Thanks and big love to all who sent encouragement and feedback; you guys rock. I was listening to Del Amitri while writing most of this, specifically the song "Baby It's Me", so I'd also like to take this opportunity to declare my undying love for Justin Currie. End of obnoxiously long author's note. On to fic.
* * * * *
Luke blinked groggily, convinced that he could not have just heard someone mumble, "No, Ricardo Montalban, don't eat the polo ponies." Then he remembered where he was, and saw whose sleeping head was resting on his lap.
"Lorelai," he said softly, and gently nudged her shoulder. "Lorelai, get up." He jostled her until she looked blearily up at him and yawned.
"Wha? Luke?" Why did I fall asleep on Luke? Oh, wait, it's coming back to me. "Is it over? Did I miss it? How long have I been asleep?" Why are you such a comfy pillow? She squinted in confusion. "Are those lumberjacks on the tv?" Questions abounded.
"You've been asleep since Documentary Short Subject. After you started snoring I changed the channel to ESPN. Then, uh, I fell asleep too."
"When I got there it was SportsCenter, I swear."
She sighed. "Since Documentary Short Subject, really? Why didn't you wake me up?"
"You said you already knew who was going to win that one."
"Of course I did. The one about the cute old people. It's always the one about the old people." She pouted a little, not seeming to mind that her pouty face still rested on his thigh. "So who won?"
"The one about the old people."
"No," she rolled her eyes, "I mean who won the big ones that people actually care about? Best actor, best actress, best picture? Tell me everything. Was Gwyneth skanky? Was Russell Crowe surly?"
"I don't know, because like I told you, as soon as I realized you were asleep I--"
"ESPN, right. Some Oscar buddy you are. Didn't I explain to you that the chief purpose of the Oscar Buddy System is to awaken your buddy in time for the big awards if she falls asleep during the boring crap in the middle?"
"Oh." She finally raised herself to a sitting position, but seemed to find it necessary to climb all over him in order to do so. Not quite having shaken off her nap, she allowed her head to come to rest on his shoulder. "Well, it's implied. I bet I even missed the People Who Died This Year Montage. That's my favorite montage!"
"They should really make them hold their applause until the end of that one," he said, while he stared at her hand that rested casually above his knee.
"That's what Rory always says. But then how would we know the inherent value of Joe Q. Best Boy's life relative to that of Famous Dead Actor Guy?"
He found it impossible to argue with that, if only because of her hand and its newly acquired fascination with denim. "Right."
"Wow, check out that Ukrainian guy. He just threw that ax really far." On 'really' her hand tensed just the slightest bit.
"Okay," he said, reaching for the remote and clicking off the television. "Enough entertainment. Time for bed."
It was only her stifled snort that alerted him to any unintended connotations in his words. He generally didn't think in terms of connotations, but it seemed most of her communication was carried out entirely through subtext. He attempted to extricate himself from his strange prison of Lorelai-and-couch without looking her directly in the eyes, but as her head was very close to his that wasn't quite possible.
"You know," he started, "Because it's late, I mean, and..."
She yawned again, dramatically, and latched her arms around his neck. "Too tired," she whined. "Carry me."
She was joking, and they both knew she was joking. What neither could figure out was why she was doing it from his lap.
"No chance." Even for banter, it didn't sound very convincing. He reached behind him, grabbed hold of her hands, and lowered them to her sides. But, strangely, didn't let go.
Lorelai recognized that Oscar night was spinning rapidly out of control. This never would have happened if Rory hadn't been too busy writing a paper for a traditional Gilmore Oscar-Fest, even over the phone. And just what was Sookie so busy doing tonight anyway? And with the pads of his fingers on the inside of her wrists like that, could he feel her pulse fluttering, or was she only imagining that?
"Guess it's goodnight, then," she said, and the melodramatic flair of regret she meant to put in her voice came out startlingly close to genuine regret. In another somewhat surprising development, she couldn't stop staring at his lips. Why was that? Had there been some bizarre subliminal messages in the lumberjack competition that made her suddenly lust after men in flannel? Or was it just that he had really nice lips, which she had never--not definitively--noticed before?
"Yeah." He was close enough to smell her hair now. It smelled nice; not amazingly sensual, but it was something he had always secretly wanted to do. He had a feeling she knew he had done it, yet here she was, still close enough to let him.
When had this night gotten so weird?
"Thanks for coming over tonight. I know it's not the sort of thing you're into, but nobody wants to watch the Oscars alone. You saved me from being pathetic."
"No problem," he managed in reply. "It was... I had a good... God, you're beautiful."
