AN: As promised, the epilogue to wrap this baby up. It's extra long for good measure. For a good Trory fix, hit the Seasonal Passions site for the newly posted Spring Exchange stories. Link can be found on my homepage. And now, the last chapter--Set a few months after the last chapter's end.
Tristan came up behind Rory, sliding his arms around her waist and pulling her shoulders back against his chest. She responded by letting her head fall back, resting it on his shoulder. She closed her eyes in pleasure at the feel of his breath lightly falling against her ear.
His voice was panicked. She turned in his arms, eager to see the look on his face. She'd never seen him in such a frenzy before this evening. He was in a perpetual state of fear as the cat and mouse game persisted.
"Who was it this time?"
"The dance teacher. Again," he winced as she gave him a sympathetic pout.
"Yeah, she's kind of relentless."
"Is there somewhere we can go, to just be alone?"
"Oh, I see. You can have conversation after conversation with my mother, plotting and planning out every single detail of this party, withholding all said plans from me, and now you want to ditch?"
He nodded and gave her his most sincere smile. "You know me so well."
"Forget it. I still want to know how you managed to get Luke to agree to have a New Year's Eve party in the diner," she said in amazement.
"That was all your mother's doing. I stopped asking questions when she started talking about her womanly wiles."
Rory snickered at his discomfort. "Yeah, probably the safest route on your part."
"So, back to our getting a second alone," he prodded.
Rory looked up to see Babette and Patty attempting to make their way through the crowd that had assembled inside the diner's confines. She felt Tristan tense up, his hind quarters still sore from the inordinate amounts of attention it'd seen so far this evening.
"Okay, go behind the curtain."
"What?" he asked, not quite sure he'd understood her.
"The curtain, behind the curtain," she shoved him quickly, immediately pulling the curtain closed behind her and following him up the stairs. He continued until he got to the door, and he let her open it.
"Where are we?"
"Luke's old apartment. Is this private enough for you?"
"It'll do," he said, pulling her in for a not-so-innocent kiss. They'd been surrounded by people non-stop all day, constantly in the midst of a crowd with no time to recharge with each other. Not to say there'd been no contact between them—his hand was magnetized to her shoulder, the small of her back, her thigh, her hand—Lorelai had taken hold if it at one point to see if there was a scar from the implantation surgery.
He'd taken to Lorelai readily since their return to the States, appreciating her sense of humor and not taking her threats too seriously. They'd been with either her in Stars Hollow or Janlan in Hartford for most of their holiday stay thus far. Rory had commented that of course Lorelai loved him—he'd been in cahoots with her for months now.
She ran a hand up his chest, coming to rest on the top button of his shirt, the pad of her finger running around the small circle. Her breath had already quickened, and as if out of instinct, she backed him toward the couch.
The door flew open and Rory spun away from Tristan, feeling sixteen all over again. Lorelai stared at them open-mouthed for a moment before gaining her composure.
"Wow. Déjà vu."
"Mom, what are you doing?"
"In my fiancée's office? Hmm, now, let me think," she said, mocking her daughter. However, her vocalizations didn't distract Rory from the fact that her mother was holding something behind her back.
"Whatcha' got there?" Rory inquired.
"Oh, you know. Nothing."
"It's pink and fluffy," Rory furrowed her brow. "Do you--," she began, her eyes widening with understanding. Tristan watched the conversation with interest, much like he would watch a tennis match.
"No! We don't know yet," Lorelai stressed the last word.
"So, what's with the pink?"
"Evidently Gypsy is rooting for a girl," Lorelai sighed.
"I'm sorry, but what?" Rory said, taking the soft blanket with a bunny head affixed to one corner from her mother and feeling the texture.
"Do you remember when Luke and I broke up? How the town divided its interests with pink and blue ribbons?"
Rory groaned. "Yes. I am the one that put an end to it, how could I forget?"
"Yes, and for that, you'll remain my oldest and dearest child, forever," she said petting Rory's head playfully.
"So, what's the blanket for?" Tristan cleared his throat.
"People are betting on the sex of the baby—and in order to put their money where their mouths are, they're supplying us with gender specific gifts, sort of a goodwill effort on their part to win the growing prize jackpot."
