Disclaimer: I own nothing but my computer.

This takes place in the summer before Rory starts high school.

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She seemed a little more tense than usual. Heck, being more tense than usual only meant a lack of a smile from the overcaffinated, overly optimistic woman. She was sitting at a table by the window and though the lunch rush was heightening furiously around her, she wasn't bothered a bit. Her gaze was fixed out the window, possibly not even on something specific, but just outside. His gaze was fixed on her.

"More coffee?" Luke asked, walking up to her table, as if his entire place of work wasn't drowning in customers and Caesar wasn't shouting out orders like a madman. Somehow in all the fury, Luke's was the one clear voice to her and she looked up at him.

"Oh, uh, yeah, coffee. Coffee's good," she answered, still seeming distracted. He poured the coffee watching the odd little movements of the index finger of her right hand as it traced various patterns on the tabletop.

"You okay?"

"What? Hmm? Oh me?" He rolled his eyes.

"No, the other person I'm pouring coffee for, aiding her along to her home six feet under." She grinned.

"I'm fine."

"Really? 'Cause you seemed a little…preoccupied today."

She folded her arms on the table in front of her, turning her chair slightly so that she faced him. "Well now I am completely focused on you, Duke." He groaned.
"I thought you gave up on that name two years ago when you decided you liked me." She sat back as he realized what he just said. "I mean, you know, that you decided that I wasn't in the same league as Stalin."

He wondered for a second how that had come off to her until she smiled. Her eyes lit up and he was instantly relaxed. That power she had in just a look, he wasn't sure how it worked, but it definitely worked for her.

"You know, I think that guy over there is about to get up and leave without paying," she said, motioning with her chin. He glanced over and groaned.

"Jeez."

He almost slammed the coffee pot on her table, but caught himself before it reached the wood and smashed all over, and just set it down gently. She shook her head in amusement, watching him as he walked over to the customer. Undoubtedly, the customer was going to wish he had never tried to jip Luke Danes out of some cash. She watched the color drain from the man's face as Luke barked at him, grabbing the money out of his hand, and marching him to the door. As the door closed behind the man, Luke sighed in frustration. Hearing an odd sound from the table next to him, he glanced over to find Lorelai grinning and clapping, enjoying the show.

"Well I'm officially out of my funk!" she exclaimed. He rolled his eyes, snatching the coffee pot off of the table and walking it back to its home. In his absence she turned back to the window, clearly not completely in a good mood.

For the next hour, he watched as she traced the rim of her coffee cup, checked her pager about eight times and then put her head in her hands for a short time. It seemed inordinately out of character for her. Lorelai had always been that brightness in his day, the ever smiling, cheerful woman he had known for three years now. Though he had seen her almost everyday in those three years providing coffee, complaints and the occasional danish, he was still unsure of how to define their relationship. True, deep down he thought she was the perfect woman, the woman of his dreams, the one for him, but it seemed obvious to him that she didn't feel the same. Why would she? All that he had ever presented to her was a grumpy, irritable, pessimistic man whose entire life revolved around flipping burgers and pouring coffee. She deserved more than that. She deserved a prince who would treat her like the angel she was, who would listen to her and understand, who would cheer her up when she was sad, who would laugh at all her jokes and pleasure in the moments of just being with her.

"You're not out of your funk," he said, finding himself next to her table again with the coffee pot in his hand.

She glanced at him again and snickered. "No, but if that's what it takes to get you to say the word funk, I'll be in this mood more often," she teased. He looked around the diner, finding that most of the lunch crowd was gone.

"Mind if I join you?"

"Are you going to drink coffee as well?" He gave her a look. She motioned to the empty chair next to her and he set the pot back down on the table, lowering himself into the chair.

"So what's with the long face?" Luke asked.

"I'm a horse." He looked confused for a moment before he realized she was trying to make a joke. Noticing that he didn't seem humored by her remark, she sighed, her smile slowly disappearing. "Christopher invited Rory to visit him in California for a month in July."

