Cookies for Lunch on Wednesday

Sunday, April 11, 1993

"It's our first second annual event," Lorelai declared happily.

"Huh?" Luke answered, drawing his eyes away from watching Robbie and Rory travel around the town green and turning to look at Lorelai.

She leaned in and kissed him. "It's the second Easter Egg Hunt we've been to together. Which makes it the first second thing we've done."

Luke shook his head and smiled. "We've done lots of things a second time. And a third, and a fourth…"

"I'm not talking dirty here, sheesh. I think I may have created a monster…" She grinned at him. "You know what I mean. Holidays, birthdays, special events."

"Yeah," he conceded. "Easter Sunday. We even sat right here on the gazebo steps."

"We did."

They sat quietly for a moment, enjoying the warmth of the sunny April day.

"Same but different," Luke murmured.

"What is?" Lorelai asked.

Luke cleared his throat. "A lot's the same, but a lot is different."

"Like what?"

"Like, same annual Easter brunch at your parents' club, but this time Robbie and I went with you."

"Thank God."

Luke smiled and covered her hand with his. "An Easter dress for Rory from your mom, good for twirling."

"You, knowing whether a dress is good for twirling or not."

"Rory about a foot taller."

"Well, two inches anyway."

"Is that really all? Seems like more."

"It does. She's all legs all of a sudden. But not awkward. She's much more at home in her body. Thanks to you."

"You think?"

"I do. She's just … more comfortable with physical stuff. She even asked me about signing up for soccer in the fall."

"Really?" Luke smiled, pleased.

"Really." Lorelai rolled her eyes. "Me, a soccer mom. Not sure I can handle it."

"You can handle anything. Even the other soccer moms. Plus, I'll be there."

"How about Robbie?" Lorelai asked.

"Same but different too. Happy, healthy kid. Taller too, and a little skinnier. And more…"

"More?"

"I don't know, hard to put my finger on it. Just… older. More independent, I guess."

"Yeah. He's not all that different, just even better than he was."

"Almost reading, I can't believe it."

"It's awesome," Lorelai agreed.

They were silent for a few minutes, watching the egg-hunting activities in front of them.

"And us?" Lorelai asked softly.

Luke didn't hesitate. "Everything we were a year ago, and so much more."

"No more loneliness," Lorelai said, turning to look him in the eyes.

"No more loneliness. So much happiness."

She smiled, and he smiled back, then leaned in to kiss her, short and sweet. Lorelai rested her head against his shoulder, and Luke circled his arm around to pull her even closer.

"What's your week looking like?" he asked after a little while.

"Busy. Lots of events and event planning. First Communions, Mother's Day coming up, graduation parties after that. Summer weddings. You?"

"Pretty ordinary. Computer shopping, maybe. Diane's really pushing me to get the accounting onto a computer."

"Ooh, shopping? Can I come?"

"You even like shopping for computers?"

"Yup. I have opinions, too, having actually used one and all," she said smugly.

"Yeah, yeah. So… Tuesday?"

"Oh no, shoot, I meant to tell you."

"What?"

"Mia wanted me to switch my days off this week – she needs me to cover something on Tuesday, take Wednesday off instead.

"Okay, we'll go shopping Wednesday instead then…"

"…But then Sookie got excited because Wednesday is her short day, so she wanted to meet me at Weston's for a late lunch and then go shopping."

"Okay. Well, maybe on the weekend then. Or next week."

"But there's still the morning. Want to make our usual Tuesday Tryst into… Wednesday Whoopee instead?"

Luke laughed. "Despite the name, I'd love to, but — I have to be in Hartford Wednesday morning. Joe invited me to some Restaurant Association breakfast,

followed by workshops or something."

"Sounds thrilling."

"Yeah, not so much. But possibly useful. Contacts and stuff."

"Oh, well, at least we'll still do dinner on Tuesday, with the kids?"

"Absolutely."

"Phew." She reached up and kissed his cheek.

Business over, they fell again into a peaceful silence, enjoying the sun, the laughing voices of the kids, and being close.


Wednesday, April 14

"This is ridiculous," Luke muttered, flattening his back against the brick wall of the diner alley. He waited for the voices from a group of people to pass. 'Look casual,' he told himself, scoffing in the same breath, 'How do you look casual coming out of an alley?'

