Luke was attempting to gather the remains of discarded wrapping paper and bows that had been long since forgotten as the contents of the previously pretty packages were now removed. The whole process would just start all over again in another hour when the Melville's arrived to celebrate with them, but the least he could do was make room for everyone to discard more trash. Lorelai came in from the kitchen where everyone was eating, now wearing a necklace made of ribbon and bows.
"Making room for the next wave."
"You're throwing away perfectly good bows and ribbon!"
"You say that every year."
"Because you try this every year."
"The bows aren't sticky anymore, and the ribbon is cut and used."
"Hence the magic that is scotch tape," she rolled her eyes. "And the ribbon can be made into new bows."
"You're like Martha Stewart with a kitchen aversion."
"Aw, the compliments are never-ending."
"Fine. Pick through the trash," he gave up, handing over the bag.
"Ah, rifling through the trash. You know how to give a girl a good time," she winked as he walked away. "Where are you going?"
"To eat. I need to keep up my strength," he smiled sweetly at her, kissing the side of her head as he made his way into the kitchen.
"So, you like your present?" Tristan asked, leaning in to inspect for himself.
"I love them," she put a finger up to one earlobe, feeling the diamond stud that had found its new home.
"Good. Oh, by the way, I forgot to give you one of your gifts."
She looked up at him, wondering what he was up to. "Tristan, these were more than enough."
He smiled and motioned for her to follow him. Ella and Jake shared a 'gag me' look as their parents exited into the family room.
"Seriously, it's something small, right? 'Cause these are too much."
"Technically, yes, what I have to show you is small," he tilted his head, considering his words.
"Tristan," she looked around. "I don't see anything for me left."
"Lift up the skirt," he instructed, pointing to the tree.
She immediately moved the skirt, earning a 'dirty' from her mother, who was still milling about collecting bows. Rory extracted a manila envelope from underneath, and looked to her husband. He nodded. Opening the envelope, she scanned the document and squealed. In fact, her joy was so loud, it brought her kids in from the kitchen.
"Ohmygod! Tristan, this is. . . but how did you?"
"The old bat kicked off two months ago, and her only son lives in L.A. Couldn't wait to sell the place, either, hates the East Coast. I would've told you, but I wanted it to be a surprise."
"It's ours, completely. Finally."
"Mom, what is it?" Ella asked, looking to look over the papers her mother had in her hand. Lorelai moved in on the other side, looking as well.
"Grandma and Grandpa's beach house at the Vineyard, the one they started leasing after we got married; well, after Grandma died, we took over the lease payments. We tried to buy it, but evidently Grandpa had tried several times, as well. Mrs. Hodgett wouldn't sell. It'd been in her family since the 1800s or something. She was really adamant about keeping it in her family."
"So, now it's officially in our family."
"Oh, that's so great! But if she still owned it, why was she leasing it?" Lorelai asked, not fully understanding.
"She's been in a nursing home for years—she was almost a hundred year old, and she'd started to have trouble getting around on her own, then had lots of health problems after a stroke, years ago," Rory looked to Tristan, who nodded.
"And mean. For a proper old society woman, she had a mouth like a sailor," he laughed.
"But now it's ours!" Rory jumped up and down.
"Merry Christmas," he said, as she fell into his arms, still clutching the deed.
Present opening commenced yet again, now with a larger group packed into the living room. Rory watched happily at Tristan's side as Ella and Billy exchanged their gifts. Lorelai and Sookie's attentions were caught when Anna opened a long, thin, velvet box containing a beautiful emerald necklace. She gasped and looked to Will, who was smiling at her.
"You so did not do this," she whispered in disbelief.
"You don't like it?"
"Are you kidding me?"
"So, try it on."
She smiled back and cautiously extracted the delicate necklace from its box.
"Are you crying?" Luke leaned in, as Lorelai watched Will and Anna.
"No," she lied.
"It's not even you getting the jewelry," he pointed out.
"We'll get to that later, mister," she sniffed.
"Can I get everyone's attention?"
The group quieted and all eyes moved to Dave, who stood in the center of the room, directly in front of Mallory. She'd been admiring Anna's necklace just a second prior to hearing Dave's voice rise above everyone else's.
"Wow. That was unusually effective," he smiled. "I thought I'd need a bullhorn with this group," he joked. He felt all eyes in the room on him, but he settled his gaze on Mallory.
"There's something I'd like to ask you."
Her mouth fell open a little, and she raised her hand to her face, pressing two fingers to her lips. She wasn't one to embarrass easily, but she could feel the heat running up her spine.
"Mal, I love you. I've been watching you go crazy over this whole apartment thing, and it occurred to me that perhaps I should move in with you, to take care of the mess that you've been left with," he started, and she looked at him, surprised. "But I thought about it. I don't want us to move in together because it's a solution to a problem. Besides, neither of us likes that apartment."
She smiled, now not quite sure where he was going, or why he was having this conversation here and now.
"We should move in together because I don't want to leave you at the end of the day, and I love seeing you after a long day at work. I love your laugh and the way you push your hair back with your pen while you study. I love that you can't stand to have the television on when you're reading, but you have to have the stereo on so it's not too quiet."
He took a breath, and moved closer to her. The whole room watched, unable to peel their eyes away.
"That made me think, why just move in somewhere together? That's not what I really want. I want to marry you, Mal. Will you marry me?"
Silence filled the crowded room, everyone waited on her reaction. Dave was kneeled down in front of her now, looking into her eyes.
"Yes, I will."
The girls cried, the boys congratulated—glad for the mushy tension to be over with. Sookie hugged Lorelai after she had squeezed the air out of Dave and Mallory.
"See? I told you, I could feel it!"
"You were right, except for the 'who' part," Lorelai nodded.
