In the two weeks since they arrived back in Stars Hollow, things returned to normal. At least, somewhat. Lorelai went back to working at the Independence Inn as usual. Luke went back to his normal days at the diner. It was the time in between, the times that they weren't at work or sleeping, those were where the real changes emerged. She spent more and more time at the diner, lingering for hours at a time over cups of coffee and a cheeseburger. Sometimes just watching him work. Sometimes he'd get a break and would sit down with her and they would just chat, tell stories or jokes, banter as they always had but with a tender gaze that was new. There were also the little looks, the light touches of their hands, the quick kisses they shared in the hi's and goodbye's.
The evenings were all spent together. Luke took Lorelai to dinner at Sniffy's, a small restaurant owned by the closest thing Luke had to family, Buddy and Maisy, close friends of his parents. Lorelai convinced Luke to go to the Black, White and Read Movie Theater with her for a viewing of Gone With The Wind, which Luke proclaimed the worst 5 hours of his life, but secretly knew that there was nothing better than sitting on that couch with Lorelai in his arms. Then there were the simple nights, when Luke would pick up some food at the diner or make some at Lorelai's house and they'd just eat and gab. Afterwards they'd just lay on Lorelai's couch, Lorelai's legs on Luke's lap or Luke's arm around Lorelai's shoulders, and they'd play their newest version of the license plate game. Just running through the alphabet over and over as they opened up more and more about things that they never expected to tell anyone. They were finally realizing how wonderful it could be to find their best friend in the one they love.
Not that either had yet admitted their love to the other. Both were content just to let nature take its course, to take their time working through the relationship, just letting themselves slowly become a part of each other's life without needing to use those three special words to throw themselves deep within each other's life. For the time being, those small changes, those wonderful changes, to their everyday life were enough that they felt comfortable enough to be at home, to be together, to let go of the sadness they both had been feeling for so long.
On this night, just an hour before Lorelai had to leave to go pick up Rory at the airport, they had managed a small together time. This time Luke had made dinner for them up in his apartment, seeing as she had so little time and he still had to go back and work in the diner after she left. "This is nice," Lorelai said as she finally set her fork down, having eaten all the food on her plate. She smiled at Luke, unable to keep the sheer delight of just spending this time with him off her face.
"Sorry I had to cook here, instead of at your place."
He shook his head giving her a knowing look. "Not for me. Your kitchen is better." She wrinkled her nose cutely as she grinned.
"But it's nice anyways, I mean it was nice that we got this time, since I have to go get Rory soon anyways."
"So this is it?" She furrowed her eyebrows. Was he breaking up with her already? "I mean, Rory's home today and then what?"
"Well, uh, I guess our little twosome becomes a threesome," she assured him.
"But is she…"
"Rory's fine with it. No, she's more than fine. She's ecstatic." Lorelai grinned to let him know that she was both thrilled by this and serious about Rory's feelings on the subject. She watched the wheels turn in Luke's mind, knowing that he was slowly processing the fact that within the next few hours he was going to have begin to share her with Rory. The hold he had over her, keeping her from being scared or lost, would be gone because Rory would be there to replace him. Narrowing her eyes like she's dissecting him, she could see the truth in his expression, that he was afraid of losing her, that he was afraid she wouldn't want or need him anymore. Taking his hands in hers as she stood up, she pulled him up to face her. "Luke," she said softly, playing with his fingers, trying to think of how best to explain what was going through her mind. The way he was looking at her, like he feared she was doing what she always did, pulling a 'cut and run', Lorelai knew she had to get these words out soon. "I just… you should know… the thing is…" She stammered and quickly shook her head. "With you, I don't feel so alone anymore, and I know as long as we're together, I never will."
His breath caught in his throat with the force of her words. Sure, Lorelai had admitted how different their relationship was from hers with anyone else and he had seen her smile more in the past two weeks than almost anytime in their three year relationship. But this, this strong statement, her words telling him that she needed him now and forever, this was something different. All he could think to do in response is lean down and capture her lips with his. Sometimes actions speak louder than words, he figured.
Lorelai let him silence her for a few minutes with his lips, opening her mouth to kiss him languidly, knowing that these were kisses she had never experienced before Luke. Though his kisses weren't what made her fall in love with him, they did manage to elicit sensations all over her body that made her feel weak and adored all at the same time.
Finally, with a wink she pulled back, her hands still in his. She led him over to the couch, where they sat, Luke's arm instantly wrapping around her shoulders and she leaned into him, playing with his hand with both of hers. He sighed, kissing the side of her head. "Give me a letter," he said. She glanced up at him, wonder in her eyes and then smiled, knowing exactly what he was getting at.
"A." He chuckled.
"Trying to make it easy for me, are ya?" She shook her head, grinning, the corners of her eyes crinkling. He nodded, giving himself a moment to think. "ABBA."
She frowned, wondering what on earth he was trying to tell her. "My favorite 70s band?" Luke nodded. "And that relates how?"
