June 5, 2013, continued

"A lump?" I gasp. "Oh my go—"

"It was nothing," he interrupts, letting go of me and spreading his hands wide. "It was benign."

"God," I murmur, falling back onto the couch in relief. "Way to bury the lede, mister."

"Yeah, it was on my shoulder. At first, I didn't think anything of it, but I happened to mention it to April and she started hauling out all of her textbooks, and before I know it, I'm at the hospital, getting looked at."

"Wow," I say, flabbergasted.

"Those two days I waited to find out if I had cancer were awful. All I could think about while I was waited for the results was you. They called this morning, and then I came straight here. "

My heart flip flops in my chest. "Oh."

"I've wasted so much time," he says ruefully. "And this really made me wonder what the hell I was doing. Lorelai, you're it for me, too. I've known it for a long time, but I was scared and so I pushed you away. But now, I'm done with that."

"Done with what?" I ask, not sure if I want to know.

"Pushing. Running. You and me, we aren't getting any younger." He takes the coffee cup from me and sets it on the table, and turns so he can hold both of my hands. "One of these days the nothing is going to be a something, and I want you right there with me, whether it's my something or your something. We can fix this, I know we can. My life is an open book to you. Ask me anything. I'll tell you. No matter how hard it is, or how much I don't want to tell you."

"I don't know if—"

"I slept with Anna. When I was in New Mexico for Christmas." He sees the look of shock on my face, but presses on in a rush, like he's going to explode if he doesn't tell me everything right this minute. "And I slept with two other women since then, you don't know them but I'll give you their names and addresses and everything else I know if you want."

"Oh! Um, well, uh—"

"And you can tell me anything. I want to hear all of it. Anyone you've dated, how things are between you and your parents, if the inn gets featured in another magazine — Lorelai, I'm in this, I want to be with you. Let me prove it to you."

"Slow down, Cool Hand," I falter. He's gripping my hands tightly, and I look down at our interlocked fingers. It's been so long since we've touched this casually, and I'm still trying to wrap my head around it all.

"I can't live without you," he whispers, his voice cracked and broken.

For a moment we just look at each other. I softly clear my throat.

"I've learned a lot these past few years," I say hesitantly. "A lot about myself. And I found out I can live without you." He has a look of surprise, which changes into complete and utter despair. That look is all it takes for my facade to crack. "But I don't want to," I choke out, letting go of his hands and wrapping my arms around myself. Tears begin to pour down my face. "I'm so tired of being strong," I sob, and he moves to sit next to me on the couch, pulling me closer to him. "I'm tired of having to always be upbeat and happy, and sometimes I just want to be, you know? And I miss you, god, I miss you so much." I sniffle loudly, and wipe my eyes on my shirt sleeve.

"Did you know that the inn's restaurant got a 4.2 Zagat rating?" Luke shakes his head no, and I keep going. "I wanted to tell you. We got the news and the first thing I thought of, even before Rory, was that I couldn't wait to tell you so we could celebrate. But I couldn't." I cling to him, crying desperately, wanting to flush out the weight of the sadness that I've been carrying around for all these years.

"When you gave me the horoscope," I say between sobs, "I said I was your Ava Gardner. But now, you've become mine. I've been pining, I'll admit it. These last 6 years, I've been pining my ass off and I'm so tired of it."

"I'm here now," he soothes, running a hand through my hair. "Whatever it takes, we'll fix it." He slips his hand underneath my chin and tilts up my head so I'm looking at him. We look deeply into each other's eyes for several long moments, and then he leans in and presses his lips to mine.

The kiss is amazing. It almost goes without saying, since Luke Danes could win gold in kissing if there was a category for it in the Olympics. I allow myself to get lost in it for awhile, almost as if I'm indulging in one of the passion-soaked dreams of him I've had throughout the years. He is pulling me closer, and he starts to move his hands to my ass. Alarm bells begin to go off in my head, and when I feel his hand start to creep underneath my shirt, I pull away.

"Luke, we can't," I say, holding him at arm's length.

"Why?" he asks. "Do you need me to tell you more about me? I can list all the girlfriends I've had since 6th grade. I'll tell you endless stories about my parents. I'll dig out my high school yearbooks. I'll commit to going to every Friday night dinner with your parents until we die. Anything you want."

"Luke," I say softly, and his hands drop to his lap. He begins to get that hard look on his face, like he is bracing himself for rejection. Building the fortress. I don't like to see that look on his face, but I can't make it that easy. "We need to sleep on it. Separately. I don't want you to rush into this."

He looks perplexed at my words. "Rush? Lorelai, we should have been married 7 years ago. You've been divorced for almost that long. I sat on your porch for almost 12 hours waiting for you today. This is not rushing!"

"I'm not asking, Luke," I say gently. "Go home. Really think about it. If you wake up and still want this, then please, by all means, come at the crack of dawn and I'll let you ravish me. But we need this one night. To… to make sure."

He sighs deeply, but he knows I'm not changing my mind. It's taking all of my willpower not to throw myself at him, but the memory of New Year's Eve still hurts. I don't want to be caught up in the passion of the moment and have him regret this. "I guess this is goodnight, then?" he asks, gazing at me.

"Yes," I whisper. "Goodnight, Luke." I wrap my arms tightly around myself again, preventing him from reaching out for me. He nods once, and then he gets up and walks toward the door. He holds up his hand in a wave, then he steps out into the night.


I wake early, although it would be more truthful to say I barely slept. All night, I kept wondering if he would come back, or if he would realize that he didn't want to be with me after all. I glance over at the alarm clock on my bedside table, where it proudly displays that it's shortly after 5am. Luke is probably awake, but he hasn't come by yet.

