I stretched languidly on the bed as fuzzy sounds, smells, and sensations entered my subconscious. As I awakened, I began to have this nagging sensation like something wasn't quite right. My pajamas, for example, felt strange. The bed sheets were unfamiliar. I became vaguely aware of the distant smell of bacon and heard strange clinking sounds, which were not typical morning smells or sounds in our house. I opened my eyes, trying to make sense of my surroundings. Suddenly, I realized where I was. I was in Luke's apartment. In his bed.
I looked down at what I was wearing and my heart started pounding like crazy. I was wearing what I could only assume was one of Luke's flannel shirts. Only a shirt, and my underwear.
"Oh god!" I gasped. What happened last night? I yanked the covers off and began hunting for my clothes, but I didn't see them anywhere. I frantically started looking around the room, searching for any evidence explaining what had happened the previous night - beer bottles or empty shot glasses - but the apartment looked relatively normal. My head felt clear and I wasn't hung over, so I quickly ruled out a drunken hook up. How did I end up here?
Closing my eyes tightly, I sifted through my memories to figure it out. From what I could remember, last night had been fairly routine. Rory and I had had a movie night, mocking a couple of romantic comedies and polishing off two boxes of Mallomars and a pint of Ben and Jerry's finest. Then, as far as I could recall, I had just gone up to bed. Maybe this is just a really vivid dream, I thought. I pinched my bare thigh as hard as possible, but the immediate pain didn't result in me waking up in my own bed. I began to panic. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed my purse on the kitchen table. Relieved to see something that was familiar, I picked it up and searched for my cell phone, flipped it open, and hit the speed dial for Rory.
"Hey Mom," she answered, sounding slightly out of breath.
"Hey Hon!" I replied, feeling anchored just by hearing her voice. "Do you have a minute?"
"Sure. My next class isn't for another 20 minutes, so I was gonna run by the coffee cart anyway."
"Wait, what?" Since when does Chilton have a coffee cart? "Why do you have such a big break between classes?"
"What do you mean, Mom? I only have one class on Wednesdays, and it starts at 10."
"One class?..." I shook my head quickly. "Whatever. That's not important right now. I'm having a crisis and I need your help. When are you getting home?"
"Um, I won't be able to go home this weekend. I've got some stuff to do for the paper and Paris and I were going to go to this tutoring workshop. I'll see you at Grandma and Grandpa's for Friday night dinner though, maybe we can talk about it then?"
"You won't be home tonight? Where are you sleeping?"
"Uhh, in my dorm at Yale, where I sleep every night?" Yale? Yale? I lost the ability to speak. All I could hear was my heart pounding in my ears, and my throat went dry. I took a couple of deep breaths. "Mom? Mom, are you there?" Rory's voice sounded far away. I tried to concentrate on her.
"Uhhh, yeah. I'm here. But I think I'm losing my mind." I quickly walked over to the bathroom, shut the door, and slid down the wall until I was sitting on the floor. The feel of the cool tile against my bare legs was welcoming, and I was relieved to feel something sturdy underneath me. "Rory, there is some crazy Twilight Zone stuff happening to me right now."
"Okay, Mom. I have like 15 minutes. Can you give me the Cliff's Notes and we'll talk more later tonight?"
"Oh god, Rory. So you're at Yale?"
"Um, yes. Where else would I be?" I didn't bother to answer. I was thinking out loud, trying to piece together the mystery of this morning and this absurd situation.
"Listen. I woke up this morning in Luke's apartment, wearing nothing but what I'm guessing is one of his shirts." I could hear Rory groaning on the other end of the line.
"Aw, Mom, you promised me that you wouldn't give me any dirty details once you and Luke started dating."
"So you know about this?" I demanded. "You're not surprised?"
"You are starting to freak me out. Of course I know about this." I glanced around the bathroom, noticing for the first time that there was a variety of my toiletries next to the sink.
"My stuff is in here!" I gasped. "I'm dating Luke?"
"Where have you been for the last 4 months? Are you okay? Did you hit your head or something?"
"Maybe. I don't know. Are you sure you can't come home soon? New Haven isn't that far. This is an emergency, Rory, and I need you." Rory was silent for a few minutes, probably trying to decide if whatever she had going on was able to be postponed.
"Yeah, I can come for a few hours tonight," she said finally.