"Geesh, how big is the pool?"
"The winner could go on a nice Caribbean cruise," Lorelai rolled her eyes. "I was just coming to put this with the rest of the loot."
Rory and Tristan followed Lorelai to the closet, now filled to the brim with blankies, binkies, bottles, and rattles.
"That's a lot of pink," Tristan said.
"Yeah. It really is."
"Maybe I should get in on this deal," Rory mused.
Lorelai shot her a look. "You'd bet on your baby sibling?"
"For a cruise? You're darn tootin'."
"Yeah, well, I'm just worried we're having a boy, and man is he going to be a flamboyant dresser for the first few months."
"I'm sure Luke will buy little baby flannel shirts to cover up the pink 'Me plus 16 Years equals Heartbreaker' onesie."
Tristan snickered. Lorelai sighed. "He got very pale when we opened that one. I don't think the idea of having a daughter that would one day date had occurred to him yet."
"Well, it's getting much more noticeable to the world," Rory said, putting a hand on her mother's newly protruding tummy. Lorelai smiled and put her hand on top of her hand.
"You calling me fat?" she teased.
"You saw right through me. I really need to work on my veiled comments," Rory said.
"How about starting with how you'll see her back downstairs in about five minutes?" Tristan offered, interrupting the mother-daughter bonding moment.
Rory blushed and Lorelai crossed her arms. "Now, why would I want to do that?"
"So I can take your dau--," he began bluntly, but Rory put a hand over his mouth, trying to keep her composure as he licked her palm.
"We'll be right down," she promised her mother, trying to squelch the tightening in her stomach. Lorelai gave them one last scrutinizing look and headed for the door.
"Five minutes—the grandparents just showed up as I was coming up," she said.
"Aha! Your real reason for coming up!" Rory cried as her mother disappeared without another word through the door.
"Finally," Tristan said, moving her back over to the couch to pick up where they left off.
"Tristan," she protested, albeit not strongly, as his hands pulled her hips flush against his before sliding them around to fiddle with the fastener to her skirt.
"Our grandparents are downstairs," she said, as if this was a deterrent.
"So? I can't do, this, knowing they're down there—not to mention everyone I've ever known practically. It's not right. Someone could walk in, like Mom just did," she warned.
"I think it's time we explore another facet of our sexual escapades," he informed her before kissing her hard, using his tongue to stroke her palate until she was not only unable to protest, but she couldn't remember why she ever would have wanted to in the first place. She lost her balance, tumbling against the couch and taking him along with her. She giggled as his hand slipped up under her shirt, tickling her stomach. He looked into her eyes, reveling in how they glistened in the half-lit room.
"You haven't mentioned the fact that you haven't gotten a Christmas present," he whispered.
"Well, I kind of thought the whole you coming back to London because of me was a pretty good present."
He shook his head. "Nope. Not quite good enough."
She looked at him with great curiosity. "Are you saying you got me something else?"
He just smirked.
"Tristan, come on. And it better not be anything too expensive. You'll make my gift look pitiful."
"Hey, I love my present. Though I am curious as to why you bought me pajamas."
"It's the one thing that I knew you didn't have," she smiled, clearly proud of herself. "Now, about my present."
"You know, we should probably get back downstairs. What with you being the guest of honor at this shindig and all."
"Tristan!" she complained as he pried himself off of her and eased toward the door.
"I must say, I've never been to a Congratulations-Welcome Home-Bon Voyage-New Year's Eve Party before."
"You don't really have a present for me, do you?" she countered, following him to the now open door.
"Come downstairs and find out," he teased, turning to jog down the stairs ahead of her.
"So, Rory, how has my grandson been treating you?" Janlan asked as she stood with him and Richard, each nursing a drink.
"Well, currently he's teasing me with a non-existent present, but other than that, I can't really complain. He's excited about working for the London branch of your offices this semester."
"Taunting you with a gift? Why ever would he do such a thing?" Richard asked.
"He's a smartass," Janlan supplied.
"Ah, he takes after you," Richard chuckled, causing Janlan to raise his glass in accord.
