Disclaimer: Joey, Pacey, Dawson, Jen, Bessie, Alex, etc., are not mine. All credit for providing me with reliable wednesday night entertainment, hours of video replay fun, and the basis for my story goes to the WB, Kevin Williamson, Katie, Josh, James, Michelle, and everybody else who works so hard to make Dawsons Creek a success. Please dont sue me--youd be surprised at how little money I actually have...As for any other situations depicted in my writing, whether it be having to do with a place or establishment, foreign or domestic, or an activity, legal or illegal, is purely a creation of my own mind and serves only the purpose of my story, and is therefore not to be taken seriously out of this context...All of my other characters are original. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental...And with regards to other references made to real things, movies and songs specifically, if I didnt cite the source or screwed up a technical fact, its because I dont know it...sorry.
Short Summary: Joey and Pacey, now 26 and 27, unknowingly embark on ultimate challenge nature vacations in Colorado on the same weekend, where they are paired together to face the challenge.
Authors Note: I dont care if you post my story...just let me know!
Disclaimer goes for entire series
Pacey was so engrossed in the purply orange of that Thursday evenings sunset that he hadnt even noticed the phone until it had already rung three times. Reluctantly swiveling around in his cushy black leather office chair, trying not to sound as melancholy as he felt, he picked up.
"Mr. Witter, Mr. Leery is on the phone for you."
"Do you need anything else before I go home?"
"No, thanks, Maggie. Have a good long weekend."
"You too. I know its hard for you right now, but...hang in there, okay?"
Pacey sighed, hesitating a moment before pushing the impatient red button which was Dawson. He already knew what this was about.
"Whats up, D?", Pacey asked with false cheer.
"Hey, Pace. Howre you holding up?", Dawson asked with concern.
"As well as I was two hours ago, mom. Will you stop asking me now?"
"Ive been your best friend now for twenty-two of your twenty-six years and youre still acting like I cant tell when things bother you..."
"A divorce is a big deal, man. Ive been through one, remember? And speaking from experience I know that the day that the final papers are signed is the hardest.", Dawson interrupted matter-of-factly, "So are you going to talk to me about it or not?"
"Fine.", Pacey sighed, "You found me out. I signed the final papers today and now I feel like shit. Is that what you wanted to hear?"
"...At least youre being honest now. So how was it?", Dawson prodded.
"What? You want the gory details?", Pacey asked incredulously.
"Talk.", Dawson said adamantly, "Sometimes talk is the only therapy."
"Did I call you mom before? I meant Doctor Mom, actually...", Pacey said, a hint of a smile reaching his lips.
"Alright, alright. It wasnt nearly as bad as I thought it would be. Lisa was pretty strong throughout the whole thing. She wasnt acting, either. Shell be okay. And even though she really didnt want a divorce in the first place I know deep down that shell pick up and move on and next time around be smart enough not to make the same mistakes and end up with the right guy."
"So what about you?", Dawson asked carefully, "Are you okay?"
"Dawson, man...its not the divorce that upsets me so much...you know that. Its how Im going to fix the mess I started. This divorce is only step one. I have a lot of unfinished business..."
"Dont you mean unfinished pleasure?" The innuendos carried by Dawsons words lingered between them along with those words left unsaid, forcing an uneasy silence.
"You know what I mean.", Pacey managed finally, "But listen, man, I gotta go--Im going to miss my plane if I dont stop sitting here wallowing in my own self-pity...", Pacey said, attempting a light joke, but knowing that wallowing was exactly what he was doing.
"Remember your promise?", Dawson continued.
"God, Dawson, you are relentless today. Remind me never to get divorced again...", Pacey said seriously before answering Dawson, "And yes, I remember my promise. I will go see your hypnotherapist when I get back, okay?"
"Okay. Call me as soon as you get back, man."
"You know I will, D."
"And remember, Pace--today is the first day of the rest of your life..."
"Welcome to Delta Air Lines flight 463, with direct service from New York John F. Kennedy to Denver, Colorado. We will begin boarding the plane momentarily at gate A31. At this time wed like to invite all passengers seated in First Class as well as those with special needs to prepare to board the plane. Once again, all passengers seated in First Class and those with special needs are invited to begin boarding at this time."
Carrying only her deep red fleece pullover and her ticket, Joey rose lazily out of the uncomfortable airline chair and strode over to the gate, handing the attendant her boarding pass and walking silently and expressionlessly onto the plane. Despite the fact that the simple khaki shorts, t-shirt, and hiking boots she wore were a far cry from her normal New York attire, Joey was still an extremely striking woman. The bad habit of slouching which had acted as one of her distinguishing features in high school had corrected itself, making her look taller than ever.
