Pacey walked into Dawson's room in a frenzy. His friend had called him in a panic 30 minutes earlier and he had given up precious sleep to be there.

If he were to be honest with himself, he would admit that he came in such a rush because he was feeling guilty. He and Joey had spent almost every one of their free moments together ever since their kiss in the high school yard the week before. It was true that in-between kisses they had managed to plan Dawson's birthday party, but he did feel that he had also neglected Dawson himself quite a lot. He was pretty sure that with everything happening with Jack, Andie was also not being very loving.

"Dawson, what's up? I came as soon as I got your message."

"I'm freaking out" Dawson grabbed a clock in a frantic move.

"Why, what's the problem?"

Dawson moved the clock from one hand to another and then threw it at Pacey.

"It's almost midnight.

Pacey caught the clock in one swift move.

"Yeah, it's your birthday. In a couple of minutes, you're going to be 16. Congratulations, man, this is a major turning point."

"And I am eternally lost as a species on this planet"

"Oh this is going to be bad..." Pacey muttered more to himself than to Dawson.

"I'm about to be 16 in a matter of minutes and I'm still... me. The same whiny, adolescent, big-talking, small-doing loser I was a year ago."

"C'mon Dawson, that's not true"

"It's completely true! I mean, think about it. Every single person that I know is growing up and moving forward in some way. You and Joey have finally moved on from picking on each other to..." he paused a little and stared at Pacey who felt quite uncomfortable "... being with each other. Jen is... well she's not in a good place, I'm guessing, but still, she's moving forward. Even my parents are getting new lives! But me, I'm in the exact same place I was one year ago."

"Not quite so, Dawson. You have a girlfriend."

"She's my third girlfriend since my last birthday! That doesn't quite scream stable relationship, does it?"

"You're sixteen, man! And I thought what bothered you was the stability, not the lack of it!"

"There doesn't seem to be anything ahead of me. More of the same. I'm stagnant! No wonder I've had two girlfriends dump me in the past... eight months! I mean, what have I accomplished in the last year? One of my girlfriends moved on to a gay guy!" A nervous laughter followed. "Can we talk about this whole gay-man-straight-woman thing? There's got to be something going on that we're not seeing"

"You're right Dawson. It's all part of the evil gay plan to keep the species from repopulating." Pacey paused for a second but continued, interrupting Dawson's incoming line: "but seriously, man, you have another girlfriend yourself, what does it matter who Jen moved on to?"

"Well, I have to talk about Jen, cause I can't talk about Joey, cause she moved on to my best friend, who I am pretty sure she had a crush for years, even while dating me...!"

"Dawson, you're reeking of paranoia. At the beginning of the school year, that same best friend you mentioned tried and failed because she liked you! I honestly don't know why Joey likes me now, I am the most amazed person in the world in regards to this particular turn of events, but I am very sure that she didn't like me at all a few months ago."

"She did like you, she just didn't know it, Pacey. She found it out when, after our little basic kindergarten psychology conversation, I went straight to her and confronted her with the information."

That particular piece of information did not sit well with Pacey. However, for the sake of his distraught friend, he put aside the uncomfortable feeling that creeped into him and continued:

"C'mon Dawson. You need to stop looking to movies for all the answers to life's question. Okay? What you need to do is figure out what it is in life that you want and make it happen! Okay? Be definitive!"

"You're right. I need – I need definitive answers. Andie. Andie's the answer. This past week we did not communicate much and to be honest I was starting to be a little afraid of losing her. But no, I will not lose her. I will fight for her and we will be better than ever. How's that for definitive?

Pacey sighed as Dawson stormed out of the room.

The next morning in the Ice-House, Pacey, Joey and Jen were going one last time over the party details.

"Okay. We invite Dawson and Andie out to dinner. We keep them occupied until 9 o'clock at which point we'll make up some lame ass excuse about how we have to call it an early night. Then, we'll drive back to his house where..."

"I'll have set up the most fabulous surprise party ever." Jen interrupted. "I hope"

"I'm sure it will be fantastic. Testimonial to true friendship. The party to end all parties. From now on, the Leery house will be known as the Delta house of Capeside" Pacey continued encouragingly.

"Thanks. I don't know why I'm so nervous. It's not like I've never organized a party before."

Jack chose that particular moment to walk in. An awkward silence ensued. After some fumbling around with the dishes, he decided to leave the room while Jen was looking at anything except him.

Pacey decided, again, to be a good friend:

"Listen, Jen, not to pry or anything, but how are you doing? I mean, now that you've had time to process."

"I would do a whole lot better if everyone would stop asking me that in these solemn tones. Like I've just come down with some terminal disease. I mean, it's not me you should be asking – Jack is the one going through something. I will admit to being shocked at first, but I'm fine."

