by Laura Smith

She was battered and broken when he found her. Her blonde hair was a mass of caked blood, the red rivers trickling down her pale skin and pooling on the ground beneath her. She'd managed to pull herself into a sitting position at some point, although now she was slumped, breathing shallow, her shirt soaked with blood and other substances he didn't want to identify, though his brain kept telling him what they most likely were.

"Can you hear me?" His voice sounded high and frightened in his ears and he winced, afraid he would scare her more. It was an agonizingly long time before she responded, blinking slowly, no recognition dawning in her eyes. "Jesus."

His cell phone was clipped to his belt and he wrenched it free, pushing buttons quickly and hoping he'd managed to get them right. When the operator came on he said the words clearly and slowly, all the while begging them to hurry. He set the phone on the pavement, leaving it connected in case anything happened before the ambulance arrived, and settled on the ground next to her, afraid to touch her, afraid to break her further.

She was sprawled against the building and he could see the dark red stain spreading around her as they waited. The blood changed his mind, forcing him to take action. He felt for the pulse of it, leaking from her body, beneath her shirt. He was careful to avoid her broken and bleeding nails, ragged from where she'd fought back. His mind lingered vaguely on old police shows where trace evidence found under the fingernails of corpses led to arrests and then he refused to think, not wanting images of corpses in his head, in his eyes, should she focus and see him. He couldn't tell for sure if he was helping or hurting her in the slim sliver of light that stretched down the alleyway, couldn't see much of anything at all as she turned her head and looked at him for a long moment.

As the wail of the sirens grew louder, she blinked again and started to scream.


"I'm sorry, sir. No one's allowed in to see her."

"But I rode in the ambulance with her."

"You're not family. You don't go in."

"Have you called her family? Her grandmother? Her parents? I'm her friend. I was the one she was there to meet before all this happened. I was late and this..." he gestured to the closed doorway of her room. "This happened. This is my fault; do you get that? So please, I'm begging you here, please let me in to see her."

"She's unconscious. And no."

"It's all right."

They both turned at the soft voice, cracked with sorrow. Pacey rushed to Grams's side and gave her an impulsive hug, pulling away as he realized he was still covered in blood. Grams paid no mind, pulling him back against her and burying her face in his shoulder. Tears he'd been holding back broke free and he felt himself give in, crying along with the woman in his arms.

Finally, Grams pulled back and looked at Pacey's face, her sincere gaze locked on his. "I'll hear no more of you blaming yourself, Pacey Witter. What happened was a horrible thing and I wish to God that Jennifer had never had to experience it, but I will not allow you to take the blame for what that...that...animal did to her."

"Mrs. Ryan?" A young doctor came up to them, holding out his hand to her. "I'm Dr. Martin. I was the one who was on duty when your granddaughter was brought in."

"How is she?"

He nodded toward Pacey, "You have this man to thank for her being alive. He found her and, had he not called us when he did, the outcome would have been very different."

"She's all right?"

"She's unconscious right now. It looks as if she had some severe blunt force trauma to the back of her head. I'm assuming that she was slammed repeatedly against the wall, although the police findings may differ from that. It's just my assumption, given the fact that the trauma is so evenly widespread. All her vital signs have stabilized and she's off the ventilator. Her lung collapsed, but we were able to reinflate it and she's breathing on her own now, so we don't foresee any trouble in that regard."

"My lord." Grams offered the words up in a kind of prayer, clutching Pacey's hand for strength.

"She lost a lot of blood. But at this point, we're fairly certain that there is no internal damage. I'm waiting on some X-rays right now, but I really don't think I'll see anything odd when they come back. Should that not be the case, I'll come and talk to you again."

"Can I see her?"

"When do you think she'll regain consciousness?"

The doctor looked at Pacey, taking in his disheveled appearance and blood-soaked clothes. "Hopefully soon, but I'm afraid there's no way to tell. And once she does awaken, the police are going to want to talk to her. In fact, I believe there is an officer here now who would like to talk to you."

"Of course." Pacey squeezed Grams's hand. "I should go do that. Let you see Jen."

She nodded, leaning over to kiss Pacey's forehead. "I'll tell her you're here."

"Tell her I'm sorry."

Grams shook her head. "I'll tell her you're here."


"Oh my god!" Pacey woke up to the frightened exclamation and the feel of Joey's hands touching him. He almost resisted the urge to open his eyes, not wanting to deal with everything that would come once they knew he was fine, wanting to just pretend that Joey's hands were on him for a different reason, that this had all been a nightmare. Instead, he squinted in the harsh fluorescent light and looked blearily at Jack, Joey and Dawson.


"Are you okay?" Her hands were still on him, touching where the blood had stained his clothes beyond repair. "Are you hurt? Did they hurt you too?"

"I'm fine, Jo." He finally shrugged off her grip, the desire to touch her in return, to feel real again, almost overwhelming. Everything felt off-kilter. Sore.

"How's Jen?" Jack's eyes were wild with worry and grief. "Is Grams with her?"

"I don't know." He rubbed his eyes and tried to focus on his watch, giving up when he realized the numbers were far too small for him to see. "What time is it?"

"About five in the morning." Dawson helped Pacey to his feet. "We just got home and got your message. Rushed over here. What happened?"

He rubbed at his face now, slapping it in an effort to come fully awake. His hand smelled metallic, like her blood. His skin was burnished with color. "Jesus. I need a shower."

"You're okay?" Joey's eyes were haunted as she looked him over, seeing blood but no wounds.

"It's all Jen's. The blood. I assume it's all hers. I don't..." He shook his head. "Coffee?"

Jack walked over to the pot that sat on the burner, almost empty and giving the room an acrid smell. He poured the remnants into a cup and handed it to Pacey, turning back to make a fresh pot. Pacey choked down the bitter liquid and coughed.

"She was supposed to meet me at the restaurant, but she called an hour beforehand and said she'd just meet me at the bar. I told her I thought it was a bad idea, considering she'd already been drinking a little and I didn't want her to get involved with anyone I'd have to beat the shit out of." He laughed, a hollow sound. "She promised she'd wait at the coffee shop across the street with her friend."

He downed some more coffee, wincing as it burned its way down his parched, dry throat.

"When I got there, the coffee shop was closed, there was no sign of her or her friend. I was about to head over to the bar when something caught my eye. She'd been carrying her shiny vinyl purse when I'd seen her earlier and it was lying in the opening to the alley, reflecting the streetlight." He finished the coffee and crumpled the cup in his hands, surprised to find them shaking. "I found her about halfway down. She was bleeding and barely conscious, barely breathing. Her hair was...just..." Soft sobs caught in his throat and he bent forward, hiding his face in his hands, then jerking back as he was overwhelmed with the smell of blood. "She was covered in blood and...other stuff. There was no sign of anyone around, but she'd been... she's..."

"She's awake." The four teens looked up at Grams's voice, thick with relief. "She just woke up. The doctor is looking at her now and then I'm sure the police will want to talk to her and see how much she remembers."

"She's okay?"

She locked eyes with Pacey, knowing what he was asking and why. "She will be." She shook her head and looked at all of them. "However, she won't be up for visitors until much later this afternoon. So what do you say we all go back to my house and, while Pacey takes a shower, I'll whip up the world-famous Evelyn Ryan breakfast special?"

Joey looked at the door to Jen's room. "You're sure...?"

"She's got a rough morning ahead of her, one that she's going to have to endure alone. One that I think she's much more willing to handle alone. And after that's done, she's going to need some rest. I say we give that to her and get some ourselves. Then when we all return this afternoon everyone will be in much better shape to deal with this horrible situation."

"Not so horrible," Jack offered quietly. "She's alive. She's awake."

"You're correct, Jack." Grams hugged his shoulders. "Not so horrible after all. Now," she nodded in the direction of the main entrance. "Let's go home."


Grams watched as Pacey hitched up the sweats Jack had loaned him and tightened the drawstring. She walked over to him slowly, taking great care not to divert his attention from the other three teens gathered around the kitchen table.

He didn't look at her until she reached him, but she knew the moment she met his eyes that he'd been aware of her the entire time. Giving him a gentle smile, she put her arm around his shoulders and guided him into the next room. She led him to the loveseat and sat him down.

"I washed it all off," he told her softly. "But I can still feel it and smell it. Taste it."

"You mustn't blame yourself for this, Pacey. I won't allow it."

He smirked, his normally cocky demeanor tempered with the weight of sorrow. "She was so out of it when I found her. Barely conscious and I couldn't even tell where all the blood was coming from. I think I talked to her, babbling words or something. And then she looked at me. And she started screaming, only it wasn't even screaming. She couldn't even do that after the first one. It was more like the cry of a wounded animal. And I couldn't do a damn thing." The hot rush of tears stung his eyes and he wiped them away angrily. "I couldn't help her or comfort her. All I wanted to do was hold her and tell her she was going to be okay and I wouldn't let anyone else hurt her, but she kept trying to scream and cry, and even though she could barely function, she tried to fight me off like I was going to hurt her, like I was whoever..." He'd stopped fighting the tears now, letting them course freely down his face. "Like I was the asshole who did this to her." He sniffed, realizing what he'd just said and to whom. "Sorry."

Grams managed a smile. "I've already called him much worse in my head," she assured him. She looked up and nodded to Joey, Jack and Dawson, inviting them to come in. Joey held tightly to Dawson's hand, allowing him to help support her as she sank down on the edge of the couch.

"Pacey?" Her voice was soft and childlike. Pacey took a deep breath and held out a hand to her. Joey took it and, with a gasping sob, settled into his lap, crying against his chest.

Grams stood up and held a hand out to both Jack and Dawson. "Come help me with breakfast."

"But..." Dawson looked at Pacey and Joey, buried against one another. Grams shook her head.

"Come on, Dawson." She tugged gently, urging him out of the room. "Let them comfort one another. They need each other right now, just for the moment. I doubt you'll have to worry about anything long term."

"Am I that obvious?" She nodded, smiling just a little. His answering sigh was sad. "Am I that shallow?"

"I don't think so, dear. I think you're just as scared as they are and don't like giving up your own comfort. It's a typical reaction." She glanced at Jack. "Which is why I need both of you to help me do this. I'm afraid that I lean on Jennifer for my comfort these days, and without her here, I'm liable to toss the bacon grease in the pancake batter and put the eggs in the toaster."

"Don't worry, Grams." Jack moved closer and hugged her. "We'll keep you focused."

She ruffled his hair before kissing the top of his head. "I'm counting on you to do just that."

"And Jen'll be home before we know it."

Grams nodded, allowing her smile to widen, even though in her heart she wondered if the Jennifer that would be coming home was the same Jennifer they knew.


Pacey shifted carefully, guiding Joey's sleeping body down onto the loveseat. He eased away from her, pulling the afghan down from the back of the seat and draping it over her body. Her dark hair hid her pale face, her dark eyes rimmed with sorrow and worry. He brushed her hair back, away from her forehead and stepped back, his heart crashing against his chest.

What if it had been her? His mind asked him. Seeing Jen like he had had twisted him up inside and wrenched something untouched out of him. He'd known Joey since she was five. He'd protected her. Loved her once. Seeing Joey like that might have killed him.

He took another step back, immediately guilty. He held his hands out in front of him, staring at the darkened skin around his nails where the blood had pooled and gathered and refused to be washed away.

Jen's blood.

He nearly screamed as he felt the hand come down on his shoulder, whirling around to see Jack standing there, his gaze locked on Joey as well. "She sleeping?"


"She's freaked."

"We all are."

Jack nodded. "Jen's my best friend in the world." His voice was low and gravelly from the lack of sleep and from the tears that were welling up in his throat. "I blew her off. You were going to hook up with her later, and I never once considered..."

"Why would you? Why would any of us?" Pacey spoke the words softly and with conviction, though he wasn't sure he believed them himself. "Grams said she wouldn't allow us to blame ourselves."

"Or each other?"

"I don't blame you, Jack." Pacey looked into the other boy's eyes and held his gaze, more frightened of the response than he wanted to admit. Jack shook his head, his lips pressed tight together to hold back any sound, any sob.

"Blaming each other," he paused, clearing his throat and breathing deeply. "It's not going to help Jen. She needs all of us to be behind her and help her through this."

"Which isn't exactly the same as saying that you don't think this is my fault." Pacey nodded, resigned. "I see."

"I'm not...blaming you, per se."

"Per se. Which means you do blame me." Pacey nodded, pushing down the flood of guilt that threatened. "That's...Well. I guess we should...let's just go eat breakfast and..." He shrugged again, unsure of what else to say. "What time are visiting hours?"

"Grams said ten."

"What time is it now?"

"Almost seven."

"Plenty of time to eat and get ready to go visit her." Pacey moved around Jack and headed for the kitchen, knowing he had to eat, just as clearly as he knew that he'd end up vomiting it all back up the minute he was back at his boat. He smiled at Grams and sat at the table. "Smells great."

Grams smiled her thanks and sat at the table just as Jack joined them. She held out her hands to both Dawson and Jack, who took them, then extended their free hands to Pacey. As soon as they were all joined, Grams bowed her head and started to pray, her mouth mumbling near-silent words as her tears fell, muttering 'amen' over and over and Jack gathered her in his arms and led her away from the kitchen.


He dumped Jack's clothes into the laundry and tossed his own into the garbage. Setting his wallet and keys on the counter, he walked to the shower naked and turned the water all the way to the left. He rested his head on the door and silently offered up thanks that the dean's boat had a shower so he didn't have to do all this in some god- forsaken, mildewy stall.

As the steam began to coagulate in the air, he braced himself and stepped into the stall, hissing as the burning liquid hit him, but refusing to allow himself to back away.

You were too late. You were flirting with the new waitress and you forgot about the time and you were too late. You figured she'd be fine on her own and so you blew her off for a quick make-out session just so you could feel her tits and see if they were real and while you were getting your rocks off some animal was raping your friend. While you were letting some girl you barely know touch your dick some asshole was slamming Jen's head into a brick building and fucking her and making her bleed. Some fucker was holding a knife to her throat and cutting her and getting off on it and you could have saved her, you could have been there, you could have done something but your goddamned cock was the only thing you could think about. And then when it's all said and done, all you can give a shit about is what if it had been Joey.

"Shut up," he whispered, grabbing the washcloth and rubbing it over his skin lightly. "I didn't know."

Jen's lying in a hospital bed and she's bleeding and she's scared and she's been violated and all you can worry about is your fucking ex- girlfriend.

"That's not true. All my concern was for Jen." The cloth rubbed harder now, scrubbing at his hands, his arms, his thighs, anywhere that her blood touched him, anywhere he could still feel it and smell it. "It was only once it was over that I let myself think."

And what do you think, you cocksucker? You think you don't deserve this sympathy everyone seems to want to give you. You think Grams is wrong and that you should blame yourself. Because Jack's right, isn't he? This is your fault. You might as well have been the one shoving your dick inside her and holding her down and raping her. You might as well have been the one holding the knife to her and scaring her and hurting her because he did it because you weren't there, you selfish fuck. He could have killed her because you weren't there.

The scrubbing stopped. The water tinged a translucent red with his own blood, the skin worn through in a few places, the hot almost inconsequential now. He sank to his knees, crying without reservation as the water beat down on his head in rhythm with his thoughts.

It was his fault.


Jen stared at the ceiling, her eyes vacant. Parts of her hurt, she was sure of that, though the combination of drugs kept her from actually feeling any of the pain.

And then there was the numbness. Nothing inside her felt real or alive or connected. She was sure there was some emotion she was supposed to be feeling, but she couldn't seem to care what it might be.

"Miss Lindley?"

She didn't recognize the voice, so she turned her head. The conscious thought made her wonder if she'd have bothered had it been someone she knew.

"Miss Lindley?"

It was a police officer, standing in the doorway. "Yes?"

"I'm Officer Stern. Would it be possible for you to answer a few questions?"

"I already answered your questions."

"Well, you answered questions." She nodded, still standing in the door. "But I have all new and exciting questions."

"Oh." Her voice was as flat as her eyes. "Comedy. That's great." She shrugged, looking back up at the ceiling. "What do you want to know?"

"Do you remember anything about the person who did this to you?"



"People who did this."

"There was more than one assailant?"

"One of them tried to hold me down while the other...did this." There was no emotion in her words, nothing giving her away other than the slight pause. "He kept talking about getting his turn, so I assume they eventually switched places, taking their turns raping and restraining me. Not that I really needed any restraining by then. Something about a rape and a stab wound that takes the fight out of you, I suppose."

"Did you get a good look at either of them?"

She shrugged. "They looked like college students. I saw them walking toward me. I was sitting outside the coffee shop on the low stone wall...you know the one?" She didn't wait for a response. "I could hear them laughing, joking about something. Then I stopped paying attention until something hit me across the back of the neck."

"One of the officers found a short length of pipe at the scene."

"The next thing I remember is that someone's holding my hair, yanking on it. And then I felt the knife."

"Do you have any idea why they stabbed you?"

"No." She started to laugh, the sound bitter, turning to a cough that forced her to grab her side. "I don't have any idea why they stabbed me. I don't have any idea why they raped me. I don't have any idea who they were or why they did any of this. Maybe they got their rocks off by hurting women. Maybe they didn't like my shoes."

"Did either of them say anything?"

"Nothing relevant."

"Anything could be relevant, Miss Lindley."

She looked her in the eye, her gaze as flat and lifeless as her voice. "One of them said I had a hot, sweet pussy. One of them said he wanted to cut my tits off so he could take them home and suck on them whenever he wanted. It might have been the same one, I don't recall." Awareness suddenly lit her eyes as she stared at her. "Do you think either of those things are relevant?"

"We want to get as many of the facts as possible, Miss Lindley, so we can make every attempt to apprehend the people that did this to you."

"You're not going to catch them."

She stopped writing on her notepad and looked up at Jen. "What makes you say that?"

"You could put them here in the room with me and I wouldn't recognize them. I doubt any of the physical evidence will prove anything unless you manage to catch them doing it to someone else and compare the two. Something tells me that these nice, college-student looking boys aren't in your big crime computer."

"You'd be surprised what we're capable of doing, Miss Lindley. And, as much as it saddens me to say this, there's a very good chance that these men will do this again to someone else. Someone who might not have a friend come along and save them. So anything that you can do to help us apprehend these people might save someone else's life."

"True." Jen nodded, exhausted. "But it's not going to do a damn thing about changing mine."


Joey stepped onto the boat and moved over to the stairs that led below. Creeping down them quietly, she peered into the dim interior searching for Pacey. "Pace?"

She continued deeper, feeling way too much like a trespasser. That's because you are, her brain reminded her as she moved through the dining area toward the bedrooms. Light spilled out of the bathroom door and she moved closer, hearing the soft spatter of the shower.

She stopped walking, frozen. She couldn't go in there if he was in the shower. He'd be naked and vulnerable and all she'd want to do would be to touch him, to strip off her clothes and step inside with him and let him press up inside her, hold her against the wall and rain kisses over her.

She took a few steps forward, pausing right outside the slightly open door. Steam pooled around her as she pushed it open further, her eyebrows drawing together in concern. Moving closer, she let out a soft cry then rushed to the doors, not caring that she got drenched as she reached in and turned the water off. It was ice cold now, the heat long gone and drained away.

"Pacey?" She tried to keep her voice calm, but she was sure she failed as she touched his shoulder. His skin was cool to the touch as she grasped his shoulder and shook him, her wet hair falling down around her face. "Pacey!"

"Go 'way, Joey." He refused to look at her, trying to curl back in on himself, pulling against her grip.

"Pacey." She released him and grabbed a towel, moving into the shower with him. She gasped as she saw his body, the skin rubbed raw, the washcloth still stained with blood. Tears blinded her vision as she sank down beside him, water staining the knees of her jeans. "Oh, Pace."

Her hands shook as she wiped water away from his face, drying him slowly with gentle touches. He stayed curled up, not allowing her much access to him. She whispered his name quietly as she ran the towel over him, careful to avoid any tender spots of worn skin. She noticed his body finally relaxing as his breathing evened out and he drifted off to sleep.

Sitting back on her heels, Joey stared down at him, her hands shaking against her thighs. She reached out tentatively and touched his cheek, biting her lip hard to keep her tears in check. When he didn't push her away, she sobbed and lay down beside him in the small shower, not caring as the water soaked through her clothes as she pressed her body against his as much as he would let her.


Grams walked into the room and sat beside the bed. She reached out and took Jen's hand, staring down at it as she held it.

"You're shaking, Grams."

"I was a bit worried about you."

"I'm tough." Jen waited until Grams looked up at her and smiled. "I'm more Ryan than Lindley, I think. And those Ryans...they're pretty hard to break down."

"That's true." Tears stood in Grams's bright eyes. "They say you can come home today, dear. Do you feel up to it?"

"I think so." Jen looked toward the door. "Are they all here?"

"Jack and Dawson are."

"Where's Joey?"

"She went home to shower. And then she was coming straight here."

"And him?"


Jen shook her head. "Never mind."

"Jennifer? Do you blame Pacey for this?"

"Yes." She sat silent for a long moment then blew out her breath, closing her eyes hard. "No. I don't know, Grams. I really don't." She shrugged and stared up at the silent TV. His fault. Her fault. His fault. "Where is he?"

"He went home to change. Although I imagine he more needed some time alone than anything. He feels horribly guilty about this, Jennifer."

"Does that mean that he should?"

"Only you can know how you feel about Pacey, Jennifer. However, if you do blame him, I wish you'd let me know, because if that's the case, I think it would be best if you don't see him at all. He's blaming himself enough and, as strong as he is, I don't know that he can handle the weight of your blame as well."

"I need to see him to know."

"Fair enough." Grams stood up and touched Jen's forehead, leaning forward to kiss it softly. "Shall I send Dawson and Jack in?"

"Yeah. I suppose." Jen sighed. "I have to face them eventually, right? And they're my friends so it shouldn't matter that I look like I just went ten rounds with Mike Tyson." She smiled weakly. "Send 'em in."


Pacey started, his body jerking as cool air settled over him, goosebumps standing out on his skin. He blinked rapidly, shocked to see Joey in front of him, her clothes soaked, her hair wild around her face, strands clinging wetly to her skin, a droplet, blood-tinged sliding along her cheek.

"Holy fuck," he shook his head, shaking Joey. "Joey? Joey? Answer me." He sucked in huge gasps of air, struggling for oxygen, his head swimming. "Joey?" He pulled her to him, her cool body against his, her clothes rough against his bare skin.

"Pacey?" Her voice was groggy with sleep as she whispered his name softly, her lips moving over the skin of his neck.

He pushed her away from him, still fighting to breathe. "What the fuck are you doing here?"

"I..." She looked around wildly, scared of the fury in his eyes. "I came to check on you and you were out." She backed away from him, as far as the small shower would let her. "I freaked out, Pacey. You were lying here in the water and bleeding and not...you wouldn't answer me or anything and I just..." Tears took her voice and she shook her head to fight them. "I was scared, Pacey. You were so freaked by all of this..."

"Of course I was freaked!" He managed to get to his feet and stalked out of the bathroom into the stateroom. "Jesus Christ, Joey, she got raped because I wasn't there. I wasn't there to keep it from happening and I sure as hell wasn't there to stop it, was I? So you tell me how else would I feel?"

"It wasn't your fault, Pacey."

"You know what I was doing, Joey?" He turned and advanced on her, guilt and anger in his eyes. "Do you know what I was doing while he was raping her? I was getting my cock sucked by some slutty waitress at the restaurant. She was on her knees in the employee bathroom sucking my dick while some animal was slamming Jen into the fucking brick wall and raping her." He had her pinned to the wall, not seeing the pure fear in her eyes. "So don't fucking tell me it wasn't my fault, Joey. Because, just like always, you don't know a fucking thing about it."

Tears slipped down her cheeks as she trembled, finally shoving him away from her and putting distance between them. "I know you." She sniffed and shook her head. "You've got some fucking white knight complex and you think that you've got to save everyone. Well, everyone doesn't need saving, Pacey!"

He looked at her coldly, dismissing her easily. "Jen did."


Dawson stood against the wall near the door as Jack approached Jen slowly. He took her hand and squeezed it, giving her a smile. "Wow. Grams wasn't kidding. You look like hell."

"Look, nothing." She laughed softly. "It's nothing compared to how I feel." She turned her head and smiled at Dawson. His eyes widened as he saw her, the dark bruises on her face marring, but not disguising, her beauty. "Hey, Dawson. I've never known you to be the wallflower type."

"The cop said it might be better if both of us didn't approach you at once." He gave her a weak smile. "And I thought Jack was probably who you'd want to see first."

"The cops don't know anything." She held out her hand to him and waved him over. "I just want my friends here."

"Liar," Jack muttered under his breath, ignoring the look she gave him. "Are you going to come home tonight?"

"They said I should be able to, but I think Grams wants them to keep me here another night. She's worried I won't be able to navigate the stairs." She shrugged, wincing slightly as a shaft of pain went through her. "Which isn't unfounded. But I hate it here. You can't sleep. People are always walking in on you at the most inopportune moments. It's like being in a fishbowl. People poke you and prod you and stick needles in you. They write stuff on charts that you can't see and they whisper things to each other."

