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Joey sat at her dining room table, going through some old pictures of her, Dawson, and Pacey during their high school years. It was hard to believe that her own daughter, Alyson, was 15 now, the same age she had been when she had really begun to grow up. Joey was 34 now. When she had been 15, 34 seemed light years away. She had had so many plans for her life: to get out of Capeside, to get a scholarship to a good college and never look back. And here she was, married for almost 16 years and still living in Capeside. She sighed as she pushed a lock of her long brown hair behind her ear. Not that she really regretted her choices. She loved her husband and their daughter more than anything. She sometimes just wondered what could have been. Just then, she heard the front door open and slam shut.

"Mom?" her daughter called out.

"Back here, Allie," Joey responded, sitting back in her chair. Allie sounded annoyed.

Allie stalked into the dining room and dropped her backpack on the floor with a crash. She sat heavily into the chair across from her mother, heaving a sigh. Joey tried to repress her smile. Allie was the sweetest girl, nothing like her mother, but she had a tendency for melodramatics, which she had obviously gotten from her father.

"How was school today? What happened?" Joey asked.

"History happened," Allie told her. "Our teacher wants us to find out our own histories. Namely, an essay on how our parents met and fell in love."

Joey laughed teasingly. "Boy, don't you sound enthusiastic."

Allie looked stricken. "I didn't mean-" she began, but Joey interrupted her.

"No, it's okay," she reassured her. "I wouldn't have liked that assignment very much either." She laughed suddenly. "I'm willing to bet that you'll have one of the more interesting essays, though. Your father and I have known each other for almost 30 years, and not all of it was smooth sailing."

"When did you realize that you were in love with him?" Allie asked, interested in spite of herself. "That took a little while. We were your age, 15."

Allie looked surprised. "Just like me and James," she said, referring to her new boyfriend, "except that we've been best friends our whole lives."

"Yeah, exactly like that," Joey nodded. "When's this due? I have time now, if you do."

"It's due Friday." Allie glanced at her watch. "Yeah, I have time now. I hear that Port Charles is boring today. No Eve and Scotty. Let me get a tape recorder and we can get started." She jumped up and walked towards her room. A minute later, she returned, and put the tape recorder in the middle of the table. "Ready when you are." At her mother's nod, she depressed the record button.

"Okay. This was our sophomore year, 1997. Dawson Leery and I were best friends, and Dawson was also best friends with Pacey Witter. I guess you could say that Pacey and I were friends then, but we were really out to antagonize each other. Jen Lindley moved in with her grandmother, who lived right next door to the Leery's, right before school started, and Dawson fell hard for her. It wasn't until he was in love with Jen that I realized that I was in love with him. Unfortunately, well, for him anyway, Jen broke up with him, broke his heart. That's when things with Pacey and me started to change…"

1997

Joey, Pacey and Dawson were sitting at a table at the Ice House. Pacey was across from Joey and Dawson, who was still upset about Jen breaking up with him.

"Guys, it's been two weeks. We haven't even talked! Not one little conversation. There has to be something wrong with that," Dawson complained.

"Dawson, listen to me. She broke up with you," Joey enunciated. Pacey watched her face with interest. She was doing a good job of keeping her annoyance and hurt out of her face, unless you knew what to look for, like he did. Her eyes completely betrayed her. It was obvious that now that Jen was out of the picture, she had hoped that Dawson would realize that she could be and was more than a friend.

"I know she broke up with me, Jo," Dawson snapped. "I was there, you know. But I just don't understand why. What did I do wrong?"

Joey just couldn’t take it anymore. She jumped off of the bench. "I've been on break long enough. I'm sure that Bessie needs some help."

Dawson looked puzzled. The place was empty. He turned to Pacey, who was watching Joey leave with an odd look on his face. "What's wrong with Joey today?"

Pacey looked at him and shook his head. "Man, you must be blind not to see what's right in front of you." He slid out of the bench and followed Joey, leaving Dawson alone, wondering what had happened to everyone today.

Pacey caught up with Joey inside, cleaning off a table and fighting back her tears. She wiped off the few that had come down unbidden.

"Hey, Joey," Pacey said softly, coming up behind her. She jumped, startled, and almost dropped the dishes she was holding.

"What do you want, Pacey?" she snapped, wiping her eyes.

"I just wanted to let you know that I think Dawson is crazy for not seeing you as the great person you are," he told her, meaning every word.

Joey was surprised. Something nice from the sea monster himself? Then she thought about it and her eyes went hard as she realized what he must be doing. "Well, I'm waiting."

Pacey looked confused. "What? Waiting for what?" He paid her an honest complement, and this was what he got?

"For what's coming next. Your next comment, the one that one was leading to. Are you going to call me Josephine? Tell me exactly how I look today? Your plans for getting Dawson and Jen back together? Come on, Pacey, the suspense in killing me," she said, her voice as hard as nails. She was amazed to see a fleeting flash of hurt on his face.

"Sorry to disappoint you," he said easily. "I was actually serious." Joey opened her mouth, but Pacey didn't let her talk. "Actually, I had a idea to get you and Dawson together. What you need, is a plan to get Dawson jealous."

She paused almost imperceptibly. "That's ridiculous. Pacey, I have work to do, okay?" She pushed past him, but he caught her arm.

"Jo, really. Think about it. Didn't you realize you loved Dawson when he was in love with someone else? Why wouldn't he feel the same way? We'll see what happens when Dawson sees you with someone else."

"Great," Joey snapped. "So now my life has been reduced to a science experiment. Thanks."

"Exactly," Pacey grinned. That was just too easy. "It's all about chemistry."

Joey made a face. She had walked right into that one. Still, she couldn't keep the smile off her face.

"So, you'll do it?" Pacey asked expectantly.

She hesitated, and then smiled at him. "Sure. I'll do it. Can't hurt, right?"

"Great!" he smiled back at her. "How about tonight? We can go see a movie at the Rialto, maybe get dinner," he continued, sounding excited.

"Not tonight, Pacey. It's movie night," she explained.

"No, that's perfect," he told her. "He'll know right away, instead of later."

"I don't know, Pacey," she hesitated.

"Well, then it's a good thing I do," he grinned at her, putting his hands on her shoulders as he faced her. "Come on, Jo. Time to ante up."

She sighed and moved slowly towards Dawson's table outside. Pacey couldn't help but to grin excitedly. It didn't matter that she was only going out with him to get Dawson jealous. She was going out with him!

Joey finally made it to Dawson's table and stood next to him. "Hey, Dawson," she said nervously.

"Jo! Great. I'm just heading over to the video store. What movies do you want for tonight?" He smiled up at her.

She steeled herself. "Um, I'm going to have to miss movie night this week, Dawson."

"Miss movie night?" Dawson asked, shocked. "Why?"

"I have a date tonight," she told him apprehensively, twisting a lock of hair around her finger.

"A date?" Dawson repeated, still stunned. "With who?"

Pacey came up behind Joey and put his hands on her shoulders again. "With me."

Dawson felt like the world had just dropped out from under him. Joey….and Pacey?! He stared at the two of them, Pacey grinning widely and Joey looking nervous. He finally found his voice.

"Wow. Um, I'm sorry. You just caught me off guard, is all. I hope you guys have fun." He stood up. "Well. I guess I'll see you tomorrow." He walked away, conscious that Pacey and Joey were watching him leave. Just as he was walking out the door, he ran into Bessie coming in.

"Hey, Dawson," she greeted him. She took a close look at his face. "Hey, what's wrong?"

"Nothing," he lied. "Hey, did you hear about Joey and Pacey? They have a date tonight."

Bessie gaped at him. "*Our* Joey? Has a date?! Dawson, be serious."

"I am serious," he told her. "I have to go now. Joey and Pacey are in the back. Bye." He walked off.

Bessie headed back to where her sister was. She saw Pacey helping Joey clear off the table and grinned. They did look cute together. "So," she said, causing Joey to jump, "I hear my baby sister has a date."

Joey sighed. Just what she wanted. "Dawson has a big mouth," she replied.

Pacey gave Bessie a huge smile. "Hi, Bessie."

"Hi, Pacey. Now, Joey, come on. We have to get you ready. Pacey, when are you picking her up?"

