This was my original Author's Note for this chapter, and it still holds true! The process of writing isn't exactly akin to doing the splits on top of a keg of dynamite. Most of the time it's more like slitting open a vein and hoping that the right words manage to drip out. This story, however, and especially this chapter, wasn't like that at all. Writing this has been a glorious experience. It was almost as if the words were waiting to leap up on their own when my fingers touched the keyboard. It was a joy and a pleasure to write, and instead of the relief I usually feel when a story's completed, I'm feeling bereft. Thanks again for your enthusiastic response to this story ― that's what keeps me going!
Rory made a little snuffling sound in her sleep and Lorelai lovingly smoothed back a few loose strands of the girl's shiny brown hair. She adored that sound. She remembered pressing Rory's tiny but perfect body up against her shoulder a few hours after she was born and hearing her make that same snuffle then, her newborn eyes shut tight against the bright lights of the new world.
She gave up trying to read a book she'd excavated from Rory's backpack. She put the book face-down on her knee and pulled her coat up a little higher over her sleeping daughter.
Her eyes then drifted over to Luke. He'd stretched his long frame out over the couch that mirrored the one she and Rory were on. He'd folded up that stylish leather jacket and was using it as a pillow under his head. He'd been lying perfectly still, but she didn't believe he was really asleep.
Her breath caught in the back of her throat as she realized she'd been calculating if she could fit on the couch with him. She wondered if he'd turn and make room for her, his arms circling behind her to make sure she wouldn't fall off. She could almost feel the way her head would fit tucked against his chest.
God, where was this stuff coming from? Annoyed, she picked the book back up, shaking off her daydreams. She tried to force her eyes to follow the story on the page.
So intent was she on ignoring what was going on around her that she missed the slight shuffle of bootie-covered shoes.
"Lor," Chris said quietly, his face glowing. He bent down, once again giving her one of those proprietary kisses.
She was right. Luke wasn't asleep. She could feel the disapproval radiating out of him as he swung his legs to the floor.
"Are you a daddy?" she asked Christopher. It wasn't until much later she realized she hadn't added on an 'again' to that sentence.
"It was amazing!" he gushed, nodding vigorously.
Luke stood up and took the step that brought him over to their couch. Holding out one hand to Christopher, he put the other on Lorelai's shoulder, as if he needed to do that for balance. "Luke Danes," he said. "Congratulations. A little girl, is it?"
Chris looked like he was having some trouble keeping up, but he gamely shook Luke's hand. "Yes. A girl. Thanks," he replied, his smile fading a little.
Luke stood up straight, but still kept the hand on Lorelai. "And your wife, she's OK?"
"My fiancée. Yes, Sherry's fine." For the first time he looked from Luke to Lorelai. The skin between his eyebrows puckered as he frowned slightly. "Were you …" He pointed back and forth between them, his gaze ending on Luke. "Were you ― on a date?"
"Yes," Luke answered firmly. "But it's all right that it was interrupted, under the circumstances."
Lorelai had to bite her lips to keep from laughing at the way Luke had managed to not lie, but still give Christopher the wrong impression. She pursed her mouth and gave him the tiniest shake of her head, although she was beaming at him in approval.
Christopher made the decision to ignore Luke and concentrate again on Lorelai. "Come see," he urged, pulling at her.
"Go ahead," Luke told her. "I'll watch Rory."
She tucked her coat around Rory's shoulder and eased her hip out from under the girl's head. She caught Luke's steady gaze briefly and then turned to follow Christopher, matching his excited steps down the hall.
"So how was it?" she asked him.
"Oh, Lor, in my wildest dreams I never could've imagined!" His voice was still throbbing with excitement. "I've never been that nervous, terrified or nauseous in my entire life! It was the most amazing thing ever in the world!"
Lorelai kept her arms crossed snugly across her middle. She ordered her face to keep the smile plastered to it. She hoped he was too caught up in the thrill of the birth to notice how insincere it was.
