Part Three
By Alisha

Disclaimer: Pacey a bitter, bitter man? Now would the real owners of him do that? Nah. He's not mine, and neither is Joey.

Author's Note: I'd love to hear what you think, so please take a few seconds and drop me a note. I'd like to know if I should keep going.

Recap: Joey plays a vixen straight from "Savannah" (wasn't that a great show?), in her efforts to get her swerve on with Mike (who is Pacey). After a rather heated exchange of passion, she asks him to stay, but he says he has to go. Joey finally figures out that Mike is Pacey. What took her so long, I don't know.

"'Tis in my memory lock'd,
And your yourself shall keep the key of it."
-- Shakespeare

Pacey pounded the sand-filled bag in the nearly deserted gym with every ounce of energy that he still possessed. He continued alternating hands, as grunts and some screams of frustration exited his mouth.

"Mike," he heard from behind him, but didn't stop his attack on the punching bag. "Mike," the man said again.

Pacey finally turned around, attempting to catch his breath, and wiping the sweat that had accumulated on his brow.

He looked seriously at the man. It was Carlos, a chef from the kitchen. He was a dark-skinned, native born Puerto Rican; a young, short man, who sported a bald head, and was always well groomed. Quite often the antithesis of Pacey. They were still some sort of friends -- mutual acquaintances may be a better characterization.

"What's up?" he asked Pacey from his seat on a nautilus machine.

"Nothing," Pacey said, turning back to the bag, but punching it much lighter this time.

"So what was that scene in the kitchen this afternoon?" he asked.

Pacey sighed as he turned back to Carlos. "A sign of utter frustration, confusion, and anger."

"You take it out on a woman?" he asked.

Pacey regarded him with shock. "What?"

"From the looks of those deep scratches on your back, it looks like you put a hurting on some woman tonight."

Pacey hadn't even thought about possibly having scratches as he changed into a pair of sweatpants to retreat to the gym. Going around shirtless may not have been such a good idea. "So did you?" Carlos asked.

"I guess you could say that," Pacey said.

"So why do you have all the energy for the big bag?" he asked.

Pacey finally sat down on the matted floor to look back at his co-worker. "I don't know, Carlos. Just something I really needed to do."

"You forget rule number one?" he asked.

Pacey thought for a moment. He had forgotten rule number one. Fuck 'em, but don't love 'em. Pacey and Carlos shared common ground in that they were both the object of desire for several of the female guests. Carlos seemed to understand what many of the others didn't about Pacey. That some things were left better unsaid. He never questioned Pacey, and they were both just more than happy with sharing their more exciting escapades with each other. They had come up with "Rule Number One" after Carlos had been played by a wealthy woman from New York.

"It's complicated," Pacey said. He knew that Carlos was right, but knew that he would never understand the circumstances.

"Women are like poison," Carlos said to Pacey. "They lurk around taunting you until you're most vulnerable. You've always got to be in control with them. They'll kill you if you're weak enough to drink," he said with contempt, just like a man scorned. "Mike, you can't let them do it to you, because they just want a taste of the power, and it's just enough to screw you over. They don't give a damn about us."

"I know," Pacey said. "I know it all, and I remember. This one . . . she asked me to stay."

"Tactical move."

"You're probably right," Pacey said. "The thing is that sometimes, in some cases, I don't think clearly."

"You won't be able to think at all if you let one of them take over your soul."

"You're too melodramatic," Pacey said, rising off the floor. "You'll have to excuse me, because I'm in desperate need of a drink."

Carlos nodded. "Be careful," he said, as Pacey left.

* * * * *

Pacey sat on the beach in his normal state. He was paying less attention to the crashing waves and the twinkling stars, and more attention to the long bottle in his hand. He didn't know what he was doing really. He just wanted to rest without the confines of walls or other people. He sat silently staring at waves.

"It's you, isn't it?" she whispered from behind him.

He didn't turn around. "I don't know what you mean," he said, acting indifferent.

"Why didn't you tell me it was you?" she asked, silently taking a seat next to him, but still not looking in his eyes.

"I don't know what you mean," he said again.

"I know it's you," she said. "I mean, maybe I was too drunk last night, and too hard up this afternoon." She paused for a moment, reflecting on her own words. "I know it's you now. I know you. Nobody could ever . . . not like you could."

