disclaimer in part 1
Road Trip
by Megan Reilly
_ _ _

Part 3


They stood there, astounded, staring. "I can not believe that just
happened," Lorelai said.

"I can't believe he didn't even stop," Rory said, a small tremor in her
voice.

"I can," said Luke, moving to inspect the damage to the back end of the
Jeep.

"I got their license plate number," Emily said. "Lorelai, give me your
cell phone. I am calling the police right now. And then I'm calling the
auto club to get us out of this mess." She held out her hand
insistently. "Lorelai, please. This is no time to play games."

"I'm not playing games, Mom, I don't have a phone," Lorelai said.

"Who goes on a long drive without a cellular phone?" Emily demanded.

"You, apparently," Lorelai muttered.

"Don't think I didn't hear that," Emily said, turning to Luke.

He barely looked at her. "Radiation. Brain cancer."

"Of course," Emily said, turning away from them. "I should have known.
This is just perfect."

"Stop fighting!" Rory cried, surprising them all. "Nobody got hurt! It's
not like something bad happened. The car just broke down."

"Oh, baby," Lorelai said, reaching for Rory, who pulled away.

"You're the one who started this," Rory said to her mother. "I don't
know why you have to be so mean to each other all the time."

Lorelai looked unbearably sad and said nothing. Emily looked equally
guilty. Luke looked uncomfortable, as though realizing for the first
time that he was surrounded by women. Crazy ones. And maybe that wasn't
the best place for him to be.

"Rory, you know that when your grandma and I fight, it's because we have
a long history. And it doesn't mean that we always mean it. This is just
the way we are," Lorelai said.

"I don't want it to be the way things are," Rory told her.

Lorelai looked as though she knew she was treading on broken glass here,
and nodded, closing her mouth and walking around to the back of the car.
"Need some help?" she asked Luke.

"Put it in neutral. We can push it to the shoulder before more cars
come," Luke told her. Lorelai went to do what he said and Luke eyed
Emily. "You. Help me."

"I couldn't possibly --"

Luke grabbed Emily's hands and planted them on the back end of the car,
showing her how to push. He gave the Jeep a shove, watching Emily's
hands slip from the back of the car. Luke sighed and rolled his eyes.

"Car's coming!" Rory called a warning.

Luke looked at Emily warningly. "Look, lady, you're built like a horse
and I know you can do this --"

"Young man!" Emily said, offended.

"Push the damn car!" Luke ordered, and Emily did. With Luke's help, they
shoved it off the road onto the shoulder. He looked at her. "You okay?"

Emily nodded, slightly winded, but smiling.

"You okay, Grandma?" Rory asked.

"He said I was built like a horse," Emily said, but her tone was more
amused than offended now.

"You did a good job," Rory said.

"Thanks for sticking up for me, Rory," Emily said.

"I just get so tired of all the fighting all the time," Rory said. "I
know Mom thinks she's being clever, but ..."

"She does come up with a turn of phrase every now and then, doesn't
she," Emily admitted. "I wonder where she gets that from."

"I wonder," grunted Luke, brushing past them to check under the hood.

_ _ _

The Inn was running with military precision under the watchful eye of
General Michel. The grocery man dutifully carried boxes into the
ballroom from the lobby, clearing it out. There was already room for the
guests to walk. And the guests were beginning to arrive to check in for
that evening's event.

The harpist was checking them in with precision. They stood in an
absolutely straight line, and when one of them accidentally moved out of
formation, it took only one glare from the harpist-turned-desk clerk to
bring that person back to attention.

"What is that wonderful smell?" one of the arriving guests asked Michel,
who was directing traffic.

He sniffed the air haughtily. "I believe it is bread."

"You bake your own bread?" asked the guest.

"No, I do not personally bake bread," Michel told her. "However the cook
--"

The guest didn't care. "They bake their own bread!" she told her husband
excitedly, seizing his arm. "I love this place already!" They went to
join the tidy check-in line and Michel surveyed the room. He almost had
to smile to himself at how well things were going.

_ _ _

Lorelai leaned over Luke, who was leaning over the engine. "What do you
see?" she asked him.

He raised his head and looked at her. All he really saw was her. And he
didn't want to have to admit it, but since he was all about honesty, he
did. "I don't know a damn thing about car repair," he told her. "I run a
cafe. What do I know about engines?" He took a step back, wiping his
engine-greasy hands on his jeans. "I suppose that makes you think less
of me."

