A/N: This story has been brought to you by the generous donation made by happyinnyc. Thank you for bidding on me! I also have to thank Filo for allowing me to be her grasshopper and allowing me to talk out my ideas. Thanks to BOOM for helping me find the reference that made me giggle. And thank you to Jewels for the beta.
Friday night dinner at the Gilmore residence had never meant staring at an empty plate while waiting for pie to be served. But there was a first time for everything. Lorelai's stomach growled as Emily continued on and on about the subpar service of the newest maid.
"Sophia! Sophia! The pie, please, we've been waiting for twenty minutes!" Emily called out.
Lorelai glanced at Rory, who sat across the table. Rory was already thirty minutes late for a date with Dean, and Lorelai could tell that she was agitated and ready to leave. After many failed attempts to skip dessert, including a fake New Year's resolution to avoid eating junk food, Lorelai and Rory waited in agony for the pie to be served so they could get out of there.
"So, Rory, what are your plans for New Year's eve?" Emily asked.
"Well," Rory started, "Lane and I were thinking about hanging out and listening to some music, and then we might go to see a few friends to watch the ball drop."
"Would one of these friends be the boy that you went to the dance with?"
"Mom," Lorelai interrupted.
"Lorelai, Rory is perfectly capable of answering the question on her own, you do not need to deflect the question or distract me from obtaining an answer. It's a perfectly legitimate question," Emily insisted.
"Yeah, we're hoping Dean can get back from Chicago in time to be there," Rory answered.
Lorelai rolled her eyes. She knew that she was next in line to be asked about her New Year's plans. Thoughts of phony engagements popped into her mind. Some were totally outrageous, some sounded legitimate, but when Emily turned to face her, Lorelai's imagination suddenly shut down.
"And Lorelai, what are your plans for the evening?"
"There's a party I go to every year. It will probably be me, a whole lot of Miss Patty's punch, and a picture of David Cassidy to kiss when the clock strikes twelve," Lorelai quipped.
"Well, since your plans are clearly not pressing, I would like you to fill two seats for us at a charity event.
Lorelai choked on the water that she was sipping. Wiping up the droplets that had escaped and placing her napkin back onto her lap, she sighed. "Mom, I would love to, but I don't have anyone to bring."
"Nonsense. You will find a nice man to bring to this event, I doubt you'll have any trouble at all," Emily insisted with a cunning smile.
Lorelai sighed. "This is really short notice, Mom. Everyone who could possibly go with me has plans by now. Did you ever think of that?"
"Ah, yes, I'll remember that next time the Hendersons get food poisoning," Emily replied.
Food poisoning, Lorelai thought. Classic excuse used in one of the worst possible ways. Three days early? She turned her attention back to her mother's outrageous request. "Seriously, mother, do you expect me to bring an imaginary friend? Maybe a blow up doll?"
"You are to bring a nice man to this party, Lorelai. You heard your mother," Richard insisted. "This event is an extremely important function for the DAR, and you're expected to attend and socialize."
Unbelievable, Lorelai thought. Emily had planned the whole thing all along. She knew that she could force Lorelai to go to the event simply by guilt tripping her into it. And it wasn't exactly convenient to find a date to the party on such short notice, but she knew that complaining about it too much was going to get her a date with the son of one of their friends. If she was going to be forced into it, she would have to bring someone she enjoyed spending time with. She looked at Rory in a desperate attempt to be rescued, but her pleading stare was returned with an apologetic smile
Lorelai sighed, looking at Emily as the pie was finally served. "Is this black tie?" she asked unenthusiastically.
"There's no need for your date to wear a tuxedo, a nice suit and tie will suffice," Emily replied, picking up her fork and carefully carving out a piece of her pie. "It's far too late to alter the limousine route now, so you will have to arrive at the banquet hall at eight. Don't even think about being fashionably late. I'll give you the invitation and the directions on your way out."
Lorelai took a bite of pie, nodding as she chewed. After all the suspense, the pie wasn't too exciting. Even less exciting was the idea of having to search for a date to this event. She suddenly lost her appetite.
"Are you sure you can't ditch Lane and Dean?" Lorelai asked Rory the next morning at the diner, pushing her eggs around on her plate.
