“I’m really sorry about this detour.” Jen turned to look at the two girls behind her as they climbed the flight of stairs, but focused her attention primarily on Joey. “I completely forgot I gave Jack my ATM card to hold for me this morning when we were getting coffee on campus.”
“It’s okay.” Joey drew out the words, returning Jen’s look and nodding. “I’m fine. This is fine.”
“I’m actually kind of excited to get to finally check the place out.” Audrey grinned.
As they reached the landing at the top of the stairs, Joey cautiously moved to stand behind Jen as she knocked on the door, as if using the petite blonde as a shield. There was the clicking sound of the door unlocking and Joey felt her heart begin to pound against her chest. She hadn’t seen Pacey since that day in the parking lot and she wasn’t exactly sure how he would feel about having her show up on his doorstep. But she figured there was no way to prolong the inevitable. Besides, their paths were bound to cross eventually since they traveled in the same small circle of friends.
Joey felt as rush of relief as Jack appeared at the door rather than Pacey, followed by an overwhelming feeling of disappointment for the very same reason.
“Hey guys. C’mon in.” He smiled and walked away into the kitchen, returning with Jen’s card in his hand. “Here you go.”
“Thank you muchly, sir.” Jen took from him and dropped it into her purse.
“Hey. This place isn’t half bad.” Audrey looked around her appreciatively while Joey stole a quick glance over at Pacey’s bedroom door.
“So, where are you guys headed tonight? Out to dinner?” Jack asked them as he walked over to flop back down on the couch, his eyes following Audrey with a look of amusement as she scoped out the place.
“Yeah. You should come with us.” Jen smiled at him.
“I’m actually supposed to be waiting for Andie, but if you guys want to hang out for a few she and Pacey should be home any minute.”
Joey felt the usual stomach flip at the mention of his name, her cheeks heating up as she felt a tinge of jealousy to think that he was out somewhere with Andie. She closed her eyes, quickly dropping her head and stuffing her hands in the pockets of her coat, berating herself for being so petty and childish.
As if on cue, the front door opened and Andie burst through it, laughing, as Pacey trailed in behind her.
“Hey!” She squealed in surprise when she saw them, beaming happily. “What are you guys doing here?”
“Ouch. She’s got to learn to tone that down a notch or two.” Audrey whispered as she moved to stand next to Joey, holding her hand up to her ear and wincing.
“You should talk.” Joey muttered back under her breath, her eyes fixed on Pacey.
He had hesitated slightly as he crossed the threshold and saw her standing there, their eyes meeting for one brief second before he dropped his head and turned to close the door behind him.
“Hey.” He mumbled to everyone as he came into the living room. He glanced quickly at Joey again before he started towards his bedroom, tossing his keys in the air as he walked. Although Joey kept her focus straight ahead as she nodded a silent response along with everyone else greeting him, it was as if she could physically feel him pass behind her, the heat from his body setting all her nerve endings on edge.
“We were just telling Jack we are going to grab a bite to eat at this new place on Newbury Street. If you two are up for it, you should come along.” Jen smiled at Andie and then looked over at Pacey.
“Sure. Sounds great.” Andie grinned.
”I’ve got to work.” Pacey shrugged his shoulders before disappearing into his room.
Joey felt the heat rising up again, fighting back the images of him with the blond bartender. Her feelings of jealousy in this instance were a little harder to discount as she could only assume that’s who he had been with the night she waited for him, and she was suddenly struck by a wave of regret that surprised her. She bit down on her lower lip and focused her attention on a spot on the floor, unconsciously tapping her foot as she struggled with the urge just to run from the room.
“Okay. Let’s go then.” Jen spoke a little too loudly, a little too brightly as she turned and walked to the front door to hold it open for everyone. “Bye Pacey.” She called out before narrowing her eyes menacingly at Jack, who was still slumped on the couch in front of the television. He quickly sat up and grabbed his coat to follow her.
”See ya, Pacey.” He called over his shoulder.
Audrey looped her arm protectively through Joey’s, guiding her out as they followed Jack. “Bye, Pacey. Thanks again. I’ll talk to you later.” Andie called over her shoulder in a singsong voice as she trailed behind them. Audrey glanced quickly at Joey’s face.
