“Hey, Pacey? Phone’s for you.”
Pacey sighed as he came out of his bedroom, raising his gaze from the floor to glance up at Jack sitting on the couch. Jack tossed him the phone, barely tearing his eyes from the television screen.
Pacey caught the phone in his hand, feeling his heart start to beat a little faster. He hadn’t seen her or heard from her since he dropped her off after the party, almost a full week ago. He figured after the way they ended their last conversation he should give her some space and let her decide when she was ready to talk about things. He had to keep assuring himself it would be when, not if, and it had turned into a kind of torture for him to stay away from her for this long. He didn’t know if he was feeling hope or dread as he raised the phone to his ear.
He dropped his head with a small smile as he turned to walk back into his room, just the sound of her voice bringing him some relief.
“Um, I, ah, was just calling you about tonight.” She sounded rushed and anxious on the other end of the line. Pacey could almost picture her tucking her hair behind her ear and fidgeting in the way she did when she was nervous.
“Tonight?” Pacey frowned.
“The band…at McGrath’s. The one Audrey was talking to you about?”
“Oh yeah…” Pacey nodded, remembering.
“So, I was just calling to see if it’s still okay for us to show up there. I don’t want to get you into trouble, but Audrey has been hounding me all week about it. If it’s not…”
“It’s fine.” Pacey cut her off quietly, running his hand over his hair.
“Oh. Okay. So, I guess we’ll see you there. We’ll get there before nine, like you said.”
“Okay.” Pacey said softly, waiting to see if there was anything more she was going to say.
“All right.” She hesitated briefly. “Thanks again, Pace. Bye.”
“Yep. See ya.” He almost chuckled as he hung up the phone, shaking his head.
It was obvious to him that she hadn’t been going through quite the same emotional turmoil as he had these past several days. As a matter of fact, she sounded like she couldn’t get off the phone fast enough.
He sighed again as he walked back out to the living room. He didn’t think he’d be going too far out on a limb to say that this probably wasn’t going to be a good night.
“This is going to be so great!” Audrey clung to Joey’s arm, jumping up and down next to her as the line into the bar inched forward.
“Yeah.” Joey replied absently, nodding her head.
“I still can’t believe Jen blew us off for that wannabe musician when she had a chance to meet the real deal.” Audrey raised herself up on her toes to peer over the heads of the others waiting.
“Yeah.” Joey was staring blankly at the back of the person in front of her as she chewed on her lower lip.
Audrey turned to look at her pointedly, placing her hands on her hips. “Are you going to be like this all night? “Cause I gotta tell ya, you are really killing my buzz here.”
Joey sighed, shaking her head. “Sorry. I just don’t…” Her voice trailed off as the line suddenly made some progress through the door and she found herself standing in front of Pacey.
“Hey.” She said softly, not being able to help the smile from spreading across her face.
She had not even realized how badly she had missed him this past week, even though she had spent every other moment thinking of him. She had been embarrassed under the circumstances to call him about tonight and ask him to do this favor for Audrey, but at the same time she had been glad to have an excuse to finally talk to him, to hear his voice. She felt her body gravitating towards him now and she quickly dropped her gaze to the ground, stopping herself and trying not to think about how desperately she wanted to feel his arms around her.
Pacey looked at her a minute, his face blank. “Hey,” was all he said.
Audrey nudged Joey’s arm, coughing, and Joey jumped a little, quickly pulling out her wallet and holding it out to Pacey. Audrey did the same, grinning happily as Pacey just nodded them into the bar.
“I told you we were supposed to make it look good.” Audrey whispered in her ear, grabbing onto her arm again.
Joey nodded, glancing over her shoulder at Pacey as Audrey dragged her towards the bar. He looked over at her finally to give her a small smile, his warm blue eyes meeting hers.
Joey smiled as she turned back to follow Audrey through the crowd, feeling like she could breath again.
“People are crazy in here tonight!” Erin exclaimed to Pacey as she slid past him behind the bar. “It has got to be a full moon out there or something.”
Pacey nodded absently. “What else do you think you’ll need?”
Erin glanced into the beer cooler as she lined up a row of shot glasses in front of her on the bar. “Umm, that should keep me for a while.” She glanced up at the patrons lining the bar. “Your buddy Drue is in here somewhere, by the way.” She looked back to Pacey and laughed. “He’s something else, huh?”
Pacey chuckled. “Yeah.” He shrugged his shoulders. “He’s really not so bad, though, once you get to know him.”
Erin smiled, leaning over in front of Pacey for a bottle of schnapps. She looked up at him. “I don’t know. I think the only redeemable thing I can see about him is that he has good taste in friends.”
Pacey gave her a half smile, his eyes drifting over the bar. He had only seen Joey once since she arrived with Audrey. He had thought that she might come back to talk to him while he was manning the door. He had obviously been wrong.