Christopher's arms, still covered in the pale yellow gown, flailed around in an attempt to describe the experience. "It was like ― Well, you know!"
"Yes, I do. I do know," she agreed. Her focus fell to the floor and she lost the smile, for just a moment.
"I've never seen anything like it!" he raved.
"Yeah," she said sadly. It was true. He hadn't.
"And Sherry was great!" he continued, before pausing for a beat to laugh at himself. "I'm flying! I mean it, I'm flying!"
She laughed, because she'd always laughed at his antics, but it sounded forced. She hoped he wouldn't notice that either.
"There," he said, aiming them at the nursery window. "That's my daughter," he said proudly.
Lorelai stopped herself from pointing out he had another daughter, asleep in the waiting room. Instead they both gazed for a moment at the pink-wrapped newborn
"She's perfect," Chris decreed, awe surrounding the words.
Lorelai couldn't let that pass. "Rory was perfect," she said, her firm voice letting him know there would be no discussion on that point. But she knew she had to give some praise to this interloper. "She however, is a good solid second," she was forced to admit. "She's beautiful. Really. Congratulations, Christopher."
She could feel his eyes landing on her; could tell that he was really seeing her right now at this moment. "Thank you," he said, and she could tell he meant it; could tell that maybe for the first time ever he understood. "Thank you for everything."
A million things swirled through her brain, and she wanted to sit him down right then and there and discuss everything that had gone awry between them since Rory was conceived. But it was the wrong time and the wrong place, and really, what did it matter anymore, anyway?
"Of course," was all she said, waving her arm towards him weakly. She took one more look at his second-place daughter. "Let's go get Rory," she suggested, not wanting to stand there with him any longer.
In the waiting room she relieved the sentry on duty and Christopher gently woke Rory. She was soon awake enough to understand that the waiting was over. Thrilled, she bounced off down the hall with Chris to see her baby sister.
Lorelai watched them disappear before she whirled around to Luke.
"He thinks she's the most perfect baby in the world!" she complained, feeling hot bitterness bubbling in her throat. "Well, she's not! Rory was the most perfect, most beautiful baby ever! And I have the pictures to prove it!"
"I believe you," Luke said mildly, watching her.
His calmness drew some of the bile from her, and she sat down hard on the couch opposite him. She crossed her arms once again and laid her head back, staring up at the acoustic tiles in the ceiling.
His presence and his silence worked as a salve on the sullenness churning in her heart. It comforted her, knowing he'd wait however long it would take for her to work through what was bothering her.
"Do you want to hear how Rory got her name?" she asked him, finally breaking the silence.
"I know that," he reminded her. "I've heard that story about you and the Demerol every October since I've known you."
She was quiet for a few more moments, checking to make sure she was really going to come clean to him. "That's the story I tell everyone," she said, with a hushed, honest note in her voice that she could tell was making him pay attention. "Do you want to hear the real one?"
"Sure," he said. She heard him sitting up straight on the couch. She could feel that he was watching her intently.
She pulled herself upright too, but she couldn't bring herself to look directly at him. Instead she gazed at the cuffs on his sweater, where he'd pushed them up on his arms. She gave out a sigh, almost as if that released the catch on her secrets.
"Everything you said tonight was true, Luke. I was just a kid. I was a kid, and I was scared, and I had nothing." She sighed again and looked down at her fingers as she rubbed them together. "I didn't have a diploma, or a driver's license, or any money to my name. All I had was a baby on the way, a weak boyfriend, and parents who were insisting I had to do things their way."
She shook her head as she hunched her shoulders, remembering. "I couldn't sleep," she told him, giving him a quick smile. She looked back down at her lap before he could see how shiny wet her eyes were. "Mainly because of the baby. She was so big already, that month before she was born. I couldn't ever get comfortable, and plus babies have this way of waking up just when you're ready to sleep. They do these acrobatic moves, like somersaults, and there's just no way to sleep through them. They love to stretch out as far as they can, and suddenly you've got this foot pushing against your spine and another one kicking you in the kidneys."
