As Lorelai tossed Luke's boxers away a few minutes later, she heard the click of the door opening. Both Luke and Lorelai froze with Luke hovering above Lorelai, supporting himself with his elbows and knees. "You didn't lock the door?" he hissed.
"I forgot," Lorelai whispered.
"Lorelai?" Chris asked, stepping into the room. Luke and Lorelai immediately scrambled to cover themselves with the sheet, but the damage was done. Chris's mouth dropped open when he saw the two, and he began to stammer. "I-I was just lo-looking for another pillow. But I don't need it all that much. Goodnight." As he quickly left, Lorelai sighed and scrambled out of bed, donning her pajama pants and Luke's discarded flannel. Grabbing a pillow, Lorelai brought it to Chris downstairs, and he gave her a muttered, "Thanks."
"I didn't mean to interrupt. I just didn't realize you'd be. . . doing that."
"We have five kids. The stork didn't bring them, Chris."
"Four," Chris corrected automatically.
"You only have four kids. Rory's mine, not Luke's."
"Look, Chris, do we really have to have this argument again?"
"I was just saying. . ."
"Chirs, just let it go. Goodnight."
"Night," he muttered.
Chris offered to give Rory a ride to school the next morning, but she politely declined, telling him that she preferred to take the bus, for it provided her with extra reading time. Chris seemed hurt, and Luke silently cheered, relishing his most recent victory.
"Okay, then I'll probably get going," Chris said. "Bye Lor. Bye Rory. I'll see you two around. I might be back to visit soon."
"Just don't be a stranger, Chris," Lorelai told him, giving him a quick hug.
"I'll see you sometime, Chris," Rory added, also hugging him quickly. As Chris walked away, he turned to take a final look at the house. Rory and Lorelai were still standing in the front hallway, and Luke had joined them, bringing Reid and Ellie with him. All five were laughing at some private joke, and Chris immediately noticed the familiar sparkle in Lorelai's eyes. With a pang of regret, he realized that he had once been able to cause that sparkle. But she had moved on, found someone else who made her happy, and effectively shut Chris out of her life forever. She always claimed that he had run from her, but as far as Chris was concerned, Lorelai had done the running. She had sprinted right from his arms and into Luke's. It was typical Lorelai—afraid of commitment, bored with the same guy.
She's been with Luke for more than fifteen years, a voice in the back of his head sneered. Only because she doesn't know her options, another voice quickly countered. As soon as you show her what she's missing with the diner guy, they'll be divorced in no time.
"We survived," Lorelai said, pecking her husband on the lips.
"I guess. Chris didn't seem too happy," Luke noted.
"Well, someone kept insulting him."
"I didn't mean to," Luke defended. "I just don't like the guy."
"I'm not his biggest fan either, but we still have to deal with him. Luckily, he's made sure that we only deal with him once in awhile."
"Thank God for small favors."
Rory left for the bus a couple minutes later, and Luke walked with her not because she might be hurt but because she already was hurt—hurt that her biological father had left and seemed uninterested in her for the entire visit. She needed comfort that only Luke could provide, assurance he would always be there for her as her father never was. Luke happily provided this assurance, asking about her classes, her English test, the teachers, and anything else he could think of. He listened intently to her answers, even her rant about the kids at school, and he made the occasional comment to assure her that he was listening. He waited with her until the bus came, and Rory gave him a tight hug before leaving. "I'll see you soon. Thank you, Daddy." The childish address slipped naturally from Rory's mouth, and it warmed Luke's insides to hear it, for it indicated that she had forgotten Chris's disinterest. Luke was her father—the person who had always been there for her, the one who knew her greatest fears and dreams, the one who listened to her like she was an adult, the one who placed her first in his life.
After ensuring that Will, Ellie, and Emma got onto the bus safely, Lorelai took Reid with her to the inn. The first person she encountered was an extremely irritated Michel. "You know the wedding this weekend?"
"If you mean the one for the twins from hell, duh! I'm planning it."
"Well, you will be happy to know the grooms are here."
"That's good." Lorelai turned to see what Michel was staring at. Two excited blond women in their early twenties were running toward two men around their age who had just walked into the lobby. The men were identical from their close-cropped brown hair to their aquiline features. "No," Lorelai muttered.
"Oh, yes," Michel said with a malicious grin as the girls threw themselves into their fiancés' arms with identical squeals.