"7," he told her, grinning. "We'll go out to dinner and to a movie. Be home around 11 or so."

"Hey," Joey protested. "Don't I get a say here?"

"No," Bessie told her. Pacey laughed, as Joey glared at him. "Come on, Joey. Time to get you beautiful," Bessie tugged on her arm.

"What about the restaurant? And Bodie and Alexander?" Joey asked, desperate.

"Bodie can handle things here, Caroline is staying with Alexander, and Bodie can call Rebecca for help if he needs it. Say good bye to Pacey, you'll see him in a few hours." She dragged her still complaining sister out of the restaurant. Pacey grinned to himself. He just couldn't stop. Thank God for Bessie Potter.

* Three hours later *

Joey looked at herself in the mirror. She had to admit, Bessie knew what she was doing. Her hair was pulled back in a braid with some tendrils framing her face. Her sister had lent her a mint green dress with a pair of strappy sandals. She had on just the barest hint of make-up and perfume. She looked different, but pretty. She heard the doorbell ring, and Bessie call that she would get the door.

A minute later, Bessie poked her head in. "Pacey's here. You look great. Come on."

Joey had to laugh. "Yeah, I'm coming." She took one last glance in the mirror and headed out.

Pacey was waiting nervously, holding a bouquet of flowers while Bessie, holding Alexander, fussed around him. When Joey appeared in the doorway, he was struck silent. He couldn't say anything, only stare at her. Joey looked really uncomfortable.

He finally found his voice. "Josephine, you look beautiful," he said sincerely.

She rolled her eyes and grinned teasingly. "Joey, or you don't get your date," she threatened.

He laughed. "These are for you, Joey," he said, emphasizing her name.

She took the flowers from him. "Thanks, Pacey. They're beautiful." Inwardly, she wondered why he was making this so real, and why she had this nagging feeling that she was helping make it real, too.

Bessie took the flowers from Joey. "I'll put these in some water, Jo. You guys should leave, or you'll be late.

"Bye, Bessie," Joey said as she headed out the door.

Pacey grinned conspiratorially at Bessie. "Later." Bessie shook her head with a laugh as she shut the door behind them. Not even five minutes and they were already bickering.

* Later, after dinner and movie *

Pacey and Joey walked down the pier, both lost in thought. He noticed her absentmindedly rubbing her arms as she walked.

"Cold?" he asked her. When she shrugged, he took off his jacket and slipped it on her. "There. You can use mine."

They were at the end of the pier now, looking out at the water. Joey started to protest, but changed her mind and pulled it closer around her. "Thanks," she said nervously, flashing him a quick smile.

He smiled back, and stared out at the open water. It was so calm and peaceful. They stood in silence for a few minutes before Joey broke the silence.

"I always wondered, Pacey. Was it true? About you and your teacher, I mean," she asked, avoiding his eyes.

He blinked. Wow. Talk about questions from left field. "Uh, yeah. It was true." He smiled wistfully, thinking of his Tammy.

"All of it?" she probed, still looking over the water.

"All of it," he confirmed.

Joey digested this information. She knew she shouldn't continue with her questions because it was getting dangerous, but- "Did you love her?"

He didn't hesitate. "Yes. I loved her with all my heart, Joey."

She nodded slowly. She didn't know why, but she needed to know that. She cleared her throat nervously. Okay, that was enough bonding for the night. "It's almost 11," she said softly. "We better get going."

He nodded. "Right," he drawled. "We can't have Cinderella going home late, now can we?"

***

When they were almost at Joey's, Pacey glanced briefly at Joey, who was staring out the window.

"Do you love him?" he asked suddenly. Hey, if she could ask, he could ask. Right?

Joey turned to him, surprised. "What?"

"Dawson. Are you in love with him?" he asked in measured tones.

She furrowed her brows and looked at him in confusion. That was a weird question, she thought. "What do you mean? Of course I am. You know that, Pacey. That's why I'm here, remember?" she said, as if talking to a child.

"That's not love, Jo. Lust, maybe. Infatuation? Probably. I know that already. But do you really love him?" he asked, frustrated.

She cocked her head towards him, even more confused. Was he dense? "Pacey, yes. Of course I am in love with him."

"There you go again! 'Of course'. Damn, Joey, there is no 'of course' in love." He sighed, upset that she just didn't get it. "You know what? Just forget it."

She was quiet for a minute, thinking about what he said. "Do you miss her?"

"Miss who?" he snapped, still annoyed.

"Tamara Jacobs."

"Yeah, sometimes," he said, still angry, but a little softer.

Joey was put off by his curt answer. "Sometimes? What, when you're horny? You miss the sex, Pacey? Is that it?" she taunted.

He felt like she had slapped him. "Damn you, Joey. No! I miss everything about her. I miss her smile, and her laugh, and her eyes. And how she always was happy to see me." His voice trailed off, and Joey regretted her outburst at him. She had really hurt him. "Did you know that Tammy was the first person who ever really loved me, Jo? She loved me for who I was, the way I was. No one else ever did, not even my parents."

Joey felt even worse. She knew exactly what that felt like. "Pace, I'm sorry."

"Why?" he asked bitterly. "I'm used to it."

"Not that, Pacey. About what I said. My comment about you and Ms. Jacobs. I shouldn't have said that."

Pacey sighed. "Boy. Some date I am. We were doing fine, and then this. I'm sorry."

Joey smiled a little nervously as they pulled into her driveway. She shook her head. "No. You were a fine date. Really. It wasn't nearly as bad as I had expected." She leaned over and gave him a quick kiss on his cheek. "Bye, Pacey."

Pacey was stunned as she climbed out of the truck. "Bye."

*Three months later*

Joey stormed into Pacey's house, giving a curt wave to Mrs. Witter, who was in the living room, and slammed into Pacey's bedroom. He was sprawled on his bed, leafing through a magazine.

"Why, hello there, Joey. Did you miss me?"

Joey ignored him, as she stood glaring down at him with flushed cheeks. "Pacey, we've been dating for three months now. Three months! If Dawson is affected by us, he's really doing a cracker jack job of hiding it! Pacey, he's *still* talking about Jen," she complained.

"Joey, relax, okay?" He sat up on his bed, and Joey collapsed down at the foot.

"I don't want to relax," she said obstinately.

Pacey took a long look at Joey. Something was wrong. Stubborn was definitely one of Joey's characteristics, but whining was not. "Jo, do you feel okay?" he asked with concern. He leaned over to feel her forehead.

She pulled away. "Get off of me!"

"Joey, I'm serious. Please?" he asked.

She sighed and leaned closer to him. She had been feeling lousy for days now, and she was starting to feel worse.

He felt her forehead. "Jo! My God, you're burning up. You're sick. Come on," he said, pulling her gently to her feet. He looked down at her arms, which seemed to be covered in. . ., "Spots? Joey, you're covered with spots! Haven't you ever had the chicken pox?"

"No," she mumbled. She was feeling really dizzy now. "Oh, God, Pacey," she moaned, just before she fainted in his arms.

His first reaction was a grin. After all, the girl of his dreams had just fainted into his arms. It was straight out of a romance novel. The he realized that she had actually *fainted*, which wasn't a good thing. He picked her up, and carried her out to the car to take her home.

When he walked into Joey's house 10 minutes later, she was awake, but barely.

"Bessie?" he called out. "Bodie? Anyone here?"

"In the kitchen," Bessie called back. "Joey's not here, though. I think she was going to your house."

Pacey led Joey into the kitchen, slowly. "Actually, she with me, but she's sick. She was at my house, and she fainted. She has a lot of spots, and I think she has a bad case of the chicken pox."

"The chicken pox?" Bessie echoed unbelievingly. She took a good look at her sister, who was leaning against Pacey for support. "I had no idea you fainted with the chicken pox," she mused, as she got the thermometer out of the cabinet and stuck it in Joey's mouth. It beeped a minute later. "103. Let's get her into her bed, okay? I can take it from there." He left after promising to come back later.

He decided to go tell Dawson that Joey wouldn't be at movie night that night. A few minutes later, he climbed through Dawson's window. "Hey, Dawson," he greeted him. "What's up, man?"

"Hey, Pace," Dawson replied. He was on his bed, watching ET on television.

Pacey dropped down on Dawson's bed. "I just came from Joey's. She has the chicken pox, so she can't come over tonight."

