Breathing Room
by DeepBlueSea

“Hold on…” Pacey muttered to himself as he rubbed a towel over his head and then threw it back over his shoulder into the bathroom. He started down the hall towards the front door of his apartment, pulling a tee shirt over his head. Throwing open the door, he hesitated a moment before speaking.

“Hey…Jo.” He greeted her with a small, surprised smile.

“Hey.” She smiled back, fidgeting slightly where she stood with her hands in her jeans pockets. Noticing his damp hair, she frowned. “Oh. I’m sorry. Did I catch you at a bad time? Are you on your way out?”

“No, no. C’mon in.” Pacey quickly assured her, stepping aside to let her pass. He started back down the hall towards the kitchen, motioning for her to follow him. “I actually just got out of bed. Had kind of a late one last night.” He admitted sheepishly.

“Oh.” Joey said quietly, looking down and nervously tucking her hair behind her ear.

Catching the tone of her voice, Pacey turned to her with an amused grin and a raised eyebrow. Seeing that she was still looking at the floor, he took the opportunity to let his eyes linger on her. “Ah…yeah. Brecher made me stay with him to have a drink last night after the restaurant closed. He ended up finishing off some expensive bottle of Scotch a customer gave him as a gift, and I ended up having to practically carry him home. His wife was none too pleased, to say the least.” Pacey chuckled, his voice still a little hoarse from lack of sleep. “And I didn’t end up getting back here until after 4:00.”

“Oh.” Joey repeated, this time a little more cheerfully, raising her head to meet his eyes and smile at him.

Pacey grinned. “So, it’s not every day a beautiful college co-ed just shows up unannounced on my doorstep. To what do I owe the pleasure, Josephine?”

She just rolled her eyes and smiled at his familiar charm. “I guess I just want to stop by and say hello. I haven’t seen you in a while, since…um, you know.” She shrugged.

Pacey nodded, glancing down. “Yeah, I thought I should probably just lay low for a while. I figured that Audrey doesn’t want to have to deal with me right now.”

Joey nodded as well. “Yeah. I understand.”

Pacey looked at her and seemed to be about to say something, but then changed his mind. “So…how is Audrey? Has my name been thoroughly dragged through the mud, or is she at the point yet where she is just glad to be rid of me?” He opened the refrigerator and pulled out a bottle of water, holding it up to her with a questioning glance.

“No, thanks.” Joey shook her head. “And Audrey is okay. You know her – she bounces right back. And, actually…we kind of made a pact not to discuss you way back when you two first started dating – kind of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy.” She turned and walked over one of the big windows that looked out over the street below.

“Really…?” Pacey responded in a surprised voice. He took a long swig from his water bottle as he considered this. “I guess I was all paranoid for no reason then.” He chuckled. “I was picturing these late-night-dorm-room-girl-talks, kind of a ‘Felicity’ meets Penthouse Forum thing going on there.”

Joey couldn’t help but giggle at this as she looked back over her shoulder at him. “You are so twisted.” She wrinkled her nose in mock-disgust. He laughed and turned back to survey the contents of his refrigerator. Joey watched him.

“So…what exactly did happen there? I mean - if you don’t mind me asking.”

Pacey raised his eyebrows and chuckled again. “No, I don’t mind. But I don’t really know the answer to that one either. Maybe we were too much alike? Or maybe we were too different?” He shrugged. “You know that ying and yang thing people talk about? Yeah – we didn’t have that. Then, of course, you factor in dating someone you work with…I think that there was a little too much togetherness for us.” He motioned around the small apartment with the water bottle he still held in his hand. “Being in cramped quarters with someone 24/7 can wreak havoc on a relationship.”

Joey nodded, smiling as she met his eyes. “Yeah, I’ve heard that can be a bad thing.” He held her gaze for a moment, his blue eyes shining warmly.

“Not always, though.” He finally said with a small smile.

“No. Not always.” She agreed.

Breaking the little spell, Pacey turned away, clearing his throat. “So how is our friend Dawson? How is film school treating him this year?”

“Um…not so great.” Joey sighed, turning from the window to walk to the other side of the room. “He is actually thinking of going back to LA next semester.” Joey seemed to hesitate. “He has already made his plans to transfer.”

