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Reconciling

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A year’s worth of heartache, anger, resentment, soul searching, self-discovery, bittersweet reunion, and awkward reconciliation went into that kiss. When they finally came up for air, the emotion dam burst.

Luke hugged her head to his shoulder, one hand buried in her hair, and kissed the top of her head. “I was so stupid,” he said. “So stupid.”

“I missed you so much,” she replied, hugging him fiercely.

She meant it. Of course she meant it. Luke had come a long way in the past year, but his tendency to doubt her feelings for him was a personality feature that just refused to change. Until he saw her lean in to kiss him, he had himself almost convinced that she hadn’t really serenaded him that night, that it really didn’t mean anything. He was overjoyed to be wrong and he finally, finally, had the nerve to take a chance and jump. It was then that he had dropped the bag of charcoal briquettes he was carrying and met her lips halfway, wrapping his arms around her and giving in to the strong desire he’d been fighting for weeks.

“I’m so sorry,” he continued.

I’m sorry,” she argued.

Luke took a step back, saying, “Oh, um…” He reached into the pocket of his jeans and pulled out a rectangular pink box. “I’ve been waiting for an opportunity to give you this.” She took the box from him and opened it to find a beautiful necklace with tiny ice blue beads and a single teardrop. She gasped.

“Luke, when did you-”

“When I got Rory’s graduation present. I thought it looked like you.”

“It’s beautiful.” She held it to her chest and smiled. Then she noticed a note in the box. She took it out and unfolded it.

“Oh, you don’t have to read that now--” But she was already tipping it toward the streetlight to read it. So he just waited, shifting uncomfortably.

“Lorelai,

I know I'm not great about expressing feelings, but I'm working on it, I’m really trying. I thought writing might be easier, so here goes. I want to tell you a little of what I’ve learned in the last year.

I’ve learned that I can live without you. I don’t want to, but I can. I’ve learned that I have friends and family; that I’m not alone, even without you. And in the last couple of months I've learned that I can be just your friend if I have to… If that's all I am to you. I would rather have your friendship than a life without you, so if that is all you can offer me, I will take it.

But I can't for the life of me figure out how to stop loving you, to stop being in love with you, to stop wanting to be with you. I don't know if I ever will and I don’t even know if I want to. You’re it for me, Lorelai. I don’t want to wait another 8 years, with us dancing around each other. So I’m asking you now to give me another chance. Please give us another chance.

Love, Luke”

This was not normal. Luke didn’t bare his soul like this, even in writing, and he was never this sappy. When, on occasion, he let his feelings be known, it was usually in the middle of a rant. Luke was more of a gesture kind of guy. But here he was, telling her in words, lots of words, that he still loved her. Lorelai remembered the impulsive-yet-not-regretted boat purchase and wondered what else this new and improved version of Luke had in store for her.

“You’ve been planning to give me this for days?” Luke nodded.

She stood silently for a moment, studying his face, seeing only sincerity and vulnerability. She felt tears forming and managed to fight them back, replacing them with a small smile and a soft laugh instead. She nodded and said, “So, um, we seem to be stuck with each other. I guess Sookie and Patty were right.”

“I can live with that.”

“Yeah…” she nodded, “Yeah, me, too.” Then smiled again, this time a lot bigger.

She looked down at the necklace in her hand, then back up into his eyes. “You really do like to see me happy.” Luke nodded, putting a hand tentatively on her hip. She stepped close to him again and said in a low voice, “Hey, wanna see me really, really happy?” He smiled. “Take me upstairs.”

“Upst-…?” His smile turned to a look of puzzlement.

Take me,” she paused and gestured toward the diner with her head before continuing, “Upstairs.” Just to drive the point home, she leaned in and whispered in his ear, “Take me. Seal the deal.”

Luke’s eyes widened as her meaning became clear. He looked around, getting a handle on where he was and what he had been doing. “But the party… Rory…”

“They can do without us for 15 minutes, Luke.”

He smiled, then was suddenly flustered. “Uh… okay… uh… meet me up there in 2 minutes. Doors are unlocked.” With that he kissed her quickly, bent to grab the dropped bag of charcoal, and started toward the party tent at a brisk pace.

Lorelai giggled to herself as she ran to the diner and flew up the stairs to Luke’s apartment.

She put off thinking. There was so much to think about. The anticipation of maybe, just maybe, she’ll be able to move forward for the first time since she opened the Dragonfly--no more tentative holds on her love life, dancing around it, always worried about screwing things up. This time really move forward. Maybe, just maybe, she’ll be able to start that post-Rory-rearing life that saw so many false starts. Maybe, just maybe, it will stick this time. But she put off thinking about it. Again. Because she just wanted to be happy for 15 minutes. She just wanted to be with Luke. To be with Luke.

“Please be there Please be there Please be there,” she chanted to herself as she rushed through the door of the apartment and went straight for the closet, shedding her top as she went. She rifled through, past the dress shirts, the Hawaiian shirt she’d teased him about so many years ago, into the cotton plaids. Finally she found the section of plaid flannel shirts that had been put in the back for the summer. Any of them would do in a pinch, of course, and she had almost decided to just grab one when she spotted the familiar blue plaid she was looking for. Her shirt. He’d kept her shirt -- the one she had claimed for herself on their first real date almost three years ago.

They’d had a wonderful dinner at Sniffy’s Tavern, starting with Luke sharing intimate details of his life, describing the day they met, and laying all of his cards on the table, declaring that he was “all in” regarding the change in their relationship. He had been afraid that such a move would make her nervous and want to bolt, but it didn’t. Quite the opposite, in fact. They chatted easily about anything and everything, touching knees and hands on occasion, smiling and laughing. It was them , with all of the warmth and comfort they usually felt around each other, but kind of an enhanced them , with an added bit of electricity.

After dessert they had headed to Luke’s truck. It was a warm summer night and late enough that the parking lot was nearly empty. When he leaned in to open the door for her, Lorelai stepped close, stopping him, and said, “Hey.”

“Hey.”

“Listen.” She tilted her head as if listening to the wind.

“What do you hear?”

“Well, I don’t hear Kirk screaming.” She nudged even closer and practically whispering. “I don’t hear a marching band. I don’t hear wait staff ready to plunk down dinner in front of us.”

“Mmmm. Imagine that,” he replied, then his lips found hers and he immediately deepened the kiss, wrapping an arm around her and pressing her into the door of the truck. A second kiss followed, then it was hard to say when one kiss ended and the next began. The spell was finally broken when they heard a group of patrons exit the restaurant, arguing over the ball game which had just ended.

So Luke and Lorelai had returned to Stars Hollow, ending their date at the diner because, hello, coffee! He led her into the apartment, then headed downstairs to get her a cup of her favorite beverage and himself some tea. But Lorelai had other plans. After setting the champagne bottle down on the coffee table, she walked over to his closet, stealing an idea from her favorite Michael Douglas movie. She found her favorite of Luke’s shirts, a blue plaid flannel, and headed to the bathroom.

When Luke returned Lorelai was still in the bathroom, but she now had the door open. He heard her say, “I hope you won’t be upset if I don’t drink that. I think I’m nervous enough as it is.” She walked out of the bathroom. “Maybe I should stick with champagne.”

Luke was setting the mugs down on the coffee table. Nervous enough? Suddenly his heart was racing. “Uh…” He looked up to find her standing in the middle of the room wearing nothing but a smile and his blue plaid shirt. “Wow,” he managed, stunned. His eyes traveled the length of her before he swallowed, then stammered, “Lorelai… we don’t have to…” She walked toward him. “We can take this slower… you know, wait until…”

“Until we get to know each other?” She lifted one eyebrow.

“Yeah, well, I guess that is kind of…”

“Silly?” She was really close now.

“B-but you said you were nervous.” He offered as she put her arms around his neck. He responded by putting his arms around her waist and pulling her closer.

“I am nervous.” She said, “but I’m also excited.” Then, as she lightly kissed him, “Aren’t you excited?”

“Dear God, yes.”

They didn’t rush. With the ‘decision’ out of the way, there was no pressure, no need to ‘test the waters’. They had all night. They sat on the couch, necking and talking, then necking some more. She did end up drinking some of the coffee and more of the champagne. There were touches and laughs and heated moments. There were some brief moments of awkwardness, too, as any first time will have, such as the necessary discussion about recent sexual partners and the diaphragm she had taken care of while changing into his shirt. But they laughed or kissed away the discomfort. Eventually they moved to the bed and the long night of foreplay ripened into slow, attentive love-making. It wasn’t perfect. They were still learning each other’s bodies, but the intense emotion more than made up for the minor fumbling. In the end, they each secretly thought it was the best sex they’d ever experienced, although neither admitted so out loud. Afterward they lay lightly caressing each other and talking softly, feeling closer than ever, safe, and content, before falling asleep in each other’s arms. Not a fairy tale, but romantic nonetheless.

Now nearly three years later, she wasn’t out to recapture that moment. She just wanted him. Badly. Wearing his (her) shirt was just a cute way of showing him how much and maybe making it a little more fun. After an incredibly painful year of being apart, the more icebreakers she employed, the better.

When Luke came bursting through the door of the apartment he found her standing near the kitchen table wearing only that shirt and the necklace he’d just given her, looking very much like she did that first night. “Wow.” He said as he stopped in his tracks. But he only paused a moment, then said, “I guess I don’t need to ask you if you’re sure about this,” as he closed the distance between them in three big strides.

They both went from hardly breathing to breathing hard in a matter of a few seconds. Their kisses were passionate, tongues twirling, and their hands were everywhere. Luke attacked her neck, kissing and scraping his teeth while he grabbed one of her legs behind the knee and pulled it up to his hip. He he urged her to hop up onto the table. She unbuckled his belt and continued the business of freeing him from his jeans as he cleared the table with one sweep of his arm so she could lie back. Between desperate breaths and kisses, Lorelai repeated variations of “I want you”, like “I want you so much” and “I want to feel you inside me”. For once, Luke didn’t want her to shut up and he didn’t pause to ponder the situation. He dove in and she pushed back, matching him stroke for stroke. It was over quickly, but not without a seriously intense climax for each that left them both struggling for air.

The ice was definitely broken.

Then she started to cry.

And Luke panicked.

“Lorelai?” He stood up, bringing her to a sitting position and pulling the shirt down to cover her. “Oh my god, what did I do? You said this would make you happy.” He pulled his boxers and jeans up.

“I am happy, Luke,” she murmured, trying to catch her breath and get her emotions under control. “I am. Really, really happy… I really wanted this. I’m just…” She took a deep breath. “Rory… and my parents… and you and… It’s been a bit of a roller coaster these last few days and it’s not over yet. I’m just a mess. But, God, Luke. I’m a happy mess. Really.”

Relieved, he sighed and helped her down from the table. They embraced for a few minutes before either spoke again. “So… what now? Where do we go from here?” Luke asked.

“Well, now you get some sleep and I go back down to the party. And we will deal with tomorrow when it comes.”

“But… Lorelai…” he struggled to say what was on his mind as she nudged him to sit on the bed. There was no question that they both wanted to try again, but it was clear to him that they couldn’t just pick up where they left off. They had a lot of work to do and he didn’t know where to start. “I’m afraid of making the same mistakes again.”

“I know,” she answered, looking down. “Me, too.” She started to put her clothes back on. “We obviously need to talk. A lot. Like, seriously talk. About everything. I know it’s not your favorite thing to do.”

“You might be surprised,” he said with a small smile. “I’m pretty highly motivated right now.”

“Well, we don’t need to talk tonight. Tonight you need to get some sleep. When was the last time you slept?”

“I’m fine. Taylor will blow a gasket if I don’t supervise the cleanup.” He started to get up.

“You let me worry about Taylor,” Lorelai said in her ‘mom’ voice, pushing him back down. “I’ll put Kirk in charge of cleanup. He loves to be in charge.” She went over to his dresser, pulled out a pair of sweats, and tossed them to him. “To bed, Burger Boy!” She hadn’t called him that in years. It made him smile.

He reluctantly started to undress, then suddenly realized something. “Rory! I need to say goodbye to Rory!”

“Tell you what,” she answered, “How about I bring her by the diner for a private goodbye on our way to the airport. Around 6? Just before you open?”

“I have a better idea,” he said. “Come by around 5 and I’ll make you both breakfast.” Luke had sent Rory off with a full stomach to ever first day of school since she was 10. This would be a perfect way to end that tradition.

“Why Luke Danes, you do know the way to our hearts, don’t you?” she said as she kissed him.

“Yep, right through the stomach.”

“Okay, so see you at 5?”

“See you at 5.”

As she closed the door, she reached up to touch the necklace he had been carrying around for almost a week. She grinned and sighed, then headed back down to the party, preparing herself for the gauntlet she expected to run once she reached the tent.

But the tsunami of questions never came. Nobody had noticed Luke and Lorelai kissing in the middle of the street. They were all too busy having a good time and the tent narrowed everyone’s field of vision. Caesar noticed that Luke had disappeared as soon as he dropped off the charcoal, but he was too busy cooking to worry about where he’d gone. And when Lorelai told him that she’d sent Luke to bed, he didn’t think twice. The guy clearly needed it.

Still, Lorelai didn’t escape completely. Sookie had missed her. She was waiting patiently for Lorelai to return, suspecting that she’d gone to talk to Luke. Sookie wanted details and she wouldn’t be disappointed.

“So, where ya been?” Sookie said, bumping Lorelai’s hip with her own.

“Um, well, Sookie…” She couldn’t help the grin. “I’ve been at Luke’s, reenacting your favorite scene from Bull Durham .”

“You threw his clothes out the window?!” Lorelai stared at her, blinking. “Oh… OH!” Sookie finally understood. “REALLY?!” Lorelai nodded, her eyes twinkling. “On the table ?” Another nod. Then Sookie hugged her tightly and squealed. “It’s gonna work this time, I know it is!”

“I think so, Sookie. I really do.”

 

~ooooo~

 

The party kept going until about midnight. Sookie managed to keep the news to herself until 11:00 when she finally told Jackson. Jackson went straight to Miss Patty, thinking he’d gotten the scoop, But Miss Patty already knew. You see, Liz and TJ left at 10:30, saying they needed to get Doula to bed. Liz started to hug Lorelai goodbye when she suddenly gasped and put her hand over her mouth. “What’s wrong?” Lorelai asked before she realized what Liz was looking at.

Liz said, “Awww! He finally gave it to you! You found a wormhole!” She was nearly crying and hugging Lorelai, who was starting to feel like the town’s favorite teddy bear with all of the hugging going on.

“Um… okay…” Lorelai didn’t understand what she meant by ‘wormhole’, but didn’t really care. She hugged back. Liz went on and on about how happy she was and how she just ‘had a feeling’ about Luke and Lorelai while TJ rolled his eyes.

“I guess I’ll say congratulations, too.” He groaned, giving her a quick hug.

“Um, okay, thanks.”

Then they left, but not before Liz could tell at least three people that it looked like Luke and Lorelai were back together. The rumor mill being what it was in Stars Hollow, pretty much the whole town knew by the time Kirk picked up the bullhorn. Money had even exchanged hands as bets were won and lost.

And so, although she had escaped the inquisition that night, Lorelai knew that the town would be watching them closely. Then again, hadn’t the town been watching them closely for months? Maybe since they broke up? At least since she had started visiting the diner again. If they had all been waiting for the two to get back together, maybe the excitement was over and now they would turn their attention elsewhere.

Nah.

 

Chapter Text

As promised, Lorelai and Rory arrived at the diner at a little after 5 the next morning. They tried to tease Luke in the usual manner, but it came out a bit lame thanks to sleep deprivation. Still, Luke was happier than he’d been since Lorelai had proposed two years earlier. He joined the girls for a few minutes while they ate, but mostly he was content to just watch and listen, puttering around the diner preparing for the breakfast rush when he opened at 6. The conversation remained light, none of them wanting to spoil the mood or spark tears.

Eventually, after they’d picked at the hashbrowns for as long as they could, Rory excused herself to use the bathroom.

“I might be a few minutes. I need to do something else with my hair. This ponytail is going to be uncomfortable on the plane, I think.”

Lorelai brought the last of the dirty dishes to the window, using them as an excuse to get closer to Luke, who stood leaned up against the jamb of the kitchen doorway, watching her. She gave him a sidelong look and said, “You look well-rested this morning.”

“I am,” he replied, “Thanks for being so forceful about it last night.”

“My pleasure.” She smiled and turned to face him. He really did look great this morning. His eyes seemed to be a particularly gorgeous shade of blue and there was a twinkle there she hadn’t seen in a very, very long time.

“So what do you have planned for today?” He noticed that she wasn’t dressed for work. “I hate the idea of you going home to an empty house.”

“Oh, don’t worry about me,” she reassured him, “I took an extra day off and my first move will be to sleep most of the day. We didn’t sleep at all last night.”

“I bet.” He had suspected as much. “And after that? Are you up for some company tonight? Stay in, watch a movie?”

“Something romantic? Like Jaws ? or Saw ? Scarface , maybe?” she started walking toward him. He ignored the teasing and took it as a ‘yes’.

“Is 6:30 okay?”

“Um…” She was inches away now, biting her lower lip. “Better make it 7. I have a hair appointment.”

He put his arms around her waist and pulled her closer. “I’ll bring dinner, okay?” he whispered.

She kissed him sensuously, then responded, “And pie?”

He kissed her and asked, “Boysenberry or cherry?”

She kissed him. “I have to choose?”

And then the verbal part of the conversation was over.

Rory returned to see a bit more Luke and Lorelai action than she had ever wanted to see and cleared her throat to put an end to it. She added, “You know the blinds are open and Kirk is getting quite a show.” Lorelai and Luke just smiled and casually stepped apart. “He was talking about pie . You know I can’t resist him when pie is involved.”

“Or brownies. Or pancakes. Or donuts,” said Rory.

Lorelai let out an audible sigh. “I guess we should be going.” She turned to Luke, “7 o’clock?”

“I’ll be there. Does Paul Anka still take his burgers rare-plus?”

“He’s not as picky about that as he used to be. Anything in the rare-to-medium range is fine.” She was touched that he’d thought of the furry family member who had missed him so much. What she didn’t say was that Paul Anka had had to adapt to a Lukeless existence; Chris’s grilling skills weren’t up to the task of getting a burger just right for the neurotic dog. Not that Paul Anka had ever really warmed up to Christopher. She suspected he still missed Luke much more than he missed Chris, who had only been gone a few months, and not simply because Luke got his burgers just right.

Rory gathered her things, but hesitated. “Um, Mom? Would you mind meeting me at the car? I’d like to have a few minutes with Luke.”

“Sure sweets. I’ll go warm it up.” And she did, glad that she had parked where she could watch the whole exchange through the diner’s windows.

When the door closed behind Lorelai, Luke came around the counter to face Rory and leaned back on a stool, crossing his arms. “I hope you know that I’ll take good care of her. Obviously I can’t promise that I’ll never hurt her, but I’ll do my best. Things are different now, Rory.”

“Oh, I know, Luke. I trust you and she can handle herself,” she replied. She shifted from one foot to the other nervously. “I didn’t really want to talk to you about Mom.”

“Oh?” Luke said, a bit relieved, but now curious.

“Yeah, um…” She didn’t really know how to say what she wanted to say. It had only come to her during breakfast that she needed something to say to him, so she didn’t have an opportunity to think about it or rehearse it. She did know that it was important and it was something she should have told him a long time ago. “You know, when I was growing up, my dad wasn’t always around. I mean, there were months at a time when he called at least once a week and we’d see him on holidays sometimes, but there were also months at a time, even years, when he didn’t call at all.”

“Yeah, I kind of knew that.” Luke acknowledged.

“Well, some of the times when I needed a father the most, or just when I would have appreciated one the most… When I was sick, my first days of school, when kids made fun of me for being a bookworm, when Dean broke up with me the first time… Well, he wasn’t there for me.” Luke could see tears forming in those giant blue eyes of hers, but he didn’t look away. “And sometimes I felt that when he was there, it was more for my mom than for me, like I was just an excuse for him to be close to her.”

She paused and tried to pull herself together. She was only moderately successful.

“He wasn’t there for me, Luke, but you were. You were there, and you never, ever made me feel like you were using me to get to Mom.” And now he couldn’t see her very well because there were tears in his eyes, too. She was choking on her words, but continued anyway, “I felt loved by you, and for myself, for who I was, not who I was related to. You were… You are the best not-really-a-father I could have asked for and I’m so grateful to you… and for you.” And then her face was buried in his chest and his arms held her firmly while he kissed the top of her head. “I should have told you this a long time ago.”

“I’m so proud of you, Rory,” he managed, but his voice cracked. “I’m as proud as if I really was your dad. And I hope you know that I’ll always be here for you. Whatever you need, you just ask, okay?”

She nodded, then stood up straight and sniffed while Luke wiped his eyes with the backs of his hands and tried to hide his face by looking around as if he had dropped something.

Rory walked toward the door, but turned around with her hand on the knob and said, “Oh, just one more thing, Luke.”

“Yeah?”

“Promise me you won’t get married without me.”

Luke smiled and nodded and said, “You bet.”

With that, Rory opened the door and was gone.

 

~ooooo~

 

Luke’s day was an odd one. It seemed that everyone in Stars Hollow came in for lunch, ate slowly, and loitered about. He could tell by the crowd -- Miss Patty, Babette, and Mrs. Cassini in one corner, East Side Tilly in another -- and the way they were always looking out the window that they were hoping to see something gossip-worthy. He knew that Lorelai wouldn’t be in today, but if he tried to tell any of them, they’d deny that they were waiting for her.

Not that Miss Patty and Babette didn’t trust what they had heard the night before, especially after Kirk’s description of the make-out session he claimed to have seen that morning, but they really wanted to see it for themselves or at least hear it from the horse’s mouth. It didn’t feel like real gossip otherwise.

Eventually Miss Patty got tired of waiting and decided to be blunt. “Luke, dear. A little bird told us that you and Lorelai might be… rekindling that old flame. Is it true?” Luke did what he did when each of the last three people asked him the same question. He looked at them blankly, then walked away.

He gave at least half a dozen repeat performances of this routine throughout the day.

Luke was only mildly annoyed by the attention. After all, it was good for business. Plus, he got a little kick out of leaving them to wonder. But he didn’t think the pressure would help his relationship with Lorelai. He also feared that Caesar wouldn’t be able to handle the crowd when he left in the middle of the dinner rush. He’d rather shut down than miss his ‘date’ with Lorelai, though, so he called in an extra server for the evening and headed up to the apartment around 6:30 to change.

 

~ooooo~

 

True to her word, Lorelai slept the day away. Walking into the empty house after leaving Rory at the airport had made her a little sad, but not nearly as depressed as she had anticipated. She walked Paul Anka, then curled up in bed and slept like a baby until mid-afternoon. When she woke up, she took a long bubble bath and snacked on some of the party leftovers that had found their way to her fridge. It wasn’t until she tackled cleaning up that it hit her that Rory was on the other side of the country by now.

Picking up the stray clothes that didn’t make it into Rory’s suitcase, Lorelai allowed herself a few moments of introspection. That was a mistake. She had thought she was fine, but when she picked up the orange sweater they had been talking about just this morning, panic set in.

Who am I, if I’m not Rory’s mom?

Suddenly she couldn’t get enough air. Heart racing, she sat down and put her head in her lap, trying to get herself under control. She knew what was happening. She’d had anxiety attacks before. In fact, she had them often since… well, since Luke postponed the wedding. They were so bad when she was married to Christopher that she had to get a prescription to get through the worst of them. But this one was a little different. The source wasn’t angst or regret. It wasn’t even loneliness. No, the anxiety wasn’t a feeling of doom or dread as much as a kind of panic -- so many big changes in such a short period of time and so many mixed emotions that she just felt out of control.

Not wanting to take anything for it that would impede her ability to enjoy her evening with Luke, she had to talk herself down.

“Rory has been ‘gone’ for a long time,” she said out loud, to make sure she heard herself. “This isn’t new.” As she took deep breaths, she felt herself calming down. The self-talk was helping, so she continued. “You’re not just Rory’s mom. You’re the owner of a successful inn. You’ve got a town that loves and supports you. And you’ve got Luke.”   Oh, God, what if I don’t really have Luke? What if I blow it again?...

Damn it! Wrong direction, Lorelai!

That seed of self-doubt didn’t have time to germinate, however, because the ringing phone interrupted her train of thought.

“Gilmore’s house of cards. Queen of Hearts speaking.”

“Really, Lorelai.” It was not a question.

“Hi, Mom.”

“Is that any way to answer your phone? What if I’d been a business contact?”

“Well, for one thing, a business contact would call me at the Dragonfly, not at home. For another, I knew it was you -- caller ID. What can I do for you, Mom?” For once, Lorelai was grateful that Emily called when she did. The distraction was enough to chase away the panic attack and her heart was no longer racing. Go figure.

“I just wanted to be sure that Rory made it to Ohio okay. She isn’t answering her phone.”

“Iowa, Mom. Rory is in Iowa. And she’s probably just busy. It is her first day at a new job. She texted me when her plane landed. She’s good.”

“Fine, then. If you hear from her you’ll be sure to let her know we’re thinking of her, won’t you?”

“Of course, Mom. But I’m sure she will call you when she can. Anything else?” Please don’t let there be anything else.

“How are you doing?” Um, what?

“How am I doing?” First Pod-Luke, now Bizarro-Emily. Where was this concern coming from?

“Yes, Lorelai, how are you doing? Am I not allowed to ask how my daughter is doing?”

“I’m doing fine, Mom,” she answered, not wanting to tell her about the panic attacks. “Thank you for asking.”

“Okay… Well… We’ll see you Friday at 7. Don’t be late,” Emily reminded in her usual sharp tone. Good to know that some things don’t change .

“Fine, Mom. See you Friday.”

Now that she was under control once again, she was determined to stay that way. She cranked up some music and finished the chores without further incident, then headed out for her haircut.

 

~ooooo~

 

Lorelai soon regretted walking to the beauty salon instead of driving. Three people stopped her along the way, each asking if she was on her way to the diner. Two winked at her when they did so and the third said, “Really?” as if he didn’t believe her when she said “No, I’m not.”

When Lorelai walked in the door of the salon, she was sure she heard a few people shushing each other, as if to say “She’s here”, but maybe it was her imagination…

Nope. There in the corner, under a hair dryer--was Crazy Carrie. And next to Carrie was none other than Debbie Fincher.

“Seriously?” she muttered to herself. Then she put on her best I-don’t-care-what-you-think smile, waved, and yelled, “Hi, Ladies!” Then nodding, “Carrie, Deb .”

“Lorelai,” they replied in unison. Four eyes aimed lasers at her as she walked toward Cindy’s station.

The salon was abuzz with stories of the party, from Taylor’s bizarre (and a bit sickening) introduction of Rory to the soaking that Zack and Lane got when a seam burst in the corner of the tent they were standing under. She could hear Roger telling his client about a drunk Gypsy and an even drunker Andrew getting caught making out behind the gazebo. Now that should be the gossip of the day , Lorelai thought.

Suddenly Cindy grabbed her arm, plopped her into a chair, and immediately started chatting away about how much she enjoyed Kirk’s breakdancing exhibition last night and the beautiful nautical-themed cake that Sookie had made for the occasion. Some people (Luke, mainly) thought that Lorelai was a chatterbox, but even she had trouble getting a word in once Cindy got going. While she worked on Lorelai’s color, Cindy went on and on about Rory. How proud the town is of her, how she couldn’t wait to read what Rory is going to write, the various contributions people had made to the party -- how Andrew helped string the lights and Anna set up the tables. Cindy herself had donated baskets for the centerpieces, for which Lorelai managed to get in a “Thank you” when Cindy stopped talking long enough to take a breath. She waited until Lorelai was under the sink, getting rinsed, to hit her with the questions about Luke. Was it true that they were back together? Were they going to get married after all? What about Luke’s daughter? Cindy fired at least 5 questions at her without pausing for an answer. When she was finally quiet, Lorelai just stared. It took her a second or two to realize that Cindy was waiting for her to speak.

“Oh, well, we’re…” and then Cindy was off again, babbling about how handsome Luke is and isn’t Lorelai a lucky woman and won’t hearts be breaking all over Stars Hollow now that he’s off the market again and it was clear that he was off the market, given what Kirk claims he saw this morning and is Luke a great kisser? because she always imagined that Luke would be a great kisser. Lorelai wasn’t proud of herself when she smiled (a real one this time) knowing that Carrie and Debbie heard the whole thing.

Lorelai treated herself to a pedicure while waiting for her color to process, leaving her vulnerable to even more questioning from almost everyone who entered the salon. She’d smile and turn the question back on questioner, saying things like, “What have you heard?” She didn’t deny, but didn’t confirm. It seems she also enjoyed letting the town figure it out for themselves.

 

~ooooo~

 

Less than 5 minutes after Lorelai walked through her door someone was knocking on it. It couldn’t be Luke, could it? It was only 6:30. She opened the door to find Babette and Morey smiling at her.

“Hi, Sugah,” Babette shouted as soon as the door opened.

“Hi, Babette, Morey. Come in.”

“No thanks, honey, we just came by to find out if Rory made it out okay and to see if you wanted to join us for dinner tonight.” Lorelai knew that Babette cared, but also that she was fishing for the information she didn’t get when Lorelai failed to show up at the diner today.

“Rory texted me when she landed, but I don’t expect to hear from her until later tonight. I asked her to call and tell me about her first day and I’d like to be home for that, so...”

“Okay, well, would you like us to bring you over something for dinner then? We’ll have plenty. Morey’s making his famous gumbo.” Babette offered.

“Um… I have a date, but thank you for thinking of me.”

Babette and Morey exchanged puzzled looks. “A date? We thought… well, we heard…” Lorelai looked at them innocently and Babette seemed to give up. Then her head snapped up. “Wait, didn’t you just say you were waiting for Rory to call?”

“Oh, I am. It’s a movie night date. He’s coming here. And bringing dinner.” They’d know soon enough that it was Luke, but it was fun to watch them squirm a little.

“Okay. Well, we just don’t want you to get lonely, honey. You’ll let us know if you need anything?”

“I will Babette. Thanks again. G’night, Morey.” She closed the door and went up to change.

That’s when the butterflies started. And she couldn’t stop smiling. Putting on makeup with shaking hands was a challenge, but she managed. Deep breathing kept her calm enough, but she was so excited that Paul Anka picked up on it and started whining in sympathy. She went downstairs early and just sat, tapping her foot, while the dog stared at her in anticipation.

The moment she saw his truck entering the driveway she was on her feet, Paul Anka close at her heels. As she opened the door, the dog flew out and she yelled, “He’s here, Paul Anka! Look who’s here!” He raced down the steps, not even noticing that they were something he was usually afraid of, and bounded toward the man he had missed so much during the last year.

Before Luke could get fully out of the truck, Paul Anka was all over him, licking and jumping around excitedly. Luke greeted the dog affectionately, “Wow, where is this coming from?”

“He missed you!” Lorelai said, bounding up to the man herself. She threw her arms around his neck and kissed him enthusiastically. “So did I,” she murmured against his lips. And then they were making out again, like Jess and Shane all those summers ago, forgetting everything except each other. This show made the one they gave Kirk this morning look like an episode of Teletubbies. And it went on and on.

Until they heard Babette’s voice yell, “Hey, don’t you two ever come up for air?” She and Morey had been sitting on their porch, of course, waiting for Lorelai’s date to arrive. Babette was giggling and about to dial the phone to let Patty know that the crisis was over; it was Luke all along.

“We just breath through our noses, Babette,” Luke yelled over his shoulder at her, smirking and shocking Lorelai just a little bit. She had expected a “Jeez!”, an eyeroll, and perhaps a hat adjustment. This new Luke was interesting indeed.

Luke was about to reach into the cab of the truck to grab the box containing their dinner when he notice the door was closed… with Paul Anka staring out from the driver’s seat.

Chapter Text

They chatted companionably through dinner about their days. Luke was concerned to learn that Lorelai had been hounded at least as much as he had been about their relationship. He didn’t care what the town thought, but he didn’t want anything to spook Lorelai. That was a strange thing to worry about at this point, he knew, but there it was. Even more, he didn’t want anything to make it more difficult for the two of them to talk. It took them three years and two breakups to realize that they had trust and communication issues. They needed the town to meddle like Kirk needed another job.

Here they were, not quite picking up where they left off. Things were different somehow. He tried to put his finger on it while she put in a movie. The Princess Bride seemed to fit tonight. Who wasn’t up for a story about sword fights and giants -- one in which true love endures even death?

They snuggled up together on the couch with Lorelai on one side of Luke and Paul Anka on the other, fast asleep after his much-appreciated burger. Regular movie night rules didn’t apply (not that they ever really followed them). Every few minutes one of them would make a remark (they’d both seen the movie several times; it was one of the few movies they both loved) or ask the other a question which would inevitably lead to a kiss or two or three. One particularly long session that was getting pretty heated was interrupted by the sword fight they both had to watch. But as soon as Wesley left Inigo lying on the ground, they faced each other again.

“I can’t seem to stop staring at you,” Lorelai said quietly.

“I can’t seem to stop kissing you,” Luke replied just as quietly as he kissed her softly as if to demonstrate.

“I can’t stop smiling, either,” she noted.

“I’ve been that way all day,” He laughed. “My face actually hurts from it.”

“And I can’t seem to stop touching you,” she suddenly realized. When they were dating and engaged, Luke was the one who touched a lot. He would almost absent-mindedly rub her neck or shoulders if they were standing. His hand found the small of her back as they walked. His arm was often wrapped around her knees as they sat next to each other on the sofa. Lorelai mostly kept her hands to herself unless they were in bed or she wanted to punctuate a statement with a light touch to his arm. But tonight she found herself playing with the curls on the back of his neck, rubbing his arm or his thigh, even holding his hand. They never used to hold hands. She had changed in the last year, too.

The butterflies seemed to have settled. She felt wistful and content, almost like she did on that first date.

“So…” she began, tentatively. “Will you… are you planning to stay?”

“Tonight?” She nodded. “Do you want me to stay?” She nodded again. “Are you sure?” She smiled and nodded again. He looked at his hand, which was playing with her hair, then slowly turned his attention back to her face. “I have a duffle bag in the truck.” Her smile widened. “A big one.”

“Dirty!” This time he smiled. She leaned in to kiss him yet again. He met her in the middle yet again. They lost themselves in it yet again. His hands in her hair and around her waist, her fists clenching plaid. When his lips moved to her ear, then down her neck, the phone rang, startling them both.

“Um, I better get that…” she said as they both laughed. Neither seemed to be able to stop grinning. “Would you pause the movie, please?”

“As you wish.” Luke replied and started to pick up some of the empty containers and beer bottles, heading for the kitchen. Lorelai picked up the phone excitedly.

“Loinfruit!”

“Hi, Mom.”

“So how’s the road? Hope you didn’t hit it too hard.”

“Ha, ha.” Rory sounded tired, but happy. “Well, I’ve only been on it for a few hours, but it’s good. It’s been a really, really busy day. The Town Hall Meeting was really interesting. I’ve already got enough for a blog post and a good idea for a full-length article. And I think I’ve made at least one friend.”

Lorelai couldn’t help but smile as she tried to think of something interesting to say. She had kind of blown all of her best Mom-to-daughter-leaving-the-nest material in the hours before taking Rory to the airport and her brain was a little foggy from the fire she’d been building with Luke just before the call. Finally she came up with something, “You must be exhausted. Did you sleep on the plane at all?”

“Some. But I got lucky with the schedule. I get to sleep until about 8am tomorrow.”

“Anybody wearing fanny packs?”

“Um, no. I dodged that bullet.”

“Oh, well good.” Awkward silence. Had she ever run out of things to say to her daughter before?

“So how was your day?” Rory asked.

She almost sounds like Babette did earlier. Lorelai thought. Is she really going to play coy? “Is there something specific you’d like to ask me, or are we going to speak in code now?”

“I really just wanted to know how your day was.”

“Oh, sorry. I was interrogated by half the town today, so I guess I’m just a little on edge about it,” Lorelai explained. She watched as Luke busied himself in the kitchen, trying not to eavesdrop as if they were talking about something intimate. “Um, good. My day was good. I slept, cleaned, got my hair done, ran a gauntlet…”

“A gauntlet of…?” Rory asked.

“Cougars, mostly.”

“Oh... Bad?”

“No, actually it was a little fun.” Lorelai smiled as she remembered. “The blonde brigade is jealous, I think.” She said that with a little too much glee. She knew that Luke would never look at any of those women even if he didn’t have Lorelai.

“And is Luke keeping you from being lonely?” Finally the $64,000 question .

“He’s here now. Want to talk to him?”

“As a matter of fact, I do, thankyouverymuch.” Luke looked surprised and maybe a little frightened when Lorelai handed him the phone.

“Hello, Rory. How is the weather in Iowa?” Luke wasn’t the most creative conversationalist.

Lorelai grabbed two more beers out of the refrigerator and headed to the living room. She could hear Luke’s side of the conversation, but wasn’t paying much attention. If she did she wouldn’t get much out of it. It was clear that Rory was doing most of the talking. Luke laughed a few times and just said “Uh huh” and “Yeah” until…

“Do you think she’ll want them tonight?... Uh huh…” He looked at Lorelai. “Okay, let me write this down.” Lorelai froze as Luke went to the desk for paper and a pen. “Okay, three boxes marked ‘Econ Textbooks’.”

She gasped. She could hardly breathe. Luke saw the look on her face and wondered just what was in those boxes sitting in the garage that Rory had asked him to get for her mother. He said goodbye to Rory, took the beers out of Lorelai’s hands, and handed her the phone.

“Rory?” she almost whispered, “Did you--”

“--it’s in Babette’s shed.”

“Oh my god, I love you so much.” She knew she was crying now and she didn’t care.

“I love you, too, Mom.” Rory replied. “You know I wouldn’t let you just throw all of that stuff away. especially the chuppah. I didn’t keep all of it, but I think you’ll find the most important stuff there.” Luke boxes. She made me Luke boxes .

“Thank you so much, honey. You don’t have to get me anything for Christmas or my birthday for the next decade. I just…” Her throat was closing. “I’m just so… I love you, that’s all.”

“I know. Now go be in love.”

 

~ooooo~

 

More whispers, touches, and kisses were inevitable. They tried to watch the movie, but couldn’t manage more than ten minutes at a time. Eventually they gave up and headed upstairs. This time they managed to get completely undressed and to get to a bed. They made love slowly, looking into each other’s eyes like people do in the movies. It wasn’t awkward or fumbling. It was warm and intense and satisfying.

But they were both still nervous and unsure about the future. Lying with their arms around each other, her head on his chest, Lorelai could hear Luke’s breathing slowing and she knew he was starting to doze. She struggled with her thoughts, opened her mouth to say something, then closed it. Then opened it again and forced herself to speak. “Luke?”

“Hmmm?” He could hear a touch of sadness or fear in her voice, so he shook himself awake.

“Um…” She cringed a little bit. “We didn’t talk.”

He chewed his lip for a moment, then muttered, “I know” and looked down at her, concern showing.

She sighed. “I think I’m afraid to really talk because I’m afraid you’ll clam up or shut down. Or maybe I’m afraid you’ll get defensive and you won’t hear me.”

“And I’m afraid you’ll walk away again.”

They shifted until they were lying side by side, staring at each other. He saw tears starting to form in her eyes. She didn’t fight them this time.

“We’ll figure it out, Lorelai.” Luke said quietly. “We will. Things are different now. I’m different.”

“I’m different, too, I think.” She said. “Hey, maybe we can have someone lock us in a room together until we work it all out.”

“You’ve seen far too many movies,” he chuckled.

They lay in silence, just looking at each other. Then Lorelai took a step out onto a branch. “Luke, if we can’t… figure it out… how to talk to each other openly, would you be willing…?” she hesitated, afraid of his answer.

“Willing to what?”

She took a deep breath and squeezed her eyes shut, “Would you be willing to see a couples counselor?”

She needn’t have worried. “Of course,” came his reply, “If that’s what we need to do, that’s what we’ll do.” He took her hand and kissed her palm, relieved to have at least a fall-back plan. “See? Everything will work out. And maybe we won’t need to do that, but it’s good to know there are options, right?”

Lorelai sniffed and smiled, feeling much better. “Yeah.” She nodded.

Luke brushed her hair back from her face with one hand and said, “I love you. And I’m going to tell you that a lot more often from now on. You’ll get sick of hearing it.”

“Good!” She replied. Then whispered, “I love you, too” and kissed him slowly and softly.

He shifted onto his back again, nudging her back onto his chest. “So let’s start with something a little easier than talking about us. Tell me about Rory.”

“Rory?” Lorelai said. “Well, she’s 5’7’’, blue eyes, odd obsession with books…”

Luke rolled his eyes, “I meant … tell me about her leaving. What are you feeling? How was it leaving her at the airport.”

“Hmmm. Well, it's silly really. I shouldn’t be so upset about her leaving. I mean, she hasn’t really lived at home in years. She hasn't even spent her summers here since she was in high school, and the last couple of years she barely came home one or two weekends a month. Then there was that ‘dark’ period. But it feels different this time, almost like I'm no longer her mom.”

“You'll always be her mom.” Luke said. It was so Luke-like. Whenever she expressed concern about her relationship with her daughter, Luke was a rock. She’ll call. She’ll come home. She knows. She remembers .

“Maybe it's just that it's so official. She’s done. She's old enough to drive, to vote, to drink… She’s a college graduate. She's a fully independent person. And she so far away.”

“You're not alone, though.” God, he is smart . Leave it to Luke to know just what she’s thinking and to say exactly what will make her feel better.

“No,” she smiled. “I'm not alone. But for so many years--since I was a child myself--I've been Rory’s Mother. That made up such a large part of my identity, you know? So who am I if I'm not Rory’s Mother--if being Rory’s mom isn't what I do, what I am most of the time?”

He hugged her tighter and kissed the top of her head. “You are Lorelai Gilmore, successful inn proprietor, eater of all that is greasy or chocolate, friend to all of Stars Hollow, movie and music aficionado, and love of Luke Dane’s life.” She leaned up to kiss him. What would she be doing tonight if they hadn’t found their way back to each other last night? She didn’t want to think about it.

But she also knew that what they were doing was important and she needed to keep talking. There was a lot more to say.

“I’m worried about her.” Lorelai continued thoughtfully.

Luke nodded. “Of course you are. She’s your daughter. It’s okay to worry about her.”

“No, this isn’t the basic Mommy kind of worry. I’m worried that she’s going to find the world a lot less… cooperative… than she expects.”

“What do you mean?” Luke asked. “Are you worried that she’ll starve?”

She laughed a little. “No, not at all. Rory will never have to worry about money. She’s got a giant trust fund, wealthy grandparents, and a father who can give her whatever she wants. But that’s part of the problem, I think.” She paused. “When I left home I did everything on my own. I left with $500 and what I could pack into my car, which was mostly Rory’s stuff, and started over. It’s true that I had a trust fund, but I didn’t have access to it until Rory was 9 years old and I used it to buy this house. Every dollar I spent until then was a dollar I earned. Even after I bought the house, the only loans I had for years were a mortgages and that money went back into the house, too.

So I thought that I was raising Rory with good values, you know, teaching her to earn her own way in the world. But when I went to my parents for help, all that went out the window. She got a glimpse of that world and learned to rely on it.”

“You think?” Luke asked. “I mean, she has accomplished a lot.”

“Yes, she has. But some of that she didn’t really do all on her own, Luke. Yes, she worked hard and she earned things like ‘valedictorian’, but there are opportunities that she has had simply because of who she knows. And she has never really had to face the world without a safety net--one made of cashmere.” She took a moment to gather her thoughts. “She got that internship because her boyfriend’s father… either he felt guilty or he set her up, I’m still not sure which. She has been handed so much and praised so much that I think she just expects the things she wants to happen to her. She counted on that fellowship -- the one at the NY Times -- so much that she passed up a great job. Then she didn’t get it.

“I just want her to be happy, but she’s ambitious and I’m concerned that if she doesn’t rise to the top of whatever she jumps into like she always has, that she’ll be miserable. I worry that she is going to get out into the world and be surprised when it doesn’t revolve around her. And I think it’s my fault.”

“How is it your fault? Because you went to your parents to pay for Chilton? What choice did you have?”

“Maybe. Or maybe I didn’t let her take enough risks when she was younger, I’m not sure. She didn’t really stop relying on me -- I mean to help her deal with life and stuff, not so much financially -- until her first year in college.”

“I assumed she still relied on you to help her make big decisions.” Luke was a little confused. He had never heard her talk about Rory this way. “Well, maybe until she dropped out of Yale. I admit I was a really surprised when she did that. I guess I thought you just didn’t try very hard to convince her to stay in school.”

“No, I did try. But she had stopped listening to me by that time. I mean the thing with Dean…”

“Dean?” Luke was really confused now. Was there really that much he didn’t know? “What happened with Dean?”

“I guess I never told you.” Lorelai sighed. “I’m afraid our lives are more General Hospital than you probably thought. Certainly more General Hospital than Disney .”

“That’s why we’re making this effort, isn’t it? To communicate more? So tell me now.”

“Okay, remember that night at the inn? During the test run?” she began.

“Vaguely,” he teased.

“Well, I’m sure you noticed that when I came back I was pretty distracted.”

