Part Seven
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. I can lay a proud claim to Carlos, though.

Author's Note: As always, feedback is very appreciated. Also please do not post without my explicit permission. Part eight . . . whenever.

Recap: Joey and Pacey agree to talk, and she reveals how much she cared for him. Boy, and those two just couldn't keep their hands to themselves in the show.

"The trouble is that sex is a force of nature and reason is not."
-- Unknown

Joey stared at Pacey as he slept. He looked the most peaceful that he had since she first saw him when she got here. Things had changed now, and she was faced with the most uncertainty she had felt since she had arrived.

What was she thinking last night? In a moment of what could only be called temporary insanity, she had been on full disclosure with Pacey. She didn't know how he would react once what she had told him had the time to sink in. How would he feel when he realized that she had admitted a mistake, and admitted how much she cared for him?

The danger of all of this is that they already had a strong emotional attachment, and things were already mucked up. She really didn't know why she was doing all of this. He was just partially who he used to be, and he never got over how they parted.

She had been completely out of control last night, unable to resist the appeal of his body when she caught that glimpse of him in the shower. He was gorgeous. And she doubted that any sane woman would've been able to resist him. As great as the sex had been, she had lost control, and that was a feeling she absolutely hated. In her life, she had always prided herself on how she was always in control of the things she was capable of controlling. The exception to that rule had been him. At first it was the way he aroused her, then it was the emotions he extracted that no one else could provoke, and then it was this intense emotion she couldn't even describe, faltering back to the extreme sadness, guilt and anger she felt when he left.

His face was somber as he slept, and something instinctive told her to be prepared for him to explode when he woke up. He startled her as he flipped over in his sleep, his head now turned away, his back exposed. Her eyes focused on his shoulder. At closer examination, she saw a small tattoo. How come I never noticed that before? Her finger gently grazed it. It read Eros. What the hell was he thinking? She knew the word, but couldn't quite recall its meaning. Something a philosophy or psychology professor had touched on, she was sure, but the actual meaning escaped her. The idea that Pacey would permanently scar his body with any tattoo was rather unnerving. It could mean a hundred things, she imagined.

"God Pacey, what's going on with you?" she whispered. She was very concerned about his self-destructive behavior. She only had four days left in Puerto Rico, and didn't know what she would do for these last four days, much less what she would do when it came time to leave.

Not that she wanted to leave.

Pacey stirred, and his eyelids fluttered as he awoke. Their eyes locked the instant he was fully awake, but neither of them knew what to say. His look was soft, and not contemptuous or angry like she thought it would be. He lifted a hand, and brushed a lock of hair behind her ear. "Hey," he whispered.

"Hey," she echoed, a smile gracing her lips. He rubbed his eyes during the silence after her comment. Still, something was nagging her. "Are we . . . okay?" she whispered.

He thought for a second. "No," he answered plainly. "You're going to be gone in a few days."

"What if I said that I wanted to stay?"

He sat up in the bed, and her eyes focused on his tattoo. "Why would you say that?"

"I don't know," she said. "Wishful thinking. I've always wanted to live in paradise."

"It's over-rated."

She stood up, and wrapped the bed spread around her. "I don't want to make you uncomfortable, so I'll just go." She wasn't sure of why she wanted to take the quick escape, but suddenly she didn't want to talk about it any more. Grabbing her clothes that had been drying over a chair, she looked back at him. "Am I going to see you later?"

"Not today," he said. "I'm working this afternoon, and I'm working over-time at that party tonight."


"Yeah," he said. "A mixer for the guests."

She nodded, "can I see you there if I come?"

"Yeah," he said.

"Can we get together after you're done working?"

"It'll probably be late," he said. She was uneasy about the anger she was feeling for him at that moment. He was making her so angry she wanted to spit. That cold distance was pure Pacey Witter, it always had been. She leapt for the door, her clothes only half on. "But if you're still around, yeah," he added. She shook her head, and walked out.

* * * * *

Just like so many times before, the party had started without her. Joey walked into the ballroom of the Embassy. There were some streamers and balloons around the room in all colors. It was more upscale than she had imagined, actually, and there were many more people present. There was a band in the corner made up of some string players and a piano player. They were, at least, rather upbeat and jazzy.

