Author's Note: I guess I should say something clever, but I have nothing. Anyway, I'd love it if you wrote to me.
Recap: After spending a quiet day together, Pacey and Joey return to Joey's room to find Dawson waiting outside.
She stood there paralyzed, her arms at her sides, not sure what to say. "What are you doing here?" she asked.
"I came to find you," he said.
She shook her head, placed her hands on his chest, and pushed him away. "Get off me, Dawson," she said.
He backed away from her, and didn't even attempt to hide his confusion. He awkwardly ran a hand through his hair and furrowed his brow as he looked back at her. "What's wrong?" he asked.
"What's wrong?" she asked. "You left me at the altar!"
Pacey tugged softly at Joey's sleeve, trying to ignore the knot that was already forming in his stomach. He didn't want to deal with this right now. "I should go," he said.
Joey looked back at him, trying to figure out how this would change things, but she wasn't sure. Dawson had obviously seen him, but he must not have recognized him either. She nodded softly. "I'll talk to you later," she said.
"Okay," he said, walking away slowly.
Joey's eyes stayed focused on him as he disappeared down the hallway. "What do you want?" she asked Dawson.
"I need to talk to you, Joey," he said. "Can't I come in, please?"
She nodded and opened the door. They both entered the room, and Joey was not looking forward to having this conversation.
"Who was he?" Dawson asked, sitting down on the bed, laying his jacket neatly at his side.
"What are you doing here?" Joey asked.
"I came to find you," he said. "I'm so sorry about what happened at the wedding, Jo. I was just confused and scared. I didn't know what else to do."
"You think that's good enough of an excuse?" she asked him, her tone eerily quiet as she shook her head. "It's not. I was embarrassed and humiliated beyond belief. And you did that to me, Dawson. You did it."
"Do you even realize how I felt in all of this?" he asked. "You waited seven years to tell me that you slept with my best friend! Do you have any idea how that made me feel?"
"Yeah, well, that happened seven years ago, not less than two weeks ago," she said.
"But I just found out," he said. "I thought I was the only one you'd ever been with, the only one you've ever wanted. And the night before my wedding, I find out that I'm not."
"Everything doesn't always turn out perfect, Dawson. I learned that the hard way."
"I never expected it to be perfect," he said. "But . . . I never in a million years I thought that you would hide the fact that you had a one night stand with my best friend for seven years."
If this had been anytime but now, she would've enjoyed telling him this. Suddenly, all her energy was gone and she didn't want to fight anymore. She just wanted him to go. So she dropped the bomb. "It wasn't a one night stand," she said. "I'm sure that you'd categorize it as more of an illicit affair."
"You slept with him more than once?" he asked.
"Yes," she said softly. "I didn't want you to find out this way," she added. She wouldn't apologize, but she didn't want to hurt him--not anymore.
"More than once?" he asked again. "I never knew . . ."
"And the reason he mysteriously disappeared is because he told me that he loved me, and I told him I chose you."
"So why? Why'd you hide it for so long and then tell me?" he asked.
"I didn't want to marry you, Dawson," she said.
"If you're deliberately trying to hurt me, Joey, it's working," he sighed defeatedly.
"I'm not, Dawson. I've just been lying to myself for a really long time," she said. "You've been really good to me, but . . . you're not what I need anymore."
"You were going to marry me a week ago, Joey. How much could've possibly changed since then?"
"Everything," she whispered. "I've had lots of time to think about it while I've been here . . . about the past, the mistakes I've made, the feelings I've buried, the feelings I've hidden. I can't do it anymore, Dawson. I can't lie to myself anymore."
"We weren't a lie," Dawson said.
"No," she said. "We weren't a lie. I was the lie. I had an affair with Pacey, and I know how wrong it was. But it changed me. I've been . . . running away ever since then, afraid that I'd ruin my life if I accepted the changes I made."
"I don't understand this, Joey," he said. "I don't understand at all."
"No one really knows who I am, Dawson. Not even me."
He smiled and shook his head. "I do, Jo. I've always known you."
"No," she responded, holding out the word much longer than she needed to. "You knew who I wanted you to know, and she's nothing like me. Just as sure as I was able to hide what happened between me and Pacey from you, I was able to hide who I was. You could've known me. I just didn't want you to."
