A/N: When the last author auction started, I posted a challenge to see if anyone could beat IkilledKenny's record bid of $650 from the first auction. I listed a number of inducements, one of which was the promise of a bonus story. Well, IkilledKenny smashed her own record. My favorite owner is nutty that way. What I am posting here is the bonus story. I'm hoping that this will work as a small appeasement, since I am busy wrapping up my VS9 work. I also plan to get to Packaged Goods too, I promise. This is not the actual auction story. I'm still pondering and puzzling that one. I hope to start it soon, but in the meantime, I hope that you enjoy this one. Thank you!

Wordsworth

I used to think that maybe words were the problem. We never had the words. Well, I have the words. I have tons of words, truckloads of them. Which is good, because Luke has very few of them unless he's upset about something. I have more than enough words for the both of us. The problem was that they just weren't the right words.

I can admit now that perhaps I thought we were too good for the words, that we didn't need them. After all, Luke and I are not exactly schmoopy-doopey, lovey-dovey types. I think that maybe we thought that we both knew, and therefore we didn't have to be one of those couples that have to say the actual words over and over again. You know the couples I'm talking about, the ones who have to say it ten times in the course of a two minute conversation. So annoying. No, I think that we thought that we didn't have to say it, at least not with those words. We had other words. Words like, 'That stuff is rotting you from the inside-out' and 'I think your ball cap is cutting off circulation to your brain.' Darling. Maybe I should have added a 'darling' on the end of that. That way, there would have no doubt that such a declaration could only have been construed in the most affectionate way.

Words. They don't seem that important when you have such feeling for someone that you can practically feel it seeping from your pores. How can words possibly begin to express that? It's huge. It's comforting. It's overwhelming. It's everything I have ever wanted. I remember telling Rory once that I would hate to think I'd raised a kid who couldn't say 'I love you'. I'd really love to blame my own parents for my difficulty with those three little words. Aside from the fact that it would be infinitely easier, it would be fun for me to be able to lay all of this on my mother's doorstep. But I know now that it simply isn't true. I know that my parents loved me, they do love me. It may not be the kind of love that I hoped for, or the kind of love that I gave Rory, but it was love of a sort. It was the best kind of love that they knew how to give. I see that now. I couldn't see it before. All I knew then was that they didn't say the words I needed to hear. I vowed that my kid would never, ever doubt my love for her.

But not all love is created equal. Loving Rory is easy, natural, and by far the best thing I have ever done. Loving Luke has been the most terrifying thing that I have ever done. Not terrifying in the sense that I feared he'd turn out to be an axe murderer. Terrifying because, in a lot of ways, it totally snuck up on me. Now, before you start shaking your heads and babbling about how it was right there in his eyes the whole time, let me explain what I mean.

I knew I loved Luke. I knew that Luke loved me and loved Rory. Okay? I admit it. I knew it all along. We were friends and confidants. We were each other's support system, the go-to people, the A-Team without George Peppard, gold chains and modified mohawks. We became lovers, and no, I will not give you the juicy details. Okay, I will tell you this, his butt is fantastic. There. Happy? But we're not talking about that, we're talking about love.

There's a certain amount of affection that comes with years of friendship. There's a certain amount of surety that comes with knowing that someone will always be there for you. There's a certain amount of intimacy that comes with sharing someone's shampoo, helping them wash the dishes, burying your nose in his pillow, feeling his arm or leg wrapped around you in the middle of the night, or even washing his underwear when you wash yours. But this was more than that. This love, once I could see it for what it was, was just more. Of everything. It was love.

This is love. Aren't you proud of how many times I've managed to say the word? I am. But a part of me stubbornly wants to argue that the word is not what's important. You can say 'I love you' in a million ways. Trust me, I know, Luke and I have been doing that very thing for almost a decade, and I can prove it.

Let's not spruce this particular spot.

That was probably the first time I ever told Luke that I loved him aside from proclaiming my undying devotion to his coffee. I don't mean love, love. Just love. It meant; I like spending time with you, I like that you shared this with me, I like getting to know you better. Luke is not a man that shares parts of himself easily. I think I knew that from the moment I met him. That night, he told me more about himself and his relationship with his dad than I knew about myself or my relationship with my own father. From that night on, I couldn't look at the Williams Hardware sign without thinking of Luke and his dad and the dreams they must have shared. Maybe I should have felt a little jealous. After all, even after my dad's frightening hospitalization, nothing really changed between us. Luke told me that I had that relationship with Rory, and I know that he's right. I just think that it's so cool that he was able to have that with his dad. I love that.

