AN: Thank you all for the input for the last chapter, I'm really glad it affected you all like that (because it is monumental praise for a writer, not because I'm a sadist haha) and I love the long reviews. Thanks to all who have stuck with this story for its full run, it's been an interesting ride. Here's the last section.

I thought of you, and where'd you gone…And the world spins madly on

Tristan's death had unified Chilton for a while when school started up again two weeks later. There were grief counselors brought in and everyone seemed nicer to each other in their sadness. Paris and Rory became surprisingly close after the incident, as they were the ones that were most shaken by his loss. It was ignited when the two found themselves sitting on the same couch; both had plates of food in front of them at the insistence of their parents and both had set those plates on the table untouched. They just sat there, until finally Paris commented that Rory seemed to have become rather close to the boy. Rory's eyes had clouded over as she told Paris about the last several months, cringing when she admitted that she had run away from him when he had finally told her the truth of his condition.

Just like Lorelai, Paris told her that he would have forgiven her without hesitation. Unlike Lorelai, this was said matter-of-factly, and Rory realized the truth in the words. Somewhere it was suggested that Rory and her mother stay in Hartford, and watching her torn classmates and her sympathetic grandparents, Rory agreed.

When Rory and Lorelai arrived back home several weeks later, there was a note taped to the front door. It was from Jess and it simply said to call him if they needed anything. Rory smiled slightly at the thoughtfulness of the gesture as she took the note down and remembered abruptly the various messages Tristan had left for her that she had still not checked.

She cradled the phone in her hands for a moment, knowing that this would be the last time she would hear him say anything; knowing that this would be the last new memory she would have about the boy.

"Mary…I miss you. I miss you so much it hurts to breathe."

Rory closed her eyes against the wave of intense pain that welled up inside her upon hearing Tristan's sorrow soaked voice.

Taking a deep breath, she told herself to hold it together. There was more to get through and she could not run from any of this for any longer. With shaking fingers, she unfolded the folded note Tristan had asked Lorelai to give her what seemed like a lifetime ago.

Please don't forget me.

She forced the tears back. What a ridiculous boy. Forgetting was an impossibility. But having him ask her not to revealed a layer of insecurity he used to safeguard so strictly.

Her mother had wandered into her room by this time, silently asking if she wanted her presence. Rory took her mother's hand. "I think it's time to open the envelope the nurse gave me."


I'm sorry. I'm sorry for hurting you so much that you couldn't face me again. I'm sorry for leaving those pathetic messages pleading with you to come back. I know now I was asking you to do something you couldn't.

I'm gonna be pissed at you if you feel guilty about anything at all, okay? This is heavy stuff and I absolutely don't blame you for not being able to deal. Hell, I wasn't exactly calm when I found out. Believe me, I was a total bastard for a good four months. If anyone's to blame, it's me. Like I said, I should've told you about my illness the first time you came to visit me. But, and please forgive me for this, I'm kind of glad I didn't. I mean, I hate so much that my actions caused you more pain, but if I had told you earlier, we wouldn't have become as close as we did. And the last few months? They're the best I've lived. And this is coming from a guy who's been to movie premieres and partied with actual royalty. Prince William's pretty rad.

You know, it's funny. I found out I was "terminally ill" the day before I asked you to that stupid concert. That was what made me decide to actually ask you out instead of just trying to get in your pants. I kind of sucked at that approach, didn't I? You said you hated me that day and I was treated to the very depressing scene of you making out with bean stalk grocer boy. So I'm kind of vindictively happy you broke up with him for me. But what I'm saying here is that when I found out I was seriously sick, one of the things on my to-do list was to make an honest go with you. Which I think should make you feel rather special. Even before we really knew each other that well, being with you was on my list of things to do before I died. Just thought you should know.

I'm babbling. Sorry. God, how many times am I gonna say that in this? Okay. Well I thought about leaving you a video recording, I did that for the funeral as you'll soon see, but I…I don't look so good. I don't really want a video record of how I look right now. But I wish you could see in me how much I care about you. Words on paper just aren't effective enough. But I really fucking care, okay? I've been in love before, but fuck, we weren't even dating. What I feel for you goes so much past a teenage romance, which makes sense since we didn't have a teenage romance.

I hate that I got you so attached only to up and die before I could follow through. I wish I could walk down the halls of Chilton with you as my girlfriend, but babe, you know that never would've happened. You know that had I lived and gone back to school… well, I'd still be me. We wouldn't have lasted. I'm not telling you this to be mean, I'm telling you this so you don't blame my illness on us not being together. The illness was what brought us together. Face it, if I hadn't been sick, you would've still hated me. And if I wasn't as sick as I am, I would never have let you see this version of me. He's kind of a pansy. But dying does that to a guy. So at the end of it all, I'm glad for the sickness. Glad for the dying. Without it, I'd never have had you.

You didn't deal well with just finding out that I was dying, so I'm really worried for you when you have to face my actual death. Please don't let it destroy you. Your mom's worried as fuck about you and so am I. And this is going to sound so weird and tripped out, but seriously, I meant it when I told you to go for Jess. I may not know the guy, but I know he'll be great for you. And I know you knew that too, before I made you fall for me like the chick-stealing, awesome god I am. We weren't together. You owe me nothing. Be happy. As one of your closest friends, I'm telling you to be happy.

Let me go. Okay? You're beautiful and intelligent and funny, you're the single sweetest person I have ever met. And you're sixteen. You have so much life left to live and so many more guys to hate and then fall for. Don't let what happened with us make you live any less than you would have.

