Authors' Note: We have to give our beta/lead writer team big props this week. Getting this whole episode together has been a challenge (So much so that we managed to break Google docs — go us!) and Lula Bo and wounded stuck with us until the end so we owe them tons of thanks.
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"Luke, wait," Lorelai called to his retreating back. When he didn't slow, she asked more insistently, "Please, Luke. Can't you stop for just a second? You just... I just... I wasn't expecting... "
Luke stopped, resting his hands on his hips, and let out a weighty sigh before turning slowly and leveling his gaze on her. "Look, Lorelai. I thought we were on the same page here—"
"We are," she cut in, her voice too high and anxious. "We are." She took a breath, forcing a calm she didn't feel. "You just surprised me is all."
He scoffed, and she could hear the bitterness travel so clearly through the cool night air. "Surprised you?" He rubbed his large hand across his eyes wearily. He hesitated for long moments, gathering his thoughts, and Lorelai marveled at the self—control she exhibited by not interrupting him. When he finally did speak, the sharp edge in his voice was gone, replaced by a something more wounded. "You surprised me, but I still said yes." She resisted the urge to make a comment about how well that had worked for them, and instead opened her mouth to try to put into words everything that she'd been feeling lately. Before she could speak, he stopped her. "I know that you've probably got some really good explanation or reason why the idea of marrying me makes you look like a deer caught in the headlights, but I can't hear it right now. I just need to," he gestured over his shoulder with his thumb. "I just need to go."
He turned again to walk away and she heard her voice, as small and helpless as she felt, "Luke?"
Luke didn't turn, but she could see the way that his shoulders lifted up and down slightly with each carefully measured breath. "It's fine, Lorelai. I'll see you later. I just can't be here right now. I can't... " He shook his head. "I have to go."
He stood for a few brief seconds before he strode off slowly in the direction of the diner. Lorelai could only watch in defeated silence as he entered the darkened diner and the shadows overtook him.
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She woke up painfully, the morning light feeling all wrong even before she opened her eyes. It didn't hit her until she gave in, wiping her bleary eyes awake with the back of her hand and knocking off her glasses in the same motion. The bedside lamp glowed back at her harshly, reminding her of the way that she'd stayed up until she'd literally collapsed in her book, not wanting to give up hope of hearing Luke's heavy steps on the stairs, all the while knowing how unlikely it was.
Even with the brightly shining light as confirmation, she forced herself to turn toward his un-rumpled pillow and swallowed back a lump in her throat as she smoothed her hand across the fabric of the pillowcase. "Stupid, back—up bachelor pad," she muttered under her breath. "Stupid over-reacting boyfriend."
She slid across the bed, slipping her feet out from under the covers, her eyes still on his too-neat pillow. Suddenly she turned, both hands tightened into fists, and pummeled the puffy mound into submission. "Stupid, stupid, girlfriend."
Grimacing, she pulled herself up from the bed and picked up the cordless phone she'd optimistically left on the nightstand; now though, she glared at it malevolently. Lorelai shuffled down the stairs, staring at the phone in her hand the whole time. Reaching the bottom of the stairs, she shifted it from hand to hand, considering, but then sighed and dropped it into the charger before heading into the kitchen to take out her frustration on the coffee maker.
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Rory tried Lane's door and finding it unlocked, gave it a few hard raps as she eased it open. "Lane?" she called as she stepped inside.
"Rory!" Lane bounced over from across the room. "I'm so glad you're here." Turning around, she spoke in the direction of the floor. "Boys, look who's here. It's your Auntie Rory!"
"Oh hey, guys," Rory said, her voice pitched up, which for some reason she didn't understand felt appropriate for talking to babies. Kwan stood, holding onto the couch and looking nonplussed while Steve crawled over to Lane and hugged her legs. Rory smiled down at them. "I didn't think I'd get to see you two today." Lane picked up on the subtle question, furrowing her brow as she answered, "I know. I'm not sure why Mama isn't here yet."
"It's not like Mrs. Kim to be late," Rory agreed.
"Diligence is the enemy of sloth," Lane rattled off. "But she'll be here any second." She smiled at Rory. "And then our girls'... uh... mid-morning will commence." She wrinkled her nose thoughtfully. "Doesn't quite have the same ring, does it?"
"No, it doesn't." Rory smiled weakly, unnerved by the wary looks Kwan was giving her.
"Hey, can you help me get their coats and shoes on? Mama will be so impressed if they're actually ready when she gets here."
Rory glanced back and forth between the two boys. "Uh... sure."
Lane snatched two coats from where they hung over a chair and tossed one to Rory. "Why don't you take Kwan? Steve crawls away at the first sign of his coat and he's amazingly fleet of knee."
Rory crossed to the couch and kneeled down next to Kwan. "Hey buddy. Can I help you with your coat?" She held it tentatively toward him, at which point he whimpered and scrunched up his face in a way that even Rory could identify as 'on the verge of meltdown.'
"Oh sorry. I should have mentioned that he's solidly into the stranger anxiety phase. Just turn him toward me and don't look him right in the eye and you'll be fine," Lane said casually, all the while managing to stuff Steve's flailing arms into his coat without even looking down.
Rory nodded, maneuvering awkwardly around Kwan and tried to balance him against her while removing his arms one by one from the couch and sliding them into the tiny sleeves. The phone rang as she was pondering the best way to get his pudgy feet into the little sneakers.
She sighed as she heard Lane say, "Mama? Slow down. What?" She tried to simultaneously follow the gist of the conversation while balancing Kwan precariously on one foot, but all she could hear were random references to lightning, the wise men, and of all things, Kirk.
By the time Lane hung up the phone, Rory had given up trying to understand what was going on, instead focusing her full attention on the puzzle of fitting Kwan's foot into the shoe she was holding. Are you sure this shoe is big enough for him?" she asked, looking up at Lane.
"Oh that's my mistake, those are Steve's shoes. Would you believe that his feet are a whole size smaller than Kwan's?"
Rory was still trying to figure out how Lane could tell from across the room which shoes went with which child, when Lane sighed and added, "But you might as well forget the shoes. That was my mom. There's a Kirk crisis, so she can't come." She gave Rory a disappointed look. "Looks like it's time to get these guys hooked on Friday Night Lights. Sorry about that."
"No apologies for Kirk-induced snafus. Besides, it's never to early to introduce these guys to the ritual that is high school football, right Squirt?" she asked Kwan with forced enthusiasm. Too late she realized she'd broken the 'no eye-contact' rule and in Kwan's haste to scoot away from her, he tumbled onto his butt and let out a wail as he searched the room for his mother. Lane ran over to scoop him up and while she calmed him down Rory attempted to contain Steve. Giving Lane a rueful smile, she asked, "So, it must be a good Kirk story if it requires the presence of Mrs. Kim."
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Lorelai was halfway through the third load of laundry, using the backlog of housework to delay dealing with the 'thing' with Luke. She tried to push the previous night's conversation from her mind but seeing his clothes intermingled with hers taunted her and the phone was annoyingly silent. The most frustrating thing was that she honestly couldn't decide if hiding out in her house was cowardly or an act of patience. Thrusting another load of clothes viciously into the dryer, she was startled by the shrill ring of the phone piercing the quiet of the house. She rushed to the other room pick it up, but then stood staring at it, trying desperately to form a coherent statement or explanation or something that would make up for her complete failure to communicate last night.
The sound of her own voice rudely interrupted her, blathering on (in a way that she's sure at one point she thought was cute and quirky, but now just sounded obnoxious) about not being able to come to the phone because Davey had tied them (them, she heard with a pang) to a chair with spaghetti and Martha was devising her own brand of 'waterboarding' torture involving tomato sauce and apple juice.
Ripping the Band-Aid off her unease, she snatched up the phone and offered a tentative, "Hello?"
"Lorelai, you sped out of dinner so quickly last night that I didn't get a chance to talk to you about a function I'd like to have at the Dragonfly in a few weeks. Not terribly large — about fifty or sixty guests—"
"Mom?" Lorelai interrupted, her brain off-kilter as she struggled with the mental adjustment of expecting painful fight aftermath with Luke and instead getting event planning with her mother. "You want to plan an event at the Dragonfly? Another luncheon?"
"No, no," Emily admonished her. "For a party."
"A party?" Lorelai pinched the bridge of her nose, forcing herself to concentrate. "Don't you usually host parties at your house?"
"Well, yes, usually I do," her mother responded as if explaining something to a small child, "but I thought it would be nice to mix things up a bit." Her voice tightened. "Unless you're refusing my business... "
"I'm not refusing your business."
"Well, that's good. It would be terribly unwise, given the state of the inn right now."
Lorelai furrowed her brow. "The state of the inn? What are you talking about?"
