Disclaimer: I don't own anything but the story idea.
A/N: Someone pointed out to me today that it's been a month since I've updated. And I realized: it's been a MONTH! So, damn, sorry about that. As of 3/15/4 this has been beta'ed. Yay! Thank you Jade-Tessier!
The train slowed to a stop in Hartford's train station and Luke stood up, gathered his things together, then joined the crowd of commuters on the platform and headed for his truck. It coughed to a start and Luke allowed it to warm up for a few minutes as the engine got used to running again. He knew he was deliberately stalling, but he couldn't help it. He did not relish the conversation he knew he had to have with Lorelai.
With much regret, Luke put the truck in gear and headed home. Traffic was light as rush hour was coming to an end, and he made the trip to Stars Hollow in an easy forty minutes. He pulled into his usual parking spot outside the diner and sat in the dark confines of the truck a little longer.
With all the lights on inside the diner he could tell that for mid-week it was a usual night. The chaos had died down and he was now very thankful for having been able to avoid any "for his own good" interference. He knew there would be questions, but they could wait. The diner was only half-full and Caesar and Rob were doing fine on their own.
Luke got out of the truck and walked slowly but with resolve across the street toward the diner's front door. He was paying close attention to the faces in the diner, trying to gauge the reaction that would come at his sudden appearance. Thank God Miss Patty and Babette were both absent.
As he stepped onto the curb from the street, a small gasp caught his attention. His head wheeled to the right and there, looking just as wonderful as she always did, albeit a little surprised to see him, was Lorelai. He gave her a look of pure terror and she blanched.
Lorelai hadn't expected this. She'd been haunting the diner ever since her telephone conversation with Rory, and she had imagined their meeting a thousand different ways. She'd never imagined accidentally running into him. His look was wary and closed.
"Hi there," she said carefully, quietly, trying to show as little emotion as possible.
"Hi," he replied with the same tone.
A silence stretched between them and Luke noticed that a few heads were turned their way inside. Impatient, he asked, "Do you wanna come upstairs for a minute? Talk?"
Lorelai nodded slowly. This was not exactly how she would have planned for things to happen. She had hoped to be able to control the conversation. Now that she was here, though, she found herself at a loss for words.
Rather than say anything, she followed him into the diner. A chorus of gasps greeted them at their entrance and they both blushed at being the center of such a scene. Silently, and with resolve, Luke walked through the crowd and headed upstairs. Just as quietly, Lorelai followed him.
Luke took the stairs slowly, still dreading the "I guess it's best that we try to stay friends" talk they were surely going to have.
Lorelai clutched the straps of her purse tightly in one hand as she followed him up the steps. At his apartment, where she would have once leaned against the wall while he unlocked the door, she held back and stood stiffly behind him.
Luke's hands shook a little as he fumbled with the lock. He hated this moment. The moment before everything officially ended. He didn't want to go into that apartment and have that conversation. He wished he could take it all back. The proposal, the sting of her rejection, the misery of drunkenness, the horrible things he'd said to her…he'd give anything to take it all back.
Finally, the lock clicked and he pushed the door open and turned on the light. Other than the stale air that greeted them, the apartment was exactly the way he'd left it. Moving forward to allow Lorelai entrance, Luke watched her walk past him and he closed the door behind her.
Turning, Lorelai faced him with an apprehensive look on her face. "So…" she said, wondering if this really would be it. His reaction to her appearance had all but confirmed her worst fears. The things he'd said to her in the basement of Sookie's house…that's how he really felt about her. Luke Danes would no longer be her boyfriend. All her confidence was gone. All positive thoughts vanished.
Luke threw his overnight bag onto the couch and pushed his hands into his pockets. For the first time, Lorelai noticed that he'd been carrying an overnight bag. "You've been hiding out somewhere," she stated, with little change in her tone. She was simply stating a fact, with no judgment attached.
Nodding, Luke looked directly at her. Knowing he couldn't put it off forever, he said, "I, uh, guess we should talk about…." He trailed off, purposely leaving it open. He couldn't express the multitude of items on the "needs to be talked about" list and he was just too exhausted from the entire thing. Lex was right, though. At the very least he needed to apologize for the things he'd said and hope that they could still be friends.
"Yeah, I guess we should," replied Lorelai apprehensively. This was so unfair. Things had been going so great and then he had to ruin it by proposing! Bastard! No, she reminded herself. If he loved her enough to want to want to marry her, she couldn't blame him for telling her. The way he'd told her was something she could take issue with, but the fact that he had told her wasn't necessarily a bad thing.
"I uh," Luke stammered, rubbing a hand over his forehead wearily, "just want you to know how…sorry I am for…for that night when I…I mean, I don't remember exactly what happened, but I…know I said some terrible things and it was wrong of me, but I was just so…I mean…I didn't think I'd…." He trailed off, hating his inability to articulate his feelings almost as much as he hated admitting to her how badly she'd hurt him. Lorelai could see it in his face, though. The pain was still raw and she felt it.
