Today

It had been a long day. He opened the diner at six this morning as usual, but Cesar was sick, and Zach couldn't make it in until 4pm. By seven the dinner crowd had cleared out, and he thought that he might be able to close a little early, excited by the prospect of heading over to Lorelai's a little sooner than expected. Unfortunately, the girls from the soccer team barreled through the door, high on their latest kill, and clamored for a victory feast. He was still their sponsor, frankly, he was a little afraid to say no to them because he had seen the damage that they could inflict. By the time he had provided enough red meat to satiate their blood lust and cleaned the place up, it was almost ten o'clock. He quickly showered and beat a path to her door. Lorelai was firmly entrenched on the sofa watching a movie on TV. He sat next to her and hung his head back on the couch. She looked at him, seeing the fatigue pulling at his eyes and she patted her thigh in invitation. Luke stretched out on Lorelai's couch, and laid his head in her lap; he closed his eyes and sighed contentedly as she distractedly ran her fingers through his hair.

Is this really happening?

Yes, it's really happening.

It had been two months since Rory's Bon Voyage party. Two months since they had kissed. Two months since they finally found their way back to each other. Despite the initial awkwardness, Luke was happier than he had ever been before in his life. They talked to each other every day. They had spent almost every free moment together. They talked about the big stuff, they talked about the little stuff, they talked about the serious stuff, and the silly stuff. Sometimes, they hardly talked at all, they were content just to sit in the same room while he did his paperwork and she read a book.

In these past two months, there had been joy and there had been doubts. In these past two months, there had been declarations and recriminations. In these past two months, there had been whispered words of love and angry shouts filled with pain. But, most importantly, these last two months had filled Luke with a sense of belonging that he had never felt before. He felt calm. At first, he had a hard time coming to grips with this new sensation, but now he understood.

Yesterday

While Lorelai snored softly next to him, Luke found himself immersed in an intense study of the bedroom ceiling. They had a fight. Well, not a fight, a "spat", as evidenced by the spatula that Lorelai had pulled from the kitchen drawer and waved at him threateningly. It was stupid. Such a stupid thing to get upset over. Lorelai had received a postcard from Christopher. He was in Paris with Gigi and Sherry. There was nothing intimate written on the card. She did not hide the card from him. Instead, she handed it to him silently as soon as she walked through the door holding the mail. Of course, just the thought of Christopher was enough to get his back up. He was short with her, she got irritated. They began to snipe at each other as they moved around the kitchen preparing their dinner. Finally, she pulled the spatula from the drawer and pointed it at his chest.

A fight cannot be diffused in the moment, but a spat can easily be diffused with the use of a spatula.

"Enough!" she said loudly, stopping him mid-sentence. She lowered the spatula, and continued in a softer tone. "That's enough, Luke. When are you finally going to accept the fact that you are the man I love? What do I have to do to make you believe me? How can I make you believe in us?"

Luke stopped, stunned by her abrupt end to their "spat". He sat down heavily at the table and rubbed his forehead tiredly. "I don't know, Lorelai. I want to, really I do." Luke looked up at her with desperation in his eyes. "I am trying. I guess that I am still feeling a little unsure, you know?"

"I know." Lorelai said, as she pulled her chair up next to him and took his hand in hers. "I know that you are trying, but we can't go on if we can't get this behind us. You have to let it go, Luke, please let it go."

He nodded. She rose, kissed the top of his head distractedly, and muttered something about taking a bubble bath. They did not discuss the card or the fight for the rest of the evening. The anger and irritation were gone, but things were still a bit tender between them. They passed the evening quietly in front of the TV.

While Luke tried to get to sleep that night his whole relationship with Lorelai played like a movie on a continuous loop in his head.

Please, Luke. Please, please, please.

How many cups have you had this morning?

