"Heís not my boyfriend," she defends herself heatedly. "I hate him."
But he doesnít believe her.
Her heart sinks as he walks back to his car. But after a moment, a slow smile comes to her lips. It was now or never. She calls his name.
"What?" he yells back, yanking the car door open with more force than necessary.
"Because I love you, you idiot!"
For one brief moment, he stands motionless. Then her words sinks in and he runs to her.
She meets him halfway.
"Say it again," he tells her, his eyes searching hers.
She touches his face, cradling his cheek. "I love you," she whispers softly.
His heart slams into his ribs as the words wash over him. He catches her fingers and presses them to her lips. "I love you, too."
Leaning up on her toes, she tells him with her kiss what she just told him with her words.
His arms close around her, kissing her back.
With a groan of frustration, Rory gets out of bed. Itís four thirty in the morning and she is still wide-awake. No matter what she does, she canít stop thinking about Dean and the I-love-youís they exchanged that afternoon outside Chilton. Nor could she forget the kisses they shared. Giving up on sleep, she goes to the living room and picks up the phone, bringing it to the sofa with her. She stares at it for several seconds. Making up her mind, she punches out a number.
Her pager goes off, waking Lane from sleep. She ignores it and pulls a pillow over her head. It goes off again. Muttering under her breath, she picks it up and reads the message. She blinks several times and reads it again, just to make sure she got it right the first time. Tossing aside the covers, she pulls on a sweater and a pair of sneakers and slips out of her room. A few minutes later, Lane is seated on the front steps of her house, waiting for her best friend to show up.
Rory arrives in record time.
"That was fast," Lane comments.
"You have no idea." Closing her eyes, Rory takes several deep breaths until her heart stops racing.
"Okay, whatís so important that you had to wake me at four thirty in the morning?" Lane demands.
"Anxious, are we?" Rory teases as she sits down beside Lane. She tucks a strand of hair behind her ear and as she does, Lane notices the bracelet. The bracelet Dean gave Rory on her birthday. The bracelet Rory vowed sheíll never wear again.
Her eyes widen. "Rory, whatís that on your wrist?"
Roryís face breaks into a smile so bright, Lane is nearly blinded. "Dean and I are back together."
Lane lets out a shriek and gives Rory a hug. "When did this happen?" she bursts out.
"Cliffís Notes version?"
"Dean drove to Chilton. He saw me with Tristan. Wrong conclusions were made. We argued. I told him I loved him. We kissed. And from there, everything sort of snowballed."
Roryís lips curve upward. "I know."
"Wow!" Lane exclaims again.
Roryís smile widens into a grin. "I know."
Lane laughs. "Okay, now I want details."
Theyíve been talking for several minutes when both girls notice the light to the masterís bedroom is on. Lane quickly gets to her feet and Rory does the same.
"To be continued," Rory promises. She turns to leave.
Lane lingers by the door. "Hey, Rory?"
She looks back over her shoulder.
"I think itís great that youíre back together. And Iím happy that youíre happy. No more mopey, dopey and the twelve other melancholy dwarves. Which is a good thing."
"Just do me a favor?"
Laneís eyes are twinkling. "Will you quit smiling so much before someone suggests youíve been overdosing on vitamins?"
Rory chuckles. "Iíll try."
Lorelai is munching on a piece of toast and surveying the bleak contents of the fridge when the phone rings. She makes a move to pick it up but Rory beats her to it.
Lorelai looks on in interest.
"Rory, itís Dean."
Rory grips the phone tighter. "Dean, hi."
Lorelai clutches her heart and flutters her eyelashes dramatically.
Rory ignores her.
"So, did you tell your mom about us?" Dean asks after a slight pause.
There is a faint hesitancy in his tone. "How did it go?"
Rory makes a face. "Lorelai wouldnít let me get a word in edgewise."
Lorelai points a finger at herself and feigns a look of innocence.
Rory motions for her mother to leave the room.
Lorelai shakes her head and settles more comfortably in her seat, her eyes sparkling with glee.
"That bad, huh," Dean says.
Roryís mouth twitches slightly. "Canít really say. Everything was a blur after her twelfth oh-my-god. Or was it her tenth Iím-so-happy-for-you?"
He exhales in relief. "Good to know."
Rory canít help but laugh.
"Are you busy?" Dean asks when their laughter dies down.
"Not really. Why?"
His tone is casual. "No reason."
"Where are you?" she asks suspiciously.
He chuckles softly. "The front door."
Still clutching the phone, Rory leaves the kitchen and flings open the door. She stares at Dean, dumbfounded.