Dawson looked disappointed. "Chicken pox? That sucks. Jen has them, too. Who knows where they caught them," he laughed. "I guess I'll ask Nicole if she wants to come."

Nicole Lindley, Jen's 15-year-old sister, had moved to Capeside to live with her grandmother a few months earlier. She and Dawson had become fast friends, with their mutual love of movies. Nicole had also become good friends with Joey, and knew how much her friend loved Dawson Leery.

"Cool," Pacey said. "Have fun."

"We will," Dawson replied. "It won't be the same as Joey, though. Tell her I hope she feels better, next time you see her."

"Will do," Pacey said, heading for the window. "See ya tomorrow."

~~

It was a week later. Joey was sitting up in bed against a multitude of pillows, watching television. She glanced at the clock. 3:15. Pacey was usually there by now. He had come by every day so far, and she was actually starting to look forward to the times he spent with her. She heard a knock on her door. "Come in," she called.

Pacey entered, holding a glass of soda. "Hello, my spotted one. Bessie told me to bring in some more ginger ale for you." He leaned over her to put the glass down next to her bed.

"Thanks, Pace," she smiled.

He sat down on the bed next to her. "Sorry I'm late. What have I missed?"

Joey grinned. They had gotten into the habit of watching General Hospital every day. "Jax and Brenda had sex. In a bed, for once. And Sonny told Jason that he still loved Brenda."

"Big surprise there," Pacey commented. "That always happens. The bed does surprise me, though. I thought they only used couches and coffee tables."

Joey laughed to herself. He sounded so earnest. And so adorable. She caught herself suddenly. Pacey? Adorable? She definitely needed to cute back on these soaps! Speaking of adorable, "Hey, Pace. Don't you think-"

"Shah!" He interrupted. "Stefan and Laura are on." He absentmindedly leaned over and took a drink of her soda.

She narrowed her eyes at him. "I hope you get the chicken pox," she muttered.

Pacey grinned. "Won't happen. I already had them. Now shush until GH is over." Joey opened her mouth, but Pacey put his hand over it before she could speak. "Quiet."

Smiling, she raised her hands in mock defeat and leaned back against her pillows to watch the show.

When the closing credits rolled 45 minutes later, Pacey sat up and stretched. "Wow. You really can get into these shows, can't you," he grinned.

"I'll say," Joey agreed. "I wonder if Luke knows that Nikolas is Laura and Stefan's son, not Laura and Stavros'," she mused.

"Not a chance. They'll drag that out for weeks. So, how are you feeling?" he asked, changing the subject.

"Itchy. And spotty, but better," she said, scratching around a chicken pock.

"That reminds me. I brought you a present," he grinned, handing her a wrapped gift from under his jacket.

"Pace, you didn't have to do that." She opened it and started laughing. "You really didn't have to do that." She held up a book called "I've Got Chicken Pox", but True Kelley. "Cute."

"Thought you'd like it. Hey, have you seen Dawson lately?"

Her eyes clouded over. "No, I haven't. And I don't know why. He hasn't called, or visited, or anything." She sounded really hurt.

"Well, maybe it's time to up our plan, then," he said, playing with the edge of her blanket.

"What do you mean, 'up our plan'?"

"I mean, maybe it's time to make you available to our clueless friend Dawson."

"In other words, it's time for us to break up," Joey said matter of factly. She was confused by the twang of sadness she felt.

"Yep, the time has come for us to say good-bye," he grinned, although he really wasn't thrilled with the idea.

Joey rolled her eyes. "Okay. Today's Friday. I'll be back in school on Wednesday or Thursday, according to Bessie. How about we break up on Thursday afternoon, and I'll tell Dawson on Friday."

"Which will set things up for the two of you on Saturday, also known as Movie Night. Very smart," he said knowingly.

"I'll try and pick the movies this week. Um, let's see. Something good, with romance. Maybe some Audrey Hepburn movies?" she mused.

"Sounds good."

"Like, Breakfast at Tiffany's. And maybe Paris in the Springtime."

Pacey laughed. "You've been thinking about this for awhile, haven't you?"

She grinned in response. "Who says soap operas aren't good for anything?"

Pacey glanced at her clock and jumped off the bed. "I have to go now. I promised Nicole I would pick her up at the library today." Without thinking, he leaned over and gave her a kiss before heading out. It wasn't until he reached the car that he realized what he had done, and actually blushed.

Joey, on the other hand, had realized *immediately* what Pacey had done, and was doing her best not to let it effect her. Her gaze traveled across her room until it landed on the children's book Pacey had brought. Grinning, she opened it and started to read.

One week later--Friday

Joey had been in school for three days now. As planned, she and Pacey had "officially" broken up the night before, and were doing their best to avoid each other so it seemed realistic. She had been trying to catch Dawson all day, but he seemed to be going every time she was coming. In fact, Joey realized, it had been like that ever since she had come back. It was almost like he was trying to avoid her. But that didn't make any sense. The last bell of the day rang, and Joey was pushed out of her thoughts. She pushed her way through the crowds, fighting her way to Dawson's locker. When she finally got there, he was just slamming the door shut.

"Hey, Dawson," she said brightly.

He jumped. "Jo! Oh, uh, hi."

"Hi. So, I was thinking about movie night tomorrow," she began.

"Uh, you know what? So was I," he said as Joey smiled happily," and I think we should cancel movie night this week, and probably next week, too."

"What?" Joey asked, stunned, as the smile fell off her face.

"Yeah, you know, because you've been sick and all. You should just rest," he said, looking every where except at her.

"But-but Pacey and I broke up," she said, almost desperate, "and I thought…"

"Well, see, you probably just want to be alone then," he interrupted. "I'll see you on Monday." He picked up his bag and left, leaving a broken hearted Joey behind.

She felt like bursting into tears, but knew that she couldn't in the middle of the school. Instead, she did the next best thing. She ran to Pacey's house, and let herself in.

"Pace?" she asked hesitantly, poking her head in through his bedroom door. He had skipped last period, and was sprawled on his bed, watching Mac and Felicia on General Hospital.

"Pacey?" she asked again.

He shot off his bed. He had just been thinking about her, and here she was. "Joey!" He saw her face and was immediately concerned. "Joey, what's the matter? What happened?" He walked over to where she was and led her to his bed, where she dissolved into tears. He sat down next to her. "Jo? You're scaring me here, honey."

"Dawson doesn't love me," she sobbed.

Pacey looked stunned. All he could do was hold her and try to comfort her. "It's okay, he soothed, stroking her hair, rocking her back and forth. "It's okay." He looked around his bedroom in a desperate attempt for an idea of what to do. "Joey, honey, what happened? You have to tell me what happened, or I can't help you." He kept stroking her hair until her tears finally began to slow. She slowly sat up, blowing her nose with the tissues Pacey gave her.

"Thanks, Pace," she said shakily. "I don't usually lose it like this."

Pacey held up his hand to ward off her words. "Don't mention it. Anytime, Joey. I mean that." She smiled at him gratefully. Somehow, she knew that she could depend on him. "Now, do you want to tell me what happened? If not, GH is on, and I caught some of One Life to Live, as well."

She giggled. Yep, she could definitely count on him. "Thanks, Pacey. Um, well, this is what happened." Pacey nodded encouragingly at her. "I started to talk to Dawson about tomorrow night. He was acting really weird and told me thought it would be better if we canceled Movie night this week and next week, too."

Pacey paused, wondering exactly how to respond. "It sounds to me like he's just worried about you. He doesn't want you to, you know, over tax yourself."

"Then why has he been avoiding me since I got sick?" she asked.

"Um, the chicken pox? It is very contagious, you know," he said, nodding.

"But he's already had the chicken pox," she wailed.

Uh-oh. Time to regroup here. "Well, it is possible to have them more than once."

"Then why did you visit me everyday?" she volleyed back.

Good question. Pity he couldn't give her the real answer. Inspiration struck. "Because I'm never adverse to missing school. Now, I have an idea. How about I call Nicki? I bet she'll be able to help you more than I can."

She considered the idea and then nodded. "Okay. That's a good idea."

Score! Well, not the score he wanted, but at least he hadn't screwed this up royally. He went out into the hallway to call Nicki Lindley.

