A/N: Well, here it is... the dance! (It's also the end, but let's not focus on that aspect, mmk?) Please forgive me if my descriptions of a father-daughter dance are off. My father never took me to one, but my uncle took my cousin to a bunch and sometimes she would brag about them to me. It was sad. Don't get me wrong, I love my father, but his idea of father-daughter bonding consists of stuffing envelopes to send to his clients. Yeah, I learned an important life lesson at an early age: don't trust your parents when they tell you something is fun, heh. Okay, now that I've told you far more than you want to know about my life, please read, review, and, above all else, enjoy!
Luke held Amelia's hand as they entered the Stars Hollow High School gymnasium. He took in the features of the bland room – the bleachers, the basketball hoops, the scuffmarks on the floor. Aside from the scattered balloons, streamers, and array of tables surrounding the section of the floor that would act as the 'dance floor', there was hardly any indication of a special event at all. I'm glad I had to pay hundred bucks for this crap. Jeez. He took a few deep breaths, trying to keep his frustration at bay as he studied the room further. He had always hated going back to his former high school as an adult. The place held very few good memories for him and, frankly, the bad ones overshadowed any good ones that he might have had, anyway.
Yet, at his side, Amelia stared at the gymnasium in reverence as she clutched onto her father's hand. Luke gave her small hand a brief squeeze. He watched as her eyes roamed the perimeter of the room, her mouth opening slightly as she noticed the brightly colored balloons, wedged against the ceiling. Although he couldn't and, most likely, would never understand how a child could be mesmerized by something as mediocre as a dance in a high school gymnasium, he knew that his daughter was truly looking forward to it. Therefore, he also knew that he had to at least make an effort to seem as if he was enjoying the dance. For Amelia, he reminded himself.
Luke was forced out of his musings when he heard a familiar voice call his name, and the instinctive aggravation that always accompanied Taylor's presence crept into his veins. His free hand clenched into a fist involuntary, and it took all of Luke's willpower not to punch Taylor in the nose right then and there. After all, this stupid dance was all Taylor's idea and, unless Lorelai had been pulling his leg (which, in most circumstances was likely, but doubtful in this particular situation), Taylor had been the one to warm Amelia up to the idea in the first place. After a moment, Luke unclenched his fist and, very slowly, turned to face the infuriating man.
"What do you want, Taylor?"
"What's with the attitude, young man? After all, your daughter seems to be absolutely thrilled to be here." Taylor smirked at Luke and then muttered, "That must kill you."
"Did you have a particular reason for approaching me?"
"Of course." Taylor handed him a piece of paper. "I wanted to give you this."
"Ten percent off laundry detergent at Doose's Market for all participating fathers and daughters at Stars Hollow's First Annual Father-Daughter Dance," he read. "Gee, thanks."
"It's about time the men started to buy common household essentials – such as laundry detergent – for their families. After all, it is the twenty-first century."
"What the hell are you talking about? I've been buying Lorelai's laundry detergent since before we even started dating."
"That's not all you buy for her," Taylor stated knowingly.
"Jeez, Taylor! Are you keeping tabs on what I buy now? I need to find a new grocery store," he mumbled.
"I need to know what kind of products consumers are buying! It's only proper business adequate to –"
"Okay, we're gonna go over there –" Luke pointed to the long table with the seating cards on it – "and, if you have any attachment to your ribcage, you are not going to follow us."
"Fine." Taylor shook his head, as he indiscreetly scanned the room for his next victim. "You know, Luke, I don't understand you sometimes."
"Yeah, well, right back atcha. Come on, Amelia, let's go."
"Okay!" she enthused. "Bye Mr. Doose!"
"Goodbye, Amelia. Enjoy yourself!" He then shook his head as they began to walk away. "It's beyond me how a man like Luke could have such a pleasant daughter."
Luke paused, glaring at Taylor, before thinking better of it and, instead, began to walk away faster.