“Yep. See ya.” Pacey’s deep voice drifted out from his room before the door closed
They all stepped outside into the cool fall evening, crunching through the dead leaves strewn across the sidewalk as they made their way down the street.
“Are we walking or taking the T?” Andie asked cheerfully, strolling up next to Jen and Jack.
“I had a bad subway experience today.” Jen sighed. “Let’s just walk.”
“Hasn’t it been awful?” Andie agreed, talking a mile a minute. “The red line has been off schedule all week. And then the traffic lately with all the construction going on is just as bad, if not worse. Pacey and I were stuck on Storrow Drive one day last week for almost 45 minutes.”
Audrey cast another concerned glance at Joey as they walked behind the others, noticing as she flinched slightly. “Wow, Andie.” Audrey suddenly blurted out. “It sure seems like you and Pacey spend a lot of time together.”
Joey looked over at Audrey, her eyes widening and her mouth falling open in horror at the inappropriateness of her question, realizing that Audrey felt the unnecessary need to say something on her behalf. Everyone seemed to momentarily slow to a stop. There was a brief silence as they all continued down the sidewalk before Andie replied.
She shrugged her shoulders, her voice changing. “I don’t know if Jack told you guys, but I, um, had a little bit of trouble starting off this first semester at school. Nothing big. Just adjusting to college life.” She quickly assured them as she looked around at all their faces, her gaze landing on Audrey. “I suffer from depression and some other problems that can be exacerbated by stress.” She explained. “My doctor thought it would be a good idea for me to stay in touch, so he set up these weekly appointments with him for the time being. Pacey has been driving me whenever he can so that I don’t have to take the train back and forth and miss any classes.” Her gaze traveled over to Joey. “You know how Pacey is.” She finished quietly.
Joey felt the lump rise up in her throat, nodding silently back at Andie, almost ashamed to meet her eyes. They continued on their way for a while until Joey stopped abruptly. “You guys go on ahead to the restaurant. I’ll catch up.” She excused herself as she turned around to head back towards the brownstone.
She climbed the stairs tentatively, knocking gingerly on the door. Pacey was pulling on his coat when he opened it and seemed to freeze in position when he saw her standing there, but his face was blank, his blue eyes unreadable.
“Hey. Could I talk to you for a minute?” She fidgeted nervously where she stood, tucking her hair behind her ear
“Yeah.” He shrugged his shoulders, stepping aside for her to enter and slowly closing the door behind her.
Joey walked to the center of the room before turning to face him, avoiding his eyes. “Look, obviously we are going to be in situations like this where we have to see each other and…well, I just hope that I didn’t make you uncomfortable before by being here and…”
“Why would I be uncomfortable?” Pacey cut in quietly.
Joey hesitated. "Well…I know the other day there was a certain amount of awkwardness." She spoke slowly and watched him warily.
"Really? I didn't notice." Pacey replied, looking vaguely confused and uninterested.
Joey frowned slightly, feeling the heat rising in her cheeks again as she dropped her head. “Well, I know it’s not going to happen overnight, but I’d like to think we could put all this behind us. I hope that maybe someday we could even be friends again…”
“Well, why couldn’t we?” Pacey shrugged again, narrowing his eyes. “I mean, I certainly don’t have a problem with that.” He put special emphasis on his words in referring to himself, leaving the unspoken implication hanging there between them.
Joey’s eyes widened and her mouth dropped open before she shook her head quickly, recovering. “Well, neither do I.” She assured him a little too vigorously. “So…that’s good.”
“Good.” Pacey replied in a low voice, nodding as well.
“Good.” She started to leave and quickly turned back to face him as if on afterthought. “I should tell you that I’m most likely going to be seeing Kyle again.”
“I assumed that you would.” Pacey replied in a matter-of-fact tone, holding her gaze, his steady blue eyes burning into her.
Joey was momentarily taken aback, but then narrowed her eyes at him. “Well, fine, then.” She replied through gritted teeth.
“Fine.” Pacey agreed.
“Fine.” Joey repeated. “I’ll just see you around, I guess.”
“I guess so.” Pacey shrugged.
Joey quickly turned and walked out the door, scowling as she descended the stairs and ran outside to catch up with the others.
