Disclaimer: This is the last chapter. This story was an adventure for me because I hadn't really written in Chilton verse, so I w0uld like to thank everyone who gave it a chance! I would also like to thank Gilmore Girl at Heart for the kind review earlier. I was going to thank you in the last chapter and I forgot. So I'm sorry. This is for all the people who stuck with this story through it all. A Happy Ending awaits!
"Mommy! Dylan broke your picture!" Emma came screaming through the house and into the kitchen.
"What are you talking about?" Rory asked.
"He threw his ball and it smashed the picture and now…" The little girl didn't get a chance to finish. Rory went running into the living room, not surprised to find the broken glass covering the hardwood floor.
"Dylan. Don't move." Rory said as she walked carefully over to him and picked him up. "Did you cut yourself?" She asked, giving him a quick once-over, checking for blood.
"I'm sorry!" He cried. "It was an accident!"
"I know honey, it's okay." She comforted the small child and carried him out of the room. "Watch your brother." She pointed a finger at Emma who was still in the kitchen. She grabbed a broom and was just about to head back into the living room when Tristan waltzed through the backdoor. One sight at the chaos in the kitchen and he knew that he had just missed something.
"Everything okay?" Tristan asked, putting down his briefcase and glancing at his wife. She just rolled her eyes, begging him not to ask any questions. He glanced at Dylan, who gave him a look of guilt. "What happened?" He asked. Noticing his quivering chin, he watched as Dylan burst into tears again.
"I'm said I'm sorry!" He said, begging not to be punished by his father.
"Dylan was playing ball in the house again. Even though Mom said not to. And then he broke the picture in the living room and glass went everywhere." Emma said; her perfect know-it-all voice sounding remarkably like Rory's used to. Dylan just put his head down.
"Is that true?" He asked. Dylan nodded slowly and Tristan sighed. "Are you okay?" He nodded again. The poor kid was scared to death. "Stay here while Mom cleans it up." He instructed the two kids as he went to go see what the damage was. He walked through the doorway and into the living room, chuckling as Rory tip-toed around the glass. "Let me. You're going to cut yourself." He said, his shoes still on. On the coffee table was the remnants of the frame and the picture. He sighed as he remembered the day she had given it to him all those years ago. The two ticket stubs from the concert were still in the back, at least, they had been until now.
"2003." She said, picking up the stubs as if that were lifetimes ago.
"We've come a long way Baby." He said with a sweep of the broom.
"Of all the frames to fall off of the wall, this was the one he had to break." She sighed, trying not to be angry at her son. "We've had this picture for almost fourteen years."
"He's only four. He has no idea what he's doing." Tristan said, sticking up for his son. He was his father's son after all. Rory loved that about him. Emma had been the spitting image of Tristan, with the personality of her mother. She had his blonde hair and his stubborn need to be right all the time, but she had also acquired Rory's love of learning and bookishness. This had made for one Hell of a combo. Dylan on the other hand, could not behave even if he wanted to. It was like an itch he just had to scratch. He had his mother's brown hair and quiet nature, which made him almost impossible to catch until it was too late. It was dangerous having a child that was so sneaky and Rory knew that it would only get worse before it got better.
"I know, but with the family Christmas tomorrow, this was the last thing I needed."
"It will be okay. What do you have left to do?" He asked, wanting to help. Rory sat down on the couch.
"Will you just deal with the kids? Help them clean their rooms, take a bath, put them to bed?" Tristan nodded. "I could do everything else if I didn't keep getting interrupted."
"Their bags are packed?" He asked. Rory just sighed.
"I was going to tackle that tomorrow morning. If you want to do it tonight, you can. Emma wants to wear her new dress to dinner tomorrow and Dylan can't stay clean long enough for it to make a difference what he wears, but I would like for him to wear something semi-nice."
"We'll scrounge something up."
"Thank you. I'm sorry about your picture." She pouted, looking down at the mess still on the table.
