fast lose patience. We’ve been here before.”

“I know, but last night, well...you don’t know what it was like...and well, I decided that I wouldn’t tell him, you know?” Unconsciously she began to wring her hands, her eyes lowering to the ground. “I wanted-“

“What?” The sharpness in his voice brought her attention back to him.

"Pacey, Danny's yelling for you." One of the waitress’ poked her head round the restaurant door.

"He just told me I could take five minutes!”

“Well, he’s calling you back now.”

“Fine! I'll be there in a sec." He waved her away. She frowned at him, flicking a glance disdainfully over Joey.

"We've got people to serve in here, Witter. You should leave your romantic squabbles at home."

"Yeah, okay Karen! I said I'd be there!" He didn't even look at her.
She afforded him a sour glance before disappearing back inside.
"So let's clarify. You made a deliberate decision not tell him - despite the fact that we agreed you would tell him as soon as possible?"

"Well, yes, I-" she faltered into silence. Pacey was staring at her as if he didn't recognize her. Then he turned on his heel and walked away.

"Pa-Pacey! Pacey!"

He ignored her and went back into the restaurant. Joey stood alone on the sidewalk staring at the door he walked through. He'd just walked out on her. Well, she'd be damned if she was going to chase after him. Chin jutting forward she marched away.

 

At lunchtime Joey made her way back to her dorm. Her concentration had deserted her during her morning classes. Her thoughts kept drifting from Pacey to Dawson. She didn't regret not telling Dawson last night about herself and Pacey, but she hated knowing that Pacey was disappointed in her. It gave her an uncomfortable queasy feeling inside. All she wanted to do was get hold of him and make up, but two calls to his cell phone had gone straight to voicemail. She'd try again once she got to her dorm, she promised herself. She'd have it to herself as Audrey was having lunch with some cute boy or other from one of her classes. In fact, she'd ring Dawson first, meet up with him quickly straight after her last class then head over to Pacey's. She bit her lip as she began to go over in her mind how she'd broach the subject to Dawson. As it turned out, she didn’t have to call him…

"Dawson, what are you doing here?" Joey asked. He was leaning beside her door, looking pensive, but his face became animated as soon as he saw her.

"Joey! At last! I've been waiting ages!"

She frowned at him as she opened her dorm door. What was the emergency? She thought distractedly. Oh well, at least he was here, but how was she going to start?

Dawson came through the door and waited impatiently as she slowly closed it. She was still trying to get her speech straight in her head as her hand left the doorknob when Dawson grabbed her arms and turned her around.

"Dawson! What is your-?" Her next words were lost as he planted his lips firmly on hers in a brief kiss, and then stood back watching her. Whatever she'd planned to tell him flew out of her head. She gaped at him as he laughed a little self-consciously, letting her bag slip to the floor from her fingers.

"I'm sorry, but I had to do that! And I know I'm probably being a little presumptuous here, but what the heck! What I really should do is throw myself to my knees at your feet and beg your forgiveness -"

"Dawson-"

"Wait! Joey, I'm so sorry I pushed you away when my father died. My head was all over the place. I just wasn't thinking straight! You were the last person on earth I should have turned away from. Jo, spending time with you last night seemed to bring some real meaning back into my life."

Joey began to shake her head slowly. "Dawson..."

“Before my father died we were right on the cusp-"

"No! Dawson, stop!" She couldn't let him go on, but he wouldn't listen.

"I know I've hit you for six here, but it suddenly dawned on me that there's nothing standing in our way now..."

‘But there is, Dawson. I'm with Pacey!’ Say it! Say it! Spit it out! Her heart cried. Tears pricked the back of her eyes.

“I wish I could stay a bit longer but I’ve got to get to Capeside. Mom’s expecting me and I’m going to be late as it is. I was already on my way, but I had to get this out. I had to speak to you!”

She felt a panicky feeling flutter up in her stomach. Why did this always happen? Why was it that whenever she had to confront Dawson about something she became immobilized with the fear of hurting him or losing him? It was Pacey she wanted, so why the hesitation?

"I-I...”

“I haven’t been able to think about anything else since last night! I just knew that if I didn’t find you and spill my guts that I’d explode! Did you feel it last night, Jo?”

“Feel…what?”

“Us! You and me! Dawson and Joey!”

“Dawson, I can’t-“

“What? Last night didn’t feel like we’d found something that had been lost for a long time? Huh, Joey?” He grabbed her arms.

“Yes.”

“It felt right, didn’t it?”

“Yes, I-I was so happy last night, Dawson. All that turmoil after your father died… It did hurt when you pushed me away. I wanted to be there for you like you were for me when my mother died.”

“I know. I’m sorry.”

“But I understood that. Ours is a strange relationship, Dawson.” She shook her head thoughtfully. “But yes, we did find Dawson and Joey again last night and I’m really happy about that.”

She would have said more, but he forestalled her. “Good! Now I have to go.”

“No, wait. Dawson!”

He dropped a quick hard kiss on her mouth before she could protest and pulled open the door. “I must go. I don’t want to be late. Mom’s expecting me and we’ve got a lot of talking to do about what I’m going to do about film school.”

“Dawson, please-“

“Don’t worry, we can talk at length when I get back.”

“Dawson, we’ve got to talk.”

“We will.”

“Please, let me say this.”

“It’s okay,” he grinned at her. “I love you, too.”

As he pulled the door shut, Joey blinked rapidly, rooted to the spot. Had she heard him right? Did he say what she thought he’d said? Had he automatically assumed she was going to tell him she loved him? The conceit! Joey felt the rise of her indignation suddenly overcome by panic. Dawson was going to Capeside now and she still hadn’t mentioned Pacey to him and somehow he’d come by the notion that she was still in love with him! Joey snatched open the door and ran into the hall.

“Dawson!” she called, rounding the corner and running quickly down the staircase. She looked over the banister, but she couldn’t see him. She rushed down the rest of the stairs and out of the building. It was milling with dozens of students. She looked this way and that, but there was no sign of Dawson. She panted lightly, worrying her bottom lip.

Okay, okay, she thought frantically, this needn't be a disaster. All she had to do was call Dawson on his cell. There was no more time for pussyfooting around. She ran back up to her room and rummaged in her bag and found her phone, but Dawson’s cell phone was switched off. She left a message for him to call her back, then slumped back on her bed. What now? She couldn’t go haring off after him to Capeside.

Okay, she'd tell Pacey about the misunderstanding and then they could ring Dawson and tell him the truth or she and Pacey could drive down to Capeside tonight and confront Dawson together. They could go there and be back in Boston the same night. Except she couldn't get hold of Pacey, either. She left three messages and reluctantly went to her classes, but she felt so frazzled she blew off the last one to rush down to Civilization.

 

Leon opened the door and stood looking down at Joey. “Ahhh, Miss Joey Potter. I remember you.”

She smiled nervously. “Um, yeah, let’s not dwell on the memory of that one. Uh, hi, I got your address from Audrey. You- you remember Audrey?” she offered another tentative smile.

“That girl’s not an easy one to forget, either.”

“Okay, well, um I’m looking for Pacey.” He didn’t smile back and continued to stare at her until her irritation rose unbidden.

“Yeah, so...?”

“So?”

Joey heaved out a sigh of frustration. “Is he here?”

He chewed slightly on his inner bottom lip, eyes cold. “He’s not here,” he finally said.

“Well, he’s not at work. He’s not at the boat or Jen’s!”

“You don’t understand. I mean he’s not here as in not in Boston.”

“What?”

“He came to see me earlier today. Said he’d begged a couple of days off from his boss. Needed some space. Can’t say I’m surprised.”

“He’s left Boston?” Joey took the snide comment, but was annoyed at herself for the prick of tears behind her eyes. She cleared her throat. “Do you know where he’s gone?”

“Home.”

“Home? To Capeside?” Her voice wobbled.

Leon nodded, his eyes still cold. Joey drew in a long breath and turned blindly away from him without another word.

“What’s with this Dawson anyway, Joey?” He called after her. “What’s he got that Pacey hasn’t?”

Joey turned and just looked at him, but he could see the shimmer of unshed tears in her eyes as she continued to walk away.

 

**************

Pacey settled back against Doug’s couch. He was glad Doug would be out for most of the night on patrol. He had the apartment to himself and his thoughts. Doug’s couch again, eh? The familiarity of that comforted him in some small way. It also reminded him of the lazy afternoons after school he’d spent making out with Joey on the couch in the beach house he’d shared with his sister Gretchen a year ago. He evoked the memory of her body lying against his, all curves and angles, long and lean and Joey’s lips nuzzling at his ear, her breath against his cheek, her hand trailing up and down his thigh before teasingly brushing over the swell in his pants and burrowing beneath his shirt to caress his stomach. That had been before they’d had sex. As agonizingly frustrating as those afternoons had been sometimes he’d loved those days before their fateful ski trip a few months later. Joey was an intoxicating mix of minx and shy maiden. After they had had sex he liked how her assertiveness – and appetite went up several notches! Added to that, she was sweet and adorable. He was a slave to that inner core of vulnerability she seemed to carry around within her. He loved her feistiness and the sarcastic wit that was more than a match for his own and often a defense mechanism when she was frazzled or angry or feeling threatened. Yes, she had been preoccupied with Dawson last year, but when she gazed into his eyes, promised him that she was his, assured him that they were going to work, last forever, insist that she loved him, he believed her. With no qualms he could just hand his heart to her, ‘here, have it. Do what you will. Stomp on it or cherish it. It’s yours. I’m yours.’ Pacey shook his head at himself in the dark. Was he a fool? He sighed, shifting position slightly.

All today he’d felt guilty for keeping his cell phone switched off. He was mad at her, sad, disappointed. Once Doug had left for work he’d switched his phone on and found five messages from Joey. They were not happy messages, with the last one practically imploring him to ring her back. He sighed again. No matter what she had, or rather hadn’t, done she didn’t deserve to have him run out on her again without a word. That was the last thing he should make a habit of. Now he felt like a real jerk. So what was new? He’d call her tomorrow. He’d drop by the Leery house and check in on Gale, see if she needed a hand with anything, ring Joey, then visit his folks. Maybe he’d even spend tomorrow night in his old room. Funnily enough, he missed his family, even his father in a small, odd way. He didn’t expect that seeing them tomorrow would be a bowl of cherries. His mother would chide him for not coming down more often. His father would either ignore him while guzzling beer or deride his job at Civilization, but he wanted to touch base with his roots, see familiar sights about town, remember a time when he and Dawson had been blood brothers and he and Joey had spent lazy afternoons in each other’s arms. She was the girl of his dreams but he didn’t know if they could make it work. He just didn’t know.

Chapter Text

After leaving Leon's place Joey imagined blurting everything out to Audrey when she got back to her dorm, but it was Gram's doorbell she found her finger poised over. She had come to Jen.

"Hey, Joey." Jen welcomed her in and followed her through the hallway to the living room. Joey stood awkwardly, with her arms folded about her.

"No Grams?" she asked.

"Just me. Grams is at some church meeting or other and who cares where the hell Jack is."

Joey frowned at her.

"Don't ask. So what's up?"

Jen sank into the sofa and Joey, not bothering to remove her coat, perched on the arm of the nearest armchair. Then she sprang up again. Jen patiently watched her pace up and down a few steps before Joey finally sat down.

"You were with Pacey last night."

"Joey, nothing happened."

"I'm not saying anything did-"

"But I want you to know that nothing did."

"He wasn't happy, was he?"

"No, he wasn't happy and I was in a worse state than he was, but fortunately it didn't end in a misguided drunken sex romp aimed at making ourselves feel better."

"Glad to hear it," Joey managed a small smile.

"I-I wasn't in a good place, but he managed to make me feel better. He has that way about him, you know."

"Yes,' Joey agreed softly, 'I know."

"So we're okay, right?"

"I didn't come here about that, Jen." She drew a deep breath. "Obviously he told you that we're an item again."

Jen nodded. "It was his way of taking my mind off my problems!"

Joey slumped back into the chair, studying Jen’s face. "I haven't been much of a friend to you, have I?" Joey suddenly blurted out. "That pretty much figures,' her voice cracked, ''cos I'm obviously not a very good girlfriend, either." She hid her face as the tears fell hard. Jen came over, perched beside her on the arm of the chair and rubbed her back.

"You didn't tell Dawson."

Joey shook her head scrubbing at the tears on her face. "Pacey wasn't pleased as you can imagine."

"He'll come round. Joey, he adores you."

"It didn't stop him from leaving me last time, did it?" she sniffed hard during Jen's silence and tried to gain control of herself, wiping her eyes. "I'm going to lose him again. I know it! My inability to wound Dawson in any way possible with bad news has only made things worse."

"How do you mean?"

Joey stood up and walked over to the other side of the room. "Dawson came to see me earlier today and..."

"And...?"

"He wanted to give us another try." Joey bit her lip.

Jen stared at her. "Oh." Her eyes dropped, masking their expression. "That must have been some movie night, Jo," she laughed, emptily, but Joey was too preoccupied with her thoughts to notice Jen's discomfort.

"It gets better. When he left my room, it was under the impression that we were back together."

Jen's head shot back up. "But-"

"I don't know how it happened!" Joey's arms flapped in agitation. “One moment I was reaffirming our friendship, the next he was telling me I didn't need to say I loved him as he already knew and with that he went out the door! I was completely flabbergasted, rooted to the spot with incredulity, and he was gone before I could catch up with him!"

"Joey-"

"Jen, he's in Capeside!"

"Okay, well I'm sure-"

"And so is Pacey! He took off this morning, probably straight after the fight we had! What am I going to do?" She flung herself back into the chair and buried her face in her hands. She didn’t give Jen a chance to reply and dropping her hands continued her complaint. “I thought about rushing up there tonight, but for all I know they’ve already seen each other. Suppose Dawson’s already…”

“Maybe they haven’t seen each other yet. Ring-“

“I’ve already tried ringing them. Both their cell phones are switched off. I rang Dawson’s house twice. There was no response and the Witter’s haven’t seen Pacey.”

“What about Doug?”

“He must have been out, too.” She hid her face again. “Jen, I don’t know what to do anymore.” She slowly lifted her head, smoothing her hair back. “I feel like I’m being torn in two. I thought I’d left all of this behind.”

Jen kept her voice soft and quiet. “What do you expect when you revert to typical co-dependent behavior after a crisis?”

“What do you mean?”

“Can you handle me speaking frankly?”

“Go for it.” Joey shrugged, eyeing Jen warily.

Jen came around the chair to stand a little way in front of her. “Joey when Pacey first left you ran back to Dawson! It’s what you do when a relationship ends.”

“He’s my friend! I needed-“

“You went too far, hun! Do you never stop to analyze why you do the things you do? Why you continue to perpetuate this twisted form of soulmatism between you and Dawson?”

Joey stared at her in bewilderment.

“Joey barely a month after Pacey left you were kissing Dawson and by the time Pacey came back you and Dawson were an item. The last person you should have run to is Dawson because yet again you blurred the lines!” Jen’s hands fluttered in a helpless gesture. “You need to make up your mind once and for all who you really want.”

Joey struggled with her rising resentment. “I want Pacey.”

“Then why does he always come off second best?”

“He doesn’t! It was Dawson I left broken hearted on the dock as I sailed away with Pacey-“

“Nevertheless you seem to take Pacey for granted. And why? Because you know you can.”

“That’s horrible. You’re not an expert on my relationship with Pacey! You never were!”

Joey gets up to leave, but Jen barred her way. “I’m not pretending to be, but you said you could handle my opinion, remember? You said you could take it.”

Joey stilled.

“It’s like the mother who has two children. One’s as good as gold. The other is always acting up. It’s the naughty child who gets all the attention, the special treatment while the good child is virtually ignored or taken for granted. That’s what you do with Pacey and Dawson. You know Pacey will wait for you. He lets you do what you want because he respects your choices, your decisions and he trusts you, but Joey his trust in you has run out.”

“Is-is that what he told you last night?”

“He said- he said, ‘you wanna bet she doesn’t tell him?”

Fresh tears leaked from Joey’s eyes. She wiped at them and slowly sat down.

“I’m sorry, Joey.”

Joey shook her hair off her face, biting down on her lip. If she didn’t get a hold of herself she felt like she’d break down and sob uncontrollably.

“So what now?”

Jen drew closer, crouching beside Joey. “First of all, let things take their natural course between the two of them – whatever shape or form that may take. You’re the wedge between them now, Jo, but you were only an unknowing catalyst to Pacey and Dawson realizing that...”

“That what?”

“That childhood best friends don’t always grow up to be adult best friends.”

“So, I’m a wedge and a catalyst?” Her mouth twisted wryly.

“You were a catalyst and you are a wedge, but it’s their fight.”

“But only because I continue to perpetuate Dawson’s arrogant assumption that my world revolves around him.” She gave a short mirthless laugh. “It sounds like I’m very much involved in this, Jen. It is partly my fault.”

“It’s still their fight, though.”

Joey sighed and stared gloomily into the fireplace behind Jen.

“And....” Jen waited until Joey focused her attention back on her. “Secondly, I think Pacey may be right.”

“About what?”

She laid a hand on Joey’s knee. “You’re not ready for each other.”

“What? No, Jen, don’t-“

Jen saw the flash of fear widen Joey’s eyes as she rose in protest from her seat, and as she stood also, she felt a pang of pity. She gently gripped Joey’s arms. “I’m sorry. I don’t want to upset you.”

“Is that what he told you? He doesn’t want to be with me anymore?”

“No-“

“But that’s what you just said!”

“He was thinking out loud more than anything else, Jo, but maybe it’s something to think about.” She smoothed her hands soothingly up and down Joey’s arms. “Maybe until you can define Dawson’s place in your life and until Pacey knows one hundred percent that he comes first with you, you need to be apart.”

Joey let her thoughts drift back to herself and Pacey sitting on the end of the dock more than two years ago. She had offered herself to Dawson that night and he’d rejected her – to protect his heart - to avoid any more pain and conflict between them after her rejection of him three months earlier. Wonders of wonders Pacey had come to comfort her. Of course later, she’d found out that Dawson had sent him. Pacey had proceeded to tell her that it was probably a good thing that she and Dawson had time apart. He’d known what he was talking about. He’d been in a similar position himself before the summer when he’d had to let Andie leave to go into a mental institution for her own good.

He’d been right, too. Part of Joey’s pain had been fear. She’d thought she wasn’t loved. That no one would love her the way she yearned to be loved. Look how she’d pined over Dawson for so long, daydreaming about what it would be like to have her love reciprocated, but once she’d won her man something had been missing. She hadn’t felt like she loved Dawson any less, but he hadn’t been able to completely fulfill her. So she’d left him to find herself. After Dawson’s rejection that night, she’d felt bruised, but she’d moved on like he had. She’d dated AJ only to find he was still in love with his soul mate. How ironic. But yes, Pacey had been right. She and Dawson had needed the time apart. It had brought her Pacey, hadn’t it? Whereas her feelings for Dawson in the beginning had been a slow awakening of awareness, her realization of love for Pacey had been like taking a fall off a cliff hundreds of feet high, the freefall had been terrifying, exciting, heady and she’d also realized that he loved her in an unselfish way like no one before him ever had. To think she had wept over her fears of never finding a love like that only to take it for granted once she’d been given that gift. She didn’t want to lose him. The thought chilled her skin, grabbed her heart and rattled it about terrifyingly around her chest, but suppose Jen was right, just like Pacey had been two years ago?

“You could probably do with giving yourself some breathing space. Within the space of a year you’ve gone from Pacey to Dawson and back to Pacey again.”

“Doesn’t sound pretty, does it?”

Jen hugged her and after a moment Joey’s arms came up to return the embrace. “If you and Pacey can work it out, then I’ll be so happy for you both.” She leaned back. “It’s up to you Joey. If you feel you should go down to Capeside then go. If you think it’d be better to wait until he comes back to Boston, then that’s fine, too, but if...well...if it doesn’t work out that doesn’t have to mean it’s forever, does it?”

Joey pressed her lips together, swallowing down the dread that threatened to overwhelm her. She didn’t even want to think about the possibility of losing Pacey again, but instinctively, she felt Jen was right. She’d leave it to fate. If Pacey and Dawson ended up confronting each other then so be it. She would accept whatever form the ensuing fallout took, apply as much damage control as she was able and hope that at the end of it all she still had her boyfriend and her best friend. She sat back down with a sense of impending doom circling around her head.

“I can’t tell you how horrible it feels wondering what’s happening in Capeside between them and it makes me feel helpless to just wait around for the result.” She continued after a pause. “I think I’ll call Pacey one last time. If it’s his voicemail again, then I’m just going to pour it out anyway. I should at least try to forewarn him. It’s not fair otherwise.”

“You’re that sure Dawson will-“

“I think he might, yes.”

“You don’t think Pacey will tell him your news?”

Joey thought for a moment, and then shook her head. “No. Oh, I don’t know.” She sighed. “Give me a sec, Jen, then I guess I’ll go back to the dorm. I’ll just-“

“Why don’t you stay here tonight?”

“Thanks but I think I’ll go. Pacey might try to contact me there and the battery’s running out on my cell phone. If he rings I don’t want to miss him, you know?” She pulled out her phone as Jen began to walk out of the room, and then laid it down on the arm of the chair.

“Jen?”

“Mmm?” She turned around.

“Are you okay?”

Jen smiled tentatively. “I will be.”

“Is it boy trouble, too?”

“Heh! Yeah, no good boy trouble. Charlie, Jack and…well…actually Joey-“

“Jack still running with the frat pack?”

“Um, yeah.”

“You miss him, don’t you?” Joey mistook the discomfort in Jen’s face for unhappiness over her estrangement from Jack – which it partly was, but only partly.

“We were like two halves and now…now it’s like I’m nothing to him. It’s weird. It’s strange and it hurts.”

“Jack will come round Jen and as for Charlie, if he’s trying to sniff around again-“

“No, no, it’s not that, exactly. I’m being an idiot. I’ll tell you the whole story another time.”

“Okay. I’ve dumped my problems on you it’s only fair you should be able to reciprocate in kind.” She gave Jen a half smile.

“Yeah, thanks, um, in fact, there is something I think maybe I should tell you. Um, it’s about-“

Joey’s cell phone pealed abruptly, interrupting them. Before Joey could answer, it just as abruptly went silent.

“Oh no! Who was that?” Joey panicked, tapping at the numbers frantically. She stood up. “The battery’s died. Jen, I have to go!” She hugged Jen briefly and dashed out of the door.

“Bye Joey!” Jen called after her as she closed the front door.

“Bye Jen!” Came Joey’s reply from down the street.

 

Doug stood in the doorway, looking at Pacey sprawled on the sofa still asleep. He crossed over and pulled the blinds open, spilling sunlight into the room and across Pacey's face. Pacey stirred and raised his head as Doug sat gingerly on the edge of the couch at his feet.

"Rise and shine." Doug said, cheerfully.

"That's the sun's job, not mine," Pacey grunted. Still he half sat up. He rubbed his eyes then ruffled his hair absentmindedly before becoming aware that Doug was staring at him with something akin to sympathy.

“What?”

“So you gonna tell me what caused my little brother to surprise me and my couch with a visit?”

“Can’t I visit my favorite brother when I want?”

“I was never your favorite brother. What’s more, I’m your only brother.”

“Can’t a guy have a change of heart?” Pacey chuckled, but his smile quickly dropped.

“It’s the Potter girl, isn’t it?”

Pacey slumped back down and let out an empty chuckle. He sighed. “Isn’t it always?”

“Wanna tell me about it?”

“Nah, not right now.” Pacey shook his head, pressing the side of his face into the cushion beneath him, avoiding Doug’s gaze.

“Okay, I’m going to work. I’ll see you later.” Doug stood.

“See ya later, Deputy Doug!”

Doug looked down on him silently for a moment. Then he was gone.

 

Pacey stood at the end of the dock near Dawson’s house, thinking back to the number of times they’d played and splashed in the creek. The water was still and serene. His gaze strayed to Dawson’s row boat, bobbing gently in the water. Was it really over two years ago he’d stepped into that boat, a heavy reluctance in his limbs, to row over to Joey’s dock to keep a promise to Dawson? ‘Can you talk to her, maybe watch out for her, at least for a couple of days?’ Dawson had asked him and his instant response had been a negative one. Instinctively negative. Why? He and Joey had been bantering enemies back then. He’d known he wouldn’t be thanked for trying to look out for her. He’d known she’d hate the fact that Dawson would have told him about his rejection of her. They’d rarely hung out together alone for any reason apart from when they’d organized Dawson’s sixteenth birthday party the year before.

Those reasons had all been factors in his reluctance to agree to Dawson’s favor. But there had been another deeply buried reason. He’d tasted what it was like to hang out with her the year before he’d met Andie, when he and Joey had been forced to do a biology project together and had gone snail hunting. One corner of Pacey’s lips lifted in a small smile at the memory. He had always noticed that Joey was a girl, but that particular evening spent in her company, sneaking a peak as she’d had to change out of wet clothes and especially afterwards at the fairground had been surprisingly fun. The night had ended with his kissing her. He’d been rejected, of course, because she’d been in love with Dawson waiting for him to notice her. That was something else that had surprised him – how much the expected rejection had hurt and how angry and irritated he’d become at the thought of her wasting her emotions on a guy, albeit his best friend, who was completely oblivious to her. But the thing was, that when Dawson had asked him to watch over Joey the memory of that kiss had flashed and blinked in the forefront of his mind.

He hadn’t wanted to hang out with Joey. He hadn’t wanted to be put into the position of being reminded how much fun he could have in her company. Why that worried him he hadn’t analyzed far enough, but he’d soon had bigger problems to occupy him when he found out after Andie’s return that she had cheated on him with a fellow patient over the summer. That had killed him. Later that year, it had been Joey killing him. At least, the knowledge of Andie cheating had been a clean cut, sharp shock. It’d been nothing compared to the sheer agony and long suffering he’d gone through during the events of ‘that spring.’

Pacey’s chest heaved as he drew in a deep sigh and let it out. The spring he’d lost Dawson’s friendship. Had he ever really had it? That was a question that had often haunted him since their estrangement. Once upon a time he would have said yes, but look at them now. They were polite strangers at the best of times. Dawson’s friendly exuberance at his boat party had been a drunken aberration.

Pacey turned and slowly walked up the slight slope to Dawson’s front porch. Still, friend or not, it wouldn’t prevent him from looking in on Gale, to see how she was doing since Mitch’s death and if she needed anything, see how Lily, Dawson’s little sister was doing, which reminded him to make a stop by the B & B at some point today. It’d be good to see Alex, and Bessie and Bodie, too, of course.

Just as he was taking a step up onto the porch, the front door swung open and Dawson stepped out. Pacey stepped back a few paces, seeing Dawson hesitate as he caught sight of him, his eyebrows raised briefly with surprise and descended down into a slight frown.

“Pacey?”

“Dawson.” Pacey inclined his head, not sure how he felt confronted with Dawson. “Didn’t realize you were in Capeside. I just came to look in on your mom.”

“Dawson!” Gale called from inside and then appeared at the door. Can you add a couple of pints of milk to that list? Oh, and – hey Pacey!” She glanced at Dawson before beaming a wide smile at Pacey, not unaware of the slight awkwardness in the air.

“Hey, Mrs Leery!” Pacey raised a hand in greeting.

“Dawson’s on his way to the store. Do you want to come in and wait or...?“

“Maybe in a little while.”

“Oh, okay. Dawson, can you get a bag of those choc chip cookies, too?”

“Sure thing mom.”

“See you later, Pacey.” Gale went back into the house.

Pacey waved at her retreating back then focused on Dawson again, jamming his hands into pants pockets. Dawson casually stepped forward, pulling the door shut behind him and coming down onto the lawn to face Pacey a few feet away.

“So, what are you doing in Capeside, Pacey?”

Chapter Text

Dawson was stood on the first step of his porch, with Pacey on the lawn a few feet away from him. Pacey looked into his face feeling the gulf between them and regretting it, feeling the underlying tenseness and hating that, too. Why after everything that had happened since ‘that spring’ did he still feel the loss of Dawson's friendship so deeply? He shook his head, coming back to Dawson's question.

"You know, there's a lot to be said for coming home to the bosom of your loving parents when life just won't give you a break," he said.

Dawson raised his eyebrows with some wry amusement. "The loving bosom of the Witter family? Somehow I find that hard to believe."

"Well, we weren’t all fortunate enough to have sprung from the loins of the pinnacle of motherhood that is your good mother, but believe it or not, Doug’s manly bosom has a lot of love to give! Heh! So what about you? What brings you home?"

"Just looking in on mom," Dawson hesitated, "and I wanted to discuss a few new developments with her. Moms worry, you know." He shrugged nonchalantly.

Pacey’s alerted antenna was belied by his echoing of Dawson's casualness. He dropped his head briefly as he kicked at an imaginary pebble on the ground and contemplated how he could pry what he suddenly considered potentially intriguing information from him.

"New developments? What you going back to LA?"

Dawson's eyes shifted away. "Uh, no. Actually, I'm going to film school in Boston and, uh... well, I want to discuss that with my mom."

There was something he wasn't saying. It was so obvious to Pacey, it was like a physical blow to his face. "So, looks like we all ended up in
Boston anyway, huh? Me, you, Jen, Jack...and Joey. Who'd have thought?" He watched Dawson's face carefully.

Dawson nodded, looking away. "Yeah, well, best laid plans and all that..."

"Not that that's a bad thing, of course. You think, come graduation you have to leave behind or move away from everything and everyone you're familiar with, you know?"

Dawson nodded warily as Pacey continued.

"Childhood haunts, painful memories," Dawson's eyes narrowed, "family, friends...old loves, but that's not always the case is it?" Pacey didn't know if he wanted to tell Dawson his own new developments, but he wanted to know what Dawson was hiding.

"Some of those things you can take with you,” Dawson finally said, “or revisit, others you find you can wipe out of your mind forever as if they never existed."

"Don't I know it," Pacey nodded, a little sadly, understanding the hidden message in Dawson’s answer.

Dawson breathed in deeply. "Just what exactly are you trying to say, Pacey?"

“Nothing, man. Nothing at all, but I get your meaning loud and clear.” He shook his head, drawing in a deep breath and letting it out slowly as he began to back away.

Just then a radio was switched on and they both flicked a glance back at the house. Gale could just about be heard singing along to the tune.

“Pacey, we can’t go back to how it was, but we can at least be civil with each other.”

“I was never anything but with you Dawson, or at least tried to be.” Dawson was about to protest, but Pacey held his hand up for silence. “Look, I only came by to check that your mom was okay. So I’m just gonna go now.”

Pacey turned and walked away. Dawson watched him for a second or two and was going to let him go. He really was, but he just couldn’t resist.

"Just a heads up, Pacey,” he called.

Pacey stopped in his tracks.

“Wouldn't want you to hear it from somewhere else..."

Pacey slowly turned around. It seemed he was going to find out what the other new development in Dawson’s life was. Their eyes locked.

"Oh, here we go,” Pacey muttered. “A head’s up, huh?”

"A head's up is more than you gave me two years ago." Dawson stared hard at him.

Pacey let out a disbelieving snort of laughter. "Like your major temper tantrum was ever about not receiving a head's up from us. You know what Dawson? Let’s not even go there. Please."

Dawson ignored the comment. “Joey and I, we're back together. We're more just picking up where we left off before my father died, really. Not that I expect you to care. You and Joey were over a while back. Your choice. You’d have found out soon enough, anyway. We all live in the same city now and have the same friends after all." Dawson continued.

'Yep,' Pacey thought as his eyes roved Dawson's face, 'there's that irresistible 'come smack me' arrogance of his radiating out in all its glory.

Pacey swallowed down hard on the string of expletives that threatened to spew forth but his hands curled into fists within his pockets. Hell, maybe they were together again! Maybe that movie night rekindled Joey's feelings for Dawson. Maybe she stalled on telling Dawson about them because yet again she had changed the object of her affections. Pacey found that idea hard to believe, but how else had Dawson got that impression?

"I know I pushed her away after my father died,” Dawson continued, “but my mind's clear now. I know what I want."

"I guess a weekend of sex with Jen will do that for you." Dawson's body tensed, his eyes narrowed, his nostrils flared. "What does Joey think about you rushing from Jen's bed to declare undying love for her? Or...doesn't she know yet?"

"It's got nothing to do with you Pacey."

"I care about Jen. That makes it my business."

"Well, you always did have a thing for my leftovers."

The red mist shimmered on the periphery of Pacey’s vision, heating his blood, gearing him up for fight mode. He strode over rapidly, squaring up to Dawson, enjoying his four-inch height advantage. His tone was quiet and deadly. "Oh, you couldn’t be talking about Jen and Joey. You just couldn’t be.”

Dawson’s chin rose as if to compensate for his height disadvantage. He was ready for a fight, but the dark menace in Pacey’s eyes unnerved him. "You know what I mean."

"Oh man, you kill me, you really do."

"Yeah? Come on, Pace. Sex pacts with Jen, stealing Joey from under my nose."

"She wasn't yours to steal, man!" Pacey jabbed his finger fiercely at
Dawson. Taken aback by the sudden ferocity, Dawson blinked rapidly, almost taking a step back.

"It's the truth whatever way you want to look at it."

"The truth as Dawson Leery sees it through his self-righteous rose tinted specs. You son of a bitch! Do you even remember who was first to show an interest in Joey? Did you even think that you might be stepping on my toes after Joey in a dress gave you a hard on? I kissed her before you! Did you ask for my permission to go after her?"

"It was me she wanted-"

"I'm talking about you and me!” Pacey yelled his frustration. “Blood brothers, remember? Didn't it occur to you to consider me and my feelings? The feelings I had for her before you opened your eyes? No! No, damn it, it didn't!"

"Look-"

"And when I left last summer for the Caribbean did you think about how warm my shoes were when you stepped into them? You fucking hypocrite!"

"Pacey-"

"So don't fucking lecture me in that smug, condescending, arrogant asshole way of yours with that contemptuous, self-righteous look in your eye. I don't deserve it! I deserve better. A better friend. I always have done. I just never admitted that to myself until now.” Pacey turned away, afraid of his temper getting the best of him and rapidly walked away.

"As long as you know who she's with now!” Dawson called after him, breathing heavily through the adrenaline rushing through his body. “That's all that matters."

Pacey had decided not to say anything. He had decided to just walk away from it all and forget them both. Not now. Not now. He let his temper get the better of him. He turned around and came up into Dawson’s face. He was close enough that their chests almost touched. There was tightly controlled fury in every word and Dawson heard it loud and clear.

“Maybe you ought to let Joey in on that little gem, 'cos the way she's been screaming my name, in my bed this past week-"

"You bastard!" Dawson pushed up against him, ready to raise his fists.

"You try it, Dawson. Just try it. 'Cos this time I won't back down. Come on, give me a reason to pound you into the dust." Pacey warned.

Dawson tensed, thinking better of his notion to slam a fist into Pacey's face. He contented himself with staring murderously at him. "You're lying."

"Wanna bet?" They eyeballed each other, like two enemy cowboys before a gunfight.

“Pacey!” Their heads snapped to the left, as Joey’s frantic voice broke the staring contest. Pacey’s gaze caught hers and held it as she ran up to them. Her concern and worry were etched vividly on her face and she shot a wary, but apologetic look at Dawson.

"He says you're with him." Dawson threw at her. "He says you've been
fucking him all week!"

Joey flinched at the expletive.

"Is it true?"

Pacey turned his head, refusing now to look at her as she launched into a stumbling nervous explanation.

"Pacey, I'm sorry, it-it was all just a misunderstanding."

His eyes narrowed against the pain in his gut. "Us?"

