Disclaimer: I don't own Gilmore Girls or anything else you recognize (even the title, stolen from the amazingly beautiful song by Sam Phillips that serves as L/L's first dance). I do, however, own all of those you don't.
Summary: The year is 2023. Just what is the Gilmore-Danes clan up to?
Chapter One: Now that I've worn out, I've worn out the world…
Everyone in Stars Hollow would agree: Luke's Diner never changed. Even the diner's proprietor assented to that assessment: his father's sign still over the door, his father's hardware still displayed on the walls, and the menu unchanged in twenty years.
Something, however, had changed: the till. It was still the old, frequently broken cash register, golden in color, providing the diner with "character", but something was different. The gold was only visible in fits and splashes, nearly drowned out by the overwhelming colors of the snapshots and paper mementoes now plastering it. The register had become a three dimensional scrapbook for the family whose lives centered on the diner.
The first picture to be taped to the till was a wedding portrait. Not one of those stuffy, posed ones, but a candid of the smiling couple underneath a hand-carved chuppah laden with flowers, a stolen moment between reception festivities that some unsuspecting guest had stumbled upon (probably drunkenly) and managed to snap a shot of. The bride and groom were laughing at something, her head tossed back and his grin barely hidden as he held the small of her back, pulling her towards him.
The next two were Polaroids, each with tiny, scrawling handwriting labeling their subjects as the proprietor's twin sons. One proclaimed: "William Richard Danes, 7:32 AM, May 22nd, 2007. 6 lbs, 1 oz." The other: "Jackman Gilmore Danes, 8:09 AM, May 22nd, 2007. 5 lbs, 15 oz." Under these was a photo of the window of Luke's Diner, taken by Taylor Doose as evidence that Luke Danes had actually defiled his precious windows that week with two (count them, two!) posters, complete with baby blue storks crying "It's a boy!"
After those four pictures were added, the till just seemed to fill up.
There was a picture of Rory Gilmore's Yale graduation, a newborn little brother in each arm.
Identical twins boys all dressed up for the first day of kindergarten, one's hat forward, the other's back. (They'd talked the latter, Jack, into avoiding plaid for the day.)
Another baby picture, this one of a little girl, "Lorelai Viviana Gilmore, June 18th, 2013, 7 lbs, 9 oz." printed across the bottom.
Baseball games, football games. Newspaper cutouts with the boys' sports statistics highlighted. Headlines like "J. Danes saves SHHS's shot at the title" and "Stars Hollow's own W. Danes leads Chilton Prep to their first state championship in twenty-five years".
An order sheet with "Will and Jack's First Order" shakily printed across it by an elementary school hand, asking for a bacon cheeseburger (spelled: cheeze bergr) and COFFEE in all caps. In a small, feminine script at the bottom was written: "Guess whose order this was!"
All three Danes men, complete with aprons and baseball caps (though Will's was facing forward) as they joked and hassled and wiped down the counter, the boys then up to their father's shoulders.
The lady of the house in the Stars Hollow High bleachers, surrounded by nachos, hotdogs, pretzels, popcorn to keep her entertained while the Fighting Minutemen played yet another opponent.
The most recent one wasn't even permanently attached yet. It had been taken by Kirk just a few weeks before, after the first day of school for the Danes boys and little Laylee Gilmore. The whole clan was in the gazebo, the sixteen year old twins on either side of their mother, Will in his Chilton uniform slumped against the railing with his charming grin, Jack with his signature faded blue Red Sox backwards cap, SHHS T-shirt, and jeans, a small smile playing on his lips. Lorelai's hands were on Laylee's shoulders, her granddaughter's laughing blue eyes upturned to meet her matching ones. Luke stood to the right of Jack, arms crossed over his chest and head turned to say something to his wife. Rory was on Will's left, laughing at whatever the two Lorelais in the middle had done, laptop under her arm.
On the back, hidden from sight, was this inscription: "Danes Boys and Gilmore Girls, September 3, 2023." Then in a post script in Lorelai's writing: "Hey! There's a Danes girl in there, too!"
