Disclaimer: And here at the close of the show, I reiterate… Not mine!

CHAPTER THIRTY

In the lobby of the Dragonfly Inn, Emily Gilmore straightened her skirt, and paused in preening when she heard the panicking voice of Luke Danes.

"You can't turn fifteen and be allowed in a car! Behind the wheel!"

Emily paused, incredulous. This of all days, and he was preoccupied with everything but the event in question?!

"Dad. Stop freaking out. It's called driver's education. School. Education. Theory. Practice, in a supervised setting," came an exasperated teen female voice, which Emily presumed was Luke's daughter, April. "And it means a discount on insurance."

"It does?" A sound of paper rustling inspired Emily to peep around the corner into her daughter's office at the inn. There stood Luke, and his daughter. He wore a suit and a tie. She wore a skirt suit, her blouse matching his tie in color. It was a very nice sapphire blue. They were perusing some sort of pamphlet. "Huh," said Luke. "That's not bad. But you have a year till you're sixteen, why do it this fall? You'll have forgotten everything!"

"Oh my God," sighed April, pushing her eyeglasses up her nose, tucking her hair behind her ears. "You're getting married in, like, five minutes, and you're nervous about me driving?"

"No reason to be nervous about marrying Lorelai," said Luke with such calm that Emily envied him. She had felt that way, with Richard, once.

"Even, um, y'know, all the stuff?"

"Hey, let's focus on the scary stuff, which is you driving."

The girl's voice rose plaintively. "Why are you so sure I'll crash?"

"Because you're so sure you won't!"

Emily withdrew and walked outside. It was May, a glorious month, and the walk to the ceremony site took her along a footpath to a green lawn. Barely a dozen chairs were arranged in a semi-circle around a wooden arch of sorts covered in chains of flowers. The wood had been carved with a simple fretwork pattern, interspersed with what she suspected were stylized snowflakes. It was dignified, simple, stained dark and rich, with white and pink flowers of a dozen kinds twined around it. It had a sense of newness, yet reminded her of the tatty chuppah Lorelai had in her yard for years.

"This isn't how it should be," she whispered, tears in her eyes, and she reached in her bag for tissues.

"Here," said Richard, startling her, and handed her a silk-cotton square. "I've brought spares. What isn't how it should be, Emily?"

His kindness cracked her open. Words gushed out. "No diamonds, no tiara, no white dresses, no bridesmaids, no guests, no reception in a beautiful hall with crystal chandeliers and a five-tiered cake scattered in gold dust, and, oh, Richard, how can she marry at this age, this way, why bother, why not live in sin and admit…"

"Admit what?" Richard cut in sharply, quietly, and stuck her hand on his arm to steer her to a chair. A few errant petals and a scattering of golden pollen marred its seat, and he dusted it off for her with a quick snap of another handkerchief. "Admit a failure?"

Skin burning from her humiliation, and her anguish, Emily snapped, "Yes! This is not how it's done, and it's ridiculous! Then we have to traipse hither and yon…"

"To the town square, by car."

"For some disgusting barbecued grease with a side of congealed starch!"

"For an evening of celebration with live music…"

"By some band called Hip Allen!"

"Hep Alien," corrected Richard, his voice growing taut. "The menu, Emily, is green garden salad, roasted vegetables, and for those of us at the high table, chicken or beef or fish. The majority of guests can have a choice of hamburgers or similar grilled as they want, with bowls of snack foods forbidden to me, and some variety of potato and pasta salads, apparently."

Emily blinked, frowning up at her ex-husband. He was wearing a white bow tie with little blue dots on it, one she didn't recognize. "How on earth do you know all that?"

"Miss Cartman is catering the picnic for the majority of the guests, and coordinated it with the meal for those of us at the family table, in case we chose to wander about. I was told what to avoid."

Ankles crossed demurely, Emily sniffed disdainfully. "I suppose the cake will be six tiers of chocolate covered in more chocolate."

"One tier, of something Luke insists we'll all love, a spice cake with what he called perfect frosting. A long-lost family secret his sister held, apparently. The sheet cakes will be yellow or chocolate, I'm told."

His complacency infuriated her. "You're not even walking her down the aisle! How can you be…" She stopped, changed her approach. "My God, Richard, are you paying for this travesty?"

"Since Lorelai didn't require money for the wedding itself, I volunteered to fund the reception food, and I believe Luke is, as tradition demands, paying for the alcohol and the band. Come now, Emily, Lorelai and Luke had one financial obstacle, and that was the food, it's little enough for me to do."

Devastated that she had only been invited, not consulted, Emily seethed, "You're insufferable!"

