Author's Note: Dedicated to Goldnox, may she forgive me for tormenting Emily once she sees the cute Luke/Rory moments later on.
I've been waiting five and a half seasons for Lorelai to finally tell Emily off, and as much as I enjoyed the "Shut up!" scene in the diner in 5x17, "Pulp Friction" it wasn't quite as comprehensive and satisfying as I'd prefer. And don't even get me started on the Kropogs episode. I think Emily got off too easy for all the times she was cruel to Luke. So this fic is all about fixing that. Emily will be tortured, Luke will be vindicated, Lorelai will be cute. That is my mission statement.
I have good reflexes, and bad manners.
If somebody starts screeching at me at a pitch reserved for dog's ears, I'm going to be winging a skillet their way or they're going to be hitting the pavement out front, and it won't take a full sixty seconds. But the person currently shrieking at me from across my counter is unfortunately immune to both of those outcomes, thanks to first to being a woman and second to sharing a last name with the love of my life.
She cuts me off, shrilling something nearly incoherent. I could throw her out, easy. But I don't want her out of my diner, I want her out of my life. There's only one way to accomplish that.
I yank my new phone out of my pocket and lay hard on the number #1, pressing until I'm sure it's dialing and tossing it out on the counter, gritting my teeth against her fresh volley of insults.
I've watched Lorelai limp home from hundreds of Friday dinners, her shoulders wilted and her jokes half-hearted like she'd been whipped but was too proud to crawl. At this point, she's too used to taking their abuse to expect anything to change. The only way to get her to make a stand is for her mother to go after someone she loves.
Emily hits a new decibel level and I back up and lean against my shelves, hooking my thumbs into my pockets. If Emily's determined to make me her whipping boy, it's going to mean something this time.
I've got five more minutes of this if Lorelai is somewhere in town, ten if she's at the Inn. My ears might never be the same, but the insults cut a lot deeper back when I thought Lorelai secretly gave a crap if they approved of me.
"Just because you run a diner and have mastered the art of the blank stare does not mean it's going to work with me! Richard went through a great deal of trouble to set the whole thing up and you never even called Herb Smith because apparently you can't follow through on anything, not even a razor!"
When Lorelai wakes up in the middle of the night, it's my jaw her fingers travel to for reassurance, and not until she feels the rasp of stubble does she fall back asleep, usually with one of her fingernails poking me in the lip. Why on earth would I want a straight-razor shave that lasted for days?
Shiny brown hair flashes from outside my window and I almost smile in spite of myself as she explodes in through the front door. For a staunch non-exerciser, Lorelai can really movein heels.
"Mom, what are you doing here?"
"I'm having what I'm sure will be another fruitless conversation with this man."
Fruitless? Well, when she came to tell me to go after Lorelai last time, she probably expected something more grateful than me tossing her out with one hand and locking the door with the other. Then again, at that point, a coupon flier to Great Clips probably would have been enough to tip me over the edge to running to Lorelai's with open arms. I built carts for children's plays, for Christ's sake. If that's not desperation, I don't know what is.
Lorelai turns to me, the hurt in her eyes almost enough to make me call this whole thing off and get rid of her mother before she can do any more damage. "I'm sorry," she says, the words catching in her throat. "I'm really really sorry."
They aren't words I'm used to hearing from her. Lorelai can rarely swallow enough of her pride to apologize to me, even when she really owes me one.
My hands curl in my pockets until one of the threads in my jeans pops, and I say, "It's okay," in a voice that doesn't even sound like me. And then keep standing there. Leaving her fully vulnerable to the person I know damn well has the ability to hurt her more than anyone else. I can't even leave the room and refuse to watch, because if I walk away, Emily can't attack me and without her protective instincts roaring full-force, Lorelai will fold. She'll get passive aggressive and sarcastic as hell, but when it's over, she'll be the one left bleeding where nobody but me can see.
"Mom, go home. You have no right to barge in here and cause a scene."
