A/N: A suggestion by JumpingCattleHockey inspired me to write this bonus chapter, which is the events of the story through Luke's point of view. You probably all still hate him, but I hope maybe it gives a little insight into how Luke was thinking and feeling during the course of this story. It's the problem with first person narrative - it's biased, but I used it because I wanted to delve into how Lorelai was feeling. So, here ya go.
December 4, 2007
I was pissed. It was unbelievable, really. They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder? Yeah, right, whoever coined that phrase never met Lorelai Gilmore. Her anger hadn't dissipated even a little over the 6 months that she had been away from Stars Hollow. In fact, I think it grew. Exponentially.
I was pacing around the apartment, still reeling from all the things we shouted at each other in the middle of Doose's — god, now everyone would be talking about us, again, and it made my skin crawl —when my cell phone buzzed in my pocket. I yanked it out, ready to snipe at the person on the other line, but I saw April's name and took in a deep breath, calming myself down.
"Hey, sweetie!" I said, trying to keep my tone level.
"Dad! I have fabulous news," she said, and I couldn't help but smile.
"Fabulous news? Well, I'd love to hear it."
"Well, I know this is Mom's year to have Christmas with me, but my uncle is taking his new wife on a cruise or something, which is actually smart because they run a lot of specials on cruises this time of year and—"
"Okay," I chuckled, wanting to head off a diatribe about the financial merits of cruising during the holidays, "get to the point, please?"
"Well, the point is that his house will be vacant and he needs a house sitter for two weeks and it's just down the road from us!"
I sat down heavily, thinking it over. I knew I could get the diner covered. I could even hire more people if Lane and Caesar couldn't handle it with the part-timers. High school students who might want to work a few hours around the holidays.
"Let me see if I can work something out with the diner, and I'll get back to you," I said, and I heard excited squealing on the other end.
It was nice to spend the holidays with April, something I'd never had the chance to do. She tried to include me in a lot of their traditions, and since Anna was busy with her own mother, we got to spend a lot of time together, just the two of us. We went ice-skating and to so many lighted festivals and parades I couldn't keep them straight. I took her shopping for Christmas gifts, which consisted mostly of me standing around nodding as she talked a mile a minute about the merits of whatever item she had under consideration.
One night, between Christmas and New Year's, April went to a sleepover at a friend's house. Anna took pity on me and invited me over for dinner. The food was great and we spent hours talking, late into the night. I wanted to hear all about when she found out she was pregnant with April and her earlier years, and she wanted to know how the diner got off the ground from its somewhat rocky start. We'd had too many beers and started to reminisce about the time we were together.
We were both lonely.
It's no excuse, but we knew it was a mistake immediately. And not in that 'one person thinks it's a mistake and the other just goes along with it' kind of way. We sobered up and talked some more. We both agreed that April never needed to know, and that it wouldn't happen again.
April's uncle's house was only a short walk from Anna's, and so I was lost in my thoughts as I walked home that night. For the first time since Doose's, I allowed myself to think about Lorelai. I couldn't help but draw a parallel between her and Chris, and me and Anna, although it seemed very different to me. For one thing, Lorelai and I had been apart for a long time. For another, I had begun to think that there was no going back anymore. Maybe it was time to finally give up any chance of reconciliation between the two of us. Obviously, we were too good at hurting each other.
Instead of dwelling on it, I stumbled into the house and went straight to bed, trying not to think about relationships at all. Avoidance was key; it was the only way to get through it.
March 10, 2008
I was at a restaurant supply store outside of Hartford when I met Laura. I was picking up a few pans to replace the ones that Caesar charred beyond usability during an ill-fated cooking experiment while I was away. I wasn't looking to find myself in an unlikely meet-cute, but I ended up stopping her from being hit in the head by falling cake pans. We started chatting in the aisles, giving each other insights about our favorite brands of cooking utensils. She was a pastry chef at a small place in Litchfield. She was soft-spoken, with a round face and sumptuous curves, but her face lit up when she told me about her bakery. I took her number, and we went to dinner that Friday night.
The first time she invited me inside her townhouse, I was nervous. It was like I wasn't a 40-something man, but a teenager again. We sat on her couch and talked for awhile, until she told me to kiss her already.
The next morning, I drove back to the diner, feeling slightly ashamed although I didn't know why. I was a grown man, having a grown up relationship with a grown woman. I had no reason to feel ashamed, but it gnawed at the edges of my thoughts constantly.
