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The ride back to the loft was made in silence and Joey found herself almost drifting off to sleep as she leant against Paceyís shoulder in the back seat. He was too preoccupied looking out the window to talk, but she didnít mind too much. Just having him so close was all she needed. The evening had gone better than she could ever have hoped, and she was enjoying having him all to herself again. Joey was almost disappointed when they arrived at the apartment, being forced to remove herself from his side. She shivered on the footpath as Pacey paid the driver.
Once they were inside she began to wake up properly and was more conscious of the fact they were alone together. She suddenly felt nervous as they walked into the darkened loft, lit only by the full moon that shone through the large bay windows. Joey did not spoil the effect of the romantic moonlight by switching on a lamp. She shrugged off her coat and then looked expectantly at Pacey for some indication as to what would happen next.
Pacey glanced at her, just as anxious as she was. After keeping up such a believable pretense all night, it was nerve-wracking to be alone with her. It didnít help that he wanted the same thing she apparently did, as she stood there watching him in the dappled light. She seemed to be waiting for him to say something, but he prayed she would be the one to break the silence. He didnít trust himself to open his mouth for fear his emotions would betray him and he would disregard all of the promises he had made himself.
"I guess we did it," she murmured finally, not noticing one of the spaghetti straps of her dress had slipped off her tanned shoulder.
"Yep, this evening was an unequivocal success. You should be able to get on with your job now and not have to worry about pretending to have a fiancé." Pacey's tone was purposely light-hearted.
"I must admit it doesnít feel half as bad as I thought it would. In fact I think I could get used to the idea," she said with meaning.
Pacey attempted to smile but his throat clenched up painfully. Joey was staring deep into his eyes and he was afraid sheíd be able to read his thoughts. He never wanted her to know what he was thinking right at that moment.
"I canít begin to thank you for what you did for me tonight, PaceyÖ for coming all this way and convincing everyone how in love we are."
"That was the easy part," he answered without thinking, and immediately regretted it. Joey smiled lopsidedly at him and took a few steps towards where he stood by the sofa.
"You know, I should have warned youÖ this couch is really uncomfortable to sleep on." She still did not break her stare, the words coming out deceptively calmly when her stomach was fluttering nervously. The champagne had emboldened her though, and she wasnít about to turn back. Joey had always been the kind of person who went after what she wanted. She couldn't let her nerves get the better of her now. "You donít have to, you knowÖ sleep out here I mean.
Pacey let out a shaky breath, willing himself to stop staring at her. "I think itís better if I do."
"Because youíve had a little too much to drink, and you know what happened last time we did this."
"It wasnít so bad, was it? I donít seem to recall too many complaints." Joey smiled coyly at him, caught up in the memory of them together.
"I meant what it lead toÖ trying to have a relationship."
"Was that so terrible?"
"I didnít think so," said Pacey honestly. He silenced the nostalgia he was feeling by hardening his gaze. It was his only way of avoiding doing something he would regret. "You, on the other hand, Iím not so sure about. You were pretty quick to give up on us when this job offer came up."
"I know," Joey said a little guiltily. She finally lowered her eyes as his dark stare bore into her. "I donít see why we had to end things though. Hayley asked me tonight why we had and I didnít know what to tell her. I donít remember why we did break up."
"You donít remember?" replied Pacey incredulously. He laughed bitterly at the idea, relieved to see she was going to make this easy for him. "Well, please allow me to refresh your memory. We split up because you accepted a job in Chicago without giving me a second thought. We never discussed anything, any kind of compromise or a way to stay together. You never even asked me if Iíd come with you. You just decided that your career was more important than us. Thatís why we broke up."
Joey was surprised at the anger in his voice after all this time. He had never said anything to her about it six months ago, leading her to think he hadnít been taking their relationship seriously. But now he wasnít holding back and he sounded resentful. Joey knew it was up to her to apologize, just like she had wanted to do for so long.
"I know I screwed up, Pacey. I was just so focused on being a success so I wouldnít always be Joey Potter, the girl from the wrong side of the creek."
"I happen to love that Joey Potter. Whether or not you became a success was irrelevant." Pacey didnít want to be admitting any of it, he didnít even want to be thinking and feeling it anymore. He was too exhausted to play this game with her any longer.
