Title: Home Is Where The Heart Is
Rated: PG
Author's Note: This story basically is my version of what could've tooken place in the season five premiere. I love and hate Joey's character all at the same time. She is a fascinating character to write through, and her emotions are always strong. Although it is my first story through her, it was quite interesting to write. I found her character very difficult though to write through because she has so many contrasting traits.

I will remember you
Will you remember me?
Don't let your life pass you by
Weep not for the memories
Remember the good times that we had?
I let them slip away from us when things got bad
How clearly I first saw you smilin' in the sun
Wanna feel your warmth upon me, I wanna be the one
I will remember you
Will you remember me?
Don't let your life pass you by
Weep not for the memories
I'm so tired but I can't sleep
Standin' on the edge of something much too deep
It's funny how we feel so much but we cannot say a word
We are screaming inside, but we can't be heard
I'm so afraid to love you, but more afraid to loose
Clinging to a past that doesn't let me choose
Once there was a darkness, deep and endless night
You gave me everything you had, oh you gave me light
And I will remember you
Will you remember me?
Don't let your life pass you by
Weep not for the memories
Weep not for the memories

I Will Remember You - Sarah McLachlan

“Scissors beats paper,” she chuckled victoriously, eloping her fingertips with the opposing female playfully. Her dark spheres danced with delight at the other’s dumbfounded expression.

“Jo, you know that the library is not my scene. There is no way that I’m going to help you do research for some brainy assignment all afternoon that I have nothing to do with. Lets all remember who was so very anxious to attend one of the most prestigious universities one could offer,” the blonde challenged her.

“Jen, Worthington is not prestigious,” she countered subtly.

“Oh, really? Then why was it so hard for you to get in, darling? You were only in the top four of our graduating class, but even that wasn’t enough.”

“I got in, didn’t I?” she stressed to the judgment of her comrade.

“That’s not the point. Would you like me to begin in a lesson of how to drink tea, fluff out your skirt, and say I’m a Greek god?” the blonde plastered on one of her blandly sarcastic grins.

“Jen, I won,” she reversed the argument to new grounds.

“Yes, you did. Congrats. You shall go down in history as the woman who chose scissors over paper.”

“Jen,” she whined, growing agitated and clearly impatient.

“I like what you’ve got going on here with your lip,” the other teased, plucking her lower lip, which jutted out in a begging fashion.

“Please?” her finely shaped brows arched wistfully.

“What’s in it for me?” the other female elapsed into a devious demeanor, crossing her arms across her chest with an inquisitive glint to her gaze.

“My undying love.”

“Something I need, Jo. How about doing my homework for a week?” she grinned.

“Are you serious? Jen, do you realize that I spend exactly ninety nine point nine, nine percent of my time doing my own homework? The rest is spent eating Kraft Dinner and attempting to sleep in the middle of a Sex In My Dorm Room episode starring the one and only Audrey,” she babbled on in her rather stubborn nature.

She was tenacious and bullheaded, but it made no difference. It was the only way for her to get where she wanted to be when she wanted to be there. Plus, she got to live out as much blissful time at Jen and Jack’s place that she possibly could by carrying on with the argument. They were so lucky to have Jen’s grams to bend and break for them by being their pack up and go to college family. She was only one woman, but she was one woman that supplied a whole family’s worth of love and devotion to both Jen and Jack. The way grams was so accepting was almost scary. Like she was too accepting. As lucky as she thought Jen and Jack were, she supposed it was a two way street. Hanging there was so much more pleasing then staying in her dorm room with her newly dubbed roommate, the infamous slut of Worthington.

“I’ll think about it,” the blonde remarked gloomily before aimlessly scouring for her displaced coffee mug.

“Pretty please?”


She smiled meekly as the blonde swiveled promptly to face her with an equally agitated expression, while she was poised in her most innocent fashion, pouting irresistibly. Her hands lured out before her, clashed together in a praying manner.

“Have mercy, Jo,” the opposing female commented with a clearly sympathetic reaction.

“Love you?” she half inquired, half concluded.

“You owe me big,” the words were distastefully grumbled.

She flipped through the arrangement of texts that she had just spent half an hour locating, stacking them in a heaping mound. She swiftly eased into the seat aside her visibly depleted friend.

“Remind me why we’re here please, Joey,” the morose blonde questioned.

“To work,” she responded bluntly.

“Oh, right. That thing I never do. I remember now. Thanks for the refresh, Jo. Wake me up when it’s over.”

“Jen,” she whined, the name being stretched out in complaint as she felt the burdening weight of her companion’s head flop lifelessly against her shoulder.

“What?” the opposing female blinked up curiously, easing her head up once again before she was disciplined.

“You said you would help me. This assignment may in fact influence my final grade, which unlike you I like to keep as high as humanly possible. So, why don’t you take one of these encyclopedias and start researching, Madonna,” she gently demanded, passing over a few textbooks to place before her new study pal.

“What am I looking for?”

“Shakespeare, Jen.”

“And why may I ask are we looking for Shakespeare?”

“Maybe because I have to research his significance for my writing class,” she responded, eagerly beginning her own search through the frailty of the rather antique books.

“I can’t find him.”

“Jen, I don’t think it’s that hard to look up one of the most well known poetics in history.”

“I haven’t heard of him,” the lazy blonde remarked dully.

“You don’t count. Now, what are you looking under?” she smiled cheerfully as if it would brighten the mood. Jen’s radar scale of annoyance was growing with each moment, which amused her in the simplest fashion.

“Men in tights.”

Jen’s frank response caused them to erupt with a brief phrase of laughter in unison, and it felt unimaginably good until they ceased at the violent hushes coming from every corner. It was alien to laugh seeing as the past few months she had done nothing of the sort. She was all about work and no play, but now she was beginning to wonder if everything was worth what she thought it was.

After assisting Jen in locating the proper topic this time, she observed her struggle to comprehend some of the higher vocabulary in the encyclopedias. You had to love Jen. She was so impure, yet she contained this innocence that was undefined. It went beyond everything she had ever taken Jen for. At one point, they were bickering like two overly jealous high school girls would over a certain somebody she was trying to forget. Lipstick shades and hair colours were far behind them. Now they were both in Boston.

Boston was big, new, unfamiliar terrain. The city life wasn’t all she had thought it would be though. Sure there were the umpteen lights that dazzled the parkways and city streets at night, and the busy bustle of uncountable people who claimed shopping was a sport. More like a religion she thought. But then there was this part of her. This part of her that let her dangle her legs over the gently whispering creek on the dock. This part of her that let her legs carry her up the ladder route to her childhood best friend’s bedroom. This part of her that let her legs take her to him.

