Joey crossed through the front entranceway to her dorm and looked up to see him waiting for her as usual. She exhaled loudly in exasperation as she climbed the stairs, shaking her head as she hiked her book bag up over her shoulder and quickened her pace. She brushed past him without a glance, and he fell in step behind her as he always did.
“Jo…Joey. Five minutes. That’s all I want.” He sounded different today. Tired. Resigned. “And that’s it. I’ll never bother you again.”
Joey hesitated slightly as she walked down the hall towards her room, swallowing back the lump in her throat, determined not to let him see her tears. She slowed to a stop finally, looking down at the floor and composing herself before she whipped around to face him.
He stopped as well, and when his eyes met hers she could see the surprise there, as if he hadn’t really expected her to acknowledge him. She could also see the despair in the stormy blue depths, but that she chose to ignore.
“What is it, Pacey? Because nothing you could possibly say to me right now is going to make any bit of difference, don’t you get that by now?” She fought to keep her voice steady.
He opened his mouth and looked at the ground, furrowing his brow as if he himself was confused as to why no words were coming out. His voice was soft and sad when he spoke finally. “I know. I understand. I’m not here to offer you any excuses any more. And, you have no idea how much I wish I…could take it back, but I can’t. The last thing I ever meant to do was to hurt you, you’ve got to believe that.”
“You asked me to believe you once before, Pacey. You told me that it was different with me. Remember?” She stared at him and Pacey lowered his gaze to the ground. “I think that the only thing I can believe right now is that I was very wrong about you.” She paused, dropping her voice to a whisper. “About us.” Feeling the tears begin to well up in her eyes, she quickly turned away to continue on to her room.
“Wait.” Pacey chased after her, his voice rising in desperation as if her words suddenly gave him one last shred of hope. “What did you mean by that, Jo? What about ‘us’? There had to be a reason you came to see me that night. There is something going on here, something more than sex. That's what I had been trying to talk to you about.” He grabbed her arm lightly to stop her, turning her to face him.
“Oh, yeah…it was so much more that you didn’t even hesitate to sleep with the first other girl to come along.” Joey shook her head at him, the sarcasm in her voice barely concealing the pain.
Pacey dropped his head and let go of her arm. “Why did you come to see me? What were you going to say to me that night, Jo?” He asked her in a husky voice.
Joey bowed her head, still feeling the heat of his touch on her skin. She looked up at him, raising her chin defiantly. “I was just going to tell you that I hoped this wasn’t going to affect our friendship.” She held his gaze. “But I met somebody.”
“The guy at the bar?” Pacey let out a bitter chuckle, shaking his head as his eyes burned into hers. “We both know that’s not true.”
“Is it so hard for you to believe that I’d be interested in someone else?” Joey laughed harshly. “Yet you can screw whoever you want? Well, I’ve got news for you, Pace. You were just a way for me to relieve some boredom this summer while I was stuck in Capeside. I really shouldn't have let things go on for so long, but what are you going to do?” She shrugged her shoulders and started to turn away.
Pacey grabbed her again, turning her back to face him and lowering his head. “You believe that if it makes you feel better, Jo, but we both know that’s not true either. Maybe it started out like that, and I admit that for a while that’s what I figured was going on with you…” His voice lowered to a husky whisper as he leaned into her, his lips almost brushing against her ear. “But it was more than that. And I know you, Jo. I know you felt it.”
Joey shut her eyes tightly, tears squeezing out the corners to spill onto her cheeks. She pushed away from him roughly and turned to walk away.
“I felt nothing.” She choked out the words without even a backwards glance.
She slammed the door shut behind her when she reached her room, pausing before she walked over to bed, half expecting him to follow her. She waited, rubbing the backs of her hands across her wet eyes, but there was only the sound of silence from the hallway outside.
It was almost dark before Audrey appeared, bursting through the door as she hummed along with the music drifting through their dorm as students arrived home from classes. She stopped short when she saw Joey, and walked over to sit next to her on the bed. Leaning back against the headboard, she rubbed Joey’s back where she lay face down on the mattress, her tears soaking the pillow.
