A/N: I'm SO sorry it took an eternity to post this chapter, I really am. But oh man. You have no idea how hard it was for me to write this. I already had this chapter done and then my computer crashed, and I lost EVERYTHING, which meant I had to write it again. Then it got a virus, and this time I saved it on a disc before we had to reboot it, but apparently it was in the wrong format, so I lost it. I was SO cheesed off, because I had already written it twice, that I guess I got disillusioned, because I put it off for a long time. But I'm over it now, so here I am again. Writing it for the third time. No no, I've learned to deal with it; so must you. So I'd like to thank, and apologize to, all of my loyal readers. *whips out a long paper scroll* Here's a few, in no particular order:
Jamie, of Jamie and Jessie Enterprises
eechan (my sissy Fu)
Mika aka Digiberry
And I'm sure there's many, many more, but for the moment I can't remember, and I sincerely apologize. My story would be nothing if it weren't for all of you. Your fabulous reviews encouraged me to keep writing, and even your criticisms made me want to improve. Not only did I grow as a writer, but I gained some friends. It's win-win! So again, thank you. And now, I leave you with the last installment of my story. All good things must come to an end.
Disclaimer: Oh, come on, everyone already knows I don't own 'Just Shoot Me'! How many times do I have to go through with this? *walks away grumbling* Rub it in my face, why don't you...
a 'Just Shoot Me' fanfiction
Thursday, 9:58 A.M.
"It's almost ten o'clock," announced Jack Gallo irritably, checking his Rolex watch that was a gift from his long-time rival, Donald Trump. "Where in the blue blazes is that Nina?"
Dennis Finch looked up briefly from his desk, where he was busily working the crossword puzzle in the New York Times as he waited for the meeting to start. He wasn't concerned about the ex-model's tardiness in the least; he knew she was probably somewhere with a hangover, trying to remember all the unspeakable acts she had participated in the night before - or, more likely, had been the cause of.
"I wouldn't worry about her," he said casually as he moved on to Fifteen Across. "I'd say she's down at Bartini's right now, ordering a prairie oyster for her 'headache'." He mimed quotations into the air with his fingers as he spoke.
Jack drummed his fingers on the edge of the desk, clearly showing his impatience and muddling Finch's concentration in the process. "Well, if she doesn't show her skinny butt in this office soon, we're going to have to start the meeting without her."
"Oh, you know we can't do that," Finch replied, tapping his pen against his chin thoughtfully. "She's in charge of the piece about getting active-wear at reasonable prices or something - 'Spring into Fashion' or something, I wasn't really listening - and as much as it pains me to admit it, she's quite the authority on the subject. We need her expertise. Why are you in such a hurry, anyway?" Suddenly he shot Jack a suspicious look. "Hey, don't you have a golf game with Ralph Lauren at noon?"
At this Jack stuck out his chin. "No, it's at eleven-thirty," he said, tapping his watch impatiently. "And if I'm late, he'll bring up that ridiculous idea of his for a four-page polo shirt ad in our next issue. Talk about narcissism!"
Finch shrugged distractedly. "Aw, come on, old people like polo shirts." Looking up quickly, he noticed the Ralph Lauren logo on his boss's own dark blue polo and realized his mistake. "Or so I've heard," he added, receiving a venomous look from Jack. "So, uh, what's an eight-letter word for a sled-dog?"
This question apparently succeeded in diverting Jack's attention. He thought for a moment, then threw up his hands. "Sled-mutt?" he suggested feebly.
"A valiant attempt," his assistant said, suppressing a snicker. "But somehow, I don't think that's it."
"Try 'malamute'." Finch turned to see Maya strolling up to his desk. After writing down her suggestion - which, of course, was correct - he grinned like a kid as she came to his side and wrapped an arm around his waist. "What's going on?" she asked.
"Your high-strung father is anxiously awaiting the arrival of our strung-out fashion editor," he replied before giving her a quick peck on the cheek.
"What? Nina's not here?" Maya frowned. "That's too bad. I was hoping we'd get to say goodbye to her before we left."
"Oh, that's right," said Elliott DiMauro as he came strolling up. "You two are going on that biking trip through France. I would have thought you'd have already left by now."
Finch checked his watch. "I'd have to agree with you there," he said, blowing air out through his nostrils. "You know how long it takes to get through the LaGuardia airport. But the big boss insisted we stay for the staff meeting, so here we are."
"And trust me, you won't regret it," Jack told him. "Because as soon as Nina gets here--"
"Wait no further, everyone, I have arrived!" announced Nina Van Horn as she breezed off the elevator and into the office, carrying a gold gift bag along with her purse. As usual, she wore no visible signs of the drinking she had done the night before. "And you'll never *believe* what happened to me last night!"
