Everyone Needs a Superhero

Yet, nothing in this world ever stopped you
Nothing in this world ever brought you down

Lorelai had forgotten how to be alone. She sat with her arms crossed, pouting even though there was no one there to see it. Rory was out with Dean; Max was in California, had been for months. She was over 2000 miles away in Stars Hollow. She should have been used to his absence by now, however.

She had begun to feel more awkward when Max was actually home. In their year and a half of marriage, he had been in various cities for almost half of that. It had been Denver for a couple months, then back to Ontario for most of the summer and upon his return from there, he had made the announcement about Stanford. At first, Lorelai had been thrilled that Max was such an honored teacher that he was often invited as a guest professor at various universities. She'd never thought that it would lead to job offers—away from Stars Hollow or Hartford, away from her daughter, her home. And even though Stanford wasn't permanent, things between them had shifted with that offer. Ok, things were a disaster. More like Three Mile Island, Rory had added helpfully.

She had walked in on her mom and Max's shouting match. Lorelai had though she had protected her daughter from a lot of fighting when she hadn't married Chris at 16. And it was certainly something she had hoped wouldn't happen often in her marriage.

You already accepted the offer!? Without so much as consulting with me?

I'm consulting with you now! Come with me, Lorelai.

And do what? Let Rory fend for herself?

Of course we wouldn't leave her. She would come. There are great schools in California.

Max, this is crazy! She goes to Chilton. I have an inn to run and a mortgage to pay. I can't go running off to California. I'm sorry.

They had been snappish with each other in the weeks leading up to his departure and Max had wheedled and bribed, everything to convince Lorelai to change her mind. But Lorelai, being herself, had held fast.

No, Max, we've been over this a thousand times. Why can't you stay? I've barely gotten to see you and we've been married over a year.

I know. Maybe we should—maybe this isn't working.

Lorelai had looked at him in shock and disgust and he had sighed, tried to explain, but Lorelai had turned out the light and turned away from him, tucking the covers around her shoulders. She bit her lip to keep from crying out as the tears had rolled down her cheeks.

She still hadn't told Rory. Obviously her daughter knew things hadn't been wonderful when Max left, but she hadn't told her about that night, partly because she didn't want to admit she had failed and partly because she didn't know exactly what he had meant or where they stood.

I think I know who you are
From the way you see right through me

But if I need a superhero
I think I know just who I'll turn to

Luke had heard the rumors about Max being gone again and wondered where Lorelai has been. He could always tell when Max was out of town because Lorelai came to the diner a lot more regularly. Luke had worried that once Lorelai was happily married, she would have no need for him again, but then he remembered the real reason she came to the diner: the coffee. She always came back for the coffee. And he liked to think she came back to talk to him, but lately, their vibe (and he hated the word vibe) hadn't been there.

It was late when Lorelai showed up, ignoring the closed sign as usual. "Please tell me you've got some coffee left." She climbed onto a stool and let out a long sigh. Luke placed a cup in front of her.

"I wondered where you'd been." She looked up, obviously surprised at his concern. "I heard Max was gone again," he shrugged. Even though something in their friendship had shifted, Luke still found Lorelai easy to read, at least, for the most part.

She shook her head. "Yeah, he's gone to California." Luke watched her for a minute, knowing she was far away as she sipped on her coffee.

"For how long?" He interrupted. Lorelai didn't speak at first, just stared down at her cup. Luke couldn't seem to catch his breath. "Lorelai? How long?"

"For six months," she breathed, her voice catching in her throat, cutting off her words. Without thinking, Luke placed his hand on top of hers. Tears pricked the corners of her eyes. There Luke was again, switching sides on her—his cynicism was gone and he was Luke: her coffee guy, burger boy, her friend. And he didn't want to see her hurt. Lorelai had seen him be the superhero in the past and here he was again, saving her from what, she wasn't quite sure, maybe herself. For a moment, she wondered why his relationship with Rachel had fallen apart, why a woman wouldn't want a guy like him. She had never pressed him about it but she couldn't imagine why Rachel would leave. Maybe, unlike Lorelai, she hadn't needed someone to save her.

Lorelai took comfort in knowing that Luke wasn't superhuman in his relationships—that was something they had in common. They had both tried to help each other figure things out. And it wasn't easy.

"Lorelai, what happened? Please, try me." The concern in his voice was so strong. It called Lorelai to stay, even though she longed to leave. She shouldn't have come here. It was too soon.

"I think," she started slowly. "I think Max and I are through."

"Oh geez, Lorelai, I--"

"It's okay." She tried to shake it off, but her tears were slowly creeping down her cheeks. Luke couldn't believe what he was hearing—he had wanted to tell Lorelai she was making a mistake ever since he had heard about her engagement to Max. He had sat on her lawn in the hot sun as the wedding progressed, wondering why he had never told her why Rachel left or a million other things. But he had never wanted her hurt. Of all people, Lorelai shouldn't have to go through this.

"God, you deserve better than this."

"Thanks," she sniffed. "But it's okay, you can say I told you so."

"What?"

"I know you didn't like Max, it's okay."

Luke's eyes widened. "Lorelai, stop saying that. It's far from okay. Yes, he may not have been my favorite person, but really, what's new about that?"

Lorelai actually smiled at him, chuckled a little into her cup. She couldn't tell him how much it meant to her that he was being so calm about everything. It made her feel like she used to before she met Max and that she would be okay. "When did this happen?"

"Before he left for California, we had been arguing about his job for weeks. He wanted me to go with him." She shrugged, took a sip of her coffee and Luke waited. "When I wouldn't, he said maybe this wasn't working. And that's it."

"What did you say?"

Lorelai noticed something in Luke's eyes that she hadn't seen in a long time. There it was, that question, that "maybe." She would never admit it, but she knew she had worn the same look in the past. It seemed so long ago, yet so easy to remember. How her throat had seemed to close when she saw Rachel touch Luke or the way his eyes lit up when he saw Rachel come downstairs in his flannel shirt. At the same time, she pushed these memories to the back of her mind, realizing Luke was still waiting on her answer. That's right, she thought, this is about Max.

"Nothing. I couldn't. I still can't believe it." Lorelai bit her lip. "And hey, don't say a word to anyone, I haven't even told Rory yet," she whispered as if the whole of Stars Hollow was pressed against the walls of the diner, listening in.

"Lorelai." He gave her a stern look that said who would I tell. She nodded.

"Thanks."

"And Lorelai?" She looked back at him before she opened the door to go. "If you need anything, I'm here."

"Luke, I--" She started to thank him, but she couldn't find a place to start. It was tricky, this game they played. She had to be careful where she stepped. He shook his head, understanding.

"It's okay, I know. Go home and get some sleep."

"Night." Lorelai waved as the bells rung over her head. They were quiet tonight, not jarring as usual, and the soft sound seemed to match Lorelai's mood as she traipsed home.

fin