I have a recurring dream. It never starts the same way, as if my subconscious is aware that I would recognize the beginning of it and wake myself up before it arrives at its terrible conclusion. That conclusion is this: I find Luke Danes, his body still and his skin cold. Sometimes it is in the aftermath of a horrible traffic accident, and he has a gash of blood on his forehead with sirens screaming all around me. Other times he collapses while working at the diner, and by the time I vault myself over the tables to get to him, he's already gone. Sometimes he looks asleep but I still know. Other times, his eyes are open wide, glassy and unseeing. And every time, it scares the everloving shit out of me.
It always seems to happen when something real happens between us, a change in our relationship or a fight. I remember vividly the first time I had the dream, because Rory was gone to Washington for the summer and Luke and I were in the middle of our "go to hell" fight after the car accident. I'd been avoiding the diner for weeks, getting subpar coffee from Weston's or the Independence Inn's kitchen. But that morning I went to the diner, because I had to see him for myself. Living and breathing, walking and talking. He was surprised to see me, but he sent Caesar to take my order instead of coming himself. And that was fine; I had my proof. So I gulped my coffee, ate my pancakes, and went home.
I had a lot of weird dreams that summer, including the infamous 'twin' dream that I really should have kept to myself. Rory teased me about it for way too long, and although that dream stirred up something inside of me that I wasted no time in deeply burying, the dream where I saw those empty, glassy blue eyes of his haunted me for months.
The second dream was right after he started dating Nicole, which seemed weird at the time, but in retrospect makes perfect sense. I was jealous, and I was afraid I was losing him. I went into the diner, wanting to alleviate my fears, but unsure how to go about it. I felt nervous, although I didn't know why.
"What's with you?" he asked finally, when I pressed him about his health or his driving habits or something.
"I… well, I care about you. We're friends, you know? And I care if you're doing okay."
"Uh-huh," he replied. By the look on his face, he clearly thought I needed to be committed to some kind of institution. The expression wasn't a new one by any means, but it made me a little sad. Did he think I was so self-absorbed that I didn't care about his health or his safety? Probably.
"So you're doing okay?" I said, leaning forward. "You're happy, healthy, all that stuff?"
"Yeah, I am," he answered, giving me a slight smile. Then I asked for a refill on my coffee and he lectured me about the dangers to my nervous system, and everything was back to normal.
I managed to go a long time without having the dream after that. I'm not sure why, because a lot of changes happened between us at that time. He got married, then divorced, then the divorce was on hold, and then it was back on again. It was like Serena and Venus, right there in Stars Hollow. And I sure had a lot of stuff going on, personally. But nada. Zip. Not until about a week or so after we kissed at the test run.
He was in Maine, duty-bound to be at the Ren Faire circuit with Liz and TJ, and I woke up startled, and in a cold sweat. I checked my alarm clock and was relieved that it was past 6 in the morning, because I knew there was a good chance he was awake already.
"Lorelai?" was how he answered his phone, sounding incredulous.
"Well, it ain't Elvis," I replied, settling against my pillows and wrapping myself in the duvet.
"I just… it's 6:13," he said.
"Oh, is it? So it is! Wow, I didn't even know this time existed!"
"Lorelai!" he groaned in exasperation, and I could practically hear him roll his eyes from miles away.
I paused for a moment. "I just miss you," I said softly.
"I miss you, too," he replied, his tone softening at my admission. I felt tears coming as images from the dream fluttered through my mind, and I latched on quickly to anything to distract me.
"How doest thou, my fair knight Sir Luke?" I teased, hoping he didn't hear how my voice wobbled a little. I quickly swiped at the few tears that escaped down my cheeks and focused on his deep voice, bringing me back to reality.
"Ah, geez," he said.
I would have expected that once he returned to Stars Hollow and we were quickly swept up into each other that the dreams would have faded, but they only became more frequent. And as they continued, I began to dread their recurrence. I would go weeks or months without them and then, bang! I'd wake up sobbing.
I somehow managed to go quite awhile without Luke knowing about them. I briefly mentioned it to Rory one time. Not that I was having these dreams regularly, just that I had dreamed it that one time.
"Wow, Luke dying would be just… awful," Rory said, in that contemplative way she has.
"No kidding," I said. "We'd starve to death!"
"Mom!" she replied sharply, as if it wasn't funny to joke about someone being dead. Especially if that someone were Luke. Which, I have to say, even though I find the occasional (or more than occasional) morbid joke pretty hilarious, in this case it was just so I wouldn't burst into tears.
But my luck ran out, and I discovered one night that I apparently talk in my sleep. At least, I talk when I have this dream. In that particular dream, Luke and I were watching a movie on the couch in my house, and I looked over at him to find him asleep, which was a pretty regular occurrence. (Grandpa tends to fade around 9:30.) I settled against him to finish out the movie, but I realized that he seemed unusually still, and he wasn't exuding the heat that he usually does. I touched his face, and realized he was cold. I started to panic, and screamed "No! No Luke, wake up! Wake up!"