She answered on the first ring. "Hello?"

"Nic? It's Pacey."

"Hi, Pacey," she said, obviously pleased to hear from him. "What's up?"

"I have a favor to ask. Joey's over here crying her eyes out because she thinks Dawson doesn't love her. Can you please come over and help me?"

Nicole winced. "I don't know, Pacey," she hedged.

"Please?" Pacey begged. "I'm screwing up left and right here, and I need you!"

She sighed. "Fine. I'll be there are soon as I can, okay?" She hung up the phone.

Pacey went back into his room. Joey was on his bed watching General Hospital.

"Nic will be here in about 15 minutes," he said, sitting down next to her.

She smiled. "Great." She indicated the television, where Lucky and Lizzie were talking in the park. "I just love those two together. He was so great after she was raped. You can tell he cares about her because he's always there for her, never expects too much from her. They're best friends now, but I bet they start dating soon," she predicted. "They have a great relationship. It's all about trust."

"Yeah, they're great," Pacey agreed. "But my favorite couple is Mac and Felicia."

She glanced at him. "I've seen them, but I don't know them. What's their story?"

"They've been best friends for years. About 4 years ago, they were even engaged, but Felicia's daughter Maxie was diagnosed with Kawasaki Syndrome, which meant her heart was failing and she was going to die. Mac went to get Felicia's ex-husband and Maxie's father, Frisco, and bring him back to town. Well, when he saw Felicia and Frisco together, he realized that Felicia was never going to love him like she loved Frisco, and so he broke their engagement. Frisco left a few weeks later, after Maxie got her heart transplant, and he got Felicia pregnant with their second daughter Georgie. Mac and Felicia never dated again, but they still stayed the best of friends, running two businesses together. One was a restaurant; the other was a private investigation practice. Their last case was for a friend of theirs. Long story, but they had to pretend to be engaged again. When they told everyone about their "engagement", the unanimous response was "Took you guys long enough!" See, everyone already knew that they were perfect for each other. So now that the case is over, they can't tell anyone that it's not for real because everyone's so excited, especially Maxie and Georgie. So, now they're stuck together, and unless they come up with a plan to get out of it, they'll be married on July 17. The thing is, though, that they're completely in love with each other, but they just can't accept it yet," he finished, looking at Joey, thinking about how beautiful she looked.

"Wow," she said softly. "That is a cool story," she said, thinking of her and Dawson.

"Yep," he agreed, thinking of him and Joey. "It is."

They both heard the doorbell ring downstairs, and Pacey headed down to let Nicki in.

"Hey, Pacey," Nicole smiled. She was a petite brunette, about 5'3", with sparkling brown eyes and wire-rimmed glasses. Her shoulder-length hair was pulled back into a ponytail and the red highlights she put in her hair shone in the sun.

"Hey, Nic. Joey's upstairs." She followed him upstairs and into his bedroom where Joey was channel surfing.

"Hi, Joey," Nicole said as naturally as possible.

"Hi, Nicole," Joey smiled at her new friend and turned off the television. "We should leave Pacey alone now. He's probably had enough estrogen encounters today, with my emotional breakdown and all."

"Are you kidding?" Pacey teased. "You think I'm going to complain about two girls in my room, on my bed? This is a dream come true!"

"Grow up, Pacey," the girls said in unison, and Pacey grinned.

Joey grabbed her bag off the floor. "Thanks, Pacey. I know I've said that a lot today, but I really mean it. I'll call you later, okay?"

"Sure," he responded, leading them downstairs. "I'll talk to you later then."

"Bye, Pacey," Nicole called as she bounced down his porch stairs.

"Bye, Nicki," he said as he closed the door behind them.

Joey and Nicole ended up in town at a brand new coffee shop. Joey told Nicole everything that had happened after the waitress took their order and left.

"Sounds like he was nervous," Nicole decided, sipping her hot chocolate.

"Really?" Joey asked, afraid to get her hopes up. Then she shook her head in amazement. "How you can drink hot chocolate in April is beyond me," she said, taking a drink of her own iced coffee.

Nicole shrugged. "I hate coffee, what can I say? But yeah," she continued, "I think that Dawson was just nervous. Probably because after all this time, you were available again."

"But he didn't know I was available," Joey reminded her, frowning.

"Then maybe he was nervous because you weren't available to him," Nicole offered.

"You think?" Joey asked, a tiny smile on her face.

"Yeah! So it's probably not a good idea to go this week."

"It's not?" Joey asked.

"Nope. Give him a week to get used to the idea that it's really okay for him to like you. But don't let him cancel next week, okay? He'll be ready next week," she said confidently, resolving to talk to Dawson that weekend and make sure he was ready for the next week. She knew that he hadn't meant to hurt Joey, but he had, and it was time for him to understand how vulnerable Joey really was.

Joey smiled happily. "Thanks, Nicki."

Nicole shrugged it off. "No problem, Jo. Hey, can you believe that there's only 6 weeks of school left?"

Joey groaned. "Ugh. This year has just dragged on and on."

Nicole laughed. "I know. And with the end of the year coming, so does the annual end of the year formal."

"Oh, goody," Joey said sarcastically. "How did you find out about it, anyway? It's not for weeks."

"My big sister is Jen the popular, remember?" Nicole reminded Joey. "She and that football guy are already talking about it."

"Lucky you," Joey laughed.

"Yeah, tell me about it. But I have an idea. Let's make it our goal to have you and Dawson go together. As a couple."

"You think it could happen?" Joey asked doubtfully, sipping her drink.

"Oh, yeah. We have 5 weeks! Anything could happen," she said with a grin. "Absolutely anything."

~~

It was the week before the end of the year formal. Nicole and Joey had been working hard to push Dawson towards Joey. At first, he had seemed reluctant, but he was definitely warming up to the idea now. Pacey and Joey still spent a lot of time together. Pacey had gotten into the habit of taping General Hospital every day for him and Joey to watch on Fridays. Nicole had developed a crush on Pacey that seemed quite unrequited, so she hadn't told anyone.

Dawson took a deep breath. "So, Jo, I was thinking, maybe we could go to the dance together." He smiled brightly, then shook his head. "No." He looked back into the mirror. "Hey, Joey! You, me, dance. What do you think?" He grinned at sexily as he could. "ARGH!" He groaned, dropping back onto his bed. Who would have thought that asking his best friend to a dance could be so hard? Nicole's not so subtle comments for the past month had gotten him to thinking that maybe Joey wasn't just his best friend anymore. He sighed. He had to make this perfect. Absolutely perfect. He sat up, looked into the mirror, and started again.

The next day at school, Pacey, Joey, Dawson, and Nicole ate lunch together as usual. Nicole and Joey had debated over the seating arrangements at great length. Finally, they decided that it was best for Dawson and Joey to be sitting across from each other rather than next to each other. So, Pacey and Joey were next to each other, with Dawson across from Joey. Unfortunately, Dawson had not gotten the clue, and was debating over which film angles were best with Nicole, who tried to change the subject with no avail. Finally, lunch was over. Joey pushed her chair back, intending to get as far away from Dawson Leery as possible, the sooner the better. Dawson's voice pushed its way through her angry thoughts.

"Hey, Joey, I'll walk you to your class," Dawson offered.

Joey stood stock still for a moment. Had he really said that? She and Nicole simultaneously looked at each other and grinned. "Uh, sure," she said, giving him a slow smile.

Dawson kept the conversation going with meaningless chatter as they walked, and Joey was getting increasingly frustrated. "Is there a point to all of your ramblings, Dawson?" she finally broke in, as they reached her class.

He paused. "Um, yes, actually. I was leading into something."

"Well?" she asked, annoyed.

"I want to go to the dance. With you. Together," he mumbled, looking away. This was not how it was supposed to go!

Joey could not believe her ears. "Excuse me?"

"I knew it was a stupid idea," Dawson said, blushing as he shook his head.

"No, no! Wait. Wait. I'm sorry. Really." She smiled at him.

"Okay. I'm going to try this again." He covered his face with his hands, and Joey gaped at him. He pulled his hands down a second later, and gave Joey a brilliant smile. He took a deep breath, and said it just like he had practiced. "Joey, I've been thinking about you lately. About us. I was wondering if you wanted to go to the dance with me. You know, as a couple." He ended his speech with another well-rehearsed killer smile.