He never could say no to her. There were those who thought that he was nothing but a lap dog for her to play with when it amused her. Hell, sometimes he even thought so, but those people never saw the things that she did for him. They didn't know about her sincere attempts to get him to accept Rachel's return, her advice and support given without reserve when Jess moved in with him, or the pain it caused her when he froze her out after Rory's accident. They didn't know about the long talks about family, friends, hopes and dreams that often took place as he was closing the diner. Once they were a couple, she showed her devotion in other ways. The gentle touch of her hand would soothe his worried brow. Her unflagging humor could coax a grin from him even when he was frustrated with the world. On those nights when he was almost too tired to walk, she would force him into a hot bath, squeeze in behind him and massage his taut shoulders while they dissected their days. No one knew that the quick kiss over the counter coupled with her "Bye Doll!" could give him a happy feeling that withstood even Taylor Doose.

In the beginning, he had been so hopeful. He had been so happy that they were finally going to happen, that it never occurred to him that it wouldn't be forever. Then, the doubts began to creep in. First, it had been her parents. He knew that he was not what they had in mind for Lorelai. He knew that before he had even re-met them. He had hoped that they would be able to look past the differences in their backgrounds and see that he was a good guy. He hoped that his devotion to making Lorelai happy would be enough to overcome their objections. As time went by, he realized that it was never going to happen that way. They may tolerate him because they had to in order to keep Lorelai in their lives, but they would never accept him for who he was. He could learn to live with that, but he hated that they could and would use him to hurt her.

She never said anything directly bad about me or the diner or anything else concerning me.

She's good.

And all I did was thank her. Over and over. She'd hammer me, and I'd thank her.

Of course, the biggest problem he had was with Christopher. The man was like an infection that they couldn't shake, and no amount of antibiotics could knock him out. Emily and Christopher together - there's a lethal weapon for you! They were the cause of the first break up. She stood there in the market begging him. Begging him to listen to her, to believe her, to be with her, but he couldn't. He couldn't leave them both open to that pain. He couldn't deal with the crushing doubts that were pressing on him.

Luke. I am all in. I'm all in. Please trust me. Let me show you what a great girlfriend I can be. But I can't wait. We can't wait. I need to know what you're thinking right now.

Fine. You want to know what I'm thinking right now? That I can't be in this relationship. It's too much.

They managed to get past it eventually, but not without enduring that horrible time apart. The scars were fresh. They were so careful with each other after that. Their relationship was like carrying around a priceless piece of china or something, hoping that no one jostled it or that you didn't trip or drop it. All the while, they had hopes and dreams of a future. The only problem was that they were both too skittish to share these dreams with each other. He had let the words of a bitter 20 year old kid color his dreams, and he kept his mouth shut.

This town, it's all you are, and it's not enough. She's going to get bored, and you can't take her anywhere. You're here forever.

And then, that magical night, she proposed. She asked and he answered without hesitation. Was it the wrong time? Probably. Was he going to miss that chance when it came his way? No way.

Luke, will you marry me?

What?

Luke will you...

Yes!

Well, you don't have to answer so...

Yes!

We can take a minute to...

No!

Of course, it was the wrong time. Lorelai and Rory were not speaking. Lorelai was devastated. Luke was caught in the middle. They were unable to go forward; they were unwilling to go back. For months, they were in limbo, and the frustration began to mount.

It reared its ugly head the minute he heard Christopher's voice on the answering machine and saw the frightened, guilty look on Lorelai's face.

OK, see...Once we're married, you're not going to be able to run away to your clubhouse anymore. You're going to have to join a rotisserie baseball league with the rest of the men.

When we're married, huh? Gee, when's that going to be?

I brought you something to eat. You're going to need sustenance if we're going to go another 10 rounds.

I'm never going to be okay with Christopher being in your life.

I'm always going to have Christopher in my life.