"Hmm, neither will the jury," Finch remarked with a smirk.
Nina waved a thin, manicured finger at him. "Sorry, Finch," she replied with an easy smile as she placed the bag on his desk. "But your snide little comments aren't going to work on me today."
"Oh, really?" he said, glancing at Maya in amusement. "And why's that?"
"Because today is a very special day," she proclaimed matter-of-factly. "It's the only day out of the whole year that you're excused for your behavior." Leaning abruptly across the desk, Nina grinned and planted a kiss on Finch's cheek. "Happy birthday, Dennis!" she exclaimed.
*Uuuhhhh,* was Finch's first thought. How was he going to break it to her that she had gotten the dates mixed up without hurting her feelings? "Nina," he said slowly, placing his hand over hers. "I appreciate the thought, but today's... not my birthday."
"What? It's not?" Her dark eyebrows drew together in confusion. "Well then, why was today marked on my calendar?"
Finch looked at Maya, who was biting her lip nervously. Elliott was busily fumbling with the camera around his neck, and Jack simply stared down at his Italian shoes. No one seemed to want to be the one to tell her.
Suddenly Nina snorted with laughter, slamming her hand on the desk. "Oh God, if only you could see your faces!" she cried, barely able to talk. Everyone waited, anxious for an explanation, as she composed herself. "I was only kidding," she said. "Of course I know what today is!" Going around to the other side of the desk, she hugged Finch tightly, then Maya. "Happy anniversary, you two!"
*She never ceases to amaze me,* thought Finch. He grinned and shook his head. "Thanks, Nina."
"Yes, thank you, Nina," said Maya.
"No no, don't thank me until you've seen your present," she told them, pushing the gift bag toward them.
Finch and Maya looked at each other with wide eyes. They both knew Nina wasn't exactly an expert at giving gifts to people. At their wedding reception, they were surprised - and baffled - to receive her gift to them: a life-sized mannequin to hang Maya's bridal gown on. Their cat, unfortunately, sometimes liked to use it as a scratching post. *Guess it's the thought that counts,* he thought wryly.
"Wow, um, Nina," his wife said with an uncertain smile. "You really didn't have to get us anyth--"
The ex-model held up a silencing hand. "Now, don't be ridiculous. You two have already been married for a whole year; though God knows it seems like just yesterday."
"Yeah, I can still see Finch being chased by those swans during my best man's speech," said Elliott, grinning.
Finch's eye began to twitch. "I specifically asked that there would be no swans," he muttered.
"I know, honey," said Maya, patting his hair.
"At any rate," Nina continued, annoyed at being interrupted, "you guys are two of my best friends, and what kind of a maid of honor would *I* be if I didn't get you anything for your anniversary?"
Finch had to smile. He knew there was no use arguing about it.
"Go ahead, open it," she urged.
Maya dutifully reached her hand inside the gold bag. What she pulled out surprised both of them - in a good way. It was a beautiful silver-framed photo album, with finely detailed grape vines forming an etched border around it. "Oh, wow, it's gorgeous, Nina," Maya breathed.
"That is a really nice photo album," agreed Elliott.
"Nina," said Jack, clearly surprised. "I am impressed. That kind of gift really shows class."
"I'm glad you think so much of me, Jack," she replied, glaring at him. "Anyway, you'd better take lots of pictures in France, because that's why I got it for you. We'll want to see them when you get back."
"Yes, when you get back," repeated Jack, rubbing his hands together impatiently. "Which reminds me, we need to get this meeting started before the kids take off. And before I tee off," he added. "So sit down, everyone, so we can get this over with."
General murmurs of assent issued among them, and they all drifted to the long work table and sat down. Before Finch took his seat, however, he gave Nina one last hug. "Thanks again, Neen," he said softly.
"Don't mention it," she replied with a smile.
"Okay, old business," began Jack as Finch flopped down in his chair. "Nina, how's your piece coming on spring fashions?"
In response, the fashion editor pulled a red portfolio out of her voluminous purse and passed it across the table to Jack. "That's not the final draft, of course," she said as he thumbed through it. "But most of the pictures are in there, as you can see. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised," she remarked, smiling smugly.
"This is great, Nina," he answered. "You've really outdone yourself." He handed the folder to Maya, who passed it to a beaming Nina. "Just have the finished copy on my desk before the deadline."
