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Isn't it strange
("Pig", Dave Matthews Band)
They drove back from the prison in relative silence. Joey was staring out the window thinking about her father and the heart to heart talk they’d had. It had been years since she’d shared her feelings with her dad like that, and Joey felt such a sense of relief that she was quite exhausted by it. The only thought that kept her brain buzzing with excitement was her father’s revelation about Dawson. He had said Dawson was in love with her. Joey couldn’t comprehend the words fully, they seemed so unbelievable. But her dad had been certain and had said the words so matter-of-factly that she dared to hope they were true.
Pacey glanced at her from time to time, wondering if he should interrupt her thoughts and talk to her. He could tell she had been crying and was not surprised, but he hoped they were tears of happiness rather than sadness. Joey had given him a smile when she returned to the Jeep where he was waiting for her, but hadn’t volunteered anything about the confrontation with her father. Pacey decided to leave her be and keep his nose out of her business, but that didn’t stop him from checking on her now and then to make sure she was all right.
They were more than half way home when Joey felt his eyes on her, and she quickly turned her head to catch his glance. She smiled at him again, grateful for the invitation to begin a conversation. She had been alone with her thoughts for too long and Joey was starting to feel like she needed to talk.
“You can stop worrying, Pacey, everything’s okay,” she said not unhappily.
“Good,” he breathed a sigh of relief. “I know it couldn’t have been easy to face up to your dad like that.”
“Well, we’ll never be the Waltons, but maybe things’ll be better from now on.”
“I’m glad for you, Jo,” Pacey said sincerely. He wasn’t used to seeing Joey upset and he admitted it disturbed him a little. She had always been so strong and independent since her mother died, and avoided such family dramas after severing nearly all ties with her father. He was relieved to see she could admit she still needed him. He smiled back at her and saw her frown slightly.
“What is it?”
Joey looked away, unsure if she should tell Pacey the news about Dawson. She knew he was sick and tired of their tortured subtext, and had repeatedly urged her to tell Dawson how she felt about him. She knew this latest development would cause him to resume his annoyingly obvious attempts to get them together. But Joey realized the time had come for her to speak up, to Pacey and then Dawson. She was going to follow her father’s advice and tell Dawson she loved him before it was too late.
“Something your dad said?” Pacey prompted, seeing the indecision written all over her face.
“He told me Dawson loves me. He said he could tell from the way he looked at me at the prison today.”
Pacey remained quiet for a moment, mulling over her words. She looked over at him concentrating on his driving and wondered what he was thinking about.
“Of course he’s in love with you, anyone can see it,” Pacey said quietly. “You believe it, don’t you, Jo?”
“No, not really,” she whispered, her cheeks glowing pink.
“Well, he does. Even if he can’t admit it yet, I know he does.”
Joey looked out the window again, her heart soaring. Pacey was always honest with her, and she knew she could trust him to speak the truth. The simple words convinced her that she would have to go to Dawson first thing in the morning and work up the courage to tell him. Glancing back at Pacey, she saw he was watching her again, in between keeping his eyes on the winding coast road.
“Hey, I’m just calling it the way I see it. And if Dawson wasn’t so oblivious he’d see it too.”
“You’re a good friend.”
Pacey laughed a little, causing her to raise her eyebrows in surprise. He looked over at her apologetically. “Who would’ve thought Joey Potter would ever utter to those words to me?”
Joey smiled grimly. “You know we’re friends, though we pretend not to be. Only a friend would have agreed to steal his father’s car to drive me to a prison in the middle of the night.”
“I prefer to call it borrowing,” he reminded her.
“Whatever. It shows you’re a true friend, Pacey Witter. You can’t deny it.”
“I can deny anything if I really try,” Pacey replied. He was silent a moment before continuing. “What’s going to happen about France then?”
Joey opened her mouth in surprise, it was something she had completely forgotten about. She had told Dawson she was going, but now... now she wasn’t so sure. She didn’t know what would happen with him once she told him how she felt. Joey hoped that he would admit he loved her too and the decision would be made for her. If Dawson said it back, then she wouldn’t go. But if he didn’t... Joey realized Pacey was waiting for an answer.
“I’ll be honest, Pacey, I don’t know what will happen. I was so excited about the idea of getting out of Capeside, but Dawson was right when he said I’d just be running away. I don’t know if I want to go anymore...”
“Well, you won’t hear any complaints from me if you stay,” he said softly, without thinking.
Joey raised her eyebrows curiously, but secretly she was smiling.
“I mean, I’d miss you if you went,” Pacey added hastily. “Seeing how we’ve just rediscovered our friendship and all. I’ve realized that occasionally you can actually be all right to have around.”
“You’re too kind, Witter...” she replied sarcastically. She waited a beat before she continued. “I’d miss you too, Pace, much to my surprise.”
“See, I knew you couldn’t resist me.”
Joey grinned openly in the darkened car so her white teeth flashed. Pacey returned the smile, his joking mood restored after he bared his true feelings. Humor was safe ground, his sanctuary. Joey turned to bite back with another line, to maintain the repartee they were both so comfortable with. But as she opened her mouth she saw his face light up dramatically like a spotlight was flooding through the windscreen. In a split second Joey thought how surreal his eyes looked bleached ghostly pale by the glaring light, before she glanced forward to discover the cause of the brightness. She turned just in time to see two huge headlights bearing down upon them… on their side of the road. Joey was like a deer caught in the light, she was fixated by the hot white bulbs and felt she had been staring at the sight for minutes. In reality it was only a split second before she screamed Pacey’s name and he turned the steering wheel violently in an attempt to swerve out of the way.