"Feeling a little paranoid?" Jack smiled.

"And the nurses keep looking at me with this damn look in their eyes like 'Thank God that isn't me.' And they're afraid to say anything and they don't want to look me in the eye and they treat me like I brought this on myself." She shifted uncomfortably. "I didn't."

"We know, Jen." Dawson took her free hand. "It's not your fault."

"Thanks, Dawson." She looked past him as the door opened, her hands tightening in their grips as Joey walked slowly into the room.


"Hey, Jo." Jen relaxed into a smile though it never reached her eyes. "Is it raining?"

"What?" Joey glanced down at her clothes, still damp from Pacey's shower. She blushed and shook her head. "No. I...uh..." She cleared her throat and ran a hand self-consciously through her wet hair. "No."

"Oooo-kay." Jen winced as she tried to sit up. Jack shook his head and grabbed her bed controls and raised her. "Well, welcome to my new and exciting reason to miss mid-terms."

"I've heard of going to extremes, Jen, but this is a little...well, extreme." Joey moved up beside Dawson, barely suppressing her flinch as his hand settled around her waist. "All you had to do was ask for some study help."

"Damn. Why didn't that course of action occur to me?" She laughed softly, wincing and releasing Dawson's hand to touch her ribs.

Dawson looked down at Joey then over at Jack. "I'm going to wait outside." He moved around Joey and leaned forward to kiss Jen on her forehead, stopping in shock when she jerked away. He pulled back awkwardly, carefully avoiding her gaze. "Get better, okay?"

"I'll do my best."

Jack stepped up and kissed her cheek. "You want me to stay here tonight with you?"

"Nah. I'll be fine. I just need sleep. And drugs. The drugs are good."

He smiled and shook his head. "Don't go getting addicted now. I don't want to find you on some street corner at three in the morning begging for spare change so you can buy some ibuprofen."

She laughed again, tears stinging her eyes as she did. "Ouch. That hurt, you bastard." She waited until Jack left the room then let her smile drop. "Where is he?"

"He wasn't sure you wanted to see him. He's out in the hall."

"And what excuse are you going to give Dawson for being all wet? Your cover-up left something to be desired."

"Dawson's not my boyfriend and I don't owe him any explanations." She shrugged. "He's blaming himself for this, you know."

"Maybe he should."

Joey shrugged and looked down at her hands, dark against the bright, white sheets. "Maybe. That's for you to decide."

"I can't change how he sees his role in this." Jen looked away from Joey, staring out the window at the pale sunlight. "If he thinks he's to blame, maybe he is."

"He didn't make that guy do what he did."

"Guys, Joey. There were two guys."

Her voice dropped sadly. "I'm sorry, Jen. I'm so sorry that this happened to you." She bit her lower lip and shook her head. "But it's not his fault. He didn't do it and you don't know that he could have stopped it. But he did save your life." Joey got to her feet and moved to the door, looking back at Jen over her shoulder. "He feels guilty, Jen."

"He tell you that, Joey?"

"I saw it."

"You saw it? When? When he was busy fucking you in the shower before coming over here?"

"Is that what you...?" Joey stopped, stunned, when she realized that was exactly what Jen did think. "I'm going to go."

"Maybe you should. And maybe you should take Pacey with you."


Joey walked out of the room, freezing as everyone looked up at her. Jack was leaning against the wall next to Grams and Dawson was sitting on the floor, his head back, staring up at the lights. "I think she needs her rest."

"You're probably right, dear." Grams stood, allowing Jack to take her hand and help her to her feet. "Joey? Would you and Dawson like to come over for dinner? Perhaps we could all watch a movie and relax?"

"Thanks, Grams." Joey smiled and shook her head sadly, her heart sinking as she realized Pacey was gone. "But I think I'm going to go home and get some sleep. I've got an English paper due that I haven't even started."

"I'll walk her home," Dawson offered, getting to his feet and moving beside Joey. "I can crash at your place, can't I, Jo?"

"Sure." She sighed quietly and gave him a flat smile. "We'll see you guys tomorrow though, okay? We'll stop by after classes."

"Of course. You're welcome anytime." Grams reached over and gave Joey a hug. "No excuses needed."

"Thanks, Grams." Joey stood there as Grams and Jack walked away, feeling Dawson tense up beside her. As soon as they rounded the corner, she turned to face him. "I don't want to discuss it."

"You were gone for three hours."

"I said I didn't want to discuss it." She pulled away from the hand he lay on her arm and started walking toward the exit. "I went home."

"You went to him."

"So what of it, Dawson?" She turned around to confront him, stilling as a nurse walked out a nearby room and shushed her. Shaking her head, Joey walked quickly out of the building, ignoring Dawson as he hurried after her.

When they reached the parking lot, he grabbed her arm and turned her to face him. "I want to deal with this."

"There's nothing to deal with. Pacey's my friend. He was in pain. I went to see if there was any comfort I could offer him."

"And I'm sure there was." Her mouth closed into a thin line at Dawson's snide tone. "He must be grateful that, even though Jen's in the hospital because he wasn't around to save her, he's still got you willing to spread your legs for him. It only figures that the one time someone actually needed his fucking hero complex, he wasn't around."

"She didn't spread her legs for me, Dawson." Pacey's voice was cool and measured. "And even if she'd offered, I wouldn't have taken her up on it."

"Please, Pacey." Dawson turned around and smirked at him. "Everyone knows that these days, you slide your dick into anyone who spreads her legs wide enough."

"Guess Joey's just don't go that wide, then."

"Or maybe you were just too tired from what you did to Jen?"

Everything around them seemed to stop as Joey looked from Dawson to Pacey. Pacey's dark, blue eyes narrowed dangerously and he took a step forward. "Are you insinuating that I did that to Jen?" His voice was a hollow growl echoing with rage. "Because if you are, you'd better walk away from here right now before I lose complete control and grind your fucking skull into the cement." He looked at Joey who was grasping for Dawson's arm. "I'll count to ten, Joey."

She shook as she grabbed Dawson, tugging him away from Pacey. She didn't say anything as she pulled him toward the sidewalk, her eyes still holding Pacey's until he turned around and walked toward the hospital, disappearing from her view.


Officer Stern looked up from the desk where she was putting the finishing touches on her paperwork, her eyebrows rising. "Mr. Witter."

"My father's the sheriff of Capeside, Massachusetts. My brother's a deputy there." He cleared his throat and sank down in the orange, plastic chair across from the desk. "It occurred to me that I might be a suspect in all of this."

"Typically, you would be."


"However, Miss Lindley assured us that there were two men who attacked her and neither of them were known to her."

"And you believe her?"

"Are you asking if we're going to investigate you, Mr. Witter?"

Pacey sighed, his cool demeanor slipping away as he rested his elbows on his knees and buried his face in his hands. "Investigate away," he stated, his voice hollow. "Find me innocent so they'll all stop thinking that I did this."

"You believe that's what your friends think?"

"I believe that's what they're afraid of. They're afraid that I've been hiding amongst them. A rapist in the guise of their best buddy. Whether or not any of them believe it on a conscious level, I couldn't tell you."

"I think, if they're truly your friends, they wouldn't think that. Maybe they think that you're partially to blame simply because you were supposed to meet Miss Lindley there that night. But, I seriously doubt they think that you did that to her."

"I wish I could believe that."

"Do any of them seem frightened of you, Pacey?"

"No." He shook his head and swallowed. "But I haven't gone to see Jen yet."

"I can't tell you how Jen will react, Pacey, other than to offer you some examples of other girls that this has happened to. She may blame you. She may not. She may hate you. She may not want you to touch her. Or, she may give you a huge hug as soon as you walk through the door. There is no guarantee about anything, Pacey. Especially this. The only thing that I can assure you of is that you're never going to know anything unless you go see her."

Pacey chuckled sadly. "You know, I honestly never thought anyone in a police uniform would ever tell me something I wanted to hear."

"And that still holds true?"

"Pretty much. But you guys all seem to persist in telling me what's true and what I need to hear." He stood up and tapped the desk before walking to the door leading back into the emergency room. "I hate that."

"A lot of times? We do too."


Joey turned as soon as her dorm room door was open and glared at Dawson. "Just go the hell away."

"We need to talk."

"No. I don't want to talk to you. Quite possibly ever again." She shook her head, her lips pressed together angrily. "How could you say those things, Dawson? How could you look at him and say those things?"

"Don't tell me the thought didn't cross your mind, Joey. He was sitting there, covered in her blood, reeking of sex and looking guilty as hell. Tell me the first thought that went through your head wasn't 'Pacey raped her'. Can you do that?"

"I would never think that of him. And even if I did, I would never say it! Ever! Don't you see how freaked out he is about this, Dawson? He's wracked with guilt that he wasn't there in time."

"How could I see it, Jo? I'm not the one who went running to him the second I had the chance."

"I didn't run to him." She shoved the door, trying to slam it closed. Dawson caught it with his foot and walked into her room, shutting the door behind him. He leaned against it as she sat on her bed, burying her face in her hands. "I was worried about him. Scared for him. Can you imagine finding her like that, Dawson? Can you imagine what would go through your mind?"

He shook his head. "Jen isn't what this argument is about, Joey, and you know it as well as I do."

"No. This fight is apparently about Pacey and my relationship with him. Which just makes it the most ridiculous conversation for us to be having, since we're not dating."

"You're not dating him either."

"That doesn't mean that I'm not his friend, Dawson. Which, by definition, means I'm supposed to be there when he needs someone to talk to, or lean on..."

"Or fuck?"

"We didn't fuck!"

"Oh, I'm sorry. Did you and Pacey make love, Joey? Was it transcendental? Was it the best sex ever?"

"He was in the shower, Dawson. He'd collapsed from exhaustion and I turned the water off. I got drenched. I covered him up with a towel and, while I was waiting for him to wake up, I fell asleep. That's the whole sordid story."

He didn't say anything for a long time, finally sitting down on the bed opposite her. "When I saw Jen, all I could think about was what would I have done if I had found her. And then I started thinking about what I would have done if she had been you. Just the thought of that, Jo...just the thought killed me. I nearly doubled over in pain when I looked at her because all I could see was your face."


"And then you left and didn't show back up at the hospital and I started worrying. I started wondering where you were, where you could have gone. And then I realized you were with him. I knew it just as clearly as I know how I feel about you, Jo. And, yes, maybe I had no right to be angry at the thought that you might be sleeping with him. But that wasn't what it was about." He sighed and ran his hand through his hair. "Because I didn't imagine you sleeping with Pacey, Joey. I imagined him raping you. I saw you again like I pictured Jen. And it killed me inside."

Joey's hands shook in her lap as she stared at them. "I didn't mean to worry you, Dawson. Or scare you. I just...he needed me."

Dawson stood and walked over to her, sitting on the bed next to her and wrapping his arm around her shoulders. "I need you too, Jo. Just... just remember that, okay?"

She nodded, tears blurring her vision.


Pacey knocked on the door and pushed it open slightly, just enough to see Jen. Her eyes were closed, her face relaxed in sleep.

Walking into the room, he closed the door quietly behind him and moved next to the bed. Her pale skin was swollen, bruises and exhaustion scarring her features. Her eyelashes fluttered against her cheeks, the flesh torn where she'd been held against the brick.

He reached out to touch her, freezing as she sighed softly and shifted in her sleep, the quiet cry of pain, pure reflex.

"I'm so sorry, Jen." He whispered the words, afraid to wake her, afraid to see blame in her eyes. "I'd give anything to go back and do it differently. Give anything to take this away from you."

He captured a long strand of blonde hair and rubbed it between his fingers. Someone had washed the blood and alley detritus from it and it had dried in soft curls.

"Please be okay, Jen?" He released her and moved to the far end of the room, sitting in the chair, hidden in the shadow as he watched her sleep. The one light in the room shone down on her from overhead, an off-color glow surrounding her.

Pacey bowed his head and closed his eyes for a long moment, his hand rubbing his thigh. The firm pressure dug into the raw stretch of skin, sending shocks of pain through him. He stared at Jen, her sleep fitful now, pushing harder until blood soaked the denim and his fingers; the cool metallic scent filling the air around him as he watched her sleep.


The petite blonde stood behind her desk, hands on her hips, her lips set in a grim line. She managed a tight smile as Jen walked in, Grams behind her. "Hi."

"I'm...I'm Jen Lindley. I have an appointment with Dr. Moyer?"

"Right. Have a seat." She waved toward the two pale blue couches that lined the walls.

"Is, uh, everything all right?"

"What? Oh." Her face relaxed into a smile, suddenly looking more in tune with the calming decor. "Sorry. Trying to remember if I accidentally left my purse at the daycare instead of the diaper bag." She laughed. "Because, while I can use Vaseline as lip gloss in a pinch, I'm less anxious to use Sam's Sesame Street diapers for feminine protection." She laughed along with Jen and Grams. "And he's probably going to prefer the formula I've got to the frappacchino he ended up with."

"Maybe," Jen giggled. "Maybe not. But if he does drink it, you'll have a fun night ahead of you."

The door to Jen's right opened and a short, slightly overweight woman stepped out. She was approximately Grams's age and she smiled at them warmly before turning to her secretary. "Go, Sarah. Lock the office door as you leave. And drive carefully. Sam's got your license."

"Thanks, Dr. Moyer." She grabbed a sleek, black bag from under her desk and started for the door.

"And maybe buy a more babyish bag for Sam?"

"Right." Sarah smiled and waved as she slipped through the door. Dr. Moyer turned her attention back to Jen and Grams. "So, which one of you is Jen?"

"I am."

"And who's this?"

"My grandmother. Evelyn Ryan."

"Ms. Ryan, it's very nice to meet you." She shook Grams's hand then turned to Jen. "Why don't we go into my office?" She led the way through the door and waited until they'd joined her in the room before addressing Jen again. "I'm Amanda Moyer. So let's dispense with the doctor portion and just call me Amanda, okay?"

"But your sec..."

"Sarah chose to do that to separate our professional relationships. Everyone who works here in this clinic has been through what you have, Jen." She smiled and sat in a floral patterned chair, inviting the two of them to do the same. "As you'll discover should you choose to attend any of our group support meetings."

"I don't..."

"They're not required," Amanda assured her. "None of this is. The police recommended us to you because they know what so many do not. Rape is a trauma. It attacks you in the form of whoever does it to you, and then, when you think you're safe, you're assaulted by the inner forces that are far more insidious. People go to the police for the first. The second...well, sadly, too many try and deal with those on their own."

"And your job is to help them deal with those attacks? The after effects?"

"That's our goal, yes. To deal with the pain, the blame, the anger, the guilt. Just as there are steps one goes through in dealing with a death, there are steps to dealing with this."

Jen didn't say anything for a long time, instead focusing on her hand, curled around Grams's for support. "How long have you been working with rape victims?"

"In a professional capacity, I've been a counselor for twelve years. But I started this clinic seven years ago."


"Because, Jen." She leaned forward and caught Jen's eye. "Everyone who works in this clinic has been through what you've been through."


Joey chewed her bottom lip as she stood just inside the door of the restaurant. She nodded to the host before walking toward the kitchen. Stopping at the counter, she waved to Danny. He wove through the staff and stopped on the other side of the counter. "Hey, sweetie. Where you been all my life?"

"Most of it? On the other side of jailbait. Is Pacey here?"

Danny's smile faded slightly and he nodded. "He's on a break in the back. And I'm guessing, just by the fact you're here, that you're as worried about him as I am?"

"He hasn't answered his voicemail in three weeks. Every time I stop in here, he's just left. Or, someone's lying for him. Nobody's heard from him, Danny. I've moved well past worried."

"He's completely different here." Danny pulled off his baseball cap and gestured to a booth in a secluded corner. "Go sit down. You want a drink?"

"Diet Coke."

He nodded and started pouring as Joey walked over to the booth. She tapped nervously on the cherry wood table until he sat across from her, setting her drink in front of her. "He doesn't laugh, doesn't joke, doesn't flirt. He just does his job, works his hours, and he's gone."

"He hasn't even gone by to see Jen."

"Maybe..." Danny sighed and shook his head. "Maybe he's scared to? Afraid of her reaction to him?"

"Pacey didn't do this!"

"I know. I know." Danny held up his hand. "No one's accusing him of it." He gave Joey a surprised look. "No one's accusing him of it, are they?"

"No." Joey sighed. "Not really."


"The last time he saw Dawson, Dawson...said things. He was upset and angry and..."

"And he accused Pacey of being a fucking rapist?"

"It was..." Joey stopped as she looked up, seeing Pacey walk through the bar, and watching him with hungry eyes as he headed for the kitchen. "He's lost weight."

"I don't think he's eating." Danny tossed back his drink. "Get him out of here."


"I'll cover his shift. Just get him out of here."


Jack sat in the bar, staring out the window at the darkened coffee shop across the street. "How did nobody see anything?"

Dawson shrugged. "It was a Friday night. It was late. Unless they were waiting for someone, why would anyone be looking out the window? Or maybe they just happened to look away. Or maybe they were too far gone to notice. Or maybe they just saw Jen between two guys and thought she was with them on purpose.

Jack sighed in resignation. "I know. I just feel so helpless. I want to find the people who did this to her. I want to find who's responsible and make them pay for it."

"I know."

"And the longer it takes, the more dead ends I come up against, the angrier I get." He sighed and stared down at his beer. "And the angrier I get at him."

Dawson nodded. "Have you seen him at all?"

"From what I hear, no one's seen him."

"Which makes him seem..."

"More guilty."

Dawson nodded again, taking a long drink of his beer then staring down into the remains. "How is Jen?"

"She's...she's just like always. Acts like there's nothing wrong, like nothing happened." Jack finished his beer. "At least that's how it seems. We don't talk much." He grabbed a handful of peanuts and stuffed them in his mouth. "Wasn't Joey supposed to come tonight?"



Dawson finished his beer and set the glass down. "But she said she needed to study."


"And I'm sure if I called her room, I'd get the mechanical version of 'I've got a headache'."

"Not home?"

"She's never home." Dawson smiled his thanks as the waitress set two more beers in front of them. "She's always doing something that isn't with me."

"And you think she's with him?"

"I don't know where she is." Dawson took a long drink. "But I wonder all the time. And I'm scared all the time that she's alone. And then I'm scared that she's lying in an alley somewhere and there's no Pacey to find her."

"And then you hate him even more."

Dawson shrugged and drank his beer, answering Jack's statement without a word.


Jen stood in the doorway and looked around at the small group of women. Sarah was sitting on the floor, a small boy holding on to her fingers as he stood. She turned her head and saw Jen, waving their joined hands.

Taking a deep breath, Jen smiled and walked over, sitting next to Sarah on the floor. "The floor isn't actually required. You're welcome to the chair." Sarah laughed. "Sam just requires more movement than the chair allows."

"He's adorable." Jen smiled at him, her grin widening as he started bouncing and jabbering at her. "How old is he?"

"Nine months." Sarah guided him into a sitting position and smoothed back his chocolate brown curls.

"Is he your first?"

"First and only." She smiled lovingly at her son. "You?"

"No. God, no!" Jen shook her head. "I'm just a college freshman."

"So was I." Sarah looked away. "But it happened and I couldn't..." her gaze landed on her son and she wiped away a tear. "I was at a party. I was drunk. The guy I was there with slipped something in my drink and shared me with a bunch of his buddies."


"I'm not sure who Sam's father is. But I like to pretend its George Clooney." She laughed softly. "I've thought about suing him for paternity, but figured they'd actually run tests or something."

"Damn it."

"Exactly." Sam reached up and Sarah hugged him close. "What about you? If...if you want to tell. Amanda doesn't let us pry."

"Good policy." Jen smiled, taking the sting from her words. "I think I'll hold off on telling my story tonight."

"Okay." Sarah smiled and turned her attention to Amada as she cleared her throat. Before Amanda began, she leaned back over to Jen. "But I hope you'll tell eventually."

Jen nodded and surveyed the room, noting the variety of women. Amanda cleared her throat again, taking a sip of her water. "Several of you are new here tonight, and it's wonderful to see you. I'm also glad to see quite a few regulars as well. Normally, we would hear several stories, but I thought tonight I'd tell mine."

Sarah's eyes widened and she leaned in toward Jen again. "I've never heard Amanda's story."

"I had been a rape victim counselor for several years, trying to help others deal with the horrible things that had happened to them. Even though I said day after day, year after year, that any woman could be a victim of rape, that every woman is in danger since rape has nothing to do with sex, but is a crime of anger and violence...even though I said that, I thought I was safe. I was older. Smart. I knew self-defense. I had the illusion of safety wrapped around me like a cloak.

"Then one night, outside my apartment, someone grabbed me and raped me. My neighbor, a twelve-year-old boy, found me. He called the police and I ended up spending the night talking to one of my colleagues. And I went through all the emotions that you're going through.

"Anger. Hatred. Guilt.

"Familiar, aren't they? What about blame? Blame yourself. Blame your friends. Blame everyone but the person who actually deserves it.

"Then come the questions. 'What did I do to deserve this?', 'Was I dressed in a way that invited this?', 'Was I giving off mixed signals?'

"You tear yourself up inside. You lay the blame on your own shoulders. I knew all the rules and the regs and the reasons and the truth before this happened to me. I taught people this. But I went through the exact same steps and feelings and everything that a person who had no training in rape counseling would go through. What you're going through."

Amanda started walking around the room. "I went through all the feelings. Intellectually, I knew I was giving the man who did this to me free space in my head. I knew he didn't deserve that. And I knew I deserved better.

"No one. No. One. Deserves what happened to you. No one deserves it. I don't care what you've done in your life. I don't care if you make your living as a prostitute or are a nun or celibate or sexually active. I don't care if you sleep with a different guy every night. You don't deserve what happened to you."

"Then why did it happen?"

Amanda stopped walking and turned to Jen. "Why do you think it happened, Jen?"

Jen stood. "It happened because I'm stupid. I waited outside when I should have gone in the bar. I was alone. I wasn't paying attention." She shook her head and laughed softly, bitterly. "And the person I was supposed to meet didn't show up until the show was over. So maybe I didn't deserve this, but there is somebody to blame. Me. For being stupid. Pacey. For being late."

"The men who did this, Jen. They're the ones who deserve your blame."

"Find them for me then. Find me a face to put the blame to. Find me the hand that held the knife. Find them. But if you don't, if you can't, don't tell me who to blame."


Pacey looked up from the mousse he was drizzling raspberry sauce on, raising his eyebrow expectantly. "What?"

Danny smiled at him. "Take the rest of the night off, Witter."

"I'd really rather not."

Danny pulled the baseball cap off Pacey's head. "Take the night off or you're out of a job."

"Fine." He sighed. "Whatever."

"But first I need you to take this," he placed a full glass in Pacey's hand, "to table seventeen."

"C'mon, Danny..."


Pacey set the glass down and stripped off his cooking jacket. "Am I allowed to come in tomorrow?"

"You'd better. I'm not covering your ass forever."

"You don't have to cover my ass tonight."

"You make it sound so sordid. You look like death warmed over, Pacey. You're making me look bad. So get the fuck out of my restaurant."

"But deliver this first?"

"Yeah. Something like that, you lazy bastard."

Pacey smirked and picked up the glass, pushing through the swinging doors and heading for the bar. He set the drink on the table. "There ya...Joey."

"Hey, Pace."

"I should have known. I guess I'm to take it that you're conspiring with Danny now?" He leaned against the table. "Doing your best to ignore the fact that my lack of response probably means I want to be left alone?"

"I've never been good at subtle hints."

He laughed briefly. "Go home, Joey."

"Take me home, Pacey."

He shrugged and held out his hand. "Where's your boyfriend."

"I don't have a..." She shook her head and smiled bitterly. "You mean Dawson."

"Staunch defender of your sexual status." He raised an eyebrow as they left the restaurant, heading in the direction of Worthington.

"He doesn't really think you did it, Pacey. You know that, don't you?"

"Doesn't matter what he thinks. Whether he thinks I did it, or I'm to blame, or that I'm completely free of guilt. I really don't give a shit what Dawson thinks."

"Have you seen Jen?"


She stopped as they reached the campus. "Can I talk to you?"

"We're talkin' now, Jo."

She bit her lower lip, casting a quick glance toward the dorms. "In private?"

Pacey closed his eyes and sighed. "Joey."


He shook his head. "Sure."

They walked the rest of the way in silence, entering her dark dorm room. Pacey stood just inside the door as Joey moved to the opposite side of the room, snapping on the lamp. She watched him stand there as she sat on the bed. "Are you okay?"

"I'm fine, Jo."


"Yes. Really."

She nodded, pursing her lips as she stood up and walked over to him. She grabbed his t-shirt and lifted it up, running a finger over the raw skin. "After three weeks, I would think that would have healed."

He grabbed her hand and put it away from him. "You got a point, Joey?"

"You say you're fine. And I think we both know that you're not."

"You're home safe, Jo." Pacey grabbed the doorknob. "I'll see you around."

"Have you talked to anyone, Pacey?"

"I'm tired of talking, Jo."

"Not to me. Not to any of us. To Jen. Or, to someone who can help you see this isn't your fault. And this," she reached out to touch his stomach. "This doesn't solve anything."

