Author's Notes: This story begins on April Fools' Day during Season 3. I've pushed back one major happening in the show to coincide with the story, but otherwise everything else pretty much is the same. Enjoy the story - and watch out for pranks tomorrow!
Happy Fools' Day, Baby!
The morning was chilly and gray and contained just enough mist in the air to make everyone and everything that came into contact with it feel damp. Even the Stars Hollow residents who were normally amiable and pleasant felt out-of-sorts and cranky. All anyone wanted was a hot cup of coffee or tea, a quiet place to sit while sipping it, and to be left the hell alone.
Even Rory Gilmore had succumbed to the dreariness of the day. She sat slumped in the passenger seat of the Jeep, her eyes half-closed, her mouth opening only to yawn.
"Hey, what was the name of that guy in that one Steve Martin movie? The one about the big, dysfunctional family that little Opie Cunningham made? Do you remember? The same actor played the composer guy, too, with the manic case of the giggles." Lorelai frowned as she navigated the streets from their house to the diner. One finger nervously tapped against the steering wheel. "Amadeus! That's it! So what's that actor's name, huh?"
Rory squeezed her eyes all the way shut. "Not talking," she decreed.
"What?" Lorelai's head swiveled to regard her offspring. She wasn't equipped to deal with a somber Rory today. She had big things, wow things, going on in her life today, things that were threatening to cause her nerves to actually catapult themselves out of her body entirely, and she needed Rory to be her sharp, wise-cracking self. "We really have to talk, Sweets. No one will recognize us if we don't."
"Mom." Somehow Rory managed to infuse that one word with desperation, a plea, and a threat all at the same time.
"OK, OK." Lorelai felt the gloom settle down into the pit of her stomach, and she shivered under the thin sweater she'd chosen to wear today. She bit down on the edge of her lip, wondering if she should just cancel her plans if she couldn't count on Rory to back her up.
She parked the car as close to the diner as she could get and climbed out, instinctively taking a few moments to straighten the white, gauzy skirt that flowed dreamily down her legs. From the other side of the car she heard a thump, an 'Oof!' and then a string of mild profanities from her daughter. She hustled around the car.
Rory was smacking the car door with her hand as hard as she could. "Crap, crap, crap!" she repeated, heatedly. The door had caught her backpack strap as she'd exited the car, causing the backpack to overturn and dump the majority of its contents onto the curb. "Damn it!" she cried out, rubbing her hand. "The one day I didn't zip the stupid thing up!"
Lorelai quickly opened the door, releasing the strap. She turned the backpack right side-up and started scooping all of the Chilton stuff back inside. "Is your hand OK?" she asked, quietly.
"No," Rory replied, sulkily. "Here, let me do that! You don't know how." She pushed Lorelai aside and started rearranging her papers and books.
"By all means, Your Highness," Lorelai snapped, her nerves no longer allowing her to be magnanimous.
With several snorts of frustration, Rory got all of her necessary school supplies corralled once again. She hoisted it across her shoulders and they started across the street to the welcoming light pouring out of the diner's windows.
Lorelai could feel Rory's gaze traveling up and down her body. She braced for impact.
"Did little woodland creatures dress you this morning?" Rory sniped. "Today's only the first of April, you know. Are you planning on meeting Prince Charming in the meadow for lunch today?"
Lorelai had actually chosen what she was wearing today with great care. The scoop-necked, flowery-embroidered peasant top was smocked at the waist and was a good match for the pale pink cardigan and the flowing, romantic skirt. She had on shoes with a higher than normal heel. She was going to need a little extra height today.
"I wanted to feel like it was spring today," she explained, choosing her words carefully. "It seemed like another dismal day, and I wanted it to be spring. You know, with flowers and birds and little baby bunnies and love in the air." She tried to give Rory her best significant look, but Rory was too busy scowling as she climbed the steps to the diner's door.
"Well, you look kinda silly," Rory sniffed, opening the door.
Oy with the poodles already, she thought. She clung to the door frame for a moment, considering abandoning her plans completely. She was beginning to think that there was no way she could pull this off. She needed Rory for this plan to work. She took a breath, felt courage gain ground, and turned to shut the door.
