Winter Tales

Here is Annie posting...Annette sends her hello too. After so many hours spent exchanging ideas, the challenge gave us the perfect excuse to...postpone updating Hope you have as much fun as we had writing this.

Merry Christmas to you all!
Love,
Annie & Annette

December 24th, 2013

It was still dark outside and the alarm clock hadn't started yet, but Joey was already wide awake. Just the thought of what they would have to do at this day tempted her to just stay were she was, snuggled up in Pacey's safe and warm embrace. It wasn't an option though and she didn't really mind, because she loved Christmas... just not the stressful preparations that came along with it.

She sighed and covered Pacey's hand that was holding her tight against him with her own. Somehow, they had always slept and awoken in this position ever since the first time they shared a bed together. A smile tugged on her lips as she remembered a certain night, actually the real first night they shared a bed, right when their feelings started to surface. They hadn't exactly woken up cuddled up against each other then although she remembered having woken up during the night, feeling Pacey's arm brushing over her. He hadn't been awake or conscious then, but it was the start of their sleeping tradition.

"Hey... morning, sweetie," Pacey whispered, his voice still scratchy from sleep and the most sexy sound Joey could imagine.

"Morning, Pace." Joey laced her hand with his and tilted her head just enough to be able to look into his half- opened eyes.

Pacey smiled and kissed her collarbone, softly caressing her rounded belly, fascinated at the tiny movements he felt. A life they had created. It was amazing and scaring that in only few weeks, their little family would have a new member, partly Joey and partly him.

"I don't wanna leave this bed today." He mumbled against her skin.

"Me neither" She sighed. "But it's Christmas, and we've got lots to do before…"

As in cue, they heard a soft call, a sleepy childish voice. "Mommy? Daddy?"

Pacey sighed and finished her sentence, "...before our first born decides to make an appearance at this ungodly hour, right when I was waking up and ready to start saying 'good morning' to you in a whole different way." He moved over her, brushing a few stray strands of hair out of her face.

"What do you expect, honey... Jules is your son... same ill-timing abilities." Joey smiled and stuck her tongue out.

"Whatever." Pacey chuckled, brushed his lips over hers, and then placed a sweet kiss on her forehead. "You stay here, don't move... I'll be back in a second."

"Thank you... umm... you might want to put on your robe..." Joey looked pointedly at Pacey and let her eyes wander downward.

"Cute, Potter. That's funny for you, huh?" Pacey frowned and grabbed his robe from the wicker chair that stood next to the window, overlooking the creek and one of their favorite seats in the house.

He entered Jules' room, frowning when he didn't find his son where he should be, on his bed. He heard a small sound from the closet, and chuckled.

"I wonder where Mr. Julian is…" He started, tapping his finger against his chin. "He's going to miss all those cookies…" He saw the little boy peeking through the half-opened closet's door, and smiled. He bended to watch under the bed. "No...Not here…" He lifted the covers. "Not here either. Maybe I should go eat all those cookies by myself" Pacey motioned to leave, being stopped by his pajamas clad son.

"Daddy! I want cookies too." He pouted, his eyes mimicking his mother's in perfection.

Pacey lifted his son in his arms, enjoying the warmth from his little body. He kissed his cheek, and ruffled his bed-tousled hair. "Hey, buddy, were you trying to scare Daddy?"

Jules shook his head vehemently, tugging on his father's earlobe, like he did since he was a baby.

"I wanted to see Sulley." He explained. Since he watched Monsters Inc., he used to lock himself in the closet trying to meet the movies characters and the big blue furred monster was his favorite.

"Really? What about Boo?" He teased.

"Daddy…she's a girl"

"But you like girls. Mommy is a girl. And you like mommy, don't you?"

He nodded with a toothy grin, his blue eyes shining.

Joey left her room, wondering what was taking Pacey so long. She stopped at the doorway, watching the two men of her life, a smile playing on her lips, her love for them spreading through her body. Running her hand over her stomach, she thought about the surprise she had for Pacey and their little boy. Pacey would love it, so much she was sure about, but their little boy, well... it would be difficult for him, at first at least.

Her small movement was enough to catch Pacey's attention. "Hey, weren't you supposed to stay where you were?" he asked, slightly teasing her.

"Yeah, well... you said something about a second. We need to discuss your understanding of a second, my love." Joey grinned and moved over to her Witter men.

"Impatient much, huh?" Pacey chuckled and shifted his weight, Julian still safely holding on his arm.

"Mommy..." Julian wiggled around and reached out for his mother, wanting to get into her arms. "Daddy said you're a girl."

"Yeah, I am a girl. You okay with that, baby?" Joey was about to take the little boy from Pacey, as he shook his head.

"Uh-uh, I don't think so. Jules is getting too heavy for you now, Jo." Pacey frowned.

"Pace, I'm fine, really and I'm not sick or anything." Joey sighed and tried to reason with her husband, but to no avail. Pacey was really a little over-protective of her and their unborn baby, especially since the little scare they had right in the first weeks of her pregnancy.

Julian couldn't understand why his Daddy was keeping him away from his Mommy and started to kick and struggle against his arms. "I want Mommy!" he grouched and some tears started to form in his eyes.

Pacey sighed. It was strange acting all responsible for once, while Joey wasn't and he hated it to see his son crying. And he couldn't really blame him; again, he was just like him, wanting to be in Joey's arms all the time if that were possible at all.

"Stop kicking, Jules. What do you say, we go down, and you sit with Mommy on the couch while I make breakfast?" he suggested, hoping to get out of this situation as best as possible.

Deep down he knew that Joey was okay and that she probably could hold Julian for a while without risk, but he couldn't help but feel scared. The image of her lying on the floor after having tripped over one of Julian's building bricks, holding her stomach and crying... he had almost died then.

"Sounds good, Pace." Joey smiled and kissed her son's cheek before brushing her nose against Pacey's. "Don't worry so much, I'm careful, I promise."

"What time do you have to go to the restaurant?" Joey asked, chewing her pancake, with a blissful Jules beside her, eating his share of chocolate cookies, his small feet dangling. Joey had argued with Pacey about the high amount of sugar they were giving their already hyperactive son, but Pacey only shrugged, saying it was Christmas after all.
"I have to check upon the Christmas decorations there first thing this morning." He frowned, remembering the disaster his hostess had made the day before. "Kelly doesn't have a clue about lights and colors." He chuckled.

"I could help like I always did." She offered. "We could ask Jack to watch over Jules." Joey glanced at her son who had surreptitiously left the table while his parents talked.

"Jackers is already freaking out because Andie is coming from Boston for Christmas with her neat freak husband." He leaned in to kiss her. "Not that I wouldn't love to have you and Jules around me all day, but we know how he can get in trouble with too many small things, too many breakable things."

"Like when he tried to eat peas through his nose." Joey chuckled. "Or when he almost broke your mother's crystal vase last Thanksgiving."

"Yeah…" Pacey laughed remembering his mother's horrified face when she saw her beloved great grandmother's vase almost falling from Julian's little hands.

Something caught his attention, and he ran to Jules' side, who had climbed the couch and was trying to reach the mantel, almost falling down. "Julian Phillip Witter, how many times does daddy have to tell you: No climbing the couch?"

Julian looked at his father knowing he was in trouble. Daddy never called him by that too long name.

"I wanted to see Mommy." He explained pointing at the picture he was trying to get.

Pacey took the picture in his hands, a smile reaching his lips when he remembered that particular Christmas. Their first as a couple, the Leery's Christmas party in senior year, right after Worthington's party. A small token of peace from Dawson that had captured all their young love.

December 2000

"Pace? Where are you?" Joey was almost out of breath as she closed the front door behind her and looked around the B & B, searching for her boyfriend and her nephew.

It was eerily quiet, well in comparison to the otherwise constantly buzzing background noises of the house. She couldn't remember the last time it had been this silent.

