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Inspired by ‘From Here To Eternity’ by Duchess
Summary - See Parts One and Two so you understand. This part occurs in late February (remember - Joey’s a Pisces?) and concerns Joey’s birthday.
Rating - PG-13.
Commitment by Becci Wooster
Bessie smiled to Bodie as Joey danced into the kitchen and got herself a mug of coffee. It was unusual for Joey to be happy this early in the morning. However, it was Thursday, and Joey’s birthday was that Sunday. She had also been going out with Pacey Witter for seven months now. Bessie and her boyfriend had been aware that Joey’s mood had especially improved in the past few months.
“hey, Jo,” Bodie greeted.
“Hey, Bodie,” Joey replied, smiling. “Hello, Bessie. Did you have a good night’s sleep?”
“OK, Joey. What have you done?” Bessie asked cynically, raising one eyebrow.
“Nothing! I just inquired after my sister’s sleeping habits, that’s all.” Joey replied, an innocent look plastered across her face. Bodie laughed, and shook his head. He then left the room.
“OK, Joey. Spill the beans. You’ve been really happy for a couple of months now. What’s going on? It’s unnatural!” Bessie demanded. Joey sipped at her coffee, smothering a grin.
“Oh…are you sleeping with Pacey?” Bessie asked.
“What?” Joey exclaimed, shocked.
“You heard,” Bessie asked. “It’s the only thing that explains your good mood. Come on, tell me. I won’t be mad.” Joey paused for a second, considering her options.
“Yeah. I am,” she replied quietly.
“Since when?” Bessie asked. True to her word, she wasn’t angry, a little surprised, and a little curious. After all, this was girly gossip that she’d missed out on.
“A few months,” Joey replied.
“Wow. My first question is are you using protection?” Bessie found herself becoming the mother figure.
“Yes, Bessie. Believe me, I don’t want an Alex on my hands yet. Look, can we discuss this later? I need to get to school.” Joey decided now was the time for the conversation to end. Pacey was due to pick her up at any moment, and Bessie would certainly embarrass them both.
“Sure. Go to school. Just one more thing. Do you love him Joey?”
“More than anything,” Joey answered automatically. Bessie smiled at her warmly. Joey returned the facial expression. Then, a car horn sounded.
“That must be Pacey. He’s giving me a lift,” Joey announced. She grabbed her bag. “Bye, Bess.”
“Have a good day, honey,” Bessie replied.
Pacey and Dawson grinned to themselves as they walked down the corridor at school. Joey was stood in front of them, walking backwards, begging.
“Come on! You’ve got to tell me!” she wailed.
“No. We’re not gonna tell you. Wait until Sunday,” Pacey instructed. Joey stopped walking, and gave Dawson puppy eyes.
“Come on, Dawson. You’d tell your best friend, wouldn’t you?” she asked in a sweet voice. Dawson laughed, and shook his head. They continued walking, and reached their lockers.
“I’ll tell you one thing Joey. You’ll never forget this birthday,” Pacey confided. Dawson nodded in agreement.
“fine. I don’t need to know. But, if you’re not gonna tell me what you’re planning, then I’m gonna terminate all of your privileges,” she hissed back at her boyfriend.
“What privileges would they be?” Pacey asked smiling.
“You know…” Joey whispered seductively.
“You mean like this?” Pacey asked, before stealing a kiss off her lips.
“Yup. And other things…” Joey trailed off, suddenly realizing that they were stood in the school hall and that Dawson was listening. “I mean it, Pacey. Tell me!” Just as Pacey opened his mouth, the bell rang for homeroom.
“Saved by the bell!” Pacey exclaimed, before running off down the corridor to his room. Joey ran in the other direction, with Dawson in hot pursuit.
Joey glared at Dawson as they walked home together. Pacey had raced out of school and driven off without her, so she had to walk.
“You know what he’s planning, don’t you?” Joey asked. Dawson nodded.
“Tell me,” she pleaded.
