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Occasionally Yours: Finale
Published Sep 23, 2011


Written By

spladoum

Storyteller
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... till now I always got by on my own
I never really cared until I met you
And now it chills me to the bone
How will I get through
... alone?

~ Heart, "Alone"

... till now I always got by on my own
I never really cared until I met you
And now it chills me to the bone
How will I get through
... alone?

~ Heart, "Alone"
"… and so for whatever reason, this lady just REFUSED to leave her mattress, and when we finally threw it out of the window, we found that it was full of money! She was totally freaking out … her life savings were in there."

"You are so full of crap."

"It's true, ask anyone at the fire station!"

Connor laughed as Holden checked the time and murmured, "Mr. and Mrs. Glover will be here any minute now."

"Good," Connor said.
Holden hoped like hell that Connor knew what he was doing. Mr. and Mrs. Kendrick Glover were not exactly friendly. Or even personable. If this bluff didn't quite work out, things would go very badly for poor Gwen in the end. But Connor seemed mighty sure of himself, and in the end he won Holden over. They needed to be a little smelly and a little loud, and things would work out. At least that was what Connor said. So they doused their clothes with a few beers and drank what was left, and started moving furniture. Within ten minutes they smelled like they'd been on a weekend bender, and that was the point, Connor said. It would make Mr. Glover relax. All you have to do to beat a bully is make them relax before you punch them in the nose.

So here they were.
And there were the Glovers, pulling up in some brand new glossy sedan. At least they hadn't brought that Tommy character. Holden thought of the possibility of 'Gwendolyn Pippendorfer-Blofonzki' and snorted. Connor looked his way, arched an eyebrow. "What?"

"Nothing, private joke. Where's your brother?"

"Trust me, as soon as the yelling starts, he'll be right out. He likes trouble."
The two older people were getting out and stepping as if the grass here wasn't good enough to touch their shoes. Despite himself, Connor began laughing too. "Geez. Good thing she didn't really turn out like them, huh?"

"She's never really been like them … she's always had her own notions in her head, even if she's too scared to follow them."

"Excuse me," Mr. Glover said in a voice that a haughty, wealthy man might use upon seeing vagrants standing too close to his car, or his front door, or his daughter, or whatever property he owned—a harsh, loud voice that he clearly used regularly. "Are you folks the movers?"

Holden took a quick glance at Connor, but Connor's face didn’t give him a clue on how to handle this, and so he said—
"Oh, for heaven's sake, Kendrick! Of course they're not, they smell like they've been drinking already! No one moves furniture when they're drunk! They're clearly the painters!"

"Judy, would you let me handle this, please?" He turned to them again. "You fellas know my daughter Gwen?"

"Gwen?" Holden repeated in a curious voice.

"I know a couple of Gwens," Connor added on.

"I don't know no Gwens," a deeper voice rumbled.
All eyes turned to the man lumbering down the stairs. Despite his earlier bravado, uncertainty began to show on Mr. Glover's face. His wife clutched at his arm as the stranger drew closer. He also smelled, and significantly worse than Connor and Holden at that. Jared didn't need to dip his clothes in alcohol—his stink was completely self-generated. "Connor, who the hell are these people?"
"Good question. Who are you people?"

Recovering himself (and going rather scarlet), Mr. Glover snapped, "I don't answer to you! I just need to know if my daughter is here or not! It's a yes or no question, surely you idiots have enough brain cells left to answer it!"
There was an awkward silence, made more awkward by Jared very deliberately cracking his knuckles and never turning his eyes away from Mr. Glover. Finally he said, "We don't answer to you either, mister. And we don't know your daughter."

He turned, looked. "Nice car, looks new," he said, and crushed the beer can he was holding in his left hand.

Mr. Glover gulped.

"N-now you wait just a minute—"
"Hang on," Connor interrupted. "What does Gwen look like? Got a picture?"

After a few seconds of fierce debate, Mrs. Glover handed over an older photo. All three men gathered around to see the picture. Faded and badly aged though it was, it was unmistakably Gwen—same carrot top, same clear blue eyes, same freckles and sweet smile.