Sighing with disappointment Joey sauntered over to the couch, ready to just slump down and wait until Pacey and Alex would show up again. The sight that welcomed her; stopped her dead in her tracks and painted an even bigger smile on her face. There they were, peacefully slumbering, far, far away and dead to the world or her yelling for that matter. Pacey lay on his back with Alex snuggled into his chest and securely wrapped in his arms.

Joey kneeled down beside the couch and caressed Pacey's cheek with the palm of her hand. He looked like a little boy, almost angelic when he was asleep. She was couldn't count the times she watched him sleeping anymore. She had done it so often on True Love and just the ability to do it made her happy.

Although Pacey was still fast asleep, he must have noticed the touch of her hand because his face slowly morphed into a content smile and he searched the physical contact to her, capturing her hand between his cheek and his shoulder.

It amazed Joey to no end that she could affect him so much with so little things she did or said. It had never been like that with Dawson or Jack if he counted at all in this respect. However, with Pacey... everything was different and exciting. Bending closer to him, she kissed the small dimple that always appeared at the corner of his mouth when he smiled.

"Mmmm..." Pacey moaned and opened his eyes sleepily. "Hey you... you're back?"

"Yes," Joey's smile faded slowly, knowing that he waited for her to tell her something. "First I need to thank you; you know... for talking to Mr. Kasdan... he lets me retake the test tomorrow."

"He does?" Pacey grinned. "I mean... I talked to him, yes... but I didn't know..." he was silenced by Joey who put her index finger over his lips.

"Yes, he does. Tomorrow after school... so thank you." Joey took a deep breath before she continued. "And... I did what you asked."

"You talked to Dawson, huh?" Pacey tried to sit up without waking Alex.

"Yes. Here, let me help you." Joey offered and assisted him in bedding the sleeping infant on the couch.

"How did it go?" Pacey asked carefully. He knew that Joey needed to make amends with Dawson, but he also knew that nothing would be like it was. Not anymore.

"It went... good. Really." Joey smiled and straddled Pacey, wiggling around until she got comfortable on his lap. "Actually... I think we're right on the way back to our friendship and... I'd say this goes for the two of you as well."

"Jo, I'm happy that it..." Pacey sighed but was interrupted.

"Uh-uh... don't be so pessimistic about this. He gave me... or rather us... a wonderful Christmas present." Joey stood up and walked back to the kitchen where she had placed the picture on the counter.

"Here, look at this," she said triumphantly and presented the framed photograph.

Pacey stared at the beautiful picture for several minutes, unable to say anything. He was absolutely rendered speechless.

"Maybe you're right," he admitted and stood up, stepping behind her and hugging her like he did in the picture. "This is an incredible gift and he can't hate us as much as he did if he could capture us like this."

"That's what I thought." Joey leaned back and tilted her head. "All the ghosts of Christmas are locked away, except the ghost of Christmas future."

"And there's no reason to fear that one." Pacey lowered his head and brushed his lips over hers. "I love you, Jo."

"Love you too, Pace."

The first Christmas as a couple was getting better and better with each passing second.~*~

"That was a nice Christmas." Joey rested her chin against Pacey's shoulder. "Even with all the teen angst, we had fun."

"See, Jules, Mommy doesn't know what fun means." He told his son, picking him up. "We have to teach her." He whispered conspiratorially.

Joey narrowed her eyes at them, fighting a smile. She knew what would come next, Pacey would tickle Julian and even her if she wasn't careful. She heard her son's delighted giggles with a wide grin; he was glowing with all the attention he was getting.

"Let's teach mommy, Mr. Julian?" Pacey called, nearing Joey. "Ready for fun, Jo?" His eyes told her an entire different story.

"No, Mommies are serious, because Daddies are silly." She poked out her tongue.

"Daddy isn't silly." Julian frowned. Why did Mommy say such things about Daddy? Daddy was good, funny and gave the best hugs.

"Joey, it's called male bonding, accept it." Pacey drew her closer circling her waist, placing Julian on her arms, supporting his weight so he wouldn't heavy on her. She nuzzled her son's soft baby hair, smiling.

"As long you two don't start spitting on your hands." Lowering her voice, she whispered in Pacey's ear. "And about fun…I'll show you how much fun we can have later."

"God, woman, this is not fair." Pacey groaned. "Jules, what about a morning nap?" He offered his son who shook his head.

"No nap." Why do adults always want you to go sleep?

Joey laughed at her boys, both sporting disappointed faces for different reasons.

"Jules is right, Pace, no nap time now. And he's going to help me with decorating the tree, aren't you, baby?"

"I'm mommy's helper." He nodded proudly.

Before Pacey could reply, his phone started to ring, causing him to groan when he saw who it was. "Hey, Kelly, what's up?" He tried to sound cheerful as he listened to her babbling. "What? Are you insane, woman? I told you…forget, I'm going over." He flipped off the phone.

"Jo, I need to go before we have Halloween on Christmas." He ruffled his son's hair as he leaned in to kiss his wife. "You take care of Mommy, Mr. Julian…and Jo…"

"Don't worry, Pace, I won't do more than I can." She smiled. "I'm perfectly capable of doing almost everything although you think the contrary

"Please, Jo, don't make me worry." He pleaded while to looked for his car's keys.

"I'll behave, promise." She replied on a sheepish tone, kissing him good-bye. Joey watched her husband leave, sighing, but a muffled string of curses came from outside and she opened the front door to see Pacey on the slippery floor entangled with the wires of the reindeer lights ornament that he'd insisted on buying.

"Want any help, Pace?" She asked, doing her best to not burst into laughter, with no success.

"No, I'm fine, just fine." He tried to stand up, slipping again. "Dam…Darn." He corrected when he saw his son watching him, covering his mouth to hide his giggles. He joined them into laughter. What else could he do, and sometimes even disasters could be funny.

Joey sighed and looked around the kitchen. After Pacey had finally made it to his car without slipping again and drove off to the Icehouse, she had cleaned up their usual morning mess. Although Pacey loved to cook and was a genius at it, he conveniently forgot to eliminate the remnants of his work.

"Can we do the tree now, Mommy?" Julian asked expectantly as he saw Joey walking over to him.

"Ahh, Jules, sweetie. Mommy is a little tired. Let's rest for a few minutes, okay?" Joey sat down on the couch, trying to relax before decorating the tree. Again, she was faced with her son's disappointed face. Actually, it was the miniature version of Pacey's pouting mixed with her own trademark eye-roll. Of course, the little man knew about the effect he had on his parents and he used this knowledge.

"Awww, baby..." Joey smiled helplessly. She couldn't see her baby so sad. "Come to Mommy, Jules," she reached her hand towards the little boy who eagerly stood up from his play area and tripped over to the awaiting arms of his mother.

Reaching the couch, he giggled and let Joey help him to get comfortable beside her. "What do you think of cuddling with Mommy and watching TV for a while and then we start decorating the tree?" Joey suggested hopefully. As much as she wanted to get all the things done that were still waiting for her, she felt already exhausted and she knew that she had to take it slow.

"Okay." Julian nodded and snuggled closer to Joey.

Joey ruffled his soft dark hair affectionately and turned the TV on by pressing the button on the remote control. She zapped through the channels until she found the Cartoon Network, where a children's series was on, celebrating Christmas.

They watched the colorful comics in silence, only laughing now and then about the misfortunes of the figures. After half an hour, the phone started ringing and Joey bend forward to grab it from the coffee table.

A quick glance at the display told her that it was Pacey. "Hi, Pace. Got to the Icehouse in one piece?" Joey quipped.

"Very funny, Jo. But yes, no more slipping." Pacey laughed. "Ah, which reminds me: don't go out before I get home, okay? I have to take care of ice. I don't want you to slip by any chance."

"Don't worry. We won't go out any time soon. I don't know... I'm feeling really tired and right now we're just hanging around, watching TV." Joey explained in a hushed voice so that she wasn't disturbing Julian.