That picture right there pretty much summed up the soul of the Gilmore-Danes family, the Lorelais Gilmore and the Danes Boys that loved them.
"No, Mr. Doose," Jack Danes sighed, continuing to wipe the diner counter.
The quicker he got Taylor out of the door, the quicker he could finish closing up, and the quicker he could get home. He had to help with the breakfast rush in the morning, hopefully pass a physics test, and still have enough energy to throw the football for four straight quarters the following night, so all he really wanted to do was go home, call his girlfriend, and go to sleep. The last thing he needed at 9:45 on a Thursday night was Taylor Doose pestering him; he'd inherited his father's impatience for the soda-shoppe owner's quirkiness.
"Now, Jackman, you and your family are very important in this community, this diner especially! And this really is a wonderful event. Your father can't refuse just one little flyer in the window."
"He can, he has, and he will, Mr. Doose. Now, please, I'm trying to finish closing up. I have school in the morning."
"Jackman, you know your mother would allow it. Please…"
"She probably would," Jack acquiesced, "Fortunately, this isn't Mom's diner, it's Dad's. No matter what she'd tell you. I bet if you ask her, she'll put about fifty up at the Inn. But you know Dad's no flyer policy. It's been in place for decades, longer than I've been around. So, no, Mr. Doose."
Sensing the finality in the teen's statement, Taylor Doose gave up for now.
"You're just like your father. I knew I should have waited until William was closing, instead."
Jack snorted, knowing Taylor was probably right about that. If either of the twins were to allow the posters to be hung, Will was the one. He loved the town events just as much as their mom, just one of her many personality traits Will inherited.
"Dad would just've taken 'em down in the morning, Mr. Doose."
"Would you at least take a few of these home to your family? I know Lorelai will be interested. Ask her if she'll put them up at the Dragonfly."
"Yes, sir," Jack sighed, knowing it was the easiest way to get Taylor out. He tossed the rag through the window to the sink on the other side and held out his hand for Taylor's proffered papers. "Have a nice night."
"You, too, Jackman. I'll see you at the game tomorrow night. Keep throwing those touchdowns!"
With that, Taylor walked out, the bell above the door signaling the annoyance in Jack that it was alright to leave now.
He glanced down at the flyers in his hands, reading them quickly.
"Stars Hollow's First Annual Father-Daughter/ Mother-Son Ball. Saturday, October 12th, 2023."
Jack groaned, knowing this meant he'd be dressing up sometime in the near future, if his mother had anything to say about it.
After the initial groan, though, worry settled in his stomach. What about little Laylee? His ten-year-old niece had never met her father; he'd died in a car crash in his native Italy four months before Laylee was born, catapulting Rory back to Stars Hollow.
Jack knew he would have to talk about this with his parents before his niece caught wind of it and, that settled, set about closing up so he could get home.
Just as Jack started to perform his last chore for the evening (checking the appliances and turning off the lights), the phone rang. The noise took Jack by surprise, and he checked his watch. It was five 'til ten: who was calling at this hour? He switched off the lights in the kitchen and grabbed the phone.
"Luke's," he said, sounding quite like his father.
"Jack." The voice sounded surprised that Jack was answering. "This is your grandfather."
"Hi, Grandpa," Jack answered. "What can I do for you? It's ten o'clock at night."
"I was looking for your brother, actually. I was hoping to catch him before he went home. Is he there?"
"No, tonight is my night to lock up. Will has Mondays and Wednesdays this year. I have Tuesdays and Thursdays. How'd you know I wasn't Will?"
Richard Gilmore laughed. "Only you and your father answer the phone so gruffly. Your brother is usually more verbose, in everything he does."
Jack chuckled a little. "Well, I think tonight he's babysitting the Bakers until around eleven, if you want to call his cell. The kids should be in bed by now."
"Yes, well, thank you, Jack. You have a game tomorrow night, yes?"
"Yes, sir," Jack answered. "Against Woodbury."
"Your big rivals, yes?"
