November 5, 2016

By the time the skies had darkened and the twinkle lights flickered on again, Lorelai was fading. Her night of staying awake, alternating between celebration and shock, had finally caught up with her. She'd wisely stuck to a single glass of wine after all the champagne she'd drank the night before, but her feet were beginning to throb and her eyelids were growing heavy. Gathering the wide skirt of her gown the best that she could, Lorelai began to scan the crowd for the man she'd just publicly pledged her life to. She finally spotted him standing beside Liz and TJ, his tie already undone, looking handsomely disheveled from the long day.

Lorelai made her way toward them, and as she approached, Liz looked up and noticed her, her eyes lighting up. "Lorelai! Oh, you look so beautiful!" She reached over, fawning and cooing over the luscious silk chiffon that cascaded in waves of white. "I've never seen a dress this beautiful," Liz remarked, fingering some of the intricate work.

"Yes, you have," Lorelai replied. When Liz looked up, puzzled, Lorelai grinned. "It's a reproduction of Jackie Kennedy's dress."

"Who's that?" asked TJ, and Liz just laughed, and rolled her eyes.

"She was JFK's wife, hon," Liz answered him, and she straightened to give her husband a squeeze on the shoulder.

"Oh, yeah, hey!" TJ said, his face lighting up in the way it did before he divulged something incredibly bizarre. "One of the guys in that vegetable cult said he knew who really killed JFK, he was going to show me his research before we got kicked out." He gave a half shrug. "Oh well."

"Well, I'm really glad to finally be your sister-in-law," Liz said, and she grabbed one of Lorelai hands. Lorelai grinned at her, the enthusiasm was infectious. Liz looked over at her brother. "And you got a good one."

Lorelai glanced over at Luke, who'd been silently watching the whole exchange, a small smile on his face. His hands were shoved into the pockets of his suit pants, and Lorelai felt a flash of love and adoration. She snaked her arm through the loop of his, and beamed up at him. "Yeah, I did pretty good," she said.

"Well, we need to go relieve the baby-sitter," Liz said reluctantly. "It was a great party."

"Yeah, good job on all the decoratin'," TJ added. With some hugs and farewells, Lorelai and Luke watched them walk away, Lorelai still clutching Luke's arm. Ever since they'd gotten back together at Rory's bon voyage party, Lorelai had noticed her tendency to hang on to him, like she was worried he would float away. If Luke had ever noticed it, he'd never said anything, although sometimes they shared a private smile while she clung to him, a silent conversation between them that reinforced their 'you're mine, and I'm yours' mantra they'd unconsciously adopted.

She twisted a little until she was in front of him, and reached her arms up to encircle his neck. "Take me home, husband," she said softly.

"You tired?" he asked, wrapping his arms around her. They swayed slightly to the music coming out of the speakers. Hep Alien had already played their sets, and their wedding guests had mostly dispersed. Pockets of conversation still lingered, but many of the people that had celebrated with them had drifted back to their homes, to tuck their children or themselves into bed.

"Yeah, it's been a crazy few days," she said. Luke jerked his head in the direction of the gazebo, and they began walking toward it. As they approached, Lorelai called out to Miss Patty, who was regally keeping court over the remaining guests. "Hey, Patty, would you mind letting everyone that's left know that we went home?"

"You got it, honey," she replied, with a wink. "You go enjoy some marital bliss, now." The newlyweds grinned at each other, and began the short walk toward home, Luke practically propping Lorelai up as she limped with only a slight exaggeration.

"Is Rory at the house?" he asked, giving her an extra squeeze as they turned onto Maple Street.

"No, she, um, she went to Nantucket with Mom," Lorelai said, hesitating.

The tone of Lorelai's voice made him pause, and he craned his neck toward her. "Did you… did something happen?" he asked.

"Ah, yeah," she replied vaguely. "Let's get inside and comfortable and I'll give you the scoop." Luke gave Lorelai his hand, and helped her ease her aching feet up the porch steps. She was about to open the door when Luke stopped her, his palms out.

