A/N: This story is in response to a prompt by Domenica Marie. It may not be exactly what she envisioned when she pitched her idea, but I have a plan. At least, I think I do. Starts during Merry Fisticuffs. What if Lorelai found out that her French elopement was not legal. Would she say those words again?
Lorelai pulled to a stop in front of the house and sighed when she saw that Christopher's car was not there. She grabbed her purse from the passenger seat and trudged toward the house. She opened the front door, dropped her purse on the table and shrugged out of her coat. When Paul Anka came to greet her, she bent down and ruffled his scraggly fur. "Chris isn't here, huh?"
Paul Anka whimpered softly and then turned tail and ran back to Rory's old room. Lorelai followed him into the kitchen. "I know, it's an awful girly color, but soon a little girl will live here," she told him as he curled into a ball at the threshold. Lorelai peeked into the room and frowned as she inspected the new décor. What did he want from her? she wondered. I married him. We're going to raise Gigi together. So what if this house is small? Why is it wrong that I don't want to take on a new step-child and a new baby all at once? Yeah, I planned a big wedding with Luke. So what? That never happened. Maybe there was a reason for that, she thought bitterly. Maybe I'm not meant to have orchestras and orchids. Maybe I'm not meant to be starting new. Maybe I'm supposed to be picking up where I dropped the ball. It's all too much. Shouldn't this be enough? "I married him. That's what he said he wanted," she told Paul Anka. The dog spared her a nervous glance and then lowered his eyes again, his chin resting on his paws.
Lorelai closed her eyes for a moment, desperately trying to block out the picture of that perfect little rose covered chapel. In its place, she superimposed the Mildred Manor Ballroom packed full of tables draped in fine linens and gigantic centerpieces that made Audrey II look like a shrinking violet. "Feed me, Seymour," Lorelai muttered as she walked to the fridge. She inspected its contents for a moment, and then let the door swing shut. With a quick glance at the front door, she walked over to the cabinet under the sink and rummaged around in the back until she pulled an unopened box of Peanut Butter Cap'n Crunch from the very back. She slid one finger under the tab and popped the seal as she murmured, "Try to deny me the Cap'n."
She shuffled back toward the living room as she snarfed a handful of the sugary sweet peanut butter flavored goodness. Bad enough to be doomed to a life without Luke's coffee, but I'm sure as hell not living without the Cap'n, she thought mutinously as she flopped onto the couch. Luke. Lorelai pressed the fist holding a handful of cereal to her chest, trying to suppress the ache in her heart. Luke pushing that stroller. Luke holding that tiny pink bundle. Oh God, his smile when he looked at that baby girl. Kids would be good. Lorelai shook her head violently, trying to dislodge the image from her mind, before the thought could take hold in her mind. "It should have been us," the thought emerged unbidden. How could I even think of having another kid with Chris when all I can see is that tiny fist wrapped around the tip of Luke's finger? she wondered.
"No, no, no," she muttered under her breath. Lorelai poured the cereal in her hand into her mouth and tucked the box between her legs as she reached for the remote. The phone rang, and she turned to look at it, her eyes wide as she jumped up, spilling the cereal onto the floor and chewing furiously as she hurried to it. She snatched the phone from the charger as she forced the dry cereal down her throat and gasped, "Hello?" without bothering to check the caller ID.
"Hi! Lorelai? It's Sherry," an overly perky voice answered.
"Oh! Um, hi, Sherry," Lorelai said as she pressed her hand to her chest, trying to force the cereal down her esophagus.
"Is Christopher at home? I tried his cell, but it keeps going straight to voice mail," she chirped.
"Um, no, he's not," Lorelai said as she looked around the empty room. "Uh, he may have it off. He said he had a meeting," Lorelai fibbed.
"Oh, okay, well I just wanted to let you guys know that I finalized our travel arrangements. Georgia and I will be flying back on the 26th, we should land in New York at about four that afternoon," Sherry confirmed.
"Four o'clock on the 26th," Lorelai repeated.
"It's so good of you guys to let me keep her through Christmas. We've been having the most wonderful time," Sherry cooed.
"Well, good, I'm glad. Uh, no, Christmas isn't a problem. Rory won't be back from London until the 28th, so we won't be celebrating until then anyway," she explained.
"That's great, just great, Lorelai," Sherry gushed. "And Christopher told me that you guys were going to have a ceremony in January? Get officially hitched in front of God and Hartford?" she giggled.