Finch watched as Maya gave the ex-model a "good job" pat on the shoulder, and he smiled. It didn't make a difference who it was; Maya was always there to let them know they were appreciated. As he stared across the table at her, marveling at how beautiful she looked even in her backpacking gear, she caught his gaze and grinned at him. He grinned back, gradually tuning out what was being said around him. He tended to do that when he was with his wife.
And what a wife she was. He had had no idea how happy he could truly be until he married her. When he wanted a friend to hang out with, Maya was always there to play video games with him or go roller-blading in the park. When he wanted a lover... God, he didn't even have to ask. But most of the time, all he wanted was to be with her, either snuggling on the couch or lying beside her in bed, or even sitting here at this table.
And she was there. She was always there. It just made him feel so--
"Dennis," said Jack suddenly in a very stern voice, "that's not my daughter's leg you're stroking with your foot, that's *mine*."
"Oh," he blurted, his face burning. He quickly yanked his foot away while the entire table - including his wife - burst out laughing. *Whoops,* he thought, trying to sink down as far in his chair as possible.
At that moment the phone rang, and Finch grabbed at the opportunity to change the subject. He picked up the handset and held it to his ear, ignoring the smirks that were directed his way. "'Blush' magazine, company whipping boy speaking," he said in a monotone.
"Dennis!!" blared a loud, boisterous voice in his ear. Everyone at the table blinked at the unexpected outburst, for it was audible to all of them.
Finch winced and held the phone at a safer distance. "Hey, Dad," he answered half-heartedly.
"Dennis, Dennis, Dennis," Red Finch said. "Dennis, my boy, happy anniversary! I can't believe it's already been a year. Boy, the time sure goes, doesn't it? Hey, reminds me of that TV movie I saw--"
"Uh, Dad," Finch interrupted quickly. "That's uh... cool that you called. How have you been doing? How are Buck and Scotty?"
"They're fine, we're all doing fine," his father replied. "But that reminds me. We're planning another fishing trip this summer; about a month after you and Maya get back from France. It'd sure be great if you could come."
All the air left Finch's lungs. Maya immediately noticed the change in him, because she frowned with concern. 'Are you okay?' she mouthed. He nodded rapidly, trying to compose himself.
"Dennis?" said Red. "Dennis, you still there?"
He cleared his throat before speaking. "Yeah, I'm here," he answered, trying his best to sound normal. "Dad, you... you're asking me along on your fishing trip? You guys have never invited me before."
"Really? Are you sure?" His father paused, as if deep in thought. "I could have sworn we have.... Well, maybe not. But anyway, you have to come this year. Maybe you could bring your little wifey along, too. Does Maya like fishing?"
Finch had to swallow a lump in his throat. "Yeah," he said in a tight voice. "Maya loves fishing."
"Ah, good. That's good. Your mother never liked fishing. But Maya's a great kid, really sweet. I knew from the moment I met her, she was the one for you. Not like that Elliott guy. He isn't still coming on to you, is he? Some people just don't take a hint, you know?"
"Dad," Finch said wearily, "for the last time, Elliott's not gay."
At hearing this, Elliott choked on his coffee, and Nina howled with laughter. "Hey, is that Nina I hear?" his father asked. "Boy, she's a real kick in the teeth, isn't she? How's she doing?"
"She's fine, everybody's doing fine," he replied, rubbing his eyes. "Look, Dad, I hate to cut this conversation short, but Maya and I have to be at the airport in about fifteen minutes ago, and we're still in the middle of a staff meeting."
"Oh, all right, then I won't keep you. You kids have fun, and send me a postcard."
"Will do, Dad. And thanks for calling." Finch hung up the phone and looked at all the expectant faces around him. "Continue," he said with a wave of his hand, before resting his head on the table.
"Yes, well," Jack resumed, clasping his hands together in front of him. "As Dennis was just telling Red, he and Maya are very eager to be on their way. Which brings me to our new business: Dennis, Maya, you're not going to the airport today."
Finch's head shot back up. "Wait, what?" he said, not believing what he had heard.
"Dad, what are you talking about?" Maya asked, frowning.
"I'm saying, you can forget about flying coach, surrounded by screaming babies and whiny tourists," Jack replied. "If you two are going to Provence, you *have* to fly there in style."
Elliott's jaw dropped. "Wait, you're not saying..."
"That's right, you'll be flying in the company's private Lear jet." Jack smiled and booped Maya on the nose. "And that's my anniversary gift to you, pumpkin."
"Aw, come on," said Finch, still overcoming his initial shock. "I told you not to call me that in public."
His boss hit him jokingly on the arm. "Very funny, wise guy."
Grinning ecstatically, Maya rose from her chair and gave her father a huge embrace. "Thank you so much, Dad!" she exclaimed.
