Pacey never realized so many bugs could exist in one place at one time or that he would be so damn popular with them. They were docked in North Carolina and he was facing the second greatest challenge of the summer after the storm – the mosquitos of the Southern United States.
“Ow!” he exclaimed while slapping another one away from his neck. “How can they even be down by the docks? I mean, its not like this is the swamp or something where they belong – it’s the freakin’ ocean!!”
Joey looked over at him and rolled her eyes: “I told you, you need bug repellant.”
“No. It smells funny” he swatted at another one buzzing around his head. “Besides you didn’t use any and they haven’t bothered you at all” he looked enviously over her smooth skin, unblemished by any red itching welts.
“I think its my lotion – they must not like the smell because I never get bothered.”
“I like the way it smells” he winked at her.
“Yeah but lucky for me you don’t leave big red visible marks on my skin to show your appreciation.”
“No but I could…if you’d like” he smiled at her mischievously.
“I think not.” She grinned back at him, “I like my skin just the way it is thank you.”
“So do I - OW! Dammit they are eating me alive!!”
“Okay that’s it. Time to take matters into my own hands.” Joey stepped over to the counter where Pacey stood and started rummaging around the cabinets behind him.
“Oh Doctor Potter I like the sound of that!” he gave her his slow sexy grin and nudged her as she stretched up to look behind him.
“Yeah well unfortunately for you I don’t think you are going to enjoy it much.” She found what she was looking for and pulled out a small case, opening it to poke around. “Ah here we are…” she lifted a bottle out and thrust it towards Pacey.
“Oh no Jo – no, not that nasty pink stuff, nuh uh”. Pacey tried sliding away from her but she caught him and held tight.
“You don’t want repellant, you don’t want calamine, do you just want to whine about it and drive me crazy instead?”
“It's just…it's gross Joey.”
“Well so is the sight of a semi-mature boy moaning and scratching at himself all the time.” She started opening the bottle and pulling out cotton balls.
“When you put it that way…” he relented. He did want the irritation to stop and even he was getting sick of his own complaining. Plus he really couldn’t deny her anything, if she wanted to cover him in sticky pink liquid that smelled awful he would just have to endure it.
“Take your shirt off Pacey – and I don’t mean that in any sexual way whatsoever”
He reached over his shoulder to his back and started pulling his t-shirt up over his head per her request. “I love when you order me around Josephine!”
She sighed loudly and with fake irritation, “it's always sexual with you isn’t it?”
He chuckled as he tossed his shirt over on the seat and resumed his position leaning against the counter. Joey stepped in front of him with wet pink cotton balls at the ready.
“Oh Pacey…” she murmured as she saw how bad the damage really was. They had bitten through his shirt and he had little marks on his chest and stomach as well as all over the rest of his skin that had been exposed. “I didn’t know it was so bad.”
She started dabbing lightly on his shoulders and he stood quietly watching her. He started feeling relief immediately. After a few minutes he admitted: “OK maybe this stuff isn’t so bad.” She smiled and gently pushed his face to the side so she could reach his neck. “The smell though…talk about a nostalgic odor.”
“Are you thinking of summer evenings on the Leery porch?” she inquired.
“Indeed I am. You me and Dawson sitting on the porch eating ice cream and waiting for our moms to get us after a hard day of swimming, running, and playing on the Creek”
“And tormenting me.” She added lifting his chin now so she could get at the marks along his throat.
“Why Joey I don’t know what you are talking about!” he feigned indignance, “I never tormented you! I was a perfect little gentleman – always”
“Ha!!” She pulled his chin down so she could look him right in the eye, “Pacey Witter you made it your duty to harass me every day of our young little lives – chasing me, pulling my hair, tickling me, splashing me - I mean, you never gave me a break – and then you’d get Dawson to start in with you!”
“Did you ever think I did all that stupid stuff because I liked you?” his eyebrows raised as he looked down at her.
She watched him for a moment, suddenly embarassed by the notion that he could have been interested in her as far back as their childhood. “You did not like me Pacey! You just liked making me miserable.”
“If you say so” he gave her a knowing grin and laughed out loud as she blushed, moving his chin to the other side now with more force than before. “Anyway at the end of the day this is what we all smelled like – this pink stuff.”