"Sounds like fun." Luke's voice had that familiar sarcastic edge to it, but at the same time it was so gentle.
She nodded at him, doing another one of those really quick smiles. "So my little acrobat was keeping me awake, and during all of those long nights, the only thing I could think about was our future. What was I going to do? How was I going to raise a baby? How was I going to give her a better life than the one I had? Was I strong enough? Was I brave enough? How ― How was I ever going to be able to do this?" To her embarrassment, a sob choked off the last word.
In a flash Luke moved over to sit beside her, his hand once again feeling warm and solid on her shoulder. "It's OK," he said at once. "You don't have to tell me this."
Her sigh this time was a quivering one. "Yeah, I think I do," she said. "I want you to know that even though I was just a kid, I knew how important my decisions were going to be for Rory. I know you think that I act childish and immature now, a lot more than what I should, probably. But that's only to make up for those years when I should have still been a kid, but I had to be a grown-up instead."
She saw his jaw tense when he swallowed hard, but she didn't give him a chance to say anything. "I was terrified, Luke. All of those sleepless nights, just laying there terrified of having this baby. I lay there night after night, coming up with all of these schemes and plans so that I could raise her the way I wanted to. But I was just a kid, and I knew my shortcomings better than anyone. I knew there was a pretty good chance I wouldn't be able to do it. I knew that there was a good chance I'd crumble and my parents would take over. They'd raise Rory the way they'd want to, and I'd be pushed aside. I wouldn't have a say about anything, and that was the most terrifying thought of all."
She paused to take a breath, forcing herself to continue when she saw how intensely he was following her words. "Finally one night I hit on a plan. I'd name her after myself. I'd name her Lorelai. That way, even if things went completely wrong and I lost her, she'd always know who her mother was. Every time someone would call her 'Lorelai,' she'd know. Every time I called her, or said her name, I'd remember that I was her mother." She looked at Luke, throwing back her head defiantly. "They couldn't take her completely away from me that way. My name was always going to be hers."
He blinked a few times and then looked off into the distance, his hand clutching her shoulder in a comforting gesture. "But you didn't crumble," he pointed out. She thought she caught a hint of pride in his voice.
"No." She smiled, not minding the few tears that were insisting on trickling out of her eyes. "No, I didn't."
He nodded and didn't say anything for a short period of time, as if he was consigning her story to his memory. His hand stayed steady on her shoulder. "I think," he finally said, "that you couldn't have given her a better name." He studied her soberly. "It's a perfect name. For both of you."
"Thanks." She tucked her head down while she made quick work of the tears. She wasn't sure if she should be embarrassed or proud of them.
She then raised and lowered her shoulders, looking at him hesitantly. "Say, do you want to go see the baby? She really is pretty cute."
He shook his head slowly, a smile sneaking out at last. "You know what? Why don't you just show me some of Rory's baby pictures sometime instead?"
A glowing happiness lit her up from inside. "Because you'd rather see the world's most perfect baby," she surmised.
"Exactly," he agreed.
"Well, then, it's a date," she confirmed.
Without any bashfulness Luke threaded his arm behind her back, encircling her shoulders, and Lorelai angled herself against him, letting her head rest against his warm, soothing chest.
And the odd thing was that it didn't feel odd at all.
The drive home was subdued.
At first, Rory was buoyed up from getting to hold her sister and the cumulative events of the night. She chattered on excitedly, amazed at how tiny but solid the baby was in her arms. Gradually the adrenaline thinned out and she spoke less and less, eventually easing her head onto her mother's shoulder and fading out completely.
Luke, as usual, was saying very little, and for once Lorelai was matching him word for word. Except for pointing out a few directional tips and occasionally asking him if he was still alert enough to drive, she kept quiet. Most of her conversations were taking place exclusively in her head.