"It was the first music you put on the car. Dancing Queen, right?" She nodded. "Reminded me of you." Lorelai cocked her head, looking both flattered and flabbergasted at the same time.
"Yeah, but how is that a memory?"
"Lorelai, we created memories on that trip together. Sure, they don't go as far back as Watergate but they're still memories," Luke explained. Lorelai couldn't help but feel her heart fill a little more, everything that this man said, every amazing sentence, even teasing, just lit her up inside. She wasn't sure how he did it.
"Give me a letter," Lorelai requested.
"R." He watched as her smile just grew and knew that she barely had to think before responding.
"The river. You know, Luke that night was amazing. I wanted to be so mad at you, for not opening up, not showing yourself to me like I had. I wanted to be mad about the truck breaking even though it wasn't your fault. But that night changed everything. It was like that walk that Edward and Elinor take in Sense and Sensibility. They really opened up to one another."
"Lorelai, I-" She clamped a hand over his mouth before he could finish telling her that he had no idea what she was talking about. Slowly she removed her hand, looking into his eyes, seeing that this was her moment. She licked her lips.
"Luke, that was the night I fell in love with you," Lorelai said softly, half-hoping he couldn't hear her. Her gaze flicked down to his Adam's apple as she watched him visibly swallow. Gnawing on her lower lip, an uncomfortable feeling came over her. "Sorry, I think that may have been too soon."
He touched his finger to her chin lightly, but applied enough pressure to lift her chin and force her gaze on his. "Lorelai, I knew I loved you before I kissed you, possibly before we ever left on that trip." There, he said it. Sometimes words are also helpful.
Lorelai closed the distance between them, kissing him with such intensity, such passion, that Luke could do little but wrap his arms around her, pulling her closer to him. She wrapped her arms around his neck, just using her lips and fingers to show him how much she loved him. "Luke," she gasped between kisses. "This is more than I've ever looked for."
When she noticed the passengers heading into the airport over at the gate where Rory's plane was supposed to arrive, Lorelai had to hurry up and run over. She had known that her few extra minutes that she had spent with Luke would probably make her late, but she couldn't help it. As much as she was dying to see Rory again after these long four weeks, she just wanted to savor the last few moments when no one else in the world mattered but her and Luke.
She reached the area just as a tall, thin brunette that looked quite familiar to her, walked out. "Rory!" Lorelai called, waving her hands high in the air. Rory's head snapped up immediately, her eyes searching out her mother in the distance.
"Mom!" Rory cried, running towards Lorelai, throwing herself at her mother, holding on as Lorelai wrapped her arms around her daughter to keep them from falling. They hugged tight for a time that could not be measured, but was long enough that each felt assured that she was really missed. "I missed you!"
"Oh Kid, one gigantic ditto from me to you," Lorelai responded, making Rory giggle.
After another moment, they finally let go over each other, allowing Lorelai a chance to drag her eyes over Rory, as if inspecting her. Rory kind of blushed and looked away. "Mom, I'm still me."
"Yeah, you are," Lorelai said softly. "A tanner, more freckled but thankfully not bleach blonde, you." She winked at Rory. "So the flight was all right?"
Rory nodded. "Sure was, they showed Christmas In Connecticut again. I swear they must have a thing for Barbara Stanwyck or a contract with the devil to show that movie both flying there and back."
"Oh no, Sweets, if they had a contract with the devil they would have made you watch The Cable Guy again." Rory groaned. Lorelai shakes her finger at her daughter. "Oh no, you can't complain, you forced me to see that." Rory raised her hands in the air in submission. "Come on, let's go get your bags and then we can pick up something at Al's," Lorelai said wrapping an arm around her daughter and kissing Rory's head, but Rory stubbornly refused to move.
"Al's?" Rory asked like that was the worst idea Lorelai ever had.
"Sure, you like Al's. It's Philippines week there."
Rory shook her head, her face screwed up like she was confused. "Mom, what about Luke's?" Lorelai's eyebrows raised and Rory wondered if it was possible that her mother paled a bit. "Mom?"
"You – you want to go to Luke's?" Lorelai asked as if it was an odd request, after three years of eating and drinking coffee there almost daily.
"Mom!" Rory chastised her. "Are you scared of taking me to Luke's now that he's your boyfriend?" Lorelai bit her bottom lip, having been wondering this herself. "Mom, I'm totally okay with this, you know that right?" Lorelai sighed, and chuckled to herself.
"Funny, I feel like I just had this conversation with him." Lorelai and Rory shared a look, coming to an understanding through their eyes. Finally Lorelai gave in and nodded, squeezing Rory to her. "So spending time with Christopher was good?"
"Yeah, I mean, he tries. But it's not the same as being here with you and Luke."
"Me and Luke?" Rory just rolled her eyes. "Rory?"
"What, I can't hang out at his diner everyday and not miss him when I'm gone?"
