AN: Thanks to all things holy for her verb-a-licious talents. And her patience.
Disclaimer: Amy Sherman-Palladino owns them and "Written in the Stars." I like to play with other people's toys, is all.
Prearrangement with Possibility
Luke looks different in the dark.
The way he talks to her has changed. She watches him sleep and thinks of this morning at the diner, how it had been easy and fun and (oh, dear God) sexy. His voice had dipped, low and throaty; he had leaned his head toward her and looked up at her from beneath his lashes and brows. The way he talks to her now makes her shiver. She had wondered, this morning, how much is for show and how much is really Luke.
"I've got some ideas," he'd said.
She rolls onto her back, turning her head so she can continue to watch him as he sleeps. She wishes she could say she hadn't spent all day wondering what his "ideas" were. She wishes she could say thoughts of him don't preoccupy her as often as they do. It seems silly, somehow, and girlish. She knows she's not a teenager in the back of a darkened movie theater, and he's not some dreamy film star. But the summer has made him seem that way, a flat image on a screen. It had been easier to pretend, then, he so distant, telling stories. They are both playing a part.
Thoughts of him occur at the oddest times. A day in July, the toilet in the corner room choked and overflowed, and she stood surveying the damage. Up to her ankles in shitty water(oh, the humanity, those ruined perfect heels), she'd thought of him. Another day, she was rescuing a sock from the back of the dryer. It was less surprising that every time she drank coffee, she saw his face. When Jackson began to talk about pruning the perennials, his name occurred to her. She still hasn't figured that one out. There were other moments those weeks he was away, when the air tasted stale and she drank tepid coffee, when the thought of him was a comfort.
"We'll get better at this," she'd said.
The moment had been too awkward for the film star version of Luke to be present, she thinks. Or else, she thinks, too momentous, knowing that this would be the place where they start over. This fine line they've walked for so long is no longer there. There was comfort in the line, she thinks, because they always knew what to do: don't cross. She watches him sleep and knows the line now exists on an entirely other plane of existence. She wonders if she'd assumed to meet him at the diner only because she hadn't been sure where the line had gone. If it was easier to think the line was still there. If she'd thought they needed the safety of the line. She plays with the hem of the sheet. She wonders what Luke thinks of the line. She decides she's done thinking for a while.
He's one of those sleepers who frownswith his forehead as though he's never had a pleasant dream in his life and expects he never will. She would have thought he would hold himself, cross his arms over his chest in something like a hug. But instead he sleeps sprawled out across the mattress, first flat on his back, his arms flung out wide, and then on his stomach, arms folded under his pillow. He snores, a little, a sound deep in his throat like a groan. She remembers the last time she'd spent the night here, or tried, and the constant, nasal, buzz-saw of a snore he'd had then. This, now, she could perhaps get used to.
Lorelai shifts onto her side, bunching the pillow beneath her head. Her skin feels different. She tucks her hands beneath her chin, and she watches him sleep. She wonders how he can sleep at all. She then realizes exactly how he can sleep, and it almost makes her laugh out loud.He grunts and burrows into his pillow. Her brain just keeps going, parsing the evening like a text she'll be tested on.
"I can't believe you kept this," she'd said. "You kept this in your wallet?" But the proof of the answer had been in her hand. "You kept this in your wallet."
"Eight years," he'd told her. "This thing we're doing here, me, you—I just want you to know I'm in. I am all in."
It's not so much that the story is unlike him—he's been known to go on at a clip about Hummels and uncles and water glass performers before—but more the way he'd told it. She thinks again of the film star that he's not. Dreamy-Movie Luke had recounted the story with something like softness, with a confidence meant to impress. He'd told her he's all in, but once his cards were on the table Dreamy-Movie Luke evaporated, and hisvoice had changed again. Dreamy-Movie Luke, unlike his real-life counterpart, tends to falter when the banter falls away.
"Does that—are you… scared?"
She'd paused, then, ducked her head and looked down. She listens to the conversation they would have had if she'd responded the way she'd wanted to.