"So let me know you, Joey," he said softly, placing a gentle hand on her cheek.
"No," she said, choking on her voice, a sure sign that she wanted to cry. "You wouldn't like her."
"I love you," he whispered. "We've made mistakes, but we can make this work."
"It's too late for that," she said. "I need to stop lying to you. I need to stop lying to myself."
"Joey, we can--"
"No," she interrupted. "We can't. I love someone else."
His eyes seethed with anger, and she knew that his compassion was gone. All she could do was brace herself. "I don't believe you," he spat.
"Please don't be angry," she said.
"How can I not be angry?" he screamed. "I came here to get you! I want to make you my wife like you were meant to be."
"What can I say?" she whispered. "You should've done that a week ago when you had the chance."
Pacey stood silently on his balcony, letting the bottle of half-drank bourbon he was holding teeter on the edge of the rail as he balanced it between his thumb and index finger. He let it go, watching the bottle tumble down until it crashed on the hard concrete below, the brown liquid running out, making a trail toward the ocean.
So many times he'd thought about jumping. It was common, in fact. There was one thing that always stopped him, though. He knew that he didn't deserve the simple way. He knew that he deserved to die the slow, painful, agonizing death that he knew he was already dying, that he had been dying for years now. He took a deep breath, contemplating, once again, what the fall would feel like--how bad it would hurt, how liberating it might feel.
Things had changed too quickly, and he didn't know how to cope with them. The past twenty-four hours, though, had been nothing more than a game--a game that he had been playing for himself just as much as he'd been playing it for Joey. Now that Dawson was there he could hear the clock ticking.
There was something that was nagging him deep down to the pit of his stomach. If she knew what was good for her, she'd go back with Dawson and pretend that none of this ever happened. It would be best that way.
It would've been best if he'd never met her, if he'd never slept with her, if he'd never fallen in love with her, if he'd never given her the power to destroy him.
Yet, somehow, as much pain as it caused him, now he could look into her eyes and forget it all. The lack of resistance astonished him. He'd gone over six years not seeing her, and after a week with her, she had that same familiar hold over him.
That was one of the things that mystified him about her, about them. He'd lost the only chance he ever thought he would have at love when he walked away the first time, and by the luck of the draw, he'd gotten a second chance.
But the second chance seemed to come too late. He was too far down, too far away. He wanted desperately to pretend that it didn't hurt, but it did. It hurt in a way he hadn't felt in a long time. He'd walked away from her, saying he never wanted the woman he loved to have no faith in him, no belief in him. As it turned out, he'd gone out and accomplished just what she'd said he would.
As much as he'd talked about it, he never let himself believe it. There was something that had a hold on his life now that kept him on auto-pilot, because left to his own devices, he'd actually screwed it up a long time ago.
And even though he knew that he wouldn't do it, he still contemplated the jump.
When he heard the knock at the door, he wouldn't move. "Pacey, it's me," he heard her say.
He looked over his shoulder at the door, and finally moved. He had to know what was going to happen. When he opened the door, she was smiling. That was the last thing he was expecting. Instantly she flung her arms around his neck and began smothering him with soft kisses, all falling at or near his lips.
"What's going on?" he asked when she finally pulled away.
"I talked to Dawson," she said. "He's going back to L.A. tomorrow. I'm not."
Pacey turned away, taking a few idle steps back toward the doors to the balcony. He rubbed his neck lethargically, hoping the noise in his head would go away.
Logically, it made sense for him to tell her about all the fears and insecurities he was feeling. Intellectually, he knew that he should tell her to go back to L.A. tomorrow too. Physically, he couldn't say a word.
"Is something wrong?" she asked, placing a gentle hand over his wrist as she stood behind him.
"I thought you were going to choose him," he said softly.
"Not this time," she replied. "I chose you."
He turned back at her, looking through astonished eyes. "Why?" he asked.
She looked at him seriously for a moment, weighing her words carefully. "Because the last time I chose between you, I let my head win. This time I listened to my heart."
He shook his head, as he looked back at her questioningly. "Don't you understand? You can't rely solely on one or the other, you have to use them both."
"I've been thinking for way too long, Pacey," she whispered. "I've been miserable because of it."