The great screaming weirdness alarms in her head went off as he she pressed her lips against his, but she couldn't stop it. Bells clanged as she straddled his lap. Klaxons wailed when his hand slid around and under the back of her demure-yet-sexy modestly midriff baring top. Dive! Dive! Duck and cover! she thought giddily, but soon began to suspect these particular alarms were monitoring something other than weirdness. More like a perimeter breach. Luke has breached my perimeter, she thought, and would have laughed hysterically if she wasn't so occupied with keeping up an effective counterattack.
Then before she knew it someone had called a cease fire. Luke was nearly tripping over the coffee table and then shrugging on his jacket halfway across the room.
He shook his head vigorously in hopes of clearing it. Making out on Lorelai's couch like a couple of teenagers. With Lorelai. It had definitely not been in his plans. It had been in his mind, granted, numerous times. But he could honestly say it had never once entered into any kind of plan. Had he really said that out loud? That 'beautiful' thing? Oh, God, what a disaster. And had she--? What the hell was in her head?
"Yeah?" He glanced up briefly, but couldn't look at her for long, not able to take the look of baffled anxiety on her face.
"Yeah," he confirmed.
"I'm sorry," she said, but it came out more like a question.
"That's okay. Really. No big deal."
"Really?" Her heart fell a little, and she tried not to show it on her face.
"Sure. I'll see you later, okay?"
"...Okay." Her voice was so soft he barely heard the word.
"So, uh, goodnight."
She nodded, still a little dazed. "Right." Her mouth went dry behind her buzzing lips. The skin on her lower back burned in the outline of his hand. She watched him turn to leave, saw his hand fall on the doorknob, and blurted, "Stay!"
His posture went rigid in surprise, almost alarm. "What?"
"I... nothing." She shook her head, confused. He still had his back to her. It made her anxious, and she didn't know whether it was because she wanted him to accept her backpedaling and leave, or because she wanted him to... she wanted him...
Luke drew in some air and shut his eyes tightly, trying to think this through. She'd given him the out. They could silently erase it, pretend the word had never been said. Was that what she really wanted from him after all this time? After what just happened? More backing away, more pretending? Dammit. He clenched his jaw, decision made, and turned slowly back to her. "What did you say? Did you just--?"
"No!" No? she thought. "No, I... Did I? Oh, God, I did." She tried desperately to drag her eyes from his gaze. It was too intense; too much feeling there, too much communication from him at once. He'd never looked at her like that before, like there was nothing held back in his eyes. Unless maybe he had, and she just hadn't noticed. Hadn't seen. "Oh, God..." He stepped closer to her, and her heart pounded crazily in her chest while her feet stubbornly refused to move backwards. She saw it now, oh yes. She saw it all. Every silly metaphor and analogy deserted her. No bells or sirens. Just the way he was looking at her...
This is crazy, he told himself, even as he closed the space between them. Stop before there's no going back. "You asked me to stay."
"That seems to have been the word that came out of my mouth," she babbled. God, he was standing so close, but he wasn't touching her. Why wasn't he touching her?
"To stay here. Tonight. With you."
She swallowed, and nodded dumbly.
Because she doesn't want to be alone, he thought. Because I'm convenient. "Why?"
The question jarred her. "What? What do you mean 'why'? Because... because we were just..." She tried to flutter her hands, but there wasn't much room for hand-fluttering, and when they brushed against his chest he caught them. She gasped softly.
It was only her name. He'd said her name a million times before. But never like that, like an answer and a question all in one; like a demand and like a plea. No one had ever said her name like that before. She wanted to hear it again, to hear Luke--oh, god, Luke--say it again. And that's why, she realized.
She flattened her trembling hands against his chest. "Wow, look at that, I'm shaking," she observed.
His resolve faltered. This was too much, it was too fast. "I'm sorry. I'll--"
"No!" Before he could back away she bunched the plackets of his shirt tightly in her fists and held him in place. "I'll answer. I asked you to stay because..." Because I just kissed you and felt your hands on me for the first time ever, and I didn't even know I'd been waiting for it but if I have to wait anymore I think I'll die. "Because I didn't want you to leave." She saw retreat in his eyes. "I'm not saying this right, I know, but just... just listen to me and try to hear what I want to say instead of what I'm actually saying, all right? I didn't plan it, but it felt important to stop you from leaving, not just because I didn't want you to leave, but because... I wanted you to stay." She looked at him, hopeful that he'd understand.
"You wanted me to stay because you wanted me to stay."
She nodded vehemently. "Right. Because if you leave, you won't be here anymore." Please understand this, please.