The first wave of despair kicks in. My assumption is that if he had hopes of reconciliation last night then he would have had the diner covered this morning, and he would have come as soon as possible. I swing my legs over the side of the bed and peek through the curtain. The dawn light is just barely apparent, but the only car in my driveway is the Jeep.

I shuffle down the stairs and make some coffee.

By quarter to eight, I've given up. I've already brought Paul Anka home and apologized profusely to Babette for being gone longer than I'd planned. I've caught up on some work emails and called Rory to let her know I got home okay. I'm ready to go to the inn. I grab my bag and check my make up one last time in the mirror. Tears threatened to slip a few times already this morning, but I've managed to hold them off. I intend to keep my head up high until tonight, then I plan to break down completely. I'll even indulge in my repeated viewing of The Way We Were. But until then, I need to hold it together.

I step out onto the porch and breathe in the warm summer air. June is a pretty month in Stars Hollow, and I can smell whatever lovely flowers Babette has planted this year wafting over from her window boxes. I push the key into the lock and pause a moment, trying one last time to hold myself together before I have to face the world. Just as I'm about to lock the door and continue on my way to work, I hear a shout.

"Lorelai!" I turn suddenly, and it's Luke, sprinting up my driveway. He's capless but otherwise in his usual jeans and flannel uniform, although the flannel is uncharacteristically unbuttoned. He stops in front of me, heaving and out of breath.

"Luke?" I ask, wondering what on earth is going on.

"Lorelai, I am so sorry. I got up at 4:45 like I usually do, and I got ready and planned to come straight here, waiting be damned, but when I got to the bottom of the stairs I stepped in about 5 inches of water."

"What?"

"Yeah." He pauses to bend over, taking a few large gulps of air before continuing. "Turns out one of the pipes in the kitchen burst overnight. I had to call someone out and then mop it all up, and I was soaking wet and there wasn't too much damage, but damn, it took a long time to clean up."

"Oh," I say, and my heart starts to lift hopefully. He stands up and climbs the steps to stand right in front of me.

"I changed out of my soaking wet clothes and then I got in my truck but the battery was dead. Apparently, I was so distracted when I got home last night I left the lights on."

I can't help it. At this point, I start to chuckle. He's still trying to catch his breath, but he chuckles, too.

He slips his hand around my waist and steps even closer. "And then I ran here to get to you. I meant what I said last night. I'm ready, and if you're willing, I plan to make up for how much of an idiot I've been for the rest of my life."

"Luke," I breathe, and let my hands grasp his flannel shirt. "Welcome back," I say, and lean forward to meet his lips with mine.

"Is that offer to ravish you still on the table?" he asks after we pull apart, his voice husky and sexy.

"I'd prefer the bed, but maybe you can convince me," I tease, smiling. I pull back slightly. "I need to call Sookie first, tell her I'm not coming in."

"No need," he replies, and off my confused look, pulls away more and tilts his head to the side. "Hey, Babette!" he yells.

"Yeah, doll?" I hear her call back, presumably from her porch.

"When you get off the phone with Patty, would you call Sookie and tell her Lorelai won't be in today?"

"You got it!" she hollers back, and I can't help but giggle.

"Maybe a few days," I shout, and Luke and I share a glance that could melt steel. Then his lips are fused to mine again, his hands all over my body, and we're moving toward the house. I'm not even sure which direction we're going, but I feel clothes being removed and the touch of his hands on my skin.

It feels like home.


Later in the evening, Luke and I are snuggled together under the covers of my bed, our naked bodies pressed up against each other.

"So when you said I could ask you anything…" I begin to say hesitantly.

"Open book," he immediately replies. "Ask away."

"Um, what happened to your date that New Year's Eve?"

"Ugh," he groans. "Straight to the Asshole of the Year portion."

"You don't have to tell me," I backpedal quickly.

"No, no," he says, sitting up slightly. I shift against him to lay on my back, looking up at him in the dim light. "I need you to be able to tell me what you need from me," he says softly, tucking an errant curl behind my ear. "If this is something you want to know, then I want you to feel comfortable saying so."

"Okay," I reply, smiling tentatively.

He sighs, then chuckles to himself. "I went back to the party, and told her I wasn't feeling well. I put her in a cab and went home. The next morning, I called her and broke up with her."

"Did you tell her what happened?"

"Yeah." He rubs his face tiredly. "It really sucked."

"She was the one you almost moved in with?" I ask, feeling more confident in asking these questions as we go.

"Yeah, but it was kind of a weird situation. We'd been seeing each other for about 6 months, and her living situation was up in the air, so I was going to ask her to live with me. I planned to introduce it as a temporary thing, with the possibility of more." He shrugs. "Like I said, we aren't getting any younger. I cared about her. I was kind of thinking it might be as good as it was going to get."

"But after that night?"

"I stopped kidding myself." He smiles at me warmly. "And then I tried to talk myself out of it for 2 and a half years."

"And now here we are," I say, returning his smile. He slides back down to lay next to me, sliding his arm underneath my back.

"Are you still doing Friday night dinners?" he asks, seemingly out of nowhere.

"Yes…" I reply, a questioning look on my face.

"I meant what I said last night. I want to go with you," he says, and he sounds adamant.

"Really?" I ask, incredulous. "But you hate that stuff."

"It's part of your life. I want to be a part of it, too, if you want me there."

"I want you there," I say, and I begin to choke up a little.

"Hey," he whispers, as he wipes away a tear that escapes down my cheek. "What's wrong?"

"I just, I have a lot of emotions battling for supremacy right now," I whisper back.

"Which one's winning?" he asks tenderly.

"Love," I reply, burrowing my face into his neck, breathing him in.

.

END


A/N: Thanks to everyone who read/favorited/reviewed etc. I know this story isn't everyone's cup of tea so thanks for hanging in there.