Trial of Error
Chapter Three: Final Negotiations
Description: Set just after Will You Be My Lorelai Gilmore? Logan heads off to Vegas with Colin and Finn, but Rory doesn't let it just pass without having her say. Unfortunately for Rory, what happens in Vegas isn't going to stay in Vegas.
"It's a fact of life that we're going to fight on occasion."
She gave a half-snort at what seemed an outrageous understatement on his part. They'd had their fair share already, and some had been life altering. "I realize that."
"But what I don't want is that every time we fight for you to freak out and worry about me sleeping with other women or for me to have to ever wonder where you are and if you're coming home."
She was quieted by his mention of the worst of their bad relationship behavior. Even when they didn't actively engage in those things, they had a tendency to throw prior transgressions in each other's faces in effort to win an argument. She worried her bottom lip with her teeth. "I want you to know that I trust you. I have trusted you. Probably not as quickly as I should have, but I do. I didn't come here because I didn't trust you."
He smiled hopefully. "That's good to hear. And I hope you also know that I would never to cheat on you. But I need to hear that you won't take off. If we fight, we stand and fight together until we sort it out. We don't go to bed angry. We work things out together."
She nodded uneasily. It wasn't that it was an unreasonable request he was making—she just wasn't sure she could keep that particular promise. Her mother handed down more than her name and her penchant for coffee to her only daughter—she had trained her in the ungraceful art of running from her emotional troubles. Responsibility she could face, but emotional turmoil was not her forte. "That's your condition?"
He remained stoic. "One of them."
She swallowed a lump in her throat, realizing that if he was leading with this, he probably thought it was the easiest condition. "So, the next time we argue, you just want us to stay in a room until it's all worked out? Do we get bathroom breaks or food?"
"It's a marriage, not prison," he supplied glibly.
"But what if it's late and we're tired? You're saying I can't so much as sleep on the couch?"
"I think we should spend our nights together. We only have a month to give this a shot, and perhaps except tonight, I would hope this isn't even an issue."
She was a little grateful for his optimism, even if it was a woefully misguided. "I guess you're right. Newlyweds aren't known for their fighting," she said easily, softening to the request. "I will stay and fight."
"For us," he said passionately.
"For us," she repeated, feeling good about her intention.
"Like I said, if we're going to decide in a month, I don't think we should spend much time apart. Two days at the most at a time."
Her mouth dropped again. One might think it was possible to get used to so many surprises when faced with so many in such a short time frame. She never thought of herself as particularly shockable until now. "How is that possible? What about your work?"
It was a fair question. It wasn't unheard of for them to spend more than a week without seeing one another, and that's when they lived on the same continent. He wet his lips before continuing. "I told you I screwed up, right?"
She nodded slowly and her brow furrowed as she waited for the full explanation. "You said you lost all the investment money."
"Yeah. It's not just a mistake; it's a really big deal. I think it's enough to get my father to agree that it's time to part ways."
She blinked at that particular bombshell. "You're serious?"
"It's why I've been putting off his calls. I want to go to him with a clear head, so he doesn't think this is some rash decision I'm making. I don't want to come up under his wing, I never have. I want to make it on my own."
"Logan, that's noble of you and I know you're capable of anything you set your mind to, but are you sure? Won't that put a rift between you?"
He tilted his head. "Because I don't want to wreck the good thing he and I have now?"
"You know what I mean. I know you hate him sometimes, but he's your family. It's not easy to cut off communications with family."
"I didn't say I'd stop all contact. I do hope to stop the constant barrage of angry exchanges. Our relationship might even improve."
She gave a snide chuckle. "Yeah, until he hears you married me."
He ran a hand over hers. "You know I don't need their approval."
"I'd say you've proved that once and for all. So once you cut ties with your dad, what will you do?" she asked, wholly curious as to his honest answer.
"I've gotten some offers. Nothing I truly entertained before now, but I've built up contacts and I have enough money to fall back on until I find something."
"But how are we going to spend more time together while I finish school and we both interview for jobs?"
He smiled. "I'd be happy to bring you along to any of the exotic locales I get called to. And while I'm unemployed I can be your cheerleader and flashcard monitor."
