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It was twilight by the time they got to the Empire State Building's observation deck. They had spent the afternoon visiting the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, Rockefeller Center and all the usual tourist traps touting sky-high admission fees and long lines to wait in. They had done all the cheesy things for which they usually made fun of the summer people who came to Capeside. But as incredible a day it had been, nothing they had seen could beat this. A rose-colored glow filled the sky as the setting orange sun sunk below the horizon, glinting off the metal spires and arches that decorated the buildings below. Water tanks and rooftop gardens dotted the landscape and in the distance, the deep blue water of the East River shimmered.
Awestruck, Joey stared dreamily off into space, her elbows resting on the ledge. She didn't hear the footfalls behind her and was startled, when a voice near her ear said, "Beats the view of the Capeside skyline from the ruins, eh?"
She turned to see Pacey beside her. "I thought you were with Jack and Jen?"
"Well I left Jack in the gift shop and Jen's on the other side talking to one of the guys we rode the elevator with. They've seen this before, but I figured what with my double shifts at the video store it'll be a while before my next trip out of Mayberry so I better soak it up while I can."
Joey looked out across the city again and sighed. "It's incredible, like a painting. I wish I could stay up here forever."
Pacey smiled wistfully. "Yeah, Our little problematic lives don't seem so important up here, do they?" He walked closer to the balcony, and leaned down, mimicking Joey's stance. "You know when I was a kid, whenever something really great happened or I saw something new and exciting, I would close my eyes and make a picture of it in my mind. That way, later, if I was upset with my dad or sad or bored, I could always just close my eyes and go back to that spot," he paused. "I haven't done that in a long time, but I've got the feeling I might need it this summer." He closed his eyes and stood there for a moment, as Joey looked at him thoughtfully. She turned back to the incredible view of the city looking long and hard and then she closed her eyes too. A few minutes passed silently, then Joey started laughing.
Pacey turned and looked at her sharply. "Glad my miserable life amuses you so." As he turned to walk away, Jo could see the hurt expression in his eyes and Joey choked down her laughter and grabbed his arm.
"No, Pacey wait, I was just remembering…"another fit of giggles threatened to escape, but she managed to spit it out, "the summer before sixth grade…Dawson's movie."
A slow smile spread over his face as he remembered. "The King Kong summer?" He started chuckling in earnest. "How could I forget? He trotted out the ladder and stacked boxes in front to make it look like the Empire State Building. Then he told you to climb up one side and pretend to be Fay Wray and made me dress up in that enormous dinosaur costume and climb up the other side. Man, that costume was huge."
"Good thing too!" Joey grinned at him. "When that ladder collapsed under our weight, it was your costume that broke our fall. We were really lucky to escape with just a fractured wrist for you and a sprained ankle for me."
"Yeah and one huge guilty conscience for Dawson-which we milked for all it was worth. I thought Mitch and Gail were gonna go crazy with the three of us around all summer. We practically lived there."
"We had the best time that summer. I didn't want to ever go home," Joey sighed. "There were no sick moms or MIA dads at Dawson's house. If I could've taken one of your mental snapshots, that's where it would be. Before my mom got sick, before your dad turned into a jerk. On top of the Empire State Building." She looked at Pacey, with a twisted smile. "Ironically enough, here we are again. Minus the self-righteous ex-boyfriend and the stressed-out girlfriend and the troublesome parents. So, what do you think, Pace? Can we stay up here forever this time?"
"Sadly my friend, I left my dinosaur costume back in Capeside," he sighed and put his hand on her shoulder turning her to face him. "And I think the inevitable fall back to reality from here would earn us more than just a sprained ankle." Pacey looked at his watch. "But by my estimation, we have…oh…another 20 or so hours to trip the light fantastic Fay, so what'da ya say that we go out tonight and we forget all about our problems tucked safely away a good 200 miles from here and we just have some fun? I mean I know you don't get out much, but you do remember what that is right?…Usually involves smiling, laughing, some sort of entertainment…?"
Joey grinned and rolled her eyes, as Pacey grabbed her hand and tugged her away from the balcony in search of Jack and Jen. "Alright, let's go, King Kong."