"Ohhhh," Holden said in his stupidest-sounding voice. "It's that girl from the tabloids! Remember? That naked girl?"

Of all the things he could have said, this one naturally was the most provoking. Mrs. Glover began crying, and Mr. Glover launched into a tirade that lasted a full three minutes. What he said was impossible to hear because Jared and Holden were both laughing so hard that they drowned most of it out.
Finally he jabbed a finger right into Connor's face. "You listen to me. You get these brain-dead maniacs under control right now. And you are going to give me your full name, the name of this mickey-mouse company you work for, and your boss's name, because I am going straight to the police—"

"No need," Connor interrupted, and flashed his both his police badge and CIA identification. Mr. Glover spluttered to a halt.

"Let me explain something to you, sir … or should I call you Kendrick? … oh, don't look like that, I already know who you are. Gwen Glover is a legal adult. And legal adults have the right to leave a residence without giving a forwarding address—"

"We're her PARENTS!" Mrs. Glover shouted, outraged.

"—and legal adults have the right to leave a residence without giving a forwarding address, even to family members.
"I'm sure that Gwen is perfectly aware that the two of you are her parents. If she chose not to tell you where she was going, she has that right. I don't recommend that you go to the police station here. I can reach them a lot faster than you can and we call what you're doing 'harassment.' Leads to restraining orders and a lot of embarrassment. Spare yourselves, give her a call and try talking with her. If she doesn't answer, then you've got YOUR answer."

There was a tense moment of everyone staring at Connor. Finally Mr. Glover looked away and snarled, "Get in the car, Judy. I've got enough lawyers to deal with this."

"And I've got more than one friend in the IRS, Mr. Glover. I've seen your corporate records, I don't think they'd stand up to a detailed audit."
At this Mr. Glover ground his teeth and turned away. There was still dust rising by the time the shiny red car was out of sight.

"Wow," Jared said. "You must like that CIA badge, little bro. You're turning into quite a little bully, aren't you."

"I learned from the best," Connor said, coolly. "Come on, Holden, let's get this stuff into the truck so we can take it to the consignment shop. I need to talk to Brad for a bit."
He settled accounts at the consignment store, took Holden back to his house and his wife, and came home to a maudlin made-for-TV movie playing in the living room. Gwen and Rosalind were curled up against each other the couch, laughing at the overly dramatic acting. Connor managed to get through almost ten seconds before rolling his eyes. "God, a Lifetime movie? Couldn't you find a better way to destroy all of your common sense? I'm ashamed of you two."

"Could be worse," Gwen snapped, "we could actually know what the hell is going on."

"I'll bet you already do," he said, and laughed. "Not like there's much going on besides the standard 'men suck' plot. Is there anything to eat?"
"Nope, we ate it all."

"I'll bet you did."

"What's THAT supposed to mean?"

For answer, Connor went into the kitchen and returned with one of many half-empty cans. "Blaming this on you, Gwen. What the hell is anyone supposed to do with this swallow of orange juice you left?"

"You're supposed to swallow it and shut the hell up!"
"Are the two of you married?" Rosalind said while giving both of them a lazy look. "Looks like you're having a pretty good lover's quarrel. Go on, have your make-up sex and get it over with."

"Oh, I love her," Connor said, smiling wickedly. "I love her like fat kids love cake. I don't wanna have to eat after her, though. I guess I'll cook."

"What're you cooking?" Gwen asked and sat up instantly.

"Something raw, with a side of beer."

"Ewww," she whined, and sank back down.
That was the way things were in the house now. Connor looked at Gwen as his baby sister and she treated him the way a spoiled little girl might treat her much more responsible, much more uptight older brother.

And like many other siblings, they spent a lot of time shouting at each other, but they didn't mean a thing by it—they actually seemed to enjoy getting on each other's nerves. Snarling, snapping, quarrelling … just for the hell of it. Rosalind often wondered what they got out of it besides distraction: a diversion from his job, yet more delay on maturity for her.
And then there were the nights that were far more serious—the nights when Gwen cried uncontrollably and one of the Frios stayed up with her, offering words of condolence. Under normal circumstances that would be Rosalind. But carrying her own baby and continuing to attend work was taking its toll, and she needed her sleep. More and more, the person that Gwen opened up to was Connor himself.