She couldn't help but smile at his volunteerism. "Really, you're prepared to handle that kind of responsibility?"
He leaned in. "I know all your very specific and weird rules in regards to flashcards. I'm up for the task."
She blew out a breath. "You're really on your A game today, aren't you?"
"So you agree to hang out with me on a daily basis?" he smiled boastfully.
She couldn't help but return his rueful grin. "I suppose so. Is that it?"
He shook his head. "One more. You stay in school, even if that means you decide to go to grad school, no matter what anyone says to you about the duties of being my wife. All that matters is what we decide."
She felt the obligation to be far more honest with him than she'd even been with herself of late. "I don't know what I want to do after graduation. Like, at all. I've applied to all these options, and I don't know what scares me more—getting them or not."
"You'll know the right thing when it comes along," he offered sagely.
"And what if my right thing is in Maine and yours is in Texas?" she asked.
"What's in Maine?" he asked skeptically.
"I just picked two states far from each other to make a point. But they do have papers in Maine."
"You're going to have your choice of prospects," he said lovingly.
She shuddered. "That right there, that's what freaks me out."
"You'll make a list if you have to, but trust me, you'll know. And I will make it work with whatever I choose."
"You can't do that! Logan, I'm going to be making nothing—barely enough for me to live on, if that. The jobs you'll be looking for will come with actual salaries that could sustain many people. We can't live in a bubble."
"I know that, but you've been working your whole life for this, what's coming next. Because of me you lost more time toward this goal than you should have, but you got your momentum back and you should get to choose from all the options open to you. You deserve that. I'm just starting to piece together my next move."
"That doesn't mean you should defer to my decisions," she argued.
"I don't know exactly what I want my next job to be," he began slowly, but assertively, "but I know I want to be with you. I've seen what happens when you get derailed. I don't want to be responsible for that happening to you again."
It wouldn't be her first choice either, but they had to move past all that if they were going to try something as radical as staying married. "You think we can make it all work?"
"I'm offering the best suggestions I can to that end, yes," he said with a boyish smile.
A brief flash of a younger version of him entered her mind, mingling with the idea of marriage and all that could bring. His words from before, of the Huntzberger marriage contracts and talk of kids, entered the mix and she felt wholly overwhelmed again. "What exactly is the gist of the paperwork you mentioned before, about your money and being married and having kids?" she asked cautiously.
He cringed. "Listen, it's not something we need to worry about right now, or even a month from now, either way."
"If I'm going to do this, even for just a month, I have to know what I'm signing on for. What does the contract say?"
He hesitated but after looking into her demanding eyes for a beat he sighed, ready to relent. "I haven't read the whole thing. I haven't even seen it in years. My dad sat me down, in high school for what I thought was going to be a very uncomfortable talk about sex. Instead he started talking about protecting myself financially in the face of having a good time."
Her eyes widened. "He did not."
He nodded. "He expected me to have sex, as much as I wanted, but he warned that unwelcome pregnancies were my job to curb, and that one night of carelessness could lead to a large financial drain on my future earnings."
She scratched her arm. "I know your father isn't exactly touchy-feely, but I might have given even him a little more credit than that."
"Never underestimate the unfeeling coldness that my father can display. This is a topic he speaks about from experience. My mother knew exactly who my father was and what he might offer her when they went out. She got pregnant and my grandfather handed him over to the family lawyers and I'm sure the New York single scene went into mourning over his sudden ineligibility."
"Like the female contingent of New Haven wasn't devastated when you decided to be my boyfriend," she teased him airily. "The legions that are still awaiting our final demise."
"I think the number of women I went out with is largely inflated in your mind," he contended.
"Logan, when I first met you and you dragged me out to that first Life and Death Brigade event, I was told there was a line to get to you. A line, and it was made very clear that it was long and I was expected to get in back."
"You were nothing like any other girl I've ever met. You had open access to me. It was true the first day we met, and it is true now."
