Disclaimer: Nope. I don't…you can fill the rest in.
This is in response to a prompt from DiehardJavaJunkie14. She handed me the quote, "Love is a four letter word open to misinterpretation," and demanded that it be JavaJunkie. Not that I'm complaining.
This one-shot is AU-ish, as well as set around the end of season three – when the girls are headed off the Europe.
To everyone: happy belated Valentine's Day! (I was working that night; that is why I'm so late.)
Feedback would be greatly appreciated. Enjoy!
The bell jingles, and place seems to light up. Luke doesn't need to look up to know – it's Lorelai. She infuses the place with some kind of energy. Energy that turns everyone into someone else. He is not immune to this – and oh, God, he wishes he were.
He realizes something: it's too early for her to be in the diner. Much too early. Something's different for her, something is new.
Luke frowns at the counter, and lets out a breath. "What are you doing here, Lorelai?"
"I'm appalled," she says. "You would dare question the presence of a paying customer? I'm supporting your livelihood, and all I get is coldness. I think I'll have to take my business elsewhere."
"Every time you try to take your business elsewhere you end up back in my diner, complaining about the lack of people in the world who can make a decent cup of coffee," he replies. "Coffee?"
"Wasted breath," she says, shaking her head. "You ask every time, Luke. You think I'm gonna change on you?"
"Salad?" he asks.
Lorelai puts her hands to her throat and chokes. "Eww, no. It's six-thirty, by the way. Who would eat salad now?"
"Those crazy people who want to make it to fifty," he deadpans.
"Complete psychos," she agrees. "Coffee, coffee and coffee – plus pancakes. and bacon. Oh! And eggs."
"I'll bring flowers to your funeral."
She chucks a fistful of napkins at his back. "Mature," he calls out from the kitchen.
"Obviously." There's the sound of drumming on the counter, and Luke emerges to find Lorelai tapping a fork on the edge.
"What are you doing?" he demands.
"What does it look like, genius?"
"Are you four?"
"Mentally, yes." She beams. "I really would like that coffee."
"I -" He pours the mug, shaking his head. "Never mind."
Luke searches for something to say, something to cover his blunder. He always has to think with Lorelai – push away these thoughts that creep in. Thoughts that don't belong. He remembers Rachel leaving…."When are you going to Europe?" he asks.
"Day after tomorrow," Lorelai says. "Tomorrow my baby graduates from high school!" she pretends to wail. "Ugh, I'm so old now."
"No, you're not," Luke says.
"I feel old." She takes a drink of coffee. "It's weird to think that in two months the whole reason for my existence will be off doing her own thing. I've been thinking about this for months, but…it's coming a lot faster now."
"You have Europe."
"I have Europe."
She sounds forlorn. "Hey," he says. "New Haven? It's not that far."
"Twenty-two point eight miles," Lorelai says, recalling something Rory mentioned. She smiles. "I don't know how you do it, Luke, but you are great at comforting."
Luke hands her the plate holding her food. "You're welcome."
The sun is barely up in the sky when Luke walks down the street. It's chilly; that kind of summer chill that exists only in the morning. The coolness seems to radiate off the dew. Luke starts speed-walking. What time did Lorelai say they were leaving for the airport?
"I can't carry this around Europe all summer." Rory's voice drifts out to him. Clear morning, this one. Eerie. Misty.
"I said to lose the dictionary," Lorelai says.
"And added some other book you don't need?" Lorelai pauses. "Honey, there are book stores in Europe. I promise."
"Fine. I'll take out that book."
"Not enough time. You got your sweater?"
"Do you have your hat?"
He stops, hidden by the trees, listening to their banter. Checking and re-checking items, laughing and excitement on display – classic Lorelai and Rory. "Hey," he calls out, stepping toward them.
"Hey!" Lorelai calls. "What are you doing here? It's impossibly early."
"Thought you might need this." He holds up a paper bag, the diner logo emblazoned on it.
"Bless you!" Rory cries. "Mommy, let's skip Europe and stay here with the nice coffee man."
"Who needs Europe anyway?" Lorelai picks up and drops her backpack. "Ha. No. Pack up, chickadee."
Rory makes a face at her mother and Luke grins. "Now, shoo." Lorelai waves her hand, as Rory picks up the two backpacks and falls to the ground. "We're going to be late."
"How very Freaky Friday of you to make an observation about lateness," Rory says.
"Yes, indeed." Lorelai rolls her eyes. "I had you for muscle, kid. Pack up!"
Luke watches Rory struggle to drag Lorelai's bag across the lawn. "Morey and Babette are driving us there," she explains.
"I could have done that," he says.
"Yeah, but you have the diner, and Nicole, and the cruise…" She lets it trail off. "You do too much anyway."
Lorelai takes a coffee cup from him. "I know."
"Nah, it's okay. How can I say no to free coffee at four o'clock in the morning?" She laughs. "You're great, Luke."
"What inspired this?" he asks.
"I'm going to Europe. Rory's going to Yale. You're going on a cruise." She shrugs. "Nothing will be the same after this summer."
"Planning on going blonde?" he asks dryly.
"You know what I mean."
"Yeah. I do."
Rory waves across the lawn. "Come on, Mom!"
"Coming!" she calls, stage-whispering, apparently remembering that other people were still asleep. She downs the last of her coffee. "Thanks, Luke."
"Uh, sure. No problem."
"See you in two months," she says.
"I will." They hug, briefly, and she runs across the wet grass. He starts to walk back down the street.
He glances back. She's still standing on the lawn, the last one to go. "I love you for this!" she says.
She waves the coffee cup. "Oh," he mumbles. "Have fun!" he calls.
Luke walks back to the diner alone, trudging through the empty streets. I love you for this. It's nothing, really – but she said the word love, when referencing him. He is not immune to that yet, no matter how hard he tries.
But she's gone, and so he can think whatever he wants about her meaning of that statement. Maybe there's something there, maybe there's hope. Maybe she's trying to say something else.
He can hold onto that for the rest of the summer.