"And you don't want her to go," he reasoned. Lorelai shrugged.

"Yes, maybe… I don't know…" She twisted her hands in front of her anxiously. "I had this whole plan, you know? She's starting high school in the fall. When she graduates high school we have this whole plan of traveling around Europe, backpacking, seeing the sights I never got to see. So I thought this summer we could spend July traveling around the US. Like National Lampoon's Vacation, minus crazy Chevy Chase."

"You can still do that, there's more to the summer than July."

"Thank you Julius Caesar."

"Huh?"

"You know, the Roman guy who created the calendar." She waved her hand around as she was saying this, as if that would help him understand. "Anyways, no, there's really not much more to my summer than July. It's mid June now and Rory's just getting done with school and August is a big month at the Independence. No matter how much Mia loves me, she'd never let me leave for a long time in August." Luke sighed, folding his hands on the table in front of him.

"So did Rory say yes already?" Luke asked after a moment.

Lorelai shook her head. "No, but she will. Oh she will. She doesn't know what I planned. I was hoping to spring it on her, spontaneity is my thing." Lorelai shrugged. "I don't know, I mean most of the time he's not around. He doesn't call. He doesn't often make time for her and now he is and she'll be all excited and I would just be the worst person ever if I kept her with me instead of giving her that one chance to spend time with her father. I mean you might as well shove pills down my throat and call me Judy." Luke cleared his throat, knowing that he's going to need an explanation for this one.

"Judy?"

"Yeah, Garland. She would've been caught dead before letting Liza spend time with her father and Sid Luft almost never got to see Lorna and Joey until Lorna begged to live with him." She sighed, rubbing her forehead. "But I can just imagine my life here without her. A big empty house that I've never lived in without Rory. A big empty town that I've never lived in without Rory. All I would want is to be far far away from here."

"So go," Luke suggested. She frowned.

"Go?"

"Yeah, go. Go on vacation."

"Alone? It would be like… sad or something. Like… look Lorelai, do you see the Liberty Bell? Oh yes, Lorelai, it's nice and big and bronzed. Dirty! Oh yes, Lorelai that was dirty. Lorelai, should we go see-" Luke covered her mouth quickly with his hand just to shut her up, although he was amused by her various voices. After he removed his hand, she stuck out her bottom lip and pouted playfully.

"Then take someone with you," he suggested after she finally quieted.

"Why? You wanna come?"

He stared at her, wondering if she really knew what she just asked. Did she really just ask him to go on a trip with her? Was he just asked on a vacation alone with Lorelai Gilmore?

"Okay," he agreed.

She glanced up at him, suddenly hearing the seriousness in his voice. Did he really just agree to go on vacation with her? He's just… and she realized that she has no idea what he is to her. He was just the proprietor and she was his customer. They were friends, sure, but what proprietor wasn't friendly with his regular customers? Somewhere inside, her brain shouted the obvious answer.

"Okay," she responded, hoping that the shock she was feeling wasn't registering on her face. "Well, um… do you have any specific place you want to go?"

"I've never been anywhere. The beach a few times with my parents when I was young and Florida when my uncle needed help moving." She nodded.

"So anywhere but the beach and Florida, got it."

"Where have you gone? We don't want to go somewhere that you've gone," he said.

"Somewhere between the moon and New York City." He looked at her and she grinned again, loving pushing his buttons. "I haven't really been anywhere either except New York City and Hartford."

"So anywhere in the US but New York City, Hartford, the beach and Florida."

"Should be easy to find some place to visit."

"So when does Rory leave?" he asked.

She furrowed her eyebrows trying to remember her conversation with Christopher. "The 30th of June."

"Then we leave on the first."

