Lorelai knew she just needed to just bite the bullet and call the diner to place the food order for Rory's graduation party. She started dialing the number several times but never let the call go through, nervousness preventing her from hanging on long enough to hear his voice. There had been no mention or acknowledgement of her late night phone call. She'd gone to the diner a few times, always for coffee to go, never staying long enough to exchange more than quick pleasantries. As the days passed with no response from him, she grew more and more certain that it was over. Their time had passed. The hat was a fluke. He was probably over her, so wearing it just wasn't as painful anymore. The thought made the ache inside her even stronger.
A few days after Rory's graduation ceremony, she stopped into the diner for coffee and decided to go for it then. "Hey, Luke?" she began hesitantly. His head jerked up from the task he was doing, and something unreadable passed over his face before returning to neutral.
"Yeah?" he asked, pressing his palms to the counter and looking at her directly.
She felt undone by having his complete attention on her, but forged ahead. "You may have heard I'm throwing a graduation party for Rory in the town square on Saturday," she said.
"Uh, yeah, I heard something about it," he replied.
"Would you mind placing an order for some hot dogs and burgers? I want enough food for everyone. I'm expecting a decent crowd."
"Sure," he said, nodding. "No problem."
She let out a nervous laugh, feeling slightly relieved. It was the most they'd spoken since her outburst over the phone, and it was good to have it over with. Maybe this was right, maybe it was time to finally let go of any hope she had that they would fix things romantically. "Great," she said, grabbing her coffee and walking out the door.
It was easier to focus on work than on things between him and Lorelai. After she'd asked him to order the food for Rory's party, he'd quickly gone into business mode, checking the store room and his walk-in cooler. In a stroke of luck, Charlie from Wholesale Grocery dropped by that afternoon and he was able to give him the order right away. Now that the weather was warming up and school was out for the summer, business was picking up again, and it gave him a welcome distraction from the problem he was facing.
Liz came in and started pestering him all over again about the necklace. He shot her down quickly. He wasn't going to give her or anyone else an inch about it until he knew himself. He was going to have to come up with some way to lay it all out there, to make sure that he knew exactly where Lorelai stood on the subject of them before he admitted to anything. He was still trying to think of some way that he could show Lorelai exactly how he felt about her, but he was coming up empty. The necklace alone wasn't enough. He'd realized after her phone call that they needed to clear the air between them. He just wanted to do it in a way that would work best in his favor. Their run-in in front of the diner the night that Logan proposed was proof that he couldn't work off the cuff. He needed to prepare, he just didn't know where to start.
Lorelai had become a really good actress over the past couple of years. She'd hid her devastation over Rory's affair with Dean from everyone. She'd pretended things were fine when she'd been pushed away over April. She'd acted like she wanted to be with Chris well enough that he'd asked her to marry him. And when Rory shared the news about getting a job covering Senator Obama's campaign, she was able to mask her heart plummeting into her stomach like a pro.
On the way home from Friday Night Dinner, Lorelai kept up the bubbly chatter, making all kinds of political campaign jokes and teasing Rory about her "in" with the probable future president. When Rory yawned and decided she was going to bed, Lorelai flashed a bright smile and went upstairs. She turned on the shower and let the water hit her face, the sound of the spray masking her sobs.
The next morning, Lorelai plastered on her bright smile and went downstairs. Rory was already ensconced at the kitchen table with her laptop and piles of papers, making notes and lists.
"Hey, Mom," she said, barely looking up. Lorelai poured herself a cup of coffee and sat across from her. She cherished the moment, knowing these times of drinking coffee together at the kitchen table was about to become a rare occurrence.
"So what's on the agenda, today?" she asked, focusing on what needed to be done.
"I need to buy some essentials before I leave, and I'd like to see a few people. Especially Lane," she added.
"Well, okay, then," Lorelai agreed. After they finished their cups of coffee, they got dressed and hopped in the Jeep, a quick trip to the diner first on the list. Lorelai needed to cancel the food order for the party that was no longer happening, and they just couldn't knock everything off their to-do list until they were fortified by Luke's superior brew. The idea of seeing Luke again filled Lorelai with anxiety, but she didn't want her daughter to notice how she was feeling, so she buried her nerves with a bright smile and started driving toward town.
After Lorelai and Rory left the diner, Luke stared at the door for awhile, watching them walk toward the Jeep then drive away, presumably to go shopping for whatever Rory would need now that she would be on the road. It was unlikely that anyone one else noticed, but he could see that the smile didn't quite reach her eyes. He hated knowing that Lorelai was pretending to be happy and excited for Rory but inside, she was falling apart. He knew her so well, he could see behind her facade. He wished there was something he could do.