Thankfully when she turned back she saw that Rory was headed for a table instead of places at the counter. Today's agenda demanded that they be at a table. She wasn't concentrating on the big picture. She needed to ditch the nerves and get herself in charge.
She quickly glanced around the dining room, registering everyone who was in attendance. Gypsy, Babette and Patty, of course, and a lot of the other regulars. She nodded to herself, her gaze ending up behind the counter. Luke.
He stared at her blankly. Abruptly he turned his back and stalked into the kitchen.
So he wasn't ready. That was OK. Neither was she.
She jumped when Tommy brought them their coffee. She didn't remember even ordering it.
The bells jingled out loudly as Sookie pushed open the door with more force than necessary. Jackson reached around quickly and grabbed it before it could crash into the wall. They hurried over to the girls' table.
"Sorry we're a little late!" Sookie was apparently the only one in town who was still sunny and chipper. "I forgot we were supposed to meet you here this morning and I made us breakfast without thinking! But don't worry about it, we'll just have eggs Benedict for dinner tonight!"
"You got up this morning and already made eggs Benedict?" Even after all of the years Sookie had been Lorelai's friend, her enthusiasm for cooking still flabbergasted her sometimes.
"Yes, but it's fine," Sookie insisted. "I can always whip up some more hollandaise. No problem."
The bells jingled dourly as Michel slunk in and made his way to their table, pain plainly etched on his face.
"Fine. I am here for this ridiculous meeting you have called. I do not, however, partake of diner food." He brushed off the chair before sitting down. "Get on with this silliness so that I can leave before the grease molecules attach themselves to my clothing."
"Mom, you're having a work meeting?" Rory was glowering at her. "Here? It couldn't have waited another 30 minutes when you all would have been at the Inn anyway?"
"Oh, Kitten, this is exciting!" Sookie responded, not fazed by Rory's bad mood. "It's fun to mix it up sometimes!"
"Yeah, fun," Jackson sighed, resting his face on his hand.
"So I propose you get on with it already!" Michel demanded.
Once again Lorelai looked around the diner. More people had entered in the last few minutes and most of the tables were filled. Taylor Doose had just pushed open the door.
She searched for Luke again. This time he met her gaze solidly. He next looked down at the floor, his hands clutching the counter. She saw his shoulders rise and fall as he sighed, deeply. His hands moved to his head and he removed his hat. He sat it on the counter as he eyes again met hers.
That was her cue.
She stood up at once, her chair squealing against the wooden floor as she pushed it backwards. She felt the surprise from Rory and the others at her table. The patrons sitting closest to her stopped whatever they were doing and turned to look at her.
"Luke!" she cried out, taking a step away from the table. "Luke, I can't live like this anymore!" She hugged her arms across her chest and looked at him pleadingly.
He shook his head at her. "We agreed," he said threateningly, pointing a finger at her.
The diner grew eerily quiet. All eyes were on them. Surprisingly, that made her less nervous. She was starting to enjoy herself.
"Please, please, honey. I can't stand us being apart." She was quite proud of the quivering intensity she was able to deliver with that line. She bit down on her lips to stop the triumphant smile from breaking out when she heard the collective gasp from all corners of the room.
"Lorelai, think about what you're doing here!" he warned her.
"I don't care! I don't care anymore!" She sauntered a few steps closer to the counter. "I don't care about anything except for us! All I want is you! I love you, Luke!" Wait. Her brain tripped over itself with that line. Was that what she was supposed to say? Internally she shrugged it off. It flowed. She could work with it.
"I love you, Luke!" she cried out again, throwing her arms out towards him, totally caught up in the vibe their captive audience was giving off. "I can't let another day go by without you!"
"Lorelai." He looked nervous, but that worked for him. He took a moment, contemplating, before he finished his thought. "Are you sure?" he asked gruffly.
"Yes! Yes, yes, yes!" She managed to stop herself before she became Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally.
Luke kept his eyes on her as he started around the counter. She'd tried everything in her power to convince him to leap over it, but he'd nixed that idea at once.
He stopped about a foot away from her. "Then, I'm yours," he said, and she could tell what a great effort it had taken for him to not roll his eyes as he delivered his line.
She smiled at him. Beamed at him, really; she was so pleased at how well he'd played his role. His eyes locked onto hers and she was amazed when one of his rare smiles struggled onto his own lips.
