A/N: Here it is, at last. I just want to thank you all for hanging in there for my little experiment in terror. This one was a doozy to write. I hope that you enjoyed it, and I thank you most sincerely for your patience and kind words of support.

Claim Resolution

April 2001

Big things. Big potentially life-changing things, she'd said. Luke didn't need the sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach to tell him what this big, potentially life-changing thing could be, he could see the excitement in her eyes. He stared down at the spindly yellow weed she had handed to him with a fierce scowl. He'd seen the excitement in her eyes, and now he was praying fervently that the sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach was wrong.

Luke dropped the daisy into a water glass and stomped into the kitchen, bracing both hands on the work surface as he forced his lungs to expand. He blinked unseeingly at the pots and pans stacked under the stainless steel counter across from him, wondering how she possibly couldn't know. He'd seen the excitement in her eyes, and Luke knew exactly how she couldn't know. She was swept up in the moment, carried away with the hugeness of whatever this big potentially life-changing thing was. What worried him was that she wouldn't be able to see past that big thing well enough to realize that it wasn't the big things that counted, it was the little things.

December 1998

When Luke walked through the open door to his apartment, he spotted Lorelai standing at the bookshelves, her arms wrapped around her stomach tightly as she stared at a framed family photo he had long-since stopped seeing. "Hey," he said as he closed the door behind him. When she jumped and spun toward him, he smiled reassuringly. "Sorry, I had to finish the grill or your burger would taste like de-greaser tomorrow."

"Hmm, a little added tang?" she asked, smiling at him as she crossed the room.

"That zesty zip. It would probably eat away your stomach lining too, if you had any left," he said, pulling her closer as she wrapped her arms around his neck.

"See? You could have skipped the cleaning. Totally unnecessary," she said as she nipped at his jaw with her lips.

"Well, lucky for me, you're not my only customer," he answered, tipping his head back and shaking the ball cap from it as she kissed his neck.

"Ah, but I'm your very best customer," she whispered. "Unless there are others who tip you the way that I do."

Luke chuckled, running his hand up under her hair and massaging the nape of her neck with his strong fingers. "No one tips the way that you do," he said gruffly.

"You remember that the next time I ask for a refill," she whispered into his ear.

Luke shivered slightly and then bent toward her, silently asking for more. "I never complain until the third."

"Liar," she murmured as she bit his ear lobe gently.

"Okay, sometimes I do, just for fun." Luke slid his hand under the hem of her sweater, and spread his fingers over the warm, silky skin of her back. "I'm glad you came by."

"Hmm, me too," she replied as she kissed her way to his mouth. "You gonna kiss me hello, Duke?" Lorelai asked softly.

"Hello, annoying woman," he answered, and then kissed her hungrily. Her body swayed against his, igniting a rush of fire that swept from head to toe. Her tongue circled his, tempting it into her mouth and surrendering completely when the plunder began.

Kissing and laughing and stumbling, they made their way to the bed leaving only a trail of discarding clothing to mark how they had gotten there. Sighing and moaning and groaning, his body moved against hers, pressing her into the mattress even as she arched up off of it wordlessly begging for more. Tasting and testing and savoring, his mouth moved over her body; pulling on her hardened nipples with his teeth and tongue, trailing from freckle to freckle across her chest, lapping at the creamy skin of her stomach as he sought to soothe the nagging hunger that ached inside of him.

He was learning every sound she made, cataloging them in his memory with each visit to his apartment. He knew she'd gasp when his tongue stroked her sensitive clit, he knew she's moan with appreciation as it pressed into her, he knew she'd whisper his name, his real name, as he tasted her climax. There was the tiny little grunt of dismay she gave each time he entered her, as if she had to remind herself of how well they fit. There were the breathy pants that filled his ears, roaring through his head like a gale force wind as her walls closed around him, locking him deep inside of her. And then there was that sigh. That mind blowing sigh of utter contentment as they lay spent and panting, her arms and legs wrapped tightly around him, his body pulsing inside of her as his heart beat in time with hers.