"This is terrible," he overheard Babette say to Miss Patty, as they slumped in their seats, clearly disappointed by the change of plans.
"I know, honey," Patty replied sadly. "I wish we could still have the party, like a going away party or something."
"Yeah, but who could throw that together in 24 hours?"
"I will," Luke said suddenly. He turned his head toward the kitchen. "Caesar, going out for a bit!" He went out the door, the plans all forming together in his head as he headed toward the truck, leaving the customers in the diner to share puzzled looks.
Once he'd talked to Sookie about the desserts, everything started coming together. He and Jackson arranged the town meeting, where they divided everything that needed to be done and everyone spread out throughout the town in order to get all the preparations accomplished.
That evening, Lorelai wandered into Rory's bedroom, unable to prevent herself from watching her baby girl sleeping one last time. Her throat constricted and she couldn't even swallow. As she pulled the blanket over her daughter's sleeping form, a tear slipped down her cheek. After a few moments, she knew she about to lose it, and slipped outside to the front porch. She dropped her head into her hands and the dam burst. She tried to be quiet, but it was hard to contain the sobs that were wracking her body.
Her head snapped up, and she saw Luke walking toward her, a concerned expression on his face. Quickly, she wiped the tears from her cheeks and stood up. "Hey," she said, then noticed he was holding two large raincoats in his hands. "What's that?"
"Oh," he looked down, as if he had forgotten they were in his hands. "It's, ah, it's supposed to rain tomorrow, I was just borrowing these from Babette and Morey," he said. "Are you okay?" He reached a hand out to rest on her shoulder, and she felt tears sting her eyes again.
"It's just…" She sniffled. "So soon, you know? I thought we had the whole summer, but…" She shrugged. Luke dropped the raincoats to the ground and pulled her to him. She couldn't resist him. He felt so solid and strong against her, and she wanted to melt against him like she always had before.
She felt his heart beating as she was pressed against him, and couldn't stop herself from looking up into his eyes. She could feel her resistance crumbling just by looking at him. She closed her eyes, then felt his lips on hers. He knew that she needed comforting, and this was the way that they'd become accustomed to giving it. She lost herself in the kiss, letting it grow more passionate. She started to walk backwards toward the garage, and he let her pull him that direction.
She didn't even realize they were pulling each other's clothes off until she felt the chill of the night air against her skin. Luke laid their clothes in a pile on the garage floor, and carefully rested her down on them, their lips never disconnecting. He cradled her head gently, and she sighed with relief when he finally entered her. They moved slowly together, noiselessly. She was surprised by her climax when it swept over her in soft waves. Feeling tears leaking out through her closed eyes. Luke kissed along the tracks her tears left on her face, and she felt him pulsing inside of her. Even though she still felt sad, she felt a sense of relaxation overcome her and knew that now she would be able to sleep.
Luke pulled himself out of her, and laid next to her on their makeshift bed. He held her for several minutes, his hands tangling through her curls. Lorelai didn't say anything, she just took the comfort that he offered her silently.
"I gotta go," he said softly, running his hand through her hair again. She nodded against him, sitting up as they began to sort through their clothing and dressing again. He pulled her against him again for another quick embrace, then walked out of the garage. With a heavy sigh, she went inside and fell into bed without changing into her pajamas, still warmed by the feel of Luke's body against her skin.
Luke felt slightly ashamed as he walked back to the diner. He'd sent Zach and Brian to the other end of Stars Hollow to pick up as many waterproof coverings that they could find, so he planned to get back and start sewing them all together. Unfortunately, that gave him a lot of time to think. He hadn't meant to be with her again. He'd only wanted to comfort her, but it seemed any time they were physically close, it just happened. Like an irresistible magnet pull between them that he was too weak to fight.
While searching for more fishing twine to thread the tarps together, he came across the necklace from Liz, tucked away in the drawer. He paused a moment, then decided he would give it to her after all. If the right moment came. He hadn't considered that this party could be the epic romantic gesture that Liz had implied he should give until then, especially since his simple idea of a party had gotten increasingly complicated. If Lorelai decided to view it as a symbol of his love for her, he'd take it. If not, he'd think of something else. He just hoped that it wouldn't be only to fill the void left by Rory's departure.