Doesn't matter what time it is. I'll always be around.

Okay, I can admit now, I felt a little chill when he said that. Not because of the sword fight going on in my foyer, and not because I knew it would get a rise out of Max. I felt a shiver of truth when Luke said that. He may have just been egging Max on for the hell of it, but that makes no difference. I knew the minute he said it that it was true. I may not have known what it meant at the time. I may not have known what he would be to me. I may not have known how prophetic those words were, but I knew without a shadow of a doubt that they were the absolute truth. Thank God.

I guess if you can find that one person, you know, who's willing to put up with all your crap, and doesn't want to change you or dress you or you know, make you eat French food, then marriage can be all right.

Maybe it's a little clichéd now that Mark Darcy has told Bridget Jones that he liked her just as she is, but there is nothing better than knowing that someone loves you, warts and all. I know I'm not perfect. I know he isn't either. I would never dream of making him eat French food. I will admit that I do enjoy dressing him, though. I mean, what's the point in having a man if you don't get to dress him like your very own Ken doll? But, change him? No. Never. There are things about him that drive me nuts. There are things about me that make his blood boil. That's okay, though. I wouldn't change a hair on his head. I do, however, reserve the right to change the ball cap that sits on it. After all, he has picked out all of my favorite clothes. It's only fair.

This is nice.

And it was. It is. I love spending time with Luke. It doesn't matter if he's dozing on the couch while I watch a movie. I just like having him nearby. I'm pretty sure he feels the same way too, otherwise he wouldn't attend any town meetings and he wouldn't be caught dead within a mile of a festival. I don't have to be 'on'. I don't have to pretend I'm happy when I'm sad, I don't have to tone it down when I'm feeling sassy. I love that he's my straight man. He's Harvey Korman to my Tim Conway. What could be better than that? I'll tell you, nothing. Nothing is better than that. The word may sound a little lame, but I don't have any other words for it. Being with Luke is nice. Really nice.

I got an extra little tackle box, too. . . if you want.

Hindsight, right? It's amazing how the LASIK of time can make you see things. On the face of it, a guy offering a girl a tackle box for the girl to use on fishing date with another guy doesn't sound like much of a declaration of love, does it? But it was. I see that now. Twenty-twenty. Crystal clear, baby. Only someone who truly loves you wants you to be happy. Only someone who loves you will help you make a complete ass of yourself. Only someone who loves you will put a cork on his hook so that he doesn't hook the fish he already hooked at least once that morning. Only someone who loves you will come to your house and remove the fish floating lifeless in your bathtub. Only someone who loves you will not only place said fish on a bed of paper towels in a shoebox, but dig the grave for you to give her a proper funeral. And now I can see that he loved me so much that he couldn't even bring himself to ask how the date went.

You did not fail him. You supported him, you defended him, you gave him a chance.

It hurt my heart when he said those words. It made me ache to see his shoulders slump and his head hanging. He didn't deserve that. No matter what they said to each other, or what Jess had done, Luke had at least deserved a goodbye, a note, something. And then, the ache dulled into anger. I wanted to shake Luke until he shared his suspicions on where the little punk went, and then I wanted to chase after him and drag him back by his ear. I wanted to apply the Vulcan nerve pinch until he collapsed to his knees. Then I'd yank him up by his over-moussed hair and gloat while he begged Luke's forgiveness, swore that he would fix whatever mess he had made, and thanked his Uncle humbly and sincerely for everything from the Frosted Flakes to the Hummel. And then, I would have brought him to the house to see Rory.

You are not failing.

Turnabout, fair play and all of that... When Luke told me that I was not failing, I totally believed him. I bought it hook, line and sinker because, hey, it beat the hell out of what my grandmother had said, and because he was Luke. I hated the thought of asking him for that money. I knew that Sookie was right. I knew he probably had some money to spare. After all, the guy buys entire buildings on a whim. All the cash he saves by not eating waffle cones must really add up. I knew that he'd probably give me the money, too. That's why I didn't want to ask.

I'm not sure how it would have gone if we had made it to Silvano's that night. He probably would have invested in the inn, who am I kidding, right? But I did have charts, and projections and spreadsheets. I had an agreement drawn up with repayment timelines. I had every weapon that they armed me with in business school. And then I had a complete breakdown. I remember it vividly, even though a part of me wishes that I could forget it. His arm around me; holding me as I sobbed and sniveled all over his leather coat. His hand on my hair; soothing me, stroking me, whispering that everything would be okay. And I knew then that it would be. He would make sure that my dream didn't slip away from me. I wasn't going to fail. How could I possibly fail when Luke thought that I could do it?