"Wait," he said, then pushed open the door. With a swift move, he lifted her up, cradling her body against his chest, and carried her into the house, maneuvering her, the wedding dress, and all its accompanying fabric through the door.

"You're such a traditionalist," Lorelai giggled.

Luke grinned down at her. "Well, we've both been married before, but we'd never done it the right way," he said.

"True," she said, and he gently set her to the floor. She kicked off her shoes and murmured her appreciation, her toes uncurling and pressing against the cool wood floor. She lifted up her skirts and began to walk into the living room when she paused. "Wait," she said, and turned toward Luke, who'd already shrugged out of his suit jacket and was yanking off his tie.

"Yeah?" he asked, looking at her. He neatly hung up the jacket on the hook and Lorelai smiled slightly, the differences between them almost cute in the light of their nuptials.

"Get this dress off me," she said, and Luke raised an eyebrow. "I can't go up the stairs with all this chiffon," she explained, and he nodded. She turned so that he had full access to the back of the dress, and slowly, he pulled apart each eyelet closure. With each opening, Lorelai felt a little bit more relief as the tight material fell away. The skirt was so full, Luke had to push it down so that she could step out of it. "Oh my god, I can breathe again," she groaned, stretching her arms out over her head.

"I like this look better," Luke said, admiring her form in the white bra and panties that she wore underneath the dress.

"Like it enough to share it with all of Stars Hollow?" she asked, giving him a teasing smile over her shoulder as she began walking up the stairs.

"No," he replied, then tugged at the dress in the middle of the foyer. "What do you want me to do with this?" he called up the stairs.

"Just drape it over the couch," she called back. "Miss Celine wants to have it preserved or something." Her voice grew farther away as she entered their bedroom, and he heard her steps overhead. "Maybe it can go in the Kennedy family museum with the other one." With a chuckle and a sigh, he draped the dress over the couch as instructed, then began climbing the stairs.

When he entered their bathroom, he saw that the counter and the sink was now littered with what looked like thousands of tiny hairpins, and Lorelai was busily yanking plenty more from her mop of hair. He undressed, watching her warily as she removed all of the pins, ringlets beginning to slide down as she went.

"How many of those pin things did they use?" he asked, tossing his white shirt into the laundry basket.

"Probably a million or so," Lorelai replied, combing out her hair with her fingers, and finding yet more pins in the process. "I'm going to be digging these things out of my head until I'm 90."

"I don't know why you pinned it all up anyway," Luke replied. "It looks great when its down."

"Yeah, it was part of Mom's whole Kennedy theme," Lorelai said. "You know, it just seemed important to her, so I didn't fight her on it." She stopped for a moment, her hands going still mid-pull. "Is this what maturity is? Am I growing?" She met Luke's gaze in the mirror, and they smiled at each other. But Lorelai's grin faltered. "Speaking of growing," she said, biting her lip. Her hands dropped, and she gripped the side of the counter. "Rory's pregnant."

"What?" Luke sputtered, eyes widening. He faltered slightly as he stood. "I've gotta sit down." He fell onto the edge of the tub with a thunk, his hands gripping the porcelain lip. "It's not Jeff's, is it?" he asked.

"Jeff? Who's Jeff?" Lorelai replied, taken aback.

"You know, the guy that she was dating for two years, that guy," he said, lifting a hand and waving it around, in an indication of 'that guy'.

"Paul," Lorelai corrected. "And no, I'm pretty sure it's Logan."

"Logan? Huntzberger?" Luke was agog. "But that was years ago! When did they get back together?"

"They… didn't." Lorelai tossed a pin into the garbage can, feeling a shiver of satisfaction at the little pinging sound. "He's engaged to someone else. I guess they hooked up a few times when she was in London, and long story short, she's me."

"She's not you," Luke said, shaking his head. "Not that that would ever be a bad thing. But she's not. She's… she's Rory."

"Yeah, well, Rory has a lot of decisions to make in the next few months," she said sadly. She turned her back toward the counter and leaned against it, facing Luke fully.

"What decisions?" Luke asked. "She's going to tell him and then either raise the baby alone or Logan's gonna step up. What other choice is there?"