She learned more about him—some of the details were charming, some, heart-wrenching. And he learned more about her in a few evenings than he had known in four years' acquaintance. On more than one occasion they stayed up talking for so long that the sun was practically rising by the time Connor crawled back into bed with his wife.

Through it all, he looked for some sign that she missed Jesse Simanski and wanted to make contact with him. But no such sign emerged, at least not externally. Gwen was good at hiding what she wanted to hide.
As for Gwen herself, she didn't have a thing to complain about. Her friends had been as true as their word and kept her safe from her parents. They also kept her protected from any further tabloid abuse. The one time a shutterbug trespassed on the lot to pepper Connor with questions, he'd turned the hose on. Presto, no more photographers.

They had moved her boxes of clothes into their garage without a murmur of complaint. Connor had successfully sold off her furniture, so she wouldn't have to worry about moving that stuff again. They told her she was welcome to stay with them as long as she needed—or wanted—to. And she needed to be there, even wanted to be there.

It was still hard though.
She had to watch—there was almost no way to get away from it—as Connor chased Rosalind from one end of the house to the other and Rosalind ran as best she could, laughing the whole way and laughing harder when she was finally caught and subjected to his affection.

She shouldn't be envious—she wasn't, she WASN'T—but even as she smiled and turned away to give them a little more privacy, she was so damned envious. She'd HAD that. And she lost it.
She hadn't thought about that date in its entirety for five weeks, and now it was all she could see. From its very beginning, when she first touched Jesse's hand and heard his voice and saw his face, to its very end, when she watched with a sinking heart and tear-filled eyes as he was pushed into a police car. Even now she could see him staring up at her with a hopeless expression, and it tore her apart. (7669)

And somehow Connor had managed to make all of this yet worse; he'd come back one day and given her a crumpled envelope that had clearly been shoved into some desk drawer and forgotten, and when she opened it and shook it, three hairpins fell out, the ones that Jesse had removed from her hair during their date.
She didn't WANT to think about it. But how could she not? Every time she saw Connor rub his wife's gently-growing tummy ... or slip up behind her and kiss her neck ... or when they made love and strutted around afterwards with smug grins on their faces ... a nasty little voice reminded her that she could have had this for herself if she had taken care to keep it, and not trusted so much to luck. Tonight was the night that she had been crying for what felt like forever. She refused dinner, kept the bedroom door locked, and didn't come out until she was certain both of the Frios had gone to bed. She slipped out quietly and rummaged through the refrigerator. There was a plum tart in there that she REALLY wanted to nibble on. But after five minutes of moving around plates of leftovers, she came up empty.

"Looks like you and Rosalind wanted the same thing tonight," a voice to her left said. "She already ate it."

"Aw, hell."
"Don't worry about a thing. They're easy to make, I'll fix some more." He began the tedious process of coring cherries. "You look awful blue. What's up? ... don't shake your head at me, Gwen. It'll be ready in 30 minutes. Until then we're going to talk." She went out to stand on the back porch, and he followed behind carrying hot coffee. She spoke hesitantly of her fears and her uncertainty, her mistakes, her regrets. When she mentioned the envelope he had brought home, he asked "So what was in it? Felt pretty light to me."

She ran back to her room and got it. "Just some hairpins—"

"Gwen."

"Hmmm?"

"Look."

A phone number was scrawled on the inside flap.
She took a breath. Before she could murmur that it was surely a coincidence, Connor pulled out his own phone and scrolled through the contacts before showing her the highlighted entry. Jesse Simanski. Same number.

"I think you need to make a phone call," he said.

"I can't."

"Well … ahh, it's just midnight, I bet he's still awake."

"No, you don't understand. I CAN'T."

"Your fingers seem to work pretty good right now."