"Oh, Luke," she sighed out, delighted, and no longer acting.
He reached for her, and she reached for him, and suddenly what they were going to do wasn't so funny anymore. She held back for a moment in sudden panic but he was committed and his mouth landed squarely on hers.
Oh, nice, she thought, relaxing as her eyes closed and her hands clutched at his back. Nice lips and a nice mouth, and oh-my-God, did I know about his shoulders? She pressed into him more solidly and felt his hands grip her waist a little more insistently. Her mouth parted all on its own and she would have been more than happy to grant him exploration rights, but suddenly she remembered she was supposed to be counting because they'd agreed a count of 10 would be just right, but she had no idea how long they'd been lip-locked. She pushed against him in alarm.
Guuuuuuh, her brain commented, as she staggered back about half a foot. She pulled in some air, staring at him. We really need to do that again, her body suggested to her.
Damn right, she agreed with herself, and grabbed him by the back of the neck. His look of conflict faded as his hand came up to cradle her face, urging her closer.
They'd forgotten they had an audience. An audience who had decided they'd waited long enough without having some input. All at once they were enveloped by the town.
"Oh, you kids! I always knew it'd be like this!" Babette was cackling right beside them, her grin bright and happy.
Miss Patty was right there, too, shaking her head slightly as she regarded them tenderly. "And here, all these years, you thought we were crazy when we tried to push you two together. Well, I'm happy to say I told you so!"
Sookie grabbed Lorelai, babbling incoherently. Jackson shook Luke's hand. More and more people pressed around them.
"Mom." Rory's voice broke through the buzz and everyone stepped aside to make room for her.
Lorelai grinned, exceptionally pleased with her performance, and waited on Rory's critique.
Rory looked away for a few seconds, gathering her thoughts. When she looked back, her eyes were shining. "Mom. This is something I've dreamed about for years. Now that it's finally happening, I just can't believe…I can't believe it's true." Her voice choked off as her lips trembled.
"Rory!" Lorelai laughed nervously, studying her daughter. She couldn't be serious, right?
"Oh, Mom!" Rory rushed to her, throwing her arms about her and hugged her hard. "This makes me so happy! You have no idea!"
"Oh! Well…Good," Lorelai said somewhat hollowly, patting her baby's back.
"And you!" Rory released her mother and threw her arms around Luke. "You've made this practically the happiest day of my life." She rose up on tiptoe and gave him a shy kiss on the cheek. "Welcome to the family," she told him demurely. "I know you'll take good care of her."
Luke's terrified eyes reached out to Lorelai but she could do nothing but stare back at the train wreck before her. "Uh, sure. Of course," he hedged, patting Rory's shoulder, his eyes still begging Lorelai for some help.
Lane pushed through the crowd and gave her a swift hug. "Way to go, Lorelai! I knew you'd cave one day!"
Rory hurried over to her friend. "Did you see, Lane? Did you hear? I'm finally getting my wish!" The girls giggled and squealed and jumped up and down. Then they bent their heads together, whispering, and moved a short distance away.
Taylor and Kirk had boxed Luke in, and by the set of his jaw Lorelai figured he was reaching his limit. She kept nodding her head at her well-wishers, distractedly promising them more details later, while she worriedly tried to follow Rory and further analyze her reaction.
Jess materialized in front of her.
"I've only got one thing to say to you," he said unsmiling. He pitched his voice to a level that would keep the conversation strictly between them. "He's been hung up on you forever. You hurt him, and there's no place on earth where I won't track you down. You got it?"
"Uh…Got it," Lorelai responded, taken aback. She watched as Jess nodded curtly to his uncle and pushed his way out of the restaurant.
Sookie started to clap her hands and Jackson stuck his fingers in his mouth and shrilly whistled, drawing everyone's attention.
"This is all very exciting," Sookie bubbled, her smile gleaming at her friend. "You lovebirds need to go have some alone time now. Don't worry about work. Michel and I will cover it."
"Oh, goody," Michel sniffed.
"So you go be all lovey-dovey! Go! Shoo!" She flapped her hands at them, and a good portion of the crowd joined in with either good wishes or lewd comments. "You can tell me all about it later!" she added, winking at Lorelai.