He searched her face, tried to translate her logic into something he could understand; then he saw it. Not 'I'll be alone' but 'you won't be here anymore.' He latched onto the distinction and hoped it meant what he wanted it to mean. "You want me to be here," he said quietly.
She stared at his chest, too nervous to meet his eyes. "Yes." He sighed, and she thought she felt him trembling a little now as well. When she could finally look at him his eyes were closed. She released the fabric of his shirt and slid her right hand to his face. He exhaled raggedly and leaned his head into her touch. His hands went to the small of her back, easily skimming under the hem of her shirt, and his fingers traced tiny circles near her spine. Lorelai raised herself onto her toes and nuzzled her face against his, their lips millimeters apart. "Luke," she said. He flattened his palms against her back and pulled her closer, so close, and his fingers dipped below the waistband of her jeans. "Stay," she whispered against his lips. "Tonight. With me."
He let out a noise that was half sigh, half moan, and then they were kissing, mouths open and melting into each other liquidly and urgently. They stumbled toward the stairs. Hands moved too quickly to keep track of, sliding over clothes, under clothes, over skin. Luke's cap and jacket dropped immediately to the floor, followed rapidly by his flannel, and then his tee-shirt was pulled free from his waistband. At the touch of her fingertips on his stomach his muscles tensed; he slid his thumbs through the belt loops of her jeans and jerked her hips forward against his pelvis. She moaned and wrapped an ankle around his calf, but at that moment her other ankle bumped into the edge of the first stair and they both nearly lost their balance and toppled over, saved only by Lorelai's right hand flinging out and grasping the banister for support. He laughed against her neck, and she was giggling and aroused and felt like she could cry all at once, because god, what a beautiful sound.
"I refuse to stop kissing you just to get up the stairs," she declared between kisses. "Remind me to put in an elevator."
"Better idea." He slid his hands down over her butt and applied pressure behind her thighs. "Hop," he told her.
She clasped her arms around his neck, jumped up, and wrapped her legs around his waist. "My God, you're a genius. And you smell really good. Have you always smelled this good?"
He took the stairs as fast as he could while carrying her. The bedroom door was standing partially open; he kicked it the rest of the way and miraculously didn't trip over any of her clothes or shoes that littered the floor on the way to the bed.
Lorelai said a brief prayer of thanks to the creator of the v-neck as Luke's mouth worked its way down her chest, until she decided that Shirts Were Bad and eagerly assisted him in their removal. His fingers fumbled at the back of her bra and he growled in frustration. She broke down in giggles, her forehead on his shoulder. "It's a front hook."
He leaned back and looked at her in amazement. "What are you, psychic?"
"I guess the fates are smiling on us," she grinned. In seconds the hook was undone and the straps slid down her shoulders. She shook her hands free of the garment and flung it across the room for good measure. And, oh... large hands... pleasantly raspy stubbled jaw on her chest and then... "Whoa, okay, now they're really smiling!"
Her already bare feet worked at toeing off his boots while his fingers traced lines across her stomach and then followed them with kisses. Before she knew it she was pushing her jeans down her hips, and his hands were gliding over her bare legs. The jeans fell in a careless heap on top of the boots. He hooked one finger under the elastic waist of her pink cotton bikini briefs and tugged gently. He glanced up at her questioningly, and in answer she launched herself at him so that they were both kneeling on the mattress, his hand trapped between them. Shirts maybe have been Bad, but Friction was Definitely Good.
Her fingers were at the buttons of his fly, her tongue in the hollow of his throat. "Lorelai," he murmured into her ear, and thought he felt her shiver.
"Before this goes any further..." Another button, and her fingers were actually--whoa. "And while my brain can still function..." She huffed in amusement, and her hot breath tickled the hairs on his chest. "We need to talk about something."
She froze, pulled back. Her expression was something between frustrated vixen and scared rabbit. "Talk?" she asked, and "talk" had never sounded so similar to "meep!" She'd never even thought about Luke-below-the-waist before--much--and now here she was trying to take his pants off and he wanted to talk? Then her face relaxed and her eyes lit with realization. "Oh! Nightstand, top drawer," she said, diving for the furniture. She yanked the drawer open and rummaged furiously, muttering, "I think they're still good; they'd better still be good..." Then, "A ha! Triumph!" She proudly displayed the square packet, expiration date well in the future. "Do you want me to...?" Hundreds of adorably vulgar ways to finish that sentence danced through her head, but she couldn't bring herself to say any of them. It didn't seem the time, especially with Luke now looking slightly deer-in-the-headlights.
"Huh? Oh, uh, no. That's kind of... weird, when the woman does it."
