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Four: It happened one night
Pacey adjusted his tie nervously in the rearview mirror of his truck and tried to stop himself from looking so nervous. He was just having dinner with Joey, his good friend. Nothing to be anxious aboutÖ Still, his hands were annoyingly clammy as he grabbed the bunch of roses from the passenger seat and climbed out of the truck. Bessie was already at the front door having heard him drive up, and she smiled wickedly when she saw his fidgeting hands and nervous smile.
"Hi Pacey, Joey will be ready in a minute. Come on in." She held the door open for him and caught his arm as he passed her, whispering, "You look great."
Pacey grinned gratefully at her and looked around expectantly for Joey. Alexander came tearing into the room then and headed straight for his favorite playmate. Pacey had been helping Joey babysit the boy for most of his life, and Alex loved it when he came over. Pacey usually enjoyed seeing Alex too, but now his face and hands were smeared with peanut butter and jelly, so he stepped back to protect his suit from the sticky mess.
"Oh no you donít," Bessie laughed, scooping the boy up. "We donít want to get Pacey all dirty, do we?"
Alex squirmed in protest, trying to wriggle out of his motherís grasp while Pacey apologized. "Sorry Alex, but if I get this suit messed up Iíll have to take your aunt out wearing dungarees."
"And neither of us want that," Joey grinned as she walked into the room.
Paceyís mouth fell open slightly when he caught sight of her in her elegant sleeveless dress. He always thought her beautiful no matter what she wore, but tonight she was breathtaking. Pacey wasn't able to stop himself from staring.
Joey smiled nervously under his frank gaze, and she couldnít help but notice how handsome he looked in his dark suit and blue tie that set off his eyes. They stood awkwardly on either side of the living room, unsure how to proceed. Bessie just grinned knowingly in the middle, and finally prompted them to make a move.
"Well, I guess you should probably get going so you donít miss your reservation," she said nonchalantly. Neither of them responded immediately, until Pacey finally snapped himself to attention.
"Thatís right." He took a few steps towards Joey, and held out the cream-colored roses. "Ah, these are for you."
"Thanks, Pacey," she blushed. Dawson hadnít even brought her flowers when they dated, believing it to be too much of a cliché. Joey didnít mind though, they were beautiful. "Bessie?"
Joey handed the flowers over so her sister could put them in water. She smiled nervously at Pacey again and they finally started for the door. Bessie had tucked the struggling Alexander under one arm, the flowers in the other.
"Wait! Before you go, I need to take a photo." She set Alex down and retrieved the camera from her pocket. She shrugged at them innocently. "I just have to finish the roll."
Joey rolled her eyes to cover her embarrassment. "For Godís sake, Bessie, itís not like weíre off to the prom."
"Hey, I never get to go out to a fancy restaurant with Bodie. Pity me that I have to live vicariously through my little sister, and just smile, okay?"
Joey glanced awkwardly at Pacey and took a step closer to him for the picture. He smiled at her calmly, then at the camera as Bessie took a few shots. Joey continued to frown in annoyance at her sister and it wasn't until Pacey suddenly tickled her side that she actually managed to smile. Bessie clicked the camera and captured the moment. The film began to rewind automatically as the roll finished and they were released. Joey smothered her laughter and gave her sister one last threatening look that warned her not to embarrass her further. It didn't work.
"Oh, Joey, I forgot to tell you that Ruth volunteered to do the morning shift. She really needs the extra work, so I hope you donít mindÖ This way you can stay out as long as you like." Bessie stifled her amused laughter as Joey stared daggers at her over her shoulder. "Have fun, guys."
Joey shut the door quickly behind them and looked nervously at Pacey. She didnít want him to get the wrong impressionÖ that she had been discussing anything with Bessie or that she thought they might... Joey stopped herself from jumping to conclusions, determined to just enjoy the evening and not overanalyze everything, for as long as she possibly could anyway.
"You look beautiful, Joey," he said quietly.
"You donít look bad yourself."
They grinned uneasily at each other. 'This isnít like us,' Joey thought. She had always been comfortable with Pacey and now all of a sudden she felt self-conscious and unsure how to act.
"Itís stupid, isnít it?" Pacey commented, reading her thoughts. "Weíre supposed to be having a good time tonight and I canít say two words to you without feeling like an idiot."
"I know," she smiled. "Letís stop right now then. Weíll go to dinner and have a wonderful time, just like always."
"Miss Potter," he bowed, holding out his arm to her.
Pacey ushered her to the passenger side of the truck and opened the door for her.
