A/N: Okay, I couldn't stay away long… Here is a little something to get us started on part three – Middle Management. It picks up where Rules of Engagement ended as Lorelai and Luke begin their middle.
Thanks again to all who have reviewed and messaged me about the other stories. I appreciate all of your kind words and encouragement!
The Morning After the Day Before
When Luke opened his eyes Sunday morning, he automatically reached for Lorelai. When he felt the empty space next to him, he felt a moment of panic, fearing it had all been a dream. He sat up quickly glancing around the room for an indication that it wasn't and blew out a breath of relief when he saw her pearls and tiara on the nightstand surrounded by his stuff from the day before. He glanced at the door to the bathroom, but it stood ajar, the light turned off. He looked around blankly for a moment trying to figure out where his runaway bride could have gotten to. He rolled to his right and reached for his watch. When he glanced at the face, he did a double take and read it more carefully. It was 9:45. Luke thought for a minute, trying to remember the last time he stayed in bed until 9:45. He frowned for a moment and then thought to himself, It has to be years, decades even, since I slept this late, at least without Lorelai coaxing me back to bed.
Slowly, it dawned on him that she had probably gone to talk to Rory, and had let him sleep in. He decided to get up and get into the shower, so that he could be ready for brunch when she got back. He tossed the covers back and was just about to swing his legs out of the bed when he heard a key in the lock and scrambled to cover himself again, praying that it was Lorelai and not an over-enthusiastic housekeeper. When Lorelai poked her head through the door, she grinned when she saw him awake, but still in bed.
"Ah, there's my man, just as I like him," she said as she kicked the door closed behind her, juggling a mug of coffee and a tall glass of orange juice. "I brought you some juice," she said as she leaned over to kiss him good morning.
Luke smiled back as he accepted the glass. "I can't believe you let me sleep this late," he said shaking his head.
Lorelai placed her coffee on the nightstand and said, "I didn't have the heart to wake you."
"How long have you been up?" he asked, tugging on her hand to pull her down on the bed next to him.
"About an hour or so," she said as she leaned into his arms. "I went to talk to Rory, we had to rehash the whole thing," she said with a careless wave. "Then, I raided the kitchen and checked on brunch preparations. Everything looks great," she told him with a grin.
"What time are we supposed to be down there?" he asked.
"Ten thirty. So, up and at 'em, mister!" she said patting his leg.
Luke smiled wolfishly and said, "Plenty of time."
Lorelai held out a hand to stop him and said, "Oh no you don't! We have to get up, get ready, look presentable," she told him with a laugh.
"You look great," he said with an exaggerated leer. He pulled her to him and kissed her deeply.
"Luke," she protested weakly, "my parents are here. If we're late, my mother will be all over me."
"I want to be all over you," he murmured against her throat.
"You have been, practically all night," she said pushing him away playfully. "I need to shower, get myself together," she said trying to rise from the bed.
He pulled her back down, cocked a brow at her and said, "Shower? Let's get it together, together," he said in a low, sexy voice.
She looked at his rumpled, sexy state and said, "Hurry," as she jumped up to head for the bathroom.
Brunch was served buffet style in the dining room, and the atmosphere was relaxed and casual. Even Emily Gilmore showed up in slacks and a comfortable old twin set. They greeted everyone, proceeded to fill their plates. Luke grimaced as he saw her heavily laden plate topped with a small mountain of link sausages. "Why don't I just cut your chest open and stuff one of those into an artery for you?" he asked gruffly.
Lorelai picked up a sausage and bit the end off with a saucy smile as she said, "Where's the fun in that?" She picked up a small jug of maple syrup and doused the entire plate in sticky sweet goodness. She winked at him and said, "I worked up an appetite."
Luke frowned at her plate and said, "Lorelai," in a dark tone.
"And the honeymoon is over," she said under her breath as she moved away from him.
"You'd think I'd be used to it by now," he grumbled as she followed her to a table.
They were just sitting down with Rory, Sookie, Jackson, Richard and Emily when Liz and T.J. appeared, announcing that they were going to hit the road early to get back to the city. Luke looked down at his breakfast longingly and mumbled, "Yet another meal I don't get to eat," as they stood to hug them and see them to the door.
Walking back to the dining room, Lorelai took Luke's hand and said, "I really like Liz, she's sweet."
"She's wacky," Luke said with an affectionate smile.
"She's an original," Lorelai agreed. "She adores you," she said teasingly.
"Pssht," Luke said waving his hand.
