W is for: waiting, 24, Jack/Renee, for leigh57. PG. 547 words.
He spends all summer relearning his body, little things he's never thought of before: pulling the safety rings off milk cartons, raising his arms to wash his hair. His signature looks funny. His head aches when he reads. By the middle of June he's seen every rerun on cable, a purgatory of procedurals and laugh tracks.
He lies on the couch, exhausted, itching for motion. The air conditioner hums.
He thinks about Renee.
He called her once, right after the hospital, his cell phone smooth and heavy in his hand. Straight to voicemail, and he sighed with relief (Christ, why was he nervous?).
"Renee. It's Jack. Just, uh, just calling to check in. You know where to find me. Hope you're well."
Hope you're well? Jesus.
He didn't hear back, and he's not sure what that means.
Kim comes to visit in July, blowing into town with the baby and two giant suitcases in tow. He likes how quickly she makes herself at home in his apartment, the sprawl of her stuff in his space; when she was a kid you could always tell exactly where she'd been by the long bread-crumb trail of clutter she left behind her. "So what's Renee up to these days?" she asks, helping herself to a handful of those baked chips she likes so much. When she got here she pronounced all his groceries pathetic and marched him right down to the store, so now his kitchen looks like nothing so much as the inside of a Whole Foods. Jack doesn't really mind.
He laughs a little, shaking his head. Teri dozes warm and heavy in his arms. "I don't know, actually."
"Oh." Kim looks surprised. "Really?"
"Because from the way she came to me I just assumed--" she stops, raising her eyebrows. "I guess I just assumed."
"Watch it," he says, smiling. God, she looks just like her mother with that expression on her face. "I'm still your old man."
She leaves with hugs and wet raspberries from the baby and and promises to come back in August. "We'll go see the Lion King," she says, smiling sort of wickedly. "I'm sure you and Stephen will like that."
He's not supposed to drive yet, which he thinks is probably a load of crap, but he takes a cab back to the apartment. In the dark it feels empty and small. He turns on the TV, watches half an hour of something forgettable, turns it off again. He does some of those ridiculous exercises he got from the doc.
At ten o'clock exactly, he picks up the phone.
"Hi, you've reached Renee Walker, I can't take your call right now..."
Jack frowns, a small hard nut of worry lodging in his chest. It's odd, the radio silence. It doesn't feel like her.
"Renee, it's Jack again. Kim was just here, and I--" He breaks off, swallowing what he really wants to tell her. That he'd forgotten what it's like to be one half of something good. "I don't know. I'm thinking about you. Call me back if you feel up to it."
He pushes the end button, lays the phone on the table. The minutes pass. Eventually Jack falls asleep, AC cranked to sixty, city clanging soundlessly a dozen floors below.
V is for: virginity, Glee, Puck/Quinn, for badboy_fangirl. PG-13. 1141 words.
Finn is supposed to take her out for fro-yo, but he calls at the last minute and bails.
"We're regrouting the shower," he says apologetically. "Me and my mom. It's taking a lot longer than I thought."
"You're regrouting the shower?" she asks, disbelieving, because first of all isn't that the kind of thing you hire somebody for, and second of all it's seven o'clock on a Saturday night and like, what the hell is she supposed to do now? Quinn goes upstairs ("No need to stomp!" her mother calls brightly), flings herself on her flowered bedspread. She could call Brittany or Santana, she guesses, but they've kind of been annoying the crap out of her lately and besides, then she'd have to tell them her boyfriend is blowing her off for an evening of home repair with his mother.
Finally she picks up her phone, scrolling through her contacts until she finds Puck's cell number. Her thumb moves quickly, before she can talk herself out of it: what r u doing?
jerking off, he texts back immediately.
"Ugh," Quinn says out loud. God, he is just so disgusting. She throws her phone across the mattress, where it dings again thirty seconds later: jk. just hangin out. u around?
Which is how she winds up in Puck's basement watching some totally gross American Pie movie, flip-flops up on the coffee table and some Peach Sparkle Arbor Mist sweating in her hand. His arm is slung over the back of the sofa, his limbs all spread out like he needs more space than regular people. He smells like Axe. "Hudson know you're here?" he asks casually, taking a sip of his Coors Light.
Quinn hesitates. There's no reason Finn would mind, really: the three of them have known each other since sixth grade, back when Quinn wore scrunchies every day and Puck was fat (Finn was still pretty much perfect, even at twelve). Still, the idea that she needs his permission to be here, when he totally just ditched her with no warning--God, the more she thinks about it, the more annoyed she gets. And suddenly she's just so mad at him, not only for the grouting thing but for all of it, for how weird and dreamy he's been lately, the way his gaze is always sort of over her shoulder. She just, she hates it. It sucks. This isn't how she thought things would be.
"No," she says, and it sounds like a challenge. "Finn doesn't know."
Puck looks at her for a minute, really looks, this weird unreadable expression on his face. Quinn can see his pulse moving in his neck. "Okay," he says finally, turning his attention back to the TV. "Cool."
