Trial of Error
Chapter Nine: Advice Amidst an Ambush
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.
Rory got out of the car, stretching her legs from the drive from their apartment. The looming magnificence of the house, if one might call it as such, was just as impressive and daunting as it was the first time she had visited. It was more of an estate than a simple residence, including grounds manicured with immaculate detail and outbuildings that an estate demanded. She remembered the enormity of the interior, the impossibly high ceilings that reminded her of fine museums—and an art collection to match. Rooms upon rooms that existed merely to impress and showcase possessions rather than for personal use. Rooms that were meant to entertain in were still full of showcases, but they included expensive furniture that was meant to be perched on rather than relaxed upon.
Logan came around to her side, as she lingered with the passenger-side car door open. He shut the door for her and leaned against it. "Ready, wife?"
She shot him an alarmed glance. "Do you smell smoke?"
He smiled warmly. "It's probably Mom. My guess is that Dad told her about our wedded bliss."
"Please don't joke," she urged. "I have to go meet my in-laws, who weren't even keen on my being your girlfriend."
"The good thing about your in-laws," he began, clearly using her language to mock her, "is the sheer volume of liquor they keep in the house. It's better stocked half the bars in the city."
"Your solution for me to get through this evening is to get sloshed?" she asked, staring at him in disbelief.
"The key to dealing with them is two-fold. First, don't let them get to you. I find a healthy dose of 'I'm Rubber and You're Glue' comes in handy in any interaction. Second, pick a vice and apply it liberally. Very liberally. Overindulge, for best results."
She remained unconvinced. "That is the worst advice I've ever heard."
He shook his head. "Who is the expert here? Rory, they've already decided how they feel about you and us. Nothing you could do or say will sway them from their prejudices and preconceptions. They are nothing if not set in their ways. You could be the sweetest, most agreeable creature on earth or you could go in there swearing like a sailor and dressed like a hooker, and it wouldn't make a bit of difference."
"Are you going to drink?" she asked.
"Like a tipsy fish," he said with a bemused grin.
"I just want them to take us seriously," she said, standing her ground. "Your dad," she began, but he leaned in and kissed her silent.
"I know," he whispered, his lips pliant and still moving against hers as he spoke. "If he so much as looks at you sideways, I'll get you out of there. You didn't let me have it out with him last time, and that killed me. It's different now."
"I don't get a say?" she asked.
His eyes shone with intensity. "You're my wife. I'm not going to let anyone say a bad word to you or about you."
"Okay," she whispered.
They stayed together, his forehead pressed to hers and one hand of his cupping the back of her head until the front door opened. Honor leaned out and called to them.
"I thought I heard a car pull up. Do you plan on joining us or are you waiting until Mom finishes a carton?"
He kissed Rory's forehead and slipped his hand into hers, squeezing lightly as he turned toward his sister. "She hasn't been into the sherry yet, has she?"
Honor glanced at him reproachfully. "You can't do anything half-assed, can you little brother? Always trying to create as much of a stir as possible."
He smirked. "You love it."
"It's an admirable quality I don't fault you for one bit," she said with a grin. She turned to Rory. "I've always wanted a sister. Logan never would let me borrow his clothes."
Rory tried to suppress her smile as she looked to Logan. She always had regarded Honor fondly. "You're welcome to share anything in my closet, but I already share most of my clothes with my mother, and she tends to forget to return all my favorite shoes."
"We should go on a shopping trip and invite her along!" Honor decided.
"Can we perhaps get through one family gathering at a time?" Logan requested.
"Party pooper," Honor alleged.
"Where's Josh?" he inquired.
"He's inside. With Dad."
"Like you can talk!" she said, pointing a finger quite literally at him.
"Okay, you two, enough. United fronts, remember? Divided we fall? Did we learn nothing from history?"
"Honor's more of an 'every man for himself,' 'live and let die' kind of girl," Logan summarized for Rory.
"You can fend for yourself," she said, "but I'll stand with Rory. She's good people. I'm still not sure what she sees in you."
Logan turned to Rory. "I'm thirsty."
Rory took a steadying breath. "Let's go. It can't be as bad as the build-up."
Honor giggled and forged ahead of them. Rory gripped Logan's elbow hard, not only catching his attention, but making him wince. "Can it?"