"So it seems," Lorelai said with a puzzled laugh.
"Well, that's great. I'm so happy that it's finally working out for you both. I told Christopher that when he told me that you guys tried to elope while you were here. It's fate that you two are finally together."
"Yeah, uh, we did elope," Lorelai said slowly.
Sherry's tinkling laugh traveled across the Atlantic. "I know," she said affectionately. "Isn't that just like Christopher? Such a romantic fool. Like you can just show up in a foreign country and get married," she chuckled. "Of course, I suppose there are places where you can do that," she added as an afterthought. "But certainly not France," she laughed. "Believe me, as soon as I can convince Jean-Pierre that it won't block his chakra, I'm dragging him to the nearest officier de l'état civil," she giggled. "That was the step you guys missed, the civil ceremony. Well, and the residency thing too," she said with a breezy laugh. "Anyway, it'll all be fixed in January, and things will be just as they were written in the stars."
"Stars?" Lorelai asked blankly.
"You and Christopher will finally be married after all of these years. You know, I thought about it long and hard, I thought I should be jealous, but I'm not. I want you to know that. Like I said, its fate!"
"Fate," Lorelai murmured.
"Anyway, when you see Christopher, ask him to give us a call and I'll firm everything up with him. Oh! And tell him to call earlier. He keeps messing up the times and I have to wake Georgia up to talk to him," Sherry instructed. "Au revoir, Lorelai," she said cheerily.
"Bye, Sherry," Lorelai whispered as she lowered the phone and stared at it with a perplexed frown. After a full minute passed, she managed to move her thumb to the off button and took a half-hearted stab at it as she stood rooted to the spot. "Civil ceremony?" she asked softly. Lorelai looked down at the thick gold band Christopher had slipped onto her finger a full hour after they had said, 'I do.' His smile was bright, his eyes sparkling with unrestrained excitement as he pressed a fingertip to the glass case in the teeny tiny jewelry store in the next teeny tiny town they visited. He pointed to diamonds, he pointed to rubies, sapphires and emeralds, but in the end, Christopher finally acquiesced to the plain gold band she had pointed to after she shook her head at all of the above.
What she couldn't tell him was that she couldn't bear to put another man's diamond on this finger. What she did say was that she loved him, which was true. She just wasn't in love with him. Yet, she reminded herself sternly. Time, they just needed time. These feelings would fade. Other feelings would take their place. They just needed a little more time. At least, that's what she told herself every morning and every night.
Each day it got a little easier. She liked having him there. She liked having someone to wake up with and someone to talk to at night. She liked the way he could talk and talk, filling the empty house with enough noise to drown out the quiet. Or at least, as well as a snarky chatterbox can fill the oppressive silence left behind by a nearly mono-syllabic diner guy. Who knew it could be so loud? she mused. She didn't let herself think about him anymore. She didn't wait to hear his voice calling her name. She didn't roll over and expect to feel him, smell him, or taste him anymore. That was over. He didn't love her. He didn't want her. Christopher did. Christopher wants me enough to marry me.
Lorelai snapped out of her daze and hurried to the kitchen table. She opened the laptop that Christopher habitually left there and pressed the power button. When the desktop sprang to life, she clicked the internet icon and sank down into a chair, her heart hammering in her chest. "Buttercup and buttercream," she murmured, as she waited for the home page to load. "Cornish game hens and Burt Bacharach. Oh my God," she whispered in a rush, her voice cracking as she pressed a hand to her stomach to keep it from rebelling. She clicked on the Google icon and watched as the search engine sprang up. Her fingers hovered over the keys as she tried to figure out what to type. At last, she entered 'Americans marry in France' and hit the enter button. She selected the first entry that popped up and began to scan the page, devouring the information without truly comprehending what she was seeing at first.
By the time she reached the bottom of the page, she couldn't hold on any longer. Lorelai jumped from the chair, turned and lunged for the sink just before emptying the contents of her stomach into the stainless steel basin. With a flick of her wrist, she ran the cold water, cupping it to her lips and slurping from her palm noisily. Lorelai rinsed the bile from her mouth and groped blindly for a dishtowel. Pressing it to her lips, she stood up grasping the edge of the counter for support.
She blinked slowly and then whispered, "We're not married," testing the words out, tasting the bitter tang of them on her tongue. "I'm not married."