Her figure had matured considerably, though she was still slender and elegant. And her years spent living in New York had instilled within her a sense of style and class that, although completely unpretentious, she practically breathed. Joey had grown into a very beautiful woman.
Even as she stepped onto the plane, she remained oblivious to the way that she had turned the heads of the male flight attendants and even other passengers who boarded after her. Staring blankly out the window, she asked herself for the thousandth time that month what she was going to do--and for the thousandth time found herself at an impass. Technically, there was nothing wrong with her life. She had done extremely well for herself--after having completed her medical degree a year early she was a rising star in the area of cancer research and doing quite well professionally.
Living in New York suited her well--not only because she had spent the first seventeen years of her life wanting to get as far away as possible from Capeside and anything that had to do with small-town mentalities, but also because Bessie, Bodie, and Alex had moved to New York shortly after her junior year at Columbia. She was in excellent health, and had virtually done everything that she had set out to do--everything except for finding love.
As her plane took off and she stared out the window at the Manhattan skyline, she got the feeling that she was escaping, and momentarily felt a twinge of hope. This vacation, the first that she had ever really been able to take for herself, was desperately needed. It wasnt her job or her family or the chaotic city that she needed to escape--it was herself. For the past eight years, both her most precious and most painful memory had haunted her, and it was tearing her apart. It was time to let go and move on.
Driving his rental car further up into the mountains, Pacey began to relax a little. His dreaded day was almost over. Tomorrow, he would wake up in The Garden of Eden, the intense Rocky Mountain survival getaway that had come highly recommended to him by one of his clients.
Although he was only twenty-six, his UCLA education paired with his outgoing personal skills had served him well and earned him an excellent job as the personal career manager to an impressive handful of atheletes. By the summer before his senior year in high school it had hit him hard that his only way out of Capeside was to get into a good college and follow Deputy Dougs often ill-directed advice to clean up his act and make something of himself. When he got into UCLA, he accepted immediately, his main objective having been to get as far away from Capeside as possible.
But as far away from Capeside as he had gone, now he needed to get away from LA, to escape his life. For the past three years he had been married rather miserably to Lisa. They had met in their senior year at UCLA in a windsurfing elective. He had been immediately attracted to her--her tall, perfect figure, her long wavy brown hair, her gorgeous green eyes...she was the first woman he had met since Joey who had really stirred something within him. Sure, he had dated throughout college, but nothing had ever turned serious and deep down he knew it was because he had never gotten over Joey.
Meeting Lisa and for the first time being so affected by a woman was like a sign to him that maybe his life could be good again--with her, he thought that he had found the new love that would replace the old. Initially, he had regarded Lisa as his savior, the woman who had brought him out of his well-hidden depression and taught his heart how to feel for something real again. He held on to her as tight as he could, and in many ways rushed their relationship, believing that if they settled down together and built a life, whatever remnants were left of his feelings for Joey would be pushed out and that hed finally have a chance at happiness.
He had never been more wrong. In retrospect, Pacey knew that their marriage and their relationship overall had been built on a lie. The person who he was around Lisa wasnt really Pacey, it was the Pacey that he wished he were--strong, unaffected, and free of his feelings for Joey. He had wanted to be in love with Lisa, so he played the part. He had wished himself over Joey, so he never mentioned her, even convincing Dawson at the time that Joey had turned out to be nothing more than a childhood crush.
He had always dreamed of settling down and building his own little family, making sure that it was nothing like his own had been, so he proposed to her, and they got married. For the year that they had dated before they married and for the first year of their marriage, things seemed like they were fine from the outside. Lisa had continued on to graduate school for Journalism while Pacey worked to support them. The truth was, they had a lot of fun together. She was funny, smart, beautiful, and an extremely good listener. He had learned a lot from her. She had helped him work through a lot of emotional baggage hed accumulated over the years, and the more he got to know her, he really did grow to love her. But the one thing he never told her about was Joey, and the one thing that he had realized after one and a half years of marriage was that no amount of wishing that Joeys memory would stop haunting him could push her out of his mind.
But by the time Pacey came out of his self-deceptive haze and realized that he was back at square one, or rather that that was where he had always been, he had no idea what he was going to do about it, and truthfully, he still didnt. By this time, he was sure that the opportunity to go to Joey and pour his heart out to her had passed--Joey had been at their wedding, wishing he and Lisa the best of luck in their life together. At the same time, he didnt know how to admit to Dawson or Lisa or anybody that he loved Joey, always had and always would, and despite his best efforts, nothing would change that. So he kept it inside. His put on a happy face defense that had served him so well as a teenager, those walls which Lisa had spent so much time trying to tear down, Pacey rebuilt, not allowing anybody in. In silent despair his heart broke, the memory of whatever chance he may have had haunting him.