Richard shook his head, then smiled, whispering, "Here they are."

Rory and April appeared from seeming nowhere. Each escorted her parent to the wedding arch. Rory's blouse matched Lorelai's dress, a pink halter-neck with fluttery hem, the print subtle but still (to Emily) completely unsuitable. It was all disgraceful, in Emily's opinion, but what about this situation didn't make her glad that she alone of Hartford society had been invited? Even Lorelai's earrings and necklace seemed to be costume, hand-made, though matching each other if not anything else. The whole affair struck her as terribly shoddy.

It was not at all her dream. This was her reality, and it hurt.

The minister said the usual words, while April and Rory stood proudly by their respective parents. On Luke's side, a surly dark-haired young man rolled his eyes a few times, and a woman with flowers on her head squealed excitedly.

"And now, a few words from the bride and groom to each other," said the minister. "Lorelai?"

"Okay, here goes. Luke, we took a long road, but it was worth it, because…" Lorelai smiled shyly. "Even if we weren't always in the same car, we were still on the same road, and we're always going to be. So, with this ring, I thee wed, and give you my car keys."

Emily dropped her face into her hands, appalled. Richard's chuckle irked her almost as much as Rory's open, "Nice one, Mom!"

Luke grinned at the simple gold band on his hand. "Yeah. Uh. Geez. Cars. Okay. So, the thing is, April asked me about me asking you to do this, and she said that with everything that's happened and…" He coughed. "Great, whoever bet on me rambling, you win."

The dark-haired young man hooted, "Yes! Easy fifty!"

April flung him a dirty look. Emily realized it was Rory's ex-boyfriend, the hoodlum. Jeff or something.

Luke drew a deep breath, and said steadily, "You're why I'm a lucky guy. With this ring, I thee wed, and thank you for saying yes."

Lorelai hurled her arms around Luke, who kissed her far more deeply than publicly appropriate. Emily cringed. Richard cleared his throat. Luke's side of things seemed to find it fine, and whooped. Someone actually shouted, "Huzzah!"

"And on that note, they are husband and wife, they're already kissing, let's go eat," said the minister.

Everyone hugged. Squealed. Kissed. Jumped. Bounced. Danced in place. Only Emily remained still, and quiet, and seated, purse in her lap.

"Mom. Thank you for coming," said Lorelai, when the chaos calmed to mere anarchy. She looked flushed, happy, beautiful, and her smile was gentle and yet sad.

Through a small lump in her throat, Emily replied crisply, "Of course, Lorelai. You'll forgive me if I decline to stay for the picnic. I've a museum opening tonight."

Lorelai's eyes bored into hers, frighteningly perceptive. "I understand. We're glad you came. Drive carefully."

She squeezed Emily's hands in her own. It shocked Emily to feel the smooth gold band, but no engagement ring with it. Naturally, her daughter didn't have one. The whole thing had been whipped up in a month, helter-skelter, catch-as-catch-can, and the fact it was lovely was irrelevant. It was not right. This was not how her daughter should marry, nor when, nor whom. It was all wrong, still all wrong, and nothing could make it right, not for Emily.

As the others chatted, Emily hesitated, but she had decided her course. She walked up the path, head high, proud that no one could tell her heart wept.

GG GG GG

AN: THE END!

Sad for Emily. On vows: Lorelai, obviously inspired by what she said to Luke back in S6 about just wanting to be let in the car; Luke, in part by my husband recently saying he was grateful I said yes. (EDITED: Apparently, Lorelai said the car thing to Sookie in the episode after Partings. Frankly, I was binge-watching on Netflix and the S6-7 horror blurred a bit, and I didn't re-read the scripts. Everything I work from here is just from casual memory. Whatever. She should have said it to Luke, so in my AU, she did. Discrepancy magically fixed!)

On dress: Is it the pink dress from Liz's wedding? You decide. A new, different wedding arch? Hey, Mrs. Kim sold the old chuppah to a sucker (in my head-canon, anyway). Imagine what and who you like for the big party. I ended on Emily, btw, b/c… it seemed to fit.

Incidentally, you can whip up a wedding arch pretty quickly if you know anything about carpentry, and carving. My grandfather was a master carpenter, and could hand carve a newel post, while watching a ball game, into shapes like an owl, pine cone or pineapple. Give him a power tool, and it was just a matter of him drawing onto the wood what he wanted, and zoom! You can now get trace-able patterns, by the way. Thus, if Luke can manage a chuppah, I figured he could manage a simpler arch on short notice, particularly given modern power tools and, as I noted, trace-able patterns. Fretwork and snowflakes are pretty easy compared to goats.