Joey didn’t know exactly how long she had been hiding out in Jen’s bathroom, but she still wasn’t ready to return to the table. Quietly undoing the latch, she made her way down the hall to the back door that led to the deck overlooking Doug and Jen’s backyard. She stepped out into the darkness, sliding the door closed behind her when a flash of light to her left caught her eye. Looking over, she saw Sarah leaning against the railing with a cigarette in her hand.
“Great.” Joey sighed to herself. But, feeling like it would be some sort of concession on her part to go back into the house now, she slowly made her way to the other side of the deck, glancing warily at Sarah.
“What?” Sarah asked quietly, somewhat amused, as she blew a thin line of smoke out of the corner of her mouth. “Are you surprised that Pacey would be with someone who smokes?” Her voice became softer now. “Or are you just still surprised that Pacey would be with someone who isn’t you?”
Joey cast her a slightly scornful look. “I just thought you were supposed to be so into physical fitness…” She shrugged, turning away to lean on the wooden rail.
“Yeah, well we all have our little inconsistencies...” Sarah drawled, looking away and then back at Joey. “Our little secrets.”
Joey said nothing for a moment, just stared out into the darkness. “Why didn’t you tell Pacey we already met?” She asked finally.
“Why didn’t you?” Sarah asked pointedly. When Joey didn’t respond, she sighed a little and flicked the ash of the end of her cigarette. “I felt that it wasn’t my place to do so.” She shrugged.
They stood there again in silence until Sarah stamped out the last of her butt, blowing out a final puff of smoke. “Pacey isn’t exactly my boyfriend, you know. Maybe once upon a time he could have been…but certainly not in the here and now.” She started in towards the house.
“Why tell me that?” Joey asked, glancing at her over her shoulder.
Sarah stopped, considering this. “I don’t really know.” She looked at Joey now, her expression changing. “I guess I just wanted you to know that for his sake.” She shrugged again and disappeared into the house.
After a few more minutes Joey decided that she could no longer put off the inevitable, and she turned to head back inside. At that moment the door opened and Pacey stepped out, his head low and his blue eyes regarding her somberly. As he was now blocking her way into the house, she abruptly turned and started down the deck stairs that led into the yard.
“Joey…hold on a minute.” Pacey sighed, following her. “Look – I’m sorry that I crossed the line, but you have to admit that you were the one who started things in there.” They were crossing the yard now towards the garden and the potting shed, Joey with her arms crossed picking up speed to get away from him. “I mean – were you really just giving me shit about Audrey?” Pacey shook his head angrily. “Now? Almost 7 years after the fact?” Joey still said nothing and Pacey raised his voice a little more. “And who the hell is this guy, anyway?”
“A friend.” Joey snapped, still not turning to face him.
“Since when?” Pacey asked, his voice cracking as he raised it another notch. “And what about Dawson?”
“What about Dawson?” She spat back, twirling around to face him now. “God, Pacey.” She ran her hands through her hair in exasperation. “He asked me to marry him and I said no. How much more final do things have to be before you will believe me?”
“Believe you about what?” Pacey asked, staring at her blankly. Then, with a bitter chuckle, “That this isn’t just the second act in the great epic drama of Dawson and Joey?”
Joey just bit her lip, shaking her head. “If that’s what you really believe, Pacey – then what the hell was the other day all about?” She was quieter now, but her voice was still shaking in anger.
“Maybe that’s what I should be asking you.” Pacey was staring her down now, a slow burn beginning to flicker in his eyes.
“Asking me?” Joey laughed harshly, meeting his stare. “You were the one who was about to kiss me.”
Pacey’s eyes grew dark and dangerous as he bowed his head, his voice low and husky. “You and I both know that I was going to do a hell of a lot more than kiss you, Potter.”
Joey’s eyes widened, her cheeks turning scarlet as she instinctively raised her hand to hit him. Pacey grabbed her wrist with one hand, wrapping his other arm around her waist, and in one swift movement he lifted her and pressed her up hard against the potting shed wall behind her. Suddenly his mouth was on hers, his tongue plunging into her mouth, and it was all she could do to hold on and kiss him back. Their tongues thrust against each other at first as if they were continuing the battle, but then the kiss gradually slowed and deepened. Pacey released his hold on her wrist, running his hand up to intertwine his fingers with hers, still pinning her arm against the wall above her head. Slowly he eased up on the pressure, letting go of her and bringing his hand to her face as she wrapped her arm around his neck, her hand running up into his hair. He softened the kiss even more, gliding his fingers tenderly along her cheek, his tongue gently probing as he sighed into her mouth. He pulled away for a brief second, just brushing his thumb over her bottom lip as he still held her face, staring down at her as if he couldn’t believe she was right there in front of him. They continued to kiss and touch, their lips and their hands searching out all the places they remembered and missed while discovering the feel of each other again as if for the first time.
