A/N: Last chapter, peops, and it doesn;t have much to do with the last episode... Meh, I think you'll like it. I hope so anyway! :) Thank you to all my lovely reviewers - you're wonderful!
(For disclaimer, etc. - see chapter 1)
Chapter 6 - Partners, a.k.a. June 3rd
It had to be some kind of miracle that Lorelai Gilmore was up so early, and before her daughter had even made it out of bed. Of course, there was a good reason for her excitement and need to start the day so soon. Today was June 3rd and that meant one thing.
"I'm getting married!" she yelled excitedly as she burst in Rory's room.
Her daughter stirred in the bed, reacting with a physical jump at the noise.
"I'm getting married today!" Lorelai enthused, coming over to bounce on the edge of the bed.
"Yes, I know this," agreed Rory as she sat herself up, pushing her hair out of her face. "But not for hours yet," she noted, wide-eyed as she read the digital display of her clock. "7:45?" she gasped, shocked that her Mom could be up and at 'em at such a time, especially on a Saturday when she didn't have to work.
"Rory?" prompted Lorelai, getting her daughter's attention fully on her. "Rory, I'm getting married," she repeated, quietly, seriously, with a smile that lit up her whole face.
"I know," she smiled back at her mother. "And I am so incredibly happy for you," she assured her.
"This is right. I know it is," nodded Lorelai. "I thought it was before, with Christopher, with Max, but I was wrong. Luke is the one. He was always the one."
Rory was soon grinning just as widely as her mother. She knew she was right. Luke Danes had been the only guy for Lorelai. Rory had seen it, as had most the town apparently, though it had taken the couple themselves a while to see the truth. Sure, there had been bumps in the road, and there probably would be again, but for now things were as they should be. Today was the wedding of Luke and Lorelai, two people who truly belonged together. Rory was as happy as they were that this day had finally come.
Still, when Lorelai rushed off to shower and start getting ready for the ceremony (even though they were not getting married until two this afternoon) Rory's smile faded to a serious look that was much less happy. Her Mom had it all right now, a good man that she loved that loved her too, who she was going to marry and be with forever. Rory herself didn't have that, not even close.
At the age of fifteen, she started dreaming of a happily ever after with Dean Forester. After that, she thought Jess was the one, and more recently, Logan Huntzberger. Now she was single again, staring into the future where she had no-one's hand to hold, nobody to share things with. That was dumb and untrue, of course, because she wasn't exactly a hermit. She had friends and family. She had her Mom and Luke, Sookie and Jackson, Paris and Doyle. Rory had Jess too. They weren't dating, they were just friends now, and she knew that had to be for the best. Still, she couldn't help feeling just a little sad that they might never get a chance to be more than that now. It was as much her fault as anyone elses, she knew, but that only made her feel worse.
With a sigh, she threw back the covers and hopped out of bed. No time now to be dwelling on the complications of her own live life. Today was all about her Mom and Luke, and how happy they were going to be together from here on out. That had to be Rory's focus, at least for now.
Jess woke up with the sun in his eyes and a spring digging into his back. It was a little strange to be back in this bed. Honestly, Jess was amazed Luke hadn't thrown it out, but no, his end of the apartment looked much like it always had. His uncle seemed almost afraid of change sometimes, and yet today would mark a very big shift in his life. The bachelor was about to become a married man.
"Did you even try to sleep last night?" asked Jess as he sat up in the bed and looked at Luke, hunched over the kitchen table with a bottle of beer in his hand.
It was where he had left him almost eight hours before.
"Not really," his uncle admitted, as Jess padded across the floor in only his T-shirt and boxers, pushing his unruly hair back off his face. "I'm getting married today," said Luke, too solemnly - it made his nephew worry.
"Luke, don't do this," he advised sagely, as if he were the older and wiser man in the room. "Don't back out now, it's not what you want, and Lorelai..."