He strolled down the street towards Weston's, then realized that he never strolled, and thus was making himself more conspicuous. Picking up his pace a bit, he stared straight ahead, thinking that if it were a normal day, and he was doing regular errands, he'd look around, hoping to run into Lorelai, or avoid Miss Patty, or something. He slowed slightly as he approached Weston's. He had the office supply story ready in case he ran into Lorelai, but what if she was early, andactually saw him go into the bakery? How would he explain that?

He stopped, pretending to pat his pants as if he'd forgotten something, his wallet maybe, and used that as cover to look quickly around, checking for Lorelai. Coast clear, he ducked into Weston's.

He took a deep breath, trying to calm his nerves. "Hey Kate, is Fran around?"

"Luke, hi. Yes, she's in the office."

"Okay if I go back?"

"Sure." She led him behind the counter and pointed through the door to the right. He found Fran sitting in front of an old-fashioned roll top desk that ratherincongruously had a small Apple computer sitting on it. Fran was leaning forward in her seat, peering at the screen.

Luke rapped his knuckles lightly on the side of the doorway, not wanting to startle her.

Fran turned. "Luke! Hello!"

"Hi Fran."

"Oh, maybe you can help me. Do you know how to use spreadsheets?"

Luke smiled. "I'm afraid you're way ahead of me, Fran — I don't even have a computer yet."

"Oh dear. Kate suggested it, she said it would be easier to keep inventory and accounts, but so far it just seems like more work." As she spoke, Fran got up and moved a pile of half-folded bakery boxes from a chair next to the desk. She patted the now empty seat. "When I get too frustrated, I fold boxes. That's a task I can understand."

Luke chuckled and sat down.

"To what do I owe the pleasure, Luke?"

"I need a favor, Fran."

"Certainly. What can I do for you?"

"Well first, can you go get me two sugar cookies and put them into one of those little wax paper bags?"

Fran looked at him quizzically. "You could have asked Kate for cookies."

"I know, but this is just the first step of the favor. I'll explain the rest of it when you get back."

"Okay…" Fran said skeptically, heading out of the office. She was back within a minute or two, handing Luke a small bag and sitting back down in her seat. "There you go."

"Thanks."

As Fran watched him intently, he reached into his shirt pocket and pulled out a small velvet pouch. He dropped it into the bag with the cookies and rolled the top of the bag down to seal it.

"Is that…" Fran started to ask.

Luke looked up at her with a smile. "Shhh…" he said.

She smiled back.

Luke glanced at his watch. "In about five or ten minutes, or possibly fifteen knowing her, Lorelai is going to come in here, looking for Sookie."

"For Sookie?"

"She thinks she's meeting her for lunch. I'm going to stay out of sight, if that's okay with you. But where I can hear her come in."

Fran nodded, smiling again.

"When she asks if you've seen Sookie, hand her these and tell her they're from me."

"And then?"

"As soon as I hear her come in, I'll go out the back and circle to the front steps. By the time you tell her the cookies are from me, I should be standing on the steps. If you can get her to look out the window, I'll do the rest."

Fran's eyes twinkled as she looked at him. "Sounds simple enough, Luke. I'm delighted to be part of it and I wish you both every happiness."

"Shhh…" Luke said again.

Fran nodded once more. "Okay, let me get out there."

They walked out of the office together. Fran pointed out the back door to him, then picked up a tray of frosted cupcakes and headed for the front.

Luke followed her, stopping just before the doorway and stepping over to the side. "I'll wait here," he said softly.

"That's fine, dear," and with that she went out into the bakery.

He still felt foolish, lurking in Fran's business, but hopefully it was worth it.

Glancing down at his sweaty hands, he wiped them cautiously on his nice pants.

A few minutes went by, with him staring across the small corridor at the shelves filled with different sizes of bakery boxes. Concentrating on breathing, he tried to calm his impatience, and his racing heart.

Just as he stole another glance at his watch, he heard the door open and Lorelai's voice, greeting Fran. He turned and walked quickly down the hallway to the back door and for the second time that day found himself in an alley. This time he didn't pause, he just turned onto the sidewalk and headed for the steps at the bakery entrance.

He peered in through the door and there she was. Fran handed her the bag and pointed out the door. Luke gave a small wave and Lorelai headed toward him, her face confused as she opened the door and stepped out. "Luke? What are you doing here? Did you forget I was having lunch with Sookie?"

