Chapter Six: Wake up Call. No Snoozing it This Time.


She was ready. Pain pills in her system; hat on head, though why she was still wearing Luke's hat even she didn't know, and release paper signed. All she needed was a push down the hall and she was off. Luke took the handlebars while Rory opened all the doors and they took off at a nice snails pace down the hall. Finally reaching the last door Rory opened it and Lorelai gasped at the shock. It had gotten warm during her two day's in the hospital.

Welcome to summer. Spring said 'Adios!'

Rory opened the door to Luke's truck and, bending over, he picked Lorelai up from the wheel chair to deposit her into the front seat. Sliding her to the middle he backed away and Rory climbed in so Luke could shut the door. The car was already running, so when Luke finally got behind the wheel they were off. Driving safely they made the trip in silence, a rarity for the Gilmore clan, and Luke was drinking it in. Who knew the last time he'd get both of them to shut up for an entire fifteen minutes. In what seemed like no time at all they pulled into the driveway.

Rory climbed out to open the doors for Luke while he pulled Lorelai into his arms once more. Making sure her broken wrist was secured in her lap he lifted her into his arms and strode toward the house. Her head resting on his chest and shoulder she watched as he walked through the house, climbed the stairs, and entered her bedroom. The covers on her bed already turned down Luke laid her down and began to help her remove her shoes. Once they were off he left Rory to help her into some more comfortable clothes and headed down top the kitchen. His favorite girls needed some breakfast.

While the eggs where being whisked he thought of something and picked up the phone, dialing one of the many numbers from the bulletin board.

"Chilton Attendance Office."

"Rory Gilmore won't be in summer class today, probably not for the rest of the week either."

The woman on the other end of the phone stuttered for a moment. "I... um... excuse me? Who is this?"

"This is a friend of the family. She won't be in school. What don't you understand about that?"

"Well why won't she be in class, sir? Is she ill?"

"No." He could hear the frustration in the woman's voice and explained a little farther. "Her mother was in an accident, Rory will be helping her out this week. That's all you need to know."

"I... that is..." the woman realized that was all she was going to get from Luke. "We'll need a note."

"You'll get it."

Hanging up the phone he continued to make the breakfast. Within moments eggs, toast and juice for two were on a carrying tray and Luke was headed back upstairs. In the doorway he stopped and smiled. Both Rory and Lorelai were curled up together on the bed, sound asleep. Watching them for a few moments, a smile coming to his lips unbidden, Luke finally headed downstairs to the kitchen, putting the plates in the refrigerator to be reheated later. Taking a few minutes to clean the mess he'd made Luke tried to decide what to do. He didn't want to leave, but he needed to sleep. With a shrug he decided to do both and stretched out on the couch.

It was the beep of the microwave that roused him. Glancing at the clock on the wall Luke realized he'd been asleep for over four hours. Quickly he got to his feet and moved into the kitchen to see Rory standing in front of the microwave.

"Hi Luke. This looks really good," she smiled at him, pointing to the plate in the microwave. "Mom was hungry but I didn't want to wake you so I thought I'd make some Pop Tarts. I was getting the milk from the fridge and that's when I found your plates. Boy, will mom be surprised."

"Pop Tarts?"

"That's what we usually have, Pop Tarts and coffee."

"No coffee."

"I know. Mom really doesn't like that part of the doctor's orders. The bed part she's fine with but the no coffee is already getting to her."

The microwave beeped at the same time as the toaster popped. Luke moved to get the Pop Tarts while Rory removed the plate, both of the preparing the tray to take upstairs. In the end it was Luke who carried it, Rory leading the way. They entered Lorelai's bedroom and while Rory climbed back into bed Luke placed the tray over her lap.

"Oh wow," she smiled. "This sure beats Pop Tarts. Oh look! There they are."

Still trying to fully wake himself up Luke grabbed the chair from her vanity and, turning it backwards, sat down to watch them eat.

"You are welcome here anytime!" Lorelai said as she bit into her toast. "Anytime."

"Your kitchen is a disgrace to kitchen everywhere. And I hope that was a science experiment I threw away." He saw the two women exchange knowing looks as they each stuffed their mouths too full to talk. "Uh-huh. Thought so."

"Oh!" Rory exclaimed suddenly. "Chilton! I forgot today's Monday. I have summer classes."

Luke held up a hand. "I already called. I told them you wouldn't be in today and probably not for the rest of the week."

Lorelai and Rory stared at Luke, wide eyed. Had he gone too far? "You called the school?" Lorelai said swallowing her eggs.

"Yeah."

"Wow, you were right, Rory."

"Told you so."

Luke glanced between the two of them, speaking their Gilmore code again. "Right about what? All I did was call the school."

"And call my parents," Lorelai said.

"He helped me get you home," added Rory.

"Not to mention cook breakfast."

"And he stayed with me in the waiting room, even though we know how much he hates hospitals."

"Yeah, that too." Lorelai grinned. "The only thing missing now is a Grade A cup of coffee."

"No." both Luke and Rory said at the same time. Luke continued. "There will be no coffee in this house for either of you until Lorelai is up and about on her own."

Lorelai stuck her tongue out at him. "Meanie."

"Yes I am."

"But Luke! Why me? I can still have coffee, right?" Rory whined.

"Nope. The Gilmore house will be coffee free for once in its life."

"You're right Mom, he's a meanie." Both of them stuck their tongues out at him.

In a rare display of humor Luke stuck his tongue right back out at them, the sight of which left both Gilmore's gasping for breath from their giggles and laughter, Lorelai holding her sides as the movement from laughing hurt her rib. Seeing that she was in pain Luke dug into his pocket and drew out a small bottle with two pills in it. He had Lorelai take them and said he would get the prescription refilled at the pharmacy. The pills did their work and soon Lorelai was asleep. While Rory stayed with her, Luke went into town to get a few things that he saw missing from their house. Knowing them, they probably didn't stock them normally anyway.

