A/N: Thank you for the reviews and support and I'm terribly sorry for the wait.
Lorelai leaned against the wall, listening to the steady beating of the basketball against the hardwood floor. She had been standing outside of practice for almost twenty minutes now trying to decide how to deliver her note to Luke. Her note. She glanced down at the folded piece of paper in her hand. She had stayed up pretty late the previous night trying to find the right words to put into her note. Lorelai knew that she wasn't ready to talk about what had happened between her and Christopher, the pain was just too raw. She didn't know how she had come so close to explaining everything to Luke the day before. It could have ruined the nice friendship that had formed between them. But wasn't that what she was about to do? Ruin the friendship. She again glanced down at the note in her hands, but this time she unfolded it, her eyes scanning the page.
Dear Luke, I appreciate the friendship that you have offered me this past week. It's been a while since I've felt like I could trust anyone, but with you it came so easily. I'm sorry to say though, I don't think I can continue being your friend. I just feel too fragile right now and I don't think that my heart could take another break should anything happen. Thank you so much for being such a good friend through this short time. You have already helped me so much. Your friend, Lorelai.
It sounded so personal as if she had known him for months, not days. Lorelai didn't want to give up Luke's friendship, but she considered it best for both of them. He was a coach at her school and she was a girl who just couldn't seem to completely trust anyone. Lorelai couldn't deny the way her heart had skipped a beat the day before when she had seen him out in the rain. And when he had put his hands on her shoulders, she had gotten a surprising urge to kiss him, which scared her to death. She was never going to allow herself to kiss or be kissed by a man ever again. And those were the reasons that had driven her to write that note. Maybe she hadn't given him enough of a chance, but she couldn't risk falling for Luke and then having to let him go or having him break her trust. It just wasn't worth it.
Taking another glance inside the gym, she first looked to see where Luke was. He stood at the other end of the gym, his back to her as he explained a play to his team. A smile pulled at her lips as she remembered playing basketball with him, but she quickly wiped it off her face. That wouldn't help her achieve her mission. She tore her gaze from him and was delighted to see that Luke's bag rested on the end of the bleacher nearest to her. What luck. Slowly she pushed open the swinging door and tiptoed to the black duffle bag. Glancing around to make sure that no one was watching her, she slipped the note inside and retreated into the school hallway with a sigh. There, she had done it. But why didn't she feel any better? Groaning, she made her way outside. The cool breeze greeted her and she pulled her jacket a little closer to her body. The dreary day seemed to fit her unhappy mood. The gray clouds that rested in the sky above seemed to be pouting as they floated around, threatening to drop tears at any moment. Yup, that was exactly how Lorelai felt. In fact, when she was safely tucked into her car, the tears came. She didn't know why she was having such a hard time refusing Luke's friendship. If it would have been anyone else, she could have let them go in the blink of an eye. Why was this man, that she had known for a week, getting to her so much?
Luke glanced at his watch for the thousandth time since practice had ended. Where was Lorelai? She hadn't missed a day of running since he had met her. Sighing, he walked to his car. The wind was picking up, so he wanted to grab the jacket from his bag. With a swift movement, he unzipped the black gym bag. As he reached in for his jacket, his hand connected with something else. A piece of paper? He surely couldn't remember putting something like that in there. Luke pulled it from his bag and unfolded it. The small paragraph was written neatly, the words cutting into him the farther he got.
Crumpling the paper, Luke let out a deep sigh. He had gotten too close to the truth and scared Lorelai off. He wanted to kick himself for pushing her the day before. He should have known how tough it was for her to discuss her past. He too was reluctant to talk about his past. Maybe if he talked to her, he could tell her that he was sorry. But when would he get the chance? When she was leaving school, he was in basketball practice and he didn't know where she lived. Getting in the car, he found himself wondering when Lorelai had slipped the paper into his bag. He would have remembered seeing her.
He made the short drive to his apartment and was just stepping inside when the phone rang. Dropping his bags at his feet, he walked over to his portable phone and glanced at the caller ID. Letting out a short groan he picked up the phone and offered a gruff hello.
"Really, Luke, you think you could give your mother a little more polite of a greeting. And don't say that you didn't know it was me, because I know you have caller ID."
