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Six: Desperate measures
"Here you are! I’ve been looking for you everywhere," Abby said in her usual exaggerated manner. Jen looked up from her books and glanced away hurriedly. She had done her best to avoid Abby for days, and had not yet told her about Dawson’s reaction to her at his house. She had fed Abby a few lines about having to beat Dawson back with a stick now, but it was far from the truth. Jen hadn't even spoken to him.
"Come on, Jen, the library?" Abby snorted in disgust. "Hardly a fitting environment for someone with your sexy siren image."
Jen smiled with her mouth, but her eyes remained dull. "Is that my image, Abby?"
"Of course it is, dummy. Since your little romp with Dawson Bleary on the beach, you’ve reached legendary status. I know, I’ve seen the boys' locker room."
"Great, just what I needed," Jen replied flatly, causing Abby to frown.
"What is it with you? You’ve been moping about for days. I thought you got what you wanted. You're supposed to happy now, remember?"
"I wanted Dawson back, Abby, not to be the good time girl of Capeside High. Do you know how many guys have propositioned me this week?"
"I don’t want to know, I’ll just get jealous," she grinned.
Jen narrowed her eyes and shook her head. "You have no idea what you’re talking about Abby. But that’s just your problem — you’re all talk, nothing more."
"What’s your problem? PMS overdrive or what?" Abby scowled, not used to being spoken to like that. "Take a pill, Jen."
"You want to know what my problem is, Abby?" Jen asked caustically as she stood and began stacking her books up. "My problem was listening to you in the first place. So why don’t you do me a favor and stay the hell away from me."
Abby’s mouth fell open as she watched her so-called friend stalk out of the library. People at the surrounding tables were watching her reaction, having heard the entire interaction. Never one to be gossiped about when she could be the one doing the gossiping, Abby smiled ruefully.
* * *
After speaking with Dawson for the first time, Joey went about the rest of her day as usual. She went to class and tried her best to concentrate on what the teacher was saying. She wasn’t exactly successful, and found herself thinking about Dawson most of the time. She replayed his words over and over in her mind, analyzing them critically, pondering his turn of phrase and tone of voice when he poured his heart out to her. She was still thinking about him when she went to work at the Icehouse after school, and proceeded to mix up several orders like Jack usually did. Her mind was too consumed with thoughts of Dawson to concentrate fully on the task at hand.
The problem was she was beginning to wonder if he meant what he said at all. Joey realized only now the lack of explanation he had offered. There were too many questions left unanswered, too many doubts in her mind that had not been silenced. She had been grateful to Dawson for not making up clichéd excuses about a man’s body having a mind of its own — irresistible urges that he was powerless to stop, and the rest. And yet she couldn’t help but feel he had somehow weaseled out of telling her what possessed him to sleep with Jen that night. Joey didn’t believe he did not know himself, there had to be a reason. Nothing happened just by chance.
She wanted to believe it was because Jen had seduced him, or he got so drunk he didn’t know what he was doing. But he had still allowed himself to go off alone with her, still drank the beer she had given him… even though he knew she would do anything to get him back. Pacey had told her more details than Dawson had, and she knew their little rendezvous was no chance encounter. Though she knew Jen was partly to blame, Joey held Dawson responsible for his own actions. He had been angry at her, and instead of talking to her about it or going off and sulking, he had found comfort in the arms of another woman.
Joey had not stopped thinking about it all day. There was something nagging at her mind, making her feel increasingly angry and ashamed. She thought she would feel better after speaking to Dawson, at least that was what Pacey had intimated. But now as the afternoon wore on she felt ten times worse. Sometimes the dark thoughts would enter her mind and Joey would feel physically sick. What was worse, she couldn’t put her finger on the exact cause of her discomfort. There was something else, something that went beyond Dawson and his betrayal, another reason why she felt so wretched…
After she closed the restaurant that night with Jack, Joey did not even answer him when he offered to walk her home. She was focused on getting to the root of the problem, but she needed help. And Joey knew just where to get it.
* * *
Pacey was leafing through an old TV Guide in a vain effort to avoid studying his history notes, when he heard a sound outside his window. Jumping up from the bed, he was shocked to see Joey trying to open the window from the outside, her face straining with the effort. After freezing momentarily, he sprang forward and lifted the sash, quickly motioning her to be quiet. The last thing he needed was his dad to come barging in and accusing him of smuggling girls into his bedroom. Pacey half pulled Joey into the room and shut the window behind her, keeping his fingers to his lips to make sure there was no movement downstairs.
"Joey, what are you doing here?" he asked in a whisper, though he was sure no one could hear them through the floorboards.
"I needed to see you."
Pacey tried not to smile at the comment and was so glad to hear it that he didn’t notice Joey staring at him strangely. With a start he realized he was just wearing boxers, and he hastily tugged on a T-shirt.
"Sorry, I wasn’t expecting company," he said jokingly to cover up his embarrassment. He returned his voice to its normal volume. He knew his dad would probably be passed out in front of the TV after a long day at work. "How’d you get up here, anyway?"