"Positive," Rory said with a nod.
"I still don't understand why I can't bring Sookie."
Rory shrugged. "Other than the fact that grandpa stressed the word man last night?"
"Sookie would be lovely company. Second only to Rory Gilmore," Lorelai hinted.
"You'll find someone."
"Well, from what you were saying last night, it sounds like you and David Cassidy have a thing going. Bring him!"
Lorelai sighed. "We're a team, Rory. A mother-daughter dynamic duo. You are the Robin to my Batman. The Bert to my Ernie."
Rory looked at Lorelai. "Please tell me my fascination with pigeons didn't lead you to drawing that conclusion."
"You get my point."
"Well, there are plenty of men in this town. There are plenty of nice men in this town, too. Any one of them would most likely be glad to escort you to the event. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to meet Lane at the bookstore. She's going to pick up a bunch of books for Mrs. Kim, and she'll need the extra hands."
"Thanks for nothing, kid!" she teased, tossing a tater tot at Rory as she walked out the door. It sailed through the air and came close to Rory before Luke walked in front of it. Lorelai cringed as she saw the tater tot swipe Luke's ear.
Luke glared at her. "Did you just throw that?"
She shook her head. "Nope." He crossed his arms and stood in front of her, waiting for her to admit that she threw the tater tot. Lorelai took a few bites of her breakfast, looked at Luke, and then back at her plate again. "I meant for it to hit Rory, not you. And besides, you don't have a 'no food throwing' sign beside the 'no cell phones' sign."
"Because most civilized people know not to throw potatoes in any form."
"Noted. So what are you doing on New Year's Eve?" she asked.
Lorelai nodded. She knew that would be the answer. She just didn't expect to ask him the question. But she had run out of options. Taking anyone else to the charity event would be torture. She had already weighed her options the night before. Michel would be too busy complaining about how his shoes were hurting his feet. Morey was not only too tall, but he and Babette were away for the holiday. Everyone in Stars Hollow was either attending Miss Patty's party, another New Year's event, or out of town. Luke was her only option.
He wasn't the worst choice, she had decided. He was nice. He was a man. That was a start. She also enjoyed his company, and he didn't have plans. The answer became more and more obvious as she thought about it. A hair flip and a few minutes of begging could land her a date.
Okay, maybe date wasn't the right word. Escort? No, that was definitely too Pretty Woman. Whatever he would be, she hoped that she could get him to attend the event instead of having to fake a last minute injury. Her food poisoning excuse had been stolen and improperly used, and even if she did come down with a sudden case, Emily wouldn't believe her.
Lorelai looked up at Luke and gave him an embarrassed smile. "Sorry. What did you say?"
"I asked you why you wanted to know."
"Well, see, my parents are forcing me to go to this banquet thing. I have to bring a… man… to this event, and I don't have one. It's already short notice, and everyone seems to be busy or unable to go for whatever reason."
"Yes, they brought this up last night. They have to fill two seats, which means that I have to bring someone with me."
"What happened to the teacher?"
Lorelai put her fork down and nervously fidgeted with her hands. "Max? Whoa, wait, how did you–?"
"People talk." He shrugged. "Can't you bring him?"
She shook her head. "He hasn't called. I guess it didn't really work out, because I haven't seen him or heard from him."
"This is going to sound crazy, but will you go with me? If I'm forced to go to this event, I'd much rather endure the pain with someone I like."
"Someone you like?" he repeated.
Lorelai rolled her eyes. "For the love of God, don't start that again. You know what I mean. Please come with me? You don't even have to wear a tux. A suit and tie is all you need."
Luke removed the pencil from behind his ear and took his ordering pad out of the back pocket of his jeans. "Fine," he said. "But I'm not going to let any of these people sell me anything, give me any contact information, or set me up on a blind date with their daughter."
Lorelai's hand flew to her mouth in an attempt to keep from spraying coffee everywhere as she laughed. She swallowed the coffee and coughed as she pointed to Luke, trying to catch her breath. "Oh my God!"
"It's a long story."
"That you are going to tell me."
"There's no way in hell that you are going to hear about that story."
