Chapter 1: Thousand Reasons And One
They were lying on their respective makeshift beds, sleeping bags actually, right there in the outdoor section of the K-Mart.
Joey nibbled nervously on her fingernails while she gazed over to Pacey. He was so close, if she reached out her hand, she would be touching him. He lay on top of his sleeping bag, staring at the ceiling.
Diverting her eyes briefly from his outstretched figure she tried to make up her mind whether or not to tell him what she was thinking of. They used to do that on the True Love all the time, a time which seemed to be so far away and yet as if it was just yesterday.
A sudden movement forced her to look at him again. He had raised one hand to rub his eyes. Joey smiled inwardly. She knew this gesture. It was the first sign that he was tired and sleep would overtake him in a few moments. And it was her cue, it was now or never.
“Hey, Pace, did you...” without thinking Joey started to talk. She had to get his attention before he was drifting into slumber.
Pacey was tired and closed his eyes after staring at the boring ceiling for endless minutes. He felt her eyes on him but he tried to ignore it. After what he had told her, after they had kissed... she had asked for a little time. She wanted to sleep on it before giving him an answer to what...yeah, to what actually? To his declaration that their relationship had been the only thing in his life that made sense? That even two years later, ... even after he ended it, ... even after both of them had been with other people...that even then the only thing he wanted was to kiss her and to be with her? Rubbing his eyes he thought back to the kiss they shared this evening.
Contrary to previous experience she had kissed him back and she didn’t push him away. She wanted to sleep on it. Did this mean she was considering...them? Considering her own feelings? If so she had to have feelings for him...still...and they couldn’t be so clear, otherwise she would have just said that they absolutely had no future together. She didn’t say that. Of course she could only be playing the time card...
Somehow Pacey felt like he had gone back in time to that insecure seventeen years old boy who was hoping against all hope to be with the girl he loved. Back then he got the girl and now? Now he was a twenty year old young man who was again and still hoping to get the girl who had grown up into an amazing young woman.
Exhausted he closed his eyes, praying that sleep would take him away from all these thoughts and knowing that he wouldn’t sleep with her so close to him. As soon as she would be asleep he would start watching over her, just like he always did when they were together, but not ‘together’. He probably would do it even when they were together. His mind was reeling and sleep was far, far away as her voice penetrated the vicious circle of his thoughts.
“Hey, Pace, did you...?”
Without letting her finish he started to respond, “Put all the stuff back? Yeah. Though some of it we're gonna have to pay for, like the clothes.” He feared she wanted to talk about them and suddenly he wished they had more time together before the inevitable end of this adventure would send them on their separate ways again.
Joey shook her head slightly, sighed and tried again, “Pacey, did you...”
Pacey stretched his arms as Joey tried to ask him something for the second time. Naturally she wouldn’t give up so easily, she never did. Without looking at her he raised his index finger and his tongue easily found its way back to their good old banter.
“If the next words out of your mouth are "take out the trash," I will officially have a preview of what it'd be like to be married to you,” folding his hands on his chest he waited for her to pick up on that.
“And?” Joey raised her eyebrow and looked at him.
Pacey chuckled. “It ain’t pretty.” Yes, talking like that seemed to bring them back to safe ground, to everything they knew before. At least for the moment.
Joey smiled and turned back on her back. Playing with her hands she took a deep breath. “I was going to say... is... did you know?”
Something in her voice got Pacey’s attention. It was telling him that the short relapse into their well practiced form of communication was over. Opening his eyes he turned his head and looked at her. “Did I know what?”
Still a little insecure Joey tilted her head as well and answered with a smile, “This was a dream come true?”
“Which part?” Sleep was now extremely far away from him. She got him hooked, again.
“All of it.”
Both rolled to their side, facing each other. Pacey furrowed his brows lightly. He had no idea where this was going. Listening to her voice he punched the little cushion into his desired form and stuffed it between his head and his arm.
Slowly and in a dreamy voice Joey started to describe her fantasy to Pacey. “When you and I were on the boat... I used to dream that we'd be cast away somewhere. You know, your... standard tropical island with the white sand beaches and... giant stars overhead. We'd wear no clothes, and we’d...splash in the surf all day. And then at night... the moon would be this... well, this giant thing. And it was always full.”
Pacey smiled and closed his eyes briefly, picturing the scenario of Joey’s dream. It was a dream he’d love to share. “I like this fantasy. I'd catch fish with my bare hands... make fire without matches.”
“I'd make the fires.” Joey declared determinedly.
Her sudden objection brought him back from his reverie and he stared at her with wide eyes.
