Summary: A story about love and parenthood and all the baggage that comes along with it.
Lots of fics have dealt with what would've happened if Lorelai had married Christopher when she got pregnant. This story deals with Luke's 'what if'.
A/N: Some years later, I'm finally coming back to address the issues with this story. I'll be revising the whole thing, chapter by chapter, but in particular I'll be adding some meat to the ending.
It's just another day.
Usually, change in our lives unfolds slowly. Morning, noon, night, we set our patterns of daily life, our routines to structure our days each one like the one before, and it's only after weeks, months, years have passed that we can look back and see what's different. A seed planted, a new book read, a chance encounter with a stranger or a long-lost friend;
the things that enrich our lives and make us embrace each passing moment aren't the events that come and hit us over the head. Rather, real change has a tendency to creep up on us, to niggle around in our thoughts like a grain of yeast added to a vat of grape juice, insignificant but ready to transform everything around it, ever so gradually.
It's just another day, but entirely unlike any day that's come before it.
"Rory! Your chariot awaits, milady!" Lorelai calls, standing outside the Independence Inn. It's a crisp November morning, cold enough that she can see her breath as she shoves her hands in her pockets and shivers.
Rory emerges from the Inn and comes barreling down the walkway to meet the school bus, her backpack bouncing back & forth with each step.
"Off for another day of making the other 3rd graders feel completely inadequate?" Lorelai asks, fluffing her daughter's hair affectionately.
Rory rolls her eyes.
"You might want to hold off on giving Mrs. Johnson any more grammar lessons, though," Lorelai cautions. "At least for today. They might kick you out of school, and then I'd have to homeschool you and you wouldn't learn anything except Bangles lyrics and lines from Brat Pack movies, and nothing whatsoever that will help get you into Harvard."
"I don't think they can kick me out, it's public school." Rory replies. "Besides she totally messed up 'I-T-S' vs. 'I-T-apostrophe-S'."
"Just call you Little Man Gilmore."
"Bye Mom," Rory says, giving her a hug and turning to board the bus.
Lorelai waves to her as the bus pulls away, then turns to head back into the Inn. She makes her way into the kitchen and grabs a cookie off a nearby tray as she scans the room. Then she spots a pot of coffee left unattended on a counter and starts to pour herself a cup.
"Lorelai," says a stern voice behind her.
Damn. She'd thought he was in the pantry. She stops pouring and turns to face an older gentleman in a chef's outfit. She clasps a fist to her chest pleadingly. "David, just a little…"
"Does this look like a soup kitchen?" he demands, hands on hips.
"Well, it's a kitchen…and Sookie mentioned something about gazpacho…" Lorelai says playfully.
"If you can't stop helping yourself to food in here, I'm going to have to talk to Mia about having it deducted from your pay."
"David, I swear I was just going to have a tiny sip of coffee…"
"That is Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee and it costs $50 a pound," David scolds.
Lorelai's eyes widen. "$50 a pound? David, I can get better coffee from the vending machineat the truckstop. You're going to have Mia going broke on mediocre coffee when you could buy it from Starbucks at half the price and it would probably serve just as well. Better, even." She breaks off and glances around the room. "Hey, is Sookie here yet? Last night she said something about blintzes..."
David gives an annoyed sigh. "Lorelai, much as you hate hearing it, you are not in charge here and neither is Sookie. Now I suggest you go find Mia, she was looking for you a little while ago."
"Oh, please, David, just a muffin? I didn't have time for breakfast this morning, I overslept. I was up late paying tribute to River Phoenix. My Own Private Idaho, The Mosquito Coast…" she sighs wistfully. "A genius cut off in his youth."
David raises an eyebrow. "And this is supposed to make me feel sorry for you?"
She switches tactics. "Come on, I can't resist those chocolate chip muffins, they're the best I've ever tasted, and that's really saying something. My mother once fired her cook because he served her a muffin with only three chocolate chips in it." She waggles a finger at him. "Now thatis a woman who knows her muffins, and she taught me everything I know. And if you give me one, well who knows? I may just happen to discover that we have a free room here, the weekend of your wedding anniversary…" Lorelai bats her eyelashes at him flirtatiously.
David grudgingly hands her a muffin.
Lorelai bites into it, grabs a plate to catch the crumbs and heads out into the lobby. She finds Mia behind the desk, going over the next day's reservations. "Hey Mia," she greets her boss. "I heard you were looking for me?"
"We're overbooked," Mia informs her, tapping a pen on the reservation book.
Lorelai frowns. "What? That's impossible."
"See for yourself," Mia insists. "December 18th, 19th and 20th, we're over capacity."
