Joey dropped the boxes in her arms on the bare mattress, tucking her hair behind her ear and placing her hands on her hips as she surveyed her room, deciding where to start. She went over to her bureau and began sorting through the contents of her drawers, pulling out certain items here and there and placing them in one of the boxes.
“Audrey…I’m leaving most of my winter clothes here. That’s not going to be a problem, is it?”
Audrey popped her head into the room. “No. I already told you that I have plenty of closet space for Jay’s stuff while he’s staying here. We’re not going to need to use your room at all.” She raised her eyebrows, her eyes lighting up. “So, you know…if you change your mind and want to stay in Boston this summer with us…”
“Sure. And I wouldn’t be the third wheel or anything.” Joey smirked. “That’s okay, Audrey.”
“But we could have so much fun. We have this apartment now and we have never stayed the whole summer here together.” Audrey pouted a little. “We can work at the restaurant together and go out afterwards every night because we have no homework or classes in the morning…hit Quincy Market and the North End and Newbury Street…”
Joey just shook her head and smiled. “I have to start back at the Yacht Club this weekend. I have seniority there now – I get all the best shifts and, frankly, the tips are a lot better than what we see here. Problem-drinking social climbers beat out sight-seeing tourists every time in that regard.” She continued her packing. “Besides, I want to spend some time with my niece and nephew…take them to the beach and out for ice creams and all that fun summer stuff.” She smiled again. “I have to say I have a new appreciation for Capeside after living nine months of the year here in the city…I’m actually looking forward to going home.” She shrugged her shoulders, and then looked at Audrey, narrowing her eyes. “And…I know you have been looking forward to moving your boyfriend in here for the summer to play house, so don’t try and pretend you really want me to stick around.”
Audrey grinned, rolling her eyes. “I have to admit it is going to be kind of romantic to have it be just me and him all summer…kind of in our own little world.”
Joey hesitated a moment, smiling sadly as she continued her packing. “Yeah.” She replied softly.
“And, besides…there is that thing where Jay is still a little afraid of you.” Audrey mock-cringed.
Joey turned around, raising an eyebrow. “What?” She exclaimed. “Why is he afraid of me?”
“Well…I still don’t think he has quite gotten over the first time he met you and you were telling off his friend.”
“That guy? That guy was a jerk!” Joey shook her head, resuming her packing.
“Yeah…a 6’4”, 250 pound jerk.” Audrey laughed. “Though it was quite comical to see him cowering before you. He even called you ‘Ma’am’.” She watched Joey with a knowing smile. “But I told Jay that you aren’t always like that…that sometimes a bit of that Other Joey sneaks out.”
Joey didn’t turn around to face her, but smiled as she folded her clothes into piles on the bed. “Other Joey?” She asked quietly, playing along.
“Yeah, you know…” Audrey continued, raising an eyebrow humorously. “That uptight, spineless girl who used to twist herself up in a knot over every life decision and exhibited a lot of doormat tendencies…?” She grabbed Joey by the shoulders, shaking her playfully. “The Old Other Joey…or would it be the New Other Joey?” Audrey frowned to herself, considering this. “Oh well…either way, the one that we hardly ever see anymore.”
Joey just rolled her eyes with a grin. “Speaking of not seeing someone anymore, aren’t you supposed to be on your way to meet your boyfriend…?” She smirked.
Audrey glanced at her watch. “Uh oh…you’re right. I’ve gotta run. When is Bodie coming to get you?”
“He’s not leaving until he gets out of work, so I will be here for a little while longer.”
“Okay, bunny.” Audrey hugged her from behind, kissing her on the cheek. “I’ll just see you later.” She bounded out of the room as Joey watched her, shaking her head and laughing.
Joey had almost all of her room packed up when she heard a light knock on the front door of their apartment. Walking through the living room, she unlocked the dead bolt and pulled the door open.
