The two young men sat about five feet away from each other, the crackling fire creating an orange glow on their faces. One sat looking down at the dead leaves that blanketed the ground, his lower arms resting on his thighs as he played with his hands in the space between his open legs. The other stared blankly into the fire, breathing the crisp night autumn air in and letting it out with a sigh. They felt as though they were the only ones sitting around that fire, so much so that the stirring of their classmates and chatter among them was blurry and a jumble of unorganized sounds. The one sitting on the left lifted his head and looked at the boy sitting next to him. His eyes focused on the side of his face, watching the shadows of the flickering fire. He returned to his original position, letting out a large, fervent sigh. The other boy then turned his head away from the fire, looking to his left at the person sitting next to him. He took his gaze away quickly and broke the overbearing silence between them.
"Are the leaves really that interesting, Pace?" Dawson asked facetiously. Pacey's head shot up, Dawson's voice removing him from his trance.
"What? Uh- - No." He chuckled a bit, shaking his head slightly.
"Just making sure you weren't having a conversation with them or anything." The corner of Dawson's lips curled up. Pacey looked down then looked back up at Dawson, his eyes locking with his ex-best friend's. Dawson's look was puzzling and Pacey squinted in confusion, trying to read the message in Dawson's gaze. Dawson finally broke the stare, returning his attention to the blazing flame.
Pacey sighed again, hesitating to continue the conversation that Dawson had broken the ice for.
"So are we going to talk or just sit here and let this moment pass?" Pacey asked. Dawson turned to look at him.
"What is there to say?" Dawson replied, all the while knowing there was much to be said.
"So much, Dawson. And it pains me to think that you don't have anything to say on the particular subject of our not-so-existent friendship."
Dawson looked down at the log he was sitting on for a mere second, trying to collect his thoughts. He looked back up at Pacey. "And it pains me to look at you, but you don't see me shifting my gaze." He stared Pacey right in the eyes, trying to get his point across. Pacey broke the look this time.
"Ok, Dawson. I know what I did was wrong. How can I even begin to express to you how sorry I am? God, Dawson, every day my pain grows deeper. Sometimes I can't even believe myself, how I could have done something so dishonest to someone who trusted me so dearly. I ruined our precious friendship, Dawson, I know that, and the idea of us ever being able to be the kind of friends again that we were...well, that's probably just a fallacy in my head." Pacey's voice was strong and unwavering, almost like he had rehearsed what he was saying.
Dawson's heart began racing. He could feel the tension growing in their conversation. This discussion was bound to happen eventually, Dawson had known, and he had thought over what he would say when it did occur. But as it actually went down, he could barely come up with the right words to speak. He looked away again, and closed his eyes for a few seconds.
"Ok...well I see this great era of silence is not over." Pacey looked at Dawson and began standing. "I guess I'll see you around." He wiped his hands on his khaki pants and let out a tired breath.
"Wait," Dawson reached out an arm, grasping Pacey's forearm. Pacey's face shot around, his eyes focusing on the hand then up to Dawson's eyes. He could see into them, this time he knew what was going through his mind. Pacey sat again slowly, this time closer to Dawson, the expression in Pacey's gaze urging Dawson to speak. They both took deep breaths. Dawson studied the visible air coming from his mouth when he exhaled like it was holding the meaning of life. "I- -" He paused, thinking over what to say, "I lay in my room some nights...just...staring." Dawson's voice was low and distant. "Staring at the ceiling, thinking, trying to figure out what I'm feeling, what I'm ready to feel again." Dawson looked at Pacey who met his gaze. Pacey then looked down again, like he was unable to face him. "And sometimes I think of what happened between us, what could have happened differently, what could be happening right now. My mind fills with 'what ifs' and 'if onlys.' I scold myself for ending our friendship, but then I remember the pain of the knife going into my back and through my heart...which is enough to make me wonder why I would ever consider being friends with you again." Dawson stopped, his statements complete, but he felt like he had ceased his words rather abrubtly. Pacey's expression was emotionless and unflinching, as he seemed to be waiting for Dawson to say more. "No need to be so stoical, Pace."
"Since when have I showed you my emotions?" Pacey replied in an as-a-matter-of fact tone, looking at Dawson with rough eyes.
"Well," Dawson paused, thinking about the answer, "since never. But it wouldn't hurt if you did for once."
