Mrs. R.J. "Ride My Broomstick" Lupin (moonlite_fading) wrote in tasty_breeze,
Mrs. R.J. "Ride My Broomstick" Lupin
moonlite_fading
tasty_breeze

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Inching Closer; Pt. 5 - LL

Title: Inching Closer
Pairing: Luke/Lorelai (Rory/Logan subplot)
Rating: PG-13, possible R for later chapters.
Genre: Romance/Angst
A/N: Beta? BETA?!?!? I need a beta!!! Heh, sorry, I'm hallucinating from overexposure to the sun. :p


Inching Closer
Chapter Five
Part One / Part Two / Part Three / Part Four / Part Five

XII.
Lorelai stands outside of the diner, arms crossed, a frown present on her face. She knows she either has to go in soon or leave because her presence outside is probably beginning to get suspicious, and the last thing she needs is the busybodies of the town making the disagreement into something much more sinister. It’s just a fight, she reminds herself. She and Luke have had their fair share of arguments in the past, and, whether they were just friends or in a relationship, they have always moved beyond those rough spots. This instance is no different, she promises; they just need some time to cool off.

This is what she has been telling herself for the past ten minutes as an internal debate has raged inside of her – coffee or no coffee. If she goes inside, she runs the risk of intruding on Luke’s space before he is ready, but, if she doesn’t go in, not only does she not receive her daily fix of Luke’s coffee, but she doesn’t get to see Luke. And really, despite how much she tries to tell herself otherwise, that’s really the only reason she wants to go to the diner in the first place.

So, she squares her shoulders and takes a deep breath, before yanking the diner door open and striding inside. She makes her way toward the counter and inconspicuously looks for Luke. However, she only sees Caesar, who waves at her while taking an order. Lorelai waves back and sits down on a stool, tapping her fingers nervously against the counter and stealing glances in the kitchen. She frowns when she notices that he’s not there either.

“Lorelai?” Caesar questions, startling her. He had slipped behind the counter while Lorelai had been caught up in her thoughts, and was now filling a take-out cup with coffee.

“Yeah. Hey Caesar, how’s it going?”

“You have the same bug as the boss?”

“What?”

Caesar shrugs. “When I got here an hour ago or somethin’, Luke told me he wasn’t feeling good and I should hold down the fort till the dinner rush. It’s kinda tough, you know, with Lane gone and all, but I said sure ‘cos, well, I guess I owe him. I don’t think I can remember a time that Luke’s been sick.”

“Yeah…”

Caesar hands Lorelai her coffee and continues, “He told me not to bother him, but I bet he wouldn’t mind you goin’ up there... if you know what I mean...”

“Oh, uh,” Lorelai hesitates, torn between wanting to see Luke and knowing she should give him his space. “Thanks, but I’m kinda in a rush; Sookie’s expecting me.”

“Okay.”

She fishes for the money in her purse and hands it to him. “Thanks. I’ll see you later.”

“No problem.” Lorelai slips off the stool and is about to open the door when he asks, “Want me to tell Luke you were here?”

Lorelai pauses, frowning. “I guess. Yeah, tell him I came by and… uh, I hope he feels better.”

“You got it.”

Lorelai exits the diner feeling even more confused than she did when she entered. She sips her coffee as she idly makes her way toward Sookie’s, wondering why Luke was hiding. Well, the more she thinks about it, the smarter his tactic seems. After all, he hates being pressured by the townspeople. Yet, she can’t help but think that his disappearing act is about more than that. Maybe he’s hiding from her. It hurts her to think that Luke can’t even bear to see her right now.

However, Lorelai pushes these thoughts aside, to the best of her ability, as she stumbles upon Sookie’s house. Jackson is fixing the stairs and greets Lorelai first. She struggles not to trip over him as she passes, and joins Sookie on the porch. She leans down to place a kiss on Davey’s cheek, who is sitting on the ground and playing with toy cars, and then grasps Sookie’s hand as she sits.

“How’s it going?”

“Oh, things are good,” Sookie replies, shifting the baby toward Lorelai so that she can see her.