"So what do I do in the meantime? Do I tell Luke that I don't remember anything or do I try to fake it?"
"Fake it. At least until we can talk it out."
"Okay, okay." I took another deep breath. "One more thing!" I said quickly, before Rory could hang up the phone. "Do you know where I might find my clothes?"
After finding a drawer filled with my clothes - I had my own drawer! - I dressed quickly, praying that today was my day off from the inn. Taking several deep breaths, I prepared to go downstairs into the diner and face Luke. I had never felt so nervous in my entire life. I was about to face Luke, after being reasonably certain that he had seen me naked. At the bottom of the stairs, I took another fortifying breath, fixed a smile on my face, and walked through the curtain.
The diner looked pretty normal for a weekday morning around 10am. There were a few tables filled, and Kirk was at the counter flipping through some papers and picking at some weird sort of sandwich. I saw no sign of Luke and began to breathe easier. I intended to walk right out the door and go home, trying to give myself some time to hole up in my house and hope that I wasn't going completely insane. Halfway across the diner, Luke came out of the kitchen.
"Hey! You're up!" he said, a huge smile on his face. Oh god. That was an incredible smile. Had I never seen that smile before? I stopped mid-stride, speechless. A concerned look flitted across his face. "Everything okay?" he asked. I recovered, smiling brightly.
"What do you want to eat?" he asked, resting his palms on the counter. Eat? Crap. He's expecting me to stay and eat. I can't say no, I never say no to food. I have to order something.
"Pancakes!" I blurted out. "With bacon." He nodded, already turning to pour me a cup of coffee as I sat at the counter, several stools away from Kirk. The smell was heavenly, and I was glad that even though I seemed to have ended up in a relationship with Luke overnight and Rory somehow skipped her senior year at Chilton that something was still the same. "So, where's Jess?" I asked, trying to make casual conversation. He couldn't have spent the night if Luke and I were upstairs doing God-knows-what. He turned with my cup and arched a brow at me.
"Hell if I know," he replied. "Why do you ask?"
"Just curious," I said. I took a fortifying sip of the coffee.
"Last I saw him, he was in New York, living in a junk pile posing as an apartment." I choked on my drink. "Hey, you okay?"
"Yeah, fine. Fine." I tried to compose myself. "Do you have a newspaper?" I asked, looking around the counter. I was starting to think that maybe I'd been in some sort of coma for God knows how long. Maybe instead of walking pneumonia, I had been in a walking coma. Or abducted by aliens. At that point, anything seemed possible. He rummaged around the back counter, and picked up a sheaf of newsprint.
"Yeah, here." He handed them to me, and our fingers brushed. I felt an electric spark, and had to bite back a gasp. I looked up and smiled, my default expression for getting through this unbelievable morning. He smiled back, warmly. "I'm gonna go make your food," he said, then he turned and disappeared into the kitchen. I squeezed my eyes shut, took a breath, and then looked at the paper.
There it was in black and white.
2005. January 5th, 2005. Oh god. Oh god. I had missed 2 years somehow. I put down the paper, and picked up my mug with two hands, staring at the No Cell Phones sign, wishing it would somehow make everything make sense again. I missed Rory's high school graduation. I missed Jess moving away. I missed getting with Luke. I wondered what else I had missed. I would have to get Rory to take me through the last 2 years, minute by minute.
"So, I thought I could make you dinner tonight," Luke said, carrying my plate out of the kitchen. He placed it in front of me, and without thinking I closed my eyes and breathed in the smell of the food. Well, at least he could still cook a damn fine breakfast. When I opened my eyes, Luke was looking at me, a sexy half smile on his face. I blushed, then picked up my fork and began to eat. How had I not known that In-A-Relationship Luke was so sexy? "What do you think?" he asked, looking at me expectantly. I froze. He was waiting on me for an answer, but I couldn't remember the question because his smile had distracted me. Seeing the confused look on my face, he gestured with his hand. "Dinner? Tonight?" Ah! Right. Dinner.
"Uh, actually, I have plans with Rory tonight." He seemed surprised by this, so apparently Rory coming home in the middle of the week was strange. I filed that away for future reference, and tried to come up with a plausible reason that didn't involve me suddenly having lost my mind and needing my daughter to come home and sort me out. "She, uh, she can't come home this weekend and she had some time tonight, so we decided to have an impromptu girls' night," I said quickly, hoping it sounded like something approximating sense. He nodded, and I relaxed, glad he was buying this excuse.