A rush of joy swelled through her, as it tended to do when he made her feel like the only woman in the entire world—a feat he was especially good at. A wave of familiarity hit her, a sense of wanting him, wanting to be a part of what he was describing. Logically she knew he was a charismatic personality, capable of drawing anyone in. Despite knowing better, she couldn't help but want to give this a shot. "I want you to know that I don't know how this is going to work, or even if it will, but I hope it does."
He kissed her, his actions a blur of lips and heat. He'd been so tentative with her, letting her try to absorb the situation, not pushing her to any end. Her words of encouragement had prompted him to leave behind his placidity and speed toward her like a bullet. He pulled her robe apart with his hands, baring her shoulders first. His lips followed the exposure of her skin, and soon she was on her back with the robe underneath her, splayed out like an open blanket on the bed. Her rings were her only adornment as he covered her with his body.
He took his time showering her body with attention, and from her vantage point she noted distinct blood bruising on his shoulder. She ran a fingertip across the blemish on his skin. "Logan, did I… ?"
He barely glanced in the general direction of the battle wound. "Yeah, last night."
She gulped. "So we," she began, carefully selecting her words, "consummated things?"
"Even if we hadn't, aren't we about to now?" he asked, running his open hand up her torso, over very sensitized areas that made her shiver in delight.
"It's just so surreal, to see all this evidence of things I did and not remember any of it."
"You should talk to Finn," he suggested.
"About sex?" she shot back, highly skeptical of his helpfulness.
He laughed into her stomach. "God, no. But he has a tendency to drink and forget. But things come back to him eventually, I think. Sometimes it comes back in the wrong order, but from what I can tell it's not lost forever."
She looked hopeful. "You mean you think I'll remember last night?"
He seemed encouraged as well. "If you want to, I think you can do anything you set your mind to."
She lightly scraped her fingernails down the side of one cheek, catching the stubble as she went. "I might be a terrible wife."
He shook his head, his eyes blocking the option. "Not possible."
"Good wives don't forget their vows."
His smile was contagious, if a little mischievous. "You promised to love, honor, and obey, and bow to all my whims."
"I did not," she argued playfully.
He made a noise, drawing air in sharply through his teeth. "I wonder if they have transcripts."
"I think your best bet is security footage," she offered genially. "Or you could just tell me what exactly the vows said."
He pulled himself up to kiss her on the lips, deeply and fervently. He eased back, leaving her in a state of suspended animation—eyes still closed and lips still feeling the pressure of his against them. His words came softly in her ear. "We made our own."
His words resonated throughout her. "Did we?"
He kissed her cheek and his nose grazed her hair. "You insisted."
If the words she'd chosen were indeed being held captive in the recesses of her brain, she hoped that they'd float to the surface sooner rather than later. It felt dishonest to be in his arms like that, in such a romantic moment, without access to that memory. She contemplated what words she might choose, especially on the fly, about what marrying Logan would mean to her. In that instant, she only had one source for such information. "What did I say in my vows?"
He didn't hide the hurt that her question evoked. No one wanted to be forgotten, and the thought that she could lose what was arguably the most important hour of their lives to that point had to be upsetting to say the least. She accepted the responsibility for having hurt him, without any attempt to remove herself from the situation. She'd promised, a real promise that she remembered vividly. So she waited for him to speak.
"I could tell you, and it's not that I don't want to tell you, but," he paused, taking a deep breath in the interim. "But I'd prefer to wait and see if it comes back to you. If it doesn't, then," he cut off at the sound of his cell phone ringing. He glanced at it in irritation, but kissed her quickly as if to put their talk on hold. He rolled off of her, reaching his arm out to snag the ringing device. "Hello? Hey, yeah. What are you worried about me for? You drank half of Nevada last night. Yeah," he said again, his eyes flickering to Rory and holding as he finished his call. "Yeah, I'll see you there. Bye."
"Finn?" she guessed.
"Colin," he edited. "Finn's with him, and they're starving. We're going to meet for breakfast in a half an hour."
"Right. Well, I'll just send my clothes to housekeeping and watch TV for a while."
He stared at her in disbelief. "You aren't coming with me?"
She slipped her arms back into her robe and sat up. "They don't know I'm here, do they? You said you left them and then bought the ring, then found me, so, they're just expecting you, not us."
