Takes place after The Lorelai's First Day at Yale, but you don't need to have seen that to understand this.
A/N: My first GG fanfic! Scary! Anyway, the title of this story is acutally "The Adventure-s- of Martini Olive..." but the site wouldn't let me use that many letters so I had to trim one out. Darn. :(
Lyrics are from Sarah McLachlan's song Dirty Little Secret.
Warning: this story is fluffier than a bunny-tail. Well, maybe not quite that fluffy. But its at least as fluffy as a cottonball.
Been up all night drinking
to drown my sorrow down
Nothing seems to help me since you went away
and I'm so tired of this town
The Adventures of Martini-Olive and Her Food Gigolo
Reality is a sneaking thing. It slithers into the crevices of your mind when you're not looking and holds on tight, suffocating hope and denial and all the pretty things your imagination conjures up to keep you sane.
For people like Lorelai, who have honed their reality-avoidance skills to perfection, it can take up to a few days for reality to slip inside. And this is why, for the first few days after Rory left home to go to Yale, Lorelai was fine. She found reassurance in the fact that her daughter's moving away wasn't as gut-wrenchingly painful as she'd imagined it was going to be. Lorelai was doing okay. Everything was going to be honkey-dory. She prided herself on her strength of character.
What Lorelai didn't realize was that the moment she'd left New Haven and drove toward home, reality, malevolent and cunning as it was, had started seeping. It had oozed slowly, thick and inky, into her subconscious while she tried vainly to outrun thought. Each time she walked into her empty house, it sunk in a little faster. And whenever she walked by Rory's empty room, her carefully crafted denial was stained a little darker.
She spent long days at the Inn. She did other people's jobs. She even tried to help Tom, and ended up smashing her thumb with a hammer– success! Pain is very distracting. She walked around in a haze, pleasantly numb.
And then, four days after her only child went away to college, away from home, away from her, that stinging, assiduous thing called reality had found it's way into her grudgingly-conscious mind, and Lorelai was finally and thoroughly saturated with the knowledge that, for the first time in eighteen years, she was alone.
Lorelai drove all the way to New Haven before realizing that she just could not do this. She couldn't waltz in and interrupt Rory's new life because she, the adult, was having an empty-nest-induced meltdown.
She sat in her jeep, parked across the street from her daughter's dorm, clutching the steering wheel like it was a life savor. Not the candy, of course; the Styrofoam kind they threw out to people drowning at sea. She looked up at Rory's window, trying to imagine what she was doing. Probably reading, or studying. This was Rory, after all. But it was a college dorm. She could be at a party. Talking, drinking. Having fun. Having a life. A life apart from her.
Lorelai managed to drive to a deserted parking lot before she laid her forehead against the steering wheel and cried. She didn't even try to swallow the sobs bubbling up in her chest like an over-full pot on a too-hot ringer. She felt like she'd been hollowed, like someone had taken Taylor's sharp, smooth ice cream scoop and carved out the part of her labeled "Rory."
This was unfair. This was mean and cruel and all the other words that mean really-too-fucking-hard.
When Lorelai finally wiped her eyes and looked up, the first thing she saw was a sign hanging over a small local bar.
She pulled down the overhead mirror and looked at her face. She wasn't wearing a stitch of makeup and she had the word 'jeep' imprinted on her forehead from resting against the steering wheel. Her eyes were red and puffy, her cheeks splotchy.
Sighing, she pulled out the small makeup-bag she kept in her purse and went to work.
It wasn't until after her third drink that Lorelai started to feel comfortable in Sherman's Tavern. It was relatively early on a Wednesday night, and the bar was filled with men wearing cowboy hats and women in fringed-everything. She felt fidgety and out-of-place at first, sitting at the bar, sipping a martini.
Lorelai had pretty much missed out on the 'bar scene' portion of her life. At twenty-one, she had been more concerned with making a sandbox for five-year-old Rory than getting wasted with a bunch of strangers. The guys she'd dated had never been much into bars, either. She thought that maybe Christopher went to bars, but he'd never taken her to one. He probably took Sherry to bars. They seemed to Lorelai like a very bar-esque couple. And then there had been Max, and Alex. Max liked books and Alex liked fishing. She didn't think either of them had been to a real bar in a very long time. And this was a real bar. As real as they come. Lots of skimpy clothes and sleazy girls and seedy guys. And smoke. There was a lot of smoke. It clung to her hair and her clothes and reminded her of being fifteen and sneaking cigarettes with her friends in the trees behind the running track.
