Wow, it has been a really long time...Like, over three months...o.O...Long time. I was just sitting at my Nanna's house with boredom and nothing to do...so I wrote. And I wrote. Lol...and then I wrote some more! Whoo! Lol...yeah. So I decided to give this poor, neglected fic a nice little update. ^_^

Nebula- I'm glad you liked the Doug/Pacey banter. ^_^ Yes, Doug is really gay; as you probably saw in the Series Finale (considering your fics) he dates Jack. But then again, you asked that three months ago so I have NO clue why I'm even bothering to answer...lol...Yeah, slash does seem to be pretty popular...Not really my thing, but oh well. I agree that Doug and Pacey's talk in the jail cell was pretty sweet and heartfelt. I was like "AWW! Doug ISN'T evil after all!" Hee hee...yes, I am the princess of off- topic reviews! Lol...Hee hee...It's very possible that I'm biased, and that the characters do indeed spew my true feelings. ^_^ Lol...Oh! Oh! I got quoted! Whoo! Lol...now I feel special. ^_^ I'm glad you liked that line. *grins* Thanks for the review, and I'll see what I can do about "One Way Ticket." Updates are slow, but I'm working on it. ^_^ I write it as it comes to me...lol...thanks again for your support!

Katie- Yes, Jen is the nice one here. Lol...I'm not a bid Dawson fan either. (No, really?) Lol...Yes...everyone is jealous of Pacey! As it should be. ^_^ Thanks for the review!

Lou- Yeah, Dawson and Joey are making me sick too...*groans* The sacrifices I make for my art...lol...^_~ Thanks for reviewing, and enjoy the chapter!

Rachel- Yes, the evil Big-Foreheaded-One hurt my Pacey...*pouts* I still have yet to fully forgive him for his evilness in, like, all the P/J seasons...lol...EVERWOOD! Lol...yeah...I like that show...lol...Yeah, Jen is being good. And Dawson and Joey are being evil...I'm a huge P/J shipper too, so this is very difficult for me. ^_^ Thanks so much for the sweet review, and I hope you enjoy the update!

Nice-one- I'm so glad to hear you liked the chapter. ^_^ I'm really flattered that you think I write Pacey well. ^_^ I hope I continue to live up to the standards. *grins* Yay! I'm so glad you liked that quote! Lol...Sorry for the long wait!

Xanya-forever- I was so happy to read your review! I couldn't help but smile, and it means a lot to me that you said it was powerful. I'm trying! ^_^ I was really happy to read your comments. They mean a lot. Yeah, Andie was the one who paid attention...but you'll just have to see what happens. ^_^

Liz- I'm glad you liked the chapter. ^_^ It's good to know you enjoyed the Pacey/Jen talk. *grins*...*shudders with you* Yes, Dawson scares me too. Lol...thanks for reviewing!

SmOgLoViNg- I'm honored that you decided to read, even with no P/J lovin'! It pains me too, but I have to try and manage...lol...I hope you continue to enjoy the story.

Kel- Yay! You read and reviewed! *does happy dance* Lol...I guess I can forgive you this ONE time. ^_~ Hehehe, I bet you'd NEVER guess, but I like Pacey angst too! NO! Really! Lol...yeah...I'm happy to hear you think I have Pacey down well. ^_^ I think you do too! ^_~ *face grims and frowns* Yes, Dawson and Joey were evil...and it is VERY hard for me...I'm always glad to hear you enjoy my reviews! ^_^ Speaking of which, I have to chapters to read and review as soon as I can. It will happen eventually, I promise...lol...And I'm DEFINITELY looking forward to it. Enjoy!

Disclaimer- I don't own Dawson's Creek or any of the characters associated with it. Wow, that sounded so professional...lol...

-Chapter 3-

Pacey sat in the swivel chair, feet propped on the counter and feeling down. He had to run the shift by himself, and his day had been less than stellar as it was.

He had managed to convince Jen the bruise was from a cabinet, but that didn't make it hurt any less. He had to wonder how long it would be there this time. It sure wasn't fun having to explain yourself, even if it was only to one person who didn't really know you that well.

There had been a steady stream of customers going in and out, keeping him on his toes. Much to his relief, he hadn't had a customer in almost ten minutes.

He arched his head back and closed his eyes, enjoying the peace and quiet while it lasted.

Don't get the wrong idea; he wasn't turning into some old cranky person who disliked loudness and calamity. He simply felt the need to be introspective as long as he was alone.

But the stupid elevator music playing could really go...He wouldn't mind at all if it went away...

Suddenly, the sound of the bell above the door clinging, begging his immediate attention, grabbed him and shook him back from his reverie.

