AN: First of all it almost makes me believe I need to write more cliffhangers to get as many reviews as I did - thank you! :)

Please don't be mad at me. I like a happy ROGAN too, I wouldn't be writing these things if I didn't. But I also don't think I can write all-fluff - that is just not me (and yes, I know I sometimes drag it on longer than you want me to, but I only do what feels natural to me - I'm trying to better myself too). And I know you've so far only gotten a lot of struggles, but a) I still have the possibility for time jumps in this, so it doesn't mean that the past doesn't contain fluff (plus it has been 4 years of life, a large chunck of that happy!) and b) we're only just in day 1-2 in this main story timeline of two months. You can't expect everything to be fixed in just a few days. But trust me, you won't be disappointed if you stick with it. If you need spoilers to push through the early doom and gloom, PM me.

Also - there's a little bit of a difficult COVID theme coming in the beginning of this (short) chapter - if it's something you don't want to read about just skip over the flashback from 2021, I'll recap it later minimally.

Chapter 5

January 20th, 2021

Lorelai sat in her bedroom, past Leo's bedtime, and stared at the 4G baby monitor with tears in her eyes. Not being able to go to the hospital to hold Luke's hand was devastating. He always looked so full of life, like an ox, but now he just seemed so powerless, laying there on his stomach, wires and pipes everywhere. He looked so pale. Lorelai didn't even really remember Luke being sick, except for some stomach flu a few years ago.

The diagnosis was acute respiratory distress syndrome and he'd also developed pneumonia on both sides of his lungs. They hadn't needed to ventilate him yet, thankfully. The machines beeped and the ventilator on the other man in the same room as Luke, wooshed, almost like warning of what could be next.

Who knew where he'd gotten it from, Luke was never much one for being extra tidy or overly cautious - he did deliveries, trying to keep the diner afloat, and for a while attempted to keep the diner working by serving beverages outside. Despite seeming a very reluctant person to mingle with his customers, he actually did love it, feeling unable to stop doing what he'd been doing for nearly thirty years.

He'd been awake for a few minutes earlier that evening, and asked how Leo was doing, barely having the air to get the words out. They'd all had the virus, Lorelai barely registering it and also Leo's fever and cough had passed within a week, just leaving the boy with a loss of smell for another few weeks after. But Luke had by now been at the hospital for three weeks.

Lorelai was jolted out of her sob by seeing one of the nurses coming to check on Luke. For a moment she thought about asking her to comment on her condition, but realizing it was much better to wait for the doctor to call the next day, she switched off her camera and continued to listen to him breathe instead. She sobbed herself to sleep like on many of the nights, keeping the sound on to know if something happened to him. She'd been with Luke for such a long time, she honestly didn't know how she was going to manage if she did lose him. She scolded herself for even thinking of the possibility of that scenario, sensing as if Luke would somehow sense her thinking of that too.

It wasn't fair. Not on Luke, her or Leo. She didn't know enough about boys to raise a teenager - what was she going to do to throw him a tiara and pink-boa party for his 16th? Was she just supposed to let Celeste give him the talk?

These evenings were one of the hardest of her life, curled up in a fetal position with the monitor by her side. They were worse than when Rory was sick - she'd never been that sick, worse than when she'd been unsure why her newborn wasn't eating or sleeping and wouldn't stop crying, worse than when she'd worried about the finances with the inn, worse when she'd had a major fight with Rory. For decades she'd tried to convince herself that Rory was the most important person in her life, and perhaps that had been true at some point, but now Luke was that person - her person - the one who held a major part of her heart that she was pretty sure couldn't be mended if she lost him.

June 18th, 2024

Leo was showing Finny how to dive and stand on his hands in the pool, and for a 13 year old he was surprisingly willing to deal with the little ones. This Lorelai truly enjoyed watching.

Lorelai was laying on a recliner in the shade by the pool, wearing pink and orange tropical wrap caftan over her matching bikini, and sipped a margarita that she'd made a whole jugful of earlier. She had a book in hand, a Rachel Hawkins' novel, but hadn't gotten very far in reading it, simply enjoying the dry but hot weather and kept an eye out for Finny and Evie in the pool while the rest were inside napping or resting, or whatever else their parent's did during their kids' naptime.

"Mind if I join you, Lorelai?" Sherry asked, appearing in a bright blue crop bikini top and matching bikini bottoms, holding her water bottle and took a seat on the recliner next to her.