“Yeah. I was worried that you regretted kissing me.” Luke remembered the ups and downs of that night, the feelings of defeat when he heard Jason say that he was dating Lorelai, the elation when he and Lorelai kissed, and the return of that defeat when she didn’t seem interested in talking to him about it.

“Well, I’d gone home to get my camera.” Then she corrected herself, “No, I went home to share it with Rory. The camera was just an excuse. I was excited… so excited. That kiss was… wow.” She could tell that Luke was smiling. “But when I got home, Dean was there.”

“Oh.” This explains a lot , Luke thought. “Wow… So, he did leave Lindsay for Rory?”

“Sort of, but not exactly.” Lorelai sat up and pulled her knees into her chest, wrapping her arms around them. “There’s more. So much more.” Luke sat up, too.

“Why didn’t you tell me any of this at the time?”

“Well, lots of reasons. For one thing, it’s really personal stuff -- Rory’s personal business, you know? I mean, I should have told you anyway because it affected our relationship, but I just couldn’t. And I didn’t want you to think less of Rory.”

“I wouldn’t have thought less of Rory.” Lorelai looked sideways at him.

“Think about it. Perfect little Rory? Sleeping with a married man?”

“Yeah,” Luke admitted. “Maybe. I mean, I would have still loved her, but I might have been disappointed in her.”

“Or you would have placed all the blame with Dean, and I needed you to get along with Dean if he was going to be in Rory’s life.”

“I get it.” Luke said. “And I probably would have blamed him. You know I don’t think I ever explained why I told Rory not to go to his wedding.”

“No, I don’t think you did.” She thought for a moment. We really didn’t talk enough, did we?

“He came into the diner the night before with Kyle and some other guys -- bachelor party. They were drunk. Well, Kyle wasn’t, but Dean was blotto.” He took a deep breath. “He was moaning about Rory.”

“Seriously?” Lorelai knew she shouldn’t have been surprised, but she was.

“Yeah, I sent the other guys home and let Dean sleep it off upstairs. He went on and on about her -- ’she’s so smart’, ‘she was the one’, ‘why didn’t she love me?’ He was pining for her, but then he got up the next morning and married Lindsay.”

“Is that why you disliked him so much?”

“Maybe. I don’t know. I mean, maybe I’m a hypocrite. A part of me knew I was in love with you when I married Nicole, but I wasn’t pining for you… Or maybe I was. I don’t know.”

“Well, I think it’s different. You and I had only ever been friends when you married her. You’d never even told me that you had feelings for me…” He looked at his hands, concerned. “Hey...” Lorelai tilted her head and waited for him to look up at her. “Dean and Rory started out as boyfriend and girlfriend, not just friends. And Dean was so young when he got married. So young. It’s different, Luke.”

“I suppose so.” He sighed, then tried to get the conversation back on track. “So that must have been rough, coming home to that.”

“There’s more, Luke.”

He sighed again. “Okay.”

“It was her first time.”

“Oh… Oh, wow.”

“Yeah.” Lorelai teared up remembering. “It was a pretty big night for the ol’ Gilmore girls.” The more she talked, the easier it got. Why didn’t they talk like this before? Could they have avoided all of that heartache?

“So what did you do when you found him there?” Luke asked, genuinely curious now.

“I didn’t handle it well,” she sighed, remembering. “I basically called her ‘the other woman’.”

“Well, she was.”

“Yes, she was. But I could have been more sensitive. It was her first time, Luke. I was so disappointed for her. But she had felt good about it and I made her feel bad about it. I did to her what my mother always did to me.”

“You said that was the first time she didn’t rely on you for answers?” Luke asked, remembering how they’d started the conversation.

“Yeah. I tried to talk to her, but she pulled away from me. She wouldn’t talk about it. She barely talked to me at all. Then she decided to go to Europe with my mother the next day.”

“You must have been torn.”

“I really was, in more ways than one,” Lorelai said. “Here I was, all excited about this wonderful thing that was happening to me -- and the inn’s test run was such a huge success, too. But I couldn’t share any of it with her. I didn’t even tell her about us until she came home two months later. It was a lot all at once.”

“I wish I had known, Lorelai.” Luke said softly. “I didn’t want to complicate your life. I would have waited, maybe until after the inn opened.”

“Oh, no, Luke. I’m glad you didn’t wait. Maybe you would have never asked me out.” She thought carefully before going on. “I don’t think you understand. You’re my rock. You’ve always been the one I turn to when I’m floundering. Remember that night in the park?”

“But I could have still been there for you as a friend, as I always have been.”

“No, you couldn’t. I couldn’t talk to you about what was happening with Rory. But the thought of us, of there being an ‘us’, that really helped me, even during those two months you were both gone. I don’t know if I could have gotten through that time if I wasn’t talking to you every day and looking forward to you coming home.”

Luke thought back to his time at the Renaissance Fair. “God, those weeks were so hard.”

“Dirty!” Luke smiled.

“But really, coming home to you was… nice.”

“Nice?!” Lorelai hit his chest with the back of her hand. “That’s the best you can do?”

“I’m not very good with words,” he grinned at her. “So… did Dean leave Lindsay for Rory?”

“Not exactly, no. Rory wrote him a letter. I was actually really proud of her for that. It took her six weeks, but she came up with the solution on her own. She told him she was out, that he needed to figure out his life on his own.”

“Yeah?” Luke was pretty proud of her himself.

“Yeah, and stupid Dean left the letter in his jacket pocket for Lindsay to find.”

“Oh, wow. That must have been quite a scene,” He said.

“Oh, it was. Sookie and I saw it. She threw his stuff out the window and everything. Quite ugly.”

“How was that news not all over town? I mean, adultery? A public fight? Divorce after, what, less than six months? In this town? After what we experienced today over a little kiss in the street, that’s pretty unbelievable.”

“I honestly don’t know how that happened,” Lorelai mused. “I think maybe it was because it was Rory. People just didn’t want to see her hurt, so they kept the rumor mill in check, maybe. I mean Miss Patty and Babette must have worked pretty hard to control it. They can do that when they want to.” She didn’t mention the way they had controlled the town talk about her meltdown at Lane’s wedding so that Luke wouldn’t find out what she said. She would save that for another day.

“So why does all of this make you worry?” Luke wasn’t sure he saw the connection. “She did the right thing in the end, right?”

“Yes, but then she started seeing Dean again anyway. And then Logan. I mean Logan had his good qualities, but she was so different with him. She let him walk all over her.” She thought for a moment. “Maybe I just didn’t like him because he was part of that world. Or maybe it was because my parents loved him so much.”

“Weren’t you supposed to let her make mistakes so she could learn from them?”

Luke has learned a lot about parenting during the past year, too, hasn’t he, she thought.“Yes, well, that’s just it. I think maybe she started that a little too late. And by that time she had my parents to lean on. There just weren’t a lot of consequences to failure. I mean, so what if she had to drop a class?

“I think maybe she didn’t hear enough criticism growing up? Look how she handled the thing with Mitchum. She stole a yacht, Luke! All because some guy with an ulterior motive told her she ‘didn’t have it’. And when she dropped out of school she probably saw herself as mature and independent, but she lived rent-free in my parents’ pool house for crying out loud. My mother got her a job and helped her juggle work with community service. She did get that job on the Stamford paper on her own, but she already had a foot in the door because of the internship. And when she didn’t get the fellowship and couldn’t find a job… She was so discouraged and she seemed so lost. The job she has now… well, she got it on her own merits, but again she wouldn’t have even had her foot in the door without Logan. He introduced her to the guy who is now her boss.”  Lorelai had never admitted any of these feelings to herself, much less talked about it with another person. This was big. “I don’t know. Maybe I’m wrong. She did turn down Logan’s proposal in the middle of all that, so maybe I’m worried for no reason.”

“I think she’ll be okay.” Luke reassured her.

“I hope so. It’s really amazing how different Rory is from me,” Lorelai continued. “She loves Stars Hollow, but she’d never be happy living here. I thought she would be, back when she was in middle school and even high school. I knew she wanted to be a journalist, but I think I always thought her heart would be here and now I wonder if it is. She’s changed. She likes that life, Luke, that life that I rejected… Well, parts of it, at least.”

“Maybe she is a little… privileged… but she’s got a big heart and great work ethic and maybe she won’t be happy living in this little town, but she carries it with her.”

“Yeah, maybe.”

“You’re worried that you’re not as close as you were when she was growing up.” Insightful Luke was back -- the Luke who understood her so well, the Luke she knew before April distracted him so much that he didn’t even notice when Lorelai was broken.

She sighed. “You’re right. We’re not as close. We’ll probably never be that close again. I realize now that I’ve been putting on a face for her for years, too. I didn’t confide in her when things were getting bad between us. I pretended that everything was great as much for her as I did for you. And when I was with Christopher, well I wasn’t even honest with myself, but I really hid things from her. She doesn’t know me as well as she did before she left home because I don’t allow her to know me.

“I don’t know why I do that; I don’t know if it’s to protect her or because I don’t want to burden her. Yeah, I think we haven’t been best friends for a long time, but I’m just now realizing it. And Sookie, well, once she had Davey… and that’s how it should be. Her family should come first.” She thought for a moment, then admitted, “You were really my best friend, at least since Rory started college if not before.”

“I’ll always be your best friend,” Luke volunteered. “I’m sorry I couldn’t be there for you after… Well… It must have been…” They both let that thought drift away for a moment. They could talk about that another time.

Lorelai smiled and kissed him while they settled down under the covers. “Yes, you are my best friend. Thank you for getting me to talk about this.” She curled up next to him with her head on his shoulder and let herself settle into drowsiness. For the first time she allowed herself to really believe, to internalize the idea that they were going to make it.

Chapter Text

Waking up next to Lorelai was… nice. In some ways it felt natural, like they had not missed a beat. But of course they had. They’d missed a year-long beat. As he watched her sleep, her hair splayed over the pillow, her breathing slow, he puzzled over their problem. She had opened up to him last night about her feelings about Rory. They were making progress. But he worried that they would both struggle to talk about their relationship. And they needed to talk about it, to talk about what happened. There remained an awkward tension between them that he knew would only be broken by some serious discussion -- maybe some yelling. Ugh, maybe even some crying. He hated to see her cry.

Luke wasn’t worried that they would get there. He worried that it would take time. They had wasted so much time already. He wanted to be settled.

He reset the alarm for Lorelai and got ready for work.

 

~ooooo~

 

Lorelai woke up alone, but feeling better than she had in years. Rory was off conquering the world, but she had her inn, she had friends, she had Luke. And soon she would have April, too. At least she thought she’d have April. They hadn’t talked about it, but she assumed that Luke understood, there was no way that Lorelai would be kept from his daughter, no way no how. She felt a little pang of anxiety at the thought of what assuming does.

Nope. Not going to think that way. This is going to work. It’s going to be different, in good ways.

She stretched and sat up, swinging her feet over the side of the bed in preparation to stand up, then saw the note. She picked it up.

 

Stop by the diner for breakfast. Let’s give them something to talk about.

 

She could almost see the smirk on his face as he was writing that second sentence. Energized, she quickly got ready for work and headed out to satisfy the gawkers and gossip-mongers.

 

~ooooo~

 

Luke looked up when he heard the bells jingle to see a beautiful woman coming through the door, smiling brilliantly at him. She marched up and took a seat at the counter after waving to Patty and Babette, who had long since finished breakfast and were loitering at a table in the corner waiting for this very moment to arrive. A lanky brown-haired man next to her let out a sigh and said, “Lorelai, maybe you can help me.”

“Hi, Kirk.” She then addressed Luke, who was getting ready to pour her some coffee and said, “Oh, to go, please. I need to get to the inn to train the new assistant manager.” She turned back to Kirk. “What’s up?”

“I’m trying to convince Luke to put a new item on the menu. I call it Huevos Pancheros. It’s a fried egg with sausage and salsa wrapped up in a pancake, like a burrito. Oh, maybe I should call it a Panrito? Or an eggcake burrito? Anyway, I think it would be a big seller. There’s just one problem I have to figure out: the syrup makes the pancake fall apart, so you can’t pick it up to eat it.”

“That sounds disgusting, Kirk.” Lorelai responded.

Luke handed her a to-go cup and asked, “A new assistant manager?”

“Yeah, part time. She was going to work full time for a month or so to help out Michel while I was on the trip with Rory, but now...” She looked a little sad. “Maybe I’ll take some time off, anyway.”

An idea struck Luke, but he tried to focus on the present. “How about something to eat, too? I could make you one of those bagel and egg sandwiches and wrap it up to go.”

“Ooo, with extra bacon?”

“Sure, why not? Take another couple of years off your life,” Luke said as he rolled his eyes. “I’ll make you a deal. I’ll throw on the extra bacon if you drink some orange juice before you go.” He plunked a small glass of OJ in front of her.

“Okay, but I won’t enjoy it.”

As Luke went to the kitchen to make her sandwich, Lorelai was keenly aware of people watching her. It might have made her uncomfortable if she wasn’t used to it. When he returned with a bag, he didn’t hand it over immediately. Instead, he leaned on the counter and asked her what she was doing tonight.

“Well, I thought I’d start that letter-writing campaign to make Shamrock Shakes available year ‘round, but I can put that off a day or two. What did you have in mind?”

“Just dinner out,” he answered. “Nothing fancy. Seven?”

“Sure.” He flashed her a smile as he looked around to make sure that people were watching, then gave her a kiss goodbye. Not a peck, but a serious, long, deep kiss. Feeding the rumor mill in Stars Hollow is usually a better choice than hiding from it and it’s a choice that has an upside.

“See you then.” And he disappeared back into the kitchen. Lorelai paused to regain her senses and strength in her knees. When she got up to leave at least three pairs of eyes above three open mouths followed her out the door.

 

~ooooo~

 

By lunchtime of Lorelai’s first day back to work since her life turned upside down (for the umpteenth time in the last three years) she had given Sookie a play-by-play of her movie night with Luke (minus the heavy pillow talk about Rory), refereed a dispute between Michel and Derek, found a new feed supplier for the horses, chewed out the printer for yet another mistake with color, and reconciled the books, all (except gossiping with Sookie) while being shadowed by Heidi, her new assistant manager. It probably would have been more appropriate for her to shadow Michel, but Lorelai didn’t want her to quit before the end of the week, so she limited Heidi’s interactions with the ill-mannered Frenchman to a couple of hours per day.

This was good. Busy was good. Not thinking about Luke was good.

Yes, not thinking about Luke was good. Yesterday she had slept most of the day and didn’t really have time to think much about their relationship. Last night she was pretty comfortable with him and even this morning she felt calm and confident that they would be fine this time. But the more time she spent away from him, the more little pangs of anxiety and doubt popped up, usually without warning. Maybe she still felt bad about Rory leaving, or maybe she was just worn out from the emotional ups and downs, but she didn’t think that was it.

For a working lunch she sat down with Sookie to try a new dish for the regular dining room menu and to go over the menu for a wedding taking place on Saturday. When they were talking about the cake, Lorelai noticed that Sookie’s eyes were darting around the room a little and she was shifting in her seat. Finally, Sookie just burst out with, “Are you and Luke going to get married now, or what?”

Lorelai just stared at her for a moment, then calmly answered, “Well, Sook, we’ve been back together for less than two days… after a year apart… In that time I’ve been married and divorced, Luke has had to fight for custody of his kid, and my daughter has left home. I think we can take a little time to settle down before we tackle this particular question, don’t you?” She wondered briefly if she was trying to convince Sookie or herself.

“I still have that cake topper.”

“What?”

“I still have the cake topper,” Sookie repeated. “You know, the one that has Luke’s butt? Unless it’s fallen since then. Has Luke’s butt fallen? It’s been a year and a half. Oh, God, please tell me he still has that gorgeous butt.”

“His butt is just fine, Sookie.”

“Okay.” Sookie sighed. “Look, it’s none of my business, but you were so happy when we planned that wedding, when you thought you were going to marry Luke. I’ve never seen you so happy, not before or since. I just want to you have what you deserve--a happily ever after with Luke.”

“That’s what I want, too, Sookie.” Lorelai sighed and closed her notebook. “But we have a lot to work through first. I mean, it’s really comfortable right now, but there are times when I just feel… scared. I mean not Nightmare on Elmstreet scared, but scared that love isn’t enough. You know, The Way We Were scared.” Suddenly a cold chill traveled up her spine. “Ohmygod, that’s exactly what happened to us.”

“What did, sweetie?”

“The first time we broke up… I called him, just like Katie called Hubble. I even told him it was like Katie calling Hubble -- you know, she needed her best friend because she’d lost her boyfriend, but her best friend was her boyfriend… And we made up just like Katie and Hubble made up. Well, not that night, but still…”

“But then Katie and Hubble broke up anyway.”

“Yeah, and she married someone else.”

“Oh, wow.” Sookie tried to find something positive to say, “Oh, but you didn’t stay with Christopher.”

“No, I didn’t.” Lorelai looked worried. “What do you think that means?”

Sookie shook it off. “I don’t think it means anything, sweetie. You and Luke aren’t in a movie. You’re perfect together and you’re finally going to be together and that’s that.”

But Lorelai was still worried.

 

~ooooo~

 

Luke’s day was a little less intrusive than the day before. People still hounded him, mostly about whether he and Lorelai were going to get married. He still had no answers. Of course it was what he wanted--to marry Lorelai and maybe have a family. But to him they felt stuck. It was silly to think this way, he knew. It had only been a couple of days. They’d had a good talk last night, but not about them , not about the things they really needed to talk about. And he was impatient. He wanted to kick-start this thing, but he knew they had to be careful.

During the mid-morning lull he found himself lost in thought and that wasn’t a good thing. Being in his head is a big part of what got them into this mess to begin with. But he was having a hard time relaxing. It was like those times when you can’t think of an actor’s name, so you try and try and all you end up with is frustration. Then, all of a sudden, while you’re thinking about something totally unrelated, the name will find its way to the surface. He decided he was trying too hard to ‘fix’ things with Lorelai. He needed to let it simmer, to put it on low, so to speak. So he left the diner in Caesar’s care and went over to Lorelai’s house. Great way to avoid thinking about you and Lorelai, Danes .

He found the boxes hidden in a corner of the garage and carried them, one-by-one, to the porch. Even after 11 years he still didn’t know about the key in the turtle like everyone else in town did, there was no need to break the back door lock this time. His old key still hung from his keychain. She had never asked for it back and he had never had the heart to remove it. He wasn’t like Lorelai in that way. He couldn’t get rid of the stuff that reminded him of her. He had stopped wearing the blue hat because he was angry, but he kept it in a safe place just like he kept that blue plaid flannel shirt. As he had hoped, the key still worked and he brought the boxes into the house, stacking them up on the first stair landing after greeting Paul Anka.

When the last box was in place, he stopped to look around. He was too distracted last night to even think about it, but it was the first time he had been inside the house that he and Lorelai had renovated in more than a year. There were some changes. Of course he had noticed the TV last night; it was hard to miss and they were watching it. Christopher had added it, he presumed. But other than the TV the place hadn’t changed much. Little touches of him that had been here and there after the renovation were gone. She had put all of those things, all of his things, in his dad’s boat during those horrible days after the breakup and he just carted it all off to his sister’s without going in the house.

He wasn’t sure what he’d expected, maybe to feel the residue of Christopher, like a ghost. But it wasn’t there. It was Lorelai’s house. Our house , he thought. Still, he made a mental note to talk to Lorelai about replacing that TV.

He took a deep breath, then grabbed Paul Anka’s leash and took him for a short walk before heading back to the diner. He still had no plan, no strategy to help them get through this... until he talked to April.

 

~ooooo~

 

“So, are you going to tell me what’s in those boxes?” Luke asked, yelling up the stairs as he waited for Lorelai to finish primping. “Rory made them sound important.”

“They are,” Lorelai answered, coming down the stairs in the third outfit she had put on in the last half hour. This one was the perfect mix of casual, but flattering, not unlike what she wore on their first real date years ago. “They contain more things like this,” she said, gesturing to the necklace she was wearing. Luke recognized it as the one he had brought back from the Renaissance Fair. They were certainly taking a stroll down memory lane tonight. Maybe that was good. They needed to talk about the bad stuff, but maybe they should remember the good along with it. And, man, there was good stuff to remember. “They’re Luke boxes.”

On the way to the restaurant, Lorelai explained ‘Luke boxes’, telling him about Rory’s first break up with Dean and how, after the night of the ultimatum she had tried to empty the house of anything that reminded her of Luke. “It was an impossible task, of course, but I was out of my mind. Luckily Rory could see that I wasn’t thinking straight and she didn’t get rid of it like I asked her to. A few months ago, when I was finally coming out of the fog I’d been in, regret hit me like a sumo wrestler. I cried myself to sleep more than once over the chuppah.”

He reached over and put a hand on her knee. “I’m so sorry, Lorelai.”

“Hey, it was my doing,” she said. “I’m just grateful that my daughter is smart and sneaky. That chuppah is my most precious possession. It has been since you gave it to me.”

 

~ooooo~

 

Lorelai figured it out about a mile from the restaurant. He was taking her to Sniffy’s. She was so excited that she started to bounce in the seat. She couldn’t take her eyes off the building as he helped her out of the truck. Anticipation turned to anxiety, however, as they walked, hand-in-hand, closer to the door. A few feet before the entrance she stopped.

“Luke?” He turned back and saw terror in her eyes.

“Are you okay?” he asked. “No, you’re not okay. What’s wrong?”

She looked into his eyes, searching for answers. “What do they think happened between us?” She swallowed. “How… how much have you--”

“They don’t know about--” He stopped and sighed, thinking about what to say. “I only told them that you’d left me. I told them I had been stupid.” He said. Lorelai breathed a sigh of relief, but she was overcome with guilt.

“That doesn’t seem fair,” she said. “It wasn’t all your fault.”

“Well, I don’t think they believe it was, but I didn’t share much. I was a mess, so they were probably a little angry with you, but I’m 100% positive they’ll be happy to see you and happy for us.” She did not look convinced. “Let’s go inside. If at any time you feel uncomfortable, we’ll leave, okay?” She nodded and followed him, still holding tight to his hand.

But instead of opening the door, he pulled her behind him and said, “Let’s surprise them. Stay here for a minute.” She couldn’t help smiling at his desire to make a big production out of it, so she waited patiently outside, taking deep breaths to calm her nerves while he tracked down the proprietors. He was back out and grabbing her hand in less than a minute. Then, with a flourish and a “Tah dah!” she was ushered inside to face a stunned Buddy and Maisy. She could see the wheels turning in Buddy’s brain as he thought about the celebratory dinner he was about to cook. Maisy’s face broke out in a grin as she said, “Lorelai!”

After a round of hugs and confirmations that, yes, they were back together, Maisy took them to what Lorelai thought of as their regular booth and took a seat next to her.

“Well, well, well, well, well…. This is quite a pleasant surprise. How long has this been going on?” Then she looked at Luke, who was holding Lorelai’s hand tightly. “We haven’t seen you since you brought April in to celebrate the custody decision back in January.” Lorelai twitched a little at the mention of April. She immediately plastered on a smile, but not before Luke saw the flash of pain. He decided to ignore it for now, but filed it away in his memory for later.

“Um, just a few days,” Luke responded, “But I think we’ve been working up to it for a few weeks.” He looked to Lorelai for confirmation. She nodded.

“But I thought you’d married someone else.” Maisy asked Lorelai. She was as blunt as ever.

“Um, yeah, well, that didn’t work out,” Lorelai said. “In fact, I wasn’t legally married.” This came as a surprise to Luke, but he didn’t say anything.

“Well, it sounds like that’s water under the bridge, so I won’t pry. I’m just really happy to see you two together. It’s going to stick this time, right?”

Lorelai smiled at Luke, who took her hand and gazed into her eyes. Without looking away she said, “Yes, Maisy. I think it’s going to stick this time.”

Maisy gave them both a look that said, “It had better stick.” Then disappeared into the kitchen.

Over appetizers and a bottle of wine, Luke steered the conversation. “So, you weren’t legally married?” Luke asked, still holding her hand.

“Didn’t I tell you? I guess I wouldn’t have... When I filed for divorce I discovered that the marriage wouldn’t be recognized in the U.S. because we didn’t do everything we were supposed to do.” She explained. “I wasn’t even sure that it would have been recognized in France, either, but I tried to file there, too, just in case. Since we don’t live there and aren’t citizens, it seems that it just doesn’t matter.” She didn’t tell him that it would have been a lot more complicated if they had just made it just a few more weeks to the ‘wedding party’ that Emily was planning.

“Are you sure this isn’t something that’s going to come back to haunt you later?” Luke was of course thinking about possible impediments to he and Lorelai getting married, but he didn’t say so.

“My lawyer assured me that it wouldn’t. I have documentation.” She made an effort to look him in the eye while she said this and rubbed his hand with her thumb. He looked down at their joined hands. Something was bothering him. “Maybe we could go see him together. Would it make you feel better?”

“No, no, that’s okay. I’m sure you’ve got it covered.” He wanted to talk about Christopher, but he just didn’t think it was the right time. Moving onward, though… Luke looked up at her and asked, “You know that trip you were planning with Rory?”

“Yeah, we were going to tour roller coasters. Obviously that’s off. I’m not going by myself. Unless… you don’t want to go, do you?” She grinned at the thought of Luke on a roller coaster.

“I’d rather watch that glass guy from the cruise. Or maybe stick forks in my eyes.” Luke said. “But I had another idea. Let’s take a trip, you and me.”

Lorelai smiled. “Yeah?”

“Yeah, we’ve never really done that. The weekend in Martha’s Vineyard and a night in the city after a show a couple of times, but we’ve never really taken a vacation together. There was always the inn, or April--” He saw another flash of pain on her face, but continued, “We have never really had all that much ‘alone time’.” He was thinking that it would be really nice to get away from the town and pressure of well-meaning friends like Maisy. “And I haven’t had a vacation in… Jeez, I don’t think I’ve taken a vacation since that cruise with Nicole.”

“That sound wonderful, Luke. Really. Where should we go?”

“How much time can you take?” This was the most important question, he knew.

“Well, the roller coaster trip was going to take a few weeks, maybe even a month.” He couldn’t possibly be thinking they should leave for a month, could he?

“Do you think you could stretch it to six weeks?” Luke asked, hopeful. “Is there someone who can take care of Paul Anka for that long?”

“I guess so,” Lorelai was intrigued. “Babette and Sookie were going to split the time. I’m sure a couple more weeks wouldn’t be a big deal.”

“And you’ve got the inn covered?”

“Well, yeah. Heidi was going to work full time so that Michel could take over most of my duties, then go to part time at the end of the summer. I was planning to do things like the accounting and other administrative stuff from the road -- you know, set up my laptop in coffee shops with WiFi for a few hours a couple of times per week.” She couldn’t take it any longer. She had to know. “What did you have in mind, Luke?”

“Well, I thought that maybe you and I could take the boat trip, the one I was going to take with April.” He said, watching her reaction. But she kept a poker face. “All of the planning is done, the reservations are made, it’s been mapped out. And I thought…”

“Mmm hmm.” Lorelai just nodded.

“You hate the idea.” Luke said, defeated. “Six weeks with me ‘on a boat in the middle of nowhere… Anything can happen,’” he quoted her comments to him just a couple of weeks earlier.

“Oh, no!” Lorelai corrected him quickly. “That’s not it, really Luke. I think it’s a great idea… I mean, if I got seasick or claustrophobic I could always catch a train home, right?” Luke nodded. “I just…” She hesitated, trying to find the words to explain her concerns. “You were supposed to take that trip with April.” She gave him a pained look.

“Yeah,” he explained, “But April is at this super science camp. She can’t do both, and this camp is an amazing opportunity. She left today, actually.”

“But you were supposed to take this trip with your daughter,” Luke had obviously missed the point, so it beared repeating.

“Yeah, and I’ll see her after camp.” Luke really didn’t understand, “She’ll still have a couple of weeks before she has to go back to New Mexico and get ready for school. I’ll take her out on the boat for a weekend or something then.”

“But, Luke, you were supposed to take the trip with April .” She decided to be a little more direct. “Don’t you think that she’ll be a little upset when she finds out that you’re going without her, that someone else will be going in her place?”

“It was her idea,” he volunteered.

“Seriously?”

“Yes.” Luke explained, “She called today to let me know she had gotten settled at camp. I told her about us and about an idea I had this morning that we take a trip together. I talked to her -- she has really grown into someone that I can talk to -- about how we still need to talk things out and I mentioned your little joke about someone locking us in a room together. That’s when she suggested the boat trip.”

“Wow.” Wow, that girl is smart. And mature. And generous. So much like Luke .

“Yeah, see, all of the things we’re worried about that keep us from talking about the things we really need to talk about… Well, most of them would be out of the equation. We’ll be alone, so we can yell at each other without worrying about anyone else hearing, but there’s nowhere to go when you’re on the water. Nobody can just walk away.” Lorelai ducked her head, feeling a little shame remembering how she walked away from him without giving him much of a chance to think and respond. “I suppose I could still clam up, but then your relentless questioning would probably break me of that. We would have to face each other and our problems, head on.”

Lorelai realized he was right. This was a good solution, and one with a bonus feature. “All of that time together, six weeks of just you and me? We’d come back either inseparable or knowing that we will never be more than friends again…” Either would be better than uncertainty , she thought. And to have the chance to really bond with Luke … She grinned. “Okay, I’m in!”

Luke smiled, in spite of the pang of anxiety he felt about that last part. He knew it was a possibility that they’d discover that friendship was their limit, but he didn’t want to think about that right now.

The entrees arrived as they dug in and made plans. Luke and April had planned to leave the Monday after Rory’s party, which was originally scheduled for this coming Saturday. This worked perfectly, since Lorelai and Rory had planned to leave Sunday. They just needed to make a few phone calls. She needed to make sure that Sookie and Babette could still take Paul Anka (Lorelai kept her parents in mind as a backup, remembering how well they cared for the stray that wandered into their back yard a couple of years ago). She also needed to have a meeting with Michel to make sure that he could handle a couple more weeks without her. But then what to pack?

“Luke?” Lorelai asked, “What will I do on this boat?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean… you’ll be driving the boat, right?”

“Of course,” he answered.

“And you’ll do all of the cooking.”

“Well I’m sure as hell not letting you cook.”

“What will I be doing all this time?” she asked, truly concerned. “Sunbathing? Reading?”

“Well, sure. You can read, listen to music. There’s a TV. It won’t pick up much of anything, but there’s a DVD player. I’ll put you in charge of entertainment. I just ask that you bring DVDs and CDs only, not the cases. Maybe get one of those binders? And not too many. Space on the boat is REALLY limited.”

“Okay, but you’re doing all of the work. What work can I do? I can’t just sit around and while you do everything.” Yes, Lorelai was a bit of a couch potato, but she couldn’t stand the idea of not being useful at all.

“Well, you can do the dishes. You like doing dishes.” Luke reminded her. “And other things need cleaning once in awhile. And we’ll have to do laundry at least once a week. We can’t take more than a week’s worth of clothes. There just isn’t the closet space. We’ll have to go in to shore for that, but we’ll go ashore often anyway. That’s kinda the point of the trip, to visit coastal towns. You can go to the laundromat while I’m shopping for supplies and we can do the rest -- dinner ashore, shopping, whatever, together. How does that sound?”

Lorelai smiled. “It sounds wonderful. Very Donna Reed, except you’ll be doing the cooking.”

“And in our down time, when we’re not talking or eating, we can read, fish, play chess…”

“I don’t know how to play chess,” she said, cringing a little.

“I’ll teach you.”

“Okay, but no scuba diving. I don’t want to get back to the surface to find the boat gone.”

“Um, okay, no scuba diving.”

 

Chapter Text

They returned home (to Lorelai’s house) that night both feeling hopeful and excited. They had a plan. This plan included some much needed time off, time together, and a way to work through the problems that still felt like dark clouds hanging over their heads. Both remained a little nervous about facing the demons, but they had made huge strides in the right direction.

Lying in bed after a particularly fun and sweet round of lovemaking, they both knew that they should keep talking, keep the momentum going, but neither seemed to want to start. So Lorelai talked about the trip instead, asking what exactly one wears on a boat.

“Well, you don’t need anything special, except maybe a bathing suit, preferably something skimpy,” Luke said, winking at her.

“Oh, I’ll show you something skimpy, mister.” Lorelai continued, “But seriously, don’t I have to wear special shoes or something?”

“Your regular sneakers will do. Just make sure you don’t bring anything with a heel. And pack layers, but pack light. There is very little closet space on the boat. In fact, I will give you a suitcase and everything you bring will have to fit into it.”

Lorelai’s eyes widened. “What about when we go ashore? I can’t bring any dresses?”

“Oh, no, you’ll need a dress or two. And I’ll bring a suit. But no more than two. We can always get stuff dry cleaned.”

“Okay. But six weeks wearing the same clothes… ugh.” Suddenly Lorelai realized something and gasped. She sat up, alarmed.

“What? What’s wrong?” Luke asked, clearly concerned.

“I’m going to have to tell my parents.” Lorelai groaned and threw herself back down onto the bed with a flop.

“Oh.” Luke replied.

“I have to explain why I’ll miss all those Friday Night Dinners. I don’t know what their plans are for the summer, but I’m sure that I will at least miss some.”

“You’re still doing those? Even though Rory’s gone?” Luke was surprised.

“Yes. They’re clearly really important to my mother. She kept trying to find ways to force me to come. She wanted to loan me money to expand the inn, first to make it a spa, then to put in tennis courts. It was ridiculous. Finally I just told her we’d keep doing the weekly dinner.”

“I’m sorry,” Luke really did feel sorry for her.

“I wonder if I can fake illness for six weeks. Oh, I know! I’ll tell them I have mono!” She nodded her head excitedly.

“You should just get it over with. Nothing good ever came from withholding information from your parents,” he reminded her.

“You’re right.” She sighed and thought about the progress she had made with her mother. She didn’t want to backslide, to go back to hiding things from her parents, but this? This was sure to get an unpleasant response. “I can’t not tell her about the trip and if I tell her about the trip I have to tell her about us.”

“I’d offer to walk into the lion’s den with you, but I’m afraid I wouldn’t survive and one of us has to be here to take care of Paul Anka,” he teased.

“They might surprise you.” She wanted to put Luke at ease, or at least be more optimistic. “I have found it a lot easier to tell my mother things lately. Our relationship has gotten better.”

“Are you serious?” Luke asked, amazed.

“Hey, I’m going to Friday Night Dinner… without Rory... voluntarily ,” she noted. “And it was my idea to keep doing them.”

“That is big,” Luke marveled. “But I don’t think that changes the fact that they hate me.”

“I don’t think they hate you, at least not anymore.”

“Of course not. They don’t think I’m marrying their daughter.”

“No, I mean I don’t think they hated you when they thought we were getting married.” Luke was surprised to hear this and Lorelai was even more surprised to be thinking it. “I know my Dad doesn’t hate you. In fact, I think he likes you. He respects your work ethic, I know that.”

“Well, that’s good,” Luke replied. “As long as he doesn’t make me play golf. But c’mon. You know you’re mother thinks I’m beneath you and she has always wanted you to be with Christopher. I got in the way of that.”

“I don’t know about that, either.” Lorelai said thoughtfully. “They were warming up to you before we broke up. Maybe they were just resigned to the fact that I was going to marry you no matter what they said, but I think it was more than that. Did I tell you they tried to buy us a house?”

What?! ” Luke almost yelled, then got himself under control, realizing this was in the past. “No, you didn’t tell me that.”

“Yeah, I guess I didn’t get a chance to. It was the day before…” Luke nodded. “All that house hunting around Stars Hollow -- they weren’t looking for themselves. They were looking for us, for a wedding present. They picked out this beautiful farmhouse just outside of town. Five bedrooms, lots of land, even a fishing hole for you.”

“Wow,” Luke said. “Not that we would have accepted it, but wow.”

“Yeah, I was pretty stunned. But I knew then that we weren’t getting married.” Lorelai could feel the lump forming in her throat and Luke could see tears forming in her eyes. He placed a hand over one of hers and urged her to look at him.

“We don’t have to talk about that now. Let’s save the really hard stuff for the boat, okay?” Lorelai smiled gratefully. She straightened up, cleared her throat, and moved on.

“Anyway, Mom was there when you came to the hospital, too. She saw. Christopher wasn’t there, but you were. She saw that.”

“Why wasn’t he there?” Luke asked, immediately regretting it. She looked down for a moment, then looked up gave him a slightly sad smile.

“Um, why don’t we save that for the boat, too?” Luke nodded.

“Sounds good… So…”

So we’re not ready to talk about April. Or Christopher. Or that night. “So…” Lorelai began, “Why didn’t you ask me out all those years ago?”

Luke laughed. “What do you mean? When?”

“Well, you kept that horoscope--” Suddenly she gasped, then sat up and reached over him to grab his wallet off the nightstand, making him laugh even more. “Yes! It’s still there! Oh, Luke…” she said in a sickly sweet voice. “You didn’t throw it away.”

His smile faded. “I couldn’t. I never lost hope, Lorelai. It’s ironic. All those years I never let myself believe that we’d ever be more than friends, but the over last year I never let myself believe that we wouldn’t be together again. I just couldn’t. Even after you married... him.” She could see the pain in his face. She put the horoscope back and set his wallet back on the nightstand. Suddenly it was really quiet.

As she snuggled up to him again and began sliding her fingertips back and forth across his chest, she asked, “So why didn’t you ask me out back then?”

“You mean right after we met?” She hummed in the affirmative. “I was in a relationship. Pretty deep, actually.”

“with Rachel?”

“Yep.” he said.

She pressed onward, determined to get him to open up the way she had the night before. “Tell me about her.”

“Rachel?”

“Yeah. Tell me about Rachel. Tell me about your relationship, about how you felt when she left. It must have been painful, but you didn’t seem all that upset.” Luke thought about it and realized that it mattered. His relationship with Rachel was part of who he is now and the last time she was here it affected his relationship with Lorelai. It mattered. So he started.

“Well, you know some of it,” he began. “You know that she was always restless. We met right after she graduated from college and I guess I thought then that we would always be together.”

“How old were you?” she asked.

“22, 23, something like that. We lived together for about a year before she got that first job traveling. We thought that would be it, just a job. I don’t remember where she went… Yeah, I do. She went to Canada for the winter olympics. She was gone less than a month, but it was clear even then that she liked the travel. There was no way that Rachel was going to be content to stay in Stars Hollow, be a wedding photographer. That trip triggered something in her and she started to get restless. She talked about moving to the city and, well, you can guess how I responded to that...”

“Yeah… Oh, do a New York City rant!” Lorelai begged. She loved to listen to him rant. It was a serious turn-on for her.

“Do you want to hear this or not?” But he was laughing.

“Okay, okay. Go on.”

“So, Rachel kept dreaming and I kept denying that there was a problem.”

“Wasn’t there anywhere that you would have been willing to move to?” Lorelai asked.

“And leave my dad?” Luke said. “No way. I didn’t love the hardware business, but I loved my dad. And I was all he had left. Liz left the day she turned 18. She had Jess less than a year later, but she almost never came to visit. And Dad wouldn’t go to the city to see her without me. I took him down there a couple of times, but it was hard to leave the store without at least one of us there. He couldn’t really afford to close it for more than a day.”

“And then Rachel left again?”

“She started to make a name for herself, which meant more assignments. The more she traveled, the more she realized that I wasn’t going to leave. And then my dad got sick and I think she started to hope. She stayed home for a while. I think she was waiting for him to die.”

“Oh, how horrible!” Suddenly Lorelai didn’t think she could like Rachel anymore.

“No, it wasn’t like that.” Luke explained. “She was really supportive. She helped out in the store so that I could spend more time with him. She did everything she could. But I think she had this dream that after he died, I wouldn’t have any more ties to Stars Hollow and I’d be willing to leave with her.”

“But you wouldn’t.” Lorelai sighed.

“No, I wouldn’t. I wasn’t. After he died I felt even more glued to this town. Everything I felt connected to was here. I thought that included Rachel, but… I don’t know… Anyway, the day I started drawing up the plans to convert the store into a diner, Rachel left for Australia.”

“Did you break up?”

“We didn’t say we were breaking up, but it was implied in our goodbyes. She was planning to be gone at least six months, and our relationship was strained by that time. So, she went off to shoot aborigines and I went to work on the diner and got on with my life. By the time she came back nearly two years later, the diner was up and running and my year-long relationship with Anna had just ended.”

“Oh, man, I’m not ready to talk about Anna.” Lorelai shuddered. “So Rachel came back.”

“Yeah, she came back. She stayed for about six months, then she left again. Then she came back. Then she left again.”

“Wow, and you were just waiting for her every time?” Lorelai didn’t realize the strength of Rachel’s hold on him.

“No, not really. I dated some while she was gone, but nothing serious. It just happened that each time she came back I was unattached,” he said, perhaps more to convince himself than Lorelai.

“And nobody had managed to grab enough of your heart to keep her from it?” Lorelai guessed.

“I guess. But then one day she came back and stayed. For a long time. I really thought that was it. She had me convinced that she was ready to settle down.”

“Yeah?”

“I almost proposed to her,” Luke said. He hadn’t thought about this stuff in a long time and was remembering more as he talked about it.

“Really?” Lorelai was surprised. “But then she left again?”

“Actually, no.” Luke swallowed hard. “Then a certain dark-haired, blue-eyed, annoying woman came into my diner.”

“No!”

“I’m afraid so.”

“But Rachel didn’t know anything about me.” Lorelai was confused.

“I didn’t exactly tell her about you. I don’t think she ever saw you, or if she did, she didn’t notice you or say anything. I didn’t tell her that I was attracted to someone else. I don’t even know if I acknowledge that much to myself. I just know that after I met you, I wasn’t as eager to jump into a marriage with Rachel.”

“And you kept the horoscope.”

“Yes, I did. And I felt guilty as hell about it. But none of it mattered because two or three months later she left again, this time for good, or so I thought.”

“And you were heartbroken.” It wasn’t a question. Lorelai knew that it didn’t matter that he was attracted to her, Rachel had left him devastated. “You loved her.”

“I guess so. No, I know so. I was heartbroken. It was a long time before I even thought about dating again, even you.”

“You almost asked me out once, do you remember?”

“Yeah.” Luke groaned. “I do. It was that night that you came in with Sookie and Jackson and that goofy dude who thought you were too tall, right? That was… at least four, maybe five years after Rachel left. Damn Mrs. Kim… Would you have said ‘yes’?”

“In a heartbeat.” Lorelai admitted. “I even tried to give you another chance, but you chickened out.” They both laughed a little. “Then Rachel came back.”

“Yeah, she did.” Luke thought for a moment. “And I was really happy to see her. Sort of.”

“What do you mean?”

“I don’t know. I… we… It confused me.” Luke admitted. “I thought you and I were getting somewhere, that maybe… I don’t know. But then she came back, and she acted like everything was just the same. It wasn’t, but some part of me hoped it would be. And another part of me...” Luke’s voice got quiet. “But then you made it clear that you thought I should give her a chance.”

“I wanted you to be happy.”

“I thought you just didn’t want me.”

“I wanted you to be happy.” Lorelai repeated. “You loved her… God, I was so jealous of her.”

“You were?” Luke smiled. “I wish I had known that. Maybe things would have been different.”

“I’m sorry she broke your heart again.” Lorelai had tears in her eyes thinking about the pain he must have felt when Rachel left that last time.

“She didn’t break my heart that time.” Luke admitted.

“No? But you loved her and she left. The ‘anywherebuthere girl’ rides again.”

“That’s not why she left.” This was news to Lorelai, who gave him a puzzled look. “She left because of you -- well, because of my feelings for you.”

“But… you didn’t have feelings for me back then.” Lorelai said. “I mean, I guess you were attracted to me and you wanted to ask me out, but that was before Rachel came back, right?”

“I tried to tell her that you and I were just friends, but she didn’t buy it. I didn’t love her then and I think she knew it. She knew it better than I did.” He suddenly realized something he couldn’t admit to himself back then. “She didn’t break my heart that time because by then it belonged to you.”

“Awww!” Lorelai gushed, then felt a little sad. “Why didn’t you tell me this at the time?” What would be different now? she wondered. Would they have gotten married, have been married by the time April showed up? You could go crazy thinking about it.

“I went to your house the next night to talk to you, remember? I made some excuse about picking up my toolbox, but I really came to tell you that Rachel had left.” Luke explained.

“Why didn’t you?”

“I did. I told you that Rachel was gone and I was working up the nerve to tell you why. Then Max showed up.”

“Ohmygod, that was that night -- we… Max and I… we got into a fight about you and he tried to end the fight by asking me to marry him.”

“You got into a fight about me?” It was Luke’s turn to wonder about what could have been.

“Yeah, he said there was ‘a vibe’ between us… Oh, it doesn’t matter. I get it now. You and me, we were just out of sync.”

“Maybe. But there it is. I didn’t tell you that I had feelings for you because of Max,” Luke summarized. “The next thing I knew you were planning to marry him. And I wanted you to be happy. After that ended I tried to give you time to get over him and maybe I waited too long, I don’t know. But then you made it perfectly clear that we were friends, that our friendship was too important to risk. And I kind of agreed with that, so I didn’t push it. But I think I still hoped that someday… Then Jess arrived and I was… distracted.” Loreali’s spirit sank at the memory of Jess’s arrival in Stars Hollow, the pain he caused Luke, and the horrible summer that she spent without Luke or Rory.

“I don’t think we want to get into that tonight, do you? It’s really late.”