"You're not feeling well? Why didn't you say anything before?" Pacey frowned and checked his watch, trying to figure out how long it would take to get back home.

"No, don't worry, Pace. I'm fine... just tired," Joey tried to reassure him.

"You sure about that?"

"Yes. So what did Kelly do?" Joey changed the subject quickly, knowing that if Pacey had the slightest concern about her well-being, he would jump into the car and head back home, complete forgetting about the reason why he was at the restaurant in the first place.

"Oh well, you won't believe it... I really don't know where to start here." Pacey chuckled as his eyes wandered around the room, examining the very questionable taste of his employee.

"That bad, huh?

"Mommy, Mommy... look at that... the car just drove into the house and in the tree!" Julian tugged at Joey's sweater, trying to get her attention and pointed to the television, where a cartoon car was half way stuck into a house.

Joey glanced at the screen and smiled with her baby boy. It looked ridiculous.

"Sounds like my family is having a lot of fun without me." Pacey stated dryly.

"Aww, sweetheart, not as much as we would have with you being here. We're watching the cartoon channel and a car drove into a house, ruining the Christmas tree." Joey explained while her voice drifted off, along with her memories.

The corners of Pacey's mouth twitched as another Christmas memory from the past materialized before his eyes. "Sounds oddly familiar, huh?"

"Yeah, I was thinking the same thing right now."

December 2002

"How are you feeling, Pace?" Joey asked softly as she sat down next to him.

After she had talked to Eddie and Dawson, she walked through the snowy streets of Capeside and finally found herself at the docks. She wasn't sure if she had come there intentionally or not, but she smiled as she spotted Pacey sitting huddled on a bench. Actually the very same bench they happened to meet every so often in the past.

"I'm okay, really." Pacey looked up and smiled. "What are you doing here?"

"I needed to put some things into the right perspective and somehow, the water... this place, well... it usually helps me to do that." Joey shivered slightly.

"We're not that different after all, huh? Pacey smiled again and examined her carefully. "Are you cold?"

"A little, yes." Joey nodded and returned his smile. For the first time this day, she felt peaceful.

"Come here." Pacey lifted his arm and put it around her shoulders, pulling her closer to him.

They remained quiet for a while, the warmth their proximity brought spreading through their bodies, reaching an almost forgotten place. Their hearts.

Their hearts. Pacey closed his eyes, old memories surfacing, memories chosen to be kept safely locked away, since he lost all his rights to them when he screwed up at Senior Prom. However, from time to time, they would appear to haunt him, reminding him how much better his life was. And how badly he handled their relationship. Better, how badly he handled relationships, period. And he just got a new pin on his wall now. Audrey. He led her to drinking her life away.

Their hearts. Joey snuggled closer, relaxing after their exhaustive day, Pacey's strength giving her this warm sensation of safety. Home. A home she had lost a long time ago, and whose entrance back had been forbidden.

Audrey's words kept playing in her mind. Pacey never recovered from their break up. He had a weird way of showing it though, dating her own roommate. You gave them your blessing, a little voice whispered inside her. Because Pacey coming back to you, the risk of having your heart shattered again would be too much for you to handle.

And why was she thinking about her feelings for Pacey? He was a friend now, period. Yeah, convince yourself of that, scaredy cat, the annoying voice came again. She had Eddie now, she liked Eddie…and Eddie, he didn't want to deal with past Christmas ghosts, he was afraid of her breaking his heart.

She didn't break hearts, she had hers broken. She glued it, but sometimes, in moments like this, she felt a large part missing, and she didn't have to be Einstein to know where it was. Where it really belonged. Home.

"I guess I screwed up royally this time." Pacey said bitterly.

"What do you mean?" Joey lifted her face from his shoulder, staring at his blue eyes filled with sorrow and self-recrimination.

"I break up with a girl and turn her into an alcoholic." His dry chuckles making her heart ache.

"Pacey, you can't be blamed for Audrey's acts. It's her choice."

"Every relationship I'm in, I screw up, and they all end badly."

"You can't be blamed for all that went wrong in your relationships Pace." Suddenly this wasn't about Audrey anymore.

"I hurt you in a way you didn't deserve." He whispered, sadly.

"I forgave you. It's all in the past now." She muttered back.

The air around them froze, two years forgotten, their first words of acknowledgement of their past, stilling their movements. Eyes locked, captured by some magical trance, saying things their mouths wouldn't dare. Instinctively, their faces got closer, lips barely touching in a promise of a kiss. You could always go home for Christmas after all.

Pacey brought his hands to her face, his mouth to hers, her soft sigh when she opened her lips to welcome him. A long learnt rhythm, not more a memory. He knew it was a mistake, that tomorrow they wouldn't talk about it, but right now? Nothing ever felt so right.

Joey buried her hands in his hair, her heart beating furiously, her mind saying how wrong it was, the rest of her beaming with happiness. She thought she was leaving a ghost of past away, but instead she was just welcoming the ghost of future Christmas.

"Jo? Still there, baby?" Pacey's voice brought her back from her reverie.

"We never talked about it." She stated.

"But we never forgot about it."

"We were so stupid back then…if we had talked…" she sighed.

"We needed that time, Jo. But look where all that confusion brought us." He said brightly.

"I know…but we could've been here for a long time." Her voice was sad, regretting all the years lost.

"Christmas spirit is rubbing off on you, Jo?" He teased, trying to lift her mood.

"If that's how you call hormones lately." She replied, feeling slightly better. There was no reason to dwell on the past.

"Jo, I hate to do that, but I need to go. Take it easy, sweetheart, I'll be home in one hour, two the most, k?"

"I'll start the tree before Julian gets mad." She sighed. "Come home soon."

"I'll do my best. Love you."

"Love you too." She replied, returning the phone to its cradle."

"Jules, let's get the tree done, sweetheart?" she called her son, who had his attention fixed by the TV.

"Now?" His eyes shone at the perspective. "With angels and all?"

"With angels and all." Joey affirmed and joined her very own angel.

~*~

Pacey had set up their big Christmas tree in the nifty Brookstone swivel straight Christmas tree stand the evening before, so that the branches could hang out themselves, after being pressed together in a plastic net to be transported. They had also installed the light strands already, mainly because Joey couldn't do it alone.

"Okay, Jules. Why don't we start with the ornaments, huh?" Joey suggested and handed her son the box with wooden ornaments, that wouldn't break if he let one slip through his small hands.

"Can I hang it wherever I want?" Julian inquired, biting his lip in anticipation.

"Yes, but only where you can reach, okay? The whole lower part of the tree is yours. You can decorate it like you want." Joey smiled at the diligence the three-year-old boy was showing. Pacey was right. She wasn't able to lift him up at this point and so she had thought of this solution. It didn't only help her, but it also gave her son a sense of autonomy.

They worked together for about half an hour and had reached the box with straw stars. The lower and middle parts of the trees were already full with different kinds of decoration, while the upper part looked oddly naked. Joey didn't dare to climb on a ladder; Pacey would get a heart attack just at the thought of her on anything higher than shoes with a low heel.

"Mommy? Why can't we hang something up there?" Jules stared at his mother and looked back at the treetop.

"We'll decorate the upper part when Daddy's home. He loves to trim the Christmas tree and you don't want Daddy to be sad, when we do everything alone, do you?" Joey kneeled down besides Julian brushed some hair out of his heated face.

"No. When is he home?"

"Soon, baby. Hmmm... I think you need something to drink. How does orange juice sound to you?"

"In my Santa glass?" Julian asked happily.

"Yes, in your Santa glass." Taking Julian's hand in her own, she guided them over to the kitchen and poured some juice in two glasses.

She was handing Julian the plastic glass that showed a Santa with a big bag, as the doorbell rang.

"Okay. You stay here, okay? I'll be right back." Joey instructed him, quickly looking around and making sure that nothing could harm the boy while she was answering the door.