Lorelai examines the page closely. "Mia, I don't know how this happened," she insists, with a shake of her head. "I cantell you that things have been getting confused here lately. Between Audra and me taking reservations during the day, and Sue's been doing some too lately when Audra and I have been too busy on other things, and Tobin's been taking them at night, I swear I've never seen so many Post-Its in my life. We're single-handedly keeping 3M in business."
"Exactly my point," Mia informs her. "Lorelai, you've been helping out with some event planning recently. Have you been enjoying it?"
Lorelai brightens. "Are you kidding me? After living through sixteen years of Emily Gilmore's events, the worst bridezilla you can throw at me is still a walk in the park."
Mia nods. "Lorelai, I'd like to put you on event planning full-time."
"Who's going work the desk?"
"I'm going to hire someone new. We've got too many people splitting their time in five different directions, we need someone dedicated to the desk. What do you think? If you'd prefer, you can have that job and I'll hire someone for event planning."
Lorelai ponders for a moment, tapping her fingers on the desk. "I think I'll stick with event planning," she decides. "It's a lot of fun spending other people's money and watching crazy family feuds that I'm not involved in for a change."
"Good," Mia replies. "Because we have a couple coming here shortly who are interested in having their wedding here. I'm going to have you meet with them. They'll want a tour of the facilities, an explanation of the services we offer, and an idea of the costs involved. You've sat in on these before, are you comfortable with this?"
"More comfortable than a velour jogging suit," Lorelai assures her.
"Audra will be available if anything comes up that you're unsure of. You'll do fine. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to call the newspaper about a help-wanted ad."
Lorelai spends the next hour brushing up on weddings in general, and the Independence Inn's offerings in particular. Accommodations, food, drink, entertainment, decorations, color schemes, religious vs. secular ceremonies, the range of choices are staggering, and Lorelai is beginning to wonder if she did, indeed, make the best choice with Mia. After all, it's not like she has any real experience with weddings.
"Physician, heal thyself," she mutters to herself as the front door opens and a young couple enters.
The woman, presumably the bride-to-be, appears to be about the same age as Lorelai, dark-haired, very pretty. She's carrying a baby. Lorelai extends a hand to greet her, prompting her to shift the child to her other hip in order to free up her right hand. "Welcome to the Independence Inn," Lorelai smiles. "May I help you?"
"We have an appointment, we're interested in having our wedding here," the woman replies. She's looking all around the room with a discerning eye; not critical, necessarily, but the way her gaze sweeps slowly in all directions indicates an attention to detail beyond the ordinary. She won't be insurmountable, but she will be a challenge. That much is clear right away.
"It's nice to meet you," Lorelai says. She shifts her attention and her hand over to the groom, who's hanging back behind his partner. "I'm Lorelai, I'll be showing you around."
He nods and grunts out a perfunctory, "Hey," as he gives her hand a polite, but very brief shake.
He doesn't want to be here; that much is clear immediately; by the way his eyes wander, by the way he hangs back from his bride-to-be deferentially. And then there's the way he's dressed – in jeans, a flannel shirt and backwards baseball cap, better suited for going fishing than visiting an elegant Inn. This man doesn't have the slightest interest in making an impression.
But that's really not thatunusual, she reminds herself. She's been involved in enough weddings here to know that most grooms want these proceedings to be over with as quickly as possible.
Still. She studies him a moment longer, trying to discern if he's just the usual disinterested groom, or if he isn't just a little bit more impatient, more grouchy than most.
"I'm Anna Nardini," the bride offers. "This is April," she says, indicating the baby, "and this is my fiancé, Luke Danes."
Luke nods at her, meeting her gaze in a flash of blue. He pushes his hands into his pockets, glances away over her shoulder and that's it; he's gone again.
Lorelai takes a breath and begins. "OK, well I just need to ask you a few questions to get started, and then we'll take a tour. So let's start out with the basics: when is the big date?"
"June 11th," Anna replies.
"And do you plan to have the ceremony at a church, or would you want to do it here?"
They reply simultaneously, oppositely.
"Church," says Anna.
"Here," says Luke.
"Undecided," Lorelai says, not missing a beat, as she makes notes on her clipboard. "Now can I assume from this little one's presence here," Lorelai tickles April under the chin, "that you will be having children at the wedding?"
They both nod.
"And approximately how many guests do you plan to have?"
Anna jumps in here. "About 200," she replies.
Luke's eyes widen and he gulps like he's got something large stuck in his throat, but Lorelai pretends not to notice. "OK," she continues, scribbling more notes, "so I'll just take a few minutes to show you around. Please feel free to ask any questions that might come to mind."
"Actually, before we get into that," Anna interjects as Lorelai leads them into the dining room. "I need a spot to change a diaper." She indicates April, who's still balanced on her hip.