“Who paid attention in science class?” she challenged him fully knowing that he couldn’t argument against her.
Pacey closed his eyes in defeat. Leave it to Joey to remind him of his not so flattering school career. “Ok. Good point.”
Smiling triumphantly Joey added, “Besides... it's my fantasy. And I guess I... never told you about it before because it’s...” she chuckled.
Pacey smiled. It was good to see her like this. While listening to her fantasy, a fantasy that included him and them nevertheless, something tugged at his heart. Maybe he wasn’t the only one who was dreaming.
Blushing Joey continued, “...Embarrassing. You know? I mean... not at all original.”
Okay, granted. It wasn’t really original, but it was surely a very tempting fantasy. And then it hit Pacey. A fantasy, not reality. The smile left his face and his tone got serious. “Well, I guess you were right about one thing.”
“What’s that?” the playfulness was gone and Joey was taken aback.
“There are about a thousand reasons why you and I would never work.” Pacey closed his eyes, evading her questioning gaze for a moment.
For a second Joey glanced at him sadly. By telling him about her dream she had attempted to show him how much he meant to her, that this dream hadn’t left her, that she still wanted to be with him beneath the whole surface of sheer friendship. Obviously she hadn’t succeed and he didn’t leave her another choice.
“There's one thing in the pro column.”
Now it was Pacey’s turn to wonder. “What's that?”
Never losing their eye-contact Joey slowly got up and crawled the short distance over to him.
Pacey’s heart started to race and beat wildly against his chest. Hesitant he scooted back, just a little bit to make room for her, but as he did Joey immediately closed the small gap between them again and softly brushed her lips over his.
Pacey swallowed, not really believing and yet feeling that it was true. She was kissing him, she had come to him this time. She had made the first move. Leaning into her kiss Pacey brought his arm to her back, finally pulling her as close as possible and kissed her back, feeling like no time had passed at all since the last time they were kissing like that.
Reassured by his response to her approach Joey raised her hand and caressed Pacey’s cheek. Their kiss deepened and as she felt him tangle his hand in her hair she felt like finally being whole again.
Needing to be even closer to the other, their legs entwined and remembered the positions they were once so used to.
Breaking their kiss Joey touched the tip of his nose with her own and drew back an inch, whispering, “Doesn't mean what you think it means.”
“Well, then what does it mean?” Pacey’s voice was husky.
Joey smiled and her eyes told him a whole different story than what her mouth was saying. “Well... it means that... well, I'm cold.”
“Oh,” Pacey nodded knowingly but reached for the cover of the sleeping bag and draped it over both of them.
Joey cuddled into his chest, relishing in the feeling of his arm around her shoulder and looked up to his eyes. “And... I'm still thinking about it... and I miss you, Pace.”
Kissing her forehead, Pacey whispers, “I miss you, too.”
A smile formed on his face. This was better than any fantasy. Lying there with her was reality, a reality he had been so sure of only being a fantasy. Tightening his arms around Joey, he felt her relaxing against his body and a feeling of utter content invaded him.
Burying her head under Pacey’s chin Joey closed her eyes. She wanted nothing more than to crawl inside of him and closing them off against the world. Blindly reaching for Pacey’s hand she found it already moving towards hers and she couldn’t help but sigh upon the knowledge they shared of each other. Pacey just knew that she wanted to hold his hand, hooking her index finger around his thumb, like always.
Neither of them woke up during the night. A feeling of total happiness and security had settled over them and just being with each other was the guarantee of the most peaceful sleep they had since their breakup so long ago.
Bright and harsh artificial light coaxed Pacey awake the next morning. Yawning and rubbing his face he raised his head sleepily. It took a few seconds before he realized that the warm and extremely pleasant weight lying on his left arm was Joey, who was still asleep and curled up against him. In a rush the events of the last night came back to Pacey and just as a smile lit his face he saw the employee from the evening before standing over them. The boy was obviously not too pleased to find them midst among the displays.
Swaying from one foot to the other the boy stuttered, “ Dude... this is totally... uncool.”
This was so very much not the kind of wake-up call Pacey would like to get after the most wonderful night they had spent together in those two years apart. But it was just typical for them.
“Um... Joey?” Pacey cleared his throat and gently stroked Joey’s back in an attempt to wake her.
Joey stirred barely noticeable and mumbled only half consciously, “Five more minutes.”
As much as he would love to keep her in his arms a bit longer, this wasn’t an option. “No, no. No, I think now would be a good time.” His whispering in her ear forced Joey to open her eyes and moan, “Why?”
