Final AN: So, this is it—the epilogue to Peer Pressure. It's a slight time jump, to show how all the characters have fared. Thanks to everyone who read and reviewed this and all the other WHW stories. I've loved writing them, with all the show characters and those I created, along with much help from rosie4299. K—I'm sorry you aren't related to Lorelai, but you still fared pretty well, I think. Besides, you have Finn, so what more can you ever really ask for?
There was no response for a beat, and then a little giggle sounded. Ambrose stopped and turned toward the sound, for effect mostly, as he knew where the little boy was hiding. They'd been doing this for two hours, and there were only so many places to hide.
"Jack Kerouac Mariano? Come out, come out wherever you are," Ambrose tried again, soliciting more giggles and a smile from Lorelai, who was typing on the computer behind the check-in desk.
"Hmmm. I don't see him, and I've looked everywhere. I guess he ran off to join the circus," he announced loudly, provoking yet another round of giggles.
"Did you lose that kid again?" Jules asked, coming in the front door to the Dragonfly Inn, her head cocked at her older brother.
He held a finger to his lips, now creeping closer toward the front desk quietly.
"Hey, Lorelai," Jules said, dropping her bag and moving to hug the woman who had been surveying the game of hide and seek for the last half hour as she tended to business.
"Hey, Sweetie. How was the drive?"
"Not bad. Lia drove; she just dropped me off here first before checking in at home. Is Dad around?"
Lorelai shook her head. "He and Gwen went ahead to help set up the dinner at Luke's."
"Only Ella would want her rehearsal dinner at Luke's," she shook her head with a smile.
"Gotcha!" Ambrose said as he pounced around the back of the reservation desk, where Jack was crammed into a small cubby. The little boy squealed and took off for the stairs.
"Count again!" he yelled as he disappeared.
Ambrose slumped down on the floor against the back wall. "That kid needs medication."
Lorelai laughed. "You were worse," she said knowingly. "I'd say you turned out fine, but apparently a five year old has the ability to best you after a couple of hours."
"I'll go this time," Jules offered, grabbing her bags. "Which room am I in?" she asked.
"Ten. Oh, hey, we need to be at the diner in one hour. Try to wrangle Jack into the clothes Gwen set out in room eight," she called.
"Will do," Jules waved her hand as she disappeared up the stairs.
Lorelai looked down at Ambrose. "Should I just get a sleeping bag for you?"
He rolled his eyes. "Leave me alone. I haven't slept in two days, and the second I showed up here, I was accosted by the Jack Jack Attack," he moaned.
She nudged him with her shoe. "So go upstairs. You can manage a little rest. Why haven't you been sleeping?"
"Work," he sighed. "My boss is sadistic. He has me going in five different directions, none of which he's sure he really needs, and by the time I'm done, I don't know what the hell I was doing, but 36 hours have passed," he yawned.
"Sounds a lot like dealing with Jack," she giggled. "It's just the life of an intern. You'll get promoted before you know it, if they're working you that hard. You might even get your own cubicle," she nodded encouragingly.
"Or I might get told, 'sorry, kid, we have someone with more experience waiting for the opening,'" he grumbled.
"But you love it, right?"
He nodded. "Yeah. It doesn't leave much time for anything else, but it's exciting. Just to be in the building, it's exciting."
She smiled and extended her hand. "Come on, get up. Go to your room, take a nap, and I'll send Jack in to jump on you when it's time to go."
He allowed her to help pull him up and smiled at her. "I never believed all those things Dad told me about you."
She shook her head. "Hey, you're old enough now, if you really want me to tell tales on your Dad from back in the day," she countered.
He yawned. "Maybe later."
She patted his back and watched as he retreated up the staircase. She heard more giggling and small feet scurrying overhead, somewhere on the second floor. There was an extra spring in her step—it'd been a long time since the entire family had convened on Stars Hollow. It was made even better by the fact that her one and only granddaughter (so far) was getting married and had chosen her favorite childhood destination to hold the ceremony.
Lorelai picked up the phone and dialed Luke's. She waited through three rings, and just after the fourth it was snatched from the receiver.
"We're closed," came the gruff voice, the one that still made her smile.
"I have it on good authority you're open for a private party tonight," she corrected.
"Hey. Are you coming over soon?" Luke asked, his tone instantly brightening.
"Soon. Is Rory there yet?"
"No. Hasn't she checked in there yet?"
Lorelai sighed and looked at her watch. "No. She called this morning and said everything was set, and they would be in on time."
"Well, it's not like she's going to miss her own daughter's wedding."
"It's just not like her to be late," she began, but her attention was drawn to a car pulling up to the front of the Inn. "Gotta go. I think that's them."
"Good. See you soon."
Lorelai tossed the phone onto the desk and hurried to the front door to open it. She was beaming as she waited for the car to be turned off and two doors opened.
"The parents of the bride!" she announced.
Rory gave a troubled smile. "Please don't remind me. I'm a wreck."
Lorelai frowned and looked at Tristan. "Why is she a wreck?"
He rolled his eyes. "She's insane. Don't listen to her," he said as he gave his mother-in-law a quick hug on his way to the door.
Rory put one hand on her hip. "I'm not crazy. She's my baby. She's too young to get married," she protested.
"Hah! She's older than you were when you married this one," Lorelai said as she pointed to Tristan.
"Really? After all these years, I'm 'this one'?" he inquired.
"Shh. I'm not talking to you," Lorelai dismissed him playfully.
"You don't need me for this conversation. I'll just put our bags in our room," he said, not so much for their benefit, but just to make his escape.
Lorelai moved to her daughter. Rory shrugged. "Tristan thinks I'm having a mid-life crisis."
"Because you're a little weepy over your daughter getting married?"
"Jake didn't come home last summer. He's living in an apartment near campus and working when he's not in classes," she sighed. "My babies are all gone. It's just us in the house now. Their rooms are practically empty."
"That's what this is about? Your house is devoid of kids? I thought you two would love that!"
Rory frowned. "Why? I miss them!"
"Yes, I know you miss them, but it's you two. I thought you'd be naked 24/7 and reliving your early years."
Rory blushed. "Mom! Ew."
"What? You're the ones always sneaking off and canoodling."
"I know, but I didn't know that's how you thought of us. I don't want my mother to think of us frolicking around naked."
Lorelai frowned. "I wasn't… I didn't mean… so, why aren't you happy again?"
"I'm happy. I mean, we are enjoying our newfound alone time. But when Tristan's at work and I'm home, at night, it's so quiet. I thought I'd get used to it, but I miss Jake watching TV too loud while he did his homework and Ella talking on the phone all hours of the night. It was background noise, it was my life. And now she's getting married, and it's hitting me that she's not going to move back in just to hang out with me."
"That's so dysfunctionally sweet," Lorelai grabbed her daughter and hugged her. "I know I raised you to be codependent," she soothed. "But Ella is marrying a great guy. You like him, right?"
"Yeah. I do."
"Hell, even Tristan loves him."
Rory sighed. "Yeah. He does."
"He even let him into their poker game," Lorelai reminded her.
"Ella and I went out for martinis with Gwen while they all played last time," she nodded. "No, it's not that I mind her getting married to him. It's just her getting married at all. But she's not nervous or unsure in the least. She's actually being the rock in the situation. She keeps reassuring me that I'll still see her and they aren't moving out of the City," she sighed.
"See? You'll still see her. And you won't have to give up your naked time."
"We're really not naked all that much," she frowned.
"Well, maybe that's where you've gone wrong," Lorelai said, steering her daughter toward the Inn.
"Slow down!" Ambrose called out nearly a city block ahead of them to his younger brother, who was zooming along at lightning speed.
"Maybe you should speed up," Jules said, mocking him.
"You catch up with him. I dare you," he countered.
"Hey, I got him dressed. In a tie."
"It's a clip on."
"Still. Do you think he wanted to wear a tie?"
Ambrose smiled. "I have imparted some of my wisdom to him. Fine. Paper, rock, scissors for who tackles the munchkin," he said, and the siblings pounded their hands in the air three times before revealing their choice.
"Hah! Yes!" Jules cried in victory, her rock beating his scissors.
"Fine. Jack!" he called, taking off at top speed to catch the kid before he got any further ahead of them. He just caught him just as they rounded the block. He scooped the kid up and hefted him with ease up onto his shoulders.
"What's the first rule of the street?" he inquired.
"No crossing without a grown up," Jack said with a defeated sigh.
"That's right," Ambrose praised him.
"Are you a grown up?" Jack asked his older brother.
"Yeah, are you?" came a voice from off to his side. Ambrose spun to see Rosa Langley, Ella's college roommate and best friend, approaching him with a big smile on her face.
"Cute kid," she said nodding to the child on his shoulders.
"He knows," Ambrose assured her.
"She's pretty," Jack said.
"She knows," Ambrose said in the same tone as before.
Rosa smiled wider. "I'm Rosa."
"I'm Jack," he said, waving from his brother's shoulders. "He's Ambrose," he finished the introductions.
"I remember," she smiled at Ambrose, raising one eyebrow at him.
"So, you're here for the rehearsal?" he asked.
She held up a bag. "Yeah. I made a stop at the ceramic unicorn shop," she admitted. "Don't tell anyone."
He smiled. "I would have pegged you more for a commemorative spoon junkie."
"This is the best place to indulge crazy collection habits."
"You should see Sookie Melville's frog collection," he informed her.
He nodded. "Jack here can tell you all about frogs, can't you Jack?"
"I'm not supposed to lick them," he said seriously.
"Good advice. I'll remember not to lick frogs. Can I kiss one?" she asked.
Jack thought. "I wouldn't. But I guess as long as you kept your lips shut, it'd be okay."
"Looking for a prince?" Ambrose inquired.
She shrugged. "It's more of a holdover from my fairy-tale days. I always wanted to see a frog turn into a human, royalty or not."
"I always wanted to see someone spontaneously combust," Ambrose raised an eyebrow.
"What's that?" Jack asked.
"Ask Dad later," he instructed with ease, to which Jack simply nodded.
"So, what's it like to have a little brother?"
"More fun now that I'm not living at home," he smiled.
She laughed. "Yeah. Siblings are much easier to deal with when they have a different address than you."
