Summary: Pacey and Joey haven't seen each other in almost twelve years. Unbeknownst to them both, he's recently moved into the same city. As the two of them deal with their thirtieth birthdays in different ways, one jumping into commitment and the other away from it, a turn of events lead them closer and closer to finding each other again. How will it turn out this time?
*Please let me remind that in order to avoid being seriously confused, you should read or should have already read the previous two series *
Author's Notes: I've never been to New York, I have no idea what the area surrounding Madison Square Garden looks like. Please excuse any technical errors.
Finally, the third and last series of my intended trilogy. There was Long Ago…, then This Is When It All Began… I would appreciate it greatly if you could bestow your highly valued feedback and opinions on The Story of Us.
The Story of Us
He was surrounded by green trees, clear skies and whitewashed villas by sandy beaches everywhere he turned. He could hear the shouts of children playing soccer some distance away and he could see his neighbors sunbathing by their pool. It was another amazing day in Costa del Sol. The Spanish sun was smiling down on him as usual and he took a breath of deep, fresh air as he prepared to go for his morning jog by the sea.
His happy mood was abruptly darkened by the intrusive hissing of the telephone in the background. No one except his employer knew where he was and the latter himself was cutting off all contact with the outside world on some island in the Bahamas. He wrinkled his brows in annoyance and wondered who else could be calling him at this time of the day from Seattle.
The machine continued to ring.
He growled and reluctantly went in search of it He opened his eyes with a start and found his face half-buried into a pillow. The bright red digits of his clock radio on his bedside table flickered insistently and inaccurately, taunting him to challenge it. Shit, he thought, the damn storm must have caused a temporary blackout again. His mind was certainly working a lot faster and much more politely than his mouth as he summed out what he felt in a single curse word. Even then it was mumbled and incoherent. He turned his face toward the window but he couldn't even deduce what time of the day it was since it looked as dark as it did the night before.
He soon began to realize that the buzzing in his ear and the drumming in his head wasn't part of his imagination either. Grasping at thin air before he finally found the receiver, he had already knocked over his watch and his glasses before he muttered a rude greeting into it.
"This'd better be good," he warned.
The voice was young and desperate. "Pacey, we need you here. I've submitted the changed plans but the contractor won't proceed until he meets with you."
"Dennis, there's a reason why I stay home on my days off! I left you in charge, deal with it!"
Dennis begged some more and insisted he couldn't deal with a dozen people screaming into his ear at the same time.
Pacey sat up in bed, which turned out to be a mistake as his head continued to pound from the recesses of a hangover. "Shit."
"Well?" Dennis asked again, almost in prayer.
He closed his eyes to stop the room from swimming. "Tell them to keep their pants on. I'll be there in an hour."
"Aww," he replied in reflex as the booming voice on the other line aggravated his headache. "What the hell is the time anyway?"
"Fantastic," he said with little enthusiasm and then he hung up. For the millionth time since college, he wondered why he chose to spend the last ten years of his life studying and struggling to become what he was today, that by the time he had actually reached the pinnacle of his career, he was exhausted.
"Because you secretly love it. The wages, the long hours - what better to hide behind than an independent, busy facade?" his last girlfriend had told him in a huff after he'd missed yet another one of their dates.
Something moved behind him and he opened his eyes sharply. Looking back tentatively, he saw a lump beneath his sheets and a slim leg that was showing.
The brunette stuck her head out in a sleepy state. "What happened?"
He stood up in his boxers and made for the bathroom. "They need me at work. A problem at the site."
"Pacey, you promised to meet my parents for lunch."
"I know," he said. "This won't take long. I'll be there."
"I've heard that one before."
He showed his head for a brief second from the doorway. "Lucy, I'll be there."
"You'd better be." She propped herself up against the headboard. "My parents aren't very forgiving people."
"So, I've heard." His voice was slightly drowned out by the running tap and she asked him to repeat himself.
"Nothing," he said. "Could you go get the newspaper?"
She crossed her arms at the change of subject.
"Please," he pleaded, sticking his head out again, electric shaver in hand.
She grudgingly got to her feet and went downstairs, to which he breathed a huge sigh of relief.
