It'll Be Okay by: Jade
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Author's Notes: Thank you all (you know who you are) for your support J. And to the person who sent me that anonymous feedback-cum-online greeting card…I appreciate the advice and have taken it into account. Thanks for reading!
She was too engrossed in her work to even notice that someone had walked into the room and was resting her hip on her desk.
"Hmm," she said, giving the source of the voice barely a glance before she resumed drawing.
"I've been thinking about taking you off the project."
This time, Karen got her full concentration. "What are you saying?"
"It's come to my attention that we might have a problem."
In reflex, Joey looked out her office to Grace.
"She didn't say anything until I forced it out of her," came the explanation. "I know you, Joey. I know how you work. You've been distracted lately and I wanted to know why."
"Karen, I'm working my ass off here. I admit I was a little shaken at first but don't bring my personal life into this because it has nothing to do with it. Not anymore."
Her boss moved off the desk onto the chair facing her. "I couldn't even if I wanted to. Branden wouldn't agree to it, not unless you told him."
"And why would I want to do that?"
Karen leaned forward. "I'm not speaking to you as your boss right now. If you want out, all you have to do is say the word. We can figure something out."
Joey took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "I'm fine. Really."
"And Pacey Witter feels the same?"
She swung her chair around to stare into the sunlight streaming in. "We're both over the initial shock. Things have gone back to normal."
Karen doubted what she said and Joey would probably understand why if she could hear herself. She stood up, ready to show herself out. "This can't be easy. Don't force it if you can't."
Joey nodded distractedly. "Yeah," she whispered.
"Pacey sends his sincerest apologies. Something cropped up at home and he couldn't get away," Jessie said, entering the conference room that had become their workplace for the last two months when they weren't out visiting the site. "He doesn't want to hold up work so he's asked me to take over his place for today."
"Is it serious?" Joey couldn't resist asking.
"He didn't say but he sounded all right on the phone." Jessie dumped the things she was carrying onto the table. "Here's the start to another long day."
She felt stupid. She hadn't even realized it until she had parked by the curb and got out of the car. She took several small steps before hesitation took over and she retreated. Her hand paused in the middle of turning the key back in its lock.
"Oh, damn it," she muttered and she released her grip. Walking quickly through the giant entrance into the foyer of the luxurious building that was residence to fifty apartments, she was stopped by the concierge.
"May I help you, Ma'am?"
"I-I'm looking for Mr. Witter."
"Oh, Mr. Witter's in Apt 7B. Let me just ring you up." He made his way to the telephone, ready to call the apartment.
"No, wait." She rushed forward to stop him. "I changed my mind. It's late anyway."
He looked at her curiously. "Are you sure?"
"Yes," she replied, already on her way out.
"Wouldn't you like to leave a message?"
"No, no message. Thank you."
She stood outside for a long time, watching people pass her by. She could admit it to herself. She had been acting differently ever since he turned up in her life again. She opened her car door but clumsily dropped her bunch of keys. Shaking her head, she bent down to pick it up when she was startled by a voice.
"I thought it was you."
Her head swung up and hit the door with a loud thud.
"Ouch!" She dropped her keys again as her hand instinctively reached to touch the sore spot.
"Are you okay?" He bent down next to her and lifted her keys off the ground, whilst holding her free arm lightly and sat her down on the driver's seat.
He looked quite different out of his suits. In a sweater and khakis, he seemed more relaxed and more like the Pacey she knew. Sexier even. An alarm sounded off in her head; it was definitely time for her thoughts to switch lanes. "I was about to ask you the same question," she grimaced. She took her hand away and looked at it to make sure there wasn't any blood. "Looks like I'll survive."
"You came here to ask me if I was okay?" He raised his brow in slight incredulity.
"You don't have to sound so shocked, Pacey." She looked at him. "I was concerned," she softly admitted.
"I'm okay," he said, after a moment's thought. He was still holding on to her arm. "Do you want to come in for awhile?"