"That's just creepy. I mean, how do they know which one belongs to which?"
"How should I know?"
"And if one sister sleeps with the other's husband, are they cheating?"
"Mommy, I bored," Reid complained, reminding Lorelai of his presence.
"Okay, buddy, let's go get some toys from Mommy's desk."
As soon as Lorelai set Reid up behind the front desk with some of his toys, she began to go through some of the inn's reservations, checking to ensure that all the information was accurate and up-to-date. She knew she should be with the brides-to-be and their mother, discussing the details for the upcoming wedding, but she wanted to avoid that hassle as long as possible.
"Hello again, Lorelai," a voice suddenly said. Startled, Lorelai looked up from the computer to see a man with short black hair, sharp features, and an impeccably tailored suit. It took Lorelai a moment to place him.
"Ian Jack, right?" she finally remembered. "From Chilton?"
"So you did remember. I was worried you wouldn't."
"Well, I did." In fact, Lorelai distinctly recalled their previous meeting and his shameless flirting. His dazzling smile told her that he was planning on picking up where he had previously left off, and Lorelai automatically began to play with her hair, turning her hand so her wedding ring was completely visible. Unfortunately, he did not take the hint.
"I didn't know you worked here."
"I'm the Executive Manager. What brings you here?"
"My nieces are getting married."
"Really?" Lorelai asked, recalling her feelings for his nieces.
"Yeah. They seem to grow up so fast."
"They do." Since messing with her hair was not working, Lorelai changed tactics. She placed her left hand on the desk right in front of him and moved her fingers up and down a couple times, allowing her rings to click loudly against the wood of the desk. Still, he was oblivious.
"So, do you want to have lunch or something?"
"Sorry, I already have plans." She was about to add, "With my husband" when the phone rang. "Excuse me. Independence Inn. Lorelai speaking," she greeted the caller.
"You'll be happy to know I actually got our daughter to smile before she left today," Luke's voice said.
"That's great! Good to see Chris didn't call irreparable damage."
"Have I told you lately how much I hate that guy?"
"I'm perfectly aware of your feelings."
"I mean, I don't know how he can keep callously abandoning her like that. Rory's sensitive, and I know it hurts her that he's not there. I can tell she blames herself even though she's the most blameless person of all of us. I can't understand how a father can just crush his daughter like that. How heartless do you have to be?"
"I'm not sure if Chris realizes what he's doing."
"Are you defending him?"
"Of course not."
"Could've fooled me."
"Look, what Chris did was wrong. Actually, pretty much everything Chris has done with regards to Rory has been wrong. He's not a good father, and I'm happy that I didn't marry him. He's an ass, but I don't think it's entirely his fault."
"Whose is it then?" Luke snapped.
"His parents? The society he grew up in? I don't really know. Can we please not get into this right now? I have enough problems as it is."
Luke's tone immediately softened. "Sorry. Kirk was just in here, and he always puts me in a bad mood. And Chris is a sore subject anyway."
"I know. Why don't we talk about something happier.
"Rory's birthday is in a few weeks."
"It seems like just yesterday that she was holding a funeral for a caterpillar, doesn't it?" Lorelai asked.
"She'll be off to college soon."
"Too soon. Fortunately, we still have some holding on." Lorelai smiled fondly at Reid who was banging his toy car against the floor. Her hand spread across her stomach.
"True. It will be awhile before we have the house to ourselves."
"Too bad. That could be interesting. What about summer camp?"
"No camp pact, remember?"
"Right. Well, Emma and Will both wanted to go last year without any prodding from us. Maybe we can subtly convince the others that it'll be fun."
"I doubt it. Besides, Reid's too young for camp, and the new baby certainly won't be going to camp anytime soon."
"Okay, Mr. Realist, just rain on my parade."
"Someone has to bring reality to this relationship."
"You can handle that. I'll handle the fun."
"Yeah. For example, once we have no kids in the house, I'm implementing a no-clothes pact. We'll both walk around the house completely naked."
"In what alternate universe am I actually agreeing to that?"
"Maybe you'll become less uptight in your old age."
"Or maybe I'll just run into Spock."
"Ha! I knew you were a Trekkie."
"Beam me up, Scottie," he remarked dryly.
"Can you do the hand signal?"
"My fingers aren't that flexible."
"I know from experience that they're plenty flexible."
