A/N: A healing story dedicated to Truelovepooh, and all of you who need a little bit of healing, whether it be physical or emotional.
JavaJunkie all the way. Set during Introducing Lorelai Planetarium, Lorelai never started a relationship with Christopher. Here's what could have happened when she showed up at the hospital to check on Luke and April.
Lorelai hung up the phone and dropped to the edge of her bed, their bed. She ran her hand absently over the pillow that hadn't been used in six long months. He had called her for help. After months of not hearing his voice, suddenly, there he was, in a blind panic, calling her and asking her what to do for his sick child. Her heart hammered in her chest as she realized that there were any number of people he could have called. Anna, for one. Or, Liz. Patty, Babette, Sookie, anyone else, really, but he had called her. She wondered if it was simply a matter of dialing the first number that came to mind. She sat still, the small moments of comfort and caring spanning almost ten years of friendship flashing through her mind. A sequined sweatshirt returned to its rightful owner, a promise not to paint over that one particular spot, porch rails fixed countless times, and donuts plated and slid the length of the counter. There were extra turkey dinners consumed, refuge offered and accepted, proud tears shared, movies provided to distract, bells to be broken, knee shaking kisses given and returned, and the constant support and companionship of a love born out of friendship.
But that was all before. Before the crushing uncertainty took over their lives. Before all of the pain they had inflicted on one another. Before everything in their world was irrevocably altered. Before ultimatums were issued, betrayals enacted, and ugly, hurtful words exchanged. Before April's appearance turned his world upside down. Before Christopher, and her one moment of pure regret. She looked down at the phone still clutched in her hand and wondered if he would be okay. Luke hated hospitals. He had spent too much time in them as a boy and a young man. She hoped he would be okay. She knew he would be, for April. And if there was one thing you could always count on, it was that Luke Danes knew how to step up to the plate when he had to.
She pushed herself off of the bed, dropping the phone back onto the cradle, and tried to go about her business as she had been before. She begrudgingly hung up the laundry that had sat folded in the basket for five days. She went downstairs and washed the single coffee cup and spoon that sat in the sink. She sorted through the pile of catalogues and magazines on the coffee table, weeding out the old ones, and placing the new ones in the order in which she would want to read them. She sat for a moment on the couch that they had picked out together, and listened to the silence of the house. With a sigh, she gave up the fight, stood up, gathered her purse and keys from the desk and hurried out the door.
As she drove, she lectured herself. She was just going to check on him, she told herself sternly. Make sure he doesn't need anything and then leave, she thought with a nod. Not only did she break several traffic laws in her haste to get to him, she even forgot to switch on the radio. When she pulled into a spot in the visitors' parking lot, she took a deep breath, trying to mentally prepare herself for the jolt she knew would come when she saw him. Resolutely, she climbed from the Jeep and walked determinedly into the hospital.
As soon as she turned into the waiting area, she saw him. The new black hat pulled low over his furrowed brow, and his hands knotted together in his lap, his eye firmly fixed on them. "Hey," she said softly.
His head jerked up at the sound of her voice, and his eyes widened as he saw her standing there, shifting from foot to foot nervously. "Oh, hey. Hi," he said as he pushed himself up out of his seat.
"How is she?" Lorelai asked quickly.
Luke looked at her, still a little dazed and said, "Okay. It was appendicitis, like you said. But she's okay," he assured her. "I mean they're operating now. They'll get it out, no problem," he rambled. "And she's gonna be fine. And I'm gonna be able to see her pretty soon," he said, nodding like a bobble head doll.
"Good, good," she answered with a relieved smile.
Luke rubbed his neck nervously and said, "Yeah you didn't, you know, you didn't have to come, but thanks for coming."
Lorelai smiled sympathetically and said, "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 smiled as he chuckled a little. "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," he finished babbling, with a slight blush.
Lorelai nodded and said, "Well, I'm glad she's gonna be okay."
"She's gonna be alright," Luke said as if trying to convince himself.
Lorelai glanced around the waiting room and started to say, "Well, I should…"
"Can you, uh," Luke started at the same time.
"Do you need anything? Tea?" she asked quickly.
"No, I'm good. You probably have things to do," he said gruffly.
"What were you going to ask?" she asked gently.
Luke shook his head and said, "Nothing. I was just, the waiting," he said as he gestured helplessly.
"Is hell," she answered with a nod. "Would you like me to stay?" she asked, tilting her head as she studied his face carefully.
"No, I just," he said lamely.