Luke leaned in, "Who did she think it was?"
"Oh, either Will and Anna, or Billy and Ella," she replied, like it was no big deal.
"WHAT?" Rory, Tristan, and Luke asked, looking at Sookie.
"So, I was a little off. Who wants champagne?" she asked, and then turned to Luke. "Where do you keep your champagne?"
"At the villa," he rolled his eyes.
"Who wants eggnog?" she asked, moving towards the kitchen.
Rory slipped out onto the porch with two mugs of eggnog. She handed one to Tristan, who'd slipped out from the madness that was ensuing in the house.
"To it not being our under-aged daughter," she raised her mug with a smile.
"Perish the thought," he clinked his mug to hers.
"Hey, guys, can you come back inside?" Ella stuck her head out the front door.
They looked up and nodded. He slipped an arm around Rory's waist as they moved back into the house. "This better be about college, or I'm chaining her to her bed when we get home," he whispered into Rory's ear, causing her to laugh.
Ella now stood in front of the group, much as Dave had just done minutes before. She paused, enjoying standing in front of a crowd and looked around before settling her gaze on her parents.
"Since everyone is here, and announcements are being made, I wanted to tell you all that I've come to a decision recently." She paused for dramatic effect, learning all her skills from her father. "I've decided to go to Yale."
"Oh thank God," Rory said under her breath, so only Tristan could hear. She rushed Ella, throwing her arms around her.
"You're not just doing this for me, are you?" she whispered into her daughter's ear.
"Never," Ella giggled.
"That's my girl!" she squeezed her before turning her over to Tristan.
"I'm proud of you kid. You sure about this?"
"Positive. Thank you, Dad."
"If I let go of you, are you going to hug that boyfriend of yours?" he asked.
He held on to her, easily holding her in place. "Daddy, put me down!" she commanded, laughing.
Reluctantly, he let go of her and she moved over to hug Billy.
"So, when did you decide?" he asked, looking at her, obviously happy.
"A couple of days ago."
"Why didn't you tell me?"
"I wanted to be sure."
"And you're sure, you'll be in New Haven?"
She nodded, and he hugged her again.
That evening, Will sat in his living room, thinking about the changes that were going to happen over the next few months. He would graduate from college, just before Ella started. His roommate would be moving out and getting married.
And then of course, there was Anna.
"So, big day."
"Did you know about any of it?"
"I knew I was getting you the necklace. And I figured Mom would cry."
"I meant about Dave."
"Nope. No clue."
"Me either. Mom is through the roof happy."
She slipped into his lap, and played with her necklace a little. Her hands had been wandering to it all day, feeling it against her sternum.
"You like that, huh?"
"I love it. So much so that I won't point out that you spent way too much money."
"Good. I like my women agreeable."
She shook her head, and leaned it against his shoulder. "So, Rory's happy about Ella choosing Yale, huh?"
"Not a big surprise. She's been brainwashed since before she was born."
"But she wants to go there, right?"
"Yeah, she does. She will fit right in."
"You should know," Anna sighed happily.
"So, I think I'm going to keep this apartment," he said, looking around.
"It is a good apartment."
"Big for one person," he sighed.
Anna was quiet. She wasn't quite sure if he was going somewhere with this. He rubbed her arm with his hand lightly.
"Don't you think so?"
"I guess. I mean, it's two bedrooms."
"Might make one an office."
"I can help you decorate."
"I'd appreciate that."
She snuggled into him further, sure this tangent was over with. After all, Dave hadn't officially made plans to move out yet. Everything was still up in the air, everyone was just thinking out loud.
"So, can I ask you a hypothetical question?"
She was now almost certain this man could read her mind. It was unnerving.
"What would you think, if when Dave moved out, you moved in?"
"Moving in is interesting, you mean?"
He sat up, and looked down into her eyes. She sat up, turning to straddle his lap, and slipped her arms around his neck. He smiled, and nodded.
"Well, in that case, I guess I have a few questions."
"All right. Shoot."
"Do you leave towels on the bathroom floor?"
"Nope," he crossed his fingers over his heart, and she giggled.
"You don't secretly send your laundry home to your mother, do you?"
"No, I don't like to have pink underwear," he said seriously.
"And your intentions, are they honorable?"
She leaned in and took his face in her hands. He looked at her mouth before catching her eye as she kissed him. She felt like she was floating, as she melted into him.
"What a day," Rory groaned, collapsing back onto the bed.
"You sound unhappy."
"No, quite the opposite, actually."
"So, what's with the groan?"
"Dramatic effect. You're rubbing off on me," she smiled.
"I'd like to," he winked at her, lying down next to her.
"Our baby's going to Yale," she purred, curling up on him.
"I heard. My ears aren't the only thing on this body that are in excellent working condition, you know," he said, running his hand down the gentle curve of her torso. She was on her side, her hand resting on his chest.
"There's so much to get ready for, lots of graduations, and a wedding—not to mention taking Ella shopping for all her dorm stuff."
"Rory," he drew her name out, in an almost lyrical manner.
"Yeah?" she smiled, her eyes sparkling.
"Shut up and kiss me," he requested. She moved up to oblige the request, kissing him with the same intensity that always drove their every touch.
Their life in this moment was perfect. It was full of change, the one true constant. Their family was growing and expanding around them, and the future was wide open. Anything seemed possible. Their future together grew increasingly more solid every day, with every moment they spent together, with every breath they took.
What they truly knew was that for them, the future held each other.
Author's Ramblings: I would love to thank every single person who supported this whole trilogy, starting from the very beginning, egging me on to do more and more—I can't believe all that came out of my first Trory. There are too many of you to name singly, so know you rock and I hope you all enjoyed this final chapter.
(Waves and closes curtain)