His cart full Luke wheeled it over to the check out line and his orders were rung up. "Trying to feed an army, Luke?"

Glancing at the woman cashing him out Luke had no idea who she was but he wasn't about to tell her anything. "I got a café to run."

The woman smiled. "That you do, son. That you do."

The groceries bagged Luke took them out to his truck and walked over to the pharmacy to get Lorelai's prescription. Once he had it he tried to get out as quickly as possible but was stopped at the door by friendly inquiring neighborly busybodies. Question after question was thrown at him, half of them he wouldn't answer and the other half he answered with one or two words. Yes she was home; no she wasn't ready for visitors yet; yes he'd tell her hello for the family; yes, he was getting her prescription filled; no, he didn't know anything about the kid that hit her. Practically running for the door Luke got into his truck and got out of town as fast as he could.

'Why do people have to be so damn nosy?' he wondered as he trudged up the steps and into the house.

Once inside he shed his arms of their bundles, throwing them onto the counter and climbed the stairs to see Lorelai. Though Rory was in the room, this time it was Sookie who was on the bed with her, the three girls chatting away as though they had not a care in the world.

"Of course then Michele had to tell everyone that he was in charge and that every decision had to be run by him."

"Did he go mad and crazy like I know he probably would?"

"Actually, no. He's been doing pretty good. It's us that he's driving absolutely crazy!"

He leaned against the doorjamb, watching and listening, observing them quietly until he was noticed. "Hey Luke!"

"Here you go." Tossing the little bottle to Rory he retreated with an excuse to put away the groceries. Rory, handing the pill bottle to Lorelai, got up and followed Luke to the kitchen to help him.

"Holy cow!" she breathed, taking in the bags that littered the kitchen. "Did you buy out the whole store?" she teased.

Trying to glare at her he couldn't hold it and smiled instead. Tossing her a loaf of bread he got back to work. "I meant it when I said your kitchen was a disgrace, there's hardly anything here to make a decent meal with."

"Well that's cause we almost always eat at your place, or the Inn. Sometimes both."

"Why is it that I have no problems believing that?"

Rory smiled. "Because you know us so well, Luke."

Working side by side to put the groceries away they two friends caught up on life since they'd last had a chance to talk. "That's great Rory. I'll bet you'd be a good event planner for the children's home, you're really good with details an stuff."

"Yeah, but it'd mean a lot more time away. I kind of wanted to spend it with Dean."

"Dean? That jerk that dumped you?"

"He's not a jerk, Luke. We just had a fight is all. Anyway we're back together now."

"Why'd you break up?" He knew perfectly well why, he just wanted to hear Rory's point of view on it.

"I..." Rory sighed. "He told me he loved me and I couldn't say it back. I mean, I do love him; I know I do. But at that moment I just wasn't ready. He got a little upset."

Luke stopped what he was doing and turned to face her. "He had no right to get upset, Rory. If you weren't ready to say it then it wasn't the right time. Even if you know you love him now, if you're not ready to say something then don't. We don't have any control over how we feel, you can't order your heart to love or not to love, it just does."

His eyes betraying him Luke glanced at the ceiling, above which Lorelai and Sookie were still talking. Rory watched him work, her mind whirling in a thousand direction at once. 'Was it possible?' she thought to herself. 'He's known us for a long time, but he's never said anything to anyone. And he's always so good to her, me too, but really nice to her. I mean all she has to do is smile at him and he caves. I bet that if mom really worked on him she could get him to give us our coffee for free. Sure he's always gruff to everyone but that's just cause they always try to change him. He doesn't like that. But he will let mom change him. Like when she got him to paint the café and when she went shopping for him. He actually let her change something about him and stuck with it.'

Rory gasped and covered her mouth with her hand, staring wide-eyed at Luke.

"Rory? What is it? Is something wrong?" he asked her, hearing her gasp and seeing her staring at him.

Shaking her head she smiled at him, here eyes still wide. "Nothing Luke. Nothing. I'm gonna go check on Mom."

Luke followed her out of the kitchen and watched her run up the stairs, disappearing into Lorelai's room. Confused he shook his head and went back into the kitchen. Minutes later he heard feet hurrying down the stairs and out the front door, the door slamming behind them. Groceries away Luke headed back upstairs and found Lorelai struggling to get out of bed.

"What do you think you're doing? Where'd Rory and Sookie run off too?"

"Rory said you forgot the bread and asked her to go get a loaf. She said it was too cold to walk and asked Sookie to drive her."

"She said I forgot the bread?"

"Uh-huh. As for me I need a shower or something. I feel icky."

"You're not supposed to be out of bed," he ordered, pulling the covers back over her, trapping her on the bed.

"Lu-uuuke!!!" she whined. "Please! I'm feeling really icky and I want to clean up!" Looking at him she pleaded. "Please!!"

His shoulder sagging Luke knew he couldn't say no. "All right! Jeez, stop whining like a little girl. But... it's gonna be a bath, not a shower, and your cast gets wrapped in plastic. Deal?" Lorelai nodded, smiling at winning her bath. "Stay here and don't move."

While he disappeared into the bathroom Lorelai stood on shaky feet, stripped off her pajamas, and donned her robe. She had just finished tying the sash single handedly, a rather tricky maneuver when Luke came back into the room. Looking from the bed to her he pointed a finger and glared. "You moved." Lorelai started to defend herself but stopped when he shook his finger. "Don't bother. Come on, I've got your bath run." Picking her up in his arms again Luke carried her into the bathroom and set her down on the toilet, lid down. "Hold out your cast." Doing as she was told Lorelai watched as Luke wrapped a plastic bag around her wrist, covering the entire cast. He pointed out a towel on the floor. "When you're ready call me and I'll come get you. I'm gonna leave the door open just a crack so you can call me if you need anything, okay?"

