A/N: Wow, I was able to turn this one out sooner than I planned. I hope you enjoy it. Thank you for the great feedback!
Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3 / Part 4
An hour later, Rory and Lorelai stood in Amelia’s bedroom, getting her ready for the dance. Amelia was wearing her dress, but had a towel draped around her front for protection as Lorelai applied some blush to her cheeks. When she finished, Rory ran a brush through Amelia’s thick curls. Amelia whimpered.
“She’s almost finished, babe, hang in there. Now is as good a time as any to learn that beauty hurts.”
“It’ll be worth it.” Rory then placed a blue headband into Amelia’s hair and announced, “Done! Well, what do you think?”
“Oh, she’s so beautiful,” Lorelai sighed, squeezing Amelia’s hand lightly. She then smoothed her hands down the sides of the flowing gown, feeling the coarse glitter beneath her fingertips as she straightened out the wrinkles. “Okay, I’m gonna go check up on Luke, be right back.”
“We’ll be waiting,” promised Rory.
Lorelai walked out of the room, but turned around just in time to see Rory brush a strand of hair out of Amelia’s eye, and then direct the young girl’s attention toward the mirror. It made her heart swell to see that her two daughters connecting. Although she wished she could stand there and watch them forever, she knew she had to find Luke, so she tore her gaze from the scene and headed up the stairs. Not surprisingly, she found Luke still in his flannel, squatting in front of their closet as he attempted to fix a broken hinge. She walked up behind him, hands on her hips; he hadn’t her noticed her presence yet.
“What are you doing?” she demanded.
Luke jumped, startled, and ended up falling backward. Lorelai’s admonishment immediately faded into amusement as she let out a wail of laughter at the sight of Luke’s body, sprawled across the bedroom floor. He got to his feet and glared at her. “What was that for?”
“I couldn’t resist,” she replied with a smirk.
“So…” she began casually, “you’re not dressed.”
“I’m not?” He looked down at himself. “Huh.”
“Very funny,” she deadpanned, slapping him on the shoulder. “You’re not gonna disappoint your daughter, are you?”
He rolled his eyes. “Of course I am. I can’t wait to break a five-year-old’s heart.”
“Okay, then, what are you waiting for?”
“The last possible moment.”
“Come on! The faster you put on the tux, the faster this whole thing ends.” He snorted. “Okay, maybe it doesn’t work that way, but the faster you put on that tux, the faster I stop talking!”
“All right, all right,” he grumbled.
She kissed him sweetly on the lips. “Thank you.”
“You better make this up to me.”
“Oh, you can count on that.”
Luke grabbed the rented tuxedo that was hanging on the back of the door and began to take it out of its plastic cover. Lorelai sat down on their bed, studying him carefully. After a moment, he looked up, his frustration with her obvious. “What?”
“Nothing,” she replied hastily.
Luke raised his eyebrows, but didn’t press the issue. Instead, he undressed to his boxers and undershirt and pulled the slacks on over his legs and buttoned them. She was still staring at him. “Lorelai…” he prompted.
He met her eyes, challenging her. “Bull.”
She sighed and looked down at her hands as they rested on her lap. “I, well… this whole situation, it’s making me think about, well, Rory.”
“Yeah, I mean… she never had this experience –“ she pointed to him – “she never had a father to do this kind of stuff with her. I mean, she had a father, but, well, he didn’t… do this kind of stuff. Well, once, he went to that Debutante Ball with her, but she was already like, seventeen, at that point. Not the same thing.”
“Rory’s a grown-up now.”
“I know,” Lorelai replied with a sigh. “It’s just, well, what if she regrets it?”
“Not going to a fruity, Taylor-infested dance?”
“No. Just… not having the opportunity to do so, if the occasion arose.”
“This is really bothering you?”
Lorelai shrugged. “I feel guilty.”
“You gave her all you could and so much more, Lorelai. She’s on her way to doing great things. She’s happy, Lorelai…”
“…And it’s because of you.”
“I wouldn’t say that.”
“I would.” Luke walked over to her and took her right hand in his, squeezing it gently, reassuringly. “And she would, too.”
She smiled slightly. “Thanks, Luke.”
He looked at her out of the corner of his eye as he began to button up his shirt; she was staring at him again. He sighed inwardly. Lorelai was definitely still feeling guilty.
At a quarter to eight, Rory entered the living room and stood in front of Luke, who had been dosing lightly on the couch.
“Okay,” she announced, startling Luke awake, “your date is ready!”
“Finally,” he mumbled, standing up.
“You ready for this?”
“I think so,” he replied with an eye roll.
“OKAY GUYS,” called Rory, “HE’S READY!”
“HANG ON,” Lorelai yelled back, “WE’RE STILL PRIMPING!”
“Primping? She’s five, what the hell does she need to primp for?”
“SHE’S STILL A LADY!” Lorelai replied.
“YEAH!” Agreed Amelia.
Luke and Rory exchanged amused looks.
After another minute, Lorelai came out of the bedroom, grinning broadly at Luke. “She’s beautiful.”