"Luke," Lorelai said softly. "This isn't like it was when I was a kid. She's older, she's got choices. She can make decisions on her own. I mean, I never, not even for one minute, wanted to do anything but have my baby and raise her, but she doesn't have to."

"What are you saying?" Luke asked. "That's she'll… get rid of the baby?" He spat the words out like it pained him to say them, and maybe they did, because Lorelai felt a little pang herself at the implication.

"I'm not saying anything. Rory told me this morning and then said she was going to Nantucket to do some writing and some thinking."

"Ah," he said. "Well, then, I guess we'll just have to be here for her, no matter what she decides." Luke stood, dusting off his hands on the sides of his pants. "Almost ready for bed?" he asked.

"I need to get off all of this stuff," she said, waving her hand in front of her face, indicating all the makeup that Emily's bridal beauty team had painted her with. She had to admit that the women Emily had hired had done a great job. She looked great — like she'd gotten married 10 years ago, the way things were supposed to be. Gone was the saggy skin, the crow's feet, the fine lines. She was glowing, and even the aching fatigue she felt wasn't dulling her shine.

Luke shucked off his suit pants, hanging them carefully on a hanger behind the bathroom door. "I'm gonna let Paul Anka out," he said, and slipped out the door before she could so much as toss off a crude innuendo his way. Lorelai scrubbed off the makeup and smoothed her night cream on. She paused a minute to revel in everything that had happened. Even with the dark cloud of Rory's impending personal crisis, she felt light. Just the idea of having a partner to help her share the heavy emotional load meant one less weight, one that she was happy to be without.

Lorelai dropped her bra and panties to the floor, and stepped into the bedroom. She began to rifle through one of her drawers, hoping to find what she was looking for before Luke returned. The garment, ribbons of lace and satin, white with pink accents, had been buried deep inside the drawer in hopes that it would remain a surprise, but evidently she'd hidden it too well. Before she could get her hands on it, she heard Luke's footsteps on the stairs. Another frantic dig, and he'd crossed the room, making a beeline toward his naked wife.

"Mm," he murmured, sliding his warm hands around her waist, pressing his body up against her back.

"Wait!" Lorelai said. "I bought something special for tonight."

"Don't need it," Luke countered, nuzzling the soft spot behind her ear. He reached a hand up to palm her breast, circling his thumb around the nipple slowly, and Lorelai dropped the clothing she had in her hands, letting it fall back into the drawer with a sigh.

"You're very persuasive," she cooed, arching her breasts into his palms, letting his hands roam over her body. She reached behind her, grasping his hip and pulling him even closer. Her hands gripped the cotton of the sweatpants he must have donned before letting Paul Anka out. It sometimes amused Lorelai how modest Luke could be, how he had a distinct public face. There was no outrageous flirting in the diner, no necking in full view of others at the Black White and Read. But then when she got him alone, he let down all his defenses; he was unguarded and open, so willing to give and enthusiastic to receive.

Lorelai had been a modern woman in her decades of dating. She'd had, as she'd told Rory, several 3-night stands, short-lived relationships where, honestly, the whole thing began and ended in bed. There'd been a handful of partners, with varying degrees of finesse. But none had been so unapologetically open and intense like Luke was. He'd taken his no-nonsense practicality right into the bedroom, which could sound mechanical, but instead was lush and deep and loving. He didn't apologize for the occasional misstep. He didn't try to wow her with slick moves or seduction techniques. He didn't quake before her like she was some kind of goddess. He simply loved her, and let her love him.

"Off," she commanded, tugging at the fistful of cotton in her hands. One hand left its exploration of her beaded nipple and waiting breast, and he pushed down his pants, taking his boxers along with it. Lorelai felt his cock spring up against her back, warm and thick behind her.