Now he knows. That was the beginning of the end for them. The next day, the whirlwind swept in and blew them all away. First, April, the daughter that he never knew existed came into his diner, plucked a hair from his head and told him that he could be her dad. So, he finds himself wandering around a school science fair only to find out that the test was positive, and that he was indeed her father. Then, Lorelai pranced into the diner and announced that Rory was back. She was so happy. Ecstatic that Rory returned to her, and excited that they could finally plan their wedding. Luke felt as though the walls were closing in on him. He lost it. His world began spinning out of control. He couldn't tell Lorelai about April. What if she didn't want him anymore? What if she didn't want a 12 year old step-daughter that no one knew? What if she was disgusted with him for not knowing that his daughter was out there in the world without him? He didn't know how to be a dad. He didn't know if he wanted to be a dad. He didn't know if April even wanted a dad. But, he had to try. He couldn't not try. Maybe, once he got more comfortable, it would be easier to tell Lorelai. So, he called Anna and made arrangements to get to know his daughter.

There's no great time to be a parent, Luke, you just are one. And if you're gonna make plans with my kid and get her hopes up and then cancel, then our deal is cancelled.

He was scared. He was like a juggler, trying to keep it all in the air. Then, Lorelai suggested postponing the wedding. He was so relieved - one less thing to worry about.

Idiot. That was the one thing that you wanted the most. But was that enough? No, he just went blundering on. He was so wrapped up in trying to get to know April that he pushed Lorelai away. He did it on purpose. Lorelai was such a force of nature; he was scared that April would love her, and not him. Stupid, but true.

I'm just saying, let me be part of it.

No.

Why?

Because it's too soon.

Why is it too soon?

Because the minute you get involved in her life, it'll be all over for me.

What? That's ridiculous.

No, it's not ridiculous. You're colorful and funny. You're practically a cartoon character. Kids love you. I wouldn't hang out with me either after meeting you.

He knew that he had hurt her. Deep down, he knew it and he didn't care. All he cared about was building a relationship with his daughter. He thought that Lorelai would wait. After all, he had waited for her for all of those years. He had been hurt by her careless words a hundred times. He waited patiently because that is what he did. Unfortunately, he had forgotten that Lorelai was not like him. Patience was not her long suit. Hell, patience was not even in her vocabulary. He had forgotten that, and then it all blew up in his face.

I know. I'm sor… God, no! I'm not gonna defend myself! For months now, I've been skulking around not saying anything, not having an opinion, like I'm Clarence Thomas or something, and I… I'm done with that. I-I've been waiting for a long time, and I don't want to wait anymore.

I have to think this through.

No!

I have April!

You're gonna have to figure out how April fits into our lives, not the other way around.

I'm trying.

Well, try married!

Just wait!

No! I'm not waiting! It's now or never!

He hadn't really meant never, had he? Looking back now, he thinks that maybe he did. Maybe he didn't really believe that they could make it last. Maybe he could sense her slipping away, and that's why he chose to invest more in his relationship with April. He just didn't realize that the reason he was losing Lorelai was that he had shut her out of his life. And she had done the one thing that she knew would hurt him the most.

I slept with Christopher.

And so it was over. In a way, he was oddly relieved. He didn't have to deal with the Gilmore clan and their on-going dramas. He could just go back to living his life. April seemed to be glad for him to just be who he was. He no longer felt the need to apologize to her or to anyone else for just being Luke. Maybe it was just easier to give up that dream of having it all, and just be happy to have his kid in his life. Maybe he was never meant to have all of that, anyway. And, maybe Lorelai was meant to have more than a guy who ran a diner in a tiny town in Connecticut.

It's not your fault. It's not my fault. It's just, we're not right together, you know? You're you, I'm me. I just… want to stop pretending we're something else. You don't belong with me. You belong with someone like Christopher. And, I just... let's just stop fighting it, okay? You go back to being Lorelai Gilmore. I'll go back to being the guy in the diner who pours your coffee.

