Part Twelve
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: Well, folks, it's the end of the road. Serendipity has been so wonderful to write, and I have heard a varitey of comments from so many great people. Thank you all for reading and sticking around for it. I know I haven't exactly been quick, but I do hope I entertained you . . . maybe just a little.

Recap: Joey tells Dawson that she'd been lying to herself too long and she was in love with someone else before sending him back to Los Angeles. Pacey worries about how he'll be for Joey. They're intimate one more time before Joey finds out from Carlos that Pacey's left Puerto Rico.

"How can you hesitate? Risk! Risk anything! Care no more for the opinion of others, for those voices. Do the hardest thing on earth for you. Act for yourself. Face the truth."
-- Katherine Mansfield

Pacey Witter took a last drag from his cigarette before stomping it out underneath his sandal. He looked around tentatively. He'd been there a year now, and St. John didn't seem so different from Puerto Rico. The sites were similar, the tourists were looking for the same things, and he was still running away.

He didn't know why he ran away. All he knew was that he had to run away. Another mistake compounded on the hundreds of others he'd made shouldn't have made any difference, but, yet, it did. Leaving Joey a second time had been difficult. It was more difficult, just because this time she wanted him.

Defeatedly, he ran his fingers through his hair. He kept it much shorter now. His face was clean shaven, his eyes were more expressive, his posture more commanding. Things were different for him now.

When he'd flown from San Juan to St. John he started to make decisions about his life. At that point he decided to rely on what had helped him survive his adolescence. Suck it up, Witter, he'd tell himself. That was all he could do. He had to deal with whatever it was that had drug him so far down into the depths of insanity and self-destruction.

It wasn't easy, though. He still got angry. He still threw things, broke things. He still drank, although maybe not in the mass quantities he'd been so accustomed to just a year ago. He'd still go home with strange women.

So maybe things had only changed superficially. He was still alone, still miserable, still in pain. The only difference was that the deep blue ocean and grainy stretches of sand were replaced by turquoise bays and white beaches. They were worlds apart, but things weren't very different.

It was sort of silly for him to reflect on it after all this time, but most days he still missed her. Everyday he wondered how different things would've turned out had he stuck it out and seen what happened between them. It was too late, though. He'd already done it, and now he had to live with it.

He sucked in the air around him, taking in the last fresh air before he went back inside. The bar was quiet as he took his place near the cash register.

A young woman slid onto a stool at the other end of the bar, sighing as she threw her sunglasses and book down on the bar, placing her head in her hands. She looked frustrated.

He swaggered toward her wearing a smile. "What can I get you?" he asked.

She looked up at him immediately awestruck by his eyes. She smiled back. "A martini, please." She twirled a strand of her curly auburn hair around her index finger, as he made her drink.

"Enjoying your vacation?" he asked.

"Do I look that much like a tourist?" she asked, a seductive smile on her lips.

He laughed softly. "Just about everyone who comes here is a tourist."

"Have you lived here long?" she asked.

"Not long," he answered. As he laid her glass on top of a napkin on the bar his eyes fell on the novel next to her hands. There was a picture of the shoreline across on the front. "May I?" he asked. She nodded and handed him the book. He read the cover slowly letting it sink in. It was called Full Circle and the author was Joey Potter. "Where'd you . . . where'd you find this?" he asked.

"A last minute stop at Barnes and Noble before I left Chicago," she laughed. "The author was coming for a book signing or something and they had this display. I grabbed it because this woman said it was bound to be a best seller."

"Let me buy it," he said looking back at her.

"Buy it?" she asked, surprised at the unexpected turn this conversation had taken. He looked at her seriously, placing a fifty dollar bill on the bar. "You've got to be kidding me," she said. He shook his head. "Okay," she agreed. Now he was preoccupied with the book, and she was ready to go back to sulking. She left some cash on the bar and walked away without saying anything to him.

