Two Steps Back, One Step Forward

11 Feb 2005

1

Rory got out of bed and walked into the kitchen. Lorelai was sitting at the table, her right leg with the cast on it was stretched out to the side.

"Today's the big day." Rory said as she poured herself a cup of coffee.

"And don't I know it!" Lorelai answered with relief in her voice.

"What time's Luke coming by?"

"He said right after the breakfast rush, probably around nine."

"Are you sure you don't want me to go with you guys?"

"And just where were you planning on sitting? It's all we can do to get Luke, me, and Moby Dick here into his truck."

"Okay. I'll just wait here."

"You could do some laundry while you're waiting."

"Or I could go back to bed. What time do you think you'll be home?"

"Shouldn't take long, a couple of hours at the most."

"You're leg is really going to be gross when they take the cast off. All stinky, and hairy and all."

"Hey, they'll clean me up before they let me leave."

"They won't shave your leg."

"That's why I'm taking a pair of jeans."

"And your leg muscles have shrunk up since you haven't used them for the last three months. One fat leg and one skinny leg."

"Again. The jeans."

2

Rory went out on the porch as she watched her mother get out of Luke's truck. She would still have to use one crutch until her leg got stronger. Then she would probably switch a cane for a while.

Luke let Lorelai climb the stairs by herself, but stayed behind her, ready to catch her if she lost her balance.

She went inside, Luke stayed on the porch.

"I need to get back to the diner. If anything comes up, call me."

"I will. And thanks, again."

Luke turned to go, then turned back around.

"I was thinking, now that you're mobile again, how about if we go out and celebrate? Nothing fancy, just dinner somewhere."

"Um, I don't know. I was thinking about just staying home with Rory. Maybe get out and walk for a while."

"She can come along. And we can walk."

"I appreciate the invitation, but I don't think tonight would be good."

"Okay, how about tomorrow night? We could eat and maybe go to a movie. Or do the movie first."

"It's a nice thought, but now that I can get around a little better, I just want to spend some time with Rory."

"Well, sure. Maybe next week, whenever."

"I don't know, but we'll see. Thanks again. See you Monday."

As Luke drove off, Lorelai, on the one crutch, hobbled into the kitchen with Rory following behind her.

"And just what the Hell was that?" Rory asked, obviously angry.

"What was what?"

"Blowing Luke off like you did!"

"I did no such thing."

"You totally did! He asked you out to celebrate getting your cast off, and you made it seem like he wanted to take you to mud wrestling."

"Weren't you listening? I told him I wanted to spend time with you."

"We've been sitting on that couch every night for three whole months! You couldn't go out with him one night, one lousy night? You don't think that hurt his feelings?"

Lorelai gave a short laugh. "You can't hurt Luke's feelings."

"Maybe I can't, but you sure can. I don't understand you. He brought you lunch everyday for a month. And when you decided to go back to work, which was against doctor's orders, I might add, he was here every morning to take you to the inn, and sometimes to bring you back home again, and to the doctor's. Everything he's done has been just to try to make things easier for you. And so now that you don't need him anymore it's 'So long, hit the road, Jack'?"

"Rory, you're making more out of this than there is."

"No, I don't think so. You love him, so why can't you just go out . . . ?"

"Rory! Whoa! Slow down. I do not love Luke . . . ."

"Don't tell me you don't. Everybody knows you're in love with each other, everyone, apparently, but you."

"Rory! That's enough! You don't know how Luke feels. And you damned sure don't know how I feel!"

"Yes I do! I'm not blind. And I'm not stupid! You had sex with him! You were going to have his baby, and you guys were going to get married!"

"RORY! I said that's ENOUGH!"

The two glared at each other, angry, but biting their tongues.

"Fine!" Rory said, and she stormed off to her room, slamming the door behind her.

Lorelai started to go after her, but stopped. She hated fighting with Rory, but she knew if she didn't calm down there would be more of it.

3

Slamming things around, she started making a pot of coffee. Then she leafed through a magazine, looking at Rory's bedroom door every time she turned a page. The coffee was forgotten about.

Finally, she couldn't take it anymore, and limped to Rory's bedroom without the crutch.