"Is she spending the night?" he asked then, looking at me with an expression that clearly was akin to bedroom eyes. Oh my god, Luke is giving me bedroom eyes! My heart started pounding again, and I tried frantically to make words come out of my mouth.
"I, uh, I don't know," I said, which was the truth, although I assumed since Rory probably had classes the next day, she wouldn't be. Unless over the past two years, Rory had stopped being super student. I really hoped not, but nothing else seemed normal so I wasn't going to rule it out. "Probably not."
"Well, call me later," he said, smiling that smile again, the one that was driving me crazy.
"Definitely," I replied, going back to my breakfast. The next several minutes passed in silence, as I ate my food and he moved around the diner, taking orders and refilling drinks. It was a comfortable silence, and for a moment it felt like everything was normal. Then I remembered the inn. "Hey, Luke?" I asked, as he came back to stand behind the counter. He set the coffee pot down and looked at me, waiting expectantly for me to continue. "I can't remember if I have to be at the inn today or not," I said, smiling sheepishly. "Do you happen to remember?"
The concerned look was back. "No, you took today off," he answered, his eyes narrowing. I breathed out in relief.
"Ah, good!" I said, setting down my fork onto my now empty plate. "That's what I thought, but I wanted to double check and make sure I hadn't mixed up the days." He was still looking at me like he wasn't sure what to do with me. I smiled again, trying to deflect the awkwardness of the situation. I was mostly just relieved that I had at least one day to figure out what the hell was going on with me. "I need to go to Doose's and get supplies for tonight," I chirped, trying to distract him from my uncertainty of a few minutes ago.
"O-kay," he said slowly, still watching me carefully. He picked up the plate. "See you later?"
"Yeah, I'll come in later," I answered, grabbing my purse, and then walking towards the door. "Bye!" I said over my shoulder, as I practically flew out the door, heading toward Doose's. I didn't look back. I didn't want to see that confused expression on his face.
Once inside Doose's, I grabbed a basket and started absently tossing junk food into it. Our girls' night tradition was so second nature to me that I was on autopilot. My mind was racing. I couldn't even begin to make sense of it all. Once the basket was full, I made my way to the check out, and put my items on the counter. Dean was there, bagging groceries.
"Hey, Dean," I greeted him. He refused to look at me.
"Hi," he mumbled. I was confused. I knew he and Rory had broken up, but I figured more than two years later, things would be less awkward. Oh well, I guess not. I tried to shake it off, paying the total, and taking my bags. While walking back towards my house, I was looking around, trying to see if anything else was different in the two years that I had been not in my body. A horrible thought occurred to me. What if I had been body-snatched and done some really terrible things? Who knows what else I might have horribly screwed up in the last 2 years? The panic began to bubble up again, and I picked up the pace.
I unlocked the front door, and placed the bags in the kitchen. I looked around. Things looked pretty normal. Nothing seemed weirdly out of place. I peeked inside Rory's bedroom, and saw that our Harvard wall was now grey and blue, bedecked in Yale swag. I felt a pang of sadness, for some reason. I wondered if maybe she hadn't gotten into Harvard, and she had chosen Yale out of grief. Filing yet another question away for later, I walked up the stairs and into my bedroom. Aside from being slightly neater than normal, it seemed pretty much the same. I guessed that if Luke was spending occasional nights here, I probably had been trying to keep it cleaner. The thought that we had been together in my room made me feel a tightening in my gut. It was against the rules that I had set up with Rory; I never brought my dating life home. But Rory was at Yale now. God, this was hard to take all at once. Suddenly, I felt exhausted. I curled up on my bed and shut my eyes, hoping that I would wake up and go back to the way things were, with Rory still living at home and everything making sense again.
"Mom! I'm home!"
I startled awake, looking around. Seeing that I was in my room, on my bed, filled me with a huge sense of relief. It had all been a weird, weird dream. "Upstairs, sweets!" I yelled back, shifting to a sitting position. I heard footsteps on the stairs, and then Rory came inside. Looking at her, I realized that it probably hadn't been a dream. "Rory?" I whispered, looking at her. My daughter, looking slightly more grown up, with a shorter and more stylish haircut, and having grown at least an inch or two, stood before me. She came forward, and obviously seeing my expression, enveloped me in a hug.