“I remember your mom picking you up and dabbing you with it while you made gagging noises” she remarked.
“You lie woman! That was Dawson! I do however remember Mitch treating our daily battle scars with a variety of concoctions from the Leery Medicine Cabinet.”
“That’s right! Mitch was always with us at the end of the day while Gail did the news! I’d forgotten how much he had to put up with from us.” She smiled remembering how patiently Mitch had dealt with their three little squirming bodies as they protested his attempts at healing them. She also remembered something else from that time…a memory of her mother:
“When my mom would get there she would always give me a huge hug and let me hop into the car – she didn’t care if I got calamine lotion or sunscreen on the seats. She would just laugh at what a mess I was – her baby girl who looked like some sort of street urchin.” She swallowed hard, remembering her mother always made her throat tighten – she thought it probably always would be like that.
Pacey watched her as she shook off the sadness and reached for another cotton ball. It pained him to see the look in her eyes when she recalled her mother. He could perfectly see the scene she was describing – Mrs. Potter affectionately mussing their hair and sweeping Joey up in her arms, Joey bounding away towards the car with her pigtails bouncing, frequently turning around to stick her tongue out at him one last time.
“You’re a lot like her.” He murmured. She stopped and looked up at him:
“Really? You remember her?”
“Sure, you look very similar, your mom had long dark hair like this” he reached out and played with the hair that lay against her shoulders. “And she had a way of making everyone who was graced with her presence feel special, feel like they mattered.”
She looked at him and felt so grateful that she had him in her life, “thank you” she whispered.
“And you’re pretty good at this mom-type
thing right here, doing the whole
She giggled as she dabbed at the bites near his waist. Looking up at him through her eyelashes she said “Nice try Pacey – but I am not going to kiss every single one of these to make them better!”
“Damn!” he chuckled, “I gotta think of some better come-ons!”
“Anyway, I like being the one to do this for a change.”
“Do what?” he asked.
“Take care of you.” She reached the end of his arm and picked his hand up in hers. “It seems like you are always the one taking care of me,” she turned his palm up open to her fingers and softly kneaded along the flesh of his hand. “I mean you’re the one who comes after me when I’ve completely humiliated myself and holds me until I feel better. And you’re the one who tirelessly works to keep my family’s business functioning in the face of overwhelming failure.”
He watched her as she moved along his hand and her voice whispered over his ears. All the things he had done for her and now he knew that she realized them. She understood why he had done them and more than that she appreciated them – she appreciated him.
“It's you who rescues me from ill-conceived long-distance romantic entanglements in the middle of the night and patiently teaches me to drive stick shift.” She looked up at him then and met his eyes, “you’re always so busy taking care of me that sometimes I think you forget to care for yourself.”
He smiled at her, a smile of gratitude, and love, and even a little bit of surprise at her revelation. “You’re doing a pretty good job of that right now Jo” he murmured.
“Good. I want you to know you can depend on me Pacey. I am perfectly clear that I have not given you any reason to do that in the past, but things are different now. Now we’re together and I want you to be able to tell me when you’re scared, or let me know why you’re angry, or just – you can tell me anything and I promise from now on I’ll be there for you. It’s the least I can do for all that you’ve given me.”
Pacey took a deep breath and marveled at the wonder that was Joey Potter. He didn’t think he could love her anymore than he already did but then she kept doing things that made him realize his feelings could definitely grow stronger.
“What?” she asked shyly as she felt the intensity of his gaze.
“You’re just saying that because I made your bug bites stop itching!”
He grabbed for her waist to tickle her and was surprised when she giggled and threw her arms up around his neck, pressing herself against him and kissing him. He flinched slightly and tried to move her: “you’re gonna get stuff all over yourself Jo!”
She looked down at her shirt and already noted some sticky pink marks. She shrugged and leaned back into him. “I don’t care, I want to kiss you” and she lay her lips back against his.
He didn’t argue again, he knew Joey was stubborn when it came to getting what she wanted. And like her mother she didn’t care if the person she loved made a mess, as long as they knew that they were loved back.
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The Motel | Bug Bites