But by the time she'd started on her fourth drink, Lorelai was enjoying Sherman's Tavern a lot more. She'd struck up a conversation about cooking with an incredibly large man with six-inches of beard hiding half of his face.
"Pop-tarts are my speciality. Oh, and popcorn. With lots of butter." She giggled. "And corn pops! Just add milk. Really, I can cook anything that has the word 'pop' in it. But that's about it. Luke cooks the rest of my food."
"Luke?" asked big-beard-guy, whose name she had forgotten two drinks ago. "He your husband?"
"Hmm, no." She snorted. "He's my dinerman. He makes me food and I pay him. He's my food gigolo." The image of Luke as an anything gigolo made her laugh loudly and slap the table with gusto. Somewhere at the back of her mind she registered how odd her laugh sounded. Thin and screechy and not at all like her.
By eleven o'clock, Lorelai was drunk. Very drunk. Drrrrrunk with a big fat "D," she would have told you, had you asked her at the time. She'd already sang two karaoke songs, and had moved onto the dance floor. The music was terrible and vulgar, but it had a strong downbeat that reverberated deep in her chest. The lights were low, faces and bodies bathed in moving blue shadows. It all seemed very surreal to Lorelai, like swimming in a fish tank. But she liked it. She let her hips sway in time to the music, glad that it was loud enough to erase all thoughts from her head.
Somewhere around midnight a tall blonde drag queen wearing glittery gold eyeshadow told Lorelai how much he loved her shoes. They were purple sneakers with little heart-shaped rhinestones she'd attached with the Bedazzler she'd bought Rory for her eleventh birthday. He asked her if she wanted to trade them for his gold stilettos, and at the time, it seemed like a good idea. Unfortunately, the stilettos didn't fit properly, and Lorelai had to take them off to dance.
When a man she was dancing with shoved his hand down the back of her denim skirt, she yelped and decided it was time to leave. But when she went back to her table she encountered a rather large problem: her purse was gone.
She suddenly wanted to cry.
Lorelai finally found a payphone in the ladies' bathroom. She didn't even pause to wonder why there was a pay phone in the bathroom. She borrowed a quarter from the blonde drag queen, and, after five clumsy attempts to dial the right number, heaved a sigh of relief when he picked up.
"Yeah? Hello?" Luke sounded tired. It dawned on her that since it was nearly one in the morning, he had probably been sleeping.
Oops, sorry, were you sleeping? she said into the telephone. At least, that's what she meant to say. What came out was more like "Oopsh, shorry, were you shleeping?"
"Huh? Who is this?"
She cringed. He sounded angry. She cleared her throat and focused and tried to think of something witty and charming to say, but she'd lost the ability to make good jokes about an hour ago. So she settled on "its me, Lorelai."
"Lorelai? You sound weird. Are you okay?" He sounded a lot more awake now.
"Yep, fine, fine. Very fine. I'm so fine I'm Fran Fine. Without the annoying voice. That's how fine I am."
"You're drunk." He was surprised.
"Who me? No way, buster. It takes a lot to get me drunk. I bet I could drink you under the table. And over the table. And beside the table, too. Hey, why do people say that? Does anyone really have drinking contests under tables?"
"Lorelai, I only understood about three words of that. Where are you?"
"New Haven. Sherman's Tavern. And I haven't met Sherman yet, but if you see him tell him I like his place. Bathrooms needs some air fresheners though." She wrinkled her nose.
"Did you say you're in New Haven?"
"Yeah. I came to see Rory but then I didn't so I came here cuz there's booze, and it was fun until this guy put his hand down my skirt and I kinda freaked, but now I don't have any money cuz someone stole my purse. Mean, huh?"
"Where are you exactly? Street names?" Now that definitely sounded like concerned-Luke.
"Corner of Deerborne and Clark. I think. Its close to Rory's dorm."
"I'm leaving right now."
"Thank you," she said into the phone, but he'd already hung up.
Lorelai decided to wait for Luke outside the bar. She felt strangely vulnerable without her purse in her hands, and wanted to be where there was open air.