"Except you showed up and I found you and we got married. Just because you've already eaten, that's no excuse for you to not come with me, unless you're not ready to face this yet."
She balked. "I didn't say that. It's just… well, they're going to think it's a big joke, aren't they?"
He crossed his arms. "If that's how we present it, maybe."
She tossed her hands up. "It's Colin and Finn. I know they're your best friends, but they don't take much seriously, except for drinking and hopping planes to Vegas. They're going to assume it's either a joke or a huge mistake that we'll clear up once we're back home."
"Then it'll be our first chance to present a united and serious front to people we know. Who would you rather tell first, them or my father? Or perhaps your mother?"
She gaped at him. "Logan, I just found out and it's still sinking in. I don't particularly feel up to telling anyone just yet, not until I've absorbed it."
"We agreed," he reiterated. "We can't back off when it gets hard or we don't feel like dealing with it. That's not what marriage is."
She let out a bark of laughter. "You're hardly a marriage expert," she jabbed.
"Our month starts today. If we are going to figure this out together, then it starts right now. If you want to wait in the room and go home and get an annulment, that's fine, but if you want to give this a shot it starts right now. We go downstairs and have breakfast with my best friends."
She swallowed her bitter jokes and her uncertainty. She looked at him sheepishly. "My clothes smell awful, I can't wear them."
"I'll call the concierge and have something sent up from one of the shops downstairs."
"I can do that," she supplied quickly, but he held up a hand in protest.
"It starts now. I am your husband, let me help you. Besides, what are the chances your credit card is at its limit at the moment?"
"I'll pay you back," she promised.
He held her gaze. "Think of it as a wedding gift," he said as he stood up. "And you should realize that there are lots of ways to repay me that have nothing to do with money."
That was enough to quiet her. He picked up the hotel phone and began the process of obtaining her a fresh outfit. He held the receiver away from his mouth. "Where's your phone? I'm surprised it hasn't been ringing off the hook with you off the grid like this. Can the paper survive more than an hour without consulting you?"
All the blood drained from her face. It hadn't occurred to her to check her phone—to even make sure she hadn't left it somewhere during her drunken escapades in Las Vegas. "My phone, I'm not sure," she said as she scrambled off the bed and grabbed her purse, upending the whole thing onto the mangled bedspread. He watched her in amusement, as he spoke to the front desk and put in his order, as she made a mess of her usually organized belongings. She pushed aside pens and her wallet, a couple of tampons and a few condoms she'd kept handy since he'd happened into her life and the option for sex became more frequent and away from her living quarters. A book lay on the bottom of the heap, having been her attempted distraction on the plane. There were a couple dozen chips from the casino, in surprisingly large denominations. She held up a couple in wonder. Deciding she'd figure their presence out later, she grabbed her phone from the rest of the pile. One touch failed to make it spring to life. It was off. She took a steadying breath and turned it on. The process of warming up seemed to take a lifetime, and it was the time when her normal life and her newly altered reality were being sewn together. There was a contingent of people, everyone she'd ever known excluding Logan and the precious few people in the wedding chapel, that believed her to be exactly who she had always been—a fairly independent journalism major, just months from graduating and bursting out into the world on her own. That was the nature of the messages that would be on her phone, but the person answering said calls was a newlywed with a month in which to figure out how to mesh the two parts of her life together.
"Ohmygod," she breathed as her voice mail alert sprang up on the screen.
"Bad?" he asked, coming up to look over her shoulder. "No rest for the weary, Ace. What did you expect? Did you tell anyone you were coming?"
She shook her head. "No, but, twelve voice mails? That's not including the texts. Look, there are fifteen texts from my mom alone. Lane, Paris, Bill—I'm surprised he cut himself off at eight—and my dad."
"No one says you have to answer every last one. You know anything from Paris isn't urgent or tied to reality in any way," he reasoned.
She smiled at him. "She means well."
He scoffed. "That doesn't make her less insane."
She couldn't argue that. "Sadly, it doesn't. Mom wants to set up a shopping date, she needs shoes, she says, which is code for guy trouble that she needs to talk about."
"That's why women shop for shoes so much?" he asked.