"I heard you!"
"I know!" he shouted back.
"Hey, my favorite girl in the world!" He leaned over and kissed her on the cheek.
"Don't you try to talk your way out of this," she insisted. "I've just gone through 18 hours of labor and I deserve an explanation."
He looked to the other man in the room for help but the latter shrugged his shoulders in ignorance.
"Come on, Lee."
"Don't 'come on, Lee' me. What happened with Lucy?"
"She decided she liked someone else more. What can I say?"
Ashley Witter-Satchell moved forward slightly to allow her husband, Nick, to fluff her pillow before leaning back to settle more comfortably.
"You really can't keep doing this. Pretty soon, all the good ones will be taken and you'll be left with no one."
He raised an eyebrow. "You sound like a mother," he grumbled.
"Good," she replied. "Because I am one."
As if on cue, a trail of boisterous cries that could only come from a group of hyperactive boys came down the corridor toward the room.
"Uncle Pacey!" The smallest of the three leapt excitedly into his arms and giggled happily as he was swung onto his uncle's shoulders. The other two were just as excited at seeing him and grabbed on to each of his legs.
"Look Mommy, I can touch the ceiling!" Five-year-old Mikey pointed out proudly from his current position on the top of his world.
"Uncle Pacey, how long are you going to be in New York?"
"You promised we could go play baseball in the park the next time you were in town."
Nick put his hands out to stop the commotion. "Boys, one question at a time. Your uncle only arrived three hours ago. Let him catch his breath."
"I'm fine," he said, pinching his nephews' cheeks with his free hand. "These kids can't tire me out. Right?"
"Right!" they all agreed.
"Besides, didn't I mention I was going to be in New York for awhile?"
"Here to supervise another project?" Nick asked.
"It might be a little more permanent than that."
"What?" His sister's ears perked up.
"I flew in for an interview." He put Mikey down on the bed with his mother and held out his hands to ward off any comments. "Before you complain that I never tell you anything unless you force it out of me, I was all prepared to break the news when I paid you a visit this morning, only to be told by your neighbor that you had suddenly gone into labor. You always had great timing, Sis."
She rolled her eyes at his smart-ass remark.
"When's the interview?"
"Tomorrow," he told his brother-in-law. "After which they have until Friday to let me know."
"That's fantastic," The latter slapped his shoulder. "Right?"
"Yeah, I guess." He shrugged in his usual non-committal stance. "Seattle was starting to become boring."
"Pacey," Ashley began to nag again. "Congratulations, you're the proud owner of the shortest attention span I know of."
"For once, you may be wrong there," he disagreed as he looked pointedly at the two boys who were wrestling each other playfully.
Eleven-year-old Eric was Nick's child from a previous marriage and Eric was only three when his mother walked out on them. Nick met Ashley in Los Angeles on business where she had graduated from college and went on to start a career and later gave it all up to move to New York to be with him and his son, whom she grew to regard as her own. Eric felt the same and called her Mom. One year later, Nick proposed and they were married in a private ceremony.
Six-year-old Patrick was the first result borne out of that love. One and a half years later, Michael followed.
He smiled as the nurse interrupted his thoughts, carrying their new bundle of joy in her arms.
"Mommy, she's so small." Mikey tentatively touched his new sister's fingers and she yawned in return.
"D'uh," Patrick replied. "They're always this small." But one could tell that he was just as fascinated as his brother.
"Thank goodness it's a girl," Ashley said, sniffling. "Otherwise, we might have to keep trying."
"Well, I certainly hope we don't stop anyway," Nick teased.
"Ah," Pacey backed away slightly. "Please, people. Tender ears over here," he said, indicating his own.
"Oh quiet, Pacey," she said, half-laughing, half-crying.
He grinned at the sight of the family before him and then allowed himself to feel a momentary wave of loneliness and self-pity. He straightened up and made a move to allow them some family time on their own.
"Got to go, Lee." He reached for her hand. "I'll come by again tomorrow and let you know how it went."
He gave her a mock salute. "Yes, ma'am." Turning to Nick, he asked, "Anything I can do for you guys?"
"We'll let you know."
He was nearly out the door after high-fiving his nephews when he was called back.