"You make the most wonderful coffee in the world. Why would I expect you
to be an auto mechanic?" Lorelai asked, leaning over the engine.

"You really think my coffee is good?" Luke asked.

But Lorelai didn't seem to hear him, because she was too busy exclaiming
"Ah-ha!" She looked at Luke, who didn't seem impressed when she held up
what looked like a flopping dead piece of plastic. "Ah-ha!" she
repeated, more loudly, for effect, holding the plastic thing over her
head triumphantly.

"Ah-ha!" Lorelai repeated insistently.

"I think mom found something," Rory said.

"What is that?" Emily asked.

"I think it's the creature from the deep," Rory said.

"It does look rather like an eel," Emily admitted. "Have you ever had
eel?"

"To eat?" asked Rory, shaking her head.

"Our cook, Florence, makes wonderful roast eel. We'll have it next
Friday," Emily said.

"Eew," Lorelai said pointedly. "But, ah-ha!"

"I'm guessing this is what's wrong with the car," Rory said, taking the
plastic from her mother and playing with it, shaping it into a circle,
placing the broken ends together. It was some kind of belt. "All we
need is some glue and we can put it back on."

"I suppose you're opposed to glue?" Lorelai asked Luke, who merely
nodded without saying a word. "Good, cause we don't have any."

"There has to be some way to fix this," Emily said, indicating the belt,
because she certainly wasn't going to touch it.

"We can use some chewing gum and some dental floss. Oh, why isn't
MacGuyver here to save us?" Lorelai intoned.

"There's no need to get sarcastic," Emily told her.

"Oh, there is every need," Lorelai said.

"Anyway, if you had a cellular phone like a civilized person, we could
call your friend MacGuyver and he could call the Auto Club," Emily said.

Rory snickered. Lorelai tried to hold back a laugh, but failed. After a
second, even Luke was laughing, and Luke never even smiled, let alone
laughed. "Oh, fine, the joke's on me," Emily said, but not
badly-spirited. Even a little jolly.

After a moment, the laughter subsided. Luke stared at the scarf tied
onto Emily's hat. "That silk?" he asked.

"Yes, thank you," Emily said as Luke walked toward her. She took several
steps backward when he got too close, but he kept coming. "Lorelai, your
strange friend is attacking me!"

"Hold still!" Luke ordered, planting his hands on Emily's shoulders. She
looked too afraid to move. Luke unknotted the scarf and whipped it from
her hat. "Let me see that," he told Rory, who handed him the broken
engine belt. He tied a knot in the scarf and compared it to the belt.
The size of the loop was exactly the same.

"Exploitation of silkworms?" Lorelai asked him when he handed the scarf
to her.

"Natural fibers. Tensile strength. Able to withstand heat," Luke told
her.

"You Tarzan. Me Jane. Jane no understand Tarzan jungle speak," Lorelai
said.

"I think he's saying you can use it to replace the belt in the engine,"
Rory said.

"Smart kid," Luke commented darkly.

"No!" cried Emily. "That's an Hermes original."

"Do you want to be stuck in the middle of nowhere and be eaten by bears,
Mom?" Lorelai demanded.

"Don't be silly. There aren't any bears. This is the interstate," Emily
said.

Lorelai rolled her eyes at Emily, took the scarf from Luke, and moved to
try to get the scarf-belt where it belonged.

_ _ _

"Finally!" said Michel at the sight of the part-time interior decorator
who also sold housewares at the local department store. She was the one
who was going to transform the boxes of bandages, bombs and GI Joe dolls
into a theme party in the ballroom. "Where have you been?"

The woman looked at him like he was insane. "Where's Lorelai?"

"She had a small emergency," Michel said. "I will help you."

"No, you won't," said the decorator. "Where are my supplies?"

"In the ballroom, like you asked," the grocery man arrived to report.
"All of them." He turned to Michel. "Look, can I go now? I said I was
coming here to make a delivery and that was hours ago."

"Dismissed," Michel said. The grocery man left, the decorator went into
the ballroom, and Michel returned to his post at the front desk, where
all the guests had been checked in and the harpist was paging through
his copy of House Beautiful. "That is my chair," he said.

"You're welcome," the harpist said sharply, vacating his chair and
stomping away. She went past her harp toward the door.