Just as she was about to grab the door knob, the door opened.

"I was coming in." Lorelai said.

"Well, I'm coming out."

"I don't want to fight."

"I don't want to fight, either."

"Then let's don't. Help me back into the kitchen, and we'll talk."

With her arm around Rory's shoulder and Rory's arm around her waist, the two of them re-entered the kitchen and sat down.

"Rory, you were right, I was kind of blowing Luke off. And you were right about all the things he's done for me, the lunches taking me to the doctor for the checkups, and taking me to work."

"Then why . . . ?"

"Let me finish. When Luke first started coming over every day, it was really nice. The food was good, and we talked, we played poker, but after about a month, it started to feel weird. Rory, ever since you were a baby, I swore there would NEVER be a parade of guys coming in and out of this house. That's not the kind of environment I wanted to you grow up in. And then when Luke was here day after day, it started feeling . . . uncomfortable."

"So you got sick of him?"

"No, it wasn't that. I just wasn't used to him being here, every single day."

"But we saw him everyday before."

"But it was on our terms, when we wanted to see him, at HIS diner, and not at OUR house. Do you understand?"

"No, I don't. And I don't understand why you keep denying how you feel about him."

"Rory, we said we weren't going to fight about this, but if you keep it up, we will. Okay, look, I admit, I have feelings for Luke, and maybe these feelings could, in some far out, round-about way be called love. But it's because we've been friends, good, good friends for so long, and because we respect each other, and because we care about what happens to each other, not because there's this great big romance bubbling under the surface. So, please, just let it go."

"Okay, if that's the way you want it. But I still think you hurt his feelings."

"I guess maybe I did. But I'll make it up to him. We'll have him over next weekend, and we'll order pizza, and get something from Teriyaki Joe's and from Al's House of Pancakes and . . . ."

"Are you trying to poison him? You know he won't eat any of that."

"Well, what do you suggest?"

"I don't know. Let's just see how things go Monday."

4

Monday morning Lorelai drove the jeep to Luke's for breakfast. There were a couple of empty tables near the window. Luke was walking around pouring coffee.

"Coffee?" he asked as he passed their table.

"Please." Lorelai answered.

"Caesar!" He yelled. "Coffee, here." And he went back behind the counter.

"You think he's mad?" Lorelai asked.

"What do you think?"

"Maybe he's just busy."

Eventually Luke got around to taking their breakfast order, but had no patience for Lorelai's cutesy banter.

"When you make up your mind, I'll be back."

Forty-five minutes later Rory left for school, and Lorelai finished off her cheese omelet.

Lorelai sat waiting another half hour until Luke was making the coffee rounds again. As he poured hers, she lightly put one hand on his arm.

"You want me to spill this in your lap?" he asked, irritated.

Lorelai removed her hand.

"Sorry. I just didn't want to go running off so soon."

"You want to order something else?"

"No, but I was wondering if you'd like to come over to the house Friday night for dinner."

"Well, I don't know. Something may come up, you never know."

"Okay, I just thought I'd ask. If you change your mind, don't be afraid to say so, we're pretty flexible."

"Okay. Anything else?"

"No, that was all. I've got to get to work, is the check ready?"

Luke scribbled on the pad, tore the ticket off and placed it face down on the table and walked away. When she picked it up, she saw he had charged her full price.

"Okay," she said to herself. "We'll just try it again tomorrow."

5

Tuesday and Wednesday mornings were repeats of Monday. Lorelai tried to act as if everything was okay between them but Luke wasn't responding. She reminded him both days of the dinner invitation but he made the same excuse for not accepting.

When Rory got home from school Wednesday afternoon, Lorelai was in a bad mood.

"Just how many times did he think I was going to ask him?"

"I don't know. How many times ARE you?"

"Not one more time. If he doesn't want to come, then there's no reason for me to keep asking him. And if he wants to keep acting like a jerk, so be it. Maybe we should find someplace else to eat breakfast."

"Now, that's just dumb. You know he has the best coffee, and the best breakfast. If we're going to go somewhere else, we might as well stay home and get another hour's sleep."

Lorelai's mood never got any better, she grumbled about every little thing until Rory went to bed just to so she wouldn't have to hear it.