"She worships you," Lorelai insisted as they entered the dining room. "All she could talk about was her big brother, how grateful she was to have you and how much she looks up to you."
Luke smiled as they took their seats and said, "That T.J. guy is a piece of work."
"Yes, but he's crazy about Liz," Lorelai said with a grin.
"Seems to be, or maybe he's just crazy," Luke said ominously.
Lorelai rubbed his hand and said, "They seem very happy together."
"They're both flakes," Luke grumbled as he picked up his fork.
Lorelai smiled softly and said, "A match made in heaven."
"Yep," he agreed as he dug into his food.
The rest of brunch passed easily and when they finished, Lorelai and Luke walked Richard and Emily to their car as their bags were being loaded. Emily was giving them a list of instructions for the honeymoon, to which Lorelai only lent half an ear, watching carefully as Richard handed Luke another manila envelope stuffed with papers.
"And make sure you have your passports," Emily insisted. "Technically, you don't need them, but Lord knows, you can't be too careful," she warned direly.
"We have them," Lorelai reassured her. When Emily drew a deep breath to continue her never ending list of directions, Lorelai smiled warmly at her. "Thank you, Mom, for everything. It was the wedding I always dreamed of," she said softly as she looked over at Luke.
"You're welcome, Lorelai," she said, trying not to become too emotional. Emily looked at her daughter and pressed her lips together tightly. "It was my pleasure," she said softly as Richard shook Luke's hand and clapped him on the back.
"Ready?" Richard asked Emily.
"Yes, I'm ready," she answered reluctantly. She looked at Lorelai and asked for the fiftieth time, "Now Rory is coming to our house in the morning after she takes you to the airport?"
"Yes, Mom," Lorelai answered dutifully.
"Very good," Emily said primly. "We have the phone number for the house, so we will have her call you to check in," Emily assured her.
"That would be great, thanks," Lorelai said with a relieved smile.
"Emily," Luke said politely as he stepped forward to take her hand in his. "Thank you for all you did. It was great," he said softly and shocked them all by giving her small kiss on the cheek.
"Oh, well, Luke," Emily stammered. "You're welcome," she said quietly. She blinked and smiled brightly at them both. "Have a wonderful time," she said as she walked to the passenger side of the car where Richard held her door for her.
"We will," Lorelai said giving Emily a small wave as Richard closed her door.
Richard walked around the car and stopped in front of Lorelai, blocking Emily's view. He pulled out yet another white envelope and handed it to her. "This is just mad money," he explained. "Spend it on something silly," he said as he kissed her on the cheek.
"Thank you, Dad," Lorelai said softly.
Richard opened his door and looked at Luke. "I guess I don't have to tell you to take good care of her," he said with a smile.
Luke wrapped his arm around Lorelai and said, "No sir, you don't."
Richard nodded once and slipped into the car. As they pulled away, Lorelai saw Emily turn in her seat to look out the rear window. She gave a smile and a slight wave as Luke led her back into the inn to collect their things.
By two o'clock they tramped into the house, dragging all of their wedding finery with them. Luke tossed the garment bag holding his tuxedo over a chair and said, "I need to take that to Sookie's. Jackson is going to return them all for us."
Lorelai nodded, and looked around blankly, trying to figure out where she was going to put her dress. "I guess I'll just hang this in the sewing room for now," she said looking at her garment bag thoughtfully.
Luke nodded and said, "I'll go grab our bags."
Rory poked her head out of her room and said, "You're home!"
"We're home!" Lorelai crowed. She looked around the room for a clock and said, "For about sixteen more hours!"
Rory laughed and asked, "Are you exhausted?"
Lorelai laid the dress over the chair with Luke's tux and said, "Yes!" She looked at Rory wide eyed and said, "Getting married is hard!" as she pouted and sunk to the couch with exaggerated fatigue.
Rory grinned and plopped down on the couch. "Well, look at it this way, you're all packed. All you have left to do is get up tomorrow and head off to a tropical paradise with your man," she said with a grin.
Lorelai slumped against her daughter and said, "I need a nap."
"So have one," Rory said reasonably as she playfully pushed her mother's dead weight off of her.
"I can't!" Lorelai said horrified. "We only have sixteen hours left until we are separated for ten whole days!"
Rory smirked at her mother and said, "I hate to break this to you, but I plan on being asleep for at least eight of those hours."
"See!" Lorelai exclaimed. She grabbed Rory and hugged her, clinging to her dramatically and moaning, "My baby! My baby!" as Rory giggled.
