Summary: Something in him said that she had come because he needed her, because he had asked, because, after all, she loved him and what wouldn't she do for the man she loved. A post season 6 LL fic.
Disclaimer: Gilmore Girls is owned by the WB and Dorothy Parker Drank Here Productions, not me.
Authors Notes: This has been quite a summer project for me. It was my goal to take this time off of school to write a fic, a good fic, really concentrate on improving my writing style and this is what has come from that.
I want to extend a huge, gigunundo thank you to my beta, Erica Bing. Yep, we were both beta virgins when we started, her first time being a beta and my first time using one, and I couldn't have done it without you. Who knows, maybe Colonel Clucker would have always remained General Chicken.
The crowd has reached mob level by the time she takes her first step into the center of town off of the path from her house that has become worn from the years of high heels and kid shoes treading over it. For a moment she almost hesitates to take that first step off of the path onto the curb from where she will see the bright sun shining over the center of the town she knows so well. She notices the grass is cut on the lawn, specific to Taylor's instructions because no one, especially a gardener, would want to argue with Taylor and remind him that when it snows there is no reason to cut the grass. She notices the stores around the town have already started putting up decorations for Christmas even though it won't occur for another 13 days, certain to annoy certain people that believe it's idiotic to celebrate the holiday before December 25th. Yet, she can't take her eyes off the crowd in front of the diner, lifting sounds of rancorous grumblings on such a scale that she can almost hear every word from the opposite side of the square.
She covertly makes her way towards the assembly, using every discrete movement possible to keep from being noticed by the mass of seemingly angry citizens gathered at the front door to the well known eating establishment. Craning her neck as she hides in the entrance to the soda shoppe, she can see nothing unusual about the front of the diner. There is no sign posted except for the one that reads closed. The knee-jerk response to that realization is instantaneous. At ten o'clock on a Monday morning the sign still reads closed.
Without a second thought, she pushes her way through the group of people, no longer caring who sees her or what impression she is making. Standing on her tip toes, her hand feels for the key over the doorway. Winter has made the metal cold to her touch and she gasps as her fingers make initial contact with it. She quickly unlocks the door and opens it just enough to let herself in and no one else. Keeping her eyes averted, she ignores those packed outside, including Kirk who is smashed against the window. She flips the lock back to ensure that no one else will be able to enter the diner and moves quickly through the empty place to the backstairs.
She taps softly on the window of the door reading William's Hardware Office, using just the nail of her index finger. Mostly she is unsure of what she's going to find if she opens the door. Will he be there? Will he throw her out? It's been so long. Five months. Three weeks. Sixteen days. Same as Rory. She had thought at one point that the ache in her heart would slowly dissipate, but it hasn't. It's her constant reminder of what she did, of the person she became.
Finally realizing that he's not responding to her light raps on the door, she turns the knob on the door and takes a few steps in. The apartment still retains the same familiarity as it once did, the smell of his cologne mixed with burgers and grease. The soft light that creeps through the windows in the late morning sends beams across the room and over to the couch onto the figure slouched in front of it.
He sits against the couch, his knees bent and feet on the floor. His arms wrap around his knees holding a beer in one and a phone in the other. Like the Thinker, he is posed in the position that she had always referred to as his mulling position: leaning forward, head bent down, his chin on his chest. But this time, somehow, it's different. All the times before he still seemed open, like the only one that could break through the invisible wall that he had erected was her, and she could do it with only a few soft words, a slight touch. Yet, she knows without trying, that the invisible wall has solidified, even to her, possibly especially to her.
But she can't let it go. She can't let his own impenetrable façade keep her from attempting to break through and get to him. So she quickly minimizes the distance between them, her heels clicking on the wooden planks as she crosses the floor. Yet still, he remains as he was before: frozen, unmoving, limp. The only noise shattering the silence is the constant beeping noise from the phone that has apparently been off the hook for quite some time. She reaches down and extracts the phone from his hand, her eyes watching his fingers tense only slightly in response as she hangs the phone back up, her other hand unwrapping the phone cord from around her. "Luke," she says in a low voice, as if the word had always been just on the tip of her tongue. Her eyes run over him, from his untied shoes to his shaking fingers to the flannel that has been pulled up on only one arm finally landing on his semi-mussed hair sans cap.