Then there was the absence of sound, those precious few minutes when she curled up beside him silent and satisfied. He loved the feel of her hair as it slipped through his fingers. He'd stroke it softly, separating the tangled curls gently as she cushioned her head with his shoulder, her breath stirring the hair on his chest. It always seemed to end up like this the first time. No matter how heated their foreplay, not matter how intense the actual coupling became, they always ended up here. At least, for a few precious minutes. Soon the chatter would begin, and on its heels the teasing that would morph into banter and then turn from verbal foreplay into physical. That's when things became more playful, more adventurous. He knew it would start any second. And he also knew it would end with her raising that perfect heart shaped ass up into the air, offering it to him tauntingly, or closing those kiss swollen lips around his cock and sucking him until his brain exploded like shrapnel.

He liked that too. He liked that a lot. But in truth, this was what he liked the most. Her body felt warm and pliant, her muscles long and lax, pressing into his until he was sure they would meld together. He closed his eyes; savoring what he was sure would be the last of those quiet moments and looking forward to what would come out of her mouth next. But this time, she threw him completely for a loop.

"Tell me about your parents," she whispered, her fingertips dancing through the soft hair on his chest.

"What?"

"Your parents, what were they like?" she asked, looking up at him.

Luke frowned for a moment, and then relaxed as he saw the genuine interest in her eyes. He shrugged and said, "They were just normal parents."

"Are you like your mom or your dad?" she persisted.

Luke scratched his cheek absently and then lowered his hand to his stomach. "Um, both, I guess." He puzzled over her question for a moment and then said, "My dad had the hardware store, you know. He worked a lot, but he was always home for dinner. My mom was just your usual mom, I guess."

Lorelai rolled onto her stomach and propped her arm on his chest, peering up at him curiously. "How was she the usual mom?"

He shrugged. "Well, uh, she stayed home, took care of the house and us. Watched soap operas in the afternoon, but she'd never admit it," he said with a soft laugh. "I used to have to sit at the kitchen table and do my homework while she'd make dinner. Liz was usually under the table playing with her dolls or whatever. She liked to sit under the table."

Lorelai smiled encouragingly. "That sounds nice. Did your mom teach you how to cook?"

Luke shook his head. "Not really, no. I mean, I watched her. It beat the crap out of multiplication problems," he said gruffly.

"Was she a good cook?"

"Yeah, she was good, I think. I was a kid, so I didn't have the refined palate I have now," he said dryly.

"What did she make?"

"The usual stuff; meatloaf, spaghetti, pot roast."

"Mmm, pot roast," Lorelai said with an impish grin. "I bet it was good."

Luke searched his memory for a moment. "Yeah, it was. You know, I don't think she really liked cooking," he said slowly.

"No?"

"She did it, and she was good at it, and dinner was always on the table at exactly five-thirty, but no, I don't think she enjoyed it. She liked baking more."

"Aw, you had a baking mom?" she asked enviously. Luke nodded, rolling his eyes at her enthusiasm. "What did she bake?"

"Cookies, cakes, pies; just the normal stuff you bake, nothing fancy."

"Did you help?"

"Sometimes she'd let us help, but she knew we were only in it for the batter," he answered with a fond smile.

Lorelai smiled too. "I can't imagine you eating raw cookie dough."

"Well, like I said, I didn't have the palate."

"Did she smack your hands?"

"Yes, with a wooden spoon."

"Did that stop you?"

"Nope."

"She sounds great."

"She was great. You would have liked her, she made great pies."

"Yeah? You make great pies."

"Her recipes."

"Ah, now I know your secret," she said as she pressed her cheek to his chest. Luke's fingers trailed along her bare arm as she sighed softly. "Was your dad all terse and grumbly like you?"

"Yep."

"Was he crazy about your mom?"

Luke blinked in surprise and then tucked his chin to his chest, staring down at the top of her head. "Yeah."

"I can see it," she said wistfully. "I mean, she baked pies."

"Yeah, that was the reason why," Luke said solemnly.

"Reason enough," Lorelai whispered.

Luke frowned as he pressed back into the pillow, bracing himself for the next barrage of questions.