She regarded his lack of understanding with a simple nod. "Well, that and they're pretty."
He kissed her cheek. "So are you."
"Here's one that says she went to Luke's for coffee—that's a huge step for her."
"It says she argued with Kirk about twinkly lights," he read it for himself, not understanding the implication she'd gleaned from it.
"When she stopped in for coffee," she finished reading.
"It doesn't say where she stopped. More than one place in Stars Hollow serves coffee, which admittedly is a feat for a town its size," he allowed.
"Kirk isn't allowed in Weston's anymore, and those are the only two places she will get coffee in Stars Hollow. Back in high school, she and Luke had a falling out and she tried every place in the tri-county area. Trust me, I know, because she dragged me to all of them with her."
He paused, already regretting the question he was about to ask. "Why isn't Kirk allowed in Weston's?"
"He had too much Founder's punch a couple months ago and had an American Pie moment with the Weston's display," she said, not thrilled to pull up that mental image, let alone share it.
"There's something I can't un-hear," he declared.
"Yeah," she agreed, still scrolling through her messages. "Okay, the texts are fine, until the end where Mom stops with quick updates, and starts with 'where are you' and 'call me' and nothing else."
"So call her. Let her know you're okay."
"Yeah, but… I can't tell her about this on the phone."
"So don't tell her."
She sat down on the edge of the bed. "She'll know something's up. I can't just call and act nonchalant and say I'm in Vegas with you and I'll explain when I get back."
"Just tell her you're with me and we're working things out. Be vague."
"It might work," she reasoned, though she was far from convinced.
He sat next to her and put his hand over her screen. "Look, the clothes will be here in a minute, and we'll go down and see the guys. Deal with what's on your phone when we get back. It's not like anyone that left you messages will show up here and storm the place, right?"
She smiled sheepishly. "One thing at a time?"
"I think it's the only way we'll survive this."
She noticed he hadn't let go of her hand or her phone. "I'll turn it back off for now."
"Don't worry, Ace. It's just Colin and Finn. And there will be mimosas."
She kissed him as her phone powered down. "You always know what to say."
"I'd save that judgment until after I've spoken to my father," he said softly.
"Hey, one thing at a time. My phone's off now and your dad's isn't here. It's just us. And the two Darryls."
"I love you."
There was a knock to the door, the arrival of her new outfit, or in all actuality three new ensembles that she hadn't expected. Logan tipped the bellman as she selected one and disappeared into the bathroom to change. He was alone and tying his shoes when she came out.
"I just needed one," she said lightly, a gentle reprimand.
"It's a husband's right to dote on his wife. I think it's in the Bible."
"Since when have you ever even cracked the cover of a Bible?"
"I took a comparative religion class."
She chuckled as she pushed a palm to his back. "Come on, let's go freak out Colin and Finn."
"It was epic. I've never seen a grown man cry so much!" Finn declared gleefully over the aforementioned mimosas.
"I was not crying, I told you I got ice in my eye," Colin argued hastily. "That guy beside us threw his cup up and it went everywhere. I was hardly the only one outraged at the outcome. Those were astronomical odds; it wasn't even mathematically possible."
"Mathematics never was your strong suit, was it, mate?" Finn asked, still amused by his friend's torture. "Logan!" he shouted as he saw him enter the room with his arm around Rory. "Wait, do my eyes deceive me?"
"Now it's a party," Colin added, smiling at the duo that joined the table.
"How can you see anything with that ice in your eyes?" Finn teased him. "To what do we owe the pleasure of your company?" he asked Rory.
"If I had to guess, it would be because he did something stupid," Colin said, "but they look happy, so apparently he's made up for it by now."
"Perhaps more than once," Finn added with a knowing wink.
"Actually things are going quite well with us," Rory said, tucking a lock of hair behind her ear with her left hand.
Colin's face froze. "Did that come out of a box of Cracker Jacks?"
Rory wiggled her fingers on her left hand for effect. "Oh, you mean this?"
"One, two," Finn counted aloud, "Colin, there are two rings. Logan, why are there two rings on her finger?"
Logan smiled at their byplay. "Have another drink, boys. Rory and I got married last night."