Disclaimer: Characters and concept belong to Kevin Williamson and WB.
Note: Just to set the scene - this series is set two years into the future after the Capesiders have finished highschool.
Part One: Awakenings
Joey regarded her reflection in the mirror with some degree of disappointment. She noted critically every feature and blemish she disliked, and let out a resigned sigh. Though she had always thought her deep brown eyes were her best feature, they were almost hidden now by thick eyeliner and mascara that had been meticulously applied by Bessie and Gale Leery. Her cheekbones were shaded almost crimson with blusher, accentuating the squareness of her jaw. Joey was unused to wearing so much makeup, but the two woman had assured her that she would come up beautifully in the photographs. Joey swallowed with distaste when she thought about the ordeal to follow.
She took a step back from the long mirror to see the full picture, but her deep-seated disappointment did not wane. The simple off-white gown was elegant and suited her tall figure, but all Joey saw was a chest that was too small and hips that were too big. The dress was too long and she knew she would trip over it before the day was through. Her hair at least would not cause any problems. It had been puffed up in a bouffant french roll, then sprayed with hair lacquer until it was in no danger of moving again. She touched her hand to it and felt the spongy wad of hair surrounding the rosebuds that had been methodically pinned into place. Joey felt ridiculous. She had been pulled, prodded, painted, and plucked to within an inch of her life, and this was the finishing product. She had never felt more unattractive in her life.
Joey reflected this was not the way it was supposed to be. Today was meant to be the most exciting and special day she had ever experienced. Today was one she was supposed to remember forever, signifying the end of her childhood and the beginning of her adult life. And yet Joey felt nothing by emptiness as she gazed at herself in the glass. She was numb, far removed from any of the emotions she had expected to feel on her wedding day. But in less than hour she would be Mrs Dawson Leery. That is, Josephine Leery. Or Josephine Leery-Potter. Potter-Leery? Joey sighed again. If she couldn't even decide what she was going to call herself, what did that say about her state of mind?
Picking up the bouquet of roses that had been lying on the bed behind her, she held them in her arms and began walking slowly towards the mirror like she was walking up an aisle. Joey watched herself, wanting desperately to feel some hint of happiness or excitement. But she just felt dead inside. Joey let her arms fall to her sides as she wondered morosely what she was supposed to do now.
* * *
"Joey, honey? You ready?" Bessie asked as she tapped on the door of the Leery's spare bedroom.
The guests had all gathered in the garden and the string quartet were playing quietly until it was time for the ceremony to begin. Mr Potter stood beside her, awkward and uncomfortable in his tuxedo, but full of pride nonetheless. They waited for Joey to answer, but no reply was forthcoming.
"Joey? Do you need some help?" Bessie knocked softly again. She and Bodie had never managed to get married so she could only pretend to know how nervous her younger sister must be feeling at that moment.
"I'm fine. I just need a few more minutes," Joey finally said in response.
Bessie opened the door a crack to check on her. Joey was standing in front of the mirror, but as far as Bessie could tell she looked ready.
"Come on, Joey, it's time. Everyone's waiting."
"I'll just be a minute, Bessie," she said dully.
Bessie frowned slightly and slipped into the room, carefully shutting the door behind her so their father wouldn't come in and make Joey any more nervous than she probably already was. Bessie was concerned at the tired tone of her voice. She had expected to find her pacing the floor anxiously if anything. The wedding was all they had talked about for months, but Joey sounded like she wanted to be anywhere else but here.
"You okay, kiddo?" she asked gently so as not to put her sister on the defensive.
Joey still stared at her reflection, puzzlement in her eyes.
"What am I doing, Bess?" she whispered, not meeting her gaze.
"You're getting married to Dawson Leery, aren't you? Remember Dawson, the guy you've been head over heels in love with for the past six years?" Bessie joked. She realized the talk of cold feet wasn't just a myth. Joey just needed some reassurance before she took the plunge into wedlock.
"But I'm only eighteen years old. I just finished highschool and I'm supposed to start college in less than three weeks. How could you let me do this?"
"As I recall, Joey, I never had the authority to stop you from doing exactly what you wanted. You came home from your end of school celebrations and casually announced you were getting married. I didn't know I had a say in the matter."
"Do you think we're too young? Do you think we're making a mistake?"
Bessie pondered this a moment. The last thing she wanted to do was offend Joey, and she knew if she said the wrong thing that's exactly what she'd do. It didn't matter that Joey was apparently having some doubts. Bessie knew if she told the truth then Joey would only throw it back in her face after the ceremony.
