Pairing: Luke/Lorelai (Rory/Logan subplot)
Rating: PG-13, possible R for later chapters.
Part One / Part Two / Part Three / Part Four / Part Five
Lorelai uses one hand to unlock her door, juggling containers of food from Sookie and the day’s mail in the other. Finding nothing of immediate interest, she drops the pile of mail onto the coffee table and then throws her keys onto the side table, before hitting the play button on her answering machine. She only half-listens to the first message, a whiny plea from Michel that they change the last-minute reservation policy, choosing instead to wander into the kitchen and shove Sookie’s containers into the refrigerator. She grins as she reviews her ingenious plans for the evening. On her way home from Sookie’s, she had left Luke a sultry message on his answering machine, inviting him over for a “home-cooked meal.” However, the shrill beep of her own answering machine cuts into her pleasant thoughts. Instead, her breath hitches as her mother’s voice drifts through the house.
Lorelai, she begins, It’s your mother…
“No, duh,” she mumbles. “It’s easy to recognize the owner of the knife stabbed into my back.”
…I’m calling to tell you that Rory’s court date has been changed. If you’d like to attend - Lorelai frowns at this; is Rory’s court date like a dance recital to Emily? - call me back and I’ll let you know what the new date is. I’ll talk to you soon.
Lorelai stares at the answering machine, long after the beep dies away. Emily is a smug one, oh yes, she thinks irritably. Lorelai has spent three quarters of her life dismantling her mother’s ploys. By now, she is an expert Emily-reader, and can usually pinpoint the woman’s motives. Usually, she reminds herself. Emily still has a few original schemes brewing. After all, she has to keep Lorelai on her toes.
“Damn it,” she mutters, grabbing the cordless phone from its cradle and heading toward the couch.
However, this time, she knows exactly what Emily Gilmore is cooking up. For the time being, Lorelai is not on speaking terms with either of her back-stabbing parents. However, now, because of the message, she is going to have to call the elder Gilmores; unless, of course, she doesn’t want to know the date of Rory’s trial, which would, inevitably, qualify her as a bad mother, in Emily’s eyes. So Lorelai will call and she knows that, when does, she will be able to literally hear the smug smile on her mother’s lips. After all, Emily now knows something important about Rory that Lorelai doesn’t know.
“Fine, I don’t care. It’s not like she’s the Rory I know, anymore, anyway,” she states petulantly, wanting desperately to, but not quite able to believe her own words. “Curse you, Emily Gilmore!”
Sitting up straight, Lorelai inhales deeply, fisting the couch cushions as she steadies herself for battle. After a minute, she lifts her weapon and dials quickly, praying that she calls the wrong number, by mistake, and is perhaps able to have a decent conversation, for a change. The phone rings and Lorelai squirms slightly. On the second ring, she straightens again. However, after the third ring, Lorelai begins to lose her nerve, removes the phone from her ear, and poises to turn it off, but pauses, mid-air, when she hears a voice on the other end. The familiar gut-wrenching nausea hits her as she replaces the phone against her ear and squeezes her eyes shut.
“Lorelai?” Emily sounds surprised and Lorelai has to bite back her laughter. Who is she kidding? She knew I’d call!
But the truth is that Emily had not been sure her daughter would return her call. Although she could often predict Lorelai’s responses, she was unsure about this particular scenario. Sure, she has witnessed petty fights before, and even detected a hint of coolness between the girls before her trip to Europe last summer, but she has never once seen Lorelai so adamant in avoiding her own daughter. But really, she tells herself, I shouldn’t be surprised. After all, how many times has her daughter cut Emily out of her life, just because she could not provide the outcome Lorelai was hoping for? The only difference is, now, she's treating Rory in the same manner.
Emily is struck suddenly by the irony of the situation. She has waited years for this opportunity, for the chance to create a relationship with her granddaughter that isn’t tainted by Lorelai’s feelings. However, now that she has been given this chance, she feels oddly uncomfortable with her newfound power. However, she quickly brushes away this feeling, returning to reality when she hears Lorelai question, “Mom?”
