Disclaimer: Characters and concept belong to Kevin Williamson and WB.
Note: This is a sequel to "Just Between Friends" and draws upon events from the series.
Altered States contíd
Joey awakened late the next morning, much later than she had intended. It was almost ten before she was able to rouse herself from the dreams that had kept her locked in her unconscious. The strangest one she had was of Pacey ó she dreamt he was lying there beside her, sleeping peacefully. It was strange because it had seemed so real. Joey could still hear his deep breathing and feel his warmth in her mind. When she woke she had looked immediately to see if he was there but he was not. She sighed and realized it must have been a dream after all.
It wasnít until she saw the glass of freshly squeezed orange juice waiting for her beside the bed that she understood. Smiling with shy relief she picked it up and knew that only one person could have put it there. Joey immediately jumped out of bed and checked the other rooms for him, but Pacey was no longer there. She wasnít really surprised, it was getting rather late. She was buoyed by the knowledge that he had at least made the gesture of a peace offering, and for the first time in days Joey didnít feel so anxious about being apart from him. Nothing was irreconcilable. She was also a little embarrassed that he had found her asleep in his bed, but at least then he might take it as a sign that she hadnít given up on him. She would be waiting to sort things out between them after the funeral, or whenever he was ready.
Thinking of the funeral, Joey realized quickly it was in less than an hour. She had to go home and shower and change so she could be there for him. As she gathered her things and rushed out the door, she almost crashed head-on into Dawson who was about to knock.
"Dawson!" she managed to say in surprise before he caught her up in a hug.
"Bessie sent me hunting for you. Do you realize how late it is?" His admonition was tempered with his familiar, loving smile that revealed he was glad to see her.
"Donít you start on at me, Bessieís bad enough." She smiled and took his hand. "Give me a ride home and weíll catch up on the way."
* * *
John Witterís funeral was positively grand by Capeside standards, the sleepy town had never seen anything like it. There were dozens of officers in full dress uniform, state police officials, and at least two hundred citizens there to pay their respects. Chief Witter had devoted the last fifteen years to protect and serve the loyal Capeside community and had been beloved by almost all. In fact, Pacey noticed some people visibly upset as they sat through the obligatory church service and sermon, much more so than the deceasedís family.
But to Pacey, that really said it all about John Witter. On the outside he appeared to be the most charming and honorable of men that it was no wonder he was well respected by the public. Behind closed doors it was a different story. He was cruel and vicious, selfish and sadistic. Pacey had to remind himself of that fact as the minister droned on about the Chiefís selfless acts of bravery. By the end, to Paceyís consternation, the congregation had him painted as a saint.
The procession from the church to the cemetery took on the appearance of a parade as the mourners followed along behind the hearse. More people lined the streets to give Chief Witter a final goodbye, some waving small American flags left over from the Fourth of July. The sickeningly patriotic sight almost caused Pacey to burst out laughing, but everyone would have just explained away the inappropriate reaction as grief-induced. The morning was rapidly disintegrating into a farce, and Pacey had just about had enough. His only consolation as they stood by the burial plot was Joeyís face in the sea of people.
He was standing apart from the crowd with his family as they waited to throw symbolic handfuls of dirt on the coffin as it was lowered into the ground. Pacey caught her eye and Joey gave him a small, reassuring smile that spoke volumes. He noticed that Dawson had come up for the funeral too and was appreciative of his friendís support. Pacey didnít even feel jealous that he was standing there with Joey as he might have done a couple of months ago. Joey didnít smile or look at Dawson the way she did Pacey, and he let himself believe in their bond with all his heart. He couldnít wait to be alone with her so they could finally talk about what was on both their minds. Pacey remembered just how much he missed when he had slept beside her the night before. Now he just wanted to be near her again.
Once the burial was over, a large number of the attendees retired to the house for the wake Mrs Witter had prepared. She had put as much planning and preparation into the afternoon tea as if it were a party, though she managed to remain demure as she received peoplesí condolences. Pacey, Doug and their sisters found themselves bombarded by similar well-meaning guests who wanted to remind them that their father was in a better place, that in time the pain would easeÖ John Witterís sons and daughters received the words in stunned silence lest they betray their true emotions which were to rejoice and be thankful he was gone for good.
The wake was still crowded with people after a couple of hours and Joey wondered if she would ever be able to get Pacey alone. To make matters worse, she and Dawson had been trapped by Mrs Ryan in a corner of the Witter living room where she regaled them with biblical stories and reminiscences from her youth. Almost another hour later Joey had had enough. She couldnít listen to the perky conversation of Jenís fundamentally religious grandmother a second longer. With ill-concealed abruptness, she suddenly announced she needed to get some air.
She felt a little better outside, at least she could breathe better. Paceyís nieces and nephews played obliviously in the yard while smiling parents sat around and mused about the innocence of children. Joey envied them their right to run around and have fun while the rest of them had to pretend they were mourning for a man she despised. She scanned the crowd both inside and out for Pacey now but could not find him anywhere. She was disappointed because at the funeral he had seemed to want to talk to her as much as she did him. Once again, the gods had conspired to keep them apart.
"Donít worry, I told Mrs Ryan you were overcome momentarily," said Dawson, walking up beside her on the porch. "She said sheíd say a prayer for you."
"I feel better already," Joey replied sarcastically. Her eyes still roamed over faces searching for one in particular.
