"The Start to a Beautiful Friendship"

by Emiko

"I hate you!"

Those three little words stunned Lorelai more than anything ever could have. She had never imagined that she would hear those words come out of her daughter's mouth. Especially not aimed at her, of all people. Suddenly, all the anger that had consumed her just moments ago melted into despair.

There was silence for a few moments until Lorelai walked passed Rory and grabbed her purse from the kitchen table.

"I'm leaving," she announced coldly and quietly.

"Whatever. I don't care," Rory answered. "I don't care what you do. In fact, just leave and don't even bother coming back!"

"Fine," Lorelai said, slamming the door as she walked out of the house. Once outside, she climbed into her jeep and sat there for a few minutes, wondering where to go. She had to get away from here, to think.

Without deciding, she put her car in gear and started driving.

It wasn't really that big of a surprise where she ended up. Luke's coffee was the best she had ever tasted in her life, and, even though his company wasn't exactly her definition of the end to a good day, it was somewhere she could go to collect her thoughts. At least it wasn't home.

Luke had long given up rolling his eyes every time she came into the diner, but he still visibly tensed when he saw her, as though he expected her to pounce on him. (And, well, sometimes she did, though not in a literal sense.) She didn't blame him, really; it took a very special type of person to be able to deal with her. Maybe Luke just wasn't that type of person.

Glancing at him, Lorelai sat down at a table in the corner and waited patiently for him to serve her. Usually, she would be demanding his full attention by this point and he would be yelling at her to leave him the heck alone, but she didn't want him to hate her, too. Or, well, any more than he already did.

This sudden wave of patience seemed to throw Luke off. He observed her for a few minutes, a confused frown on his face. For a full five minutes, he continued serving other customers, all the while glancing at her every few seconds. Had she been in the right mood, she might have told him that while, yes, she was the most beautiful woman on earth, he needed to be more discreet in his admiration for her. As it was, she stayed silent.

Finally, Luke threw his rag on the counter and stalked over to her.

"What's wrong with you?" Luke demanded.

"What do you mean?"

"I mean that every time - every time - you come into my diner, you instantly proceed to annoy me in some way or other. But today, nothing. Therefore, something is wrong."

"It's nothing."

"It is not nothing," Luke insisted. "And because a rather large part of my day involves you spouting nonsense at me, I have a right to know what it is."

Lorelai sighed, debating whether to tell him. In the end, the truth came out. "Rory kicked me out."

Luke took a minute to digest this and then said, "What?"

"We got into a fight," Lorelai explained miserably. "She screamed at me, I said I was leaving, and she told me not to come back. So now I'm here. Possibly forever."

Slowly, Luke pulled out the chair across from her and sat down. "Let me get this straight," he said. "You got into a fight with your fourteen-year-old daughter and so now you can't go home?"

"True dat, brother," Lorelai sighed. "And I hope you have an extra bed behind that counter over there because I'll probably be staying here tonight."

Luke shook his head. "But you're her mother. Can't you just send her to her room?"

"You don't understand," Lorelai said, slightly annoyed. "Rory is not just my daughter. She is my best friend. I've never sent her to her room." Tears pricked in her eyes and she took a deep breath. "She told me she hated me. She's never said that before. I didn't think she ever would." She cursed the single tear that rolled traitorously down her cheek.

Luke gave her a remarkably pained look. "I'm sorry."

Lorelai nodded, and for a moment they sat in silence, Luke not knowing quite what to say and Lorelai attempting to hold back her tears.

"Hey, boss--"

"Shut up, Caeser," Luke interrupted, not even glancing back. Lorelai smiled apologetically at him.

"You should get back to your customers," she said through her tears. Luke frowned.

"You are a customer," he said. "Possibly my biggest customer." He stood up. "Which means one coffee coming up."

When he placed it down in front of her a few minutes later, he leaned over and whispered, "On the house."

Lorelai smiled at him. "Thank you."

"You're welcome," Luke returned. "And, Lorelai?" She glanced up at him. "Just...give Rory some time. She loves you, anyone can see that. She'll let you come home. Soon."

Lorelai smiled again. "Thanks, Luke. I will."

Twenty minutes later, Lorelai closed the door to Luke's and walked slowly down the steps, wondering what to do now. It was too early to go home. Maybe she could call Sookie...

"Mom!"

Lorelai turned to find a tear-streaked Rory running towards her urgently. Lorelai met her half-way.

"Mom, I'm so sorry," Rory cried. "I'm sorry for everything I said. I didn't mean any of it. I could never hate you. I love you."

Lorelai pulled Rory into a hug. "I love you, too. You know you're my best friend, right?"

Rory smiled. "And you're mine."

Pulling away, Lorelai said, "Now, c'mon, let's head into Luke's and get something to eat."

Rory raised an eyebrow as they linked arms and crossed the street. "Weren't you just there?"

"Yes, I was," Lorelai admitted. "But I did not eat anything and I apparently did not fulfill my annoyance potential. In fact, I was so un-annoying that Luke yelled at me about it."

Rory gasped. "Luke yelled at you about not being annoying?"

"He did."

"Aw, he likes you," Rory teased as they opened the door.

"Well, I don't blame him," Lorelai answered. "After all, who wouldn't like the most intriguing woman in the world?" She frowned. "Aside from Paul Jordan."

"Who's Paul Jordan?" Luke asked, greeting them at the door.

"Seventh grade crush," Lorelai returned, sitting down at the nearest table. "Now, coffee, quickly, before I die and you are forced to clean up my corpse!"

Luke rolled his eyes and glared at Rory. "Please get into another fight with her," he begged. "It keeps her quiet."

"Sorry," Rory laughed. "We have a one-fight-every-fourteen-years policy."

"Oh, Luke," Lorelai crowed. "You know what my favorite word is? Coffee!"

"God," Luke muttered, walking behind the counter. He came back with two coffees in hand.

"Have fun slowly rotting your insides," he said, setting the cups down in front of them.

Lorelai grinned genuinely at him. "Thank you, Luke."

"You're welcome, Lorelai."

Rory smiled. "I think this is the start of a beautiful friendship."