"Pacey, actually there's something you could do for us "
"Eric, take your brother's hand. I don't want either of you wandering off on your own."
They spent thirty minutes looking for a lot before they finally found one two blocks away. It wasn't bad, considering the massive crowd outside Madison Square Garden they were contributing to that night.
"How on earth did your Dad get tickets to a Rangers-Leafs game?" he asked in awe.
"He knows someone who knows someone who knows someone else-"
"Okay," he interrupted Eric. "You know what? I don't even want to know." He put Mikey down, as his shoulders were getting tired. "I'm just going to enjoy it while it lasts."
They were soon immersed in the atmosphere of the vocal crowd and lost no time in settling comfortably to begin to enjoy the next 60 minutes of the game.
"60 minutes of toothless men with manly sticks, pushing one another head-first into plexi-glass…hmm…heaven."
The man on her right stared at her in annoyance as though she had just insulted his wife…or car, depending on whichever was dearer.
"Oops," she muttered, without much remorse.
Her fiancé was wheezing his way through a line of outstretched legs, juggling hotdogs and sodas.
"Isn't this great?" he asked, sitting down and handing over her share of dinner.
"I knew it. We should have gone to the recital."
"I'm kidding." She laughed. "Are you crazy? The only thing worse than having to sit through three hours of Mozart is sitting through three periods of ice hockey. There'd better not be overtime."
He sighed and rolled his eyes. She laughed some more.
He smiled as he always did when she laughed and her face lit up, sending little crinkles around the corners of her eyes. Leaning over, he kissed her squarely on the mouth.
"What was that for?" she teased.
"Just for being you, Josie."
She growled at the name and this time, it was his turn to laugh.
"Hey man, you mind keeping an eye on these boys while I take the little one to the loo?"
Mikey was jumping up and down, trying to delay his bladder for as long as he could before it burst. "Uncle Pacey," he hurried him.
The two men with their girlfriends looked decent enough to be left alone with kids. Besides, he knew Eric and Patrick would yell the arena down before going anywhere where they weren't supposed to be with a stranger. Ashley had taught them well.
One of the women looked sympathetically at Mikey, who was tugging desperately at his pants. "No problem."
They ran up the stairs and as he batted an eyelid at the queue outside the ladies' room, Mikey headed for the gents' without so much as a glance at anything else but getting through the door onto the other side. Pacey quickly followed after him.
"The line's not moving," he noted.
"Great detection, Sherlock."
"Come on," he said, holding on to her elbow as they made their way through the crowd.
"Where are we going?"
"It's time to make use of my father's name around here."
She raised her brow in question.
"To the box seats. We're going to use the restrooms upstairs."
"Come on, Patrick."
"Uncle Pacey told us to stay here."
"We'll be back before him. He's not going to know."
"I don't think we should."
"I'm hungry again. Come on!"
Without waiting for his answer, he started to make his way to the snack bars.
"Eric!" Patrick was torn between staying and following his brother and he finally did the latter.
The quartet sitting above them didn't even notice that the boys had left.
Eric was so bent on following the source of the smell of food that he didn't realize that his brother was having a hard time catching up with him. By the time he neared the snack bar and turned around to ask his brother what he wanted, Patrick was out of sight.
"I'm not going to cry. I'm not going to cry," he repeated to himself. Hoisting himself on a ledge he could reach, he tried to find Eric but there were just too many people.
"Okay, I'm going to cry. I'm going to cry." His eyes turned red and he was sure he was going to embarrass himself when he heard a kind voice.
"Are you lost?"
He momentarily forgot his fear as he stared up at her, mouth opened. She was the prettiest girl he had ever seen.
She lowered herself to his height and smiled. "What's your name?" she asked.
"Hi Patrick, I'm Joey."
"Joey? Like a guy?"
She smiled. "No, not like a guy. It's short for Josephine."
He nodded and then he remembered his predicament and scrounged his face up. "My uncle will be so mad when he finds out. We weren't supposed to wander off."
"My brother's somewhere here."
"Do you remember your seat number?"
He shook his head and he started rubbing at his eyes again.