"You looking for Pacey? I havenít seen him for a while. Maybe heís out back helping."
"Hmm," Joey murmured absently.
"I hope I get a chance to talk to him before I have to leave tonight. I wish I could stay longer, but I feel better knowing that youíll here to look out for him." Dawson eyed Joey carefully, seeing she was not listening to a word he was saying. She was consumed with looking for Pacey, it was like nothing else registered. Her face held a mixture of concern and worry for their friend, but there was something else tooÖ something he had never seen before today. And the way they had stared at each other at the cemeteryÖ Drawing in a sharp breath that caught her attention, he stared at her incredulously. "My God, you love him, donít you?"
"Of course I love him. Heís one of my closest friends in the world." Joey frowned as she replied, knowing it to be a half-truth that she wouldnít be able to fool Dawson with.
"I know you love him, Jo. I mean youíre in love with him."
Joey didnít answer, instead she concentrated on watching the children running around in the yard. Her silence was all the confirmation Dawson needed.
"When did this happen?" he asked in a soft, not unkind, voice.
"You mean how long have I felt this way about him or when did I finally admit it to myself?"
Joey sighed, but it did feel good to at least to talk to someone about her emotions. And for once Dawson wasnít acting jealous and protective. "I have no idea when I fell in love with him. I donít think I could ever define one particular moment in time. But I only realized it myself these last few days while weíve been apart. I havenít even told him yet, and now itís too late."
"Itís never too late, Joey," he said supportively.
"Isnít it? Iím leaving in less than two days, Dawson. Paceyís going to Baltimore a few days after that. How often do you think weíre going to see each other?"
"Would you rather you never did anything about it? Do you want to run the risk of regretting it the rest of your life?"
Joey looked at him sharply, reminded of Paceyís words at dinner. He had said he did not want to live a life of regrets. Maybe Pacey was right. Maybe Dawson was right too. If she didnít go and confront him and admit that she loved him, she would always regret it. Confessing her feelings might simply complicate matters, and it would not change the fact she was leaving on Saturday. But she had to do it nevertheless. She owed Pacey the truth, and she owed it to herself to tell him.
"Maybe youíre right, Dawson. Iím going to go find him." She gave him a quick peck on the cheek and a smile. "Thank you."
"Hey, thatís what friends are for," he replied sincerely, giving her a hug. "I just want you to be happy."
She smiled at him a few seconds more, then left to tell her best friend that she was in love him with him.
* * *
When she did not find him in the house and no one else could tell her where he had disappeared to, Joey knew in her heart where to find him. She went straight home and found him sitting on the end of her dock. The sight of his broad back against the setting sun and dazzling water filled her with love and reassurance that things were not so different from before. When he truly needed her and her alone, this was where Pacey came to wait for her.
She walked up quietly behind him, stopping a few feet behind the old fishing stool he was perched on. Then she waited.
"I knew youíd find me," he said quietly, still facing the water.
"I knew youíd be here," she answered just as softly. Joey walked over to the side rail and leaned against it as Pacey turned so he was sitting beside her.
"Quite a show, wasnít it? The Chief would have loved it."
"At least itís over now," she murmured, double meaning in her words. She hoped he would be able to put many of the painful memories of his father behind him now.
Joey frowned slightly, seeing he was more upset than he had originally let on. At the funeral and cemetery his face had been stoically calm like the rest of the family. But now she saw real pain in his eyes that almost resembled grief.
"Pacey? What happened at the hospital?" The question was non-confrontational, but Joey knew he just needed prompting before he would open up to her now.
"NothingÖ I donít know. I just asked him why he always hated me, thatís all. He was still unconscious so he probably didnít hear anything. But when he woke up he tried to tell me something. He couldnít speak though, so he tried to hold my hand. Then he just looked at me with this expression Iíve never seen before."
"Maybe he was trying to ask for your forgiveness."
"I guess Iíll never know. The son of a bitch died before he could even do that."
"And you feel cheated, donít you?" she asked carefully. "Itís perfectly natural, Pace. Youíre allowed to feel angry at him."
"The thing is I donítÖ not really. I shouldnít be upset about his death, I know itís crazy," he said, fighting back tears. "That man never spoke a kind word to me in my life. He made me believe I was a worthless loser, the perpetual town joke. He beat me, he put me down, he did everything in his power to make me hate himÖ So why do I miss him?"
Joey swallowed hard. She realized he must have needed to talk about this for days, and she felt saddened that he hadnít opened up to her before now. She squatted down before him so their eyes were almost level.
"You miss him because he was your father and you loved himÖ It didnít matter he was a lousy dad who never understood who you really are. You loved him and thatís why it hurts that heís gone. And though he may not have shown it, he loved you too."
Pacey looked at her with bewildered eyes. "He did?" he whispered in a small, disbelieving voice. "How do you know?"
"Because youíre his son," Joey said, taking his hands in hers. Pacey's eyes flooded with relief and hope that what she was saying was the truth.
"I wish Iíd heard him say it, just once."
Pacey couldnít back the tears any longer. Joey stood up and gently cradled him against her, his cheek pressed against her stomach. Paceyís arms tightened around her waist as she held him securely, allowing him to release all of the pent-up emotions he had been battling with. He needed to be comforted by his best friend now, so Joey put aside her mission to confront him about their relationship and just held him close. In her mind it was just as important as a declaration of love.