Author'sNote: My first Gilmore Girls story-be gentle! Many thanks to my lovely beta, DFC, who responded enthusiastically when this was just an idea and half of a scene, prodded me (in the nicest way possible!) to get it done, and then did a great edit, telling me what worked and suggesting how to fix what didn't.
Bon Voyage, Rory (May 2007)
At the last second, saying goodbye to Rory, Lorelai panicked.
They had shared a fierce, final hug at the security checkpoint, and kept their goodbyes upbeat.
"I love you Lorelai the third! Knock 'em dead out there in the real world!"
"I love you too, Mom."
Lorelai had watched as her beautiful, vulnerable, determined daughter waited at the security belt, slid out of her shoes, packedeverything into the gray bin, and walked through the scanner. She watched the shoes go back on, the laptop put back in its bag, thebag hoisted onto Rory's shoulder. Rory turned and gave Lorelai a tearful wave, and started down the long windowed hallway to thegates. Lorelai shifted to see her as she walked away, away, and finally around the corner.
Then, she panicked.
She dug out her cell phone.
"Come back! I just lost sight of you around the corner, I need to see you one more time, come back."
"Okay, okay, hang on."
Lorelai sighed in relief, straining to see Rory down the long corridor.
"All the way back or can I just wave?"
"Just wave. Let me look at you for a minute. Don't hang up!"
"Mom, are you okay?"
"I'm fine. Sorry. Just a little panic attack."
"I thought you never stayed to watch me walk away in the airport—now we know why!"
Lorelai felt her throat choke up and tears threaten. "I know, I know. I just needed one more look."
"No crying missy," Rory ordered. "I love you. I'll be back before you know it and I'll call you every day. I love you."
"I gotta go."
"I know. Just, stay on the phone, and kind of back up slowly, waving the whole way."
"Okay. Here I am...backing away slowly. Waving, waving...I love you Mom."
And she was gone. And the panic was back. Lorelai slowly spun around, looking for a chair. She sank down, trying to calm herself. She took a few deep breaths, and tried to get up, but she was immobilized by a sense of fear, that if she left this chair, this airport...
Oh god, she wanted to call her again.
"No. No. She has to go. I have to let her go," Lorelai muttered to herself. She felt tears threaten again, but had a feeling that if she started crying, she might not be able to stop.
One word bubbled up from the panic: home.
The Lorelais' Second Day of Yale (September 2003)
The house was quiet. So quiet.
"Come back!" Rory had paged her yesterday, and she had gone back. Now Lorelai was finally home, and all she wanted was for Rory to come back.
Lorelai felt the stillness, as she looked around and saw the detritus from the flurry of packing they had done. She felt sad, but not weepy. And alone. She felt very alone.
She perched on the edge of the couch, looking around the room. Sunlight filtered in through the curtains, and she could see dust motes floating lazily through the air. She wondered why she only noticed dust motes in the air when it was quiet. Does the noise make them go away? They have to be here all the time so why only notice them when it's quiet?
Lorelai sighed. "Why am I sitting here thinking about dust motes?" She jumped up from the couch, filled with an anxious energy, and began to move around, putting things away. It felt weird to do it knowing it was just for her, that there was no Rory to pick up for. She tried putting on music but everything seemed too loud, too jarring. Lorelai sat back down on the couch, intending to turn on the TV, but didn't feel like watching anything.
She was tired. Maybe she should take a nap.
She slumped further down on the couch, trying not to look at the dust motes. Sounds filtered in through the open windows. A lawn mower somewhere in the distance. Morey playing the piano next door. Kids shouting. Late summer light, late summer sounds.
Lorelai sat up all of a sudden. She needed to be out there, not in here. She needed people around her. Why had she left the diner? The diner, full of people, and coffee, and Luke.
Road Trip from Harvard (August 2001)
So where'd you guys go?
Well, we drove around a little, we hit a B&B, and we took a tour of Harvard.
Harvard. . . interesting.
It was amazing. Seeing Rory there, in a dorm room, in a classroom. She fit.
Yeah, I can see her fitting there.
She was right at home.
So, how you taking that?
Seeing her fit?
I loved it…and I hated it.
That seems about right.
The Lorelais' Second Day of Chilton (October 2000)
Lorelai jumped as Luke's voice came from right behind her. She hadn't even heard him come out of the diner as she stood on the steps, craning her neck oh-so- casually, intent on looking for Rory on the bus.
"What?" she asked him, irritated.
"You're spying on Rory again. I assume she banished you from waiting for the bus with her. Just like she banished you from the first day of high school, and the first day of middle school..."