He reached out to open the door, flipped Jack off his shoulders, and shook his head as Jack bounded over to his father.
"Dad, am I going to spontaneously combust?" he asked, which caused Jess, who was now holding the younger child up on his hip, to frown and immediately look at Ambrose in an accusatory manner.
"See?" Ambrose said to Rosa.
"No, Jack, you are not going to spontaneously combust, no matter how fast you run," Jess assured him. "Why don't you go help Mom in the kitchen? She's in charge of the pickles."
"Yay!" Jack yelled and slid down his father, taking off to find his mother.
"He knows too much already as it is," Jess said in a warning tone and moved to shake his older son's hand. "How was your trip?"
"I was on a bus for three hours thanks to a flat tire, trying to sleep with my jacket over my head, but this woman kept yammering in my ear about her cat's Halloween costume. She had pictures, professionally taken ones. Who are these people, and why do we allow them to roam free?"
Jess smirked. "I was once thrown up on by a mime on the bus."
"Why do you people take buses if this is the end result?" Rosa posed.
Ambrose shrugged. "Beats falling asleep behind the wheel. Or paying insurance on something I only use when my family makes me drive to the country."
"Out of New York City doesn't automatically make it the country," Luke said from behind him, coming out to greet his great-nephew. "It just makes it quieter."
"Too much quiet and I fall asleep standing up," Ambrose joked.
"Then maybe you should work less," Luke advised. "How's the internship?"
"Busy. Frustrating. Awesome."
"Internship?" Rosa inquired.
"Uh, Jess, your other son is attempting to climb my stock shelves, in hope of doing a high dive onto the hamburger buns."
"And this is why I got a vasectomy," Jess muttered as he followed his uncle back, leaving Rosa and Ambrose to talk.
"I'm at CNN, in the News Room, doing pretty much anything they bark at me."
"CNN? That's pretty impressive."
Ambrose shrugged, like it wasn't quite a big deal. "You wouldn't say that if you saw my bank account. Aunt Rory called in a favor to get my resume on the guy's desk, and every day I wonder if she did me a favor or not."
"They can't keep you as an intern forever. At least, not if they're smart."
"Yeah, they'll move me up to fact checker any day," he quipped.
"Then maybe you won't have to take the bus," she laughed.
"From now on, it's the train for me," he promised. "So, what about you?"
"Where am I working?" she clarified.
He nodded. He'd had the absent thought that she'd be at this wedding; after all, she and Ella had remained incredibly close since they shared their dorm room at Yale, separate from her connection to the groom. She was the maid of honor and he heard the occasional fact about her through the familial news tract. He'd be lying if he said he wasn't happy to see her. He'd hoped they would have stayed in better contact on their own, but it was easier this way, to remain pleasant acquaintances, especially given the fact that she was never really his.
"I work at an architecture firm in midtown. I design a lot of beach homes," she explained happily.
"I could use one of those," he mused.
"You can't afford my rates," she wiggled her eyebrows at him.
"That doesn't surprise me," he nodded. "Clearly you're the best there is."
"So. You came up on the bus alone?" she asked, a fact he was happy she was the first to delve into.
"I drove my car," she avoided.
"Did you have a passenger?"
She smiled. "No. But someone will be joining me later."
He nodded knowingly. "Then I won't save a dance for you at the reception."
"You dance now?" she asked, her interest peaked.
"With certain girls," he teased.
"You could save me a dance. No one's put a ring on this finger yet," she winked at him.
"See, that just gets my hopes up," he said in a softer tone as he moved to help his sister, who was coming out of the kitchen with a huge platter of French fries.
"Who is that supposed to feed? Napoleon's army?" he asked as he helped her slide it onto the counter.
"Hey, Mom and I could finish that alone if we were properly primed," Rory said as she opened the door to the diner, looking around. "Where is everyone?"
"Aunt Rory?" called a small, though loud, voice.
"Where's my Jack?" she called back.
"Right here!" he yelled, in case she might have difficulty locating him.
"Come here, you," she called, scooping him into her arms. "How would you like to come to an overnight at my house next week?"
Jack's eyes lit up. "Can we have ice cream again?"
She nodded solemnly. "With all the toppings."
"Excuse me; are you also going to be paying for all his dental work?" Jess interrupted the plans for the extended play date.
"Are you saying you don't want a weekend alone with your wife?" Tristan asked, closing the door to the diner.
Jess reconsidered. "Never mind. Ply him with sugar; it's your house he'll destroy."
"You should really thank Ella," Tristan advised his friend. "Rory's just missing having kids around."
"So she's planning on using my child as a replacement to fill some void in her life?" Jess concluded.
"Pretty much," Tristan nodded.
"Not that I don't appreciate free babysitting," Jess cleared his throat, "But I think I have a better solution to her problem."
Tristan perked up. "You can get her out of the empty nest funk and back to normal?"
Jess shrugged. "Normal is a tricky and relative term. I'm suggesting something to get her to see how good she really has it. You know, as someone who had another thirteen years to go before I can enjoy a quiet house for any prolonged period of time."
Rory swung Jack, who was still holding on and had his legs wrapped around her waist, to face her husband. "Since when do you take relationship advice from Jess? Besides, I told you, I am happy that the kids are out in the world, fully independent and happy."
Jess raised an eyebrow. "You called me crying because you found an old sneaker of Jake's in the garage last week."
"I was crying because I tripped over it and sprained my ankle."
"Mmm-hmmm," he shook his head. "As for your husband taking my advice, I believe you enjoyed your last anniversary trip, right?"
Rory looked from Jess to Tristan and back. "That was your idea?"
Jess smirked and Tristan looked sheepish. "He mentioned that he heard about the place, and he didn't really have time to take off and be away from Jack that long, so I checked it out, and thought you'd love it," Tristan admitted.
Rory nodded, still eying her husband. "Come on, Jack, let's go check out the pie. Do you like pie?"
"No, Aunt Rory, I LOVE pie!" he bounced up and down in her arms, nearly causing her to drop him, as they headed back to the kitchen.
"So, what do you suggest?" Tristan asked the moment his wife was out of earshot.
Jess smirked. "I have one word for you. Honeymoon."
Tristan frowned. "We already had one."
Jess nodded. "Exactly. Think back to your honeymoon. Before the kids. You spent all the years following trying to be rid of the kids for long enough to enjoy fractions of evenings spent the same way you spent your honeymoon. Jumpstart her memory—take her back and remind her."
Tristan smiled. "Why didn't I think of that?"
Jess sighed. "Maybe it helps to have daydreams about wanting to do these things," he glanced at Gwen, coming out of the kitchen with yet another plate of food, who gave him a smile. He smiled back. "Besides, you can repay these favors by taking Jack every now and then and letting us enjoy our own empty nest."
"Happy to oblige, man. Hey, shouldn't Ella be here by now? We need to get this thing going," he checked his watch.
"She's just enjoying a pre-wedding present. She'll be here shortly," Rosa said knowingly, munching on a French fry.
"Pre-wedding present?" Rory asked, coming out with food, without her little friend.
Rosa nodded. "Her groom decided on an array of gifts, leading up to the big day; for the last six days he's made sure she had something to either brighten her day or take her mind off of the planning stress, making sure she knows he's excited about this. They took a mini-trip last weekend to the Poconos, he's had flowers delivered daily; he has her booked for full pampering at a spa in Hartford today. Her massage was scheduled for two hours ago, so she should be here soon, if she didn't just melt into the table."
"Geez, some one's slightly whipped," Ambrose muttered.
"You should see what he bought to surprise her with after the rehearsal," Rosa advised.
"A gold platter to keep his balls in?" he mused, which earned him a warning look from several women.
"So, where's he at?" Tristan asked.
"It was a couple's massage. He's with her," Rosa assured.
"And the rest of the boys?" Rory asked.
"Don't worry, they'll be here. Everyone else is coming in a limo, from the city. I had to finish up some work at a job site up north, so I came down in my own car alone."
"It's good to see you," Rory hugged her. "I seriously hope they're paying you your worth," Rory praised her.
"They are. I'm not a project manager yet, but I'm busy. It's nice to do something I love."
"Hey, am I late?" Jake asked, opening the diner door to see his parents, friends, and family all finishing setting up his sister's rehearsal dinner. "Why are we doing this before the rehearsal again?"
Rory hugged her son, now just taller than his father, and held him at arms' length. "Your sister decided to have a candle-light ceremony, which means we're doing it at night, so we're going to practice to make sure we'll be able to see and that we won't catch anything on fire."
"Yes, if we can avoid burning down the Inn, I know I'd be happier," Lorelai mused. "How's school, kid?"
He shrugged. "It's fine. I'm taking eighteen credit hours again, so I'm sort of buried under books most of the time," he admitted.
"You don't need to finish this year," Rory reminded him, not for the first time. "You're double majoring at Columbia. There is no shame in going five years, especially if attempting it in four gives you a nervous breakdown."
He smiled at his mom. "I'm not going to collapse, Mom. I like keeping busy. So, where's Ella? Shouldn't she be here for her own wedding stuff?"
"She's getting a massage with The Super Groom," Jules informed him, handing him a fry from her stack.
"Thanks. Hey, I have those books you lent me out in my car," he offered.
She nodded, and they made for the door. Tristan eyed the pair and turned to Rory. "I thought he just said he was buried under books. He's borrowing extra from Jules to read?"
Rory shrugged, distracted. "I always had four extra books going when I was in school. I manage three non-work related books now," she informed him.
"He's been too busy to meet up with me for a month," he said, still looking at his son through the plate-glass windows.
"He's a senior at Columbia. He's taking an insane number of classes, trying to have a personal life, and looking at what he's going to do next year. Of course he's busy."
Tristan shrugged. "I guess you're right."
Rory smirked. "Now who's having trouble letting go of the kids?"
"All right, food's done. Where's the bride and groom?" Luke asked, the last to come out of the kitchen.
"Where's the rest of the dessert? All I see is your peach pie," Lorelai frowned.
"I don't know. I was just in charge of the one pie, for Ella. Sookie said the rest of it would be here. But since the bride and groom haven't shown up yet," he shrugged.
Jess looked out the window to see two limousines pull up and park, a sight he'd never seen in Stars Hollow, even at prom time. "I think the bride and groom and the future in-laws are here," he informed the group.