He looked down at her, and she was almost sure that she saw the sadness in his eyes. "So have I," he said.
"Are you scared?" she asked.
He stared back at her with no answer. "I'm not," she said.
He was frustrated that she was so desperate to be optimistic about this. She should've been scared. She should've been scared as hell--just like he was. So many things about this seemed wrong, and she was too eager to bypass them all.
"Are you having second thoughts about me?" she asked.
"No," he said. "I'm having second thoughts about me."
She placed her hand on his cheek, softly moving her thumb over his cheekbone. "Don't," she said simply.
He couldn't help that he did, and that seemed to be the one thing she didn't understand. He closed his eyes and held his breath, thinking only about her and the tender stroke of her thumb on his cheek. He knew that her eyes were boring through him, expecting answers. He didn't have any.
Every fiber of his being wanted to stay there with her. He didn't want to pretend as if he knew the difference between right and wrong anymore. He didn't want to think about the unhealthy hold she had on him. He didn't want to think.
He gave in and let himself breath. He wrapped his hand around her neck and let his head fall against hers. "I'm so sorry," he murmured.
She didn't understand his apology, but she willingly accepted it. She wasn't sure what he was sorry for, because so many of the mistakes had been hers and hers alone. For the first time since she'd found him in Puerto Rico, she found him eerily vulnerable.
Gently he laid his lips on hers, and she instantly knew there was something different about his kiss. She hoped that finally he understood.
His hand softly raked through her long, brown hair as he fought to get lost in her. He had no choice but to get lost: It was too real to be found. He moved his rough, calloused fingers along her smooth skin, gently exposing her shoulder, barely remembering that she'd been soaked with rain not even a few short hours ago.
She moved her hands along his bare torso, not sure where to let them settle. Obviously, he was in control, but it felt so much less dominate than it had been before. His body was rugged, from the hard muscles to the hairy chin to the chapped skin, but his caresses were uniquely soft, uncharacteristically slow.
This time it didn't seem urgent. They had all night.
He wasn't there, and she knew she had to find him. So she ran. She ran as fast as she could. Even though she didn't know the source, the urgency she was feeling was very real. She told herself that it would all be okay as her feet kicked sand in every direction as she ran along the beach. When she finally reached the bar, the room felt like it was spinning. Her head was banging with each breath she sought to take. She couldn't see him.
He wasn't there.
She wouldn't give up. She was going to find him no matter how many times she had to comb the resort. He had to be there.
Her eyes twitched as she nervously covered every inch of space she passed with each step she took.
"Josephine," she heard called from the corner. She wouldn't stop, though. She couldn't stop. He grabbed her arm and she spun around. "Not now, Carlos," she snapped. She fidgeted to get away from his grasp, but he wouldn't let her go.
"He left," Carlos said simply. Suddenly, she stopped fighting.
She shook her head. "No."
His eyes fell shut, and for the first time since she'd met him, Carlos showed the slightest hint of emotion.
"No," she said again.
"Yes," he said, the indifference returning to his face. "He asked me to tell you."
"When will he be back?" she asked.
"He's not coming back," he said.
"He has to," she said, her head falling, knowing she'd uttered words that weren't true.
"He said you should go home," Carlos said, fighting desperately to use a gentle tone.
"Why did he leave?" she asked.
"I don't know," he said. "I'm sorry." With that, he let go of her arm and walked away.
She felt betrayed. She felt lied to. Worst of all, she felt dead.
Dead. Just what he'd described himself as. It didn't take too long for him to . . . get scared, run, pay her back, whatever it was that he'd done. She fell into a chair, buried her head in her hands, and began to cry. She cried until all her tears were gone. Then she cried some more.
No one even stopped to watch her as she cried her eyes out in the lobby. That was the only thing in her power she could do.
She didn't say anything to the bartender as she handed him the cash for the bottle of bourbon she wanted. She'd had enough of bartenders.
Throwing back her head, she took a long, hard drink. She fell down into the sand, looking at the ocean, watching the sun rise. She was all alone and she began to scold herself. She should've known better than to trust him, to love him.
There were too many things out of her control. She was going to sit there for as long as it took. She wouldn't move until the pain went away.
To Be Continued . . .
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