"Of course not," Lorelai replied. Sherry may not have been her first choice in companionship by the pool, her model-like body making even Celeste and Rory feel a little inferior, but she didn't really have an issue with her. Not anymore.

"Sieste is heavenly, don't you think?" Sherry asked, casually and continued to explain that this was what her normal workday was like - she'd go in in the morning, open the ceramics studio and watch it for a couple of hours, clean it, and then close it for a good 3-4 hours during the day when it got too hot and the tourists headed back to their hotels to rest. Then, late afternoon she'd go back for another 4 hours or so.

"I'm not really complaining," Lorelai replied, taking a large sip of her margarita. The pool side and the warmth really hadn't gotten dull in a couple of days they'd been there.

"So G told me about Luke, I'm sorry - I didn't know," Sherry replied.

"Well - he's okay, the whole thing was just a blow to his body, and ego. The recovery has been a bumpy road but he's been doing rehabilitation and physical therapy, and now when he's finally feeling a little more up to working again - it's like he's trying to prove himself to be capable again," Lorelai shared, having not realized she actually needed to vent too. Luke had never been much for travelling, and now more than ever, all he wanted to do was feel like himself again.

"I bet all that must be costing a fortune, I heard the insurance doesn't really cover these things over there or the wait list is too long," Sherry sympathized.

"Well, thankfully, Rory and April are helping, but yeah, he hates the fact that they are. Just keeps saying how he's done and then the next time he has to carry a bag of flour, you know - the really big kind, and feels out of breath he just continues to grumble to himself for a while," Lorelai continued.

"Yeah, I hate feeling like I'm the one that needs to be helped too. You know, you raise a child knowing you're the one taking care of her and then suddenly the tables are switched," Sherry said.

Lorelai almost wanted to comment something along the lines that Sherry had never really been the one to fully take care for G, that not even knowing a lot of the deeper issues. But in Lorelai's eyes G had more or less been fending for herself since her late pre-teens - still she decided to hold her tongue. Those times were behind them, and G had actually turned out a lot better than Lorelai had expected.

"Yeah..," Lorelai exhaled.

"Can I pick your brain about something?" Sherry suddenly asked, throwing her legs off the recliner again.

"Sure," Lorelai replied. What was she going to say - 'no'?

"G told me she wants to buy me a house here, so I could rent out apartments in it. And I mean it's incredibly generous of her, I get it. But I feel like it's not my place to accept something like that. I feel spoiled, treated unfairly - I don't deserve it," Sherry listed, turning to sit towards Lorelai and lowering her tone not to let the kids hear.

"Wow," Lorelai commented. Who would've thought that from the little girl who'd never heard the word 'no' in her life and screamed from the top of her lungs at everything she didn't like would do something like that?

"I mean, you must've had a similar situation. Maybe this thing with Luke isn't the best example but… I don't really know who else to talk to about this," Sherry exhaled. "It almost feels like taking Chris' money. Or depriving her of something, you know," she added. Lorelai did know.

"Well, I am not really familiar with the details why she wants to give it to you, but I think the fact that she is offering is pretty special. I mean most people her age are happily partying away their money, spending it on fancy holidays, designer clothes and whatever else these kids are doing - drugs, I guess?" Lorelai commented, trailing off a little.

"But what would you do if it was you? And I mean I'm not struggling, I can pay my bills, but I am living from payday to payday without much of a buffer. And I'm fine, I've done it before, I just don't feel like it's fair, you know...?" she discussed.

"Then tell her that - that you don't feel it's fair. Or let her buy it herself, help her take care of it - this way it's not yours, but you'd just be helping her maintain it. Live in it if you want, if you don't - don't… If you can save the income from it, give it back to her," Lorelai suggested. That's what she'd been doing with some of her mother's money too - and with her hardly paying attention to the details of her finances in Nantucket - needing very little to live her simple life there - she hadn't even commented on it.

"So it'd be like her investment," Sherry reflected, pondering the scenario over in her heard.

"Pretty much," Lorelai replied. "I mean if she tells you she wants to give it to you, then you'll probably make her happy if you accept, right, but I think just realistically thinking it might be wiser financially if she remains the actual owner. I remember Celeste telling me something about the audacity of inheritage tax system in this country - you should ask her," Lorelai suggested. "I mean we're not in our first youth here, are we?" she added, sensing her mortality better than ever after what had nearly happened to Luke.

AN: quick recap of what happened in 2021 was that Luke got Covid and was in a hospital for several weeks in pretty bad shape, making Lorelai fear that she was losing him.