"You're late!" Rosa cried as she raced outside to the car and threw her arms around her brother, who stepped out of the first limo.
"Like you could start without us," he said, hugging her back before holding his hand out to help his companion out of the car.
"Do I have to move?" Ella nearly purred from her curled up position in the seat.
"I guess if you really want to nap and miss the burgers you had to have," he said, ducking his head back into the car.
"Are you crazy? Do you know how long it's been since I've had a Luke's burger?" she asked, nearly knocking him down as she escaped the car.
"Yes. Two months ago, when you came to go over details with your grandmother and roped me into sitting in the dunk tank at that weird summer festival they were having," he raised an eyebrow.
"Mom!" Rosa smiled as her mother got out of the other car. Miel Langley stepped out of the car and hugged her daughter tightly.
"You beat us! I told you we were going to be late!" she called into the car, as more people began to get out. Colin, her husband, was next, and he too hugged his daughter.
"It's not like it was my fault. You told me in no certain terms was I to hold up anything this weekend, and if I wasn't on best behavior you'd sell all my clothes on eBay and donate my car to the Salvation Army."
"I wonder if the Salvation Army has ever been gifted a Porsche?" Rosa asked.
"I just want everything to be perfect, and here we're making a bad impression on Ella's family," she frowned and stepped in front of her son. "Though I guess this does mean we owe your father seven hundred dollars."
Greyson frowned. "Seven hundred dollars? Just exactly was the bet?"
Colin smirked at his son. "She said you wouldn't get married before she died."
"And you bet I would?"
"Not until you brought her home the first time," Colin acquiesced, smiling at his son's fiancé.
"The pot wouldn't have been so big if we all didn't think it was a sucker's bet," Katherine Wellington sighed, taking out her purse and handing over her wad of cash to Colin. "I mean, seriously. I actually had that you'd never get married."
Grey looked at Ella. "Wow. The confidence, it's overwhelming."
Ella slipped an arm through his. "No offense, but even you wouldn't have taken those odds."
Grey rolled his eyes. "What about you?" he asked his sister.
"I'm in for fifty. I bet that you would only marry her if Mom made you, in a shotgun sort of scenario."
"I need a drink," Grey shook his head.
"No booze in there," Rosa put her hand on her brother's shoulder. "It's a diner; no liquor license."
"It's Luke's only downfall," Ella agreed.
"Luckily, your best men are here to save the day," Jasper said, standing next to his parents, holding up a flask.
"I knew you two had a function," Grey smirked and held the door open for his sister, fiancé, and mother.
Logan stepped out of the limo after his son, holding his hand out to his wife. "I have one too, if you are so inclined," he said, tapping his jacket's inner pocket.
Amy shook her head. "I've heard nothing for years except how amazing the coffee here is. You think I want to taint the experience with alcohol?" she asked, horrified.
He smiled. "I brought Baileys. Thought that by the end of this, you might like to take your coffee Irish," he offered.
"And that's why I keep you around," she smiled, taking his hand and following the rest of the group into the diner.
"Can I have six?"
"No way, Jose," Dave shook his head, still pushing the cart of trays down the street. He had one of many, and he was leading a trail of his family members, being closely tailed by his son, desperate to be given free range with his uncle's cupcakes.
"My name isn't Jose, it's Ryan," he frowned, still keeping pace with the rolling treats.
"My mistake. Jose is your evil twin," Dave joked.
"You can have one, after dinner," Mallory said in her mommy voice of authority. "If you're well behaved."
"And Grandma isn't allowed to supplement that number," Dave warned his mother.
"What about Aunt Lorelai?" Ryan asked knowingly.
Dave gave his son a stern look. "Jack will be there. You'll have someone to play with."
"And eat cupcakes with!" Ryan reminded.
"One!" his parents corrected at the same time.
"You know, he wouldn't get so excited if he had a cousin that lived closer to play with," Sookie pointed out to her daughter Anna, each rolling their own cart loaded with cupcakes up to the sidewalk outside of Luke's.
"Smooth, Mom. Seriously, you're getting more and more subtle every day," Anna rolled her eyes. "Besides, I think his three siblings are plenty of playmates."
"I thought the uncontrollable crying and squeaking noises on your voicemail the other day was quite understated," Will offered. "We're thinking about it, Sookie, I promise."
"Thinking about it?" Sookie perked up.
Anna and Will exchanged a glance. "It's something we've began discussing."
"Hey, if 'discussing' is some sort of code for sex, I really don't want to be stuck out here on the sidewalk having to listen to it," Lia complained.
Anna rolled her eyes. "We're not in a hurry."
"So, what, you're in the tantric stuff?" Billy posed.
"La-la-la-la-la!" Lia put her hands over her ears. "If not for me, think of the child," she nodded toward her oldest nephew.
"Daddy said sex is what mommies and daddies do because they love each other. You're not a daddy, you're an uncle," Ryan informed Will.
"And I love being your uncle, buddy," he said, "Can you open the door for us?"
Ryan ran ahead and opened the door to the diner, running right over to Jack.
"Can we play upstairs?" Jack asked his dad.
"Sure. I'll call you when it's time to eat, okay?"
"Come on, Ryan!" Jack yelled and took off for the stairs.
"Hey, slow down!" Luke called after the boys, to no avail. "I assume you gave them permission to go play in my office," he sighed at Jess.
"It was either that or watch them eat five hundred cupcakes in thirty seconds," he said, pointing to the carts lined up outside.
Luke's eyes widened as he approached Sookie and her entourage. "You said cupcakes for the rehearsal. What are we rehearsing, Henry the VIII?"
"Billy and Jane had a fight, and he wouldn't leave the kitchen," Dave said knowingly.
"Maybe we can make centerpieces out of them," Sookie offered.
"And what will we do with the other 300?" Luke posed.
"Just get in here, already," Lorelai said, "Wait, aren't we missing three children?"
"Grandpa is babysitting," Sookie giggled.
"And you expect all three kids to be accounted for at the end of the night?" Lorelai asked, only half seriously.
"Honestly, at this rate, losing one wouldn't be the worst thing in the world," Dave joked, earning a poke from his wife's elbow in the ribs. "Ouch! Kidding, just kidding!"
"Regardless of the fate of your other three children, all those carts aren't going to fit in here, and I'd like to point out that you can't reheat French fries. Can we just leave these out here and get on with the rehearsal dinner?" Luke suggested.
"Look, I hate cold French fries as much as the next person, but we can't leave this many cupcakes out on the street. Kirk will come by and set up a table and sell them to passersby, claiming finders' keepers again," Billy frowned.
Ella poked her head out of the door, slipping her arm around her grandmother's shoulders. "Hey, Cupcake boy, park the carts and get in here. Your love life and compulsive baking aren't going to throw my wedding schedule off!"
"Spoken like her mother's daughter," Lorelai said.
"Whoa, what's with all the cupcakes?" Jake asked as he and Jules rounded the corner back to the diner.
"Where have you two been?" Ella inquired, eyebrow raised.
"I had some of his books," Jules answered, frowning at Jake as he shook his head at her. He looked to his sister and smiled.
"Are we ready to eat?" he deflected.
"Why are you acting weird?" Ella asked her brother as everyone else filed into the diner, to join the rest of the waiting crowd.
"I'm not acting weird," he assured her. "You're the one obsessed with taper length and RSVPs."
"I'm getting married. Those details have to be dealt with. And you're the one that didn't indicate if you were bringing a date or not."
He shrugged. "Does it really matter if I have a date or not?"
Ella rolled her eyes. "It does if you want her to eat. I can't reserve food for someone who doesn't exist," she countered.
"Okay, siblings, separate corners," Jules stepped between them. "Ella, you're the bride, and therefore you're right. Jake, don't aggravate her, it's her wedding."
"Wedding rehearsal," he pointed out.
"If one hundred people failed to add their plus one, a hundred extra people wouldn't have seats or chicken!" Ella said, her voice tight.
"Apologize to your sister," Jules looked with warning at Jake, who scowled.
"But she's," he began.
"Oh my God," Jules cut him off.
"Fine, Ella, you're right. I should have written explicitly that I would not be adding to the number of people you had already invited, thus letting your mind rest about whether or not some girl that doesn't exist wants chicken."
Ella considered his apology. "I can't believe you aren't bringing a date to my wedding. Don't even think about hitting on any of my bridesmaids," she added as she turned and went back inside, leaving just the two stragglers behind.
Jake grabbed a cupcake off the nearest tray and took a bite. "She's crazy."
"She's also suspicious," Jules pointed out.
"Hey, I didn't lie. I'm not bringing anyone that wasn't already invited to this torture fest," he repeated.
"That doesn't mean you don't have a date. Is that why you weren't looking forward to the wedding? You like living a lie?"
"I'm not living a lie. It's just easier, being in a bubble—I'm busy enough with school, and things are going well. Putting off telling everyone works for now. And why did she have to get married during the school year? She couldn't have gotten married in the summer, when people have time to do things like join their families for entire weekends of togetherness in a location that's cut off from civilization?"
"You love Stars Hollow and you're just cranky. Finish your cupcake and I'll help you cover the tracks."
He took a second one from the tray and offered it to her with an apologetic look. She smiled and shook her head. "You're impossible."
"I know," he smiled back.
Tristan stood up and clanked his fork against the pint glass filled with water. He waited for a moment, for the side conversations and laughter to quiet and quell. He looked over at his daughter, who was sitting back against Greyson's outstretched arm, looking at ease and happy.
"Now, I should warn you all; I promised Rory I would behave."
"Boo!" Jess shouted, earning a playful scowl from Rory.
"Luckily, that only stops me occasionally," he smirked at his wife, who swiped at his arm from her seat beside him. "I just wanted to thank you all for coming all this way—some of you internationally," he nodded to the Wellingtons, "and most of you from other states. This place is special—sometimes in a challenging sort of way, but it's where Ella's mother grew up, and it has continued, over time, to gather our family. It's fitting that my daughter, who spent summer vacations here with her grandmother, wanted to come here on a special day to ground her new family as well. Greyson," he looked at his soon-to-be son-in-law, "As I'm sure you're aware, this will not be an easy undertaking, marrying a girl who is in love with this town. I know my daughter has made you work for this event, and I salute your resolve. The women in this family are strong, in will and character, and often bossy. But," he said, as the women in question began to narrow their collective gazes at him, "they are also generous, gorgeous, and downright mythical creatures who deserve all the attention they demand. To the happy couple," he raised his glass, and everyone clinked in the toast.