“Are you okay?”
“Of course. I was… momentarily distracted.”
“Find another maid to fire?” Lorelai mumbles.
“What was that?”
“Nothing,” Lorelai hastily replies.
Emily has, in fact, heard Lorelai’s snide remark, but chooses instead to let it pass. She has more important matters to discuss with Lorelai and, frankly, she is sure she will have plenty of unfortunate opportunities to be offended by her daughter in the near future. “All right. So, I’m assuming you received my message.”
“Well, thank you for eventually calling me back. I imagine your excuse for waiting so long is that you’ve been busy?”
“I have been busy.”
“Stuff. Well… Silly me, I thought you would be vague.”
“Mother,” she groans, “you said you had Rory’s new trial date.”
“Yes, I do.”
“Are you planning on going?”
“Why does it matter?”
“Well, if you’re not going to go, I have no reason to tell you the date, do I?”
“She’s my daughter; I need to know this. Whether or not I’m going to the trial makes no difference!”
“Actually, it does. Rory’s an adult; you don’t need to know any of this. After all, she doesn’t live with you anymore.”
“Why don’t you just say it, Mom?”
“Just say, you know, ‘I know more about Rory than you know… uhh, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah’.”
“Oh yes,” Emily deadpans. “That sounds just like something I’d say.”
“Well, not those exact words, but the idea’s still the same.”
“The idea is that I’m five years old?”
“Hey, you said it, not me.”
“Lorelai, do you want to know Rory’s trial date or not? I ask a simple question,” Emily adds under her breath.
“Yes, I want to know! Why else would I have called?”
“Then you need to tell me whether or not you’re going.”
“God, Mom, I swear,” she mutters. “Okay, I don’t know. Okay? Happy? I don’t know. I don’t know whether or not I’m going to my my own daughter’s trial. Happy? Are you happy now?”
“So, when is it?”
Emily shrugs. “You can find out when you decide whether or not you’re going. If you decide to go, I will share the date with you. Otherwise, you either need to drop it, or ask Rory, yourself.”
“God, Mom. This is ridiculous… As if you haven’t done enough already!”
“What? What did I do, Lorelai? Unlike you, I listened to your daughter, to what she was saying, didn’t I? Huh, it must be strange for you. I mean, I thought I never listened to anyone but myself. Apparently not. Maybe, just maybe… that’s you.”
“Lorelai," she states, attempting a different tactic, "I know what you’re going through.”
Lorelai laughs bitterly. “How could you possibly know what I’m going through?”
“I’ve gone through it, too,” she says squarely. “I have a daughter, and she has certainly not always lived up to my expectations.”
Lorelai pauses. “ Well, thanks a lot, Mom,” she replies angrily, unsuccessfully hiding the hurt in her voice. “This has been a real treat.”
“Goodbye, Mother. See you on Christmas.”
With that, Lorelai hangs up. Emily sighs, listening to the dead phone until the automatic operator reminds her that her call has been disconnected. She turns it off and places it onto the coffee table, before heading over to the drink cart and pouring herself a glass of vodka.
Her original plan had been to get something out of Lorelai, any sort of hint as to what has caused Rory’s sudden change of direction. And, unfortunately, as usual between the mother and daughter, things had taken a different route. However, Emily refuses to lose hope. Lorelai will want to know the date of Rory’s trial, leaving her to either call Rory or agree to go to the trial. Either way, it will get the two girls speaking again. Maybe then, possibly, she will be able to find out more about Rory, because, obviously, taking the direct approach with Lorelai has and never will be successful. That’s fine; it requires more planning, but it’s fine. She will get to the bottom of this whole predicament.
And, if she reconciles Lorelai and Rory along the way? Well, she tells herself, that will just be an added bonus. It’s not her ultimate goal. It’s not, she’s positive of this. “It’s not,” she tells her invisible audience. Is it?