She was sitting in the middle of the bench seat, and at first she did her best to leave some space between herself and Luke by leaning in the opposite direction, against Rory. It seemed like they'd done a lot of touching tonight; possibly more in total than they had in all of their years of acquaintance. The touching had started back in the diner, when Nicole had answered her phone, and Luke kept pushing her arms down as she waved them about in protest. Had that really been just earlier tonight? It seemed like a year had passed since then.
As the drive progressed, however, she found herself gravitating towards him until at last she was pressed against his side in the same way Rory was tucked up against her. It was warm and cozy in the truck cab, and he was solid and dependable and real. Her head inched down until it was impossible to tell her dark, straightened hair from the leather covering his shoulder.
He didn't seem to mind. He even dipped his shoulder slightly, making a softer resting spot for her.
Maybe just highlights to start with, her brain suggested, still trying out the strawberry-blonde idea. We'll see if he notices those, first.
She sighed and closed her eyes, and didn't open them until she felt the road change under the truck's tires, when Luke turned off the highway and started to navigate the streets into Stars Hollow. She stayed silent until he pulled up into her driveway and cut the engine.
"Luke." She caught a breath and tried to smile, shaking her head, wondering how she'd ever be able to put into words what she needed to say about tonight. "You were beyond a white knight tonight, my friend. I don't know what I would have done if you hadn't come to my rescue. It seems so inadequate to say thank you, but I can't think of anything else to say. I need to create a new word to express my gratitude to you, like supercalifragilistic-thank-you or something." She took in a little more oxygen and put her hand on his forearm, rubbing it very gently. "Thank you, Luke."
He glanced down at her hand on his arm, and then turned his face to the window, looking over at Babette and Morey's. "You were incredible tonight, Lorelai." His voice was way down in the gruff register. "You handled things you should have never been expected to handle, and you did them with more grace and kindness than I've ever seen. I knew you had a big heart, but until tonight, I didn't know just how big."
She swore she could see miniature electrical charges sending out starbursts of light from where her hand was now resting on his arm, and she squeezed a little tighter against the leather of his sleeve, hoping maybe they'd go away, because well, they worried her.
"Coming from you, I take that as a real compliment." She tried to concentrate only on him, ignoring the charged atmosphere developing in the cab.
He nodded, and she shifted Rory a little bit more upright, thinking that soon she'd have to wake her and get her into the house. "I'm still sorry about ruining your date tonight," she said.
No you're not! her brain chided her.
"My offer still stands to call Nicole and try to fix things with her."
Idiot! Shut up! her brain yelled.
His hands went back up and clutched the top of the steering wheel. "I don't want to fix things with Nicole."
"You're…You're sure?" She was having a terrible time trying to take a breath.
"I'm sure," he muttered.
"OK," she said. She sat immobile for a few beats longer, hoping that maybe he'd say something else. She longed to stay in this warm space, pressed up against him, for as long as she possibly could. She gazed at his chiseled profile, admiring those insanely long lashes. She shivered a little bit, picturing moving away from him.
"Well." She couldn't think of anything else to prolong her stay. "I guess I'd better get Rory inside." She smiled at him, but he didn't look over at her. She started to inch away from him, moving Rory towards the door.
"Lorelai, wait." He was looking straight ahead, his hands still tight on the wheel.
She stopped, Rory's head heavy on her shoulder.
His hands suddenly relaxed their grip and fell lifelessly to his knees. She watched the muscles in his throat bunch up as he swallowed - nervously, she thought. He sighed, as though resigned to the words that were coming next.
"So. Old friends can kiss you, huh?"
Already she could feel it. This was going to change everything, no matter what she said.
"Yes." She felt the air molecules around her shifting and sliding into new patterns.
He was still staring straight ahead, but his back stiffened with resolve.
"Am I an old friend?" he asked, his voice stretched taut.
"Yes," she said, a quicker response this time, because there was no question that he was, and anyway, everything had already been transformed into something new. The air she pulled into her lungs tingled, as though laced with ice crystals. She put a hand up under the fold of her turtleneck, trying to ease the shock of the newness.