Him was the expression she used in place of his name without having to say it aloud in her mind and struggle through all the cobwebs. Dawson Leery. The little blonde headed boy that chased her year after year. He was the little boy that captured her in his heart, and freed her to another’s. The fact of the matter was that back in those days where choosing between chocolate and vanilla ice cream was your biggest dilemma, she practically lived with him day and night. Now that they had grown, and more or less grown apart, she was realizing that maybe she couldn’t live without him. Maybe she never could’ve lived without him in the first place, and now she was just realizing it because for the first time since she could remember, they were far apart; too far. But now, here she was experiencing her life without him while he was off exploring his destiny of becoming a director in some dreamy film university. She could picture him now, smiling at everything around him that was just like he had imagined since his first days of watching reruns after reruns of Jaws and E.T. It was Hollywood. He had reached Hollywood and somehow she knew he would survive the bitter conflicts and decisions that would accompany his dreams. He would make it, as would she. But there was always a downfall. That was the reality that she couldn’t coexist with his dreams…because she was no longer a part of them. Capeside was simply forgotten. There was no more happily ever after.

“Earth to Juliet. I think I found your Romeo.”

She exhaled sharply, swallowing with a mixture of inexact emotions and thoughts as Jen clued her in once again. She acknowledged the outstretched book, opened to an article on Shakespeare.

“Did I do good?” the blonde inquired casually.

“You did good,” she smiled with praise, beginning to scrawl down a few notes. Her fingertips bristled along the nape of her neck, tucking away a few dangling wisps with the end of her pencil. In the midst of her incessant scribbling, she felt a set of eyes plastered to her. Gradually she tilted her head to face the onlooker.

“What?” she snapped insecurely, blinking with bafflement at her friend.

“Nothing,” Jen responded with a sly grin.

“It’s obviously not nothing, Jen, by the way you’re staring at me. Do I have some Japanese fruit growing out of my ears, or are you just debating whether or not I have the same perverted thoughts running through my head twenty-four seven like you do?” her brows furrowed, defensively cowering.

“So far I see no traces of purple mangos, but I do see traces of a certain someone,” the opposing female teased.

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“A certain someone of the male gender of course, that you happen to be thinking about twenty-four seven I might add.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about, Jen. You’ve been spending too much time in the mental ward,” she rattled her head lightly with an expression devoured by sarcasm, pointedly ignoring her further comments.

She resumed to taking notes, her life having become one boring moment after another. University was exactly what she would’ve expected. Grueling.

“Dawson?” the barely audible voice of the blonde inquired in the midst of concluding.

“Excuse me?” she turned, features creased with flickering tempers.

“You’ve got that look.”

“What look?” she snaked the textbook closed, her dark spheres armored with unneeded rage.

“That look. The one that says you are thinking about Dawson. What he’s doing right now, how he’s functioning in university, if he misses you or if he has found a new love interest,” the female rhymed off in a nonchalant manner.

“Am not.”

“Are too.”

“Am not,” she repeated flatly.

“Bet you’re wondering if she’s blonde or brunette.”

Her features erupted with evident shock, and a suddenly aroused uncertainty. Was she that obvious? That was all the more reason for her to wipe him off her slate. She didn’t want to be obvious to anyone. She wanted to be in the corner, out of everyone’s attention, and just be centered on what was ahead, instead of what was trailing behind in her past. It was time to make a split second subject change.

“Did you know that Shakespeare was a shareholder for The Globe Theatre and received ten percent of the profits?”

“Avoider,” was the blunt remark she encountered with the widely grinning blonde.

“Learn something new every day,” she brushed her off, once again backtracking to the original change of discussion.

“Liar,” Jen bellowed in a singsong voice.

“Pest,” she seethed.

“Love you.”

“Hate you.”

Her exhaustion was relieved as she allowed her light physique to simply crumble to the comfort of her mattress. Surprisingly enough, her dorm room hadn’t taken a great deal of time to get used to. Sure she was missing the people. Friends, family, even enemies. But it was not waking up to a wailing Alexander, a frazzled Bessie, and the aroma of burnt pancakes below that was taking a great deal of time getting used to. It was the little things she missed more than anything else, because they were the only things that really added up to anything. The big things were just washed away in the flood of renewing herself with the new experiences she was facing in university. The little things were the really grandeur moments in her life, the ones that somehow knew how to hold on.

The incessant ringing of the telephone promptly centered her back into her life. She had been doing too much brainstorming for her own good, and there was about to be a flood from that storm. Every day it was getting worse. Every day it was getting more unbearable.

“Hello?” she questioned, the receiver teetering against her ear.

“Hey, stranger,” was the response she received.

It was a masculine tone unlike any other. It was one she had known for so long that it was impossible to forget or replace. It was a tone that had comforted her, surprised her, and more or less scared her.

“Hey, you!” her expression erupted with an overly happy sensation, and instinctively she cursed herself for the enthusiasm she had displayed. Hopefully he didn’t pick up on it as strongly as she did. Sure she was happy to hear from Dawson, but he didn’t need to know that. In fact, she didn’t want him to know that. She wanted him to know that she was just fine on her own, without him, without anyone. She would convince herself, if not him that it was the truth. She was just fine.

“So…” he debated.

“So…” she copied.

It was awkward. It was hard. It was everything that their Dawson and Joey relationship never had been before. It was so unfamiliar to her, foreign and unresolved. Every other weekend he would call her, and it was the same thing. Hello and goodbye. It was meaningless, and it got her thinking if maybe, just maybe their friendship was meaningless to him now; furthermore, if she was meaningless to him now. Everything they had shared, everything that they had was deteriorating before their very eyes. They weren’t Dawson and Joey anymore. There was Dawson and there was Joey. A fine line had been crossed. There was no more Dawson and Joey.

“So…I finally got that documentary done that I told you about,” he offered up some conversation. But it was just small, pointless conversation that would end up going nowhere and eventually it would just be forgotten, like everything else.

“Oh, really? That’s great, Dawson. That’ll be your second, now. I’m sure your teacher will recognize talent and serve up a well-deserved mark on your platter,” she complimented, attempting to sound enthused with the conversation.

“Maybe, but I’m at a disadvantage now. I don’t have you to criticize my so-called talent. You used to help me smooth out the rough edges. Now I have to do that on my own and editing your own work doesn’t tend to work so well,” he chuckled mildly.

“I’m sure you’ll manage, Dawson. After spending every Friday night watching movies, I’m sure you can figure out a storyline by now,” she smiled through the receiver.

“But that’s the easy part. Finding the storyline, finding the characters. The hard part is making sense of it all. Making everything come together. Making it right.”