“I know, bunny.” Audrey sighed. “Boys suck. Every last one of them.”
The phone was ringing as Pacey walked through the door and he only glanced over at it as he passed by on his way to his room. He threw his keys on his bed as he heard the answering machine pick up.
“I know one of you has to be there.” Drue’s annoyed voice filled the living room. “Witter, pick up, you piece of sh…”
Pacey walked out and grabbed the phone off the coffee table. “What the hell do you want?” He muttered tiredly.
Pacey had gone through the savings he had accumulated over the summer quicker than he had anticipated, and until he was of age to actually start getting bartending shifts at McGrath’s, the money he was making there was not enough to sustain him. He had picked up a second job down at Fisherman’s Wharf unloading the commercial boats coming into Boston Harbor, but that entailed him being there on the dock by 4:30 am. By noontime he had already put in a full days labor and he still had classes in the afternoon and the bar job at night.
He really didn’t mind it for the most part. At least it left him no time to think about anything.
“My fucking car won’t start.” Drue grumbled. “I think it’s the battery.”
“Where are you?” Pacey sighed, dropping his head in his hand as he sat down on the couch. He shifted uncomfortably, the muscles in his back still aching from work.
“In that big lot down on South Campus. The one right near the dorms.”
“Yeah. Of course you’d have to be there.” Pacey sighed again, pulling himself up to standing. "Give me 20 minutes."
Joey heard someone calling out her name as she crossed the courtyard in front of her dorm. She turned to see Kyle swiftly approaching across the wide lawn, waving to her. She slowed to a stop, smiling at him as she waited for him to reach her.
"Hello there." The grin spread across his face as he got closer. "I was just on my way to stop by your room."
"Really?" Joey tucked a piece of hair behind her ear. "I'm actually on my way out to my last class."
"Well, I'll walk with you a while, if you don't mind."
"Sure." Joey shrugged her shoulders as he fell in step beside her.
"I was coming by to see if you and Audrey might like to come to party some friends of mine are having in Cambridge this Saturday for the Head of the Charles Regatta."
"Oh." Joey said softly, watching the ground as she walked. "Thanks, but I don't think..."
She was suddenly cut off in mid-sentence by a booming voice from the parking lot.
"Well, would you look at the fresh-faced young collegiate types."
Joey glanced up to see Drue standing by his car watching them approach with an amused grin on his face.
"You two look like you could have stepped right off the pages of the Worthington catalog."
Joey's eyes drifted past Drue to see Pacey leaning down under the hood of his car. He raised his eyes to meet hers briefly, just a quick flash of blue, before he looked over to see Kyle and his gaze lowered back to what he was doing.
"Well, you should know, Drue." Joey spoke through gritted teeth, feeling like her heart had leapt into her throat with that one look. “Since that's probably the only book you’ve opened since you've been here."
Pacey straightened up then, stepping away from the car. "It's the starter, not the battery. But I think I can fix it." He mumbled in a low voice to Drue, wiping his hands off on his clothes, still rumpled and dirty from work.
"You have a mechanic that makes house calls?" Kyle laughed and then looked at Pacey. "I hope he's giving you a big tip for this. Don't let him fool you. He's got the money."
Pacey gave him a patronizing half smile and nodded as he went back to work under the hood. "Oh, don't worry, he'll pay." He muttered to himself under his breath.
Joey raised her eyes from the ground finally and glanced at Kyle, motioning towards Pacey with her hand. "Kyle, this is Pacey." She said quietly.
Pacey glanced over at her but she had returned her gaze to the ground. "Hey.” He nodded at Kyle. "I'd shake your hand but..." He shrugged his shoulders.
"No problem." Kyle smiled pleasantly. "Nice to meet you. I don't think I've seen you around. Are you a freshman as well?"
Pacey smiled and shook his head. "Ah, no. I..."
"Pacey goes to UMass." Joey cut in, looking back at Kyle. "He's a friend from home."
Pacey let out a soft chuckle, shaking his head as he returned his attention to his work. "I only take a couple of classes there." He amended for her in a low voice.
Joey bit her lip, looking quickly at Pacey and then back to Kyle, giving him a small smile as an uncomfortable silence fell over the group.