He leaned in and kissed her cheek. "No Sookie."

"What do you mean no Sookie? Did something happen?" she asked, a bit of alarm creeping into her voice.

Luke placed a hand on her arm in reassurance. "Nothing happened. She was never coming. It was a cover story to get you here, with me."

"Here? Why didn't you just ask?"

"Here, on the steps in front of Weston's, a bag of cookies in your hand…" He paused and looked at her expectantly.

She narrowed her eyes slightly.

"Do you know what today is?" he asked.

"Wednesday," she said, with exaggerated patience.

"Wednesday, April…"

"14th."

"April 14, which is one year to the day since I drove back into town…"

"And met me on the steps of Weston's!" Lorelai exclaimed, grinning from ear to ear. She reached up to give him a kiss. "Babe that's so sweet that you remembered. I didn't think to figure out the exact date. Happy anniversary of meeting!" She kissed him again.

"Right back 'atcha," he said.

"So are we having lunch?"

"Oh, yeah, sure…"

Lorelai bent her head down as she opened up the bag of cookies. "I don't think just cookies for lunch are going to cut it, though. Not his time. I haven't eaten since breakfast, I need a real…" She trailed off as her fingers encountered the pouch.

Luke swallowed nervously as she looked up at him.

"Luke?" she asked, her voice quiet and serious.

"Yes?"

"Jewelry? More jewelry?"

"Look inside."

She handed him the bag of cookies and tried to open the pouch, but her fingers were trembling. Luke tucked the cookie bag under his elbow, took the velvet pouch in his hands, and opened it for her.

She reached in and drew out the ring. "I… that… it's… wow."

"Do you like it?" Luke asked, glancing at the white gold, diamond and sapphire ring he'd chosen, then focusing in on her face, trying to read her expression.

"It's… it's beautiful. Perfect. You did all this, set this all up, to … propose?" Her voice was filled with wonder and her eyes were shining as she looked up from the ring.

Luke nodded, unable to speak for a moment as he took in her beautiful, joyful expression.

"I thought you weren't going to propose on any special date?" she said, gently teasing him as her eyes drifted back to the ring.

"Well, I'm a compulsive liar."

Lorelai laughed. "I guess you are. Was the Boring Restaurant Breakfast even real?"

"It was, and it was indeed boring, but better than sitting at home all morning, waiting for it to be time for this."

Luke took the ring from the palm of her hand, holding it tight in one hand while taking her left hand in his other. "Lorelai, I love you so much. I… came here a year ago, so happy to be home, so excited to start a new chapter with Robbie, and to build a business, and I… I had no idea. No idea how much happiness was waiting for me. I just… I'm thankful every day that somehow, by some miracle, you were here, and hadn't been snatched up already by some other guy. And that we became friends, and that you were willing to wait for me, and that you've been just the most amazing friend, and partner, and… and love of my life."

He looked at her face, her beautiful face, and had no idea how to convey to her just how much love he felt for her in this moment. He dropped his eyes down to focus on slowly pushing the ring part way onto her finger, then raised his eyes again, looking at her through his lashes. "Marry me?"

Lorelai beamed, tears spilling down her face as she nodded up and down as hard as she could.

"Oh, Lorelai," he said, pushing the ring fully into place then drawing her fiercely to him, beaming himself as her arms moved to circle perfectly around his neck.

"Yes, yes… I'll marry you," she whispered.

He hugged her even more tightly, lifting her off of her feet and giving in to the urge to twirl around, just managing to avoid falling off the stoop and stepping awkwardly onto the sidewalk instead. And then they were kissing, and he felt pure joy wash through him.

Drawing back, he brought his hands up to her face, gently wiping a few stray tears away with his thumbs. "You're sure?" he whispered.

"I'm sure," she said.

Suddenly there was clapping, and Luke looked around to see that they had drawn a small crowd. Fran and Kate were standing in the doorway, smiles on both their faces. Several other passersby had paused to see what was happening.

Luke ducked his head, embarrassed to have been so oblivious to the outside world. Lorelai hugged him and laughed and then bounded back up the steps to show the ring to Fran.

"It's lovely. Congratulations Lorelai, congratulations Luke. Now you two go over to the gazebo and we'll bring you all some lunch."

Luke looked over toward the gazebo and saw Mia and Sookie, waving madly.