He turned to her then, his teeth biting into a corner of his lip, but his eyes met hers without wavering. He put a hand on her face, his thumb running to her chin, tipping her face to meet his.
"Chris kisses me on the cheek," she felt like she needed to point out, the words tripping out of her mouth and spilling the insecurity she was too afraid to voice.
Luke stopped and pulled back a fraction of an inch, his hand remaining firmly in place. "I'm not Christopher, Lorelai. I'm not ever going to do anything the way he does. Is that a problem?"
The continual bruise that had lived around her heart for months suddenly stopped throbbing. The ice crystals in her lungs melted away.
She met his gaze. There was absolutely no reason to shy away. "No," she told him. "That's not a problem at all."
He gave a brief nod and then, oh, so very seriously, brought his lips down onto hers.
Lorelai had thought about kissing Luke maybe once or twice or several thousand times. Those scenarios varied depending on her mood. If they'd fought and he was denying her coffee and being a sanctimonious ass, she figured the kiss would be nice but nothing earth-shattering. If they'd had a good bantering day, with extra flirting and pie à la mode given without badgering him for it, she imagined that the kiss would knock her socks off. What she never imagined was the 'click' she heard as all of the pieces of her life settled into place. She never imagined sparks and comfort at the same time. She never imagined that she could feel the most like herself while connecting to someone else.
She drew back fractionally, her heart quivering as Luke was absorbed into it.
"I'm sorry," she breathed out against his lips.
He inched back, his forehead creased in worry. "Sorry?" His voice was raspy from concern and want.
"Sorry I didn't know." Her fingers were clutching at his collar, desperate to bring him back; desperate to make him understand. "Sorry I didn't know it was you."
"Oh." He chuckled slightly, even as his mouth found hers again. "It is me," he agreed, and she was afraid he didn't understand, but as soon as he kissed her again she realized he did. He'd known all along.
She tried to shift herself to press closer to him, but in doing so she dislodged Rory, who made a sleepy groan of irritation. At that, their eyes snapped open and they moved apart, suddenly realizing the choice of location for their first kiss was sadly lacking. They smiled and shrugged sheepishly at each other.
"I should..." she trailed off, motioning towards her sleeping daughter and the door. He nodded and she started to reach for the door handle.
"Wait," he said again, his voice now urgent. Once again his hands grasped the steering wheel, this time his fingers rubbing around it in agitation. He hunched his shoulders and then sighed, shaking his head. "I'm just gonna say this, OK? I'm gonna say it before I lose my nerve."
"OK," she said, and held her breath, eager to hear what he needed to tell her.
"It's about tonight," he began. "And about what you had to do when Rory was born." He turned and looked at her, and his eyes were beaming promises to her and he didn't look away and she saw the man who always had been and always would be there for her. "If it ever happened again…you wouldn't be alone. Not for a minute. I just…I wanted you to know that."
"I do know." She reached out and put her hand on his cheek that was already becoming scruffy again. She pulled him down until she could rest her forehead against his. She wanted him to feel the smile on her mouth, so she kissed him again, gently. "I do know," she whispered.
"Good." He pushed her hair back behind the ear closest to him and pressed her against him, holding her there for another minute or two. With a sigh he pulled back. "Let me get around to the door, and I'll help get Rory out."
"OK." She nodded enthusiastically, barely able to keep the excitement building inside her at bay.
He opened the passenger side door, she lightly shoved on Rory and he caught her, carefully helping her to balance on her own wobbly legs. Lorelai scrambled out and took possession of her grumpy daughter, who whined and huddled herself down inside her coat, shivering. Luke reached past them and snagged Rory's backpack, slinging it over his shoulder as he shut the truck's door. Then, together, they each put an arm around Rory's back, walking her towards the house.
At the door Lorelai let Luke hold up Rory while she fished for the key in her purse. After a moment of fumbling the door swung open and she flipped on the light. Luke helped her walk Rory to her room.
