Authors' Note: Thanks to sosmitten and Avery for being fantastic as always, betaing and in general. Comments are love. sosmitten and Avery, you both have great patience and great attention to detail. Thanks for being so understanding, and for ensuring this story could be everything we all hoped for.
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"I have to applaud the
pomegranate for the whole antioxidant, attention-grabbing ploy of the last few
years," Lorelai said, spearing another bite of chicken with the tines of her
fork. "While it's not really my favorite Biblical fruit, since the juice tastes
like death, and I honestly never really thought I'd like fruit all over my
chicken, this sauce is boss."
Rory nodded. "I also like the whole tiny individual chicken thing, it's very festive."
"They're Cornish game hens, Rory,
not tiny chickens," Emily said. She held her wine glass aloft, pausing before
she took a sip. "I'm glad you like them."
"I do! God, I've missed these
dinners," Rory sighed, sitting back in her chair. She had been back in
Connecticut only a few days, having left New Hampshire just after the primary
results came in and she'd filed her story.
Richard regarded his granddaughter fondly and chuckled as he spoke. "Not often the intrepid reporter gets a home-cooked meal on the road, I suppose."
"We'll have to make sure to have your very favorites while you're home," Emily said. "Bear you up before you go back on the campaign trail." She wiped the corners of her mouth with a napkin. "How long will you be home, Rory?"
Rory reached for her own wine glass, her eyes fixed on the rim of her plate. Lorelai cocked her head, regarding her daughter with a sardonic, slightly pinched smile. "Yeah, Rory, how long will you be home?"
She waved her hand noncommittally. "Oh, you know. Super Tuesday's coming up." She toyed with the pile of rice pilaf on her plate. "What they should really do is hook Harlan up with Alton Brown and a map, get all the best roadside fare ahead of time so they're not stuck at like, the Cluckin' Ducklin' and Turkey Roast, purveyor of fine meat products and basement brews."
"Please tell me you're joking," Emily said.
"Oh, would that I were, Grandma."
"It's a shame, given how hard you work. Your mother told us you didn't even see a hotel bed during the New Hampshire debate evening," Emily continued.
"One night, two debates," Lorelai intoned. "With your hosts, Charlie Gibson and the Local Area Network Anchor's Terror-Inducing Comb Over!"
"Yeah," Rory said, shifting in her seat. "It was a lot." She swallowed thickly, and, with a swift glance at either end of the table, plastered a smile on her face, and asked what was for dessert.
"Hey, do they serve chicken at the Cluckin' Ducklin' and Turkey Roast, Rory?" Lorelai asked innocently. "Big chickens? Little chickens? Chickens in fine couture?"
Rory narrowed her eyes. "Can't say, Mom. But speaking of couture, Grandma, did Mom tell you about the dress she bought for the fancy convention at the Inn? So great, with the sparkles and the slit that goes all the way up to her thigh."
Lorelai's mouth fell open, and as Emily rose to get her day planner to call Miss Celine, leaned over her plate, hissing, "Dirty! Foul and dirty tactic, little girl!"
Rory reached for her wine glass again, smirking. "Play to win, Mom."
♫ ♫ ♫
It had been a quiet ride, marked only by lame chit chat and a deer sighting off 84. They were nearly to Stars Hollow, Lorelai practically twitching where she sat, when she finally let loose.
"I cannot believe you didn't tell them! You've had two weeks!" she burst out. "Rory!"
Rory buried her face in her hands. "I know, I know! And I want to tell them, except I don't want to tell them, so I just keep putting it off. They're going to be so disappointed."
"Well, I hate to break it to you, sweets, but you still have to tell them. And soon, preferably, because I do not enjoy lying to my parents when nothing fun happens at the end."
"Like what?" Rory asked.
"You know. Naked man jumps out of a cake, or a Democrat gets elected to the White House." She glanced sidelong at her daughter. "I understand, Rory, I do, but these are your grandparents. They love you. They certainly like you a hell of a lot more than they like me. And you've certainly done far worse things than quit a job you didn't like for which they have forgiven you, repeatedly." She held up a hand. "I admit, it's not going to be fun, and my father has a history of asking very tough questions not even the roster of the One Night, Two Debates politicians could answer, but they'll come around. They want what's best for you, and if this job wasn't it, they'll understand. Eventually." She paused. "Hopefully before you're twenty-five, but definitely before you're thirty. Your track record with them is, after all, much better than mine."
"I know. You're right. I just—I hate the thought of seeing that look on their faces. That sad, we-expected-so-much-from-you-and-now-what look," Rory sighed.
Lorelai shrugged. "Rip off the band-aid, kid. Expose the wound. It must be done."
Rory turned to the window, jutted her chin out in frustration. "Can you drop me at Lane's? I want to borrow a few of the CDs she got for Christmas."
Outside Lane's apartment, Lorelai leaned over and brushed a kiss against Rory's cheek. "Cheer up, kid. If all else fails, cry. It never worked for me, but you're so much prettier than I was."
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It was dead quiet at Lane's: Zach was strumming an air guitar as he attempted to compose something silently, and Lane asked Rory what she wanted in her coffee in a bare whisper.
"You look—" Lane sought for a word. "You look like someone's forcing you to go to a Jeffrey Dean Morgan rom-com triple bill."
Rory smiled a little. "I have to tell my grandparents about quitting," she admitted softly. "So I have to let them down and relive my own mediocrity in one stunningly awkward conversation."
Lane rolled her eyes. "First, you're not mediocre, and second, they'll be fine with it once you tell them. But the longer you put it off, the worse it'll be when you actually do tell them. Better just to come out and say it instead of avoid them or lie to them. Trust me," she joked. "I grew up with Mama Kim. I know of what I speak."
Rory opened her mouth to go on when a long, hearty wail sounded from the back bedroom. Lane dropped her forehead to the tabletop, groaning, "Three, two—" A second, thin cry began in earnest, and both parents got to their feet, Zach clapping his hands together as though to prepare himself for a long speech. Lane rested a hand on Rory's shoulder and squeezed.
