Pairing: Like you need to ask.

Rating: PG-13, for the inevitable language

Disclaimer: Gilmore Girls and its characters are the property of lots of other people. Still a student. Still poor.

Summary: The umpteenth "So…good talk" post-ep. Nothing you haven't seen before.


She lost track of the minutes that passed after she shut the door, not she was counting – or thinking at all, for that matter – but it seemed so long and still too soon when they pulled apart a bit, their breathing uneven.

She, as always, was the first to speak.

"Not that I'm complaining, but where the hell did that come from?"

He let out a long breath, forehead tipping down to rest against hers.

"This month has been hell." His voice was low and gravelly, with too much of an edge.

She nodded, just the slight motion of her forehead rubbing across his, her hair brushing against his skin.

"I'd say that covers it." The words came out too low, more serious than she'd intended. He'd been gripping her arms with both hands, and now he let them go and slipped his arms around her back, drawing her closer to him. She turned her head and let herself lean into him, cheek against his chest. She took a long, shaky breath, feeling the fabric of his still-cool army coat against her cheek. It was rougher than she remembered, and still smelled like everything else in his closet, like the warm air that blew out of the heating vent, rustling his clothes at night. She pressed her lips together at the memory, a motion that had become a habit over this long month, holding it all in. She clenched her hands, palms resting on his back, pulling the fabric taut in her fists. He rubbed one hand across her shoulder in response, fingers kneading her skin.

"So, is this…" she let herself trail off, too afraid to ask the question. Part of her felt silly for stating the obvious, but the rest of her just needed to know.

She felt the shift of his throat, adam's apple bobbing up and down as he swallowed.

"I thought it was pretty obvious."

She choked back a jarring laugh. "You're very, very clear with your intentions?" She meant it to be funny, meant to joke the way she always did, but her voice was still unsteady, too high and too thin. She felt, rather than heard, his laugh, his breath warm against her hair.

"Something like that."

She nodded again, her face scraping across his jacket. "Okay." She pressed her lips together again, fell silent for a moment, wondering whether this was the right time for what she wanted to say next.

"I'm sorry," she whispered, so low she wondered if he would even hear.

"Don't." He relaxed his grip a bit, pulling back just enough to press his lips to her forehead. "Don't."

She nodded, her forehead now scraping across the rough stubble of his chin. The sensation brought back a wave of something she wasn't quite ready for, something too vivid after a month where nothing seemed vivid at all. She stiffened against him, balling her hands up more tightly.

"You okay?" He didn't move away, lips still brushing her skin as he spoke.

"Yeah."

"You want this, right?" She could hear the uncertainty creeping into his voice; he spoke slowly, as if he wasn't quite sure that he wanted to ask the question.

She tilted her head up, kissing him again, softly this time. "I think that's pretty obvious."

"You want me?" His voice was even softer this time, words that she felt, rather than heard, mumbled against her skin.

"Yes."

"Okay." He kissed her again, gently, and she could feel him shifting his weight as he finally relaxed. She closed her eyes, lashes brushing his skin, and heard him say it again. "Okay."

And for the first time in weeks, she believed it really might be.


He was in the kitchen when she came downstairs, the contents of her fridge scattered across the counter. She slipped her arms around him from behind, pressing her face against his t-shirt. He reached up to rub one hand across hers, fingers still warm from working over the stove.

"You have nothing in your kitchen." He waved the slotted spoon he held in his other hand for emphasis.

She breathed deeply, taking in the scent of coffee and cotton t-shirt and…something else. She pulled back sharply, peering around his shoulder.

"Are you making me tater tots?"

"You didn't have any potatoes, so I couldn't make hash browns. And it's a good thing eggs keep, because everything else in there was green. Or purple." He sighed, poking at the frying pan the slotted spoon. "So, yes, I'm making you tater tots."

She laughed, harder than she probably should have, and he pulled away just enough to slide the entire contents of the frying pan onto a plate. He turned to hand it to her, and she frowned. "You're not eating anything?"

"I have to open the diner."

She set the plate down on the counter, pulling him into a hug. "Don't go." She hadn't really thought about the words before she said them, and didn't want them to sound as needy as they probably did.

He kissed her lightly on the forehead. "I have to open up the diner."

"You don't."

He didn't respond, just pulled away and carried the plate over to the table.

"You really don't. Watch." She was over to the phone in two strides, dialing as she formulated a plan. She was lucky enough to get the voice mail, rather than the night manager or a very angry Michel.

"Hey, Sookie, it's me. I'm, uh, not feeling well –" here, she gave a very unconvincing cough "– and I'm coming in late today. Call me if Michel manages to fire everyone or burn the place down." She clicked the phone off, and shot him a look of triumph. "See? Easy."

He didn't have a response ready, which she took as a very good sign. Grinning wickedly, she started to dial again. He made a half-hearted grab for the phone, but she pushed his hand away. Again, she was lucky enough to get voice mail.

"Hey, Lane, this is Lorelai. Luke's not feeling well, so he's coming in late today. Call him if Cesar manages to fire everyone or burn the place down."

She disconnected and flashed him a brilliant smile. The look on his face alternated between pissed and amused, with sort-of-pissed finally winning.