He caught her hand before she made contact, his fingers tight around her wrist. "Why don't you worry about you, and about Dawson, and leave me alone?"

"Because I can't not worry about you, Pacey. I can't just sit idly by while you're in pain."

"Only one person got hurt, Joey. Only one person's in pain."

"That's a lie." She pushed her hair back behind her ears. "Why can't you just admit that?"

"Why can't you just leave me alone?" He glared at her, his eyes looking slightly wild and trapped. "You're not responsible for me anymore, Joey. You never were. You got what you wanted here in Boston. You got your new start with Dawson and your new college life and me out of your life. Why don't you just be happy with that and leave me the fuck alone?"

"Because you're my friend." Her voice was firm. "You're one of my best friends, Pacey, and I need you to be in my life." She reached out again and did touch his stomach, fingertips light over the scarred skin. "I love you."

His hands closed around her wrists, the sound of bones grinding together startling them both as he shoved her away. She tripped and ended up sprawled on the floor, staring up at him with wide, frightened eyes. "Leave me the fuck alone, Joey. Please."

He turned and stormed out of the room, slamming the door loudly behind him. She got to her feet and rushed after him, grabbing his arm with strength she didn't know she possessed and whirling him around. "This wasn't your fault, Pacey! You didn't fucking rape her and you didn't fucking ask those assholes to rape her. You weren't to blame."

"How many times do I have to tell you this before I get it through your thick skull, Joey? I was fucking someone else."

"What if you'd been working, Pacey? What if Danny had gotten sick and you'd had to stay at the restaurant late? What if there'd been a fire in the kitchen? What if any of those things had happened, Pacey? What if you'd been mugged? What if you'd been hit by a fucking car?" Tears were streaming down her face. "What if, Pacey? Would you still be doing this?" She jabbed her finger into his stomach, hating the small sense of satisfaction she got from his wince. "Would you still be blaming yourself for something that was not your goddamned fault?"

She was panting, anger and pain in her eyes as she glared at him, her chest heaving with every breath. "I let her down, Jo."

"There were two of them, Pacey, and they were big. They had a knife. What makes you think that, even if you'd been there on time, they wouldn't have done what they did?" She reached up and stroked his cheek, the sight of tears clinging to his lashes wrenching a sob out of her. "Please, Pacey. Stop blaming yourself."

"Well, this is pretty cozy. Couldn't you at least do it in your room, Joey? Or are his lower standards rubbing off on you? You'll fuck 'em anywhere, won't you, Pacey? Hallway? Alley way?"

"Your lack of experience is showing, Dawson." Pacey's voice was ice cold, the smell of alcohol ripe in the air. "Especially if you think this is fucking."

"Tell me, Pacey. Was it Joey you were fucking the night you were supposed to meet Jen?"

"How could I have been fucking Joey, Dawson?" His voice slipped from cold to dangerous. "Wasn't I busy raping Jen?" Silence ruled the hallway, laying on them like a thick, angry blanket. "Where were you, Dawson? Why weren't you there to pick up Jen? Why weren't you with Joey tonight? Why was she about to walk home alone? If Joey's your property, your girlfriend, why did you let her out all by herself? Aren't you afraid I'd be out there, knife in hand, ready to rape her and leave her to die in some dark, deserted alley?"

Joey's eyes were wide and horrified, her body shaking slightly with cold. She wrapped her arms around herself, drawing Pacey's attention away from Dawson. Tears stung as she saw his eyes, the lively blue altered to a cold, empty gray. "Pacey?"

"Stay here with your boyfriend, Joey. I'm going home."


Grams sat on the edge of Jen's bed, resting her hand on her granddaughter's knee. "How was your meeting?"

Jen gave a quick laugh, bitter and angry. "It was exactly what I expected. A group of people wanting to share their stories so they can hear everyone else say they're okay. They're not to blame."

"Why is that bad, dear?"

"Because it's not okay, Grams. I'm not okay." Jen sat up, pulling her knees up to her chest, wincing as she pulled at her bandaged skin. "And I am to blame."


"Hear me out. I did some stupid things that night. Not overtly stupid. I can admit that. But I put myself into a situation that was potentially dangerous. And it ended up being actually dangerous. So even though I didn't ask those guys to rape me, I got raped because I was stupid."

"You were raped because two men...two animals raped you. That is the only reason you were raped, Jennifer. And, as much as I hate myself for thinking it sometimes, if it wasn't you, it most likely would have been someone else."

"Why do you hate yourself for thinking that, Grams?"

"Not for thinking it, Jennifer. For wishing for it. For praying that I could turn back time and make someone else suffer this. That I could protect my beautiful granddaughter from the men who did this to her."

Tears leaked down Jen's cheeks. "Grams..."

"But some other girl might not have had someone to find her. Someone who cared enough about her to do the things Pacey did."

"I don't want to talk about Pacey." Jen got off the bed and moved over to her desk, her back to her grandmother. "And please don't give me that look."

"I'm not giving you any look, Jennifer."

"You are. You're giving me a look that lets me know you think I should talk to Pacey. That I should thank him for what he did. That I should be happy he saved my life." She shook her head, staring at her reflection in the window. "I can't, Grams. I can't. I can't talk to him. I can't thank him. And I can't be happy. Because, to be honest with you, most of the time, when I think about what happened to me... and I think about it all the time, Grams...most of the time, I wish he hadn't. I wish he hadn't saved my life so I wouldn't have to feel this way. So I wouldn't have to hurt this way. So I wouldn't have to hate taking a deep breath because it hurts. So I wouldn't have to wonder if I should be thankful that I had sex so much when I was young because I don't know if I can ever do it again."


"I'm eighteen, Grams. I'm eighteen and I don't know if I can ever be with a guy again without thinking about those two monsters. I don't know if I can be with a guy and enjoy myself. I don't know, Grams." She turned around, her face streaked with tears. "I don't fucking know and it terrifies me."

Grams caught her as she fell to her knees, cradling Jen to her body. "Jennifer, shh." She stroked the blonde hair softly, feeling the silky strands grow wet with tears, feeling her fragile frame wracked with sobs. "Shhh."

When her crying finally stopped, Grams pushed Jen away just enough so she could look her in the eye.

"I'm an old woman. And, as such, I have much more knowledge than you and am therefore smarter, wiser and every word I say should be heeded. Do you understand me?"

Jen smiled weakly and nodded. "Yes, Grams."

"Good. Now, you listen to me. You're going to get on with your life. You're going to get past this. You're going to find a man someday and marry him and give me great-grandchildren that will be much easier on me than you ever were."

Jen laughed, a soft hiccupping sob. Grams hugged her tighter and continued. "There are people in this world, Jennifer, that choose to do horrible things. They choose to hurt and ruin and try and break others. They're small, and so they try to bring down the big and the strong. Like you."

"I don't feel big. Or strong."

"But you are. You were. And you will be again."

Jen's eyes were wet with tears, shiny with love and respect for the woman she sat next to. "How are you so sure of me?"

"Because I know you, Jennifer. And I know you'll fight your way back to yourself."

"I wish I could be sure."

"You will be someday, Jennifer." Grams got to her feet then helped Jen to hers. "But until then, I'll be sure enough for the both of us."


Pacey sat down at the bar and rested his head on his arms, breathing in the smell of the rain as it steamed off his corduroy coat. "What are you drinking?"


"Coming up."

He raised his head as Danny set the amber liquid in front of him. "I'm not 21, Danny."

"We're not open and I'm not selling it to you. You're not driving, so you're not going to kill someone on your way home." He poured himself a shot as well. "And you look like you need it."

Pacey tossed back the three fingers, coughing as it burned its way down his throat. He set the glass down, his eyes watering as he looked at his boss. "Never give me another surprise night off, okay, Danny?"

"You got it, kid." He splashed more whiskey into Pacey's glass. "You want to talk about it?"

"No. I really, really don't."

"I don't mean what happened. Or what you're dealing with or whatever. I just thought maybe you wanted somebody impartial to rant and rave to." He waved at the empty restaurant. "There's no one here. Rail at the gods, kid."

Pacey sat there silently for a long time, staring down into his glass. The liquid swirled as he moved his hand, splashing against the sides. Without warning, he whirled around on his seat and sent the glass flying across the room, the trail of liquid like fire as the glass exploded against the wall.

He watched as the pieces fell to the floor, crinkling and crunching against the stone. "Do you have a best friend, Danny?"

"Yeah. Sorta, I suppose."

"What's he like?"

"He's your older brother, kid."

"Has he ever accused you of something that just killed you? Something that, no matter what you'd ever done in your life, you just can't believe he could think you're capable of?"

"He doesn't believe you did this, Pacey."

"Maybe not." Pacey shrugged, turning back to the bar. "Maybe he doesn't think I raped her. Maybe he doesn't think I shoved the knife into her side and god knows what else they did to her. Maybe he doesn't honestly think all that." He sighed, looking up as Danny set another drink in front of him. "But he blames me for it happening. He fucking blames me."

"Why shouldn't he?" Danny asked lightly. "You blame yourself."

Pacey's eyes flared with anger for a second before fading back to the dull, lifeless blue-gray. "You're right."

"No I'm fucking not, kid." Danny rolled his eyes and slammed his hand down onto the bar. "Jesus. You were doing what kids do. You lost track of time, Pacey. You had no idea this was going to happen any more than Jen did."

"I've already heard this speech, Danny."

"Have you? Well, tough shit, you're gonna hear it again. And again. And again. As many fucking times as I have to say it and pound it into your thick fucking skull. Shit like this happens, Pacey. All the fucking time on college campuses and in college towns and every fucking where else on earth. People get robbed, mugged, shot, killed, raped, fucked over all the time. And as powerful and important as a chef at my restaurant might be, you're not all that. You're not the reason the sun rises and sets and you're not the reason shit happens. You got it?"

Pacey slid off the stool. "Thanks for the drink, Danny."

"Do you blame Jen at all?"

"What?" Pacey stopped and turned slowly, his eyes back to dangerous. "What did you say?"

"You blame yourself for not being there on time, right? Do you blame Jen for sitting outside the bar in the middle of the night, all alone, by herself? Do you blame her for not realizing that you were running late and she'd be safer inside with a whole group of people? Do you blame her for not realizing that you'd probably be able to find her in a bar, even a crowded one?"

"Shut up."

"Do you?" Danny snapped angrily, each word enunciated with vicious precision. "Do you fucking blame her?"

Pacey stood frozen, hating Danny with his gaze. "I'm going home."

"You coming in for your shift tomorrow?" He shook his head as the door swung shut behind Pacey, leaving him with no answer and broken glass to clean up. Danny swallowed the last shot of whiskey and sighed, moving out from behind the bar.


Jack closed the front door behind him quietly, shrugging out of his coat in the darkness. He nearly jumped as a lamp snapped on in the living room, moving in to investigate silently.

"The stealth is appreciated, but I should probably notify you that you're drunk and therefore not nearly as quiet as you think you are." Jen pulled the blanket up higher around her as she drew up her feet, leaving room on the end of the couch for him to sit. "How was the night out?"

He scratched his head and shrugged. "The same. Drinking. Talking."

"Being on the lookout for potential rapists?"

He looked up quickly, guiltily. "That's not what we were doing."

"We? You have an accomplice?"

"Dawson and I just went for a couple of beers."

"More than a couple from the smell of you." The stench was almost overpowering. The alley had smelled like urine and beer and sweat and garbage. And then aftershave that had seemed so out of place. Soft and woodsy, not too strong like most of the college guys seemed to wear it. Then the other, spicy with the slightest hint of orange. And then, blood.

Blood smelled hot and coppery, burning. She pressed her hand to her wound, feeling it throb.

"I want to find these guys for you, Jen. I want to kill these guys for you."

"I appreciate the concern." She reached out and took his hand, squeezing it. "I do. I love you for it, Jack. But you getting drunk and doing something stupid isn't going to help me. You're not going to find them, Jack, because I don't know who they are, who they were."

"Don't you hate them?"

"Yeah." She nodded, hating the tears that clouded her vision. "I do. I've never hated anyone or anything more than I hate them." She gave a sad little laugh. "More than I hate my father, if that tells you anything."

"Then why don't you want to get them?"

"Because it won't do any good. I can want it for the rest of my life, Jack. It's just not going to happen. Semen and blood don't mean anything if you don't have someone to match it to. They were careful, they were smart and they got away with it."

"So you're just giving up?"

"On them." She smiled at him. "Not on me. Or my friends. Or my life. I'm going to get on with life, Jack. Starting now."

He smiled in response. "Can I help?"

"You can." She nodded and turned sideways on the couch so that they were almost touching. "Do me a huge favor and put your arm around me."

"Okay." He took a deep breath and settled his arm gently around her shoulders. "I have to warn you that, if you ask me to make out with you, I'm going to have to very politely decline."

Jen laughed and leaned into him, letting her head rest against his chest. "I'll keep that in mind." Her body remained stiff, frightened even though she was with her best friend, safe in his arms. Jack would never hurt her. He let his hand rest loosely on her shoulder, afraid to put any pressure on her skin. He felt the shivering start almost before she did, feeling her body begin to shake as she shoved away from him, fighting his touch, pushing her body free of his until she slipped off the couch and landed on the floor, crying out as pain jarred through her.

"Jen?" Jack knelt before her, his hand hovering over her face, frightened to touch her. "Jen, are you okay? Talk to me, Jen."

"I'm fine." She nodded rapidly, shoving his hands away from her. "I'm fine. Just a little freaked. A lot freaked." She forced her lips together, slowing down her breathing until it was steady and only slightly harsh. "I'm guessing I'm not going to be moshing any time soon, huh?"

"Have you ever moshed?"

"No." She laughed and got to her feet, moving back onto the couch and huddling slightly in the corner against the arm. "I'm sorry, Jack."

"Nothing to be sorry about." He shook his head, wondering when he got sober. "Look at it this way, you lasted at least five seconds tonight. Tomorrow, maybe you'll last six."

"Right," she nodded, feeling the familiar burn of tears. "And at this rate, I'll be able to shake hands just fine by the time I graduate from college."

"And, by the time you're 80, you should be up to slow dancing." He reached out and touched her hand briefly before pulling away. "Which I fully expect you to be doing with me, by the way."

"You're not implying that I'd toss over my gay best friend for some hunky movie-star type or anything, are you? Because, I have to tell you, I'm no longer that kind of girl."

Jack sat there silently for a moment, staring at his hands. Hands that couldn't give her comfort. "Do you hate that most of all?"

Jen nodded and got off the couch, heading for the stairs. "Night."


Jen looked nervously at the glass windows that stretched from floor to ceiling, a slight shiver running through her despite the heat of the room. The light squeeze that trapped her fingers briefly brought her gaze back to the center of the room then around until she was smiling up at her grandmother.

"What do you think your mother would say if she saw me in this outfit?"

Jen looked over Grams's sweats and baggy t-shirt, almost covered by the long sweater she wore. "I think she'd probably decide I'd been a bad influence on you for too long and force me to move in with some other unsuspecting relative."

"She'd have a fight on her hands."

Jen smiled and leaned into her grandmother, giving her a hug. "What would I do without you, Grams?"

"No need to worry about that." Grams kissed the top of Jen's head. "Now, let's go in that room and learn how to kick a little ass, what do you say?"

"That'd be nice." Jen moved away, making sure to grab Grams's hand as she did so. She led the way into the next room, looking around at the group of women gathered there. At the front of the room Jen saw the police officer that had talked to her the night of the attack. Squeezing Grams's hand again before releasing it, Jen made her way across the room. "Officer Stern, right?"

"Jen Lindley." She smiled. "I'm glad to see you."

"I think I'm glad to be seen." She gave her a half-smile. "You're running this?"

"I'm one of the instructors. We work with a lot of victims of violent crimes. It's a public service thing, but to be honest, it makes our jobs a lot easier." She sat on the edge of the raised platform, offering the space next to her to Jen. "How are you?"

Jen shrugged. "Okay, I guess."

"Dr. Moyer told me you'd been by her clinic." She smiled. "What did you think of it?"

"Well, I don't think she thinks much of me." Jen watched as Grams talked to several others that were huddled together near the door. "I had one session, one group discussion, which I ended...badly."

"It's one of the steps of healing."

Jen moved away slightly, putting distance between them as she realized that perhaps Dr. Moyer had done more than mention she'd been by the clinic. Her eyes flashed with betrayal. "Anger."


"Should I be on anger? What about denial? Trust me, there hasn't been a single moment in the past month when I didn't know this happened to me."

"Denial isn't necessarily denying the act, Jen. Often it's denying that you need help dealing with it. Denying that what you feel is real. Real pain, real anger, real hurt." She sighed quietly. "And I'm pretty sure you felt that way for a while. I remember interviewing you. You may not have denied that it happened, but you were denying the feelings that came with it."

"What's next?"

"Well, just because you've experienced anger doesn't mean you're through with it. Some of the stages take a long time to go through. Some you might skip; some you might be stuck on for the rest of your life. Everyone's different. Everyone hurts differently." At Jen's look, she laughed softly. "I'm glad you're here, Jen."

Jen didn't laugh. "Me too." She slid off the stage. "I should get back to my Grams."

Amy nodded. "Before you go, can I ask you a question?"

Jen was immediately wary, her eyes shadowed. "Sure."

"Pacey Witter..."

She shook her head. "That's the one question you can't ask."


Pacey lay on his bed, staring at the ceiling as he felt the smooth rhythm of waves attempt to soothe him. The calming rocking motion was nullified as he pressed his fingers against the scab at the juncture of his hip. The skin refused to break, even as he dug at it, but the comforting bullets of pain ricocheted through his nervous system.

The sound of footsteps above him shook him from his reverie. Getting to his feet he tugged his shirt down and made his way to the door hatch. Swinging it open he was surprised to see the familiar blue of a police uniform. Apprehension quickly followed as the officer turned around.

"Officer Stern. It's a long way from the hospital, isn't it?"

"Hello, Pacey."

"Is there something wrong? Is Jen okay? Did you find them?"


Pacey's shoulders sagged as he moved up the steps to the deck. "What are you doing here?"

"I stopped by the counseling service I recommended to you. You haven't been by."

"I've been busy."

"You've been avoiding it." She stated matter-of-factly. "You want to tell me why?"

"I didn't do anything." He sat on one of the low benches, his arms crossed defiantly over his chest, challenging her to see him as anything other than uncaring and disaffected. "I didn't get raped. I don't see a single reason I need to go. And, since I didn't do anything, there's no way you can force me to go. So I don't see why you're wasting your time and mine."

"Tell me something, Pacey, if I were to talk to your friends today, just a casual conversation, what do you think they'd tell me about you?" She leaned against the rail and tilted her head slightly, absorbing the welcoming heat of the sun as she shivered in the cool wind off the water. "Would they tell me you're doing fine? Or do you think they'd express concern about you?"

"Jack and Dawson would probably ask you why you haven't arrested me for what I did to Jen. Joey...Joey would tell you that I'm not coping well. And Jen..." He smirked at her, knowing in his eyes. "What would Jen tell you about me?"

"She wouldn't say anything."

"Funny isn't it?"


"Jen hates me more than any of the others. I would imagine she never wants to see me again in her entire life. But right now? She's being a better friend to me than any of them."

"Here's my card, Pacey. And here's the number to the clinic again. Give Dr. Moyer a call."

"Keep it."

She grabbed his hand and closed it around the business card. "You keep it. You use it. And you remember that at some point, your friend Jen is going to need you again. And if you're still like this? Still blaming yourself, still hating yourself, she's not going to have any use for you at all."

Pacey crumpled the card in his hand, not speaking as she made her way to the edge of the boat, walking away without looking back at him. As soon as she was gone, he opened his hand and stared down at the card for a long minute before tossing it over the side of the boat.

He stood and headed back below deck, his hand instinctively pressing to his side.


"Hey." Dawson sat up and leaned back against the headboard, pulling the covers up with him. Joey tilted her head upward, her smile not reaching her eyes.


"You sleep okay?"

She shrugged then rolled over, sitting up on the edge of the bed. "I guess."

"You were a little restless."

She shrugged again, feeling his gaze travel down her bare back. "Since...Jen. I've had dreams. Nightmares, I guess."

He moved behind her, pulling her body back against his. "You want to talk about them?"

"No." She shook her head and pulled away from him, heading for the bathroom. Dawson watched her for a moment then followed her to the door.


"I can't talk about it, Dawson. Not yet." She turned back and smiled at him over her shoulder. "Maybe later."

"It's Pacey, isn't it?"


"I thought that you were over him, but you're not, are you?" He laughed, the sound sharp and bitter as he followed her to the bathroom. "This whole thing has just made it worse."

"I don't know what you're talking about."

"You don't?" He slammed his hand against the bathroom door, smirking as she jumped. "You've been all over him, Joey, trying to get back in his pants since the day this happened. I don't know which is worse, his pleas for sympathy in the wake of what happened to Jen or the fact that you're like a dog in heat for him."

"I don't fucking believe you, Dawson."

"You expect me to buy the fact that you were over there taking care of him, Joey? Not that I wouldn't buy him passed out in the shower, but I know Pacey well enough to know that he'd be more than happy to take advantage of the situation."

"Oh, fuck you, Dawson." Joey glared at him. "You're trying to make what happened to Jen all about you and it's not. Pacey found her, Dawson. He had to sit there with her, bleeding and, for all he knew, dying. You didn't do anything."

"Has he once asked for your help, Joey?"

Her glare shifted, growing nervous at the change in his voice. "He doesn't have to ask, Dawson."

"Did you ever think he might not want it? He might not want his ex- girlfriend to be the one to comfort him? Did you ever think seeing you just might make him wonder what it would have been like if he'd found you instead of Jen?" He raised an eyebrow as she flinched, turning away from her and reaching for his clothes. "I told you how scared I was, Joey. Just imagine how he must feel."

"You're almost convincing, Dawson." Her voice was mocking, but he could hear the tremor of realization in it. "If I didn't know that this was more about you making sure I wasn't with Pacey than it is about you being worried about him, I might even believe you."

"I'm the one who spent last night with you, Joey. I don't have a damn thing to worry about when it comes to Pacey. You might fuck him, but he's never going to love you again."

She straightened, trying not to show any emotion. "I think it's time for you to go, Dawson. And I really, really think it's past time we ended this little arrangement we've got going on. Because I'm tired of reminding you that I'm not dating you."

"Not dating me, but you fucked me?" Dawson shrugged on his shirt. "It's all the same, isn't it, Joey?"

"You really believe that?"

He looked at her, his eyes dark. "You know how I feel, Joey. You know what I believe. But you also know that I love you enough that I'll take whatever you're willing to give me. In the long run, it's not going to matter if you think we're in love or just in bed. Because Pacey doesn't want you to save him and he sure as hell doesn't want you to love him."

"That's your comfort, Dawson? That because Pacey doesn't want me I'll come running back to you?"

He shrugged and slid his wallet into his back pocket before grabbing his jacket. "You already have, Joey."

"Fuck you."


Jack sank down onto the end of Jen's bed and watched her leaf through a magazine. "You really think this is going to help?"

"With my issues?" She shook her head and turned the centerfold to face him. He glanced over the naked man and his semi-erect penis, shrugging nonchalantly. "No. But you have to admit they're good for a laugh."

"I think he's kind of cute."

"Jack, he's got a tattoo of Prince Charming from Snow White on his shoulder."

"Prince Charming was the gayest."

"You scare me." She closed the magazine and tossed it in his direction. "What's up?"

He watched her draw her knees up to her chest, noting that she moved seamlessly from one defensive posture to the next. "I'm going out tonight. So's Grams."


He looked down at the magazine, his hand tracing the prominent bicep of a half-naked Hollywood star. "You'll be home alone."

"It's not home alone that bothers me, Jack. It's in a dark alley, completely defenseless and semi-conscious that bothers me." She tried to meet his eyes. "So what's the problem?"

"I just worry about you."

"I doubt they're going to return for a encore performance, Jack." She started to smile then stopped. "Where are you going?"

"Out. To a bar."

"You're not going to find them, Jack."

"I've heard rumors. Some of the guys from the Sigma house might have heard something that might be..."

"Take it to the police, Jack. You're not my hero. I don't need a hero. I need a best friend, and you've been selected to fill the spot." She reached down and touched his hand briefly, noticing his fingers stilled on the bulge of the actor's crotch. "Don't do this, okay?"

"I'm just going out with friends, Jen. Just listening to the conversations and that's it. No heroics. No false bravado. I just...I have to do something. I can't just sit here and watch you suffer through all this and do nothing."

"There's nothing to be done, Jack. We've done everything there is."

"Well, there needs to be more." He shoved the magazine off the mattress and got off the bed. "I need there to be more."

"There isn't." She bit the inside of her lip to keep from trembling. "I'm sorry."

"No." He noticed her body shaking and sat at her feet. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to scare you. I didn't." He squeezed her hand and released her. "I've got all this anger, Jen, and I have to do something with it."

"So go to the gym. Don't go play vigilante."

He got to his feet without looking back. "It's just a couple of drinks."



