A/N: Gah! So sorry, this update was a victim of the login glitch. Here it is at last.
Speaking of smut… Okay nobody really was, but you know it's never far from my mind… Did you hear that Olivia Jane and I are auctioning ourselves off again? I know, yes, we are a little trampy that way. Well, I am. I'm the one peddling smut. Olivia is innocent. Sweet and pure. As fresh and newly fallen snow.
Luke didn't let himself think about what just happened as he walked down her driveway. He walked purposefully down the sidewalks heading for the center of town, careful to keep his hands out of his pockets. When he reached for his keys, he fished for them with two fingers, thankful that they were not in the pocket with that bottle cap. He strode through the dimly lit diner to the curtain, and hit the light switch, plunging the stairwell into darkness. He climbed the step by rote, knowing exactly how many there were, and which ones would creak under his weight. He unlocked his apartment door by feeling for the lock and sliding the key home. It was only once the frosted glass door was securely closed behind him that he reached into his pocket feeling for the wavy edge of the bottle cap.
But it is for a good cause, so run over to Majiks World of FanFiction and check out the fantastic stuff up for auction. You only have about 25 hours to bid, and it starts THIS FRIDAY at 7PM US-CST, so mark your calendar. That was my way of letting you know that if you missed the smut here, you can always buy some there. See how that works? Slick, huh?
Thanks so much for your feedback on this story. It was a lot harder than I thought to hook them up just days after Lorelai broke the engagement. I tried to keep it to a reasonable speed, really, I did. Sorry about the lack of smut.
How to Make Rubber Stick Like Glue
He sank down into one of the kitchen chairs and stared at the Rolling Rock logo stamped on the top. "Gathers no moss," he said softly as he ran his thumb over the smooth metal surface. Just like Lorelai.
He could still taste her on his lips; an odd mixture of beer and something fruity. Probably the shiny stuff she puts on her lips. It was taking him a while to catch up. To be perfectly frank, at the time her lips were on his, his mind was still conjuring images of shaving Max's puffy hair off with a lawn mower. To be perfectly frank, he never thought she would actually do it. He thought that moment when their eyes met and she leaned into him was just another one of those moments like the dozens they had shared before. It was too much for his brain to process. They hadn't been interrupted. She hadn't pulled back and babbled some inane joke. She had kissed him. Lorelai Gilmore kissed me.As far as kisses go, it would be a nice kiss. Nothing too passionate, nothing too chaste. As far as kisses go, Luke could honestly say he'd had hotter ones, but he could also attest that he'd had many, many more that had left him completely cold. This kiss, this unexpected but not unwelcome kiss, was different though. It wasn't experimental or challenging, it wasn't particularly alluring and definitely not repulsive. There was something more, something behind it, something he was supposed to decipher. He just wasn't sure what it was.
Luke wrapped his index finger around the edge of the bottle cap and rolled it into the tender webbing between his thumb and forefinger, feeling the wavy edges of the metal press into his skin. Maybe I shouldn't have said that. I wasn't trying to hurt her feelings, but surely she knows that I have feelings too. I don't want to be her rebound guy. I don't want to be the one who blurs the edges while she gets over Max, he thought as he tightened his finger and felt the metal bite into his flesh. I want more than that. Maybe I can tell her that. Maybe I can let her know that if she still feels the same way in a week, a month, hell, even a year; that I'll still be here. Where else am I going to be? I'm gonna be right here, he thought with a sigh.
Luke balanced the bottle cap on his thumbnail and then flipped it into the air like a coin. When it landed face up on the kitchen table, he stared at the logo once more and wondered if that meant he'd won the toss.
Wow. Just wow. Well, that was interesting, Lorelai thought as she stared at the darkened driveway, her ears straining for the sound of his long faded footsteps. Oh my God, she thought as she buried her flaming face in her hands. What was I thinking? Why did I do that? How will I ever be able to face him again? She stood up, leaving their nearly empty beer bottles on the steps as she hurried into the house. She jogged up the stairs, anxious for the safety of her room. She closed the door behind her and leaned against it, panting softly as she looked around.
The room was neat. Too neat for her. It had been cleaned and straightened in preparation for the arrival of her husband, but now it was just empty looking. She glanced down at the pile of dirty clothes from their road trip that spilled from an open duffle bag on the floor. Without thinking, she launched herself away from the door, grabbed an armload of clothes and tossed them into the air, letting them fall where they may. She looked at the new striped comforter she had put on the bed just days before and scowled at its blandness. The next thing she knew, her fingers curled into the still stiff material and she pulled it off of the bed with one yank, sending pillows scattering onto the floor. After wrapping the comforter around her arm to make some semblance of a ball, Lorelai tossed it onto the chair and ran for her half empty closet. She rooted around on the shelf until she felt the familiar quilted cotton. She pulled it down, hugging the quilt made from Rory's baby clothes to her as she stared at the empty space in front of her. With a decisive flick of her wrist, she spread the hangers along the rod, effectively taking back the territory she had marked out for Max.
Lorelai stumbled as she stepped away from the closet unfolding the quilt she had made with her own two hands. My own two hands, the words echoed in her head. He can do that with his, I can do this with mine. Seems to me that we should have been a match made in heaven. He has the coffee, I need the coffee, she thought angrily as she shook the quilt out and then flung it over her bed. Okay, so Patty and Rory and Sookie and all of the rest of them were wrong. Luke doesn't feel that way about me, she told herself as she circled the bed, straightening the quilt. They can give all of that crap a rest now. I have it straight from the horse's mouth that this particular love affair was not written in the stars above Stars Hollow.
"Mom? What's going on up here?" Rory asked as she opened the bedroom door. Her jaw dropped as she saw the clothing scattered all over the floor, the brand new comforter wadded up on the chair, and her mother, breathless and disheveled, looking up as she leaned over the bed tugging on her old quilt. "Mom?" she asked again, this time her voice quietly worried.