Luke walked in and looked at them, nonplussed. "She'll be fine," he said as he carried their bags upstairs.
"Who? Rory or me?" she called after him.
"Rory," Luke called back. "You, there's no hope for!"
Lorelai looked a Rory, stunned, and said, "Less than twenty four hours and he's already this mean to me!"
Rory laughed and disentangled herself from Lorelai. She smiled and said, "I'm going to Lane's for a couple of hours to help her stuff envelopes for some church thing. You go curl up with your boy, and we'll have pizza and movies tonight," she promised.
Lorelai watched Rory carefully to see if she was feeling awkward. "Hon, are you sure?" she asked seriously.
Rory blinked and said, "Sure, I'm sure. Why?"
Lorelai shrugged and said, "It's okay if it feels weird now. It feels weird to us," she said sincerely.
Rory laughed and said, "Mom, Luke's been practically living here for months. It may feel weird to you two, but nothing has changed for me," she said confidently.
"You sure?" Lorelai asked, narrowing her eyes at her daughter.
"Positive," Rory said as she went to grab her jacket. "Oh, and tell Luke if he wants veggies on his pizza again he needs to get his own," she called from her bedroom. "It takes too long to pick them off," she was saying as she emerged to see Luke coming back down the stairs.
"You could try eating them," he pointed out dryly.
Rory snorted and said, "I could, but I won't," as she headed for the door. "I'll see you guys later. I'll pick up the movies," she called as she closed the door behind her.
"Hi Rory, bye Rory," Luke muttered as he sat down next to Lorelai with a sigh. He looked over at her and asked, "Did we drive her out?"
Lorelai shook her head and said, "No, she's just going to Lane's for a little while to help out with some stuff." She looked over as he yawned and leaned his head back on the couch. "Hey," she said, bumping her knuckles against his leg.
"Hey what?" he asked with his eyes closed.
"Wanna take a nap?" she asked with a grin.
"A nap or a nap?" he asked with a wink.
"A nap, nap," she answered firmly.
Luke smiled and said, "Sounds good, but I'm afraid if we do, we won't sleep tonight."
Lorelai nodded and said, "What if we set the alarm for an hour? That way we can get some rest, but not too much." Luke nodded and heaved himself up from the couch, reaching for her hand. "Where are you going?' she asked.
"Upstairs," he answered. "I'm not napping on this couch when there is a perfectly good bed available."
Lorelai put her hand in his. "Okay, but no funny business," she warned as he pulled her up.
"I'll save it for open mic night," he promised as he trudged up the stairs.
"Ba dum dum," she muttered behind him.
Luke smiled over at her and said, ""I'm taking my show on the road soon."
"In the air," she corrected as they walked into the bedroom.
He looked around the room and said, "I thought you and Rory were going to pack the other night."
"We did," she said gesturing to the roller bag parked next to his new suitcase.
He looked at her in disbelief and asked, "One bag?" When Lorelai nodded he said, "You, Lorelai Gilmore," but she cut him off.
"Danes," she corrected with a grin.
Luke smiled, nodded and asked, "You, Lorelai Danes, packed for ten days in one suitcase?"
Lorelai nodded thoughtfully and said, "Yeah," with a shrug.
"I don't believe it," he said suspiciously.
"It's true," she insisted. "I just need to throw my makeup and hair stuff into my carry on, and I'm good to go."
Luke looked down at her with exaggerated patience and asked, "I could barely fit enough clothes in one bag, how could you?"
She grinned at him devilishly and said, "I taking very, very small clothes."
Luke blinked and asked, "You're serious? You packed all of your stuff in one suitcase?"
Lorelai laughed as she sat on the edge of the bed and kicked off her shoes. "Tiny clothes. Shorts, tops, bikinis, sundresses, sandals," she listed on her fingers. "All folded into teeny tiny squares per Rory Gilmore," she said with a grin.
"I'm impressed," he said as he sat down next to her.
"You should be," she said as she stretched across the bed to set the alarm clock for an hour later. She rolled onto her side of the bed and patted the mattress next to her.
Luke toed his shoes off and stretched out next to her, pulling her close to rest against his chest. "Mmm, feels good," she mumbled.
"Yeah," he said with a sigh as he stroked her arm. "Hey Lorelai?" he asked.
"Hey Luke," she answered sleepily.
"How tiny are those clothes?" he asked with his eyes closed.
"Miniscule," she whispered as she pressed a kiss to his flannel covered chest and settled back against him.