Love and other catastrophes
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Eight: Shadowlands

The next morning, Joey was up early again and had made herself useful by making breakfast. Bodie came downstairs and saw the rubbery eggs she had made and smiled weakly. With a trademark roll of her eyes, Joey handed him the spatula and stood aside with her cup of steaming coffee, leaving him to his domain. Bodie made small talk while he effortlessly threw together a few ingredients and in minutes had created some delicious-smelling omelets.

Alex rushed into the kitchen, drawn by the prospect of breakfast and the voices he heard. He ran over and gave Joey a swift and unexpected hug, squeezing his arms around her waist. Bodie smiled at his sonís affection for his aunt, but he saw Joey blanche painfully as Alex let go and tore out of the room to wake his mother.

"You all right, Jo?" he asked with real concern in her voice. She looked awful, beads of sweat appearing on her upper lip.

"Yeah, fine," she managed breathlessly, trying to move as little as possible. She was still tender from the operation and Alex had just hugged her in the worst possible place. He could see Bodie looking worriedly at her so she planted a fake smile on her lips. "Still feeling a little queasy from that eggnog last night. God only knows what they put in that stuff."

"You sure?"

"Yeah." Joey waited until Bodie went back to the stove. "Alexís is still a bundle of energy in the morning, I see."

"Hyperactive, Iíd call it," Bodie replied, forgetting about what had just happened. "First day of Christmas break, so heís gonna be like that all day."

Joey smiled wanly and managed to lower herself into one of the kitchen chairs without moaning in pain.

"Whatíve you got planned today, Jo?"

"I donít know, I thought Iíd take a walk around Capeside and see whatís changed."

"Hmph, not much. Be sure to come by the restaurant for lunch, I want you to try my marinara sauce."

"Any good?"


Joey smiled and ran a hand through her hair, waiting for her nausea to pass.

* * *

Bodie had not been wrong. Very little had changed in Capeside, though it was a little larger than it had been when she was growing up. Joey visited all of their old haunts, reminisced outside the highschool and had a cup of coffee at the Icehouse for old timeís sake. She even remembered to do some Christmas shopping for her family, a task she had neglected to do so far. Bundling her packages into the car, she decided to check out the old video store where Pacey and Dawson had worked in highschool. She couldnít believe how little had changed. It was comforting really, to know that no matter how much she changed herself, there were some things that remained constant.

As she was wandering down the main street, Joey accidentally bumped shoulders with someone. Apologizing immediately because she hadnít been looking where she was going, Joey raised her eyes and was surprised when she recognized the woman.

"Mrs. Witter?" she exclaimed, with a sudden thud in her chest. She had forgotten how much Pacey looked like his mother. They had the same saddened eyes.

The older woman blushed when she saw who it was. "Hello, Joey," she said quite warmly. "What are you doing here?"

"Oh, you know, the whole Christmas-family thing," she replied, a little embarrassed.

"Is Pacey here too?"

Joey caught the obvious expectation in her voice, and then the disappointment in Mrs. Witterís eyes when she answered in the negative.

"He couldnít get away from the hospital. He was really sad he was going to miss you though," Joey lied. Pacey didnít feel he could come home for a family Christmas ó not with his family. Joey always felt sorry for Mrs. Witter though, never seeing her youngest son because her husband and eldest thought him the eternal screw-up.

"I didnít expect him to come, he would have told me in his letters if he was," Mrs. Witter continued, but her light words did not cover the hurt in her voice. "He seems to be doing very well at the hospital."

"Yes, you should be very proud of him," Joey said pointedly.

"I always have been, dear," she replied regretfully. Joey felt bad she had insinuated otherwise. It wasnít Mrs. Witterís fault Pacey had never come up to scratch in his fatherís eyes. But Joey still blamed her a little for allowing the mental and physical abuse that Pacey had endured during his childhood. She wished his mother knew how much her silence had hurt him, just as much as Mr. Witterís yelling and Dougís taunts.

Mrs. Witter looked into her eyes and saw the conflict there. She knew Joey held her a little responsible, which proved just how much the young woman cared for her son.

"Youíre a good girl, Josephine," she said quietly, patting her cheek. "You take care of my boy."

Joey fell into a stunned silence, her eyes filling with tears. Mrs. Witter was taken aback and about to ask her what was wrong when she saw her husband exiting the store up ahead. Hastily she withdrew from Joey, not wanting him to see her with Paceyís girlfriend whom he had never approved of.

"I have to go, dear," Mrs. Witter murmured quickly. "Give Pacey my love, wonít you? And wish him Merry Christmas for me."

Joey did not have time to reply before she had walked quickly passed her to meet up with her husband. Without so much as a glance at her, Mr. Witter headed for their car, his wife following meekly behind. Joey watched them drive off, waving slightly to Mrs. Witter as she glanced at her through the car window. She sighed heavily once they had gone. Whatever good mood she had established was gone, now she had let herself think about Pacey.

* * *

The dock in front of Dawsonís house was where she ended up. She couldnít remember the number of times they had sat here talking. She had done a lot of soul searching on this very spot. Joey sighed as she looked out over the water, her mind a jumble of confused emotions and regret. A stiff breeze blew up from the water but she made no move to try and warm herself up. The bitter cold that stung her cheeks was in some ways comforting. She could concentrate on that sensation rather than the pain in her heart.

"Joey?! My God, it is you! I thought Iíd entered the Twilight Zone for a moment there."

Joey whirled around at the sound of the surprised voice and was shocked to see Dawson Leery standing there in the flesh. It had been three years since sheíd seen him but he looked exactly the same. Joey jumped up but stopped herself from hugging him. They werenít even on speaking terms anymore since he had found out she was in love with Pacey.

"Dawson, what are you doing here?" she blurted out instead.

"Visiting the Wrinklies for Christmas," he replied casually in an effort to mask the disbelief in his voice. The very last person he expected to run into here was Joey ó she whoíd sworn never to set foot in Capeside again if she could help it. "What about you?"

"Same. Well, Bessie, Bodie and Alex that is." She was annoyed that there was awkwardness between them. She and Dawson had been so close for so long that they should be able to get past this.

"Kinda dumb, isnít it?" he said first, as if reading her mind. "Think we can forgive each other yet?"

"I can if you can."

"I know I can." Dawson smiled shyly at her, before pulling her into a hug. "Iíve missed you a lot, Joey."

"Me too," she murmured, clutching his familiar shoulders tightly. It felt so wonderful having her old friend back that she almost forgot to let go. With an embarrassed laugh, Dawson extricated himself from her grasp and took a step back.

"So, where is Pacey?"

Joey was beginning to wonder if thatís all people were ever going to ask her. "Heís still in Boston working, he couldnít get any time off."

"Bummer," Dawson without thinking, though the prospect didnít upset him too much. It meant he would have Joey all to himself. "Listen, are you busy tonight? I only arrived this afternoon and Gale and Mitch are threatening the whole family get together-thing. You want to come too? Save me from the tedium?"

"With an offer like that, how could I refuse?" Joey smiled sarcastically. Dawson grinned like a kid at her acceptance.

"Great! Come by in a couple of hours, thereís something I have to take care of first."

"Okay." Dawson had already started jogging back to his house, the smile still plastered on his face.

"See you then. Iíve got so much to tell you, Joey!" he yelled over his shoulder.

ĎAnd Iíve got so much to hide,í Joey thought miserably.

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