“Nothing is ever right, Dawson. Everything has a consequence, which means that every decision you made had to be wrong. And there has never been a time in my life where I haven’t received a consequence for a decision I made, whether it was good or bad. Therefore as far as I am concerned, there is no right.”

“You’re wrong,” he countered.

“I’m right,” she argued in return.

“I thought you were always wrong?”

His immature laughter echoing from the other side was a cue that she had fallen into his devious trap. Dawson always had a way of making everything so complicated, and proving her wrong, which she hated. She hated being wrong and he loved when he was right.

“Laugh all you want. Just be lucky you’re thousands of miles away, or I would whip you,” she voiced her useless threat.

“Maybe not thousands of miles away…” he trailed.

“What do you mean? Los Angeles is quite a walk from Boston, Dawson. Didn’t I tell you back in elementary that geography was cursed? See how far its brought us apart?” she teased, oblivious to what he was trying to tell her.

“I’m coming…”

“Coming?” her brows furrowed with uncertainty.

“I’m coming to Boston.”

His blunt statement sent her into tangles. He was coming to Boston? But Boston was where she was…and she had vowed that no more would he be where she was. It was too hard; too, too hard.

“Jo?” he quizzed her silence.

“Uh, yeah. You’re…you’re coming?” she managed, clearing her throat with anxiety.

“Body and soul. Tomorrow. My flight will be there by late morning. I was hoping you could maybe pick me up at the airport.”

“Airport?” she questioned, still spacey. She hadn’t caught anything after the part where he said he was coming.

“Yeah. You know that place where people come and go on airplanes? You know, airplanes? Those big flying contraptions with wings?” he insulted her lack of sense in a playful manner.


“Well? Can you?” he repeated for her convenience.

In the middle of her battling for an answer, her lusted-for roommate high-tailed it into the room. Wonderful. This was all she needed in the middle of a life or death decision, so she thought.

“One minute, Dawson,” she swiftly melted her palm against the receiver so he was unaware of the conversation occurring between her and the opposing female.

“Audrey, what do you want?” she fumed at the disturbance.

“Chill, Joey. It’s just there’s this itsy bitsy favour I might want to ask you and hope that you will generously accept because you love me so much. Hey, did you do something with your hair? It looks different in this ironically appealing way,” the blonde sucked up in her best unnoticeable fashion.

“What is it?” she grumbled, her dark spheres visibly showing her irritation.

“Well, I sort of, kind of, need for you to leave. You see, Scott, this major popular guy is waiting out there to come in and I was just hoping…”

“I would leave?” she smiled bitterly as she finished the sentence.

“Well, yes. So, what do you say, Joey?”

“I say that I am really getting sick and tired of having the various guys of Worthington being more your roommates than I am. What are you, a one-woman sex machine? I happen to be in the middle of something, if you don’t mind,” she snapped.

“Well, can that something be finished elsewhere or at another time? It’s important, Joey. Pretty please?” the other female begged.

Okay. So Audrey was a totally cool chick to hang out with, and perhaps her outer beauty had an inner beauty even if it wasn’t revealed yet. But, this was getting pitiful. Audrey had been spending the same amount of time getting it on with the guys from around campus that she had been doing work…and that was a very bad ratio to compare with.

“Fine,” she seethed as the now content blonde blissfully flaunted off to retrieve her boy toy.

“Dawson?” she placed her attentions back to the male waiting patiently on the other end of the receiver.

“Still here. Lucky for you, I follow the idea of patience being a virtue.”

“Yes, well lucky you have it. I’ve got to go unless I want to be caught in a co-ed wrestling match,” she sighed heavily with a sliver of disappointment.


“Long story. But to make it short, I happen to have a mentally disturbed roommate who willingly lays down her body with little protest to any two-cent beggar who happens to stroll by her view while seemingly you would think at a placed called college she should be laying down the books but somehow she manages to get through each day while I sit here swamped in everything from Hitler to decimals in the midst of her sexual vocal lessons.”

“Was that your idea of a short story, or a monologue?” he questioned at the rambling she contributed in a bemused tone.

“I’ve really got to go. Sorry, Dawson.”

“You haven’t answered my question yet, Jo,” he reminded.

There was an initial silence, as if whatever her response was he had already perceived and read into. She dwelled on how oblique her answer would presumably be.

“Did you even have to ask?” she exhaled, her voice smiling as she clicked off the receiver.

The flood in her brainstorm had come. It was havoc, bitterly rampaging and needy for her strength. Somewhere between the centerfolds, she managed to acclimate to the airport’s surroundings. But they were dense, sketching her every insecure thought over the walls. Her thoughts had braced into thick layers, all overtop one another and masked in dominance. They were all too plentiful, all too jumbled. She couldn’t truly understand the state of oblivion she was in.

Every sharp moment she took hold to; she checked the blinding red beacons of numbers signaling what time it was on the overhead board and incessantly confirmed his flight number. The bustled chatter of surrounding people was all fused into this alternate portion of her mind where it wasn’t really accessed or acknowledged. It had evolved into a deadly combination of a mind game, and a waiting game. The jeopardy theme music rummaged through her head…it was almost time.

His musky aroma flared her nostrils, the silhouettes of the ambling crowds hazing in and out of focus. The soft tipped pattering of his thickly soled express shoes lingered within her lobes. She felt his coarse fingertips sidestroke the thinness of his amber wisps, felt them bustle over the nape of his neck from the dewy sweat that had accumulated there and rub along the bristles of stubble layering his features in maturity. Her vision focused to bask on his advancing frame. She didn’t know how far or near he was…just that he was growing nearer before disappearing each time. She had smelt him, heard him, felt him even before she sighted him. Struggling to distinguish between what was familiar and what was unrecognizable about him, she at last allowed her colliding thoughts to cease. It was the same boy, the same man. He would always be the same, in the least the same to her.

Every single orbiting masquerade of the airport in their ambiance was drowned from a true existence, or at least paused until cued to regroup once again. They both remained idle, lingering only strides of distance from one another. It was painful to not be able to feel right even when he was so near.

His luggage was hitched up instinctively as their thick gazes penetrated with blandness not yet understood. His baggage then crumbled to the grounding, making his first action pointless. There were no words.

There wasn’t much that she remembered; it was more a relief, a sensation. She didn’t remember running to him and him in return sweeping her off her feet into the heartfelt embrace. All that she recalled was crossing their emotional boardwalk in the briefest of moments. It wasn’t at all like a gentle tuned romance, interrupted by static on and off that they once upon a time watched together in their youthful ages. It was a harsh collision their bodies made; so harsh her breath was claimed before being generated once again. She couldn’t tell where he began and she finished. It was one of the moments that she would never want to experience again, and at the same time want to rewind until she was ill. Their freestone attachment prolonged through every hesitant glance that adjusted on them from various by passers, clinging to one another like bloodcurdling leeches.