"For your information, Mr. Know-it-all, I banished myself. "
Lorelai sighed. "...so I wouldn't tackle-hug her and keep her from getting on the bus."
Luke laughed as they watched the bus pull away. "Come on," he said, holding the door open and ushering her inside. He walked behind the counter and poured coffee while Lorelai slumped down on a stool, resting her elbows on the counter and her chin in her hands.
"You'd think it'd get easier, right? We've already done the first day of school ten, make that eleven, times. Why isn't it any easier?"
"This one's different," Luke stated.
"Yeah." Lorelai sighed again. "It's just – this time she's not just stepping away from me, she's walking right into Hartford world. My parents' world. The world of my adolescent nightmare. It scares me."
"Scares you of what?"
"Oh, god, I don't know." Lorelai sipped her coffee, then closed her eyes and took a deep smell of it. "All the usual stuff plus, god, those places! Just being there yesterday, with the arches and gargoyles and the headmaster and the uniforms and the smell. You know, the way all schools smell, of chalk and paint and glue and possibly carcinogenic cleaning fluid but with an extra layer of...I don't know...privilege? Furniture polish? Who knows." She sipped her coffee again.
"And what else?" Luke asked after a pause.
"Nothing, really." Lorelai looked down.
"There's more. I know you—as long as you're sipping and not gulping it means you have more to say."
"Wow, you really are Mr. Know-it-all this morning..." Lorelai trailed off, slightly annoyed.
Luke leaned back against the counter and waited.
Lorelai sighed and took another sip. "Okay there's this: I'm so thrilled she made it in, but I'm afraid of giving Rory any part of that world. And of what it took to get her there, and of having my parents back in her life... my life...our life."
Lorelai shook her head, straightened up, and took a larger gulp of coffee. "Gah. I hate this. I hate being this sniveling, clingy Mom. I miss her. She's half an hour away and I miss her like crazy."
"It's okay to miss her." Luke squeezed her hand lightly and headed back toward the kitchen.
Too Cool for Middle School (September 1996)
"Who are you spying on?" Luke came up behind Lorelai, balancing dirty dishes in both hands, and peered over her shoulder out the diner window.
"I'm not spying, I've been banished."
"Banished from what?"
"Banished from walking Rory to school on the first day."
"So you are spying."
"I'm just watching."
Luke deposited the dishes in the bin under the counter, grabbed the coffee pot, filled a few cups, and came back to Lorelai.
"So what are we watching?"
"I dropped her at Lane's. She wouldn't even let me hug her. Or say anything."
"Wow, and you cooperated?"
Lorelai kept staring out at the square. "I can't believe I've been banished so soon. Relegated to the uncool, embarrassing parent cast-off heap at the ripe old age of 28. I'm a has-been, an unnecessary appendage."
"Wow, drama queen much?"
"You hadn't figured that out about me already?"
"Ooh, ooh, there they are." Lorelai grabbed a menu off the table behind her, and held it up to her face.
"That'll work." Luke muttered. He raised his hand as Rory and Lane walked by.
"Don't wave, don't wave."
"I can wave, she still likes me."
"That's because whenever she's in here you're all nice to her. And, the fries. What 11 year old girl is going to hate anyone who can provide those fries?"
Lorelai lowered the menu and looked after Rory and Lane wistfully. "There she goes. Just steps away from middle school, the most dreaded three years of existence in any post-industrial society."
"Seriously, ask anyone what their most miserable year of life was, they'll tell you sixth, seventh or eighth grade. "
"Well, that's true."
"Which was yours?"
"Mine too! Every day of seventh grade in my memory is cold and dark and winter-and not good winter, not fluffy snowy winter but dirty gritty frozen slushy winter. Ugh. And I'm sending her in there, defenseless, no mother's hug to fend off the mean girls and stupid boys."
"She'll be fine."
"I know. It just hurts, you know, her forbidding me to come with her. Adding insult to injury."
"Where's the injury? It's just the first day of Middle School."
"Every first day hurts, Luke. Every first day, every first, every milestone is one step closer to the loss of your child. It's the paradox of parenting. From the moment they're born they're moving away from you. You clap for them taking their first step and two seconds later you curse it..."
"But you're proud of her too."
"So proud I could cry." Lorelai agreed. "So sad I could cry."
"Seems about right." Luke squeezed her shoulder, and walked behind the counter. "Coffee?"
Lorelai smiled and nodded yes. She followed him to the counter and sat on a stool, then suddenly looked up. "Wait, what did you just say?"
"No, before that."
Luke paused, trying to remember. "Seems about right?"