"Hey, I'm not backing out," his uncle told him definitely. "Seriously, I am not. The thought never crossed my mind," he swore, meeting Jess' eyes.
He believed him. He always believed Luke, at least as long as he'd known him well enough to do so. As a rule, the guy didn't lie, he was more decent and honest than anyone Jess ever met, except for Rory who was pretty much angelic, especially when they first met. Luke was one of the good guys, one of the few in fact, and he was committed to Lorelai. This was why Jess couldn't understand his inability to sleep last night.
"So what's the problem?" he asked, rubbing sleep from his eyes as he dropped into the opposite chair.
Luke was quiet a long moment, contemplating his almost empty beer bottle a while. Eventually he looked up to meet Jess' inquisitive gaze and gave his answer.
"Nothing," he admitted. "Absolutely nothing is wrong, and... and I actually think that is what's freaking me out," he said with a wry smile, knowing just how crazy that must sound to anyone else, but Jess wasn't going to judge.
"I know what you mean," he nodded then. "I didn't think things could ever get this good for me. You start to wonder when the next bomb is gonna hit, right?"
"Right," Luke agreed with a smile. "I told you how proud I was of you, right?"
"About fifty times," Jess rolled his eyes. "But I appreciate it."
The touchy feely moment ended abruptly as the two grew uncomfortable with it. Sure, they loved each other in their own way, but they were guys and talking about it was weird. Besides, there were things to do today, very important things, like getting to the not-a-church on time.
Luke headed off to the shower then, whilst Jess put on the machine for coffee. He peered out of the window at the town square and smiled. It was a beautiful day already, the sun was shining, and it really did look like the perfect day for a wedding in Stars Hollow. He was to be the best man and Rory the maid of honour. As tradition dictated, he was her escort for the day. The thought of it made the smile slide right off Jess' face. It had been so good these last few weeks, reconnecting. They were nothing more than friendly right now, spending time together in Stars Hollow, arranging this wedding for Luke and Lorelai. He had to go back to Philly a couple of times, but most of his work for Truncheon could be done at a distance, and the guys could do without him, for a little while anyway. After the wedding, he would have to go back to his new home for good, and Jess really wasn't sure how he felt about that. Stars Hollow would always feel like a place he belonged, even if it was two-parts insane asylum, one-part story book.
"Jess!" he heard Luke yell from the bathroom then.
"You have the rings, right?"
"Yes, I have the rings," he confirmed, rolling his eyes.
It was going to be a long day.
Rory stood before the full length mirror in her room and double-checked her appearance. Her bridesmaids dress was a beautiful shade of blue that matched her eyes, and her hair was curled and pinned up just so. She felt ridiculously grown up as she stood there looking at herself a moment, wondering vaguely what Jess would think when he saw her. He was the best man and she was the maid of honour. There were certain connotations attached to that which made her blush each time she thought of him, but she didn't mind at all.
Shaking her head free of such thoughts, she rushed out of her quiet room into the chaos of the house once more. She had only managed to get away from the general anarchy for a moment because her Mom needed something 'borrowed' to wear and Rory had promised a bracelet from her collection. The 'new' was the dress and shoes, the blue appeared in Lorelai's garter, and that only left something 'old' to be provided. Everyone had been stunned when Emily produced a necklace that had belonged to her mother and then to her. She gave it to Lorelai declaring she was to have it now, on the day of her wedding.
Rory had been amazed at the calmness of her grandmother in all of this. A last minute rushed wedding, organised by Rory and Jess, she expected her grandma to find it all unseemly and wrong, but no. She had been graceful, accepting, and even nice about it. It was wonderful to see.
"There's my girl," said Lorelai when Rory got back to the bedroom.
"There's my Mom, the bride," she countered, tearing up at the sight of Lorelai now wearing her tiara and veil along with everything else - she was a vision.
Sookie was already crying, Lane wasn't far behind, and Rory swore even Emily had a tear in her eye. Any minute now, Anna was due to arrive with April, and then the bridal party would be complete. Right on time, the doorbell rang.