She pulled back. "You okay?" she asked, looking into my eyes.
"Oh, I don't know, kid," I answered, looking toward the ceiling. "I feel like I've just woken up and my life is totally different. I'm losing my mind." She sat on the bed next to me, and tucked her hair behind her ears. The familiarity of that movement made me relax. I smiled at her. Even though I had somehow missed so much, she was still Rory. My Rory. She looked relieved to see me smiling. Her expression got serious, and I could tell she was shifting into journalist mode.
"Okay, so before this morning, what is the last thing that you remember?"
"Okay." I shifted on the bed, too, getting comfortable. "I remember that we decided to do a Meg Ryan chick flick movie marathon. I think we decided to do You've Got Mail and... oh, what's that other one?"
"There are a lot of chick flicks starring Meg Ryan, Mom, you are going to have to narrow it down for me."
I looked at her, exasperated. She motioned for me to continue. "I think it was that one with Matthew Broderick?"
"Addicted to Love? But we haven't watched that in years!"
"Yeah, two years to be exact," I replied.
"You-you can't remember the last two years?" she gasped, her eyes wide. I hung my head, looking at the seam in my jeans. "Oh god, Mom, that's really bad."
"I know!" I groaned, throwing my hands up in the air. "This is really bad! I just woke up this morning, and suddenly my pride and joy is off to Yale - not Harvard, Yale - and I'm dating Luke! Luke!" I covered my eyes with my hands, making a noise half between a yell and a groan. "I must be going insane. I've finally cracked, after all these years."
"Did you hit your head last night?"
"I don't know! And I couldn't ask Luke without causing him to be even more suspicious!"
"What did you say to him? How did it go?"
"Well," I started, "I got dressed and went downstairs, and I was really nervous because I had no idea what to expect. I mean, I know Luke is a private kind of guy, but I didn't know if Relationship Luke was suddenly all about PDA or something -"
"He's not," Rory interrupted.
"Thank god for that," I replied. "Anyway, he was in the kitchen when I came down, so I had planned to just sneak out and come here, hopefully to try and process everything, but he came out and asked me what I wanted to eat. I couldn't tell him I wasn't hungry - "
"Yeah, that would have been a major red flag."
"Definitely. So I ordered pancakes, and while he's pouring my coffee I asked him where Jess was."
"Oh, you didn't?" Rory looked sympathetic, like she knew it was bad topic to bring up.
"Was that a mistake?" I asked. "He told me he was in New York, and he didn't really say much more than that. Wait, did he break your heart?" I asked suddenly, realizing what I was saying.
"Yeah, but that was awhile ago," she said, waving her hand like it was no big deal.
"Aw, hon," I said, holding out my arms to hug her. She leaned into the hug, although she was smiling.
"It's okay, Mom, really. It was right before I graduated from Chilton."
"Yeah, I missed that," I said, wistfully. "I missed everything."
"You were there, Mom," Rory said, still with my arms around her. She looked up at me, her smile big and happy. "You don't remember, but you were 100% there."
"Good," I said, hugging her tighter. "Good." We sat there in silence for a few moments. "Okay, I bought tons of junk food. Let's go downstairs and you can fill me in on everything I've missed since that fateful Meg Ryan double feature."
Twenty minutes later, Rory and I were ensconced on the couch. Our junk food bounty was spread on the coffee table, and we were each holding a steaming cup of coffee. I took a big drink, then looked over at her. "Okay, let's get started," I said.
"Where do you want to begin?" she asked, reaching for the Red Vines. I thought for a moment.
"Let's start with Luke," I said. "I'm going to need to see him sooner rather than later, and so I need to be prepared. You said we have been together for 4 months?"
"Yeah, it started on the night of the test run," she said.
"Oh yeah, you don't remember. You and Sookie reopened the Dragonfly Inn." I gaped at her, my jaw dropped and eyes wide.
"The Dragonfly? What about the Independence?" I asked.
"It-it, uh, it burned down," Rory said, looking down into her mug sadly. I felt tears spring to my eyes. Our inn, our first home, I thought sadly. Burned to the ground? "Sorry, Mom," she whispered.
"Oh honey, it's not your fault. You just need to remember I'm hearing about all of this for the first time, I need to take it all in." I took a deep breath, and then another drink of my coffee. "Okay, so the test run."
