Part Ten
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: Yes, yes, yes, I know it's been a really long time. I apoligize. Now, if this chapter isn't any good, it's because of all the pressure! As always, feedback is very appreciated. Also please do not post without my explicit permission.

Recap: Pacey finds Joey coming out of Carlos' room late the same night. He takes her to his room, tries to reason with her, and then has to give her a cold shower to calm her ass down. Finally, they talk and he give in despite his fears and unsurities. Then, Pacey and Joey make love. Awww...

"Love is a fire. But whether it is going to warm your hearth or burn down your house, you can never tell."
-- Joan Crawford

Pacey Witter wouldn't dare say that he was happy. That would be an invitation for disaster. Right now, he would say that he was the least angry and hurting he had been in a long time. It wasn't as if Joey had been the cause and cure of everything that ailed him for so many years, but she was the central piece of the puzzle.

All these years he had speculated about what it would be like to be with her again. When she surfaced here in Puerto Rico, it was nothing like he'd imagined it, and that was as much his fault as it was hers. He supposed that he'd paid for everything he'd done wrong over the past six years by living in his own self-made misery. Now he was supposed to be happy, and he wasn't sure that he remembered how.

The questions just wouldn't stop invading his head. She was leaving in two days to go back to wherever it was that she came from. There was no changing him either. He'd spent too many years like this, and as the old saying went, it was very difficult to teach an old dog new tricks. As much as he hoped it wasn't true, deep down he knew that she was seeking out the old Pacey who was just so much more different than the scorned, jaded man he'd become over the past few years.

People like him were not supposed to be happy, and whatever had happened with Joey last night was more than likely some cruel joke on the part of fate that was going to keep him down, to hold him back. As much as he tried to convince himself that he deserved this, that he could love her, that he could trust her, deep down he wondered if he could.

Pouring drinks had become so mechanical for him. The resort was growing more and more busy, and he seemed to be serving more and more tourists. While, usually, they worked his last nerve, he was able to ignore them with a new finesse. It was because he finally had something to go home to. She was waiting for him, and she wasn't waiting with expectancy, or waiting for confrontation, or even for a good fuck. She was just waiting for him.

He couldn't help but for his mouth to curl into a small smile as he finished replacing bottles on the shelf of the bar. It almost hurt him to smile considering he so rarely used those muscles. The prospect of her waiting for him--the real him--made him ready to leave. For the first time in months he had a reason to leave work that wasn't physical. He barely mumbled two words to his replacement before leaving the bar.

His fingers absently ran along the hair on his chin as he waited for the elevator. When the doors opened, she was there.

She smiled a full smile at him, and instantly threw her arms around his neck. "What are you doing here?" he whispered in her ear.

"I was waiting for you," she said as she untangled herself from him. She grabbed his hand and led him back into the elevator.

"You should've come to the bar," he said.

"I couldn't have done this in the bar," she said, standing on her toes and kissing him.

If this had been anyone else, Pacey would've felt smothered. It wasn't just anyone, though. This was Joey. The woman he'd fallen head over foot in love with at seventeen. Despite the bitterness he'd felt, he'd never stopped loving her.

There was no discussion, but they went to her room. He held her hand gently as they walked into the room. She was grinning widely, and he couldn't keep the corner of his mouth from curling up as he watched her. "Why are you smiling?" he asked, resting his hands on her hips and pulling her toward him.

"I'm smiling because of you," she said. "Twenty four hours ago I would've said it was impossible. But I'm beginning to think that anything is possible."

His eyes stared back at her. The expression he wore was difficult to read, and she wasn't sure if she'd gone too far. Maybe he thought that she understood this to be without complications, but she knew better. She didn't want to think about that now. She just wanted to grab on to the good things and let the bad things float away for now, for a day, maybe two.

"So tell me what's happening," he said.

She smiled again, but this time it was considerably smaller. "I'm not sure," she whispered. "I think it's good, though."

He stroked the side of her face gently with his hand. She closed her eyes and held her breath as his fingers trailed along her jawline. He didn't say anything. In his eyes there was nothing to say. If she wanted to ignore the problems that existed, he would indulge her for a night.