It's possible she sits a little closer to him after that, her bare leg against his jeans on the couch. They don't really talk. Towards the end of the movie he starts playing with her hair, twisting her ponytail around in his fingers, absentminded, tugging a little. He doesn't look at her. Quinn's not drunk, but she feels kind of warm and happy from the wine coolers and maybe that's why when his hand slips down to the back of her neck she doesn't jump up, why she turns to face him instead and finds him staring right at her mouth. Why she thinks, very clearly, this is the worst thing you could do--and why she does it anyway.
He's a good kisser, experienced, soft and just the right amount of tongue. Finn is kind of spitty sometimes. Puck's eyes go wide when she nudges them backward onto the couch, like no way was he expecting that from Princess Quinn Fabray, but after that he doesn't waste a whole lot of time sliding his hand under her shirt, running up her spine until he hits the hooks on her bra. Quinn bites her lip. This is the point where she always stops Finn--the point where she would have stopped him tonight, were they making out in his car in the darkness of the DQ parking lot--but with Puck she just, she doesn't know, she lets him. The clasp pops open, an expert twist.
Quinn stares up at the drop-in ceiling. His mouth moves over her ribs. She makes a little noise, involuntary, and Puck's hands tighten around hers. His back is pale and freckly, vulnerable-looking, and she just...it's just that she's never thought of Puck like that before, as a person who's capable of being hurt.
"What do you want me to do?" he asks softly, his fingers at the button on her shorts. "Quinn. Tell me what you want me to do."
Quinn closes her eyes, breathing. This isn't how she thought things would be.
"It's okay," she says, almost a whisper. "It's okay."
By the time they're finished the movie is over and Encore is showing Meet Joe Black, which she knows there's no way Puck wants to watch. He doesn't say anything about it, though, just lies there behind her fiddling with her hair some more, under a fuzzy blanket with the logo of the Cleveland Cavs on it. Quinn tries very, very hard not to cry.
The hum of the garage door a little while later has her jumping off the couch fast enough to impress even Sylvester. "Is that your mom?" she hisses, eyes darting around for her t-shirt, blood turning to slushie in her veins. "Shit, shit, Puck, is your mom back?"
They've only just kicked the empty beer cans under the couch when she comes in, toting a giant purse and a dog-eared copy of Eat, Pray, Love--Mrs. Puckerman, who chaperoned their eighth grade dance and found Quinn a maxipad when she got her period during the electric slide. "Book club was feisty tonight," she says, hanging her bag on the hooks by the door and running a hand over Puck's stupid mohawk. His t-shirt is on inside out. "Hi, Quinn."
Quinn smiles her best Cheerios smile, plastic. "Hi, Mrs. Puckerman."
"I was just about to run her home," Puck declares quickly, and they're out in the garage almost before she can say anything else, basement door slamming behind them.
"Have a good night, Mrs. Puckerman," Quinn calls over her shoulder. She is nothing if not well brought-up. Her hands are shaking a little as she buckles the seatbelt in Puck's car and when she finally glances up he's just looking at her, God, like she's the prettiest girl he's ever seen. "Quinn," he begins, but she shakes her head as fast as she can.
"Let's just go, okay?"
Puck raises his eyebrows, something nasty creeping into his expression, but in the end he just nods. They drive all six miles in silence. Quinn stares out the window, waiting, watching the cornfields roll by in the dark.
F is for: freedom, Dawson's Creek, Pacey/Joey, for bayloriffic. PG. 1455 words.
Pacey goes missing in action for two days after they get back from the Boston trip. He's not in school, or at work at the video store; when Joey takes a detour by his house on her way home he's not in his yard hammering away on the boat. He doesn't show up to help put the finishing touches on the addition to the B&B, either, which sends Bessie into a snit worthy of Medusa herself. "Where is that kid?" she demands, like Joey's his keeper and therefore obliged to know.
"Well, you know what they say about Potter women," Joey snaps, dropping Alexander in his crib and grabbing her bookbag off the table. "None of them know how to hold on to a man."
In truth, Pacey's unexplained disappearing act has her more rattled than she'd like to admit. For all their dutiful self-examination, they've never explicitly established themselves as the kind of friends who talk every day; still, it's not like him to just up and vanish without so much as a perfunctory see ya, Jo. Not to mention the abjectly humiliating fact that she actually really wants to tell him about Worthington--not about AJ, obviously, but about the other stuff: the books and the ideas and the people, the broad, unfamiliar strokes that got Dawson so wary and defensive.
On the third day she goes by his house before homeroom and bangs on the door until he answers, still in his pajamas, his face sleepy and creased. He doesn't look particularly surprised to see her. "Josephine," he says mock-gallantly, doffing an imaginary hat. "You're looking particularly fetching this morning."
Joey raises her eyebrows. "Gonorrhea flaring up again, Pace?"
"It's nice to see you, too." He turns around and she follows him into the living room, the thick rubber soles of her boots squeaking on the hardwood. The Witter house is full of the trappings of winter in New England--somebody's discarded hockey skates, a needlepoint quilt embroidered with appliques of lighthouses--but Joey can never get over the notion that Pacey is the only one who actually lives here. "Was just about to watch some Good Morning America."