Jen got up and lifted her arms dramatically in the air.

"I'll just go and make sure everything's taken care of."

Pacey seated himself at the bar while Joey came and sat on the bar, leaning on him. Her finger started crawling slowly on his shoulder and he turned to her. She smiled.

"Joey."

"Hmmm?"

"When did you first realize you liked me?"

She looked confused at his question. Pacey was sure that he shouldn't have started looking a gift horse in the mouth. But his insecure self just needed to know.

"What do you mean?"

"I mean when was the first time you had an active thought on the lines of Oh my God, I like Pacey Witter"

"I don't think it was quite like that."

"How was it then?"

"What brought this on?"

Pacey didn't like her defensive attitude. It made him think the worst was actually true.

"If this helps, I'll tell you my part. I've liked you since the snail expedition." He started walking through the room and raised his arms in the air. "There, I said it, although I would think it was obvious. But you turned me down in such an obvious manner that I didn't think I had a chance so I buried it. And then suddenly, after you and Dawson broke up, immediately after, I'd say, you became this uber-friendly person that I could hardly recognize. Your banter was different, you were still sarcastic, but more on the friendly side. You decided to help me be better in school. You did... you made a great effort, Joey. Why?"

"I... " Joey's doe-like eyes turned large and she seemed slightly frightened of the conversation. Pacey decided to go for the kill.

"Could it be that someone else pointed you in my direction? Or was it simply that when you saw that one old friend wasn't working, you decided to try the other one?"

That was definitely over the line and he knew it when he said it. But the words of Dawson in the previous evening were at this point shouting in his mind.

"I think you've said quite enough, Pacey." Joey said and left. Pacey placed frustrated hands on his face and kicked a chair in a corner before heading out himself.

Bessie handed Joey her share of the tips.

"Here. You can get out of here early. I'm sure you want to get changed before going to dinner."

"Believe me, Bess. It's not going to take me very long to get dressed. It's not like I have to get all gussied up for anyone seeing me..." she said in frustration.

Bessie looked at her confused. The question was not asked, but Joey answered anyway.

"Totally out of the blue this morning Pacey asked me when I realized I liked him. And I didn't know what to say and suddenly he decided that the reason we got close these past few months was because it didn't work out with Dawson, so I wanted to try out the other best friend I had." She spit out the last words venomously.

"Joey... I'm sure he didn't mean it like."

"Then what did he mean it like, cause that is exactly what he said! I mean... what is wrong with me? It hasn't even been a week and we're already fighting?!"

"Joey... look at me." Bessie got up and came closer to her. "You and Pacey have been bickering since you met. This is a totally different kind of relationship than what you had with Dawson. With Dawson there was no spark so there was no fight. With Pacey, you're going to fight, you're going to make up and then you'll fight again. That's the way you two are. Now, from where I'm standing, he asked a question out of insecurity, you didn't answer, so his insecurity went through the roof. The mature way to handle it is to tell him."

"Tell him what?! Dawson was the one who first mentioned it. That was the first time I actively considered it! I cannot tell him that!"

"That wasn't what he asked, Joey. He didn't ask when you considered it. He asked when you knew."

In Doug's car, the atmosphere was gloomy at best. Pacey and Joey were not talking to each other, Dawson was staring out the window and Andie... Andie was weird.

"I have always wanted to sit in the backseat of a cop car. Hey! I know! Let's turn on the sirens!" She said excitedly.

"I don't think that's the best idea, sweetie..." Dawson said in a robotic manner.

Andie pouted and started making siren noises herself.

"Whoo-whoo! Book'em, Dan!" She then looked around her. "So this is what it's like when they cart you off to prison, huh?"

"Depends. There's different types" Dawson started "There's state-regulated ones and then there's the ones you're trapped in when your life is going nowhere and everyone else is moving forward"

Pacey couldn't help but wonder how Dawson's excitement about Andie had deflated so dramatically.

"Took a happiness pill this morning, did we, Dawson?"

"No, just a dose of bleak reality." Pacey took a look in the mirror at Andie who seemed perfectly content ignoring her boyfriend's depressed mood. He sighed and decided to keep being the supportive one, since obviously no-one else was going to.

"Okay, listen, buddy, on any other day of the year, I'd be more than happy to talk to you about this but since today's your birthday, why don't we try to concentrate on the positive, alright?"

"HEY! STOP THE CAR!" Andie's scream caused a strong sense of panic and Pacey slammed on the brakes.

"What? What did we hit?"

"Nothing. Just make a U-turn. I saw a really cool place back there."

Dawson intervened: "Uh, Andie? Could we please keep this impulsive streak that you're indulging in from killing anyone tonight?" His tone was still robotic, but Pacey thought it an improvement that he was at least using sarcasm.

