Nothing but the truth
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Disclaimer: Characters and concept belong to Kevin Williamson and WB.

Note: This story discounts seasons two & three yet again. Anyone noticing a pattern here?

One: Liar liar

Joey Potter sat at her drafting table, studiously poring over design outlines and blueprints. Though she was surrounded by other people in the large architectural office, she was oblivious to the conversations and activity around her. She was engrossed in her work, lost in her own world of creativity and ambition. The plans before her unfolded and took shape, until she could visualize the finished structure in her mind. When Joey worked so intently like this she was unconcerned with the people around her. She did not notice them starting to file out of the office into the meeting room. It took an abrupt nudge from her design partner to finally draw her back to reality.

"Jo, itís time for Petersonís big announcement," Hayley said hurriedly, snatching Joeyís pencil from her hand.

"Huh? Oh right, I nearly forgot," replied Joey, absently picking up another drafting pencil. "I just need to touch up these prints and then Iíll be there."

"Now, Jo, heís not going to wait. Besides, I get the feeling this is kind of important and you will want to be there."

Joey heard the pointed words and the meaningful tone in her friendís voice and for once took notice. She eyed Hayley curiously, wondering what she was missing. What did she know that Joey didnít? Hayley just smiled and pulled her up from the desk insistently, pleased when Joey didnít protest as much as usual.

The firmís fifty or so staff were gathered in the large conference room, waiting for the executive partner to address them. Joey and Hayley slid into the room and remained standing by the door, mainly because Joey wanted to get back to work as soon as the announcement was over. These sorts of interruptions frustrated her, especially when she had so much to do. Her thoughts had already returned to the proposal she was working on as Alec Peterson moved to the front of the room and held up his hands for silence.

"I know you all have a lot of work to do, so Iíll keep this brief," he said confidently, though he was a man known for his verbosity. He ran a hand through his graying beard and smiled expansively. "Today is a proud day for Peterson-Waterhouse Architects. I am pleased to confirm our newest client to the firm is the mega-mall company, Westfield Enterprises. As you all know this is a multi-million dollar account, brought about by the hard work of Senior Partner Hayley Price and her creative team, headed by Jo Potter."

Peterson waited as a small round of applause died down, all eyes on Hayley and Joey who were smiling graciously by the door.

"This is a great coup for our firm and we look forward to a long and fruitful relationship with Westfield Enterprises. We will be responsible for the design and construction of a chain of malls in the greater Chicago area, Elgin, Aurora and Joliet. New design teams will be reassigned to work on the project, to be headed up by Hayley, Mike Thomas and Michio Yamagawa."

Joey shifted her weight from one foot to the other impatiently, wondering why she had been called in to hear something she already knew all about. The Westfield project was all she had worked on for the past four months, so none of this was new to her. She glanced longingly out the door at her drafting table, wanting to get back to her designs. But Peterson was still talking.

"Öwhich brings me round my announcement, and the reason I have asked you to assemble here today. Peterson-Waterhouse have decided to appoint a new junior partner to the firm, someone whoíll hold a key position within the Westfield Enterprises project. As a reward for work already completed on this proposal, I am pleased to announce our newest junior partner is none other than Ms. Josephine Potter."

Joey looked up in surprise at the sound of her own name, not really concentrating on what Peterson was saying. A junior partner? She looked at Hayley in confusion, but the older woman was just grinning proudly at her. The applause started up again and Joey looked around at her fellow workers in disbelief. After the initial shock had worn off, and after Hayley practically pushed her away from the door, Joey stepped forward to shake her bossís hand.

"Congratulations, Jo. You deserve it."

"Thank you, Mr. Peterson." Joey was at a loss to know what else to say. It was practically unheard of for someone her age to be made a junior partner in a firm as prestigious as Peterson-Waterhouse. They were the leading architecture firm in Chicago ó certainly the most sought after company for new graduates to the profession.

"Well, letís get back to it, people. Weíve got a lot of work ahead of us."

As the rest of the staff began to file out of the room, the senior partners and the other two junior partners milled around Joey and Peterson, each of them offering her their congratulations.

"You know I was here five years before I was made junior partner," Hayley whispered aside to her. "How long have you been here? Six months?"

"Must be your great tutelage," Joey replied, glad that her mentor and design partner was pleased for her. Hayley had also become her good friend, one of the first she'd made when she came to Chicago not knowing a soul.

"Weíre very proud of you, Jo," continued Peterson, now that there were only a few senior staff remaining. "Itís because of you and Hayley that we were able to land this account. Your designs snared us one of the biggest projects in this firmís history, so your promotion is well deserved. I knew I head-hunted you from college for a reasonÖ"

The staff laughed indulgently at the executive partnerís jovial words. Everyone knew it had been Hayley Price and the other senior partners who had spotted Joeyís talent amongst the hundreds of applications they received each year. But they were willing to allow Peterson to take the credit for hiring her if it kept him happy.

"To celebrate our new contract and your promotion, we will be a throwing a party the weekend after next to welcome the partners of Westfield Enterprises to the company. Your significant others are invited of course, we want to promote the family image of our firm. Iíve always believed that our personal lives reflect the kind of establishment we have created here, so husbands and wives are expected to attend. And, Jo, it will be the perfect opportunity for us to finally meet that fiancé of yours who weíve heard so much about."