"So, here for the wedding?" asked Anna as she stood awkwardly on the Gilmore girls front porch with April at her side.
"I am," the man beside her agreed, suddenly noting his daughter was sticking out her tongue at the older girl a few feet away. "Gigi!"
"It's fine," April smiled, pushing her glasses further up her nose. "She's cute. I'm April by the way, Luke's daughter. This is my Mom, Anna."
"Ah, right" the man replied. "I'm Christopher, Rory's father, and this is my other daughter, Gigi."
"This family tree gets no less complicated," said Anna, looking as if she felt a headache coming on, mostly because she did.
Chris couldn't help but chuckle at the expression, because he had to agree with her. A crash beyond the door had everyone feeling serious again in a second, and then said door opened and a flustered looking Sookie faced them all with a grin. Her expression changed to panic when she looked from Anna and April, to Chris and Gigi.
"Don't freak out, Sookie," he told her gently. "I am here to be supportive and congratulatory. Nothing else, I swear."
"Good. That's very good," she agreed, letting everyone inside at last.
Still, she couldn't help but worry things were about to go very wrong.
"This is ridiculous!" said Luke, clearly angry and frustrated, as he stood inside the gazebo, checking his watch for the fourteenth time. "I know brides are traditionally late, I understand it's one of those prerogatives women have, but why? Why is it just okay for them to be late to their own wedding?"
"Would you relax?" Jess urged him, grabbing him by the shoulders and attempting to stop the pacing in such a small space, because it was making him dizzy. "Two minutes, Luke. Lorelai is literally two minutes late, it is not a big deal yet."
"Yet! Exactly, not a big deal yet!" he echoed. "I mean, how long is too long? Is five minutes okay, or ten? When do we just assume she's just not coming?"
"Hey!" his nephew got his attention and made sure he held it. "We never assume that, because she is coming. For some reason the crazy woman really loves you and actually does want to spend her life with you, so calm down, okay?"
He was smiling at how easy it was to tease his uncle, and how completely nutso the usually fairly together guy was getting over this. It just proved how much he loved Lorelai, how much he really wanted to marry her. These people gave Jess hope for himself and Rory, however unfounded it might be.
"This is ridiculous!" said Lorelai, clearly frustrated, as she stood on the front porch, trying to get her breath for the fourteenth time. "I know brides traditionally get cold feet on their wedding day, I know that, but I want this! I really, genuinely, have never wanted anything more, so what is the matter with me?!" she asked, holding out her hand that shook as if she were having some kind of fit.
"Would you relax, please?" Rory urged her, grabbing her by the shoulders and attempting to stop the pacing in such a small space because it was making her dizzy.
"I can't! I wish I could, but I can't!" Lorelai complained.
She was only glad her mother and the rest of the bridesmaids had already made their way around to the town square in the first car. Now there was just Lorelai and Rory, Richard waiting in the car for them to move their butts, and Christopher about to leave with Gigi in tow.
"Hey," he said as he appeared behind her.
"Chris, now is not a good time if you're about to ask me to run away with you!" she said definitely, making him smile.
"No, our time has passed," he sighed, shaking his head. "Lor, you and me, we had our turn, and it was good. I don't regret a single minute we spent together, and I will always love you, but... but I know you and Luke are meant to be together. Everybody knows it, and nobody more than you."
He was maybe the last person she expected a pep talk from, and yet Lorelai was glad of it. Rory welled up on hearing her father speak so beautifully too, and out-right cried when her parents hugged each other.
"Thank you, Chris," Lorelai whispered. "For everything."
A minute later she was rushing towards the car and Rory had to run, very awkwardly in heels, to catch up. Finally, they were off!