Lorelai smiled, picking up her purse and walking toward the counter. "Fine, but just that tidbit is enough to use against you."
"Be ready at six-thirty," Luke insisted, taking Lorelai's money and giving her the change.
"With bells on," she replied, accepting the change and dropping it into her purse. "And Luke?"
Lorelai made one last attempt to fix her botched eyeliner job. Rory's surprise re-entrance to look for her house key startled Lorelai, leaving a black streak extending almost all the way to her ear. Tossing the pencil aside, she reached for a nearby hair tie and pulled her hair back. Turning on the faucet, and grabbing the soap, she began to scrub her face, hoping that a fresh start was all she needed to look presentable that night.
The red dress that she found on the clearance rack during an unexpected dress shopping trip, was perfect for the occasion. The dress wasn't even close to her size, but it could be altered. After a day and a half of sewing, cutting, and pinning, the dress hung in her closet, just waiting to be worn.
Following some searching and unwanted cleaning, Lorelai found the jewelry and the shoes that would go with the perfect dress. Now if only she could get everything else to fall into place.
She was behind schedule, but she knew Luke wouldn't mind. Finishing her makeup and plugging in the curling iron, Lorelai thought about New Years' etiquette. She wasn't obligated to kiss Luke at midnight, was she? Would everyone else be kissing people at midnight? Maybe there was a way she could sneak him out of the hall early so there would be no awkwardness.
Pinning her last curl into place and walking to the closet to get her dress, she thought about where she had left the papers her mother had given her at dinner. Her new red clutch was nowhere to be found and she started to panic. She zipped up the back of her dress and ran downstairs to search for the missing papers, which had to be in the bag. As she lifted the couch cushions, the doorbell rang
"Oh, no, not now," Lorelai muttered, walking over to the door. She pulled the door open and tried not to let her jaw drop as she looked at Luke. He had really dressed up for the occasion. She grinned and stepped aside, inviting him in. "Wow, you look really… nice."
"Thanks," he replied. "You do, too."
Lorelai looked at Luke's tie. It was red. She stifled a giggle and motioned to it, and then to her dress. "Red tie? What, are we going to prom?"
"My other tie had a stain on it," he grumbled. "I didn't plan this."
"Well, at least my mother will think we put some sort of effort into this. Now, if you see a red bag that just barely shuts and looks like it could burst at any moment? Let me know."
"You mean the one on the stairs by your shoes?" he asked, pointing to the bottom stair.
Lorelai put her hand to her forehead, embarrassed. "Oh, God, that was stupid," she said, sitting down on the last step to slip on her shoes. "I have the directions in there."
"Where is this place?" he asked.
She shrugged, handing him the papers. "I have no idea. I figured if we didn't make it there, getting lost is a legitimate excuse."
"You really think your parents would take you seriously?"
"Nope," Lorelai answered, shaking her head and grabbing her shawl that hung on the banister. "But getting lost would be entertaining."
"For you, or for me?"
"For me, of course," Lorelai said, walking toward the door. She opened the clutch and pulled out her keys, locking the door behind them. She followed Luke to the truck and teasingly curtsied as he opened the passenger's side door for her.
As Luke pulled out of the driveway, Lorelai pressed buttons on the radio. Luke simply looked at her, and then at the road, not saying a word.
"What, no comments about the radio?" Lorelai asked.
"Nope," he replied, glancing at the directions once more as he took a right turn.
"Aw, now you're no fun," Lorelai teased. "Why did you get asked to be some woman's blind date?"
"The no comments on the radio is in exchange for no comments on that incident."
Lorelai gasped. "Comment away on the radio, my friend, I want to hear the story."
"Nope, not a word."
"Was she pretty?"
Luke sighed. "You're not going to let this go, are you?"
Lorelai giggled, shaking her head. She had been mulling the concept of Luke at a similar event, being cornered by someone who was absolutely desperate to have their daughter married off. Although, when desperate, Luke wasn't a bad choice. She had to admit, Luke wasn't a bad choice even if a girl wasn't desperate.