Rosa stood up next, seated between her brother and Paxton Huntzberger, and smiled at the pair.
"What can I say about my baby brother?" she mused.
"The less the better," he encouraged.
"To say I never thought I'd see the day you were getting married—before me, especially, well, I'd be richer if I hadn't taken that bet. But if you had to fall victim to one woman's wiles, I can't say I could have picked a better woman. After all, she is my best friend," Rosa smiled at Ella, who smiled back. "The two of you put me through no small amount of grief when you broke up a few years ago, but I think you both knew something that the rest of us didn't. Had you remained together back then, you probably wouldn't have gotten to experience where life took you in the meantime. When you got back together last year," she sighed happily, "it was something I don't think anyone of us expected, but I can say now that I believe you are both better for having each other in your lives, and we are all better for having you both in our lives. To my brother and my soon-to-be sister," she raised her glass.
"Is it my turn?" Paxton asked.
"I thought I was giving the speech," Jasper frowned. "I have one all prepared."
"You prepared a speech?" Pax asked.
"Bits and pieces. It'll come out when I start talking."
"This is why you only choose one best man," Rosa informed her brother.
"Who could choose between the two of them?" he asked, to which Ella gave him a sharp pinch in his ribs. "Ouch, you know what I mean."
"Let me go first. I need to pop out to place a call soon—I don't want to miss wishing my princess a good morning when she first rises on the other side of the world," Jasper pouted.
Pax rolled his eyes. "Fine. Go."
Jasper stood. "Greyson. I've known you since we were negatively aged and frankly, for many years, I assumed you were having too much fun pretending to be double agents, astronauts, senator's sons, and movie directors to ever let any woman snag you for more than a short while. However, this girl," he smiled at Ella, who blew him a kiss. "Stop it, darling, it still stings," he playfully admonished, "this girl came under your radar and never gave you the option of handing her an alias and dismissing her on any faulty quality she might hold. This girl was different. No one blames you for letting it scare the pants off you and causing her to cut you loose for a while. It gave other men a shot, myself not included, but still. If not for your time apart, I never would have ended up in Portugal pretending to be the Duke of Manchester alongside your Prince of Spain, and therefore I never would have met my Princess, who unfortunately could not make it here today. She was detained on a diplomatic engagement. At any rate, my lovely bride was familiar with both our aliases, and actually used to date the Spanish contingent, but was taken with my charm and wit nonetheless, as she was helpless to avoid me once I set my sights on her. Wait. Where was I?" he frowned.
"Sit down," Pax stood up. "Your relationship is a testament to that saying, 'if you love something, set it free. If it comes back to you, it's truly yours.' We're all privileged to have witnessed it ourselves, and we wish you all the best. The only thing that could make this celebration better," he said, turning to Rosa. "Is if you give me the answer I want to hear."
Rosa rolled her eyes. "I told you, not here."
"Rosa, come on, either you have an answer or you don't," Pax nudged.
Rosa looked around the room, at her parents and Pax's, at her brother and best friend, and even Ambrose, all of whom looked expectant and slightly confused.
"What's going on, Pax?" Amy Huntzberger asked.
"Oh God. I can't not look," Miel Langley said, her hands on her face, but not fully covering her eyes.
"Son, sit down," Logan advised.
"We will discuss it later," Rosa said, her eyes flashing at Pax.
"Did you propose again?" Grey asked.
Pax nodded. "Two nights ago, on top of the Empire State Building," he admitted, not taking his eyes off of Rosa.
"What is it with you and heights?" Ella asked. "Seriously, The Eiffel Tower, that church in Cologne, Mt. Washington," she shook her head. "You know it's not a literal leap you have to take, right?"
"You forgot the Sky Tower in New Zealand," Jasper pointed out. "Of course, he did jump when she said no that time."
"Is this the last time you're going to ask me?" she asked, searching his eyes.
"Only if you say yes," he smirked.
"Can we please just celebrate my brother's wedding and put this on hold for the weekend?" she asked, her tone indicating that he needed to drop it for the time being.
"Fine. But that wasn't a no. I would like that to go on record."
"It is a first," Jasper agreed.
Amy and Miel shared a look. "He's been proposing to her?" Katherine asked. "I leave the country for the summer and I'm out of the loop?" she complained.
"Nothing's come of it, so far. It's sort of a crusading campaign for him. He actually proposed for the first time six months ago," Amy relented.
"Wait. They were in an off phase then, right? Because she came to the beach with us, and she was flirting with that hunky lifeguard," Katherine remembered. "I remember, because I thought about pretending to drown just so he could save me."
"Excuse me? I'm right here," Finn interjected.
"I know, Sweetie, I know," she patted his hand. "Trust me; even you would have appreciated the body on this man. Spectacular. Anyhow, continue," Katherine nodded.
"They were on one of their many breaks. He found out she was on a date, went to her apartment, waited for her to get back with flowers and a ring, and asked her to marry him. She told him to go home, and he did, then he came back the next day and proposed again. She said no, but that they could date. So, they were on again for a while, and she asked if he was still thinking about marriage, and he said that he really just wanted her back, and maybe she was right to say no. So, she called it all off again, telling him he wasn't ready for any of this after all."
Katherine looked partially horrified. "Tell me he didn't propose again at that point," she pleaded.
Miel giggled. "He has no capacity for learning when it comes to my daughter. He proposed and she threatened to get a restraining order, but that didn't dissuade him. This has been going on and off for months now, but I've lost count. I actually don't know if they've been dating recently or not, do you? I honestly can't keep track, especially with the wedding."
Amy shrugged. "I told him if she ever says yes, let us know. Otherwise I'm too tired to keep track, too."
There was another clinking of glasses, quieting the crowd again, and Grey stood up. "I'd like to say something on behalf of Ella and myself, if I could."
Every stopped and turned to the groom. "I should probably be a little more insulted at all the pronouncements of amazement that I am about to get married, but I suppose that it should be a testament to Ella, and the fact that I am just smart enough to realize that being with her will be far more exciting than anything I can cook up on my own, even though I do admit that I had a pretty good solo run, until she came along. But I realized one thing, after we separated a few years ago, and it's the reason I worked so diligently in winning her favor again—left to my own devices, I can do whatever I please, except one thing. I couldn't have Ella. And without Ella, most of my adventures fell short, where they hadn't in the past. Mostly, I'm just glad she missed me as much as I missed her," he raised a glass to his bride.
"I really just hate to see you beg," she offered with a coy smile.
"Whatever works, my dear," he kissed her cheek.
The group went back to eating and chatting, some more relaxed than others. Lia went up to get more coffee, holding her cup out to Jake, already behind the counter for his own refill.
"I thought you were off caffeine," he said as he filled her cup with the regular carafe.
"It was more of an experiment in cruelty. Several people offered monetary incentive for me to not only go back on it, but to up my quantities," she smirked.
"Pushers. I'm going to guess Jules was spearheading that campaign?"
"Let's just say I'm not a morning person," she laughed. "I nearly put a fork in her hand when she drank a latte in front of me at that diner last week when we stayed up all night dancing," she cringed.
"Hey, speaking of which, can you stop taking her to the clubs with you?" he asked.
"Someone has to entertain her. Not all of us are quite as busy as you are. And wouldn't you rather her be hit on by girls that she isn't interested in than boys?"
He paused. "Once this semester is over, you need to find a new wingman," he sighed. "Or is it wingwoman?"
"Hey," Ambrose said, joining the pair. "Can you believe that guy?"
"What guy?" Jake asked, taking a sip, hoping that his conversation with Lia hadn't been overheard.
"Paxton Huntzberger. It was bad enough that she was so smitten with him five years ago, but can't he get a clue? If a girl keeps saying no, it doesn't mean ask again later."
"Someone's jealous," Lia smiled behind her cup.
"Jealous? Of that rich, blonde," he searched for the right word with distaste.
"Careful, you don't want to speak ill of your girlfriend's fiancé," Jake mocked.
"Seriously, what does she see in him?" Ambrose asked.
"What does anyone see in anyone else? Maybe he knows her in a way she can't imagine anyone else ever knowing her; maybe he makes her laugh so hard she pulls a muscle, or he takes care of her when she's sick and brings her Hostess cupcakes to cheer her up when she has a really sucky day," Jake rattled off potential reasons, trying to ignore Lia's raised eyebrows.
"What do you know about it? You're just as single as I am," Ambrose sulked.
"You've never complained before," Jake pointed out.
"I'm going for a walk. I'll see you at the inn," Ambrose said, putting his cup on the counter and heading out the front door.
"She wouldn't share even a bite of those cupcakes with me," Lia informed Jake.
"Well, I didn't get them for you, did I?" Jake mused.
"What are you two talking about? Why did Am take off like that?" Jules asked, coming up next to her roommate.
"He's just been entertaining the idea that Rosa might not be as spoken for as she appears to be, and his nose is all out of joint," Jake told her.
"He'll get over it. Maybe you should make some time to take him out next weekend," Jules suggested.
"Your brother needs a strip club and some strong drinks. Still want to volunteer me?" he offered.
She considered this. "Can't you just avert your eyes and only look at the ugly strippers?"
"Why are you talking about ugly strippers?" Jess asked his daughter, his hands coming to rest on her shoulders.
"Ambrose is all sad about Rosa's impending engagement," she said without missing a beat.
"He'll get over it. He's done it before," Jess advised. "How's school?"
"Fine. I'm taking an art class, and I think Lia's going to kill me. I keep leaving my stuff all over the dining table, and I've had to pay for two dry cleaning bills due to paint on her clothes," she cringed at her best friend and roomie, who shook her head in amusement at her as she retreated with her refill.
"Which means you want more money?" he concluded.
She smiled. "I would never turn down money from my wonderful father."
"How's Columbia? Still killing your mother and enjoying it?" Jess asked Jake.
"It is a perk. I'm keeping out of trouble for the most part."
Jess paused, looking at the two of them. Both waited out his scrutiny. "I should go check on Jack. It's too quiet up there."