“I can’t Joey. I’ve been sworn to secrecy. It’s just me and him that know all the plan,” Dawson explained. “If you find out, he’s gonna know who told.”
“But am I gonna like it?” Joey asked, exasperated. Dawson paused for a moment to consider his answer.
“I don’t know, Jo. Honestly, I don’t know.”
“You’re absolutely useless!” Joey screamed, frustrated.
“Sorry,” Dawson asked. “But I do know you’ll never forget this birthday.”
Joey walked sleepily into the kitchen on Sunday morning. She had worked all day yesterday, and was still exhausted. However, her typical bad mood was deterred by the thought of Pacey’s present. She doubted it could ever be as big as the one she had given him, but still, she was excited. He had some to the Icehouse the previous evening, and given her instructions. She was to be dressed and made up by six that evening. He would be taking her out to dinner at a restaurant. She was disappointed, but when she had told Bessie, Bessie had smiled and so Joey assumed she knew at least part of her surprise.
“Hey, birthday girl!” Bessie called to her little sister. “Seventeen today! A year from now, you’ll be all grown up!” Bessie pulled Joey in for a hug. Joey giggled.
“Bess!” she moaned.
“Good morning, Joey. Happy birthday,” Bodie congratulated from across the kitchen, where he was cooking breakfast.
“Sit down,” Bessie instructed. Joey obeyed. “Here’s your present from Bodie and I,” she continued, placing a gift wrapped box on the table in front of Joey. Joey smiled, and opened it. Inside was a beautiful dress. It was satin, and a delightful shade of pale blue. Joey gasped. She stood up, holding the dress against her. It was sleeveless, and went right down to her ankles.
“Bess, it’s lovely! I don’t know what to say!” Joey squealed. Bessie and Bodie grinned.
“My instructions from Pacey are to make you wear it tonight,” Bessie explained.
“Of course I will,” Joey promised. “Thank you so much,” she said, kissing her sister on the cheek, then running over and doing the same to Bodie. “You’re gonna look even more beautiful,” Bessie prophesied.
“I’m not beautiful,” Joey stated automatically.
“Come on, you know that’s not true,” Bessie admonished her. “I’d kill to be as tall as you with such a perfect figure. Your eyes are just like mom’s were, and your hair never poufs like mine.” Joey looked at her for a moment, trying to decide whether she was joking or not. She decided her sister was being honest.
“Thank you, Bess,” she said quietly, blushing slightly.
“One Bodie special,” Bodie announced, putting a plate before Joey. “Thanks. It looks wonderful,” Joey said gratefully.
Pacey’s eyes shone as he entered Dawson’s living room, following his best friend. The room was filled with the balloons that Dawson and his father had spent the afternoon filling.
“Wow, Dawson. This looks great!” Pacey exclaimed.
“It should do. It’s taken us enough time,” Dawson explained. His parents entered the room.
“Thank you all so much, she’s gonna love it!” Pacey thanked the family hew wished was his.
“That’s fine, Pacey. Joey’s like a daughter to us. She deserves a good time,” Gail explained.
“But not too good a time,” Dawson warned. “Remember you’re having the meal, then coming straight here. Please do not give her an incredibly happy birthday.” Pacey shook his head, and blushed a little.
“Is the great Pacey Witter blushing?” Mitch asked.
“You die, Dawson!” Pacey threatened. “So what time are Bess and Bodie arriving?” he asked, changing the subject.
“Half an hour after you leave. They’re bringing the cake. Jen’s coming over later to help get the drinks ready, and put up the banner Dawson made,” Gail told Pacey.
“Thank you so much, you guys,” Pacey gushed. “I mean it. My family would never even consider letting me throw her a party.”
“That’s fine, Pacey. Don’t worry,” Mitch consoled. “But hadn’t you better go? Joey should be ready by now.”
“OK, I’m off. See you later,” Pacey said, leaving the house in a hurry.