"You and I both know that you haven't been booking as many functions lately," Emily said, in an irritatingly knowing voice. "I don't want your livelihood to suffer."
"Mom," Lorelai protested, "you know that we planned to cut back on functions during the construction. Something you suggested, so that the guests wouldn't sue us for dust inhalation."
"Very well," Emily huffed back. "I simply thought that it might be time for some of our friends to see your place of business, and for us to begin spreading the word about the spa expansion." She paused for a moment, then turned the screw a touch further. "They are, of course, potential clients, but if you're not interested in making those kinds of contacts perhaps I could consider the Harrison Estate. I've heard it has beautiful views."
Lorelai sighed, gritting her teeth. "I'll have to check the calendar to confirm availability, but that timeframe sounds fine. Besides," she muttered, "the Harrison Estate doesn't have enough bathrooms and their caterer is terrible. Now, what's the party for again?"
"For your father and me. For our anniversary."
Try as she might, Lorelai couldn't make sense of the request. "Anniversary of what?"
Emily let out an impatient sigh. "Why, of the vow renewal, of course."
Lorelai did the mental math quickly, unconsciously marking the years by the ups and downs of her relationship with Luke. "You're having a party for the third anniversary of the vow renewal?"
"Yes," Emily answered primly. "Do you have a problem with that?"
"Um... no. It's just... don't you have a real anniversary coming up in just a few months?"
"Well, that's ridiculous. No one celebrates 43rd anniversaries."
"Yes, but third anniversaries of fake weddings are all the rage," Lorelai replied sarcastically.
Emily's response was hard. "Well, perhaps if you'd ever made a lasting commitment to someone, you'd understand wanting to celebrate it."
In Lorelai's current mindset the words had an especially sharp bite. "You know what, Mom, on that note... I think that I hear the buzzer on the dryer." She clicked off the phone and threw it forcefully onto the couch cushions, fuming.
She'd only just managed to return her breathing to normal when she heard footsteps on the porch followed by the door sliding open. "Rory?" she asked as her daughter stepped inside. "That was quick. I thought you were hanging out with Lane today."
"So did I," Rory answered soberly.
Rory frowned, her nose crinkling in thought. "I think, ultimately, Kirk happened."
"Kirk?" Rory nodded.
"How did Kirk mess up your girl time with Lane?"
After a long sigh, Rory launched into an explanation. "Let's see if I have this right. Kirk's mother's wise man was struck by lightning the other night and Mrs. Gleason is distraught that God would so intentionally spite her by taking away his voice."
"Which one?" Lorelai interrupted.
"Which wise man?"
Rory lifted her eyebrow, but answered, "The one with the myrrh."
"Oh, Lorelai said knowingly, "the one that speaks to her."
"Apparently it was a particularly harsh blow," Rory agreed. "Should we be wondering why her wise men were still in her yard, more than three weeks after Christmas?"
Lorelai gave a dismissive wave. "Oh, she usually leaves the nativity scene up until it's time to pull out the Easter display." She paused a moment, then asked, "So, she's off church again?"
Rory nodded. "Yep, just like that time with her Precious Moments figurine."
"Which was destroyed by an act of God."
"Except that we know it was really Cat Kirk."
Lorelai laughed, then paused, her brow wrinkled in confusion. "I'm still not seeing the connection to you and Lane."
"Well, she's refusing to go to the wedding if God is involved in any way, which means no church and no Reverend Skinner, so the Reverend, the Rabbi and Mrs. Kim went to do an intervention."
"Ah," Lorelai said, comprehension dawning. "No Korean bible study for the twins."
"Which is an odd concept anyway, since they haven't mastered any semblance of language yet."
Lorelai hesitated for a moment. "So... "
"Yes," Rory prompted, after a beat.
"That still doesn't explain why you're home so soon."
"Well, the boys weren't really up for a Friday Night Lights marathon," Rory said tersely. "They were really fussy, and then they needed to eat, which is this crazy process involving purees in all colors of the rainbow." She let out a long sigh. "It just sucks because I've barely been able to hang out with Lane since I got back and we finally found a time and stupid Kirk had to steal her babysitter."
Lorelai frowned slightly. "So you just left?"
"You just left?"
Rory's shoulders lifted in a weak shrug. "Well, everything was all screwed up. We were supposed to hang out just the two of us."
Lorelai stared at her daughter, incredulous. "So you bailed on her instead?"
"I didn't bail on her," Rory retorted defensively. But when Lorelai didn't relent, she gave her mother a pleading look. "You know I'm useless with babies, like Amelia Bedelia without the talent for desserts."
Lorelai ignored the quip and leveled a gaze on her daughter. "You were happy to help with Sookie's kids when it served your purposes."
"That's not fair," Rory protested. "They're kids. All you have to do pretend to be a frog, or a bear, or Dora and they're happy. Babies are so much harder."
"Of course they are, especially when there are two of them," Lorelai said pointedly.
"Lane's got this whole routine. I never know how to help."
Rory gave her a helpless look, but Lorelai couldn't muster much sympathy. "Then ask her," she said sharply. "She's your best friend, Rory." Her daughter looked chastened and Lorelai softened. "Look, Lane had to figure it out too. It's not like those two little guys popped out with a secret code to unlock her inner June Cleaver. And she'd barely gotten into her groove when Zach went on tour and she basically became a single mom for months. I know how hard that was with one. I can't imagine with two—"
"Okay, Mom, I get it," Rory cut in irritably. "I suck. I'm a crappy friend. Can we just leave it at that?" She turned and left the room without turning back.
Lorelai sighed, calling out, "Rory, that's not—" but her words were muffled by the sound of the bedroom door closing soundly. Lorelai squeezed her eyes tightly shut and pressed her arms across her chest, wondering for a moment if she pushed hard enough if she could actually banish the last 24 hours from her life. Her attempt was interrupted by the phone's harsh ring and she braced herself, holding her breath as she waited for the machine to pick up. She let out a sigh of frustration as her mother's voice burst through the room, "Lorelai? Lorelai? I know you're—" Lorelai mashed the button on the machine angrily, staring at it for a moment, practically daring the phone to ring. Looking up toward Rory's room, she frowned sadly before shaking her head. In an attempt to reclaim her day, she took a deep breath, grabbed her coat, and headed out the door.
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As she walked into the diner, Lorelai was surprised to see a mid-morning crowd. She pushed her way past two couples waiting for a table in the corner. The Reverend, the Rabbi, and Mrs. Kim were huddled around the center-most table, which was piled high with papers, books, and Bibles.
"Hey guys. How's the intervention coming?" Lorelai asked as she stood by their table.
"Not well, I'm afraid," stated Reverend Skinner. He brought his hands to his face and tenderly rubbed his tired eyes. "We are working on a Plan B."
"A Plan B that doesn't involve an ordained religious figure of any kind in a place that is in no way sacred or religious," Rabbi Barans said with a sigh. "Plus, we are going to visit her again this afternoon. She at least left that window open to us."
"She is a very stubborn woman," Mrs. Kim commented, as she highlighted a passage in her already well-marked Bible. "Here, Reverend, Psalm 37:4. This is another passage we can show her."
Reverend Skinner wrote the passage down at the end of a long list. "David, are you still friends with that Buddhist monk in Woodbridge?"
"Haven't him seen him in ages, Archie," said the Rabbi. "He's a little hard to get a hold of, since he has isolated himself from any modern technology."
"There's a Buddhist monk in Woodbridge?" Lorelai asked in disbelief.
"Oh yeah," said Rabbi Barans. "Nice guy. Comes with us to the Gleason interventions sometimes. I think Mrs. Gleason has a thing for him."
"John 14:6," Mrs. Kim called out. "Add that to the list."
"So, Mrs. Gleason hears God talking to her through this little lawn ornament. That's a little insane, right?" Lorelai said with a laugh. "Like, Hurley-seeing-his-imaginary-friend-on-the-island crazy."
"Not necessarily, Lorelai," the Reverend stated. "The Lord works in mysterious ways. Who am I to question whether she hears His voice in that wise man or not?"
"Very true, Archie," said the Rabbi. "He spoke to Moses in the burning bush."
"The Lord spoke to Balaam through his donkey," Mrs. Kim added. "That's a good passage for the list. It's in Numbers, I believe."
"Ha, maybe Balaam was being an ass," Lorelai quipped. The eyes of the Reverend, the Rabbi, and Mrs. Kim simultaneously widened in shock. Lorelai clapped a hand to her forehead. "Sorry, donkey humor. Probably not the most appropriate time to bring that in."
Mrs. Kim scribbled something on a piece of paper and handed it to Lorelai. "Here. You should come to my Bible study next week. Rory too."