Rory felt ridiculously emotional as she stood by and watched her mother and Luke make their marriage vows to each other. This is what they had been wanting all this time, not just the bride and groom themselves, but Rory, Jess, and so many others too. The whole town of Stars Hollow had been holding it's breath just waiting for this moment, and now here they all were, happy as anything to see Lorelai Gilmore become Mrs Luke Danes.
Jess was smiling at the happy couple and then at Rory as her gaze shifted to meet his own. He never looked so good and Rory just knew he had to hate being in that suit, but he didn't complain, not at all. As the happy couple kissed at last and then stepped down from the gazebo, hand in hand, it was the best man who started the round of applause. Rory reached to hug her mother, Jess shook hands with Luke, and everybody piled in to say congratulations.
"Here," said Jess as he appeared at Rory's side a moment later, handing her the handkerchief from his top pocket.
She hadn't really noticed she was crying until then.
"Thanks," she sniffled. "I am so happy for them," she smiled then. "Aren't you just so happy for them?"
"Actually, yes," he agreed, watching his uncle grinning like a fool and kissing Lorelai on the lips to rapturous applause and shouts of joy. "This is how they're supposed to be."
Rory was ecstatic for her Mom and Luke, but standing here with Jess, the ex she knew she would always love more than any other guy, knowing they were nothing more than friends and maybe never should be, that was tough.
The crowd started to disperse towards the diner where the Reception was to be held. Rory walked slowly behind the gathering of people, expecting Jess to follow, instead she felt his hand at her elbow, turning her back around.
"Hey, er, I need to show you something," he said, reaching into his inside pocket and then handing her the papers he found there.
"A plane ticket to Philadelphia," she said, swallowing hard. "You're going back... tomorrow?" she note sadly.
"I thought your fancy school and college taught you how to count at least," Jess rolled his eyes, waiting for Rory to catch on.
It took a moment for her to realise there was a second ticket right underneath the first, and she looked from said ticket up at Jess with confusion and surprise written on her features.
"You can say no, but... Well, I was thinking you might wanna come visit. Maybe stay for the Summer?"
The grin that overtook Rory's face was the biggest of the day, and that was really saying something.
"Jess, I'd love to," she told him, diving into his arms to hug him tight, glad when he held her just as close. "But, well, after the Summer..." she began as she suddenly pulled back wearing a worried expression.
"We'll figure something out," he promised, keeping her in his embrace, the only place he ever wanted her to be. "If you want to, we can make it work, Rory, I know we can."
It made no sense, they both knew that, but right now it didn't matter. How she would go to Yale and he would work at Truncheon, and yet they'd still be together, they had no idea, but right now all he was asking her was if she wanted to try.
"I want to," she promised him, her smile slowly returning even as tears fell from her eyes. "I really, really want to."
When he kissed her then, the world went away. Rory didn't just forget where she was or what event they had been enjoying, but entirely what day it was and even her own name. She had been waiting for this moment on some level since the first time Jess left her behind. When he kissed her in Philadelphia, she panicked, knowing only that anything which could screw up the balance they had found had to be abolished before they started again. Now was the time, with nothing left to stop them.
Jess was just so relieved that she was happy with his plan. Sure, it would be hard, the whole long distance relationship thing, but they could make it work if they wanted to, and honestly, in the whole of his life, Jess had never wanted anything more.
Their kiss to end all kisses ended abruptly when suddenly the young couple realised they had been struck. They pulled apart both looking down at the bouquet laying at their feet. Rory looked up at Jess and then across at her mother on the edge of the grass. Lorelai had tossed her bouquet not into the usual crowd of single women, but just at them alone.
"You think she's trying to tell us something?" asked Rory with a smile she couldn't keep in check.
Jess put his hand to her face, wiping away her happy tears and smiled.
"I hope so," he said definitely, before moving in for another kiss.
Nobody could guarantee a happily ever after for any couple, but for Luke and Lorelai, and for Jess and Rory, maybe this time they really had conquered the worst of the rocky road that would lead them to a happy ending. It certainly seemed like it right now.