Smiling at him Lorelai nodded. Luke left the bathroom, door cracked as he had said, and Lorelai untied the robe. Stepping out of it she slid into the tub carefully, relaxing into the hot water. While she soaked for a few minutes Lorelai realized that he had put some of her favorite bath oil into the water, the jasmine scented one. "How did he know?" she whispered to herself. Picking up her loufa sponge Lorelai began to clean away the feeling of dirt, grime, and blood from her skin. She knew it wasn't really there, but she felt as though she could still feel it, caked to her skin. Reaching all over she discovered she could reach her back. Shifting one way, to no avail, she shifted the other to try again. It was no use; Lorelai couldn't reach her back without hurting her already sore body. Upset she reached for her shampoo bottle and found she needed two hands to do that as well. Her emotions began to get the best of her and Lorelai could feel the tears welling up in her eyes. Wishing them away she cried even harder when they fell, dropping into the bath water with little splashes, like a soft rain on a lake.

"Lorelai? What's wrong?"

Sniffling she tried to compose herself. "Nothing..." she called out, her voice choked by her tears.

'Damn,' he thought to himself in the hallway. 'She's crying.' "Lorelai, tell me what's wrong."

"I... I can't reach!" she cried.

He could hear her frustration and racked his mind to think of a way to help. Running a hand through his thinning hair Luke grabbed a few towels from the linen closet and held them out through the crack in the door, averting his head just in case. "Cover up with one of these, Lorelai."

A few moments passed and he heard a small "Okay," from within the small bathing room. Opening the door he glanced quickly at the tub and saw that she had covered up her middle section with the towel, from just under her shoulders to her knees with one of the towels. Kneeling next to her, ignoring the water that was soaking into his jeans, Luke grabbed the sponge from her and put some more body wash on it. Squeezing a few times to lather it he began to make slow, gentle circles on her back, starting from her shoulders and working his way down. The multi colored bruises along her back made Luke want to harm, severely, the little bastard that had done this to her. Grinding his teeth he tried to put his mind past it and soon he saw, not the bruises and pain, but the silky smooth skin that glistened with soap. Rinsing the sponge in the water he used it to rinse the suds from her back and to thoroughly wet her hair.

Dropping the sponge Luke reached for the shampoo bottle. With a good-sized dollop in his hands he worked it through her hair, sudsing it up until he felt it was clean. Using the sponge once more he rinsed her long locks before repeating the process with the conditioner. Her hair done Luke reached forward and removed the drain from the tub, his hand accidentally brushing her ankle. Without a word he stood and left the bathroom, leaving the door open a crack like before. Walking the few steps to Lorelai's room he sat down on her bed and placed his head in his shaking hands, trying to calm his racing heart.

In the bathroom Lorelai sat in the rapidly disappearing water. Neither of them had said a word and yet it had been more intimate than any conversation they had ever had. Getting up from the water Lorelai sat on the edge of the tub and with shaky hands she reached out for the towel to dry off. Her mind kept replaying those five or ten minutes Luke had been in the room with her. He'd been a gentleman about it, giving her a towel to cover up with, never chancing that he might see something, on accident or not. His hands had been gentle, sweeping over her back and through her hair as though it would break off at any moment if handled too roughly. Her heart was racing as her back tingled still from his soft contact when she noticed a pile of clothes on the sink. He'd put another set of pajamas in the room for her to wear. Smiling to herself she donned the light cotton pants and shirt.

Taking a deep breath she opened the door and saw Luke across the hallway, on her bed, staring at the doorway where she stood. After just a second he stood and crossed the hallway to her side, giving her an arm to steady herself on, and led Lorelai back to her bed. Exhausted she sat down and reached for the brush in Luke's hands. He pulled it out of her reach and set it on the floor next to him. Kneeling before her he untied the plastic bag from her wrist and tossed it into the small garbage pail in the corner. Up to his feet once more, brush in hand; Luke gently began to untangle the knots in her hair, the motions of the brush through her hair lulling Lorelai even deeper into an exhausted daze. When he laid the brush on the table next to her bed Luke realized she was asleep. Smiling softly at her he laid her back and covered the sleeping angel with a sheet and comforter before almost closing the door. Standing in the hallway, peering through the crack at her sleeping face Luke watched her for a few minutes before heading downstairs.


*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*


Sitting at the dining room table, a pie in the oven, dinner on the stove, Luke yawned as he flipped the page of his book. What the tired man really wanted was a nap, but he wasn't about to sleep. Not yet. He was in the second paragraph of the new page when he heard the cries from upstairs. Book and food forgotten he raced up the stairs and into the bedroom to see Lorelai tossing and turning, the covers half off the bed; she was having another nightmare. Sitting on the edge of the bed Luke smoothed back her hair from her face and whispered to her.

"You're okay, you're home safe now Lorelai. There's nothing to be afraid of, I'm right here and you're okay. Just wake up and you can see how safe you are." Luke continued to whisper to her and soothe her until she flung herself out of her nightmare with a scream. Sitting up straight she clung to Luke's arm as he held her until she was fully awake.

"Luke?"

"I'm right here Lorelai. You were having a nightmare but you're okay now."

"Oh god! It was... it was so scary!"

"Tell me about it. What did you see?"

"I was falling. I was so high up but I could see the ground coming closer and closer. I tried to scream for help but I couldn't make any sound. Everyone was there watching me fall and no one was trying to help! Except you. You were running but you weren't getting any closer. I could feel the grass brushing against my skin and I knew... I knew... I was gonna die!"

Sobbing, Lorelai clung to him, the image of her own death still fresh in her mind.

"Listen to me for a sec. Lorelai listen," Luke said, his voice still low and soothing to her. "Next time you know your falling, you just start waving those arms of yours and you'll fly. You'll fly over the heads of all those people who wouldn't help, fly on into my café and I'll get you the biggest best cup of coffee you've ever had, okay?"

Softly, calming down, Lorelai giggled at the picture he painted for her. "And one of your muffins? The blueberry ones?"

"Yeah, one of the blueberry ones," he grinned.