"We're going to my parents' for their annual Christmas party tomorrow," Lorelai said softly.

"Christmas isn't for two more weeks," he pointed out.

"The Gilmores schedule their own," she said solemnly. "They have an in with the Messiah, this year, they got him bumped to tomorrow."

"I see."

He felt her eyelashes brush against his chest, and his finger wound their way into her hair once more. "Well, that will be fun. You like parties," he said gruffly.

Lorelai snorted and then shook her head slightly. "It won't be fun. It'll be miserable."

"Miserable?"

Lorelai smiled wanly and then shifted, rolling over on top of him and pushing her hair back with her hand as she sat up, straddling his hips. "My parents were not your normal parents," she told him as she splayed her fingers across his chest, rubbing her way down his stomach.

"Oh."

"Yeah."

Luke looked up at her, a concerned frown bisecting his eyebrows. "I'm sorry," he said softly.

Lorelai gave him a small smile and then leaned down to kiss him sweetly. "Thank you," she murmured as her lips trailed across his cheek.

Luke nodded slightly, somehow knowing that she didn't want to say anything more. He ran his hands down her back until they settled in the curve of her waist, and said the only thing he could say to make her feel better. "Bring Rory by tomorrow night. I'll bake a pie," he whispered, nuzzling her hair aside so that his lips could find her cheek.

April 2001

God damn Luke! she thought as she turned her pillow over and took her aggressions out on it. How dare he stand there with that smug smile on his face asking all of the questions I should have already had answers for? Doesn't he know that I don't owe him answers for anything? I don't have answers for anything, she ranted to herself. And Max, asking me over and over again if my questions meant that I was saying yes. How can questions be a 'yes'? Yes is an answer, not a question, damn it. He's an English teacher, he should know that! And, wasn't it pretty freaking obvious that she didn't have any answers?

Lorelai cringed, remembering how she had cringed at the curious but hopeful look on Rory's face when she came back to the table. All she could do was shake her head 'no' and take her seat, gritting her teeth through the rest of the meal. She answered Rory's relentless questioning as best she could on the ride home, taking great care to give her daughter actual answers, and not trying to dodge the questions with questions of her own. She knew how annoying that could be.

Why couldn't he just answer her questions? They weren't even her questions, they were Luke's questions. Why couldn't he just suck it up and answer Luke's questions? They were pretty simple questions, really. Where would they live? What about Margie and the bank? Where would we put all of my stuff? How come it would have to be my stuff that gets tossed out?

Lorelai flung one arm up over her head, replaying the conversation again and again, and getting more agitated each time. She was trying to be as honest as she could possibly be at that point, with herself, with Rory and with Max. She tried to tell herself that it wasn't a game or a contest of wills. She knew that, for her own happiness, she had to be absolutely certain of her answer; regardless of the disappointment on Rory's face or the dogged insistence in Max's voice.

Ugh, and he was persistent. Like a pit bull. Why does he always have to try to get the upper hand? Is it because they were Luke's questions? Did Max somehow know that they were Luke's questions? Had he guessed? Was there a 'vibe' in those simple questions that somehow gave them away? What did it matter if I was saying yes or no, those questions would still have to be answered.

Scowling up at the ceiling, Lorelai wondered what his answers would have been if he hadn't been so insistent on squeezing an answer out of her.

Would he agree to it all? Would he live here in her house with her stuff and bank at her bank? Would Margie call him Max, or Mr. Medina? Where would they keep the coupons? A can? A drawer? A can, I think. A drawer would be too big, get to messy, and you'd never find the coupon you needed. Plus, you could take the can to the store with you. Luke's mom was probably right about that. A can would be the way to go. But would Max want a drawer? Max was very orderly, maybe he'd insist on a drawer. Would he, or would he just accept a can if that was what she decided to use?

She sighed, searching the ceiling for the answers she craved. Something told her that he would. Some niggling little voice in her head told her that Max would agree to anything she wanted as long as he got the answer that he wanted. Her scowl deepened. She didn't want him to just agree to whatever she wanted just to get what he wants. That's my trick, she thought petulantly.