Pacey sighed and turned, wiping his hands on his jacket. Danny was standing in the door of his office, his face dark. "What?"

"Get your ass in here."

"It's the middle of the fucking dinner rush," Pacey snapped.

"Yeah, well, Boston's just going to have to live without the Witter touch tonight; now get your ass in here."

"Jesus," Pacey growled, grabbing his baseball cap off his head and flinging it toward the swinging door. Reaching down, he snatched it up before shoving the door open, letting it swing wildly behind him as he stormed over to Danny's desk. "What?"

"This." Danny slammed a slightly crumpled piece of paper onto his desk, his body seeming larger as he hovered over Pacey. "I want you to fucking explain this."

"It's a piece of paper." Pacey snapped. "You want the complete fucking history of the paper industry or does that satisfy your curiosity?"

Moving before Pacey realized it, Danny grabbed the back of his head and shoved it into the paper, pressing it tight to his face. "Tell me what it fucking says."

"It says..." Pacey wrenched free of Danny's grip. "It says I quit."

"As you so eloquently pointed out, Witter, it's the fucking dinner rush and my patience is thinner than a fucking supermodel." He slapped the note back on the desk. "Why are you quitting?"

"I don't need your permission, Danny."

"No. You don't." Danny sat at his desk, refusing to look away from Pacey. "You can do whatever you fucking want."

"That's right."

"And you want to run away? Is that it? You think running away is going to change a damn thing about what's going on in your life?"

"Are we finished? Because there are a lot of hungry people out there."

"You'll still have nightmares. You'll still have people showing up unannounced, worried about you. You'll still dig your fingers into your skin whenever you think no one's looking." His mouth twitched as Pacey's gaze shot up to his. "Nothing goes away, Pacey."

"Are we done?"

"I'm not going to pretend I know a fucking thing about what you're going through, Pacey. I can't imagine what you're living with in your head. But I do know that running away from it doesn't change it."

"Well, I'll be sure to take your words under advisement." Pacey stood up. "Can I go now?"

"No." Danny shook his head. "I'm not through yet."

"I'm through, Danny."

"If you quit, you'll be just what Dawson and Jack think you are. A coward. A quitter." Danny shrugged. "You'll be what your father thinks you are, Pacey."

"My father knows nothing about this."

"True. But it's his voice you're going to hear when you're on your way to wherever you think you're going. His voice. Jen's scream."

"You're a fucking bastard, Danny."

"Yeah. I am." He stared at Pacey, held his gaze with his own. "So, what's it going to be?"

Pacey tossed his cap on Danny's desk. "I already told you. I quit."


Joey ran her fingertips over the top of Jen's dresser, deliberately not looking in Jen's direction. "How are you?"

"Really sick of that question." She laughed softly until Joey turned to protest. Jen held up her hand to stop her. "But I know people have to ask. I just want to look at them all - doctors, nurses, psychiatrists, police officers - and say 'Raped. Still bleeding sporadically. I feel like my insides have been torn out. And I hate myself and most of the male population right now. How are you?'"

"I can't imagine going through what you're going through."

"I know they mean well." Jen shrugged. "But no one wants the truth."

"I do."

"You think you're up to it, Joey?" Jen asked lightly. "You think you're really up to hearing a damn thing about this?"

"I think you need someone to talk to about it who knows all the people that this affects. I think that you're scared and you don't want to admit it because Grams thinks you're strong, so you try to be strong for her. And Jack thinks you're fragile, so you try to prove him wrong. And I think that inside, you actually feel like you're a scared little kid who has no idea what to do next."


Joey shrugged. "I did some research. Talked to some people." She finally looked at Jen, moving over to the bed to sit across from her. "I wanted to help."

"Me? Or Pacey?"

The silence hovered thickly around them. "Does it matter?"

"Yeah. It does."

"I'm here, aren't I?" Joey shook her head. "Look, Jen, I can't be completely impartial in all of this. Pacey's been too important to me for too long to pretend I don't care how this affects him. But that doesn't mean I don't want to be here for you. That I can't be here for you."

Jen didn't say anything for a long minute. "How is he?"

"Pacey? Not...not good." She watched Jen's fingers pick at her bedspread. "He blames himself for everything. Hates himself even more. He won't talk to anyone, least of all me."

"Jack blames him."

"So does Dawson." Joey paused. "So do you."

Jen shrugged, still picking at the bedspread. "He blames himself."

"Yeah. It doesn't mean he's to blame though."

Jen sighed and got off the bed, pacing the small room. "I need to blame someone, you know? It's so hard to just say it's random chance. That I was the unlucky one. I want someone to either tell me that I deserved it or that it's someone's fault."

Joey looked around the room, staring at anything but Jen. Finally, she spoke, her voice shaking. "I've been having sex with Dawson."

Jen's movements stopped and she turned to face Joey. "I thought you guys were just doing the casual dating thing."

"We were." Joey still refused to meet Jen's eyes. "I got into a fight with Pacey. A huge one and Dawson was there for the end of it. And since then, we've been..."

"A fight about me?"

"You. And him."

"So it's going to be my fault when things with Dawson start going wrong?"

"They're already wrong." Joey chuckled quietly. "But it's not your fault."

Jen moved back to the edge of the bed then looked at Joey through her lowered lashes. "Joey?"


"I'm scared."

"Of what?"

"Everything." She looked up briefly before dropping her eyes again. "I'm scared of everything. Of not being able to be alone with a guy. Of not feeling safe. Of walking outside by myself. I'm scared of everything."

"I'd be scared too, Jen."

"I'm afraid I'm never going to feel any different than I feel now. I'm afraid I'm going to be this sort of ghost for the rest of my life, never really feeling anything again. Just wandering around holding on to this anger."

"Aren't you seeing someone?" Joey moved over and sat on the end of Jen's bed. "I thought Grams said that you were going to a counselor."

"I am. But every time I go there, I just get angrier. They're so accepting, you know?" Jen shook her head. "Of course you don't know. But they're all just so okay with the fact that some asshole raped them. They're just going on with their lives and it's like nothing ever happened."

"But obviously they're still dealing with it if they're there."

"There's one girl, she's the secretary for the lady that runs the whole thing and she just sat there and calmly told me that she'd been gang-raped at a party and she's got this little boy from it and she's okay with it all because she's got him."

"Is she really okay with it?" Joey spoke softly, not looking at Jen. "Or is she just trying to move on? Just trying to not let this be the only thing in her life?"

"You don't understand."

Joey reached out and stilled Jen's hands as they shredded the magazine on her lap. "You're right. I don't. I can't, not really."

"You're right. You can't." Jen pulled her hands away and got off the bed, moving to the window and staring down at the street. "I sit in this room at night and I'm afraid to go outside. I'm afraid of what's out there, what's around the corner. My life is fear. Have you ever been afraid, Joey? Not of some boy leaving you or something trivial like that, but really, truly afraid?"

"When my mom died."

"You remember it eating at you? Taking everything that was good inside you and poisoning it?"

"Yes," Joey whispered.

"That's what I live with day after day. That's what those guys did to me, Joey." Her body shook as tears threatened, spilling down her cheeks as she turned to look at the bed. "I can't pretend it didn't happen or that something good came out of it. I can't go on, day after day, acting like I'm the same. I'm not the same. They changed me."

"When my mom..." Joey's voice broke and she cleared her throat, trying to sound normal. "When my mom died, I felt like I couldn't go on. I felt like there was nothing that was going to make the world a place I wanted to be in anymore. When my dad was arrested, everything seemed even blacker. Harder."


"But I had to keep living. Otherwise, the cancer didn't just kill my mother; it killed me. Otherwise, my father didn't just go to jail; I did too. Jen, what they did to you was one of the most horrific things a person can do to another person. But if you let them keep you in this room, locked behind that door, if you let them make you live in fear, then they've done more than hurt your body. They've done more than rape you. They've killed you. They've killed all that was beautiful inside you."

"Then I guess that's what they did."

"No." Joey shook her head. "That's what you let them do."


"What in the world!" Grams moved quickly out of the way as Pacey stormed past her, shoving his way through the front glass doors of the restaurant. She watched for a moment as he disappeared into the night before turning toward the kitchen and heading determinedly in that direction.

"Who's in charge here?"

Danny looked up from the grill and glared at the woman standing in the kitchen doorway. "This area's off limits to non-employees. Which you might have realized had you read the sign on the door which says employees only."

"Is this the way you treat all your patrons?"

"This is the way I treat all my patrons when one of my main chefs walks out on me in the middle of my dinner rush. So whatever you want, it's just going to have to wait until I've handled this little crisis, okay?"

"I need to talk to you about Pacey Witter."

"Pacey Witter is the last person you want to talk to me about right now, lady. I've had it up to here with Pacey Witter." Danny held his hand about a foot above his head. "So you'll just have to go back out, sit down and eat your dinner whenever we can manage to get it to you, okay?"

"Do you have no idea what that young man is going through?"

"The only idea I have right now, lady, is that pretty soon people are going to start pounding their silverware on their tables demanding that I actually feed them, so please go away."

"He..." Grams stopped as Danny turned his attention back to the food in front of him, talking to two of his assistants. Crossing her arms defiantly over her chest, Grams stared at him for a moment before moving forward purposefully and grabbing him by the jacket. "You'll listen to me right now, young man, or you'll regret it immensely. Do I make myself clear?"

Danny's eyes widened and he nodded, gesturing toward his office. Grams preceded him into the room and sat down in front of his desk. Danny moved around and sat down.

"Do you know who I am?"

"I've got no clue. Pacey's avenging grandmother?"

"I'm Jennifer Lindley's grandmother, and I don't know how much you know about what's been happening..."

"I know Pacey found your granddaughter." Danny's tone changed immediately, softening. "And I'm sorry about what happened to her. Jen's a nice kid."

"Thank you."

"And I know Pacey's been going through a rough time, but he walked out on me. He turned in his notice and he didn't seem to want to take my no for an answer."

"You don't want him to go?"



"Ryan." Danny nodded. "Mrs. Ryan, Pacey's one of the best employees I've ever had. Even through all this, he's been great. I'm worried as hell about him, but when he wants to walk there's nothing I can do to stop him."

"He just quit?"

"He didn't just quit." Danny sighed and picked up a pencil from his desk, drawing randomly on an invoice. "My guess is that he's taking off. He's lost and confused and he feels like he doesn't have a friend in the world who doesn't look at him and think about what happened to Jen." He gave Grams a searching look. "And that part is very possibly true, don't you think?"

"Yes," she admitted.

"He's hurting and he's scared and so he's doing what he thinks is going to make it easier on everyone. Including him, but I think, deep down, he knows that's a lie. It's not easier. It's going to be harder. And the scars are just going to get worse until he does something stupid."


He looked up, surprised he'd said the words aloud. "He's hurting himself. Rubbing his skin raw and then letting it scab over before digging into it again. Letting the pain out physically, pretending that it's helping him on an emotional level."

"My God."

"He blames himself. And half of his stupid friends seem to blame him as well." Danny sneered. "It's easy to blame him, so they do."

"They're just children."

"What does that make Pacey?"

Grams nodded and stood. "Keep his position open, would you, Mr..."

"Brecher." Danny held out his hand. "Danny Brecher."

"Mr. Brecher?"


"Because Pacey's not going anywhere." Grams smiled grimly. "Not if I have anything to say about it."


Joey looked up from her bowl of ice cream as the back door opened. Jack raised an eyebrow at her then glanced in the direction of the stairs, sighing when Joey shrugged. Grabbing another bowl, he pulled the ice cream from the freezer and dished some up, carrying his full bowl over to the island. Sitting across from Joey, he poured a healthy shot of chocolate syrup on the cold pile.

"Did Jen call you?"

"Yeah. Asked me to spend the night."

He nodded his understanding. "She sleeping?"

"I don't know. She wanted to be alone for a while." Joey slid the spoon into her mouth. "I figured it was best to let her."

"Probably." Jack sighed and started mixing his ice cream and chocolate until it was blended together smoothly. "I hate that there's not a fucking thing I can do for her."

"Me too."

Jack forced his spoon into the bowl and leaned back, watching as it slowly started to fall to the side. Blowing out his breath, he shook his head. "Grams home yet?"




"Uh-oh." Jack gave her a knowing look. "Trouble in paradise?"

"Dawson and I are nowhere near paradise, Jack." She shoved her ice cream away. "He's pissed because I'm worried about Pacey. He thinks I'm using this whole thing to try and get back together with him."

"Are you?"

"Give me a little credit." Joey shook her head in disbelief. "Pacey's hurting. He's as upset as all of us are, probably more so. And yet everyone seems perfectly content to blame him for the whole situation."

"But your concern has nothing to do with the fact you're still in love with him?"

"My concern is for Pacey. Not for me." She grabbed her bowl and carried it to the sink, rinsing it out for several minutes, waiting until the water no longer seemed milky. "Jack?"


"Do you ever wonder what it would be like?"


"What happened to Jen. I mean, not the same thing, maybe. But you're gay. Gays get bashed all the time. Aren't you ever afraid? I mean, you're pretty open about it here in school. People know you're gay. Aren't you ever worried you're going to get beaten up?"

"It's always a risk, Jo. But I don't think about it, no."

"How? How do you not think about it? Especially now?" She dried her hands on the towel hanging from the cabinet handle and turned around. "If I'm walking down the street, even in broad daylight, I start looking at the guys around me, wondering if I'd have to pick them out of a line-up. Wondering if they're the ones who did this to Jen."

"Imagine how she feels."

"That's what I do, Jack. And I don't know what to do or say." She ran her hands through her hair. "What kind of friend am I if I can't do anything for her?"

"I know what you mean, Jo." He scraped the bottom of his bowl and took the last bite. "Trust me. I want to do something. I want to find these assholes and beat the shit out of them. I want to make them hurt the way she hurts. I want to make them afraid. But there's nothing we can do, Joey, because we don't know who they are."

She nodded. "If she never finds out, do you think she'll ever be okay?"

"I hope so." Jack carried his bowl to the sink, glancing over at the door as it opened and Dawson walked in. "Hey."

He looked at Jack then at Joey. "Hey."

Joey averted her eyes and headed for the hallway. "I'm going to bed. Goodnight, Jack. Dawson."

"Night, Jo."

Dawson watched her walk from the room before sitting in the seat she'd just vacated. "What's going on?"

"Joey was just staying with Jen tonight while Grams and I were out."

"Out doing what?"

Jack smiled and sank down into his seat. "That's exactly what I want to talk to you about."


Grams stepped onto the boat, looking around in the dim light from the hatch doorway. The deck was silent and still, the slight rocking of the water beneath not disturbing the surface. She moved over to the open hatch and peered inside.


There was no answer so she walked inside, surveying the small compartment. There was a bag on the couch, open but empty. Moving further inside she opened the door to the cabins.


Still nothing, so she opened the door to the master cabin and walked inside, stopping at the sight before her. The room was destroyed, items scattered over the floor, the top mattress half off the bed. Shaking her head she ventured farther in, coming to a stop as she moved around the mattresses and saw Pacey sitting in the corner, his arms wrapped tightly around his knees.

"Hello, Pacey."

"Go away."

"No. I'm afraid I can't do that." She sat on the box springs and rested her hands on her knees.

"Go away!" He yelled at her, his eyes closed tightly. "Leave me the fuck alone!"

"I can't do that either." Grams kept her voice calm, not allowing any emotion into it, despite the sharp pain she felt when looking at him.

He moved quickly, getting to his feet and towering over her. "Leave me alone." His voice was different now, dark and calm as before a storm.

"You can't run away from all of this, Pacey. Leaving your job and leaving your friends and leaving town are going to do nothing to make the pain you're feeling go away. It's a part of you, no matter where you go." He started to say something and she reached out and grabbed his hand, pulling him closer to her. He moved docilely, as if unable to resist. "And this," she pulled up his shirt, forcing her eyes to stay open as she viewed the skin, raw and bleeding. "This isn't going to make the pain a separate entity."

"I don't want it to be separate. I want it to be tangible."

She nodded. "After this happened, I was in the kitchen and I started crying. I was so involved with my pain, I didn't even realize I'd cut my hand." She held her hand out to him, letting him see the thin line of her scar. "I stared at it, watching it bleed until Jack came into the room and saw me. He started yelling and it was as if I just realized I'd been cut. It was then that it started hurting, then that I felt the pain."

He nodded, mesmerized by her words.

"Pacey, I know you're in pain. I know finding Jennifer must have hurt you more than any of us can comprehend. But running from us, running from the life you've built here isn't going to lessen the pain."

"I don't want to lessen it, Mrs. Ryan. I want it to go away."

"Then you need help, Pacey."

"I need away."

"No." She shook her head. "You think away will help, but it won't. You can't run from your dreams or your nightmares or your friends. Even if you've left them behind, they're still with you and you still feel them. Don't you think Jennifer has wanted to run? Wanted to get away from here where everyone seems to know what happened and where even her closest friends and relatives treat her as if she's been broken?"

He turned away from the look in her eyes, stepping back. His shirt fell, covering the dark red mark on his stomach. "Jen didn't do anything."

"Neither did you, Pacey." Grams reached out and took his hands, holding them tightly in hers. Pacey's hands stiffened, trying to fight her grip, but she refused to let go. "You saved her life. That's the only thing you did. You saved her; you kept her alive for me. You didn't let her die alone and violated in some dark alley. You did nothing wrong, Pacey."

"Then why does everyone blame me?"

"Who? Who blames you?"

"Jack. Dawson." He said the names hard, clipped. "Jen." His eyes dropped from hers. "Me."

"Jack and Dawson are angry because they can't do anything and you're the only target they have, Pacey." She tightened her grip on his hands. "They can't yell at Jen for what happened; so they have to blame you. And Jennifer...Jennifer's afraid of all the same things you are, with a few more on top of them. She's scared and you're an easy target." Grams cleared her throat. "Why do you blame yourself?"

He blushed and looked away from her. "Lots of reasons."

"Something kept you from being there?" She read the answer in his averted gaze. "If you had known it was going to happen, Pacey, would you have done everything you could to save her from it?"

"Of course!" He looked at her as if she were crazy. "How can you think anything else?"

Grams stood up, releasing his hands and heading for the door. "How can you?"

Pacey watched her as she left the room, listening to her footsteps as they faded, disappearing altogether as she disembarked the boat and headed down the dock. He bit the inside of his lower lip, tasting blood as he broke the skin, his fingers searching out the skin he'd gouged the entire walk home. He pressed against it; angry as the dark tension his fingers produced did nothing to calm his scattered nerves.


The blue sky hung above Boston like a painting, the colors unreal. Pacey swung off the boat onto the dock, relishing the shiver of pain as he landed wrong, his ankle tweaked slightly to the side. He shook off the pain and started walking, heading for the espresso stand near the security office.

Moving easily around the hordes of people crowding onto their boats, he reached the building and leaned against it, waiting somewhat in line. He listened in on conversations that floated past, his mouth quirking up at the corners at the talk of running away, forgetting about the life they were leaving behind - if only for a day - on the waves.

He lived his life on the waves. Nothing went away.

"Hey, Pace." He nodded to the barista, not bothering to order as she mixed his drink. "There's a party tonight. Bunch of frat boys having a big get together. Wanna come?"

"Not my scene, Kathryn. You know that."

"Can't blame a girl for trying, can you?"

He smiled and shook his head. "Depends on what you're trying to do."


He handed over the money and took his cup, taking a full swallow of the hot liquid. He closed his eyes and opened his mouth, letting the faint, salty breeze cool his tongue. Walking again, he headed away from the water, wandering. Thinking.

And trying very hard not to.


"Jen." Dr. Moyer stood up and held out her hand. "Good to see you again."

"I haven't been by." She shifted uncomfortably and glanced at the chair before sitting down on the edge of it. "I've been dealing with some stuff."

"That's par for the course."

She nodded silently, staring at her hands. "Do you know what happened to me?"

"I know that something happened to you. I don't know the details at all." She leaned forward, her arms on her desk, her hands gripped together. "That would be something you would have to tell me."

Nodding again, she stood up, pacing the small space. "Do you know what today is?"

"January..." She looked toward her calendar, starting to speak.

"It's Pacey's birthday."

"And who is Pacey?"

Jen sighed. "He's the one who found me."

"And you're wondering about the appropriate gift?" Dr. Moyer said the words lightly, as if knowing that was the wrong answer.

"I was waiting for him to show up when all this happened." She gestured at her body, even though the outward signs of her attack had faded. "He found me and saved my life."

"And you hate him for it?"


"So Pacey saved your life that night and he's the reason you've come back to see me?"

"He keeps saving my life," Jen sighed.

"And how does that make you feel?"

"It really, really pisses me off."


Joey sighed as she sank down at one of the tables, bending her head over her cup of coffee and inhaling the smell. She closed her eyes, isolating just the one scent for a moment before opening them and watching the milk separate in the darker liquid, swirling chaotically.

Grabbing her straw, she stirred the mixture until it was a creamy tan, taking just a small sip before slipping the lid back on. She glanced nervously at the bag on the ground beside her feet then back at the metal filigree of the tabletop. A seagull cried out and she looked up, her eyes following its flight until it dipped down, skimming over the tops of the boats out on the water. Her eyes moved back slowly, dismissing each boat until they reached a small slip off to her left. She stilled, her breath catching in her throat. She stood up as if controlled, only reaching down for the bag at her feet when she stumbled over it. She clutched the rope handles tightly in her fist, walking forward, her eyes focused on the smooth white sides of the boat, bobbing gently in the water.

She stopped at the end of the dock, tears threatening in her eyes. "You okay, lady?"

Nodding blindly, she looked up into the dark eyes of the man standing on the deck. His dark hair and tanned skin blurred before her. "I thought the boat looked familiar. Wanted to see if maybe you were a friend of mine."

"I just bought the boat, maybe it did belong to your friend."

She shook her head. "No. No. She sank. The boat, not my friend. She sank a long time ago."

"Sorry to hear that."

"Yeah." Joey offered him a weak smile, her hand lifting to wipe away the tears that managed to find their way down her cheeks. "I was too." She backed away, the smile still wavering on her lips. "Sorry to have bothered you."

She turned around, determined to get away from the docks, feeling the hot flush of embarrassment stain her face as she kept her head down. "Stupid," she cursed at herself. "Stupid, stupid, stupid."

"Talking about me again, Potter?"

She looked up, surprised to see him standing before her. "Hey, Pace."

"What brings you here?" He glanced around at the millions of dollars in yachts and cars in the general vicinity. "Slummin'?"

She laughed softly, nervously. "I thought I saw an old friend and went down to say hello."

He looked over her shoulder and his eyes darkened, his features stilling as his hand seemed to move instinctively to his side. She reached out and grabbed his fingers, holding them away from his skin. The bag in her hand bumped against his leg and they both looked down at the pale green paper. "What's that?"

"It's..." She sighed and shook her head, embarrassed again. "It's your birthday."

"Hard to believe, given the unseasonably warm weather we're having." His gaze was on the blue sky. "You'd think it was summer or something instead of January."

"It's your present."

"You didn't have to get me anything, Jo."

"I know." She nodded then looked back over her shoulder, unable to meet his eyes when she brought them back to him. His shirt was taut against his skin and she could see the few dark hairs on his chest teasing up to the triangle of skin at the open collar. "But I did."

"You want me to open it here? Or did you want to come back to the boat with me?"

"The boat." She didn't recognize her voice as it seemed to hover between them, slightly sultry. "If...if that's okay."

He stared at her for a long moment, the silence stretching between them. His eyes seemed to narrow as he watched her, his head shaking almost imperceptibly as he thought about her suggestion. She watched his mouth, saw it form the 'no' before he spoke. "The boat's fine."


"You're sure about this?" Dawson bit into his toast and licked his lips as Jack took a long sip of his cooled coffee. "I mean, we've done this a couple times now, Jack, and it hasn't panned out yet. And now we're going based on a rumor you heard at a rival frat house."

"These guys...Jen said they were clean cut college kids. Those bars around there are total frat hangouts. And let's face it." Jack glanced around to make sure no one was listening, then leaned forward to close the distance between them. "Only a frat's going to keep something like this such a well-guarded secret."

"That's probably true." Dawson took another bite and chewed thoughtfully, swallowing it down with a shot of coffee. "But what makes you think it's these guys?"

"I don't know," Jack admitted honestly. "But it's something. Someone to confront about it."

"This plan always sounds better when I'm drunk," Dawson stated with a small smile.

"Everything does."

"Yeah." Dawson pushed his plate away and rubbed his eyes. "So what do we do?"

"I just want to talk to these guys, Dawson. Feel around a bit and find out if we can get some info. Talk has died down some about it; I think that'll make people less cautious. And more likely to let something slip."

"Does Jen know?"


"Joey?" Dawson raised an eyebrow. "I thought I heard you guys talking about this a while ago."

Jack shook his head. "No. The girls don't need to know at all."

Dawson sat silent for a few minutes, drinking his coffee in a series of small, quiet sips. "Tonight?"

"Tonight at ten."

He nodded and got up, pulling out his wallet. "I'll be there."