"Hate hospitals," she finished for him. "I would like to stay, if you want me to," she offered quietly.
"Thank you," he murmured as he dropped back into his seat.
"How about that tea?" she asked as she dropped her jacket into the chair next to his.
"Tea would be good," he answered with a nod.
Lorelai smiled and said, "I'll see if the cafeteria has peppermint. Chamomile still your back up?" she asked.
Luke smiled as he nodded and said, "Yeah, anything will do. Thank you."
"You're welcome. I'll be right back," she said as she turned to find the sign pointing her in the direction of the cafeteria. "Have you eaten?" she asked.
"Yeah, I'm fine," he said with a wave of his hand.
"Back in a sec," she said as she hurried down the corridor.
She returned a few minutes later with two cups and a small plastic bag dangling from her finger. She handed him his cup of tea and sat down in the seat next to him. "You go shopping?" he asked as he looked meaningfully at the bag.
"Supplies," she answered as she set her coffee on the floor next to her feet and opened the bag. She pulled out a king sized Snicker's bar and dropped it into her lap before she retrieved a Power Bar from the bag and handed it to him. "We need to keep our strength up," she said with a wry smile.
Luke chuckled and took the bar from her hand as he said, "Thanks," and slid it into his shirt pocket.
They sat in awkward silence for a minute before Lorelai cleared her throat and asked, "So, other than this, things are going well with April?"
Luke nodded and answered, "Oh yeah. She's been staying with me for a few weeks. Anna had to go to New Mexico to take care of her mom, she had surgery."
Lorelai made a face and said, "Well, that sucks for Anna and her mom, but good for you and April."
"Yeah, it's been good," he said as he took a sip of his tea.
"And the diner? Things are going well there?" she asked.
Luke smiled slightly and said, "Yeah, its fine. Quiet, but fine," he added with a small laugh.
"Yeah," Lorelai said softly as she stared at the sign on the wall directly across from her.
"You could come in," he said softly.
Lorelai shook her head and said quietly, "No, not anymore."
"Lorelai," he started to say.
Lorelai just shook her head and said, "After you called, all I could think about was what good friends we used to be. I miss that," she said in a whisper.
"I do too," he admitted as he stared down at his cup.
"I never wanted to hurt you," she said softly, her gaze still fixed on the sign. "I just want you to know that."
"I know," he answered softly.
Lorelai looked down at her coffee cup and said hesitantly, "Maybe, someday, we could be kind of friends again."
Luke nodded as he stole a glance at her and said, "I'd like that."
Lorelai nodded and cleared her throat a little. She straightened her shoulders and asked, "So, is April still on the swim team?"
Luke nodded as he processed the sudden change of subject and said, "Uh, yeah, she's doing well."
"And school is still going good?" she asked.
"Oh yeah," Luke said with a laugh.
Lorelai smiled and said, "Funny that our kids are both so brainy."
Luke smiled and said, "Yeah, considering that fact that both you and I have a talent for doing really stupid things."
Lorelai laughed out loud and said, "You've got that right."
"I guess we should thank Anna and Christopher,' Luke said with a chuckle.
Lorelai shook her head and said, "Oh no. That would be giving them too much credit, I think."
Luke nodded as a small smile played at his lips. He looked down at his knees and asked, "So, how is Rory? And Christopher?"
"Rory is great. Working like a crazy woman, trying to be sure she graduates on time," Lorelai reported.
"I'm glad she's back on track. Still dating that Logan guy?" he asked gruffly.
"Yes, they are," Lorelai said, smiling at Luke's still protective attitude.
"Good," Luke said shortly. A minute later, he said, "You didn't answer the rest."
"I don't know how Christopher is. I haven't talked to him since," she said as she gestured between them with her hand.
"Oh," he said softly.
Another few minutes passed as Lorelai took a sudden interest in the activity at the front desk. She took a breath and said, "So, the inn is doing well."
"Yeah, yeah, I heard," he said with a nod.
"Did you get that check I sent?" she asked as she turned to look at him.
"I did," he said, avoiding her eyes.
"You haven't cashed it," she pointed out.
Luke shrugged and said, "I haven't needed the money."
Lorelai laughed and said, "Its ten thousand dollars, Luke. Who doesn't need ten thousand dollars?"
"I don't," he said stubbornly.
"You know, I know you felt weird, taking those payments while we were, uh, but I'm really proud that I could pay you back," she said gently.
"I'm proud that you could too," he said as he kept his eyes glued to the chair across from him.