"I can't possibly prepare you more than I have. Ready?"
Rory shook her head. "Not even a little bit."
He nodded curtly. "That's my girl. Let's go."
Always expect an ambush. That should have been his advice. Of course, no one expects the Spanish Inquisition, just one of many truths she'd learned from Monty Python. She, Rory Gilmore, was actually struck speechless once they reached the formal sitting room and introductions were made.
Logan wasn't faring much better. His ease with words was replaced with a detached concern that etched his face and caused him to keep a protective arm around Rory's waist at all times. It sounded like the beginning of a bad joke in his head: a minister, a lawyer, and an old debutante walk into the room. He didn't want to stick around for the punch line, as he already knew the joke was on him.
"You're late," Mitchum noted.
Logan swallowed thickly. "Traffic."
"Rory, we're so glad you could join us this evening," Mitchum said graciously, oozing his own brand of bravado and cultured pleasantness as he reached out to her.
Rory stiffened further as he neared her, unsure as to what the acceptable reaction was to having a man she had actively hated and was now related to come close enough to kiss her briefly on the cheek. "Oh."
"Logan, you remember Father Barton?" his mother asked brightly. She was so cheerful that he could practically hear the strained strings of sanity within her being plucked.
"Can't say that I do," he said, though he offered a handshake as he was taught to do regardless.
"I guess he's only started in the last three years, is that right? He took over when Father Wilson retired. Logan's been so busy with work, he never gets to attend services with us."
Rory cut her eyes to Logan, trying to envision him in church, any church. It didn't fit, but not much of him fit with so much of went on in that house it seemed. It was like trying to picture her mother's youth under Emily Gilmore's tutelage.
"I find young professionals are often the most lapsed these days, due to their demanding schedules," the minister said politely.
"Are you with the church, too?" Rory asked the other man, who'd been otherwise silent.
"Harold Lyman," he offered his hand.
"My father's lawyer," Logan said tersely.
"Lawyer?" Rory echoed.
"Why don't we refresh everyone's drinks? Dinner should be ready soon, shouldn't it dear?" Mitchum asked Shira.
"I'll just go check. Excuse me," she said, disappearing from view as quickly as possible.
Honor handed Rory something pink in a martini glass and winked at her. "I would like to officially congratulate you for doing the impossible."
"Honor, please," Mitchum groused.
"No, Daddy, honestly. Logan got married, and it's common knowledge that marriage has always been at the top of his list of things to avoid on principle."
"I thought that was growing up in general," Mitchum mused.
"These are what pass for compliments in this house," Logan said in a sidebar to Rory.
"I was complimenting Rory," Honor spoke over him. "I think you've picked a swell gal."
Rory smiled at Honor. "Thank you. I think."
"I think we all agree that Rory is a lovely girl," Mitchum agreed. "I think once we get through the details, everyone will be very pleased at the match."
"Details? What details? We eloped," Logan said. "I explained it all to you earlier."
"You told me that you got married in Las Vegas. You can't expect anything that happens in Las Vegas to be taken seriously. You acted rashly, and I can't say I'm surprised, but now we have to forge on properly."
"With a minister and a lawyer?" Logan checked.
"Would you prefer a priest or a rabbi?" Honor teased.
"Not now," Logan said. "Dad, what is all this? You said this was to be a family celebration."
"And it is. This is simply how we do things in this family. You have a proper wedding, in a church with guests and a goddamn cake."
Logan fumed. "I don't need a cake. We didn't get married for you, we did it for us."
"That doesn't take away from the fact that your actions have an effect on this family. Your inheritance has changed, Rory needs to be added into the legal wording, and she needs to be taken over the contingencies."
"Contingencies?" Rory asked.
Logan remained focused on his father. "I'm not a part of the business anymore, doesn't all that fall away? I'm not your heir."
"You may not want the business, but you are still my heir. I didn't write the contracts, it's out of my hands. You said yourself you weren't quitting the family, and this is part of being in this family. When you get married, your share changes, just like when you have a child."
"Boys are best," Honor proffered, unasked and clearly annoyed, mostly for Rory's benefit. "So you're not caught completely off-guard when you read the archaic document."