"I come bearing gifts," he says, presenting her with a bag of blueberry muffins.
She couldnít keep the smile off her face. "I canít believe you bought me muffins."
"Well, it was either that or flowers. I took a chance."
"The things you do to impress me," she teases.
"Is it working?"
Their eyes hold until it becomes apparent that Lorelai is watching them from the hallway.
Rory glances self-consciously away.
Dean clears his throat. "Iíd better go. Iíll see you tonight." He leans over and drops a quick kiss on her lips.
"Tonight?" Lorelai asks as soon as Rory closes the door. "Whatís tonight?"
Rory blinks at her. "Itís our first official date since Dean and I got back together."
Lorelai shakes her head. "No."
Rory is startled. "No?"
"Rory, tonight youíre supposed to help me return the furniture back to where theyíre supposed to be."
"Sweetie, if I continue bumping, running into and tripping over every chair, table and cabinet that youíve rearranged in the last five weeks, Iíll end up in traction."
"But this is our first date," Rory pleads. "Our first date in five weeks."
"Canít you postpone your date? Move it to another day?"
Rory gives her mother a look that tells her exactly what she thinks of her idea and then some.
Lorelai refrains from rolling her eyes but fails to suppress her smile. "Okay, okay. Iíll ask someone else for help."
With a squeal of pleasure, Rory hugs her mom.
For the third time that morning, Luke indignantly wipes the sawdust from the countertop. Muttering under his breath, he curses the day he gave in to Lorelai and allowed her to talk him into remodeling a portion of his coffee shop. If only he didnít have a weakness for tall, blue-eyed brunettes. Especially one in particular.
No sooner did her name pass through his mind when she fills the doorway.
"Donít you have anyone else to pester?" he snaps.
"My, my. Arenít we testy this morning." Disregarding her lack of welcome, she approaches the counter.
"Lorelai, listen. As you can see, Iím bad company right now, so go make someone else miserable."
Her eyes widen. "You are in a rare mood."
"Are you here to buy coffee?"
"Not exactly. I wanted to ask if-"
"Then come back when you are."
She slowly rises to her feet. "Fine. Have it your way. If asking you to help me rearrange living room furniture is such a terrible crime then Iím sorry."
"Lorelai, wait." His tone is apologetic. "What time do you want me to come over?"
She turns back around and faces him with a smile.
Luke feels that funny little jolt in his stomach.
"Seven thirty, okay?"
"Seven thirtyís fine."
"Good. Iíll see you then. Bye, Luke." With a wave of her hand, she steps outside, leaving Luke wondering what he has gotten himself into.
Lorelai wakes with a start. The noise she hears makes her jump. She quits breathing and listens to footsteps. Who is out there? She reaches across the sofa for the phone but itís not there. Again, she hears footsteps, closer this time. She gets up and heads to the kitchen. More footsteps. She forgets to breathe. She feels her muscles tense. Suddenly, all is quiet and she draws a deep breath. The back door begins to open. Lorelai forgets her fear and grabs the nearest object she could find, ready to yell and charge at the intruder with a frying pan. The door flings open. She screams out loud and swings.
With Roryís hand in his, Dean leads the way across the street toward the newly opened two-cinema theatre.
As they stand in line, she catches his gaze linger on the poster of a popular asteroid movie. "I suppose youíre more interested in that than watching Love Story."
"Rory, you won the coin toss. And Iím a man of my word. But if you change your mind," he grins at her appealingly, "I wonít complain."
"Tell you what, Iím willing to sit through two hours of roughneck oil drillers, a meteor the size of Texas and the end of mankind. On one condition."
His eyes light up. "Name it."
"I pay for the popcorn."
"All right," he agrees. "Youíve got yourself a deal.
They find their seats just as the lights dim. And as the credits start to roll, a cell phone rings.
Rory fumbles for the phone to stop the annoying noise. Feeling all eyes are on her, she quickly gets up, murmurs an apology to Dean and steps outside. She presses a button. "Hello? Mom? Mom! Mom, slow down. Whatís wrong?" She listens for a moment then her eyes widen, stunned. "You did what?!"
Lorelai ends the call and drops the phone on the countertop. She quickly rushes to Lukeís side and helps him to his feet and into the living room.
With a groan, he staggers forward and collapses on the sofa, his eyes closed. Still as death.
Terrified, Lorelai picks up his arm and feels for a pulse. In her panic, she canít find any. "Luke!" she cries, grabbing his shoulder and shaking him. "Luke, donít you dare die on me!" she warns hysterically. "Donít you dare die!"