Pacey sighed, looking down, then back up again. "You know how I feel? I feel awful. Five days out of seven I walk into that school we know as Capeside High and have to face the reality of having no one to sit with at lunch. I have to face the reality of walking into that class I have with you, sitting in the seat next to you, and not being able to say a word to the person I used to call my best friend. And it hurts Dawson." He paused. "Because I know it's my fault. I know what I did. I deal with it every day. Sometimes it hurts so much it feels like I can't even breathe. And I have to admit that sometimes I miss you Dawson. You don't even know how much. Sometimes I need you to the point where my head feels like it's going to explode, I need someone to put a little optimism into my usually self degrading and pessimistic soul. And honestly it sucks not having you as my friend. But, I know what I did and I understand how you can't forgive me." Dawson looked at Pacey; hearing these words come out of Pacey's mouth left him dumbfounded. All the while Pacey was still speaking, he was trying to figure out what to say back. "I can't stand us not being friends, Dawson." Pacey looked up, "At this point, doesn't it seem like we're trying too hard not to?"
Dawson let out a small breath of air from his throat. He looked down, swallowing the growing lump so that he could speak. He closed his eyes, then looked up at Pacey, meeting his glance. "I-I know, Pacey. I understand. I mean," He rethought his words, realizing they didn't come out just right. "I mean...I feel the same way."
Pacey smiled a bit. "You do?" He asked just to make sure.
"So what are we going to do about it?"
Dawson looked away and replied blankly. "I don't know."
"You've gotta be kidding me..." His tone was full of annoyance and disbelief, "You don't know? You don't friggin know, Dawson!" Pacey stood up quickly and faced Dawson.
Dawson looked at Pacey. "No! I don't know Pacey!" He returned the growing hostility. "And I don't know because I'm still hurt! I still can't bring myself to forgive you!" They were both standing now.
"But you just said you needed me Dawson!"
"Not in those words! I agreed with what you said. Okay, I admit I miss our friendship and the way things used to be. The way you would show up before school and eat my breakfast, or the way you'd be in my house when I wasn't even home. It was nice walking into my bedroom and seeing my best friend waiting there for me. But really Pace, do you think this is easy for me? Do you think getting over what you did to me can be solved in a conversation? Because it can't! Okay? You said it to me yourself! We'll just have to give it time."
"Time!!! Time? God damn it Dawson, all I give anyone is time. I gave Joey time to choose and now I'm giving you time to heal your wounds. Wake up Dawson! We don't have that much more time. Before you know it we'll be receiving our diplomas. So if you need time, go ahead and take it. But don't blame me when it's all gone. Don't you blame me when times run out. Because trust me, Dawson, it will. It will run out." Pacey looked Dawson straight in the eyes. Dawson was looking around the campsite at all his classmates frozen in their places and silent, watching him and Pacey like they were some movie. Dawson's gaze caught with Joey's disbelieving one, then to the shocked expressions of Jen, Andie and Jack. He then looked back at Pacey, acting like he didn't care who heard them fighting.
"Well if it's going to run out, let it." Dawson glared at Pacey. Pacey shook his head in disbelief. He lowered his tone.
"All we both just said...it's meaningless. Isn't it? It's not going to make a bit of difference for either of us, because after this we'll just go back to hating each other and being angry. We'll go back to PRETENDING to hate one another. But that's nothing new. Dawson Leery is known for being in the land of make believe. Even when the make believe is not so pretty." Pacey's face was dark and angry.
"I guess we will." Dawson stared back in his face. They stood there a few seconds then finally Pacey turned around and walked away. Dawson watched Pacey walking away, and then saw Joey go running to him. He saw Joey throw her arms around Pacey, his arms wrapped tightly around Joey's waist and he was saying something to her, his brow was furrowed and countenance angry. The whispers of his classmates began rising again. Dawson still stood where he was like he was paralyzed. He felt a soft hand on his shoulder that jostled him from his trance.
"You okay?" It was Jen.
Dawson nodded blankly.
Jen just closed her eyes and shook her head; she sighed not believing him. "You know...I'm not going to make you talk about it, Leery, just remember I'm here if you need to."
Dawson turned around so he was facing Jen. "Thanks, I know." Jen just smiled and put an arm around Dawson's waist.
"Now, let's go." She began walking with Dawson. "Jack is making some killer smores."