Pacey looked down quickly, slightly embarrassed. “Actually…I think I may have already heard something about that from Jack.” He admitted, raising his eyes slowly to meet hers. “But I think the version of the story I heard was that you were thinking of going with him.”

“Thinking about it…hmmm.” Joey replied in a noncommittal voice as she looked out the window. She brought her eyes back to him. “Going…no.” She said more definitely. “Dawson and I…well, let’s just say we finally got that ever-elusive ‘chance’ and now we know. It’s not going to happen for us.”

Pacey bit his lower lip as he considered this, but his face remained expressionless. “Do you want to talk about it?” He finally said in a small voice.

Joey tilted her head with a thoughtful look and then smirked a little and shook her long hair. “No. Not really.” She shrugged with a little laugh.

Pacey started back into the kitchen, glancing over his shoulder towards her as he spoke. “You know…when I broke up with Audrey, we had like ten different business functions and dinner parties going on at the restaurant that week. I was working double shifts and things were so crazy there that I didn’t even have time to think. But I kept imagining that when I got back here – to the apartment, alone – it would all eventually sink in and I’d start to feel the guilt or sadness or regret or whatever it is you are supposed to feel when you end things with someone.” He tossed his water bottle out and began straightening up the mail that had accumulated on his counter. “And, you know, I did feel guilty. But I felt guilty because I got back here and felt like it was the first time I could breathe in a long time.” He chuckled a little. “I felt bad because I felt good.” He was quiet then, still shuffling through his unopened mail. “But I guess that is how you know you did the right thing.”

Joey watched him for a moment, and then spoke so softly that he almost didn’t hear her. “I kind of feel like that...”

Pacey lifted his head to look at her, raising an eyebrow. “Like what?”

“Like I can finally breathe.”

Pacey looked back down at the mail in his hand, only nodding in response with just a hint of a smile.

“So…I kind of have another reason for stopping by today, Pace.”

“Oh yeah? What’s that?” He tossed the mail aside, hopping up to sit on the counter and give her his undivided attention.

“What are your plans for Thanksgiving? Are you going to Capeside at all?”

“Actually, I think I am. I worked it last year so I guess that means I get to have the day off this year. I think I’m heading down after my shift ends on Wednesday.”

“Do you think I could get a ride with you?” Joey raised her voice hopefully.

“Is that all I am to you, Potter? Just the guy you call when you need a ride?” He asked in mock-indignation, shaking his head sadly.

“Yeah, well, that and a few other things.” Joey smiled.

“Such as…?” Pacey drew out the words with obvious interest.

Joey sighed. “The list is far too long and too varied to even begin now, Pace. And I have to be getting back to campus for class, so…” Joey motioned towards the door, raising her eyebrows expectantly.

“Well, just wait a minute. What’s in it for me?” Pacey continued to tease her.

Joey bit her bottom lip, glancing at the floor as if she were considering this. She suddenly raised her head to look at him and her face lit up. “How about an invitation to join us for dessert at the B&B? Bodie is making three different kinds of pie.”

“Sold!” Pacey raised an arm triumphantly in the air as he jumped off the counter.

Joey laughed, shaking her head as they made their way back down the hall to the front door. Pacey reached over her from behind to open it, his arm just brushing against the long silky strands of her hair that hung over her shoulders. He leaned on the doorknob an extra moment, just briefly closing his eyes as he caught a hint of the fruity aroma of the shampoo she always used.

“Well, I guess I’ll just talk to you later.” Joey’s voice trembled slightly as she spoke. She turned to face him and was surprised to find him still so close. “Thanks again.” Her words almost came out as a whisper, as she tried not to focus on his lips just inches away from hers.

Pacey just grinned, letting his gaze sweep slowly over her face. “Anytime, Potter.” He replied in a low, husky voice that rumbled through her.

Joey swallowed, stepping through the doorway, barely able to speak now. “Okay. See you on Wednesday.” She managed to get out with a little wave.

“Yep. See you then.” Pacey closed the door slowly. Standing there, alone again in his apartment, he leaned his hand flat against the door and smiled thoughtfully to himself. Outside in the hall, Joey turned back to the closed door behind her. Raising her hand and laying her fingers against the wood panel, she smiled as well.


Send feedback to DeepBlueSea

More Fanfic