"I'll let you get her settled," he said, his voice low, when they reached her room.
Lorelai nodded. She didn't turn on the light in Rory's room, but let the illumination washing in from the hallway be enough. She sat Rory down on her bed. Gently, she removed her daughter's coat, eased off her boots, and pulled the Chilton sweater off over her head. She tugged on the end of her braid, pulling out the elastic. She ran her fingers gently through her little girl's hair, loosening the plaits, watching the silky strands flow together.
She pushed on Rory's shoulders, convincing her to lie down. She pulled up the covers, tucking her in.
"Sleep tight, Baby," she whispered. "You're home now." She bent to leave a kiss on her forehead.
"Mommy?" she heard, when she was nearly to the door. Her heart contracted at hearing that name from Rory's lips again.
"Yeah, Baby?" she whispered.
Rory's eyes stayed shut tight, but her forehead wrinkled in concentration. "Were you kissing Luke?"
Lorelai's heart sped up. "Maybe," she hedged.
The lines between Rory's eyebrows cleared away. "You should," she yawned. She turned on her side, tucking her hands under her cheek. "He'd make a good dad," she murmured, almost back asleep.
"I think he would too," Lorelai agreed, ready to bubble over. "I think he'd make the best dad ever."
She waited another few moments, in case Rory gave her permission for anything else, but she was already back in dreamland. Lorelai shut the door as quietly as she could.
Out in the living room, Luke was standing in front of the fireplace, staring into the ash-filled cavity. His hands were on his hips and she could tell just from his stance that he was nervous.
She walked up behind him and put her arms around his waist, laying her head against his back. She felt him relax against her. His hand covered hers, caressing it.
"Do you want to stay?" she asked, still whispering.
He went still and then turned to face her, a somewhat stunned look on his face.
Pink crept over her cheeks. "I didn't mean that sort of stay. I meant, you know, just to talk. To discuss…this. Us."
A wry chuckle escaped his lips. "I'd better not," he said, regret tingeing his words.
"But you will, someday, right?" she asked, suddenly worried that she'd made up what had just happened in his truck.
"There's not enough willpower in the world to keep me away from you," he said, giving her a kiss that gave proof to his words.
"Do you want me to dye my hair?" she blurted out, still apprehensive.
"What?" He gave her one of his patented 'Lorelai, you're so crazy' looks.
She ran a strand of her hair through her fingers, flipping the end up to show him. "You know, strawberry-blonde."
"Oh, for cryin'…" He gave an aggrieved look down at the floor. "Can you honestly stand there and tell me you don't know who I've dreamt about for the past seven years?"
Celebratory fireworks were starting to shoot off inside her body. "Does she have dark brown hair?"
"Yes." Luke caught a strand around his finger. "But usually it's curly."
"Does she have blue eyes?"
His hand cradled her face and his thumb swept under her eye. "She has the most astonishing blue eyes I've ever seen."
"Really?" she asked, wanting to tease him, but the word came out still covered in disbelief.
"Really," Luke confirmed.
She cleared her throat and tried to laugh, trying to get them back onto less-serious ground. "So you've been pining for me for seven years?"
"Maybe." He wrapped his arms around her and spoke low into her ear. "I'm going to regret admitting that, aren't I?"
"Definitely," she laughed.
They started walking towards the door, keeping their arms around each other's waist.
"It's awfully late," she pointed out, glancing at the clock. "Or pretty early, I guess. Are you going to be OK since you have to open the diner in an hour or so?" She stopped and turned to face him, running her hand through his hair and bringing it to rest along the side of his face.
"I'll be fine," he assured her, turning to kiss the palm resting on his face. "I doubt that I'll sleep anyway. Too many things to think about to sleep."
"Yeah," she agreed, smiling with pure happiness. "There's a lot to think about."
They shared one last kiss before he opened the door.
"You'll be by the diner later, right?" he asked, pulling his gloves back on as he stepped outside.
