A/N: Another chapter story! I'm getting inspired randomly. Anyway, this story is based on the poem "The Road Not Taken" by Robert Frost. This starts in "Paris is Burning", you'll immediately catch why it's AU. And I want to stress beforehand, I am a JavaJunkie through and through… but don't expect immediate Java-ness right away!
Disclaimer: I don't own any of the dialogue from specific episodes that I borrow, and I don't own the rights to Robert Frost's poem "The Road Not Taken". I own a copy of a book that said poem is in, and I own the Gilmore Girls DVD's. Separate, they get me squat, but together, they give me this: read on.
Lorelai got a sudden chill as she stood in front of Max. Things just weren't the same anymore. Things weren't right. Max had just asked Lorelai if she was dumping him, they'd had a discussion about space, and he was coming closer. She took a deep breath and looked into his eyes, jerking back as he tried to kiss her. Lorelai shoved the copy of "Swann's Way" that she had borrowed into Max's chest and shook her head. "It's over, Max. I can't do this anymore."
"But you just said…"
"Max, I hate to pop your bubble and leave a sticky mess everywhere that can't be cleaned up without peanut butter. Or is it an ice cube? Anyway, that's beside the point, but we're done. It's not right," Lorelai insisted. "Goodbye."
Max raised his eyebrows. "Lorelai!" he called. "We can work this out."
Shaking her head, she fought some tears back. She knew she didn't love Max, but the idea of another failed relationship was getting to her. Lorelai was still in disbelief about what just happened. The two months got to her again. Sookie was right, as much as Lorelai hated it. For a moment, she stood frozen in front of a pleading Max, re-thinking her decision. She took one step forward and shook her head again, backing away. Brushing the tears off of her cheeks with the sleeve of her shirt, she left the classroom and wandered the halls of Chilton to find Rory. Lorelai looked at her watch. Rory had mentioned something about lunch at this time, hadn't she?
Holding back tears once she thought even more about what she'd just given up, Lorelai followed a sea of blue plaid to the dining hall. She slipped into a seat next to Rory, who jumped when Lorelai appeared. "God, woman, you're going to make me jump out of my skin one of these days! Wait, have you been crying?"
Lorelai groaned. She reached into her purse and after some digging, found a compact mirror. Upon opening the mirror, she rolled her eyes. "God, it's that obvious? I need to learn to cover that up better."
"Mom, what happened?" Rory asked, grabbing the mirror from her mother's hand. She moved closer to Lorelai, shutting the mirror and dropping it back into Lorelai's purse.
Watching the mirror fall back among the multitude of lip glosses, receipts, and other miscellaneous items, Lorelai took a deep breath. "Careful with the mirror, there, kid, that's seven years of bad luck you'd be bringing upon yourself. You don't want that, now, do you?"
"Will you stop being so 'I'm going to beat around the bush' and start being more 'I should tell Rory what's wrong?'" Rory demanded, her arms crossed and her expression serious.
"Max and I broke up," Lorelai spat out.
Rory's expression softened and she hugged her mother. "I'm so sorry. What happened?"
"My feet were cold," Lorelai said, eyeing Rory's chocolate cake.
Rory handed the cake over and passed Lorelai a plastic fork. "Well, wear socks," she teased. "Mom, it's okay to have a committed relationship. You liked Max."
"And so did you," Lorelai pointed out.
Rory nodded. "We share a lot of likes. We like cheese, we like movies, we like shopping, and we also liked Max. All the more reason to warm up those piggy toes and dive right in."
"Look, sweets, I just… it wasn't right. Max wasn't a bad guy, but I got a feeling that I wasn't really in love with him. I was in love with the idea of being in love with him."
"Okay, Yogi Berra, start making some sense and then we'll talk," Rory teased.
Lorelai poked at the chocolate cake. "I'm fragile. I just broke up with my boyfriend, my emotional state is being called into question."
"Mom, I'm happy if you're happy. I liked Max, a lot, but if you're not happy, don't stay in it. Just… don't jump out because you got scared of having a long term relationship with someone. I liked him, too, if that wasn't made clear."
She shook her head. "No, sweets, I know you liked him. I just wanted it to be right. It wasn't right, and that's not fair to either one of you."
"Promise me you didn't do this because of me? I'm a big girl, I can handle a little change," Rory countered. "I know I keep expressing how much I liked Max, but you know, that's not a lie. I'm okay with you settling down, you deserve it."