"I have you trained so well."
"Look, I need to go. There are customers waiting."
"Okay. I love you."
"I love you, too. Bye." As Luke hung up the phone, he walked from behind the counter and approached the man at the nearest table. Immediately, Luke pegged him as an out-of-towner, for he wore a well-made navy blue suit which seemed much too fancy for lunch at the diner. "What can I get you?" Luke inquired.
"Turkey and Swiss on wheat," the man said, folding his menu. "And I'd also like a conversation with the owner of this place."
"You're talking to him."
"Oh." The man glanced over Luke's figure, letting his eyes linger on Luke's old, well-worn blue jeans, flannel shirt, and backwards baseball cap. Luke stared defiantly back, daring the man to insult his appearance. His fingers curled into tight fists. "I'm a friend of Richard Gilmore's," the man finally declared, raising his eyes back to Luke's face.
"I should have known," Luke muttered.
"He mentioned that you might be interested in franchising this. . . establishment. I've done a good deal of work with franchising before, so I thought I might be of some help."
"I'm sorry, but I don't want to franchise my diner."
"You should at least consider it. Profits would increase tremendously."
"My profits are fine now."
"They could be better."
"I'm not franchising. Now, do you still want that sandwich?"
"Yes. To go, please."
"It'll be out in a couple minutes."
Noon that day found Lorelai at the diner. She started to grab her apron, but Luke stopped her. "I'm okay for now. Why don't you sit and relax and actually enjoy your lunch break for once?"
"I'd rather enjoy it with you."
"Give me about ten minutes. What do you want to eat?"
"Turkey sandwich on wheat with lettuce and tomato. Also, some black olives and onions. And an apple and an orange on the side. God, why do all of your kids have to eat as healthy as you do?"
"They know what's good for them. And their mother. What do you want to drink?"
"Coming right up."
Lorelai took a seat at a corner table, contenting herself with staring out the window, people-watching. "It's such a shame to see a beautiful woman like you sitting all by yourself," a now-familiar voice remarked.
"What are you doing here?" Lorelai questioned, feeling a sense of déjà vu wash over her as she looked up at Ian Jack.
"I needed to eat, and this place looked charming. Mind if I join you?"
"I'm meeting someone," Lorelai told him, trying to suppress the image of Luke's reaction when he heard his diner referred to as "charming."
Undeterred, Ian sat down. "I'll wait with you then."
"Really, it's not-"
"Lorelai, we're out of black olives, so I'm going to get some from Doose's," Luke announced as he emerged from the kitchen. Lorelai jumped up from her seat as if burned, but the damage had already been done. Luke stopped in the process of fixing the cuff on his flannel and simply stared at Ian who smiled cheerfully back.
Lorelai quickly scrambled to reduce the tension in the room by introducing the two men. "Luke, this is Ian Jack. His daughter also goes to Chilton. Ian, this is my husband, Luke." Ian's smile faltered slightly.
"You never mentioned you had a husband," Ian said.
"Well, she does," Luke said with his gaze still shooting daggers at Ian. He had begun to twist the button on the sleeve of his flannel, and Lorelai imagined that she would be sewing it back on that nihgt.
"Nice to meet you." Ian's unshakeable smile had returned. Luke merely grunted in reply. Lorelai could see his temper boiling just beneath the surface and decided it would be best to intervene.
Placing a placating hand on his arm, she said, "It was nice to see you again, Ian. Maybe we'll run into each other at parent-teacher meetings sometime." With great difficulty, Lorelai steered Luke away from Ian. She pushed him toward the stairs, and he grudgingly trudged up them to the apartment.
"What the hell were you thinking?" Luke shouted as soon as the door closed. He was too angry to realize that Lorelai was just as innocent as he had been with Kat. Still, the recent visit from Chris had frayed his nerves to the point where the slightest offense set him off.
"Calm down, Luke," Lorelai said, putting a hand on his shoulder.
"Calm down? You expect me to calm down?" He shook her hand off and began furiously pacing the room. "Every time I turn around, there's another guy hitting on you! It's like you're a damn magnet or something."
"There's no one hitting on me now," Lorelai pointed out, trying to lighten the mood.
"This is not the time for your jokes, Lorelai."
"Sorry. Look, I didn't ask for this, okay?"
"You didn't seem to be doing much to stop it either"
"Of course I was trying to stop it. I-"
"Then why didn't he know you were married?"