Rory rushes back inside the theatre for Dean. Finding him, she grabs his hand and without a word, heads for the exit, dragging him along.
"Mind if I ask where weíre going?" he asks as they run across the street, narrowly avoiding getting run over by a car.
"Home," she replies.
"Mind if I ask why?"
"Mom. Frying pan. Lukeís head. Trouble."
"Stop shaking me," Luke whispers hoarsely. "Iím not dead."
Lorelai lets go of him, very much relieved. Considerably less hysterical, she goes back to the kitchen for her first aid kit. When she returns, Luke is on his feet. "Sit!" she barks at him.
Startled, he sits down again and she presses a gauze to his forehead.
He pushes her hand away. "Lorelai, itís just a bump on the head."
"Itís more than just a bump on the head."
He reaches up to his stinging forehead. "Okay, itís a scratch," he amends. "But itís not fatal. It wonít even need stitches."
"Luke, I hit you with a frying pan. A large one."
"And my forehead stings and itís bleeding but I feel fine."
She ignores him and picks up the wet washcloth to clean the wound.
He takes it away from her. "Lorelai, Iím fine."
"Iíll be the judge of that."
She tugs at the washcloth.
He tugs back.
Exasperated, she makes a grab for it and in the process, loses her balance and stumbles, landing on his lap.
They stare at each other in shock.
On impulse, Luke frames her face with his hands and kisses her.
Lorelai goes still. Then she kisses him back.
Dean taps the end of his pencil on the textbook in front of him, matching the beat of the song on the radio.
"Chemistry giving you a hard time again?" Rory teases him as she enters his room.
He glances up and smiles. "Hey. I didnít expect you to drop by until later."
"Since she woke up this morning, Lorelai Ė for no given reason - has been walking around the house in a daze. So for my piece of mind, I decided to come over and keep you company." She wraps her arms around him from behind and peers over his shoulder, surveying his work. "Interesting reading material," she observes.
He stifles an embarrassed laugh and removes the Sports Illustrated magazine from sight.
Laughing, she settles herself on his lap. "Listen, Iím really sorry about last night."
She puts a hand over his mouth and continues. "And I want to make it up to you."
He removes her hand. "Well, you donít have to."
"Yes, I do. Dean, we had to cancel our date and spend the night at my house dragging around furniture so Lorelai could drive Luke to a doctor just to make sure she didnít give him a concussion."
"Well, if you put it that way." He gives in. "So whatís the plan?"
"I was thinking maybe a romantic dinner. With candles and music." She smiles mischievously. "And me."
A slow smile touches his face. "Sounds perfect."
Rory sees the way Deanís gaze settles on her lips and her heart kicks up its pace. She knows that look.
He slowly lowers his head. "Do I get a preview?"
"Absolutely," she whispers right before his mouth closes over hers.
After nearly two hours of coaxing and prodding and cajoling from Sookie, Lorelai finds herself standing across the street from Lukeís coffee shop. She stares at the front window, wondering what if what sheís about to do is a good idea. Her heart is pumping a mile and second and her stomach is in knots. But what troubles her the most is her complete inability to stop thinking about Luke. Of all the men in the worldÖ
"Hormones," Lorelai mutters under her breath. "Nothing but malfunctioning hormones." Which would explain why she responded to his kiss. Taking a deep breath, she crosses the street and enters the coffee shop. And the first person she runs into is Luke. Her stomach flutters. This canít be a good sign.
His gaze locks on her face and her heart starts racing.
Her throat suddenly turns thick, clogged. She swallows hard. "Can we talk?"
He nods and leads her upstairs.
"It was an impulse."
Lorelai stares at Luke, too dumbfounded at his audacity to speak. Of all the things she expected him to say about the kiss, this wasnít one of them. An impulse?
"A momentary lapse of insanity," he continues. "Sudden, short-lived and believe me, fleeting."
She resists the overwhelming urge to hit him. "It was an impulse?! YouÖ youÖ"
"I believe the word youíre looking for is jerk."
"You have some nerve!"
"Okay, Iíll admit. I got carried away with the kiss. And youíre right. I am a jerk."
She shakes her head in disbelief. Heís joking. He has to be joking. "All I can do is apologize."
She glares at him and reaches for the nearest object. He ducks in time. The paperweight misses his head by half an inch.
She turns to go.
His hands close around her waist, catching her before she takes a step.
She turns back around to face him, her eyes searching his.
Luke leans close. And they kiss. And kiss. And kiss.
"I have a major policy, you know," Lorelai tells him. "I never get involved with the person Iíve been buying coffee from for the last five years. Ruins the friendship."