”I can’t believe him!” Joey exclaimed as she paced back and forth over the worn carpet.
Audrey looked up with an arched eyebrow from where she was sitting on her bed painting her toenails. “What’s the matter? I thought you said you hoped you could be friends again and he told you everything was fine.”
“It’s the way he said it.” Joey stopped short, staring at Audrey and throwing her hands up in the air. “It was so, so…infuriating the way he just stood there and didn’t even flinch. Like it didn’t even matter to him what I was saying.”
“So, you wanted a reaction out of him? That’s what you were going for?” Audrey propped her foot on her pillow as she inspected her newly fuchsia toenails.
Joey hesitated, shooting her a slightly guilty look out of the corner of her eye as she resumed pacing. “Well, no.” She said unconvincingly. “I’m glad there aren’t going to be any lingering issues between us.” Her voice began to rise again. “But he could have at least acted like the past few months made some impression on him. I mean, we were…” Joey stopped short again, shaking her head. “I should have known better. I almost made this mistake with him once before, thinking that there was something there that obviously wasn’t.”
“When was that?” Audrey looked over at her. “I thought you were all wrapped up in that guy Dunston in high school.”
“No.” Joey shook her head. “There was a time during our junior year when I started thinking about Pacey…in that way.” Her voice grew softer. “I almost did something about it back then. If I knew this was how it was going to turn out, well, maybe…I guess I should be glad that I didn’t.” She finished dismally, flopping down on her bed.
“So, why didn’t you?” Audrey asked. “What happened?”
Joey stared up at the ceiling of the room and was quiet for a moment. “It’s a long story, but there was this other guy I dated briefly.” Joey began slowly, sitting up with a sigh. “He was in his first year of college and I had gone to visit him one weekend and it turned into this big mess. So, I ended up calling Pacey to come and get me in the middle of the night. We had become really close that year and he was just…he was the first person I thought of. The only person I really wanted to see when I was feeling miserable like that, you know?” She looked at Audrey with a half smile. “And I was pouring my heart out to him on the ride home, crying about how I have no luck with boys and he was trying to cheer me up and at one point he gave me this look...” Joey’s voice softened and she narrowed her eyes as if she was still, after all this time, trying to decipher its meaning. “For a brief second there it was as if there was something between us, something more than him just being my friend or a shoulder to cry on. But then it was gone, and he just went back to reassuring me that I find someone someday.”
Joey exhaled loudly, looking out the window and pausing before she continued. “I was going through a bad time for the next few weeks after that, feeling sorry for myself. But, at the same time, I kept thinking of Pacey, of that look he gave me, and then I started wondering if maybe he was thinking of me, too. There were a few other things that he had said and done that I kept going over and over in my mind. I finally decided to go see him one night, to maybe try and figure it out, if there was really something happening between us, but I chickened out at the last minute and ended up…” Joey’s voice trailed off as she looked down and frowned.
“Ended up what?” Audrey prodded her.
“Ended up going to see Dawson instead.” Joey glanced up, her face blank. She shrugged her shoulders as she looked out the window, her voice changing. “Dawson had always been right there and we had never really had a fair chance, you know? There was no…” Her voice drifted off again.
“No what?” Audrey asked.
“No fear of the unknown there, I guess.” Joey replied wistfully. “I knew Dawson was interested in a relationship with me again and it seemed like it…it was our time.”
“I think I understand.” Audrey nodded, watching her. She looked back to her toes before glancing over her shoulder again at Joey, who was staring miserably at the floor now. “Why didn’t you go see Pacey that night, do you think?” She asked gently.
“I don’t know. A hundred different reasons, no reason at all.” Joey shrugged her shoulders with a sad smirk. “I started wondering if I imagined the whole thing…he was giving me the attention I wasn’t getting elsewhere and that maybe I was projecting these feelings on to him when all he was doing was being a good friend, and how humiliating it would be to put him on the spot like that. I guess I just got scared. What does any of it matter now, though, right?” Joey jumped up from the bed, walking over to her desk as she quickly swiped at her eye. “What’s done is done.” She sighed heavily as she sat down and flipped open a book. She looked down to read, staring blankly at the blurred and cloudy words on the page in front of her. “And this thing with Pacey and I, whatever it was…it’s done”
Jack and Pacey walked onto the subway car, dropping down into the first two available seats as the doors closed and the train lurched forward.