"Connor!"
At this last squeak, they both heard a sharp rap on the sliding glass door. Rosalind was there, awake and clearly unhappy about it. "I don't care who calls whom. But one of you had better get in bed with me, and both of you had better shut up!"

"Call him," Connor said, and vanished back into the house to pull the tarts out of the oven.
She sat at the table with a hot mug and a steaming tart and thought it over. But she didn't make that call. Not that night, nor the night after. Nor for several more nights after. “What if it were you?” she asked Rosalind one rainy afternoon. “Remember the first time you and Connor made it? You’d known him for seven years by that point, I’m sure you were in love with him … and I get a call from the bartender of the nastiest bar in town because you decided to suck down a whole bottle of Captain Morgan between 11 a.m. and noon and couldn't pry your face off the toilet seat afterwards. And you knew damn well how HE felt!”

“Ugh. Don’t remind me.”
“What if you had been pregnant on top of all that?” Gwen mused.

“I wasn’t.”

“Yeah, but what if? Would you have told him?”

“Yes.”

“Because it was Connor, right? And you knew him … he was a good man, he wasn’t going to let you down. But what … what if you’d been pregnant, and you told him, and he … knowing that he was the only man you’d been with … what if he called you names and laughed? And said it wasn’t his?”
“Are you talking to me or yourself?”

“Connor keeps telling me to call Jesse.”

“Then call.”

“I can’t.”

“Then don’t.”

“But he keeps bringing it up!”

“Then tell him to shut up about it.”
This response brought on a flood of tears. When Gwen finally simmered down, Rosalind spoke.

“Gwen, look. Sometimes life isn’t easy, and sometimes there is no good or easy choice, but you still have to decide to live, don’t you? Now look here. You made this bed for yourself, so deal with it. You’re having a baby. You haven’t told the father of the baby that he’s the father of the baby. Either you will and you’ll deal with whatever he has to say, or you won’t, and you’ll deal with it alone. And if he turns you away, everyone here will take care of you. You KNOW that.”
“But it’s not just that,” Gwen sobbed. “Rosalind, no man has ever made me feel so secure. When I was with him, it felt like I was … home. And if he turns me away … I have no home.”

“… and you really believe that you feel like this for a man you knew for all of eight hours.” Rosalind stood up and stretched her back.

“I didn't expect you to believe me.”

“I’d believe you more if you hadn’t been drunk for five of those eight hours.”
This made Gwen pause again. She’d forgotten that little detail somehow. Most likely because being with Jesse was so different than any other man she had dated—there was no restraint on her, no unspoken assumption that she had to “live up” to an expectation, no pre-conceived notions—and the alcohol, far from releasing any inhibitions, actually just enhanced the way she naturally was … and as best she could remember, he’d been perfectly fine with that.

But still, she had been "Gwen the superstar" then. Now she was just ‘Gwen, the girl potentially wrecking your life with a baby.’
A courier from FedEx walked past the precinct break room in the direction of the administrative offices.That meant one thing and one thing only; someone important had received a piece of evidence that needed immediate attention. And that someone important was most likely Connor himself. He excused himself since the meeting was lame anyway; he had long since stopped paying attention and was only still there to make sure they didn't beat each other to pulp. No cared about reviewing protocol or making sure that officers' safety was ensured as they did their jobs. The item on the agenda that everyone seemed most upset over was that the precinct would no longer provide coffee creamer and officers would have to buy their own going forward. People were mad as hell about that one. Good god. He hurried back to his office, signed for the box, opened the small package and inserted the disc into his computer … and watched in silence as a little boy explained that Jesse Simanski missed Gwen Glover with all of his heart and really, really, REALLY wanted to see her again.

And then his phone rang.

“Agent Frio, my crime-fighting friend! Have you had time to examine the evidence I sent over for you?”
“Yeah … just finished watching it.”

“A rather compelling exhibit, you’d agree?”

“Um. Yeah.”

“Perhaps you’ll pass that on to an uncertain little internet starlet. Seems her silence is causing a great deal of upsetting supposition in Midwest America.”
“Well, honestly, if this doesn’t break her … but it will. I’m sure of it.”

