Logan was on a roadtrip with Finny, having taken an unusual left turn from the all too familiar I-95 to CT-8 heading North through Waterbury and Torrington. He hadn't been in this direction in a while, truth be told, the last time he'd been in the area, more specifically at a private property just by Enders State Forest was during the first Life and Death Brigade event he'd brought Rory to, years ago.
His car stereo had been playing a repertoire of 'Johny-Johny, Yes Papa' and 'Five Little Monkeys' for the past hour, hence he finally really needed a break himself. Besides he'd kept to Rory's suggestion to check whether Finny wanted to go to the bathroom about every hour or so, in case he got awfully quiet, and that he'd certainly been.
"You want to take a little break, buddy?" Logan asked his son, as they'd just driven through New Hartford. "They've got some cool theme park of some sort here," he noted, having not really planned for it. It seemed to be a minigolf course of some sort, thought right now it was under a layer of snow, but it had various attractions like plastic farm animals and miniature Falu-red barn houses which would provide good entertainment for the boy. They had some time to kill, having agreed to meet the owner of the property he was looking to buy face to face and finally get a look at the place himself. Logan had wanted to bring Finny along to get some one-on-one time with him, which was probably going to be a little chaotic, but he didn't care - he'd missed him.
"Yay! Finny replied, jumping in his seat, making the car seat shake in its place. The boy was very strong for his age.
"Come one," he said, after he emerged from the car and walked around it, and then got Finny out of his seat.
"There's a bathroom over there, if you need to go, okay?" Logan said to his son, noting a small store with the sign that seemed to be open by the lights inside. He could really use a coffee himself.
"Okay," Finny replied.
"'Okay' you'll tell me or 'okay' you need to go?" Logan asked, really not having too much practical experience with him in situations like this since he'd started going to the potty.
"Go," he replied, making Logan pull him to his hip and hurry his step. Who knew how long he'd been holding it?
Thankfully the door to the store was indeed open and the door opened with a loud wind chime sound.
"Hi, this little guy would like to use the bathroom," he said, looking for directions from the older Native American woman in her 50s or 60s with long grey hair.
"Customers only," she replied coldly.
"Yeah, sure - I'd love a coffee," Logan promised.
The woman relented, looking like the type to usually first make the customer pay for it but this time sh let it slide, gesturing towards the back.
"Come on...," Logan urged Finny and they headed to the back, thankfully getting there just in time.
As he returned Logan had a chance to really look around and notice that besides snacks and coffee the place also sold handmade jewellery, household decor and paintings.
"I'll have a coffee, black, and a small apple juice" Logan asked. "Finny, do you want a pastry?" he asked, looking around, already having lost track of him . Clearly the items on the shelves having drawn Finny's attention.
"If he breaks it, you buy it," the woman warned, seeing Logan struggle keeping track of his son. He did feel a little out of practice.
"That's fine," Logan replied, assuringly.
"Finny? Please don't touch anything, okay? You want the pastry or not?" he repeated his question.
"I'm not hungry," Finny replied.
Logan had brought some snacks of course, but he always liked to support locals whenever he travelled like this. And clearly as this was just a short drive from the place he was looking to buy, he really wanted to maintain good relations.
"I'll get it anyway, to go," he added, and placed a plastic lid on top of his coffee cup, deciding to have it once it had had a chance to cool off a little.
"Daddy, can I get this?" Finny asked, as he rushed to Logan with a small object in his hand.
"What is it?" he crouched down beside him and looked into his palm.
The boy held a big claw pendant in his hand.
"What is this? A bear claw?" Logan asked, making a fair guess.
"Yes," the woman replied. "20 bucks," she added sounding a little like Mrs. Kim.
"You really want it?" he asked, looking at Finn.
"I'd recommend you add a bracelet or a key ring, it might be a little small for him otherwise," the woman added.
Logan realized that indeed might be the smart thing to do since it wouldn't be the first time when Finny put something in his mouth. Besides, there were babies at home, willing to try out anything dropped on the floor.
"Here," the woman said, offering a selection of wide woven bracelets.
Finny picked one in blue and yellow, and kept holding onto the claw.
"The claw is supposed to bring good luck and good health," the woman mentioned. Logan really didn't buy that - this was what sales people said to have people leave their store with a positive notion, but he figured that this type of positive message really didn't hurt anyone, and held his tongue.
Logan paid for his purchases, while Finny, now captured by the object in his hands, simply stood by his side. Before he headed out the door, he turned back for a moment, thinking that if he was looking for locals this actually probably was the place to ask.