“You don’t need anything?”

“Nah, we’ve got it covered. But thanks.”

“Any time.”

Lorelai points over to the steps. “So, what happened there?”

“Long story,” Sookie replies with a sigh. “It ends with Jackson almost breaking his neck, though.”

“Huh. Sounds entertaining.”

“Hey!” he pipes up from his spot on the stairs, “It was painful!”

“Yes, hon, we understand.”

“I’m sorry, Jackson,” Lorelai replies, hiding her smile. “Does he even know what he’s doing?”

“I doubt it.”

They laugh, and then, Davey, who has crawled over to Sookie’s legs, begins to cry, “Mommy!” while holding his hands out toward her. She chuckles and shakes her head. Lorelai silently lifts Sookie’s daughter and settles her against her chest, so that Sookie can pull Davey into her lap.

“You always wanna be where the action is, don’t ya?” she coos.

Davey laughs and claps his hands, before pointing at his sister in Lorelai’s arms and declaring, “Baby!”

“That’s right, babe. Lorelai,” Sookie states, turning toward her, “I think we’ve got ourselves a prodigy child, don’t you?”

“Oh, definitely! Very good, Davey,” she enthuses, grasping the boy’s small hand in hers.

However, Davey ignores Lorelai and begins to whimper and squirm against his mother’s arms, instead. Sookie rolls her eyes and loosens her grip on him, so that he can climb down her legs and immediately begin to play with his toy cars again.

“Toddlers are like puppies sometimes, lemme tell you. One minute they want to be in on the commotion and the next, they’re causing it.”

“Hey Sook?” calls Jackson, as he pauses in his work and joins the women on the porch. “Speaking of puppies, I’ve been meaning to ask you…”

“Uh huh,” Lorelai mutters under her breath.

“What?”

“Well, what do you think of maybe getting a dog? I mean, I had one growing up – his name was Cabbage…”

“You know, I really should find that more shocking than I do,” muses Lorelai. Sookie giggles in agreement.

“So, what do you think? It could be a really good experience for the kids, too. You know, teach them responsibility and whatnot.”

“Jackson, they’re not even old enough to take care of themselves!”

“Well, yeah, not yet, but they will be…”

“Yeah, and until then?”

“Well, we take care of it.”

“We?” demands Sookie, crossing her arms over her chest.

“Okay, me. But Sookie, just think about it…”

“No.”

“But – ”

“Jackson, if you get a dog, then you’re gonna get to know the thing real well, because you will be sleeping in the dog house with it for the rest of your life.”

“Point taken,” he grumbles. “I’m just gonna get back to work.”

“Good idea.” Sookie returns her attention to Lorelai and the women immediately begin to laugh. “Can you imagine me with a dog?”

“How about me?” Lorelai counters.

“Yeah, or… oh, what about Luke?” she breathes excitedly. “Now he would be great with a dog. He’d agree to that in a million!”

Lorelai suddenly sobers, Luke’s name serving as a harsh reminder of the previous night. “Yeah… he’d probably say they’re noisy and smelly and do nothing but eat your food and your income… or something.”

“Hon?” asks Sookie seriously, “Did something happen between you and Luke?”

“No, why do you think that?” Lorelai demands.

“Well, when I mentioned him, you had a look like Jackson gets after eating fish sticks at Al’s.”

“It’s not my fault. They just don’t agree with me,” Jackson huffs from his spot.

Lorelai sighs, giving her friend a candid look. “We got into a fight last night.”

“Oh no! A big one?”

“A huge one. Sookie, it was a massacre; I’m talking the last act of Hamlet huge here.”

“So everyone died?”

“Basically.” Lorelai shakes her head and focuses her attention on the slumbering baby in her arms. “I told him I wasn’t gonna sell the inn and he just blew up.”

“Oh my God, you’re not gonna sell the inn?” Sookie squeals, jumping up and hugging Lorelai. “Thank you, thank you!”

Lorelai chuckles and pats Sookie’s shoulder. “Now that’s the reaction I was going for!”