* * *
The Capeside Yacht Club was dazzling when they walked in, a picture of opulence to their simple tastes and eyes. Everyone was strikingly beautiful, or at least strikingly rich, as they sat at their tables or milled about greeting acquaintances they had not seen since last summer. Pacey and Joey felt out of place, and yet unbeknownst to them, they did not look it. The clientele just saw a well-dressed, handsome young couple standing by the maitre dí. They even raised a few curious eyebrows as the two were led to their table, as no one recognized them as just a couple of the local residents.
"Do you get the feeling people are staring at us?" Joey asked in low voice after the maitre dí had seated them. She felt strange being in these surroundings, not used to the kind of lifestyle these people took for granted.
"Theyíre probably trying to work out who we are, or more importantly who our parents are," Pacey answered. He put on his best New York snob accent. "Isnít he the Wentworth boy from Manhattan? Iím sure her mother is a Carrington of the Bay Harbor Carringtons."
"They must be down for the regatta with Mitsy and Betsy," Joey grinned, following suit. "You remember, we met them last year when we popped over to the South of France."
"Of course, how could I forget?" Pacey smiled at her across the table, the candlelight dancing in his eyes. A short silence followed, but without any of the previous awkwardness. "You canít say youíre not going to miss the wild life here in Capeside."
"Oh, I think Iíll survive." Joey stared down at the linen tablecloth, the fine china and crystal glasses. It was all perfect, but none of it impressed her. She would have been happy anywhere Pacey took her.
They ordered their meals and continued to enjoy themselves as they eyed off the other diners, making up stories about their respective pasts and predicting their futures.
"Closet pill popper, that one," Joey said in a low voice as they ate their soup. Across the room a bored looking woman in a Chanel suit sipped her wine and ignored the ramblings of her balding husband beside her.
"Torrid affairs with the gardener and the pool boy," added Pacey. "Probably has them all scheduled. Monday it's the flower delivery boyÖ"
"Tuesday the masseurÖ"
"Wednesday the chauffeurÖ"
"No wonder she needs to pop pills." Joey smiled and let her eyes wander around the room. "Do you suppose any of these people appreciate what they have?"
"Who knows? Maybe money's all they need to make them happy."
"That's a sad indictment if ever I heard one. If I ever end up like that I hope someone's there to put me out of my misery," she sighed, trying not to think of the financial struggles she would face at college.
"Where do you see yourself in sayÖ fifteen years, Joey?" Pacey asked, turning the tables on her. He was curious to know what she considered important.
"Well, letís seeÖ" Joey mused, thinking they were still playing a game. "Iíll be a successful lawyer in a small practice, preparing a case for the Supreme Court. Iíll be fabulously rich, of course, but I'll know how to enjoy it. It goes without saying I'll be disgustingly happy, have a devastatingly handsome husband who is devoted to me, and 2.4 children who are little angels. In my spare time Iíll write a scorching best seller and donate my services to worthy charities. Iíll be nominated for Woman of the Year, but modesty will forbid me to accept. I think that would be a fairly accurate description. What about you, Pacey?"
He had been smiling at her descriptive fantasy, but now the look faded. His eyes grew solemn as he thought carefully about the question. It wasn't a game to him. "Iíd like to be doing something worthwhile with my life, something honorable that actually helps people. Iíd like to love someone unconditionally, and have them love me just as much. And if I'm lucky enough to have children, I want to be the kind of father I always wished my own had been. I'd be supportive and caring and proud, no matter what they didÖ Most importantly, I want to be living a life without any regrets. Thatís what Iíd like."
Joey felt silly that she hadnít taken his question seriously. It still surprised her that Pacey was so thoughtful and reflective about himself. He had been forced to grow up very quickly when he left home at fifteen, and his maturity sometimes made her feel a little embarrassed.
Pacey saw her discomfort and forced himself to lighten up. He had been doing so much soul-searching lately as he struggled to sort through his feelings before he left Capeside. He had barely scratched the surface, really, particularly where his family was concerned. The most important thing on his mind was his attachment to Joey. But he could see that this wasn't the way to go about resolving anything with her. He resorted to their usual light-hearted conversations and reminiscences for the remainder of the meal. The last thing he wanted to do was scare her off now.
Joey was relieved when he starting joking with her again. When he stopped they would be forced to have an adult conversation, the outcome of which scared her deep down. Things were unresolved between them ó changes had undoubtedly occurred. Even Bessie had started to pick up on latent feelings Joey barely even realized she had. She wanted so much to hold onto their old relationship for as long as possible. Joey lost the closeness she had shared with Dawson after they tried dating, and to lose Pacey as well would be too much. For the longest time his friendship had been the only stable thing in her unstable life. Without that safe, steadying anchor of comradeship, Joey was afraid she'd have to face up to her true feelingsÖ and what the ramifications of that would be. The uncertainty of it all plagued her thoughts as they went on with the evening, both pretending nothing was out of the ordinary. It could not have been further from the truth.
