Author's note: This story is the sequel to "If You Want More, Then Jump," and starts the morning after that fic ends. You don't have to read all of "Jump" to follow this story. Essentially: Luke follows Lorelai and Rory to Europe in the summer of 2003 and while there, he and Lorelai begin a relationship. This is what happens when they get home.

The chapter titles in this story all come from episodes of "Doctor Who." This chapter and the next contain a bit of an homage to junienmomo's "Luke Fixed It," which handed some of the issues in early season 4 in a very good way.

Chapter 1: Deep Breath

Lorelai had woken in the arms of a man before. She'd woken in the arms of this man before. But as her alarm clock chirped and she batted wildly at it, the first thought she had other than "begone, you spawn of the devil" was I've never slept in my bed in my house with a man before.

She had tried with Max. She really, really tried. But it had failed spectacularly, and she had found herself sharing Rory's bed the rest of the night. It was one of the many signs that coalesced to make Lorelai realize that marriage to Max was wrong in every way possible. Max never felt right in this house, this little home that she and Rory had built. And Christopher … the couch was too good for him, and that's where he had stayed.

But it was far, far different now. Maybe it was because there was just as much Luke in this house as there was her and Rory. From the porch railing to the weather sealing around the bedroom window, there was something of him in every room. So it didn't seem strange at all to wake up their first day back in Stars Hollow with him wrapped around her. Sorry, staring down at her, because he was clearly awake. In more ways than one, Lorelai thought with a very feline smile, feeling him pressed against her hip.

"Hi," Lorelai said softly.

"Hi," Luke said back, burrowing his nose into the sensitive juncture between neck and shoulder.

She ran a hand through his hair. After spending an entire summer trying to get Luke a new hat and subsequently murdering each one, she had gotten used to seeing him without one. It would be strange, yet comforting, to see him back in Ol'Blue, as she mentally called the hat she'd given him several years earlier. Her thoughts derailed as he trailed his lips up her neck to her mouth. The kiss was just as languorous as her thoughts.

"There's a slight problem," Lorelai murmured as large hands swept beneath the tank she wore.

"No condoms," Luke muttered against her lips. "I already realized it. We used the last one in my wallet in Liverpool, and the rest are still in my luggage." Back at his apartment, which was doing neither of them any good.

"I'm getting that taken care of. Fast." Lorelai had let her birth control lapse in the months since her relationship with Alex fizzled out and now regretted it very, very much. "As soon as I can book an appointment with my doctor."

"There are other ways to go about doing this." He shoved back the duvet, then started kissing his way back down her body.

"I like how you think," Lorelai gasped.

Rory eyed the ceiling and the suspicious sounds coming from above her. With a grunt, she walked out of her room with a book and a wish to lose her short-term memory. Blearily, she hunted through the cabinets until she found a bag of coffee with just enough in it to make a single pot. She filled the coffeemaker and set it percolating while she opened the fridge to see if something edible existed.

"I think there's cobwebs growing in here," she muttered, shoving the door shut. She yanked open a cabinet and squinted at the can of Spam that her mother had bought on a lark sometime in 1997. They only kept it for entertainment value, leaving it out on the counter every so often so Luke would see it when he came by to repair stuff. Lorelai would make sure he spot the can, and like clockwork, he would launch into a rant about processed meat, how Spam was the worst of processed meat, and can't they get rid of it, it was 2003 for god's sake.

Grinning, Rory spotted an unopened box of Pop Tarts shoved to the very back of the cabinet. "Score!"

Rory carried them back to the table, tearing open the box as the coffee burbled away behind her. She opened the package, selected one, and took a bite as she admired the room. The kitchen was nice. Her house was nice. Europe had been nice. But there was nothing like being in her own home, where she had spent the second half of her childhood. She was leaving it again in five days, and she wanted to spend every second of that week enjoying her home, her mom, her friends and her town. As excited as she was to start Yale, even though this would always be home, part of Rory knew she would never live here full time again. That made her sad to the point where she wanted to go climb in bed with her mother. But that would be a really bad idea at the moment, given the rule she agreed to abolish hours earlier.