“Wait, why would Luke be upset?”

“I know, right? That’s what I said!”

“But…”

“Honestly, I don’t know. He starting saying that I didn’t really want to stay in Stars Hollow and I was only doing it because he’s here. Then there was a lot of yelling and he told me he didn’t want me to regret my decision… and then left! And,” Lorelai breaths, “I haven’t heard from him since…”

“That’s crazy! Men are crazy,” Sookie states, matter-of-factly.

“It just doesn’t make sense. A few days ago, he was angry that I was even thinking of taking the job, and now he’s mad that I’m not! How does that – UGH! I don’t even know what to think anymore.”

“Have you talked to him?”

“I tried, but Caesar told me he wasn’t feeling well and was upstairs in his apartment. I know it’s just his excuse to get away, but, well, I don’t want to push him. I mean, remember what happened the last time I pushed him?” Lorelai asks in a shaky voice. “I don’t want to go through that again.”

“Oh, hon, he’s learned his lesson – he won’t do that to you again.”

“I guess…”

“He’ll come around.”

“I just wish we could talk,” Lorelai replies, thinking of the secrets they’ve both kept from each other lately and their utter lack of communication.

Misinterpreting, Sookie replies, “Well, you can talk.”

“Huh?”

Sookie points toward the street. Lorelai’s breath catches in her throat as her eyes land on Luke, shuffling nervously at the corner of the block. Sookie grins at her and Lorelai shakes her head, but can’t hide the smile on her face as she hands Sookie’s daughter over to her. “I guess we should talk now.”

“Yep.”

“Wish me luck.”

“You won’t need it,” Sookie assures her.

Lorelai stuffs her hands into her jeans pockets as she heads over to where Luke is standing. She stops before approaching him completely, and examines him curiously. Noticing her hesitation, Luke closes the gap between them, tentatively grasping her hand. When she doesn’t pull away, he squeezes her hand and, in a raspy voice, begins, “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to yell and just… completely lose it. You don’t deserve that. It’s just, well…” He pauses and Lorelai looks up hopefully at him. “You know…”

“I know?” she repeats, baffled.

“The uh, inn and stuff. I just don’t want you to regret giving up the opportunity to do something you love.”

“Luke,” she says seriously, locking her arms around his neck, “you have to believe me when I say I don’t want to take this job. I just want to be with you, okay?”

He hesitates, causing a lump to form in her throat. She closes her eyes, silently begging him to agree, to understand. She doesn’t know how to make him believe, but wants nothing more than to know that he can trust her. She remembers, suddenly, the skeptical look she caught in his eyes the night of her proposal, and wonders, just fleetingly, whether the two instances are connected. However, his voice, soft but deep in her ear, brings her back to reality as he whispers, “Okay.”

She nods and smiles up at him, forcing away the tears of relief that threaten to spill. Instead, she takes a quivering breath and nods forcefully. “Good.”

Luke leans forward and places a soft kiss on Lorelai’s lips. She reaches up and wraps her arms around his neck, pulling him closer and intensifying their embrace. When their lips part, Luke leans his forehead against hers and breathlessly admits, “I hate fighting with you.”

“Yeah… I’m not too fond of it myself.”

He nods, pulling away slightly. “So... You want some coffee?”

Lorelai gasps. “Do you even have to ask?” She links arms with Luke as they head toward the diner, loving that the tension between them has lightened drastically. “Hey, Luke?”

“Hmm?”

“Would you ever consider getting a dog?”

“No,” he states forcefully. “They’re annoying, they have bad breath, and they eat your garbage. What good could possibly come out of that?”

Lorelai grins at him before leaning her head against his shoulder contently. “Thank you,” she whispers.


XIII.
Rory sits down cautiously on the edge of the bed. Aside from the night she spent with Logan, she has yet to sleep on this bed. The room just seems so lonely, and that box is still sitting on the floor, stealing away any last ounce of bravery. But now, she stares down determinately at her cell phone, willing it, as she does every night, to ring. It doesn’t, of course. It never does.