Kneeling down next to him, she cups his chin in her hand, lifting it and turning his face towards her. His eyes open slightly, the lids seeming heavy with the weight of whatever has driven him to this ragged form that sits next to her. She is frightened by him, by the grey color to his face, by the languid movements of his eyes. Even on the worst days, on the two November 30ths she lived through with him, she had never seen him like this, like he was slowed down to the point that she could almost sense her own time was going faster than his. "Luke," she says again, this time in a soft whisper letting the words sneak into his ears little by little. As she waits, her other hand drifts up, her fingers running through his soft hair, smoothing it, soothing him.
"Lorelai," he says, as if it's a question more than a name. His glazed over eyes, travel the lines of her face, trying to see her, see deep within her. Though her expression is light, the edges of her pink lips curled upwards, the blue of her eyes clear as the sky out the window, she still seems closed off to him, like someone he used to know.
Her lips curve further into a small smile in response to her name, loving the sound of her name on his lips almost as much as any time before. "What happened?" she asks him, hoping that he'll tell her despite the reason for his absence from her life for the past few months. "Is it April?"
"No," he manages, the word breaking over his tongue as if he's saying it without actually processing that he's saying it.
She frowns, unsure whether he's not opening her because it's her or because he can't actually gather the energy to form the words. Shoving the memory out of her mind of the last time she pushed him to speak when he was still in deliberation mode, that lead to a month full of darkness for herself, she attempts to extract more information. "Is it Jess? Liz?"
The creases in his forehead gather as he tries to either process her words or consider his response. "Yes." She tilts her head, sitting back on her legs.
"Yes? Or Jess? You said yes? Yes?" she demands, the questions pinging against his brain, keeping his focus on her rather than his inner monologue. His eyelids lift even further and his lips twist slightly. "You said yes," she decides, knowing that his small response can only mean that. She knows him so well. She's known him for so long. Even before their kiss on the porch of the inn in which all her dreams came true, she had known him. She had felt his quiet nature beneath that flannel covered hermit-like exterior. He wasn't just the man who made the coffee, who served the burgers, who grumped monosyllabic sentences to his customers. It was more than that and only she could understand that. It was she alone that knew the secret that really was Luke Danes. "What happened to Liz?"
She watches as his lips form a straight line across his face. Her hand moves from his hair to his arm, gently running down it to his hand and to his other hand to remove the beer bottle. It's mostly empty, she notes with little surprise. "She's gone. Liz. TJ. Car. Accident. Gone," he gasps out in one word sentences, each one causing her heart to squeeze tighter and tighter.
She had never really gotten to know Liz past the few times talking to her as Luke's sister. She and Liz had never really talked on their own or been truly acquainted with each other as individuals instead of women of importance in Luke's life, but she had liked Liz. She had been fond of Liz's warm, embracing personality, always optimistic, always delighted in everything even when her son and her brother moped through their lives around her. Mostly what she liked in Liz, was her love for Luke, her ability to see a soft side of him without actually being able to reach it, her faith that both Luke and Jess were good people at heart.
A strangled sob breaks the silence of the room and for a moment she wonders if it came from her mouth. He pulls his head away from her hand, the palms of his hands pressing into his eyes as he tries to hide the tears from her. She just wraps her hands around his head, her fingers threading through his hair, and pulls his head to her shoulder. "She's gone," he chokes out, his hands sneaking around her, grasping the back of her shirt within his fists.
She can feel his hot tears on her neck, the warm water almost scorching in the cool air of winter. It's not like she hasn't seen him cry before. Rory's graduation from Chilton. The summer day, a few weeks after their engagement, when he found her sobbing in bed holding Colonel Clucker tight against her body. But she had never seen him let loose over something in his own life. He had lost his parents and lived through the anniversary of their deaths year after year. He had lost her, more than once, including the times before they were a couple. Yet, he hadn't shed a tear.
It stuns her to witness his extreme reaction to his own words, as if all his pent up emotions from everything that has cast a dark shadow over his life is all coming out in this one insolated moment.
She kisses the top of his head at the line where his hairline curves around his skin, offering the most comfort she thinks he'll take from her. "It's going to be okay," she whispers in his ear. "It's going to be okay."
With that he instantly retracts from her, leaning back fully against the couch, his fists drawn up to his shoulders as if mortified at having actually touched her. His expression is a mix of bewilderment and sadness as he looks at her, finally seeing her through his pained eyes. "No it's not," he finally utters. The corners of her lips draw in, her lips pressed together in sympathy. Seeing that he's pulled completely away from her, she stands, wanting to stay and be there for him as he always was for her, but not wanting to hurt him further with her presence that can only remind him of more upsetting memories. His eyes follow her, a flash of wonder as he blinks. "Where are you going?"
