Note: This is a sequel to "Just Between Friends" and draws upon events from the series.
Last Days of Chez Nous cont’d
Joey lay awake at dawn — too anxious to sleep, too contented to get up and face the day. She snuggled against Pacey’s chest and reveled in the feeling of his warm, bare flesh against her own. Knowing she would have to head home soon so she could finish packing up the truck, she tried to commit every last detail of him to memory, every emotion and sensation she was experiencing. Her mind was still spinning when she thought about the night they had spent together, but it was all too new and intense for her to register it properly yet. At least she would have that last memory to take with her to Providence — the feeling that she was loved completely and unconditionally by another human being. Pacey had shown her just how much he worshipped her, and she still blushed at the recollection of their actions.
Joey wasn’t sure how she could leave him now. They had talked for some time as they clung to each other, neither daring to let go. Pacey was worried they had moved too quickly and things would be more complicated when she had to leave in the morning. But Joey had reminded him that the last thing they were was impetuous — it had taken them this long to even admit how they felt about each other, something that seemed like the easiest thing in the world now.
It was still a frightening thought though. She had finally found the one person she wanted to be with, but circumstances were forcing them to part for an unknown length of time. Joey had no idea when she would be able to see Pacey again, and the idea that he wouldn’t be around when she went college saddened her beyond her wildest imagination. She had no conception of what it would be like not having him to talk to whenever she needed comforting or someone just to listen to her. He wouldn’t be there to bicker with, to get angry at, and he wouldn’t there to make up with her. She had grown so accustomed to his company that she didn’t quite know what it would be like to be deprived of it. All Joey knew as she lay there in his arms was that she wished she had never heard of Brown or UMBC. She never wanted to leave Pacey again.
But reality intruded in her own little dream world. The sun was rising outside and she had to go. She couldn’t give up college and neither could Pacey. They would just have to deal with their separation like so many other couples. It wouldn’t be easy, she knew they might not survive a long distance relationship. Joey was comforted by the knowledge that they’d at least had one night together when she could show him just how much she loved him. She would have the memory of him always.
When Joey rose to leave, she hesitated before waking Pacey up. He slept so peacefully that Joey thought she could actually see a smile still on his lips. She couldn’t bring herself to disturb him. If she did wake him and he begged her not to go, Joey doubted she had the strength to fight him. It was easier just to leave and not tempt fate. After she had dressed and gathered up her belongings, she paused by his bedside and watched him a moment longer. Joey pulled out the photograph of them before their date that she carried in her bag and placed it on her pillow so it would be the first thing Pacey saw when he woke up. She hoped their cheery faces would make him smile before he remembered she was gone.
Joey leant over him and kissed him softly on the temple so as not wake him. She breathed in deeply, inhaling his scent and fighting the urge to bury herself in his embrace. With tears in her eyes she forced herself to back away and let herself quietly out the front door. She almost ran away from the apartment block, not daring to turn back. If she stopped now she would never be able to leave him.
* * *
Bessie said nothing when she arrived home, biting back the questions she was dying to ask. She decided she would get all the details of Joey’s evening during the trip to Providence. Her sister was grateful for her silence and settled at the kitchen table to spend her last breakfast with Alexander.
The last couple of hours before they had to leave flew by quickly. Bodie helped pack up the truck then left for the Icehouse with Alexander. He and Bessie had decided it might take Alex's mind off Joey leaving, as he had not been handling the fact his aunt wouldn't be living with them anymore terribly well. Joey said a quick goodbye to him and then waved them off. Now that it was just Bessie and herself, there was little excuse not to leave. Something held Joey back though, and she knew what it was. She didn’t want to leave without seeing Pacey one last time.
Bessie was getting impatient to be on the road however, and Joey knew she couldn’t put off the inevitable. Although she wanted to see him again, part of her hoped he was still asleep and would miss her departure. Then she wouldn’t have to face the difficult goodbye scene at all. Cowardly though it was, Joey knew it would make things a lot easier on both of them. She went inside to retrieve her knapsack and take a final look around the house she had grown up in. Joey suspected she was even going to miss the fold-out couch and living room that had been her make-shift bedroom for years. At least it had prepared her well for dormitory life.
"Joey," Bessie called from outside. It was not said impatiently though, which surprised her more than anything.
Moving out onto the porch, she saw why her sister had alerted her. Pacey’s truck pulled up in the yard and he got out slowly. Her heart thumped in her chest as she watched him have a few words with Bessie. Then he looked up and met her eyes and she was oblivious to everything else. They smiled slightly and began walking towards each other, prompting Bessie to tactfully climb inside her truck to wait for her.
"Hey," Pacey said gently.
"Are you all right?"
"I’m okay." Pacey couldn’t think of the appropriate words to say what he was feeling. Joey understood his inability to verbalize all they needed to say to each other. They stood there in a silence that spoke volumes, each forgiving the other for being tongue-tied.
"I’ll come to Providence when I can, even if it’s just for the weekend…" Pacey ventured, aware that Bessie was waiting to go.
"Don’t. Let’s not make promises we can’t keep, Pacey," Joey replied firmly. She wouldn’t get through the conversation without throwing herself in his arms otherwise. "You’re going to be busy with work and school and so will I. I don’t want us to say we’ll keep in touch and then find it’s just too difficult."
"I’ll miss you," he said quietly, trying to allay her fears that he would just go off to college and forget her.
"I’ll miss you too." Tears sparked in Joey’s eyes. "I wish things had turned out differently. I wish we’d both been honest with each other like we’ve always pretended to be. I should have told you long ago that I love you."
Pacey swallowed with difficulty and hugged her to him. She held on to him for a long time, wishing she didn’t have to let go.
"I love you, Joey," he whispered into her hair. "Don’t ever forget it."
"I won’t." Joey stepped away and tried to smile at him while she wiped her eyes. She looked over her shoulder at Bessie. "I’d better go… I just don’t want to say goodbye to you."
"Then don’t. Just say ‘I’ll see you soon.’"
"Even if it’s not true?"
"The truth isn’t always easy to face," Pacey sighed. "We both know that well."
"Then I’ll see you soon, Pacey."
"See you soon, Jo."
Joey took a step away, then turned back quickly to kiss him. Pacey returned the passionate embrace and held onto her tightly. It took all of her will power to pull herself from him, and she hastily turned away so she wouldn’t have to look at him. She was safely in the truck before she allowed herself to look back to wave goodbye. Pacey stood in her yard trying to put on a brave face. Smiling sadly, Joey held her hand up against the window and let it sit there as Bessie pulled out of the yard. Joey turned around and watched until Pacey was out of sight. Then she turned back and faced the open road before her, trying to imagine what her life would be like without Pacey Witter in it. It wasn’t a cheery thought, and Joey did not try and stop the tears that began to slide down her cheeks.