"I wish Iíd known that six months ago," whispered Joey. She could tell from the look on his face that he still loved her, even though he was trying to hide it. The realization raised her hopes that all it would take would be for her to admit she felt the same way. "Maybe we can salvage something from this weekend, maybe it was time for us to realize how little things have changed between us."
She stepped towards him, raising her face to his. Joey heard him suck in his breath, he was affected by her proximity and powerless to stop it. With careful deliberation she inched her lips closer to his, the anticipation making her dizzy. Joey realized she had wanted him from the first moment she saw him at the airport. During the six months they were apart she had been numb, unable to recognize how much she missed him. She supposed it was just her way of dealing with their separation. Joey had thought it was too late, but she could see the desire written all over Paceyís face. Nothing had changedÖ they were meant to be together. Moments before their lips touched though, she suddenly felt his hands on her arms, holding her firmly away from him.
"Everything has changed. Donít you see that?" he whispered painfully, his rough voice catching in his throat. "We cannot do this again."
"Why not?" she breathed, intoxicated by his presence.
"Joey, I have a girlfriend. Her name is Lucy."
She felt like she had been slapped. Joey felt a blush creep up from her neck as she tried to find her voice. "Why didnít you tell me?"
"Why didnít you ask?" Pacey retorted without skipping a beat. The hard edge returned to his voice, his visage stony. "You just assumed Iíve been pining away for you for the past six months, didnít you? Thought youíd ring up and Iíd come running, willing to roll over just because you get drunk and feel horny. Thatís what you planned, wasnít it? You thought because youíre alone, I have to be as well. Well, Iím not alone, Joey. I found someone who wouldnít use me the way you have this weekend, the way you always have."
"The way Iíve always used you?" Joey was angry too now, her eyes blazing with fury. "When have I ever used you?"
"You want me to start recounting precise dates? You were lonely at college, we got drunk, and you found yourself having a very convenient relationship. And when something better came along in the form of this job, you left. You didnít give a damn that I was in love in with you."
"You never told me you were."
"I didnít need to. I showed you everyday that I loved you. I just never said it because I knew you wouldnít say it back. Iím not a fool, Joey, for all that you might think of me."
The rage that had been mounting within her suddenly drained away. Joey stared intently at his hurt expression and realized he had no idea how she felt about him. He had never known because she hadnít allowed herself to tell him. She had been too afraid to admit to truth, even to herself.
"I donít think youíre a fool, Pacey. And I would have said it back," she said quietly.
"Well, I guess weíll never know for sure now. Itís too late, Joey. Iíve moved on and I think itís best that you do as well." He wouldnít let himself accept her words and their implications, not after all this time. He couldnít let himself become involved with her again. "Go to bed, JoÖ Isnít that what Iím supposed to call you now?"
Stung by his bitter words, Joey shrank away from him and retreated towards her bedroom. She felt completely gutted. Pacey hated her now, she had ruined everything. Joey paused by her door and looked back to see he hadnít moved from where he was standing.
"You know, I havenít changed that much. Iím still Joey. I still care about you more than I ever wanted to."
"I suppose we all have our cross to bear, donít we?" Pacey said cruelly. "Caring about me is your misfortune. Loving you has been mine."
Joeyís eyes filled with tears but she slipped inside her bedroom and closed the door before she let him see how much his words hurt her. She stood with her back against it, wishing there was more than a few feet of space and a thin wooden door separating them. Joey never wanted to see him again. In one fell swoop Pacey had destroyed everything she had clung to from the past, and every hope she had for the future. She clamped a tight hand over her mouth so he wouldnít hear the painful sobs that wracked her chest and shoulders. She never wanted him to know the power he had over her. She never wanted to him to know how much she really did love him. She had pushed him away before and now he didnít want her back. Joey could not bear to remind herself that she was the cause of her own misery and heartbreak.
* * *
She woke late the next morning. The sun was already high in the sky when she emerged from under her blankets, unwilling to face the day. Joey felt wretched, but it wasnít from a hangover or the late night. She lay curled up in a ball, wondering how she was going to face him this morning. Silently she prayed he had taken pity on her and had left already, but then she heard someone in her kitchen and she smelled freshly brewed coffee. Pacey was still there.