Lisa, of course, felt him pulling away. She suggested marriage counseling, which Pacey refused. She talked about trying to get pregnant, which he was also against. The harder she tried to reach him the deeper he buried himself in his work. The end finally came one night three months ago. Lisa, still in love with him, and not willing to give him up heard him shouting unintelligibly in the middle of the night. By that time, he had already been sleeping in one of the guest rooms for a couple weeks. Alarmed, she ran into the guest room to see what was the matter and saw that he was having some kind of nightmare. Approaching him to wake him out of his dream, she saw that his face was stained with tears. No! No!, he was shouting. Placing her hand on his arm, she began to shake him gently and say his name. He remained within his dream. Please, Jo! I love you! I never stopped loving you! Pacey finally woke to stinging slaps to his face only to discover that it had all been a dream, that his wife, not Joey was in front of him, and that she had just discovered his deepest secret. Holding her arms, restraining her, he pulled her into him, whispering apologies, tears for the failure of their relationship flowing freely from both of them. The next day, he packed up his car and went to Dawsons.
Joey awoke to the sound of birds chirping that friday morning and the smell of a country breakfast cooking downstairs. Smiling to herself and reaching from her bed to the curtain, looked out her window up to the mountains to see that the sun was just rising. She looked at her watch. Six-fifteen. She was due downstairs for breakfast in fifteen minutes. Reluctantly climbing out of bed, she reached into her small suitcase and pulled out her robe, which she took with her into the bathroom. Hanging it up on a hook as she turned on the water, she brushed out her hair and looked at herself in the mirror. She felt like something great was going to happen to her there and she didnt know why.
This ultimate challenge vacation as they were referred to had come highly recommended by Alexa, one of her best friends and colleague. Although it was considered a vacation and certainly priced like one, it was supposed to be seen as a soul-searching journey--a time for man to become one with nature by having to rely on it for survival.
This particular getaway The Garden of Eden, was only one of many established around the world, yet it was considered one of the most intense. It was a kind of therapy, actually. Like Joey, many people came by themselves to be alone with their thoughts as an attempt to put their lives into perspective. Others came with their mates or their families to try to enhance their relationships and learn how to work together. The only requirements for guests was that they were in good health. The rest was up to them.
Standing under the warm shower until the last possible minute, she savored it, realizing that it would be a full four days until she got another. Dressing hurriedly, realizing that she was bordering lateness, she bounded down the stairs of the bed-and-breakfast-like lodge and into the dining room, taking one of the two empty chairs. Looking around her, she realized that most of those who surrounded her had come with somebody else, causing her to feel even more alone than ever. Get used to it, she thought bitterly to herself, concentrating only on her breakfast.
Finally, after everybody had finished, the entire group of around thirty or so were herded into a large living room, where a beautiful, roaring fire was burning. A large and extremely outdoorsy-looking man, who introduced himself as Mike strode easily in with a day pack, which he set down in front of the fire, and began talking.
"Welcome, everybody, to the Garden of Eden. I hope you all enjoyed your warm beds and hot showers this morning because you wont be seeing either again until Monday night. The time is now seven oclock. At nine oclock you will be embarking on your journeys. Right now Im going to take this time to tell you a little bit about what to expect. The Garden of Eden is a privately owned mountainous section of northern Colorado covering a 200 square mile radius. Although many who have not yet taken the challenge come here thinking that this is an overpriced, pseudo-camping trip for people like yourselves in which the primal man within you is satisfied into believing that you are at one with nature, nothing could be further from the truth. Make no mistake--this is the real thing."
He paused dramatically.
"The Garden of Eden and the worldwide network of ultimate challenge getaways were created in order to create within each and evey one of you a respect for nature, a re-emergence of the natural instinct that modern man has lost, and the opportunity to improve your relationship with yourselves and those with whom you have come. If you think that this is going to be easy, you are wrong. I do not exaggerate when tell you that these next four days will be among the most physically and emotionally difficult of your lives. Now, and right now is your only chance to withdraw yourself from the challenge. Should you choose to do so, please raise your hand now."
Joey, as all the others looked around the room for raised hands. None. Smiling to herself, she turned back around to face Mike, intrigued by what he had said, admittedly a little afraid of what was to come--after all, New York survival skills were of a completely different sort. Mike knelt down and began opening his day pack.