Luke wanted nothing more than to hang up, but he was pretty sure she wouldn't find that very polite either. "I'm sorry, Mom. I'm just having a bad day."
"Well, I guess I can let you off the hook this time. It's not every day that my older son isn't as polite as he should be." Her voice was laced with obvious sarcasm as the words slipped from her mouth.
Luke tried to ignore how the words hurt him. It wasn't that he didn't agree with her. It was what he heard between the lines. The fact was both of his parents seemed to favor the younger of their two boys. Luke usually didn't let it get to him, but for some reason it had gone straight to his heart this time. Sighing, he leaned his back against the wall. "Did you need something, Mother?"
Amy cleared her throat, obviously putting her frustration with Luke behind her. "I was calling to make sure that we'd see you at dinner this Friday."
"Mom, I said I'd be there, didn't I?" Luke almost snapped. "Sorry." Again.
"I don't know what's gotten you feathers so ruffled, young man, but you really shouldn't let things bother you so much. It's very unattractive to be so irritable." Amy paused. "Maybe if you had adjusted your attitude sooner you would be married now instead of your brother."
Luke couldn't take it anymore. He didn't care if his mom hated him for it, but he allowed his finger to slide to the off button on the phone and hang up. He might've deserved losing the girl that he loved, but he didn't think he deserved getting his nose rubbed in it.
Luke wasn't at all surprised when the phone rang two minutes later. Ignoring it this time, he head down the hall. Maybe a nice long nap would make him feel better. Well, it would make him feel better until he woke up again.
Lorelai hurried through the school hallway. It was before school, but she knew that Luke would be looking for her. He wasn't the kind of guy to give up without a fight. She didn't know how she knew that, but somehow she did. Glancing down a hallway to the left, she hurried past it. Her goal was to get to her locker and get to her first class before Luke found her. She knew that she would have to face him about this some time, but she wasn't sure what to say to him yet, so she was going to put it off for as long as possible.
Lorelai quickly entered the combination for her locker and pulled it open. The hallway was quite empty, but that's why she had requested a locker in this area. The school didn't use much of the rooms or the lockers at the east end of the school, where she was, because it was older and not insulated as well as the rest of the school. However, the more students they got, the more they had to use that end. But for now, there were only five lockers in use. Hers and Gwen's being two of those five.
Footsteps at the other end of the hall alerted her of company. Her head snapped up quickly, a frown creasing her face as she recognized the person. Shutting her locker with a loud "thud", she made a beeline for the nearest girl's bathroom, which was conveniently located about eight feet away. As she pushed through the swinging door she was aware of her name being called, but she refused to turn back. Once safely in the bathroom, she leaned against the sink with a sigh of relief.
The door swung open momentarily and Lorelai thought that he had followed her in, but then she looked up. Smiling, she pushed herself up so that she was sitting on the counter.
"Are you going to tell me why you're being followed by the new, and quite handsome, basketball coach?" Gwen asked, her brown eyebrows lifted in suspicion.
Lorelai shrugged. "It's nothing. He probably just wanted to ask me something."
"Then why didn't you just stop and answer the poor man? I mean, what if he has somewhere to be, but doesn't know how to get there?"
"Come on, Gwen, the school isn't that big. I'm sure he'll find his way." Lorelai stepped into one of the stalls, trying to avoid anymore conversation on the subject.
"If you say so," Gwen replied slowly.
But Lorelai knew that Luke wanted to ask her something much more important than directions to somewhere in the school. She wasn't ready to tell him what he wanted to know though. She wasn't ready to trust him.
Luke stared out into the drizzling rain as he waited in his car. He wasn't sure what he was waiting for, but he sure wasn't ready to go into his parents' house yet. He had had a bad week and he wasn't sure that ending it with this dinner was such a great idea. Luke hadn't gotten the chance to talk to Lorelai about her note, which frustrated him more than he wanted to let on, and he hadn't spoken to his mom since their disagreement on the phone. If he knew his mother, she'd still be holding a grudge on him for hanging up before their conversation was properly finished. But he didn't care if she was angry with him. He figured that he had the right to do what he did.