Joey sat on the edge of the cushion as Pacey sat on the one perpendicular to her, one of his knees brushing hers lightly. Her knees were spread, her hands between them, the bag dangling over the smooth wood deck. She looked over at him and smiled shyly, ducking her head again. "I'm sorry about what happened. At the dorm. With Dawson."

"Don't be."

"No, I am. I had no..."

"Joey? I don't want to talk about it, okay?" He glanced at the bag. "So, what'd you bring me?"

"It's nothing." She held the handles tightly, unwilling to give it up to him. "You'll probably hate it."

"Why don't you let me be the judge of that?" He reached out, careful not to touch her. "Jo?"

"Right." She nodded and held it out, watching him grab it, his fingers never coming close to hers. "Happy birthday."

He smiled in her direction, ignoring the feeling of dread that threatened to overwhelm him as he parted the handles and dug past the tissue paper. His hand closed around a box, easing it free, the blue of his eyes changing to a flat, lifeless gray. He dropped the bag on the deck and ran his thumb along the edge of the box, taking a deep breath as he opened it.

The sunlight glinted off the smooth platinum surface of the watch as he turned it face up, the brilliant blue face as deep as the ocean, the faintly etched compass in the background almost causing him to wince. "What'd you pay for this, Jo?"

"That's not a polite thing to ask," she laughed, the sound sharp and painful.

He looked up at her, his eyes turbulent. "What did you pay for this, Joey?"

"Not...not much."


She looked away, tears stinging her eyes. "Can't you just accept the gift, Pacey? I mean, can't you just be happy?"

"Who paid for it, Jo?"

"Not Dawson!" She faced him angrily.

"It's an expensive watch, Joey."

She shook her head, her eyes flashing. "You can't just be fucking happy or thankful or appreciative, can you? You can't think the best about people and think that maybe I saved my money to buy you a nice gift..."

"Because you feel sorry for me," he snapped.

"Because I love you." There was a long silence. Joey stood up and moved away from him, leaning against the railing. "I fucked it all up, Pacey, but I love you. And it's got nothing whatsoever to do with what happened with Jen or what you're going through. I just...I just do."

He didn't say anything as he stared down at the watch in his hands, minutes ticking away. Finally, he unhooked the clasp and slipped it on his wrist, locking it in place. "Thank you, Joey."

She nodded, her lips pursed together, her breathing heavy and fast. "You're welcome. Happy birthday."

"Thank you." He stood up and grabbed the bag, heading for the cabin. "I need a drink."

"Me too."


"I don't remember everything." Jen tried to get comfortable in the chair, knowing it was the discussion and not the cushion that was making it difficult. "I was sitting outside the coffee shop, just like I'd promised. A friend of mine was supposed to be with me, but she got a call right before we headed out."

"A call?"

"Booty call." Jen smiled. "Her on-again, off-again girlfriend wanted to be on-again. Or under. Some sort of proposition for a preposition."

"Does the thought of sex scare you, Jen?"

"Not for other people." She paused, wondering if the answer seemed flippant. "For me...I don't think about sex."

"I see. Go on."

"So I told her not to worry about it. I was going to meet Pacey and everything was going to be cool. I called him to let him know and he told me he was going to be a little late and not to get into trouble before he got there. I told him that any trouble I got into with him was bound to be worse than trouble I could get into myself." She laughed, the sound bitter, harder. "I was wrong."

"Did he ask you to wait outside?"

"The coffee shop used to be open all night. I guess he thought it still was. He suggested it. I don't know. He was worried about me getting in over my head in the bar. I'd just been dumped by a guy I was starting to think was pretty serious. I think Pacey was worried I'd jump into some other bad romance."

"In one night?"

"Pacey knows me pretty well." Jen laughed again, the sound more genuine. "I was just sitting there waiting for him. I looked over when I heard them talking. They weren't saying anything important, probably bitching about classes or something, if I heard them at all. When I think about it, all I can see are their mouths moving."

She sighed and leaned back, closing her eyes instead of staring at the ceiling. "I remember feeling the pain of getting hit. I think I got hit. It rang in my head for a long time, shut out the voices. Shut out my screams. I think I screamed a little. I could taste his hand on my mouth, my tongue working against it to scream. He said it turned him on."

Dr. Moyer looked up as Jen stopped. "What?"

"I'd forgotten that. He said it as he was standing behind me, holding my arms down. The other guy was..." she shook her head violently. "One arm was over my chest holding my arms down and the other was over my mouth. He told me I was turning him on and he ground against me so I was trapped between the two of them. His breath was hot against my ear, and I could smell the alcohol. It was overpowering."

"Do you need to stop for a moment?"

"I begged God for help."

"That's a typical response, Jen."

"I don't believe in God." The silence was almost oppressive. "I guess I'm a convenient atheist. Or maybe I was looking for proof. If you exist, then make this stop. Make it not happen. Make someone show up and kill these bastards. Make them hurt like I hurt. Make it stop hurting, please? Please?" She shivered, wrapping her arms around herself as her tears fell over her pale cheeks. "Grams told me what I was like when Pacey found me. I made her tell me."

"Did it help?"

"If he'd been even a few minutes later I'd have been dead. I believe that."

"And how does it make you feel?"

"It's Pacey's birthday."

"You mentioned that."

Jen glanced at the clock, surprised at how much time had passed. "I need to go."

"There's another group meeting on Friday. I hope you'll come." She nodded toward the waiting room. "She'll be telling her story."

"She mentioned what happened when I met her son."

"The gang rape at the party?" When Jen nodded, Dr. Moyer sighed. "George Clooney?"


"Come on Friday, Jen."


"It's a lot bigger," Joey sat on the edge of the bed as Pacey disappeared into the bathroom. "Not a hammock in sight."

"The rich and powerful aren't big on getting those diamond shaped marks all over their bodies when they sleep."

"Hmmm. I think that's a trait that the common folk usually share with the rich and powerful." She dropped her voice. "I didn't mind though."

He opened the door and looked at her, his blue eyes unreadable. "So, what's up with the rest of the gang?"

She held her breath, wondering if he'd heard her. "They're fine."

"Fine." He nodded then shook his head. "Never mind. Forget I asked." He walked toward her, tilting his head toward the door. "You ready?"

She moved her hand without thinking, bunching his shirt in her fist. She pulled the material up, exposing his stomach. Pacey inhaled sharply as she bent her head forward, placing her lips against his skin.

"What are you doing, Joey?" He managed to get the words out as her other hand lifted his shirt higher still, her mouth moving over his flesh, her tongue leaving warm, wet marks. "Jo..."

She pushed his hands away as he lifted them to her shoulders, standing up and tugging his shirt over his head. Her mouth moved to his nipples, the hard nubs dark and tight against his fading tan. His shirt fell to the floor as he fought to get it off his arms, grabbing her by the upper arms as she ran her tongue over his lips.

"Jo..." He stopped, her tongue invading his mouth as she stood on tiptoe, unable to lift her hands around his neck, so settling with unbuttoning his jeans. Her hand snaked down, slipping beneath his boxers to stroke his cock, the flesh hot and firm in her hand, stiffening slightly as she stroked him. He tightened his grip on her arms and winced as he put her away from him, the whiteness around his fingers standing out brightly. "No."

"I love you." She strained against his hold on her, wanting to move in. "Let me show you, prove it to you. I don't hold this against you, Pacey. Let me..."

"No." He shoved her lightly, sending her sprawling on the bed. He backed away and leaned on the door. "No. I don't need proof of your feelings, Joey. I don't need you to show me. I've never needed that from you."

Tears stung her eyes. "Pacey, please?"

"I'm not in love with you, Joey. What we had...what was between us is over. I'll always have feelings for you, always love you. But I've moved on and you've moved on. There's no going back. Not for us."

"I don't want to go back. I want to go forward."

"Forward is this, Joey." He traced the angry redness on his abdomen, pulling his jeans down slightly so she could see that it trailed down into the dark mass of hair surrounding his cock. "Forward is the world where Jen was raped and I wasn't there. Forward is the world where you sleep with Dawson and pretend it's a one night stand that just keeps happening. Forward is scary." He pulled his jeans up and buttoned them then bent down for his shirt. "Forward is no place for us."

"You gave up everything for me."

"And I got everything you had to give from it, Joey. You just didn't have enough left to give me."

"This is about Dawson, isn't it?"

Pacey stopped and inhaled, breathing deeply, searching for calm. "It's not about Dawson, Jo."

"It's always fucking about Dawson." She spit the words out, grabbing his arm and forcing him to face her. "You ran away from us because you were just too afraid of me choosing Dawson even though I'd already chosen you. And you're still running, Pacey. You fuck girls in bathrooms because you can't commit to a relationship because you're still in love with me."

"I fuck girls in bathrooms because I'm horny, Joey. I fuck girls because I want to and I can. Now, are you really trying to piss me off? Because if you are, you're welcome to just blame me for raping Jen and I can throw your ass of this boat and be done with you."

She looked up at the rage in his eyes, pulsing behind the cracks beginning to show in his calm. "Fuck you."

"Why? Because I won't fuck you?" He sneered at her as she brushed past him, following her to the deck. "What's the matter, Joey? Dawson not man enough to satisfy you?"

She whirled around, her brown hair flying in the slight wind. "You have no fucking idea what Dawson does to me."

"I have a pretty good idea, Joey. Otherwise you wouldn't be sniffing around here, would you?" His eyes flashed with anger. "You want to comfort me, Joey? You want to be my friend? Then keep your fucking hands off my dick."

"Oh, don't worry, Pacey. The last thing I need or want is the Witter dick. It never did much for me anyway." She clamored onto the dock, hurrying away from the boat. He swung down after her, his heavy tread following her quickly until she was practically running. "What?" She faced him again. "What?"

"You gonna rape her too, Pace?" Dawson's drunken drawl slithered through the thick air, freezing both Pacey and Joey. "What is it? You get so used to them all saying yes and bending over at your command that you can't take no for an answer anymore?"


He pushed Joey aside as he moved toward Pacey. "Chasing a girl down the dock isn't the smartest thing, Pace, especially given that her best girl friend was just raped under mysterious circumstances. You're not careful, you might find yourself in a line-up on the other side of the glass. Without Daddy or Dougie around to save you."

"When have they ever saved me?" Pacey's voice was dangerously low. "Why don't you take your girlfriend and just go away, Dawson?"

"Oh, she's not my girlfriend. She makes sure I remember that." He leaned in conspiratorially although his tone stayed the same. "Of course, she also made sure I was in her bed the night you left us at the dorm."

"Wow. Rejection sex. That must be something you're used to." Pacey sneered at Dawson. "Just take her away from me, how about that, Dawson? Just take her away and keep her out of my life."

"Like that's what you want," he laughed. "You get off on Joey coming here and begging you to fuck her. You like it, Pacey. You like it when she acts like she's beneath you. It's the only way you ever get the chance to feel superior to anyone."

Pacey's punch caught Dawson in the chin, sending his head jerking back. Without thinking, Dawson returned the punch, landing a glancing blow on Pacey's shoulder. Pacey took a step back then launched forward, nailing Dawson in the stomach and then, as he doubled over, in the nose. Blood spurted as the cartilage snapped. Dawson straightened with a growl and tackled Pacey, catching him around the stomach and nailing him to the ground.

Pacey landed with a loud exhalation of air, barely catching his breath as Dawson straddled him, blows raining down on Pacey's face. Pacey grabbed each of Dawson's hands and threw him off, getting to his feet as Dawson did the same. Panting, he smiled ferally, "You think we're fighting over her, don't you, Dawson? You've been waiting for this moment for almost two fucking years, haven't you?"

"I don't give a shit what we're fighting over," Dawson snarled, his cut lip already beginning to swell, his voice distorted by his broken nose. "All I want to do is wipe that fucking smug smile off your ugly face."

Pacey gestured him forward. "C'mon then. Gimme all you got." As soon as the words left his mouth, he moved toward Dawson, swinging hard. Dawson took several steps back with every punch, holding his arms up in front of him to keep Pacey's blows from landing. Pacey batted his arms away and nailed him in the ribs, listening for the sharp crack of bone. Dawson tripped and fell back on the gray wood of the dock, watching with wide eyes as Pacey advanced.

"Pacey!" Joey grabbed his arm as he pulled it back for another blow. He whirled around on her, his fist stopping inches in front of her face. He forced his hands down to his sides, clenched tightly. Joey flinched but stood there, not backing down from the heated anger radiating off him in waves. She didn't hesitate as she punched him hard in the face, her ring breaking through the skin of his lip, cutting it sharply. "Fuck you both." When he did nothing, she punched him again, weaker this time, but strong enough for his head to swing to the side with the momentum. "What's wrong? Isn't this what you think you're capable of?" She hit him again, wincing as her other hand found his chin, leaving another cut from her ring. "Hurting me? Hurt me, damn it! If you can do it, do it! If you're so afraid that's all you're good for, then fucking do it!"

Pacey caught her hand lightly before she could hit him again and looked her in the eyes. Her tears glimmered there and he sighed. "Joey. Take Dawson and just go away."


Jen closed the door quietly behind her as she slipped into the room, the noise blending in with the soft rush of conversation as everyone settled in their seats. Dr. Moyer stood at the break in the small circle, talking softly to Sarah. Carefully staying out of their line of sight, Jen moved to a chair in the back and sank down just as Dr. Moyer cleared her throat.

"Hello, everyone." She smiled at the room, her sharp eyes not missing Jen as she slumped slightly in her seat. "Thank you all for coming. Now, I know there are a lot of new people here tonight, and as much as the reason you're here saddens me, I'm thrilled to know you're taking charge of your recovery. You're the only one that can heal you. You're the only one who knows you well enough to find the comfort you need to get you through what is, by far, one of the most traumatic events a person can endure."

Jen sighed and glanced around the room, watching as the other women in the room avoided looking at one another before turning her attention back to Dr. Moyer.

"All of you know Sarah from my office. She's been with me for over a year now and I don't know how I could function without her." She smiled gently at Sarah, placing a soft hand on her arm to calm her shaking. "Sarah's never told us her story." Jen stopped fidgeting and looked up, unable to meet Sarah's eyes as she averted them. "And I know she's scared. Just as scared as I was the first time I told my story before you, just as scared as many of you were or will be."

She glanced at the young girl. "Are you okay?"

Sarah nodded, wrapping her arms around herself to keep her trembling to a minimum. "Yeah."

"Slow. Easy. No one here can hurt you. No one here will hurt you." Dr. Moyer placed her hands on Sarah's shoulders and looked her in the eye. "And no matter what you say, they're just words now. The action is in the past and it can never hurt you again unless you let it."

Sarah nodded more confidently and faced the gathered group. "Hi, everyone." She cleared her throat as everyone offered a greeting, ranging from verbal acknowledgement to smiles. "Some of you have heard my story. Or thought you had. I have this pat answer that I give everyone when they ask or I want to pretend that what happened to me is something of a joke. I make light of it, even though what I've told all of you is pretty horrific. What I've told all of you is a truth that I heard here when I first came from a girl who wasn't that much older than me. She's moved on now, but I sort of adopted her story as my own, because I didn't want to tell anyone the truth."

She cleared her throat again. "I didn't want to face the truth." There was a long silence as everyone nodded, understanding. Finally, Sarah spoke again. "A year and a half ago, right before I was going to start college, I was living at home. My parents were divorcing, fighting all the time. My dad...my dad was an alcoholic and he..."

She glanced at Dr. Moyer who smiled and nodded in response.

"My dad abused me. The earliest I can remember it happening was when I was six. My older sister, Samantha, was spending the night with some friends. Her first slumber party. It was about two in the morning and I woke up because I heard something. At first I thought it was just another fight from downstairs, but then I heard it again and realized someone was in my room.

"I was about to scream when my dad came closer. I breathed this huge sigh of relief and said this little kid's prayer. 'Thank you, God, that it's just my daddy.'" She smirked. "He said something to me. I can't hear the words anymore, can't remember them. I remember the tone though. It was soft and gentle, just like you'd talk to a child you'd just frightened. Soothing.

"He was trying to be soothing. And he sat on the edge of my bed and stroked my hair, just like a dad would do. I started to fall back to sleep, listening to the soft sound of his voice, when he pushed the covers away from my body and started touching me. He squeezed my chest then, as I kept asking him what he was doing, he pushed up my gown and he touched me. He put his hands on me and his fingers inside me. Then he told me he loved me and it was our little secret and it's what all daddies did for their little girls when they loved them as much as he loved me. And if I told any of my friends, they might be jealous if their daddy didn't do it, since they obviously didn't love them enough."

Jen pressed her lips together, her eyes narrowed slightly. Sarah glanced at her, then looked away quickly.

"The next night my sister was home and my dad left me alone. Finally, a few weeks later, I asked him why he didn't love me anymore." She laughed bitterly. "My sister overheard and asked what I was talking about. I didn't want to tell her, because I thought my dad didn't love her as much as he loved me, so she wouldn't know and she'd be jealous if I told her. Then she asked me point blank if he'd...if he'd done what he did.

"I ran off, not wanting to tell her, because I was jealous. My daddy loved her just as much as he loved me. That night...that night, my sister ran away. My dad went out to find her and..." Sarah stopped, tears choking her. She shook her head violently as Dr. Moyer stood, backing away until she sat down again. "The police said she'd been hit by a car. Just a freak accident that happens to millions of runaways all over the country. My dad had been out there that night. Looking for her. And even though they caught the guy that did it, found the blood and hairs on his bumper, my dad was out there and I always..." She broke off again, taking a deep breath.

"After...after Samantha's death he came into my room about once a week. Sometimes nothing would happen. Sometimes he'd just lie there beside me, holding me against him. But there were other nights when he'd stumble in and it would start. Only after a while he wouldn't even bother to say anything. He'd just come in and pull the covers back and touch me. He never used more than his fingers.

"At least until I was fifteen."

Sarah stopped and looked around in the shocked silence of the room. "Can I have some water?"

Dr. Moyer nodded and walked over to the table behind them, pouring a glass of water from the sweating pitcher. She brought it back to Sarah, settling back in her chair as she finished it in one long gulp.

She cleared her throat, setting the glass on the floor beside her. "When I was fifteen I knew what was happening was wrong. I threatened to tell people and he'd threaten me. He'd remind me that I asked him to do this when I was six, asked him why he didn't love me anymore. He'd remind me of what happened to Samantha...my sister. We got in this huge fight one night. My mom was at work and he told me to come and sit on his lap. I told him off and told him I was going out with some friends. It was a lie. I didn't really have any friends by this point. I told him I was going out with my friends and my boyfriend and we were going to the police station and I was going to report him for everything he'd done.

"At which point he told me he hadn't done anything yet. He punched me, slammed me against the wall and, after I'd fallen unconscious, he raped me. I woke up in the bathtub an hour later, naked and bleeding. He was standing over me, his pants around his ankles, shouting at me to stop bleeding. He told me he'd kick my ass if I died and I needed to stop fucking bleeding."

She laughed softly, tears running unbidden down her cheeks. "It stopped eventually and he stayed away for about a year and a half. I stayed in my room when I was home, the door locked. I threw myself into my schoolwork and got onto the honor roll. I was voted most likely to succeed and I was supposed to be valedictorian. I came home after school late one day; I'd stayed late to finish up a lab. When I got home the house was dark. I went straight up to my room, just like I always did. And I locked the door, just like I always did.

"Then I turned on the light and turned around. And he was there and he was drunk. He'd gotten laid off that day and my mom had asked him for a divorce. He was drunk and he was angry and he was...he was mean." She took a deep breath, looking up in surprise as Dr. Moyer handed her another glass of water. Jen started as well, not realizing the woman had moved at all. Sarah drank it down and smiled her thanks. "He raped me again that night. I don't remember how long it lasted. I kept asking God and Samantha to help me. I kept begging for someone to help me.

"I dropped out of school the next day. About a month later, I found out I was pregnant. That same afternoon, I went into the lawyer's office with my parents to discuss their divorce and, just as the lawyers were about to start, I told everyone my father had raped me and I was pregnant with his child. He tried to deny it, but my mother, for reasons of her own, I know, told them she'd just found out he'd been abusing me since I was six.

"Police were called. I gave statements and they suggested I come to counseling. I've been here ever since." She sighed deeply. "I thought about an abortion. I really...I did. I went in to get one and stopped before they could start. I'd been a pro-choice advocate all through high school, but when it came down to doing it, I couldn't. Even though I knew he was the father, even though I knew...

She stopped, huge, gasping sobs breaking her. She sank to her knees, clinging to Dr. Moyer as she knelt beside her. "I couldn't do it. I couldn't do it. And I love Sam, so much, but I look at him sometimes and I hate him. I fucking hate him because of who he is. What he is." She looked up, her eyes haunted with tears. "How can I hate my own son?"

"You don't," Dr. Moyer reminded her. "I've seen you with him. You love him. You're healing, Sarah. You're still healing. Anger is part of it. Pain is part of it. But I've seen you look at Sam and you love him."

"I'm so scared I'm going to do the same thing."

Dr. Moyer pushed her hair out of her face and looked at her seriously. "Sarah."

Sarah looked up, sniffing back her tears, "Yeah?"

"You are not your father. And neither is Sam."


Pacey glanced through the doors of Civilization, barely seeing the gathered crowd. He scanned the room, moving away from the doors as he noticed Danny coming toward him.


He stopped, not looking back. Taking a deep breath, he steeled himself, his fingers straying toward his waistline.

Danny's hand closed around his wrist, stilling it before Pacey could make contact. "Don't. I mean, I can't stop you, but don't do it in front of me."

"If you don't see it, it's not happening?"

"If you don't do it in front of me, I don't have to kick your ass."

A ghost of a smile lifted Pacey's lips. "Don't you have a restaurant that's falling apart without me?"

"Something like that." Danny released Pacey's wrist, not moving away until his hand fell to his side. Nodding once, Danny stepped back, leaning against the side of the building they were standing next to. "When are you coming back to work?"

"What makes you think I'm coming back?"

"I met the hurricane force you call Grams." Danny smiled. "That's how."

"She's not my Grams," Pacey reminded him, moving over to the wall as well, stepping out of the way of the foot traffic. "I'm not require by blood to listen to her."

"True," Danny bit back a smile as he glanced down at the sidewalk, watching Pacey out of the corner of his eye. "So, when are you coming back to work?"

Pacey sighed, staring at his hands. "Not...not for a while, man." Danny nodded and Pacey exhaled slowly. "I've got some shit to work through." He reached up, touching his wounded skin through his shirt. "Stuff to deal with."

"I can't hold your job forever," Danny stated quietly. "But whenever you're ready," he turned toward Pacey, holding out his hand, "there's always a job waiting."

"Thanks, man." Pacey shook Danny's hand solemnly, closing his eyes as Danny pulled him into a hug.

"Get some help, huh, kid? Talk to someone?"

Pacey nodded, glancing down at his watch. "I will." He looked up, smirking at Danny's skeptical expression. "I will."

"Okay, okay." Danny held up his hands in surrender. "And don't be a stranger, huh? Otherwise I'm going to have to drop by your boat and give your neighbors something to talk about."

Pacey waved his agreement as Danny headed back to the restaurant. Waiting until he was out of sight, Pacey jogged across the street, opening the polished silver door.

"Can I help you?"

Pacey walked over to the counter, reaching into his jacket pocket. He pulled out a small box and set it on the counter. "Yes. You can. I need to return a watch."


Joey closed her eyes, resting her head on her English book. She'd spent an hour analyzing rhyming couplets and, subject matter notwithstanding, her eyes continued to be drawn to the poem's title.

The Rape of the Lock.

"Is anyone sitting here?"

"No." Joey straightened, glaring at Dawson. "Most especially not you."

"I just want to talk, Jo."

"And will this conversation have another round of condemnation and accusation? Or have you developed a new routine since I told you on the docks to leave me the fuck alone?"

"I want to talk about us."

"There is no us, Dawson." She smirked at him. "There's a you and a me and sometimes we fuck. But there is no us."

Dawson sat silently for a moment, playing idly with her pen. "He doesn't love you anymore."

"You don't know anything where Pacey and I are concerned. You never have." Her expression was defiant. "So don't even pretend that you do."

"Joey." Dawson took a deep breath, letting it out slowly. "Look, I'll admit that I don't know anything about your relationship with him. I'd stopped knowing both of you then. That much was obvious. We'd all grown apart and it got worse when you started dating him. But that doesn't mean I can't see what's obvious now. He isn't interested in you."

"Let me guess, Dawson, because he's too busy raping girls like Jen?" She practically snarled the words at him. "You're more than happy to believe the worst of him. You need to believe the worst of him because that's the only way you can even come close to feeling good about yourself."

"What happened to us, Joey? Before this happened you and I were doing okay. We were happy."

"You were happy."

"You didn't seem to be complaining." Dawson lowered his voice, leaning in toward her. "But what happened to Jen turned all the attention onto her, didn't it? And so you had to find a way to make it about you, didn't you? You had to find a way to be in the center of the drama."

"You've got a lot of room to talk, Dawson. Who was accusing Pacey at the top of his lungs?"

"You're right. I just played right into your game, didn't I?" He shook his head, leaning back against his chair. "You must love it."

"Go away, Dawson."