"Mia! Sookie!" Lorelai squealed. She grabbed Luke's hand and pulled him down the sidewalk.

"Hold on, hold on," he mildly complained, but instead of slowing down Lorelai dropped his hand and raced toward Sookie, who had run down the gazebo steps toward them. By the time Luke and Mia reached them, the best friends were in a squealing, bouncing hug.

Mia stepped around and opened her arms to Luke. "She said yes?" she asked, pulling back from the hug and kissing his cheek.

"She said yes," he said quietly, proudly.

Mia beamed at him, then turned to Lorelai, again holding out her arms. "Congratulations, my dear girl," she said as Lorelai collapsed into the hug.

"Thank you Mia. Thank you for everything."

Sookie squeezed Luke's arm as they watched Mia dab a few tears from Lorelai's face with a Kleenex.

"No tears, no tears," Sookie said. "Sit down, tell us everything."

They spent the next ten minutes or so talking over each other, Luke trying to keep up as Lorelai peppered them with questions as to when and how the plan was made, and Sookie and Mia asking the both of them for details on the actual proposal.

As they continued to talk and laugh, Fran and Kate approached the gazebo, Kate carrying a large wicker basket.

"Congratulations again," Fran said, giving the them each a kiss on the cheek. "In all the excitement, I don't think either of you actually ate lunch?"

Lorelai gasped. "That's true!" She turned to Luke with a mock frown. "I can't believe you distracted me from eating!"

"Sorry," he said, picking up her hand and running his thumb over the ring.

Lorelai glanced down. "Pretty!" Then she looked up at Luke, gently stroking his cheek with her hand. "Also pretty."

Everyone laughed as Luke blushed, then busied themselves laying out the picnic lunch. Kate headed back to fetch a pitcher of lemonade and cups, then returned to the store after congratulating Luke and Lorelai once more.

Fran stayed, sitting next to Mia on the bench and chatting away. All five relaxed, enjoying the delicious tea sandwiches and scones Fran had provided, and continuing to fill in the details of the proposal and its planning.

As usual, Luke found himself happy to be quiet, letting the women around him talk and laugh, just making sure that he kept contact with Lorelai. He felt content but slightly discombobulated, having trouble believing that he was somehow, finally, engaged to the funny, beautiful, smart, perfect-for-him person sitting next to him.

"Here's a happy group."

They looked up to see Patty and Babette, out for their daily afternoon stroll.

"Oh my God, there's a ring! She's wearing a ring!" Babette shouted in her raspy voice. "Congratulations, doll!"

"Who else knows?" Miss Patty asked, as soon as their hugs and congratulations were over.

Lorelai looked around the group. "Just us, so far."

Patty smiled. "Lovely." She gestured towards the diner. "May I? Spread the word?"

"Sure Patty," Lorelai said with a smile. "I'm sure they'll want to know the boss is engaged."

"Wait!" Luke jumped up.

Babette and Patty stopped in their tracks. Luke looked at his watch, then at Lorelai. "The kids? Can we tell them first?"

"Oh! The kids! Of course. School's almost out, let's go get them." Lorelai stood up and took a few steps in the direction of the school.

"Hold on," Mia said. "We'll walk Fran back, then go intercept the kids and bring them to you."

Luke and Lorelai sat back down on the steps. "Okay."

Patty and Babette looked torn.

Lorelai smiled at them. "Just a few minutes, ladies. Let us fill the kids in, and then you can go spread the word as far and wide as you'd like."

A few minutes later Sookie and Mia emerged from a crowd of parents and students with Robbie, Rory, Jess and Lane in tow. Luke chuckled as he saw Robbie bouncing along beside Mia, talking a mile a minute.

Once they crossed the street and hit the square all four kids began to run toward the gazebo. Luke and Lorelai stood up as they approached.

"Why are you here at the gazebo?" Robbie asked breathlessly.

"We're having a celebratory lunch and waiting for you," Lorelai said, holding up her left hand. "Luke asked me to marry him and I said yes!"

Bedlam ensued. Rory flung her arms around her mom and squealed, Robbie began jumping up and down and cheering "Yay!" Lane clapped, and Jess came to stand by Luke with a huge grin on his face.

"Congratulations, Uncle Luke."

"Thanks Jess," he replied, shaking the hand his nephew shyly offered, then pulling him into a hug.