"Oh, well... maybe," Lorelai stammered. "I'll just leave you to your planning." She made her way past the table and found an empty stool next to Kirk at the counter. Kirk had a laptop in front of him and was furiously poring over a website dedicated to non-traditional wedding ceremonies.
"Lorelai, good. You're here. I need your help."
"What's up, Kirk?" Lorelai plopped her purse in front of her on the counter.
"Since Mother is against us having the wedding at the church, we want to have the wedding here."
"Here, as in Stars Hollow?"
"No, here in the diner. The diner is very special to Lulu and I. We had our first date here. I proposed to her here."
"That sounds really nice," Lorelai said, uncertain. "But, not very many people would fit in here."
"I've already worked that out," Kirk said, pulling up a file on his computer. "We can fit about 45 people in the diner, another 15 in the Soda Shoppe, and almost 80 in Miss Patty's. We could put a television screen and telecast the wedding in there. I used to work at a place that leases outdoor heaters for events. Any overflow can stand outside the diner under them."
"Looks like you already got it worked out," Lorelai said, amazed at the detail in Kirk's computerized sketch. Kirk and Lulu were standing toward the center of the diner. She was able to point out shapes that resembled Miss Patty, Taylor, Babette, Morey, and Gypsy. Mrs. Gleason was dressed in mauve and standing next to twelve identically dressed men and women. The Gleason siblings, she decided. Lorelai assumed that the two brunettes with the blue eyes and pretty dresses were her and Rory. Luke was standing next to her, dressed in plaid. "What's the problem, then?"
"Well—" Kirk began, but stopped short. Luke entered the room, delivering a few plates to the Reverend, the Rabbi, and Mrs. Kim, and then walked back behind the counter.
"Damn it, Kirk!" Luke exclaimed. "I thought I told you to take that computer outside."
"I pick up a good wireless signal from the Stars Hollow library in here," Kirk stated. "He's having a bad morning," he whispered to Lorelai. She frowned.
Luke moved to stand in the space between Lorelai and Kirk, angrily slamming receipts down on the table. He began to sort them in incoherent piles, as Lorelai and Kirk watched him warily. Lorelai gently nudged Kirk in an effort to get him to talk about the wedding. Kirk shook his head. Sighing, Lorelai cleared her throat.
"What?" he said coolly, without even looking at her.
"Kirk was telling me about his plans to have the wedding in the diner."
"Did he tell you that I already said no?"
"Uh, well, no," she stuttered. "But, I think it might be a good idea."
"Well, you would," he snapped, violently stabbing a stack of receipts on a metal stake.
"Ouch," she said under her breath, looking hurt.
He looked up at her, perhaps realizing he'd crossed a line. "Do you want something to eat?" he asked, as if in apology.
Luke put the remaining the receipts under the counter and walked back into the kitchen.
"I didn't order anything," she called out after him. Turning to Kirk she asked, "He's been like this all morning?"
"All morning," Kirk confirmed.
"Oh boy," Lorelai sighed. She felt utterly helpless at this point, She wanted to talk to Luke about last night, and try to explain everything to him from her point of view. But with his sour attitude, it looked like it wouldn't be happening anytime soon. "Have you thought about the possibility of pushing back the wedding a few weeks?" she asked Kirk. "Just until your mother finds favor with religion again."
"No, it has to be Monday," Kirk stated adamantly. "It has to be January 21st."
"Because Martin Luther King was such a swell guy?"
"No," Kirk said, coloring slightly. "It's National Hug Day. Lulu picked it out."
"Aw, that's sweet," Lorelai said with a small smile.
"Yes." Kirk hung his head, a little embarrassed. "She was very set on that day."
"Well, maybe Luke just needs a little more persuading. You're good at that."
Luke returned from the kitchen with a plate and he placed it in front of Lorelai. "Here."
"What's this?" she asked, eyeing the steaming green masses skeptically.
"Broccoli?" She could hardly choke out the word. Broccoli? When had she ever willingly eaten broccoli?
"Eat it. It's good for you."
"It doesn't have anything on it."
"It's better for you this way."
"I don't like broccoli," Lorelai complained. "I didn't even order it."
"You know what? Fine!" Luke exclaimed, forcefully taking the plate from her. "Don't eat it. Have a heart attack. Die before you're 50. I don't care."
"Luke!" she cried, jumping up from the chair to meet him at the end of the counter. "Wait. I'll eat it."
"You'll eat it," he said in disbelief. One hand was on his hip, the other was holding the plate of broccoli, and his eyes were daring her to take a bite. Not one to back down from a dare, she picked up the biggest piece and plopped the entire thing in her mouth. Her face contorted in disgust and Luke rolled his eyes. He turned and began to walk back to the kitchen.
Lorelai followed. "Luke, hold on."
He stopped, impatiently tapping his foot on the floor. Lorelai took a deep breath.
"You didn't come... " She trailed off, feeling herself start to get upset. She blinked a few times. "You didn't come home last night. I thought later meant, you know... Later meant later at home."
Luke's features immediately softened and he looked apologetic. Maybe even a little guilty. "I know," he said after a long pause, his voice soft. "I know, Lorelai. I'm—"
"Luke!" came Kirk's voice as he burst through the curtain. "You can marry me! It's perfect! We can have the wedding in the diner and you can perform the ceremony."
Luke kept eye contact with Lorelai as his brow furrowed. "What?"
"You don't have to be ordained in Connecticut to perform a marriage ceremony. You just need to have someone who is ordained there to witness it."
"What the hell are you talking about?"
"It all works out perfectly, Luke," Kirk continued. "I get married here, since it's not a church and not associated with any deity. You perform the ceremony, since you are not associated with religion in any way. The Reverend or the Rabbi can be the witness, and Lulu and I can get married on National Hug Day!"
"Absolutely not!" Luke said, his nostrils flaring. "No way in hell."
"But we need—"
"Luke, I am a desperate man," Kirk began, beads of sweat dripping down his face. "I need this. Lulu will be heartbroken if we don't get married on Monday. She's so excited, and her sister is here, and the flowers all arrived today, and... I'm begging you, Luke Danes. I would do anything for this."
"Would you not come into the diner for a month?" Luke asked.
Kirk hesitated. "I, uh... "
"Please, Luke. Please." There was desperation in Kirk's eyes and he looked as if he might burst into tears at any second.
Luke looked at Lorelai briefly and sighed. "You can have the ceremony here, but I'm not performing it."
Kirk's eyes lit up and he began to vigorously shake Luke's hand. "Thank you, Luke. Thank you. You won't be won't be sorry."
"Let go of my hand, Kirk," Luke said impatiently. Kirk obliged and sprinted into the dining area.
"We have a Plan B, Reverend. The wedding is going to be here."
"Luke, I'm just going to... " Lorelai spoke up, pointing to the door behind her. "I need to get some stuff done at the inn."
He touched her arm lightly. "I, uh, I told Caesar I would close tonight but I will see you later," he emphasized with a nod.
"Okay," he repeated.
Lorelai gave him a small smile and a wave, and left Luke alone in the kitchen.
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"Rory? What are you doing here?" Her mother's voice startled Rory out of the pages of her book, and she looked up guiltily from her perch on the couch in the inn's sitting room.
She held up her book. "I'm... uh... reading," she answered lamely.
"Is there some reason you came all the way over to the inn to do that? We've got a perfectly good couch at home." Lorelai paused. "I mean, if you were trying to avoid me, this seems like a silly place to hang out."
Rory bristled. "Well you weren't supposed to be working today."
"I just came in to do some paperwork." She looked directly at Rory. "So you were trying to avoid me."
"Not avoid you." She gave a half-hearted shrug. "I just wanted to be alone. I knew it would be quiet here in the middle of the day. Besides, Grandma keeps calling every fifteen minutes. What did you do to her this time?"
Lorelai groaned. "Why do you assume it was something I did?"
"Years of observation," Rory said dryly.
"Ha. Very funny. This time it was pretty equal opportunity."
"Well," Rory offered, "she's been calling. Maybe she wants to talk to you."
"Yeah, to tell me one more time what a disappointment I am. No thanks," Lorelai said bitterly.
Rory gave her an odd look, saying soberly, "And here I thought that was my line."
"Oh, hon." Lorelai dropped herself onto the couch and reached an arm around Rory's shoulders. "Never."
"You're right though," Rory said in a small voice. "I suck. I am the worst friend."
"The very fact that you're worried about it would seem to indicate otherwise." Rory let out a long breath, her shoulders slumping further.
"I just feel like everything is different now. Like, I went away to my first real job, but now that I'm back she's the one who's all grown up and I'm still just a kid." She shook her head slowly. "Except that I'm not really, since everyone expects me to have it all figured out. I'm like the cake in the Easy Bake Oven."
"That one I'll need some help with."