“Hey, check this out.” Erin reached her arm over, holding her wrist up. “I went to one of those body shop places today where you can mix your own perfume. They had all kinds of natural fruit oils and fragrances and you could concoct your own potions. What do you think?”
Pacey leaned down, blinking his eyes and pretending to gag at the almost cloyingly sweet scent.
“Too much?” Erin giggled and brought her wrist back to her own nose. “Yeah, I guess I went a little overboard with the vanilla.” She tipped the bottle of schnapps in her opposite hand, expertly gliding along the row as she poured a level amount in each glass without spilling a drop.
Pacey laughed as he started to move away. “I was going to say you kind of smelled like a cookie.” He turned to grin at her over his shoulder. “But I wasn’t sure if that’s what you were going for.”
Erin smiled, briefly turning back to her drinks before she looked over her shoulder to watch him walk away.
Joey frowned as she sipped her drink, glancing around the bar. Pacey was no longer at the door and she couldn’t find him anywhere. She sighed dejectedly, turning back to Audrey.
“What time are they coming on, anyway?”
“The band?” Audrey shrugged her shoulders. “Probably around midnight.”
“They aren’t even starting until midnight?” Joey exclaimed as she rolled her eyes.
“Relax, Grandma.” Audrey smirked. She looked at Joey’s glass. “Why don’t I get you another drink?”
Joey shrugged her shoulders and turned to follow Audrey. That was when she saw Pacey leaning over to talk to the bartender. Joey almost stopped short when she saw the blond smile at him and reach her hand up to ruffle it through his hair before he turned away and disappeared through a door behind the bar.
Audrey turned to her. “What’s the matter now?” She asked when she saw her face.
Joey dropped her head with a frown. “Nothing.”
“You know, Joey…” Audrey sighed. “One of these days you’re going to realize that you have a potential wealth of advice and information right under your nose here. Something has been going on with you for a while now, and I wish you would finally just talk to me about whatever it is.”
Joey thought about this a moment and raised her head finally to look at Audrey. “It’s a, um…boy problem.”
“Is there any other kind?” Audrey replied, rolling her eyes.
Joey smiled a little at this. “I’ve been sort of in this…thing with someone.” She began hesitantly.
“Pacey.” Audrey nodded, sipping her drink.
Joey stopped, her eyes widening slightly, and then couldn’t help but laugh. “That obvious, huh?”
“Uh, yeah…” Audrey drew out the word comically.
“I don’t know what to do.” Joey sighed and then her words began to tumble out. “I’ve started having all these feelings that I never expected to have and I don’t even know what he’s thinking half the time and I’m afraid to lose him as my friend but then I start to think I might be more afraid to lose him as my…” She paused momentarily. “I don’t even know how it started really, it was like it was this…explosion of this attraction I had. Or maybe it was kind of a secret crush…I don’t know.” Joey put her hand to her head, her voice taking on an edge of dismay. “Sometimes I think I might want things to go back to the way they were, when he was just my friend, and sometimes I think I want more. And sometimes I feel like that might be something more than what he wants.” She finished quietly.
“Ah-ha.” Audrey nodded. “I think I understand.” She looked at Joey. “So why don’t you just talk to him about this? You two seem to be pretty close, even when you’re not undressing each other with your eyes, and Pacey seems to be a reasonable guy.”
Joey shook her head. “I don’t want to talk to him until I know what it is that I’m feeling. It’s so different than how it was with Dawson or anyone else and I need to figure out if it’s real or…”
“Just your mind being all confuzzled by some really good sex?” Audrey offered. “I’ve been there. I get it. The last thing you want to do is tell some guy you love him when all…” Audrey stopped as she saw Joey wince and look down. “You didn’t.” She said flatly.
“Well, not exactly. Kinda. Sorta.” Joey shrugged her shoulders.
“And what did he say?”
Joey looked up to meet Audrey’s eyes with an uncertain frown.
“Okay.” Audrey took a deep breath, placing her hand on Joey’s shoulder. “This situation can be saved. We can fix this. If you had come to me sooner, Joey Potter, we might be in better shape here, but all is not lost. You just need to adjust your game plan.”
Joey rolled her eyes. “I don’t want to play games with him. He’s, he’s…it’s Pacey.” Her voice lowered sadly.
“Okay. I will admit I don’t know much about this Pacey character, so fill me in.” Audrey narrowed her eyes. “Is he the monogamous sort? A one woman guy?”
Joey’s face fell as she lowered her gaze to the ground.
“Okay. Scratch that.” Audrey sighed. “So, how many girls are we talking here?”
Joey shrugged and fidgeted uncomfortably, avoiding Audrey’s gaze.
“Hmm. That many, huh?” Audrey considered this. “Well, what’s his usual type?”