"You realize it's Wednesday."
"Obviously." He flops onto the couch, long limbs canted, and reaches out one hand to pull her down beside him. "Otherwise I would have said Good Morning America: Weekend Edition."
Joey pulls back, attempting to haul him off the sofa, which is ridiculous--he's growing again, has sixty pounds on her at least. "Come on, Pacey. Get dressed and let's go."
He fixes her with a bland, even gaze, unfamiliar. "Why?"
"Why?" Joey blinks. "What do you mean, why?"
"You heard me." Pacey shrugs, flipping from Diane Sawyer to Katie Couric and back again. "Why bother?"
That makes her mad: she hates when Pacey pulls his whole "screw the world," faux-lazy slacker routine. It's so trite. "Why should you bother coming to school?" She puts one thoughtful finger on her chin. "Oh, I don't know, Pacey. How about as a good-faith effort to provide the world at large with a microscopic shred of forensic evidence to support the idea that you actually give half a crap about passing the eleventh grade?"
"Riiiiight." He's doing that thing he does where he's completely closed for business, like the shops up and down the shore in Capeside in the middle of winter. "Thanks, Jo, but you know, I think I'm probably just going to chill here with my boy Matt Lauer. There's a segment coming up on new advances in the surgical removal of sticks from the asses of uptight suburban teenagers, if you're at all interested."
"Bite me." Joey glances at the clock on the VCR: she's got about two minutes to get him out of here if they're not going miss the bell. "What is this actually about? Because I have a test on Macbeth second period and I can't spend my whole day talking you out of some Neitzchean existential crisis brought on by the crushing realization that there are never going to be any new episodes of Family Matters, or whatever is is you're so upset about."
"Oh come on, Jo. What's more existential than to be or not to be?"
"That's Hamlet, Pacey."
"Well." Pacey chuckles a little, darkly amused. "Just goes to show, I guess."
"Just goes to show what?" She hesitates for a minute, finally dropping her backpack on the floor and sitting down on the sofa. Three months ago she would have left him here. A month before that she might not even have showed up. "What is going on with you?"
Pacey sighs and sinks further into the sagging sofa, slinging one long arm over the back so that her head rests in the crook of his elbow. Since the dance classes it's not such a big deal if they touch by mistake or even on purpose: a hand on a shoulder, an arm around a waist. "Do you know I did last weekend, Jo? While you and Dawson were strolling the hallowed halls of higher education, basking in the luster of your collective future?"
"Enlighten me, Pacey."
He shrugs. "Nothing. I did nothing."
Joey cranes her neck to look up at him, but he's staring at the TV. "So what, you were bored? Is that what you're getting at?"
Pacey rolls his eyes. "No, princess, that's not what I'm getting at, although I can assure you that the mere thought of your absence had me lying on my bed in the dark listening to 'Everybody Hurts' on repeat-one." He breathes out noisily, pulling his arm back. "I just don't see the point of dragging myself down to good old Capeside High every morning if even when I actually try--especially when I actually try--it remains glaringly apparent that in a year and a half everybody who means anything to me is going to be hooking up at frat parties every weekend, whereas I'm going to spend the rest of my life chasing middle schoolers out of the porn section at the video store." He looks at her, finally, and he's genuinely, shockingly upset. "I'm not smart enough for high school, Jo, so how in the hell am I ever going to be smart enough for the real world?"
Oh. God. In this moment Joey hates everyone, herself included, who has ever told Pacey he was a bonehead without stopping to wonder if he was taking it to heart. "Come on, Pacey. You could do whatever you want."
Pacey snorts a little. "Easy for you to say, Madame Curie. Discover any radioactive elements while you were tramping around Boston?"
"I'm serious." As the words come of of her mouth she realizes they're actually true: when Joey thinks about where any of them will be ten years down the road she already sort of knows what Dawson's adult life will look like, and even if she'd never admit it, deep down she knows what hers will be, too. But when she tries to put her finger on the pulse of Pacey's future it's like...anything could happen. He could be anything in the whole wide world. "Look, you know that I of all people relish any opportunity to put you well and firmly in your place. But honestly, Pacey? If anybody is going to get on a boat and sail away from Capeside forever and do something weird and amazing..." Joey trails off, shrugging. "I'm pretty sure all the smart money's on you."
Pacey doesn't say anything for a minute, and when she glances up at him he's just looking back at her, kind of surprised. In the last few months it's gotten so he needs to shave his face way more often than he used to, and there's a little bit of stubble on his chin. It occurs to Joey, somewhere in the back of her mind, that it might not be the worst thing in the world to kiss him.
Crap, she really needs a boyfriend.
"So," she says, almost tripping over her backpack in her hurry to get off the couch. "School."
Pacey raises his eyebrows, still looking. "Well," he says at length. "I guess there is an issue of Maxim in my locker that I've been meaning to read."
He gets dressed and finds his keys and drives her to school with all the windows down even though it's winter, cold clean air whipping in. Joey smells the ocean from the highway, close and endless. "So hey," he says, nudging her in the side as they wait for the light to change at the railroad crossing, for the train in their way to move on. "Tell me about your trip."