Joey rested her chin in her hand, her elbow propped on the table, as she aimlessly traced patterns on the page in front of her with the cap of her pen. Every so often she would glance out the window of the library, watching students pass by on their way to classes.
She would have never imagined herself to be sitting here, at Worthington University, the future she had worked and struggled towards all these years now a reality, miles and miles from Capeside, and not being able to think about anything except Pacey Witter.
She looked up from her book. “Oh.” She smiled, narrowing her eyes in recognition. “It’s Kyle, right?”
“Yeah.” Kyle smiled back from where he was standing, motioning to the chair next to her. “May I?”
“Um, yeah. Sure.” Joey shrugged her shoulders.
He glanced at the books stacked in front of her. “You have a lot of books there. Looks like Wilder is using the same reading list he gave my class last year.”
Joey just smiled amiably, looking back to her reading. After a second she glanced at him out of the corner of her eye. “And you don’t have any books at all.” She noted, raising an eyebrow suspiciously.
He dropped his head with a laugh. “Okay. Caught me. To tell you the truth, I was on my way through the quad and I saw you coming in here. I’ve been outside for the last twenty minutes trying to think up clever ways to come in here and strike up a conversation.”
Joey smiled, looking down. “Oh. I see…”
“She says less than enthusiastically.” Kyle laughed again. “Look, I’m really bad at this but you seem like an nice person, Joey, and I’d like to get to know you a little better. I will admit that I’d love to take you out to dinner sometime, but I’d really like to at least be friends.”
Joey looked back at him dubiously, relenting slightly when she saw that he seemed genuine. “Friends would be good.” She said finally.
“Well, good.” His smile widened. “Let me give you my number and if you’re ever in the mood to get together for coffee or whatever, give me a call.” He scribbled it out quickly on a scrap of paper from his wallet. “Otherwise, I’ll just see you around campus.” He handed it to her, pushing his chair back to stand up.
Joey took the paper in her hand. “Okay.” She nodded hesitantly.
“Kyle Walthorp. How long has it been?”
Joey turned to see Drue approaching, shaking his head slowly as he grinned at Kyle. Kyle’s smile faded.
“Drue Valentine.” He extended his hand to shake Drue’s with a small laugh. “Not long enough.”
“So this is where you’ve been hanging out on campus, Potter. No wonder I never see you.” Drue turned his attention to Joey, staring pointedly at the scrap of paper in her hand.
“Okay, well, I’ve got to be going. Nice seeing you again, Drue.” Kyle began to walk away. “Joey, I’ll hopefully see you soon.”
“Bye.” Joey nodded, sliding the paper he handed her under the book she was reading.
Drue dropped down into the chair in across from her, moving slowly as if he were in pain. She arched her eyebrow as she looked him over, her gaze landing on his wrap-around sunglasses.
“What’s up with dark glasses?” She smirked. “Hiding out from all your fans?”
Drue leaned forward to pull them down onto the bridge of his nose, his ice blue eyes bloodshot and rimmed in dark circles. “I think I may have been over-served at the bar last night.”
Joey shook her head, leaning back in her chair as she stretched her arms out in front of her. “Do you go there every night Pacey is working? Isn’t that taking the codependency a bit far?”
Drue laughed sarcastically. “Yeah, and I go there because of Pacey, not the insanely hot chick mixing my cocktails.”
“Huh?” Joey looked over at him quickly. “Who?”
Drue tilted his head. “That’s interesting.” He said slowly, watching her. “Pacey hasn’t mentioned Erin to you? He works with her almost every shift.”
Joey felt the heat rising up in her cheeks and looked back down at her book, shrugging her shoulders. “Why would he tell me?” She muttered, trying to sound nonchalant as she felt her stomach sink.
“Hmm. Yeah, you’re probably right.” Drue rocked back in his chair, watching her a moment longer before he stood up. “Well, this is enough of this place for me. I’m going to go home and catch a nap.”
She rolled her eyes and shook her head. “Bye, Drue.”
Joey sat there for a while after he left and finally gave up, slamming her book shut. She couldn’t concentrate. She grabbed her bag and slung it over her shoulder, sweeping up the stray books on the table in her arms in one swift movement, the scrap of paper Kyle had given her with his number floating unnoticed to the floor. She headed for the door, lost in her own thoughts as her mind drifted back to the previous afternoon and her little tryst with Pacey.
Although she had caught herself in time, she had almost told him that she loved him. And now, suddenly, he wanted to talk.
