Disclaimer: I have no rights to anything Gilmore Girls-related. This is in effect for any and all subsequent chapters of this story.

Here it is! The (hopefully) long-awaited fifth instalment of Inkverse. This picks up after Child of Peace ended and goes from there. JavaJunkie, of course, and pre-canon/AU.

Dedication for this story goes out to my girls at OLC: a happy belated one year anniversary present. We are crazy awesome.

Feedback is craved. Enjoy!

Chapter 1: Somebody's Eyes

"'Mornin', sugar," Babette says.

"'Morning," you mumble. It's so hard not put up a hand and cover your ear from the harshness of Babette's voice, but you resist anyway. "What's gong on in town today?"

"Oh, not much." She holds out her copy of the paper. "You have this, darlin' – it ain't worth the fifty cents."

"Thanks, Babette," you say, stuffing the paper in your bag. "Rory'll love it."

"That little thing is readin' the paper?" She shakes her head. "They grow so fast!"

"I know," you laugh.

"See you later!" she calls. You wave, and start to run up the street. You're going to be late again. Damn, you hiss to yourself. Damn, damn, damn, damn.

Better stop with the mild cursing. You're getting closer to the elementary school.

A smile on your face, you run a hand through the wild mane of curls and push open the door. "Hey, babe," you say, "Sorry I'm late."

"You're not that late." Rory picks up her backpack. "Not like when we go see Grandma and Grandpa."

"Ha, ha." You hold out a hand and she takes it.

"Miss Gilmore!" It's this, plus the sound of high heels clicking after you that make you stop.

There's a sense of foreboding in the air. Rory's teacher has caught up to you now, looking severe and haughty. "Would I be able to arrange a meeting with you?"

"Uh…sure?" you say.

"Next Thursday," she replies. "Three o'clock work for you?"

"I'm sure I can swing it," you say.

"Excellent." She smiles thinly. Falsely. "I'm looking forward to it."

"As am I," you lie – you sound different, even to your own ears.

-

"So, darlin', what did you do to make Her Majesty upset?" you ask.

Rory shrugs. Her face is cloudy. "I was good," she says.

"I believe you," you say.

"Okay." She kicks a pebble.

"Cheeseburger?" you ask. "That sound like a good idea, Rory?"

"Okay."

You peer into her eyes. "Hey. It'll be just fine. Alright?"

"Alright," she whispers. "Mommy?"

"Yes?"

"Can we go now?"

"Of course."

Her hand finds its way to yours, as it typically does. She squeezes a little harder, and you remember that the world is still turning around you.

-

"Hi," you say, low, practically purring.

"What are you doing?" Luke growls.

"Getting some food, duh," you reply. "God, you're touchy."

"I wasn't sure if you wanted everyone to know," he mumbles, casting a glance at Rory.

You shrug. "Just breakfast. In Litchfield," you say. "Tomorrow. It's not really a big deal…"

Luke nods. "No."

Backtrack. Did you prick at some old wound inadvertently? Did you say the wrong thing? You're not very good at this, as you recall – is it too early to brush off things like this? Are you even in a relationship?

Well. You are going to give it a go. You want to.

Hell, you want Luke.

The realization brings a blush to your face. You lean on an icy hand, hoping it'll relieve the heat in your cheek. "Uh, you're right."

"We'll keep it quiet?" he asks. "Right. You've just blossomed eighteen rumours. Seven of which will be in the paper tomorrow."

"Such a nice town," you mumble.

"Full of nutcases," he agrees. He leans in. "What time should I pick you up?"

"How about I stop by after I drop Rory off at school?" you ask.

"People will see."

"So? Rumours are already started. Plus," you say, "There'll be a lull. Minimal damage."

"I feel like we're in James Bond movie," he complains. "Sneaking around?"

"I'm an expert," you assure him. "Climbing out windows, finding hidden passages…I'm ready if we need to be."

Luke rolls his eyes. "You're very strange."

"Why, thank you," you reply.

-

It's hard to get privacy in a potting shed, even when you're the only one there. You feel like everyone is staring. You feel hemmed in, not enough space, not enough room, not enough…clothes. (Casual, but too. Damn conventions.) You toss everything in the air, and fall, landing on top of them. "Urgh!" you moan. "I hate my life."

Rory taps on the door, opening it. "Can I come in now?" she asks. "It's cold out."

"Sure, Rory." You sigh. "Want to help?"

"Help what?" she asks.

"Help me pick out some clothes to wear tomorrow," you reply.

"But you never do that," she says.

"Tomorrow's special."

"Why?"

"Uh, I'll tell you…later," you say, Hedging a bit. Not good. You scold yourself while Rory ponders.

"Promise?"

"Promise." You hold up a hand. "Scout's honour."

"Mommy!"

You hug her and giggle.

-

It's quiet, out in the streets of Stars Hollow. You'd feel more like you were sneaking around if anyone was there. Did everyone go for a morning nap or something? The ratio of elderly people is seventeen to one in this town: everyone is retired. (Except you.) You push open the door to the diner, throwing a glance over your shoulder, anyway. "Hey," you say.

"Hey," Luke replies. "You, uh…look great."

"Thanks." You shuffle your feet (pebble kicking time and you're inside). "Shall we?"

"Yeah. We should." Luke clears his throat.

You start to laugh. "What are you doing?" he demands.

"Isn't this just so -" You put a hand to your mouth, giggling. "Ridiculous?"

"What?"

"We're acting…like…a couple of…" You cover your face. "Oh, God."

"Let me in on the joke?"

You wave a hand. "We're acting so stupid."

Luke gives you a look. "Okay, okay," you say. "We're both acting weird. You don't find that funny?"

"Apparently not," he says.

Impulsively, you lean and kiss his cheek. "Alright. Let's really go."

Luke smiles. "After you."

You grin back.