Info: Alternate Season Four. This takes place after Lorelai drops Rory off at Yale. No spoilers are taken into account.
Disclaimer: I don't own anything except the story concept.
Archive: I can't imagine anyone wanting to archive this, but if you do, please just ask first. Thanks.
Lorelai drove back from New Haven in a fog. She missed Rory already and had only left her about thirty minutes ago. As she pulled into Stars Hollow proper she thought about how empty the house would be. How empty it would feel. Unable to face it just yet, Lorelai pulled over and parked outside the diner.
As she crossed the street, Lorelai felt her feet dragging for the first time since she'd started coming to Luke's. This would be the first of many trips for coffee without Rory.
Lorelai heaved a sigh as she pulled open the door and noted with ire the crowd. Okay, so it was dinnertime. And it was a Saturday. Irritated, she acknowledged to herself that she wanted to wallow without half the town looking on.
As she trudged through the tables, she glanced around for Luke and finally saw him hustling plates. He caught her eye and jerked his head toward the coffee pot on the other side of the counter. "Help yourself, I'm a little swamped."
She nodded and did as she was told. She couldn't even enjoy the fact that she allowed to help herself just this once. After about five minutes of nursing her coffee – Lord, she couldn't even work up the energy to guzzle her coffee! – Luke finally came up and stood opposite her behind the counter. "Hey, how's it going?" he asked distractedly.
"Good," she said half-heartedly. "Yourself?"
"Slammed tonight, as you can see," told her as he furiously wiped the counter down where someone had just left. "How'd Rory make out?"
"Fine. She's great. I've never seen her happier. My parents showed up to help us get her all moved in and I stayed for as long as I could, but she kind of freaked out when I showed her the staple gun."
Luke looked up at this. "The what?"
"Staple gun," she repeated. "You know, to attach us at the hip?" Luke smiled and nodded. "Yeah, she wasn't too keen on the idea. It's a good thing I didn't sell the house as I'd originally planned."
Luke chuckled again and said, "Good thing, indeed." A customer waved at Luke and he nodded. "Look, I'm sorry, but I've gotta get back out there. Caesar's off tonight so it's just me here."
"Oh," she said a little hesitantly, "so you're probably busy tonight then?"
"Yeah, sorry. Why, what's up?"
"Nothing, just don't wanna go back that empty house just yet."
"What's Sookie doing tonight?"
Lorelai rolled her eyes and said, "Well, apparently, Jackson's grandparents are celebrating their 200th wedding anniversary or something."
"I sort of stopped listening once I could tell she was busy," Lorelai confessed.
Luke laughed again and said, "Well, I wish I could help you, but as you can see, I'm a little short-handed."
Lorelai pouted, "Your hands look fine."
Luke rolled his eyes and walked away, "Coffee's on the house. Stay as long as you like."
Lorelai turned back to her mug and sighed a deep, long sigh. She could only delay the inevitable; she couldn't put it off forever.
Getting up from her stool, Lorelai waved good-bye to Luke and left. As she drove the few blocks to her house she took a few breaths to steady her nerves. She was not going to cry. Kids left home for college all the time. She was a strong, independent woman, who could handle anything. Anything. Crying was not an option.
Thirty minutes later, Lorelai stood in the middle of the living room and surveyed the damage. Last minute packing had left the entire first floor a wreck. Empty boxes, piles of clothes, to-do lists crumpled and forgotten, empty take-out cups of coffee, and various items like her back-up hair dryer all littered the floor.
"I'm going to have to go pick her up just so that I've got someone to help me clean this mess," she muttered to herself.
Instead, Lorelai started to clean. For probably the third time in her life, she was so stressed and emotional that she let loose all her pent up anxiety and worry on the mess that was her house. With the stereo blasting to beat out the silence, she cleaned for three hours and when there wasn't anything left to clean, she stood in her kitchen and realized that she felt no better.
"Ugh! Why can't I just relax?" She sighed and trudged upstairs still fighting the urge to cry. She pulled open her closet door and chucked her shoes inside. As she took off her clothes and pulled on her pajamas, she thought maybe she should have a glass of wine, just to help her relax. Someone had given her a bottle of merlot for her birthday months ago. "Why not?" She said out loud. "Okay," she said to the empty room, "I've got to stop talking to myself because now, there's no one here to tell me to stop and if I just go off about something with no one to listen, I'm half a dozen felines away from being the cat-lady."
Lorelai slowly walked back downstairs in her pajamas and headed into the kitchen. She found the bottle of merlot in the pantry and got out a corkscrew. As she poured herself a glass, she wandered into the living room and flipped on the TV. As usual, nothing good was on. It was summertime programming and that meant reruns and reality shows. She settled herself on the couch and started channel surfing. "One thousand freakin' channels and still there's nothing on," she muttered between sips. The wine was good and by the second glass she was finally starting to relax.
There was a downside, though. Lorelai was still, if not more, emotional. She had just poured her third glass when the doorbell rang. She looked up, startled, and headed for the door wondering what time it was. Through the peephole, she made out a familiar plaid print and opened the door wearing a decidedly befuddled expression.