"It's okay," she reassured. She searched for Greg but figured he must have been separated from her too. Oh well, she'll just see him back at their seats. "Come on," she said, taking his hand in hers. "Let's get you back and I promise your uncle isn't going to be mad. He'll probably be more relieved than anything else."
Eric paused in his step and a wave of panic engulfed him. He had just spotted his uncle and Mikey in the queue at the bar and quickly retreated into a corner before they saw him.
I am in such trouble, he thought.
Running back to the area they had come from, his eyes searched for Patrick's head of distinct blond hair. He was about to give up when he saw his brother. At first, he thought he had it wrong but then the clothes and hair matched even if the tall lady in the white dress didn't.
"Patrick," he cried out.
"Eric!" His younger brother let go of the woman's hand and ran to him.
Eric wrapped his arms around his Patrick. "Boy, you scared me!"
"You were running so fast."
The woman approached and brotherly instinct took over as he cautiously eyed her. Girls, especially the pretty ones, were dangerous - just like Jenny Gardner who kept following him around in school.
"Eric, I presume."
"Patrick, you're all right now. Better get back to your seats before your uncle goes to the police."
He suddenly remembered and started dragging his brother. "I saw them at the hot dog stand. We still have time before they get back."
"Slow down, Eric."
"We have to hurry!"
Patrick looked back for a quick second and waved to Joey, who was regarding them with amusement. She waved back and watched them disappear back into the arena before glancing at her watch. She'd better find her own way back before Greg got worried.
They managed to collapse into their seats panting just before Mikey came down the stairs to their row in his childish gait.
"Uncle Pacey got us food." He took in his brothers' disheveled state and stuck his lower lip out in curiosity. "You guys are sweating."
Eric immediately covered his mouth with his hand. "Shhh, don't say anything."
"You know you'll have to bribe him with something," Patrick helpfully contributed.
"Thank you very much," Eric replied sarcastically.
Mikey mumbled something against the latter's palm.
"What?" He moved his hand away.
"'I want to learn to ride on your new bike."
"No way. Besides you're too small."
"Uncle Pa-!" He was stopped by the hand again.
"Okay, okay," Eric relented. "Just make sure you ask Mom first."
Mikey giggled in delight.
"What's so funny?" Pacey asked as he slid into his chair and held out the food he was carrying.
"Nothing," Patrick insisted with a little too much zest.
His uncle looked at them warily but they were spared from further interrogation by the start of the third period.
"Where have you been?"
"I bumped into this kid who was lost. We went looking for his brother."
"The regular Samaritan."
"I had to." She smiled slightly poignantly. "He looked exactly like a baby photo of a friend from high school." She paused. "Except this kid had really light hair."
"Who, this Dawson you talk about?"
"No, just…" she paused, not sure how to continue. "…just someone I knew." Fortunately, Greg was too pre-occupied with cheering for the home team to notice her change in manner, which gave her opportunity to redeem herself.
"If your father knows the people who can get you box seats, why aren't we there right now?" she questioned in jest.
He made a face. "Socialize with those rich hypocrites and miss all the fun down here? You're nuts."
"You know, I don't have to remind you that you are one of them."
"No I'm not. I dropped down the social ladder when I became a lowly ER doctor."
She laughed. It still struck her as extremely strange to find herself engaged to a man whose family background embodied all that she had been against for as long as she could remember. She met Gregory Daniel Davenport two years ago, thanks to her then-roommate and old friend from college, Daphne who took a fall and caused a wound on her forehead that required stitches. She had to take her to the emergency room at 1 in the morning in rumpled clothes and terrible hair. As it turned out, Greg was on duty that night. She had been too busy running her current work project through her head to notice the cute doctor that Daphne kept harping on about in the car until she received a call from him at home the next evening.
"Who did you say you were again?"
"Greg Davenport. I was the doctor who stitched up your friend in the ER this morning."
"So you're looking for Daphne then. She's not here-"
"I was looking for her roommate, Joey. If that's you, of course."
"Yes," she replied tentatively. "That would be me."
He finally convinced her he wasn't a psychopath and that he happened to like the look of her and just wanted to have a cup of coffee to see if they got along.
"No strings attached," he promised.