"Yeah, I don't know all the details, obviously," she gave me a pointed look before continuing, "but there was apparently some kind of argument about Jason being there and Grandma and Grandpa and I guess Luke was frustrated that he was giving you all of these signs and you weren't noticing. And then you kissed, and Kirk interrupted it."
"Of course Kirk interrupted it. It wouldn't be my life unless Kirk interrupted a life-changing moment." Rory and I shared a knowing smile. "So, go on."
"Okay, so Luke had to go to Maine for 7 weeks after that because Liz and TJ got into a car accident and he had to help them out."
"Liz and TJ?"
"His sister and brother-in-law."
"I didn't know his sister was married."
"Oh yeah, your technical first date with Luke was at their wedding. It was a few weeks before the test run."
"So wait, did we start dating before the test run, then? I'm really confused." Rory closed her eyes and took a deep breath. We both took a break to open a box of Oreos, and I handed her one while I took another. Rory continued after she finished chewing.
"So, the morning after the wedding, you told me that you thought you might be dating Luke, but you weren't sure. I guess you went to the wedding together and you waltzed -"
"Luke can waltz?"
"Apparently so. You had that exact tone when you told me about it, too. May I continue?" She gave me an exasperated look. I stuffed another cookie in my mouth and motioned for her to go on. "So, you waltzed and you were confused because he hadn't come out and said anything definitive, and I guess that is part of what led to the argument at the test run." I nodded, contemplating. Something she said before came back to me.
"Wait, what about this Jason person?"
"Oh god." Rory shook her head, apparently trying to shake the memories around or something. I looked at her, arching an eyebrow. "You were dating Jason Stiles for a few months." I gagged on my mouthful of cookie, before using my sleeve to cover up my less than graceful manners.
"I did what?" She looked at me, an amused expression on her face.
"Oh yeah, and you hid it from Grandma and Grandpa the whole time. They were not happy when they found out." A look came over her face suddenly, and she looked sad. "By the way, Grandma and Grandpa are separated."
"This is way too much to take in all at once," I sighed. "Let's just get back to Luke. So we kissed the night of the test run, then he went to Maine, and obviously, we picked up from there?"
"Yeah, you went on a date to some tavern that he frequents a lot. He showed you this horoscope that you apparently gave him the first time you met."
"I did? I don't remember this."
"Yeah, I guess you told him to give you coffee and he wouldn't, and you wrote on this horoscope something like 'You will meet an annoying woman, give her coffee and she'll go away'."
"And he kept it?" I stared at Rory, and she looked back at me. I wished I could remember something, anything. "Are we - Am I happy?" I asked finally.
"Yeah," she said softly, taking a drink of her coffee. "Really, really happy."
I watched Rory back out of the driveway in her Prius, both unbelieving that my parents bought her a car and reeling from everything she had just told me. I sighed. We had spent a couple of hours devouring junk food and talking about the last few months. But now I needed to see Luke. I needed to know first hand all of the things that she had told me. It was only 8pm, so I knew the diner would still be open. I put on my boots and coat, grabbed my purse, locked the door, and then walked to the center of town, hands in my pockets, and looking down at my feet.
"Lorelai!" I heard a voice call out as I passed by the dance studio.
"Hey Patty!" I called out, waving.
"How are you doing, darling? Keeping that man of yours happy?" She gave me a bawdy wink. I blushed. Of course the entire town was invested in this relationship. I bet they had practically thrown a party when they found out.
"You know it," I responded, trying to walk faster without seeming like I was trying to get away.
"All of the eligible ladies are dying to know details, sweetie, you shouldn't keep it all to yourself." Oh god. It was hard to do this playful banter thing when I was preoccupied by whatever was about to happen once I got inside the diner. Instead, I smiled brightly and tapped my forehead.
"Sorry, Patty. It's like Fort Knox in here. No sharing from me." She smiled back, and I waved her off. "Gotta go, see ya later!" I hurried the last few steps and opened the door. Luke looked up from the counter and smiled.
"Hey!" he said. "I wasn't expecting you so soon." I slid onto the stool in front of the register.
"Yeah, Rory had to get back." He held up a mug and I smiled, nodding affirmatively. He poured the coffee and then leaned over the counter. I stared blankly for a few seconds, then realized he was expecting me to kiss him. I quickly leaned forward and pecked him on the lips lightly. If he thought it was strange, he didn't react. I, however, was having a hard time not reacting to the burning sensation lingering where our lips had met. I tried to smile, hoping it didn't look too much like a grimace.