“Dawson?” She raised her eyebrows in surprise. “Hey…how are you?” She asked quietly.
“Good.” He flashed a quick smile and shrugged his shoulders, hands in his pants pockets. “How have you been?”
“Good.” She nodded, just watching him before she shook her head. “I’m sorry…come on in.” She slowly closed the door as he passed by her to come into the living room.
“I spoke to Audrey this morning about picking up the key to her parent’s condo.” Dawson looked around the apartment, then at Joey, who had a vaguely confused expression on her face now. “I’m going out to do that six week film-making seminar in LA…?” He explained, looking to her for a reaction. “Audrey is letting me stay at the condo her parent’s bought for her out there?”
“Oh, oh…that’s right.” Joey finally nodded. “I forgot about that. She left the key right on top of the refrigerator in the kitchen in case you stopped by. Let me go get it for you.”
Joey quickly disappeared into the kitchen and then came walking out slowly to hand him the key. “You know…since you’re here…I was going to drop a check off to you in the mail today, but if you don’t mind hanging on a second, I can get my checkbook out and write it out right now.”
Dawson shifted uncomfortably. “Well…there’s no rush. You can just drop it in the mail.” He shook his head.
“Hmm…well, if it’s okay with you, I’d rather do it now. It’s almost the first of the month and I’d like to get it done while I’m thinking of it.”
Dawson laughed a bit. “You’re the one who set the payment schedule, Joey. It’s not going to matter to me if it’s late. Besides…I have told you several times that this is not necessary, right? The money wasn’t even really mine and I never expected you…”
“It is necessary for me.” Joey cut him off, digging through her bag until she pulled out a small leather purse.
Dawson watched her. “I’ve just been depositing them in the college trust fund we had started at the Capeside Savings Bank for Lily after my dad died, you know...” His voice trailed off awkwardly.
“Oh.” Joey looked up at him now from where she was beginning to write out the check. “So…would you rather I just made the check out to the bank, then?” She asked in an even tone, clicking the end of the pen with her thumb.
Dawson watched her face for another moment, and then just shrugged his shoulders. “Sure. That sounds fine.” He finally replied in a flat voice.
Joey quickly scribbled it out and handed it to him. “I think I can make double payments over the summer since I’ll be working full time, so…”
“Whatever you want to do is fine with me, Joey.” Dawson looked at her again for another long while. “You know…it has taken us a long time to get to where we can…talk like this. And, I know things have happened that we can never take back, no matter how much we might want to…” He spoke quietly, looking down. “But I just needed you to know that – even after everything that has passed between us – if you needed that money again, I wouldn’t even hesitate to help you.” He looked at her now. “If I could do it all over again, I would still want to give that to you.”
Joey gave him a half-smile. “If I could do it all over again, I wouldn’t be able to take it from you.” She said gently.
Dawson blinked a few times, his face expressionless. “Things will never be the same between you and I, will they?”
“Would you really want them to be, Dawson?” She asked softly, shrugging her shoulders a bit.
He just gave her a small smile. “Well…I should go. I’m off to the airport.”
“It must feel good to be able to just get on that plane and go…” Joey offered, watching him carefully.
He turned to look at her as he went to walk out. “You know…” He smiled. “I guess it kind of does.” He hesitated a moment. “Bye, Joey.” He gave her a wave before he disappeared out the door.
“Good-bye, Dawson.” She said softly. She stood there alone now, the smile slowly spreading across her face.
Alexander climbed up on Joey’s bed to bounce up and down, watching her hang clothes up in her closet.
“Do you want me to help?” He called out, bouncing his way to the end of her bed to peer in the cardboard box sitting there. He pulled out some books, handing them to her. “Here you go, Aunt Joey.”
She took them front him to place them on her desk. “Gee, thanks, Alex.” She grinned, watching him as he beamed up at her. He dove back into the box now, eager to continue with his assistance.