Joey could not postpone the inevitable. She crawled out of bed and shut herself in the bathroom, entering from the doorway in her bedroom so he wouldnít see her yet. She barely felt human, and hoped a hot shower would somehow improve matters. The scalding water hit her body but it did not wash away the terrible emotions she was feeling. She stayed under the shower until her skin felt raw, but she was still sick to her stomach whenever she thought about their confrontation the night before. Joey dressed numbly, raking her fingers through her damp hair. It was fitting she looked as bad as she felt. Even makeup didnít hide the dark creases under her eyes and her sallow cheeks. With a resigned sigh she knew it was no good, she couldnít make herself look any different. She was stuck with herself as she was now ó miserable and unappealing.
The loft was warm from the sun streaming in through the windows when she emerged from her bedroom. She glanced immediately at the couch to see that Pacey had tidied everything up, the blankets neatly folded on the arm. It was like he hadnít slept there at all. Joey looked over and saw him standing by the window sipping a cup of coffee, the steam fogging up the glass. The sight of him made her heart thump painfully, but she did her best to ignore the sensation.
"Morning," he said calmly, as if nothing had happened. Joey immediately felt a little angry ó it was if last night had had no affect on him at all.
"Morning," she echoed in the same emotionless tone.
Joey wondered how she was supposed to survive the next few hours. His plane didnít leave until after lunch and she knew she could not keep up this polite façade that long. She wished he would just leave and put her out of her misery.
"How did you sleep?" she asked as she crossed to the kitchen to pour herself some coffee.
"Like a log," he lied. "You?"
Pacey turned away to stare out of the window again, suppressing a frustrated sigh. He had gone too far last night, he hadnít meant to sound so heartless. It was the only way he could manage to survive the encounter without giving in to what he wanted most. It would have been all too easy to do that, considering Joeyís advances. But Pacey knew if he had succumbed last night he would not only have been betraying Lucy, but himself as well. He had sworn to himself he wouldnít allow Joey to hurt him again after she left Boston. He couldnít go through that all over again.
"What time do I have to take you to the airport?" Joey asked dully.
"Donít bother, Iíll take a cab."
"Fine," he repeated. They still didnít meet each otherís eyes.
Joey stood behind the kitchen bench, keeping something solid between them. She decided to leave the loft and stay away the entire day. She couldnít do this anymore. Tipping out the coffee she had barely touched, she was on her way to retrieve her handbag from the bedroom when the intercom system buzzed. With a frown she walked to the front door and answered it.
"Jo, itís Hayley. Cabís waiting, you ready to go?"
Joey blinked a few times, her mind blank. "Go?"
"To brunch, remember? We agreed to meet all the partners at The Lakeview."
Joey grimaced as she remember her conversation with Peterson at the party. He wanted the senior staff to get together once more before Pacey had to leave, seeing they all liked him so much. She had forgotten all about it.
"Come on, Jo, weíre gonna be late," Hayleyís impatient voice erupted over the scratchy intercom, interrupting her thoughts. She tried immediately to think of some kind of plausible excuse, when Pacey appeared at her elbow.
"Tell her weíll be right down."
Joey looked at him in surprise. His expression was difficult to read but he seemed calm enough. She wondered why he would offer to go through a repeat performance of last night just to benefit her career. She knew he didnít give a damn about her anymore.
"I said Iíd come here and do this. I wonít go back on my word," he said by way of explanation. "Tell her."
Without removing her eyes from his, Joey pressed the intercom button. "Weíll be right down, Hayley."
Pacey was already putting on his coat and readying himself to face her colleagues again. She watched him for a moment, not yet able to move from where she stood.
"You donít have to do this, Pacey," she almost whispered.
"Yes, I do." He handed her her coat. "And donít worry, Iím not going to sabotage all our hard work now. Iíll still play the devoted fiancé they expect. Despite what you may think, Iíve always wanted you to succeed. If this helps even slightly then Iíll do it."
Joey wondered if she was supposed to read anything into
those words. With a sigh she realized she had been doing too much of that
already. She had taken his loving glances and displays of affection last
night to mean something more and it had blown up in her face. He was acting,
playing a role she had designed and cast him in herself. And he could
still do it now, even after all that had happened. If anything revealed
his detached feelings for her, that did. Joey found her handbag and brushed
passed him out the door as he held it open for her. If he could do it,
then so could she.
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