"You put it in and it's supposed to take 15 minutes or something and you keep checking it, but even when it's been in 25 minutes it's still not done."
"I remember that! Our first and last attempt at baking."
Rory gave a wry smile. "Well, I feel like that cake. Like people are sitting around wondering if I'm ever going to be done."
"I think you just need a little time on the counter to sort of set up."
"Set up? You have no idea what you're talking about."
"What?" Lorelai protested. "It works for cookies." Rory just eyed her skeptically. Lorelai shrugged. "Okay, so maybe we've taken the baking analogy as far as it can go." She gave her daughter another squeeze. "But Rory, just because Lane's got a family now doesn't mean she's a different person. And it doesn't mean that she doesn't still like to do all the things you guys used to do. It just has to fit together a little differently now."
Rory nodded. "I know. I just... I'm so bad with babies."
"Everyone is bad with babies at first. They just take practice. And patience. If you keep trying, you'll surprise yourself."
"I doubt that."
"Nope, that one I can promise you." She paused, pulling away to look Rory in the eye.
"And Lane, she just wants to hang out with you. Kids or no kids. She just wants her friend there."
Her mother spoke with such certainty that Rory had to ask, "You didn't have that, did you?"
Lorelai shrugged carelessly. "We were young. People had a hard time getting past the nursing and the maternity clothes."
"Yeah. I can see that." She pulled Lorelai back toward her. "Is everything okay?"
Her mother's response was too quick. "What? Of course. We're good."
"No, I mean with you. Weren't you and Luke going to spend this weekend together, now that you're finally off babysitting duty?"
She thought she felt Lorelai tensing ever so slightly, though her answer was bright. "Oh, well Luke's got his hands full at the diner. It seems that the intervention has failed and Kirk now wants to get married in the diner in the exact location where he and Lulu had their first date. And get this!" She bounced excitedly. "He wants Luke to perform the ceremony."
"He can do that?"
"Apparently so, and Kirk is very determined." Her eyes glinted evilly. Rory narrowed her eyes at her mom.
"And you're not there watching this?" she asked in disbelief.
"They had already done the 'Please?' 'No!' 'Please?' 'No!' and Luke agreed to allow the wedding. Kirk's probably going to wait a bit before wearing him down about performing the ceremony so I figured it was as good a time as any to get some work done. Luke was working anyway."
"Okay," Rory said dubiously. She watched her mother warily for a moment, before her curiosity won out. "So wait. Getting married in the diner? Explain how this will work."
♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫
Lorelai's eyes fluttered slightly as she was awakened by morning sunlight streaming through her curtains. She kept her eyes closed, struggling to fight against all the forces of nature attempting to rouse her. As she rolled away from the window, her hand blindly reached over to Luke's side of the bed, hoping to initiate a Sunday morning snuggle. But, her hand made no such contact with Luke, and it landed heavily onto the quilt below. Lorelai opened her eyes fully, and her sight confirmed what her roaming hand discovered: no Luke. She sat up in bed, listening for signs that he was either taking a shower or downstairs making breakfast.
The house was silent. Lorelai sighed and she fell back into her pile of pillows.
She rubbed her eyes as the events of the past couple of days came to her. She then strained to remember what had happened the night before. Lorelai had wanted to stay up again, hoping that she would have a chance to explain her view of what happened Friday night when he came home. If he came home, she clarified internally. She had been reading again, and she remembered not being able to concentrate. Every little groan and crack the house made caused her to jump, thinking that maybe Luke had walked through the door. He hadn't. She must have absently read the same sentence over and over until she was overcome with exhaustion.
Lorelai reached up to rub her eyes again, and suddenly realized that she wasn't wearing her glasses. She'd definitely had them on when she'd been reading the night before. She turned over toward her nightstand where her glasses were perched neatly on top of her closed book. A bookmark was sticking out from in between the pages. She was fairly certain that she had not done that.
Quickly sitting up, she gave the entire room another look. A water glass was sitting on the nightstand Luke normally used. The flannel shirt he had worn the day before was in the hamper. His towel was hanging from the hook on the bathroom door. He must have spent the night, she determined.
A sad smile crossed her lips. Luke came home last night. They may not be speaking, but at least they were still them.
♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫
It appeared to Lorelai that the entire town was out and about on Sunday morning, contributing to Kirk and Lulu's wedding in one way or another. As she walked past the dance studio, Miss Patty was dictating dance steps to Kirk and Lulu, who were unsuccessfully attempting to waltz.
"Kirk!" Patty yelled, causing Lorelai to pause in front of the door to take in the action. "The waltz count is in three, not in four."
"I thought it was in four."
"No, Kirk, it's in three."
"Are you sure? I could've sworn it was in four." Kirk eyeballed Miss Patty skeptically with one hand on his hip.
"I've been dancing since before you were born. Do you really think that I don't know?"
"It's possible," Kirk countered. Lorelai watched Patty's eyes narrow at Kirk.
Lulu leaned against Kirk, picking up her leg and rubbing her foot tenderly. "My toes really hurt. Do you think we could take a break?"
"Marvelous idea, Lulu. Let's take five." Miss Patty briskly walked to the door. "God, I need a cigarette," she muttered under her breath. She spotted Lorelai outside as she took a lighter out of her pocket and lit a cigarette. She took a long, drawn out drag and then greeted Lorelai.
"I guess it's not going well, huh?" Lorelai commented. She watched as Kirk attempted to do the box step partner—less. Lulu sunk onto a stack of yoga mats to take off her shoes and was now wiggling her freed toes with a pained expression on her face.
"It wasn't going well two hours ago," Miss Patty explained, flustered. "Now it's a disaster. He's hopeless."
"Really?" Lorelai said sympathetically.
"Let's just say that I think Gene Kelly had nicer things to say about Debbie Reynolds' dancing."
"But, Kirk dances," Lorelai stated, puzzled. "He took all those lessons from you."
"Kirk taps. Kirk does jazz. Kirk does lyrical and interpretive," Miss Patty listed, counting out the different styles on one hand. "Kirk does not waltz."
"Oh man." Lorelai shook her head. "I'm heading over to the diner to help out with the decorating. Do you want me to send coffee your way?"
Miss Patty's face lit up slightly. "You're an angel."
Lorelai smiled and gave Miss Patty a small wave. As she walked away, she heard Miss Patty exclaim, "In three, Kirk! For the last time, it's in three!"
In the town square, Taylor was standing on the steps of the gazebo, giving out orders with his megaphone. Tables were set up around the gazebo and town folk were piecing together elaborate floral arrangements. Andrew and Bootsy were helping a delivery man unload outdoor heaters. A bundled up Gypsy was sitting in a lawn chair in front of the diner, an ice chest and a bucket of roses at her feet.
"Hey, Gypsy," Lorelai called out when she reached the door. "What are you doing?"
"I'm making boutonnières. Taylor talked me into it."
"You have a sleeping bag," Lorelai pointed out, slightly confused.
"I'm camping out," Gypsy explained. "It's Kirk's wedding. I want to make sure I have a front row seat." A wicked smile crossed her lips.
"It's freezing out here," Lorelai stated, burying her hands in her coat pockets and stomping her feet to warm up her toes. "Are you sure you won't get too cold?"
"I'll just have Andrew bring over one of those heaters. I'm good." Gypsy stabbed a wire through the end of one of the rose buds, and began to wrap it in floral tape.
"That works, I guess." Lorelai opened the door and walked into the packed diner. Rory was seated at one of the tables, untangling a strand of white lights.
"Hey hon," Lorelai greeted, plopping her purse onto one of the chairs. "It's starting to look like that Seinfeld episode with the Puerto Rican parade out there."
"Yeah," Rory agreed, "and we started a pool on when we think Gypsy will turn into a corpsicle. I called dibs on 3 AM."
"Ooo, I want in on that," Lorelai exclaimed excitedly. "What'd I miss while I was at the inn?"
"Let's see," Rory said with a sigh, drumming her fingers on the table. "Zach, Morey, and Brian can't decide on a processional song because Brian has something against the bass line in Canon in D, and Zach doesn't have the Vivaldi guitar arrangement, and Morey finds the Bridal March uncool. Babette burned three table cloths with the iron because she keeps chatting with that tourist over there. Sookie had to restart one of the cake tiers because she stuck her elbow in it." Lorelai gasped and Rory nodded grimly. "Mrs. Gleason has agreed to another meeting with the Revered, the Rabbi, and Mrs. Kim, but they have to bring a Mormon missionary with them this time."
"The Reverend, the Rabbi, and Mrs. Kim. The more I hear it together, the more I think we should get that on a t—shirt."
Rory giggled. "Oh, and Luke is still trying to serve customers."
