Crawling

Disclaimer: Will never be mine, nor will any money.

Summary: AU. "Partings" goes very differently, and Lorelai isn't the only Gilmore who loses her man. T for language/situations

Genre: Angst/Romance/Family

Author Note: This originally was meant to be a fic that began right after "Vineyard Valentine" and found the Ls both out of their comfort zones. I wrote 20,000 words of that, couldn't get anywhere, started over. And this monster was born. It is completed.

A lot of you will hate what I've done. That's okay. I hate it.

Shout-out to PurryCat, who always offers me advice and a sounding board.

Shout-out to my husband, who read this for "authentic guy-ness".

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CHAPTER ONE

First, there came avoidance. This was not denial. Lorelai Gilmore was long past denial. She was even past anger and bargaining. Acceptance was impossible. Therefore, she avoided.

Such the stages of Lorelai's pre-emptive grief.

Each day, however, was another wound, and she finally confronted Luke in public, knowing he'd hate it, and hating it herself. Simply, she had to act before it was too late. She had to know.

She clung to that, listening to Luke rant about all he had to do besides be with her, be her fiancé, be her friend, be anything to her. She was still in the magical time before too late.

It ended when she said it was now or never, and Luke reared away from her as if she'd thrown acid on him. Stammering, Lorelai hastened to explain, and it was her luck (perennially bad) that for that one moment, everyone and everything in the town square was perfectly silent. "Luke, it's now or never, I'm pregnant!"

Everyone, including Lorelai, held a breath against Luke's response.

Red-faced and dark-eyed, he snarled, "Who's the lucky guy?"

Lorelai's mouth dropped open. No sound emerged, for once.

Luke Danes was a stranger to her.

He knew every dark sad thought to cross her mind. She had no idea who he was. And, she recognized, she might never have.

"I have to go," said Lorelai, and stumbled away. She'd wanted to tell him first, in private, but how? Then… After dinner at her parents' house… There was Chris, goofing as always, and it only reminded her how different he and Luke were, and how desperate she felt. And now she'd blurted it in public, which was horrifying enough, without Luke's reaction.

Who's the lucky guy?

A tiny voice of reason in her skull, which sounded like Sookie and Rory, reminded her that he'd been left and left and left again by Rachel. He'd been cheated on by Nicole. He had scars. He had concerns.

Lorelai knew that. She'd tried to erase all mention of Christopher to the point that she'd ended up looking more guilty than if she'd just told Luke up front. It wasn't a mistake of malice, but of trying too hard, and that was okay. Lorelai corrected herself. She had thought it was okay. That they had learned. That they'd talked it out. That…

Who's the lucky guy?

Reeling mentally, staggering emotionally, Lorelai walked to her jeep. She paused once, to vomit into someone's unfortunate rosebushes, then began driving. To where, she did not know. Only that she had nowhere to go. Sookie was her best friend, but Sookie was a fan of romantic happy endings, and Lorelai couldn't bear to be cheered up and told this would work itself out. She needed reality. She needed fact. She needed to find out who the hell she'd loved, or if he ever existed.

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Richard Gilmore was tired. Emily was ranting about Lorelai and Christopher, so disgraceful, so rude, so immature, and he wondered what she expected. Putting his daughter near Christopher inevitably brought out the inner adolescent in Lorelai. Moreover, he was quite aware that Lorelai enjoyed irritating Emily, and what better than upsetting a matchmaking attempt?

Sipping a cup of tea privately laced with brandy, Richard knew he needed to talk to Emily about it. If she worried Lorelai and Luke were unhappy, then why on earth shove Christopher under her nose again? She could have only one reason, but surely Emily wasn't that stubborn, that misguided, that…

The doorbell rang, interrupting before he came to the inevitable and ugly conclusion.

He groaned, but called, "I'll see who it is!" in order to forestall a tirade about the latest maid. He didn't keep track anymore. They came, they went, on a schedule almost as regular as Emily's manicures.

Emily beat him to the door. He rumbled in his chest. "I said…"

He stopped short.

Lorelai stood at their door.

Voluntarily.

Richard hadn't become wealthy (well, wealthier) by ignoring instincts. He immediately stepped forward, and asked gently, "What is it, Lorelai? You should come in, you're pale."

She came in, without a word, and walked to the living room, again without a word. She sat down on the couch, ankles nicely crossed,

Emily's hand went to her throat. Her frightened eyes begged Richard to find out what was wrong.

Emily perched opposite Lorelai. Normally, Richard didn't worry for his daughter. She was indomitable. He'd never doubted her capacity to withstand Emily, or, indeed, the world. Yet that niggling sense of trouble prodded him into taking his seat next to his daughter, and patting her hand. Years around Rory had taught him much about Lorelai. This was not the time to stand aside and let Emily handle it.