Pacey immediately noticed Joey when she entered. She stood just inside the room, surveying the scene. He stood frozen, noticing how beautiful she was. Her long hair was cascading down her shoulders, and it looked much longer without the curls he was accustomed to seeing the past few days. She wore a long white dress with a high slit and no sleeves, and white shoes with a large, high heel, straps running across her foot.

"Mike. Mike!" Carlos said, sitting in front of Pacey. "Mike," he added before following Pacey's eyes. "If that isn't one of God's finer creations," Carlos said. "No wonder you don't want to talk to me."

"Huh?" Pacey said, finally noticing Carlos.

Carlos smiled wickedly at Pacey. "I think the man sees something he wants."

"Why do you say that?" Pacey asked.

Carlos took a deep breath, and then sighed. "She looks like some sort of challenge. She's a fine piece of ass, but she's undoubtedly an ice queen."

Pacey laughed. That was uncanny. If only he knew. She didn't exactly seem like and ice queen that night against the door, or last night in the shower.

Carlos noticed that Pacey's forehead had wrinkled; he was deep in concentration. Carlos was more interested in finding a woman to keep him company anyway. His eyes circled the room, and stopped at Joey, who had settled alone at a table. "Let's see if we can't find defrost," he said, leaving the barstool, not giving Pacey the opportunity to respond.

"May I sit here?" Carlos asked, giving Joey a sparkling smile.

"Go ahead," she said, nodding.

"I know that you told me your name the other night," he said. "I'm sorry, but I can't remember it."

"I did?" she asked. Then she recognized him. She couldn't remember the fake name she'd given him, though, so elected for her real one.

"Josephine," she said.

He nodded. "And how are you enjoying Puerto Rico, Josephine?" he asked, saying 'Puerto Rico' as only a local could.

"It's nice," she said. She stole a look at Pacey, and saw that she was being watched. "I've always wanted to come here."

"Really? Where are you from?" he asked.

"I've been living in Los Angeles for a couple years."

"Ah, a beautiful woman like you must be an actress," he said, his full smile revealing his dimples.

She couldn't help but to smile back, as she tossed her hair over her shoulder and laughed. "No, actually. I'm a writer," she said. "Posing as a secretary for some good story ideas."

"We've all been there," he said. "I've called my work at McDonald's pre-culinary preparation."

"So you're a chef?" she asked.

"Yeah," he answered. "I--" Carlos noticed that her attention was not focused on her question, but saw her watching Pacey.

"Go on," she said. Joey had a knack for doing two things at once, something she had developed in college.

"So, do you know Mike or do you want to know Mike?" he asked nonchalantly.

"What?" she asked, flustered.

Flirtation had exited for Carlos. "You heard what I said."

"A little of both you could say," she said.

"Can I be completely honest with you?" he asked.

"Why? Because now you know you're not getting laid by me tonight?" she asked.

"Yeah," he said, shrugging his shoulders.

"Go ahead," she said. She was impressed that he meant it when he said he would be honest.

"They hire men like Mike and me for a reason," he said. "It's not because Mike's a skilled bartender, or because I'm a world-renowned chef." She watched Carlos expectantly waiting for more of this explanation. "The women like us," he said simply.

"You're full of yourself, aren't you, Carlos?"

"Call it what you want. The point is, people like Mike and me have more than our share of ass running around this resort." His blatant honesty was getting the best of him. "You can assume what kind of men we are."

"Why don't you tell me?" she said.

"Women use us. We let them. Simple."

"So what? You're telling me all this so you can protect me from him?" she asked.

"Let's put it this way. Women love Mike. Mike loves women to some extent. Of all the men that I've seen come through this hotel, he's the best at being cool and emotionally detached."

"So what's your point?"

He laughed as he watched her, seeming so naive. "Let's just put it this way. If you're looking for a good fuck--and please excuse the language, but that's all it really is. If you're looking for a good fuck, I hear that Mike's your man. Don't expect anything more from him, though."

"You think you know him that well?" she challenged.

"We're not as different as we appear. I don't know him that well at all," he said. "What I can tell you is that some woman burned him once. That's not something you get over."

"You really think so?" she asked softly.

"I know," he said. "See ya 'round, Josephine."

