Just between friends
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Two: The ice storm

The police radio spluttered into life every few minutes as they rode towards Hyannis. Pete was listening intently to hear if they had caught the people responsible for laying Doug up, so he paid little attention to Pacey and Joey in the back seat. Pacey was staring out the window, seemingly fascinated in the scenery that was invisible in the inky blackness of night. Joey glanced over in his direction every now and then, waiting to see if he was going to say anything. When it looked like he wasn’t, she felt obligated to break the silence.

"I always wondered what it would be like to be hauled away in the back of a cop car," she commented lightly. "You know, so I could have more in common with my dad."

She smiled grimly in the darkened vehicle but Pacey didn’t even acknowledge her. Letting out a sigh of frustration, she wondered why she had even offered to come, or why he had agreed if he was just going to ignore her.

"You need to be more of a degenerate," Pacey answered suddenly. So he had heard her after all. "See, you need to take lessons from your pal Pacey, here. Then you’d have plenty of stories to tell."

Pacey’s words were joking, but his tone was not. Joey frowned at him, but he had already resumed staring out of the window. She hated it when he put himself down all of the time, but at least she had gotten him talking. Joey was about to try again when Pacey leaned forward and started questioning Pete Rosen.

"So what happened, exactly? You said Dougie was beaten up?"

"Yeah, down near the memorial in Settler’s Park," replied Pete over his shoulder. Must have been at least two of them, ‘cause Doug’s no push over."

"Any idea who did it?"

"Not yet, but we’re following up on some leads. There are a few likely suspects."

Pacey was not surprised to hear this, and nor was Joey. That part of Settler’s Park was a notorious hangout for homosexuals. The police would occasionally raid the area at night to scare away Capeside’s "unsavory element", as Chief Witter liked to put it. Joey knew it was just an excuse for gay intimidation just like everyone else, but no one ever said anything. Now one of the Chief’s officers had been attacked, and it was his beloved eldest son no less, his pride and joy. They were not surprised to be interrupted by the radio again as the other police officers combed the area for suspects and witnesses alike.

Pacey seemed content with the information he had received, and he sat back in his seat to contemplate matters. He was frowning with concentration for a long time, and had the situation not been so serious, Joey would have warned him not to strain something. But something told her Pacey wasn’t in the mood for lame jokes.

When they finally arrived at the hospital she trailed behind Pacey and Rosen, trying not to think about where she was. Hospitals would always remind Joey of her mother, and she hated the very sight and smell of them. With a sudden change of heart, she thought about just waiting for Pacey outside where she wouldn’t have to confront so many distressing memories. But then Pacey turned around looked at her expectantly, waiting for her to catch up before they entered Doug’s room. Joey stood meekly behind her friend, cursing her cowardice and trying not to look at the tubes and machines that Dougie was hooked up to.

"Hey, buddy, how’re you feeling?" Pete asked, bending over the prostrate man.

The question was redundant, because they could already guess. Doug Witter looked like hell. His face was viciously bruised and swollen, and his bare chest had been strapped firmly to avoid movement of his broken ribs. Pacey just stared dumbfounded at the person who had caused him so much misery in his life. No matter what Doug had done to him in the past though, he didn’t deserve this. No one did. Doug opened his eyes and saw the three of them standing there. He sucked in a shallow, painful breath. "Feelin’ just great, thanks."

"I brought Pacey with me," Pete commented. Doug looked at his brother and a grim smile pulled at the side of his mouth.

"What’re you doing here, jerk-off?" he whispered, unable to speak any louder. The concerned look that Pacey had been wearing faded slightly when he heard the words. Doug couldn’t leave him alone, even when he was laid up in hospital having been beaten to a pulp.

"What can I say, dip-wad?" Pacey bit back automatically. "Just wanted to make sure they didn’t mess up that pretty-boy face of yours. How would you get a boyfriend then?"

Doug’s eyes flashed for an instant, before his expression settled in to its usual distaste for his brother. Pete Rosen turned and faced Pacey too, annoyed at the comment.

"Way to go, Pacey. You know we’re probably gonna find it was queers who did this to him. Nice joke, loser."

Pacey regretted his words, but it had nothing to do with Pete’s disapproval of his comment. He was more concerned with the look that had passed behind Doug’s eyes, a look that no one else noticed. He glanced around at Joey, but she seemed concerned with her own problems and probably wasn’t paying attention anyway.

"Don’t worry about it, Pete," Doug spoke up with difficulty. "He’s just being Pacey. Always gotta have a wise-ass comment."

"Yeah, well, he’s got a pretty sick sense of humor if you ask me," Pete continued angrily, regretting having brought Pacey with him. Turning his back on the boy, he decided to change the subject. "Where is everyone? They taking care of you okay?"

"Dad’s gone to call the station to check on their progress."

"Any idea who did this to you?"

"Nope," Doug said abruptly. He shifted painfully in the bed, enough so he made Pete uncomfortable. The officer decided he had better find a nurse, or at least get the chief to come back. Giving Pacey a stern look so he wouldn’t goad his brother, Rosen left the room.

Pacey and Joey stood awkwardly in the hospital room, not knowing where to look. She thought again about stealing outside, but her plans of escape where interrupted by Doug.

"Isn’t that sweet, you brought your girlfriend with you. Zoe, isn’t it?"

"It’s Joey, and you know she’s not my girlfriend," Pacey retorted darkly.

"Of course, how could I forget? You have to make up the stories of your conquests, don’t you?" said Doug maliciously.

"You just have to keep sticking the knife in, don’t you Dougie?"

"Why’d you come here anyway, retard? It’s not like you give a damn about me," he said bitterly.