"Very subtle."

"But effective."

"You realize the whole town's gonna know what's going on."

"Then we shouldn't disappoint them." She said it in her most suggestive tone, stepping in close to him. He just sighed. "Hey, it could have been worse. I could have called Taylor."

"That is the least sexy thing you have ever said."

She smiled even more broadly, relief pouring through her. This was how it was supposed to be. The easy banter, him pretending to be pissed, her showing off – this was them. She reached for his hand, pulling him to her.


"Emily came to the diner?" She spit the name like a profanity.

Luke was watching her warily, jaw tight. "Last night."

"Last…" Lorelai trailed off, taking a step backwards. He reached out with one hand and grasped her elbow, fingers sliding down to her wrist.

"She came to the diner, she kicked Kirk out, she talked to me, I ignored her, then she left."

"And you came over here."

He paused for a second, wishing he could make it sound better than it actually did. "Yes."

"Why?"

"Because I'd been fucking miserable for a month."

"And because my mother came to see you." She pulled her wrist away and folded her arms across her chest, waiting.

"Because your mother was desperate. She came to see me, and she hates me, and if she was that desperate I thought maybe there was still a chance."

"You're gonna have to back up the thought train there, because that did not make any sense."

He looked down at the floor, sighing heavily. "Whatever went on with you two, it must have been pretty bad. And I thought if you were still that pissed with her, maybe—" he broke off, looking up at her, willing her to just get it, for once.

"Maybe…"

"Maybe it was because you were miserable, too." He shrugged, realizing how suddenly stupid it all sounded. "It made sense to me. I've been pissed at everybody."

The corner of her mouth twitched up. "So I've heard."

He rubbed one hand across his neck, mostly to have something to do. He glanced down at the floor, not quite wanting to look at her when he asked her this. "Do you want this to work?"

Her voice was calm and suddenly serious. "Yes."

"Then can we stop fighting about your mother?"

"Please." She moved toward him a bit, then stopped. "You know this won't be the last time she does something awful."

"I know."

"And you want to do this, anyway?" He could hear the soft edge in her voice, the tremble of something uncertain. He met her eyes this time, and didn't try to glance away.

"Yes."

She nodded slowly. "I'm sorry," she said, her voice going soft.

He stepped forward and wrapped his arms around her, pulling her into his chest. She relaxed against him, and he knew he might be squeezing too tightly, but today nothing seemed close enough. "Me, too," he said, lips against her hair.

They stood that way for a long moment, arms too tight and breathing too shallow. He could feel her cheek, damp against his collarbone, wet lashes brushing his skin. She was doing this because of him, and that knowledge was as painful as anything else he'd been through in the last month. But this time, with her here, the pain was somehow different.

He wouldn't give it up for anything.


It was late when he finally left for the diner, even later when she was finally ready to leave the Dragonfly that night. She had to make up for the time she spent away that morning – hazard of owning your own business. She was planning to go straight to Luke's (she'd already been in for a late lunch, and boy did that raise some eyebrows), and she slipped in an empty room to glance in the mirror, patting down her hair and wiping away smudged eyeliner, happy to have an excuse to worry about this again.

She saw the dark outline of his back as she opened the front door, and was only a little surprised. He was sitting on the front steps, arms resting on his knees. Two white take-out bags rested on the step beside him.

"You should have a bad wig and a 900 number."

He looked up at her with a self-satisfied grin. "I don't think I want to know."

"I meant because you're psychic," she said, lifting the bags as she sat down beside him. "But yes, dirty." She reached into the first bag, came up with a cheeseburger, and dug in. "You could have come inside, you know," she managed between bites.

He shrugged, his arm brushing against hers. "It's nice out."

"I was going to come by the diner."

"I thought you were working late," he said, fidgeting with the cuff of his sleeve.

"I was going to come." She put the cheeseburger down long enough to meet his eyes. He just looked away, nodding. He reached for something in the shadows under the porch rail, pulling out a tall styrofoam cup. She snatched it out of his hand, pulling off the lid and taking several deep gulps.

"I'm surprised you didn't smell it."

"You distracted me with the cheeseburger." More gulps.

He wrapped his free arm around her, resting his hand on her waist, fingers toying with the hem of her shirt. She leaned into him, resting her head against his shoulder.

"I really was going to come." He nodded again, chin scraping across her hair. They were quiet together for a moment.

"I missed you." His voice was low, gravelly. She squeezed his knee with her free hand, running her thumb over the worn-soft denim.

"We're okay now," she said, and it was still too tentative, but it wasn't a question.

"We're okay." She felt the press of his lips against her hair, the way his hand curved around her waist as he squeezed her tighter.

"You know—" he broke off, drawing in a long breath against her hair. "You know I love you."

She felt her eyes burning, began blinking it away. "Yeah, I know." She squeezed his knee more tightly, fingers digging into his leg. "I know."

She set down the cup she'd been holding, reaching up with her free hand to touch his cheek. He dipped his chin down to hers, kissing her softly. "You know—" she said, lips still brushing his. "—you know." He kissed her again, more firmly this time.

"I know."

Lorelai let her eyes fall shut, face warm, eyes still burning. Finally, finally, there was nothing left to say.