The partners murmured in agreement. Joey was so preoccupied with the idea of her ascension to junior partner that it took her a moment to comprehend Petersonís request. Her eyes widened slightly at the suggestion, and she quickly opened her mouth to stammer an excuse.

"Oh, I donít know if heíll be able to fly in that weekend, Iíd have toó"

"Nonsense," Peterson interrupted her, refusing to hear any excuses. "When Pacey hears about your promotion of course heíll want to be there. And I know the Westfield executives would like to meet him too. Donít worry about the airfare, itís on the firm. Consider it your first partnership perk."

Joey realized the suggestion was really an order, so she smiled numbly and nodded her head.

"Iíll see what I can do," she said.

"Excellent," beamed Peterson. "Itís about time we met this young man of yours. So, the weekend after next."

Peterson clapped his hands together and moved off with the rest of the senior staff as they returned to their offices. While Hayley was sidelined talking to Michio Yamagawa, Joey scurried out of the conference room and back to her desk. She was still in a mild state of shock about her promotion. It would have a huge impact on her career, and she knew the offers she had received from other firms would only increase now. Joey was considered one of the young hotshot architects in the Chicago industry, much to her surprise. And her new position as a junior partner at Peterson-Waterhouse would only enhance her reputation, as well as providing her with her own office and a considerable raise. Joey grinned to herself at her own good fortune.

"You look like the cat that got the cream, Ms. Potter," Hayley commented cheerily as she approached her desk. "Come on, Iím taking you out for lunch at Salvatoreís to celebrate. No protests."

Joey smiled and swallowed the "too much work to do" excuse she had been about to voice, deciding she did deserve lunch out at a fancy restaurant. It wasnít every day you became a junior partner of a nationally renowned architecture firm at only twenty-five. Still stunned, she grabbed her coat and bag and followed Hayley out of the office.

* * *

Joey felt quite indulgent as she sat back in her chair at Salvatoreís, sipping coffee. She and Hayley had spent the entire lunch deciding what she would do with her new office and substantial salary. Her friend practically insisted she move out of the dusty loft she had been renting since arriving in Chicago. Hayley pointed out she could now afford to move into something a little more in keeping with her executive appointment. Joey couldnít even begin to think about what she would do with the money, beyond paying back her student loans faster. She was enjoying herself too much to think about such matters. As they drank their coffee and stalled going back to the office, the conversation turned to the party Peterson had arranged.

"Letís just hope itís an improvement on last time when old Alec got drunk and tried to seduce the female partners, not to mention the wife of the new client." Hayley reminisced.

"As long as thereís food and good champagne I wonít complain. I canít remember the last time I got out," said Joey, enjoying her new found ability to relax away from work. She knew she got too tied up in her designs sometimes. During large projects like this one she almost forgot how to socialize, spending fifteen hours a day at her drafting table or on a computer.

"Thatís what you get for having a fiancé in Boston. I donít know how you stand that long distance relationship-thing. Still, at least youíll get to see Pacey on the weekend thanks to Petersonís insistence. He canít say no now."

"Oh my God!" Joey spluttered suddenly, burying her head in her hands. She began moaning softly to herself. "Ohmigod, ohmigod, ohmigod. Iíd almost forgotten thatÖWhat am I going to do?"

"Jo?" Hayley frowned, alarmed. "What is it?"

"PaceyÖ" she murmured, holding her fingers over her nose and mouth, her eyes clamped shut.

"Has something happened between you two? You havenít had a fight, have you?"

Joey looked at her colleague, hoping she could trust Hayley more as a friend than a senior partner now. She had wanted to tell Hayley for the longest time, but something always stopped her. Now it seemed she didnít have a choice.

"Hayley, I have to tell you something." Joey forced her nervous hands into her lap so her anxious state wasnít so obvious. She felt sick to her stomach. "Itís about PaceyÖ"

"Jo, Iím your friend, okay?" she said sincerely when Joey trailed off, unable to finish the sentence. Hayley reached her hand out across the table. "You can tell me anything."

"The thing isÖ when I told you all about Pacey, it was really only a half-truth."

"Meaning?"

"Okay, it was a lie. Iím not engaged," Joey blurted out the words quickly so they would be less embarrassing. "You see, when I said we were togetherÖ technically itís true because we were. We dated for a few months when I was at BAC, then when I graduated and got the job here, we broke up."

"I donít understandÖ" Hayley frowned at her. "Why would say youíre engaged if youíre not?"

"I donít know," Joey groaned, perplexed. She was so embarrassed to have to tell Hayley what she had done. "It was so stupid, I canít believe itís gone this farÖ"

"Jo, just tell me."

Joey didnít miss the Ďcut-the-crapí tone in her partnerís voice. She swallowed carefully and began explaining. "When I started working at the firm I had only just graduated. I guess I didnít feel terribly accomplished, especially next to someone like you. Everyone was so talented and together ó not only in their careers but their personal lives as well. They were all married or engaged, or living with a life partner, and still they managed to be part of this dynamic, cutting edge firm. I mean, look at you, Hayley. Youíre a senior partner, you give 100% of yourself to the job and youíre raising two perfect children. I just canít compete with that."