Looking out of the glass door, she saw a UPS driver standing on the porch, holding a small packet in his hand. She opened the door and tilted her head. "Hi."

"Hi. Mrs. Witter?" the man asked, checking his papers.

"Yes."

"Great, I need you to sign here." The man pointed to his mini computer and handed her a pen to sign directly on the screen.

"Sure." Joey signed and received the package in return.

"Happy Holidays, ma'am," he smiled and carefully walked back to his car.

"Now what do we have here?" Joey wondered and closed the door behind her.

"What's that?" Julian demanded to know as his mother returned to the kitchen, holding something in her hand.

"I haven't opened it yet, sweetie." Joey leaned against the counter.

On the left upper corner, a stamp mark told her, that the package had been sent by the small publishing house her agent was working for. For a second Joey closed her eyes, her hands trembling as she realized what this was. It had to be the preprint of her first book, the book.

Running a hand through her hair, she carefully opened the thick envelope. She had been right. Inside she found the first hardcover edition of her book. Her dream was finally realized and materialized, palpable.

Her fingertip traced the cover. It was simple. A black and white portrait drawing, her drawing. She had insisted to design her own cover. She had to, the book, the content... it was so personal, and she couldn't have anybody else do it. The only color on it, were the eyes. Sparkling green eyes that seemed so vivid and alive.

Joey sighed deeply. Angel With Green Eyes. The letters of the title became blurred by the tears that suddenly streamed down her face. Green eyes, not blue ones like you imagine an angel to have. Green, because they belonged to a very special angel, an angel that had left them much too soon.

Five years. Sometimes it seemed like forever and sometimes it seemed just like yesterday.

"Mommy?" Julian's tone was frightened. He had never seen his mother like this, crying.

Joey bit on her lower lip, trying to wipe the tears away, but failed. "I'm okay, sweetie. Don't worry. I'm just... sad. Umm.... give me a second, okay?" Joey inhaled and exhaled, trying to calm down, but the emotions wouldn't let her.

Five years.

Joey and Pacey arrived at Jack and Doug's place for their first Christmas party. Their first Christmas without Jen. Eight months without her sage advices, her bright smile. A girl Joey used to hate, morphed into one of her best friends, the one she sought for advice, the one who saw the truth. The one who handed her happiness when she demanded her to stop running.

Pacey noticed Joey's tension; Christmas was always tough on her. This year's would be tough on all of them. He just hoped to make it better for her, the best he could. God, he missed Jen, she would calm his nerves, laughing and saying something like it's about damn time, Witter. Every single day he thanked her for pushing Joey back into his life.

Doug opened the door, a weak smile on his lips. He was happy to see them, back from New York, but he was on the verge of tears, emotions too strong for even him to handle.

"Dougie, I know it's been some time, but you don't have to cry when you see me, brother."

"What's going on, Doug?" Joey asked preoccupied. Sheriff Doug with tears wasn't a good sight.

"Nothing, nothing, something fell on my eyes. I'm happy to see you both. How is the city?"

"The city is doing great, thanks." Joey said, noticing the silence the house was in. "What's going on in there?" she asked as they entered the small living room.

"We're watching a video." Doug explained, pointing to the TV.

They didn't need much explanation as they heard the sweet voice coming from the television.

"Hi, Amy, it's mom. Well, by the time you see this, I won't be here anymore, and I know how much that sucks, for both of us. So seeing as how I won't be around to thoroughly annoy you, I thought I would give you a little list of the things that I wish for you. Well, there's the obvious. An education. Family. Friends. And a life that is full of the unexpected. Be sure to make mistakes. Make a lot of them, because there's no better way to learn and to grow, all right? And, um, I want you to spend a lot of time at the ocean, because the ocean forces you to dream, and I insist that you, my girl, be a dreamer. God. I've never really believed in god. In fact, I've spent a lot of time and energy trying to disprove that god exists. But I hope that you are able to believe in God, because the thing that I've come to realize, sweetheart... is that it just doesn't matter if God exists or not. The important thing is for you to believe in something, because I promise you that that belief will keep you warm at night, and I want you to feel safe always. And then there's love. I want you to love to the tips of your fingers, and when you find that love, wherever you find it, whoever you choose, don't run away from it. But you don't have to chase after it either. You just be patient, and it'll come to you, I promise, and when you least expect it, like you, like spending the best year of my life with the sweetest and the smartest and the most beautiful baby girl in the world. You don't be afraid, sweetheart. And remember, to love is to live." Jen's voice trailed off in the video.

They knew Jen had made that video, but they never had watched it. Joey couldn't fight the tears falling freely on her cheeks. She let herself be enveloped by Pacey's arms, his tears mixed with her own.

Tears that became sobs when she heard Amy's sweet baby voice calling Mamma.

"Shh, Jo…" Pacey whispered, trying to calm her down. He knew she wasn't crying only for Jen and Amy, but for herself, for the painful memories of losing her mother. "Don't cry, sweetheart."

"I miss her, Pace…so badly." Tears still lingering on her voice.

"I miss her too, Potter, but look, we still have her. She's our guardian angel, remember? And that cute little girl over there? She's the best gift she left for all of us. Because it's our daily reminder of all she was."

"Amy will never know how much her mother loved her."

"We'll show her. We'll teach her." He cupped her face. "Now, dry your tears, or people will start to think I make you very unhappy."

"You really are the perfect boy, you know?" she said, finally smiling.

"I like to think of myself as a man, but if that makes you happier, then I am a boy." His eyes sparkling when he lowered his face, brushing his lips over hers. "Mistletoe." He explained, pointing the ornament hanging over their heads.

"Like you even needed a reason." She whispered, snuggling closer.

Later that night Pacey and Joey lay in bed in Joey's old room at the B and B. The day had been long and they were tired, but couldn't fall asleep. The hectic Christmas time mixed with the emotional roller coaster they had been on over the day kept their minds spinning.

"Pace?" Joey raised her head and propped her chin on Pacey's chest.

"Hmmm?" Pacey gazed into her eyes that were still slightly puffy and red from crying.

"You know, it's not yet time for those good resolutions, but... I've been thinking about this for some time," she hesitated.

"Making resolutions doesn't have to be limited to New Year's Eve only. So tell me what's going on in this pretty, little head of yours." Pacey rubbed her back soothingly.

"One thing, which is kind of surprising, seeing that I always wanted to get away... I'm missing Capeside, Pace. As much as I like living and working in New York... it's not... home."

Pacey listened carefully. He wasn't really surprised to hear this. He has known her long enough to see the traitorous hints in her attitude, in what she said... or didn't say for that matter. He was relieved that she finally verbalized it.

"And the working aspect? It's a good job, but reading all day long what other people have written, trying to understand them... and their sometimes very queer ideas... that's not something I want to do for the rest of my life... I...I'd like to write again, like I did in college.... I miss it... and..." Joey inhaled deeply, scooting even closer to Pacey and playing with his hair.

"And?" Pacey prodded.

"And... you said something tonight, which kind of gave me the last spur to... finally do what I want."

"I did? Elaborate, please." Pacey smiled but was also surprised.

"You said that Jen was our guardian angel. I thought that, too, every once in a while, I feel as if she's talking to me, or that she points things out to me, like... my subconscious got transformed into Jen... I know that sounds strange..." Joey sighed and smiled lopsidedly.

"No, it doesn't. I often stop and think about what Jen would say in certain situations." Pacey brushed his nose against Joey's.

"I guess you're right then, she really is our guardian angel. And... this is why...ummm, as nice and sad and inspirational Jen's video is, it's also just a very small glimpse into her life and I want to change that. For Amy... and for all of us, even for people who never met her... and that's what gave me the idea to... write a book... about Jen." Joey anxiously worried her lower lip with her teeth as she tried to gauge Pacey's reaction.

"Jen would love that." Pacey smiled.

"You really think that? I mean, she wasn't that fond of the idea of being portrayed in Dawson's show..." Joey frowned.