She'd smirk. (Of course she'd smirk.) "Are you?"
"I asked you first."
"I asked you second," she'd have said.
"So? Are you scared?"
"Are you?" he would have asked.
"I asked you first."
"You did not!"
And it would have gone on like that, she knows, until he had forgotten the point and she'd successfully evaded the answer. It would have been all too easy—but if she could choose a word to describe her relationship with Luke over the last eight years, easy wouldn't be it, so she'd swallowed the immediate response and given him her best enigmatic smile and a shake of the head.
"No," she'd said, "and yes."
He'd frowned. "What?"
She'd shrugged. She'd put her hand on his thigh under the table, closer to his hip than his knee, and she'd seen him pale and swallow thickly. She thinks about it now, and she knows that the only reason he had asked if she's scared is that he's scared—all in or not, she'd seen the fear, however fleeting, cross his face as he asked her. It's what put Dreamy-Movie Luke in the background, a bit player in the drama. That Luke—Suave-Dreamy-Movie Luke—had receded when the moment became too real. That Luke wants her to think he's ready and this is easy. This Luke, the one she watches as he sleeps beside her, is afraid she won't believe it.
She'd squeezed his leg, just tightened her hand on his thigh. "It's hard to explain."
"Try me." The return of That Luke, she thinks.
"I'm not scared because I trust you, probably more than I trust anyone else except Rory, and I am scared because I don't always trust myself."
And she remembers how he'd softened, and This-Next-To-Her-Now-Luke had covered her hand with his as he spoke. "Lorelai—"
She'd shakenher head. "You don't have to say anything, it's—we both know how I can be. Might as well put it out there." She'd rubbed the inseam of his jeans with the tips of her fingers, and she knows she hadn't meant to do it on purpose, and she certainly hadn't meant for him to nearly jump out of his seat when she did, but it had lessened the tension and made them laugh as she apologized.
"So you scare yourself?" he'd asked. That Luke, she remembers. Not This Luke, here.
She wets her lips with the tip of her tongue and watches him sleep. She recalls the conversations they've had since May. She's told him stories she thought she'd forgotten (but, and this she remembers with a twinge of guilt for not remembering it to tell, not the one about the horoscope), worries she has about her daughter, her business. They've teased each other about what he's called "this thing," about the petty jealousies and the softer moments they've had. She can't remember handing him the horoscope, but there are other moments she remembers—moments they've talked about, moments that are crystalline in her memory, fights and missed chances.
"I have a gift," she'd said.
She thinks now that he has a pretty good enigmatic smile of his own—a necessity for the film star he isn't.
"You do," he'd said.
She watches him sleep and hugs the pillow tightly with a sigh. Dinner had been fine, conversation had been easy. They'd managed to forget the weightiness of the horoscope and the fear and the fact that this was their first date. The food, she thinks, helped, as did the champagne. That Luke had been entertaining. This Luke had walked her to the truck with his hand at the small of her back and murmured that it had been fun. She remembers the way he'd reached to open the door of the truck for her, the way he'd paused. That Luke and This Luke had battled for control until she took the option away and kissed him. This Luke, the one that told her to stand still and kissed her the first time, had kissed her there in the parking lot under the street lamp, and his hands shook.
This Luke, she thinks, is a good kisser. She'd had to catch her breath, break away. He'd rested his forehead to hers. This Luke had grinned, she remembers, glad this is something he lets himself do. She'd played with the buttons on his shirt and closed her eyes. When she'd opened them, This Luke had been waiting.
"Take me home," she'd said.
She flushes hot, now, watching him sleep and remembering. He'd offered coffee. She'd asked to go upstairs and use the ladies' room (which produced a short appearance from That Luke, amused with the use of "ladies'"). She hadn't beensurprised to step out of the bathroom and see him enter the apartment, close the door behind him. She'd apologized for taking too long. He'd said he didn't care. She'd come to stand by the foot of his bed, her hands in her pockets. She watches him sleep and remembers the delicious tension of that moment as they watched each other decide.
