A/N: I didn't want to see it end, but after writing about fifteen chapters more than I initially intended, it's time to let it go.
And to catterwall I am indebted my first-born.
"You've got to be kidding me," Lorelai muttered. As the flight attendant cruised past to the back of the plane, she flashed Luke a big smile, pressed a hand into his shoulder.
"Back again!" She exclaimed brightly, breezing over them an overwhelming dose of gardenia.
His gaze wavered between the two women, finally settling on the tray table in front of him. "Yup."
It had already been a long day. It wasn't even noon.
Between the three-hour time difference and their unexpected escapade in the middle of the night, they'd slept well past their check-out time and had to rush through their morning, packing hastily and neglecting morning rituals. Unwashed and uncaffeinated, this is not the Lorelai he'd been fantasizing about waking up to for so many years. She glared at the flight attendant out of the corner of her eye, feigning interest in the SkyMall catalogue.
They dropped by the house to say a final goodbye to the family, both feeling the burden of guilt settle over them, both reminded of the impropriety of their actions just hours before.
Their flight had been delayed, the sky overcast. Neither of them wanted to go home; it seemed too early to thrust their fragile relationship back into reality, to try and rebuild their daily routines around this newly evolved romance they were bringing home with them. Like an awkward sort of emotional souvenir.
As Sandi sashayed back down the aisle, Lorelai couldn't help but notice the level of intensity going into Luke's staring contest with the tray table in front of him. Well, points for not watching her walk away, she supposed, briefly wondering when her idle jealousies had become hostile.
Luke's discomfort level had been rising steadily since his first waking moments. As they threw their luggage hastily into the back of the taxicab, he couldn't help but feel robbed of a morning alone together.
It had been years since he'd woken up with that warm, pleasurable feeling running through his body and not had to extinguish it, to remind himself that he was alone and he had to go downstairs and maybe he'll get to see her for lunch, at least.
His first conscious feelings this morning, however, had been those of securely entwined fingers, her elegant lines, a cheerful, warm rump settling comfortably into his bare lap. A leg swung over his with a deep sigh. And then she'd ripped their snug little cocoon apart, jumping out of bed and throwing on clothes and lobbing flannel at his head in an effort to get him up faster after realizing the time.
And now another woman was poised over him, handing him the cup of tea he'd requested. "Be careful," she purred, "it's very hot."
"Got it, thanks."
Lorelai's jealousies were unfounded, of course. His thoughts were far more gainfully occupied than the silly flight attendant who'd flirted with him so shamelessly.
He had imagined Lorelai's breasts to be much less dense than they actually were. He thought about their weight in his hands, about how bipolar her hair was in the morning. Her arms looked less firm than they actually were. And he'd never imagined her having particularly bony hips before, but there was hardly any meat on them, he could vouch for that now. The weird dent by her lip, the one that only appeared when she laughed genuinely, was now the sexiest thing he'd ever seen on a woman.
"You know," the flight attendant leaned down conspiratorially, "we've got some shortbread cookies in the back that are reserved for first class passengers only?" She seemed to be suffering from chronic up-speak. "But maybe, if you're lucky I can snag you some. I'll come by later?"
The second she and her drink cart strutted out of earshot, Lorelai thwapped him soundly across the knee, bringing him back from his thoughts.
"What the hell was that for!" he cried.
"Um, there was a bug," she mumbled, taking a sip of her coffee. "Gone now."
Luke sighed, pressing his large frame down into the seat. "So... are you nervous about being home?" he asked, not coming up with a better way to introduce the topic of their relationship.
"Why would I be nervous?" she answered quickly, a nervous laugh cushioning her words. After a pause, she matched his sigh.
"Yeah, maybe a little."
He placed a hand over her violently twitching knee. "It'll be fine," he assured her. "We'll be fine."
"I know," she said despondently. "You know, maybe we shouldn't tell people right away. What with the funeral and all."
Luke let out a slow breath. "I can wait, yeah. Sure." He leaned over and gave her an uncertain sort of kiss on the cheek, taking her hand. "Whatever makes you comfortable is fine."
Lorelai turned her head, squaring them nose to nose. "Hey. You know what my first thought was this morning?" Her voice suddenly had a seductive quality to it now.
He smiled, the giddiness flooding into his chest. "What?"