Lorelai was overwhelmed the next day when they drove to the center of town and saw the party across the square. Her good cry the night before had helped to fortify her against blubbering, but this display of love from her friends and neighbors wasn't making it easy. Even her parents were showing uncharacteristic displays of emotion.
Lorelai had just finished saying goodbye to her parents, also reassuring her mother that they would continue their Friday Night Dinners, when Sookie came up behind her and tapped her on the arm. "Hey."
"Hey!" Lorelai replied with a smile.
"It's beautiful, isn't it?" Sookie said, looking around at the covered party area. The rain had stopped, but the grass underneath it was still dry and the colored lights gave the party a very festive appearance.
"It's so beautiful," Lorelai said with awe in her voice. "I can't believe you pulled it off."
Sookie shook her head. "No, I just did all the baking. This was all Luke."
"What?" Lorelai exclaimed softly.
"He made me promise not to tell you, but I don't care." She chucked lightly, waving her arms toward the party. "This is all Luke. He did all of it. He's the one that came to me and said, 'let's do the party,' and then he planned the secret town meeting, everything."
Lorelai felt her heart begin to pound and her throat went dry. "Really?"
"Yeah. I mean last night when we thought it was gonna rain and we'd have to cancel the party, he went around and collected everybody's tarps and tents and raincoats." She waved her arms, gesturing to the covering above them. "I don't know how he did it. He must have stayed up all night doing this. Can you believe that?"
"Yeah," Lorelai said, feeling herself choke up. "I'll be back."
"Okay," Sookie replied, with a knowing smile.
Lorelai walked over to the grill looking for Luke, knowing she had to say something. This was it, she couldn't be imagining it. If he had stayed up all night working on this party for her daughter, it had to mean something. She knew he loved Rory, but this was above and beyond. When she got to the grilling area, Caesar told her that he had gone back to the diner to get more charcoal, so she headed that direction.
She saw him walk out of the diner, the bag in his hand.
"Hey," she said, stopped in front of him.
"Hey," he replied.
"Thank you," was all she could think to say, but she felt like it said everything.
"Aw, it's no big deal," he said, in that humble manner that was so uniquely Luke.
"Luke," she whispered.
"I… just like to see you happy," he said, his voice soft and low. He gave her a small smile, and she knew. Lorelai tilted her head toward him and stepped forward. She was vaguely aware of the thud of the bag of charcoal hitting the pavement when they fell into each other's arms, kissing like the rest of the world just faded away.
"I love you," she said, breathless, as they broke apart.
"Lorelai," he murmured, resting his forehead against hers. "I've never loved anyone more."
She swallowed hard. "I'm sorry, I-" he cut her off with another kiss.
"Shh," he replied, his hands going up into her hair. "We'll figure this all out later. For now, let's go back to the party." She nodded, still wrapped up in his arms. He pulled back slightly, and fished the long pink box out of his back pocket. "I have something for you."
After she dropped Rory off at the airport the next morning, she drove around aimlessly. She tried to quiet her thoughts, but they were whirling around in a frenzy. It was like a piece of her had boarded a plane to Iowa and she didn't know when it would be back. Eventually, she stepped inside the diner and stared vacantly ahead, feeling like she wasn't even in her body. She didn't even remember driving here. She felt Luke before she saw him, and fell into his arms.
"Hey," he said soothingly, rubbing circles on her back, and holding up when he felt her knees buckle. "She'll come home, she's not gone forever."
"It's so hard," Lorelai cried into his shoulder, her tears soaking his shirt. "Why is it so hard?"
"Shhh," he murmured. Unthinking, he pressed a kiss to her forehead. With that simple gesture, he heard gasps and the clatter of silverware around the diner. They'd somehow managed to grope each other in public the night before without anyone noticing. That morning, Rory had given him a knowing look and Lorelai was still wearing the necklace he'd given her before they'd gone back to the party, but otherwise it seemed like their reunion had gone unnoticed. He looked up to see Babette leaving the diner and racing down the street toward Miss Patty's as fast as her legs could go. "Hello Magazine just left to spread the word," he whispered into her ear.
She looked up, confused. "Huh?"
He tilted his chin toward the dance studio. "Babette just ran to Miss Patty's. Apparently we are big news today."
"Is… is that okay?" she asked, a mixture of anxiety and hesitation on her face.
"More than okay," he said. "Come on, let's go upstairs."
"Actually, I should get back to the house. I need to check on Paul Anka and start cleaning everything up. We kind of did all of our packing kamikaze style."
"I'll go with you," he said. "Just let me tell Caesar and call Zach. Coffee?"