Will you just stand still?

Okay, yeah, he said it first, but I said it second! Second is better. Second is more important, because when he said it first, I didn't really know exactly what he was going to do. He let his actions speak. Again. When I said it second, I knew without a doubt what I was going to do. I was going to kiss him. Kiss him like he kissed me. I wanted to be sure that his whole world was whirling around in his head, just like mine was. I wanted to taste him again. I wanted his arms around me, holding me like he had the night that we danced. I wanted to feel his scruffy stubble beneath my fingertips, prickly and soft at the same time. Just like Luke. When we stopped kissing, we just looked at each other for a minute. His eyes never wavered. I had never wanted anything in my life as bad as I wanted him to kiss me a third time. And then, we were interrupted by a naked lunatic holding a pillow over his privates streaking past us. Perfect. It just couldn't have been a more perfect second kiss. Or first kiss for that matter. I just remember watching Luke as he dashed down the steps chasing Kirk, and wondering how good the third one could be. After all, practice does make perfect. If one and two were perfection, three was bound to be a doozy.

See what I'm saying? Before that kiss in the Dragonfly's doorway, there were hundreds of these moments in the eight years that Luke and I had known each other. Not one of them was overly sentimental. Hell, I can't even remember ever exchanging a drunken, 'I love you man' with him, not even after the Salute to the Quakers Festival, when he had to help Rory pour me into my bed. So, when we did get together, it would have been weird and a little too stupid to get all goo-goo eyed over each other. We weren't kids, we were older; supposedly wiser, and definitely a little worse for wear. But still, in those early days and nights, there was a smidgen of giddiness. There may have been a certain amount of smug that comes with having a guy tell you on the first date that he's in, he's all in. There was no guesswork. No, 'Gee, I hope he likes me, I wonder if he'll call…' games to play, no question whatsoever that this was a 'relationship' as he called it.

That's one of my favorite Luke words: relationship. He uses it a lot, and it never fails to give me a little thrill. I wasn't 'the woman he was dating', I was his girlfriend. And, although he would scoff at the word, Luke would never correct it. I knew from the get-go that Luke drew no subtle distinctions in this relationship. We were in it. This was it. And, oh, the words came fast and furious after that.

I like looking at you.

Funny, huh? I'd looked at him almost every day for eight years, but now looking at him was entirely different. Looking at him now I saw everything. I saw him warm and rumpled; his hair sticking up as he shuffled off to the shower. I saw his eyes passionate and intense, watching me as he made me feel the way no one else ever had before. I saw his cheek shadowed, rough and dark against a pink flowered pillowcase; but his face so soft and vulnerable. I saw the smiles he fought back as he grumped at me. I saw the sexy, devilish looks, the patient, understanding nods, the way he could make the barest touch feel like an embrace, and an embrace feel like coming home. I saw someone who was committed to this thing we were doing here. Man, I love looking at him.

I'm grumpy about stuff but I don't want you to be.

Simply translated, this means, "Lorelai, I love you." Damn that Jack Frost, he's got better aim than Cupid.

You are too good for me.

Maybe this is what held the words back a little. Luke, for all his foibles, and there are many, many foibles, is inherently good. So good. Loving, caring, thoughtful, funny and sweet. Even when he's rambling on and on about things like REM sleep and Nazis that look like Nathan Lane. Even when he's not perfect, you know that he really wants to be. He tries so hard to do everything right. He willingly subjected himself to my parents' scorn and ridicule, because in his mind, when you are in a relationship, the parents go with the territory. He completely screwed his REM sleep by buying me a TV for his bedroom. I think, in a way I thought that maybe I wasn't good enough for him. I wanted to be. It's not like I'm evil or unworthy. It's just that when you are with someone who is a giver they way Luke is, sometimes you feel like you're not giving enough. Sometimes I feel like a taker, and I don't want to be a taker. Sometimes, he would do these things for me and I would feel like I couldn't tell him how I felt about him. Not in that moment, no matter how badly I wanted to. I didn't want it all tangled up together. I didn't want it to seem like I was giving him my love as a reward for good deeds done. Not that my love was some kind of prize, but I don't know, I didn't want to invoke some kind of Pavlovian response. I wanted to give back to him openly. No tit for tat, no quid pro quo, and no other phrase that means keeping score, no matter how dirty it sounds.

