Story Title: No Way Back
Chapter Title: Epilogue
Description: Rory Gilmore gets tangled up in the other side of politics, but is she prepared to tangle with all it entails? Not if Tristan Dugrey has anything to say about it.
AN: Here we are, the last chapter. This has been such a fun story to write and I'm sorry to see it end. You guys have been so lovely and encouraging and interactive. I thank you immensely. I'm glad to see Trory still out there, being read and written. I hope you enjoy this last little peek into their story.
Tristan sat on the edge of the bed, ninety-nine percent ready to walk out the door. Instead of engaging in the one activity that would complete the act of preparing to exit the house, he was reading the newspaper. He'd been banished from the master bathroom, his wife citing the fact that he was at best a distraction after he so graciously slipped into the shower to aid her in preparing for the evening.
When she finally did emerge, preceded by a rush of warm air that had been trapped in the smaller room, she was herself about ninety-nine percent ready to walk out the door as well. She stopped short when she took note of his relaxed pose.
"What are you doing?" she asked, using both arms to hold her unzipped dress up around her torso.
He lifted his head and took in the sight of her. Her hair was done, her make-up carefully applied, and the dress she was holding against her torso ready to slide right off her freshly preened body. "Currently I'm thinking that we could be just a little late."
She frowned. "And I'm rethinking asking your help with my dress."
He smiled wider. "It looks fine to me. Besides, something tells me that if you could zip it by yourself, you already would have."
"Is that why your tie isn't done?" she asked, indicating his own finishing touch still left to be performed.
He shook his head as he laid the folded newspaper on the bed next to him and stood to walk to her. He circled around behind her and put one hand at her hip and the other at the base of her tailbone, where the zipper originated. He slowly eased the implement up her back, his other hand trailing up the side her body at the same rate.
"No," he admitted. "I can do it myself."
"Then why haven't you? The car will be here any minute to get us," she reminded him, her tone only slightly impatient. She hated being late, but he found it impossible to hurry through any moment that involved easy access to her skin and uninterrupted intimacy.
"I like it when you do it," he said, kissing her bare shoulder once the task of zipping her into her dress and securing the tiny hook that she never would have affixed on her own was complete.
She turned to face him and shot him a look of consternation, but her hands immediately rose to grip the edges of fabric that hung loosely around his neck. "What were you reading?" she asked as she began the practiced movements of moving one side over the other to form the perfect bow.
He gazed down at her as her focus narrowed to his collar and her own handiwork. He smiled at the intensity she put into the task. He stood still, rather than touching her, which would have definitely thrown her off her game—a fact of which he was rather proud. "Page Six."
Her hands stilled for a second and her eyes lifted to his in momentary horror. "Us?"
He shook his head and a sigh escaped her and her hands began tugging on his tie again. "No, but it is someone we know."
She cocked one eyebrow. "Robert?"
Tristan chuckled. "He wishes."
Rory grinned at that. It was true. Most women Robert managed to ensnare were loath to actually being caught seen out with him, even after his recent success of getting a qualified candidate elected to public office, that had no mafia ties and no familial relation. "That he does. He's the most hopeful pessimist I've ever encountered."
She stepped back to inspect her finished product, and he forward again to use his hands to ease her back against him. His lips met hers quickly and appreciatively. "Thank you," he murmured against her.
She smiled and glanced down before meeting his eyes. "You didn't even look at it yet."
"I don't need to check your work," he said, stepping to grab the paper to hand over to her.
She held the creased paper in one hand and skimmed the headline-like articles for a mention of a familiar name. It wasn't words that caught her attention at first, but rather one of the few photographs that accompanied the rag-like featurette. She gave a little gasp.
He raised an eyebrow as he watched her reaction. "I wasn't sure you'd want to see that."
She looked up and met his eyes. "What? No, it's fine. It's just not what I was expecting."
Her eyes went back to the black-and-white photo and the blurb used to describe it, though the way the pair in the photo was canoodling left little to the imagination and no need for explanation. He didn't take the paper from her, but he was still questioning his judgment in presenting it to her. "What were you expecting?"
"Huh? Oh, well, us."
He frowned. "I told you, no one knows we're married; well, except Lorelai and probably a good portion of the residents of Stars Hollow and last I checked the Courant wasn't picking up stories from the Stars Hollow Gazette," he said. "We're not news, past the political page. Page six is far more interested in your ex and his exploits."
"It seems that is the case."
"Hey, at least he's over you, right?" Tristan said, trying to get a pin on her exact emotion.
"I'm pretty sure that's just another Tuesday night," she said tersely.