He nodded. “Okay. So we’re good for now?”

“We’re good.” Lorelai assured him. “You’ve bared enough of your soul,” she said smiling.

He looked into her eyes, then kissed her and said, “Thanks for listening. Thanks for caring. I think… I think I needed to tell you all of that.”

“I love you.”

“I love you, too.” My God, that’s nice to hear .

And they drifted off to sleep.

Chapter Text

The days before they were set to launch would be busy. Lorelai was scheduled to work late Wednesday night and all day Saturday, but she still had to shop for some clothes for the trip. She hadn’t worn a bathing suit in years and most of her shorts were of the cut-off variety. Not exactly nautical unless she added a gingham shirt and pigtails for the Maryanne look.

After meeting with Michel and Sookie (the latter of whom would not stop smiling and staring at her), Lorelai decided that she could safely take six weeks, as long as she took her laptop and Michel kept up with emails. Michel, however, was not so enthusiastic.

“It must be nice to be able to take so much time off,” he whined, “and so soon after your trip to Paris.” Of course he pronounced it “Paree”.

“Well, Michel, if you would like to take a vacation when I get back you are welcome to,” Lorelai said. “Sookie isn’t due until the end of September, so even if she has to take maternity leave early again, you’ll have plenty of time, and I’d bet that Heidi wouldn’t mind working full time a little while longer, as long as she is back to part time when school starts.” Heidi was in her last two years of college.

“Where would I go?” Michel had an answer for everything. “I have already been to California and New York. What else is there to see in this country? Oh, maybe I will go to Disneyworld!”

“Okay, well, you just let us know.” Lorelai was anxious to end the conversation and get to the pile of work she had to get through before the weekend. She hoped to be able to take off early on Friday so that she could do some shopping in Hartford before Friday Night Dinner.

 

~ooooo~

 

A day without Lorelai was more difficult than Luke had thought it would be. He had only spent two evenings with her since the party, but it felt like ten. Every time the bells announced that someone entered the diner, he knew it wasn’t her, but couldn’t help looking up. When Zach came in at 11:00, he was grateful for the distraction of conversation.

“So, when are you leaving?” Luke asked. Zach was set to tour as lead guitarist with Vapor Rub for two months over the summer.

“Uh, they are still working on the rehearsal space. The first tour date is June 22nd, but I will probably have to rehearse for a week or so with them, so a couple of weeks from now?” Zach explained.  “I’ll let you know as soon as I know. I really appreciate how cool you’ve been about it.”

“Oh, it’s no problem. I’m just trying to decide whether to close the diner for a few weeks or hire more help. The boat trip is back on.”

“Oh, wow! That’s great, man!” Zach said, slapping Luke on the back. “So what happened to April’s camp thingy?”

“I’m not taking April this time.” Luke smiled. “I’m taking Lorelai.”

“Lorelai?” He looked confused. “But didn’t you…um, okay…” Zach had learned a long time ago not to try too hard to figure some things out. Sometimes it’s just better to go with the flow, roll with it, so to speak. “I’m really sorry that Lane won’t be able to come back full time. We just decided that the boys are too young to spend that much time away from their mom right now.”

“It’s okay. I think Caesar can handle it and it’s not like Lane won’t be around if he needs her. They make a good team.” Luke remembered how well Caesar and Lane kept things running while he spent two months at the Renaissance Fair three summers ago.  “I think I’ll let Caesar give it a go. We’ll hire some temporary help for the summer and if things get out of control and he can’t handle it, he can always shut it down until I get back. And when either you or Lane are ready to work more hours, the job will be there for you.”

Luke had a soft spot in his heart for Lane and now that the twins were his godsons, he felt an obligation to watch out for them. They’re family.

 

~ooooo~

 

Manning the front desk after all of the guests were checked in left Lorelai with too much time to think. She thought about how much she missed Luke even though it had only been twelve hours since she’d seen him last. She thought about the trip, excited to spend so much time with Luke, scared to spend so much time with Luke. She wasn’t looking forward to talking about that night , but it had to be done. And they hadn’t really talked about Christopher yet, either. She had apologized for going to Christopher that night, but she didn’t explain why she went. She didn’t understand it herself. And they’d never talked about her marriage.

Why did she go to Chris that night? Why did she marry him? Why wasn’t she strong enough to say ‘no’? She had really lost herself when she lost Luke, before the ultimatum even.

She tried to concentrate on the list of things to do before the trip--put vacation holds on the mail and newspapers, buy a binder for DVDs, choose music for the iPod Christopher had given her and books for the Kindle she’d gotten from Rory (Christmas seemed to have a tech theme last year), hire another part time housekeeper or two and a waiter for the busy summer months--she need to make sure that was done before she left so that Michel could concentrate on running the place, but that would be tough. Then there was the retreat for that insurance company to plan...

Her cell phone rang and that was when she realized that she hadn’t even thought about Rory all day.

“Hi honey!”

“Hi Mom!”

“How’s Barack doing?”

Rory talked for 10 minutes about life on the campaign bus, the interesting people she met, and the stories she was writing. “Did you get my email yesterday?”

“Sure did. I love that you can send me pictures anytime. Send more!”

“Oh, I know a better way.”

Rory got very excited, talking about her company’s use of technology for new media. She would be blogging--something she had mentioned before--so Lorelai could keep up with her work, but she was also starting to use Twitter and Facebook, so she suggested that Lorelai sign up for both.

“What is Facebook?” Lorelai asked.  

“Well, it’s sort of your own personal website, but anybody can join and you can control who sees it. I just got started, but I can post pictures and videos and I can share links to my articles and blog posts. Then you can see whatever I share.”

“How is that different from email?”

“Well, I can talk to all of my friends at once and my friends can talk to each other. So can other people. So I can reach a lot of people at one time. They call it ‘social media’ and it’s becoming really important for reporters, especially for online magazines like mine.”

Lorelai certainly recognized the power of the internet. At least 75% of her guests booked their reservations online. So she agreed to try it out. Rory walked her through signing up and finding Rory so that she could add her as a “friend”. When she saw Rory’s profile, she was impressed. Rory had only been using the service for a couple of days and she already had 57 ‘friends’.

“Who are all of these people and what does it mean that they are your friends?” she asked the young reporter. “Are you all going to dance in a fountain together?”

“That just means that we’re connected. When I post stuff, they see it in their newsfeed and when they post stuff, I see it in mine. It also means that I can comment on what they post and they can comment on what I post. You can even have conversations with them. Some are coworkers, some are friends from Yale, some are friends from Chilton. Then there’s Kirk and Jess and even Miss Patty.”

“Seriously? Miss Patty is on Facebook?” Lorelai said, then fully processed what Rory said. “Wait--Jess?”

“Yeah, he has been using it for almost a year,” Rory explained. “It’s good for his company. You should send him a friend request, Mom. I’m sure he’d like to keep up with Luke’s life and you know Luke won’t use Facebook.”

“Um… okay. I’ll think about it.” Lorelai wasn’t sure about that. She knew that Rory thought Jess had grown up a lot and Luke was really proud of him, but she still worried. Jess had hurt Rory so much, and he’d hurt Luke, too. She would never forget the day that she found Luke trying to fix her broken window while drunk, upset about things that Jess had said to him. But she figured that it probably couldn’t hurt to connect with him online.

“Okay, now you have to set up your profile and search for people you want to be connected to. Or you can wait until people find you. But you actually have to log in once in awhile, Mom. Also, you should post stuff. It’s a great way to keep in touch with people.” Rory sounded really excited about all of this.

“Well, I will do that while I’m just sitting here at the front desk, waiting for someone to ask for extra pillows.” Lorelai said.

“Are you working a lot? Have you gotten to spend any time with Luke?”

“I’m working tonight, but yes, we went out to dinner last night.”

“So tell me, what’s it been like? Being back together, I mean.”

“Oh, Rory, it’s been… wonderful. It’s comfortable, but it’s… different, you know? I mean, we’re like teenagers, holding hands all the time…” Lorelai sighed as she thought about the last two days.

“Well, you guys were always kind of lovey-dovey.”

“Not in public.” Lorelai reminded her.

Rory gasped, “You mean he holds your hand in public?”

“Yeah, he even kisses me--like real kisses, not just pecks.”

“Oh, wow, that’s big.” Rory replied. Lorelai took a deep breath. She didn’t know how Rory was going to take the news about the trip. Rory had wanted Lorelai to take things super-slow with Christopher last year. She probably felt the same this time and a six-week boat trip a week after getting back together was hardly taking things slow. She finally decided to just dive in.

“Honey, it’s going to be a little harder to reach me for a while, starting Monday.”

“Oh?” Lorelai could hear the smile in Rory’s voice.

“Yeah, um, Luke and I are going to take a trip.” Then she had to hold the phone away from her ear to keep Rory’s squeal from damaging her eardrum.

Once she calmed down Rory asked, “Where are you going?”

“Well, we’re going to take his boat up the coast.” Lorelai told her. “We’ll be gone for six weeks.”

“SIX WEEKS?!” Rory almost screamed, “Holy moly!”

“Yeah… what do you think?” Lorelai asked, cringing a little.

“I think that’ll be wonderful. You two could stand some time alone. It will really give you a chance to bond.”

“That’s what I thought.”

“But aren’t you scared? I mean Dead Calm ? Open Water ? White Squall ?” She was still her mother’s daughter.

“I made Luke promise no scuba diving and I don’t think we’ll be that far from shore. Plus, Paul Anka is staying home.”

 

~ooooo~

 

It was almost noon on Thursday before Lorelai even slowed down. When she did, she immediately noticed her rumbling tummy. She didn’t feel hungry, but breakfast that morning consisted of pop tarts and coffee. She didn’t have time to go to Luke’s and she didn’t even stop to have Sookie make her something when she got to the inn. So she must be hungry.

But she was something else, too. She was hot. Sweating. She tried fanning herself with her notebook. Her chest hurt a little. And her heart was racing. Again. She took deep breaths, but didn’t feel like she could get enough air. And she’d left her pills at home. Damn.

Not able to focus on anything and realizing it was lunchtime, Lorelai tried to distract herself by eating and chatting with Sookie. That should calm me down , she thought.

“Hey, there!” Sookie said when she saw Lorelai come through the door. “Perfect timing! I just finished making lunch for us.”

“It’s like you read my mind. Hey, I wonder if we’ve developed a psychic connection. Quick, what am I thinking right now?”

“Um…” Sookie looked up at the ceiling while she concentrated. “That you’re really upset that you’re going to miss the last two episodes of the Sopranos because of your trip?”

“I was thinking ‘yellow’.”

“Wow, we really suck at this. Hey, are you okay? You look flushed.”

“I’m fine,” Lorelai assured her. “It’s just a little warm in my office. Why don’t we eat on the front porch?” Then she poured herself some iced coffee and helped Sookie load a tray with their lunch.

The partners and best friends spent lunch chatting about everything and nothing at all. Sookie did most of the talking, though, as Lorelai concentrated on keeping herself in check. She thought that filling her stomach would help, but it did little to calm her nerves. It took a lot of effort to keep her hand from shaking as she lifted the fork to her mouth, so she tried to wait for moments when Sookie was looking down or away from her to do so. Eventually she gave up and left her meal half-eaten.

“Do you not like the ravioli?” Sookie asked, clearly concerned.

“Oh, it’s great, Sook. Delicious, really.” Lorelai searched her mind for a good excuse. “I just want to make sure I will look good in a bikini for the boat trip.” That seemed to satisfy Sookie. “Well, I’m gonna get back to it.” She was hoping to have everything done so that on Friday she could concentrate on her monthly report for May. Then she could relax and focus on trip planning. She only needed to be at the Dragonfly Saturday to coordinate the wedding.

“Okay, well, don’t forget the Andersons at 3:00.” Sookie reminded her.

“I won’t,” Lorelai responded, but she was sure glad that Sookie reminded her because she had forgotten that the Andersons were coming in for a tasting and walkthrough.

She spent the next hour and a half rushing around to make sure that the area where the ceremony was to take place was clear and things were set up in a way that would allow the clients to get a clear image of how the wedding would look on Saturday. This work managed to distract her from the anxiety attack enough to function, but as she waited for the Andersons to arrive, the chest pain and heat returned. Still, she plastered on a smile and chatted with Michel while they waited. Well, as much as Michel would chat.

Lorelai got through the meeting on autopilot, relying on years of practice schmoozing clients. Luckily, this particular family-to-be was easy to please and the list of details that needed to be changed was short. After saying goodbye to the couple and her mother, Lorelai, Michel, and Sookie stood in the reception area going over that list. “She wants the flowers in baskets, not vases, and--”

That was when Sookie noticed the shaking.

“Uh, hon? Are you alright?” she asked Lorelai.

“What? Yeah, I’m fine.” But she wasn’t fine. Her heart was racing again, she was sweating, and she didn’t feel like she could get enough air. But she didn’t want Sookie or anyone to know. After this meeting she could go in her office and close the door.

“Lorelai, honey, you’re sweating.” Sookie noted.

“So?”

“It’s 70 degrees in here.”

And that’s when Lorelai fainted.

 

~ooooo~

 

She was out for less than a minute, but the cat was out of the bag. She couldn’t hide it anymore. Michel helped Lorelai to the sofa in her office while Sookie tip toed into the kitchen to call Luke, then snuck into the office, hoping that Lorelai wouldn’t notice that she’d been gone. She didn’t.

“I’m fine, really.” Lorelai tried to tell them.

“Michel, why don’t you head back to the desk? It’ll be one less thing for Lorelai to worry about.”

“I guess if that is all that I am good for,” Michel huffed. Then he turned on his heel and walked away.

“Sookie, I’m fine. I guess I didn’t get enough sleep last night.” Lorelai tried to explain.

“Lorelai, you didn’t fall asleep. You fainted. That’s not sleep deprivation.”

“Okay, okay.” Lorelai realized she would have to tell her about the anxiety attacks, so she did. She told Sookie about how they started during those dark days when Luke was getting to know April, how she hid it from everyone, and how they got worse after she married Christopher. “I have a prescription that helps, but I left the pills at home.”

“Oh, sweetie.” Sookie said, “Why didn’t you tell me? You have to stop trying to tackle everything on your own.”

“It was under control, Sook.”

“Obviously not.” Of course it wasn’t. It still wasn’t. Lorelai sat on the sofa with her head back, trying to fill her lungs with air and fanning herself with her notebook again.

“But, really, Sookie, it’s getting better.” Just talking about it made Lorelai realize this was true. While she had never fainted before, the attacks had been occurring almost daily since she’d returned from France. They were less severe after the divorce, but persisted in frequency. Until now. This was the first attack since that mild one on Monday.

A light knock on the door interrupted what was sure to become a lecture and Luke’s face appeared as the door cracked open.

“Oh, you called Luke ?!” Lorelai whined, putting her face in her hands.

“Well, I’m happy to see you, too.” he said, clearly concerned.

“I’m sorry. I am happy to see you,” she backpedaled. “This just isn’t a big thing. So I fainted, so what?”

“She doesn’t want anyone to know that she’s having panic attacks.” Sookie blurted out before Lorelai could object.

“Thanks, Sookie,” Lorelai said sarcastically.

Luke gave Sookie a look that managed to say Thanks for calling me and I’ll take it from here at the same time. Then he knelt in front of Lorelai and took her face in his hands. He didn’t think he was very good at this sort of thing, but he was damn well going to try. “What happened?”

Lorelai said “Thank you”, this time sincerely, as Sookie left and closed the door, then she looked up at Luke. “I’m fine, Luke. Really. I just didn’t get enough sleep last night.” But he didn’t buy it.

“Lorelai, talk to me.”

“It was just a little panic attack.” If she couldn’t lie, she would at least try to minimize it. “I’m actually feeling a lot better.” And, surprisingly, she was. She was no longer sweating and she didn’t feel as though her chest was collapsing. Her heart was still racing, though.   

“A panic attack?” Luke asked. “How do you know it’s not something else? When was your last physical?”

“Um… I’ve had them before.” She was dreading the questions she knew were coming because she knew she had to answer them.

“You’ve had them before? When?”

“Every now and then, at different times. Sometimes when I’m feeling anxious about something. I had a small one on Monday when I thought about Rory.”

“What are you anxious about now?” Luke was about to have a panic attack of his own. Had he caused it? “Are you upset about the trip? We don’t have to go.”

“Oh, no, Luke! I want to go! I’m really excited about it.” Lorelai tried to explain, “Sometimes these attacks just happen on their own. Today it just came out of nowhere. I worked all day yesterday and I haven’t seen you since Tuesday night. I miss Rory. I’ve got a lot to do before we leave. I have to see my parents tomorrow and… [sigh]... tell them about us. It’s just a lot.”

He nodded, trying to understand. It would crush him, but he would let her go if he had to. There was no way he was going to push a relationship on her. “Are you sure. It’s not… you still want us , right?”  

“Ohmygod yes,” she answered before he even finished the sentence. “More than anything.”

Luke sighed, then got up to sit next to her on the sofa. “Okay, so what can I do to help?”

“Well, don’t hover over me. I’m fine.”

“Lorelai, you fainted. You are not fine. I understand that you don’t want to be babied and I’ll respect that, but you have got to let people help you. Even Electra Woman had Dynagirl. And I know I don’t do a good impression of Rory, but I can be useful.” Then he said something that really got her attention. “I didn’t let you help me, remember? And look how that turned out.”

She realized he was right. “Okay. Well, there really isn’t much that you can do, hon. Just being here helps a lot. I mean, I’m a lot better now. I think my heartrate is even coming down.”

“There has to be something more that I can do. How can we keep this from happening again?”

“I don’t know. I think I just need to feel safe again. In the meantime, I have pills I can take when it gets really bad. I won’t ever leave them at home again, I promise.” She made the sign for ‘Scout’s Honor’. He looked at her for a long time, trying to process what was happening and figure out how to fix it. That’s what Luke does best, after all. He fixes things.

“Okay. Well, get what you need and let’s go.” Luke insisted. Lorelai looked at the clock and saw that it was just after 4pm.

“But the town meeting isn’t for 3 hours and I’ve still got work to do.”

“It’ll still be there in the morning. You can take a nap at my place, then I’ll make you a burger before the meeting. You can call Babette and ask her to walk Paul Anka.” Luke had ahold of her upper arm and wasn’t going to take ‘no’ for an answer. This made Lorelai smile. She secretly loved it when he played caveman and took care of her. She certainly didn’t want it all the time, but she knew how to say ‘no’.

“Well, you’ll have to take me to work in the morning if I leave my car here.” She tried to wink at him.

“Ugh, take some lessons or something,” Luke said. “That wink is really disturbing.”

 

~ooooo~

 

A nap and Luke’s company seemed to be all Lorelai needed. She woke up to find Luke sitting next to her on his bed, cup of coffee in hand, and a wave of contentment flowed over her. But coffee? No lecture?

“Why do I feel like you’re about to tell me that House has been cancelled?” she asked as she sipped the best coffee in the world.

“Not bad news, it’s good news!” He said a bit facetiously. “I’ve got your luggage for the trip.” He pointed to a suitcase that couldn’t have been bigger than 27 inches tall. Luckily Lorelai had just swallowed, otherwise Luke would be covered in coffee about now. She did scoff loud enough to make him flinch.

“You expect me to get a week’s worth of clothes into THAT?”

“Yup.”

“You’re delusional.”

“Nope. If I can do it, you can.”

“But you wear the same stuff every day. I need options!” Lorelai reasoned.

“Uh, no you don’t. We’ll put evening wear in a garment bag, but the rest… We really don’t have a choice, Lorelai.”

“Can’t we drag a dinghy behind us for my shoes?” She asked with a cute smile and fake hope in her eyes.

“Uh, no. And how many pairs of shoes do you think you need?” Luke asked. “We’re spending most of our time on a boat.”

“Oh, I know! I can put my shoes where I would have put all of my books!”

“Then where will you put your books?” he asked. Lorelai just smiled. “You’re not bringing any books?”

“I have an eReader.” Lorelai smiled.

“What’s an eReader?”

“Oh, Luke…” Lorelai shook her head. She got the Kindle out of her bag and showed him how it works and how many books it held. “If you want, I could pick one up for you tomorrow.”

“Uh, no thanks,” he said, crinkling his nose. “I think I prefer the feel of a book in my hands. Besides, I’m only bringing a couple of them. I don’t think I’ll have much time to read and if I blow through those, I’ll just pick up more while we’re ashore.”

“So, how much room does that buy me? Oh, and I won’t be bringing CDs, either.” She showed him the iPod.

“Hmmm…. I’d say that buys you room for maybe two pairs of shoes and some jeans.” Lorelai narrowed her eyes at him. She was mostly kidding. She was actually quite capable of packing light if she had to, but it was fun watching Luke get all frustrated and try to negotiate with her.

 

~ooooo~

 

After sharing a table at the diner for dinner, the couple walked hand-in-hand to Miss Patty’s. They were on time, but still managed to draw attention by coming in the side door. Half of the people in attendance watched them as they found seats next to the aisle and settled in, snuggling against each other, fingers intertwined. Neither Luke nor Lorelai seemed to notice how many eyes were on them. They looked at each other or at the front and ignored everyone else.

Taylor banged the meeting to order, then started down the agenda. After a few boring bits of business, he made the announcement Luke and Lorelai were both waiting for.

“Two of our most important local businesses are looking for extra temporary help for the summer,” he began. “The Dragonfly Inn has an opening for two part time housekeepers and another for wait staff. Is that right, Lorelai?” When he got a nod from the innkeeper he continued, “And Luke’s Diner is looking for summer help as well, preferably full time. So if any of you know of college or high school students looking for a summer job, send them over.” The audience erupted in discussion as people realized the implications of both places looking for help at once. The Dragonfly hired temporary help every summer, but Luke rarely did, especially full time. Luke and Lorelai rolled their eyes at each other, knowing that more questions were coming. Lorelai had relied on Babette to spread the news about their trip. Her gossipy neighbor had picked an odd time to suddenly be discreet.

“Now for some important new business,” Taylor continued. “As you all know, this summer we have all of the usual festivals and our Independence Day celebration. However, there are still four weekends open for events.” Taylor motioned to Kirk, who began putting charts and graphs onto easels near the stage. “Now, our festivals benefit the town in many ways--”

“Get to the point, Taylor!” Luke bellowed. Here and there others from the crowd shouted in support, “Yeah, get to the point” and Miss Patty said, “Whadda want, Taylor?”

“Okay, okay,” Taylor acquiesced. “I think we should hold an Ice Cream Festival.” This was met with groans merely because they all knew who would benefit the most from such a thing. “Now, hear me out…”

After promising Morey a salty nuts booth and Gypsy a lemonade stand to make up for the Hay Bale Maze fiasco, they scheduled the festival for late June. Taylor also had to promise a portion of his own proceeds to the fund to replace the tarp that blew away in the wind during the rebuilding of the bridge AND he had to promise to supply free jimmies. Lorelai smiled through the whole 20 minute discussion, frowning only long enough to complain to Luke because he wouldn’t let her go to Doose’s for marshmallows and red vines before the meeting. She loved this town, and she loved it even more with Luke by her side. She wasn’t happy about missing the ice cream festival, but maybe it would become an annual thing.

When the meeting adjourned, the two dodged questions by telling people to ask Babette, then headed to the BWR for a showing of Towering Inferno , where they brazenly cuddled together on Big Red, cooing and murmuring to each other like children with puppies, not caring who saw. If Rory had been there to witness her mother’s behavior, she would have gagged. Andrew and Gypsy nearly did.

Finally, the evening ended in bed again, but this time there was no talking. Neither wanted to spoil the mood and Luke was concerned about Lorelai’s stress level. Instead, they spent that time making love again. And again.

Chapter Text

Emily looked at Lorelai, blinking. Richard stared at Emily. Lorelai sipped her coffee and kept her eyes on the centerpiece. Minutes went by. Well, it felt like minutes. To all of them. Finally, Emily spoke up.

“Well, I--… well, I--… I…” Then her mouth closed and she looked at Richard.

A small, cautious smile could be seen, but only in Richard’s eyes. Emily looked exhausted.

Lorelai looked back and forth from Richard to Emily, expecting, or maybe hoping, for more. When she realized she wasn’t going to get it, she pushed forward. She didn’t want to avoid confrontation with her parents anymore. It only made things worse. Better to get everything out in the open.

“Please, can we talk about this?” She was practically begging. There was an awkward pause before Richard spoke.

“Well,” he began. He spoke slowly. “Let me make sure I understand. You’re going on a trip.”

“Uh huh.”

“With Luke.” Lorelai nodded. “Six weeks? On a boat?” She nodded again.

Emily jumped in, “With Luke ?”

“Yes, Mom, with Luke .”

“Luke Danes, the Luke Danes who left you at the altar last year? Do you really expect us to just trust a man who hurt you so much?” Emily said.

“He didn’t leave me at the altar, Mom.” Lorelai took a deep breath. “He postponed the wedding, but I walked away from him.”

“How was I supposed to know that? You never told us what happened, just that you broke up. And it was clear to us that you were heartbroken.”

“I was, Mom. I was heartbroken because I loved him. I loved him and I still do.” She opened the floodgates and let the words just flow. “I never stopped loving him. And, Mom, he still loves me. You know that party that the town threw for Rory? The one that Dad said was also for me? Well Luke is responsible for that, Dad. He’s the one who made that happen. We didn’t break up because we didn’t love each other. I shouldn’t have married Christopher, but I was devastated and broken and I thought that maybe you were right, that I should have married him all those years ago. But you weren’t right. It wasn’t right. Luke is right. I know that now. I mean, I knew it then, too, but… Dad, are you going to say anything?”

“Well, I don’t know what you want me to say, Lorelai,” Richard offered. “My opinion has never mattered much to you, but I like Luke. I’ve told you that I like Luke. You never seem to believe me and I don’t know what I can say to change that. He clearly cares a great deal about Rory and even I can see that he loves you.”

“Oh, Dad. I wouldn’t ask for your opinion if it didn’t matter to me.”

Emily was a little more reserved. “Lorelai, you are going to do what you are going to do. I promised a long time ago to stay out of it and I will.” For now at least .

That seemed to settle it, at least for the Gilmores. Lorelai was still waiting for a shoe to drop somewhere, but that seemed to be a default setting for her with her parents.

“So, Lorelai,” Richard asked, digging into his flavorless dessert, “Where are you going?”

“Up the coast. We have an itinerary that takes us almost to Portland and back.”

“Oh, well then,” Emily said with a twinkle in her eye, “This works out perfectly.”

“What does?” Lorelai asked.

“You will have to visit us in Cape Cod.” Lorelai froze.

“Well, Mom… I don’t know if…” She searched her mind for excuses. “When are you going?”

“We will be there for a month, Lorelai.” Emily said. “I’m sure you can fit us in. We’re renting a place that is for sale and if we like it, we’ll buy it. There’s plenty of room. You know that we’ve been talking about buying a place on Cape Cod for a while now.”

Not seeing a way out, Lorelai said, “Um, okay. I’ll talk to Luke about it.”

“Just so it’s clear…” Emily said cautiously, “You are back together with him?”

“Yes, Mom.” Lorelai sounded like an exasperated teenager. Things were mostly back to normal. “We are back together.”

“Are you going to get married?”

“Mom!”

“Well, it’s a perfectly legitimate question, Lorelai. You were engaged to the man.”

“We’ve been back together less than a week,” Lorelai groaned. “Can you give us a little bit of time to figure things out?”

“I was just asking, Lorelai.” Emily sighed. “There’s no need to get into a snit about it.” She paused and then said, “Just don’t elope.”

Lorelai sighed loudly.

 

~ooooo~

 

Luke couldn’t help worrying. He had not seen Lorelai since breakfast that morning and yesterday’s fainting spell weighed heavily on his mind. She was in for a stressful evening and there was nothing he could do to make it easier. So he waited. When she finally came breezing in at 9:30, he breathed a sigh of relief.

She was smiling and carrying bags, he assumed (correctly) from her shopping trip that afternoon. As he grabbed a mug from under the counter and poured her coffee, he asked about Friday Night Dinner.

“Well, the good news is they seem to be okay with us. Or at least resigned to us.”

“And the bad news?”

“We have to make a stop in Cape Cod.”

“What?” Luke’s brow furrowed.

“My parents are buying a place -- well, they’re trying it out -- on Cape Cod and they want us to stop there.”

“No.”

“I don’t think we have a choice, hon.”

“No.”

“One night. It’ll be one night on shore that we don’t have to pay for a hotel.”

“No.”

“We can do laundry, too.”

“No.”

“Ooo, I know! You can win them over with your lamb chops. You’ve never cooked for my parents before and you know the way to a Gilmore’s heart…”

Luke sighed. “I see you went shopping.” Changing the subject seemed like a good idea. He knew from the start that he wouldn’t win this one, but he couldn’t resist making her work for it. He actually thought it was a good idea, especially to cook for them. He could avoid Emily’s stares and having to chat with Richard about books he’s never read by hiding in the kitchen all evening.

She dropped the argument and showed him her finds: three pairs of shorts, three polo shirts, and two short-sleeved plaid button-downs to be worn over T-shirts--all for him.

“I don’t need clothes,” he groaned.

“Yes, Señor Grouchypants, you do.”

“I don’t wear shorts.”

“You will! Trust me. Oh, and I got you these pants, too!” She pulled out two pair of lightweight, casual khaki slacks. “You can’t wear heavy jeans and long-sleeved shirts all the time on the boat. It’s summer!” It was late and he was tired, so his resistance was weak (plus he always secretly liked the clothes she bought him). She didn’t know if that was good or bad; she enjoyed the dance, but she was tired, too. “I even got you these.” She pulled out a pair of topsiders.

“I have shoes.”

“These are not shoes. These are superrific, ultracomfortable boat shoes!”

“I have shoes.”

“You are NOT wearing those boots on the boat!”

“I have sneakers,” he said defensively.

“Well, bring them, but I guarantee you’re going to prefer these. Just try them on!”

“Okay, okay, I’ll keep everything, but no fashion show.” He gave in a little too easy. “Didn’t you buy anything for yourself?”

“Have you met me?” She said, head cocked to the side. “Yes, I did quite well. But you’ll have to wait to see any of it. I dropped it off at home before I came here. I also dropped Paul Anka off at Babette’s. This way if she has any problems the first couple of days, I’ll be here to deal with them. How are the preparations going on your end?”

“Good,” he said, biting his tongue to keep from asking how she was feeling. “I went to Bridgeport this afternoon and made sure the boat was gassed up and ready to go. I’ll shop for supplies and groceries on Sunday. And that’s about it. We’ll leave early Monday morning, okay?”

Lorelai gave him one of those stunning smiles, then gathered up the bags. “Oh! I almost forgot!” She reached over the counter and snatched the cap off of his head, then pulled a captain’s hat out of one of the bags and plopped it in place. Luke did not look pleased. He also didn’t look anything at all like Captain Stubing. Maybe it was the plaid.

“Um… I’ll just take these upstairs,” she said, grabbing the clothes and her overnight bag and kissing him quickly before heading toward his apartment. “I’m staying here tonight, okay?”

 

~ooooo~

 

They both thought that Saturday would be the hardest for them. Lorelai left for the inn at around 10am and expected to be there until late that night, overseeing the Anderson wedding. Luke and Lorelai planned to sleep apart that night, probably for the last time. They hadn’t talked about it, but both thought, or maybe hoped, that once they returned from the trip they would stop leading separate lives altogether. So they only had to get through Saturday and Saturday night. Sunday was supposed to be a good day. Lorelai planned to spend most of her time in the diner, figuring out Facebook and downloading books and music. Even with the packing, it would be a somewhat leisurely day.

And it started out fine. She was too tired Saturday night to be bothered by the fact that she slept alone. She woke up Sunday morning, put on a pot of coffee, then sat down to pay all of her bills and organize things so that Sookie could continue to pay them for her while she was gone. She got through the entire stack and was writing the last check when it hit her. How had she written the date a dozen times and not notice until now?

June 3, 2007.

 

~ooooo~

 

It was 9:45am when Luke heard the bells ring and looked up to see Lorelai walking in. He immediately knew that something was wrong. She had no makeup on and her eyes were puffy and dark. Her laptop bag and purse were slung over her shoulder, but the laptop itself was tucked under an arm. She looked defeated, but she walked with a purpose. When she reached the counter, she plopped down onto a stool with her laptop in front of her. Before Luke could ask her what was wrong, she quietly said, “I need to show you something.”

“Okay, sure. I can take a break in about 15 minutes. Is that okay?” She nodded. “How about some coffee while you wait?” She shook her head ‘no’. “Are you hungry?” Again she shook ‘no’. Luke was getting more nervous by the minute. “You wanna wait for me upstairs?” Lorelai just slipped off the stool and headed toward the apartment.

It was the longest 15 minutes of his life, but eventually he climbed the stairs to his apartment and found Lorelai sitting on the sofa with her laptop open in front of her. She wasn’t looking at it, though. Instead she was just staring at nothing in particular and he could tell that she’d been crying again. He sat down beside her.

She took a deep breath and started talking. She was uncharacteristically calm.

“Do you know what day it is?” she asked.

“Uh, Sunday, right?” he didn’t understand where she was going with this.

“The date, Luke.”

“Uh, June 3rd?” It took him a full 30 seconds to realize the significance of that date. He hadn’t thought about it as much as she had, back when it mattered. His face fell and his shoulders slumped. He reached over without looking up and took her hand.

“Luke.” He lifted his head at the sound of his name and found her eyes. “I’m going to show you something.”

“Okay,” he said quietly.

“It’s part of the video taken at Lane’s wedding. It’s a part you haven’t seen yet.” He gave her a puzzled look. “I need you to see it. I need you to understand what I was going through.”

He nodded, but he was terrified. He knew that Christopher had taken her to the wedding and he knew that she had gotten very drunk. Had she cheated on him? Would the video show her making out with Christopher while he was in Philadelphia with April? He didn’t know if he could handle that.

“I didn’t sing Endless Love , Luke. I hate that song. That was just something that Patty made up and got the whole town to say so that you wouldn’t find out the truth. But I did make a toast.” She turned to her computer, opened the video, and hit ‘play’. Luke watched as a drunken Lorelai introduced herself as Cher on the screen in front of him.

“I have known Lane forever and I’m just so incredibly happy that she has gotten married. I mean, I am just so happy that this adorable 22 year old girl has gotten married because it’s amazing, you know. It’s really hard to get married. Believe me. I should know. I mean seriously, because Lane is married and next thing it’ll be my daughter and then my granddaughter, but not me. I’m not getting married. No, it ain’t for me. It’s not in the cards. But… Hey, do you know what date I’m not getting married? June 3rd. Do not save the date. Do you hear me? Do whatever you want on June 3rd because there’s nothing at all happening on that day. If there’s anything you need to book or anything, it’s totally safe to book it on June 3rd. So, congratulations Lane and Zach. Who else here had eight shots of tequila?...”

As he watched the video, Luke’s expression slowly slipped from one of apprehension to guilt and finally to heartbreak. Every time virtual Lorelai said “June 3rd”, the real Lorelai saw Luke winch. By the time the clip ended, tears were spilling down Luke’s face and Lorelai almost regretted showing it to him. She had never seen him cry before. Well, a few happy tears at Rory’s high school graduation, but she had never seen him so sad, so broken, not even on his ‘dark day’.

Luke put his face in his hands and nodded his head, telling her he understood. After what felt like a lifetime, he whispered, “I’m so sorry.”

“I know,” she replied. “I know you are. And we both need to put it behind us. But today I’m going to mourn just a little bit and I needed you to understand why. We can talk about it more another day. Okay?”

Luke nodded and said, “Yeah.” He rubbed his face and tried to compose himself. He knew that he had hurt her. He knew that she didn’t think that he wanted to marry her. But somehow seeing her pain expressed so plainly and knowing that he was the cause of that pain… It was too much. She hadn’t wanted Christopher. She just wanted to marry Luke. To be his wife and live the life they had planned. And he didn’t even notice that she was hurting. Or maybe he did and he just didn’t want to face it--didn’t want to change it. He didn’t know exactly why he didn’t see her pain back then. He just knew that he now had so much regret.

 

~ooooo~

 

Lorelai did mourn a little off and on that day, but she stuck to her plan. Luke was sullen, but having Lorelai around in the diner made it easier. He wanted to apologize nearly every time he walked by her, but he didn’t. Apologies were not what she needed. Instead, they engaged in light conversation whenever he had the chance. During a mid-afternoon lull he got out the maps and calendar and figured out the best time to work in a stop at Cape Cod. Eventually both of their moods returned to mostly-normal and even lifted as they realized the trip was just hours away.

The evening was filled with errands and packing. Emotions were high, but mixed. When they finally went to bed, both exhausted, they lay in each other’s arms, saying nothing. Lorelai allowed herself a few tears and she also allowed Luke to comfort her with caresses and kisses on her forehead.

Finally he said simply, “We’ll make new plans.” She nodded her head and sighed. Eventually they both drifted off to sleep and June 3rd was over, not to return for another year.

Chapter Text

“Wow.” Lorelai had no other words for what she was seeing or, for that matter, what she was feeling. The first day on the boat was light and fun, a much-needed escape from the heavy emotions of June 3rd. The first couple of hours on the water had her wondering what on Earth made her agree to this insanity. The boat was surprisingly livable at about the size of a small RV and they had ‘christened’ the sleeping quarters rather enjoyably before casting off, but once they were moving it wasn’t quite so pleasant. She didn’t get seasick. Luke had made sure that she took Dramamine on the way to the docks. But just walking around in a moving boat was a challenge. She stayed below deck to unpack and was glad she did. When she finally headed above-deck to take her place next to Luke she discovered how cold and wet a morning on the water could be. It was a bit like riding in the jeep on an early spring morning with the top off. Through a car wash. Surrounded by gigantic fans.

But eventually the day warmed up and Luke took breaks from driving, dropping anchor so they could eat or just sit and enjoy the view. There was no end to the wildlife they saw. Seagulls seemed to follow them as they made their way up Long Island Sound. Occasionally a pelican floated by. They chatted about nothing in particular and kissed every time they were close enough and didn’t have food in their mouths.

Luke kept the shore in sight, which helped to combat some of Lorelai’s nervousness. Still, she felt so small surrounded by all that water.

And now, lying on her back next to Luke, staring up at the night sky, she felt downright microscopic. She never knew there were so many stars. She could actually see the shape of the Milky Way, something she’d only ever seen in pictures in books and magazines. It was humbling and exhilarating and… wonderful.

Her belly full of lasagna and her heart full of appreciation for God or fate or nature or whatever force allowed this moment to happen, she searched for words and came up with nothing. Lorelai Gilmore was speechless. So she just squeezed the hand of the man lying next to her in the big warm sleeping bag and sighed.

 

~ooooo~

 

The morning of Day Two they woke up early, anxious to get to their first port of call, the little borough of Stonington. Although they had made a lot of progress the day before, it was still a long ride. As they approached Fishers Island, Luke made a game of serpentining across the imaginary line in the water that divided Connecticut from New York -- ”Now we’re in Connecticut… Now we’re in New York…” like a young child on cross-country road trip. When Lorelai laughed, he promised to drive the boat in circles when they reached the Connecticut/New York/Rhode Island borders after they left Stonington the next day so they could do it again.

They approached the marina just after noon and Lorelai was thrilled to have her feet on solid ground again. She walked a little funny until she got her land legs back, but the adorable town was well worth it. Luke wobbled a bit, too, almost dropping her laptop bag in the water as soon as both feet were on the dock.

They found a little cafe that had WiFi and she opened her laptop while they waited for their meals.

“You’re working already? We’ve barely been gone a day.”

“Actually, Mr. Grump, I’m going to check my Facebook account, upload some of the pictures that we took yesterday, and email Rory.”

“Well, okay,” he said, smiling.

The first thing Lorelai noticed when she opened Facebook was a friend request from Jess Mariano. That was quite a surprise. She hadn’t sent him one. She figured he wouldn’t want to have anything to do with her. They got along fine the last time she saw him, but that was three years ago at Liz’s wedding and it hardly made up for the tumultuous relationship they had shared in the years before.

Her mouse hovered over the “accept” button. She looked at Luke. He looked up from the paper he was reading and asked, “What’s up?”

“Jess sent me a friend request.”

“What does that mean?” He was still trying to figure out this internet stuff.

“Well, it means that he wants to share stuff with me, that he wants me to share stuff with him.”

“Okay, so? Isn’t that a good thing?” he asked, puzzled.

“I don’t know, is it?” she really didn’t know.

“I guess there’s only one way to find out. You can always undo it, can’t you?”

“I guess so.” She held her breath and clicked. Then she went to his profile and took a look around. She was impressed. He posted often, sometimes about books his company was publishing, sometimes quotes from things he was reading. He had some albums of pictures, including one from the open house the year before. She opened it up to find about 30 pictures. As she flipped through them she came across one of Rory, standing with Jess and Luke. The three of them were smiling. Luke looked incredibly handsome and happy. In contrast, Rory’s smile was a little sad and Lorelai remembered that at that time Logan was being his usual irresponsible self, having flown off to Costa Rica to nearly kill himself trying to be Evil Kenevil.

She quickly clicked away, not wanting to see any more. She was afraid that she would see April and she was right. In that album there was a shot of Luke with April and another with Luke, April, and Rory.

I should have shown the picture to Luke , she thought. We should be able to smile about it. We were still engaged when that picture was taken. Would he have been that happy if I had been there with them? She couldn’t help wondering. She knew they should talk about it, but she didn’t want to spoil the day.

“Are you okay?” Luke asked, noticing that her mood had changed.

“Yeah, yeah. I’m fine,” she replied. Then she smiled, but it didn’t quite reach her eyes. She quickly clicked back to her newsfeed and found updates from Rory. She had shared a few articles and some pictures. Lorelai turned the computer around to share the pictures with Luke before he could ask her any more questions about her mood.

Rory had also shared her first blog post. Lorelai read it out loud to Luke, who beamed with pride, forgetting all about Jess and Facebook.

 

~ooooo~

 

After an afternoon touring the beautiful historic lighthouse and shopping in Stonington, they had a light dinner and slept in the boat, exhausted. In the morning they headed out, planning to spend the next few days on the boat, tooling around Block Island, then heading to Newport for a night in a hotel.

By Day Four they’d had sex in every area of the boat (which isn’t hard to do--dirty!) except the bathroom, which was barely big enough for one person. The captain’s chair was a bit of a challenge, but they managed to pull it off. While topside there was a weird thrill of being naked and doing what they were doing outdoors, even when they were far enough from shore that there was nobody around to see them. And at night those stars…

They laughed. They played cards. Luke gave her a cooking lesson--scrambled eggs. Lorelai teased him about wearing shorts, but he caught her ogling him more than once, so he knew he’d made the right choice in wearing them. And she was right about the shoes, too. They were having fun. They were in love. They weren’t thinking about the future or the past. That’s the way of vacations. But they both knew that it wasn’t good to go on like this. They couldn’t allow themselves to get caught up in the good times, then retreat to old habits when things got rough as they were sure to do with any relationship. They really needed to get back to work, to talking things out. They could relax later, once they had really cleared the air.

Lorelai’s body had grown accustomed enough to the motion of the boat that she was able to read and she was doing just that when Luke decided that it was a good time to get back to talking. He hesitated, because he knew that what he wanted to talk about was going to be tough and there was no easy way to start.

They were lounging on the sofa below deck, listening to the patter of rain as a light summer shower fell above their heads. He got up and started to pace a bit, which signaled Lorelai that it was time to put down the book.

He finally exhaled loudly, then jumped right in. “Let’s talk about the wedding -- Lane’s wedding.”

“Okay,” she replied.

“Tell me what happened.” Nice volley, Danes. Ball is in Gilmore’s court .

“I drank a bunch of shots, then got up on the stage and made a fool of myself.”

“Lorelai…” he warned.

She sighed and closed her eyes, then opened them and began. “This is hard, Luke.”

“Yeah,” he said quietly, nodding his head. She nodded back, telling him that she wasn’t planning to avoid the conversation. She just needed to get her thoughts together. Once she did, she spoke.

“I was sitting with Rory, looking through the pictures on her camera so I could delete some of them. You know how self-conscious I am about pictures of myself.”

“Yes, and I don’t understand it.” Luke said. “You’re beautiful.”

“I love that you think so, but I don’t think I’m photogenic and I hate most pictures of me.”

“You like the one that Rachel took, you know of you and me at the Firelight Festival,” he reminded her.

“Well that says more about Rachel’s talent than my self-esteem. Besides, it was you and me.”

“Oh jeez. I let you change the subject!”

“I didn’t change the subject.”

“Yes you… argh!” A small smile crossed her face. “Okay, so you were looking at Rory’s camera.”

“I was looking at the pictures on Rory’s camera, and went past the wedding pictures to a few days before,” her voice started to shake just a tiny bit with the memory. “And there was a picture of Rory with April.”

Luke thought back to what that could be. “At Jess’s open house.”

“Yes.”

“I didn’t know that Rory was going to be there.” He tried to explain.

“I know.”

“Why did that make you so upset? And what did that have to do with our wedding?”

“Luke, everybody got to meet April.” Lorelai’s voice went up in pitch and volume. “Everybody in town got to know her. Lane got to play games with her . Even Rory got to meet her. Everybody did. Everybody but me.”

“I needed time to get to know her myself. I thought you understood that. You acted like nothing was wrong.”