She didn’t want to let go of him, but Pacey pointed behind her and slowly started to get up. Following his pointed direction Joey’s eyes met a blushing teenager who couldn’t stand still for a second and wildly gesticulated with his hands. Shocked at his presence Joey sat up and struggled to put the slippers on, that Pacey had chosen for her and stretched her hand towards Pacey, who was already standing. While Pacey helped her up, the boy found his voice again.
“Like...I mean... you're allowed... to, like, test things... and stuff... but the manager is gonna be... like, his mind is gonna be blown.”
Joey frowned and wished to be anywhere but there, at least to be clothed in something different than a pajama.
Pacey on the other hand stayed calm.
“This... no need to call the manager, 'cause, you know, we were just about to leave.”
This explanation seemed to calm the employee, because suddenly he smiled and stared at Joey as if he had only then realized she was standing there beside Pacey. “Hey.”
Joey smoothed her hair and stared back at him uncomfortably. “Hey.” Turning to Pacey they shared a glance, not knowing what else to do. Pacey stuffed his hands into his pockets. He couldn’t blame the kid to stare at Joey and after all they were kind of trespassing. As long as the boy only stared like that he wouldn’t interfere. He knew that Joey could handle him by herself just fine.
“So, is this... like, your girlfriend?” the boy asked admiringly without taking his eyes off her.
Before Pacey could say anything Joey straightened and said like it was the most common thing in the world, “No. We just sleep together from time to time. Do you have a problem with that?”
Raising her eyebrows Joey walked past him towards the restrooms to get dressed, leaving Pacey behind with a big smile on his face while the boy’s mouth almost dropped to the floor. “Very nice,” he managed to say, obviously impressed.
Pacey wiggled his eyebrows, unable to hide his smirk. He could only imagine the hormonal turmoil the teenager was in after what Joey had said to him. He followed Joey to the restroom where they had left their coats and clothes. Reaching the door he stopped and knocked. “It’s me, Jo. Can I come in?”
“Sure.” Joey turned towards the door and her smile greeted Pacey as he stepped into the room. “Hey.”
“Hey.” Pacey returned her smile with an even bigger one. A small part of him was wary about what would happen to them, now that the night was over. The bigger part of him was saying to hell with it. They obviously still felt a lot for each other and second chances didn’t came by very often. He wanted to believe they might have one of those after all. Maybe he was a hopeless romantic, or maybe he was just a glutton for heartbreak to come, but in the end it would always come to the same result. Whenever or wherever Joey was concerned he would go and take whatever would face him, because she was right. No matter how many justifiable reasons there were for them not to be together, there was still the one that shattered all of them: love.
“That was quite a show you put up for that poor boy.” Pacey closed the door and leaned against it.
“Yeah, well. I just wanted to introduce him to the realities of the 21st century: Good girls go to heaven and bad girls go everywhere.” Joey grinned and tried to close the zipper of her dress.
“So bad girls go and spend the night with some guy they casually know in a K-Mart, huh?” Pacey walked over to her and put his hands on her hips, stopping her struggle with the zipper on her back. “Here, let me help you,” he easily moved the zipper before pulling her back into his chest and making eye-contact with her through the mirror.
“Maybe, yeah... for example.” Joey shrugged and let her head fall back on Pacey’s shoulder while her hands were resting on his.
“What else do bad girls of the 21st century do?” Pacey tilted his head to touch Joey’s softly.
“Everything?” Pacey raised his eyebrow.
“Yes, everything. They want to make their dreams come true, whatever it may take.” Joey swallowed and turned in Pacey’s arms to face him directly.
Pacey looked down into her brown eyes and took a deep breath before asking, “And do you make your dreams come true, Jo?”
“I’m trying... I guess,” biting her lip she raised her hands and locked them behind Pacey’s neck, “It’s not so easy... fulfilling dreams...”
“I know.” Pacey pulled her tightly against him. It wasn’t easy and it probably never would be, but he wanted to try.
“Ohh...I’m sorry. I... I didn’t know somebody was in here.” One of the cleaning personal stuck her head into the restroom and grew stiff at the sight of Pacey and Joey. Without another word she backed away and shut the door behind her.
Joey sighed against Pacey’s chest and squeezed him before taking a step back. “You’d better get dressed or we’ll have to face the manager’s rage.”
“Maybe, but...Jo?” Pacey bent forward and kissed her once again, before whispering against her lips, “Boys of the 21st century do everything, too.”