Three hours later, Pacey and Jack sat on the pristine white couch in Jen's living room, checking their watches every few minutes. Finally, they stood up and walked down the long hallway to Jen's room. Jack knocked on the door, and Pacey shouted "Hey everybody still alive in there?" "We'll be there in a minute," Jen called. "Just hold your horses."
Pacey rolled his eyes as they strolled back to the living room. Jack grumbled, "They said that 20 minutes ago," as they thumped back onto the couch.
Five minutes later, Jen walked down the hall. Pacey whistled as she walked into the living room, wearing a short, snug black dress and strappy black sandals. "You look great Jen," Jack smiled at her.
"Thanks. Joey will be out in a minute. And she's a little self-conscious about the outfit, so make a big deal about how great she looks ok?"
The guys nodded and not a moment later, Joey stepped into the room nervously, tugging at the hem of a black skirt shorter than anything she had ever worn before in her life. Her hair was swept up and anchored with bobby pins, with just a few tendrils drifting down to her shoulders and she had on a silky red halter top that bared her midriff and black platform heels. "If any of you says one thing about my outfit, I'll be back in that room changing in two seconds flat," she ground out through clenched teeth, looking warningly at Jack and Pacey.
"Not even that you look beautiful…", Jack grinned, intent on gushing until Joey finally cracked a smile, "stunning, gorgeous, fantastic...."
"Incredible." Pacey's deep voice interjected, sounding slightly out of breath. Jen's radar piqued, she looked over at him quizzically and saw a solemn and somewhat pale version of her friend staring with a strange expression at Joey. Immediately understanding that something was afoot, she tucked her tongue into her cheek and bit back a grin. It was about time. All the sexual tension of their bantering had started nauseating her.
The object of his fixed perusal, Joey smiled somewhat shyly, feeling her nervousness fade. Jack's compliments were nice, sweet, but Joey had a feeling she could have walked in wearing a potato sack and his reaction would have been the same. A compliment from Pacey was completely unexpected and a little shocking-and Joey thought with surprise-extremely flattering. Then she glanced over at him and noticed he looked somewhat sick.
Her thoughts were interrupted by Jack, who turned to her and held his arm out as a waiter would. Bowing slightly, he said in a haughty voice, "May I have the pleasure of escorting you, Miss Potter?"
She smiled guilelessly up at him and linked her arm through his. "I'd be delighted, Mr. McPhee."
Abrubtly, Pacey turned to Jen, and silently made a show of following suit. She took his arm, but as they walked out she couldn't help but rib her friend. "I do believe this is the first time I've ever seen you tongue-tied, Pace."
His ears turned red, but he didn't respond as they rode silently down in the elevator and then got into a cab while Joey and Jack chattered with Jen. He was too busy cursing himself internally. What the hell had come over him? When Joey walked into the room, he had felt like he was 12 again, getting sacked in a touch football game and having the wind knocked out of him. He'd seen Jo dressed up plenty of times before and while she always looked great, he never really gave her a second glance. Well, ok so maybe that once he had, thinking back to their snail-scouting trip a year earlier when he'd seen "Pal Joey" in a new light. But after she'd rebuffed his admittedly awkward advances, Pacey had tamped down those initial sprouts of attraction. And then when Andie came to Capeside, he was perfectly happy being a one-woman guy. Maybe there was something different about the way she looked tonight. There must be, he thought, clinging stubbornly to the idea, as the cab pulled up to the curb in front of a darkened club and they all piled out.
As they walked towards the small crowd gathered near the door, Joey fell into step beside him. "You feeling alright, Pace?" she asked with mock concern, noting the scowl. "After all, it's been maybe about 10 minutes without your running commentary. You've been daydreaming since we left Jen's." When he didn't answer, she teased again. "Having a lascivious fantasy about Andie, probably."
Guilt and embarrassment at the turn his thoughts had really taken made him snappish. "My girlfriend's none of your business, Joey. Get your own love life to meddle in," he grumbled, walking away to stand near Jack.