Rory had never seen her mother so happy as she was in those heady weeks since Rome. Despite all the potshots taken at her mother's inability to maintain a relationship longer than a few months, this felt different. No, Rory corrected, it was different. Something about the relationship with Mr. Medina had sat wrong with her, even though she liked him very much, and part of her regretted that he never became her stepfather. But this? It was right in every way possible, for all three of them. Rory put the Pop-Tart down, pulled out a mug and reached for the coffee pot. She wondered what her maid of honor dress would look like and how long it would take for Luke to ask her mom to marry him. She made a mental note to get with Lane and start the betting pool ahead of the rest of the town.

The back door burst open and Rory leaped, coffee splashing over the rim of the mug. She spun around to see Babette rush into the house, Morey at her heels.

"Oh my God, you're back! Morey, they're back! Are you hurt? Are you bleeding?" Babette asked in a rush, grabbing Rory's arms.

"No?" Rory asked, confused. Morey gave her a silent nod and disappeared out the back door.

"What the hell happened to you?" Babette crushed Rory to her in a hug that caused more coffee to slosh out of the mug. "Your itinerary said you were supposed to be home on Saturday, so when you didn't show up, we panicked! I thought you'd been kidnapped by some crazy Sandinistas or something!"

"No, no," Rory reassured her, hastily putting the mug aside before the rest could be sacrificed to the kitchen floor. "We all wanted to fly home together, but the flight was full, so Mom and I had to rebook and the next flight out with three seats together wasn't until Sunday morning. Then it got delayed, and we got stuck in customs for awhile in Hartford. Oh, Babette, I'm sorry. We didn't mean to make you worry."

"Well, I was a complete basket case. I finally just started calling consulates."

Rory blinked. "Consulates? How many consulates?"

"Ah, jeez, all of 'em."

"All of them," Rory repeated faintly.

"Where's your mom? Still asleep?"

"Something like that," Rory managed, casting a glance at the stairs just as she saw a familiar pair of boots appear.

"So, tell me about Europe!" Babette said as Rory started making furtive gestures at the stairs.

"Let me get you some coffee," Rory said hastily, putting herself between the stairs and Babette's line of sight just as Luke caught sight of her. Rory gestured him back up the stairs, and thankfully someone in this house had sense, because he immediately did just that. Sighing with relief, she grabbed another coffee cup for Babette.

You couldn't pay Lorelai enough to go through the mass of laundry that composed the bulk of her backpack. She warily eyed the evil, evil piece of luggage and wondered if she could pay someone to haul it down to the washing machine. She tried her very best to convince Luke to do it, but he caught onto her pleas and told her that she had been doing her own laundry for years, and he wasn't about to take that pleasure away from her.

She turned instead to her closet and the rack of work clothes that awaited her. Work clothes, she realized, she'd barely touched since the Independence Inn closed its doors. She fingered the long sleeve of a silk blouse, melancholy pricking at her. She had been careful to disguise her feelings of the loss of her very first home, especially during the Europe trip. She and Sookie had gotten the Dragonfly, and there was a meeting at the bank to go over the loans later in the week. Life went on, but part of her still wasn't ready to let go of what was.

The sound of the bedroom door opening broke Lorelai out of her thoughts, and she raised an eyebrow in surprise as Luke creeped back in and carefully closed it behind him. Either he never made it out of the house or that was the fastest condom run ever. "You're back!"

He sheepishly ran a hand through his hair. "Um … Babette's downstairs."

Lorelai winced. "Oh no. With Rory?"

"Yeah." Luke leaned against the closed door as Lorelai turned back to the jumbled mess of clothes strewn around the room. "I'm sure the town knows, Lorelai."

"I know they know, but I don't feel like being the main headline of Entertainment Tonight when we've barely been back on terra firma for 12 hours. We're already gonna be the next Bennifer-"


"Oh, honey, read this." Lorelai scooped up an old copy US Weekly sitting on the dresser and handed it to him. "Anyhow, I'd like to at least keep this to us for let's say … until we go to the diner and you can cook us breakfast?"