"I'm pregnant," said Lorelai tonelessly, "and it's Luke's, and I told him, and I asked him if we were getting married, because there's this baby on the way, and he asked me whose it was."

White shock flooded Richard. He liked Luke. He didn't understand the man, but he liked him. He admired prickly independence.

He did not admire the pain in his daughter's dull blue eyes.

Lorelai's eyes were never dull. His daughter's eyes were fire.

Luke Danes put out Lorelai's fire.

"I can't breathe. I'm always crying. I'm always terrified. I feel like I can't even take a shower without it being a disaster."

Where was Lorelai's spark, verve, quick-pattering wit? This droning litany came from a stranger wearing Lorelai's face.

"It's worse and worse and I can't hold off telling him and I told him first, and he asked me who's the lucky guy, and I don't know why I'm here, I can't find a place to be, my house isn't home anymore, he made it different but he never moved in, and he's always at the diner and he won't let me near April and the last time we had sex, that's all it was, sex, and I didn't even think I could be pregnant when I missed the first time," Lorelai went on in a very Lorelai-ish ramble, minus all facial expressions and gestures. "It's the only time since the Vineyard. I'm too old to have a baby alone. First I was too young, now I'm too old, and I don't know where to be."

She fell silent. Her hands lay flat on her legs. Her eyes stared unblinking at air.

Rage began to override shock. Lorelai was broken. What Emily, Trix, Richard, Rory and life in general could not do, this Luke had done.

He broke my daughter.

Then, with the discipline that had made him a formidable force in the insurance industry for forty years, Richard set that aside. Rage came later, after a strategy was devised. For the moment, he had to give Lorelai his whole-hearted support. Married or unmarried, she was going to have a child. He couldn't do it again. He couldn't only know this grandchild at holidays laced with verbal arsenic.

"Oh my God," gasped Emily. "Again. You did it again. Pregnant, and no intention of being with the father!"

Richard blinked hard, staring at his wife of many years. He growled a warning, "Emily. Not now."

"Well, when, then? And boozing it up at supper, no regard for that poor baby…"

Richard almost flared up, hesitated as his memory supplied information. "Lorelai, you didn't drink, did you? What, one or two sips where we could see, wasn't it?"

Lorelai nodded. She shrank, somehow. Tiny and frail. Lorelai, of all people.

"I can't do this anymore," she whispered, and fear struck Richard hard.

This meant life. He knew it, because he'd felt the weight so often, crushing him from the inside out. Rory had kept Lorelai going, as his family had Richard, but now?

Now, Richard was afraid.

He came out of his reverie to Emily's furious, "…Irresponsibility! And no wonder he asked, you're certainly not a model of virtue!"

Richard's eyes snapped from his unresponsive daughter to his too-responsive wife. "Shut up, Emily!"

"How dare you!"

"How dare I? She is engaged to this man! A man who loves a woman doesn't treat her as he's treated her, and that was a lesson you, my dear, taught me!"

"Don't raise your voice at me! I will say what I like in my own home to my own child about her reckless, careless, oh, she's hopeless!" With that, Emily threw up her hands, dropped them, and assumed a set-jawed glare. "She's made a mess, well, it's her mess, as she's reminded us for twenty years, and I will not offer help to have it thrown away again! I warned her about this man, I warned her, and this is the thanks I get, yelled at in my own home, after she made a fool of me in front of guests!"

A sick feeling crawled up Richard's spine. He wished he'd misheard her, and knew he hadn't.

"Lorelai," he said softly, "go to the car."

"I can't drive, Dad," she said in that same dead voice. "I'm too tired and I don't know where to be."

"I'll drive. Go sit in the old Mercedes."

Obediently, Lorelai wandered to the front door.

"Taking her home?" asked Emily in a sweetly acidic voice.

"To a hotel," answered Richard with dignity.

"Don't be gone late, you know you have a golf date in the morning."

Richard went upstairs. He retrieved his car keys. He threw a few things into a bag, reflecting ruefully that Emily usually packed for him, and he'd undoubtedly missed a dozen vital items. Then he walked downstairs, ignoring Emily's shrill, "Richard? Richard, what is the meaning of this?!" until he could shut the heavy front door behind him.

He quailed, a moment, before he saw Lorelai standing lost in the driveway, huddled in a sweater despite the warm night.

"Come along, Lorelai," he said, and put a tentative hand around hers. "The car is this way."

AN: Yes, Emily and Luke are horrible, terrible, awful people that I've butchered, cannibalized, resurrected as unrecognizable zombies. Now, put down your pitchforks and torches, and understand that you can argue in favor of anyone being good/bad depending what you cherry-pick from what episodes/seasons.

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