"Yeah, thanks a lot," said Finch, smiling. "This is really great of you."
"Think nothing of it," answered Jack, waving his hand magnanimously. "Things like this are easy when you're rich. Now, unless someone has something to add, this meeting is over. I do have a tee time to keep, after all."
As one, they all rose from the table, and Elliott and Nina hugged the couple goodbye before returning to their work. While Maya retrieved the rest of her hiking gear from her office, Finch pulled his own bags out from underneath his desk. Elliott promised to drop by their apartment to feed their cat, so they had nothing to worry about there. Their bicycles were locked up securely in the parking garage, but now they didn't have to worry about checking them at the airport. *Private jet, private jet!* he kept shouting in his mind.
After a while Maya returned with the remainder of her gear. "Ready to go, Mrs. Finch?" he asked her, grinning from ear to ear.
She returned his smile as he pulled her close to him, placing his hands on her hips. "Almost, but I forgot to do one thing," she replied.
Leaning even closer, she covered his mouth with hers and kissed him slowly. *Ohhh, that never gets old,* he thought, his eyelids drifting shut as he tugged her impatiently closer. She ran her fingers through his shaggy blonde hair, and he was about to move his lips down to her neck when a most unwelcome voice interrupted.
"Dennis, can I see you in my office?"
Suppressing a groan, Finch pulled reluctantly away from Maya. "Crap, what did I do now?" he muttered.
His wife merely looked at him in amusement as she shouldered her gear. "I'll just meet you downstairs, baby, okay?"
"Yeah, okay. Hey," he said, grabbing her hand as she turned to leave. "I love you."
"I love you, too," she replied, smiling sweetly. "Ciao!"
"Hey, don't you be stealing my catchphrases now!" Finch grinned and waited until the elevator doors closed behind her before he shuffled into Jack's office. Closing the door behind him, he found his boss standing in the middle of the room, forsaking the customized leather chair behind his desk. "You wanted to see me?" Finch asked.
"Yeah, I did. Have a seat," Jack said, gesturing toward the couch. Finch did as he was told and waited. There was a brief silence, then Jack spoke again. "You know, when you and Maya first started dating, I didn't think it would last very long. And then when you proposed to her, I didn't really take it all that seriously. Even after the wedding, I figured something would happen, and you two would split up."
Another silence followed, and Finch tried to sift through Jack's words to find a compliment within them, without success. Finally he prompted, "But...?"
"But," Jack continued, spreading his hands in defeat, "you proved me wrong, Dennis. Over the past year, you've treated my daughter better than I could have ever hoped *anyone* to. You and Maya are truly happy together." He sat down next to Finch, who was stunned into motionlessness. "I guess I just didn't want to admit it to myself."
Finch had to wet his lips before he was able to speak, and even then, it was in a weak voice. "Why?" he asked.
Jack gave a little shrug. "I... really don't know," he replied. "Maybe it was because I wanted to protect Maya. But also, deep down, I wanted to protect you, too. You were like a son to me, and if it didn't work out, I would have hated to see you hurt."
At this Finch couldn't speak at all. Jack had just told him, straight out, what he had wanted to hear for over a decade. Jack really cared about him. Jack thought of him as a son. Finch opened his mouth, but no words came out.
"Anyway," said Jack, patting him on the back, "I just wanted to say, I'm sorry I doubted you."
Finch smiled, blinking back tears. "Thanks, Dad," he said softly.
A/N: Oh my God, it's over. I finally finished it. ...And now I'm really sad!! *sniff* Hold it together... Hold it together...
Ahem. I'm better now. And despite my regret that the story is over and done with, and that it took so long, I am infinitely glad I wrote it. I think I like this chapter the best. And did you notice, Finch didn't call Jack "Jack" once in this whole chapter? Yeah, that was deliberate. Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this story, because I sure as heck enjoyed writing it. In fact, I'd put it on my own 'Favorites' list if it wasn't being totally conceited. But instead, I think I might write another 'Just Shoot Me' fanfiction. Nothing this long, but maybe just a cute one-shot or something. If Vicki's lucky, maybe I'll put her in it.
But before I go, I'd like to *again* thank everyone who reviewed, and I also want to thank the people behind 'Just Shoot Me'. After all, this story wouldn't exist if the show didn't. And above all else, I must thank David Spade, the man behind Dennis Q. Finch. Honestly speaking, I probably wouldn't even watch the show if he wasn't on it. Oh, and I can't leave without plugging his new movie, "Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star". WATCH IT!! In fact, WATCH IT TWICE!!
Ciao for now,