Author's Note: Hey all! See, I'm trying to write faster? Anyway, this is the second to last chapter. It's kind of short because it didn't fit with the previous or next chapters. The season finale tonight will probably delay the last chapter for a day or two, because lets face it, I have no life and will be replaying it over and over. If they don't kiss tonight, a tv may end up out the window so cross your fingers. Thanks to my betas and all the reviewers. You keep me going, even when I feel guilty about disappearing for awhile.
On with the story....
Chapter 26: Chaos
For Luke, the next few moments happened in slow motion. He heard the cough, and then he heard Lorelai's voice, but he still wasn't prepared for what he saw when he turned around. He felt as if his heart dropped out through his shoes. Behind him stood a dark haired man in a suit. He was short and Luke could've easily taken him down in one swing, but the man had a smug look on his face anyway. Luke knew there was only one person this could be.
"Jason?" he heard Lorelai say. She sounded as if she couldn't catch her breath. Luke kept one arm around Lorelai protectively.
"I need to talk to you," Jason said, looking dismissively at Luke. Luke scowled and waited for Lorelai's reply. But she only looked back and forth between Jason and Luke, dumbly. If it was possible, the man's expression got ever more smug. Luke quietly excused himself.
Lorelai wanted to tell him not to go. She wanted to smack Jason for looking at Luke that way. She wanted to run after Luke and apologize. She just wanted to go back to a few minutes ago, when everything was perfect. When it was she and Luke and no one else. But she didn't do anything. She didn't move. She didn't speak. She just watched the scene like it was a movie. Jason took her silence as his cue to continue.
"Lorelai, I'm so sorry about what happened. What happened was terrible. What I did was terrible. You have to understand why I did it. I grew up in my father's shadow. Business was the most important thing in my family. It's the only way I knew. I know now it was wrong, but you have to understand that at the time, I didn't see anything wrong with it." He stopped, to catch his breath. A begging look on his face. His desperate pleading had drawn attention to the pair so no one noticed when Luke slipped into the darkness. He headed away from the lights, the noise, and away from the ruined moment. Lorelai was still too shell shocked to find words. Jason filled the silence for her.
"Lorelai, this last month has been awful. I realize the mistakes I made. I'm doing everything I can to fix it. I've quit working for my father. I started seeing a therapist again. You have to believe me. I shouldn't have lied, but I didn't expect to fall in love with you."
Before he could continue, an audible gasp caused Lorelai to turn. Behind her, Emily wore an equally shocked look on her face. Lorelai wanted to scream, to cry, to runaway. Ten minutes ago, she had never been happier. Now Luke was gone, Jason was back, and her mother knew about it all. In her mind things couldn't get worse. She couldn't move, couldn't think. She couldn't process anything. The next conscious thought she had was that three people were calling her name.
She headed toward the one that sounded the safest. Emily and Jason called after her as she dashed across the square and climbed into a rusty, green truck that had just pulled up.
Luke wasn't sure why he had come back. He only felt the need to rescue her once again. He wasn't even sure if she needed or wanted rescuing, but if she did, he would be there. When he had driven up, the scene looked worse than when he had left. Jason was beseeching Lorelai. He was motioning desperately at her. Emily looked as if she couldn't decide between shock or rage, but wanted Lorelai to know both. The other partygoers merely looked confused. In the middle of it all, Lorelai stood, unmoving. She had the same look on her face as when he had left. Luke wasn't going to go back into that lion's den, so he tried to get her out instead. He was surprised when she turned and ran to him, the first time he called. She climbed into the truck and looked right into his eyes. She still looked dumbstruck but he noticed a little gratefulness in there too. He knew it was probably the opposite of what two, mature adults should do, but he hit the gas and drove her away from the chaos. He hit the edge of town and kept right on going.
Lorelai stared out into the darkness. The cab of the truck had been completely silent save for the rumbling of the engine. Her mind wasn't actually racing anymore. Now it was completely blank. Inside this small space with Luke she felt like nothing could harm her. His presence was like an invisible force protecting her. She didn't let any thoughts from the previous scene invade the safety of the truck. She didn't know where they were going. She didn't really care either. She knew Luke had a plan. He always had a plan. He fixed everything. He made things better. He was doing it again. She didn't bother questioning him. She only reveled in the momentary relief from the world outside.
Luke drove through the silence. He knew Lorelai's moods well enough to know that now wasn't a time for talking. Every few minutes he looked over at her, sitting silently, staring out the window. He hoped she was okay. He actually did have a plan. He wasn't even sure where it had come from. He only knew that it was what he should do. He was anticipating what she would do without even thinking about it.
Two hours into the drive, he pulled into a 24-hour gas station. He was glad he had just filled up this afternoon, or they wouldn't have made it this far. Before he got back in, he grabbed two folded blankets from the back of his truck. He got in and though Lorelai had yet to speak, she did turn to look at him. He put one blanket, still folded, on the center of the bench seat and motioned for her to lie down. She did, using the blanket as a pillow. He laid the other blanket over her, and started the engine. So far, so good.
Exhausted as she was, it didn't take long for Lorelai to slip off into dreamland. She didn't even stir when Luke rumbled up the unpaved path and parked his truck. When he came around to her side of the truck and lifted her out, she only snuggled into the crook of his neck. He carried her inside, only tripped up for a few minutes maneuvering to unlock and open the door, and laid her down on a large bed. He took off her heels and folded the quilt over her. He shut the door and prepared a bed on a nearby couch as quietly as he could. It was the beginning of spring but the nights could get chilly, so he built a small fire in the fire place. He laid down on the couch and fell asleep watching the light from the flames dance over her face.