Joey sat there for a moment. She watched as Carlos moved to a group of three young women congregating in the corner. Her eyes fell back to Pacey, and she saw him talking to a redhead at the bar.

She slid on to a barstool, and in seconds he slid her token gin and tonic in front of her. She smiled at him, and he nodded, walking back to the other woman. Cold and emotionally detached. She downed the drink with record speed, and left.

He noticed. He hated turning this into a game, but there was no sense in her thinking it was otherwise.

* * * * *

Pacey was putting bottles back on trays to be taken out of the room, dirty glasses in tubs when Carlos sat down at the bar of the now near-deserted ballroom.

"You've fucked her already, haven't you?" Carlos said.

"Who?" Pacey asked.

"That brunette I was talking to tonight. Don't say you don't know what I'm talking about, because I saw you watching us."

"Yeah," Pacey said, not diverting his attention from his work.

"Just once?" Carlos asked.

Pacey shrugged, grabbing a near-empty bottle of bourbon and taking a swig.

"How many times, Mike?"

"It doesn't matter, Carlos," Pacey said.

"She's looking for something from you," Carlos said. "Not to mention I've never seen you look at any woman like you looked at her tonight. You seem . . . infatuated."

"I'm not infatuated," Pacey said. "She's just another woman."

"She's a good lay, isn't she?" Carlos asked, a wide grin appearing on his face.

Pacey reflected for a moment, and looked back poker-faced at Carlos.

"I knew it," Carlos said. He laughed before his face turned uncharacteristically serious. "Watch yourself, man. Don't forget rule number one."

Pacey nodded, tapping his fist on top of Carlos' before he left.

* * * * *

Pacey was mindlessly pushing the broom across the floor of the nearly-deserted ballroom. He was softly humming along with the lone man playing the piano as he crossed the floor. Turning to head to the other end of the room, he saw her. He stopped and said, "hey."

She nodded as she walked toward him. "You were busy," she whispered, still hurt from when he ignored her.

"I was doing my job," he answered.

She nodded again. At least that's what Carlos had said was part of his job. "What can I do?" she asked finally.

"What do you mean?"

"I don't know," she said, letting the topic drop as quickly as she had brought it up. She wanted to know what she could do for him--to have him eliminate the coldness and distance, to have him pretend like everything would be okay.

He rested his elbow on the broom handle, and stared back at her. "I saw you talking to Carlos again," he said.

"Yeah," she said. "He had a lot to say about you." Pacey looked at her seriously, waiting for elaboration. "All the women love you," she continued, "but you always manage to remain cool and emotionally detached. He offered me a warning too."

"Oh really," Pacey said. "What was it?"

"Told me that I wasn't any different than the rest of them, and that I shouldn't expect anything from you."

"You shouldn't."

"I don't know why I try."

"I don't either. I don't know what you want from me."

"I've missed you," she said. "And I . . . I just want you not to hate me anymore."

He looked up at her, unsure of what to say. "I . . ."

"You don't have to say it." She tried to hide the hurt that statement caused.

"I don't hate you," he said. "I just really hate what you did . . . what you did to me."

She shook her head, and turned to walk away. Something stopped her. "I hope that one day you understand that it wasn't all my fault."

He walked and stood next to her again. "I realized that a long time ago," he said. "It just makes it easier if I don't have to recognize it."

She looked at the ceiling as she shook her head. "God, Pacey, where did we go wrong?"

He gently touched her cheek, as he was so accustomed to doing. "Everywhere," he whispered.

Her eyes focused on the floor, as he gently pushed her hair behind her ear and moved closer to her. He knew that she needed to be reassured, and instinctively he did it. "I'm sorry it's such a mess," he whispered. "It doesn't have to be the issue now, though."

She knew that was his defense. Pretend like it doesn't exist. Now anyway. The problem with that philosophy was that in the morning it would exist again, and one of them would run, angry at the other.

Pacey instinctively enveloped Joey in his arms, and they began swaying slowly to the soft piano music.

Joey was afraid that she was reading too much into this one gesture. Somehow, she was going to convince herself that it meant that he still cared about her.

He looked down at Joey, and realized he was getting too close. "I've got to finish up," he said abruptly.

"Okay," she whispered hoarsely. She lifted her eyes to his hopefully. "Can I see you later?"

