Puppet Master
Final Chapter

Rory was scared. Maybe nervous was a better word, though. She and the rest of the Life and Death Brigade waited for Logan to speak.

Rory wasn't even sure if his silence was due to her proclamation or not: he could just be attempting to be dramatic.

The longer the silence stretched on, the more convinced Rory became that Logan hated her. She felt tears begin to gather in her eyes, but she blinked rapidly in a near futile attempt to keep them at bay.

Finally, after a nearly interminable silence, Logan spoke up. "You have displayed many of the qualities that the Life and Death Brigade looks for in its members."

Here it comes, Rory thought, mistaking Logan's introduction for a dismissal.

"You have kept our secrets to yourself. This is paramount to our organization and you have managed to keep what you have seen under wraps." Rory was confused. She heard Robert scoff in the background and knew that she was thinking the same thing she was – that she had written an entire article on what she had seen at her last LDB social engagement.

Logan quirked a small smile, seeing her confusion. His eyes twinkled. "Well, I guess it really is a matter of degrees. At least you didn't use names or places." It was on the tip of Rory's tongue that she hadn't known where they were thanks to Logan's liberal use of blindfolds, but she thought better of it at the last moment.

"You have participated. Life and Death Brigade members do not stand idly by. We jump right into the action, and you have proven yourself capable of this as well. Literally." Rory rolled her eyes at the bad pun, but could help but return to the moment before she had jumped with Logan. It still exhilarated her just to think about it.

"During that same jump, you proved that you are prepared for all things. This is of great import to our group and it has become our code phrase. You have also shown spontaneity, although yours may be just a little more forced than it is for the rest of us." A rumble of laughter spread throughout the assembly.

"You have shown courage in standing before us today and letting us pry into the darkest portions of your life. The portions that you would most like to keep hidden. And yet, you do not trust us. Why?"

Rory was speechless for a moment. Of all the places she had seen Logan's questioning going, this was not one of them. She could barely believe that Logan had picked up on the fact that she was still uncomfortable revealing so much about herself. She opened her mouth to reply, but Logan interrupted her. "Stop. Think about this for a moment. Ask yourself if we deserve your trust. If we do, ask why you refuse to grant it to us. This is your task: to ask why it is so hard for you to trust. When you have the answer, please write it down. When you are done, please sign your name and date the document appropriately. Seal it and if you would still like to join, present it to me." He saw suspicion and shock written on her features. "We will not read it, but you will have to trust my word on that." He emphasized the word trust.

"We will leave you to your task." The whole of the Life and Death Brigade rose and folded their chairs. They turned to leave.

Unable to stand it a moment longer, Rory blurted out what had been on her mind all along. "That's it?" she asked, incredulously.

Logan turned back to face her. "Please do not underestimate the challenge that this is. But yes, that's it." His eyes twinkled again. "Of course, you are also required to find your own way back to the house. But after you answer the question, that shouldn't be difficult, should it?"

Rory's mouth opened and closed a couple of times of its own volition. As Russell passed her, he handed her a couple of sheets of paper and an envelope. Without a word, he continued on his way. Finn on the other hand, addressed her as he stopped before her.

He held a pen out to her. "Good luck. Write from the heart and don't try to edit too much love, there's a party waiting for you."

Impulsively, Rory leaned up to hug Finn. She knew it wasn't true, but sometimes she felt like he was the only one on her side.

Finn pulled away gently, grinning. "Hey now, don't do that. You wouldn't want to jeopardize your entrance by flirting with the judge now, would you?"

Rory grinned at him, strangely comforted. "Well, what if I can't help myself?"

Finn preened, but became serious again quickly. "I think you have more important things to worry about," he said, nodding his head at the papers in her hand.

As she watched the rest of the group trickle out, she was already composing her confession. It wasn't really that hard, but then again, it wasn't that long ago that she had contemplated the very same question. However, she knew that this was about more than trusting the LDB; this was Logan asking her if she trusted him yet.

Sighing, she sat down on a large rock nearby and uncapped the pen. Something written on the pen caught her eye. Turning it over, she found her name emblazoned on the pen's wooden surface. She had no doubt that Logan had done that, and his confidence in her was touching.