"All right," she agreed, "but we meet at a neutral venue."
They ended up at the diner opposite the hospital. He had been fifteen minutes late and she was beginning to think that she was a victim of a practical joke when this tall, dark-haired man stumbled in, struggling into the sleeves of his jacket as he frantically looked around the place for his company.
At first, she didn't think it would be him but as he headed her way, she started to mentally dissect him. From afar, he looked too casual, his white shirt untucked and crumpled, his pants creased and his hair rumpled. But what could you expect after a 36-hour shift with an hour of sleep during it, she later learned. It was more than that though. He had an air about him that seemed so…carefree she didn't think he could be a doctor. He wouldn't have been able to survive in such a depressing environment with such an attitude.
But she was wrong and this time round, she paid attention.
When he slid into the booth opposite her, she also realized that up close, he was an incredibly good-looking man. He had the most aristocratic nose she had ever seen as well.
And she told him that.
He raised his brow. "Great way to start a conversation."
"I'm sorry," she said, slightly reddened. "I'm sure I'm not the first person to tell you that."
He shrugged. "Actually, you're not."
It turned out they did get along and it took her a month to admit that they were dating exclusively. It was even more amazing to her that she didn't run after meeting his parents. His father was a pessimist and his mother, a cynic but they were two of the most down-to-earth people she knew. She wasn't exactly stunned to find out that he was the son of one of the nation's fifty richest men - he reflected country club upbringing even if he constantly denied it in favor of a more rugged outdoor look and as for his inclination to tell the truth-
"Hey referee!" Greg stood up and yelled as the man with the whistle made a decision he didn't agree with. "Did you leave your impartiality back home with your eye glasses?"
-she didn't even want to go there. The man couldn't lie to save his life, much less insult in simpler words.
"That is why I couldn't become a politician or a lawyer," he had told her once. "I couldn't keep a straight face."
Sometimes, she wondered if he had been adopted and he confessed that the thought crossed his mind more than once. Unfortunately, his mother most reassuringly told him that she still had the weight left from her one and only pregnancy to prove that he wasn't, plus the fact that physically, he resembled his father down to a tee.
She supposed it was her ticking biological clock that induced her to accept his proposal of marriage and move in with him. Recently, she had become quite uncomfortable with the knowledge that she and Greg got along too well.
"You're just looking for conflict," Daphne had said before.
"Could you not play the shrink with me?"
"I'm not. I'm just stating the obvious."
"And that's not what you do?"
"No, that's why we get paid to analyze. Since this is obvious, I'll charge you nothing."
She had thrown a cushion at Daphne that hit her squarely in the face.
They were walking arm around arm after the game when she saw that small head of blond hair again. He was holding on to Eric who was talking to a man beside him and whom had a child by his other side. She could only guess he was their uncle. She smiled at the sight of the obvious affection between them despite the bantering that was taking place.
She was too far to see or hear them properly.
"Eric, Mikey just let it slipped that you two went gallivanting when I told you not to."
"Uncle Pacey, it was only because I was hungry."
Patrick remained silent. He didn't think that it was a good idea to let it become public knowledge that his brother had lost him as well.
"At least you didn't deny it," Pacey said. "Next time you think about doing that, you think of me angry. Got it?"
"Got it," he muttered.
Pacey hated reprimanding children, especially since he remembered all too well what he was like at eleven. Frankly, he thought he had been a lot worse at that age but being an adult meant new responsibilities and although he didn't quite embrace the ones concerning girlfriends and marriage, his nephews were of the utmost importance to him.
"Okay, let's get you guys home."
Mikey and Eric exchanged faces and stuck out tongues at each other behind Pacey's back. "The deal's off. You can't ride my bike since you told," Eric insisted.
"But I didn't mean to. It just came out," Mikey said in defense.
Patrick got bored and he started to focus on the crowds of people instead of his brothers' silly squabble. Turning his head slightly to his right, he was delighted to see Joey. She waved and he waved back delightedly.
"Is that the little boy?" Greg asked.
"Yes. Cute, isn't he?"
"Want one of your own?"
He steered her toward their car. "We've never talked about starting a family…"
To be continued…
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