"Later, Dad," Jules smiled as he walked away, but once he was on the stairs, they both let out a breath. "Did he look to you like he suspected something?"
"Now you're just being paranoid."
"Still. Maybe we should stick to separate corners for the duration. Or fess up."
Jake shook his head. "We don't have to do either of those things. Us being together is normal. Especially at a function like this. It's not like we're sneaking off to make out. Well, not a lot," he smirked, referring to their earlier interlude.
"I hadn't seen you in two weeks," she defended.
"I'm not complaining. But unless you want to shift the focus of this wedding, which is already being attempted by a separate couple, we need to watch our steps. Our families are very detail-oriented and slightly paranoid."
"Right. Maybe we should go back to the group," she offered.
"Ladies first," he agreed.
"Wait. What's the plan for later?"
He smiled. "Why, whatever do you mean?" he asked, playing dumb.
"I'm in room ten. I'll leave the door unlocked," she said as she took her coffee cup and rejoined her table. She did her best to not look at Jake when she sat down, but could not wipe the smile from her face when she caught his eye anyhow.
Rory stood with her arm through Jake's bent arm, waiting to be called forward to practice sitting down.
"Stop twitching," she admonished.
"I'm not twitching."
"It feels like you're about to breakdance."
"Because I'm pretty fly for a white guy?" he posed.
"What is with you lately?"
"Me? Nothing. I just think it's weird that we have to practice all of this. I mean, walking, sitting? Do they really think we haven't mastered these skills before this night?"
"Someone had way too much coffee," she eyed him.
"Hello pot, meet the kettle," he raised an eyebrow.
"You didn't come home for fall break," she pointed out.
"I had a lot to catch up on," he assured her.
"Mmmm-hmm. Your dad says you've been blowing him off for lunch," she continued.
"Like I said, Mom, I've been busy."
"Because it seems like you're avoiding us. And you only avoid us for one reason," she pushed.
"I'm not hiding anything," he assured her. "I'm just trying to get things set up for next year and survive this year. You remember college, your last year. Was it particularly ample in free time?"
She bit the inside of her cheek, trying not to appear bested. He was up to something and she was going to get him to admit it. Or trip him up. "No, I guess not. Did you decide on grad schools?"
He shrugged. "I'm trying to cover my bases and decide if I'd rather get my MBA or try for law school."
"Your dad wants to help you network. He says if you ever called him back, you could take about eighteen things off your to-do list."
"Fine. I'll have lunch with Dad soon. Is that what this is about?"
"I just want you to know that you can tell us anything. And if you need money, we are more than willing to help out," she nudged smoothly.
"I have money, Mom. But I appreciate the offer."
Rory sighed. "What is the holdup out there? I'm tired of the standing; I'm ready to practice sitting."
Tristan stood next to his daughter, in the stables at the Dragonfly Inn, in their official hiding spot from which they would emerge to descend down the outdoor aisle. "So, are you nervous?"
Ella shook her head. "I know Mom's not thrilled."
"Your mother is glad you're happy. And we both love Grey."
"So, her calling to make sure I don't want to call it off and come home was…?" she led.
"Something of a psychotic break. You're not allowed to move home," he joked.
"Dad," she cocked her head, her patented look she pulled when she needed to pretend to be annoyed with him.
"Something tells me you won't ever need to worry about moving back in with us. Given the fact he's loaded and your dowry isn't too shabby either."
"I wasn't aware there was a dowry involved," she raised an eyebrow.
"Sure, sure. I mean, it's not so easy to unload a girl, even in today's society, to the right bloodlines," he teased.
"How many cows was I worth?"
"Six," he boasted. "Must have been that Yale education you got," he teased.
"Maybe I should ask Mom to help me decorate the apartment," she mused, still stuck on the fact her mother wasn't completely thrilled to be so-called losing her oldest child.
"When are you moving in?" he asked.
"It should be ready two weeks after we get back from the honeymoon. Grey still won't tell me where we're going, just to pack for a warm climate. We're going to finish packing up my apartment until the renovations are complete once we get back from the mystery location."
"And you're sure you want to stay in the city?"
"Dad, it's safe. It's the Upper East Side."
"I know. But do you want to raise kids in the city?"
"Whoa, you're like, ten steps ahead of us. You guys aren't jonesing for grandkids yet, are you?"
Tristan shook his head. "No. In fact I'd be happy if you wanted to wait a few years to consummate this marriage," he suggested.
"I get it," she said, without the hint of a blush.
"Hey, while we're waiting, do you know what's going on with Jake?"
Ella blew out some air. "Besides being the usual pain-in-the-butt brother that he is so good at being?"
"I don't want to hear about the RSVP thing again," Tristan groaned.
"Fine," she crossed her arms. "But yeah, he's clearly hiding something. I have no idea what, though. I've sort of been too busy to devote any time to shaking him down."
Tristan frowned. "You think he's having trouble in one of his classes?"
Ella shook her head. "No, he gets antsy when he's having school trouble, he takes to distractions—he's been too hermit-y for that. Like his spare time is too precious to bother calling me back and just telling me if he's bringing at date… he claimed he was just too busy. And he told it to my voicemail, so I couldn't even hang up on him," she sighed.
"Your mom said I should just stop by his apartment one day and snoop," he admitted.
"Why haven't you?"
He shook his head at his daughter. "I trust you both. If he needs to talk, he'll talk. Until then I'll do the respectable thing and discuss it behind his back," he laughed.
Lorelai came out and poked her head in. "Hey. We're ready for you guys; we're not going to add the music until the second run."
Ella nodded and put her arm through her father's. "Ready?"
"As ready as I'll ever be to give my little girl away," he said softly and kissed the top of her head. "Let's go."
Rosa stood next to Ella, holding both pretend bouquets made from dozens of ribbons that Lorelai had fashioned for the occasion. Ella stood facing Grey, listening to the minister go over the order of the ceremony. Rosa did her best not to focus solely on Pax, who was staring at her in an attempt to converse without words. She had thought he might behave himself this weekend, giving her a reprieve on answering the question he'd posed the last night they'd been together, but as was often the case with him when it came to her, his vision was quite tunnel-like. She finally lifted her gaze to his eyes and smiled. She couldn't help it; she'd actually been giving this some thought. When he first proposed, in what she assumed was a spur-of-the-moment, desperate attempt to get her attention, she never entertained the idea he was truly serious.
However, when he'd produced the ring, it had shaken her. Her only constant behind her argument for denying him was the fact that neither of them had ever been ready at the same time to continue on to the next step. Getting married was a big deal; something she needed to be sure that they were both ready for. And they hadn't been ready at twenty-one, just like Ella and Grey, and so at the point in their relationship where it had been impossible for them to either slide back or hold steady, in lieu of being ready to move forward, they took time apart. Unlike Ella and Grey, they'd had much more trouble staying away from each other, and kept getting back together in ill-fated attempts to ignore the fact they were both in slightly different places in their lives, and tried to date other people in the interim—also with slightly disastrous effects.
But this time; even she had to admit, it was different. He'd been courting her; he hadn't been seeing other women in an attempt to forget her. He had been focusing solely on her, not because she was dating someone else—because she wasn't—but because he seemed genuinely ready to move past this, to something more, with her. That scared her a little more than she let on, hence the thoughts she'd also been having about Ambrose this evening. He was the one person she hadn't dated while on one of her many breaks with Pax, though she had given him some thought in her single stretches. She knew it was dangerous, getting involved with someone she could truly care about, when she was so entangled still with Pax. It had always been slightly star-crossed, her flirtation with Ambrose. It was never the right time, and perhaps in another life they could have belonged together. But in this life, she had committed most of her heart to another man. It was only a matter of time until she surrendered the rest of it.
"Mom, can't I sleep in your bed?" Jack asked Gwen, looking at her with wide eyes.
"Where would I sleep?" she asked, playing dumb with her son.
"With me!" he said gleefully.
"But, if you sleep in my bed with me, where would Daddy sleep?" she posed.
"Um," he thought for a second. "On the floor?"
"This is taking a turn for the worse," Jess said from the doorway, where he was watching his son be tucked in.
"I guess he could sleep with us," Jack offered.
"How big of you," Jess smiled.
"Honey, you're a big boy. Are you scared of sleeping here at Uncle Luke's by yourself?" she posed.
He shook his head. "Aunt Lorelai lets me eat Pop Tarts! They taste like S'mores!"
"Maybe he should sleep with us," Jess grunted.
Gwen shook her head. "You were very handsome in your tie, Jack. You're going to be the best ring bearer ever tomorrow."
Jack beamed. "Thanks Mommy," he said as he snuggled down under the covers. Jess moved to stand behind Gwen as she kissed the boy's hairline. Jess crouched down and kissed the top of his son's head.
"Night, Dad," he said as he closed his eyes. Gwen turned out the lamp beside the bed and they walked into the kitchen, closing the door on their son and sitting down at the table with Lorelai and Luke.
"He settled in?" Luke asked, handing Jess a beer.
"For now," Jess nodded.
"He'll only get up if he has a nightmare, you just have to go in and help him put the monsters in time out," Gwen instructed.
"Monsters in time out, got it," Lorelai smiled, the one most likely to go check on crying children in the middle of the night. "How's he doing in kindergarten?"
Gwen nodded. "He loves it. Of course, his reading level is slightly ahead of the rest of his class," she looked to Jess.
He smiled. "Ambrose and Jules were the same way. I have certain priorities for my children."
"His teacher thought we were kidding when Jess told her he was reading the Hardy Boys with him already."
"It's not like I don't have to help him a little," Jess shrugged. "Did you guys notice Jules acting weird tonight?"
"I noticed Ambrose sulking, but Jules seemed okay. Is something wrong at school? I thought she loved Sarah Lawrence," Luke offered.
Lorelai rolled her eyes. "Don't tell me you don't know."
Jess and Luke looked at her, lost. "Did she talk to you?" Jess asked.
"She didn't have to. Have you noticed?" Lorelai asked Gwen.
"Well," Gwen looked at Jess then looked away. "I've known for some time that she's seeing someone."
"What?" Jess asked. "She told you this?"
Gwen shook her head. "It's just little clues. Things she says."
