By Canton Heroine

Disclaimer: I don't own Dawson. I don't want him. But the Pacey in this story is all mine.

Summary: Alternate Series ending. Everything follows canon up until the finale when the event bringing them all back to Capeside changes from the wedding to Grams' funeral. Dawson didn't make it back for that, but everyone else did. In this universe, Jen is perfectly healthy and raising Amy as a single mom; Jack is happy with Doug; and Pacey and Joey got together, but Franken-forehead doesn't know about it. Five years later, he's back – this time it is for Gale's wedding – and he finds a few surprises.

"A friendship that can cease has never been real."

- Saint Jerome (374BC – 419AD)

Chapter One

Home sweet home.

Dawson Leery squinted into the sunlight reflecting off the still water of the creek and smiled. Even though he hadn't made the journey back home for almost a decade, the picture-perfect postcard he saw through the windscreen of his rental car remained virtually indistinguishable from the one he tried to recreate on-screen every week. It was comforting to know that some things didn't change, no matter how much time had passed.

And time had definitely passed; a whole lot faster than he had ever anticipated. The last several years had gone by in one big chaotic blur. In fact, the last time there'd been a mass gathering of Capesiders, just over five years prior to this one, Dawson had been a no-show. Instead of flying in, he'd opted to remain in LA for some frantic last-minute editing on the pilot for his television show, hoping against hope that it would be picked up for a full season. Not that Grams' funeral hadn't been significantly more important in the grander scheme of things, but back then his career was riding the fast track and it had been far too difficult for him to take a break.

He'd sent flowers instead.

This occasion was destined to be a happier one, and one he was obligated to attend since he was to be giving his Mom away at her wedding. He was actually looking forward to it. Trent was a nice guy and most days Dawson was pleased to have him on board as part of the family. It also didn't hurt that as a tearaway eleven-year-old, Lily was in dire need of a father figure and Trent was willing to stick around to play the part.

Shaking off the heavy introspection that had tended to cloud his thoughts of late, he continued driving around the bay toward his old house, determined to stay in good spirits. The last thing he wanted was for his encroaching depression to ruin his Mom's big day. He was passing the Potter B&B - hoping to catch a glimpse of Bessie, and thereby an excuse to stop and ask about her sister - when he spied a young girl outside, playing in the backyard. A powerful wave of déjà vu washed over him and he slammed on the brakes and stared. Compelled to investigate further, he found himself pulling into the drive and getting out of the car.

He approached cautiously, willing himself not to blink in case she disappeared into thin air. Given his jet-lagged state, a hallucination didn't seem entirely out of the realm of possibility.

Standing before him was a perfect little tomboy in denim cut-offs and a baggy Bruins jersey. About five or six years old, she had pretty doll-like features and long limbs, as gangly and awkward as a newborn colt, even at this early stage of her life.

Every last thing about her was familiar, from the shape of her face and her long dark hair, down to her bony, band-aid adorned knees and bare muddy feet. In fact, he'd seen a girl just like her every day of his own childhood. Usually right here in this very backyard.

This girl was the spitting image of Joey Potter. And as much as he wanted to ignore it, or to speculate on other possible means to account for this miniature doppelganger, he couldn't deny what he already knew in his heart of hearts. She belonged to his soul mate. Joey had a daughter.

Why hadn't he known about this monumental occurrence?

"Hi!" she said brightly, breaking into his reverie and blinking up at him curiously.

Dawson blinked back. Her intense blue-green eyes were unexpected, particularly when he'd been anticipating smoky brown, and he felt their impact like a fist to his gut.

"Hello." He knelt down, essentially to put himself nearer to her level, but also to get a closer look. There was something else about her that rang a distant alarm bell, and a certain suspicion was beginning to niggle at the edge of his mind.

It was the eyes. If only he could place those eyes…

She returned the scrutiny fearlessly, seeming to stare straight through him, and then smirked in a knowing manner that suggested a mature sensibility well beyond her tender years. "You're Dawson."

His brows shot up in surprise. "That's right." He laughed and nodded. "That's exactly right, actually. And might I inquire who you are?"

"I'm Daddy's Bonnie Darlin'."

"Of course you are."

She scowled. "Don't patronize me, man."

And right there was the clincher, the final kick in the teeth. That niggling suspicion had now become hard fact. He knew that expression only too well, and when it was coupled with that cynical, drawling tone and heavy-lidded glare…there was no doubt in his mind of her father's identity, no doubt at all. The fist in his gut tightened and twisted, making it hard to draw the breath to speak.

"I – I didn't mean to, Bonnie. I'm sorry."

"Yeah, whatever." Bonnie sniffed, eyeing him skeptically. "Mom's up at the house." And just like that he was dismissed. She tucked her hair behind her ears in an endearingly familiar gesture and walked away.

Dawson stood, trying to assimilate this new information, to have it reconcile with the history in his head. It wasn't a comfortable fit.

Joey had a daughter.

More importantly, Joey had a daughter with Pacey.

How had this happened? When had he drifted so far away from their group that he hadn't been included in this? His mother could have said something, given him a clue at the very least. Or perhaps she had, and he'd simply been too involved in his work to pay her any mind. Maybe Joey hadn't wanted him to know, for whatever reason. Maybe she was ashamed.

He wondered for a moment if Pacey had left her to raise Bonnie alone, but quickly abandoned that idea. The girl was obviously aware of, and adoring of her father. He was around in some sort of capacity. What he couldn't begin to comprehend was why Joey was back in Capeside at all, living in her old house of all places. What about her well-documented yearning to get out, to travel the world, to further her career? And if Joey was at the B&B, where on earth was Bessie?

Shaking himself out of his funk, he started along the well-trodden path toward the house.

There were too many questions here. He needed to find some answers.

Joey stepped out onto the porch, her attention focused solely on her daughter's intended destination.

"Bonnie Witter! Don't you dare go near that creek! We're supposed to go to Aunt Gale's when your father gets home, and I don't want to have to get you changed again!"

"Okay!" Bonnie answered readily enough but didn't alter her trajectory, wandering out onto the Potter dock, sitting down and dangling her feet off the edge.

Joey sighed. "Just don't get wet!" She caught a flash of blue from the corner of her eye, and startled when it coalesced into the form of an Oxford shirt. Even more startling was the fact that it was worn by Dawson Leery. "Oh! God!" She put a hand over her heart, trying to calm herself. "Dawson?"


"Hey." Joey didn't know what else to say. She gawked at him wide-eyed. "Dawson, you're…here. In Capeside. At my house."

"It looks that way, yeah."

A long moment passed as they stared at each other; him looking like he'd been hit by lightning, and her gnawing anxiously at her lower lip.

She cleared her throat. "Wow. So…this is kind of awkward. I, um…I guess we have some catching up to do, huh?"

Dawson just nodded, rendered speechless for perhaps only the second time in his life.

"Well then," Joey held the screen open and waved him indoors. "Welcome to the funhouse."