Author: Kat Lee
Fandom: Dawson's Creek
Challenge/Prompt: 1_million_words Cry Me A River Challenge: I heard it from a friend. and A to Z Challenge: R
Warning(s): Character Death, Future Fic
Word Count: 2,512
Date Written: 5 September 2016
Disclaimer: All characters within belong to their rightful owners, not the author, and are used without permission.
I heard it from a friend. I can't remember his name, but I remember his face. I knew I knew him the moment I saw him in the airport, but I never would have thought he'd tell me what he told me tonight. I would have thought Jack would have called, or Bessie, or you. If you knew the cancer was going to be the end of you, why didn't you call me? Why didn't you say something, Joey?
Did you really think I could ever stop caring about you? Did you think I'd forgotten you? I never could. I couldn't forget the girl I grew up with. I couldn't forget my best friend, and you still are even though we haven't seen each other in years. I could never find a friend truer than you or any one else to replace you. Look at the stuff we've been through together. Nobody else could survive that, and I guess, in the end, our bond didn't, either.
But you should have called. You should have told me. I should have been there with you. I should have been able to take you in my arms one last time, to hug you, to tell you I know you're going to a better place. You're there now. It's so hard to imagine it, but I know you are. You're there with Grams and with your mother and with Jen.
Maybe you're happy now. I hope so. God knows I tried to make you happy. Pacey did too, and neither one of us could manage it for long. We both loved you, and we each thought you loved us when you were with us, but in the end, you didn't choose either one of us, did you? Why is that, Joey? Were we not good enough for you? Or did you just imagine that we were something better than we were?
That's the one thing, after all these years and after reliving our lives as teenagers in writing the scripts for my show, that I still can't figure out. There are plenty of theories out there, but I think that one probably comes the closest. You fantasized about me when we were kids, but you knew me, Joey. You knew me better than any one else, possibly even better than I knew myself. You knew I wasn't fantasy material.
And Pacey . . . Well, Pacey's got his faults too -- we all do --, but he's still just an ordinary, everyday guy. He tried to do his best by you, but you weren't happy with him either. I wonder if you called him. You didn't call me to be there with you in the end. Did you choose him again?
But no. Knowing you, Josephine Potter, you probably bore the cancer right up until the end with a grin. You always did like to hide from the ugly truths of life, and yet I was the one you accused of doing that very thing when we were younger. I didn't hide, Joey. I saw them for what they were, and I tried my very best to protect you from them.
That's why I had to tell some one about what your father was doing that time. He was only going to hurt you again. It's why when you chose Pacey and that teacher back in college, both times I backed down. I wanted you to be `happy. I wanted you to be safe from the heartache of life. I wanted to love you, but even more so, I wanted to protect you.
And in the end, none of us could protect you. God, I still can't believe this. We're still young. We might not feel it -- I certainly don't tonight --, but I know we are. I know you were. But death doesn't know an age. It certainly didn't where Jen and Abby were concerned, so why should it with you?
You were the best of us, Joey, and I'm not just saying that because I love you. And yes, I do still love you. I always will. You were the kindest, gentlest, brightest soul I've ever known. No one's ever touched me like you did, not when we were growing up and not when we were older too. One hug from you seemed to have the power to make everything better.
Do you remember that day we walked home together in the rain? I held my jacket over our heads. You thought I was shielding you from the rain, and I was. Even then, I wanted to shield you from the harshness of the real world. But underneath my jacket, on that dark and rainy day, you smiled at me, and the way you smiled made me forget everything else. It made me think that maybe it could be just the two of us in our own, little world without interference from the rest of the world, and it was that day for a few, short minutes.
The world hasn't stopped butting in ever since. I should have been there, Joey. I should have been there with you through every step of this journey. I asked you to marry me, but you wouldn't have me. That's the real reason I left Capeside and didn't return more often. I hated seeing you and knowing that I could never again be the man you wanted. I had been the boy you wanted, or thought you wanted, but as a man, you never wanted me.
Again, I wonder . . . Did I grow up to be that different? Or was all you ever wanted from me the fantasy you had in your head as a child? Did you ever want the real me at all? I wish I knew. I wish I had some answers, but now I never will. I should have talked to you when you were alive. I should have --
The Captain's saying something about turbulence. Only now do I realize that this flight has gotten bumpy. Evidently we've been in this storm for a while, but I can't focus on it. All I can think about is you. Why didn't you call me, Joey? Did you not love me any more even as a friend? Did you not think I'd come? Nothing would have kept me away if only I'd known.
I don't know when I started crying. I wasn't even aware of the tears until now. There's an old woman handing me a pack of Kleenex and smiling so kindly. My throat's so tight that I can't even thank her as I take the tissue. All I can do is nod and think of you some more.
I miss you so much! I've been missing you for so long! I can't tell you the number of times I've thought about coming home, but I didn't want to see you happy with another man. I didn't want to see you smile at me and wonder why, wonder if I deserve your kindness, if I deserve that smile, or if you're just smiling because you're remembering something from our past. As much as I'd like to go back to those days, I know it's impossible.