Amelia and Luke were seated at table five, and, despite himself, Luke was relieved to find that he was sitting with Jackson. He found Jackson to be a little nutty sometimes, but, well, who in Stars Hollow wasn't? At least he could hold a semi-coherent conversation with Jackson without suffering life-damaging aftershocks. Amelia chatted animatedly with Jackson's daughter as Luke pushed the food back and forth on his plate with his fork.
"This is the most disgusting chicken I've ever tasted."
"These vegetables are terrible," said Jackson, ignoring Luke. "You know, I didn't grow these. Taylor never buys from me."
"Well, Taylor's an idiot."
"Come to think of it, you don't order your vegetables from me, either," Jackson accused, pointing a finger at Luke.
"Yeah, well, uh… I've had the same vegetable supplier for a while and he's old and I wouldn't want to let him go. It might kill him. But you, uh, you seem to be doing pretty well without my business." Okay, maybe sitting with Jackson isn't that relieving, after all.
"Sure." Jackson rolled his eyes, but didn't pursue the topic further. Instead, he said, "This is great, don't you think? I mean, how often do we get to spend quality time, just us fathers and our daughters together?"
"Uh-huh, my thoughts exactly," he lied. "Where're Sookie and Davey tonight?"
"Oh, they're spending some quality time together. Plus, I think Sookie mentioned something about Lorelai coming over and the two of them talking about boys or something."
"Yeah? She didn't mention anything about that to me. They're probably plotting something."
"Probably," agreed Jackson with a chuckle.
They both ceased speaking, an uncomfortable silence forming between them as they considered this possibility. After all, it wouldn't have been the first time. Slowly, the other people at the table began to migrate toward the dance floor, including Jackson and his daughter, leaving Amelia and Luke behind. Luke glanced down at his food again and then squeezed his eyes shut, disgusted. When he opened them again a few moments later, he felt Amelia lean over and yank his sleeve. He groaned.
"May I help you?"
"Can we dance?"
He paused. "Not yet."
"I'm not finished eating yet."
"Daddy! You haven't been eating!"
"How do you know?"
"I was watching you!" Her lower lip protruded slightly as she began to pout, looking up at him with puppy dog eyes. "Please?"
"Ah, Jeez; not the pout. Your mother is unbelievable sometimes, did you know that?" He threw his napkin down on the table and pushed his chair back roughly, leaving more angry scuffmarks on the gym floor. "Let's go."
As Luke and Amelia approached the dance floor, the slow song that had been playing before ended. In its place, a fast song began to play. Luke paused and, after a moment, Amelia did, too. She gazed up at her father curiously.
"How about next song?" he attempted.
"I'm not very good at dancing to fast songs."
"This isn't fast." He gave her an incredulous look. "Please? Mommy would do it!"
"Yes, but Mommy's crazy."
She pouted, trying a different tactic. "Please Daddy? Please, please, please? If you do this, I'll never ask you to do anything for me again!"
"Somehow, I doubt that," he replied gruffly. "If I say yes, will you stop whining?"
"Okay, but we're only dancing to one fast song."
"One," he repeated.
"Okay," she agreed grudgingly. "Come on, let's go; it's almost over!"
Luke allowed his daughter to grab his hand and lead him onto the dance floor. At first, he awkwardly swayed to the music as Amelia bounced up and down in tune to the music. He couldn't help but laugh when she began to shake her head roughly, her curls flying wildly around her. Maybe this won't be so terrible, after all, he realized. Suddenly, Luke could've sworn that, from the corner of his eye, he saw a flash go off. However, when he turned to look around the room, he saw no traces of a camera. Instead, he wrote it off as paranoia, and continued to dance.
Five fast songs later, Luke and Amelia were still dancing. As Amelia completed an awkward twirl, she sang along to the Spice Girls song that was currently playing. Luke laughed inwardly at the thought of Lorelai and the horrified look that would surely grace her features once he let the fact that her daughter knew lyrics to Spice Girls songs slip. Luke tightened his grip on Amelia, smirking into her hair. Finally, he had something to get back at Lorelai with for transferring her evil methods of persuasion to their daughter! He made a mental note to buy Amelia a Spice Girls CD.