Christopher sat at the bar at Casey's and tossed back another shot. He chased it with a sip of beer and signaled for a refill as his phone buzzed and danced on the counter.
"Popular guy," the bartender commented genially as he placed a fresh mug of beer in front of him.
"Yeah, I'm really likeable," Chris answered snidely.
The bartender rolled his eyes as he turned away and muttered, "Yeah, I can see that," under his breath.
Christopher stared at the number on the display and then pushed the phone aside as he lifted the frosty mug to his lips. She thinks I don't know. She thinks I can't see it. She thinks I should be happy to live in the house that he renovated for them. She thinks I shouldn't mind sleeping in his bed. She thinks I didn't see the way she looked at him, the way he looked at her, they way they looked at that little baby in her arms. She thinks I don't know, he ranted to himself. Christopher gulped back half of the mug and then set the glass down a tad too forcefully, drawing the attention of the bartender and the other two patrons. I know that she still loves him, but she said yes to me, dammit. I know that she still wants him, but I would be so much better for her. I could give her everything. The house, the kids, the goddamn castle in Ireland. I would give her anything she could possibly dream of if only she would look at me that way. Why won't she look at me that way?
Christopher watched out of the corner of his eye as the other two customers slid from their stools and made their way to the door. He turned his mug on the scarred wooden bar, watching the amber liquid slip and slide over the smooth glass.
"Gonna close up soon," the bartender warned him.
Chris looked at his watch and smirked when he saw that it was only 8:30. "One more?" he asked as he pulled a fifty dollar bill from his wallet and slid it across the bar. He lifted the half empty mug and paused as he waited for the man's decision.
The bartender raised his eyebrows and said, "Sure, buddy, why not?" As Christopher drank, he moved to the taps, pulled another mug of beer and then tucked the bill into the pocket of his worn jeans. "You're Lorelai's husband, aren'tcha?" he asked.
Christopher nodded slowly as he placed the empty beer mug on the bar and pulled the full one closer to him. "Yep. That's me. Mr. Lorelai Gilmore," he said as he raised his mug and toasted the man.
The bartender chuckled. "You could do much worse. She's a nice lady, Lorelai."
"Yes, very nice," Christopher said with a slightly facetious edge to his voice.
The man's eyes narrowed for a second as he studied Christopher closely. He tapped his fingers on the bar and said brusquely, "Finish up. I'm gonna clean up in back."
Chris watched him walk away, idly wondering what he had said or done to offend the guy.
Lorelai sat in the same spot on the couch that she had claimed three hours before. She was much calmer now. She traced her fingernail over the back of the cordless phone resting on her thigh, never taking her eyes off of it. When it rang for the tenth time, she lifted it and looked at the display. With a heavy sigh, she gave in and answered it this time. "Hi, Mom," she said with a sigh.
"Lorelai Gilmore Hayden, that little display this afternoon was inexcusable," Emily berated. Lorelai held the phone away from her ear and listened as her mother reiterated every sentiment she had expressed in the previous nine messages she had left.
"Lorelai Gilmore," Lorelai corrected softly when Emily paused for a breath.
"Oh, yes, you are the quintessential modern woman, Lorelai," Emily said condescendingly. "I am doing this for your benefit, young lady. A party like this doesn't just happen, you know! It takes weeks of careful planning and preparation. You have no idea how lucky I was to get Randall, he's very much in demand, and I don't appreciate you treating all of this so cavalierly," Emily said angrily.
"Randall's great, Mom. The next time Liza gets married, you should recommend him to her," Lorelai said as she rubbed her eyes tiredly.
"You are not funny," Emily said through clenched teeth. "I'm trying to plan a beautiful party for you. Christopher wants it too. He's the one who suggested that we get a minister to perform the vow renewal," Emily said with a sniff.
"He did?" Lorelai asked as the final piece of the puzzle fell into place.
"Why, yes, and I thought it was a lovely idea. After all, whether you care or not, I know that your father and I would have loved to have been there. Rory and Gigi too, I'm sure. I know that you thought that you were doing the romantic impetuous thing by eloping in France, but Lorelai, there are people who would have loved to have been a part of seeing you and Christopher finally taking this step. What about poor Francine?" Emily said pointedly.
"So, to have the minister do the, uh, renewal thing, do we need to get a marriage license?" Lorelai asked abruptly.
"A license? Whatever for?" Emily asked.