Lorelai grunted as she rolled onto her side, blinking at the glowing numbers on her fuzzy alarm clock. The fact of the matter was that she didn't want Max to just agree to anything, but she had a sneaking suspicion that he would. It was entirely possible that these things simply didn't matter as much to him as they did to her, but just the same, she wished he would push back a little. No woman wants to marry a doormat, she told herself firmly. Lorelai knew that she probably wasn't the most self-aware person in the world, but she did know herself well enough to know that Max was going to have to learn to fight back, or at least, pretend to fight back.

As much as it irked her, she knew that her mother was right. She was a little contrary by nature, but she really couldn't help it. How is a person supposed to trust something that they didn't have to fight for? she wondered. If everyone just hands you everything you want on a silver platter, how do you know that you deserve it?

One thing she knew for sure was that she didn't want Max, or anyone else for that matter, giving her anything that she hadn't earned. She'd worked and scrimped and saved and fought tooth and nail for everything she was and everything she had, and she'd be damned if someone was going to try to negate all of that hard work by simply placating her. She wasn't some petty dictator to be appeased. She wasn't a shrewish harridan to be kept quiet. She was a woman with a life and a daughter to protect. She had wants and needs and desires of her own, and she was willing to put in the time and the effort to reap the benefits of her hard work. All she wanted was someone who was willing and able to work and fight alongside of her, not someone who simply wanted to push her into doing or saying what he wanted to hear just because he wanted to hear it.

June 1999

Lorelai flopped onto her back, breathless and covered with a fine sheen of sweat. A laugh bubbled up from deep inside of her, and she turned to look at Luke. "You just couldn't let me win, huh?" she asked.

"Where's the fun in that?" he replied with a lazy wave of his hand.

"There is no fun in that," she agreed. Using the last of her remaining strength, she pushed her damp hair back from her face. "I can't believe it's this hot."

"Really? I'd think you'd be getting used to it by now," he answered with a smug smile.

Lorelai swatted his arm. "The weather."

"Oh, the weather," he said with a deep chuckle. "I thought you meant me."

Lorelai grinned as she rolled onto her side and propped her head up on her elbow. "I have a new rule to add."

"I don't think you can at this point."

"Sure I can."

"Who says?"

"I do. I started this, I made up most of the rules, and now I want to add a rule that I can make a rule any time I want to," she said primly.

"I may have to file a grievance," he warned.

"Don't you want to know what the rule is first?"

Luke nodded. "Hit me with it. But I'm just tellin' ya that if I don't like it, I'll check the bylaws."

"The new rule is that whenever you kiss me right here," she said as she pressed her fingers to the pulse throbbing in her neck, "you have to do it just like you just did."

"How was that?" he asked with an amused smile.

"Goooood," she purred.

"I'll try to remember, but I can't guarantee anything," he said dismissively.

"But it's a rule," she argued.

Luke snorted and then pushed on her shoulder, shoving her over onto her back and then covering her with his hot, sticky body. "Some rules are made to be broken," he murmured as he swirled his tongue over the throbbing pulse in her throat. "See? Different," he challenged. "What are you gonna do about it?"

"You're gonna pay," she hissed playfully.

"Lookin' forward to it."

"And pay and pay," she whispered as he drew the tender skin into his mouth, kissing her just as he had a short time before.

"I have a rule," he murmured against her skin, licking the salty sweat that was the result of their lovemaking from her smooth skin.

"Yeah?"

"I say that when you, you know, you scream like you did that last time," he said in a deep, raspy voice.

Lorelai moaned as he nibbled on her ear lobe. "Maybe we should combine our rules," she whispered.

"That could work."

"That could work well," she said as his hand closed over her breast, his palm abrading her nipple as he squeezed her possessively. "So, we're agreed?"

"Agreed."

Lorelai raked her nails up his back, smiling as his body tensed and bowed. "A pleasure doing business with you," she said with a wicked smile.