"I'm going to help him—you want to hang here for a little while? As soon as the boys go down we can watch Top Model on MTV. With no sound, because it wakes the boys, but it's also so much better that way. Zach and I do it all the time, it's like a silent movie of crazy."
"Sure," Rory said. "I'll make some more coffee."
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Lorelai was ushering the elder
Belleville kids into the diner, just as Luke stepped out of the kitchen. After
quickly scanning the room and acknowledging Patty and Babette in the corner,
Lorelai realized the place was packed and the only spare seats were at the
counter. Once she had helped Davey and Martha onto their stools, she plopped
herself down as a cup full of steaming coffee appeared in front of her.
"I think the last time I was able to sleep in on a weekend was in 1976," Lorelai groaned, grabbing for the cup.
"How is it that you don't know that children tend to get up early, no matter what day of the week it is?" Luke inquired as he supplied the kids with glasses of milk.
"Because I have this amazing chef-slash-childcare expert sleeping in my bed who conveniently likes to get up early too!"
"I'm hardly an expert, Lorelai," Luke replied. "Have you forgotten the tragedy from yesterday when I tried to put a band-aid on Martha's skinned knee?"
"Well gee Luke, everybody knows that Elmo band-aids are for little kids, and Bratz are all the rage with the more sophisticated three and over crowd."
"Forgive me for not giving in to commercialism. So, what'll it be? Omelette? Scrambled eggs? Or are you going to go crazy and order pancakes? Again."
"Hmm, surprise me!"
Immediately, Luke refused, shaking his head and waving his hand back and forth. "Uh uh, no way. The last time I did that, you kept sending it back and asking for another surprise. I'm not going to force my customers to eat your discard food again."
"Oh come on, admit it. It was fun!"
"Tell that to my food supply."
"Ok, pancakes please. And make sure they're extr..."
"Extra fluffy. Jeez, I know. You've been ordering them that way half your life. Don't you think I know already?"
Lorelai straightened slightly, alerted by his tone. "Wow, who tied your boxers in a knot this morning?"
"No one, it's just..." he looked towards the two children who were giggling and blowing bubbles in their milk, and leaned in closer to Lorelai, "I just didn't realize how exhausting it was having kids. I mean, not having them, but taking care of them. And I thought April was tough."
"Didn't realize kids aren't born with the ability to dress themselves, huh?" Lorelai teased.
"Yeah, when do they learn to you know..." he circled his hand, suggesting the end of his sentence.
Lorelai leaned further forward and queried, "You know... what?"
"You know," he emphasized, "take care of themselves in the... bathroom."
"You mean like washing their hair?" she asked in feigned confusion, grinning at him.
Rolling his eyes, Luke sighed and said, "No, I mean, when do they learn to wipe their own butts?"
Lorelai laughed, almost slapping the counter with glee. "I can't believe I got you to talk about kids' bodily functions in the diner!"
"Pancakes for the kids, too?" he asked, turning towards the kitchen.
"Hey, wait a minute, I have news I think you're gonna like."
He turned on the spot and looked at her through skeptical eyes.
"Sookie called. She said that she and Jackson will be back tomorrow. Which means no more pretend parenting, no more toys strewn through the house, no more middle of the night requests for water, no more noise, no more cartoons at 6am, no more cooking bland food that doesn't resemble anything green or healthy, no more..."
"Ok, I got it. Is this another short visit, or are they back for good this time?"
"Well she said the funeral was yesterday, and Jackson and his family are almost done sorting through his mother's things, so I'm pretty sure this time's for keeps."
Luke nodded thoughtfully, his
eyes trained on her. She knew he understood how hard it was to lose a parent.
They shared a sober glance for a moment before a faint smile began tugging at the corners of his lips. "So, tomorrow, huh? Any particular time?"
"They'll be gone by the time you get done here," she told him, smiling knowingly.
"So what are you thinking? Movie in Litchfield? Maybe dinner?"
"Well, the Firelight Festival is on Friday. Want to take your beautiful girlfriend?"
"I was thinking plans more immediate than Friday. And no.oh"
"Oh come on! You know I'll break you down. Just say yes and get it over with."
"We'll discuss it later."
"Wow, you're caving faster in your old age, Grandpa. How about I make the plans, you just meet me at the palace after you find my glass slipper."
"Translated that means...?"
"Home after work."
"Sounds good," Luke grinned at her.
Lorelai smiled back, and after a moment, asked, "Hey Luke?"
♫ ♫ ♫
Although she heard the bells
above the diner door jingling, Lorelai didn't turn to see who had entered,
preferring to shovel the last forkful of pancakes into her mouth while guzzling
the rest of her coffee. Luke stood opposite her, a look of disgust on his face.
"What?" she asked around the mouthful.
"I'm just trying to figure out how I could possibly be attracted to you right now."
"Come here," Lorelai beckoned with a terrible wink. "I'll show you."
"No thanks. I think I'll keep my distance until that particular image of you is a distant memory."
"Excuse me, Luke," Kirk interrupted rudely.
While shaking his head at Lorelai, Luke replied distractedly, "What is it, Kirk?"
"I've organized for you to meet with Luigi tomorrow at 11 am. I'm sure you'll be able to take a break from the diner at approximately 10:45 am, giving you enough time to arrive at his store by the agreed upon appointment." He stood straight, speaking with as much authority as a Gleason could muster. Perhaps less, considering he was essentially the runt of the family.
Grabbing the coffee pot to make a round through the tables, Luke asked, "What the hell are you talking about, Kirk?"
"I've made you an appointment for your fitting," he replied in a matter-of-fact manner.
"What fitting, Kirk? Don't tell me you've been eating too much sugar again."
"No, I've managed to reduce my glucose intake to a mere 12 teaspoons per cup of hot chocolate, which I switched to after my doctor recommended I stop drinking caffeine because I was suffering from insomnia. Since then, I've been achieving an almost regular sleeping pattern - aside from the nights I sleep over at Lulu's - you know..." Kirk winked at Luke.