"Because I never got a chance to tell him! You're blowing this way out of proportion!"
"Oh, I think it's perfectly in proportion!" Both were screaming at each other by that point, and Lorelai imagined that most of the town was listening, trying to figure out what was going on between the "perfect" couple.
"I think you don't trust me!"
"I think I don't trust him. Besides, it's him you should be with."
"What the hell are you talking about?"
Suddenly, all the doubts that had piled up in Luke's brain over the years of Emily's tormenting came spilling out. The flood of words which left his mouth was spurred on by Chris's recent visit and Richard's friend's subtle chiding. "You know, the Hartford businessman. Raised by rich parents to fit into the so-called 'elite' society. The guy who can afford to send his daughter to Chilton. The one who hires servants and buys a house as big as a castle with dozens of rooms he never uses. You should be with someone like that. Like Ian. Or Chris."
"For Chirst's sake, Luke, I've told you that there's nothing going on between me and Chris. There hasn't been since. . . well, take Rory's age and add about nine months."
"Then why were you so quick to defend him earlier? Why do you let him back into your and Rory's life after all he's done?"
"He's her father, Luke!"
"Funny. I thought I was!" With that, he stormed out of the apartment, slamming the door behind him. Lorelai stared at the closed door for a moment, slightly shell-shocked. When her muscles began to work again, she quickly left the apartment and jogged down the steps. Caesar informed her that Luke had gone to Doose's to pick up a few things, an Lorelai thanked him before leaving the diner. Ian tried to stop her, but she simply brushed him off and continued to stride to the door. At first, she turned toward Doose's, but she topped halfway there. Luke needed time to cool off; they could talk later once both their tempers had cooled.
Lorelai arrived home at 5:00 that night after picking Will and Ellie up from their respective practices. Emma was flipping through the channels on the tv, and Rory was in her room, studying, as usual. At Lorelai's request, Luke had hired a new employee the previous week so that he could eat dinner at home with his family some nights. Of course, after their fight earlier that day, Lorelai was not sure if he would still come home.
When Lorelai poked her head into her eldest daughter's room, Rory looked up and smiled. "I got an A on my English test."
"That's great, Sweets," Lorelai enthused. "I told you that you could do it."
"Thanks to you and Dad."
"And your freakishly massive brain."
"Really, though, thank you for helping."
"I'm always happy to."
Fortunately, Luke was never one to shirk his duties to his family even when mad at Lorelai. Just after 6:00, he came in through the back door, stopping when he saw Lorelai in the kitchen. They stood for a few seconds, both too stubborn to make the first move. Eventually, Luke simply turned away and walked into the next room to greet their kids. Lorelai also left the kitchen with a sigh.
As they sat down to eat that night, Rory announced her English test grade to her father who also congratulated her. The other kids chimed in with storied of their own about school, and Lorelai and Luke listened intently, grateful for the distraction. They did not talk to one another all night, but the kids luckily did not seem to notice. After dinner, Lorelai wordlessly began to wash dishes; for once, Luke did not argue with her. Instead, he left to take care of the kids.
Luke slept on the couch that night, and Lorelai found that she could not fall asleep without his comforting presence beside her. It was cold in her room without his arms wrapped around her waist, pulling her close. The absence of his rhythmic breathing simply made falling asleep harder, for it made the room feel unnatural. She considered walking downstairs and apologizing to him, but her stubborn mind refused to let her. She had done nothing wrong. He had started the argument, so he needed to apologize.
And so the silent fight continued for two days. Lorelai and Luke barely spoke to each other, Luke stopped calling the inn during the day to talk, and Lorelai stopped dropping by the diner on her breaks to help (and playfully annoy) Luke. If the kids noticed, they did not say anything. Luke was careful not to make the trek to the couch until they were already in bed, and he left for the diner each morning before anyone else in the house woke up, returning the pillows and blankets to his bedroom to ensure that he did not arouse suspicions. Both were suffering from lack of sleep; Luke was moodier than usual and snapped at half his customers, and Lorelai was not her usual cheerful, perky self.
On Wednesday night, Luke made an early dinner before donning a suit and tie to attend the parent-teacher meeting at Rory's school. He and Lorelai had decided that they wanted to be involved parents, so he was performing his fatherly duties. As he tightened his tie, he continually reminded himself, For Rory. This is for Rory. And with that thought, he left, shouting goodbye to his family as he pulled on an overcoat.