"That was the last of it," she reminded him.
"Yes, I know," he answered. "You didn't need to do it all in one chunk," he told her.
Lorelai shrugged and said, "I thought it might be better that way." She looked over at him and said, "It won't bounce, I promise you."
Luke laughed as he dared to glance at her again and said, "I know it won't."
"Then why won't you deposit it?" she insisted.
Luke looked up and away as he shrugged his shoulders and said, "Didn't want to."
"Okay," she said slowly a she shook her head at him.
A minute passed slowly before he said, "I liked that I was a part of it."
"The Dragonfly?" she asked.
Luke lifted a shoulder and said, "Yeah. Making it happen."
"You were a huge part of it. You still are. We would never have opened if it weren't for you," she told him.
Luke looked over at her, his blue eyes meeting hers as he said, "You would have. You would have made it happen with or without me."
Lorelai shook her head slowly and whispered, "You're so wrong." She touched his arm gently and said, "I never would have done it without you. Your support, your encouragement, your advice. That's what spurred me on. You believed in me," she said with a shrug.
Luke looked down at her hand and then back up at her face. "I think I forgot."
"Forgot what?" she asked as she quickly removed her hand.
Luke took a deep breath and said, "You're always so strong, so determined. Hell, you're a force of nature. I forgot that you could be hurt too," he admitted quietly. "I hurt you, Lorelai, and I'm sorry for that," he said in a hoarse voice.
"Oh, Luke," she whispered.
"These last few months," he said as he looked down at his hands grasping his cup. "I've had a lot of time to think," he said with a rueful chuckle.
"Me too," she said softly.
"We both screwed up," he said, not daring to look at her.
"Yes, but we're going to be better now, right?" she asked cautiously.
"Excuse me, Mr. and Mrs. Nardini?" a nurse interrupted.
Luke jumped to his feet and said, "Uh, no. I'm Luke Danes, I'm April's dad. This is my, uh, friend, Lorelai Gilmore," he explained. "How is she?" he asked anxiously.
"The surgery was successful. She's in recovery now. The doctor will be out to talk to you soon," she assured him.
"Okay. Thank you," he said with a relieved smile. "Thank you," he said again, and turned to smile at Lorelai as the nurse walked away.
Lorelai smiled brightly as he sank back down in his chair. "See, everything will be fine," she said comfortingly.
Luke looked over and said, "Thank you for staying with me."
"My pleasure," she answered warmly.
Luke looked over at her, and for a moment, he was lost in those bright shining eyes. "I'm still in love with you," he murmured unthinkingly.
Lorelai blinked in surprise as her heart leapt to her throat. "Me too," she whispered. "With you, I mean," she clarified quickly.
Luke started as he realized what he had confessed, and immediately looked away, placing his tea on the floor as he twisted his fingers resting his elbows on his knees as he hunkered forward. "I'm not really sure what to do about this," he said gruffly.
Lorelai reached over and covered both of his hands with hers as she said, "Maybe we should try to figure that out together, since we're both in the same boat."
Luke stared at her hand on his and then slowly turned his loose, capturing hers in his warm grasp. "Maybe we should," he said in a deep voice as he sat back in his chair.
They sat quietly, their fingers wrapped tightly around one another's until the moment was broken by the sound of Luke's cell phone ringing. He dug into his pocket with his right hand and pulled it out of his jeans. He looked at the display and said only, "Anna," as he flipped it open with his thumb. Lorelai started to withdraw hr hand, but Luke held firm as he said quickly, "Hi Anna. She's out, she's in recovery now." He listened or a moment and then said, "No, I'm waiting for the doctor to come out. Uh huh," he said as he nodded. "Yeah, I know," he chuckled. He glanced over at Lorelai and said, "I was a head case until Lorelai got here and calmed me down." He frowned slightly as he said, "No, well, yeah. We're friends, we've been friends for a long time," he said as he turned to look at Lorelai. "Uh huh, well, I guess it's your right to feel that way, but I disagree," he said calmly. "That's none of your business," he said, clearly getting agitated.
"I should go," Lorelai whispered to him.
Luke shook his head vehemently and held tighter to her hand, almost crushing it in his as he desperately tried to hold her there. "Listen, Anna, I have never told you how to live your life, and I don't plan to let you tell me how to live mine. You know I love April, I'd do anything for her, you know that," he said forcefully. "But April is not the one having a problem, you are," he pointed out. "Now, I'm still waiting on the doctor. I'll call you as soon as I have anything to report concerning our daughter," he said, emphasizing the word our. He flipped the phone closed and turned back to Lorelai, frowning with concern at her clouded expression.