"Don't wink at me!"
"With the reduction in sugar, I think I'll be able to escape the family diabetes curse by the time I reach mother's age."
"What is this appointment about? And who is Luigi?"
"It's for your tux."
Lorelai, who had been listening in while cleaning up the mess Davey and Martha had made of themselves, snapped her head around at Kirk's comment, instantly intrigued by the conversation. She spotted Patty and Babette grinning with glee, unabashedly eavesdropping on every word. She couldn't help the giggle that escaped her lips, but the moment she caught Luke's death stare, she quickly quieted.
In as calm a manner as he could muster, Luke asked slowly, "Tux for what, Kirk?"
Luke carried on past the tables, stopping to refill Gypsy's and Andrew's cups. "I'm not wearing a tux to your wedding, Kirk."
Following a few steps behind him, Kirk argued, "But you have to Luke! Lulu says that everyone in the wedding party has to match, otherwise we'll look back at our wedding photos in 20 years and regret letting everyone wear whatever they want!"
Luke stopped short beside Patty, causing Kirk to bump into him from behind. "Wedding party? Kirk, I'm NOT in your wedding party."
"Yes you are."
"No I'm not, Kirk."
Lorelai made her way over next to Babette and whispered, "Wow, this is better than watching Federer and Roddick."
"Yes, you're my best man. Every groom has a best man, Luke."
Luke shook his head, "Well why are you asking me? Did all of your brothers turn you down or something?"
"I haven't asked them," Kirk responded.
"Then don't come back until
you've asked every other male in Stars Hollow over the age of four, and they've
all turned you down."
"Get out, Kirk."
Kirk wavered a moment, as if mentally calculating just how mad Luke was at that moment, and chose to escape before he was banned from the diner yet again.
Lorelai returned to the counter to help the children down from their stools, then grabbed her handbag. "Good one, hon," she said to Luke, sidling up to him, "you almost got him to throw a tantrum rivaling these two." She laughed, pointing towards the children.
"If he comes back in here today..."
"Don't worry, I'll tell him to stay away," Lorelai placated, patting his chest.
Sighing, Luke tore his gaze from the image of Kirk, who was pacing up and down the sidewalk across the street, and looked at Lorelai. "You heading out now?"
She nodded. "Yep, it's the Great Candyland Challenge today. No holds barred, all out fight to the uh... til the sugar high wears off."
"So I should expect to find you all in a coma when I'm done here?"
"Something like that," Lorelai smiled, leaning in to kiss him quickly. "See you at home?"
"Count on it."
After she had ushered the kids outside, Luke resumed pouring coffee, resting a friendly hand on Patty's shoulder.
"You know Luke," Patty began, "You and Lorelai really seem to have gotten yourselves back on track."
"Yeah, and helpin' her with Sookie and Jackson's offspring like you're doin' must be makin' you both think about havin' little ones of your own," Babette added.
Although he was caught off-guard by the comment, he couldn't help but chuckle at her words. "You haven't taken care of kids much, have you Babette?" She shrugged and shook her head before Luke added, "I think we both have enough going on in our lives right now, Babette."
"So, Luke," Patty said, elbowing him in the side, "when are you going to pop the
"Pop the..? What?" Luke was confused, afraid of what these two were really saying.
"Yeah Luke! Don't ya want to make an honest woman out a' Lorelai and propose already?" Babette chimed in.
Bewildered, Luke babbled something about checking on their order in spite of the two empty plates already discarded on their table, and hurried back into the kitchen before they could make any more suggestions about his private life.
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She'd spent the morning counting towels and robes, and now Rory was feeling restless. She bounded down the stairs towards the front desk, her clipboard clutched to her chest, and greeted Michel more cheerfully than she felt. She was having lunch with her grandmother in less than an hour, and the banality of a linen inventory had kept her only slightly distracted. The speech she had rehearsed in the last two days ran on repeat in her head, and every time she heard it, it sounded less and less mature and more pathetically indecisive. She stepped behind the desk with Michel, set her clipboard down, and shook her hair out of its ponytail, determining to be optimistic. Or at the very least, to fake it.
"What's the what, Michel? Things hopping down here?"
"Hardly," he drawled. "I have been waiting here for twenty minutes for someone to relieve me so that I can go to the bathroom."
Rory giggled. "You need to be relieved so you can relieve yourself?" she asked.
His upper lip curled almost imperceptibly. "I do not know why I talk to you."
"Well, I'm very charming," Rory said. "And I'm here, so go pee."
"Touch nothing," he said. "Nothing."
She waited until he was around the corner to slide into his place behind the computer. Patrick had promised her an update on her replacement, and she'd been hoping for an email from him since the new girl arrived on Friday morning. At the very least, Rory thought, this new girl would have the three-day Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend at the heels of her first full week on the road. Rory jiggled the mouse, and the screen jumped to life. She furrowed her brow, seeing what was in the open browser window, and moved the arrow towards the address bar to change the page. She hesitated a moment, her eyes scanning the page, and when she realized what she saw, reached immediately for the phone, riveted now to the screen before her.
"Michel, if you have to pee that badly, just leave the desk, I'm in the middle of—"
"Mom," Rory interrupted, "You need to come to the front desk immediately. I have something I need to show you and it can't wait. It can't wait."
When Lorelai rounded the corner towards the foyer, she looked harried and irritated. She was decidedly without enthusiasm when Rory waved her behind the desk, but her entire expression lifted when she read what was on the screen before her.
"Rory, oh, Rory. Well done, babe. Gold star," she said, her tone hushed and awed. "A match.com profile for our very own Michel. I'm just—I am truly speechless."
Rory pointed. "Screen name: l'homme bombe."
"Well, we always suspected," Lorelai giggled. "Oh, God, his interests: Chows."
"Bien sűr," Rory said. "Dancing, fine dining—"
"As long as there are no carbs, sugars, fats, or oils," Lorelai added. "Decoupage, of course, and the fine art of scrapbooking, art, history, cinema—"
"Cinema," Rory trilled. "Fancy pants movies, none of that Pirates crap for our Michel."