Emily bristles. "I have something I want to say."
"No!" Lorelai barks. "We don't want to hear what you have to say. We just want you to please butt out of our lives."
Heat rushes beneath my shirt, because it means something to me to know that she finally sees this as our problem, not her problem. Emily perks up almost as fast as I do.
"Our lives? So there's an 'our lives?' Are you two back together?"
She doesn't even hesitate. "Yes, we are."
"So you did go to her. Just like I told you to." Emily looks pleased with me, as if I'm a particularly well-trained puppy.
It's funny. If it were Taylor, I'd be fantasizing about dipping his face in the fryer. But it's hard to even work up any anger at Emily on my own behalf because I could care less what she thinks of me. Still, I speak up because I want Lorelai to hear it. "We got back together because we wanted to get back together."
"Then I simply don't understand," Emily says, distressed. "If you're back together, then what's the problem?"
Lorelai's incredulous. "What are you talking about?"
"Why won't you come to Friday dinner? Whatever happened between you two, I obviously fixed it—"
"You fixed it? You broke it." An ugly flush is starting to rise to Lorelai's cheekbones.
All I can hear is the shattered voice she left on my answering machine, asking me to come over. I remember how hollow she looked when I finally found her. That was because of this woman, because I let her scare me away using Rory's idiot father as her scarecrow. I grip the counter behind me and remind myself this is Lorelai's war to win, not mine. She's the strongest woman I've ever known. I'm just giving her something to fight for.
"Just because Luke and I found a way to repair the damage doesn't erase the fact that it happened."
"What I did, I did out of concern."
"Oh please. You've never had a second of concern for me."
Emily's eyes explode wide with outrage, but Lorelai's next words stop her cold.
"You don't like me, Mom."
The diner goes bomb crater quiet, and I want to break something, because Emily doesn't even argue, just huffs.
"And I know that. I've always known that, in one way or another." Lorelai's shoulders sag. "I gave up on our relationship years ago, but I still cared about you. Mostly in spite of myself." She reaches out, her fingers closing in an empty kind of gesture. "When Jason made you feel bad, I went after him, because deep down, Mom, I still wanted you to be happy. But when it comes to me, you don't even have that last scrap of compassion. Not only do you not care if I'm happy, when you saw that I finally was, you did your best to destroy it."
Emily's face is frozen in a rictus of indignation and disgust, her foundation flaking off the faint lines at the edges of her lips.
"And even worse, you don't care about my happiness or even my health. I couldn't get out of bed, I couldn't even stand up or think about eating."
I cringe, because Emily didn't do that, not really. That was all my doing, from something snapped out of sheer frustration in Doose's Market. And despite my best efforts, Lorelai is still a couple pounds shy of the weight she lost during that time.
"Well, of course I care about your health. You break up with men all the time, how was I supposed to know you'd react differently this time?"
"Because I told you!" Lorelai slaps a hand down on the counter. "I hide everything from you so you can't ruin it and you supposedly hate that, but you asked me how serious I was about Luke and I told you."
My head jerks back, because this is the first I've heard of it. And I can't help but wonder exactly what she said, because Lorelai and I have never talked about a future further than next Saturday. I told her I was in, she told me she loved me, and for me, that's enough. But now I'm clawing to know what Emily heard and I didn't.
"I was honest with you for once in my life," Lorelai says, "because I was happy and naïve enough to think that might matter to you. You knew exactly what would happen when you invited Christopher to the wedding, and afterwards, you never so much as called to check on me. You sent postcards." She laughs, bitter and long. "Talking about yourself. You know who mothered me instead? Rory and Sookie." Her gesturing hand lands on the edge of my counter and she squeezes it as if for strength. "And Luke."
She looks to me and I've never tried to say a damn thing with my eyes, like they do in all the movies, but right now I hope they're telling her loud and clear that she doesn't have to do this. We can call the game for rain and I'll let her eat every gallon of ice cream in my freezer, no matter what that will do to my ordering schedule.