Joey blinked. Well, that had sounded only a little practiced. He was just nervous, she reasoned. There was this little voice in the back of her mind, though, and it was telling her that maybe he just thought of this as part of the script of his life, following things like "When Harry Met Sally" or "Silk Stalkings," where best friends realized they were in love. She brushed that thought away almost immediately. Dawson wouldn't do that. Would he? No. She smiled back at him. "I'd love to go to the dance with you," she told him.

"Really?" Dawson could hardly believe it. "Great! I'll see you later then," he grinned, and quickly walked off to his class before he was late.

Joey turned to enter her classroom, ecstatic that Dawson had finally asked her out. She couldn't wait to tell Pacey. She knew how happy he would be for her.

~*~

The rest of the day passed slowly for Joey, who was completely in a fog. Finally, the last bell rang, and she shot out of her seat. She knew that Dawson had left earlier for an appointment, so she didn't bother looking for him. She headed straight for Pacey's, nearly floating the whole way because she was so happy. She knew where the Witter's kept their spare key, so she just let herself in and raced up the stairs to Pacey's room.

"Pace! Hey, Pacey!" She went into his bedroom, where he was flipping through a magazine while laying on his bed.

"Hey, Jo," Pacey smiled at her. "You're in a really good mood today. What happened? Did Jen Lindley jump into the creek and drown? School burn down?"

"No, but almost as good," she laughed. "It's Dawson! He asked me to go to the dance with him. As a couple!" Joey said excitedly.

Inwardly, Pacey groaned. He wanted to see Joey happy, of course, but he wanted her to be happy with him! Still, "I'm happy for you, Joey. That's so great," he said sincerely.

"Isn't it?" she grinned. "I'm completely euphoric. I don't even want to think about the inevitable let down." She noticed his TV wasn't on. "Hey, no GH?"

He grinned. "I'm waiting until Friday with you. It's agony, I'm telling you. Agony. " He paused. "We are still on for Friday, right?"

"Of course we are," Joey reassured him. "We can't miss GH, you know. And until Bessie lets me tape, which isn't likely since she doesn't want to get hooked, you're stuck with me every week," she laughed. Pacey grinned to himself. At least he would still get to spend time with her. "But I have to get to work now, before Bessie has a heart attack. I just wanted to come tell you first."

"Thanks," he told her, surprised that she had thought of him first. "See ya."

She was at his door before she thought of something and turned to face him. "Hey, Pace. What's happening with Mac and Felicia now? Have you heard anything?" she asked, feeling somehow that the answer was important.

He shrugged. "I heard that Frisco, her first love, is coming back soon. Once he does, Mac doesn't stand a chance. Felicia still thinks that she's in love with Frisco."

She didn't know why that disappointed her, or why she felt so invested in the question. "What if she realizes that she's in love with Mac?"

Pacey shook his head. "Nah. No way. She's convinced herself that she's in love with Frisco, and so she can't believe that she's gotten over him."

"But you said that Mac and Felicia are already in love, and that they belong together!" Joey exclaimed.

"Mac has always been in love with her. He's just been too scared to let her know, because he knows she can't get over Frisco. No matter how many times Frisco disappoints her, Felicia gives him another chance. Even though she loves Mac now, she's so hung up on Frisco that she just can't admit it. Until she gets over the idea of him, Mac doesn't stand a chance." He shrugged again. "That's just the way it goes sometimes, Joey. People are blind to what's right in front of them. Sometimes they just don't see it until it's too late."

"Yeah," Joey sighed. "Too late."

~*~

~~

Joey and Nicole were at Joey's getting ready on the night of the dance, while Pacey and Dawson were at Dawson's. Pacey had actually gotten permission to take his family's car, which was unusual. Dawson and Joey were going to double with Pacey and Nicole.

Over at Joey's, the girls were getting help from Bessie. The three of them had gone shopping the day before for everything from dresses to shoes to make-up, and Joey and Nicole had also gotten manicures. Joey had bought an emerald green empire wasted dress with spaghetti straps, a fitted bodice, and a swirling skirt that ended above her knees, and Nicole had purchased a lavender 1940s inspired dress with a straight skirt that ended just below her knees. Nicole was practicing walking in her white sandals with a 3 inch heel, and was doing much better than Joey was. Joey kept tripping over her feet with every step she took.

"OW!" she screeched, as she tripped and toppled onto Bessie and Bodie's bed. "These are impossible! Bess, I'm 5'8". Why do I need heels? I'm going to completely tower over Dawson here," she complained.

"Joey, be careful," her sister warned. "Now, look at Nicki. She's never worn heels, but she's doing just fine now."

Nicole laughed as Joey glared at her. "Thanks, Bessie, but I have a reason for trying so hard. My date is almost a foot taller than I am, and these shoes are the only way I'll get to look at his beautiful green eyes." She helped Joey up off of the bed.

"This night is going to be a disaster," Joey moaned.

"Okay, okay," Bessie sighed. "I thought they might be a problem, so while you guys got your nails done, I went back to the store and got you these. She went into her closet, and emerged holding a pair of black platforms. "They're only an inch, so it shouldn't be a problem," Bessie told her.

Joey was surprised. "You got these for me?" she asked incredulously. "Really?"

"Yes, really," Bessie told her. "I want this night to be perfect for you, and it won't be if you spend the whole night falling on your face."

Joey slipped off her old shoes and took the new ones from her sister. She paused, and then gave Bessie a hug. "Thanks, Bess. Really."

Bessie hugged her back. "You're welcome, Joey. Now, let's try these on, and we can get you guys into your dresses, okay?" she asked briskly.

Joey smiled. "Okay."

Nicole looked at them and grinned. "Joey, I hate you. Do you realize that I'm in three inch heels, you're barefoot, and you're still taller than I am?" she asked, realizing that both sisters were uncomfortable with their sisterly affection.

Joey and Bessie laughed. "Sorry, Nic," Joey grinned back.

Twenty minutes later, Joey and Nicole were dressed and ready to go. They waited in Bessie's bedroom for Pacey and Dawson, who were due in about 5 minutes. When the doorbell rang, Bessie answered the door, and told the boys that their dates would be down shortly. She went upstairs and found Joey and Nicole doing frantic last minutes checks in the full-length mirror.

"You guys look wonderful. Don't worry, okay? You'll knock them dead," Bessie reassured them.

The two girls walked nervously to the stairs where Dawson and Pacey were waiting at the bottom. Pacey saw them first, and his throat constricted. Joey was so beautiful. He would have given anything to have her as his date for the evening. He was thrown out of his thoughts by Dawson's voice.

"Jo, you look awesome." He held his hand out and she accepted it, walking down the last three stairs holding his hand.

Right. She was his best friend's date, and that's all there was to it. He turned his attention to his own date, who was watching him closely.

"Nicki, Nicki, Nicki! You look mah-veh-lous, dah-lin, simply mah-veh-lous," he said, making her laugh. He lifted her arm over her head and twirled her around. "You ready to party?"

"Always," Nicole returned with a grin.

Pacey took out a small white box and slid a pale pink carnation onto her wrist. He smiled up at her. "Then let's go," he grinned.

The foursome headed out to Pacey's car. The conversation was the same as always on the way to the school, but Joey still had the nagging feeling that there just wasn't something right with the whole thing. As they pulled into the lot, she resolved to forget that thought, and to just have fun.

The two couples separated when they reached the door. Pacey and Nicole opted to head straight to the dance floor, while Dawson and Joey wanted to wait. They were talking just as easily as always, but Joey couldn't shake the feeling that something was wrong. Every time she looked out on the dance floor, she saw Pacey. Either her mind was playing tricks on her, or he was moving around a lot to keep in her line of vision. Dawson noticed that she wasn't paying attention to him, and worried that she wasn't having any fun. "Joey? Are you okay?" he asked with concern.

It took her a moment to process his question. "Yeah, I'm fine. Dawson, let's dance," she said suddenly, pulling him out onto the dance floor.

"Sure," he replied, startled. Joey hated to dance.

Meanwhile, Pacey and Nicole were still dancing. She had realized earlier that Pacey would never feel about her the way she felt about him, because he was already in love. With Joey, if his almost constant watching of her meant anything at all. She saw Joey drag Dawson out on the floor, and decided to give up.