“Jo,” was all his husky tone could muster.

She couldn’t muster anything. Her features, sick from being marooned by him were blended into his perfectly fitted shoulder that she accepted without an invitation. Hot tears, ones that stung enough to swell her eyes shut gradually bled down the smooth exterior of her cheeks.

She had collapsed, quaking uncontrollably within his safe haven. One he had created for her to hide in whenever she was too weak to be strong. One he had supplied her with when she had nothing else to hide in. One he had loved her with.

His fingertips scrawled through the limpness of her dark strands, somehow granting them the life they had been denied. He comforted her emotional breakage with muffled whispers that seemed drawn out. God, she had missed him. All she felt, heard, or saw now was his breathing. The way he breathed was always so deeply, as if burdening before it would grow shallow momentarily and repeat the process all over again. It hurt so much when he made her feel this good again. It was like oil being mixed with water, never being able to find a happy medium. But somehow, he still had that effect that made her think in her own mind that everything was right in her world. Everything was perfect.

“I still can’t believe you’re in Boston,” she murmured, overwhelmed with the occurrence.

Her features were still marred from the tears she had wept involuntarily in their rekindling reunion. Now her vision seeped through the windshield, making an ineffectual attempt to keep her attentions from lacking on what she was doing; driving.

“I know…it’s…it’s…” he struggled to find the right words, situated in the passenger seat aside her as they drove further away from the airport.

“Nice,” she supplied quietly, passing him a brief smile before promptly urging her attentions back.

“Very nice,” he was obediently satisfied with her uncomplicated description, smiling genuinely upon her.

They settled into a comfortable silence. It wasn’t as awkward as she would’ve expected, as awkward as she was expecting. It wasn’t strange or stiffening, simply the same. It was like nothing really ever happened and they were still wallowing away together in their nonchalant lives as two overly sensitive teenagers would.

“How have you been, Jo?”

His tone dwindled with concern, and she swallowed at his sensitivity. She paid little heed to the pallid hue that formed around each knuckle as she clutched defensively to the steering wheel. That was a question she wasn’t prepared to answer, at least not honestly.

“Fine,” she muttered quietly, hesitant to where the conversation was heading. But when it seemed to hit a dead end since he visibly feared her wrath, she uncoiled.

“What about you, Dawson? How is USC treating you?”

“In all honesty, Jo…it’s like hell in the making. I hate it,” he replied in such a flatly tuned voice that it caught her off guard. His palms rubbed eagerly against his knees, staring upon her shamelessly.

“But…but I thought you liked it, Dawson? You sounded so happy on the phone all the time,” her brows furrowed, exchanging an inquisitive glance with him.

“Yeah, I thought I liked it too. Until I met up with all those Hollywood directors who evidently believe they are so full of Spielberg talent that they piss all over the underdogs. And of course, there’s my fellow freshman that are all on a power trip to see who’s best at being the best. Not to mention the fact that I am thousands of miles away from my family, Capeside, all the familiar territory in my life, and most importantly my friends…and you,” his shaded eyes came to rest upon her.

Normally as soon as a set of eyes found even the slightest bit of interest in her, she would squirm like a worm until she was off the hook. But, only with Dawson was it different. When he looked at her, it wasn’t like she was some obscure creature that was standing out from the crowd. When he looked at her, it was like she was simply part of the crowd. She was simply Joey Potter with him, no more, no less. That’s the one thing Dawson had always kept true to her whether he realized it or not.

“I know what you mean,” a mild simper elapsed.

“You sounded so happy on the phone too, Jo,” his statement was somehow twisted into an absconded inquiry, which she dismissed as easily as it came.

“I am. Boston is wonderful. It’s new, exciting, and…not Capeside. Worthington is everything I’ve worked for my entire life and more than I could’ve ever expected. Plus, Jen, Jack, and grams keep me company. They’re like this really weird sci-fi family. Like this alternate safety net I can always go to. They’re like…” she trailed, her lower lip becoming bait for the grinding of her teeth.

“A second family…like what I used to be,” he murmured almost cautiously, and as she swiveled to catch his gaze it was no longer hers for the taking. It had relocated to something that he seemed to be more interested in on the road.

She didn’t utter a response, just resumed her responsible driving. The road ahead seemed endless, and the worn tires spit out the gravel hastily as they drove on. It was never-ending and eventually she found herself whirling off into an oasis of silence.

“So, Dawson, my man. Do tell me how USC has been,” Jack McPhee inquired with a grin dazzled by his mischievous nature.

After Dawson had reunited with both Jen and Jack the night before, they decided they would all spend the day together before his trip back the next day. She had somehow found the brutal courage to dismiss the fact that she had classes through a bit of Jen’s persistence, a bit of Jack’s pouting, and of course a bit of Dawson’s reasoning. It was a deadly trap they combined to make for her.

“Well…it’s been different. You know, just movies in the making. A little criticism here, a little criticism there…and of course when you think it can’t get any better or worse, somehow another little bit of criticism finds its way to you,” his rounded shoulders rolled in a slightly disturbed shrug.

“Well, Jack and I have found something useful to do with our time. We have kept ourselves busied with scouting for guys. Fortunately, we’re the same in taste so we usually can agree on most of the sexy specimens Boston has to offer,” Jen cut in with a half-twisted grin that in response caused Jack to wrestle her into a playful hold around her neck.

“I’d prefer to be decapitated at a later point in time, Jackers,” the blonde grunted through his cuffing clutch.

Once the brief play had ended, they all strolled side-by-side down one of the main streets. Through all the jabbering that Jack and Jen offered to Dawson, she found little need to be included.

The worn base of her sneaker scuffed along the rubble of the sidewalk, coming to a mental agreement with herself to shut out the conversation of her other companions. She was on the outfield, unnoticed, and maybe that’s what she wanted to be for the moment being.


Her heavy lidded eyes blinked open at the shrill squeal of Jen. Jesus. Was she trying to call in the navy? She gingerly collected her blind thoughts, solemn gaze fluttering towards the opposing female.

“Nice to know that after all this time you still remember my name,” she smirked lazily.

“Ice cream!” the blonde erupted, snatching her without notice and dragging her towards a one-wheeled, parked wagon.

“Ice cream!” her own eyes lit up with appreciation for the favoured and very much craved dessert.