"Come here," he said, turning her around to face him, and they both sighed at the feel of skin against skin, warm and soft. The only light in the room was the dim glow from the bathroom light, and it bathed them in sensuous shadows as they collapsed onto the bed. He moved over her, holding her hands loosely over her head, and she allowed him to take full control. They fit together so perfectly, aligning against each other like they were each half of an incomplete pair. Luke groaned as his cock pressed into her warm heat, moving slow to allow her to take him in, and once he was buried deep within her, captured her lips with possessiveness. Lorelai rocked her hips against his, craving the sweet friction that would bring release.

He let go of her wrists, and she left her hands above her head in an imitation of surrender. He pressed forward, circling his hips against hers, and she moaned. He began moving slowly, building her up with him, his eyes on hers as his breath came in short puffs. Lorelai felt the sensation curling in her belly, allowing the fire to ignite and travel through her veins, extending all the way down to her toes and fingers until she was on fire, gasping and sighing, Luke's name clinging to her lips. As Lorelai cried out with her release, Luke pushed harder, slamming his hips against hers, his biceps tight from both letting go and holding back. Lorelai pushed back against the headboard to cushion the strong thrusts until, with a guttural growl, Luke's climax was ripped from him.

Sweaty and spent, Luke slumped beside Lorelai. Shifting over to his side, he gathered her up in his arms, pressing an absent kiss to her forehead.

"Damn," she murmured into his chest, both of them heaving for breath. "I think we're just getting better at this."

"I'll say," he replied, lying back with his eyes closed, his head tilting upward toward the headboard.

Lorelai paused, looking over the planes of his face, his stubbled jaw working as he swallowed and attempted to calm his breathing. She took note of the slope of his nose, and the new creases by his eyes that had grown pronounced over the last few years. She knew she probably had creases of her own, but smart man that he was, he'd never point them out.

"When did you know?" she asked, letting her fingers skim over his graying whiskers, wanting to memorize every part of him. Her husband, after all of this time.

"Know what?" he grunted, sliding his arm under her back.

"Know," she urged. "That you loved me. That we were it."

"Ah," he said, chuckling slightly, still breathless. Their days of acrobatic sex were over. No more being taken against the wall in the storage room at the diner, or squeezing into a tiny shower stall, bent over backwards, huffing and panting and talking dirty. These days, getting hot and sexy on the couch was about the extent of their adventurousness, and afterward, Luke would have a crick in his neck for days that required a heating pad and lots of massaging. Not that either of them minded. Now, with the whole house to themselves plus one aging canine, loving each other in the safety of their bed was just as good, if not better. They had nothing to prove, not to anyone and not to each other.

"Well?" Lorelai demanded, the tingling in her limbs beginning to fade, and becoming replaced by a heavy blanket of softness and relaxation.

"Oh, you wanted an answer?" Luke said, his eyes fluttering open.

"Yes," Lorelai said, and she snuggled into his side, letting her hand drift from his chin down to his chest, where his heart still pounded from their exertions.

"The first time you walked into the diner," he replied.

"Aw, you're sweet," Lorelai said, with a grin. "But seriously, when?"

"I am serious," he said, turning his head to look her in the eye. "Maybe I didn't realize it for years, but I think it was instant. For me."

"Wow, really?" Lorelai asked. She sat up, wobbling slightly from the heaviness of her limbs, but the moment felt too important to lay back and let sleep overtake her. Luke's eyes dropped to her bare breasts almost reflexively, and slowly he returned his gaze back to her eyes.

"Yes," he said, his voice gravely and sincere. "Right away."

They stared at each other a moment. Then Lorelai swatted at his chest. "What took you so damn long?" she cried.

"Me?" he said, sitting up in the bed. "Lorelai, you weren't ready."

"What does that mean?" she asked, and although she sounded irritated he could tell by the gleam in her eyes that she was playing at being mad. She was still too satisfied to work herself up to a real anger, a fact he knew about Lorelai that he frequently used to his advantage.

"Let's see," he said. "I had that horoscope for 8 years, so that means Rory was, what…"

"Eleven," Lorelai replied quickly. She'd already figured it out, her mind clicking through the past nearly immediately after the newsprint landed in her grasp.

"Eleven," Luke repeated. "She was still a kid. Would you have said yes even if I'd asked?"