Lorelai nodded. "You were a big girl before the Pull Ups, sweets, I know you can handle it. I'm just wondering how well I'm going to handle it. I've always been out on my own, and Sookie's right… the two month rule was always in my subconscious, I just needed it to be brought up by someone."
"How Freudian of you," Rory replied. "Are you going to eat that?"
Pushing the cake toward Rory again, Lorelai shook her head. "I don't want your pity cake, I'm going to get my own."
"Yeah, good luck reaching the front of the line in ten minutes," Rory said, looking at her watch.
Lorelai gasped. "They give you no time to digest this food!"
"You taught me to eat fast for a reason," Rory replied. "I could totally take the world hot dog champions in like, a second."
"Maybe that's your calling, then," Lorelai said with a wink.
Rory polished off the cake and discarded her tray. She headed toward her locker before stopping her mom in the hallway. "You've gotten over this breakup rather quickly," she noted. "Are you sure you're okay? You don't have to be. Because I have a French exam that I'd rather not take if you're in an emotionally unstable state to the point where I have to take you home."
"Well, I'm trying to hold it together for the sake of my sanity, and second, if it's not right, then it's not right, you can't change it," Lorelai pointed out. "And you are so like me with the French exam."
"You'd been planning this," Rory countered, switching out the books in her locker.
Lorelai peered into the locker mirror Rory had, adjusting a stray curl. "Planning what, letting you skip the French test? And you don't have a picture of Davy Jones in here?"
"Davy Jones ran off into the sunset with Marcia Brady," Rory said, scrunching up her nose. "At least, that's the alternate ending we created. And I meant the breakup with Max. It was planned all along, wasn't it?"
"No Nick Carter in here?" Lorelai replied.
Rory cringed. "God, no. Half the girls in the school have claimed him as their husband. He'll have to move somewhere far, far away to cater to the demands. And you're doing some mighty fine bush beating, ma'am."
"Rory, look. It wasn't right. I knew it wasn't right. It's really over, and I had to tell him it was. He almost pulled me back in, but I stood my ground," Lorelai explained. "If there was a world record for the amount of times one can say 'it wasn't right' in a day, I'm sure I'd be pretty damn close to eternal fame."
Rory nodded. "All right. So long as you know this isn't like the magic marker tattoos you used to make for me. This is the real thing, no going back."
"Permanent ink, I hear you, sweets."
"Now, come on, I have a few more classes and then a Franklin meeting," Rory insisted.
Lorelai gently banged her head against Rory's locker, looking for more of an effect than the actual sound. "Rory," she whined. "Paris scares me."
"You and me both," Rory snorted. "Come on, I'd rather not be late for French class."
"Au contraire, to be fashionably late in Paris is all the rage!"
"Come on, Franc, I hate to be the party pooper, but we're going to be early," Rory hissed, pulling Lorelai by the arm into a nearby classroom.
"Father of the Bride references always make me smile," Lorelai giggled, taking her arm back.
Lorelai sat in the corner of the room, not paying the slightest bit of attention to the French class Rory was forced to absorb. Instead, she began thinking about the direction in which her life had turned. She slipped deep into a train of thought, contemplating what would have happened if she had stayed with Max. What if she'd married him, had children with him? The thought was scary, let alone the actual process of adjusting to life with Max.
She watched as Rory flew through the quiz and then took notes in what Lorelai assumed was shorthand. Rory didn't look stressed at all, she looked perfectly comfortable and eager to learn. Lorelai smiled. She was jealous of Rory sometimes. Rory was a sponge, always willing to soak up new experiences, new people, and new things. And Lorelai was afraid of cold feet in a two month old relationship.
As Rory closed her notebook and placed it into her backpack, Lorelai walked out of the classroom, waiting to meet Rory in the hallway. Lorelai was in and out of her deep thinking stage throughout the day and when Rory finally assured Lorelai it was time for her to go, Lorelai practically ran to the Jeep.
"Whoa, slow down there, Speedy," Rory said, hopping into the passenger's seat. "Don't try and hide your excitement or anything."
"God, I would NOT want to pull a Freaky Friday with you," Lorelai insisted. "That would be rough. I didn't understand half of what the French teacher was DOING, let alone saying."
"She's fidgety," Rory explained as Lorelai pulled out into traffic. "Are you sure you're okay?"
Lorelai smiled. "More than okay, why?"