So she married him. Luke had convinced himself that he was better off without her in his life. That he was actually doing alright without the spark that she gave him. He hoped that eventually, they would be able to regain some of their past friendship. When April was sick, he didn't even stop to think about who he was calling. She did not question why he called her. It was just the natural thing to do. She came to the hospital because that is what you do for people that you care about. Then he saw the ring. He saw the wedding ring on her finger and it hit him in the gut. He had lost it all. The dream was gone. She would never be his. Those were the darkest days. In the beginning he had his hurt and anger to sustain him. But when he saw that ring, all of the anger in the world could not shield him from the loss that he felt. He tried to move on. He focused all of that love and devotion on his daughter, and then, Anna told him that she was taking her away from him too. It was too much to bear. He lost Lorelai because of his need to know April, and now he was going to lose April too! He had to fight. He fought for April in the way that he should have fought for Lorelai.

That she's my kid, all right? She's our kid. She's not just yours. And I'm not gonna let you treat me this way. I'm her father. God, why do I even have to say that? I mean, April and I, we have this relationship, okay? A-and you can't just decide things. That's not how this works, okay? I mean we have to make decisions together, decisions about April. And I will fight you. I will fight you for that, Anna, if I have to. I have rights. I'm her father, and I have rights.

And fight he did. He fought Christopher in the square, and Anna in the courts. Luckily for him, in court Lorelai fought for him too. When he heard her letter read in the hearing, his heart almost burst from his chest. He still loved her. He couldn't help it. He had loved her for too long to do anything else. Hearing her words read aloud made him realize that she had loved him too. She had loved him, and the last words she had written validated that.

Once Luke Danes is in your life, he is in your life forever.

When he heard the rumors that her marriage was crumbling, he did not do a happy dance. He knew that the loss of her marriage would hurt her deeply, and he ached for her. He waited and watched as she picked up the pieces and tried to move on. That day in the hay bale maze, they had stopped to greet each other, and it all came tumbling out. There was no wailing or crying, no blame or recriminations, just a simple sincere apology on both parts for the pain that they had caused each other. After that, she came into the diner again. It was weird. It was awkward. It was the happiest day of his life. They began to talk again. He took her car shopping. He arranged to have her beloved Jeep brought back to life. She began to tease him again and offer her sage advice. This time he listened. He listened carefully that night in Casey's when she sang a song of regret and undying love, all the while looking at him. He listened when he heard her tell Patty and Babette that it didn't mean anything. They were right back where they started. Words unspoken. Hurt feelings. Fear of rejection. Then, Rory got the job that would take her away from them. He planned to party to make the town feel better. He planned the party in order to give Rory a chance to say goodbye to everyone. He planned the party to show Lorelai how much he really cared. And then she kissed him. And he kissed her back. He didn't know what was going to happen between them. All he knew is that Luke Danes wanted to be in her life forever.

Laying awake at 1 am. Luke Danes finally realized what he should have known all along. He finally saw what he should have seen so long ago. He was in her life. He was her life, just as she was his. He had earned his place in her world, and he intended to keep it.

Today

Luke opened his eyes to find Lorelai gazing at him with a soft smile playing around her lips. The movie had long since ended, yet she continued to stroke his soft hair. He gazed up at her, saw it all there in her eyes. All of the love that she had to give was shining down on him like the warm rays of the sun. He basked in her warmth. He did deserve it all. He did deserve to be with her. It just took him a while to realize it. A smile quirked at his lips. Something like eleven years, he thought to himself.

"I can see the wheels turning in there. What are you thinking about, mister?" Lorelai asked with a smile.

Luke reached up to twist one of his curls around his finger. "I was thinking about you." he replied.

"Good things, I hope?" she asked looking down at her hands nervously.

He sat up and turned to face her. He cupped her cheek in the palm of her hand and waited until her eyes met his. When he spoke, his gaze was steady and his voice was strong. "I just wanted to tell you that I am the guy for you, Lorelai Gilmore."

"Luke," Lorelai sighed happily as she rested her forehead against his. "I've been trying to tell you that for years!"