Why did she have the feeling this couldn’t be good?
Pacey sighed, running his hands through his hair as he paced the hall in front of her door. He had gone over this in his mind a thousand times and was still no closer to figuring out what to say to her. He supposed that he could have imagined those words coming out of her mouth. That, sadly enough, would not be out of the realm of possibility. But even if she did, in fact, start to say what he thought she started to say, well, the circumstances of the situation could not be ignored, either. A lot of people tend to say a lot of things in the heat of the moment. It wasn’t like he hadn’t been there himself once or twice. He’d never said those particular words, of course, but things a person shouldn’t be held accountable for nonetheless. He cringed at the thought of someone calling him on it. Wasn’t that breaking some implied rule of sex? If it wasn’t, it should be.
Then there was, of course, option number three. The one where she not only spoke the words, but actually meant what she was saying to him.
He stopped short, staring at the door in front of him. There was really only one way to find out. He raised his hand and, just as he was about to knock, the door flew open and Audrey was standing in front of him.
“Pacey! Just the man we wanted to see!” She grabbed him by the front of the shirt and pulled him into the room.
“Why is everyone always doing that?” He muttered under his breath, shaking himself free from her grip as she slammed the door shut behind him. He looked up to see Joey sitting on her bed. “Hey.” He said quietly, smiling at her.
“Hey, Pace.” She smiled back uncertainly. “Before she puts you on the spot, I just want to tell you that I have nothing to do with this.”
Pacey raised an eyebrow in confusion, looking to Audrey.
“You see these CDs?” She held up a handful of plastic cases in front of his face. “I have every one of this band’s CDs but I have never had the opportunity to see them in person. And guess what?”
“What?” Pacey asked slowly.
“They are playing in Boston next Friday night. Live. One show only. Guess where?”
“Where?” Pacey asked, his voice lowering suspiciously.
“McGrath’s!” Audrey shrieked. “And you’re going to get me in there to see them!”
“I am?” He looked at Joey and she shrugged her shoulders apologetically, wincing slightly.
“C’mon, Pacey.” Audrey pouted, hanging onto his arm. “It will just be me. Oh, and Joey, of course. And then there are these guys I met the other day who…” Audrey looked at his face as he rolled his eyes in disbelief. “Okay, forget them.” She amended. “Just me. And Joey.” She clung to his arm, batting her eyelashes up at him. “Please, please, please…?”
“All right, all right, all right.” Pacey cut her off in as threw his hands up helplessly. “Just make sure you get there before nine because that’s when the other guy shows up to work the door with me, okay?”
“Thanks!” Audrey jumped up to kiss him on the cheek. “Isn’t he the bestest!” She smiled at Joey before running to the phone.
Joey looked up at him with a small smile as she started to gather her books off her bed. “Sorry about that, Pace.”
”Don’t worry about it.” Pacey answered absently as he chewed on the inside of his lower lip and dropped his head. “What, um…how was your exam this morning?”
“It was okay.” She replied, almost shyly.
Pacey nodded his head and swallowed nervously. “So…are you busy right now?”
“I’m actually running late for a study group thing.” Joey watched him with a frown and then looked at the floor. “Why do you ask?”
Pacey opened his mouth to say something, and then hesitated before shaking his head. “Ah, nothing…it can wait.” He sighed.
It had waited this long. What was another day?
Pacey sat in the kitchen table, frowning at the book lying open in front of him as he tapped a staccato rhythm out with his pen on the tabletop. Drue wandered in, glancing at him as he opened the refrigerator door.
“What’s going on?’ Drue asked him in a tired voice.
“Eh, not much.” Pacey squinted up at him. “Did you ever take economics?”
Drue paused, leaning on the refrigerator door. “You know, I think I might have an economics course this semester. I’d have to check my schedule, though, to be sure. Why?”
Pacey shook his head at Drue in amusement before he returned his attention to the page in front of him. “It’s nothing. I guess I never realized it would be such a big part of this business course.”
Drue walked over to drop down into the chair across from him. “Tell me again why is it you’re taking these classes? I didn’t think you had any interest in furthering your education.”
Pacey shrugged. “I don’t know. I guess after I heard I had a problem with authority the sixth or seventh time last year, I started to believe it. Which made me start to contemplate my future and the fact that maybe I should consider a career where I’m self-employed. You know, work for myself some day, run my own business…” Pacey looked back down at his book as his voice trailed off.
