Cassandra burst out laughing as she parked the BMW on the side of the road in the Stars Hollow town square. She'd spotted Stone right away upon her arrival and found him right in the middle of Firelight Festival preparations, wearing a hard hat, holding a walkie talkie, and telling a group of guys around him what to do. That wasn't what she'd had in mind when she told him to have fun, but she was glad to see he'd been able to keep himself busy while she was away. She climbed out of the car, making sure it was locked after she slammed the door, and spotted Lorelai headed down the sidewalk. Cassandra waved, and Lorelai picked up speed a little.
"Hey," Lorelai said, wrapping her arm around Cassandra's back. "Wow, nice car."
"Hey," Cassandra replied. She pointed towards the gazebo and asked, "What's going on over there? Why is Stone seemingly running the Firelight Festival?"
"Oh, well, we had an emergency town meeting this afternoon and voted him the new town selectman. Taylor's just been in power way too long, and the people wanted change, damn it!" Lorelai teased. She let go of Cassandra to throw her fist into the air for dramatic emphasis. Cassandra looked at Lorelai with wide eyes and a hint of alarm, and Lorelai laughed. "I'm kidding," she said.
"Oh," Cassandra said with a laugh of her own. "What does it say about this town that I wasn't sure if you were kidding or not?"
"That it's crazy," Lorelai said lovingly.
"I miss it sometimes, though," Cassandra revealed.
"You do?" Lorelai asked. Cassandra smiled and closed her eyes, nodding in affirmation. "Well, I would tell you to come around more often, but Portland is far."
"Yeah," Cassandra said. "But I might be coming around more often anyway."
Lorelai shot her an exaggerated grin; Cassandra returned the expression with a bit of a hopeful smile, and Lorelai, in an almost sing-song voice, said, "Well, look at that…"
"So serious answer, please," Cassandra said, getting back to her original question.
Lorelai chuckled. "We were headed to the Dragonfly's annex; there was an accident right in front of us, and Mr. Safety Man over there swooped in and saved the day."
"So the town got him," Cassandra concluded.
"Happens to the best of us," Lorelai said.
"So um…maybe you can tell me," Cassandra said, switching topics. "Why did Jackson stop me on one of the streets into the square and ask me who the hot, young, foreign guy in my polyamorous relationship with Jacob is?"
"Oh my god," Lorelai said, bursting out into laughter.
"What is that about?" Cassandra asked.
"I guess there was a couple in town yesterday – tourists or something – and I guess one of the guys looked like Jacob, and Babette and Miss Patty thought he was Jacob, so…" Lorelai explained, letting Cassandra figure out the rest.
"Oh no," Cassandra groaned.
"But I hadn't heard the version that involved you," Lorelai said. "That's a new one. Polyamory…so scandalous for Stars Hollow!"
"This town is crazy," Cassandra sighed.
"And you miss us," Lorelai said.
"So what does that say about me?" Cassandra wondered.
"That you're crazy," Lorelai teased.
Cassandra pointed towards the square again. "I'm gonna go…"
"Rescue one of your boyfriends?" Lorelai said. Cassandra shot her a deathly glare. Lorelai chuckled. "I'll see you later."
Cassandra left a still-giggling Lorelai on the sidewalk and ran across the street. She walked up behind Stone and tapped his shoulder lightly.
"Yeah?" he asked, turning around. When he saw that it was Cassandra trying to get his attention, he said, "Oh, hey."
"Hey yourself," Cassandra said with a wickedly amused grin. "So what's going on here?"
"I'm helpin' with the prep for this Firelight thing," Stone said.
"But you have the walkie talkie with the little gold star on it, so it looks like you're running the prep for this Firelight thing," Cassandra pointed out.
"I…I'm just helpin' out," Stone insisted.
"Mm-hmm…" Cassandra nodded. "How'd you get that out of Kirk's hands?"
"It hit the grass when one of the stars fell and hit Kirk's arm," Stone said. Cassandra gasped. "He decided to hand over the walkie talkie in favor of telling everyone who passes by about his near-death experience. He's bein' more dramatic than Flynn."
"And I bet they're all eating it up," Cassandra said seriously.
"There was even a debate about whether the injury was enough to warrant cancellin' this thing," Stone said. "This town is nuts."
"Oklahoma doesn't look so bad to you now, huh?" Cassandra asked.
"No, it don't," Stone muttered.
"Well, you know, as someone who also became a Stars Hollow townie overnight, I understand how this place can kind of suck you in," she said.
"I'm not a Stars Hollow townie," Stone said. At that, a voice came through the walkie talkie, informing Stone that one of the set-up helpers was stuck in a tree after climbing up there to string up some twinkly lights. Cassandra snickered as Stone promised to be right there. He looked at Cassandra laughing and growled, "What?"