* * *
They strolled along Bailey's Wharf after dinner, watching the twinkling lights from the moored yachts in the marina dancing on the rippling water. They could hear music coming from the boats, forming a strange collaborative melody of indistinguishable tunes. Pacey and Joey walked in a companionable silence, both enjoying the warm breeze and the enchantment of the evening too much to spoil it with words. Too caught up in their own thoughts anyway, they drifted along the pier until they reached its end. Staring out over the water, they heard the faint strains of a love song drifting across the creek.
My love must be a kind of blind love
Joey smiled when she recognized the tune. "ĎI Only Have Eyes For Youí," she whispered almost to herself.
Pacey looked at her in surprise. "Excuse me?"
Are the stars out tonight?
"The song. It was my momís favorite. My dad used to sing it to her when they first met."
The moon may be high
The song finished but Joey still stared nostalgically across the glimmering water. Pacey watched her, entranced by her beauty as the light reflected off the creek and onto her face and arms. He was suddenly struck by how much he loved her. He would have given anything to reach out and touch her cheek gently, to pull her into his arms and tell her exactly how he felt. But once again he stopped himself. He just stared dumbly at her and wondered if he would ever be able to overcome his fear. If she rejected him like she had three years ago, he knew in his heart it would spoil their friendship. To lose that would be the worst possible thing he could imagine.
Pacey forgot he was still gazing at her, but Joey had stopped looking at the water and had noticed his stare. She smiled at him with a confused expression, and for a moment he thought she could see the truth written all over his face. But then she just nudged him good-naturedly in the ribs and grinned. She treated him like her old pal Pacey, and nothing more.
"Itís getting pretty late," he managed to say as he overcame his disappointment. It was a familiar task he had learned long ago.
"Wouldnít want to turn into a pumpkin." Joey hoped to get him to smile, but she wasnít quite successful. "Thank you for tonight, Pacey, it was wonderful. It really meant a lot to me."
She hugged him firmly, resting her cheek on his chest. Pacey shut his eyes as he fought his usual urges and wrapped his arms around her. Joey sighed contentedly as she listened to the comforting beat of his heart, and was lulled by the rhythmical thud. She could have stayed in his arms for hours, but he abruptly pulled away from her.
"Your chariot awaits, milady," he said gallantly, offering her his arm.
"Thank you, kind sir." She was glad to see his bright mood had returned. But even though his words were light, Joey could still see a strangely distant look in his eyes that remained as they headed back to the truck.
* * *
They arrived back at Joeyís house, and Pacey brought the truck to a gentle stop. They sat there in silence for a moment, neither wanting the night to end. Joey could see that Bessieís bedroom light was still on, and the curtains twitched as her sister peered out to check who had just driven into their yard. She withdrew from the window discreetly when she saw it was them. Joey was thankful for it ó the last thing she needed was round two of Bessieís meddling. She glanced over at Pacey who was still sitting with his hands on the steering wheel, biting his bottom lip nervously.
"Well, thanks for dinner, Pace," she said, trying to evoke some sort of response from him.
"Huh? Oh, youíre welcome." When she made a move for the door handle he saw that she thought it was all over. "Oh, wait, let me do that."
Pacey quickly jumped out of the truck and sped around to her side so he could open the door for her.
"How chivalrous you are this evening," she said jokingly, taking his proffered hand.
"Isnít that what Iím supposed to do ó see to your door and wish you a pleasant evening?" he grinned.
"Maybe, if this was a date." Joey had said the words in jest, but Paceyís face fell as they walked to her porch.
He realized he had been right all along. Joey would never see him as anything more than a friend. Pacey thought he had done everything but get down on his knees and declare his undying love for her, and she still only saw him as her best friend. He was annoyed he had set himself up for another fall. He was crazy even to think the night could end any other way.
Joey saw his disappointment and she immediately felt guilty. She hadnít meant the words to come out the way they had. She was so confused over the whole night that she barely knew what she was thinking, let alone saying. She didn't want to hurt Pacey, but this evening had reminded her just how different things were between them and it made her nervous. She didnít know quite what they meant to each other, but even Joey recognized it went beyond simple friendship. She looked into his captivating eyes now, so naked with emotion that they seemed to swallow her up.
"What I meant was, umó" Joey licked her lips nervously, unable to stop staring at him. "If it was a date weíd have to go through that whole goodnight kiss traumaÖ I mean, ĎWill he kiss me? Wonít he kiss me? If he wonít, why not?Ö Should I kiss him?í"
Joeyís voice trailed off, her dark eyes searching his own. With a start, Pacey realized she wasnít speaking hypothetically ó she was talking about them. The look of surprise was not lost on Joey, and before she could talk herself out of it she leant in quickly and pressed her lips to his own. She kissed him softly and withdrew her face slowly so as to prolong the moment, enjoying the lingering feeling of his warm breath on her cheek. When she looked into his eyes again, a blush stole across her face. Joey opened her mouth to stammer some kind of excuse, but finding none, she just smiled ever so slightly at him.