"It was a long time ago. I got roped into an event similar to this one, and the fathers apparently thought I would make a good match for their hopeless daughters. One guy told me that I reminded him of a younger version of himself. I called a cab and got out of there."
Lorelai giggled. "That's funny."
"It's not funny. If that happens tonight, we're leaving."
They arrived at the banquet hall and began the search for Emily and Richard's table. Lorelai leaned closer to Luke as they walked. "You think now's too late to pretend that your truck broke down?"
"Yes," Luke replied.
Lorelai sighed. "What are the chances that if I talk to a random person, they can point me to my parents?"
"I'd say they're pretty good."
Looking around the room for someone that looked remotely familiar from all the Christmas parties she had attended at her parents' house, she finally chose someone at random who was standing at the bar. "Excuse me, sir, I'm wondering if you know where Emily and Richard Gilmore are seated? I'm their daughter, Lorelai."
"Oh, the Gilmore's? Dick's been a good friend of mine for a long time. They're at table twelve. Tell him Barry says hello."
"I will, thanks," Lorelai said, quickly returning to Luke. When she was confident that they were far enough away from Barry, she started to laugh. "Remind me to comment on my father being called Dick later."
"Lorelai!" Emily called from her table.
Lorelai quickly composed herself and walked to the table, taking a seat next to Emily. "Hi, Mom, Dad. You remember Luke, right?"
Emily smiled at Lorelai and leaned over to make eye contact with Luke. "Of course I do, it's nice to see you again, Luke."
"You too," Luke replied hesitantly, shooting a confused glance at Lorelai when Emily turned her attention elsewhere. "What was that about?" he asked, motioning to Emily.
"I don't know."
As Lorelai politely introduced herself to the people across the table, Luke gently tapped her on the shoulder to get her attention. "Lorelai."
She turned to face him and he motioned to one of the servers. Lorelai gasped in shock as she saw Kirk placing a plate in front of one of Emily and Richard's friends. "Oh my God!"
"You think you can escape the town for a night…"
Lorelai debated whether or not to say anything, but when Kirk saw her, she had no choice. "What are you doing here, Kirk?"
Kirk walked around the table. "Lorelai, Luke, I didn't expect to see you here."
"Likewise, Kirk," Lorelai said, glancing at Luke, who was growing more and more annoyed by the second.
"I wait tables occasionally for some extra money. Mother has threatened to start charging me rent soon. Her friend owns the catering company that is providing the food for the event tonight."
"Well, uh, that's great, Kirk," Lorelai said, looking at Luke once again.
"I have to get back to work, or Mother's friend will cut a dollar out of my final paycheck."
Luke nodded. "See ya, Kirk," he grumbled as Kirk excused himself.
"Be nice, Luke," Lorelai insisted.
"If more whack jobs from our town show up, I'm going to find it hard to be nice."
"Finally," Lorelai said, accepting the drink that Luke brought to her.
"You're the one that decided we needed to excuse ourselves separately, so people didn't start talking," Luke replied.
Lorelai giggled. She had made her way to the foyer a half hour before Luke appeared there with her drink. "Yes, but I didn't say for you to wait until I turn sixty."
"And you think a forty five minute trip to the bathroom isn't going to have people suspicious?"
She took a sip of her drink. "Point taken. We've escaped," she said, taking a seat on a fancy upholstered chair just far enough away from the main entrance that she wouldn't be noticed. "Sorry about the woman who hit on you."
Luke shrugged. "Your mother seemed shocked. I didn't know she was your mother's friend."
Lorelai smiled. "Why, did you give into the obvious temptation of a woman who puts on ten times the amount of perfume she should, and looks like Phyllis Diller?"
"I must be crazy," Luke replied dryly.
Lorelai looked at him and he smiled at her. She felt bad for teasing him when he was doing her a favor. And she was actually enjoying herself. She could only hope that he was able to tolerate the event a little longer until they could escape. "Sorry to take you away from your big New Years' plans."
He shook his head. "I wasn't doing anything important."
"I know, but still. You're doing me a favor, and here I am teasing you. I'll try to be nicer. I won't torture you anymore."
"It's not so bad," he admitted, taking a sip of his beer.