"Practice," Joey replied, still slightly breathless from her climb. "Since Mr Leery took the ladder away from Dawson’s window, I’ve become very experienced at shinnying up drain pipes."
Pacey nodded and smiled, and became more uncomfortable as silence fell between them. He didn’t know what to say to her, and finally decided to offer her a seat. The only problem was the only he seat he had in the room was his bed. Joey didn’t seem to mind, and sat down next to his text books. Smiling approvingly, she chose to ignore the pile of magazines and comic books at her feet that offered a more enjoyable alternative to study. Pacey took a seat beside her hesitantly, wondering why on earth she'd felt the need to come and see him so late at night. Joey had never in all the time he had known her climbed up to his window like she did Dawson’s.
"So, how’d it go today?" Pacey asked after a few more moments of uncomfortable silence. He guessed Joey had been purposely avoiding him at school that afternoon because she wasn’t ready to tell him what happened with Dawson. Obviously things were different now, for she had sought him out at his house no less, a place she had always avoided because of his less than polite family.
"Well, we talked. He apologized, he cried, he told me he didn’t want to lose me. He begged me to forgive him. The usual."
"Do you?" Pacey said softly, holding his breath. "Forgive him, I mean."
Pacey let out a discrete sigh of relief as Joey got to her feet and started pacing up and down his small room. He could see the frustration in her body language as she allowed herself to let go and bare her true emotions.
"I thought you said I’d feel better now," she said, growing angry once more. She didn’t mean to take it out on Pacey, but he was her only target. "I thought talking to Dawson was supposed to make things easier."
Pacey bobbed his head guiltily. "To tell you the truth, Joey, I was talking outta my ass… I don’t know what you’re supposed to feel. Look at me, the only relationship I've had was with a thirty-six year old English teacher. I’m no good at this stuff…"
Joey sighed, tugging at the loose strands of her that framed her face. "I wish you did because I really need some good advice now, Pacey. I want to forgive him, I want to forget this whole sordid thing. But then I get this mental image of Dawson with her and it makes me ill. He was supposed to be with me, not Jen."
Pacey watched her carefully as she did her best to wear out his carpet.
"I just can’t get past this… thing. I don’t even know what it is but it’s making me so mad." Joey’s voice grew hard as she picked up a miniature nurf football on Pacey’s dresser and twisted it viciously in her fidgeting hands. She took out her frustrations on the toy — the nagging thought that disturbed her concentration was driving her insane. She wasn’t even looking to Pacey for guidance now, she was too consumed by her own rage.
He waited as she walked some more, strangling the football. He was surprised how obvious the answer was, now that he saw it. He could see the truth in her eyes and she had already said the words herself, although she hadn't realized.
"He was supposed to be with you, wasn’t he?" Pacey said quietly. "He was meant to share that part of himself with you, not her."
Joey stopped pacing and listened intently. He was only repeating what she had said without thinking… the nagging thought that had plagued her. The realization caused tears to spring to her eyes.
Pacey stood up and walked towards her in case she needed a hug. But Joey hadn't finished exorcising the hidden shame she felt. She lowered her eyes and spoke in a low voice that Pacey had to strain to hear what she was saying.
"We never even discussed sex, but it was something unspoken. We both knew we would share that together. I can’t believe he could ruin everything, just to get laid… It’s not like I wouldn’t have, we never even talked about it…" Joey looked pleadingly at Pacey, wanting him to believe her. He nodded to her that he did. "He left me here, the Virgin Queen. That’s what they call me, you know, Abby and Jen. They’ve probably been laughing over what a great joke this whole thing is. Telling everyone I’m this frigid ice maiden…"
"What do you care what everyone thinks?"
"Nice try, Pacey, but I’m a teenager. Of course I care what people think about me! Don’t fob me off with the idealistic notion that I should rise above peer pressure and public opinion. Who can honestly do that at our age?… I’ve been ridiculed enough in this God forsaken town, I didn’t need Dawson to bring this down on me too. That’s why I can’t forgive him. I hate Dawson Leery!"
Joey spat the last words out, her eyes filled with bitter tears. Pacey let the explosion subside before he responded, waiting until her ragged breaths quietened.
"You don’t hate him, Joey," he contradicted her gently.
"Why shouldn’t I?" Joey whispered tiredly, though she knew he was only speaking the truth. "Why should I be hung up on a guy who has betrayed me in the worst possible way? Why can’t I be in love with someone who looks out for me and cares for me, who just wants me to be happy?… Why can’t I be in love with someone like you?"
Pacey took an involuntary step back. It was a question he had contemplated himself a hundred times in the past. Why did she have to love his friend and not him, when he would do anything for her? Pacey had recognized months ago that his feelings for Joey ran a lot deeper than he ever imagined, and that he’d felt that way for a long time. After admitting it to himself, he made the mistake of trying to tell her how he felt, only to be rejected. And yet here she was, teary-eyed and vulnerable, asking him what he'd asked himself over and over again.