Drue smiled and nodded. “A business that entails you standing on the deck of a boat somewhere with a drink in your hand?”
Pacey chuckled softly, his eyes still on his book. “Yeah. Something like that, I guess.” He replied absently with a tinge of sadness in his voice.
Drue frowned as he watched him. “You know, I wish you’d just figure out once and for all what is going on with this girl because I don’t know if I can keep up with this roller coaster of emotions.”
“Huh?” Pacey looked up at him, furrowing his brow and frowning.
“Sometimes I come home to find you bouncing off the walls like you won the lottery, then I find you like this, looking like a puppy that got kicked.” Drue ran his hand through his hair. “Frankly, it’s getting a little tiresome. I thought maybe once you nailed her you’d finally get her out of your system, but it appears to have made matters worse.”
“What the hell are you talking about?” Pacey scowled, but looked back to his book to avoid Drue’s eyes.
Drue went to continue but stopped himself as he saw Pacey’s face. He sighed heavily, his tone changing.
“When I first met you last year, I had a hard time figuring you out, Witter. Which is unusual for me. Here was this guy who didn’t seem to have a care in the world, getting all the chicks he wanted…and you were fucking miserable. Which in and of itself is not really all that out of the ordinary, but it was the fact that you were working so hard to try and hide it that intrigued me. I figured there had to be something else going on there that I was missing. And then one day it finally came to me. I was sitting across from you in that hell hole of a cafeteria at school one morning and you glanced up to see Dawson Leery and Joey Potter walking out the door together arm in arm. I saw the look you had on your face and in that instant it suddenly all made sense.”
Pacey was quiet for a moment, staring down at the table as he chewed on the inside of his lower lip. “What look?” He asked finally in a low voice.
“Like you were watching somebody walk out that door with your whole life and you knew there wasn’t a damn thing you could do about it.”
Drue looked at him for a reaction but Pacey didn’t say anything and kept his head lowered.
“It’s not like I am totally unfamiliar with the concept of unrequited love.” Drue threw his hands up in the air. “After all, you may have noticed I haven’t made much progress in the area of Jen Lindley.” He leaned forward, resting his arms on the table, watching Pacey carefully now. “By the way, how well does Joey know Kyle Walthorp?”
Pacey looked up quickly with a frown. “Who’s that?”
Drue sat back in his chair. “A guy I knew at the last prep school I got kicked out of before coming to Capeside. Turns out he’s at Worthington now, which I guess doesn’t surprise me because I think his family owns half of it. I bumped into him at the library this morning. He was sitting with Joey and from where I was standing it looked like digits were being exchanged. But I could be wrong.”
Pacey slowly looked back to his book, shifting in his chair as he felt the familiar knot in his stomach returning. “So?” He shrugged his shoulders, his voice slightly husky. “What’s that got to do with me?”
Drue sighed, pushing back his chair to stand up. “Look, I’m not sure any one girl is worth all the aggravation you seem to put yourself through, pal, but if she means that much to you, do yourself a favor and don’t let her walk out that door again.”
Drue strolled out to the living room to drop down in front of the television, leaving Pacey sitting there, staring after him.
”I cannot believe you just got up there and did that.” Joey laughed as Audrey approached them through the crowd of party-goers.
“How did I sound? Did I look good?” Audrey grinned, taking her plastic cup of beer back from Joey’s hand.
“I think Jen’s attention was on the bass player she was talking to earlier.” Joey smirked.
“You guys don’t think he’s cute?” Jen smiled.
“Him?” Audrey looked back up to the stage and at Jen. “He’s a little scrawny for me.” She glanced at him one more time. “And he seems to have made an unfortunate hair choice.”
“I think that’s supposed to be rock star hair.” Joey giggled, tilting her head to appraise him.
“It looks more like road kill hair.” Audrey mumbled through a sip of beer before glancing in her cup. “I’m out. Anyone else?”
“All set, thanks.” Joey held her cup up in the air. “Me too.” Jen replied.
“Be right back.” Audrey made a move to walk away but was held up by a group of guys on their way to the keg, one of them turning to smile at her.
“Don’t wait up for me.” She turned to whisper to Joey before following after him.
“She’s crazy.” Jen laughed, shaking her head.
“Tell me about it.” Joey laughed as well. Her smile faded as she swirled the beer around in her cup, watching it for a minute before turning to Jen. “Did I mention that Dawson called me before we went out tonight?”
“No. Really?” Jen turned to look at her. “When was the last time you heard from him?”