“That type.” Joey said flatly as she raised her eyes to look past Audrey’s shoulder.
Pacey had reappeared behind the bar with several bottles of liquor in his hand and was passing them to the bartender as she smiled sweetly at him.
“Wow.” Audrey looked the blond up and down.
“What?” Joey frowned. “She’s not that great looking, is she?”
“Even I would do her, Joey.”
Joey sighed heavily. “I can’t compete with that. What am I supposed to do if that’s what he really wants?”
“That’s just it.” Audrey threw her hands up in the air. “You have the advantage of knowing what he really wants. And that’s what you’re going to give to him. Don’t leave him any need to look elsewhere. Less talk, more action.”
Joey looked at Audrey apprehensively. “But that’s exactly it. He keeps telling me he wants to talk. Ever since...you know, I said that.”
“Hmm.” Audrey nodded. “It sounds like you may have spooked him. Guys like that scare pretty easily. That’s why they’re always moving on to someone else.”
Joey sighed, frowning. This had been her worst fear, that Pacey had realized what she was saying to him that day in her room and he only wanted to talk to her because he felt like as her friend he should let her down gently before she became too involved in what was only supposed to be a casual relationship. The fact that she had not heard from him or seen him all week was not doing anything to allay that fear, either. It was unusual for her to not see Pacey for that length of time, even before they had started this thing. She figured it was because of the way they had left things off last time they saw each other, but maybe Audrey was right.
“Best thing to do is just to act as if those words never left your mouth.” Audrey continued. “Keep it casual, keep it fun, keep it light.” Audrey placed her hand on Joey’s arm. “And for future reference, let the guy be the one to say those three little words first. Believe me, you don’t want the ‘I love you, too’. Those don’t count for as much.”
Joey sighed again, looking down at the ground. Then why would she have given anything to hear him say it?
Pacey pushed through the door, balancing the cases of beer on his knee.
“Sorry.” Erin called to him over the music as she ran a check through the cash register behind the bar. “We’re going through them faster than I thought.”
“No problem.” Pacey shrugged his shoulders as he threw open the cooler.
Pacey looked up, shaking his head with a smirk as he saw Drue leaning over the bar.
“I just met Joey’s roommate. Why didn’t you tell me about her?” Drue grinned. “She’s a trip.”
Pacey nodded. “So…where did you see them?” He asked carefully, glancing out at the crowded room as he packed the beers into the cooler.
“Right over there. By the stage.” Drue pointed and Pacey’s eyes followed his hand to see Joey standing and talking with a tall stranger. He hesitated slightly in what he was doing as he watched the guy reach up to rest his hand on Joey’s shoulder, leaning in to talk to her as the band launched into its second set.
“Oh, by the way, that’s Kyle Walthorp with Joey.”
Pacey looked at Drue quickly with a frown, dropping his head with a shrug of his shoulders to continue his work. Feeling himself beginning to do a slow boil, he slammed the cooler door shut.
“I’ll be back in a minute with the rest.” He called over to Erin as he turned to walk away, disappearing through the door without another word to Drue.
“Hey.” Drue shrugged as he watched him leave. “Don’t say I didn’t warn you, bud.”
Kyle handed Joey another drink and she hesitated slightly before taking it from him, starting to feel a little wobbly on her feet. “Um…I think this is it for me, thanks.” She felt like he had been continually buying her rounds since he arrived unexpectedly with his friends and somewhere along the line she had definitely passed her limit.
“Oh, it’s Friday night.” He laughed. “You’re allowed to have a little fun.”
Joey gave him a small smile as she looked around the dark bar, trying to locate Pacey again. It was wall-to-wall people now and every time she saw him he had been too busy for her to go over to him. She had been afraid to bother him at the door, not wanting to get him into trouble if anyone else he worked with saw her there and questioned her age. Suddenly her eyes fell on him disappearing through the back door behind the bar. She chewed on her lower lip nervously, remembering Audrey’s advice.
“Could you let Audrey know I’ll be right back?” Joey smiled at Kyle, shoving the drink back in his hand.
“Oh. Um, sure.” He nodded as he watched her walk away. He slowly started to follow her when Drue suddenly stepped into his path.
“Well, I see that you’re still using your usual technique with the ladies, Walthorp.” Drue nodded towards the drink in Kyle’s hand. “Never hurts to get them all good and liquored up first, does it?”
Kyle scowled at Drue, shaking his head as he turned to go back to his friends. He glanced at him over his shoulder. “Speaking of booze, do you think it was that or the pills that finally sent your mother over the edge, Drue?”
Drue shook his head, choosing to ignore the comment as he saw Audrey emerge through the crowd in front of him.
“Hey. Where’s Joey?”