Luke heard movement from below as Rory began to climb the stair. As gently as possible he disentangled himself from Lorelai and helped her sit up against the headboard. As the girl entered the room he removed his hands from her shoulders, moving his finger to lightly brush her cheek as he withdrew his hands.

"Mom?!" Rory exclaimed, seeing the red eyes and tearstains on her mother. "What's wrong?" Climbing into bed with Lorelai Rory put her arms around her, holding her gently yet firmly. Lorelai watched Luke's fleeing back with a frown. "Mom?"

Shaking her head and smiling Lorelai looked to her daughter. "I'm fine, just a bad dream, is all. I think I scared Luke."

"Are you okay now?"

Lorelai nodded. "I am now. But I'm kinda hungry. Do you think you could talk Luke into making some more food?"

"I don't think I have to, the kitchen smells really, really good. I'll go see what he made." Leaning in to kiss her mothers hair she found it slightly damp and smelling nice. "Did you take a shower? You smell really good."

"A bath. With Jasmine oil."

"Oh, that's your favorite kind." Rory smiled as she climbed out of the bed. "Be right back." Skipping down the stairs Rory entered the kitchen to see Luke standing at the sink, water running, but he was staring out the window. "Umm Luke...?"

"Yeah Rory?" he said, not turning around.

"Mom... umm we're kind of hungry. Is that dinner I smell?"

"Yeah, it's almost done."

"Oh good."

"Hey Rory," he said, still having not turned around.

"Yeah, Luke?"

"Did you get the bread?"

"What bread?" Luke turned to look at her and Rory realized her mistake. "Oh that bread! Umm... well... you know I got there, and I suddenly remembered that you had already gotten the bread! So... no... umm... I didn't get the bread. No bread." Smiling falsely at him Rory edged her way to her room. "I gotta... uh... I... I'm gonna go get changed."

Closing the door to her room Rory flopped back onto her bed and stared at the ceiling, her mind replaying the conversation with Sookie during their drive into town.

'Sookie, how do you know if someone is in love? I mean suppose the person is a really quiet person, they don't talk much. How could you tell?'

'Well... I guess you could tell by what they do, how they look. Like Jackson and me. I'm not a quiet person naturally, but he is. I had no idea that he liked me as much as I liked him, but looking back I can see it. He always brought me the best produce, well except for that time he tried to tell me the strawberries were no good. Still can't figure that one out, but you know what I'm saying right?'

'I think so. So you think I should be able to tell by how that person acts. Like if they did something really special for the person they like?'

'Well yeah, but it's also little stuff. Like with Jackson. He brings me the best of his produce every day. It's the little things that really add up, Rory.'

The little things. Like always having coffee ready and waiting; making a cheeseburger for the fourth night in a row; painting the walls against your better judgment; calling the schools so no one else would have to. Rory smiled. Luke was in love. With her Mom!


*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*


The next morning Rory woke to find Luke gone and a note taped to the Pop Tart box. 'Check the fridge'. Doing as the note ordered Rory opened the refrigerator and found a plate filled with pancakes, ready and waiting to be reheated. Grinning she pulled it out and popped in into the microwave. "A girl could get used to this," she said to the empty kitchen. Waiting for the food to reheat she found her thoughts drifting back to the night before. It had been fun. Luke had made dinner, a veritable feast of chicken and pasta and vegetables, and even made Lorelai's favorite pie for dessert. They had sat up all night, talking laughing, sharing stories, playing games until Lorelai had fallen asleep and Rory was on the verge of it herself. After pulling the covers up over Lorelai Luke had piggybacked Rory to her bedroom to make sure she got there. Depositing the sleepy girl onto her bed he shut the door behind him. The last thing Rory had heard was the sound of water running in the kitchen as he cleaned.

The microwave beeped, pulling her mind back to the present, and Rory opened the door, the aroma of pancakes filling her nose making her mouth water. As she put syrup on them and grabbed two forks she wondered when it was Luke had left. Just as Rory was stepping onto the bottom stair the doorbell rang and the door itself was pounded on. Curious as to who would be here this early in the morning Rory put down the plate and crossed to the front door to open it.

"M...Mr.... Mr. Medina!" she stuttered, wide eyed. She had completely forgotten about Max in their day with Luke yesterday.

"Rory? I thought we agreed you'd call me Max?" he said with a curious look. "Never mind. Where's Lorelai!?! She was supposed to cal me when she got settled in yesterday. I called the hospital but they said she'd been released first thing in the morning. Is she okay? Did something go wrong? What happened?" he demanded, question after question, his eyes flicking from Rory to the stairs and up past them to the door he knew to be Lorelai's.

"Nothing happened. She's fine. I think she might be sleeping. I was just gonna wake her up for breakfast."

"Why didn't you answer the phone? I must have called a hundred times."

Rory furrowed her brows. "I didn't hear the phone ring." Turning from the door she went in search of the phone while Max headed up the stairs to see Lorelai. Finding the phone on its base Rory smiled when she saw it had been turned off. 'Luke must have turned it off so no one could bother us,' she thought to herself as she headed back toward the plate waiting on the stairs to be relieved of its fluffy little breakfast cakes. Stopping still, her hands inched from the plate, Rory's eyes widened and she gave a startled "Oh!" Her eyes went up the stairs to the now open door of her mothers' room. She could her Max talking to Lorelai and didn't bother to go up. Instead, taking the plate back to the kitchen she nibbled on one of them while her brain geared up into overtime.

'Luke loves my Mom but she's engaged to Max. Oh poor Luke! This must be so hard on him! I wonder how he does it? How does he keep something like that to himself for so long? When I liked Dean I wanted to tell somebody! Even if it was just Lane, I had to tell somebody. Oh, poor Luke.'

She didn't know how long she'd sat there in the kitchen but Rory was pulled from her thoughts when Max entered the kitchen. Sitting down at the table across from her he folded his hands and leaned forward. "Rory, can I talk to you for a minute?"

"Sure."

"When you were making plans to bring Lorelai home, why didn't you call me? I would have been more than happy to help get her here and I could have helped you take care of things here."