Rory stands at the file cabinet in her grandfather’s office, integrating the latest batch of files into the system. It is not a particularly challenging task, and Rory has to fight in order to keep her thoughts away from her life. All she really has to do is match the color of the file with its corresponding filing cabinet (yellow files in the far left, red in the center, and green in the right), and then file the folders in alphabetical order. Instead, she has been spending the past ten minutes trying to recall the lines to as many Sylvia Plath poems as she can. This tactic is not particularly stimulating, but if she doesn’t focus on something very specific, her mind often wanders, despite her attempts at keeping a clear head.
Rory is in the middle of a stanza when Richard enters. He heads over to Rory, briefly placing a hand on her shoulder and smiling at her. She returns the smile less confidently.
“Any messages while I was out?” He asks as he shrugs off his suit jacket. Rory rushes to take the coat from his hands and hangs it on the coat rack. “Rory,” he says seriously, “that really isn’t necessary.”
“Oh, I don’t mind. Besides, I’m your personal secretary now, and that’s what secretaries do, isn’t it?”
“You’re too helpful,” he scorns with little conviction, “but I thank you sincerely, Rory.”
“Oh, it’s not a problem. One second, I’ll get your messages.” Rory dashes out of the room and, after a moment of shuffling around the secretary’s desk, she brings in a stack of notepaper. “Okay, so Albert Stevenson called about the old Anderson property, but he says he’s staying at his son’s house in Arizona for the week, so he’ll call you back later.”
“Uh, a few other messages, nothing important… oh! Uh, Alan Stein called.”
“Oh, did he? Great,” Richard mumbles, “I suppose I’ll have to talk to him.”
“Well, not really. I actually, uh, convinced him to call Jack, instead. I mean, uh, I heard you talking about how he always insists on calling you when he really should talk to Jack, so I just thought… I’m sorry, I’ll call him back and tell him –“
“No! No, please don’t do that. I’m just… shocked, that’s all. I’ve been trying to get Alan to harass someone else for ages. How on earth did you do that?”
“Oh, well, you know… with a little persuasion and a dash of sweet talk and…” She shrugs. “People will do what you want. Nothing inappropriate or anything,” she promises, blushing furiously.
“It really is a woman’s world,” Richard mutters with a smile and a shake of his head. “I’m impressed, Rory.”
“Absolutely. I have said it before and I shall continue to say it, until I am blue in the face: you have quite a knack for this business.”
“Oh, well, you know… I leaned my persuasion skills from the best.” The best being Richard, she tells herself, not Lorelai. “But, uh, thank you, Grandpa.”
“I mean it, Rory.” He sits down at his desk and gestures for Rory to sit in the chair across from his. “You would, without a doubt, be very successful in the insurance business.”
“Oh, I don’t know…”
“Don’t be so modest! I know success when I see it. I’m saying this as a businessman, not as your grandfather. There’s plenty of room here for someone like you… after you graduate, of course.”
“I’m not proposing anything to you, except –“ He leans forward, resting his elbows on his desk – “that you contemplate it; keep all of your options open. Can you do that for me?”
Richard nods and sits back, satisfied. “Good.”
“Good,” Rory agrees uncomfortably. “If you don’t mind, I’m going to get back to…” She gestures to the file cabinets behind her.
“Oh, of course. Go on…”
Rory smiles and heads toward the back of the office, her mind swimming with questions that even recalling stanzas of poetry could not ward off. Had her grandfather just offered her a real job? He had told her that she could be talented in the insurance business. That’s crazy! How can she be gifted in an area she doesn’t particularly care for, and hopeless in the one she loves? This isn’t fair! she cries inwardly. Things are supposed to be getting easier, now that she’s away from the pressures and expectations of Yale. But nothing’s ever easy, replies a voice in her head, a voice that bears an uncanny resemblance to her mother’s. “Damn it,” Rory mutters.
“What’s that?” Richard calls absently.
“Nothing, Grandpa. Just a paper cut,” she lies. “Sorry.”