I heard him say my name, but he was still motionless on the couch. Then the couch was moving and I was shaking. That's when I woke up, to see Luke hovering above me, looking really concerned. The dream began to fade, and just like I always do, I internally described everything I could see to try and push the dream away. Luke and I were in my room, and still naked from making love earlier that evening. I saw his strong shoulders and his bare chest in front of me. He had some slight stubble, maybe a day or two's worth. And he was wiping tears from my face.
"Lorelai?" he asked, and I blinked at him. "You were dreaming?"
"Uh, yeah," I said shakily. "It's fine, it happens occasionally."
"Lorelai, you were shouting in your sleep. And crying. Are you sure you're okay?" I kissed him, and he pulled me close, rubbing circles on my back while I tried to get back to sleep without that horrible image tormenting me.
After awhile, he seemed to have a sixth sense about when I might end up having the dream, because he'd insist on spending the night together. He would always wake up and soothe me back to sleep, by murmuring reassuring words or by making love to me. The worst period was when Rory and I spent those horrible 6 months barely speaking. There wasn't more than a handful of nights during that time that we were apart. I know he felt helpless. He didn't know why I was having those dreams, and especially why they always involved him. Maybe God or the Powers That Be or whatever is up there knew that I wouldn't be able to handle a dream where I found a still, cold Rory, because I have never once dreamed that she was gone.
I had the dream one night shortly after Rory came home, and I woke up alone. As I attempted to rid myself of the dream, I realized that Luke and I hadn't spent the night together in almost a week, which after the past several months, was weird. Why hadn't we been spending those nights together? The puzzle at least was enough to distract me from my dream. I didn't know it then, but it wasn't long after Luke discovered April. It's like my subconscious knew something was up. I didn't tell him about the dream. I didn't want him to worry, especially since they'd stopped being so frequent.
Not long after our weekend at Martha's Vineyard, we were having a rare night together when I had the dream again. He didn't even stir. I still didn't want to worry him, so I mentally catalogued the room, and then I rested my hand on his chest. I needed to feel his heartbeat, so strong and persistent. He shifted a little in his sleep, and covered my hand with his. The gesture made me feel safe, and I was able to go back to sleep. But it wasn't the same.
I hated feeling so weak and damsel-y about those dreams. And maybe I should have told him about them, especially since they began to occur again with the same frequency as during the separation from Rory. Maybe even more so. I began to feel like I wasn't even myself any more, especially since I wasn't sleeping the greatest. I tried to cover it up with extra coffee and bubbliness. I was also a little resentful. Shouldn't Luke notice something is up? He used to know me better than anyone, but now it was like he didn't even care. He was too wrapped up in April to remember I existed.
I tried to give him the time and space to adjust to being a father, I really did. But when I talked to Lynnie in her car that night, I felt like everything clicked for me. So I did something stupid. I barged into the diner and gave him that ridiculous ultimatum. I knew he would say no. Luke doesn't jump into anything. I was just fraying so rapidly I didn't know how to cope, and I didn't want anyone else to know how quickly I was losing it.
When I went to Christopher's, I fully did not intend to have sex with him. I was just at the end of the line. I didn't know how to handle it. Rory was busy with Logan, and Sookie was well-meaning but unhelpful, but Chris could help me go back in time to when I wasn't this overtired wreck of a woman. He did all the right things. He gave me some coffee. He ordered chinese takeout. He roped me into a game of chutes and ladders with Gigi. And he offered to let me spend the night.
We were sharing his bed, which probably doesn't seem all that innocent, but it was. We both had pajamas on, and he was on his side and I was on mine. But then, I had the dream again, but this time, I was holding a gun and I shot Luke. Twice, in the chest. God, I can remember the loud bangs, just like they were real. When I woke up, Chris was stroking my hair and whispering to me, and the dam broke. Straws were grasped. The rope snapped.
"Chris?" I whimpered.
"Yeah?" he whispered back.
"Make love to me," I replied.
I take full responsibility for what happened that night, although I guess a stronger man may have realized how vulnerable I was and just told me no. Chris has always had a weakness for me, and I exploited it that night. When I woke up the next morning, I felt horrible. Not only did I feel completely broken, but I also felt dirty. And I had dragged Chris into the muck with me.
Which brings us to now.
I managed to somehow get through the past several months without having those dreams, even though they've been some of the worst I can remember. And I've had some low lows in my time. There was all the self-loathing I felt during my childhood under the thumb of Emily and Richard. The time that I accidentally gave Rory food poisoning because I wasn't careful enough about food storage in the potting shed. And when I had to tell Luke that I slept with Christopher the night we broke off our engagement.
Chris left tonight. We were playing house the last few months. I thought we'd gotten married, but Chris admitted to me tonight before he left that it wasn't actually legal to elope in France on a whim. If I'd been using my brain at all, I probably could have figured it out. It makes a lot more sense now why he'd been pushing for that real ceremony at the party my parents were throwing, but that's besides the point. He left, I'm no longer with him. No divorce necessary.
