Happy Father's Day, Luke.
On the morning of the 18th Luke Danes awoke very early to greet his bread man. After speaking with the man and unloading the truck he quickly set about stocking his pantry with the goods. Once that was finished he began the rest of his pre-opening duties and promptly unlocked the doors and switched the sign to open at six on the dot.
At eight he got a call. It was April. The diner was in a rush, even more than the usual Sunday morning pre-church crowd, and he could barely hear her. He got the idea that she wanted to do something today. He tried to explain that he was pretty busy today, even though he really did want to see her, and said that maybe they could do something tomorrow. April was being very pushy that it must be today. When he asked why she replied, "because, duh Luke, it's Father's Day." For a moment he was very quiet and then smiled. It was Father's Day and April, his daughter, wanted to spend it with him. He quickly told her he'd get Lane to cover and he'd come pick her up at noon. He could hear her squeal of pleasure on the other end of the line and his smile grew. They said there goodbyes and he hung up the phone. His normal façade of curmudgeon diner owner returned but he took orders in a noticeably less gruff voice.
At a quarter 'til eleven he was waiting for Lane to show up so that he could go up and change when the bell jingled. He looked up readying himself for a customer when he saw the face of Rory Gilmore.
"Hey," he replied with a confused look on his face. He had not seen Rory since before Lorelai's now infamous ultimatum and subsequent fall into another man's bed, "what are you doing here?"
"Man, Luke, is that how you treat all of your customer's?" She deadpanned.
"No, I'm sorry. I was just- surprised. Coffee?"
"You know it." She sat at the counter, just left of the seat usually reserved for her mother. When he set the cup in front of her she brought it up but didn't drink it right away. She inhaled its strong aroma. Her eyes close for a moment and she just lets the scent of it waft up to her nose. When she opens her eyes she smiles at him and takes a hearty sip.
"Still as good as ever Luke, I miss this stuff at Yale. Starbucks has nothing on your coffee. It's weird. Sitting here, drinking this coffee, makes me feel like I'm a kid again, just coming in before heading of to Chilton. It's nice."
"You ARE still a kid."
"Only to you and maybe mom, I suspect I will always be a kid to her." And there, she had said it. The one thing that would make their slightly uncomfortable, comfortable conversation go sour. Rory saw his face fall a moment but quickly pick itself back up.
"Yeah, I guess so." He didn't feel like saying anything about Lorelai. It still hurt. He still loved her but he has resigned himself to the fact that something, fate maybe, will always come between them and that they aren't strong enough to overcome it. Seeing his slight distress and unwillingness to talk about her mother, Rory gears herself up to talk to him.
"Well, actually the reason I'm here is not just for the coffee, although it is a huge bonus. I know- I know things didn't work out for you and mom like either of you wanted them to but, I want you to know that I really wanted you to be my stepfather. I've known you a long time and was really looking forward to you being an official part of our little family, because no matter what for a long time you've been an unofficial part of it and I thought you two getting married would just be this natural thing."
"No wait, let me finish. I care about you. And not just, because I should care because you fixed stuff for us and made mom happy, but because when my dad wasn't around you were this great role model of what a man should be like for me. You took care of us, and I really appreciate that. And no matter what, whether you and mom can work things out or not, and I truly believe you can, I want you to know that I will always consider you a part of my family." She had tears in her eyes and she gently wiped them away and smiled at him. For his part Luke was trying to look past her talking about her mom and dad, two people on his 'do not mention on pain of death' list and hear what she was saying. And it made him happy. He loved this kid. Not just because she was Lorelai's daughter but because he'd known since she was younger than April is now and he's watched her grow and become this put together young woman in front of him. He, like the rest of Stars Hollow, feels great joy in her accomplishments. Hearing from her that she cares about him, outside of the fact that he was with her mother really means something to him and he's glad she has come in today.
"I don't know what to say Rory. I'm really glad you feel that way. And I want you to know that I'm really proud of you and the things you are doing and will do in your life and I'm glad that you consider me family, even after everything that has happened. But, as much as I love her, I don't share your idea that this is going to work out. I'm sorry."
"It's okay Luke. You don't have to see it, not yet. She spent a lot of time not seeing it; I guess it's your turn."