"I don't think I should," she said, her eyes still on him.
"Maybe not," he replied. He straightened himself and handed her the keys. "I'll see you tomorrow."
He hadn't walked very far before she halted him.
"Make yourself comfortable."
He walked over to the bar while her eyes wandered over to the partition of his apartment that was his study. She took her time perusing each certificate and award on his wall.
"What will you have?" he asked.
"Scotch on the rocks."
He poured her the drink and handed her the glass.
"You've worked really hard," she said.
"Well, it was either that or prove to everyone that I was really a loser."
She swallowed a mouthful of her drink. "I really hate it when you talk like that."
He tried to discern if she was jesting or serious.
"You've never been a loser to me." She turned back to the wall and changed the subject abruptly. "Why aren't these adorning your office walls instead?"
"Because the only person they really mean anything to is me."
She didn't say a word nor move. Her back was still to him. Absently she ran her fingers through her hair and remembered too late that she had a bump.
"Let me take a look," he turned her around slowly and took the glass from her, putting it down. Gingerly, he moved her hair aside as he examined the bruise. "That was a pretty hard knock. Looks like it's going to be sore for a few days."
"It's your fault," she muttered. "I think you secretly enjoy springing surprises on me and then watching me squirm."
"You have a pretty vivid imagination."
She began to notice how close to her he was standing and suddenly, she seemed to stop breathing. "What happened to you today?" she asked, trying to sound normal, glad that the liquor had began to numb her senses a little.
"My sister had a meningitis scare with her newborn girl and she couldn't get anyone to watch her boys at the last minute. Her husband's away on business."
"What did the doctor say?"
"The fever and rashes were due to an allergic reaction to medication. They'll clear up soon."
It was his turn to notice how close she was but he was reluctant to move away.
She grabbed her glass and gulped the rest of her Scotch down. "I'd better go. Greg gets off his shift in an hour."
"The elusive significant other I've yet to meet. When are you going to introduce us?"
"Never," she said, making for the door.
"Don't be so hasty in making a decision," he called out.
She swung the door open. "Pacey, you don't really want to do this."
"Yes, I do. I want to meet the guy who's going to make you happy for the rest of your life."
She looked down at her feet and then back at him. "We'll see." Then she was gone.
"Greg, what- what are you doing here?" she asked, caught completely off-guard as she stepped out of the building and saw him.
"I've got an hour and a half to spare. I came to take you to lunch." He gave her a quick kiss and took her briefcase from her. "What do you feel like having today?"
"Hi," someone interrupted.
She shut her eyes briefly at the introduction she hoped she'd never have to make.
Forcing a bright smile, she turned to the voice. "Pacey, this is my fiancé, Greg Davenport. Greg, this is Pacey Witter, the architect in charge of the Branden works."
They exchanged handshakes and pleasantries.
"It's nice to meet you finally."
"Joey talks about you all the time."
"That's good." Greg shot her a look she knew all too well that said they were going to have a heart-to-heart talk as soon as they were alone. "Because she's never mentioned you."
"Joey probably doesn't like to bring work home with her."
"Probably," the latter ascertained not so convincingly.
"Pacey, maybe we could postpone our lunch meeting until tomorrow," she quickly interjected.
"Nonsense," Greg disagreed. "If Pacey doesn't mind my intrusion, we could all have lunch together."
Joey's face fell. Her eyes made a silent plea to Pacey to turn down the suggestion.
It seemed like an eternity before he spoke.
"No, I think I should leave you two alone. We can have the meeting tomorrow." He reached for a handshake. "My sister's having a barbecue at her place Sunday afternoon, maybe you guys could come."
"Sure, we have nothing on. We'll be there," Greg said before she could protest.
"Great, I'll pass the address on to Joey." He smiled and disappeared into the crowd.
"Nice guy," Greg commented.
Joey shook her head in despair.
"There's something you're not telling me."
"So now you're a mind reader as well."