Luke returned her smile with a wolfish grin of his own. "The pleasure is all mine." He pressed his lips to her neck, and her pulse skipped a beat. "I wanna hear you scream, Lorelai," he said softly, and then his teeth scraped lightly over the tender skin. "I wanna hear you scream over and over again."

April 2001

When the alarm clock buzzed at exactly four forty-five, Luke stretched one arm out to silence it without breaking his staring contest with the ceiling above his bed. He gave it two more minutes before he finally conceded defeat, and rolled out from under the sheet. He splashed water on his face, scrubbed his teeth until he began to feel like something resembling a human, and then dressed as quickly as his sluggish body would allow. Placing the blue baseball cap firmly on his head, his gaze swept the tiny apartment, coming to rest on that old family photograph that sat forgotten in its frame. He shoved his wallet into his back pocket and palmed his keys, crossing the room to the bookshelves and stood staring at the photograph with the same fascination that Lorelai had years ago.

Finally, he turned away, moving quickly through the apartment and out of the door. Switching on the lights as the curtain swayed behind him, Luke took a deep breath, trying to mentally psyche himself up for another day that he was sure would prove to be no different from the others. He stared out the windows and his mouth turned downward as his eyes picked out the baskets and bowls of daisies that decorated every corner and bench in the town. Moving toward the kitchen, he turned on the coffee maker, and his gaze fell to the single yellow bloom that now drooped listlessly in a forgotten water glass.

Luke plucked the daisy from the glass, tempted to crush the hapless flower in his hand. But as he scowled at its sunny face, he couldn't help seeing Lorelai's bright smile.

We're friends and I really want us to stay friends. No matter what.

A sharp stab of guilt and shame twisted the knife in his heart as he held the thin stem gingerly, twirling it between his fingers. He took a deep breath and then placed the flower carefully on the counter before reaching for the order pad next to the register. After scrawling a hasty message, he rummaged through a drawer until he located a roll of scotch tape. Retrieving the flower, he walked to the door and hung the note just above the 'closed' sign. Holding the daisy firmly but gently between his fingers, Luke stepped out into the cool pre-dawn air and locked the door carefully behind him.

Lorelai sat up with a start. She pressed one hand to her pounding heart and clamped the other over her mouth, trying desperately to swallow her scream. She stared wide-eyed at the window as the pearly pre-dawn light filtered through the curtains, and then turned to look at the clock. Lowering her hands, Lorelai groaned as she fell back against the pillows and covered her face with her arms. She lay still for a few minutes, trying to will herself back to sleep, but then gave up, grumbling, "Not even six on a Saturday," as she threw back the covers and climbed from the bed.

She stuffed her feet into the nearest pair of slippers and then tucked her hair behind her ears as she trudged tiredly toward the stairs. Two minutes later, she braced both hands against the counter, staring at the coffee maker intently as a thing trickle of brown liquid finally seeped through the filter and into the pot. Lorelai closed her eyes, listing to the stream of coffee gradually filling the carafe, and wishing with all of her heart that she could come up with a different answer than the one she had.

Once the steady stream of steaming liquid slowed to a drip, Lorelai filled a mug with the aromatic brew and inhaled deeply as she carried it to the front door. She took a cautious sip before turning the locks, and then opened the door to retrieve the morning paper.

"Oh!" she cried softly as she spotted Luke sitting on the top step. "Hey, you scared me," she whispered as she stepped onto the porch and pulled the door closed quietly behind her.

Luke craned his neck to look back at her. "Sorry. I didn't think you'd be up yet, so I didn't want to knock."

"Yeah, uh, something woke me up. Maybe I sensed a large hulking man huddling on my porch," she said jokingly. "You know, normally I wouldn't be up for hours on a Saturday," she said as she approached the steps. "How long were you going to wait?"

Luke shrugged. "I don't know."

Lorelai frowned as she saw the wilted daisy he twirled between his fingers. "Nice flower," she said softly as she sat down beside him.

"Some nut job gave it to me."

"Hare Krishna?"

Luke snorted. "No, but close. She likes to brainwash people into giving her coffee."

Lorelai cocked her head as she peered at him closely. "Why is there a large hulking man huddled on my porch?"