"I'm sorry, do you mind if I ask you something?" Logan asked the woman.
"Sure - stupid questions cost 5 bucks though," the woman pointed on the sign on the register.
"Sure," Logan chuckled. "What's this area like - I'm considering buying a property around here. I'd be also looking for some farmhands, technicians, a housekeeper - are there any or how's the situation?" he asked, realizing that the question really wasn't the kind to get a short answer.
"It's better in the summer, more tourists and more jobs, some people who live here go work at the ski resorts further away or warehouses in the City. But I could ask around," she offered, her tone changing to noticeably more friendly, having realized he wasn't some rich dude who was just passing through. She continued to talk a little about the major employers in the area and among others about a large factory having been downsized recently. The information he'd gotten was incredibly valuable, making his decisions a lot more informed, just like he did in business.
After taking a quick walk around the snowy mini golf course outside and snapping a few pictures of Finny hugging the plastic cow, they headed back to the car and drove the last 15 minute stretch to the property in question.
As they arrived, it was the first time he really got what Rory had said about the place seeming like a castle or a fortress of some sort. But as the place became more familiar, the owner, a young guy who'd just recently inherited the place from his great uncle, having shown him and Finny around, he was truly becoming fascinated with the place. He wondered about the agenda with which the owner's great uncle had developed this place, and as the current owner knew very little of it, it was almost like a mystery to be solved once they owned the place. They took their time, touring every building and room. Finny seemed to enjoy it too - not quite being used to having this much room to run around. Logan could definitely see the kids here, even if it wasn't a place where Rory truly wanted to live. But he was pretty sure, seeing the kids this happy, could at least convince her to visit on occasion, besides Stars Hollow was close by.
Logan could see Finny getting a little fussy - clearly overwhelmed by the newness - he decided to call it a day. He really had very little doubts.
"Alright, my offer is 14.5," he said, deciding to test the waters," Logan said, having already gotten the assessment from his construction guy.
"14.75," the owner replied.
"Deal," Logan said, having offered below official estimates. Clearly the owner had few other offers and just wanted to get the place out of his hands. "I'll have my realtor draw up a formal offer and then we can speak notaries - the sooner the better," he replied, feeling like he just wanted to get the ball rolling already.
They got back into the car, and Logan drove home, looking every now and again into the rearview mirror to check on the sleeping boy, who'd fallen asleep the minute the engine turned on. He was glad he'd come, and brought Finny - it had been their day of experiences, and more importantly he'd proven to himself that he and Finny could be a team. He knew this trip here would just be the first of many with him.
It was another work day at the Apparatus Bay. Celeste had just taken to her final exam in Hartford, and she was feeling pretty good about it. Now she was helping Jess pack up the store's orders before the courier got there. To pass the time, she'd decided to also bring up the same questions that Rory had recommended. Celeste wasn't doing this because she was sensing problems with Jess, but it was something different to talk about, their lives too having grown a little bit more dull in Stars Hollow once the routine had set in. The books and Doula and Leo, who were often hanging out at their store after school, were the ones giving their lives some new topics usually.
"What advice would you have given yourself 10 years ago if you could go back in time?" Celeste asked Jess, who was sitting at this desk, printing out invoices to send with the orders.
"Hmm…," Jess pondered out loud. "I think I'd tell myself not to panic, to be patient, take a few extra management classes maybe," he added. He felt very composed about the whole thing - he'd found Celeste at the perfect time in his life - not too late or too early when he wouldn't have been ready. Them getting together had been such an odd series of events even thinking about alternating a single thing about the past couldn've potentially led to him having a very different and lot less happy life.
"I'd, maybe put a PI on my brother, maybe expose him sooner?" she discussed. In theory she would've like to add 'have kids sooner' but then Evie perhaps wouldn't have been Evie, and maybe she wouldn't have Jess. "But not much other than that really," she said, and sat onto the corner of Jess's desk, facing him.
"Not a lot of people can say that," Jess pointed out, and rested his hand on her thigh, casually, as if it was it's natural place to be.
"You know..," Celeste began. "I'm actually feeling a lot better these days - I don't want to jinx it, but maybe something is beginning to work," she added, speaking about her depression which Jess understood. Maybe it had been the change in her meds, the change in her hormone levels, reading the final version of Jess' book that had gone through Rory that made her accept the issue from another point of view or perhaps even the drop of pressure that had happened a little over a week ago, but for weeks now she'd been thinking less and less about her issues - she felt relieved and free to dream, her mental capacity having been freed up to a much greater extent. Whatever it was - she was better.