"True, but that was mainly because, well... our Mr. Hollywood does lack a certain insight in human nature in general and especially in the persons closest to him. He's kind of biased in the way he sees the world and its inhabitants... and I mean that in a positive way So yes, I really think that... I know it."

"Hey guys, I'm home!" Pacey announced cheerily. He was happy to be home and with his little family. The second he entered their beach house the to two-third decorated huge Christmas tree caught his eyes and magnified his smile.

Hearing silent, suppressed sobs from the kitchen, the smile vanished quickly. Quickening his pace, he rounded the corner and saw Julian standing beside Joey, clutching her leg and looking up to her with big, fearful eyes.
His heart skipped a beat as the alarm bells deep inside him swelled up to a whole orchestra.

"Jo, darling... what's wrong? Are you okay... is the baby okay?" he sputtered, hurrying to get close to her.

"Umm, no... Everything's okay with the baby... and... With me, too. I'm just... I..." Joey pressed her lips together, trying to regain her composure. Her voice wouldn't co-operate with her and so she simply pointed to the book on the counter.

Pacey frowned, although he sighed with relief that she and the baby were okay, at least physically. Diverting his concerned eyes from her eventually, he immediately understood what happened. The book. Of course.

"It's beautiful, Jo." Pacey ran his hand over the cover. It was simple, but it was as if Jen was looking at them. "We knew it.... ummm, would come out in January."

"I know, but... with Christmas and everything... I just... completely forgot about it and when I opened the envelope, it brought everything back and..." Joey shook her head, while the tears started to fall again.

"Shh, Jo, I know." Pacey wrapped his arms tightly around her and kissed her forehead. When he finally felt her relax against him, he gently wiped her tears away and stepped back. "What do you think about a cup of hot chocolate?"

Joey nodded and a small smile brightened her face. "Your special?"

"Of course." Pacey smirked. If he could only make all her worries disappear with this simple cure.

"That would be great!"

"Then go over to the couch, relax... and we'll be with you in a second." Pacey watched her move towards the couch before bending down to his son.

"Mommy?" Julian's voice was small and he couldn't understand why is mom was so sad.

"Don't worry, Jules. Mommy is okay. You know... she misses her friend... and besides that... women are fickle creatures." Pacey tickled Julian's tummy and conjured a giggle.

"I heard that!" Joey complained good-naturedly, but she sounded already better than a few moments ago.

Pacey finished the last touches on their tree, under Jules fascinated gaze. It took a while for Joey to calm down, but now she was comfortably flipping the pages of her book, handling it like a small treasure. He smiled, that was another of her dreams he helped come true.

He smiled, that was another of her dreams he helped come true. He stepped away from the tree, very proud of his decoration job.

"Hey, Jo, come here for a second." He called. She approached slowly, a shy smile on her lips. "What do you think?" He asked an arm around her shoulder to bring her closer.

"It misses something." Joey mused, tilting her head to the side. "What do you think, Julian?"

"The star, mommy." He handed his mom the glittering star.

"Pace? What do you think?" She winked.

"I think it's a very important task, you know, to put the star up there." He winked back. "Only mommy's best helper can do it." Pacey lifted his boy so he could reach the tree's top, grinning as Jules squealed in delight.

"I put the star." Julian was definitely overwhelmed about it.

"That you did, baby." Joey kissed his cheek. "Now, you and I are going upstairs to take our afternoon nap, what do you say?"

"Daddy too?" He asked expectantly.

"Daddy too." She motioned to Pacey join them. They still had lots of wrapping to do, and with Jules around, it would be impossible.

An hour, two stories and a fallen asleep Pacey later, Julian finally gave into slumber to relief of his parents. They tiptoed downstairs and started to work as quietly as possible, the radio playing Christmas songs in a low volume, lulling them in a peaceful atmosphere. Hands touching from time to time, words unnecessary.

"Jo, I'm not sure how to wrap this." Pacey said, pointing to Amy's new soccer ball.

"I'll do it." She kissed the tip of his nose. "Did you put Jules' bicycle together?"

"I thought about doing it later, after we come back from the Icehouse and after he's definitely tucked in bed." He shrugged.

"Pacey! We need the bike ready!" Joey chastised.

Pacey sat behind her on the floor, circling her waist. Joey leaned against him, enjoying the moment, but still mad at him.

"Don't worry, sweetheart. You know I would never disappoint our boy." He whispered in her ear, kissing her temple.

"I want this Christmas to be perfect. It's going to be probably the first he will remember and the last one he will be the only child around the house."

"Jo, you know things don't have to be perfect to be good." He chuckled. "And you, better than anyone know how much it cost me to realize that. And I don't think Jules is going to feel less loved because of a younger sibling."

"I'm overreacting, ain't I?" she asked, tilting her head.

"Is that one of those questions that I'll be in trouble if I say yes?"

"Maybe." Joey closed her eyes, her hands laced with his. Pacey brushed his lips against her neck, enjoying a peaceful moment alone with his wife. A very special song for them started playing. "Pace?"

"Yes?" He nuzzled her hair, grinning. He knew what was coming next.

"Do you remember this song?" Of course he did, she just wanted him saying those words again.

"I remember everything." He whispered against her skin.

December 2008

It had been an emotionally charged night. More tears than laughter. Toasts to Jen. Amy fallen asleep in Joey's arms, making Pacey dream about the day it would be their baby in her arms. This had been a year of dramatic changes, and way too much sadness. He didn't want this Christmas to be remembered for the sadness they felt over losing a dearest friend. He wanted it to be also a celebration of life. Of Love. A song straight from Doug's diva collection came from the stereo. Celine Dion's version of Christmas Eve. He hummed along it, as he brought the desert to the dinner table, where all their friends were gathered, chatting, and sharing memories. A past lover, a lost best friend, a former roommate, a surrogate grandmother, his brother, and his true love. His everything. Pacey swallowed, trying to hide his anxiety.

Snow falling gently on the ground
'Tis is the night before
And in my heart there is no doubt
That this is gonna be
The brightest holiday
'Cause here you are with me
Baby, baby, I can't wait

To spend this special time of year with someone who
Makes me feel the special way that you do

Walkin' with you in a winter's snow
Kissin' underneath the mistletoe
People smiling everywhere we go
It's Christmas Eve and they can see we're in love

Joey smiled, when Pacey put her plate in front of her, his mistletoe kiss still lingering on her lips. He seemed uneasy, nervous even and she wondered what he was up to. Because she knew he was up to something by the way he ran his fingers through his hair, his fidgeting, his eyes lowering to the ground whenever she tried to gaze into them. A wave of panic started to form, but she cut it. No, this was it. Nothing would tear them apart.

Ooh, you make the season bright
With the lights reflecting in your eyes
All my dreams are comin' true tonight
It's Christmas Eve and I can see we're in love

Pacey sat beside her, unable to stay quiet. He had prepared what he called "chocolate surprise". A small box made of chocolate that he usually filled with strawberries, vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, and happened to be Joey's favorite. He watched her face as she lifted the chocolate cover, eyes wide in surprise, a heavy silence as she opened the velvet box, gasps of surprise, and the sparkling diamond nested inside. Elegant, simple, beautiful. He kneeled beside her, taking her trembling hand in his, her eyes with unshed tears, a smile gracing her lips.

"Jo, I love you. I always, always loved you, and this time, our timing is finally right…"

"Yes." She replied, cupping his face, a teary smile. "Yes." She repeated, leaning in for a kiss. He opened his mouth to reply, but she silenced him with a kiss. "You wouldn't need to ask."

We'll stay up late tonight
Decorate the tree
Just look into my eyes
And I will tell you truthfully
That I don't need no Santa Claus
To hear my Christmas wish
I got you in my arms
And what could be a better gift
Than to spend my very favorite time of year
With the one I really love so near, Oh Yeeeaahhh

Walkin' with you in a winter's snow
Kissin' underneath the mistletoe
People smiling everywhere we go
It's Christmas Eve and they can see we're in love

Ooh, you make the season bright
With the lights reflecting in your eyes
All my dreams are comin' true tonight
It's Christmas Eve and I can see we're in love

The song came to an end; the couple was now cuddled up on the couch, work left forgotten.