As if to prove Rory's point, Luke burst in from the kitchen with an armful of plates. "Outta my way," he spat gruffly to Jackson, who was arranging Firelight Festival stars next to the counter.
"I'll try to get him to close up," Lorelai said with a frown, watching Luke elbow his way through the tables, chairs, and people.
"He's been in a bad mood all morning."
"Yeah, I guess this diner invasion is really stressing him out. I'll talk to him," Lorelai assured Rory, even though she had no idea how to approach him at the moment. "Do you want to run an errand?" Lorelai asked as she picked up a strand of lights to untangle. "Miss Patty is about five botched box steps away from throttling Kirk, and she could use a cup of coffee."
"Sure," Rory said, setting down the strand she was working on. "I take it we won't be calling Kirk 'Mister Bojangles' anytime soon."
"Well, Miss Patty has already gone through a pack of cigarettes. Interpret what you can from that."
"Gotcha," Rory said. "I'll go now." Rory pushed back from the table and made her way to the counter.
Lorelai began threading the end of the light strand through the different knots, absorbing the commotion around her. Sookie was carefully icing the cake. Babette still wasn't paying attention to her task, absently running the iron over the cloth as she chatted with the neighboring table. Zach was gesturing wildly as he tried to reason with Brian.
"Dude, Canon in D is classic wedding. We have to put it in."
"No, I refuse to play it," Brian stated adamantly. "You may have a great part, but I play the same set of eight notes the entire song. It's such a drag."
"You're a bass player, man. That's the story of your life."
Turning in her seat, Lorelai looked around the diner, attempting to see what else she might be able to help with. She spied Luke heading into the back room. She took in a deep breath. Lorelai had a feeling that Luke wasn't going to initiate the inevitable "talk." She might as well suck it up and dive right in.
She found Luke in the storeroom, unloading a box of mayonnaise jars. "Hey," she called out.
Luke looked up from his task when he heard her voice. "Hey," he returned, picking up a jar and placing on the shelf next to him.
Lorelai walked over to him, stopping when she stood next to the box. "I guess I missed you last night."
"Yeah," Luke said, not stopping. "You were out when I got home. I took off your glasses."
"Thanks," she said, picking up a jar and handing it to him. "You left early this morning."
"Had to open," Luke responded. He was keeping his answers short and to the point, and Lorelai knew this was not a conversation he wanted to be having at the moment.
"Right, right," she said, nodding quickly. Luke reached down to pick up another jar, and she stopped him by placing her hand over his. "Hey," she began, waiting for him to make eye contact. He let out a quiet sigh. "Do you think that maybe we could find a time to talk today?"
Luke opened his mouth to respond to her, but they were interrupted by Rory's voice calling out to Lorelai.
"Mom, are you back there?"
Lorelai bit her lip, attempting to hold in the frustration about being interrupted. "Yeah, hon. I'm in here."
Rory walked into the storeroom with an amused expression. "We're having a bit of a situation."
Rory put a hand to her mouth, holding back a laugh. "I think you just need to see."
She looked back at Luke, who had already gone back to stacking the jars on the shelf. Lorelai rolled her eyes, and followed Rory back to the diner.
"Lorelai, thank God!" exclaimed Kirk, standing in the middle of the room and looking desperate. All eyes were on him, and Babette's mouth was agape.
"Oh my," Lorelai muttered under her breath. She turned to Rory. Both hands were now covering her face and Rory's eyes were watering.
This was not good.
The suit that Kirk was wearing was too short. Short in every way it could be short. Patches of skin could be seen on his legs and arms. The jacket was stretched tightly across his shoulders and, to make matters worse, Kirk was shirtless. Lorelai shook her head in disbelief.
"What the hell happened, Kirk?" she finally managed to get out.
"I thought it might help our dancing lessons if I wore the suit I was planning on wearing tomorrow. During the break, I put it on and it doesn't fit!"
"Yeah, I'm aware of that." Lorelai walked up to Kirk, examining the jacket sleeve carefully. "Honey, I thought you were renting a tux."
"I cancelled the order after Luke backed out of being my best man. Lulu thought we might save some money if I wore a suit I already owned"
"Holy shish-kabob." Lorelai stared at the suit, not knowing whether she should laugh or cry. Sookie, Babette, Zach, and everyone else in the diner gathered around Kirk, gaping at the spectacle. Gypsy had her nose pressed to the glass from outside.
"When was the last time you wore this, Kirk?" asked Sookie.
"I don't know," he said, furrowing his brow as he tried to think back. "My senior prom, I think."
Lorelai groaned. "Don't you have another suit? I have seen you in other suits."
"The dry cleaner lost my only other one."
"Of course," Lorelai said, with a hand to her head.
"What about that get-up you always wear for the dance marathon?" Babette asked, attempting to pull one of the pant legs down to his shoes.
"It clashes with our color scheme."
"Aren't your brothers coming today?" Rory asked, finally regaining her composure. "You could borrow a suit from one of them."
"All my brothers have much broader shoulders than I do. It would never fit."
Lorelai had crouched on the ground with Babette, examining the hem of the pants. "I'm not sure what I can do here, Kirk. I may be able to let out the hem a little bit, but I'm not promising that you won't look like George Costanza going to the opera."
"Lorelai, please, I'm begging you," Kirk pleaded. "The wedding's tomorrow. I need this suit to work. I need to marry Lulu tomorrow."
"Okay, okay, Kirk," Lorelai relented. "Let's go back to my place and see what I can do."
As she escorted Kirk out of the diner, she noticed Luke had come back into the diner area. He gave her a small wave and she knew that it was his way of saying they would talk later.
♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫
The phone rang again. After a weekend of virtual silence from Luke, she knew there was really no chance it was him. In fact, considering the two answering machine messages that had already been left that morning, she knew with almost absolute certainty that it was her mother with yet another diatribe about how inconsiderate it was to leave phone calls unreturned. Still, as she laid down Kirk's suit jacket and pulled the pins from between her lips, finally giving in and answering the phone, she couldn't help that tiny bit of hope she let herself feel. She got to the phone at the tail end of the fourth ring. "Hello?"
"Lorelai?" Her mother sounded startled, as if she'd already been preparing to leave another message. She recovered quickly, though. "It's nice of you to deign to answer the phone." Lorelai sighed, too exhausted to put up a fight. "I'm sorry. It's been a crazy weekend. Kirk and Lulu are getting married tomorrow and there have been about four hundred catastrophes. I'm working on a wardrobe crisis right now."
"Kirk?" Emily asked, clearly confused. "That odd man with all the jobs?"
"Yes, Mom. You know Kirk," Lorelai replied patiently.
"You're too busy to answer one little question for your mother... " 'Here we go again,' Lorelai thought, as Emily continued, "but you've given up your weekend to help that strange little man with his wedding."
Lorelai marveled at the way her mother managed to make Kirk sound like some kind of elf or leprechaun or something. "Look Mom," Lorelai said sharply. "Kirk never thought he'd find anyone who would want to be with him. I mean, I think that most of us wondered that, but he did. And she's wonderful and crazy about him, as amazing as that sounds, and tomorrow they're going to get married. And I'm helping them because they deserve to have a beautiful wedding. Do you really have a problem with that?"
There was silence on the other end for a moment. "No, I have no problem with that."
Lorelai frowned thoughtfully at the change in her mother's tone. "I checked the inn's schedule. That whole weekend is free, Mom. Just let me know the details and touch base with Sookie about the menu." She took a deep breath. "And we can talk about setting up some subtle marketing for the spa, if you're sure that's appropriate."
"Thank you," Emily said, actually sounding grateful.
"You're welcome," Lorelai said slowly. "Well, I should—"
"Is everything all right with you and Luke?" Emily cut in suddenly.
"What? Where did that come from?" Lorelai asked, feeling suddenly anxious. "We're fine."
"Good. That's good," Emily answered, apparently convinced, at least for the time being.
Lorelai wished for a moment it was that simple.
♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫
"Rory, can you hand me that staple gun?" asked Jackson from the top of the ladder. He had a small Firelight Festival star in one hand and was attempting to place it evenly between two larger stars. Rory picked up the stable gun from a chair, and handed it up to Jackson. "Thanks."
"You're welcome," Rory replied, picking up another star from the pile and making her way back to her ladder. Davey and Martha buzzed past Rory, nearly knocking her over. "Whoa, where's the fire?"
"Davey, Martha, please don't run," Sookie called out impatiently, as she attempted to fold napkins with Wanda on her lap. "Daddy and Rory are on ladders."
"And the boys are asleep," Lane said in a low voice, pointing to the double stroller next to the table.
"Great," Jackson said, placing the staple gun down on one of the ladder rungs. "We're out of staples."
Luke was in the back of the room, scrubbing the counter with a rag and some cleaning solution. He had done his best to stay out of the decoration process by cleaning out the storeroom, and Rory was curious as to why he ventured into the main dining area.