"Wine, theater, shopping," Lorelai continued, "speaking in French behind people's backs…"
"'Preferably seeking mate with similar interests and desire for many more Chows,'" Rory marveled. "Mom, Michel wants to get married so he can start having Chows! I don't know whether to laugh or cry."
Lorelai snorted. "I do." She elbowed Rory to move over. "Okay, let's fix this thing, he is so not getting enough hits here."
They heard Michel before they saw him. "No, Maddie, I told you he is not allowed to socialize at the dog park. I do not want him associating with—" He paused when he reached the desk and saw mother and daughter studiously ignoring him. "Paw-Paw is very delicate, this is all," he said. He hung up, regarding the Lorelais through narrowed eyes. "I do not like the way you two look together."
"Really?" Lorelai asked. "Because that one year, Olan Mills put us in their front window."
"We were the talk of Westfarms for literally days," Rory added. As Lorelai shuffled some papers and made to leave, Rory touched her sleeve. "Grandma's coming for lunch," she said.
"That'll be fun. Like a trailer for Cloverfield," Lorelai replied.
"Not funny," Rory hissed. "I'm nervous!"
Lorelai blew her a kiss as she walked away. "I've seen those promos, kid, and there's hardly any carnage!"
♫ ♫ ♫
They had made it through salad and small talk by the time Rory felt brave enough to even broach the subject of her job. Emily had been chatting about the spa, nattering on in a way Rory knew she could keep up for a good half hour and the remainder of the lunch if no one else threw her hat into the conversational ring. Taking advantage of a brief pause while her grandmother asked for a fresh glass of ice water, Rory cleared her throat and set down her fork.
"Grandma, I need to talk to you seriously about something," she began.
"Oh, Rory, please tell me your mother hasn't recruited you into this ridiculous plan of offering catalogues for handmade products for the spa—for heaven's sake, I've seen that goop masquerading as soap and it's disgraceful!"
Rory smoothed her napkin in her lap. "No, Grandma, this isn't about Mom's Lush fixation. This is about something else. About work."
Emily sat up noticeably in her chair. "Oh?"
"I don't know—I mean, I know you don't know, because I didn't tell you and I promised Mom to secrecy, but… suffice to say it hasn't been going all that well," Rory said. She kept her eyes on Emily's left earring. It was a tear-drop shaped pearl, pinkish, and wobbling slightly in her grandmother's well-kept bell of a hairdo.
"Suffice to say?" Emily echoed. "And how is that sufficient to say, Rory? This is the first—"
Rory dropped her eyes. "I know. I don't know what to tell you, I'm just—I haven't been happy." She looked up but couldn't meet Emily's gaze. "I haven't been happy," she repeated. "I have been… miserable," she decided, and nodded her head as she spoke, almost to herself. "It's not what I thought it would be. It's not what I wanted. I'm not even sure what I thought it would be, and now I'm not even sure what I want. But this job isn't it. I don't know if this kind of reporting is it. I just know I couldn't do that job anymore."
Emily said nothing for a long, dreadful moment. Rory looked up, if only to end the horrible anticipation of sitting there before her and not knowing what might come next. Emily was watching her with a cool look of appraisal that at once frightened her and relieved her: she was taking this too calmly, but she didn't appear to be mad. Rory's face and hands grew numb with cold when she remembered that this, more than anything else, was a dangerous look.
"And so, what?" Emily asked, her tone cutting. "You've just quit?"
"I quit," Rory said quietly. "The primaries in New Hampshire were my last assignment; my replacement met up with the campaign on Friday. I hear she's good."
"You do, do you?" Emily asked. "Would you like to say anything else terribly vague before I go? Something noncommittal and vapid, such as how you have so much more time now to figure out what your real calling is? Perhaps that all you need is a little time and space to sort out your priorities and find a new path? Some new age drivel about discovering your purpose?"
Rory felt the sting as though she'd been slapped. "I don't know what to say to you, Grandma."
Emily sipped her water and laughed bitterly. "Oh, my dear. You don't need to say anything more, I've heard it all before from your mother. And, now that I recall, your father. You certainly seem to come from an excellent line of quitters."
"That is not fair," Rory said, finally looking her grandmother full in the face with blazing eyes. "This was my decision, however crappy it may turn out to be. I can't blame anyone else—I don't blame anyone else, and for you to say that..."
Without another word, Emily rose and drew herself to her full height, dropping her napkin on her plate. Rory expected her to gather her things and leave, but watched in bewilderment as her grandmother instead stalked through the dining room to the back hall. She followed after a moment, her steps tentative, as though she were afraid to be caught.
"Mom, it would be really great if you could calm down—"
Emily stood before Lorelai's desk, hands on her hips, her posture irate. Lorelai remained seated, her arms crossed over her chest and her chin low. She seemed tired more than anything, Rory thought, and sad.
"I will not calm down, Lorelai Gilmore! I have seen you do plenty of stupid things in your life—"
"Christ on a cracker," Lorelai sighed. "Yeah, Mom, asking the stylist to make me look like Mallory Keaton was a good one. I'm sorry to have disappointed on that one."
"How can you let her—"
"She's an adult now, Mom! Much as it kills me to admit it," Lorelai said. "Look at her, she matriculated and graduated, and she's tall, she's fully capable of deciding things for herself! And I trust her to do that, I do, and so should you. Much as it might not seem like it to you right now, Mom, that girl is going to be Mary Tyler Moore some day."
"Honestly, Lorelai, your parenting decisions—"
"Are not up for discussion," Lorelai said firmly. "I refuse to let you take this out on me, Mom, and I refuse to let you berate my kid for doing what she thought she needed to. This is Rory's life, okay? It may not be an Anne Hathaway movie right now, but she's trying to work it out. If you can't cut her any slack, cut me some."
Rory hung back in the doorway, waiting. Lorelai didn't spare a look her way, and she could tell by her mother's posture that she was just holding herself back. Another word and the office would be Chernobyl.