"I... umm... well." Rory sighed. She couldn't lie to him, but she had a really bad feeling he wasn't going to like the truth. "Okay. You see he was there from the beginning, when the car hit Mom he tried to get to her and he stayed with her trying to stop the bleeding until the ambulance showed up. Then he was with me the entire time at the hospital. I couldn't try to keep him away I wouldn't do that to him."

"Him? Him who?" Max was trying desperately to keep his patience with Rory's explanation. He had a damn good idea who this 'him' was and he didn't like it one bit.

"Luke."

Max stood up from his seat at the table and began to pace the kitchen. "I knew it! It's that damn diner guy again!"

"Max! No! Luke is our friend!!! He means a lot to me and my mom."

"I knew he wasn't going to just sit back on this one. I saw him at the engagement party, watching her every move. That's it! I'm going to settle this once and for all!"

Max stalked through the kitchen throwing the door open and was in his car before Rory could say another word. Watching him pull away Rory ran for the phone and dialed the diner but there was no answer. Worried she went upstairs to her mother, who had stayed awake since Max had come to see her. Climbing into the bed she cuddled up to the injured woman ass best she could, her eyes filled with worry.

"Rory? What's wrong, babe?"

"I think I've made a really big mistake, Mom."

"Huh? What do you mean? Where'd Max go? I heard him slam the door."

"I think he went to see Luke. Mom, I... I think Max is jealous of Luke."

"Luke!?!" Lorelai said with wide eyes. "Why would Max be jealous of Luke? I mean its just Luke."

Rory shook her head. How could she not see it, it was so obvious? "Mom, how would you feel if you never saw Luke again?"

"What are you talking about? Is Luke leaving? Why didn't he tell me!?! Where's he going!?! Where are we gonna get our coffee from!?! Why didn't somebody tell me!?! How can he do this to me!?! He can't leave! No! Luke's not leaving; I won't let him!"

Rory stared at her mother as she threw out one question after another. 'There are tears in her eyes!' she noticed. "Mom, listen to me for a minute. Luke's not going anywhere, but why did the thought that he was bother you so much?"

"What? You mean he's not leaving? He's not going anywhere?" Rory shook her head. "Then why'd you say that?"

"I was wondering how you would feel if Luke wasn't in Stars Hollow or what if, once you were married to Max, we moved somewhere else. I think I got my answer. Mom... you like Luke don't you?"

"Of course I like him, he's one of my best friends. He's our coffee man."

"No mom, I mean you like him, as in really, really like him."

"Oh Rory, not you too! Yes I like Luke, he's my best friend, but I can't like him like that!"

"Why not?"

"Rory, we spend too much time together to be like that. If we were going to feel something for each other don't you think it would have shown up by now?"

"Oh my gosh!" Rory smiled. "You're a vole!"

"I am not a mole! Moles are disgusting and dirty and...!"

"No, Mom, not a mole a vole. A Meadow Vole, a little animal I learned about in biology class. They spend all their time together and are so devoted to each other you'll never see one without the other. That's you and Luke. You're voles."

"We are not!"

"Yes you are!" she laughed. "If someone needs to find you where do they look first?"

"Luke's," she had to admit.

"And every time you go there, sure he tries to talk you out of getting coffee but he always caves in and gives it to you doesn't he? Every time you order a greasy cheeseburger he argues about it and then gives it to you. He let you paint his diner, mom. Even though he swore no one was ever going to paint his diner he let you do it. And look at these last few days since you were hurt. Luke has been there from the instant the accident happened until now. He's not even here this morning but he made sure we had breakfast. He helped me bring you home, he cleaned and stocked the kitchen, he ran errands for you, and he helped you so you could take a bath. Mom... Luke has done things I can't even remember for us. Every time we've needed him, whether it was you or me, he was there for us."

Lorelai sat, staring at nothing, her mind a jumble. Luke had done so much for them, he was always so good to them; from the day she first met him. Her eyes widened as she thought back over the years she had spent with Luke. The diner had become a second home to her, more so than even the Inn. And Luke... Luke was... special

"You're right. I knew he'd done so much for us but I never realized how much it meant to me. I think I always took it for granted that Luke would be there, forever."

"Admit it Mom, you love him!

Lorelai stared at Rory as the truth came to her mind. "I do," she said, with wonder and confusion. "I like Luke. I really do like Luke. But lately... I don't know; it's been kind of different you know? Like he's especially gruff or mean. Why is he being like that? And now, he's completely turned around and he's being so sweet about everything!"

"Mom... you're so oblivious to him. Luke plays like he's gruff and mean because that's how everyone else knows him. You know as well as I do that he's a teddy bear at heart." Pausing Rory decided to bring out the big fact. "And he's in love with you."

"Oh come on!"

"I admit I didn't see it at first either, but now I don't know how I could have missed it. Mom... Luke is head over heels, heart pounding in chest, starry eyed, birds and music, Romeo eat your heart out in love with you!"

"Really?" Lorelai asked, a small smile dawning on her face, excitement sparking in her big brown eyes. "Do you really think he loves me? I mean he is kind of handsome, not an Adonis or anything, but he is handsome don't you think?"

"Definitely."

"And he can be really sweet, like when he made us that Santa burger and when he let me use my cell phone in his café even though he absolutely hates that."

"That's a biggie too, cause he even kicked everybody out after that so he could come to the hospital with you. Luke hates hospitals."

"Yeah he does. I wonder why?"

"I don't know. We should ask him. Maybe it's cause he was really sick when he was a little kid or something."

"Or maybe he ran into the elephant man when he was a little kid and it scarred him for life, nightmares and all."

"It would scare me."

"Oh me too! That elephant man is so scary. But I think the pig man is even scarier."

"What about the bat boy?"

"Him too! Very scary!"

Lorelai smiled at Rory, her smile full and bright for the first time since the accident. "Rory... I'm in love!"

"Yes, it suits you very well."