"Clearly that's why you keep me around." Luke frowned at the gossip rag.

"Have you checked my refrigerator? There's cobwebs in there that would put Charlotte's Web to shame."

"And this is different from normal how?" He waved the magazine at her. "I'm not gonna read about someone named Bennifer."

Lorelai spotted a shirt she was fairly sure was clean and lunged for it. Moving to her lingerie drawer, she pulled it open to reveal the only things clean were her date undies. Well, considering her audience … she stripped off her night clothes. "People. Ben Afflick and Jennifer Lopez."

"Who?" She could all but feel the Luke's gaze on her naked rear, and she gave it a bit of a wiggle for extra emphasis as she stepped into the thong.

"Armaggedon? Shakespeare in Love? The Wedding Planner? Maid in Manhattan?" Lorelai hitched her jeans over her hips before reaching for the shirt.

"Lorelai." His voice was strangled, and she couldn't quite decide if it was because she was annoying the hell out of him or if she had succeeded in her quest to frustrate him in other areas. She decided it was a little bit of column A and a little bit of column B. That's what he got for forgetting condoms.

"I forget who I'm talking with. We have got to do something about your movie education. Clearly I just keep you around for the sex." Lorelai snagged a hairband and scooped her curls into a ponytail.

"I would hope not just that."

"Oh, and breakfast!"

"Olly olly oxen free!" Rory yelled up the stairs, and Luke opened the door again. Lorelai dashed past him and down the stairs. She needed to make sure Rory didn't find her secret stash of Pop Tarts.

Luke's mind was full of lists when he walked through the storeroom and into the main sitting area of the diner after changing into clean clothes and fetching what Lorelai had dubbed his "proper" hat for the first time in weeks.

While he hadn't planning on reopening for at least another couple of days, he needed to start contacting suppliers. Then there were the books, and he thought he might actually have the brain cells to handle them now. He stopped long enough in the apartment to scoop up the ledgers, then shot a glare at his bed. Right, order a new bed. He was halfway down the stairs before changing his mind. No, he would actually go shopping with Lorelai for the bed. They had a mile-long list of stuff to get for Rory before she left for Yale, and he knew enough about women to go with his gut on this one. Get whatever bed Lorelai picks. Got it.

Luke tossed the ledger on the counter and swung into the kitchen, hoping there was at least some juice there. Finding still-good orange juice, he poured some in a glass and walked back to the counter. He flipped open the ledger and sipped while he glanced over the numbers. Business had been brisk while he was gone, and he was pleased that things could run smoothly without him. He definitely needed to give Caesar more responsibility. Maybe it was time to actually give himself at least one day off a week.

He grabbed a pencil from the can next to the register and began jotting down notes. Glancing around, Luke did a quick inventory. A couple of the chair cushions looked a bit worn, and now was a good chance to go tightening the bolts on all the tables. He probably should get some window cleaner for that plate-glass window that looked directly into Taylor's new soda shoppe. With an e, he thought with a sneer as he grabbed his list and headed for the storeroom.

Less than 10 seconds later, Luke stormed out of the storeroom and to the plate-glass window that most certainly had not been there when he left on his trip in June. He rapped the glass. OK, it wasn't a hallucination conjured by his jetlag-fogged mind. Snarling, he marched across the diner and yanked the phone off the hook.

"Hello, is this Lisbon?"

"I'm going to kill him," Luke barked, not realizing that Rory had picked up.

"Oh, hi Luke. Hang on. Mom, it's for you!"

"Lisbon?" He heard Lorelai in the background.

"No, Luke!"

"I'd rather take him than Lisbon." Lorelai took the phone. "Yes, I know that's dirty. Let me tell you about my morning."

"Taylor put a giant window in my wall!" Luke exploded.

There was dead silence on the other end of the line for all of three seconds. "I'm sorry, what?"

"My wall is gone. I can see his whole stupid store, Lorelai! I'm going to kill him, I swear, I mean it this time!"

"OK, OK, hang on. No committing homicide if I don't get to witness it."

"You have 10 minutes before I unleash the Spanish Inquisition."

