She accepted Christopher's invitation to a movie because she was lonely. He was being so sweet and wonderful that she just couldn't say no, although she had the sense that something wasn't quite right about it. She tried to tell him that the night that they had shared was a one-time thing. But for some reason, he didn't really get it. Months passed, and while she continued to see him occasionally, she stressed emphatically that they were friends and co-parents to their nearly adult daughter, and that was all. So it wasn't unusual that he called her one evening while she was at home, living the high life of eating pizza and feeding scraps to Paul Anka, who skittered at her heels when the phone rang.

"Come to Paris with me," he said, apropos of nothing, and Lorelai nearly dropped the phone.

"What?" she gasped. "Are you high?"

"Nope, I've finally given it up," Chris joked. Lorelai paced around the living room. "What do you say?" he wheedled, and she knew that he was desperate to get her away from Stars Hollow, away from everyone. That he wanted to convince her that the two of them were meant to be, hoping the ultra-romantic setting would work in his favor. But she knew it wasn't true. Nicole's words reverberated in her head.

Don't settle.

"I can't, Chris," she said softly. She tuned out his continuing pleas for her to change her mind. Instead, her eyes settled on the one reminder she hadn't been able to throw away. The pressed bouquet of flowers that Luke had given her at the test run. The night he had first kissed her. Chris chattered away in her ear as she pressed her fingers to her lips. Nothing had ever set her on fire the way that kiss had.

And it wasn't just their physical connection. Luke knew her as an adult, not as a child. He knew how hard she had worked to make a life for her and Rory, how she had sacrificed for the both of them. He'd witnessed first hand the stress she had been under to open the Dragonfly, and he'd cheered her on the whole way. He'd been the rock she'd needed during her separation with Rory. And even though he'd found someone else to be his family, she couldn't do the same. She couldn't replace him with Chris, as much as she was tempted to.

I think pretending for the rest of your life would be worse.

"I can't," Lorelai said again. She cut him off before he could ply her with more reasons. "I need to go. Goodbye Chris. Have a wonderful time in Paris." And she hung up the phone, placing it gently on the cradle.

It felt good to close the chapter on that part of her life.


She wasn't doing anything other than encapsulating the fine art of being a single woman of a certain age when the phone rang, almost a month later. She was surprised to hear Luke's voice on the other end, at first wildly hopeful that her stay in purgatory had ended and that he was calling to talk about them. She hadn't seen him since their encounter at the grocery store. She was avoiding the diner, town meetings, and walking around town during times when she knew he was likely to be out and about. She didn't want to accidentally run into him, and see that cold, passive look in his eyes; it would break her heart even more. He needed to come to her.

Instead, he was frantic, worried about April. She hated herself for feeling disappointed, only hoping that his concern made him oblivious to her tone. (She needn't have worried. Later on, she ruefully remembered that his inability to focus on anyone other than April is what had doomed the relationship to begin with.) He rattled off April's symptoms, sounding more frazzled and worried than she could recall him ever sounding, and she calmly suggested he bring her to St. Joseph's.

After hanging up, she pressed play on the remote control and tried to at least pretend she was watching the movie. She fidgeted on the couch for awhile, before she muttered "To hell with it," grabbing her coat and jamming her feet into her shoes, feeling slightly irritated with herself for caving so easily.

She passed through the hallways with ease, heading toward where she knew April would likely be. Nothing had changed since the times she'd had to bring Rory in for various childhood illness or for that broken wrist. "Hey," she said, when she came into the waiting room.

Luke looked up, startled to see her. "Oh, hey. Hi," he stand, tossing aside the magazine he was flipping through and standing.

"How is she?" Lorelai asked, trying to cover up her nervousness with concern.

"Okay. It was appendicitis, like you said. But she's okay. I mean the operation went really great. They got it out, no problem. And she's gonna be fine. And I'm gonna be able to see her pretty soon."

"Good, good," Lorelai said, nodding.

"Yeah you didn't — you know you didn't have to come, but thanks for coming."

"There's nothing worse than taking your kid to the emergency room. You know, I remember Rory had food poisoning, and they had to hook her up to an I.V. And she just looked so little and scared. It made me feel like they were gonna have to hook me up to an I.V."

Luke chuckled out of nervous relief. "I was almost out of my mind, I was so scared. I mean at one point, I got so panicked, I was thinking maybe I'd give her my appendix, you know if they could do some kind of a transplant or something. But I was a little out of my mind."