"So what are you going to do, Joey? Pine away for Pacey? Wear him down until he puts you out of your misery?"

"You don't know anything..."

"I know this much, Joey. I know that you're not going to change anything when it comes to you and Pacey. You're going to try to make it something it's not, something it hasn't been in a long time and it's all going to blow up in your face."

"You keep believing that, Dawson, because I can't wait to prove you wrong."


Jen stood at the back of the room watching most of the other women surround Sarah, offering her support and comfort, laughing and crying in equal measure. She sipped her water, the cold liquid doing nothing to wash the taste of horror out of her mouth. As everyone gravitated toward the snacks on the table at the head of the room, Jen turned, ready to leave.


She stopped, turning to face Sarah. The other girl had her head bent slightly, offering Jen a weak smile from beneath her bangs. "Hey, Sarah."

"I wanted to apologize to you."

"There's really no need."

"There is." Sarah sighed and looked back at the group, shrugging nervously. "I lied deliberately to you. Partially because I knew how closed off you were, knew you weren't going to tell me anything and I didn't want to be the only one laid open, you know?"

"I do."

"But that's...I'm sorry though. Because you're having a hard time as it is, and finding out I was lying to you probably didn't make anything any easier." Sarah shrugged again, her smile twisting slightly, becoming hopeful. "I was just...I'm sorry that I lied and I hope that maybe we can be friends?"

"Sure," Jen nodded. "And I'm not upset. I mean, we all want the Lifetime Movie rape, don't we?" Sarah laughed quietly and Jen smiled. "Can I ask you something though?"

"Of course."

"Do you feel any better now that you've told the truth? Now that you've stood up in front of all these people and told them your story?"

Sarah was quiet for a long time, taking Jen's arm lightly and steering her farther away from the rest of the crowd. She sank down into a chair and waited until Jen followed suit. "The truth?"


"I feel horrible." She grinned as Jen's face fell. "But it's better than not feeling anything. Because horrible becomes livable. And livable becomes better. And I can live with feeling better."

Jen was quiet, watching the other women in the room. Her eyes widened slightly as she recognized Grams moving through the small crowd. She watched as Grams hugged a few of the women, laughing at something one of them said.


"Hmm?" She turned back to Sarah. "Sorry. I was just thinking."

"You asked me if I felt better?"

"You answered me."

"You can't live feeling nothing. No matter how hard you try. Eventually it all comes out and it all comes through and, if you're not ready for it, if you're not willing to feel, it destroys you. And then, well, and then he's won." Her smile faded and her face hardened with determination. "And there's no way in hell I'll ever let the bastard win."


Pacey stepped onto the deck, inhaling the sharp cold air of winter. Snow dotted the boats surrounding him, the fading sun glinting off the white. He closed his eyes, just breathing, opening them as he realized he'd yet to touch the tingling skin beneath his shirt. A haunted smile crossed his lips, the thought spurring action as his hand slipped under the hem, his nails digging into the flesh.


He cursed silently under his breath, turning as she came aboard the boat. "Joey."

"I come in peace. Honest." She held up both hands in surrender, one of them holding a six-pack of Guinness. "I even brought a peace offering."

He smirked, not able to manage a smile as he sat on one of the benches, shoving his hands into his pockets, curling his coat around him. "I suppose, for Guinness, I have to let you come aboard."

"You do." She grinned and sat down beside him, handing him one of the bottles. Pacey opened it and offered it back to her, taking one for himself.

"I'm sorry about the other day."

"Sorry about what exactly?"

She looked at him over the rim of her bottle, her eyes wary. "What do you mean?"

"I mean, what exactly are you apologizing for, Jo?" He took a drink, watching her carefully. "Are you sorry you tried to force a sexual situation between us? Are you sorry you didn't care that I didn't want to have sex with you? Are you sorry we fought? Sorry you didn't get your way? Sorry Dawson showed up? What exactly are you sorry for?"

"I'm sorry that...that it all went wrong."

"What does that mean, Jo?" He set his bottle down and turned so he could see her face, so she couldn't look away. "What went wrong, exactly?"

"We...it all did. We were supposed to..." She took a long drink of her beer then sighed. "We were..."

"We were what, Jo?"

"I'm not in love with Dawson, Pacey. I haven't been since I fell in love with you." She reached out. "I don't...I want us to try again. That's all I've ever wanted."

"Really?" He lifted one eyebrow, taking another drink from his bottle.

"Yes. We're...I just want everything to be back the way it used to be between us. Before it all fell apart, before I tore it apart. I want to get us back on track."

His shook his head. "There is no us, Joey. There's you and there's me. That's it."


"There's no but either, Joey. We're not getting back together. I'm not going to be your boyfriend again. I'll be your friend, and I'll be there for you if you ever need me, but I'm not going to be anything more to you. I'm not your shoulder to cry on; I'm not your guardian angel and I'm sure as hell not your lover, okay? I've got no desire to sleep with you and what happened the other day is never going to happen again."


"There is no but." He finished his beer and set the bottle back in the cardboard carton it came in.

"What about the watch?" Tears stung her eyes, falling down her cheeks unheeded. "What does it mean?"

Pacey's jaw tensed and he looked down at his wrist. Joey's eyes followed his, hurt stinging them as she saw the battered leather band. "It means you'll have a $700 credit on your card next month."

Joey straightened and glared at him, her whole body tight with anger and hurt, fighting tears. "Fuck you, Pacey Witter."

"Bye, Jo."

She fled the boat, the sound of her sobs hollow to his ears. Pacey watched her go, breaking open another beer, surprised that it didn't seem to hurt at all.


Jack checked his watch for the fifth time, letting his irritation out in a sigh as he signaled for another round. The room was crowded with too many people, most of them scantily clad sorority girls. A few of them stood behind him, obviously trying to get his interest, talking loudly about certain sexual acts they'd be more than willing to perform for the right guy.

Giving in to the headache pounding behind his eyes, he finally turned on his barstool. His spread legs were invitation to the redhead closest to him and she slid easily between them, pressing against his chest. "Hi."

"I couldn't help overhearing some of the things you'd be willing to do." He dropped his voice low, a thick sexy drawl made husky by too much alcohol and too much cigarette smoke.

"For the right guy, I'd do a lot of things."

"You think I'm the right guy?"

She ran her hand down his chest to his belt, resting the tip of her finger on the buckle. "I think you're definitely in the running."

Jack smiled and leaned in, his breath brushing along her neck. "You know, there's one way to know for sure."

"What's that?"

"Well, we'd have to see if you'd be willing to do the one thing that would be sure to turn me on."

She licked her lips, smiling hungrily. "I bet I would." She turned her head and kissed Jack softly, her lips warm against his. "What is it?"

"Get a sex change." He slid off his stool, leaving her standing there as he moved around the bar, settling on another stool hidden in the corner. The redhead stared after him, her eyes burning with fury. He lifted his glass in salute, kissing the air in her direction. She whirled around and stomped off into the crowd, her friends trailing behind her.

"Even if she's not your type, it's not good to piss off Janna McNeill." The guy sitting next to Jack turned, a slight smile lifting his lips. "She's a force to be reckoned with. You piss her off, you're not getting any pussy for the rest of the year."

"That's fine with me."

"Ah." The other guy nodded. "You must be the gay guy at the Ep." He stuck out his hand. "Martin Stevens."

"Jack McPhee."

"Pleasure." He laughed and finished off his drink. "A real pleasure, actually. After being blueballed by Janna, it's nice to see her turn tail and run. Of course, I'm sure the story will be different by the time it hits the society pages, but for a while I'll enjoy the sweet taste of vicarious victory."

"It's all yours, my friend." Jack drained his glass and signaled for another. "You pledge here?"

"I did a long time ago. Me and a buddy of mine graduated last year, but we like to come back on the big occasions and see if we can impress young college girls with our worldly wisdom."

"Does it work?"

He smirked knowingly. "You'd be surprised at how impressionable young college girls can be."

Jack nodded his thanks as the bartender sat another drink in front of him. "And what about college guys, you think they're impressionable too?"

Martin shrugged. "Dunno. Never tried to hit on one." He slapped Jack on the shoulder. "Come on. Grab your drink and come hang with my buddies and me. We'll impress the young girls and you can pick up on all the guys left hanging when they go home with us."

"Sounds like as good a plan as any." Jack slid off his stool and followed Martin into the next room. He led them to a group of chairs and ottomans arranged in a circle, immediately introducing Jack to the assorted girls and frat brothers. Jack smiled and nodded, sinking down next to Martin as two busty blondes moved out of their way, happily settling on their laps as soon as they'd sat down.

"Nope." Martin took the hand of the girl on Jack's lap, tugging her toward him. "Jack's not interested in lovely ladies like you, Meg."

"He's not?" She raised an eyebrow, her lower lip sliding out into a sexy pout. "Am I too drunk for him?"

"There's no such thing as too drunk for a frat boy, darlin'. You're just a little too female." Settling her onto his lap, Martin reached over again, grabbing the guy standing next to Jack and pulling him down toward them. He stumbled backwards, landing hard on Jack's lap. "Kevin, this is Jack. Say hi, play nice, and no outward displays of affection until he gives you his phone number."

Kevin laughed, looping his arm around Jack's shoulders. "What if I need to use persuasion to get him to give it to me?"

"555-1732." Jack offered, his eyes caught in Kevin's blue gaze.

"Ooh," Kevin smiled and leaned in, kissing Jack on the tip of his nose. "Playing hard to get. I like that in a man."

"Hard," Jack whispered, keeping the word between the two of them. Kevin's smile spread, warming as he shifted on Jack's lap, giving evidence to the soft promise. His blonde bangs flopped down into his eyes as he leaned forward. "What do you say we go get incredibly drunk and then you let me do the things you've been thinking about since you saw me?"

"Do we have to wait until we're incredibly drunk?"

Kevin's smile melted into a promising grin. "Oh no. I don't think that'll be necessary at all."


Jen settled her elbows on the counter, resting her chin on her fists. She turned her head as the back door opened and Grams slipped into the kitchen, locking the door behind her. She turned and smiled at Jen, moving toward the teapot on the stove.

"It's already heating."

"You left early. I would have given you a ride home."

"I took a cab with Sarah. She had to get home to her sitter." Jen watched her grandmother as she poured steaming water into the waiting cups, inhaling the sweet scent of mint tea as it filled the room.

"Are you wondering why I was there, Jennifer?"

She shrugged as Grams brought the two cups over, sitting across from her. Jen wrapped both hands around the mug, breathing deeply. "A little."

"And do you think you know the reason?"

"No." She shrugged again. "Maybe. I assume it's because you're worried about me."

"I am worried about you, dear." Grams took a sip of her tea, then stirred in a small spoonful of sugar. "But that's not why I went."

"Then why?"

Grams sighed and settled more comfortably on her chair, taking another small sip. "Jennifer, what happened to you...well, it tested my faith. It made me wonder what kind of God could do this to someone so young who had already been through so much. I told you that I doubted him, that I questioned him. In my life, all the questions have been small ones, ones that I eventually found the answers to."

Jen nodded, not speaking.

"I don't see an answer to this one. I don't see one good thing that can come out of this. I see a million other ways you could learn self worth and self-respect, a million other ways you could have grown stronger. A million other ways, none of which would have required you to go through that." Grams sniffed insolently, her eyes bright with unshed tears. "I got very angry at God."

"Join the crowd," Jen reminded her. "And I don't even believe in the guy."

Grams's lips raised slightly in response. "So I went to the church and I had a very long talk with a pastor there. And I asked him to help me find guidance while I was too angry with God to want to listen to his voice."

"And he told you to tag along to rape center meetings?"

"He told me to look for a way to handle my pain so that I could work my way back to God." Grams finished her tea and set the cup aside. "I thought about it for a long time and then I talked to Officer Stern one day after our self-defense class. She suggested I talk with Dr. Moyer and see if she had any suggestions."

"And she suggested you go to rape center meetings?"

"She told me how the center worked and asked me if I'd be interested in volunteering. I told her that I had no idea whatsoever as to how to help anyone through such a tragic event..."

"A complete and utter falsehood," Jen informed her with a smile.

"But I'd be happy to provide refreshments at the meetings, so long as I could sit in and listen to the girls when they told their stories. I need to understand, Jennifer. Because, as much as I know there's evil in this world, I can't comprehend this evil."

"That's one of the most wonderful things about you, Grams." Jen brushed away the tears that clung to her lashes as she slid off her stool and moved around to hug her grandmother. "And I'm pretty sure that, no matter how many meetings you attend, this evil won't ever be more than the abstract for you."

"Thank you, my dear." Grams kissed the top of Jen's head and hugged her close.

"As for God." Jen pulled away and looked at her grandmother seriously, her eyes intent. "You'll find your way back. And you'll reach some understanding with him."

"You're quite sure of that, are you?"

"You guys have been together a long time, Grams. I don't think he's ready to give up on you." She grinned. "And I don't think I could live with being the reason you gave up on him. I mean, I may not know the man personally, but...well, he's important to you. And that makes it all important to me."

Grams tightened her hug. "What happened to that insolent, bratty child that came to live with me four years ago?"

"You broke her spirit."

"Did I?" Grams raised an eyebrow. "And here I thought I simply loved her."

"That's right." Jen winked and kissed Grams's cheek softly. "Sometimes I get them confused."


Kevin shifted his weight, moving easily between Jack's legs, pinning him to the wall. His hand smoothed over Jack's cheek as he leaned down nuzzling his warm skin. "Kissing you is dangerous, McPhee."

"Why's that?" Jack asked through parched lips, his tongue flicking out to wet them, tasting Kevin's lips as he moved closer.

"Because it's intoxicating." He kissed Jack softly. "Heady." His tongue parted Jack's lips then slipped back out, tasting his breath. "Making me wish I hadn't agreed to let my roommate use our room tonight."

"I have a room." Jack blushed as Kevin moved closer, his hand threading through Jack's short hair. "It'd be...I have a single. Back at the house."

"And what will all the other boys say when you bring me home?"

"The other boys will be too busy fucking whatever girls they've managed to lure back there." Jack's hips thrust forward, his body rubbing against the hardness of Kevin's. "And there's also the very real issue that I don't care what they think. I just want to do more than kiss you."

"Me too," Kevin assured him. His tongue parted Jack's lips again, exploring the warmth of his mouth. "Or at least I want to kiss more of you."

Jack groaned softly, his hands sliding up Kevin's back and bringing him closer. He closed his eyes, giving himself over to the heat rushing through him; slow, soft thrusts matching the rhythm of the kiss as they moved together.

"...and then we were walking along and there she was."

"Who was?"

"This girl. God, she was hot. All golden curls and creamy skin. I told Thad that the only thing I wanted that night was to bury my hand in her hair and hold her while she sucked my cock."

"Yeah? And what'd he say?"

"He told me the only way I'd score with a girl like that was if she was unconscious."

Jack broke away from Kevin's kiss, dragging his mind from the mire of hazy lust. Kevin shook his head, curiosity in his eyes. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing...just..." Jack shook his head and tried to pull away, annoyed when Kevin held him still. "Let me go."

"Not until you tell me what's going on. I thought we were having a nice time."

"We were. We are. I just..." Jack struggled against him. "I have to find out who that was."

"Who what was?"

"Those guys. Talking." He shoved Kevin, sending him sprawling into a small group of couples, all intent on making out in the darkened room. Jack didn't look at him, his eyes scanning the room, trying to find the voices. "I'm sorry."

"You're fucking sorry?" Kevin got to his feet and shoved Jack, sending him stumbling into the wall. "You think it's some sort of game here? You're playing games with the fag? Seeing how far you can take it? What is this, some sort of fraternity prank, you motherfucker?"

"No!" Jack tried to back away from Kevin's drunken anger, stopped by the hard wall at his back and the group of Kevin's friends and frat brothers surrounding them. "I wasn't...it's not...damn it, I'm just trying to find the guys that..."

"So I'm just a decoy for the guy you're really hot for?"

"You fucker." Martin's hard voice broke through the general hum of noise. "I brought you over to meet my friend and you're fucking with him? Using him?" Jack felt the threatening push of booze and anger as Kevin and his friends closed in further. "You're probably one of those repressed gay assholes who beats up on other gay men, punishing them for the fact they get you off, aren't you?"

"No! I was...I wasn't trying to hurt..."

Kevin's hands shoved hard against Jack's chest. "You didn't hurt me, you fucker. But I'm afraid you won't be able to say the same."


Jen curled up on the couch, her eyes on her book, not seeing the same words she'd been staring at since Grams had gone up to bed. Closing it quietly, she sighed and shifted, bringing her legs up to her chin. The book teetered precariously on the arm of the chair as she reached for the phone.

She glanced over at the clock, wondering if it was too late to call. Wondering if it was too soon.

She chewed her lower lip, swallowing hard. Closing her eyes, she punched the familiar number and waited in silence for the phone to ring.

Pacey glanced over at the nightstand as the phone rang. He sat up, staring at the receiver. It was undoubtedly Joey. He let it ring again, watching the red light flash as, without thinking, he pressed his fingers against the skin, freshly scrubbed from the shower, the scab gone, the blood fresh, the smell dark and cloying in the room.

Jen listened to the second ring, her fingers playing with the cord, twisting and untwisting it as the sound seemed to echo in her head, in the room. She tried to imagine his voice. Imagine what he'd say. What she'd say.

What would she say?

He reached for the fingernail clippers on his nightstand, freeing the small metal nail file. He gasped as it broke the raw skin. He could feel the warm trickle of blood making fingerprints on his flesh. Another ring. What would he say? I meant it, Joey? I don't want to fuck you? I don't want to fuck anyone again? I don't want to see the darkness inside myself that I saw when I was lying there with Jen's broken body in my arms?

I don't want to find out I have that inside me?

Jen shook her head, realizing she was starting to hyperventilate. His name was a mantra, ringing over and over again in her head, pounding with the beat of her heart, the rushed force of her breathing. She held her breath, forcing herself to let it out slowly.

Four rings.

It was only Pacey. Pacey. Pacey. Pacey.

Pick it up, he told himself. Pick it up and get it over with. Leave me alone. Don't call me. I don't want to see you. I don't care. Stop the incessant ringing in my head. His fingers pressed harder, blood overpowering.

Five rings.

She moved in her seat and the teetering book dropped to the floor, wrenching a gasp from her. She slammed the phone down, her heart beating hard against the wall of her chest.

He grabbed the phone. "Hello?"


Jack opened the door and moved to the living room, unsure he could make his way up the steps. He fell onto the couch, crying out softly as his sore muscles protested. The startled gasp from across the room forced him to his feet and he snapped on the light.

Jen was huddled in the chair across the room, her knees drawn up to her chest, barely peeking out from behind them. "Jesus Christ, you scared me."

"Yeah. I know the feeling." She rubbed her eyes, letting her feet drop to the floor. Jack sank down as she moved, wincing as she gasped. "What the hell happened to you?"

"I was at a frat party."

"You promised me." Her voice was hard and sad. "You promised me you wouldn't go out looking for them, Jack!"

"I didn't. I mean, I did..."

"And what? Did you find them? Do you feel vindicated, Jack? Do you feel like you accomplished something? Did you get the shit beaten out of you by the guys that raped me? Did you get a signed confession? Did you get anything?"

"No!" He shouted. "I didn't find out anything, Jen. I got distracted because of you and this whole goddamned mess and I fucked things up with a really hot guy who was actually interested in me and got the shit beaten out of me in the process because he thought I was faking it so I could humiliate him."

"I'm so fucking sorry my getting raped put a crimp in your love life, Jack. I'm so sorry that I just didn't spread my legs willingly for the assholes that did this to me so you could score with some random guy you met at a party."

"I was trying to help you."

"You're doing a fantastic job!"

"Why are you two screaming?" Grams marched into the room, standing between the two of them. She glanced at Jen then at Jack, stopping as she saw the condition he was in. "What happened to you?"

"I got beaten up."

"That much is obvious, Jack."

"I got beaten up because the friends of the guy I was making out with thought I was setting him up for some sort of gay bashing."


"We were..." He stopped, not wanting to say more in front of Grams. "I overheard something that I thought might have had something to do with Jen and I got distracted. I started trying to follow them and Kevin and his friends took it wrong." Jack sighed. "And then proceeded to beat the sh...crap out of me."

"Oh dear." Grams shook her head. "I'll go get some ice."

Jack looked at Jen. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean..."

"I don't care what you meant, Jack." Jen's eyes were hard, laced with sadness. "You couldn't leave anything alone, could you? Even though I asked you over and over to just let it drop. You want vengeance, don't you? Because you couldn't protect me? Well, guess what, Jack? I just want peace." She shoved past him, stopping as she ran into Dawson and Joey at the base of the stairs, both of them disheveled and haphazardly dressed. "And I want to be left alone."


Pacey's fingers touched the edge of the bandage beneath his shirt, listening to the rasp of fabric over the gauze. He closed his eyes and leaned against the red brick building, catching his breath. The urge to rip the tape from his skin and lose himself in the warm feel of pain throbbed uncontrollably, overwhelmingly. He slammed his head lightly against the rough surface and fought for breath, for control. "Are you okay?"

His eyes snapped open and he looked around, feeling trapped by the curious stare. "Fine," he assured the woman in front of him. "Just a little...frustrated."

She nodded, concern apparent in her stare. "Is there anything I can do?"

"No. Thank you." He shook his head and forced himself away from the brick. "Thank you."

She nodded and started walking again, glancing back over her shoulder once, continuing to move away as Pacey stood still, his hands clenched at his sides. Taking a deep breath, he started to walk again, forcing one foot in front of the other, heading for the door.

"Thank you." Pacey looked up, stopping at the sound of Jack's voice. "And thanks for the offer to press charges. But I don't want to do that."

Pacey's eyes widened and he moved closer, looking around the corner of the building where Jack was standing on the steps of the police station with Officer Stern.

"And I know it's nothing much. I mean, I can only say that I think he said the guy's name was Thad. I was pretty...otherwise occupied. And I was pretty buzzed. And I know there's at least more than one guy named Thad in the greater Boston area." He sighed and shrugged. "If he's even from the greater Boston area."

"I appreciate the lead, Jack." She gave him a steady look. "But I think you should leave the investigative work to us."

"I wasn't trying..."

"You were." She nailed him with a knowing stare. "And it's completely understandable. You want to help your friend. That's admirable. But you're not going to help her like this."

"I know." Jack held up both hands. "I do. Honest." He reached out and took the hand she offered, shaking it. "Thanks again."

Officer Stern nodded and headed back into the building. Jack moved slowly down the steps, heading in Pacey's direction.

"Thad, huh? Doesn't sound a single thing like Pacey."

Jack stopped walking, not turning. "There were two of them."

"Don't you mean two of you?" Pacey leaned back against the bricks again, smirking at Jack. "That's what you think, isn't it?"

"You don't know a single thing about what I think, Pacey."

"You told me, Jack. You told me the day after it happened that I was to blame."

"I never said did it."

"What's the difference, Jack?" Pacey's face was impassive. "What's the difference between accusing me of the crime and laying the blame at my feet?"

"Leave me the fuck alone, Pacey."

"Why? Because you're afraid that if I don't leave you alone I'll be the one to remind you that you were supposed to be there that night too? That you didn't show up because you called me to tell me that you were going off with some guy you picked up in a bar and you were too busy getting fucked to be there with Jen?"

"Shut the fuck up."

"Why? Why should I have to listen to everyone recriminate me for fucking around when you were busy doing the same thing? Why is it that, because I found her, I'm the one who gets fucking crucified?"

"Why are you acting so fucking guilty?" Jack grabbed Pacey's arm as he started to turn away. "Why do you act like you're the one who fucked her in that alley, Pacey?"

"Because I feel guilty!" Pacey shoved Jack away from him. "Because I keep thinking I should have been there to fucking stop it."

"You should have been." Jack snarled the words. "Your cock has always been more fucking important to you than anything else. That's why you went after Joey even though you knew it'd kill Dawson and that's why you feel fucking guilty. Because you know that you should have fucking been there."

Pacey swung before he even realized it, the solid sound of impact shocking them both. "Fuck you," Pacey sneered. "You went after Joey when she was with Dawson too, looking for a fucking beard."

Jack's punch caught Pacey solidly. "I wasn't his fucking best friend; I didn't know the whole lifelong story."

Pacey's mouth curled into a snarl. "No, but she sure was convenient, wasn't she? So young and na•ve. You could just use her as much as you wanted. That's what you do with Jen too, isn't it, Jack? Use her like a shield against being gay, against actually getting involved. She's your security blanket. And she got ripped out of your hands, didn't she? You can't hide behind her anymore, can you? Because she needs someone to hide behind."

"You're happy to find anyone to blame in this, aren't you, Pace? You just want to be the victim, don't you? Poor Pacey. He can't handle the pressure of school or of a relationship or a job. He's got to run away. Oh sure, you make it sound romantic, running away to the sea, but you're just a fucking coward. And this shows how much of a coward you are. You can't face her. You can't face the fact that she'd rather die than ever see you again. You can't handle the fact that she wishes you'd just let her die."