When Luke returned, he walked up to his bedroom to change and found Lorelai flipping through a magazine. "How was it?" she asked automatically. He froze in the middle of unbuttoning his jacket and turned to her. She had not said anything to him all day; he had expected the silent treatment to continue. But if she was reaching out, he could not slap her hand away.
"Not bad," he answered guardedly. "But no one seemed too focused on the school. All the women kept asking about my daughter and the town, and a few asked about my job and my interests."
"Really?" Lorelai was suddenly interested. Were the other moms flirting with her husband? Did they not see the ring on his finger?
"Yeah. I guess they were trying to be nice, but it was so damn annoying."
Lorelai felt a rush of jealousy and suddenly realized what Luke must have felt when he first saw Ian. "I think they were flirting with you, Luke," she told him, watching closely to judge his reaction.
"What? Didn't they realize I'm married?" He looked up, and their eyes met. A silent understanding passed between them. "Sorry," they apologized simultaneously before both their faces broke out into stupid grins. "You know. I might have overreacted a little," Luke admitted.
Lorelai snorted. "A little?" Luke glared at her, and she continued. "Well, I didn't handle the situation well either."
"So we're good?"
"Always and forever." Lorelai stepped closer to him.
"Good. Because that couch is uncomfortable."
"So is sleeping in bed without you."
"So no more fights then?" Luke had moved to lean over her, and Lorelai could feel his hot breath on her lips as she spoke.
"But making up is so much fun," she whispered just as he closed the small distance remaining between them. For a couple minutes, they kissed passionately, and Lorelai slipped the two remaining buttons from their holes in Luke's jacket. He moved them to the door and reached behind Lorelai to lock it. "Good thinking," Lorelai muttered before reattaching her lips to his as she began to unknot his tie. Slowly, Luke steered them toward the bed.
Sometime later, Lorelai lay nestled in Luke's arms, facing him. The sheet had been pushed to the foot of the bed where it lay in a wrinkled heap, leaving most of their naked bodies exposed, but neither one seemed to notice. "We should probably go make sure the girls went to bed," Lorelai remarked without moving.
"You mean I should go make sure the girls went to bed," Luke corrected.
"I could go."
"I'm sure they already have gone to bed. They all follow rules."
"But maybe they're taking advantage of their parents' post-coital state and having a raging party right now."
"You've been studying with Rory again."
"Her vocabulary has a tendency to mix in with mine."
"Should I even ask about the circumstances surrounding her use of that particular word?"
"You probably don't want to know."
"Probably not." They were silent for a few seconds.
"So, do you want to break up the party or should I?" Lorelai finally asked.
"I think we would have heard them by now if they were having a party."
"Unless they invited a bunch of Charlie Chaplin imitators."
"I think we can safely assume they didn't."
"We should still go check."
"You keep saying that, but you haven't moved."
"How about we both go?"
"I still have to get up."
"We'll come right back."
"Fine. But I'm holding you to that promise." Lorelai grudgingly rolled away from him and stood up. Instead of hunting for her clothes, she grabbed her bathrobe and wrapped it tightly around her body. Luke had already pulled on his jeans and boxers and was searching for his shirt. He finally found a white undershirt which he pulled over his head before following Lorelai out of the room. They first checked in on Ellie and Emma. Both girls were curled up in their beds, breathing steadily. Automatically, Lorelai walked to Emma's bed and straightened her sheet, placing a light kiss on her daughter's forehead. Emma moved slightly but did not wake. Instead, she changed positions so that she was lying on her side with one arm curled next to her body and one spread straight in front of her. Lorelai glanced over at Luke who had tucked Ellie in and was carefully smoothing her hair out of her face. Ellie seemed to unconsciously relax with her father's touch, pulling the stuffed tiger she slept with closer to her body. "I remember that you used to do that exact same thing when she was a baby," Lorelai said, joining him. "Actually, you did it for all the kids."
"Yeah. She was the quietest though."
"She spoiled us."
"And then there was Will."
"I don't think he ever slept."
"I don't think any of us ever slept. Remember when Rory threatened to run away if the crying didn't stop?"
Luke chuckled softly before growing suddenly somber as he remembered what had happened around that time. "Of course, he probably sensed our anxiety around that time," Luke remarked softly.