"Pacey, I'm going to take a break now. Why don't you ask Joey to dance?" she suggested.

Pacey hesitated. He had also seen Joey drag Dawson out. "She probably wants to be with Dawson. I wouldn't want to interrupt. Why don't we go check out the punch?" he offered.

Nicole shook her head with a knowing smile. "Pacey, go ask her." He started to protest. "Pacey, go. Go." Giving up, he made his way to where he knew his friends were.

He tapped Dawson on the shoulder. "Mind if I cut in?" he asked, looking first at Dawson, then Joey.

"Sure," Dawson said with a smile. "I'll be waiting, Jo."

As he walked away, a slow song started. Both looked uncomfortable, but Pacey stepped closer and took Joey in his arms as they began to sway to Selena's "I Could Fall in Love." Joey couldn't believe it. This, this of all things, felt right. It made no sense. She wanted to fight it, but she couldn't bear to move away from Pacey.

I could lose my heart tonight
If you don't turn and walk away
'Cause the way I feel I might
Lose control and let you stay
'Cause I could take you in my arms
And never let go

I could fall in love with you
I could fall in love with you

I can only wonder how
Touching would make me feel
But if I take that chance right now
Tomorrow will you want me still
So I should keep this to myself
And never let you know

I could fall in love with you
I could fall in love with you
And I know it's not right so I guess I should try
To do what I should do
But I could fall in love with you
I could fall in love with you

So I should keep this to myself
And never let you know

I could fall in love with you
I could fall in love with you

When the song was over, Joey and Pacey had a hard time letting go of each other.

"I better go find Dawson," Joey said, not moving.

"Yeah." That got Pacey moving, and he dropped his arms. "Right." He ran his hand over his hair. "Dawson's at the refreshment table with Nicole. I'll walk there with you."

Joey didn't answer, but started weaving her way towards Dawson. When she got there, both Nicole and Dawson noticed her look, spacey and confused, but only Nicole knew why it was there. There was a nearly identical look on Pacey's face when he came up a few seconds later, but he was less confused and more frustrated.

"Hey, Joey. Do you want to dance again?" Dawson asked.

"Sure," she nodded, grateful to be getting away from Pacey.

They hadn't been dancing long when Joey noticed that Dawson's gaze was not focused on her, but somewhere over her left shoulder. She twisted around to see what had captured his attention, and her mouth dropped open in shock.

Dawson tried to explain. "Joey, it's not what it seems. I promise!"

Joey shook her head. Last straw. This just wasn't working. "Dawson, we need to talk. Let's find someplace quiet."

They ended up on the front steps of the school. "Joey, I'm over Jen. I didn't come here with you to see her," Dawson said desperately.

"Dawson, I don't think this is working, and it's not just because you're still hung up on Jen Lindley. Dawson, we're best friends. We're always going to be best friends, but that's all."

"I'm not hung up on Jen," Dawson insisted.

She sighed. "You're not getting the point, Dawson. Even if you're not, which I'm not so sure about, I realized tonight that I don't love you like I thought I did." She shook her head and gave a tiny, amazed smile. "Dawson, I love Pacey. I know, I can't believe it, but it's true."

Dawson was stunned. "Pacey?" he managed.

"I don't want to hurt you, Dawson," Joey said softly.

"I know, Joey. It's just going to take awhile, you know?" he answered, rubbing his eyes.

"You never really felt more for me than a friend, Dawson. You wouldn't have even thought about me if it hadn't been for Nicole practically brainwashing you. We just had to try it and see," she told him. He shrugged, not completely convinced. "Is it okay for me to bag, Dawson? I want to talk to Pacey."

"Only if you answer one question for me," he said, resigned.

"Okay," she replied, curious.

"Back at the first dance, the one Jen and Cliff went to. Afterwards, when I saw Jen on the dock and wanted to talk with her, did you have a crush on me then?"

Joey was taken aback, but decided to be honest. "Yes, Dawson. I was convinced I was completely in love with you."

He nodded slowly. "Okay. Thanks. Yeah, you can bag, Joey. Good luck with Pacey."

She started to leave, then turned back. "Dawson, you know Nicole really well. Do you think she'll mind me stealing her date?" she asked, worried.

Dawson gave her a rueful smile. "Nah. I'll be here for her. She'll just be happy for you guys."

Joey gave him an impulsive hug. "Thanks, Dawson," she whispered.

"You're welcome." He gave her a weary grin. "Now what are you waiting for? Go find your Pacey."

She gave him one last smile, and he reflected that he had never seen her to happy as he watched her go. Things would probably never be the same between them again.

Joey found Pacey and Nicole laughing together by the refreshment table. "Hey, guys. Nic, can I talk with you for a moment?" she asked nervously.

Nicole gave her a questioning look. "Sure." She turned to Pacey. "I'll be right back."

Joey led Nicole to the hallway. "Nicki, I'm in love with Pacey," she blurted out.

Nicole just stood there for a second, then slowly smiled. "Yeah, I know. I figured it out hours ago. You are so slow," she teased.

Joey stared at her, openmouthed. "You knew? How?" She didn't give Nicole a chance to explain. "But then you probably know what I'm going to ask next."

"Yeah. How about we switch dates? I bet Dawson could use someone to talk to right about now," she said knowingly.

"Nicki, you are truly the best. Thank you." She paused. "Wait. What if Pacey doesn't want to switch dates?" she asked, starting to panic.

Nicole laughed. "Yeah, right. He is so hung up on you, it's not even funny. He's been watching you all night long."

"Really?" Joey asked doubtfully.

"Really. Now, where do you leave Dawson?" she grinned.

"Front steps. Thanks again, Nicki. You don't know how much this means to me," Joey told her friend.

Nicole smiled. "Not a problem, Joey. Good luck, and have fun," she laughed.

Joey went back inside to find Pacey. Now that she was looking for someone, the room seemed to have grown more crowded and it was even harder to find someone. She didn't notice Pacey behind her until he tapped her on the shoulder.

She jumped, and whirled around, giving a sigh of relief when she saw who it was. "Pacey. There you are."

"Hey, Joey. Have you seen Nicole anywhere? And where's Dawson?" he wondered.

"Pacey, can I talk to you?" she asked, ignoring his questions.

"Uh, sure," he agreed, and followed her to a different entrance to the school. They left the door open so they weren't locked out, and they could still hear the music playing clearly, although it was much softer.

"Nicole's with Dawson," Joey began without preamble. "I ended my date with Dawson, because I realized that it wasn't him I wanted to be with." She looked down and took a deep breath before meeting Pacey's eyes. "I wanted to be with you. I love you, Pacey, not Dawson."

He refused to get his hopes up. "Are you sure, Joey?"

She gave him a shaky smile. "As sure as sure can be. God," she said, shaking her head, "here I've been complaining to you about how blind Dawson was, and I was the one being blind the whole time. I'm sorry, Pacey."

"No. Joey, you don't have to be sorry." He took her face his hands. "I love you, Joey Potter." He kissed her, gently at first, then with growing passion until she breathlessly pulled away. He smiled at her nervousness. "Joey, may I have this dance?"

She smiled. "Absolutely." He took her in his arms and they began to sway to the music.

How do I get through the night without you
If I had to live without you
What kinda life would that be
Oh I need you in my arms, need you to hold
You are my world, my heart, my soul
If you ever leave
Baby you would take away
Everything good in my life
And tell me now

How do I live without you
I want to know
How do I breathe without you
If you ever go
How do I ever, ever survive
How do I, how do I, how do I

Without you
There would be no sun in my sky
There would be no love in my life
There would be no world left for me
And I, baby, I don't know what I would do
I'd be lost without you
If you ever leave
Baby you would take away
Everything real in my life
And tell me now

How do I live without you
I want to know
How do I breathe without you
If you ever go
How do I ever, ever survive
How do I, how do I, how do I

Please tell me baby how do I go on
If you ever leave
Baby you would take away everything
I need you with me
Baby don't you know that you are
Everything good in my life
And tell me now

How do I live without you
I want to know
How do I breathe without you
If you ever go
How do I ever, ever survive
How do I, how do I, how do I live
How do I live without you
How do I live without you, baby
How do I live without you

~~

It was January of Dawson, Joey, Pacey, and Nicole's freshman year in college. Jen had decided not to go on to college just then, but to wait a year or so. Dawson and Nicole had been accepted by NYU's Film School, Joey had decided to go to Columbia University to study business and French language, and Pacey had been accepted into Boston University's education program.