"I can buy a new frame. It's the girl in the picture I love." He said, holding the dust pan far away from both of their bodies as he leaned in to give her a quick kiss. Rory stared at the picture as Tristan went to go throw the glass shards away. She looked so young there. Her face was so round and her eyes were so bright. She knew that she hadn't looked like that in a very long time, but Tristan still made her eyes light up.
"Uncle Jess is pretending to be Santa Claus! He brought me a Christmas present!" Emma said.
"Merry Christmas." He said, handing her a book-shaped package.
"Forget that. Come here." Rory said, hugging him tightly. "I'm so glad you came home. It's been forever since I've seen you."
"A year is not forever."
"It's one year too many." She said. "So, where is she?" Rory asked, looking behind him.
"She's talking to Lorelei."
"No fair! Who says she gets to meet her first?"
"She who stands closest to the door, wins." Tristan said with a smile from across the kitchen. "How are you Jess?"
"I'm good. And yourself?" Tristan nodded.
"I heard you got Emma a new book." Jess nodded.
"Got to keep my girl supplied with proper reading materials." Tristan just laughed at his use of the word 'my'. He had found a twin soul in the six year old and they were best friends almost instantly. Emma already wanted to be a big-time author like her Uncle Jess.
"What did you get her?" Rory asked.
"A Christmas Carol of course." He said as his attention turned towards the entryway. "There you are. Ari, this is Rory. Rory, Arianna James." The only thing that Rory knew about this girl was that Jess was crazy about her, and that she was raised by two professors who still worked at NYU. He had left out the fact that she was drop-dead gorgeous and probably just as smart. Arianna was the same height as Jess, but skinny and blonde. Her hair was shoulder-length and she gave off a stylish writer vibe, dressed impeccably in dark tones. She was definitely city-born and raised. Jess and Ari had been dating six months and from the way he spoke about her, Rory assumed they would end up together. Clearly, Jess thought this too because he looked as if he were about to throw up from nerves at the two of them meeting for the first time.
"It's a pleasure to finally meet you." Rory said with a smile.
"You too! Jess has told me so much about you and your family. I'm so grateful to be here with everyone."
"We're so glad you could make it."
"Ari, this is Rory's husband Tristan."
"Hi." She said with a big smile as she shook his hand. Tristan smiled politely until she turned around, when he gave his look of approval with a silent "Oh my God" and a very brief thumbs up to Jess.
"Dinner is ready." Luke yelled as everyone headed for the dining room. The Inn was decorated meticulously and the roaring fire set the mood as everyone began to sit at the table. Rory, Tristan and the kids on one side, Luke, Lorelei, Jess, and Ari on the other. After the plates were served and the wine was poured, Lorelei stood up.
"To old family, and new friends. Merry Christmas." Lorelei toasted.
"Merry Christmas." Everyone said.
"WAKE UP!" Emma and Dylan were both jumping on their bed, trying to get their parents to wake up for Christmas presents. "Hurry!"
"Go, we'll meet you downstairs." Rory groaned, unable to sit up. Tristan sat up with a smile as the two kids took off down the hall. "Don't open them until we get there."
"Merry Christmas Mary." He mumbled against her skin as he kissed her neck. Rory smiled.
"Are you coming?" Emma asked as she emerged in the doorway again.
"Yes." They said in unison before sitting up and put on their robes, careful not to tumble down the stairs on their way to the lobby where the Christmas tree had been set up.
"Grandma! Can we open them?" Dylan asked, his hands poised for the destruction to begin.
"One at a time. Let's go in a circle." Rory said. Emma and Dylan both ripped into one of their gifts, completely disregarding their mother.
"A truck!" Dylan exclaimed as he ran the box over his legs, pretending to drive it, without actually opening the box.
"It's from Grandma and Grandpa. What do you say?" Rory asked, pushing her son's knee.
"Thanks Grandpa Luke!"
"You're welcome." He said with a smile.
"Emma, what did you get and from who?" Tristan asked Emma, who silently held up the book she had already started to read.
"Uncle Jess. What's a Cler-gy-man?" She mispronounced the word, causing Jess to smile.