"You're going to have an awfully long commute if we can't find a safe place to hook up the Back Door," she teased.
A glare in her direction sent her into another small fit of giggles, and Stone said, "Speakin' of commutes, did you drive up in a BMW?" Cassandra nodded. "Dad's car?"
"My car," she said gleefully. "I wonder if we could get a car through the Back Door? That would make getting it home so much easier."
"How are you gonna get it out of the Annex?" Stone asked. With one finger raised between them, Cassandra opened her mouth immediately to reply, and Stone beat her to it, saying, "Do not say magic."
Cassandra face deflated, and before she could argue back, Stone wandered off to help the Stars Hollow resident out of the tree. Cassandra breathed in the cool air and headed for the gazebo in the center of the square. She passed Kirk along the way, just as he was losing his latest captive audience.
"Cassandra," Kirk said, holding up his overly bandaged hand. "Did you hear how I almost died this morning?"
"Sure did, Kirk," Cassandra smiled.
"Oh," Kirk said with disappointment. "Would you like to hear my account of events?"
"Maybe later, Kirk," Cassandra promised.
Luckily, Kirk's attention was pulled away from Cassandra as Gypsy, the town's car mechanic, walked by on her way back to her shop.
"Gypsy!" Kirk called. "Did you hear about the Firelight star that almost killed me this afternoon?"
"Almost?" Gypsy asked, never slowing down. "What a shame."
Cassandra snickered again and climbed the steps to the gazebo. She let herself fall against one of the pillars, looking out over the town and the festival preparations. Stone found her just a few minutes later, disgruntled and frustrated with the guy who'd gotten stuck in the tree, and Cassandra tried not to laugh too hard at his expense.
"I think I'm gonna be caught up in this for a while," Stone admitted.
"That's fine," Cassandra said. She looked fondly around the town again and repeated, "I'm fine."
That evening, as the festival was in full swing, Stone and Cassandra sat on a bench off to the side of the gazebo, watching and waiting as the town leaders argued about whose responsibility it was to bring the supplies to start the bonfire. Cassandra had a hand over her mouth, stifling the giggles she couldn't quite stop, and Stone looked on in disbelief.
"This thing happens every year, right?" he asked.
"Mm-hmm…" Cassandra nodded.
"And this happens every year?" he asked. Cassandra simply nodded again. "And people think it's funny and not annoyin'?"
"It's kind of just part of the festival at this point," she told him.
"I'm so ready to go home," he muttered, causing Cassandra to laugh again.
"So did I miss anything good the last day or so?" Cassandra asked. "Other than Stars Hollow trying to claim you as their own, that is?"
"Ezekiel was here," Stone said.
"What?" Cassandra asked.
"He was hidin' from Baird and tracked our phones," Stone explained. "You had already left, but I caught him trying to steal from that antique store over there."
"He was trying to steal from Mrs. Kim?" Cassandra asked. Stone nodded. "Well, that was stupid."
"Oh, he definitely made an impression," Stone said, deciding to withhold information about their run-in with Babette and Miss Patty. With any luck, she'd never hear about that; Stone knew that was probably wishful thinking.
"Ezekiel Jones tends to do that," Cassandra replied. "Wait, were you guys walking around town together?"
"Yeah," Stone asked. "Why?"
"Oh, that makes sense now…" Cassandra muttered to herself.
Stone groaned. "You heard about the gossip, didn't you?"
"Sorry," Cassandra said with an apologetic smile. Her face fell a little, and she added, "And I'm sorry I kind of abandoned you."
"You didn't…" Stone started.
"I should've called," Cassandra said. "I felt like I should be there for Mom, and…I was afraid if I came back for another night, especially when I was that emotional, things between us might get out of hand."
"It's okay, Cass," Stone said.
"And I'm sorry I called it a mistake. It wasn't; it was exactly what I needed in the moment, and…I didn't handle any of that very well," she finished.
"Hey," Stone said. "It's okay. I understand."
She smiled softly. "Really?"
"Really," he promised.
A silence hung in the air between them, the sounds of bickering in the distance, before Cassandra awkwardly added, "You're a good kisser, by the way."
Stone put on a prideful grin and said, "Thank you. You're not so bad yourself."
Cassandra laughed lightly and said, "Our little secret?"
"Sounds good," he agreed. "So you been back a few hours now, and I just realized I haven't asked you how you're doing."
Cassandra took a deep breath as a lost little girl look momentarily colored her face. "I miss him," she admitted. "I miss how we used to be. It wasn't always bad. And running away wasn't something I was waiting to grow up and get to, you know? It wouldn't have happened if this," She tapped the side of her head. "Hadn't have happened. I liked my life and the plans they had for me before…"
"I know," Stone said softly.
