AN: Zillions of thanks and hugs to all things holy for being the best beta (again). Go check out the TWoP ficathon, for which I wrote this in response to the theme challenge "Things You Thought You Knew."
Disclaimer: Not mine, not mine, not mine. Dialogue all written by Daniel Palladino.
The Things She Knows
Coffee is a necessary part of existence—cotton pajamas are comfortable—sweet is never salty and salty is never sweet—snow is pretty—every once in a while a girl has to dance.
She's dancing on the bed in her bare feet, wearing an old tee shirt and her Saturday undies. Lorelai has spent the last half hour shimmying around her room, swinging her hips and shaking her hair. She knows exactly how many minutes she can be late before she's really, really late, and she has one more song before she has to start getting ready for this wedding. Today, she feels she needs to work up to it; she knows there's no pressure with Luke, no expectations, and it makes things easier, but lately everything needs a prelude.
Humidity makes for frizzy hair—in regards to make up, less really is more—people cry at weddings.
She knows sometimes her mind gets ahead of her, plays word games she can't stop. Weddings brings her to the last one she attended; Christopher comes next; baby; elsewhere. She leans over the sink, close to the mirror as she sweeps mascara on her lashes. The thoughts are fleeting, skimming across the surface of her mind before circling back to the beginning, before she even has time to stop and think. Wedding; Ren-faire; Liz; sister; Luke; coffee. She steps back, narrows her eyes at her reflection a moment. She pins the garland in her hair as it begins again: Luke; shoulder; easy; comfortable; armchair?
When Luke is irritated, his forehead crinkles and the vein in his neck visibly pulsates—high heels are hard on the arch but keep your shoulders back—Stars Hollow is loveliest in spring.
She knows that being an adult (most of the time) means that twirling to see her skirt flare out around her is no longer her province; she resists the urge as she skips to the sidewalk, where Luke squints against the late afternoon sun. She knows he cleans up well, she's seen it before. Today, he looks all the better for telling her she looks beautiful, a word she knows doesn't often come from his mouth.
Sewing kits, though less important than coffee, are essential—women are altogether different creatures as brides—weddings eventually lead to a discussion of why the single people in attendance are still single.
"Do you want to get married? You must want to get married."
Why must, she thinks. "Yeah, you know, if I find the right guy."
The elusive Right Guy. She knows now who he's not—he's not the ne'er-do-well so sweet he tastes of cotton candy; he's not the literate scholar trying to impress her with fancy food and fancy books; he's not the sad-sack with a weak chin who doesn't do emotion. She knows she wants long Sunday mornings and foot rubs and walks in the snow with the Right Guy. But she also knows she can't quantify the Right Guy anymore. She's stopped trying to put him together in her head. The fantasy Right Guy retired when she missed her own wedding.
"I could be married for most of my life to him. Isn't that weird to think about?"
And because Lorelai knows that if she had to spend most of her life married to TJ she'd be forced to invest some serious money in Absolut, she can't quite answer the question the way she should, so she doesn't answer it at all. "I could be married for most of my life," she says. She knows that it's possible, and she likes the way it sounds when she says it. She knows she's staring down the barrel of thirty-six, but there are days she's just eighteen and contrary to boot and the rest of her life could go on forever.
Jess's mind will forever be an eternal mystery to her—it is hardest not to laugh when you know you shouldn't—emotion doesn't have to be articulate, it just has to be honest.
"That wasn't funny at all."
Luke's smile is soft, his eyes bright. She knows this side of him well, this sweetness he hides beneath the protective layer of flannel. She's selfishly glad that what he'll offer her wholesale he'll only parcel in bits and pieces to others. She knows he considers it too risky to completely give away; people can get close and closeness leads to hurt and disappointment. She knows too well he's not wrong, not completely: she's been the culprit of this more than once. She knows she could probably be again.
The mother-daughter relationship is rarely if ever simple—it's easy to be happy for newlyweds—there's a fine line when it comes to joking.
"He can read whatever he wants to read."
She lets him walk away. She knows he can be all cockles and burrs, too, prickly when angry. He's retreating: she knows somehow she's pushed too far, too hard—she's done it before and she'll do it again and she only knows she's done it afterwards, when that vein in his neck appears and his voice takes an edge sharper than his every day gruffness. She knows his outbursts aren't meant to sting. She also knows how he can stew in things until he's so steamed he can't contain himself. For now, she knows she can only let him alone.
Luke is terrible at small talk—sometimes you have to say the thing you don't think is true for the sake of someone else.