"Shouldn't he be spending his Tuesday nights in California?" Tristan asked.
"He's bi-coastal now, remember?" she said with a hint of … something.
"I shouldn't have shown you," he said, taking it from her hands and tossing it back on the bed.
She put her hands into both of his. "No, it's fine. Weird, maybe, a little," she admitted.
"You aren't regretting turning him down, are you?" he asked, the question having been on the back burner in his mind. The buzz of being a newlywed and a newly elected team had definitely overridden any concerns he'd had to that point, to say the least. It was harder to ignore when it was staring out from the newspaper at them.
"Of course not! I might not be done with journalism forever," she admitted, which was something they had discussed in depth, "but it's not my focus now. As for Logan," she said with a sigh as she smiled into Tristan's eyes, "I'm perfectly content with the man in my life. I don't have any regrets about with whom I've ended up."
"And you're ready to tell Emily?" he asked after her lips met his in a kiss that was reassuring, but not quite enough to remove her lipstick.
She smiled. "Actually, Mom asked me if she could break the news."
He laughed. "But you're not going to let her, are you?"
She shook her head. "I find that indulging Mom when she gets that glint in her eye in regard to Grandma tends to end in some sort of bloodshed. She finds glee in making Grandma uncomfortable."
"You'd feel the same way if your mother had forced you to wear uncomfortable outfits and sit still for hours on end while listening to her stuffy friends and picking at weird food," Tristan pointed out.
She tilted her head. "That's probably where it stems from. I never thought of that."
He put a fist to his chest. "I'm a survivor of that world, you forget."
"I do. You seem so well-adjusted," she teased him and put a hand to his cheek. "But I hate to tell you, you're still sort of in that world, Mr. Attorney General."
He rolled his eyes. "I would never make my own kid do any of that stuff. Kids should get to eat hamburgers and watch cartoons in another room, not be forced to listen to a discussion on the political ramifications of countries that they can't find on a globe."
She paused in surprise. "You think about that stuff?"
He hesitated as well, once again trying to assess her reaction. "Globes?"
"No," she said without blinking, or breathing for that matter. "Kids."
"Is there a wrong answer here?" he asked, not having planned on the discussion to have come up quite so early in their marriage.
She shook her head. "No. At least, I don't think so. It's something we should talk about, right?"
He eased his bottom lip through his teeth. "There was a time that I thought about it a lot. Before," he said with meaning, which she instantly picked up on. It was the kind of topic that she'd never wanted to press him on, after all he'd been through with his first disastrous marriage.
"Oh, right, of course," she said, her gaze fluttering up from the floor and not quite to his eyes.
"For a long time after that, I just took the option off the table. It wasn't something I saw myself having to worry about," he continued.
She squeezed his hand, wiling him to stop if it was a subject he wasn't ready to deal with. She was in no hurry to make a decision on that front, that was for sure. Their immediate future was no place for a baby, in her eyes. But then again, all she'd ever pictured in her future was a working environment that wasn't conducive to either a husband or a child. Now she couldn't imagine not having Tristan in her life. Her mother had always said the same thing about her; she'd never planned on having Rory when she did, but she couldn't fathom not having her in her life. She'd always thought it was something mothers had to say. She was starting to see that it was just the truth. "We don't have to make any decisions now," she assured him.
"I just want you to know that it's back on the table for me. For us," he said with confidence. "When we're ready."
She felt her stomach flutter at both the sentiment and the nervousness of the very idea of having a child. She smiled at him, glad that he felt the same way she did. It wasn't something they were in a hurry for, but they'd both come a long way from their former selves to even be taking it under consideration.
"We should get downstairs. The car should be here by now," she reminded him.
"Let's go celebrate," he said, offering his arm to her as they made their way out to the hired car.
"I could get used to this," Lorelai announced as she accepted yet another glass of champagne from a waiter.
"What did you just say?" Emily Gilmore asked, more than slightly taken aback.
"It's a little fancier than my taste, but I have to say, this is a pretty swanky party," Lorelai admitted as she glanced around appreciatively.
"Is that some sort of joke, Lorelai?"
"No, Mom, I'm saying, and not just because my kid is partially responsible for all this, it's pretty great to be a part of celebrating the win of a governor from the inside like this."
"You could have had 'all this' all along, Lorelai," Emily glowered at her.
"What?" Lorelai asked, holding back the inquiry into just what kind of influence her mother might be under.
"I tried to set you up years ago with Daniel Cromwell," Emily said with exasperation, "but you would have none of it."