Rory giggled at the men's behavior, enjoying seeing her grandfather around his cohort. Tristan joined them as she continued to watch them carry on. "What're we talking about?"
"Your withholding of my gift," she said.
"Patience, my dear, patience. It's all about the timing."
"Hey, I'm patient. I just don't appreciate you holding out on me. Maybe I won't tell you what I just found out."
He looked at her now instead of looking around for the infamous pairs of grabby hands that he'd just escaped from again. "News?"
"I got an email from Dan earlier today."
"No kidding? What did he end up doing?"
Tristan was referring to the major decision the end of the semester had left him with. It was the second term of his year-long commitment, and he was scheduled to head back to the University of Chicago next semester. Elisa, however, was scheduled to head back to Montana, where her school and ex-boyfriend awaited her. It'd been the latter and the fact that Elisa wasn't so good at the long distance thing that worried him. Dan and Elisa had been inseparable since she officially broke it off with her long-distance relationship, and they'd agreed to stay together no matter what. Dan had been freaking out for the last two weeks before they left, unsure what he was going to do. Tristan had been more than relieved to have gone through the same drama with Rory so much earlier on. They'd been able to relax and enjoy the rest of their semester, worrying only about final exams at the end of the year.
Rory smiled. "He went to Montana."
"I told you," he said.
"And I will make good on our bet."
"Your bet?" Janlan asked.
Rory sighed. "I thought he'd go back to Chicago, and Tristan said he'd buckle and follow Elisa. We argued for a bit, and then decided that whoever was wrong would be the other's slave for a day."
"Week," Tristan corrected.
"Day," she said, turning to face him.
"Week," he insisted, moving in closer to her.
"Okay, we get it, you two like to fight and make up. Save it, 'cause no one here wants to see you make up quite so publicly," Lorelai came up behind them, leaning over the counter.
"Lorelai, there you are. Your mother was looking for you," Richard announced.
"How nice," she smiled, immediately ducking back into the store room to avoid her mother for a while longer. She was in no mood to talk about the appropriateness of a diner for this occasion. She didn't care that it was a beloved fixture of her and Rory's lives, and the one place aside from the house that Rory had missed the most during her time away.
Richard sighed, and Tristan gave Rory a squeeze around her waist. No one paid attention to the jingle above the door—so many people had been coming and going all night, it'd been long since drowned out by the boisterous conversations of the crowd of well-wishers and punch-drunk party-goers.
But it didn't go unnoticed when Jara DuGrey stopped next to Janlan and smiled at her son and his girlfriend. Janlan set his glass down on the counter, and put his arm around his daughter-in-law.
"Jara, this is a surprise," he said, unable to process what her being at the party meant.
"Mom, what are you doing here?"
"My, Tristan, I would chastise you for speaking to your mother in such a way, but I can't say as I can reprimand you, given, well, everything," she nodded. "I've left your father."
Rory felt Tristan lean back, and she repositioned herself to lend more support for him with her arm that was currently around his waist. "What?"
"I knew when you two were in Paris—after I cornered Rory like I did—how insane this was. I'm so sorry, dear, for doing that to you. I didn't know what else to do. I could tell Tristan was serious about you, but he didn't want to introduce you to us, I realized that I was never going to be a part of my son's life if I didn't do something. About a month ago, the FBI came to me, and asked me provide some information from the business. I knew it was my out, and so, I took it."
Tristan and Janlan didn't look nearly as shocked at Rory and Richard did. "So, wait, he's--," Rory sputtered.
"Going to jail," Tristan said unaffectedly.
"You did the right thing, dear," Janlan slid his arm around her shoulders, as she let a few tears escape.
"I know I shouldn't cry. It's better this way. I only hope that it's not too late. For us, I mean," she said, looking at her son.
"No, Mom, no," he said, stepping forward to hug his mother.
"Good. And now that you'll be back in the area," she began, but he shook his head.
"Actually, I won't be. I'm going back to London for a few months. In fact, that's something I would like to talk about," he announced, stepping up on a stool and letting out a whistle using his fingers in his mouth. The diner grew quiet, and everyone turned to look at him—even Lorelai stuck her head out from the store room, though it meant her cover begin blown.
"Tristan, get down," Rory admonished him. "Luke'll kill you!"