"I kissed Luke," Lorelai said breathlessly.
Rory gaped at her mother as she grabbed a couple of pillows and placed them against the ancient headboard Mia had given her from the inn. Lorelai gave them each a firm whack with the palm of her hand, and then stood up to survey her work with her fists on her hips and a brisk nod.
"You kissed Luke? When?" Rory asked.
"Just a few minutes ago. On the porch," Lorelai reported in a matter-of-fact tone.
Rory stepped into the room cautiously, trying to figure out if she was more disturbed by that fact that Lorelai had kissed Luke or by the slightly scary tone of voice she was using to convey the news. "You kissed Luke a few minutes ago on our porch," Rory stated slowly.
"Yep," Lorelai said as she turned to the nightstand, opened a drawer and pulled out a handful of magazines. She dropped them carelessly on the tabletop, and then turned to her dresser where she opened a jewelry box and began scattering a handful of earrings, necklaces and bracelets over the surface.
"What are you doing?" Rory said as she stepped over the clothes strewn across the floor and reached to still Lorelai's hands.
Lorelai looked down at her daughter's long fingers wrapped around her wrists and frowned in puzzlement. "I'm taking back my space," she said in a slightly bewildered tone.
"Mom, what's going on? What happened?"
"I told you what happened."
"I mean, what happened after you kissed him?"
"He rejected me," Lorelai said with a careless shrug.
"Luke? Luke rejected you?" Rory asked, incredulous.
"Yep. He rejected me. Sorry, Sweets, you were wrong. You were all wrong," Lorelai said as she wrenched her wrists from Rory's grasp and headed toward the bathroom.
"Luke would never reject you. And, why were you kissing him anyway?" Rory said as she followed, hot on her mother's heels.
"You're wrong. He did reject me. As to the why, it doesn't really matter now, does it?" Lorelai asked as she pulled open a vanity drawer and began arranging tubes and bottles on the pristine top.
"I think it does matter," Rory argued as she clung to the door frame with both hands. "Will you let me be your best friend and not your daughter this time?" she asked, hurt ringing through her impatient tone.
Lorelai's head jerked up. "Oh, Rory," she breathed.
"Please, Mom, I want to help."
Lorelai placed both hands on the vanity top and hung her head dejectedly. Without looking up she said, "We were talking earlier about Harvard and how you fit in there. You know, he was asking if I was okay, I started spilling all of this stuff about Max and how he never fit here. Not in this house, not in this town, not in my life," she said quietly. "And, as I was telling him, I just, I heard that little voice in my head. Stupid, stupid little voice. It never knows what it's talking about," she said as she shook her head. "It should just learn to shut up!"
"What was that little voice telling you?" Rory asked gently.
Lorelai looked up and smiled sadly. "Luke fits. Luke fits here, Luke fits this town, Luke fits in my life. Hell, he's already in my life. And yours." She sighed as she turned and leaned against the vanity, crossing her arms over her chest. "I thought maybe this was fate's way of telling me, you know, 'Look, its right here in front of you,' or something. I should have known better," she said softly. "When has fate ever not bit me in the ass?"
"Mom," Rory said as she stepped into the bathroom.
Lorelai ran her tongue over her teeth as she blinked back tears. She shook her head slowly and said in a choked, "I'm giving up on fate. Me and fate, we're done."
Rory wrapped her arms around Lorelai and pulled her into her embrace. "You're just upset. It's been a crazy week."
Lorelai shook her head again as she rested her chin on Rory's shoulder. "Nope. Fate isn't for me. From now on, I'm gonna be one of those ones who just accept everything as it is. What were they called again?"
"Stoics," Rory murmured.
Rory chuckled softly and pulled back to look at Lorelai. "You can't be a stoic. They don't let themselves feel any emotion about anything. They're constantly trying to exercise self control. Do you really want to go through life like that? Where's the fun in that?" she cajoled.
"I don't want to feel anything anymore," Lorelai whispered.
"Ever, or just at this moment?" Rory asked.
"Yeah, it does."
Lorelai looked down at her feet and exhaled a shaky breath. "Rory, is it wrong that Luke hurts more than Max?" she asked quietly.
Rory shook her head and said, "You said you knew it wasn't right with Max. You and Luke, well, you have more of a history. But, I have to tell you, I'm having a hard time believing that Luke would reject you," she said as she ducked her head, trying to make Lorelai meet her gaze.
"He said he couldn't be my rebound," Lorelai whispered.
"Ouch." Rory took a deep breath and said, "Okay, well, let's break that down and see what it could really mean."
"What do you mean, 'really mean'? I think it's pretty obvious. You know, 'ouch'."
Rory took Lorelai's arm and pulled her from the bathroom and back into the bedroom. Lorelai followed her docilely and watched as Rory climbed onto the bed, crossing her legs Indian style on the quilt. Rory waited patiently until Lorelai finally sat down across from her, tucking her ankles under her legs. She clapped her hands together and said, "Okay, well, here's what we know. You kissed Luke. Am I right in assuming that this kiss may have been a little unexpected?" Rory asked.
"What were you talking about just before you kissed him?"
Lorelai shrugged and said, "I told you, we talked about Max and then we talked about him, and then I kissed him."
"What did you say about him? Luke, I mean," Rory clarified.
"Just that he got me, that maybe he was the kind of guy I needed."
"And when you kissed him, did he kiss back?" Rory asked, shifting a little uncomfortably.
"Uh, well, it was quick. You know, it wasn't like making out, it was just a kiss," Lorelai said as she searched her memory.
"Well, did he pull away or did you?"