She raised a snarky eyebrow. "You didn't think it was so weird a minute ago when I was..." Shaking hands with Mister Hail-Fellow-Well-Met she thought, but still didn't say. This must be a serious moment indeed.
"That's... different," he mumbled, "but if you want to..."
Huh. "No, you're right, that's weird," she answered. "It's like getting fitted for shoes."
He blinked. "It's really not. Unless maybe that women and shoes thing suddenly makes a lot more sense." Is any of this conversation making sense?
"It really doesn't," she said. "Not all of my similes stand up to scrutiny." Why am I talking about similes? Weren't we making out a minute ago? Why does he still have pants on?
This was going to take renewed effort and focus. How to make her focus?
He was holding her firmly, with his hands around her ribcage, his thumbs absently stroking the sides of her breasts. Man, that was distracting.
"Okay," he tried again, "this is all good to know, but not really what I meant to talk about."
"Oh." Oh. He does want to talk. Meep.
This is crazy, he told himself. You're crazy. She's driven you insane, with her skin and her hair and her hands, and her eyes, looking at you like that after all this time, and hell, this is all probably just a really vivid hallucination anyway, so you might as well keep going.
"I hadn't planned on saying this, but, you know, now that we're... where we are..."
"In bed." She was nuzzling him again, and he struggled to stay verbal.
"Or did you mean metaphorically?"
"That too." He tried to plan his next words, more concerned about being coherent than romantic at this point, but it was... well, hard. It wasn't as if he had rehearsed this--much. And in his head he was never quite this... distracted. "Damn it, I don't want to ruin this or freak you out or anything, but the thing is, Lorelai, we've known each other for a while, and maybe now's not the right time to say this--maybe there won't be a right time--but I figured, if there ever were a right time this is pretty close to it, so--"
"Luke, you're babbling," she interrupted. "That's so cute."
He frowned. "I don't babble. And I'm not cute."
"But you just did. And it was. That's the most words I've ever heard come out of your mouth at one time that weren't part of an angry diatribe. Which is redundant, really, because who ever heard of any other kind of diatribe--"
"I love you."
"I'm obviously rubbing off on you--heh, rubbing up against you, currently--if you've absorbed my penchant for adorable babbling. Next thing you know I'll be ranting like a misanthrope and excuse me, what?"
He sighed. Was that code for 'you'd better take that back unless you like the sound of screeching tires as I peel into reverse right over your heart'? It was so hard to tell with her. Well, screw it if it was.
"I love you, Lorelai. There. I said it."
She stared at him, dumbfounded. "You did. You did say it." Her hands tightened around his biceps. "You're sure about this?"
Was she making fun of him? "No, it's a theory I'm testing. Of course I'm sure."
"You, Luke, love me, Lorelai."
"Again, yes. Are you making fun of me?"
"No!" Her lower lip quivered, but no screeching tires yet. Then suddenly, fiercely, she hugged him, and whispered, "Thank you."
He held her, a little perplexed but relieved. "No problem," he assured her. "That's what I'm here for."
She sniffled a little. "I knew that," she said, mostly to herself. "I did. I might check back in a while to make sure, though."
"I'm glad you said that, really. I don't want you to get the impression I'm the kind of girl who usually does this on the first date."
"This was a date?"
"I retroactively declare it so," she murmured to his clavicle.
"So is that just tonight, or does it include all of the last ten years?"
"The world's first decade long first date. Guess I'm not so easy after all."
He snorted. "You? You do know that easy is the opposite of difficult, right?"
"Oh, shut up and take off your pants."
His last coherent thought, absurd as it was, was I am holding Lorelai Gilmore's panties in my hand, and then she was touching him again, and the panties dropped to the floor, forgotten. She surrounded him, her body, her scent, her voice. Movement and sensation, breath and skin. Sex and emotion.
Luke and Lorelai.
Incredible. And yet, very definitely happening.
Lorelai vaguely wondered if it was actually possible for her brain to melt. At one point it seemed to temporarily dissolve into a puddle of nothing more than LukeLukeLuke...
Her hands skimmed across his chest, over his shoulders, down his arms. God, his arms, so strong, and kind, and Luke, holding her while they made love. Later, as they were drifting toward sleep, legs tangled together under her quilt, she realized that they were the best arms she had ever been in. Not because inside them she felt special, and beautiful, and loved. She did, but she'd felt that before. They were the best arms because when they were around her, she felt like she'd come home.
It wasn't perfect contentment. She'd felt that before, too, and knew it wasn't real. What this was, she decided as she snuggled closer to him, was imperfect happiness. She could definitely learn to live with that.