Lorelai looked at him in amazement. "You were there," she stated. "You were there?!" she asked, much more loudly.
"I have no idea what you're talking about."
Stars Hollow Elementary, Dear Rory (September 1990)
Lorelai sank down on the bench, unable to walk away from the school. Suddenly aware of tears in her eyes, she blinked furiously. "Don't cry, don't cry, there's nothing to cry about," she muttered furiously to herself. She scrubbed away the first few tears that began falling, but couldn't keep up and finally gave in, covering her face with her hands and weeping quietly, her shoulders shaking.
"Are you okay?"
Lorelai jerked in surprise at the voice from behind her, then ducked her head and began fumbling in her bag for a tissue. She didn't look up.
"Yes, I'm fine."
"You don't seem fine- are you hurt?"
"It's fine. I just... I dropped my daughter off at kindergarten and I'm...a little emotional. I'll be fine, thanks for checking." She sort of made a half turn, still embarrassed to look at who this guy was. She was curious, but not enough to turn her blotchy face fully toward him.
The man cleared his throat. "She'll be fine, you know. The teachers are really great. Really nice."
"I know." Lorelai stared towards the school. "She's been dying for school since she was three and I'm so happy for her I could burst. But she's been by my side every day-practically every hour of every day for her whole life-and I feel like I've had a limb removed. So I'm happy and sad, all at the same time." Lorelai paused, embarrassed to have blurted all this out to a stranger she wouldn't even look at.
"Seems about right." The guy squeezed her shoulder. "You take care."
As he walked away she finally turned to look after him. She gathered her purse and began to walk, after one last lingering look back at the school. Trailing behind the mystery guy, she realized she felt a little better. She still felt bereft without Rory, but comforted to know that everyone in town, the few people she knew and apparently even those she didn't, would be watching out for her and for Rory.
And who knew there were even guys here? He had sounded not too much older than her. And seemed pretty tall. Nice broad shoulders, she noted. Lorelai was surprised to find herself mesmerized by the shoulders as he strode away in front of her. She hadn't looked at a guy in a sexual way for...a really long time. Her shoulder still felt warm where he had touched her. And his remembered deep voice made her shiver a little. She'd gotten so used to automatically fending off all inquiries, skeevy or no, that she had forgotten about that part of life. As she reached the street to turn toward the Inn, she paused to watch him walk in the direction of the gazebo. She had to admit she was a little tempted to keep following him. But a quick glance at her watch sent her on her way to the Inn.
Still Too Cool for Middle School (September 1996)
"I don't know what you're talking about."
"You were there-when I was crying on the bench outside the elementary school, it was you! When Rory started kindergarten."
Luke looked confused.
"Wow I can't believe I solved that mystery after all these years! Tall, dark guy with a nice voice not only makes me feel better but gives me something to think about besides having my baby torn from my arms."
"I did? Why don't I remember this?" Luke frowned, and shook his head a little as if to jog his memory.
"I was sitting on the bench across from the elementary school. I had just left Rory- happy as a clam, not a backward glance for me, and suddenly it hit me like a ton of bricks: no more baby, no more toddler, no more mini-me shadow all hours of the day. I started crying, and I never cry, at least not in public.
"And I sat down on the bench and just couldn't move, absorbed in my own misery, when I heard a voice-your voice-asking if I was okay."
"If you say so..."
Lorelai looked at Luke carefully, trying to figure out if he really didn't remember or was just embarrassed to be found out as a nice guy. He looked a little too determinedly innocent as he met her eyes. "I can't believe I didn't put it together until today!" she continued on. "You said the exact same thing that day, just the same way. I talked about being so proud, but so sad, and you said that: 'Seems about right'."
She looked at him, noticing him squirm a little under her scrutiny. "Don't worry," she said, "I won't tell anyone about your secret "rescuing lost puppies and comforting crying single moms" persona."
"But thank you," she said softly. Sincerely.
Luke looked away. "You're making too big a deal of this," he complained gruffly.
"It is a big deal—it was a big deal!" She shook her head. "I can't believe you did that. You didn't even know me."
"It's Stars Hollow-you see someone in distress, you ask if they need help."
He rapped his knuckles on the counter and went off to refill coffees. Lorelai sipped her own coffee thoughtfully. "Who knew the grumpy diner guy had a soft side?" she murmured to herself. She watched him move around the diner. Same broad shoulders, she noted, admiring the closer view she now had, allowing her to see the play of his muscles as he made the small, routine motions of pouring. "Who knew the grumpy diner guy had a sexy side?" She swung her legs a little, sitting on her stool. "Me, apparently, before I even knew who he was!"