“Oh, wonderful. Here we go again. Bottomless pits these women are, Dawson. Sometimes I wonder if I should just buy you Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, Ms. Jennifer. This lady here would like a strawberry,” Jack gestured to Jen after sidling up behind them, rolling his eyes with amusement at Jen’s giddy appearance. He handed over a crumpled bill to the elder man who was equipped with the funny looking headwear of an ice cream man and all.

“You getting any, Dawson?” she questioned him as he too caught up, a lopsided grin erupting.

“Yeah. I’ll take a vanilla,” he smiled lightly in response, handing over a folded bill from his back pocket.

“And I’ll have a…” she trailed, busied in her questioning state of choices. Even picking out ice cream flavours to her seemed like a difficult and skeptical assortment of decisions.

“A chocolate,” Dawson finished her statement, granting another bill to the man.

“How did you know I was going to choose chocolate?” a baffled expression surfaced, a disoriented smirk occurring on her lips. His broad smile reacted in turn while his dark eyes carelessly pivoted down upon her.

“Only because every time we went to get ice cream when we were kids you would spend hours forcing specific descriptions of each kind out of the helpless ice cream man. And of course, shortly after your indecisiveness in the usual Potter manner you would absently decide on chocolate,” he rhymed off, delightedly passing over her cone of ice cream.

“Not every time, Dawson,” she snapped playfully, defending herself stupidly.

“Yes, every time, Jo. You have always been so predictable.”

“Maybe to you.”

“And to me,” Jen remarked hesitantly as she looked preoccupied licking at the rosy dessert.

“I second that,” Jack stifled laughter while sneaking a slurp of Jen’s ice cream before being swatted away and shooed off.

“Am not!” she defensively cowered with a tight frown.

“Are too,” they all sang in unison before dissolving into accusing chuckles.

She muffled cursed insults beneath her breath as an overshot pillow nearly collided with her exhausted features from across the room. Without further ado, she wriggled further beneath the comfort of the engulfing blankets, mentally noting it as part of a nightmare.

“Joey! Your friend has come asking for visitation rights to see you this morning!”

What did she need an alarm clock for when she could so easily program Audrey to awaken her with an off-tuned screech? She was bitter and had zero tolerance for any who dared to wake her up on a Sunday morning.

“Sorry to disturb your slumber, Sleeping Beauty, but I was silently praying for you to listen up for a few minutes,” Jen offered lightly, bouncing to her mattress with a beaming expression that was too sickening and bright to swallow at the moment.

“And I was silently praying for you to get lost. Bye, Jen,” she rolled over deliberately, cowering beneath the covers as they were drawn up over her head with a groan, but to no avail. Jen was too persistent.

“Jo, it’s important and I think it’s worth cleaning the wax in your ears out for. Now are you going to listen, or do I have to mimic your prince charming and kiss you?” the blonde threatened shortly, smacking her lips together in warning.

“Go away. Take whatever you want. Take my clothes, take my food, take Audrey for all I care,” was her groggy response.

“As tempting as those offers are, I’ll pass. Jo, c’mon,” the opposing female shook her frame which was currently in the state of inertia. Now it was rivalry.

“Is it something to do with Dawson?” she inquired helplessly as she was rattled about mercilessly.

“No! He’s snoring a duet with Jack back at grams. Now, will you please listen to me before I call my Scottish ancestors and order a claymore to murder you with?”

“Excuse me while I think. No,” she smiled faintly as blunt as her dismissal was, before scooting deeper within the cavern of the blankets.

“Pacey is in Boston.”

Pacey Witter. He was her subjective now. There was more than enough to recap from their past, but she plainly refused such an occasion of mindlessly devouring herself in memories, tradeoffs, and all the statements that would bring up ‘before’. Why? Because he had been banished from playing a part in the production of her emotions and life. But somehow, the bruising ache to feel his presence again, the ache she had packed into a dark box with no breathing holes had snuck up on her wickedly and jailed her.

She scrutinized the ashen waters, so weighty in their lapping words. The dock she stood upon creaked lazily. It was an irritating creak, one that she had heard all too many times in Capeside. It was the kind of irritating that was so repetitive with its familiarities, and in the same way unforgettable and cherished.

Destructive thoughts bustled through her; uncertain what had drawn her out here to the docks of Boston when she knew exactly what it was. She just wasn’t willing to admit that through every tragic train wreck Pacey Witter and her had survived, the skeletons were still in the closet. Those skeletons hadn’t been dragged out because of the killing her silent fears were guilty of. The ones that persisted he hadn’t left without a simple goodbye and that maybe nothing ever changed and it was all a figment of her imagination. But those fears also had the equivalent force that reminded her it wasn’t her imagination. She still had a need for him. A need that wasn’t sold with strings attached, merely to reconnect with a lost source of friendship and love that was namely he. After her brief scouring without success to locate him, she drew the conclusion that somehow he had drifted off again into some alternate universe where she would never hear, see, or feel him again. But that was easier to swallow. It was bearable for her to know that he would never be part of her life again, but it was unbearable to think that he would be.


The way he addressed her was in casualty, comfortable, and almost soundless. But her emotions were testy, unwilling to cooperate with the reality that he was right behind her and one way or another she was eventually going to have to face him.

“Pace?” a release overcame her features as she spun to face him, masked with a cheerfulness that was clearly an understatement of what was going through her the moment she was hooked into his hazy blue orbs.

He had grown huskier, manlier in appearance. He was coated in maturity, maturity so alien for the boyish Pacey Witter she once walked paths with. His scent was the one distinct thing she caught traces of. It was airy with a salty essence from the sea, dotted with a more acerb aroma of perspiration. It was unchanged. And he seemed untouched.

“Hey,” his voice boomed out, his accented eyes alighting from their previous dimness. He was visibly surprised that she had just happened to know that he had docked in Boston, but nonetheless his familiar smile was offered to her. His dimples caved in unknowingly, and it was a trait that would always help her identify him as Pacey Witter.

“Hey,” she replied meekly, her tilted smile admissible at last after the awkwardness was defeated, shifting to brace her weight back and forth in a nervous habit.

“Joey Potter, Joey Potter, Joey Potter,” he repeated endlessly.

“Pacey Wittter, Pacey Witter, Pacey Witter,” her smile curled, upturned.

“God, I missed you,” he chuckled loudly, as if victoriously before sweeping her into a tight embrace that easily could’ve squeezed the oxygen from her lungs. But it felt good, needed.

His embrace was overly powerful, the energy of their fondness being sent off into fireworks. She remained nestled against his shoulder, not being able to shut her eyes. She didn’t want to be lost in the briefly encountered moment.

“I missed you, too,” she managed in a barely audible tone against the material of his collared shirt, feeling his calloused fingertips wrestle through her breezing strands. Somehow, it was easy to admit to him that she had indeed missed him, though she couldn’t muster the words with Dawson. It wasn’t clear or evident to her why, so she left it as was. She didn’t want to tear it apart until there was nothing left to understand.