Especially now it's impossible. We can't relive our childhood, and now any hope I had of one day taking you into my arms again is completely gone. I'll never see you again in this lifetime. There's no doubt in my mind that you went to Heaven, but I don't know where I'll end up. You were always the smart one, Joey. I've made loads of mistakes without you here to guide me.
I don't know if I deserve Heaven, but I didn't deserve you. I should have tried harder to stay the boy you loved, but then yet again, was I ever even him? I should have been. I should have been him, rather I was or not, for you. I should have been what you needed, what you deserved. I should have been a man you could love.
Instead, I ran. I ran to Hollywood, and now I've got a fortune and a hit TV series. I've got fame, wealth, and everything most men want, but I don't really want any of it. Don't get me wrong. It's nice. It's nice to be able to help Jack and Doug with their daughter, to be able to pay my parents' way out of debt, to be able to help my friends. I wonder if Bessie ever told you I paid off the restaurant. Probably not.
I should call her, offer my condolences, make sure your bills are paid . . . Why didn't she call me and tell me you guys needed help? I know you couldn't possibly have had enough money saved to pay for your treatments, and I know they must have tried to save you. They better have tried with every piece of equipment and knowledge they had. They better have tried to save you.
You're probably the reason she didn't call. You asked her not to tell me, didn't you? And even after your death, your big sister's trying to fulfill your wishes. That's why she didn't call. That's why they still haven't called and why they won't. I had to hear the news from a friend instead, from an old classmate of ours.
Is that even fair, Joey? You should have called me. You should have been the one to tell me yourself you were dying instead of telling them to not even tell me. Instead of begging them with tears in your big, brown eyes as you probably did. But I can hear you now. I can even see you looking at me again with that little, wry, twisted grin of yours. You'd tell me life isn't fair, and it isn't. It never is. It took you from me, after all.
The plane has settled. The ride's no longer bumpy. The woman next to me is asleep. I guess we left the storm behind long ago. The Captain's voice again comes across the intercom. He's telling us we're going to be landing soon, but I don't want to land. I don't want to have to walk off of this airplane. I don't want to have to face life without you.
You'd smile at me if you were here -- that same, cocky, self-assured grin you used to use. You'd smile at me and tell me I've already been doing that. It's been years since we've seen each other after all. But you've always been there in the back of my mind, Joey. A part of me, I realize now, has always held to the dream of coming home to you, of wooing you, of winning your heart back, of finally marrying you and settling down behind that white, picket fence I promised you.
But now the dream is over. Now I know it's never going to happen. I'm never going to be able to earn your love or to be the boy, or man, you once fantasized about. I'm never going to be able to slide my ring onto your finger and call you mine again. I'm never going to be able to ask you to love me again.
"You should call her, dear."
I blink and look up at the kind, old woman next to me through my tears. My eyes must be red and puffy. I must look a mess. She hands me another pack of Kleenex and pats my hand. "Any one you care about that much must love you back," she says, and I almost laugh a bitter, humorless laugh.
But I can't get it out pass the lump in my throat as she stands. I watch her leave. I watch the other passengers disembark. The woman between me and the window is still sound asleep. I won't sleep for days. I can't, not while I still see your face in my mind, not when the news of your death is still far too fresh.
It's like stepping off of this plane. If I step off of this plane, it makes it far too real. Stepping off of this plane is the next step in going on with my life, and I don't want to do it now. I don't want to do it ever without you, without the possibility of you coming back to me. You'd laugh and tell me you weren't coming back to me any way. But always before, I had the hope. I didn't have to believe that you'd never love me again. I didn't have to face the reality of never having your love. But I no longer have a choice.
"I'm sorry, Mister Leery," a flight attendant is telling me now. She's smiling kindly, but I know the next move. They want me off this plane. They'll call security and make a fuss if I make them. "But you must disembark now."
I have to go, Joey. I don't want to, but I have to. I have to leave this plane. I have to go on without you. I have to accept that you never loved me in the end, that you didn't even want me to be beside you when you passed, that you didn't think enough of me or our bond to call me when you knew you weren't going to make another day.
Every step I take seems so heavy and so loud in this airplane. I feel so heavy. I can hear them waking the other passenger, but their voices seem so far away now. Everything, every one, seems so far away, especially you.
I look up as I step off the plane, but I can't see the sky. The airport lights are far too bright even now in the early morning hours. The other passengers have already left, eager to go on about their lives. I can see the pilot talking with a few other people a good distance away. They're smiling and laughing. They wouldn't if they knew you, especially if they knew you're gone now.
How can you be gone, Joey? How could you not call me? How could you not love me after all we went through together? Did you stop caring for me entirely? Did you think I didn't care? That your death wouldn't break what was left of my heart?
I don't want to go on, but I do what I must. I keep walking. I collect my things. I head to the hotel. But when I lay down, I don't sleep. I lay on the hard, stiff bed, and I stare up at the ceiling like we used to do when we were kids. I stare up at the ceiling, and I think of you, and I cry . . . And I cry . . . And I cry . . . But no tears will bring you back to me. Nothing will now, and my heart is truly broken for the rest of my life without you.