Lorelai stared at her young daughter. For years, Rory had complained about Christopher, whining that he never came to visit, crying that he would forget to call or send birthday card, begging for Lorelai to make him let her into his life. Now, just when Christopher seemed to finally be maturing, enough to possibly be a father to his child, Rory no longer felt the same. It seemed to Lorelai that her daughter wanted to spend time with her father, but no longer needed him as a father figure, no longer needed him as the male role model in her life. Through all of this thinking, Lorelai realized, Luke hadn't just become a home for herself, but for Rory as well. It was even more apparent to her than it had been before that Luke was the one she had been looking for all along. To love her. To love her daughter. To love everything and everyone in her life. And to be there when he was all she had in the world.
"Yeah Hun, it's okay," Lorelai agreed. "Now let's go get your bags so that Luke's not closed before we get there."
"Mom, I'm sure he'd let us in anyways." Lorelai smiled to herself and nodded. Yes. Yes, he would.
"Lu-uke!" Lorelai called as she opened the door to the diner, pushing Rory inside ahead for her. "Honey, we're home!" Luke glanced over his shoulder at her, giving her a dirty look.
Rory grabbed Lorelai's arm and dragged her to the table by the window. Luke couldn't help but smile. She had come back. He had tried his hardest not to be worried about the change that was sure to occur in their relationship with the return of Rory, especially after Lorelai's sincere words just a few hours before, but still the fear had remained. Until now.
Happily he grabbed the handles of two coffee mugs off the counter and carried the coffee pot with him over to the table where Lorelai and Rory were sitting. "So…. Rory, the plane landed on time?" he asked, shooting Lorelai a wink before focusing his attentions on Rory as he poured them coffee.
"Oh sure, plane landed on time, although someone was almost late," Rory said pointedly. Lorelai grins, looking up at Luke, who visibly pales. She reaches over and lightly touches his arm. "Hey Luke, I'm dying for one of your fantastic cheeseburgers. I swear I dreamed of them when I was in California."
"You – you did?" Rory nodded. "You got it. On the house." He glanced at Lorelai. "You too?"
"What a guy, he anticipates my needs," Lorelai flirted. Luke just shook his head and walked away. Lorelai winked at Rory. "Hey, you mind if I…?" Lorelai motioned with her head over at Luke.
"Sure, but don't take so long that my burger gets cold."
"You got it."
Lorelai pushed herself out of her chair and walked over to where Luke stood behind the counter. She grabbed his arm and pulled him behind her into the back storage room. "What are you doing? Lorelai!" Instead of responding, she cupped his face her hands and kissed him hard on the mouth. Though he wondered her reasoning, the sensation from the warm feeling of her lips pressed against his quickly clouded his brain beyond any sense of comprehension. Luke's hands quickly went to Lorelai's hips, pulling her closer to him as her arms went around his neck, her fingers finding their usual place, as of the past two weeks, in his hair. He moaned into her mouth as she opened her mouth to him, their tongues dueling.
"Luke," she panted as she pulled back. She laid a hand on his chest, gasping for breath.
"What – what was that for?" he managed, gasping for breath as well. Lorelai grinned.
"Just wanted to make sure you were aware that this didn't change things. Okay, gotta freshen up, I'm sure you're wearing more lipstick than I am right now." On that note, Lorelai turned on her heel and walked out.
Luke stood there for a second, just staring at the doorway. Well if he had any fears left, that was all erased. He wiped the back of his hand across his mouth to remove any trace of lipstick she had left. Walking out of the storeroom, he spotted Rory sitting alone at the table. He grabbed the two plates of cheeseburgers and walked over to her. "Here ya go Ma'am," he said with a soft smile.
"Thanks Luke." He wavered for a moment, just lingering by the table. "You want to join us?" Rory finally asked.
"Well I don't want to…."
"No, no, of course, sit. Join us." Rory patted the seat next to her. With only a slight hesitation, Luke sat down. He glanced over towards the bathroom and the back at Rory. "Luke? Did you always want to be with my mom?" Luke took a deep breath. How much should he tell Rory? Would she think he was crazy or obsessed if he told her the truth?
Rory watched him struggle for what to say and just knew the answer. Then again, she had known it all along. Long before her mother and Luke had probably ever considered it, she had seen the truth behind the looks they gave each other. "Luke, why did you wait so long?"
"Well I – I thought. I thought she deserved a prince. You know, 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. I'm – I mean – I'm not a prince."
"But you're all those things to her. Luke you don't have to be a prince to be with my mother. You just have to be… well… you." Rory gave Luke a shy smile, hoping that he understood how pleased she was with the new relationship. He nodded, smiling back at her.
Lorelai walked back over to the table, settling herself in the chair across from Rory and next to Luke. "Ah, a cheeseburger in paradise!" Lorelai exclaimed. Rory giggled.
Instead of taking a bite of cheeseburger, Lorelai wrapped her hand around Luke's hand that was set closest to her. He quickly interlaced their fingers as he chatted casually with Rory. They were chatting, like two old casual friends, close friends, who were intimately settled into each other's life. It was like this was the way it had always been. As Lorelai looked from her daughter to the man she loved, she could only think that this was the way it should have always been. She was settled. She was at home. She certainly was eating a cheeseburger in paradise.