“I haven’t talked to him since a couple of weeks after he left this summer. He was still just settling in then.” She looked out over the party and back to Jen. “He had some big fight with the director guy he is working under at his intern job at the studio and almost got fired. He was pretty discouraged.” She smirked. “I think he may have hit a bump in the road, facing the realities out there, you know?”
Jen nodded. “Guess it was bound to happen to him sooner or later.”
Joey sighed, shaking her head almost in amusement. “It’s just kind of funny how I didn’t hear from him all this time and suddenly he has his first big disappointment and he’s on the phone, looking to me for some kind of…reassurance, I guess.” She shrugged her shoulders. “But do you know he never even asked how school was going for me?”
Jen rubbed her arm, smiling sadly. “Don’t let a phone call from Dawson ruin your night, Joey.”
“I’m not.” She smiled, shaking her definitively. “It’s not my job to be his security blanket any more.” She looked at Jen. “And I finally told him that.”
Jen smiled at her in surprise, but before she could say anything she was being lifted up in the air.
“Jack!” She yelled. “Quit it!”
Jack dropped her back to the ground, laughing as she took a playful swing at him.
Joey glanced over her shoulder, smiling when she saw Pacey. “Hey there.”
Pacey just gave her a quick smile. Joey’s face fell slightly as she turned back to watch the band. This had been one of those nights when she couldn’t figure out what was going on with him. The times where she could look in his face and know what he was thinking were becoming fewer and far between. She had started to tell him about the phone call from Dawson earlier and stopped herself, realizing that it might be an inappropriate topic of discussion for them now. She sighed to herself. Sometimes she missed the days when Pacey just her friend, the one person she could always talk to. Especially since she had no idea what he was to her now. And the strange way he was acting towards her lately wasn’t doing anything to help her determine that.
Jack looked over at Pacey. “I’m hitting the keg. You ready for another one?”
“Not yet.” Pacey replied.
Jack waited a beat and looked at him again. “How about now?”
“Now’s good.” Pacey nodded.
“Ladies?” Jack smiled as he backed away.
“I’ll come with you.” Jen said quickly as she started to follow him, glancing up at the stage where the band was beginning to disperse.
Pacey shoved his hands in the pockets of his jeans, dropping his head and glancing up at Joey’s back before he slowly strolled over to stand next to her. “Having fun?” He said softly, bumping against her gently with his shoulder, leaning down towards her as she took a sip of her beer.
Joey bowed her head to look into her cup, unable to stop the small smile from forming on her lips. She had been trying to avoid any situation where she might be alone with Pacey for the past few days, embarrassed and fearful that he would want to talk about that day in her room. Something she was not ready to do. She had surprised herself when she heard those words leave her mouth, she cringed to think what affect they had on him if, in fact, he had even heard them. Part of her was hoping that he didn’t, but the subtle change in his attitude towards her ever since that moment would seem to indicate differently.
She felt the flush of warmth spread through her body being in such close proximity to him now, hearing his deep voice in her ear, feeling like every part of her was suddenly hungry for something she had been depriving herself of. As much as she might miss their old friendship sometimes, the way she missed his kisses after only a short time without them made it hard for her to think straight.
She looked up slowly to meet his clear blue eyes and smiled at him. She couldn’t help herself from reaching out to glide her hand down his solid chest, aching to touch him, craving his touch.
Pacey smiled back at her, holding her gaze as he tilted his head and motioned for her to follow him away.
“Hey guys…” Jen emerged from the crowd a few moments later with two beers in her hand. “Where did they go now?” She turned to Jack with a frown.
Jack shrugged, taking a sip from his cup. “Pacey and Joey? Probably snuck off somewhere to have sex.”
“Oh.” Jen said flatly, glancing up at the empty stage and then quickly turning back to Jack, slightly annoyed. “Do they really think we are that stupid?”
He placed his hand on her shoulder, squeezing it lightly as he drank his beer. “Aww. Let them have their fun.”
Pacey rounded the corner behind the now dark and deserted stage and turned to face her, but before he could say anything her arms were wrapped around his neck and she was kissing him. He kissed her back, softly at first but then matching her heat and passion. He suddenly pulled back, reaching up to grip her wrists to still her movements as her hands started to roam over his body.