“I’m sure she is.”
“Okay… are you ready to be blown away, Luke?”
He sighed heavily. “I’ve got my survival equipment in my back pocket.”
“Dirty!” delighted Lorelai.
“OKAY, AMELIA, COME ON OUT!”
A moment later, Amelia trotted down the small hallway, her slight heels clinking against the floor as she approached. Lorelai beamed at her daughter before turning toward Luke. His features immediately softened as he caught a glimpse of his daughter. In fact, Lorelai noted with satisfaction, he seemed to be on the verge of tears.
“How did I get a daughter this beautiful?” he asked no one in particular. Amelia smiled demurely in return as she approached her father. He hugged her tightly as she began, once again, to bounce.
“It comes from my side of the genes,” Lorelai informed him.
As Amelia pulled away, he looked at her, puzzled. He then turned toward Lorelai, hands on his hips. “Is she wearing make-up?”
“Oh, pictures!” Lorelai enthused, ignoring Luke’s question. She grabbed her camera that had originally been sitting on the coffee table. “Lots of pictures!”
“Don’t worry about it. Pictures, pictures, pictures!” she squealed. Amelia soon joined in the chanting. Lorelai grinned hugely at this, wrapping her arm around her daughter’s small shoulders.
Luke groaned. “Fine, but remember, I draw the line at one roll of film.” Lorelai pouted. “Hang on one second…” He turned toward Amelia. “I have something for you.”
Puzzled, the three girls watched as Luke slipped into the kitchen and opened the refrigerator. When he came back, he was holding a clear plastic container. He bent down in front of Amelia and opened the container, revealing a corsage of daisies, tied together by a light blue ribbon.
“They don’t really match,” he apologized, “but I know you love daisies and, well, I didn’t know what your dress looked like, but I thought these were… nice and, you know -”
Amelia cut her father off as she jumped into his arms, hugging him tightly. “Thank you, Daddy.”
Lorelai could hardly speak as she, yet again, watched two people she loved unconditionally, bound. She bit her lip and took the corsage out of its container with a trembling hand before pinning it to her daughter’s dress. “Perfect,” she whispered.
Lorelai locked eyes with Luke for a moment, silently thanking him for being so thoughtful. However, he broke away from the contact as Amelia tugged on Luke’s hand, practically dragging him out the door. “It’s almost time! We don’t want to be late!”
“Oh no,” Luke said sardonically, “looks like we’re out of time.”
“Fine, no pictures.” She turned toward Rory, smirking, and muttered, “I paid Kirk twenty bucks to take pictures of them at the dance anyway.”
“You’re evil,” she replied, just as quietly.
“Daddy, come on!”
He chuckled at his daughter’s eagerness and told her, “Why don’t you go out to the car, okay? I’ll be right there.” After Amelia left, Luke turned toward Lorelai. “You should probably help her… don’t want her ripping that dress you worked so hard on.”
“Yeah… right…” Lorelai gave Luke a suspicious glance, but didn’t pursue his attempt at chasing her out of the room.
Once it was just Luke and Rory, the pair studied each other uncomfortably for a few moments. Finally, Luke cleared his throat and Rory met his eyes curiously.
“So, uh, Rory, I was hoping… uh,” he sighed, “jeez, this is a weird thing to ask, so if you don’t want to, you don’t have to…”
“Don’t want to… what?”
“Dance,” he replied simply.
“I thought that, you know, even though you’re probably too old to go to this silly thing – hell, I know I am – you might still might want a dance. You know… father and daughter. But not if you don’t want to!” he added hastily, blushing profusely.
Luke watched anxiously as Rory’s puzzled look faded, replaced by a touched smile. “Wow, you’re really scoring big points at this dad game today.”
“Is that a yes?”
“Of course, Luke.”
Luke grinned and turned on the stereo, before opening his arms to her. Rory returned his smile and, taking his lead, joined him as the first cords of Have I Told You Lately That I Love You? filled the room. She wrapped her arms around his neck and chucked. “You planned this, didn’t you?”
“Well… I, uh…”
“No. Thank you, Rory.”
“For letting me into your life… for caring about me.”
She chuckled. “I could say the same to you.”
“I should’ve told you this stuff before. I mean, a long, long time ago. I wouldn’t be here right now if you didn’t want me to be, you know. Your mother would’ve never –“
“I know. I guess you’re just lucky then.”
“Yeah. I am lucky.”
With that, they fell silent. Yet, as they danced – Luke, holding his twenty-six year old stepdaughter – he was overwhelmed by sudden memories of Rory; her face, young and trusting, flashed before his eyes. He thought of attending her caterpillar funeral, of baking her a birthday coffee cake, of moving her mattress into her college dorm. Now, she was living on her own in a completely different state; working at a newspaper and attending graduate school. When had she grown up?
“Luke,” she whispered, breaking him from the memories.
“You need to go before Amelia gets jealous.”
He chuckled as they parted. “Right.”
“Thanks for the dance, Luke.”
And they both knew that he truly meant it.