"I'm glad," Jess replied, pulling her chin closer for a kiss.
They were jolted out of their moment by the buzz of Celeste's phone, which she'd forgotten on 'vibrate' since the exam that morning.
"Celeste Mariano," she picked up the call from an unfamiliar number.
"Vikki, hi," she responded, Jess hearing only the one sided conversation.
"Uh-uh," Celeste continued to listen, acknowledging what Vikki was saying.
The slight teardrop in the corner of her eye was really making him worry now.
"Okay..," she replied, Jess already being figuratively on his toes about what she was saying.
"Okay, I'll see you in two weeks," she added, and continued to thank Vikki. That alone already gave Jess a lot of hope.
"Well?" Jess asked, impatiently.
"Low risk," Celeste replied, exhaling loudly while sniffling a little.
Jess rose, and wrapped his strong and warm arms around her upper body and held her tight. He was beyond happy.
"Also it seems you're getting a son," Celeste added quietly, while he was still holding her.
Jess couldn't quite wrap his head around that thought. He'd briefly thought it - what it'd be like - and while he would've been perfectly happy with another girl, putting emphasis just on both Celeste and the baby being healthy, he was utterly dumbfounded.
"I love you," he said, through an emotional laughter, not getting any other words out.
"I love you too," Celeste replied, wiping away her tears of joy.
There was technically still a week to go until it was safe to start telling people, but for the two of them this was real now. Neither wanted to hold back any longer and they stayed there in each other's arms for a while, Celeste resting her forehead on his shoulder, facing his chin, while his palm caressed her abdomen.
Rory was downstairs, building a block tower with the twins, when G came through the front door, stomping slush off her Dr. Marten's.
"Hey," G called out, seeing Rory, and hung up her jacket in the foyer closet.
"Hey, how was school?" Rory asked, casually. She didn't do this every day, feeling like that was such a 'mom' thing to ask, recalling well how tiresome those questions felt back in the day.
"Good," G replied, smiling broadly, and came to sit next to her. "Guess what?" G asked Rory, making Rory quite curious to what was making her so happy. God, it felt good to see her happy like this - but she desperately hope it was about something other than a guy.
"What?" Rory asked, not knowing where to start guessing.
"My research project won first prize," G exclaimed, excitedly, not quite believing it herself. Rory knew about the project a little, and she knew G had spent the majority of last week working on it. G continued to explain how she'd taught mice to respond more efficiently to bribery instead of punishment, and how she'd tied that to various theoretical frameworks Rory knew nothing about.
"Wow, that's great!" Rory congratulated her. "I'm so happy for you," she added. Rory had never been the one to win things like that - sure, writing competitions, but never science projects.
"So what does it mean - what's the prize?" Rory asked.
"I get to take classes at either NYU, Columbia or Barnard for a year. Which I'm not sure really is a win, because it means I'd need to working more not less, but they said I could probably replace a few credits from my high school programme with it, so maybe there are some ways to keep the workload manageable," she explained.
"So it's almost like early admissions or something?" Rory asked.
"Not really, I'll still have to apply with the rest for an undergrad. But it's something," G added smilingly with a slight shrug. While she was never the overachiever to want to do more work, this actually felt like something that would help her move forwards sooner. She liked the company of older people - and not just when it came to guys, she was over the high school scene and its dramas. This almost felt like someone finally telling her that she could skip some of it and move on to the next stage. It didn't mean that she wasn't going to hold on to the friends she did have, but it added hope and gave her new doors to explore - it was just what she needed. Besides it was not like she currently had many other ideas what to do with her time. It was a distraction, something to keep her on the 'right' track, keep her focused. And studying was certainly better than just killing time.
"It's way more than something, I'm so proud of you," Rory replied, hugging her. "Now, I do believe this deserves at least some celebration - any secret wishes for your birthday that I might not know about?" she asked.
It was finally Friday, and G had dressed up for her birthday, wearing her black skinny jeans and a black sequin top and high-heeled ankle boots. She'd arrived at the La Merciere together with Rory, Logan, Celeste and Jess, Doula having unfortunately had to stay home because of some event she'd gone to with her Lacrosse team. Rory had originally booked the place for after, but since they really didn't know well when that was and the places were connected, Rory had just figured she'd book the private room for the whole evening and order a lot of snacks instead of main courses so it wouldn't limit what people wanted to do. It was almost like a slightly upscale Gilmore birthday party.