"Um, I did, I think. I, uh, asked him if he was the one I needed or something like that," Lorelai said, a blush rising in her cheeks as the humiliation flooded through her veins.
"And he said?"
"He said, 'I can't be' or something like that."
Rory nodded as she processed it all. "And then he said something about being your rebound guy."
"Okay, well, he never said that he didn't want, uh, that, right? I mean, come on, you were supposed to be marrying someone else in about sixteen hours, so I can see why he'd feel a little cautious," Rory said slowly. She watched Lorelai, trying to gauge her reaction, but was met only with her mother's resolutely stoic gaze. "Mom, he can't. He can't let himself in for that, he cares about you too much," Rory argued, trying to break through.
"Or he's afraid that I'm too psychotic for him," Lorelai said with a careless shrug.
"Mom, Luke has had a thing for you forever, and for the last few months, he has had to stand back and watch you get ready to marry someone else. Don't you think it might be reasonable for him to be a bit wary when you just kiss him right out of the blue?" she asked gently.
"Maybe," Lorelai conceded stiffly.
Rory sighed, knowing by the stubborn lift of her mother's chin that her argument was not going to sink in right now. "Maybe you should just sleep on it, you know? Maybe things will be a little clearer in the morning."
"Yeah, I should sleep on it," Lorelai said dismissively. "It isn't going to change anything though."
Rory scooted off of the bed, trying to smother her impatient sigh. "Fine, dig your heels in."
"Rory, it just is what it is," Lorelai said quietly.
Rory walked to the door and said, "As long as you're seeing what it really is and not just accepting things without feeling them." She paused with her hand on the handle and said, "You're not the stoic one, Mom, Luke is. I know that your feelings are hurt, but he's been hurt too. Maybe once you can get past what he said you can see why he said it. He can't let himself get emotional over you; it's too big of a risk. Fate has bit his butt over and over again too, and you know it."
Lorelai dropped back onto the pillows as Rory quietly closed her door. She blinked up at the ceiling, knowing that what Rory had said was true. Maybe it was all relative. Maybe if she could trust fate a little, then he could too. Lorelai sighed and rolled over onto her side as she wondered if it was possible to win when fate seemed to be going against the both of you.
"I need to talk to you," Lorelai said in a low voice.
Sookie paused mid-stir and looked up wide eyed. "What happened? Are you and Max back together?" she asked in an excited whisper.
"No!" Lorelai blurted. The rest of the kitchen staff looked up and then quickly returned to their work as she lowered her voice. "No, Max and I are done, Sook." She glanced around to be sure that no one was listening and said, "Remember? I wanted to talk to you about the inn."
"Oh!" Sookie said with a sage nod. "I was thinking, we should talk to some of the local business owners around town, you know, get some tips and tricks, see what free information we can scrounge up," Sookie whispered. "I tried talking to Jackson about it, but he ended up going off on some tangent about subsidies and kickbacks from herbicide companies," she said as she wrinkled her nose.
"Yeah, not really what were dealing with," Lorelai agreed.
"But maybe we can talk to Fran at Weston's. I thought about Taylor, but knowing Taylor…" she trailed off. "Oh, and I figured that you could work on Luke a little. He started that place from scratch, so he should know the stuff we would need to do."
"No, not Luke," Lorelai said as she shook her head vehemently.
Sookie stopped stirring as she heard the edge bitterness seeping into Lorelai's tone. "Why not Luke? He runs a successful place. He'll help us, especially if you ask him."
"Why does everyone assume Luke will do whatever I want him to?" Lorelai asked through clenched teeth.
"Because he always does, Sweetie," Sookie answered with a shrug as she began to stir her sauce again.
"No, he doesn't."
Sookie snorted and said, "Yes, he does. The guy would wrestle a bear if you asked him to."
"Well, I didn't ask him to wrestle a bear. Maybe next time I will, I may get a better result!" Lorelai said as she slammed the folder she was holding onto the counter top and stalked out of the kitchen door.
"Pedro? Stir!" Sookie called as she pulled the spoon from the pan, spattering herself and all those around her. She shoved the spoon into Pedro's stunned hand and hurried to the door. As she stepped out onto the back porch, she used her finger to wipe a blob of sauce from her cheek and stuck it into her mouth. "Hmm, good," she muttered with a nod of satisfaction. She bustled down the steps and trotted across the lawn toward the pond, where Lorelai stood hugging herself tightly.
She slowed as she approached, wiping her hands on her apron as she called, "Lorelai?" When she spotted her friend's tear streaked face, Sookie rushed to embrace her. "Honey, what's going on?"
"Oh, Sook, I screwed up. I screwed everything up," Lorelai moaned.
"What? The wedding? Honey, we all just want you to be happy, and if you weren't happy with Max, then we're happy that you called it off," she said soothingly.
"I kissed Luke last night," Lorelai whispered.
Sookie reared back, grasping Lorelai's arms tightly as she studied her friend's face. "You kissed Luke?" When Lorelai nodded mutely, Sookie asked, "When? How?"
"Last night, on the lips," Lorelai answered.
"And that made you sad? Was it bad? Was it all wet and drool-y?" Lorelai shook her head, and turned to look out at the pond. "I wouldn't think so, Luke doesn't look like a drooler," Sookie mused. "So, you kissed Luke and…"
"And he said he couldn't be my rebound guy and then he left," Lorelai said quietly.
"Oh," Sookie breathed.
"Oh," Lorelai said flatly.
"Well, I can see that," Sookie said slowly.
"You can?" Lorelai asked as she turned back to her friend.
"Sure, well, the guy has been into you for, like, forever, and today you were supposed to marry someone else," Sookie said with a shrug. "I mean, it's not unreasonable for Luke to be a little, you know, cautious," she concluded with a slight wince.