“Wait, what did you say Drue was doing tonight?” Pacey looked over at Jack. “Did you really say he was going out with Audrey, or did I imagine that?”
“That’s what I said.” Jack laughed. “Scary, but true. He even called Jen while I was over at her house yesterday to tell her. You know, to let her down gently over the fact she had been replaced as the object of his affections.”
Pacey chuckled. “And how did she take the news?”
“You mean after she stopped laughing?” Jack replied with a grin. “So, anyway, this guy Eric, the one whose frat is having this party?” Jack continued the story he had begun to tell Pacey when they were waiting on the T platform. “I gotta tell ya, I’m starting to get the impression he wants to come out to me or something. Ever since I told him I was gay, he’s been saying all these weird, cryptic things to me.”
“What do you mean?” Pacey raised an eyebrow as he leaned his head back against the window behind him. “Like he’s hitting on you?”
“Nah. Not really like that.” Jack shook his head. “I think he just wants someone to talk to. I can kind of recognize that desperate look in his eyes, you know? If I’m right about him, I know exactly what he must be going through right now and I wish I could help the guy somehow.” He glanced at Pacey, watching him for a moment. “It sucks to keep something like that inside, to walk around every single day having to hide your feelings. It starts to eat away at a person.”
Pacey looked over at Jack, seeing the question on his face, and shook his head with a small smirk as he looked away again. “Have you been talking to your sister, McPhee?”
Jack dropped his head with a quiet laugh. “You know what a big mouth she has, Pace.”
Pacey smiled, shaking his head again, but was silent as he watched the lights of the city pass by outside as the train clattered down the street.
“Can I ask how long?” Jack asked quietly after a while.
“Have I been in love with Joey?” Pacey replied nonchalantly with a sigh, finally able to say the words. Now that it didn’t matter anymore. “I don’t really know, to tell you the truth.”
“Well, are we talking months, years?” Jack looked over at him, raising his eyebrows when he saw Pacey’s reaction. “Damn. I’m sorry, buddy.” He said softly as he shook his head.
“Why are you sorry?” Pacey almost chuckled. “Because you know I never had a chance in hell?”
Jack shook his head again. “You and I both know that’s not true, Pacey. Joey would have never…you know, if she didn’t…she’s not the type to just…” He frowned, struggling to find the right thing to say.
“I wouldn’t be too sure about that, Jack.” Pacey shrugged, patting him on the shoulder.
Jack looked over at him again. “I always kind of figured you and Dawson drifted apart over these last couple of years because you didn’t have anything in common anymore.”
Pacey had to laugh at this as the train slowed to a stop and they stood up to exit. “How wrong you were, huh?”
”So you have a place in the Back Bay?” The girl smiled at him, raising her voice to speak over the music as she leaned into him to let people pass behind her in the crowded room. “That’s a nice neighborhood.”
“Yeah. It’s not too bad.” Pacey agreed, glancing around the party as he finished off the last of his beer. “It’s really my roommates place, though.”
“How many roommates did you say you had again?” She asked, looking up at him over her drink. Pacey noticed for the first time that she had pretty green eyes, shining up at him through her dark lashes. The rest of her wasn’t half bad, either. He’d noticed that a lot earlier, of course.
”Two.” Pacey smiled at her, letting his eyes drift over her. “I like this.” He said, reaching up to finger the small sunburst charm on the thin rope necklace she wore, letting his knuckles brush against the skin exposed by the plunging neckline of her tight tee shirt. What the hell, he thought. It was an old move, but under the circumstances he felt like something was expected of him at this point, and it was the best he could come up with after working over 65 hours that week.
She looked down at his hand and then smiled up at him. “I like you.” She lowered her voice to a purr.
Pacey almost raised his eyebrows in surprise. He hadn’t expected it to be quite that easy, but whatever.
“Do you need another drink?” He lowered his voice as well, releasing the charm and tracing his finger along her collarbone. She had some sort of distracting sparkly, glittery thing going on with her skin every time the light hit it a certain way and Pacey discreetly glanced at the pad of his finger to see if it was powder or something else that could rub off.