"Danny Cromwell? From tenth grade?" Lorelai laughed and held one hand to her chest to try to stifle the movement of her body so as not to spill any of her drink. "He wore headgear and was more into Wham! than I was."
"What's Wham?" Emily asked.
"Ask George Michael," Lorelai retorted quickly.
"I don't know who George Michael is, but I can tell you that Daniel Cromwell is now a Congressman from Massachusetts," Emily said haughtily, showing off her clearly superior taste for having sought out a good match at such a young age. "And his teeth are perfectly fine now."
"And does he currently live with a domestic partner with equally nice teeth?" Lorelai asked.
"I'm sure he has hired help," Emily corrected, obviously mistaking the nomenclature.
Lorelai laughed again. "No, Mom, I mean, he likes men. I said no to that set up because he had no interest in me based on the fact that I lacked a Y chromosome."
"He's not a homosexual, he's a Republican!" Emily admonished.
"Fine, then he's a closeted homosexual and most likely a pool boy," Lorelai said with a toss of her booze-free hand up into the air.
"Is that supposed to be funny, Lorelai?"
"I think she was mainly serious, Grandma," Rory finally broke in, much to Tristan's dismay.
"Oh, please," Emily dismissed the idea on principle. "At least I don't have to worry about setting you up with anyone," she smiled proudly at her accomplished and attached granddaughter.
"Um, hello, remember Luke? That guy I've been with for years now?" Lorelai asked aloud, to mostly deaf ears. Rory smiled and ducked her chin momentarily. The fact that the opportunity for a segue into making her bigger announcement had arisen was something she was happy to ignore at the moment.
"Yes, Lorelai, I remember Luke. Vividly," Emily said with reproach. "But tonight is not about you. It's about Rory and her accomplishments."
"Actually, it's about Jack," Rory corrected.
"Not in Gilmore-World, it's not," Lorelai said from behind the lip of her glass.
"Is it safe to leave you ladies on your own?" Tristan asked, mostly Rory as he stood at her side, one arm easily wrapped around her waist. He'd been listening with great amusement to the volley of words between the two women.
"I can referee," she assured him as her eyes glinted at him in a long, side-view. He kissed her cheek and took his exit.
"He's certainly done well for himself," Emily said after he disappeared into the crowd.
"Yes, he has," Rory agreed, wary of her grandmother's exuberance.
"I know the two of you will have an increasingly heavy social schedule," she led again.
"That's true, I suppose," Rory agreed lightly. She did not dare look at her mother, who was trying to signal the current threat level using only her eyes.
"So it might be best if you give me a list of your availability in the next few weeks," Emily finished.
Rory then made direct eye contact with her mother, feeling her heartbeat increase faster than it should have. "Uh, what for, Grandma?"
"For a party of course, to have our own celebration for you and Tristan," Emily explained in a tone that made it clear that Rory should have been expecting such plans. "Your grandfather and I insist upon showing the two of you off to all our friends."
"You know, Mom, that might be kind of hard to arrange," Lorelai began on her daughter's behalf, out of habit and ingrained defense mechanisms.
"You don't want to celebrate your daughter's accomplishments?" Emily turned to Lorelai.
"Of course I do. That's why where here, drinking champagne in our fancy clothes. There's no need to do it again," Lorelai tried.
"Well, you never know. There could be other reasons that crop up, that should also be celebrated," Emily said coyly, as if she had insider knowledge.
"Like what, Grandma?" Rory asked, still leery of the timing of the conversation they were skirting.
Emily leaned in and brought her glass by her side. "That man is going to propose to you¸ and I would imagine he's going to do it soon."
Rory and Lorelai exchanged another look, which seemed to ruffle Emily's feathers. "What makes you think that, Mom?" Lorelai asked, trying to get Rory enough time to excuse herself with a made-up emergency to attend to if she were quick enough.
"He bought her a house, Lorelai. And Richard told me that he made her the benefactor of his inheritance. You simply don't do things like that if you aren't intending to get married. Well, most people don't," she said with an undertone of irritation toward her daughter. "And he told me that he was happy to let things progress naturally, and he didn't want to push Rory into anything she wasn't ready for. Clearly that means he is ready."
"Maybe he was talking about getting a puppy," Lorelai invented up a diversionary topic.
"He was not talking about getting a puppy. He wants to marry Rory. You do want to marry him, don't you? Oh, God," Emily said suddenly, fear striking her. "Lorelai Leigh Gilmore, tell me you aren't going to say no to him, too."