"The kid code in full effect tonight," Lorelai pointed out.
"Okay, enough of the kid code stuff. Just tell us what's going on, oh wise one," Luke instructed his wife.
"Men are so blind. Jules is dating Jake."
Jess hesitated. "Jake… Dugrey?"
Lorelai peered at Jess. "Yes. You know, Rory's son, my grandson, about this tall?" she held up her hand way high over her seated head. "Dark blonde hair, blue eyes?"
"I know who Jake is. Tristan said he's been insanely busy lately at Columbia and hasn't had time for anything."
"Well, I'm sure taking eighteen credit hours, preparing for grad school and sneaking around with Jules takes a toll on his free time," Lorelai smirked.
"Why would they sneak around? Why wouldn't they just tell us? And when did this happen? They were just friends," Jess processed the new information.
"I have no idea; I just picked up on the signs. If you want information, you should either go to them or even better, the roommate."
"Lia?" Luke asked.
"Roommates have all the dirt," Gwen pointed out. "She'll know when everything started. But I vote for just asking Jules," she announced.
"Why would they hide it, though, unless," Jess closed his eyes. "Oh, God, you don't think they're working the friends with benefits angle, do you? 'Cause I'll kill him, then I'll lock her in her old room."
Luke took a long swig of beer. "Or you could talk to them reasonably."
"Says the man who pushed me in a lake," Jess muttered, which still made Luke smile.
"Does Rory know?" Gwen asked.
Lorelai shook her head. "She knows something's afoot, but Jake wouldn't spill. She pressed on him during the rehearsal, but all she got out of him was a promise to have lunch with Tristan soon."
Jess stood up. "Come on, we should get back to the inn. We can stop by and say goodnight to Jules on our way."
"What about Ambrose?" Luke asked.
"He's out of college. And he's all sulky, he can tuck himself into bed," Jess smirked as they left the Dane's home, leaving their youngest child in the care of his great uncle for the night.
"Are you sure they don't know anything?" Jules asked as she pulled back slightly.
Jake smiled. "Don't worry about it. We're fine. We don't need to tell them anything until we're ready," he assured as he leaned back down for a kiss.
Jules bit her lip. "What are we waiting for again?"
Jake sighed and rolled over onto his back from his side. "I thought we agreed it was just easier."
"It was, I mean, it gave us our own time together, and it was sort of fun, this summer, meeting up with you secretly, but," she sighed, reaching to grab his chin and turn his face back toward her. "I think we should tell our parents what we're doing."
"Having sex?" he smirked, which earned him a playful slap on his bare bicep. "Ouch!"
"No! I mean, yes, but we don't have to give them a list of all the stuff we've done. Just tell them we're, you know, together."
"I'm pretty sure your Dad will deduce that I've had sex with you. And it's kind of up in the air as to whether he'll want me dead."
"It's not like you deflowered me," she raised an eyebrow.
"Somehow I don't think I'll earn points for defending my sexual relationship with you by telling him I wasn't the first one to achieve that goal."
She smiled. "You might be right. But he knows I've had sex. I'm not a little girl anymore."
"I wholeheartedly agree with that statement," he smiled, leaning in to kiss her. He wrapped his arms back around her, and she did the same, losing a few moments to relish in being alone, even in the midst of their family. They carried on in the bed assigned to Jules for her duration of the wedding weekend at the Dragonfly until a knock came to her door, causing them both to freeze and bolt straight up in bed.
"Expecting company?" he whispered.
"Crap! What do we do now?"
"I could hide in the closet," he offered.
"That's so stupid," she whispered back.
"But a better idea than being flagellated," he argued.
She moved to grab a robe. "Fine. Just let me see who it is."
"Jules?" Jess called from the other side of the door. "Everything okay in there?"
Tristan came up the back staircase from the kitchen, his hands full of plates loaded with snacks. "What's wrong?"
Jules opened the door. "Nothing's wrong. What's up, Dad?"
"Can I come in and talk to you?" Jess asked.
Jules glanced at Tristan then back at her dad. "Actually, I'm kinda beat. Can we talk tomorrow?"
Jess peered at her. "You're all flushed."
"Am I? Must have gotten too much sun today."
"It was overcast," Jess shot back.
"Dad," she began.
"Move," he instructed.
"Excuse me?" she crossed her arms, trying to appear offended and not bested.
"Is everything all right?" Tristan asked again.
"It's fine," Jules assured him.
"Come with me," Jess instructed his friend.
"Just come with me," Jess said as he walked into Jules' room and headed straight past the messed up bed to the closet. Jules closed her eyes shut tight as Tristan stood in the middle of the room and Jess opened the closet door to reveal Jake, standing there in his boxer shorts.
"Why is Jake in the closet?" Tristan inquired.
"I believe Jules has an answer for that," Jess turned to glare at his daughter.
"How did you know he was in the closet?" Jules asked in wonder.
"Never mind that. What's going on here?" Jess demanded.
"This isn't how we wanted you to find out," Jake assured them.
"Wait, this is why you've been blowing me off? You're seeing Jules?" Tristan put the pieces together.
"I just haven't had a lot of free time, and when I do, I hang at her place. I'm not trying to blow you off," Jake said, wondering if his shirt was accessible without trying to pass both the fathers in the room.
"When did this start?" Jess asked.
Jules and Jake shared a look for an extended beat, which unnerved both of their fathers. Jules nodded and Jake sighed before answering. "At Martha's Vineyard in July."
Tristan looked at Jess. "But, we were all there," he reasoned.
"At first, yeah, and nothing happened, we were just hanging out with Ambrose like normal. But he got that call to interview, so he left early, and you guys took Jack back to the city, and you and Mom had to get back to work, but I had a couple of extra days and Jules' summer session didn't start until the next week, so we stayed to shut up the house. But that night, we stayed up late, on the beach, talking, and," he shrugged his shoulders and failed to meet Jess' eyes.
"Why didn't you just tell us?" Tristan asked, not quite as irritated as Jess was.
"At first we weren't sure there was anything to tell," Jules stepped in. "I mean, it wasn't something we planned. It just happened. But then we kept hanging out, and things kept snowballing, and by the time we knew we should tell you, we felt weird about having not already told you."
"So you thought it best for us to catch you in the act?" Jess supplied.
"And why were you in the closet?" Tristan asked his son.
"I was pretty sure Jess would behead me if I was still in the bed when he opened the door," Jake admitted.
"Smart kid. I always have liked you," Jess acknowledged.
"I hope this doesn't change that," Jake cringed.
Jess looked from Jake to his grown daughter, a college student for most purposes living on her own, who gave him a hopeful smile.
"We're not just messing around, Dad," Jules promised.
"Fine. We can talk about this later, with everyone dressed. Everyone should get to bed. I'm assuming your wife is expecting you back soon," Jess informed Tristan.
"Yeah," he frowned. "Uh, goodnight."
"Night, Dad," Jake supplied, not moving an inch.
Jess raised an eyebrow at Jake. "You have a room to go back to, right?"
Jake flinched. "As soon as I gather my belongings."
Jess gave a little glare. "Hurry."
"Right," Jake promised as Jess nodded at his daughter and took his leave. Only then did Jake move to Jules, who wrapped her arms around his waist and hugged him. "That was," Jake began.
"Awkward?" she provided.
"I was going to say moderately terrifying."
"You don't have anything to worry about. Dad's cool as long as I'm happy."
Jake smiled at her. "And are you?"
She beamed at him. "I'd be happier if you stayed a few more minutes."
"Trying to get me killed?"
Jules cocked her head. "He's not standing on the other side of the door with a stopwatch. He just doesn't want to find proof you slept here all night."
She stood up on tiptoes to kiss him, to which he gave a noise of defeat. He kissed her back, picking her up so her feet left the ground, making her giggle as he backed her up to the bed. "The things I'll risk to keep you happy," he said as he kissed her again.
Ambrose stopped short on the wooden bridge. "Oh. Sorry. I didn't realize this spot was taken."
Rosa looked up at him in surprise. "Oh, you don't fool me. You came looking for me, didn't you?"
He crossed his arms. "Man, one guy proposes and suddenly you think every guy is in love with you."
She smiled softly and looked out over the water. "I just needed to think, so I took a walk and wound up here. You?"
He nodded. "Same."
"You can sit. If you want," she offered.
He hadn't had a better invitation in a while, so he moved a couple of feet away from her and sat down on the edge of the bridge. "You don't want to talk, do you?"
She looked up at him with a quizzical expression. "You want to listen to me talk about if I want to marry Pax or not?"
He rolled his eyes. "You don't need to talk to me about that. You've made up your mind. Otherwise you would have already said yes."
She looked out over the water, still looking perplexed. "It's not that simple."
"You're just not ready?" he posed.
"I didn't think he was. Now I'm not so sure," she bit her lip. "I feel like I shouldn't discuss this with you. I don't want, I mean," she looked at him meaningfully. "Does this bother you?"
He shrugged. "We're friends, right? I mean, not like normal friends, but I couldn't ignore you if I passed you on the street. Hell, you're pretty hard to ignore in general."
She blushed. "I think that was a compliment."
"So," he cleared his throat. "You want to marry him and he's ready. What's the hold up? Just let the guy off the hook."
"I know, I should. But after all this time, I got so used to him asking and me saying no, telling myself it had nothing to do with me, it was all about him. I was doing what was best for us. But now, it's different. Now I wonder if I was glad he wasn't really ready—because now that he is I have to figure out if I am."
Ambrose let out a breath, but caught her gaze. "You say the word, and I'll take you away from here and give you every reason not to marry that guy."
Her eyes widened for a moment as his words sunk in, and then she smiled. "Part of me wishes I could take you up on that."
"It's not because I'm too young now," he said, his tone sad, though sure.
"No. You're definitely," she paused. "If I weren't about to be engaged, you'd be in real trouble," she finally said with a small laugh.
"I know," he acknowledged.
"About that dance," she hedged.
He shook his hand, as if dismissing her next statement. "Don't worry about it. I'm not much of a dancer anyhow."
"Guess I'm not the right girl after all," she said softly.
"Not for me, at least, not now. You should go get engaged. Before he starts to take it personally."
She leaned over and kissed his cheek. "Thanks. You're the best guy I never dated."
