Update, 04/14: COMPLETE.*sniff* See final chapter for author's notes.

Please note rating change to R.



Luke doesn't remember the first time he and Lorelai met. He knows they must have seen each other around; it is a small town, after all. He has spent his whole life here, and she has lived here sixteen years or more. Surely they crossed paths many times before he noticed her in the diner.

The fact is, after Rachel left the first time, Luke stopped noticing people much. He went through the motions of living, but that was all. He wasn't going to give life another chance to break him. But he still had to get through all the days. So he played along, paid lip service to life, but his heart wasn't in it any more. He'd never had particularly high expectations of life in the first place. When Rachel left, it just confirmed what he'd suspected all along: That he wasn't cut out for anything but survival; getting through the day, every day, with a minumum of irritation.

But somewhere along the way, this raven-haired woman came into sharp focus, in outright defiance of the comforting, featureless blur that was life and the diner. Like a character from Pleasantville, she didn't give a damn if Luke's world was gray, she would exist in nothing less than full Technicolor.

He doesn't remember when he learned her name. When she stopped being part of the overall blur and stubbornly took on a distinct identity, he still refused to think of her as Lorelai. Instead, he just thought of her as the hyperactive woman with the strangely precocious, strangely non-whiny kid. And he tried, he did try, to ignore her, to force her back into the blur with the others, but it didn't work.

And she had the damnedest way of making everything around her more real, too, by noticing every little thing, joking about it, words falling out of her mouth faster than any normal person could keep up with. And she dragged others out of the blur along with her - Rory, Kirk, Babette, Miss Patty - until Luke's world was suddenly populated with real, breathing people again.

It was very confusing. How had she done that? No mortal woman should wield such power.

He does remember, though, the first day he accepted it, this new reality that had a woman named Lorelai in it:

"Can you believe it?" she is asking young Rory, who is all wide-eyed, loyal indignation, "And then the sales clerk just stared at me with this confused look on her face, like I hadn't just spent fifty bucks there fifteen minutes earlier -- thanks, Duke," she says, as Luke refills her coffee, "--Like I haven't been shopping there as long as she's been working there. You'd think I would have made an impression by now. People need to pay more a leetle more attention."

"This, coming from the woman who's been calling me the wrong name for a couple of years," Luke says with a tight smile, and the words hang there for a moment. He's not sure where they came from. It was definitely his voice, but it sounded like something his old man or one of his uncles would say. A sense of humor, or at least of banter, is something he used to have but has deemed extraneous to post-Rachel life.

He glances sidelong at her, wondering if they could perhaps pretend he hasn't spoken up on a subject other than pancakes, but her face has broken into an impossibly beautiful, triumphant grin and she says, "Ah, but I did that on purpose."

"Why?" he asks. He is truly curious.

"I wanted to see if you'd ever react," she says, still grinning.

"Well, sorry I took so long to catch on," he replies, and strangely, he means it. He can't recall the last time he was so involved in a conversation.

"Oh, it's fine. Now I get to come up with new and more innovative ways of tormenting you."

He is very much afraid she's not kidding.

But he toys with an idea: Maybe twenty-eight is too young to give up one's sense of humor.

And after that, they have an unspoken truce of sorts, and she stops being 'that-woman-with-the-kid', and becomes Lorelai.

And he becomes, finally, Luke.


Continued in Chapter One.