"It really does, doesn't it?"

"Very much."

"So what do I do now?"

"Well he'd get mad for real if you went over there, so why don't you call him and ask him to come over later? Maybe we can get him to make us dinner again."

"Yeah! Last night was so yummy! Where's the phone?" Handing Lorelai the phone she watched as her mother dialed the diner, something nagging in the back of her mind but Rory couldn't think of what it was. "Huh... there's no answer. I wonder why not."

"Oh my god! Max!"

"Max! I'm engaged to Max! How can I be engaged to Max and in love with Luke at the same time!?! I didn't think something like that was possible but I guess it is I mean after all here I am..."

"No! Mom! Max went over there to see Luke! Oh! You don't think they'll fight do you?"

Both women stared at each other, each one remember the day Luke had fought Dean simply for breaking up with Rory. This was so much more.


*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*


He'd been pounding the heavy bag for almost an hour, his sculpted upper torso glistening with sweat in the morning sun. Gloves flying, the sound of the leather gloves hitting the vinyl cover of the big bag that hung from the porch roof behind the diner filling the air, Luke was oblivious to the world around him, his mind turned toward one thought. Exhausting himself; so he didn't have to think about anything. So that he could fall into a dreamless sleep, not dreaming of anything, or anyone. He knew there were customers in his café that needed tending to, but they could wait. Let them leave; he didn't care. Not today.

Some part of his brain registered the squealing of brakes from the street out front and Luke's thought immediately turned to the day Lorelai had been hit by that punk in the sports car. Furious with the little bastard Luke began to pound the bag even harder, the need to hit something coming to him stronger and faster the more he hit; pounding the innocent bag to release his frustration, his anger, his pain. Luke was venting the only way he could. He had no one to talk this out with, no one he could turn to, someone he could discuss what was weighing most heavily on his mind and his heart with. The one person he could always talk to was the last person he could turn to this time.

Lorelai Gilmore; the only person in this town who knew the man behind the counter. Oh they all knew the details, there was no escaping that in Stars Hollow, not when you'd grown up here, but only Lorelai knew his feelings, his thoughts. She had managed to worm her way into his heart the moment she had walked into his diner, half dead, hungry, sleepy, and pregnant. There was something in her fire, her excitement for life that shone through even in her bedraggled state. Though Luke had thought it impossible he found himself falling for another woman; someone who was so like Rachel, and yet so different from her at the same time. And now... Luke laughed, a humorless, pain filled laugh; now she was engaged to a prick.

She seemed happy with him and that was what mattered most. If Luke couldn't be the one to make her happy then he was glad she had found someone who could. But still in the back of his mind a small doubt nagged. What if he had taken the chance? What if he hadn't said he was joking every time he asked her out? What would have happened then? Would she be with him? Would Rory look to him to fill the place her father had abandoned? Was it possible that he would have been able to hold a place in their hearts like the ones they held within his? Sighing Luke hung onto the bag at its top, leaned his head on it and stared at the floorboards below him. "Now I'll never know."

Luke heard footsteps from the doorway and turned to see Max Medina standing on the porch facing him, his eyes filled with anger, his hands pulled tightly into fists. The two men stared at one another for a moment while Luke pulled the boxing gloves from his hands. It was he who spoke first.

"What are you doing here?"

"I'm here to tell you to back off."

"What the hell are you talking about?"

"I'm talking about Lorelai. You had your chance to ask her out and you let it slip past you. Stay away from my fiancé."

"You're delusional."

Attempting to end the conversation Luke dropped his gloves on the porch, slipped on his shirt, and stepped through the doorway the led to his storage room. Max followed him, not giving up until this diner jerk realized he would never have Lorelai. "I'm giving you fair warning. Stay away from Lorelai and Rory or else."

Luke stopped cold and turned to look at Max, his face blank but his eyes a flurry of messages. Only one of which he chose to say. "You have no control over me so I suggest you take your 'fair warning' and shove it." His voice was cold, but his tone conveyed the threats that Luke hadn't said aloud. Turning to leave once more he had just entered the kitchen when Max grabbed his shoulder and spun Luke around. Pushing the teacher back a few steps Luke glared at the man. "Don't ever touch me. Get the hell out of my café before I throw you out." He was trying very hard to keep his temper in check. This was Lorelai's fiancé he was dealing with, he didn't want to make trouble even if the only thought running through his mind was to hit this bastard who had come to warn him off.

The warning given Max headed out towards the main area of the café. Before he crossed the threshold to the counter area he threw Luke an evil glare. "Just remember, you weren't man enough to give it a shot." Whether he was talking about hitting Max or asking Lorelai out Luke didn't know and didn't care; that had been the last straw. Stalking out after Max he caught him a few steps from the front door, spun the man around and pushed him up against the doorjamb. Holding Max there with his shirt bunched up in his hands Luke pierced through him with a look.

"The only reason I haven't beat your damn face in is because you are her fiancé. Get the hell out of my café and don't ever come back."

Though his voice never rose above a whisper it echoed throughout the café, through the silence that had fallen the instant Luke had made his move. Releasing one of his hands Luke opened the door and pushed max out into the street, slamming the door behind him. Ignoring the looks of everyone watching the scene Luke stalked back to his storage room to get to work. By the time he emerged to make the coffee the diner was empty.

"Damn," he muttered. The Gossip Brigade would be running over time with this one. Lorelai would know about it in no time.


*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*


The front door slammed and the girls heard feet pounding up the stairs. They were surprised to see Sookie standing in the doorway of Lorelai's bedroom, her face concerned and yet at the same time happy.

"Sookie?!"

"You are not going to believe this!!!"

"Believe what honey? Tell us."

Sookie joined them on the bed, her eyes shining as she kept glancing at Rory, her mind replaying their conversation from yesterday. "You knew, didn't you?" she asked the young girl."

"I had a feeling. But she knows now, too."

"You do!?!"

"About Luke? Yeah," Lorelai smiled.

"And...!?!"