"I guess not," Lorelai admitted with as sigh. She crossed her arms over her chest and ducked her head as she said, "It hurt."
"What he said?"
"What he said, watching him walk away… I guess, in my head, I thought that once I did it, it would all fall into place, like it was meant to be," Lorelai said with a heavy sigh. "I never thought he'd walk away."
"Well, I think it is meant to be," Sookie said softly. "Lorelai, you and Luke, you're like, um, peanut butter and jelly," she began.
"Peanut butter and jelly?" Lorelai scoffed.
"Well, yeah," Sookie said defensively. "Look at it this way. On one hand you have this sticky, salty kind of gunk made from crushed peanuts, that's Luke. On the other you have this jiggle-y, sweet kind of globby stuff made from fruit. That's you. Now, you wouldn't really think that they should go together, but they do, and there's nothing like it," she said with a shrug. "They were meant to be together, just like you and Luke are."
"A few minutes ago you wanted me to be back with Max," Lorelai reminded her.
"No, I wanted you to be happy. If Max made you happy, then fine."
"So, Max would be peanut butter?"
"No, Max isn't very peanut butter like. Maybe he's just butter. That can go with jelly too, like on toast," Sookie said with a frown.
"But not as good as peanut butter," Lorelai pointed out.
"Well, it's just different. Maybe a little more bland; you don't get the salty tang of the peanuts," Sookie conceded.
"You realize that this entire analogy is nuts," Lorelai said with a smirk. When Sookie chuckled, she shook her head and said, "Doesn't matter anyway."
"Sure it matters," Sookie said quickly. "What are you going to do about Luke?" she asked.
"Do? I'm not going to do anything," Lorelai said stubbornly.
"Oh, yes you are," Sookie insisted.
"I am?" Lorelai asked with raised eyebrows.
"You can't just kiss the poor guy and then leave it hanging out there!"
"I didn't leave it hanging, he did! And it's not hanging, he said no!" Lorelai argued.
"He said he was scared!" Sookie shot back. "For God's sake, Lorelai, how far does he have to stick his neck out?"
"Far?" Lorelai retorted. "He hasn't stuck it out at all!"
"Well, would you, if you were him? Would you put yourself out there like that if the guy you've been pining for suddenly dumped his fiancée days before the wedding and decided to plant one on you with no warning? Would you jump in with both feet?"
"Should I have sent up a flare first?" Lorelai scoffed.
"Did you even tell him how you feel about him?"
"I said that maybe I needed a guy like him!" Lorelai cried in frustration.
"Maybe? Maybe you need someone like him?" Sookie shot back. "That's not very definite, Lorelai. As a matter of fact, if I had been waiting for years for you to see me, I might even have been a little insulted by that!"
"Well, yeah! Like me, but not me? Maybe me? Could you be a little more vague and unsure?" Sookie shook her head adamantly. "If you had kissed me, my head would have probably spun right off!"
"Well, it's a good thing I didn't kiss you, then, isn't it?" Lorelai sneered as she turned and started to stomp back up the hill toward the inn.
"Damn good thing," Sookie called as she hurried after her. "If you want him, if you really want Luke, you're gonna have to prove it to him," she warned breathlessly.
"Prove it?" Lorelai asked indignantly as she whirled to face Sookie.
"Make him believe it's for real. Make him see that you're not just moving on to the next guy. He doesn't want to be a stand in, Lorelai. He deserves better than that," Sookie said sincerely as she stopped in front of her friend. "You both do." She pressed her hand to her heart and tried to catch her breath from the climb back up the hill. "Lorelai, be sure of how you feel, don't just react. It could be so good, you and Luke, but you have to be sure. And you have to make sure that he's sure that you're sure."
Lorelai pressed her lips together and glanced down at the pond once more. She nodded slowly as she turned back to Sookie and said, "Okay. Sure."
"Lorelai, you didn't see him when I told him the wedding was off," Sookie said gently. "I can tell you this; I can honestly say that I have never seen Luke so happy. Not happy that you were unhappy, but like a guy on death row who has just been given a reprieve."
Sookie smiled as she said, "Lorelai, he patted Kirk on the shoulder and told him he could hang for a while."
"Wow," Lorelai gasped.
"Yeah, he was that happy," Sookie said as she started for the kitchen door. "He even complimented some guy's hat."
"Well, Luke does like hats," Lorelai said with a smirk as she followed her friend back into the inn.
He wasn't surprised. Not in the least. He never really expected to see her today. At least, that's what he told himself. Luke leaned against the back counter and watched the passers by on the street, cursing the afternoon lull for giving him too much time to think. His left hand was buried in his pocket, his thumb running along the ridged edge of the bottle cap he couldn't seem to toss in the trash. A soft sigh escaped his lips as he saw Rory and Lane pass the diner, laughing and talking. He raised his hand to return Rory's shy wave and then curled his fingers into his palm, clenching them into a tight fist as he resisted the urge to run to the door and ask where her mother was.
Instead, he flipped the bottle cap into the palm of his left hand, enfolding it in his fist. Deep in his jeans pocket, tucked away from anyone's view, Luke pressed the edges of that bottle cap into the soft skin of his palm. He closed his eyes as the metal bit into his flesh, and for a moment, it felt almost like a kiss.
He took a deep breath and carefully uncurled his fingers, running the palm of his right hand over his flannel as he forced the left from his pocket, abandoning the bottle cap as he reached for a towel and stepped out from behind the counter to clear already clean tables. He'd done the right thing. He couldn't let her just bounce from Max to him without a thought. I can't take the impact. It's better this way. It may not be what I want, but sometimes it's better to do what you need to do. Luke looked around the empty diner and sighed, for once wishing he wasn't alone. Even Kirk would do. The afternoon lulls were the hardest part of the day.
