|Somewhere I Belong
Author: Faithith01 PM
Future Fic - Won Best Future Fic True Love Awards. JP pairing. Slightly AU. CompletedRated: Fiction M - English - Drama/Romance - Chapters: 5 - Words: 12,846 - Reviews: 7 - Favs: 11 - Follows: 1 - Published: 12-30-04 - Status: Complete - id: 2196865
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
She threw the last of her clothes into the suitcase that dominated the foot of the bed. He sat next to it, watching her with somber eyes. He'd like to stop her, he told himself, but he saw the determination on her face, in her eyes, and knew it would take more than a small miracle to make her stay.
"You know I don't want to do this, don't you Pacey?" Joey brought the top of the suitcase down and pulled the zipper around to close it. "I don't have any other options."
"There are a lot of options, Joey. Staying is one of them. But you're determined to go, for reasons beyond my comprehension. So go. I'll be fine." Pacey gave what he thought to be a cynical glare, but to Joey he only looked pained.
"Pacey." She sighed, putting a cap on her frustration. They'd had this argument everyday for the last three weeks. He loved her, she knew that. She loved him, more than she could ever begin to explain. But in her world, happiness was something that you searched for, quested after. Pacey believed that happiness came from just being.
She was tired of just being.
"Spare me." Pacey pushed himself up off the bed, and grabbed the suitcase for her. "I'll put this in your car."
"You don't have to, I can get it." Joey took a step forward to take it from him, and ended up taking three back when she saw the look on his face.
Forced dignity. There was no other way to describe it. She would allow him this last act of chivalry, not because he wanted it, but because she knew he needed it. She knew, she felt, rather, that this moment was the end for them. He needed things to go his way for just a moment.
She could give him that much.
"Is this it?" he asked, scanning the room, his eyes bright with unshed tears. They wouldn't fall until she was gone. He had that much resolve left.
She nodded, her own strength ebbing as the seconds until she said goodbye marched on. She followed him down the stairs of their home, passing frames on the wall. Each picture was another knife in her heart. They displayed the defining moments in her life with Pacey. Worthington graduation, Pacey's own graduation from cooking school, their wedding, the births of their nieces and nephews. They had bought a house together, built a life together, and now she was taking it all away from him.
For just a moment, even she couldn't remember for what reasons she was leaving, and almost hesitated on the stairs.
He knew she stopped on the step behind him, her eyes fixated on the picture of the two of them holding the 'Sold' sign in front of the house that she was now leaving. He knew that in that moment, that half a second, he could have begged her to stay, and she would have. Her suitcase would have been forgotten, and her clothes would make their way back into her dresser.
But he let her have her moment of regret, and it was soon overshadowed by the need to get out and get on with things. She continued to follow him as he walked out of the house and towards the driveway, where her car was parked, waiting. Boxes were stacked in the backseat; full of things she would need from her home office. He waited for her to pop the trunk.
He lifted the hatch, and was terrified for a second that his tears would arrive before he was ready for them. There, in the corner, shoved almost out of view, was a box. In big, bold black letters, she had printed his name. It was her box of him, the one she told him she had started back in high school. His letters would be in there, birthday cards, anniversary cards; small heartfelt notes that he would pack in her lunches when she would brown-bag it to work. Private pictures meant for only the two of them would be in there, nestled against trinkets and mementos from their trips through the years. Post cards they had sent home to themselves. Coded messages. Their entire relationship sat in that box.
So she was holding on to that much, he thought. She was throwing away the future, and dragging the past right along with her. "That's interesting, Jo." He lifted his head to meet her eyes. "I thought you wanted to leave the past behind. Isn't that what you've been screaming for the last few weeks?"
Her bottom lip quivered as she fought the emotion that filled her throat. How could she tell him that while she couldn't be with him, she couldn't be without him, either? "Pacey, I-"
He slammed the trunk shut, silencing her. He saw in her eyes that she was going to lie to him. He knew that whatever she would tell him about that box wouldn't be the truth. Maybe, he thought, just maybe, this is just as difficult for her.