"Try telling me theyíre perfect when theyíre screaming bloody murder at each other," said Hayley drolly. Then her tone grew serious. "No one said you had to compete, Jo. Youíre twenty-five, for goodness sake, no one expects you to have it all together at that age."

"But I do," Joey replied urgently. "I want to have it all together. I had a lot to prove coming from the small town I grew up in. Mainly to myself, but also to everyone who had so much faith in me ó you, the other partners, Peterson. When I first got here I felt like I didnít measure up."

"And you think having a fiancé makes you a better person? You must have a pretty poor opinion of yourself if thatís the case, Jo. Not to mention setting the womenís movement back thirty years."

"Itís not thatÖ I didnít mean for it to happen, it was all a huge mistake, a misunderstanding... Itís just that, my first day on the job, Renee was helping me unpack some of my things. I had a few photos from home, and one was a picture of Pacey and me from college. She gushed about how good looking he was, and asked if he was my boyfriend... I donít know what possessed me to say it, but I just found myself agreeing with her. You know what a gossip she is. Within the day I was Josephine Potter, architect, affianced to this great guy back in Boston. It just grew from there."

Joey looked down, ashamed. She lowered her voice as she continued. "People in the office treated me differently. Iíve never been particularly good at getting to know people, but they just started talking to me. Everyone wanted to know all about him, about us, and I guess I felt included. They were actually envious of me, the more I told them about him. I know it sounds egotistical, but I liked feeling their envy. Itís not exactly something Iím used toÖ It made me different from the antisocial small town girl I was used to. I knew I shouldnít have lied about him, but after a while it was just easier to tell them what they wanted to hear. And it got that leech Harrison in Accounting to leave me alone. As soon as I started flashing an engagement ring around, all the guys stopped presuming they could hit on me. I could get on with my work without being bothered."

"But why did you lie to me, Jo?" Hayley insisted, slightly hurt. "I thought we were friends."

"We are friends, and I did want to tell you so many times. But even you were interested in finding out about us too, gossiping about relationships. You were always asking questions about him and I was just too much of a coward to Ďfess upÖ Iím sorry I lied to you, Hayley. Youíve been nothing but kind to me since I arrived. And this is how I repay youÖ"

Hayley sat back in her chair and contemplated the morose look on Joeyís face. She could understand her desire to fit in in a place like Peterson-Waterhouse. It wasnít an easy firm to break into, especially being a wunderkind architect who exceeded her peers tenfold. Joey had been forced to deal with the egos of other designers who had been there much longer but who did not receive the attention she did. While Hayley didnít condone the lie, she could empathize with Joeyís reasoning behind it.

"Itís not the end of the world. I suppose I might have done the same thing in your situation. But what are you going to do now, Jo? Peterson is expecting you turn up at the party with a fiancé."

"I have to tell him the truth, that I made the whole thing up."

"Are you mad?" snorted Hayley. "If Peterson finds out youíve been lying to everyone all this time, something tells me heís not going to be too happy. Heís not going to let someone like that work on the biggest account this firm has. And youíll probably find your promotion is put on hold indefinitely."

"But it was only a little white lie!" cried Joey, alarmed that Hayley thought her junior partnership would be endangered. She had worked too hard to lose it all now because of one stupid mistake. The Westfield Enterprises project was her account.

"It was a lie, Jo, and Peterson wonít stand for it. Especially about something like this, you know what a family man he isÖ No, I think the best thing to do is give him what he wants."

"But I donít have a fiancé."

"Then I suggest you get one before the party, or you can kiss your dazzling career goodbye. You have to keep up this pretense until youíre settled in as a partner and this project is underway. Then you can make up some sob story about the difficulties of maintaining a long distance relationship and put it all behind you."

"I guess," said Joey reluctantly. "But that doesnít solve the problem of the party. How am I going to come with a fiancé before the weekend?"

"Weíve all seen his picture on your desk, Jo. I donít think you can get just anyone to do this." Hayley counseled. "Do you think Pacey would agree to come here and pretend to be your fiancé? Assuming he does actually exist and that picture isnít just the one that came with the frameÖ"

"He exists all right," said Joey darkly. She got the feeling Hayley wasnít going to trust her word for some time because of this. "I donít know if I could ask him to do this though."

"How did you end it with him? Are you still friends?"

"The decision to break up was mutual. I was moving to Chicago, he was staying in Boston. Our relationship just came to a natural ending. It wasnít really serious anyway, we both knew it ó we just had fun together. I mean, I cared about him a lot but we were never going to work out long term. We did keep in touch after I moved here, but I havenít spoken to him for about three months. Iíve been too involved in this project."

"Well, letís just hope heís a generous kind of guy. Because you have one mighty favor to ask him." Hayley swallowed the last of her coffee and motioned to the waiter for the check.

"I hope so too," Joey murmured under her breath. If he didnít agree she would probably lose all that she had worked for since starting at Peterson-Waterhouse. Joey was determined not to let that happen.

 

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