"Well, you could do it on one of the tables here if you wanted to violate about 53 health codes," Lorelai jokes, "Or you could go in there." She points towards the bathroom.
"Thanks," says Anna, and disappears through the door.
Luke watches her go and fidgets uncomfortably, rubbing at his face and pacing aimlessly, a few steps here, a few steps there. "We'll try to keep this short," Lorelai assures him.
"What?" he turns to her like she's just woke him up.
"The tour," she explains. "It's usually pretty painful for the groom, having to listen to reams of information on coordinating bridesmaid dresses with napkins, and where the bride can go to touch up her makeup, and what Julia Roberts wore at her wedding."
He waves a hand at her. "I won't be listening."
It's meant to be nonchalant, the way he says it; Lorelai can tell that much, but here and now, in this setting it just doesn't work. He ends up coming off as abrupt and abrasive.
Still, she maintains the polite, businesslike façade "Ah, smart man," she observes, "Letting the bride make all the decisions."
He gives an exasperated sigh. "Yeah, the only reason I'm here is so she can delude herself into thinking we did this together. Me, I don't see why we can't just get a Justice of the Peace and do it in the living room."
"Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Rhett Butler."
"What?" Luke frowns.
"Sorry, just a little joke," Lorelai apologizes. "Actually I'd say about 80% of the grooms who come through here say pretty much the same thing." They don't, really. Not thatmany. But she's trying to make him feel comfortable. "But you know," she continues, "Miss Manners says the whole problem with marriage today is that couples don't go through rigorous enough engagement periods. It's supposed to be a trial by fire. She even provides a list of things to fight about. I can dig you up a copy if you'd like."
"That won't be necessary," Luke rolls his eyes and that's when Anna reappears, leading April by the hand as she toddles along next to her mother.
"She's tired of being held," Anna explains. "She was squirming so much I was afraid I'd drop her."
April tugs at Anna's hand, anxious to explore the dining room. Anna turns to go with her, and Lorelai follows them further into the dining room. "So this is our dining area," she narrates. "It's the perfect size for 200 guests. Some smaller weddings get swallowed up in here, but 150-200 usually works really well. The band can set up over here," Lorelai indicates the far side of the room, "and the head table can go there."
April chooses that moment to break away from Anna's grasp and run across the room. Anna chases after her, picks her up and comes back over to where Lorelai and Luke are standing.
But the squirming doesn't end. April is trying to escape her mother's grasp as if her life depends on it. "Sorry," Anna apologizes as she sets April back down on her feet. "She's an incredibly curious little girl. They had to do an extra round of babyproofing at her daycare, just for her."
"She climbs, too," Luke interjects, nodding towards April, who has once again broken away from Anna to climb onto a chair next to one of the dining tables, and then onto the table itself. There's a glass on the table that she looks at most curiously, as if contemplating whether to try drinking out of it like a big girl, or to see what happens if she throws it on the floor. Luke hurries over to retrieve her and brings her back over to Lorelai and Anna. "I'm taking her outside," he says, extending his hand for Anna to give him April's coat. "This is obviously pointless."
"We can reschedule if you'd like," Lorelai offers.
"Like when she's eighteen?" Anna rolls her eyes. "No, it's OK. We've both seen the place now, I can go over the details with him later."
Luke puts April's coat on her and departs outside.
Anna turns to smile at Lorelai with a sigh of relief. "I feel about 700 pounds lighter now. I can actually have a grownup conversation without interruption."
Lorelai laughs. "Oh, I remember those days. You can't let them out of your sight for a moment or they'll pick up stones, or eat dog poop, or completely rip apart your favorite teddy bear."
"April's thing is climbing," Anna replies. "I have a grand piano that's pushed up against the back of the couch. She uses the couch as a step to climb up onto the top of the piano."
Lorelai laughs knowingly.
"Do you have kids?" Anna asks her.
"Just one. She's nine," Lorelai replies.
Anna's eyes widen. "You don't look nearly old enough…" she begins.
"I'm not," Lorelai interjects. "And I'll tell you, it was quite memorable being fitted for a retainer right after my prenatal exam. I also remember being pretty mad that none of the maternity stores carried Madonna lace tops."
Anna laughs appreciatively. "Where's her father? I mean, are you…you know…married?"
"No, I'm not ready for that institution yet," Lorelai shakes her head. "Her dad is…well…he's here and there."
"I'm sorry," Anna says. "That must be hard."
"Rory makes it easy," Lorelai replies before returning to the matter at hand. "Now, I'll just show you our private dressing area for bridal parties, we'll go up and see the guest quarters, and then we can go out back in case you want to do an outdoor wedding."