He shook his head as she started to speak again. He walked over to her, and placed his hands on her shoulders, bringing her eyes to his once more. "I never really thought this day would come. I'd always envisioned children in this yard, with my eyes and your smile. I would come home from the restaurant, and you'd be there, settled on the couch, engrossed in another manuscript that you just couldn't tear yourself away from. We'd kiss, because Lord knows, no matter how old I get, I'd never be able to keep my hands off of you. The kids would moan and complain; telling us it was gross to kiss. And I'd smile at you, because you had given me those precious gifts." He touched his forehead to hers, and squeezed his eyes shut when he felt the tears threaten. "You've given me a lot through these years, Jo. I guess I just never figured heartache into the whole plan."
He brought his lips to hers for one last kiss, and immediately hated himself when he felt her shudder. He could have her now, in these last few moments of daylight, before she drove off towards a future that he could never be a part of. All he had to do was take her hand, and lead her back to their bed, his bed now, and she would be his for just one more night.
He saw the surrender in her eyes when he stepped back. His hand reached for hers, and when he would have walked back into the house with her, he simply squeezed her palm in his, and stepped out of her way.
Rejection flashed in her eyes for only a second. She knew it couldn't be that way; one more stolen moment would only postpone the heartache that was already pressing down on their chests.
"I love you, Pacey."
He only nodded before going back into the house. He wouldn't watch her leave. That was a pain he would spare himself. He kept his back pressed to the front door, and listened as her car door shut, and the engine started.
His tears began their journey down his face then, going unnoticed. There was a crunch of gravel as she backed out of the drive, and then the noises simply drifted away.
He was alone.
She rolled over, pushing at the arm that was draped across her midsection. She turned to look at her companion, and sneered at his chestnut locks. Another snore erupted from him, louder than the one that had woken her just a few minutes before. She wished, fleetingly, that the sky might open up in that moment and swallow her whole.
There were so many other places that she'd rather be. So many other people that she'd rather be with. But this was the life she had picked...the path she had chosen. If she was unhappy with it, she could only blame herself.
She pressed the sides of her pillow to her ears, trying to drown out the obnoxious noise that came from the nostrils next to her. The man who slept there bore a striking resemblance to the man she had loved all of her life. It was for that reason that after a year and a half of dating, she hadn't once taken him home to meet her family.
It wouldn't do her ego any good to know that those that she loved would know the only reason she was with him is because he reminded her so much of her ex-husband. She didn't dare risk taking him to Capeside. The thought of running into Pacey with his look-alike on her arm was more than she could bear.
It wasn't like she loved him, either. You only took a man home to meet the judge and jury if you planned on making some sort of commitment to him. Joey had no thoughts of a permanent future with her current bedmate.
She pushed her hair out of her face, and stared at the ceiling. She could go home, and she could apologize to Pacey. She could get down on her hands and knees and beg him to take her back.
These were all things she was willing to do.
But every seemingly flawless plan always developed a loophole somewhere along the line.
Fortunately for Joey, she knew just what that loophole was.
Pacey might not want anything to do with her. He might take one look at her, and shut the figurative door in her face. She had left him. She had torn his heart out, and dragged it across the country with her. She had given him a reason to stop loving her. She had made the mistakes.
Matthew's arm slipped back across her abdomen, breaking the link in her chain of thoughts. His face nuzzled into her neck, and he murmured incoherently as he shifted his weight to her side of the bed. If she let him, he would stay there, in exactly the same position until the alarm clock sounded, and he jumped out of bed. She had found it endearing, and just a little cute, when he had stayed over that first night, and leapt from the bed the second the alarm went off. A siren could blare outside her townhouse, and he would sleep right through it. But the minute that damn clock started to chirp, he was on his feet.
She traced the barbed wire tattoo that encircled his upper arm, and smiled a little at the goose bumps that formed from her touch. She had never figured herself to be a tattoo kind of girl, but with Matthew, she found herself accepting them as though they were a birthmark he had been born with.
Matthew wasn't a kind man, and he wasn't often a gentle man. He made his living outside, tearing off and redoing roofs. It kept him in shape, deliciously tanned, and constantly surrounded by the wrong kind of people.
She knew he had a drug problem, but so far she had tolerated it, as he hadn't brought it home to her. He kept late hours, and often didn't have the energy to make love with her. But he would always find himself wrapped around her sometime during the night. It was during those times that Joey dreamt her saddest dreams.