But she just blinks back the tears and keeps going. "I lied to him and you broke his heart, and he still busted down my door to get to me while you were busy partying all over Europe." She laughs and it twists into a sob. "And even though we weren't speaking to each other, he snuck in while I was at work to fix the lock, so I'd be safe."
I attempt a swallow that doesn't make it all the way down.
"I hardly broke his heart, Lorelai. Don't be so dramatic. Rory's father is a part of your life and if Luke can't live with that, he may as well—"
"Stop." Lorelai's voice is so strong it doesn't even need to be loud. "That's what I should have said to you, all those years ago when you called me a trollop. Somehow, despite you being entirely clear in your disrespect for me, I let you sucker me back in. I even let you manipulate me into introducing you to Luke. And then you made me watch while you hurt him over and over and over—" The tears fall now, leaving black mascara streaks over her high cheekbones.
"Lorelai." My voice is so hoarse I hardly hear it and the counter's digging into my waist before I realize I've taken a step forward. Emily's head twitches toward me, but Lorelai is staring down our enemy and she still hasn't blinked.
"We're done, you and me. I said it, but you didn't listen. So I'll say it again." She takes a step forward and her mother flinches away, her high heel twisting and slipping on the floor.
Emily barely catches her balance, her fingers fumbling to smooth and tug at the edges of her suit jacket.
"Get. Out." Lorelai's voice is low, and meaner than I've ever heard it.
"Of this diner? Because you can hardly throw me out of your life, Lorelai. I'm your mother and I—"
"Both," she says, tears wet on her face. "They're the same. And if you knew me at all, Mom, you'd know that."
"Well," Emily huffs. "If that's the kind of behavior—"
"Go to hell, Emily." Even leaking black-lined tears, Lorelai's eyes are fire and truth and solid as the entire earth.
"Oh!" Her mother whirls and stomps out with a snap of expensive heels. She's too well bred to even slam my door, so the bell announces her departure with a half-hearted Ding.
Lorelai sinks onto a stool without even checking to be sure one's behind her, her breath coming out on the exhale it always does when she comes back here after she's seen her mother. It's a little shakier this time.
I reach across the counter and grip her hand. I should say something, but I'm not a words guy. Instead, we just stare at opposite ends of the diner, because for something that long in coming, there's not much left to say. We're okay, our world is exactly the same as it was, and that woman is no longer in it.
"You all right?"
"That felt amazing." She lets out a gusty sigh. "So why do I feel so awful?"
"She's your mother." I shrug.
Lorelai sniffs and reaches for a napkin with her free hand. "I'm just pissed I let her mess up my makeup."
"No, you're not. You know crying's the only way you get me to cough up the good doughnuts I stash for Rory."
She looks up hopefully, one eye wiped clean and mascara still smeared under the other. "Don't tease me, Danes. Not today."
"And when have I ever teased you?" I give her a look, my voice coming out gruffer than I wanted it to.
"Well, when you were doing your signature move last Tuesday, and I said Faster! Harder!" She narrows her eyes. "You held out."
"For a minute fifteen." I reach under the counter for the Tupperware where I put Rory's favorite doughnuts on days when she's due home from college.
A grin spreads across her face. "Didn't know you were counting."
"Of course I was counting. Backwards from a thousand, in Spanish." I pass her the doughnut, heavy on the sprinkles. "How do you think I held out for a minute fifteen?"
She snatches up the doughnut and smiles. Her eyes are still a little watery, but the lines at the edges of her smile are genuine. I thumb the last smear of mascara off the corner of her eye. "Now get outta here. That Inn's probably falling apart without you. You've got work to do."
Author's Note: Wasn't that satisfying? I know I really enjoyed telling Emily off. Make good use of that Follow button, people, because in the next chapter, Emily has a surprising reaction to Lorelai's outburst, and Luke loses his temper. Twice.
Also, there's going to be some cute Luke/Rory bonding later on, since I know everyone (and me) likes that.