Disclaimer: I don't own Gilmore Girls.
A/N: One small thing…I changed their age in this story, just to fit with my idea for this chapter. They were in junior year before, but I changed it so that they are now in senior year! Okay, read on…
Chapter Twenty-Two: Showtime
Chapter Twenty-One Recap:
"I'm with you on this, you know?" he asked, smiling at the surprise in her eyes. "I can't keep ignoring what my father has done, what he will do. I just hope it doesn't end too badly..."
"Either way, there is one benefit about you going up against your dad," she whispered, hoping her teasing voice will help ease the tension she could feel in him.
"Which is?" His voice was low and husky as he stared at her lips, instinctively licking his own.
"You get me."
An invisible line separated them.
A line two feet thick and four feet long…the coffee table…
And yet it was impossible to pass.
Rory smiled briefly, she could see how uncomfortable he was. He was on the line, in-between his father and her family. It was only fair.
The silence was broken as their maid walked into the room, a silver tray balanced on her hand. She set down the coffee tray and excused herself, every pair of eyes on her.
"So," Arthur Dugrey drawled, "now that the forced pleasantries are over."
Christopher's smile was tight, practised. "I think you know why we invited you over."
"Actually," Arthur started, fingers scratching at the stubble on his chin. "I'm not exactly sure why. We both know you have no business to conduct with me anymore…well because you don't have a business anymore."
It was a subtle shift, but his leg brushed against hers and Rory was sure Tristin had moved in her direction. She let her expression soften, studying him closely for a moment. She wanted to make sure this wasn't going to be too much for him.
"I wouldn't be so sure of that," Christopher told him and the family, including Tristin, kept their faces neutral. "You don't think we've ever been through this before? That no one has ever tried to bury the business? Of course they have. We're a big company, one of the richest on the Eastern Seaboard. They would be stupid not to come after us. But we'd be stupid not to prepare ourselves for the attack."
"What are you saying, Mr. Hayden?"
"What makes you think you've succeeded where others have merely failed?"
"You're bankrupt," Arthur stated, but Rory could see the fire in his eyes and the slight tick in his jaw.
"It's easy to appear bankrupt. No one comes after you if they don't think you have any money."
It was easy to see that Chris's words were getting to Arthur. His head ducked down, to the side, his feet coming off the ground only an inch, but they still moved.
"This doesn't have to escalate to anything. You back down, we back down. Everyone just moves on. No one gets hurt, no companies flounder. We don't want a huge trial, that kind of exposure isn't so good."
Rory couldn't stop the smirk that stretched onto her lips. Tristin had told her about that. His dad didn't want to risk a public trial; of course people would speculate how he'd driven the Hayden Company bankrupt. With that circulating around the newspapers and television, others might come forward, companies from the past. His dad could lose everything; he could be arrested if anyone pressed charges. She knew her dad had him, whether Mr. Dugrey let on to it or not.
"Are you threatening me?" Arthur asked, eyes narrowed and jaw clenched, his face flushing red with suppressed anger.
"You already have threatened my family and my company," Chris shot back but he remained calm.
"You couldn't pay for a trial, you wouldn't survive it," Arthur said, though he didn't sound anywhere as confident as before.
Chris shrugged. "That's only if we're truly bankrupt. Can you be sure of that?"
Arthur opened his mouth, grunted tersely and then shot to his feet. "I know what you're trying to do!"
"Do you?" Chris asked and Rory exchanged a look with her sister as she noticed the vein in Arthur's neck grow.
Arthur was silent as he stood before everyone and then he shook his head. "Tristin?" he asked. The blonde in question raised an eyebrow, but his jaw was locked tight. "Fine," Arthur stated and stalked to the door.
Everyone finally relaxed, their faces softening, and looked from the entry into the foyer to Chris.
"Did we win?" Lilly asked after a minute and she and Rory laughed.
Chris smiled. "I think…yes. Not that this is something I would consider 'winning' but…"
"What's going to happen to him?" Rory asked, looking from a silent Tristin to her dad.
"I assume, if he's smart, he'll leave us alone." Christopher shrugged, leaning forward, elbows on his knees. "As for whether or not he stops altogether, we can't know for sure."
"I can make sure," Tristin suddenly cut in. Five pair of eyes turned to him, curious and slightly surprised. "I mean, I live with him. I can see if he'll stop."
Rory smiled, reached across and laid her hand on his outstretched arm. She couldn't believe how everything had worked out. Their relationship seemed stronger now then ever; even after the short 'break' they'd taken. She wasn't sure what was going to happen in the future, with her families company and Tristin's dad…But she was more than sure that they'd make it through.
"That's not necessary, Tristin," Lorelai said and Rory turned to face her. She still wasn't sure whether or not her mom was okay with their relationship. "You've already done more than enough, supporting our family and being there for Rory."
Rory and Lilly exchanged surprised looks and then both smiled. Rory was happy she had her parents consent, not that it would have stopped her from being with Tristin, but it was something she wanted to have.
"Thanks mom," Rory told her, smiling wide.
"Umm," Billy started and pushed himself to his feet, gathering everyone's attention. "Not to rain on everyone's parade or anything, but what are we going to do?"