"Your loss," he shot back, his tone light. He held himself back from returning her light kiss on the cheek. She stood up and walked back in the direction of the inn. She could find her own way, he was sure, and he needed a few minutes alone.
"I'm exhausted," Anna said as she flopped onto the bed. She felt like she was about to melt into the mattress. "I love our bed. It's the best bed in the whole world," she murmured.
"Do you want me to leave you two alone?" Will asked, watching her from the bathroom door, floss still in his hands.
"That depends. Do you plan on hogging the covers?" she inquired.
"Pssh. Like you let me have any to begin with," he teased.
"You're more than welcome to curl up with me and share."
He turned off the bathroom light after tossing the floss into the trash. "Sounds like a plan. So, your mom was on fire tonight," he eyed her carefully.
"Well, Dad's usually the only one to rein her in, and he was probably being tied to a chair with duct tape by three crazy monkeys, so she took the opportunity to show her full displeasure at our lack of reproduction thus far."
"Seriously, she's had a steady supply of grandkids coming along thanks to Davey the Wonder Stud," he joked, but she pulled a sour face and sent her fist into his stomach as he sat on the bed next to her.
"Sorry. But seriously, do they not understand how birth control works?"
"I still maintain Mom broke into their house and switched out all Mal's birth control pills for sugar pills that last time," she yawned. "Man, I don't think I can keep my eyelids open."
"So go to sleep."
"No, I have to convince you it's not time to say anything yet," she said with one eye open, peering at him knowingly.
"But it will end all the threats, guilt trips, and general disgust thrown our way by your mother and about twenty-five percent of the town's population."
"Oh, now she's my mother," Anna grinned. "You're lucky, with Lorelai never wanting her kids to repeat history—you have like no pressure at all. If your mom didn't love me, I'd worry about how laid back she is about the whole thing."
Will settled back against the pillows. "I just think it wouldn't hurt to tell everyone."
"It's too soon. It's bad luck."
"Since when are you superstitious?"
"Since I have a tiny little being attempting to gestate inside me. The book says not to tell until the second trimester. Also, I don't want Mom to start the barrage of information on safe cribs and proper swaddling techniques."
"Or your dad raving about the dangers of jostling pregnant women," he pointed out.
"Oh my God, I still remember that trip we took to Pennsylvania Amish country when Mom was pregnant with Lia—he never drove over 35 miles an hour the entire trip. Look, it's enough that this kid will be born and instantly recognize how insane its grandparents are, I think we can shield it and ourselves for a few more weeks. Besides, I haven't started to show, have I?"
He shook his head. "You still have your girlish figure," he ran his hand up her side slowly under her night shirt, skin on skin. She smiled with both eyes closed.
"I'm still exhausted."
"I'll do all the work," he promised.
She opened one eye. "How is that any fun?"
He smiled. "You need your rest. Everybody wins."
"How about we reconvene in the morning when I'm rested?"
He frowned. "And when you're going to be throwing up?"
"Only for a half an hour. After that, I'm all good."
He cringed. "I think you're confused as to what 'all good' entails," he attempted diplomatically.
She turned her head to face him, now looking much more awake. "Hey, my current state of being is more than partially your doing."
He smiled. "I remember."
"Good. You replay the events from that night in your head, and let me sleep."
He groaned and snuggled down next to her. "Is this really how it's going to be? You call the shots, tell me when we can tell our family and when we can have sex?"
She patted his hand that was wrapped around her still hourglass waist. "For now. In about seven months, the baby will be calling the shots."
He smiled and closed his eyes. "Sounds like a plan."
Rory looked up to see her husband looking very confused, but carrying two platefuls of food she'd requested he go down and pilfer from the kitchen.
"Did you get lost?" she asked jokingly.
"No. I got redirected. I think there's something I should tell you."
She sat up, concerned. "Is Ella okay?"
He put the plates down. "She's fine. It's actually Jake."
"What's wrong with Jake?" she asked, not even reaching for any of the treats.
Tristan paused, choosing words that might paint the picture best for her. In the end, he went with simple truth. "We just found him in the closet in Jules' room."
Concern melted into confusion across his wife's features. "Huh?"
"I was coming down the hall, and Jess was there, in front of Jules' door, and she was trying to get him to leave, and all of a sudden Jess was telling me to come with him, and he walked straight to the closet, opened the door, and there stood our son."
"Why was he in the closet?"
"My guess is because he couldn't fit under the bed."
"Was he naked?" she asked, slightly horrified.
Tristan shook his head. "Not yet. But he was in boxers, and Jules was wearing a robe."
"Wait. You don't really mean that they… they're," she searched for the right words.
"It looks that way."
"When did that happen?" she pondered, hating that her kids could develop major life changes and her not even be aware of it. "I thought he was dating that girl, the one that was pre-med and recited beat poetry at those sad little coffee houses?"
Tristan snorted. "Like that was going to last. He stopped seeing her almost a year ago."
"Where does the time go?" she mused.
"Apparently he and Jules have been seeing each other since we were all up at the beach house for the fourth of July."
Rory's eyes widened. "That long? Why haven't they told us?"
Tristan shrugged. "Ah, well, apparently they were just," he paused, "You know. At first they were friends who did a little more than they planned on. By the time they realized it was more serious than just physical stuff, they were sort of used to not telling us."
"Wait, they were just having sex?" Rory wrinkled her nose.
Tristan shook his head. "I knew you weren't going to understand that."
He nodded. "They're young, but they're old enough to have their own personal sex lives. They weren't doing anything wrong; it's not like they were dating other people. And they are really good friends."
"I don't have sex with all of my really good male friends," Rory judged.
"Because your husband would dismember them," he said seriously.
She rolled her eyes. "I mean, I didn't. When I was in college," she clarified.
"You had me."
"Fine. Then I wouldn't have."
"I assure you it's perfectly normal. Isn't it better that he was hooking up with Jules than Dr. Beat?" he asked, using the name they'd assigned to Jake's last ill-fated romance.
"I'd like to believe he was smarter than to actually sleep with Dr. Beat," she shuddered.
"I've told you before, engaging in stupid hobbies might hasten our breaking up with women, but it won't prevent us from sleeping with them," Tristan advised wisely.
"Boys are strange creatures," Rory sighed. "Fine, so they were what, friends with benefits?"
Tristan shrugged. "I don't know what they told themselves they were doing, but at any rate, they're past that now. Jake stood before Jess in his boxers and professed his interest in his daughter. I think that's pretty serious. Or pretty stupid," Tristan laughed.
"Oh, poor Jess. I'll have to thank him for holding back the urge to break Jake's knees," Rory giggled.
"Seriously. Jess that that look in his eyes, that he did whenever he saw her first boyfriend. What was his name?"
Rory thought. "Court, I think. But he should be a little more used to boys falling all over themselves for a shot with Jules. She's had more than her fair share of boyfriends since she was 16. She's a beautiful, smart girl."
"And it looks like your son has bagged her. I mean," Tristan frowned. "You know what I mean."
"So, we're proud of our son for hiding in the closet?" she reiterated.
"More for being caught in the closet, maybe? I don't know, but I think this is a good thing. It's better than why I thought he was blowing off meeting with me," he admitted.
Rory frowned and touched his arm. "You thought he was just avoiding you?"
Tristan shrugged. "I did it for enough years. I thought maybe he needed some space from me, or I don't know. I was having some serious flashbacks to when my Dad would call and I'd be too busy to see him."
Rory leaned up on her knees and reached out to hug her husband. "I could have told you that was crazy. Jake idolizes you. Seriously, I've actually been concerned at how much he admires you. You've been the best husband and father I could have ever imagined."
Tristan smiled and kissed her. "You made it so easy," he admitted.
She kissed him a little more deeply, pulling his weight over her body as she leaned back against the mattress. She had to admit, having her kids grown to the point that they didn't need them as much did give them plenty of time to enjoy activities best not interrupted, lest someone else have to hide in the closet on a moment's notice.
"No porn," Greyson rolled his eyes.
"It's your last night as a free man," Jasper reminded him. "And there are no houses of ill repute in quite a wide berth from here."
"So, he's never going to see another naked woman again?" Pax reasoned.
"I assure you with Ella around, I will have little need for porn or strippers," Grey boasted.
"I don't think we want to get into a pissing contest over this," Pax began, "because all my current bragging rights involve your sister."
Grey shuddered. "Point taken."
"So, if we aren't going to watch porn, how are we going to put this illustrious evening to rest?" Jasper inquired.
"What is it with you and porn?" Grey asked. "Miss your Princess that much?"
Jasper smiled. "She wears a crown, mate. Just a crown," he raised his eyebrows in a show of appreciation.
"Only you would end up with an honest-to-God princess. The thought of you running a country, even a little one like Lichtenstein," Pax blew out a breath. "Hey, does that mean you could knight us? I've always wanted a title."
"You mean other than Most Proposal Refusals by One Woman?" Grey snickered.
"Scoff if you must," Pax shook his head, "but I'm going to be your brother-in-law someday."
Jasper and Grey exchanged a look. "Look, man, I know you're determined, but even I draw the line somewhere," Jasper said in a super-easy tone, no jovial manner underneath.
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"It's just, you've asked her. And asked her. And she always says no. At a certain point, you're just doing the same thing repeatedly, hoping for a different result. Maybe," he cringed.
Pax steeled himself. "She didn't say no tonight. We've both been circling each other for so long, and I think she knows it's time we both need to stop running. She's going to say yes."
"But there is something to be said for stopping the chase. She knows you're ready, maybe you should let her come to you," Grey offered.
"Says the man who was willing to lie, cheat, and steal to get the woman he loved," Pax retorted.
"I told one lie. A harmless, little," Grey defended.
"You told her we'd all be there. That it was strictly platonic," Jasper jumped in.
"Fine, two lies. But I needed her undivided attention. I figured the foreign locale would not only remind her of some of our better adventures, but also limit her options should she bolt."
"She's a smart girl, good at languages, she could have run away just as fast to the nearest airstrip as she wanted. You're just lucky she likes you," Pax scoffed. "And that she didn't file kidnapping charges."
"He put it all out there. That's what you have to do with the woman you love; it's what I did. You offer her everything she wants and give her no doubt that you are the man for her," Jasper nodded.