Lorelai shrugged. "Probably. I went out on dates when Rory was a kid. I wasn't a nun."

"Any relationships that lasted past dessert?" Luke prodded. She opened her mouth to respond but after a moment, closed it again. She shook her head. "See?" he said. "And then it would have gotten all weird, seeing you every day, a date that went nowhere hanging over us."

"I never dated anyone from Stars Hollow until you," Lorelai admitted. "I wanted to keep my Rory life and my dating life separate." She sighed. "So, what, you just decided to wait until you thought I was ready?"

"Well, not really," Luke said. He scooted back to lean against the headboard, lifting his arm in invitation. Lorelai moved to be next to him, tucked into his side with his arm draped around her. She marveled again at how well their bodies fit together, like puzzle pieces. "Rachel came back not longer after I met you," he said after they'd gotten comfortable, pulling the blanket up to their waists.

"She did?" Lorelai said, surprised. "I thought that was long before I moved to town."

"Well, she'd been gone a few times before that. She left after high school, then came back, then left again, then came back. This time, she was so sincere. I really believed her."

"But she didn't stay."

"No. She didn't." Luke pressed a kiss to the side of her head, nuzzling a moment before pulling away. "It was the longest time that she stayed since the first time she left, so it's understandable that I thought it was really happening. Two years, she was here in Stars Hollow. She traveled a bit on odd photographing jobs for magazines and stuff, but she kept coming home and I thought it was real."

"I'm sorry," Lorelai offered, squeezing his hand.

"I'm not," Luke replied. "But by the time she left again, I knew you and Rory and I couldn't…" He lifted a hand, a gesture of helplessness. "Risk it."

"So, then, when you kissed me at the test run, you knew we were both ready?" Lorelai asked.

"Uhh," Luke said. "You know, I don't think I was ready then," he admitted.

Lorelai pulled away, twisting her body to look at him. "What do you mean?" Lorelai asked softly. He reached out to push a curl out of her eyes, letting his hand linger on her cheek before dropping it back to his lap.

"I'd spent a lot of time alone," Luke said hesitantly. "I wasn't used to sharing my life with another person. And you were, well, unexpectedly ready."

"I don't know what that means," Lorelai said, shaking her head slightly.

"You've gotta understand, Lorelai," Luke said, tipping his chin down, gazing at her through dark lashes. "I saw you go from relationship to relationship. I watched you get all excited about a guy, then once things seemed to be going somewhere, you ran. Literally, in some cases." Lorelai looked down, somewhat embarrassed. "I was almost expecting you to do the same to me. I never thought that I'd be the one to run."

"You— you didn't run," Lorelai said, her eyes snapping up again. "I ran. I went to Christopher." He winced. "Sorry," she mumbled.

He gathered her up in his arms again. It was almost as if just mentioning their year-long separation was enough to want him to eliminate any physical distance between them. She tucked her head underneath his chin, feeling the rumble of his voice against her body, reverberating in the cavity of his chest. "After your parents' vow renewal, I told you I couldn't do it anymore. I just said it, and I regretted it, but once you called me your ex-boyfriend, I thought it was too late to fix it."

"But it wasn't," murmured Lorelai.

"No, thank god." He pressed his face into her dark hair and inhaled the scent of her shampoo. Something floral with citrus. He loved the way she smelled, how her feminine products and potions scattered throughout the house, filling his head with the scent of her. It clung to their sheets, to his clothes. It permeated his whole existence now, reminding him of her, and of them. "And when we got back together I was so glad we had that second chance. Then we were engaged, and I just thought it would be perfect, you know?" He swallowed, hard. "But I ran away from you and tried to figure out the April thing without you. I didn't literally run, but I blocked you out from following me, from helping. I thought I needed to do it myself. God, I don't know what I was thinking."

"Me, neither," she mumbled. "I felt so… bad," Lorelai said, lifting one shoulder in a small shrug.

"I hate that I made you feel that way," he said, his voice drenched with regret. "But see, that's why I wasn't ready. I said I was all in, but I wasn't. Not really."