"Good. I know that the prospect of surviving with only your wits in the woods is a threatening idea at this point, but if you spend the next two hours listening closely and asking questions when you need to, I guarantee you that you will know eveything you need to complete this challenge successfully. Each one of you will be leaving the lodge this morning with only the clothes that you are wearing and these day packs. Within each day pack are only the bare essentials--a sleeping bag, a first aid kit, a survival kit, a towel, glycerine soap for bathing, a natural toothbrush and toothpaste, a rain poncho, a tarp, a water purifier, four meals worth of food, cooking tools, a mess kit, several flares, and a walkie talkie which is to be used only in the case of life-threatening emergency. You may bring any other clothing supplies that you choose, but keep in mind, the more you pack, the more you carry. Shorts are not a good idea. You will want to wear long pants, preferrably jeans at all times. We also recommend plenty of clean, warm socks and thermal underwear. Other things, like walkmen, battery operated radios, cellular phones, etc. will not work. Do not bring them. Your walkie talkies may be used only to contact us at the lodge, and are not able to contact other walkie talkies. Please do not contact us if you simply want us to pick you up so you can go home."
Snickers were heard from around the room.
"It happens at least twice every challenge. I guarantee you, unless you are bleeding to death or otherwise seriously hurt, we will not pick you up. Also being given to you is a special watch which triples as a timekeeper, a compass, and an alternate method to get in touch with us in the case of injury. If for some reason you cannot communicate with us by voice through the watch, you should press the red panic button, in which case we will come and get you immediately. Should the arm or wrist which wears the watch become injured, please make sure that you replace the watch someplace else on your body. It has also happened that guests have lost their daypacks, and in this case, your watch is the only chance to contact us."
"So what happens if, for example, one of us gets eaten by a bear, how would you ever find us?", a fat, arrogant-looking man piped up from the back.
"Good question. Your watch will act also as a homing device. Despite the fact that you wll be all by yourselves, we will know where you are at all times. Should we see that any of you are in the same place for longer than ten hours, we will go to your coordinates and see what is the matter. If you are hurt, well get you to a hospital. If youre dead, you signed a release form..."
Mike chuckled alone. Nobody else thought that one was funny.
"...and if youre just sitting on a rock sunbathing drinking purified water and eating berries, well leave you right where we found you..."
By nine oclock, the initial angst that Pacey had felt after having heard Mikes horror stories had subsided a little. He had learned more in that two hour speech about survival than hed ever thought hed need to know. Now, all the guests had been sent back up to their rooms where their watches and day-packs were waiting for them and were expected to meet downstairs to be driven to the heliport. Pulling on his deep green fleece after having strapped on his watch, he bent and easily lifted his pack. Once downstairs again, he saw that all of the others seemed to be picking up their maps from Mike. Pacey approached.
"Hi, Im Pacey Witter."
Mike shook his hand while obviously sizing him up. Pacey had grown into quite a sturdy and impressive man. He had begun working out regularly in college, and from the shape that he was in, it was obvious that he still did. He was almost as buff as Mike.
"Nice to meet you, Pacey. You look like youre up to the challenge. Ever done this before?"
That was as close as Mike had come to a complement all day.
"First time.", Pacey replied.
"Good.", Mike said approvingly before turning his attention to his clipboard, "Witter...Witter...Oh. Ive got it. You are one of two singles on this trip, so what we normally do with singles is pair them up in twos or threes so that youre not all alone for the first day. Another guy. If either one of you are against it, youre welcome to be out on your own--thats what you came here for...but we prefer it if youd stick together at least until tomorrow morning."
"Thats fine with me I guess...", Pacey said, not wanting to seem too relieved.
"Great. He should be down here already.", Mike said, and then raised his voice, "Is there a Joey Potter here? Im looking for a Mr. Joey Potter..."
Pacey froze upon hearing her name. His heart felt like it would beat out of his chest. Half of him wished that there really was a man named Mr. Joseph Potter who liked to be called Joey who would be his camping partner for the next twenty-four hours. Another part of him wanted nothing more than to be alone with Joey in the woods. He wasnt sure which he wanted more--to move on from her or to use everything he had to get her back. Unable to turn around, he waited for somebody to answer Mikes call. What were the chances that he and Joey would be on the same vacation, alone, stuck in the woods together? Slim to none. How many times before had he wished for such an opportunity to get Joey by herself and tell her how he felt? It was like something that would happen in some bad writers classic first-love story--and since it was always Dawsons and not his life that imitated movies, there was no way that it could be...
"Thats Doctor Josephine Potter. And, yes, I am here."