Lorelai ignored the hubbub and tried to locate her daughter. "Rory?" she called out.
She saw Rory's arm waving close by the front door. "I've got to run to catch the bus, Mom! Fill me in tonight, OK?"
She frowned with anxiety, but then Luke's fingers were digging into the skin right above her elbow.
"Yes, Sweetie Pie," he said, his voice as sarcastic as she'd ever heard, "let's go upstairs and talk, shall we?"
"Oh, Luke, I don't th―" she started, but found herself being propelled towards the curtained opening, tottering on her high heels as she tried to keep up with him.
He urged her briskly up the stairs, his mouth pressed closed tightly in apparent anger. He unlocked the door, pushing it open and motioning for her to enter.
She crossed the room and dropped down on the end of his bed. Keeping her feet level on the floor, she flopped flat on her back, staring at the ceiling.
Luke shut the door and opened his mouth at the same instant.
"That was not the way that was supposed to go down there! The only reason I agreed to go along with this crazy stunt at all was because you assured me this would be the best way to silence all of the gossips that are constantly watching us! We were supposed to turn around and yell 'April Fool' at everyone! You said it'd keep everyone off our backs! What happened to that plan, huh? I should have known better than to ever listen to you!" he complained. He rubbed his hands over his face in distress. "Why didn't you just stick with the plan?" he beseeched her.
Lorelai sighed and threw an arm over her eyes, trying to block out everything that had gone wrong. "Rory," she groaned out.
"Oh." Luke abruptly sucked in a large portion of his annoyance. "Yeah," he sighed as well, looking down at his feet.
Lorelai struggled up on her elbows so she could see him. "She kissed you," she pointed out. "She welcomed you to the family!"
Luke put his hands on his hips and looked off to the side of the room. "Yeah," he said again, clearly uncomfortable. After a moment one hand came up and rubbed at his cheek.
"I never…" Lorelai trailed off, shaking her head, as she tried to find the words. "It never occurred to me that she wouldn't pick up on the joke. I didn't know…I didn't know that she…" She cleared her throat, very embarrassed at having to say this in front of him. "I didn't know that she was on the 'pro' side of us being a couple."
"You shouldn't have kept her in the dark," Luke groused.
"I thought it would be funnier this way!" Lorelai protested.
"Oh, yeah, this is really funny," Luke mocked. He snorted indignantly and flung his arms towards the floor. "It's so funny that everybody down there thinks that we're up here doing― Well, you know what they all think we're up here doing!"
She found humor as well as a little relief in his extreme discomfort and it managed to knock the worry about Rory from the top spot in her head. "Oh, Luke!" she moaned, hoping to egg him on. She sat up and bounced a few times on the bed. "Oh, yeah, Baby!"
"Stop," he hissed, frozen in place.
"Oooh," she moaned out again, still bouncing. "Oh, yeah. Just like that!"
"Stop it!" he snapped and crossed over to her, putting his hands on her shoulders, trying to pull her up to her feet.
She laughed and started to push up with her legs, giving the illusion that she was going to stand. Instead she grasped his shoulders and fell backwards, taking away his balance and bringing him down with her.
His hands went to either side of her, breaking his fall, but his face was right above hers.
And suddenly the situation wasn't so humorous anymore.
Suddenly all she could think about was the way she'd felt after their fake kiss downstairs. About how much she'd wanted more. And here he was, hovering over her in a position she'd dreamed about more than once. Although usually in her dreams he wasn't glaring at her. Or wearing a shirt.
His angry eyes drifted down to her mouth and what little breath she had left stuck in her throat. Then his eyes closed and she felt the strength in his arms as he leveraged himself off of her. He sat on the side of the bed, looking away from her.
"So do you have a plan to get us out of this?" he grumbled.
She pressed a hand to her stomach, closed her eyes, and took a few moments to find her way back to the carefree Lorelai Land where she normally resided.
"Sure," she said, although she was really making it up as she went along. She sat up, taking care not to come too close to his space. "I think that we just go along with this for awhile."
"What?" Luke shouted, shifting around to see her. "Are you completely insane?"