It’s been a week since she last spoke to her mother. She knows that if Lorelai hasn’t called by now, she isn’t going to call at all. This revelation truly hurt. Although they have fought before, this situation is different. The truth is, they technically aren’t even fighting. Lorelai is just too disappointed in Rory to call. Rory, on the other hand, knows that, if she calls her mother, the regret that she has buried so well over the past week will force its way to the surface. She hasn’t found herself yet, and, no matter how much her mother might want it, she cannot go back to her old life.

Yet, she’s sick of sitting here and waiting for something to happen. If her mother isn’t going to call, then she should! After all, Rory just wants to hear her mother’s voice again. Even though it’s childish and she wishes she could ignore the ache in her chest, she misses her mother dearly. “Just a hello,” she mutters, while she dials the familiar number. As the phone rings, she tells herself not to expect anything, tries to ignore that annoyingly optimistic voice in her head that thinks maybe, just maybe her mother will let her come home. Maybe her mother will accept her choices.

“Hello?”

“Mom?” Rory squeaks and inwardly chides herself for sounding so juvenile.

“Rory? Sorry, I didn’t realize. I, uh, didn’t check the caller ID before I picked up.”

“Oh. Sorry.”

“No, don’t be sorry, I was just… surprised, that’s all.”

“Oh.”

After a pause, Lorelai asks, “How are things?”

“Things are good. I mean, Grandma and Grandpa are great. They’re letting me stay in the pool house, which… I guess you knew already,” she adds hastily, remembering the pained look on her mother’s face as she had watched Rory through the window that night. “You?”

“Yeah, things are good here, too. Busy, but good.”

“Oh. Well, that’s… good.”

“Yeah. Um, did you call for a reason? Not that I didn’t want you to call,” Lorelai adds, “but I wasn’t expecting it.”

“Oh, no. I just… wanted to say hi.”

“Oh, okay.”

Is that disappointment she detects in her mother’s voice? Does Lorelai want something else? Maybe she wants the same thing Rory wants… maybe she misses her, maybe she wants her daughter to come home, after all. “Mom?”

“Yeah?”

Rory pauses, biting her lip. “I, um, I was wondering if maybe – I mean, it’s been a week and I was just wondering…” Rory pauses, inhaling deeply and closing her eyes. “Can I come home?”

The phone line goes silent for an excruciating long minute, as Rory’s heart pounds loudly in her ears. “Are you going back to Yale?”

Rory frowns, but confidently states, “No.”

She can hear her mother suck in a deep breath, before promptly exhaling against the phone. “Then no, Rory, you can’t come home.”

“But… I don’t understand!” She pauses, fighting back the angry tears that threaten to spill. How could she say no? How could she possibly say no? “I’m your daughter!”

“I know and I love you, Rory. But you can’t come back if you aren’t gonna to live by my rules. Okay, I understand that I can’t pull out my mom card like I did with Chilton and force you to go; it just doesn’t work that way anymore. You’re grown up now and, if you’re going to making decisions on your own, then you have to see them through. Sometimes,” she adds sadly, “without me.”

“I can’t believe this! Look, I’m not asking that you approve, I’m just asking that I can come back to my own house!”

“But it’s not your house, Rory.”

“But… what happened to us being a democracy and, you know, ‘what’s yours is mine, unless it’s underwear’?”

“Then I guess I’ve misled you.”

“I can’t believe this,” Rory breathes. “I can’t believe you!

“Rory –”

“You know what?” Rory asks, unable to restrain the tears from falling any longer. “I have to go.”

“Look, why don’t we get together, okay? We can talk about this in person and maybe –“

“NO!” Rory screams, losing all restraint as she falls apart in a way she has rarely experienced before. That relationship – that perfect, beautiful, enviable relationship between the two of them is gone, and, in its place is just some cheap imitation; two people, almost strangers, pretending to be something more. Why hadn’t she noticed it before? “I thought I knew you; I guess I was wrong.”

Lorelai inhales sharply at this, but responds evenly, “I guess so.”