"Speaking of classes, I need to get to mine." She started to walk away. "But I guess I'll see you on Saturday, right?" She forced a smile over her shoulder at Kyle as she watched Pacey out of the corner of her eye, but Pacey appeared to be fully absorbed in what he was doing.
"Okay." Kyle grinned brightly. "I'll call you later."
"Bye, Drue...Pacey." She called over her shoulder.
"See ya." Drue nodded.
"Yeah. See ya." Pacey repeated softly.
Kyle left in the other direction, giving Pacey and Drue a quick wave good-bye. Pacey stopped what he was doing and leaned on the car as they both watched him walk away.
“Well, that wasn’t too awkward, now was it?” Drue deadpanned, his eyes still on Kyle. He glanced over at Pacey, raising an eyebrow as he lowered his voice. “He’s a bigger dickhead than Dawson Leery, if that makes you feel any better.”
Pacey let out a short humorless laugh, shaking his head as he returned to working on the car. “You always know just what to say, Drue.”
Pacey tilted back in the barstool he had pulled over to the door, leaning against the wall behind him. He had only started his shift and he was already exhausted. He rubbed at his eyes, looking over to the Friday night college crowd starting to pack into the bar.
His first few weeks here, he’d often pass the time wondering where Joey was at that exact moment, if she was out for the night or home studying. Now that was the last thing he wanted to think about.
He sat up a little straighter in his chair as the door opened, slumping back again when he saw that it was only Jack and Jen.
“Hey.” Jen smiled. “How’s it going?”
“Great.” Pacey gave her a wide fake smile. “Just great.”
“Hey buddy. We wanted to stop by and tell you about this party we’re headed to.” Jack patted him on the shoulder. “It’s supposed to be a rager, so I’m sure it’ll still be going strong when you get out of here.”
“Yeah…thanks, but I’m beat and I have to work in the morning.”
Jack frowned. “Well, that sucks…” His gaze drifted over Pacey’s shoulder into the dark and noisy barroom “Hey, there are a couple of guys in there I know from one of my classes.” He looked back at Pacey. “Would it be okay if I went over to say hi to them?”
“Go right ahead.” Pacey sighed. He turned his attention to Jen as Jack walked away. “I haven’t seen much of you around lately. I’m surprised you’re not with what-his-name tonight.”
“Charlie? That’s over.” Jen said flatly, shaking her head.
“What happened?” Pacey frowned.
Jen looked at him a moment, arching her eyebrow. “I went to pay him a surprise visit and I was the one who got the surprise.”
Pacey dropped his head, avoiding her gaze. “Sorry I asked.” He muttered.
“It’s okay.” Jen shrugged her shoulders. “I’m over it. After all, we were really just getting to know one another. There was no real commitment, no history…it’s kind of easy to understand how it could happen.” She paused, watching Pacey’s face. “It wasn’t like he claimed to be desperately in love with me for years and then we finally get the chance to be together and he turns around and does something like that. That might be a little harder to explain away.”
“Maybe there are no explanations for some things in life.” Pacey replied quietly, looking back over at the bar.
Jen shook her head as she rolled her eyes. “How profound, Pacey.”
Pacey looked to the floor, feeling her gaze fix on him again, waiting for him to say something. “If you’re looking for me to give you a reason, you’ve come to the wrong place.” He lowered his voice and shrugged his shoulders. “Sometimes sex is just sex. It’s not filled with motives or rationalizations or…”
“God forbid, emotions.” Jen cut in.
Pacey raised his eyes finally to look at her, his voice tinged with anger. “She basically told me to get lost right before she walked out that very door you’re standing in. With some guy, I might add. What the hell did it matter what I did at that point?”
“The way I hear it he was just someone from school who offered her a ride home because she was upset and wanted to leave.” Jen watched Pacey.
