Just between friends
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Disclaimer: Characters and concept belong to Kevin Williamson and WB.

Note: This series is set right after the series one episode "Modern Romance".

One: The age of innocence
 

"Three snails, one aquarium, one night of passion," Pacey proclaimed dramatically in his best movie trailer voice-over tone. "A tale of two star-crossed lovers and the destiny that awaited them. This is a story of lust, intrigueÖ and cannibalism."

"You canít say that, dufus," Joey exclaimed, snatching the notebook from his grip. "Give it to me."

"Youíve gotta have a snappy beginning or you just lose your audience straight away, Jo." He grinned at her, but Joey looked less than amused. "Aw, come on, lighten up."

"I seem to recall this is your final chance to avoid flunking Marine Biology. I wouldnít be so quick to criticize my help, if I were you."

"You just had to bring that up, didnít you, Ms. 98?" Pacey sighed, flopping back onto his couch as Joey started scribbling down some notes. She was deep in concentration as she pored over the work, and Pacey tried his best to feign intellectual involvement in the project. But unfortunately no matter how hard he tried, the reproductive process of snails just held no interest for him. He decided to stop stirring her however, because he didnít want her to get annoyed and leave. After his failed attempt to initiate a shift in their relationship, Pacey was determined to keep their tenuous friendship alive. So he bit back his other good one-liners about a snail ménage-à-trois, and pretended to be absorbed in what she was writing. He couldnít help but be impressed when less ten minutes later she had completed the opening paragraphs of the report.

"There."

Pacey nodded his approval. "Hey, thatís pretty good, Jo. Another 98?"

"ĎCourse not. Dr. Rand would know for sure that you had nothing to do with it."

"Harsh, Josephine, harsh," Pacey said, pretending to be wounded in the chest.

Joey grinned lopsidedly at him and was glad that some of their old comradeship had returned. Though she was not interested in Pacey romantically, she didnít want her rejection of him the week before to make them awkward with each other. They had actually had fun working on the project, much to her surprise, and she enjoyed spending time with him. Pacey was the only real male friend she had left, since her secret feelings for Dawson had irrevocably changed their friendship. She sighed and slapped his arm soundly with the notebook for calling her by her full name.

"What time is it?" she asked suddenly, realizing it was dark outside. They had started working on the project after school and she hadnít noticed how quickly the time had passed.

"Just before seven," Pacey commented, glancing at his watch. "Do you have to get home?"

"And arrive just in time for Rosemaryís babyís bedtime? No thanks."

"You wanna stay for dinner then? Iíve been abandoned by my family."

"Gee, you sound really cut up about it too," Joey smiled, hearing the almost jubilant tone in Paceyís voice. "This isnít just an elaborate plan to poison me, is it?"

"Hell no, Iím not gonna cook for you, woman. You want to eat, you better get that little caboose of yours into the kitchen and rustle up some grub for us both." Pacey voice was belligerently macho. He sniffed loutishly for effect, settling back on the couch and banging his feet down on the coffee table.

"Oh, you die, Witter!" Joey threatened, arming herself with a cushion. She began pummeling him with it, the laughter catching in her throat. After submitting for a few seconds he began retaliating, forcing her off the couch and chasing her round the room. Joey yelped and managed to avoid being caught, screaming at him to stop.

"Okay, okay, I surrender!" she laughed breathlessly. Pacey accepted the truce and went to resume his place on the couch, but not before giving her a quick thump on the side of the head with the cushion. Joey gasped incredulously and was about to unleash another attack on him when they heard a loud knocking at the door.

"Saved by the bell," she said menacingly as Pacey vaulted over the back of the sofa to answer it.

When he opened the door he was met by the familiar face of Pete Rosen, a police officer and friend of his brotherís. Pete was one of the few cops he could tolerate on the Capeside force. The rest were too much like the Chief of Police dictator who doubled as his father.

"Hey, Pete. Dougís on duty tonight," Pacey greeted him. Behind him, Joey tried to smooth down her tousled hair, in case it was to get around town that she had been found in a disheveled state while at the Witterís house alone with Pacey. She knew if Pete happened to mention that little piece of information to Doug then neither of them would hear the end of it.

"Actually Pacey, thatís why Iím here," Rosen said a little awkwardly. "Dougís been taken to the hospital in Hyannis. We thought we should let you know."

"What happened?" Pacey asked after a brief hesitation. He didnít like his brother much, in fact most of the time he hated Deputy Dougís guts. But he was his brother after all and Pacey couldnít help but be shocked by the news.

"He was attacked while on patrol in Settlerís Park. Heís been beaten pretty bad. Iím going over there now if you want to come with me." When the boy didnít answer right away, Pete frowned slightly. The Witters sure were a screwed up family, he thought. "Pacey? You coming or not?"

"Yeah, I guess," Pacey replied absently, slowly reaching for his jacket. It was then he noticed Joey approaching him with a concerned look on her face.

"Pacey, you want me to come with you?" she asked. Joey could see that he was actually worried about his brother, for all that he was trying to hide it.

"Itís okay, Jo, you donít have to." He didnít want her to feel obligated to come with him, just because she had been there to hear the news too.

"I donít mind," she insisted, pulling on her own coat. With a look of genuine gratitude, he nodded at her and waited as she passed through the door first. Pacey took his time locking the door behind him. He wasnít sure how he felt about the news Doug had been injured. But as he and Joey bundled into the back of the police cruiser, he was glad he had a friend in her.

 

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