Pacey and Joey had stayed together through out high school, but problems had developed near graduation. With Joey's help and support, Pacey had become a much better student, but still was rejected by most of the schools where he applied. The day after they graduated, things blew up. When Joey opted for Columbia, which was near NYU, Pacey's insecurities got the best of him and he accused her of wanting to be with Dawson. Joey lost her temper, and left for New York much earlier than planned. She hadn't seen him at all that summer of fall, but Christmas break a few weeks earlier had been hell. Joey, who was at a club with Dawson and Nicole, sighed. Christmas. Dawson, who was sitting next to her, rolled his eyes. She noticed.

"Now what's your problem, Dawson?" she asked in exasperation.

"My problem?" he repeated, amazed. "What do you mean, *my* problem? You're the one sighing like life's not worth living anymore!"

"Bite me," she snapped.

"Oh, yeah. Real mature, Jo," Dawson returned sarcastically. "It's been 6 months. Either get over it, or just go back to him."

"Like you can talk!" Joey exclaimed. "Three short years ago, you were completely obsessed with Jen Lindley-before, during, and after your break-up."

"Jo, I was _15_! She was my first girlfriend," he exclaimed.

"Dawson, I'm 18, and Pacey was _my_ first boyfriend! And we were together a hell of a lot longer than you and Jen. If I want to sigh about it, that's my choice," she said angrily.

Now it was Dawson's turn to sigh. He ran his hand through his short blonde hair. "Okay, Jo. Truce, all right?" He looked at his best friend's still stony face. "I really am sorry." He gave a sudden grin. "If you don't forgive me, I'll start babbling in excessively grandiloquent provisos," he threatened teasingly. She glanced at him and gave a tiny smile. "That's better. Come on, let's dance."

"Wait," Joey said, putting her hand on his arm. "Where's Nicole? She's been gone for awhile," she asked, worried.

"She said she had a headache and needed some air. She probably went for some Tylenol."

Joey hesitated. "One song, and then we look for her," she decided.

Dawson nodded and led her to the dance floor. Joey lost herself in thought as she danced with Dawson to Vonda Shepherd's "Searchin’ My Soul."

I’ve been down this road walkin’ the line
That’s painted by pride
And I have made mistakes in my life
That I just can’t hide

Oh I believe I am ready for what love has to bring
Got myself together, now I’m ready to sing
I’ve been searchin’ my soul tonight
I know there’s so much more to life
Now I know I can shine a light
To find my way back home

One by one, the chains around me unwind
Every day now I feel that I can leave those years behind

Oh I’ve been thinking of you for a long time
There’s a side of my life where I’ve been blind and so

I’ve been searchin’ my soul tonight
I know there’s so much more to life
Now I know I can shine a light
Everything’s gonna be alright
I’ve been searchin’ my soul tonight
Don’t wanna be alone in life
Now I know I can shine a light
To find my way back home

Baby, I been holding back now my whole life
I’ve decided to move on now
Gonna leave all my worries behind

Oh I believe I am ready for what love has to give
Got myself together now I’m ready to live

I’ve been searchin’ my soul tonight
I know there’s so much more to life
Now I know I can shine a light
Everything’s gonna be alright

I’ve been searchin’ my soul tonight
Don’t wanna be alone in life
Now I know I can shine a light
To find my way back home

After the song was over, the words kept going through Joey’s mind. //Oh I’ve been thinking of you for a long time/ There’s a side of my life where I’ve been blind/ Oh, I believe I am ready for what love has to give/ Got myself together now I’m ready to live// She knew what she had to do now. She had always known, but now she was ready. She looked up at Dawson, but he already knew.

“Your face is like an open book, Jo,” he said a little sadly. “Good luck.”

She smiled. “Thanks, Dawson.” She gave him a kiss on his cheek and headed for the door, just missing Nicole, who had been watching them dance, a little jealously.

She walked up to Dawson. “Hi,” she managed to smile. “Miss me?”

“There you are, Nic,” he said, his relief evident. “I was just going to go look for you.”

“Where did Joey go?” she asked carefully.

“To Pacey,” he explained, as Joey pushed her way back to them.

“Uh, Dawson?” she began, embarrassed. “Can I-“

She stopped when he held up his car keys. “Crash it and buy me another one,” he warned, only half joking.

She took them. “Thanks again, Dawson.” She noticed the petite brunette next to him. “Nicki! Are you feeling better?”

Nicole gave her a genuine smile. “Much better, thanks. Good luck with Pacey.”

“Thanks. Bye, guys.” With that, she was gone again.

“I’m glad you feeling better,” Dawson said, leading Nicole to a table. “Is it a cold, you think? You’ve been feeling down for a while now.”

Nicole took a deep breath. Now or never. “No, it’s not a cold, Dawson. I went to the doctor today.”

Instantly, he was concerned. “Are you okay?”

“That depends on your definition of okay,” she responded. “I’m pregnant.”

He sat there, stunned. “P-pregnant? How far?” he asked.

“15 weeks,” she told him nervously.

He sat back. “Wow. That far along. I just can’t believe it.” He noticed Nicole’s heart broken expression. He knew she had always wanted a child, even though not this early. “Oh, Nicki. I’m sorry. It’s good news. I am happy. It’s just…” he trailed off.

“I know,” she told him softly. “I know.”

***

Joey was driving down the expressway, heading towards Boston. She turned on the radio, scanning through the channels until she found her favorite station.

“And this one is going out to David from Shelley,” the DJ boomed. “She loves you so much, and she's sorry about your fight."

You've got a way with me
Somehow you got me to believe
In everything that I could be
I've gotta say—you really got a way

You've got a way it seems
You gave me faith to find my dreams
You'll never know just what that means
Can't you see. . .you got a way with me

It's in the way you want me
It's in the way hold me
The way you show me just what love's made of
It's in the way we make love

You've got a way with words
You get me smiling when it hurts
There's no way to measure what your love is worth
I can't believe they way you get through to me

It's in the way you want me
It's in the way hold me
The way you show me just what love's made of
It's in the way we make love

Oh, how I adore you
Like no one before you
I love you just the way you are

It's in the way you want me
It's in the way hold me
The way you show me just what love's made of
It's in the way we make love

It's just the way you are

“Well, David, don’t be a stranger! Call Shelley now,” the DJ said. "And now here's another request, from Carida to Nicky B. Here's "Neighborhood," by Vonda Shepard Joey made a face. There was a limit to the amount of Vonda Shepherd songs one person could tolerate in one day. She scanned through the stations again, not finding anything that held her interest. She finally ended up listening to a mix tape that Dawson had made and left in his car.

A few hours later, she was finally in Boston. She pulled her address book out of her purse to look up Pacey’s address. She had been to Boston enough times to have a fairly clear idea of where his dorm was. 10 minutes and only one wrong turn later, she pulled into the parking lot and headed for the dorm. She walked through the doors that someone held open for her, and made her way to room 137. She knocked on the door, and her mouth dropped open in surprise when the door was opened.

Pacey stood in the doorway to his dorm room. He couldn’t believe that Joey was there. Or how beautiful she looked in her bulky emerald green sweater and black jeans. He noticed she seemed a little discomforted, and worried that she was regretting her trip from New York.

Meanwhile, Joey still couldn’t find her voice. He must have started working out during the 6 months she hadn’t seen him. Well, seen him this close up, anyway. Her eyes started at the top of his dripping wet head, slowly moving down, once again noticing that he only wore a towel. She swallowed hard, and he finally remembered what he was wearing. Or, more to the point, what he *wasn’t* wearing. He blushed faintly as his eyes met hers. There was music playing, but for the life of him, he couldn’t even say what song.

“I think I better change into something a little, um, less comfortable,” he said with a cough, moving backwards towards the bathroom without breaking eye contact.

Joey made a split second decision, praying that she wouldn’t regret it. “No,” she said softly, putting her hand on his arm.

He paused, knowing that there was no way that she had said what he thought she just said. “What?” he squeaked.