Lorelai rushed in at seven minutes, and only because she ran from the house. She hunched over, breathing hard as she caught her breath. When the world stopped spinning, she looked up. It was exactly what Luke had said - a plate-glass window looking into Taylor's new soda shop. With an e, she reminded herself as she peered through. "This definitely wasn't here in June," she said, turning back to a stony-faced Luke, who was leaning against the counter.

"I'm willing to bet that it wasn't here last week ago. Because if Taylor had come cutting holes in the diner while Caesar was here, I'd have heard about it. I'm gonna kill him, Lorelai. I should've killed him when he put up those unicorn topiaries in the park, but, hey, hindsight."

"You can't kill him, babe, we need you to help move Rory in her dorm next week, and I prefer not being restricted to conjugal visits."

Luke cast his gaze to the ceiling, mildly surprised Taylor hadn't done anything with it either. "I can make his life a living hell."

"Only if I can watch."

"Front-row seats, Lorelai, and I won't even complain about the popcorn."

"See, this is why I love you." She leaned on the counter next to him, and the words did a lot to prick a hole in his annoyance. Her second declaration in less than 24 hours. He didn't think he'd ever get used to it.. "He probably violated his lease, you know."

"Remember who his lawyer is," Luke sighed, and Lorelai flinched.

"OK, not good," she agreed. "By the way, when you're not planning to have Taylor headline the next season of Unsolved Mysteries, we could use your help calling Europe."

He frowned at her. "Because we didn't spend enough time there?"

"It's either that, or you'll be fielding phone calls from various embassies for the next day or two." Lorelai hastily filled him in on what Babette had done in the name of friendship and paranoia.

Luke groaned. "And that's why there were 56 messages on my answering machine."

"Bingo. Look, we'll split the rest in half. I'll take Austria through Lichenstein, you can get started with Monaco."

"You don't think I could convince the government to deport Taylor to one of those countries?"

Lorelai playfully swatted his arm. "What did Monaco ever do to you?"

"I can't stand this, Lorelai." Luke gestured at the window. "Look at my wall! And where's all my stuff?"

"The dancing pork chop," Lorelai said sadly.

"That's my dad's stuff," he continued, and with those words, what remaining rage-fueled energy he had hoarded like liquid gold drained out of him. The only thing he could see was his father wandering among the shelves in the hardware store, arranging items on the wall, hanging that damn pork chop that had been a joke gift from his old friend, Buddy. Luke had been on the cusp of getting rid of it himself when Lorelai had taken a delight in it, so of course he kept it. "I can't replace it," he said quietly.

"He wouldn't just toss everything in the dumpster … would he?"

Luke glanced at the calendar he kept just off to the side of the register. "Today's …" He suddenly sprinted into the back, and she followed out the door until they were at the dumpster. He pushed the small door open to reveal a jumbled pile of assorted stuff that once adorned the diner walls, the dancing pork chop sitting forlornly on top.

"At least they hadn't hauled off everything to the dump yet," Lorelai pointed out and bent over to untie her shoes.

"No, that would be the bigger nightmare version of this story. What are you doing?"

"Boost me in, and I can toss stuff out to you." Lorelai toed her sneakers off and bounced on the balls of her feet.

"It doesn't matter." He closed the side door of the dumpster and headed back into the diner, shoulders slumped.

Yes it does, Lorelai thought, and wrenched it back open. She located an old milk crate and used it to boost herself until she could reach into the dumpster. She snagged the dancing pork chop and looked over the remaining debris. There really wasn't much to be salvaged, and her heart ached. She thought of the fire at the Independence Inn and how it had changed things. Even if they rebuilt the wall and hung new shelves, it wouldn't be the same. Luke hadn't been ready to give up these parts of his father, and damn it, Taylor wasn't allowed to make that decision for him. She slammed the dumpster shut, shoved her feet back into her shoes, and stormed up the alley to the street.

Taylor had just disappeared into the soda shoppe, and Lorelai slammed the door open as she followed him inside.