Lorelai sat on the porch steps with a sweating bottle of water clutched in both hands. She stared blankly at the chuppah and wondered how it could be possible that she wasn't thinking of Max. I should be thinking of Max.
Right now, she should be Mrs. Max Medina. Right now, she was supposed to be stuffing cake into his mouth. Right now, she should be dancing around her lawn in a frothy white dress and a tiara. Right now, she was sitting on her porch in her oldest jeans and a stretched out hoodie that was secretly her favorite article of clothing, but Max Medina was the furthest thing from her mind. Right now, she was staring at the chuppah she was supposed to marry Max under, and all she could see was Luke.
Of course, she realized that this could all be some kind of transference. She knew logically that you shouldn't be in love with someone one day and then in love with someone else the next. She also knew that she never really loved Max. Oh, there were plenty of things to love about Max, I'm just not in love with him. She loved the idea of being in love. She loved the image of them saying those vows to one another. She just didn't love him enough to be able to live them. And Luke? Well, she wouldn't go so far as to say it was love. It is love, but maybe not that kind of love. Or maybe it is. Or could be. All she knew for sure was that this wasn't a sudden thing. At least not as sudden as it would seem to many people. Apparently, Luke included, she thought with a wry smile. In a way, these feeling had been coming on for a long time. Actually, they had probably been there all along. How do I make him believe that? she wondered.
She took a long drink from her bottle and glanced around the yard. She saw one of Babette's curtains twitch and knew that she was being watched. Go ahead, look. Nothing to see here. You should have been watching last night, Lorelai thought with a soft snort. That would have given you something to talk about.The door opened behind her and Rory stepped out onto the porch followed closely by Lane. She turned and smiled up at them. "Better now?"
"So much better," Lane gushed as she patted her stomach. "I think I may have died if I had to go one more day without pizza."
"I know that feeling. Well, pizza chased with some Iggy Pop and a little Elvis Costello, you must be feeling invincible now," Lorelai said with a grin.
"Rory's going to burn copies of them for you. Bootlegs of the bootlegs," Lane said with a nod.
"Excellent. Throw in a pint of bathtub gin and we'll be in business," Lorelai said with a nod.
"You okay?" Rory asked, her brow creased with worry.
"Other than the garlic knot that's still stuffed a little too close to my esophagus, I'm good," Lorelai assured her with a serene smile. "You guys off to the movie?"
"Yeah. Are you sure you don't want to come?" Rory asked.
"Nah, I'm good. You guys go on ahead. I have some stuff to do," Lorelai said as she gestured vaguely at the house.
"We don't mind staying home and helping," Rory told her.
Lorelai shook her head and said firmly, "No, you go on ahead."
"Okay," Rory said with a tinge of doubt in her voice.
Lorelai sat on the porch watching her daughter and her best friend walk across the yard, their heads bent together as they talked in hushed tones, and shook her head slowly as she turned back toward the chuppah. A kiss is still a kiss, a sigh is just a sigh. The words to the old song played softly in her head. But, she knew that they weren't true. Sometimes a kiss was so much more than a kiss. Sometimes a simple sigh spoke volumes. Sometimes things were so complicated that we forget the fundamentals, she told herself. It doesn't have to be all or nothing, a dinner date turning into a marriage proposal. Maybe it doesn't have to be all of that. Maybe it can just be a kiss. Or two. Three, four or more. Does it have to be defined? she wondered as she screwed the cap back onto her water bottle. Does it all have to be spelled out beforehand with each and every step carefully plotted? Can't a kiss still be a kiss with maybe the potential for more?Before she could think too hard about it, Lorelai stood up. The water bottle swung from her fingers as she began walking. Her feet picked up the pace by the time she reached the next block. By the time she hit the square, she was slightly winded, and had to force herself to slow down, take her time, try not to look so desperate to see him. It was just a kiss. Still a kiss. And compared to a lot of kisses, a relatively innocent one, she told herself. Lorelai tossed the half full bottle into the trash can on the corner, and walked toward the diner door with a spring in her step.
The bells heralded her arrival, and Luke looked up from the counter; his face betraying his surprise in seeing her walk through the door. Lorelai plastered a friendly smile onto her face and said, "Hi."
"Uh, hi," Luke said as he quickly gathered the pile of receipts that he had scattered on the counter top.
"Don't bother. I promise not to spill," Lorelai said as she sat on a stool a short distance away from him.
"Okay, um, coffee?" he asked as he reached for the pot.
"It's Lorelai, but I will answer to 'Coffee'," she said with a nod. Luke spared a small smile for her joke as he placed a mug in front of her, but Lorelai covered it with her hand before he could pour. "Sorry, to-go, please. I have a ton of stuff to do," she said, cushioning her words with a sheepish smile.
"Oh, okay," Luke said as he withdrew the mug and reached for a take out cup. He didn't look at her as he began to pour, instead focusing a little too intently on the black liquid flowing into the cup. "Um, listen, I'm sorry about last night…" he began in a low voice.
"Luke, it's okay," she assured him quickly.
"I just, I didn't mean to… I was, er, surprised," he stammered as he reached for a lid. Luke inhaled deeply, glanced nervously at the other customers and then managed to say in a rush, "I didn't, I hope I didn't, uh, upset you, or make you mad."
"I'm fine, Luke," Lorelai said as a smile spread across her face. Hah! They were right! Look at him blushing. Look at him. Oh god, would you look at him! Lorelai shifted on her stool, trying to contain the exultation that suddenly rushed through her veins, making her want to bounce up and down. He likes me! Luke likes me! her twelve year old brain shouted gleefully. She forced her inner thirty-three year old to overpower the giddy girl inside as she reached for the cup he slid across the counter. "No big deal, right?" she asked, testing him a bit.