Tilting her head at him, Lorelai nodded and said in a small voice, "I…I'm sorry, too. I wish I could somehow make things right again."
Luke stared at her hard, as if trying to memorize her face. "Me, too. I know you'll probably never forgive me for…" he hesitated, "that night and I don't blame you. But I really want you to know that I didn't mean any of it. I wanted to hurt you and I know I did and don't think I'll ever forgive myself for it. If I could take it all back I would."
"Well," began Lorelai, thinking that perhaps there was some hope left in the situation, "it did hurt, but it also got me thinking. I mean you were right when you said I didn't know what I wanted. I see that now."
"No," Luke interrupted with a raised voice. "I was wrong. I never should have said those things because they weren't true."
Stepping forward a tiny bit, Lorelai met his tone when she said, "Yes, Luke, they were. But they're not anymore."
Frowning, Luke turned away and said, "You don't have to be nice about this. You don't ever have to speak to me again, okay? I understand."
"But, you don't," pleaded Lorelai. "When you proposed I thought my head was going to explode. I was surprised and terrified and ecstatic all at once."
"Are you trying to make this easier?" he grumped.
"Just listen," Lorelai insisted, moving to stand behind him. "I freaked out and ran away. I hate that I hurt you. I would do anything to go back in time and say yes."
Luke turn around, disbelief etched on his features. "How can you say that after all the things I said to you…the things I can't even remember I said to you? I was a complete asshole."
"Yes," she agreed, tugging his hand. "But you're my asshole. If…you'll still have me."
"If I'll still…?" Luke was dumbfounded. "You're joking right? This is not how this conversation was supposed to go. You're supposed to hate me forever."
Lorelai's face fell a little as she replied, "Sorry?"
Shaking his head, Luke said, "You don't have to apologize, I just don't…understand."
"We had a fight. A big one. And it was awful. But I love you. And I want to be with you. And I want to marry you."
"You want to marry me?" Luke repeated, utterly immobile, barely breathing.
"Yes," Lorelai affirmed softly, her blue eyes locked onto his.
Before he could reply, Lorelai reached into her purse and pulled out a small box. It looked like the box he'd flung across this very apartment. He wondered idly if she'd been up here and found it, but immediately dismissed the idea as impossible. To his surprise, she opened it up and inside, resting snug between the velvet, was a plain gold band. It was made for larger hands than a woman's and it was wide. It was a man's wedding band. He stared at it and then looked up to her again.
Offering him the box she said, "This is for you."
"Me?" Luke's voice betrayed his inner turmoil and he cringed.
"Yes," she answered, naked emotion lying open in her words. "You. If you…still want it."
Without hesitating, Luke answered, "I do still want it. But are you completely sure about this?" He wasn't taking any chances.
"I'm sure. I love you, Luke. Lulu and I want you to come home," Lorelai murmured as her arms circled his waist and held him tight. Luke returned the hug and blinked several times, as much to dispel the threat of tears as to make sure it wasn't all some hellish nightmare and he'd wake up in a minute at Lex's. Lorelai had forgiven him.
Pulling back, Luke snapped the lid closed on the box Lorelai had given him and said, "This is going in a very safe place."
"Just until the big day," Lorelai agreed. "And don't you have a little something for me?"
Luke stared at her blankly until she prompted him, "Something to wear on my finger?"
"Oh, right! Right, sorry. My bad," he fumbled away from her, went to his dresser where he knelt on the floor and pulled out the original velvet box, now covered in dust bunnies. Lorelai arched an eyebrow at him and said, "You've really got to keep this place cleaner if that's your 'safe place.'"
Luke rolled his eyes and said, "Do you have to make a joke about everything?" Secretly though, he was thrilled to have her back to making jokes about everything.
Lorelai considered. "Have to? No. Want to? Oh, yeah, baby."
"Okay, fine, but can you just let me do this without interrupting me?" he came back to stand before her.
"Sure," she smiled with encouragement. "G'head."
"Thanks. Lorelai Gilmore," he began, "I know that the past few days have been less than perfect, but the past few months have been closer to perfect than I ever imagined. I love you and I want to spend the rest of my life making you as happy as I am right now."
"Aren't you forgetting something?" she prompted.
Luke stared at her. "What?"
"The knee," she stage whispered.
Rolling his eyes, he got down on one knee and held the ring up to her. The moment smacked of an eerie deja vue, but he pressed onward. Rather than repeat the words that had initiated the fight, he simply took her hand, slid the ring on, then cocked his head at her and asked, "How 'bout it?"
Lorelai stared at the diamond for a moment and then brought her hands to the sides of his face and pulled him to meet her lips. "Luke Danes," she replied. "You got yourself a bride."