“What are these?” He asked, frowning as he pulled out a stack of cards carefully tied together with a wide ribbon.
Joey turned, her face softening. “Those are postcards. From Pacey…do you remember Pacey?”
Alex shrugged. “Yeah. Can I look at them?”
“Sure.” Joey smiled, sitting down on the bed next to him. “See these pictures? He sent them from all these different places…” She reached into the box, pulling out a couple of magazines. She opened one up, flipping to an earmarked page. “And, see…this is him on a boat all the way over on the other side of the world.”
Alex leaned over her arm to look. “Which one is he?”
“Right here in the baseball hat.” Joey smiled, running her finger lightly over the picture.
“That’s a Red Sox hat!” Alex exclaimed, obviously more impressed with that than anything else she had shown him.
“Yes, it is.” Joey laughed.
“I’m going to play for the Red Sox.” Alex began to bounce on the bed again. “Daddy practices my catching with me…but I always have to wait for him until he gets home from work.”
“Oh.” Joey nodded absently, placing the sailing magazines back in the box. “Well, pretty soon your little sister will be able to play with you, too.”
Alex made a face, stopping. “She’s a girl, Aunt Joey.” He said, shaking his head. “She can’t play baseball.”
Joey turned to look at him, her mouth open. “I’ll have you know that I am a girl and I played baseball when I was your age. Girls can do just about anything boys can do, you know.”
Alex just looked at her dubiously. “They can?”
“Yeah…sometimes they just might surprise you if you give them the chance.” Joey smiled, taking the stack of postcards and carefully placing them in the top drawer of her desk.
Joey stepped outside onto the dining patio, pulling out the too-tight ponytail that had been annoying her all through her shift. She ran her hands through her hair, tucking it behind her ears as she gazed out at the boats at their moorings in the blue water of the marina. She sighed and turned to make her way over to the parking lot to go home but instead found herself strolling aimlessly down to the dock.
She just stood there for a while, lost in thought, looking out at the tiny sailboats dotting the horizon in the far distance. It had been a long year. In some ways it had been the best time of her life, in others it had been the worst. But, still, she could stand here now and not feel one bit of regret for any of it. She smiled, remembering something Pacey had said to her years before. What was it? The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step? She had not realized at the time that the journey ultimately led to back to her. Pacey probably had known that, though. But he knew she had to figure that one out all by herself. She closed her eyes, smiling again as the memory of his unmistakable voice washed over her like the soothing rhythm of the ocean before her.
“Well, here we are again, Potter…another summer at the Yacht Club.”
She froze in position, mouth falling open slightly, wondering if she was somehow dreaming. She slowly turned to look over her shoulder. She couldn’t even speak for a moment as her eyes just took him in. He looked somehow taller, and his shoulders were definitely broader. His white polo shirt fit him in a way that seemed to accentuate the muscles in chest and arms that she didn’t remember him having. His blue eyes jumped out at her against his darkly tanned skin and his wind-tousled hair was sun-streaked.
“You’re here.” Was all she could say when she was finally able to form words.
“Yes, I am.” He smiled, dropping his head a bit. “And so are you.”
“What…what are you doing here?” She asked, still in shock.
“Well…I think I already told you once that I seem to have this habit of ending up wherever you are, Jo.” He shrugged his shoulders, tilting his head a bit and fixing his warm blue eyes on her.
“Besides…” He continued, chuckling a little. “I don’t know if you realize this…but the Capeside Yacht Club just happens to have its very own sailing team. And, since I am no longer just Pacey J. Witter, guy who fixes their boats, but Pacey J. Witter, guy who fixes their boats…and former international race champion, all of a sudden they want me to be part of their crew. But, you know, I think that I should probably be offended on some level by the fact that they were obviously snubbing me before – I mean, really, was I not good enough for them then? What’s that all about? Because if that’s the case, I’m not sure I want to be associated with such an elitist organization, so I’m thinking I might let them just sweat it out a few days before I...”