When he looked up, he saw Jen stroll in and walk to the counter.

"Hey Pace."

"Hey Jen," he replied, stretching and folding his arms behind his head. "What brings you here?"

"Oh, I just came by to rent a movie for a date. You know, that nonexistent one I had planned for tonight?" she said with a sigh as she leaned against the counter.

"I know the feeling," he said with a shrug.

She gave him a half-smile. "Okay, okay. I can't lie anymore. You twisted my arm...I came by because I have no life, you have no life, and I figured that if you were just going to sit here all alone, I might as well come and be angsty with you."

Pacey let out a light laugh. "No life, you say? Oh, I most definitely have a life."

She cocked an amused eyebrow. "Really? And that's why you're sitting all alone in an empty video rental store by yourself on a Friday night?"

He shrugged and pretended to wave it off with his hand. "Details, details! I'm just trying to throw you off the scent. Besides, it's easy money." Pacey grinned at her, trying not to show how he had been feeling before she showed up. Trying to be who they expected him to be.

Jen shrugged and nodded. "Point taken. I'll let you off this time." They let silence hang in the air for a few more moments before Jen glanced at the TV screen. "What are you watching?" she asked.

Pacey looked at the screen and back at her.

"I have absolutely no clue."

"Ah..." she said with a nod. "Works for me. How long until you get off your shift?"

The boy looked up at the clock hanging on the wall. "About thirty minutes. Dawson was supposed to be here, but we both know what happened with that...I'm just relieved it wasn't that busy tonight."

Jen nodded, feeling her heart drop at the mention of Dawson.

Looking up at Pacey, she gave him a look of inspiration. "What do you say we cut thirty minutes early and go do something fun. I don't want to be depressed over Dawson, I don't think WE'VE actually ever done anything together WITHOUT Dawson, and no one seems to want to rent a movie tonight anyway."

He thought it over. She had a good point...

"Sure. Why not?" Pacey agreed with a nod, standing up and flipping off the unwatched TV and pushing the swivel chair back under the counter.

With that, Pacey flipped the lights off and followed Jen outside, locking up for the night. This had been one of the times he was working late; it was nearly eight-thirty, and it still surprised him that the store would close at nine on a Friday night...Not that he thought anybody would notice the difference between him closing at eight-thirty rather than nine.

"Where to, oh fearless leader?" he asked Jen cockily, feeling his mood improve just slightly.

"Hey, you can't rush greatness...These things take time..."

The two teens walked down the street, trying to decide what they were going to actually do now that they tore Pacey from his job...As if that was a terribly difficult thing to do...

"Movies?" Jen offered weakly, unable to come up with anything else.

"No, that's way too much like what we always do...If we wanted movies, we were kind of already at a movie rental place where we could watch for free," Pacey said with a sigh. "Man, we really, truly are boring people...It's pathetic..."

She nodded. "We need help...We've been brainwashed into thinking movies are the only form of entertainment. We can't handle anything else..."

"We must break free!" Pacey declared dramatically.

"Yes...now what else can we possibly do? What else IS there to do?" Jen asked hopelessly, letting out a sigh.

"I don't really know..." Pacey admitted. "I've lived here my entire life, and I honestly cannot answer that question."

Silence returned.

Frowning, Pacey turned back to Jen. "Okay, this proves it. We have become WAY too dependent on Dawson...This has to stop."

"I agree. Who says that just because they're happy, we have to be miserable?" Jen asked.

"The laws of nature," Pacey joked, earning a light swat on the arm.

Pacey could feel a genuine smile on his face as he began to relax. "You know, I'm beginning to wonder why I've never hung out with you before."

Jen shrugged and grinned. "I was dead-smitten with Dawson, and you were off in your own little world. We just weren't given the chance to realize we don't need them."

He nodded in agreement. "I think you're exactly right. Let's have ourselves a fun weekend just to spite them."

"And then we'll pretend that they care!" she added with a laugh.

"YES! We will do just that. I think this could be the beginning of a beautiful understanding," he said, placing one hand on her shoulder and another over his heart, pretending to be emotional.

"I think so, too..." Jen said, laughter in her voice.