"What is she talking about?" Rory demanded of Logan.
He hesitated, too long. "It's all legal nonsense."
"If it's all nonsense, sign your share over to me, Mr. Heir," Honor tossed her words at him from across the room.
"As if you won't have enough as it is," he glared at her. "I didn't marry Rory for the monetary gain."
"You get a bigger inheritance for marrying me?" Rory squeaked.
"Not you specifically," Harold piped up. "Any suitable female of childbearing age."
"Isn't the wording just charming? Doesn't make you feel at all like chattel, does it?" Honor asked ironically.
Rory turned to Logan, her eyes wide with some emotion he was afraid to pinpoint. "You knew about this?"
"Of course he knew about this," Mitchum stated.
"Excuse me, she was talking to me. We'll be right back," Logan said, steering Rory out of the room. She felt her feet moving as he guided her, into a room toward the back of the house that opened out into the back patio.
"Is this a solarium?" she asked with what was left of her wits.
"Rory, I had no idea about the details. He told me to be careful about my inheritance, years ago, and showed me all these stacks of documents. I was fifteen; I didn't read any of them. I don't care about any of that, I never did. You know that."
She blinked, his face finally coming into focus. She'd only had a few sips of her drink which tasted nothing like alcohol, but everything seemed like it was swimming around her. "What kind of family bases a person's worth on getting married or having boys?"
"It wasn't my doing. I just want you to know that it's one of their tricks. I told you, it's important that nothing they do or say get to you."
She nodded numbly. "Right."
He stared at her, appraising her mental state. "Are we okay?"
She made direct eye contact. "Yes."
He let out a breath. "Okay."
They ran into Shira on their way back to the others. "Oh, good. I caught you two alone. Logan, do you mind if Rory and I have a little chat?"
Logan kept his arm around Rory. "Mom, I," he began, but Rory put her hand on his arm.
"Yes, it's fine. We'll be right back," Shira said. Logan nodded tightly, gave Rory a pointed look, and went back into the sitting room.
Shira watched Logan disappear and turned to Rory. "It's such a nice night out."
Rory followed Shira out through the same room she and Logan had occupied, onto the back patio. There on a patio table was Shira's set up, with a half-full ashtray and a full bottle of sherry with a sipping glass next to it, at the ready. "Marrying into this family isn't easy."
Rory remained stoic. "That seems to be by specific design."
Shira smiled with practiced ease. "Yes, in fact it was. At the time the family built their fortune, they felt it necessary to put certain safeguards into place. It's a big responsibility, to have all this money. Mitchum comes from a long line of very powerful, very smart men."
Rory set her jaw. "I understand that."
"Logan's always tried to separate himself from his lineage, but he's not the first. Mitchum was prepared to strike out on his own when he was younger. He had all these plans, and none of them had much to do with following in his father's footsteps."
Rory frowned, feeling discomfort at the level of disclosure Shira was getting into. "People change, I guess."
"Yes, but there's a cost," she said with a sigh. "You're from a very fine family. You could be such an asset to us all."
A strange prickling tripped its way up Rory's spine. "I'm not sure I understand."
"Logan's too smart for his own good. He has such talent, but he's always railed against direction."
"Are we talking about Logan's job?" Rory asked. "That's not up for discussion, nor is it anything I intend on interfering with."
"Rory, you need to be practical. You're a married woman now. His success is yours. It's well and good to want a career of your own, I understand it myself. And I know you're an adept journalist. Mitchum put you to the test, and it seems you've become better for it."
"Excuse me?" Rory asked, flabbergasted.
"But I'm telling you, there's a cost. It takes a lot of work, to be a good wife; to keep your husband happy and on task and to raise children. I thought it would be easy, with how quickly Honor came, but then we tried for Logan and there were lost pregnancies, and the pressure of trying for a boy. If we'd had another girl, that would have meant years more of disappointment and more time hoping that none of his flings would come up pregnant with a boy."
Rory fought the urge to flee and with the impossible task of coming up with an appropriate retort. "We haven't discussed children."
"I'm trying to help you. I had an uphill battle, but I came through it. I'm still here."
"I'm not sure what I'm supposed to gain from this chat," Rory said plainly. "Logan and I are a team."