"It doesn’t make any sense, does it?" she continued quietly.
"It’s not supposed to," he replied, wishing she would stop staring at him like that. He held her gaze though, unable to tear himself away.
They stood there together for a few endless seconds, neither moving or speaking. Just when Pacey had worked up the resolve to look away from her, Joey suddenly stepped forward without warning and pressed her lips to his. She only caught his bottom lip, the hasty kiss unplanned and unrehearsed. But it still thrilled him to the very soles of his feet. Joey drew her head back and looked deep into his eyes, as if trying to find the answer to her own question. With determination burning in her gaze, she leaned up to kiss him once more, deeper this time and with more passion than he anticipated. Pacey allowed himself to kiss her back, daring to run his hands up her arms and draw her closer to him. Her body seemed to melt against him as she clung to his back, showing no signs of stopping.
Pacey’s hands had traveled up to cradle her face before he made himself consider what was happening. He was kissing Joey just as he’d always dreamed of doing… but she was in love with Dawson. She was just feeling unwanted and undesirable because he had cheated on her, and now she needed reassuring that someone did find her attractive. Pacey knew it was wrong, but his mind had a hard time convincing his body of that fact as she moaned softly against his lips.
"Stop," he managed to say eventually, guiding her face away from his own with gentle hands. "We can’t do this."
"Why not?" Joey panted breathlessly. The desire in her eyes surprised him, but he knew in his heart it was misplaced passion that was meant for Dawson. Joey wasn’t about to be put off though. "Who says we can’t?"
She kissed him again, smothering any protestations he had with her open mouth. Joey didn’t stop to think about consequences or what Pacey was feeling. She knew what she wanted and what she needed if she was going to restore any shred of self-esteem that Dawson’s little escapade had taken from her. And Pacey would give it to her. She could feel his desire for her, despite his words to the contrary. Joey slid her hands underneath his T-shirt to feel his warm, inviting skin, and made her intentions clear. It was then Pacey knew what he had to do.
"I do," he said suddenly, his firm hands on her shoulders this time, pushing her away. "I say we can’t do this."
Joey glared at him, feeling betrayed just as she did by Dawson. Pacey’s expression was unyielding as he held her firmly at bay, although even through her mounting anger she could see the regret in his eyes. Soon she was overwhelmed by his rejection of her, and leveled him with a furious stare. Joey was ashamed of what she had done, throwing herself at someone who obviously didn’t want her. Her immediate reaction was to flee and put as much distance between them as she could before the full impact of her actions hit her.
True to form, Joey turned on her heel and dived for the window. Pacey was expecting the flight however, and kept a firm grasp of one arm, preventing her escape. This only angered her more and she turned on him in a rage.
"Let go of me!" she cried, not even trying to keep her voice down so his parents wouldn’t hear.
"Joey, wait," he said, holding her fast as she squirmed in his grip. "Stop running away, God damnit!"
He took hold of both her shoulders, forcing her to face him squarely. Joey gave in because he was stronger than she was, but she steadfastly refused to look at him. Pacey resorted to shaking her in frustration to make her look into his eyes. With an accusing glare she finally did.
"Now you listen to me," he said, angry himself. He drew in each breath sharply, punctuating his bitter words. "Do you think I haven’t wanted to do that? Do you have any idea how long I’ve waited, or how much I’ve wanted you to kiss me like that? Huh? You haven’t got a clue."
Pacey’s eyes burned with a fury that made Joey stop fighting him. She grew limp in his arms, frowning at the pain written on his face as he continued. "Are you just trying to get even with Dawson? You think this is going to help you get over him? What if I fuck you right here, Joey, would that make you feel better? Is that why you came here tonight?"
Pacey paused when he saw her tears but he couldn’t stop now.
"Because I deserve better than that," he said, his voice almost cracking with emotion as he revealed to her his carefully concealed feelings. "I don’t deserve to be used just so you can get back at Dawson. Don’t think I don’t want you because, God help me, I do. But I won’t put myself through that just so you can go running back to him… I can’t do it, Joey, not even for you."
He finally let go of her arms and turned away, releasing her in more ways than one. He was allowing her to escape like she so desperately wanted to. Joey wiped the tears from her face and glanced fleetingly at the window. It would be so easy to just climb out and run away. She could avoid Pacey just like she had been avoiding Dawson… Joey heard her own thoughts and realized how immature she was being. She always ran away from anything that was too difficult to face. But Joey knew she would have to stop running eventually, and she would start now.
She walked slowly towards Pacey’s turned back, and waited
as he felt her proximity and turned around to face her. She took in his
child-like expression that pleaded with her not to hurt him, his eyes
welling with tears. Joey kept her gentle eyes locked with his as she slipped
her arms slowly around his waist. She hugged him in an apology, resting
her head on his shoulder and waiting for him to respond. After much internal
struggling, Pacey wrapped his arms around her too and held her tightly.
Neither of them spoke, neither of them spoiled the moment. They just held
onto each other and forgave one another for what had happened and been
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