She smiled. Knowing that Luke wasn't completely tortured by the night was good enough for her. Part of her wondered why Luke wasn't the first guy she thought about to take her to the event. He was a gentleman, he was a good friend, and he was pleasant company. She pushed her selfishness out of her head for a moment. "So, have you made any resolutions for next year?"
"I don't make resolutions," he grumbled, pulling at his tie.
Lorelai sipped her drink. "You don't resolve to bother Taylor more? Be grumpier? Serve me more coffee?"
Luke shook his head. "If you live your life the way you want to live it the entire year, there's no need for resolutions. Then you don't need to make a whole bunch of promises you can't keep. It's really a stupid concept."
She rolled her eyes. "Tell us how you really feel."
"You want me to repeat it?"
"Oh, no, you said it very clearly the first time. I'm just wondering where all your holiday spirit went."
"Christmas is over. Why should I have spirit for a holiday that's already passed?"
"You're missing the entire point of this conversation, aren't you?" she asked, shaking her head in disbelief.
Luke crossed his arms. "Look, I don't need to justify this for you. I live my life how I want to. I don't need to promise all sorts of crap that won't come true."
"Wow," Lorelai said, tucking a stray curl into a bobby pin. "I wish I was like you, then."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
She shrugged. "Well, apparently you're perfectly happy with your life. You wouldn't change a single thing, as evidenced by your aversion to resolutions."
He sighed. "I didn't say that."
Lorelai pulled on her shawl, turning to face him. "So then what was that entire rant about?"
"I guess I just don't see why it takes until December for someone to realize they want to make a change in their lives. It's dumb. If you want to make a change in your life, you should do it the day you decide you need to make a change. Why wait?"
Lorelai stopped walking and leaned against a marble pillar beside her. Taking another sip of her drink, she thought for a moment about what he had said. "Well," she started, looking around to ensure that no one was nearby, "sometimes the idea of a fresh start compels people to make changes."
"You can have a fresh start anytime. Your fresh start can be in the middle of July, for all I care. Why should one time of the year be designated as the time for change? And what if the pressure to change during that time of the year makes things worse? What if I don't want to change because someone tells me to or because it's expected of me?"
She cringed. His voice echoed in the empty foyer as he ranted. The passion with which he ranted and the frustration in his voice told her that this wasn't just a pet peeve or a minor annoyance. The pressure to change bothered Luke. A twinge of guilt settled in her stomach as she recalled the times she pushed him to decorate for Christmas, or to add something new to the menu at the diner.
He began to pace as his face turned a deep red. Shaking his head, he took a deep breath and walked over to Lorelai. "I could have told you how I felt about you any day of the year. Why does it have to be tonight? I'll feel the same way tomorrow, and the next day, and the next, and a week after that. It will mean the same thing on any one of those days. Why does it have to be on New Year's Eve?"
As Luke started toward the door, Lorelai put her drink down on a nearby plant stand and ran after him. Running as fast as she could in her heels, she tried to close the gap between them as she processed what he had said. Not much of it was making sense to her. She caught up with him and grabbed his arm. "Luke, wait!"
Luke stopped in his tracks, pulling at his tie again. "What?" he barked.
She looked at him, trying to catch her breath. "What just happened?"
"I'm not talking about this, Lorelai."
"Luke, you have to tell me. You can't just stop in the middle of something big like this, I deserve to know!"
"I can't talk about this here," he insisted, taking her by the hand and leading her toward the door. "If I am going to make a fool of myself, I am going to do it on my own terms. Don't say anything until we get back to Stars Hollow."
She pulled the shawl up over her shoulders as they exited the banquet hall and walked out into the cold Connecticut air. Shivering, partly from the temperature and partly in reaction to what had just occurred, she pulled the door open to the passenger's side of the truck. The ride over had been pleasant and enjoyable, but the ride back was silent and uncomfortable, and that made Lorelai nervous.
Repeating his words in her head, she couldn't help but wonder where this came from. How he felt about her. Her first reaction was complete shock. That could only mean one thing, right? As she thought about it again and again, she talked herself out of the obvious answer, and confused herself even more.