Suddenly she smiled, the first real smile he had seen out of her the whole day. He wondered if she was just excited to get out of Stars Hollow as soon as Rory left or if it was possible she was excited to travel with him. Did it really matter? He was about to spend a month traveling with her, just him and Lorelai, and he just knew there was a lot of cold showers ahead of him in the future.

"Well, work calls," she decided getting up, dropping a few bills on the table as payment for her coffee and danish, and walked to the door. "Hey this'll be fun. I finally get to see what happens when dinerman becomes vacation. Luke, vacation man, esquire, never without his flannel and compass." Ending her joke with a deep male announcer voice, she winked.

"You sure you're okay with this?"

"Ug! Rory! Love of my life! Child of my heart! We're walking through this airport dragging your incredibly heavy carry-on behind us because you packed a library's worth of books for a three and a half hour flight and you're asking me if I'm okay with this?"

Only then did Rory notice that her mother really was dragging her carry on behind her and groaned, yanking on Lorelai's arm until she stopped in her tracks. With an annoyed sigh she handed Lorelai her small bag and bent down to pick up the larger carry on in her own hands.

"I'm just saying. I'm going to spend the summer in hot, sunny California and you'll be here."

"No, I won't be. I'm going on that trip with Luke, remember?" Rory snickered.

"Yes and I can't believe it. You just barely forgave him for putting tomatoes on your burger last week. How are you two ever going to get through a trip without killing each other?"

"We'll use plastic knives." Rory rolled her eyes.

"Mo-om," she whined.

Lorelai smirked, wrapping an arm around her daughter's shoulders. "You should not be spending this trip worried about me. Have fun. See the sights. Make your dad let you see him in a bathing suit, cuz if you want to know who really looks like Casper, it would be your dad."

Reaching her gate, Rory stopped, grabbing her mother's arm again. She knew her mother so well to understand that often Lorelai's humor was just a cover she used to keep people from knowing what she was really feeling. Though Lorelai's face was lit up and she had a huge grin on, Rory wondered if there was more to it.

"We've never been apart this long before," Rory said. Lorelai pressed her lips together and nodded.

"We've never been apart before at all, except that time I got snowed in at the inn and you ended up staying the night at Babette's, sleeping with the cats." Lorelai played with Rory's hair thoughtfully. "You going to miss me?" Rory instantly saw this as her mother's way of telling her that she is upset but trying to hide it. She dropped her bag to the ground, throwing her arms around her mother.

"More than Diane on Cheers," Rory answered, hugging her mom tight. As she finally pulled back, Lorelai gripped Rory's upper arms tightly, pressing her lips together she wouldn't cry. "Be nice to Luke."

Lorelai tried to smile, choking back her tears in the process. "I'm always nice to Luke." Rory rolled her eyes.

"Liar." They hear Rory's flight being called and Rory took a deep breath. "Okay, I'd better go." Lorelai nodded, slowly letting go of her daughter. Rory picked up her bags, not taking her eyes off her mother as she walked away.

"Call me. Call me a lot," Lorelai said.

"I will."

"Especially Tuesdays." Rory smiled.

"Cause we're Tuesday people," Rory agreed. She dropped her bags and ran back over to Lorelai, throwing her arms around her mom one last time. Giving Lorelai a kiss on the cheek, she let go, wiping her eyes and walked back to her bags. Lorelai gave her a nod, hoping that she took it as a signal that she should turn around and get on the plane.

As she watched her daughter board the plane, she considered Rory's insistence that she be nice to Luke. Her daughter, who was boarding a plane to spend a month with her father, had taken a second in their last moment together to think of Luke. But then again, Luke had always been there for Rory whenever she needed him. Suddenly it dawned on Lorelai that Luke was possibly the male that was most involved in their lives and she wondered for a moment how that had happened. How had he gone from their coffee provider to the man who was always there at the drop of a hat? Now, again, he was there, going on vacation with her, just so she wouldn't be sad and alone. She wondered if he was doing it all for her or if he was getting something out of it too.