Lorelai smiled. "Well, I'm glad she's gonna be okay."

"She's gonna be alright…"

The doctor walked up to them. "Mr. And Mrs. Nardini?" he asked, looking between the two of them.

"Oh, no. Hi, I'm Luke Danes," he said, gesturing to himself. "I'm April's dad."

The doctor smiled in greeting, nodding to the both of them. "Well, she's a little out of it right now, but you and your wife can go in and see her."

Luke and Lorelai glanced at each other and started stammering at the same time.

"No, she's not my—"

"No, I'm not, uh—"

They paused, and looked at each other, sharing a slightly embarrassed smile. The irony wasn't lost on either of them that they should have been married, but for so many reasons, they weren't.

The doctor didn't notice the meaningful look that passed between them. "Oh. Sorry. I just assumed," he replied, pausing a moment. "So, would both of you like to go in and…"

"You go," Lorelai said, stepping back.

"Okay," Luke replied, pausing. He took a step forward and stopped. "Do you want to come with me?"

"Really?" Lorelai asked softly.

"Yeah, April would love to see you," he replied. He smiled, shrugging. "And I wouldn't mind, either."

Lorelai's face lit up in a smile, and she nodded. "Let's go see her," she said.


As April slept off the anesthesia from her appendectomy, Luke and Lorelai sat quietly on opposite sides of the room, not speaking other than cursory comments on either April or the television. He didn't know why he'd asked her to stay. They hadn't really spoken over the past several months. She never came into the diner and he hadn't seen her around town. And, obviously, he hadn't sought her out. The conversation that he'd had with Max was fuzzy, but fragments taunted him occasionally.

Age old story of a runaway bride and commitment phobic… If everything was so perfect, why did she run?... Now you, you were the threat… You only introduced your fiancee to your daughter once?... all I wanted was for her to let me into her life.

Luke began clicking through the channels again, and stopped on a black and white movie.

"Ooh, Philadelphia Story!" Lorelai said.

"You've seen this?" he asked.

"Oh, dozens of times," Lorelai replied.

He set down the remote, and the dialogue floated over him. "And then I did you out of it by eloping to Maryland," he heard the actress say. He froze. When he looked up, he saw Lorelai staring at the television, her jaw set squarely.

"But I hope to make it up to you by going through with it now as originally planned," the man said, and Luke swallowed hard as the actress repeated the line. Lorelai glanced over and saw him looking at her, and something wordless passed between them. Luke started to speak, but at that moment April stirred.

"Dad?" she croaked, her eyes fluttering open. Luke quickly muted the television and turned his full attention on the young girl stirring in the bed.

"Sweetie, you're awake! Let me get you some water," Luke said, stealing another glance up at Lorelai, who was looking down at her hands. He held up a cup to April, positioning the straw to her lips. As she took tiny sips from the cup, he nodded toward Lorelai. "Look who else came to see you," he said softly.

April turned her head, and she smiled weakly to see the woman sitting on the other side of the bed. "Lorelai?"

"Hey, hon," Lorelai said warmly. "How are you feeling? You scared your dad silly."

"I'm good. Sleepy," April said, her voice still hoarse.

"Well, I'm going to go, let your guys have your privacy," Lorelai said, standing up. She smiled brightly. "I'm glad you're doing better April. I'll see you around?"

Luke stood up too, and walked her outside into the hallway.

"Well, see you," Lorelai said, ducking her head.

"Um, can we, uh, would it be okay if I…" Luke stammered, then he pressed his hands to his hat and exhaled forcefully. "Once April is back with her mom, can we talk?"

"Okay," Lorelai said, her voice sounding meek. "We'll talk," she said, her voice still trembling but slightly stronger.

"We'll talk," Luke repeated, then he gestured toward April's hospital room. "I'm gonna…"

"Yeah, okay," Lorelai said. As she walked back down the hallway toward the exit, she couldn't even begin to name all the range of emotions battling inside of her.


"Hi," Lorelai said, opening her front door several evenings later. Luke stepped in, looking around, as if wondering if she'd made major changes in the six months since he'd last stepped into this foyer. His steps were tentative, which broke her heart a little bit. They had renovated this house to be theirs. Even before they were a couple, he had known her house better than she had. But here he was, acting like a stranger.