In that alternate universe, where wishes could come true, and often did, fate decided that her subconscious would be haunted by the vision of Pacey.
So when Matthew's arms slipped around her in the night, it was Pacey's touch that she was feeling. And when Matthew awoke her with a kiss, it was Pacey's love that poured into her soul.
And when Matthew sent her to heaven and back, it was Pacey's name that she longed to scream.
A single, solitary tear traced her cheek. She felt the need to sob, and wail, and scream until the pain faded, but knew that in this moment, with this man that clung to her so tightly, her heartache would be misunderstood. Her new life had no room for old hurts.
So, she filed the tears away for another day, and wrapped her arms around the man she forced herself to be content with. The pain didn't fade, but with something solid to hold onto, it became bearable...and she knew she'd be able to get through another day.
He wiped a hand across his brow as he turned off the riding mower. Keeping the house after Joey left was a decision he hadn't made easily. Unlike her, he hadn't been willing to keep the past with him. He didn't want to come home to the place he used to share with her, and find it empty and full of silence.
It was the silence that hurt him the most these days. There had always been pots banging in the kitchen, music blaring in her office, arguments and love making in the bedroom. He was left to his own devices now, forced to go through each day alone, haunted by her memory, and the moments that still floated through the house.
If he chose to, he could sit on the couch and relive, vividly, the minutes they had whiled away in the living room. If he chose to, he could descend the stairs to the basement, and watch as the ghosts of parties past taunted him with old laughter and an even older love.
If he chose to.
And wasn't that what he did, by staying here? Staying in the home that had been their haven for so long? It didn't take more than the footsteps that carried him into a room, and his entire past would play out before him.
There had been a for sale sign in front of the house for a day and a half. That's how long it took him to realize that leaving that house would be like leaving her. It was only a little ironic, seeing as how she had already left him.
But the thought of packing up those rooms, and giving up on their first accomplished dream was almost profane to Pacey. This, in its own rights, was incredibly incongruous. He was refusing to give up his past with Joey, just as she herself had refused to do.
He climbed the steps on the front porch, and grabbed a can of beer out of the cooler that sat next to the porch swing. The swing was forbidden territory for Pacey. He took care of it – painted it, replaced boards, made sure it was still firmly attached to the awning of the porch.
But he never sat in it.
It had been their first frivolous expense after moving into the house. Pacey had wanted rocking chairs, which Joey immediately deemed too 'Andy Griffith Show' for her taste. They wandered the patio section of the hardware store for hours, suggesting and overruling each and every piece of furniture that was displayed.
And then they had seen the porch swing. The display model was painted sky blue, but Joey had politely declared that this minor infraction could be over looked.
They bought the kit, and spent the next four hours fighting and hammering and drilling. Pacey offered to drive to the hardware store and pick up a can of cerulean paint, and Joey glared at him.
They had settled on white, and after painting it, they both slumped against the piece of furniture, exhausted from their hard work.
It had taken Joey only four seconds to realize they were sitting in wet paint. Even then, Pacey hadn't wanted to get up.
Pacey shook the memory out of his head and took a swig from the can. The lawn was done, sans for the flower garden that ran along the edge of the house. Pacey wouldn't be planting any flowers that year. Flowers reminded him of happier times, and the less remembering he did these days the better.
Pacey tossed the empty can back in the cooler, not caring that the inside would be sticky and have to be cleaned later on. These days, he didn't care about much. He cut the lawn purely because he didn't feel like paying someone else to do it. He washed the dishes only because he knew he had to eat. He did his laundry because, while the prospect of wandering around naked was appealing in many different ways, it just wouldn't be accepted if someone happened to stop by.
Not that anyone ever did. Now that Joey was gone, their old friends rarely ever visited. Dawson stopped by now and again when he was home from California. Jack was always busy with something or other at the high school, or with Amy. Lily and Alex used to ride their bikes over on the weekend, but that was happening less and less these days. Pacey knew that he was the reason the visits weren't as frequent. Even to him, the idea of spending time with a bitter man in his late twenties just wasn't something that seemed like a whole lot of fun.
He went on the dates Gretchen set up him with. He never brought them home, and he never went home with them. If he slept with them, it was on neutral ground. He'd spent a lot on hotel rooms in the last year. He could still remember the envious face the accountant had made when he had his taxes done.