"Just hear me out," she urged him. "We pretend to be a couple for maybe a week or two. We don't have to have a huge public fight or do anything - you know - weird. We just look like we're giving it a chance. And then we say, hey, we tried, but it just didn't work out. We just go back to being friends and no one's the wiser. You know everyone would believe that we couldn't make a relationship work anyway."
Luke shook his head at her. "Just tell Rory the truth. Then we can still have the satisfaction of telling everyone we pulled a joke on them. It'd be all over and done with."
"Luke, please." She twisted her hands together as she pictured her daughter's innocent face. "I admit that this is my fault because I didn't see the possible pitfalls here. But please don't make me disappoint Rory. I didn't do this to hurt her, but I'm afraid that if she learns the truth, that's exactly what she's going to think. Or even if she doesn't think that, she'll still be hurt. Please, Luke. Please help me to make this easier on her."
"Easier on you, you mean," Luke complained, but she could see he was wavering.
"It's Rory," she said softly, playing her ace. "She'll see us trying, and she'll see that we're just better as friends. She'll accept it then, and she won't be hurt or angry. And maybe that will put to rest these unbelievable fantasies she's apparently been harboring about us."
She watched the scowl deepen on his face as he contemplated her words. "I don't want to hurt Rory," he finally muttered.
"Neither do I," she agreed.
He pushed off from the bed and started pacing across the room. "So if I agree to this insanity, can it be over by Saturday night?"
She grinned at that. "I think that Saturday might be a pretty tight deadline―"
"Because I've got a date on Saturday night."
The grin was smacked off her face. She swore a window was open because a chill passed down her back, making her shiver. "You're dating someone?" she asked, her voice much, much sharper than she'd intended.
"Well, I'm going on a date," he hedged.
"Who is she?" Lorelai still couldn't get a handle on the tone of her voice.
"It's, uh, it's Nicole," he revealed, begrudgingly.
"That skinny little bi ― lawyer," Lorelai quickly corrected herself, "is still sniffing around here?"
Luke shrugged, rubbing the back of his neck. "She was here to see Taylor last week and stopped in for some coffee. We talked for awhile, and she asked if I'd like to have dinner with her sometime."
"So she asked you." Lorelai felt a little relief inexplicably spread through her.
"Yeah, I guess." Luke shrugged again. "For some reason I guess she likes me, even though we don't seem to have much in common. So I thought why not try it, you know?"
"Sure," Lorelai lied. Although she completely agreed that Nicole and Luke were a terrible match, she wasn't as concerned as she might have been since he already seemed to acknowledge that fact. And if she had wanted to, she could have enlightened him as to why Nicole's interest in him hadn't faded, but she thought maybe it was better if he didn't know. "It doesn't hurt to try," she added generously.
Luke looked at her briefly and nodded, and then looked uncomfortable again. "You know I don't date much," he muttered. "I just don't want to mess this up in case it could turn into something real."
Conflicting emotions turned her stomach into a war zone. On one hand, Luke was a good friend and she wanted to see him happy. Really, she did. On the other hand, she'd taken an instant dislike to the little stick-insect litigator the moment she'd met her, and the thought of her being anywhere near Luke was extremely disturbing. But friendship trumped irrational distrust of someone she really didn't know.
She walked over to stand next to him. "I don't want to mess up anything for you either, Luke. Listen, you help me with this backfired joke, and I promise that I'll do everything I can to make sure it doesn't impact on your real life, OK?" She smiled and held out her hand. "Deal?"
He stared at her hand for a moment, and she could tell he was counting up all the ways this could go wrong, but he sighed and gave her hand a brief shake. "Deal," he said in resignation.
"Good." She looked around his small space as she tucked her hair back behind her ears, forgetting momentarily that she hadn't brought anything up here with her. "I'd better be getting to work."
Luke nodded but didn't move. "I think I'll stay up here a little bit longer."
She smiled grimly. "Gonna let me run the gauntlet all by myself down there, huh?"
A small grin creased Luke's face. "Yep," he admitted easily.
Her sunny real smile broke through. "OK, that's fair," she conceded. She moved to open the door and looked back over her shoulder at him. "I'll talk to you later and we can plan out how to work this."
"Peachy," he muttered, but his attempted scowl still looked more like a smile.
"See ya, Doll," she winked, and then set her shoulders resolutely as she started down the stairs to confront what was left of their audience.