He opened the book and read the dedication. To "Mike," I still love you, you bastard. He hadn't been expecting that. It looked like he'd left her in the position where she'd fallen in love with him so hard that she had to hate him. He knew the feeling well.

He let go of his long-held breath, shut the book, and shoved it underneath the bar. He had to read it, but he couldn't then.

* * * * *

Pacey slowly moved the damp rag across the bar, putting away empty glasses as he continued. In just fifteen minutes he got off work. He wasn't sure what he'd do. Possibly, he'd grab a bottle of bourbon from the shelf on his way out and go sit on the beach to wait for the sun to rise.

He looked up slowly and saw her there. It was eerie in the strangest sort of way. He'd conjured up so many images of her as he read and reread her book, and now she didn't seem real as she stood there before him.

She slid up on the barstool and looked back at him. Her eyes said what her mouth didn't as they remained wrapped in the silence.

"What can I get you?" he asked softly.

"Gin and tonic," she replied. He mechanically went into his routine, finally setting her drink in front of her.

"Can I ask you a question?" she said, the words not flowing like she'd hoped they would.

He nodded, a large part of him hoping that she wouldn't ask why he left the second time. He still didn't know the answer to that.

"What's your name?" she asked, a preface to her real question. She was curious to see what he would say this time.

"Mike," he responded softly.

"Mike," she said, drawing it out for a long as she possibly could. "Do you believe in luck?"

"No," he said.

"I do," she said. "The first time anyway. Of course, luck can only do so much."

"Why?" he asked.

"It was luck when I found you the first time," she whispered. "This time it wasn't."

"I read your book," he said, trying desperately to steer the conversation away from himself.

"What'd you think?"

"It was us . . . with a happy ending."

She nodded softly. "Someone should get the happy ending."

"Someone should," he agreed.

"So tell me if I should go up to this room I have here for the night and anticipate waking up and finding out that you've run off to another island," she said, mild contempt shining through her voice.

He sighed, warily rubbing the side of his head with his palm. "I don't know which answer you want to hear."

Her eyes were tired. She was just looking for closure. She refused to rest until she found him, and now she had. The only problem was that she didn't know if she should give him another chance or if she should hurt him like he hurt her. "I could spend the rest of my life chasing you," she whispered.

"I could spend the rest of my life running away," he returned.

"Why do you want to run?"

"Why do you want to chase me?"

"Because even after everything you've done to me I still love you," she whispered.

"Well, maybe I do what I do for the same reasons," he said.

"You're being selfish, Pacey," she said.

"If I were selfish I would've stayed," he said.

"You couldn't have hurt me any worse by staying than you did by leaving," she told him.

"I never claimed that I did the right thing," he responded. "As a matter of fact, I don't think I've ever did a right thing in my life."

"It was wrong to love me?" she asked.

"Yes," he said. "From the beginning it was wrong."

"And now?"

"Now it's too late."

"We're both here," she said. "It's not too late."

He didn't answer. He wanted so badly for everything she was saying to be true. But he wasn't sure that it was.

"I'm going back to Chicago tomorrow," she said. "I learned something from you in Puerto Rico. You told me that paradise wasn't all it was cracked up to be, but we . . . we weren't in paradise. Paradise is a state of mind."

He knew she was right. She seemed so much more insightful, so much more reflective than he thought she was. Just standing there looking in her eyes, he saw everything he loved about her.

"I still want you," she whispered. "Come back to Chicago with me."

He cocked his head and looked back at her, examining each nuance of her face intently. "That's not the happy ending in your book."

"Happy endings don't happen in real life," she said. "I'm not looking for an ending. I'm just looking to be less miserable. I'm just looking for you."

"You found me," he said softly.

"Come with me," she said.

There were no words to say. He simply nodded his head once. Things wouldn't be perfect. Every realistic bone in his body knew that they'd never be perfect. It may fall apart in a matter of days, because everything was so complicated. But there was one thing he knew.

It was time to stop running.

* * * * *

The End

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