"Hey," he replied. They stood in front of each other in the middle of the living room, neither sure of how to proceed. They had never been this awkward together. Their early friendship and subsequent coupling had been marked by an easiness that had now left the room. Hell, it had skipped town, jumped on a plane, left on a rocket for the moon.

"You wanted to talk?" Lorelai said hesitantly, breaking the silence.

"Where's Christopher?" Luke asked abruptly.

Lorelai did a double-take. "What?"

"Where's Christopher?" Luke repeated, his voice tense.

"Paris," Lorelai replied, bewildered.

It was Luke's turn to do a double-take. "Paris?" he echoed.

"Yeah, Sherry wanted to see Gigi so he took her there. I don't know how long he's staying."

"Oh," Luke replied. He stuffed his hands in his pockets and looked to the floor, unsure how to proceed given that new information.

Lorelai inhaled deeply, and decided to just go for it. "He asked me to go with him."

Luke's head shot up again, questions apparent in his eyes. "He did?"

"I said no," Lorelai replied. She stood still, trying to steady herself. She hadn't been alone in a room with Luke in a really long time. "I couldn't."

"Why?" Luke asked, and his voice was soft and searching.

Lorelai shrugged. "Because he's not you."

Luke shook his head. "What does that mean?"

"It means that I'm not going to settle for less than what I want," Lorelai said, feeling a flash of strength shoot up her spine. She closed her eyes briefly, seeking courage from deep within her. Opening her eyes, she looked deeply into Luke's. "I found love once, and I'm waiting until I can have it again."

He stepped forward, and she felt her strength falter slightly. "With who?" he asked, his voice still soft but a slight strain coming through, just underneath.

"I don't know if the man I'm in love with will ever love me again," she murmured, her eyes not leaving his. "I hurt him, really badly. I would understand if he didn't feel the same."

"He never stopped loving you," Luke replied quietly. Lorelai smiled, tears pricking at her eyes. He cleared his throat, then looked away. "But are you sure I'm what you want?"

"What?" Lorelai asked, eyebrow furrowed. "Why would you say that?"

He sighed loudly in frustration, spreading his arms wide. "I'm just this town. A diner. A kid that's practically grown up. That's it, that's all I have to offer. I don't have millions of dollars. I don't have a fancy car, or an expensive wardrobe. I can't… whisk you off to Paris at a moment's notice."

"Luke," she said softly, walking toward him, closing the small space between them. "I'm this town. I'm the Dragonfly, which would still be a dream floating around in my head if it wasn't for you. My kid is grown up." She stopped in front of him. "I don't know what I can do to make you see. I don't want all those things. I want to be with you. Why is it so hard for you to understand that?"

"I don't know," he replied, meeting her eyes again.

"I'm not Rachel," she said, her hand reaching up to touch his cheek gently.

"I know," he said, "but you could do so much, be so much. I'm holding you back."

"No," Lorelai replied, shaking her head furiously.

"You could have done that traveling consulting thing, but you didn't because of me," he pressed.

"Luke, that's not me. Yeah, it was nice to be wooed by a giant company, but you know me, you know how much I love this town, and my inn, and you." She sighed, and tilted her head, looking deeply into his eyes. "You make me better. You are my home."

He smiled tentatively, a slight blush coming across his face. He lifted his hand to be against hers, still resting against his slightly stubbled cheek. She lifted up to her tiptoes and pressed her lips to his.

The kiss started soft and practically innocent. They pulled back, hesitating. Lorelai leaned in again, and pecked his lips, the softness and familiarity drawing her in again, over and over. He reached out and placed a tentative hand at her hip. The kiss grew, more demanding and intense as the seconds ticked by.

Lorelai let her hand drift to the back of his head, and parted her lips slightly. She felt his tongue brush against her bottom lip before pushing inside. She welcomed the sensation of his tongue against hers, brushing up on the inside of her cheek, caressing her mouth as she caressed his. His lips were soft but demanding, claiming her as his.

They began moving towards the stairs, almost drowning in one another, practically fused together. Hips undulated and hands roamed. Lorelai began to undo the buttons on his shirt, and Luke pulled back slightly. "Doing?" he asked, barely able to get the word out.

"Getting you naked," Lorelai breathed.

"I don't know if that's a good… if we should… " Luke tried to say, all the blood in his body currently relocated. Her hand snaked up underneath his shirt and made contact with his hot skin. They both groaned at the sensation.

"Just a little naked," Lorelai murmured.