“Let’s hope so, Agent Frio. And please, do hurry. Stressed-out Simanskis tend to get themselves into all sorts of circumstantial trouble and we’re running low on Get Out Of Jail Free cards.”
“Sure. And, Roch? Thank you.”

He said this last sincerely, a terrible weight lifted from his shoulders.
So now all he had to do was go home, give Gwen the DVD to see for herself, and persuade his wife that she really wanted to go out for ice cream. And he did the the first and third parts quite easily.

The second part was up to Gwen.
She barely got through the DVD before dissolving into tears. She went back to her room and found that envelope, found that number. She needed to call … no.

Better yet. She would call him through Skype so she could see his face and judge for herself.

At first the call hung, then disconnected. She changed the screen name from “Connor Frio” to “Gwen Glover” and tried again. No answer … though it seemed as though someone had tried to pick up just before the call block feature kicked in again.
Before she could try to redial, a message popped up on the screen: “You have an incoming call from ‘lookingforthejoke.’”

She accepted.

“Gwen? Gwen, you there? Is this thing on? It isn’t working. Jono, this thing isn’t working!”

“It IS working. Sit still and face the damn screen, Jesse.”

Dim and muddy though his webcam image was, it was still Jesse—the same kind eyes, the same sincere smile. She tried to smile back even through her eyes were brimming.
“Hi.”

“Gwen! I can see you! Can you see me? Is it working? So awesome you called—I so wanted you to call—I would’ve called you but I didn’t have your number—”

“Yeah, um. Things have been a little weird. I … I just got your phone number, I didn’t have it before. And … truthfully, even if I'd had it I would have been scared to call.”

“Scared? But… why?”

“Well …” She caught her breath, trying to slow down the sudden rush of heartbeats. She had to get it out, she HAD to … “Jesse … I’m pregnant.”

There was a brief pause.
“Well… yeah. I know. It’s awesome. It’s totally awesome.”

She looked at his face. If there had been any doubt in her mind about how he would react, it was gone now.

“Gwen, I wanted to be with you ever since we met. When I found out you were pregnant… I wanted to be with you even more. Way more.”

“I … I don’t know what to say.”

“Say you want to be with me, too.”
The conversation went on for a few minutes longer. Afterwards Gwen called Holden and River and asked them to come over, although she didn’t quite explain why. It was with no small surprise that the Frios came home and found that their family circle had grown from three to six. “I guess I’d better explain,” Gwen said hesitantly. “I just talked to Jesse Simanski. And … um.” Her heart began to race again; she took a deep steadying breath. “I’m going to go to him.”

“To visit?” several voices asked.

“No, to live.”

Silence. Finally Holden said, “… so when are you leaving?”

“Now.”

“Now?”

“There’s a bus that leaves for the Valley in four hours, I have to be on it. I already bought my ticket.”
This news sent everyone into a tizzy. Excited voices argued over whether or not this was a smart idea, what clothes she should take with her, did she have enough money to survive until they could ship the rest of her things, was she SURE she really wanted to just move out of town like this? Gwen heard it all but just barely; she had a bag to pack. Fortunately the vast majority of her possessions were still in boxes in the Frios’ garage and could easily be shipped. “IF you want us to ship them,” Rosalind cautioned. “If things go bad, please for god’s sakes call one of us.”

“I will, Ros.”

They quickly helped her sort it all out. A plastic baggie of toiletries. Enough clothes to last a week—they would send the rest as time and resources permitted. Her guitar. Her many, many hair accessories. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Connor go into his backyard and pull down a branch of one of his many trees, though she wasn't sure why she even noticed that.
Finally, it was time to go. There were long squeezes all around and more than one person shed tears. She pecked Lydia on the forehead, promised to call as soon as she arrived, and got into the red convertible with Connor to make the 30-mile ride out to distant Haverton, a tiny satellite burg with the only bus depot in a 100-mile radius.