"Ah, Lorelai, welcome back," Taylor said jovially as he moved behind the register. "Look, there's a town meeting on Tuesday, I really suggest you and Luke-"

"How could you do it, Taylor?" Lorelai talked over him, gesturing to the window. "How could you go behind Luke's back and install this!"

"It's good business, Lorelai. People can watch the ambiance of the diner from the soda shoppe, and people in there can watch the bucolic scene here and be tempted by tasty desserts, thus encouraging patronage of both establishments. Speaking of that, I simply must introduce you our Ice Cream Queen. I suspect you're quite familiar with her."

Lorelai placed fisted hands on her hips and truly understood for the first time why Luke was so tempted to be violent with Taylor. "Taylor, those things belonged to Luke! And his dad! You nearly destroyed the dancing pork chop!"

"Times change, Lorelai, and Lucas has been slow to change along with them," Taylor said, addressing her as he would a child. "A good bit of nostalgia is healthy and all, but we have a reputation at stake. I checked my lease, and I am within my right as a tenant to make cosmetic improvements to the property at my expense."

"That doesn't include destroying a shared wall! Did you even check with your lawyer?"

"Ms. Leahy agreed that this improvement doesn't violate my lease."

Lorelai very nearly succeeded in biting back a sigh. "Oh. Unbiased opinion there, huh?"

"Personal matters between Luke and my lawyer do not concern me, and they shouldn't you. Except they do, don't they?" Taylor winged an eyebrow and moved behind the counter. "Now, about that town meeting …"

"We'll be there," Lorelai snapped and stormed out of the soda shoppe and back into the diner, where Luke had resumed his position at the counter, his back to the window. She jabbed a finger at the hated piece of glass. "Mr. Gorbachev, build up that wall!"

For the first time since he walked into the diner that morning, Luke managed a half-smile. "Already called Tom."

Rory wasn't sure how they were going to get everything done by Saturday, but she was relatively sure that they could cram most everything in. But nothing was going to stop her trip to Lane's.

Scooping up the latest issue of the Stars Hollow Gazette, she perused the paper while walking through the town square. She grinned when she saw a new column had been added, made up of the postcards she and her mom had sent members of the town during the trip. She needed to grab a few more copies. She reached the end and laughed at the poor attempt to include Luke's far more laconic entries. They could never quite get him to loosen up, though Rory kept making him send them out.

She flipped to the back, where the wedding and engagement announcements were, and her heart nearly stopped when she saw the large photo that took up half the back page.

"… have announced that they have set an October 11 date for the marriage of their daughter, Lindsay Ann, to Dean Forester …"

She furiously blinked and notice a couple drops of water on the page. She glanced up, saw the sky was clear and blue. Then, she realized it was her. Mortified, she looked around to see if anyone was paying attention. She could barely hear Miss Patty's instructions to her dance class, and everyone else seemed caught up in their own business. She hugged the newspaper to herself, careful to keep the photo from facing out.

"This isn't what you wanted," Rory told herself, rocking back and forth. "You're doing what you want."

She pivoted. There was no way she was going to Lane's now. She walked blindly in the direction of the diner, figuring her mother was still there after she rushed out of the house earlier. She needed home. She needed her mom. Why did everything have to change all at once?

Then she saw the Ice Cream Queen poster.

Twenty minutes later, Rory stumbled into the diner, still reeling from her fight with Taylor. She never fought with Taylor. Fighting with Taylor was something Luke did, or her mom. Well, her mom's fights with Taylor ran more toward extreme snark with an accidental spitball in the eye. On any other day, she could cheerfully grouse about it, about how she had attained a rite of passage. But now this change was just another change on top of yet another change, and the world was starting to spin too fast. She ached to go back just a few weeks ago, when her biggest worries centered around the intricate differences between the US and UK versions of Harry Potter.

Rory stared at the counter, at one of the only people in her life she felt was absolutely safe at the moment, and dissolved into tears.

"Where's Mom?" Rory sobbed as Luke gaped in shock at her. "I need Mom."

"She went to Sookie's," he explained, dropping the pencil he held. Rory hugged herself, rocking back and forth as Luke looked around in a panic, as if expecting her mother to materialize out of thin air. When that failed, he awkwardly put an arm around Rory's shoulders and led her toward the curtain.