"You're lying. We need to treat you to Luke's. Or, I'll treat you and jet. I have that paper to write for Mr. Medina's class. And I did actually already start it, but I'm sure I'll change a lot of the arguments tonight when I talk myself out of the first ones I created," Rory explained.
"Well then that's no treat," Lorelai pouted. "The treater has to have dinner with the treatee in order for it to make any amount of difference."
"Come on, Mom, you'll enjoy a dinner at Luke's. You deserve it. You had a rough first day at Chilton," Rory teased.
Lorelai sighed. "You have no idea."
"I was in the lions' den once, too, you know, I remember how it was."
"Remember how long it's been since I was in high school?"
Rory shrugged. "Less time than a lot of the parents. Did you see that kid who sits in front of me in Western Civ? His dad's J. Howard Marshall old."
"That's not gross or anything," Lorelai said, rolling her eyes.
"Older than Grandpa," Rory continued. "Freaky."
"New subject, please," Lorelai begged.
"Paris saw the breakup between you and Max."
Lorelai groaned. "Great change in subject, Rory."
"You didn't say what we should change the subject to. But she did. And she spread it around, but people were too concerned with a 'Kick Me' sign on her back that they weren't paying attention," Rory explained. "They probably didn't know you were together in the first place."
"I put that there," Lorelai said with a wink. "The post it note? That was me."
Rory gasped. "You didn't!"
"I did the 'Oh, honey, I'm sorry I just bumped into you' bit, put my hand on her back and made sure she was okay, and then stuck the post it square between the shoulders," Lorelai admitted.
"You're quite the sneak," Rory added. "I have to admit, it was funny, but I don't live to torture Paris. Why can't we just get along?"
Lorelai shrugged. "Just ask Yoko and the Beatles that."
"Get out of the car, I'm taking it back home," Rory said, reaching into her backpack and handing Lorelai some money. "Enjoy Luke's, and ask him to put extra whipped cream on your breakup sundae."
"Fine," Lorelai said as she handed Rory the keys to the Jeep and slipped out the door, dropping the money in through the window and drawing a glare from Rory. She walked into a virtually empty Luke's and looked around. Picking the first empty table she saw, she put her head in her hands.
"Rough day?" Luke asked, pouring her coffee.
"If the coyote got blown up, shoved off a cliff, and hit with an anvil, this still wouldn't equal my day," Lorelai admitted.
"That bad, huh?"
Lorelai nodded. "Bad day of epic proportions."
"Should I bother asking what went wrong?" he asked.
"I broke it off with Rory's teacher. I did my two month dance, like Sookie said, and now I'm experiencing feelings of inadequacy, loss, and sudden loneliness. Those must be the side effects they don't tell you on the commercials," she mused.
"I have no idea what you're talking about, but I can assure you that it sounds complicated," Luke replied.
Lorelai took a sip of the coffee. "More complicated than trying to read my own handwriting."
"Wow, that is bad, then," he teased.
Feigning offense, Lorelai put her head on the table. "No one seems to understand that my emotional state is very fragile tonight!"
"You're so overdramatic," Luke insisted.
She shot up in her seat, crossing her arms. "You're insensitive," she shot back.
Luke held up his hands, as if he were surrendering. "Sorry, I thought it was a bit."
She shook her head. "No, don't worry about it. I'm still getting over it. Sudden outbursts of hatred toward beloved coffee suppliers must be one of those unmentioned side effects."
"Well, I'm sure things will work out," he said. "What can I get you?"
"A grilled cheese, a cheeseburger, and macaroni and cheese," Lorelai rattled off, pausing for a moment before nodding. "Yeah, that should do it. For now."
"Whatever you say," Luke insisted, bringing the order back to the kitchen.
Lorelai sipped her coffee, swirling it around in the cup as she put it down on the table. She was emotionally drained, and not even the coffee was making her feel better. Lorelai sighed, grabbing napkins from the nearby dispenser and folding them into various origami shapes. Luke returned a short while later with her food, awkwardly standing by the table and looking for room to place the plates.
"Meet Nora, Nancy, Ned, Nelly, Norbert, and Joe," Lorelai said, introducing Luke to her napkin swans.
"Why's the last one got a name that begins with J when the others have names that begin with N?" Luke asked.
"He's the sad and lonely outcast swan. The red-headed stepchild of swans. More Harry Potter-esque, or Cinderella. The other guys and gals don't like him until he becomes magical. Other than that, I haven't come up with a storyline yet," she said, shoving the napkin birds to the other side of the table to make room for Luke to put her plates.