Emily shook her head. "I wash my hands of you both," she said. "Please thank Sookie for the lovely lunch."
Lorelai waited until Emily's heels stopped echoing in the narrow hall outside her office before she spoke to Rory or even acknowledged her presence in the room. "I love you, Rory, but I swear, I am not taking the heat for this one. This is your thing, babe. You have to fix this with her."
Before she could reply, Michel burst into the office, breathless and already whining. "You changed my password! How long has my profile said, ‘I love Celine? Do you love Celine? Let's meet!' You are wretched! Wretched!"
Rory covered her eyes with her hand. "So it would seem."
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Lorelai entered the house, calling for Luke and Paul Anka as she shrugged off her coat and scarf. When she was only met with the four-legged male, she sighed, and ruffled Paul Anka's head affectionately. "Luke's not home yet, huh?" She kicked off her shoes, leaving them scattered across the floor as she headed for the couch and flopped heavily onto the cushions. Grabbing the remote, Lorelai decided to surf the channels for something mock-worthy. As she flicked, she couldn't help but notice the peaceful atmosphere and grinned, glad to have her life back to normal. Just as she discovered a rerun of America's Next Top Model, she could barely keep her eyes open long enough to spot yet another brainless model being told off by Tyra, and was quickly asleep, dozing soundly with Paul Anka keeping her feet warm on the floor.
♫ ♫ ♫
Luke arrived home soon after, carrying bags from the market and calling her
name. He noticed her crashed out on the couch, and went to deposit the bags in
the kitchen before returning to the living room. Carefully sliding himself onto
the couch next to Lorelai, he wrapped an arm around her shoulders and gently
pulled her close. "Hey," she said sleepily, adjusting herself in his arms.
"Tired?" Luke asked softly.
"Words cannot express."
"I brought food for dinner, but to be honest, I don't know that I have the energy to cook."
"Too tired to eat," Lorelai responded. She snuggled closer to him and said, "I had planned a romantic, somewhat short evening together, since Rory will be home later, but I just don't have the energy."
"Davey and Martha could outrun the Energizer Bunny."
"You know, I can't help but wonder how people with kids find the energy for sex?"
"Sedatives for the kids? Those red cow drinks for the adults?"
"You mean Red Bull," Lorelai corrected, her voice lacking her usual teasing tone and comments.
Luke looked down at her and said, "Wow, you really are exhausted. You've lost your ability to mock."
"How about we raincheck the romance and head to bed?"
"That's the most romantic thing you've ever said to me!" Lorelai said, completely serious.
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When she met her grandfather at a coffee shop in Hartford, Rory didn't have the luxury of easing into the conversation about her current lack of employment. He was waiting for her when she walked in, his expression grave. He didn't even rise to greet her, a courtesy he'd never overlooked before.
"So," he began. "Let's hear it."
"Hear what?" she asked, wrinkling her brow.
"Your plan," he answered. "You must have a plan, if you've left your job. You must have considered it long and hard before you quit, what you would do next. You must have come up with an alternate plan of action. The girl I know would not have left such a promising position without looking down the road for the next opportunity."
She cradled her cup of coffee between her hands, tucking her chin to her chest. "I don't exactly have that part figured out yet."
"No?" Richard asked. "What about your resume? Recommendations from your editor? Surely when you left, you did your editor the courtesy of—"
Rory sighed. "Grandpa, you don't have to do that, ask me all the stuff I know you've already figured out. I know I didn't handle it well."
His expression was inscrutable. "This was not camp, Rory. You do not leave something like this simply because you don't like it."
"I know that," she said evenly. "And I know it probably seems that way to you—and not just to you, to a lot of people. I know how it looks. But you have to trust me that this wasn't the job for me."
Richard smoothed the front of his suit jacket. "That's no excuse. My granddaughter has always prided herself on applying herself to any situation and succeeding, and I have witnessed that firsthand."
"The whole Gilmore pluck thing didn't get me that far this time, Grandpa," she murmured. "You can't succeed through sheer force of will, Grandpa! You can't just convince yourself you're happy with something just because you want to be."
He leaned over the table and tapped his index finger hard on the waxy, ceramic surface. "You certainly can't achieve anything by giving up," he told her. "Your behavior has been unprofessional, immature, and foolish."
"I know that!" she cried. "Holy crap, do I know that, Grandpa! And I'm sorry, okay? I am sorry that I let Michael down. I'm sorry I let Mom down, and you, and Grandma, and the whole town, and just about everyone else you can think of, I've already felt bad about not doing better for them. But it doesn't work like that. This was not the job for me. And I just don't know what that is right now, but I'm not going to keep doing something that makes me miserable for the sake of doing it at all!"
"So your plan now is to… what, Rory? Work part time jobs you're overeducated and overqualified for?" he asked, disgusted.
She shrugged, though she knew it would infuriate him. "I haven't exactly figured that out yet. I just need some time to—"
"Time, Rory? And how to you plan to explain the gap in your resume to future employers? Say you needed time to sort out your hopes and dreams?"
She couldn't stop herself from rolling her eyes outright. "Grandpa, lots of people take time off after school—"
"No, Rory, lots of people take time off before school and during school, not after. Traditionally, the time after college is when one goes to work or onto more schooling, building a resume and gaining experience. And, I need not remind you, you've already taken time off from your schooling." He sat back in his chair and crossed his arms. "I must tell you, my girl, from where I sit, you're a questionable hire for any businessman with good judgment."
She stared at him a moment before slinging her purse over her shoulder and pushing herself to her feet. "At least I always have the warm embrace of my family to depend on," she told him. "Have a super day, Grandpa."
♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫
Nodding as enthusiastically as was characteristic, he said, "I'm glad to have her back."
"I'm sure you must, with the Belleville children taking up so much of yours and Lorelai's time."
"Sookie and Jackson got home on Sunday, actually, so things are back to normal."
"I saw you in the park with them last week. I think you are very good with children, Luke. It's a shame you missed so much of your daughter's childhood."