Pacey frowned as he stared back at her, unsure how to respond or react. The kiss had taken them both by surprise and he was fearful she regretted it. But as she looked intently at him now, the faint smile still on her lips, Pacey let himself hope again. She had kissed him, she had instigated the entire thing. His heart swelled with the notion that she too felt the intimacy between them that seemed to hang tangibly in the air. Pacey reached out and ran his thumb across her cheek, feeling the exhilaratingly flushed skin.
For once in his life, Pacey didnít doubt himself. He didnít listen to the voice inside his head that told him she wasnít being serious, that she didnít care about him at all, that this was a huge mistake. He silenced all of those thoughts and just concentrated on Joeyís face before him and the surge of love he felt for her. Without even contemplating the consequences, he kissed her back, allowing his longing for her to finally surface. In that one kiss he revealed exactly how he felt about her, how much he had loved her for so long.
Joey was dizzy in his embrace, never having felt such a passionate declaration of love. She felt frozen in time, the kiss seemed to go on forever. It was only when they heard the telephone ring inside the house that they both pulled away, slightly embarrassed. The real world had intruded and the moment was gone. Joey stared at him with new eyes as she tried to get her breath back. She had no idea what she could say that would not spoil the intimate moment they had shared. Pacey seemed just as unsure of himself and they just stood there in silence.
Pacey would eventually say something, he had to. He had to tell her exactly what was in his heart if she was to ever appreciate how much she meant to him. He had practiced the words over and over in his mind for several years, but now to his dismay he was tongue-tied. All the eloquent phrases he had devised, the romantic utterings of a love-sick teenager, were now redundant. They didnít mean anything in light of what had just happened between them. But she was standing there so expectantly, and he forced himself to open his mouth.
Before the words came out however, they were interrupted by quick footsteps in the house and then Bessie suddenly appeared on the porch. She threw open the door and stopped awkwardly, seeing how close Joey and Pacey were standing.
"Oops, sorry," she murmured. Joey blushed crimson and took a step back from Pacey. Bessie frowned in apology. "Um, Pacey, thereís a phone call for you. Itís your mother."
"My mother?" Pacey stammered, wondering why on earth she was ringing him here. 'Why here of all places, but more importantly, why now?' he moaned silently. He was about to tell the woman of his dreams how much he loved her and his mother was calling?
"I think itís important."
Joey glanced quickly at Pacey and the worried look that suddenly appeared in his eyes. She knew he was concerned about leaving his mom alone with his father after he moved out. Though Mr Witter had never been violent with his wife or daughters, Joey knew he was the kind of leopard that could easily change its spots. She followed him up the steps as he stalked into the living room and over to the phone. Bessie and Joey waited in the corner as he picked it up and began speaking.
"Mom?" he said sharply. As he listened to her at the other end, Joey frantically searched his face for any indication that something was wrong. Pacey stood there silently with the phone to his ear, not revealing anything. After a long minute he began responding. "When?Ö Ö What did they say?Ö Ö OkayÖ Ö Iím coming now."
Pacey turned away from Joey and her sister and set the receiver back in its cradle. He took a deep breath before he could face them again. Joey could contain herself no longer and she walked up behind him, her voice fearful.
"Pacey, what is it?"
He turned around, his face still composed if a little stunned. He saw how worried Joey was and tried to smile, but he wasnít able to. "My father," he said dully. "He had a heart attack tonightÖ heís in the hospital in Hyannis."
Joey heard Bessie gasp in the corner, but she wasnít sure what she should say herself. She didnít know what Pacey needed to hear. This was his father, a man he reviled. She looked at him helplessly, ashamed she did not know how to react.
"They donít think heís going to make it," Pacey continued in a voice devoid of all emotion. He stood there silently, trying to work out what it meant, and what he was supposed to do now. "I have to go to the hospital."
"Iím coming with you," Joey said automatically. She wrapped her hand around his and looked over at Bessie. Her sister nodded back in a silent understanding.
Joey and Pacey walked back outside towards the truck. Pacey seemed lost in his own world and he barely noticed she was there. He started the truck in auto-pilot, not actively concentrating on the task at hand. He was too absorbed in his own muddled thoughts to recognize the familiarity of the scene. The sense of déjà vu was not lost on Joey however. They were driving towards Hyannis Hospital together once more, just as they had when Doug was beaten by his father almost three years ago. It was the same night Joey had gotten her first glimpse at what Pacey's life was really like, and it was the night that brought them together as friends.
The only thing Joey didn't know was, what were they to each other now?
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