She smiled a little smile, just to herself.
The Second Day at Chilton (October 2000)
"She'll be okay. She's Rory. She can handle the rich kids."
"Yeah. I hope so. But even if she's okay, will I be?"
"Of course. But how do you know I'll be okay?"
"Because you always are. And you've got me, I mean my coffee, and a whole town full of loons that love you."
"Your coffee loves me?" Lorelai teased.
"It's a codependent, dysfunctional kind of thing, but yes, my coffee loves you," Luke said lightly. Lorelai sat at the counter, but stayed turned toward the window. She still looked worried, and a little teary.
Luke finished pouring her coffee and cleared his throat. "Look, Lorelai, your life is here. You put down roots with Rory here. Going to Chilton doesn't change that. Having dinner once a week with your parents won't pull up those roots."
Lorelai sighed and shook her head. She took a big gulp of coffee and smiled at Luke. "Thank you for always talking me down, Luke. You should get combat pay for these first days of school."
"Ah, it's nothing. Here, it's Danish day."
"Aw, does your Danish love me too? Is the coffee jealous?"
Luke rolled his eyes.
A Little Further Along the Road Trip from Harvard...
Man, these past few days. . . just so many thoughts about my life then, my life now, what I missed. Thoughts about what I'll never have, and what I want to have.
Yeah, that's a lot of thoughts.
You're not kidding. So can I ask you a question?
Have you ever set up a line of credit at a bank?
But you don't pay for everything with cash on hand, do you?
What's all this about?
I think it's time to make a move.
I'm diving in. Sookie and I are finally gonna open that inn.
Yeah, I know.
No, I mean now. We've been talking about it and dreaming about it and it's time to finally get going on it.
Well, if the time is right.
It is. Think I can hack being a business owner?
I think you can hack anything.
Yeah. I mean, you know all the creative stuff to the job, and you can manage and uh, I've seen you try to add numbers, so I'd get an accountant first thing.
So how far along are you?
Well, listen, um, you know, I'm no financial genius, but you know, we can sit down sometime, and you can pick my brain on the few things I do know about.
Sure, I've been around some.
Can I ask you stupid questions?
There's no such thing.
How does ink come out of pens?
All right, there is such a thing. But, um, you're going to avoid that when we sit down, right?
Right. Thank you.
Yeah. And let me know when you need help with the thing that's not a chuppah anymore.
The Second Day at Yale (September 2003)
Lorelai grabbed her purse and a light sweater and escaped out her front door, happy to be headed back toward town and people and life. About halfway there she slowed her steps and smiled as she saw Luke come into view.
"And just where are you headed, mister?"
"To your house."
"Man, if I were you, after all my crazy the past two days, I would be running SO far the other way..."
Luke handed her a take out cup. "You left without coffee-I was concerned. Where are you heading?
"To you. Back to the diner."
They grinned at each other. Luke turned back toward town and Lorelai fell into step, sipping her coffee.
"I tried to stay alone in the house but I couldn't do it. It's too empty."
They walked slowly together along the sidewalk. "I've never lived alone, you know," Lorelai continued. "It feels like last summer only ten times worse because she's not coming back except for weekends and holidays."
Lorelai glanced over at Luke. "Though I gotta say, a hundred times better since at least this time you and I are talking." She smiled again, and a small moment of silence stretched between them.
He cleared his throat. "Well, let's do this. Come hang out at the diner until Caesar and Lane get in for the dinner shift. Then I'll come home with you and cook you dinner, keep you company until you feel sleepy, then boom! It will already be the next day and you'll have survived without her for one whole day."
Lorelai smiled. "Boom?"
Luke rolled his eyes.
"OK, well if you're sure, that sounds really good. Thanks, Luke."
"Yup, I'm sure. Come on, let's go."
"Woo-hoo, dinner with a married man."
Bienvenue à la Maison (May 2007)
The closer she got to Stars Hollow, the calmer she felt. As she drove through the center of town, she smiled. Home.
She pulled up in front of her house, and looked up at it. She didn't feel ready to face the emptiness of the house yet, so when she got to the front door, she reached around the edge of it for Paul Anka's leash, and called for him. She walked with him back to the center of town. Climbing the steps of the gazebo and sinking down, she waited for the peace of the town to calm her brain.
Lorela sat on the gazebo steps, legs stretched out in front, leaning back on her hands. Paul Anka settled in against her back. She closed her eyes, enjoying the late summer warmth. She felt someone approach and she smiled, pretty sure she knew who it was. She opened her eyes and looked up at Luke.