"I thought…" She paused, briefly considering the weight of her words. "I thought, this is it for me."
Closing his eyes, he leaned his temple into the seat.
The sense of security that filled him, the very moment her words sank in, was overwhelming. He thought that feeling, one that had been estranged from his heart long ago, couldn't possibly return.
Unable to speak, he let his eyes roam over her face and squeezed the knee under his hand, feeling the blood rushing to his face.
"Hey, that's okay, you know?" She blurted in an awkward voice. "You don't have to return the sentiment; I just wanted to inform you." Her smile was flustered, her eyes averted. Luke squeezed her knee again.
"Oh, come on," he laughed, the lines in his face creasing deeply. "I've thought that for years. You're just realizing it now? Gimme a break."
So she spent the rest of the flight dozing lightly in the crook of Luke's arm, trying not to stir when he would periodically smooth a hand over hers or lean a nose into her hair.
When she had turned to him that morning, lying on her back in the first waking moments, she'd been delighted to discover the creases and dents marked into half his face by the pillows. And in that half, she'd let her mind turn the grooves into wrinkles, imagined his droopy lids heavy with age instead of sleep, the hair on his head snow white.
The image in her mind roused her senses, allowed her to more easily understand the significance, the solemnity of this undertaking.
She grasped him, fastened her body firmly onto his, feeling like she was granted a glimpse into her future. Luke squeezed back, enveloping her frame in his own. There it was. She had finally been granted asylum. She had a sanctuary.
After a rough landing, they gathered their bags, seated patiently at the back of the plane, neither particularly overjoyed at the idea of returning to Stars Hollow. Shuffling forward down the aisle, Lorelai leaned back into Luke's chest as she walked, smiling when she reached the cockpit and caught the flight attendant's eye.
"Come again soon!" She said brightly, averting her eyes quickly to Luke.
Lorelai reached up to his ear while sauntering past and murmured inappropriately, "Oh my God I can't stop thinking about that thing you were doing with your tongue last night."
Luke blushed feverishly, slinking an arm around her waist as they stepped off the plane. "Why did you do that?" He snarled, pulling her close. "Everybody on the goddamn plane heard you."
She giggled, turning her head back to him. "Sorta the point."
The frequencies in that cold night air were comforting to him now that he was back in Connecticut. It filled him with a settled sense of relief to be back in familiar territory, at least geographically. He watched as she bounced backwards on the balls of her feet, away from him, eyes laughing.
"Are you going to be like this with every woman that talks to me?" He eyed her warily.
"Don't be silly, Luke. Women don't talk to you." She took his hand as they walked through the terminal.
There were people everywhere, he noticed, bags at their feet, rolling suitcases behind them as they strode in different directions. Going somewhere, leaving for somewhere, in movement, in transition.
Luke found himself suddenly wishing he were going somewhere as well, anywhere other than Stars Hollow, under the judgmental eyes of the town. He didn't want to go back to wiping down the counter while waiting desperately for her to drop in.
He'd never had the urge to leave before, that wanderlust thing that Liz was always talking about. He liked his roots, he liked having his feet planted firmly somewhere. But now that he finally had her, he wanted to be anywhere else, and with no one else. Just them.
And maybe some coffee, to keep her from complaining. That's a good idea. And a bed.
Lorelai saw him gazing at the listing of arrivals and departures above the archway. "Flight to Puerto Rico leaves in twenty minutes," she joked, poking him in the ribs. "Wanna go?"
He eventually tore his eyes from the board, looked down into her smiling face. "Um, yeah, you know I'd love to go with you, but Sookie's waiting out there." He pointed to the sliding doors, Sookie's minivan parked at the curb.
Lorelai didn't turn around; she continued to stare at him, tugging on his shirt. "Luke? Do you want to go?"
"We can't go," he protested, trying to figure out how serious she was. "Don't be ridiculous. We have jobs, and lives, and… stuff to do. And Sookie's right outside, what're we gonna do, ditch her?"
Lorelai grinned, pulling down on the back of his neck, pressing her body into his.
"Come on, Luke. Will you go with me?" She asked, breathing into his mouth.
He gathered her up into his arms, kissed her rosy cheeks and gave her a squeeze. "You sure?" he murmured into her ear.
"Then let's go."