Disclaimer: I don't own the girls.

Personally, I think certain people are trying to pull me back into the Gilmore Girls fandom. This is a sequel to "Ink," from a few weeks ago. The timeline on this piece would be not too long after "Ink." You probably don't need to read it first, but it would be helpful. Because I plan creating a series out of these and "Inkverse," (name of series, for now) will be more connected later.

Feedback is truly appreciated. Enjoy!

The Parting Glass

You're bundling up Rory, when Mia comes in. "There's a phone call for you, Lorelai," she says, shivering in the door.

"I'll be right there," you mumble, trying to zip up Rory's coat. You sigh and drop your hands. "I don't think you can wear all of your favourite scarves at once, sweetie."

"Okay," Rory agrees. She pulls off each scarf, dropping it on the floor. You stand up, watching. This may take a while.

"Mia," you say. "I -"

"Go," she commands, waving her hand. "I'll make sure she doesn't try to keep all of them on."

"Thank you, Mia." You run for the inn. But it's still winter and still snowy and still cold – and you end up in the field, trying to wrench a foot from four feet of snow. "Goddammit," you mumble. Snow up to your waist is not your idea of fun.

You pull at your boot. You end up in the snow, lying on your back, sock covered in snow, and you laugh. Or cry. You don't really know.

Shutting your eyes to block out the sun's chilly glare, you stay still. You've never been good with the easy way around.

So you chose the field instead of the path.

-

"Lorelai," a sharp, severe, annoyed, familiar voice barks into your ear. You hold the phone away and cringe. God.

"Hi…Mom," you manage, swallowing hard.

"It took you long enough to get to the phone," she mutters. "You should really get a line in your place…or at least give us the number. What if we were killed in a car accident and out attorney had to wait for you to get to the inn's phone from wherever it is you were?"

"Anything you want?" you ask.

"Yes," she replies. "We need you."

"What?" you say. The Gilmore do not need, period.

Your mother sighs. "Your great-great-aunt Glynda is arriving from Kentucky -" here you imagine her nose wrinkling at the idea of Kentucky "- and she wants you to come to dinner."

"Well, I can't," you say.

"Lorelai, you don't even know what time it is."

"I have to work every night this week," you reply.

"Friday, at seven," she says, ignoring you.

"Mom -"

"Your aunt has requested you," she says. "You will be there. Glynda is nearly ninety, after all."

"I have work. And Rory. Didn't Aunt Glynda almost become a nun?"

"Bring Rory. See you on Friday."

"Mom," you repeat. But there's nothing but a click, and you're stuck.

-

"Thanks, Mia," you say, shutting the door of the shed. Rory is sitting on the floor, folding her scarves. Little Miss Perfectionist. You smile.

"Anything wrong?" Mia asks.

"No, just a command to go to dinner at my parents' house to see my ancient aunt." You scowl.

"When?" Mia asks.

"Friday," you say.

"You'll go," Mia says.

"I can't do that." You cross the room, shaking some snow off. "Just because Emily Gilmore never asks something, just demands it, does not mean that I have to listen."

"You're acting childish." Mia manages to make even that sound kind. "It's not something to be melodramatic about."

"We were over there three weeks ago," you protest. "That's about as much as I can stomach before going all Lizzie Borden."

"Lorelai," Mia warns. "They're still family."

You sigh. "Yes," you say. "They're still family."

"I'll let you off of work," Mia decides. "Perhaps Lisa can take…" She trails off, looking thoughtful, trying to figure out what to do with her staff. You feel guilty, because you already know that Lisa has a date and Mark has an appointment and Michelle has…something, you're sure. But your stupid obligation dinner takes precedence.

"Mia," You start. "I…"

She brushes your cheek with her hand. "You'll thank me someday."

You giggle a little. Thank Mia for the opportunity to go to the Gilmores' house?

In another universe, maybe.

Rory pulls on your hand. "Can we go now?" she asks. "Please?"

"Sure, hon." You take her hand, straightening the hat she has on.