"No!" She touched his chest reassuringly, and then turned to Dawson, her wide eyes and pleading for him to understand. "Dawson when you came to my room yesterday, I-I was trying to find a way to tell you that-that Pacey and I were back together, but-"

"Jo, you were free to jump in at any time with that information! It would have saved a lot of time and heartache!"

"You didn't give me a chance! And-and then somehow you got the impression that-that I wanted us to-"

"Get back together," Dawson finished for her, his face colder and more shuttered against her than she had ever seen in all the years of their friendship.

"Would that be more arrogant assumptions on your part, Dawson?" Pacey drawled, derisively.

"I think the fact that Joey and I kissed might have helped me come to such an assumption, don't you think?"

Pacey turned his head to stare furiously at her. She shook her head violently in vehement denial, too choked to speak, afraid of the dark stormy pain in his eyes.

“Dawson, I thought I heard shouting. What’s going on?” Gale Leery came out onto the porch, looking with some dismay at the two young men, practically nose to nose. “Are-are you two fighting?”

Neither said a word. “Dawson? Pacey?”

‘Mom, please go back inside.” Dawson didn’t even look her way.

“No, I will not! I want to know why-“

“Please mom. We’ll sort it. It’s between the three of us.”

“No!” Joey interjected forcefully. “It’s between me and Pacey!”

“Wrong again Jo.” Pacey took hold of her wrist and pulled her hand off him. “It’s between you and him! I'm done here!"

Joey barely glanced at Dawson and grabbed Pacey's arm before he could leave. He shook her off and continued walking.

"Joey!" Dawson called, as she ran after Pacey, his mother coming up to stand close to him. He stood there helpless as Joey barely spared him a glance.

"Pacey!" He ignored her; walking at a pace so fast she had to run beside him. "Stop! Please stop and talk to me!" He took no notice of her. "Pacey! Please!" She begged.

He halted abruptly then. His chest rose and fell heavily, his fists rigid at his sides. Turning, he accused her. "You kissed him!"

"No! No, I didn't and I'm sorry! I'm sorry! I should have told him straight away about us, okay? I know. Just-"

"If you didn't kiss him then I'm really intrigued to know how he got the impression that it's you and him together instead of you and me.
Are you enjoying your cake, Joey?" He brushed past her.

"Joey!" Dawson called again.

She shot a brief look at Dawson, ignoring him to again pursue Pacey.

"Your boyfriend's calling you, Jo."

"He's not my boyfriend!" She gritted between clenched teeth. "It was a misunderstanding! You have to believe me. Let me explain! Pacey!
Pacey!"

But Pacey only speeded up and left Joey trailing behind until she gave up. She stood watching him until he disappeared, letting the tears trickle down her face unabated.

Dawson laid a hand on her shoulder and Joey rounded on him in a flash! "Why did you say that to him?"

"But it's true-"

"No! No it's not true,' she yelled. "You kissed me! You kissed me before I could stop you! You didn't give me a chance to protest!"

"You said we were Dawson and Joey again! You said you missed me, that we’d found what had been lost!"

"I was talking about our friendship!" Joey screeched furiously. "How could you not know that? And if you'd given me half a chance-"

"If you'd really wanted to tell me, Jo you would have."

She stared at him in disbelief, jaw working soundlessly.

"So it's true, then? You and him?"

"Yes! God! Dawson don't you think it's time to move on? Just how many goes at us do we have to go through before you realize we're just not meant to be?"

"Jo, you're probably still just confused. You weren't expecting to break up with Pacey last year-"

"I'm in love with Pacey!” She put all her pent up anger, frustration and fear into those words. “I don't think I ever stopped loving him, Dawson! You probably don’t want to hear that, but it’s the truth!" She covered her face with her hands as her emotions overcame her and began sobbing.

Suddenly, Gale was there, taking her in her arms and then leading her back towards the house. When Joey realized this she tried to free herself.

“No, I have to find Pacey. He has to understand-”

“Right now, sweetie, I don’t think he’s in the mood, but I’m sure he’ll give you the chance to make him understand once he’s cooled down. You can find him later. Come inside now.”

When Gale saw Dawson following them, she commented over her shoulder at him. “Dawson, have you been to the store yet?”

“No, but-“

“Go now, please.”

“Mom-“

“Now, Dawson.”

 

Pacey felt his muscles bunch tensely with pent up anger. He just wanted to let go and smash everything in his path, but he didn’t think Doug would appreciate coming home to find his apartment looking like a bombsite. Pacey slumped down onto the couch, dragging his hands through his hair. He thumped a fist against the cushion next to him and unable to sit still, he rose and paced up and down. He’d been so close to pummeling his former best friend, but what good would it have done? He sighed heavily. What was he supposed to believe? Did she kiss him or didn’t she? And if she did, then why? The agony of it clawed at his insides. She was supposed to tell Dawson she was back with him; instead she’d ended up in a clinch with Dawson! How the hell did you explain that? He’d have stopped for the explanation, but he couldn’t bear to look at her just now. He stilled in the middle of Doug’s living room, hands on hips, shaking his head. Could he and Joey come back from this? Was it as big a deal as he was making it out to be? His anger dissipated slowly as the melancholy began to seep in. He sat down again and closed his eyes. Right now he wished they could remain closed forever, that he could shut out the world, her face, his feelings and just slip into oblivion.

His cell phone pealed from its place on the side table where he’d forgotten it. He reached over for it, checking the caller ID. Melanie.

“Hey.”

“Hey there, sailor boy.”

“How you doing Melanie?”

“Great actually. I finally found a guy who finds me irresistible. I told him about you. He thinks you’re nuts.”

“Heh!” Pacey laughed half-heartedly. Melanie was the dean of Worthington’s niece. If his head had been in a better place he might have taken her up on her numerous offers of affection during his cruise during the summer. “I think I actually agree with him.”

“Ah ha! I knew you’d end up regretting turning me down! Still I had a lot of fun trying to turn your head.”

“You turned it, Mel. You did turn it.”

“Just not enough, huh?”

“What can I do for you or is this just a social call?”

“It’s kinda good news and bad news.”

“Oh oh. Bad news first please.”

“I’m sorry Pacey, but my uncle’s selling the boat.”

“Damn! I better make an appointment to go down to the mission!”

“Wait! Wait! I said there was good news too. How would you like to live in a bigger boat, more luxurious than the last one?”

“Are you kidding me?”

“Baby, it’s an eighty-foot shipyard schooner!”

"Beautiful!"

“And-“

“There’s more?”

“Uh huh, and, as I was saying, he wants to know if you want to sail around the Greek islands with him. He was always impressed with you, Pacey. Pacey? Pacey? Are you still there?”

“I’m here, I’m here! I’m just gob smacked.”

Her laughter tinkled softly down the phone line. “Actually, I put in a good word for you, so maybe you’ll be nicer to me now than you were last summer.”

“Ha!”

“Sooooo? What do you say?”

“Wow, that’s…really great.”

“Hmm, do I detect some hesitation? You’re my sailor boy. Sailing’s your thing, right? Or are you too busy climbing some corporate ladder to riches beyond compare to want live your dream on the seven seas? What you doing in Boston right now, Pacey?”

“Actually, I’m doing okay. I work at Civilization. You know it?”

“Yeah, it’s a great restaurant. You into cooking now, Pacey? Does that beat the sailing thing now?”

“Uh, it’s just you’ve surprised me. I need a little thinking time.”

“Oops!”

“What?”

“Did I forget to say it’s leaving in three day’s time? Would that come under good news or bad?”

“Ha! Oh man.”

Just then Doug came through the door. Pacey raised his eyebrows in acknowledgement as Doug went straight to the fridge in the kitchen.

“Do you want to come, Pacey?”

“Mel, it sounds fantastic, but-“

“Hey, listen, think about it, okay? Get back to my uncle with an answer and hope to see you soon.”

“Thanks Melanie. I will.”

Doug poured a glass of orange juice and came back into the living room as Pacey closed his cell phone.

“You okay?”

“I was just sitting here wishing I could escape my present situation.”

“And?”

“My prayer has been answered. Just like that.”

“What’s come up?”

“I’ve been offered the chance to sail the Greek Islands on Mr Kubelik’s new boat. It leaves in three days time.”

They looked at each other.

“You going?”

Pacey shrugged.

“You sorted out your girl problems yet?”

Pacey looked away. “Sailing away to the Greek Islands would be one way of doing that.”

“Isn’t that getting a bit old, Pacey? This would be like, what? The third time in three years?”

Pacey sighed heavily. “I shouldn’t have come back, Doug.”

“I’m only trying to offer some brotherly advice.”

“No, I mean I shouldn’t have come to Boston. It was a mistake. I wasn’t ready.”

“So you’re going?”

“I don’t know. I’m going to have to talk to Joey at some point again. I just-“

“What exactly has happened?”

“The same old, same old, Doug. You think me sailing away is old hat now? So is the merry go round Dawson, Joey and I have been riding these past few years.”

“So it always comes back to the proverbial triangle, huh?”

“It wasn’t supposed to this time, Doug. It really wasn’t.”

Chapter Text

Gale set a cup of tea in front of Joey on the Leery kitchen table and then sat opposite her. Her heart tugged at the mask of misery on Joey’s face.

“It may not be as bad as you think, Joey.”

“I’ve messed up again. I seem to keep doing that.”

Gale stretched a hand across the table and briefly laid it over Joey’s clasped ones. “You’re stuck in the middle. That’s never a nice position to be in.”

Joey shrugged uncomfortably.

“I take it from what little I saw and heard that you and Pacey are back together?” Gale asked tentatively.

“If we were, then we’re probably not now.”

“Um, I-I know things got a little difficult between you and Dawson after…after Mitch died…“

“Well, yes…”Joey trailed off, staring down at the kitchen table.

“Maybe you thought he didn’t care anymore-“

“His feelings for me…well, they…”

“You think he -?”

Joey stood abruptly. “I’m sorry Gale, I can’t-I can’t talk to you about this.”

“Joey-”

“I can’t whine to you about my problems when- when you’ve only just lost your husband, and I know you may feel you have a vested interest because, of course, Dawson is your son, but I-I just can’t talk to you about it. Please understand.” She half ran out of the kitchen.

Gale caught up with her at the front door. “Joey, of course you can talk to me. You’re like my own daughter and-”

Joey turned from the door. “And that’s how I feel about Dawson. I mean, like a sibling. I love him Mrs Leery, but not-,” she took a tremulous breath, “not like how I love Pacey.” She looked away sadly. “And that’s something he’s going to have a hard time facing.” Her short laugh was filled with self-mockery. “It took long enough for me to realize it myself. Look, he’s going to be back from the store soon and right now I really don’t feel like facing him and explaining the hows, whens and whys as to what changed between us.”

“Oh, honey…”

“I’m sorry. I have to go,” Joey whispered, close to tears again. Gale gave her a brief hug and watched Joey as she walked away, shoulders tense and hunched.

 

Two hours later Pacey was lying on the couch at Doug’s. He sighed and took his cell phone out of his jeans pocket and dialed Joey’s cell.

“Hello?”

“Hey.”

“Pacey!”

“Yeah.”

An awkward silence ensued and Joey tightened her grip on the phone anxiously. “Say something,” she pleaded.

“I'm sorry I left Boston the way I did yesterday, without warning you first. It wasn’t fair, but I was…upset. I mean, you gotta know something’s seriously wrong if I take off to sleep on Doug's couch!" His attempt at humor went down like a lead balloon.

“You okay? Or is that the stupidest question ever?”

Pacey shook his head and shielded his eyes with his arm. “Pretty much the stupidest question ever, I guess.”

Joey swallowed hard, biting down hard on her bottom lip. “I need to see you.“

No response.

“When are you going back to Boston?”

A pause. “Tonight.”

“I need to see you, Pacey,” she repeated.

No response.

“Can I come round now? We have to talk Pacey.”

“Jo, I really-“

“Don’t you want to see me? Don’t-”

“Jo, please. I-I need to think-”

“Think about what? I mean, why think when I could come round to Doug’s right now and we could talk about all of this?”

“That’s-that’s not a good idea.”

“Are we over? Is this the official brush off?”

“Finish with you over the phone, Jo? Come on!”

“Well, you took off to the Caribbean last summer. That’s not much better!”

“We were already finished back then!”

“Yeah, way to split hairs!”

She heard his heavy sigh as a tear trickled down her face.

“Give me tonight, Jo.”

She couldn’t respond. She was scared that if she opened her mouth she’d lose control and start sobbing horribly in his ear.

“Jo? Just give me tonight. Tomorrow we can meet up and-”

“And what? You can kick me to the curb again?”

“We’ll talk.”

“You know,’ her voice wobbled dangerously, ‘you’re not doing a very good job of reassuring me here, Pacey.” She paused. “I’ll see you tomorrow.” She hung up.

Bessie could tell by the way Joey pressed her lips together that she was trying not to cry.

"He doesn't want to see me." She set her cell phone down on the side table next to the sofa she was sat in.

"I guess he just needs time."

"He's going back to Boston tonight. Said he needed to think," Joey sniffed, 'and we could meet up tomorrow. To talk." Joey's eyes slid to Bessie's. "To talk, he said. I wonder exactly what he wants to say?"

"It might not mean what you think."

"Yeah right." Joey quickly wiped a hand across each eye in turn.

“You know what, Jo? You're at Worthington now. And you've got nearly four years left of the college experience! You'll probably fall in love and out of love many..." Bessie trailed off as Joey shook her head slowly, her expression set and uncompromising.

"So, Pacey's 'the one' then?"

"Yes."

Bessie moistened her lips. "There was a time when Dawson was ‘the one," she said gently.

"Bessie, for the longest time he was all I ever wanted, but after I got him, there-there was always something missing with him."

"And there isn't with Pacey?"

"No. He fills in all the blanks, Bessie. I never want for anything when I'm with him."

"Except your friendship with Dawson?"

Joey focused on her sister's face. "Ah yes," a bitter edge crept into her voice, "my confused fixation with Dawson. I let it pervade my relationship with Pacey and just when I got a second chance to be with Pacey I allow that- that preoccupation with Dawson spoil things again. Some vengeful deity somewhere must have decided that I don't deserve Pacey because I can't seem to keep hold of him. And I thought that was one of the problems with my relationship with Dawson! How ironic!"

“You’ll hate me for saying this, but may be you’re too young for the love of your life right now.” She hurried on over the narrowing of Joey’s eyes. “I love Pacey. You know that, but at this time in your life you should be living your life for you. You need to knuckle down and get the hard work done, then go out and play. Drink and be merry. Flirt with dozens of guys. Sleep with a few – but be bloody careful about it!” She smiled wryly at the rolling of Joey’s eyes. “You should be living it up in college. Not tearing yourself up over a guy.”

“He’s not just a guy and I appreciate everything you’ve just said, but-“

“But it’s all obviously fallen on deaf ears.”

“I don’t want to be footloose and fancy free, sleeping around with guys who don’t have a clue who I am or what makes me tick, and who aren’t interested in finding out either.”

“Joey! Maybe that’s exactly what you need. Dawson and Pacey know you too well and they’ve revolved around your whole life in this town-“

“I want Pacey.” Joey interrupted stubbornly. “He’s in Boston. I’m in Boston. We can be together. It can work - once we iron out the kinks.”

Bessie sighed shaking her head. “Okay.” She accepted defeat. Joey knew her own mind. It was obviously set and nothing she said was going to budge it.

Joey rose from the sofa. “This business has me frazzled. I’m going to lie down for a bit. I didn’t get a wink of sleep last night. I’ve been running on pure adrenaline alone since my mad rush in getting down here this morning.”

“Okay. I’ll see you later.”

 

Gale knocked softly on Dawson’s bedroom door and poked her head around as she opened it. “Can I come in?”

Dawson was stretched out on his bed, legs crossed at the ankle, arms folded behind his head. He barely nodded an acknowledgement. She came in and sank down on the bed beside him. Neither spoke for a full minute.

“I’ve lost her again, mom.”

“Oh, honey…”

“Correction. I never had her.”

“What’s always been the most important aspect of your relationship with Joey?”

“Our friendship, I guess. After everything we’ve been through, if it wasn’t for that I think we’d be complete strangers by now.”

“That’s what you need to focus on then. Joey will always need you in her life. Just because Pacey-“

“Pacey,” he interrupted. “He said he deserved a better friend than me. That he always had. How could he say that to me, mom? How could he have forgotten all the times I was there for him?"

"Maybe you should ask him."

"Heh! Yeah, we probably would come to blows, then. I think he was really tempted to lay one on me today. It was there in his eyes."

"Then somewhere along the line you must have hurt him really badly.”

Mother and son looked at each other for a long moment.

“Are you sure there's nothing from this former friendship you want to salvage?"

"It's dead, mom. There's nothing I want to take away from that history."

"Isn't there? Then why are you so bothered about what he thinks of you?"

He sighed out his annoyance.

“Maybe you should try talking to Pacey again. Hmm?”

 


When Doug came home that late afternoon he found Pacey lying on the couch in the same position he’d left him in this morning. If it hadn’t been for the fact that Pacey was fully dressed, he’d have believed he’d never moved a muscle since he left for work.

Pacey began speaking without preamble. “I’ve been lying here all afternoon trying to decide whether to go home or not. I feel like I received a major body blow today, Doug. The last thing I want is to add insult to injury by swinging on by the folks, you know?”

“If mom finds out you were here and didn’t-“

“I know.”

“You had all of yesterday to go and see them-“

“I know! I know!”

“Instead, you moped around this place all day.”

“Okay Doug! Give me a break!”

“Sorry, sorry,” Doug sighed. “I haven’t had the best of days and I’ve got to go straight back out again.

“You’re right, though.” Pacey sighed heavily and sat up. “I should at least say hello. Let dad take a few pot shots at my current profession-“

“There’s nothing wrong with what you do for a living, Pace.”

“He thinks I’m a loser, a flake. What do you think he’d say if I told him I was taking off to the Greek Islands at the drop of a hat?”

Doug narrowed his eyes contemplatively. “Have you decided to go?” He shot at him.

Pacey shook his head. “Not exactly, no.” He stood, stretched and yawned. “I might as well get it over and done with now. Truth is, I would like to see them. What time you finishing tonight?”

“Late. Very late.”

“I’ll probably be gone when you get back.”

“You know whatever you decide I’m behind you, right?”

Pacey nodded, and then found himself pulled into a brief hug. There was some mutual friendly back slapping before they pulled away.

“Don’t sail off without letting us know first.”

“I’ll let you know either way.”

“I hope it all woks out. I really do. My couch would love to be dribble free again.”

They grinned at each other, and then Pacey nodded to Doug before leaving the room.

 

**************

 

Pacey slipped his cell phone into his jacket pocket, and leaned back against Doug’s couch. He chewed silently on the inside of his bottom lip, and then his eyes slipped closed against the wave of melancholy that swamped him. He’d been sat there for the last forty-five minutes since getting back from his parent’s home. The visit hadn’t been as bad as he’d expected. Dad had been grumpy, but too tired to really needle him. After his initial surprise, he’d gotten used to his mother gushing all over him. He must have caught her on a good day because when he’d come back from Florida the year before it was like she hadn’t noticed he’d gone.

He’d then spent an hour strolling around Capeside before coming back to Doug’s apartment. He’d packed. Had been ready to leave forty-five minutes ago, yet he was still sat on the couch. What was he waiting for? He shook his head at himself, picked his carryall up off the floor at his feet and left the apartment.

Dawson was just about to enter the building. As Pacey came through the doorway, Dawson backed down several steps.

"You know, I'm really not in the mood for another argument, Dawson." He dropped his bag to the floor and advanced a couple of steps himself.

"I didn't come for a fight."

"What are you doing here, then?"

"I don't know." He looked away, then back, glancing at the bag.

"You're going back to Boston now."

"Yeah."

"Look, what happened earlier today was pretty ugly."

“Par for the course, man."

Dawson nodded. “I can't help the fact that I love her.” Pacey maintained a stony silence, looking anywhere but at Dawson. "And as long as we're both in love with her, we'll always be at odds with each other." Dawson continued.

"You mean as long as she continues to be in love with me you won't be able to give me the time of day."

Dawson's jaw clenched as his eyes shifted away again.

"That's the difference between us, Dawson. If it were you Joey wanted, I'd step back. Hell, I did it before. I could do it again. I'd be cool about it because she was happy, but you just can't do the same for me, can you?"

Dawson clenched his teeth against the truth in Pacey’s words.

"It’s okay, Dawson. I get the message. We're no longer best friends, friends of any kind and never will be again. Do we really need to go over this again?"

"You said you realized you had always deserved a better friend than me.
Do you really believe that?"

"Yes." Pacey said immediately, "Dawson, we were always like chalk and cheese, but we had a good friendship, you know? It was…it was important to me, man! I’d-I’d have done practically anything for you! I fell in love with Joey and I stepped aside for you, Dawson. Twice. The first time it irked. It irritated me, angered me. My ego took a blow, but this bigger part of it was that the first girl, my age at least, that I really liked and put myself out there for, rejected me because she was pining for a guy who hardly knew she existed as a potential love interest. But that was ok. I'd pretty much expected the rejection. Except I wasn't ready for the gut wrenching agony that clutched at me when I realized that I'd fallen for her a second time - and that this time it was a hell of a lot deeper than before. This time round it was going to be a hundred times worse because by this time you'd realized her worth, her beauty and had attached all manner of labels to her claiming her as your property, even though at the time I fell for her, you both weren't even an item."

Intrigued as he was to hear what Pacey was saying he couldn’t stop the jibe rising to his lips. “What is this Pacey? Confession time, or something?”

"We never talked any of this through back then. You weren't interested in anything I had to say and I became too angry to care what you thought.”

“So what are you telling me? That I should back off?”

“Why did you come here tonight, Dawson?”

His head dropped and he was silent for a long time. "Saying you deserved a better friend. It got me,” he admitted quietly. “I didn't expect anything you had to say would hurt me." Dawson was evidently finding this admittance difficult. "I’m not saying I don’t have any regrets about everything that’s happened, but it’s always going to be there be between us. I can't help how I feel about her.”

“Yeah, so you said.”

“I shouldn’t have come here.” Dawson muttered. He took another step down.

"Can I ask you something? It's personal and in a way not really any of my business."

"What?" Dawson turned back.

"Why did you sleep with Jen?"

At first, it seemed as though Dawson wasn't going to answer him. Then he looked at Pacey. Really looked at him. "Was she upset?" he asked, as if only now considering that possibility.

"Kind of."

Dawson closed his eyes briefly in regret. "I didn't mean to hurt her."

"Dawson, the women in our lives, despite their outwardly tough and spunky facades, have very soft centers. They hurt easily. I would even go as far as to say Jen more than anyone else."

"We were both consenting adults, Pacey and I'm not about to go into detail about my sex life with you."

"She was already smarting over Charlie. I just...don't understand why you'd go there."

"You mean I took advantage of her vulnerable state?"

Pacey looked away. “You need to be more considerate of people’s feelings, Dawson.”

"You're the last person I want or need a lecture from Pacey. I don't recall you thinking about Joey's state of mind when you moved in on her straight after her break up with AJ."

Pacey picked up his bag and hauled it over his shoulder.

"Here we go again. That was different, man."

"Yeah, it would be."

"It was completely spur of the moment. Besides, I knew she wasn’t really in love with that college guy. I knew she had feelings for me."

Dawson didn't say anything. He stuck his hands in his trouser pants and slowly descended the rest of the steps before turning back to Pacey.

"Two years ago, I told Joey that I refused to be her consolation prize. That I wouldn't be there to pick up the pieces when you eventually broke her heart." He allowed Pacey to digest this comment for a moment.

"If you hurt her again, and I know you will, rest assured, I'll be there for her in whatever capacity she's willing to accept. I've learnt something since this...triangle began. It's not about being a consolation prize; it's about just being there for the woman you love when she needs you." He began walking away down the street. "You always walk away too easily, Pacey."

Pacey, brows drawn broodingly over his eyes, watched Dawson until he disappeared from his view. Taking a deep breath, he let it out slowly, and then made his way to the train station.

Chapter Text

Dawson locked his car door and turned to go into his house. A figure sitting at the end of the dock caught his eye. Slowly, he made his way over. She didn’t look up as he sat down beside her, but she leaned forward a little, shoulders hunched, a curtain fall of hair hiding her face.

“Not the closet this time, huh?”

She shot a quick glance at him, shaking her head and mumbling, “no.”

They sat silently looking over the creek. He wondered why everything in his life came back to Joey. She wondered when their friendship would be normal again, like before. Before he had noticed her and before she had developed feelings for him. Way back before the raging teenage hormones had kicked in and changed them.

His eyes skimming the dark still surface of the water, he asked the question uppermost in his mind. The one he’d thought about asking Pacey, but hadn’t.

“Is it over?” His gaze never left the creek.

“Not if I can help it,” she replied, straightening her back now and shaking back her hair from her face. She looked past the creek into the dark evening sky.

Dawson nodded and then suddenly chuckled. Joey slid a wary look at him.

“Do you remember what you said to me when I told you you’d have to kiss Pacey for Sea Creature of the Deep?”

She drew in a small breath, looking everywhere except at him. She frowned momentarily as she cast her mind back. She nodded, keeping in check a wayward ironic smile as she quoted herself from four or more years back, “I cannot and will not kiss that cretin.”

Dawson raised an eyebrow. “I think I also recall words to the effect of, ‘he’s so…un-kiss worthy.’ ”

Joey looked back at Dawson, trying to gauge his mood. He didn’t look angry, or even sad.

She cocked her head slightly. “I meant them at the time,” she offered, continuing after his brief nod. “Pacey was just a thorn in my side more than anything else back then, but underneath it all, I had a…” she groped for the appropriate expression.

“A soft spot for him?”

“Let’s not go overboard, now.” She dared to roll her eyes, comically. “Soft spot is too strong an expression. Let’s just say that deep down I didn’t really hate him. And he didn’t really hate me. We were there for each other in odd ways back then.”

“But I guess he hasn’t been ‘un-kiss worthy’ for a long time?” She could feel his eyes on her, but she refused to look at him.

“Or a cretin, although I could easily revise the cretin part if I can’t patch things up with him.” Dawson needed to know she was serious about being with Pacey.

“He’s on his way back to Boston now.”

“How do you know?” She looked at him in surprise.

“I’ve just come back from Doug’s apartment.”

“You what-?“

“It’s okay. No punches were thrown.”

“Why did you go to see him?”

“To be honest, I’m not sure. After our fight today, I wouldn’t have cared if he was wiped off the face of the earth and I never saw him again.”

Joey’s lips twisted with displeasure.

“It’s how I felt, Jo.”

“Still?”

He didn’t answer.

“You know, I don’t think you hate him as much as you think you do.”
He sighed, and looked sad. “I’m sorry Dawson. This whole sorry mess is my fault.”

“No, it isn’t.”

“If I’d just told you about myself and Pacey straight away…”

“I would have found out I was too late. Again. And then I wouldn’t have got the wrong end of the stick and thought we were back together.” He sighed deeply. “How did we get here again Joey?”

“We don’t seem to learn from our past mistakes, Dawson.”

“Jo?” He waited until she looked him fully in the face. “Some mistakes I have learnt from. This time there’ll be no ultimatums. No manipulations. Whatever you want, whoever you want, I’ll always be here for you.”

“Thanks, Dawson.” She gave a tentative lop sided smile.

“The most important, most precious thing about us, you and me, about Dawson and Joey, is our friendship. I’m never going to risk that again, Jo.”

Her eyes began to fill and she dashed a stray tear away, managing another watery smile. Her hand crept into his.

“Now we really have found each other again,” she whispered.

He smiled back. “So, what you doing? You staying in Capeside tonight or…?”

She withdrew her hand. “Um, I’d rather get back to Boston. I’ll have-”

“I’m going tonight. I can give you a lift back if you want.”

“I’d like that. I blew off school today, so I can’t risk missing tomorrow as well.”

“Fine. Get your stuff and I’ll be over in an hour or so to pick you up.”

“Thanks Dawson.”

 

**************

“Audrey, for the thousandth time, I’m fine.” Joey stuffed her textbooks into her rucksack while Audrey lounged back on her bed watching her.

“Maybe you should give today’s classes a miss, too.”

“I can’t. It’s bad enough I missed yesterday’s!”

“It was for a good cause.”

“Yeah, and Pacey’s going to call me today, but I can’t cut classes again, Audrey. I doubt I’ll be able to concentrate, but I’ve got to carry on as normal. I’ve got to keep busy.”

“All my good work – ruined!” Audrey grumbled.

Joey’s hands stilled and she hung her head. Audrey scrambled off the bed and enveloped Joey in a hug. “I’m sorry.”

“You’re right. It is ruined.” Joey sniffled.

“No, it’s not! Not unless you let it be. When you see him, you sort it. It will work out, you’ll see.”

Joey searched Audrey’s face for some hope. “Will it, Audrey? Will it?”

Audrey nodded vigorously, but she couldn’t still the tiny curl of doubt in her mind.

“At least everything’s okay with me and Dawson now. He knows how I feel about Pacey and he’ll still be here for me as a friend. It’s a relief to know that.”

“You don’t have to worry about his feelings anymore.”

“In a way, yes.” Uncharacteristically for her, Joey rested her head against Audrey’s shoulder. “I’m scared. I’ve got a bad feeling. I don’t think Pacey-“

“I’ll not have you thinking like that, missy. Stay positive and if he does resist knock him over the head, ravish him until he doesn’t know whether he’s coming or going. He’ll be putty in your hands.”

Joey laughed. “If only, Audrey. If only.”

 

“Hey Mr Kublik. It's Pacey.”

“Pacey Witter, how are you?”

“I’m good, sir. Fine. Just fine. I appreciate you calling me back so soon.”

“It’s no trouble, son.”

“Well, as you know, Melanie relayed your offer to me-“

“Good. I hope you’re going to accept. I’d like you on board, Pacey. You’re a good worker, and maybe a luxurious trip around the Greek Islands will be adequate compensation for the loss of your current home. So what do you say?”

Pacey nervously cleared his throat. “Yes, uh, about that wonderfully generous offer to sail around the exotic islands of Greece…”

 

“…Hey, Joey.”

“Hey, Pace.”

“How are you?”

“Fine, fine. Just finishing lunch.”

“Okay, uh-“

“And…you? How are you?”

“Yeah…uh can you come round tonight?”

“Um, sure. Sure. Of course, I can.”

“Good.”

“Any particular time? I mean, I can come straight after college. Is-is that okay?

“Cool, yeah.”

”Okay, well, I’ll see you then.”

“See you later...”

 

**************

"Dawson! Hey!"

Jen took one look at his face as he stood on her doorstep and knew. "Pacey's been blabbing big time, hasn't he?" She asked and turned away without waiting for an answer. Closing the front door behind him, he followed her into the front room where she had the latest rock tune blasting out. She lowered the sound slightly and stood watching him, her arms wrapped around her body as though for comfort.

"Jen, I'm really-"

"Please don't apologize. I didn't do anything I didn't want to do. I don't regret it and I was never under any illusions, Dawson. So please don't come here apologizing as if - as if I've been the victim of some crime. I'm tired of being a victim!"

She had meant to say she was tired of being treated like a victim, but her words betrayed her. A victim was exactly what she felt like, but she refused to accept that role. It didn't help that Dawson just stood there, so patient, with concern and compassion plain on his face. It made her feel like flopping into a heap on the floor sobbing. Through blurred vision she scowled at him. Then his arms were around her and he was pulling her resisting body into his embrace. She felt the soft touch of his lips on the top of her head and relaxed. She savored the comfort of his arms a moment more then pulled away.

“Dawson, it really isn’t about you.”

“I’m not assuming it is.”

“Aren’t you?” He shook his head. “I’m just feeling a little disorientated right now. You know, with Charlie cheating, Jack and I at loggerheads…”

“And the lousy timing of our, er-“

“Yeah, that too.” Jen said quickly. Irritated by the music now she picked up the remote control from the nearest couch and clicked the sound system off, tossing the remote down before turning back to Dawson. “Like I said, I-I don’t regret it, but maybe sleeping with you wasn’t the best idea we-“ She broke off her sentence as she suddenly noticed Jack at the entrance of the room. He looked from Dawson to Jen.

“Uh, sounds like the film festival was, er…eventful?” His eyes were trained on Jen, narrow with disapproval.

“Uh, it was,” Dawson said. “I won.”

“In more ways than one, it seems.”

A tense silence descended. “Jack, it’s none of your business.” Dawson told him.

“Yeah, as in this was a private conversation!” Jen snapped, flushed with embarrassment and anger.

Jack chuckled with incredulity. “God, Jen you’ve only just broken up with Charlie!"

“Jack! Leave her alone. You don’t know what you’re talking about!”

“Dawson-” Jack began.

‘Dawson, could you leave me and Jack alone for a sec?” Jen interrupted. She didn't want to be embarrassed any further in front of Dawson.

“Alright,” he replied reluctantly. “I’ll go and answer the call of nature.” He left the room, affording one last concerned glance at Jen.

“Jen, what is this?” Jack came closer. “Your way of mending a broken heart?”

“Jack-“

“Or your unique way of comforting a recently bereaved friend?”

“H-how dare you? You,” she thrust a shaking forefinger at Jack, “don’t get the chance to sneer at me! You don’t get the right to lecture me and make it, oh so clear, how much you disapprove of my actions!” Her voice trembled as tears clogged up her throat. “You washed your hands of me weeks ago, remember?”

“And that led you to this, Jen? You going off the rails again?”

“What do you care?”

“I care about Dawson-“

“But not me, right?”

Jack looked away and sighed. “His father just died. What the hell were you thinking?”

“Maybe I needed a best friend.”

“Well, now that I consider it, this seems to be a common theme amongst our incestuous little circle. You sleep with all your best friends, Jen?”

“That’s enough Jack.” Dawson’s steely tones came from behind him and then he brushed past Jack to stand beside Jen. She stood staring at Jack incredulously, and then pushing past him, ran from the room.

“How could you be so cruel?”

“If the truth hurts-“

“The truth? How would you know what the truth is? The only reason you know she split with Charlie is because you overheard me mention it to Grams and now you’ve overheard what happened between me and Jen at the weekend. What does that tell you Jack?”

“Look Dawson, I’ve got no problem with you.”

Dawson continued as if he hadn’t spoken. “Is that what it’s going to be like from now on? We were all friends once. Is the only way you’ll know what’s going on in our lives going to come from snippets of conversation you overhear every now and then?”

Jack opened his mouth to speak, but Dawson ignored him. “It’s okay to want to experience new things, to make new friends, Jack, but does that really mean you have to throw away the old ones?”

“That’s not fair-“

”Have you any idea how much she’s hurting right now? Once upon a time you would have. Is it really that difficult to balance the old and the new here? She needs you, and damn it Jack, I think you need her, too.”

Dawson left Jack to think and strode out. Jen was lying on her bed, stomach down, face hidden in the well of the arm supporting her head. At no response from his tentative knock, he’d entered and now sat on her bed.

“Jen.”

“He hates me.” Came her muffled voice. “How did that happen, Dawson?”

“He doesn’t hate you.”

She lifted her head, wet, spiked lashes hiding her expression. “Did you hear the things he said to me? He hates me!” She buried her face again.

Dawson remained quiet, gently rubbing her shoulder. Then she suddenly sat up, crossing her legs and scrubbing her face dry.

“I’m not going to cry anymore over this! He’s not worth it.” She trained her gaze on Dawson. “I want to know something.”

“What?”

“What was it about our last night at the film festival that helped you decide you wanted Joey back? I mean, you sleep with me and then you try to get Joey back. Am I that lousy in the sack?”

“Oh, Jen. You know better than that.”

“Damn straight! I rocked your world that night, buster. I know it.”

“I know it, too.”

They looked at each other for a long moment.

“You’ve always loved her.” Jen whispered for him. “And that’s never going to change – no matter how great sex with me is. Am I close?” She sniffled softly.

