A/N: This will be the last installment in my little walk on the dark side. Thank you to all of you who read and reviewed. And now, I return to the land of fluff – rainbows, unicorns, clowns, little cute furry… and I'm out…
He walked through the door, tossed his coat over the back of the nearest chair and walked directly to the refrigerator for a beer, twisting off the cap and flipping it carelessly to the countertop. He walked through his apartment without turning on a lamp, instead using the glow from the streetlights below to guide him. He walked over to the windows and looked down at the square below as he pulled the rest of his shirttail from his waistband and took a long swallow of his icy cold beer. He stared down at the Christmas display, which was now crushed, broken and in complete disarray. He smirked down at it and thought; At least I'm not the only wreck around here.
He flexed his right hand convulsively feeling the ache of his bruised knuckles and smiling to himself. Man, it felt good to hit that bastard again. He winced as he turned from the window and dropped down into his battered old chair. Of course, this time, Christopher got a few of his own shots in, instead of just taking it like the sucker punch Luke had dished out last May. That's okay, Luke thought with a shrug, still felt damn good. He picked at the label on his bottle with his thumbnail and wondered, But why was he coming after me? He shook his head, unwilling to waste time trying to figure that schmuck out. Who cares? All I know is that when Sissyboy pulled his fruity little scarf off, it was game on! Oh, I wanted to smash his smug face in, he thought with a sigh. Why? Why, why, why? I should be past it by now. She's married. To him. It's over, gone, dead, he reminded himself. But Christopher had a head full of steam over something, and he was directing it at me, he mused. Trouble in paradise? he thought snidely. It's not like I slept with his fiancée, sorry wife, he thought as a fresh shot of pain sliced through him. He cooled it with another pull on the beer bottle.
He stuck the bottle between his thighs and rubbed his sore knuckles. He knew he should get some ice or something to put on his hand to keep the swelling down, but he didn't care. The pain didn't bother him. If there was one thing Luke Danes was used to, it was pain. Actually, now he welcomed it. Because along with pain came his good friend anger, and he had felt the anger slipping away lately. That wasn't good. He needed the anger now. He needed it to fuel him, to keep him going, to make him open his eyes each day, because if he didn't have the strength to fight for April, he would have nothing. Nothing at all, he thought as the pain washed over him, granting him much needed relief from the sadness.
He didn't want to be sad. He didn't want to feel wretched and pathetic. He wanted to feel strong. He wanted to keep moving. Not working through the pain, but with it, letting it prod him along, and keep him alive. He knew that if he felt the pain, that he was still there, still feeling something, anything other than the emptiness he had been feeling since Anna announced her intention to move April to New Mexico without any thought as to her relationship to her father. Basically telling him that she was severing that relationship, and trying to cut him out of April's life. He couldn't let that happen. Not now. Not now that I know her. Not now that I love her. Not now that I need her, he thought biting his lip. He tasted the metallic twang of blood in his mouth, and his lips twitched into a small smile. Ah, pain, he thought dryly as he waited for pain's companion to enter.
I don't care what Jim says, I will win, he thought as he got up from the chair, cringing when he felt the sharp pain in his side. He rubbed his bruised ribs and tried to take a long steady breath. "I have rights," he said out loud. "I have to have some rights, damn it," he muttered as he slammed the bottle down on top of the television and began pacing, rubbing his sore right hand. He stopped dead in his tracks and whispered, "Anger management," as he gazed down at his skinned knuckles. "Oh God," he said in a horrified voice when he realized what he may have just sealed his fate with one stupid fight. He pressed his right hand to his stomach as he ran his left hand over the back of his head. He shook it firmly saying, "No, no, it'll be fine. It will be fine." He looked down at his hand again as he pressed his lips together and the tears rushed to his eyes. "God damn it," he murmured as he blinked back the tears and took a big gulping breath. "God damn it!" he yelled as he picked up the nearly empty bottle and hurled it against the wall, smashing it to pieces. Heedless of the mess he had made, Luke sunk down onto the couch and covered his face with his hands. "Oh, please," he whispered helplessly.