"Okay," Luke relented. Her heel thumped against the bottom stair and she clutched his shirt to keep from falling. He slid his hands underneath her ass and she hopped up, circling her long legs around his torso and gripping his neck. They clumsily went up the stairs, pausing occasionally to readjust or to kiss furiously against the wall.

"Conversation's not over," Lorelai breathed during a short break, both of them panting for air and pressed up against each other.

"Just postponed," he agreed, capturing her lips again like a starving man.

They stumbled upstairs, needing to brace themselves against the wall to avoid falling into a heap. Lorelai's shirt got lost somewhere before they fell onto the bed, Luke's shirts long gone somewhere at the bottom of the stairs. His pants gaped open and her skirt was pushed up around her hips.

"Inside me just for a minute," Lorelai pleaded, her hips bucking slightly against his. His palms slid down to grasp her ass again and he squeezed slightly.

"You're killing me," Luke groaned, as he undid the clasp on the front of her bra, letting the molded cups hang loosely off her shoulders.

"What a way to go," Lorelai said weakly, as his lips trailed down her chest to linger over her breast. His tongue darted out and he flicked her nipple lightly, and Lorelai gasped.

"Now, now, in me now," she panted, taking off her underwear and pushing his pants down. She straddled him, pushing him down firmly on the bed. She held his throbbing cock in her hand and slowly let herself fall on him, her body practically singing praises from the pleasurable sensation.

She paused, looking down at him, his lips parted and breathing heavily, hair mussed and eyes dark with desire. "We'll do whatever it takes," she breathed. "No more being apart."

"Agreed," Luke choked out, his hands grasping her hips firmly.

"Even if we have to go to couples counseling," she said, lifting up and then slowly lowering herself, his grip steadying her.

"Even if," he groaned, as she circled her hips above him.

"God, I love you," she moaned, sliding her hands up his chest.

"Feeling's mutual," he replied, then flipped her over before she knew what was happening. He pushed into her, keeping his thrusts smooth and deliberate, knowing from muscle memory exactly how to make her come. He felt the telltale tightening in her core before she moaned loudly, arching her back into him and letting her jaw fall slack with ecstasy. He snuck his hand underneath her and pulled her closer to him, knowing he was close.

"Mmm," she purred, and he knew she was still riding out the aftershocks. A few more deep thrusts and he came, breathing hard, still holding her close to his chest. He leaned forward and kissed her lips, their bodies still pulsating with the culmination of their love. She reached her arms out to encircle his neck, relishing the feel of their sweat-slicked and sated skin pressed up against each other.

After a moment, he pulled back, placing a few kisses down her chest. He fell beside her, resting on his side, and pulled her close to spoon her against him.

"I was joking before, about the therapy," Lorelai said as they lay next to each other. Luke's hand was absently running up and down her side, curving into the dip at her hip bone and circling around to the swell of her breast.

"I wasn't," Luke said, and Lorelai craned her next to look back at him. "I'm serious," he said. "I'll do whatever it takes." He lifted his nose to her hair and breathed in deeply. "I miss you too much when you're not mine."

"We can leave it as an option," Lorelai said slowly, thinking it over. "Keep it on the table. But, as a last resort. So, on the table, but buried under last week's mail and take out menus."

Luke chuckled. "Sure."

"We need to keep talking," Lorelai said, her voice sounding wistful.

"Agreed," Luke replied. "And not just stupid stuff. Real stuff, like we used to talk about all the time."

"Hmm," Lorelai murmured in agreement. "We need a code word."

"A what?"

"A code word. Or phrase. Something we can say that will make it obvious we want to have a serious capital-T Talk."

"Can't we just say 'let's talk'?" he groused.

"No, that doesn't give this the gravity it deserves. It needs to be a phrase that I would never say normally, so you know it's the code and not me just talking. It needs to be something like, I'm craving salad. Because you know if I ever say that, something is seriously wrong."

"That doesn't work. I like salad."

"But you never crave salad. In fact, you never crave anything. You just eat for fuel. I've never heard you say, 'hoo boy, could I go for some tofu and bean sprouts'. Never!" She turned to face him and he smiled patiently at her.

"I crave you," he said.

Lorelai giggled. "You sweet talker."

He pulled her in close for a kiss. "No craving salads right now. Later."

"Later," Lorelai agreed, closing her eyes and luxuriating in the feel of his strong body pressed up against hers. "I'll crave the heck out of salads later."

.

END