Adjusting his baseball cap slightly with his free hand, Luke brushed it off. "Yeah, well, what are you gonna do?"
"Looking after those children must have you both thinking about children of your own."
"Uh, well..." Luke stuttered, looking past Mrs. Kim in hopes of an easy exit.
"Lorelai isn't getting any younger, Luke. Soon she will be out of time."
Heaving a deep breath, Luke couldn't stand to listen to any more unsolicited comments and advice. He turned back to look Mrs. Kim in the eye, and said in a tightly controlled voice, "Mrs. Kim, I don't mean any disrespect, but mine and Lorelai's personal life is not something I like to discuss with anyone besides her. I gotta get back to the diner. I'll see you later." Turning on his heel, he strode down the street, and didn't look back to see the surprised expression on Mrs. Kim's face.
Luke was just as surprised as Mrs. Kim. She was the tenth person this week that had weighed in on his relationship, and he was starting to get more than a little peeved. It seemed like no matter how much he tried, they were never going to understand his need for privacy. In spite of his annoyance at their unsolicited advice, he had to admit that he'd been thinking about it ever since they'd had the whole family together at the holidays. And, aside from the tantrums and demands, spending so much time with her while they'd had Sookie's kids had been great. They had fallen into a routine, and he hadn't expected to enjoy as much as he did.
Just as he was trying to shake himself free of the too-consuming thoughts, he
noticed Kirk heading directly for him. Groaning, he sent Kirk one of his most
lethal death-stares, and immediately, the youngest Gleason turned 90 degrees to
his right, nearly bolting across the street without checking for traffic, and
ran off across the square. To make sure Luke wasn't following, he kept checking
over his shoulder as he scurried away.
♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫
Rory tapped her pencil on a stack of post-its. She sat behind the reservation desk, her chin in her hand, and glanced at Michel sidelong. He was studiously ignoring her, flipping through his desk calendar like the pages of a magazine. After a flurry of activity that morning and another expected influx of guests and busywork that afternoon, the inn had hit an unexpected pre-lunch lull. Rory was trying to reread Trilling's The Moral Obligation to Be Intelligent, but she found herself unable to focus thanks to the way Michel was ignoring her with furious concentration.
She flicked a paper clip at him. "I like Chows," she said casually. "Not as life partners, or anything, but they're cute." She tipped her chin up, thinking. "They sort of look like Brave Heart Lion—he was the leader of the Care Bear Cousins, and he had the Chow look about him." She lazily turned a page or two of her text book. She continued, caught on this particular train of thought, "Except for the whole tummy symbol thing, but that's always struck me as sort of undignified, you know, having your whole personality detailed on your stomach with a single picture that's really—"
"You," Michel interrupted, stretching the word out, "are babbling. Worse than your mother."
She shifted on her feet. "I'm sorry we made fun of your profile."
He slid his gaze her way suspiciously. "Chows are very popular dogs."
"They should be!" she said, her voice high and slightly overeager. "Chows are cool."
He sniffed. "More than you."
"Well, obviously," she said. "I bet most girls totally love Chows."
It was all the invitation he needed to start telling her about the Chows in the American Kennel Club's National Championship, which he had on tape from the month before, if she wanted to come by after work that afternoon to watch with him and Paw Paw, even though he suspected it made Paw Paw a little depressed to see so many dogs on TV when he himself was all alone at home, and—
Rory tried not to smile too much. "That sounds really great, Michel, and I would love to some other time, but Mom and I have this dinner in Hartford, and then I have to go to the Firelight Festival. I'm helping out with some of the activities there. Hoo-ray."
Michel wrinkled his nose and sighed heavily. "That stupid Festival, I hope the bonfire explodes in its stupid Festival face."
She covered her mouth with her hand to check the laugh before it escaped. "Not feeling the whole ‘love is a many splendored thing'… thing, Michel?"
He released an exasperated puff of air. "It is so aggravating, this town has turned into one giant Love Boat."
Rory shook her head,
chuckling. "It happens at this time every year. Every. Year."
"It is annoying."
"Yes," she agreed. "Sometimes, it is."
"And depressing," he added, though his voice didn't have quite the edge it usually did.
Rory patted his arm. "Couples en masse usually are," she said. "But after this weekend, it's over, and you never know, match.com might pull through. You might just meet the Chow-loving girl of your dreams."
He shrugged, abashed like a gawky thirteen-year-old girl. "Stop," he trilled. "Oh, I will be sad when you leave, Rory. And then I will be happy again to have my desk all to myself."
Rory felt her face fall. "Yeah, when I leave," she echoed.
Everyone, it seemed, was waiting for her to move on. She wished she knew where to go.
♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫
When Rory and Lorelai arrived in Hartford for dinner that night, Emily had seemed almost surprised to see them. As the girls struggled out of their coats, she told them dinner would be light, fast, and without a salad or dessert course, since she and Richard had had a heavy lunch and were expected somewhere early the next morning. As they followed Emily into the sitting room for a quick drink, Lorelai elbowed Rory sharply in the side.
"Do something," she hissed.
"Apologize?" Lorelai said, rolling her eyes. "Preferably before my life becomes a remake of Now, Voyager?"
They sat side-by-side on the divan, waiting for a drink offer that didn't come. Emily sat across from them, her hands folded at her knee, and told them Richard should be down any moment. When he arrived, reading the paper, he seemed gruff and more than slightly irritated that the girls had bothered to show up at all. Lorelai kicked Rory hard in the ankle. Without hesitating, Rory kicked her back, and Lorelai got to her feet to make herself a drink.
"Anyone else want anything? Scotch? Lithium?"
Emily smoothed her skirt over her lap. "Nothing for me, thank you, Lorelai. Richard?" He shook his head and continued reading. "Everyone else is fine, thank you, Lorelai."
Rory looked over her shoulder at her mother, who was pouring herself a glass of wine at the drink cart. "Maker's Mark," she said. "Up."
Lorelai handed her a glass of
Coke. "Sure thing, Juno."