Rory turned to hug Luke next, and Lorelai scooped up Robbie, kissing him soundly on both cheeks. She reached one arm over to Jess and dropped a kiss to the top of his head as well. Luke glanced up just in time to see Patty and Babette enter the diner, and moments later Diane and Carlos were headed their way.

Diane hugged Lorelai and then Luke. "Oh my god, Erin will be thrilled! She thinks you two are the perfect couple and I do too."

"Thanks, Diane," Lorelai said, smiling as the older woman took her hand to examine the ring.

"Congratulations, Luke," Carlos said. "You two will be very happy, I can tell."

"Thanks, Carlos, I think so too."

And so it went. Word traveled fast, and various townspeople and business owners came by to say congratulations, and to chat among themselves in the golden

afternoon.

Luke, as he was accepting congratulations from Mrs. Cassini, felt a light tap on his arm. He turned to find Lane and Rory standing there. "Lane has to go home but she wanted to say congratulations," Rory explained.

Lane held out her hand to Luke. "Congratulations Mr.… Luke. You're very lucky, 'cause Lorelai is the greatest."

Luke took both her hands in his. "Thank you Lane. I know." He smiled at her.

"I have to go," she said, looking longingly at a tray of brownies Carlos had just brought over from the diner. "Mom worries if I don't get home from school right away."

Lorelai came up behind Lane and circled her arms around the girl. "You go tell your mom the news, sweetie, and maybe she'll let you come back over. Either way, we'll save you a brownie."

Lane turned to Lorelai with a grin. "Thanks Lorelai!" With a final wave to Rory she ran across the green towards home.

The impromptu engagement celebration continued. Reed and Carlos brought out baskets of fries and take-out cups of soda, Sookie raided her kitchen for a variety of homemade goodies, and several people popped into Doose's for additional refreshments, bringing back balloons and several bouquets of flowers as well.

Even Taylor himself came out, bearing a box of Popsicles for the kids and offering Luke and Lorelai official town congratulations as he shook their hands. Luke caught Lorelai's eyes and smiled, even as he rolled his own. He shook his head as she then followed the Popsicle box, begging Rory to find her an orange one.

"Luke."

He turned to see Carlos standing with a teen-aged boy next to him.

"Bad timing, I guess, but you remember how I told you about my nephew, that he was looking for a job?"

"Oh, yes. You said he'd stop by this week."

"Caesar Padilla, meet Luke Danes."

Caesar shook Luke's hand enthusiastically, a big smile gracing his friendly face. "Nice to meet you, Mr. Danes."

"Luke."

"And congratulations. That's exciting, getting engaged."

"Thanks, Caesar. You came over here from Hartford?"

"I did. I took the bus here, but I'm saving up for a car."

"Have you worked in a restaurant before?"

"Yes, I worked at the McDonald's in my neighborhood starting when I was 15, and now I bus tables at a local coffee shop."

"Are you in school?"

"Graduating high school next month," he said, setting his shoulders back proudly.

"College plans?"

"Not yet. I want to work first, save up some money."

Luke looked around at the crowd of well-wishers. "I think you'll work out fine, if you don't mind the commute. Have your uncle give you a job application to fill out, and I'll give you a call later this week to set up a first day, to test you out."

Caesar grabbed Luke's hand again, pumping it vigorously. "Thank you Mr. Danes, I appreciate it. Uncle Carlos says you're great to work for."

Luke glanced at Carlos. "Well, I appreciate that."

"It's true," Carlos said seriously, shaking Luke's hand again as well, then heading back to the diner with Caesar.

Luke felt another tap on his arm, and he turned to find Lane once again, this time with her mother.

"Congratulations Mr. Danes," Mrs. Kim said, holding out her hand.

"Call me Luke. And thank you." He looked around for Lorelai. She was just a few feet away, speaking with Andrew and just finishing up her Popsicle. Rory, having seen her friend come back, was pulling Lorelai towards him and the Kims.

"Lorelai, congratulations," Mrs. Kim said.

Lorelai shook the hand she was offered. "Thank you Mrs. Kim."

She turned back to Luke. "You have picked well, Mr. Danes. Lorelai is a hard worker and very loyal both to Mia and this town. She has good values, even though she is not a church-goer."

Luke simply nodded, afraid to look at Lorelai for fear of laughing.