It was almost comical, the way she'd clutched her heart and fixated on Rory and her lack of immediate response. It seemed that despite the venue, she was prepared to have a very loud and public reaction to the news she was imagining.
"Mom, calm down! This is not the place for one of your meltdowns," Lorelai said, gripping her mother's arm and speaking to her in hushed, but firm tones.
"I do not have meltdowns," Emily snapped at her.
"Do you remember Gran's funeral?" Lorelai argued. "The smoking, the drinking, the bedclothes for all to see?"
"Oh, please. Funerals are stressful," Emily played it off.
"So are weddings, which is why not everyone wants one," Lorelai said meaningfully.
Emily's eyes widened and focused on her granddaughter. "You can't keep doing this, young lady. You can't keep telling men like Logan Huntzberger and Tristan Dugrey no. This isn't a game, it's your future!"
Rory wished she'd downed a few more glasses of champagne before she'd met up with her family. She wondered if this was how Tristan had always felt about his family. His appearance after his grandmother's funeral made perfect sense now, in retrospect. "Grandma, I didn't want to marry Logan. Certainly not when I was twenty-two," she said gently.
"You're definitely old enough to know better now," Emily said snappishly. Rory was surprised she didn't come right out and call her an old maid.
She managed to keep her calm and continue. "I don't want to marry Logan now, either," she said will all assurance.
"I don't think that's an offer you're likely to receive twice," Emily said with a saddened sigh. Her eyes snapped back to Rory. "Is it?"
"I don't need a back-up offer," Rory shook her head.
"Wait, he didn't offer, did he?" Lorelai asked, slightly surprised.
"Not outright," Rory said with a slight worrying of her bottom lip.
"What's going on here?" Emily demanded. "Exactly who has proposed to you and how many times?"
"Well, for starters, Tristan did propose," Rory admitted, starting at the lesser of two pieces of information she'd yet to disclose to most people.
Emily's eyebrows shot up. "And?"
Rory smiled. "And I accepted."
Emily glanced from Rory to Lorelai, her smile fading as she made her way back to search her granddaughter's face. "You do plan on going through with the wedding, don't you?"
"Waiter! More champagne over here!" Lorelai called out.
"To celebrate?" Emily asked.
"Why don't we let Rory finish?" Lorelai suggested.
"There's more?" Emily asked hopefully.
"Well, yeah," Rory said with a light clearing of her throat. "We're going to be pretty busy, like you said," she said, trying to get Emily on her side a little pre-emptively. "So we thought it would be better if we just went ahead and got married."
Emily's expression froze. "You did what?"
"Undo it, undo it, undo it," Lorelai muttered under her breath to her daughter.
"You want me to get a divorce?" Rory asked, under her breath as well.
"No, but you could tell her you had to for some legitimate reason," Lorelai suggested.
"Why would we have to get married?" Rory began, but Emily cut in.
"Are you pregnant?" she demanded.
"No! We didn't have to get married out of a sense of obligation. We just did it. It was sort of romantic," she said with a happy grin.
"See, Mom? They're in love. Just two crazy kids. Who, I might add, will be in charge of the state in a few months."
"Jack will be in charge," Rory interjected again.
"Not the way I tell it," Lorelai corrected her. "I'm your mother and I get to brag about my daughter. And son-in-law, I guess."
"Grandma? Say something," Rory asked, concerned at Emily's sudden silence.
"Don't ruin a good thing," Lorelai said, again under her breath.
"I just don't see why I'm the last to know," Emily said at last.
"You're not! You're the second," Rory said quickly. "And Tristan told Mom, so really, you're the first person I've told, personally."
Emily's expression brightened. "Is this true?"
"Absolutely. Tristan's totally vying for favorite child. Or else we just have an even deeper connection than Rory and I have, which is a little disturbing now that I think of it," Lorelai frowned before taking another sip from her glass.
"We are going to tell people. And we'll have a party," Rory assured Emily.
"Well, I'll take care of all of that. You're so busy. I can have announcements printed and find a suitable venue. You can get me dates that work for you."
"Why do I get the feeling we could have avoided this whole situation if you'd just given her dates when she first asked?" Lorelai asked aloud.
"I should go meet with Jack and see if Tristan found him," Rory said, ready to make her escape.
"Fine, flee. You've given us plenty to discuss in your absence," Lorelai said with a kiss to her daughter's cheek, before she took off through the crowd of well-wishers.
"You told her?" Tristan asked with a shake of his head.
"I had to!" Rory defended. "She was going to ream me for potentially breaking your heart."
He smiled smugly. "Really?"