"I'm still the king of romantic gestures." Pacey teased, biting her earlobe, the memories still fresh on his mind.

"I'm sorry to tell, but you've been lacking on that department lately, Pace."

"Really? I don't remember any complaints on our last anniversary. Au contraire, I believe I heard more than one 'oh, God, Pacey', sweetheart."

"Pacey…I wasn't talking about that" Joey blushed, remembering, how could she ever forget, she was pretty sure their new baby was conceived that night. "I was remembering our first Christmas in this house."

"Oh..." Pacey remembered that Christmas very well. They had just finished renovating the old beach house, the very same he and Gretchen rented in their senior year. They were already expecting Julian, and Joey was three months pregnant then. "But I haven't been lacking..."

"No, you were just a big scaredy-cat, my love." Joey laced her hand with his and sighed contently.

"I was not!" Pacey protested weakly.

"Were, too!" Joey giggled as her mind returned to that specific night.

Christmas 2009

"The first Christmas as husband and wife, the first in our own house... and the last just being you and me," Joey mused with a glowing expression on her face.

"Unbelievable, huh?" Pacey circled Joey's waist with his arms, nuzzling her hair. The pregnancy really agreed with her and he thought she had never been so beautiful as she was now, being his wife, carrying their child.

"But very real, Pace."

"Yes." Pacey slowly kissed along her jaw line, before nibbling on her soft lips.

Their kiss deepened and soon both of them were lost in each other. Joey moaned softly, which caused Pacey to step back suddenly.

"Pace?" Joey frowned. It had been like that for some weeks. Whenever they got closer, Pacey slowed down, or ended it altogether. "What's wrong? Am I..." she sighed. Could it be that Pacey wasn't attracted to her anymore since he saw her as the mother of his child?

"Nothing, nothing's wrong." Pacey rubbed his chin, desperately trying to think of something that would get him through this without going insane with all the pent up desire and wanting.

"Then why... why do you stop? Always? Don't you... want me any..." Joey was almost crying, another thing which she loathed. Damn hormones.

"Jo, baby... don't even go there! God, don't you ever doubt that I want you. I do, I always have, always will. Remember? I want you on a boat, ski resort, parking lot... under a Christmas tree." Pacey gently wiped the single tear that was running down her cheek away, kissing the top of her head and wrapping his arms tightly around her.

"But we never... since we confirmed that I am pregnant, we haven't..." Joey's voice trembled.

"I know... I'm sorry, Jo." Pacey closed his eyes. He had known that he would have to face this conversation sooner or later, but he would have preferred much, much later. Preferably after seven months, more or less.

"Look, I do want you, Jo. I love you, you are so beautiful, and you're really glowing. And you have no idea how difficult this is for me, but... I don't want to hurt you... or the baby," his voice drifted off and was barely audible.

"That's why? You're scared?" Joey asked unbelievingly. As Pacey didn't respond and only held her closer, she could feel his increased heartbeat.

Although she had just accursed her incalculable hormones, she profited from the ability of sudden mood swings right then.

"I'm in the second trimester now, Pace... and even before, Dr. Michaels said that it would be okay to have sex, that we couldn't hurt the baby... you know that, don't you?" tilting her head back, she locked her eyes with Pacey.

Pacey bit on his lip and searched her eyes. While thinking about this, it had made perfect sense, but now... after having it spoken out loud, it was a whole different story. "Yeah, I know that... Theoretically... but practically? I'm just... I don't know." He exhaled and closed his eyes.

Joey cradled his face in her hands, brushing her nose against his. "You're scared... I understand that, I'm scared, too, Pace. In about six months we'll be parents, there'll be a little boy or girl who will depend on us. If that's not terrifying, I don't know what is. But there's nothing we have to be afraid of in loving each other."Joey kissed the tip of his nose, playing with his hair and pressing herself as close as possible against him.

Pacey buried his hands in her long hair, kissing her fervently while trying to put the annoyingly scared little voice in his head at ease. It had been long, hard weeks in which he denied himself and her the feeling of utmost closeness, of complete unity, they both craved.

"Jo... are you absolutely sure that this is... okay?" he asked huskily, his resistance already broken. He needed her, just like she needed him.

"Absolutely." Joey stepped back, reaching for his hand and guided him in front of the fireplace. "Make love to me, Pace," she whispered, lowering herself down to the floor and laid back on the thick, soft rug.

Pacey swallowed hard at the sight of her. Every single fiber in his body ached to feel her, to make love to her. Never breaking eye contact, he slowly moved over her, careful not to put his weight on her, still afraid of hurting her or their unborn child.

Caressing her with his eyes, he brushed a strand of hair over her forehead. Joey smiled, feeling safe and loved. It was good to be scared together, definitely good.

"Hey, Pace. I've been doing some thinking…" Joey whispered in a sexy voice.

"What?" His voice also affected by the memories they shared.

"We still have some time until our Christmas party…and our little angel is still fast asleep, so we could, you know…"

"Go on a trip down memory lane?" He asked, cocking an eyebrow.

"Great minds think alike." Joey kissed his chin. "Help me up?" she offered her hand so he could pull her up.

"If you weren't so heavy, I'd carry you…" He teased, helping her.

"Watch it, Witter, or you'll keep company to Rudolf all night."

"Hey, I could travel around the world on that sleigh, you know? All those women…"

"Are you sure you want to get laid again in this life time, Pace?" Joey asked, sneaking her arms around his neck.

"In about five minutes, yes." He winked. "You know I'd never exchange what we have for some cheap adventure, as exciting it could be."

"You better." She bit his neck, eliciting a half moan of protest from her husband.
"Damn it, woman, can't you save that for when we're in our room?"

"I miss the old Pacey, you know, the one up for anything...anyplace." Joey teased, while he dragged her upstairs.

"And we had this conversation what? Five thousand times for the past three years?" He asked over his shoulder, still firm on his intent.

"But Jules is sleeping." She pouted like a little girl.

"And as you brilliantly pointed out, he has his father's ill timing abilities. He never sleeps that soundly in his afternoon naps, sweetie." Pacey tried to reason, almost giving in to temptation.

"We could check on him first."

"God, Jo. I had forgotten how horny you become when you're pregnant." He pulled her closer, stopping half way to their bedroom.

"I'm not horny." He kissed her until their breaths became labored. "Maybe just a little." She admitted.

"You and your fantasies…ok, let's check the boy." He led her to their son's room. They stopped beside Julian's bed, watching him in silence for a moment. Yes, still sleeping soundly, a soft baby smile on his lips. They crept back downstairs, as fast as they could, considering one of them had a bit of overweight, Pacey trying to get rid of his clothes while walking, Joey trying to suppress her giggles.

"You're a dork, Pace." She said when they stopped in front of the fireplace.

"A very, very horny dork, Jo," he stated, unbuttoning her shirt, his mouth searching for hers hungrily. He unclasped her bra, letting the strips fall from her shoulders, revealing her fuller breasts. Joey threw her head back, exposing her neck, where he left a trail of soft kisses, his hands working feverishly on getting Joey's sweatpants down.

Joey dug her fingers in his hair, whimpering under his delicate touches, his adoringly stare. He helped her to lie on the rug, the fire creating effects of lights and shadows on their almost naked bodies. He lowered his face to hers, his hands roaming over her body.

"Mommy?" A teary voice was heard from upstairs, freezing them.

Pacey let out a frustrated groan, as Joey tried to get covered as fast as she could. Despite frustration, all they could do was laugh. Some things never changed.