"Nope." Jack Danes didn't get nervous.
"Well alright, then, Jack. I am going to call your brother now. I'm coming out to your game tomorrow night. I'll try to get your grandmother to come along."
"Goodnight, Grandpa," Jack said, knowing chances of that happening were slim. "Goodnight, Jack. Say hello to your parents for me."
"Yes, sir. 'Night."
The call disconnected, and Jack placed the receiver back in its cradle, still thinking of his grandmother as he flipped off all the lights and locked the door behind him.
While his grandma's relationship with the Danes family had gotten better in the past nine years, she still only really got along with Will. For the first seven years of the twins' life, Friday night dinners took place in Stars Hollow, with only his grandfather in attendance: Emily was still coming to terms with her daughter's new family, while Richard was willing to do anything in order to be involved in his grandsons' lives. As a result, both boys had healthy relationships with their grandfather, but things were shakier with their grandmother.
When the boys were seven (and therefore Laylee one), Emily had reached out to the growing family, sick of the way her grandsons eyed her warily at every holiday meal and heartbroken that her infant great-granddaughter didn't recognize her but would coo happily for her husband. Since then, Friday night dinners had been moved to Sundays, and they switched venues between Stars Hollow and Hartford every week. Emily attended them all now, and the dinners were far less dramatic than before, but Jack Danes and Emily Gilmore just didn't understand each other.
On his short walk across the square and towards his house, Jack remembered the flyers folded in half in his back pocket. He took them out and worried again. Instead of walking the four houses from the square to his house, he walked three, turned up the walk, and knocked quietly on the Bakers' door. It took a few minutes, but Will finally answered the door, the youngest Baker, Kelly, asleep on his shoulder. A finger to his lips, Will motioned Jack into the house with his head and then carried Kelly upstairs, presumably to lay the almost two year old in her bed.
"Sorry, she had nightmare, and I had to walk her for a bit before she'd fall back asleep," Will apologized as he came back downstairs to where Jack was waiting in the living room.
Jack nodded understandingly.
This was a side of Will that not very many people got to see, or even expected to see, of him. While he made no effort to hide it from his twin, Will was very protective of his more sensitive sides. Most people in his life, especially those at Chilton, thought Will was an incorrigible playboy at heart, and always would be, though in truth the only thing he was sure about in his future was that he wanted to settle down and raise a family. Will took joy out of babysitting the Bakers' four kids and all the other children in the surrounding houses, and usually did so about once week, something none of his Chilton friends or endless string of girlfriends knew anything about.
"So what are you doing here, instead of on the phone with Natalie debating who likes who most?" Will teased, taking a seat on the couch next to his brother.
"Taylor stopped by and dropped these off at the diner tonight. Tried to get me to put one up in the window."
Will snorted, taking one of the flyers from Jack.
"Yeah, like Dad would ever let that happen." He scanned the page quickly, and then looked up to meet his brother's eyes with his easy, omnipresent grin. "What? You here to fight me over who gets to ask Mom?"
"Ha ha. I was more worried about Laylee."
"Right, good point."
"I was, uh, thinking that I'd offer to take Laylee. Uncle's pretty close to dad, right?"
"Oh definitely. Excellent," Will grinned, "And that leaves Mom to me."
Jack shot him a pointed look, and Will raised his hands in surrender.
"I know, I know, dirty!"
The twins laughed, and Jack stood.
"Alright, just thought I'd get someone's confirmation on the idea."
"That's what I'm here for. I knew what you wanted to do the moment I saw the poster."
"Will, we are not psychically linked," Jack sighed, rehashing an ancient debate.
"We're twins, Jack: we're allowed to have freaky twin sense without it being weird."
"Goodnight, Jack. Tell Natalie I say hello, you crazy cradle robber."
Jack took a playful swing at his brother before jogging down the stairs and over to the former Twickham house, now the Danes house.
"Mom, Dad, I'm home," he yelled as he shut the door behind him. "And the diner's still standing."
"Miracle of miracles," a sarcastic little voice yawned from the top of the stairs.