He took her hand, held it and gave it a brief squeeze. “I’m an idiot, aren’t I?”

“You can’t help it.” Jen shrugged. She could deal. Like she’d told him, it wasn’t really about him. She had demons of her own to fight. She turned speculative eyes on him. “What happened back in Capeside?”

He didn’t quite hide his surprise.

“Joey came round night before last in a real state.”

He nodded. “That’s the other reason I’m an idiot, but I’m going to be there for her whatever happens.” He stood and gazed thoughtfully out of the window across the room. “He’ll screw up. He always does.”

“Don’t! Don’t talk like that, Dawson. You’ve got to respect her decisions. Her choices.”

“Oh, I do,” he turned back to Jen, ‘but I don’t have to like the situation, do I? I do respect her right to choose. That’s why I’ll be here for her when he breaks her heart again.”

Jen sighed sadly. “Do you respect his right to her love for him?”

His eyes flattened briefly and shifted. Then a sudden bright smile lit up his face. “What do you say we go out for dinner tonight? It’ll get you out of the house away from Jack and it might even cheer you up.”

Jen sighed, allowed the worried light in her eyes to dim. “As long as we make a solemn promise to leave sex off the menu. It only complicates things.”

“Agreed. I’m glad we’ve uncomplicated the aftermath of our little, er, weekend adventure.”

“Me too.”

“As long as you know, and I’m not saying this ‘cos the sex was great, but I love you Jen and I’m really sorry if I-“

“Oh please.” She shooed away his apology. “I thought we’d covered that already.”

“I wouldn’t hurt you for the world.”

“I know.” She smiled and held her hand out for his. He took it and helped her off the bed. “Give me a second to get changed.”

He paused at the door on his way out. “I’m just going to say one more thing and then the topic of Jack is off the menu, too.”

He ignored the askance look she gave him. “He’s gonna wake up one day and wonder what the hell he was thinking replacing you with a load of frat boys. Seriously. Give him time, huh? He’s not as wise and level headed as you.”

“Me? Level headed? Ha!”

Dawson gave her a quick grin. “See you downstairs.”

 

**************

Joey squeezed past Pacey and went down the stairs into the cabin. Pacey closed the doors and followed her down. She stood awkwardly in the middle of the room as he took her rucksack from her.

“What you got in this? It’s heavy.”

“Uh, just stuff,” she said nervously.

“Do you want something to drink?”

She shook her head vehemently. “Let’s just talk.” This was no time for small niceties.

Pacey nodded jerkily. He seemed to be having some difficulty meeting her eyes and a sense of foreboding pitched up in Joey’s gut. She took off her jacket, which he took from her and went to hang up. When he came back she was sat on the nearest seat, and looked up expectantly at him, hands clasped in her lap. He noted her white knuckles before sitting beside her.
His own hands hung between his open legs, head down. “Joey…” He began, but got no further.

“Is this a sinking ship, Pacey? And am I alone here in trying to try to bail this relationship out?”

He looked up. She saw regret swirling in their depths and her breath hitched. “You may not want to fight for us, Pacey, but I do and I don’t think-”

“Jo!"

She waited a beat.

“Joey, the dean’s selling this boat and has offered me a job on his new one cruising the Greek islands.”

A full four seconds ticked by. “What?” Joey stared at him incomprehensively. Surely she hadn’t heard him right.

“He’s offered me a job. I-I think I’m going to take it.”

Joey shook her head. “No, no you are not!”

“Jo-“

“When?”

He ran a tongue along his dry lips. He couldn’t face putting fresh pain in her eyes.

“Soon.”

“Soon, when?”

“Just…just soon.”

“You’re-you’re going to leave me again?” she whispered. “You can’t!”

“I have to.” He kept his voice low and quiet.

“Why?” she wailed.

"The timing's all wrong."

"You don't trust me, do you?" His silence was answer enough.

“It doesn’t have to be like this, Pacey.”

He looked up at her. “I’m not over it all, Jo.”

“Over what?”

“I should have been when I came to Boston, but I wasn’t. It’s you, it’s me. It’s Dawson.”

Joey shook her head tiredly.

“Yeah, that same old chestnut, Jo. Nothing's changed. The reasons I have to leave again are…no, wait. That's not true." He came up to her, draped a hand through the strands of her hair before briefly resting his hands on her shoulders. "Last year I told you I felt like nothing. That's not how it is now. If anything you make me feel too much, Jo. It's-it's agonizing. I can't stay and be your friend. I can't stay and make you happy when I'm unhappy. I need to get over you. I need to get over Dawson. I need to get over this-this fallacy of soul mates."

"Pacey-"

“Hear me out. When I first realized that I’d fallen in love with you I became thoroughly disheartened and sickeningly jealous of the ballad of Dawson and Joey because you seemed to have this special, unbreakable bond between you. Then I became frustrated and completely fed up to the back teeth of it because I then saw that it was actually an unhealthy, destructive merry go round. But look where we are, you and I. We seem to have composed a ballad all of our own. Heh! And it ain’t pretty.” He shook his head, looking earnestly into her eyes. “When I came to Boston I had such hopes. I thought I'd cleared all the cobwebs away. I guess I was just fooling myself. The thought of getting another chance with you fogged my brain. So when I found out at Mitch's funeral that you and Dawson..."

"You didn't seem too fazed."

"I was furious, Jo. Mad and jealous and ugly furious. I thought you
loved me."

"I do!"

"Not from where I stood then. Not if you'd already run back into Dawson's arms. I think I'd have understood it better if it had been some random guy
I didn't know, but Dawson. You weren't supposed to be in love with him anymore."

"I wasn't! I was confused!"

"How could you be so confused, when a few months earlier you were so sure about us?”

Joey gulped in air, frantically. “Pacey, if we want this relationship to work, then we make of it what we want. We put in what we want to get out of it!”

“Well, you put in Dawson. Why was he even still in the equation?”

Joey spun away from him, clamping her hands to the sides her head as though she were going to start tearing her hair out, then threw them out wide. “Why do we always do this?” Head bent he remained silent. She turned back to him. “Okay, I was supposed to tell Dawson about us and I didn’t. I’m sorry! I wanted to, but…but…”

"But what, Jo?” Slowly he raised his head to look at her. “Just for the record, why didn't you tell him?"

She wrung her hands. "I-I-"

"Don't tell me you don’t know,” he cut in quietly. “You know."

Chapter Text

Joey drew in a shaky breath. “The magic was there.” She closed her eyes on Pacey’s wince and opened them again quickly. “It’s not what you think. Things were awkward between us at first, but soon we were fine. We became Dawson and Joey again.” Huge, anxious eyes gauged his reaction. His jaw line firmed as his lips compressed thinly with displeasure. He turned his head aside.

“Purely in the friendship sense, Pacey. It was comfortable. It-it was-”

“Let me guess, like old times, right?” Bitterness laced his every word.

“Yes! Okay? Yes! Like old times. And-and you were right, I didn’t want to-to destroy the mood.” The words tripped out of her mouth in her haste to explain. “It was the first time since he’d rejected my support after his father’s death that things felt right between us. So, I decided not to tell him about…about us.”

"I thought we'd left past mistakes behind, but nothing's changed!"

“I was going to the next day, though!” Joey rushed on.

"But instead, somehow, he got the impression-" he broke off abruptly, held a hand up in the air and shook his head. “No, it doesn’t matter anymore. I don’t want to know-“

“Oh Pacey!” She moved into his body space, her fingertips grazing his stomach. Pacey instantly backed away. Joey resisted the urge to follow him. Instead, she held him with her eyes. “You know there’s a lot of history between Dawson and me. Puppy love, the notion of soul mates, but that’s all it is now! History! He made me a white picket fence, I dreamed about a perfect life with him and-and we thought we'd be each other's firsts, but it didn't work out that way - and I'm glad for it, Pacey. Glad!"

"Which is why you lied to him about sleeping with me last year!"

"Oh, Pacey!” She cried in frustration. “That's the past! If you can’t put it behind you, then we are right back where we were a year ago!”

"You let him carry on thinking he was your everything, that he was still the most important thing in your life, but that spot was mine, Jo!"

"It is yours!"

“How can I be sure?”

“But it is, Pacey! It is!”

He shook his head.

"Yes! Pacey, please!" She caught the front of his shirt in her fists. He jerked away from her grasp, putting distance between them. He caught the edge of desperation in her voice and hated the fact that he was putting it there, but he couldn’t stop this now. Whatever followed next was inevitable.

"Then you tell me how instead of finding out you were with me, he ended up thinking he was with you!"

“Pacey…”

"You see, Jo? You see how that past seems to be intruding quite nicely upon the present, our present? Again!"

“I’m not going to lie to you, Pacey. Dawson will probably always be a part of my past - my present and future, too."

“Right, and I get that, Jo, but that’s not really the point.”

“Then what is the point? Last year I lied to save his feelings. Stupidly, I thought it wouldn’t hurt anyone. I was happy, I had you. I had hurt him and he was unhappy, so I lied. Is it really that important considering that the implication behind all of that is that he isn’t the most important person in my life anymore?"

"So I win by default, then?"

"Oh, I just can't win with you, can I?" Joey yelled in frustration, as the fear that she really might lose Pacey began to kick insistently in her gut. “I love you, Pacey. Isn’t that what’s real here? He might still see me in a romantic sense, but that’s his hard luck! Look, I found him waiting outside my room when I got back from classes on Tuesday and the first thing he did on entering my room was kiss me! He caught me completely by surprise! Then-then he waxed lyrical about us. I thought he was talking about our friendship. He wasn’t. We were talking at cross-purposes. He was in a hurry to leave because he was on his way to Capeside and-and by the time I realized exactly what he’d meant he had gone! Then I found out you’d gone up to Capeside too! I was beside myself! I agonized over whether to follow you up there or not. In the end I did and I-“

“Jo, it’s not going to work.” He couldn’t let her carry on gabbling.

‘No! No! What do you expect from me? Do you think you’re the only one who felt bruised and battered last year? You loved me, but you couldn’t be with me. My heart was spinning. Then it was shattered. It didn’t know if it was coming or going!”

"Except what was it you told me? 'My heart? That's a fixed point.” Her head reared back, her mouth falling open slightly as he recited her own words from a year and a half ago back at her. 'Three months on the open seas couldn't shake it, and I won't let your insecurities shake it, either. My heart never left this boat. It never left you. And it's not going to any time soon.' You forget Joey, I remember everything."

Slowly she dropped her head, swallowing the lump that came to her throat.

“Yes, I hurt you. I left you and you may never know how sorry I am for that,” he said now, coming closer and using a finger under her chin to gently raise her head. “But I was bruised too, and yet my heart remained a fixed point.”

She gazed into his beautiful blue-green eyes. There was no accusation or bitterness there, just a sad resignation. Her heart squeezed painfully to be reminded of her words from back then. He obviously no longer believed them to be true. He thought her heart had shaken itself free of him. Nevertheless, she pressed her lips firmly together, shaking her hair away from her face.

"Didn't you know about the get out clause on that one?" she asked.

He dropped his hand and huffed out a breath, looking away. "What clause would that be?"

"Getting dumped by your boyfriend entitles you to pull up anchor and move on."

"And with incredible alacrity, too," Pacey commented, softly.

"And you Pacey. Didn't you?”

“No,” he drew the words out slowly. “I never did.”

Silence for a long moment.

“Let me explain something to you about last year, Jo.” She gazed anxiously at him. “Bear with me now. It’s old news, but we never did discuss it fully.” He took a deep breath. “When Andie told me she had cheated on me, something...something inside me broke and it hurt like nothing I could imagine. You see, Andie was the first woman who saw behind my smartass mouth and clownish antics, Well, Tamara did, too, but Andie was special and she did see the real me, and she made me realize that I had the talent, the potential to be something more than…than just the town loser.”

“I told you that, too!” Joey interrupted, hating the almost petulant whine that managed to slip in and then averted her eyes at Pacey’s indulgent look. She fidgeted a little on her feet, ashamed to admit to the twinge of jealousy felt at his praise of Andie and the warmth in his voice as he spoke of her. She tentatively raised her head as he continued.

“We loved each other so much. That's why I couldn't get my head around her betrayal. It just didn’t compute and yet despite that, another part of me nodded in expectant acknowledgement. You see, when we broke up, I admitted to her that when she first began to get ill, I’d wondered if I was the right man for her. Her illness left me flailing. It was something I couldn't fix. I felt helpless.” His hands came to close around Joey’s upper arms, but quickly let go. He contented himself with patting them slightly. “And that's how I felt by the time our prom came around last year. Helpless against all the negativity threatening to completely swamp me. My attempts at reconciliation with Dawson were met with pretty much a cold front. I was struggling to make up three failed classes on top of my normal load and then there was you. There were my bad grades against your brilliant ones; you were going on to a prestigious college, while I would barely get into Capeside Community College. As for our relationship, I wanted you, but I didn't want you. I loved you, but you made me feel impotent. I didn't expect to explode at you, Jo, but I did. It had just built and built."

"And I never even noticed," she whispered miserably.

“It was a lot of things. Maybe the worst of it was that I was living through you. You were the reason for my existence and it was becoming clear that we were poles apart. I was Capeside, the place you'd always wanted to get away from. I know I said seeing you dance with Dawson didn’t bother me, but it was a trigger. You were both laughing, happy. I thought about how you would graduate and go on to Worthington. He would get into a good film school. And me? I was a laughing stock because I'd be stuck in Capeside. What's more, it was him you were laughing and dancing with. The guy who had always been between us, the guy who when I least needed to be reminded would tell me I wasn't worthy of you. Who, in other little ways during the course of our so-called friendship, would remind me that I was a loser and who just couldn’t find it in himself to forgive me for my betrayal that spring. So, there I was, at the prom, facing a bleak academic future, just as I'd always feared. So, um, yeah, the fact that you were dancing with Dawson was pretty much the trigger for my outburst.” He looked down into her face, tracing its contours, with his eyes, gazing sadly into her dark eyes. “I just felt like a loser Jo.”

“Oh, Pacey!”

“It’s how I felt! I didn't feel worthy of you. I didn't want you to leave me to go to Worthington, but I knew it was inevitable. That I couldn’t and shouldn’t hold you back. It made me resent you, despite how proud I was that you’d achieved your hard won goal. How could I continue to be with the woman I loved when I felt like taking all my frustrations out on her? I went away to clear my head, but your face haunted me, Jo. When we docked in Boston I should have gone straight back to Capeside. Instead, I needed to be near you. Proximity is a good thing. Right?” He threw her a meaningful glance. Yet more familiar words from their history. She nodded in acknowledged remembrance. “I thought maybe we could try again. But what did I find? Dawson was on the scene again and then I find out that he’s kissed you, thinks he has another chance with you because you couldn’t bring yourself to let him take the news like a man that we were together. There he was, is, intruding on the fragile thread of our renewed relationship again. Can’t you see why I need to do this?”

“Pacey,’ she began and saw something in his face harden. There was resolve there. He meant to do this. He really meant to go, no matter what she said, but she wasn’t going to let that happen. Surely, if she reasoned and argued enough, fought and pleaded enough, he’d realize they were worth another go. She’d never really done that for him before. Not properly and even at the worst of times he could never refuse her anything. Not usually.

"We can make it work, Pacey. The way we feel about each other, surely we can make it work?" She slid her arms about his waist, pressed close as she rose on her tiptoes to pursue his lips.

"Jo..." He pulled at her arms as he tried to evade her mouth. "Joey. Don't. This is the last kind of complication we need."

"This kind of complication we’ve always been good at, Pace.” She allowed him to pull her arms down and when he let her go, she merely linked her hands behind his neck, fingering the locks at his nape. "Let’s get complicated, Pacey,’ she whispered against his lips, ‘maybe then you'll realize how much you need me, how much you want me and how much you don't want to let go of me - because I don't want to let go of you Pacey. I refuse to."

"Jo-"

She pressed a quick kiss against his mouth, felt her blood begin to hum in her ears. If she could already feel the heat rising between them, then surely he could, too. "What was it you said to me when I confronted you about your plans to sail away for the summer to Florida? You never ask me to stay?" Her mouth reached up to his ear, nuzzling seductively, even as he reluctantly strained away from her. “I can remember things, too.”

She stared boldly straight into his eyes.

He didn’t answer, merely swallowed hard, unable to hide how his pupils widened with growing desire, or the heated darkening of his irises. "You don't need to paint those words on a wall for me again, Pacey. This time I am asking you to stay. Stay for us."

She made him want to, so badly. He framed her face with his hands, looking at her for long seconds. Her gaze was so wide and earnest. He had no doubt she believed every word she was telling him. In the here and now. He rested his forehead against hers and shook his head. She caught his lips for a long searing kiss, refusing to allow him to shake her mouth free and after a few seconds he was kissing her back just as ravenously. When he felt her hands pull his shirt out of his pants, he reared back.

“Pacey, what do you want me to do-?”

"There's nothing..." He began to pull away. She let him go. He turned away, throwing his arms out helplessly. “I don’t know how to…I just…” He was breathless, trying to block her kiss and the imprint of her body against his from his mind. “All I know is-”

When he turned back Joey was in the process of pulling her top over her head and whatever he’d been about to say fled his mind. She tossed it aside and stood for a moment, saw his eyes graze over her breasts clad in a sheer, black scrap of a bra edged in pink and black satin. Her nipples began to peak at his attention, plainly visible through the fabric.

“Jo…” he croaked and swallowed on his dry throat. He watched as her hands went to the button fly of her jeans. She was killing him here. She did know this, didn’t she?

“Whoa! Whoa! Joey stop! This-this is…wrong….” She flicked open button after button, heart thudding madly against her rib cage, until matching panties peeked through. Pacey bunched his fists and turned his back on her. “Sex won’t fix what’s wrong with us.”

Her arms slid around his waist, the palms of her hands pressed flat against his stomach and she felt his whole body stiffened in response. He pulled forward, trying to get away. She tugged him back. He turned to face her, while she held on tight, afraid to let go. Even as he kept his eyes on hers, his arms hung limp at his side.

“Jo-”

“I listened to you, Pacey, now you listen to me.” He closed his mouth and nodded, averting his eyes from her cleavage. “A few years ago I didn’t think anybody loved me. My mother had died. My father seemed determined to make prison his permanent home. Malicious gossip followed me wherever I went due to my living situation, the boy I loved was completely oblivious to me and this un-kiss worthy cretin was always bugging the hell out of me!” She afforded him a sweet smile that he couldn’t resist. His hands crept up to clutch at her waist. “I would never in a million years have believed that that cretin, that-that jerk, that…little jail bait would turn out to be the man to turn my world on its axis! Who would make me feel more loved than I could possibly have imagined. I took you for granted, Pacey. Yes, I did, but I paid for that when you left last year. Now I want you back. You, this funny, sexy perfect-”

“Sexy?” He interrupted, piqued despite his better judgment. His eyes narrowed as he considered that word. “You’ve never called me that before.”

“I haven’t?” He shook his head. “Well, I’ve thought it. Many a time.”

A reluctant smile tugged at his lips. “Really?”

Sucker, Joey thought gleefully, quelling the desire to kiss his beautiful mouth there and then.

“What else? Anything dirty?” He raised an eyebrow unable to keep his gaze from dropping to her breasts. He quickly licked dry lips.

She merely arched a brow, relieved to have taken the seriousness out of the situation, if only for a moment.

“I’ve talked dirty to you,’ he said, ‘but you’ve never done it to me, if I recall.”

“Sexy is not a dirty word! And apart from that, er, one time, you know the one, after that argument we had, you’ve never talked dirty to me!” Joey’s face suddenly flamed at the memory. The sex had been red hot. “What was that argument about, anyway?”

“That’s not the part I remember,” Pacey murmured, meaningfully.

“It was probably about Dawson.”

“Probably.” He frowned a little.

It was an argument that had resulted in angry sex, which had turned into sweet, make-up sex. Pacey’s language had been extremely crude and colorful in the way he’d told her how sexy she was, how much he wanted her, what he was going to do to her and what he wanted her to do to him. She couldn’t recall ever feeling that horny before.

They both reached back to that memory, felt the body heat between them rise dangerously. It brought Pacey back to his senses.

“No, this isn’t funny, Joey.” He shook his head free of the steamy visuals and tried to ignore the hardening in his pants. “We have a serious situation here and-“

“Trying to make me angry, Pacey?” She nipped at his bottom lip.

“Ow!” He exclaimed, more in surprise than pain. His cock gave an answering throb.

“Now where was I before you interrupted my flow?”

“Jo-“

“Uh, yes. I didn’t know you’d turn out to be the guy who could-“

“I’m not perfect, Jo.”

“You’re perfect for me,” she whispered against his mouth.

He shook his head.

“What’s the matter Pace? You feeling guilty? You can’t take the praise? You can’t take tonight with me because you’ve decided to leave anyway? Hmm?”

He looked away. She trailed her lips along the exposed side of his throat.

“Let me persuade you to stay. Let me have a damn good try, Pacey. You owe me that. You always try to be so noble. Always protecting me from myself. To hell with that, Pacey!”

She popped open the buttons of his shirt before he could stop her. He tried to catch her hands, but they were already sliding beneath the material and smoothing over warm, taut flesh. Pacey grunted at the contact.

“Tell me you’re staying, Pace. At least give us tonight to work it out. It might look different in the morning. Tell me that you’re not going anywhere.” She caught his lips with hers, sliding a sly, clever tongue inside that caused him to moan involuntarily. “In fact, tomorrow doesn’t exist. Only now.” She deepened the kiss. “Say it Pacey. It’s just you and me and now. Tonight.” She pressed closer, rolling her hips gently, suggestively against the prominent erection in his pants. Her hands went behind her back and unclasped her bra. She let it fall to the floor before pressing naked flesh against his. “Say it.” She nuzzled his ear.

“I-I’m staying,” he whispered, hoarsely. Somewhere in the back of his mind he thought this would be his last night with her. How could he not take it? Whatever the aftermath, he’d deal with it.

“You’re not going anywhere.”

His hands slid into her hair, cradling the back of her head as they kissed again. Joey felt her heart drum madly with the victory, pounding in her ears as she felt his surrender.

“I’m not…going…anywhere.” He fluttered tiny kisses along her cheekbone.

“You’re staying with me.” She pushed at her jeans now, easing them over her hips, happy when she felt his hands help her drag them down. His hands then roved over her, luxuriating in the feel of the sheer fabric of her panties, curving, caressing and molding the smooth, firm cheeks of her bottom.

“Staying…staying with you. Joey,” he panted, softly.

She stepped out of jeans, kicking them aside. Her hands were already pushing his shirt over his shoulders, as he captured her mouth fully, completely lost. He lifted her up against him until her feet left the floor. Hands raking through his hair, her lips glued to his, their tongues dancing, they stumbled back onto the nearest bench. He sat abruptly onto the plush fabric as she thrust her breasts forward. She wasn’t going to give him breathing space, much less thinking space. His hands, with her encouragement, came up to mold and squeeze, lick and bite, and suck greedily in tune to her ardent moaning.

“Joey,” he breathed, curling a tongue around one taut nipple.

She slipped her hands in the sides of her panties, preparing to slide them down when his hand came down to cup her between her legs. Joey reared against him, gasping helplessly, as the drooling heat pooled in her groin. Her last coherent thought was that tonight had only just begun and with any luck it would be a long one. Long, hot and unforgettable. With many more to come.

Chapter Text

Pacey glanced at his bedside clock. The fluorescent hands told him it was 3.05am. Joey was curled against his side, an arm flung possessively across his stomach. He turned to face her, and delicately ran the tip of his nose along her cheek, up to her temple and into her hair. His hand lightly skimmed across the skin down her arm, crossing to the indent of her waist and over her hip and thigh. He drank in the scent of her, held it, savored it, and recorded it. His hand came back up to her hair, slipped into its silky darkness, and fingered the tumbled locks, smoothing them between finger and thumb. She stirred a little, but didn't wake. He dared to press a kiss against her lips, clinging, tracing feather light before slowly and carefully easing himself away from her. Absently pulling his boxers on, he padded out of the room, quietly closing the door behind him.

In the main room of the boat, treading over their clothes strewn on the floor from the night before, he flicked on one of the lamps and found the large notepad he kept underneath bits of clutter in the corner of one of the counters. He used it mainly for noting ingredients for different recipes they used at Civilization, recipes he'd not actually got around to practicing yet.

He sat down, and stared broodingly at the pad in front of him. He was leaving. Again. How could he make that sound sensible on paper when it seemed to make no sense when said out loud? He looked towards the closed door, thinking of her, and sighed. Leaning back, he closed his eyes and wondered what on earth he was going to tell her. He sighed heavily and opened his eyes, looking around the cabin. At times, he'd almost forgotten it wasn't his own vessel, but he'd enjoyed living here. Now it had been sold. His boss, Danny, had been disappointed but philosophical about Pacey’s leaving, despite the short notice given. Pacey was really going to miss the guy, but at least he’d have Leon on board with him. While none too happy at being woken early in the morning by Pacey yesterday morning, Leon had soon been listening with an eager ear and at Pacey’s urging had been only too happy to see if he could get a place on board the new boat, too.

Pacey’s gaze alighted on the small radio on the counter beside his seat. Turning the volume to low first, he then switched it on. He leaned back, listening to the opening lines of the song, and silently marveled at just how appropriate it seemed to his current situation. After another moment or two, he put pen to paper and began to write.

‘I'm not a perfect person.
There’s many things I wish I didn’t do,
But I continue learning.
I never meant to do those things to you
And so I have to say before I go,
That I just want you to know…’

 

Dear Joey,

I have a feeling that this letter is going to ramble on and on. It must be my way of trying to hold on to you for just a little bit longer, in some small, desperate, pathetic way. Like last night. You see, you were right. I didn’t want to take last night because I knew I was going to leave anyway. You didn’t know just how soon that was going to be, but I did, and I didn’t want to give you false hope and I felt guilty for that. But not guilty enough. I was selfish anyway. I took it. I took what you gave me like a drowning man being thrown a lifebuoy. What a catch 22. You save me and you kill me, Jo.

 

‘…I've found a reason for me,
To change who I used to be
A reason to start over new,
And the reason is you…’

 

And I’m my own worse enemy. Why? Because I’m going to do my best to try and forget you when I leave. How loving you one last time is supposed to help me with that, I don’t know. How memorizing the scent of your skin, the lines of your body, the secret parts of you only I have touched will erase the agonizing sense of loss is a mystery to me. How to blank out that sexy, crooked smile, the sweet unaffected way you tuck your hair behind your ears and, oh, the sweetness and the sarcasm, Potter, the sweetness and the sarcasm? I could go on and on. But why should you care? I’ve left you high and dry. I believe you when you say you love me. I really do, but how is that possible when so often I feel like a stranger to you? Sometimes I feel like you don't know me at all. Looking back now, it seems like it was inevitable that our renewed efforts would blow up in our faces. It always blows up in our faces, Jo. Hasn’t that always been true when Dawson’s thrown into the mix? Yeah, and when I let my insecurities get the better of me? I want to be everything for you, to you. I want to be the one that makes it all better, but you’ve been so used to that being Dawson’s role. It’s hard to let go of that, I guess. I understand that. I really do. It just hurts, that’s all. And that’s part of what made me hurt you. I hated what I did to you at the prom. That guy was not me. I never want him to return and he could have this time round.

 

‘…I'm sorry that I hurt you.
It’s something I must live with everyday
And all the pain I put you through,
I wish that I could take it all away
And be the one who catches all your tears,
That’s why I need you to hear…’

 

I thought loving you made me strong like I could hoist the world above my head. No. Loving you makes me weak. Weak and susceptible to every imagined slight. Maybe we're not meant to be together. Every fiber of my being tells me that’s insane thinking, but maybe it's true. You just don't want me like I want you, love me like I love you. Am I doing you a disservice in saying that? I hope not, but if it's true, it’s not your fault, is it? Just like it's not my fault that I feel the way I do about you. Or maybe it is. I always seem to get myself into impossible situations. Maybe there’s a faulty Witter gene rattling around lost somewhere inside me. I'm not going to complain because somehow, by some miracle, I had the girl of my dreams, if only for a little while.

 

‘…I've found a reason for me
To change who I used to be
A reason to start over new
And the reason is you
And the reason is you
And the reason is you
And the reason is you…’

 

The thing is, I don’t know how long this is going to take and I can’t do it with you on my mind. So my only fear now is that I may be in love with you for all time. My only dilemma is how am I going to shake myself free? Everything’s going to remind me of you, Jo, wherever I go. The stars, at the very least, will paint your face in the sky at night and sparkle like your eyes. I learnt that last summer. And yet sailing away from you must seem like insanity, right? I mean, if I love you why am I going?

 

‘…I'm not a perfect person,
I never meant to do those things to you and
So I have to say before I go
That I just want you to know…’

 

Well, you succeeded in eventually finding yourself, didn't you? Now I've got to find me. I've got to do this. For real this time. For us. You'll haunt me. I guess I deserve that after the way I've hurt you. It's a just punishment. Can you hear me laugh at the irony of it? Haunted by the woman I love, who I'm trying to forget so I can be worthy of her again? Maybe not so funny. Maybe not ironic at all, but if nothing else makes sense in this letter, know this at least. I cared for Tamara very deeply, and Andie I loved something fierce, but you? What I feel for you surpasses anything I’ve ever felt for any woman that came before you. Hell, before you Joey there was no one. I would visualize my future and I could only see you, but, as trite as it may sound, love isn't always enough.

 

‘…I've found a reason for me,
To change who I used to be
A reason to start over new,
And the reason is you

 

It’s funny how we contribute to the incidences of déjà vu in our lives, isn’t it? Last year we broke up, had one last night together, I left Capeside without saying good-bye and sailed around the Caribbean for the summer. This year we broke up, had one last night together and I've left Boston to sail around the Greek Islands. Only this time I’m saying good-bye. Although, maybe not exactly in the way you would have preferred. Do you hate me, Jo? Whatever it takes. Just like I have to do whatever it takes to make something of myself, to get past the insecurities that force me to put up barriers between me and the people I love. And Jo? I do love you. I think I can safely say I will never love another woman the way I love you. It’s really not possible. That kind of leaves the next woman in my life with a serious disadvantage. Sweet revenge, eh, Jo? Sweet indeed. Probably no more than I deserve.

Just one more thing though. Dawson’s wrong. It’s never been easy for me to walk away from you. You wrecked me, Jo, in the best and worst possible way, but just know, if going back in time to rectify any and all past mistakes meant I had to give up the time I had with you, then forget it. I wouldn’t give up the memories of my favorite girl, the love of my life, our good times or even our bad times for all the riches in this world. Not even for a functional family life!

Do something for me. You’ll do it anyway, but remain as beautiful as you are, as smart and sassy and feisty as you’ve always been. You’re already making something of your life and you’re going to excel, Jo. It’s all I’ll have of you to keep me warm now, the knowing that the pride I have in you and your achievements are justified, the memories of the ice queen who gave as good as she got and the woman who loved me more than I deserved. I miss you already.

 

‘…I've found a reason to show
A side of me you didn’t know
A reason for all that I do,
And the reason is you…’

 

Take care of yourself. Be happy. Stay safe. Live your life.

Pacey.

 

He carefully folded the sheets of foolscap he’d written on and after rummaging around for a bit, found an envelope in the same corner of the counter he’d found the writing paper and wrote her name across the front. He picked up Joey’s rucksack and opened it. Inside were three large textbooks, which she would need for today’s classes, he was sure, and also, a change of clothes and underwear. Pacey looked up thoughtfully. She’d planned all along to stay the night - in his bed. Whatever it took, huh? Who was he to complain? Who was he to judge? He slipped his letter to the bottom of the bag, placed her books on top of it, added her clothes, and zipped it back up, setting it aside. Switching off the radio and the light, he went back to join Joey in bed, exhaling on a long, guilty breath as he settled an arm around her and pulled her close.

 

Pacey glanced at the bedside clock for the third time in the last twenty minutes. If Joey didn’t leave now, she’d be late for her first class. He waited another half hour before gently shaking her awake.

“Huh? Huh? What?” Joey raised her head, eyes still closed, then let it flop back down.

“Jo, wake up!”

She roused herself again, turning her head in the direction of Pacey’s voice. She squinted at him blearily for a second or two before jack knifing into an upright position, staring at him. “What time is it?”

“Late.”

Their eyes held. “Late?”

He nodded. “Late,” he said softly and eyed the clock behind her meaningfully.

“Late! Oh my god!” She half twisted, holding the bed sheet over her chest to throw a quick look at the clock. “Oh no! I’ve got Professor Wilder first thing!” She glanced panicked, at Pacey. “But we…I…damn it! I’ve got to go.” Feeling extremely self-conscious, but with no time to spare for modesty she whipped the sheets back and hurried out of the room, feeling the heat of Pacey’s eyes on her every inch of the way.

He had just pulled on boxer shorts when she entered the bedroom again, fully dressed after a quick shower, her rucksack over her shoulder.

“I really have to go now.” Her eyes were large with a hint of worry. Pacey nodded and came over to her. “I should have been in class thirty minutes ago. Look, I’ll come by straight after college, okay?” He followed her out into the main cabin. She turned and looked at him quizzically. “Don’t you have to work this morning?”

He shook his head, watching her steadily, but silently. She found it unnerving. She swallowed quickly, anxiously. “You-you don’t regret last night, do you?” she asked, her voice barely a whisper, moving closer.

He reached out a hand and caressed her cheek. “No.”

She nodded. “I have to go.”

What was he thinking? She didn’t have the time to find out right now, but she couldn’t resist reaching her lips out to his. As the kiss became hot and heavy she allowed the rucksack to fall to the floor with a thud, so that she could wind her arms fully around his neck, leaning into the kiss. She would have pulled away then, but Pacey tightened his hold and the kiss took on a whole new dimension. With one hand buried in her hair, the other holding the side of her face, he turned and tilted her in marriage with his mouth as he controlled the kiss and maneuvered his mouth over hers, tasting, teasing, stoking fires reminiscent of the night before. Even now she was aware of the aches in her body from a very satisfying night in his bed. When he released her mouth, Joey gasped as if for air, his name on her lips.

“Do that again!” Joey demanded and he did.

Reluctantly, after a few more minutes, it was Joey who pulled away first, panting softly. “I have to go.”

“Yes," his voice was ragged, too, "you have to go.”

“We’ll talk more tonight.” She picked up her rucksack and backed away from him, eyes on his, before turning and running lightly up the stairs. She paused at the door, gave him a brief smile and was gone.

 

Audrey watched with growing amusement as Joey dashed around the room, collecting clean underwear and clothes and setting them on the bed. She moved over to her pin board on the wall and checked her classes for tomorrow, then hurried around her bed to her desk, picking up various textbooks.

“Not coming back tonight again, huh?”

“Um, probably not.” Joey couldn’t quite keep the smile off her face.

“So everything’s okay again, right? You fixed it?”

“Um, I think so.”

“You think so? You talked didn’t you?”

“Yeah…we talked.” She tossed the books onto her bed, picked up her rucksack from the floor and set it on the bed.

It was Audrey’s turn to grin. “Uh huh, I’m thinking there wasn’t that much talking!” She giggled.

Joey turned towards her. “Get your mind out of the gutter, Liddell!”

“Tell me, I’m wrong.”

“You’re wrong. There was a lot of talking actually.” Her face sobered up quickly. “It was pretty sticky for a moment or two and I’m not sure we’re out of the woods yet.” She drew her brows together worryingly. “I can’t believe he’s planning to leave Boston. Just like that.”

“He has a track record you are well aware of Joey.”

“But-but this is a second chance for us. How can he be so willing to throw it away?” She dragged out the clothes she’d worn yesterday from the bag, and then her books.

“Yeah, and men think we’re the ones that are hard to figure out!”