Scratching her chin thoughtfully, she contemplated how much she wanted to write down. She shook her head exasperatedly at herself; she had been completely honest thus far, and this was no time to stop.

Dear Life and Death Brigade, she wrote.

You have posed a very worthy question. Why is it so hard for me to trust? I could pretend to be in denial and say that I do not have a hard time trusting, that I am just picky with whom I choose to let into my life, but that would be a lie. I am very well aware of my problem and it has been on my mind a lot for some weeks now.

I believe that I must attribute most of this to my father. As my mother was very young when I was born, my parents never married. My father was constantly in and out of my life when I was young. He would stay for a while, until my child-self let him in, began to trust him, and then he would up and leave. It continued through my adolescent years, though at that point he began to try and buy my affection. Concert tickets, encyclopedias, CDs: these were all some of my Dad's attempts to get me to trust him.

And still, he couldn't prove himself reliable.

Yes, I have to blame most of my inability to trust on my father. But he can't take all of the blame.

To save you all a long, convoluted soap opera-ish story, suffice it to say that I have, in the past, picked boys like my father who run out on me just when I need them most.

It really is a shame that I have this phobia against trusting people. I'm sure it has probably cost me some relationships, but the thing is I don't know what to do about it. I know that acknowledging the problem is half of the cure, and I can only hope that is true. For now, all I can do is turn this letter over to Logan and trust him. Trust all of you.

Lorelai Leigh Gilmore.

She read the confession over a couple of times, and when she was satisfied that it said what she wanted it to say, she dated the letter, folded the papers up, and slipped them into the envelope. She felt lighter somehow as she sealed the envelope, almost as if writing briefly about her problems was some sort of therapy.

She stood up, knees and back aching and trudged back to the beach house. Logan was right, this was much easier, she thought with a grin.

As she reached the clearing where the beach house was located, she was surprised to see that the party was already underway. As she made her way through the crowd to locate Logan, she bumped into Finn.

"The party was waiting for me, huh?"

He looked at her for a second before his eyes crinkled in a smile. He downed the liquor he was currently holding and shouted, "Hey, the guest of honor has finally arrived mates!"

A lull quickly spread over the group. The wave of people parted to reveal Logan on the very opposite end of the property. Nervously, she began walking toward him.

When she reached him, he lifted a lone eyebrow. Smiling, she extended the sealed envelope, placing it gently in his outstretched hand.

"Congratulations, Lorelai Leigh Gilmore," said Finn from beside her. She whirled to face him, surprised because she had been unaware that he had followed her. "And may I be the first to welcome you to the Life and Death Brigade," he whispered in her ear as he gave her a gentle hug. He took her hand and raised it high, proclaiming to the assembled guests, "May I present your guest of honor, Rory Gilmore. And now, the real party can start."

Pandemonium broke out. Rory was assaulted by hugs, pats on the back and words of congratulations and welcome. Slowly group trickled down; leaving only a few friends. Suddenly, Logan was back at her side.

"Dance with me?" he asked her as she became aware of the music in the background.

Mutely, she nodded her head. He took her hand and led her to the dance floor. They danced slowly, oblivious to all of the people around them. Rory rested her head on Logan's shoulder. It wasn't until the fireworks started that Rory lifted her head and looked Logan in the eye.

"I love you." His eyes widened in surprise,

"I love you too, Rory Gilmore."

Rory lowered her head onto his shoulder once again. In her opinion, everything was now perfect in the world.

"Where the bloody hell are my pants!" But apparently not in Finn's.

AN: I would like to say thank you to all of my loyal readers. Your encouragement has helped me get through some pretty deep writers block and it is for you that I finished this story.

I would also like to say thank you to my awesome beta – Luke Rules. Although I was too lazy to send her this last chapter, she has really helped work out some of the kinks in my writing. She always seems to know just what that little something extra is that my chapters need. So thank you!

Yes, I did just say finished. Puppet Master is now complete. Done. I feel that I have dragged this on long enough without too much of a plot.

However, I will always leave the possibility of a sequel open, but I am not going to be so bold as to promise anything. Also, any sequel (if I made one) would probably be a distant future fic set in the Puppet Master universe.

Again, thank you to everyone who reviewed. I love you all dearly and I hope this didn't disapoint too much!