Author's Note: I know "Partings" probably took place sometime in the middle of May based on the air-date, but I'm fudging the timeline a bit for my own selfish reasons. And I know this idea has been done before by several excellent authors (not trying to steal it from anyone). I just thought it was an appropriate ending considering the rest of the story.
Since this is the last chapter, I just wanted to say thank you one final time to everyone who has read this story and to everyone who has left a review (or more than one). It seriously makes writing so much more fun to get such great feedback from people who enjoy it, or have suggestions, or even offer criticisms.
If there's enough interest, I may consider a sequel.
Epilogue: The Elopement
(Four weeks later...)
"Luke, where are we going?" she asked for the seventeenth time that afternoon.
They had been driving for at least four hours, and Lorelai's patience had long since grown thin. It was gossamer-thin, actually. The sort of thin that they used to make veils for Arabian dancing girls or Mariah Carey impersonators. If it got any thinner, she felt certain that it would vanish completely, leaving her in the unenviable position of killing the only person who seemed to know where they were headed.
"You'll see when we get there," came his standardized response, no more annoyed for having repeated it multiple times. Unlike Lorelai, his patience appeared to be infinite. That probably annoyed her more than anything.
It had been four weeks since April's accident, and all the surrounding events which preceded and followed it. April herself had gotten remarkably better, with the doctors allowing her to check out and go home the week before. With a broken leg and arm, she was given a wheel chair to keep her mobile, with specific instructions to be out of bed and moving around as much as possible. The doctor's orders seemed contrary to Luke and Lorelai's concept of recovery: bed rest and lots of it. But the doctors were afraid of blood clots and other such medical maladies that accompany sedentariness.
To her, April's release from the hospital may as well have been release from prison. Although it was summer and school was out, she immediately dived back into her independent academic studies, bemoaning the time lost in experiments. As a welcome home, Anna threw her a party and invited all her friends, as well as Luke. And while speaking with him on the phone about the party, she casually but deliberately told him to bring Lorelai. The inclusion of his fiancé surprised Luke at first, but Anna made no other mention of it beyond, "I know April would like to see her."
Lorelai was thrilled with the invitation, but made it a special point to fade into the background as much as possible. However, Anna had treated her with extreme civility the entire time. And while she doubted that she and April's mother would ever become fast friends, at least they had managed to come to some mutual understanding or compromise regarding April.
As for the Litchfield man who had hit April and left her there, Luke and Anna received a call from the county prosecutor several weeks later. Since he had no prior criminal record and would be unlikely to score prison even if everything went to trial, they were going to offer him a deal. Two years of probation during which he could not consume alcohol and would be randomly tested to ensure that restriction was met. He would also have to attend DUI school and several seminars given by the Mother's Against Drunk Driving organization that demonstrate the ramifications of choosing to drive under the influence. His license would be suspended for one year. And finally, he would be required to pay restitution for all of April's medical bills as well as some hefty court costs.
Considering the circumstances, Luke and Anna agreed to the deal. April would not have to testify at trial, sparing her that stressful ordeal, and the matter could finally be put to rest. Having talked it over with Lorelai on a number of occasions, Luke felt he had finally come to terms with the accident. It still made him nervous when April talked about being able to ride her bike again, and he was even more conscientious about driving no higher than the speed limit. But he no longer harbored fantasies about driving to Litchfield and punching the man out. Or running him over with the truck.
"If this is a romantic weekend getaway, you should have told me so I could have packed something," she whined, not for the first time, bringing Luke out of his revere.
Luke patiently repeated what he had told her before, "You don't need anything. Everything has been taken care of." Glancing over at her next to him, he smiled. She had slipped off her shoes and had her bare feet propped up on the dashboard of the truck. But to satisfy his sense of safety, she was wearing a seatbelt.
Despite her words, Lorelai already knew he had something planned for this weekend. June 3rd. The day they were supposed to get married. It still hurt a little that their wedding had been postponed, but at least they had finally set a date. Yes, after everything that had happened, all the hurting and fighting and hurting some more, they had finally set a date. Well, Lorelai had set the date.
Shortly after their last fight and subsequent reconciliation, Luke had handed her a small box wrapped in white paper with a pink bow around it. Arching a curious eyebrow at him, she tore away the paper to reveal the thin black box, small enough to hold only one of two things: lingerie or jewelry. Either would have satisfied Lorelai, but what was actually in the box made her heart do cartwheels: a small calendar, the book-kind carried by most grocery stores that extended for two years. On the first page, written across the existing text of 'Owner Information' had been Luke's bold script. Pick a day. Any day. And I'll be there. -L
She had immediately flipped a few months ahead and chose a Sunday at random. February 25th. Enough time to plan the wedding, but not too far away in time either. Despite all their talk of elopements, Lorelai knew she wanted a real wedding, one with the perfect flowers and gorgeous dress and elegant Luke in a tuxedo. Rory and April in matching bridesmaids' dresses. Her mother and father on the front pew looking proud, or at least pride in the form of relief that their only daughter was finally getting married. And she and Luke, standing under the chuppah he had built, on the lawn of the Dragonfly Inn, surrounded by their friends and family as they pledged their love to one another.