“What has he got Joey for her birthday?” Gail asked Dawson.
“Ummm…Sorry. I’m sworn to secrecy. I’m not sure it’s a good idea, but he’s certain it is.” Dawson said cryptically.
Joey smiled at Pacey as she noticed his stare. They had left the restaurant after a perfect meal, and he was driving her over to Dawson’s house, because he had an errand to run.
“Will you please stop staring at me as if I’m meat in a butcher’s window?” Joey asked.
“Sorry. I’d already seen the dress, but I never imagined how beautiful you’d look in it,” Pacey confessed. “There’s only one way in which you could look better.”
“How?” Joey asked.
“Without it on,” Pacey said, grinning slyly.
“Pacey! But thank you. Never ever let Bessie hear you talk to me like that,” Joey warned. “I love you, Pacey. As much as it’s possible at 17. Thanks for making it such a great day.” She smiled at him, blushing slightly.
“I love you too, Joey Potter. You’re the only thing worthwhile in my life. You’re the rock I cling to. I can’t imagine life without you.” Pacey stopped the car in the Leery’s driveway. The lights were off in the house. “You coming in?” he asked Joey. “I want to show you off,” he added. She smiled and nodded. They got out of the car, and walked up to the door. Pacey knocked three times, the signal that had been agreed. Whilst they were waiting for someone to answer, he kissed her. His arms wrapped tightly around her waist, and she caved into the warmth the kiss was providing. Just then, Dawson opened the door.
“Guys!” he groaned. His friends pulled apart, giggling. Dawson let them enter the room. Pacey followed Joey into the room and switched on the light.
“SURPRISE!!!” everyone screamed, jumping up. Joey jumped out of her skin, and her eyes bulged open.
“Oh my God!” she squealed, spinning on her heels. “You die, Pacey!” she warned, kissing him passionately.
“Happy birthday Joey!” Pacey said when she let him go. Joey was almost immediately surrounded by her family, the Leerys, Jen and Pacey.
An hour later, Joey pulled Pacey over to one side of the room. They hadn’t been alone since the car journey.
“Thank you so much,” she said quietly.
“How did you know it was my idea?” Pacey asked.
“Gail told me,” she answered. “Thank you.” Tears welled in her eyes. She smiled, and rubbed them away gently.
“Hey, don’t cry,” Pacey commanded. She smiled at him gratefully. “You’ll spoil your makeup,” Pacey continued. She punched him playfully.
“Pacey! I’ll go to the bathroom and tidy up then,” she told him, walking away. He watched admiringly. Dawson saw the expression on his face and walked up to him.
“Hey, Pacey. When are you gonna do it?” Dawson asked.
“When she cuts the cake,” he replied. Dawson smiled at him.
“You’ve got balls of steel,” he whispered, before walking off to talk to his father.
Joey laughed out loud as her friends and family finished singing happy birthday to her. Pacey had sung the version including squashed tomatoes and stew. She looked so beautiful to Pacey as she smiled at him in the darkness, with the candle light highlighting her features. She blew out the candles, making her wish silently. The others clapped, and she snuck a slight grin at Pacey before hugging Bessie. Eventually, the sisters broke away, and Pacey took a deep breath. He nodded at Dawson, who turned on the lights.
“Jo?” he asked timidly.
“Yes?” she replied, looking at him.
“Can I ask you something?” he asked. She nodded. Suddenly, both Gail and Bessie knew what was coming next. However, Joey remained oblivious. She was still confused when Pacey got down on one knee and produced a small jewelry box. “Joey, I love you. Even though we’re young, I know that there will never be anyone like you in my life. Will you marry me?” Joey covered her mouth with her right hand. She looked into Pacey’s eyes, and then turned to look at Dawson. By the grin on his face, he obviously had known all about this. The others were all as shocked as she was. She looked back at Pacey. Suddenly, she knew her answer. She sadly shook her head.