"Don't be so pleased with yourself. You're not the first of my suitors to charm Emily Gilmore."
"That may be, but I will be the last," he said by way of offering her perspective.
"At least we don't have to plan our own reception. Between the honeymoon and the prep work for taking office," she led.
"I suppose I should tell you, in the nature of full disclosure, that I told my grandfather," he admitted.
"What? When?" she asked, surprised.
"Tonight. Technically, it was both of our grandfathers. They tag teamed me. It really couldn't have been helped. Jack offered his congratulations to Richard, apparently."
Rory shook her head at the absurdity that was her life. "We were outed by the Governor-elect. We don't have normal problems, do we?"
He gave a chuckle. "I suppose that's a correct assessment. Speaking of which, I started working with the current administration and we have a warrant out for Jack's ex-stepfather's arrest. We delivered enough evidence to the DA to reopen Jack's ex-girlfriend's disappearance case. There's a whole deal with extradition, but the process is started, which is something."
"Did you ask your father to testify?" she asked.
He let out a breath. "His lawyer sent an offer, in exchange for not bringing new charges his way."
"News travels fast in prison," Rory observed.
"Faster than on the outside," he agreed. He hesitated before continuing. "I can't let him off the hook for this."
"He still has to testify if he's called, right?" she pointed out.
"Yes, but having a cooperative witness is a very different situation than one that doesn't want to tell you anything, especially if what they have to tell you is self-incriminating. He can plead the fifth to keep from doing just that. It doesn't mean we won't get the two of them, or however many other people were involved, it just means we'll have our work cut out for us," he said.
She put her hand on his shoulder and ran it down his arm. "You will get them both. You'll get the truth."
He took hold of her hand and brought it up to his lips. "Thank you."
"For what?" she asked, searching his eyes.
"Believing in me. Putting up with me, in the beginning. Sticking it out. All of it," he summarized.
She smiled. "You do the same for me."
He nodded. "I do."
"Good, because Emily's already planning our wedding reception."
He smiled, obviously holding back some sort of remark. "She won't have time to go all out. We'll be on a plane soon."
Rory shook her head. "I think you underestimate what that woman can do on in a crunch. I've seen her commandeer DAR parties with less than a week to go that would have been fit for the Queen of England's presence. What makes you think her granddaughter marrying the next Attorney General of Connecticut would get a half-assed attempt?"
"It's okay with you?" he asked, his tone no longer jovial.
She searched his eyes and put her hand to his chest. "Yes. It's almost always harmless to let Grandma be happy. Do not ever get into that debate with my mother, however," she backed up her assurance with a heavy disclaimer.
He smiled once again. "Your family's craziness is so much more fun than mine. Even when you Gilmore women get arrested, you get a souvenir mug shot and a great story out of it. My family just got shame and a few vehicles repossessed when my dad went to jail."
She just shook her head at him and turned back toward the party. "I am not showing you my mug shot," she said definitively.
He let out a bemused chuckle. "It's cute that you think I haven't already seen it. And made copies."
She turned on a dime, a mix of horror and annoyance on her face. "You didn't."
He nodded and let her finish coming back to him. "You knew I vetted you. Did you really think I wasn't thorough?"
She let out a noise of disgruntled helplessness. "Yeah, but now that we're married and the race is over, you're going to destroy all those copies, right?"
"Truly, you are adorable," he said, leaning down to kiss her nose.
"Tristan. I'm your wife. For now, anyway," she said in the most threatening tone she could muster.
"I could be persuaded to get rid of most of them."
"Most?" she questioned.
"You have to let me keep one. You're all young and windblown and guilty. It's kind of hot," he admitted.
She eyed him to gauge his sincerity. "You have problems."
He smiled again. "I know."
"I mean it, there's something wrong with you," she reiterated.
"Nothing you can't live with," he said easily again.
She seemed to think for a moment. "Do you have Grandma's mug shot?"
His smiled widened. "Of course. Why?"
Rory shrugged halfheartedly. "It might make a funny Christmas card, for Mom. All she has is old cell phone pictures, and she tried to blow them up, but they're all grainy. I bet your copies are better quality."
He listened to her reasoning. "And you say I have problems."
She rolled her eyes and shut him up at that point, simply by covering his mouth with hers. She knew he was always going to drive her crazy in certain respects, and that he would always have the ability to challenge her. She took stock in the fact that she was his equal match in both respects, and when they got too much for the other, they had an even greater sexual chemistry to fall back on. With all the baggage they'd brought to the relationship, she was finding it was a lot easier to bear, having someone to help manage the weight of it all.