"Hey Luke, do you happen to have any—" Jackson began.
"But you don't even know what I need."
"Name an item, I don't have it," Luke gruffed. He picked up his spray bottle and returned to the storeroom.
"I guess I'm going to the hardware store," Jackson muttered to Rory. He picked up the staple gun and latched it to the toolbelt he was wearing. "Come on, Davey. You can go with me." Davey cheered and bounced out the diner door, with Jackson tight on his heels.
Kirk had been sitting at a table near the window, still working on virtually arranging the diner on his laptop. "Do you think Luke will be angry if I ask him to move some of the tables out?"
"I wouldn't risk it, Kirk," Rory suggested. She climbed off her ladder and joined Sookie and Lane at their napkin folding table. "Need some help?"
"Sure, chickadee," Sookie cooed, handing Rory a stack of napkins. Martha crawled into the chair next to Lane, and Sookie handed her a stack of construction paper and crayons.
Suddenly, several long honks from a car horn were heard in the town square. Kirk pushed back from his table, nearly toppling off his chair in the process. "They're here! They're here!" he screamed, and threw open the diner door. He ran like a mad man, arms flailing as he chased after the van that was parking across from the library.
"Who's here?" Sookie asked, craning her neck to get a good view of the 15 passenger van.
"They are, apparently," Rory said. All three girls chuckled.
The van door slid open and several tall, identical men stepped out. They were followed by about five well—dressed women. They all towered over Kirk. One man gripped Kirk by the shoulders and gave him a shake while another grabbed him around the neck and gave him a noogie. He was on the receiving end of multiple simultaneous high—fives and big hugs. The driver of the van, obviously the oldest and tallest of the set, chest—bumped Kirk, and he went flying backwards. All the men laughed and two of them picked him up by the shoulders.
"You don't think... " Rory asked, trailing off as she watched Kirk with the group. "I mean, how is it possible?"
"I don't know," Lane responded. "Is it possible that Kirk actually has some good genes in there?"
"I feel like I just stepped into the Twilight Zone. They're all rather... tall."
"And surprisingly good—looking," added Sookie.
"And some of the boys have a James Marsden thing going on in the face," said Lane, making circular motions with her finger.
"That one sister is really pretty," Sookie pointed out. "What is she? 5'11''?"
"How, in the twenty some odd years that we have lived in this town, have we never seen one of Kirk's siblings?" Rory asked incredulously.
"I guess it's just one of life's little mysteries," Sookie began. "Like who built Stonehenge, and the Easter Island statues, and what happened to those kids from The Blair Witch Project."
"Huh," Rory said with a grin. "The Gleason dozen." Rory took out her cell phone and snapped a couple pictures. "Mom will want to see this," she said to Lane.
"I guess that just goes to show that you never know how different each of your kids are going to be," said Sookie, turning back to her pile of cloth napkins. "Martha used to cry and cry at night, but Wanda hardly ever cries."
"Oh, I know what you mean," said Lane, gesturing to the twins. "I thought the twins would be identical, but Kwan looks like a Korean Zach, and I'm not sure who Steve looks like."
Sookie scrutinized the sleeping boys carefully. "I think Steve looks a little like your dad."
"Really? Huh? I guess I never thought about that." As if on cue, Steve let out loud wail and Lane rolled her eyes. She lifted him from the stroller and bounced him. "Give it two more minutes and Kwan will be awake too." She took a seat with Steve.
"So, are you considering daycare for these two or are you going to stick with the system you have now?" Sookie asked, moving her napkins out of Wanda's reach.
"Nah, we can't really afford it right now, and my mom is such a big help. I think we have a good system with our work schedule right now. We are even trying to work band practice into the mix again."
Rory felt herself zoning out from the children conversation, feeling like she had nothing significant to add. She absently folded the napkins, turning to look out the window every couple minutes to see if there were any new developments with the Gleason siblings. She jumped when Kwan let out a shriek, announcing that he too was now awake.
"Rory, do you mind?" Lane asked, passing over Steve to her as she got up to fetch Kwan. Rory adjusted the baby in her lap, attempting to imitate the natural way Sookie had Wanda perched in her lap. Steve began to cry again, his face turning red as he tried to outmatch the sobs of his brother. Rory tried to bounce him on her knee, like she saw Lane doing earlier, but he continued to scream. She shot a helpless look to Lane.
"Oh," she said, reaching over and untucking a leg from underneath him. Steve immediately stopped crying and reached for his mother. "He was sitting on his leg funny. Here," Lane took a seat and adjusted Kwan on her lap. "I can take him now."
Rory handed over Steve and went back to silently folding her napkins. When Jackson returned with the staples, she left the two mothers to their deep conversation about diaper rashes and went back to hanging stars.
♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫
The house was still that night, so quiet that even from the bedroom Lorelai could hear the click of the lock and the front door sliding open and shut. The sound was not an unfamiliar one, though the footsteps that followed seemed unusually tentative. She listened to Luke shuffling around, waiting impatiently for him to head upstairs.
Only moments before she'd been wondering if she had the energy to go downstairs and get a glass of water or if she should just close her aching eyes and fall into a fantasy world in which there were no such name as Kirk. Dreamland had been kicking hydration's ass, but the longer she waited to hear the telltale clomps up the stairs, the more inclined she was to get that glass of water after all. Slipping out of bed, she padded softly down the stairs, reaching the lowest step as Luke turned the corner out of the kitchen. Glancing up, he looked... well, he looked caught, she thought, as though he hadn't expected her up. Perhaps, she thought sadly, he hadn't wanted her to be up. "Hey," she whispered, if only to break the silence.
"Hey." He looked uncomfortable. "I... uh... I let myself in. I hope that's... " His voice trailed off uncertainly.
"You've been letting yourself in for months now," she reminded him.
She cut him off gently, not wanting him to put it into words, not wanting him to make the tension between them more real by drawing attention to it. "I know. I get it," she said. She looked down at her nervously twisting fingers for a moment. "But you can still let yourself in."
Luke just nodded, watching her as he took a few long breaths in and out. His face held no trace of the bitterness from the other night, his voice none of the brusqueness of the last few days. He just looked weary — tired right down to the bone, and she heard herself telling him that. He shrugged, saying simply, "Kirk."
He looked as though he wanted to say something else, but before he could she gestured with her head toward the stairs. "Come on up." She thought she saw his posture relax ever so slightly, but he looked at her again for confirmation before moving.
It was only after she nodded again that he offered, "We should talk." He said it warily, setting the words out there and backing away as if worried they might explode in their faces.
Lorelai smiled grimly. "We will. Let's just get Kirk and Lulu safely contained within the bonds of unholy matrimony first." It wasn't quite enough to coax a smile from him, but he did follow her silently up the stairs.
♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫
Lorelai was roused from sleep by the irritating buzz of her alarm clock. With her head still buried in her pillows, she blindly made out the shape of the alarm clock with her hand and hit buttons until the room became silent. Turning in the bed, she realized that she was once again alone. But, unlike every other morning, she heard the faint sounds of cabinets opening and closing in the kitchen. Wondering if she would be met by Luke or by her daughter, she picked up her glasses from the nightstand and made her way downstairs
Luke was in his suit for the wedding, standing next to the table. He spooned scrambled eggs onto a plate piled high with waffles and bacon. He looked up when she entered the room.
"Morning," she responded. She pulled out a chair and took a seat. Luke slid the plate over to her. "Is this for me?"
"Uh, yeah." He walked over to the coffee maker and flipped the switch. The appliance hummed as the coffee began to percolate. "I just wanted to make sure you got something to eat, since the diner is closed and Weston's is probably closing early for the wedding."
"Wow," Lorelai said shyly, pushing the eggs around on her plate before she took a bite. "Thank you."
"No problem." Luke picked up a small glass of orange juice and drained the remaining contents in one gulp.
"You're already dressed," she said with a full mouth.
"Yeah, I need to be at the diner early. Have some things to take care of." Luke shifted his weight from leg to leg nervously, pointing to the refrigerator behind him. "Tell Rory that I fixed some waffles and put them in the freezer. She just needs to put them in the toaster."
"Oh, okay." Lorelai put down her fork. "You taking off?"
"Wait a sec." Lorelai got up from the table and walked over to him. She leaned in to adjust his tie, patting his chest lightly when it looked straight. "You look nice."
He shrugged at the compliment. "I'll see you there?" he asked.
Lorelai nodded. "Thank you for breakfast."
"You're welcome." He squeezed her shoulder affectionately and walked out the side door.
♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫
"People, people, people," Taylor called out from his perch atop two Doose's Market crates. He pressed a button on his megaphone and "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" filled the square. "Gather 'round."
