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Never Give Up, Never Surrender

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The first time they met Jolene was in a club in L.A. that boasted the best view on the Sunset Strip. She was going bu the name Scarlett and dancing in the chorus behind a small blonde with a big voice. It was actually Roque that spotted her first, asked her to their table between numbers, bought her a drink and poured on the charm, invited her out with them the next night. They were in a holding pattern at Fort Hunter Liggett, waiting on their next assignment, when Clay secured some time off-base for them. She’d shown up the following night at a near-by bar with a few of her friends from the club.

“Safety in numbers,” she’d told them, and Pooch had laughed.

“Yeah, you can’t trust these assholes for shit,” he’d said, gesturing to Clay and Roque. Roque glared, but Clay grinned; he didn’t care, he was already working his charm on Jesse. Besides, it was unlikely they’d be back here anytime soon.

~~~

Four months later they were back around L.A. and back at the club.

“Try not to cock block me this time, bro.”

“Hey, man, I can’t help it if she finds The Pooch irresistible.”

~~~
Jolene’s brother Julius did not like Pooch. He didn’t like any of them, actually, which didn’t bother Clay. After all he wasn’t the one sleeping with Jolene; he didn’t need her brother to like him. What did bother him was Julius’s unfounded animosity towards Pooch; he just didn’t think that Pooch was good enough for his sister, and nothing Jolene and Pooch said or did could change his mind. Honestly, Clay didn’t think Julius would approve of anyone his sister dated.

Jolene fought with her brother about Pooch, and Clay watched him become wracked with guilt. Pooch didn’t want to come between her and her family, but Clay knew that if it was a choice between that and giving Jolene up completely, Pooch would fight to the death for her.

~~~

Pooch’s grandmother Adelaide (who Clay adored and flirted with shamelessly – and who flirted shamelessly back, much to Pooch’s consternation) wasn’t sure about the relationship at first, but Clay talked her into giving Jolene a chance.

The two met for lunch, and Jolene began the long process of winning her over. It took some time, but eventually Adelaide came to like, and then, love her. In fact, at times it seemed like she loved Jolene more than she loved Pooch, which they all found hilarious.

~~~

Jensen ran an extensive background check on her – credit history, birth and criminal records, medical history, known aliases and addresses, bank accounts, and bunch of other stuff that Clay didn’t know you could check. Which, knowing Jensen, probably wasn’t stuff you could check.

When Pooch found out, he was so angry that he tried to beat the shit out of Jensen.

“It’s bad enough we get this kind of shit from our families, J!”

It took Roque, Cougar, and couple guys from another unit to pull them apart. Clay wasn’t there, but he heard about it later, and made Jensen strip and clean all their weapons. Including Roque’s knives.

Afterwards, Clay asked him if there were any red flags he should be aware of. Jensen had declared her a, “girl scout, boss. Not even a parking ticket.”

~~~

They nearly broke up half a dozen times in the first eighteen months they were together, over – in Clay’s opinion – the stupidest shit. Shit they couldn’t even remember now.

After the second time, the rest of them started a pool. Jensen kept a spreadsheet and ran algorithms on his computer to calculate odds. Cougar handled the money.

After the fourth time, Pooch figured out what they were all up to, and tried not speaking to them unless it was relevant to the mission. Two hours in, though, Jensen started to have increasingly ridiculous one-sided conversations at him, until Pooch had no choice but to eventually crack up and let it go.

“Not cool, guys, not cool.”

Didn’t stop them, though. And they didn’t bother being subtle about it, either.

~~~

Pooch temporarily lost the ring a desert country. It took them three hours and two separate fire-fights to retrieve it.

“She goddamn better say yes,” Clay said as he laid down suppressive fire for Roque and Jensen.

I don’t care where you bought this ring, man, Roque’s voice sounded over the comms, this is no longer a conflict-free diamond.

~~~

The proposal was a spectacular failure. Clay found this out a 2 a.m. when Jolene called him from the local hospital.

“… and the doctor says he’ll be fine, barely even a scar. But he’ll have to use the cane for at least a week. And he is so hopped up on pain meds there is no way I can get him out of here on my own. They had to give him nearly three times what they normally give, they said his threshold is so high. What the hell goes on out there, Clay?”

“Classified,” he muttered, scrubbing a hand over his face. Only them. “Tell me you said yes.”

“Of course I said yes!” Her affronted tone made him chuckle.

“Great. Congrats, Jolene. I’ll be there in twenty.”

~~~

The less said about the bachelor and bachelorette parties the better.

“I’ll just… expunge all this from public record, okay?”

“That would be great, Jensen. Make sure you get any video footage as well.”

“Duh, sir.”

~~~

Surprisingly, the actual wedding went off without a hitch. None of them really relaxed, though, until the reception was over and Pooch and Jolene were on their way to their honeymoon suite.

“I can’t believe none of us won the pool.” Jensen sounded incredulous as he stripped off his necktie.

“I know,” Roque said, sipping at his drink. “After everything they’ve been through, I can’t believe nothing happened tonight.”

“Night’s not quite over yet,” Clay said, nodding towards where Cougar was in the process of closing the deal with the maid of honor. “There could be some fall-out from that tomorrow.”

Jensen frowned and consulted the sheet in his jacket pocket. “Sonofabitch. Jolene has that square.”