"Are you okay?" Luke asked her.
"Yeah, I'm fine," Lorelai said. She always got a little misty-eyed when thinking about the wedding. She quickly covered with, "Just wondering how much longer until we get to wherever we're going."
"Not too much longer," he pronounced, although she wondered if even he knew where he was going. He had not consulted a map their entire trip and to keep her suitably unaware of their destination, they had avoided all major highways. All Lorelai knew was that they were still somewhere in New England. And although her sense of direction fairly poor, she had a strong hunch that they were headed towards the ocean. The Atlantic Ocean specifically, Lorelai deduced, realizing that virtually any direction would eventually take you to some ocean.
"So you won't even give me a hint?" she goaded, hoping for at least some morsel of information to tide over her curiosity.
Luke thought long and hard for several minutes before turning to her and solemnly pronouncing... "No."
Lorelai feigned indignation. "How do you know I'll like it there. You don't know. I may hate it. And I won't have any clothes to change into."
He shrugged, then said deadpan, "Naked works fine for me."
"Oh, so you're taking me to a nude beach!" she guessed.
"Well, if we go to the beach and you're naked, I suppose it would be a nude beach," he conceded.
"So we're going to the beach?" she pressed.
"Lorelai..." The warning in his voice was clear. She had finally put a dent in his unflappable patience.
"Fine," she sighed, admitting defeat. But as she looked out the window at the trees and buildings passing by, she asked, "Can we at least stop soon? I'm getting hungry."
"How can you be hungry? We stopped for burgers just an hour ago!"
"But they weren't your burgers," Lorelai pointed out, pursing her lips in a fake-pout.
"And you said, I quote, 'I'm so stuffed that if I eat another bite I might explode right here.'"
She shrugged. "That was fifty miles ago. And they were non-Luke burgers, so all bets are off." Suddenly, Lorelai heard her cell phone ring and she dug through her purse to find it. Luke casually looked over at her as she read the caller ID. "Its Rory," she pronounced by way of explanation before answering the call. He nodded in understanding; as much as he disliked cell phones, Rory always had a waiver on that rule.
"Hey, honey," she said.
"Tell her I say hello," Luke interjected.
"Luke says hello," she added, then listened to Rory's response. "She says 'hello back, did you catch any good fish lately?' What does that mean? Rory, what does that mean? Is that some kind of new expression I've never heard of, cause if I haven't heard of it, I doubt Luke has."
Lorelai had not noticed it yet, but during her conversation with her daughter, they had pulled off the main road and were now approaching a small building with a number of cars outside in the parking lot. And beyond the building, if she had been looking, Lorelai would have noticed the shimmering beauty of the Atlantic Ocean.
But as Luke turned into the parking lot, Lorelai's attention was drawn away from her daughter's voice on the phone. "Where are we?" she asked Luke, although she already had a sneaking suspicion.
He did not have time to answer before they both spotted two familiar figures in the parking lot up ahead: one was Rory, her cell phone still to her ear, and the other was April in a basic push-wheel chair, a bulky cast still on her right leg. Both girls waved as they spotted Luke's truck, and Lorelai let out a shriek of surprise.
"Rory! April!" He barely had time to park before Lorelai was out the door and over to them, hugging them both fiercely. "What are you doing here?" she exclaimed.
Rory gave her a mischievous look, then gestured to Luke as he walked made his way towards them from the truck. "We were asked to be here, so we're here. Don't worry; we got permission from Anna to bring April. Although if I wanted to abduct her, I don't think she'd put up much of a fight."
"I wanted to come," the younger girl interjected. "I hear Martha's Vineyard has all kinds of interesting historical sites and marine life."
Lorelai beamed at Luke as she loosely wrapped her arms around him.
"Do you like your surprise?" he asked softly.
"I love my surprise."
"Well, there's one more thing you don't know about yet," he told her.
He leaned down to whisper quietly in her ear, "We're getting married today. Just you and me, Rory and April on the beach with a minister."
Lorelai leaned back, her eyes shooting up in astonishment. She remembered their previous conversation about eloping at Martha's Vineyard, but she had assumed all elopement ideas had been abandoned when they had started planning their wedding.
"What about February 25th?" she asked. "We've already started planning. I have my dress! Sookie wants to make the cake. Sookie! She's not here. She wanted to be here-"
Luke put a finger to her mouth to quiet her before speaking. "February 25th is still on. We're still having the wedding. I want you to have the wedding you always wanted, in front of your friends and family and everyone else in that crazy town. But... I just couldn't want another eight months and a half to marry you. And I thought today, June 3rd, might be a good day to get married."
Lorelai's heart melted. He understood how she felt about the date. When they had left the house that morning, she had assumed he was merely taking her away for the weekend to make her feel better about the postponed date. After all, today was supposed to be her wedding day. And now... it was her wedding day.
"So we're getting married twice?"
Luke paused. "Technically."
"How very Niles and Daphne of you. That means you'll have two anniversaries to remember, you know," she said, giving him a smirk.