When the song ended, a slow song finally started up. Luke looked around the room nervously at the other dancers. While he knew how to dance, he had certainly never done it with a child. What if he crushed her tiny toes? He glanced down at her and noticed the expectant look on her face. He sighed, and reluctantly said, "Hop on my feet."
"Yeah, but c'mon," he grudgingly informed her, "the longer you wait, the less time we have to dance."
Her small feet just barely covered the fronts of his shoes as she stepped up, beaming at her father. He reached his arms around her frame to steady her and, after a moment, she grabbed onto his waist and looked down at their feet. Luke's gaze followed hers, and he kissed the top of her head.
"Pretty shoes. I like the bows."
Her eyes widened and, after a moment, she looked up at Luke, her face radiating with happiness. "Thank you, Daddy."
He regarded her strangely. Why was she so happy? He hadn't said anything particularly amazing; just complimented her shoes. "You're welcome," he finally replied.
They danced in a comfortable, albeit unusual silence. At this point, Luke held his daughter tightly against his body, burying his nose in her hair. As they embraced, he felt a surge of emotion and he bit his lip to keep the tears at bay. It still shocked him sometimes, when he realized the full extent of his love toward his daughter, that he could feel so much toward one person. Kids had annoyed him in the past and, frankly, Amelia often frustrated him, too. Nonetheless, he couldn't imagine his life without her.
Growing up, his father had scarcely let Luke know the extent of his love. Although, looking back upon past father-son exchanges, Luke knew that, deep down, his father had felt the same paternal extinct that Luke was currently experiencing. Yet, as a child, he often wondered how his father felt about him – if his father would rather not have had the burden of raising him, especially after his mother died. Suddenly, Luke was gripped by panic. Did his daughter feel that way about him? Did she ever wonder whether Luke would rather she wasn't his daughter? Did she ever doubt the presence of his love? No, he assured himself, she knows. Sure, he reasoned, he didn't say the words as often as certain parents, but he had certainly said them before. And, more importantly, he'd shown her that he loved her. After all, was he not standing in the middle of a smelly gym, eating terrible chicken and resisting the urge to undo the constricting bowtie and itchy collar of his tuxedo?
"Tell me a story," Amelia requested, breaking her father from his reverie.
"A story? Like what?"
"I don't know," she sighed against his stomach. "Something about dancing."
"I don't know much about dancing," he replied gruffly.
"Oh." She sounded slightly disappointed. He cringed.
"But, I do dance. Sometimes."
"How did you learn?"
"Uh, well, actually, you know, my mom taught me."
"Grandma?" she asked, puzzled.
Luke rolled his eyes. "Not your mom's mom, my mom. You've never met her before."
Luke swallowed. Amelia knew about Luke's father passing away because she often asked about the William's Hardware sign that hung proudly outside of his diner. But Amelia had never asked about Luke's mother and Luke, in turn, had never mentioned her. "Well, she uh… died, when I, uh, was younger." Amelia looked up at him sadly, biting her lip as she did so. Damn it, I shouldn't have told her, he thought. I've totally ruined the whole night for her!
"So I can't see her?"
"No," Luke whispered. "But, you know, she would love you, if she knew you."
"Absolutely. How could anyone not love you?"
She smiled slightly, but then quickly turned serious again, frowning up at her father, instead. "What was she like?"
Luke thought about this for a moment. There was so much he wanted to say, yet nothing seemed suitable enough to answer such an important question. Finally, he replied, "That's hard to say, exactly. She was a lot of things - beautiful, smart, talented, sweet... she loved me and your Aunt Liz with all of her heart. She was just… amazing."
"I wish I could see her," Amelia replied with a pout.
"Me, too," he whispered, before softly cradling the back of her head in his hands.
At some point during their talk, the music had changed. It was still a slow song, though, so they remained in the same position, although silence had overtaken them once again.
"Do you dance with Mommy?"