“Well, what do you have to drink a your place?” She smiled, reaching up to slowly tuck a stray wisp of her light brown hair behind her ear.
Pacey suddenly felt a tightening in his chest as his eyes followed that simple movement of her hand, his mouth falling open slightly.
“What’s the matter?” Her voice brought him back and he saw the concerned frown on her face.
“Um, ah…” Pacey shook his head as he took a step back. “Sorry. I just remembered I have to…um, get going now, but maybe I’ll see you around.” He finished helplessly.
“Okay?” She replied hesitantly, looking at him in confusion.
Pacey gave her a half smile before turning to maneuver his way through the room. He found Jack in the kitchen, motioning to him over the crowd to indicate that he was leaving before he continued on his way to the front door, slowly exhaling as he finally stepped outside.
Pacey groaned, hearing the all too familiar voice calling out to him from behind, the steps of the brownstone visible to him in the distance. “So close…” He muttered to himself before turning around to see Drue and Audrey approaching him on the sidewalk.
“Hey. What’s going on?” He greeted them in a tired voice.
“I thought you were headed out to some Boston Bay party with Jack tonight?” Drue looked at him quizzically.
“Yeah. I went for a while. But I’m beat now, so I’m just going to head home and crash.” Pacey shrugged, starting to turn away.
“Home?” Drue repeated incredulously. “It’s not even eleven o’clock. You’re not going anywhere, my friend.”
“The boy said he’s tired, Drue.” Audrey spoke up now. “Let him go home.”
“Aww, he doesn’t really want to go home, snookums.” Drue shook his head at her, smiling sweetly, before turning back to Pacey. “We’re headed to a party right around the corner. Come on. It’s your first night off in two weeks. You’re coming with us.”
“Nah. Thanks anyway.” Pacey gave them a wave as he headed towards the brownstone.
“See, he doesn’t want to.” Audrey spoke through gritted teeth to Drue, calling after Pacey’s retreating form. “It’s not someplace you would want to be anyway, Pacey.”
Pacey slowed to stop.
“Uh-oh. Now you’ve done it.” Drue whispered under his breath to Audrey with a knowing smile.
“What do you mean by that?” Pacey turned to face them, lowering his head to stare at Audrey as his eyes grew dark and stormy.
“Um…” She hesitated, swallowing nervously. “I just meant that it’s probably not your kind of party.” She replied helplessly.
Pacey took a few steps towards her. “And how would you know what my kind of party is?” His voice lowered dangerously.
“Well, she obviously doesn’t know.” Drue cut in with a grin. “Because I think this is exactly your kind of party, Witter.”
“Yeah...” Pacey nodded as he spoke slowly, watching Audrey squirm under his gaze. “I’m starting to get that feeling.”
“So let’s go.” Drue smiled, patting him on the back and turning Pacey to walk him in the opposite direction. He glanced over his shoulder at Audrey. “Coming, beautiful?”
Audrey rolled her eyes as she fell in step behind them. “Joey is going to kill me.” She whined to herself, shaking her head sadly.
Drue lined the shot glasses up in front of them again, glancing through the assortment of bottles on the table and then at Pacey and Audrey. “What’ll be this time, kids?”
“I’m out this round.” Pacey shook his head, taking a long swig of his beer and glancing around the crowded apartment. The front door was open, the partygoers spilling out into the hallway. He had been watching the people filing in and out of the place for the past half hour.
When she finally walked in the door it was almost as if he knew she would be the next person to cross the threshold. He watched the guy trail in behind her, laughing with someone he had passed in the hall. He came up to rest his hands on her shoulders from behind as if he was going to take her coat. Joey turned to glance at him with a half smile and shook her head, pulling her coat a little tighter around herself, just as Pacey knew she would. He then leaned in to whisper something in her ear and Joey gave him another small smile, casting her eyes to the floor as he kissed her on the cheek. Pacey felt his grip involuntarily tighten around the beer bottle in his hand as he watched her face carefully. The guy moved away then, disappearing into the crowd behind her, and Joey’s gaze traveled slowly around the room from where she now stood alone.