Luke reached up and scratched his ear, tugging on it nervously as he stared down at the bedraggled flower. "I just, I realized that I haven't been a very good friend to you lately," he said gruffly. Clearing his throat, he sat up a little straighter, but still kept his eyes fixed on the flower. "I mean, you tried to be a good friend to me with the whole Rachel thing, and I… I haven't been a very good friend, and I'm sorry."

"That's okay," she said quietly.

Luke shook his head and then dared to glance over at her. "No. No, it's not. That was rule number one, right? We're supposed to be friends no matter what."

"Sometimes it's a little hard," Lorelai said in an understanding tone.

"Yeah." Luke looked down at the flower again, and then began to wind the thin stem around his index finger. "Did you say yes?" he asked quietly.

"No."

He looked up quickly. "You said no?"

"I haven't said yes or no," she clarified.

"Oh."

Lorelai watched as he released the stem, letting it unravel before wrapping it around his finger again in the opposite direction. "I think I'm going to have to say no, though."

"You are?"

Lorelai shrugged and cradled her coffee mug to her chest as she stared out over the yard. "I just keep thinking that I shouldn't have to think about it this hard," she admitted softly. "I know that's probably not the mature or responsible way to think about this. I mean, I know that marriage is a really serious thing, and you need to think about it a lot and be sure that it's right," she said quickly. "I guess I just can't help it. A part of me keeps feeling like I shouldn't have to think so hard about whether Max is the right guy for me or not."

"I know what you're saying."

Lorelai smiled as she looked down at her slippers. "Thanks. I knew you would."

"When Rachel came back, everyone just assumed that I'd be happy about it," he said thoughtfully. "But I wasn't."

"You weren't?"

Luke shook his head. "Don't get me wrong, I was happy to see her, to know that she's alright and that her life is going good, but happy that she was back, back? No, not really."

"Wow."

"Wow?"

"Well, I just, I assumed…" she trailed off with a sheepish laugh. "Yeah, I assumed too."

"And then, I got to thinking that maybe I should be happy, maybe it was right," he said as he shook his head.

Lorelai winced as she asked, "I pushed you, didn't I?"

"You, uh, you gave me a little shove… Yeah, you pushed me some," he said at last.

"I'm sorry."

"I let you push, though, right? I mean, you're pretty strong, but you couldn't have pushed me if I didn't want you to," he told her.

"Maybe not."

"I can tell you one thing, though," he said gruffly as he twirled the limp flower upside down. "I'm not gonna push you to say yes to that guy."

"Max," she supplied helpfully.

"I don't want you to say yes, Lorelai," he said as he turned to look her in the eye. "I want you to say no. I want you to think about giving us a chance."

"Us?"

"Us," he said firmly. "Listen, I know we had rules, but hell, I've broken almost all of them now anyway," he said in a rush. "I came here this morning to apologize to you for not being a good friend, but as I sat here… I can't do this anymore. I've thought about it and thought about it, and I'm asking you not to say yes. I'm asking you to think about changing your mind about us."

"Changing my mind?" she repeated blankly.

"And I know that this could completely ruin everything, but I waited and waited and now I can't wait any more. I can't let you marry him, or think about marrying him, without telling you."

"Telling me what?" she asked breathlessly.

Luke's patience snapped and he tossed the daisy down onto the step, crushing it under his boot as he turned to glare at her. "Aren't you listening to me? I broke all the rules, Lorelai! Every stinking one of them! Real rules, important rules, ground rules," he hissed, pointing to the worn wooden steps to emphasize his point. "I don't break rules! Not real rules. I break Taylor's rules because they're Taylor's and they're stupid and he makes them up as he goes along, but not rules that matter!"

"Okay," she whispered as she set her mug aside, taken aback by his vehemence.

"Rule number one, we stay friends, good friends, no matter what," he said, holding up one finger. "I just told you, I'm a shitty friend because I don't want you to marry this guy, even if it makes you happy. Rule number two," he said, pausing as he added another finger to his count. "I have felt guilty every day for the past three years. Not because I didn't want what we had going on, but because I wanted more than that. I want strings and I have expectations, so there!"