"I don't think so," he smiled, looking from her to Luke and Lorelai, who both smiled back at him, further confusing Rory.
"Now that I have everyone's attention, I just wanted to say congratulations to Rory, for schmoozing her boss into bumping her into an extended and now paid internship at the BBC," he said loudly, causing everyone to break into applause. Rory blushed, as per usual at any public outpouring of admiration. "Though I must say, it threw a major wrench in my plans. I was fully planning on coming back and transferring to Yale so we could be together from here on out."
"With her going back to London, I've decided to go back as well. But the idea of living apart again really didn't appeal to me. So, without further ado, I'd like to present Rory with the first part of her belated Christmas present," he said, pulling a small box out of his pocket.
"What is this?" she whispered as he pulled her up to stand on the stool next to him.
"Open it and find out," he whispered back.
She did so without further hesitation, and pulled up a key ring with two keys on it. She looked to Tristan. "What's this?"
"The keys to our flat."
"I found a place for us. No more dorm for you, no sad little bachelor apartment for me."
Rory threw her arms around his neck, almost knocking them off their stools. Luke lunged forward, at the ready to steady them, but Tristan shifted his weight to avert danger.
"Aw, just what every mother dreams of. My little girl is moving thousands of miles away and in with a man who can't keep his grubby paws off her," Lorelai mocked wiping a tear from her eyes, causing a ripple of laughter throughout the crowd—though she heard a distinctive "Really, Lorelai," that sounded suspiciously like her mother's disapproval.
Tristan hopped down from the stools once Rory let go of his neck, and helped her down as well. "Now, for part two," he smiled at her.
"Tristan, this is more than enough."
"I'll be the judge of that," he corrected her. She stopped protesting as he dropped to one knee in front of her. She wasn't sure whether she should pull him up or kneel with him—it didn't matter because she was too stunned to take command of her muscles at the moment.
"So, I cleared it with your family. And I mean all of your family. Your mom took a bit of convincing, thus the many hours of phone calls that bothered you so much. She sent me on a Monty Pythonesque quest for permission. I talked to your grandparents, your dad, even Luke," he smirked. "And they've all consented to hand you over. If you'll have me," he tightened his grip on her hand, the only way she could tell he was nervous.
"You--," she began, but her tears seemed to stop her. "Really?" her last word was a soft whisper, but the crowd hadn't made a sound, making her question sound much louder than it was.
The room waited as her brain processed the scene.
"You think we're ready? I mean, we still fight over dumb things," she whispered.
"But it's fun making up," he countered.
She smiled in response. He opened up the ring box and she gasped. "Wow."
"Is that a yes?" he waited in now a substantial amount of anticipation.
"Okay, now I'm proud. She waited to see the goods before answering. My baby's all grown up," Lorelai lessened her grip on Luke to move around and hug her daughter first, before the throngs of people around her had the opportunity.
"I can't believe this was what you were plotting all this time—you knew and you didn't tell me," she shook her head in amazement, looking down at the ring that Tristan had just slipped on her finger.
"I only consented to this because he was so willing to play along with my evil plots," Lorelai smiled. "I like him, he's fun."
"Uh-oh," Rory groaned. "I'm not sure I like you being so chummy with him."
"Hey, if you're going to be in London longer, I'm going to need someone there to be my spy. At least until this one's out and on its own," she patted her stomach.
"Mom," Rory groaned as her mother pulled her back in for one more smothering hug.
"Just tell me one more thing. Was this whole studying abroad thing worth it? Was it everything you were hoping it to be?"
Tristan rejoined the pair, after shaking every hand in the joint and being pulled into the most lewd hug he'd ever been a part of, courtesy of Ms. Patty, and slipped an arm back around his fiancée.
"Everything and more," she nodded, snuggling into Tristan's side as they stood in the middle of their families and loads of townspeople, ready to help them celebrate their new commitment and their impending re-departure.
Final AN: Thank you to everyone who reviewed—you guys blew me away at your response to this story. I'm glad you enjoyed it so much. I won't be promising a sequel, as some of you have been asking for, but I never rule them out. That's all I'll say. That, and I hope you enjoyed this ending.