"And I have no desire to get involved with anybody right now. I like my life the way it is."
She nods. "Okay. So letís just forget whatever this is between us."
Neither one of them moves.
"That was a goodbye kiss," she says. "Right?"
But by now they are kissing again.
Rory studies Dean as he lies on his stomach beside her on the bed, watching The Skulls. She lets her gaze wander over his tousled hair, his nose, his lips. Then she lets her gaze drift down, taking in his wide shoulders, his back, his-
"See anything you like?" he asks without looking at her.
Her chagrined gaze flies to the screen. "Well, Joshua Jackson definitely has potential."
His mouth quirks in a half-smile. "Thatís not what you were staring at."
"How would you know?"
"I can tell," he says with a laugh as he rolls to his back. "The fact that youíre turning a delightful shade of red is a dead giveaway,"
Before she could utter a witty comeback, he pulls her on top of him. She props her elbows on his chest. "What are you doing?"
"Admiring the view," he replies with a grin.
"See anything you like?" she quips jauntily.
He wriggles his eyebrows suggestively. "Oh, yeah."
Laughing, she gets off him. Then she reaches down and grabs his hand, pulling him to his feet. "Come on, Romeo. Walk me home. I still have to prepare for tonight."
"Just promise me you wonít go overboard, okay?"
"I wonít," she reassures him. "Scoutís honor."
"Thank you, Miss Patty. Thank you so much." Rory puts the phone down and takes a deep breath. Everything is set. Then she glances at her watch. Half past six. "Omigod." She quickly dashes to her bedroom, ripping the sweater over her head and tugging off her jeans. Shoes go flying as she runs to the bathroom. She emerges fifteen minutes later with her hair still wet and her slender body engulfed in a towel. She opens her closet and pulls clothes off their hangers, considering them then tossing them on the bed. Not able to find anything to wear, she heads for Lorelaiís bedroom.
Rory picks out a red velvet dress then starts frantically looking around the room for shoes to match. She finds a pair while stepping into the dress. She zips it up and then slips her feet into a pair of medium-heeled black strappy sandals. Next, she brushes her already dry hair, leaving it down. Leaning forward, she applies some lipstick and a dab of perfume. Then she takes a step back to stare at her reflection. Finally, she is ready.
"Wow! I bet Cinderellaís fairy godmother didnít work as fast."
Rory whirls around to find Lorelai standing by the doorway.
"I hope you donít mind," Rory says, referring to the dress and shoes.
"Not at all."
"So, what do you think?" She does a little pirouette.
Lorelai grins. "Honey, you are going to knock your boyfriend of his feet."
Rory giggles. "Thatís the plan."
They both hear a knock on the front door.
"Thatís probably Dean. I should go." She gives Lorelai a quick hug and leaves the room. A second later, she returns.
"Did you forget something?" Lorelai asks.
"When you left the house this morning, you were in a zombie-like trance. Now, you look like a little kid whoís been given the keys to a candy store. Whatís going on?" Rory asks suspiciously.
Lorelaiís mouth twitches slightly. "What makes you think somethingís going on?"
"Because youíve got that look."
"That Iíve-done-something-slutty look."
"I do not."
They hear Dean call Roryís name.
Lorelai tries to usher her daughter out of the room but to no avail.
"Itís a guy, isnít it?"
Lorelai doesnít answer.
Rory folds her arms in front of her. "Iím not leaving until you tell me who he is."
Still no feedback.
"Rory!" Lorelai counters with the exact level of impatience.
Dean calls Roryís name a second time.
"Youíd better go," Lorelai tells her. "Deanís waiting."
"Dean can wait."
"Excuse me, but werenít you the one who told me how important this date was?"
"Donít change the subject."
"Iím not changing the subject."
Out of the blue, Rory snaps her fingers. "Itís Luke, isnít it?"
Lorelai opens her mouth but no words come out.
"I knew it." Rory is grinning from ear to ear.
"How did you-" Lorelai couldnít finish the sentence.
"Oh, please. Iíve seen the way you look at each other when you think no oneís watching."
Lorelai looks at her daughter uncertainly. "So youíre okay with this?"
Rory answers her question with a question of her own. "Are you happy?"
Lorelaiís smile is filled with warmth and excitement. "Yes. Yes, I am."
Rory returns her smile/ "And thatís all that matters." Without another word, she blows her mom a kiss and leaves.
"No peeking," Lorelai warns Dean as she unlocks the door to Miss Pattyís now vacant dance studio. Then she takes his hand and leads him inside, closing the door behind them. "Okay, now you can look."
He removes the blindfold. He looks around and is completely taken aback.
