Love and other catastrophes
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Eleven: Light of day

They had slowed to a walk by the time they reached Dawson’s house. He was glad to see that Joey seemed a little happier, now that she had made up her mind to call Pacey. Dawson was relieved to find that seeing her happy was enough for him, even if it wasn’t going to be because of him.

"What are you doing tonight? Bessie got any plans?" he asked as they walked along the water front towards his house.

"I doubt it, she’ll probably be at the restaurant with Bodie. I’m probably going to sit up all night and decide how I’m going to explain things to Pacey tomorrow."

"Well, you know, it’s movie night. What do you say to ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ and some of my Dad’s famous eggnog?" Dawson asked.

When Joey didn’t respond immediately he looked back over his shoulder and saw that she had stopped dead in her tracks, staring off into the distance. She sucked in her breath in surprise, seemingly paralyzed. Following her line of vision, Dawson saw a man walking slowly towards them along the dock. It was nearly dark by this stage so he could barely make out who it was. He was tall and broad shouldered, but any more than that, Dawson could not distinguish.

The man stopped walking when he saw them staring at him, and Joey took a few hesitant steps forward. Dawson looked at her inquisitively, but she did not notice him. Her eyes were glued on the stranger and were now shining with tears. A small cry escaped her lips and she began running towards the man. Dawson couldn’t help but watch, having guessed who he must be.

Pacey just stood there uncertainly, not quite sure what to do. He had seen Dawson and Joey before they saw him, and his immediate reaction was to turn and walk away. Horrible images of them together this past week invaded in his mind, and he wondered despairingly if Dawson was the real reason Joey had wanted to come back to Capeside. He wondered fleetingly if they had been in contact before this, maybe something had been going on for months and he hadn’t known about it… The shattering thoughts were coming thick and fast as he watched them chatting together as they walked along.

Pacey could only think he had made an awful mistake by coming unannounced. The truth was he missed Joey so much he couldn’t concentrate on anything else. The last week had been utter hell. He had wanted to call her to hear her voice, but then she had told him not to. He waited for a phone call from her every day but it never came. After a week of desolation, Pacey had decided that he had to see her. He couldn’t risk losing her, so he had to try and work things out with her. He had boarded a bus without caring about the consequences. An intern leaving work during the busy Christmas period without giving proper notice was unheard of, and Pacey knew he had jeopardized his career at the hospital. He had only been thinking of Joey, and how much he needed to be with her. Now his worst nightmare seemed to be playing out. Joey was with Dawson.

But everything changed when Joey noticed his approach. After standing there in shock for a few seconds she had begun running towards him, her dark hair streaming out behind her. Pacey was not sure what to do. He couldn’t think about anything but how much he wanted her in his arms. He pushed himself into a jog, closing the distance between them faster. A smile had escaped Joey’s lips but he could tell she was crying. They drew closer together, so close that he could hear her sobs and ragged breaths.

Then suddenly she was in his arms. Joey threw herself at Pacey’s neck and held on as if she was never going to let go. His strong arms snaked around her back and squeezed her tightly. She was crying as she clutched the back of his neck with her hand, feeling the course fabric of his coat on her raw cheeks. Pacey shed tears of his own as he held her, and let out a long shaky sigh full of relief and pent-up emotion. Neither had any idea how long they embraced each other like that. After their time apart it was never going to be long enough.

Finally Pacey pulled back from her a little, bowing his head so their foreheads rested against each other. He closed his eyes and hoped like hell he wasn’t dreaming. Joey laid a hand on his cheek and she stood there, wishing they never had to move again. When Pacey drew back his head so he could look into her eyes, so much went unspoken that words seemed redundant. His fears of Dawson were allayed, his fears for Joey and their relationship had been silenced. He had come to Capeside not knowing if she loved him any more, but now he knew.

"I missed you," he said hoarsely.

"I missed you too," she said through a smile. Fresh tears ran down her cheeks which he immediately wiped away with gentle fingers. The sensation was too much for her, and she pulled herself into him again, nestling her head under his chin. She rested on his chest listening to his rapid heartbeat through his sweater.

"I’m sorry," she murmured painfully. "I’m so sorry."

"I’m sorry too."

Pacey closed his eyes again and smiled, knowing everything was going to be okay. After a moment he looked up and saw Dawson watching them awkwardly outside his house. He nodded slightly over the top of Joey’s head and Dawson returned the acknowledgment. They hadn’t spoken to each other in three years but in that brief moment all was forgiven. Pacey didn’t want to disturb Joey in his arms, but he was a little embarrassed that Dawson had witnessed everything.

"Um, Jo? I think we’re forgetting someone."

Joey murmured something again and then let him go with regret. Smiling up at Pacey, she tucked her hair behind her ears and turned around to look at Dawson too. With her arm wrapped around his waist, they began walking towards their old friend. Pacey approached him little cautiously, but Dawson smiled and gave him a hug. After thumping a manly slap on Pacey’s back, he stepped away.

"It’s about time you got here, Pacey," he said casually, glancing at Joey who was still holding onto her boyfriend securely.

"You too, D," Pacey replied with meaning. "It’s been a long time."

"I know." The quiet words were Dawson’s way of apologizing for his previous behavior, and Pacey accepted the sentiment gladly.

"I guess you guys have some important catching up to do, so I’ll take a rain check on ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’, okay Joey?" Dawson did not think his voice sounded too disappointed. It was enough to see the shine back in Joey’s eyes, and exuberance in her countenance. Only one person lit her up like that. Dawson gave them both a nod and a smile and started to go inside. He stopped before he had taken too many steps. "Hey guys? Gale and Mitch are doing the whole Christmas Eve drinks thing tomorrow night, so I’ll see you then?"

"Sure thing," Pacey answered. Joey just grinned. "We’ve got some catching up to do too."

Dawson smiled with more happiness than he had previously, glad at the prospect of having his best friends back. With a small wave he disappeared inside the house.

Pacey turned away from the Leery house and looked out onto the water that had been enveloped in darkness.

"Well. What do we do now?"

Joey glanced up at him, entwining her fingers in his own. "I think I owe you an explanation. I have one now."

"Okay." Pacey put his arm around her shoulder and they began walking away towards the pier. "Let’s talk."


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