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Pacey sat up, yanking his T-shirt over his head and wiping the sweat off his forehead. He laid the hammer down on the board in front of him and relaxed for a moment. The sun was beating hard overhead and he'd been hammering for the better part of an hour, helping Mr. Potter finish the extension for Joey's room.
Joey's dad had just gone into the basement to get more nails. Jen and Jack were around the corner on sanding duty, since Jen said she had no construction skills whatsoever and no one had really thought it wise to let Jack work with tools (including Jack himself). He could hear the radio playing in the background. As he leaned back, his arms bracing him, Pacey watched the creek flow.
In quiet moments like this, he never failed to think of Andie. But it had been nearly three weeks now since they'd gone to Providence, and he felt like he was finally starting to make his peace with her decision. Thanks to Joey. He'd cried himself out with her on the ferry that day and though they had never mentioned it again, that had meant a lot to Pacey and it had gone a long way in helping to heal his broken heart.
It had been such a long time since anyone had comforted him. That was usually his role, whether it be for Dawson pouting over his various girl troubles or for Andie dealing with family problems. Everyone expected him to be happy-go-lucky Pacey all the time, and even with Andie who he was-had been, he reminded himself- the closest to, it was hard for him to show vulnerability. There was no room for that in the Witter household and besides, she had enough to deal with, he didn't want to put any more burdens on her. So he'd kind of lost it when Joey had insisted on comforting him. It was a side of himself he didn't like to show anyone. But somehow it seemed ok with Joey, natural even.
Since then, she, Jack and Jen had made every effort to occupy his time so he wouldn't sit around brooding. He owed them all a lot, but it was the nights babysitting with Joey, after Alex was asleep, that meant the most to him. He'd poured his heart out to her and she'd simply listened, never once judging, only offering her opinion or advice when he asked. She had helped him realize he couldn't blame himself for Andie's relapse and that the breakup wasn't really about him. Joey also seemed to know instinctively when he was thinking about Andie and she didn't press him to talk or try to cheer him up, she just gave him his space. They had been getting closer all summer, but in the last few weeks, Joey had become an essential and cherished part of his life. He felt like she was the first person to really know him-to know everything about him. In fact, it was kind of hard for him to remember why they hadn't gotten along before. Not, of course, that he'd ever tell her that.
Suddenly, he heard footsteps behind him and then he felt cool wet metal against the back of his neck.
"Ah, the Ice Queen to the rescue!" He grinned and looked up as Joey walked around him, holding out the dripping soda she'd fished out of the cooler.
Pacey took it, popped the tab and promptly guzzled half of it. Over the edge of the can, his eyes roamed over Joey's outfit of a sleeveless shirt tied at the midriff and skimpy cutoffs, thinking it should definitely be illegal for her to wear stuff like that with those legs. He watched as she swung a leg over the beam he was sitting on, and straddled it, sitting facing him. On second thought, maybe he didn't mind so much.
"Be nice, Pacey. Or else I'll be forced to send Jack over here to help you."
She smiled sweetly, in contrast to the malice in her voice. She surveyed his handiwork. "I must admit though, you're a hell of a lot better with your hands than Dawson was."
She blushed as she realized the double entendré she'd just inadvertently made. Of course Pacey immediately picked up on it.
"Hmm and just how would you know that Josephine?" he said in a suggestive voice as he picked up the hammer again, positioning it over a nail he was holding. "Maybe you'd like to find out." He leered at her and swung the hammer.
She was saved from producing a pithy response when Pacey tagged the edge of his thumb with the hammer and started swearing a blue streak. Joey began laughing so hard she nearly fell off the beam.
Pacey, who was clutching his thumb with his other hand, scowled fiercely. "I'm in severe pain here and you do nothing to help, you just sit there laughing like a drunk hyena."
"Serves you right for trying to show off. If you hadn't been so busy bragging about your sexual prowess, you would have been paying attention."