“Well, I’ve been the queen of passive aggressiveness. This time I’m taking affirmative action!” Searching the bottom of the bag to make sure she hadn’t left anything inside, Joey’s hand closed over the white envelope and pulled it out. She turned it over to look at the front. Her name. Pacey’s handwriting. Her stomach somersaulted, fearfully. Immediately, her mind went back to that morning, the long, drugging goodbye kisses that now, with hindsight, she saw had ridden an edge of desperation, had been a hidden good-bye. Yes, she knew it. What she held in her hand was a good-bye letter.

“Joey what’s wrong?” Audrey swung her legs over the edge of her bed, preparing to get up as Joey sat heavily on the edge of her own, staring down at the envelope. “Joey?”

“I-I don’t think I’ll be going round to Pacey’s tonight after all.”

Chapter Text

Two weeks later, Joey was sat on one of benches dotted around Worthington College. It was late evening; a cool breeze stirred her hair around her face. She’d taken to doing this over the last few evenings, thinking of him even as she chided herself for it, collecting her thoughts, sifting, analyzing, raking. A melancholy ballad meandered out of someone’s open dorm window. It fitted her mood perfectly. Sighing deeply, she pulled a writing pad and pen from her bag. It seemed the moment had come. She had read his letter every night since he’d left, no matter the painful twisting it did to her heart and she knew she would write back. She just hadn’t been sure what would pour out onto paper. She hadn’t been sure she wanted Pacey to see plainly on paper that she was the one who was wrecked. Utterly. But now she was ready...

 

‘…Notice me
Take my hand
Why are we
Strangers when
Our love is strong?
Why carry on without me?’

 

Dear Pacey

Believe it or not, I don't hate you. I tried to. I mean I really, really tried. It didn’t work. Maybe because I don't regret that last night we had. I didn't feel taken advantage of because it was my choice. I knew exactly what I was doing. I think about how desperate I must have seemed. I wanted you to stay and I was going to achieve that any way I could. So part of the plan was to seduce you. And I did. Yeah, me, Joey Potter, one time ice queen. I never knew I could feel so desperate and so powerful all at the same time. You do things to me that no other man is capable of. You bring out all kinds of different Joey Potters. I love that about you. But the night I found that letter I thought I could cheerfully hate you forever, but like I said, I couldn’t. Maybe it’s also because, on one level, I understand why you had to go, or maybe it’s just simply because love cancels out hate. I love you. I know you don't put a lot of faith in those words - not when they come from my lips, but it doesn't make them any less true. So I think to myself, despite all that's happened in the past, we still love each other, want each other. So why go, Pacey? What happened to 'I plan to be wherever you are?' Well, here I am. Where are you?

 

‘…Every time I try to fly
I fall without my wings
I feel so small
I guess I need you, baby
And every time I see you in my dreams,
I see your face, it's haunting me
I guess I need you, baby…’

 

I know. It’s not that simple, right? It never is. Where are you Pacey? What are you doing right now? What are you thinking? Do you still miss me? Because I really miss you still. You think I got the better deal because I’ll be haunting you? It goes both ways. You should have thought of that. So here we are, both miserable. You’re right. It makes no sense. It makes no sense that I should cry myself to sleep every night, no sense that you can’t lie beside me at night where you belong. Your choice, Pacey. It’s your choice and I guess I have to accept it. After all, I didn’t get a say, did I? You always know better, don’t you? It’s not fair. Now you turn your back and tell me you’re going to do your best to forget me and you’re already thinking of your new future, the possibility of a new woman in your life who may or may NOT, as far as you know, be at a serious disadvantage because I’ll supposedly be haunting you. You know me, Pacey. I’m a glass half empty girl. My view of the world is cynically skewed. In a serious way. I mean, hello? Haven’t you heard of the saying ‘out of sight out of mind’? Who says you won’t have gotten over me enough to fall in love with someone else? Or that she won’t be able to get to your heart because I’ll still be holding it? You don’t know that and I don’t want to think about it. You see me being honest here? I’m already jealous of some girl who, as yet, doesn’t even exist in your life! Oh, this is all messed up, Pacey.

 

‘…I make believe
That you are here
It's the only way
I see clear
What have I done?
You seem to move on easy…’

 

You say it wasn't easy to leave, but this is the second time. It should be easier by now, shouldn’t it? Sorry, low blow. I get it Pacey. It’s easy enough to read in your letter even though you don’t say it out loud. You’re not coming back any time soon, are you? I have a feeling we won’t be hearing much from you, either. These past two weeks, I’ve pretended that you could change your mind and would walk through my door again unexpectedly. I’ve accepted that it’s not going to happen. I made my pitch to you. It wasn’t enough and I’m not going to beg anymore.

 

‘…And every time I try to fly
I fall without my wings
I feel so small
I guess I need you, baby
And every time I see you in my dreams,
I see your face, you're haunting me
I guess I need you baby…’

 

I've driven you away for the second time and I’m sorry, Pacey. I’m sorry I wasn’t a better girlfriend, but it hasn’t been easy since you left. You know how I like to put a brave face on things, but I never expected to feel as devastated as I do. Last year was bad enough. This feels ten times worse! I’m not sure why. Maybe because this time I knew it was our last chance. In which case, I really blew it big time because you’re not coming back. Last year, I didn’t know that, and I had fooled myself into believing I didn’t love you anymore, that a sense of comfort, safety and familiarity was the best way to go, to return to, but the blinders fell off the moment I saw you again.

 

‘…I may have made it rain
Please forgive me
My weakness caused you pain
And this song is my sorry…’

 

By the way, Audrey’s pissed at you. She had the hots for Leon, but he's obviously followed you onto the high seas. That's the conclusion she's come to anyway - since passing by his apartment twice on some flimsy excuse or another and not finding him home. She said she'd forgive you as long as you brought him back soon. Jen told me that when I got around to writing to you I should say hi from her. Hi! And that you should thank your lucky stars she can’t get her hands on you right now. I don’t think she’s impressed with your disappearing act, either. She told me how you were there for her. It's made me realize I haven't been as good a friend to her as I could have been. I guess I’ve been selfish all round. I’m going to work on that. I was always either too wrapped up in Dawson, or in you. Or myself. You'll be glad to know, though that she and Jack are close again. They’re the real soul mates, if you ask me. When Dawson found out you'd left he came to see me. We talked. His temper got the better of him a little. Maybe you're wondering exactly what he thought and said. It doesn't matter. We now have an uneasy truce, which I know will get easier as time goes on. He has to adjust to the fact that he’s no longer my everything. You took that spot long ago. You took a scared, lonely girl who thought she’d never find love and showed her just how easy it was to prove her wrong.

‘…Ohhhh

At night I pray
That soon your face
Will fade away…’

 

But now you say loving me makes you weak, in the worst possible way. That hurt Pacey, because loving you makes me feel strong. Wanted. I guess you’re right. Maybe I don’t really know you, but at the end of the day, what’s most important is that you’re happy and that you find what you want in life. I want that for you. I hope you get it. Despite the insanity. What? I’m just agreeing with you. Sailing away from me was insanity. It must have something to do with that faulty Witter gene you mentioned. In which case, I wish you a speedy recovery and hope to see you again sooner than I expect.

Take care of yourself.

All my love, Joey

 

‘…And every time I try to fly
I fall without my wings
I feel so small
I guess I need you baby
And every time I see you in my dreams,
I see your face, you're haunting me
I guess I need you baby…’

 

**************

Three weeks later…November 2002

Pacey contemplated the envelope in his hand and his name across the front in Joey’s handwriting. He had carried it around on him all day yesterday and today, stuffed in the back pocket of his shorts while he worked on deck. He had been tempted to throw it away immediately without reading it. He had felt that much of a coward and it had been that much of a jolt to his system to find it enclosed with Doug’s own letter and a pack of provisions from his mother. It wasn’t that he had begun to get over Joey yet, or begun to think of her less. Far from it, but holding that link to her had disturbed his equilibrium. Upset him. Angered him, even. But now, this evening, he was stood alone near his bunk bed, having finally worked up the courage to read her words. The rest of the crew were out on shore, painting the town red and he’d declined to go for this reason. To be alone with her. His throat worked nervously. Would it be full of censure? Would she confirm that she now hated him, regretted that last night together? The one that he still couldn’t shake from his mind at night, from his dreams? Now was the time to find out. His fingers fumbled in their haste to open the letter. He partially pulled it out, took a deep breath, easing the air past his lips as he pulled the letter free…

 

'Dear Pacey,

Believe it or not, I don't hate you. I tried to. I mean, I really, really tried. It didn’t work…'

 

He read it over twice, three and then four times, lapping up each word greedily, then skimming the less important bits, retracing the poignant parts, visualizing Dawson's flaring nostrils and hard flat eyes as he tried to convince Joey she was being a fool. Yeah, Dawson would have a say, wouldn’t he? He conjured up her face. She didn’t hate him. It lifted his heart a touch, not that he thought he deserved to know that, but he was glad of it. He frowned going over the letter again. She said she knew he wasn’t coming back, yet hoped to see him soon. He understood. The heart never failed to hope even in the most dire and impossible of situations, did it? She’d be okay. She would move on, like he had to. He raked a hand through his hair. Laying back on his bunk, and holding the letter to his chest, he waited a little until the churning emotions that swirled within his gut simmered down and faded. Then he read her words again, over and over.

 

**************

April 2003

'Dear Pacey,

I hope this letter finds you well. I wondered if it was a good thing that I write you again, especially as you haven’t written back, but there’s no real harm is there?

…Well, I’m doing okay, especially academically. You know me, always got my nose in a book. It drives Audrey crazy. She says I need to lighten up. So I did. I sang on stage at the local student hang out. I’ve never been so un-Joey like since my Miss Windjammer debacle! Or is that since I sailed away with you for the summer? Singing on stage was a similar rush to running away with you. I’d like to do it again some time. I bet you’re having the time of your life. You've always loved sailing and the sea. I grew to love it, too. Nothing's surpassed the summer I spent on the True Love with you. I miss her sometimes. Do you still think of her, Pacey?

…Things are better between Dawson and me now. He’s busy these days at the Boston Film School and preoccupied with the movie he’s making right now. His friend, Oliver, a seriously kooky guy, but not in a bad way, who has a crush on Jen, co-wrote the script. Jen is co-producer, but guess who's in it? No, not me. Audrey is leading lady - and she's really good! Her leading man is none other than Charlie. Yep, Jen's ex. I think it's a little insensitive of Dawson, but sometimes you have to sacrifice ego, personal feelings and the like for the sake of your art. Well, that was Dawson’s take. And Charlie is actually good at the acting thing. In fact, a little too good when it comes to the kissing scenes. Audrey insists on having a bucket nearby to spit into after they’ve finishing locking lips! Jen understands that he’s good for the movie, but there have been a few hairy moments where Dawson has had to physically drag her away to prevent her from tying Charlie's balls into a knot.

I'm not helping out much myself. I've got to concentrate on this Rose Lazare Project for my English class, which I’m really enjoying. Speaking of which, it was on the way back from a meeting for that project that I ran into a little trouble! This man held me up when I got some cash out of the ATM machine and took my coat! It was pretty scary. He had a gun, and he admitted to being a drug dealer, but you know what? Deep down he wasn’t such a bad guy. Well, he was a bad guy, but he wasn’t. It’s hard to explain. He let his kid and wife down. It struck a chord with me because he was a father trying to do something to make up for his failures, failures that only hurt and disappointed his family, but he kept going the wrong way about it. The terrible thing is, he got run over as he ran off. I went to the hospital and he asked to see me. Said he loved his daughter very much, but he was who he was and he couldn’t change. He died Pacey. It was sad and a waste, too. He never got the chance to make it up to his little girl. It got me thinking about my own father. I haven’t been to see him in prison since his last arrest. I’m thinking maybe it’s time I did…

It was Lily’s birthday a couple of weeks ago. You should see her. She’s so cute. You can see Mitch in her. That’s a nice thing and sometimes a sad thing, too. Anyway, we stopped by the Leery house so I could leave Lily’s present with Dawson. They were having a little party for her. I wish I could have stayed longer. Dawson was uncomfortable with having Gale’s new boyfriend there. He knows Gale has to move on some time, but it’s always going to be difficult, isn’t it? I had leave to go upstate with Audrey, her new beau, some musician guy she met at a gig, I keep forgetting his name - and Charlie. He heard me sing at the bar that time and wanted me to front his band at this gig they were doing. After swallowing her jealousy, because in truth, her voice is better than mine, you know, Audrey insisted I go. She likes to see me let my hair down and says I keep my nose in books too much. She also thinks I’m still pining over you…'

Pacey stared at the letter in his hand and sank heavily onto the bunk bed. It was evening, a different boat, a different part of the world and here he was with a small piece of Boston, of Joey, of Capeside, in his hand again. He could understand the first letter. She’d needed to have her say, her closure. So why was she writing to him again? Why scratch over old scabs? He stood, crushing it closed in his fist, lifting that hand to his forehead, rubbing that spot agitatedly. How was he supposed to forget her if she wrote to him reminding him of all he’d left behind? He'd abandoned her. He'd slept with her, made her believe that tomorrow was a chance to start again and then he'd snuck away like a coward without a word and had abandoned her again. More than three months had passed. Why was she writing to him again? He flung the ball of paper into the corner of the room. He wanted to forget. He needed to forget. Why was she writing chatty newsletters about what he'd left behind? Was it some form of torture? Didn't she get it? He wasn't coming back. Well, he'd make her understand. If there were any chance she'd write him again, he'd make her think twice. He wouldn't write back. Maybe then she'd get the message. She'd leave him alone, then. No reminders. He laid back on his bed, waiting for sleep, and told himself that morning would be soon enough to throw the letter out with the trash.

Deep down, he wasn’t fooling himself.

In the dead of night, after tossing and turning restlessly, he found himself creeping from his bunk bed, finding the letter, smoothing it out, slipping it stealthily into the top drawer of the dresser, under his clothes and then going back to bed.

Chapter Text

October 2003

'Dear Pacey,

… We went up to Audrey’s Florida beach house for Spring Break. Her folks weren’t there, but that’s no surprise. So it was just myself, Jen and Jack. Audrey ditched the musician guy already. But guess who turns up? Only Chris Hartford! Can you believe that? He’s her ex boyfriend. Um, her ‘Dawson’ as she put it. He was interested. She didn’t want to go there again, but he got us tickets to the MTV concert of M2M. I’d never heard of them either…

…There’s no need to worry, but we had a bit of trouble up there with Jack. I feel like a terrible friend, but I never realized how unhappy Jack was. Frat life isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, his grades slipped badly and I think he was taken aback finding out that Toby had a new boyfriend. I guess it didn’t matter that it was Jack himself who ended it with Toby. Well, what happened was Jack took a tumble into the pool from the patio roof of the Lindley house and I don’t think it was entirely accidental, although he was really drunk. I don’t know what would have happened if Dawson hadn’t turned up out of the blue and was there to drag him out. Still not sure why Dawson turned up or why he missed the meeting with the agent, but he spent the rest of Spring Break with us. Jack joined in as best he could, although he was pretty subdued most of the time. Maybe some of that rubbed off on me because that trip away had a bittersweet flavor to it. No one mentioned you, but I think you were in all our thoughts. You know, the guys ask me every now and again if I’ve heard from you, but they’ve never asked me if I’ve tried to get in touch with you. They don’t know I write you, not Dawson, not Audrey, not Jen, no one – except Doug, of course. I hand him my letter to you. He tells me you’re okay. That’s all. I nod and I leave. That’s how it’s been…

…Remember I told you I’d been thinking about my dad? Well, I went to see him. You have no idea how nerve wracking it was, building myself up to go, wondering what I was going to say, how much his appearance might have changed, if he’d be proud of everything I’ve achieved so far. Turns out he’d been released from prison 4 months earlier. He hadn’t even told us. I was so hurt. Enough to think he could go to hell. If he couldn’t be bothered, if he didn’t care enough to let his children know he was out and okay, why should I care where he was and what he was doing? I thought better of that though and found out where he was working. It was awkward at first, but it was good. He still loves me. He’s still proud of me. He wanted to make something of himself before telling us he was out. At the end of the day, he’s still my father, isn’t he? At least I still have one. I’ve played the dead mother card often enough with you guys in the past. How could I turn my back on my dad, knowing what it’s like to lose a parent? Knowing how Dawson feels after losing Mitch earlier this year? So there you go…

…I stayed in Capeside for the summer break. It felt like a step back for me. I was restless the whole time. Couldn’t quite put my finger on the reason why. I worked at the yacht club. Yeah, I braved Mrs Valentine again. The money’s too good there not to. I thought I should have received weekly bonuses having to put up with the obnoxious Drue. Yep, he was there again, too. To be honest, he wasn’t that bad. Jen said the reason we gave each other such a hard time was because we’re too alike. I think she was right. Swapping swords of barbed wit helped pass the time I guess. I couldn’t wait to go back to college, though. I was raring to go. So much so, that I left Capeside a week early. Audrey had stayed at the B & B with us for the first week in Capeside, but went back to LA to stay with her folks for the rest of the summer. When I got back to my dorm Audrey was already there! Trouble with the folks. There’s bad blood between them, especially between her and her father. Father’s, eh? Who’d have them? Well, yeah, like I said. I would. Did I tell you she’d long since ditched the musician guy? Well, she did…

…Dawson’s movie was a hit and he and Oliver took a trip up to New York to meet an agent interested in Dawson’s movie. Wouldn’t Mitch have loved that? Oliver mucked it up, they argued. Dawson fixed it, but it was a close call. Anyway, it ended up with them going to LA being mentored by this big producer guy over the summer. Looks like Dawson’s beginning to get his foot in the door. We didn’t manage to keep in touch over the summer, though, but he came to Boston soon after the start of first term, what with it being my birthday and all that. He seemed to have lost Oliver along the way, though. It was good to see him, but he wanted to know if we had anything left in the tank. I guess, maybe he thought he’d give me time to get over you or something, but there’s nothing left. It dried up a long time ago. I think he’s accepted that now. He’s finally accepted what I realized long before he did. We never worked. That’s probably why we ended up hurting each other every time we tried our hand at the romance stakes. Turns out he was seeing someone over the holidays anyway…

Hope you’re well

Love, Joey.'

 

**************

February 2004…

;Dear Pacey,

…Jack has a crush on one of his Professors despite having a new boyfriend and did I tell you that the British girl, Emma? She’s my boss at Hell’s Kitchen where I’m a waitress. She’s also in a punk band called Hell’s Belles. Oh and I hate my new English Professor!

Todd, he’s the director, Dawson and cast came to Boston, to make a horror movie, including the actress he had a fling with over the summer. They became hot and heavy again for a while before the film wrapped. If you’re wondering how I felt seeing Dawson with someone else, then the answer would be I felt nothing...

…Jen met a guy called CJ. He’s a counselor. She played it cool, at first, but once she realized how much she really liked him she let him know how she felt. There hasn’t been anyone since Charlie, you know. Turns out CJ has problems and tells Jen he doesn’t date because of these problems. Well, anyway, that’s where Audrey comes in. I’m worried about her. She’s cutting too many classes and she parties. She always has, but she’s worse this time round. Emma made her lead singer in her band, but she got drunk before her second gig with Hell’s Belles and was awful! She snaps my head off every chance she gets, but she just won’t talk to me. She says I haven’t been around much to talk to. I don’t know. We avoided each other for a while. Then Jen finds out she slept with CJ that night. Yeah, the same CJ Jen likes. They were never an item, but it still hurt Jen. Even so, I ended up inviting Audrey to Capeside for Christmas when she missed her flight back to LA . What a disaster. Audrey was drunk, insulted everybody before passing out on the couch. Called us all scum suckers! She’s gone back to LA now and I’ve no idea what she’s getting up to…

…Somehow or other I have managed to befriend my hated English Professor’s teenage daughter, who is quite a handful and he allows me to baby sit her sometimes. I chaperoned her and her date to her prom. Prom, now that brings back some memories! My last one wasn’t so good. We never did get to dance, did we…?

Love, Joey.'

 

**************

May 2004…

'Dear Pacey,

…Jen and CJ have mended fences. He made a mistake with Audrey and realizes the right girl was under nose all along. Jen’s playing hard to get, but it serves him right…

Did I tell you that Dawson and Audrey are an item? Did I not mention that? You probably know she doesn’t have the best of relationships with her parents. So what’s new, huh? You and I are veterans when it comes to dysfunctional families. Like I told you, Audrey went kind of screwy for a while, drink, drugs, wild sex. One night I came home from classes and found her unconscious on the floor. I was so scared for her. It was alcoholic poisoning. She got scared enough to go into rehab in LA. Dawson was there for her and they got close. We really need to make new friends, don’t we? Does that development between them make you glad you left us behind? You don’t have a ringside seat to our high angst or to the incestuous side of our ring of friends anymore – which also means you don’t get caught in any crossfire or gain any scars. She sorted herself out, anyway, had a heart to heart with her parents. I think they were scared they’d lose her and they’re going to counseling. Now Audrey’s starring in Dawson’s latest project. Don’t roll your eyes but it’s another autobiographical movie about…us. Audrey plays the part of Tamara Jacobs! I think he’s softened, Pacey. I think he misses you and that’s all I’m going to say about that…

…So, a year and a half has passed since you left. Wondering why I’m still writing you? You've got to know all this stuff, Pace, so that when, if, you come back you’ll be up to speed with everything. It’ll be like you never went away. I’m not saying I’m holding my breath, but something changed when you left. A subtle shift in balance. I feel like I’ve been living my life a few degrees off kilter. Is it purely about losing you? I don’t know. People praise me, telling me I did good to get into Worthington and how I'm going to make something of myself, do them proud, but sometimes I lie in bed at night and feel such a fake because I'm scared. Scared of failure. The expectations seem huge, expectations not just from those around me but also what I heap on myself. I've never felt the burden so keenly before. Then I think back to before my mother died and back to a time when everything was much simpler. And believe me being in love with a boy who was oblivious to me, plus all that pining to get the hell out of Capeside was simple. I just didn’t know it then. Simple goals. Win the boy. Leave Capeside behind. I remember back to when I had the perfect boyfriend. I’ve never had anyone love me as hard as you did. Who cushioned me, soothed me, who smoothed my prickles and ruffles and could handle the sarcasm as easily as he handled the sweetness. I didn't know I had it so easy. My childhood has gone, but I want to feel carefree again and it's hard not to bring up our summer away because it illustrates my point perfectly, no matter that we had reality waiting back in Capeside for us. I was happy, Pace. Ecstatic. You made me feel like I could do anything. You rocked my boat, dared me in your own inimitable way to be impulsive, spontaneous. I don’t know. It's not that I'm not enjoying college. I am. It's just that I know I could be enjoying it more. I know there’s something more. Time is going by. This year is passing so quickly, before I know it, it’ll be over. It’ll be summer again. I’m not sure what I’ll do for this summer. I’m not sure at all. I wonder what you have planned…

Love, Joey.'

 

**************

Joey lay back against the pillows on her bed, one arm folded behind her head, the other trapped snugly between the thighs of her crossed legs. She stared blindly into space, oblivious to the constant glances Audrey threw at her in the midst of reading the latest Jane magazine and nodding her head to the CD she was listening to on her headphones. Eventually, Audrey tossed the magazine aside, pulled the headphones off and materialized at Joey’s side, or at least to Joey, it seemed she’d suddenly appeared as if by magic.

“What?” Joey frowned up at her.

“What’s up with you? Come on, you can tell me.”

“Nothing. What makes you think-?”

“You’re disturbing my concentration-“

“What? I’ve said and done nothing!”

“That’s just it. Being quiet with your nose in a book is one thing, but sitting there staring into space for ages is not you. How can I concentrate on ‘What does his favorite sexual position tell you about your man?’ quiz when you’re lying there not being yourself?” She plopped down onto the edge of the bed. “You thinking about Grams? Sucks, doesn’t it?”

“Yeah,’ Joey sighed, ‘I can’t help feeling guilty though.”

“Why?”

“I’m making it about me. It feels like everyone’s leaving me.” Joey sat up straight, pulling her hands free and fiddling with the hem of her sweater. “Of course, Gram has to go to New York. She can get the best of treatments there for the cancer, and it goes without saying that Jen should live with her at her mother’s place. And naturally where Jen goes, Jack goes. I understand all that. It’s how it should be.”

“Dawson will be here filming! And I’ll -”

“I know! I know. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. Take no notice.” Joey settled back on a sigh.

“Joey,’ she laid a hand on Joey’s knee, ‘you should know by now, I’m not easily offended. You guys accepted me as one of your own and even when I was being a queen bitch, you guys still tried to be there for me. I know my spot as an honorary Capesidian is set and it helps that I’m currently screwing your ex soul mate!”

“Audrey!”

“Sorry, was that too graphic a description? Sorry.” She cocked her head, frowning with puzzlement as if a sudden thought had come to her. “Joey, why am I an honorary Capesidian? I mean, I’ve slept with both your exes! I just-“

“You’ve been part of the circle for long enough, Audrey. You know the drill. Look at me. I’ve dated Dawson, Pacey and Jack. Jen has locked lips with all three, too. You’re just carrying on an age-old Capesidian tradition! Incest lives!”

Audrey smirked at her. “You’re so good to me, lending me the leading men in your life. Although, I’ve yet to move on to Jack. I love you. Wanna lock lips with me in honor of this good old Capesidian tradition?” Audrey pouted her lips comically in Joey’s direction.

Joey giggled. “Audrey stop! I love you, too. We don’t need to kiss on it.”

Audrey snorted with amusement. “Okay,’ she said after a moment, ‘so tell me the truth. Is this funk because another one of the inner circle is leaving?”

Joey slid a long look at Audrey. “I’m not in a funk! I’m just thinking.”

“That is the problem, though, isn’t it? How long has it been since Pacey left?”

Joey gave a sigh of defeat and took a deep breath. “One year, six months, two weeks and…I don’t know…three days or something?”

“Close enough I bet, and now Jen and Jack are leaving.”

“You know, Jack originally wanted to go to NYU. Now they’ll both go there. It even works out perfectly for Jen’s love life because CJ was going there anyway to…”

“Dawson goes to school here in Boston. He’ll be in Capeside filming. I’m going to be Miss Jacobs, remember? Then summer school will be a-calling. Worse luck!”

“Yeah, and between his filming his latest masterpiece and,’ she rolled her eyes exaggeratedly, ‘screwing you, neither of you will have time for me!”

“Aww, you pout so pretty. Sure you don’t wanna make out?” Joey rolled her eyes again. “Come on, Jo. We’ll do stuff this summer.”

“Yeah, I know we will.”

“Did you think he’d stay away this long?”

Joey knew she meant Pacey. “I knew he wouldn’t be coming back any time soon.”

“And he really hasn’t tried to contact you in all this time?”

Joey shook her head. “Really.” She shot Audrey a mysterious look, biting her bottom lip. “But-but I have been writing to him.”

Audrey’s eyes rounded. “All this time?”

“All this time.”

“With no reply?”

“Nope!”

“How could he…I mean, how can he…well! Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Don’t you think it’s bad enough that he hasn’t bothered to reply even once? I’d rather keep that embarrassing tidbit to myself!”

“Okay, I understand. If he were here I’d kick his butt for you, but of course, that kinda doesn’t make sense because if he were here, his butt probably wouldn’t deserve to be kicked because he’d be here. Um, you know what I mean.”

Joey smiled wistfully.

“You’re not over him yet, are you?”

Joey turned back. “I’m not even sure I’m going to write him again. I don’t know. He inspired me to sail away for the summer with him once. Now another summer’s looming, without him this time, and I could do with some inspiration right now.”

“You don’t need Pacey to feel inspired. What you did with him back then was an impulse that you acted upon. An impulse specific to that moment in time. This is now. You need a different kind of inspiration. Isn’t there anything you’ve always wanted to do?”

 

**************

August 2004…

Dear Pacey,

I deliberately posted this to Doug from Paris, so that when he passed it on to you, the airmail mark would prove I'd been here. Yes, I'm in
Paris! As you know I had the chance to go nearly four years ago and didn't. It's fabulous, Pacey. I thought, why not? A small part of me was always a little disappointed at not going the last time and with Jack, Jen and Grams moving to New York, Audrey going back to LA to cement the fragile building of good relations between herself and her parents and Dawson going back up there for a series of meetings with his agent and potential producers and what not, I felt I deserved a treat. So here I am and I love it, the language, of which I've learnt a good smattering of, the zest for life in these people and the way they live, and the art! I'm so inspired. I've filled a drawing book full of my own already! The Parisians are so stylish, the women so beautiful, kind of haughty sometimes, though. Never mind, it all adds to the experience.

I'll spend another month here then go back to Capeside before term starts. I can hardly believe I'm here. It was a bit daunting at first, coming here alone, and sometimes, as I ponder a beautiful piece of art, or eat up the wonder of the quaint houses and streets of some side alley, I've almost turned to the side to share my excitement, but of course, I'm alone. I certainly don’t regret coming on my own, but some experiences are double the pleasure when you can share it with someone. Do you remember early on during our summer, in Atlantic City, at the casino? I thought you were crazy betting your last $5, but together with $5 of my own we won nearly $500! Crazy fun! Anyway, I hope you like the t-shirt I got you! Just further proof that I’ve actually been here and I know you’ll appreciate that fact. I didn’t think you’d mind the print of Mickey and Minnie Mouse puckering up. I went to Disney World here and couldn’t help being reminded of those 2 days we spent at Disney World and the Epcot Center in Florida that summer. I remember seeing the miniature Eiffel Tower in ‘France’ and now I’m in Paris seeing it for real.

This time will go by too quickly, I know and I’ll be back in Boston again, but of course, life goes on, and we take that for granted, don’t we? We tend to take our loved ones around us for granted, too. We expect them to be with us forever. Sorry to tinge this letter with sad news, but I may as well let you know that Grams has breast cancer. She’s already moved to New York to live with her daughter, Jen’s mom. She’ll get the best treatment there. Jen and Jack have gone with her. Breast cancer. My mother died of that. It’s not exactly something I’d like to deal with again, in however small a capacity it may be. I must sound so selfish. I don’t mean to, but as much as I love Grams, a part of me is glad she’s gone to New York. I don’t have to see her suffer up close. Not that you’d be able to tell, I suppose. Grams just gets on with things, doesn’t she? In that lovable no nonsense way of hers. I pray she’ll recover. That she’ll be okay and back to her old self. I’m really going to miss them. I am missing them. I felt like a bit of a spare wheel after they left. Audrey had to study as she’s in summer school making up for that downward spiral she had and she has to save some time for making out with Dawson! I just had a sudden thought. Dawson and Audrey. Does that bother you? His having dated your ex? I couldn’t tell you Dawson’s thoughts. He’s been pretty tight-lipped about it. I could remind him about the almighty fuss he made about you ‘stealing’ me off him, but it’s history and our friendship’s back to an even keel now. What happened happened. In the end, you and I still got our time together and more, so in that sense, what’s to regret?

Must go now, I'm actually on my break. I'm waitressing at a busy little patisserie here. I love it!

Au revoir, Joey.'

Chapter Text

The first envelope he opened contained no note from Doug or his parents, just a letter from Joey. It had finally caught up with him from Barbados. He’d thought it wise to leave a forwarding address as his post had a tendency to arrive very late, which was understandable as he moved around a lot. In this case, he’d known he would be moving to Trinidad and would be staying there for the next few months. One of Mr Kublick’s acquaintances on the last cruise, a Mr. Helby, had mentioned he owned a few hotels and restaurants on the island and Pacey had managed to persuade him to agree to giving him a few months work experience in the kitchens at one of his best restaurants. It helped that he’d been very impressed with Pacey’s culinary skills on the previous cruise and had no qualms about paying him handsomely for his skills. Up until then, he and Leon had managed to get work on the same boats. They’d worked hard and partied hard, but they’d parted ways a month ago just before Pacey accepted Helby’s offer. Leon was probably back in Boston now, but Pacey had had a very interesting chat with Mr Helby a week ago where Danny Brecher’s name had come up. Unfortunately, their conversation had been interrupted and Mr Helby had left soon after on a business trip. When he got back Pacey intended to resume that conversation. He had an inkling that soon enough he’d have a new address to give to Doug.

He picked up Joey’s letter, but instead of opening it he set it back on the side table and moved on to the small box shaped package to its right that had also just arrived that morning and opened it. That, too, showed that it had travelled from pillar to post to get to him. Well, almost. He dipped into the box forgoing another brightly wrapped parcel, which he knew was from his mother. Instead, he opened the large thick padded envelope from Doug. A letter, a note and yet another small parcel fell out. He skimmed the note from Doug, something about his having ants in his pants and when was Pacey going to put down some proper roots. Pacey smiled briefly before dropping it back into the box. He reached in again, knowing the other letter was from Joey as well. The stamp caught his attention and he brought it up close to his face, scrutinizing the postmark. He felt the corners of his mouth tug up. She’d done it. She’d gone to Paris. He felt a surge of emotion well up into his throat, constricting it. He swallowed it down, too scared to analyze it too closely, fingering the crisp white surface of the envelope. Turning it over, he smoothed his fingers along the sealed flap. What delights of her time in Paris had she written him about? He was tempted. Sorely tempted. A finger flicked at one edge of the seal and then he felt teasing hands slide insidiously around his waist from behind.

“What’s keeping you away from my bed, darling? What you got there?” The woman asked.

Pacey let Joey’s letter fall back into the parcel. “Just post from my family. And that’s my bed, honey. Go on back. I’m coming.”

“I hope so, darling.”

The arms slid away, the body warmth against his back fading as she moved away. He picked up the parcel and went over to the closet. Setting the parcel on the floor beside him, he opened its doors. Pushing aside the clutter on the top shelf, he pulled out a larger box and set it down also. Picking up the one containing Joey’s letter from France, Doug’s note and the two small presents, with a last lingering look he dropped it into the bigger box that contained previous letters from his parents, Doug and Joey – as well as the last three letters she had sent him, still unopened. He closed its top flaps and set it back in the closet, closing its doors. He remained in that position for a moment. His hands on the doors, his head bowed. Then he turned toward the bed.

A sleek, naked goddess lay there watching him with huge, gorgeous come-to-bed brown eyes. Her long brown spiral curls fell liberally down past her shoulders as she tilted her head back flirtatiously. He let his eyes wander over her as he felt heated desire rushing to his groin. Everything about her was lush, from her full sexy lips and smooth, satiny dark honey-toned skin, to the firm ample breasts that begged for attention with their large tempting areolas surrounding hard pointed nipples. He knew she was lying on a very fine ass, a luscious, round peach atop fine, toned long legs. The women here were beautiful. He loved the lilting musical tones of their accents. The islanders were a very friendly people and the women he’d encountered were certainly not backward in coming forward. And if for a second, a straying thought intruded as to whether he was as happy with life as he thought he was he ignored it and determinedly approached the bed and his latest conquest.

 

**************

February 2005…

'Dear Pacey,

It’s been longer than usual since I last wrote you. Just busy with stuff. Anyway, first, the best news ever! Bessie and Bodie are engaged! They haven’t set a date for the wedding, yet. I’ll let you know when they do. Engaged. Well, it’s about time Bodie made an honest woman of my sister! Maybe now the Capeside tongues will stop wagging about us all! Yeah, fat chance…

…As for the latest on love’s young dream…as soon as Dawson’s movie wrapped, so did Dawson and Audrey. Four months ago now. Her decision. Something about his being a crutch for her and she needs to stand on her own now. I think Dawson liked her more than he realized, but he straightaway started dating a Pamela Anderson look alike from one of his classes. Tessa. Thing is I have a sneaky feeling that Audrey is jealous. Very jealous. Anyway, he has a new project, of which his new love is the leading lady and he’s brought Oliver on board again. They seem to have got over whatever went wrong between them. That horror movie he did went straight to video, but his last one was well received. I guess there was a good reason why we went through all that angst – to provide Dawson with the fodder needed to boost his film career!