Lorelai pads down the stairs in her stocking feet, holding a pair of black sandals in her hand. She drops the shoes in the foyer, and then checks her reflection in the mirror, running her fingers carefully through her wavy hair. She then smoothes her hands down her dress, that slip of a black dress that hugs her curves perfectly, and drives Luke absolutely crazy. Earlier, she had enlisted Kirk in moving the couch away from the coffee table, and then threw the customary mail and magazines that littered its surface into the hall closet, for safekeeping. Now, she bends down and places two piles of pillows on opposite ends of the coffee table, and then covers it with her one and only tablecloth, hiding the large wine stain beneath a plate.
She knows Luke will initially hate the set-up. He has never been a fan of eating on the ground, although she has a feeling that he will give in eventually, because it’s the floor and not the ground. Besides, she thinks with a smirk, she has more effective ways of persuading Luke, if good old-fashioned begging fails. No, if the night goes according to plan, their eating arrangements will be the last thing on Luke’s mind.
Lorelai kneels beside the table, bouncing anxiously as she checks her watch. “Two minutes,” she breathes. She cannot seem to prevent the butterflies that have formed in her stomach as she waits, inwardly begging Luke to be on time. She has never cooked dinner for a man before, and she’s afraid something will go unbelievably wrong. Actually, she hasn’t technically done any cooking for this meal, unless heating a chicken casserole in the oven constitutes “cooking”, but she purposely avoids remembering that fact.
“Candles!” she yells suddenly, scrambling to her feet and yanking random drawers open, in search of candles and candlestick holders. She finds candles, but not the holders. “Wait!” she yells triumphantly, remembering that Emily had given her candlestick holders for Christmas one year. She rummages through the hall closet, but then freezes, suddenly realizing that she had exchanged the candlestick holders for the monkey lamp. She frowns and contemplates asking Sookie to send Jackson over quickly with her candlestick holders, remembering that, the first time Luke had made her dinner, Lorelai had borrowed them for the occasion. However, before she receives the chance to even pick up the phone, she hears a knock on the door. “Oh!” She rummages through the closet once more, grabs two mismatched scented candles, and drops them at the center of the table before hastily lighting them. She surveys the table with her hands on her hips and, after Luke knocks again, states, “It’ll do,” steps into her shoes, and opens the door with a smile on her face.
Luke raises his eyebrows when he catches his first glimpse of her, and she smiles coyly at him. As he allows his eyes to wander a bit, Lorelai notices that he’s carrying two brown shopping bags in his arms.
“What’s this?” she asks, gesturing.
“Food? I told you I was cooking, why would you need to bring food?”
“Because… you’re cooking,” he replies gruffly.
“Are you implying that I can’t cook?”
“Can I come inside?” he counters.
“Depends, answer my question first.” Luke rolls his eyes, but cannot quite hide his smile as he leans in and kisses her. She melts into his embrace for a moment, but quickly jumps aside, glaring at him. “Hey! You did that to shut me up!”
“Works every time,” he replies confidently as he enters the foyer, and then closes the door behind himself. “You look beautiful.”
“Thank you. I’m still angry at you, though.”
“I bought coffee.”
She pauses. “Okay, I’m a little less angry now.”
“Good. Where should I put this stuff?”
“In the freezer, ‘cos we’re not eating it tonight.”
“Wait, you’re seriously telling me you cooked?”
“Why is that so hard to believe? Just because I’ve never cooked, doesn’t mean I can’t.”
“You baked corn muffins once for Stars Hollow Middle School’s bake sale. One of Rory’s classmates chipped a tooth.”
“Hey, it’s not my fault the oven timer was broken!”
“And the mashed potato fiasco of ‘97?”
“I swear the directions said cups, not tablespoons,” she mutters.
“Okay, fine, I get the picture; I can’t cook. Luckily, Sookie cooked, I re-heated.”
“Good.” Lorelai heads into the kitchen, and Luke follows closely behind her. “You’re not upset, are you?”