"I know it's late. But it's your first night home without Rory and you said Sookie was busy so after I closed up I thought I'd walk by to see if your lights were still on and if they were, I thought I'd knock and say hello. They were, so here I am. Saying hello." He finished quickly, shoving his hands into his pockets and staring at the toes of his work boots.
Lorelai was floored. "Wow," she blinked. "Thanks, that's so nice of you. Come on in, I was just killing time before bed. What time is it?"
"Ten-thirty," said Luke. He looked at her coffee table and saw the wine. The lamp on the end table gave off a soft glow. "Drinking alone? Rory's not gone one night and already you're hitting the sauce." His tone was light and he nudged her playfully.
Lorelai giggled, happy to have something to take her mind of things. "Oh my God, how pathetic am I? It's a good thing you showed up. Let me get you a glass, then we can say that I just started before you arrived, but we drank together." She shuffled into the kitchen and returned with another wine glass. "Please sit." She gestured toward the couch.
Luke hadn't anticipated this, but he wasn't going to say no to it, either. He sat and she poured him a glass. "Take your boots off," Lorelai said. "You've been wearing them since you got up this morning, right? Get comfy, please. I am."
He took in her pajamas and his face softened. "Okay," he said and unlaced his boots. Then, for good measure, he took off his ball cap, which had also been on since his shower that morning, and ran a hand through his hair. He picked up his glass and turned to Lorelai. "What should we drink to?"
"Hmmm. I hadn't thought of that. How about Rory?"
"Rory isn't here. I think we should drink to Rory's mother. Raising her was easy compared to letting her go."
Lorelai smiled and said, "Luke, you're too good to me." They each took a sip and then they put their feet up on the coffee table and sat back to watch TV.
After a few minutes Lorelai said, "Luke?"
He turned to look at her. "Yeah?" he said softly.
"Thanks for coming." Lorelai's voice caught as she spoke and she put her hand to her mouth trying to ward off the tears she just knew wanted to spill out.
For a second Luke wanted to run. He hated crying, but his heart always softened when the crier was Lorelai. "Hey," Luke said warmly, "it's okay. Don't cry." He took both of their wine glasses, put them on the table and then pulled her into a weird, sideways hug. "Everything is okay," he whispered.
She nodded. "I know," she said sniffling. "I've been avoiding this all night and the wine is really starting to hit me. I'm sorry."
"Don't ever apologize for how you feel." He stroked her hair and she quieted. It was incredible how right this was. Her head felt groggy as she soaked up this new feeling. What was it? Warmth? Desire? She pulled away and looked at him. He looked just like he always did, only more so. There was something new in the way he looked back at her. She settled back into his embrace, enjoying it.
"You okay now?" he asked softly. She nodded and said, "Luke, what's wrong with us?"
His chest tightened a little as he answered. "What do you mean?"
After almost three glasses of wine, logic started to abandon Lorelai as she spoke. "Well, do you think there's a reason neither of us has found someone? I mean, are we difficult people? Impossible to live with? No. We're both pretty normal and attractive, right?" She didn't wait for him to answer. "Right. So what gives?"
Luke shook his head and decided to humor her. "I don't know."
"Me neither." Then after a few more minutes she said, "Luke?"
Luke's arms were still tight around her as he spoke, "Mm hmm?"
"I like this. It feels really good."
Lorelai pulled away again and flicked the remote to turn off the TV. The only light came from the dim lamp on the end table. They leaned back into the cushions and pulled their feet up so that they were lying end to end, Luke on his back, Lorelai between his legs, resting her head against his chest. It was a nice chest. One of his hands stroked her hair and she said drunkenly, "Luke?"
"What would happen if we were together?"
Luke paused and held his breath for a moment. She was clearly drunk and might possibly not remember this conversation later. He trusted himself enough to know that nothing would happen between them, but he couldn't stop himself from noting the obvious. He let out his breath and said, "I think that would be nice."
Lorelai was silent and for a second Luke thought she might have fallen asleep. Then she said, "Me, too."
Luke's hand stilled on her hair as Lorelai crawled up his body so that they were face to face. "Can I tell you a secret?"
He stared at her, holding his breath. "Anything."
She let the wine take over as she admitted, "I think I've been a little in love with you since the first day we met."
Still conscious of her drunkenness, Luke said softly and with a smile, "No way. You were a mess that day. It was Rory's first day of Kindergarten and you overslept, remember?"
Lorelai laughed, "That's right! I do remember. And you had just opened the diner and I stumbled through your doors and asked you for coffee for the first time."
Luke nodded. "I poured you the first of what would become thousands of cups of coffee and you didn't have the right change."
"And you gave it to me on the house. I remember." Just like tonight, she thought ruefully.
"Yeah, well, you looked a little stressed and I thought, what the heck." He was very conscious of how close they were but he was still adamant that nothing would happen. She was drunk. She might change her mind in the morning and it would be best if there were no regrets.
Lorelai gazed at him and then lowered herself to his chest and snuggled in again. "That was a good day." It was the last coherent thought she had before she fell asleep.