Fine. You want to know what I'm thinking right now? That I can't be in this relationship. It's too much.

Oh God, that hurt. It hurt so much. Not just the words coming from his lips, but the pain behind them. He was doubting himself. He was giving up on us. It makes my stomach knot just to think about them. I don't want to think about them any more. I hate those words.

Well, all I can say is, you're lucky I'm back in your life, because clearly you were lost without me. I mean, it's a miracle you're even still alive. Right?

Yes, he was lost without me. This, right here, was my way of trying to recoup a little of the dignity I shed the night he showed up at my door and kissed me as if his life depended on it. The words came tumbling from my lips, gushing out of me like a geyser. He didn't seem to mind that I proclaimed my love for him over and over again. He didn't seem to find it the least bit needy that I was carrying on like a teenaged girl in the throes of her first real romance. I couldn't stop saying it that night. I needed him to know. If they were the last words I ever uttered, I had to say something. I had to tell him that I was all in, that my heart was his, and that I was clearly lost without him. Even now, I cringe a little at how desperate I must have seemed that night. I console myself and soothe my injured pride by recalling each and every time he said it too. And he did. A lot. But all the same, I thanked God I for the Reggae Fever CD. With that, and its infinite mocking potential, we could get back on more comfortable footing.

And I know there are a few kinks to work out, the kidnapping thing might be a little problematic but either way, she is not quitting school. This was her dream. I am not going to let this happen.

Any man who is willing to commit multiple felonies to make sure that your daughter stays in school, any man who thinks that he can help you by diagnosing your kid with a chemical imbalance, any man who truly believes that together you have the power to stop a twenty year old woman from completely ruining her life; this is a man that you want to marry. At least, that's how I see it. This rambling rant, this little seedling of a plan, this single minded determination to get my kid back on track was what led me to utter the five smartest words I ever said, "Luke, will you marry me?"

Kids would be good.

This means, yes, I choose you. I want all of you. I want the house and the plants and the kids with you. I want to carry your child. I want my life inextricably linked with yours. I want it all. The whole package.

You can pull link sausages out of me if you want.

Okay, I have to ask you, how can the words 'I love you' even compare to this? They can't. He did. He built me a slab and laid there, rolling his eyes at me each time I stuffed the strings of sausages back into his shirt. I laughed manically as I yanked them out of him to the squeals of delight and disgust from the trick-or-treaters, and he held perfectly still, waiting until it was time to reset again before making his commentary. This is why having kid with Luke would be so good. He'd grumble and complain and resist, and then he'd give in, and by the time it was all over he'd be laughing along with her. Or him. Or them. Just the idea of it was more delicious than Louisiana sweet sausage.

She's back. We can set the date. We can get married now because Rory's back.

Hmm. Maybe this wasn't the best example to choose. But I was so excited, everything was clicking into place. Rory was home, and now Luke and I could get married. Thinking about it now, I realize how unfair it all was to Luke. I'd asked him to marry me, and then told him that I couldn't even think about it until things were fixed with Rory, but then I did nothing to fix things. I just waited, so he waited. For months. Six months. Man, that was crappy of me. I can admit that now because, I know now that I was going to be on the receiving end of that whack from the stupid stick soon enough. Not a good choice, but I really was excited, and I really did want to marry him.

I love you, and I'm going to marry you, and at our wedding, we are having lobster.

Liar. I'm sorry, but that was nothing but a big fat lie. I mean, yeah, he loved me, I know he did, but the rest was nothing but a lie. This is a prime example of how not to say I love you. You need another? Try this on for size:

But I love you, Luke. I love you. But I have waited, and I have stayed away, and I have let you run this thing, and no more. I asked you to marry me, and you said yes.

Combine that little beauty with the words now and never and you have a sure-fire way to lose the only dream that you were not able to make come true. He wasn't there to help.

It's amazing how many words I could find to justify what happened between me and Luke. Words that still stick in my throat. Distant. Emotionally unavailable. Uncommunicative. Stupid, psychobabble words that mean nothing except that it's over. But I still couldn't really say it was over, not to myself. I said it to him. I told him it was over. Of course, I had already gone to Christopher at that point. It had to be over. I needed it to be over because everything that I didn't say and should have said was eating a hole inside of me. Every word that he said the morning that he showed up begging me to elope broke me into a thousand pieces. There was nothing left to say, I had to tell him. I slept with Christopher. Those words haunt me to this day. Maybe because when I think of them, all I can see is Luke's eyes. I never want to see that look in his eyes again.