"I gotta go, lots of work to do for the paper. Have a great day Luke and don't hesitate to call me sometime." And with that she quickly got up from her seat and walked out the door. He looks down to see a smallish sized square present and a card. He opens the card and read her words.
I don't think that being a father has anything to do with blood, or even wedding vows. It has to do with a promise. A promise to care for someone and love them and support them and to show them that the things they do are important to you. You may not being my father. And you may never get to be my stepfather, but you've been there for me for a long time. I am grateful for that as I am grateful for all the things you've done for me. You made me cake and set up balloons in you diner for my sixteenth birthday, you sent your own nephew away to protect me (I suspect you also did that for mom, but that brings me to another point), you love my mother and for me that's important, she needs to be loved, even if you aren't together I know she can still feel it, you came to my high school graduation (and even cried, yeah mom told me), you loaned us your truck and helped move that stupid Yale mattress. You gave me your mother's necklace (I think that's the exact moment that I truly thought about how you care about me. Before it was just something that was, but that was when I truly thought about it and it's why I introduced you as my future step-father, because you're always more than the guy at the diner and mom's boyfriend or fiancé).
He could feel the few tears rolling down his cheek. They were warm and when they reached his lips he could taste the saltiness of them. He was brought back into reality when once again the door jingled and in came Lane.
"Hey Boss, you okay?"
"Yeah, yeah I'm fine. I'm just gone go upstairs and get ready."
He grabbed the card and the package and took the stairs up two at a time. Once in side he ripped the wrapping off like a little boy at Christmastime. Inside was a framed picture of Rory and April, taken at Truncheon books in Philadelphia. The frame was simple but in the bottom left hand corner in script lettering it said, Daughters. And he had to sit down and for the first time since actually finding out he was a father, he felt like he could really do a pretty good job.
Nearly two and a half hours later he was on I-90 headed towards Boston. April had insisted they go to Boston. He was okay with it because he figured there was a museum there she wanted to see. Anna didn't seem to have a problem with him taking April out of Connecticut and he figured he could deal with some science exhibit in Boston. Since, they had gotten an official visitation guideline with the state of Connecticut, Luke felt much better about his relationship with April and having some control instead of letting Anna have it all. After all the papers were signed he had been very happy but inside he was a little bit sad that he didn't think to do this months ago. Maybe things would have turned out differently with him and Lorelai if he had. But he wasn't going to dwell on that.
"Turn here." April's voice shook him out of his thoughts and he looked up and turned. She instructed him to park and they got out of the truck. He followed her and looked around; there was no museum to be seen. The only thing he saw in front of him was a large crowd of people and Fen way Park.
"April, what are we doing here?"
"It's your Father's Day present."
"We're going to a Red Sox game. You like the Red Sox. I saved up and did some extra work for mom at her store so I could buy us tickets."
"You bought us Red Sox tickets? But, you don't like sports."
"You do." And she walked towards the gate with him following. He smiled. His daughter bought him Red Sox tickets that she saved up for and wants to go to a game with him even though she doesn't like sports. Yeah, I can do this father thing.
Hours later, after the game had ended, the Sox were victorious of course, and they (she) had eaten numerous hot dogs and sang (surprisingly, Luke joined in) Sweet Caroline at the 8th inning they were on the way back to Woodbridge. On the outskirts of town, not more than five minutes from her home she stopped talking about school and what she would do this fall for the science fair in another attempt to beat that Polaski kid, and looked at him.
"You know, baseball isn't so bad. It's actually pretty fun to watch. I like the singing."
"Yeah? Well, maybe we can go back sometime. Maybe we can go check out that school you like there, MIT? We'll make a whole day of it." He pulled into her drive moments later. As she got out and was about to shut the truck door she looked up at him and smiled.
"I had a really great time today Dad." With that she was bounding toward the front door and he couldn't help but grin the entire way back to Stars Hollow.
Late that evening, he was in his apartment having finished dinner and now had a beer setting on the coffee table as he watched today's sports highlights. There was a knock on his door and he was surprised because with the diner closed a visitor would have to bang on the front door very loudly for him to hear. But this person had to have come in the locked door. As he walked toward the door he saw the familiar silhouette through the frosted glass. He stopped in his tracks. He hadn't talked to her since the day after; the day after her ultimatum, the day after Christopher, he always the thought of it as the day after they had finally crashed and burned. Shaking himself and taking a huge breath to steady his nerves he went to the door and opened it. And there she was, as beautiful as ever but he could tell by her pale face and the bluish skin under her eyes that she was miserable and a small part of him thought good, she's miserable, I'm glad. And another part of him wanted to hold her and make her feel better until her color went back to normal and the sparkle in her eyes came back. For his part he did nothing, he just stared at her.