The fresh air did feel good. She breathed in deeply a few times, trying to clear her head, without much luck. The air here smelled different than it did in Stars Hollow. She wondered if Rory had noticed it too.
Lorelai had a fleeting thought that Rory would be ashamed to see her like this. She shook it off.
After a few minutes, her head started to spin like she was on one of those playground merry-go-rounds, so she leaned back against the brick wall by the bar door and closed her eyes. She wasn't sure how long she stayed like that, it could have been five minutes or a half-an-hour, only that suddenly, someone was touching her arm.
Her eyes snapped open and she was face-to-face with her dance partner, the one with the happy-hands.
He grinned, his hard, blue eyes raking over her body. He had a nice face, slim and clear with a strong jaw line and a lock of light brown hair falling into his forehead, but his eyes were glazed and glittering. "You left the party pretty quick there, doll."
"Hmm, yes, well," she stammered, feeling the hair on the back of her neck rise. She looked around for someone she could call to if this guy got too close. She saw no one. Perhaps waiting for Luke in a dark doorway wasn't the greatest idea she'd ever had...
"Want one?" he asked, holding out a package of cigarettes.
Lorelai shook her head. "No thanks. They're no good to me if they're not made of candy."
The blue-eyed man quirked an eyebrow, but put the package away without taking one for himself. Something about him made Lorelai think of a snake. The word 'coiled' popped into her head.
"You're really cute, you know that?" he grinned at her. "Really cute. Why don't we go down the street and get something to eat?"
"I don't eat after midnight," she said, digging her nails into her palm, desperately willing away the blurriness marring the edges of her mind. "You know, like one of those Gremlins? Feed me after midnight and I turn into a monster."
His grin only widened at that.
"We never got to finish our dance," he said, placing one hand on the wall just above her shoulder and leaning forward. She could smell his stale breath, and her hands started to shake a little.
"Leave me alone," she tried. He didn't leave. She attempted to duck under his arm and slip back inside the bar, but the alcohol had made her slow. He grabbed her upper arm and held on.
Rage rose up in her throat, and her voice was low. "Fuck off."
"Don't you wanna finish, doll?" he chuckled like he'd made a clever joke. "Cuz I wanna finish." He dipped his head down, closer to hers.
Fear and the sharp pain emanating from where his hand was squeezing her upper arm were sobering her quickly. "Look, my boyfriend is going to be here any minute, " she managed to fib in a reasonably calm voice, though her heart felt like it was about to explode out of her chest. "He wouldn't like it if he saw you here with me. He has really big arms. Like... like Popeye. He could crush you."
He backed away a little at that.
She nodded quickly. "He'll be here any second. That's why I'm standing out here. I'm waiting for him."
After hesitating a few seconds, the blue-eyed stranger released his grip on her arm. "Whatever," he huffed, and disappeared back into the bar.
Lorelai let out a rush of breath. She let her chin fall to her chest, willing her hands to stop trembling.
Her head snapped up at the sound of her name. And there was Luke Danes, walking toward her, concern and puzzlement etched across his face.
Its Luke.... oh thank God, thank you, thank you, she chanted as he came toward her. She had never been so happy to see a familiar, sober face. She tried to walk the last few feet to meet him, but she must have wobbled because he reached out and took her elbows in his hands.
"Lorelai? Are you okay?" he asked, brow furrowed intensely. Immensely glad to see him, and still drunk enough not to stop herself, she leaned in and wrapped her arms around his waist. She let her cheek rest against his chest, taking a shaky breath in. He smelled like the diner. Like coffee and pie and burgers. Her stomach suddenly churned at the smell of food, and she gulped.
"I think I've got the mean reds," she quipped into the soft flannel of his shirt, mostly to keep herself from bursting into tears or throwing up.
"You have the what?" He sounded completely confused for a moment. Then his body stiffened and he stammered: "Aw jeez, Lorelai. Well, okay... uh, I guess... do we, er... you... need to stop at a drug store, or... something?"
At first she was too inebriated to make sense of his rambling question. But when she pulled back and she looked at his face, the look of terror and extreme discomfort painted there told her what he thought she'd meant. He looked so horrified that she found herself smiling. She had been thinking 'Breakfast at Tiffany's,' but he was thinking Tampax. Normally she would have known not to use movie references with Luke, but right then her brain felt fuzzy.