"But honey, doctor's orders. Remember?"

Pacey didn't know what those orders were but one look at Dawson convinced him to make the U-turn. He ventured to take a look at Joey who was sitting quietly in the passenger's seat, but she was staring absent-mindlessly in front of her.

He had regretted the morning conversation ever since starting it. But while he was trying his best to fight it down, the insecure side of him was still bugging him: She hasn't truly answered your question.

After five minutes in the club, Andie stripped of hre jacked and revealed a spaghetti-strap dress. Both Pacey and Dawson stared at her as she did that. Joey, in her regular jeans, with a T-shirt that was just a little more elegant than what she usually wore, couldn't help but feel underdressed.

"Woah!" Dawson said, suddenly smiling. "Who are you and what have you done with my girlfriend?"

"She's been here all along. Just trapped beneath the bondage of Gap clothing and good girl complex."

"The good girl is part of your charm." Dawson said.

"Part of my charm. Not all of it. Remember, we're having fun? Besides, I need to let my it out to breath some fresh air for an evening."

Joey finally spoke:

"What exactly are you letting out?"

"It's what my therapist calls your it. It's the part of you that holds your purest impulses and desires. It doesn't care what anyone thinks. It just wants what it wants."

"And what do you think it wants?"

"Well, I think it's about letting go of all your preconceived notions of how you're supposed to be and behave and just letting loose."

Dawson mused on this: "We could all certainly learn something about letting loose. I mean, look at us, sitting in a bar, drinking Cokes."

"We could all do it together if you want." Andie said excitingly. "It might be good for all of us to get a little... wild tonight."

"Try not to get too wild while I'm off to the bathroom" Pacey said and got up. Joey noticed that he hadn't even looked at her.

While she was wondering what all this meant for them, Andie and Dawson both ordered rum with their Cokes. Joey smirked beside herself. Normally she would stop them, but for some reason tonight she decided that they deserved to have a little fun. That and the fact that she needed to talk to Pacey and she couldn't do it while Dawson and Andie were hovering around.

About three rounds later, Andie and Dawson were obviously drunk, while Pacey was oblivious to what they were drinking. Or at least that's what it looked like to Joey when he asked them how many Cokes they can drink.

Then Dawson decided to sing and Andie decided to join him.

"My name is Dawson Leery. I'm feeling kinda weary. Today is my birthday. You all look a little blurry."

Joey chuckled, while Pacey folded his arms on his chest and looked on disapprovingly. Amazingly, out of all of them, he was the one with the stick up his ass, when he usually was the leader in such situations. Joey wondered where that change had come from.

"The girl I care for. Told me today. That she can't handle me and her brother who's gay!"

Well, that explained Dawson's mood, Joey thought and looked at Andie who seemed unperturbed by this. Then she looked at Pacey who was finally looking at her. And in that look she suddenly found hope. She suddenly realized that he just wanted a confirmation that what was happening was real and that she hadn't given it to him.

"Pacey. Would you like to come home with me?"

His eyebrow went straight to the skies. She suddenly blushed. "I didn't mean it quite like that."

"Really? Well, what did you mean?" He said and she wondered if he knew how attractive he was with that naughty smile on his face.

"I..." she blushed some more. "I would like to show you something."

His face went back to normal.

"Shouldn't we take Dawson to his birthday party?"

As if on queue, Dawson started singing.

"Oh I've been restless, hopeless and confused. All of my friends... have been on the move... They're planning a surrrrprise party where everyone I know is right now. And when I show up late they're GONNA HAVE A COW!"

Joey and Pacey smirked at each other.

"Yeah, it's time to take Dawson to his party. But after that, you are taking me home and I am showing you something." She said decidedly. Pacey smiled softly and nodded. Then, as everyone was clapping he got Dawson and Andie's coats and handed them to them:

"Well, what do you say we end this evening on a high note and get off to that not-so surprise party."

By the time they got to Dawson's house, both Dawson and Andie were out of control.

Dawson burst in the house shouting: "SURPRISE! HAPPY BIRTHDAY!"

Jen walked up to them obviously sulking.

"You're late and the party is a disaster"

"Don't get me started" Pacey muttered.

"Are they...?

"Yes, they are" Joey said. Jen looked at them but before she could ask anything else, Andie and Dawson climbed on the kitchen table and started to dance, at which point they all decided it was time to intervene.

With great difficulty, Joey and Jen carried Dawson to his room, with Pacey following with Andie on his back. In the room, however, a new surprise: Jack was kissing Abby.

Jen dropped Dawson and left angrily. Jack followed her and Dawson and Andie dropped on the bed singing.