She whipped around to face him, her eyes widening in surprise. “What…what are you doing here?” She stammered softly, holding his gaze for a moment before she dropped her head to look at the floor.
Pacey shrugged. “Drue.” He explained simply. “I’m actually headed home now. I just figured I’d say hi on my way out.”
“Oh.” Joey nodded, frowning briefly as she looked at the ground. She took a deep breath and raised her head but didn’t meet his eyes. “Hi.” She shrugged.
“By the way, Audrey’s over there with Drue, so you won’t have to walk home alone.”
“I, um…actually came here with Kyle.” Joey admitted quietly, looking back to the ground.
“Yeah. I know.” Pacey nodded with a half smile. “But you won’t be going home with him. See ya, Jo.” He turned and walked out the door.
He had only made it to the sidewalk outside the building before the door flew open behind him and he heard her voice.
“How dare you? When did you suddenly become so arrogant?” She fumed from the top of the stairs. “What makes you think that you have any right to say something like that to me? How do you know I won’t be going home with him?”
Pacey smiled to himself before turning around to face her with an innocent look. “Well, I didn’t really know. Until now.” His eyes drifted over her face from where he stood on the sidewalk. “But I’m right, aren’t I, Jo?”
Joey narrowed her eyes at him, placing her hands firmly on her hips. “Again, how do you know?” She seethed, drawing out each word through gritted teeth.
Pacey dropped his head, stuffing his hands in his pants pockets as he slowly climbed the stairs of the building, stopping when he had reached the step below her so they were almost at eye level. He held her gaze a moment before reaching his hand up to finger a strand of her long hair, tugging at it gently before brushing it back over her shoulder. He sensed, rather than felt her whole body tremble at the contact, her breath catching in her throat with a soft hiccup sound.
“Do you remember the night during that heat wave this summer when we snuck into the pool at the Yacht Club?” He whispered slowly in a deep and husky voice, his gaze traveling over the strand of hair gliding through his fingers.
“We wanted to go for a quick swim, but you didn’t have your bathing suit because you had just gotten off work. You jumped in anyway in your underwear and that sheer lace bra you have. You know, the one with the little bow right here.” He grazed his finger over the button on her coat between her breasts before lowering his voice even more. “And how once I saw you in that, all wet in the moonlight, I couldn’t stop touching you. I pushed you up against the cement wall of the pool, in the water, near the diving board. I was kissing you and all I could think about was being inside you.” He leaned into her, breathing in the scent of her hair, his lips brushing against her ear. “And finally…I was. But then the lights came on by the gate and someone was there. Do you remember that?” He asked her softly. Joey’s lips parted slightly but no words came out.
“We were hidden in the shadow of the diving board so they couldn’t see us, but we had to be as quiet as possible and we couldn’t move.” Pacey glided his lips down her neck and back up to her ear, barely making contact with her skin, the nerve endings tingling in his wake. “I was still inside you, looking in your eyes, but I couldn’t move.” He sighed softly and closed his eyes, pausing briefly. “Do you remember what happened then?” He slowly pulled back to look at her face, focusing his gaze on her lips. “When I had to cover your mouth with mine so they wouldn’t hear you?”
Joey’s breathing was ragged, her face flushed, as she stared back at him and nodded silently, her eyes dark and wild. Her head tilted back almost imperceptibly as he moved in a fraction of an inch closer towards her mouth.
He looked at her a long while, his intent blue eyes taking her in as if he were memorizing her face. “That’s how I know, Jo.” He whispered, his words dancing over her lips, before he turned away to walk down the stairs, disappearing down the sidewalk.
Joey was still standing there several minutes later when Audrey pushed through the door behind her. “Here you are! Kyle has been looking everywhere for you up there.” She saw Joey’s face and cringed. “Oh no. Did you see Pacey? Did you guys have a fight or something?”
Joey shook her head slowly, raising a trembling hand to tuck a piece of hair behind her ear. “No.” She replied in a shaky voice, turning back towards the party.
“Well, are you okay?” Audrey held the door open for her.
“Yeah.” Joey nodded, following her in. “When are you guys leaving?”
Audrey turned and shrugged. “Probably soon. Why?”
Joey dropped her head. “I’ll walk home with you.”
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