"You girls have fun?" he asked, pushing the mug towards me.
"Yeah," I replied, bringing the mug to my tingling lips, hoping the coffee would soothe some of the intensity, and also trying to buy myself some time. I honestly didn't know what I was doing. Was I supposed to let him take me upstairs and just play along? I felt like I was the other woman, and Luke was cheating on his girlfriend with me. Except, technically, I was the girlfriend, too. It didn't seem right to take advantage of him just to sate my curiosity. "Hey, Luke?"
He looked up from his receipts, and fixed his gaze on me. "Yeah?"
"Can I see the horoscope?" He rolled his eyes. I guess I must have asked him this a time or two before. "Please?" I gave him a sweet, borderline flirty, smile. He reached behind and pulled his wallet from his back pocket.
"You need to give it a rest," he muttered. "It's not the big deal you are making it out to be." He handed me the scrap of paper, carefully folded in half. I opened it, barely breathing. There it was, in black and white newsprint - just like the date I saw on this morning's paper - except my handwriting in blue ink was scrawled over it. I stared at it, hardly believing it, despite seeing it with my own eyes. "Yeah, yeah," he continued, not noticing my uncharacteristic silence, "you're my Ava Gardner, etc." He held out his hand for me to return it to him. Wordlessly, I handed it over. It hit me then, the full enormity of this situation I had woken up to. Luke's feelings for me were not something I could brush off. The idea of hurting this man was never appealing - our stupid fight after Rory broke her wrist was proof enough to me how awful that was - so breaking it off was not an option. He then noticed how quiet I was being. "You okay?" he asked, shoving his wallet back into its proper place.
I shook my head, trying to get back to some kind of equilibrium. "Fine," I said, trying to steady my emotions. "Just hungry. Could I have a cheeseburger with onion rings?" Another bright smile. I felt a stab of guilt, both for trying to pretend and for not pretending well enough. He smiled again, that sexy half smile I remembered from earlier in the day.
"Glad to see your desire for early death is unabated," he quipped, then ducked into the kitchen. I began to play with my cup, pushing it back and forth between my hands, when he immediately came out of the kitchen. "Caesar's back there, and it's kinda dead. Why don't you head upstairs? I'll bring your food up and Caesar can finish closing." And then my heart began to pound again. Me and Luke, alone in his apartment? Oh god. But I knew I had to say yes. There was no way I could come up with a plausible excuse in a matter of seconds. Words were impossible, so I just smiled and nodded, grabbing my purse, and heading up the stairs.
I left my purse on the kitchen table, and then dropped myself roughly onto the couch. I figured since I was spending nights here, I probably tended to make myself pretty comfortable, so I grabbed the remote and began channel surfing, if only to get my mind off of what Luke had intended for the evening. I didn't want to think about what decisions I was going to be up against. How could I refuse him, after he had laid his heart so bare in front of me? And how could I say yes when I hadn't even considered a real relationship with him until that morning? Not because he was unattractive. No, any red-blooded woman could see that. And he was a good man and a great friend. I hadn't let myself go there mostly because I didn't believe he wanted it. Luke wasn't shy. I figured if he had wanted to date me, he would have taken any of the myriad opportunities that presented themselves to ask me out. I sincerely thought he was annoyed by my constant chatter and repulsed by my taste in food. But all this time, he had been saving that horoscope. And Rory had said we were happy.
The TV proved to be a poor distraction, because I was lost in my thoughts when Luke came upstairs, carrying a burger for me and some kind of sandwich for himself. He set the plates down on the coffee table in front of me, then grabbed two beers from the fridge. He handed one to me and I took a big drink. I needed fortifying to get through this, and coffee just wasn't strong enough. He sat next to me, and gestured toward the TV. "Really? This?"
"What?" I asked defensively. "This is quality television!" It was some reality TV contest show, one that I didn't recognize, so I assumed it was new. Well, new in the past two years that I had been mentally MIA. He gave me his patented Luke Danes exasperated look. Inwardly, I was slightly thrilled. This was the Luke I recognized. Just like hearing Rory's voice on the phone earlier, it relaxed me. It was familiar and welcome, especially since almost everything else that day had not been. I smiled at him then, probably the first real smile he had seen from me all day. I could tell it was affecting him. He seemed relaxed too, as though he had been nervous about something. Another stab of guilt, and I turned my attention to my burger.