Lorelai went to bed but couldn't sleep. Twice she went downstairs trying to find something to take her mind off things, but she was too irritable. She flipped through the channels incessantly, never stopping to watch anything.

This went on until almost 2 a.m. Finally, she couldn't stand it anymore.

Making sure that Rory was asleep, Lorelai made her way down the steps to the front yard and managed to get into her Jeep. It was 2:30 when she parked outside of Luke's diner. She sat there for a minute or two, then laid on the horn for two long blasts.

Then she got out and yelled up at his upstairs windows.

"Hey, Luke! Wake up! Hey up there!"

When there was no response, she banged on the front door several times, the yelled up at him again.

After doing this a couple more times, she saw a light come on, a window opened and Luke stuck his head out.

"What the hell are you doing? It's the middle of the night!"

"Open up! We need to talk!"

"Go home, Lorelai! Go home and go to bed!" he yelled down to her.

"You might as well let me in, because I'm not going anywhere! I'll stand out here all night if I have to!" she yelled back up at him, then banged on the door again.

"Okay! Okay! I'm coming down! Just shut up already!"

Lorelai pushed her way into the diner before Luke barely had time to unlock the door.

"Okay, I'm here, so what's the . . . ."

"I'm tired of fighting with Rory about how I may feel about you, or how you might feel about me."

"What?"

"And I'm tired of us not being okay with each other. I want it to be like it was before."

"Lorelai, it's late, and I'm tired . . . ."

"I'm not finished."

"Fine. Say what you have to say."

"Luke, you have no idea how hard these last few months have been for me. My life has turned upside down so many times I don't know which way is up, or down. I found out I was pregnant. And I came to you because I knew no matter what, you'd always be there for me. And then you knocked me right over when you not only told me to tell everyone it was your baby, but you offered to marry me. And just about the time I was getting used to that, I broke my leg and miscarried. And then you were still coming around, going out of your way to make sure I was okay. And then Rory comes up with this crazy notion that we're in love . . . ."

By now tears were beginning to flow.

"And . . . it's been too much. There have been too many changes coming too fast for me to handle. I hate change. I want things to stay just like they were. I want to get up and come here with Rory for breakfast. And I want you to nag us about our eating habits. And I want to be able to come back here for coffee and hear you bitch about Taylor Doose or . . . . whoever, just like you used to do. And God knows I want Rory to be five years old again. But watching her grow into the beautiful, intelligent woman I can see she's going to be is the only change I can put up with right now. Is that too much to ask?"

"No, not at all."

"I don't know what's in store for us, you and me, somewhere down the road, but like I said outside when I was yelling and banging on your door like a madman - I'm not going anywhere. And I know you're not going anywhere, so whatever's coming, we have plenty of time. Don't you think?"

"Sure we do. All the time in the world."

Lorelai put her arms around Luke and they held each other, and comforted each other, like good friends do.

"I guess I better go. You need your sleep, and I need to tell Rory we're okay again. See you in the morning?"

"I'll save you a table."

6

"Rory, wake up. I've got some good news."

"What is it?" By now she knew that if her mother woke her up in the middle of the night, it had to be important.

"I went to see Luke tonight."

Rory looked at the clock.

"You do know what time it is, don't you?"

"I know. But after a while he stopped being mad about it. But the good news is, we're good again."

"Are you dating?"

"No, we're just friends, just like we were before, just like we'll always be."

"I'm glad. I hate it when you argue."

"I know. I do too."

"But I still don't understand . . . ."

"I know you don't. But I promise you, one day, when you're older, and the world isn't so black and white to you, I will explain . . . everything, even the parts you probably won't like."

"I'm holding you to it."

"You go back to sleep now. He said he's going to save us a table, and we don't want to be late."

Rory hugged Lorelai's neck then laid back down and closed her eyes. She was asleep in seconds.

But Lorelai didn't move. For almost a half hour she sat on Rory's bed, watching her sleep, and trying to sort out her feelings for Luke.

Eventually, she came to the conclusion that she was just too tired to make sense of them, other than how good it felt to know he was always going to be there for her, and she would always be there for him.