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DISTRIBUTION STATEMENT: TKTV, everyone else, just email me first =)
SPOILER WARNING: Very very slight for the last two eppies near the end of the series (I haven't seen them so I soo do not know the titles)
SUMMARY: This is how I've decided to write the Party of Five series finale. Don't ask. Please.
DISCLAIMER: The following story is based on characters created by Christopher Keyser & Amy Lippman. No copyright infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTES: I'm taking some nice liberties here. For starters, Kirsten was one month pregnant in the middle of March, according to me, so her baby is due in November 2000. That's the only major liberty I can think of besides the fact that Holly got deported.
"Bailey," Will said firmly. "I'm your best friend, and I always will be, but if you tell me even one more time how much you miss Holly, I'm going to have to kill you."
Bailey sighed and poured himself another glass of iced tea. "No matter how much you drink of this stuff, you don't wanna puke."
"That's Mountain Dew," Will grabbed a mozzerella stick off his plate. "That makes you wanna puke. Iced tea'll just make you pee all night."
"Thanks for the warning." he downed his glass although it was a shot.
"Look, Bay. You've lost two girls you cared about--"
"Loved." Bailey corrected. "Two girls I loved."
"In the same year," he went on. "And that's really hard. I think maybe you need to just take a break from dating and throw yourself into something else. I don't care if it's work or some weird class you're taking or making a webpage about one of those boy bands. You've gotta do something."
"I can't do any of that," Bailey said. Then he looked up. "A boy band page?"
"So he's all excited." Julia folded one of Kirsten's tops and put it in her dresser. "He says they were sort of trying *not* to and that's exactly when it happens, so..."
"So he's happy?" Kirsten smiled.
"Yeah, I think so. I mean, it's not like they're sixteen. And they're married, so..."
"Julia," Kirsten pushed the pillow behind her back upwards so that it was behind her head as well. "Tell me if I'm out of line or if you don't wanna answer this, but I've gotta ask."
"What?" Julia began sorting Kirsten's socks and balling them up for her.
"Do you ever think about what might have happened? I mean, if you hadn't lost the baby? Do you ever wonder if you and Justin would still be together?"
Julia looked at her strangely. "Why are you asking me this?"
"I'm just curious. Honest."
"I guess I have thought about it." she opened a drawer to put the socks in. "No, I know I have. Alot. Especially lately. I mean, I think about him and his wife, and their baby, and sometimes I can close my eyes and see me in that wedding album, you know? I see his hand on *my* swelled belly." she shrugged. "Can't change the past."
"I know how that feels." Kirsten confessed. "When I wasn't with Charlie, and when he told me that Daphne was pregnant, I was happy for him because he's Charlie and I love him, but I was dying inside."
"It's a horrible feeling." Julia whispered.
"I know this is wrong for me to say, but I'm gonna say it anyway. I'm six months pregnant and stuck in bed and I want you to know something."
Julia laughed. "What is it?"
"There's a guy living in a garden shed not too far from here who'd do just about anything to get a second chance with you."
"Griffin? No way. Why do you think that?"
"I see the way he looks at you. It reminds me of the way Charlie used to look at me."
Julia stood there for a second and then picked up the empty laundry basket. "I'd better go get the other load out of the dryer."
Kirsten could've sworn she saw her smirk as she walked away.
"Boston University," Ross smiled at Claudia. "I am so proud of you."
"Me too, but there's something else I have to tell you."
"What's to tell? Are they buying you a car or something?"
"No. They're buying me a new computer."
"I thought you were just gonna use the ones in the lab since it's open twenty-four hours." he took one of her french fries.
"I was, but this computer....it goes in a dorm room at USF."
"USF? I thought you--"
"I was," she said quickly so he couldn't express his disappointment in her the way everyone but Kirsten and Owen had. "And I wanted to. I mean, a full scholarship and a school that's a million miles away. I'd be somewhere I've always wanted to be, and the school has an amazing orchastra."
"But," he said, already knowing what she would say next.
"I went away to school once already. And I hated it. I was miserable, I almost missed when Diana was born, it was awful. And now I'm home and....I thought I wanted to go away, but that's the last thing I wanna do."
"Let me finish." she said firmly. "I wanna be there when Kirsten has the baby. I wanna hold him or her and be around when he or she takes their first step, and says their first word, I want to be part of everything. And I just am not ready to leave home for good yet."
"Strange as it may sound, I understand."