“Joey…” He was slightly out of breath. “Hold on…” He lowered his gaze to the ground before returning it to her eyes. “I really think it’s time we talked…” He watched her for a reaction. It seemed that she had been coming up with excuses not to see him for the past two days. He hadn’t really wanted to think it was intentional, and he really hadn’t wanted to think about what Drue had told him, but his stomach sank as he saw the momentary dismay and anxiety in her face.
She leaned into him without meeting his eyes, nuzzling his neck with warm kisses. “But I’ve missed you.” She whispered in his ear, her voice soft and sweet and slightly seductive in the way she could be when she had been drinking. He sighed in defeat, releasing his grip on her wrists. He closed his eyes as her hand traveled down over the front of his jeans.
“No, Joey…really.” He stepped back, stopping her movements again. He watched her a moment. “If you mean that, then stay with me tonight.” He paused, his voice softer now. “Come home with me.”
Joey dropped her head, biting down on her full lower lip, still swollen from his kisses. She shook her head as she took his hand, lifting to press a kiss to his fingers before guiding it down her body. She held his gaze as she cupped his hand over her breast through the flimsy material of her tank top, pressing his palm against her so that he could feel the nipple harden under his touch. Her wide eyes shone up at him before she leaned up to kiss him. “I want you right now, Pacey.”
“Joey…” He groaned softly under his breath. He moved in to meet her lips, gently caressing the soft mound of flesh as he reached his opposite hand up to bury it in the back of her hair, grasping the silky strands in his fist as his tongue hungrily explored her mouth.
As always, once he started touching her, he felt like he couldn’t stop, as if he could never get enough of her. She sighed into his mouth, pressing herself against him, her soft body yielding to his hardness. It would be so easy to lose himself in her, to take everything she was offering him, but it wasn’t what he wanted, what he needed from her.
He pulled away again, his breathing ragged. “Jo…we can’t just keep doing this. We need to talk. Why don’t we just go back to my place and…” He stopped what he was saying as he watched her face fall and saw her reach up to nervously tuck a piece of hair behind her ear. His voice changed, becoming quieter, more resigned. “You want to have sex with me right here but you don’t want to come home with me, Jo?”
Joey sighed heavily. “Well…what about Drue and Jack?”
“The hell with…” Pacey stopped himself again as he heard his voice rising in frustration. He sighed heavily, waiting a beat until he was calmer. “Do you really think everyone hasn’t figured out what’s going on here by now?”
“Everyone but us, right?’ She almost whispered the words.
Pacey held her by the arms, crouching down slightly to meet her eyes. “That’s why we need to talk about it.” He had struggled for days with the option of revealing his true feelings to her. Truth be told, he’d been struggling with it for years. Sometimes he felt like he had bottled it all up for so long that he had forgotten how to even open up his emotions in that way. The scariest part of it all for him had always been what her potential reaction might be, but over these past few weeks he had gradually started to feel some measure of hope.
Joey swallowed nervously. “I, um…I think I need to figure a few things out for myself first, Pace.” Pacey felt that hope start to fade as he watched her. He probably knew Joey better than anyone and he recognized the uncertainty and distress he saw in her eyes. The last thing he ever wanted to be was the person that put that look on her face. “Can you let me do that?” She whispered.
“Yeah. Of course.” He replied in a low voice as he shrugged his shoulders and let her go, his blue eyes turning colder, darker.
“There you guys are!” They turned to see Jack and Jen approaching around the corner.
“Can we get out of here now?” Jen yawned. “I’m about to fall asleep.”
“Yep. Let’s go.” Pacey turned abruptly and started walking towards where they had parked his truck down the street.
Joey trailed behind, glancing up at him every so often, but he didn’t look at her again. When they reached the truck, he opened the door for her as Jen and Jack crawled into the back seat to slump against each other, both of them ready for bed. The temperature was dropping, the crisp smell of fall filling the night air around them, and Joey shivered slightly, running her hands along her bare arms as Pacey climbed into the driver’s seat. He reached behind his seat, pulling out a sweatshirt and holding it out to her, finally meeting her eyes.
“Thanks.” Joey sighed, smiling at him gratefully before she pulled it on.
Pacey gave her a half smile before he threw the truck into drive and pulled out on the street, sighing inaudibly as he watched the road and tried to ignore the overwhelming, yet achingly familiar, sense of helplessness. He couldn’t force her to feel the same way as he did. He would never even want to. If she was going to be with him, it had to be because that’s where she wanted to be and nothing else.
Drue’s words from the other day kept replaying in his mind. He felt like he was watching her head straight for that door again and there was still, even now, not a damn thing he could do about it.
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