"You okay?" he asked, sitting down beside her.
"Rory get off alright?"
"Yes. Right on time, smooth as silk. "
"You okay?" he asked again.
"Yeah. I had a panic attack at the airport, when she finally was out of my sight, but I came home and I'm better now."
"I love this town," she declared abruptly.
"It's the home I chose, the life I built not just for Rory, but for me."
"You gonna say anything but 'yup,' and 'yeah'?"
Luke shrugged his shoulders and smiled. Lorelai leaned back again and closed her eyes. "My Dad said something last night. He said the party was a tribute not just to Rory but to me, and the home I had made here."
"I was just thinking about that, driving back here. I'm so sad that she's left – I mean, really left. She may never live here again, only visit. But, I know she carries Stars Hollow in her heart. It will always be home, she will always have this, to visit in her mind, to visit in reality, to always have as a part of her. And that makes me feel better about her leaving, knowing that she'll always have a piece of Stars Hollow, and all of the people here, and of course me, in her heart, in her very being."
Lorelai was quiet for a moment, thinking.
"It's what makes it possible. You know, to let her go." Her voice cracked and she felt tears gathering in her eyes. "It seems so impossible when they're little, that you will someday let them go. But you do. You let them go to school, make friends that you don't know everything about, learn words and expressions from people that aren't you. Have experiences without you. But she always returned to me, at the end of the day, after a sleepover, at the end of the semester. And now I don't know when she'll be back, and the only way that's even possible for me to survive is to know that she carries home with her. She carries me and you and my parents and Stars Hollow with her."
She dabbed at her eyes. "But I was also thinking – I didn't just choose this home, build this home, for her. I thought I did. I've spent most of my life thinking I did everything, made every choice for her. But I didn't just do it for her, I did it for me. And she's gone, but this is still my home. I choose to live here, and I've built a life here, and it's a pretty okay life. And it's all here. The inn – that's here at home." She paused.
"Sookie and I built an inn." She shook her head. "I still can't believe we did that. And every inch of it is familiar, and so beloved to me. And I bought a house, and made it into a home for me and Rory. And…
"...the diner. Your diner is home to me. So much home. I'm so glad to be able to come home to the diner every day again. And you're here. No matter what has happened in the past, no matter what happens from here, you're home to me."
Luke reached down and covered her hand with his. Lorelai looked at his hand, and then up at his face.
"It really scares me to have kissed you again. I have no idea how we can possibly fix what went wrong and make it work again – or if you even want that."
"I want that."
She looked at him, deep into his eyes "Christopher was never home for me."
She said this never breaking eye contact with him. She saw him blink, she saw the flicker of hurt, but he didn't waver, just kept looking at her. She took in a breath. "This is really important and I may not say it well and it may be hurtful but I need to get it out."
"Christopher is familiar, but never home. Safe but not in a deep, abiding way. He was my escape from my parents' home, a place to visit, to hide out, but never a new home. If he had been, I would've married him when we were 16. But I didn't. I couldn't. I needed to build my own home, for me and Rory, and I did. I could've married him later, when he first came to visit Stars Hollow, but I didn't. He wasn't home. You can't marry someone who isn't home." She paused. "Well, you can't stay married to them, anyway. I think we both know that." She looked at Luke questioningly, and he gave a small nod in return.
"That night." She stopped, taking in a shaky breath. "I ran away from home. I ran away from you, and I felt so lost, like my home had been destroyed. And I ran to him. I wish I hadn't run to him. But I did, and somehow, I tried to make it into home. To bring him here, and make him fit in. But he didn't, because he wasn't home. For me, to me. It seems so clear now but God, it didn't then."
"So what now?" Luke asked. "What do you want?"
"I want you back. I want to live here with you, forever, in our home. I want to live in the home we renovated, and have April come to visit, and Rory when she can, and fill it with more kids, or plants, or maybe just one of each. Even if all they do is grow up and leave us bit by bit. Do it all over again, but with you this time."
She turned toward him and took both of his hands in hers. She looked into his eyes once again.
"But if I can't have that, if we talk and decide that there's no way to have that again, to fix us, and make it work this time, I just want to live here, in the same town, our home town, and be friends."
"That first one seems about right," Luke said simply, and leaned in to give her a soft but lingering kiss. He pulled back and saw tears spilling onto Lorelai's cheeks. Before he could wipe them away, she wrapped her arms around him in a fierce hug, burying her face in his flannel. Luke rubbed her back, gently, soothingly, and kissed the top of her head.
"Home," he murmured.
"Home," Lorelai sighed.