"You've resorted to making napkin birds to pass your time?" Luke asked.
Lorelai shook her head. "Fragile emotional state, remember?"
"You're losing it," Luke declared, walking back behind the counter.
"I'm now single. You know how much breakups suck, even if you haven't had one in awhile. Which, by the way, you should be incredibly grateful for, because they cause a lot more stress than the movies lead on," Lorelai replied.
Luke shrugged. "Well, the connotation of the word itself pretty much expresses suckiness."
"It could be a good breakup," Lorelai mused. "What if the guy, or in your case, girl, cheated on you and you're like… ha! You're gone."
"I've never had such a liberating breakup," Luke grumbled.
Lorelai nodded. "They're usually referred to as something else, not really in the breakup category. Or that's what I've heard. I've only had one of those liberating kinds, and it was a long time ago."
"Maybe you can channel that, then, and stop sitting here depressed in my diner," Luke suggested.
"Doesn't matter if I'm depressed or chipper, I'm paying," Lorelai replied.
"You know, sometimes I wish I charged for refills. Between you and Rory alone, I'd be able to practically double the capacity of the diner," he mused.
Lorelai gasped. "You wouldn't!"
"No, I wouldn't. Too much work," Luke replied. "I'd have to hire more wait staff, and that makes less profit."
She rolled her eyes. "You're not very sympathetic to my newly single state. I thought I warned you about that."
"Not my job. My job is to feed you and supply you with your liquid death. That's it," he insisted, crossing his arms. "Now do you need anything else before I start closing up?"
"No, I'm good, as long as you can give me a doggy bag to bring some of this home to Rory."
Luke nodded. "I can do that," he said, walking into the kitchen.
Lorelai watched as he turned off the various appliances in the back. "Hey, Luke?" she called.
"Yeah?" he asked.
"Do you think I'm capable of maintaining a long term relationship?"
Luke walked back from around the counter, adjusting his hat. "What possessed you to ask me that?"
She shrugged. "I don't know. I mean, you know me pretty well. Do you think I'll ever be able to fully commit myself to someone? Like 'until death do us part' commitment?"
"Do you want to commit yourself like that?" Luke asked.
Lorelai rolled her eyes. "I know your opinions on marriage. I hear the speech every time you hear wedding bells at the church. 'No two people are made for only each other.' I think it's crap, Luke. Everyone wants that one person they can trust and be with for the rest of their life. That someone who's going to be there for you, but also love you like no one else can, forever. The person you trust to be the other parent to your future child. I want the whole package, Luke, but I'm always falling short of finding the guy to complete it. So, in short, I think your 'I hate marriage' speech is all a front and you want it too."
"If you want it bad enough, you'll find him," Luke replied.
"Be honest with me? Do you want the whole package? I know you're beating around the bush on answering the question," she insisted, watching as Luke sat down across from her.
Luke sighed. "I don't want it just for the sake of getting it."
"But do you want it, at all?" Lorelai asked.
He shrugged. "It would have to be someone I really, really cared about. Then I'd think about it some more."
"Hm. Interesting," Lorelai replied, taking a bite of her macaroni and cheese.
"What?" Luke snarled.
"That you'd consider it for the right person," she replied.
"Yeah, well, I'm not as hermit-like as you paint me to be," he ranted. "Everyone thinks I'm made of stone and that I'm incapable of loving someone."
"Well, you just never…"
Luke sighed. "I keep my personal life as my personal life. I've been in relationships. They've just never been right, okay?"
Lorelai nodded. "O-kay," she said hesitantly. "Sorry to upset you, I know the 'not right' feeling, I've been trying to explain it to the world all day today."
"You didn't upset me."
She shook her head. "You know, it's hard to tell sometimes."
"I am quite the man of mystery. Sucks about your breakup," Luke said, getting up and helping Lorelai to put some of the food into containers.
"Yeah, it does. It'll be okay," Lorelai said.
"You don't really sound as upset as you were earlier," Luke pointed out.
She shrugged. "If you have faith in me, of all people, then I think I'll be okay."
"What makes you believe me?" he countered.
"Huh?" she asked.
"What if I was lying?"
She rolled her eyes and took the bags from Luke. "Jerk. I'm never coming here for coffee, ever again. I'll find somewhere else to take my business. I'm serious, now, your head is very, very far up your ass."
"See you tomorrow morning," Luke said, cleaning off the table Lorelai had vacated.
"Regular time," Lorelai replied, opening the door to the diner and starting the walk back home.