-

It's become a bit of a habit: walking into town to go eat at Luke's. You order coffee, Rory gets a doughnut. Luke makes the best coffee anywhere, you've decided (not that you're telling Sookie that.)

"Hey, Luke," you say, ushering Rory into the diner.

"Hey," he says. "Sit anywhere."

"Hey, where do you want to sit, kiddo?" you ask Rory. She squishes up her face, and you watch her, smiling.

"There," she says, pointing. "I want to sit at the counter."

"Oh, Rory," you moan.

"You never let me sit there!" she says.

"Fine," you agree.

She struggles to get up on the stool. You lift her up, and she happily steals a menu from beside the cash. "Mommy?" she asks.

"Yes?"

"Do you think Sookie will get mad if I try Luke's pie and like it?"

"No," you say, laughing. "I think Luke will be just fine."

"Good," Rory replies. "Can I have a piece of blueberry pie, Mommy?"

"Sure, sweetie," you say. "Luuuke?"

He looks annoyed as he turns to face you. A few weeks of your constant presence in his diner, and already, he knows exactly what you'll do: push his buttons. A few weeks of your constant presence in his diner and you know how to push his buttons. It's shaping up beautifully. Great coffee, and someone to torment. You grin.

"What do you want?" he asks.

"Coffee," you say. "And a piece of blueberry pie."

"No doughnut?" Luke asks, looking at Rory.

She shakes her head. "Pie, please," she says.

"Alright."

"So," Luke begins, "what's the crisis?"

"What?" you say.

"You usually come here earlier," he says. "Like clockwork, six every day, just about."

"We're that predictable?" you say, incredulous.

"Yeah."

"Well, at least I have Rory to spice it up, huh, sweets?"

Rory nods emphatically.

"One slice of pie," Luke says, setting the plate in front of Rory. "And…coffee for the addict."

"Bless you," you say, snatching the mug from him.

"Did you know that caffeine can cause ulcers?" he asks.

"Ew, Luke, enjoying my coffee here." You swallow and glare.

"Just a thought." He holds his hands up.

"Did you know that harassing the customer about her coffee habits often causes death amongst proprietors?"

"Jeez," he mumbles. "You're touchier than usual."

"I'm touchy?" you ask, putting on an offended tone. Beside you, Rory eats all the blueberries out of her pie crust.

"No…you're - you just…" Luke fumbles, and you giggle a little.

"Relax," you say. "I just…" you pause, because you don't know Luke that well (even if he gave Rory a bike and he now feeds you some of the time and you are friendly) and you're not sure…oh, you go with it. "My mother called me, that's all."

Luke's face shifts: you don't know whether it's confused or surprised or patient. You're not sure. You duck your head. You wait for him to say something. You opened up the conversation, though…

"Yeah?" he asks.

"Yeah," you say. "We…don't get along. Long story short, we're going to dinner there. Alright, Rory?" She looks at you. "Dinner at Grandma's and Grandpa's on Friday, okay?"

"Okay." She licks her fork. "Can we go?"

"How come?" you tease. "Luke being mean to you?"

"Not me," she says. "You!"

"Your mom's being mean to me," Luke tells her.

"She's always like that," Rory pronounces. "She can't help it."

You gasp. "I'll just have to leave you here." You sigh, getting up. "Thanks for the coffee, Luke. Make sure Rory goes to bed on time."

"Mommy!" Rory exclaims. "Take me, too."

"Alright," you concede. "You can come." You rummage around in your purse, trying to find your wallet. "Thanks, Luke," you say, handing him a few bills, crumpled.

"'Night," he calls out.

The bell jangles. Your breath puffs out, clouds of vapour. A thousand below zero, you think.

The town square is still a chilly paradise: glistening icicles, sparkling snow, blanketed trees.

It's the same chilly beauty of the Gilmore residence, and you shudder, swaying a bit.

You don't want to go back there.

-

You get the impression that Emily and Richard don't want you there either. "Hi, Mom," you say, infusing the phrase with as much (false) cheeriness as you can.

"Lorelai," she says. Oh? No hello. Interesting. "Hello, Rory." Much better.