"Luke," she said hesitantly.

"Number three," he cut her off, holding up another finger. "I lied. Every time I touched you and then let you walk away and pretended I didn't care, I lied. Not the most satisfying head game in the world, but it was all I had to work with." Luke paused and took a deep breath, trying to calm himself before he went on."Number four, I'm here, Lorelai," he told her, his voice breaking slightly. "I'm here sitting on your porch doing the one thing I told myself I'd never do again. But I have to do it, even if it blows the whole thing sky high, I can't not do it."

Lorelai stared back at him, watching as he blinked in disbelief, seemingly stunned by his own admissions. "Are you done?" she asked softly.

Luke nodded slowly, and then his shoulders slumped. "Yeah. Unless you want to count those other two rules that we made up later; which, for the record, I would do my best to not break."

"The ones about…" Lorelai trailed off as she touched her fingers to the racing pulse in her throat.

"Yeah."

"No, don't break those," she murmured.

Luke watched her warily, gnawing the inside of his cheek as he waited for her to say something. Finally, he broke. "Lorelai?" he prompted.

"You broke all the rules?" she asked with a puzzled frown.

"I think I just told you that," he grumbled.

Lorelai's lips twitched, and then curved, blooming into a smile sunnier than any daisy could hope to be. "Thank God," she whispered as she pressed her hands to his cheeks and planted a kiss on his lips.

"Thank God?" he asked as she drew back slightly, looking straight into his eyes.

Lorelai shrugged; her eyes bright and shining as she saw the hope flare in his. "I broke them all too. I'm just glad you admitted it first."

"You did?"

"Yeah?"

"When?"

"I'm not telling you. You cracked first, so I win," she said as she slid her hands to his shoulders, holding onto him for balance as she stood up slightly, knocking her coffee cup down the steps as she slung one leg over his lap.

"I'm not sure that's how it works," he said hitting her with that devastating smile.

"Yes, it is. I looked it up in the bylaws," Lorelai answered, refusing to fall victim to the smile. She leaned back, trusting him to support her weight as he buried his hands in her tangled hair.

"I may have to lodge a protest," he said as he pulled her down to him. Luke kissed her sweetly at first, and then claimed her wholly as he wound his arms around her and held on tight.

The front door opened, and they heard Rory mumble, "Mom?" followed by a sharp gasp.

"Rory!" Lorelai said, knocking her head into Luke's nose as she jerked up.

"Ah! Geez!" Luke groaned as he covered his nose.

"Oh God!" Rory whispered. "Sorry!" she yelped as she slammed the front door shut.

"Oh God," Lorelai muttered as she scrambled off of Luke's lap.

"I think you broke my nose," he said as he pinched it tightly.

"You'll be fine," Lorelai assured him. She bent down and pecked a kiss to the hand that covered his nose. "I have to… I've got some explaining to do."

Luke shook his head to clear it as he lowered his hand slowly and looked up at her. "Do you need me to…"

Lorelai shook her head quickly. "I should… I have some things to take care of."

"Oh. Right," Luke said, ducking his head as he moved to stand up. He saw the crushed petals of the bright yellow daisy trapped beneath his boot. "If you… If you need to take some time to think about, you know," he began hesitantly.

"I don't need to think. Right now, I just need to try to explain," Lorelai said with a wince.

"Right."

"But it'll be okay," she said slowly. "Rory loves you, right? And she's back together with Dean, so that'll help, and she knows what it's like to be confused," she justified, her forehead furrowed in concentration. "You heard her in that meeting, she knows what it's like to not be able to say what you feel."

"What you feel," he repeated. "What do you feel?"

Lorelai smiled ruefully as she looked up at him. "I'm not ready to say it, but I think you know. I mean, I'm getting there, but I'm not quite there yet."

Luke nodded. "That's okay. You'll let me know?"

Lorelai climbed the steps, stopping when they could finally see eye to eye. She gave his hand a gentle squeeze and pecked a soft kiss to his lips. "Luke, my friend, I can honestly tell you that you'll be the first to know."

The End