He heard the phone ringing, and climbed the steps to enter the house.
Someday, he thought, someday it won't be all about hotel rooms and pretending to hate flowers.
Joey slammed the phone down. "Doesn't anyone answer their damn phones anymore?" she yelled, getting only a raised eyebrow from Matthew. She glared at him. "Oh, what do you know?"
He lowered the sports section, and looked at her, a bland expression gracing his features. "Look, Jo. I don't know who you were trying to call, or why they weren't answering. Don't fucking take it out on me."
"It's a wonder you even heard me in the first place," Joey spat, anger shadowing her features.
"What the hell is that supposed to mean?" Matthew folded the paper and set it on the table. They had been arguing often, and he was about on his last nerve. He didn't like to be yelled at, and Joey was this close to finding that out.
She shot him an exasperated look. "Well, here on earth, that statement would most likely mean that it's not often that you listen to a word that I'm saying."
"If you'd shut up once in a while, maybe I'd realize you had something worthwhile to say."
Joey rolled her eyes. "I'm going out. Don't steal anything."
"What the hell is your problem, Josephine? I fucking live here. I pay half the rent-"
"Half the time." Joey muttered angrily.
"And half the time, I can't get a word in edgewise, 'cause you're always runnin' your trap! Shut up, will you?" He pushed away from the table and paced the length of their small kitchen.
"Again, I'm going out." Joey grabbed her purse off the counter and walked towards the door. She turned back before grabbing a hold of the knob.
Matthew was only three steps behind her. "You're not leaving."
"You're not my keeper."
His arm moved faster than she thought possible. The back of his hand connected with the side of her face, causing her to hit her head on the door. She bit her tongue in the midst of it all, and could feel blood trickling from a cut on her cheekbone.
"Now sit down." Matthew looked at her calmly, as though he hadn't just hit her.
"Matthew," she said quietly, gauging the situation, "I have to go now. This cut probably needs stitches." She twisted the doorknob, which she now had a vice grip on. She watched in guarded relief as he stepped back from her. She pulled the door open and slipped out, slamming it behind her.
Tears glittered in her eyes as she took the steps two-by-two on the way to the parking garage. He hit her.
The bastard had hit her!
A lesser woman would allow herself to feel guilty for egging him on. For yelling and pushing when she should have agreed with the situation.
Joey wasn't that woman.
She climbed into her car, and started the ignition. She was so focused on getting away that she hadn't noticed him running after her.
He was banging on the driver's side window when she put the car into gear. She slammed on the gas, never hearing his scream of pain as the engine revved and the tires squealed.
Never looking back, not when she knew there hadn't been a speed bump, even though she had felt one. Not when she was racing to the police station, changing lanes to a chorus of car horns and screeching brakes. If she looked back, he would be there, behind her, chasing after her with her fears and broken dreams at his heels.
She didn't want to look back anymore.
It was like her whole world had been waiting for this one moment. She hadn't seen until now that everything had been stagnant. Everything had been rotting. Her future, her heart, her past...
At this moment, she hated herself, as she never had before. She had moved across the country to get away from Pacey, to get away from what she thought had been stagnation. But with Matthew, life had even stopped standing still. He had been pushing her backwards, turning her back into the girl that was afraid of making her own choices.
With Pacey, there had been promotions, renovations, thoughts of children – dreams for the future. A year ago, those things had scared the life out of her. The idea of commitment, of the same face every day for the rest of her life, had for some reason, struck her as mundane.
Thinking about it all now, she wondered how she could have ever thought a life with Pacey to be ordinary. How could she think that her days with Pacey would ever lack fulfillment? How could she ever believe that moments spent in the darkness with Pacey would be less than heaven?
Matthew had been different. He had been new. And while his hair curled in the same way, and his eyes were the same shade of blue, she had chosen him because he wasn't Pacey. Matthew was hard, unbending. He did things his way, and wouldn't accept anyone who wanted things different. He never touched her in the same ways Pacey had, and while she craved just that, she forced herself to believe that Matthew was what she needed. What she wanted.
She pulled into a space outside of the police department and took a deep breath. Though it was cliché, she knew that this was the first moment of the rest of her life.