"Hi, Grandma," Rory says. She's uncertain, you know, because every time you go over there (as little as possible) she has to re-meet them.

"Come in, come in," she says, hauling the door shut. "Honestly, where can you get a good mai – Graciella!" She takes your coats, craning her neck into the foyer. "Graciella!" She sighs. "They're in the den."

"Okay," you say.

Your mother nods, crisply, before storming off. "Graciella!"

"Come on, Rory," you urge, taking her hand.

Your father is sitting on the couch with Glynda – she is his great-aunt, after all. "Lorelai," he says, faintly surprised. "I didn't know you were coming."

"Of course I was, Dad," you say. "Mom invited me." You lean to kiss Glynda's cheek. "Hi, Aunt Glynda."

"Hello there, Lorelai," she says. "My goodness, you've grown up, haven't you? How old are you now?"

"Uh, twenty-two," you say. You pull Rory out from behind you. "This is my daughter, Rory."

"Hi," Rory whispers. She's gone from uncertain to shy. She clutches at your hand, cutting off circulation.

"Well, well, well!" Glynda exclaims. "Aren't you beautiful! You look just like your mother."

Rory nods. "Say 'thank you,'" you say.

"Thank you," she says.

"How old are you?" Glynda asks.

"Six," Rory mumbles.

"Six years old!" Glynda says. "Well!"

"Would you like something to drink, Lorelai?" your father asks.

"Please," you say. "Gin martini?"

"Rory?" he asks.

"Orange pop, please," Rory says. You smile. She's addicted to orange pop, right now.

"Dinner will be ready in fifteen minutes," your mother announces, entering, smoothing her skirt. "Did I miss anything of importance?"

"You did not tell me how precious your granddaughter was," Glynda chides.

"Yes, well." Emily looks at Rory, and smiles. Her smile is tainted with sourness when she gets to you.

You settle on a couch with Rory. Two hours and fifty-four minutes to go.

-

"So, Lorelai, you live in Stars Hollow, correct?" Glynda asks.

"That's right," you say. "Pass the salt, please."

"It's a very charming town," your mother says. You choke on your water. She glares at you. Rory giggles into her mashed potatoes.

"Very," you agree.

"Small towns are such delights," Glynda says.

"Ours is…special," you reply, thinking of the unicorn shops and the giant slinky and everyone in the town. "But we like it."

"Good, good."

"How is Mia?" your mother asks.

You almost choke again. "She's great."

"Good to hear."

Silence follows.

You think about sticking your fork into your eye.

-

"Hi, Mia," you greet, flying into the lobby of the Independence Inn. "Can you, uh…could you watch Rory for a little while? Please? Sookie's gone home, and I just need a few minutes to get some -"

She cuts off your babbling. "Yes, of course. Take as long as you need."

You run back out the door.

-

"Sign says closed," Luke says from the counter.

"Why is your door open, then?" you snap, sitting at the counter.

"What happened to you?" he asks.

"Dinner. Parents. Passive-aggressive digs. Bad." You take off your gloves. "Could I please have some coffee? I swear I will never again come in here after hours."

"Fine." He flicks the switch on the coffeepot and it gurgles. Happily. "Dinner with the parents you don't get along with," Luke clarifies.

"Something like that." You groan. "How's Mia? Tell Aunt Glynda about your home. It's too bad you couldn't meet Christopher, he's such a dear boy."

"Christopher?" Luke asks.

"Rory's dad," you explain, softly. "It was painful, as I expected. Bad, as I expected."

Luke pours you a cup of coffee. "Well, at least you were right about it."

"I'll drink to that," you kid, raising the mug. Luke takes an empty Styrofoam cup and hits it against the side.

"Cheers," he says.

"It's not cheers unless you're drinking something too," you point out.

"You're crazy," he tells you. But he fills it with water, and mug meets Styrofoam again. The water sloshes over the side. "Happy?"

"Delirious," you deadpan. He rolls his eyes.

You sip at the coffee. You are happy. Drinking coffee, sitting in the diner, talking.

With Luke.