“But Luke, everybody else got to meet her and get to know her! It was just me you kept away!”

“You said that you understood,” he persisted. “You acted like you thought I was doing the right thing.”

“I knew that needed time with your daughter. I was trying to be a good girlfriend!” She was shouting now. “I promised you that I would be a great girlfriend, remember? I promised you that I was going to be patient! I was trying to be patient!”

Then she was crying.

“But, Luke, months went by and it didn’t get better.”

“You can’t ask me to choose between you and April,” came his response.

“My god, you’re not even listening to me! I never asked you to choose between us! I wanted you to have both of us! Luke, she was the most important thing that had ever happened to you and you wouldn’t share her with me!”

Luke was shouting now, too. “I talked to you about her all the time. I shared it all with you.”

“But you wouldn’t let me near her! Do you know how that made me feel? I wasn’t even allowed to come to the diner sometimes because April might be there. That place was like my second home. It was where you were. But I couldn’t go there because I might intrude. I was an outsider, Luke. You treated me like an outsider!” He knew she was right and he searched his mind for soul to figure out why he had been so stupid as to treat the love of his life that way.

“Do you realize that my mother lectured me about it?” Lorelai continued. “She actually thought that I didn’t want to get to know my own step-daughter-to-be, because of course in her eyes everything is always my fault.” She paused to breath, but she had not calmed down even a little. “At what point were you going to get back to us? She invited you on a trip, she was calling you ‘Dad’, but you still didn’t want to get married and you still didn’t want me around her. At what point were you going let me in? She was going to be my step-daughter, Luke, and I had never even really met her. What was I supposed to think? All I could think was that you didn’t want me anymore. You had April. You didn’t need me anymore. And you didn’t trust me.”

“Of course I trusted you!” he shouted. “I wanted to be like you.” He took a deep breath. “I just wanted to be a good dad. I failed with Jess. I didn’t want to fail with April. I was afraid that you would see me fail again. I wanted to show you that I could do it, or maybe I wanted to show myself, I don’t know. You are such a great mom.”

“I’m such a great mom?” Lorelai’s eyes were wide and wild. “My daughter lost her virginity to a married man , Luke. She stole a yacht ! Not a dinghy or even a ski boat-- a yacht ! Jess hasn’t even been arrested for jaywalking, has he? My daughter dropped out of college and I couldn’t stop her! Some great mom.”

“Oh, Lorelai,” he said, more calm now. He sat down. “Those bumps in the road don’t define her as person or you as a parent.”

“Maybe, Luke,” she said. She calmed down a little, too, but she was still agitated, “but why was it so important that you do it all alone? Why did you have to shut me out?”

He was quiet now. He thought for a moment before answering. “I don’t know. Maybe I didn’t want you to see me so… vulnerable. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so unprepared, so incompetent. I didn’t want you to see how scared I was.”

“But Luke, what did you think I would do? Did you really think that I was going to take her from you somehow? Or did you just think that you couldn’t rely on me?”

“Well…” At the time he wasn’t entirely sure that he could rely on her. But he didn’t know how to say that without hurting her. “Do you remember when Rory broke her wrist?”

“Of course I remember. It was the worse summer of my life until last year.” She thought back to the loneliness she had felt when Rory was in Washington, DC and Luke wasn’t speaking to her. She let Rory and Sookie believe that she was depressed about Christopher breaking her heart. She even let herself believe that it was about losing the opportunity to be a family with the man who gave her Rory, but if she was being honest, the person she missed the most was Luke.

The rain had stopped, which was a good thing because Luke was almost whispering now. “You totally overreacted. A hairline fracture to the wrist, and at 17.”

“But she was in the hospital!”

“You broke your leg , remember?”

“Of course I remember.” Lorelai said, not understanding the connection.

“And you weren’t nearly as young as Rory, but you healed just fine and with very little help. I remember. Rory came to the diner at least five times a week.” He smiled at the memory.

She smiled, too. “You added pie and brownies without telling her.”

“I wanted to deliver stuff myself and check on you, but Rory kept insisting that you’d be upset if I did.”

“Well, I barely knew you then and I was embarrassed.”

“Embarrassed that you broke your leg?”

“Embarrassed that I couldn’t take care of myself.”

“Okay, well think about that for a minute,” he said. “You and I are not all that different that way. I can admit that I am stubborn about accepting help, but you can be, too. I would think you’d understand.” Lorelai just listened. “Anyway, my point is that Rory’s injury wasn’t that bad. She was 17 -- almost an adult -- and all she had was a cast for a couple of weeks, but you acted like she was in critical condition. And worse, like I had put her there.”

“I was scared, Luke!”

“There you were, yelling at me about how I’d let you and Rory down.”

“I apologized like a million times for that!” Lorelai shouted, standing up. She really didn’t enjoy thinking about this pain from so many years ago.

“Yes, you did. And I forgave you, even though it hurt like hell.” He stood up now, too. “But you know what I don’t think I ever forgave you for? You never once thought about what I was going through. You never once thought about how I might be feeling!”

“I knew that you were worried about Jess. I just…”

“Lorelai, you’re still missing it... I failed him. He was failing school, still getting into trouble, and then the accident… I failed him. I couldn’t help him. I couldn’t do it. Mr. Fix It couldn’t fix Jess.”

Lorelai stayed quiet, searching his face and trying to process what he was saying.

“I couldn’t even talk to you about it. You were my best friend and I couldn’t even talk to you when it was happening. I looked at you and saw this amazing mom and all I wanted was to be a good parent. And I sucked at it….

...And you know what, Lorelai? When the accident happened and I knew that I had failed, YOU WEREN’T THERE FOR ME .”

It was out. And he couldn’t take it back.

They stood staring at each other, the only sound was the water lapping against the side of the boat.  

 

~ooooo~

 

“I was a shitty friend,” Lorelai said while Luke was cooking dinner. They had spent the rest of the afternoon in relative silence, each letting the discussion sink in. Luke puttered around the boat, Lorelai read the same page in her book over and over again until it the routine of living took over.

“No, Lorelai. You weren’t,” he replied, stirring peppers and onions on autopilot. “You weren’t perfect, but you always had my back, even when it came to Jess, and you hated Jess.”

“I didn’t hate Jess. I was afraid of him.” She really didn’t hate the kid. She saw some of herself in him. “I was afraid that if Rory got involved with him her life would be derailed the way that mine was.”

“You did just fine.”

“Yeah, but it was hard , Luke. And if I hadn’t had Mia, I probably would have ended up back at home. Or married to Christopher.” Luke was quiet. He wasn’t ready to talk about Christopher. He’d had enough high emotion for the day.

“Tell me about fishing guy.”

“Fishing guy?” Lorelai asked.

“Yeah, that guy that you went fishing with.”

“Oh, um…what the hell was his name?”

Luke laughed, “You don’t even remember his name? Didn’t you go to New York with him for a weekend?”

“Yeah, but… hey, how did you know about that? I just told you I was going with a group of friends.”

“How dumb do you think I am?” Luke asked, laughing. “Set the table, please,” he added, gesturing with his chin.

“I don’t know why it was so hard to tell you about stuff like that.”

“Because you wanted me to see you as available.” Luke said, as if it was obvious.

“Well if you knew that--”

“I didn’t know that at the time. I was too wrapped up in my own insecurities to even think about why you didn’t tell me about the guys you dated. And maybe I didn’t want to know about them.”

“But you did know.”

“Yeah, I did,” he said. “I couldn’t help it. I was so tuned in to you that I could be at the diner and I’d know if you sneezed at your parent’s house in Hartford.” He plated the food and they sat down to eat. “So tell me about fishing guy.”  

“Alex.”

“Okay, tell me about Alex.”

“Well, there’s nothing to tell, really,” Lorelai explained. “We met at a really bad seminar that Sookie and I went to. He called me, he asked me to go coffee tasting with him, I went. We dated a few times, then it just kind of petered out.”

“Hmm.”

“In fact, I’d say that technically I’m still dating him.” Luke raised on eyebrow. “We never officially broke up. He just stopped calling.”

“And you stopped calling him.”

“Yeah…” She thought for a moment. “He wasn’t you.”

They continued to eat, laughing and teasing each other. She ate half of his mashed potatoes and gave him half of her vegetables. He glared at her until she ate the rest of her veggies. She washed the dishes while he took a shower. Then they cuddled up on the bed to watch a movie.

When the movie was over and the lights were out, Luke said, “You know that things are different now, right? I know I did it all wrong, with April.”

“Okay,” Lorelai replied.

“I mean it, Lorelai.” He turned toward her, palming her face. “I regret that so much. I should have stood up to Anna much sooner and I should have involved you from the beginning.” He brushed his hand over her hair. “I’ll never make that mistake again.”

She answered by pressing her lips to his for a soft kiss, catching his bottom lip between hers. “I’ll never let you,” she whispered, then went back for more. “I’m sorry you were in so much pain with Jess and I didn’t see it, didn’t think about it.” She caressed his face and kissed him again. “I’m so sorry I wasn’t there for you.” He felt the wetness on her cheeks as she kissed below his ear. “I know you thought then that you had failed Jess, but I hope you know now that you didn’t. Look at him.” She kissed along his jaw. “You don’t have anything to prove to me, Luke.”

He pulled her close and whispered, “I love you.”

Chapter Text

Their fifth day was spent touring beautiful colonial buildings in Newport, Rhode Island. The mansions made Luke a little grumpy, which Lorelai encouraged, hoping to get a rant out of him about the wasteful lives of the rich. He did not disappoint. Even so Luke enjoyed the tour. There was no denying the impact of knowing how old some of the buildings were, how many laws were made, enforced, and adjudicated in the government buildings and how many families had said prayers in the churches. He admired the craftsmanship that built such places to withstand hundreds of years of abuse from occupants and New England weather.  

Lorelai took dozens of pictures and bought gifts for Rory, April, Miss Patty, and Gypsy while Luke complained about the dwindling space on the boat, making her promise to ship most of her purchases home when they stopped in Boston. They ate dinner at a Tavern that dated back to 1673, during which Luke took a short call from April (of course he went outside to talk). They stayed the night at a lovely Inn. Lorelai tried hard not to critique the place and just enjoy it.  

While he showered, Luke replayed the last couple of weeks in his mind and marveled at what a lucky man he was. Of course it wasn’t luck. It took a lot to take them to where they were a year ago to where they were now. He had to come to terms with what had happened and his role in it. He had to forgive her for leaving him and for going to... him . She had to do those things, too. And they had to win each other back through acts of friendship and other gestures. But here they were, putting it all back together, stronger than it was before. The Six Million Dollar Relationship . He had no doubt that they would make it this time. They still had work to do, but he could see the light at the end of the tunnel.

By the time he emerged from the steam of the small bathroom, Lorelai had read a long email from Rory, replied with an even longer one, and was presently dumping the pictures from her camera onto her laptop so that she could post some of the best to her Facebook account. While on Facebook, she read comments on the pictures she had posted earlier in the week. She now had about a dozen Facebook friends including Rory, Jess, Miss Patty, Kirk, Michel, Sookie (Lorelai talked her into it), Lane (Rory had talked her into it) and a few others from Stars Hollow. Almost everyone commented on a particularly hot (or so Lorelai thought) picture of Luke lounging on the deck of the boat.

“Jess wants to know if I was blinded by your white legs,” she told Luke. “Kirk has a recommendation for a good sunscreen. Michel wants to know where you got the shoes. See, I told you those shoes were stylin’.”

“They are comfortable.” She looked shocked that he would admit that.

“And Miss Patty… You don't want to know what Miss Patty said.” He watched her add her own comment, typing “I bought him the perfect hat, but he won't wear it. He says it's too Captain Stubing. I say it’s more Dick Cavett. Either is good in my book. At least he doesn’t look like the Skipper.”

Then Lorelai shut down her computer, planning to spend a couple of hours on it in the morning, catching up on Dragonfly business while doing laundry before they cast off to head farther up the coast. Tonight she was all Luke’s.

After making love on a boat so many times, dry land was a bit of an adjustment, but they made do. In fact, they were pretty energetic despite having spent the day walking. Maybe it was all the space after the cramped boat. Whatever the reason, they wrestled, they laughed, and they remembered why, even after all of the pain they’d been through, they were still drawn to each other. So it started as a light-hearted romp, but escalated as hunger and passion increased until neither was laughing anymore. It got even more serious when he pinned her wrists above her head -- something he knew she loved, but he used sparingly -- while he thrust into her over and over, driving her higher and himself insane with emotion until they were both spent and out of breath, staring into each other’s eyes with such intensity that Lorelai trembled. The briefest flicker of anxiety met her face and was gone, but not before Luke saw it.

“Are you okay?” he asked tentatively while releasing her hands. She nodded. Her attempt at vocalization failed to produce more than a whimper, but she smiled. “You haven’t had an attack since we left home… have you?”

Her smile widened. She finally had enough breath to say, “No, I haven’t.” He kissed her softly and smiled before rolling off of her, gathering her to snuggle against him. She hadn’t had even the signs of an attack since they’d been on the boat. Maybe it was the change in scenery, but she liked to think it was Luke.

Still, they needed to keep talking. Tonight’s topic, chosen by Lorelai because she was the first to speak, was a bit self-indulgent, but they both wanted to prolong the lovey-dovey feeling.

“Why did you finally decide to ask me out?” she asked. “You were so calm. It was strange. When I figured out what you were doing I was suddenly a nervous wreck around you, but you… you were just... so calm and casual about it all.”

“Well, it’s funny,” he started. “Once I had made the decision it was… freeing. It was like a weight had been lifted. I didn’t even care if it took a long time; I knew that you were really busy with the inn opening and all. I just… suddenly I knew exactly what I wanted and I wasn’t afraid to ask for it.”

“Okay, but what made you change your mind? You’d kept that horoscope for eight years. I know our timing always sucked, but there were other times when we were both available that you could have made a move. What made this time different?”

“Oh my god… well… this is embarrassing,” he said, but he was laughing.

“Tell me,” she pleaded, poking and nudging him.

“Okay, well…It was more than one thing, really,” he began. “Remember when I took that tour of the Dragonfly, and you used me to get rid of that guy?”

“Shel.”

“Who?”

“His name was Shel -- is Shel. He sells poultry. We still use him.”

Luke rolled his eyes. “Well, you told me that you had broken up with that Mercedes guy--”

“Jason.”

“Right, Jason.” He continued, “and something you said made me think about the fact that I wasn’t getting any younger and that I really didn’t want to be alone forever. And what I’d been doing so far wasn’t working.”

“How is that embarrassing? I mean, I basically said that I felt the same way.”

“Well..” He wiped one hand over his face. “I can’t believe I’m telling you this. So do you remember Liz’s wedding, when you saw that book in Jess’s backpack…”

She gasped. “Oh, no! That book was yours?”

“Yep.”

She gasped. ”So that’s what you meant!” A three year old mystery was solved.

“Huh?”

“On the porch that night when you kissed me, you said ‘I did what the book said’ or something like that!” She was laughing now. “Oh my god, Luke, I am going to give you so much shit!”

“No you won’t if you ever want me to make coffee for you again.” She narrowed her eyes.

“You wouldn’t.”

“Try me.” Something in his face made her drop the matter.

“Okay, so I could see a book telling you what to do, although I’m sure you didn’t need all of that to woo me,” she said, knowing that she had never once hesitated, from the moment she realized they were dating, “but how did a book make you decide to ask me ?”

“Well, to be honest I hadn’t really thought about you that way for a long time,” he admitted. “But the guy in this goofy audiobook told me to think about and picture the person I most enjoyed being with, the person I wanted to share things with, the person I’d want to comfort me… and your face just kept coming up and I couldn’t shake it. You were all of those things to me and more. And I was just stunned by that, the fact that nobody else even came to mind. It was a no-brainer.”

“So you just decided, just like that.”

“Just like that.”

“Well,” Lorelai said, “I guess if you think about it, the timing was almost perfect. I mean, if we had gotten together sooner, there would have been so many hurdles and roadblocks. Rory alone... And if we’d gotten married and had kids, would I still have opened the Dragonfly? I don’t know.”

“I’d like to think that you would have, but I guess we’ll never know.”

“I do worry about all of the time we wasted. I mean, I’m not getting any younger.”

“We couldn’t get that time back if we wanted to, but we still have a few good years left in us.” He smiled and kissed her. And if we don’t keep talking about stuff, we might not make those count , he thought and he keep the ball rolling. “Okay, so tell me about Max.”

“Max?”

“Yeah, why didn’t you marry him?” he asked, genuinely curious.

“I didn’t love him.”

“Well you must have thought you did at one time,” Luke noted. “How did you figure out that you didn’t?”

“It was actually partly my mother and partly you.” She said, picking at the sheets.

“Me?”

“Yeah,” Lorelai began. “I was at my bachelorette party and my mother told this sweet story about how excited she was when she was about to marry my dad. She tried her wedding dress on every day and imagined herself as a wife. And it made me think -- I didn’t feel that way. I hadn’t really thought about what it was going to be like after the wedding, after the party was over.”

“You mean what your role would be, how your life would change?”

“Yeah. I called Christopher.” Luke bristled a little at the name.

“Why did you call him?”

“I think I just wanted to get the opinion of someone who really knew me,” she said. “And I couldn’t call you. You’d made it clear that you didn’t want to talk about it. You weren’t even going to come to the wedding.” He felt a small pang of guilt because he knew she was right.

“Did he tell you what you wanted to hear?” Luke was really curious.

“Uh, no. He helped a little bit, but not much. I think I was hoping that he would tell me that it wasn’t me, that he couldn’t picture me married, because I couldn’t picture me married. But he didn’t. He said, ‘Sure, I can picture you married, to the right person.’ Then he made fun of Max’s CD collection.” Luke was quiet. He tried not to think about her marriage to Christopher. “He was right, of course. But that wasn’t what I needed to know.”

“It wasn’t that you couldn’t picture yourself married, but that you couldn’t picture yourself married to Max .”

“Yeah... Later, Rory thought that I didn’t marry Max because of something Christopher had said, but it was really you. Well, you and what my mother said. She planted the seed, but it was you who germinated it.”

“What did I do?”

“You showed up with the chuppah and you talked about how marriage could be alright if it was with the right person. And how you only get married once, theoretically. And that was when I realized how important it was that I didn’t marry someone who wasn’t the right person and that Max wasn’t the right person.”

“Because you didn’t want to try on your wedding dress every day? I don’t understand what that has to do with me.”

“Because I didn’t want to try on my wedding dress, but also because there was this man in front of me who would spend an ungodly number of hours crafting a beautiful thing for his friend’s wedding, even though he wouldn’t go to said wedding. Max wasn’t that man. I mean, I wasn’t comparing you. I didn’t think ‘Oh, I’ll marry Luke instead.’ But I thought, ‘Would I do something like that for Max? Would he do something like that for me?’ I couldn’t even be bothered to get house keys made for him. And I knew that I should hold out for that kind of love, that marriage wasn’t just something you do because you don’t want to be alone.”

“Is that why you said yes in the first place?” he asked. “Because you thought you’d be alone if you didn’t?”

“I thought… I don’t know. I guess it was the first time that I had thought about marriage in any positive way. A therapist told me--”

Luke interjected, “A therapist?”

“Um, yeah. I’ll have to explain that later,” she didn’t think they were quite ready to talk about that night. “She told me that I probably didn’t think about getting married for so long because it was always something I was supposed to do, that I was expected to do, and not something that people do because they’re in love and want to be together. But then Max came along and it wasn’t about obligation anymore. Rory was growing up and she was going to leave home eventually and here was this great guy who wanted me. He made me feel wanted. And he made me feel protected.”

“Safety. Comfort.” He remembered her words about ‘the whole package’, but love was clearly missing.

“Yeah. But you know, he was also really condescending.” Luke chuckled. He could totally imagine Max being condescending. “He treated me like a child, and I think I acted like a child. By the time the wedding rolled around, I didn’t like myself around him anymore.”

“If I ever treat you that way, you have my permission to tie me to a chair and force feed me Mallomars until I change my ways.”

“Dirty!” She laughed, but then she said seriously, “Luke, you have never made me feel like a child. Yes, I felt safe… well, most of the time... I also felt that you would protect me, but you have never talked down to me. You trusted me to take care of myself, even when we were just friends. Do you remember when the blonde brigade ambushed me outside the high school?” Luke laughed at the memory of Lorelai getting, as he had described, ‘nailed like a two by four’ by the teenagers who asked about her teen pregnancy instead of her profession. Then a group of moms ganged up on her as they were walking back to the diner, incensed that she had dared to talk about sex. “It was five-to-one, but you didn’t even bother to stick around for the show. You just asked me if I had it handled, then went back to the diner when I said that I did.”

“And you did have it handled!” he laughed. “You didn’t take any crap from those Stepford Wives. I was proud of you!”

“Well, I have always appreciated that you’re there for me without assuming that I can’t take care of myself. Maybe that’s why our relationship was so different from any other relationship I’ve ever had. You always had faith in me. You treated me like a grown-up, so I acted like one.”

“Did Jason treat you like a child?” Luke asked.

“Um, a little,” she thought for a moment. “But really, he was so wrapped up in his own issues that I don’t think he even thought much about me, except as something to hang on his arm. And to sleep with.” She crinkled her nose at the memory. “He was a bit of a letch.”

“But he must have wanted you. He showed up at the inn that night.”

“Ugh, that was… ugh.” She didn’t even know what to make of that, really. “You know, I only dated him to piss off my mother. Which is ironic, because I hid the relationship from her for months.”

“Yeah, Babette told me,” he admitted.

“She knew about that?”

“Miss Patty’s party line.”

“Oh,” she replied, realizing he was referring to the fact that Miss Patty could listen to other people’s phone conversations sometimes. “Well, he was weird and kind of cold. And he had this dog that hardly moved. Not because he couldn’t, because he just didn’t. He had him trained to sit there like a piece of furniture. I half expected Jason to flip out like that guy in 9 1/2 weeks, he was so anal retentive. He was so selfish that he didn’t even go to my grandmother’s funeral because funerals freak him out, and she wasn’t just my grandmother, she was his business partner’s mother!

“And the thing is, after I broke up with him, I didn’t think about him at all. I wasn’t upset. I didn’t wallow. I didn’t even cry about it. The only thing that bothered me was that it was another failed relationship…” She paused a moment, thinking. “But it was one I never should have gotten into.”

“Hmm.” Luke understood. He had a couple of those himself.

“And you know, now that I think about it, I don’t think I dated him just to piss off my mom. I think I was trying to distract myself. I decided to say yes to a date with him after Nicole came back.”

“Nicole? Really?”

“Yeah. I was so jealous of her, Luke.” She looked up and into his eyes. “I hated her.”

“Well, if you felt that way, why didn’t you ask me out before she came back?”

“Well, I don’t ask guys out, Luke,” she said, after some thought. “I just don’t. I think I’ve been the pursuer maybe twice in my life, and both turned out to be huge mistakes.” She thought of the most boring date on the planet, Peyton Sanders. “And I was so terrified that you’d reject me that I just wouldn’t allow myself to think of you that way. Rory told me years ago that I couldn’t date you because we’d break up and then Rory and I would starve.” They both laughed at that. “And I didn’t want to risk our friendship. As long as I didn’t make a fool of myself by throwing myself at you, you couldn’t reject me and I could keep you as my close friend. I’d always have you.”

“You would always have me, will always have me.” Luke said. “I will always be there for you, no matter what our relationship is.”

“I know you were always there if I really needed you, Luke. You’ve proven that time and again. But the truth is that we weren’t friends after we broke up, and understandably so. I could rely on you, I knew that you’d be there for me, but we didn’t have our friendship.”

Lorelai’s cell phone rang, effectively ending the conversation there. She was grateful, because thinking about Nicole had brought tears to her eyes and she didn’t want to feel bad tonight. She looked at her phone and saw that it was Rory. She gave him a quick kiss, then answered it.

 

~ooooo~

 

They were anchored in Nantucket Harbor for the afternoon, getting some chores out of the way as they rounded out their first week on the water. They had fallen into a rhythm that would take them through the next few days, making their way slowly, stopping at marinas occasionally for fuel or a meal or to find WiFi for Lorelai to check in with work. They had even gone ashore in Nantucket just so that Lorelai could get a fix of deep fried food and an ice cream soda that put Taylor’s place to shame.

Today Lorelai had cleaned the bathroom after making breakfast for them. She’d gotten pretty good at scrambled eggs and Luke was planning to teach her how to make mashed potatoes to go with dinner that night. Otherwise, Luke made most of their meals and, as planned, Lorelai did the cleanup. In the evenings they read, watched movies, or sat on the deck looking at the stars while cuddling, making out, or more.

Presently they were topside, playing chess with the travel set that Luke had brought. As he expected, Lorelai picked up the game somewhat easily, but it was going to take a lot of practice before she would be good enough to beat him.

“Did it really make you nervous when I asked you out?”

“You saw me. I felt like I was 15 again, only I wasn’t that nervous at 15.”

“I do recall you running into a table or two,” he said.

“And don’t forget the door at the inn. As soon as I saw you come in for the test run I was a nervous wreck. Suddenly my voice was an octave higher and I was squinting.”

“You did seem a little scattered.”

“Rory laughed at me,” Lorelai recalled. “I threatened to lock her in her room... Check, I think.”

She had indeed checked him, but she left herself open. “Checkmate,” he said.

“Damn!”

“Just keep at it. You’ll get there.” He had no doubt. He also wasn’t surprised that she enjoyed the game. “Why did you not learned to play chess before now?”

“Why did you never teach me?”

“I don’t know. I never thought about it. I guess I thought that you knew. I figured your father would have taught you.” Why have I never thought to ask her to play chess before? he wondered as they put the set away. He thought about what they used to do together. Shopping, movies, occasionally they went to parties or to Sookie and Jackson’s or a show. There was still a lot they didn’t know about each other, still a lot of things they could be doing together.

“I don’t know if my dad even plays chess.” She had a vague memory of Rory bringing a chess set to the hospital when her father had the heart attack, but she didn’t trust it. She was in such a fog when that happened. “You know, I bet Rory would enjoy it.” She didn’t know that Jess had taught Rory to play when they were in high school and that she often played with Logan. “But she’d probably kick my ass.”

“I don’t know about that.” He could never understand her lack of self-confidence in some areas. He knew that she was as smart as Rory, even smarter in many ways. There’s more to being smart than being able to recite Shakespeare. But Lorelai just didn’t see herself that way.

Luke got up to make lunch while Lorelai picked up some embroidery that she was doing for the Dragonfly. “Well, as nervous as I was that whole week between Liz’s wedding and the test run at the inn, all of the butterflies flew away the moment you kissed me.”

Bouncing around from subject to subject had become the norm in their interactions. Traveling together left them with plenty of time to talk around, over, and through each topic, so they allowed the conversations to flow naturally.

“I think that’s when I started to get nervous” he recalled. “Happy, but nervous.”

“Did you really think that I had changed my mind? After that kiss?”

“Well, you didn’t seem to want to talk to me the next morning. I didn’t know about what happened with Rory.”

“You didn’t see what I was dealing with at the inn, either. Argh, Taylor. And Michel. And Paw-Paw.”

“Paw-Paw?” he asked, raising an eyebrow.

“Michel’s dog. He chewed up Taylor’s shoes. It took us a week to find a suitable replacement pair.”

“Speaking of dogs…” Luke began, then stopped. He didn’t know how to proceed. Lorelai looked at him, wondering what he was going to say. “Can we talk about something?”

“Uh, isn’t that what we’re doing?”

“Yeah, but I mean something specific.” Luke tiptoed. “Something I think we need to work on.”

“Um, does it have anything to do with making someone promise not to keep secrets, then turning around the next day and keeping the biggest secret you can?” So much for keeping things light. Lorelai sensed an attack coming on and had immediately gone on the defensive by bringing up his lying about April. Check.

“Sort of. It has to do with making someone promise not to make important, life altering decisions without consulting the other person, then turning around the next day and doing just that.” Checkmate.

“Are you referring to Paul Anka?”

“Yep.”

“But… He’s just a dog,” she reasoned.

“Yes, and a dog is a part of the family,” he countered. “A dog needs care, maybe not as much as a child, but it needs love and attention. It’s a huge commitment.”

“I know that.”

“But you bought one without consulting with me.”

“You love Paul Anka!” She was sure of that.

“I do care about Paul Anka,” he admitted, “more than I thought I would. But that’s not the point.”

“But I take care of him. He’s my dog, my responsibility.”

“Lorelai, we had just gotten engaged ,” he said. “We were planning a life together, to live together and be a family. Any dog would be a part of that family, our dog. You went ahead and bought one the very day after getting mad at me for buying a house, even though I bought that house before we were engaged.”

“Okay, okay, you’re right.” She sighed, “I should have talked to you first.” She couldn’t tell him that Paul Anka was a substitute for Rory, but she didn’t need to. He already knew.

“So…” At this point he put the sandwich fixings down and sat down next to her. He took her hands into his and waited until he had her full attention. “I need to ask you something and I don’t want you to get upset. I think I know the answer, but I really think it’s something that I need to hear from you.”

“Okay…” she said, squaring herself. “Shoot.”

“When you asked me to marry you, what was going through your head?” She started to answer, but he held a hand up to indicate that there was more. He licked his lips and continued. “Did you ask me so that you had something to hold onto while Rory was away? Was it just so that you could feel grounded? Really think about it before you answer.”

She took some time before she answered, but she didn’t need it. She had thought about this many times over the past two years. “I asked you to marry me because you hadn’t asked me yet. Yes, maybe I did want something to hold on to, but I had been dreaming about marrying you since our first date, maybe even before. I mean, literally.” He let out the breath he’d been holding. “Remember that dream I told you about when I stayed at your apartment after the Independence caught fire?”

She also told him about the night at her parent’s house before the vow renewal, when she was looking at wedding dresses and fantasizing about being married to him. “I think that’s why my mom went to Christopher. I think she knew that I was hoping to marry you and she didn’t know how to stop it.” Lorelai put a hand on each cheek and looked him square in the eyes. “Luke, I wanted to marry you. You were ranting that night about how we weren’t going to let Rory quit school and I saw how much you loved her -- not that I didn’t know how much you loved her before, but in that moment I just… loved you so much. And I didn’t want to wait another eight years for you to ask me. So I took a chance and I asked you.”

“That was probably the most amazing, happiest moment of my life.” He meant it. At that moment, everything he had been dreaming about--a life with Lorelai, a family with her -- it all seemed possible.

“Hey, if I agree to go fishing tomorrow, will you watch ‘Steel Magnolias’ with me tonight?”

 

~ooooo~

 

It was Day 12 of the Lukelai Epic Coastal Cruise, as Lorelai had decided to call it. The past few days had been full of shopping, museums, and beautiful views as they came around Cape Cod, then headed to Boston. They had docked in a slip in Boston Harbor day before yesterday and ate dinner at a wonderful waterfront restaurant. Yesterday they took at tour of The USS Constitution, did a load of laundry, shopped and ate lobster at Faneuil Hall, and shipped some of Lorelai’s trip purchases home. Today they visited Bunker Hill and the Granary burial ground. They both laughed when they saw that someone had placed a bottle of beer on Samuel Adams’ headstone. Guess the brand.

They wandered into Boston Common and watched a reenactment of a revolutionary war battle, which prompted a rant from Luke about the futility of Stars Hollow’s silly tradition. He noted that at least the battles in Boston were actual battles and not just some guys standing around in the snow all night, not that he thought it was a good idea to celebrate war at all.

Tonight they were staying in a hotel that Luke had booked after Lorelai agreed to go on the trip. He surprised her with dinner reservations at a place in Little Italy. Lorelai was thrilled to break out the garment bag and wear a pretty dress--her first dress in nearly two weeks. She was also thrilled to be on the arm of a clean-shaven Luke wearing a tie she had bought for him the day before.

Even after nearly two weeks on the boat together, having sex whenever they thought about it, and having just fit in a ‘quickie’ in the shower before getting dressed, Lorelai had to fight off Luke’s affections in the cab to keep him from destroying the work she’d put in on her make-up and hair. She also thought it was a little rude to make out in front of the driver. But when they arrived at the restaurant it was Lorelai who melted. Luke had done his homework. Actually, he had reached out to Sookie, whose network of chefs recommended the restaurant from a list of criteria he had given her. One of those criteria was a dance floor.

Lorelai hooked a hand around his elbow and whispered into his ear, “When we get back to the room tonight, anything you want.” She pronounced every syllable in “anything” carefully and slowly. This earned her a dazzling patented Luke Danes smile.

So after a wonderful meal, he squired Lorelai around the dance floor until her feet hurt. When a slow song began to play, she felt his strong arms around her as she lay her head on his shoulder. They swayed back in forth in slow circles and she thought she had died and gone to heaven.

 

~ooooo~

 

Lying with Luke, basking in afterglow, Lorelai thought back to that moment on the dance floor and the gesture Luke had made of planning the evening. She thought of all of the things he had done for her over the years.

“Luke?”

“Hmm?” his sleepy voice responded.

“Thank you.”

“For what?” he asked.

“For… being you... For all of the things you’ve done for me.” She propped herself up on an elbow to look at him. “For Rory’s party. For the chuppah. For the ice rink. For taking me to the hospital when my dad was sick. For coming to the hospital when he was sick again, even though you knew you might not be welcomed by… some… just… thank you.”

“You’re welcome.” Then he added, “You know, you have done a lot for me, too.”

“I don’t know. It feels lopsided to me.”

“It isn’t lopsided at all,” he said. “You and Rory dropped everything to help me out in the diner when my uncle died. Do you remember that?”

“That was no big deal.”

“It was to me. You have always done stuff like that. You shopped for Rachel’s birthday present for me. You tried to help me with Jess. You stood up for me at the town meeting when they wanted to lynch Jess. You gave me a room at the inn so that I could go skiing with Nicole even though you hated her. Of course we didn’t end up going skiing, but that wasn’t your fault.”

“You didn’t go skiing?”

“Um, no. We had a fight and I ended up going home. Then the next morning I got that call from Kyle’s parents because Jess got into a fight.”

“Um, Luke… What was the fight about?” She was pretty sure she already knew.

“It was with Dean, so I assumed it was about Rory,” he answered.

“No, the fight with Nicole.” She suspected that he knew what fight she meant. He did.

“You know what it was about,” he said smirking.

“I’m sorry.” But she was smiling, too.

“No you’re not.” He was laughing now.

“Okay, you’re right, I’m not. I really hated her.”

Chapter Text

The next morning Lorelai managed somehow to talk Luke into going to a Starbuck’s for breakfast. The hotel didn’t have WiFi and Starbuck’s did. It was the perfect excuse. Not that she needed an excuse. The truth is, after the night they had he would probably drink coffee if she asked him to. But she didn’t need to know that.

He read the paper while she set up her laptop, ready to share at least a dozen pictures from their visit to Boston. But when she logged on to Facebook, she gasped. She had a friend request. From April Nardini.

“Oh my god, Luke!” Loreali said excitedly as she clicked on ‘accept’. He looked up from his paper. “April is on Facebook and she sent me a friend request!” She didn’t see him furrow his brow. “And she sent me a message. I'll read it to you. ‘Hi Lorelai! I don’t have much time to write, but I wanted to say hi. I just joined Facebook and found you on my cousin Jess's friends list. It looks like you and my dad are having a great time on your boat trip! Please tell him I said hi and I can’t wait to see him in a month. I will try to write more later. Please take lots of pictures! Bye!’” She sighed and smiled, beaming.

Until she looked at Luke.

He was staring off in the distance at nothing, clearly lost in thought, and he did not look happy. He looked nervous and scared. Lorelai’s face fell. He’s upset that I’m friends with April , she thought, but what came out of her mouth was a quiet, “Oh my god, I’m a fool.”

Her voice brought Luke’s attention back to her and he said, “What?”

She could almost feel the wall go up when she plastered on a smile and said, “Nothing.” A fog descended as she watched Luke return to his headspace, clearly worried. He pretended to read the paper, but his eyes weren’t moving and he looked pensive. She looked around at the table, confused by her feelings.

She wanted desperately to go back to the night before, to when everything was right in the world, to when she was sure that she would spend the rest of her life enjoying her family -- a family that included a daughter and a step-daughter. But instead she returned to those feelings she’d had more than a year before, of being an outsider in her own life, to a time when she sacrificed her dreams and almost her sanity in order to please the man in front of her. And while only seconds had ticked by, those seconds felt like days. She had the sensation of shrinking, like she was sliding bonelessly to the floor. And she was scared.

But then the fear dissolved and anger took its place and she regained the ability to act. She closed her laptop and put it in its bag. As she started to rise, putting the straps of her bag and purse over her shoulder, Luke noticed what she was doing. “Lorelai?” he asked, but received no answer. He sat stunned as she walked out.

He grabbed his backpack and ran after her, making it outside just in time to see her duck into a cab. Then she was gone.

He had flashbacks to that night when she'd left him standing in the street in front of the diner. He panicked. He pulled out his cell phone and hit the speed dial for hers. It rang, then clicked over to voice mail. She was screening. “Lorelai, I- I don't understand what happened,” he said to the machine. “Please call me. As soon as you get this. We need to talk. Please call me so we can talk about it. Whatever I did, I'm sorry, but please call me.”

After standing there helpless for a few minutes, he headed back to the hotel. He didn't know what else to do. In the 10 minutes it took to get there, the last 11 years played in his head. The day she came into the diner for the first time. Lorelai, the annoying customer who became the highlight of his day. The friendship that was slowly forged over coffee and burgers, Rory, town business, teasing, and banter. The deepening of that friendship into something more like family. His decision to pursue something more. The dance. The first kiss. The break up. The reconciliation. The movies. The shopping. Her laugh. Her heartbreak when Rory left school. The proposal. The dog. The renovations. April’s birthday party. The ultimatum. The image of her walking away from him, leaving him standing alone in the middle of a wet street unable to move, unable to speak, unable to do anything except watch her form get smaller and smaller until it faded into the darkness.

Not this time .

 

~ooooo~

 

I’ll just catch the train to Hartford , she thought. Good thing we’re in Boston . But two minutes into the cab ride to the train station she realized that her Filofax was back in the hotel room. Her life was in that book. All of the contact information for her personal life and for the Dragonfly was in one place. Her calendar, everything. She could replace it, but that would take work and time and in the meantime she’d be miserable. She couldn't just leave it behind. Luke might not be back to return it for a month.

But she didn't want to go back, either. She couldn't face him. She couldn't stand to listen to his excuses, to hear that he needed more time.

As all this was going through her head she started to calm down. My life is falling apart again and I’m thinking about my damn Filofax . Then she realized that wasn’t the crazy part. The crazy part was the way she was just running away. Running away was childish and it wasn't fair to Luke. He at least deserved to know that she was leaving and why. The fog cleared. The heartache remained, but she shoved it aside. She took a deep breath and told the cab driver to head to their hotel, then she pulled out her cell phone and called Luke to ask him to meet her there.

 

~ooooo~

 

“You wanna tell me what's going on?” He asked when she walked in the door.

She wouldn't look at him. She grabbed a duffle bag and started to shove clothes into it while shaking her head and mumbling, “I was a fool.”

“What do you mean? What is going on, Lorelai?” He didn’t know what to make of this. She seemed to have gone off the deep end.

“Lorelai, talk to me.” Now he had flashbacks to the night of Jess and Rory’s accident.

“I was a fool,” she said again. “And I can’t do this again, Luke.”

He grabbed her by the shoulders and turned her to face him. He could see tears starting to spill from her eyes, and he could clearly see that they weren’t the first. He wanted to pull her close and tell her that everything would be okay, but he realized that she was angry and wouldn’t appreciate such a gesture. And he needed answers.

“What the hell is going on?” he pleaded with his voice and his eyes. “You were fine one minute, then running out the next and I didn’t say a word, so please tell me what is going on. What did I do?”

She finally looked him in the eye, angrily. “You’re never going to let me in, are you, Luke?” She was yelling now and she didn’t care who could hear it. “It’s always going to be like this. And I can’t do it, Luke, I can’t.”

“Lorelai, what are you talking about?” He really didn’t get it. “Come on, calm down and tell me what this is about.” He managed to get her to sit down on the bed. She still wouldn’t look at him. She couldn’t look at him and it was a long time before she spoke.

“You-- You’re upset that April connected with me on Facebook,” she finally stammered. “Y-You still don’t want me around her. You don’t want me to get to know her.”

“Lorelai, that’s not true,” he replied. “Where did you get that idea?”

“I saw your face when I read her message. You can’t tell me you aren’t upset. I could tell. I'm not crazy! I saw it!”

“Oh my god, Lorelai. Yes, I’m upset,” he admitted. “But I’m not upset about her getting to know you!” He spoke slowly, making sure she heard every word. “I’m upset because my teenaged daughter is online, probably talking to strangers. You hear about these people, predators, who go online and pretend to be someone they’re not and they lure young girls. I've heard about girls running away and meeting up with scumbags they met online. She’s 14, Lorelai! Of course I’m scared. But it’s not about you . In fact, I feel better knowing that you’re on there with her. Maybe you can keep an eye on her. I don't know how to use that stuff.”

Lorelai wasn’t sure if she believed him, but she was so relieved that she visibly relaxed. “But she’s had a website for years, Luke.”

“Yeah, where she could share stuff,” he said. “But isn’t Facebook where other people can talk back? People have conversations and you can meet strangers, right?”

She nodded. Then she wiped her eyes with the backs of her hands and looked at him. She saw nothing to suggest that he was lying. She saw a man who was nervous about his daughter and maybe one who was scared to lose her. She allowed him to hug her.

“Lorelai, I know it's a lot to ask after what I did last year, but at some point you have to trust me. I want you to know April. I got past that stupid fear after her birthday party. I want us to be a family. It’s a weird family with April and Rory not living with us full time, but it’s a family. And Anna doesn't have a say anymore. She can’t tell me who I can and cannot have in my child’s life.” He was pleading now, pleading for her to understand, to believe. “April adores you. And I wouldn’t have it any other way…” He saw that she was relaxing and maybe a bit ashamed for not trusting him, so he pulled back and looked at her. “But, Lorelai, you can't just run off every time you get upset.” He held up a hand before she could say anything. “And I know I can’t just clam up. We have to be able to talk.... We were doing so well…” He put wiped his face with his hands. He was irritated now. He took a deep breath and stood up. “We need to go back to the boat. We need to talk about that night and we need to do it soon.”

She knew that he was right. Without saying a word, they both resumed packing.

 

~ooooo~

 

Despite Luke’s reassurances that she had misread the situation and they would work it out, there was tension between them as they checked out and headed to the boat. It didn’t help that, after checking the weather forecast, they now had to rush. A storm was on its way and Luke wanted to make it to Salem Harbor before it hit. They had slept late and it was already almost noon.

They waited in near silence for a cab, all of the warm, fuzzy feelings from the night before just a memory. Instead, they both felt scared and exposed, brittle even. Luke tapped his foot, Lorelai drummed her fingernails on the handle of her bag. In the cab, Lorelai could see the muscles in Luke’s thigh clench as he pushed his right foot into the floor, trying to will the cab to go faster. He took her hand, but she had to pull it away after less than a minute to keep him from crushing it. She put it on his knee to show that she didn’t want to break the connection, and he settled for covering her hand with his.

When they got to the boat, Lorelai unpacked and put the bags away while Luke readied the boat to cast off. She asked him what she should do to help and he told her take some Dramamine NOW, then go through the cabin and make sure that everything was secured. It was going to be a bumpy afternoon.

 

~ooooo~

 

With the traffic that time of day, it took them more than an hour just to get out of the harbor. It seemed that everyone else was trying to get in. Lorelai busied herself making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches -- something that Luke could eat while he drove -- and cleaning up right away so that everything stayed secured. She also made him some tea, filling a large thermos before adding some to a travel cup. She didn’t know if she would be able to make more later and she wanted to make sure he had tea to fend off the cold as he drove. She could do without coffee for an afternoon. Her stomach felt like a bowl of acid, anyway. And it was tied in knots. Luke’s mood worried her as she sat next to him, buckled into the passenger seat and bundled in layers of clothing under her rain jacket. He was pensive and focused. She did not know what concerned him more, her meltdown that morning or the weather.

He kept a steady pace, staying close to shore. As the afternoon wore on, tensions grew as dark clouds began to fill the sky, blotting out the sun. The water got choppier, prompting Luke to slow down some. It was taking them a lot longer to drive the 20 miles or so from Boston Harbor to Salem than it really should have. Around 4:00 they started to see lightning in the distance.

“Go below deck and unplug every appliance you can reach,” Luke ordered Lorelai. “Then get on the bed and stay away from the hull, the windows, and anything metal. She didn’t argue. She didn’t want to stress him out any more than he was.

They managed to reach the harbor before the rain hit, but there were no slips available and there was no place to pull up to get themselves out of the water and under shelter. This shouldn’t have been a surprise; everyone wanted to get out of the storm. Luke got out his cell phone and managed to get a hold of the marina for instructions to moor in their reserved spot. When they were safely anchored -- as safe as they could be -- he buttoned up everything on deck as fast as he could and made it into the cabin with the hatch shut behind him just as the rain started to fall. He stripped off his excess clothing and climbed into bed with Lorelai, holding her tightly and telling her that they were going to be alright. She didn’t know if he was talking about the storm or their future. Neither did he.