Lorelai saw the muscle jump in his jaw as he swallowed hard and then nodded. "Yeah, no big deal," he said gruffly.
"It was just a kiss," she whispered as she leaned forward. "We're friends. Friends kiss each other all the time."
"I guess so," Luke said with a slight frown.
Lorelai nodded and said, "So, we're good?"
"We're good," Luke said, avoiding her eyes as he reached for a towel.
Lorelai stood up, still trying to bite back her satisfied smile as she turned away. She stopped and said, "Oh, wait, I forgot something," she said as she turned back to the counter.
Lorelai crooked her finger, motioning for him to lean in closer. When he did, she asked in a low voice, "Can you spare some time tomorrow to talk about the inn thing? Maybe after the breakfast rush?"
"Sure," Luke answered with a nod as he began to pull back.
"Wait!" Lorelai said again, beckoning him forward again as she glanced over her shoulder to see who was in the diner. When she saw that Babette, Patty and Kirk were no where in evidence, she turned back to him. She smiled when she saw him leaning on the counter, his stare impatient. "Thanks, Luke," she said pertly, and then pressed a quick kiss to his lips.
Lorelai noted the shock on his face as she turned and hurried for the door calling, "See you tomorrow!"
The bells were still ringing in his ears, adding a high cheerful note to the rush of blood that roared in them, as she disappeared around the corner. His jaw dropped for a moment, and then he pressed his lips together in a grim line. Oh no. We're not gonna be kissing friends. It's just too much, he thought as he wrung the towel in his hands and turned away.
Lorelai dawdled over her pancakes long after Rory had left to meet Dean. The truth was she could hardly even taste them, even though she could tell that he put extra blueberries in them. Oddly enough, she could, however, still taste Luke on her lips. She watched as he moved efficiently around the diner; refilling coffee mugs, delivering plates, running the cash register. After a few minutes, she found herself staring at him openly. Actually, she didn't notice, Luke did. And he made his feelings perfectly clear as he stopped by her table, refilled her mug and said, "Stop staring at me. I'll sit down as soon as it clears out a bit."
"Oh, sorry," Lorelai said as she jumped slightly. "I was, uh, just zoning out," she babbled as she felt the color rise in her cheeks.
"You done decimating those?" Luke asked as he pointed to the remains of her pancakes.
"Oh, yeah," Lorelai said with a quick nod a she lifted the plate for him to take.
"You okay?" Luke asked with a slight frown.
"Yeah, yeah, I'm fine. Just formulating my questions," she said with a nervous smile. "Trying to filter out all the ones about ink and pens."
"Thanks, I appreciate that. Back in a few," he said with a nod as turned to carry the dishes back to the kitchen.
The moment he disappeared, Lorelai's cell rang. She rooted around in her purse and finally pulled it free. She scanned the number and saw that it was the Independence Inn. "Hey, Sook," Lorelai answered quietly, slumping down in her chair as she hoped to escape Luke's notice.
"It is not Sookie," Michel said disdainfully. "There are other people who work here, you know. Or maybe you do not know, since you are never here."
"What do you need Michel, I'm in a meeting," Lorelai said in a hushed tone.
"Caesar, I needed a jack omelet twenty minutes ago!" Luke called as he rushed out of the kitchen, grabbed a to-go container and hurried back into the inner sanctum.
"Yes, a very important meeting," Michael drawled. "Well, I was just calling to tell you that we had a small fire this morning. Nothing unusual, really, except that this time Sookie managed to burn Pedro instead of herself. He is fine, not that you care, seeing how you are so very busy. I will bother you no longer. Goodbye, Lorelai," he said in a falsely pleasant tone and then hung up the phone.
"Crap," Lorelai muttered as she closed the phone and gathered her purse and portfolio. She hurried to the door calling, "Luke?"
"Keep your pants on," Luke grumbled as he stepped out of the kitchen holding plates in each hand.
"No, I'm sorry. I have to go. There's been a little mishap at the inn," she explained.
"Oh. Okay. Everyone okay?" he asked.
Lorelai nodded and said, "Probably. Michel likes to exaggerate so that I'll come running, but of course, I have to come running."
Lorelai cocked her head as she looked up at him standing like a statue with plates in his hands. "Another day? Or later, maybe?"
"Whenever," he answered with a slight shrug.
"Maybe the day before whenever," Lorelai said with a smile. She placed a hand on his chest, and before he realized what she was going to do, her lips were on his in the briefest of kisses. "See you then," she added with a wink, and then she was gone.
Luke watched her sashay down the sidewalk with a puzzled frown. "She's like a damn kissing bandit," he muttered to himself as he moved toward the table in the far corner, so distracted that he didn't even notice Kirk's hasty departure.
"Luke?" Lorelai called as she swung through the diner door late that afternoon. She waved to Patty and Babette at the far table and scanned the diner for its proprietor.
She heard a loud thump and a muffled curse from under the counter. "Lorelai," Luke answered in a low growl as his head popped up.
"Hey! Whatcha doin' down there?" Lorelai asked as she walked to the end of the counter to peer around.
"Rearranging," he answered as he quickly stood up.
"Ah, well, that's always fun. Hey, I thought if you had a few minutes we could talk now."
"Sure," Luke answered with a nod, avoiding her eyes as he moved to the coffee machine. "I assume you want this," he said with a smirk as he lifted the pot.
"All that and more," she answered cheerfully as she stepped into him and pecked another kiss to his lips, effectively wiping the smirk from his face. "Hi," she said softly.
"What's with the kissing?" he asked in a bewildered tone.
"You don't like it?" Lorelai asked, her brow puckering in dismay.
"Sure he likes it, sugah! Kiss him again!" Babette called from the table they had been parked at most of the afternoon.
"Pipe down!" Luke barked.
"I can stop if you don't want me to…" Lorelai offered.