A few minutes later Pacey and Joey were dressed and walked towards the cash registers. Strolling through the aisles they waited until a few more customers populated the store before they put the items they had used some way or the other during their involuntary whistle-stop in front of a clerk.
As the woman rang up Joey’s slippers and her pajama, Pace turned towards Joey, “So, this is it.” Their adventure ended profanely at a cash register.
Joey smiled sadly, burying her hands in the pockets of her coat. “Yes, it is.”
“There were no security tags on these?” the clerk looked confused from Pacey to Joey after examining the pajama.
“Oh. No. You should probably look into that.” Joey explained and the woman seemed to be content with that and put the item into a bag.
Joey reached for the DVD and handed it over. “And this.”
“A DVD that’s... opened,” the clerk looked up again to find Joey nodding.
Right then Pacey remembered the razors and reached into his pockets to give the opened pack to the clerk as well. “Oh. And, uh... this, too.”
Joey watched the woman nervously, who got more and more irritated by the second.
“And a razor that’s...opened.”
Pacey stroked his chin, that felt somehow naked to his touch. He sighed. “Yeah.”
The clerk nodded slowly and checked their total. “Ok, and your total is 98.15.”
“I can pay you back. My purse is...” Joey threw in, a little shocked by the amount.
Pacey reached for his money and shook his head. “I got it. Seems a small price to pay for a dream come true.”
For a second their eyes met and both smiled. Turning to the side Joey’s thoughts drifted back. Pacey was right. It was a small price for her dream and maybe she could make his dream come true one day as well.
Not quite understanding what was going on, the clerk smiled as well. “I certainly hope you found everything you were looking for today. “
Pacey took some notes out of his purse and gave them to her. “Well...not everything, but we found what we needed, which, as I'm sure you know, is sometimes just as important. In a spiritual sense. 'Cause, you know, if you found everything that you needed today, what would be the point of waking up tomorrow and doing it all over again? It just wouldn't seem worth it.”
The clerk’s eyes widened in utter confusion and darted helplessly towards Joey. Something was very odd about those two persons.
“Don't worry. He's on a one-day pass from the asylum.” Joey declared with a serious expression. The woman turned back to Pacey who shrugged and smiled.
Joey wasn’t finished yet, “But...in all fairness, I should let you know that I will be writing a letter to the home office about this.” Maybe it was a little cruel to play with the poor woman like that, but she couldn’t help herself.
“You will?” the clerk frowned concernedly.
“Yeah. Because this store... is perfect just the way it is. Don't change a thing.”
Pacey had to look down to stop himself from bursting out in laughter. The woman was at a complete loss of words now and just handed Joey one of the two bags.
Joey took the bag and mumbled, “Thank you,” as Pacey asked, “Home?”
Pacey nodded and turned to leave the store, completely forgetting that there was another bag. Rolling her eyes Joey reached for it. “You know, you could offer to carry one of these things.”
“Sure.” Pacey quickly took the heavier bag from Joey’s hands, a little embarrassed that she had to remind him.
Grinning Joey decided to play a bit with him for his small gaffe. “And you are letting me drive. Right?”
Pacey jerked his head towards her, “ Drive? My car?” a short and bemused laughter escaped him. “Do I appear to have lost consciousness? Because that's the only circumstances under which you would be driving my car.”
Shaking his head he closed his fingers around the car key protectively.
“You wouldn't have this problem if you hadn't taught me how to drive in the first place.” Joey bumped her hip playfully. She loved to tease him.
“But you see, I don't have a problem, because...” while trying to find a way out of her elusive suggestion Joey interrupted him.
“We'll see, Pace.”
“You'll see your way into the backseat if you keep this up.” Pacey informed her dryly.
Joey licked her lips and didn’t say anything. They walked over to Pacey’s car and threw the bags into the backseats. Pacey opened the door to the front passenger seat for Joey but hesitated. Squinting against the morning sun he studied her face.
“You didn’t really mean that, did you?
“Mean what?” It was cold and Joey shuddered.
“Driving my car... you didn’t really want to, right?” Pacey bit down on his lip.
Joey’s mouth morphed into her famous lopsided smile. “Why? Would you let me if I really wanted to?”
Pacey lowered his gaze to his feet. “You’d be the only one I would ever let touch my baby... and only because I know that I eventually managed to show you how to drive stick and how you’re supposed to touch a stick in the right way.”
Joey smiled widely. It was good to know that he trusted her with everything, even with his beloved car. And for whatever reason her mind conjured some not so PG free associations about how he taught her to touch a stick...