“He wasn’t just someone.” Pacey muttered, sighing as he shook his head. The tone of his voice softened. “But, again, what does it matter now?” He hesitated a moment before continuing. “I always used to figure that if I could just have the chance to be with her, to show her…” He stopped what he was going to say and looked away again. After another moment of silence he spoke, his gaze traveling to the floor. “A couple of times I thought that there was something there, but maybe I just imagined it. I don’t know…I guess I finally figured out that she didn’t really want me, even if she was with me. In some ways, that was worse than never knowing. Especially when I knew I would probably just keep…”
Jen continued to watch him to see if he would finish what he was trying to say. “So what?” She asked finally. “Did you intentionally try to sabotage it, Pacey?”
“Nah.” Pacey said tiredly, shaking his head. “That’d be giving me credit for actually knowing what the fuck I was doing.” He smiled at Jen, his blue eyes dark and sad. “And we all know how wrong that would be.”
“Okay. Let’s go.” Jack returned, placing his hands on Jen’s shoulders. “Pacey, see you later.”
”I’ll call you.” Jen gave Pacey a small smile, patting his arm as they walked out the door.
Pacey started to tilt his chair back into position against the wall when two men passed by him, helping their very inebriated friend out. Pacey noticed the beer bottle still clutched in the man’s fist and quickly reached over to pluck it out of his hand before they disappeared with him through the door.
He walked over to the bar, leaning over to toss the bottle in the trash bin. Erin appeared at that moment, brushing past him with a bottle of gin to go back to the drinks she was making.
“How’s your night going?” He asked her warily, watching her face.
“Fuck off, Pacey.” She didn’t even bother to look at him.
“Yep. That sounds about right.” He sighed to himself as he walked back to his place at the door.
”Not too shabby.” Audrey happily surveyed the elegantly decorated dining room, balancing her glass of wine in her hand as she adjusted the strap on her dress.
“Hmm.” Joey barely responded as she glanced around the room as well.
It actually reminded her of the restaurant at the Capeside Yacht Club. As she looked over the groups of people milling about and conversing, she noticed a waitress walking past and discreetly rolling her eyes. A faint smile came to Joey’s face, being able to imagine what was probably going through the girl’s mind at that moment. Joey guessed that it made sense that she would be the first person in the room she could relate to. The wealthy seemed to carry with them an innate sense of entitlement that always made her a little uncomfortable and Joey couldn’t help but feel like some kind of imposter in this kind of crowd. As if any moment someone would take a good look at her and figure out that she didn’t belong. Either that, or ask her to go get them a drink.
She looked at the floor as she tried to convince herself again that she had every right to be here, realizing sadly that the reassuring voice she heard in her head was Pacey’s, not her own.
“I’m starving. I think I’m going to take a walk by that buffet table. How about you?” Audrey smiled at her.
“No, I…” Joey was cut off as Kyle joined them, wrapping his arm lightly around her shoulder.
“Sorry I’ve been so neglectful. I haven’t seen any of these people in a while and I have to make the rounds. Believe me," He smiled at Joey. “I’m sparing you from having them come over to us. They’d all bore you to death. But they throw a good party.”
“I’ll say.” Audrey agreed as her gaze followed a waitress walking by with a silver tray of hors d’oeuvres. “I’ll be right back.” She patted Joey’s arm as she went after her.
“So…” Kyle sighed. “There are just a couple of more people over here I have to say hi to. Can I get you anything from the bar while I’m gone?”
“No, thanks.” Joey smiled. “I’m all set. I’ll just wait here for Audrey.”
“Okay.” His gaze drifted over her face as he narrowed his eyes. “Are you sure you’re having a good time?”
Joey nodded. “Of course. Why?”
“Well, I remember you were pretty upset that night I drove you home, and although we didn’t talk about it, I’m going to hazard a guess that it had something to do with a guy.” He smiled uncertainly. “Would I be over-stepping my bounds to ask if this is someone you’re still involved with?”
“No.” Joey replied softly, glancing at the floor. “We were never really involved to begin with. It was a…misunderstanding on my part.”
Kyle suddenly bent down to press a kiss to her lips.
Joey froze, startled by his bold action but more surprised to find herself kissing him back.
He pulled away with a smile. “That’s good to know. I’ll be right back.”
Joey watched him walk away, bowing her head again to look at the floor.
So, that’s what nothing felt like.
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