She shivers and watches the rise and fall of his chest as he sleeps, remembers the way he drew her to him. She reaches out, lets her hand hover just over his heart. It's almost funny, she thinks, that they didn't speak, considering the verbose nature of their relationship.
Her breath hitches when she thinks of his hands tracing her curves, his fingers sliding along her limbs, tangling in her hair, his lips burning her skin, bruising her own as he kissed her. She aches from holding him so tightly, from kissing him so deeply. She wonders if tomorrow she'll be emblazoned with his handprints on her abdomen, on the small of her back and her hip and her thigh. She can still feel his weight on her.
She watches him sleep and teases his skin with the tips of her fingers. The horoscope is in his wallet, which is in the back pocket of his pants, which are, she thinks, somewhere on the floor. If she wasn't afraid of waking him, she'd get out of bed and find it. It occurs to her that if he woke to see her rifling through his wallet, they'd have the makings of a pretty good scene in a terrible film about the femme fatale taking advantage of the unsuspecting male lead, an excellent job for That Luke. He'd ask her what she's doing; she'd say nothing, grin, sidle back to bed, and kiss him until he forgot the reason he woke up in the first place. She stays where she is because it is so terribly cliché and awkward. But she wants to see it again, to hold it, to rub the paper between the tips of her fingers and maybe smell it, to run her fingers over the lines of her writing and know that it's hers.
Instead she lays her hand flat on his chest and rolls onto her stomach, closes her eyes. The bed is enormous and firm in that springy way of new mattresses, she thinks, having tested so many before the inn opened.
She opens her eyes and watches him sleep. She'd wanted to ask him—still wants to ask him—when he got it. But she knows it's a conversation that could end up going very badly, too many assumptions and too much baggage, for both of them, and she'd rather let this pass now and tease him about it at a safe distance of time.
Luke rolls onto his back and off his pillow. Rather than inch down and rest her head on his chest, she takes his pillow and wraps her arms around it, pushes her face against it. He's embedded in the fabric, the smell of him, the fact of him. She raises her wrist to her nose and sniffs—she's got that scent on her skin now, that warm smell of his. She considers this, that the man beside her is Luke, that this man has been more than just beside her tonight, that she's wrapped in his sheets and his scent and it's just slightly more than surreal. Luke.
"I'm your Ava Gardner," she'd said.
That Luke took over, then, Dreamy-Movie-Suave-That-Luke wanting to make the list of CDs, she thinks. That Luke had ended any discussion of pining and served his purpose and eased the tension of the truth.
"This has been a really great first date," she'd said.
She remembers her favorite line from her favorite Cameron Crowe movie, when a dreamy girl with big hair told her best friend "A date is prearrangement… with the possibility of love."
He'd turnedon the fraction of a second, That Luke to This, as he looked at her and reiterated the time it had taken them to get there, the eight years they'd spent respecting the existence of the line between what they had been and what they are now. This Luke spoke low and soft, and he kissed her. But This Luke is fragile, she thinks, liable to break if you grip him too tightly.
Lorelai knows that possibility, though it is an enormous entity, too great for his small apartment, is also easily chased away. The very idea of the possibility that comes with prearrangement is still too much for This Luke, too much a risk. The possibility that comes with prearrangement is what necessitates That Luke, that other that protects This Luke from feeling just a bit too much. And so at that moment, when he'd again mentioned the eight years they'd spent determinedly avoiding possibility, Lorelai had summoned That Luke, pulled away. She's fonder of This Luke, she knows, watching him sleep, and she'll do what it takes to keep him.
She taps her fingers against his chest, pushes her pillows away and drags herself across the mattress. She takes in his profile, the strong lines, feels the firm muscles of his chest beneath her palm. It is not so very surreal, she thinks. She watches him sleep, thinks about possibility. That Luke, she thinks, This Luke, fear, and cards on the table…
As she reaches for him, she thinks in spite of it all, the possibility might be enough. She kisses him awake, her eyes closed.