We ate in silence, watching the TV. After I ate my last onion ring, I couldn't hold it in. "Why do you want to be with me?" I blurted out. I cringed immediately, wishing I had more carefully thought through what I wanted to say. I slowly turned my head toward him, and he was just staring at me. I couldn't read his expression, and I began to worry. So I started babbling, like I always do when I feel out of control. "I mean, I always thought, you know, before, that you were annoyed by me and disgusted by all the crap that I eat, and my incessant talking and pop culture references, and -"
"Lorelai!" he said firmly. I shut up, meeting his eyes. His look had softened slightly, and a slight smile played at his lips. I waited, trying to breathe normally, but finding it increasingly difficult as the seconds ticked by. He closed his eyes briefly, and sighed. When he opened them, he set down his plate, and then reached for my hands. His touch caused my breathing to become erratic, but I tried as hard as possible to hide it. It became even harder as his thumbs softly caressed my palms, but I bit my lip in order to stifle any sounds that might burst from my mouth. It felt so unbelievably good for him to touch me like that, and I was having a really hard time not throwing myself at him. But in order to continue on with this, I needed to know. "Is this why you've been acting weird all day?" he asked softly, looking at me closely. I couldn't speak, not while his hands were on mine, so I nodded. He sighed again. "Look, I'm not good at this talking thing," he began. "So just listen until I finish, okay?" I nodded again. He glanced toward the TV then back to me, while I waited, trying to focus on his forthcoming words and not on the touching.
"When I first met you, I wasn't a very happy person. Rachel was on her way out and the death of my dad was kind of fresh, you know? The diner was just getting off the ground. And then, you burst in, and you were like no one else. At first, yeah, you made me crazy. I hated it when you called me Duke." I looked down, slightly embarrassed for a moment, suddenly hating how petty I had been. He squeezed my hands and I returned my gaze to his. "But I got to know you better, and I saw more of what made you, you. You were working your way up from nothing, you left a comfortable lifestyle to make your own way for yourself and Rory, and that really made an impression. You were - are - so full of life and joy and I guess you brought some of that to my life." He cleared his throat, and looked somewhat bashful. Luke, being bashful? I never would have believed it. "So yeah, you make me a little crazy. But I kind of like it." He shrugged then, and looked at me with a playful leer. "And you look amazing in those tight jeans." A laugh burst out of me then. It was so strange to hear Luke admit to something like that, but I had to admit, I really liked it, too. He pulled me closer to him then, his arm wrapped around me and the other hand still holding one of mine. "Does that help?"
"You have no idea," I replied, snuggling into him slightly. I felt his fingers in my hair, gently tugging and weaving, like we sat on this couch just like this all the time. And maybe we did. I was so comfortable in that moment, I wanted to live in it forever. Then the tension in the room began to shift, as I felt his breath near my temples. My heartbeat quickened. He pressed his lips to the side of my head, and I knew it was time to make a decision. I looked up at him, and his lips were on mine. After that, all sense of logical reasoning left me.
His body turned toward me, one hand on the small of my back pulling me closer, and the other cradling my head, his fingers still twisted into my hair. His tongue gently teased my bottom lip, and, unthinking, I parted my lips in invitation. I felt consumed by his desire, my body throbbing in response to his hands and his tongue. My eyes were closed and I surrendered to him. It wasn't only raw desire - I could feel genuine adoration in his caress, in the gentle way he was exploring my body and the soft, unhurried manner in which he was kissing me. It was like there was no expectations for more, like he was perfectly happy holding me against him and pressing his lips to mine. I pushed his hat off his head, sweeping my fingers through his hair.
"Do you want to go to bed?" he asked huskily, shifting his lips to my jaw and neck, placing soft kisses in a line.
"Guh," I murmured, unable to form coherent words as he continued kissing and caressing me. He kissed me softly on my lips, then stood up, pulling me up with him. My legs were wobbly from desire, and he held me firmly against his hard body. His embrace pulled me into direct contact with his groin, and his obvious arousal turned my brain to mush. He kissed me again, and began to walk me backwards toward the bed. I held on to his forearms, afraid that if I let go I would collapse into a puddle on the floor. My limbs felt liquid and my skin was on fire.