He stuck out his tongue at her and cradled his hand protectively. "Oh you're such a baby, let me see it." He shook his head and pouted. "Let me see it!" Joey laughed.
Sometimes, he behaved a lot like Alex. Well except for the fact that Pacey had sex on the brain 95 percent of the time. A tempting idea popped into her head. Two could definitely play at that game. She looked back at Pacey. "Come on, I'll make it feel all better," she cooed.
Liking the sound of that, Pacey scooted closer and held out his hand. She took it in both of hers and examined his thumb, stroking it gently. "See, you didn't even break the skin, it's just red."
She got a mischievous glint in her eye, and she lifted his hand to her mouth and slid her lips around the tip of his thumb, sucking it gently. Pacey's eyes bulged, nearly popping out of his skull, as he watched Joey watch his reaction. Where the hell had she learned that move? For a moment it was silent, except for the static-y sound of Britney Spears crooning about how her loneliness was killing her and Pacey immediately felt his body temperature climb a few degrees. She extracted his thumb from her mouth and blew gently on it, then softly planted a kiss on the tip. "All better?" she said in a breathy voice, looking at him with big doe eyes.
He gulped and nodded slowly, exhaling as he realized he'd been holding his breath. He watched as she stood up and walked away, swinging her hips slightly. It wasn't Joey's usual walk. That little witch, she did that on purpose, he concluded belatedly.
"Hey Jo!" She looked back over her shoulder, barely able to contain her laughter. "I've got this ache in my -" He ducked, laughing as she threw one of Alex's water floaties at his head, before disappearing around the corner.
Two hours later, Mike Potter looked at his watch to realize it was nearly 1:00. Clapping his hands to get everyone's attention, he said, "OK, you are all officially off duty. I thank you all for your help, but it's summer and I want you to go out and do something fun."
"Fun in Capeside?" Joey groaned. "I think it's been documented that that's nearly impossible."
As they walked around the corner of the house, Bessie called out "Don't forget I have to work tonight Joey."
"Ah speaking of work, I have to be there at 2 today. Sorry guys, count me out," Jack said, apologetically.
"And I have a bonding session with Grams. She's taking me shopping." Jen rolled her eyes at the idea.
"Come on, I'll drive you home before we go wild and crazy."
Twenty minutes later, they dropped Jack and Jen off and sat wondering what to do next.
"I guess we could go downtown and see what's going on there." Joey offered in a lackluster tone.
"I suppose," Pacey answered with equal enthusiasm. "Here." He handed Joey the keys to the truck and walked around to the passenger side.
"Pacey, why are you giving me the keys?" Joey asked suspiciously.
"I'm sick of driving, Jo. I've been carting your butt around all summer. Why don't you drive today?"
"Uh maybe because I don't have a license?"
"So, that never stopped me from hot-wir-uh, that is, borrowing, the car. No one will know."
"No, but I'm sure they'll figure it out pretty quick once I mow down a few pedestrians!" she exclaimed, her eyes widening with panic. "Pacey, I've never been behind the wheel of a car before in my life."
"Get out! You're joking right?" Joey shook her head. "Geesh, I thought everyone knew how to drive. Like it was one of those things, you know since birth."
"Yeah, well, with my dad in jail and Bessie always having to take care of Alex, it was kind of tough to squeeze in driver's ed."
"Well, say no more! You have the best instructor you could ever want at your service!" Pacey said with a fanciful bow.
Joey looked around playfully. "Hmm, that's odd because the only person I see around here is you. And I've seen you drive Pacey. You could put those New York cab drivers to shame."
"That's funny, I don't recall you flapping those ungrateful lips all the times I came to pick you up this summer."
Joey smirked. "That's because I was saying a silent prayer that we'd arrive at our destination in one piece." "You think you could do better huh? Well let's just see about that, shall we?" Grinning, he grabbed the keys from Joey's hand and dangled them in front of her. "Get in."
She climbed into the cab. "Where are we going?"