"It's not that, it's just, I mean," he said, stumbling over his words.
"Oh, I'm sure he doesn't want you to stop. As a matter of fact, I'd wager that he's complaining about the kiss itself. A man like that, he needs a little more than that tiny little peck, sweetheart," Patty said with a knowledgeable nod.
"Would you butt out?" Luke asked as he turned to glare at the older women.
"I just thought the kisses were nice," Lorelai said with an innocent shrug.
"They are nice," Luke said quickly.
"But you don't like nice things?" Lorelai asked challengingly.
"Are you doing this on purpose?"
"Trying to drive me crazy!"
"Am I driving you crazy?"
"Yes! Yes you are!" he exploded. "Damn it, Lorelai. You kiss me, just out of nowhere, and then all of a sudden, I can't turn around without your lips being plastered to mine!"
"They were hardly plastered," Lorelai scoffed.
"You kissed me, and I thought maybe, but then you tell me it was just a kiss and that friends kiss. Are we kissing friends now? Is that it?" he demanded.
"If you want to be," she answered with a shrug. "We can be whatever you want to be."
Babette cackled and called, "You left yourself wide open there, Dollface!"
Lorelai turned and glanced at her neighbor before meeting Luke's gaze. "I meant to," she said as she lifted her chin.
"You meant to what?" he asked, confused.
"I meant to say that."
"Say what? I can't even keep up!"
Lorelai stared into his dark blue eyes and said slowly, "We can be whatever you want to be."
Luke blinked at her as he felt his carefully controlled restraint unraveling. Finally, his eyebrows shot up. "You know what? Fine," he said as he placed the coffee pot back on the burner.
"Fine?" Lorelai asked.
"You wanna be kissing friends, we can be kissing friends," he said, nodding slowly as he stepped closer to her.
"Oh, thank God," Patty gushed loudly.
"Look out the window!" Luke ordered without taking his eyes off of Lorelai. The two women at the corner table quickly averted their heads, but watched out of the corners of their eyes as Luke waited for her to bolt, searching her face for any sign of doubt. When she didn't move, he said in a low voice, "If you're gonna do it, do it right," as he placed his hands on her cheeks and tipped her lips up a bit.
"I didn't know I was doing it wrong," she whispered. "I suppose its all relative."
"Yeah," Luke managed to whisper as his lips brushed hers. "Hi, Lorelai," he greeted her in a throaty voice before pressing his lips to hers and kissing her slow and soft.
Lorelai smiled as he pulled back slightly. She wound her arms around his neck and asked, "How's your day been?"
"Pretty good," Luke answered as he pulled her to him and kissed her again. Lorelai melted into him, secure in his strong embrace. The warmth of his lips was nothing compared to the heat of his tongue as he parted hers. Lorelai moaned softly as she gave in, kissing him passionately as she brushed the cap from his head.
"Now that's friendly," Patty purred to Babette.
Luke pulled back, steadying her with his hands on her hips as she stared at him in wonder. "Is a kiss still just a kiss?" he asked quietly.
"You wanna talk now?" he asked as he lowered his hands to his sides.
"Sure," she breathed.
Luke nodded and bent down to scoop his hat up off of the floor. He jammed it onto his head and reached for the coffee pot. "Take a seat. You shouldn't be back here," he added with a sternly disapproving look.
Lorelai wandered to the nearest empty table and sat heavily in a chair, thankful that she managed to make it there before her knees gave out and embarrassed her. "Thank you," she murmured as he placed a mug on the table and filled it.
"You hungry?" he asked as he placed the pot on the tabletop next to her mug.
Lorelai looked up as she frowned in concentration. "A little."
"What can I get ya?"
"Maybe just a peanut butter and jelly sandwich?"
"That I can do," Luke said as he turned on his heel and walked back to the kitchen.
Lorelai cradled her coffee cup in her hands, trying to ignore the running commentary from the table in the corner as she tried to marshal her thoughts. "Squares or triangles?" Luke called from the kitchen.
"Surprise me," Lorelai called back.
"I bet he will!" Patty crowed as Babette laughed raucously.
Lorelai turned and shot them a pleading look. "Guys, please!" she hissed.
"I think we've seen all were gonna get today anyway," Babette said with a shrug as she pried herself from her chair. "Morey's gonna think I ran away from home."
"I'll look for you on the milk cartons," Patty said as she followed Babette to the door, waggling her fingers at Lorelai and blowing her a kiss. "Kiss him again, sweetheart," she whispered loudly.
"I will," Lorelai said with a small smile.
"You'll what?" Luke asked as he came out of the kitchen carrying her plate.
"Uh, nothing," Lorelai said as she took a quick sip of her coffee. Luke sat down across from her and drummed his fingers nervously on the table.
"So, you had questions?" he prompted as he pressed his hands flat on the table to still them.
"Oh, yeah, um," she said as she sat up, trying to focus on anything but his hands. "You didn't have a line of credit. Any loans?" she asked slowly.
"Only a small one for the renovations. I paid that off when I sold my parents' house," he said with a shrug.
Lorelai narrowed her eyes at him and asked, "You're not much good to me then, are you?"
Luke smiled, his eyes crinkling at the corners as he said, "Probably not, no." he leaned forward in his chair and laced his fingers together. "Can I ask you something?"
"You free tomorrow night?"
"Tomorrow night?" she repeated.
"Free for what?"
"Dinner, a movie," he said with a shrug.
"Dinner and a movie?"
"Friends go out to dinner and to see movies all the time," he said defensively.
Lorelai nodded and said, "Yes, they do." She smiled as she toyed with the handle of her coffee mug. "Sure, I'm free."