When it came to Lorelai though, he knew that he hadn't had the right to dig into her personal life. Why had he thought that he deserved to know what had happened to her? Luke had an idea of what had occurred to make Lorelai the way she is and that's all he needed to know right now. He had only known the girl for a week, after all.
He slowly reached up and rubbed his temples, trying to magically make his headache disappear. Maybe his mom was right. Maybe if he did have a better attitude he wouldn't be the outcast of his family and he might not have lost the love of his life. Well, he always considered her to be the love of her life, but was she really?
Sighing, he drew his attention back outside scanning the driveway. Seth and Rachel's SUV was parked in front of his car, but other than that the gravel driveway was empty. His parents' cars were most likely parked in their garage that connected to their house.
Groaning at the thought of getting soaking wet walking up the long path to the front door, he peered into the back seat of his car and scanned the area for his umbrella. It wasn't there. Just his luck.
Luke put his hand on the door handle and counted to three before hurrying out of his car and to the front door of his parents' house. When he was safely on the porch, he shook a little bit, trying to get some of the water off, and then lifted a finger to push the doorbell. He could here the chime of it as he waited on the porch. Seconds later the door was opened and a petite maid, with a welcoming smile on her face, greeted him.
"You must be, Luke." At his nod she motioned for him to come inside. "Right this way, please."
Luke followed the maid towards the living room and found his parents, his brother, and his sister-in-law gathered in the room. Seth seemed to be the only one that was happy to see him. The younger brother jumped up from his seat and gave Luke a bear hug, while the others just sat and stared politely. His father's expression held no emotion as he looked at his oldest son and his mother seemed to be glaring at him, obviously still upset over what had happened on the phone a few nights before. Luke's eyes carefully drifted to Rachel, who was smiling politely, but who was obviously uncomfortable with the situation. Well, so was he.
William Danes stood abruptly and reached for his wife's hand. "Shall we eat then?"
Murmurs of agreement filled the room and the five of them took their seats in the dining room. Luke definitely felt like a fifth wheel as he sat at the table with the rest of his family. There was a parent on each end and Seth and Rachel sat across from him, while he sat alone on one side. Maybe he should have brought a date. His thoughts suddenly went to Lorelai and he wanted to kick himself for somehow connecting her with a date. It probably was for the best that she had broke things off early on. He needed his job at the high school and he shouldn't risk losing it. Still though, he wasn't all too happy about the decision. He had found himself missing his afternoon runs with Lorelai every day after practice; missed the witty banter that they had passed back and forth during that time.
Frustrated, Luke found himself hitting his plate a little too hard with the knife as he cut his stake. He chanced a glance up and noticed that everyone was staring at him. Seth's eyes were the first he met and he found amusement lying in his younger brother's eyes. He then looked at his parents and thought of the phrase "if looks could kill". Drawing his eyes back to his food, he mumbled, "Sorry."
The meal was fairly quiet, everyone making only a couple comments throughout. After everyone's plates were cleared, they decided to adjourn back to the living room. William took the lead, while his mother tucked her arm in Rachel's and followed. Seth hung back next to Luke.
"You look troubled, bro. Having problems with your girlfriend?"
Luke rolled his eyes, pulling his brother to the side, so that no one else would hear what they were talking about. "She's not my girlfriend."
"Oh, come on, Luke, you like her. Why can't you just admit it?"
"Cut it out, Seth," Luke snapped, glowering down at his brother. "If anything would develop between me and Lorelai, then I could get fired and not have enough money to finish culinary school. Do you really thing that's such a great idea? Why are you encouraging this?"
"Because I feel guilty," came Seth's shouted reply, taking Luke by surprise. "It was my fault that your heart got broken the first time and I feel guilty about that." He slowly lowered his voice. "I just want you to find the person that's right for you. And if that person is a girl ten years younger than you, who threatens your job, as long as she makes you happy, I think that it's worth it. And it's worth it, because you deserve that. You deserve to be loved and to love someone."
"Is everything okay?"
Seth and Luke both followed the sound of the voice and found Rachel standing uncertainly in the doorway.
"Everything's fine, honey," Seth replied calmly, before turning back to his brother. "And that's why I'm encouraging it."
He then swiveled around and walked into the living room with his wife, leaving a baffled Luke standing alone in the hallway. He really did long to love someone, but was Lorelai really that person?