She walked closer to him, not letting go of his arm. “I…said…no,” she said distinctly, still quiet, but more insistently.

“Uh, no as in…” he said, waiting for her to finish the thought.

“No as in this,” she said, stepping much closer to give him an intense, passionate kiss.

Pacey wondered briefly about her change of heart concerning him, but quickly decided to just accept it with no questions. As they fell onto his bed, he thanked his lucky stars that his roommate was spending the weekend at his girlfriend’s apartment.

Awhile later, Pacey had his arms wrapped around Joey, her back to his chest. He kissed her neck as she smiled. “So, Jo. What changed your mind about me? About us?” he asked, deliberately casual.

“It was Dawson, actually,” she told him, moving her head so he could kiss her with more ease.

He drew back. “Dawson,” he repeated. Always Dawson. Didn’t anything ever change?

Joey noticed his tone and turned over to face him. “Mm-hmm. Dawson and Vonda Shepherd,” she grinned.

“Vonda Shepherd. Okay,” he said. “I don’t think I really want to hear the connection there.”

She giggled. Pacey was amazed. He had never heard her giggle like that. “Okay, Pacey. Then all you need to know is that I realized that I love you. Again. So, I borrowed Dawson’s car and drove here to see you.”

He smiled at her. “And I’m glad you did. Jo, I’m sorry about the way I acted last summer.”

“You were horrible,” Joey agreed. He looked at her, waiting. She sighed. “And I’m sorry that I ran instead of dealing with it. It’s just that,” she faltered.

“What?” he asked her gently.

She looked down. “I guess I had just convinced myself that I didn’t deserve to be happy, to have a relationship with you. So, when you started to get jealous, I just took it as a sign that I was right and it was time to get out before someone got really hurt.”

“Seriously?” Pacey asked, surprised. When she nodded, he told her, “That’s how I felt. I guess we’re more alike than we thought, huh?”

“Guess so,” she said. There was an awkward silence.

“So, um, now what?” Pacey asked, a little nervous.

“I don’t know. I guess we just take it one day at a time,” she offered.

“Does that mean we’re back together?” he asked hopefully.

“I think so,” she nodded. “I mean, if you want to be.”

“Yeah, I want to be,” he replied, flashing her a huge smile.

“Well, then.”

“Yeah.”

“Glad to have that cleared up.”

“Absolutely.” He cleared his throat.

“Hey, what song is this?” Joey asked.

He listened for a second. “You’re Still the One,” he told her. “Sean, my roommate, his girlfriend loves Shania Twain. I swear, every time she’s here, we have to listen to that CD.”

“Do you think we’ll ever be able say that?” she asked.

Okay, he was lost. “Um, say what?” he asked, twirling a lock of her hair.

“That after all the years, we’re still together,” she explained.

“Oh, yeah,” he said, certain of what he was saying. “Absolutely. If we try hard enough, we’ll be looking back on this after 20 years of marriage and wondering what the hell took us so long.”

“Marriage, huh? Planning ahead, are we?” she teased.

“Uh-huh. Like, in five minutes, I see us…”

“You see us what?” she asked, grinning. He whispered in her ear. “Oh, I see. But that’s such a long time to wait.” She leaned closer. “Let’s start now,” she said, her breath tickling his ear.

Pacey grinned. He could definitely get used to this.

~~

"Mom?" Her daughter's voice cut into Joey's memories. "Um, you kinda blanked on me. What happened after you left Capeside for college?"

Joey smiled. There were, after all, things her daughter really didn't need to know. The details of her conception was definitely one of them. "We didn't talk until January. Christmas was hell. All I did was try to avoid your father. When Dawson and I got back to New York, he complained about how much I was moping. Finally, I just gave in. I couldn't go another minute without your father," she said softly, a smile on her face. "So, I borrowed Dawson's car and drove to Boston. We talked, we forgave, and we decided to never do anything like that again," Joey laughed. "One fight like that is more than enough for a lifetime. Two months after that, I found out I was pregnant with you. We finished our freshman year, and moved back to Capeside. Bessie, Bodie and Alexander were moving to Boston anyway, where Bodie's new restaurant was, so they sold us the old house, and gave us the Ice House. We got married that summer, and we did all right. Your dad went to Capeside College during the day, while I worked at the Ice House, and I took classes at night. Your father got a job at the high school when he graduated, and we managed to save enough to buy a new house that was a little bigger. And that's that. Your dad still teaches, I still manage the Ice House and sell some paintings, and we're still together."

"Wow," Allie said, softly "But don't you regret not leaving Capeside? You said that you wanted to get out more than anything, and here you are."

Joey paused, choosing her words carefully. "I had a full scholarship to Columbia," she began slowly. "All four years, completely paid for, plus I would get a little extra every semester. Freshman year was. . .well, it was wonderful, even with how I felt about the fight. I had my whole life in front of me. And then, I was back with your father, and life was perfect, except that we were so far apart. And then I found out I was pregnant with you, and things just happened. I couldn't go to school and have you too, not so far away, so I had to choose. I chose you, and your father. It was the right decision."

Allie shook her head. "And you never regretted it? I don't believe it."

Joey sighed. "No, I don't regret it. Sure, there were times when I thought that I crazy for giving up all my dreams, but I found new ones. Ones that included a husband, daughter, and a business. I wouldn't change anything about my life now, Allie. Nothing."

Allie opened her mouth to say something else when they heard the front door slam. "Hey, where is everyone?" a man called out.

"We're back here," Joey called.

Pacey walked in through the doorway and dropped his briefcase on the floor with a crash. "Hey, Al," he said, dropping a kiss on the top of her head. He walked over to his wife and, bending down, gave her a kiss on her lips. "Hi, Joey."

"Hi," she smiled back, happy to see him. "I was just helping Allie with her history homework."

"Yeah?" he asked, pulling Joey to her feet before he sat down in her chair and pulled her onto his lap. He looked at Allie. "What was the assignment?"

"I have to write an essay on how you guys met and fell in love," Allie explained.

Pacey looked at Joey. "Oh, boy," he grinned. "I'm not sure I like the sound of that."

Joey grinned back and glanced at her watch. "And it only took us 3 hours," she laughed.

Allie picked up her tape recorder and backpack. "I'll leave you guys alone now," he said. "I have a lot to type up here." She left the room, heading towards her bedroom.

"So, how much did you tell her?" Pacey asked Joey.

"Almost everything," she responded, resting her head on his. "Just briefly glossed over Tamara Jacobs. Of course, I didn't talk about Dawson and Nicole's affair during the chicken pox episode and the miscarriage. That's in the past, and no one ever needs to know about it," she said. "Besides, she'd tell James, and he would confront his parents, and Dawson and Nic don't need to go into that one again."

"Did you ever think that your daughter would be dating Dawson's son?" Pacey laughed.

"Yeah, talk about life's ironic twists," she agreed.

He leaned over and turned on the oldies station. He smiled when he heard the song playing. "May I have this dance, my love?"

She smiled at him. "I thought you'd never ask."

They stood and began swaying to the gentle music. "I love you, Pace," she whispered.

"I love you too, Joey," he smiled, leaning down for a kiss.

(When I first saw you, I saw love. And the first time you touched me, I felt love. And after all this time, you're still the one I love.)

Look like we made it
Look how far we've come my baby
We mighta took the long way
We knew we'd get there someday
They said, "I bet they'll never make it"
But just look at us holding on
We're still together still going strong

(You're still the one)
You're still the one I run to
The one that I belong to
You're still the one I want for life
(You're still the one)
You're still the one that I love
The only one I dream of
You're still the one I kiss good night

Ain't nothin' better
We beat the odds together
I'm glad we didn't listen
Look at what we would be missin'
They said, "I bet they'll never make it"
But just look at us holding on
We're still together still going strong

(You're still the one)
You're still the one I run to
The one that I belong to
You're still the one I want for life
(You're still the one)
You're still the one that I love
The only one I dream of
You're still the one I kiss good night
(You're still the one)

You're still the one I run to
The one that I belong to
You're still the one I want for life
(You're still the one)
You're still the one that I love
The only one I dream of
You're still the one I kiss good night

I'm so glad we made it
Look how far we've come my baby

The End. FINALLY!! *g*

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