"Yeah. You've always been the type of person who loves to be with her family. It makes sense that you'd stay here, especially after everything that's happened."
"I wish my siblings felt that way. Julia's not speaking to me, Charlie's disappointed in me and Bailey says I'm being stupid like he was. That I'm throwing away my one chance to get out of here."
"So?" Ross asked. "That's not how you feel. And it's *your* life, Claudia."
"Sometimes I have difficulty remembering that."
"Anyone home?" Charlie asked as he brought Owen in. He'd taken him to the apartment to help set up the new crib he'd made and then to McDonald's for a brother-bonding lunch. "Hello?"
"I'm home." came from the living room.
Charlie sent Owen upstairs to check on his fish and sat next to Bailey on the couch. "Just tell me you're not drunk."
"Bloated, not drunk."
"I saw Will out back. He told me. How many pitchers did you drink anyway?"
"It's not really important, is it?" Bailey asked. "I'm twenty-two years old, and I have no direction whatsoever. I don't know anymore what I want today than I knew six years ago, or even ten years ago."
"I can take a guess this has to do with Holly."
"Well, losing her made me realize alot of things. She was good for me, you know? And without her, I guess I'm realizing that something has to change. I keep falling into these same relationship patterns. I fall for the girl, and make her my world, and then I lose her. Usually, she leaves me and I sulk."
"Oh in Holly's case, orignally, you got drunk."
"I got drunk over Sarah the first time too," he reminded him.
"I wasn't gonna go there." Charlie said. "And it's not like Julia knows so much what she wants. Dropping out of school to write, hoping and praying her book gets published. And if you wanna talk about relationship problems--"
"She told me. You know how she said it? She said, "Bailey, Justin called. He's gonna be a father, and I'm not."
"I think that makes sense." Charlie yawned.
"Hard day?" Bailey figured turning the topic over to his brother's miseries might be easier for the time being.
"Yeah, we're puttin' together some new designs and this person thinks it should be done one way, I see it another, the usual job conflicts."
"She's goin' stir crazy. Julia was still there when I went over to set up the crib and I think she's wearin' on Jule's nerves. She looked like she'd been crying."
"Sure that wasn't about Justin?" Bailey asked.
"I'm never sure about anything when it comes to women."
"Amen to that."
Julia took her latte over to a quiet table in the back of the coffee bar and opened her laptop. She plugged it into the connection plug supplied by the bar and swiped her credit card through the slot. Instantly, she was online, her mailbox flashing that she had mail.
She opened it and saw several forwards from her college friends, the ones you never really talk to, you just pass jokes and top ten lists back and forth. In the middle of that and the porn ads was an email from Adam.
She almost deleted it four times, then finally opened it.
I probably shouldn't even write to you, but I just wanted you to know that maybe you were right about what really does measure how good we think we are.
I got published today. It's not a big deal, a small editorial in a local newspaper on the subject of recycling. I know it's nothing like having a book mass produced by Bantam, but it's publication just the same, and it makes me feel good.
I just wanted to let you know. Hope all is well with you and your family. Write if you want.
She deleted the email, logged off and left.
**Nine Weeks Later**
Owen came into the kitchen holding an empty plastic container with a handle. "Julia, have you seen Javier?"
"Who's Javier?" she pulled her Pop-Tart out of the toaster and bit into it.
"My frog." Owen explained. "Well, he's my class frog and I had to watch him last night and he got out and now--"
"You lost a frog in the house?" Julia demanded. "Claudia!!! Get down here or you can drive yourself to class."
"It's not my fault you needed the car so badly that I've had to sleep at home." she said as she rushed into the kitchen and took a large piece of Julia's breakfast. She downed Owen's orange juice and stopped. "Do you hear that?"
"No, I don't, and I'm gonna be late for my meeting with Writer's Digest so--"
"I hear something." Claudia set her glass down. "It sounds like a frog."
"It's Javier!" Owen exclaimed.
"In my head?" Claudia questioned.
Julia rolled her eyes. "In your backpack."
Claudia slid it off and unzipped the top. Sitting between her composition book and violin music was a dark green blob.
"Take him out," she told Owen. "And next time you bring home the class pet--"
"Don't." Julia finished. "I'm not a pet person."
"But we have to take turns and--"
"Out the door." Julia said. "Now. Out."
Claudia and Owen were already on their way to get in the car when Julia remembered she'd left one of her sample pieces upstairs. "I'll be right there guys!" she shouted and slammed the door shut, running through the house.