I really liked Laura, but I didn't love her, and she knew it. When she broke up with me in July, it was amicable. I didn't tell her the reason I'd become so distant recently was because of a run-in with Lorelai, late one night while I was closing the diner. I hated the pull she still had over me. I needed to move on.
What's that saying? Fake it until you make it? That was me, faking it, but apparently not very well.
January 1, 2011
I was scum.
I had just gotten off the phone with Julia, to tell her what I did. Who I was with the night before. I was pacing the apartment, trying to stave off the hangover migraine that was bubbling beneath my temples. I knew I should make that remedy cure shake, but I felt like I should suffer today. Because I was scum.
I've done some shitty things to people I care about. When my mom was sick, I told her that sitting around with her was boring, and I wanted to go play baseball with my friends. She was gone a month later. I ignored the fact that sometimes Jess didn't have enough food to eat because Liz was a little scatterbrained and too busy shacking up with a new guy. I alienated the woman I married until she cheated on me. I kept my fiancee from meeting my daughter because I was worried she would like her more than me, then I told her that her mistakes were worse than mine.
Then I fucked her. And left her alone in her office afterward. I heard her sobbing after I shut the door, and the hatred I felt toward myself was so potent I wanted to vomit.
There was no way around it. I was the world's biggest asshole.
Over the next few days, I picked up the phone to call her at least a dozen times. I even started walking toward her house once or twice. But I just couldn't. I didn't know how to explain myself. There was no explanation. She had looked like a dreamlike vision, her face glowing and her dress perfectly draped over her body, glittering in the dim light of the Dragonfly's front desk area. I craved her in that moment like I've never craved anything. When she gave her consent, it was like I was out of my own body, watching myself. The rational side of me wanted to stop, step back, but I was out of control. Every impulse, every dream I'd woken up from, every stray thought about Lorelai I'd had over the past three years came rushing back to me, and I drowned in it.
Why couldn't I let go?
It was clear to me then — I needed to stay the hell away from Lorelai Gilmore because I didn't want to hurt her any worse than I already had.
It was months before she came back to the diner. She never came in alone after that. She always had Sookie, Michel, or Rory, and even one time her mother. She looked at me, wondering if I would break, if I would admit to what had happened, but I pretended it hadn't. Her eyes were sad, but also relieved, and she participated fully in my charade.
May 28, 2013
I was getting ready to open the diner when I absently scratched at the back of my neck. My fingers landed on a weird bump, on my right shoulder. I smoothed over it a few times, trying to get an idea of its shape.
Weird, I thought, and moved on to other tasks that were commanding my attention.
"Hey, do you know what could cause weird bump things on shoulders?" I asked April the next day during our phone call.
"What kind of weird bump?" she asked, and I could almost hear the wheels turning in that science-y brain of hers. I described it as best as I could, and I heard her flipping pages in all of her textbooks. I guessed it was good that the money I was contributing toward her MIT tuition was already being put to use. "You mean like a lump?" she asked, and I heard concern starting to edge into her voice.
"Uh, I don't know," I said, and before I knew it, she was pulling up all the nearby clinics and making appointments for me.
June 2, 2013
I underwent a barrage of tests. They took vials upon vials of blood. They did throat swabs and an ultrasound. I had to answer questions about my health history to so many different nurses and doctors I started to get mixed-up. It's then that I started to think about Lorelai, about how having her there would have anchored me and helped me deal with all this confusion.
I knew it was selfish. But it wasn't even that I just missed Lorelai as my girlfriend or as my fiancee. I missed my friend, too. It had been so long since we'd exchanged more than pleasantries, so long since she said she'd wait for me, there was no way that she had. I felt a prick of jealousy, and then shame, because I didn't deserve to feel jealous anymore.
June 4, 2013
I'm trying not to think about the results, but I should be finding out any minute and the waiting is killing me. I'm using work to distract myself from thinking, as usual. I'm mostly able to stuff all those thoughts into a tiny compartment in my mind, and focus on taking orders and delivering plates of hot food to my customers.
Then Sookie comes into the diner for lunch with Jackson and their kids, and I freeze. I don't intend to bring her up, but I can't help myself. When she comes up to the counter to ask for more napkins, I blurt it out. "How's Lorelai?"
She narrows her eyes at me. "What do you care?" she asks, snidely. I'm surprised. I've never known Sookie to be anything but happy and bubbly, but this is apparently no man's land.
"I care," I reply, defensive. "I've always cared."
