Love and other catastrophes
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Six: Less than zero

After the uncomfortable meal, Pacey was at his witsí end. No matter how he had tried to coax her into a conversation or make her open up to him the last couple of days, Joey refused to let him in. He knew she was in pain, that much was entirely obvious. It was the fact that she wouldnít share it with him that hurt the most. He was accustomed to sharing everything with her, the good and the bad. He was hurt that she didnít seem to need him, or care how that made him feel. Joey was lost in her own world and Pacey was not part of it.

He glanced frequently in her direction as they picked at their food, but Joeyís eyes remained steadfastly on her plate where she picked haphazardly at the lasagna. She ate practically nothing, only drinking the wine and refusing to look at him at all. When she rose to return to the bedroom again to escape from him, Pacey threw his fork down in frustration. Grabbing her arm as she tried to leave, he ignored the look of anger in her eyes.

"No you donít, not this time."

"What?" she snapped.

"Youíre not running away this time. Joey, we need to talk about this," Pacey stated firmly.

"Talk about what?" she replied, wrenching her arm abruptly from his grasp.

"Good, play dumb, Jo. Thatís really going to help."

"Pacey, Iím going to bed," Joey said. "I donít have time for this."

"Time for what? Time for me? Is that it?"

"Goodnight."

"Jo, Iím serious about this, we really have to talk." Pacey moved to block her way to the bedroom. Glaring at him, she tried to move past him but he mirrored her movements. She tried to shove him bodily out of the way but he just grabbed her arms and buffered the blows from her fists.

"Stop it!" he yelled, his breath rasping in his throat. Joey went limp but her eyes still burned with fury.

He led her over to the couch and made her sit down, planting himself right beside her. She slumped back on the sofa with her arms crossed, a scowl on her face. Pacey seemed to be at a loss for words for a couple of minutes, before he cleared his throat and addressed her.

"Jo, I think we both agree that the last couple of days have been hell, but it doesnít help that we havenít been talking to each other. I know I probably havenít said the right things to you or acted how you wanted, but Iím new to all of this too. I donít know how Iím supposed to react, let alone comfort you. But we need to work together if we are going to get through this. I know we can get through this."

Joey just stared at him, wondering what on earth he was rambling about. She saw his mouth move and heard the words come out, but it was like he was speaking a foreign language.

"Iím worried about you, Jo. I spoke to someone at the hospital today and got the name of a good grief counselor. Sheís nice apparently, non-threatening, so I thought we should make an appointment to see herÖ"

"What?" Joey frowned.

"A grief counselor. I think maybe we need to get some professional help," Pacey said sincerely, taking her hand in his.

"What for?"

"To talk about things, talk about what happenedÖ you know, with the baby."

Joey looked at her lap, but her eyes were wide with astonishment. Pacey waited for her to say something, trying to catch her gaze.

"What do you think?" he asked gently, squeezing her hand.

"I donít need to see a grief counselor, Pacey. I had an ectopic pregnancy, itís not like I even knew about the baby." Joeyís voice had no emotion.

"But that doesnít mean you still donít feel the loss. It was our child, Joó"

"It wasnít a child, it was a six week old embryo! Quit being so melodramatic, Pacey."

He was stung by the words, unable to answer her. Joey withdrew her hand from his and crossed them over her chest again. She glanced around the gloomy apartment and decided what she had to do.

"I think itís just being in this place. Maybe a change of scenery is what I need," she ventured after a while.

Pacey managed to find his voice again. "Where do you want to go?"

"Well, Bessie invited us home for Christmas. We only told her no because you couldnít get the time off."

"I still canít, Jo. I was lucky to get these few days off. Iím pushing it as it is with the Residents."

"I actually meant me, Pacey, not you, not us. I need to get away." Joey had tried to think of a tactful way of saying it but she could not. Paceyís face fell.

"You mean away from me?" he asked in a small voice.

"Away from this place. I just need to go somewhere where I feelÖ different." Joey could not put into words her need to leave, not so that Pacey could ever understand. He just sat there looking at her with the saddest expression, and she knew she had hurt him deeply.

"When are you going?"

"First thing in the morning," Joey replied with determination that surprised even herself. The decision to go home had been made in an instant, and she didnít know where it had come from. Now the idea was in her head, her anticipation grew.

"Youíd better get a good nightís sleep, then," Pacey said dully, his way of releasing her from their conversation.

"Yeah," she agreed, rising from the couch. She walked to the bedroom and wondered if he was going to try and follow her. But when she looked back over her shoulder, she saw Pacey still sitting on the sofa, defeat written all over his face. He just stared off into space, with an expression that would have broken her heart had she been able to feel it. Joey shut the door behind her and started packing clothes into a suitcase.

* * *

She woke early the next morning, having had a restless night. Joey was thinking about home and Bessie, Bodie and Alex, so it was hard to get to sleep. She had not allowed herself to think about Pacey because she didnít know how she felt about what had happened between them. It was much easier to think about jumping in the car and driving home along the lonely, open roads. She could hardly wait to see the water, and smell the familiar smells of the creek. Joeyís bags were already packed so after a quick shower she hurriedly dressed and was ready to go.

She peeked out into the living room and saw the empty couch where Pacey had spent the previous night. For a moment she thought he had already gone, and she was ashamed that her hopes actually soared at the prospect. But then she stepped out of the bedroom and saw he was standing by the window seat, staring out at the bleak morning. His broad shoulders were slumped as he stood there motionless, and Joey could already imagine the expression on his face.

Averting her eyes from his direction, she walked into the room with her bags and dropped them by the door. She thought about having breakfast first, but then decided she could get something on the way out of Boston. Now she just wanted to be on the road. She turned to say goodbye to Pacey, but his back was still towards her. Suddenly she could not think of the words to tell him. Joey was tempted just to leave, but even she couldnít do that. She owed him a goodbye at least.

"Youíll need to fill up with gas before you get too far, I didnít have time to do it," he said, breaking the painful silence. His words were hollow and unemotional. "Mackís on Delaney Street will check the oil and water for you too. Keys are on the table."

"Okay," Joey replied needlessly. She grabbed the car keys and bent to pick up her bags again, wondering if he was going to turn around to see her off.

"When will you be back?"

Joey looked the floor, this time a little guiltily. "I donít know."

"Do you want me to call you?"

"I donít think that would be a good idea. I need to sort some things outÖ"

"Fine," he said coldly. Pacey finally turned around and pretended to be busy with some medical texts and papers that were piled on the table.

"Iíll see you, Pacey," Joey said awkwardly, knowing it wasnít enough but unable to give him any more.

"Bye."

She paused, securing her overnight bag on her shoulder, then opened the door. Before she had a chance to step through it, Pacey had one last thing to say.

"Joey?"

"Yeah?" she said, half expectantly, half afraid of what he was going to say.

"Merry Christmas." Pacey voice was as hard as she had ever heard it.

Without another word, she closed the door behind her and let out a shaky breath. After a few seconds when she was able to regain the use of her legs, Joey made her way quickly down to the garage.

 

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