“I’m so sorry, Pacey. But my answer is no.” Pacey’s face broke. The anger clouded over it as he realized everyone was watching. He stood up, and flashed a look of hatred at Joey. She burst into tears, and ran out of the room. He ran his hand through his hair. Everyone was silent for a moment.
“Pacey…” Dawson began as he moved closer to his friend.
“Don’t, Dawson!” Pacey warned. Then he stormed out of the room. Jen jumped as the door was slammed. Dawson spun around.
“I guess the party’s over,” he announced, running upstairs to find Joey.
Dawson opened his door gingerly and found the room empty. However, his window had been opened. He walked over to it, and stuck his head out of the window. Sure enough, Joey was sat on the roof of the porch. She was hugging her knees, and crying. He climbed out through the gap, and sat beside her. He saw Pacey walking down the dock and finally sitting right at the end.
“Jo…” he said, not sure of what to say. She was his best friend, the person who he was closest to in the whole world. She was also his best friend’s girlfriend.
“Dawson, I did the right thing, didn’t I?” Joey asked through her tears. She looked up at him, and then leaned her head on his shoulder. Automatically, he brought his arm up and round her. He kissed the top of her head. “I must have…I’m not ready to marry him. We’re seventeen, how do we know it’s forever? And marriage should be forever. I know that more than anybody.”
“He didn’t mean for you to get married next week,” Dawson explained gently. “He wanted to commit to you in some way. He thought you were ready for that.”
“Maybe I am, but maybe I’m not. I can’t imagine there being anyone else, but I know that there might be. And besides, it’s Pacey Witter. He could wake up one morning and decide it’s all a big mistake. I don’t want to do that to him. I don’t want him to do that to me.” Joey sighed. “Does any of this make sense, Dawson?” she asked.
“Perfect sense. I was pretty freaked when he told me,” Dawson confessed.
“It’s bad enough to accept that either one of you are having a sexual relationship, but with each other? And then you two getting married? I think you did the right thing, Joey. It’s just Pacey doesn’t understand. He’ll be down there thinking it’s because you don’t love him.”
“What can I do to stop that?” Joey asked, looking him in the eye. Dawson grinned ironically.
“Talk to him,” he said. Joey sighed, and then smiled at him.
“That’s what I was afraid you’d say.” Dawson smiled back, and they both climbed back through the window. Dawson put his hand on the door, and looked back at her. She breathed in deeply, and run her hands over her hair. Then she nodded. Dawson opened the door, and followed her through it.
As they came to the bottom of the stairs, Joey was aware that the talking in the living room ceased. She ignored the silence, aware that they wanted to know what was going on. She marched straight out of the door, holding her head up high. Dawson smiled and shook his head as she left the house, before entering the living room. As he had suspected, everyone was waiting to find out what was going on. They all stared at him.
“What happened?” Bessie asked, the first to break the silence. Dawson sat in a chair, and then realized everyone was waiting for an answer.
“Let them sort it out. Everything’s gonna be fine,” he said wisely.
Joey silently walked down the dock toward Pacey. She sat beside him in silence. Then she took another deep breath.
“I love you, Pacey,” she began. He looked up at her. She saw the tears that had fallen down his cheeks. His eyes portrayed loss.
“Then why won’t you marry me?” he asked somewhat cynically.
“Because we’re seventeen, because love isn’t always enough, because I want to go to university, because I want you to go to university, because we would be unhappy, because I’m not ready. But not because I don’t love you,” she explained in one breath.
“We can still carry on with school,” Pacey argued.
“Yeah? And who’s gonna pay the bills?” Joey asked. Pacey was silent.
“Maybe one day we’ll get married,” Joey continued. “But it’s not right now. We have the rest of our lives. Why live them now?” She looked deep into his eyes, trying to communicate with him without words. It worked.
“I love you, Joey.”
“I know. But let’s enjoy this for as long as possible,” she said softly. He nodded, and they kissed deeply, symbolizing the deep union that had formed between them.
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