She turns around and pouts slightly. “I am… but I’ll survive.”
Luke places the food he brought into the freezer and then watches as Lorelai bends over to take the casserole out of the oven. “Want some help?”
“No, no, this is my meal! You go in the living room and sit, okay?”
“Are you sure?”
“Are you trying to go to bed alone tonight?”
“I’ll, uh, be in the living room.”
She smiles smugly. “Thank you.”
Lorelai re-enters the living room with a bowl of salad to find Luke looking down at the table with his arms crossed. He turns around when he notices her presence and points to the table. “You expect me sit down there?”
“On the floor?”
“Yes. I brought pillows.”
“We’re eating on the floor?”
“Yes. You’re quite the clever one, Sherlock.”
“Why are we eating on the floor?”
“Because… it’s romantic! Would you rather eat at my kitchen table?”
“At least it’s not on the floor.”
“Luke…” she whines.
“Fine, fine, I’ll sit on the damn floor, but I’m not gonna like it.”
“Oh,” she breathes, “I think you’ll like it just a little bit.”
“And why’s that?”
Lorelai leans forward and trails soft kisses along his stubbly jaw and down his neck, stopping at the collar of his shirt. He closes his eyes and threads his fingers through her hair. “You like that?” she asks.
“Yeah...” he answers absently.
“Well, that’s why.” She straightens and pulls away from him.
She ignores him and sits down, instead, before piling salad onto his plate. Luke, on the other hand, stares at her, all the while continuing to stand. When she finishes serving his salad, she serves her own, carefully picking out only iceberg lettuce and cucumbers, and then drowning them in Italian dressing.
“You do know that neither of those vegetables have any nutrition.”
“I love it when you talk dirty to me,” she purrs, bating her eyelashes at him.
He huffs and finally sits down on the pillow, picking carefully at his salad. Lorelai watches, amused, until he finally decides that the salad is suitable and begins to let his guard down. Lorelai remains silent, content to merely sit at Luke’s side, for the time being. “This… is nice,” Luke finally states.
“Well, you’ve made me dinner so many times, it’s the least I could do.”
He shrugs. “I like doin’ it.”
“I know, but still… you deserve a break, every once in a while. Besides, can’t I do something nice for my man?”
“You don’t have to…”
“But I want to.”
“Thanks.” Luke leans toward her and begins to rub the inside of her thigh in that delicious way he has perfected. It always astonishes her how this simple touch can be so comforting and, yet, so arousing, at the same time. She allows her eyes to drift shut, enjoying the feel of his fingers against her leg, marveling, as she always does, at how his hands can be so rough, and yet his touch the most gentle she’s ever experienced.
“Mmm, Luke,” she murmurs. “I need to get the rest of the meal.”
“Okay,” he replies in a throaty whisper, removing his hand from her leg.
Her skin continues to tingle long after his hand is gone, and she retreats to the kitchen with their plates in her hand. When she returns, she notices that her place setting and pillows have drifted closer to him. She gives him a pleased smile and settles against his chest. “It’s gonna be really hard to eat like this.”
“Then get up.”
“But I don’t want to,” she whines. “I might just have to drop food all over you.”
“I’ll be looking forward to it,” he deadpans.
They eat in silence for a minute, both tasting the food. Lorelai takes a sip of wine, and then another bite, before exclaiming, “Mm, this is amazing! You know, I’ve made friends with all the right people.”
“Yeah, it is pretty good. Give my compliments to the chef.”
“I’m surprised she even had time to cook this,” Luke replies thoughtfully, taking a large bite.
“Oh well, you know… it’s Sookie.” She shrugs. “Plus, I went over there and babysat in exchange for the food.”
“Thank you.” She glances tentatively at Luke, before continuing. “You know, the baby is so adorable.”