Drue shrugged. “I’m sure she’ll turn up. Can I get you anything from the bar in the meantime, blondie?” He grinned. “Wine cooler? Zima?”
Audrey narrowed her eyes at him. “Cuervo Gold Margarita, rocks, salt, with a splash of Grand Marnier. And make it snappy. I’m thirsty.” She handed him her empty glass.
The smile spread across Drue’s face. “Will you marry me?”
Pacey stood up quickly from where he had been sitting in the back alley, lifting his head from his hands, when he heard the back door opening. His mouth fell open when he saw that it was Joey, but he quickly recovered as he turned to throw the rest of the empty boxes in the trash receptacle.
“Hey.” She said softly as she stepped outside. “You’re really busy tonight, huh?”
“Yeah.” He muttered. He paused for a moment, looking down at the ground before turning to face her finally as he placed his hands on his hips. “How’s your night going?”
“Okay.” She shrugged, taking tentative steps towards him. “It’s a little too crowded for me in there though. Figured I’d come out here. You know, get some air.”
She was standing in front of him now and Pacey could see that she was drunk. He shook his head with a tired sigh, placing his hands on her shoulders to move her out of his way.
“I have to get back in there, Jo.” He said in a deep voice as he went to pass by her.
Joey reached up to hold onto his arm. “You can’t stay out here with me for a minute? They must let you take a break once in a while.”
Pacey closed his eyes, willing himself not to react to her as he felt her lean into his body and lower her voice suggestively.
“I’ve missed you.” She said softly, gliding her hand up to his shoulder.
“Really?” Pacey reached up to remove her hand. “’Cause I’m a pretty easy guy to track down during the week.”
Joey dropped her head, stepping back. “I would have called but…” She seemed to change what she was going to say, raising her head to look at him as her voice lowered suggestively again. “Well, we’re both here now.” She smiled, reaching out to finger a belt loop on his jeans.
“Yeah.” Pacey shook his head with a laugh of disbelief. “In an alley behind a bar you’ve been drinking in for the past three or four hours.” He paused, watching her. “I’ve been in there all night. Why do you suddenly have an interest in me now, Jo?”
“What do you mean?” Joey looked confused. “I always have an interest…” She dropped her head to look at the ground. “Pacey, you know that I…like you.” She mumbled the words unconvincingly.
Pacey laughed bitterly, looking away so that she couldn’t see how her words hurt him. “Yeah, I know. You like me whenever you have a few drinks in you…” He lowered his voice to husky whisper as he started to walk away. “Or whenever you have my dick in you.”
Joey’s head flew up, her face scarlet. “What did you just say to me?”
Pacey stopped, his shoulders slumping before he reached up to rub his eye with the palm of his hand. “You heard me.” He replied in the same tired voice before turning to face her. “That’s what you came out here for, isn’t it? Because I know it certainly wasn’t to talk to me.”
Joey’s eyes were blazing now, tears welling up in corners. “You’re right. Because I have nothing to say to you anymore. You can go to hell for all I care.” She sniffed in a tight voice, brushing past him to go back into the bar.
Pacey shook his head, his eyes dark. He slowly followed her back into the bar and saw her push her way through the crowd to Audrey. Pacey’s hand clenched into a fist at his side as he noticed Kyle Walthorp suddenly join them and hold up a set of keys. Swallowing back the lump in his throat, he watched Joey walk out the door with the guy, without even a backward glance.
Pacey trudged up the steps of the brownstone, dropping his head and squinting to avoid the bright glow of the sun starting to rise in the early morning sky. He fumbled with his keys as he pushed open the front door with his shoulder, stopping short in the foyer.
Joey sat huddled on the bottom of the stairs that led up to the condo, her eyes hollowed out with dark circles. She looked at him and dropped her head, tucking a piece of hair behind her ear.
“I felt bad about how we left things at the bar.” She sniffed and almost laughed, wiping at her eyes. “I came here late last night to talk to you.”
Pacey closed his eyes and dropped his head with a sigh, opening them to stare blankly at the keys in his hand. “I waited all night…I was thinking about that night I waited for you at the beach house this summer.” She said sadly, pulling herself up to standing. “But this time you never came home.”
Pacey winced slightly, glancing away before raising his head to look at her face, but she wasn’t meeting his eyes as she walked past him to the door.
“Jo, don’t go…” He whispered, looking back to the ground.
“You’re a little late with that, don’t you think, Pace?” He heard her hold back a sob and then she was gone.
He stood there a long while before he slowly climbed the stairs and unlocked the door to the condo. Bypassing his room, he headed straight for the bathroom, pulling off his shirt as he walked. He turned on the shower as he finished undressing and stepped under the hot spray to lean his forehead against the cool tile, squeezing his eyes shut tightly as he felt the sting of his tears, the faint scent of vanilla wafting up and dissolving into the steam.
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