Luke nodded with all due seriousness before pronouncing, "I think I can handle that." Giving her a tender kiss before realizing that Rory and April were still standing nearby, watching them intently, he took her hand and began leading her to the ferry. "Come on crazy lady, lets go get married."
Due to April's limited mobility, Luke had arranged for ceremony to take place in a gazebo on the beach, with the water in the background. The lack of suitable clothing problem was taken care of as Luke had planned time for a small shopping spree at the local island shops. But going with the theme of the day, they all dressed in light, casual attire. Lorelai wore a simple white sundress with a flowing skirt that accentuated her figure. Rory and April had similar attire, although April insisted on blue and Rory was content with pink. Luke kept his jeans, but he changed into a light blue cotton shirt to fit in with the girls' clothing.
The girls. My girls, he thought to himself as they stood under the pavilion with the minister he had hired to perform the ceremony. A light breeze moved over the beach, causing the skirts of their dresses to swish about their legs and the sea oats on the dunes to wave gently. Luke could hear the sound of the waves crashing and a few seagulls squawking in the distance. But all his attention was focused on the woman in front of him.
God, she's beautiful. The thought struck him just as strongly in that instant as it had the first time he had laid eyes on her, bursting into the diner in search of coffee. As beautiful as the day they stood in her front yard under the chuppah he made. Or the night they hid from Taylor behind the counter at the diner. She even looked as beautiful as the night they danced at Liz and TJ's wedding and the night he had kissed her on the front porch of the Dragonfly. Or the night she had proposed to him and he had accepted.
It occurred to Luke that perhaps the reason she looked so gorgeous to him at that moment was not simply because she was about to fulfill one of his greatest fantasies (marrying the woman of his dreams), but rather because she just looked so... happy. The joy seemed to radiate from her like sunshine as her crystal-clear blue eyes fixed him in an unwavering gaze of adoration. He was about to marry the most breathtakingly beautiful, loving, strong, smart, independent women he had ever known. He, Luke Danes, was about to become the husband of Lorelai Gilmore, the elusive creature who had haunted his dreams and waking hours for nearly ten years.
The ceremony itself was short and sweet, with the traditional exchange of vows kept simple. But before the minister pronounced them married, they decided to say a few words. While Lorelai was content to save any self-written vows for their more elaborate wedding in February, she sensed that Luke felt more comfortable expressing his feelings in a more intimate setting.
"Lorelai," he began, holding both of her hands in his as he stared deeply into her eyes, "You know I'm not really good with words. But I guess this is as good a time as any to say this... You are... I... I just... I don't think I ever knew what it was to really love someone until I met you. I mean... being with you has changed my life. You make me look at things differently, enjoy things more. You challenge me to take risks and do more than I ever thought was possible. I feel lucky to even know you, but being with you... I feel like the luckiest man in the world. And I want you to know, I'm going to spend the rest of my life showing you just how much I love you."
Luke's vow brought tears to her eyes and for several moments she fought to maintain her composure. "God Luke, you're making my cry on my wedding day," she whispered softly, but quickly added, "Happy tears. Very happy tears."
Taking a deep breath and blinking rapidly to clear her vision, Lorelai flashed him a brilliant smile. It was the kind of smile that always preceded a particularly thoughtful comment or huge favor from her. Luke remembered that smile from a hundred different moments, but he especially remembered it from his dream, the one he had shortly after Rory's graduation in which Lorelai had simply told him not to get engaged on his summer cruise. It was the smile of someone about to bare their soul.
"Luke..." she started, turning his name into a verbal caress. "You know, I've never felt as close to someone as I do to you. Except maybe Rory, but that's because I gave birth to her. But Luke, you have always been there for me. You've been my rock. My hero, really, in every way. You make me feel like I can do anything because you have such confidence in me. I honestly don't know where I would be right now without you, you've been such a presence in my life, and in Rory's." Risking a look over at her daughter, Lorelai noted that she was not the only Gilmore with tears in her eyes. "I don't think I ever expected to fall in love like this, to feel so connected to someone. Luke, you're my best friend. And I love you more than I can ever hope to express. I just hope I can make you half as happy as you've made me."
The minister barely had time to pronounce them 'husband and wife' before they were in each other's arms, their lips sealing the promises their hearts had made. Then they exchanged hugs with their daughters and thanked the minister. Pictures were taken and jokes were made, in true Gilmore-Danes fashion. The family - now truly a family - spent the rest of the afternoon enjoying the beach and beautiful summer day. Then Rory drove April home, leaving Luke and Lorelai to spend the rest of their weekend basking in the honeymoon glow of a couple who had gone through love's worst trials and come through the other side even more in love than before.
AN: I fudged reality a bit with the criminal and marriage laws. The plea deal described is more suited to a first DUI offense, rather than a felony leaving the scene of an accident causing serious bodily injury, which the Litchfield man would likely have been charged with, in my opinion. As well, it seems that Massachusetts law requires a 3-day waiting period on marriage licenses that have to be applied for jointly. So if L&L had gotten married on that Saturday, it wouldn't have been really official until the following Tuesday. Just a couple of small nitpicks that I took artistic license with.