“Yeah… and, you know, spending time with her and… just a lot of other stuff that’s been happening lately has got me thinking…” He watches her patiently, and, after taking a deep breath, she continues. “Well, about the future, I guess. I never really did much future-thinking, for myself, especially not, you know… man-wise, but you know, we’re engaged now and I just thought, well…” She grins at him and entwines their fingers. “I’m not taking the job.”
Luke tightens his grasp on her hand. “You’re not… taking the job?”
“The consulting job?”
“Yeah. I’m keeping the inn, staying in Stars Hollow… staying with you.” She smiles. “How does that sound?”
Luke gapes at her for a moment, and then, without warning, slips out from behind her, causing Lorelai to fall against her elbows. She looks up at his pale face curiously. “Luke, what’s - ?”
“You’re giving up the job? You’re… just giving up the job, just like that, just – just… because I’m here and you wouldn’t be?”
“NO! Lorelai, no!”
Lorelai stands now, too, hands on her hips. “What do you mean, no?” she asks slowly. “You never wanted me to take this job. You got upset when you found out I was mulling.”
“Yeah, of course I did because you didn’t tell me, didn’t let me prepare my – I mean, but don’t just – you can’t just – Jeez! What were you thinking?”
“What?” she asks, astonishment morphing into frustration. “I was thinking that my fiancé lives in Stars Hollow and I want to be near him… what is wrong with that?”
“Nothing is wrong with that, Lorelai!” He begins to pace the length of the room. “It’s the principle of the thing, okay?”
“What principle…? Of what?”
“Of everything! You don’t – you don’t want to be here.”
“And how do YOU know what I want?” she challenges, her eyes flashing.
“Because I know you, Lorelai!”
“And what exactly is it about me that you… know?”
“That you don’t want to be here!”
“What?” She mouths wordlessly for a few moments, trying to formulate a suitable response to this lunacy, as Luke glares at her. “Well, Luke,” she states in an eerily calm tone - a calm she doesn’t feel, “if you think that this is me – that I don’t want to be here - then you obviously don’t know me.”
“No, I know you better than anyone else. You didn’t even ask, you didn’t even –“
“I didn’t ask? I didn’t ask if I should stay? What? What, Luke,” she begins painfully, “do you want to me leave?”
“Only because you want to leave!”
“No, no I don’t! Why aren't you listening to me? When have I ever made you think that?”
“Oh, come on, Lorelai. Everyone knows you can’t stay in one place!”
“Since when do you listen to what other people say?”
“When what other people say is the truth!”
“Oh my God, this is not happening.” She covers her face with her hands for a few moments, before sighing. “LUKE! This doesn’t make any sense! What about… all the things you said? I mean… the thing… with the kids?”
“I wasn’t being serious,” he grumbles.
“And the Twickham House? That was just a joke, too?”
“How do you know about that?” he demands coolly.
“Come on, Luke. This is Stars Hollow; there are no secrets here! Get a clue, jeez!”
“Well, it doesn’t matter!”
“What? HOW COULD IT NOT MATTER?” she screams, ignoring the pricking pain in her throat, finally losing her composure. “YOU PLANNED MY FUTURE WITHOUT ME! If anything, I should be furious with YOU!”
“No, you don’t GET it, Lorelai! It doesn’t matter because I’M NOT GETTING THE HOUSE, okay?”
“What?” she asks, feeling as if she’s just been slapped across the face. Was everything she had thought about him, everything she thought about their future, one gigantic lie? “Why not?”
They stare at each other, eye-to-eye, and for one single moment, Lorelai thinks she sees a trace of sadness cross his features. However, his blue eyes quickly turn to ice again and he shakes his head furiously. “Because I don't want you to regret not taking the job," he responds evenly. "Thanks for dinner, I’ll see you around.”
“Luke!” She yells, following him into the foyer. “It is my business! Luke, we’re not finished with this yet! We’re not even close to finished!”
However, his slamming of the door proves that, even if she’s not finished, he is. She had been so sure that her plan for tonight was foolproof. What just happened? Lorelai stares at the door for a few moments, lip quivering, before sinking to her knees.