Maybe the first interpretation was the right one. Scratch that, it had to be the right one. He had feelings for her. This wasn't the first time he had thought about those feelings, either. How long had he been holding it in? How many times had she missed it? How could she miss it in the first place? As Luke's truck veered toward the Stars Hollow exit, Lorelai recalled some of their spine tingling moments.
The day they met. He looked at her and she was the first to break eye contact. He pretended to be annoyed. The look in his eyes said he was everything but. When Rory had the chicken pox and he brought the mashed potatoes. She kissed him on the cheek to thank him, narrowly missing his lips. He was the one that made it a close call. Every time she went running to him to beg him to fix a leaky faucet, a jammed window, or a broken heater. He wouldn't fix that stuff for free for Kirk. Leaning her elbow against the door of the truck and rubbing her eyes, she chastised herself for ignoring those obvious moments.
Lorelai's thoughts were interrupted as the truck came to a stop in the front of the diner. Luke walked around to the passenger's side, opening Lorelai's door and allowing her to step out. Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out the keys to the diner and unlocked the front door. She walked in, standing back as Luke pulled a stool down from on top of the counter. Lorelai took a seat, watching Luke as he took off his coat and his suit jacket and started a pot of coffee.
She smiled as he prepared it for her almost instinctively. He walked around the counter and unbuttoned his sleeves, rolling them up to his elbows. Lorelai caught herself staring at Luke's arms as he adjusted his shirt to gain some sort of level of comfort. The silence was killing her. She opened her mouth to say something, but stopped herself when Luke spoke first.
"I hate change," he started, shoving his hands in his pockets and walking around to the front of the counter. Soon he was pacing back and forth. "Before I met you, my life rarely changed. My dad died, and an important relationship I was in ended. Those were the only two changes I had gone through in a long time. When Rachel broke things off, I swore I wouldn't let anyone or anything else come into my life and change things around. And then you walked into the diner, practically demanding that I serve you."
"I know I was in withdrawal, but I remember having to convince you, not demanding you," she said, standing up from the stool and moving closer to him.
"Lorelai," Luke insisted. "You've tried to change things around in my life every day since I met you. But every time I tried to let myself give in–"
She pressed her lips to his before he could say anything else. Lorelai ran her hands through his thick brown hair as she felt his hands move to her waist. She parted his lips with her tongue and he pulled her closer to him, seeking more contact. Lorelai broke the kiss and looked into Luke's eyes as she toyed with the curls at the base of his neck. She held her breath for a moment, trying to seek out a reaction from Luke.
Luke leaned in and kissed her again, sliding his hands lower and lower on the back of her dress, until there was a loud bang on the diner door.
"What the hell?" Luke muttered, walking toward the door.
"Luke! Luke, open up! Mom? Luke?"
Lorelai followed Luke. "Rory?"
Luke pulled the diner door open for a shivering Rory. She walked in and sighed. "Mom, grandma's at the house."
"Oh, joy to the world. Why didn't you call me?"
Rory motioned to Lorelai's purse on the table beside her. "Check your bag. Grandma has your cell phone. She also finds your ringtone incredibly vulgar, but that's another story. She's really angry that you guys left the banquet without telling her, and she wants to talk to you."
"Oh, crap! Uh, go back to the house before she files a missing persons report, and tell her I'm on my way," Lorelai said, glancing at Luke, at Rory, and back at Luke.
"Okay," Rory said, darting out the door once again.
Lorelai smiled at Luke, grabbing her shawl and her purse. "So, uh, you definitely contradicted yourself. Way to stand on your anti-resolution principles," she teased, playfully swatting him on the shoulder.
Luke raised his eyebrows. "You kissed me."
"Not only did you kiss me back, you also admitted your feelings for me, thereby unintentionally creating a resolution for yourself."
"I didn't make any resolutions," he insisted.
"Well, you did kiss me at midnight."
"Well, I kissed you at 11:58, and then you kissed me at midnight."
"How do you know that?"
Lorelai smiled. "Rory's watch."
"Aw, jeez," Luke sighed.
"You okay with this change?" she asked.
He nodded. "Yeah. I'm good."
"Good," Lorelai said, smiling at him as she walked out the door to the diner.