"Why is there a window in the diner?" Rory asked through her tears. The glimpse of the soda shoppe through the glass pane added to her misery.

"I'm still trying to figure that one out myself." Luke led her up the stairs and into his apartment. Glancing around, he snagged the afghan off the back of the sofa and placed it around Rory's shoulders. "Right, um. Tea? Kleenex? Your mom?"

Luke's awkwardness was so endearing that Rory managed a smile. "Yes, please."

Lorelai figured it was her day of sprinting across town to the diner. This time, she headed upstairs into the apartment to see Rory curled on the sofa, a mug in her hands. Her eyes were red-rimmed, but she was no longer crying. Luke sat in his armchair, looking both terrified and worried. For all the time he spent with them during the summer, an teenage girl in tears was still beyond his capacity.

Lorelai helped herself to Rory's mug, took a sip, then nearly spat it out. "Traitor!" she accused Luke. "You gave my child tea!"

"He offered, Mom," Rory said, taking the mug back. "I like it. Chamomile with lavender. Could I have some for school?"

"Sure," Luke said.

Lorelai squeezed in next to Rory, taking some of the afghan for herself. It was far too hot for any sort of blanket, but it smelled like Luke and felt like she was being wrapped in a hug. A somewhat scratchy hug, as it was acrylic yarn.

He looked at her, then at Rory, then got to his feet. "I can um … The books," he stammered, gesturing at the door.

"You can stay," Rory offered.


"Taylor has posters of me up all over town proclaiming I'm the Ice Cream Queen.," Rory blurted.

"Right." Luke sat back down.

"Staying, babe?" Lorelai asked.

"It's either stay or go punch that window."

"It's not worth the emergency rom visit," Rory said.

"So, is there anyone in this room not supremely pissed off with Taylor at the moment?" Lorelai looked from a visibly fuming Luke to a pale Rory then back again. "I take it as a no."

As they walked back to the Crap Shack together under an hour later, Rory quietly told Lorelai about the wedding announcement.

"They're getting married in October, in about six weeks. I mean, I knew they were engaged. Dean told me back in May, so I shouldn't be so surprised about it, but … I didn't think it was real. Dean said she was amazing, but why would you get married at eighteen?"

"Ahem," Lorelai coughed.

"You didn't marry Dad," Rory pointed out.

"I'm just saying, when you marry that young, sex is usually involved. We can safely bet Lindsay's not pregnant, because I'm sure Miss Patty would have telegrammed that one to us. So …" Lorelai's voice trailed off as she waggled her eyebrows.

Rory shuddered. "Because of sex? Really?"

Now Lorelai winged those eyebrows at Rory.

"Don't get me wrong, I'm sure sex is great. I mean, the stuff leading up to it's pretty terrific, and I'll just take you at your word on the rest, but how can you be married and in college at the same time?"

"Lots of people do it, kid."

"Dean has such a bright future ahead of him," Rory sighed.

"Didn't we have this same conversation in May?" Lorelai wondered.

"I'm sure we did," Rory replied. "And that's another thing, they already had the big engagement article back then. Do they need to remind the town every month that they're getting married? Are they installing a giant countdown board on the town square?"

"Taylor wouldn't allow it." Lorelai swung an arm around her shoulder.

Rory leaned into her. "I want Dean to be happy, Mom. Why am I so upset? I'm going to Yale on Saturday. You and Luke are together, and that makes me happy. I have a new car, I just got back from Europe. I have everything I've ever wanted. Why am I sad?"

"Because it means the world moved on while we were away." Lorelai thought of the missing wall in the diner. "And sometimes, you're not prepared for how fast it's going."

When he walked the Crap Shack that night, Luke passed Rory carrying an overnight bag.

"Spending the night at Lane's," she explained. "Didn't get a chance to stop by earlier. We're getting all the junk food we can for $20 and spending the evening watching MST3K when her mom's not paying attention. Mom's already upstairs. She's pretty wiped and took a couple Tylenol PM. She left the bottle out for you in case you happened to stop by."