The rain was as loud as the thunder and the waves pushed the boat up and down more violently than they had experienced in the nearly two weeks they’d been living on it. Lorelai was scared, but Luke’s arms around her pulled her emotions in another direction. The memory of the look on his face this morning tugged her in yet another direction. She had never felt so alive, but never so close to death, so hopeful and so worried, so angry and so exhilarated. Luke was breathing heavy and he smelled so… Luke.

She lifted her head to look into his face and when he looked back, into her eyes, she no longer heard the storm outside. He lowered his face to hers, pressing his lips firmly against hers. She wrapped her arms around him, trying to get closer, to get inside him. There was no foreplay or teasing. He stripped off the sweatpants that she had donned for warmth and her panties along with them while she yanked at his. Before he could enter her, she panted, “Wait… I need to… put in di--...”

“Don’t,” he responded.

“But… if we don’t… I can’t...” she couldn’t hold back the tears as she considered the possibility that they wouldn’t be okay, that they wouldn’t make it, that if she got pregnant she would have to raise this child alone, too.

“We will…” he said, with absolute certainty in his voice. He looked into her eyes. “We will. We’ll make it.” This time she didn’t object when he thrust into her. Instead she tried to push him deeper, to become a part of him. To make him hers. They made love urgently, hungrily, seeming to use the rise and fall of the boat as assistance rather than a hindrance. It was not a fun, happy rush like their coupling during Rory’s party. It was simultaneously desperate and hopeful. Afterward they lay huddled together on the bed, nerves on edge, until the storm passed and the sun came out.

The storm last 20 minutes, then it was gone. Within an hour from when the rain hit it was hard to tell that it had even happened. They were both quiet and exhausted and in no mood to talk, so they ate leftovers and went to sleep early and without fanfare.

 

~ooooo~

 

They awoke to a light rain and a gloomy day. Neither knew if the weather matched or set the mood. Lorelai felt like she was swimming in mud and a bit like she had swallowed some, too. She believed Luke when he said that he wanted them to be a family, but wanting and doing are different things. The feeling of being shut out had become difficult to shake, especially after yesterday’s events. He was right, they needed to talk about that night, because that night hung over them like a cloud blacker than the one that brought yesterday’s storm. They needed to talk about why she left him and they needed to talk about where she went after she left him. They’d been avoiding the subject of Christopher for nearly three weeks now.

So after the breakfast dishes were done, they sat on the sofa and Luke threw the first pitch.

“I need to know what happened that night, Lorelai.”

“What happened was that you didn’t want to marry me,” she answered, very matter-of-factly.

“I did want to marry you. I just didn’t want to do it without thinking first.”

“But you married Nicole without thinking, Luke,” she said, hurt showing plainly on her face. “And you hadn’t been engaged to her for a whole year… Why did you marry her? Why did you marry her and not me?” Tears flowed easily at the thought of Luke proposing to that skinny lawyer while Lorelai was traipsing across Europe with Rory, oblivious to the fact that the man she loved (and she was in love with Luke by that time, Lorelai was sure of it now even if she hadn’t know it at the time) was marrying another woman.

“I… I married her because I didn’t think I could have you,” he said. “I married her without thinking and it was a huge mistake. It turned out badly, wouldn’t you say?”

“Yes, but I wasn’t Nicole.” She sniffled. “You were willing to marry her. You weren’t willing to marry me.”

“Oh, Lorelai. I didn’t love Nicole. I married her because I didn’t have anything else going for me in my life except work. I made a huge mistake. You were more important to me than that. I wanted to be able to really focus on our life and I felt like I couldn’t do that until I was settled with April. How is that different from you putting it off until things were right with Rory?”

“It is different, Luke. I put it off for Rory because I wanted her to be able to be a part of it. And I knew when things would be right, I had a goal in mind -- when Rory decided to go back to school. When were things going to be okay with April? What did ‘okay’ look like? When were you going to be ‘settled’?... And I didn’t shut you out when things were bad with Rory. I leaned on you. I depended on you. You helped me and I let you help me.”

“Okay, okay, I get it. It’s not the same.” Luke conceded. “So, different approach. I need to know what led up to that night, then. I need to know where you were for the three days before. I need to know what happened when you went to see Anna. I need to know why you didn’t tell me that you were unhappy.”

“I did tell you that I was unhappy, Luke.” She reminded him of their conversation at Martha’s Vineyard on Valentine’s Day weekend.

“I guess I didn’t realize how bad it was.” He tried to understand himself. He tried to understand why he didn’t hear her. “I took you for granted. I don't know, maybe I thought the problem would just go away.”

“It didn’t,” she said. “In fact, within minutes of being home after that trip, it was clear that nothing had changed. Remember, Caesar told you that April was coming by the next day and you told me not to come in until she left.”

“Right.” He sighed, remembering and regretting.

“Maybe that’s why it’s so hard to trust you about it. Part of me knows that we can say anything to each other while we’re on vacation, but what matters is what we do when we get home.”

“But you said you were okay. You pretended like you were fine with everything.”

“I was so afraid to push you, Luke.” More tears started to form. She fought them, but lost. Her voice cracked as she recounted the first time they broke up. She reminded him that he had asked for time then, too, and when she pushed him, he bolted. “I couldn’t get out of bed for three days , Luke, and we had only been dating for 5 or 6 months at that time. I couldn’t risk losing you again.”

“But you did risk it. You pushed me that night,” he said.

“It had been months , Luke! Months!” That escalated quickly. “I was patient for months before I gave you that ultimatum! I was dying inside. I didn’t feel that I had a choice anymore. I… I broke.”

“I need to know what the breaking point was,” he said quietly. “What happened? Was it Anna?”

Lorelai calmed down some. She nodded. “Partly. April’s birthday party… I was so happy, so relieved. It felt like a breakthrough, like my exile was over.”

“You were great. You really came through.” He admitted.

“But then when you came home that night… huh, home,” she scoffed. “You wouldn’t even move in.” Luke lowered his head, another regret. “You came home and said that Anna was mad… and something in me just… broke.” She got up to get a glass of water.

“So you went to see her,” he said.

“Yeah. I thought if I could explain it to her, explain that I understood, that I knew what she was going through, but that she didn’t have to worry, that I could get her to lighten up.” She drank slowly and returned to the couch.

“I need to know what Anna said to you,” he said quietly.

“I told her that we were real, that we were permanent. And she said...” Lorelai had to choke back tears before she could continue. “She said ‘Engaged isn’t married. People get engaged all the time.’”

Luke had tears in his eyes. “I’m so sorry.”

“But she was right, Luke. Engaged isn’t married. It doesn’t mean you’re going to get married. Nobody knows that better than me.”

“I wish I would have known.”

“I tried to tell you, Luke. I tried.”

“But you didn’t right away. You avoided me for days.”

“Because I didn’t know what to do! I couldn’t hide my feelings anymore and I knew that if I pushed you, I could lose you. I knew that if I saw you, if I talked to you, that things would come crashing down and it might be the last of us. I didn’t want it to be over. I didn’t want us to be over. You were everything to me, Luke.” He was quiet, trying to process it all. “And I was right. I was right. It was the end of us.”

“No, it wasn’t.” He shook his head. “It wasn’t the end of us. We’re here now.”

“But it did break us. I stood up for myself and I lost everything. Fast forward to today, I feel lucky to be here with you, but even with this, with getting you back, we lost a whole year. And that year… it was…”

“That year wasn’t lost. We’re learning from it.”

“God, I hope so,” she whispered.

“Go on. What made you come to the diner that night?”

“I was at my parents’ house for dinner and they had invited a woman… they were trying to set her up Christopher. She was a therapist.”

“You talked to her?”

“Yeah. I explained the situation. We talked about marriage. I told her about Max and Christopher and Rory. I told her that I never really loved anyone until I loved you. I told her that I was ready to get married, to have another kid, but I couldn’t wait anymore. I told her how unhappy I was, how I felt like shit all the time.”

“What did she say?”

“She said that I'd never get what I want if I didn't ask for it. Which made sense, I mean I asked you to marry me.”

“And I said ‘yes’.” His tone suggested that he understood how that was part of the problem. He sighed. “I wanted to marry you, Lorelai. I really did. I just… I thought you'd always be there, like a favorite piece of clothing that you can put in a closet and pull out when you want to wear it. I didn't think I could hurt you like that. You were always so tough. I wasn't listening. I didn't get it.”

“But you had hurt me before. Did you really not remember? I never actually understood what happened then. What happened back then, Luke? Why didn't you fight for me back then, after my parents’ vow renewal?”

“I thought they were right,” he said simply.

“Who? You thought who was right?”

“Your mother, your father, Christopher.”

“About what?”

“That you deserved better than me, more than me, more than Stars Hollow. That I was just another sucker that you would eventually cast aside when you realized that I wasn’t your soulmate or whatever. That you should be with someone who would take you to parties like that, someone you don't have to beg to go dancing. The truth is, I don't know how we even broke up. One minute I'm telling you I need time and the next you're calling me your ex-boyfriend.”

“But you said you couldn't be in the relationship, that it was too much.”

“You asked what I was thinking. That was what I was thinking, not what I wanted.”

“Well, you certainly didn't do anything to rectify the situation,” she reminded him.

“By the time I came to my senses I didn't know how to fix it. And you seemed fine, you seemed to be over it, so I thought that maybe they were right. Maybe you wanted more. Until your mother came to the diner, I thought that you had gotten over me and had moved on with your life.”

“I don’t know why you would ever think that I wanted more than you or Stars Hollow. And what does ‘more’ mean, anyway? In Stars Hollow I found acceptance, support, love. That town was a haven for me. It still is. I’ll die there.”

“I just thought…” He sighed. “You’re an unstoppable force.”

“And you’re an immovable object.”

“But I move for you.”

“And I stop for you.”

They looked at each other for a beat, then both burst out laughing.

“Well, that was corny as hell,” he said.

“Yeah, but there’s truth to it,” she replied.

“You know, Anna accused me of bailing on you,” he informed her.

“You didn’t bail on me,” she said. “If anyone bailed, it was me.”

“I understand why now,” he said. “I mean, I understood before. I knew that I was compartmentalizing. I knew that I had pushed you away.” She could see tears forming in his eyes. “I got that stuff before. But I don’t think I really understood just how bad it was until now. So I get why you left.”

“It hurt too much.”

He nodded, then paused. “But what I still don’t understand… is why you… why you went to him .... Why did you go to him that night, Lorelai? It was like you were trying to do the one thing that you knew would hurt me the most.” He let the tears flow.

In a voice barely loud enough for him to hear she said, “I didn’t do it to hurt you. I wasn’t even going to tell you, but you wouldn’t let it go.”

“Of course I wouldn’t let it go!” he bellowed. “I loved you! I realized that I had screwed up and I was trying to fix it!”

“Too late. It was too late. Luke, you still don’t seem to understand how devastated I was!” she cried. “Every dream and hope that I had for my life other than the Dragonfly was wrapped up in you, and it was gone. Hell, even the Dragonfly was filled with you!

“After we got engaged I felt safe with you. I felt that finally I had a relationship that was real, that worked, that I wanted. I didn’t just give you my whole heart. You had that the minute you danced with me at your sister’s wedding. But by the time we got engaged I trusted you with it. I’ve never trusted anyone with my heart, except Rory.

“I trusted you and you let me walk away, Luke! You let me go! You didn’t want me! You let me walk away!”

He sat with his face in his hands, forcing himself to feel her pain, to feel the pain of her leaving all over again, to remember it so that he wouldn’t ever allow it to happen again.

“I was broken,” she continued. “I was heartbroken. I was lost. I was broken . Everything I trusted, everything I dreamt of for myself, for my future, it was all gone. You were another failed relationship, another time that I was wrong to think that I could have that whole package that I talked about, but it was even worse because I didn’t have my friend to tell me that it was going to be okay, that I was going to be okay. So I went to someone who would tell me that, someone who I thought knew me, understood me. And I think I wanted to punish myself. I didn’t feel worthy of you. I thought that maybe all I had to give was my body. And that maybe if I gave my body to someone else, I wouldn’t belong to you anymore. I couldn’t be yours anymore. And I had to stop thinking of myself as yours, because you weren’t mine anymore . You didn’t want me, Luke. You let me go! You let me walk away!” She got quiet again. She practically whispered, “You let me go.”

He regained his composure. “I couldn’t fix it after that. It was too broken.”

“Yeah, it was,” she said. “And the things you said to me afterward... That you didn't think we belonged together? Ohmygod that hurt, maybe more than anything else. Like I was always just a customer to you.”

“You were never just a customer to me. But I had to think about it that way, that it just wasn't ‘meant to be’, even though I don't really believe in that fate stuff. Otherwise I had to face my part in it. I didn't want to believe that I had blown it, that I could have been with you forever, but I screwed it all up. I couldn’t face that at first.”

“I didn’t…” she said. “I didn’t even know how to go on. I was a stranger to myself for a long time.”

“I had to go on because of April. If I didn’t have her…” He shuddered to think of the person he would be today without someone to make him want to be a better man. He would probably be a lot like his Uncle Louie.

“Well, if you didn’t have her, we might not have been in the mess to begin with, but we also might never have dealt with any of our problems, and we did have problems. If we didn’t, we would have been able to withstand it. We would have handled the situation better.”

That truth sat with them in silence for several minutes before Luke spoke again.

Chapter Text

“Why did you marry him?” he asked with a surprisingly steady voice.

“He pushed me,” she said with a shrug. “And I kept hearing voices in my head -- my mother’s, my father’s, even yours -- telling me I belonged with him, that it was inevitable. I kept telling myself that I was happy. He did all sorts of little things for me -- the kinds of gestures that you always made, except that he relied on his money to pull them off instead of skill or brawn. It was always about the money. He was always trying to buy my love. He even tried to buy Rory’s love. But he did make the gestures. You’re supposed to appreciate those things, so I told myself that I did. And I told him and Rory and Sookie and anyone else who asked that I was happy.”

“But you weren’t.” He stated it more than asked it.

“Oh god, no,” she rolled her eyes. “I think I told myself that if I pretended enough, I would start to believe it. But I was just so heartbroken. And I missed you. I missed my life, too. I missed the town. You know, the diner is such a hub for the town and I couldn’t go in it. I couldn’t go near it.”

“You know you could have, don’t you?” He remembered the weeks following the breakup. He was angry, but he missed her. If she had shown up, he might have felt resentment, but part of him would have rejoiced. “It wasn’t the same without you. Everybody thought that I had changed something when I rebuilt that wall. I hadn’t, of course, but they weren’t wrong. Something had changed. You weren’t there.”

“And you wore that ugly black hat.” She admired the new blue Red Sox cap he was wearing. It brought out his eyes nearly as much as that old one that she had given him so many years ago, but it had a nice cloth tab instead of the cheap plastic sizing. How that old cap had survived seven years of daily wear she couldn’t imagine. It was as much a scientific mystery as her metabolism.

“No, I couldn’t go in the diner. I couldn’t go to town meetings. I couldn’t even go to the stationery store because that meant walking by the diner.  I couldn’t risk seeing you. It hurt too much.”

“So he pushed you?” he asked, not wanting to change the subject.

“He did. We were sitting in this restaurant in Paris and he said we should get married. I dodged the question. I told him it was too soon, which was stupid, but I was desperate. And he kept saying that he didn’t want to wait and I thought about when I’d said that to you. The shoe was on the other foot. And he kept pushing. I didn’t want to hurt him the way that I’d been hurt. And I thought, ‘Why not? What am I holding out for?’”

“And that was, what? September? October?”

“November,” she corrected. “It was only a week before you called me when April got sick.”

“Interesting timing.”

“It was. I had managed to avoid you the whole summer and I only saw you from afar a couple of times that fall. But then suddenly there you were, in my life again.”

“I was so… hurt. And angry. Did you know that we got into a fist fight, Christopher and I?” He nodded. “A lawyer had just told me that I would probably lose April. She was all I had left. You were married to him and I was going to lose the only other person who kept me going. I saw him there, coming toward me, clearly looking for a fight, so I gave him one.” He looked down at his hands. “I never fight. I think it was only the third time in my entire life that I’ve ever hit someone.”

“He told me about it,” she said. “Not at the time, but later, when we were breaking up.”

“Really? So does that mean that you broke up because of me?”

“Partly,” she explained. “We broke up because when we tried to get back to daily living, reality crept in. I eventually realized that the reasons I didn’t marry Christopher when I was 16 still applied. It wasn’t right. I had had this fantasy of life with my daughter’s father for so long, but it was nothing like that.”

“You figured that out in just three months?” He didn’t understand. That kind of insight took time. Even he knew that. It could take years for someone to realize that they were in a loveless marriage.

“It’s easy to see when you have the problems we had.”

“What problems?”

“Well, that’s where you come in,” she explained. “He wanted to move. I didn’t. He wanted to have a baby. I didn’t. Of course, I just said, ‘What’s the rush?’, but I really just didn’t want it.”

“Wait... you told me that you did. Do you not want to have kids now? I mean, it’s fine if you don’t, but we should really talk about it so that -- you know, we can both be -- like yesterday…” He wouldn’t have been so careless if he had known that she didn’t want to have any more kids.

“Oh, Luke, no.” She took his hand and pulled it to her chest. “I did want a baby. I do .” She took a breath. “I just didn’t want one with him. And not just because it felt like the knife of losing you being twisted. It also reminded me that Chris wasn’t there for Rory.”

“So he was upset because you didn’t want to have more kids?” he asked. “Didn’t you talk about it before you got married?”

“Nope. And it was more than that. I think that he wanted a kid because he felt me slipping away almost since the moment we got home. I resisted all of the changes he wanted to make. He wanted to redo Rory’s room for GG, I resisted. He wanted to buy a bigger, newer house, I resisted.”

“You love your house.”

“My house is in Stars Hollow,” she reminded him. “I think he understood that he was an outsider. He didn’t fit into my life in Stars Hollow, so he tried to take me out of it. And having a baby was a way to keep me invested in the marriage. Of course he didn’t need that because I was invested in the marriage just because it was a marriage. I may have made a mistake, but you don’t just give up on a marriage. Once I was in it, I was in it.”

“Yeah, I get that.” He remembered how long he stayed in his bad marriage with Nicole.

“I wasn’t going to just give up. But I resisted. I did try to make him fit in there. I tried to get people in Stars Hollow to give him a chance. They probably felt like they would be cheating on you. But I think it probably would have been difficult anyway. He just didn’t fit. Then my mother wanted us to have another wedding. We had agreed to a party, but she tried to throw in vows, too, and I didn’t want to do it, but Chris did. I think that was a breaking point.”

“Is that why he wasn’t at the hospital when your father had the heart attack?”

“Um, no. He found a copy of the character reference that I wrote for you.”

“Oh.” He understood the impact that would have. He must have read it 100 times, had it memorized. It had to have hurt Christopher to know that Lorelai saw Luke as a father to his daughter. The implication that Luke was there for Rory more than Christopher was not only easy to read between the lines, but it was a close match to reality. “That letter probably saved my relationship with April. I’m sorry that it ruined your marriage.”

“I’m not.” Lorelai was getting used to this new approach of bare, blunt honesty. “The marriage was doomed. The letter helped move it along. And I would have been more heartbroken if you’d lost April, especially since…”

“Since I sacrificed us to have a relationship with her?”

“Yeah,” she replied. “But you do know that I don’t blame her, right? I mean, she’s a great kid and it’s not her fault. And we should have been able to work it out so that all of us were happy.”

“Yes, we should have,” he admitted. He took a deep breath and prompted her to continue.

“So he didn’t show up to the hospital because he was angry and had turned his phone off.”

“For a day and a half?” Luke imagined Lorelai, Emily, and Rory sitting in the waiting room of the hospital for hours on end with only Logan for support and it angered him. He pictured Lorelai making phone call after phone call, trying to get a hold of Christopher.

“Yeah. But the worst part was that once he got there, he only stayed an hour and then left again.”

“Because I was there?”

“Yep. He threw a tantrum,” Lorelai recalled. “And that was when I realized it was the same old Christopher. The same fair weather friend. After he found the letter he accused me of still being in love with you, that I didn’t want to move or have another wedding or a baby because of you.”

“And?”

“Well, he was right of course, but I told him he wasn’t. I told him that I wasn’t in love with you. I told him that I loved him . I really did want to work on the marriage. I didn’t want to quit, and it didn’t matter how I felt about you because that was over. I even considered totally cutting you out of my life for good... But I realized that he has almost never been there for me. Or Rory even, not when it really mattered. You were, though. You were always there. For both of us.” She scooted over next to him. He put his arms around her and let her snuggle into his neck. “And I realized that I wasn’t willing to cut you out of my life for him. It didn't matter that I couldn't be with you the way that I wanted, you were still family to me. I couldn't cut you out. I wouldn't. He wanted something that I wasn’t willing to give him. And I would never be able to rely on him. So it was over. Three months and it was over. The day it was over was the first day I started to feel… like myself again. Of course, feeling like myself meant that I was a loser who was destined to be alone, but I preferred that to what I had been doing.”

At this natural lull in the conversation, they sat quietly, studying each other’s faces. There was hope in both. Not just hope, certainty. They were going to be okay. More than okay.

When they finally looked somewhere other than at each other, Luke noticed that it was well into the afternoon. And when she realized that they had skipped lunch, Lorelai was starving. Exhausted and not in the mood to cook anyway, Luke remembered that they hadn’t taken the time to pick up groceries before they left Boston the day before. So they both changed, then he disengaged them from the mooring and they headed to a wharf in Marblehead for dinner.

 

~ooooo~

 

As they walked from the dock to the restaurant, Luke put an arm around Lorelai’s shoulders and asked, “How are you feeling?”

“In general, or about… everything we’ve been talking about?”

“Both, I guess.”

“Um… I feel… good,” she said, nodding. “Yeah, I feel really good.” She smiled at him. “How about you?”

He nodded. “I feel good, too. Better than good.”

“Better than good? What do you feel, great?” she teased.

“Great. Fantastic, even…” He gave her sideways smile. “What can we do to get you to ‘fantastic’?”

“A steak would be a good start. Maybe some french fries. Cheesecake.”

 

~ooooo~

 

“So, Luke? Did you date anyone while we were apart?” she asked as they were waiting for their entrees.

He laughed and took a long drink of his beer before matching her gaze. “Um, yeah. Once. April’s swim coach.”

Lorelai wasn’t surprised by the pang of jealousy she felt, but she knew that she had no right to be upset and she wasn’t. Part of her didn’t want to know, but her curiosity got the better of her, so she just listened.

“It’s kind of a funny story, actually. Kirk was yammering on about how he was going to break up with Lulu to be more like me.”

“Well, Kirk has always looked up to you,” Lorelai offered.

“Yeah, well, he thought it was cool that nobody cared if I came home at three in the morning or if I walked around the house in my underwear.”

“Of course people care. They’d pay to see you walk around in your underwear. I’m quite sure I could make a killing.”

Luke ignored her. “I set him straight. Told him if he hurt Lulu I’d hurt him. The I went upstairs and called Coach Bennett for a date.”

“Judging from the look on your face I’d say it didn’t go well.”

“Vegan.”

“Oh, ugh,” Lorelai understood. Luke liked to eat healthy, but he didn’t go overboard and he liked cheese, eggs, and meat. He just didn't eat much red meat or fried foods. He ate a lot of vegetables and went a lot easier on sweets than Lorelai, something not hard to do.

“She was also just a little bit… nuts.” He laughed, remembering. “She made me sit on the same side of the table.”

“Ugh.”

“And she talked about ex-boyfriends.”

“Ugh.”

“Yeah, apparently she made a habit of dating swim dads,” he said. “Of course, the first date was the last.”

“Did you go out with anyone else?”

“Um, no. That was enough for me,” he said. “I remembered that I hate dating. And I knew that I would compare anyone I dated to you and they would always lose. I didn’t shut the door on it, but I pretty much decided that night that I would probably never date again. It wasn’t worth it. I had April and that would have to be enough.”

“Hmmm… I’m glad you don’t have to be a hermit.”

“Yeah? Me, too.” Luke paused while their food arrived. Then he asked her something that weighed heavily on his mind. “Do you still see him?”

“Who, Christopher?”

“Yeah. Do you still, you know, hang out with him?”

“No, Luke,” she said. “And I don’t think I will. I mean, I saw him at Rory’s graduation. Maybe I’ll see him at her wedding, if she has one, but I don’t know if I’ll see him even then.”

“Are you okay with that?” he asked. “You were pretty close.”

“Yes, I’m okay with that. Our relationship was never, ever healthy. And I’ve never been really attached to him. The idea of him, maybe, but not to him. He was never around long enough. But I do have some good memories. Like -- Oh! I never told you! -- My mother got arrested !” She drew out ‘arrested’ like she was savoring the moment.

“No!”

“Yes! For drunk driving! She called me to pick her up at the police station while I was on a date with Christopher. Oh! I have pictures!” She brought the pictures up on her phone and handed them over to Luke.

“Oh, wow. This is…” he said as he looked through the mug shots and the faces of the arresting cops. “I don’t even know what to say about this.”

“Yeah, my parents had quite the year. Dad’s heart attack, Mom’s arrest. She had cataract surgery and the guy botched it. That’s where I was one of the days you couldn’t find me, by the way. I had to drive her all over the place. Well, they sued the doctor and they added the settlement to the money they had allocated for Rory’s tuition that Christopher was paying for and guess what they did with it!”

“What?”

“Guess!”

“Um, they hired Tony Bennett to sing at a dinner party.”

“Guess again!”

“They bought a giant gilded cage?”

“That’s not a real guess!”

“Okay, they, uh, they bought Rory another one of those expensive bags.”

“A Birkin bag? Why would anyone need two Birkin bags?”

“I don’t know why anyone would need one Birkin bag, but you’re making me guess and I couldn’t think of anything else.”

“Okay,” she finally relented, “I’ll tell you. They donated it to Yale for the Rory. Gilmore. Astronomy. Building!” She lifted her palms to the side as if to say ‘Tah Dah!’

“You’re kidding.” He couldn’t quite get his jaw to close.

“I am not kidding. And she just sat there and let them do it. She hardly even objected. It’s not even Rory, you know. It’s a science building. Rory has never been into science. She was an English major.”

“So there’s a building at Yale with Rory’s name on it?” He couldn’t believe what he was hearing.

“Well no,” she explained. “It was supposed to open last winter, while she was still going there, but the groundbreaking got delayed for a year because of some permit problem and now it’s going to cost twice as much and it won’t open until next January at the earliest. Can you believe it?”

“I guess I shouldn’t be surprised,” he said. Then he sighed and groaned, “I love you, Lorelai, but I have to be honest. I am not looking forward to spending time with your parents again.”

“Aww, honey,” she replied, “I know it’s hard to believe, but they really have changed. I can’t promise they’ll welcome you with open arms or even that they’ll be 100% civil to you, but I think they are happy that we’re back together.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. I mean Mom saw what I went through with Christopher. She was there when he didn’t show up at the hospital after Dad’s heart attack. You know, she probably remembered that it was you who was there for me when he was in the hospital six years earlier. And she saw that you brought food. And she saw the way Chris and you both acted when he did show up. Trust me, Emily knows now, finally, that Christopher isn’t right for me, that if I had married him at 16, I would have been miserable. She finally sees who he really is. And I think… at least I hope, that she sees who you really are, too. Because you’re amazing.”

Chapter Text

It was 8:00 the next morning and Lorelai showed no signs that she would wake up anytime soon. They had been getting up by 7:00 most mornings, but he figured that yesterday had worn her out. It was an exhausting day for both of them, but he was strangely exhilarated. Maybe it was because it was Father’s Day, so he knew that he would get to talk to April that afternoon. Or maybe it was because after getting through the emotional ordeal of yesterday with their relationship intact he felt pretty certain that he and Lorelai were going to have the life together that they had planned years ago. Maybe the details would be different, but they’d be together and that’s what mattered. He was a happy man.

After he had showered, eaten some breakfast, and put on a pot of coffee for Lorelai, Luke decided to let her sleep (if she could once he got the motor going) while he steered the boat north toward their next destination of Newburyport, Massachusetts. It was a beautiful summer morning, so he took it slow, enjoying the view of cliffs and little islands that dotted the coast.

More than an hour later Lorelai began to stir. She could smell coffee before she even opened her eyes and she could feel the boat moving, so she knew that Luke was up and topside. She went up to get a morning hug and let him know that she was awake just as he cut the motor.

“Good morning, sleepyhead,” he said when he saw her.

“Mmmm, great morning,” she said, giving him a kiss.

“I just thought I’d get some fishing in before we get to the canal. Catch something for dinner tonight. Wanna throw a line in?”

“Maybe after breakfast,” she said, heading back down to the cabin. “I’m starving.”

Lorelai poured herself a travel mug of coffee and a big bowl of cereal, tossing chunks of banana into it. While she ate, she thought about Luke, about the last few weeks, about last night. They were both exhausted, but still couldn’t keep their hands off of each other. When did honest and open discussion become such a turn-on? And speaking of turn-ons, Lorelai washed her bowl out then headed for the hatch leaving her coffee untouched. But instead of going on deck, she just stuck her head up and called out to Luke, “Oh, Luuukeey! Would you come in here and help me look for my lost chick?”

He couldn’t help smiling. He reeled in his line and headed into the cabin to find Lorelai waiting for him on the unmade bed with a big, mischievous grin on her face. “I don’t know what’s gotten into you lately,” he growled, wrapping his arms around her, “but I like it.”

“What’s gotten into me? You’ve gotten into me.”

“Why Ms. Gilmore,” he laughed. “I do believe you’ve earned yourself a ‘dirty!’”

“You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.” Luke raised an eyebrow in response. Then she pulled back for a moment and asked, “You did think that I’d invited you over that night to get you into bed, didn’t you?”

Luke laughed, “I did! And man was I disappointed.”

“Well, you should have kissed me when we were in the diner. You missed your shot.”

“You ran away!” he reminded her while she pulled his shirt over his head.

“Yeah, I kinda did. But you know, if Taylor and the town hadn’t interrupted us, I so would have kissed you then.”

“No Taylor here now.”

“Nope, no town either.”

So they spent the better part of an hour crying out each other’s names at various pitches and volumes before before emerging from the cabin. Deciding that fishing could wait until tomorrow, Luke went back to driving the boat with Lorelai by his side so that they could be shopping in Newburyport by afternoon. Lorelai couldn’t resist more souvenirs for Stars Hollow residents and a beautiful seashell necklace that she was sure April would love. She even found a silk scarf for her mother. They strolled through town hand-in-hand, stopping for ice cream and photo opportunities. Then after dinner in town, they fueled up and headed out to catch the sunset on the water.

The night was clear, so they lounged on the sofa on the deck, Lorelai’s back relaxing against Luke’s chest, his arms around her waist, her head resting on his shoulder as they looked up at the stars. She sighed.

“Lorelai?”

“Hmm?”

“Did you mean it? When you sang to me that night? Did you mean to sing to me?”

She smiled, then her smile faded. “I started singing for Rory, but when you came in, all I could see was you… I know that embarrassed you. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to humiliate you.”

“Why would you think that? I wasn’t embarrassed.”

“The next time I saw you… You seemed so mad at me.” She stiffened at the memory of him curtly serving her coffee and muffins to go. She left without them.

“I was… moved. And happy. Hopeful. I even got that necklace for you the next day. But then I overheard you tell Patty and Babette that it didn’t mean anything and I just… I was disappointed and maybe a little angry at myself for getting my hopes up.”

“Oh, Luke,” she said apologetically. “They put me on the spot. I was embarrassed. I didn’t mean it -- what I said to Patty and Babette. I did mean the song. I was swept up in the music and the lyrics, but it was because you walked in.”

He held her a little tighter. “You have such a beautiful voice,” he said softly, brushing his fingers through her hair. “Would you sing for me now?”

She felt shy, but she couldn’t say no to Luke. “What would you like me to sing?”

“Anything. You could sing that stupid lazy hazy crazy summer song for all I care. I just want to hear your voice.”

“Okay… um…” She thought for a minute. When she started to sing Can’t Help Falling in Love With You , Luke thought that he had died and gone to heaven.

 

~ooooo~

 

The next day they had plenty of time for tooling around, watching the wildlife, and fishing before heading to Kittery for a night ashore. At 9:30 in the morning they were about 3 miles offshore when a large spot on the water caught Luke’s attention. It looked a little like it was boiling. Then he noticed that the two other boats in the area were large enough for about 50 people each and also seemed to be looking at the spot. Suddenly he realized what was going on and cut the engine.

“Lorelai! Watch there!” He moved to stand beside her and pointed to the spot. “Don’t take your eyes off of it.”

“What are we looking at?” she asked, wondering what his big smile was for. She had never seen him so excited.

“Just wait.”

“When is it going to hap--?” Before she got the last word out, eight humpback whales of various sizes rose up out of the water, mouths open, then they closed their mouths and flopped back into the ocean. It was the most amazing thing that Lorelai had ever seen. “OH MY GOD, Luke!”

Luke laughed and kissed the side of her head. “Woohoo! So amazing!” he yelled.

“How did you know that was going to happen?” she asked.

“I read about it, and April showed me some videos. It’s called bubble net feeding. I saw the water bubbling and do you see those boats over there?” He pointed to the excursion boats. “I’m pretty sure those are whale watching tours.” He explained that sometimes humpback whales will swim in a circle under a school of fish. They blow bubbles to confuse and herd the fish into a small area and upward, then they attack from below, scooping up the fish as they surface. “I thought they only did that in Alaska. I guess I should have done more research about the wildlife here.”

“That was…” She was breathless and grinning. “I don’t know how to describe it. Amazing. Stunning. I wish I had a thesaurus handy. Wow.” They just stood there, staring at the sea gulls that had swooped in to grab some fish of their own and marveling at the fact that they were making these memories together.

They spent the rest of the day sunbathing (well, Lorelai did; Luke watched), reading, and fishing until Luke caught a bass large enough for three dinners, even with Lorelai eating. Lorelai took a long nap after lunch, which wasn’t surprising since she had once again barely touched her coffee. It seemed that coffee just wasn’t as important to vacation Lorelai as it was to Stars Hollow Lorelai. Luke would have been overjoyed if he wasn’t a little bit worried. If they strayed too far from their normal habits, going home might change everything, including the happiness they were feeling now. But that was silly thing to worry about, wasn’t it?

“How’s my caveman doing?” Lorelai said, wiping the sleep from her eyes and yawning. She stood up. “You’re quite the provider, mister. Hunting fish and preparing it, quite expertly I might add,” as she took a bit of green pepper from the pan and popped it into her mouth.

“Dinner’s almost ready,” he said. Lorelai set the table and opened a bottle of wine. As they sat down to eat, Luke commented about how little coffee she was drinking lately.

“Am I not making it the way you like it?”

“Oh, it’s not that. It’s fine. I don’t really know why I’m not drinking it. I’m just not craving it the way I usually do. And I guess the less I drink, the less I notice that I’m not drinking it and the less I want it. I keep pouring myself cups, then hours later I notice that the cup is still mostly full. I’m sure it’s just a phase.”

“Hmm. Well, I just… I hope you don’t think that I want to change you or anything. I mean, of course I’d like you to drink less coffee because I don’t think all that caffeine is good for you--” he started, but she interrupted him.

“Well, I keep hearing about studies that say that moderate coffee drinking is actually good for you.”

“Moderate, maybe,” he conceded, “but I’d hardly call your consumption ‘moderate’. Anyway, I don’t want you to try to change who you are, and coffee has always been like a personality trait with you.”

“I hear you, hon. But that’s really not what’s going on,” she assured him. Then Lorelai completely switched gears and asked him if there were other times--times they hadn’t talked about--when he wanted to kiss her or ask her out.

“Uh, every day?”

“Seriously, were there other times when you almost made a move or said something?”

“Well, let’s see,” he began. “We’ve already talked about that night in the diner before Stella got out. And Sookie and Jackson’s first date… Um... There was this one spring day when Rory was 14 or 15. She had a bad day at school--got an A- or something like that--and you tried to cheer her up with chili fries and cherry pie. When that wasn’t enough, you started throwing paper airplanes at Taylor.” He smiled at the memory. “Your airplanes sucked, so none of them hit him, but you made Rory smile. And you smiled. And oh, you were so… I really wanted to kiss you.”

“If I recall, you chastised me instead and threatened to cut off my coffee supply if I didn’t clean up after myself.”

He continued. “That night when you told me about why you love snow so much. I think it was the year Rory started Chilton.”

“I don’t remember that.”

“I saw you with Max later that night,” he said sadly. Not wanting to dwell on that, he quickly moved on. “The basket auction.”

“The basket auction?” She was surprised.

“Yep, when we were eating lunch in the gazebo. I was so relaxed and we were talking about how the auction is a nice idea, to just be there, sharing a meal. And I thought ‘yeah, this is nice’. So I said so. And I was about to say something like, ‘We should do this again sometime, but without all of the auction bullshit.’”

“Well why didn’t you?” she asked.

“Dean.”

“Dean?”

“Yeah, Dean interrupted us.”

“Ohmygod, That’s really why you hate Dean so much! Ha!”

 

~ooooo~

 

After dinner they headed to Kittery, Maine to check into their hotel and use the rest of the evening to catch up with friends and family. Luke called the diner for the 100th time since they had left home two weeks ago, then he call Lane to get her perspective. She assured him, again, that Caesar was managing just fine. Paul Anka was also doing fine. Lorelai was concerned to hear that he was lining up shoes every morning at Babette and Morey’s because that was usually a sign that he was stressed, but then Babette told her that he returned them to the closet one by one each evening. That was new. Doula was sitting up on her own and would probably be crawling by the time they got home.  

Lorelai logged in to the hotel WiFi and started squealing, scaring the daylights out of Luke, when she opened Skype to find that Rory was online. It never happened that both were online at the same time. They had only used the service four times in the year since she’d signed up for it: once while Lorelai was at work during the week before the boat trip and three times during Rory’s last year of school. The video quality wasn’t good, but it was great to see Rory’s face and let Luke join in the conversation.

After as long a talk as Rory’s workload would allow, Lorelai signed off and got caught up on work herself, then turned to Facebook. She found another message from April and answered it, giving her the highlights of their trip so far. The message helped her to finally work up the courage to look through Jess’s photos from the open house and she managed to get through them without losing her smile. There was a wonderful picture of Rory standing between Luke and April that touched her. Anyone who didn’t know better would think they were both his daughters. When she looked at April she could see Luke’s cheekbones, his eyebrows, his forehead. But when she looked at Rory, she saw Luke’s eyes. It was a little odd, since he wasn’t a blood relative, but it was sweet, too. She showed the picture to Luke.

“Hmm,” he said. “I… hmm.”

“They both look like you, don’t they?”

“Yeah. That’s interesting.”

“Rory looks more like you than she does her father.” Then Lorelai noticed something. “Hey, April has brown eyes.”

“Mmmhmm.”

“But Anna has blue eyes. I noticed them when I went to see her,” Lorelai said. “I know two blue-eyed parents can have a brown-eyed child. Martha’s eyes are brown and Sookie and Jackson both have blue eyes. But I thought it was pretty rare.”

“I don’t know how rare it is, but that’s not what’s going on here. Anna wears contacts.”

“Seriously?” Lorelai couldn’t help but get a small pang of glee from this knowledge. She thought that brown eyes were beautiful and she loved April’s, but the fact that Anna felt the need to change hers was satisfying. You don’t have to understand jealousy to be a little glad that someone feels it. Then she felt terribly guilty for being glad that Anna was jealous of something she had. Oh, what a tangled web of emotion.

 

~ooooo~

 

“I can’t decide if I expect Christopher Reeve or Jack Nicholson to walk out of it.” They stood in front of a hotel in Newcastle that was built in the 1800s, about to go in and have lunch. It was huge and absolutely stunning.

“Um, isn’t Christopher Reeve dead?” Luke replied. “And wasn’t he paralyzed?”

“Oh, Luke. Somewhere in Time ?” He looked at her blankly. “ The Shining ?”

“Now that I’ve seen,” he replied. “And I get it. So if you see a pair of creepy little girls, run.” The place was beautiful, outside and in. Seated in the dining room, Luke commented on the craftsmanship of the woodwork.

“It is beautiful, but I think I prefer the natural wood look of the buildings in Newport. Some of them reminded me of the buildings at Yale,” she said, a bit wistfully. Luke recognized the look. He squeezed her hand.

“She seems to be doing well,” he said. “I’m sure she misses you, too.”

“Oh, do you have a daughter at Yale?” The voice came from a woman who appeared to be in her 70s, having lunch at the table next to them with her apparent husband. “I’m sorry, I couldn’t help but overhear. Our grandson will be starting Yale in the fall.”

“Oh, our daughter Rory just graduated a few weeks ago,” Lorelai said. It warmed Luke’s heart to hear the ease with which she said ‘our daughter’. “She is in Ohio right now, on the campaign trail with Barack Obama. She’s a journalist.”

“Oh, how lovely! You must be proud. Do you have a picture?” The couple seemed genuinely interested, so Lorelai didn’t pass up the chance to show off. She pulled her wallet out and flipped to her latest additions.

“This is Rory at graduation, and this is at her going-away party.” Then she flipped to the next two photos and said, “This is her with Luke [nodding to Luke] when she was 12.” Then, pointing to the other photo, “And this our other daughter, April. She’s 14 now. She starts high school in the fall.” Luke smiled when she said “our other daughter, April” and blinked back tears of mixed emotions.

When she finished talking to the couple, Luke asked to see her photos. The one of April was from the 13th birthday party that Lorelai salvaged for him. It was worn and had clearly been in the wallet a while. “Lorelai, how long have you had this picture?”

She looked down at her plate. “I had all of the party pictures printed a couple of days after the party.”

“And it’s been in your wallet ever since?” he asked

“Well, yeah.”

“You didn’t give it to Rory to get rid of along with the other stuff?”

“I… couldn’t…” She looked up at him. “It hurt to look at it. It really, really hurt. But when I did I was reminded... I don’t know... I guess I was glad that if I couldn’t be with you, at least she could.”

“You didn’t want your sacrifice to be for nothing,” he said quietly. He reached across the table and took her hand.

“Maybe… I don’t know, Luke.” She didn’t really understand it herself. “I just wanted to remember her.”

That was the moment Luke made a decision.

 

~ooooo~

 

They sat on the deck again, taking advantage of another clear night to look at the stars. Rosemary Clooney crooned softly while the couple kissed and snuggled and looked up.

“Luke?”

“Hmmm?”

“When did you fall in love with me?”

“Do you mean when did I know or when did it happen?” he asked.

“Both, I guess.”

“Well, I think it happened slowly over years,” he said, thoughtfully. “I don’t know if there was a moment when I fell in love. I guess I was in love with you by the time Rachel came back that last time, maybe before. But I didn’t really know that I was in love with you, not even when we started dating.”

“Really?” She was surprised. “But you said you were all in.”

“And I was. I mean, I was committed. I knew that I wanted to be with you. I just don’t think that I thought about that word ‘love’ at the time. The first time I really knew, that I really thought about it, was during the breakup. Remember Fiddler on the Roof ?”

“MmmHmmm, that song,” she said, remembering.

“What about you? When did it happen for you?”

“I know that it took me a long time to say it, but I knew it before you did.”

“What?” He was shocked. He had always thought that he loved her more, that his early infatuation was one-sided. It always felt like he was chasing her.

“I think I really fell in love with you about the time Rory graduated from high school. But you were with Nicole and I got used to that feeling being associated with friendship.” She took a deep breath, then said something that she’d never said out loud. “The moment I knew that I was in love with you was the first time you danced with me.”

“That was quite a moment for me, too.” He smiled.

“Luke?”

“Hmmm?”

“When Nicole came back, after you had agreed to get divorced, why did you start dating her again?” She knew that she was single at the time. She remembered how jealous she was, how thrown she was when she walked into the diner to see Nicole sitting there.

“I was married to her,” he explained. “It may have been a mistake, but it was a commitment and I didn’t take it lightly. I couldn’t just quit. I felt obligated to at least try.”

“Like me with Christopher.”

“Like you with Christopher.” It was still hard for him to say the guy’s name. “But I didn’t try very hard,” he admitted.

“So, Luke?”

“Hmmm?” He smiled.

“Do you think we’ve talked about the past enough?” He blew out a sigh of relief and a small laugh.

“Yeah, I kinda do.”

“Yeah?” she asked.

“Yes. I’d like to start talking about the future, wouldn’t you?” Lorelai grinned in response.

Luke sat up and said, “How about we have one more memory before we switch gears? A happy one.”

“Um, sure.”

Lorelai watched as he reached into the cooler under the seat and pulled out two bottles of clear liquid.

“Oh, Zima!”

“Yep,” he said smiling. He opened them both and handed one to her. Then he reached into the pocket of his sweatshirt and pulled out a little box. As he knelt on the floor of the deck in front of her, he saw Lorelai sit up, her mouth dropped open.

“Lorelai Gilmore, please marry me… Soon.” She started to smile, but then her face changed. The smile dropped to a frown and Luke thought he could see her turn a greenish hue. Instead of answering him, she turned around as quickly as she could, leaned over the railing, and vomited over the side of the boat.

Chapter Text

“Lorelai Gilmore, please marry me… Soon.” She started to smile, but then her face changed. The smile dropped to a frown and Luke thought he could see her turn a greenish hue. Instead of answering him, she turned around as quickly as she could, leaned over the railing, and vomited over the side of the boat.