Rory turned the glass in her hand and waited for Lorelai to sit. She cleared her throat, but neither of her grandparents looked her way. She sipped her soda and drew a long breath. "Grandma, Grandpa, I would like to speak to you. Please." She waited, and after a moment, Richard set his paper aside and Emily looked at her, head tilted to the side with an expression of aggrieved impatience. "First of all, I'd like to apologize for being dishonest the last few weeks. I knew before I went to New Hampshire that I wouldn't be staying with the magazine long, and I should have told you before I left. I just chickened out. I couldn't even tell Mom, I was too—I was just scared to tell anyone, I was so discouraged and upset. I shouldn't have misled you, and I'm sorry. I know that must have hurt you." She nudged Lorelai with her knee. "That goes for you, too, Mom."
Lorelai patted her hand. "I appreciate it, babe." She looked over at her parents and raised her voice. "That must have been very hard for you."
Emily made a noise of derision.
"It was," Rory said, ignoring her, "but that doesn't excuse the fact that I kept it from my family." She bit her lip. After a moment, she went on. "Look, I know you guys are upset, and I'm pretty sure half of it is the way I told you, and half of it is what I did, and all I can do is apologize for both of those things and hope you forgive me. But I'd also like to ask you to trust me." She looked at her grandfather, who was studying her with sad, disappointed eyes. "You said it yourself, Grandpa. I always catch up. When I transferred to Chilton, it was hard, but I got to where I needed to be. I managed to squeeze two semesters into one when I went back to Yale, and I graduated on time. I know this isn't really the same thing—"
"No," Richard said. "You're quite right about that."
"—but I think I'll manage to get back on track. I don't know what I'm doing quite yet, and I know I can't just hang out at home and hope something happens, but I'll figure it out eventually. I just need you guys to trust me. As soon as I have a plan, I'll let you guys know. Maybe you can even help me figure out what that should be, I don't know, but I will have a plan. I will end up where I'm supposed to be—I always do." She shrugged, trying to smile. "I'm just really sorry I wasn't more straightforward with you, among other things. I understand if you're still angry, but I hope you can accept my apology. I really do mean it."
Emily softened. "Of course you do," she said. "Thank you, Rory. You know we're just terribly worried about you, about your situation."
"What you'll do next," Richard added. "You've put yourself in quite a situation."
"I know," she conceded. "But here we are. I'll figure it out. It'll work out."
The maid entered to say that dinner was ready, and the family slowly got to their feet. Emily reached out a hand and linked Rory's arm through hers. "You know you can always come to us when you're struggling," she said. "We will do whatever we can."
"Sometimes there's not anything anyone can do," Rory told her. "But thanks."
After they'd seated themselves and filled their water glasses, Rory looked nervously at either end of the table. Richard unfolded his napkin to place in his lap. Emily explained that since they weren't sure if the girls would be there, the maid had only prepared a simple pasta dish, but it was one of the few dishes that always came out right.
"Few?" Lorelai said. "And she's still employed?"
"Rory," Richard interjected, before Emily could protest. "Perhaps when you're prepared, you and I could sit down and address a plan of action together. If you need some guidance, young lady, you are certainly welcome to ask."
Rory smiled broadly at him.
"Thanks, Grandpa." She picked up her fork. "So, does anyone know any single
girls that like Chows?"
♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫
As soon as Lorelai and Rory arrived at the Festival, as was their tradition, they split up to hit their favorite food stands. Lorelai found Luke waiting for her by the fried dough, his hands jammed in his pockets and his shoulders hunched.
She kissed him hello. "Oh, if this isn't a sight for sore eyes, two things I desperately need after dinner with my parents: fried food and a man to call my own." Not waiting for him to reply, she stepped up to the booth to ask for whatever had just come out of the fryer. "And please, Luke, don't tell me the many ways this will kill me, because my mother's passive-aggressiveness manifested itself tonight in a two-person pasta dish split four ways, prominently featuring peas and asparagus. Do not deny me fried dough after such trails of the spirit."
He held up his hands in mock surrender. "Wouldn't dream of it. What's next?"
She pointed towards the corndogs, and they walked slowly together as she snacked and told him about the dinner she'd just had. It was a cold, crisp evening, and the Festival was as pretty as always with the ropes of twinkle lights and brightly colored booths. She paused at one to get a cup of hot cider and caught sight of Michel, standing near the gazebo and watching the proceedings as though they were an anthropological study on the Discovery Channel. The Mating Rituals of Small Town America, she thought. She waved to him, not thinking he would respond in kind or, really, at all.
He began to cross the square in her direction, she gripped Luke's arm and whispered urgently, "Oh, God, it's coming this way. I think I made it mad!"
"What?" Luke asked, startled. When he saw Michel hustling towards them, he groaned. "Ah, geez."
Michel ignored her offer of fried dough. He drew himself up to his full height and only said, "Lots of girls like Chows."
Her eyes wide, she nodded. "I'm sure they do."
"They are noble creatures, like the lion." He began to walk away, but stopped to add, "And Celine Dion is a French Canadian chanteuse of unimaginable talent that is beloved worldwide."
Lorelai watched him go,
marveling. "Her talent is unimaginable," she told Luke.
After Michel had walked away, head held haughtily high, Lorelai grabbed Luke's hand and dragged him towards Miss Patty's punch stand.
"No. No way," Luke protested, trying to pull Lorelai away from the death juice. "I'm not touching that stuff, and neither are you," he continued, pointing a finger at her.
"Luke, you're not getting the full Firelight Festival effect if you don't drink Patty's punch!" In spite of Luke protests, they joined the queue and were slowly shuffling towards the table where Patty was gleefully filling cups to the brim.
"I wouldn't be getting the Firelight Festival effect at all if it weren't for you," he grumbled.
Ignoring Luke, she turned to Patty and said, "Hey Patty. Two cups please."
"Two? Are you sure? I know Luke's not much of a fan of my punch."
Lorelai glanced at Luke and then turned back to Patty, whispering conspiratorially, "I'll make sure he drinks all of it." She winked, taking the cups as Patty handed them over.