He meandered around the first floor, locking the doors and making sure the windows were secure. A peek in the refrigerator revealed that nothing had been done about the lack of groceries. For obvious reasons, none of them felt like making the trip to Doose's. He finally headed upstairs to find Lorelai nestled in the middle of her bed, her sleep fueled with jetlag, exhaustion, and Tylenol PM. The entire combo meant that she snored.

Everything had changed over the summer, but standing there watching her sleep, Luke was struck by just how much had happened all at once. Gut churning, he pivoted and descended the stairs. His boots were on and he was halfway out the door when he realized that he couldn't go home either. It was the whole reason why he was at Lorelai's. Just knowing that window was there pissed him off to no end, and he wasn't ready to face that either. Tom promised he would get in as soon as possible, but until then, he was stuck looking into Taylor's demented take on Mary Poppins. There was two hours of his childhood he'd never get back.

With a groan, Luke took the boots back off and sank onto the couch. Whatever bubble they existed in during the trip had well and throughly popped. He tilted his head back and watched the shadows play across the ceiling. He was asleep within a couple of minutes.

He dreamed of his father.

It was still dark when he came to, and he had shifted in his sleep until he was stretched out on the sofa. He rubbed the back of his neck and levered himself onto his elbows. Lorelai sat on the coffee table, a glass of water in her hands as she watched him.

"Running away to your man cave?" she said lightly. "I figured it's the only reason why you wouldn't take advantage of Rory being at Lane's tonight."

"Didn't get very far," Luke admitted.

Lorelai made a noncommittal sound and sipped at the water. "So, going to tell me what's going on in that head of yours, or are you just going to make a series of caveman grunts?"

Her words pricked at his temper. "I don't want to talk."

"Your voice and your actions say two entirely different things." Lorelai gestured to the living room. "You are in the Gilmore living room, the only place on this planet people are more verbose than Dr. Phil's couch. If you didn't want someone to be concerned about you, you wouldn't be here. Since you've taken a vow of silence, I can be your Bob Hartley and just talk until the words somehow make sense."

"Lorelai," Luke sighed.

She leaned forward to rub his knee. "I know. The wall. You hate change."

"Not all change is bad," he conceded.

"But a lot's happened at once, hasn't it? We've been gone so long that we forgot that reality's a lot different. Kind of like being trapped on Survivor then getting shoved back into your Wal-Mart job after the 39 days are up." Lorelai's gaze dropped to her hand, where it lingered on his knee. "This is the part where I should be magnanimous and say we can go back to how things were before the trip, but I'm really selfish. But if it's too much …"

"Not all change is bad," Luke repeated, enunciating every word so forcefully that her eyes snapped up to meet his. "It's different when you have a say in it."

"Yeah." Lorelai sighed and squeezed his leg. "My baby's leaving for college on Saturday."

Guilt coiled in Luke's stomach. He had been so caught up in his own troubles that he forgot that Lorelai was now in the home stretch of saying good-bye to her little girl as she went off to college. She had just lost the Independence Inn. She and Sookie would be breaking ground at the Dragonfly soon. He needed to be her rock, but instead, she was holding both him and Rory up as change after change slammed into them. "Lots of changes for you too," he said gently, covering the hand that rested on his knee with his own.

"Still not all bad," Lorelai admitted.


Luke tugged her into his arms and rested his chin on top of her head after Lorelai reached over to put her glass on the coffee table. If he had gone on the cruise with Nicole, he would had been in the diner to stop Taylor from his craziness. But instead, he had been with Lorelai. If dealing with a plate-glass window in the diner was his price to pay to be with Lorelai, then he could put up with it. His dad would understand.

Lorelai pushed herself up until she could look down into his face. "Hey."

"Hmmm?" He pushed her hair out of her eyes.

"It's still early and Rory's over at Lane's until lunch. Wanna christen the living room floor?"

Luke chuckled. "You just don't feel like moving to the bed."

"Bingo." She kissed him until neither of them could breathe.



"I'm still bricking up that window."

"Not arguing there. Now, strip."