"Good." Luke twisted his fingers together, trying desperately not to reach out and haul her over the table and into his lap. "Have you looked into incorporating?" he asked abruptly. When Lorelai shook her head mutely he nodded, sat back in his chair, tipping it on the rear legs as he tucked his hands into his jeans pockets. "I can walk you through that."
"Okay, good. Thanks," Lorelai said with a nod. She chewed her lip for a moment and then stared into her coffee cup as she asked, "Do you believe in fate?"
"Not until today," Luke answered cryptically. When she shot him a puzzled look, he pulled his hand from his pocket and flipped a Rolling Rock bottle cap onto the table.
Lorelai reached for it, balancing the cap on her fingers as she brushed her thumb over the logo and smiled softly. "Yeah, me either. I mean, I guess I believed that people make their own fate. You can either just accept what life hands you, or you can try something else. Not that one is good and one is bad. It's just a matter of what you need, want or desire. You know, one person's idea of heaven is another person's nightmare, that kind of thing."
"All depends on your perspective."
"Yeah, it's all relative." Lorelai took a deep breath and said, "I need you to be my friend."
"I want more than that," she said bluntly.
"Me too," he said without hesitation.
Lorelai's smile bloomed as she said in a low soft voice. "I desire more kisses like that last one."
Luke nodded, but had the grace to blush slightly as he tucked his chin to his chest. "Not in the diner. We'll use your kind of kissing here."
"Uh! That's not my kind of kissing!" Lorelai protested.
"Seemed to be all you could work up to," Luke teased.
"I was trying to be gentle with you. Ease you into it," she insisted. "You spooked pretty easily the other night."
Luke reached across the table as covered her hand with his, the bottle cap pressed between their palms. "You hang on to that as a reminder. I have one of my own."
"A bottle cap?"
Luke shook his head and said, "Nope. Sometime I'll show you, but not quite yet."
"When?" she asked as he stood up, his hand still lingering on hers.
"Soon," he promised as he gave her hand a quick squeeze. He bent down and pecked a kiss to her lips. "I have to get ready for the dinner rush," he said softly.
Lorelai watched as he walked back behind the counter and then looked down at the cap in her hand. "Soon is a relative term, you know. I mean, now is soon for me."
"My soon, not yours," Luke said with a laugh as he disappeared into the kitchen.
"Hey! No fair hiding out!" Lorelai called after him. "Luke! Luke?" She huffed in exasperation as she stood up and went to the counter but he still failed to emerge. "Fine! I'm leaving!" she called out.
"See ya later!" Luke answered as he walked to the doorway wiping his hands on a towel.
Lorelai pouted and asked, "Don't you wanna kiss me goodbye?"
"I thought I just did," Luke said as he pointed to the table where they had sat just minutes before.
"Fine! Forget it! I don't need you," she said with a dramatic wave of her hand.
"You just said you did," he pointed out.
"Well, at the moment I don't want you," she sniffed as she turned and walked to the door.
"You said you do," he argued as she reached for the handle.
Lorelai turned to glare at him as he lounged against the door frame. "I no longer desire your kisses," she said imperiously as she jerked the door open.
"There are ten thousand fickle jokes I could make at your expense," he pointed out with a raised eyebrow. "But, I won't, because I know that would be a bad move at this particular point in your life and, personally, I still want the, uh, kissing, so I'll keep my mouth shut and wait. As usual," he added with a smirk.
"You almost waited too long," she pointed out.
"I know that," he acknowledged. "But now you know and I know. And, you'll be back," he added with a smug smile.
"For the coffee," Lorelai said coolly.
"I've got the coffee," he confirmed as he pushed away from the doorway and walked slowly over to the door. He wrapped one hand around the edge of the door and leaned into it, his lips hovering millimeters from hers. "Bye, Lorelai," he whispered, his breath tickling her lips.
"Bye, Luke," she answered, stubbornly trying to resist making the move.
"Uh, Mom? Luke?" Rory called in a shocked tone.
Lorelai turned to see Rory and Lane standing on the sidewalk wide-eyed at the public display in front of them. She turned back to Luke and saw that he had straightened up; his ears and cheeks stained a deep pink. She smiled, pecked a quick kiss to his lips and called, "Later!" as she bounced down the steps and wrapped an arm around each of the girls, quickly steering them toward home.
"What's going on?" Rory asked impatiently.
"Hmm? Nothing," Lorelai said quickly. "Well, not nothing. Something. I don't know. 'The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings,'" she quoted grandly.
"Shakespeare? On a Sunday? Kissing Luke in the diner? In broad daylight?" Rory demanded. "You are out of control, young lady," she scolded.
"'The fates lead the willing, and drag the unwilling.,'" Lorelai answered.
"Really, Mom? Seneca?" Rory asked. "Well, I guess you were listening as I was rambling on about all that."
"I always listen to you, Sweets. And, I'm very well read," Lorelai answered primly. "Like Luke."
"Was it a good kiss?" Lane asked, curious but still cautious.
Lorelai smiled and said, "He has the fundamentals down. They still apply, you know."
"Uh oh," Rory murmured.
"Yes, it's still the same old story, a fight for love and glory!" Lorelai said with a giddy laugh.
"I think we'll be watching Casablanca tonight," Rory muttered as Lorelai grabbed their hands and trotted ahead, dragging the girls behind her down the sidewalk.
Lorelai dropped their hands as she turned to face them, walking backwards along the sidewalk she said soberly, "Oh, he's just like any other man, only more so."
Rory turned to Lane and whispered, "Go, run. Get out while you can."
Lane nodded and waved as she said, "I think I hear my mother calling. Bye!"
"A case of do or die!" Lorelai sang out after her before dissolving into giggles and falling into her daughter's arms.
"I take it you're happy?" Rory asked
Lorelai shrugged nonchalantly, but couldn't keep the grin from her face as she said, "Eh, you know, he fits."