"Lorelai," said Mrs. Kim, "You have picked wisely as well. Luke is a hard worker too, and has brought another successful business to our town. Also not a church-goer, but I understand his mother was a good Christian woman who brought her children to church, so perhaps there is hope for the future."

Luke risked a glance at Lorelai, prepared to share a smirk, but instead saw a soft, warm expression on Lorelai's face.

"Thank you Mrs. Kim. That means a lot to me," she said quietly.

"Rory," said Mrs. Kim, turning to her daughter's friend. "I'm very happy for you. Happy that you will have a father, a stepfather, with you every day. You are a good girl, who respects her elders and loves her mother. Your mother has raised you right."

Rory looked up at solemnly and like Luke, could only nod at the uncharacteristically wordy Mrs. Kim. She then surprised them again by kissing Rory on the forehead. Rory looked stunned. Luke noticed tears gathering in Lorelai's eyes.

"Come Lane, we must go. There is a sale on baby spinach and dandelion greens at the food co-op in Litchfield."

"Okay Mama. Bye Lorelai, bye everybody." She waved at Rory. "Save me brownies," she mouthed to her.

She and her mother began to walk away, but Mrs. Kim stopped and turned back. "This news makes me happy. Very happy." With that and with one more nod at each of them, she took Lane's hand and walked away.

"Wow," Luke said, turning to Lorelai and putting his arm around her shoulders. "Are you okay?"

Lorelai nodded, laughing softly as she swiped away a few tears.

"Why are you crying, Lorelai?" Robbie asked, running up to join them.

"I'm …very touched by some nice things Mrs. Kim just said. She's not one to say many positive things, and until just a minute ago I was pretty sure she hated me, so… I'm surprised, and happy."

"Why would anyone hate you? You're so nice."

Lorelai laughed and scooped him up in her arms once again. "Thank you sweetie. You're pretty nice yourself."

Next to arrive was Liz. Luke saw her pull up outside the diner, her attention automatically drawn to the group gathered around the gazebo. He waved her over, watching as her face turned from curious to knowing as she got close enough to see the balloons with 'congratulations' written on them and the bouquets of flowers that now dotted the gazebo railings.

"Aw, you did it, you big lug!" she said with a grin, wrapping Luke in a hug. "I'm so happy for you," she said as she squeezed him tight.

"Thanks, Liz."

She turned to Lorelai and flung her arms around her. "We'll be sisters now!"

Lorelai grinned at Luke over Liz's shoulder, and all he could do was grin back, not able to muster up his usual eye-roll for his sister's exuberance.

"Rory! You'll be my niece. You can call me Aunt Liz now!"

Rory smiled as Liz released her from a hug. "I'd like that. I've never had an aunt before."

"I'm an awesome aunt, right Robbie?"

Robbie nodded enthusiastically, caught in the middle of taking a big gulp of lemonade.

"And Jess – now you'll have another cousin."

Jess smiled shyly at Rory.

"Oh I'm so happy for you both. You're just so perfect for each other. I could tell from the moment I first met Lorelai that your auras meshed."

She pulled them both into another hug, and this time Luke did roll his eyes.

"Liz, doesn't Jess have a dentist appointment?" he asked.

"Oh, right! I forgot that was why I was picking him up early." She turned to her son. "Come on Jess, let's go get your teeth cleaned."

Rory and Robbie made sympathetic faces as Jess trudged up the gazebo steps to retrieve his backpack.

"Bye Uncle Luke. Bye Lorelai. Congratulations again," he said.

"Thanks Jess. We'll see you tomorrow afternoon," Lorelai said.

"Okay."

Liz was re-hugging all four of them. "We need to celebrate. I'll cook! At my apartment this weekend," she said enthusiastically. She patted Luke's studiedly neutral face. "Or Sniffy's. My treat."

Luke smiled and Lorelai giggled, and amidst another chorus of goodbyes, Liz and Jess headed off.

The rest of the guests had been gradually drifting off, and soon enough it was just the four of them, back on the gazebo steps. Rory had gone from leaning against Luke to sitting in his lap, and Robbie followed suit and climbed into Lorelai's.

They sat quietly for a few minutes, just being together.

"That was fun," Rory said.

"Why does people getting married make everyone so happy?" Robbie asked.