"Do you have to ask?" she said, a small smile forming. Her eyes were red and her cheeks still had tear stains, but she appeared to be doing better already.
They spent the rest of the day sorting through everything, deciding which things would go back in Rory's bedroom for safe-keeping, which things would get tossed or donated, and a few borrowed items (like Jackson's fanny pack) that needed to be returned to their owners. Around 6pm, Luke could tell that she was fading. He assumed that she hadn't slept much the night before between the late party and the early wake up, along with the anxiety and sadness she was feeling about Rory's departure.
"You must be exhausted," he said. "Let me get you something to eat and we'll go up to bed." Despite the early hour, she didn't argue. He made her a sandwich and practically had to feed it to her, she was so tired. Afterward, he helped her upstairs and to the bed.
As he started to dig through the dresser drawers to get her pajamas, she spoke sleepily. "Don't bother. I'll just sleep in my underwear."
"You sure?" he asked, standing up slightly.
"Yeah, I'm sure." She gave him a half smile. "Besides, I want to feel your skin against mine." She paused a moment. "You are staying, right?"
"I was planning to, as long as that's okay?"
"More than okay." They both smiled as she repeated the phrase he'd used earlier in the day.
He helped her out of her shirt and jeans, and shucked off his own. They crawled under the covers beside each other and Luke reached over to turn of the bedside lamp. They snuggled together in the darkness.
"Is this stupid? Trying again?" she asked suddenly, breaking the silence.
He considered her question for a moment. After everything they'd been through, he knew that it would take wild horses to keep him from her this time. "It would be stupid not to," he said finally, kissing her bare shoulder. "Go to sleep, Lorelai. I love you."
"Love you, too," she mumbled, and soon after, her breathing was deep and even.
Lorelai woke to the sensation of a warm hand softly running up and down the length of her arm. She blinked her eyes open, and turned, looking into Luke's blue eyes.
"Morning," he said softly, a slight smile on his face.
"How long have you been awake?" she asked.
"Since about 5:30," he said. She craned her neck over to look at the alarm clock.
"Luke! It's 9 o'clock!"
"Yeah," he said. She rolled over so they were face to face, his hand resting on her hip. "I didn't want you to wake up without me here."
"Oh you," she giggled, reaching her arm around his neck and pulling him closer for a kiss. She'd meant the kiss to the an innocent peck, but it quickly took on a life of its own as she felt his arousal against her thigh. She ran her hands over his chest, reveling in the feel of making love to him in the morning, sleep tousled and warm. He slipped his hand inside her panties, palming one cheek with his warm hand. She moved on top of him, and he began to tug down her panties. She sat up slightly, reaching behind her back to unhook her bra and tossing it aside, then working on pulling down his boxers. As his cock stood at attention in front of her, she bent down to press a sweet kiss to the tip. Divested of their clothes, she draped her body on top of his, and they stared at each other a moment, both unable to believe after the past year that they were here. Luke pushed his cock inside her and they moved together in a practiced dance, neither of them blinking as they gazed at each other for several long moments.
Slowly, Luke flipped them over, and he pressed kisses all along her chin, cheeks, face, and neck. Lorelai arched her back to meet his kisses, and he took one waiting nipple into his mouth, laving it tenderly with his tongue. Her hands ran up his shoulders and neck to rest in his hair, and she tugged softly to bring his lips back to hers. It felt like forever and again too soon when waves of pleasure washed over her, and she felt her body tense then relax into a puddle of liquid limbs. Luke's release followed hers, and with a gasp she felt him spill into her. They stayed connected, letting their lips graze each other for awhile, until Luke was concerned he would crush her. He rolled to his side, never letting go of her. He nuzzled her neck slightly and she relaxed into him even more.
"I just wanted you to know, sometime in the not so distant future, I'm probably going to ask you to marry me. Not right away, but someday. Soon."
"Oh," she said. "Okay."
"I just wanted you to know." They laid together in silence for awhile, enjoying the morning and the comfort of knowing they were in the same place.
After several moments, Lorelai turned her face up to look at him. "I should tell you that I'm probably going to say yes."
He grinned, pulling her closer. "Good."
A/N: Here we are, at the end of this story! I want to thank everyone who followed, faved, or reviewed, and even everyone who read it without responding. I don't want to promise anything, so I'm marking this story complete for now. BUT if there is a way to make an epilogue that makes sense along with the canon of the revival - well, you'll have to wait and see. Once again I'd like to thank my beta Skinfull for her welcome comments and suggestions that made this story better.