"I think I love him."

"Oh my god!!! I knew it! I mean Max is great and all but you and Luke are perfect!!!"

"We're voles."

Sookie looked at Lorelai, confusion written in her eyes. "Huh?"

"Never mind, I'll explain later. What happened?"

"Oh!!!" she cried, her excitement renewed. "Max went to the diner! He was trying to warn Luke to stay away from his fiancé." Sookie stopped to gauge Lorelai's reaction.

"And...!?!"

"Well Luke was in the back, outside I think, he'd been out there for quite a while when Max just came screeching up to the diner. He went straight back to Luke and we thought there'd be an explosion or something, because you know how Luke is about people behind his counter, let alone in the backroom. But there wasn't, not at first. We heard them talking, Max was telling Luke that he'd better stay away from you and Luke told him he had nor right to order him around and told him to... umm... well that he could put his 'order' somewhere not really nice." Lorelai and Rory grinned at each other. They knew perfectly well where Luke would have told Max to put it. "So Luke ordered him to leave the diner. Well Max started to leave but then he called Luke a coward or something, I didn't quite catch that comment, and Luke almost lost it! He shoved Max into the wall and told him that you were the only reason he wasn't going to beat him up. Then he threw Max out of the diner and went back into the backroom."

Lorelai stared; wide eyes, open mouth, slack jaw staring. Sookie wanted to laugh, she and Rory had the same expression; like mother like daughter. Neither of them had uttered a sound when the front door slammed again and more feet pounded up the stairs. Max, taking in the fact that Sookie was there, and the Gilmore Girls faces, filled the doorway; they'd been told. With a sigh he sat in the chair from Lorelai's vanity and looked to Rory. "Could your Mom and I have a moment alone?"

Nodding both Rory and Sookie fled the room to further analyze the events from the diner. Lorelai stared at Max, her expression never changing, until he spoke. "Okay. I know you know about the diner, I'm sure Sookie told you everything."

"Why? She didn't tell me why. So why did you try to tell Luke to stay away from me and Rory?"

Max sighed and ran a hand over his cheeks. "I know he loves you, I know he does, and with everything going on this last few days I guess I just lost my cool. I didn't hit him, I swear to you. I know he's your friend Lorelai but he spends so much time with you. You're my fiancé. I'm the man you're marrying. The one you love."

Lorelai looked down at her hands, her finger tracing the batter on her bedspread, and found she couldn't meet Max's eyes. What was she going to do? With everything she'd found out recently, about Luke, about herself, she didn't know what to say or do.

"He's not just a friend to you, is he?" Looking up at him she saw the realization dawning in his eyes; the knowledge that she herself had just come to know. "You have feeling for him too, don't you?"

"I didn't know how he fealt until today, I swear Max. I never thought of him as anything more than my best friend. But then when Rory told me that he was in love with me..."

She stopped. How does one tell her fiancé she's in love with another man? There were no words that came to her mind.

"You love him."

Tears in her eyes for the pain she was causing such a wonderful man Lorelai nodded. "I can't imagine not having Luke in my life. He's been there for me from the beginning, he's my best friend, and... and I love him. Max, I'm so sorry! I didn't mean to I swear it, I never..."

Max put his hand to her lips to stop the words that were piercing his heart, tearing it to shreds. Smiling weakly at her he stood. "I think I need my ring back."

Tears streaming down her cheeks Lorelai removed his ring from her finger and handed it to him. Meeting her eyes one more time Max left the room, and the house, for good. Max Medina, teacher, friend, love, was gone from their lives forever. Falling over onto her good side Lorelai hugged her pillow tight; her tears free falling down her face.


*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*


It had been a week since Lorelai had come home, a week since she'd broken off her engagement to Max. She knew it was the right thing to do. No one in town knew about the break up yet, save for Sookie. It wouldn't be long though until they entire town knew. Soon she would let Sookie begin to pass the word, and then it would be town news within the hour. There was no way to marry one man when she loved another. Yet at the same time, she hadn't been able to set foot in the diner. Lorelai hadn't left the house since she'd gotten home. But tonight... tonight she would.

It was the night of the dance over at Miss Patty's. A costume party, everyone had to dress up as their favorite person, be it celebrity or historical. Both Gilmore girls had already decided what they were going to wear. Rory entered her mother's room and stood for effect in the doorway. "So, how's it look?"

Turning around Lorelai looked at her daughter, dressed as flapper from the twenties, and smiled. "You look very flapperly."

"Flapperly? Is that even a word?"

"Yep, it's my word." Smiling at Rory Lorelai fixed a stray hair, pushing it back into place. "You were hit by a couple of pretty sticks."

Rory smiled at her mother and knew Dean would love her outfit. Looking at Lorelai's costume she said, "Well I guess tonight's the night."

"Yeah," she said, taking a deep breath. It still hurt to move too much but she would be all right for what she had planned tonight. "Sookie will start spreading the word as soon as you get to Miss Patty's."

"Okay. I hope everything goes good for you tonight."

Lorelai welcomed Rory's hug. "So do I." Together they went downstairs to get the door when they heard the doorbell ring. Opening the door Lorelai watched as Dean's mouth fell open at the sight of her daughter. "I told you it was a couple of pretty sticks."

Laughing, the two teens were off, leaving Lorelai to take the car. Driving over there she suddenly remembered something. Pulling out her cell phone she dialed a number and waited for the familiar voice to come onto the line.

"Hello?"

"His Mom."

"Lorelai? How are you feeling sweetheart?"

"I'm getting better. Listen I wanted to be the one to tell you. I... umm... Max and I broke it off. We won't be getting married."

"Why?" Emily asked, her tone conveying neither regret nor joy, simply the dull politeness that made Lorelai grit her teeth and claim a headache.

"Because I was marrying him for the wrong reasons. I know you might want to hear all of this and if you want me to I'll tell you on Friday when we come over for dinner. But for now I gotta get going Mom, I have to meet someone about something very important."