As always, Lorelai immediately knew what he was talking about. She placed a comforting hand on his upper arm and said, "The doctor assured us that she's in full remission with no signs of leukemia. We've passed the five year mark already, so she's considered cured."
"I know. It's just hard to believe that we nearly lost her."
"But we didn't.' They stood looking down at their youngest daughter for a couple more minutes before Luke leaned down and kissed her temple. After also kissing Emma goodnight, they left the room together. Luke's arm held Lorelai tight against his side as they walked down to Rory's room. "You know, if somebody told me sixteen years ago that I would be happily married with five kids and another on the way, I would have thought they were smoking something,' Lorelai remarked as they descended the stairs.
"If they told me that, I would have known they were smoking something."
"Funny how things change."
"Me, too." Seeing a small slit of light under the door, Luke knocked.
"Come in," Rory called. Luke opened the door to find her sitting at her desk with a text book spread out in front of her and a binder filled with her neat, concise handwriting balanced in her lap.
"Hey, shouldn't you be getting to bed?" Lorelai asked.
"I just want to finish this chapter." Rory glanced over her shoulder at them and noticed how Luke held Lorelai close. "Good. It's about time that you two made up," Rory said.
"How did you know?" Lorelai questioned.
"Well, I got up one night to get a glass of water, and Dad was sleeping on the couch. And you two haven't been as lovey-dovey as usual."
"You're too smart for us, kid," Luke said, walking over and squeezing Rory's shoulder affectionately.
"You'll be happy to know that we did make up. Twice, actually," Lorelai said, grinning suggestively. Luke flushed.
"Eww, gross, Mom!" Rory exclaimed, catching on.
"You should be happy we love each other so much."
"How would you feel if Grandma and Grandpa started telling you all about their sex life?" Rory inquired.
"Okay, you made your point," Lorelai conceded. "Lights out as soon as you finish that chapter," she instructed.
"Love you," Lorelai said, kissing the top of Rory's head.
"I love you, too," Luke added, also kissing his daughter's head.
"Love you, too, guys."
Saturday morning, Rory burst into her parents' room just as the sun had begun to rise and threw open the shutters, allowing the early morning light to spill into the room. Since it was Saturday morning, Luke was not planning on going for his jog, so he was still asleep. "Wakey, wakey," Rory called as she opened the shutters on the other window. "The Chilton bake sale is today, and since you guys decided to be involved parents, you have to go.
"Luke, your daughter is crazy," Lorelai muttered, burying her head in her pillow.
"She gets that from you," Luke countered.
"What time is it anyway?"
"Just after 6:30, so you need to get moving. Oh." Rory suddenly broke off as she turned to face her parents for the first time and became aware of their state of undress. The different pieces of her father's suit were scattered around the room, and her mother's dress from the previous night was crumpled on the floor beside the bed. Luckily, the sheet covered them enough that Rory was not completely scarred for life, but she nevertheless averted her eyes.
Luke opened his eyes, blinking in the room's sudden brightness. When he looked over at Lorelai, he suddenly realized their current condition. "Uh, Rory? You might want to leave. I'll be down in a few minutes to fix breakfast." Rory nodded mutely before leaving the room. Lorelai groaned as the door closed behind Rory. Luke kissed her softly, and she slowly opened her eyes. "Go take a shower. I'll make some breakfast."
"With coffee," Lorelai told him. Luke raised his eyebrows. "Right. I forgot. I guess tea will have to do."
"I'll see you in a few minutes." When Luke entered the kitchen fully-dressed, he found Rory scrambling a couple eggs.
"Sorry about that. I should've knocked," she muttered.
"We should've been more careful," Luke told her.
"I guess I should be used to that by now."
"We didn't scar you for life, did we?"
"I'll be fine. I'm always knocking though."
"How do egg sandwiches sound?"
"Good. I'll get the toast."
"I've got the eggs." Father and daughter worked in silence for a minute before Rory finally said, "Did you remember the stuff for the bake sale?"
"Damn. I knew I was forgetting something."
"Dad! You promised that you'd-" Rory turned to face him and noticed the wide grin on his face. "You're kidding." Luke nodded. "You've been spending too much time around Mom."
"Yeah. It's this funny thing about marriage."
"So you do have the stuff?"
"At the diner. I'll pick it up on the way there."
