"I don't know what to do. I never wanted it to get this far."
Joey glanced over at her woe-be-ridden friend. "I think it's gone past what you want, and into what's best for Amy territory."
"Yeah see, that's the other thing. I don't know what's best for Amy either." Jen sighed heavily and slumped forward to lay her forehead on the tabletop. "I'm a terrible mother."
"If you're trying to get me to feel sorry for you with all that melodramatic rambling, it's not working." Joey nudged Jen with her hip and placed the glass of wine she'd been pouring in front of her. "Here…in vino veritas."
Jen gulped the entire glass down and then reached for the bottle.
"No." Joey held it out of the way as she took a seat across from her friend. "There will be no drowning of sorrows. This is a brainstorming session only. We are going to resolve this issue today and that's final."
"Bitch," the blonde groused, pouting. "I knew moving back here was a mistake. Why did I let you talk me into it?"
"As I recall, there wasn't a lot of persuasion needed." Joey sipped delicately at her wine and then wrinkled her nose. She turned the bottle so that she could read the label. "This is going on my do-not-recommend list."
Jen grimaced. "Wish you'd have put Dawson on that list."
Joey arched a brow at her.
"I wasn't in love with him or anything, you know," Jen admitted suddenly, her gaze intent on her glass as she twirled the stem between her fingers. "For a long time I loved the idea of him, of what he represented. Dawson was like the living embodiment of the sweet, easy adolescence I never had, and I wanted that so badly I kind of misconstrued what he actually meant to me." She shrugged ruefully. "There wasn't any real passion there, though. Which, in hindsight, should have been the first thing that tipped me off. I think that's the main reason why we didn't work as a couple. Later, he became what he always should have been - a really good friend, and he was there for me after CJ, and that awful horrible never-to-be-mentioned-again rebound thing with Drue and…it just wasn't some star-crossed coming together, you know? It was more about two people finding comfort in the familiar than anything else."
Joey nodded. "It was the same thing with me. That time in college…" She paused and frowned. "Is it weird that we're comparing notes on this?"
"Oh please!" Jen scoffed. "Do you want to compare notes on Pacey? 'Cause we could do that instead if you'd prefer. I know I would."
"There is no comparison," Joey stated.
"Aw, that's adorable. But really, you've never shared any of the juicy details there. I know he's a great kisser, and he likes to sweet talk…"
"Trust me, those represent a mere fraction of Pace's true talents. Dawson…" Joey smirked evilly. "Dawson didn't measure up."
Jen paused for a second, not certain she'd heard correctly, and then she burst out laughing.
* * *
Dawson was aware that he was swaying because the horizon line looked like it was balancing on a teeter-totter. He wasn't entirely sure if it was because of the natural movement of the ocean or the amount of alcohol he'd consumed or some combination of the two, and while the effect was soothing in a strange sort of way, it wasn't doing a whole lot for his equilibrium. He squinted at the vessel's captain, who remained frustratingly sober.
"Issh not fair," he complained.
"Welcome to life, D." Pacey shoved a life-jacket at him. "Put that on. I don't want you drowning if you fall overboard."
"How come you're so mush better'n me?"
The other man froze and stared at him. "What?"
Dawson struggled his way into the bright orange garment. "You're nicer and smarter and better looking and… taller… and ev'rybody loves you…"
Pacey was torn between shock and laughter, the latter eventually winning out. "Man, you're such a lightweight."
"…an' you can hold your liquor better…"
Pacey snorted and helped tug the vest closed, snapping the clips and then straightening the little collar. "It's like dressing an oversized version of Jake," he muttered as he worked. "You're lucky I've had lots of practice."
"Lucky? I'm not lucky!" Dawson was suddenly adamant. "I'm like the anti-antith…the opposite of lucky. Oh! Hey, Pace, it's like that quote from T2. That guy said it…you know, what's his name…?"
"Big Arnie? 'Ah'll be baaack'," Pacey suggested in a passable imitation of Governor Schwarzenegger.
"No, no. The other one, the kid with the floppy hair." Dawson demonstrated that last part by waggling outstretched fingers in front of his forehead. "Furlong. 'There's no fate but what we make for ourselves'." He nodded emphatically. "That is so true. James Cameron, man. That guy is a genius. See, the reason that things've turned out the way they have for me is because I made it happen this way. Now, I just gotta…unmake it."
"Why does everything always have to come back to the movies with you? I know how much you like to live in your own head, but you've got to pay attention to real life, too. Why can't you just grow up and take responsibility for a change?"
Dawson's jaw dropped and he stared at Pacey like he was the Messiah. "Wow. Talk about hitting the nail on the head."
"Are you volunteering for the position of nail? 'Cause I find myself really wanting to hit you."
"Maybe you should. It might make you feel better. Or make me feel better."
He swayed a little to the left and Pacey watched him stagger, not lifting a finger to help. "Wouldn't really be worth the effort. Shaking some sense into you might have some interesting results, though. Possibly Technicolor."
"You really don't want to be friends again, huh?"
"It's not that simple. We're not five year old kids on the playground anymore, D. You can't keep acting the way that you do and expect people to continue liking you. I mean, I actually can't think of a single, solitary reason anybody in their right mind would contemplate any sort of friendship with you. You're arrogant, you're self-centred…" He cocked his head, eyes narrowing with cool intent. "Not to mention the perverted peeping tom tendencies you've developed lately."
Dawson gulped, feeling queasy. "What?" He tried on an unconvincing smile, but Pacey's steady gaze did not waver and he cracked under its weight. "I didn't go there intending to – to see…what I saw…"
"Alright, I'll buy that. For now. I won't even question your reasons for coming to my house late at night to see my wife. Whatever your intentions were, it didn't stop you from sticking around to enjoy the show."
"I, um, so Joey…?"
"…Doesn't know anything. And if you value your life, she won't ever find out."
"Why didn't you say something? Take her inside or…? Why'd you let her…do that in front of m-- in front of an audience? How could you humiliate her like that?"
"Is that what you think it was?" Pacey was honestly amazed. "Man, after all this time, you still don't get it. You look, but you don't see."
"Oh, I saw."
"No. I'm pretty sure those beady little eyeballs of yours are for decoration only, because you didn't see a damned thing. I wanted you to see her, to really see her. The real Jo – my Jo. I wanted you to realize what a gorgeous, passionate flesh-and-blood woman she is, instead of that feeble imitation you have on your stupid show all the time."
"You wanted to knock her off her cinematic pedestal." Dawson was still struggling to comprehend where Pacey was coming from, his own temper beginning to fray. "Tell me, Pace, how is that not a form of humiliation?"
"Dawson! God!" Frustrated, Pacey grabbed onto his shoulders, fingernails digging into the vest's nylon covering and making it screech in protest. The urge to just pick up the other man and toss him overboard was proving difficult to resist. "What does it take to penetrate that thick skull? She should never have been on that pedestal in the first place."
"Hey, even you called her a goddess once…"
The temptation had finally become too much to overcome. Pacey growled, curled his fingers under the straps of Dawson's vest and lifted, hauling the unresisting man up and over the side of the boat. The resulting splash was immensely satisfying, if only for a moment.
Pacey sighed and rubbed the back of his neck. "Jo's gonna kill me."