Everyone halted their conversations and shuffled toward Taylor. Lorelai pushed Kirk to a spot closer to Taylor and Rory followed closely behind with Lorelai's sewing kit and a pin cushion. Lorelai ran a needle through the edge of Kirk's jacket.
"Look at that," Babette observed. "Taylor's got a fancy new megaphone."
"Does it play other songs?" asked Andrew, who was leaning against the wall of the diner.
"I want to hear the Yale fight song," Rory called out.
"Now, everyone—" Taylor began, but he was soon cut off by town folk calling out requests.
"Camptown Races!" Lorelai attempted to yell with a mouth full of pins.
"Michael Row Your Boat Ashore!" said someone deep in the crowd.
"Good Vibrations!" exclaimed Gypsy, who was still camped out in front of Luke's, having apparently survived the night.
"Everyone, listen to Taylor," came Kirk's amplified voice from his own megaphone, which had somehow materialized from his suit jacket.
"Did you know he had that?" Lorelai asked Rory.
Rory shrugged. "Maybe his jacket is like David Copperfield's pants. He can just reach into his pockets and pull out a bouquet of flowers."
"Oooh, you saw that rerun of Mad About You the other night too?" Lorelai asked excitedly.
Kirk turned around and shushed Lorelai.
"Thank you, Kirk," Taylor said, clearing his throat into the megaphone. "People, we have a lot of things to finish up and not very much time. We need to go through last minute assignments."
"Yes, everyone, last minute assignments," parroted Kirk.
"Jackson, Andrew, and Bootsy we need you to make sure all the outdoor heaters are working."
"Outdoor heaters, guys! Git 'er done!" Kirk cheered from his megaphone.
Taylor ran his finger down his clipboard. "Babette and Patty, I would like you to get a group together to put up the flower arrangements."
"Babette, Patty, flowers!" screamed Kirk.
Taylor seemed slightly taken aback at Kirk's outbursts, but continued running down his list, "Sookie? How is the food coming?"
"Great. Everything is under con—"
"Sookie! Cake! Food! Go!" interrupted an enthusiastic Kirk.
"Kirk, is that really necessary?" Taylor asked, looking irritated.
"I'm just trying to rally the crowd, Taylor."
"Could you perhaps hold your rallying until the end of the meeting?" asked Taylor.
"If you think that'll help."
"Yes, I think that will help a great deal, Kirk. Now, let's see, where was I?" Taylor asked, flipping a few pages on his clipboard. "Oh yes, Sookie?"
"Everything is going well," Sookie projected. "The chefs from the Dragonfly will be over here in a few hours and the cake is finished."
"Great, great." Taylor scribbled a few notes on the clipboard. "Reverend Skinner, have we decided who is performing the ceremony?"
"Well, our meeting with Mrs. Gleason yesterday did not go over as we hoped. Mrs. Kim is having tea with her this morning, but I believe Mrs. Gleason is still very much against anyone from any religion being involved. It looks we are going to have to fall back on Luke performing the ceremony."
"Yes!" whooped Kirk, thrusting his fist into the air. "Yes, yes, yes, yes!"
"Kirk, hold still!" Lorelai commanded. "I don't want to stick you with this needle." Kirk immediately stilled, but continued whispering a chorus of "yeses" under his breath.
"Is that legal, Reverend?" asked Miss Patty.
"Kirk did some research and I contacted my friend from the Hartford city hall. It's perfectly legal, as long as I am there to oversee it. I just need to run some things over with Luke before the wedding."
"Is Luke going to be okay with this?" Rory whispered to Lorelai. She glanced over to the diner where she could see Luke moving tables in his suit.
"Yeah, he'll give in. He'll grumble and complain about it, but he'll do it."
"Well, that's settled," continued Taylor. "Zach, Brian, how is the A/V set-up going in Miss Patty's? Are people going to be able to watch the ceremony from there?"
"The system was having some minor flip-outs this morning," said Zach. "But, it's cool, man. We should have it up and running by the time the wedding starts."
"Okay, well that was the last thing on my list," Taylor stated, after crossing something off the clipboard. "Everyone knows their assignments, and if you need to be placed somewhere, come over here and I will find a spot for you."
"Great meeting, everyone!" said Kirk through his megaphone. "Now let's make this wedding the best darn wedding in Stars Hollow history!" A couple people clapped. Gypsy let out a shrill whistle. The crowd dispersed and Lorelai and Rory were left standing on the sidewalk making last minute adjustments to Kirk's suit.
"Okay, Kirk, just a few more stitches and you'll be set."
"Thank you, Lorelai."
"No problem," Lorelai said. She stuck the last pin into the cushion that Rory was still holding. "There, that's it. You're all done."
Kirk turned around to face Lorelai and Rory, examining the sleeves of his jacket. "I think it looks good. Do you think it looks good?"
"It looks great, Kirk. You look very sharp," said Rory.
"Yeah, you've suited up with the best of them. Barney Stinson would be proud." Lorelai adjusted the lapels of his jacket and straightened his tie. "Now Kirk, I want you to do me a favor."
"Sure, Lorelai. Anything. You saved my wedding."
"I saved nothing," Lorelai said with a shrug. "I want you to go upstairs to Luke's apartment, grab a beer, and relax. Don't go running all over town to make sure everything is getting done."
"Taylor's got a handle on everything," Rory added. "Mom's right, Kirk. It's going to be a beautiful wedding."
"It's your wedding," Lorelai continued. "And we want you to enjoy it. Do you think you can do that?"
Kirk looked misty-eyed at Lorelai's request. Shocking both girls, he enveloped them in a huge bear hug. "Thank you," he said, slightly choked up.
"You're welcome," Lorelai said, straining for breath as she was being crushed against Kirk. He held on a few seconds longer and then quickly released them. He called out one final thank you, and then ran into the diner.
"That suit looks remarkably good on him," Rory commented.
"Thanks, babe. I think I really outdid myself this time."
"I mean, I know you have some mad sewing skills," Rory continued. "But, I had no idea that you would be able to fix that suit."
"What can I say? That menswear challenge on Project Runway really inspired me. I can sew with the best of them." They were silent for a few moments, watching as Kirk talked animatedly to Luke inside of the diner.
"Can I make one observation?"
"Those pins in the jacket weren't holding anything up and that needle you were using didn't have any thread." Rory suspiciously looked Lorelai up and down.
Lorelai grinned wide, knowing she had been caught. "Okay, okay. I bought him a new suit." Rory gasped. "I had his measurements and I found a suit that looked remarkably like the one he had and it was on sale, so I bought it. Consider it a wedding present."
Rory laughed. "You're a good friend. You really did save the wedding."
"All in a day's work, my child," Lorelai said, putting her arm around Rory. "All in a day's work."
♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫
Walking through the town square, Rory marveled at how the town had been transformed in just a few short days. Flowers adorned the staircase leading up to Miss Patty's studio, and she was able to pick out a few familiar faces in the group inside. As she neared the diner, she caught sight of Babette and Morey handing out programs at the entrance.
"Doll!" Babette rasped. "Look at you. You look gorgeous. Doesn't she look gorgeous, Morey?"
"She looks gorgeous, baby," said Morey.
"Thanks guys. Think I can still get a seat inside?"
"Lorelai said to tell you that she saved you a seat."
"Great. See you in there."
She walked through the door and meandered past at least seven Gleason brothers, before spotting Lorelai sitting on one of the counter stools.
"You cleaned up nice. Is that new?"
"It's yours," Rory said, adjusting the skirt of the dress.
"Really?" Lorelai gasped. "How come I've never seen it?"
"I don't know, but the price tags were still on it."
"Seriously? I never miss an opportunity to wear new clothes."
"Wow, look at all those people at the Soda Shoppe," Rory commented. At least twenty people were crowded around the window, a few leaving foggy imprints with their breathing.
"Oh yeah, that's actually a fun show. About every ten minutes, Taylor shoos people away from the window and then squirts a little Windex on it, talking to himself the entire time. Obsess much?"
Rory laughed and plopped down on the stool next to Lorelai. "So, the program says that Kirk and Lulu wrote their own vows. That should be interesting."
"Whoa, there's a program?"
"Yeah," said Rory, waving her program in the air. "Babette and Morey were handing them out."
Lorelai stuck out her lower lip in a pout.
"Do you want me to get you one?"
"If you don't mind. I finally got my stool nice and toasty."
Rory rolled her eyes, and pushed past the growing crowd. She opened the door and a blast of icy air hit her. She tightened her coat around her and she quickly snatched another program from the basket at Morey's feet.
"Rory, hey!" A familiar voice called out. Rory turned and saw Lane walking up to the diner with her stroller. When she got to the curb, Lane ran around to the front of the stroller to lift the wheels.