…I was in Capeside the a few weekends ago, and I was at the store picking up a few bits and pieces for Bessie. Imagine my surprise just as I was reaching for the dried pasta when I hear your mother gossiping in the next isle. She was kind of complaining about you, but not in a bad way. It's been a while since you left and while it's obvious that you've probably been back to Capeside to visit your folks in the last 2 years, I guess I never thought very hard about it. Of course, you must have. During term time, right? She said you didn't visit often enough, but how nice it was seeing you the week before and how she still wasn't used to the fact that you were gone and that every time she saw you she marveled that she had a son so handsome and charming. That you really reminded her of your father when they first met and that it took you going away to make her really see you. I don't know who she was talking to, though…

…It was a quiet but happy Christmas for us. Dad came to stay over the holidays. It was really nice. He asked after you. I did get an invite from Gale, she has a new man in her life, by the way, and so did Audrey, but I didn’t relish ducking the venomous evil eyes and the sugar coated barbs that were bound to fly with Audrey sitting opposite Tessa! She went home to LA in the end. We may have the Leery’s come to the B & B for next Christmas. I couldn’t help but wonder what you were doing. You didn’t come to Capeside. CJ was round the Lindley’s for Christmas. Jen’s admitted to me that she’s crazy about him…

Take care, Pacey

Love, Joey.'

 

**************

July 2005…

'Pacey! I’ve put Jen’s address at the end of this letter for you! Remember I told you she’s in New York now with Jack and Grams – Grams, by the way is doing well. Thing is, now that I know you’re there too, you’ll be able to catch up with them yourself! You guys must meet up! I can’t believe you’re in the same city! New York! How’d you end up there? I’m so jealous. Anyway, here’s how I find this out. I got a complimentary ticket to a Charity Fundraising Ball held at The Yacht Club a couple of weeks ago, thanks to the Mr Kublick who never fails to sing your praises whenever I see him at college. Your parents were there. Your father looked quite dashing, actually and you should have heard the way he and your mother talked about you. Especially, your dad, and the way he puffed out his chest with pride, his voice all gruff like. So, anyway, first he asks me about Worthington and how I’m doing, and then he says how you’re doing really well in New York. Apparently, you’re second in command to none other than your old boss Danny at one of two branches of Civilization. You must be loving that! Mr Witter said he wouldn’t be surprised if you ended up owning the damn place because you’ve always had smarts, been skilled with your hands and you’ve inherited the famous Witter silver tongue. Now I know firsthand how silver-tongued you can be, but I never knew it was a famous trait passed down through the lineage of Witter men! I guess that makes up for that faulty gene you say you’ve got rattling around. He says you talk his ear off when you ring and your mother gets annoyed at how long you spend on the phone. Anyway, then your mother chirps in and says you have plans to open your own restaurant. Wow, Pacey! Is that true? Or is that just a typical mother accepting, as her right, the prerogative to brag and exaggerate about the achievements of her children? I know you could do it, though! Then Mr Witter says, ‘hell, my boy is gonna open a string of ‘em all over the damn country.” What do you make of that then?

Your mother says she’s so happy at how you’ve settled down there, but she wishes you’d visit more often. You’ve only been back to Capeside a few times since you left. She said something about how next time you come you bring she hopes you bring Alex seeing as you mention her often enough when you call home. So, let’s see, apparently you’ve been in New York for the last 8 months working with Brecher, met Alex 4 months ago and have been dating her for the last 3 months. I guess you’ve opened up a whole new world for yourself. I guess leaving me, was the best thing you ever did in your life. A new Pacey, a new city, new job, new girlfriend. It’s all falling into place for you. Good for you. Best of all, knowing what your relationship used to be like with your family, and hearing your dad bore the pants off people as he bragged about how well you’re doing, was wonderful. I guess you have a new relationship with you father too. That’s good to know…

Bessie and Bodie have set the date! Next year, July 23r. It won’t seem right to look back at their wedding photos and not see you in them, Pacey…

So, soon after I last wrote you Dawson broke up with Tessa. She’s seeing some actor type with Tom Cruise aspirations! Two weeks later Audrey and Dawson were back together. You’d be surprised at how much they complement each other.

I’m in Capeside for the summer. I’m helping out at the B&B, waitressing at the yacht club. The usual boring stuff...

Love, Joey.'

 

**************

“Jen?” Joey spoke into her cell phone.

“Hey Joey! How are ya?”

“I’m-I’m good, thanks.” Joey took a deep breath and plunged. “Jen, Pacey is in New York.”

“What? New York?”

“Yes.”

“New York, New York? My New York, right here?”

“Yes, Jen. Have you been drinking?”

“Uh, a bit. Grams forced Jack and me out of the house, so we had a few beers and this is one of the nights I don’t see CJ. And, like, you know he’s not really into drinking. We just got back, so I-oh my god, Pacey is in New York!”

“Yes! That’s what I said!”

“Jack! Jack!” She heard the faint sound of Jack answering. “Pacey is in New York. Right here in our New York!”

“No kidding!” He replied, his voice much closer and clearer now.

“How’d you find this out? I mean-“

Joey explained briefly about the charity ball in Capeside. “I’ve already written to him and included your address and number. Okay? You guys must get together. I wish…well, never mind. Now, if for some reason you don’t hear from him then you can go looking for him. He’s working at Civilization – for Danny Brecher. Okay?”

“Oh yeah!”

“I’m not sure but I think there are only two Civilizations in New York. He must be at one of them and –“

“Joey?”

“What?”

“Will Pacey want us to go looking for him?”

A startled silence.

“I-I don’t know. I hadn’t thought of that.”

“Aww, what the hell! He didn’t ask our permission to leave Boston. We don’t need his permission to find him in New York. Right?”

“Hmm, I don’t know, Jen.” Came Jack’s wary interruption.

“You know what?” Joey said, biting her lips. “That’s a good point. He might not want to see old friends.”

“How could he not want to see me?” Joey could almost see Jen pouting.

“Jen, maybe you should wait to see if Pacey contacts you first.”

“Hold on. You’ve already written to him you said. I don’t-“

“I’ve been writing to Pacey since he left.”

“You have?”

“He’s never written back.”

“Maybe he didn’t get your letters. Maybe-“

“I know he got at least some of them. He’s never replied. Jen, I really think now you should wait until he contacts you. It shouldn’t be too long before you know if he wants to see old faces.”

“Danny Brecher’s an old face.”

“But Alex is not.”

“Who’s Alex?”

“His girlfriend.”

“Oh. It won’t last.” Jen assured her.

“Oh Jen,” Joey laughed helplessly.

“Well, okay. We’ll wait for him.”

“Good. I’d better go now.”

“Joey, I’ll call you tomorrow, okay?”

“Okay.”

“I’m gonna call you tomorrow. I’m going to hang up now. Say bye, bye, Jack.”

“Bye Joey.”

“Bye Jack. Bye Jen.”

 

**************

October 2005…Email from Jen

...Hi Joey, I'm going to come right out with it. What's with all the Hell's Belle's shenanigans? Emma and Jack exchange the occasional email, you know and she has regaled Jack with her bands exploits and you're bang in the middle of them. I don't want to sound like a mother hen now that I've settled into the well-worn groove of a comfortable, steady relationship with CJ, especially as I'm the original wild child of our bunch, but be careful, okay? Jack, Grams and CJ says hi.

In other news, I think I made the right decision to go for the psychology major. It makes sense though, doesn't it? I'm so screwed up I've got to understand what makes other screwy people tick, right? Who better to advise them?

Speak to you soon.
Take care, Joey.

Jen.

P.S. Okay, I'm going to ask anyway. You acting up 'cos Pacey's got a girlfriend?

 

**************

November 2005… Email from Jen…

Hi Joey

Um, I have a confession to make. I didn’t keep my promise. The second I came off the phone to you I knew I was going to look for Pacey anyway, but Jack said we ought to at least try and keep our promise. So we tried. I've been pretty busy with the new term at NYU, but I've been thinking and thinking about Pacey being in the same city as us, and it's been driving me crazy this last week. So Jack and I looked up him up. We got lucky with the first place we tried and waited until his shift finished. Like a proper stakeout! You should have seen his face when he saw us. Joey, I was sad and annoyed at the way he left last time, but it's hard to hold grudges against that guy. It was just so damn good to see him. I wish you'd been there. To be honest it was something I was going to suggest to you, but you were so adamant about waiting for him to get in touch, you know?

He was totally stunned, but he grinned that famous grin. He looks good, Jo. We joined him in this nearby bar that he and a lot of his work colleagues go to apparently. They seem like good guys. The sous-chef hit on me. He'd had a bit too much to drink by that time, and he was kinda cute, but I threatened to break his fingers if he didn't take his hand off my ass in double quick time! I am of course practically a married woman now, you know! To be honest we really didn't get a chance to chat to Pacey at length. The bar was packed and noisy, his workmates are pretty loud and lively and then Pacey's girlfriend, Alex turned up. I'm not sure how much to tell you about her. On first impressions, she seems pretty cool. Nice, but she obviously likes to be the centre of his attention. She looked at me long and hard whenever I spoke to him! And kept cutting in. He didn’t know about Grams being ill, though so maybe he didn’t get your letters. I didn’t get a chance to ask him about that. Your name didn’t come up. I think he might have wanted to ask about you, but didn’t. Anyway, I’m hoping to catch with him later in the week, so we can talk properly. I’ll keep you posted.

Speak soon

Jen

 

**************

November 2005… Email from Jen…

Hey, how's it going?
I spoke to Dawson yesterday. Trouble in paradise revisited, again, huh? It seemed like Dawson and Audrey were made for each other, but with them seeing less and less of each other because of Dawson's schedule and his insecurity about her constant flirting it doesn't look good, does it?

Jack says he emailed you last week about coming up here one weekend and you haven't got back to him about that. Please think about it, Joey. Our last time together here wasn't exactly full of the joys and I guess now's not exactly the perfect time, either. Well, I’m assuming it isn't because I'm not exactly sure how you feel about Pacey being here and that he has a girlfriend. As for the man in question, I still haven't seen him since that first time 3 weeks ago and I had no joy with his cell phone. Turns out he was on vacation for couple of weeks, but that was a week ago and during that interim he kept fobbing me off about meeting up again. At least, it felt like he was. Anyway, he's promised to meet me tomorrow night. Just me, as Jack has a date. I'll let you know how it goes. Say hi to all for me and please think about coming to see us. Dawson's already coming this weekend, so it'll be your turn next!

Bye!

Chapter Text

“That Brecher always seemed like a fun guy and you did practically worship him.” Jen laughed.

They were sat in a coffee house and Pacey had not long finished an early shift at Civilization. He’d told her he couldn’t stay too long as he had a date with Alex. So far, the mood had been light-hearted with Pacey regaling her with news of his life in New York and his adventures on the sea before that. She set her cup of coffee down and settled back in her chair. “So,’ Jen said, as though she could hardly believe it, ‘Pacey Witter’s in New York.”

“That he is.” He chuckled as he sipped from his cup. “Who’d have thought it, huh?”

“It’s good to see you Pacey. You were missed.”

He nodded, looking into his cup at the dark liquid. “You’re not pissed at me anymore, then?”

“What gives you that idea?” Jen quirked a brow. “Especially as you seem to make a habit out of just disappearing. You know, after the third time it does become a little annoying.” Her eyes never left his face.

“Third time?” He narrowed his eyes.

“You did run off with Joey to Florida, remember? You never consulted the rest of us. Except for Andie.”

“It was kinda spur of the moment – and that was Joey’s idea.”

“Go on, blame it on her when she’s not here to answer back.”

“It’s true!” He sipped from his coffee again and set the cup down.

“And then you disappeared again at the end of senior year. You couldn’t even be bothered to graduate with the rest of us. And then," she rushed on as he opened his mouth to respond, "you did it again! Three years Pacey, and not a word!”

“Okay, are you going to lay all my sins out before me? ‘Cos I’m warning you, it’s a long list and we don’t have all night, so maybe you should show me a little mercy now.”

“A little mercy coming right up,” she smiled, benignly. “But still, would it have hurt to keep in touch?”

He leveled his gaze on hers, so she would get the message loud and clear. “Yes, it would have.”

"She never went back there with Dawson, you know."

He shifted uncomfortably in his seat, looking away now from Jen's probing gaze. She saw entirely too much with those beautiful eyes.

"I needed this time away, Jen. I didn't realize how much until I’d been gone a few months. It took that long for me to finally exhale."

When he looked up again he saw understanding in her eyes, but a glint there told him she wasn't done with him, yet.

"Is that why you never answered her letters? I was thinking you got Doug’s so you must have got hers."

His eyes dropped away again, guilt swamping him. "Partly, yes,' he admitted, 'although the post took it's time catching up with me a lot of the time." He added a touch defensively.

"So you're glad you left her behind?"

"Jen-" he huffed a little angrily, pausing as his brain scrambled around for the right words. He wasn’t sure he chose the right ones. "It's the best thing I ever did for us!"

"You think?"

"I've moved on and I love it here."

"Mmm hmm."

"And-and so has she, right? And she's doing great."

“How would you know?” she asked, eyeing him meaningfully.

“Okay, I deserve that, but she is, isn’t she?”

He said it too matter of factly for her liking. She looked at him dubiously.

"Isn't she?" Pacey shot a startled, concerned look at her and Jen decided that maybe she'd stirred the pot enough.

"She's doing as well as you, I expect." Or maybe not.

"What does that mean?" The exasperation coloring his voice came through loud and clear now.

"I just mean you're both happy and satisfied with your lot. Right?"

"Right, right." Pacey quickly agreed, trying to bite down on an inexplicable rise of irritation.

“So what did you do with them?” He shot her a puzzled look. “The letters.” She reminded him. “Tear them up and throw them away? What?"

"No, I-I've still got them," he admitted haltingly. "I just...I didn't…quite get round to reading them."

"Oh Pacey. Why? If you kept them, then why not read them?"

"Jen…’ he sighed impatiently, trailing off, then continued in a low quiet voice. ‘I'm here, I'm happy. There’s Alex… and digging up the past isn't necessarily a healthy thing.” He was silent a moment. “Joey doesn't need me disrupting her life again, either. Why would she?"

"What does that mean? You're not even going to stay in touch?"

"I didn't say that, but she's in Boston. I'm in New York."

"Not that far from each other then."

Pacey stared at Jen hard. Unperturbed, Jen continued. "She's a lifelong friend, Pacey. She knows things about you that your girlfriend Alex wouldn't get in a million years."

"Jen that's not fair-"

"She knows you're here. You could at least ring her to say hello. As a person who once meant something to you-"

"She still does, dammit!"

"Does she?" Jen pounced.

"Of course, as a friend."

"Then again, as a friend who means a lot to you and used to mean much more once upon a time, she at least deserves a phone call, even if only to thank her for continuing to be a friend by writing to you."

"You don't understand why I didn't write back, do you?"

"I guess, if I let myself consider it long enough, I would." She shot him a wry smile. "What you so scared about?”

“Who’s scared?” Pacey protested.

“You, maybe? Scared that she might still be in love with you? Or that you might still be in love with her and how either one or both of those two fears might mess up the pretty little world you've built up for yourself here?"

"You really hate me, don't you?"

Jen couldn’t help laughing.

“You must have been one of those dungeon torturers in a past life, terrorizing prisoners into confessing to crimes real or trumped up.”

"It wasn't just Joey you left behind, you know. It wasn't just Joey you didn't contact."

"I'm sorry.”

Jen patted his hand consolingly. “I forgive you, but when you left Boston, you and Joey were still in love with each other. Just like when you left senior year.”

“Jen-“

“Funny that, huh?”

“It’s been three years this time, Jen.”

“So?”

“I’m with Alex,” he said, firmly.

“So?” she repeated, softly.

He picked up his lukewarm coffee, draining the cup while holding that all seeing gaze of hers. “Look, I’m going to have to go. Alex is expecting me back and I said I wouldn’t be late."

When she didn’t say anything, merely sat there watching him, the faintest of smiles on her face, the fondest of expressions in her eyes, he leaned over and gently kissed the corner of her mouth. “I missed you, Lindley.”

“I should think so, too. Now, would you be sorry I tracked you down if I told you another friend was paying a flying visit to New York this weekend and I pestered you to meet him with us?"

"Who?" He drew the word out guardedly, although he had an inkling.

"Dawson."

His face didn't exactly fall, but something in the quality of his expression changed. "I don't know if I can make it."

"Could you at least try?"

"Jen, I know what you're thinking, but this has nothing to do with water under the bridge because it's exactly that. Water under the bridge. We didn't part friends. Once upon a time that ate away at me, but I'm over it. I don't need to see Dawson to make peace with him or myself. I wish him well and I sincerely mean that."

"Then it shouldn't make a difference meeting up with him.”

“We're totally different people now. What have we got to say to each other?”

"Maybe all you need to do is listen."

 

Once Jen got home and after greeting her mother and Grams she rang Joey .

“Hey.”

“Hey Jen!” Joey licked her suddenly dry lips remembering that Jen had seen Pacey today.

“I just got in. Pacey and I had coffee, but we only had an hour or so. He had a date with Alex.”

“Oh. How is he?”

“In his own words, he loves it here and he’s happy.”

Joey nodded. Why shouldn’t he be? That’s what he’d aimed for when he left Boston. “Well, good for him. I’m glad.”

“Are you?”

“Huh?”

“Come on, Joey. It sucks.”

“And again. Huh?’

“You didn’t have an amicable parting. He never replied to any of your letters-”

“What? So he did get them?”

“Uh…” Jen grimaced. “It looks like he did, yes, but…” she trailed off.

“I see.”

“He has his reasons-“

“What the hell ever!” Joey was stung into retorting. If he had received her letters then why hadn’t he replied to her?

“Joey-“

“It doesn’t matter, Jen! I’m sorry I snapped at you.”

“O-kay.” Pacey could fight his own battles. “As I was going to say, you then found out by accident he was here in New York disgustingly alive, healthy and happy. You still glad for him?”

“Water under the bridge.”

“He slipped that saying in, too, but we were talking about Dawson at the time.”

“What did he say about Dawson?” Joey asked in spite of herself.

“Not much. Just that he held no grudges and wished the guy well. Sincerely so. He didn’t sound too enthusiastic about us all meeting up this weekend when Dawson comes over though.”

“Do-do you think there’s still bad blood there? You know Dawson and I haven’t mentioned the P word in a long time.”

“Pacey said he doesn’t have a problem anymore. I’m inclined to believe him. Still, he was non committal about this weekend.”

“Hmm, and he’s disgustingly healthy, you say?”

“Yup.”

“So in the last three years he hasn’t developed a paunch, thinning hair and a disfiguring outbreak of acne?”

“Uh, he looked like a cool, tall, gorgeous drink of water to a thirsty woman.”

“I guess Alex is a very lucky woman, then.”

Jen’s voice took on a serious tone. "Joey, I know it wasn't the best of partings and I know it's been three years since you last saw him and he hasn't contacted you in all that time, but...do you think...are you still in love with him?"

“Please,” Joey spluttered.

“You know, Jack and I were quite worried about you for a bit there. You know, the whole Helle’s Belles rebellion thing. The drinking, the smoking, the guys, not coming home-“

“I guess Emma and Jack do email each other a lot,’ she murmured sarcastically, ‘but what’s that got to do with anything?”

“None of that started until after you found out Pacey had a girlfriend.”

“Do you really think that I expected Pacey never to have got himself a girlfriend in all this time?” Joey spluttered defensively. She had gone wild for a while. Well, what was wild for Joey Potter wasn’t necessarily wild for someone else, but she had smoked, she had gotten drunk a lot, she had hung out with edgy guys with wandering hands. Nothing too serious. It had been fun, that’s all. A change. A phase. That’s all. Nothing to do with Pacey. Nothing at all.

"Joey-"

“That would be naïve of me, wouldn’t it? I’ve had boyfriends, why shouldn’t he have girlfriends?”

“But now you know it’s a reality.”

“Look, I quit the group, didn’t I?”

“Why? Because you were scared you were losing control? Scared something bad might happen if you didn’t get a grip?”

“Yeah, it’s okay for you or Audrey or Emma and the girls to act out, to go wild, but I’m not allowed to cut loose. No, not Joey Potter. If she plays out of the box it must be because she’s still in love with Pacey! Let’s not think about how stupid that would be. I mean, would I be that much of a glutton for punishment? Huh? Would I?" Jen heard the hollow edge to Joey's laughter. "And if I was, how thick, how dense, how brainless would that make me considering he's got a whole new life, especially a new girlfriend? You know, he said in his goodbye letter that he was going to do his best to forget me and that's exactly what he's done, isn't it? How futile would it be if I were still in love with him? Why-why would you even ask me such a thing anyway? It's over. It was over the day he left me!"

“I think if you had really believed that you wouldn't have written to him."

"I was just trying to hold on to our friendship!"

"Or the hope he might come back? That if you kept reminding him of what he left behind, he'd realize the enormity of what he'd given up?"

"He said I would probably haunt him for the rest of his life! That any other woman he became involved with would be at a disadvantage because of me! Because of the memory of what he and I once had. Well, I wanted to make sure of that! I didn't want him to forget! Why should he be allowed to move on and forget? Why?" Her breath was ragged, her throat burned with dry tears.

"You still love him," Jen stated solemnly.

Joey took a moment to gain control again. “Maybe it’s just a memory I’m still in love with. I’m sorry. I’m ragging on you and-”

“Don’t worry about it. The offer to come to New York is still open, though.”

“I don’t know, Jen.”

“Think about it. I think seeing him again will tell you everything you need to know, but you can catch a clue in the meantime.”

“What do you mean?”

“He’s going to call you tomorrow. Well, soon.”

Joey swallowed nervously on that news. “Did you have to twist his arm?”

“No. He says he still cares.” Jen heard Joey’s snort of disbelief, but Pacey could talk for himself when the time came. “He wants to keep in touch.”

“Yeah, well…whatever. I won’t hold my breath."

Except that’s pretty much what she did for the next two days.

 

**************

"I'm just going to the library now." Audrey slid off her bed and picked up a few books beside her bed.

Joey frowned and looked up from her light reading. "Library?"

"Yeah." Audrey said, brightly, stuffing her books into a bag.

Joey narrowed her eyes speculatively at her. Audrey paused, and placed her hands went to her hips. "What?”

“Again?”

“What do you mean again?”

“That’s the third time this week already!”

“Okay, I'm meeting this guy."

"Audrey..." Joey groaned unhappily. "Dawson-"

"Look, I would have brought him here, if you hadn't turned down that cute Colin Farrell look alike and for what? So you can be here in case the phone rings."

"I'm not waiting for Pacey to ring me!" That was the truth. By this morning, the third day after Jen’s phone call, she had felt all kinds of pathetic over the fact that she’d constantly had an ear out for the peal of her cell phone or dorm phone and they both had remained silent.

"You so are! Three evenings straight you've been stuck beside the phone!"

"Stop trying to turn this on me. You're cheating on Dawson!"

"I'm not! Nick and I are just going to have a coffee. A girl can take rejection from her boyfriend only so many times, you know. Besides how do you know he's not screwing someone behind my back?"

"I'd know."

"Yeah, because you two are so close now."

"Audrey please, talk to Dawson again. This is an uncomfortable position for me. Dawson's my friend and so are you."

Audrey huffed and plopped back down on her bed, misery spreading rapidly over her face. "We were so good together, Joey. What happened? I just want-"

The phone on Joey's bedside table rang and she jumped nearly ten feet in the air, eyes wide with apprehension, her heart hammering against her chest at the sudden shot of adrenaline. She shot a panicked look at Audrey.

"Why are you looking at me like a scared rabbit? You know you've been waiting for that call."

"Oh, it's not him! I know it's not!" Joey snatched up the phone. Still she sucked in a deep breath in readiness before speaking. "Hello?"

"Hi Auntie Joey! I love you!" Disappointment warred with resignation and the rising of warmth of amusement as her nephew Alexander piped up on the other line.

"Hello you! I love you, too, but you can't keep ringing your auntie up like this all the time, young man!"

She eyed Audrey balefully as she took her coat out of the closet and slipped out of the room and then returned a full ear to her nephew’s chatter.

"That’s really nice honey, but I can’t talk now."

"But you are talking!”

“I mean, I’ll have to go now.”

Okay! Love you Aunt Joey."

"I love you, too, baby."

"Do you really, Aunt Joey?”

"Yes, really. Put the phone down now. Bye, bye."

"Bye, bye, Aunt Joey. Love you."

"Bye, sweetie."

"You didn't say it!"

"I did! I- okay, I love you too. Bye, bye now."

"Bye."

Joey set the phone down and almost immediately it rang again. Joey rolled her eyes with exasperation, but a goofy smile had already sneaked across her mouth. She’d forgotten to blow him some kisses. This was the third time this month Alexander had done this and twice he’d rung her back when she forgot to blow him a kiss. He had developed this cute habit after overhearing Bessie cooing down the phone to Bodie one weekend he was away and Alexander had developed the trick of pressing speed dial and telling whoever was on the end of the line that he loved them. Last week it had been the bank manager! Joey wasn't in the least bit fazed that Bessie had a number allocated on speed dial for the bank manager. Not that the B & B was in trouble. It was doing very well, actually.

Joey picked up the phone again and smacking her lips together sent several kisses down the phone ending with an extra big one for good measure.

"Mmmmwah! I love you, baby. Now be a good boy and put the phone down otherwise mummy will get cross with you. Okay? Alex? Alexander?"

On the other end of the line, someone cleared their throat tentatively.
Someone who was definitely not a six year old little boy.

"Uh, Joey?"

Joey took a deep breath, falling back against her pillow as a profusion of heated mortification suffused her body.

"Pacey?" she croaked, and needed to clear her own throat.

"Hey."

"Hey. Um, Jen said you might call."

"Guess you were expecting someone else."

"Well, uh, Alexander has picked up this little habit. I, um, had just finished speaking to him and..." She let go the breath that had been building in her chest while she gabbled on.

"I guess it'd be naive of me to expect kisses down the phone from you."

Joey swallowed painfully; she couldn't even guess how to answer such a provocative statement. In the end, she didn't have to.

"How are you, Jo? It's good to hear your voice again."

"I'm...I'm good." Joey nodded vigorously. It was wonderful, felt weird, too, but was wonderful to hear his, too. Those deep, familiar tones and that huskiness when he talked low and quiet. "And you? How's New York?"

"Good. It's really good. Danny's great. You remember him, don't you?"

"Yeah, yeah."

“Jen tell you I work with him now?”

“Uh, I knew that.” She’d told him in one of her letters to him how she’d found out but, of course, he wouldn’t know that now, would he?

"It's hard work, but I love it. I've got an apartment within easy reach of work and there's this little bar that we all go to a few nights each week, me and the guys from work and… uh, yeah. I've landed on my feet, it seems."

Alex. That was the name he'd left out. The name of his girlfriend. Joey suddenly thought of all the letters she'd sent him and embarrassment hit her full flood.

"I'm glad for you, Pacey." She hoped her voice didn't sound as strained to him as it did to her ears. "I knew you'd make something of yourself."

"I must admit it was great seeing Jen and Jack again.”

She tried to sound as casual as she could. “Jen said she’d met all your work colleagues. Had to fight one off apparently. Oh, and your girlfriend.”

“Yeah.”

“Alex, isn’t it? I remember because of my nephew, you know.”

“Yeah, how is the little fella?”

“He’s fine. He’s a big boy now and Bessie and Bodie are okay, too.”

“That’s good to know.” She sensed some discomfort in his voice.

“Oh, I wasn’t saying that in a…a… I mean, I wasn’t chiding you. I just-“

“I know. It’s okay. So I met Jen for coffee and - did you know Dawson’s coming here?”

“Yeah, uh, are you meeting up with him?”

Pause. “I’ll probably be working.”

Joey closed her eyes. Even now, was Dawson still between them? “Oh,” she said. “Well, maybe next time,” she added lamely.

“I’m sorry, Jo.”

“For what?”

“The way I left.”

A rising panic lurched suddenly in the pit of her stomach. She didn’t want to be reminded of that night. “Pacey…that…we’ve dealt with that. You wrote me, I wrote you back. So…” God, this was horrible.

“Yeah, uh, okay. Let’s not go back there.”

“Right.” She was suddenly aware of the prick of tears behind her eyes.

“As for your letters, Joey I-“

"Sorry to have bombarded you like that,” Joey jumped in, ‘but you know like I mentioned, you'd need to be kept up to speed if we ever found each other again." She paused, then added quickly, "I mean, you know, if we all caught up with each other. Again."

"Yeah, but you didn’t bom-"

She couldn’t do this. She couldn’t continue this polite conversation with this stranger who wasn’t a stranger. “And now that we're all kind of in touch now, you mustn't be a stranger."

"You should come up here, Jo.”

“Maybe I’ll catch up with you in Capeside some time.”

“Yeah, maybe, uh…”

“Sorry, I’ve got to go. I’ve got some studying to get in before-“

“I meant to ask how Worthington is and-“

“It’s good, it’s good. Sorry, I-“

“No, that’s okay. I’ll speak to you another time.”

“Sure. Take care.”

“Bye.”

“Bye.”

Joey set the phone down, curled up on her bed. They came haltingly at first, the sobs, but then they took over in a serious crying jag. She hadn’t cried like that in a long time, not even when he left three years ago, not since the death of her mother. He already was a stranger and she hated that she still had feelings for him.

At some point, she had fallen asleep and it wasn’t until Audrey crept in that she woke up again. She remained still, eyes closed, as Audrey called her name out, once, twice, her breathing deep and even as she then listened to Audrey getting ready to go to bed. When the light went off, her eyes opened, staring straight ahead in the dim gloom of the room. She felt a dull throbbing at her temples, the after effects of crying, but her mind felt clear and sharp. She would show that she had moved on, too. Tomorrow, she would accept a date from the Colin Farrell look alike and she’d let Jen know that next weekend she’d be in New York.

Chapter Text

Pacey frowned at Ed, one of Civilizations waiters, as he whizzed past to shout out an order.

"Who?"

"Uh, some guy." Ed replied as he hurried by again and out of the kitchen door.

"Cal, finish this for me, please." Pacey stirred the sauce vigorously for a couple of seconds more before letting Cal take over and then, bustling past the kitchen staff that chopped, stirred, peeled at a furious pace, pushed open the kitchen door and stuck his head around it curiously.

Dawson was stood at the long counter ten feet away. He looked at Pacey, nodding slightly. Pacey stared for a long moment, and then held up a forefinger to indicate that Dawson give him a moment. He ducked back into the kitchen and freed himself of his cap and apron.

"Hey, Brian." Pacey went up to a tall thin man, standing over one of the more inexperienced staff as they put the finishing touches to a dish.

He spoke quietly in his ear. "I know it’s busy, but give me half an hour or so. I got something I've got to take care of." Brian nodded distractedly, and Pacey went out to greet Dawson.

"Dawson."

"Pacey."

"To what do I owe the pleasure?"

"Pleasure? Well, that's more than I expected."

Pacey studied him a moment. Certainly didn't look any different physically. Didn't look like he was in the mood to pick a fight, either. In fact, he was smiling faintly.

"You hungry?" Pacey asked.

"Actually...yeah."

Pacey led him over to one of the few tables that were free. Dawson slung his jacket over the back of the chair and sat down.

"You ever been to Civilization before?"

"No."

"Then this is what I recommend.” He pointed to a dish in the menu.

"Sure."

Pacey caught the attention of one of the waitresses clearing an empty table and told her to ask Brian to make the dish for him.

"Want a drink, Dawson?"

"Yeah, a beer's fine, thanks."

"And a beer please, Lucy. Thanks." He sat down opposite Dawson.

"How are you Pacey?"

"I'm fine, man. Good. You certainly look well. I must say you were the last person I expected to see when I looked out that door."

"After our last exchange, that comment doesn't surprise me, but things change. People change."

"Sometimes," Pacey nodded slowly. His eyes were speculatively at Dawson.

"True, some things never change, I guess. Um, like the incestuous nature of a close knit group."

"Ah. I know about Audrey. Jen told me. How's that going?"

Dawson's shoulders shook slightly with a self-deprecating chuckle as he looked away over the heads of the other diners. "Not so good at the moment. Looks like I'm on the verge of another break-up - my second with Audrey."

"It would never have occurred to me - you and Audrey."

"You and Joey? Same here."

Pacey shifted in his seat, a sign of discomfort. "Except, I don't have a problem with you dating Audrey. It's not like we were together very long and I haven't seen her in three years so..." He shrugged casually, although he felt his muscles tensing as if preparing to go on the defensive.

"How very unlike my reaction of years ago, huh?"

"That wasn't a dig, Dawson. I'm just saying-"

"It's okay. I know, but latching onto that word 'dig.' A lot went wrong between us, very quickly, back then. The night I confronted you and
Joey on my porch-"

"Dawson, please. It's really not necess-"

"I want to. It's partly why I'm here. The night-" Dawson was interrupted again as the waitress arrived with his meal and set it in front of him.

"This looks good, smells even better."

"Enjoy."

Dawson scooped a forkful into his mouth, looked appreciative, and took a few more mouthfuls before he set the fork down again.

"It's excellent."

"And that sauce was created by myself, I would have you know. Well, almost. Let's just say that I improved on a good recipe and it's proved to be popular with the customers, so my job as head chef here is safe for the moment."

Dawson continued eating. "You're head chef?" he asked between mouthfuls.

"Pretty much. Danny's left me in charge here. He had to see to a crisis that cropped up at our other place, and it's keeping him there longer than he expected. He assured me that he had no qualms in letting me take over here. He'd better be careful, I might not let him have it back."

Pacey could see how much Dawson was really enjoying the food and he took a certain pride it that. The guy was wolfing it down.

Finally, Dawson pushed the empty plate away. "My compliments to the chef!" He dabbed at his mouth with his napkin and set it down. He stared at it a little pensively.

"Pacey?"

He waited until Pacey looked up at him. "I've never been good at this kind of thing, so I've decided to take a leaf out of your book."

"What do you mean?"

"You. You can be as stubborn as the next guy when you're ready, but when it's time to step up to the plate you do it and you do it with no qualms and with an eloquence that puts me to shame."

Pacey shook his head, bemused by the compliments, perplexed as to what Dawson was talking about.

"Apologies." Dawson informed him. "For what it's worth, I've missed our friendship. For the longest time, although it took awhile to admit that to myself. I've made other friends, of course, but...well, the history isn't the same."

"The history has its rocky roads and pitfalls."

"I know."

"And I'm no saint. I never was."

"Yet, you've always been so much better at this than me. The night I found you and Joey on my lawn-"

"Dawson, seriously, man. It doesn't matter. You don't have to-"

"Pacey. Let me. After finding out about you and Joey, inadvertently from Jen, I let my anger fester instead of trying to look at it objectively - which would have been a really hard thing to do, but considering the friendships between us, I could at least have tried to see your side of things. So, when I saw you and Joey outside arguing about your relationship, it only made my blood boil even more. You see, that was the night I intended to ask Joey to give us another shot and in my arrogance I didn't see her saying no."

Pacey nodded.

"Don't say anything yet. I've had a long time to think about this, to analyze and dissect and probe, and I think what got me the most was that, deep down, I knew you were right for each other. Too right for my liking. You fit. You made sense together and I didn't want to face that."

"Maybe you hadn't noticed, but Joey and I are not together anymore."

"I've noticed and I'm just wondering since when did falling out of love with Joey become an easy thing?"

Pacey was at a sudden loss for words, is mouth opening and closing like a goldfish before snapping shut. He shook his head.