Pacey was cut off mid-sentence as Joey closed the distance between them in three short strides and jumped up to wrap her arms around his neck and kiss him. He held his hands up helplessly in the air a moment, caught off guard, but then brought them back to her, gliding down her hair and coming to rest on the small of her back before wrapping them around her to lift her even higher off the ground. He deepened the kiss, smiling against her lips and holding her tighter as her body seemed to just sink into his and she sighed happily into his mouth. They finally broke apart for air, and he lowered her to the ground and brought his hands to her face to pepper her lips with soft kisses, brushing the tears away that were beginning to slide down her cheeks with his thumbs. She began to cry in earnest now and he pulled her into a hug, kissing her cheek and whispering words of comfort as he stroked the back of her hair.
Suddenly he pulled back to look at her, furrowing his brow. “Wait…you don’t have a boyfriend or anything like that, do you?”
She had bowed her head, leaning it against him. “No, I don’t have a boyfriend, you idiot.” She sobbed, lightly punching his solid chest.
Pacey relaxed a bit. “Oh, good…because that might have really taken away from what could be a fairly romantic moment here. Of course…your calling me an idiot doesn’t do much to add to the occasion, but…” He chuckled softly.
She couldn’t help but laugh as well, still wiping the tears from her face. She looked up at him, her wide gray eyes shining. “Is this it…are you home now?” She asked, swallowing back the lump in her throat.
“Yes.” He whispered as he brought his hands to her face to kiss her softly again. “I’m home...now.” His words lingered against her lips. She sighed slowly, closing her eyes and kissing him back.
“Why didn’t you call me…why didn’t you let me know?” Joey pulled away and sniffed a little, still trying to compose herself.
“Yeah, about that…” He grinned sheepishly. “It was sort of a…eh, spur of the moment decision. We had completed our last race for the season and I had to let them know if I was going to sign on to be part of the crew again, and…what can I say? ” He looked at her, his blue eyes shining with affection and amusement as he shrugged his shoulders. “I just really, really missed Doug.”
She looked up him with a smirk, meeting his eyes for a minute. Then she bowed her head and smiled. “So…it had nothing to do with me at all then, huh? You weren’t missing me or anything?”
“You know…not so much.” He shook his head slowly. Holding her a little closer, he leaned down nuzzle her neck and whisper in her ear in a husky voice. “Usually only when I would breathe in. Breathing out I would be okay.”
They kissed again and he finally broke away to just look at her, smiling and reaching up to brush a strand of hair back over her shoulder. “So, I’m back in Capeside, back working at the marina – although I seem to be carrying around a certain amount of prestige that I didn’t quite have before. I’m even back on Dougie’s couch temporarily, if you can believe it, until I find a place…” He shrugged. “Just goes to show that one can’t stand in the way of progress.” He grinned.
Joey reached up to wrap her arms around his neck again, leaning her chin on his shoulder and just smiling as they held each other for a long while. She finally pulled back to look at his face. “I love you.” She whispered, bringing her hand up to touch his cheek.
He reached up to take the hand in his and kissed it, sighing heavily. “You know…I was kind of hoping that you did.” He leaned into her lips. “But if you didn’t, that was okay, too…since my plan was to love you enough for the both of us. This way is much better, though.” He kissed her again, gently at first, until she opened her mouth to him and the soft strokes of his tongue met hers as they slowly sought out all the places they remembered. They reluctantly broke apart, still not able to keep from touching each other, her hands running up his chest to his shoulders and his traveling up and down her back as he held her.
“So…what happens now?” She asked in a soft voice, as he reached up brush the back of his hand over her cheek and play with a strand of her hair.
Pacey glanced out at the water and then quickly up at the sky above them. “I don’t know…it’s still early.” He smiled down at her, leaning in to kiss her forehead and whispering against her skin. “I have my boat here…want to go for a sail with me?”
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