He bent his head and kissed her softly. She responded, but her head wouldn't calm. It was swirling with thoughts. She pulled away slowly and looked up at him with soft eyes. "I don't want to screw this up," she said.

He stared back at her, unsure of what she meant. "It has to be about more than sex this time," she continued.

"I know that," he said, reassuringly running his fingers along her arm. "I know. For me it's always been more than that."

"I know," she sighed. "I just . . . I feel like we have to be so careful. This is fragile."

"So what do we do?" he asked softly.

"I want to be close to you, Pacey. But not at the risk of pushing you farther away."

"You won't push me away," he said. He stroked her chin with his thumb as he closed his eyes and exhaled.

She kissed him. It was less soft and more intense than their last. Somehow she knew that she needed to show that to him. As many fears and insecurities she had, she could tell he had just as many. No matter how much she hated to admit it, she knew sex was their security.

As she fumbled with the buttons on his shirt, they backed to the bed. Her fears were allayed as she realized how much she wanted him, how much she needed him.

* * * * *

Pacey poured himself a glass of bourbon. As he took a sip, he watched Joey stand on the balcony, staring at the ocean.

He walked outside and placed an arm around her waist, just under the belt that held her white, terry cloth robe together. "What are you thinking about?"

"I hate Josephine," she said absently.

"You never have liked it," he said.

She looked back at him and shook her head, her wet hair pounding her cheeks. "No, I don't like who I am, who I've become."

"That's crazy," he said.

She pulled away from his grasp and looked back at him though the darkness. "It's not. I became what he wanted me to be. And that nauseates me."

"You were going to marry him," Pacey said.

"God, I know that!" she said, raising her voice more than she wanted to. "Because I've already lost myself."

"It's never too late to find yourself," he said. She backed away, leaning against the rail, shaking her head in disbelief. "You think I'm proud of who I am?" he asked.

"That's not what I mean," she sighed.

"The drunk, just plain fucked up bastard," he said. "It's such a great thing to be."

"I'm sorry," she said. He waited for her to continue, but she didn't have anything else to say.

He wrapped his arms around her, holding her tightly. "Come on, let's go to bed," he said.

She nodded, and they walked back into the room.

* * * * *

Things were contented as Joey and Pacey walked down one of the streets in Puerto Rico. It was just beautiful, and Joey couldn't have asked for more. But tomorrow it was decision time--she would have to go or stay.

"Is it raining?" she asked, stopping and turning toward him.

He lifted his eyes to the sky, and saw it was increasingly graying. He held out his hand and felt a few droplets hit it. "You afraid of the rain?" he asked.

"Some people have told me that I might melt," she responded.

He laughed, knowing full well that she was overcompensating. Her feelings were still scathed over the incident the other day in the rain on the beach. He smiled softly, smoothing her hair behind her ear. He cradled her face in his hands, bent his head, and laid a gentle kiss on her lips. It was slow but thorough and intensifying. The taste of his mouth on hers was sweet as she fought to make the moment last forever.

The rain began to fall heavily, and he pulled back, smiling at her. She was gorgeous, laughing as she was pelted by the pouring rain. And he told her. "You're beautiful," he said.

"I'm happy," she said simply.

He stopped then, hoping everything else would too. He watched her. Maybe, for the first time in a long time, he was happy too.

He wasn't sure how long they stayed there like that, locked in each other's gaze before he kissed her again. "We better get back," he said softly. She nodded, grabbed his hand, and followed him back to the hotel.

* * * * *

Pacey trailed behind Joey as they left the elevator on the fifth floor. Abruptly, she stopped walking and her face paled. "Dawson?" she whispered. Her eyes didn't leave the tall, blond man who stood in front of her door. He looked back at her, almost seeming frightened. His eyes showed a mixture of concern and confusion.

Pacey stood still, almost as if he were frozen, afraid that moving may spook any one of them. Joey's eyes finally fell on him. Just when they finally had their battles narrowed down, it seemed as if another one had surfaced.

* * * * *

To Be Continued . . .

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