He supported her face between his open-faced palms, securing her tightly in front of him to admire her mere existence. She felt enriched, knowing without preparedness, that he did indeed miss her. She wasn’t just some faulty memory he didn’t wish to relive.

“It’s about time you dropped in for some traditional banter,” he chuckled.

“Why didn’t you tell me where you were…or call…letters, anything?” she questioned blandly, her legs dangling lifelessly over the yacht he had called home for the entire summer.

“Did you want me to?” he countered quietly, tilting his mantle to peer upon her though her own gaze was descended to the reflecting liquids below.

“Yes. No,” she battled between her indecisiveness, as they were hushed to one another unsurely.

“I don’t know,” she responded to his hesitant silence.

“I do. I couldn’t be your life support anymore, Jo. I needed to be my own.”

“So you sailed off after graduation, after our historic relationship fell into a heap of ashes, without even goodbye? Or I’ll miss you? Or, ciao?” a hostility formed in her tone.

“No. Jo, we said goodbye long before I left on this yacht. The sea is the only goddamned thing that has ever kept me on my own two feet. It’s like my family, my home, my…”

“Love,” she concluded softly.

“Yes,” he confirmed, confessed, whatever it was that she couldn’t really comprehend.

He smelt of the sea. He smelt so strongly of it. His hands acted so gently like the ocean’s waves, yet were coarsely textured like its mood swing storms. His spheres were fogged over by the reflection of the waters. He had become it. Blue as blue could come. He was the ocean. He was the sea. He was the lake, the river, everything he had ever wanted to be and she was the dam that had blocked his current for long enough he had become unsatisfied. Eventually she should’ve expected for him to rampage through. It was like a sad ending to a dramatic play. It was something you always had to get to, as long or short as it took, you couldn’t maneuver it. You couldn’t just hope to stop before the end and spare the pain. The worst part was that she couldn’t pretend everything between them never began.

“Jen told you I was here, huh?” he moved on without notice to new subject matter.

“Yeah. I guess I was avoiding it though. To be honest with you, Pace, I didn’t want you to come back. I was hoping that you wouldn’t. I thought it would be easier just to find peace with the fact that you weren’t coming back, and when I found out that you did…”

“You were scared.”

Her morose vigilance crossed his unwillingly, finely shaped brows furrowing. She had never used the description of fear next to Pacey Witter’s name, but this time she was scared. She had been so scared to face him and have their rebellious, now nonexistent relationship rear its ugly head.

“Dawson’s here, in Boston,” she made him aware of the circumstances.

“I know.”

“You know?”

He nodded solemnly in response, eloping his scabrous fingertips with hers. He squeezed gently with a worry that was unvoiced, but proved with his affectionate gestures.

“How have you been, Jo?”


“You sure?”

“Yes! Why does everyone keep asking me that? First it was Dawson, now you. Can’t you all just believe me?” she glowered, suddenly becoming defensive with his uncovering of her lies.

“No, not when I can see those little white lies of yours playing hopscotch through your teeth,” his voice was soft as he grinned, adjusting to her temper with his humour.

“You’re so full of it,” she unknowingly smirked at his comic relief.

“Yes, well I’d say if anyone here is full of shit, it’s your Ms. Josephine Potter. So full in fact that your eyes are brown,” he wiggled his thick brows haughtily.

She rolled her eyes; plentiful glares being passed his way before settling once again.

“It’s not just that though, Jo. I see it. I see it in your eyes,” he informed her delicately.

She didn’t really know what made her contribute her deep emotions with him, the hardest thing she could do was after all to tell the truth. Honesty would for now win her over, and she was hopeful that it wouldn’t come back for revenge in the end.

“I’m leaving tomorrow for Capeside, Pace. I’ll be gone before Dawson leaves,” her voice was so lacey, fragile. It was too vulnerable and easy for him to break or dispose of.

“A road trip? I thought if anything you’d be wanting to stay away from Capeside,” he found an unnoticeable way to store away his alarmed reaction.

“So did I. I’m doing the same thing you did…but instead of running away I’m running back and I don’t know why,” her voice teetered, contorting with discomfort as saline brimmed her lids.

The squeeze that he supplied to her fingertips grew stronger rather than growing fainter. His eyes were glazed with passion, passion that comforted her in an irregular manner.

“Course you do, Jo. Your problem is fear,” his tone was deeply masculine.

“You’re right. I know you are because knowing he’s here now, and that he wasn’t before, and that he’s not going to be again is so scary, Pace. I can’t tell him how I feel. I can’t tell him that I’ve missed him unbearably. The way he would always smile down and brush the hair away from my face. Or the way he knew exactly what I was feeling before I even knew myself. And the way he always used to fill this emptiness inside of me with an unlimited supply of unconditional love. I can’t describe it. He just makes me feel so safe, like no matter what happens, he’s always going to be there to pick me up and shelter me. I can’t tell him how much he hurt me when he left me shipwrecked on an abandoned island with no food, no water, nothing but the knowledge that he was somewhere else; somewhere that I could never be. Everything that didn’t used to matter to him does now, and everything that used to matter to him no longer does,” her words lingered, prolonged pointedly to make her pain great enough to submit to it. Chilled tears cascaded down her features that remained marred from guilt, pain, and an out of whack happiness. But the guilt was the strongest factor, and it was preying on Pacey. He seemed like the only one to go to with her emotions, but he was also the only one they could destroy.

“Jo, you still matter to him,” he drained out his words, clutching to her and ignoring his own yields and protests while he comforted her with a tender embrace. His lips delicately penetrated her forehead, not poking fun at her loss of composure or complaining about the topic of discussion.

“Pacey, I can’t say goodbye to him. Not again,” she muffled, dissolving into shortly held out breaths that attempted to shelter her weeping, as ineffectual as they were.

Her lips were parted, the salty taste of her empowering tears blended with the seas. The moistness grew on her palms as she buried all her emotions within them. She was born weak, but somehow Dawson made her strong and she knew without that grounding she wouldn’t know how to function.

“Jo, listen to me,” he ceased briefly to make sure her attentions were earned.

“You don’t have to say goodbye again. All you have to do is ask him to stay.”

“I can’t,” she remarked promptly, bracing against his subtle embrace for support.

“Do you love him?” the male’s tone was harmonized between gentle and demanding.

“What?” she grew agitated for his simple inquiry.

“Do you love him, Jo? It’s a simple question. Do you love him and want him to stay?” he repeated, more sternly this time.