"Good question," Lorelai said. She looked at Luke for a moment. "I think because, people decide to get married because they love each other and make each other happy, and that makes other people happy too."

"It's a hopeful thing," Luke said quietly. "When two people get married, they're saying, I think I can be happy with you, so happy that I want to stay with you forever."

"Does everyone get married?" Robbie asked.

"Not everyone," Rory said.

"Not everyone," Lorelai agreed. "But lots of people do."

"Do you think Mommy and Michael will get married someday?" Robbie asked.

"It's possible," Luke replied. "We'll have to wait and see."

"How about Dad and Alex?" Rory asked.

Lorelai smiled. "Maybe. They seem pretty happy together. Good for each other. So maybe."

"Do Rachel and Dad know you're getting married?"

"Rachel does," Luke said. "I let her know a few weeks ago that I would be asking soon. I didn't want her to hear it from anyone else." He looked at Lorelai as he said this, and she nodded in understanding.

"How'd she take it?" she asked.

"Well. She sounded happy for us."

"How about Dad? Does he know?" Rory asked.

Lorelai laughed. "How could he know, silly? I didn't even know!"

Rory giggled. "Can we call and tell him? Do you think he'll be sad at all?"

"We can call him tomorrow or on the weekend. And no, I think he'll be happy for us. We had a nice talk at Thanksgiving. He knows that Luke and I are serious."

"Okay," Rory said, nodding her head. "Oh! We should tell Grandma and Grandpa!"

Lorelai glanced at Luke, a slightly alarmed look on her face. He smiled back at her and shrugged.

"You told them!?" she asked, raising her voice just a bit.

"I may have given them a little heads up too, that it was coming soon… and asked for their blessing."

"And?"

"And they gave it."

Lorelai smiled a little shyly. "I'd like to pretend that doesn't matter to me… but it kinda does." She squeezed Robbie closer to her.

"Yeah, I was pretty happy to hear them both say it."

Lorelai smiled, seeming to understand his emphasis.

"Will they be my grandma and grandpa now too?" Robbie asked.

"Yup. Step-grandparents, officially," Luke said.

"Just grandma and grandpa is good, I think," Rory said.

Robbie nodded in satisfaction, and Luke and Lorelai looked at Rory fondly.

"And you'll be my brother," Rory said.

Robbie's face lit up. "That's so cool!" He lunged for Rory and hugged her tightly, until she started giggling and pushed him off.

Luke cleared his throat. "Do you think we should drive over to Hartford later, surprise them with the news?"

"Oh yes, let's! Maybe we can take them out for ice cream!" Rory said.

"Ice cream? After all this crap?" Luke said, but with a smile.

"Ice cream!" Robbie echoed.

Lorelai laughed. "Well, the sooner the better, I guess. Maybe we can convince them to come out to dinner, somewhere not too fancy."

Luke nodded his agreement, glancing at his watch. "How about you two head over to the apartment, get started on your homework?"

Robbie jumped up. "Okay."

Rory got up as well, and held her hand out to Lorelai.

Lorelai started to rise, but Luke reached out for her other hand. "Okay if I keep your mom here for a few more minutes?"

"Yeah, sure," Rory smiled.

"We'll be there soon, sweetie," Lorelai said.

They picked up their backpacks and Rory took Robbie's hand in hers. Luke heard her say "kissing" to Robbie as they walked away.

They chuckled.

And as soon as they saw the kids were safely in the diner, they did just that.

The kiss was short, sweet, tender.

Luke stood up and offered her his hand. "Let's move to the bench, a little less in plain sight," he suggested.

"Tired of sharing me, eh?" Lorelai asked, a twinkle in her eye.

"Yup. I want a few minutes alone with my bride-to-be." He sat down on one of the benches and pulled her down next to him.

"Bride. I like the sound of that. And wife. I like the sound of that too."

She held her hand up in front of her as she leaned back against Luke. "We're getting married…" she said softly, a note of wonder in her voice.

Luke wrapped his arms around her from behind. "We are," he agreed. "Any thoughts on where? When? How?"

"Nope."

He laughed. "None at all?"

"Nope. Later. Today I just want to bask in the moment. No planning further than today."

Luke kissed her temple. "Sounds good to me."

"Will you stay over tonight?" he asked after a while. "Break the school night rule?"

Lorelai turned and kissed him, her lips lingering on his. "Of course. Gotta consummate this engagement, baby."