Luke shoved the ring back in his pocket, then grabbed the Zima out of her hand and set it and his own into the cup holders on the table. He held Lorelai’s hair back as she continued to retch. When she paused, he felt her forehead. She wasn’t warm or clammy. Must be motion sickness. He got up to grab a towel to wipe her face, but when he returned she was crying. Well, not crying so much as bawling. Through her tears she yelled, “Yes, Luke! Of course I’ll marry you!” and he couldn’t help laughing. Then she started to heave again. After a few minutes the retching seemed to have stopped and Lorelai started to cry again. “I ruined it! You’re so sweet and I ruined it!”

“Oh, Lorelai, Look at me.” He tucked a lock of hair behind her ear. “You didn’t ruin anything. You know what would have ruined it? If you had said ‘no’.” He pulled her to him. “Are you okay now?” She nodded. “So that was a ‘yes’?” he asked, smirking. She nodded again.

“I’m so sorry,” she said.

“It’s okay.”

“You said soon,” Lorelai said, suddenly energetic and talking super fast through her tears. “Tomorrow? Maybe we can get a sea captain? Wait, aren't you a sea captain?”

Luke’s face fell. “Lorelai…”

“Can you marry yourself? I don't mean marry yourself, but marry you to someone else?”

“Lorelai…”

“I guess that is pretty silly.”

“Lorelai,” Luke said again, shaking his head with a sad look. “We can't get married tomorrow. I promised Rory.”

Immediately understanding, Lorelai smiled and looked into his eyes. She was instantly calmed, except for the nausea that persisted. “It’s okay. I know that we are going to get married this time. I can wait… for Rory and April to be there with us.” She remembered how upset Rory was when she married Christopher without her. She suspected that it was more than that, that Rory was wary of the match, but still she knew that Rory wanted to be there. And she wanted Rory there.

Luke nodded. “For now let’s get you into bed. I’ll put on a movie, but it will have to be one that you don’t mind just listening to because you need to close your eyes.”

“Why do I need to close my eyes?”

“Because,” he explained, “Most of motion sickness is the brain trying to reconcile what you’re feeling with what you’re seeing and getting confused. If you cut out what you’re seeing, you should feel somewhat better. Now let’s get you to bed.” He started to rise.

“Wait…” Lorelai said, “Um… don’t you have something to give me?”

He smiled, remembering the ring in his pocket. “Yes, I do, if you want it.”

“I want! I want!” she chanted. When she opened the box she found the same ring that Luke had given her two years ago. She gasped. “You kept it!”

“I thought about getting you a new one, or remaking this one into something different, but I thought… This ring suited you and it fit you perfectly, and the only thing that was wrong with it, what was wrong with us , was me.”

“It wasn’t just you, Luke.”

“Maybe not, but the point stands. Some things needed to change, have changed, but this ring was a symbol of my love for you and that hasn’t changed.”

“I’m glad you didn’t change it,” she whispered. “I love this ring. I love you.” She kissed him lightly, conscious of ‘vomit breath’. “And now I think I’ll try to brush my teeth.”

Luke helped her into the cabin and set up Breakfast at Tiffany’s while Lorelai brushed her teeth and got ready for bed. By the time he had changed and brushed his own teeth, she was snoring softly.  

 

~ooooo~

 

Lorelai kept pace beside Luke as they strolled through the town square, smiling at neighbors and nodding ‘hello’ as they passed. Luke’s arm was extended in front of him, Paul Anka’s leash pulling it, trying to propel him forward at a faster pace.

“I think it’s going to be a lovely summer, don’t you?” Luke said in an overly-polite tone.

“Yes, I hear the Farmer’s Almanac predicts a lot of rain this spring, which will certainly make for a lovely summer,” Lorelai replied in a similar tone.

“Good afternoon, Luke,” Kirk said as he walked past, Lulu on his arm. “Good afternoon, Lorelai.”

“Good afternoon, Kirk. Good afternoon Lulu.” Luke said. Lorelai and Lulu simply nodded.

“I heard that Taylor’s Ice Cream Shoppe has a new flavor,” Lorelai said, but when she looked over at Luke she noticed that Paul Anka was gone. Luke’s arm was still extended, but at the end of it was a stroller.

“I heard that--”   Then she woke up.

“Oh mygod.” Lorelai whispered, sitting up in bed. She reached into the nook on her side of the bed and pulled out her Filofax. She opened the calendar, then started counting backwards from today. “Oh mygod… Luke!” She sat in stunned silence for a moment, then turned to tap on Luke’s shoulder.

“Luke!” she said, more loudly this time.

“Wha--” he groaned.

“I’m not seasick.”

“Huh?” he sat up, rubbing his eyes. He looked at the clock and saw that it was 2am.

“I’m not seasick. I’m starving.”

“Oh, well,” He rubbed her arm absently. “I’m glad you’re feeling better, sweetie.” She smiled at his rare use of such an endearment.

“Luke! I was never seasick.”

“Hmm? Well, it can’t be food poisoning. I ate the same thing. Do you have the flu?” He put a hand on her forehead again. She didn’t feel warm.

“Luke, how long ago was Rory’s party?” Of course she knew the answer to this question. She had just counted it.

“Um, three weeks,” he said, trying to figure out where she was going with this. “Three and a half weeks, why?”

“Well, we’ve been together nearly every day since. We’ve had sex nearly every day since. Have you noticed something? Something that hasn’t happened?” He tried to get his brain working on the problem. What the hell was she talking about?

“And, Luke…” she said, “I’m hungry. I want vegetables.”

“You haven’t…” it slowly dawned on him. She hadn’t had a period. Is she trying to tell me that she got her period? Why would she wake me up to tell me that? And what does that have to do with being hungry or sick? As the sleep-fog lifted, comprehension began to take over. Lorelai watched his face change. “Do you think you’re… you’re… really?”

“Luke, I’m craving vegetables .”

“But… how? We’ve been careful, haven’t we? Well, except during that storm. But that was just a couple of days ago. How could that…?”

“Rory’s party,” Lorelai said, shaking her head. “I was worried that I would have a hard time conceiving if we decided again to have kids. I really didn’t think it would happen by accident.”

“Oh…” Luke just stared at her. “Wow… You’re sure?”

“Well, no, I’m not sure,” she said. “I need to do a test, then see a doctor. But Luke, I’m a week and a half late. I don’t know how I missed that. I’ve been so distracted and just… in another world out here. And even if I had noticed, I probably would have thought it was stress. But the nausea… And I’ve been napping…

“And you’ve been…” He raised an eyebrow.

“Yeah, I have been a little bit randy lately, haven’t I?” She smiled. “And the thing with the coffee…”

“Oh, wow.”

“Yeah, wow.” She was getting a little scared. When she woke Luke up, she was excited and overwhelmed by the thought. It didn’t occur to her that he might not be happy about it, but it was starting to occur to her now. They had wanted kids when they got engaged, but that was before April, before… a lot of things had happened in the two years since they discussed kids.

She studied his face, but all she saw was a man trying to let something big sink in. Then he turned to her as if he suddenly remembered that she was there.

“Are you okay? I mean, are you feeling okay? You said something about being hungry. I’m going to make you an omelette. Will you eat an omelette?” She smiled and nodded. “Oh, wow. So this is really new, huh? But if you’re only three and half weeks along, should you be getting sick that early?”

“I’m actually five weeks along.” He stopped in his tracks and looked back at her.

“What?”

“I’m actually five weeks along. Five and a half.” She saw him doing the math in his head, so before he could jump to the wrong conclusion she explained. “You don’t count from conception because you don’t usually know exactly when that is. We’re just lucky that we do. You count from the start date of my last period, which was May 13th.” His face relaxed.

“Oh. Okay, so…”

“So morning sickness is normal at five and half weeks.”

“But it happened at night,” he said, puzzled. Then he started back to working on the omelette.

“‘Morning sickness’ is a misnomer. It can happen at any time.”

“Huh. Okay… sounds like I have a lot to learn. And fast.” He looked worried, lost in thought as he flitted around the kitchen area on autopilot making Lorelai feel uneasy. As she watched him expertly chop and scramble, she let the news take root in her own mind.

How do I feel about this , she thought. But she knew the answer to that. When the insight first hit her she was overjoyed. I want this , she thought. I really want this. Maybe more than anything other than to marry Luke.

But did he?

“Luke?”

His head snapped around at the sound of his name. The questioning look she gave him  was enough. He knew what was bothering her. He grinned, then went back to cooking. “You’re going to have to get me one of those Daddy books when we stop in Ogunquit. I’ve got a lot of reading to do.”

Lorelai smiled back. “So you’re…”

He thought about what to say for a few seconds. He didn’t want to screw this up.

“Deliriously happy,” came his response.

 

~ooooo~

 

The next few days felt like a dream to both Lorelai and Luke. Neither could stop smiling. It seemed unfair for them to have so much happiness, especially at one time. The contrast with their lives of six months ago was stark, but neither spent much time thinking about that. They lived in the present and planned for the future.

Three pregnancy tests confirmed that Lorelai did indeed have a bun in her oven. She did not make a conscious choice to stop drinking coffee, but since she rarely drank more than a couple of swallows, they just stopped making it. She figured it was her body’s way of telling her the baby didn’t like it and she learned to enjoy tea, much to Luke’s delight. Luke began to change their diet in subtle ways to get more greens and other ‘icky’ healthy things into Lorelai, thinking the prenatal vitamins they picked up could only do so much. But they would learn over the next few weeks that she had become a horribly picky eater and many of the foods she thought of as staples, like spaghetti, were out. She did, however, constantly crave cheeseburgers, something for which she was very grateful, and of course apples, something for which Luke was grateful.

They decided not to share the pregnancy news until they could confirm with a doctor. Lorelai was lucky to get an appointment for the morning after they were scheduled to arrive home. She would be almost nine weeks along by then, but being older she wanted to be careful. She also didn’t want to share that news over the phone, at least not with Rory. And the girls needed to be told first.

They didn’t share the news of their engagement right away, either, but for different reasons. For one thing, it really didn’t feel like they had done something that needed celebrating or sharing. It felt more like they were getting back to normal, back to where they were supposed to be. For another, the baby distracted them; they just didn’t think about it.

So Luke and Lorelai lived in a world of their own for a few days. They had dinner at Barnacle Billy’s, the place Lorelai had suggested when Luke was planning the trip with April. They shopped and did touristy things. They lounged on the boat, played chess, and watched movies when the weather didn’t cooperate. They made love often, although it took Luke some time to get over his fear of smooshing baby.

Lorelai found herself working less and less, but she suspected that was more a result of Michel and Heidi learning to get along without her than a choice of her own. But she spent just as much time on her laptop, finding Facebook a bit addictive. Her “Lukelai Epic Adventure” album expanded every time she logged in. At this rate it would have 80 photos in it by the time they arrived home.

On Friday afternoon they were sitting in a coffee shop in Kennebunkport. Lorelai had just closed her laptop after having posted some pictures of their visit to a beautiful monastery when her phone rang.

“Rory!” She answered, making Luke cringe (it was right in his ear).  

“Why didn’t you tell me?” came Rory’s greeting. Lorelai felt her heart skip a beat.

“Tell you what, sweetie?”

“That you’re engaged again!” Rory shouted into the phone.

“Wha… How did you… I’ve heard that mothers and daughters have psychic connections, but this is…” She worried about what else Rory might know.

“You just posted pictures to Facebook. In two of them I can see that you’re wearing your ring!” Uh-oh .

“Oh, man. I didn’t think about it. Do you think anyone else will notice?”

“Probably not.” Rory assured her. “Well, maybe Sookie. Were you planning to keep it a secret?”

“Well, no, but it would be nice to have the chance to tell people ourselves. I was going to tell you as soon as I talked to you. Like now.” Well, maybe it was better that news got around while they were gone. If they were at home, they’d surely get hesitant looks from townies who wonder if this engagement would end up like the last one. By the time they got back everyone would be used to the idea, right?

“It’s okay, Mom. I’m really, really happy for you. But please remind Luke about the promise he made me.” Rory was not willing to miss this one.

“He told me, hon. I get it.” Lorelai realized that she really wasn’t in a hurry. Maybe it was the baby. The baby created a bond that she knew could never be broken. She knew that she would always have Luke in her life now. But she never really doubted that he would be there. She had only doubted that he would be hers, her husband, her ‘significant other’. No, she decided, it wasn’t the baby. She had an eery sense of calm in the moments after the proposal, when she was brushing her teeth and getting ready for bed. It seemed the most natural thing in the world to go through a nighttime routine with Luke and she knew then, before she realized there was a baby, that this was her life now. They would get married, when they could do it with family and hopefully friends.

“You’re going to call Grandma, aren’t you?” Rory pleaded.

“We’re going to see them in a week and a half, hon. I think we should tell them in person, don’t you?”

“I just don’t want her to find out some other way. Remember what happened with Max?” Rory reminded her.

“How is she going to find out? She doesn’t use Facebook and who is she going to talk to except you?” In her tone was a warning to Rory.

“Okay, well, I don’t really have time to talk. I just had to call when I saw the picture. I’ll try to call you tomorrow.” They said their good-byes and Lorelai snapped the phone shut.

“Well, I guess it’s out,” she told Luke, recounting the conversation with Rory.

“Good,” Luke replied. “I hate secrets,” he added with a smirk.

 

Chapter Text

In the last days of June, after nearly two weeks on the southern coast of Maine, Luke and Lorelai started to slowly make their way southward, stopping at towns that they had not visited on the way up. They developed a routine centered mostly around taking care of the mother-again-to-be, something the fiercely independent Lorelai would normally hate. This time, however, she loved the attention that Luke lavished on her.

Each morning he got up, put peanut butter on crackers, and fed them to her before she even sat up, a morning sickness prevention tip he got from one of his books for fathers-to-be (he added the peanut butter to get her to eat them). He enjoyed taking care of Lorelai and secretly looked forward to the days when she would need back rubs and help getting out of chairs.

They cancelled a couple of the hotel reservations they had (like York Harbor), having become so accustomed to boat living that their daytime shore excursions felt like enough and it was too much trouble to pack a bag just for one night ashore. Lorelai was grateful that the motion of the boat didn’t seem to make her nausea any worse. Usually, if she did get sick, once the food was off her stomach she was fine. Then she’d take a nap and do the whole peanut butter cracker thing before getting up again. But she found that if she kept food on her stomach at all times, the nausea pretty much stayed in check and who doesn’t enjoy having food on their stomach at all times?

As they had during the first half of the trip, they shopped, went sightseeing, ate the occasional meal at a local restaurant or cafe, and did the basic chores of living and boat maintenance. The best part of the trip was the wildlife they never expected to see or enjoy watching. They saw more whales, although nothing quite compared to the bubble net feeding. They saw dolphins and jellyfish and oh so many beautiful birds--eagles, hawks, pelicans, seagulls. They even saw sharks, which scared Lorelai so much that she wasted a beautiful afternoon below deck.

Lorelai even made progress with fishing. On the first days of the trip she had begged Luke to throw back whatever he caught. By week two his bounty was dinner and now, almost a month into the trip, she was the one providing meals. Of course she still refused to clean the fish and she wouldn’t even bait her own hook, claiming the bits of squid assaulted her pregnant senses (this was true, but it was also true that she’d probably never touch the slimy stuff anyway).

Her pregnant supernose, just starting to develop, made it difficult for her to be in the same room with uncooked meat of any kind. This was a pretty serious problem to have on a small boat, but they managed to work around it, mostly by timing meals so that Luke was cooking while Lorelai napped.

Things were good. Better than good. While both worried just a little bit that the bond they had been forming wouldn’t hold as well when life on the water became life in Stars Hollow, it was a tiny worry. For the most part they were optimistic, a fairly new sensation for both of them.

“Gertrude.”

“No.”

“Horace?”

“No.”

“Thor.”

“No.”

“Aww, Luke, come on! We have to name it something !”

“We are not naming the boat ‘Thor’.”

“Okay, then how about the baby? We have to call the baby something, too.”

“Why can’t we just say ‘baby’ until we know whether it’s a boy or a girl, then give it a real name?” Luke asked.

“Because that’s not cute. Anyone can say ‘baby’. We need a cute term of endearment, like ‘cookie’. It can also be our code to use to talk about the baby until we tell people. So when I say something like, ‘Luke, the cookie is making me hurl’ you’ll know what I’m talking about, but nobody else will.”

“So you want it to be ‘Thor’, as in ‘Thor is making me hurl’?”

“Okay, so not Thor.”

“Well, what did you call Rory before she was born?”

“Well, I started calling her ‘Boo Boo’, but then I realized that people might think that I meant that she was a mistake. So I called her ‘alien’ for the rest of the pregnancy because that’s what she looked like in the ultrasound.”

“We are not calling our baby ‘alien’.” Luke insisted.

It was the afternoon of July 1st and they were lounging on the boat while docked in Provincetown at the tip of Cape Cod. They had made their way across Cape Cod Bay from Plymouth that morning, telling the elder Gilmores that they would arrive in the late afternoon, a little white lie that allowed them to rent bikes and enjoy the sights before they had to face nearly two days with Julius and Ethel (Lorelai’s current pet name for her parents). Presently, they were getting the baby talk out of their system. It was going to be a challenge to keep Richard and Emily in the dark for a day and a half, but they were damn well going to try.

“What are you hoping for?” Lorelai asked him quietly.

“What do you mean? I’m hoping for the best, aren’t you?” he replied.

“I mean are you hoping for a boy or a girl?”

“I hadn’t really thought about it,” he said. “I don’t think we could go wrong with either one, do you?”

“I guess not,” she said. “But don't you want a little boy that you can teach to play baseball and fish with you?”

“Couldn’t I teach a girl to play baseball? You fish with me and you’re a girl.”

Lorelai smiled at the thought of a little girl wearing a backwards baseball cap and playing catch with Luke in the front yard. “Yeah, I guess it doesn’t matter,” she said.

“Boy or girl, I hope it looks like you,” he said as he played with a curling lock of her hair. It came out like a sigh. He imagined a toddler with dark, curly hair and big blue eyes.

“And I hope it’s kind and caring like you, protective of the people he or she loves.” They were both quiet, lost in their daydreams.

“We really should call your parents now.” He didn’t want to any more than she did, but he also didn’t want to do anything to rock the boat (no pun intended) with the Gilmores.

“Do we have to?” she whined. “We could just… oh, I know! We could tell them we got swallowed up by a Kraken!”

“If we were swallowed up by a Kraken, how could we tell them we were swallowed up by a Kraken?”

“Ugh, good point.” She sighed. “Okay.” With that Lorelai grabbed her cell phone and dialed her mother’s.

“Hi, Mom, we’re here,” she said when Emily finally answered. “Are you sure it’s okay to bring laundry?”

“Of course it’s okay. Felicia will do it for you while we are at the salon tomorrow,” Emily answered. Lorelai had asked her mother to make appointments for them to get their hair done. He was badly in need of a color touch-up and she thought her mother would appreciate the mother-daughter bonding activity.

“Well, okay then. I suppose we will see you when you get here.” They said their goodbyes and Lorelai hung up the phone. “I guess we should get dressed. If I know them, this restaurant requires a jacket and tie.” Luke groaned, but jumped in the shower.

Twenty-five minutes later, a freshly-shaved Luke and a smiling Lorelai stepped off the boat, each with a bag, and walked up the docks to greet her parents. Luke held tight to Lorelai’s left hand, hiding her ring until they were face-to-face with the older couple. Luke had to let go in order to shake Richard’s hand, so that was the moment of the big reveal.

“Oh, Mom, just wait until we tell you about all of the things we have seen on this trip!” Lorelai said in overly-dramatic excitement, making an effort to gesture with her hands, waving the left one close to her face often and resting it over her heart.

“Well, I see that you’re wearing your ring again, Lorelai,” Emily said, lips forming a thin straight line in obvious irritation. “Were you going to tell us that you’re engaged this time?”

“Mom, this is me telling you. Why do you think I’m waving my arms around like a crazy person?” Lorelai said as they walked toward the car.

“Well, I don’t know, Lorelai,” Emily said. “I don’t understand what you’re doing half the time… How long?”

“How long have we been engaged? Um, about a week and a half,” Lorelai said as if it was not important. She knew that it was important to Emily, but it would do no good to lie. “We really don’t want to make a big deal out of it, Mom.”

“Have you set a date?”

“No, Mom, we haven’t. And before you say that we’re not really engaged until we set a date, please remember that my daughter’s schedule is unpredictable right now and we really want her to be involved. So until we can figure something out with Rory…”

“Alright, Lorelai. I was just asking.” Emily appeared to let it go as they got into the car, but then she insisted on sitting in the back seat with Lorelai so that she could grill her more. “Who else knows?”

“That I’m wearing my ring?”

“Of course.”

“Well, Rory knows… and Sookie… and Kirk and Miss Patty… Well, since Miss Patty knows the whole town of Stars Hollow probably knows. But we didn’t tell any of them, Mom, not even Rory. They found out by accident.”

“By accident?”

“I posted some pictures on Facebook and didn’t notice that they could see my ring.”

“Facebook? What’s Facebook?”

“Oh mygod, Mom. I have to introduce you to Facebook!” Lorelai practically squealed. “You are going to love it. You can keep up with Rory, and I bet you could use it for D.A.R. business.”

 

~ooooo~

 

Their first challenge was drink orders at the restaurant. Luke ordered beer, of course, and Lorelai ordered her usual gin martini, plus a glass of water. The drinks arrived, then as the Gilmores were distracted with ordering their entrees, Luke quickly sipped some of Lorelai’s martini. A few minutes later, Lorelai distracted her parents once again by showing them pictures from the trip while Luke polished off the rest of the drink. Neither Emily nor Richard noticed that Lorelai never actually drank from the glass, but when Richard saw that it was empty he ordered another for her before she could object. Time for plan B.

Plan B involved Lorelai excusing herself to go to the restroom, then accosting the waiter and asking him to plop some olives in water instead of gin, explaining the situation. She really should have tried that first because it worked like a charm the rest of the evening.

Luke and Lorelai regaled the older couple with stories from their trip, dominating the conversation through dinner. Luke was particularly verbal tonight--a highly unusual state for him--after having his tongue loosened by three beers and the martini. Luke had always been a bit of a lightweight when it came to alcohol and he rarely drank hard liquor, but he didn’t want Richard to think he was weak, so he tried to keep up. He and Lorelai told the Gilmores about the wildlife they saw and the humpback whale incident. They told them about the charming towns, the beautiful lighthouses, and some of the people they had met.

Emily watched her daughter’s face light up when she talked about the stars that left her in a state of wonderment, and she saw that same expression when Lorelai talked about something that Luke had done--a sparkle in her eye that had been missing for… how long had it been? Had she ever seen Lorelai so happy? She watched the couple who were sometimes in their own world, a touch here, a touch there, as they bickered over how much of Lorelai’s broccoli she would eat before giving the rest to Luke. She watched as Lorelai ate half of Luke’s potatoes instead. When Lorelai bent her head to the side, wincing, Luke’s hand went immediately to her neck, absentmindedly massaging it as he spoke. This is the relationship she predicted all those years ago when she first talked to Lorelai about Luke at Rory’s 16th birthday party.

The evening went so well that all four of them were stunned. By the time they arrived at the new Gilmore vacation home, Luke and Lorelai were talked out. After getting settled in their room, the foursome gathered in the living room and Richard made Emily and Lorelai more drinks. He then left the room to retrieve a special scotch he said that he’d been saving to share with Luke.

With another martini in front of her, Lorelai was at a loss as to what to do. If she said that she didn’t want the martini, they would surely offer her coffee and she had no good excuse to refuse it that wouldn’t arouse suspicions. Of course a single cup of coffee probably wouldn’t hurt the baby, but she was afraid that if she had even a sip she might regain her love for the beverage and the last thing she needed was a battle with coffee addiction.  

“Mom, I’m wondering if you can help me with something,” she began. Enlisting her mother’s help with the task she had in mind served multiple purposes, including an excuse to leave the drink behind. It would make her mother feel useful and give them another ‘bonding’ activity, but she also really could use her mother’s help. “Um, I want to plan something for us to do when we pick up April in New York next week, but I want it to be a surprise.” She gestured at Luke with her head. “Do you think we could go somewhere and talk about it?”

“Of course.”

So, Lorelai followed Emily out to the deck, leaving her martini behind. As soon as they were out of sight, Luke downed the martini, setting it back on the table just as Richard returned.

“So, Luke,” Richard said, obviously hoping to have a heart-to-heart with his soon-to-be-unless-Lorelai-screws-it-up-again-son-in-law. “What are you reading these days?”

Luke drew a blank. He had been reading What to Expect When Your Wife is Expanding , but he couldn’t tell Richard that. He searched his mind for the last fiction book he read and came up empty. The alcohol was making it a bit cloudy in there. The more he thought, the more vague his thoughts became. Finally, he said, “Hmmm… Well, I haven’t been reading all that much lately. We’ve been kinda busy doing other things.” It was as close to the truth as he could get.

“Did you ever read The Odyssey as I recommended?”

“Uh, no Mr. Gilmore, I have to say that I’m not very fond of Homer.”

“Please, it’s Richard. Well, that’s okay.” Richard said, not surprised. “I’m sure that I have a few other recommendations.”

They chatted a few minutes more about topics in which Luke had zero interest or knowledge. He smiled, nodded his head, and gulped the scotch, trying to keep up with Richard, who kept pouring more. By the time Lorelai and Emily returned, Luke had turned the corner on ‘tipsy’ and was heading down the block toward ‘drunk’. The only one who noticed this was Lorelai, but it was early. Eventually the quart of alcohol he just drank would soak his brain.

“So, Luke.” It was Emily’s turn to make small talk. “Did you have to close the diner? You’ve been gone for, what, a month now?”

“No, my employees have been holding up the fort. I imagine I will be working some pretty long hours when we get home so that I can give Caesar some well-deserved time off.”

“You must pay him pretty well to get that kind of loyalty,” Richard said.

“I pay a living wage, but mostly I just try to hire good, honest people. Caesar is a hard worker and he puts out a good product.”

“And your customers must be loyal, too,” Emily interjected. “I have always thought that the kinds of people who frequent diners must not care much about the quality of the food, but after a cup of your coffee, I can see why your customers keep coming back.”

Lorelai rolled her eyes and said, “Mom, I’m the kind of person who frequents a diner.”

Richard took the opportunity to bring up franchising the diner again, noting that he could give Herb a call and that he knows some people who would love to invest in that kind of venture. He might even want to invest himself. He’d set up a round of golf next month with Luke and Charlie Kenningsworth. Emily suggested they hash out the details over Friday Night Dinners when they all return home. Luke downed the rest of his third scotch in one gulp.

Lorelai watched as Luke’s face changed from a somewhat lost expression to calm and determined. Then he spoke.

“Richard… and Emily…” He sat up a little and struggled so slightly with his words that only Lorelai noticed that he was slurring just a tiny bit. “All through dinner I thought the evening was going well, didn’t you?”

Richard and Emily both nodded in agreement and looked a little baffled. Lorelai just watched and listened.

“Well, I think that we’ve proven that we are capable of having a calm conversation without yelling or insulting each other, so I would like to be honest and direct with you… If I may.”

“Well, of course, Luke,” Richard said, but Emily looked unsure.

“I don’t like golf, Richard.”

Richard stared at him a moment, then slowly said, “Oookaay.”

“I won’t be playing golf with you,” he continued. “Just so you know. If you would ever like to go fishing or play poker or just hang with me on the boat, I’m your man, but I don’t golf.”

“That’s fine.”

Luke didn’t know whether his courage was coming from the alcohol, all of the talking with Lorelai, or just momentum, but he kept going until he reached full rant mode. “And I don’t read a lot… When I do read, it’s usually science fiction. I’m not going to read the Greeks or Proust or Dickens or wear sweaters with elbow patches or smoke a pipe. So if you want to talk about books and you don’t mind a little light reading, I’d be happy to discuss Asimov or Crichton or, if those are too light, maybe a little H.G. Wells, but then I’m out.”

“Luke,” Richard said, “I apologize if I made you feel that my hobbies have to be your hobbies. That was not my intention.”  

“It’s okay. It’s my fault for trying to get along and going about it the wrong way.” Richard started to say something, but Luke held up a finger and said, “There’s more.”

“Okay.”

“I am never going to franchise my diner.”

“Well, Luke, it was just a suggestion.” Richard was calm, but more than a little confused. He had never seen Luke stand up for himself before and he didn’t recognize it. “I would just like to help you reach your goals. You have ambitions, don’t you? Don’t you want to provide for your family? Send your daughter to college?”

“Richard, don’t take this the wrong way, but I don’t need your help. I met my professional goals the day the diner started to turn a profit. And my kids will go to college. They may not have absolutely everything they want, but they will have everything that they need. And Lorelai is no slouch, either. This is a team.” He grabbed Lorelai’s hand. “Between the two of us, we’ll live pretty comfortably. We must be doing alright for ourselves; we were both able to take six weeks off in order to take this trip to work on our relationship.” He looked at Lorelai. “And it has been, hands-down, the best investment I have ever made.” Lorelai smiled and gave him a slight nod.

Luke looked at Emily, now, getting a sort of second wind. “For three years I’ve let you tell me time and again how inferior I must be because my last name has fewer than three syllables and because I prefer beer to scotch and because I don’t feel the need to waste money on a new car when the old one runs just fine and because I own a diner instead of working in some office where I’d have to wear a tie every day. It doesn’t seem to matter that I love your daughter and granddaughter, that I try to do what’s right, that I care about the environment and the quality of life of people who aren’t fortunate enough to inherit a trust fund. I don’t know what, in your eyes, would make me worthy of your daughter. Maybe if I abandon my kid? That seems to be a character trait you value.”

There was silence for a good 15 seconds as everyone in the room let that one sink in. Luke realized that he couldn’t take it back, but he tried to anyway.

“I apologize. That was unnecessary.” But ‘unnecessary’ came out ‘unnnnethesssry’. “I’m sure that Christopher is a great guy…” He rolled his eyes when he said that, but quickly dropped the subject of Christopher and returned to his point before he could lose it.

“Look, I appreciate the hospitality you’re showing us. I think this is going to be a great visit. But I need you to know that I am not going to change for you and I don’t think that Lorelai wants me to. And as for Friday Night Dinners… Well, I am happy to leave my diner on the busiest night of the week and subject myself to Luke-bashing on a regular basis if it makes Lorelai happy, but if it becomes too stressful for her, I’m going to have something to say about it…

“Now if you’ll excuse me,” he said as he kissed Lorelai’s temple, patted her on the knee, then stood up. “I think the scotch has reached my liver and I had better lie down before I fall down.” Then he disappeared down the hallway.

Lorelai didn’t follow him right away. She took a long look at her parents, who did not look her in the eye. Was that regret she saw? Shame even?

“We were getting along so well,” Richard said, breaking the silence.

“Well, maybe it’s time we did more than just get along, Dad. Maybe it’s time we appreciate each other…” She sighed. Her father looked sad. She considered the idea that her father might really be trying this time. “Relax, Dad. He’s probably not going to remember any of this in the morning. I don’t think I have ever heard him say so much at one time.”

Her parents may have been remorseful, but she still thought she needed to say something. The open, honest discussions with Luke were becoming habit and for probably the first time in her life she wasn’t afraid to tell them how she felt.

“Mom, Dad, we’ve come really far since Rory started Chilton. I don’t want everything that we’ve been through to be for nothing. I don’t want to throw away all of the work that we’ve done. But Luke and I are a package deal now. I don’t want to eat dinner every Friday Night in a place where my husband doesn’t feel welcome.” Emily opened her mouth to say something, but Lorelai held up a hand and said, “et et et… I’m not finished. I know that you have said that he’s welcome and you invited us here and you’ve been… pretty civil, even pleasant. We have even had a good time tonight and I know that you’re trying. But when I say a place where he is welcome, I mean a place where he is welcome as he is . A place where nobody is trying to change him, because he’s right. I love him for who he is. I don’t want him to be somebody else.

“I’m not asking for perfection and I’m not asking for things to be different overnight. I’d just like you to think about it. I think that if you really took the time to get to know Luke--really know him, I don’t think you would want him to change, either. He’s an amazing man and I’m lucky to have him.” With that she said her goodnights and walked out, leaving her parents to stare at each other and  wonder what the hell just happened.

As she entered the hallway, Lorelai saw Luke leaning against the wall. He’d heard it all. They walked to their room together. Well, Luke sort of stumbled to their room. He wasn’t kidding about the scotch hitting his liver. After he closed the door behind them, Luke gave her a smoldering, lustful look and said, “Package deal, huh?”

“Yep. You’re stuck with me.”

“I love you so much,” Luke said, but it came out, “Iluuvyasoooomch” as he pulled her close and gave her a wet, sloppy kiss, then attacked her neck. His hands roamed her body, lingering in places that made her temperature rise.

“Luke!” she said in a loud whisper. “My parents are--”

“Down the...hall,” he said, lips trying to recapture hers. “C’mon... Les makea baby.”

“We’ve been there, done that,” she whispered, but she was smiling. Luke was chuckling and more relaxed than she had never seen before, not even on this trip or the handful of other times that she had seen him drunk. She could smell the scotch and, for a moment, thought it would make her nauseated, but then the moment passed and she couldn’t ignore the tingling she felt in every place that he touched. She unbuttoned his shirt and pushed her hands outwardly across his chest, removing his shirt and jacket at the same time, then went to work on his belt.

“I don’ care what your parents think o’ me anymore,” Luke said. Or tried to say. He was swaying a little, but stayed upright.

“Well, that’s good, honey.”

“I’m sorry, Lo’elai.” She stopped and looked into his face. She saw sadness there and it broke her heart.

“Oh, Luke,” she sighed. “You don’t have to win over my parents. I love you. You . And I am so proud of you for standing up for yourself tonight.”

“Yeah?”

“Yes.” He smiled, and tried to hug her, but didn’t seem to be able to operate his arms anymore.

“You’re… you’re so beuf… so buif… so pretty, Lo’elai. And so sweet and kind. And so smart. I don’t deserve you.” Lorelai just laughed as she realized that Luke wasn’t going to be able to do any ‘baby making’ tonight. Still, she kept undressing him.

“It’s me who doesn’t deserve you,” she said. “But let’s put this mutual admiration society meeting on hold and get you into bed, okay?”

She got his slacks down past his knees, but when he tried to lift his foot so that she could take off his shoe, he lost his balance and tumbled to the floor. Lorelai just shrugged and pulled off one shoe at a time and finished undressing him. Then she turned down the sheets on the bed and patted it, telling Luke to get in.

As Lorelai undressed herself, Luke tried repeatedly to get up, but each time he fell back to the floor again. Somebody had turned the room on its side, he assumed. This must be some kind of funhouse. Eventually, he managed to crawl to the bed and climb up the side. He flopped onto it and was snoring in a matter of seconds.

Lorelai sighed, then brushed her teeth, put on pajamas, and then drew a tall glass of water.

“Luke,” she said, tapping on his shoulder. When he didn’t stir, she tapped harder.

“Luke!”

“Hurghh”

“Luke!” She set the glass down and shook his shoulder a little violently.

“Wha?”

“Sit up and drink this.”

“Don’ wanna.”

“Luke!” She was not going to take no for an answer. She pounded on him until he agreed to sit up. She managed to get 3/4ths of the water into him spilling only a little on his shirt before she gave up. “That will have to do,” she told the room. Then she filled the glass again and set it, along with a couple of aspirin, on the nightstand next to Luke. She pulled the covers over him, kissed his cheek, then crawled in next to him and closed her own eyes, dreading tomorrow.

Chapter Text

Tomorrow became today and Luke woke up alone. He sat up too fast, got dizzy, and had to lie back down. Spotting the pills and water, he took them, then tried to gather his thoughts before attempting to get out of bed.

He remembered everything. The grand speech, the dig about Christopher, pawing Lorelai…ugh. Well, time to face the firing squad.

When Luke emerged from the shower, he found Lorelai sitting on the bed with a tray of pancakes. She didn’t know how to make his hangover remedy, so she had included her best approximation given the items on hand: bloody mary mix with a dash of hot sauce.

“How are you feeling?” she asked.

“Uh, almost human,” he leaned over to kiss her. “Thanks for breakfast. And for making me drink that glass of water last night.”

“Oh, you remember?”

“Everything unfortunately,” he said. “How are…” he gestured toward the door with his head.

“Oh, fine. Chipper, even. Acting like nothing unusual happened.”

“Well, I hope it stays that way.”

“How about you?” He realized that she must have gotten up without eating anything. “How are you doing this morning?”

“Well,” she said, “I was fine until I had just about finished breakfast, then the eggs decided that they didn’t like their new home in my stomach. I think the morning sickness is probably aggravated by not having my land legs back yet.”

“I’m sorry,” he said, giving her a sympathetic frown. He was concerned about her spending the day with her mother. “You need to keep food on your stomach today.”

“It’s okay. I think I’m good to go. I have a bag of GORP in my purse and if I need to, I’ll go into the bathroom to eat it.” Of course, Lorelai’s version of GORP (slang for trail mix; Good Old Raisins and Peanuts) was very light on the raisins and included M&Ms. “I’m more worried about you. What are you going to do with my dad all day?”

“I don’t know. Think he’ll try to take me golfing?”

“After last night? I sure hope not.”

“Well, don’t worry about me. We will figure it out.”

 

~ooooo~

 

By the time Emily and Lorelai left the salon, Emily had become very suspicious. Luke’s mention of ‘kids’ during his little tirade last night -- ‘kids’ being plural -- did not escape her notice. She had filed it away in her mind at the time, thinking that he was probably talking about kids they planned to have after they were married, but then she noticed that she never saw Lorelai drink from her coffee cup this morning. Instead, she poured it into the sink after looking around to be sure that nobody was watching. But Emily was watching. She was rather good at pretending not to pay attention.

She also thought she heard some unusual sounds coming from the bathroom after breakfast. If Lorelai had been sick for some other reason, she would have mentioned it. Emily could only think of a handful of reasons to hide such a thing and she didn’t think that Lorelai had an eating disorder.

Then, at the salon, Lorelai actually refused the coffee that was offered. One could dismiss such an event if it was anyone other than Lorelai Gilmore, but this was Lorelai Gilmore. She had seen Lorelai drink at least four martinis last night, or so she thought, so this was quite a puzzle. But it was Lorelai’s body language that really tipped the scales. Several times today when they were walking or standing, Lorelai held a hand over her stomach in a protective manner. She probably doesn’t even realize she’s doing it , Emily thought. It had been a long time since Emily herself was pregnant, but she remembered that feeling well, that impulse to ‘cover’ the baby growing inside. And she’d seen it plenty of times in other women, including Lorelai when she was pregnant with Rory. The only thing more telling than this posture would be the tummy scratch that satisfied the itch of expanding skin. She didn’t see Lorelai scratch, but perhaps it was just too early for that.

Emily being Emily, she was torn about whether to confront Lorelai.

 

~ooooo~

 

When Lorelai and Emily arrived home that afternoon, they found Richard and Luke playing chess.

“Hey!” Lorelai said, thrilled to see them getting along. “You two found something to do together! Who is winning?”

“I’m letting him win,” Luke said, winking at Lorelai.

“As the kids say these days ‘As If!’, ” Richard said, moving a piece. “And that, my dear boy, is checkmate.” Luke nodded, conceding the loss, and started to put away the pieces.

“So is that what you’ve been doing all day?” Lorelai asked.

“I managed to win a few hands of gin, but I’m going to have to work on my chess game if I’m ever going to have a prayer of beating him.” Lorelai leaned in for a kiss. “You look beautiful.”

“Thank you,” she smiled, posing to show off her hairdo. “I thought you were going to the grocery store.”

“Your mother insisted on sending Felicia with a list instead. It’s fine. Your father and I got along just fine and she picked up got everything I need. In fact, I had better start cooking.” With that Luke got up and headed toward the kitchen.

Emily turned to Lorelai and said, “Lorelai, I’d like to get your input on something.” Emily led her into a den where a computer was set up. A settee was covered in linen swatches and pictures of flower arrangements. “I have been asked to organize an event that’s taking place in a couple of weeks and I am finding myself indecisive about the flowers. I’ve been asked to feature daisies, but I’ve never featured daisies before and I’m not sure what other flowers would look good with them. I remembered that daisies are your favorites, so I thought I’d ask you.”

“Oh, well that’s easy, Mom. Daisies look good on their own, especially if you mix different kinds, or you could add roses or tulips. What kind of an event is it?”

“Uh, well, it’s just a D.A.R….awards ceremony,” she said with a dismissive hand gesture. Emily didn’t really need Lorelai’s help with flowers. She could plan almost any event in her sleep. What she needed was to get Lorelai alone and find an opening to ask about her suspicions. “Hmmm… Well, thank you Lorelai. I will certainly consider that.”

She was trying to come up with a way to breach the subject when Lorelai turned to her and said, “Well, Mom. Maybe now would be a good time to show you Facebook?”

“Perfect.”

Lorelai sat down to the computer and invited her mother to sit next to her. She logged in to Facebook and started to explain how it worked. They looked at the pictures she had been uploading and the comments that her friends and Rory had made. She showed Emily her growing ‘friends’ list.

“See, there’s April.” Something in Lorelai’s eyes and smile as she perused April’s Facebook profile, showing her mother photos of an adorable teenager with Luke’s brown hair and cheekbones, made Emily pause. Then she gave in to impulse.

“Lorelai, are you pregnant?”

Lorelai would have done a spit-take if she had had anything in her mouth. “Um, where did that come from, Mom?”

“Just answer the question, Lorelai.”

“Wha--” Lorelai knew she was cornered. Her instinct was to lie, but she was so tired of lying to her parents. So tired of making every. event. in. her. life. a battle with her parents. So tired of the drama. So she relaxed her shoulders and said, “Yes.”

Emily was stunned. Not stunned that Lorelai was pregnant, stunned that she gave it up so easily. “But I saw you drink four martinis last night.”

“Uh, no. You saw me drink two martini glasses full of water and olive juice. Luke drank the two that were actually martinis.”

“Oh, well, that explains a lot.”

“Uh huh,” Lorelai agreed. “How did you know?”

“Oh, little things,” Emily said. And that’s all she said. She didn’t lecture. She didn’t criticize. She just… wanted to know.

“I wasn’t hiding it from just you, Mom. We just found out and we didn’t want to tell anyone until I could see a doctor. We haven’t even told the girls yet. Lots of people wait until after the first trimester and we just want to wait until a doctor says that everything looks okay. We have an appointment the morning after we get back. Please don’t tell Rory. We’d like to tell her ourselves.”

“Okay,” Emily said, nodding. “I won’t tell a soul except your father. Thank you for being honest with me.” She had more questions, but she thought it best to save those for another time.

“You’re welcome.” Although this was generally the kind of reaction she had been getting from her mother recently whenever she revealed something big -- her breakup with Luke, her divorce, getting back together with Luke -- Lorelai didn’t think she would ever get used to it.

“Just one more thing,” Emily said. Lorelai looked at her inquisitively. “Are you happy? Both of you?”

Lorelai grinned, “Yes, Mom. We’re both really happy.”

 

~ooooo~

 

After Lorelai set her mother up on Facebook and showed her how to add Rory and herself, she headed to the kitchen to help Luke. It took her about four times longer to make mashed potatoes than it did the average person, but working in the kitchen with Luke was fun and satisfying. She had missed him today. After being apart for no more than 25 minutes in weeks, today was strangely difficult.

“So, my mother knows,” she admitted to Luke as she cubed the potatoes. “About the baby, I mean.” She watched Luke for his reaction.

“Oh, thank god!” he said, exhaling in relief. “I was afraid I’d have to down more martinis or maybe even coffee tonight.”

Lorelai smiled and positioned herself so that she could steal a kiss as he puttered around the kitchen. They laughed about what a sappy drunk Luke is. They chatted about what they might do with April when they picked her up in New York next week (Lorelai wouldn’t give away the surprise). They talked about whether they should trade Lorelai’s jeep for a more practical family car after she had just spent so much money fixing it (and they couldn’t see eye-to-eye on that one yet). They talked about where they would live.

The renovations they had made to Lorelai’s house were adequate when they thought that it would be just the two of them, at least at first. But it didn’t seem so practical now. When they had made that plan, they didn’t know about April and they assumed that Rory would rent an apartment wherever she ended up after she graduated. Things were different now. With Rory traveling, they both wanted her to have a place that she could consider her home. Rory could use Luke’s apartment, but that would mean less time spent with her. Or April and Rory could share Rory’s room, especially with April there only part time. Either way, they’d need a room for April and eventually a room for the baby.

They clearly needed a bigger house, but Lorelai’s brow furrowed at the thought of leaving the home where she had raised her daughter, the home they’d renovated together.

“It’s rare to find a house for sale that’s close to the the town square and I can’t imagine not being able to walk to the diner. Or not having Babette and Morey next door? They’ve done so much for me over the years.”

“You want to keep living there.” It wasn’t a question.

“I do.” She crinkled her nose. “Is that okay? I mean, I know that we’ll have to build onto it again, but I think there’s room. We never use the back yard and the kids can play in the front or at the park.”

Luke smiled. “You said ‘kids’. Does that mean you want more after this one?”

Lorelai gave him a toothy grin, then turned her eyes back to mashing. “Maybe. But seriously, don’t you think we could just add on? We could take out a mortgage to pay for it.”

“We probably don’t need to, but how much equity do you have?” he asked.

“Well, all of it. It’s paid off.”

