Love and other catastrophes
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Three: Vertigo

The surgical waiting room was just like that of the emergency room, bleak and inhospitable. Pacey walked from one side of the small room to the other like a caged animal, much to the annoyance of the other couple seated there. They were anxious enough for their daughter who was on the operating table, and watching the distraught young man pacing the floor didn’t help matters. Eventually Pacey caught their looks of disapproval and he walked out into the whitewashed corridor with its glaring illumination.

He viewed the hospital differently now, and saw a real difference when you were the person waiting to hear news on a loved one rather than the person giving it. He had walked these halls a thousand times but it was only now he noticed how the lights bleached the life out everything, giving people and other objects an unnatural hue. Pacey slumped against the wall, looking at his watch for the millionth time and thinking about Joey. The fact that she was in danger was a concept so alien to him that he had a hard time comprehending it. He could not imagine what he would have done if something had happened to her… the thought was too paralyzing to even contemplate.

Joey had become such an indelible part of his life that if she were to leave or be taken from him, Pacey wondered how he would manage to survive it. Without Joey he would not have gotten his life on track, would never have succeeded as he did. He would never have known what it is like to be loved unconditionally by someone, and to love them back. He had become the man he was today because of her and if she was no longer there, part of him would be gone too. Pacey’s chest constricted with the painful emotions that swirled within him. He checked the time again and looked around for someone who might be able to give him some update on Joey’s operation. He just needed to see her, to touch her, to make sure she was truly all right.

"Pacey, man, what are you still doing here? I thought your shift finished hours ago." Pacey jumped at the sound of Will Merchant’s voice, a fellow student and good friend from medical school. Will was doing a surgical rotation and was just coming on shift when he saw Pacey in the corridor. "You really are a sucker for punishment, you know that? You should be home with that beautiful girlfriend of yours—"

Will saw the look of pain flash in Pacey’s eyes when he mentioned Joey.

"Pace, what is it?"

"Joey’s in there with Crawford and Jackson. O.R. Two."

"Jesus, what happened?" Will spluttered.

Pacey crossed his arms over his chest. The words were difficult to formulate but he had to get used to saying them before he had to tell Joey. "She was pregnant, an ectopic. I found her at home unconscious after I got home from work."

"Jesus," Will said again under his breath. He put a supporting hand on Pacey’s shoulder. "Have you heard any word yet?"

"None, I don’t know what’s taking so long."

"Let me see what I can find out." Will started to walk away, but then stopped. "Pacey, are you okay?"

Pacey looked blankly at him, confused at the question. "What? I’m okay."

"I mean about the pregnancy. Did you guys even know about it?"


"I’m really sorry, man," Will stated quietly. After a moment he turned away again and headed for the nurses’ station.

Pacey watched his friend go and it suddenly hit him that maybe he wasn’t okay. He had been so worried about Joey it hadn’t really registered that they had lost a child — their child — even though they didn’t know they were pregnant. Bypassing his own feelings of grief, he wondered how Joey would take it. They had never really had a serious discussion about children, though marriage had been the topic of the odd conversation. Joey seemed reluctant to commit even to that, arguing that there was no need to change things between them. Pacey was fairly confident she was in this relationship for the long haul — the whole works, forever — but when he had pressed the issue of marriage she would invariably change the subject.

The matter of children, then, had not really been raised. Pacey realized that he wasn’t even sure Joey wanted to have kids, as much as she loved her nephew, Alexander. He felt guilty that they had never discussed it seriously, especially when they would be forced to confront the issue now. He did not have time to dwell on the fact however, because Will was hurrying towards him.

"They just finished with her now, they’re taking her into recovery. Word is everything’s okay."

‘Is it?’ Pacey wondered. ‘Is everything really okay?’ He wasn’t completely sure on that score. He still had to face Joey and tell her what had happened.

* * *

"It was a straight forward procedure, no complications. The hemorrhaging wasn’t as bad as we suspected and she’s been transfused. There’s no permanent damage to the ovarian canal and little scarring, but we’ll want to run some more tests and do an ultrasound later to make sure there’ll be no diminished fertility. I’ll let you stay with her now until she wakes up."

Pacey shook the hand of the gray-haired doctor. "Thank you for taking care of her, Dr. Crawford."

Crawford knew and liked Pacey and thought him a good doctor, even if he had set his sights on being a pediatrician rather than a surgeon. He gave the young man a small smile, cracking more emotion than most interns ever saw in the old grouch. "My pleasure, Dr. Witter. You look after her now."

Pacey waited until he had gone before he sat down by Joey’s beside. She was sleeping so peacefully that for an instant he could almost imagine that nothing had happened. But the IV in her arm and the medical bracelet she wore belied her serene visage. He took a seat at the head of the bed and stared intently at her. He wanted Joey to wake up, but at the same time he was content just to watch her sleeping. He carefully brushed away the dark hair that fell over her forehead and tucked it behind her ear, caressing her cheek as he did so.

He remembered the first time he had done that, when he realized he was falling in love with her at college. He hadn’t been sure how she would react, considering their past together which had been less than amicable. But Joey had accepted the intimate gesture with a look that was not discouraging. If she had been surprised at the change in the dynamic of their relationship, it was no more than Pacey was at the realization that she felt the same way about him. It seemed impossible to believe that someone as wonderful as Joey could ever take him seriously and return his affection. It took a while for Pacey to let himself even entertain the idea, but once he did he could not let it go. He had fallen in love with Joey Potter and nothing was ever going to change that.

Pacey rested his head in his hands now, his mind clouded with old feelings and memories from the past so he wouldn’t have to face more recent emotions. He was physically tired from his long day at work, but he was emotionally exhausted from all that had happened since then. It was all too much to digest at once, and the only person he could talk to about how he felt was the one person he could not. Pacey knew Joey would have her own feelings to deal with when she woke up and found out what had happened. Until then, he tried his very best not to think about anything at all.


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