She grabbed the envelope off her bed and was on her way back down when the phone rang. Sighing, she picked it up and answered, "Hello?" sounding completely out of breath.
"Julia," Kirsten said slowly. "I was wondering if you were gonna come over today?"
"Yeah, as soon as I finish my interview, why? Are you okay?"
"Yeah, I'm fine, I just think I might have had a contraction a few minutes ago."
"A contraction?!" Julia's eyes were wide. "I'll be right there as soon as I drop the kids off."
"No, you don't have to do that." Kirsten said. "I'm fine. Really. Go to your interview. I'm sure I'm okay."
"All right. See you later." Julia hung up the phone and then dialed a number. "Hi, this is Julia Salinger. I have an appointment with Ms. Fisher this morning and I need to reschedule."
"You're okay," Kirsten told herself as she lowered herself back into bed. "You're okay. You're having contractions but you're fine."
She was just assuring herself that she was fine when her water broke.
Julia slammed on the gas pedal with her right foot. "Come on!" she shouted, turning the key and flooring it as much as possible. The car stayed stagnate, and when it made a sort of rumbling noise, she felt as though it were laughing at her.
She grabbed her bag, kicked the tires and hoofed it the two blocks to Kirsten and Charlie's apartment.
"Kirsten!" she said when she let herself in.
"Julia! Oh thank God."
"What's wrong?" she rushed in and when she saw Kirsten laying in the bed, she knew instantly. "When did it happen?"
"About twenty minutes ago. Right after you called."
"I woulda been here sooner but the car broke down. I'm gonna call 911."
"I already called. They said that this isn't a vital enough emergency and that it might be two or three hours before someone can get here."
"So much for a prompt response for people in need," Julia said. "I'll call Charlie."
"No, don't. It's a big day for him at the shop. Call Bailey."
"I think he's still asleep." she picked up the phone. "Hope I can wake him up."
Griffin was just exiting the bathroom when the phone rang. He decided to let the machine get it, since it wasn't his house, but curiousity got the best of him and he waited around to see who called.
"Bailey, if you're there, pick up, it's an emergency."
Griffin grabbed the phone. "Julia, what's wrong?"
"Griffin? What are you doing there?"
"The water's out in the shed. I was just using the bathroom."
"Oh. Well, we need you to drive your wagon down here immediately. Kirsten's in labor."
"I'm on my way." he hung up and flew out the door.
"Okay," Kirsten said, panting after having a hard contraction. "You can call Charlie now."
"Griffin already did that. He's on his way."
"I'm scared, Jule." she whispered. "She's too little to be born yet."
"She's almost full term, and besides, first babies never come on time. And I was way early, and I'm all right."
She laughed. "I was six days late."
"See? Babies only come out when they're ready. She must be getting antsy in there."
Kirsten managed a laugh before another hard contraction hit her.
"Am I too late?" Bailey asked as he rushed into the waiting room and saw all his siblings plus Griffin pacing around. Even Owen was following the circle they kept making over the black and white tiles.
"No, Charlie just got here a few minutes ago." Julia said. "She was close then. It shouldn't be long now."
"I can't believe it. What is it with babies and our family?" he shook his head.
"Maybe they all have our anxiety problems." Claudia suggested.
"Oh yeah. They wanna join the champion mopers of the world." Bailey commented.
"I need chocolate," Julia announced. "Anyone want anything?"
"Me," Griffin said.
"Milky Way, right?" she asked, remembering.
"I think I'll come look if you don't mind."
"Sure." they walked down the hall in silence and Julia waited while Griffin got a bag of Whoppers to say anything. "I want to thank you for coming today."
"It was nothing." he handed her one and she accepted it.
"Yes, it was. You could've blown me off, you could've just ignored the phone but you waited. I'm really grateful to you. Charlie and Kirsten are too."
He shrugged. "It was no big deal. Anyone woulda done it."
"That's where you're wrong, Griffin." she said. "That's where you're so wrong."
"I can't believe she's here," Kirsten reached a hand out and touched her baby daughter's tiny hands. They were curled around her blanket protectively, as though she was trying to stay warm.
"Neither can I." Charlie kissed first the baby's forehead, then Kirsten's. "I am so proud of you."
"Me too." she yawned. "I cannot believe your mother did that four times."
"Neither can I." he laughed. "Do you still wanna name her after Meg?"