Everyone was trying to understand, trying to make sense of something that made absolutely no sense to me. So I gave them words. I gave them bumpers and locked doors and potholes. I debated the infinite marketing possibilities of rocket gum. I worked my way through the third stage of grief, making piles. I found out later that Luke had improved his knowledge of the space-time continuum, string theory and wormholes. I think he even made a few up, unless he found the word compartmentalizing in that copy of You Deserve Love that he bought so long ago. Yes, love, even when it means having your heart-broken and breaking the man you love's heart, can be educational.

I moved on. That was what I wanted to do, right? I moved on, and I took with me a running commentary that drowned out the fuzzy buzzing in my head. I pondered Pop Tarts and shared my observations with my offspring, wanting her to benefit from my journey of self-discovery. I attended a cotillion, and I realized that it was not a form of medieval torture as I had always envisioned. And that night, I went home. I went home, stood in my kitchen and heard the words that I had always longed to hear. The problem was that they were spoken by the wrong man.

But, although he was the wrong man, Christopher was good for one thing. He was good with words. He seemed to always know just what to say, and wasn't afraid to say it. With Christopher, the words lowed freely, tripping over themselves to get out, falling at our feet hollow and meaningless. At my feet, I should say. I think he meant every word that he said. I did too, to a point. I do love him. I'll always love him. I'm just not in love with him. But maybe it's because the love I felt for Christopher wasn't such a big, enormous love, it made the words so much easier to say. It just wasn't as easy to live the life that all that those words encompassed. The words were easy, just as they always had been with Chris. Quippy, witty, meaningless words that masqueraded as love and understanding. They never dug down deeper, they never asked for anything more than they had asked for twenty years before. The words came in a rapid staccato that made even my brain hurt, an answer for every question, a comment for every comment, a rejoinder for things that need not be rejoined.

It's amazing how tiring lugging all of those words around could be. It was back breaking it was to dole them out day after day like candy, and having to fudge a few here and there to explain the inexplicable. When I think about it now, I shake my head at how useless they all were, and how good it felt to stop saying them. When I think about it now, I realize that the one word that made the biggest dent in any of this mess was the word, 'sorry'. I was so sincerely sorry that I hurt Christopher. Sorry that I said yes when my heart was screaming no. Logan was sorry that he made bad business choices and ended up hurting and almost losing Rory as a result. I looked Luke Danes in the eye and told him that I was sorry for what I did to him. He said that he was sorry for pushing me away. Sorry was a start. Sorry was a fresh slate. Sorry was my passport to happiness again.

I just like to see you happy.

It takes so many more words to lie than it does to tell the truth. Thousands of words must have passed my lips in those months that I lived a lie. Seven words gave me all of the truth I ever needed to know. The truth is so much simpler, isn't it? The truth does need so many words. I wish you joy and happiness. I just like to see you happy. What I didn't say was that I wanted to bring him joy and happiness. What he didn't say was that he wanted to be the one to make me happy. It's okay, though. We both knew.

I think its okay. We both should know, right? I'd better tell him. I'll tell him. Just as soon as I can open my eyes again.

I gave in for a few more minutes. After all, I had worked hard today. I kept my eyes closed, just listening to the soft hum of his voice. "I do," he said softly.

I couldn't stop the smile. I opened my eyes and looked up at him. He stared back at me with the exact same look in his eyes as he had the last time I had heard him say 'I do'.

"You do what?" I asked, my throat dry and croaky.

"I love you," he said as he nudged the cup with the bendy straw a little closer to me. "And I think she's beautiful," he said gruffly.

I took a tiny sip and then patted the bed beside me. "You might be a tad biased."

"Maybe," he whispered as he gazed down at the tiny bundle in his arms.

"I love you too," I said as he edged a hip onto the bed next to me, careful not to jostle me.

I couldn't resist. I reached out and pulled the swaddling blanket back a bit. With the tip of my finger I stroked her miraculously tiny little fingers, smiling as they curled into a fist. Together, we took a better look at what our love had wrought. That sounds good, huh? What our love had wrought sounds so much nicer than 'the result of her mother's uncontrollable lust when she saw her father walk out of the bathroom in nothing but a too tiny towel,' doesn't it?

Yeah, well, both are true.

Let's not play games with semantics, okay?

Trust me, you won't win, I have the words to back it all up.

Fin