"Oh, I'll be there, all right," she said emphatically, crossing her arms against the cold, watching him leave.
"Good," he said, satisfied, taking a step away.
He turned back.
"Just so you know, I'm probably going to flirt with you when I get there."
He looked off in the distance, but she could see the smile. She could hear it in his voice. "That's OK. I might even flirt back."
"In fact, I'm probably even going to ask you out."
He put his hands on his hips and slightly shook his head. "Well, then, I'll stand corrected."
"About what?" Prickly concern once again circled her brain.
"The right girl is going to ask me out after all." He gave her a smile that took her breath away and then walked down the steps, heading to the truck.
She waited at the door until he drove away, waving like a love-struck teenager.
Once back inside she spun around in a couple of excited circles until she bumped up against the couch and scraped her knee and realized she was too tired to withstand the dizziness that would come with triumphant twirling.
She let her coat fall onto the couch, turned off the light and walked to the stairs.
She wondered just how much gratitude she was required to feel towards Sherry and Nicole, since they had both inadvertently changed the direction of her life tonight.
"Thank you," she whispered into the dark, and decided that was enough.
"…and by the time I left, Grandma and I both danced down the steps, singing I've Had the Time of My Life!"
"You can't tell him all of that stuff!" Luke protested, not for the first time.
"But I want him to know," Lorelai insisted.
"It's too much!" Luke huffed. "Some of that stuff he doesn't ever need to hear, as far as I'm concerned! Maybe when he's like 20 you can fill him in on the genealogy, but he doesn't need to know that now. Plus, you used some swear words there, too, and I thought we agreed to watch that. Not to mention that you've been talking for practically an hour. No kid's going to sit still for that long!"
"Eh. I'll edit," Lorelai said easily, twirling her hand in the air.
"No she won't," Rory disputed. She'd gotten to the hospital about 15 minutes earlier and had commandeered her baby brother. She looked down at the sleeping boy now, rubbing her palm over his soft, dark curls. "Sorry, kid. You'll be hearing this story every May for the rest of your life."
"It's an important story!" Lorelai proclaimed. "He needs to know how it all happened, because if it hadn't, he wouldn't be here!"
"See, that's another thing!" Luke pointed his finger at her. "You made it sound like we decided to date, and boom! There he was! You skipped right over the year before we got married, and the year we were married, and all the months we tried ―"
"Whoa!" Rory interjected. "Sensitive ears in the room here!"
"Luke, that night we spent together in the hospital waiting for G.G. to be born was one of the most important nights in my life!" She motioned towards the baby. "His, too!"
"I know," he said, sounding grumpy, "but ―"
"Are you telling me it wasn't one of the most important nights in your life?"
He sighed, knowing he was beaten, but not quite ready to admit it. "Yes, it was an important night. I just don't think he needs to hear about it in so much detail."
Lorelai had let Luke help her back into bed when Rory arrived and had been sitting upright, enjoying the storytelling and the breathtaking picture made by her oldest holding the baby. She now gave a flounce of irritation, preparing to wear down Luke's protest, and forgot, for a moment, what her body had been through in the past day. She winced involuntarily and clutched at the railing in pain.
"You need to take it easy." Luke was right there, urging her to lay back, his eyes filled with concern as his hand brushed back her hair. "You're trying to do too much."
"Ah, there he is," Lorelai said, emotion throbbing through her. She put her hand up against his face, caressing it, not caring a bit about the 2-days' worth of coarse whiskers bristling against her palm. "There's that guy who was with me in the delivery room not too long ago. He's the one who promised me the sun and the moon and all of the coffee in the diner if I'd push just one more time."
Luke looked at her, his heart right there in his eyes, and she knew no matter how much as they'd loved each other before, sharing the birth of their son had sealed them into an even tighter bond. She squeezed his hand, hoping he understood, because even with all of the words she could string together at a moment's notice, she didn't think she could do justice to the depth of her feelings for this man.