“No. Stop.” Joey placed her hands flat against Pacey’s chest, pushing him away. They stood there staring at each other, both out of breath and a little shell-shocked.
“I can’t do this Pacey.” Joey began, her voice catching in her throat. “I just spent the last 6 years of my life missing you and regretting losing you so much that I couldn’t even breathe sometimes.” The tears started to form in the corners of her eyes. “I kept telling myself to just get over it – because you obviously had a long time ago – and that I could be happy with Dawson if I just gave it a chance, because there used to be a time when he could have made me happy. I tried so hard to forget you, Pacey” She looked up at him tearfully. “To forget that I loved you.” Pacey just looked at her and couldn’t say anything.
“And it was working, too – until Dawson asked me to marry him and I just couldn’t say yes.” She continued, looking down at the ground now. “And I had to realize that I couldn’t say yes because I am not in love with him – I never have been. I’ve been in love with you for so long, Pacey, that I don’t know how to love anyone else.” The tears were just streaming down her face now.
Pacey reached out for her, “Jo…”
“No.” She pulled her arm away, shaking now with tears, but spoke with a bitter laugh. “And, you know, I actually was starting to think that I could have a second chance with you? I came over to your house that morning to talk to you.”
“What morning…?” Pacey asked softly, confused.
“Let’s just say that this isn’t exactly the first time I met Sarah.” Joey sniffed.
Pacey’s confused look change to one of recognition. “Oh. Fuck.” He muttered, dropping his head and running his hands through his hair.
“Yeah.” Joey sniffed again, looking away. “And I know that you do not owe me any explanations, Pacey. But it just kind of proved to me what I already knew. That you are never going to love me like that again.”
Pacey looked back up at her, his expression pained. “Joey, I…”
But she continued on as if she had not heard him. “Do you know what Dawson did when I started painting last year and told him I’d really like to see if I could do something with my art?” She looked at him and Pacey just shook his head slowly. “He laughed.” Joey laughed bitterly as she drew out the words. “He laughed at me.” Her voice grew softer now, her eyes cast to the ground. “But not you, Pacey.” She looked away again, the tears continuing to fall. “I know that I had things great and wonderful and perfect once and I blew it – I know it was my fault Pacey and I have lived with that for a long time. I hurt you over and over again and fulfilled your every lowest expectation of me.” She looked at him, her gray eyes wide and sorrowful. “I can’t blame you for wanting to be with someone else – anyone else but me.”
“Joey.” Pacey began, reaching for her again. “You have to let me try to explain here…”
Joey just shrugged him off again. “Our actions speak louder than our words Pacey, and I’m tired of talking right now.” She gave him an even stare. “I just spent the last 6 years of my life with someone out of guilt – I’ll be damned if I’m going to do the same thing to someone else.”
“Jo..Joey, please.” Pacey tried to stop her but she pushed him off, running back towards the house. Pacey groaned in frustration, turning and connecting his fist solidly with the side of the shed.
Pacey sighed heavily as he came into the kitchen, slowly turning and closing the door behind him. Doug was standing at the kitchen sink, rinsing off dishes.
“Where is everyone?” Pacey said, glancing into the dining room.
“Well, Jack just left to give Joey a ride home, and I think that guy Brian gave Sarah a ride home a while ago.”
“Oh.” Pacey said with no emotion, raising an eyebrow. He looked around sadly. “Where’s Jen?”
“She went upstairs with a bottle of wine under her arm and said something about taking a hot bath.” Doug chuckled softly, shaking his head as he continued with the dishes. Pacey didn’t say anything and Doug looked over at him to see him just standing there biting his lip and looking at the floor.
“I know I’m no Jen, but will I do?” Doug said softly, giving him a little smirk.
“Huh?” Pacey looked up.
“Do you want to talk about it?” Doug asked kindly.
Pacey shrugged, looking at the floor. “I don’t really have anything to say.”
Doug considered this, glancing at the dishes in front of him and then back to Pacey. “Well – tell me this. Are they still there?”
Pacey looked up again, confused. “Are what still there?”
Doug smirked. “The butterflies, little brother.”
A look of understanding crossed Pacey’s face and he looked back at the floor with a little smile. “Like you read about.” He whispered, nodding his head.
“Then you know what my advice is, then.” Doug shrugged, turning back to the sink and wetting a dishrag as he tossed it Pacey. “And – here - take that for your hand.”
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