“Aren’t you even going to cry?” Rory demands, angry that she’s more upset about their lost relationship than her mother. “Aren’t you even going to shed a tear over this?”

“What good would it do?”

“I don’t even know you anymore. Whoever this ‘new’ mother is, well, I really, really hate her.”

“Rory…” she begins in a pained tone. It’s the crack in her voice that finally gives Rory some satisfaction, shows that maybe she’s hurt her mother as much as Lorelai had hurt her.

Rory hangs up.

However, the silence only hurts more. She hears the pained tone of her mother’s voice, washing away any remnants of her previous satisfaction. In the past, Rory has only wanted to protect her mother, not cause her pain. But that hate, painfully familiar, the same she had felt last year, when Lorelai had expressed her disapproval of her relationship with Dean, has bubbled to the surface again. She isn’t going to let Lorelai’s standards ruin her own vision of life – despite the fact that she hasn't quite decided what that vision entails yet.

Rory swipes at the tears on her cheeks, hastily drying them with the back of her hand, as she stumbles into the living room. She isn’t sure what she wants – coffee, a book, perhaps – but stops dead in her tracks when she sees her grandmother sitting casually on the couch. Rory hastily pushes away her sadness, wondering but afraid to ask how much of the phone conversation her grandmother has overheard.

“Rory!” she greets. “I was just here to collect your laundry.”

“Oh, uh, doesn’t Sarah usually do that?”

“No, we had to let Sarah go,” she states dismissively, “and we’re in between maids at the moment, unfortunately.”

“It’s okay, Grandma. I can do my own…”

“Nonsense! The agency is sending someone over tomorrow, so I thought I’d just gather everything in one place for her. It’s hard to find good help these days and, well, I might as well make sure they do their job correctly, right?”

“Right. Well, uh, let me just get those clothes for you then…”

“Wonderful.”

Rory nods and takes a deep breath, before turning away. "Oh!” Rory states suddenly, facing her grandmother again. “I’m sorry, how rude of me, Grandma. Would you like something to eat or drink? I actually don’t have much, besides for a can of Pringles and coffee, but…”

“Coffee sounds excellent, thank you.”

Rory nods. “Two coffees, coming right up.”

"While you're doing that, why don't I get your laundry?"

"Oh, that's not necessary."

"No, I insist. Kill two birds with one stone, right?”

Knowing that she isn’t going to win this battle, Rory reluctantly nods in agreement. “The laundry basket is on the floor in the bedroom… next to the door.”

“Okay,” she replies cheerfully, “I’ll be right back!”

When Emily enters the bedroom, she pauses to scan its contents. She notices the laundry basket right away, but ignores it. The room is fairly empty, aside from a lone cardboard box sitting beside the foot of the bed, She approaches box slowly and turns it so that she can read its markings. “Newspaper stuff,” Emily whispers to herself. She drags her fingers along the sides, wondering just how far she can go before she’s intruding upon her granddaughter’s privacy. Sometimes, she reminds herself, Privacy is meant to be broken. If it will help bring her closer to helping Rory, she promises herself, it’s necessary.

So, Emily opens the box and studies the contents: the Yale merchandise, the many issues of school newspapers, the clippings of articles by Rory’s most beloved journalists…

“Grandma?” she hears Rory call from the other room. “Did you find it?”

“Oh, yes,” she replies. “Just found it!”

Emily hastily closes the box and grabs the laundry basket from its spot on the floor, before giving Rory’s room one last look-over. All she knows now is that Rory had given up on her dream, and, from what she had recently overheard from Rory’s phone conversation with Lorelai, her daughter had given up on Rory’s dream, as well; or, at least, given up on forcing Rory to follow her former ambitions. That leaves Emily as the last person to believe in the strength of Rory’s dreams, to salvage what is left of their power. It’s a heavy burden to carry upon her shoulders alone, but Emily has never cowered away from challenges before.

When Emily returns to the living room with the laundry basket, Rory brings over to cups of coffee and places them on the coffee table.

“Can I at least take the basket to the house for you?”

“No thank you. You know… a little exercise never hurt anyone,” Emily replies with a wink.