December 2010

"Is he asleep?" Pacey asked, giving Joey some space beside him on the couch. She nodded, cuddling up against him. It was good to enjoy some time alone with her husband, and the quiet peace a sleeping baby gave. The last months had been chaotic, both adjusting the responsibilities of parenthood, taking turns to get Julian off the crib whenever he cried, and at this point, although they were crazy about their baby, a little rest was needed. Some nights it felt like they would never sleep through the night again, but when they watched their son sleeping, or babbling or smiling, it was all forgotten.

They stayed like that, just enjoying the proximity of their bodies, the soft glow coming from the fireplace contrasting with the sparkling lights from their Christmas tree. Once in a while, Pacey would kiss her forehead, her cheeks, running his fingers through her silky hair. Joey had her eyes closed, content to be close to him, the soft sound of his heartbeats lulling her to sleep.

"Jo?" Pacey called in a low voice. "Are you sleeping on me, woman?"

"Yes, you're a good pillow." She smiled. "This is really nice." She snuggled closer.

"I see being an English major didn't improve your vocabulary." He teased.

"What do you propose we do then?" She asked, kissing his neck.

"I have some ideas, Mrs. Witter" His lips brushed against hers. "Some really nice ideas."

"Is that all you can think about, Pace?" she asked, arching her neck to give him better access.

"Get your mind off the gutter, Potter." He stood up, pulling her by the hand. "It's time for us to start a Christmas tradition."

"We already kissed under the mistletoe, Pacey." She rolled her eyes. "And you're not dressing up as Santa; Jules is still a baby, next year, maybe."

"I was talking about this, sweetheart." He turned on the stereo, a soft Sinatra song filling the air around them. Pacey circled her waist, drawing her closer. "A Christmas Witter dancing." He whispered in her ear.

Joey rested her head against his shoulder; let her eyelids fall. Pacey had one hand at the base of her spine, lightly caressing, his other hand wrapped around hers, occasionally brushing a kiss on her bare shoulder.

"I like this new tradition, Mr. Witter." Her lips close to his. "I like it a lot."

"I hope you like it much more." He effortlessly lifted her in his arms, carrying her like a precious treasure on the way to their bedroom. He carefully laid her on the comforter, his eyes never leaving her. She had a lazy smile on her lips, arms open wide expecting him. He laid beside her, brushing her hair away from her face.

"Merry Christmas, Jo." He muttered, his lips searching hers. And the exact moment their mouths met, a piercing cry was heard. Julian had established his own Christmas tradition.

"At least this year he interrupted us before our Christmas dancing." Pacey rested his chin on her shoulder, as Joey finished the last touches on her make-up. Since there were no Leery parties anymore, they claimed the right to throw off the now famous Witter Christmas party at the Icehouse.

"Try not to give him any more sugar, or he'll be up all night." Joey left the mirror, looking for her purse. Pacey handed it to her, smiling.

"Here, sweetie." He put his arms around her waist, touching softly her stomach. "Promise Daddy you won't be like your brother, baby." He whispered to her belly. "Ouch, Jo." He complained when his wife slapped his head.

"Don't talk like that to our baby. And you know Jules doesn't do it on purpose."

"I know, he just has bad timing." He kissed her nose. "And you know how much I love him."

"It's not his fault his father can't control his instincts."

"Really, Josephine. I recall a conversation some hours ago when someone who shall remain nameless dragged me to the floor."

"Ok, his parents can't control their instincts," she conceded. "How do I look?"

"Gorgeous, love."

"I look like a beached whale." She whined.

"Stop fishing for compliments, Jo. You never looked so beautiful, except maybe when Julian was born."

"I was sweaty, tired and cranky."

"My favorite Joey." He winked and offered his arm. "Shall we, milady?"

~*~

"Mom... Jessie is waiting." Alex rolled his eyes. He just didn't get why his mother and aunt were making such a fuss about the new baby, especially when there were at least two month left before the birth.

"Oh, yeah, right. Forgot about that." Bessie glanced around. Although dinner was finished, nobody was in a hurry to leave.

"Let him go, Bess." Joey giggled and winked at her nephew.

She remembered how it was like to be fifteen, or sixteen or seventeen. Maybe because she still felt like a teenager sometimes and she loved it. Of course, it was Pacey who made her feel like this. They were adults now, grown up and they had to bear a lot of responsibilities, but they still found the time to be themselves and Pacey was just a big kid at heart. It was good to be seventeen on some days... and their hearts were still as fixed as they were back then.

"Okay, have fun, Alex. But I want you to be home at 11pm, okay? We have a lot to do tomorrow." Bessie consented smiling.

"Will do. Bye, Mom... bye Joey." Alex stood up and bended over to kiss Joey's cheek and whispered into her ear, "Thanks, auntie."

"Oh, now go... auntie?" Joey shuddered mockingly.

Both Potter women watched Alex leave the restaurant, after he said his goodbyes to everyone. Joey didn't miss the disappointed look on Lilly's face as the door closed behind him. The whole evening she had cast small glances at Alex while she was mostly playing with a very awake Julian.

"Some things never change, huh? Complicated love relations between the Potter and Leery kids, huh?" Joey remarked quietly.

"Yeah. Well, and this time add three years age difference..." Bessie nudged her sister softly. "You don't really talk to Dawson anymore, do you?"

"No, I can't even remember the last time... my birthday probably." Joey shrugged. "The scary thing is, I guess I don't miss him, not like I think I would."

Shortly after ten p.m. Joey, Pacey and a very sleepy Jules left the Icehouse in the charge of Kelly and headed home. It had started to snow again and Capeside resembled a peaceful winter wonderland.

Pacey carried Jules up to his room. The little boy was so tired, that he slept through being undressed and re-dressed with his pajamas.

"I guess we can allow one night of going to bed without brushing his teeth, huh?" Pacey quipped.

"Yeah, I guess we can do that." Joey kissed Jules forehead and ruffled through Pacey's hair. "I'll go downstairs, see you there, sweetheart."

Pacey galloped down the stairs and found Joey sitting on the couch, eating Chocolate Chip ice cream.

"Still hungry, woman?" Pacey asked as he kissed her temple.

"Stop teasing me. Besides... it's all your fault... your baby can't stop eating, just like you." Joey pouted and licked her now empty spoon.

"Whatever you mean with that." Pacey frowned and stuck his finger into the cup, just to receive a light slap on his hand for it.

"Ohhh, now you're not even sharing with your loving husband anymore?"

"Nope... and don't you remember? You're always eating in the defining moments of our relationship."

"I'm not eating, you took care of that." She glared at him, making him chuckle. He lived for those glares, the fire burning in her eyes. "Oh, crap." He groaned.

"What, Pace?" she asked, taking another spoonful to her mouth.

"I forgot that thing in the car." He explained, heading to the door.

"That thing?" Joey frowned.

"Red, large, with black boots?"

"Gee, sweetie, is that a new sex fantasy of yours?" She mocked, making him groan something under his breath that sounded a lot like 'women'.

Joey grinned and let the tip of her tongue peek out behind her teeth. She loved this. Returning to her delicious treat, she thought about Pacey's gift, well... actually it was more like a gift for both of them, but still. She couldn't wait to give it to him. Her train of thoughts was interrupted, as she heard a muffled, but still prominent string of curses from their porch. Very familiar curses.

Joey put the almost empty cup on the coffee table and pushed herself clumsily off the couch. Opening the front door, she was greeted with a hilarious image: Pacey was lying on the porch, on his back, floundering like a helpless beetle and almost exactly in the same position of that morning.

"Problems, Pace?" she teased, trying to hide her laughter.

"Very funny," Pacey groused and crawled towards the door to hoist himself up against the frame. Refusing any help from Joey, too scared she would slip in the end; too, it took him several minutes to get back on his feet.

"This damn ice. I thought I dealt with it."

"Aww, poor sweetie. I guess it's just Murphy's Law or something." Joey took his hand and kissed it tenderly, before closing the door.