"Hey there, Laylee. What are you doing up?" Jack greeted, not surprised to find his niece at the Danes house. Laylee spent at least one night a week there, usually more, and rarely on prearranged times, just whenever Rory had an article she had to go out of town for.
The ten year old put her hand to her mouth to cover her yawn. "You just slammed the door and screamed at ten-thirty at night."
"Right. Sorry. Didn't know you were here."
"It's okay, Jacky. Mom's plane got delayed, so I'm here for the night. And Saturday Grampa Christopher is picking me up," Laylee yawned again, tugging on one of her dark curls. "Nonna and Luka are still out on the back porch, I think."
He nodded, "Sogni dolci, Lay…", and she padded back to bed after grinning at his poor Italian.
She spent every summer in Italy and always came home itching to teach her family thousands of new Italian phrases. Laylee herself was fluent, had been most of her life, thanks to her paternal aunt Viviana, but always came home with a new fervor for the language. Jack was the only one who would listen to her long enough to learn anything, and he wasn't a very good language student. The only word the rest of the Danes family knew was "nonna", which meant grandmother and was Laylee's pet name for Lorelai. She also used an Italian version of Luke to claim him as her own.
Jack went to the back porch and found his parents in one of the Adirondack chairs on the deck. Not wanting to interrupt their alone time (which he was old enough to understand the need for), he kissed his mom's cheek, said his goodnights, made his now-customary phone call to Natalie, and went to bed.
He wasn't sure how it all started. One minute he was sitting in his oppressively heavy Chilton desk, engaged in a philosophical discussion on the effects of guilt as presented in The Scarlet Letter, caught up in the heady tide of driving home his point, knowing Hawthorne would be proud. The next thing he knew, his desk was on the ground with a bang, and Greg Matthews was pinned against the wall, Will's body keeping him there. Of the time between, all Will remembered was the sudden transition from friendly academic debate to brutal condemnation of unwed mothers.
Later others would fill in the pieces. Greg had been spouting off in his usual manner about his absurd social opinions, bitterly renouncing pregnancy out of wedlock as morally subversive to the community. He called for the complete ostracizing of single mothers, a removal of their rights to marry after they had so blatantly laughed in the face of the institution. Then he'd hit this note:
"Our culture has deemed this subversion as acceptable, and these whores go on to…"
They say it was that word that tipped Will off, that he'd been silently seething, clenching his fists, coiling his muscles throughout the entire speech, but that word touched him off. He leapt out of his desk, knocked it over, and tackled Greg to the stone floor. Punches were exchanged with reckless abandon until Will hauled Greg to his feet and slammed him against the bulletin board, right between Shakespeare and Chaucer.
"Mr. Danes!" his teacher shouted, obviously flustered by the sudden violence in her prestigious prep school classroom. "Mr. Matthews!"
"Let him go, Will," a new voice soothed, that of the headmaster, his mentor.
But at that moment, all Will could see was his mother's beautiful, loving face, softened to calm his fears or praise his feats, the laughter inherent in her eyes and the mischievous grin that had been his greatest reward in childhood. And his beloved big sister and confidante, who lost her love before he could legally be her husband and was left to raise little Laylee without a father. And all he could hear were Greg's scathing, cruel words, the foulest of them swirling around and around in his head until he had to tighten his grip to chase it away.
Then he stopped, his father's stern and disappointed face filling his mind's eye. He knew, even in defending his mother's honor, he had gone too far. He relaxed his hold on Greg and backed away forcefully, chest heaving. His hand lifted to his right eye and came away with blood. He kept his eyes locked on Greg, who still rested against the wall, nose bloodied, blond hair mussed, green eyes wide with horror, surprise, and insolence.
"Come on, Will, let's get you to my office. We have a couple phone calls to make," the headmaster said, tone still calm and soothing. Someone shoved an icepack into Will's hands, and he lifted it to his eye.
"Coming, Headmaster Medina."
Author's Note: Yes, it's been done before, probably overdone, but does that make it any less fun?