"Hey!" G exclaimed, having just taken off her coat and hung it up, as she saw Philipa and her boyfriend Zach walk in.
"Hey, birthday girl," Philipa replied, hugging her. She'd naturally also been hugged and congratulated at school earlier that day, but this was the actual party, earning her extra hugs, which she enjoyed probably more than they realized. She continued to greet Zach just the same, and did a short introductory round. Unlike a lot of teenagers would've, she didn't feel embarrassed by having her sister and Celeste there with their husbands. They were her friends too.
She'd explained the logic behind her birthday - that she'd only invited the people she really wanted to be there, Zach being a bit of an exception - she didn't care if he was there, instead of inviting most of her class like most people would and instead invited the adults in her life that she truly cared about.
Her dad wasn't coming, but feeling guilty for not being able to move things around, he was coming the following weekend, which she could live with. Not all relationships would be perfect, but she could tell he too was trying, at least in his own way. She still hadn't heard back from her mother either - but she understood she needed some time. She should've felt alone, but actually little by little she was feeling less and less so - knowing Rory had her back.
Soon also Mason and Homura, dressed in matching optical black and white outfits, having decided to play into the color theme of the evening, arrived.
"Oh my god, I feel almost dizzy looking at you guys!" G greeted them, hugged and kissed their cheeks, accepting their congratulations.
Rory organized food and drinks, deciding for mocktails with non-alcoholic gin for the teens, wanting to see if they could tell the difference, and suggested the rest go and explore the color factory. She followed soon with Logan.
The place was indeed like a burst of color, bright tones and patterns definitely awaking the brain, the energetic playlist of Delta 5, Beth Ditto, Sharon van Etten, Carolin Rose, and Ezra Furman filling the room, making everyone more playful than usual. Everyone did selfies and discovered the space that was theirs for the evening. There was laughter, G and her friends taking turns by jumping into the light blue ball pool. Their stomachs hurt from all the laughter afterwards.
They took breaks to refuel, but the place honestly seemed to be just the place G needed at that point, having also brought her good camera along. They got to be and behave like kids guilt free, being silly and enjoying it to the fullest.
After a round of gifts, Celeste and Jess soon headed off to their Beta Radio concert, already feeling a little giddy and excited for their date night, and G wished them a great night as she sent them off. The band had once been Celeste's favourites, and to the two of them the music, despite it's certain overbearing romanticism, it did hold memories for them from their first real date. Besides, they had a lot of reason to celebrate.
What G hadn't expected, was that also Rory and Logan decided to head off, telling the teenagers to have fun with a sneaky smiles.
They continued to enjoy the evening, finding new areas in the Color Factory they hadn't yet explored.
Suddenly Mason said, "Hey - look what I found!" holding up a bottle of champagne and an envelope, having found it in a corner that the five of them hadn't been yet.
"Let me see!" G said, gesturing for him to bring it over.
"Nice champagne too," Philipa commented, noticing the brand Moët Chandon. Her parents were wine fans, hence she'd picked up a thing or two.
G opened the envelope and found VIP tickets to the Rumpus room, a 18 dance club at lower east side. There was a little card included that said, "You deserve a magnificent birthday, G. / F. PS: There's an open tab and a security guard called Steve who will take good care of you."
G smiled broadly. Finn didn't hate her, but instead forgave her her impulsive nature. Maybe he even cared a little. She knew not to take this as 'something' to get her hopes up, but she was grateful nonetheless, putting her in an even better mood than she'd come in with.
"I have a surprise for you," Finn whispered, as he wrapped his hand around Charlie's waist soon after she'd gotten home, having for once been the first one back. Charlie had had a long day at one of the tourism expo where's she been helping out the Marriot's sales team, only to really realize that sales really wasn't her thing. Well in a way it was half the victory to know what she didn't want. But nevertheless, her feet were sore from being on heels all day and all she really wanted to do was relax.
Finn had made her evenings in New York very memorable so far, taking her to all types of fancy places, sights and events, and for once she just felt like staying home.
"Please tell me it doesn't involve me putting on heels again?" Charlie begged with a sigh.
"Quite the contrary, my darling," Finn said gallantly.
"Where are you taking me?" Charlie inquired feeling rather confused why Finn leading her upstairs to the roof deck. She'd been there once in daylight, just out of curiosity, but the place really wasn't much during the winter.