"You were a damn sight more compatible than Joey and I ever were for each other, but I couldn’t see it. I let my spoiled only child syndrome get the better of me."

Pacey laughed, a strain of nervousness running through it. "Okay, okay. You wanted to make your peace Dawson and you have. Now-"

"Look, I'm just saying, that after all this time, I finally got it. I just wanted to tell you I'm really sorry for the way I treated you back then. Both of you. We never did talk about all of this at the time. Maybe if we had I wouldn't have had to have this conversation with you now - and I know that's my fault. I know. God, I was an arrogant idiot back then. How the hell did you guys put up with me?" He sat back on a huff, dragging a hand through his hair before picking up his beer and drinking straight from the bottle.

Pacey laughed. "You weren't all bad. I'm curious, though. Have you talked to Joey like this?"

"No, I think I needed to see you first." He set the beer bottle down. "But I will." They were silent for a moment.

“I'm not in love with her anymore, you know." Dawson said it quite matter of factly, but his gaze on Pacey was intense. "I was, for the longest time or at least thought I was, but I finally accepted what Joey realized long before I did. We're better off as just friends. We're still close. Always will be, I expect, and I'm happy with that."

Pacey nodded, not sure what to say in response. To be honest, he was feeling quite overwhelmed.

"A couple of years ago I wrote another screenplay, yet again, about our beginnings, Jen entering our lives and our little circle of friends. It was quite cathartic and having this talk with you is like the icing on the cake. Whenever I used to jump into a film project, you were always there as part of the team. This time you weren't and revisiting the past through film made me think, reconsider, open my eyes. I realized something that I had refused to consider when you made me aware of it during that last argument we had - that you and I had started drifting apart before you and Joey first got together."

Dawson lapsed into silence and looked at him seemingly expectantly.

Pacey took a deep breath and opened his mouth.

"We were always like chalk and cheese, Dawson. Oil and water and when we were young it didn't matter as much. But I guess, the older we got the more set in our ways we became. The differences became glaringly obvious, and you become less compromising, less inclined to overlook the slights, the bumps and the bruises that can weaken lifelong friendships. I think it was inevitable we grew apart, given the major differences in our characters. And yes, I do believe it started before Joey. The cracks began to appear before that fateful spring and as for our fall out, if it hadn't been about Joey it would have been something else sooner or later.” He paused contemplatively. “I'm glad I left Boston. I'm not exactly proud of the way I did it, but I am glad I left. It was right for me. Time and distance works wonders." He raised his head now and met Dawson's eyes. "I miss our friendship too, Dawson. I miss the whole blood brother thing, building forts, camping under the stars, and sleepovers after a movie night. We did have some great times right up to the day you opened your eyes and saw Joey for the first time. I mean really saw her. After that, I think the clock began ticking all the more on our friendship, but it doesn't matter now. I'll always have those memories. The hurts and slights, real or imagined have gone. The bruises have faded, scars have healed over. Doors have closed, other have opened. And, you know, I would have said that what we once had is gone and that I didn't think that closeness could ever be recaptured and how much I regretted that." He paused.

"But?"

"Let's just say that a chapter has closed…and another can be opened.
So, I'll be looking forward to receiving tickets to the premiere of the big blockbuster movie you'll make. The one you'll win an Oscar for." His eyes crinkled at the corners in a full genuine smile.

"Then I'll expect the same for the various venues where you you'll be collecting awards for your culinary business prowess in the restaurant business."

They chuckled.

"A new chapter, eh?"

"A new chapter." Pacey agreed.

 

**************

"So there'll be Jen and Jack and this old friend of yours, Joey?"

"Uh, yeah. And Jen's boyfriend CJ's coming too. I've never met him so that will be interesting." Pacey replied to Alex.

A week had passed since Pacey had seen Dawson, a meeting he’d never expected, but realized he was happy to have had. As tired as he’d been from a long day’s work at Civilisation that night, after Dawson had gone, and despite having another few hours to go before he could go home and slump tiredly into bed, he’d gone about his business with a lighter heart, a quicker step and a wider grin. He thought he’d made his peace with the way the land lied between himself and Dawson. He’d never expected anymore than that and it surprised him how easy it had been to take steps back to a better friendship with him. And now, tonight, he’d be coming face to face with another ghost from his past and this hurdle was an even harder and higher one to overcome. He didn’t feel prepared and that had nothing to do with the fact that Jen had only informed him of Joey’s visit to New York yesterday morning.

"Should be fun, I guess. You don't talk much about Capeside and Boston, so it'll be interesting to meet your old friends. Jen seems really cool. Jack too, but we didn't get to talk much last time. Are you sure you don't mind me tagging along? I couldn't come with you to meet Jen or Dawson last time, so I didn't want to miss this one. It is okay, isn't it?" She appeared beside him and stroked the back of his neck, letting her hand slide lingeringly down his back before resting it lightly on his waist.

Pacey turned and rubbed the side of her arms up and down reassuringly with his hands. "Of course, it is." He dropped a quick kiss on her month before turning to grab his shirt off the bed.

Satisfied, Alex sat on the bed, lounged back, and watched him dress. "Dawson's not here this time?"

"Nah." He maneuvered his arms into the sleeves of the black polo neck sweater, and then ducked his head through the opening, pulling down quickly through the narrow neckline, and fixing it about his neck. He smoothed the hem down over dark jeans. Joey was here in New York, he thought. Right here. In less than an hour, he would see her. What the hell was he going to say?

Alex’s eyes flicked over him admiringly. "You haven't said much about this
Joey. Was he your best friend in high school?"

"Uh, Joey is a girl." He threw her a wary smile. "She, Dawson and I were quite tight throughout a certain period of our lives. More than ten years in fact. Best friends." He sat on the edge of the bed to pull on his boots the last words from his mouth came through gritted teeth. At least one friendship was repaired. But what did Joey think of him?

Alex frowned, her bottom lip protruding thoughtfully. "Joey's a girl and you guys have been best friends for more than half your lives."

Pacey looked up, his face red from his doubled over effort of putting on his boots. "Yeah."

"Wow. I think I slept with most of my male best friends!" Her eyes twinkled mischievously at him. "Come on, sex must have reared its lustful head at some point. You know I'm not a believer in platonic relationships between opposite sexes! Did Dawson date her?"

Pacey opened his mouth to answer but no sound came out. He closed it.
"Well...actually…"

She got it. "You dated her," she stated.

Pacey smiled wryly. "We both did."

Alex sat up straight. "Which goes to further prove my point of view on that subject," she said slowly, eyeing him as he rose to comb his fingers through his hair to give it some semblance of order. "I didn't assume you'd dated her because I assumed you'd have probably told me something as important as that."

"What makes that snippet of information so important?" Like you don’t know, Witter, he thought.

"Girlfriends like to know those kind of snippets of info about their boyfriends.” Alex snapped. “Why didn’t you tell me? Is it because she's an old flame you never think about…or that she was very important- and still is?"

"Look, Dawson dated her, then I dated her. It got complicated for a while-"

"How long were you together for?"

"A year. Then it was over."

"How? Why?"

"Look, I haven't even seen her in three years." He grabbed his jacket out of the closet.

"No contact at all?"

"Alex-"

"What?"

"It's water under the bridge. Come on let's-"

"No wonder you didn't invite me along."

He took a deep silent breath. "Don't be silly,' he chided her. He shrugged on his jacket, not wanting to prolong the awkward conversation. He turned to face her. She remained on the bed, stony faced.

“Look, if you don’t want to come anymore then fine, but I have to go. They’ll be waiting."

She slowly slid off the bed and stood. “I wouldn’t miss this for the world.” Alex said mockingly.

 

"We're nearly there. You okay?"

"For the millionth time. I'm fine." Joey rolled her eyes with exasperation, quickening her stride to make her point. Audrey's constant fussing was making her feel worse.

"I know you're glad really that I invited myself along with you. Even if you won't admit it, I know you're in need of the moral support." She trotted along the New York pavement beside Joey.

"You're right," Joey relented, trying to ignore the knot of tension in her gut. In a few minutes, she'd see Pacey.

"Here it is!" Audrey exclaimed. Joey stopped short. She stared at the exterior a moment or two, took two steps forward then turned smartly on her heel and strode off in the direction they’d come, stopping a few steps away.

"Okay that was so chicken, and no Audrey, I'm not okay. I'm really nervous." Joey mumbled.

"Oh bunny, that's understandable." Audrey slid an arm around Joey's shoulders. "But I'm here and so are Jack and Jen. You want to do this, remember?"

"Mmm, hmm." Joey nodded, already feeling foolish.

"He's living a good life in New York, you're doing great at
Worthington. He's got a girlfriend, you've got Aaron - albeit for only a week so far."

"He doesn't have to know that!" Joey quickly reminded Audrey.

"Of course not!"

"Audrey, I feel sick." Joey moaned, clamping a hand to her stomach.

"It's just nerves. Come on. Deep breath. Stand tall. Here, you need more lip gloss." Audrey pulled a stick out of her coat pocket and smeared it lightly against Joey's lips before she could react. "Right. Ready?"

Standing tall, pulling her shoulders back and exhaling on a deep breath she nodded and managed a grimace of a smile as she turned back and with determined steps approached the bar where undoubtedly Pacey and the rest of her friends were waiting. Pushing on the door, Audrey on her heels, she entered.

Her eyes locked on almost Pacey immediately, not far away, standing beside plush sofas and a table to her right. She barely registered Jen, CJ and Jack sitting there or the woman standing with Pacey, leaning into his body. Reaction was instantaneous. Her stomach somersaulted, her breath caught in her throat and she had to clench down hard against the tumult of emotions that threatened to overwhelm her. She forced her attention to the girl beside him. She was sliding a hand up his chest beneath his open jacket, clutching his sweater a little, as she gazed up at him. He dropped his hands to her hips, rubbing slightly against the snug hipster jeans. Joey got the impression he was trying to reassure her. Then suddenly he turned his head and their eyes caught. His eyes widened slightly, a smile rose, dropped, crept back onto his lips, hovering and then he was moving towards her, taking in the thick, shiny mane of hair that was back to its natural dark bitter chocolate color, their tips curling over her chest in a long blood red coat that she was starting to unbutton. He’d never seen her look better.

Jen was right, Joey thought, he did look like a tall, cool gorgeous drink of water and her throat felt as dry as a bone. A rush of other similar proverbs spilled into her mind; a sight for sore eyes, good enough to eat and absence sure as hell did make the heart grow fonder. He wore a black high-necked sweater over black pants under a dark brown jacket and he looked so fucking handsome. She couldn't tear her eyes away from his, and cursed the nervous smile that stuttered onto her lips instead of the smooth, cool, poised one she had practiced in the mirror that morning in Jen’s home, and the hands that she curled into fists to hide their trembling. And then his arms came around her in a loose embrace. She tentatively did likewise and they patted each other awkwardly on the back before moving apart.

"Hey." His husky voice was like velvet in her ear.

"Hey," she replied, ordering herself to get a grip.

"It's good to see you again, Jo." His eyes seemed to be devouring her face, flickering over each feature, lingering just a touch too long on her lips before coming back to her eyes with a guarded intensity in his own.

"Finally," she teased, arching a sardonic brow and pleased that there was no tremor to her voice, no matter how shaky she felt inside. Alex appeared at his side now, slipping an arm through the crook of his own.

"And this must be Alex." Joey gave a brief wave in greeting, noting the lustrous waist length auburn hair, complimented by luminous green eyes in a heart-shaped, creamy complexioned face. Her curvy, petite figure was nothing to be sniffed at either and Joey already felt like an inelegant giraffe beside her.

“Yes, Joey, this is Alex Monroe.”

“Pacey’s girlfriend,” she clarified, the edge to her voice clearly audible to all, and with a contortion to her lips Joey believed was supposed to pass for a smile, one that didn’t quite reach her eyes. And just like that, Joey’s back was up.

“Uh yeah and Alex, this is-“

“Joey Potter,” Joey interrupted, “the ‘ex-girlfriend,” she clarified sweetly. Distantly, she heard Jack clear his throat and then cough and that set the tone for the whole evening.

“Don’t forget me!” Audrey bustled past Joey to loop her arms around his neck. Joey hid a smile as Audrey planted a kiss on his cheek despite Alex being stuck to his side like a limpet. “And I’m giving you a hug and a kiss Pacey, because the only other alternative, as I’m sure you’ve guessed, is an act of violence. After all, when you took off, Leon did too!” She withdrew and stepped back, throwing Alex a cursory glance and a quick smile.

“Sorry about that. Alex, this is Audrey Liddell.”

“Hey Alex.”

“Audrey.”

“How are you, Audrey?”

“I’m great, thank you.” She tossed her hair back then turned to Jen, CJ and Jack who stood and exchanged hugs with Audrey and Joey.

“What did she mean, ‘when you took off??” Alex whispered to Pacey.

“When I left Boston,” he explained, extricating himself from her to address the group.

“Okay, so who’s drinking what? Joey?”

“Uh…rum and coke, please.”

Pacey raised an eyebrow, but didn’t comment.

“Same for me,” Audrey said, while the rest asked for beers.

Alex excused herself to go to the bathroom, Joey, Audrey, Jen and CJ settled themselves into their seats while Jack accompanied Pacey to the bar.

“I don’t know about you, but I have a feeling this is going to be an eventful night.” Jack smirked at Pacey.

Chapter Text

Joey was on her third drink. She’d heard how Alex’s parents were not the usual stuffy, old-fashioned type. Pacey confirmed this. They were pretty liberal, in fact. She was the apple of her rich daddy’s eye, too and he’d hardly blinked when she’d informed him that she wanted to drop out of her second year of college to pursue a singing career. Her mother used to be a successful actress and vocalist – well, moderately successful, seeing as Joey had never heard of her - and Alex was determined to follow in her mother’s footsteps. At the end of the day, she could always go back to college later if her career wasn’t working out the way she wanted.

Her parents adored Pacey, too – she said this as she laid a hand over his, caressing slightly, and that it was just as well that her parents loved him because she knew she was onto a good thing with him and had no intention of letting him go. Why her eyes had rested on Joey when she vowed this Joey didn’t care to analyze, but Joey recognized the uncomfortable smile of embarrassment that flittered across Pacey’s lips. By this point, Joey was thoroughly fed up of hearing all about Alex and her wonderful parents, wonderful life, wonderful boyfriend, wonderful future. Furthermore, she was absolutely certain that she intensely disliked Pacey’s girlfriend. However veiled, however subtle, Joey caught the little sugar coated barbs aimed in her direction. Twice Pacey had caught her eye. She saw his discomfort, the apology in his expression and she held her tongue – for him. Didn’t stop the rising annoyance and resentment churning in the pit of her stomach, aimed not just at Alex, but Pacey too.

“Same again, everyone?” Pacey asked as he got up to go to the bar. Everyone nodded.

“Yeah, I’m just going to the ladies.” Joey excused herself.

“Oh, I’ll come with you!” Audrey offered, making to stand up.

Joey shook her head. “I think I can just about make it on my own.” Her face cracked in a weak parody of a smile. She just wanted a minute for herself, away from Alex, away from Pacey. “I’ve not had that much to drink yet!”

But as she came out the toilet cubicle and stepped up to the sink, opening the faucet, the bathroom door opened and Alex entered. Every muscle in her body tightened, ready for fight.

“Hey.” Alex stepped up beside her and began reapplying her lipstick.

“Hey,” Joey managed without gritting her teeth. She finished washing her hands and moved to the dryer as Alex dragged her fingers through her hair, fussing with it. It wasn’t that Joey wished her hair were long like that because it must be a bitch to wash, but there was something really exotic about such length. It was wavy and lustrous and looked so soft and silky. Hair like that turned men on, didn’t it? Pacey, she had no doubt, must enjoy that. Joey shook the thoughts away. Not her business. He wasn’t her business anymore. She was about to step past Alex to leave when Alex, who had been surreptitiously eyeing and envying Joey in her own thoughts, spoke up and halted her exit.

“So, how long did you and Pacey date for?” she asked, deceptively casual.

Here we go, Joey thought. “Which time?” She replied, as equally laid back.

A slight jerk. Joey caught it despite Alex trying to cover the slip by raising a finger and smoothing it along one eyebrow.

“How many times were there?”

“Just the two,” she admitted, but couldn’t help adding. “Doesn’t seem to matter how much time elapses in between,’ she shrugged, ‘we just never seem quite able to finish all our business.”

Alex gave up the pretence and turned to face Joey. Her eyes glittered with steel. “I’d watch my step and my mouth if I were you,” she warned silkily.

“You started this.”

“Look-“

“You know what your problem is, Alex? You try too hard.” Joey felt her blood heating up and clamped down. Maybe the alcohol she’d drunk was playing more havoc with her than she’d thought. “I came here to see my friends, not to steal your man, but you haven’t played nice since I got here. Well, you’ll find that if you push me, I’ll push back. Hard.” She turned on her heel but before she reached the door, she stopped and gave a heavy sigh. This was wrong. Why was she allowing the evening to turn into a pissing contest between herself and this girl?

"Look,' she began as she turned to face Alex once again, 'this is stupid. I didn't come here for this. I came to spend time with my friends. Friends, I haven’t seen in a while. Let's not make this any harder on ourselves and the others than it should be."

Alex merely leaned against the sink, arms folded as she studied Joey.

"I'm entitled to be curious. I didn't find out until tonight who you actually were. He very rarely ever mentions you. I find that curious considering you were one of his closest and best friends."

"In which case, shouldn't it be Pacey you give a hard time to?"

"Just wondering..."

"Um, hello? Out of sight, out of mind, maybe?"

Alex gave a snort of disbelief.

"He's all yours, Alex. Okay?"

"And I intend to keep it that way." Alex vowed.

Joey rolled her eyes hard on an exaggerated sigh and strode out of the bathroom.

All eyes were on her as she wended her way back to their table, with Alex a few seconds behind her, a battle glint in her eye. The curious and concerned eyes searched their faces. Joey’s was flushed and set as she sat down and anyone who knew her, knew she was mad underneath it. Audrey murmured in her ear, asking if she was okay. Joey nodded jerkily, noting that Pacey seemed to be asking Alex the same question. She shook her head, offering a smile of reassurance.

The conversation had moved on to Jen and CJ’s stints at the counseling centre near NYU and Jen made them laugh with her self-deprecating anecdotes as to what her life would be like as a psychologist, but all throughout the ebb and flow of conversation, there was an undercurrent of tension. Joey continued to catch Alex’s eyes on her, filled with barely concealed dislike. She hated the way she constantly had her hands on Pacey, smoothing the hair above his ear, stroking his arm, sliding a hand down under the table over his thigh. Just the once, Jen had leaned over to Joey, jokingly drawing her attention to the amount of alcohol she was consuming. Joey knew she was drinking too much and too fast, but she couldn’t seem to help it.

Alex’s hand rested on Pacey’s thigh, and then slowly slid up.

“Alex,” Pacey whispered warningly, keeping his attention on Jack as he regaled them with a story about a disastrous blind date he’d had the other week.

Her hand was almost on his crotch before he quickly slipped his own down to halt her travels. “Not here, not now!” Pacey hissed in her ear. “What’s wrong with you?”

“Nothing,” Alex muttered, pulling her hand away.

“Did something happen in the bathroom between you and Joey? Is that why you’re acting like this?”

She ignored him, her mouth briefly pouted sulkily, but as Pacey lifted his beer to his lips, he gave pause as Alex turned her attention to Joey. “No boyfriend of your own, Joey?” Alex asked.

“Um, yeah, actually.”

“Really?” Alex arched a brow.

“Yeah?” Jen exclaimed. “Since when? You never told me.”

“Well, I’m telling you now!” Joey teased.

“Well, spill the beans, missy!”

Joey laughed, and took a long sip of her drink. “Actually, I met him after one of the gigs I did with Hell's Belles. You know,’ she elaborated with a wave of her hand, ‘one of those edgy guys with wandering hands that you kiss in a drunken haze and forget about the next day.” She didn’t dare look in Pacey’s direction, but she was aware of his concentrated gaze. “But then he appeared at Hell's Kitchen a couple of weeks later during my shift. Turns out he goes to Boston Bay and every time he came in he pestered me for a date. Eventually, I decided to give in.”

“And he looks like Ben Affleck!” Audrey exclaimed. “Lucky bitch!”

Joey snatched a glance at Pacey, but he was staring down into his drink now.

“Joey that’s great.” Jen enthused. “Next time you come down, you’ve got to bring him with you.”

“You still singing with Hell’s Belles, Jo?” Pacey asked.

“Not anymore. It was just something fun to do for awhile.” She shrugged, remembering what Jen’s opinion about all of that had been.

“And I’m guessing that Hell’s Kitchen, by the way, loving the visuals that brings up, is an establishment serving food and beverages where you are currently a waitress?”

“You would be right on all accounts. You know it’s my forte.” For the first time that evening, she gave him a genuine smile, wide and sweet. She was feeling a lot less tense and was vaguely aware that was down to the several drinks she had.

“That I do,” he chuckled. Alex looked at him sharply. She didn’t care for the warm fondness coloring his voice.

“Ha! Joey waitressing is as natural as breathing! You should win a medal or something like that.” Audrey smirked.

Joey giggled, Audrey was matching her drink for drink it seemed and the conversation moved on again…and again…until it turned to sex and a challenge from Alex…

“…What?” Joey blinked with shock.

“Not a prude, are you Joey?” Alex smirked.

“Alex, shut up!” Pacey snapped.

“Well, we do have this man in common, don’t we? So what better topic of interest for you and I to discuss than him?”

“Stop it!” Pacey warned again.

“And putting sex into the mix spices up the conversation even more. I’ll go first.”

“Alex-“

“Pacey loves it best when I’m on top, don’t you, Pacey?” She ran a hand through his hair. He angrily jerked his head away, but she just laughed.

“That’s enough!” He caught hold of her arm and pulled her up with him, ready to take her to one side.

Jack, CJ and Jen looked on goggle-eyed, while Audrey couldn’t help sniggering a little guiltily.

“No, Pacey. Wait.” Joey interrupted. “I mean, we’re all friends here, aren’t we?” She aimed a vicious frown at Alex as well as an indignant forefinger. “Well, no you’re not our friend, 'cos you’ve been kinda mean tonight. Don’t you think so, Jen? Audrey?” She drank deeply from her glass again, smacking her lips soundly and licking them.

“Joey, you’re drunk. You know what you’re like when you get drunk!"

"Yeah, I'm funny and everybody loves me!" Comically, she threw an arm out to encompass the whole room, almost knocking over Jen’s bottle of beer beside her.

Jack and Jen tried to bite down on their amusement as Pacey rolled his eyes with exasperation and sent them a pleading look.

“Joey, please-”

“But we’re playing a game! Alex started it. Audrey you go next.”

“Okay. I must admit that Pacey liked me on top, too, but there was this other thing that he liked-“

“This isn’t funny-” Pacey protested.

“Hold on a second,’ Alex interrupted, ‘he dated you, too?” She stared at Audrey.

“Did that not already come up in conversation tonight?” Audrey asked, with wide innocent eyes.

“No.” The word slipped out through stiff lips, taking Audrey in again slowly; the smooth, sleek blonde locks, sparkling blue eyes, a curvy figure to match her own.

"We are quite the incestuous group,” Joey informed her matter of factly.

"Yep! I dated Dawson, too." Audrey offered chirpily.

“Uh,’ Jen raised a tentative hand, ‘and me.”

“See? We've all fought over the incestness, um, incess-tu-ous-ness, finally accepted it, and now embrace it full force!"

Pacey lips wanted to curl up. The evening was turning into his worst nightmare, but an inebriated Joey still managed to make him want to smile.

"And it was twice, too.” Audrey continued. “Me and Dawson. Well, we're still together right now, but hanging by the thinnest of threads. He was Joey’s soul mate, you know, but he doesn't seem to be mine, unfortunately." Audrey’s face fell a little as she pondered that sad fact.

Joey nodded. "Never, never, acquire a soul mate. Untold grief. Really." Her eyes met Pacey's briefly, then dropped back to her drink.

“So, Joey’s your ex, Audrey’s your ex and …” Alex trained a narrow stare on Jen.

“Uh, uh, no, Pacey and I never dated,” Jen quickly assured her.

Joey looked up from her glass. “You know, that’s not strictly true.” She wagged a finger at Jen.

“Joey.” Pacey could guess what was coming next, but it was too late.

“She just had a sex pact with him.”

Pacey dropped his head into one hand, shaking it slowly.

“What?”

“A sex pact! She did voodoo on him!” Joey exclaimed, eyes wide. “Whoooo!” She raised her hands, flapped them lamely, and wiggled her fingers in mock fright.

Pacey looked over the top of his hand and exchanged looks with Jen as silence blanketed them for a second or two. He could feel a cold, cold front coming from the east.

“You had a sex pact with this guy?” CJ leaned over to whisper in Jen’s ear. Her eyes were darting from Alex’s stony face to Pacey’s long suffering one.

“It was 12th grade, for goodness sake!” Jen snapped with mild exasperation. “Besides, Pacey was in love with Joey and Joey was in love with Pacey – except I was the only one who seemed to realize that at the time!”

“Mmmm, and anyway, you can’t complain CJ, I mean you slept with Audrey once, remember?” Joey carried on oblivious. “See Alex, we’re incestuous to the core!”

Another deafening silence as Audrey, Jen and CJ squirmed momentarily in their seats.

“I’m glad you guys made up, though. Um, anyway, what was I saying?”

“Nothing, nothing at all,” Jen hurried to shut her up.

“Yes, I was. Um…”

“No, really Joey.”

“Oh yes! You and Pacey.”

“Joey-“

“Yeah, the sex pact. It wasn’t for want of trying though, was it? Hmm? Eh, Jen? Pacey? Remember how Dawson and I caught you and Pacey kissing in the cloakroom at the dance school?”

“Okay, okay, enough, Joey.” Pacey tried to shush her up, waving his hand at her.

“And when Dawson found a condom in his bedroom he thought it was me and Pacey doing the dirty. But we weren’t! I mean we were doing the foxtrot, but not the horizontal one! Wannananother drink, Alex?” She raised her glass gesturing at them all with it. “Anybody?” And pouted when she was ignored.

“Condom?” CJ murmured.

“I’ll tell you about it later,” Jen told him out of the corner of her mouth.

CJ merely stared narrow-eyed at Pacey. “I’d be really interested in hearing about it now.”

“Yeah, me too,” Alex drawled, throwing an evil stare at Joey before looking back at Pacey.

“Heh!” Pacey held his hands up as if in surrender, concentrating on CJ. “Now if you were to hear the full story I would be totally vindicated and redeemed in your eyes,’ he slid a quick look at Alex, ‘and you’d be sorry you entertained the murderous thoughts running through your mind right now – and then we could continue with becoming the best of friends.”

“I’m not so sure about that,” CJ informed him, dryly.

“Nothing happened!” Jen hissed at CJ.

“A sex pact with no sex?”

Jen slammed a chagrined look at Joey who shot back a huge smile. “Well, he couldn’t get it up.”

“This is farcical,” Alex muttered, turning her head away in annoyance.

“Hey! Hey! Hey! I’m right here!” Pacey screeched. “My ego…teetering… about to be shattered.”

“I feel less insecure now. Thank you.” CJ leaned in for a kiss.

“You’re welcome,” Jen replied, and gave him one.

“Heh!” Pacey turned to Alex. “My friends, aren’t they hilarious?” She didn’t look in the least bit amused.

“Hmm, leaving Jack and CJ out of the equation, it seems you have quite the little harem here, Pacey – unless, of course, the notion you swing both ways is something else you’ve neglected to tell me about.” Pacey grimaced, not daring to speak in case he gave vent to his rising irritation. “So, do you swing both ways?” She waited for his answer, ignoring the discomfort on his face. “Jack?” she swung to Jack who started as if taken by surprise.

“Um, uh, nah!” He shook his head vigorously.

"Okay," Alex drawled dryly. "So, is that it? Are there any other members of this Pacey’s exes club I should know about?"

"Well, there is Andie." Joey offered.

"Is that a boy or a girl?" Alex asked, sardonically.

Joey laughed. "Ha! I get that. Andie can be a girl or a boy’s name. Good one. She's Jack's sister, so that's another branch on our incestoussus tree. She’s not here though. Still in Italy, right Jack?”

“Right.” Jack shifted uncomfortably in his seat and exchanged a look with Jen. Pacey saw it and quirked his brow questioningly at Jack. Jack shook his head imperceptibly.

“She left a long time ago and never came back.”

“Joey, that’s not true.”

Joey frowned. “But I thought that was a secret.”

“Thought what was a secret?” Pacey asked.

“Tell you later,” Jack told him quickly.

“Smart girl, our Andie.” Joey mused.

“Yeah, even smarter than you Joey and that’s saying something!” Jen laughed.

“She was supposed to go to Harvard, didn’t even have to finish our last year of high school, did she Jack?”

“What was our Andie? A child prodigy or something?” Alex sniped.

Joey cocked a suspicious look at her. “Are you being sarcastic?”

“No, not a child prodigy, but she and Joey were the smartest people I knew in our year.” Jen answered anyway. “But I think Andie just pips you, Joey. She was top dog when it came to academics.”

“Don’t you mean bitch?”

They all looked at Alex. “I mean Joey’s female, so is Andie, so that would make them…bitches, in that context – not dogs. Right?” Alex explained, with a quirk of her brow.

“Uh, yeah, I see what you mean.” Jen acknowledged. “Well anyway-“

“Are you calling me a bitch?” Joey asked.

“Does the cap fit?” Alex asked.

“Oh yes,’ Joey cut Pacey off as his mouth opened. She nodded, speaking slowly and clearly, “Maybe not in the academic sense, but I can be bitchy with the best of them. I’m a good bitch.”

“Joey, no more alcohol for you.” Jen took her glass away and set it at the far end of the table.

“Hey!” Joey tried to reach over for it. “Jen! Jack, could you pass me my drink back?”

”Nope!”

“CJ-“

“CJ’s not giving you anything.”

Joey slumped back against her chair, looking like a sulky little girl.

“Come on, Jo.” Pacey cajoled. “I’ll get you a cola. Yeah? Alex, can you help me please?”

“You know, from what I can figure out, Pacey, you seem to have a penchant for rich, smart girls. I mean, there’s this Andie, and Jen. Joey’s at the prestigious Worthington as is Audrey and you know how big a trust fund I’ve got.”

“What the hell is that supposed to mean?”

“Especially, as you’re wrong.” Joey interrupted. “I earned my place at Worthington by the sweat of my brow.”

“Okay, so you’re not so much the poor little rich girl, just the poor girl. Are you going to tell me next that you came from the wrong side of the tracks? Poor little girl made good?”

“Actually, not so much of the little. I was the too tall girl from the wrong side of the creek.”

“Well, then-“

Alex’s next line was cut off as Pacey grabbed her arm.

“Alex, could you help me get the next round in?”

He didn’t give her a choice and hustled her away to the bar.

“Look, I’m sorry I didn’t tell you Joey was a girl or that she was my ex, but you’ve got to stop this…this baiting!”

“I’m sorry, am I embarrassing you?”

“Yourself more like.”

“Your ex is a bitch, Pacey!”

“Only when riled and you’ve been riling her all evening!”

“And haven’t you been flying to her defense.”

“That’s not true and you know it.”

“Just what are you doing now, then if not defending her?”

“Joey can handle herself. I’m more concerned about the success of this evening.”

“Face it. This evening has already bombed. Big time. I’m just trying to get some fun out of it.”

“So, who’s being the real bitch here tonight?”

“Just giving as good as I get.” Her features softened. “Oh, let’s go home, Pacey.” Her hands crawled up his chest and rested there.

“I haven’t seen my friends in a long time. This is important. Couldn’t you just try? For me? You’d like them if you let yourself.”

She huffed, a little undone by the pleading in his voice. No, this wasn’t going to go down as one of her favorite evenings of all time, but it was important to Pacey, even if she was resentful as to why it may be so important. Thing was, once she was riled up she found it hard to compromise or to play nice, but she would try for him.

“Fine. Just don’t expect me to apologize. You may think this is salvageable, but I can see it’s already ruined.”

“Okay. Thank you.” He made to move but she planted her lips on his, sliding a hand around the nape of his neck as she deepened it.
Finally, she released him.

“I guess, I can be generous. At the end of the day she hasn’t got you and I have.”

Pacey grunted in response as he led Alex back to the table.

“Okay, guys, I know there’s been a little tension all round here tonight, but I’m not quite ready to give up on the evening.”

“M-maybe we should go on to a club or somefing,” Joey suggested.

“No, thanks.” Alex said. “As delightful as it’s been to spend time with you this evening, I’m looking forward to an early night.” She ignored Pacey warning glance. “Let’s just get a last round of drinks in and be as pleasant as possible to each other before we go. Same again for everyone?” She went to the bar.

Pacey took a deep breath. “She’s not usually like this,” he muttered.

“Can’t be easy meeting all your ex girlfriends in one go.” Jen tried to be diplomatic.

“Don’t pussyfoot around, Jen! She’s been a bitch!” Audrey snapped.

“Especially to me,” Joey said mournfully, “but she doesn’t know how hard I bite back.”

“Er, I think she does,” Jen raised amused brows.

“Enjoying the show CJ?” Jack slapped a hand on CJ’s back.

“It’s certainly been an entertaining evening.”

“I’m sorry.” Pacey began. “I am. I just-“

“She’s signaling you, Pacey.” Jen interrupted.

He turned around and saw Alex beckoning him over. He turned back to the table. “Give her another chance.”

“She’s promised to behave, has she?”

He winced at the sudden venom in Joey’s voice, but she kept her head down. His eyes met all of theirs briefly and the top of Joey’s head, but said no more before going over to Alex. He sighed. Maybe Alex had the right idea. They should just go home. What a fucking disaster!

Chapter Text

“…Ha! Joey was the most prissy, uptight princess I’d ever met! But I soon loosened her up!”

“I was never prissy!”

“Yep! Prissy and uptight!” Audrey insisted.

“Uptight? I could never be sure what kind of scene was waiting for me in my dorm room. I could easily have been scarred for life! I had to cover my eyes every time before I entered!”

“Boy crazy, huh?” Alex commented.

Audrey eyed Alex sharply, but a hard nudge of Joey’s knee under the table had her curbing a stinging retort. “I have kissed a lot of frogs! This is true. How else am I going to find my prince?”

Alex shrugged and sipped her drink.

“Well, you needn’t have kissed all those frogs in our dorm room!”

“Oh please, you needed to be taught a thing or two!” Audrey stuck her tongue out at Joey, who retaliated by lightly smacking Audrey’s arm.

Jack sniffed the air deeply. “The scent of nostalgia permeates the air. What does this remind you of Jen?”

“Ahhhh…the bantering enemies of old.”

Joey squinted at Jen and then Jack. “Are you talking about me and Pacey?”

“Who else?”

“What, you two used to hate each other or something?” Alex frowned in puzzlement.

“Yeah,” Pacey nodded.

“Pretty much,” Joey shrugged, nonchalantly.

“Not really,’ Jen contradicted, ‘not deep down where it mattered, but they had such cute pet names for each other.”

Pacey zeroed in on Joey. “Ice queen!”

“Horndog!” She countered easily.

“Prude,” he smirked.

“Jail bait!” she shot back. Their faces each lit up with huge grins and as Alex watched them closely, she couldn’t help the rising jealousy, envious of their history, their connection.

“Why jail bait?” she asked, more to break the gaze between them, as well as curiosity piquing her.

“Uh…” Pacey floundered, but was saved by Audrey.

“Hmm, prude and ice-queen. That sounds about right. Similar sentiments came to mind when I first met her.”

“Hey! You want another one?” Joey raised her fist to Audrey with a mock scowl and they all laughed – except Alex who couldn’t find it in her to raise a smile. And her discomfort precipitated the group into a strained silence. So much so, that Joey took it upon herself to make things better.