“Okay, if you’re sure…”

“I am.”

“Okay.

Rory pauses nervously. “I’m fine.”

Emily nods. “Well, remember, if you want to talk about anything, I’m here…”

“Thank you. I appreciate that.”

“Not a problem. That’s what grandmothers are for, after all.” Emily sits down and sips her coffee as she looks around the room casually. “Have you been had a guest over?” Emily asks, gestuting to the pillow and blanket that Rory has folded neatly in a pile on the couch.

“Oh, no. I just sometimes fall asleep on the couch… you know, I get book and… I don’t mean to.”

“I know how that is,” Emily replies with a chuckle. “Your grandfather is the same way. Speaking of which… I hear you’re doing well at your grandfather’s work.”

Rory shrugs. “He’s been an amazing help.”

“You know, since you’ve begun working for him, he’s come home every night and raved about how wonderful it is to have his granddaughter with him all day.”

“Has he?” she asks, blushing slightly.

“Oh, yes. It gets lonely in the office sometimes…”

“Yeah, I could tell.”

“He says you have quite a talent for the insurance business…”

“I don’t know about that.”

“Don’t be so modest!” Emily enthuses, squeezing Rory’s free hand. “Have you thought of going into insurance after college?”

“A little.”

“And what do you think?”

Rory laughs. “I don’t know yet. I mean, I just started…”

“Of course. Forgive me for being so pushy.”

“You’re not.”

“But you have? Been thinking about it, that is?”

“Yeah,” she replies casually.

“Interesting. Now, what happened to journalism?”

“Oh, well – uh – it just… didn’t work out.”

“That’s a shame. You’ve written some of the best articles I’ve read in years. Well, it’s getting late; I should get going,” Emily finishes, grabbing the laundry basket and standing. “Good night. I’ll see you for breakfast tomorrow morning.”


XIV.
After Lorelai’s conversation with Rory abruptly came to an end, she hung up the phone and stared into space. She half-noticed each time Luke threw a concerned look in her direction, but was too shocked about the whole ordeal to speak. However, now, Luke has finished his nightly closing rituals and forces her attention upon him by sitting across from her.

“You wanna talk about it?”

Lorelai nods, looking down at her hands as she speaks. “I told her she couldn’t come home; I told my own daughter to stay away from me," she wails. "I had to do it, though, you know? I mean, if she really is trying to find herself and what I think is her isn’t… her, then she can’t be around me. We’ll fight or… or… I’ll influence her again. I’ll make her believe that what I want for her is what she wants, when it really isn’t. I can’t do that. I have to – I need to…” Lorelai pauses to gather her thoughts. “I’ll stay away until she finds herself.”

“You don’t have to totally stay away.”

“No, I do; I really do. If I see her, I’ll tell her what I think, which is that she’s throwing her life away. She’s throwing her life away with Logan, with her ‘time off’, with her search for anything but her original dream.”

“Then you’re doing what’s best for her.”

Lorelai nods sadly. “I just… wish she could see that.”

“She will… eventually.” Lorelai looks up at Luke, her eyes shining with unshed tears. “I have faith in her; I have faith in you.” Lorelai smiles slightly and Luke reaches across the table and grasps her hand. “Personally, I still think we should kidnap her and force her to go to classes, but I’m thinkin’ that isn’t the best remedy."

“No,” she replies with a laugh. “But thanks for the thought.”

“Any time. Wanna call it a night?”

Lorelai nods gratefully. “Best suggestion I’ve heard all day.”

Luke rolls his eyes and helps her out of her chair, immediately wrapping his arm around her shoulder as they walk toward the stairs. Lorelai leans into his loose embrace, silently reveling in the comfort that his touch brings. She’s suddenly overcome by relief that he’s there with her, holding her, keeping her from falling apart. Although the thought is scary and completely unlike her, she is sure she would not have gotten this far without him.

A/N: Credit for the line about Jackson having to live in the doghouse goes to my mother. She constantly says that to my dad, and it's one of the only times I ever laugh at her jokes, heh.
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