"Well, I can't say I was overly thrilled when you told me the news. I would rather you had waited until after college when your future is more secure. But I'm hardly one to talk, am I? I had a baby with my boyfriend after dropping out of college so I could run the restaurant. I don't think I have any right to criticize your decision."
"But do you think I'm making a mistake?" Joey asked again, her voice almost pleading now.
"I think Dawson loves you more than life itself. And I know you feel the same way about him. The way I see it, you guys have more of a chance than most at making this work."
Joey's gaze dropped to the floor as she allowed the words to sink in. "Is that how much you're supposed to love someone before you marry them? More than life itself?"
"Well, that's what they say in all the romance books." Bessie walked up beside her and smiled into the mirror at their reflections side by side. "I think you're going to be very happy, Joey. I only wish I could be half as lucky as you."
Joey smiled weakly. Bessie wasn't even hearing her. She knew her sister wouldn't be any help to her.
"So, you think you're ready now?" said Bessie cheerily.
"In a minute," came the quiet reply.
"Don't be too long, you don't want to keep Dawson waiting." Bessie gave her a quick hug and withdrew from the room.
Ten minutes later when she came knocking on the door again, Bessie was a little more impatient. The guests were all waiting and Dawson was growing more nervous with each passing second. He couldn't sit still as he waited in the garden with his best man, Pacey, and the celebrant. Bessie had been apologetic before she and her father climbed the stairs to Joey's room in the Leery's house. But this time when knocked and called out to Joey, all she heard was the key turning in the lock on the other side of the door. Bessie rattled the knob, but the door was locked fast.
* * *
Bessie smiled nervously at the guests as she walked quickly down the aisle, trying to pretend that nothing was out of the ordinary. It was a small wedding, with only relatives and Dawson and Joey's closest friends from school. At least no one appeared to be concerned that the ceremony hadn't started yet. Luckily weddings almost never ran on time, so everyone waited patiently. Bessie just nodded to the people she knew with a smile still plastered on her face, until she reached Gale Leery.
Gale was sitting with her ex-husband in the front row of chairs that had been set out in her garden. Her eyes were shining with pride as she watched her son standing at the altar, about to get married. She could already feel the tears pricking her eyes and she knew she would be crying before the ceremony was over. Gale was immersed in her own happy thoughts, so she jumped slightly when Bessie materialized beside her and whispered something fervently in her ear.
Dawson had turned and was watching Bessie and his mother, trying to ascertain if Joey was ready yet or not. He couldn't stand the suspense anymore, and just wanted to get the nerve-wracking ceremony over and done with so they could enjoy the reception afterwards. He and Joey were leaving for Boston that night, and flying to Paris in the morning for a two week honeymoon. Dawson could hardly wait.
He raised his eyebrows questioningly as his mother shot him a glance after Bessie had finished talking to her. With a fake smile on her lips, Gale eased out of her chair and hurried back towards the house with his future sister-in-law. Dawson shifted his gaze to his father, who just shrugged in response.
"Don't worry, D, she probably just broke a nail or has a ladder in her stockings or something," Pacey said to allay his anxiousness. "Women are never on time for their own weddings, it isn't the done thing. My sisters told me so."
"Yeah, that must be it," Dawson let out a shaky breath. His hands were clammy now and his mouth felt completely dry. He'd had no idea he would feel so nervous about marrying Joey, the woman he loved with all his heart. He didn't suppose it was because they were so young — Dawson had known two years ago when they had finally gotten back together that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with her. He just wished he could see her so he would feel calmer. But Dawson knew that, no matter how anxious he felt, he could wait forever for Joey. She was worth it.
* * *
Gale knocked on the door again, a little less impatiently now. Joey hadn't answered them yet but Bessie could see her through the keyhole. She was sitting placidly on the end of the bed, staring into space. Gale and Bessie had already tried bullying her to open the door, so now they were trying a gentler approach.
"Don't you have a spare key?" Bessie asked, the frustration evident in her voice.
"I didn't even know there was a lock on this door," Gale whispered back.
"I know she can hear us. Why isn't she answering?"
"What did she say to you before?"
"Nothing, she was just a little nervous, that's all," replied Bessie.
"Do you think this is just a case of stage fright then?"
"The ceremony was supposed to start twenty minutes ago. Do you think the guests are getting restless yet?" asked Gale, checking her watch.
"If they're not yet they will be soon." Bessie suddenly pounded on the door again. "Joey, open this door!"
There was no response.
"Do you think we should let Dawson try?"
"And make him more nervous than he already is?" Gale frowned. "I don't think so… What about Jen?"
"They're hardly the best of friends. Joey doesn't really have any girlfriends her own age. Why do you think I'm her maid of honor?"