"Funny way of showing it," she says, but her hard look softens around the edges. She leans forward, and I lean in, too. "Yesterday was June 3rd," she says, and then gives me a look, like I should figure out the rest.
"June 3rd?" I ask, wondering if I should know what that means.
"Oh my god," she says, and I feel annoyed. "You don't even remember?" The date is familiar, and I try to dig deep in the recesses of my memory. "Perfect dress, perfect church? BFOTB?"
It all clicks, and I expel a rush of air as I gasp, "Oh."
"Right," she snaps. "Oh." She looks around, seeing that no one is within earshot, and says in a low voice, "Lorelai leaves town every year on that day. She can't stand to be around. She calls it her 'dark day'. No one but Rory knows where she is." My heart falls into my stomach. There's no way, I think to myself.
"It's been years," I say dumbly, and I know it's the wrong thing to say from the look on Sookie's face.
"Yeah, well, I've tried to tell her multiple times to find someone new but she won't, so great job." I mumble something, and she snorts. "I need those napkins," she says firmly, indicating that the conversation is over.
After that, I'm so preoccupied between waiting for the results of the testing and the fact that Lorelai may not have moved on, I start dropping plates and burning things. Caesar practically shoves me toward my apartment and tells me that I'll thank him tomorrow when I still have a business.
When I finally get the call — "benign, just a lipoma" — I collapse onto my chair. I'm flooded by relief but also a newfound sense of urgency. I'm older than my dad ever got to be. Almost twice as old as my mom when she died. I'm gripped by a paralyzing fear that I don't have time. Do I want to live in a sea of regrets like this? Does she know how I feel? How I've always felt? What if something happens to me? To her? I'm suddenly terrified that Lorelai could get sick and I'd never know.
It was obvious from our fight in Doose's all those years ago that Lorelai thought I couldn't get over her night with Chris. At that time, I wasn't sure that I could. I vaguely remember giving her some non-committal platitudes the night I rejected her advances. I hadn't wanted to close the door on us yet, but she slammed it in a fit of anger and hurt. And I let her. For the second time, I let her walk away from me. I stopped fighting.
Had I ever really fought for her?
The thought hits me like a ton of bricks. The vow renewal. The ultimatum. The admission. Seattle. New Year's fucking Eve.
My head is starting to hurt from all of the thoughts and emotions slamming into me all at once. I get up and go to grab a beer from the fridge, but stop. With sudden clarity, I realize it isn't quite too late, but time is running out. I have to see her, I have to explain. I have to beg her to let me fight for her, for us. Show her that I can open completely to her and be vulnerable in a way I haven't been.
I run to the Dragonfly Inn. I blow past Michel, who rolls his eyes and says something about letting Sookie handle the irate flannel wearing man. I'm not irate, although I probably look manic. Sookie is surprised to see me again so soon, but before she can ask me what I want, I blurt, "Where is she?"
"Not here," she says, arching an eyebrow.
"I need to talk to her, is she off today?"
"She's supposed to come into work tomorrow, so if she's not home already she should be soon."
I don't even respond, I just leave abruptly and make my way to her house. I knock a few times, and call her name, but the house is silent. I fall onto the steps and sit down to wait.
"Sugah?" I hear Babette's raspy voice say, and I look up, alarmed. She's hovering over me, looking concerned.
"Hey, Babette," I say sheepishly.
"Lorelai's not home," she says, nodding toward the house.
"Do you know where she is?" I ask, desperate for information.
"No, doll, I don't," she says, and I slump disappointedly. "She called me this morning to say that she was going to be a little delayed comin' home. I'm watching Paul Anka for her. You want to take him back?"
"I, uh, I don't have a key anymore," I say.
"Right," she says, shaking her head slightly, as if she'd forgotten that Lorelai and I were basically estranged. "Well, Morey and I are making dinner. Want me to bring you somethin'?"
"Sure," I reply, and I watch as she crosses the lawn to her house.
I wait for hours. I watch the sun set over the tops of the trees in her yard, and the breeze blow against her too-tall grass. I make a note to come by soon and mow it for her. Babette comes back and brings me food, and Lane checks in at some point. Both of them suggest I come back tomorrow, but I'm resolute.
It's late and dark when I think I hear her Jeep. At this point, I've thought I've heard it coming up the drive a million times, and I think my ears are playing yet another trick on me. It isn't until I hear footsteps that I finally look up and see her.
She looks tired as she holds her purse against her, but I think she's never looked more beautiful. We stare at each other for several long moments, until finally she speaks.
"So, what are you doing here?"