"Oh, Im sorry, doctor.", Mike said with a strange mix of sheepishness and sarcasm.
Joey just rolled her eyes. Nothing bothered her more than macho-men.
"So...Id like you to meet Pacey Witter, your potential survival partner for the next twenty-four hours. Josephine, Pacey. Pacey, Josephine.", Mike began.
Joey froze at the sound of his name. He was standing closer to Mike than she was, with his back slightly towards her. It couldnt be...but it had to be (how many other people could be named Pacey Witter?). She stood paralyzed. Mike kept talking.
"As I told Pacey, here, we like for our single guests to spend at least the first twenty four hours with another single guest. We find that the first day is the most crucial and that our guests normally fare better if they can put their heads together."
Neither Joey nor Pacey heard a word he had said. Slowly, having recognized her voice immediately, he turned around and realized immediately that she was as shocked at hearing his name as he had been to hear hers. Catching her deep grey eyes with his deep green, he stopped breathing and momentarily lost all control. His arms dropped, sending his heavy back pack sliding down to the floor. Mike droned on.
"...so if its alright with you, you and Pacey will be dropped in the same spot and asked to work together until you get your bearings. What do the two of you say?"
"Pacey?", Joey managed after a moment, a soft smile inadvertently finding its way to her lips.
Joey eased out of her own backpack and took a step towards him. He wrapped her up into his arms and kissed her on the cheek, causing Joey to feel in the midst of some strange dream. She didnt know how long he hugged her for, and was sorry that it ever ended. Stepping back and looking back up into his eyes, she blurted out the first thing that came to her mind.
"Wow, Pace, you look great."
"You too, Jo. Really."
"So you two know each other?", Mike asked.
"Yeah.", Pacey replied, never taking his eyes off of Joeys, "We go way back..."
"So, I take it that you agree to spend the first day together..."
"Yeah, if its okay with...", Pacey and Joey said in unison and then laughed, breaking the tension.
"Yeah.", Joey said, biting her lip and looking first at Pacey and then quickly at the fireplace.
"Great. Lets get going then."
Both Joey and Pacey were relieved that they hadnt actually had to talk to each other during the car and helicopter rides. During the van ride to the heliport, Mike, who was sitting in the passenger seat, was giving last minute instructions and taking last minute questions. Several helicopters departed, one after another, and in theirs, one of the last, another staff member named Karen gave them a crash course in being lowered into the woods from a helicopter.
First their packs, and then the two of them were lowered down to the ground. Pacey covered his eyes with his hand as dust swirled up around him--Joey was on her way down and he was supposed to be spotting her. The ladder almost reached the ground but not quite. Quickly, easily, Pacey reached his hands over his head, grabbed her firmly around her waist, and pulled her off the ladder.
"Thanks.", she said, hoping that he didnt notice her blush.
They both stood for a moment watching the helicopter disappear. When it was completely out of sight, the turned warily towards each other.
"So, I guess we should open up our packet, huh?", Pacey started. "Yeah.", Joey said rummaging around in her daypack for the 8½"x11" manila envelope they had been forbidden from opening beforehand.
She handed it to Pacey, looking quizically at it.
"I feel like McGuyver or something...", she said. He smiled.
Opening the thin envelope, there were only two pieces of paper. One was a waterproof map, the other was a normal piece of paper with a message written on it.
The first most important thing for you to learn about nature is that it is full of surprises, and since we here in The Garden of Eden are in the business of nature, we highly encourage you to enhance your challenge by learning how to work together with this complete stranger. Chances are, you didnt come up here to make a friend, but instead to learn about yourself. Often, it is the unlikeliest and sometimes least wanted people who cause us to see things about ourselves. Surprise! Part of your mission is to work with the person who is undoubtedly standing over your shoulder reading this message.
Pacey turned his head slightly and looked over at Joey, who herself was just finishing the first paragraph, and looked over at him. Neither said anything, but instead read on.
However, you always have the option of going off by yourselves as you had come here to do. As you wish, but should you choose to do so, you shall have to solve the following riddle, (which, by the way, brings us to point number two: that nature is a mystery. No matter how well you think youre doing or how much you think you know, nature itself goes above and beyond what we as men can conceive. Never be too sure of yourselves.)
They simply looked quizically at each other again and read on.
Enclosed is the map you will be needing for the next twenty four hours. Should you choose to stay together, your new map will be awaiting you at your marked destination. Should you solve the riddle and wish to separate, further instructions will await you at that point. Good luck!
Joey came from behind him where she had been reading over his shoulder and walked around a couple steps to face him.
"Alright...so, what do we do now?"