"I was just…" She trails off, considering that maybe he doesn't want her to leave, that maybe he'll accept a little help from her. "What do you need to do? Did you call Jess?" She watches his chest rise as he draws in a breath. He shakes his head a little in response. She nods. "Okay, call Jess. What else?" she asks, trying to get him to focus on this, rather than the pain he's feeling that she knows he's not even near ready to deal with yet.
"New York. I gotta go to New York. TJ's family," he responds, unknowingly throwing himself into her plan to keep his mind occupied.
"Okay. Okay. So packing is involved. Calling April. A note for Caesar and Lane. Throwing out that Bud sitting next to you so that it doesn't stink up the place while you're gone so bad that you actually have to go out and buy those incense sticks I've been recommending," she says, pointing to a finger on her other hand as she lists off each necessary step. She forces a grin on her face after her little joke to see if she can get him to show any sign that he's really hearing her, but he just nods. "Here," she says, grabbing the phone off the wall and handing it to him. "Call Jess and April."
He looks at her questioningly, finally noticing his daughter and his nephew's names rolling off her tongue without even the slightest wrinkle of her nose. There's no trace of antipathy towards the two in her voice at all. With the knowledge of this acceptance, he pushes himself off the ground and takes the phone from her. His eyes bore into her for a moment, as if he's wondering why she's there, why she's still there.
Then he returns his attentions to the task at hand and dials the numbers. As he puts the phone to his ear, he glances back at her. "Stay," he says, soft enough that she wonders if she just imagined it, but the look on his face says otherwise. She nods to him, taking her purse off of her shoulder as a signal that she's agreeing to his request.
Moving to the couch, she settles herself on the edge in the middle, setting her purse on the ground next to her feet. Her head is nested in her hands, elbows on her knees, as she watches him try to explain the news that he has yet to completely comprehend to his nephew and daughter. Though completely covered by the shadows of the door reflecting off the sun, he still looks completely beautiful to her, his strong stance, the lines of his face that only reveal years of caring for others, including herself. To her it's amazing, that even in this time of such misery her heart does a back flip at the sight of him, just as it always had since her first glimpse of him, just as it always will until her last.
Finally, after what seems like hours and hours to her, he sets the phone back in its cradle with a small sad sigh from his lips. She doesn't move, doesn't speak, just waits for him to notice her again. After all, he was the one to ask her to stay.
His eyes glide from the maroon phone, down the wooden leg of the small table to the lines in the wood of the floor, once tread on by his father's shoes, and his gaze settles there, lost in the memory of his father until finally she can't take it anymore. "Luke?" she says again in the low voice she had used first when she walked into the apartment. His eyes travel across the floor to her strappy, clearly uncomfortable, black shoes, up her legs to her knees where her hands lay, clenched tightly, and finally up to her face and her eyes which have always drawn him in.
"He's meeting me in New York," he responds. Lorelai nods slightly looking around, finally noticing the six pack of beer, now a one-pack, that had been next to him on the floor as well as the four bottles set in various places around where he had been sitting. She lifts her eyes to his again.
"You're going to drive to New York?" she asks with a hint of reproach in her voice and he grimaces. It actually relieves her to know that the fact that he's not quite sober is apparent to him. It means that he's actually somewhat aware, his foot is actually part way in the real world, despite the recent turn of events. "You can't drive to New York."
"Then you drive," he answers simply, as if that's the only option, as if he had already asked her to join him and she had agreed. Had this been a year ago, she knows she would have jumped at this; he wouldn't have had to ask. But it's not a year ago. The fact that she hasn't been in the same room with him since early June should make it obvious enough that it's not a year ago. "I can't do this alone." And she understands. He's willing to let her in just a bit, willing to let go of his anger for her unfaithfulness just enough to let her comfort him. Because that's exactly what she had done those few months ago. She had let her many disappointments in Christopher go by the wayside for just a moment so that she wouldn't feel so alone. "Please," he begs, his pleading eyes filled with tears that she's sure he's unaware of.
She wonders for only a moment why he's choosing her to join him. Is it because she was the only one to come in? Is it because he doesn't have time to find anyone else? None of the answers matter. He needs her. He wants her to be the one to comfort him. He needs her to be the arms to hold him up, the shoulder to cry on, the mind to think things through when he can't just as he had for her whenever she had fallen to pieces. "Okay," she agrees as if she had any other choice.