Emily barely restrained her sigh. 'That girl should be resting, not scampering off to meet her friends with a bruised rib and broken wrist!' she thought to herself.

"Very well; Friday then."

"Bye."

Hanging up the cell phone Lorelai pulled into a parking spot a little was across from the diner, on the same side of the street as it. From her seat she could just see the café. It was empty, but obviously open as Luke was moving around within. Mustering her courage Lorelai got out of the car, adjusted her hat and walked up to the café.

Luke was wiping down the counter when he heard the door open. Surprised that there was someone else in this town not at Miss Patty's party he looked up and stopped dead in his tracks. Standing there before him was the most beautiful woman he'd ever known, but she was wearing the worst clothes he'd ever seen. A flannel shirt, un-tucked and half unbuttoned showing a plain white tee shirt under it, over a pair of scruffy jeans. Atop her head was a backward baseball cap covering her full, rich, ebony locks. She was dressed like him.

"I don't suppose I could get a cup of coffee?"

"No."

Lorelai took a step forward. "Please?"

Luke swallowed as she moved closer to him. "No."

"But I haven't had any in over a week. My body is going into withdrawal."

"Good. Maybe you'll finally be able to kick your bad habit."

She shook her head taking another step or two closer to him. "No. You cutting me off from coffee won't help me kick the habit. It's a necessity of life. But there was something you did help me give a good kick to. You and Rory that is."

Luke took a step back and bumped into the counter. He had no where to go. Why was she here? Did she want to yell at him for hurting Max? Why was she dressed like him? Where was the prick? Where was Rory?

"Why did you kick Max out of your café?"

Luke blinked at the sudden topic change. "Nobody threatens me in my own café." To himself he thought, 'Except you, Lorelai Gilmore. I have never felt more threatened by anyone in my entire life.'

"Luke, would you ever lie to me?"

Swallowing to wet his throat he hesitated. "No."

Lorelai took another step closer. "Did Max hit you?"

"No."

Lorelai moved another step towards him. "Do you know what a vole is?"

"No."

Another step closer to him she asked, "Would you give me a cup of coffee?"

"No."

With one last step Lorelai stood directly in front of him, her head tilted back to meet his eyes. "Do you love me?"

Luke closed his eyes. The time had come. Did he lie to her? Tell her she was a friend only? Could he do that? Could he tell her a lie and face her, and his lie, everyday for the rest of his life?

"No." 'No, I can't lie to her,' he thought. 'It's time to tell her the truth. Now may be my only chance.'

Lorelai gasped and took several steps back. He didn't love her. Luke had said no. She'd made a fool of herself and he didn't love her. They were all wrong, Rory, Sookie, every single person in town had been wrong. She'd risked everything thinking they'd been right and they'd been wrong. Tears sprang to her eyes and her lip trembled of its own volition. Her hands trembled and Lorelai turned, ready to race from the café.

At her small noise Luke snapped his eyes open and realized he'd said 'No', aloud. He met her eyes, watching as they filled with tears and pain, her bottom lips trembling in time with her chin. She thought he'd said 'No', that he didn't love her, and it was making her cry. 'What does that mean?' he wondered. 'Is it possible...?' Luke didn't have a chance to think any further when he saw her turn to flee the café.

"Wait!" he cried. "Lorelai, wait! I didn't mean 'No'. I... I was thinking to myself. I couldn't lie to you. I hoped I could but I can't. I know your getting married to that jerk but I can't keep this to myself anymore." Luke swallowed and bared himself to her. "I love you Lorelai Gilmore. I have for a long time."

Standing erect he waited for her to laugh at him. To yell at him and tell him she was getting married in two weeks, how could he do this to her? But it never came. Lorelai stopped in her tracks, hand on the doorknob, frozen like a deer in the headlights of an oncoming car. 'He loves me... he really does love me!' she thought to herself. Turning she faced him and had no idea what to say. For once in her life she was speechless. Staring at Luke Lorelai knew what she wanted to do. Crossing the distance between them she reached up with her good hand, placing it under the brim of his cap at the back of his neck and pulled his head down to meet hers.

Standing there, at the counter in Luke's Hardware Café, Lorelai and Luke kissed for the first time. He was shocked at first when she placed her mouth to his but soon melted into the passionate kiss. Wrapping one of his toned arms around her waist he gently pulled her closer while his other hand lost its fingers in her hair, his thumb caressing her cheek. Luke could taste the mint of her toothpaste and smell her perfumed skin, the Jasmine he knew so well. His heart was threatening to beat itself out of his chest. He loved her, so much, so very much, for such a long time, and now, here she was, in his arms, her mouth to his, her lips pressed to his; she was finally his.

She could feel the warmth of his embrace, taste the sweetness and spice of his lips, smell the musk of his body, and Lorelai's head began to spin. One kiss was all it took to know this was where she belonged, no more doubts, no more fears or worry. Luke was hers and she, with all her heart and soul, was his. This was right. They hadn't fight; they flirted. They hadn't argued; they danced. They weren't kissing; they were joining what should never have been kept apart.

Breaking her lips from his Lorelai put her forehead to his chest, needing to catch her breath, and felt him place his cheek on top of her head. She was still in his arms, and she never wanted to leave. But she did need to talk. "I'm not getting married." Luke held his breath, waiting for her to continue. "I can't marry one man when I love another." Luke wanted to laugh; he wanted to cry. She was his, not Max's, his; all his. "We broke up a week ago."

"A week ago?"

Pulling back Lorelai met his gaze. "Right after I realized how much I love you."

"It took you a week to tell me?"

"Augh! Look who's talking! How long did it take for you to tell me!?!"

"That doesn't count!"

"Why not!?!"

"Because you were dating someone else, that's why."

"I don't think so."

Sighing, knowing there was no way he'd ever win this argument he said, "I love you Lorelai Gilmore."

Lorelai grinned at him. "Does this mean I get free coffee?"

"NO!" he groaned, silencing her with another kiss.



The End