"And whenever Murphy strikes... he does it in earnest," Pacey sighed and looked at the costume in his hands. There was a huge tear in the pants from where it got tangled up with the reindeer decoration as he slipped.

"I think I can fix that, Pace." She inspected the damage.

"Joey Potter sewing?" He raised his brows questioningly.

"I do know how to do some stitches, Pace." She rolled her eyes. "It's that or no Santa costume."

"And mess with Witters' Christmas tradition? No way."

"Trust me, sweetie, it won't take long." She smiled reassuringly. "Can you bring me a needle, please? I'm anxious for our private tradition too."

"At least this year you won't be able to complain about how many times I stepped on your feet. I can't get close enough to them, even with your freakish long toes," he joked.

Pacey rearranged the wrapped gifts under the tree for the umpteenth time while he impatiently waited for Joey to fix his costume. Every year he would dress up as Santa, stop by Jules room, eating the cookies and drinking the milk left, creating the perfect illusion to his boy. A small package with his name written caught his attention. Small and light. His curiosity was too strong to let it pass.

"Hey, Jo," he called. "What's this?"

"No, Pacey, I'm not telling you."

"Please?" He pouted. "I was a good boy this year."

"You can't open your presents before Christmas morning."

"Please?"

"You're worse than Jules, you know?"

Pacey pouted and sat snuggled close to Joey, the box still in his hands. He lowered his head and kissed his way up her arm, her shoulder and over to her neck. "Please?"

"Pacey! I can't work like this...." Joey sighed and rolled her eyes.

"Like what?" Pacey had never been one to give up easily.

"Like... you distracting me from fixing your costume after you ruined it," Joey explained stubbornly although her tone softened.

"Well, then let me open it?" Pacey tried again, nibbling on her earlobe. "See, it really hurt, falling down there... and after all I'm stepping in for Santa anyway... and Santa knows what he gave me, so I kinda ought to know it, too, don't you think?"

Joey leaned into him, knowing that she was easy whenever he started to work on her with his unique Pacey-done-good technique. "Let's make a deal: you let me finish this, then you put the costume on, so that we can look if it's okay... and then... you may open your gift, okay?" God, she was soo easy.

"Deal!" Pacey accepted her offer eagerly and shook the box lightly, trying to determine what it could be by the sound it made, but he couldn't hear anything.

"Stop playing with it or the deal's off." Joey grinned.

"Okay... I'm not doing anything, see?" Pacey placed the box on the coffee table and threw his empty hands in the air.

Pacey couldn't sit still while he waited for Joey to finish and started to play with her hair, which she surprisingly accepted.

"Done," she announced finally after a few minutes, which seemed to Pacey like hours. "I think it's pretty good, I doubt you'll see it if you don't know where to look." Joey was very proud of her work. With Pacey and Julian around, she did have to learn a thing or two about how to use needles, band-aids and much more.

"Great." Pacey grabbed the costume from her hands, while shedding his clothes at the same time. He couldn't wait to see what the present was.

"Look, it's perfect." He posed for Joey to let her examine the costume and wanted to reach for the package, but she stopped him again.

"Wait... if you want to be Santa... you need your beard."

"Jo... please." Although Pacey loved to dress up for Christmas, he hated the fake, tickling stuff.

"Do you want to open this present of yours or not?" Joey didn't budge.

"Fine." Pacey sighed and pulled the beard on.

"Fine." Joey grinned lopsidedly.

"You hate when I let my beard grow, why that now?" he mumbled.

"Pacey," she warned, "for Christmas sake"

"Ok, ok. I'm ready. Give me my present then."

Joey handed him the small box, holding her anxiety. She watched his eyes sparkle, and his lips turning into a wide grin as he saw its content. A small baby shirt written 'I'm Daddy's girl' on it.

"When did…" he started, his voice faltering. Pacey breathed deeply before finishing his question. "When did you know?"

"My last appointment, when you couldn't come with me." Joey smiled while her eyes watered a little.

"A girl... we're having a girl!" Pacey almost screamed. He pulled Joey close, kissing her before stepping back again and kissing her belly. "This is... this is... amazing," he looked up and his eyes spoke everything that he couldn't find the words for.

Crouching down again, he circled Joey's waist and rested his forehead against her stomach. A girl. He would be the father of a girl, a little Joey; another female who would hold his heart in her hands. "So small, not even born and already just like her mommy," Pacey chuckled.

"Huh?" Joey frowned and tugged on his sleeve, urging him to stand up again.

"Stubborn to no end, typical Potter gene for you," Pacey started to explain as he wrapped his arms around her. "All the times we went together, she just wouldn't cooperate with us, never revealing her little secret...and then, the single time I'm not there... she says 'hey, I'm a girl'."

"Awww, Pace. Maybe she just wanted to wait for the right moment."

"Tired of talking, Jo..." Pacey silenced her with another kiss.

Joey smiled against his lips. The beard was in her way and she softly muttered, "Tickles...", and tugged on it, to free his mouth from the white hair.

In his bedroom, Julian tossed in his bed, conversation disturbing his slumber. He rubbed his eyes. Maybe it was Santa bringing his presents. He crawled off the bed, watching from the staircase, a glimpse of a red suit making him excited. That was Santa indeed. And he was hugging Mommy.

I saw Mommy kissing Santa Claus
Underneath the mistletoe last night.
She didn't see me creep
down the stairs to have a peep;
She thought that I was tucked
up in my bedroom fast asleep.

He crept closer; his eyes open wide as he saw his mommy kissing Santa. Mommy only kissed Daddy, didn't she?

"I think we got company." Joey whispered against her husband's lips.

"Huh?" He was too lost in her to notice anything else. Joey tickled him as to wake him up. "Ho, ho, ho," he yelled in a roaring voice, stepping away from Joey.

Then, I saw Mommy tickle Santa Claus
Underneath his beard so snowy white;

"Santa?" Julian asked timidly, tugging on his sleeve, raising expectant eyes.

"Yes, child. Have you been a good boy?" Pacey asked, trying to fight the laugher. Jules had some traditions of his own to keep too. And Joey wasn't helping at all, giggling.

"You kissed mommy," the little boy pointed. "Mommy can only kiss Daddy."

"Your Daddy is really lucky." He winked. "But it's tradition, see. Mistletoe." Pacey showed with his finger. "When you have a girl under the mistletoe you have to kiss her."

"Ewww, Santa." Jules muttered disgusted.

"I think little boys should be in bed, don't you, Santa?" Joey interrupted them.

"Yes, yes…and I have all the reindeers to take care…lots of presents to deliver. You be good, Julian." His voice softened as he whispered to Joey. "You too, little girl."

"Santa? Can I open my presents now?" Jules asked. If Santa said so, Mommy would let him.

"Sorry, kid, only in the morning." He waved from the door. "Christmas tradition." He almost gave in when he saw his son's disappointed face. "Merry Christmas to you all." The only problem Pacey now had was how long it would take Joey to take Julian back to his room before he froze his butt out there.

Oh, what a laugh it would have been
If Daddy had only seen
Mommy kissing Santa Claus last night

"Mommy, do you think Daddy will believe? That we really saw Santa?" Julian asked yawning while
Joey tucked him in."

"Yes, sweetheart. He will." Joey chuckled, kissing his hair. "Nighty night, sweetie."

"Night, mommy," he closed his eyes, sighing happily.

Joey left the room being careful to let the nightlight on. Pacey had already undressed the Santa costume, and was warming himself with a hot chocolate. She got closer, slipping an arm around his waist.

"Need help to get warm?"

"If that means holding you, yes." He whispered and chuckled. "That was close."

"Yes, it was." Joey sighed. "Can we finish our traditional rituals now?" she asked, circling his neck with her arms.

Pacey didn't answer. He simply held her close, swaying to the sound of imaginary music. People tended to get scared of the ghost of Christmas future, but they didn't have to fear, the future had already arrived for them, and it had all sparkling colors from happiness. And this night, among many others, would be just another tale on their never-ending story.