They left for Chilton around 8:00 that morning. Lorelai and Luke grudgingly allowed Emma and Ellie to stay at the house by themselves, but they took Reid and Will with them. Both boys slept all the way to Hartford, waking only as Luke pulled into a parking space. Lorelai took them to go "exploring" as Luke and Rory left to set up their table. As Luke spread out the containers of cakes and cookies, a tall, good-looking blond woman approached him, extending a perfectly-manicured hand. "Good to see you again, Luke. I'm Trisha Hawes. I believe we met at the last parent-teacher meeting."
"I guess we did," Luke agreed, taking her hand in his own callused one.
"So, this is yours?"
"Yeah, I made these last night with some help from my daughter. Rory."
"Wow. A man who can cook. That's unusual."
"Well, I do own a diner." Luke shifted uncomfortably from one foot to another, and Rory smiled at his naïveté. He seemed blissfully unaware of his effect on single women. She wondered what her mother would say if she was present to witness the woman's blatant flirting.
"Dad, think you can help for a minute?" Rory asked, rescuing him.
"Sure. Sorry, I've got to go help my daughter," Luke told the woman, turning.
"Of course. I wouldn't want to keep you from her."
"It was. . . nice to see you again."
"You, too. I'll have to come back later to buy one of these delicious-looking treats." She glanced at the food briefly before focusing her eyes on him.
"I'll see you then." Luke turned to Rory who was shaking her head, wearing a large smile. "Did you need something?" Luke asked.
"Just trying to rescue you from the vulture."
"Oh. Thanks then."
"Just like flies with honey."
"Women. They're all over you."
"No, they're not. She was just being nice."
"She was just flirting."
"I'm wearing a wedding ring."
"That hasn't stopped them before."
"Let's just put these desserts out." Luke turned to the containers of cookies and brownies and began to unload them onto large, decorative plates. After a couple minutes, he saw Lorelai approaching with the boys. Sookie trailed along behind her, arms laden with baked goods.
"Look what I found in the parking lot," Lorelai said, gesturing to Sookie who had begun to arrange her food on the table. "Can we keep her?"
"It depends. Is she going to take over my entire table?" Luke eyed her suspiciously.
"Of course not. She just brought a few things to help out. Now, play nice you two. I'm just going to get the rest of the stuff out of your car, okay, Sook?" Lorelai said. Sookie nodded in response, counting her lemon squares as she placed them carefully on an ornate plate. As she walked away, Lorelai heard Rory attempting to placate her father. Lorelai smiled slightly. That was Rory—always trying to make peace.
Lorelai was concentrated so much on trying to hear her daughter and husband talking that she was not paying attention to where she was walking. Her breath suddenly left her body as she ran straight into something solid. A hand reached out to steady her, and a voice asked, "Are you okay?"
"Oh, I'm fine. I run into things all the time. Thanks for helping." Lorelai looked up to see Rory's English teacher, Max Medina.
"Actually, I want to talk to you about something. Do you have a minute?"
"Sure. It's not about Rory, is it? I mean, I know she didn't do so well on that first paper, but she did really well on that last test, and she's Rory, so-"
Max held up his hand to stop the flow of words from her mouth. "It's not about Rory. She's doing very well. I was quite pleased with her last test grade."
"Well, we tried."
"In our house, studying is a family affair."
"It's nice to see a mother so close to her daughter."
"Trust me, it's nice to be close to my daughter. So, Mr. Medina, if you don't want to talk about Rory, what do you want to talk about?"
"First of all, call me Max. Secondly, I just wanted to know if you wanted to have. . . dinner or something sometime."
As always, Lorelai was quick to respond with a witty comment. "Yeah, I want dinner most every night. I've grown rather partial to eating."
"I meant with me," Max clarified quickly.
Suddenly, warning sirens blared in Lorelai's head. Was he actually asking what she thought he was asking? She had a sixteen-year-old daughter, for Christ's sake! Why would he automatically assume that she was single? Lorelai chose her words carefully, trying to provide him with a plausible excuse. "Would this be a celebratory dinner?"
"Sure. If you want it to be."
"Is Rory invited, too?"
"I was thinking it could just be the two of us."
Lorelai decided there was no longer any room to beat around the bush. "Are you asking me out on a date?"
"At a bake sale to benefit my daughter's school? A school where you teach."
"That's correct." Max was looking increasingly worried.