"She doesn't want me here," Lorelai said softly.
"She wants to be the one to call all of the shots, but no more," Luke said firmly. He turned in his seat and said, "Tell me what she said to you that day you went to see her."
"Luke," Lorelai said tiredly.
"Tell me," he demanded.
Lorelai shook her head and said, "You're hurting my hand."
Luke immediately loosened his grip, his face falling in shock as he stared down at her hand clutched in his. Without thinking, he raised her hand to his lips and murmured, "Sorry," as he brushed a kiss over her knuckles.
Lorelai blinked slowly as she took a deep breath and said, "She said that engaged wasn't married, people get engaged all of the time, and until you and I were married, she didn't want me in April's life."
"But Lorelai," he started to protest.
Lorelai shook her head and said, "The wedding was postponed. Indefinitely. You didn't even want to talk about it anymore. I knew you weren't thinking about getting married," she said quietly. "I just hoped that you still wanted to enough that when I asked you to elope, you'd see how much I wanted it, and remember that you did too," she admitted.
"I did," he said hoarsely.
Lorelai shook her head and said, "This isn't the time or place to talk about this."
Luke watched her face carefully for a moment and then said, "I suppose you're right."
"We will talk about it," she told him. "Just not here, not now," she finished with a sigh.
"Mr. Danes?" a doctor in fresh scrubs holding a clipboard asked.
"Yes," Luke said as he rose from his chair again, still holding Lorelai's hand.
"I'm Doctor Walters. April's surgery went well. We were able to remove the appendix laproscopically, which means it was minimally invasive. She's young, she should recover quickly," he added as he looked over the information on the clipboard.
"Good, good," Luke said with a relieved smile.
"They're moving her to a room now. She's a little out of it, but you and your wife can go back to see her now," he told them.
"No, I'm not, uh," Lorelai started to say.
"Thank you," Luke said, cutting her off quickly.
The doctor nodded and said, "When you're ready, Stacie will take you back to see her," as he gestured to the nurse who had spoken to them earlier.
"Thank you, Doctor," Luke said as the doctor walked away and he turned to Lorelai with a wide smile. Lorelai looked up at him, and couldn't help but smile back as she gave his hand a little squeeze. "You ready?" he asked.
Lorelai frowned slightly and said, "Maybe I should wait here, or go home. You should have some time alone with her."
"I want you with me," he said simply.
"Okay," she answered as she stood up slowly.
Luke nodded and said, "April will be happy to see you. She still thinks you're the coolest thing ever," he said with a smirk.
"Really? Even after," she gestured.
Luke shrugged and said, "She doesn't know the details. She just figures that it was all my fault," he said dryly.
"Typical girl," Lorelai said with a smile.
"So, you're coming with me, right?" he asked.
"Sure, if you want me to," she said, trying to give him another out.
"I do," he said as he tugged her toward the desk where Nurse Stacie was waiting for them. She led them to April's room, gave them some basic information on what they were monitoring her for, and then left quietly.
Lorelai gestured to the chair by the bed and said, "Here, sit."
Ever the gentleman, Luke shook his head and said, "No, you."
Lorelai smiled and said, "Luke, she's gonna want to see you when she opens her eyes. Now, sit down close to her," she said as he nudged him to the chair. When he sat, she tried to remove her hand from his, but he resisted. "I'm just going right here," she said as she wiggled her fingers from his grasp and stood behind the chair, resting her hands on the back of it.
April stirred slightly, licking dry lips as she turned her head toward the voices she had heard. Her eyes fluttered open and then closed a couple of times as she fought off the dregs of the anesthetic. "Dad?" she asked in a raspy whisper.
Luke immediately leaned forward, touching her arm gently as he said, "Shh, I'm here."
April tried to open her eyes again and whispered, "Dry."
"Oh," Lorelai said softly as she reached for the cup of water with the bendy straw. She handed it to Luke and whispered, "Just enough to wet her mouth. Not too much," she cautioned.
He gave April a small sip of water and the handed the cup back to Lorelai, his attention focused on his daughter. She blinked a few times and then whispered, "Is it gone?"
Luke smiled and said, "Yeah, Sweetie, it's gone." Lorelai smiled at the softly spoken endearment, and touched his shoulder lightly.