"The esteemed Capeside High School parking lot. The place where all masters of the road get their first taste of the ambrosia that is known as having wheels." He started the car and pulled out onto the road.
"Having wheels? Gee, Kenickie can we go to the sockhop later too? You sound like a bad extra from Grease."
"Now Joey, don't underestimate the attraction of the v-6 engine. Look what Greased Lightning did for Danny Zuko. Hell that baby even flew at the end of the movie."
"Ugh, I still don't understand why they stuck the worst, most cheesiest ending on what was otherwise a great movie."
"See, that's because you don't appreciate the motor vehicle's immeasurable sex appeal."
"You're lecturing me on the sex appeal of a car?" Joey looked at him as if he was crazy. "Pacey you need to get out more."
"Joey, I know what I'm talking about here. The raw horsepower of a revving engine, the feel of the leather under your hands, the streamlined body. A fine car is like a fine woman."
"They both turn you on but neither one will give you the time of day?" she asked wryly. "Pacey, before you go any further with this extremely offensive simile you're in the middle of making, may I point out that this truck is not even an automatic."
"I know, it's perfect" he said, pulling into the parking lot. "Jo, if you learn to drive on a shift, you'll be able to drive anything. Just as long as your nice to Betsy, she'll be nice to you." He patted the dashboard affectionately.
"You named your truck Betsy? That says a lot about you Pace." She smiled, then looked around with misgivings."I don't know. I want to learn how to drive, but…" She looked around with misgivings.
"But you don't trust me." He looked disappointed.
"I trust you, I'm just nervous."
He looked at her with big puppy-dog eyes and she couldn't resist. "Oh, alright, but I warn you, I don't want to hear one word of complaint if I grind Betsy's gears."
He grinned and they got out and switched places. As they climbed back in, Pacey said, "OK, so the lot's empty. As long as you manage to stay away from the light posts and that construction ditch at the far end, we're good. Now, give me your hand."
He scooted closer and her eyes narrowed suspiciously, but she held her hand out. He took it and wrapped it around the gear stick in between them. Then he started speaking in a fake Spanish accent.
"First, you must get to know your gear shift. This is Enriqué. Enriqué will show you the positions of love."
Joey couldn't help but laugh as his hand rested on hers and guided her through the movements to change gears. "Now, you must never ever jerk Enriqué around without first popping the clutch. Muey Importante, that is."
"Well, what happens if I forget?" Joey asked playfully.
"Enriqué squeals in pain like a foolish girly-man."
For the better part of an hour, they went through it all, with Pacey explaining when to shift gears and what positions were better for different types of driving. With surprising patience, he showed her the clutch and explained that she worked that pedal with her left foot and used the right to switch between the brake and the gas. Finally, he deemed her ready to do a trial run around the parking lot.
Sure enough, on her first try, Enriqué squealed like a stuck pig and the truck jerked forward. She looked at Pacey apprehensively. He looked faintly sick. "That was…not bad. But when you shift, just try and go a little easier, shift in one smooth motion like you're…uh you're…um, painting. Yeah like you're painting." Pacey had turned a dull shade of red.
"Why do I get the feeling that you weren't going to say 'painting' just now?"
He looked sheepish.
Joey grinned in triumph, then tried to decide if she should be insulted. "You know just because I'm a virgin Pacey, that doesn't mean I don't know what to do. I mean, is it really so hard for you to think of me as anything other than a prude?"
"Joey, if there's one thing I've learned this summer, it's that you're anything but a prude," he said seriously, thinking of the kiss they'd shared and that little display she'd put on for him this morning. His eyes locked with hers and some serious heat was generated as they stared, caught up in the moment. Pacey looked away first. Any more sexual innuendoes and the windshield was gonna fog. He decided to steer the conversation back to safer ground.