"We'll read it together later." Rory promised her. "Now we're opening presents."
"Tristan, you're next." Lorelei said, handing him a present. He set Dylan down with his newly freed truck and took the box from Lorelei. "What is it?" He asked, shaking it slightly.
"Open it and find out, you dork." Rory said, shaking her head. Tristan broke into the paper and emerged with a new briefcase.
"Wow. Thank you so much!" He said as he took it out of the box and started examining it. "How did you know?"
"I heard about the Jell-o stain." Lorelei smiled. They all took turns one by one until there were no more presents under the tree.
"One more." Jess said, reaching into his pocket and pulling out a small box. The room fell silent as he handed the box to Arianna.
"No!" She cried as he opened it for her, clearly in too much shock to open it herself.
"Yes." He nodded.
"You said you wanted to wait!" She said.
"Will you just let me ask the question, please?" He said, seemingly calm. She shut up and stared at him. "Ari, will you marry me?" A huge smile burst from her lips and she silently squealed as her fists flew to cover her smile.
"Yes!" She cried. "Oh my God!" She said as he put the ring on her finger. "I can't believe you! You lied!"
"Yes, yes I did." She kissed him fiercely anyway.
"Did you know about this?" Lorelei asked Luke, who shook his head, but smiled proudly.
"I still can't believe it. Jess is finally getting married." Rory said later as she changed into her pajamas. Tristan was already in bed and reading a magazine. Clearly, he was supposed to stop and have a conversation with her, so he put down his reading material and gazed up at his wife, who was crawling into bed.
"Yes. Yes he is." Tristan said, not really knowing how to respond to that statement.
"And how cute were they today? All young and in love." Rory said with a smile.
"They are our age, you do realize this right?" Tristan said.
"Yeah, but they were so happy." Rory emphasized. She paused as Tristan gave her a look. "And not that we aren't happy now, we're just not that 'over the moon' kind of happy like we were when we were engaged. Do you remember? You were a nervous wreck, you couldn't lay still."
"You kept trying to lie on top of the box! I had to keep moving to keep you from figuring it out!"
"The stars were beautiful though."
"I had always known that I was going to propose to you in that park, even in college. The meteor shower gave me a good excuse." Tristan said.
"It was the perfect location."
"I never did have the nerve to buy it for you like I promised I would." Tristan regretted.
"But you have given me anything I could ever want, including two of the most beautiful, intelligent, and troublesome children in the world." Tristan smiled.
"Sure." Rory said, a sort of non-committal tone to her voice. "But I really would have liked to have that park." She giggled, giving herself away.
"There's still time." Tristan said. "I'm not worried."
"I don't know. Fourteen years have gone by and I haven't seen so much as a park bench."
"We've been together for fourteen years? Is that right?" He asked, unable to believe it had already been that long.
"Yep." Rory said.
"And you thought that it wouldn't last two weeks." He said with a proud smirk. "Come on. You can admit it. You were wrong."
"Never." She said, sounding just like their daughter.
"Say you were wrong!" He said, pulling her down onto the bed next to him.
"No!" She wriggled underneath him as he tickled her into submission. "Ah!" She squealed. "Okay! I was wrong!"
"Yes…yes you were." He said, still lingering over her.
"Satisfied?" She smirked.
"Not for weeks." He said, leaning in closer so that his skin was practically touching hers, but not quite.
"Hmm." Rory said, licking her lips lightly before tugging on her bottom lip with her teeth. "What are you going to do about it?" She asked.
"I've already done something about it." He said. "The kids aren't here." He said, nodding to the empty bed beside them.
"You do realize what a sleepover at Grandma's entails don't you? They're going to be sugar-fed and sleep-deprived."
"Yeah, well, hopefully so will I." He said as he leaned down to kiss his smiling wife.
"You sound pretty confident." Rory teased.
"You love that about me." He assured her.
"Uh-huh." He said as he kissed her again.
"Well then, you better be able to back all that talk up." Rory said, knowing that he could never disappoint.
"That's what friends are for." He said with a smirk.