"Yeah," he replied softly, "sometimes."
"Like in the picture?" she asked. He nodded, knowing that she was referring to Lorelai's favorite wedding picture – a candid that sat in a simple silver frame on her nightstand. "I like that picture," she admitted shyly.
"That makes two of us," he mumbled into her hair. "You know, the first time your mother and me danced was at your Aunt Liz and Uncle TJ's wedding."
Amelia grinned up at him, biting her lip as she did so. "Really?"
"Yup. Your mom was very surprised that I was such a good dancer." Amelia giggled at this. "We weren't even technically dating yet, actually," he mused aloud, as Amelia stared up at him. "I mean, I thought we were – I thought inviting your mom to the wedding was obviously a date, but she wasn't sure." He chuckled. "We had problems communicating in the beginning of our relationship." Amelia merely nodded, now slightly confused by the turn his story had taken. "I still remember how beautiful she looked that day..."
He trailed off, noticing how Amelia's eyes seemed to droop and her grip on him loosened slightly. He rubbed her back soothingly for a few moments, before bending over and lifting her off the ground. He held her in that familiar position against his chest, gripping the backs of her thighs as she wrapped her legs around his stomach and buried her face in his shoulder.
"I love you."
"I love you, too," he replied softly, brushing a kiss against her cheek. "Thank you for asking me to this dance."
"You're welcome," she replied with a sleepy smile.
Suddenly, Luke again noticed a flash coming from somewhere behind Amelia. He peaked over her head and spotted Kirk pointing a camera at them. Realizing that Luke had spotted him, Kirk quickly turned away, focusing on a different father-daughter couple, instead. Yet, after a few moments, the camera was back in their direction again, so Luke glared at Kirk. Kirk merely shrugged and yelled, "This one's for the front page of the Stars Hollow Gazette!" before snapping one last picture and dashing away.
"Jeez. This town is crazy," he muttered to Amelia. "Did you know that?"
"Mommy's crazy, too," she replied softly, remembering Luke's earlier words.
"Yeah…" he paused. "I guess, sometimes crazy isn't so bad."
Numerous times throughout the night, Luke had tired to convince Amelia that it was time to go home, but she stubbornly refused, insisting instead to remain nestled in her father's arms as he swayed slightly to the music. Finally, at eleven, the DJ played the last song of the night, and the final set of dancers filed out of the gym. By the time the two of them returned home, Amelia was fast asleep in the backseat of Luke's truck. Groaning, Luke opened the door and lifted Amelia as her limbs flapped lifelessly at her sides.
When he approached the door, Luke struggled to get the house key out of his pocket, and then struggled even more as he tried to unlock the door. Just as he finally successfully fit the key into the lock, he felt the doorknob turn. A smiling Lorelai greeted him, and, although she stepped aside to let him in, her grin continued to grow.
"Aww, Luke, you wore her out," she whispered. "You're such a party animal!"
"It's three hours past her bedtime," he pointed out, "of course she's tired."
"Uh-huh, sure, that's what they all say."
"So you walk around accusing people of being party animals on a normal basis?"
She paused. "Yes."
"Uh-huh. Can I put our daughter down? She might be small, but I've been carrying her for three quarters of the night and my back is killing me."
"Oh, poor thing," she cooed. "Hand her over, I'll put her to bed. Why don't you grab a cup of tea or something?"
He nodded gratefully and passed Amelia to Lorelai. After a few awkward shuffles, Lorelai found a comfortable position and began to walk toward Amelia's bedroom, as Luke put on a pot of tea. When Lorelai entered the bedroom, she pulled back the pink floral comforter and sheets. Then, she carefully placed Amelia on the bed and lifted her slightly to unzip her gown. After undressing Amelia and then re-dressing her in one of Luke's old tee shirts that Amelia had claimed as her own, Lorelai pulled up the blankets and tucked her daughter in. Amelia sighed and turned onto her side, burying her cheek in the softness of the pillow. Lorelai watched her slumbering daughter for a moment, a small smile present on her lips. Then, she placed a kiss on Amelia's temple and, after making sure that the comforter covered her body completely, turned to leave. However, she paused when she heard Amelia mumble her name.