"Where are you going?" he demanded.

"Home. My shift's over. Get that for me, will you?" she fluttered a hand
toward the harp. Michel sighed, remembering their bargain, and got back
up from his chair.

_ _ _

"All fixed," Lorelai said, leaning back with a satisfied look. "There is
nothing like manual labor to make a girl feel like she's really
accomplished something." She smiled down at the engine, then shared the
look with Luke. There were streaks of grease all over her face, and her
hands were stained black.

"You've got a little --" he said.

Lorelai reached up to try to brush it away, but only made matters worse
because her hands were so dirty.

"Here," Luke said, pulling a packet of tissues out of his pocket.

"What is that?" Lorelai demanded.

Luke looked at it, then at her as though she'd gone insane. Oh, wait,
what was he thinking. This was Lorelai Gilmore. "Tissues," he said
gruffly.

"You carry a packet of tissues in your pocket?" Lorelai demanded. "Are
you secretly my grandmother?"

"You never know when you might need tissues," Luke said seriously,
moving in closer to dab Lorelai's face with it.

She jerked back. "Is that thing clean?"

"Your face is covered with motor oil. You think that's clean?" Luke
asked her, moving in again. They were standing very close and Lorelai
noticed he had a very odd look on his face. Almost as though he were in
pain. More so than usual. He touched her very gently with the tissue.

"Maybe I'd better do that," Lorelai suggested softly.

"Here." Luke said, bunching it up and shoving it into her dirty hand. He
stomped away and Lorelai gave him a long, hard look before she shut the
hood of the car and started cleaning herself up.

"Young man, what are you doing with that?" Emily cried as Luke pulled
the picnic basket from the back of the jeep and set it on the ground.
"That is an antique! Watch where you set it."

"Wood. Came from nature. Can't hurt it," Luke said gruffly as he
carelessly put the basket down in the grass off the shoulder of the road
and started digging for the spare tire.

"Lorelai, cats groom themselves that way," Emily said, catching her
daughter licking the tissue in her hand and then rubbing her face with
it. "I have Evian." She opened the picnic basket and started rummaging
through it until she found a small bottle of water, which she opened
using a bottle opener.

"Need any help?" Rory asked Luke, who had the spare tire and the jack
and was now confronted with how to remove the tire when the bent back
bumper was jammed into the tire. He looked at her. "We could use a
lever," she suggested. Luke nodded, and Rory found a piece of wood,
which they wedged under the bumper. With the two of them pulling, the
bumper popped off in no time, clattering to the paved shoulder.

"What was that?" Emily jumped from where was laying a table on an
embroidered tablecloth near the side of the road.

"Hold this," Luke said, putting the bumper into Lorelai's hands. She
just looked at it.

"You doing okay?" she asked, looking from Rory to Luke and back again.

"This I know how to do," Luke said.

"Me too," Rory added.

Lorelai nodded, and looked over at her mother, who was buttering bread
for their meal contentedly. She nodded, almost satisfied.

_ _ _

"Wow," breathed Sookie when she emerged from the kitchen to check out
the decorated ballroom. It had been transformed into something like a
movie set, with the cake at one end and the rest of Sookie's buffet laid
out along a long table. Round tables with olive green tablecloths filled
the rest of the room, each with a GI Joe centerpiece and place cards.
Bandage gauze had been used as streamers, adding to the whole
battlefield turned celebration effect.

"This is the definition of tacky," Michel sniffed.

"Something's missing," said the decorator, scanning the perfect room.

"Lorelai," said Sookie.

"Where did she go, anyway?" asked the decorator. "Is everything all
right?"

Michel rolled his eyes and Sookie nodded. "She just went to pick up the
centerpiece thing."

"That's what's missing," said the decorator. "The biplane reproduction."

"Where would you put it? There is barely room to walk," Michel
exaggerated. But he was right. The ballroom was exactly large enough to
hold the tables and nothing more.

"We could hang it from the ceiling," Sookie suggested helpfully, drawing
horrified looks from both the decorator and Michel.

"No," said the decorator. "Everything's perfect without it." She nodded,
turned out the lights, and the three of them left the ballroom, pulling
the door closed behind them and placing a "do not disturb" sign on the
door until the party was ready to start.

"Lorelai's going to be upset there's no room for the centerpiece when
she went to get it," Sookie said.

"I cannot wait to tell her," Michel said.

continue