"Rory." Luke's warning was husky, as he bent over his wife. "Close your eyes."
"Oh, for ―" Resigned, Rory lowered her head to the baby's, cupping her hand around his face to block the image of their parents kissing once again. "If this gets too bad, you just say the word. You can come live with me, OK?" she offered him.
"Oh, right, because you and that blond, arrogant ―"
"Luke," Lorelai interrupted him, sweetly.
He sighed. "Sorry," he muttered, not exactly sounding contrite.
But Rory only grinned, letting the baby's fingers curl around one of hers. "Logan's heading to London soon. He won't be around much, so your worries over PDAs will be a thing of the past."
"Good," Luke said, under his breath.
"So what's the decision on the name?" Rory asked. "Or do I have to call him 'Hey, You' for the foreseeable future?"
"I got my way!" Lorelai crowed.
"There's a shock," Rory grinned. "So this is little Luke?"
"I've agreed that his first name is Lucas," Luke grumbled. "He will not be little Luke!"
"Well, it only seemed fair," Lorelai explained, yet again. "I named Rory after me. Our son should be named after you."
"So what are we calling him, then?" Rory wanted to know.
"Nathan," Lorelai said, her voice gentling over the syllables. "Lucas Nathan Danes."
Rory's eyes sparkled with amusement when she looked at her stepfather. "You let her name him after her current piece of TV eye-candy?"
"I thought it was better than Brady!" Luke snapped.
"Brady?" Rory's eyebrows arched.
"The name of some drunk that accosted her that night the Jeep died in Hartford!" Luke sounded miffed, but Lorelai gave Rory a wink, letting her know that was never a real possibility.
"Well, I like Nathan," Rory said, prepared to smooth things over. "Hello, Nathan," she cooed to the little boy. "Welcome to our little corner of the world. We've been waiting on you for a long time."
"Isn't he perfect?" Lorelai asked the room in general, awestruck.
"Well…" Luke hedged. He went to stand behind Rory, his hand lovingly cradling the back of her head as he looked down at his son. "Rory was perfect," he reminded Lorelai. "I've seen the pictures." He smiled down at the baby, watching him sleep in his sister's arms. "But this one…I don't know. I think we've just got to admit it, Lorelai. We've got two perfect kids."
"I guess we'll just have to live with that fact," Lorelai sighed dramatically.
"You'll also need to live with the fact that Grandma and Grandpa will be here fairly soon," Rory pointed out. "Do they know the name yet?"
"Well then, they'll have to bring the engraved silver sippy cups the next time, but I bet this kid will still haul in the loot from the grandparents," Rory said.
"Aw, is big sister jealous?" Lorelai said, using baby talk. "Once Mommy is back on her feet, maybe she'll take lil' Wowy shoe shopping."
Rory grinned but still rolled her eyes as she carefully got up and carried Nathan over to Lorelai. "I'm not jealous a bit," she said, laying her head against her mother's for a moment, as she passed the baby over to her. "He's beautiful," she murmured. She sat on the edge of the bed, leaning against Lorelai.
Luke couldn't help but be drawn over to them, too. He perched on the other side of the bed, one hand on his wife's leg as he bent forward to watch every breath drawn by the baby.
"But I don't want you to feel neglected," Lorelai told Rory, still teasing her a little bit, but also wanting her to never forget her place in their family. "Oh, I know! I can tell you a story, too!"
"Maybe." Rory tilted her head, considering. "Which story?"
"My favorite one," Lorelai said. She felt the warmth from her baby in her arms while she leaned against her daughter, remembering all of the years that they had held each other up. She felt her husband's hand anchored around her, letting her know without words that he was always going to be right there beside her.
If she had to hold even one more drop of happiness, she'd probably burst.
It was a good thing her parents were on the way. They'd siphon off some of the happiness. There'd be no danger of bursting then.
She smiled at Luke and squeezed Nathan and snuggled up against Rory.
"It's the story about the night I found your stepfather…"