"What about your father?" Gale was running out of options.
"He's outside chain smoking. I don't think he'll be much help."
Bessie straightened up from staring through the keyhole once more. "You know, that's not a bad idea. Pacey's been able to snap her out of a bad mood before. Maybe he can annoy her enough to get a response."
"But how do we get Pacey up here without letting Dawson know something's wrong?"
"I know, I'll send Alex to get him," Bessie said, brightening.
She hurried downstairs to where Alex was playing with a couple of Dawson's young cousins. None of the children were interested in the wedding and resented being dressed up in formal clothes. Bessie called him aside and whispered in the young boy's ear. Alex nodded that he understood, and immediately trotted up the maroon carpet that had been laid on the grass to form the aisle. He tugged at Pacey's jacket until he bent down to Alex's level.
"Mommy needs to see you," he informed Pacey.
"Did she say why?" Pacey asked, throwing Dawson a quick glance.
"I don’t know," the three year old replied.
Pacey stood up and shrugged to Dawson. "I guess we'll find out what the holdup is. Hang in there, Dawson."
He followed Alex back down the aisle, noticing the guests murmuring amongst themselves as he passed. He supposed it did look a little strange that the best man was being called inside along with the maid of honor and mother of the groom, when the bride was still nowhere to be seen. A few turned their heads and stared curiously as Pacey jogged up the steps to the house.
* * *
When he arrived at the door, both Gale and Bessie looked relieved. At least Dawson hadn't followed him in too.
"What's going on?" he asked, frowning at their expressions.
"Joey's locked herself in the room and she won't answer us," Gale explained, not hiding the growing annoyance in her voice. "Maybe you could try?"
"Okay," replied Pacey, still uncertain why they had called on him. He and Joey were friends, but were only close because of their mutual relationship with Dawson. Friends by default, as Joey had once described them.
Bessie and Gale shifted out of the way as Pacey walked up to the door. He knocked gently with one knuckle, moving one ear closer to the portal.
"Jo? Can you hear me? It’s Pacey." He waited, but she didn't reply. After a few seconds he continued. "I never figured you for the drama-queen type, Potter. What gives?"
Bessie scowled slightly at this but Pacey half-smiled at her to let her know he was just trying to get Joey's attention.
"Hey, d'you think I could come in? It’s kind of difficult talking to a door."
There was still no response, and Pacey glanced back at Gale and Bessie. Obviously it hadn't worked either. They were trying to think of what else they could do before breaking the door down, when suddenly they heard Joey's voice.
"Are you alone?"
Pacey looked at the two women pointedly until they backed away. He waited until they had gone reluctantly down the stairs before he answered her.
"Yeah, I'm alone."
He waited as she crossed the room and unlocked the door, opening it only a fraction to make sure he was not lying. When she didn't see anyone else, Joey opened the door wider and allowed Pacey to come in. As soon as he had, the door was hastily locked again.
She turned around and leaned against the door while Pacey stood in the middle of the room.
"Well, you look nice," he said pleasantly as if nothing was amiss. "Going to a wedding or something?"
"I was supposed too," Joey replied, her voice and demeanor both devoid of emotion.
"It's a great day for it… Sun's shining, bird's are singing, the garden's full of guests… and one very nervous groom awaits your arrival."
Joey walked past him to the other side of the room. She stood facing the wall, unable to meet his eyes.
"I can't do it."
"I said I can't do it. I can't go through with this wedding, Pacey," Joey repeated as she turned around, her eyes downcast.
"What are you talking about, Jo? Everything has been arranged… everyone's here and waiting."
"I know. But if I go down there I'll be making the biggest mistake of my life."
Pacey let out an exasperated sigh. "Couldn't you have realized that before now? I mean, today is your wedding day, Joey."
"I know," she murmured miserably. Tears welled in her eyes when she thought about what she was doing.
"You can't just call it all off now," Pacey went on, firmer this time.
"I can't…" she stuttered, her voice no longer cooperating as she tried to get the words out.
Joey finally looked up at him and Pacey saw the desolation in her eyes as she tried to stop herself from crying. She silently begged him to release her.
"Please, Pacey, I can't do this…"
Pacey didn't know what else to do but hug her. He wrapped his arms carefully around her so he wouldn't crease her dress, and was surprised to feel her whole body shaking against his.
"Please, help me…"
Pacey was bewildered. Automatically he replied, "It's all right, Joey, you don't have to go through with it. It's all right…"
He felt the rush of relief that swept through her, and he tightened his grasp around her waist. Joey continued to cry on her shoulder as she whispered the same phrase over and over again.