But boy, was she wrong. Finn had filled the pool with water and turned on the heating. He'd lit the place up with patio heaters and weatherproof candles. There were a few serving boards of fruit and cheeses on the side of the pool and a bottle of Prosecco, waiting on ice.
"I thought we could use a soak," he suggested, and began to take off his clothes. He'd been already missing the Australian warmth and the way swimming had become a daily thing for them. Besides, he loved watching her swim.
"You're crazy," Charlie shook her head, smilingly broadly.
"Afraid of a little cold? I thought you were the one to do winter surfing?" Finn teased.
"I'm not afraid," she argued with a playful pout, and swiftly began to follow Finn's lead.
Characteristic of Finn, he plunged into the water butt naked, making Charlie giggle out loud. They were on the top of the city, wind blowing and the temperature no more than 37 degrees, there were skyscrapers around them that were higher than their building and in theory people could see what went on their rooftop, but clearly Finn didn't care.
Charlie jumped in in her underwear, feeling relieved as the warm pool water, that appeared to be steaming in this weather, surrounded her body. This really was the life. She took off the remainder of her clothes in the water, after having taken a few breast stroke.
They glided in the water for a while. Soon Finn swam underneath her, and emerged just in front of her, wrapping his arms around her hips.
"With evenings like this I could do sales every day of the week," Charlie chuckled, just before Finn decreased the space between them and kissed her boldly.
At the same time, on another rooftop in New York City, Rory and Logan had settled into the guest room's bean bag couch Logan had pulled up onto the roof balcony. They were both wrapped up in cosy throw blankets, having brought a bottle of scotch with them.
"It's good to have you home," Rory said, as she snuggled into his side. She'd also noticed how Logan was putting serious effort into spending time with the kids, and not just Finny.
"It's good to be home," Logan replied, kissing her temple. "I've missed this rooftop tradition too," he added, recalling how back in their old apartment they'd done this every time they'd felt like they needed a small escape. Here it was a little trickier now that G was living up here, her bedroom window looking out into the balcony it felt less private, but they took what they could - and G certainly wasn't home that night.
"Me too," Rory sighed, resting her cheek on his chest. "You've been sounding a lot happier," Rory commented.
"I am," he replied and continued to tell Rory about all the ideas he had with the new property that he'd bought.
"Are you?" Logan asked, "happier, I mean?" he added, after a while.
"I am happy that you are happy, that the kids are well, that we are connecting again," Rory listed. "I'm happy that I finished Jess' book," she said. But other than this, she didn't really have a plan. She didn't want to go back to the university and she didn't want to edit just some random book. She wanted to put her kids first, and that she was going to do, but Logan knew her better than that. She needed something.
"I had an idea the other day…," Logan began. "How would you feel about starting a HPG research fellowship. I know it's not exactly what you've had in mind, but you'd get to work with what you know. You can specify the fields or topics yourself, form a committee, organize an application round, evaluate and then see what comes of it. You can get someone to do the research you want to exist, without it taking up all of your time," Logan explained, giving her a couple of examples of foundations that did something similar.
Rory listened, and for the first time in years, she felt that connection to Logan she had nearly forgotten about - the one that went beyond their kids, marriage or their sex life. This was the way he challenged her, suggesting she could do things she'd never even considered. And while she didn't decide right there on that roof top what she was going to do - it gave her an incredible sense of knowing of how right this was.
AN: Remember somewhere along the 100th chapter I said that I was reaching the end...? Well it took me 70 more chapters to do it but here it is. It's the end of this timeperiod in their lives. Just somewhere there needs to be an ending even if it is a temporary one. Writing this has been incredible but with a storyline this long it's a lot to keep in mind, and don't be alarmed if you spot inconsistencies just like in the OS. I've gone back and fixed a few small things afterwards.
I will pick this universe up again, I promise - just give me a little time to (try to) plot and write first.
If you do want to make some guesses - what do you think who of these couple is going to stay together through the covid-years and who is not? Any suggestions of what you want to see happen in the future are also very welcome. I'm sorry if one of your favourite storylines didn't get closure right now, but as I said in the previous chapter - not everthing needs to be resolved straight away and at least in my stories, not everything needs to have a standard happy ending either.
Also I admit that I got inspiration for a lot of the music mentioned here in these last couple of paragraphs from the Sex Education tv-show's playlist. This is what I imagine as Finn's personal playlist.
A huge thanks to everyone who has read this! I love your encouragement and reviews!