For everything you've done for me, for every emotion you've made me feel, for every second you gave me of your time, for every moment you made me feel like I wasn't a lost cause, I thank you.

And this is going to sound cheesy and lame and not me, but like I said, dying does that to a guy…and fuck, it's happening really fucking soon, Rory. I can feel it. It'll be in no more than a day or so. And even though I've seen it coming, there's something about the last twenty four hours that makes people just throw caution to the motherfucking winds and just say it all while there's time. So here goes.

I love you I love you I love you I love you I love you I love you I love you.

You will always, always be my Mary.



Rory sat on the edge of a bridge in Stars Hollow and let her feet dangle above the water. Her arms were leaning against the lower railing, her forehead pressed against the cool metal of the upper railing. It was late and the fall air was only cold enough to make her feel alive.

"Nice bracelet."

"It's supposed to be a charm bracelet with charms to be added for every person who cares about me." Rory didn't need to look to know Jess had sat down beside her. The bracelet in question had come from Tristan's envelope, with a note attached explaining what Rory just said.

After a moment of comfortable silence, Rory said, "I would have called if I had known what to say." She looked away from the water to see that he was watching the sky. "It's not that I didn't want to talk to you, or appreciate the gesture."

"I know." He shrugged. "I'm not much of a phone person anyways."

"You would have hated him." Rory smiled.

"I don't know if I would have."

"He was the embodiment of the privileged preppy jerks we make fun of."

"He treated you right."

"How do you know that?"

"Because he sent me a letter to watch out for you."

She shook her head, and teased him, "Is that the only reason you're doing this?"

He smirked, his eyes meeting hers. "He also sent me a letter, months ago, telling me to fight for you. His exact words included- 'Man, I'm stuck in a hospital bed. Stick it to Bag Boy for both of us'."

Rory rolled her eyes at Tristan's persistent attempt at matchmaking.

"So. That's how I know he treated you right. And if he cared that much, he couldn't have been that bad." They smiled at each other and he turned back to looking at the sky, she turned her gaze back to the water.


A few days later, Jess chased her down as she was walking down the street after leaving Luke's diner.

"Would it be okay if I added a charm to your bracelet?"

"I already know you care." Rory smiled.

"It's not one representing me." Jess slipped his fingers in his pocket and retrieved a small smirking devil out of wrapped tissue paper.

She felt her eyes water as he attached it.

"I saw your necklace, and I thought it was appropriate."

She had never quite had such a strong urge to kiss someone, and the compulsion shocked her. And yet, how could she feel guilty when he was giving her something to remind her of Tristan, not doing something in an attempt to make her forget about him faster?

Suppressing herself, Rory hugged him instead, willing herself not to cry.

"So are you saying you personally don't care?" She said, teasing him again to change the mood.

"What, you want a charm to remind you of me?"

"Hmm. Do they make diner-boy charms? Or skulking loner ones?"

"I don't skulk. And I prefer 'establishment slave."

"I guess we'll have to figure out what charm would work. You're hard to peg down." She fiddled with the pendant around her neck. He noticed.

He looked her right in the eyes and said simply, "It's too soon."

"Are you saying that you would-"

"Rory, don't be blind. And don't play dumb. You don't need me to say it."

An awkward, tense silence followed with all the mingled emotions the two had always felt for each other.

"How do you go from being so closed off to everyone else to doing stuff like this?" Rory was genuinely curious.

"I'm closed off?" Jess raised his eyebrows. "You're the one who had a lock on yourself for months."

"Yeah, well you're still locked up. That's why the town is wary of you, you know."

"You think so?"

"You might as well have a padlock on you, preventing anyone from getting in."

"I should get back to work." Jess said abruptly.

"I didn't mean to offend you-" Rory backpedaled, abashed.

"Just take care of yourself."


Time passed. Grief counselors went away. Life went on.

Some other rich boy with an attitude took up the throne of most popular. Tristan's old groupies found a new leader to swoon around.

She stopped seeing him in crowds, stopped flashing back to the image of him leaning against her locker. Stopped hearing his teasing voice calling her Mary over the din in the hallway.

Time went on. People stopped mourning. And somewhere inside her, she wished she could be cloaked in sadness forever. She didn't want life to go on and she didn't want to forget.

But when Jess gave her a key charm one day, hesitantly telling her that she unlocked the padlock he had around him, she took his hand and felt weightless.

The key felt right on her wrist, it felt right sitting there next to the devil. And her head felt right resting on his shoulder, his warmth comforting.

He had been right. It was too soon. But it was soothing to know that when it wasn't too soon, Tristan had personally hand-picked this and given them his earnest blessing.

Lorelai would watch the two sitting just an inch closer than normal friends would out on the front porch and she would know that she would never like him anywhere near as much as she adored Tristan; she would know that a part of her would always see him as riffraff... but she smiled nonetheless. Rory was healing and that was all that mattered.

"Jess, thank you." Rory said quietly one day as the two found themselves sitting on that very same bridge. "I might have jumped into this lake if it weren't for you."

"You would've just gotten rather wet, you know. I've been pushed into that lake. It's not that deep." He smirked.

"I'm always going to be his Mary, you have to understand that."

"Yeah, I do. But I don't want that girl. So I figure I've still got a shot at having myself a Rory, even if this Mary girl's out of the picture."

"It would've been you, you know. If I hadn't gone to that hospital that day. It would've been you." He looked sad. She entwined her hand in his. "I wish it still could be, sometimes."

"There's time."

"Some think it's holding on that makes one strong; sometimes it's letting go. There are things that we never want to let go of, people we never want to leave behind. But keep in mind that letting go isn't the end of the world, it's the beginning of a new life."

The End