“Of course I love him. I’ve always loved him and our friendship. You of all people should know that. Even if I wanted him to stay…”

“Goodbye, Jo,” he interrupted.

“What?” she eased out of his captive hold, liquid-stung orbs inclining.


What more was there to say, to do? For god sakes, he had just said it all with a single word. Pacey Witter had declared his goodbye. He had did what he didn’t have the courage to do before the summer, before he deserted her. It finally innovated her thoughts. Maybe she couldn’t admit to Dawson how or why she missed him because it seemed like he was never really gone. He was always there in this subconscious way. Truth was, she didn’t want to tell Dawson she missed him for the simple fear of admitting that he was gone. He had been gone for as long and unbearable, or for as short and overshot as that period of time was…he had been gone.

“All packed?” a meek simper evolved from her as he nodded subtly in reply while zipping up his last piece of cargo. She flipped on the light switch that he had purposely kept off. Her lips seemed deformed into a smile when she knew, if not he, that they should’ve been frowning. Frowning in regret, in sorrow, in happiness, in guilt, in hatred, in love…in promise.

Her body slipped into the temporary bedroom that he had made his habitat in at Jen’s, Jack’s, and grams. It was familiar to her, but now it had become this alternate dimension with his simple presence. His presence was so needed, and instantaneously unwanted. She was warped into this enclosure of memories that would litter her mind for whatever superstitious intelligence called it…infinity, eternity, forever. It all meant the same thing. It meant a real goodbye. It meant sacrifice; sacrifice that had no rewards at the end of the long, curling tunnel. It was dark.

The memories became jaded and the oxygen seemed to lower to a nonexistent supply. The walls were coated with his touch, the bed coated in his warmth, the air coated in his scent. She was evolving into a menace.

“So…” she struggled as she took in a breath; it being sour and rejected.

“So…” he at last spun slowly to face her, acknowledging her unworthy presence.

“So, we’re leaving for the airport at six in the morning. I suppose I should program Audrey to wake you up in good time,” she chuckled heartlessly, taken aback by the quiet solace he portrayed. He seemed unaffected, uncaring.

“Well, I guess I’ll leave you to finish your packing. I just wanted to make sure everything was…” she trailed as his dark eyes fell superior over hers, swallowing in a helpless defeat.

“Night, Dawson,” she mustered, edging out of the gap the opened door created that had been impatiently awaiting her exit, flicking off the light source on her way out.

“Jo?” his tone was questioning, dancing with uncertainty in the dark.

“Dawson?” she returned, her distant frown no longer visible which conveniently blinded him from the destruction his absence would create once he left tomorrow.

“Tell me now that you’re okay. Tell me now because I’ve been here for this entire weekend and somehow you have this brushing off act down pat where I don’t know what to believe and what not to believe with you anymore. Because I know I can’t go back. Not without you telling me you’re going to be okay. I need to hear those words from you.”

“I’ll be okay,” she managed, swallowing her pitiful lies as if they were a full course meal.

The way he found her in the lingering shadows startled her. She could not see his eyes, or any part of him. But she felt his weak embrace, weak only because she was the recessive link. She could not lie to his touch, or his eyes. Only his words could be lied to because they were so distant and never as harmful as he could be to her in so many other uncountable ways.

He enriched her with his fondling gesture, bracing her into the darkness with a comforting silence. Her features in habit found the groove of his shoulder, nestling in with shaded emotions. The dark was the faithful comrade to the stinging pain of her tears. These tears had been denied and were now hot, swelling, burning with impurity. She was thankful that he wouldn’t pity her for loving him more than he loved her. Not if he couldn’t see her cry. Not if he couldn’t see her break. Especially not if he could see her fail any expectations he might have held.

“You’re shaking,” his tone was deeply masculine, wavering with gentleness. He stroked fondly at the dark strands she possessed which were not seeable in the abyss of the vacant bedroom.

“I’m cold,” she murmured between the muffled cries that were readied to evacuate. If it not for his captive hold, she would be crumbled to the floor before him. She was dying in a literal sense.

“But you’re warm,” his fingertips sturdily rummaged through the blunt straightness of her hair.

“I’m sorry,” she winced; the hotness of her tears deflecting off the icy chills her cheeks held. Each tiny bead of dewy salt managed in utter silence to swell into the material of his shirt without notice. Her lids eventually seared shut while she chanted to herself not to cry, a mission impossible task.

“Joey,” a waft of coolness breezed into the small gap he created as he parted their bodies gently, cupping her face in the deep stillness of darkness. She did not dare open her eyes, for his were ones she could not face even in this black pit.

“I’m not okay,” she murmured in submission, helpless rage, and regret.

“I’m not okay because from day one you were the biggest thing in my life no matter what the circumstances, Dawson. You…you were everything. Everything summed up isn’t even what you were to me or what you meant to me. And I wasn’t okay when you left me behind in Capeside to follow your dream. But I was okay knowing you were happy, happier than I was. I thought I could come to Boston, to Worthington, a fresh start. I really thought I could make it…but I couldn’t. I haven’t. I try, and I try, but the manifest fact that you can never be where I am always sits in the corner. I just…” she hesitated, her rambling assortment of emotions mainly consumed with the uncertainty of the sadness she was experiencing. The emptiness.

“I just find myself missing you and I don’t know how to face that. I don’t know how to deal with the fact that we’re not in Capeside anymore and you aren’t Dawson anymore.”

She couldn’t see his eyes, but she felt them widen. She knew he could never really begin to understand her and the way she functioned. But he was the only thing that kept her functioning, however imperfect.

“I’m still Dawson, Jo. I’m always going to be Dawson,” he whispered quietly, the heat he radiated in this dark haven the only think that led her to believe he had not backed away from her.

“Not my Dawson,” she was barely audible, her voice wilted. She surfaced with another empowerment of tears, and somehow he found his way to them. The subtle edging of his fingertips pressured the saline from her creased features, wishing them away.

“Joey, just ask me to stay,” his voice suddenly grew hoarse, demanding.

“I can’t,” she whispered in dismissal.

“Joey, I’m going to take that flight back to Los Angeles tomorrow…unless you ask me to stay. Ask me to stay. Please,” he softened, clutching her tighter. She offered an invisible, lifeless smile upon him.

“Goodnight, Dawson.”

She had left nothing, had said nothing. All she did was leave before she had to face another goodbye and just trust Audrey to get Dawson to his destination in the morning. Another goodbye to Dawson Leery was something she had no strength for. Thinking she had no other resort, she was driving back to Capeside. It may have been an easier route to fly back, but she needed time. She needed space. She wanted to be alone. And for some reason she felt emptier than before she had left. So empty that the hollow pit was drowning her insides, engulfing her in confusion and ultimate frustration.