"It doesn't take a genius to figure that out. Besides, you do that thing with your lip-" he gestured toward her mouth, "-when something's up."
She let out a short laugh. "No, I don't."
"You're doing it right now."
Her hand went to her lips self-consciously.
She wrinkled her nose at him and took a sip of her wine.
"I'm still waiting, Joey."
She sighed. "Pacey's an old friend
"Don't ask me how I knew you were going to come over."
"Don't start with me, Daphne."
"There's something on the counter top for you."
Daphne plopped back onto the couch, in front of the television set as Joey went into the kitchen and spotted what was on the counter.
"No thanks, I don't feel like ice cream."
"Girl, the ice cream's for me." She stood up and walked over to where Joey was standing. "These," she said, pointing to a pair of rubber gloves, "-are for you."
Over the years, Joey had developed the habit of cleaning out the place whenever she had problems to work out. Daphne usually took full advantage of her roommate's troubled state of mind whenever it happened. Other people went on a food binge. Joey Potter cleaned.
"I was going to clean the bathroom but since you're here
" she let her voice trail off.
"Daphne, you really are one of a kind."
"Can't you take a joke anymore?"
Joey pulled out a stool and sat on it. "How did I ever get myself into such a mess?" she said into her hands that were covering her face.
Daphne pulled out another stool from the other side of the counter and sat opposite her. "I really should start charging you for this."
"Arghh," Joey said and buried her face even deeper.
When they next saw each other the following morning, she walked past him without so much as a good morning or hello. He cocked his eyebrow at her obvious dismissal of his presence as he stepped aside to allow her to precede him into the elevator.
Four floors up, his curiosity finally got the better of him. "So tell me, what have I done this time?"
She tapped her feet impatiently and concentrated on the numbers lighting up one by one.
"Fine," he said, reaching for the red Emergency button.
She grabbed his hand before he could press down on it. "What the hell do you think you're doing?" Her voice had risen to a high pitch.
"I had to do something," he replied as way of explanation.
Her eyes narrowed. "You're crazy, Pacey."
"You remember my name."
The elevator rang out and the doors opened. She hurriedly walked out.
She didn't stop so he tugged at her arm and dragged her into a corner just short of the firm's entrance.
"You are a real sweetheart, you know that!"
"Thanks. What's going on?"
"Don't be so smug. You know what you did."
He threw his arms in the air. "Tell me again."
"Why did you invite us to your sister's barbecue?"
He looked at her as if she had just gone crazy. "Bee-," he dragged his voice, "-cause I was being nice?"
She tilted her head and glared at him in disbelief.
"What do you want me to say?"
"Ugh!" She let out a cry of frustration and sidestepped him to get to the office. He watched her push the glass door with newfound strength from sheer irritation and disappear inside.
He stood where he was awhile longer. He leaned against the wall and sighed. She was right, his motives weren't exactly noble. He had other thoughts on his mind when he invited her and Greg to the party. Some part of him wanted to force her to admit that he had been a part of her life and she wouldn't have done that if he hadn't made himself known
to her fiancé.
So all right, he was jealous.
"Come on in." Pacey moved aside to let them in. "They're all out back." They followed him and were led through a beautiful living room, past the spacious kitchen and into the open again. There were children running after one another whilst the men were separated into different conversations and taking turns at the pit and the women bustled around with their tasks.
"Oh my God, Joey!"
"Ashley," she said, wrapped up in a hug with Pacey's sister. "It's been ages."
"It's been too long. Now that you know where we live, feel free to drop by any time."
"We will. Ashley, this is Greg. Greg, Ashley."
"Make yourselves comfortable," she said, juggling a half-filled bowl of Doritos and an empty Sprite bottle as she took Greg's hand. "I got to get more snacks and feed the baby. I'll talk to you later."
She knew she hadn't the need to worry that Greg would have felt out of place. As usual, he and his ubiquitous charm blended right in with his new acquaintances and he even met a friend of an old friend from college. In fact, she had been more afraid that he and Pacey would be thrown together alone to converse for longer than necessary.