April nodded slightly as she blinked a couple of more times to clear her vision. She looked at Luke and said, "Wasn't using it anyway," making him chuckle softly. She closed her eyes again and then opened them a moment later, concentrating on focusing as she asked, "Lorelai?"
"Hey, Hon," Lorelai said gently.
"You're here," April said as she closed her eyes again.
"I'm here to see you," Lorelai told her.
"With Dad," April said without opening her eyes.
Lorelai glanced down as Luke looked up over his shoulder at her. "Yeah," she answered in a hushed tone.
"'Bout time," April mumbled as she drifted back to sleep.
Luke shook his head as he smoothed April's hair back from her face and said, "She can be a little blunt."
"That's good. Call 'em like you see 'em," Lorelai said quietly. They watched April's breathing grow deep and even as she rested. Finally, Lorelai gave Luke's shoulder a gentle squeeze as she leaned down to whisper to him, "I'm going to go. Give you two a little time to relax."
"But," he started to say.
"I'll be back. Do you want me to bring you anything? A change of clothes or something?" she asked.
Luke glanced around the hospital room and said, "Yeah, um, I guess that would be good."
Lorelai nodded and said, "I'll go get your stuff, and come back in a little while. You try to close your eyes too," she suggested with a soft smile.
Luke stood up and walked her over to the door. When they stepped into the hallway, he looked down at her and asked, "You're coming back?"
"Try to stop me," she challenged.
"Toothbrush," he blurted.
Lorelai nodded and said, "Already on my list."
"I'm so glad you came today," he said, trying to resist the urge to reach out and haul her to him.
"I am too," Lorelai answered as she reached up and pulled him down for a tight hug.
Luke turned his head, breathing in the fresh scent of her shampoo as she held him close. "Oh, Lorelai," he whispered.
"We'll be okay," she murmured. "We'll all be okay," she said as she pulled back to look him in the eye, her hands resting lightly on his chest.
"I really hope so," he breathed as he stared back at her intently.
"Want me to kiss it and make it better?" she asked with a small teasing smile.
Luke lowered his lips to hers, and kissed her tenderly, his breath mingling with hers as they both prolonged the contact. Finally, Luke pulled back, resting his forehead against hers as he said gruffly, "All better."
"Best medicine in the world," she agreed.
Luke smiled and said, "I may need another shot."
"Well, I don't want to impede the recovery," she teased lightly.
"You and me, we're gonna make this work out," he told her.
"We'd better, or you'll have to reserve a room for me on the cardiac floor," she answered.
Luke snorted softly and said, "They've had your name on the list for years."
"Kiss me again, Burger Boy, I need you to make my heart start beating again," she told him.
Luke needed no further encouragement, he wrapped his arms around her, pulling her flush against him as he kissed her firmly, letting the busy nurses and orderlies swirl around them in the hallway. He set her away from him and said, "You can bring mine back with you when you come."
Lorelai smiled, her eyes lighting with pleasure as she asked, "Anything else?"
Luke shook his head and said, "Clean underwear, a toothbrush, you and April. That should be all that I need," he said with a firm nod.
"Coming right up," she said as she stepped back from him, her hands trailing lightly over his chest as they fell to her sides. "I think I'll bring you a salad too. You look like you're low on roughage," she said as she turned on her heel. "Key still in the same place?" she asked over her shoulder.
"Yep," he answered.
"Back in a bit," she promised.
"I'll be waiting," he called after her.
He stepped back into April's room and looked down at the young girl sleeping soundly. He walked back over to the chair and sat down. He watched April sleep for a little while, occasionally touching her arm, stroking her hair, or adjusting the blankets over her. He reached for the remote control to turn on the TV while he waited.
He flipped through the channels idly. He stopped on a nature show, and glanced over to see if April stirred, knowing how much she liked watching this stuff. When she didn't, he moved on, landing finally on an old Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn movie. He remembered from years ago, it was one of his mother's favorites. He watched as Jimmy Stewart stepped up and offered to marry Katherine Hepburn when her fiancée left her at the altar. He watched as she thanked him sincerely for the sentiment, but refused him. She turned to Cary Grant, the guy that she had loved all along. Being no fool, Cary seized the opportunity, acknowledging that they had hurt each other in the past, that their relationship might never run smoothly, but that it would be an exciting ride if she'd take a chance on him again. Katherine jumped too, promising to be yar, and tying the ribbons of her hat in a jaunty bow under her chin.
He sat back as the ending credits rolled and the station babbled about what was on next. He looked over at the door, anxious for Lorelai to return, knowing that he was finally ready to take that ride with her.