Her windshield wipers steadily battled the downpour of rain. Storms were shifting this night, heavy clouds following her path down the dark road. At this very moment he was sleeping while she was leaving. Leaving before he did. It was the only thing she knew how to do. She didn’t know how to say goodbye to him. At least, not a goodbye that she didn’t know the length of time it would last.

The foggy haze precipitated on her eyes and began controlling her vision, the road and her surroundings seeming an illusion. Her headlights were blurred, not easily guiding her way through the darkness. She refused to pay heed to the saline that was brimming her lids with disgust in herself; disgust for taking the easy way out and insuring that she would lose him one way or another. She was going to lose Dawson Leery now, not only to his new life and his new dreams, but also to her decisions. It was hard to grasp the idea of not having his ladder to climb up to anymore, but even harder knowing he wouldn't be there to meet her. Everything had changed in a sense she couldn’t accept.

After her days of driving back to Capeside, using only a half worn map and a few guiding directions from by passers on the side roads to help her, she was back. She was back to home sweet home, Capeside. Somehow she had woven her way back into the past. A past in Capeside where things seemed less complicated, though this past was one she had no need to come back to. It was a past filled with deaths, struggles, and the silent reminder that she was nobody going nowhere. But that reminder was better than the one that slowly but surely she was losing everyone.

The blistering rays of sunlight dawned upon the soothing lands, the country making the vegetation comfortable in their bedding. The green stalks were long, dancing for her admiration in the breeze as they sweat small beads of dewy perspiration. The creek was delicate, harmonious as it lapped in quiet collisions against the shallow shores. And there was the scent, the scent so musky and airy with the perfume of life and living. It was comforting. After being so eager to remove herself from this home and find a new one, she came to realize that this was the one she was missing. In this very moment she wasn’t missing Boston. Not a single soul would be expecting her back, and yet it didn’t frighten her for she knew it wouldn’t be awkward to return here where she would be welcomed with open arms back to the gracious families who raised her. It wasn’t just the immediate family that Bessie, Bodie, and Alexander had supplied her with. It was everyone, the families of her friends who also played such a significant role in her upbringing. She was coming home.

Her house. Looking up at it seemed almost foreign. Bessie and her had chatted endlessly on the phone each night about everything that didn’t really matter, and of course the one thing that did. That was the bed and breakfast. It was their lifelong struggle and success, which was still rising with Bessie at the control panel. The element of playing a role in their bed and breakfast was the one thing she had sincerely missed not being a part of anymore, aside from her beloved sister.

The aching creak of the porch steps in their familiarity as she stepped up them plugged a smile onto her restless features, growing with anticipation as she eased into the aroma of her house. The smell of it was indescribable. It wasn’t any particular scent, just the one that identified this house as part of her. She managed to move through the house silently, her dark eyes widened with eagerness. It was an eagerness to feel loved again.

She shifted to the open corridor leading into their kitchen, finding Bessie’s back facing her while she was occupied with washing dishes. It was early afternoon, and however many guests she had the night before at their bed and breakfast had probably already flown the coop.

“Bessie…” she managed between the entanglements of emotions pleasing the butterflies in her stomach. But, she seemed unheard. Maybe she was too overwhelmed to have realized how quiet she was with her words, so she made another attempt.

“Bessie!” her voice was firm in volume, but light in tone and this time she was successful as her elder sister spun rapidly with an outcry. The slippery dish she had been cleansing submitted to the forces of gravity, plummeting to the tiled floor with an obnoxious crash while pieces scattered everywhere. But as their gazes collided from across the room, the sound seemed silent.

“Joey?” her sister’s words were a hoarse whisper, blanked at the reality that indeed she was there. Without the slightest degree of hesitation, they both in unison broke into uplifted smiles of delight, closing in on the gap as they met with a gentle, fond, yet clutching embrace. It was a motherly embrace Bessie had always bestowed upon her, and in this reunion the tenderness of loving affection was the one thing she desperately needed.

She had spent the entire night up with Bessie, flaunting their stories to one another over hot cider by the fire. It was so fulfilling to be back. Back here, Capeside, home. This was her home and she had forgotten how protected she felt here. But there was one thing she had not yet faced, this ladder before her. It had become a foreign object in her mind, and as her fingertips brushed along the splinters of wood she found it older or maybe younger than it seemed not so long ago. She had not yet even intruded on a reunion with Dawson’s family, for she wanted to face the difficult memories first. This rustic ladder was one of them.

How she could notice so many things on a simple ladder fazed her. The wood’s colouring had dulled to a faded gray from its old chestnut brown. It was more worn, though it seemed unchanged. It’s positioning had edged away from its once centered stature and she was alarmed that the Leery’s had not stored it away in the garage once she and Dawson had both left for university. Maybe it was a memory to them too. Something they wanted to hold onto as much as she had.

Another force she couldn’t deny or explain drove her up the weak bars of wood as she climbed the ladder. Everything seemed to warp back to when she was everything but a careless young girl, and she was caught between past and present in a deluded universe. Time seemed distorted, and she wasn’t sure if she was inclining towards his window rapidly or slowly. But she managed somehow to reach her destination, slipping through the window though uncertain why it was gaped open to welcome her coming. She had expected it closed.

She must’ve still been caught in the past, but as easily as she had cued out, she cued in. Before her, his broad back facing her, there he was. His brawny fingertips tunneled through his sandy wisps, casually edging around to face her. Their dark gazes penetrated, almost causing her to hurtle back out the window. But, she would fall. Fall long, hard, and fast. There was a small gap between them, but he felt too near for her to comprehend, to accept or acknowledge.

“I was expecting you,” he murmured.

“Dawson, what are you…” she trailed, unable to find the courage to proceed. She couldn’t distinguish whether she was washed over with a wave of relief, anger, sadness, or happiness. They all seemed too alike to vary.

“Because I know you. I knew you wouldn’t be ready to face me that morning before I left for Los Angeles…and I knew I wasn’t strong enough to say goodbye to you again. I took a flight back here and was sort of hoping I would be lucky about you coming back. In all honesty, Jo, I can’t leave you again…leave us again. I…” he finished her statement, the swelling emotions and promise in his eyes unbearably relentless.

No other words were voiced or needed. They met with a powerful embrace that was drowned out by the passionate tenderness that challenged it, and he secured her into his safe haven only fit for her. It dawned upon her that Boston wasn’t her home, nor was Capeside. Home was where her heart was. This haven, this home her heart was building was with her confidante, her best friend, her love. Dawson Leery was the key. Maybe he always was, but it took their separation to help her realize it. Sometimes separation from the past was worse than moving on.