As we reached the bed, he sat down and pulled me onto his lap. Despite layers of clothing between us, I could feel how hard he was even more in this position. I was unable to stop myself from moaning. His hands moved to my ass, and he gripped it firmly, his kisses becoming more passionate. I clung to his shoulders, pressing myself even more tightly against him. With a flourish, he flipped me back onto the mattress, hovering above me. His hand found the hem of my tee shirt and his fingers brushed against my bare stomach. I began to work on the buttons of his flannel shirt, unable and unwilling to stop. He gently palmed one breast, brushing his thumb over the lace-covered nipple. I pushed his flannel shirt over his shoulders and pulled on the tee shirt that was tucked into his jeans. He sat back on his heels, pulling both shirts off before he bent over to push my shirt up. Before I could even realize it, his hand slipped under me and unclasped my bra. He pushed the fabric, bunching it around my neck, and took my nipple into his mouth, swirling his tongue around it. The warm sensation sent a spark all the way down my body, and my hands fell limply at my sides. He shifted his attentions to my other nipple, and I hummed in approval. Slowly, he pushed my shirt and bra up, and I pulled myself up holding on to his shoulders to help him ease it off. As he lowered me slowly back on to the pillow, his eyes swept over my body.
"I still can't believe it sometimes," he whispered reverently.
"What?" I whispered back, drinking in the sight of his bare chest and the barely contained desire in his eyes.
"That you're here. That I get to do this. Be with you. After all this time." For a moment, I felt like I couldn't breathe. If I hadn't already been convinced to keep my faulty memory a secret before, this sealed it. There was no way I could backtrack now. He leaned over again, and my nipples brushed against his chest. Another long and passionate kiss followed, ours tongues dancing together in a way that felt so incredible and so right. He began to press kisses down my neck, between my breasts, and down my stomach. I weakly reached out, weaving a finger through his hair, but all my strength was leaking out of my body. He unbuttoned my jeans and began to kiss my hips as he pulled them down. His fingers brushed against the edges of my panties, sending electric shocks of pleasure up my body to the crown of my head. He sat back again, pulling my jeans off. I laid on the bed staring up at him as he leaned forward again, his hands skimming up my legs. He pushed them apart slightly and began to kiss my inner thighs.
"Oh, Luke," I moaned, my eyes closing. I felt him pull off my panties slowly. I felt warm breath between my legs and realized what he was about to do. "Wait!" I said, reaching forward and pulling on his arms.
He looked up, confusion on his face. He looked so sweet in that moment, almost boyish. He probably did this for me all the time, but I didn't want our first time together to be like that. Well, the first time according to my memory.
"I just want to be connected to you," I whispered. He smiled then, shifting his body over me. He pushed down his pants and boxers, and toed off his shoes. I could feel his erection against my stomach as he leaned over me, kissing me again. I reached my arms around him, pulling him closer. Just the feeling of him inside of me, little by little, was enough to push me over the edge. "Yes, oh yes!" I hissed, my fingers gripping his shoulders, the pleasure unfurling from my pelvis and spreading to all my nerve endings.
"Wow," Luke breathed. He paused and looked at me. I blushed, smiling shyly. "You don't usually..." he trailed off.
"That quickly?" I asked. He shook his head. I kissed him. "More," I urged, reaching to his ass and pulling him toward me. Slowly, he began to move, slowing even more to kiss my lips, jaw, and neck, occasionally swirling his tongue on my skin. It wasn't long before I felt another climax beginning, slowly spreading throughout my body in gentle waves. I moaned his name, arching my back into him. He took the opportunity to lave my breast with his tongue again. "So good," I panted, as the climax abated.
"So good," Luke agreed hoarsely, picking up the pace. He pushed himself up, gripped my hips, and began to move quickly, and his breathing grew more labored. He thrust into me, positioning himself just right and I cried out in ecstasy. I could feel his climax building until he burst, his body shuddering. His thumb moved to my clit and he circled it firmly until I was joining him with yet more waves of pleasure. He lowered himself, his movements gradually slowing as he leaned on his forearms, my head between them.
"Lorelai," he choked out, kissing up from my neck to my lips, still pulsing inside of me. I cradled his head in my hands, soothing him down from our high. We held each other for a few moments, my hands weaving through his hair and his lips placing soft kisses on my cheek and jaw, until he pulled back.
Still breathing hard, Luke flopped onto his back beside me.