After a few minutes, he dropped his hands, letting them dangle uselessly from his knees. My whole life is in that bastard's hands, he realized. If he tells Lorelai, she'll never believe that he came after me. If this fight becomes known, it could ruin everything. Why didn't I stop and think? Why do I let him get to me? he asked himself. You know why, his subconscious taunted. He has it all. He has everything that was supposed to be yours. Lorelai, Rory, that piece of crap house. He's sleeping in your bed. He's making love to the woman you love, probably right now. "Oh God," he whispered again as he squeezed his eyes shut, trying to block out the image of Lorelai lying beneath him, her eyes dark with pleasure as she whispered words of love, stroking his face, running her fingers over his stubble as she called him Christopher. He felt the pain searing his heart, burning it until there was nothing left but ashes.
He turned his head and looked at the small photo April had framed of them taken on their field trip to Philadelphia. He blinked slowly, mesmerized by the bright smiles on their faces, their arms slung casually around each other. "I have to fight. I can't not fight," he told her softly. "If I don't have you, I don't have anything." He rubbed his hand tiredly over his face as he pushed himself from the couch and walked into the kitchen. He took bag of peas from the freezer and another beer from the fridge and carried them back to his chair. He twisted the cap off of the beer and tossed it in the general direction of the coffee table before wedging the bottle between his legs. He rested his hand on the arm of the chair and placed the bag of peas over it.
Using his left hand, he lifted the beer to his lips as his mind raced. He won't say anything. He wouldn't want to. No one would believe that I couldn't kick his ass from here to next Tuesday. No matter what, he comes off as a wimp, he assured himself. I just hope I didn't bruise up his delicate little face. That would be hard to explain, he thought with a smirk. No, Christopher won't say anything, because if he does, that means he has to admit that he sees me as s threat to his happy home, Luke thought with a nod. He blinked as his thoughts stopped dead and his heart started hammering in his chest. Am I? he wondered. Does Christopher think I could take Lorelai from him? Could I? his brain asked, a little spark of hope flaring in the ashes of his heart.
Luke shook his head to clear it and said, "No. No, that's done. April. Focus on April." Yes, focus on April, Luke, his conscience taunted. After all, that's what got you here in the first place. You were so focused on April that you forgot about Lorelai, so yeah, focus on April, that will make you forget, he berated himself. He stared hard at the picture, willing himself back to that time and place. He was so happy. She had referred to him as her dad. They were learning about each other. They were forming a bond. He shook his head as he asked himself, I already had the bond by the time we got back. Why couldn't I let Lorelai in? Why did I do that? How could I hurt her like that? He knew he had hurt her. He knew that he had hurt her deeply. He saw it in her eyes, but he chose not to look. He couldn't look, because if he did, he would crack. He didn't know why he resisted. When he told her that he didn't know what he was scared of, that was the truth. He still doesn't know. Maybe I didn't trust her enough. Maybe I thought she would do what she actually ended up doing, but after we were married, he tried to justify. As soon as the thought entered his head, though, he shook it away. He knew deep down that Lorelai had wanted to marry him. He knew that her desperate plea for him to elope was her grasping for one last hold on him.
He knew that he had intentionally pulled away from her. Establishing a life separate from hers again. Sleeping above the diner, rather than in their bed. Keeping the two most important people in his life from each other. Only turning to her when he was desperate and scared of falling on his face in front of April. He was petrified of letting them both know that he couldn't handle it. I couldn't handle it, I'm pretty sure I proved that beyond a doubt, he admitted to himself. He couldn't stand to fail her, to fail either of them. So, he chose. He chose blood over heart. He chose a girl that he had known for minutes over a woman he had loved for years. Did he regret it? he wondered. No, not really, he thought with a shake of his head. I did what I thought I had to do, he told himself. Would I do it differently if I could? Hell yes, he thought with a self deprecating chuckle.
He looked at the picture taken in Philadelphia again and then reached for the small drawer in the end table. He pulled it open slowly, testing his resolve. He peered down into it, not daring to touch anything. He gazed at the picture of him and Lorelai. His arm was around her, his hand in the small of her back. Her face was in profile, looking up at him with a smile so bright that he could see her eyes sparkling even in the snapshot. He looked at his own face in the picture, drawing in a soft breath as he realized how utterly happy he looked as he glanced down at her with a smile of his own.
He closed the drawer, certain in the knowledge that he would never feel that again. He lifted the bag of peas from his hand and flexed his numbed fingers, testing, searching for the pain. When he felt a twinge shiver up his arm, he smiled. Sting's got nothing on me, he thought as he settled back, resting his head on the cushion. "I am the king of pain," he said aloud as he lifted his beer and toasted himself. After he placed the bottle on the table he closed his eyes and thought, Lorelai would have been so proud of the reference.