He shook his head. "You must have me confused with someone else," he said, taking another swig from the bottle.

"Nobody's called me 'Joey' for years."

Damn. "So?" he said finally, after some silence.

"I never expected to find Nuclear Winter in Puerto Rico," she said sarcastically.

"If you're suggesting that I'm being cold to you--"

"I can't believe that after all these years the only thing that you have to say to me is 'so.'" He shrugged, not answering. "Pacey, I--"

"I'm not Pacey," he said.

"I thought that we already established that I know you're Pacey."

"I haven't been Pacey for a very long time."

"So who are you now?"

"Mike, the bartender."

"You used to be a lot more," she said.

"Things change." He took another drink from the bottle. "So what did you hope to accomplish by coming out here to me?"

"I don't know," she sighed. "I guess that for a long time I convinced myself that you would be back. I'd say to myself 'Pacey wouldn't just leave, and never come back. Especially without saying goodbye.' You did." She laughed a bit before continuing. "I used to practice what I'd say to you when you came back. It changed a lot. Sometimes I wanted to tell you how much I missed you, others I wanted to tell you how mad I was that you left. Now I'm looking at you, as different as you are, and it's all gone out the window. I don't know what to say."

"There's nothing to say," he said softly. "You got what you wanted from me, so just go."

"I didn't get what I wanted from you."

He rolled his eyes. "I do not need this right now," he said through gritted teeth. There were lines in his forehead showing his growing anger.

"I want answers," she said.

"I don't have any answers for you!" he yelled, standing up, and walking back toward the hotel.

"Dammit, Pacey! Stop!" she screamed, finally able to grab his arm.

He spun around, revealing his infuriated face. "Look," he said forcefully. "You need to understand something. I cannot control my anger," he said slowly. "Let me go."

She dropped her arm to her side, as she felt tears well up in her eyes. Joey, don't cry. Don't cry dammit! He gave her a contemptuous look, before turning again. "I missed you," she said softly.

For a second, he saw her as the fragile girl he fought to remember everyday, and that was enough to make his anger dissipate a little. Against his better judgement, he turned back to her. Being under the intense scrutiny of his icy glare was almost enough to break the invisible barrier that was holding back her tears.

"You have no right to miss me," he said coldly.

"What's that supposed to mean?" she asked. "That after you left, I should've pretended that you never existed?"

"Whatever works."

"So what am I to you?" she asked. "Nothing?"

He shook his head, in an attempt to wave off the comment. "You make me hate myself," he said very softly, not even realizing that the words had slipped out. She opened her mouth, but he held his index finger up, and said, "No." She shut her mouth, and stopped breathing for a moment. "You should not have any power over me. You never should have. The saga of 'Joey and Pacey' is not some book that's marked, where you can come back to it years later pretending nothing has changed. Everything has changed."

"What's that mean?" she whispered.

"It means leave me alone. I have done fine without you. I didn't need you then, and I don't need you now. This is a big place, so just leave it alone. Stop being such a self-absorbed bitch, and just let me be."

The words he uttered stung. Now her tears were falling -- in anger. "You go to hell," she spat. "You left! You did! And you're the one who left me behind to pick up the pieces!"

"The hell I did!" he hollered. "I left you with what you wanted!" She stared back at him. "Don't deny it," he said in a softer tone. "You told me that's what you wanted."

Her eyes narrowed with disgust. "I can't believe you," she said.

"You can say that you don't believe me," he said. "That's fine with me. The one thing that you can't say is that it's not true."

He shut his eyes, contracting every single muscle in his face. Even though he was too clever to believe her, some small part of him hoped that she might have tried to deny it. He shoved his hands in his pockets, and raised his eyes to meet hers. His stare was more pained than angry this time. When she didn't say anything, he began to speak in a soft whisper. "There were a lot of things that you could've said to me. Almost anything. But you said the one thing I didn't want to hear. You told me that I wasn't good enough, and I will never forgive you for that."

She looked at him seriously, desperately wanting to say something, but there was absolutely nothing she could say. He turned, and began to walk away. "Wait!" she yelled. He stopped walking, as she ran up behind him. "I was wrong."

"Well, it's too late for that now, isn't it? The damage has already been done." He walked back inside, leaving her standing alone.

* * * * *

To Be Continued . . .

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