Disclaimer: Not a Gilmore Girls owner, in any capacity.
The third instalment of what is officially now called Inkverse. This one-shot is a sequel to "Ink" and "The Parting Glass." You might want to read those first. If not, then this is pre-series, AU, Luke and Lorelai have already met.
For those interested, when I get my life back, after exams, there will a chapter portion of this series.
Feedback is wanted, embraced and will be replied. (Because I need some love.) Enjoy!
You cap and uncap your pen. Click. Click.
Sookie throws down her tube of cake frosting. "What are you doing?"
"Nothing," you say.
"Nothing? You're being all fidgety, honey." Sookie makes a face. "And you're doing that pen thing."
"The pen thing is when you click it repeatedly, making people want to cut off your head," you explain. "This is not a clicky pen."
"You're still making clicky noises with a pen. Still kind of annoying."
Sookie waves a hand (thankfully, not holding onto a tube of frosting). "It's okay. But is there anything you want to talk about?"
"No, I -" you get a glimpse of the time and hop off the counter. "I've got to go pick Rory up from Lane's."
"Oh, well -"
"Bye, Sookie!" you call, racing out of the kitchen.
Five minutes late and you're afraid you might be swallowed up by hellfire. The hellfire burning in Mrs. Kim's eyes. She hates you. Maybe she's glaring at you because you're wearing too much lipstick, maybe it's because you're in your maid's outfit, maybe it's because your heels are too high.
Really, it's what everyone else stares at: you and Rory.
"Hi, Mrs. Kim," you say. "I'm here to pick up Rory."
"Yes." She turns. "Lane, Rory's mother is here! Walk her to the door."
"Yes, Mama." You hear footsteps padding closer to you.
"Come in," Mrs Kim commands. "Heat is not free."
"Yes. Sorry," you say, pulling the door shut. She scares the crap out of you – Mrs. Kim is something you've never encountered before.
"Hi, Mommy," Rory says, casting a look at Mrs. Kim, who doesn't smile.
"Hey, sweetie," you say. "Got your coat?"
"Yes," she says, pulling it on and fumbling with buttons.
"Alright," you reply. "Thank you, Mrs. Kim, for having Rory here."
"Thank you," Rory echoes.
"You are welcome," is the grudging reply. "Say good-bye to Rory, Lane."
"Good-bye, Rory," the other little girl mumbles. You make a note for Lane to come and visit Rory at the inn sometime – very soon.
"Bye," you say, holding the door open for Rory.
"Bye, Lane!" Rory hops out, landing on the porch and nearly trips going down.
"Okay, Clara, I know how graceful you are, but slow down," you say, running after her.
She stops and turns. "Who's that, Mommy?"
"Hey, kid, you've gotta guess," you reply. "Otherwise…"
She wrinkles her nose, trying to remember every little book she's read, every TV show, every movie, every song. "I don't know…is it a ballerina?"
"You're getting good," you say. "She's a character in The Nutcracker."
"A ballet?" Rory guesses.
"Hasn't Miss Patty told you about her performance in that?" you ask, taking Rory's hand.
"Maybe tomorrow. You've got a lesson, right?"
"Yes!" She nods, before becoming grave. "I haven't practiced yet. Will Miss Patty get mad?"
"I think you'll be fine," you assure her. "What do you want for supper?"
"We had that last night. And the night before. Do you want to become nothing but processed cheese?"
"Can we go to Luke's?" she pleads. "We never go there for supper."
You glance at the diner. And your purse. You do some math (because you're still a penny pincher). "Sure, sweets."
Rory's face lights up. "Mrs. Kim made me eat a wheat germ muffin," she confides. "What's wheat germ, Mommy?"
"Nothing I will ever make you eat," you say, laughing.
"Cheeseburger, with onion rings and coffee," you tell Luke, who rolls his eyes.
"That's disgusting," he mumbles.
"Well, you're making it," you say. "Do you have to comment on everything I eat?"
"You're going to be five hundred pounds and be dead of a heart attack by the time you're forty," he predicts.
"Ouch," you say. "I've only ever had coffee and doughnuts here, anyway; what's your problem?"
"Exactly," Luke says.
"Whatever." You nudge Rory's elbow. "What are you having, Rory?"
"A cheeseburger and chilli fries and root beer," she says.
Luke rolls his eyes again. You've noticed that about him. "Like mother, like daughter."
"Thank you," Rory tells him seriously.
"Coming up, death in a vat."
"You're a riot," you call.
He's gone into the kitchen, out of your sight, and you turn back to Rory and sip your coffee. She's lost to you, dreaming about something.
You stare out the window. To sit, and drift – you never have time for that, not often. You send a beam of thanks to Rory.
Cheese, frozen fries, cereal…you run a hand along the cereal boxes, trying to pick a couple. You need food – there's nothing left. Dry. Empty. Your stomach growls as you try to pick something out.
"Oh, jeez," a voice says over your shoulder. "I'm impressed."
You spin around, scowling. "You stalk me to Doose's to find out my eating habits?"
Luke shrugs. "Ran out of mustard."
"A process in which I didn't order enough, my delivery guy can't get here until Monday, and people will probably want mustard before then."
"Who actually likes mustard?" you ask.
"You eat it."
"Because I'm too lazy too have it taken off." You pick out a box of cereal and drop it in your basket. "See you later."
"Wait, that's all you're getting?" He peers in the basket. "You have a six year old."
"My six year old is a favourite of the chef at the inn," you argue. "She eats fine."
You place your basket on the ramp and wait in line, Luke behind you.
"Your eating habits are disgusting," he mumbles.
You laugh, a rush of happiness bubbling up.
"Phone for you, Lorelai," Mia says, handing the phone over the reception desk.
"Thanks," you say, snatching the receiver. "Hello?"
"Hello." You say it sharply, your voice (hopefully) cutting into his skull.
"How are you?" There's a waver in his voice, hesitant, maybe scared.
"Fine. How about you? Did you have a good Christmas?" The frost drips from your voice.
"Uhh, well -"
"Glad to hear it."
"I told you, I couldn't -"
"Yeah, I know. But you might want to explain it your daughter."
"I'm at work, Christopher, I don't have time for this. Good-bye." You muster up a last bolt of rage and slam the phone down.
You get stares.
"Excuse me," you mumble, and run off.
Oh, you despise him.
No, you don't.
Yes, you do.
How could he?
You make a fist and push open the door of the diner with the other, shaking and red.
"Hey," Luke says. The diner's empty. You flop at the counter.
"Hey," you mumble. "Coffee to go? I need to get Rory from school."
"Sure." He reaches for a cup, stops and looks at you. "What happened?"
"That bastard!" you unleash. "He calls, and expects me to talk to him, like nothing happened, like he doesn't just ignore his daughter, like – ugh, I'm so…I can't even think."
"Rory's dad," Luke says.
"Yeah," you say. "Chris. He called."
"I gathered," Luke replies.
"He…" you pause. "He gave up…I guess. I ran away, and he…he wanted to get married," you blurt.
Luke nods. He's so solemn, and you chew your lip. You're fairly sure you've never admitted the story out loud, and usually…usually you trust too little but this time you've jumped without testing the water. You barely know Luke.
Nothing you're saying is making any sense.
"We hardly see him," you finish.
"I'm sorry," Luke says. "I'm sorry."
"It's not your fault," you argue, mildly.
"You're upset, though." He reaches out, and falls short of brushing your cheek. "You're crying."
"I am," you say softly.
And you go to say something more, but you can't, because he's kissing you and you realize that you want it too.