Giving her hand to Luke as they step onto the dance floor is an entirely new circumstance and Lorelai can't help but feel slightly silly, teetering on the edge of goofy. She's completely unprepared for this, for the way he takes her other hand, the way he places his own gently, tentatively at the small of her back and waits a beat to begin. She wants to laugh, doesn't know whether the fluttering in her stomach is embarrassment or shyness or a reaction to her dinner. They step to the music with a beat like a circle and she suddenly knows that Luke can dance—not just the steps: he's not stiff the way some men are or she'd have expected him to be, he's got a certain kind of grace in his step, in the slight dip of his arm, in the way he moves with her.
She doesn't know quite where to look as he leads her with just the slightest pressure of his hand, easing her towards him, where he wants her to go. She knows he's studying her but doesn't know how to meet his eye; when she tries, she only wants to laugh at herself. She feels silly for feeling silly, for the embarrassment flushing her cheeks because she knows he's still holding her fast with his eyes: this is Luke.
But his smile is new, one she doesn't recognize: what Luke is this? He's slowly drawing her closer, his arm about her waist, and she no longer knows what to think, except that it's all not so very absurd. She knows they're not really dancing anymore as she leans into him, but she doesn't know how it's ended up this way, with Luke holding her so close. She doesn't know how to look at him, doesn't know who this Luke is with the new smile, the new gaze, with an arm that fits around her waist, and she smiles over his shoulder, relieved, almost, that the closeness has made it impossible now for her to meet his eyes with her own.
The song ends and she stays tucked easily in the curve of his arm, her cheek close to his and her hand on his shoulder. She knows she's stayed this way a beat too long, but he's still holding her too and she's not sure how to step away. Instead she lets her hand fall, brush past his elbow; as he loosens his arm around her, his hand crosses the small of her back, his fingertips just grazing the fabric of her dress. She doesn't know that she really feels the brief tightening of his hand over hers just before he releases it or if it's just that when his hand is gone she suddenly knows she's cold. She shivers slightly, aware of the distance between them, of the sudden absence of warmth and the solid support of his arm. She knows she's going to have to look at him at some point: she's glad he makes it easy for her, seeing that she's cold and leading the way back to their seats for her wrap. She's fairly certain she knows how to put one foot in front of the other as she follows him, but she can't quite account for the tightness in her chest or the slight tremor in her hands.
She doesn't know what to do with herself now and so she falls back on two things she's always excelled at: eating and talking. She reloads her plate and his and keeps a steady stream of commentary about the spectacle unfolding before them on the dance floor. She knows he knows she's avoiding his eyes, knows he's listening for something beyond the inane banter she's forcing him into. She doesn't know what he's listening for, she only knows that the new smile has taken the place of the one she's known so well for so long and there's a certain quality in his voice she can't quite define that's never been there before. In the three minutes they spent closing the gap between them as they danced, he's evolved into a whole new Luke, a Luke she doesn't quite know what to make of, a Luke who walks her away from the lights of the party and towards the darkened street, his hand at her elbow. She thinks she should know this Luke, should recognize the heat he's suddenly radiating.
She knows she's being slightly ridiculous; as they walk home she tries to shake herself. She tries to talk to the Luke she knows, tries to ease herself back to the familiar and safe. When they stop below the porch, she forces herself to look him full in the eye, doesn't blink. She knows this is the point in the evening when any other guy would tilt his head to the side, lower his eyes slightly, look up again, lean in, and she'd have a split second to decide whether or not to turn her cheek, whether or not he merits a goodnight kiss. She knows this is the exact moment any other guy would try to extend the evening just a little further, when any other guy would go for the kiss just to see how good his chances are for more. The Luke she knows doesn't make those sorts of moves: he's never been any other guy. But she knows the Luke standing before her isn't quite the same as the Luke she's always known, and while she's fairly certain even a mutated Luke wouldn't try and kiss her, she's not entirely sure what to do with this moment that has always been so predictable in the past. She knows she's not waiting for him to lean closer, but for an instant she knows that it's somehow become a possibility. She doesn't know if she'd turn her cheek.
She knows something has shifted, knows he knows exactly what sort of moment has just passed. The knowledge is there in the way he responds to her compliment, in the tenor of his voice, and that new smile he wears is in and of itself knowing. But she doesn't know what's next and so she tries to leave.
"I can be a movie guy. You like movies."
She knows how it usually sounds when guys ask her out. She doesn't know how it sounds when Luke asks women out, but she knows that if Luke were asking her out, this is exactly how it would sound because it's exactly what he's doing. She doesn't know quite what she's saying, how she must look as he's asking her if she's free. She only knows that this new Luke has entirely replaced the Luke she's known so long, so well, and she doesn't know what this new Luke is thinking any more than she knows what she's feeling as he walks away. As she watches him stride into the dark, she only knows now that she doesn't know anything at all.
The most surprising things are the ones you already thought you knew.