Pacey launched himself at Jack, slamming him into the ground. He acted purely on instinct, his hands and arms moving of their own accord, his strong legs holding Jack captive beneath him as he fought, his voice foreign to his own ears.

He felt hands pulling him off, recognized the scent of blood. He struggled against the hands holding him, getting one hand free and applying pressure to the throbbing in his side. "I'm fine. I'm fucking fine. Let me go."

The familiar blue of uniform blocked his view of Jack as he felt the rough brick behind him again. "I'm fine." He heard Jack's voice, the sound muffled by his split lip, the rich red of blood on his tongue. "I'm fine."

The blue parted and Pacey found himself looking at Officer Stern. "Well, well. Why am I not surprised?"

"Fighting in front of the police station hasn't been my brightest idea this year." A full body shudder took over Pacey as he was released. He rested against the wall, closing his eyes and inhaling the smell of blood and sweat. "What now?"


"It's fine." Jack stood in front of Pacey, the swelling on his face already getting worse. His bottom lip was twice its normal size and one eye was almost shut. "It was just a misunderstanding."

"A misunderstanding." Officer Stern nodded. "Pacey?"


She nodded again. "Okay." She shook her head at the other officers. "Let's go."

"You're sure it's okay to leave these lunatics alone out here?"

She gave Pacey and Jack each a long, hard look. "Yeah. It's fine."

They stood side by side as the police officers filtered back into the building, all of them glancing back at them over their shoulders. Pacey sank to the ground, his feet on the hard cement in front of him. "Tell me something?"


Pacey licked his lips, tasting blood, wondering vaguely if it was his or Jack's. "You really think I could do it? Rape her?"

Jack shuddered at the word, wrapping his arms around himself. "I keep waiting for Jen to look at me and tell me she hates me because I wasn't there. I keep waiting for her to remember that I bailed on her. I keep waiting."

"But it's not going to happen," Pacey said quietly. "Because everyone's so focused on the fact that I wasn't there. Everyone knows you called me, Jack."

"I know." He blew out a long breath. "The problem is that everyone knows it. But it doesn't change the fact that I wasn't there, Pacey."

"Neither was I."

"I know." Jack looked at Pacey, his eyes telling him clearly that he wasn't talking about being there on time. "I know you weren't there."

Pacey let out a long, pent-up breath. "Thank you."

"I'm mad at Jen. For letting it happen. For not running away. For being stupid enough to sit out there alone in the dark. But I'm not allowed to be mad at her. And I was tired of beating myself up."

"So you beat the shit out of me?"

"I'm thinking you had the upper hand in this fight, Witter." Jack tried to smile, wincing as his sore skin stretched. "Ow. Shit. Remind me to not get beaten up two nights in a row."

"Who beat you up last night?"

"It's a long story." He tried to smile again. "I could tell you about it over coffee? Well, if I can even manage to drink through a straw."

Pacey was silent for a moment. "Thanks, Jack, but...but I don't think... not right now. Not yet. But, honestly. Thank you."

Jack nodded, working his way to his feet. There was an echo of hurt in his eyes, but there was also an element of understanding. "I'll see ya later, Pace."

Pacey nodded, watching as Jack walked away, waiting until he was gone to head into the police station.


Jen sat uncomfortably on the chair, staring out the window at the steel gray sky. Dr. Moyer sat across the desk from her, watching as Jen shifted again. "You want to talk about it?"

"I'm glad I went last night."

"Are you?"

"Yeah." She nodded. "You think it's going to snow again?"

"Probably. It looks like snow. Smells like it."

"Pacey once said he could smell snow." Jen's brow furrowed. "I was in love with him once. Or I wanted to be. But it was a lost cause. He was falling for someone else at the time and I knew it, even if he didn't yet."

"What did you think about Sarah's story?"

"It was sad." Jen got up and walked to the window, staring down at the crowd below. "A lot to deal with all by herself. It made me thankful I have Grams in my life."

"You're very lucky."

"Sarah has you though. You're like Grams to her, I think."

"I try to be there for her. But she knows I hear the stories every day and I think she's afraid I'll hear a story worse than hers and I won't be there for her anymore."

"Why would she think that?" Jen ask curiously.

"Rational thought isn't always a person's strong suit after a rape." Dr. Moyer shrugged. "She's learning to trust me. It'll all come with time."

"I called Pacey last night."

"Did you talk with him?"

"No. I hung up before he could answer." Jen sighed. "I talked with Grams after the meeting last night and she was talking about God, about trying to find a way she could compromise what she believed with how what happened to me made her feel. And I started wondering if I could compromise."

"What would you compromise, Jen?"

"I don't know. I just wanted to hear his voice."

"What do you think he would have said to you?"

"I don't know." She smiled sadly and moved back to her chair, sinking down in it. "I don't know that he would have said anything. I wonder if he hates me sometimes. I would hate me. If I was innocent, if I'd saved someone's life and they couldn't bear the sight of me. I'd hate them."

"Do you think he hates you?"

"Knowing Pacey? No."

"And how does that make you feel?" Jen didn't say anything for a long time, turning her gaze back to the window. "Jen? How does it make you feel?"

"It makes me angry. I want him to hate me."


"Because I hate me. I hate what happened and I hate what I did." She shook her head, sending unwanted tears dancing down her cheeks. "I wanted to tell him that I wouldn't hate him if he wouldn't hate me. I wanted him to promise that we could pretend it never happened. I wanted to tell him that I'm sorry. I wanted him to tell me that it wasn't my fault. I wanted him to hate me and I wanted him not to. I want him to..." She wiped her cheeks. "I want him to forgive me for hating him."

"Do you still hate him?"

"I hate me." Jen stood and walked back to the window. "Back in Capeside, Pacey was like the black sheep, you know? He and I had that in common. We weren't the golden kids. We were the rebels. That's why we were such good friends. Didn't want or need anything from each other. But we recognized each other."

Dr. Moyer nodded, watching Jen as she traced patterns on the window.

"He found me like that...like...vulnerable."

"Is that why you're angry at him? Because he saw you need someone?"

"Do you believe in God?"

Dr. Moyer nodded. "Yes, I do."

"Did you blame him for what happened to you?"

"I didn't blame him. I questioned him. I demanded answers from him."

"Did you ever get them?"

"There aren't always answers, Jen."

"My friend Joey's in love with Pacey." Jen smirked. "I think she's trying to use this whole situation to get back together with him."

"How does that make you feel?"

"Used." Jen shrugged. "But no more so than I always feel used when it comes to Joey."

"Does Pacey love her?"

"I love the snow." Jen turned back to the window, watching the flakes as they began fluttering down to the cold ground. "It makes everything seem unreal. Like a fairy tale."

"Are you in love with Pacey, Jen?"

She looked back sharply, her smile heartbreaking. "I was."


Joey tugged her shirt over her head, her back to Dawson. He watched her with narrowed eyes, his hand resting at the base of her spine as she pulled it down. "I should go."

"You owe me some sort of explanation, don't you think?"

She shrugged, leaning forward to grab the rest of her clothes from the floor. "Why? You've got it all figured out already, don't you?"

"I have an idea. I don't like it very much. I don't like what it says about you and I don't like what it says about me." He gave her a cruel smile. "And I don't much like what it says about us."

"We fuck, Dawson."

"We seem to fuck an awful lot, Joey." He sat up, pulling the sheets up to his waist. He brought his knees up and rested his arms on them, looking her over as she stood, pulling on her panties then her jeans. "And I want to know if I'm the guy you're fucking because you want to, or if I'm just the guy you're fucking because Pacey's got better things to do."

"What do you think?" She dug in her backpack, pulling out her hairbrush.

"I think Pacey told you to get the hell away from him yesterday and you got pissed. So you thought you'd come fuck me then report back to him that it happened, hoping that it'll piss him off enough that he'll sweep you off your feet and show you what real love is." He smirked at the look on her face. "Oh, excuse me. What true love is."

"Fuck you."


The hairbrush stopped and she looked at his cool eyes. "What?"

"No. I don't think so. Not anymore."


"I don't think I want to be your stand-in, Jo. I don't want to be there when your vibrator batteries run out and I don't want to be there when Pacey's sticking his dick in someone else. I don't want to be your replacement."

"What are you talking about, Dawson?"

He got out of the bed, pulling on his sweats. "I'm talking about us, Joey. I'm talking about spending this whole year walking on eggshells, afraid to push you too hard into making some kind of commitment to me."

"You're not making any sense."

"I'm not, am I?" He laughed. "It must mystify you that I'm telling you no. That I'm saying I don't want to be the second string for your affections. If you love Pacey, Jo, and he loves you? More power to you. Run after him, sail away. Just don't come running back here when he tells you no."

"He won't tell me no."

"He's told you no numerous times, Joey. You just don't want to hear him." Dawson sighed and pulled his t-shirt on. He shook his head and ran a hand through his hair. "I love you, Joey. God help me, but I do. I'm addicted to you like a drug. And as much as I hope that I mean it when I tell you to get the hell out of my bedroom, I know there's a really strong chance that I'm going to welcome you back with open arms when Pacey kicks you out again."

"You'll be waiting for a long time, Dawson."

He laughed and shook his head. "Have you always been this good at self-delusion, Joey? Or do you just need to believe it?" He walked over to her and took her face in his hands, forcing her to look at him. She tried to wrench away, but he refused to let her move. "He doesn't love you, Jo. He doesn't need you. Not anymore."

"You don't know anything," she assured him, tears stinging her eyes.

"I love you. God only knows why, after everything we've been through, but I do. And I will. Always. But if you walk out of here today and go to him, try and do this all over again, well..." Dawson took a deep breath, blowing it out slowly. "I won't be here when you come back, looking for someone to hold you, someone to ease the pain away, someone to make you feel wanted."

She bit the inside of her lip, taking a step back from him.

"You've worn me out, Joey. Long before you're going to wear him down." He leaned forward and kissed her, the bittersweet taste lingering on his lips. "Goodbye, Jo."

She stepped back, moving toward the stairs. Her eyes were dark and confused, full of uncertainty. "I can't help that I love him."

"You can accept that he doesn't love you."

"Is that what you want? For me to settle for you because I can't him?"

"No, Joey. I want you to realize you can't have him. And get on with your life. Even if it's not with me."

She didn't say anything for a long time, holding his gaze until she turned and ran down the stairs.


"You're not going to start any more brawls, are you? We've sort of got our hands full with more important stuff." Officer Stern motioned Pacey toward the chair on the opposite side of her desk.

"No." He smiled, wincing at the tightening of his skin around the bruises from the few blows Jack had managed to get in. "I need...I have this problem."

"Just one?"

"Just one you can help me with." He sighed and stared down at his hands. "The day after this all happened I took a shower. And I started this thing...and I want to stop. I do. I just don't know how."

"What thing, Pacey?"

"I can't...it's nothing illegal. Not drugs or anything. It's just this personal thing and I need to stop. I have to stop and I don't know..."

"And you think I can help you?"

"I need someone to help me." He managed a weak grin. "You remember how you asked me about my friends?"


"Joey told me she's in love with me and wants to be with me. My friend Dawson keeps accusing me of being capable of raping someone. Jack and I...well, you saw what happened with Jack. I quit my job and I think I said fuck in front of Grams." He sighed heavily. "Nothing happened to me and my life's spinning out of control."

"It's a common side effect." Officer Stern tapped the eraser of her pencil against the blotter on her desk. "A crime like rape doesn't just affect the victim. It's a ripple effect. Everyone's touched by it. People change. They react and you find out a lot about them. Not all of it is complimentary."

"I don't want it to change it."

"It's too late for that, Pacey."

"I don't want the damage to be irreparable."

"Sometimes it is. You and your friend Dawson?" She shook her head. "Can you forgive him for the things he's said to you?"

"If it were anyone but Dawson?" He laughed. "No. But with Dawson... sometimes I think I can forgive him anything because I'm so used to him being a complete asshole."

"Nothing's ever the same, Pacey."

"Even me?"

"Maybe most especially you. Violent crime stays with you. Your friend Jen will always remember what happened to her. She'll carry that with her until her dying day. But you'll carry images that no one else has as well. You saw things no one should have to see. You dealt with things no one should have to deal with." She looked at her desk then up at Pacey, watching as he pressed his hand against his side. "I was there that night. I was one of the cops at the scene."

"I knew that."

"I was the first cop at the scene."

His eyes widened slightly. "You were?"

"I got there the same time as the ambulance. I had to keep you from trying to get at Jen when they were working on her. I held your hands." She held up her hands. "They were bloody from holding the wound in her side. You kept her from bleeding to death. Did you know that?"

"No," he whispered.

"You're never going to be the same, Pacey. You can't. You've seen too much, been through something far too traumatic to pretend it didn't happen."

"So what do I do?"

"Learn to accept the changes." She opened her desk drawer and pulled out a business card. "Don't throw this one away."

Pacey looked at the name on the card and then back up at her. "What do I do?"

"Call her. Talk with her. She can help you."

"Okay." He nodded and stood. "Thank you."

"You're welcome."

He started to walk out of her small office, stopping at the door. She looked up, her expression welcoming his question. "Does it ever stop?"



Jack stopped at the top of the steps, his one good eye widening as he caught sight of Joey sitting at his door. "Hey."

"He...Jesus. What happened to you?"

"You mean what happened to me last night when I got the shit beaten out of me or what happened today when I got the shit beaten out of me?"

"I heard most of last night."

"No, you heard Jen shouting at me." He laughed then coughed. "Ow. Ow. Ow."

"Maybe you should get in bed."

"Good idea."

She got off the floor and walked over to him, offering him her arm and leading him into his room. Jack sank onto his bed, groaning his thanks as Joey knelt down and pulled off his tennis shoes. She grabbed his feet and helped him turn, settling back onto his pillows. She sank down on the edge of the mattress and took his hand. "You want to talk?"

"Last night I was sort of the brunt of a horrible universal joke gone awry." He lifted the corner of his mouth in a smile. "I got accused of leading some guy on so I could bash on him for being gay."

"You're gay."

"Yeah. They sort of thought I was faking it or something."

"Can you fake that sort of thing?"

Jack shrugged. "I faked being straight for quite a while."

"That's true. So you're telling me this homosexual thing is all a ruse?"

"Well, one would think the practically instant erection the guy gave me would have been a clue, but I guess he was ignoring that."

"Maybe he didn't know?"

"Joey, if his body had been any closer to mine, we would have actually been having sex. I'm pretty sure he knew exactly how he affected me."

"Oh." She blushed. "Gotcha."

"But it was worth it."

"Oh?" She grinned this time. "Good kisser?"

"Well, yes. But more because I think I might have gotten a lead on the guys that attacked Jen. I don't think anything will ever come of it because, well, because I didn't really get anything, but for a second I actually felt like I was doing something."

"I know what you mean." He sighed and shifted, groaning again. "You want some aspirin or something?"

"I would kill for some."

"That won't be necessary." She got off the bed and disappeared from the room, coming back in a few minutes with a glass of water and a handful of pills. Jack tossed them back and drank the entire glass, sighing happily as he handed it back to her.

"You're a saint."

Joey snorted. "So that was last night's beating. Tell me about today's."

"I ran into Pacey."


Jack glanced up at the small noise, reaching out to take her hand. "We apparently had some issues to deal with."


"Yeah. But...well, thing's aren't okay. But they're actually better than what they were." Jack was silent for a long minute. "So, that's my tale of woe. Start talking."

"What makes you think I have a tale of woe?"

"You were sitting outside my bedroom door looking forlorn. Which means you have a tale of woe."

"I got in a fight with Dawson." She exhaled quietly. "Pacey's not in love with me anymore."

Jack nodded, acting as if the two statements made sense together. "I see."

Joey giggled. "Pacey's not in love with me and I know it. Dawson knows it. But Dawson wants me to...I don't know if I can give him up, Jack."

"Pacey or Dawson?"


"Dawson loves you."

"I know." Joey looked up at the ceiling. "And I love him in my own little twisted way."


"Pacey's always going to love me, but he's not in love with me. He doesn't want anything more than friendship from me." Joey finished his statement for him. "But I can't stop this feeling inside that keeps pushing me toward him. That keeps making me want to be there for him, be the one to comfort him."

"You're in college, Jo. You don't have to decide on the rest of your life."

"Actually, I sort of thought that was what college was for." She grinned then sighed. "Maybe I'm better off without either of them."

"Maybe you are."

She sighed again and Jack reached up, grabbing her shoulder, pulling her down beside him. Joey relaxed, settling against his shoulder, her cheek against his chest, the warm cotton of his t-shirt caressing her skin. "I've never been without them."

"Maybe it's time you were."


She looked up as her office door opened, her eyes puzzled. "Can I help you?"

He shifted uncomfortably in the doorway, glancing down at the card in his hand. "Dr. Moyer?"


"Officer Stern told me I should talk to you. Your secretary was on her way out when I came in; she told me to just come back."

"I see." She stood, looking him over, noticing the way he averted his eyes, the keys in his hand, digging into his side. "And what did you need to talk to me about?"

"It's about my friend. She was...she was raped and I found her."

"I see." She gestured to the chair in front of her desk. He nodded and moved to it, perching on the edge of the cushion. "Why don't you tell me about it, Mr..."

"Witter. Pacey Witter."


Jen knocked softly on Jack's door, pushing it open at his muffled response. "Hey, I just wanted..." She stopped as he sat up, her mouth opening in surprise as she looked at him. "What happened?"

"I got..."

"No wait. Let me guess. You got into another fight because of me, right?" She shook her head in disbelief. "Jesus, Jack."

"It's not what you..."

"What I think? What do you know about what I think anymore?" She walked into his room, slamming the door shut behind her. "You want to know what I think, Jack? I think you're enjoying feeling like some sort of hero. I think you like the fact that you're the big strong man and I'm the weak little girl and you think I need that. Well, let me assure you, the last thing I need in my life right now is some big strong man."

"I'm not trying..."

"You think you're frustrated because you can't do anything? You think you're pissed off because you can't find the guys who did this to me?" She glared at him, pacing his room angrily. "Well, how do you think it is for me? How do you think I spend my time, Jack? You think I don't obsess over where they are and what they're doing? You think I don't worry constantly that they know who I am and they're going to want to come back and finish the job they started?"

"If I find them..."

"If you find them what? There'll still be two of them and, as you've shown here over the past two days, you're not going to come out on the winning end of any fight. I'm sure I'll feel much, much better if you find them and they beat you senseless or worse, won't I, Jack? I mean, I'd love to have that on my conscience as well as everything else!"

"You're screaming."

"Of course I'm screaming!" She yelled. "God, you're so fucking stupid sometimes! This isn't about you! This isn't about what you want and what you deserve and what you need! This is about me. I was raped, Jack! I was raped and hurt and cut and played with for the enjoyment of two sick fucks. What part of that is about you?"

"I want to give you closure."

"Closure? There is no fucking closure!" Jen stepped back, her chest rising and falling quickly, the harsh sound of her breath filling the room. "It doesn't end, Jack. It doesn't stop. Even if the fuckers are behind bars, even if they're punished for what happened, it's not going to make it any better!" She was silent then, her eyes black as she stared at him, searching for comprehension. "It's not going to make me any better."

"I love you, Jen." He said the words quietly, slowly. "You're the best friend I've ever had and it kills me to see you hurting. I just want to do something to...if I can't make it go away, I want to lessen it. I want to give you something that you can hold on to to help you get through this."

"I need a friend, Jack. Not an avenging angel." She shook her head, swallowing back the painful words still in her throat. "I don't need protecting."

"You did that night," he reminded her, reminded himself.

"But it's not your job." Jen sank down into the chair opposite his bed. "It's my job, Jack. And as much as I...appreciate that you want to do it for me, I have to do it for myself. I have to take responsibility for what happened..."


"I have to take responsibility for being stupid." She gave him a half- hearted grin. "I knew better than to sit outside. I knew I should have gone in the bar. But I was thinking about something else. Distracted. And that much of it is my fault."


"It was late, it was dark and I'm in the big city." She ticked each point off on her fingers. "Lounging around a closed coffee shop all by myself was an invitation to get mugged or worse. And it happened. It's not my fault that it happened, but it's my job to be responsible to myself and I wasn't."

"What were you thinking about?"



"Nothing important." She got off the chair and moved to the end of Jack's bed, touching his leg with trembling fingers. "Promise me this is over, Jack? I need you to promise me that, okay?"

"I can't promise I'm not going to fight for you, Jen. I love you. But I can promise that I'll make sure it's a battle you want me in before I go charging off half-cocked."

She smiled and nodded. "Thank you." After a few minutes, she grinned slyly. "Speaking of half-cocked, tell me about the guy you were accused of gay-bashing."


Pacey sat in the chair, not moving. His shirt clung to him, beads of sweat trailing down his back, soaking the thin denim. His nails dug into the arms of the chair as he stared straight ahead.

"Do you need more time?"

"No." He bit the word out, flushing as he heard it in the quiet room. "Sorry. No."

Dr. Moyer nodded. "It's like its very own presence in the room to you, isn't it, Pacey?" He nodded once, digging his nails in deeper to the plush upholstery. "How does it feel to you?"

"It's like a heartbeat. Like it's flowing in this rhythm, pounding at my skin to get out, to pour out." He cleared his throat, choking down threatening tears. "I never knew that's how I got the blood on my hands."

"From what I understand, you saved your friend's life."

"I had to."

"Had to?"

"I was the reason she was there in that alley. I was the one who was late, the one who didn't get there in time. I was..." He blushed and ducked his head. "It was my fault."


"It wasn't my fault," he amended. "But she was outside because I told her to wait out there. And I was late. Not on purpose but...I could have been on time."

"Why were you going out with your friend?"

"She called the night before. She and her friend had asked a bunch of us to go out. Dawson and Joey weren't going to go. They were going to be working on something," he laughed. "Which was usually a euphemism for the fact that they were going to have sex. They feel better pretending the rest of us don't know that they're doing it."

Dr. Moyer smiled, raising an eyebrow.

"It's a long story. Long and, in the long run," his face darkened for a moment, "pretty boring."

"I'll take your word for it."

"Jack said he was going to go, but he canceled a couple of hours before I got off work. Called the restaurant to tell me that he'd already called Jen. He'd been chasing this guy for a couple of weeks, so I told him it was cool, that he needed to get laid more than anyone I'd ever met." Pacey grinned at the memory. "So I called Jen to see if she wanted to cancel."

"And what did she say?"

"She said no. She'd just go out with her friend and meet me at the bar. I told her I might be a little late and that they needed to try and keep out of trouble before I got there."

"Then what happened?"

"She called. Said her friend bailed but we'd still meet up. I offered to cancel, make it for another night, but she said we hardly ever see each other, said she wanted to...talk. So she was waiting outside for me. She..." Pacey shrugged. "I can see it, you know? Imagine all the things that I heard happen to her. I found her, so I saw the end result and I can just see every step happening. See it. In my mind. Like some nightmare on endless repeat."


"And sometimes they aren't faceless guys doing it. Sometimes I see me doing it and it scares the fuck out of me."

"And you don't think that could be a product of your guilt?" She raised an eyebrow questioningly. "And when you wake up from these dreams, Pacey, these nightmares, what do you do?"

"I make myself bleed."

"Does it help?"

"Yes." He closed his eyes, tired of fighting the tears that threatened. "Yes, it does. I let it bleed out of me. I leech the guilt from inside me, let it flow out over my hand and wash her blood away."

"Does it help?"

He opened his eyes, the bright blue cloudy with emotion. His voice sounded hard and dead. "No."

"Why do you feel so guilty, Pacey?"

"I just told you. She was alone waiting for me and I didn't get there in time. And she got raped."

"Why didn't you get there in time?"

"I was with someone else."

"Someone important to you?"

"No," he smirked. "That makes it that much worse, you know? That I blew her off for some other girl who doesn't matter to me at all. I couldn't even tell you her name."

"Why do you think you did it then?"

Pacey shrugged. "I was an eighteen-year-old guy and she offered."

"Surely it wasn't a one time only deal?"

"No." He shook his head and closed his eyes, his hand leaving the chair arm, his fingers searching for his keys. "Probably not."

"But you wanted her?"

"Not really."

"Then why, Pacey?"

The corkscrew on his Swiss army knife dug into his side, twisting through bandaged skin without protest. Dr. Moyer watched him silently until the pain echoed across his face, his breath breaking on a silent gasp.

"Why, Pacey?"

"I didn't want to be alone with Jen." He was panting, his fingers under his shirt, pressing hard against the darkening bandage. "I didn't want to be alone with her."

"Why not?"

"I was afraid."

"Of what?"

Harder, deeper. He could feel the blood staining his fingertips, feel the hard thud of pain beating inside him. "Of her."

"Why?" Pacey stood up suddenly, kicking the chair back. It skittered across the hardwood floors, slamming into the wall behind him. Dr. Moyer didn't change expressions, didn't move except for the slight tightening of her hands as she clasped them together. "Why?"

"Because I wanted her so much. Because it seems like all I could think about when I was around her was being with her, wanting her. Because I was falling for her and the last thing I ever wanted again in my life was to fall in love with a friend and fuck everything up."

"So you hooked up with some random girl at your work?"