I feel okay about the end of him and me. But now I'm left picking up the pieces of myself that have been scattered all over the place for the past year, that my 'marriage' to Chris was only temporarily stringing together. Now I have to deal with the fact that the person I'm in love with will never touch me again. Maybe we'll never even have a real friendship again. I've completely destroyed one of the most important relationships in my life.
And so it's no surprise that for the first time since the night I gave Luke the ultimatum, I have the dream again. This dream is a little different, because for the first time, I'm not the one to find the body. I have to hear about it from Patty, which breaks my heart. In the dream, I throw myself at the diner door and wail, like someone out of a Steinbeck novel. I'm a step removed from tearing off my clothes and setting myself on fire.
I wake up and look around the dark room, my heart is pounding and my face is wet. I realize that I can't leave things between Luke and me the way that they are. I've never been compelled into action by any of the dreams before, because honestly, I didn't know what action to take. Most of the dreams, we are just doing everyday things when suddenly, he's gone.
I'm not thinking very clearly, because I don't bother to put normal clothes on. I throw on my coat over my pajamas, jam my feet into the first pair of shoes I see (which happen to be heels), and take off in a hobbling run toward the diner. I'm out of breath and my feet hurt when I get to the door. No one is on the street to witness my insanity because it's a quarter past three in the morning. Heaving for air, I feel around the top of the door frame and am relieved when my fingers curl around the spare key. I unlock the door, stumbling inside. I think I shut the door behind me. I'm not sure what happens to the key.
I go up the stairs, practically on my hands and knees. I need to get to him, I need confirmation that he's alive. I need to feel his heartbeat beneath my palm, and then I need to beg for forgiveness. I don't want him to die while we're still in this horrible limbo of hate and distrust. I need things to be right between us, as right as they possibly can be.
I open the door quietly, and tiptoe across the apartment. I don't hear snoring and my panic rises. I come closer to the bed, my entire chest seized with fear. I see him, sprawled under his covers. His left arm is flung across the bed, across the side that was mine when I shared the bed with him, but the rest of him is still on his side. The other arm is draped over his face, but I'm looking at his chest, hoping and praying I will see the gentle rise and fall that proves that he is alive. He sighs in his sleep, and the relief floods me so suddenly that I feel dizzy, and that I just might collapse. I kneel down onto the empty part of the bed, and reach my hand to gently place it over his heart. I close my eyes and luxuriate in the feel of that ka-thump, ka-thump, and feel my entire body relax.
He grabs my arm suddenly, and I yelp. "Lorelai?" he gasps, his voice hoarse and dry.
"I-I-I.." I stammer, unsure how to explain. I haven't talked to him in days. Not since he came to the inn and asked me to write that letter. To which of course I said yes. I love him, so deeply, and I want him to have whatever makes him happy. I just wish I could have been a bigger part of that happiness.
"What are you doing here?" he asks, dropping my hand and sitting up. He looks tired and tousled and sexy and I want to throw myself at him, but I'm frozen.
"I had to make sure you were here," I timidly try to explain.
"Where else would I be?" he replied, annoyed. "Off getting married?"
I accept the sting. I deserve it. But I realize he doesn't understood what I mean. I need to make it clear. I can feel myself getting choked up, recalling the looks of pity from the dream townspeople when they would walk by me, knowing I had let the best thing that happened to me, besides Rory, get away. "I needed to make sure you were alive," I whisper. Recognition dawns on his face. He looks slightly ashamed, although I don't blame him in the least for what he said.
"You're still having those dreams?" he asks, softly, and then he rubs his eyes tiredly.
"Yeah," I reply. We sit in silence for awhile. Me, kneeling on the bed, my hands now in my lap, and him sitting up and staring off into the dark room.
"You shouldn't be here," he says finally, looking at me. "You're married. You need to get home to… your husband."
"I'm not married," I say, and he gives me a strange look. I snort a little, because this whole situation is ridiculous. I broke into my ex-fiance's place to feel his heartbeat the day my sham marriage ended. I might as well pack up and move myself to Peyton Place. "I was never married. Turns out last minute elopements in Paris aren't legally binding."
"Oh," he replies, and looks away.
"Chris left," I say, but he doesn't react. I want to explain, to say everything I need to say. "And I didn't dream about him, I dreamt about you. Because I need you in my life. And I know we're broken, and damaged, but I can't find out from Patty that you died. I need to know, I need to be the one to find you."
Luke finally looks back at me, and I can see so many emotions on his face. Fear, longing, anger, and disbelief. I don't know how exactly to explain why I came, why it's so important for him to know this. We used to be able to communicate so well without saying a word, but like everything else, that has been broken too.
"I'll, um, I'll go home. I just want you to know that I care about you and I want to be your friend, and I hope someday we can be."
I stand up beside the bed and give him a small smile. But before I can leave, he whispers, "Stay." So I take off my coat and my shoes, and crawl into bed beside him. He cradles my head close to his chest, and I feel his heart beating, strong and steady. The sound lulls me into a deep sleep.