She shook her head. "I love the name Megan, but I was thinking we should name her after Julia."
"After Jule? Like Julianna or Juliet or--"
"Jewel," she said, smiling.
"You wanna name her Jule?" he asked.
"J-E-W-E-L. Megan as her first name, but we'll call her Jewel."
"I like it, but I'm not sure I get it."
"It's two-fold. The sound because of Julia and the spelling because she's precious to us." she yawned again.
"Megan Jewel Salinger it is." he gave his wife another quick kiss. "Get some sleep, Mom. I'll go show off the new addition."
"Mom," she smiled. "I like that."
"I love you," he whispered.
"I love you."
He carried their tiny daughter over to her bed and then pushed her over to the window and opened the blinds. He tapped on the glass to get his family's attention and then watched her sleep for a minute before going into the hall with the others.
"That's her? She's here?" Claudia asked. "Why didn't you tell us?"
"I was sorta busy, Claud."
"What's her name, Charlie?" Julia asked. "She's so beautiful."
"Megan Jewel Salinger." he said proudly.
Julia looked at her brother curiously. "I like her name."
"I figured you would."
"Thank you, Charlie." she gave him a hug. "And congratulations."
"Hey, Jule!" Griffin chased after her in the parking lot. "How were you gonna get home?"
"I was gonna catch the bus, I guess." she shrugged.
"That's stupid. Why don't I just give you a ride?"
"Come on." he took her by the hand and eventually, she realized she'd entwined her fingers with his. She yanked them away and blushed.
"Sorry," she couldn't look him in the eyes. "Old habit, I guess."
"It was all right." he opened the door for her and she smiled before getting in.
"Where to?" he asked when he got in next to her.
"Home?" she guessed. "It's after midnight."
"Oh, I just thought you might be hungry."
"Actually, I'm starved."
"We could go get something."
"Okay." she smiled. "Thanks."
Again, he just shrugged. "No big."
"You guys, stop it!" Claudia said to Owen and Bailey. They were running around the room with crepe paper, trying to trap each other with it. It kept ripping and they'd start again. "They're gonna be here any minute and the last thing they need is you two acting like children."
"I am a child." Owen said defensively.
"When did you get to be such a parental figure?" Julia asked.
"I'm an aunt again, and this time I'm gonna be involved." she said. "So you two had better just stop it."
"Yes, Mom," they said in unison, then they started chasing each other again.
"They're here," Griffin said, closing the blinds back so that they wouldn't see the boys running around like idiots.
Bailey and Owen stopped running just as the door opened and Kirsten entered carrying Jewel. She smiled at them and thanked everyone for coming. Charlie put the baby down and they opened the gifts, mostly clothing and a stuffed animal from Griffin, then Bailey stood up.
"I have an announcment to make," he began.
"All right," Charlie looked at him.
"I talked to Will, and he's gonna run the restaruant for me for a few days, and I'm gonna go to New York."
"New York? What's in New York?" Julia asked.
"Sarah," Claudia answered quietly.
"I just wanna talk to her," Bailey said. "I think that if I see her, if I get the closure I needed a year ago, that maybe I'll feel better."
"Good for you," Kirsten said.
"Now that Bailey mentions it, I've got something too." Claudia said. "I auditioned for this campus band a few weeks ago, right now they're called Treading On Onions but they're changing the name, anyways, I got in. I'm their violinist or fiddle player or whatever they need."
"That's great, Claud." Julia said. "You should've told me."
"I just didn't wanna say anything until it was a sure thing. But now it is, and I get fifty bucks a week, which should certainly help keep me in cool clothes for the gigs, if nothing else."
Everyone laughed and then Julia cleared her throat.
"I guess I'm keeping with the theme here, but um.....Griffin and I are seeing each other again."
When no one said anything right away, she continued. "It's not serious, we're not even thinking about marriage or anything. But we're talking, and dating, and maybe someday....." she shrugged to him. "I just wanted you guys to know."
"You know," Owen said. "I don't have anything to tell."
"How'd you do on your last math test?" Charlie asked.
"Great! I got a ninety-four!"
"See, you just told us something." Kirsten said. The baby started to cry and Kirsten waved to Charlie. "I'll get her. You guys talk."
"Yeah, and I'm gonna go make a phone call." Griffin got up and left the siblings alone in the living room.
"Quite a day," Charlie said.
"Quite a year." Claudia stated.