Candles are lit all over the room. Soft, romantic music is playing faintly in the background. Rose petals litter the floor. And right in the center of the room is a table set for two.
He looks at her, his heart turning over at her gesture. "You didnít have to."
"Yes, I did."
"Because I love you," she says simply.
He runs a finger down her cheek, his eyes never leaving hers. "Just remember who said it first."
"Thereís something Iíve been meaning to ask you all night," Dean says after their candlelit dinner. He holds out his hand to her. "Will you dance with me?"
She smiles with pleasure. "I would love to."
Behind them, on the portable CD player, the singerís voice lifts effortlessly into the first bars of an intensely romantic song as she walks into his arms.
He slides his arms around her waist, moving her closer to him.
When I try to describe
How I feel when you hold me
I get butterflies, I hear lullabies
Itís hard to explain
Like the scent from a rose
Or the sound of the rain
Thatís too precious and too wonderful
To give it a name
Too beautiful for words
A symphony inside me
Too beautiful for words
I cannot take it lightly
Can you hear the sound of my heart?
Slowly, his hands slide up the side of her neck to tenderly cradle her face. Then he lowers his head until his lips cover hers.
Deanís mouth is warm and inviting and despite the fact that her feet are planted firmly on the ground, Rory feels as if she is floating. They pull apart then kiss once more, the lightest of kisses. And as they sway to the music, she rests her head against his shoulder and closes her eyes, never wanting the moment to end.
While waiting for Luke to arrive, Lorelai takes a pitcher of what appears to be fruit juice from the fridge and pours herself a drink. The taste is cold and sweet so she pours herself a second glass. She notices that she feels a little bit light-headed afterwards. She stares at the glass in her hand. What is this?
Just then a car pulls up in front of the house. The still unidentified beverage forgotten, she walks to the door.
"Hi," Luke says, flashing her a smile.
Lorelai canít stop looking at him. "Hi."
"Can I come in?"
"Of course. Iím sorry. Come in," she falters, stumbling in her haste to step aside. Suddenly feeling a little shy, self-conscious and very nervous, she makes a beeline for the kitchen and refills her glass. Once more, it tastes cool and refreshing. But her throat feels unusually dry. So she drinks yet another glass.
Hiding his exasperation, he closes the door and follows her. "Are you okay?"
"Iím fine, Iím fine. I guess Iím just nervous. I mean, here we are, crossing that line and well, itís a big deal."
"I know itís a big deal, Lorelai, and I completely-" But before he could finish his sentence, she trips and nearly topples over. He catches her shoulders to keep her from stumbling to the floor. "Are you drunk?"
She gives him a sour look. "Thatís a ridiculous question. All I had were four little, bitty glasses of fruit juice."
He takes a small sip. "Lorelai, if this is fruit juice then Iím Luke Skywalker."
"And the force is with you, Iím sure." Expelling her breath, she leans back against the counter and closes her eyes. Big mistake as the world takes a sharp and unexpected nosedive. She snaps her eyes open. "Oh my god," she whispers, holding both hands on the sides of her head.
"That bad, huh?"
"Uh, yes. Weíre not having an earthquake, are we?"
"At least 7.5 on the Richter scale?"
"No." He puts an arm around her and guides her to the living room. "Come on, fruit juice girl. Iíll make you some coffee."
Three hours later, Lorelai is well enough to walk Luke to his car. "Iím sorry about tonight. I wanted to make you dinner and I end up drunk from Sookiíeís leftover spiked fruit punch."
"Lorelai, itís okay. Weíll try again tomorrow."
"You wanna try again, huh? Luke, are you sure you know what youíre getting yourself into?"
"Whatís not to like? Youíre smart, youíre funny. Youíre attractive as hell and Iím crazy about you."
Lorelai is melting with tenderness but tries to disguise it with humor. "Wow! I must have hit you a lot harder than I thought."
"Of course, I donít mean to imply that youíre not stubborn, sarcastic and incredibly annoying at times," Luke adds with exasperated amusement.
"But you love me anyway," she teases.
"And vain and extremely conceited," he quips as she pulls him close, wrapping her arms around him.
"Luke," she says, lifting her head to kiss him, "shut up."
He is more than happy to oblige.
Several feet away, Dean and Rory look on at the embracing couple. Luke is kissing Lorelai as if he never intends to stop or let her go.
"Maybe we should give them a few more minutes," Dean suggests.
Rory sighs happily. "I donít think Luke will be leaving anytime soon."
"I donít think Lorelai will let him."
They both laugh softly. With one last glance, the young couple leave as quietly as they came.