"Exiling her in the African safari under the ruse of palling about with her college buddies isn't really what comes to mind when I think of the best way to win a girl's heart," Pax deflected.
"She always wanted to go. It was just another adventure. And it gave me time alone with her, to show her I wanted her to be there on all the rest of my adventures. She never slowed me down. If anything, she wears me out," he smiled.
"She is also the only woman to break your heart," Pax nodded. "Which is what Rosa is to me."
"If you only want her because you think you can't have her," Grey warned, the brotherly instinct kicking in.
Pax shook his head. "If she says no this time, I'll step back. I'll let her go, I promise. I won't ask her again," he assured his best friends. "But I will never stop believing that we're supposed to be together. I wouldn't want to envision a life that didn't include her in it, in some form. And you're right, if I push her too far, I'll lose her completely. And then you two would have to choose sides," he only half-joked.
"I'm afraid I have to side with my sister—I wouldn't necessarily jump ship on you, but I'm also marrying her best friend, so," Grey led.
"Very funny. No one's breaking up the group. We've been through worse. But she is making me sweat this time, I'll admit that."
A light knock came to the door, making all three turn and stare down the door.
"Should we open it?" Jasper asked. "What if it's Ella? You're not allowed to see her until tomorrow, right?"
"So he doesn't open it," Pax agreed.
"Are you going to open it?" Jasper asked.
"Well, one of us has to."
Jasper stood. "I'll do it. The woman I love is on the other side of the world, so I know it's not for me, unless it's my Mum."
The knock came again, slightly harder this time. Jasper moved and opened it deftly. "Ah, are your ears burning?"
Rosa frowned and crossed her arms over her chest. "Should they be?"
"It's the three of us in a room together, what do you think we're doing?"
"Watching porn?" she asked, slightly amused.
"They wouldn't bite," he admitted.
"So, what are the odds I can get you and my brother to take a walk?" she asked.
"Your wish is my command. Grey, let's book."
Grey stood up and moved to stand next to Jasper in the doorway, facing his sister. "Everything okay?" he asked knowingly.
She nodded. "Super duper."
"And when we return, wait—should we return?"
"Give me an hour," she advised.
Grey and Jasper shared another look, and then left Rosa to enter the room on her own. She stepped in and closed the door. Pax stood up from his perch on the chair, not sure if he should speak or not. He figured a little humor couldn't hurt, as long as it wasn't misguided.
"Mini-bar empty already?" he smiled.
She pointed to the bed. "Come, sit."
He took a deep breath. No other girl could pull him in any direction she wanted so easily. He did as she asked and sat next to her on the bed, trying desperately to read her body language. "Can I say something?" he asked.
She looked startled, but nodded. "Go ahead."
"The guys told me I should lay off. And I get that I've asked you a million times, and maybe they're right. Maybe I should leave you alone. I mean, if you really don't want to marry me, I will. But I won't apologize for proposing. I don't regret asking you—no matter how ill prepared you thought I was in the beginning or not—on some level, Rosa, I've always known I wanted to be with you. When we're apart," he shook his head. "It doesn't feel right. I can pretend, we can both move in overlapping circles, but in the end, it always comes down to the fact that I'd rather be with you."
Her eyes grew wider and her expression gave away the fact that she was on the verge of tears. "Ask me again."
He blinked. "What?"
"Propose. One more time. This instant!" she urged.
He dropped down off the edge of the bed, still facing her, on both knees. He took her hand in his and smiled. "Will you marry me?"
She threw her arms around his neck, and then hug tackled him back down to the ground. He laughed, but as her hair fell down around the sides of his face, they got caught in each other's eyes. "Yes. I'll marry you."
He leaned up, hands on her back, pulling his body against hers until his lips connected against her lips, sealing the deal. After a few moments, both seemed to realize they were rolling around on the floor, when there was a perfectly good bed just a foot away, and he sat up, still holding her close to him.
"I feel like I should ask you to pinch me," he finally admitted.
"No changing your mind now," she warned.
"Rumor has it you got a room to yourself," he said as he leaned his back against the bed, her still in his lap.
She smiled. "Well, I figured I might get lucky."
"I think that's safe to say. I love you," he kissed her again.
She kissed him back, then stood up and held out her hand. "Come on. Before Larry and Curly come back," she nodded to the door.
"You don't want to share our good news?" he smiled as he took her hand.
"I think we should let it sink in for ourselves first. We can tell them tomorrow at the reception."
"A private celebration. I'm in," he agreed as they closed the door to the empty room and went to find a little seclusion to revel in their new status.
"Something borrowed?" Rory asked.
Ella stood in the living room of her grandmother's house, where she'd come to get dressed before making her way over to the Dragonfly Inn to get married. Her mother and grandmother were standing next to her, making sure she was prepared, despite her dress being on, her hair being done, and her make-up completed. She was the very vision of a bride.
"Your shoes," Ella said, showing a toe of the same shoes her mother had worn on her own walk down the aisle from underneath her dress.
Rory smiled. "Right. Old?"
Ella held out her wrist. "Grandma Elizabeth gave this to me last night, it was her mother's."
Rory dabbed her eyes. "That's so beautiful! Okay. I'm not crying again. Let's move on. Something new?"
Ella blushed and swept back her hair on one side, showing off brilliant three carat diamond stud earrings in a princess cut attached to her earlobes. "Grey gave them to me last night."
"Wow. Okay, that just leaves something blue," Rory nodded.
Ella frowned. "I don't have anything blue."
"Nothing? I thought your engagement ring had sapphire baguettes," Rory pointed out.
Ella held up a bare hand. "But I gave my rings to Jasper for safe keeping, just like Grey handed his over to Rosa. I won't get it back until I've already walked down the aisle," she explained.
"You can't walk down the aisle without something blue!" Rory exclaimed. "Okay. We can figure something out. Let's think."
"Wait!" Lorelai shouted and ran up the steps, taking them two at a time. There was some noise from above them, as she moved something around, and then she emerged at the staircase, looking triumphant. "I forgot I had this. Now, it's not my style, but I think it'll be perfect for today."
She held out an antique hair comb, featuring a delicate peacock fan out of sapphire stones. She stood next to her granddaughter and slid it into place. "There."
"Where did you get that?" Rory asked.
"It was Gran's," she smiled. "The toughest old bird I ever knew. It was actually in one of Dad's cigar humidors, I guess he kept it after she died. I remember her wearing it when I was little. I knew I'd never wear it, but I think she'd love for you to have it," Lorelai hugged her granddaughter. "From one granddaughter to another."
"Thanks Grandma. Okay, I think that's everything. I'm ready to get married," she said with no small amount of awe.
"You are the most beautiful bride I've ever seen," Rory smiled, her face about to burst from the mixture of strong emotions.
"Stop it, Mom, come on. Grandma just fixed my make up again," Ella pleaded. "Let's talk about something else. What's the dirt? I haven't heard anything; everyone's only telling me good news this weekend. It's boring. Dish."
Rory looked to Lorelai, then back at Ella. "Well, there's your brother. We finally figured out what was going on with him."
"Is he dropping out of Columbia?" Ella asked, excitedly.
Rory frowned. "Bite your tongue. He's almost done. No, he's dating Jules."
Ella's mouth dropped open. "That little… that explains it! He kept saying he didn't need to RSVP for his date, and I nearly killed him after explaining how head counts work and why they're necessary," she explained.
Lorelai rolled her eyes. "No man in this family will ever understand the need for planning for any function. If you left it up to them, they'd order a keg and ten pizzas and call it good."
Rory giggled. "Apparently they were quite literally outed when Jess stormed into Jules' room and found Jake hiding in the closet."
"Naked?" Ella's eyes went wide.
"That's what I asked!" Rory giggled. "No, he was in his boxers. Jess probably nearly escaped an aneurysm. Good thing Tristan was there, in case he needed to perform CPR."
"Wait, Tristan and Jess caught them in flagrante delicto?" Lorelai howled, holding her sides. "Stop it, now I'll cry from laughing!"
"They left them alone, eventually, but I'm pretty sure Jess will be giving Jake the evil eye all weekend. And probably for months to come," Rory concluded.
"Wait, why were they hiding it?" Ella asked, not the first to inquire.
Rory waved her hand. "We're not sure. Something about friends with benefits or something at first, but now I guess they're getting serious. Not as serious as proposing a dozen times to no avail," she segued.
Ella groaned. "Don't remind me. Rosa texted to say she'd meet me at the inn, she was running late, so I don't know if they fought or made up, but I just hope they figure it out soon. At this point they need their heads knocked together if they don't stop running from each other soon."
"Spoken like a girl that's been caught," Rory nodded.
"Knock, knock," Tristan said, coming in the front door. "Everyone dressed?"
"Come in, Dad!" Ella called, turning to face her father, who literally stopped the moment he saw her.
She smiled. "Stop it."
"No, I'm serious. You look breathtaking. You certainly can't be my daughter. She's five and loves My Little Ponies second only to ice cream dates with me," he put his hand over his chest, which was outfitted in the most complimentary of suits, showing off his frame perfectly.
"She says she's completely ready," Rory informed him, getting dewy-eyed again.
"Then I guess we should go. Our limo awaits," Tristan held out his arm to his daughter. "Let's see how many Gilmore girls it takes to get that dress into the limo without it touching the ground," he smiled, kissing his daughter's cheek.
"I'll get in first and start drawing it in from the inside," Lorelai said, moving ahead of the rest of them. It took a couple of minutes to get Ella situated in the limo, next to her grandmother. Tristan turned to Rory, outside her childhood home.
Rory nodded. "It's a big day."
"We've had them before. At least it's a happy occasion."
Rory wiped away an errant tear. "Very happy."
He kissed her softly. "We could have another baby, be like Jess."
She laughed, "Now who's insane? No thanks, I think I'll come to enjoy having you all to myself. Especially now that Jake is with Jules, Jess will keep an eagle eye on him. We could probably take off to Fiji for six months and not wear clothes or check our voicemail."
"I'll book the reservations as soon as we get back," he promised, giving her one last kiss before he opened the car door and offered her his hand to help her in. "After you."
Tristan took one last look around before climbing in the limo and smiling at the three women as he opened a bottle of champagne to share with them all. "All right, away we go."