"Hi, Luke, Can I come in?" She looked a little bit anxious. He stepped aside to let her in and that is when he saw the wrapped box in her hand. She brought me a present? What?
They sat at his small table neither one looking at the other. Finally after a long and very uncomfortable silence she looked up at him and spoke.
"You know, Luke, I'm really sorry. I'm sorry for all the bad things that happened with us in this past year. I'm sorry for not speaking up, I'm sorry for not letting my feelings be known, I'm sorry for demanding that we elope, and I am so sorry for going to Christopher. I don't know if you can ever know how sorry I am about that and how much I wish I could change it. Because I love you and I hurt you and no matter what was going on, you did not deserve to be hurt like that." Her eyes were shining with unshed tears and her breathing was shallow and quick.
"I know you'll never want me back. Not after all that, but I just need you to know that it's you. Only you, the only man I've ever loved, ever wanted to be with, ever really wanted to grow old with. There will never be anyone else. There never should have been anyone else." Luke listened to her patiently, inside he was screaming out at her wanting to yell, about anything, everything. But he couldn't, he didn't have the strength for that. He hurt her, she hurt him and he could not bring himself to yell at the beautiful but broken woman in front of him. So he sat there. Just sat there and stared, not knowing what to say. He hoped she didn't leave, if he said something wrong or too harshly, she'd leave. He loved her, she hurt him, but he loved her and he hated not seeing her. So he sat and stared.
"Luke, come on, say something, anything. God, yell at me, tell me I have no right to love you, or to claim I ever loved you after what I did. Tell me you don't love me anymore."
"I can't. Damnit, Lorelai, I can't tell you that because I do love you. I will always love you. I just don't know if my head can let my heart have what it wants." She sighed deeply then and brushed away a few tears that were quickly replaced by others. Looking away she caught sight of the picture frame sitting on the end table next to his couch. She got up and went over to it.
"Where did you get this?" she demanded of him.
"She came by here this morning."
"She didn't tell me she was in town today. She said she was working all day." Lorelai picked up the frame and softly traced the letters with her finger tips. Bringing it to her chest she clutched it with her right arm and brought her left hand to her face, covering up her quiet sobs. Luke could no longer just stand there and walked over to her his right hand stoking her hair and his left going to her waist. At contact there she pushed him away. He wondered why, it was strange because she felt a little more rounded there than before. He thought maybe her eating habits and stress were probably catching up to her. She wiped her tears in earnest, trying to dry her face as completely as she could.
"I need to go," she pointed to the box on his kitchen table, "open that when I leave." She rushed out the door and down the steps quickly. He could hear the jingling of the diner door and the fumbling of a key to lock it. He picked the gift up and walked it over to the window. He could see her getting into her Jeep from there. He tore at the paper which revealed a plain white shirt box. He took the top off and his breathing hitched as he looked at the contents. Inside was a small outfit. It was nearly identical to the 'uniform' he himself wore on a daily basis. Tiny blue jeans, a blue and white flannel shirt (like Lorelai's favorite) and a plain blue baseball cap not much bigger than the palm of his hand. On top of the outfit was a book of baby names. He picked it up and noticed something sticking out near the end of it. He turned to that page. The bookmark, was the grainy image of a fetus, the one he now realizes is the cause of her rounded stomach and not as he suspected her bad eating habits. He looks at the page the picture had marked and there circled by Lorelai and written in her delicate print
William – valiant protector. I think this would be a great name Luke because then maybe he'd grow
up to be like his daddy.
He starts to cry openly then because of all the ways he'd dreamed that she tell him she was pregnant, in none of them were they apart. He looks down at the street below at her in her Jeep staring up at him. He can see her lips moving but at the distance cannot read them and then watched as she drives away.
Down in the Jeep she waits for him to open the gift and look at her. She knows when he finally gets it and before she drives off she whispers a quiet message.
"Happy Father's Day, Luke."
I really dislike April but I felt she needed to play a medium sized part in this story. And yes, I do like cheese and angst pies.