"Let's try it again. I'll show you." He slid over next to her and reached down, covering her hand that was resting on the gearshift with his own. It seemed awfully hot in the truck all of a sudden. Joey's skin burned under Pacey's hand and she couldn't concentrate on what he was saying. Her head felt heavy as she looked at him, struggling to focus on his instructions.
Little currents of electricity were dancing up Pacey's arm and he was sure his palms were damp. He looked at Joey sure, she'd pull away at any second, saying his hand was all gross and sweaty. But she was just looking at him with a strange expression, half confused, half…aroused? His throat went dry and he swallowed, trying to unstick his tongue from the roof of his mouth. He struggled to turn his thoughts back to driving and unconsciously tightened his hand around hers. It was tough to keep his mind on the task at hand.
"Um, You just slide it down…nice and easy… like this." As he downshifted smoothly between positions, his hand brushed Joey's bare thigh and he nearly jumped back from the contact.
He expected Joey to do the same but she was still looking at him with that drowsy, eyes-half-closed expression. She seemed to have barely noticed his discomfort and it looked like she was leaning closer towards him. As his eyes caught hers, that strange magnetic attraction came over him again and he found he couldn't look away this time. Instinctively he leaned in, her mouth was just inches away. Under his hand, she turned hers palm up, twining their fingers together as his lips barely brushed her mouth. A red flag was waving in the back of his mind, but Pacey ignored it. All he could think about was how long he had wanted this.
He slid his free hand around her lower back as he tilted his head and moved in for a second kiss. This one was slow and tender, different from the frantic one they had shared over a month ago. But the same undercurrent of longing and hunger fueled it. He unraveled his hand from Joey's and reached out to slam the gearshift into park. Joey lifted her feet off the petals and Pacey reached for her, pulling her into his lap.
Her hands wound around his neck, rubbing gently at the "throbbing muscles" she'd made fun of with Dawson when they'd watched the tape of Pacey and Tamara in the ruins. They came up for air and Joey shifted position, sliding around to straddle his lap. Her foot tagged the gearshift and her knees dug into the worn seat cushion, but Joey noticed none of it. All she was aware of was that she wanted to be closer to Pacey, as close as she could possibly get. In fact she had the idea that if she could have crawled under his skin at that point, she would have.
A fleeting awareness of the possible weirdness of this situation flickered through her mind, but a second later, Pacey started sucking on her tongue and she decided she didn't care. His hands slid down to grasp her hips and Joey snuggled closer to him, leaning into his chest. Evidence of his arousal was pressing against her inner thigh and one of his hands drifted between their bodies, his fingers tugging gently at the knotted hem of her shirt.
"Mmm…Pacey?" she moaned his name, aware that things were moving a little quickly. She opened her eyes reluctantly and her hand slid down to still Pacey's fingers. Looking out the back window, Joey noticed fuzzily that oddly enough, the trees and light poles were moving. Suddenly it dawned on her that they were the ones moving. She must have kicked the gearshift into reverse with her foot because they were rolling fast towards the excavation ditch on the other side of the parking lot.
"Pacey we're gonna go over!" Fully alert now, she jumped off his lap, and quickly slammed her foot down on the brake and threw the car in park.
Still dazed, Pacey lurched forward as the truck jerked to a stop. He opened his eyes and saw Joey looking out the back window, belatedly hearing her shriek and understanding the words. He swiveled around and swallowed hard when he saw the truck's back end hanging over the gaping ditch. They jumped out of the truck and ran towards the back, bending down to see the wheels planted mere inches from the edge. Pacey could only stare in horror at the ditch, which ran easily 50 feet down.
Slowly, they climbed back in the truck and he looked at Joey, who seemed shaken as well. He wasn't sure if her reaction was to what they'd almost started in the truck or the death-defying stop she'd had to make. They looked at each other still in shock, envisioning the various possibilities of what could have happened.
"We should go." Pacey cleared his throat. Joey reached for the keys still dangling in the ignition but he stopped her. "I'll drive." They switched places in a daze and drove back to Joey's house in silence.
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