Luke chuckled.

Lorelai continued, in a more serious tone of voice. "And it'll be perfect – in the bed where we first made love."

"Mmm…" Luke murmured, pressing his face into her curls and breathing in deeply. "It's always perfect, with you."

"With us," Lorelai corrected.

"With us."

A few more minutes of silence passed.

"Were you surprised?" Luke asked.

"That you proposed today? Totally!"

Luke smiled. "Good."

"I thought the earliest you would ask would be when we were away."

"Ah."

"But now that's perfect – it will make that weekend like an engagement honeymoon. Consummating with no kids around."

Luke's lips found her neck. "Sounds good to me," he murmured.

"Also, perfect time to start planning."

"Wedding planning?" Luke asked between kisses.

"And when to move in together… all that stuff. Just us, without everyone else weighing in yet."

"You're sure you're okay with moving into the apartment? Should we think about getting a house?"

"Not today. Today we just think about today."

"Okay."

"But no – I don't think we need a house yet. The apartment is cozy and cheap and convenient… Let's stay there for now, make other plans later."

"Okay." Luke took a deep breath in, letting the delicious scent of Lorelai's hair and skin lull him further into a serene state.

He looked up, his gaze traveling to the diner. The Williams Hardware sign, still in place from a year ago, and all the years before. His sign too, the yellow coffee cup swaying just a bit in the breeze. The large stone pots holding his mother's rose bushes flanked the doors, the plants with just light green leaves here in April.

Through the diner windows he could see a few patrons. Reid bussing tables, Carlos leaning against the doorway from the kitchen to the dining area. The mix of tables and chairs Lorelai had suggested, the shelves he had built with his own hands, guided once and forever by his dad.

His gaze drifted to the apartment above. The windows were open, catching the warm spring breeze and setting the curtains dancing lightly. He pictured Robbie and Rory at the kitchen table, Robbie concentrating hard as he traced his letters, Rory worrying her bottom lip as she figured out a math problem.

The new room next door. Just shades, no curtains yet. He smiled, actually looking forward to seeing how Lorelai would decorate their room.

Their room.

He smiled slightly as he pictured the end of a busy day in the hopefully near future, the kids tucked in and sleeping. Lorelai and him, moving about their room, lights softly glowing against the darkness outside.

Emptying pockets, taking off jewelry; brushing teeth, brushing hair; his jeans in the hamper, a nightgown slipping over her head.

Sliding into bed, into each others' arms, into the dark, into bliss.

He cleared his throat as he moved his eyes to the flower store below. Content to leave things there as they were for now, but maybe someday, a new little restaurant. Two seatings each night, family style. Italian food the way real Italians eat.

His gaze shifted again, taking in the familiar streets and buildings of the town.

His town. Their town.

Crazy. Familiar. Never changing except for little, inconsequential things.

One year.

Just one year.

Some days he felt like he'd never left Stars Hollow; other days took his breath away with how much his life had changed since returning from his years abroad.

Home. Love. Security. Routine.

Infinite possibilities.

He sighed, perfectly content in this moment.

"What are you thinking about?" Lorelai asked softly.

"I'm remembering."

"Remembering what?"

"This day, last year. Sitting in this very spot, eating lunch with Robbie. Letting myself breathe freely for the first time in days, months, years… We'd already

gotten the keys, we'd already met you… and I…"

"What?"

"I was so excited. To be home. To get started. And I had no idea…" He stopped, a little choked up.

Lorelai pulled out of his embrace, turning to face him. "No idea about what?"

"I had no idea how much more happiness the year would bring to me."

She smiled, and reached out to cup his cheek with her hand.

Luke covered it with his own, lifting and turning it to press a kiss to her palm. He looked at her dear, beautiful face. "All I did was come home…"

"Home," Lorelai echoed.

"I came home, looking for myself. For my past. For my future, for Robbie's future…"

Lorelai nodded, smiling tremulously.

"All I did was come home … and here you were."

~~ The End ~~


Author's Note: The end of the story proper, yes, though there's an epilogue on its way. A little peek into the future, at how this particular GG AU world might unfold... I'll save my detailed, gushy, long Author's Note for then too. For now, thanks to DeepFriedCake for all she does, to all of you for still reading, and to those who leave reviews and send messages. So so appreciated, every time!