Luke blinked at her. “It’s paid off? I know the inn is doing well, but paid off ?”

She shrugged and said simply, “Christopher.”

“And you just accepted that? You didn’t pay him back after the divorce?” Luke was surprised. “After we broke up you insisted on paying me back for the renovations and you were persistent. I must have told your accountant to jump in a lake a dozen times before they finally sent me a cashier’s check so I couldn’t return it.”

“You didn’t owe me 18 years of back child support.”

He could admit that was a good reason.

“But not carrying a mortgage isn’t smart,” she said. “Mortgage interest is usually tax deductible. We’re better off having a mortgage and investing that money, even if it’s investing in the house. But Christopher wouldn’t listen and he didn’t care about the taxes… And taking out a new mortgage would give us the opportunity to add your name to the title.” Luke was taken aback by the last thing she said, but then he realized they should have done that, as well as added her name to his holdings, two years ago. Failing to combine their assets made it all the easier for him to hold her at arm’s length and to allow her to walk away.

“We could probably double the square footage of the house with a two-story addition, but…” he didn’t know how to ask her this next question, so he just blurted it out. “You’re not worried about ghosts? I don’t mean the bedsheet kind, but memories? Christopher lived there.”

“Yeah, but for less than three months and he was hardly ever there.” She sighed. “That house doesn’t hold any of Christopher in it. It’s Rory and me, and it’s me and you. You still haunt that house, even though I tried like hell to get rid of you.”

Luke nodded. “Okay, Yeah, if that’s what you want then I think we can add on. That sounds fine,” he said, thinking about it. “I’ll call Tom and George as soon as we get home.”

 

~ooooo~

 

“I made the mashed potatoes,” Lorelai bragged as they sat down to dinner. Richard and Emily just laughed. “No, really, I did.” They laughed again.

“She really did,” Luke chimed in. The Gilmores just looked at each other and shrugged. It’s a new world . But when they each took a biteful of Luke’s famous lamb chops, they were suitably impressed. And surprised. Why they were surprised, nobody knew. While neither had managed to eat a meal at the diner, they had both tried his coffee and they had heard Lorelai and Rory rave about his burgers for a decade. But the stereotype of the short-order cook held and it did not cross their minds that Luke might know how to cook more than burgers and meatloaf until Lorelai had made the suggestion that Luke cook for them tonight. With this meal, the last vestiges of Emily’s initial impression of Luke were shattered and she found herself regretting the way that she had meddled in their relationship over the years.

“Luke, this dish is wonderful,” Richard said. “All of it, actually.” He smiled at Lorelai, “And the mashed potatoes are delicious, too.” With that, Lorelai grinned, chin in the air.

“Mmm, I would hire you as a caterer in a heartbeat,” Emily declared. “Have you ever thought about opening a restaurant?” When no answer came, she looked up to see Luke and Lorelai just staring at her, blinking. “What?”

“Mom,” Lorelai said. “Luke owns a restaurant. A diner.”

“Oh, I mean a real restaurant. I think he would do quite well, don’t you Richard?” Richard just grunted in the affirmative.

Lorelai sighed. Luke gave her a look that pleaded with her to just let it go. So she did. And Emily had more pressing matters to discuss.

“So, Luke, Lorelai…” She struggled with a way to ask the question on her mind without offending Lorelai, but she couldn’t come up with anything, so she decided to just be blunt. “Did you get engaged again because of the baby?”

Another spit take opportunity poorly timed. Lorelai nearly choked instead. Emily braced herself for Lorelai’s wrath.

But instead of getting angry, both Lorelai and Luke laughed. “Um, no Mom. In fact, it’s kind of funny how it all happened.” She told the story of Luke’s proposal, her losing her dinner over the side of the boat, and the middle-of-the-night revelation (minus the details about her period). Emily and Richard laughed at the story, but more importantly both were greatly relieved. The last thing they wanted for their daughter was to be trapped in a marriage that was only for the child. If they had ever expressed that sentiment to Lorelai, she would have quipped about whether the irony would create some kind of black hole or universe-canceling thing, like if matter and antimatter collided.

 

~ooooo~

 

Luke and Lorelai lay on the sofa on the deck of the boat, anchored near Boston Harbor, watching the most amazing fireworks show either had ever seen.

“Let’s bring April to see this next year,” Lorelai said.

“Oh, yeah. She’d love it. You should have seen her at the Stars Hollow show last year.” He immediately cringed, remembering that last July 4th he and Lorelai were not speaking to each other at all. He had taken April to the festival, half hoping to see Lorelai there; he had not seen her, even around town, in weeks. But for months Lorelai had avoided festivals, town meetings, pretty much any event where she might see Luke or be reminded of Luke. So he had put on a happy face for April and focused on her. Having her there did help to ease some of the pain of losing Lorelai.

Lorelai saw the regret in his face. “It’s okay, Luke, really. I don’t want there to be this big hole in time that we can’t talk about. We should be able to talk about it.” He nodded. They were quiet for a moment before he spoke again.

“Maybe we could even bring your parents.” Lorelai looked at him quizzically.  “I don’t mean for a long trip. They could drive to Boston and meet us at the docks.”

“Hmm. That sounds nice.” But Lorelai was concerned. They had left the elder Gilmores the morning after the lamb chop dinner, both just amazed at how well the visit had gone. As they were saying goodbye, Emily made sure to remind her that Friday Night Dinners would resume two weeks from Friday and that she expected to see all three of them , clearly meaning April, then.  Lorelai was still a little wary, however. She had gotten a kind of vibe from Emily, a feeling that her mother was hiding something. She tried to ignore it, but it nagged at her. Still, she vowed to let it go and enjoy what was left of their trip.

 

~ooooo~

 

Lying in bed that night, Lorelai thought about how much her life had changed for the better since she dropped Rory off at the airport less than six weeks ago. Some things seemed to have been pulled from a time machine -- her engagement to Luke, the way they bantered, lying in bed watching movies together. But some things had changed dramatically. The baby, of course, but also parts of their relationship. Things were easier between them. She wasn’t constantly afraid that he would bolt if she didn’t go along with everything he wanted. She wasn’t afraid at all, actually. They were closer than she ever dreamed she would be to anyone. And then there was April. She was getting to know April through their interactions on Facebook.

They only had a few days left to be alone together and she was finding that she was okay with that. She wasn’t just ready to go home. She was excited. She was looking forward to getting up in the morning in her house with Luke beside her. And, for a while, April downstairs. She couldn’t wait to spend time with April and Luke. To see Luke, her Luke, be a father to his kid. To his kids .

“Hey, Luke?” she said softly.

“Hmmm?”

Lorelai smiled and kissed his shoulder. “Are you ready to go home?”

Luke smiled, even though he knew she couldn’t see it. “You bet.”

Chapter Text

The feeling of contentment faded during the next two days as they traveled from Boston toward, then past, home and on to a marina in Flushing Bay in the East River. It was a long drive as they took their time, but only went ashore for fuel and food and not to do any more of the touristy things. Weather could be unpredictable, and they could not be late picking up April Sunday morning, so it was better to get there early than to risk anything slowing them down.

Not that Lorelai didn’t enjoy that part of the trip. She loved sitting with Luke on the deck as he drove, bringing him snacks and taking care of him. They continued to make plans for their future, hashing out little details as well as larger questions. They stayed close enough to shore that she was able to get cell phone service most of the time, so she talked to Sookie and Michel, making plans to return to work, and she talked to Rory whenever she could. But something nagged at her, and it was more than the uneasy feeling she had gotten from her mother. It was more like the feeling she had gotten 18 months ago, after she had planned almost their entire wedding in one day. It was this feeling that it had all been just a little too easy and that there was a shoe somewhere just waiting to drop.

By Saturday morning, the worry became anxiety as she started to put a name to it: April. She had spent too much time with her thoughts in recent days, and presently she sat on the deck, listening to music and pretending to read while Luke drove the boat.

Pretending to read is never a good idea, though. People who pay attention can always tell and Luke noticed. When she started to chew her bottom lip, he spoke up. “Are you okay?”

“Um, yeah,” she answered. “Why?”

“You look… pensive.”

“Uh,” she was fighting an internal battle over how much to tell him. Over the last hour, a pain in her chest had grown and she was feeling more and more like she couldn’t breathe, but she was breathing just fine. Her chest felt cold and she worried that she wouldn’t be able to get enough air, but she always did. This is how she knew that what she was feeling was anxiety, not anything life-threatening. But it felt life-threatening. She knew that she should tell Luke, but what could he do about it? And that stubborn part of her just didn’t want to admit that she didn’t have everything under control. But then what wasn’t under control? What did she have to be anxious about? She searched her mind for the source of her insecurities and it kept coming up ‘April’.

“You’re not okay, are you?” he asked, but it was more of a statement. “What’s going on?” He cut the engine and kneeled in front of her, covering her hands with his.

“Uh…” She finally gave in to it. “I just… I feel like I can’t breathe, but I can.” She put pushed one hand into her sternum. “I feel like I’m having a heart attack, but I know it’s just a panic attack.”

“Do you want me to take you to a hospital? Get it checked out and make sure?”

“No!” she insisted. “I know that it’s just anxiety. They can’t do anything to help me, Luke.”

“What can I do?” he asked. Then, remembering what she’d said at the start of the trip he asked, “How about your medication? Do you want me to get that for you?”

“No, Luke… I can’t… The baby... Don’t know if it’s okay.” She said between breaths as she started to shake a little. “I just need to ride it out.”

“Okay,” Luke said, getting her to move to the sofa. He sat down beside her and said, “Talk to me.”

“About what?”

“Whatever triggered this.”

“I don’t know,” she said, only half honestly.

“Well, think about it. What were you thinking about in the minutes before you noticed the attack coming on?”

Lorelai chewed her lip and thought about it. She didn’t want to admit it to herself or to Luke. She didn’t want to believe that she was still hung up on it. “I was thinking about tomorrow, when we pick up April.”

“Are you worried that I won’t be comfortable with you getting to know April?”

“I don’t think so. I don’t know.” She really didn’t know exactly what she was worried about. “Maybe I’m worried that she won’t like me very much.”

“She already likes you. A lot. And don’t forget the birthday party. It went great.”

“But that was over a year ago, Luke,” she said. “She’s 14 now. She’s changed. I’ve changed. Maybe she won’t like what I have planned for tomorrow. Maybe she’ll be bored or maybe she’ll resent me for intruding on her time with her dad… I mean, I know that it was her idea for you to take me on this trip, but that doesn’t change the fact that it was originally supposed to be her. I don’t want her to feel like she lost out. And I don’t want her to feel like a third wheel... And, yeah, I’m a little worried that you will… I don’t know, pull away again.”

“Hey,” he said to get her attention. He put a hand under her chin and turned her face toward his. “You know that I love you, right?” He winced as soon as it was out of his mouth. They both knew that was code for ‘I shouldn't need to tell you’. He paused, adjusted his cap, then started over. “I love you. And I love April. And I want us to be a family. I want us to be a family. I know that with April and Rory it won’t be the same kind of relationship that we’ll have with the baby, but I want it to be a family -- you, me, April, Rory, and the baby. And I want you to have your own relationship with April and for April and Rory to have whatever they can have from this. Maybe they’ll never be as close as sisters who grew up together, and they’re pretty far apart in age, but I think they could be good friends. And I’m not afraid of any of this , okay? None of it. I’m really looking forward to it.”

Lorelai nodded.

“And I’m sure that April will love whatever you have planned. You did a wonderful job with her birthday present last year and that was when you only knew what I’d told you about her. You know her a lot better now. By the way, what do you have planned?”

Lorelai smiled. “Oh, nice try, mister.” She wasn’t giving anything away.

“Just please tell me that I don’t have to wear a tie.”

She snuggled into his chest as he held her tightly to him, rubbing her back. They sat like that, with Luke asking her questions to distract her, until eventually she realized that she her chest no longer hurt and she could breathe.

 

~ooooo~

 

Docking at the World’s Fair Marina around lunch time, they had time to stock up on supplies, then take a stroll (at two miles it was more of a hike, really, but it was good to stretch their legs after three days on the boat) to the park that was once the site of the famous 1939 World’s Fair. The park still had some of the structures from the 1964 Fair and Lorelai wanted to see the observation towers that appeared in Men in Black . In a rare state of silliness, Luke appeased her by posing for pictures with statues and pretending to hold the Unisphere in his hands. Lorelai took her shoes off and waded in the fountain, much to Luke’s delight. She seemed to be coming full-circle, returning to the happy, fun-loving woman he knew years ago, before Rory’s run-in with the law, before he allowed April to distract him, before the dark year during which they were both stripped of their sense of self and had to rebuild. He loved to hear her laugh and he found himself laughing with her. It was almost too good to be true. Could they really just be happy, or was something waiting around the corner to trip them up?

By the time they had their fill of sightseeing, Lorelai was starting to fade, so they took a cab back to the marina and she took a short nap while Luke made dinner. She woke up to the smell of her favorite lasagna, the meal he made their first night on the boat about a thousand years ago. They ate, they talked, they laughed. The city lights made the stars look ordinary, but they didn’t care. They didn’t need stars tonight. Despite all of the exercise they’d gotten in the afternoon and despite Lorelai’s nerves about tomorrow, they managed to take full advantage of their last night of child-free vacation.

 

~ooooo~

 

As they approached April’s dorm, Lorelai held Luke’s hand so tightly that her nails started to dig into it. He readjusted, interlacing his fingers with hers. When they entered the building, the staff at a table to their left gave them April’s room number and directions to her room. Walking down the hall, Lorelai spotted a restroom.

“You go ahead,” she said, gesturing to the restroom. “I’ll meet you there.” She wanted to give April a few minutes alone with Luke before she had to face the pressure of greeting her future stepmother. April of course knew about the engagement (or re-engagement, or whatever the kids are calling it these days) thanks to Facebook, which took some of the pressure off, but this meeting was the start of a new relationship for them and she felt as though there was a lot riding on it. So, she took her time, touching up her make-up and arranging curls before heading to April’s room.

“Have you grown?” she heard Luke say before the pair came into view.

“I have!” April said, excitedly. “I’ve grown almost an inch since spring break, but I don’t think I’ll grow too much more. Most girls stop growing around 14 or 15, so I think I’m just about done. OH! Lorelai!!” April squealed when she saw Lorelai and almost knocked her over trying to hug her. She squeezed her tight, then pulled back and grabbed Lorelai’s hand to look at her ring. “I’m sure Dad told you--” Lorelai glanced at Luke, wondering if he’d gotten used to being called ‘Dad’ yet. It gave her chills. “--how happy I was to find out that you’d gotten back together. I’m so excited for your wedding! And to have a sister!” Lorelai’s brain gasped, but it didn’t quite come out of her mouth, thank goodness. Does April know about the baby? “I just love Rory!” Lorelai exhaled in relief.

Once the greetings were out of the way, April gave them a tour of the facility. In addition to the dorm rooms there were classrooms, labs, and a cafeteria. Projects were displayed like an elementary school open house, but the work the kids had done was impressive. Neither Luke nor Lorelai understood much of it. After the tour, April said teary goodbyes to the friends that she had made. Then Luke grabbed her luggage and they headed out, April talking a mile a minute about the field trips, experiments, and lectures.

When they were clear of the building and headed toward the hotel, April finally slowed down enough to ask where they were headed. They stopped walking and Lorelai and Luke looked at each other. He gestured to her as if to say, “Take it.”

Lorelai turned to April, smiling. “Okay, well, here’s the plan.” Lorelai addressed both Luke and April, since Luke was in the dark about everything except the hotel. They had dropped their luggage off with the bellman before picking up April. Asking for Emily’s help turned out to be an excellent idea. Richard’s business connections included a top executive at Fairmont, who comped two adjoining rooms at The Plaza for the Danes party. Emily also helped her with the other arrangements for the evening. “After we drop your bags off at the hotel and get some lunch, we are going shopping for something gorgeous for you to wear tonight. Then we’re going to an early dinner at a restaurant called Maze.”

“Maze? Why does that sound familiar?” April asked.

“Well… You’ve been talking on Facebook about how much you enjoy Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares …”

“What’s that?” Luke asked.

“Oh, it’s this really great show in the U.K.” April explained. “Chef Gordon Ramsey goes to failing restaurants and helps turn them around. Lots of drama because the owners usually don’t take criticism very well which is weird because they are always failing and clearly need help. Oh, and there’s going to be an American version!”

“So, is this one of those failing restaurants?” he asked.

“No, of course not,” Lorelai responded. “Maze is one of Gordon Ramsey’s restaurants.”

“Oh, right! It’s at The London, right?” April said excitedly.

“Ugh,” Luke rolled his eyes. “So jacket and tie?”

“No, hon.” Lorelai said, putting a hand on his shoulder. “Maze isn’t so formal.” Turning to April she said, “It’s small plates, which is really big right now. I think it’ll be fun.” But she didn’t need to convince April, whose smile was so big it looked permanent. “But that’s not all, my friend.” Luke was smiling now, too.

“Seriously?” April said. “That’s plenty for me.”

“We’re having dinner early like old people because we have tickets -- 6th row center -- to a great Broadway show!” April’s eyes went wide. She had never been to a Broadway show. Her mom took her to the city once in awhile to shop, go to street fairs or art festivals, or even to go sightseeing, but they never stayed overnight or went to the theater. Anna didn’t like musicals at all.

Luke smiled, remembering how nervous Lorelai was about the evening and loving the way that April responded to her. Lorelai, on the other hand, wasn’t just focused on April. She knew that Luke tolerated the theater most of the time, but she wanted him to not just tolerate it. She wanted him to enjoy it, so she chose a show that she knew even Luke would love. “We’re going to see Young Frankenstein .”

Really?!! ” April jumped up and down, then flung her arms around Lorelai’s neck.

Luke laughed. “ Young Frankenstein is a Broadway musical now?” He was suitably impressed.

“Yep. It’s amazing what they’ll make into musicals these days, but I’ve heard this one is really, really good.” Lorelai was actually excited to see it herself.

“Well, I won’t be surprised,” Luke said. “If it’s half as good as The Producers , we’re in for a good time.” Lorelai bit back a ‘dirty!’

 

~ooooo~

 

The day just got better from there. Luke was quiet, but couldn’t stop smiling. April and Lorelai each forced him to converse on occasion, but he preferred to listen and watch. His daughter and the love of his life chatted all through lunch like old friends, about music and movies and fashion. Luke just smiled. He had no doubts that the outing would go well, but it was still heartwarming. And it was… hot . He had never been as attracted to Lorelai as he was in these moments, and that’s saying something. It also enhanced ten-fold the feelings of regret he had for having kept her and April apart, but he pushed those feelings aside in favor of living in the present.

They dragged him from store to store until April found the perfect dress (had he ever even seen April in a dress? He didn’t think so) and shoes to match. Lorelai found a new dress for herself, too, and even a nice sweater for him -- a blue just a little more muted than the blue of his hat.

They checked into the hotel, then split up to get ready for dinner. After closing and locking the adjoining door to give April some privacy, Lorelai started to take a deep breath, preparing a sigh of relief, but Luke had other ideas. He put an arm around her waist and pulled her to him, almost violently. His mouth was on hers before she could protest, not that she would, and his free hand was under her skirt, pushing her panties down over her hips allowing them to fall to the floor. She immediately responded in kind, undoing his belt buckle to free him of his jeans. He turned them around and pinned her against the wall opposite the one shared with April’s room, pulling her leg up onto his hip. Within seconds he was inside her, and a few minutes later they were stifling cries as they tumbled over the edge together.

“Wow,” Lorelai exclaimed into his shoulder, trying to catch her breath, “I’m not complaining, but what brought that on?”

“I love you,” he said as he nuzzled her neck, then lifted his head and smiled.

“Well, okay then,” she laughed, then slipped into the bathroom for a quick shower while Luke picked up his cell phone to check in with Caesar.

When Luke emerged from the bathroom 25 minutes later, he found the room empty, but could hear two female voices coming from next door. As he finished dressing, laughter drew him like a magnet to the other room. His knock on the adjoining door was greeted with a fake-falsetto, sing-songy “Who is it? I’m sorry, you’ll have to come back later. I’m doing the dishes.”

He opened the door and stuck his head in. “ Animal House , right?”

“I have taught you well, Grasshopper.” Lorelai was putting some finishing touches on April’s makeup. He didn’t know how he felt about his 14 year old daughter wearing makeup. Well, yes he did know and he didn’t like it, but he knew that he couldn’t keep her from growing up and Lorelai had done a beautiful job without making her look older than her years.

As he walked up to them and they both rose, he caught their reflection in the mirror. The girls -- both women really -- looked beautiful and he was overwhelmed with feelings of pride to be standing there, flanked by them.

“Oh, thanks for letting me use your phone, Lorelai,” April said, handing it back to her.

“How’s your mom?” Luke asked.

“She’s good. She’s not happy that I won’t be home for another two weeks, but she understands. And she is already making plans for my winter break. You’re okay with that, right? Not seeing me over winter break?”

“Of course,” he replied. “I mean, no. I wish there were two of you so that your mom and I didn’t have to share you, but we’ll take what we can get. And you’ll be with us for a whole week over Thanksgiving, right?” Lorelai smiled at the easy way he said ‘we’ and ‘us’, like it was the most natural thing in the world. “And you know, I think before you go home we’ll get you a cell phone. That should make it easier on everyone, even your mom.”

“Really?! My own cell phone!” April grinned from ear to ear. “This trip just gets better and better!”

 

~ooooo~

 

Maze was more occupied than they had expected, given the early hour of 5:00, but it was still only about a quarter full. The Maitre d’ gave them a surprised look when he saw April, but he was pleasant enough. As they were shown to their table though, Luke noticed dirty looks from at least two other diners.

“Haven’t they ever seen a teenager before?” he whispered to Lorelai.

“Maybe not one as lovely and well-mannered as April,” came her reply. She noticed that there was nobody in the restaurant under the age of 25, possibly 30. Seriously? Do people who frequent nice restaurants in New York not have children? Or do they leave their children at home? “Maybe none of their kids can be taken anywhere nicer than a McDonald’s PlayPlace.”

The menu only contained about twenty options, but all of them sounded like winners. Following the waiter’s recommendation, they each chose two, plus a dessert, and it turned out to be the perfect amount of food. As much as April dominated the conversation that afternoon, Luke and Lorelai did most of the talking through dinner. They told her about their trip and caught her up on the Stars Hollow gossip.

“I don’t know why Kirk insists on taking his clothes off all the time,” Lorelai said, “but the guy can breakdance.”

“I wish I could have been there,” April replied. “For the whole party, I mean. I bet Taylor got a good rant out of Dad at some point.”

Luke chimed in, “He was surprisingly well-behaved.”

“You didn’t see him go ballistic when the oldest Banyon boy wrapped the youngest from head to toe with streamers he took off the gazebo,” Lorelai said. “You were in bed by then.”

“Oh, did you get to see the facial tic?” April said hopefully.

“Oh, yeah. He looked like a cartoon character who had just been electrocuted.”

Everything from the mushroom risotto to the bread pudding was fantastic, but everyone agreed Luke’s dessert of a deconstructed peanut butter and jelly sandwich was hands-down the best.

The server dropped the bill on the table. Luke added his credit card, but when the server didn’t return, he looked at his watch and tapped the table impatiently until he caught the eye of the manager, who took the folder and handed it to someone to run. As the manager walked away, April turned to Lorelai and said, “That was Jean-Baptiste!” Lorelai looked up and realized that April had recognized someone from Gordon Ramsey’s show.

The manager then spun on his heel and walked straight back to the table, a big smile on his face. “Oh, you are a fan of the show?” he said in a lovely French accent that made Lorelai miss Michel.

“Oh, yes, I love it!” April said. “So does Lorelai!”

“Perhaps you would like to be a chef one day?” he asked.

“Well, I’m going to be a scientist, but I would love to learn more about the science of cooking, like what Alton Brown does on Good Eats . And I am fascinated with the psychology of what happens on Kitchen Nightmares . The restaurant owners are so interesting.”

While Luke finished signing the bill, Jean-Baptiste chatted with April and Lorelai, explaining that Chef Ramsey was in Los Angeles, asking if they enjoyed the meal, and encouraging them to come back to the restaurant. Then he offered them a tour of the kitchen. Luke thought that April was going to faint, she practically swooned. Being late to the show would be a small price to pay for such a treat.

So, Jean-Baptiste led them back to the impressively large kitchen. It looked nothing like the one on Hell’s Kitchen . Instead of one large kitchen, there were several separate cooking stations running down the middle of the rectangular room, each with a chef manning it. The stations were all spotless, gleaming stainless steel, and the cooks all appeared to be smiling and full of energy. It was still early on a Sunday night, so it wasn’t very busy. The cooks were mostly prepping and cleaning. Jean-Baptiste introduced them to the head chef, a tall, pleasant man with a New Zealand accent who teased April a little, offering her a job as a sous chef. One of the line cooks gave April a small box of chocolates. After watching them work for a minute or two, the family thanked them all for the tour and rushed out to the cab that the doorman had flagged for them.

During the cab ride April and Lorelai were beaming, unable to believe what had just happened. Lorelai stuck her chin in the air and said, “I’ll bet you those people who were scowling at us when we came in never got a tour of the kitchen.”

 

~ooooo~

 

They made it to the theater with literally a minute to spare. The seats were fantastic, although Luke thought that it took a tiny bit away from the performance to be so close that he could see the actors’ sweat. But what was most important to him was that they really felt like a family. He could see his future and it included Lorelai and April, not separate, but together, sharing vacations and family dinners. He saw them walking Paul Anka through the square. He saw them eating lunch on the front porch of their house. He saw them arguing over which movie to watch and grounding April for coming in late after a date. No , he thought, I don’t need to think about that right now . He saw Rory, home for a holiday, holding the baby while April and Lorelai built a snowman. Okay, that was a pretty specific vision, but there it was.

By the time they got back to their rooms they were all exhausted and sleep came quickly. As he drifted off, one arm draped around Lorelai, his nose in her hair, he replayed the day and smiled.

Chapter Text

Over breakfast Luke, Lorelai, and April made plans for the rest of the trip. They needed to be back in Stars Hollow by Thursday evening, giving them a few days for April to enjoy the boat. They had decided to let her choose their destinations.

“We can go anywhere on Long Island Sound.” Luke said. Anywhere else is too far. So basically, anywhere in Connecticut.”

“Oh, I know!” April said excitedly. “I’ve always wanted to go to Mystic!”

Lorelai grinned, then April and Lorelai both shouted, “For Mystic Pizza!” at the same time.

“You want to go to Mystic just for pizza?”

Lorelai rolled her eyes. “It’s a movie, Luke. A really good one. Julia Roberts, Annabeth Gish, Lili Taylor?”

“You want to go to Mystic for pizza.” he repeated.

“Well not just that,” April explained. “There is a famous pizza place, but there’s also a fantastic aquarium there. They have beluga whales and penguins!”

“Okay, Mystic it is,” Luke said. “Anywhere else you want to stop along the way, or do you just want to enjoy the boat?”

April smiled. “Enjoy the boat and just hanging out with you and Lorelai.” And that made everyone smile. “Oh! And I know what you should name the boat.”

Luke and Lorelai hadn’t come up with anything themselves after six weeks of trying, so they decided to let April give it a try.

“Outta Coffee.”

“Outta Coffee?” Luke was puzzled, but Lorelai laughed.

“Yeah, you own a diner, so you bought the boat with money that you made selling coffee, get it?” Luke smiled and nodded. “I thought maybe ‘outta burgers’ or ‘outta fries’, but they didn’t have same ring to them. Plus I know that Lorelai and Rory both love coffee, so…”

“I think that’s perfect,” Luke said. “Outta Coffee it is.”

 

~ooooo~

 

They docked in the boat’s regular slip in Bridgeport that night. It gave them a chance to put a suitcase full of laundry and souvenirs in the cab of the truck, making a little more room on the boat for April’s things. The inside sofa converted to a bed for April, so storage was the only real problem. Well, privacy was a bit of a problem, too, but it was fine for a few days.  

They were in the middle of eating a dinner of fish caught that day when April decided to be blunt. Not that being blunt was unusual for her, but she had refrained from asking these particular questions for more than a year and figured now was a good time.

“So, how did you two meet? How long have you known each other?”

Luke and Lorelai looked at each other and both smiled. “Why don’t you tell this story while I do the dishes?” Lorelai said.

So, Luke recounted the story of Lorelai’s first visit to the diner more than 11 years ago, embellishing a bit for dramatic effect. He pulled the horoscope out of his wallet and handed it to April, who handled it like it was a rare and fragile artifact.

“Wow, you kept it all these years?”

“Yeah... I don’t know, at first it was just… a whim, I guess.” Luke smiled to himself. “But then every time I saw it there in my wallet, it made me smile. Even when I was mad at her, it made me... calm. So I kept it.”

“But you weren’t engaged that whole time. Ten years?”

“Oh, no,” Lorelai chimed in. “We were just friends for the first eight years.”

Just friends?” Luke said, giving her a sideways smirk.

Best friends,” Lorelai corrected herself with a twinkle in her eye.

“So how did that change?” April asked.

“With a dance,” Lorelai said, smiling. “He probably won’t admit it, but your dad is quite a dancer. He swept me off my feet.” Luke blushed.

“Yeah, I’m a real Casanova.” His voice was dripping with sarcasm.

“Don’t sell yourself short, Babe. You’re seriously romantic.” Turning to April she said, “He once made me a chuppah for a wedding present.” April looked confused, so she continued. “I was going to marry someone else and your dad made me a chuppah -- carvings and everything. It’s beautiful.” April looked at Luke and raised one eyebrow.

“But she didn’t marry him,” Luke said, trying to change the subject. “And the years went by and she dated people and I dated people… Well, eventually we were both single at the same time and I realized that I wanted more, so I asked her to come with me to your Aunt Liz’s wedding.”

“Only he didn’t tell me it was a date !” Luke just smiled. Lorelai finished the last of the dishes.

“That was about a year and a half before I found you, right?” April asked, counting backwards in her head.

“Yeah, about that,” Luke said.

“But you were engaged when I found you.”

“Yes, we were.” Luke didn’t like where this was going.

“And then you broke up.”

“We did.” Luke said, sadly. Lorelai took his hand and sat down next to him, sensing the conversation was about to get serious. She wanted to try to change its course, but knew that they should let April decide how much to tell her.

“So…” April took a deep breath, squeezed her eyes shut, then opened them and quickly asked, “Did you break up because of me?” Lorelai and Luke exchanged a knowing look. He nodded to her to take the wheel.

“No, April. I know it looks that way, and you showing up set some things in motion, but we did not break up because of you. And we want to tell you about it because maybe one day it’ll help you avoid making the mistakes we made... We broke up because we are both stubborn and we didn’t communicate well. We didn’t talk enough, not about the important things like what we were feeling. We took each other for granted. We didn’t say ‘I love you’ enough. And yes, people should just trust those things, but they need to hear them, too sometimes. We didn’t trust each other enough. He didn’t trust me with you and I didn’t trust his feelings for me. And we were both too independent, always trying to handle our problems alone, not being willing to admit that we needed each other.” She looked at Luke. “We really do need each other.”

“He didn’t trust you with me?” April was confused. “But you were great! Dad, how could you think that I wouldn’t like her?”

“I knew you would like her, April,” Luke tried to explain. “I just… I was worried that you wouldn’t like me , that I wouldn’t be able to establish a good relationship with you as a dad if Lorelai was involved. I guess I was worried that she would… I don’t know... upstage me.”

“But you’re my dad!”

Luke chuckled. “I didn’t say it was rational… or right. I know now that it wasn’t. I’m just trying to explain what happened.”

“So it was Dad’s fault?”

“Uh, no,” Lorelai said. “I was just as much at fault. I let him keep you and me apart and I let him push me away. I tried to give him space even though it was killing me and I pretended that nothing was wrong. I talked to him about it once, but I didn’t try very hard to get him to listen. I felt guilty for being selfish, so I just buried it until it festered. Pretty soon I just… I don’t know, I broke. By then it was all a big mess.”

“I’m really sorry. Maybe I should have…”

“No!” Luke and Lorelai said in unison.

Luke spoke next. “April, I am so, so glad that you found me. I love you . I have never, ever regretted getting to know you, getting to be your dad. I love being your dad. But I regret how I handled it with Lorelai. If I had been honest with her from the start, if I hadn’t kept you and her apart, maybe we’d be in a different place now.”

“But not necessarily in a better place,” Lorelai interrupted. “April, your dad and I both learned so much about ourselves and about how to be better people and better partners because we broke up last year.”

“But --” April tried to interject.

“It’s in the past now, honey. We aren’t burying it or trying to forget that it happened, but we are over it, we’ve moved on, and we are in a good place now.”

“A great place,” Luke corrected her.

“Yeah, a great place.”

April saw the way they were looking at each other, both smiling and clearly deeply in love. “Ew, get a room, you two!” she laughed.

 

~ooooo~

 

Mystic did not disappoint. They spent a few hours at the aquarium, visiting the touch tanks and the whales and looking at all of the fish. They splurged on a special program that allowed them to meet a penguin close up. The penguin was stinky, but April didn’t mind. She was thrilled to feel its soft feathers and examine its webbed feet. Luke waited until they sat down at the pizza place to go into his rant about how the poor penguin was being forced to perform for humans and should be free in the wild.

“But Herbert looked like he was having fun to me.” Lorelai countered.

“Herbert? You named the penguin Herbert?”

“‘Fernando’ was already taken by one of the beluga whales.”

“The whales would be better off in the wild, too.” Luke held up a framed canvas with colored penguin foot prints on it that Lorelai had bought (she planned to surprise April with it at Christmas, but told her it was for the house). “And $200 for a penguin finger painting? Seriously?”

“The proceeds go toward efforts to conserve the African penguins, Dad.” April said.

“Well, that’s better I guess.”

“C’mon,” Lorelai said. “I know that it seems like the animals are prisoners and maybe they are, but that doesn’t mean they’d be better off in the wild. I mean, have you ever seen Meerkat Manor ? It’s tough to be a wild animal! Gang wars and starvation and snakes! Poor Herbert would have to scavenge for his dinner and rumble with other penguins. And what if he fell in love with a girl penguin from another penguin clan? And the other clan wouldn’t let him be with his girl and his own clan would shun him. And then he’d be all alone, eating alone, swimming alone, he’d be forced to be a hermit penguin, not that you’d know what that’s like. But here in the aquarium, they’re all one big clan and they don’t have to fight for anything because there’s plenty of fish for everyone. And they don’t have to do anything except swim and waddle around and waddle in paint once in awhile. Except sometimes Herbert has to waddle around and let people pet him. But he probably likes to do that because it gets really boring just waddling around the habitat and visiting with people is a nice change of scenery. Even penguins need a change of scenery once in awhile.”

“Are you done?” Luke had been staring at her, just letting her babble.

“Um, sure.” They all smiled.

“I don’t think penguins have clans, Lorelai,” April said.

“Well, still, I’m sure it’s hard out there for a penguin.”

The pizza came and they ate in silence for a few minutes before Luke realized there was something else they needed to talk about.

“So April…” he began, but got stuck.

“Yes, Dad…” she replied, leaning forward trying to prompt him to keep going.

“You know that Lorelai and I are planning to get married.”

“Yes, that’s kind of what being engaged means, right?…” She looked at Lorelai. “And?”

“Don’t look at me,” she said. “I don’t know what where he’s going with this.”

He took a deep breath, “I’m sorry, I’ll get to the point. When we get back to Stars Hollow, there are going to be some changes.”

“Okay,” April said, not understanding what would be different. “You were engaged when I met you, remember? So what’s going to change? Do you mean that we’re going to be spending more time with Lorelai? Because that would be great.”

“No. I mean, yes, we’ll be spending more time with Lorelai, but there’s more. We’ll be living with her. In her house.”

Our house,” Lorelai corrected. She turned to April. “We had renovated the house so that we’d have more space before you even came long, sweetie. But when we get home we’re going to move forward with plans to make it even bigger. For now you’ll share a room with Rory -- well, you probably won’t both be there at the same time very often, but if you are there’s a trundle bed, so you’ll be fine, just a little cozy. And in a few months you’ll have your own room.”

April smiled. “That sounds awesome. Oh! And that means we’ll be living with Paul Anka, too, right?”

Luke smiled. “Yes, we’ll be living with Paul Anka.”

“Yay! I’ve always wanted a dog, but Mom’s allergic.”

“Well,” Lorelai said, “He is kind of a weird dog who needs some special attention, but I think you’ll get along great. And… we have pledged to take more trips, including at least one real vacation every year,” Lorelai told her. “Your dad is going to take you on the boat for at least a week next summer.”

“Just me?” April said. “Don’t you want to go, too?”

“No, not this time. You two should spend at least some dad-daughter time together.” Lorelai said. “But, we both enjoyed the wildlife so much on this trip that we started doing research about the best vacations for that sort of thing and I have already booked the three of us (she didn’t have to know it would really be four by then) for more than a week in Yellowstone in August. Maybe Rory could even join us, if she’s free. What do you think?”

“Really? I’ve always wanted to go there! There’s so much science to learn about it. Did you know the whole area is a supervolcano? Can we see the geysers and the hot springs and the mudpots?”

“Of course,” Luke said. “What would a trip to Yellowstone be without a visit to Old Faithful?”

“Oh, but I thought you didn’t like to camp, Lorelai.”

“Well that’s the great part. We don’t have to. There’s a beautiful hotel there and lodges and cabins. We’re going to stay in three different places so we can see the whole park.”

And ,” Luke added, “The animals are all wild there.”

Lorelai and April both rolled their eyes.

 

~ooooo~

 

By the time they arrived in Bridgeport Thursday night, everyone was exhausted, but exhilarated, if it was possible to be both at the same time. Luke and Lorelai were ready to get home and get back to the normality of everyday life in Stars Hollow. They craved work and friends and even town meetings. They were anxious to get Luke moved in, to start living as a couple, and to plan for the baby. April’s short time on the boat felt like longer, and she had been at camp since before Luke and Lorelai had left, so she was just as ready to be in a familiar place. Yes, Lorelai’s house would be different, but it was still in Stars Hollow and close to the diner that she loved.

On the last day April helped pack (Lorelai made sure to handle the box containing her prenatal vitamins and Luke’s ‘daddy’ books) while Lorelai cleaned. They finished up just as they approached the dock.

By the time they had everything packed into the truck, it was after eight o’clock and they hadn’t eaten dinner, so Luke gave in to Lorelai and April’s pleas for fast food. Tummies full of milk shakes, both of the girls slept through most of the 35 minute drive home. When they entered Stars Hollow proper, Lorelai woke up and almost couldn’t believe her eyes. She saw the Stars Hollow sign and the white lights that always adorned the businesses and the gazebo. Home. They were home.

When they pulled into the driveway Lorelai had expected the house to be dark, but it wasn’t. Babette must have turned on some lights for them. And right on cue, Babette appeared. “Morey! I’m going over!” she yelled, running across the lawn.

“Babette, slow down.” Luke said. “We’re not going anywhere.”

“Hiya dollface!” Babette said, greeting Lorelai with a hug.

“April! You got so tall!” She turned to Luke, “Did she get taller?” Then back to April, “How was camp, honey? How was the trip with your dad and Lorelai?”

“It was great, Babette. We’re all just a little tired.”

“Would ya like me to make you some coffee? Or tea?” She spoke to Luke, “How about some tea, handsome?”

“Thanks, Babette, but I think once we put the refrigerated stuff away we’re just going to go straight to bed and upack in the morning.” Luke subtly pointed her toward her house. “We’re all beat. Say hi to Morey for us.”

“Oh, okay. I’ll see ya tomorrow. I wanna hear all about your trip! Morey! I’m comin’ home!”

Then the three weary travelers climbed the porch steps and dragged themselves into the house. While Luke brought in the rest of the bags, Lorelai gave April a quick tour. It served the dual purpose of introducing the house to April and allowing Lorelai to say ‘hello’ to every room. She had missed her little house. They ended in what was now April and Rory’s room.

“Oh, so many books!” April said.

“That’s not even half of them. We ran out of room and had to store some in the attic.” Lorelai said. “And I am very sure that Rory won’t mind if you borrow her books. She loves to share them, but she’ll expect you to discuss them with her afterward.”

“That’s a fair trade-off.”

“Um, your dad and I have an appointment pretty early tomorrow morning. Will you be okay for a couple of hours here by yourself?” Lorelai said, then she realized it sounded like she was babying April, so she quickly added, “I mean, I know it’s kind of rude to leave you alone in a new place.”

“Oh, I’ll be fine. Look at all of the reading material!”

“Okay, well, we’ll wake you up before we leave and I know your dad will make you breakfast. Plus we’ve got the rest of the pop tarts and cereal from the trip.”

“I’ll be fine. You said that Sookie is bringing Paul Anka at 10, right?”

“Yes, but hopefully we’ll be home by then.” Lorelai was glad that April didn’t ask what kind of an appointment it was. She’d forgotten to get a cover story straight with Luke first.

“Okay, I think I’m just going to do some reading, then go to sleep. Goodnight!”

“G’night.”

 

~ooooo~

 

When the alarm went off at 6:30 the next morning Lorelai and Luke were thankful that they’d gone straight to bed the night before. They let April sleep while they ate breakfast and discussed what to tell her. They decided to say it was a meeting about getting a mortgage since they were planning to do that soon anyway. If things went well at this appointment, they’d tell her about the baby as soon as they could Skype Rory.

By 8:30 Lorelai had been examined and was waiting with Luke in the exam room. Neither doubted for a second that she was pregnant, but somehow hearing the doctor say “congratulations” made it all the more real. They were both smiling like idiots, holding hands, when they heard a light knock on the door and saw a sonogram machine being wheeled in.

“Are you ready to meet your fetus?” Dr. Blum asked. They could only nod. The whole thing took less than five minutes, but it was the most amazing five minutes of Luke’s life. They couldn’t see much more than a blob, but knowing that it would grow to be as big as Doula -- well, as big as an adult eventually, of course -- was enough. It was their baby. Part Lorelai, part Luke. The doctor took a few measurements and said, “It looks like you’re about… nine weeks along?” then looked at her chart.

“That sounds right,” Lorelai said.

“Okay, so by the date of your last period, yep, almost 9 weeks, so everything looks good. That makes your due date February 17th.”

“Wow,” Luke said. “That seems so far away, but yet right around that corner, too.”

“Yep, that sounds about right, too.” Lorelai smiled.

Dr. Blum picked up the wand again then turned a dial on the machine and suddenly they could hear a “shoop shoop” sound.

“Is that --” Luke choked on the rest of the sentence.

“The baby’s heartbeat,” Dr. Blum replied. “You can see it, too.” She pointed to a spot that was pulsating.

“It’s so fast. Is that normal?”

“Yes,” she assured him. “The baby is tiny.”

They just watched in wonder and listened. All of a sudden the baby wiggled. Lorelai gasped and Luke made a sound that Lorelai would have thought had come from a little girl. She looked up at him and saw tears glistening. The baby wiggled again and he laughed. He couldn’t seem to tear his eyes away from the screen. Lorelai had never seen Luke so happy, so excited about anything.

Finally, Dr. Blum turned the machine off and the show was over, but not before she printed a few images of the baby for them to take with them.

 

~ooooo~

 

As they drove past the town square, they saw that a stage was being built and it looked like a couple of large tents were going up.

“Looks like Taylor managed to fill another of those empty weekends,” Lorelai mumbled. Then she said a little louder, “Ooo, what do you think it is? A battle of the bands? Nah, Taylor barely tolerates the troubadour... Oh, maybe he got some of those Irish dancers, you know like ‘Riverdance’? Or maybe the ice cream festival was rained out and they moved it to this weekend… No, somebody would have told me.”

“Um, why don’t you just ask Sookie?” Luke said. “She’ll be over in like 15 minutes.”

“Whatever he’s got cooked up, I’m glad. It means we’ll get to see everyone.” She sighed. “I missed this town.”

“It might be a good time to tell everyone about the baby. Or maybe just tell Patty and Babette?”

“No, let’s just tell April and Rory for now,” she said. “I’d like to go to the festival and see everyone without being bombarded with questions and people touching my stomach. We can tell Sookie on Monday, then everyone else.”

“As you wish,” Luke said, smiling. He didn’t care if the whole world knew, but he couldn’t wait to tell the girls.

They pulled into the driveway just as Sookie was walking into the house with Paul Anka.

“Hey guys!” she cried, handing the leash over to April.

Lorelai ran up the steps to hug her friend and greet Paul Anka. “You’re early!”

“Just a little. Where were you coming from?”

Sookie gave Luke a hug as he said, “Oh, we just had an appointment... uh, at a bank. We’re going to add on to the house again.”

“Oh, that makes sense,” Sookie replied.

“Well, c’mon in,” Lorelai said. “Want some coffee? Or tea?”

When they were all in the kitchen and Paul Anka had greeted everyone, finally settling down next to April, Lorelai asked, “So, Sookie, what’s going on in the square? I didn’t know about a festival for this weekend.”

Sookie and April exchanged a look that did not go unnoticed by Luke. “Um, it’s not for a festival, honey” Sookie said. “It’s for a wedding.”

“A wedding?” Lorelai said. She tried to think of who in town was engaged and came up blank. “Who’s getting married?”

“Um… Don’t be mad...”

Chapter Text

“Um, it’s not for a festival, honey” Sookie said. “It’s for a wedding.”