"Why weren't you?" Lorelai asked softly.

"I… I don't know," Luke said slowly. He began to trace the length of her spine with his fingers, letting the pad of his index finger dip into each curve and bump. "I don't regret that time we spent together, but I know I didn't really think about what was expected of me." When his hand reached the nape of her neck, he let his hand cradle her head, twining his fingers through her thick hair. "I kept expecting you to leave."

"But you were right," Lorelai said, and he could hear her voice becoming thick with emotion.

"It wasn't all you," Luke said. "We've been over this. We were both at fault." She nodded against his chest, and he cradled her even closer.

"Do we have it right this time?" Lorelai asked.

Luke took in a deep breath. "To be together, we need to be partners. And I don't think I realized we were still not doing that until you went to do Wild."

"Even after I actually brought it up when we fought at the diner?" Lorelai asked, her voice still muffled into his chest.

"I guess that's when I started thinking about it," Luke said. "But I was ready to be before that. After Rory left to go on that bus thing, and we had the party, I don't think that we would have lasted if we hadn't both been ready. We just didn't know… how." Lorelai nodded against him again, winding her arms around Luke's waist. "And in a weird way, I think April helped me get there."

"Helped you be ready to be a partner?" Lorelai asked, sitting up again. Luke leaned forward, and kissed her lips gently.

"She stopped me from hiding, and closing myself off again. I mean, she was there, I couldn't just disappear."

"That's true," Lorelai said, with a slight smile.

"When Rachel kept leaving, it was easier to just close in on myself, you know? It was protective. I just stopped caring about others. I did what I had to do."

Lorelai gave him a sad look. "Luke, that's not true at all," she admonished. "You've always cared."

"There's a difference between doing the right thing and actually letting people into your life." His lips quirked into a small smile. "But I've got a soft spot for smart women that talk really fast."

Lorelai smiled bashfully, feeling her heart surge with warmth for this man. The man that she chose, and who chose her, again and again. "So, it was love at first sight, then?" she teased, poking him gently in the chest. He caught her finger with his hand, and with a swift movement, curled an arm around her waist, laying her down on the bed beside him. Before easing himself down beside her, he pulled the blanket up over their naked bodies to ward off the late night chill.

Lorelai snuggled into the blankets again, curling up into his side. "I hope Rory doesn't have to do it alone," she said quietly.

"She'll be great," Luke replied, stretching an arm to lay over his head. "She's got us for back up, she's not alone. Whatever she decides."

"I mean, I want her to have a partner," Lorelai said. "That's all any mother wants, for their kids to do better than they did." She sighed. "If only she could find her own Luke, and cut out all that pesky waiting time." She craned her neck to look up at him and grinned lasciviously. "Lots of perks to having a sexy guy around."

"Don't even go there," Luke said. "I prefer to consider her as close to wearing a wimple as possible."

"You do remember she's pregnant," Lorelai replied, raising an eyebrow. "Did you sleep through tenth grade biology?"

"As far as I'm concerned, she conceived immaculately and we are about to witness the second coming of Jesus." He shifted, clearing his throat. "Or the next Gandhi or Zeus or whatever."

"You seem sure she's having a boy," Lorelai said. "What about Wonder Woman, Mother Teresa, or Hera?"

"The world isn't ready for another Gilmore girl," Luke replied with a snort. Lorelai giggled, her eyes drifting shut.

The darkness in the room tucked them into their little cocoon, shut off from the pressing questions and demands of daily life. Here, in their room, they were shut away from the world. He listened to the steady breaths beside him, and licked his lips a couple of times. "So," he finally asked, "when did you know?"

"Huh?" Lorelai mumbled, already drifting off to sleep.

"Never mind," Luke said gently. "Go to sleep."

"Mmm," she replied. He inhaled deeply, and let his body relax into the mattress. His mind was already slowing, his breaths coming deep and even, when he heard Lorelai stir slightly. "When you loaned me $30,000 without a question and no strings attached," she mumbled. "You believed in me."

In the dark room, a smile played at the corners of Luke's lips before he drifted to sleep.