"Why?" She cocked her head, watching him as he paced the room, keys now dangling from his fingers. "Did it change how you felt about Jen?"

"I wanted her to see I was with someone else. I wanted her to know I wasn't interested."

"Do you think she was interested in you?"

"I think she was half-drunk and horny. And, even if we didn't wind up going home together, she was going to flirt with me to get some other guy interested. And the only thing I wanted less than to end up fucking her was to be bait for some other guy."

"So you planned to show up and what?"

"I was going to tell her all about it. Jen's great that way. She'd laugh at me, ask for details. And, more importantly, she'd get the hint."

"Did you think she was interested in you?"

"She was..." Pacey shrugged, his fingers moving over his keys like a Rosary, searching for the perfect one. "I don't know."

"Now that, Pacey Witter, is the first out and out lie you've told me."

"She told me that she wanted to talk." He blew out his breath, moving over to the chair and bringing it back to where it had been originally before sinking down into it. He shoved the keys in his pocket then rested his elbows on his knees, staring down at the floor. "She said that she had something she needed to tell me."

"Would it have been so bad?"

"To date her?" Pacey shrugged. "It can't happen. Couldn't have then and can't now. There's too much baggage between us all. And, no matter how either of us felt at the time, it wouldn't have worked. And Jen's friendship means too much to me "

"And now?"

Pacey shrugged again. "And now there's no point."


Joey opened her door slowly, shutting it immediately as she saw who was on the other side. Dawson reached out and pushed against it, refusing to allow her to close it completely. "I just want to talk."

"I thought we'd said everything that needed to be said." He didn't say anything, simply looked at her until she sighed and stepped back. "Fine. Come in."

He walked over to her desk, perching on the edge of it, keeping distance between them. Joey sat defiantly on the bed, her arms crossed over her chest. He waited until she was opening her mouth to speak again before saying anything. "How's Pacey?"

"He's fine," she said after a slight pause. "You just missed him. We spent the morning making love over and over again."



"Does he actually know that? Or have you decided to wait to inform him?" Dawson couldn't quite hold back his smile, especially as Joey blushed.

"Why are you here?"

"I wanted to talk."

"We already talked today, remember? You basically told me to get the fuck out of your life?"

"I told you to get out of my bed if you were still interested in being in Pacey's." Dawson sighed. "I also told you I love you."

"You love me on your terms."

"I can't love you on his, Joey. I'm not him." Dawson laughed suddenly. "Jesus. Who ever thought you and I would have this conversation about him, huh? I mean, you guys were having this conversation about me two years ago and now the tables have turned, haven't they?"

Joey didn't say anything for a long time and finally Dawson moved to sit on the bed across from hers. She looked up at him through wounded eyes. "He doesn't love me like I want him to, Dawson. Not anymore. I... I destroyed it."

"You didn't do it alone, Jo."


He moved beside her, wrapping his arm around her shoulders, holding her close as his voice broke. "Yeah, Jo?"

"How do you stop it?"

"You don't." He sighed again, tightening his grip slightly. "I'm sorry, but you don't."

"I thought we had a chance, you know? I could see his eyes when he first looked at me when we saw him in the hospital and it was all over his face. What if it was Joey? I could see it in his eyes."

"I know."

"I held onto that."

"I know."

"But...but that wasn't all that was in his eyes." Joey got off the bed, moving across the room quickly. "He thought it, but it wasn't what tore him up inside. It tore him up that it was Jen."

"I'm sorry, Joey."

She nodded. "I...I am too." Blowing out a long, slow breath, she sank down onto the floor and looked at him. "I can't be with you right now, Dawson."

"I understand."

"And...and not because I'll be chasing after him. I think I just need to be alone for a while."

"I think that's probably the best thing for everyone, Jo."

Her mouth twisted into a self-mocking smile. "I haven't been alone in a long time."

"It's not so hard." Dawson got up and walked over, squatting down in front of her, his hands framing her face. "Besides, you won't really be alone."

"I won't?"

He shook his head, leaning in and kissing her softly. "You've still got friends."

"I do," she agreed.

"And you're pretty much stuck with me."

"Well," Joey sighed dramatically, the hint of her smile not coming close to reaching her eyes. "I guess we all have a cross we have to bear, huh?"


Pacey pushed the door open, standing just inside it as he let the mix of smells wash over him. There was no one in the dining area, the pristine tables waiting for the clock to drift toward four.

"We're closed."

"I know." Pacey didn't look in Danny's direction. "I'm not here to eat."


"I could do that."

Danny nodded and turned, bypassing the bar and heading for his office. Pacey followed him silently, ignoring the glances from the rest of the staff as they made their way through the kitchen.

Danny walked around his desk, pulling a bottle from the bottom drawer. He handed it to Pacey without a word. Pacey broke the seal, lifting the virgin bottle to his lips. "Are you back?" Danny asked lightly. "Or is this just a visit?"

"Right now it's a visit."

"Good enough." Danny accepted the bottle from Pacey and took a hit. "How you doin', kid?"

"I'm...better." Pacey shrugged. "I went and saw someone today."


"Yeah. A counselor, I guess. She...well, she's going to try and help me deal with all of this."

"Sounds like a good thing then, Pacey." Danny offered him the bottle again.

"Yeah." They sat in silence, listening to the sounds of the restaurant through the doors to Danny's office. "I need something to keep my mind busy."

"The job's here if you want it."

"What about..."

"She's gone." Danny shrugged. "She heard what happened that night and figured she'd be the sacrificial lamb. She gave me notice the next day. Didn't you notice?"

"No. I...I didn't notice much. I guess if I thought about it at all, I figured you just switched her to days I wasn't working."

"No. She's gone."

Pacey nodded then took the bottle from the desk, not taking a drink. "Danny?"


"I'm scared."

"Of what, kid?"


"That's a lot to be scared of."

Pacey took a drink then set the bottle back on the desk. He dropped his hands to his lap, rubbing the fingertips of his right hand together. He could almost still feel the silky slip of blood against his skin. "How do people walk away from it all unscathed?"

"Some people just hide it better, Pacey." Danny put the cap on the bottle and tucked it back into the drawer. "But no one gets away unscathed."


Jen sat in the back of the room, watching Grams as she talked to the group gathered around her cookies. Sarah sat down next to her, pulling her feet up onto the chair and wrapping her arms around her knees. "Your grandmother is nice."

"My Grams is the best person in the world," Jen corrected her. "I don't know what I'd do without her."

"You're lucky."

"I'm very lucky." Jen rubbed her thumb over the knee of her jeans, glancing at Sarah out of the corner of her eye. "Can I ask you a question?"


"It's been a while since what happened...stopped happening. Do you ever wonder if you'll ever feel the same? If you'll ever be able to..." Jen sighed. "My life was different. I mean, this was a one time thing for me, not...not like yours."

"I watch movies and read these books," Sarah interrupted her. "I see these larger than life heroes and I wonder if they really exist. I keep thinking that if I met a guy like that I could fall in love with him, tell him everything and he'd accept it. He'd be all Richard Gere in Pretty Woman, not caring that she was a whore, you know?"


"I went on a date once, probably about two weeks before you started coming here." Sarah pursed her lips then relaxed, sighing softly. "He was a really nice guy. I met him through a service that does referrals for us. So he knew, or at least suspected."

"It went badly?"

"No. Yes." Sarah shrugged. "He was a perfect gentleman. He took me out to dinner and we saw a movie. Dr...Amanda watched Sam for me and was there when he dropped me off at home. He walked me to the door and he held out his hand and asked me to call him when I was ready."

"Sounds nice."

"Yeah." She chewed her bottom lip then shrugged again, letting her feet fall to the floor. "The only man I've ever slept with is my father. How do you tell someone that? How do you tell some guy who's completely innocent, untouched by any kind of horror like that that you're some weird incestuous statistic and, oh, by the way, this is my father's kid that I couldn't abort because of some weird moral code that seemed to skip a generation."

"Not exactly first date conversation."

"It's not any date conversation."

"I used to sleep around a lot," Jen said softly. "I used to hate the thought that at some point I'd have to tell the guy that I'd probably had sex before he'd even had his first wet dream, you know? That I'd have to tell him that I'd slept with more guys than he probably even knew."

"I bet you wish that was still all you had to worry about."


"Can...can it be good, Jen?"



"Yeah. It can be good. It's almost always good when you're with someone you want to be with." She shuddered. "I just can't imagine wanting to be with anyone anymore."

"Have you ever been in love?"

Jen stiffened. "I don't know. Not really."

"I wonder sometimes. What it would be like to love someone. Unconditionally. But...but on purpose, you know?"

Jen nodded. "I do."

"You think we have a chance?"

"There are nice guys out there," Jen said noncommittally.

"Yeah. Somewhere."


Jen held up her green shirt, wrinkling her nose as she glanced at herself in the mirror. "Protocol is a bitch." She dropped the shirt and stared at her reflection, her eyes drawn automatically to the white skin that defined her scar. The flesh had healed nicely, the mark barely showing unless you knew where to look.

Her fingers traced it, the others bunched in the dark fabric. She knew where to look.

Turning away from the mirror, she tossed the shirt on the bed. "I don't care anymore, Grams," she called out. "I'll run the risk of getting pinched by a whole group of women who are afraid of their own shadows. I'm not wearing that shirt."

"You look lovely in green, Jennifer."

"I look better in blue." She tugged the blue shirt from her bed and put it on, surveying herself in the mirror again. "What time is it?"

"Don't you have a clock in your room?"

"Yes." Jen glanced at the digital clock on her nightstand and sighed. "Grams?"

Grams sighed as she walked into Jen's room. "Yes, dear?"

"I'm sorry if I'm driving you crazy." She grinned and sat on her bed, pulling her hair back into a ponytail. "I'm a little..."


"Nervous is congratulated for winning the award for most blatant understatement in the world ever." Grabbing a pillow Jen held it against her chest. "Where is everyone?"

"Jack, Joey and Dawson went out to a party, I believe."


"They've been quite a threesome since Joey and Dawson stopped seeing each other." Grams shrugged. "I imagine it's a very easy way to maintain safety in numbers."

"I messed up everyone's life, didn't I?"

"Yes. And very obviously deliberately as well." Grams smiled and sank down onto the bed as well. "You know you don't have to do this. It's not required."

"No, it's not. But it'll help. I believe that." Jen set the pillow down. "And not just because I think I need something to believe in." There was a long silence, comfortable except for the unspoken questions hanging in the air. "Tell me about him again."


"I need to hear it."

"Why?" Grams asked softly.

"I've been reading about it. Reading about what happened to me and about what he's been doing." Jen's gaze became slightly accusatory. "You told me."

"My mistake," Grams admitted. "It wasn't my secret to tell."

"You told me for the right reasons, Grams." Jen reached out and took her grandmother's hand. "Dr. Moyer's going to bring him tonight."

"What do you mean?" Grams asked softly.

"Pacey. He's been seeing her. Dr. Moyer. And he's going to be there."

"I'm glad he's gotten help." Grams settled back on the bed. "He's doing well then?"

"I don't...I just asked her to make sure he was there."


"I need him to be."

"Does he know what he's walking into?" Her voice concerned, slightly harsh as Jen shook her head. She spoke softly, her hand reaching out for Jen's. "Jennifer..."

Jen dropped her head. "I talked it over with Dr. Moyer. I've wanted to see him for a while now. I think I'm ready to do it. And Dr. Moyer said that he..."

"That he what, Jennifer?"

"She thought Pacey might need it too." Jen looked at her hands. "Tell me again, Grams?"

"One telling was enough, Jennifer." Grams got off the bed and walked to the door, her shoulders stiff. "I understand that you feel you need to talk to him, make amends...whatever it is you need to do, Jennifer. But I can't say I approve of what you're doing."

"Thank you."

Grams looked back. "I'm sorry?"

"Thank you." Jen smiled slightly. "I think that's the first time since I woke up in the hospital that you've disagreed with me." Getting off the bed, she followed Grams out of the room. "Maybe we're both healing, huh?"


Jack took the beer off the bar and grimaced at the dark green color, his expression growing grimmer as he noticed the thick pile of silt at the bottom of his glass. "Why are we drinking German beer? It's St. Patrick's Day. Shouldn't we drink more Irish fare?"

"The beer is green," Joey reminded him.

"Yeah, that's not doing much for me."

"Just suck it up, Jack." Joey patted his shoulder. "It could be worse. You could be drinking whatever that is over there in the punch bowl."

Jack glanced at the crystal bowl and shuddered, downing his beer. He shuddered again, swallowing the dregs from the glass. "Why do I let you talk me into these things?"

"You feel sorry for me." She grinned. "I mean, I've been single for almost two months now and I haven't had a date in that entire time."

"I've gone out with you."

"Right. And by date I mean someone I might actually have some sort of chance with." She shook her head. "Because I'm pretty sure that, no matter how much of a tomboy I am, I'm not going to turn you on."

"You could cut your hair. Maybe stuff a sock down your pants," he suggested with a smile. "If it was a really sexy sock and I was pretty drunk, there's no telling what could happen."

"Would you like to dance?"

Joey turned at the deep voice, about to answer. She stopped as Jack turned, his eyes caught by the other man's gaze. "Kevin?"

"Hey, Jack."

"H...hey." He glanced at Joey then at Kevin again. "This is...this is my friend, Joey. Joey, this is Kevin."

"Nice to meet you." She offered him a cool smile. "Or it would be if I hadn't heard that the last time you saw Jack you and your friends made mincemeat out of him."

"It was a misunderstanding." Kevin talked directly to Jack, not looking at Joey. "Bad timing and a misunderstanding. About a month before...before, this guy hit on me and he'd pretty much used the opportunity to lead me on just long enough to humiliate me. You sort of got the brunt end of my friend's residual anger."

"I'm familiar with the concept." Jack forced his eyes to Joey. "I'm gonna..."

"Leave me?" She smiled and shrugged. "I'm used to it. Go dance."

"I'm not going anywhere."

She nodded. "I know that, Jack. Besides, Dawson's here somewhere. And even if he weren't..." She shrugged again. "I learned Jen's lesson very well."

He nodded, leaning in and dropping a quick kiss on the top of her head. "I'll dance with you later."

"No you won't. I've seen you dance. You're an embarrassment to all gay men."

"Oh," Kevin rolled his eyes, "that's encouraging."

"Have fun." She waved them away, waiting until they'd gone before slipping off the barstool and moving into the kitchen. A brunette was bent over the table, her shirt off, her bra drenched with liquor as she opened her mouth, the guy above her tilting the bottle.


"Yeah," she nodded once.

Joey raised an eyebrow and edged her way around the table, ignoring the chants of encouragement as she reached the opposite door. She slipped into the library and closed the door behind her, taking a deep breath as quiet surrounded her.

"I have a feeling this is supposed to be make-out central in a half hour or so, so you'd better get your rest in while you can." Dawson snapped on the light beside him, smiling as Joey jumped. "Sorry. I couldn't resist the dramatic impulse. Where's Jack?"

"Getting closer to scoring than either of us." She sat in the chair next to his, curling her feet under her and leaning on the table that separated them. "It used to be so easy."

"That's because you had me under your thrall."

"Not you. Well, not just you." Joey smiled. "I used to be able to flirt with guys all the time. And it never meant anything, you know? It was never malicious or anything, just fun. But now it's like I spend most of the time sizing the guy up, trying to figure out if he's safe."

"And by the time you decide to take a chance..."

"He's moved on to someone obviously less disturbed." Joey laughed. "You?"

"There's a redhead out there who offered to show me her skill on the casting couch if I promised to put her in the next movie I make for school."

"Wow. And did you take her up on that?"

"Well, I'm on the chair, not the couch. And there's very obviously no redhead in sight." He shrugged. "I'm not interested in casual sex with random girls."

"What are you interested in?"

Dawson shrugged. "Brunettes."

"Brunettes with issues?"

"They're my favorite kind."

Joey nodded. "One of my issues is that I can't be your brunette."

Dawson shrugged. "I know."

Standing, Joey moved over and kissed the tip of his nose. "At least not yet."


"Hello, Evelyn."

"Dr. Moyer."

Amanda put the file she was holding down on her desk. "I'll take it from your response that you're not happy with what Jen wishes to do?"

"Does Jen even know what she wants to do?" Grams sat down across the desk from Dr. Moyer. "Or is she just so intent on what she thinks will make all of this more tolerable for her that she's agreed to potentially hurt someone very badly in the process?"

"I think you might be exaggerating a little."

"Pacey has been mutilating himself since the day this happened. He's already been down one blind alley because of my granddaughter, do you think it's fair to shove him down another?"

Dr. Moyer's eyes widened. "Do you think I have no professional ethics, Evelyn?"

"I'm beginning to wonder." Grams took a deep breath, forcing herself to calm down. "I'm sorry. That was uncalled for. However, I think using Pacey to facilitate Jen's recovery..."

"Did you ever consider this might be for his recovery as well?"

"I would consider that." Grams nailed her with a harsh look. "At least, I would if I thought Pacey knew a damn thing about it. You're keeping him in the dark and you're going to spring this on him. How do you think he's going to react?"

"That's part of the process."

"This is not an experiment!" Grams nearly shouted, forcing herself to stop and catch her breath. "These are children that I love very deeply and I will not allow you to play God with their lives."

"Jen asked to tell her story today. I've done nothing to influence that decision other than persuade her to come to the Friday night meetings. Meetings that you yourself have been attending." Dr. Moyer opened the file on her desk and glanced at it briefly. "Pacey's situation is none of your business, either legally or ethically. So, as far as he's concerned, this is not your problem."

"Jen just wants him here to alleviate her guilt and hatred. She's not thinking about what this could do to him."

"I realize that. However, despite what you might think, I am." Dr. Moyer stood up. "Evelyn, I appreciate that you care for these kids. That you love them. However, I have a job to do. And in doing so, I have to serve both of my clients. Please accept that? And please trust me."



"I bypassed nervous about four hours ago on my way to blind panic and hysteria." Jen looked over toward the doors where people were just beginning to stream in. "I've changed my mind."


"Yeah." She smiled and shook her head. "Sorry."

"Don't be. After all, I've been right where you are. Admittedly, I didn't have my grandmother there in front of me to confess it all to, but still." Sarah smiled. "You okay?"

"Yeah." Jen watched the door, feeling Sarah's eyes on her. "Thanks, by the way."

"For what?"

"The information."

Sarah blushed. "Don't. I mean, it's better that you don't mention that. If Dr. Moyer knew I'd told you she'd most likely fire me."

"I'm not going to tell her. I told her I saw him walking in one day and came back the next week to see if he was there again. I kept you out of it completely."

"Thanks." Sarah shifted in her chair, watching as the room filled. "You think he'll come?"

"Dr. Moyer said he'd be here."

"I got the impression this was going to be a surprise for him." Sarah frowned slightly. "Aren't you worried about that?"

Jen finally looked away from the door, her eyes troubled as she met Sarah's gaze. "I think Dr. Moyer wants it this way." She paused, her eyes darkening. "Should I be worried?"

Sarah shrugged as the doors to the small room closed and everyone settled into their seats, the room growing quiet. "I wish I knew."


"Hey, Dr. Moyer."

"Amanda, Pacey." She sighed. "How many times do I have to tell you that?"

"Amanda." He nodded, rolling his eyes. "Gotcha."

"Is it seven already?"

"Yup. Well, not quite. I find that early is a good thing, so long as you're not talking about sex." He grinned as her cheeks flushed. "And since you're obviously too young for me, I thought early would be okay."

"You're incorrigible."

"Yes, Ma'am." He held out his arm. "Shall I escort you to wherever it is you're taking me."

"Certainly. It's not far." She locked her office and took his arm, walking beside him, gently leading him down the hall. "You've come a long way in dealing with everything that's happened, Pacey. I'm very proud of you."


"But there are still a few steps."

"I know. I'm trying." He clenched his right fist then lifted it up into her line of sight. "See?"

"I do see." She stopped outside a set of double doors. "We're here."

"Where's here?"

She opened the door and guided him into the room, standing with her back to the doors as they closed silently behind him. "You'll see."

"Hi, everyone."

Pacey stiffened, his breath catching in his throat. He turned to Dr. Moyer, his face a mask of hurt. His voice barely broke a whisper. "No."

"My name's Jen, as most of you know, if only because my Grams won't let you have a cookie without hearing how proud she is of me." The group laughed and Pacey's hands clenched into fists. He moved away from Dr. Moyer into one of the small alcoves at the back of the room, his whole body shaking. "It's been six months since I was raped. In that time, I've told my story to the police and to Amanda. Tonight I want to tell it to you.

"It was a Friday night, just like this one, maybe a little colder. I was sitting outside a coffee shop. It used to be open all night, but they'd just changed the hours. I could have gone into the bar across the street, but I'd promised my friend I'd wait for him outside. I wasn't supposed to be alone. I was supposed to have a friend with me, but it seemed like everyone was determined to get laid that night."

There was a soft laugh through the room and Jen smiled briefly.

"He was late. I found out later through a mutual friend that he was with another girl." Jen stopped for a moment, her eyes flashing with emotion. "Like I said, everyone was determined to get laid that night."

Pacey bit the inside of his lip hard, tasting blood as it flooded his mouth. His hand moved instinctively to his side, digging under his shirt. The unbroken skin brought a silent sob to his lips, captured as he sunk his teeth deeper into his lip.

"I wasn't watching what was going on around me at all. To be honest, I was thinking about him, the friend. The guy. I was wondering where he was and how much I'd have to kick his ass for being late because I looked cute and I was getting cold. I was actually thinking about getting up and going to the bar when I got hit across the back of the head by a length of pipe.

"I blacked out. At least, I assume I did. It wasn't long. Not long enough, anyway. I woke up when my head hit the brick wall the first time. There were two of them. One of them moved behind me and held me as the other one used a knife to cut open my blouse.

"I fought like hell. I kicked and tried to scream. But then the one behind me was holding me across the chest with one hand, covering my mouth with the other. The one in front of me was cutting my skirt, slicing it in half. He was almost done when I managed to get a kick in. His hand jerked and the knife moved, slicing across my stomach."

Pacey fished his keys from his pocket, finding the pocketknife on the ring and using trembling hands to free the blade. Slipping it under his shirt, he closed his eyes, pressing it against his skin until he felt it slice through the layers of flesh. Letting out a harsh breath, Pacey released his keys, his fingers digging into the small crevice, feeling the sweet rush of blood against his fingertips. He blinked hard against the tears, his thumb tracing the ridge of his cut.

"I think the blood excited him. Turned him on. He kept cutting me. He nicked my lung, puncturing it. He stripped off my panties and started... started. And when he came, he buried the knife in my side."

Groaning softly, Pacey fell back against the wall, the sight of her body when he'd found her burned on his eyelids. He opened his eyes, forced himself to see her standing in front of him, pain pulsing through him.

"I passed out. The doctors told me it was obvious the second guy had taken his turn. I thankfully don't remember it. I don't remember being slammed against the bricks repeatedly. I don't remember much of anything.

"But I remember coming to and seeing him...my...my friend." Jen lifted her eyes, looking past where Grams was sitting in the front row, her eyes widening as she saw Pacey's pale face, pale as if washed in hollow streetlight. A shudder ran through her and she blinked back tears. "He was there. I could see his eyes. I didn't recognize him at first. At first I thought he was one of them. I couldn't make sense of anything. The officer who responded to the call told me they had to tear him away from me to get me into the ambulance. That he saved my life. That they didn't know if he'd been hurt too; he was covered in so much blood."

Jen released a shuddering breath, her small body shaking with the force of it. "They're still at large, the guys who did this to me. They're still out there and I'm still scared of them."

Jen was silent, starting as someone spoke. "What about the guy who found you?"

"I hated him. Hated him for making me live, hated him for making me live through all of this." Jen shrugged. "I hated him more because I shouldn't hate him. Because he'd saved my life." She laughed sadly. "Which was the biggest reason I hated him."

"Do you still?" Grams's soft voice brought Jen's eyes back to the back wall, blinking hard as she realized he was real, not an illusion, not a memory. His expression was blank, his eyes the only alive thing in his face. The blue was stormy and pained.


Pacey's body jerked and he shook his head, moving fast. Dr. Moyer stepped out of the way as he plowed through the doors, slamming them back against the wall, the sound like a gunshot in the silent room. Jen glanced at Grams, recrimination warring with concern in her eyes. Rushing off the stage, Jen ran through the small crowd.


He stopped before the doors closed, turning back to face her. His eyes were unreadable. Jen reached the doors, ignoring everyone else in the room as they shut behind her. She leaned on them as silence settled over them.

"Thank you for saving my life."

He took a step back, wanting away from her as she came closer. Jen reached out, her fingers shaking as she took his hand. She lifted it to her face, stilling as she noticed the dark stain of blood.


He didn't say anything and she tilted her head, meeting his eyes. He blinked rapidly, his long lashes damp with tears. Without speaking, Jen covered his hand with hers, lacing their fingers together. He stared at their hands, the pale flesh of hers lost in the darkness of his, both awash with his blood.

"You saved my life." Tears stung her eyes as she lifted his chin, looking at him, making him look at her. "Can I help save yours?"


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