"Good, that's good. It took so long for us to get there. It's harder these days, being able to find out the sex of the baby before it's born. There's less time to nail things down."
Realization washed over Rory. "I'm not pregnant."
"Dear, there's no shame in it. I made sure Honor gave you a virgin cocktail," she added as if she'd done her a favor.
"I'm glad you are so open-minded about the concept, but we didn't get married because Logan thought he had no choice."
"Let's not pretend. We're women, and now we're family. Logan has never been the committed sort. It's in his genetics, dear, the Huntzberger men are charismatic and love the company of women. It's their blessing and their curse."
"You sound so resigned about the fact that your husband and son might cheat on their wives."
"It's a fact of life, one you must come to grips with. You're not powerless, but you must be smart about how you punish him."
"I don't want to punish him! He's not going to cheat, and I'm not pregnant."
Shira sighed, clearly frustrated. "You want us to believe that you two just went off to Vegas and got married on a lark?"
"It wasn't a lark. I went there to tell him things had to change, the way our relationship was going. I wasn't happy watching him become so miserable at work, and then he just took off to Vegas with Colin and Finn. I wanted him to know that I loved him, but things couldn't keep going like they were."
Shira smirked. "So you do know something about getting what you want from my son."
She met her eyes, growing angrier by each passing moment. "I didn't go there to get married. I went because… because I love him and I needed him to understand that if he loved me, he couldn't bail on me like he had."
Shira looked unmoved. "You got what you wanted."
"I didn't want to get married! When he proposed, I was stunned. Not only because it was so out of left field, but because I felt myself wanting to say yes. Somewhere in here," she said, her hand at her chest. "I felt the word built up, ready to come out even before I said it. I wanted to marry him despite being mad at him. In fact, I realized that I should marry him because I was so mad at him. No one else has ever made me so angry, or so heartbroken, or so happy."
"Sentiment will only carry you so far past the honeymoon."
Rory steeled herself. "He promised me that this was a new beginning. That we'd put each other first and stop holding back things that affected our lives."
Shira raised an eyebrow. "Like the family inheritance?"
"Excuse me," Rory said, turning in search of her husband. Logan was refilling his glass, and his unsteady hand spoke of anger or insobriety, or both. His head swiveled to her.
"No. I haven't had any, I guess I shouldn't start now, with you," she gestured to his overused glass.
"Don't worry, I'm fine," he protested.
"No, you're not fine. You have no idea how not fine you are. Your mother just had a chat with me. Not only was she sure I was pregnant, but she wanted to advise me how best to deal with your inevitable indiscretions."
"I'll talk to her," he said wearily. "But can it wait five minutes? I just got rid of the minister and the lawyer, though Dad made an appointment for us to go to the office and be fully debriefed on the contents of the family papers. I'll get us out of that too," he paused. "Why are you looking at me like that?"
"I talked to your mother. I told why we got married—more than that, how I felt when you proposed. I told her that you promised me that we'd start fresh and tell each other everything, not hold anything back."
Even through his haze of alcohol, clarity of understanding broke through. "You remember?"
She smiled widely, nodding as he put down his drink and swept her up in his arms, spinning her around. For a second, she forgot where they were, as well as the fact that they had an audience. It reminded her of the overwhelming joy she'd felt in Vegas.
"When, how?" he asked, mystified and happy.
"It just fell into place, while I was talking. Your mother was trying to prepare me for how my life was going to go, but I knew she was wrong. I knew, and then I knew why I knew. It just came back, in a rush."
"We have to celebrate," he declared, far more loudly than the rest of their conversation.
"Isn't that what tonight is?" she asked dryly, sarcasm lining her words.
"God, I love you," he said, kissing her.
"If you're going to persist in such demonstrative shows of affection, could you at least have the dignity to go up to your old room?" Honor asked from the settee.
Mitchum came back into the room, seeing his daughter and her husband seated idly and his son and new daughter-in-law embracing by the bar. "Your mother's opened the sherry."
Honor groaned. "I'm ordering a pizza on the way home. Come, Josh," she beckoned as she stood to depart.
"It didn't have to be this way," Mitchum said to Logan.