"Okay, just making sure I got all the facts straight. Isn't this illegal or something?"
"It's not illegal. We're both adults."
"But you're my daughter's teacher."
"There's no rule at Chilton that says a teacher can't date a parent."
"I'm still guessing it's frowned upon."
"No one has to know."
"Oh. So now we have to date in secret? I thought we weren't breaking any of the rules."
"That seems pretty sneaky for something completely innocent."
"How about we just go out for coffee?"
"Tempting, but I'll pass."
"Why? Come on, I'll pay."
"Why? Oh, I don't know. Probably because my husband wouldn't approve." Max's attitude was beginning to irk Lorelai, and she responded naturally by raising her voice.
Max blanched. "You're married?"
"I have a sixteen-year-old daughter. Rory. Brown hair, blue eyes. Maybe you've seen her around."
"I'm sorry. I just assmed-"
"You know what they say about assuming."
"It's just that most mothers are divorced."
"Well, I'm certainly not most mothers. Do you think I wore these rings only for show?" Lorelai held up her left hand.
"I didn't even notice."
"Funny how blind we can be sometimes."
"I'm really sorry."
"Do me a favor, Max. Just stay away for a bit."
"Trust me, that advice is for your own good. Luke can take you any day." With that, Lorelai turned and stormed back to the table where Sookie was flitting around, rearranging the desserts so the layout fit her exacting standards. Luke was pointedly ignoring her; he had crouched down behind the table to talk to the boys. Rory stood behind Sookie, watching her warily. As Lorelai approached, Rory glanced up.
"Good, you're back. We had a bit of a mishap with the lighter, but I fixed it with some punch. You owe that lady two bucks." Rory pointed to a scowling, pinch-faced woman to Lorelai's right.
"Sure, hon," Lorelai muttered, distracted.
"Something wrong, Mom? Aren't you supposed to have the rest of the stuff from Sookie's car?"
"I'll get it later." Lorelai made her way swiftly behind the table and tapped Luke on the shoulder. He looked up and smiled when he saw her, quickly rising to his feet. Before he opened his mouth to greet her, she leaned forward and pressed her lips insistently against his own. He was slightly caught off guard, and he stumbled back a step before catching himself. Momentarily forgetting they were in public, he quickly began to respond. One hand moved to her neck, and the other cupped her hips as he pulled her closer to kiss her deeply. As his tongue began to gently explore her mouth, she reached behind him to pinch his butt, and he pulled away with a blush tingeing his cheeks.
"What was that about?" he asked.
"Just marking my territory."
"I guess I'm lucky you decided not to pee on me then."
"Can I talk to you for a minute?"
"I've never liked what comes after that question."
"We can go make out somewhere private if it'll make you feel better."
"Somewhere no one can find us." Grabbing his hand, Lorelai steered him to the left of the parking lot and into a small wooded area. After wandering through the trees for a moment, she found a secluded spot and stopped, turning to face Luke. "Here okay?" she asked. Instead of answering with words, he leaned forward and pressed his lips to hers. Lorelai stumbled back until her body collided with a tree. Luke placed one hand next to her head to steady them as his other traced the seam down the side of her shirt. When he reached the bottom of the shirt, he fingered the material for a moment before pushing the shirt up to trace the smooth skin beneath it. After a couple minutes, Lorelai slowly pulled away. Luke looked at her curiously, his finger still trailing across her ribs. "Hold that thought. There is something I need to tell you."
Luke groaned and removed his hand from under her shirt, folding both arms across his body. "Okay, what is it?"
"You know Mr. Medina, right?"
"Sure. He's the jerk who gave Rory a D."
"Well, he kinda. . . asked me out earlier."
"What do you mean kinda?"
"He asked if I wanted to have dinner with him. Alone."
"I'll kill the bastard." Luke turned to storm out of the woods, but Lorelai stopped him.
"He didn't know I was married, hon."
"He knows you have a kid! And you wear your wedding rings!"
"He claimed that most mothers here are single."
"That doesn't mean you are! Besides, he shouldn't be dating students' mothers at all even if they are single. That's just wrong!"
"I know, hon, and I told him that. Rather loudly, actually. He's probably off licking his wounds somewhere. I just wanted you to know. No secrets, right?" Luke grunted in response. "Are we still good?"
Luke softened as he looked at her. "Always," he assured her.
"Good. Now, where were we?"