"I'm right here. What is it, Babe?"
"Did you know Daddy's mommy taught him to dance?"
Lorelai shrugged. "I think he might've mentioned that to me before, yeah." She smiled. "He's a very good dancer, isn't he?"
"Uh-huh," she agreed groggily. "Mommy?"
"Will you teach me to dance?"
Lorelai smiled, but replied, "We'll see. It's late; go to sleep. Love you."
"Love you, too."
Lorelai was still smiling when she entered the kitchen and plopped down on a chair beside Luke, sans coat, bowtie, and cummerbund. He looked over his mug and raised his eyebrows at her, before taking an appreciative gulp of the warm liquid. Lorelai lifted the Hello Kitty mug that Luke had poured for her and took a sip of tea. Although it sure as hell wasn't as good as coffee, she had gained a tolerance toward the more fruity-tasting varieties, and would sometimes drink with him (mostly to make him feel better about her arguably unhealthy caffeine intake).
"So… you made it through; you've lived to tell the tale. How do you feel?"
"Tired," he groaned. "My whole body aches."
"Poor baby." She placed her tea down on the kitchen table before walking up behind him and beginning to massage his tense muscles. "How does that feel?"
"Really good," he mumbled. "I'm too old to be doing this sort of thing."
"No you're not," she replied, kissing the back of his neck as she continued to knead his flesh. "You're the sweetest man in the entire world." He merely grumbled unintelligibly in response. "No, really. I mean, you do this for our daughter – you completely make her day, even though you didn't really want to –"
"It wasn't too bad," Luke admitted.
Lorelai grinned at his admission. "Why, Luke Danes, who would've thought? Mr. Gruff enjoying a girly dance? Wow, the world in which I've based all my beliefs has suddenly been disrupted…"
"No, really, is the Earth still revolving around the sun?"
"Lorelai," he warned again.
"Fine, fine. You know why else you're sweetest man alive? You didn't just dance with Amelia, but you danced with Rory, too."
"Oh God." He covered his face with his hands. "She told you about that?"
"Of course! How could she not? You totally made her day, too. And mine, come to think of it. I was really worried about Rory, and you knew that and you gave me a reason not to worry anymore."
"Well," he mumbled, "it killed me to think that Rory never had that."
"You're really something else, Mr. Danes, you know that?"
He blushed. "Thanks."
"So, you had fun."
"Yes, but don't spread it around, okay?"
She smirked. "That depends."
"Depends on what?"
She leaned forward, leaning against the back of his chair as she whispered, "On tonight," in his ear.
He shivered involuntarily at the feel of her warm breath against his skin. "Oh yeah? What happened to your 'no previews' rule?"
"It flew out the window once I saw you in that tux. You should wear tuxedos more often. The James Bond look really works for you."
"Keep talking like that and you'll have no one to give your preview to."
"Oh, you're being demanding tonight. I like that."
"Stop what?" she asked, feigning innocence.
"Mocking? Whatever do you mean?"
Luke groaned and pushed his chair back slightly to stand up. He collected both of their mugs and rinsed them out, before placing them on the counter to dry, and then walked out of the kitchen. "I'm going upstairs to our bedroom…"
"…I'll be there, if you decide to behave."
"But you like me bad," she whispered seductively, following him up the stairs and cupping his bottom. "Come to think of it, I like you bad, too."
Luke smothered a smile, in order to keep up his admonishing pretence. Yet, despite his earlier anxieties, he was incredibly happy. It had turned out to be a great night, after all.
A/N: Yep, that's it, my friends! Thanks for the wonderful feedback on this series; honestly, it was overwhelming! I have to admit, I've never had this much fun writing a fanfic before (and I really enjoy writing fics, in general). Perhaps, one day, I'll dust this scenario off and write another Luke/Amelia/Lorelai piece. Perhaps… we'll see.