Rory held tight to his side as he answered. "Yes, it did, Dad. If you want, I'll meet with the lawyer, but it all needs to be rewritten. Honor can have more. Let her get a bump for being firstborn or having a girl or for keeping Josh from smothering her in her sleep," he said with a wistful smile.
"Rory, I'll call you and we'll have lunch. Soon, okay?" Honor asked, leaning in to kiss her cheek.
"Sure," Rory promised.
"What happened on the patio?" Mitchum asked Rory, for once not in a demanding tone.
"We discussed the kind of wives we wanted to be," Rory said calmly.
"We're gonna go," Logan said. "You'll pass on our goodbyes to Mom?"
"You can't deny everything you are, Logan. Not forever."
Logan stood facing his father. "I realize that. This is merely the result."
Rory couldn't help but feeling sorry for Mitchum as Logan once again steered her, this time out of the house.
"Are you hungry?" Rory asked from behind the wheel of his sports car. She knew how to drive a stick, thanks in part to a brief introduction from Luke years ago and a crash course from Logan the first time she'd had to drive him home when he was in no state to drive. He'd sat slumped over with his seat belt on in the passenger seat, guiding her on when to press the clutch and how to feel the engine's readiness to shift with acceleration. Her experiences with Logan had always made her glad that she was a quick study, she never knowing what was coming down the pike.
"Not really. I just want to go home," he said, his hand on her thigh and his lips at her shoulder.
"Then stop. I'll crash and kill us both if you keep that up," she advised, her eyes remaining glued out the windshield.
"As my wife, you should know I'd rather die happy. And I'm happy now," he said.
"I want to die happy as well, and dying in a flaming car crash with my underwear showing doesn't qualify."
He was quiet for a minute, but didn't withdraw from her. "I can't believe you remember."
She smiled sidelong at him. "Me either. Apparently I just needed to be provoked."
"It's what my parents excel at. I hope my mother wasn't too forthcoming with you."
Rory let out a bark of a laugh. "It's completely messed up, what some people will do for money or prestige. I'd rather be penniless."
"If I take that job in California, we won't be penniless. We'll probably have to work off a budget until the IPO hits, but I'm going to take care of you, no matter what."
"I'm not worried about that, you know that. I don't need anything extravagant. I like our apartment. I like it just having the things we need. I like that we don't have to sell ourselves out to keep it, and when I come home to it, you're there. That's all I need."
"This is just the beginning," he said.
"Logan," she said, hesitant to intrude on his joy.
"It's just… the night we got married, there was something else I remembered about it. Something I'm not sure you know."
"I thought, when you proposed, that there was a chance that you were just trying to make me forget that I was mad."
"You know that's not why," he said. "I had the ring."
"I do, now, yes, I'm sure. But that's why I suggested getting married right then. I wanted to see how serious you were; I didn't think you'd agree. When your mom said there were ways of managing you, of keeping you in line, it hit me that what I'd done was no better than her advice. I was testing you, and I didn't think you'd agree to it, trying to call your bluff. I thought you still wanted time, to be able to back out or reconsider or even just adjust. Sweeping declarations are one thing, and I know in the heat of the moment you mean the things you say, the promises you make. I just wanted you to know. And I'm sorry."
"My intentions weren't completely forthcoming."
He blinked at her. "But you went through with it anyway."
She nodded. "If I hadn't been drunk, maybe I wouldn't have. But maybe I wouldn't have suggested getting married straightaway either."
"Are you saying you wish we would have waited?" he asked, confused by her admission.
"No. I just don't want to become a wife that has to manipulate her husband to get what she wants, or for any other purpose. I didn't know I wanted to be anyone's wife. I didn't know so much, going into this. I just don't want you to be sorry about how this turns out. You've given up your job and probably a good chunk of your family's money, and your bachelorhood."
"Let's forget the fact that I would have given all that up anyway," he said decisively. "If I wouldn't have done it for you, with or without time to reconsider, then I don't deserve to be your husband."
"That's sweet, it is, but look at us. Everyone keeps saying that we aren't the type of people that they expected to get married—not only to each other, but to anyone. Do you really think we have a chance at making this work?"
"I think that's exactly why we have a chance at making this work," he said, and she could tell that he wasn't just saying words to reassure her. He believed it, and it made her hope he was right.