"I'm not touching a drop of that stuff," Luke continued as they walked away in search of an empty park bench.
"Fine, I'll drink it."
"Don't expect me to take care of you if you end up drunk or hung-over," Luke said as they sat down on the bench outside Andrew's store. He watched her take a sip of the fruity lethal concoction, and noticed she swallowed with a little difficulty.
Just as Luke was about to open his mouth and comment, they saw Kirk approaching, a look of determination set on his face. "Luke, I would like to make one final plea for you to agree to be my best man."
"When have you ever been able to convince me to change my mind, Kirk?"
"Well there was... and then that time... um... oh and what about..." sighing and hanging his head, Kirk replied, "Never."
"Ask one of your brothers, or Taylor, or Andrew, or ooh, you know, I bet TJ would kill to be your best man, Kirk!" Lorelai suggested.
"It's ok, I'm sure I'll think of something that Lulu will approve of," he explained before slinking away sullenly.
"I'm glad Kirk is marrying Lulu. Aren't you glad?" Lorelai asked, turning towards Luke as he watched Kirk disappear.
"I can't say I've really considered it."
"She's good for him, and they're so sweet together. I thought they were never going to make it down the aisle, but now here they are, finalizing plans and getting ready to say 'I do' in a few days!"
Luke glanced at Lorelai quickly, surprised by her comments. He watched her for a
moment, trying to figure out whether she was subconsciously transferring her own
feelings about their relationship onto Kirk & Lulu. Before he could comment,
Lorelai began chattering again, sharing the details of the upcoming nuptials
that she'd heard through the gossip mill. "It sounds bizarre, but bizarre suits
them, I think. I wonder how long it will take him to be ready to have kids."
"Kirk and kids? I think the world will implode before that happens," he replied.
"I don't know, I think Lulu will make a great mother. She seems like a great teacher."
"They're probably not even thinking about it yet," Luke said tersely, his own feelings on the matter squeezing into his response.
Lorelai didn't appear to notice his quick response and said nothing, preferring to turn and snuggle against his side. He lifted his arm around her shoulders and pulled her close, enjoying the fact that they had distanced themselves slightly from the crowd.
"This is nice, huh? It feels like we haven't had a chance to be alone in months. It's nice just... just being, you know?" Lorelai said a few moments later.
Luke smiled, happy to hear her say that. "Yeah, it is." They sat in comfortable silence, content to watch the festival from afar, Lorelai sipping her punch every now and again, while Luke's stood forgotten on the pavement by Lorelai's feet. The annual Who's On First argument over matches had clearly begun, with Taylor throwing his hands in the air as Kirk stood practically shaking in fear from the barrage of insults.
"Come on, let's go watch them light the bonfire," Lorelai said, jumping up and holding her hand out for Luke.
He groaned, but reached for her hand, following her back into the thick of the action, and stood with their fellow townies, watching and waiting for the fire to take hold of the pile of wood.
Luke remained quiet, his eyes trained on the flames as they grew bigger and bigger, and Lorelai remained quiet, standing close to him with her arms curled tightly around his. When he cleared his throat and looked at the ground, kicking slightly at the dirt beneath his feet, he felt her eyes on him. This was his usual I'm-about-to-say-something-big-but-don't-quite-have-the-words dance, and he knew he was probably making her as nervous as he was feeling.
"So uh, do you think Kirk will really go through with it?" he asked after a moment.
"With what? Running for president? I think he's got a good chance," she teased.
He fixed his eyes on her, letting her know that he was serious. "With the wedding."
"You know, I really do. He may have had his freak-outs and endearingly skewed ideas of single life, but they really love each other, and I think he knows that Lulu is worth holding on to."
"Well, I know how he feels," Luke replied, looking directly at her with a smile tugging at his lips.
A grin broke out on her face, and he knew he'd said the right thing. Luke had never been good at talking about his feelings, but on the rare occasions he did, it seemed give the desired result - usually. "Where did that come from?"
"I've just been thinking maybe it's time we do it. Don't you think it's time?" He was looking at her expectantly, seeming to hope for her agreement.
Lorelai furrowed her brow and began chewing on her lip, immediately giving away her confusion. "What are you saying? Because I think I know, but I just need an ounce of clarification."
He opened his mouth to speak, but then glanced behind Lorelai. She turned to see what he was looking at, and they saw Patty and Babette standing right behind her, their eyes fixed on the bonfire, but their bodies leaning significantly towards Lorelai. She looked back at Luke, who tipped his head to the side quickly. "Come on." He led her away from the crowd, away from the too-big ears of the gossipers. His heart was pounding, and his mouth felt suddenly dry. If he'd had any of Patty's punch, he could have blamed the brick-like feeling in his stomach on that, but no such luck.
They stopped just around the corner, near the front steps of Stars Hollow High, and Luke took both of her hands in his as he faced her. He sucked in a deep breath, and then said, "We should get married. It's about time, I think."
Luke watched as a plethora of thoughts crossed her face in a matter of seconds, and immediately he pulled back, letting go of her hands and shuffling his feet nervously.
"Where is this coming from?" she
queried, her voice quiet and gentle.
Ignoring her attempt at a calm
discussion, he fell into his usual defensive reaction, and ranted, "Geez, this
isn't how I thought this was going to go. I've been listening to everybody for
weeks, talking about us and Sookie's kids, and dropping hints like Japanese
bombs in Pearl Harbour about getting married and having our own kids, and I just
thought that maybe we need to stop wasting time, and you wanted to come to the
festival and have a romantic night together. So I thought I'd just go ahead and
"So you're saying that we
should get married because everyone else thinks it's about time?"
Her voice held a note of incredulity, and suddenly he could hear himself saying
the words, and he knew it had come out all wrong.
"You know what, I'm gonna go. I
don't want to say something I'll regret, and I'm sure you don't either. I'm just
gonna go back to my apartment for a while, do some thinking."
"Luke, wait!" Lorelai pleaded, as he turned and strode down the street.
To be continued...
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