“How about…a game of poker? Huh? Hey! Strip poker! Pacey remember Jen’s unbirthday? Was it Jen’s unbirthday? No, but anyway, I found you sat next to that naked girl and-“

“She wasn’t naked!

“Half naked then.”

“She wasn’t even half naked.”

“As good as. Well, I wanted to play and you wouldn’t let me. Remember that?”

“I remember Pacey slinging you over his shoulder and carrying you out. That was funny!” Jen laughed, and then suddenly caught herself, sliding a wary look at Alex.

“Yeah! And you didn’t want to carry me into the house when we got home, but I made you and you did! Remember that, Pace?”

“I remember.”

“See that was fun. So let’s play strip poker.”

“We don’t have playing cards, Joey.”

“Someone here must have a pack.”

“I doubt it.”

She pondered for a second. “Okay. I know! Let’s play a drinking game! Of course, I’ve only got cola so you’ll have to-“

“No more alcohol for you, Joey.”

“How come Audrey…”

“She can hold her liquor better than you can!”

“But I want-“

“You’ve had more than enough Joey. Really,” Pacey assured her.

“Yes, really.” Alex repeated. “Chatty little dunk, isn’t she?”

Joey’s mouth dropped open, and then closed as she decided to take offence. She stood abruptly, gripping her glass in her hand. “Take that back! Am not drunk! Ammm not!”

“My god, Pacey, one ex is lost in the back of beyond, another is a slut and this one’s a lush. You sure as hell can pick them.”

“Alex!”

“Pacey, I think we have ‘nother candidate for the club!” Joey crowed.

“Okay! Okay! Joey! Alex -“

“But did you hear what she said?” Joey spluttered at Pacey, pointing accusingly at Alex.

“Don’t tell her to calm down, Pacey! Your girlfriend just insulted us! If she’s looking for a right hook, she can find one right here!” Audrey stuck her chin out pugnaciously as she strained forward to get a good look at Alex.

Jen rose from her seat, taking Joey’s arm as she tried to calm her down.

“I’ve had enough of this crap.” Alex began to rise from her seat. “I’m going.”

“Cheers! Here’s one for the road!” Joey said, before flinging the contents of her drink across the table into Alex’s face with unerring accuracy for someone as drunk as she was.

Pacey closed his eyes briefly. Jen dragged Joey back down into her seat, which Joey allowed her to do as it began to impinge on her fogged brain that she’d done something a bit naughty.

Pacey grabbed one of the napkins off the table as he tried to help wipe Alex down, but she pushed him away.

“Bitch!” She swiped at her face with a napkin before flinging it away and trying to push past Pacey to get to Joey. He held her back with some difficulty.

“Let me go! Pacey!”

“No! Alex!”

“Are you going to let her get away with that?”

“Just desserts as far as I’m concerned.” Audrey tossed her hair back. Jack and CJ looked watched with goggle-eyed amusement while Jen kept a ready hand on Joey’s arm. But Joey had no intention of stoking the fire. She tried to look defiant, but stayed in her seat.

Alex gave up. “If you don’t want her pretty face bashed in you better take me home right now! Take me home, Pacey!”

“Alex-“

“Now!”

“Look, okay, things got a little heated, but-“

“It’s her or me. Choose!”

“I’m not choosing sides, Alex. Come on." He slid an arm around her but she pushed him away.

“I think it’s pretty clear where your priorities lie.”

“Alex-“

“Fuck off!”

As Alex rushed past him, he turned to follow her, managed a couple of steps, and then as if caught by indecision, he turned back to his friends. He threw up his hands in a helpless gesture letting them fall slackly at his sides as he gave the doors, which Alex disappeared through a last look, and then he came back to the table. No one said anything for a moment, or looked at each other.

"Looks like you're in the dog-house tonight." Jack commented with some sympathy.

Joey shot quick, furtive glances at Pacey who was staring down at the table pensively.

"Yeah, party's over. Sorry Pacey." Jen leaned across the table and briefly touched his arm briefly.

"It's not your fault."

"You should go after her."

Pacey shook his head.

"We should go now anyway, then you can go and make-up. Give me a minute, I need the ladies room."

"Me too." Joey hurriedly stood up to follow Jen.

"And me," Audrey piped up, sliding around the table to Joey's side. Joey gave Pacey a small apologetic look as she trailed after Jen, Audrey bringing up the rear. Pacey's eyes lingered on her until she disappeared from view and then became aware that he was also under scrutiny.

Jack raised his brows expressively. "Bit of a firecracker that one, but you kinda like 'em that way."

Pacey narrowed his eyes at Jack, and then let go a short bitter chuckle as he dragged a hand down over his face. "She was in a bad mood before she even got here."

"How come?" Jack sat down again. Pacey and CJ did the same.

"We had an argument before we left." He indulged the expectant looks, sighing. "She thought Joey was a guy." Pacey brought a leg up and rested its ankle on his other knee, jiggling his foot restlessly.

"Uh oh, and she only found out differently tonight?" Jack.

"Yeah, along with the fact that we also dated."

"That's important information, man. Women - girlfriends generally like to know that kind of stuff about their boyfriends." CJ said.

"So Alex proceeded to yell at me."

"Hmm,” Jack mused thoughtfully, “and then she turns up here and finds, not only that Joey is indeed a female, but that she’s also a tall, gorgeous, feisty brunette of a female, accompanied by two other rivals, another ex in the form of a delectable buxom blonde and another beautiful golden haired wench - your ex sex pact partner."

"I'd rather not be reminded of that last fact, thanks Jack," CJ commented dryly, but there was a slight lift to the corner of his lips.

"Yeah,” Pacey agreed, “especially as it's long dead and buried, and besides, I didn't know Audrey would be here."

"You don't score points for that." Jack commiserated.

"Yeah, sucks to be you, man." CJ added his sympathies.

Pacey nodded solemnly, and they sat in silence for a moment.

 

"Well, that was fun," Jen remarked as she finished washing her hands and activated the air dryer for her hands. Joey stood at the sink next to her and opened the faucet. She slid a look at Jen in the mirror and then one at Audrey as she came out of one of the cubicles. She bit her lip to hide an involuntary smile.

"We were bad girls." Joey said primly.

"I've always said, if you can't take it, don't dish it!" Audrey declared as she fluffed her hair and examined her eyebrows.

"I've never heard you say that before." Joey frowned, her voice very slightly slurred.

"Never mind, what’s important is that you were right. She was mean.”

"I'm still too drunk to care. What was her problem anyway?" Joey dried her hands, opting for the nearby paper towels before pulling lip-gloss stick from her jeans pocket.

"She arrived with that moody pout." Audrey leaned against the wall then straightened up to take the lip gloss from Joey's fumbling fingers as she attempted smooth gloss over her lips.

"I can do it!' Joey complained but allowed Audrey to paint her lips for her.

"Pacey didn't look too happy either when they first arrived. Think they had trouble before they got here?" Jen asked, arching a brow.

"I don't know." Joey pressed her lips together and pouted prettily at herself in the mirror as daubed her own mouth. "Maybe. Whatever."
Joey shrugged nonchalantly, ignoring the sudden pang of guilt and missing the way Jen and Audrey exchanged looks behind her back.

"Well, I don't like her," Audrey pronounced in a 'so there' attitude.

"She's probably a really nice person the rest of the time."

"You mean when Pacey isn't surrounded by other women?" Joey countered.

"Exactly. She's a clingy, insecure little cow. Did you hear that crack she made about me?”

"Yes, we did Audrey and she was out of line, but which one of us isn't a little insecure?"

"Why are you sticking up for her?" Audrey asked plaintively.

"I'm not!" Jen said. "Come on, let’s go."

"What does he see in her?"

"Ooh! I know! I know!" Joey leaned back against the sink holding her hand up. "You mean apart from the curvy, Barbie doll figure?" She added sardonically.

"How did it feel seeing him again after so long?"

Joey pressed her lips together, frowning. "Not sure. I'll know better when I sober up! Come on, let's go!" She dismissed, also trying to pretend that she didn’t feel the all too sobering effect that question had on her.

 

This was what he had wanted in the first place. Before Alex had decided to come along tonight. He’d just wanted to sit and relax with his friends. To catch up. He’d expected some awkwardness because of the circumstances surrounding his history with Joey, but he’d looked forward to seeing her.

He looked across the table at Jack, and then at CJ. He didn’t know CJ, having only met him for the first time tonight, but he seemed like a good guy. Jen was certainly smitten and CJ seemed to adore her. He’d noticed that they were very tactile. Not in too much of a kissy kissy way. Just in the way CJ’s eyes always came back to rest on Jen. Often smiling at her, resting a hand on her back or arm, or briefly linking hands beneath the table. Yeah, he had a good feeling Jen had chosen a good one this time.

“You okay?” CJ asked, breaking into Pacey’s thoughts.

Pacey shrugged.

“She’ll forgive you.”

“Heh! Yeah.” He dragged a hand over his face, rubbing and pulling down to his chin before sighing deeply. “Yeah, we’ll be okay. Um," he turned to Jack, "so you wanna tell me about Andie?” He looked from CJ to Jack.

“It’s okay. CJ knows, what with his being Jen’s other half.”

“Knows what? I take it she’s not at Harvard?”

Jack shook his head.

“She’s still in Italy and will be for the foreseeable future.”

“Why? Is she okay?”

“Yeah, uh, it’s just that she wants to stay close to the father and family of her child.”

“What?” Pacey’s jaw went slack.

“She’s got a little girl. I’m an uncle. To Amelia.”

Pacey slumped back against his seat. “Andie’s a mother? Wow. Who is this guy?”

“Carlos. I was ready to teach him a lesson when we went over there and found out the situation. Andie had deferred going to college another year just to be with him and then began fobbing us off with excuses as to why she couldn’t come over. You’d been gone a couple of years by then, but I have to admit, Carlos, he’s okay. He adores Andie. Can’t do enough for her. He works to support them, does his bit even though he comes from a wealthy family. Andie’s crazy about him. She does have every intention of going back to school. When she’s ready. And you know Andie. She’ll do it!”

“Andie’s a mother,” Pacey murmured again.

“Amelia’s just over a year now.”

“I’ve missed so much.”

“Did you do the right thing, Pacey? Leaving?”

“Without a doubt, Jack.”

“Then good for you.”

“I missed you guys. Badly. I can admit that now. Seeing you all again, together, hit me full force with that fact, but I did the right thing for me. And now…now I’ve got you all back. Even Dawson. I never expected things to be right between Dawson and I ever again, but miracle of miracles, they are. I’m thankful for that. I really am. You guys could have made it more difficult for me, but you didn’t. It’s all right.”

“And are they right with you and Joey?”

Pacey took a moment to answer. “I’ve hurt her the most in all of this. If things aren’t right, then I’ll make them right. Can you do me a favor? Can you guys hang around for a bit? I’d like to talk to her before we go.”

"Sure."

"No problem." Jack agreed and at that moment, the girls came back.

“Are we ready to go?” Jen asked.

“Not quite. Let’s have one more for the road.” CJ said, slipping an arm around her shoulder as he led her to the bar.

“But-“

“Jack, Audrey, could you give me a hand?”

“Yeah.”

“Uh…” Audrey looked at Jack who was trying to tell her something with the wiggling of his eyebrows.

“Joey, can I talk to you a sec?” Pacey asked.

“I’d love another drink.” Audrey quickly changed gears and slipped her arm through the crook of Jack’s, and led him away.

“Um, yeah, sure,” Joey replied.

“Walk with me?” He grabbed her coat off the seat in the corner of the sofa and helped her into it before quickly shrugging into his jacket, and then she followed him outside. He walked off, then stopped when he realized she wasn’t following him. He backtracked to her side.

She looked a little sheepish, shuffling from one foot to the other, studying him from beneath lowered lashes.

"What?"

"Am I in trouble?" she asked.

"No." He gently took her arm, and then let go as they sauntered down the pavement.

"No? I threw a drink in your girlfriend's face. That isn’t polite behavior."

"And don't I know it. I've been on the receiving end of that throwing arm, remember?"

Joey bit her lip to keep at bay the smile that threatened to peek through.
"Hmm, yes I do recall that, er, unfortunate, episode in some detail."

"So do I." He raised an ominous brow at her, which only made her want to laugh again. She shook herself mentally, trying to look at least partially sorry for her part in the disastrous events of the evening. He sighed heavily. "I know she was rude and difficult, but believe it or not
I can't remember the last time we argued before tonight or when she's acted so badly before."

"Guess my being here spooked her pretty badly."

"She…she..." He stopped. Guilt prodded him. He didn't want to seem disloyal to Alex. “She does have a bit of a jealous streak," he admitted. "But I've never seen it come out like that before." Usually, being with Alex was so easy. That's what he liked best about their relationship.

"Hmm."

"What happened in the toilets?"

"A spitting match!"

"I'm sorry Joey."

"It's okay."

"It’s not. Not really.” He paused. “I wanted to talk to you."

“Okay.”

"Soooo...." Hands in pants pocket to ward off the chill of the night, Pacey stopped.

"Sooooo?"

"How are you, Jo?"

"I'm a little tipsy, right now. That’s my only defense against driving your girlfriend away. Apart from that, I'm good, thanks!" She jammed her hands into her coat pockets. "Shouldn't you go after her? She was really, really pissed."

"Yes, that she was. A lot more pissed than you are now." He couldn't help smiling a little, but it faded quickly. "I'll fix it. Later. I just didn't want you to leave without speaking to you properly."

Joey nodded and looked ahead again. They continued walking at a snail's pace.

"So, this Aaron. He’s a good guy, huh?”

“Yeah,” she looked away.

“Think - you think he could be the one?”

“I don’t know. He could be.”

“Then, I guess he’s a lucky guy.”

She turned to him and fell into his eyes. She couldn’t read them but whatever emotion they contained was intense enough that she couldn’t pull her gaze away. In the end, he cleared his throat and continued walking.

“So, I saw Dawson last week. Did he tell you?"

"Yeah, how did that go?" Thank goodness, the fresh air was cutting through the last remnants of her inebriation.

"It-it was good." Was all he said.

A smile curved her mouth as she angled her head away to look at him.

"That's what he said. I'm glad you made up. I'm glad it's right between you both again."

Pacey stopped abruptly and she did the same looking up with concern.

"Is it right between us again, Joey?"

Her heart jumped. "How do you mean exactly?"

"Water under the bridge you said and I agree, except I still feel guilty about-"

"Stop!" Joey felt the memories of that night rush at her defenses. "I told you Pacey-“

“I sensed some antagonism from you tonight. Was it really all about Alex?”

Joey sighed. “I-I don’t-“

“I’ve thought about it, Jo and I realize how it must look that I didn’t reply to your letters.”

“Or even read them.” She couldn’t help saying.

“Yeah,” he agreed softly.

“It was just chit chat Pacey. Just-“

“I guess, I felt it would be like… looking back. I didn’t want to look back. I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be. I understand. What was it you said in your letter? Loving me made you feel weak.” She turned her face away from him, scared he’d see the misery in her face. How could she berate him when she knew exactly what it was like? She was still in love with him and she felt as weak as a kitten. Helpless and floundering. If this is what Pacey had felt like then no wonder he'd left her.

“Oh, Joey-“

She took a deep breath, straightening her spine. “Well, it brought you Alex. Does she make you feel strong, Pacey?”

“Joey-“

“I hope so. I’d like to know that she makes you feel that way. Makes you feel loved. I want that for you. I-I hope you found what you were looking for, in her. Not that I’d want to judge her on tonight’s performance.” She attempted a light laugh and then suddenly his hands were on her, gripping her arms, cutting her laughter short.

“I don’t regret a single moment I spent with you Jo!” His voice was low and fierce. His eyes bored into her, willing her to believe him. He hated the underlying melancholy threading through her voice. He hated that he was the cause of it. “Some of the best moments of my life were spent with you, because of you. Believe me, that’s no small thing. It’s everything. I need you to know that. I need you to know…”

“What?” she whispered softly.

They stared at each other. She watched his eyes flicker over her face, and fall to her mouth. She swallowed hard because for a moment he looked as though he badly wanted to kiss her and she very badly wanted him to. But just as quickly, he was letting her go and stepping back.

“You do know that, don’t you? You believe me?”

“You need me to know what?” she persisted.

He shook his head, oblivious to the passersby who looked on curiously. “That Aaron is a very lucky guy. He’ll reap the rewards of what I let go of. It’s richly deserved.”

“What’s richly deserved, Pacey? His gain? Or – or your loss?”

She pinned him with sharp assessing eyes and an unexpected flutter of panic in the pit of his belly had him stepping back from her again. He shook his head, glancing away and forced a lightness he was by no means feeling, into his answer. “Maybe both, hmm?” He took her arm and indicated they should go back, took up a brisk pace.

“I just want you to be happy and if this guy is it for you, then hold on with both hands. Right now, everything’s going right for me. It almost seems unfair. I have a job I love, a beautiful girlfriend. I’m out of Capeside and in the Big Apple. I’m on good terms with my family and I have my friendship back with the friends I ran out on. It feels surreal. I want the same for you.”

They were back at the door of the bar. Through the window, Joey could see their friends chatting at the table. She nodded in response to Pacey’s speech. She felt stone cold sober now and merely nodded before pushing the door open.

“Hey guys,’ she greeted them with false brightness.

“Everything okay?” Jen asked, looking from Joey’s face to Pacey’s and back.

“Sure. Everything’s fine. Just…fine." Joey assured her.

She glanced at Pacey, caught him watching her carefully before he went over to shake CJ’s hand in good-bye, and she knew. Little had she known at the time when she’d thrown her goading taunt at Alex in the bathroom, there was still unfinished business between herself and Pacey. That spark was still there whether he knew it or not, acknowledged it or not. She just didn’t know what to do about it or even if she should act on it. All she could think of now was that she was leaving tomorrow and had no clue when she would see him again.

Chapter Text

Pacey slipped his key into his door and let himself, wondering if Alex was waiting for him.

She was in the bedroom, sat on the edge of the bed, her eyes riveted to the piece of paper she held in her hands. Scattered on the floor at the foot of the bed beside her feet were what he recognized as letters, some of the envelopes torn, obviously from her haste or anger as she’d opened them. The heat of anger in Pacey rose up, white hot and blinding. She’d opened Joey’s letters. He snatched at the letter in her hand, but she was ready for him, and held it out of reach as she stood up, almost falling as she skidded on the discarded letters beneath her feet.

“Letters from Joey! All from Joey! They weren’t even open! So why did you keep them, huh? Huh, Pacey? Why?”

“Give that to me! You had no right-“

“No right?” She screeched.

“No right!”

“You’ve been keeping letters from your ex-girlfriend and you tell me I’ve no right? Damn you! This is my right!”

Alex ripped the letter in half. The shock of it was like a physical blow to his belly. He didn't realize he'd even moved until he found his hands gripping her wrists painfully. He pulled them apart so she couldn't rip the letter again. She let them fall and his eyes followed their feather light fall to the floor before looking up into her face.

"You're hurting me," she gritted between clenched teeth.

He let her go and stepped back, shaken almost as much as she. "I'm sorry."

Her face pale, her mouth thin with anger Alex merely walked around him and slammed out of the apartment.

He stood stock still where he was, his mind racing. His reaction to Alex’s ripping of the letter had been instinctive. Was Jen right? Why had he kept the letters? A subconscious link to Joey? Because he hadn’t fully let her go?

And what about Alex? He shook his head. Had he really moved on and forgotten? Or had he merely bricked up that part of his heart that still remembered? Had he been afraid that reading her letters would bring back that flood of love and emotion, those heady feelings he’d had for her? Make him realize that he still loved her? Could never stop loving her and therefore prevent him from moving on? And that loving her would tilt his current life into a precarious angle?

He sat on the bed.

But what would be so bad about that? Maybe finding out the fact that she no longer loved him? Maybe finding out, finally, once and for all, that when he left Boston, he’d killed whatever love she’d had for him. Is that what the nervous stuttering in the pit of his stomach meant? Is that why his heart had suddenly accelerated and was drumming painfully in his chest the way it was now? Why his mouth felt parched and his palms felt like they were going to break out into a clammy sweat? She had cared enough to write. He should have cared enough to read them, he berated himself.

Maybe reading them now was the solution to all his questions. Reading them could set his mind at rest, set him free from the sudden crowd of doubts in his mind. Help settle the nervousness he’d felt all the way home after his chat with her, after finding out she was with someone else now, someone who could be ‘the one’ for her. He needed to know he hadn’t been wearing blinkers all this time.

Pacey stared down at the pieces of the torn letter, picked them up. He sank down to the floor and with a sweep of his arm pulled them closer, piled them up, checked the dates. Then having put them in order of oldest on top, he took the first letter and began to read.

Blearily, Pacey rubbed at one eye and let his head drop back against the edge of the bed. Staring into space, he wondered for the hundredth time what the hell he was going to do.

He had finished reading Joey’s letters half an hour ago. He was still sat amongst them all. The t-shirt she’d sent him from Paris was draped across his knees. While reading, he’d been hit hard again by how much he’d missed by being absent from their lives. He hadn’t been there for Joey to lean on after her mugging, nor for Jack and Audrey when they had gone through their own rough patches. Andie was a mother now! He hadn’t known that Joey had gone to Paris. He could just imagine it, her wonderment, and her happiness in fulfilling a long held desire. As mentioned in her letter, he did remember their time at the casino. He’d used all his charm to persuade her to part with her five dollars that night and she had been ecstatic when they’d kept winning. The night had been a crazy high because of the constant fear of being exposed as too young to even be in a gambling establishment, the excitement of winning, the joy of being young and in love and alone and on an adventure. That night they’d come the closest they’d ever had to making love. And while there, in Paris, remembering that night, she had thought of him, even bought him a present. Pacey clutched at the t-shirt across his knee. She had thought of him while, at the same time, he had succeeded in blocking her out. Until he’d seen her tonight that is, until he’d read these letters, he’d thought he knew how he felt about her and the past but now-

Just then, there was a loud knocking at the front door.

Alex stood on the other side of the door looking up at him, her face pale and shadows in her eyes. “Didn’t want to use my key,” she mumbled, then the anguish rose in her voice. “How can I compete with a girl you’ve known your whole life?”

“You don’t. It’s not a competition. Alex…” he trailed off stepping away from the door, laughing helplessly at the irony. Hadn’t he said something very similar to Joey years ago?

‘How am I supposed to compete when you have your own karaoke-?’

Joey had replied that they‘d create their own history.

“What’s so funny?” Alex came in and closed the door.

“Nothing. Nothing. Alex, she goes back to Boston tomorrow. I have no idea when I’ll next see her, but I doubt it’ll be anytime soon.”

“I’m sorry, Pacey. I’m sorry about this whole, sorry mess of a night. My behavior towards your friends. Reading Joey’s letters…”

A muscle in his cheek jerked as he turned his face away moving further into the room, near the bedroom. She followed, noting through the bedroom door the letters at the foot of the bed.

“Did you read them?”

He nodded.

“I didn’t. I mean…not in depth. I just skimmed them.”

He continued to stand silently, looking away from her.

“Just a lot of chit chat really, aren’t they?” She inched closer to him, hands clasped tightly in front of her. “The summer you sailed to Florida. She mentions that a lot. You-you must have had the time of your lives.”

“We did,” he agreed tightly.

“You were just kids then. It was a pretty bold thing to do. Romantic.” Another tentative step brought her up to his side, but she kept her voice low and soft. “I wish I’d known you then, but she was there first. She loved you first. I guess that sticks in my gut a little. Because I love you, Pacey.” She swallowed hard as she allowed her hand to come up and rest lightly on his arm. “I can’t compete with your first love.”

“She wasn’t my first love. That was Andie.” He finally turned to face her. “You know, the one you described as being in the back of beyond.”

“I’m sorry.” She laid both hands against his chest, letting go a soft breath of relief when he didn’t shy away. “But you know, maybe if you weren’t so closed mouth about your past it wouldn’t hold any mystery for me. I mean, I wouldn’t have felt…I don’t know…threatened. I know! I know! That’s still no excuse for my behavior. I let my temper get the better of me, but I won’t let that happen again.” She leaned in, bowed her head. “I don’t want to lose you.”

“You were never in danger of that in the first place!” he exclaimed, and then wondered if that were a lie.

She raised her head; tears were wobbling precariously on her lashes. “Are you sure of that?”

“Damn it, Alex!” He would have pulled away, but she held on.

“I have to ask. I just need to actually hear it. I know that’s pathetic of me, but… please, after three years, after two attempts at a relationship, after that adventurous summer away how did it feel seeing her again?”

Pacey shrugged, irritably. “Alex-“

“You don’t still have feelings for her?”

“It’s been years! Joey is my past. How many times-?“

“I know-“

“She has a boyfriend!” She has a boyfriend! He’d forgotten that until now. Joey had a guy that she thought could be the one.

“I know!” She hated the way her voice hitched as tears trembled down her cheeks.

“I’m here. What more do you want?”

“Then-then why did you keep the letters without reading them?”

He shifted restlessly on his feet. “I was busy. At the time, I was working on cruise boats, going from port to port. Sometimes the letters didn’t catch up with me for weeks, months. I don’t know. I just threw them in with the others from my family. Even some of my mom’s notes are unopened.”
It was a feeble attempt at an explanation at best. She deserved the truth, but he couldn’t seem to bring himself to open up his innermost feelings to her. Fortunately for him, she was desperate enough to accept any form of explanation.

“You’ve got to be more open with me, Pacey. You’ve got to let me know what you’re thinking! You’ve got-”

“Okay, okay, whatever you say!” He sighed with exasperation. “But please. Let’s forget about this now. It’s you I want.”

“Alright! Alright! I’m sorry. I’ll shut up about it. You’re the best thing that’s ever happened to me and I don’t want to lose you. I don’t want to lose you Pacey.” She pressed herself against him. “Are we okay? Say we’re okay Pacey, please.”

The ensuing few seconds felt like a lifetime.

“We’re okay.” Came his gruff response.

She slid her arms around his waist, holding on tight as she buried her head against his shoulder. Slowly, his arms came up to embrace her, but his eyes were riveted to the letters on the floor in the bedroom.

 

**************

“What?”

“She says she’s fine, but she isn’t. I know she isn’t.” Jen sighed heavily down the phone line.

“Well, she dumped Aaron within a week of us getting back from New York!”

“She dumped the Ben Affleck guy? Not that Ben Affleck does anything for me, but still… why, Audrey?”

“She said she had an important few months coming up, that she needed to knuckle down to studying and the less distractions she had, the better.”

“Hmm…”

“She said she didn’t think it would work out anyway. I mean, she liked him, but she just…”

“…Didn’t like him as much as she likes Pacey.” Jen added her own deductions.

It was Audrey’s turn to sigh. “Not that you’d get her to admit such a thing. And she is studying. It’s all she does and she’s at the library right now, but there’s a restlessness about her. I’ll catch her staring into space, but she won’t tell me what’s on her mind. She confided in me before about Pacey, but now she’s clammed right up.”

“I guess you’ll have to wait until she’s ready.”

“Have you seen much of Pacey and the girlfriend from hell?”

“Ha! Well, not at all this month, but last month we met up a couple of times. Thing is, it was supposed to be just me and him, but Alex tagged along each time too!”

“Gah! She can’t let him out of his sight, can she?”

“You know, she’s okay when the green-eyed monster’s at rest.”

“Huh!”

“Anyway, they seem okay, more than okay, in fact. It’s just suspicious to me that he’s apparently avoided being alone with me or Jack and I’ve not been able to pin him down to a date this month.”

“Maybe, only if he’s very, very good, she’ll allow him out.”

“You’re biased! I’m thinking he’s avoiding heavy conversations with me. Something’s a little off and he knows my radar is good! I mean, the last two times I saw them she was, like, exuberant. He was just…not. Not enough, anyway.”

“Well, I think – oh. Joey’s back. Hey Joey!”

“Hi!

Audrey waved the phone at her. “It’s Jen.”

“Oh, say hi for me.” She dumped her books onto her bed.

“Joey says hi. I’m gonna go now, though. Tall to you later, Jen.”

“Bye, Audrey.”

Audrey set the receiver down and watched Joey as she assembled her books into some order on her bed.

“How was the library?”

“Quiet.” Joey toed her shoes off and settled down cross-legged hunched over her books.

“Hey, you’ve only just come back from there and you’re going to do more studying now?”

“Uh huh.” Joey didn’t bother to look up. Instead, she picked up a book, leaned back against her pillows as she stretched her legs out and propping the book on her chest, blocking out her view of Audrey, began to peruse it intently.

Audrey bit back the sigh on her lips and lifting the headphones around her neck slipped them over her head and ears. She clicked play on her personal CD player, and returned to the song she’d been listening to before Jen had rung and interrupted her. She closed her eyes, letting the music take over her brain. When the tune ended, she opened her eyes and found Joey staring into space, her test book, lolling down in her hands.

Audrey switched off the CD player. “Penny for them!” she exclaimed.

Joey blinked with surprise and stared at Audrey for a long moment.

“I’m going to Capeside this weekend,” she suddenly announced.

“Oh! How come?” Audrey pulled the headphones off.

“I think it’ll help.”

“Help what?”

Again, another long look from Joey, but this time her response was only to shake her head and go back to her book.

“Oh Joey, won’t you please talk to me!”

“About what?” she asked absently.

“You! And Pacey!”

“There is no me and Pacey,” she murmured.

“There’s no you and Aaron and that’s why there is a you and Pacey.”

“I don’t want to talk about it. There’s nothing to talk about. There’s no point.”

“Why?”

Joey let her book fall so she could see Audrey’s face. “I’m the only one who can help me now.”

“But-“

“And once I’ve made my decision, once I’ve – I’ve made peace with myself and whatever, I’ll talk your ear off about it until kingdom come.”

“Joey-“

“But not until then. Okay?”

“Can’t you-“

“Okay? I know you’re worried, but you needn’t be. Okay?”

“Okay, okay.” Audrey agreed grudgingly and went back to her headphones as Joey raised her book again.

 

**************

Pacey smoothed his finger seductively against the damp strip of material between her legs, relishing the moans his actions solicited from her. Her hips reared up again. Her back arched and she luxuriated in the sensation of the curl of his tongue and the heat of his mouth teasing her nipples.

“Pacey,” she breathed, raking her fingers through his hair. He gave an answering moan, his excitement growing as her panties grew even damper against his fingers. His other hand came down, gripped the side of them, and tugged sharply. As one side ripped, she gasped and jerked with surprise. A deep thrill raced through her body but her hands remained in his hair, guiding his head so that he could continue to suckle and tease her breasts with his mouth. She felt the flimsy bit of material slide down her thigh and before she could catch her breath he was up, gripping her knees and shoving her legs back as he dropped to his knees and zeroed in between creamy thighs to taste the molten heat of her.

And he found he couldn’t stop. He couldn’t get enough of her. No matter how much he nibbled and licked, no matter how much he sucked or plunged his tongue into the depths of her, and despite her frenzied bucking and screaming, despite the delicious ripples and tremors as she came against his tongue, she still eluded him. He wanted her more than he’d wanted anything and anyone in his life, but it wasn’t enough. Desperate, with one hand he fumbled with the zipper of his jeans, dragging them down with his boxer shorts and freed himself, hard, hot and engorged. Pushing her knees back even further as he raised and braced himself, he then plunged deep inside her. She screamed his name and he cried out hers…

…Pacey woke up, breathing heavily. He turned sharply to look at Alex sleeping beside him, blinking furiously to accustom his eyes to the darkness in the room. Had he cried Joey’s name aloud? Had Alex heard her name on his lips? He peered at her closely, but she was fast asleep.

With his heart racing, he slowly laid back against the bed and pillows. That was the third time in two months he’d dreamt about Joey. Each dream a variation of that last night they’d spent together before he’d left Boston.

He didn’t know what to do. Alex was the perfect girlfriend. Even more so since Joey and Audrey’s visit. He saw in Alex everything he’d always liked about her from the beginning. She was funny and witty, the sex was good – and more frequent than before. They went out often and had fun. He enjoyed going to her gigs and listening to her sing. She could talk his ear off, but he could match her for that. He never felt inadequate around her. She was a good ego boost. And she loved him.

But he had never told her he loved her. In his heart of hearts, he knew he didn’t. Never had. Their relationship had started out as just a fun fling. And he feared the longer he stayed with her, the more unfair he was being to her. Joey’s visit had thrown everything up in the air, no matter the semblance of order and happiness that veiled the cracks within his relationship with Alex right now. Now there were these dreams.
He had to face the difficult question; was he hanging onto Alex because he didn’t want to face the fact that it was Joey that he still wanted, but knew he couldn’t have because she loved someone else?

It was wrong. Alex deserved better. She deserved to have the chance to find someone who could love her back the way she wanted. That person wasn’t him. It meant he would be alone again, but his life would be even richer than it had been before because now he had all his friends back. Maybe he didn’t have Joey in the way he truly wanted, but it was better than living this limbo of lies with Alex.

He hadn’t been ignorant of the spark between Joey and himself on that night out. Maybe if Joey had been free, he’d have tested the waters with her. Tentatively, and subtly. After all, other than this Aaron guy there was nothing to stop him and Joey trying again, was there? Except that she wasn’t in love with him anymore.

Pacey sighed, heavily, turning onto his side away from Alex. That didn’t make sense. If there was still a spark….but a spark did not make a relationship. It didn’t necessarily mean love. It was probably more of a glowing ember and with time, the heat in that ember would die out.

He almost chuckled aloud with bitterness. He was finally free of past hurts, especially his fear of the whole mystery of soul mates and of his discomfort with Dawson’s place in their lives. Just as he’d hoped. It’s why he’d left Boston, wasn’t it? But he still couldn’t have Joey.

He’d have to be happy with what he already had. He regretted having to hurt Alex, but at least that was one thing he could put right for now.

Chapter Text

Joey sat in front of the wall, knees drawn in, chin resting on top, arms wrapped around them, uncaring of the curious stares of passersby wondering why the pretty girl with the flowing dark hair was sat in the overgrown grass in front of the graffiti ridden wall. Suddenly, she was aware of someone stood beside her, who then sat down.

"Hey," Doug greeted, stretching his legs out in front of him, resting back on his hands in the overgrown grass.

"Hey," Joey softly greeted back.

They stared at the wall for full minute before either spoke a word.

"This used to be my wall. Did you know that?"

He did.

"I never did get to paint it, but it was mine for awhile. Pacey bought it for me. Leased it really, but I like to think of it as his buying it for me." Her lips curved in a half smile. "He bought me a wall.”

"That's my little brother."

"Four years ago he painted the words 'ask me to stay' on it. He'd been planning to leave and sail around the Florida Keys. I'd never have known if you hadn't told me" She glanced briefly at Doug before turning back to the now graffiti ridden wall, her mind racing with the flood of memories that pervaded her head. "I confronted him, in my usual passive aggressive way. Accused him of running away, of giving up on us too easily."

A slight noise from Doug had her turning to him again. He arched an eyebrow at her. She threw him a wry look. "I know. It was a bit hypocritical of me considering I'd dumped him to save my friendship with Dawson, but I must have said something right. He wrote those words, 'ask me to stay' in big, red, foot high letters." She shook her head in remembered wonderment almost seeing the words there in front of her, seeing his face smudged with paint, his woolly hat pulled low on his head. It had been an ultimatum of sorts - nothing like on the scale of Dawson's. Dawson had had no right to try and manipulate her the way he had while Pacey, always patient Pacey, had had every right to ask her to give him a reason to stay - and cockily too, especially after she had angrily confronted him earlier that day.

"He was always pretty clever when it came to grand gestures."