She shook her head. "Luke, no, no. I just meant that I'm... I'm having a really bad day." She felt tears prick her eyes and looked down at her feet. It was only then that she noticed she wasn't wearing any shoes.
Luke noticed too. "Where are your shoes?" His voice was laced with both concern and amusement. She had half-expected him to be angry with her when he arrived, like her father, or even Max, would have been, but his tone was soft.
Lorelai bit her lower lip and looked back towards the bar. "I think I gave them to a drag queen."
"Right. Of course you did. Do you want to go back in and get them?"
She sighed and shook her head. It made her dizzy. She decided not to shake her head anymore. "I just wanna go home. Can you drive me?"
All traces of humor left his face then, and he nodded. "Yeah, come on. My truck's parked across the street." He looked back down at her feet. "Do you, uh, want to wear my shoes? Your feet must hurt."
She smiled at his kindness, but admitted sheepishly: "To tell you the truth, I can hardly feel them."
Luke pursed his lips, looking uncomfortable. Then, suddenly, he stooped down. "Put your arms around my neck."
"What?" she narrowed her eyes, confused.
"Just put your arms around my neck."
She did and he hoisted her off the ground, grunting. She gave a little "weee," but it was halfhearted, as her stomach felt like it was trying to beat them to the truck.
Luke carried her across the street, but ran into a problem when he couldn't figure out how to open the truck door and carry her at the same time. He stood there awkwardly for a moment, trying to work out the conundrum, until he finally asked: "Lorelai? Get the door?"
"Oh," she giggled and reached down to pull at the doorhandle. "Right. Sorry. Got it."
"Thanks for the ride, Big Ben." She said as he set her down on the seat.
"Could've cut your feet," he mumbled in response, and walked around the truck to get to the driver's side.
They drove in silence for a few minutes, Luke fidgeting uncomfortably and glancing at her out of the corner of his eye, while Lorelai tried to force down the nausea she was feeling.
"Just say it," she finally said, sighing. She couldn't seem to shake the fogginess lurking around the corners of her brain, and she was still feeling much, much too brave.
"Say what?" he looked at her, then back at the road.
"What you're thinking: that I'm a mess. That I'm too old to be acting so irresponsible."
"Wasn't thinking that." His words were clipped.
"Then what were you thinking?" she pressed, suddenly angry at his perpetual nonverbal-ness.
He sighed loudly and pursed his lips tightly before finally answering: "I was thinking that you must have been feeling pretty shitty to go out and do this to yourself."
She folded her hands in her lap, the majority of her anger abating."Thanks for the bulletin."
Awkward silence again fell upon the small truck cab. Lorelai stared out the window and watched the trees and houses rush past. Then, still looking away from him, she said very quietly: "I miss Rory."
"I know. I know you do." His voice was gentle.
"I mean, I really miss her. I miss her so much its stupid. I miss her as if she's gone forever and not just for eight months. As if I'm not going to see her next Friday at dinner. I don't think this is normal."
She felt a few tears slip down her cheeks and she reached up quickly to wipe them away. There's only so much embarrassment a Gilmore can take in one night.
Lorelai suddenly felt her stomach lurch, and gasped at the unpleasant sensation. "Man, Luke, what's with the Earnhardt impression? Can you slow down a little?"
"I'm not going that fast." He looked over at her, puzzled.
"You are! I can feel it." It felt to Lorelai as if they were traveling at the speed of light, and her stomach just could not catch up.
"I am not."
"Lorelai, I'm not even going the speed limit!"
And then she felt it. That roiling burning in her gut. She was going to throw up. Now.
"Pull over," she commanded, eyes wide.
He seemed stunned for a moment, then got the message and pulled off to the side of the road. Lorelai opened the door and stumbled out, falling to her knees.
Moments later she was kneeling over a small, greenish puddle. Her stomach could find no more to expel and was rumbling smugly in her gut. The pavement was rough under her bare knees, tiny pebbles tearing her skin, little pinpricks of pain slicing through the fading numbness.
"Ew," she said to the green puddle. She was trying to remember what she drank that was so green.
Luke thrust a handful of tissues at her, trying to hide his grimace. He'd followed her out of the truck but was clearly unsure what to do beyond stand there helplessly.
"Is that it?" He asked.
"God, I fucking so hope," Lorelai groaned, wishing desperately for anything to get the horrible taste out of her mouth. As if he'd been reading her mind, Luke held out a bottle of water.