They were all silent, all contemplating. What were they going to do? They had the family's money, of course. But they'd have to rebuild the business, start from scratch again. They couldn't rebuild the entire company without information getting leaked to the press. It would be impossible. And once word got around that they were rebuilding, Arthur Dugrey would be furious that they'd fooled him.
Suddenly Lorelai smirked, raising her hand into the air like she was answering a question in school. "I have an idea…" she trailed off.
- - -
Rory was without a doubt, one hundred percent sure, that someone up and above was pretty fond of her.
Not only was she returning to her last semester at Chilton but she was looking forward to spending every class with all her friends, as they'd managed to get the same schedules.
Or maybe it was the fact that she was pulling into the students' parking lot with her shiny, new 1977 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am. Her beautiful black car was a gift, courtesy of her parents for Christmas.
"I can't believe this is the car you wanted," Tristin whined as she met up with him outside Chilton.
Rory rolled her eyes, leaning in to kiss his cheek briefly. "Stop making fun, he can hear you," she teased.
"You mean 'she'," he corrected, laughing at her confused look. "Every car is a girl, Mary," he explained, steering her towards the picnic table where their friends were sitting.
"Rory!" Maddy cried and jumped to hug the brunette. "I feel like we've lost touch!" she complained.
Rory laughed, embracing the girl. "We've talked like every night since school let out," she told her.
"Plus, we all slept over at her house for the weekend," Nikki added as she covered her eyes with her gloved hand, blocking the sun. "I gotta say, Hayden, that car is sweet."
"Ooh! I know! I'm in love with it," Rory gushed, smirking at Tristin when he groaned and sat down beside Blake, the two of them doing some manly handshake.
"So, Rory, your family's famous again," another voice cut in and Rory turned to see Matt standing behind her, holding up a newspaper.
"Business Mogul, Christopher Hayden, Began Preparation For New Company, 'The Music Hall', On…"
Rory smiled at the bolded headline, pride rushing through her as she thought over how hard her parents had worked over the last three weeks. It had been Lorelai's idea, but it attached itself fairly quickly. They'd all loved it, especially Billy as he had his own band.
'The Music Hall' was their new company, a huge company. Rory wasn't even sure herself all the opportunities it presented. She knew it worked with producers, agents, songwriters, recording technicians, and even "roadies". The company also welcomed instrument manufacturers and publishers.
She'd even convinced her dad to take a special interest in more independent musicians. They were going to create jazz halls, dance studios, clubs. He was going to lend a hand to individuals who loved music, like her brother's band and other garage bands.
Rory had never seen her dad so dedicated before. Music was his passion, it always had been. And she knew Lorelai would be right there with him, as would the whole family. She knew it wasn't a conventional move; there were already many sceptics in Hartford. The Hayden's had been known for their publishing group, they were entitlement at it's finest…
Well, maybe the elder generations of Hayden's. To Rory, this new company was what had been missing in her dad's life. It was different, sure, but finally it was her dad doing what he loved. And she couldn't be more proud.
"Your dad is so cool!" Maddy exclaimed, grabbing the paper and skimming through the front page article. "Like seriously, my dad doesn't even come close to this."
"Looks like someone never got over their childhood crush," Lilly's voice broke through the crowd and Rory turned around, quickly enveloping her sister in a huge hug. "Hey you!"
"I missed you," Rory grumbled, picking at her sister's coat. "This is new," she stated, walking around Lilly and admiring the wool jacket.
"And it only took two seconds to turn the attention from me, to shopping!" Lilly exclaimed dramatically.
Rory rolled her eyes. "What took you so long?" she asked, hugging Blake hello to, before she sat beside Tristin. "We got here like ten minutes ago."
"Well not everyone got a speedy new car for Christmas."
"Mom and dad let you go to London with Blake, for a week."
Everyone laughed at their banter. They all crowded around the picnic table, waiting until first period would start and longing, already, for this semester to be over. They would be graduating this year, going off to university or whatnot.
Rory couldn't believe that it was so close to being over. High school, their lives as they knew them now. They'd all talked about it, what was going to happen after high school. The twins were destined for not only Ivy League, like all the others, but for either Yale or Oxford. Tristin and Blake were Yale bound. Maddy and Jaimie would be going to Princeton. Nikki was going to Harvard, along with Matt.
They were splitting up, separating off into couples. They would stay in touch, though. They had to.
Rory looked across the table, catching Lilly's eye and they smiled at each other. So much had happened in such a short time. Rory and Lilly had gone through a lifetime of changes. They'd fallen in love, got broken hearts, made new friends. Their family was fighting tooth and nail through a corporate bankruptcy and the founding of their new company.
But it wasn't just the twins anymore. It was even Rory, Lilly, Maddy and Nikki anymore. It was the gang. It was all of them.
It was Rory and Tristin, Lilly and Blake, Maddy and Jaimie, and, Nikki and Matt.
They were new neighbours. Already are old friends. And will become Hartford's future.
And they were in it together.
- - -
- - -
A/N: Wow! I can't believe I actually finished this story! This was the first story I ever wrote…it's sad to be done!
I am sorry it took so long for this to get out though. Life's been hectic lately. My sister moved to Alberta, I started junior year and got a new job, so I haven't had time to update.
I hope everyone likes this chapter and the story all together. I want to thank everyone who reviewed and stuck with me through it all! You guys are so amazing!
Thanks for reading!