“Awww, Pace. I’m feeling really honored, but I think I’ll have to take a rain check on that. I’m a little tired and I don’t want to take any chances with your baby. But, thank you.” She stepped closer to him and placed a small kiss on his cheek before getting into the car.
Pacey silently sighed with relief and jogged around to the driver seat. If she had insisted, he would have let her drive. He might have had to sit on hot coals then, but he would have let her drive. It was true, if anyone would be allowed to drive it, then it would be her. Again for one reason versus a thousand.
Despite the early hour traffic was slow and it was getting late. Pacey kept stealing side glances to the clock while calculating the time he would have left after dropping Joey off at Worthington to drive home, shower and put on some fresh clothes. He was sure he would end up being late and thus forced to endure one of Rich’s speeches about the right attitude towards the job. He sighed and dragged his eyes back to the road.
Joey sensed his discomfort. The last minutes they had rode in silence. Shyly she placed her hand on his thigh to get his attention.
A hot rush raced through him as Joey touched his thigh and Pacey had to swallow hard before tilting his head towards her to show her that he was listening.
Joey had a hard time herself to concentrate because she remembered all the times she used to touch him like that when they were in a car together. It was like fire was branding both of them. Nevertheless she couldn’t bring it over her to remove her hand.
“You know, it’s getting late and... it would be even later if you’d to drive back home before going to work... and Worthington is somewhat in the middle between your house and your office... so... I thought...” Joey knew that she was rambling and stopped to take a breath, “...maybe you’d like to come up to my room to... take a shower and we could have some breakfast... before you go to work?”
Pacey was surprised, but her suggestion was only logical and besides that... there was nothing he’d rather do then spend some more time with her.
“Yeah, I’d like that... thank you.” Their eyes met briefly, smiling again and when Pacey looked back at the street he placed his hand over hers on his thigh, holding it in place.
“Okay, there we are.” Joey opened her door and let Pacey walk through it before her.
They stood in the middle of the room for a moment in an awkward silence. Pacey cleared his throat and placed the bags that were holding Joey’s stuff on her bed.
“That was some night, huh?” he chuckled and walked back to her, unsure if he was allowed to take her in his arms.
“You can say that again.” Joey reached tentatively for his hand and smiled when he laced his fingers with hers.
“I’m sorry that you missed your no-strings-attached-date.”
“I’m not.” Pacey tugged at her hand and pulled her closer.
“You’re not?” Joey gazed into his eyes and searched for the unspoken truth in them.
“No. I wouldn’t exchange last night for anything else in the world.” Pacey raised her hand and kissed it lightly.
“You know, I’m not really sorry either.” Joey’s eyes lit up as she found nothing but seriousness in his eyes.
“I know,” Pacey whispered and cradled her face in his hands. “Thank you for sharing your fantasy.”
“It doesn’t have to be a one-parter ...” Joey whispered.
“I hope it isn’t.” Pacey traced her lips with his thumb before replacing it with his lips.
Joey’s hands found their way into Pacey’s hair as they deepened her kiss. When they finally had to come up for air, she leaned her forehead against his.
“Now go and take your shower. I’ve more time left than you and while you freshen up I get some breakfast for us, okay?” She didn’t really want to go, but they had to be reasonable. Pacey had a job to go to and she needed to prepare herself at least a little bit for Hetson’s class.
“Alright.” Pacey sighed. He knew she was right.
After a quick breakfast it was high time to get into the office, but Pacey was stalling.
“So, that’s it now, huh?”
“I guess so... for the time being...” Joey bit down on her lip.
“Yeah, for the time being.” Pacey played with his car key, staring at Joey, who was standing only inches from him. “Umm... can I... call you tonight?” again he felt like the seventeen years old boy he used to be.
“Yeah, I’ll be home around 6pm.” Joey smiled. She felt like being sixteen again, only this time she knew what she wanted.
“Okay, talk to you later then.” Pacey closed the gap between them and kiss her softly. “Have a nice day, Potter.”
The simple fact of him calling her by her last name after kissing her, sent shivers down her spine. “You, too, Pace.”
Pacey nodded and slowly stepped away from her. He had almost opened the door, when he returned again for a last passionate kiss.
Later that morning Pacey sat at his desk in the office. Of course he had been late, of course Rich had already waited for him and naturally he had to listen to his litany, but nothing could change is extremely good mood.
He wasn’t quite sure what was happening to them, but the one thing he was sure of, was that it resembled a damn lot to a second chance for them.
He was still wearing the same clothes like the day before, only now they bore the faint trace of Joey’s scent and that was exactly what helped him through the day.