There was not enough time. Joey knew it before she heard the squealing tires, the shattering of glass and the dull crunching noise as metal scraped metal. The impact shoved her sideways and she felt the seatbelt cut her in half before her head smacked into the side window. The impact stunned her and made her dizzy. The world spun crazily and it took a few seconds for Joey to realize that it wasn't her imagination — the car was rolling. The noise was deafening, debris in the car flying at her face and arms. With a sudden jolt the Jeep righted itself, rocking momentarily from side to side before it came to a stop.
Joey saw black. She stopped thinking. She surrendered to the darkness with great relief. She would have been quite happy to stay that way for a while, but after what felt like only a few seconds her disobeying eyes fluttered open. Joey was definitely dizzy now. Her head swam and she saw white spots in front of her eyes that blurred her vision. It took all of her concentration to clear the annoying buzzing noise in her mind and to try and work out what had happened. She remembered seeing the headlights, remembered swerving sharply, and she remembered calling out to Pacey.
All of Joey’s muddled thoughts compressed into a single word… Pacey. She turned her head gingerly, her body responding slowly though her mind was suddenly clear with purpose. She could see him slumped against the car door, but the whole side was buckled and torn, pushing him closer to her than he was before. Unable to see his face because of the white airbag that had deployed, Joey tried reaching out to nudge him.
“Pacey?” Her voice came out in a whisper but she didn’t know why. She tried again, louder this time. “Pacey?”
Joey felt herself panic when he did not respond to touch or sound. The spots in front of her eyes returned but she fought the sleepiness she felt. She had to make sure Pacey was all right. Joey pressed her hand to her cheek to try and alleviate the throbbing pain in her head. She had to decide what to do. When her hand came away sticky and warm she realized in a very detached way that it was blood. She was bleeding. The idea and its meaning seemed unconnected though, and she brushed the thought aside.
Help. She needed to get help. Joey tried the door of the Jeep and was relieved to note how easily it swung open. Getting out was another story. She swung her legs out the door but as she launched herself to the ground, the seatbelt she had forgotten to undo cut into her chest and legs painfully. Cursing her own stupidity but feeling herself grow more confused and less in control, she snapped the belt off and stumbled to the ground. Joey was surprised how comical her legs felt — like she was so intoxicated they couldn’t even hold her own weight.
She didn’t know where she going, but she knew she had to find help somewhere. Almost walking into a line of trees, she saw how close they had come to the edge of the road. It didn’t dawn on her that if the car had rolled any further, the passenger side would have slammed into one of these trees. Joey was too preoccupied to even consider it. She walk unsteadily around the front of the Jeep, smelling burnt rubber and feeling the crunching of glass under her feet. Joey saw the bright taillights of the other vehicle further down the road. There was also another smaller light that seemed to dance along in the darkness of its own accord. Joey didn’t stop to wonder what it was, instead she focused her eyes carefully and saw the other vehicle was a truck… not a very large truck, but a truck nonetheless. She continued on towards it, but drew up short when a man suddenly loomed before her, a flashlight in his hand.
“Jesus, girly, are you all right?!” came a frantic cry. Joey leapt back automatically as a crushing hand tightened around her arm and the light was shone right in her face. She was blinded even after the beam was turned away, and it took a few seconds before she could make out the man who thrust his bearded face towards her. “Are you hurt? Are you okay?”
“I’m all right,” she said groggily, wrenching away from him with strength that surprised her. Joey touched her hand to her head again as she felt a stabbing pain, and she heard the man swear concernedly.
“I need help… Pacey,” she muttered, pushing past the truck driver to his side of the car. He dutifully held up the torch without being asked, though he took a few steps back. Joey was too busy looking for the door handle and panicked when she didn’t see one. The metal was so contorted that she couldn’t even open the door to get him out. The window had smashed however, and Joey almost smiled when she saw the top of Pacey’s head in the torchlight. At least she could see his face now, and she stepped forward to get a better view.
Joey almost wished she hadn't. She wasn’t prepared for the sight of all the blood. Pacey’s eyes were shut, and for a heart wrenching moment she thought he was dead. The truck driver must have thought the same because she heard him starting to moan and curse behind her.
“Jesus, Mary and Joseph… Jesus, Mary and Joseph…”
Joey ignored him and stepped closer, her movements mechanical. She whispered his name, pleading this time, and carefully put two fingers through the broken window and found his neck. Pacey’s skin was slick with blood and her fingers slipped before she could find a pulse. Joey was about to despair when she suddenly felt a faint flicker. Holding her breath unconsciously, she waited to feel it again just to be sure. It was the greatest feeling in the world when she realized it was his pulse and she wasn’t just imagining it. Joey sighed with relief and felt her throat unclench slightly.
“He’s alive,” she murmured to herself, but the man assumed she was talking to him.
“He's all right?” he asked jubilantly.
“We have to get him to a hospital,” Joey snapped, suddenly feeling anger for the first time. She turned around and glared at the man, as if she’d only just realized he had caused the accident. “He needs help, now!”
“I’ve called them already,” the driver answered meekly, as if afraid of her. “I called them on my radio.”
He regarded her fierce expression through the blood and matted hair that clung to her face. Joey felt her vision turned red as he stood there helplessly, not doing a thing.
“You were on the wrong side of the road,” she said evenly in a low voice. “You came around the corner on the wrong side. You could have killed us both.”
The driver back away from her further, shaking his head as if to deny the truth. He opened his mouth to protest but was saved from having to think of what to say to her when they both heard the wail of the approaching ambulance. Joey’s attention was drawn away when she saw the flashing red lights, so she didn’t even notice the second set of blue lights of the police car that followed it. Nor did she take in the ashen face of the truck driver when he saw the officers get out of the squad car and walk towards them. Joey’s only concern was Pacey.
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