"Momentary lapse of concentration. I must have mistaken you for someone I actually cared about."

"Stop it you two!" exclaimed Joey, unable to listen to their hurtful words any longer. "You’re both as bad as each other. Can’t you just shut your mouths for five minutes?"

Pacey crossed his arms and slumped against the wall behind him. He didn’t mean to bite back at Doug, but his brother just riled him sometimes and he couldn’t help himself. He was especially annoyed that Doug had gotten in a dig about Joey, having found out that she had turned Pacey down only a few days ago. The wounds were still fresh and Dougie knew just which strings to pull to get a reaction out of him.

"I was actually worried about you, if it matters any," Pacey said finally. "Don’t ask me why."

Joey looked at him threateningly again, but he wasn’t being sarcastic. Even Doug noticed the sincerity in his voice and was silenced. For the first time in a long while he felt remotely connected with his little brother. It was an alarming sensation that he tried to cover up.

"Do you remember what happened?" Pacey asked, doing his best to remove any tone from his voice that might be misconstrued.

"I was in Settler’s Park, just doing a routine check. Some guys jumped me from behind and that’s all I can remember." Doug was unwilling to say any more.

Pacey swallowed the obligatory snipe that was on the tip of his tongue when Doug mentioned being "jumped from behind." Considering the sexual orientation of the usual visitors to Settler’s Park, it was just too obvious and unworthy of his wit. One glance at Joey and he could see she appreciated his constraint — she knew exactly what he was thinking. She had moved up beside him now, and without warning elbowed him in the side so he would approach Doug’s bed and speak to him. Pacey threw her a knowing look, and half smiled at her unsubtle attempts to make him smooth things over with his brother.

"So, you want me to get you anything?" Pacey asked quietly but with real warmth. Doug looked surprised, but not unappreciative.

"I don’t think so." Doug noticed the hint of disappointment that appeared in Pacey’s eyes. "But thanks for asking, Pace."

"Okay." His younger brother smiled more to himself than to him. For a first step it wasn’t too bad.

"But you know what you could—"

Doug’s words were hastily stopped when all three heard sharp footsteps in the hallway and John Witter appeared suddenly in the door. Though he was not a particularly tall man, his frame seemed to fill the passageway and Pacey felt himself recoil a little towards Joey. He wasn’t sure if it was to protect her or to seek protection himself. Pacey was intimidated by his father, mainly because his dad could make him feel like a complete failure with just one look or comment. He glanced at his brother to see if the chief had the same affect on him, and was surprised to see a look of real fear masked in Doug’s eyes. He hastily covered up the naked emotion, grimacing in pain as he moved slightly in the bed.

"What do we have here then?" Mr. Witter’s voice boomed in the silent room. "Pacey."

"Hey, Dad." Pacey’s voice did not reveal the shock that went through him. He stared into his father’s cool gray eyes, then back at Doug’s that were now downcast.

"What are you doing here?"

Pacey did not even hear the question. When Mr. Witter turned his gaze on Joey, including her in the query, she was annoyed that she almost squirmed. Pacey’s dad made her feel like a backwards 5 year-old, forever the girl from the wrong side of the creek with a criminal father. She resented the power he exuded over everyone, and tried her best to prevent her voice from shaking when she answered him.

"We caught a ride with Pete, he came to tell Pacey about Doug."

"I see," Mr. Witter mused, returning his gaze to his sons. Pacey was just staring at Doug in disbelief, ignoring everyone else in the room. "It’s getting late, Pacey. I think it’s time you took your friend home. This is family business."

Pacey glared at him when he said those last few words. Joey was taken aback to see his eyes were suddenly blazing with furious tears.

"Family business?" he spat back, as if the words were poison.

Mr. Witter just leveled his eyes at his youngest son and took a step forward. "I said it’s time to go home, Pacey. Officer Rosen will give you a ride."

Joey couldn’t understand why Pacey was standing his ground. He just stared into his father’s face and the hatred that burned there frightened her to her very soul. She had never seen him so angry, paralyzed with rage. The stand-off between the two of them was chilling, and she began to feel suffocated in the small room. Eventually it was Doug who spoke up.

"Go home, Pacey."

Pacey broke away from Mr. Witter’s glare and turned his attention on his brother. Doug looked up at him and nodded infinitesimally.

"Just go."

With great difficulty, Pacey stepped backwards and almost crashed in Joey. She grabbed his arm and successfully maneuvered him out of the room and away from his father. Pacey paused with her in the doorway and they saw Mr. Witter move beside Doug’s bed, where he stood over him. Pacey watched them for a moment before she pulled him out into the corridor. Joey immediately breathed a sigh of relief, enjoying the cool air conditioning that hit her face. She opened her eyes as they began walking away towards the hospital exit, and saw that Pacey was shaking. More than that, he was shivering uncontrollably, and it wasn’t from the cooler air. She threw out a hand and stopped him, making him look at her.

"Pacey, are you all right?" she asked worriedly. Something had happened in there, and it wasn’t just the usual battle he had with his family. Something had shaken Pacey to his very core and he looked like he was going to break down and cry. She had not seen him cry since they were nine years old when he broke his leg after falling out of a tree. Joey held his arms by his sides and forced him to answer her. "What is it?"

He looked at her for a moment, his eyes deep and hurting. She once heard someone say that the eyes were the window to the soul, but what she saw in Pacey’s eyes was so dark and fathomless that she felt trapped in his tortured gaze. Then as soon as the thought occurred to her, he blinked rapidly and closed himself off from her. He turned his eyes away towards the door and mumbled something under his breath.


"Family business," he repeated coldly, and stalked away.


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