She was probably afraid to be alone with Pacey too. She couldn't quite contribute to the conversation about babies the mothers were having and decided to find a quiet corner in the living room to sit. She signaled to Greg and moved out of the way before the children ran screaming past her indoors. They hadn't ceased running since she had arrived but one stopped in his tracks before turning back in a childish gait toward her.
Her eyes widened in surprise and her smile brightened at the sight of that unforgettable child she had met before. "Patrick, isn't it?"
He giggled in delight.
She got to her knees. "So this is your house?"
"Yes." He nodded. "There's Eric and Mikey," he pointed out. "And there's my Mommy and Daddy-"
"Patrick," someone said from behind her.
"Uncle Pacey!" Her eyes followed Patrick as she watched him jump into his uncle's arms in excitement. Her smile grew even wider as Pacey affectionately tousled his nephew's hair.
"Gee, you guys are sweating like pigs."
Patrick giggled some more.
"Your brothers are wondering where you are." He let Patrick down and slapped him lightly on his bottom. "Go on, they're waiting for you."
The little one ran off, leaving the two of them behind, staring at each other.
Pacey's lips twitched upwards first. "He knew your name."
"I should have guessed, with the resemblance and all," she said quietly. She shook her head and fell back to the nearest couch. "But I don't believe in signs."
He came to sit beside her.
"We were at a hockey game and Patrick got separated from his older brother," she explained. "They were so afraid you'd be mad at them."
"I didn't know Patrick got lost."
"Well, don't blame them. It's been some time anyway."
"I'm surprised he remembers you."
"I've heard that kids have amazing memory power."
"Ashley thinks he takes after me. We may have short attention spans but some things we just don't forget."
She met his eyes and had to look away first.
"Looks like she may be right," he continued.
"I'm going to go mingle," she said before making her escape.
He sat back against the couch and watched her until she disappeared from sight, then it was the empty air she had left behind.
"Now there's a lovesick fool if I ever saw one." His sister settled carefully onto the couch, with Hannah resting languidly in her arms.
He shook his head. "The jealousy will wear off eventually."
"Amongst other feelings you also have." She covered his hand with hers. "You still got a chance."
"I don't have the habit of breaking up marriages."
"You're in love, Lee. What do you think? Is there a difference in this case?" He put his other hand on top of hers. "She doesn't need to choose. I won't make her," he said softly. "I'd probably lose again anyway." He slid his hand out from under hers and kissed her cheek before leaving the room.
"Pacey! It's good to hear from you." There was a pause. "We missed you at Christmas."
"I'm sorry I couldn't be there."
"How's Ashley and the kids?"
"He's good too."
There was more silence.
"Listen, Pop. I just wanted to say hello."
"I'm happy you did."
The composure in his voice faltered. "I'm not at home right now. I'd better go before I seriously elevate someone's phone bill."
"Okay." The voice was disappointed. "Talk to you soon?"
He put the receiver down just as Ashley popped her head into the guestroom.
"Who were you talking to?" she asked.
"Well, Joey's about to leave. You want to see them out?"
He followed his sister out of the room and into the hallway where guests were preparing to depart and choruses of 'thank you' and "see you soon" were being exchanged.
Joey was standing farthest from the front door.
"I hope you had fun today," he said, coming up from behind her.
She jumped a little. "You did it again."
"Maybe you're just jumpy by nature." He smiled. "Thank you for coming."
"I had fun." Her expression as she said the words was saddened. "Pacey-" She was stopped short by Greg's reappearance from the bathroom.
"Pacey, thanks for the invite. We had a good time."
"No problem. I'm glad you enjoyed yourselves."
Greg stole a look at his watch. "Sweetie, you ready to go?"
She nodded mutely and allowed herself to be led forward where they thanked Ashley and Nick, after which she looked over her shoulder and managed to steal a glance at him.
He gave her a small smile and then retreated out of her view just as the door closed on them.
To be continued…
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