Too Late by Scarlet

Hindsight is 20/20, Joey had heard it all her life.

She didn't like to think about it, the idea that when she'd needed to put her heart on the line, she was too weak to give love a chance.

But here, now, she couldn't ignore it.

Unlike every other day of her life, when all she did was try.

There wasn't a time that she didn't think about him, remember what they had and the chance she gave up. She knew...believed with all her heart, that they would have been happy together.

But Pacey was nothing if not a survivor.

Joey winced at her own thoughts, not failing to recognize the poor choice of words for the day.

"Joey?" a soft voice penetrated her consciousness and she looked up as recognition poured through her.

"Jen," she breathed, taking in the sight of the woman she hadn't seen in so long. Not since her wedding day.

"Thanks for coming, Joey," she whispered, her face drawn and white. Silver danced in her hair and wrinkles decorated the corners of her eyes, but the beauty of that girl she'd been so jealous of was still so very present in Jen Lind-

Joey sighed.

...Jen Witter.

"I couldn't stay away, Jen...not now."

Tears filled Jen's eyes and she looked up to try to control herself. "I'm sorry, I'm a mess."

"You're not supposed to just be okay, Jen," Joey murmured, "Let yourself grieve."

"I'm so sick of it, Joey...he was my life. I'll carry this with me forever."

Joey nodded, "I know what you mean, but you should. You loved him."

"More than my life," Jen nodded, "Do you still miss your mom?"

"All the time."

"They say marriage is hard, Jo, but the last twenty years were the easiest and happiest of my life... I just...I should have known something would take it away," Jen's shoulder's shook and Joey winced, reaching out automatically to comfort her friend. The friend she never talked to.

Stifling her jealousy, Joey tried to pull herself together. She was happy now, wasn't she? Had she really wanted Pacey to be miserable too? To pine for her?

iYes/i a voice whispered.

"I'm glad you were happy, Jen. I've never seen anything as beautiful as your wedding."

iHe'd thanked her for coming and swung her around.

"I'm getting MARRIED, Jo! Can you believe it?" he'd asked.

And she could believe it. Pacey Witter was going to marry Jennifer Lindley and she had somehow found a way to congratulate them both.

Even then, she was a liar./i

"It was like our honeymoon never ended," Jen murmured, looking out over the Creek where they spent their young lives. "What a way to hit the ground," she murmured.

Joey felt sick and tried to push it aside. Jen was her friend and she needed her.

"So how are YOU, Joey?" Jen seemed to catch herself, gazing back at her friend.

"Not too bad. I guess my life's been pretty successful."

Jen nodded, "That's what we've heard. Congratulations."

"I never saw this coming," Joey shook her head. "I just thought your lives would be perfect."

"The kid who hit him wasn't even 16," Jen murmured. "And he just reminded me so much of our son, that I couldn't..." She stopped speaking.

"You're more gracious than I would have been," Joey told her.

"He'll be haunted enough. If you were a mother..."

"I'd never understand," Joey cut her off, looking away. She didn't like to think of Jen as a mother of Pacey's children, but it was right there, in front of her.

Jen looked at her curiously for a second before getting up, "Did you and Dawson ever consider having kids?"

Joey shifted uncomfortably.

"We're both really busy..."

As always, Jen had the remarkable ability to see through her. "It took a lot out of our sex life," Jen smiled ruefully, "But I'd never regret it."

Sex life. Who even remembered those? Joey'd always thought the sex went downhill after marriage anyway. Though apparently not for Jen and Pacey.

"Did he ever forgive me?" Joey asked softly.

Jen turned to her sharply, searching her eyes, "Is that why you stayed away so long?"

It wasn't, but she had to know.

"He once said he wish he could thank you," Jen smiled, "The right people ended up together, Jo."

Inexplicably, the pain grew. She had been alone in her feelings for more than twenty years.

"Right," Joey agreed.

"Jen!" a voice called loudly.

Joey's heart began pounding as Jen sprang from her seat, rushing to meet her husband as Joey looked on, at the life she chose against.

The fear seemed so unimportant now as Pacey and Jen kissed, tears streaming down both their cheeks as they mourned their son's passing.

He didn't notice her presence. Jen pointed to her.

When their eyes met, she waited for the spark, the electricity that had always been a part of their relationship.

"Thanks for coming, Jo," he thanked her sincerely, giving her a light hug as though they meant nothing to each other.

"Honey, are you okay?" Jen whispered to him.

His eyes clouded. "Everything's ready, baby. I just-"

Joey cleared her throat, "I'll just be...upstairs."

Pacey tossed her a relieved, grateful look and she backed away in shock.

It was a moment of grief for a husband and wife. One she would never wish upon anyone, but was strangely jealous of.

She'd always felt that no one could have a stronger connection to Pacey Witter than she, herself, but Jen had twenty years, a marriage and children.

The dream of Joey and Pacey was a fantasy she, herself, had rejected.

And now it was too late.