They talked all the way there. Actually, Gwen talked. And she didn't really talk so much as prattle endlessly while Connor listened. More than once she thought he was ignoring her only to have him ask a pertinent question which proved that he had been listening very carefully indeed. She regretted all of the times she had been impatient with him. She regretted a lot of things she had done recently—but at least if she had to lose her family, she got to keep some very good friends. And hopefully this new family would make up for it all. Hopefully.
"So you ready to start your new life?" he said. She smiled, a little.

"I dunno, but I'm committed now, aren't I?"

"Yeah, you are. Oh, don't wanna forget this." He reached into his pocket and gave her something green and slightly damp.

"What is this?"

"Wedding present. If Jesse knows anything at all about plants he'll know exactly what it is."
She nodded uncertainly. The bus was on the horizon, blocking the sunset. She picked up her bag. "There it is, huh?"

"Yep."

She threw her slim arms around Connor, hugging him hard, and he returned the affection willingly. "Goodbye, Gwen. Go ahead, go. You'll be fine."

"Will I?"

"You'll be just fine, Gwen. Call when you get there."

"Okay."
He watched her get onto the bus—she sat near a window so that they could see each other one last time—the pistons popped—he waved—the bus pulled away—and he watched until it rounded the dim green curve and drove completely out of sight, taking her away from Foxgrove and towards her new home. Rosalind laughed long and hard when they discovered the many, many lipstick prints all over his laptop screen later that evening, but he just grinned and bore it. It was a small price to pay. She reached out to wipe them away and found herself sniffling unexpectedly.

"You think she's happy now?"

"Yeah," Connor said. "Yeah. I do."
Enormous thanks are due to many many people for directly or indirectly contributing to the success of this series.

First off: HUGE thanks to everyone who has taken time out of their days and evenings to read the story. Hopefully the story was worth your time and attention --

A belated and heartfelt "thank you" to any CC creator or pose maker whose work showed up in this series, particularly Living Dead Girl, whose office clutter makes corporate offices look painfully real --

And last (because he is the Bestest), thank you to my brilliant co-author, who was game enough to go along with a bad joke that I made, and now see where it got us! Bwa ha. See you on the flipside, Rob. :)

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#16Nemesis_3050Sep 23, 2011

wow + wow + wow + wow

#17DegeraSep 23, 2011

loved the ending, always so much better when it's a happy one \:\)  excellent story!

#18flody888Sep 24, 2011

YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY!!! \:D It's so perfect that Gwen is going to be with Jesse! They are going to make an awesome family! Lots of laughs and music and love! \:\) Thank you for working on this story and putting us readers through the ups and downs and joys of Gwen and company's lives! \:\)

#19staceface2009pSep 24, 2011

April there is nooooo way you can just leave me hanging like that!!!!! there has to be moreeee, moreeee!!! \:wub\: I absolutely lovedddd reading this entire series even going back to "Luck Like Hers". This last chapter was soooo hilarious! I loved it so muchhhh \:wub\:

#20fabrizioammolloSep 24, 2011

It's wonderful!!! The scene with Gwen parents is perfect, and the shot of them getting out of the car is invaluable. Rosalin and most of all Connor have been great to her, and I'm really glad that in the end they worked everything out Thanks to Jules!). On sceen 40 Jono's line is so well chosen! I'm still laughting at it \:D! I've LOVED this story all along and, beside I'm a little sad that it is finished, it has been amazing for all nine chapters: this couldn't have been more right. Congratulations on the well-deseaved featuring! \:rah\:

#21lillypad625Oct 1, 2011

This was soooooooo good!!!! I'm sad its come to an end\:\(, but I enjoyed every episode THANK YOU!!!!\:D

#22Audrey MayOct 4, 2011

I am happy for Jesse and Gwen. \:\)   Great ending!

#23Ben72006Oct 26, 2011

I love your story and I have read all of Robs story the combines with yours as well. I f you do anymore with Gwen and Frios and Holden i be honored to know when or if you do another series with them. When ever that that may be.

#24madamobscurumJun 27, 2012

Whee so happy

#25ejbenzingVIPJul 7, 2012

I have to say that you are an awesome writer. I really enjoyed this series. Thanks so much for your time and commitment to producing something spectacular!

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