"So I've always missed them, but there's a finality there now that wasn't there before," she said. Silence lingered between them for a few more minutes as Cassandra stared at her hands, lost in thought. Finally, she picked her up back up and looked at Stone with a small smile. "But I might get Mom back."
"Really?" Stone asked with surprise.
"It's not going to be easy, and it's probably going to be weird, but…yeah, maybe," Cassandra smiled.
Before Stone could say anything in response, Ezekiel Jones plopped down between them on the bench, pulling startled looks from both of his friends.
"So when is this bonfire actually going to start?" Ezekiel groaned.
"What are you doing here?" Cassandra asked.
"I was telling Baird and Flynn about this place, and they wanted to check out the festival," Ezekiel said. He used his hand to indicate direction as he said, "They're all cuddly over by the big pile of wood, and Jenkins is over there mesmerized by the star-shaped hot dogs."
"Oh, Jenkins is here?" Cassandra said. She hopped to her feet.
"Where are you going?" Ezekiel asked.
"I cannot be seen alone with the two of you at this event," Cassandra said, remembering the earlier gossip she heard from Jackson. "That is not happening."
"What's with her?" Ezekiel asked as she scurried away to find the caretaker. Stone simply scowled at him in response.
"Oh no," Cassandra gasped as she spotted Jenkins near the food vendors. Lorelai was standing with him, all smiles. She was waving her fingers in a way that made Cassandra know she was asking him about magic. She hurried over to the pair.
"But it's probably quite a change from Camelot, am I right?" Lorelai joked with a slight giggle. With a perplexed look on his face, Jenkins opened his mouth to answer her, but before he could say anything, Cassandra had reached them. She looped her arms around the knight's.
"Come watch the fire with me?" she asked with a grin.
"It would be my honor, Miss Cillian," Jenkins said. He turned to his conversational companion and said, "It was a pleasure to meet you, Lorelai."
"Say hi to Arthur for me," Lorelai replied.
Cassandra quickly turned Jenkins away from her, leading him to the area where everyone was gathering around what would eventually become the bonfire.
"Cassandra…why does Lorelai know what she knows?" Jenkins asked.
With a deep roll of her eyes, Cassandra replied, "I can explain; I promise."
Lorelai turned around after Cassandra and Jenkins left her, deciding to head to the diner and drag her reluctant husband out to partake in the festivities. Before she could make it across the street, Rory ran up by Lorelai's side.
"Hey, Mom," Rory said, startling Lorelai.
"Rory," Lorelai said, giving her daughter a quick side hug. "Did I screw up? I thought you got in in a few hours?"
"Yeah, I took an earlier flight," Rory shrugged. "You did not screw up."
"So how did you get home from the airport?" Lorelai asked.
"Uber," Rory said.
"No," Lorelai whined, making the word at least four syllables long.
"I had the car drop me off half a mile away from the house," Rory said. "If Kirk spotted an Uber car, he'll never be able to tie it to me."
"Oh," Lorelai said, frowning. "Well, now I feel bad."
"Don't," Rory said. "I've been on a plane for hours. Walking felt good."
"So how did things go?" Lorelai asked. "I'm guessing badly since you're back early?"
"I don't really want to talk about that right now," Rory said, awkwardly pulling her sleeves over her hands. "I see I haven't missed the bonfire."
"We're still twenty minutes away, easy," Lorelai asserted.
Rory began looking around the town square, her eyes settling on Stone and Ezekiel on the bench across the way. "Who's that?"
"Who?" Lorelai asked.
"The guy dressed like Luke and the Asian guy frowning at him?" Rory asked.
Lorelai gasped. "There is a hot, young, foreign guy!"
"What?" Rory asked.
"Nothing," Lorelai shrugged. "I'll tell you later."
Cassandra and Jenkins made their way over to the men on the bench, Cassandra remaining firmly on Jenkins's arm, and Rory frowned again.
"And who's that?" she asked. "That girl looks kind of familiar. Do we know her?"
"Oh yeah," Lorelai said with a chuckle.
"What's going on?" Rory asked.
Lorelai wrapped her arm around her daughter's shoulders, gently turning her around and steering her towards Luke's. "Well…I definitely wasn't bored while you were gone."
We have unfortunately reached the end of this story, and I'm so sad it's over! This was an idea-in-progress for so long that it's weird to me that it's over, but I'm so glad I got it to work, and I'm so glad some of you have enjoyed it as much as you've told me you have. And, of course, I'd love to hear any thoughts you might have on the ending or the story as a whole.
Thanks for reading!