“A wedding?” Lorelai said. She tried to think of who in town was engaged and came up blank. “Who’s getting married?”

“Um… Don’t be mad...”

As Luke and Lorelai exchanged glances, Sookie shifted her weight a few times, then said, “You are.”

Lorelai stared at Sookie while she practically fell into a chair, her mouth hung open in surprise.

“Wha--” Luke stammered, “Wha… uh… what?”

“Here’s how it’s going to go,” Sookie said. Lorelai had never heard her sound so authoritarian, not even when she was bossing her staff around. “You are both off work until Monday at the earliest. The inn and the diner are covered. You have been gone almost six weeks. A couple of days isn’t going to make a difference. In fact, nearly all of the guests at the inn this weekend are your out-of-town wedding guests. I will give you the details about the ceremony and everything, but here are the basics: tonight there will be a rehearsal in the square at 6:00pm followed by dinner at the Dragonfly. The ceremony will be tomorrow at 5:00pm with the reception to follow in the square. Today we have two tasks to complete. Everything else is taken care of.”

“Sookie” Lorelai interrupted, her face contorted in mixed emotions. “We appreciate all of this, but we can’t…[shaking her head] Rory…”

“Will be landing in about 10 minutes,” Sookie said, looking at her watch. “Your parents are picking her up at the airport.” Lorelai looked at Luke, who shrugged and smiled.

“Do you have your wedding bands yet?” Sookie asked.

“Uh, no.” Luke replied.

“Well, then that’s your job today, Luke,” she told him. “That and making sure that your dark suit is clean and pressed and you have a clean white shirt to wear. We have your tie.”

“I picked out the ties,” April chimed in.

“You knew about this?” Luke and Lorelai said in unison. April grinned and nodded.

“I had to make sure that you didn’t make any plans for the weekend that couldn’t be changed,” she explained.

Sookie continued going over the plans, “We -- you [pointing to Lorelai], me, and April -- will meet Rory at your parents’ house for a final dress fitting. Rory chose your dress and I’m positive that you’re just going to love it, but Miss Celine is bringing a few more choices just in case. She will have any needed alterations done today and deliver them tomorrow morning. Luke, Jess won’t be here until the rehearsal tonight, but if you would like some help with the wedding bands, Jackson can go with you.”

Luke, overwhelmed and speechless, looked over at Lorelai and saw tears making their way down her cheeks. He took her hand, interlacing his fingers with hers. “You okay?”

“Yeah,” she said, smiling. “I just can’t believe this is happening.” Then something occurred to her and she turned to Sookie. “Sook, who’s paying for all of this?”

“Don’t be mad,” Sookie said, clearly nervous. Lorelai looked at Luke again, then back at Sookie.

“My parents ? You got my parents to...”

“They really, really wanted to throw you a wedding, Lorelai. And your mother has so many connections. To put together an event like this in less than three weeks? And she did a wonderful job, honey. She really listened to me and Rory about what you would want. Nothing is over-the-top. It’s going to be a short, simple, traditional ceremony and even the decorations are simple. Flowers and satin rather than tulle, lots of white lights and stuff, although it will still be light out for most of the reception.”

“Three weeks? She’s known for three weeks?” Lorelai said, stunned. They were with her parents for two days and Emily didn’t let on once.

“Yeah. The day after we saw the pictures of you wearing your ring on Facebook, Patty and Babette and I were in the diner talking about everything you’d been through and how much we all hoped you’d get to the altar this time. When we heard some people -- I won’t say who -- starting to take bets, the three of us decided to do something. We talked about how the town got together to help Luke throw Rory’s party and we realized that if we worked together again we could do this, too. We knew you might be upset, but we decided it was worth the risk. This town really wants to see you two married. You’ve been through so much and the whole town feels like we’ve been through it with you. If we waited for you two… well... I called your mother that afternoon. And everybody pitched in. Lane is handling the music. Kirk wanted to perform the ceremony, but we got Reverend Skinner and told Kirk that he could be the MC. Even Taylor helped out by providing all of the permits and such without strings or lectures. Of course he was thrilled to fill one of the weekends that didn’t have an event planned. The whole kitchen staff at the Dragonfly is going to help cater and you won’t believe the cake. I’m almost finished with it and I just want to hug myself!

“We all just want you both to be happy. We love you. Please tell me you’re okay with this.” then she paused to breathe and looked briefly at April. “We’ll give you a few minutes to talk about it.” Sookie and April retreated to Rory’s room and waited for the verdict.

Lorelai and Luke just smiled at each other with eyebrows raised. “What do you think?” she asked.

“I think I need to borrow your ring,” he answered. She jumped up and back, holding her left hand to her chest, protecting her precious ring. “To match a wedding band to it.”

“Well, okay,” she said, taking her ring off and stuffing it in his shirt pocket, “but you’d better bring Greta back in one piece.”

Luke just smiled. “I’ll take good care of Greta.”

As they embraced, Lorelai whispered in his ear, “So I guess we’ll wait a bit to tell the girls?”

“Yeah, I guess so,” he whispered back. “Maybe after the wedding?”

“Okay…” They swayed a little as she rested her head on his shoulder. He kissed the top of her head. “I’m going to miss you today.”

“Me, too. I love you.” After a soft but meaningful kiss, they stepped apart, grinning at each other. He squeezed her hand, then left to call Jackson.

“Okay,” Lorelai yelled to Sookie and April, “Let’s get this show on the road!”

 

~ooooo~

 

When Lorelai, Sookie, and April arrived at the Gilmore residence, they were greeted by a maid who ushered them into the living room. Lorelai, who had been holding back happy tears during most of the 25 minute drive, saw her mother standing by the drink cart and stopped cold.

“Lorelai, I have no idea what to do with your hair, but Lizette thinks --” Before Emily completely turned around, Lorelai had closed the distance between them with large strides. Tears had finally escaped her eyes as she reach her mother and assaulted her with a tight hug. The gesture so completely stunned Emily that she could only pat at Lorelai’s back, wide-eyed.

As they pulled apart, Lorelai sniffled and Emily’s eyes threatened to leak, too. “Thank you so much, Mom. Just… thank you.”

“Well, I am sorry about the deception, but I assumed that you wouldn’t let us give you a wedding any other way, so…” She paused, then handed Lorelai a glass of what looked like champagne, winking as she did, while the maid took a tray around until everyone had a glass and they toasted to the bride.

“Oh, Mom, you haven’t met April yet.” Lorelai said, putting her arm around the girl.

“No, but we have exchanged a few emails recently,” Emily said, approaching April with a smile. “And I have heard so much about you from your father. I know Rory is going to be excited to see you.”

“Where is Rory, Mom?” She was so overwhelmed with these strange feelings of gratitude toward her mother that she almost forgot that they were supposed to have picked her up already.

“She’s upstairs getting her dress fitted.” Lorelai was running up the stairs before Emily had even finished her sentence.

She found Rory in her mother’s bedroom, surrounded by racks of wedding dresses and one with the bridesmaid’s and Emily’s dresses. After a tearful greeting, Lorelai took a good look at the dress that Rory was wearing -- a beautiful tea-length, ice blue dress with spaghetti straps. It had a satin bodice with an empire waist and a chiffon skirt. “You look beautiful!” Lorelai gasped.

Rory smiled at her own reflection, but said, “Wait until you see your dress,” as she took the dress off and put her regular clothes back on. “Were you surprised? You weren’t mad, were you, Mom? Please tell me you weren’t mad.”

“I wasn’t mad, honey.” Lorelai assured her. “I’m… I’m overwhelmed. We both are. We can’t believe all of you would do this for us. Yes, we were surprised. Floored, really.”

“And Luke? Is he okay with it?”

Lorelai nodded. “He’s out getting the rings now.” She hugged her daughter again. “This is perfect, sweetie. It’s perfect.”

“Are you sure?” Rory said, ready to pull the plug on the whole thing if Lorelai wavered.

As Sookie and April were getting into their dresses, Lorelai pulled Rory off to the side. “Honey, let me talk to you for a minute.” This made Rory nervous, but the feel of her mother’s hand on her shoulder told her not to worry. “Luke and I have worked really hard during this trip -- talking about what went wrong and trying to be honest with ourselves and with each other. And I’ve come to realize that I haven’t been honest with you in a really long time.” Rory listened intently, her eyes wide. “I didn’t want to burden you, especially when you were going through stuff with Logan, so I pretended that everything was okay with Luke. Then when I married your father… I knew I had made a mistake. I couldn’t admit it to myself, much less you, but… I just… I realized that I’ve been putting on a face for you a lot in the last couple of years and I’m going to try not to do that anymore.”

“I think I knew that you weren’t okay, Mom. At least I did when you were with Dad. But part of me wanted it not to be true because I didn’t want you to hurt and I didn’t want to believe you wouldn’t tell me the truth. It meant that you didn’t trust me.”

“I trusted you, hon. I just didn’t… I wanted to you see me the way I wanted to be: strong and steady. I wanted to be there for you, and for you to not have to worry about me.”

“I understand,” Rory said. “But Mom, please don’t hold back with me anymore. I love you. I want to know when you’re hurting. I’m a big girl. I can handle it.”

Lorelai smiled. “I love you, too… Now where’s that gorgeous dress you picked out for me?”

The rest of the day was a blur. The dress that Rory had chosen for Lorelai was stunning and fit her perfectly. The moment she saw herself in it, she told Miss Celine she didn’t need to look at the others. Similar to the bridesmaid’s dresses, It also had thin straps and an empire waist, but with a sweetheart neckline. The entire thing was a cream chiffon covered in tiny crystal beads in a floral pattern. Lorelai was thankful for the high waist and full, flowing skirt, knowing that her jeans had begun to get a little tight. She didn’t want people guessing that she was pregnant for a few more days.

Lorelai’s and Sookie’s dresses needed no alterations, so Miss Celine confidently promised the rest would be delivered by 10:00am the next day. Next they met with the hairdresser and makeup artist, then worked on the seating chart. Everyone was coming. Nearly everyone in town, many from Lorelai’s extended family, and even some of Luke’s family who hadn’t bothered to come for Louie’s funeral. With his relatives, his sister’s family, Buddy and Maisy, and more than a dozen people he knew from the renaissance fair, Luke was bound to feel loved and supported.

Sookie went through the details with Lorelai, confirming that she was okay with all of it given that she and Rory had decided the most important things, like who was going to be in the wedding party, without consulting her or Luke. As it stood, though, they knew the couple so well that everything was perfect and Lorelai knew that Luke would love it all, too.

By lunchtime Lorelai was having major Luke withdrawals. Six weeks with his near-constant company had fostered an addiction. She was trying to think of an excuse to call him when her phone rang.

“Oh, did you miss me?” she said after looking at the caller ID.

“Terribly,” Jackson replied. “But don’t tell my wife that.”

“Hey, Jackson. Is Luke too weak from sticker shock to dial for himself?”

“No, I confiscated his phone so that he wouldn’t call you 20 times today. But he won’t stop talking about you, so I thought I’d let him talk to you just this one time.

“Okay, thanks Jackson.”

She could hear Jackson tell Luke, ‘It’s your betrothed ,’ then Luke’s voice said “Hey”.

“I miss you,” she said.

“I miss you” he replied.

“Then why didn’t you call me earlier?”

“Didn’t want you to think I was needy,” he offered with a chuckle. “Besides, Jackson wouldn’t let me.”

“So how’re you doing with all this?”

“Great. I’m just about to have Jackson drop me at the diner so I can find something to wear tonight that I haven’t worn 100 times in the last six weeks. How about you?” he asked. “How’s it going with Emily?”

“Surprisingly well. She…” Lorelai found her voice cracking just a little with emotion. “She is really coming through for me. I don’t know what to think of it.”

“Well, you tried to tell me that things had changed. I guess this is just more of that change.”

“Maybe.... But Luke…” She looked around, then lowered her voice to a whisper. “I hugged her. I hugged my mother.”

Luke was silent for a moment, then said, “I don’t know how to respond to that.”

“I know, right? So, are you happy with what they’ve set up? Your attendants?”

“Jess, Jackson, and Ed? That’s exactly who I’d have picked,” he said. “But I’m sure it wasn’t that hard to figure out. I mean who were they going to ask, Taylor?”

“Well, Kirk might be a little upset,” she said. “You’re his best friend, you know.”

“Kirk? He’d probably get bored during the vows and fall asleep… Or take his clothes off again.”

“Did you get the rings?”

“Of course.”

“What do they look like?” she asked.

“You’ll see them in a few hours.”

“So? Tell me what they look like.”

“You’ll see them in a few hours.” He sighed.

“Why am I talking to you, then?”

“You called me.”

“No, Jackson called me. But I was about to call you, so… Oh, yeah... I miss you.”

“I miss you, too,” he said, smiling.

“Is this getting too mushy for you?”

“A little.”

She made kissy sounds into the phone. “See you in a few hours, snookems .” When she hung up the phone, she couldn’t stop smiling. She’d been smiling so much that her face was starting to hurt, a bit like the days that followed Rory’s party.

Emily arranged for lunch and mid-afternoon snacks (knowing that Lorelai shouldn’t go too long without eating if she wanted to keep the nausea at bay) for the women, turning the little gathering into a tea-party-style bachelorette party. She was skillfully sly, sneaking Lorelai sparkling apple cider instead of champagne (it helped that she could say the bottle was for April) and claiming that an incompetent maid had failed to inform her that they were out of coffee until it was too late to send someone for it.

By mid-afternoon, she had a good handle on what the reception would look like, the details were confirmed (not that many could be changed at this point), and Sookie and Rory were both half in the bag. Lorelai thanked her mother once again, although she wasn’t sure if she was thanking her for the wedding or for getting through the day with minimal criticism and not a single dig at Luke, and drove everyone home in Sookie’s SUV.

Lorelai, Rory, and April walked home from Sookie’s house chatting and giggling as if all three, and not just one, were teenagers. By the time they got to the driveway, they were singing “My Favorite Things” at the top of their lungs, changing some of the words to speak for themselves.

“Cheesecake with fudge sauce and tall Irish setters,” Lorelai sang.

“The smell of new books and cute cashmere sweaters,” Rory sang.

“French fries with ketchup and beaded earrings,” April sang.

“THESE ARE A FEW OF MY FAVORITE THINGS!” They all sang as they marched up the porch steps and into the house.

 

~ooooo~

 

The Dragonfly Inn was more crowded than Lorelai had ever seen it. Sookie had invited all of the out-of-town guests, family, and their closest town friends. Even with most of the furniture removed or moved to the side, there was barely room to move around.

Almost everyone was already there when they arrived since the rehearsal ran late. The stage had not been erected correctly and it took Luke the better part of half an hour to fix it.

Both Lorelai and Luke had been impressed with the set up in the square. Similar to the way Liz’s wedding was laid out; the ceremony would take place on the lawn in front of the gazebo, with Luke and Lorelai standing under the chuppah. Immediately following, guests would be shuffled to an area with tall tables for hor d'oeuvres and cocktails while the wedding party posed for photos and the staff shuffled chairs to convert the ceremony space into tables, like Lane’s wedding. There was a stage and a dance floor set up in the street in front of the high school where Hep Alien would play a set and Lane and Kirk would share DJ duty. Two large tents which would shelter the buffet line and cake lined Maple Street.

Sookie had been honest about the ceremony. Reverend Skinner had kept it so simple that it hardly needed rehearsing, but the walk through helped calm the nerves both were starting to feel. They weren’t nervous about getting married, but a wedding was a bit of a show and neither liked to be the center of attention. Contrary to what some people thought about Lorelai, she only tolerated the limelight after a few shots of tequila.

Ten minutes into the party at the crowded inn Lorelai was starting to feel overwhelmed and irritable, so she knew Luke must have been barely holding on. The six weeks of mostly solitude were a poor warm-up for this. They had been standing in the corner of the dining room, Luke behind her with his arms around her waist, chatting with neighbors, friends, and other well-wishers, when Sookie finally announced that dinner would be served in the garden (where a tent had been set up) and ushered people out the front door and around the inn.

Lorelai saw an opportunity and grabbed it. She took Luke’s hand and pulled him into her office, shutting the door behind them. They both plopped down on the sofa and immediately snuggled up like they had on all of those nights on the deck of the boat.

“You don’t think they’ll be looking for us?” he asked.

“Oh, I’m sure they’ll be looking for us. I’m also sure they can get along without us for 10 minutes. Any longer and we’ll miss the toasts, but I think we can take 10 minutes. I just need to breathe, don’t you?”

“Dear God, yes,” he replied. He stroked her hair lightly as they both relaxed back into the cushions, enjoying the relative quiet.

“April sure does fit in well here, doesn’t she?” Lorelai said, breaking the silence.

“Yeah, she does.” Luke smiled at the thought.

“She’s so much like you,” she said softly.

“You think? How so?”

“She’s so patient and kind… well, she must get the patience from Anna… but she’s kind and caring, like you. And protective and smart. You should have heard her talk about you today. She adores you. She’s so proud to be your daughter.”

“I’m proud to be her dad,” he said. “There’s a silver lining to having missed her first 12 years. I think it has made me appreciate the time we have more than I would have. And since I know what it’s like not to have it,” he said as he moved his hand to cover her belly, “I’ll appreciate this one’s early years all the more.”

“I love you,” she said, because she felt it so strongly in that moment.

“Hmm… I love you, too.”

“Rory and Jess seem to be getting along well.”

“Yeah, they do. Does that bother you?”

“No, not anymore,” she said honestly. “You did a great job with him, Luke Danes.”

“Nah, he grew up in spite of me, not because of me.”

Lorelai sat up and turned to look at him, “That’s not true,” she said. “He has so much respect for you… I think you were a huge influence on him.” Luke didn’t argue. He just gave her a soft, lingering kiss, then offered his hand to help her up.

They reemerged from the office only slightly refreshed. Lorelai was exhausted, despite the nap she’d had before the rehearsal. But both sucked it up and went back to eating, socializing, and distributing some of the gifts they had purchased on their trip.

After the buffet line had died down and most of the guests were eating, Mia began the toasts. She started a round of the old spoon-tapping-glass business to get everyone’s attention, then began.

“Thank you all for coming tonight to celebrate an event that this town has been looking forward to for… how long has it been? At least…”

“ELEVEN YEARS!” came several shouts from the crowd. Luke and Lorelai just shrugged and smiled and laughed along with everyone else.

Mia laughed, too, then continued. “Eleven years. As most of you know, I knew Luke’s parents well, as did Buddy and Maisy sitting next to me here. The three of us are poor stand-ins for Will and Carol, but we’re going to do our best. Tonight, I was elected to say a few words about this union.

“Most of you also know that I have known Lorelai since she appeared on my doorstep more than 21 years ago with a tiny Rory on her hip. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I watched them both grow up. I don’t know why I never introduced them. Perhaps because some part of me knew that they weren’t ready for each other yet. But when they found each other, I knew, as I think many of us did, that this day would come eventually. I just didn’t think it would take… how long again?”

“ELEVEN YEARS!” shouted most of the guests this time.

“Right, right, eleven years... I’m sorry, I seem to have gone off-track. I will just get to the point. I don’t know, have never known, two people so destined to be together, so determined to be together in spite of temporary challenges and derailments, and so deserving of the kind of love they share as these two.

“To Lorelai and Luke!”

The tent filled with tinkling sounds as guests clinked their glasses and drank to the couple. Mia then turned the floor over to Richard, whose height and booming voice commanded attention.

“My wife and I would also like to thank you all, not only for coming tonight, but also for what you have done here. Emily has spoken often in the last three weeks of the generosity, kindness, and love that the people of this town have shown our daughter and soon to be son-in-law in organizing this event. You have left me in a state of awe and dare I say one of pride that my daughter could inspire this act.

“And this is not the first time that I have been amazed by such an act. Most of you were there less than two months ago -- actually, I am sure that many of you helped two months ago -- when Luke organized a huge party for our granddaughter in just 24 hours so that she could say a proper goodbye to the town and the people she cherishes before leaving to make her way in the world. That kind of love… well, that’s the kind of love that I -- that we [he looked back at Emily] -- could only hope that our daughter would find and indeed she has.”

Lorelai held Luke’s hand a little bit tighter as tears started to form in her eyes. He gets it. My father gets it , she thought, and as she looked at her mother’s expression, she was pretty sure her mother got it, too.

Richard wasn’t finished, though. “Although we met Luke when he and Lorelai were only friends, it took us a long time to understand the role that he has played in our daughter’s life --” Emily cleared her throat and Richard backtracked. “Excuse me, I stand corrected. I did not understand, but my wife had an inkling as early as Rory’s 16th birthday and she would like me to say publicly to Lorelai ‘Told you so’.”

This inspired a round of laughter. Lorelai shrugged and said, “She did!”

“But if you will just bear with me, I am almost done….It took me a long time to see the deep and strong bond that you two share, and even longer to understand the significance of Luke’s role in our granddaughter’s life, but we do see it now.” Richard’s voice started to crack and he struggled to get it under control. “We see it, and we are thankful for it. So, Luke, I wanted to say ‘welcome to the family’, but I realized that I really can’t do that. I can’t do that because you have been a part of this family for a very long time. So instead, and I think I speak-- I know that I speak for Emily, too, when I say ‘thank you for accepting us into your family’.”

His careful wording did not escape the notice of three other people in that tent. This was a promise to accept Luke as he was -- a promise that nobody was delusional enough to believe they would always keep, but one that was appreciated nonetheless.

Chapter Text

Lorelai’s first instinct upon waking up at 8:00 the next morning was to curse the day. For the first time in almost two months, she woke up alone. Then she remembered why she was alone and the sun streaming through the windows no longer felt like torture; instead it was a warm bath. Luke wasn’t there because they were getting married today.

As she stuffed crackers into her mouth, she thought back to last night. Her father’s toast, and the sincere agreement on her mother’s face, had brought happy tears to her eyes. While that was not a difficult feat as of late, feeling good about her parents was a foreign, but welcome, state. Even more touching was Luke’s reaction. He was usually a quiet man, but last night he was speechless and humble, drinking it all in from beside or behind her, keeping her close in case he lost his composure.  

The speeches had continued, of course. Luke’s sister yammered on embarrassingly, talking more about TJ than Luke, for nearly 15 minutes. April gave a heartwarming toast that exposed Luke’s soft underbelly. They all knew it was there, of course, but there was something very moving about seeing Luke through his daughter’s eyes that left half of the guests sniffling. Miss Patty spoke eloquently for the town, telling anecdotes of the couple’s intense friendship and making Lorelai cry even more. She needed no reminders of the years of support and love and protection that Luke had shown her, but when Patty’s stories revealed that she had reciprocated all along, helping him in the diner, defending him when the town wanted to lynch Jess, working with him to do things for others, that was when Lorelai felt the full impact of how real and undeniable and inevitable her partnership with Luke was.

But she did not expect today to be entirely full of roses and lollipops. After all, Emily Gilmore was in charge. She knew that today she would be forced to bend this way and that to the iron will of her mother, but it was a small price to pay and this new Lorelai Gilmore was ready for it. She had her eye on the prize: Luke. She didn’t care if she wore a tiara or a veil or a giant flower pot on her head, as long as she was Mrs. Danes by the time the sun went down.

Mrs. Danes. Lorelai Danes . She said it out loud, “Lorelai Danes.” She liked the sound of that. It was the first time she gave changing her name any serious consideration. Was it the name? Was ‘Danes’ that much better than ‘Hayden’ or ‘Medina’? Or was it that she wanted to share a name with her child? No, that wasn’t it. She couldn’t share with both Rory and Baby Danes at the same time. No, she wanted to share a name with Luke and she wanted to have a connection with his family, his parents. How easily that decision was made…

She stretched and rolled out of bed, ready to be pampered and powdered whether she wanted to be or not, and anxious to get through the day until she would get to see Luke.

 

~ooooo~

 

Luke’s morning began hours earlier than Lorelai’s, but with a similar disorientation. Alone and in his apartment, for a few seconds he was terrified that the last two months had been a dream. Then he heard Jess snoring from April’s bed and it all came back to him.

He allowed himself a minute to think about the pain of what he’d almost lost, what he thought he’d lost. A year ago he was merely surviving between April’s visits. Like a struggling family living paycheck to paycheck, he felt almost good when she was there, then he would slowly slide downhill, nearly hitting bottom, until he saw her again. She was the only reason he got up in the morning. Today, however, April was icing on the cake of life. By the time the sun dipped behind the trees in Stars Hollow tonight, he would have everything he wanted short of his parents being there to share it with him. He had so much that it almost wasn’t fair.

Luke knew that he wasn’t supposed to work today, but there was nothing else to do and it was a welcome distraction, so he went down to the diner to help Caesar with the breakfast rush. At 7:30 he make breakfast for the girls, his girls. He boxed up pancakes, waffles, and a few other favorites. He even stuck a can of whipped cream in the box before sending it to the house with Jess for Lorelai and the bridesmaids. Then at 11:00 they closed up the diner for the day and Luke was left wondering what to do for the next five hours. He was antsy and ready to get the show going. How was he going to get through five hours of waiting?

 

~ooooo~

 

The smell of coffee made her a little queasy, but hunger overpowered it as she wandered downstairs in search of pop tarts. Just as she stepped onto the landing, she heard the front door close and a sweet smell reached her nose. By the time she reached the kitchen it was everywhere -- chocolate chip pancakes.

Luke .

Rory was pulling containers out of a box and opening them up on the table. April was getting plates out of the cupboard. Emily, who had probably arrived somewhere near the crack of dawn, was pouring coffee for Rory and herself. When she saw Lorelai, she poured tea, which had been steeping in a pot on the counter, into two cups as well. She distributed the cups casually, handing one of the cups of tea to April, such that nobody but Lorelai even noticed that she wasn’t given coffee. She had to hand it to her mother.

Reaching the bottom of the box, Rory found folded piece of ledger paper with Lorelai’s name on it and handed it to her mother.

“I can only guess who this is from,” she said, smiling.

“George Clooney, I assume” Lorelai responded, fanning her face in fake southern belle style. She opened the note and smiled.

“Meet me at 5ish in the square. I’ll be the one with the goofy grin, leaning in to kiss you.

 

- Luke”

 

She held it to her chest and sighed, then picked up the whipped cream and covered her pancakes with it. Morning greetings and smiles surrounded the otherwise silent table as they each dug in to some of Luke’s best work.

After breakfast, Lorelai headed to the shower while Emily’s crew of masseurs and beauticians moved furniture and set up in the living room. Rory went to Babette’s to shower so there would still be some hot water for April. By 9:00, Sookie had arrived and the relaxing and primping began. Massages for all, followed by manicures, pedicures, and facials. I should really let my mother plan my weddings more often , Lorelai thought. Emily had even arranged for a lunch of delicious finger sandwiches and salads to be delivered to both the house and the diner.

At noon, the pangs of deprivation drove Lorelai to her cell phone, but before she could dial, Rory took it away and hid it. Not even the patented Gilmore pout could get her to return it.

“No! You’ll see him at 5:00,” Rory insisted. “We are not tempting fate this time.”

Lorelai reluctantly agreed. No tempting fate. But a note was within ‘the rules’, right? She scribbled something on a piece of Betty Boop stationery, stuffed it into an envelope, and handed it to Rory with a pout and a “Pleeease?” Rory rolled her eyes, then texted Jess to come get the note while Lorelai stared at the one she had gotten this morning and pictured Luke in his darkest suit, a white rose and blue orchid pinned to his chest, smiling at her from beside the chuppah.

Ohmygod, when did my imagination get so cheesy? She thought. Must be the hormones . She tried to shake it off, but hell, this was her wedding day. Wasn’t she allowed to be sappy?

The day did not progress perfectly. Sookie ran back to the Dragonfly Inn twice -- once to solve a strawberry shortage problem (luckily Jackson had plenty of blueberries to fill the void). She had returned only to have to turn around and go back after someone discovered that when Sookie had tripped, sending the blueberries flying, some of them had landed on the cake. The sash on April’s dress ripped when Paul Anka tugged on it, mistaking it for one of the few toys he actually likes, but Miss Celine was able to repair it. Emily went back and forth from the house to the square, putting out fires (one time it literally was a small fire when someone knocked over a lit candle. Why the candle was lit in the middle of the day nobody could answer) and yelling at staff.

Lorelai neither saw nor heard about any of this. From her perspective, the day was perfect and nobody gave her any reason to think otherwise.

 

~ooooo~

 

Everything in the diner was clean. There were no chores to do. He didn’t need to get ready for at least another four hours. He was anxious to get the show started and he was bored. He tried to read, but after reading the same paragraph four times and still not knowing what it said, he gave up.

Through the windows of the diner he could see at least two dozen people milling around the square. Two people were attaching fabric and flowers (daisies and roses) to the chuppah. Four were setting up chairs. Table cloths were starting to cover tables and lights were being strung. He could see Emily demonstrating the proper way to fold a napkin for three terrified young servers.

The scene brought an unwelcome memory to the surface -- a time several years ago when the town came together in the square to celebrate an engagement. Little girls in miniature wedding dresses running around, lavender candles, lanterns hanging from the trees, heart-shaped cookies, and Hello Kitty everywhere.

“There’s nothing like a wedding to screw up a family Who do you invite? Who sits where? Open bar, yes or no? Aunty Junie doesn’t eat chicken. Uncle Momo is off his meds… someone’s getting drunk, someone’s sleeping with someone else’s wife, and someone’s chicken kiev is landing on the cake.”

“It’s not biologically possible to mate for life. Animals don’t mate for life. Well, ducks do, but who the hell cares what ducks do.”

He had been talking out of his ass and he knew so at the time. He was jealous and he knew that at the time, too.

“The minute you say ‘I do’, you’re sticking yourself in a tiny little box for the rest of your life.”

He laughed at the memory and how badly he wanted to be in that tiny little box with Lorelai.

“I guess if you find that one person… marriage can be alright.”

But just finding them wasn’t enough. His idle mind wandered to the last time he thought he was going to marry Lorelai Gilmore and he couldn’t stop it.

“Two months? That’s a hell of a long time to go without telling me!”

“It’s all happening so fast.”
“If it’s all happening too fast, we could just postpone.”

The memory stabbed at his heart and made him suck in a breath. And it invited other memories.

“Lately I’ve been feeling like it’s just not going to happen.”

Stab.

“No, Lorelai, of course it’s going to happen.”
“But do you really want it to?”

Stab stab.

“I love you and I’m going to marry you and at our wedding, we are having lobster.”

Yet he let four months go by, and when she begged, he said no. Stab.

“It’s really hard to get married. Believe me. I should know. I mean seriously, because Lane is married and next thing it’ll be my daughter and then my granddaughter, but not me. I’m not getting married. No, it ain’t for me. It’s not in the cards...”

Stab stab stab.

“We don’t have to figure all this out now, do we?”
“Yes we do, because we’ve been waiting and waiting and putting it off and I don’t want to put it off anymore.”
“But right now?”
“Yes, now is the right time. It’s the best time because it’s NOW.”

He winced at the memory and a lump formed in his throat.

“We can’t just take off and get married!”
“Why not, Luke?! Don’t you love me?!”

So much regret. He let himself feel it. He needed to feel it, to remember the pain so that he would never make such a mistake again.

“There is no us. There’s you and there’s me. It’s over.”

“I’m not waiting. It’s now or never.”
“I can’t just jump like this.”
“...I have to go.”

He was standing there, arms across his chest, chin tilted downward, mired in painful memories, when the bells rang. Jackson walked in, garment bag over one shoulder, to find a frowning Luke staring at a place in the street outside the diner -- a place where two years ago his life fell apart. The same place where two months ago it came back together. He put an arm around Luke’s shoulder.

“It’s really happening today, buddy,” he said, as if he had read Luke’s mind. Before Luke could respond, Jess walked in and handed him an envelope with his name on it. He removed a piece of silly stationery, unfolded it, and saw a note written in Lorelai’s sloppy script.

“5ish under the chuppah. I’ll be the one standing still.

- Lorelai”

 

And he smiled. Then he turned to Jackson and Jess, grateful for their presence.

“Are you guys here to keep me from getting bored?” he asked.

“That’s the plan,” Jackson answered. “Ed can’t make it until three, but --” Just then the bells jingled again and Richard Gilmore walked in, a line of attendants behind him, each carrying something. Along with the men’s boutonnieres came trays of sandwiches and salads followed by three cases of what looked like beer. He had also brought a valet to press suits, polish shoes, and help when it came time to dress.

Within 10 minutes, the beer was in the fridge, the valet was set up in the apartment upstairs, the other attendants had disappeared, and the men were chatting jovially, eating lunch and drinking some freakishly good (or so Luke thought) imported beer.

“I have to say that I’m addicted to the stuff now,” Richard admitted. “On our last trip to Europe I found myself sampling beer in every city, much to Emily’s chagrin. I picked up what we’re drinking today in Dusseldorf.”

And so they spent the afternoon playing cards and telling stories about Luke, Lorelai, and Rory, Stars Hollow, and marriage. Even Jess joined in, teasing Luke about lost opportunities. When the Bracebridge dinner came up, they all ganged up on Jackson, reminding him of his drunken tummy bongos. Before they knew it, the time had come to get dressed for the ceremony.

 

~ooooo~

 

When the photographer arrived at the Gilmore (soon to be Danes) residence, Lorelai was frantic. Emily found her flying around her bedroom in her robe, hair and makeup (except for the finishing touches to be documented by the photographer) done, practically in tears.

“Where is it?” she mumbled over and over.

“Lorelai, what are you looking for?”

“My necklace. I have to find my necklace!”

“But I brought you my diamond necklace and earrings to wear, Lorelai,” Emily said, trying to calm her down. “They’ll look beautiful with your dress.”

As she searched through her jewelry box for the 20th time, Lorelai said, “I know, mother, and I appreciate it. I’ll wear the earrings. They’ll be my ‘something borrowed’, but I need this necklace. I know it’s not diamonds and you think it’s silly and cheap... But it’s my ‘something blue’ and it means a lot to me… It’s just a little thing that Luke gave me, but... It’s kind of… it’s a symbol of our reconciliation. I can’t… I can’t not wear it.” It looked to Emily like Lorelai was about to have a total breakdown. When she looked on the verge of hyperventilating, Emily decided to call in reinforcements. She went downstairs and yelled for Rory.

“What’s going on, Mom?” Rory asked in a calm and soothing voice.

“I can’t find my necklace. The one that Luke gave me at your party?” Lorelai really was about to hyperventilate, but she wouldn’t even slow down.

“Mom, mom…” Rory tried to get her attention. “MOM!” Finally, Lorelai stopped and looked at Rory, tears threatening to spill. “You got it out last night and put it on the sink so that you wouldn’t forget it, remember?” Rory went into the bathroom and retrieved the necklace.

“Ohmygodohmygod,” Lorelai said. Her knees buckled, forcing her to sit down on her bed.

“Just take a few deep breaths and calm down.”

“I’m okay,” Lorelai said, her breathing starting returning to normal. “I’m okay. I’m okay.”

Rory took the necklace from her and put it around her neck. She started to work the clasp, then froze. “Um… Mom?... Why don’t we wait to put this on and have the photographer get a shot of it, hmm? Grandma can put it on you, okay?”

When Lorelai reluctantly agreed, Rory quickly left the room, hiding her horrified face from her mother and clenching the necklace with its broken clasp in her fist. She ran downstairs to call Jess.

It was a long twenty minutes of the photographer stalling for time by setting up every shot imaginable: Lorelai putting the finishing touches on her makeup and hair, Rory helping Lorelai zip up her dress, All of the girls in the bedroom, pretending to primp. Lorelai thought that if she had to look at herself in the mirror anymore, she was going to puke. She wanted to finish this sappy stuff and get to the really, really sappy business of marrying her true love. A knock on the door prompted Rory to let out a breath of relief.

Liz walked in, carrying a box of what looked like tools. “Okay, where’s the damage?” she asked.

“Damage?” Lorelai asked, panic just under the surface.

Rory produced the necklace and handed it to Liz saying, “It’s the clasp. It’s broken.”

Lorelai gasped loudly and sharply, but Liz put up a hand, “No worries! It’ll take me two minutes to fix it.”

“Oh mygod,” Lorelai said, hugging her. “You saved my wedding! You’re the best sister-in-law!”

“Well, it’s only fair,” Liz noted. “You saved mine.”

The photographer did indeed get a beautiful shot of Emily putting Luke’s necklace on her daughter. Emily and Lorelai had yet another surreal moment when mother told daughter that she made a beautiful bride. And then it was time. Lorelai, Emily, Sookie, Rory, April, Paul Anka, and four bouquets piled into two horse-drawn carriages to take them from the house to the square.

 

~ooooo~

 

All he felt was peace. Peace, as Paul Anka, too scared of the flowers to walk down the aisle, settled at his feet. Peace, as he watched Ed escort Buddy and Maisy to their seats and Jackson did the same for Emily. Peace, as he watched Martha, really too young for flower girl duty, toddle down the aisle to her father. Peace, as he watched his beautiful daughter walk toward him, smiling. Peace as Sookie, then Rory followed. By the time Richard and Lorelai came into view, he was so calm that he couldn’t imagine a more satisfying feeling, but there it was. Although his heart began to beat more quickly, he was calm. Bits of the last 11 years played in his head, but this time they don’t make him sad.

“Like this guy who asked me out…”
“But you’re not going.”
“No… I’m not… going.”

“So what, I said you look good. We’re not in 5th grade.”

“Let’s not spruce this particular spot.”

She was stunning. She was always stunning, but today… He was glad to see that she didn’t wear a veil or some silly tiara to tamp down those curls. She was beautiful without all of that crap.

“You are so full of hate and loathing and I gotta say I love it.”

“People can grow and evolve together, don’t you think?”

“I guess if you can find that one person… then marriage can be alright.”

He let the memories wash over him as she slowly got closer, as her father kissed her cheek, then took his seat. As she took his hand and they stepped under the chuppah together.

“It’s a nice concept… having someone that you love or have some kind of crazy crush on bid on your basket and then share a romantic lunch. It’s a nice concept.”
“You know what? This is nice.”

“Is this really happening?”

It was really happening. It felt like a dream and he was barely aware of the audience, much less the reverend, but it was really happening. He couldn’t take his eyes off of hers, but she didn’t seem to mind. There were no tears, just smiles. He was thankful they had left the ceremony simple because he didn’t think he would have been able to think clearly enough to do or say anything elaborate. When he was supposed to repeat words, he repeated words. When he was supposed to say “I will”, he said “I will”. He was vaguely aware that Lorelai said things, too.

And when Reverend Skinner finally pronounced them married, he kissed her tenderly, putting one arm around her waist and the other on her cheek. But before they separated, he held her closer and whispered in her ear, “All in, Lorelai. I’m all in .”

And so on July 14, 2007, Luke and Lorelai were married.

 

~ooooo~

 

The party was a typical wedding reception, but even with all of Emily’s planning, that Stars Hollow quirkiness was unavoidable. Morey took to the piano during the cocktail hour, while the wedding party posed for photos and the ceremony area was cleared to add more tables. Babette and Miss Patty joined him to serenade the crowd. Miss Patty’s famous Founder’s Day Punch was available at the bar, and twenty minutes into the party, Kirk’s megaphone -- one he had brought from home -- had to be forcibly removed from his hands. But it was still an elegant, if relatively casual, affair.

The couple were amazed over and over again at how much effort had been made to ensure that the wedding and reception matched what the bride and groom would have chosen for themselves. The inclusion of the chuppah was just the start. Their first dance as husband and wife was to Sam Phillip’s Reflecting Light , the song to which they’d had their first dance ever. Lane had looped a beautiful arrangement of Moon River to make an extra long daddy-daughter dance to give Luke enough time to dance first with Rory, then with April. Lorelai danced with her father for the first time since she was a little girl. The buffet dinner wasn’t conducive to a lobster entree, but Sookie had come up with half a dozen great appetizers that featured the crustacean and Emily had the servers reserve a tray just for Luke and Lorelai.

When it came time for the toasts, Jess delivered a poetic speech that brought Luke to tears. He told a story of a seed that was planted and germinated. Over the years the seedling had to endure drought, strong winds, and cold, but with the help of the sun and the rain, it eventually it grew into a beautiful flowering tree. Most of the guests assumed it was the story of Luke and Lorelai’s love, but some (especially Luke, Lorelai, Rory, and Liz) wondered if the tree was Jess and the sun and rain Luke and maybe others.

Following Jess was no easy task, especially without sufficient time to recover emotionally, but Rory was up to the challenge. She kept it short and sweet. First she recounted the first time that her mother expressed an interest in Luke and Rory had told her she couldn’t date him because they would break up and she and Lorelai would starve. The crowd chucked. Then she threw a bit of a curveball.

“You all know that Luke and my mom were engaged before. And most of you know that both were married to other people very briefly.” The room was quiet, almost as if Rory had asked for a moment of silence to remember the victims of a tragedy. “I brought this up not to dredge up the pain of the wedding that didn’t happen, but to explain how I knew that this time it would and how I know that this marriage will be the one to last a lifetime.”

She paused to breathe, then smiled sweetly at Luke and Lorelai, who sat close together, listening intently. “A couple of months ago, my boyfriend of nearly three years asked me to marry him. It won’t surprise anyone who knows us that I asked my mother for advice. Actually, I begged her to tell me what my answer should be.” This brought a few chuckles and nods. “She refused to tell me what to do, but she did give me the one piece of advice that helped me the most to make a decision. She told me what she had learned in the last year. She said that she used to want to marry Luke because he was the first man she could see herself being with for the rest of her life. She could imagine them growing old together, sitting on the front porch in matching jogging suits with their children and grandchildren. But she said that was the wrong reason to get married. She said that you shouldn’t marry someone because you want to be with them. You should marry someone because you can’t imagine your life without them…” She paused for dramatic effect and to let the meaning sink in. Then she raised her glass and said, “So here’s to two people who can’t tolerate life without the other.”

After hugging Jess and Rory, Lorelai took the mic on behalf of herself and Luke. She started with her usual wisecracking, thanking the guests, especially those who had traveled, for coming without complaining about the short notice. Then she dropped all humor in favor of sincerity when she tried to thank those who had pitched in to make it happen, but words failed her.

“I… Luke and I were… overwhelmed. We knew that you were all pulling for us, but we really had no idea… We can’t thank you enough. And Mom, Dad…” She fought back tears because she desperately wanted to say what was on her mind, and she wanted to say it in front of these witnesses. “We appreciate this so much... I love you… both.” She couldn’t go on without her voice cracking, so she let that be the end.

It wasn’t an eloquent or creative speech, especially for Lorelai, but there wasn’t a dry eye in the place.

As the sun went down, the dancing resumed. Luke stayed by Lorelai’s side as they made the rounds, thanking everyone individually for coming and spending time with friends they had not seen since before their trip. The only time they could be seen apart was on the dance floor. Lorelai danced with any child who expressed an interest. Luke danced with April again and even once with Emily.

They did the other typical wedding stuff, like tossing the garter and bouquet (the look on Kirk’s face when Lulu caught it was priceless, especially since the garter was caught by Jess), then cut the cake. Sookie couldn’t decide on a cake flavor, so in the end she made five layers, each a different flavor. When they cut into the espresso flavored layer, Lorelai surprised Luke by feeding it to him gently rather than smashing it in his face, but he wasn’t so mature and she ended up with frosting on her nose. Not that she minded.

The late night partiers were just getting started when the less energetic started to leave. By 10:00, Luke and Lorelai were exhausted and bid goodbye to the remaining guests. As they said a last ‘thank you’ to the Gilmores, who were also leaving, Emily could not resist another reminder, referring to Lorelai, Luke, and April, “We’ll see you Friday for dinner, then.”

Their last goodbye was to Sookie, who said, “Now you’re sure that you don’t want to take another week, maybe go on a honeymoon?”

“Sookie, we just spent six weeks alone on a small boat together,” Lorelai reminded her. “I think we’re good.”

“Yep,” Luke added, “We just want to spend the rest of the weekend with our gi -- with our family [he smiles as he corrects himself], then get back into the routine of life.” An hour earlier he and Lorelai had decided, in a conversation that took less than a minute to complete, that they were done with the traditional wedding nonsense. They didn’t need a romantic getaway or even an evening alone. They wanted to start their normal, humdrum lives tonight, just hanging out with their girls.

“I’ll see you at the inn on Monday, Sookie.”

 

~ooooo~

 

Four figures walked slowly down the street, past picket fences and under maple trees that would turn vibrant orange and red in a few month’s time, toward their home, the sound of Hep Alien’s last set getting softer as the distance between them and the town square grew. The two young women in front talked enthusiastically about the events of the day, laughing and plotting all sorts of things for the future. The couple who followed behind them just walked, arm-in-arm, and listened.

When they reached the house, everyone changed into comfortable clothes and the girls searched for a game to play, debating who had the advantage at each.

“You would totally beat me at Scrabble,” April insisted. “You were an English major!”

“But Scrabble also has a strategy component,” Rory countered, “and I bet you’re really good at that. Plus, you know a lot of scientific words that I bet I don’t.”

“I still think we’d be better matched at Trivial Pursuit. We could each play to our strengths. And Dad and Lorelai could play.”

“Oh, I think we’re both happy to be spectators tonight, hon,” Lorelai said from her place snuggled next to Luke in the big chair, feet resting on the ottoman. She looked at Luke. He smiled and nodded, so she continued. “But girls, before you get the game started, there’s something we’d like to tell you…”

 

END