Running After Kansas by Oregano

It is truly a dark day for everyone concerned when the owner of Luke's Diner, the infamous Lucas Danes, decides to retire. It's unthinkable, like kicking a puppy or setting your grandmother on fire, but there it was: Luke's Diner, one of the structures in Stars Hollow that had grown to be one of its historical landmarks and a constant reminder of Luke's age, was not going to be Luke's anymore. The funny thing about it was how abrupt it had been done. But if that wasn't the case, what would be the fun of being Lucas Danes at all, right?

See, it was the morning of his sixty-first birthday, and the man was feeling particularly grouchy that day (who wouldn't be?). Lorelai Gilmore had just given him a neon pink toaster with rhinestones the size of Jamaica stuck on for God knows what stupid reason, and the whole diner was packed more than usual, since, well, it was his birthday and the town had probably collectively agreed to remind him of that fact at the exact same time and place, just to be neighbourly.

And then Kirk Gleason entered his establishment, ready to have his usual tuna melt with no tuna, but with a small extra request. He straightened his collar and looked at the man who was looking wearily at him and spoke, "Luke, how long do you think will it take you to make six hundred tuna melts with no tunas?"

Luke's sour face turned even more acidic, "What the hell would you do with six hundred tuna-less melts, Kirk?"

"It's for my and Lulu's pre-engagement party tomorrow night and I would appreciate it if you would do the honours of catering for us."

It was right then and there when Luke Danes began to have a sneaking suspicion of the absurdity of his whole existence. He was sixty-one years old, crank and arthritic, dammit! And Kirk wanted him to make six hundred tuna melts with no tuna? In less than two days?

"What do you think my answer is, Kirk?" was all he said, and went about his business, much to Kirk's displeasure.

However, just as he was about to pour Lorelai Gilmore another cup of coffee, staring into the eyes and face of the very person he had fallen in love with for more than three decades now, yet never fully or quite confessing it, was when it all happened. The final straw had been yanked, and with a defiant thud of the coffee pot (and a confused look or twenty), he exclaimed them without ceremony; the very words that he knew were to be carved onto his stupid tombstone, right after he kicked the bucket and right under the words, "Lorelai Gilmore's Eternal Piner." The room went quiet in anticipation, most of the stupider ones actually expecting a loud, "Thank you, you have touched me with this gesture of kindness on my birthday and I will now proceed to serve you all free pie in my gratitude!" but his words came like a blast from an atomic bomb: "Everyone, get the hell out of my property, I'm retiring!"

Town meetings were held, protesters camped outside the diner, Lorelai Gilmore even dared to treat him to a lapdance, but Luke's mind was made up. He was retiring and that was the end of it.

Unfortunately, Luke Danes had always been the impulsive one whenever stress levels got too high, a dangerous trait that had previously resulted in an expansion of a building, a soda shoppe and a Belgian waffle of monstrous, diabetic proportions. But even after all that, this had to take the cake in the scary Luke mishaps, because it actually concerned the extension of himself, his very own diner. He, in all his retiring glory, had forgotten to change the deeds to his diner and the contractual status that only he was aware of, concerning somebody whom he had not spoken to in twenty-one years.

And this is where our story begins.

His name was Jess Mariano, forty years old, and exact replica of his father, to the disappointment to him and everyone who had tried to save him. Drifting from one place to the other, yet never really digging his toes into any form of ground, be it sand or soil, became his existence. Except his own father had long ago found his anchor, his Kansas. He, on the other hand, was still forced to wear the little blue dress and pigtails, galloping 'round and 'round the yellow Goddamn brick road with Jimmy's promise of his own Kansas. He had said Jess would get there, if he walked far enough (and not kick that stupid tin man's tin ass when it comes, but instead, befriend it). And so here he was, back in California for a visit to his dad, ruby slippers and all, still waiting for the house to fall.

So once the letter came, summoning him back to the very place he considered the real Dante's Inferno (no hotdog puns intended), he had laughed out loud. Maybe if he had known what he had been summoned for, Jess would have checked his chortle. Along with his curiosity. Because this was the very fiend that brought him back to Stars Hollow. After twenty-one years of nothing, it seemed rather odd for an old relative (whom he had left, ties still dangling from the sudden severing) to ask him to visit. It certainly wasn't to bring back some of Jimmy's hotdogs for a sample.

The house, it seemed, had just fallen.