"So...where are we going again?"

~~~*~~~

Pacey and Jen stumbled out of the third diner/coffee shop they had hit that night in fits of laughter. The manager had kicked them out when they started playing with the salt and pepper shakers.

"We just are NOT having much luck with managers tonight..." Jen said with a giggle, totally wired from all the coffee they had consumer over the past three-and-a-half hours.

"No kidding...Apparently they don't find trying to make sand castles out of salt and pepper HALF as amusing as we do..." Pacey said, grinning from ear to ear.

"I know! It just doesn't make sense! Who could NOT find that funny? It's nearly impossible, but it's still fun!" she sputtered, trying to calm the giggles down at least a little.

"I don't get it either. They simply are too boring to understand our logic and easily amused personalities," Pacey said as if it were the simplest of truths.

"That must be it..." Jen said, her face still bright from laughter.

By chance, Jen happened to glance at a clock inside a building they were passing.

"Oh my gosh! Look what time it is!" Jen said, her mood shifting to a slight mix of panic and surprise.

Pacey looked at the clock to see it was nearly twelve o'clock at night. Had time really passed that fast?

"We should probably get you home, then. I didn't even think about the time. Your Grams is probably bordering on hyperventilation at this point," Pacey said, a tinge of humor in his voice.

"Yeah, she probably thinks I'm off partying or doing something illegal..." Jen said, shrugging once the shock factor wore off. She was in no hurry to get home.

Pacey wasn't either.

"What are you talking about? Time with Pacey Witter is always a party!" he joked, trying to mask the sick, sinking feeling he got at the thought of going back home.

Jen laughed again, shaking her head slightly. "Of course. How could I forget?"

"I don't really know. You just must be silly that way." He hoped to postpone the journey home for as long as humanly possible.

Jen couldn't help but notice a slight change in his tone of voice. It wasn't drastic, but she thought she could detect it...It might just be her mind, though...

Shrugging it off, she continued. "That surely must be it."

At that, the two sophomores set off for home. Neither particularly wanted to, but they knew it had to be done.

Pacey dropped Jen off at her door for the second time that day before starting the final stretch home.

With every step forward he took, he had to resist the building urge to turn around and run back screaming. He knew his father would be furious over something, be it his late arrival, a bad day in general, or just sheer hate for his youngest child's existence.

He dreaded the thought of being home and was surprised how he had gone the whole rest of the day without thinking about it.

The fear peaked as he twisted the doorknob of the front door and pushing on in, being careful not to make any loud noises.

His efforts were not in vain as he snuck past his father's sleeping body and crept into his room, shutting the door securely behind himself.

~~~*~~~

Morning came, and Pacey was jolted awake by the sound of his bedroom door swinging open.

"Where were you last night?!" a harsh voice demanded, preventing Pacey from returning to his sleeping state.

Still not fully awake, his brain didn't process the question completely.

"Huh?"

"I SAID where were you last night!" the voice bellowed, grabbing the scruff of Pacey shirt and yanking him to his feet.

Pacey stumbled slightly, still recovering from sleep. "I-I had a late shift."

"Not until THAT late you didn't! You better tell me where you were." The man stood threateningly close to Pacey's wobbly form.

The teen rubbed his eyes, trying not to show the tense fear that overtook his body.

"I was with Jen," he said, trying to hold back a yawn.

He felt himself get shoved backwards, snapping him back into reality.

"You mean to tell me you were with that the little slut from New York?!" the man shouted, his face growing red with anger.

Pacey frowned as his eyes focused. "You take that back."

"I'll say what I want, boy, and you better watch your mouth! I'm mad enough as it is that you went out and slept with that little skank!"

The frown deepened as Pacey glared. "I did not sleep with her, thank you very much. We just walked around for awhile after I got off work."

"And you expect me to believe that. Just like you 'didn't sleep with' your English teacher, right? Are you DELIBERATELY trying to make me mad?!" the sheriff nearly screamed.

"Nope. It's just a perk, I guess."

Pacey felt hard bone connect with his neck as he stumbled back into the wall, closing his eyes in surprise as he felt the sharp pain.

"You should think twice before speaking," his father told him, earning a defiant, but silent, glare in return. "Why can't you be more like Doug? He never stayed out after curfew. Not to mention YOU had to go make friends with the convict's daughter and the law-breaking problem child from New York. The only decent friend you've got is that Leery boy, and that's even considering his mother had an affair with her co-anchor. Doug never did stuff like that! HE is a good son, and doesn't let me down-"

"Look, I don't freakin' CARE about Doug and his perfection! I am not Doug, and I don't WANT to hear it again!" Pacey shouted in frustration.

The words had barely left Pacey's mouth before his father's knuckles connected with his jaw.

He clamped his eyes closed again and suppressed a yelp, his hands flying to his jaw.

Realizing Pacey was sufficiently quieted, Sheriff John Witter left the room.

Pacey watched his father leave, glaring icily as he dared not open his mouth.

A few moments later, Pacey let out a shuddering breath as he sank to the floor.

He wasn't sure how much more of this he could take...