Joey looked at Pacey and Pacey shrugged:

"Wanna stay for the after-party or wanna just head back to your house?"

Joey felt torn between what she thought was her duty to stay and help her friends out and her strong desire to just go. In the end she decided to take a leaf out of Andie's book.

"Let's go."

The road was filled with comfortable jokes and Pacey finally felt like they were getting back on the right track.

He parked the car and they went in towards Joey's room. To Pacey's knowledge, Bessie was still at the party and Body had taken Alexander to his parents for a week, so they were completely alone. This gave him a rush of excitement that he tried to contain, as he understood perfectly that this visit was more about setting records straight than about taking their relationship (was it a relationship?) to a new level.

Joey started searching for something on her desk. Pacey looked for a chair, but the only one was near her desk and she was occupying it, so after much inner deliberation he decided to risk sitting on the bed.

Joey turned to him and sat next to him, holding something that looked like a portfolio. Pacey stared at it but didn't ask.

"When I started taking art classes, I had assignments. At first I just completed them, but then I started drawing outside the assignments and then some assignments I liked so I just kept them... or copies..."

She was babbling and was nervous and Pacey knew that whatever she would show him meant a great deal to her.

"This is the first drawing I drew outside of any assignment..." she whispered and he stared in astonishment at his own tortured face.

"When...?"

"You came to the Ice-House. You were upset about something. I don't know what. You asked for a Coke but didn't drink it..." She paused. "I couldn't stop looking at you..."

He suddenly knew when that was and felt a knot in his throat.

"It was right after I had broken up with Dawson."

Yes, it had been around that time, he remembered. His last attempt with Tamara had been around that time.

"I don't know the psychology behind what happened, Pacey. I know that I never truly did hate you, as I claimed. Deep down inside I always knew we were friends. But something shifted in me that day. I don't know if that's when I knew because, honestly, Pacey, the first conscious thought I allowed myself to have on this subject was when we were already knee-deep in this... situation..."

She pulled up the second drawing of him. It was the drawing of him naked. Surprisingly, he didn't blush when looking at himself like that. What he did was wonder at the level of detail she had put into the drawing and the look on his face which he had never seen (not that he spent that much time looking in the mirror).

He swallowed.

"I'm sorry... I..."

"No, Pacey, I am sorry. I wish I could be as secure on what is happening as you need me to be. But you must understand that the reason that I am insecure is not because I do not want it... I have started to believe that I have wanted it for longer than I was aware of it..."

"Did Dawson make you aware of... wanting this?" He finally dared ask.

She looked surprised but the pause was not as long as he feared.

"When we broke up, we didn't break up because of this. But... during the break-up, Dawson... he came up with this theory... and I didn't know what to make of it at the time..."

"Do you think you might like me because Dawson told you... that?"

She was angry for a second, she could see that.

"Pacey, I am perfectly capable of knowing who I do and don't like, without Dawson telling me so."

"I know... I just..." He sighed and placed his hands on his face.

"It's just that I can't make sense of it. You're so high up above me that I can't help but wonder..."

Joey rose from the bed to stand in front of him and patiently took both his hands in hers then slowly kneel-ed.

"I have told you time and time again. I don't consider myself above you. To be honest, at a reasonable level, when I do have time to be reasonable about this, as much as you can be reasonable about a relationship that simply explodes, the way ours did... It makes sense. You make sense. Dawson lives in his own little world. He will never understand, much as he wants to, what it is like to not have everything he needs. You and I, we were forever the sidekicks fighting for his attention, but during all this time we were so consumed with him that we failed to realize how well we fit with each other."

She spoke with such conviction that Pacey couldn't help but interrupt her with a kiss.

He stopped it before it grew too heavy and they both stood lying on the bed looking at each other, with his palm gently caressing her face.

"I didn't fail to realize it, Potter. I just didn't dare dream..." he whispered.

Joey smiled: "Well, apparently I'm a little slower than you are".

"Well, that's an understatement" he smirked and she grinned.

"To fully address your question, Pacey and put this to rest. I don't like you because of Dawson. Yes, he gave a small push at the beginning, and some not so small pushes along the way after that, but it never would have worked, had I not had this feeling of right. I mean..." she suddenly flustered, like she realized that she was saying too much. Pacey placed his finger on her lips.

"I know what you mean, Potter."

When Bessie came home that night, she found them sleeping in each other's arms. She had a first instinct to wake them and tell Pacey to just go, but decided against it.

The next morning she told them all about a big speech that Dawson had made at the party, on how he felt left behind by the fact that his friends were moving on without him, right before falling flat with his face in the cake his mother had baked for him. And then she fed them both breakfast and Pacey was overwhelmed with a feeling of being home.