"Where'd you get that?" she asked, surprised.
"Emergency kit in the back." he explained, gesturing toward the truck bed.
"Thank God for Boy Scouts," she said, and took the water to rinse out her mouth.
He helped her back into the truck cab, then slid into the driver's side and turned on the ignition. "If you're gonna puke again, lemme know," he said, but his voice was gentle. She didn't puke again. She fell asleep, her spinning head resting against the smooth, cool window as they drove towards home.
When she woke up the truck was parked in her driveway and Luke was sliding one hand under her knees, the other around her back. He lifted her out of the truck and adjusted her weight in his arms, grunting. She wanted to protest this whole knight-in-shining-armor thing, but she was too tired. And he really did have big arms.
Inside, he put her on the sofa, then disappeared for a moment. She leaned back into the soft cushions and pillows, tremendously grateful to be home, and tugged the afghan down from the back of the sofa to cover herself with. She knew she was going to fee very, very stupid in the morning. Stupid and sick.
Luke returned with a bottle of water and two Tylenol PMs. He sat on the edge of the coffee table, facing her, while she took them.
"Apple Martinis," she said after swallowing the last pill.
He didn't even ask.
"That's what I drank that was green. I just remembered."
"You feel okay now?" He asked.
Lorelai nodded. Of course, it was a lie. She felt terrible. Her head was pounding so hard she imagined one of the seven dwarves was in there mining for treasure. Her stomach was still rolling unpleasantly. And to make matters worse, somewhere at the back of her mind, embarrassment was beginning to fester.
After a beat, Luke reached out and brushed his knuckles against her arm. "It'll be okay, Lorelai. You'll see her soon," he said, and his voice was so soft and warm she almost cried at the sweetness of it, at how right and safe and good it felt to be here with this scruffy man in the flannel shirt.
She'd told the creepy blue-eyed man outside the bar that her Popeye-esque boyfriend had been coming to pick her up. It had been a lie, of course. A necessary lie. Luke was not her boyfriend. But she couldn't help remembering how nice it felt when he'd picked her up. How strong he was. How well she fit in his arms. And how very kind he'd been to her tonight.
Her hand must have known that she was still kind of drunk, for it reached up to touch his face. Stupid hand, she thought, as her fingers played over the rough stubble along his jaw. Stupid drunk Lorelai with her stupid brave hand.
"Luke?" she found herself asking. She dropped her hand and her fingers brushed against his knee. Soft denim. "Am I your Olive?"
His raised eyebrows and slightly open mouth told her that he had no idea what she meant. And she couldn't explain. Not tonight, like this. So she kept the pretty secrets between her teeth, like a tic-tac, sweet and strong. Besides, she was in no shape to be anyone's Olive right now. She was drunk. She was pickled. A martini olive.
Lorelai giggled at that, but then turned serious. She could feel the medication beginning to take effect, and she wanted to make sure he knew how much she appreciated what he'd done.
"Thank you," she told him solemnly, making sure not to slur the words. "For everything. For coming to get me in New Haven and not being too freaked out when I puked and it was green, and for being here now."
He was looking at her oddly, his full lips curved into a small smile, his eyes wide and intensely blue. He was fidgeting again, worrying his hands in his lap, so she reached out and took one of them in her own. His hand was rough in places, calloused from years of handiwork and marred with dozens of tiny scars from cooking with grease. His palm was soft, though, and she lightly traced his life line.
"Why are you always so good to me?" she asked, her voice quiet and a little raspy. Normally, she would have been afraid of the answer. But tonight she was Martini Olive, and Martini Olive was afraid of nothing.
But he didn't answer. He just ducked his head a little and pulled the blanket up to her chin, smoothing it over her shoulders.
They stayed like that, Lorelai lying on the sofa, Luke only a few inches away on the coffee table, silent and unmoving, until she just couldn't keep her eyes open any longer, and closed them, feeling sleep lapping at the edges of her mind.
Luke reached up and switched off the lamp on the end table. She heard him rise and then bend to collect her empty water glass.
"Goodnight, Popeye," she mumbled as she drifted off.
"Goodnight, Olive," she thought she heard him reply. But she might have already been dreaming.
I've relied on my illusion
To keep me warm at night
And I've denied in my capacity to love
But I am willing to give up this fight