"We don't have to show any actually proof, though, right?" Lorelai persisted.
"Proof?" Emily asked, taken aback. "Why are you worried about proof?"
"I mean, it's in French," Lorelai said quickly.
"Well, I'm sure that the legal paperwork is easily translatable."
"I'm not sure that we have gotten it yet," Lorelai hedged.
"I don't believe you need it, your father and I didn't need to show our marriage license when we renewed our vows."
"I'm just not sure that doing a whole big ceremony y thing is the best idea," Lorelai hedged.
"Lorelai, I don't understand why you refuse to do this one simple thing for us," Emily said impatiently. "It isn't as if you haven't already said the words."
"Oh, I said them," Lorelai laughed. "For what that was worth," she added under her breath.
"Then you'll do the vow renewal?" Emily persisted.
"I, uh, I guess," Lorelai stammered, her mind racing.
"Excellent. What was the name of the little village you got married in? I'll contact the proper authorities and make sure that the paperwork is in order," Emily said as she held her pen to the notepad in front of her.
"Oh, no, that's okay," Lorelai said quickly.
Emily paused for a moment and then said, "I don't mind following up on it."
"No, I'll take care of it," Lorelai assured her.
"Are you sure?"
Emily hesitated for a moment and then said, "Very well. I'll send over the sample menus that Randall and I decided on. Please be sure to sit down with Christopher and talk over the music," she added with a heavy sigh.
"Don't worry, Mom, Christopher will be facing the music here soon," Lorelai said with a grim laugh.
"You have the strangest sense of humor. Goodbye, Lorelai," Emily said, and then hung up with a decisive click. Emily paused, staring at the telephone in her hand for a moment. She pressed her lips together in a firm line and began dialing again. "Hello, Hopey? It's Em…"
Lorelai pressed her head back into the couch cushion and stared up at the ceiling. Yes, we'll face the music and dance, Mother. Dance. We were gonna dance to that song we danced to at Liz and TJ's wedding. The invitations had very unmanly daisies on them and no parchment to be found. The flowers were going to be pink and cream and perfect. There was a carousel behind the hall. We were going to have duck sausage rolls, she thought as a tear seeped from her eye. Can't they see? I can't plan another wedding. Not now, not yet. Lorelai brushed the tear away impatiently as she sat up, groping around on the couch cushion for her cell phone. She flipped it open and began to push the keys, typing out a message that he couldn't ignore.
Christopher downed the last of his beer, picked up his keys and phone and dropped them into his pocket as he walked unsteadily toward the door. The cool air hit him full in the face, making him more alert as he crossed the sidewalk heading for the silver Volvo that was the symbol of his lost youth. He heard a car door slam and looked up, spying Luke as he reached into the bed of his ancient pick-up truck. What could she possibly see in that guy? he wondered, his blood beginning to boil at the sight of the scruffy diner owner. He's just some schmuck who runs a broken down greasy spoon in a two bit hick town that can't even serve decent whiskey in their one bar, Chris thought.
The cheap whiskey and beer he had tossed back all evening began to roil in his stomach, setting his blood on fire. Look at him, he thought as Luke looked up and caught sight of him. That jackass punched me in the face. He's nothing. He has nothing. Hell, he's even losing his hair, Chris thought with a sneer as he straightened up and started walking toward Luke. Come on, Burger Chef, bring it on! You won't get to sucker punch me this time. She belongs with me. His jaw set in determination, Christopher jerked the scarf from his neck; picking up speed as Luke crossed the street. He saw him shrug out of the leather coat he wore, and knew that his unspoken challenge was being answered. Once he was within striking distance, Christopher took the first swing and missed by a mile. He did, however, take a good shot to the gut. As he doubled over, Christopher couldn't help think that it was par for the course.
He knew. He knew. Lorelai couldn't shake the stabbing pain of betrayal that pierced her heart. He knew that it wasn't legal, and yet, he just kept pretending. Was he ever going to tell me? Would I have ever known?
She heard a car door slam and sprung from the couch. She peeked through the lace curtains and saw Christopher walking slowly across the yard. By the time he reached the porch she swung the front door open and glared at him. Christopher stopped and stared back, his chin lifted in defiance.
"What? Does the phone tree work that fast?" he asked snidely. He held up his phone showing the text message that read only, 'We need to talk. Come home now.'
"Were you ever going to tell me that we're not really married?" she demanded.