"Cunning, too. He'd rung Bessie and got her to send me out for milk so
I'd have to pass this spot, and there he was waiting."

She'd been taken aback, bemused, but touched and even in his cockiness, she'd wanted to kiss him, smudges and all. "Said he'd been sitting staring at the wall thinking, and that now it was my turn. So, he'd asked me in his own inimitable way to stay and when he came to Mitch and Gale's wedding for his answer I still rejected him. At that point I couldn't give him a reason to stay." The tears took her by surprise. "Three years ago I did ask him to stay. Practically begged him. He-he-" she stopped as her breath began to hitch softly. "This time he rejected me."

Doug looked on her down bent head with sympathetic eyes. When she saw his expression, her vision blurred even more. She dashed the tears away.

"I was trying to prove to him... Was I a fool Doug? Was I a fool to keep writing to him all that time when he never even wrote back?" Her eyes beseeched him, wanting answers he couldn't give to questions that were futile.

"Last time I heard from him he was happy, settled with-with a steady girlfriend."

She looked away miserably and Doug's heart went out to her. “Yes, I’ve met her.”

“You have? He didn't mention that. He can be pretty tight lipped when he wants to be, too, I guess.”

She nodded. “I went to New York a couple of months ago.”

"And he’s happy?”

“I don’t see him hurrying back here.”

“Who says he's happy, though?" he asked, gently.

Her head snapped back in his direction. “Why do you ask that?"

"For a guy who seemingly wears his heart on his sleeve so blatantly, he's always had a knack for keeping up a front. And he rang me last week."

“What exactly are you saying? What did he say?”

Joey stared at him, willing him to spill his guts royally. He remained tight lipped. "Is he happy or isn't he?”

"So he says.”

Joey dropped her head.

“Joey, no one forced him to remain in New York. No one forced him not to write back to you. That was his choice, but if I had left the love of my life behind, I’d have a hard time forgetting her no matter how many years had passed, no matter whom I dated.”

She stared at him. “Is…that what you think I am to him? The love of his life?”

“Joey, I’m almost sure of it. You know Pacey's heart, don't you?"

"I thought I did." She worried her bottom lip with her teeth, then swept a quick tongue over its dryness. "He said he was going to try his best to forget me," she murmured. “And he’s still with her, isn’t he?"

"Yes.”

Joey dropped her head, then raised it to look at the wall. "I've never stopped loving him. And… if there’s the slightest chance…I want him back."

"Is that why you’re here in Capeside, here in front of this old wall? Do you need to close some doors, Joey?"

"There's only one door still open and it's getting close to that time of year. You know, graduation. Summer. It brings back a strong scent of nostalgia, makes you think about what the future has in store for you. What you need to hold on to and..."

"What you need to let go of?"

"Is he ever coming back, Doug?"

"Maybe he doesn’t need to. But if he does, it'll be for one reason and one reason only. Maybe you need to give him that reason. He may have been the one who left, but maybe he's waiting for you... or feels he has no right...”

"But I've been writing to him for the past three years! Doesn't he wonder why I'd continued to write with no incentive from him?"

"Maybe he daren't hope or presume it could be because you still loved him.”

There had certainly been no declarations of love in her letters and the last he knew she had a boyfriend.

“Joey, us guys? We're kinda dumb sometimes. Plus we're talking about Pacey. I know him better than he thinks. My little brother has many facets to his personality. We have the hero complex, the romantic streak, and the heart on the sleeve trait. We also have the tortured soul thing. He’s very good at that. Joey, he's always felt he never deserved you. I'm betting that if he still thinks of you after everything that's happened, he believes he doesn't have the right to be welcomed back into your life. You've also got to decide whether coming back to you is what's best for you. Or if it’s what’s best for him. Maybe he'd be happier where he is."

Joey nodded, sadly.

"But give him the choice, Joey."

 

**************

Dear Pacey,

I didn’t think I’d be writing you again, but here I am.

I told you about Aaron, didn’t I? Well, that didn’t last very long. No longer than a week after I came back to Boston from New York, actually. You see, I lied. He wasn’t the one. And I knew that.

In all the previous letters I sent you, I’ve never mentioned boyfriends. There have been a few but probably not as many as you might think. They never lasted very long. They just didn’t know how to handle my biting wit and sarcasm the way you do, I guess. I think the longest relationship lasted about three months. You see, I always had to end it when I realized that they had qualities that reminded me of you.

Seth, was blonde and angelic looking with these beautiful expressive blue eyes. One day, just one simple ordinary day, we were chatting over coffee. He said something to me. I can’t even remember what it was. I looked into his face and he smiled. The laughter lines at the side of his eyes crinkled, the blue of his irises lightened and I suddenly saw you. I panicked. By the end of the day we were over. Then there was Ivan. He didn’t last a week. He kept calling me Potter. There’s only one man worthy of calling me that. Stuart fared no better. Every time he leaned in for a kiss, I kept remembering the surprise kiss you gave me at the side of the road that day you had your hormonal breakdown! I don’t know why! I eventually realized that there was always going to be something preventing me from moving on completely from you. I was always going to find fault with them simply because they were not you.

I love you, Pacey. I have never stopped loving you.

There I go again. It’s always about me. Thing is you’re probably living a happy carefree life in New York. So you say. Maybe you’re in a happy committed relationship. Jen hasn’t heard anything from you in the last six weeks so maybe you’re still with Alex or maybe there’s someone else. It doesn’t matter because probably the last thing you want is a whiny ex girlfriend embarrassing you with love letters – because that’s what this is. That’s what all the other letters really were too, Pacey. Love letters. I disguised them well, didn’t I?

You gave me payback, Pacey and I’ve sucked it up. I took it like a woman and now I want my punishment to end. I’m graduating in a month’s time and I’d like you to come. If you don’t then as this chapter of my academic life closes, so I will finally close the door to my past. To you. But I want you there. If you’re with someone else then stay away. Spare me that. After all, maybe you fell out of love with me way back and I was foolish to write to you the way I did. I’ve certainly felt that way after no word from you after each and every letter, but I had something to prove, Pacey. To you and myself.

You need to know that Dawson stopped being the most important person in my life the day you left Boston. Before that. You need to know you can trust me, that you hold my heart completely. That these last 3 years have been my fight for you. You see, Pace. I never lied to you. My heart was always a fixed point. You think you left me? No. You never left me because you’ve haunted me all this time. I knew you would and I thought it only fair that I do the same to you. So I wrote you. You wanted to try to forget and I wasn’t going to let you.

There you have it.

Come to my graduation Pacey. But if you come, then know you’re coming for me. Just for me, Pacey. For us. Because you feel the same way. Don’t think this has all come out of the blue. Otherwise I probably wouldn’t be writing you this letter. I felt something that night in New York. I think you did too. I think that spark can become a flame again. Hell! A roaring fire even!

If you choose not to come, then I’ll understand. I’ll have fond memories, you’ll have fond memories and we’ll cherish them in a small part of our hearts and when we meet up we’ll be friends. The best of friends. No awkwardness, please.

And in the tradition of my past letters I’ll leave you with a snippet of news. Bessie is pregnant! I’m going to be an aunt again. A new life. New beginnings. I think it could be the perfect time for us.

All my love, Joey

 

**************

“I’m sorry Alex.”

“Not sorrier than I am! A year, Pacey! A whole year and you just want to throw it down the drain! Why?”

“Alex-“

Finally, she voiced the fear she’d tried to silence since the top of the evening when Pacey had informed her that he felt their relationship could go no further. “Is it Joey? Is that what this is all about?”

“I don’t want to hurt you-.”

“Is that a yes?”

“You deserve-“

“Just save all the noble platitudes! Whatever you say, nothing is going to make this any easier for me, is it? I just want the truth,Pacey! Just tell me straight. I deserve that, don’t I?”

“I don’t love you!” He drew in a deep breath and his gaze flickered guiltily over her features, saw the pain in her eyes before she absorbed it, and blanked it out. “That’s the long and short of it. I’m sorry. I-“

“Save it!” she spat, just about holding on to the tears that threatened before pushing past him out of the room and slamming out of the apartment.

She still hadn’t come back a few hours later when Pacey went to bed and he tossed restlessly beneath the sheets as he thought it all over.

The evening had been one long argument. At first, when he’d told her, she’d been shocked and bewildered, but that soon gave way to anger, and then a long spell locked in the bathroom before she’d come back to confront him with tears and pleading. When it became obvious, despite his discomfort and regret over hurting her, that there was nothing she could say or do to make him change his mind she had become angry again.

He hadn’t wanted to bring Joey’s name into it. What would be the point of adding fresh and needless heartache to Alex on top of the fact that he didn’t love her? His only comfort, as small as it was, was that he was doing the right thing. One day, he was sure that Alex would find someone else to love. He wasn’t sure that he ever would.

In a few days, he would be going out of town on a catering course. There was always something new to learn and although he was reluctant about leaving for two whole weeks, Danny had insisted he go. Cal would be well able to cover for Pacey during that time. The time away would be a welcome break after all that had happened. It couldn’t come too soon for him. After his return, he had Jen and Jack’s graduation to look forward to. Joey’s, he knew, was the week before. The Lindley clan would be going to Boston for it. Dawson had called him a couple of weeks ago and mentioned he’d been invited also, but there had been no invite for himself. They’d automatically assumed he had an invite and he hadn’t told them any different. When Jen asked if he wanted to travel to Boston with her he fobbed her off, telling her he’d let her know.

Joey knew where he was, could easily get hold of his number. He wasn’t going to pretend he wasn’t a little hurt, puzzled that he hadn’t been invited but theirs was a funny relationship. He hadn’t called her since she’d left New York. She hadn’t called him. Maybe the memories were too painful. He could understand that. Maybe she’d feel too awkward having her ex there as well as this Aaron guy. Who knew? But Pacey wasn’t going to intrude. He wasn’t going to try to push his way into her life just because he was on his own now and he wasn’t going to use his friends to help him to that either.

 

**************

The next day, Alex let herself in to Pacey’s apartment. He’d be home soon, but she hadn’t been able to face coming back until now. The empty apartment was too sad a reminder that her arms were now empty of Pacey. Plus she’d been too angry. Too bitter. It might hurt more but she’d rather she saw him one last time as she packed before leaving for good. But she was so full of helpless frustration. Whatever he did or didn’t say she knew in her heart of hearts that this break up was connected with Pacey’s ex girlfriend.

She automatically stooped to scoop up the half a dozen letters or so at her feet. Closing the door behind her, she moved slowly across the room, entering the bedroom, staring down at the top envelope. She recognized the handwriting. Joey’s handwriting. Alex’s teeth clenched. Pacey had dumped her and she’d spent most of the night crying into her pillow and she had to come back to a letter from Joey?

She dropped the large hold all over her shoulder to the floor and tossed the letters, mostly bills, on the bed apart from Joey's, which she continued to stare down at.

After their fight two months ago, after the night out with Joey and Pacey's friends, she had wanted to ask Pacey to throw away his letters from
Joey, but she hadn't quite dared to. He still had them. She looked up at the box on top of the closet next to the large dresser. Up there. Now he had another one to add to the others.

What had she written? More friendly chit chat? How well she was doing at Worthington? Graduation was coming up soon. Some of Alex's friends could talk of nothing else. Alex lowered her gaze back to the envelope she held. Is that what this was about? Maybe an invitation to her graduation? And if it was, had she included Alex in that invitation, too? Yeah right, she scoffed to herself. But even if Joey had, it was too late now. Pacey was a free man again.

All her life Alex had always got what she wanted. Her adoring father had seen to that. Well, almost always. There had been the odd occasion when he'd denied her a new toy, whether it had been the latest doll or the latest sports car and she'd always found it easy to resort to tears to get around him. She'd inherited that from her mother, except her father was less susceptible to her mother's tears than hers. From her father she'd inherited his driven ambition, his arrogant assumption that the world was hers for the taking. When she'd met Pacey, she'd been bowled over by his easy charm, his sexy voice, his teasing wit. He was as much an expert in those things as he was in bed. Excellent. She'd found her match. He was it for her. She'd got him and she was going to keep him she’d vowed - until now. She'd never quite been able to get him to say those three little words though. Now she knew why. Things hadn't been the same since Joey's visit. She had tried to ignore it. Pacey was attentive enough, but she sensed the distance between them. Who did he think he was fooling? She had no doubt that this was down to Joey.

A sudden spurt of rage overwhelmed her and she ripped the letter in two, and was just about to rip it again when she heard Pacey enter the apartment. She froze. He called her name. And was coming this way. A second before he appeared she managed to throw the two halves of Joey's letter behind the dresser.

“What are you doing?” Pacey asked. His eyes flicked up to the box on top of the closet and back to her face. He couldn’t quite decipher the expression on her face. Fear? Panic? Guilt? It was gone in a flash.

“I’m here to erase myself out of your life Pacey.” She indicated her bag near his feet, with a nod of her head. “It’s what you want, isn’t it?”

She turned to the dresser, and started opening and closing drawers, pulling out various items and tossing them on the bed. Pacey watched her with a feeling of helplessness. Sorry that she was hurt, but eager to get the whole painful episode over and done with.

She opened the closet. That was another thing, she thought, as she angrily pulled garments off their hangers. She had her own apartment, but by the end of the first six months of her relationship with Pacey, she’d been staying over at his almost every night. She had her own small space in his closet. Two drawers in the dresser. Her cosmetics and toiletries crowded the bathroom cabinet next to his own, but had he ever officially asked her to move in with him? No! No matter how many hints she’d dropped. One day he’d presented her with her own key, but it had been in the most casual and dismissive of ways.

After building a pile of clothes in the middle of the bed, she pushed past him to go out to the bathroom, coming back with an armful of toiletries. They joined the clothes on the bed. Pacey reached out and caught an aerosol can as it rolled off the bed. Alex snatched it out of his hand and tossed it on the bed, and then grabbed her bag off the floor.

“You know, you don’t need to stand guard! What are you going to do? Escort me off the premises personally to make sure I’m gone?” Unzipping the bag, she began stuffing it with her things.

Nothing he said would be right so Pacey kept quiet.

Finally, she zipped her bag shut and hefting it over one shoulder, she turned to face him. Dipping into her jeans pocket she fished out her key to his apartment. She flicked it at him and he caught it neatly.

“There you are. So you needn’t be worried I’ll sneak in late one night and, like a woman scorned, slit your throat while you’re sleeping.”

“Alex-" Pacey reached out to her, his eyes hooded, dark with sympathy and apology. It was nearly her undoing and she forced back the burst of emotion that threatened to overwhelm her. Her eyes burned with unshed tears.

“Don’t touch me,” she jerked back.

He followed her out of the bedroom and to the front door. She opened it and for a moment, he thought she would walk away without a word, but after a moment’s hesitation she turned back to him.

Eyes wide and shimmery, she looked as though she had everything in the world to say to him.

“Bye Alex.”

She stared hard, but said no more than “good-bye Pacey,” and then she was gone.

Chapter Text

“Joey what’s going on? Every time Jen rings you’re suddenly on your way out or too busy to speak to her. Are you mad at her over something?”

“No.” Joey gave up all pretense of reading romantic fiction novel she had her nose in and dropped it beside her on the bed.

“What is it then?” Audrey asked.

Joey didn’t answer.

“Well, she wants to talk to you about the arrangements for when they all come down. There’ll be room at the B&B for us, won’t there? I think Pacey will probably stay at-”

Joey looked steadily at her, her brow lowering with mild puzzlement. “Pacey’s coming?”

“You’ve invited him, haven’t you?”

“Is that what he said?”

“I suppose so.” Audrey shrugged. “Didn’t he tell you if -?”

“Wait. Did Jen actually say that Pacey said he was coming?”

“Not exactly, but-”

Joey’s gaze wandered away into space, her brow furrowed, preoccupied. “Maybe he doesn’t want to come,” she muttered.

Audrey heaved out an exaggerated sigh of exasperation. “What? Joey did you invite him or not?”

“Well, yes.”

Audrey scrambled off her bed and jumped onto Joey’s sensing there was more to the story. “So, what are you so agitated about?”

Joey looked askance at her, and then threw her hands up as if in defeat. There was a week left until graduation and there had been no word from Pacey. As far as she was concerned, that was her answer. Even though she hadn’t asked him to call, she’d thought he would have done anyway. She’d spent the first week after sending the letter tied up in knots of nerves and jumping every time her phone rang. But he hadn’t called. Every time Jen rang, she made an excuse not to speak to her.

“I’m – I guess, I’m just…”

“What, Jo?” Audrey’s voice softened with concern and Joey felt the prick of tears behind her eyes.

“I wanted to handle this by myself. I made a decision. I ran with it and now I’m awaiting the outcome. But I’m afraid that the outcome, the answer, has been staring me in the face for the last three weeks or so. I just didn’t want to accept it.”

“What decision? What answer?”

Joey dropped her head. “I wrote Pacey weeks ago asking him to come to my graduation.”

“And he hasn’t bothered to reply? Oh, but-”

“It was the way I asked him and there was a condition attached. I told him to come only if he was coming for me.” Joey raised her eyes ominously to Audrey’s. “For us. And stupidly, I’ve been too scared to speak to Jen in case she had something to say about Pacey that I wouldn’t like. I didn’t want to find out that he had read the letter and that he didn’t want to come. I don’t know.”

“It’s not like Pacey to get someone else to do his dirty work though, is it?”

“Well, no…”

“And Jen seems to think he’s coming.”

“Something’s not right. This was no ordinary invitation. He needs to speak directly to me and he hasn’t. I think Jen’s got it wrong. I don’t think he’s coming.”

“He still could! It’s not graduation yet.”

“I laid my heart out in that letter. It was pretty heavy. I thought he might have at least called, you know?” A tear trembled down one cheek. She brushed it away and wiped both eyes.

Audrey slipped a comforting arm around Joey’s back. “Why don’t you ring him?”

“No!” Joey gasped in horror. “I can't! It’s too humiliating!”

“Joey! This is important!”

“You’d figure he’d realize that! I don’t know. It’s not like him. Well, not the Pacey I used to know, but he didn’t reply to my previous letters, why should-“

“Joey, maybe he didn’t get the letter.”

“Doug gave me the address. I know-”

“Okay, maybe he is being a bastard. But maybe, for some reason, he didn’t get it! Or maybe he’s still thinking about it. All you told him was to turn up to the graduation, right? So maybe that’s what he’s going to do!”

“Or not going to do.”

“Gah! Is pessimism your middle name? He still has a few days grace.”

“I was thinking of ringing Doug and checking I got the address right, but I must admit I’ve been a bit…” Joey sighed. “I’ve been all mixed up. I want to know and I don’t.”

“Well, if you’d spoken to Jen you’d know that Pacey is out of town on a catering course. He’s due back any day now. She rang and spoke to his boss.”

“Really?” Joey’s head shot up. She moistened her lips.

“Maybe that letter is waiting on his doormat for the moment he comes back.”

Joey’s hand clutched at her stomach as butterflies flapped their wings furiously inside. “Yeah, maybe. Either way, I’ll know for sure before the end of the week, won’t I?”

“Count on it!”

 

**************

“Pacey!”

“Audrey?"

He’d wanted to sleep for an hour or so after getting off work and had just settled down on his bed when the phone rang.

“What the hell is wrong with you?”

“Huh?”

“I had to tell Joey you were still on that stupid course! I can’t believe you haven’t bothered to reply to her letter or at least call her! Whatever the hell you’ve decided, I’m not going to let you string her along like this. You’ve-”

“Whoa! Whoa there! What damn letter?”

“Joey wrote you, like, weeks ago, you moron! She graduates tomorrow and while she may not have asked you to ring her you could at least have-”

“Hold on, hold on, hold on. Wait a minute. I know Joey graduates, but I’ve not had an invite from her. I just assumed that maybe… well… maybe she didn’t-”

“I just told you Joey wrote to you weeks ago!”

“I didn’t get any letter, Audrey!”

Silence.

“Audrey?”

“You didn’t get the letter?”

“No! What did it say?”

“She got your address from Doug. You must have got it!”

“I’m telling you I didn’t! What did it say Audrey?”

“I don’t know if I should -”

“Oh, don’t go all shy on me now.”

“Look, I thought you’d got the letter and was just… I don’t know. But this is between you and Joey.”

“Audrey, tell-”

“Pacey, if you really didn’t get-”

“I didn’t!”

“Are you still with Alex?”

“No.”

“Really? Why?”

“That’s personal, Audrey. Just tell me what the letter said.”

“This is no time to play coy. It’s really important, Pacey, I’m not just being nosy, even though I am, but you’ve got to tell me. Did your break up, by some blessed miracle, have anything to do with Joey? Do you still love her?”

“Does – does she still love me?”

“You first.”

“Audrey!” he groaned. He opened his mouth to answer and then snapped it shut as something suddenly clicked into place in his head. Alex’s face. That expression on her face when he’d entered his bedroom that last night before she’d packed and left.

“Pacey? Pacey, talk to me.”

“Audrey, hold on one sec, just one sec!”

“Wait! Pacey!"

He set the receiver down on the bedside table and walked over to the closet. She had been standing here near the closet and dresser. Pacey looked around on the floor, kneeled down low to look under the bed. He hadn’t recalled seeing any bits of paper under there the last time he’d looked for a stray shoe or item of clothing. He stood up again and his gaze rested on the dresser. She’d been nearer the dresser than the bed. It was large and bulky. Its base was very low. There was little space between it and the floor but he tried to look underneath anyway.

Guilt! Guilt, defiance and panic! That’s what was on her face, he thought. Standing and rushing to the left side of the dresser, he tried to look down the back. Something was there! Bracing his side against the wall and gripping the top corners he heaved it a few inches away from the wall. He saw the two halves of Joey’s letter, teetering on the edge of the skirting board and leaning against the back of the dresser. He shifted it a few more inches so he could fit his arm in and down and even then it was still a squeeze. His hip and one forearm pushed. He didn’t care if it fell over, but it didn’t and he managed to grasp his prize and pull it out.

Yes! Joey’s handwriting! It was torn in two but unopened. Alex must have tossed it down the back of the dresser just before he came into the bedroom, but he wasn’t going to waste any more thought on her.

He picked up the phone.

“Audrey? You still there?”

“Yes! What’s going on? Pacey-”

“I’ve found the letter!”

“Huh?” Suspicion entered her voice. “Pacey.-”

“It’s a long story, but let’s just say hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. What’s important is I remembered something and I’ve found the letter.”

“Hmm, okay, but.-”

“I haven’t read it yet.”

“But will you come tomorrow?”

“Depends what the letter says.”

“But Pacey.-”

“Gotta go, Audrey. Please. I’ll talk to you later.”

“Later? Like tomorrow?”

“Bye Audrey!”

He set the receiver back in its place, pulled the letter out of its halves of the envelope, and went hunting for some sticky tape.

 

**************

Joey mentally shook off the despondency that threatened to weigh her down. This was a special day, not just for her but also for her friends and relatives. She stepped down off the stage, her diploma in one hand and grinned widely but shyly as she posed for the official graduation photograph. She glanced into the large audience as she walked across the grass of the large football field and took her seat again, wondering briefly if Pacey was out there. Jen, Jack and Grams, seated next to Bessie, Bodie, Joey’s father, Gale and Alexander clapped and smiled their delight. Seated immediately behind them were Audrey’s parents, proud as punch having seen Audrey receive her own diploma a few minutes before. Every now and then Audrey, a few rows ahead of her turned to beam excitedly at her but the rest of the ceremony was a blur.

This is it, Joey thought. The end of everything, the beginning of something else. All stretched out in front of her. Without Pacey to share it. She’d awoken early this morning from a restless sleep, a mixture of emotions churning around in her stomach. Her nervousness, interspersed with little jumping sparks of excitement but constantly under threat from an underlying sadness. On the one hand, she’d been looking forward to experiencing the culmination of all her hard work at Worthington. It made her shake her head and laugh ruefully to remember how desperately she’d wanted to get out of Capeside, how she’d snatched at every little chance of an extra credit, anything that would bring her nearer to a scholarship and a ticket out of town – like hunting for snails with Pacey Witter for a school project. Her lips curled fondly at the memory, and faded wistfully. On the other hand, she was afraid that this auspicious day would end without the appearance of Pacey. It was a day to dread and look forward to at the same time.

Everyone was standing, spilling out of the rows, delighted screams and laughter punctured the air, hugs and kisses abounded between parents, friends, and newly graduated students. Joey found herself pulled into the furor. Mr Potter, Bessie, Bodie, Jack, Jen, Gale, and her newest boyfriend, John surrounded her, their voices burbling together. Alexander’s arms wrapped as far as they could around her hips as he giggled. She hugged them all and finally she was allowed some air, only to have Audrey cannon into her, squealing. She felt her head wear fall off but she didn't care.

"I graduated Joey! Can you believe that?" They hugged tightly. "I actually managed to stick all the way through one school!"

Joey drew back, tears clogging the back of her throat, a mixture of awe for the occasion, a sense of loss for what would be left behind. Nostalgia already tugged at her, meshing with the overwhelming depth of love she could feel surrounding her.

"Yeah,' Joey laughed through her tears, 'and you've got the diploma to prove it." Even as Audrey continued to babble excitedly, she couldn't help her gaze straying, almost as if in slow motion, around the field. Then she leaned into Audrey again, her voice in her ear. “He didn’t come, Audrey.”

Audrey hugged her tight again. “He still could, but even if he doesn’t, don’t let it hold you back.”

Joey took a deep tremulous breath. “I won’t.”

"Photo time!" Bessie sing-songed, pulling a camera out of her handbag and they all began to rearrange themselves into position.

Bodies criss-crossed in front of Joey’s vision as she looked towards the back of the fields and the rows of chairs, flicking from one face to another, still searching for him, and just as she was about to look away, he stepped out from behind a group of whooping, exuberant boys.

The whole world stopped. He stood in plain view now, at least twenty feet away his hands thrust into his trouser pockets. He cocked his head slightly at her, his smile soft, sweet. Her breath came back to her and she was moving fast, unaware that the tears, now of overwhelming relief and joy, were spilling freely, her breath came in shallow pants through her mouth. She didn’t see the puzzled looks of her family and friends or hear her name on their lips. There was just him. He straightened up now, pulled his hands out as she approached him, her hair streaming behind her and he walked fast towards her, ready to catch her as she flew at him. His arms clamped around her. It felt as natural as breathing to lift her off her feet, to spin her around and around as if he couldn't stop.

“Congratulations,” he said and then leaned in to kiss her soundly on her lips. Setting her on her feet, they hugged fiercely. His hands slid up into her hair.

"You still make weak, Potter," he whispered. "Weak at the knees."

His hand came to frame her face and his thumbs brushed away her tears, unmindful of the sheen in his own.

"I didn't think-I thought...Oh, Pacey!" Her head dropped and he kissed the top of it. She looked back up at him. “You came,” she whispered tremulously.

“Of course I did.” He softly kissed her forehead. “A girl like you gets under a man's skin and he’s stuck for life. I guess that makes me the luckiest guy in the world," he told her huskily.

 

**************

Three months later…

Dear Audrey,

I wish you could come down this weekend. The gang’s all going out together, Jen and CJ, Jack and his new boyfriend Steve, Dawson and Amy, and Pacey and I. I know you’re a busy minx, but you should have stayed in New York! You’re going to have to find a spare minute to ring me before then, okay? Oh! And did I tell you Pacey and I are planning to go to Italy to see Andie? I’ve seen photos of Amelia and she’s the cutest thing!

Anyway, about that dilemma I mentioned last month. I've decided to resist the urge to move in with Pacey. As tempting as the idea is - and, believe me, it is very, very tempting; I decided we had to have some measure of decorum. Can you imagine Pacey and I living together? I would never get anything done! I'd never be on time for work! I wouldn't want to leave his bed! I've been transported back to 11th grade! When Pacey and I first got together, we sneaked around for a week before anyone found out and we indulged in some serious groping and kissing fests. I don't know how I managed to keep my hands off him that summer away! Now that we're here together in New York - Audrey it's terrible! A wonderful kind of terrible, but still… It's like I've been on a hunger strike for three years and Pacey is food and water to me. It's embarrassing and I know you're laughing at me right now! I had to tell him we needed to keep some of the mystery alive. He scoffed at that, of course, long and loud! He's not stupid that boy, because he's right. We haven't spent a night apart since I came up here, whether I'm at his or he's at mine. And he reminds me of this fact - frequently! He drilled the point home that whatever mystery there could have been between us was chased away long ago when we lived like sardines on True Love and yet he's still topsy turvy in love with me. He says that if my snoring on the True Love, two break ups, and three years apart still hadn't made a difference to the way we feel about each other then living together wasn't going to spoil it. He's so hard to resist. And I am going to give in - but not yet. Otherwise, I'll have to live with his smug cocky face forever! Secretly, the idea of that is not a bad one because I can see it, Audrey. Me and Pacey for the long haul…

Hope to see you soon,

Love, Joey

 

**************

…Dear Dougie,

I never did thank you for sending on to me all those letters from Joey and for your dedicated participation in keeping this Witter in the life of his one and only true love, so I’ve decided to write you a letter in thanks. A very rare event as you know. Makes a difference from the hurried phone calls, eh?

It’s 3am right now. I’m at the kitchen table writing this. You’re probably expecting me to say I couldn’t sleep and felt restless or awoke because I was worried about something. Uh, uh. I’m too freaking happy, man. I woke up, was lying there, my girl by my side and I just got to thinking about the family, my friends, where we were and where we all are right now. Things couldn’t be better right now.

I spoke to Dawson last week. He says it's the real deal for him with Amy. She's the older woman he met a year or so back, the movie critic who reviewed the film he made with Audrey and Charlie. He's totally smitten with her and the feeling’s mutual. Even after only four months. You’ll probably meet her at Christmas. She's a sassy one that Amy, with a cynicism that rivals Joey's some days, and she'll be there to permanently help him analyze the latest movie or whatever. It's a bit funny that I was the one who started with an older woman and it seems he'll end up with an older one! I've got to laugh at the irony, too. He doesn't realize it, but he has his very own Joey. I considered letting him in on that interesting bit of info, but thought better of it. I think on some level Dawson will never let go of Joey, but I guess I don't need to be the one to tell him that. Not just because I'm not sure what kind of reaction that would provoke, especially as he and I are in a good place again, but I also don’t want to belittle what he has with Amy. He's obviously doolally over her. Besides, maybe it's just a coincidence. I mean I can't be the only guy on earth attracted to strong, feisty women, can I?

As for my lady in question, everyday is a honeymoon. I gotta tell you Dougie, I’m deliriously happy. I can't remember the last time I was. Actually, yes I can. The summer I sailed away with Joey. Cheesy, huh? I don't care. You know I was all for Joey moving in with me. I mean why not? We're both here in New York. She's freelancing and I’m on the up at Civilization. You know what she said? 'Don't spoil the mystery, Witter.' Mystery? I know everything there is to know about that woman. I reminded her that we spent 3 months living like sardines on True Love. She said it'd keep the spark alive to live separately. So I agreed, but I tease her as often as I can because she'll stay at my place for nights on end and then I'll end up staying at her place doing the same. So, in actual fact, we are living together and I tell her this frequently. She just says it's not the same. She drives me half crazy and I love it. Dougie, I swear one day I'm going to ask that woman to marry me and I think she might just be crazy enough to say yes!

Speaking of which, say hi to Cindy for me and when is she going to make an honest man of you? Good thing she’s into Whitney Houston too, isn’t it?
Say hi to mom and dad for me.

See you soon, Pacey

 

**************

"We've been through the wars, haven't we Potter?"

"Yes we have, but I think it makes what we have now all the sweeter." They were laid out on Pacey’s couch, Joey flat out on top of him, his hands clasped around her waist. She looked down on him, her eyes radiating with the intensity of her feelings for him.

"How did I get so lucky?" He asked softly, some of his wonderment filtering through as he cupped her face with his hands.

Joey's lips curled up to one side in that smile she did when her emotions overwhelmed her to the point of tears and her throat threatened to close up on the words she couldn't find to say.

"You're the most beautiful thing in my life, Jo."

She shook her head slowly as his thumbs caressed her cheeks. "The black sheep, Pacey Witter, and little Joey Potter, the too tall girl from the wrong side of the creek. Who'd have called that in a million years, huh?"

"The big man upstairs?" Pacey suggested.

"Yeah?"

"He does move in mysterious ways." He smiled up at her. She smirked back and she settled more comfortably, leaning down until their faces were merely inches apart.

"You drive me crazy, Pacey Witter in every possible way, especially..." she paused.

"In bed?" He raised his brows at her, in a hopeful, suggestive way.
She lightly smacked him on the head, and then giggled.

"That, too," she affirmed, then rolled her eyes as Pacey smirked smugly. "But you know what I mean."

"Yes, I know what you mean because you do the same to me. You’re such a frustrating woman!" He ducked laughing as she threatened to smack him again. He tucked her hair behind her ears and kissed the tip of her nose. "I love you,” he said, so simply and sincerely she felt the prick of tears. “So much, that sometimes it...kinda hurts. Does that make sense?" He looked searchingly into her eyes and she saw the small spark of vulnerability in them.

She nuzzled her nose against his now. "It makes perfect sense."

"It doesn't scare you? It doesn't make you feel..."

"What?" She drew back frowning.

"I don't know," he hesitated. "Smothered?"

"No! I love you, Pacey. You could never make me feel like that.”

He raised a hand to scratch his head, let it smooth over her hair and down her back, returning to her waist. “Guess it’s just my paranoia. I must be worried I’ll scare you off somehow.”

“Hmm, maybe I should ask you the same question."

"How come?"

"I wrote you for three years! Remember that? It was your basic stalking offence! For all I knew, you could have been exasperated, annoyed or felt-”

"That's not the same thing at all."

"It is...well, sort of. You know those letters kept coming and coming.
You could have felt haunted or smothered in a way.” She narrowed her eyes at him. “But then I found out that you hadn’t even read them!”

Pacey cleared his throat. “Yes, well I did eventually, didn’t I? That’s the important thing. Especially that last letter.”

“Talk about cutting it fine!”

“Joey, one thing you can count on with me is getting to live life on the edge.”

“Oh yes, how on earth did I manage without you for so long.” Joey rolled her eyes hard and then felt the rising irritation. “Anyway, don’t remind me about that. You know it makes my blood boil that Alex had the nerve to tear my letter up and-”

“Yeah, I know, I know,” he automatically began rubbing her back comfortingly, “but it all worked out in the end. I came, didn’t I?”

Joey immediately calmed. “Yes, you came.” She kissed his lips. They’d gone over this already, more than once, but so far, they hadn’t become tired of talking about the events leading up to Pacey’s appearance at her graduation.

“Danny was pretty mad about the short notice.”

“So you said.” She let her lips trace his brow now, then brush gently down his nose.

“But hell nor high water was going to stop me. I did feel that spark when you came to New York that time.”

“But, hey, I’d found the love of my life in Aaron, even though we barely lasted a week!” She began to lower her lips towards his.

“Hmm, yes, lucky for me that I’d already spoiled you for every other man alive. Does my ego good, does that.” He puckered up for the expected kiss, which transformed into a pout as Joey jerked away.

“Conceited pig! I’d never have revealed such a thing to you, but I was desperate at the time!”

“Even more lucky for me, as this dumb schmuck needed his strong, feisty woman to knock some sense into his hard head and lead him by the nose to the very thing he wanted more than anything else in the universe!”

Joey cocked her head at him and grinned. “You have a way with words, you know that?”

“I thank you. Does that mean you’ll officially move in with me, then?” His brows raised hopefully, his eyes widened in the most adorably puppy dog way.

“You never know your luck, Witter.”

His hand snuck up to the back of Joey’s head, ready to pull her down for a long drugging kiss. “Ah, but I do, which tells me that I stand a good chance. A very good chance indeed.”

 

The End
Jan 2005