Joey blinked in surprise at the angry rebuff. Amazing how cranky a guy gets when he's not getting any, she thought with a smirk. She followed her friends as Jen led them inside the dark, smoky club to a table in the back. They sat down and Jen said she was heading for the bar and asked if anyone wanted a drink. Jack and Joey both declined, but Pacey, still feeling guilty and cranky, surprised himself by ordering a beer. They sat listening to the pulsing techno and pop the DJs were spinning, not speaking since conversation wouldn't be audible over the ear-piercing decibels of the music anyhow. A few moments later, Jen returned with the drinks and three girls and a guy in tow. Introductions were made all around and Jen leaned over to Jack and said "Brian is the guy I was telling you about who goes to Parsons and is majoring in graphic design, Jack." Pacey and Joey looked on with interest, sensing a fix-up as Jen winked at them and headed off to dance with her friends. "Jo, come on!"
Never quite comfortable with new people, Joey shook her head and smiled. "Thanks for the offer, but I'm not exactly Ginger Rogers. I'll just stay here."
Brian sat down next to Jack and the two were huddled in deep conversation. Not able to hear them from across the table, Joey sighed and looked around thinking it was going to be a pretty long night. What had possessed her to make her think going to a club would be a good idea? She didn't dance, didn't drink and didn't smoke---not exactly material for a night of fun.
Twenty minutes later, she looked over at Pacey, still sitting beside her and working on handily downing his third beer. At least his mood had lifted she thought, noticing he was tapping his feet and actually smiling. Probably checking out the single women, she thought with a smirk.
Joey watched him archly, wondering if she should tell him to take it easy on the alcohol. She decided against it, figuring he wouldn't likely appreciate her advice. She leaned over and shouted, "I'm going to the bar to get a soda. Want another beer?" He nodded and reached behind him to get his wallet out but Joey was already gone. He looked around the room and narrowed his eyes as he noticed more than a few guys watching her cross the room as though they were stalking their prey.
Fifteen boring minutes later, he realized it was taking entirely too long for Jo to get the drinks. He stood up and headed across the crowded room to the bar, pushing past lots of gyrating bodies and flying elbows. He finally made his way to the counter only to see a slimy looking guy who had to be pushing 40 gripping Joey's arm and slobbering in her face. He saw Joey's face over the guy's broad shoulder, cringing in disgust and a little fear. As she saw him approach, her eyes telegraphed a "please rescue me" message. Pacey, who easily had a good half a foot on the guy, elbowed in next to them. "Honey, did you get those drinks yet?" He put his arm around Joey's waist and stared at the slimeball next to her with what he hoped was an intimidating stare.
The guy wasn't getting the hint at all, so Pacey removed the guy's hand from her arm and said "Excuse me, but my lovely fiancé here has promised me a dance." He pulled Joey after him and they beat a hasty retreat to the other side of the dance floor. "Thanks Pace, I owe you one," she said and turned to go back to the table.
"Hey where are you going?"
"Back to the table." She saw a mischievous glint in his eye as he beckoned her to come onto the dance floor. "Oh no. Pacey, I don't dance."
"Aw come on Jo. Neither do I usually but what the hell, we're in New York, you're dressed to kill and I'm feeling pretty damn good about now."
She shook her head again, as Pacey started dancing crazily to the inescapable Ricky Martin tune currently hovering at the top of the billboard charts. She couldn't help but laugh as he swiveled his hips, mouthing what he thought were the words to the song. She grinned but started backing up, intent on remaining safely on the sidelines. As she watched Pacey having a grand ole time and pointing for her to join him, a sort of revelation washed over her at the fact that she was once again on the sidelines by her own choice. All of a sudden, all the depression and endless analysis of her relationships of the previous year, with Jack, with Dawson, with her dad, it all just felt like one big burden on Joey's shoulders. Pacey's mocking comment from earlier about remembering what it felt like to have fun echoed in her mind and Joey realized with surprise that it had been a long time since she could remember having one night of pure unadulterated, subtext-free fun. She straightened her shoulders and took a deep breath, walking forward to grab Pacey's outstretched hand.
He smiled and started spinning her around and around, as his off-key baritone recited the chorus in her ear. Yes, Joey thought, It's definitely time to start living a little "la vida loca."
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