"Here, let me help you." Rory rushed to the back of the stroller and the two girls carefully lifted it over the curb. Lane began to unstrap Steve from the front of the stroller and Rory followed suit with Kwan.
"Hey, Kwan," Rory cooed to the small boy. His face contorted in a pained expression when he realized that Rory wasn't his mother and he let out a whine. "Oh no, shh, it's okay, Kwan. It's just me. It's just your Auntie Rory. You saw me the other day." Rory picked up Kwan and awkwardly tried to bounce him on her hip.
"Yeah, Kwan, it's your Auntie Rory. It's okay, buddy," Lane said, patting her son's back with her free hand. "Thanks for helping me out," Lane said to Rory with a grin. "Zach is still helping with some A/V glitch in Miss Patty's."
"No problem. That's what friends are for."
Rory held the door open for Lane, and they made their way inside of the diner. When she realized that Kwan was still letting out silent tears, she cuddled the small boy closer and planted a kiss on his forehead. "Come on, Kwan. You can be my date tonight."
♫ ♫ ♫
Lorelai glanced over at Rory and Lane, giving her daughter a wide smile and a thumbs up as she watched her whisper encouragingly in Kwan's ear. Looking around the diner, she could see a whole range of emotions reflected in the faces of the various people in the diner. Mrs. Gleason looked suspicious and Kirk's brothers unimpressed while his sisters gazed at Kirk in admiration. Across the room, Babette and Miss Patty whispered excitedly. Lorelai had been avoiding looking at the center of the room, where Kirk stood off to the side of Luke. He was jittery with nerves and looked as though he was physically restraining himself from whipping out his checklist. Finally, she forced herself to look at Luke, whose face was set into a scowl of disgruntled resignation. He was too busy gruffly reassuring Kirk while rolling his eyes at the Reverend's hand signals to notice her, and for the moment she was relieved. She was the only one present who knew just how much bitterness he must be feeling about being at a wedding, much less actually officiating it.
She was startled by the shift from the subtle prelude music to the strains of Pachelbel's Canon in D. The entire diner turned as one toward the door to see Lulu speed-walking toward the door, while her father hung on her arm and struggled to keep up. Kirk nudged Luke while keeping his eyes on Lulu. "I'm getting married," he said solemnly. "I'm really getting married."
Lorelai could hear Luke's muttered response. "Really? Is that what's going on here?" he asked sardonically.
Any reaction from Kirk was interrupted by Lulu's squeal of excitement as she entered the diner and accelerated toward her future husband. Behind the counter, Reverend Skinner fumbled with the cue cards he'd created for Luke, clearly unprepared for Lulu's hasty entrance.
"Okay, we're here, we're ready," Kirk stage-whispered to Luke. "Go ahead and marry us already. We're ready." He grabbed Lulu's hands tightly.
"Chill out buddy, We've got it under control." Luke glanced up over Mrs. Gleason's shoulder to the poster held by disembodied arms. "We are gathered together... "
The ceremony went quickly through the exchange of rings to the vows. Luke dutifully read the vows, which had been carefully scrutinized to remove any spiritual references. In Kirk's eagerness, he cut off Luke's prompts, reciting his vows before Luke could finish the lines. Luke finally threw up his hands and let Kirk continue on his own. Lulu was more accommodating, waiting to let Luke finish but saying her vows so quickly that they were almost unintelligible.
Lorelai had to hold her hand over her mouth much of the time to keep herself from laughing out loud. The action brought back memories of another wedding with a different kind of craziness and the man who'd been sitting next to her then. She closed her fists tightly and dug her nails into her palms to keep tears from springing to her eyes at the thought.
As soon as Lulu had finished her vows, Kirk looked back up at Luke and hissed, "Man and wife. Man and wife!"
Luke looked for a moment as though he wanted to throttle Kirk, but then he sighed and said, "I now pronounce you man and wife."
Kirk let out a whoop as he and Lulu lunged at each other, Kirk breaking their kiss long enough to yell, "Wife! I've got a wife," before pulling her into his arms again.
Lorelai tentatively caught Luke's eye, nervous about what she might see there. She smiled broadly when he rolled his eyes and gave her a conspiratorial wink.
♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫
Lorelai stood off to the edge of the revelers watching the two of them: Lulu giddy and adoring, Kirk proud and exuberant. It was enough to make a nonbeliever convert to some sort of religion; surely something as simple as luck couldn't be solely responsible for bringing together this unlikely pair.
She was trying to make a rough estimate of the number of times Kirk had uttered the word 'wife' since the ceremony when she felt the barest brush against her arm and heard Luke's soft voice in her ear. "Hey." She leaned into his hand, forgetting for a moment that they were supposed to be awkward, bitter, or any of the other things that they'd been in the last few days.
"Good wedding," he said lightly.
"They look happy."
"They do, don't they?" she answered, her voice sober with emotion.
He didn't say anything, just stood behind her gently cradling her elbow and brushing his thumb back and forth across her arm. After a moment, she heard him take in a breath. "I'm sorry. For storming—"
"No," she cut in. "God, Luke. You don't have to apologize. If anyone should..." She shook her head sadly. "I didn't mean to make you feel like I don't want — like I don't see this for us." She tipped her head to the side thoughtfully. "I mean, not exactly this, because while the close captioning on the big screen TV brings a certain air of inclusiveness to the event, somehow it's not how I've pictured it." He chuckled, but she continued, making sure he understood. "I do. I do want it."
"I know," he said quietly.
She wrinkled her brow. "Do you? Really?"
"I do," he insisted.
"Because I've been thinking about it recently and there are all sorts of thoughts rattling around up there." She gestured toward her head.
"Yeah?" he asked, the word a gentle prompt.
She paused and he gave her arm a soft squeeze. Taking a breath, she started hesitantly. "This is going to sound crazy and backwards, probably make no sense."
"So, par for the course, then?" he teased.
She shot him an evil glance over her shoulder, then crossed her arms across her chest, covering his right hand where it still rested on her arm. "I've always been so impatient to have it, you know, the relationship. That person I'd spend the rest of my life with. I think before I'd always gotten so focused on the destination that I actually thought that a wedding could somehow make a relationship more than it was. But it just made me do all kinds of irrational things: accept proposals from the wrong person, give crazy ultimatums..." Her voice grew softer, tentative. "Elope in Paris."
She heard Luke's breath hitch and then his low voice in her ear. "I hate Paris."
"I've always wanted to see Venice myself."
"Then Venice it is," he whispered. They were quiet for a moment as Lulu attempted to keep up with Kirk's increasingly ambitious dance moves, finally giving up and throwing her arms around his neck and reverting them to the 'junior-high formal' dance style.
"Luke," Lorelai asked, breaking the silence.
"It's just... the thing is, I'm more sure about us now than I ever was while I was wearing your ring." She felt him tense a bit and added, "I knew. I knew you were it. But I was still impatient, like it wasn't going to be fully real until we were married. But now... I don't know... I guess I've just been enjoying how not-impatient I've been — been reveling in how sure I've been. How sure I am."
It was immediate, the way that he wrapped her in his arms and pressed a kiss to her temple. And after almost three days of only the most minimal contact she let herself melt into him, let her head drop back against his chest and feel the solidness holding her up. Yep, definitely reveling. She could feel him working his jaw before he began speaking. "Just to be clear, though, it wasn't because of the town, or your parents. That's not why I asked. I mean, I could have done it better, said it better, picked a different time."
"Luke, that's not—" she protested.
"All the family stuff, the holiday stuff," he said, going on in spite of her interruption, "it just makes you think, you know." He hugged her a little closer, rested his chin on her head. "I didn't really ever think I'd have a family," he started. "I mean, every once in a while with Rachel I'd feel like maybe someday," he shook his head, "but we never got close enough for it to be a real possibility. And I figured that was okay. I didn't have to have a family. Liz had enough family drama for the both of us and eventually, there was Jess in full-blown living color. And that was enough to make anyone run screaming, I think."
Lorelai let out a chuckle at that, and could feel him smiling into her hair. "As soon as he'd straightened up and found his way, then all of a sudden there was April. And after that, it was kind of a constantly expanding thing: Liz and TJ and Doula, Lane and Zach and the twins. And all of a sudden I'm in the center of this crazy, wacky family I didn't choose or plan or anything, and it's unbelievable and amazing and..."
He hesitated, and after a long moment, she prompted him, "Luke?"
"I want you in the middle of it with me. I need you there, because it's your family too. Your parents are there, and Rory. It's all one big mess of a family and I want you to share it with me."
She couldn't stop the tears from pricking her eyes and she had to fight to keep her voice light as she squeezed her arms around his. "A month. You just got yourself no complaining about vegetables for a month."
To be continued...
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