"It's really late . . ."

She pulled the card that opened the door from her pocket and held it out to him. "I don't care."

He took it. "I'll be a while."

"Okay," she whispered, as she turned to walk away. She was going to keep her emotions in control this time no matter what. Somehow she wanted to make him understand that things weren't like before. She felt like she needed to win him over.

* * * * *

Pacey took a deep breath before he cautiously slid the card in the door's lock. He was greeted by the smell of candles -- some floral scent. There was soft music coming from a small stereo situated on the dresser. He stood there for a moment, taking the scene in.

He wasn't exactly sure what to do. Something deep down in his gut was telling him to stop this before it started. It was completely incomprehensible to him. He didn't know why this kept happening. What was happening with Joey now was worse that what had happened in the past. Now she wanted more than sex: She wanted explanations and unconditional acceptance. Those were things he was just unwilling to provide her with.

More than anything, he realized that she was still abusing him. He had known all along that Joey was the reason he is the way he is, but none of that seemed to matter when she was around. Beneath the tough layers of women from the past, and the rancid feelings of hurt, and the crusted over part of his heart, he still cared for her.

Despite everything she did. He sighed softly. God, why can't I just forget about everything? He shook his head at the thought. Because she hurt you, he answered. The internal struggle alone was enough to drive him crazy. He hadn't had to think about his feelings in years, because the primary focus of Mike the bartender was to detach himself from any emotion that couldn't be linked to anger; the goal had been to live in indifference. But then the one thing he couldn't be indifferent to had to walk in with a skirt and an attitude.

He knew he had to get out of there. The floor squeaked at his unexpected movement. "Damn," he whispered.

"Pacey?" Joey called from the bathroom.

He looked around the room, searching for an unrevealed answer. It wasn't there. "It's me," he said.

"Can you come in here?"

He shut his eyes, stretching every muscle in his face. "I'll just wait out here for you to finish," he said, his voice coming out in more of a squeak than his normal tone.

"Come in," she said.

He pushed the bathroom door back against the wall, and took one step into the room. It was lit just as the other one, dark with the light flicker of a few candles. "I don't think I should be here," he choked out.

She smiled softly. "I want you here."

"That doesn't make it right." Cautiously, he took a few steps toward her. He could see her face more clearly. She was resting in the bathtub. Her hair was wet on the ends where it was dipping into the bath.

She leaned her back against the bathtub and shut her eyes. "Right and wrong are objective."

For some reason, he didn't want to argue with her point. Just as he had suspected, once he saw her, he wanted her. He gently sat on the side of the large bathtub, facing her. His head was spinning. He was overcome by the smell and the lighting and having so much of her body visible. Clearly, he was looking at the most sensuous thing he'd ever seen -- and he'd seen a lot in his life.

He examined her as she sat, moving from the one knee that poked out of the water, to her breasts, around her soft shoulders, her long neck. Her tongue whipped along her bottom lip. She knew he was watching.

Inching closer, he ran a hand through her hair. He reached a hand into the bath, cupping some of it, and seductively let it drip onto her head. She opened her eyes, letting them penetrate his. He brushed a lock of hair behind her shoulder, completely aroused by the combination of the feeling of her skin and her fiery gaze. But he was tired of being submissive with her. He wanted to be in control.

He continued to gently pour the water over he head, then squeezed the shampoo into his hands, before gently washing her hair with it. She looked up at him helplessly. This was so . . . unexpected. He wasn't supposed to be doing this--it was supposed to be her show. It didn't matter, though. Now, she needed him, she wanted him.

He placed a finger underneath, lifting her chin, and began kissing her hungrily, her hair still sudsy from the soap. She clenched at his shirt, pulling him closer.

Pacey fumbled at his feet, trying desperately to remove his shoes. He swung his leg over the side of the bathtub, and flinched as it met the warm liquid. Joey guided him into the tub, clothes and all, getting lost in the thrill and excitement; the heat of his kiss coupled with the coolness of his skin. His kiss was fervent, as he moved down her neck. "God, Pacey, I need you," she whispered.

She needed him. It made him feel good, despite the circumstances, and he was happy to be there with her. It made him happy that she needed him. At that point, any hint of logic flew out the window.

* * * * *

To Be Continued . . .

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